16th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. M. Nairn) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Position of Share-farmers.
– Owing to the insecurity of the position of the sharefarmer in the wheat industry, whose capital is tied up in expensive machinery, will the Minister for Commerce take steps to ensure that those whose agreements terminate with the present crop are enabled to secure new ground, in order that they may continue in the industry?
– I realize the seriousness of the position of many sharefarmers who are engaged in the wheat industry throughout Australia. As these men play an important part in the development of the wheat industry, I recognize how essential it is that they shall he protected. I shall, therefore, take into consideration the matter raised by the honorable member. I give to him the undertaking that the interests of bona fide share-farmers will be protected, by the issue of amended regulations if that be necessary.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– A telegram that I have just received states that in Western Australia the price of lamb for export has risen by one-tenth of1d. per lb. Will the Minister for Commerce give full publicity in that State to the fact that the export price of this commodity has risen by seven-sixteenths of1d. per lb., because apparently buyers for export are making a “rake-off”?
– I realize that certain anomalies are associated with this matter, and that a profit has been “made by exporters out of the increase of price recently granted by the United Kingdom. Only to-day I have instructed the Department of Commerce to issue a full statement of the prices that are being paid by the United Kingdom for the different grades of lamb, in order that the producers may be protected.
– Will the Minister for Commerce tell the House what price is paid by the United States of America for wool used from the quantity strategically stored in that country? Will Australia receive from the British Government one-half of the profits on resales of such wool ?
– I am not aware of what prices were obtained by the United Kingdom from the United States of America, but I shall have an inquiry made and shall inform the honorable member of the result. It is understood that, in accordance with the agreement made by the Commonwealth with the British Government, any profit which accrues above the price paid bv the United Kingdom to the Australian woolgrower will be divided equally between the United Kingdom and Australian interests.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it will be possible for this House to meet, in future, on four days a week, in view of the fact that honorable members from distant States are unable to return to their homes during the week-end adjournment?
– It was the intention of the Prime Minister to ask the House to meet on Tuesday of next week, but, as certain important business has to be transacted, and next Tuesday is Armistice Day, the honorable gentleman decided not to ask the House to meet on that day. It is intended that, sittings of the House shall be held on Tuesday of the following week, and on each succeeding Tuesday of this sessional period.
– Will the Treasurer make an early statement setting out the conditions under which the lease-lend legislation of the United States of America applies to Australia? Will the honorable gentleman also direct attention to the conditions laid down by the United States of America to Great Britain about a week ago, under five heads, dealing with the granting of British naval bases to the United States of America, and stipulating that international finance shall have the privilege of financing the development of all countries after the termination of the war?
– Matters in connexion with the lease-lend legislation have not been completed. Further developments in the international situation make it difficult to arrive at definite decisions. I assure the honorable member that the Prime Minister will present a statement to the House as early as possible.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to say whether the Government has arrived at the determination to itself take charge of the distribution of goods sent to Australia under the lease-lend legislation, or does it intend to appoint agencies for that purpose?
– The questions that arise in connexion with the goods to be delivered under the lease-lend legislation, and the organization necessary for their distribution, involve a great deal of consideration, in view of the likelihood that these goods will be of a varying nature and will cover a very wide field. The matter is receiving the attention of the Government, and an answer will be supplied to the honorable member as early as possible.
– Will the Minister for Commerce use every endeavour to have re-established immediately, and maintained for at least four months from the beginning of December, the passenger service recently carried on by the SS. Zealandia between Sydney and Hobart?
– I shall take the matter up immediately with the Shipping Board.
– Will the Minister do so seriously ?
– A. reply will be made to the. honorable member.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior convey to that honorable gentleman the request that the ordinary amenities of a third-class country hotel be established at Hotel Kurrajong, for the convenience of the boarders at that establishment, some of whom are members of this House ; for example, that means of communication be established between the outlying parts of that widely-flung hotel, and some central portion of it, such as an office, instead of leaving the boarders marooned, as they are at present, like a shag on a rock - except that a shag always has at least its feathers - without means of communication from their bedrooms and unable to ask for any relief which may be desired? I make no complaint whatever against the management of the hotel, which is excellent, courteous, and capable, but only against the authority behind the management, which leaves members and others in the unfortunate position that I have described.
– I shall certainly give to the Minister for the Interior a detailed account of the honorable member’s complaint.
Misrepresentation of Australian Events
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Information aware that enemy broadcasts have been misrepresenting Australian events, and making use of them for the purpose of disseminating dangerous propaganda in South Africa? ‘ Has the Ministry of Information taken any special steps to counteract that propaganda?
– I have no knowledge of the matter, but I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister and let the honorable member have a reply later.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service yet given consideration to the question I asked last week with reference to the introduction of amended regulations to enable full powers to be given to local boards of reference regarding disputes on the coalfields? There is simmering discontent on the coal-fields as the result of frequent appeals to the Central Board of Reference on. matters of merely local concern. “Will the Minister indicate to the House and to the miners when those regulations will be brought down?
– That matter has been receiving the consideration of the Government, as it is not satisfied that the present system has given entire satisfaction. Further inquiries are now being made, and I hope to be able to make a submission to the Government at an early date regarding the opinions of my department, with a view to satisfactory changes being effected.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Information seen the reports in this morning’s press of the debate in this chamber yesterday on the budget? Has he noticed, in particular, the prominence given to the speeches of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner), whose speeches are effectively displayed, in contrast to the meagre report of the most effective reply made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) ? Will the Minister bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Information, in order to see whether a basis of equity can be obtained in regard to newspaper reports of the proceedings in this House?
– Like the honorable member for Bass, I have seen the reports in this morning’s press to which he refers. I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Information, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member at an early date.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House whether the flag of Soviet Rusia is being flown on the Senate to-day with the consent of that body, or whether an attempt is being made by the Government to invite or incite the somnolent old gentlemen who sit in that chamber to turn Bolshevik?
– I am unaware of the circumstance mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Prime Minister.
– Following the request I made yesterday that inquiries be made as to available labour in some centres and opportunities for employment in others, will the Minister for Labour and National Service give consideration to the use of the facilities of the shire councils, or similar bodies, in the various States, for the purpose of having a zone arrangement put into effect whereby information might be tabulated of employment available and the number of men seeking work?
– The Department of Labour will be pleased to seek the co-operation of any authorities able to assist in the tabulation of information which may be of value in placing labour where it is required. Early consideration will be given to the proposal of the honorable member, with a view to ascertaining whether the co-operation suggested by him can be secured.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service yet had time to give consideration to the technical training of youths, particularly those in New South Wales between the ages of 18 and 21 years? There are no facilities in that State for their training by either the Commonwealth or the State authorities. The State provides for the training of youths under 18 years of age, and the Commonwealth for the training of those over 21 years of age. Will the Minister also give consideration to acceptance by the Commonwealth of the whole of the financial responsibility for the technical training of youths, in view of the lack of buildings and equipment owing to the State Government’s shortage of funds?
– The whole matter of technical training, as undertaken by the Commonwealth Government, is now about to be reviewed. Certain conferences will he held at an early date, and I hope soon to be in a position to give to the honorable member the information desired by him.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service in a position to report progress regarding the control of rents in the various States?
– I am able to report that progress is being made on all fronts, including that of rent control. A conference was held last night between myself, the Minister for Trade and Customs, the Prices Commissioner and the Assistant Prices Commissioner. It has already been discovered that the existing rent regulations, which were promulgated by the preceding Government, have not proved effective, either in checking the increase of rents or in preventing evictions. At the moment certain amendments of the regulations are under consideration, and, in view of the urgency of the matter, the Government hopes to be able to make an early announcement of its policy.
Consideration resumed from the 6th November (vide page 182), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates (Revised) under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £8,470,” be agreed to.
We. FALSTEIN (Watson) [10.53].- The time for humbug and “ boloney “ in the conduct of the affairs of state and in the personal conduct of members of Parliament has passed. I feel it incumbent upon me to-day to reply to some of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) and the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), which have displayed gross puerility and a complete lack of social conscience. The Leader of the Opposition has said that this budget is concerned only with vote-catching and similar political considerations, but to that statement I give the lie direct. This budget is concerned with human values, and not with the things mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. It is extraordinary that each speaker on the Opposition side has in turn put forward the proposition that, in order to preserve democracy, a totalitarian state of affairs must be introduced in Australia. What is needed is not totalitarian methods, but a re-orientation of the social outlook. If this war is to be prosecuted with the utmost vigour, in order to save Australia for Australians, and not for the profiteers, that change must be made now.
I heard the Leader of the Opposition say that what was needed at this time was confidence in the banks. The right honorable member for . Kooyong stated that the budget was inflationary, and indeed he said that, in his conversations with Dr. Schacht, the German financier, he had formed the opinion that he was a radical. Such terms are relative. I take it that the right honorable gentleman meant that Dr. Schacht was radical in the same sense as the 1940 budget of the right honorable gentleman’s Government was described by him as a radical one. For a long time the people have been aware that the banks in Australia, and in all other countries, have been foisting on them nothing more than a huge confidence trick. Why do the banks have such fine buildings and magnificent facades? The object is to put up what the Americans call a “front”. In that way they hope to, and in fact do, induce people to place with them their savings, upon which they in their turn can “ pyramid “ credit for their own profit. The Leader of the Opposition said some measure of compulsion would have to be used against the people in order to force them to contribute towards the war effort, but the banks, he added, could be relied upon to do the right thing. When Australia was passing through the last period of depression did the banks then do the right thing? They will assist a govern ment to continue in office only so long as it pursues a policy not in conflict with what they consider to be their best interests, and they are the sole judges in that regard. It is not in the interests of the mass of the people that the banks should be allowed to determine the amount of credit to be released. Can anybody deny that it would have been advantageous to release £200,000,000 of credit during the last depression? Already the right honorable member for Kooyong has said that it is recognized as sound banking practice that the credit structure of the nation can be resorted to up to the point, at any rate, where all available men and material are fully utilized. The right to pursue that policy was deliberately denied to the Labour Government by the banks during the depression.
Certain remarks offered by the right honorable member for Kooyong and the Leader of the Opposition were puerile. The former said that, if the Government increased taxation and utilized the national credit, it would take away from some people the incentive to earn profits and higher incomes. I am disgusted to hear any member of this Parliament thus measure his patriotism by the licence he enjoys to earn profits at the expense of the nation’s travail. The right honorable member has proved by his own statement that he was not fit to lead a government in a democratic country like Australia. I do not know what he expected when he made that statement about the right to earn profits and high incomes. Does he think that, if taxation were not increased on high incomes, the recipients ought to have the right to spend in whatever way they see fit the money left in their hands? Does he consider that he and his friends should be allowed to continue making their frequent visits to night clubs, where an evening’s entertainment costs anything from £3 to £4?
– I know_ nothing about the “ dogs “, but I believe that there are more than 10,000 persons in my electorate who earn their living from the racing industry. Whether the honorable member is aware of it or not, the fact is that horse-racing to-day is an industry, and employs a large number of persons who could not otherwise be employed. Honorable members opposite have talked about the war effort. For many of them the idea of a proper war effort is inextricably bound up with the amount of money they can make at the expense of the nation in the prosecution of the war.
– Does the honorable member deny that a good war effort has been made?
– I do deny that the last Government made a satisfactory war effort. I have in my possession a signed statement by a responsible person that Mr. W. J. Smith, chairman of directors of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, took certain technicians off work which was being done for the Commonwealth Government on a cost-plus basis, and employed them on the construction of a horse-float for his own use.
– “What is the Labour Government doing about it?
– The honorable member for Wentworth could not have been too well satisfied with Mr. Smith’s conduct, because he told me once that he was considering “ declaring “ that gentleman and his firm. This is indicative of the kind of thing that was happening under the previous Government, and it explains why the workers had begun to regard the war effort of the Commonwealth Government as nothing more than a big joke. How could any man be impressed with the urgency of producing war materials when his employer took him away from war work in order to build a horse-float? To-day there is a Labour Government in power which will, I believe, accept its responsibility and really govern the country, instead of allowing it to be run by departmental heads, and by pressuregroups representative of big business interests in Melbourne. The new Ministers will endeavour to impress their personalities on their departments and in this way will achieve better results.
The maximum allowable income tax deduction in respect of life insurance premiums is £100. No worker can afford to put £2 a week into life insurance, so it is obvious that, when the last Government raised the amount of the maximum deduction from £50 to £100 a year, it did so for the benefit of its friends. A deduction of £100 is altogether too much. The amount should be reduced to a maximum of 10s. a week, or £26 a year. Life insurance canvassers are to-day offering the public a twenty-year endowment policy, and pointing out that if a man pays a premium of £100 a year on a policy, the saving which he will make by way of income tax deduction will show a return of more than 20 per cent, on the policy. It is disgraceful that advantage should be taken by private business concerns of a provision intended to assist people to make provision for their old age, or for the protection of their families in the event of their death. Even that would not be so bad if it were not for the disgraceful manner in which insurance companies treat their agents, who are not paid a salary, and have no fixed hours of work, but receive an advance against commission amounting, in some instances, to as much as £3 a week, but usually to no more than £2 10s. a week. If they are injured in the course of their employment they are not covered by the provisions of the “Workmen’s Compensation Act. It is high time the Government took over life insurance companies, and nationalized the business in the interests of the country. The annual revenue of the Australian Mutual Provident Society is at least between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 and the Mutual Life and Citizens Company pays its original shareholders dividends at the rate of 100 per cent, per annum. These huge profits are earned by exploiting those who bring the business to the companies. They keep their agents just so long as they are able to sell insurance to their friends and acquaintances. When they can no longer do that the companies get rid of them. It is a well-recognized fact that out of any group of twelve insurance agents, there are always four going, four on the job, and four coming. If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) wants workers released for the war effort, let him support the nationalization of the insurance companies, and in that way make available the services of many employees.
– I would start with the horse-racing industry
– The honorable gentleman is not in agreement with me on many things. From the tone of his speeches in this chamber it is evident that he is a Fascist. One gentleman, Major A. F. Hudson, who was employed by the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited as its new business manager, had a rapid rise from lieutenant to major. From time to time he went into camp, but as soon as he received a notice calling him up for the duration of the war the company with which he was employed found that his services were essential to the conduct of its operations, with the result that he was granted a total exemption. The Commonwealth wasted money in training that man, for as soon as the time came when he could be usefully employed, the big life insurance company stepped in and instructed its servants, the previous Government, to release him. He was released. That is a disgraceful state of affairs which ought not to be possible in this country.
Mention has been made, particularly by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), of the fact that not sufficient men to reinforce the Australian Imperial Force are offering their services. I am pleased to see that provision is made in the budget for an increase of soldiers’ pay by ls. a day. In my opinion, that increase is not enough, for I hold the view that, before any person ought to be asked to enlist in the services and risk his life, he should be given a guarantee that, should he lose his life, or be maimed, as the result of his war service, his wife and children or other dependants will be given the same measure of security as he could provide for them if he were alive and 100 per cent, physically fit. If that were done - and it is possible that it will be done - the recruiting depots would be filled overnight.
– Even the honorable member himself might go.
– If the honorable member who made that interjection knew all of the facts-
– It is a matter for every man’s conscience.
– If the honorable member for Wentworth is seeking to make political capital out of something which I am placing before the House in the interests of the nation, all I can say is that he and those who agree with him are taking an exceedingly shabby view of this matter.
I am disappointed at some of the omissions from the budget, and also the indications in it that the Government contemplates doing some things which I think ought not to be done. I shall refer first to postal charges. I believe that no good purpose will be served by turning the Postmaster-General’s Department into a taxing machine.
– That has been done already.
– In my electorate there are a number of post offices in which on days when pensions or military allotments are paid, as well as at other times when the demand for postal services is heavy, the available accommodation is inadequate. Successive PostmastersGeneral have said that the existing state of affairs cannot be alleviated because the department has not the money to do the work, and that all expenditure must be approved by the Treasurer.
– I was going to do all of those things had I remained in office.
– Although I am a supporter of the Government, I say now that I do not propose to accept from its Ministers less than I accepted from Ministers in the previous Government. Indeed, I shall expect a great deal more from the present Administration.
I am disappointed also that the present budget does not contain any provision foi an increase of the maternity allowance, or for a liberalization of the basis on which that allowance is paid. I hope that this omission will be rectified in the supplementary budget which will be introduced later. At present the maternity allowance is not paid in respect of a first child should the income of the parents exceed £260 per annum. The salary limit increases by £13 per annum for each subsequent child. The basis of the allowance should be much more liberal, and the allowance itself should be raised to at least £10.
In this connexion, I urge that the sales tax on contraceptives should be increased. Persons who resort to the use of contraceptives should be forced to pay. In tuy opinion, the sales tax on these articles should be increased to 1,000 per cent, instead of the 20 per cent, now in operation. How can we expect to have an evenly balanced population in this country unless every encouragement is given to increase the number of Australianborn babies? They are the country’s best immigrants. Because of the great use made of contraceptives, a sales tax at the rate of 1,000 per cent, would result in a handsome sum being paid into the Treasury every year.
The present price-fixing methods do not satisfy me, and I know that other honorable members also are dissatisfied with them. Professor Copland, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, has the record of having wrecked at least two governments. If I were the Minister in charge of his department, I should dismiss him at once. As Ministers and members have to accept electoral responsibility, they should govern this country, and not rely on departmental officers. I know that some departmental heads have conducted the affairs of their departments and have not acquainted their Ministers with much that baa been done in their name. For instance, Sir George Knowles, not the Right Honorable “William Morris Hughes, has for a long time been Attorney-General of Australia.
– Sir George Knowles has never been AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth.
– For many years he has been Attorney-General in fact, although not in name.
I hope that in the supplementary budget, provision will be made for the nationalization of key war industries, including the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Since the recent change of government I have become more than ever convinced of the need for the nationalization of these industries. I doubt if there is any war industry in this country in which there is not some ramp or racket.
– The honorable member is badly informed.
– He has a suspicious mind.
– In this matter I claim to be better informed than is the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick). I refer the honorable gentleman to a statement which 1 made early in my speech to-day that the days when humbug and “ boloney “ were the chief attributes of members of Parliament are past. I hope that the supplementary budget will provide for the payment of unemployed persons, of whom there are still a great number in Australia. I should also like to see provision made for widows’ pensions. Finally, I express the hope that the budget for 1942-43 will contain provisions to ensure that the financial and monopolistic institutions which have controlled Australia for so many years will be utterly overthrown, and that, at last, the people of Australia will rule Australia in the way in which Abraham Lincoln envisaged responsible government, when he spoke of “ government of the people, by the people, for the people.” If the things which I have indicated were done in this country, there would be security and a proper reward for those who toil.
.- The people of Australia expect the Government to carry on a vigorous war effort, and therefore it is the duty of this Parliament to devise ways and means to meet the cost of the war and ensure that the burden of taxation will be equitably distributed. I appreciate the great problem which has confronted the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and his advisers in formulating the taxation measures necessary to give effect to the Government’s proposals. That has not been an easy task, because already we have so many phases of taxation that the advisers of the Government are at their wit’s end to know in what way taxation, can be increased. ‘ I am confident that any person who could suggest to either Commonwealth or State Governments any new form of taxation which would yield a considerable amount of revenue, would he received with open arms and regarded as a genius. With one aspect of the Government’s financial policy I am greatly concerned, because, in my opinion, it is much too indefinite. In the matter of raising a large part of the revenue required to meet this country’s colossal war expenditure, too much is being left to chance. For the current year the total war and civil expenditure is £324,000,000, and it is clear that this sum can be regarded only as a minimum, and that it will probably be exceeded before the close of the financial year. But the budget provides for the raising of only £185,000,000 by taxation from all sources; the balance of £138,000,000 will be raised by voluntary loans and bank credits. To this must ‘be added £20,000,000 for State Governments, because the Commonwealth Government is responsible for raising that money for them. That will increase the total to £159,000,000.Such a happy-go-lucky method of financing the country in wartime is ‘unsound,- and this policy of financial drift should not be permitted to continue. It means, in effect, that we must depend upon voluntary effort in order to raise nearly one-half of our requirements. That is most unfair, because this ‘burden will fall upon the shoulders of the more patriotic members of the community. Some very patriotic people have embarrassed themselves in order to invest in Commonwealth loans. Some of them have actually borrowed money for this purpose. Other people, who can well afford to contribute their share to loans, have failed to do so. That condition of affairs is most unsatisfactory, and should not be allowed to continue. Efforts should be made to ensure that, in future when the Government is raising huge sums of money, more will be secured from taxation and compulsory loans.
The time has arrived when the Commonwealth Parliament must take some drastic action if we are to maintain the financial stability of the nation. Although I referred to this matter last year, I make no apology for doing so again, because the . position is most serious. The present haphazard method of financing Commonwealth, State and local government in Australia is out of date., and steps should be taken to adopt a unified financial policy which would co-ordinate the whole of these activities. The cost of govern ment in Australia now absorbs more than 60 per cent, of the national income. I emphasize that statement, because of the serious effect of the position upon our national economy. The estimated governmental expenditure for the current year is : Commonwealth £324,000,000 ; States. £158,000,000; local governing bodies, £25,000,000; total, £507,000,000. If we take a national view of the matter we must envisage the expenditure of local governments because their activities are interwoven with those of the State Governments.
– What is the honorable member’s opinion of unification?
– As I proceed with my speech, the honorable member will hear my views upon that subject. Before the war, the total cost of Commonwealth, State and local government was £250,000,000. Now, the amount which has to be raised by those three authorities has been doubled. A unified financial system would make it possible to obtain a complete picture of our national obligations. That is most important. It is futile for the Commonwealth Parliament to suggest that the States should be debarred from entering the field of direct taxation, unless we are prepared to make the necessary funds available to enable them to carry out the important social services with which they are charged.
– The Commonwealth should control all social services.
– A unified financial plan would enable us not only to obtain a complete view of our national obligations, but also to make a comprehensive survey of our national resources, so that they could be utilized to the best advantage. Definitely, this is not possible under existing conditions, with seven separate taxing authorities, and a multiplicity of ways and means of raising the necessary revenue. Since the outbreak of war, the problem of competition between the Commonwealth and State Governments regarding taxation has been accentuated. Before the war. the Commonwealth Government for its revenue relied largely upon indirect taxation, leaving ..to the States the field of direct taxation. Since the outbreak of war, the Commonwealth Government has been forced to encroach considerably upon the field of direct taxation. That has not only embarrassed the State Governments, but has also made it most difficult for the Commonwealth and the States, not to mention the municipal bodies, to devise ways and means of raising the revenue to assure an equitable distribution of the burden, not so much between the States, as between taxpayers. As the result of the overlapping of Commonwealth and State taxes, some taxpayers are called upon to pay more than others. That was not the intention of the .founders of federation. Having been forced to encroach upon the field of income tax in order to raise considerable sums, the Commonwealth is now tapping sources of taxation which the States almost exclusively enjoyed, including gift tax, succession duties and land tax. The present system results in serious competition, inequities, and irritation. In many directions, overlapping occurs between the public services of the Commonwealth, States, and local authorities. I need refer only to the matter of health. The Commonwealth, the States and municipal bodies have health departments. That is indeed foolish and is not conducive to efficiency. I have referred to this matter on previous occasions, because I have had experience of it in several quarters. At one period, I was associated with civic administration, where we had our own health officials. Over and over again I have seen conflict between Commonwealth, State and municipal health officers.
– That conflict will continue while we have divided control.
– The honorable member built a very expensive city hall in Brisbane, which upset the system of rating.
– The city hall will stand for all time.
– So will the debt.
– The debt will bc liquidated in time. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has made such a foolish remark, he will doubtless be interested to learn that the contract had been let and the foundations of the city hall had been laid before I took office. My responsibility was to sei.’ that the work was continued.
– The honorable member certainly saw it through.
Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne must not introduce “ red herrings “.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) referred to the necessity for establishing one central taxing authority in order to overcome the problem of dual taxation. Whilst I agree with that advocacy, 1 consider that we should go beyond it. We must have one purse from which to meet the requirements of Commonwealth and State Governments. One taxing authority should be responsible for raising the necessary revenue. Whether we like it or not, the financial burden which the Commonwealth has to shoulder will before very long force the issue of unification. This problem which confronts us during the period of the war will become intensified when we tackle post-war reconstruction. If we had one central authority to control the whole of the finances of the Commonwealth, we should be in a much better position to-day.
In my opinion, the principal difference between the financial policy of the present Government and that of the previous Government lies in the attitude of the respective parties towards compulsory loans. Last year, the total national income was £800,000,000. This year, more than £500,000,000 of that amount will not be called upon to make an additional contribution to the war effort. In the absence of proposals for compulsory loans, or substantially increased taxation, a grave danger arises from the difficulty of diverting this huge sum from civil to war expenditure. The only alternative to compulsory loan.1; is rationing, which will cause more trouble and will not be so equitable as were the proposals of the previous Government. The Opposition has made it clear to the Government that this problem is most serious. The policy is endangering the war effort, and if allowed to continue may lead to inflation.
It was gratifying to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) emphasize so soon after taking office, that there is no easy road in public finance, and that we cannot pay our way simply by making book entries. I should like to add that although we may defer our obligations, some day, in some way, some one will have to pay. The Treasurer has exposed the foolishness of the idea that it is possible, simply by entries in the ledgers of the Commonwealth Bank, to pay our debts and to meet war expenditure. The issue of bank credit is justified only when it is supported by an increase of tangible assets; otherwise it must result in inflation.
The War-time (Company) Tax Bill 1941 should be carefully reviewed before Parliament is asked to proceed with it. Upon small and new companies, which have not been able to establish reserves, it will operate most unfairly. Even under the provisions of the bill many large companies, because of their reserves, will not be called upon to meet any substantial increase of taxation. But a heavy burden will be placed upon the shoulders of smaller companies which have a capital of £100,000 or £200,000, but no reserves. Whilst their profit will be limited to £4,000 a year, another company which has the same amount of capital, but which has been in existence for some years and has established reserves of £100,000, will still be permitted to make a profit of £8,000 a year. That is not equitable, and I trust that the Treasurer will appoint a parliamentary committee, as was done last year, to review the provisions of the bill before Parliament debates it. When examining the balance-sheets of some of the major companies in Australia I was surprised to find, notwithstanding the fact that the Government proposes to reduce their profits to 4 per cent., that they will pay very little tax indeed. In my opinion, the Government’s estimate of revenue from this source will not be realized.
I should like to say a few words in connexion with the proposal of the Government’ to aggregate the incomes of husbands and wives for the purpose of arriving at the rate of tax to be applied to both incomes. No objection could be raised to the amalgamation of the two incomes for that purpose where the wife has received property from the husband. I understand that, under the present law, the commissioner has the right to aggregate the income of a husband and wife where he is satisfied that transfers of property have taken place for the purpose of evading income tax. It appears to be unfair, however, that a wife who had certain property before her marriage should be called upon to pay a higher rate of tax than other taxpayers. I have a practical case in point which I desire to submit to the committee. In this case, the wife had an income of £1,600 and the husband an income of £1,100. Under the law, as it stands to-day, the wife would pay £748 and the husband £331, or a total tax of £1,079; but under the proposals now before us, the wife will pay £1,088 and the husband £621, a total of £1,709, or an increase of over 60 per cent. The point I wish to make is that, under the taxation proposals now before the committee, although the rate of tax on an income of £1,600 is increased by very little, under the amalgamation proposal, the wife and husband will have to pay an additional £621 in tax. The same unfairness is apparent in all separate incomes under £1,500. I should like the Treasurer to explain what will be the position where a wife has an annual income of £500 and her husband, a business man, shows a loss. Will the same principle be applied? In a good year, when the husband makes a profit of £3,000, the rate to be applied to both incomes will be determined on their joint income of £3,500; but if, during the following year, the husband shows a loss of £1,000 will that loss be set off against his wife’s income, so that she will have no tax to pay? I submit that if the law operates to the detriment of the husband and wife in good years, in all fairness, it should operate to the advantage of the wife when her husband makes a loss. Where the husband suffers reverses, both husband and wife are entitled to some consideration.
I greatly regret that it has been found necessary to increase postal and telephone charges. The post office, whose main objective is to provide a service to the public, should not be used as a taxing authority. The post office is already being used as a taxing machine; but it is now proposed that an additional £2,000,000 shall be collected by way of increased postal and telephone charges, principally from those engaged in business. I should like the Assistant PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Lawson) to give special consideration to the unbusinesslike way in which postal works are financed. Before the postal authorities can commence to put into operation their works programme they have to await the passage of the budget and Estimates. I suggest that, in the interests of economy and of the service itself, some better arrangement could be devised. Normally, the budget and Estimates have not been disposed of until almost onehalf of the financial year has gone by, and there is always an inordinate rush to complete works before the end of the financial year. I have suggested on several occasions that we should introduce a system somewhat similar to that in operation in England under which funds are provided for a three years’ programme of postal works. I have been told by postal officials that they have repeatedly complained of the unfairness of expecting them to rush these works through. The Assistant PostmasterGeneral knows only too well what it means to have to rush works through in Queensland during the summer months.
– The postal authorities are not bound to complete the works before the end of the financial year.
– Immediately after the close of the year, the amounts remaining unexpended in the votes are repaid to revenue, and the works for which the money was provided cannot be completed until the new Estimates have been passed. That is why the postal authorities have to rush them through in the few months of the financial year that remain after the budget and Estimates are passed. The chief executive officers of the post office aTe very much concerned about the present practice.
I propose now to say a word or two about the increase of soldiers’ nay. There is some -justification for the payment of the proposed increase at once to married men; but in the case of single men it would be much better to defer payment until their return to civil life. The lumpsum payment of deferred pay made to our soldiers on their return from the last war was of great advantage in assisting them in their return to civil life. I be lieve that such a system would be of great advantage under present conditions, at any rate, to single men. The Government should give the soldier the option of immediate payment or deferred payment. Quite a number of our fighting men would, I am sure, prefer to receive the increase in the form of deferred pay. I speak with some interest in this matter because I have three sons in the Australian Imperial Force. I know that it would be in their interest if the payment of the increase were deferred until after their return from the war. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said yesterday that single men contribute to the maintenance of the family. That may be so in some instances, but I believe that the majority of single men bear no share of the family expenses. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the need for giving our fighting men the opportunity of saying whether or not they would prefer the payment of the increase to be deferred until after their return from the war.
I am pleased to know that the Treasurer intends to investigate the prospect of effecting economies in connexion with our ordinary governmental civil expenditure. I am satisfied that there is room for considerable economy in a number of our ordinary government departments. I drew attention to this matter last year, and I do so again because I find that the ordinary votes and miscellaneous services, which cover administrative expenses as distinct from war expenditure, amount to £6,159,000, as compared with £5,265,000 in the previous year, or an increase of over 15 per cent. That increase requires some explanation, particularly at a time like this, when we are calling on the people of Australia to economize in their ordinary civil expenditure. I enter my emphatic protest against the lack of information regarding many of the items included in the Estimates. Members of Parliament are entitled to some explanation of the votes placed on the Estimates and submitted for their approval from year to year, particularly those which have been increased by comparison with the preceding year’s provision. If it be not possible to give the information to honorable members in Parliament, some arrangement should be made by which they could get the information from the
Treasury officials. When I noticed that one vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department, which has nothing to do with the war, has been increased by 100 per cent., I made inquiries of the Director of Posts and Telegraphs and got a satisfactory explanation. It might be a good thing if the Treasury officials added a footnote in the Estimates, explaining why abnormal increases of the previous year’s vote have been provided.
In conclusion, I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to see that a thorough check is maintained) over our huge war expenditure. As a member of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure, I have had some opportunity to observe what is being done in this connexion. I was greatly impressed by the complete cheek applied to our various war activities, so as to assure that value is being received for the money expended. Yesterday, I asked the Treasurer whether the Auditor-General has sufficient staff to make a proper check of war expenditure, because I am not altogether satisfied that the check is as thorough as it might be, not because of any failure on the part of the Auditor-General to carry out his duties, but because he has not sufficient staff available. I urge the Treasurer to increase the staff of the AuditorGeneral in order that an adequate check may be maintained. Although I am impressed with the system introduced vis the various war activities to check war expenditure, that system will be futile unless the Auditor-General or somebody else has an adequate staff to see that the check is fully maintained. The AuditorGeneral’s report will shortly be before us. I trust that it will contain a statement by the Auditor-General that will assure the members of this Parliament that we are at least getting full value for the immense war expenditure we are called upon to meet to-day.
.- The first matter on which I intend to address the committee is the liquid fuel rationing scheme, and I repeat the statement I made as a member of tha Opposition that those who told the biggest lies originally receive the greatest petrol ration. I intend to cite some facts which I hope will cause the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) to re-organize the whole petrol rationing scheme. First, there is an amazing disparity between the petrol rations allotted to taxi drivers in Townsville using cars of the same model. One receives 32 gallons a month, another 42, and another 53 gallons. In Mackay the allowance to taxi drivers ranges from 19 gallons to 60 gallons. Such a state of affairs is absolutely unjustified, and, without increasing the aggregate of ration tickets issued, the Government could ensure a more equitable issue of tickets to men whose livelihood depends on their taxi cabs. Secondly, primary producers ‘have been treated unfairly in comparison with people in the cities. At a branch meeting of the Australian Labour party I asked a good friend of mine, Mr. William Wall, a cane-grower living a few miles out of Ayr, whether he could supply me with instances of what he conceived to be real injustices. He said “ I have received a letter from the Liquid Fuel Control Board in which they tell me that no increased ration can be allotted to me although I am getting scarcely enough petrol to start the tractor, let alone attend to my public duties as a member of the Ayr Council “. This man is not getting sufficient petrol to enable him to travel the few miles between his property and Ayr in order to attend the fortnightly meetings of the council, and he finds it impossible, owing to the shortage of petrol, to use his farm implements as they should be used. It transpired that the morning on which he received that letter two very well-dressed young fellows came to his farm in a big truck to canvass for orders for enlargement of photographs. They were employed by a city concern, which does very fine work, but Mr. Wall was not so interested in the quality of the work as in how they were able to obtain sufficient petrol to travel around the country in order to secure orders for the enlargement of photographs. They told him that they were allotted 80 gallons a month. Whoever was responsible for their receiving such an allotment of petrol was either unfair or stupid, because Mr. Wall, a primary producer doing a national service, does not have a ration one-fourth as large. That is not an isolated case, and
I hope that the Government will do -something to correct such inequalities. It must so re-organize the scheme as to enable people plying motor vehicles for hire to obtain equal quantities of petrol in order that they may earn their livelihood ; it must also ensure that primary production shall not be hampered. In doing so there would be no need to increase the total quantity of petrol made available because many changes could be made. For instance, the Government would be well advised to examine the waste of petrol which occurs in the displays of armoured vehicles in the cities. In that way a lot of useless work is being done. 1 should lie greatly interested, too, to hear a statement which would justify other misuse of petrol in the city areas. I asked the former Minister for Supply and Development what amount of petrol was issued to private car-owners in the various cities where excellent tram and bus services are available, but I was told that separate figures were not recorded as between the city and rural areas, and that an aggregate quantity of petrol was issued through the Liquid Fuel Control Boards of the various ‘States. Those private vehicles could well be up on blocks, and the petrol allocated to them given to the primary producers who keep the cities in prosperity. It is amazing to see the number of motor vehicles at Sydney bowling greens, race-courses, sports grounds and coursing grounds, all of which are amply served by buses and trams. If people are not satisfied to ride in buses or trams they should be made to walk. Why, some men in Sydney receive four times as -many petrol ration coupons for private cars as primary producers receive for farm purposes! The whole arrangement is stupid and cries for re-organization. How any one could swallow the lies that have been told by people in order to obtain a larger petrol ration than should be given in the circumstances is unimaginable.
The history of the Miowera military camp near Bowen is remarkable. The former Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) told me that the Miowera camp had been opened on the recommendation of the General Officer Commanding Northern Queensland Forces and that it had been closed on the recommendation of the same officer. It is a remarkable thing that one officer should be able to make two such recommendations aud have them acted upon by the same Government. I asked the former Minister for the Army, “Has the camp at Miowera near Bowen been closed down? . . What was the reason for the closing down of the camp ? “ His reply was, “ Yes . . . On account of water supply and sanitation preventing the proper development of training”. I do not believe that the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) will be able to find on the departmental record any evidence to support that. As a matter of fact the problems were well known before the camp was suggested. There was no water except that contained in a dam in a small creek. Naturally the water became brackish in a short space of time because the intake of fresh water could not keep pace with w7hat was pumped from the dam. When the camp was originally recommended the commanding officer ascertained that the cost of bringing water from the inexhaustible Don river would be between £4,000 and £5,000. The then Minister said that sanitation was a difficulty. It had to be a difficulty in the circumstances, for if 1,000 men are concentrated where there is a lack of water danger to the community is inevitable. The camp was to have been permanent and was to have held 1,000 men. It was closed after £8,673 had been expended. That figure does not include the cost of moving the troops, who are now encamped on the Townsville showground, which is miles away from a rifle range, and is entirely unsuitable for training purposes, as compared with what the Miowera camp would have been had proper steps been taken to ensure an adequate water supply. I had the pleasure of inspecting the Miowera camp, where 1 dined in the officers’ mess with the commanding officer, Major Snodgrass, and his staff. The commanding officer told me that it would be difficult to obtain a better site for a camp. Having served in Palestine and other places in the Middle East in the last war, he ought to know what he is talking about when he discusses camp matters. Hia experience lends force to his statement that the Miowera camp was ideal, but for the water shortage. That was the only trouble apart from the attitude of the owner of the property on which the camp was established. His attitude is quite understandable when it is realized that he was trying to- fatten cattle on land on which hundreds of men were being trained and that he was receiving as rent only £2 a week. Many people imagined that it was because of the influence of his brother-in-law well known in the United Australia party circles, that Mr. D. A. Herron, the owner of the property, was able to lease the land to the Commonwealth. The falsity of that is shown by the meagre rent paid to him and by the fact that no man would be willing for such a small return to destroy his chances of pursuing his profitable industry of breeding fat cattle. The Townsville camp is not satisfactory and another site must be found. I strongly advised the Government to consider the reports of its officers on the Miowera camp, which apart from the easily rectifiable trouble about water, is regarded by every one as being splendid for military purposes.
The statement was made yesterday that northern Queensland has been neglected in the allocation of munitions contracts. Not only has northern Queensland been neglected, but also the whole of Queensland has largely been neglected in this connexion. A so-called expert, Colonel Evans, reported that the foundry at Mackay and that at Brandon, near Ayr, were not suitable for munitions work. He reported that castings would be a difficulty at Brandon, but that the boring and planing plant was quite all right. Another expert, however, said the opposite, namely, that the foundry was quite all right for castings, but that the boring and planing plant was not what was wanted. We would seem to have too many experts when two of them can express contrary opinions about the same place, and when one of them can say that its castings are not suitable, in. spite of the fact that the foundry can do the work very well, and has been doing so for years in the manufacture of rollers for sugar mills, involving heavy castings six feet in length. It was only after the manager of the Mackay foundry, Mr. Cameron,, came south to talk to higher authorities, that he was able to prove the efficiency and worth of the foundry’s plant and obtain orders. The Commonwealth Manpower and Resources Survey Committee was surprised to see the quality of the work that was being done at the Delta foundry. That establishment has difficulty in handling bis jobs, but, in spite of what experts might say, it has done and is doing all of the ordinary foundry work. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was Minister for the Army, I asked him whether some arrangement could be made to utilize the sugar mills in the slack season on munitions work. He replied that such an arrangement would not be economical. At the same time the Plane Creek mill has been engaged on munitions work uninterruptedly for a year. A greater share of this work could be undertaken by the sugar mills. I hope that the Government will do more in that direction than the last Government, which spoke so much about its war effort. Machinery in sugar mills in the Mackay district, which is valued at £3,000,000, can definitely be utilized for certain classes of munitions work. I asked Mr. Cameron what degree of co-operation he expected to receive from those mills. He told me quite a number of things which I shall personally bring under the notice of the Minister. However, he said, “ We have an organization which, when we get going in the near future, will surprise Australia”. The Man-power and Resources Survey Committee was informed that the machinery in one mill in the Innisfail district could be made available uninterruptedly throughout the year for munitions work.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is a member of that committee, and I have no doubt that, like his colleagues, he was surprised when he saw the work that was being done in the two foundries I have mentioned. Those plants have not yet been employed to capacity in this work.
– And there are 1,000 engineers in Mackay and north of that place.
– Yes, in Mackay and North Mackay; and they ar9 just as efficient, taken by and large, as engineers to be found elsewhere in Australia.
A few years ago, at a very early hour in the morning, when practically every honorable member was sleepy and tired, a Minister of the late Government, a canny Scotsman, put through the House an amendment of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act. At first glance that amendment appeared to be of minor importance, but it gave to the Government discretion to decide what works should be referred to the committee for investigation. Previously, the act provided that all proposed works, estimated to cost £25,000 or over, must be referred to the committee. I urge the Government to restore that provision in order that all works estimated to cost £25,000 or over shall be automatically referred to the committee for investigation. The committee has effected enormous savings in respect of works which have been referred to it for investigation. Last year the late Government endeavoured to ignore a report, by the -works committee, on proposed departmental offices for Canberra. Its behaviour, and particularly that of the Minister for the Interior at the time, were worthy only of a selfish school boy. The committee’s recommendation was not viewed favorably by the Minister. He wanted to erect two temporary administrative buildings, whereas the committee declared that such a proposal constituted a serious diversion from the Griffin plan, and, accordingly, recommended that permanent administrative accommodation be constructed, or, alternatively, that the block at Civic Centre known as Melbourne Buildings, be completed at a cost of £50,000 in order to provide the immediate accommodation required. No attempt has yet been made to implement that recommendation of the Public Works Committee. On the contrary, the late Government hastened to rent office space in the capital cities, principally Sydney and Melbourne, and even in Canberra, with the result that its rent bill was increased considerably. Although the late Government originally proposed to expend £80,000 on the erection of temporary office buildings, it took no steps to provide the £50,000 which the completion of the block at Civic Centre was estimated to cost. Expert evidence was given on oath before the committee that the latter accommodation would be a payable letting proposition when the Government vacated it on the erection of the administrative block. The Patents Office building is not in accordance with the Griffin plan. That work was not referred for investigation to the works committee because the then Prime Minister was determined that the committee should not prevent its erection. The amendment to which I referred was put through this chamber at 3 o’clock in the morning in circumstances in which honorable members had no opportunity to realize its importance.
– Who was the canny Scotsman?
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) was the Minister in charge of that measure. He secured that amendment on behalf of a Government whose sole desire was to ignore the works committee when it considered that course convenient or expedient. A review of the work of the committee shows that it has saved to this country a considerable sum.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) has announced his intention to promulgate regulations in order to prevent rent racketeering. He intimated that rents would be pegged at the 1939 level. I have in mind a house at the corner of Blair-street and Beach-road, Bondi, which has been purchased by one of those people who were chased out of Germany by Hitler. The tenant of that house is the wife of a returned soldier now on active service. Every day the landlord waits on that lady and inquires in the accent typical of his race, when he can have the place, as he wants it. It is time that regulations were framed in order to prevent aliens from owning property in this country.
– Does that happen under the rule that every refugee has his block of flats?
– I know all about that. I know who is responsible for their being here. I should like to know how much they pay for their privileges. It is disgraceful that these people are allowed to buy property in this country before they are naturalized. Wo are told that they were hunted out of Germany without a shilling, yet they can afford to buy expensive properties. I also have in mind a block of flats at the corner of Curlewis-street and Glenayravenue, Bondi, which was purchased by one of these refugees at the price of £15,000. The whole of the ground floor of that structure has been converted into shops, and large plate-glass windows now extend along the whole of the frontage of the property. I am informed that such renovations cost £11,000. Yet all of that expense apparently has been borne by one of Hitler’s victims, one of those persons who, we are told, were chased out of Germany after being deprived of everything. To-day, Australian tenants are being harassed by these people, some of whom should be in internment camps. I make no secret of the fact that I have reported at least one of those gentlemen to the Investigation Branch. That particular individual ow.ns a large block of flats. Recently he was coming out of the front door of his property when he met another of his kind coming out of an adjacent barber’s shop. The first thing to appear through the doorway was his nose. As he approached his friend he clicked his heels. I was passing at the moment. He looked at me and wondered who I was. I have no doubt that he said to his compatriot “Heil Hitler”. I hope that regulations will be framed with the object of preventing Germans of th is kind from ousting Australians from their properties. They should not be allowed to own property until they are naturalized. I am glad to bc able to say that they cannot do so in Queensland.
Yesterday the honorable member for Boothby (Dr. Price), almost with a catch in his throat, declared that what we wanted in this country was a Churchill.
Let me read to the honorable gentleman the following extract which I take from A Prophet at Home by Douglas Reed : -
The Tory system, through this miserable doctrine of the little exclusive coterie united by money and the piece of coloured ribbon, is responsible for the social evils of this country and the long foreseeable wars that find it unready.
For this reason I, for one, deeply regretted that Mr. Winston Churchill, who as an “ unreliable man “ of “ poor judgment “ had suffered too much from this very system, to the misfortune of England, took over, when Mr. Chamberlain laid it down, the leadership of that Tory party which, in an election speech at Dundee in 1908, he described, according to the newspaper report, in these terms: -
We know what to expect, when they return to power - a party of great vested interests, banded together in a formidable confederation; corruption at home, aggression to cover it abroad, the tyranny of tariff jugglery, the tyranny of a well-fed party machine . . . dear food for the million, cheap labour for the millionaire. That is the policy which the Tory party offers you.
That is the policy of the Tory party in this Parliament. It was the policy of the Government which we displaced a month ago. From the criticism by honorable members opposite of the budget proposals, although they do not put their views on the matter as bluntly as Mr. Churchill, it is clear that they wish to see a Tory policy implemented in this country. It is a pity that Mr. Churchill has to deal with Fifth Columnists like the Cliveden set and the Duke of Bedford. Mr. Churchill’s job, and the job of this Government, could be rendered much easier if people of that kind were interned.
– It has been very interesting to note the change which has come over honorable members opposite since, a few weeks ago, they changed over to the Government side of the chamber in a high state of gratification and exhilaration. I have watched them carefully for the last two or three days. To-day, Mr. Chairman, they sit at your right, but they appear gloomy ; and one begins to wonder whether their gloom is due to the fact that they have already discovered that there are some difficulties in running a government in a war like this, or whether it is simply because there are two wings of the Government party whose views do riot agree on all matters. I suppose there is one wing which considers that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in his budget, has gone, perhaps, rather further than is wise; and they are not too pleased about it. And there are others who probably think that the Treasurer has not gone far enough ; and those honorable gentlemen are looking forward with avidity to the day when he will go far enough, if that day ever comes.
– That is very encouraging
– It is very encouraging to us. We have heard so much of the things that would, be done so soon as the Opposition of a few weeks ago assumed office.
– What does the honorable member expect within three weeks?
– That is the point. When Government members wc in. opposition their policy, it was said, was cut and dried and ready to be put into operation forthwith. Now we have a series of apologies from them. So far as the shortness of the time available for the preparation of the budget is concerned there is no need for apology; though honorable members opposite have found sufficient lime to take definite action in certain directions. Sometimes when one is looking through old papers, one comes across an extract which is apposite to the moment. Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) rebuked the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) for being inconsistent, but I have here evidence that inconsistency can exist in other quarters. In the Melbourne Argun of the 4th .September, 1940, the then Lender of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) is reported to have referred to the Beasley group, which at that time did not see eye to eye with the Curtin group, as follows : -
The Beasley group has no part in the Labour movement. Iti fact. Mli’ Beasley group lias no reason for its existence, lt split from the Labour party for a reason that lm» since vanished, tt would split in any cusp. Vor Mr. Menzios to say that I will not hu able to form a Government without the Hensley group is wishful thinking.
Yet it came to pass, although to be quite fair I do not think that the decision as to the personnel of the
Labour. Government was made entirely on the merits of the members concerned. I have no reason to have a personal liking for the Beasley group’s political views, but I have a certain respect for men who possess obvious merit, and some have been omitted from the Ministry, who, I think, should have been given a chance to display their ability, particularly at a time like this. That is merely my own personal opinion, based on the wider view that we all should be working together. I have quoted to honorable members just what the Prim” Minister said in respect of a certain section of his party only a year ago.
– The honorable member should hear what we said about the then Leader of the Opposition.
– It may be that the. honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) did say some interesting things about the Curtin group at that time, and if he will rise and give to the committee some details of what was said. I shall listen to him with the greatest of interest and pleasure.
The budget should be no surprise to any one who has watched public life, particularly the political side of it, during the last year. It is completely consistent with the repeated refusal by honorable members opposite to form a national government. The . attitude of Labour party supporters has been quite uniform throughout, and it was only to be expected that when they finally gained occupation of the treasury bench, some such budget as this would be introduced. But considering the situation on tin.1 widest possible basis, what is the general attitude of the Labour party? Surely this: they hope that we shall win the war; they are opposed to conscription of manpower, whether for military service overseas, or for industry; and it appears that they are opposed to the conscription of wealth, although not to the point of preventing them from very nearly applying conscription to certain tax-paying groups which do not include their own political supporters.. I think that’ is a fair statement of ‘the position. If any honorable member on the other side of the chamber stands for conscription, in due order of priority, of the entire resources of this country for the purpose of winning this war, I invite him to rise in this chamber and say so; unless be does, we can only assume that he does not hold that view, or at least is not prepared to express it. With reference to the question asked by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) this morning, I do not know Mr. Nash, the New Zealand Cabinet Minister whom we had the honour of accommodating with a seat on the floor of this chamber the other day; I have not spoken a word to him in my life, but one cannot fail to be impressed by the sane and common-sense approach which the New Zealand Labour Government, of which Mr. Nash is a member, has made to this problem. Even though some honorable members may not be prepared to listen to what I say, I strongly urge them to read the report of Mr. Nash’s speech which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and which came like a breath of fresh air.
As for the budget itself, we can dismiss it fairly quickly. The contrast between this budget and that introduced by Mr. Fadden some weeks ago appears to be simply that a mere trifle of £16,000,000 more has to be found now by way of loans or through the release of credit. That is the first point. The second point is that this budget makes no provision for compulsory loans. All contributions by loan are to be made on a voluntary basis. Those are the essential distinctions between the two budgets. I disagree with this budget; I think that it is a bad budget. In fact I should go so far as to call it a sordid budget.
– I object to the word “ sordid “.
– The honorable member should not. I express my own opinion. I do not object to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) who is now sitting at the table carrying on a conversation while I am speaking; in fact, I congratulate him on his elevation to the Ministry after all these years, but I recall that when I interjected earlier in the week, he said “ I shall not listen to you ; anything you say will not he worth listening to “. Consistently with that, the honorable gentleman has to-day been talking to others continually during the course of my speech.
There are three outstanding reasons why I consider that this budget is essentially bad, and I shall start by mentioning briefly what they are. The first is that voluntary contributions to loans and war savings certificates will inevitably prove insufficient. I have no doubt whatever on that score. The second reason is that there is a most unfair distribution of taxation, an unduly heavy load being placed on those earning high incomes. The third reason is that in my opinion - I am confident that it is shared by many others - the budget has definite inflationary tendencies, It may be argued that that was also the case with the Fadden budget and, to some extent, with the budget introduced last year, and I shall have a few words to say on that score when I come to the general subject of inflation. In support of my contention that voluntary contributions to loans and war savings certificates will be insufficient - and I am not talking as a doctrinaire, lawyer, or professor of economics - I ask honorable members whether it is not obvious that if we create, as we have done in the last two years, what might be called a group on an increased standard of living due to higher wages, there will be increased spending on luxury goods, particularly when the group concerned consists of wage-earners who previously had not very much pocket-money? Obviously and naturally they will want to spend the additional money on some of the pleasures which they consider have been too long withheld from them. It is an elementary trait in human character that if a person suddenly acquires unexpected means, he will tend to spend it on pleasure and on commodities, which, although they may seem excellent to him3 are not essential to the community in war-time. The ladies will buy more hats, for example, and the men will buy additional comforts, possibly furniture for the home. Certainly extra money will be spent, and will not go into war loans. Perhaps some of it will eventually find its way into these funds, but it is perfectly obvious that, in respect of hundreds of thousands of people, the money will be spent on non-essential goods.
– What constitutes nonessential goods?
– HUGHES. - Like many Other things that is a matter of definition. Yesterday I was interested to hear the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Baker) give a definition of an economist. I had previously heard it as a definition of an expert. Lord Rosebery once defined memory as the feeling which creeps over us when we hear our friends’ new stories!
– Will the honorable member define luxuries
– I shall not. .
– -For obvious reasons.
– No, not for obvious reasons, but ‘because I wish to say a great deal in the time available to me, and 1 shall not permit my train of thought to be interrupted even by the honorable member for Dalley. I repeat that the Government will be disappointed in its expectations from voluntary loans.
I come now to the second reason why I consider that this is a bad budget, namely, that taxation on higher incomes is unduly heavy. When the right honorable member for Kooyong said yesterday that this additional taxation would check enterprise, there was an outcry from honorable members opposite, but obviously that must be the result. Take the case of a man who instead of having some thousands of pounds to use in his business, has to hand that money over to the Government. He cannot possibly have the means to continue his activities in the same way in the future. Not only will the money go to the Government instead of into his business, but also, and more unfortunately still, he will not have the money to contribute to war loans, Red Cross funds, and the various other funds which exist for the assistance of our armies in the fields; or if he is still able to subscribe to these worthy activities, his contributions will be on a very much reduced scale. Of course it may be argued that it is more important for the Government to obtain that money directly, rather than allow it to be diverted to these subsidiary war efforts, although it is very hard to think of anything more essential in war-time than the Red Cross organization. Also, in all probability, the business men whose incomes are to he thus reduced will he forced to curtail the number of their employees. That also may be a good thing from the point of view of the Government, because the employees concerned may go into government instrumentalities and departments.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– I do not suggest at all that the wealthy classes should not pay their full share of the cost of the war; and. inevitably that share will be much heavier than the share of other classes of the community. Personally I do not cavil at the proposed tax of I63. 8d. in the £1. I believe that the tax will go a good deal higher before the war ends. But we should preserve an elementary equity in these matters. We should not abandon the fundamental sense of justice which is necessary in a community. I am of the opinion, as are many people beyond the walls of this House, that the Government’s proposals in this connexion cannot be regarded as being, in any sense,, equitable or just. It is not right that the rich people who constitute a very small section of the community, should be savagely penalized - for that is what is proposed - whilst a very large number of the people who have equal voting power should not pay any tax at all, or else no increase, or a very slight increase only on the amount they are at present paying. Such a policy is contrary to the most elementary sense of justice, and cannot be regarded as a sensible way of trying to win the war. Practically the whole of the increased burden of taxation is to be placed upon a comparatively few people. Parliament may approve of this policy by a majority vote, but that will not make it just, nor will it increase our capacity as a people to pull together. Obviously we should be pulling together at a time like this. The Government’s proposal is a deliberate attack upon the very wealthy class of the community. When we look at the matter clearly, we see that it is a taa on success.
– Does the honorable member think it is unfair to tax the wealthy?
– It is unfair to tax them to the exclusion of other people. Australia needs more, and not less, success. From time to time during the last twenty years I have had to listen in this House, and elsewhere, to constant attacks upon the successful people of this country. I refer to many who, by their enterprise and ability, have made a great success of their pastoral, industrial, financial and trading operations. In the great majority of cases these have been straightforward men. They have succeeded by their energy, capacity, and integrity.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that they should pay into an insurance fund for their protection ?
– Of course I do, and if the honorable gentleman had listened to me he would have known that that is my view ; but is it right that these wealthy people alone should be required to make an adequate contribution to the cost of the war? Is the war not a war for the masses as well as for the few wealthy people of the community? I do not for a moment accept the preposterous suggestion that has been made again and again in this House during the last few years, that our successful men have been crooked, and have made their wealth by devious methods. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I know many fairly wealthy men in Australia, and I am able to say from personal experience of them that a more public-spirited and generous-hearted people it would be hard to find. I admit that there are mean rich men, but are not mean men to be found in every section of thecommunity? There is a good deal of truth in Sancho Panza’s saying that “ man is as God made him, and frequently worse “. It is too ludicrous a suggestion for any one to believe that the rich are always crooked. It is suggested from time to time that a great firm like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which has clone so much for this country during the war, is not straight. I heard the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) say last night - he was speaking in general terms - that the magnates of this country who have accumulated wealth have doneso often by very doubtful methods. A similar statement could be made about every section of the community. The rich have no monopoly in this connexion. I assert, though I do not emphasize the point unduly, for it carries its own conviction, that in every capital city of Australia there are monuments of a beneficent kind to the public-spirited men who have lived there, for they have used their wealth in a large degree as stewards, and the general public has reaped the advantage. Nearly every university in Australia has been established, or has been greatly helped, by the bequests and gifts of wealthy men. I have in mind such notable citizens of a. former generation as Sir Winthrop Hackett, Sir Thomas Elder, Sir Francis Ormond, Sir Samuel McCaughey and Sir James Burns. The new university in Brisbane is being built on land presented by a private citizen. The Waite Institute in Adelaide, and the Felton bequest, which so greatly benefits the Museum and Art Gallery of Melbourne, also illustrate my point.
– How did those men get their wealth?
– In the first place by their exceptional ability and enterprise. The number of our very rich men has been small; many men have failed to make a great success, or, having made it, have failed to continue it. I leave the matter there, for I do not think it requires any further elaboration to reasonable people.
– We are much impressed.
– I am glad to hear it. My view may not be in accordance with that of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), but I ask him and other honorable gentlemen opposite to consider, also, the manner in which the wealthy people of this community have supported charities and hospitals all over Australia. In the main, such men have made their money by ability and not by roguery. Wealthy men have served Australia well personally as well as by their money. Two of the most honoured men in this House in recent years, I venture to say, were the late Charles Hawker and. the late James Fairbairn. They belonged to the community to which I am referring. They came from wealthy families. Would any honorable gentleman opposite claim that he had made a contribution to the public service of the Commonwealth equal to that of those two men? And they are not alone.
– They were born into wealthy families.
– There is another aspect of the subject. Many wealthy men in Australia to-day are giving their service to the nation freely, or for a very small remuneration, in order to help the present war effort. I wish their names could be written up somewhere so <we could see them, for a lot of critics do not know what service of this kind is being done. Of course, it will be suggested by some that these men have some ulterior motive in mind. It will be said that if they are not receiving pay for their services, they will expect to be compensated in some other way. If they were materialists, as has so often been suggested, would they have given up their businesses at a time like this in order to serve the country in an honorary capacity?
– Who has suggested that they are trying to get something out of it?
– The honorable member forReid practically made that suggestion last night. I have sat in this House for years while attacks have been levelled against the great industrialists and merchants of Australia and suspicions cast upon them. I repudiate all such attacks and suspicions, for they are gravely unjust. It seems to me that they have been made in order to undermine the reputations of these people, or to serve as an excuse for the kind of action that this Government is now taking.
The honorable member for Bass had something to say yesterday about conscription. He put his case reasonably enough, but I think his view is quite wrong. It is, of course, possible to put a case reasonably, even though it be badly based. The honorable member, as I understand him, said that honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber were in favour of the conscription of man-power for overseas service,but were not in favour of the conscription of wealth.
– I said that members of the Opposition were in favour of the conscription of man-power and material but not of wealth.
– We are in favour of the conscription, in its due order, of man-power for service anywhere, in the Army or out of it, including industry. That, at any rate, is my position. We are also obviously in favour of the conscription of wealth, as it may be required, for the prosecution of the war, in the first place of income and, subsequently, if necessary, of capital, until the whole of the resources of the country have been brought into the war effort.
– But wealth comes last.
– Not at all. Our whole effort must be co-ordinated. Unless we can draw upon the whole of our man-power for service overseas or for service in industry, we shall fail to make our maximum war effort. Our present man-power position is absolutely hopeless. The policy of the Government seems to be based upon the use of manpower, which, actually, is not available to us. However, the Government has decided to apply conscription, or what is near enough to conscription, to the incomes of asmall handful of people in this community who have large incomes, and do not belong to the Labour party. It seems that for Labour supporters the slogan is “ Victory without debt”.I have received, I suppose, a couple of hundred circulars carrying this slogan, and I daresay other honorable members have also received them. It is utterly impossible to emerge from, a war of the magnitude of this one without having incurred heavy debts. How can any reasonable person expect to attain such an impossible end? One communication that I have received on this subject reads as follows: -
As my Federal representative, I hereby request you to insist upon the Commonwealth Bank making use of its powers, as set forth in paragraph 504 of the Australian Monetary Commission’s Report, to finance the present war by the issue of interest -.free money, and to oppose . all attempts to introduce the “ Keynes Plan “, or any modification of it, into Australia.
The persons who sign these circulars seem not to have given any consideration to how we are to get through the war without incurring debt. Such a thing would, of course, be impossible.
The third subject which I wish to discuss is the deliberate and definite inflationary tendency of this budget. Personally, I consider that this tendency has been in evidence for the last year or so, but not to any major degree. The budget introduced a few weeks ago by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) showed a marked increase in the inflationary tendencies that were noticeable in last year’s budget; but such tendencies are far more manifest in the budget now before us. Everybody knows that our currency and the currencies of other countries are already inflated to a certain degree. Our difficulty is to have controlled inflation instead of progressively increasing inflation, which leads to disaster. I said only last week that this budget had very inflationary tendencies: and a leading banker stated the same thing. In a matter of money, I place my trust in men who understand finance. If I am to have a surgical operation I prefer to have it done by a surgeon rather than by a carpenter or a blacksmith. Few of us here, however great our qualifications may be, have the ability to manage the affairs of a great bank. The work is specialized, and is not confined to operations within Australia. A banker must be able to pit his brains against the best brains of other countries. That cannot be done successfully by an untrained man.
– I shall tell the honorable member a well-known, story about the artist Whistler; it has a great deal of truth in it, and its application is general. During the course of a law suit, Whistler was asked whether he had painted a certain picture, and when he answered in the affirmative he was asked how long it took to paint it. He answered, “ half a day “. Counsel asked, “ How much did you charge for the painting?” Whistler replied, “£200”. Counsel then asked, “Do you dare to say that you charged £200 for the work of half a day? “ Whistler answered, “ No, not for the work of half a day, but for the knowledge of a life-time.” That is analogous to the work of a great banker. I leave that for the honorable member to turn over in his mind. The following cablegram from the London Financial News appeared in the financial news section of a recent issue of the Melbourne Argus: -
The state has been reached in Australia at which inflation can be averted only by a curtailment of general consumption. Consumption is still high . . . Inflation looms if sound finance is sacrificed for vote catching.
I believe that it is generally admitted, even by honorable members who support the Government, that this is a votecatching budget. Therefore, if that statement is as sound as I believe it to be, inflation looms ahead of Australia. I do not stand here to put a case for one section of the community only. People of all classes, wealthy and poor, live in my large electorate, and it is my duty to ensure, as far as lies within my power, that our monetary policy is sound and that they are not robbed by inflation. I shall give some illustrative quotations from a book entitled, The Social Revolution in Austria, by C. A. Macartney, which deals with events in Austria after the war of 1914-18, when the country embarked on inflation. These extracts show clearly the dangerous path which Australia may be forced to follow.
– Tell the committee what happened in Australia as the result of deflation.
– Under the control of the Government of the time, led by the late Mr. Lyons, and of the Commonwealth Bank, this country pulled through the financial emergency in a way which startled most of the countries of the world.
– It was certainly startling to the workers.
– Austria provided a notable instance of extreme poverty supervening on the false control of money. Mr. Macartney who was an intelligent observer in Vienna at that time, wrote -
For, in fact, the legislation of the Socialist Governments did little to conciliate the classes outside their old followers. Both financially and socially, it was directed almost exclusively towards improving the condition of the manual labourers . . . There were three possible ways open: firstly to increase revenue by wholesale and drastic measures; secondly, to reduce expenditure both of the State and the standard of living to the absolute minimum;, or thirdly, to drift.
Eventually, he summed up the position as follows: -
The Socialist leaders therefore chose the third method, and by the bland refusal which they opposed to the second, did much to bring about the fall of the currency and the economic chaos..
I am aware that the reduction of expenditure is ruled out in some measure owing to the war, but the author’s views are sound nonetheless. For the information of honorable members who have any taste for inflation and who would like to know how it would affect themselves, I read the following interesting passage from the same book: -
A falling currency . . affects different classes of society in very different ways, some oven to their profit. In the following list of callings which I have made out, those named first profit by it, those in the middle can save themselves, while the last are its chosen victims.
The author then set out nine classes of people. Those who can profit by inflation, he said, are dishonest financiers first, bankers and honest financiers second,, and manufacturers third. Those who can save themselves are tradesmen, business men and organized labourers. But the ones who cannot save themselves, those whom Macartney described as the chosen victims of inflation, are civil servants, brainworkers, and persons of fixed income. Persons with fixed incomes are in a more unfavorable position than old-age pensioners. The rate of pension at least fluctuates- in accordance with the cost of living, although it will always rise too late to catch up with the cost of living. The people on fixed incomes are killed by inflation. There are masses of them all over this country.
– - What rot!
– Mr. Chairman, I invite you to consider whether my remarks can justifiably be described as “ rot.”
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The Chair did not hear the interjection.
– Anybody with a full sense of responsibility who embarks on inflation renders the gravest disservice to his country. This budget has an increasing tendency in that direction, and therefore it is a bad budget.
To-day I shall pass by the interesting problem of man-power because we shall have other opportunities to discuss it.It is a subject which has needed discussion in this chamber for many months past. Since February of this year I have been writing letters and asking questions on the matter, but I have not yet elicited an authoritative statement of policy from any Government.
– That is an indictment of the honorable member’s own party.
– The honorable member for Griffith is disorderly and must not persist in interjecting.
– It is an old gambit to try to prevent an honorable member from making his speech by means of constant interjection. It has been tried on me many times before.
I now refer briefly to five new points which are contained in this budget. The first relates to the land tax. This form of tax, like any other, should be used with discretion; it is essentially a capital tax. If a landowner does not make profits, he is not excused from paying land tax. Therefore, it is an unfair tax. Taxes should be levied on income rather than on something which may not produce any income at all. The honorable member for Maranoa spoke last night in favour of an increased price for wool. He said that to-day Australian woolgrowers are not obtaining nearly so much for their wool as they obtained during the war of 1914-18. 1 should like him to tell me how he manages to adjust that view with -his. support of a heavy increase of the rate of land tax which the Government he supports is now bringing in? The second of these points is company tax. One often hears people speak about “these great companies “. But many companies are neither great nor wealthy, and as a rule, the larger they are the greater is the number of individuals who share in their profits. [Extension of time granted.] In order to support my views, I quote the following statement by Sir Colin Fraser at the annual meeting of the
Electrolytic Zinc Company Limited yesterday week: -
There is a fairly general idea that industries like ours are owned and controlled by a few large shareholders - usually referred to in the term “ capital “. This “ incorrect view arises because of the failure of those who hold it to recognize that in the march of tim’e the expansion of industry in this country has provided a field of investment -with n good measure of security for the savings nf a large and increasing suction of the public.
All of us must know of people who, having only a small amount of capital, have invested it in industrial companies or other business concerns because, although the risk may be rather greater, the rate of interest which their money earns is higher than that earned by government securities. Sir Colin Eraser’s statement continued: -
Excluding the holdings of the Broken Hill mining companies, trust companies and the like (which also represent a widespread interest over a large number of individuals) the Electrolytic Zinc Company has 10,850 shareholders or owners - of whom approximately half are women - with an average holding of 240 shares.
Would anybody regard the holder of 246 shares as being a capitalist on a large scale? Could anybody justify increasing the rate of tax levied on that investment to f>0 per cent., when other people, who may be in the same class as the investor, are allowed to go free or to pay only a modicum of tax?
– How much are those shares worth?
– I believe that they are worth about 48s. each now.
– Does the honorable member consider that £600, which may not be the sole investment of the person concerned, is only a small amount?
– The majority of the people who hold shares in such companies are usually not original shareholders, but nearly always those who bought when the shares were substantially at the figure at which they stand to-day.
The budget proposes to link up husband and wife for taxation purposes. That is a radical alteration of the legal position of husband and wife, which was achieved only after many years of effort and has existed in England since, I think, 1866 or 1868.
Iu regard to soldiers’ pay, I hold a view rather different from that of members on both sides of the committee. I would give the proposed addition of ls. a day immediately to the soldiers in the fighting zone. The best course in respect of all others would be to have it deferred. I know from experience that a man in the fighting zone seldom gets back to a decent canteen, and when he does so an extra few shillings mean a good deal to him. Some men will not return from the fighting zone to receive their deferred pay. The general line of the Fadden budget was to build tip the deferred pay of all members of the fighting services. That would be a good policy to adopt in respect of those who are not in the fighting zones. I sit on the rail, if honorable members care so to regard my position, but I do so for what, in my opinion, are very good reasons. Those who have difficulty in obtaining comforts in the field should receive the extra shilling, whilst the remainder should have the amount added to their deferred pay.
– No one would charge the honorable member with being a “ rail-sitter “.
– As I am not a “ rail-sitter “, I consider that the proposed increase of the old-age pension is quite unjustified at present. 1 have discussed pensions up and down the country for many years, and the basis 1. have generally taken is that we can expect to provide social services only in proportion to what is provided elsewhere, more particularly in other parts of the British Empire.
– The pension was increased by 10s. in England.
– That may be; but what was it before the increase? If it were only 10s., then the present figure, with the addition of exchange, would be only a little higher than the Australian rate; and for many years the people of England were on a much lower rate. This country is not wealthy enough to embark on grandiose schemes for the amelioration of social conditions, unless it has the necessary funds to do so. For too long has it been carrying, in this respect, a financial burden much greater than it could afford ; and it simply cannot make increases in time of war, in view of the enormous amount of the defence vote.
– What aTe the pensioners to do - starve to death?
– I cannot see any likelihood of that happening.
– With prices everincreasing, they cannot huy the commodities that they need.
– In 1922, when the pension was increased from 15s. to 17s. 6d. a week, the total cost to the country was only about £5,500,000. At the rate of 21s. 6d. a week, the cost is now £19,000,000. If the first increase now proposed be followed by a prospective second rise to £1 5s. a week, as the newspapers have informed us and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) has stated in this committee, the total cost of pensions will probably eventually be from £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 a year. The matter is not one of humanitarian ism. Everybody knows that there is a limit to the amount, that he can personally expend. That rule applies with equal force to a country and to a private individual. We have brought pensions to a higher scale than has any other country with the exception of perhaps New Zealand, and it is not easy under the new New Zealand scheme to check exactly the relation of theirs to ours. There is in operation the provision that fluctuations of prices and values shall have the effect of altering the rate of pension. For the duration of the war, whether the period be six months or six years, we cannot afford to go any farther. The winning of the war is a condition precedent to the enjoyment of any pension in the future. If the currency be inflated, the increase of the pension rate will not be sufficiently rapid to keep pace with the increase of prices.
– Does the honorable gentleman consider that, in a budget of £325,000,000, Australia is likely to be ruined by the payment of an additional £1,500,000?
– There is a multitude of other commitments, such as soldiers’ pensions, service pensions, child endowment, and the like. I am, however, in favour of one provision in the budget, affecting the invalid pension. Invalidity always has, I think, a prior claim. I was glad to see in the budget the provision that the percentage of total invalidity is to be somewhat’ reduced. All of us have dealt with cases of men who, for all practical purposes, have been useless, and yet have not been able to obtain a pension because of the absence of total invalidity. This alteration is reasonable and sound.
If I were to deal at length with the banking institutions, my remarks would be on the lines that I have indicated in respect of the leaders of our other industrial enterprises. I should have something to say in regard to the competence of hank managers, and would affirm that the profits made by the banks are not great now, and that we have had splendid service from them in the past. The Bank of New South Wales was established in 1S17. How do honorable members think that it has lasted for 124 years unless it has been thoroughly competently run by able men? The Bank of Australasia was founded in 1835, and the Union Bank in 1S37. The Commonwealth Bank, which all of us respect and consider has done great work, was not founded until the present century. For over a century before it came into existence, the trading banks carried the people of Australia. That could have been done only on sound, competent lines. For that reason, I am always in favour of the banks being controlled by those who know how to control them, not by the representatives of the people, the basis of whose election is not the banking knowledge that they possess. We should recognize fundamental rules, and one of them is that we cannot go on spending money beyond our means without eventually getting into difficulty. One member of this chamber, nearly every time that he speaks, groans about his own or somebody’s else’s mortgage, but does he not ever pause to think that without the help of the mortgagee he would not have had any stake in the country at all? He’ desires his financial obligations to be wiped out, but no country can conduct business on those lines. It must be realized that, however desirable many social services and distributions of public money may appear to be they cannot be proceeded with satisfactorily unless we have the means with which to supply them.
.- The budget has an abundance of ill-advised and ill-considered features. There are, however, one or two bright spots in it, and I am glad to know that the Government has adopted in principle some of the leading features of the Fadden budget. I refer to the proposed establishment of a mortgage bank, the limitation of profits and the control of private banking. Having regard to the difficult times through which we are passing in the greatest crisis in the nation’s history, any unprejudiced person who has studied the Fadden budget will agree that it waa a statesmanlike effort. Viewed all round, it was direct, honest and capable, and reflected great care, tremendous thought, and expert financial and economic planning. It was a genuine attempt to be fair to all. There was no thought of party political advantage or sectional favouritism in its preparation. It declared that no section of the community would be sheltered from whatever share of the costs of the war it had the capacity to bear. Such war burdens were to be spread equitably over all classes of people.
When Prime Minister the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) proposed to raisd £322,000,000, with no increase of direct taxes on individuals, and no further indirect taxation. It is a matter for regret that the Government has not adopted the modified form of the Keynes plan for post-war credits and the proposal of the Fadden Government for deferred pay for soldiers. I suggest that the alternative to the adoption of those two proposals is a very heavy increase of direct and indirect taxes, of which we have ample proof in the present budget. The adoption of those features of the Fadden budget would have assisted considerably to meet the post-war problems and the depression which will undoubtedly come. We may take action to minimize the evil effects of the depression, but, as sure as night follows day, that depression will come. Many Australians with a substantial postwar credit, and many soldiers with a good deferred pay cheque would be able to weather the depression far more easily than the proposals of the present Government will permit.
It was rather refreshing to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) say, in the course of his budget speech, that no book entries by the Commonwealth Bank could reduce the calls on the real resources of the country. I am glad that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) and the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) have at last approved of a government pronouncement on such sound and orthodox lines. Apparently, those Ministers have thrown overboard their oft-expressed fantastic views on finance generally, and at last realize the impossibility of securing a quart from a pint pot. I hope that the Government is sincere in its declaration, and will not permit uncontrolled inflation, which has brought disastrous results to many other countries.
It has been said that the budget is a vote-catching one. I claim that it was prepared designedly to dangle political baits before the unthinking and uninformed elector. He may think that those on the lower and middle rungs of the income ladder will escape tax, but an close examination we find that the indirect taxes proposed in this budget will make a much larger hole in the basic wage man’s weekly budget than on the banking account of the man in receipt of £1,500 a year. The increased taxes to be imposed an individuals amount to £9,000,000, and an exactly similar sum is to be raised by indirect taxes. By the imposition of these indirect taxes the Government is unfair to the poorer sections of the community which it claims to protect. It is generally admitted that indirect taxes press most heavily upon those in receipt of the smaller incomes. We find that the workers’ beverage, tobacco and cigarettes are to bear increased imposts. Many household commodities used by the workers will bo taxed to the extent of 20 per cent. Even the clothes worn by the workers will bear increased taxes. Building materials will go up in price, and these increases will be reflected in increased house rents that the workers will be obliged to pay. The president of the New
South “Wales Trades and Labour Council, Mr. Maloney, M.L.C., recently stated -
Indirect taxes must seriously affect the purchasing power of the lower paid workers and reduce their standard of living below that to which it was reduced by Mr. Fadden’s budget of 1940.
The problem facing the Treasurer to-day is the same as that which confronted the Leader of the Opposition a few weeks ago. The Government proposes to raise £29,000,000 by means of increased taxes, whereas the previous Government proposed to get £32,000,000; but, out of that sum, £25,000,000 was in the nature of a loan or post-war credit, leaving only £7,000,000 to be obtained by increased taxes. It is to be regretted that Parliament has rejected the compulsory loan plan because it is now impossible to do by direct taxation what the ex-Treasurer could have accomplished by this simple and ingenious method of post-war credits. We all recognize that money must be raised if we are to put forth our maximum war effort. Many taxpayers would regard themselves as fortunate to be allowed to lend money at 2 per cent, rather than have to pay the money away in taxes. I am afraid that, under the severe taxation proposed in this budget, we shall run a grave risk of drying up those fountains of surplus funds from which loan money is normally drawn. High taxation will have a disastrous effect on our attempts to raise war loans. The net result of the Labour Government’s budget, after allowing for increased taxation and the flotation of public loans on the basis of last year’s borrowing, is to leave a gap of £94,000,000, or £13 for every man, woman and child in Australia. In other words, that amount of money is to be raised over and above what was raised last year. The sum of £22,000,000 is to be raised by increased taxation, leaving the enormous amount of £72,000,000 to be found by public borrowing.
I trust that the Government will use its best endeavours to keep the wheels of industry turning, for it is the first duty of any government to prevent continual stoppages in the war industries. Strikes and stop-work meetings are just as helpful to Hitler as if the men concerned in them were fighting in the enemies’ ranks.
I hope that the Government will confine its activities to the winning of the war, and will leave political manoeuvring in the background for the time being. There is at present a definite call for all the people of the community, trade unionists as well as employers, to brush aside petty differences, whether political, industrial, commercial or social, and to combine in a common effort for the common good. We must subordinate all considerations to the one thing that matters - the winning of the war. We have a heritage to fight for, we have our democratic institutions to fight for, our standard of living to fight for. Everything dear to us is at stake in this great conflict. Recriminations, bitterness and wrangling must be put aside. The safety of the nation is at stake, and we cannot allow discord and disunity to disorganize our war effort. The spectacle of national disorganization and discontent would be an invitation to an enemy to strike a blow at Australia. We must not allow anything to stand between us and a proper realization of the country’s needs.
I said at the beginning of my speech that there were one or two bright spots in this budget. I was pleased to note that the Government proposes to take action to stabilize rural industries. One of the most important and urgent problems confronting us at present is the preservation of our primary industries. It has been stated that all prosperity comes from the land - that the land is the backbone of Australian economy. Therefore, positive action must be taken for the protection of the man on the land, because, if the primary industries perish, so also will Australia perish. We must endeavour to stabilize the finances of the primary producer. Farming incomes must be increased. The primary industries have been hit more severely by the war than any others. What with the scarcity of petrol, and the difficulty of finding markets for primary products, many farmers will soon be unable to carry on. In many instances, costs are in excess of returns. Potatogrowers had a bad time during recent years. If they are prevented from securing a reasonable price for their potatoes during a time of scarcity, they should be protected against los3 when there is a glut. However, when the grower has a chance of getting a reasonably high price during the time of scarcity, in order to make up for the losses previously incurred the authorities step in and fix a maximum price. If a maximum price, is fixed when supplies are short, surely it is but a natural corollary that a minimum price should be fixed in time of plenty. The Government has already acquired such products as wool, wheat, and lamb, in order to save those industries from ruin. It is only logical, therefore, that something should be done to save the potatogrower from ruin. The potato-growing industry is just as important as some of those industries which have been assisted, and provides just as much employment; yet it has never received Government assistance. To-day, the farmers are faced with soaring costs and crashing prices, and they are not able to meet the costs out of the returns they receive from their products. I admit that the problem is an exceedingly difficult one, but it must be tackled in a big way. We must not shirk our responsibility simply because the problem is a big one. Action must be taken to ensure that the people consume larger quantities of those foods which formerly were exported. It is not the fault of the farmer that shipping space is not available for the export of foodstuffs, and he should not have to bear all the loss. It is a national responsibility, and should be regarded as such. The formulation of a comprehensive plan for the preservation of primary industries, and for the cheap and efficient distribution of their products, is imperative. We must try to stem the drift of population from the country to the cities. Many thousands of persons have left rural occupations and gone to the cities where wages are higher and living conditions better. It is necessary to raise the standard of living of the primary producers so as to bring it into closer relation to that enjoyed by persons engaged in secondary industries. If the average farmer could pay 4 per cent, on his capital, let alone meet interest, depreciation and rent charges, he would be overjoyed. If, in addition, he could, out of the returns from his farm, pay the basic wage to his wife, the adult members of his family and his employees, he would think that the millennium had come. Unfortunately, he cannot do so ; his returns are falling and his costs are rising rapidly. Some people say that the remedy is price-fixing, but the pricefixing machinery seems to work differently when dealing with the products of secondary industries from the way it works when dealing with primary products. What happens when the prices of primary products rise in sympathy with a calamitous season or soaring production costs? There is a public outcry, and the price-fixing authorities are stirred to take action. A maximum price is fixed with little or no regard to the costs of production. I admit that the costs of production in primary industries are difficult to assess. One cannot assess the relative costs of production on any two farms, because of the wide divergence of climatic conditions and soil fertility. Such things as distances from the rail-head, availability of labour, even the contour of the land, as well as the unpredictable emergencies such as bush fires, floods, pest infestations, family sickness, &c, affect production costs. The Australian manufacturer who produces goods for the Australian market is in an entirely different position from the primary producer whose income is largely controlled by world parity and the availability or otherwise of markets. The secondary industries are amply protected. I do not complain of that. On the contrary, I support that measure of protection. Workers in secondary industries are protected by arbitration awards, which fix the minimum but not the maximum wage, and also by the tariff, whereas the primary producer has his wages fixed by the price that he secures for his product. We talk of equality of opportunity and of sacrifice, but is there any such equality when one worker is protected by Arbitration Court awards and tariff schedules, whilst another worker has to accept world prices for his goods? When no shipping is available and there is no local market for his products, it sometimes happens that his harvest is not gathered; the product that he has laboured hard to produce is left to rot in his fields or on the wharfs and becomes an absolute loss. I am reminded of a school teacher who once asked a pupil to describe a farm. The pupil wrote “A farm is a piece of land surrounded by mortgages “. In many instances that is a true description, due largely to the non-existence of a mortgage bank or of reasonable facilities to obtain finance. I trust that the Government will push ahead with the proposal to establish a mortgage bank. It is long overdue. I compliment the Government on adopting the proposal of the Fadden Government in this connexion, and I urge that no time be lost in establishing it, because I believe that it will be of great assistance to our rural industries, provided that adequate longterm credits are made available at reasonable rates of interest. The establishment of a mortgage bank should certainly create greater stability in the primary industries.
Much has been done in the past for the primary producers by the provision of bounties and advances, but we have now reached the stage when we must have a comprehensive scheme to increase the income of primary producers, rather than a scheme which will enrich their creditors. In this connexion statements by two prominent persons may be of interest to honorable members. I shall refer first to the statement of Sir Frederick Leith Eoss, who is in charge of the plan of the British Government to feed Europe with dominion surplus foodstuff. He recently said -
It is necessary to remember that primary production is the base upon which the whole economic structure is built, and the base cannot carry the superstructure of industry, trade and finance, if prices rise to levels at which they either discourage consumption or incite to over-production, or, alternatively, if they fall to levels spelling bankruptcy for primary producers.
I agree with that statement. It is necessary to have a comprehensive scheme, in order to stabilize our primary industries. The second statement to which I wish to refer is that of Professor ‘Copland, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, who is reported to have said -
I believe that there should be an attempt to prevent any rapid recession in prices at the conclusion of the war and that if there is any recession, unemployment and social distress will have to be faced. The problem will have to be tackled through the medium of minimum price levels, expansion of public works, import regulations, &c.
I agree with that statement also, and I urge that efforts be made to meet such contingencies. One of the greatest problems of agriculture is how to overcome gluts and surpluses. One causes the other. They can be greatly reduced, or even abolished, in normal seasons by fixing minimum prices which will prevent farmers from periodically abandoning the production of a commodity because its price has reached low levels. The United States of America has attacked this problem in recent years. I shall quote from the report of the Secretary for Agriculture in the United States of America for 1940-
In spite of the outcry raised against it at first in some quarters, the farm programme that has been developed since 1933 has been generally recognized as a truly national programme. It has become to be accepted as a means of advancing the general welfare as well as that of agriculture.
Under the farm programmes, farm and nonfarm groups have benefited together. Farm incomes have been practically doubled. Farm bankruptcies have declined by more than 76 per cent. Farm mortgage debt has been substantially reduced. More than 6,000,000 farmers have co-operated in soil conservation and crop adjustment plans. Improved farm buying power has tremendously benefited urban business. Farmers are now able to buy from cities as much as they did in 1929, whereas in 1932 they only bought 58 per cent, as much. Farm machinery sales have quadrupled. About 20 per cent, of the factory re-employment is a direct result of increased farm buying power. Surplus disposal operations have relieved the farmers surplus problems and aided the nation’s poor. Agriculture has never lowered its production below the wants of the people, but, on the contrary, has merely checked its over-production.
Federal action to raise farm income has not hurt the rest of the community, but has raised and tended to equalize the community’s buying power. Employed wage-earners can command more agricultural products with their payrolls than they could in 1929.
The food stamp plan has universal approval. Opposition to the national farm programme has practically disappeared, criticism now only deals with details. Almost every one admits that what the Government is doing for agriculture is broadly what must be done.
In view of such a fulsome eulogy from the United ‘States of America after the scheme has been in operation for some years, could Australia do wrong in adopting a similar plan?
The present Secretary for Agriculture in the United States of America has referred to the “ problem of farmers’ surpluses “ and to a “ food stamp plan “. Various schemes have been devised for the purpose of disposing of surplus products in the domestic markets of that country. They are designed to bridge the gap between the surpluses on the farms, and the need for supplying more food and other necessaries to people who lack adequate purchasing power. un plan envisages the purchase by the Federal Government of the surplus products for distribution to the States for use by the poorer classes of the community. During 1939-40, more than 1,300,000 tons of 40 different surplus products were purchased, distributed to the States, and fed to 11,000,000 persons in 3,000,000 families.
Under the food stamp plan, people in the lower income groups and in indigent circumstances buy an orange coloured food stamp for $1 . That enables them to purchase $1 worth of food. In addition, the holder of the stamp receives a blue half-dollar stamp which entitles him to obtain, free of charge, half a dollar’s worth of surplus foods. The United States of America is so satisfied with the operation of the plan that the Government is extending its scope. The Secretary of Agriculture has directed that important revisions of the Agricultural Adjustment Act should be made. This proposed extension has been placed before all leaders of organized agriculture for consideration, and will be debated by Congress at an early date. The essence of the new proposal is to be found in the preamble to the measure which reads -
A bill to promote the national defence and security by stabilizing agricultural prices, by encouraging the farmers’ production of foods for better nutrition, by assisting small farmers and for other purposes.
The Government should give serious consideration to this system, because it offers the means of preserving our primary industries. If we allow them to fail, we also shall perish.
.- As previous speakers have dealt exhaustively with the budget proposals of the Labour Government, I shall confine my remarks to a brief outline of the achievements of the previous Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and his Ministers would be well advised to follow the excellent example that has been set by their predecessors. The change of government was most unfortunate. People do not swap horses when they are crossing a dangerous stream. Since the outbreak of war, I have consistently advocated the formation of a national government, because the duty devolves upon every honorable member to pull his weight in this period of extreme crisis. Failure to achieve a national government has been, to me, a source of profound disappointment. Although the Advisory War Council was established, it waa a poor substitute for a national government and it counts for very little indeed. The representatives of the Opposition upon that body have no responsibility. I regret to state that I have heard confidential subjects, which were discussed at meetings of the Advisory War Council, spoken of freely in public. That failure to observe secrecy is inexcusable. Members of the Opposition will render to the Government all assistance that lies in their power in order to enable the country to achieve a maximum war effort.
The dangers that menace Australia have increased in intensity almost daily during the last two years, but the former Government left no stone unturned to meet any emergency. Its object was to keep the . battle-front thousands of miles from our shores and to date, that has been realized. Australia’s front line is not in Northern Australia but in Malaya and even in the Middle East. When the former Government sent the Australian Imperial Force abroad, it made every endeavour to ensure that the troops were well trained and properly equipped. Millions of pounds’ worth of material, in addition to that used by our troops, has been exported to theatres of war for the purpose of assisting Great Britain. For Australia, there is no comparison between the present war and the World War of 1914-18. During the last war, many thousands of Australians who fought overseas were supplied with uniforms and were partly trained in Australia,’ but their equipment was furnished by Great Britain. To-day, our troops must be fully equipped in Australia. The f ormer Government also bad the responsibility of equipping many Mew Zealand troops,, and sent a great deal of war material to various parts of the British Empire. As recently as two years ago, Australia was regarded as being principally a primary producing country. -To-day, the manufacture of war materials has been developed on a vast scale in nearly every State. Four years ago> the House decided after prolonged debate that it was impracticable to- manufacture motor cars in Australia. When the call came, we accomplished the infinitely more difficult task of making aeroplanes. Within two years of the receipt of the blue prints of the Wirraway aeroplane the first Australian-built Wirraway was in the air. The success of our aircraftmanufacturing industry speaks volumes not only for the efficiency of the Australian workman but also for the completeness of the preparations that had to be made before the first aeroplane could leave the production line. By now over 1,000 aeroplanes of the Wirraway type and other types have been manufactured in Australia. We also have the satisfaction of knowing that we are able to build the Beaufort bomber, which was once thought to be. entirely beyond our capabilities. Our achievements in that direction are all the more remarkable when it is realized that we had to start without a nucleus of trained men and with no machinery suitable for the production of aircraft. It was impossible in many cases to import machines from overseas, and we had to manufacture them here together with the necessary machine tools required for the manufacture of the various components. I advise honorable members who have not yet done so to visit the workshops in South Australia in order to see at first hand what wonderful strides have been made in that State. Until a few years ago South Australia was principally a primary producing State. Honorable members should visit the Islington workshops, where they will see some of the finest machines and tools that exist in any part of the world. Most of them have been made in Australia. At Salisbury, buildings for the manufacture of munitions cover 2,QQ0 acres, and are completely equipped with machinery manufactured in Australia. This speaks volumes for what was done during the last two years by former governments. Much more might have been done had honorable members opposite accepted our invitation to form a national government as a step towards securing a real “ all-in “ war effort. Instead, however-, they were content to stand aloof and criticize the Menzies and Fadden Governments for what they termed their inaction. Although the new Government has been in office for only about three weeks, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and his supporters have been proud to broadcast to the world the wonderful things that have been achieved in Australia. Have all these achievements been secured in three weeks? I remember one member of the present Ministry saying in this chamber, not long ago that if Australia were invaded not one division could be raised in this country to defend it, and even if such a division were raised it could not be equipped. A few days ago the present Prime Minister, broadcasting to the world, said, “We are now ready to face the enemy.” That also was a wonderful achievement after three weeks of office! I am surprised to see included in the Ministry to-day as Minister for the Interior, Senator Collings, who, not long ago in the Senate, characterized Mr. Churchill, a man whom we ought to go down on our knees and thank God for, as a “ scoundrel “ and a “ mad dog”. Any one who makes such utterances has no business to be included in any government. Recently an excuse was published in the press for the non-inclusion in the Ministry of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on the ground that his ill health prevented him from accepting a portfolio. In this chamber not long ago the honorable member referred to the British fleet as a “lot of pirates”. Do honorable members consider such a person to be suitable for inclusion in the Government of the Commonwealth? I thank God to-day that the honorable member has been left out of the Ministry.
– The honorable member supported the proposal of former governments for the establishment of a national government.
– That is true, but I did not advocate the inclusion in it of men of that type. I also remember having heard, less than two years ago, some of the present Ministers say that they would not send one man overseas to fight on foreign battlefields. Not long ago, when the then ‘Government sought to reintroduce compulsory military training in Australia, the proposal was hotly opposed by members of the present Ministry and their supporters. Where would we be to-day in the event of invasion if we did not have the necessary trained men to place in the field to oppose the enemy, and if our factories were not equipped to manufacture the necessary materials of war? I- am prepared to assist the present Government in every way provided it does the right thing and follows along the lines laid down by its predecessors.
In past years, Australia has been called upon to budget for an amount of approximately £70,000,000; to-day, however, owing to the exigencies of the war situation, we are called upon to budget for the staggering amount of over £300,000,000. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) upon the budget which he presented to the House. Its preparation must have entailed a large amount of work. It was a fair budget which called for equal sacrifices from all sections of the community. Every man and woman in Australia to-day is prepared to accept a fair share of the burden of our war commitments.
– That is. all the present Government asks.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. On the contrary, the revised budget proposes to place an unjust burden on a small section of the community. The Fadden Government was forced to relinquish the reins of office by the defection of the honorable members for Henty (Mr. Coles) and Wimmera (Mr. Wilson). For about twelve months the honorable member for Wimmera wore two engagement rings, but eventually he decided -to marry into the Labour party. The honorable member for Henty, who entered this Parliament about twelve months ago with a very exaggerated opinion of his own ability, first went into the party room of the United Australia party to hear what was being said. Then, I believe, he visited the Labour caucus to hear what was being said there. Eventually, he became a member of the United Australia party; but for some reason which I cannot understand, he decided to join forces with the Labour party and said : “ We will turn the Fadden Government out of office “. Well, they have been given their rewards. The reward of the honorable member for Wimmera is that he is to be given a trip overseas to the exclusion of a member of the Labour party, and the reward of the honorable member for Henty is that he will have to pay excessive taxes. I strongly advise the Treasurer to keep a well- trained eye on the honorable member for Henty and on C. J. Coles and Company Limited, which paid a dividend of17½ per cent, last year, and, judging by its elaborate and costly buildings in various parts of Australia, must have earned millions of pounds from the sale of inferior articles at high prices. Truth hurts, but I rose to speak a few home truths and I have done so. Whilst the Government does all in its power to bring about a maximum war effort, we on this side will help it to do so.
Tasmanian Flax Mills - Clyde Engineering Company Limited - Bren Gun Carriers - Ex-Australian Incomes : Appointment of Committee - Poultry Industry - Potash Supplies - Tobacco Rationing - Department of the Army : Medical Practitioners - Darwin: Outbreak of Scurvy.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I rise to advance the claim of the Scottsdale district of Tasmania for the establishment of a flax scutching mill. I recently asked the Minister for Supply and Development the following questions: -
I was informed -
Whilst I commend the Government for its decision to erect the new mills and deseeding depots indicated in the answer, T. consider that an unsatisfactory policy is being applied in respect of Scottsdale. Scottsdale is in the centre of a large flax producing district and is within 30 miles of Lilydale, where a deseeding depot already exists, and of Branxholm, where a deseeding depot is to be established. Being boused in leased premises on the showground, the scutching mill machinery at Scottsdale is unsatisfactory. It is also incapable of handling all the flax that would, be grown in the locality, a rich agricultural area, if better facilities for scutching were available. Accordingly, I ask that the Government reconsider its policy and establish a new scutching mill at Scottsdale.
– I direct the attention of the Government to the fact that men employed in the collapsible boat section of the Clyde Engineering Company Limited will be put off to-day unless the company receives further orders for work which they have been specially trained to do. It is likely that these men will be out of employment for a considerable time.
– I assure the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has discussed that matter with me, and that action has been taken.
– I shall have nothing further to say, if I am able to assure the men that they will he kept in employment.
– In the last half-hour 1 have been in communication with Sydney with a view to. having the men retained in employment at least until the matter can be adjusted.
.- Last week I asked the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) in the absence of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) whether it was true that contracts worth £6,000,000 for the manufacture of Bren gun carriers had been taken from Government factories which had satisfactorily produced 1,100 Bren gun carriers, and given to a large motor firm. With other members of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure, I have listened intently to evidence given to that body at its sittings in camera, during the last few months; but I take this opportunity to say that the question I asked was not derived from any evidence given before that body. It was prompted by information I received from a private source. I now wish to know whether the annexes at Government workshops are producing Bren gun carriers satisfactorily and at a reasonable cost, or whether it is now held that they could be produced cheaper under contract by private firms. The Minister stated yesterday that my information was hardly correct. However, last night when I was absent from the chamber, he explained that he had just secured certain, information, and he was astounded to know that action had been taken without his permission or knowledge.
– That is not quite what I said last night.
– The Minister said-
Since I answered that question this afternoon, it has been revealed to me that there is some foundation for the question submitted l>3’ the honorable member for Grey. It was proposed that the Board of Area Management in Victoria would consider to-morrow some suggestion along the lines indicated. I am astounded to think that I was not consulted, but this evening I issued a firm instruction that the matter must not be proceeded with without reference to me.
That is what the Minister said last night. I would not have submitted this question had it not been for the fact that I had received certain information on good authority. I shall not divulge the name of my informant, because, should the necessity to do so arise, he may not have an opportunity to speak for himself. Is the Minister considering granting a contract to the value of £6,000,000 to any one firm for the manufacture of Bren-gun carriers! Incidentally, the Minister, in his reply, suggested that I mentioned Ford Motors Limited, but I did not mention the name of any firm. Does the Government, the Board of Area Management in Victoria, or the Minister intend letting a contract valued at £6,000,000 for the manufacture of Bren-gun carriers to a private firm? Will the whole, or only a portion, of this work be let to any one particular company?
– Certain aspects of the matter just raised by the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) were concluded by my predecessor ; . but in regard to those aspects which have not yet been determined I have given instructions that no further determinations are to be made by the Board of Area Management until I am further consulted. I am determined that this work shall be distributed as widely as possible, and that no one company shall be given a monopoly of it. The instructions I have issued will afford me an opportunity to review the matter, and to the degree that I am still able to make any determinations in respect of it I shall ensure that the interests of those who previously did this work are fully conserved.
– In conformity with the promise made by the Government in the budget statement, a committee consisting of Mr. E. V. Nixon and Mr. J. A. L. Gunn, chartered accountants, and a nominee of the Taxation Department is being appointed to examine the proposed taxation on ex-Australian incomes, and to devise a formula to meet any cases of undue hardship. I have discussed this matter with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) who agrees with the proposed appointments.
– I take this opportunity to refer to the difficulties which now confront the poultry industry, which is fourth in importance among our primary industries. Owing to war conditions it now finds itself in difficult circumstances. Through the shortage of shipping space the export of eggs has been very much restricted. Plans are now’ being worked out, and to some degree have already been implemented, for the conversion of eggs into pulp in order to take full advantage of the limited shipping space available. This improvement will result in an increase of exports. The proportion of space saved by this means is as much as two-thirds of the space required for eggs in the shell. Since the outbreak of war the poultry industry has suffered by reason of the fact that whilst the price of eggs has remained stable the cost of articles required by the industry, such as wheat and its byproducts, has risen very substantially. Many producers who, previously, were comparatively prosperous have recently been forced out of business. This has resulted in a contraction of supplies of eggs, and that in turn will not only adversely affect the interests of the industry in this country, but will also operate against the interests of consumers in Great Britain, as that country relies very largely on Australia as a supplier of eggs, particularly since shipments from China have been greatly curtailed. The difficulties now confronting the industry can be remedied either by increasing the price of eggs or by decreasing the prices of commodities used in the production of eggs. The. former remedy would have undesirable -repercussions in Australia and also in our overseas markets. Consequently, I suggest that steps should be taken with a view to seeing whether the prices of articles used in tie production of eggs cannot be reduced. The present difficulties of the industry are indicated by the following figures: Since bef ore the war the retail price of wheat has risen from 2s. 10d. a bushel to 4s. 9d. a bushel. At the same time, as I have already sard, the price of eggs has remained stable. Many people with whom I have discussed this matter point out that before the war the industry enjoyed prosperity because wheat was cheap, and contend that now that the price of wheat has risen the industry should take the bad with the good. The average gross price of wheat from 1929 to 1939 was 3s. 2d. a bushel, which corresponds to a retail price of 3s. 7d.
That compares with the present-day priceof 4s. 9d. a bushel for wheat obtained from the produce merchants. It is easy to see. that the industry is in difficulties -because of that increase of price. The same applies to other fodders used in the poultry industry. The price of bran has risen from £4 a ton to £6 10s. or £6 15s. a ton, and there has been a similar increase in the price of pollard. In fact, even at these high prices, bran and pollard are sometimes unobtainable. The shortage is due to the fact that the millers are not gristing the same quantity of flour as in previous years, and consequently there is a reduction in the quantities of by-products available.
Let us turn now to the other side of the picture, namely, the position of wheat stocks abroad and in Australia. The position, as I see it, is very unsatisfactory. Last year the world shipment of wheat reached a record low figure of 320,000,000 bushels, compared with the previous record of 350,000,000 bushels in 1890. This year prospects are even worse, and the world shipment will probably not reach more than 300,000,000 bushels. At present the world’s surplus wheat stocks amount to 1,200,000,000 bushels, of which 375,000,000 bushels are in ‘Canada, 385,000,000 in tie United States of America, 200,000,000 in Argentina, and 20,000,000 in Australia. The low figure for Australia is due to the fact that last year we had a serious drought which reduced our yield considerably. Indications are that this year our surplus will reach 100,000,000 bushels, which is a very large quantity for this country. There will be similar increases in other countries, where good harvests seem to be assured. The world, therefore, is faced with the probability of ever-increasing wheat stocks, so long as the war lasts. There seems to be no reasonable prospect of disposing of the huge surpluses which are now being built up. It is argued that when the war is over there will be a heavy demand for wheat in war-stricken countries, but that demand will be temporary only and will not absorb the huge stocks which will be available. Australia is definitely faced with the prospect of accumulating an enormous surplus of which there seems to be little possibility of disposing. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the Government to explore every possible means of disposing of our wheat. Acting upon instructions from the Government the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry has indicated one way in which a certain quantity of wheat can be used: It is proposed to produce 40,000,000 gallons of power alcohol, of which 38,500,000 gallons will be obtained from wheat. That production will absorb approximately 17,000,000 bushels, which is a very small quantity compared with the estimated surplus of 100,000,000 bushels. Other ways and means must be found to dispose of our surplus wheat. It is clear that quite a large quantity can be diverted to the poultry industry. At present that industry is responsible for the consumption of 25 per cent, ofour wheat consumed locally.
– The poultry industry could use a lot more wheat if it were cheaper.
– That is so.
– What are we to do with the eggs?
– They are powdered and sent overseas. I do not suggest that we can use anything like our entire wheat surplus in this way, but at least a portion of it could be absorbed.
– At this moment, we are giving financial aid to two States which cannot find means of exporting their eggs.
– There are two ways of assisting the poultry industry. One is to give direct financial assistance, and the other is to improve the internal economy of the industry by supplying wheat and wheat products at reasonable prices. What does strike one is the discrepancy between the price which is paid to the farmer for wheat, and that paid by the poultry-farmer. The wheat-farmer gets 3s.1d. a bushel for wheat on the farm, whereas the poultry-farmer pays 4s. 9d. a bushel. That discrepancy of1s. 8d. a bushel is due largely to distribution costs. We all know that distribution costs are high, and must necessarily remain so. Those costs absorb a large percentage of the retail price, but I am confident that some improvement could be effected. If not, I suggest to the Government that it might be possible to provide some concessional price to poultryfarmers, partly to help the industry and partly to assist in the disposal of our wheat surplus. This matter has already been taken up with the Department of Commerce and I have been informed that poultry-farmers can obtain wheat in truck lots from the Australian Wheat Board at 4s. 3¾d. a bushel, plus a1½d. a bushel freight, making a total of 4s. 5¼d. a bushel. In the Dandenong Ranges, a short distance from Melbourne, it is necessary to take truck lots of 132 bags and to pay cash. At present, the poultry-farmer goes to the produce merchant and buys wheat for 4s. 9d. a bushel - 3¾d. a bushel more - but for that additional margin he is financed, he obtains storage, and is given transport facilities. Many poultry-farmers are not in a position to pay cash; they have no storage accommodation, and owing to petrol rationing, they . are unable to transport the wheat. Therefore, they are unable to take advantage of the lower price by purchasing wheat in truck lots. I have already spoken to the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) who was sympathetic. He has promised to go into the matter further. I ask the Government to consider this problem, not only from the point of view of the poultry-farmers, but also as an aid to the disposal of wheat stocks. In addition to the question of wheat, there is also the necessity to provide by-products in larger -quantities and at a reasonable price.
– I admit that quite a lot of what has been said by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) is in accordance with facts. I did give to the honorable member an assurance that I would take the matter of the poultry industry up with the Australian Wheat Board, to see if it were not possible to arrive at some equitable arrangement whereby poultry-farmers could secure fodder at a reasonable price. However, distribution costs must be considered. I have been advised that in some parts of Australia the price of poultry feed is excessive.
Another matter that has to be borne in mind, however, is the over-production of eggs. Officers of the Trade and Customs Department and also of the Commerce Department are inquiring into this sub ject. Recently, plants have been installed for the drying and pulping of eggs, but we have only a limited egg market in the United Kingdom and the shipping problem is still most acute. As I see it, the outlook in respect of egg production is not very satisfactory, particularly as production is increasing at an alarming rate.
– My advice is that there has been a decrease recently.
– That is not the information conveyed to me. I am informed that there has been a definite increase in the major egg producing areas of the Commonwealth. However, I shall hear the honorable gentleman’s representations in mind and take up the matter of wheat supplies with the Australian Wheat Board.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government certain unsatisfactory factors in relation to a shipment of 1250 tons of potash that has recently arrived in Australia. Of this quantity, 300 tons were destined for Tasmania,but the Commonwealth Government, having decided to store 600 tons of potash in Melbourne, has intimated that it intends to hold, for this purpose, part of the 300 tons which Tasmanian interests have bought and paid for, and in respect of which they are incurring storage charges. It seems unfair that part of the reserve stock which the ‘Commonwealth Government desires to hold should be taken from the 300 tons which is particularly needed in Tasmania. If part of the Tasmanian supply is to be held in Melbourne, who will pay the storage charges? I also wish to know who will meet other expenses, including interest on the outlay? We appreciate the position of the authorities, but we feel that the Tasmanian people are not being dealt with justly.
– I believe that this subject falls within the scope of the Department of Supply and Development, but 1 shall make inquiries, and, if necessary, will submit the details to the Minister for Supply and Development.
– The matter is important, and the four or five importers concerned are anxious to know what the Commonwealth Government intends to do.
I wish now to refer briefly to the unsatisfactory conditions that prevail in regard to the rationing of tobacco. The new rationing scheme provides for supplies on the basis of the September purchases of last year, plus 10 per cent. Consequently, if a large buyer obtained his supplies say, every two months last year, and a two-monthly period ended in, say, August or October, he would have had no September purchases on which a ration could be fixed. It seems, therefore, that by fixing the ration on September purchases the authorities were not sufficiently far-seeing. I ask the Government to investigate the position for, as things are, some purchasers in. Tasmania who obtained no supplies at all last September, have not been able to obtain any supplies, whereas other purchasers, who may have obtained double quantities last September, are able to get abundant stocks.
Another difficulty arises in the case of firms obtaining their supplies from firms on the mainland. I have in mind the case of a purchaser who, in September, 1940, bought a total of 22,550 cigarettes from Messrs. W. Reddan and Company, 330 Flinders-lane, Melbourne. Instead of this purchaser being able to obtain a ration based on his purchases of last September, plus 10 per cent., he has been able to obtain only 5,050 cigarettes. The Melbourne suppliers appear to have met all the demands of their Victorian customers, and to have disregarded the needs of their Tasmanian customers. I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mt. Curtin) who represents one of the, less populous States of the Commonwealth, must become sick and tired of hearing about the way the more populous States and the larger businesses in those States, treat the other States and the smaller businesses of those States. I urge the Government to make an immediate review of the basis of the tobacco rationing scheme, with the object of introducing a more equitable arrangement.
.- I bring to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mir. Forde) a matter of urgentimportance concerning the administration of the medical branch of his department. A report has just been published in the
Sydney Morning Herald that a young woman suffering from shock died a day or two ago because she was not able to obtain the attention of a doctor. Her own medical attendant had been called up for military service and, apparently, no other doctor was available to attend to her. I have made repeated complaints to the Minister for the Army and to his predecessor in office concerning the action of the medical services branch of the Army in calling up so many doctors for service in military camps. I am given to understand that whereas fewer than 500,000 men are in uniform at home and abroad, one half of the medical practitioners of the country have been called up for service, leaving the other half of them to meet the medical needs of the remaining 6,500,000 people in Australia. It appears that the military authorities have called up doctors in utter disregard of the interests of their patients. When a young doctor in the electorate of Yarra was called up he was told that his patients could be attended to by doctors in the surrounding districts, but the other doctors, after attending to their own patients, could give only the fag end of their time to the patients of the doctor in camp. I am credibly informed, and I am sure that I could obtain specific information without difficulty, that two young women who were recently confined and were patients of this doctor nearly lost their lives because they could not secure the attention of their doctor. These cases might have ended fatally and been the subject of coronial inquiries similar to the one in New South Wales. The Minister for the Army will, I hope, give me an assurance that the present procedure in connexion with the call up of doctors will not be continued. Most of these Army doctors have to attend a sick parade each morning, and then they have nothing to do for the rest of the day. It ought to be possible, even for some of the antiquated medical gentlemen who occupy high positions at Army Head-quarters in Melbourne, to devise a scheme whereby one doctor could attend to the needs of three battalions of troops,, instead of requiring three doctors to do the same work. The soldiers are supposed to be medically fit when they are drafted into camp, and they should require less medical attention than an equal number of people in the general community. The military authorities are acting without any regard to the health needs of the community. Unless the Minister for the Army gives a general direction along the lines that I have indicated there will be other tragedies. I am satisfied that some of the people who are in command of the medical staff of the military forces are determined to have their own way and to force young doctors to serve their time in camps regardless of the interests of civil patients. I have supplied the Minister for the Army with abundant evidence in support of the charges which I have made, and I hope that action will be taken to prevent a repetition of the tragedy which has impelled me to speak on this subject now. The needs of our public hospitals and our industrial communities are very great, and are of equal importance to the needs of the young men who are called up for compulsory military service and sent into camp classed as physically fit. I make no reference to the number of doctors who are being sent overseas with the Australian Imperial Force. But medical men should not be sent into camp in Australia against their own wishes and better judgment in order to serve for only one hour a day examining a few men on sick parade, and who play cards for the rest of the day in order to fill in time.
I refer now to the fact that there was an outbreak of scurvy at Darwin recently. The cause of scurvy is well known; sailors in Captain Cook’s day knew how to cure themselves, and it is a grave reflection upon somebody that scurvy should be allowed to break out at Darwin.
– When did it break out?
– I have received a letter from a medical practitioner who says that the outbreak occurred there recently.
– In the Army?
– He did not say. At any rate, the health authorities at Darwin should have seen that the food supplied to the people was sufficiently varied to prevent an outbreak. I shall hand this letter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) immediately, and he can inquire into the matter.
– in reply - The matters which have been referred to by honorable members will receive the full and immediate consideration of the appropriate Ministers. I have no knowledge of an outbreak of scurvy at Darwin, and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) informs me that he knows nothing of it. Only last week I held a long consultation with the Administrator of the Northern Territory, and the matter was not mentioned by him. I shall endeavour to ascertain the facts of the case. The Minister for the Army will give immediate attention to the allegation that the health needs of the civil population have been neglected as the result of the Department of the Army calling up medical men for service in military camps.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
National Security’ Act - National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations - OrderLiquid Fuel (Restriction on Use of certain Substances).
House adjourned at 4.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
Will he state why, in the establishment of war industries in Tasmania, the Tasmanian Government is called upon to provide much of the capital required for the necessary buildings, whereas in other States the Commonwealth finds the whole of the capital, or makes advances available to those concerned?
– The honorable member apparently refers to the establishment of shell annexes in railway workshops. This matter concerns the Minister for Munitions who has made the following information available: -
The circumstances in which these annexes are established in the various States differ according to local conditions, and it would not be correct to state that other States have been more favorably treated than Tasmania.
The facts are that the State has’ contributed £4,500 and has been given a loan of £14,000 towards a, building that -will be of use for railways purposes at the termination of the war. Western Australiahas been similarly granted a loan of £15,000 but the extent of its own contribution is not known.
In addition, the Commonwealth is building a Government factory in Tasmania at a cost of £710,000, and is loaning the State railways high grade machine tools to the value of £40,000 to enable it to engage in manufacture of tools and gauges for Commonwealth and State purposes.
n asked the Minister repre- senting the Minister for Aircraft Production, upon notice -
– The Minister for Aircraft Production has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– Proposals for a comprehensive scheme of medical and health services in Australia prepared by the National Health and Medical Research Council, are being considered by me. They are at present the subject of investigation by the Joint Committee on Social Security, and consideration by the Government will he deferred pending the receipt of the report of the committee.
y. - On the 5th November the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the Minister for Supply and Development, without notice, whether, in view of the fact that large quantities of tinned-plate were available from Great Britain, in respect of which the Department of Trade and Customs had refused to issue import licences, and that in the meantime Australia was obtaining its supplies from the United -States of America, the Minister would take steps to have licences issued for the importation of plate from Great Britain.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that until January last, practically all Australian requirements of tinned-plate were obtained from the United Kingdom, but in that month the United Kingdom Government instituted a system of control under which exports of tinned-plate to Australia were restricted to quantities based on the consumption figures of the previous year. Some quantities were obtained under this arrangement, but later the United Kingdom -Government intimated that it would be necessary to draw all supplies of standard tinned-plate from the United States of America during the war.
Negotiations were then entered into with the Government of the United States of America, and arrangements were completed which provided for substantial quantities of tinned-plate to be ordered through normal commercial channels and the balance under lend-lease. These orders are now being executed and are reaching Australia.
It is true that the British Export Control releases email quantities of stock plate of odd sizes from time to time, and in respect of these import licences are being issued.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
A smalla mount of newsprint was made available to Melbourne newspapers for the Melbourne Hospital appeal advertising. Certain other papers asked that the same concession should he extended to them in the future. This request is under consideration.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice, -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
It has been decided not to impose the 5 per cent, additional reduction in consumption of newsprint, the application of which was deferred by the previous Government. The reasons for the decision are -
It is considered that the newsprint rationing at first imposed is sufficiently severe.
The policy of the Government is not to discriminate against one particular industry.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1941/19411107_reps_16_169/>.