17th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjournto to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– A convalescent depot, established at Perth, Tasmania, for soldiers incapacitated during the present war, is not now being used by the Army. Will the Minister for the Army state whether or not the building can be made available for use as a convalescent depot by patients from the Launceston Public Hospital?
– I am aware of the very keen interest that is taken by the honorable member in the Launceston Hospital, and will give prompt consideration to his representations.
– I have received from the manager of one of the largest butter factories in the best dairying country in Australia, the New England electorate, a letter in which he has stated -
The supply position of export butter boxes should receive prompt attention, as by any reports received the position even at present is far from satisfactory and as yet little or no export butter in this State is being made.
He enclosed a letter from the manager of one of the box-making companies, which stated-
We are doing our best to keep all our cooperative factories fully supplied with export boxes, but we can assure you we are experiencing many difficulties. At the moment our Saranac machines are stopped, awaiting renewal of spare parts, we are short of labour, and casein, in fact, production is becoming a nightmare.
Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any information that he can give in regard to future deliveries of butter boxes, the position in respect of labour, and the repairs that are needed to the essential box-making machines?
– Generally speaking, the dairying section of my department, in conjunction with Food Control, is keeping a close watch on the butter-box position, and is doing everything possible to ensure supplies. Circumstances arising out of the war, over which control could not be exercised, have caused difficulties. The honorable member may rest assured that the department will do all that is humanly possible to expedite deliveries of butter boxes.
– Because of the acute shortage of railway trucks, will the Minister for Transport consider the lifting of the ban on all road transport so that wool may be sent to the nearest country appraisement centres, and fodder may be moved from Ganmain, Coolamon, and other places where it is available, to drought-stricken areas?
– Has the Minister for Transport observed the effect of an unfortunate congestion at Mount Gambierof rail traffic beween South Australia and Victoria, in consequence of which 240 persons in the cellulose mills stand a fair chance of being put out of work? Will the honorable gentleman abstain from the consideration of theoretical questions such as the nationalization of coal-mines, and deal with a few practical matters relating to transport, thus enabling the wheels of industry to be kept revolving?
– I note what the honorable gentleman has said. I shall check it, in order to determine whether or not it is accurate. If his contention be well based, I shall take action to correct the position.
Pictorial Display at Parliament House.
– Have you, Mr. Speaker, inspected the display of paintings and photographs in the basement of
Parliament House? Have you noticed a painting, entitled The.Billy Boy, signed by William Dobell, depicting a halfwitted man, and another of a group of derelict men being called up at Bryant House for service with the Allied Works Council, which is a grave reflection on the manhood of Australia generally, and particularly on the fine types of men who have discharged essential duties during a critical period of Australia’s history? If you have not yet seen them, will you do so, with a view to having them removed from this building?
Mr.SPEAKER. - I have seen the pictures that are on display in the basement of this building, and have taken particular notice of the oil paintings. The picture of the call-up by the Allied Works Council gave me the impression that I was viewing a gathering of men in the remand yard at Central Police Court, Sydney. The photograph allegedly taken in a quarry made me feel that I was at Dartmoor.
– I ask the Treasurer whether or not the Taxation Department has demanded the payment of £8,750 of the £11,250 representing the royalties of Mr. Owen, inventor of the Owen gun? Is it a fact that, although some time has elapsed, Mr. Owen has not received any communication from the Government in reply to his request that its tax claim be waived in consideration of his having handed over to it all his patent rights in the Owen gun? If so, can the honorable gentleman state why this delay has occurred in dealing withthe case of a man who is in straitened financial circumstances?
– I believe that an answer already given to a question has stated clearly that Mr. Owen has not yet been assessed. It is true that, in a letter which he wrote to the Government, Mr. Owen indicated that he was prepared to forgo certain rights if he were compensated to the amount by which he would be likely to be taxed. The matter has been examined, but there has not yet been an assessment of either the tax or the value of his rights.
-The secretaryof the Combined Unions Committee at the Small Arms Factory, Forbes, has advised me by telephone that ex-soldiers of this war and veterans of the last war are being dismissed at the factory whilst women employees are being retained. Will the Minister for Munitions give effect to the original policy relating to the employment of labour at these factories, namely, that women employees should receive the full adult rates of pay and the conditions prescribed for men, in order to preserve wage standards in the industry while men were away fighting, and that the women would be displaced by ex-service personnel as they became available?
– There will be no departure from the original principle. I shall need to determine whether or not women employed at women’s rates are engaged upon work that is ordinarily done by women. If so, we cannot reasonably be expected to dispense with their services in order to engage men in their place for the performance of that work. I shall obtain the particulars, and endeavour to make satisfactory arrangements.
Discharges - Mail Service to Troops in New Guinea - Allowances to Wives of Prisoners.
– Is the Minister for the Army able to state whether or not fresh applications will have to be made for discharges from the Army under the scheme relating to the release of 30,000 men? Will the right honorable gentleman also state the number of discharges that have been made to the dairying industry ?
– Fresh applications will not have to be made in regard to the 4,000 unsuccessful applications for the release of man-power for the dairying industry. Those applications are being reconsidered automatically, and 2,010 have already been approved for discharge. The discharges are being made as rapidly as possible, and it is anticipated that the whole of the 4,000 will have been discharged within the next fouror five weeks. Fresh applications will have to be made to the local chairmen of War Agricultural Committees in connexion with discharges for other primary’ industries. Those officers, in turn, will make -recommendations to the Deputy Director of Man Power for the State, and he will make recommendations to the Army authorities. Applications for discharges to protected industries, or to other secondary industries, will have to .be made to the National Service Officer, who, in turn, will make recommendations to the Deputy Director of Man Power for the State. Everything possible will be done to expedite the consideration of all claims under the scheme relating to the discharge of 30,000 men decided upon by the War Cabinet on the 23rd August last.
– by leave - Allegations have recently been made that parcel and newspaper mails are not reaching Army addresses in New Guinea as expeditiously as the situation there would justifyWhatever is the position as to war activities in New Guinea at any given time, the frequency and regularity of despatches of parcels and the newspaper mails is at all times governed entirely by the availability and frequency of shipping connexions from the mainland of Australia. NC opportunity is lost to have mails forwarded from Australia. Where men are located in remote areas the delivery of heavier parcels and newspaper mails is hampered by the transportation difficulties. Parcels and newspaper mails go forward to various distributing points in New Guinea as determined by the location of units of address, and all vessels moving to these points are availed of. lt is possible for two or three weeks to elapse between sailings from the mainland because of the operational demands for shipping elsewhere. In the absence of details of addresses of the persons concerned in complaints, it is not possible to make specific inquiry into the alleged delays. In many cases which have been investigated following the submission of particulars, it has been found that no avoidable delay has occurred in the delivery of articles, and that the complaints have not been properly founded. During July last, the Army postal service handled more than 8,500,000 individual i tems of mail. Complaints and inquiries in respect of that huge volume totalled 382, representing only .004 per cent, of the traffic dealt with, or one inquiry in respect of every 22,500 articles. Investigation of these inquiries revealed that there was no real cause for complaint in a large majority of cases. The Army postal service is unfairly made the target of sustained criticism of a general kind which contains insufficient detail to enable inquiries to be made and an effective reply prepared. The Army postal service is maintaining a constant flow of mail of all kinds to the troops, in spite of many difficulties.
– Is it not a fact that great hardship is suffered by the wives and children of soldiers who have been sentenced to imprisonment for being absent without leave and also discharged from the forces? Does not the Minister for t!he Army think that such men should be released from gaol after being discharged from the forces or, alternatively, allowed to return to active service? The stopping of allowances to wives and children is the cause of great hardship.
– If the honorable member will, bring particular cases to my notice I shall have them fully considered, and a statement will be made regarding them. In the absence of particulars I cannot pass judgment. The representations of the honorable member regarding the payment of allowances to the wives of soldiers serving periods of detention will be taken into consideration.
Nightly Service between Sydney and Perth.
– Will the Minister for Air state whether or not, as the press reports this morning, a nightly air-mail service between Sydney and Perth is likely to be in operation “within the next three months ? Does this imply provision additional to the airliners at .present operating in the Commonwealth? Is it proposed that passengers as well as airmail shall be carried ? Can the honorable gentleman also mention the name of the company that will operate the service?
– I have not seen the statement referred to, but I have seen others indicating that all sorts of extensions of existing services are about to take place. This is the result of the Government having acquired a number of partly-used aeroplanes from the American authorities. They will be placed at the disposal of operating companies for the purpose of replacing some of the planes which have been extensively used by the Government, and also for extending services where possible. The companies seem to be vying with one another in telling the public that they intend to start all sorts of services, without any regard to what can be done with the limited number of aeroplanes available. I do not know whether a proposal has been placed before the Director-General of Civil Aviation for the establishment of night services, but I can assure the honorable member that the Government will do everything possible to help.
Future of Trainees - Air Training Corps: Motor Tyres for Honorary Instructors
– Can the Minister for Air say whether, when the war ends, partly-trained men in the Air Force will be kept on until they finish their courses, or whether they will be immediately demobilized ?
– lt has already been found necessary to reduce the intake of -men for training, and some of those who have enlisted may not be able to complete their courses. No one can say when the war will end, and training will be continued so that men will be available to reinforce or replace those already on service. “What will be done with the partly-trained men at the end of the war is a matter for decision on the advice given by departmental experts. The training of airmen is a costly process, and everything possible will be done to take advantage of the skill and knowledge which trainees have acquired, but I cannot say at present whether their training will be continued when the war ends.
– As the Minister for Air knows, many officers are giving their time in an honorary capacity to the training of lads in the Air Training Corps. In the course of this work they use their own motor cars. “Will the Minister make arrangements to enable them to obtain new tyres to replace those worn out while performing this service? Up to the present they have been unable to get any special priority.
– I have not received any general complaint on this matter, but a few individual cases have been brought to my notice, and I have been successful in obtaining tyres for them. The question arises, however, of whether or not the tyres are being mainly worn out while the officers are engaged on such training work, or whether the cars are used mostly for ordinary business purposes. The matter appears to be one which is under the jurisdiction of the Rubber Control Committee. The authorities concerned will want to know the facts. I shall have inquiries made, and will see that justice is done to those who have rendered voluntary service of this kind.
Australian Broadcasting Commission’s News Service from Canberra.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaste’r:General say whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission is taking a part-time syndicated news service from Canberra for which it is paying £10 a week? If this is so, is it not contrary to the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee that the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service should he wholly independent? “Will he take steps to ensure that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is directed to follow the recommendations of the Broadcasting (Committee in this respect?
– I understand that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is taking a news service from the Australian United Press, and that the arrangement is not in accordance with the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee. I shall bring the matter to the attention of the Postmaster-General, and a reply will be made to the honorable member in due course.
– Has the Minister for the Army, as a result of his visit to- 112th Australian General Hospital,.
Greenslopes, conferred with the Minister for Repatriation and convinced him that land is available there for a Red Cross recreation hut?
– On Saturday afternoon last I visited the Greenslopes Military Hospital in company with Mr. Sparks and Major-General Stantke, and we inspected sites for a Red Cross recreation hut . Since my return to Canberra I have discussed the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, who is at all times most interested in the welfare of soldiers, and particularly of patients in military hospitals. I hope that a satisfactory solution of the problem will shortly be reached.
– I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The circumstances attending the negotiations for the sale or transfer of broadcasting stations 5KA Adelaide and 2HD Newcastle, or shareholders’ interests therein “.
. -I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I submit this motion in order tobring to the notice of the House two transactions - or rather one transaction and a proposed transaction - in relation to two broadcasting stations, each being of such an extraordinary kind as to demand the fullest inquiry. These cases concern stations 5KA Adelaide, which has a subsidiary at Port Augusta, and 2HD Newcastle. Both stations had been owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses. In each case, the negotiations for the sale of such assets as remained after the cancellation of the licence were in the hands of Mr. H. G. Alderman, of Adelaide. The facts in relation to the two cases are remarkably similar, and I can summarize them quite shortly. I shall take first the sale of 5KA and 5AU in February 1943. The vendors were Sport Radio Broadcasting Company Limited and the Port Augusta Broadcasting Company Limited. By an agreement madeon the 5th February, 1943, the shares, with the exception of one with which I need not concern myself, were sold to the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald, which is,I understand, the official organ of the South Australian branch of the Australian Labour party. Now, it is an interesting fact that the purchasers are referred to as the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald, but the purchase money, £8,500, was provided entirely by the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission. In other words, although there were two buyers, only one produced money.
– A very fine affiliation.
– The honorable member will discover as I proceed that the affiliation is even finer than he appreciates. The shares that were bought for the £8,500 provided by the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission were divided into fifths; four-fifths went to the Central Methodist Mission and one-fifth went to the Workers’ Weekly Herald, which had not subscribed one penny of the purchase money. In other words, a gift was made by the Adelaide Central Mission of one-fifth of the interest in these wireless stations to the Workers’ Weekly Herald. On top of that, it was provided that the Central Methodist Mission should provide up to £3,500 as further funds to enable the companies to carry on, in other words, as working capital. So the amount to be provided by the Central Methodist Mission was £12,000. The Workers’ Weekly Herald provided nothing, but, as a part of this deal, it secured a one-fifth interest in the property that was changing hands. In addition, it was provided in the agreement that the Workers’ Weekly Herald. on behalf of the Australian Labour party-
– Why should it be “ on behalf”?
– Because the agreement says so.
– The agreement between the Workers’ Weekly Herald and the Central Methodist Mission?
– It was provided in the contract of sale, to which the Workers’ Weekly Herald was one of the parties, that the Workers’ Weekly Herald, “ on behalf of the Australian Labour party “, was to be entitled to free broadcasting through both stations for half an hour on two days in each week and for half an hour each evening during an election campaign from the issue of the writs to .polling day. A question was put to the Prime Minister the other day by the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Guy) to which the Prime Minister’s reply was unfortunately erroneous. He was misinformed. The question was -
The answer was -
I have just pointed out to honorable members that the agreement did in the most express terms provide that the Workers’ Weekly Herald, on behalf of the Australian Labour party, should have the free time to which I have referred. Then the agreement went on, astonish ingly enough, having regard to the nature of the purchase parties to this contract, to say -
Except for such broadcasts the station shall not be so publicly identified with the Labour party or any other political party as to be likely to interfere with its commercial success.
Then, so that there might not be any error about this curious transaction, the agreement further provided -
The shares to be held by the Workers’ Weekly Herald are held in trust’ for the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labour party.
So, if the Workers’ Weekly Herald should cease to exist or should not be able to elect a director, the shares shall be put in the name of the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labour party. On top of that, five directors being the provision for -each company, the Workers’ Weekly Herald was to have the nomination of one director in each company. That transaction calls for some comment which I shall make shortly, but, in the meantime, I merely direct attention to these remarkable features: There being a Labour administration in charge of the issue of wireless licences, the South Australian branch of the Australian Labour party receives from the South Australian Central Methodist Mission, willingly or unwillingly, money’s worth to the amount of at least a couple of thousand pounds and receives it, save the mark, as a gift, quite unrelated, of course, to the possible issue of a licence, though the agreement provides, with a certain amount of caution, that, if it should turn out that the application for the licence is refused, the transaction is to be terminated and all money returned.
The second of these transactions relates to station 2HD Newcastle. This transaction was not concluded, but, beginning, as we know through recent statements in the press, in July, 1943, there were negotiations between Mr. H. G. Alderman, representing the vendor, Air-Sales Proprietary Limited -
– Still the Jehovah Witnesses.
– Yes, I have no doubt.
– He was their legal adviser.
– Yes. Acting for them, Mr. Alderman conducted negotiations with the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr. Batty, and the Diocese of Newcastle. There is no dispute about the terms put up by Mr. Alderman to the diocese, because the bishop was prudent enough to put them in writing and invite Mr. Alderman to confirm them. This is the exchange of letters that took place.
– What is the right honorable gentleman quoting from?
– I am quoting from the Sydney Morning Herald which published those letters in detail on the 15th September.
– Does the right honorable gentleman vouch for the accuracy of that newspaper?
– Would the honorable member care to take the responsibility of suggesting that the Sydney Morning Herald has falsified these letters? The Bishop of Newcastle wrote to Mr. Alderman as follows : -
It is my intention to call a meeting of our trustees of church property bo soon as I can secure their attendance, in order that we may discuss the proposal put before Mr. C. A. Brown and myself this morning in regard to the purchase of the assets of station 2HD, and the transfer of its licence.
Whilst the matter is fresh in my mind, and in order that my fellow-trustees may be fully informed in the matter, I am now setting out the terms of the proposal you made to us.
And; mark you! Mr. Alderman is no stranger tothis Government. He has been continuously in close association with this Government for some time -
You told us that the purchase price of the station’s assets would be £17,500, and that you were of opinion that our chances of securing the transfer of the licence were very good, subject to certain provisos. These provisos were: -
That we should give the Labour party in this district a fifth share in the station, allowing them to appoint one director on a board of five.
That we should also give the Labour party in this district the right to broadcast propaganda for one hour in each ordinary week and for one hour each day between the date of the issuing of writs for a general election, and the holding of such election, no payment to be made by the Labour party in respect of either of these concessions. The granting of time for broadcasting was to be subject to some agreed stipulation as to some portion of it being in the evening hours most suitable for broadcasting.
You told us that ifwe were prepared to agree to these provisos you thought our chances of securing the licence would be more than good, but that if we did not agree there would be little prospect, in your opinion, of our securing it, seeing that the PostmasterGeneral would be guided in has decision by the advice of the parliamentary committee, on which there is a majority of Labour politicians.
To the best of my own and Mr. Brown’s recollection these were the terms of your proposal. I should be glad to have your confirmation of them not later than Wednesday next (the 7th July), so that I may put them before my fellow-trustees.
And the reply is -
I am in receipt of your letter of the 2nd July. In broad outline your letter sets out what I expressed to you.
That is the letter which I have just read.
– Does the right honorable gentleman infer that Mr. Alderman was acting as the representative of the Government?
– In a moment I shall come to what I am inferring. . I am just setting out these naked, unashamed facts. Then Dr. Batty put the matter to theDiocesan Council which, displaying a little more spirit than the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission, passed a resolution that it was -
Unanimous in repudiating the suggestion that the Diocese should seek to ensure the acquisition of the 2HD licence by making concessions of great commercial value to supporters of the political party then in power.
That was plainly the proper attitude for the Diocesan Council to take up. Those are the facts and, in their very nature, they do not admit of contradiction. It is quite true that we have no direct facts before us to show what association there is in these matters between the negotiating lawyer, Mr. Alderman, and the Government, or the Postmaster-General, or the departments concerned, but we do know that following the agreement in relation to 5KA, the licence was issued. We do know that the agreement succeed in its purpose and that now those stations are carried on with capital entirely provided by the Methodist Church,but that one-fifth of the property, subject to some trifling limitations, belongs to the Australian
Labour .party in that State. What interpretation is to be placed on this transaction ? J. can think of three possible interpretations, and I shall mention them. Honorable members may be able to think of others. The first possible interpretation, one that leaps to the mind, in this case - and it is no use shutting our eyes to it - is that Mr. Alderman was authorized by the Government, the PostmasterGeneral, or some other person in authority, to extract a contribution in money’s worth to the Australian Labour party as a condition of the transfer or issue of -a license to a body of persons in Adelaide, representing the Methodist Church, and, as proposed in Newcastle, the Church of England. That interpretation, of course, would involve the most flagrant corruption, and there is no occasion for me to make any further comment upon it.
The second interpretation is that Mr. Alderman, moved by a pure spirit of enthusiasm for the Labour party, went on a frolic of his own and ‘found, in Adelaide, n buyer who shared his affection for the Labour party - all in the purest possible spirit - and was equally willing to benefit the Labour party without hope or expectation of return. The whole transaction was a perfect piece of altruism ! In this view, of course, Mr. Alderman would not be able to make any promise as to whether the insertion of the benefit to the Labour party would help, because the assumption is that the Government and the authorities would know nothing about it. It was a pure piece of christian generosity as between Mr. Alderman and1 the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission. To accept that interpretation, one would need to have far greater simplicity of mind than either Mr. Alderman or honorable members of this House. After all, it cannot be suggested that the donation by the Methodist Mission was a voluntary one, and that the Methodists themselves just thought of it. It is perfectly plain that the suggestion did not emanate from them, because we find that in the Newcastle case, the suggestion came from Mr. Alderman and, therefore, it is very reasonable to assume that in the Adelaide case also the suggestion came from Mr. Alderman. [Extension of time granted^] For what reason did Mr. Alderman make the suggestion? What was he able to say to the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission about this matter ‘*. What inducement was he able to put before that body in order to get it te provide this moneysworth to the Australian Labour party ? We are not bound to be so unsophisticated as to believe that such a remarkable proposal was not fully discussed between the parties, and if it was. then it is perfectly clear that Inmust have said to the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission, “Your chance of getting this licence will depend upon your making this donation “.
– That is pure assumption.
– I leave it to the honorable member to make any other assumption, and give it publicity, because I should like to hear it, unless, of course, he proposes seriously to ask us to believe that this was a happy meeting of true spirits, and one of them would not buy the broadcasting station without making a “thank-offering” to the Australian Labour party.
The third interpretation - the only other one I can think of - is that Mr. Alderman, though having- no preliminary authority from the Postmaster-General, the Postal Department or the Government, was willing to improve his standing with the party by stipulating for this extraordinary donation to the Labour party, and had a shrewd idea that when he produced the signed contract to show that the Labour party was a few thousand pounds better off on the deal, a Labour Minister or a Labour-dominated Broadcasting Committee would instantly see the desirability of giving effect to the contract. That interpretation might not be quite so innocent as my second one, and not quite so brutal as my first one, but it is still an interpretation that is utterly inconsistent with the honest administration of this country. Those facts, which in themselves, are most eloquent, and which give rise to the most, insistent inquisitiveness of mind as to what are the other facts that lie behind them, make it quite clear that these transactions must be investigated. On the face of them, they are quite capable, and reasonably capable, of being regarded as utterly corrupt.
– Is that an imputation against the Methodist Church?
– That is an imputation against everybody concerned with the corruption. If this remarkable state of affairs in which, with the Labour party in office, a person has a better chance of getting a broadcasting licence if lie pays money or moneysworth to the Labour party, represents the honorable member’s standard of honest administration, well and good. I am happy to say that it does not represent mine. I declare unhesitatingly to the House that the case for an independent searching examination by a royal commission is unanswerable.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has indulged in nights of fancy. He told us of various possible interpretations that might be placed upon what was at all times a business deal between people who had the assets in a broadcasting station to sell and other people who were anxious to buy them. Let me relate the history of those licences. On the 17th January, 1941, the organization known as Jehovah’s Witnesses and its associated bodies - the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the Adelaide Company of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the International Bible Students’ Association, and the Consolidated Publishing Company - were declared, under the National Security (Subversive Associations) Regulations to be unlawful bodies. The broadcasting licences that were held by Jehovah’s Witnesses under various titles such as Air Sales Broadcasting Company Proprietary, owning Station 2HD Newcastle, the Sport-Radio Broadcasting Company Limited, owning station SKA Adelaide, and the Port Augusta Broadcasting Company Limited, owning station 5AU, Port Augusta, were suspended some time before the organization was declared an unlawful association. This declaration purported to put those bodies legally out of existence, and Commonwealth Peace Officers took possession of their premises. The Adelaide Company of Jehovah’s Witnesses briefed Mr. Alderman; K.C., to challenge in the High Court the validity of the regulations. I interpolate that the regulations were framed by the Menzies Government and were not the only regulations that have been declared invalid by the High Court.
On the 14th June, 1943, the High Court declared that the regulations were invalid. The result of that decision was that the bodies which had been illegally put out of existence had a perfect right to the repossession of their properties, including their Central House in Strathfield, New South Wales, printing presses in various parts of the country, and the physical assets represented in the two broadcasting stations. Under the decision of the High Court the Commonwealth Government was required to restore this property to the organization. No specific amount of compensation was claimed by the organization in respect of the action taken, and the matter has been the subject of negotiations with the Commonwealth for some time. The broadcasting licences were suspended, not under national security regulations, but by virtue” of the authority possessed by the PostmasterGeneral under another statute. That was never challenged in the High Court. But once the High Court had decided that Jehovah’s Witnesses had a legal right to the repossession of their property, the Government had a moral obligation to recognize their right to the ownership of the licences in the broadcasting stations. At the same time the Government had the right to declare whether it would renew the licences owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It also had a perfect right to permit the sale of the licences held by that body to any other body or bodies that might negotiate with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mr. Alderman has acted as the legal representative of this sect for a number of years. He did not come into the picture simply to sell the licences for the broadcasting stations. Although he is not a member of the religious organization, he seems to have an extraordinary power with the members of it. His position has never been hidden. If the Leader of the Opposition had taken the trouble to read the evidence that Mr. Alderman and other witnesses gave before the Broadcasting Committee in 1942-43, he could have saved the House and himself a lot of time in the recital of his possible explanations for Mr. Alderman’s actions.
– Why does not the Minister explain it?
– Mr. Alderman explained to the Broadcasting Committee on the 2nd March, 1943 the position regarding the transaction that resulted in the sale of station 5KA Adelaide. Present at that meeting were two representatives of the United Australia party.
– What does that matter ? Will the Minister tell us the explanation?
– They heard Mr. Alderman’s evidence, and were perfectly satisfied with his explanation. No criticism was offered between March, 1943, when Mr. Alderman related the circumstances in which the Adelaide . Central Methodist Mission came to be interested in the sale of this licence, and the 20th September, 1944. The fact is that the sale was negotiated in South Australia between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission. The terms, which the Leader of the Opposition read, are correct, but from the time of the sale of the licence until to-day no one in South Australia has offered the slightest criticism of the transaction.
– No one knew about it.
– Everybody knew about it. No church leader in South Australia has objected to the transaction. The Leader of the Opposition did not read other clauses in the terms of sale.
– Will the Minister lay the terms of sale on the table of the House?
– I have not the slightest objection to doing so. Under the terms of the agreement, the Church of England and the Catholic Church in Adelaide are each granted one hour’s free broadcasting time every Sunday. The leaders of every denomination were perfectly satisfied with the agreement, whilst not one protest has been uttered by any political leader in South Australia. The terms of the agreement have been known for a long time.
– The Prime Minister did not know about them last week.
– These insinuations that Mr. Alderman has some influence with the Australian Labour party are unfair, unwarranted, and insulting.
Whenever Mr. Alderman has acted for this Government, he has appeared in a purely professional capacity; just as Mr. Fullagar, K.C., Mr. Ham, K.O., and many other professional gentlemen who are not associated with the Labour party, have done.
– Mr. Alderman is employed continuously at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne.
– These lawyers have drawn thousands of pounds in fees from the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Alderman has acted professionally for the Commonwealth Government at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, in settling claims arising out of hirings by the Navy and the Army, and his engagement falls within the same category as does the briefing of other lawyers of various political faiths.
– Why did the Labour party get this money?
– The Labour party has got no money.
– Well, money’s worth ?
- Mr. Alderman has never been a member of the Labour party and is not now a member of it. He has acted for Jehovah’s Witnesses on many occasions. He has acted also for trade unions, as the Leader of the Opposition has also done. That does not make either him or the Leader of the Opposition a defender of trade unions or a friend of the Labour party. Mr. Alderman has also appeared for Sir Keith Murdoch and is a close personal friend of that gentleman. Probably he is a little closer to him now than is the Leader of the Opposition. He has not been associated in any way with the Labour party, and is not in a position to commit the Labour party in any . way in these or other business transactions. The sale of station 5KA was a business transaction. The people who owned the assets had the right to lay down the conditions of sale, and the people who were negotiating to buy them had the right to say whether they would accept the conditions. The purchasers were agreeable to the Labour party having a one-fifth share in the station. This is the only licence in South Australia not held by anti-Labour interests or by newspaper interests which are violently opposed to the Labour party. One hundred commercial licences are operating in Australia on the medium wave-band and, of them, 44 are owned or controlled directly or indirectly by newspaper interests. The Labour party has three stations throughout the Commonwealth - 2KY in Sydney, 3KZ in Melbourne, and 6KY in Perth. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the transactions to which he has referred were so extraordinary as to require investigation by a royal commission. The Broadcasting Committee, on which the Opposition has been represented for a number of years, was aware of these transactions and if the members of it considered it necessary, they could have brought the matters to the attention of their parties.
– It is a pity they did not do so. ‘
– The Leader of the Opposition has what Carlyle might have called “ a preternaturally suspicious mind “. Jehovah’s Witnesses originally acquired! these licences by purchase. They were not free grants, but were bought on the open market. Consequently, the purchasers had the right to sell them as best they could, and to lay down the conditions of sale. If the conditions were not acceptable to prospective purchasers, the owners had the right to offer the assets elsewhere.
The position was entirely different when broadcasting licences were being issued in 1934. At that time Sir Archdale Parkhill was PostmasterGeneral in the Lyons Government. A channel was available in Melbourne for another commercial station. The Beturned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Victoria, had reason to believe that it would be granted the next licence to be issued.
– Why does not the Minister deal with the issues that have been raised ?
– I am now discussing an issue which honorable gentlemen opposite wish to avoid. The Leader of the Opposition has accused this Government of corruption.
– Nothing has been said yet to show that there has not been corruption.
– I shall show that this Government has acted decently and above board, whereas a previous government acted corruptly.
– The Minister should answer my charge;
– The returned soldiers’ organization of Victoria found that it was not to receive the licence. According to information available to me on the departmental files, the Lyons Government decided, in August, 1934, that a new licence was to be issued in Victoria. It was not to be sold for £8,000, the price which the Central Methodist Mission paid for its licence, however, but was to be given away to Mr. E. H. Willis, a representative of the United Australia party of Victoria.
– Well, include that transaction also in the terms of reference to a royal commission.
– The Cabinet minute of approval was signed by the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. J. A. Lyons, and a letter was sent by the Chief Wireless Engineer, Mr. J. Malone, on the 22nd October, 1934, to the secretary of the Young Nationalists Association, 395 Collins-street, Melbourne, which read -
I am directed to inform you that approval has been given to the granting of a broadcasting station licence for Melbourne to the company now being formed, to be known as station 3XY Proprietary Limited.
On the same date the then secretary of the Young Nationalists Association, Mr. D. Radcliffe, wrote to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs stating that, at that time, the company was not able to comply with requirements because it was only in process of formation. That letter was written on a letterhead of the Young Nationalists Association; in the margin is a list of the names of persons officially connected with the association. On that list I read the name of the Honorable E. G. Menzies, K.C., M.L.A.
– Does the Minister suggest that that was a dishonest transaction ?
– I also see the names of Mr. W. J. Hutchinson, M.P., and of Mr. J. A. Spicer, who for three years until the 30th June last was a United Australia party senator for Victoria. The name of Mr. J. T. Vinton Smith also appears. He was a United Australia party candidate in the Corio by-election at the time when the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that Hitler’s eyes were on Corio. That licence was issued for nothing, whereas the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission paid £8,000 for the station which it acquired.
– I invite the Minister to refer the transaction which he has mentioned to a royal commission.
– The Victorian Young Nationalists got for nothing something which really belonged to somebody else.
– That is not so.
– -About that time, or a year or so later, an organization known as the McArthur group was purchasing broadcasting licences, insurance- company shares and various other assets in Sydney under conditions that were so corrupt as to cause the Parliament of New South Wales to pass a special act to suppress its activities. A certain licence for one of the biggest stations in New South Wales, which reverted to the Postmaster-General’s Department in New South Wales, was reallotted by the United Australia party Government to the Graziers Association. Certain individuals on the Opposition side of this Parliament seem to have such warped minds that they see corruption where there is no corruption, and wish to silence me now when 1” am referring to the precedents which they established, and to ethical standards which they applied in the issuing of broadcasting licences.
– Let us have a royal commission to square up the whole business.
– In regard to 2HD Newcastle, the facts are-
– Surely the Minister has not finished with the Adelaide transactions ?
– Originally, the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr. Batty, was not very keen on the issue of a licence to the Church of England. He gave evidence before the Broadcasting Committee, in Newcastle, in November, 1942, when I was it3 chairman. I remember the circumstances very well. The Bishop said he was not intensely interested in denominational stations. He added -
I do not speak officially for the diocese at the moment, but personally I am not keen on the idea of our operating a station. I am not so keen as some other members of tire church.
Subsequently the Bishop intimated that the diocesan advisers wished to be associated with the issue of a broadcasting licences were given away. The licence for out payment. Originally, of course, these licences were given away. The licence for station 2CH Sydney, which is owned by the New South Wales Council of Churches, and also the licence for station 2SM Sydney, which is owned by the Roman Catholic Church, were given to them. At that time the Church of England authorities in Sydney were not interested in the ownership of a licence.
– At that time the Anglican Church was associated with the Council of Churches.
– That is so, but subsequently it withdrew from the Council and it then expressed a desire for a licence of its own. [Extension of lime granted.
In regard to the choice of applicants for the use of such channels ad may become available, we invite reference to paragraphs 385 and 414 of the Gibson report, in which it was recommended that in the granting of new licences or the re-allotment of former licences, preference should be given to religious and educational interests. We concur in that recommendation and suggest that, where applications have been made by the churches, the licences should be allocated (when it becomes practicable to issue them) to the three groups in each State, namely - (a) the Church of England (6) the Catholic Church, and (c) a committee representing other Christian denominations. In appropriate cases the churches might be asked to consider combining their interests in some way for the purpose of sharing the use of the station. In agreeing with the views of the Gibson Committee, we ure mindful that Australia as a whole, in proportion to population, is better served in light broadcast entertainment than most other countries.
That is precisely what was done in Adelaide.
– Was that a unanimous report by the Broadcasting Committee ?
– It was. The members of the committee who represented the Opposition parties at that time were Dr. Grenfell Price, a very capable gentleman who rendered great service to the committee; Sir Charles Marr, then the honorable member for Parkes; Senator Cooper of Queensland,and Senator Herbert Hays of Tasmania, all of whom also gave good service. Bishop Hilliard, Co-adjutor Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, disputed the claims of Newcastle to have the station. Evidence on these matters appears in reports of the Broadcasting Committee, which the Leader of the Opposition could have read had he desired to do so. Bishop Hilliard said that a broadcasting licence for the Anglican Church should be issued for Sydney, and not Newcastle. Ultimately, of course, such a licence will be issued, when frequency modulation is adopted in this country in the post-war period, and more channels become available. Bishop Batty has written a letter suggesting corruption where there is no corruption The files show clearly that allegations of corruption have been made for some time. The Bishop, ina letter to the PostmasterGeneral, referring to the negotiations which had been carried to a point between his diocese and the legal representative of those who had certain assets for sale, said -
The proposal granted tous to have all the appearance of a corrupt transaction, and we were quite unable to consider it.
The truth is, that the Bishop was offered the station at £17,500, subject to certain conditions. He said that they would pay £15,000, and no more, for it, and the negotiations broke down.
– The price was £15,000 without conditions. Why not tell the truth ?
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition, by his conduct, is setting a bad example to his followers. He had a very fair hearing.
– I spoke to my motion:
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman presented his case in his own way, and the Minister is entitled to do the same.
– So long as it is on the same matter.
– T he Chair will determine whether or not the Ministeris out of order. I ask the right honorable gentleman to accord to hint the hearing that he himself received ; otherwise, I shall have to take action.
– The PostmasterGeneral in a very courteous way answered the insinuations in that letter some days later. He said this -
I regret to note the reference in your letter to the matter of “’ corruptive transactions “ in connexion with the negotiations that have been proceeding for the disposal of the assets of the former station 2HD. As far asI am personally concerned, I have no interest whatever in the steps that have been taken in this regard by the owners of the equipment. The matter is entirely one for determination by the proprietors of the plant involved.
I interpolate that previous governments sanctioned the sales of wireless licences as between one company and another, and never interfered with any of the conditions that were laid down. Therefore, the Government has no right to interfere in this transaction. The Postmaster-General proceeded -
In the event ofa sale being effected, a licence will of course have to be obtained before the transmitter could be used. Before approving of the grant ofa licence, however,I would have to be satisfied that suitable provision has been made by the prospective licensee for the allocation of reasonable time to the churches in accordance with the views expressed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting.
The Bishop answered that letter in these terms -
I was sorry to gather that you funnel citnse for regret inmy comments on the proposals originally made to us in connexion with the purchase of the 2HD assets. As you will see, if you read my letter again, there was absolutely no suggestion that you were personally concerned with these proposals.
Yet the only point in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was that there had- been corrupt practice on the part of the Postmaster-General, another Minister, or some representative of the Government. The bishop stated unequivocally that there was absolutely no suggestion that Senator Ashley, as the responsible Minister, had been personally concerned with these proposals. Neither Senator Ashley nor any other member of the Government, party was concerned with any of the negotiations between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Methodist Mission in Adelaide, and Jehovah’s Witnesses and certain other persons in New South Wales. The transactions were in accordance with the business principles usually observed in the sale of broadcasting stations and other assets. I point out to honorable gentlemen opposite that the present Government has not had an opportunity to issue or re-allot licences, because the two licences mentioned in the motion were never surrendered but were merely suspended. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), on one occasion when he was Postmaster-General, suspended the licence of 2KY, but that station did not lose its right to have a licence, and ultimately it resumed transmission. The Government might have permitted Jehovah’s Witnesses to resume transmission, but the holders of the licence considered that it would be better to sell their assets. The majority of those gentlemen who were Ministers in previous; governments are still members of this House. Those governments had the issue of eighteen licences in country towns in New South Wales since the issue of the licence to 3AW Melbourne. They did not give preference to religious bodies or returned soldier organizations, but always to the Graziers Association, newspaper interests or other commercial organizations. They want us to believe that there was nothing corrupt in what they did, and that they did not receive thousands of pounds worth of free advertising at election times, as well as support between elections, from those who were the beneficiaries of their largesse. Four licences were similarly issued in country towns in Victoria by United Australia party-United Country party governments. Those might very properly have gone to some of the organizations that have acquired licences or want to acquire licences at the present time.
– What about a royal commission?
– There is no need for a royal commission. In this matter, the hands of the Government are perfectly clean. All the relevant facts are in parliamentary papers, including the reports and the minutes of evidence of the Broadcasting Committee. The fifth report of that committee was presented yesterday by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy). Honorable members opposite have only suspicion upon which to base their charges. They believe that this Government is as bad as they were when handing out licences to their friends. The prices mentioned in this transaction were for the physical assets only, and did not include such an intangible thing as goodwill. Mr. Alderman said in evidence before the Broadcasting Committee that he could have obtained much more than £S,500 for the Adelaide station which he sold to the Methodist Mission. He was asked by commercial and newspaper interests to sell to them, and could, have obtained £15,000 or £16,000. But he adopts a certain attitude towards life, and considers that the Labour party is entitled to a share of the air in the capital cities of Australia. In transactions on behalf of his. clients, he has always insisted, with their consent, that a monopoly of the air shall npt continue to be held ‘by anti-Labour interests. Honorable members, opposite are afraid. They do not believe that there has been any corruption, but they hate the idea that the Labour .party may have one medium of expression by means of which it can place its case before the Australian people. They believe that, if we were pushed from the air as we have been pushed from the newspaper field in Australia, a miracle might enable them to obtain control of the treasury bench once again,. There is not any likelihood of any such misfortune for a very long time. They will have to get a much, better case than they have put to-day if they wish to persuade the people that the Adelaide sale was other than a fair and reasonable transaction, and that the licence subsequently issued by the PostmasterGeneral was issued other than in accordance with the various recommendations of the Broadcasting ‘Committee set up by this Parliament.
– I well remember that, on an occasion when you did not occupy such an exalted position, Mr. . Speaker, you remarked that the speech of an honorable member, like “the flowers that bloom in the spring”, had nothing to do with the case. The speech of the Minister for- Information (Mr. Calwell) is in that category. He has side-stepped completely the case that has been placed before this House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). If ever a case warranted the fullest inquiry by a royal commission, this is it. Charges of corruption have been implied, yet the Minister has evaded the issue in characteristically Calwellian fashion. The perfectly legitimate matter of the issue of licences by the PostmasterGeneral he draped with all the filth of which he was capable, in an endeavour to side-step the serious charges that have been levelled against the Government. He wound up with the statement that the transaction was purely a business one, between a company that wished to dispose of its assets and a company that was willing to purchase them. Those assets would not be worth a “cracker” to a purchaser unless they were accompanied by a licence. Without a licence they could not be used; therefore, the whole matter hinges upon how the licence was to be obtained. The facts recited by the Leader of the Opposition in connexion with the trafficking that was indulged in, warrant the fullest investigation by a royal commission, and for that the right honorable gentleman has asked. The Minister has not attempted to answer the charges, but has employed the tactics adopted in the police court - abuse and vilification of an opponent. So far as the deal related to the disposal of assets, it certainly was a business transaction; but what took place has a deeper significance, which must arouse a good deal of suspicion in the minds of the people. I refer to trafficking in licences and the distribution of largess by the party which occupies the treasury bench.
– That is an outrageous lie!
– The Minister had the opportunity to state a case in rebuttal, but failed to do so. He surrounded the matter with “ red herrings “, but even these did not smell so high as the case presented by the Leader of the Opposition. There is nothing wrong with the issue of licences - that is a matter which is determined by the department - but there is something radically wrong with the offer of a’ bribe in connexion with the granting of a licence, and that is the gravamen of the Opposition’s case. What are the circumstances of the issue of this licence? A man named Alderman, who is more than an adviser of the Government-
– That is not true.
– He has been given a room at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, in order that he may discharge the duties which the Government has entrusted to him. He is more or less on full-time duty on behalf of the Government, and has access to Ministers.
– That is another lie.
– Thi3 man, who has access to Ministers and responsible officers, framed the terms and conditions governing the purchase of certain assets, and the basis of them was the issue of a licence. One of the terms was, that onefifth of the air time should be made available to the Labour party. Mr. Alderman said, in effect: “If you do not give onefifth to the Labour party, including free time, there will be no prospect of your obtaining a licence “. The letter read by the Leader of the Opposition makes it perfectly clear that these terms and conditions were framed by Mr. Alderman in an. attempt to sell the station. He said : “ If you give these considerations to the Labour party, there is more than a good prospect that you will be given the licence “.
– He did not say that.
– I ask on whose authority did Mr. Alderman make those terms and conditions?
– He did not make them.
– He has had access to responsible officers, and he was empowered to obtain this consideration for the Labour party. In straightforward business no one can obtain a contract without some consideration being given, and I want to know what consideration was to be given by the Australian Labour party in order to obtain a one-fifth share in the broadcasting station. I maintain that the consideration was a licence for the station, and the licence was promised through Mr. Alderman. Those facts are clear. They are causing grave concern to the public, and they should also concern members of this House, which should be jealous of the way in which the Government administers the affairs of tho country. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) spoke of a gift; it looks to me suspiciously like a bribe, and in this instance the consideration for the bribe was the promise of a licence. The facts as disclosed warrant the appointment of a royal commission to investigate the matter. I should like to know who gave Mr. Alderman authority to negotiate on behalf of the Australian Labour party.
– He never had any authority. The honorable member cannot prove his point by reiterating a lie.
– The assets of the station would not be worth a row of beans if the broadcasting licence were unobtainable. All the negotiations hinged on the granting of the licence. The Minister knows that a licence can be made available only through the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Therefore, when Mr. Alderman said, “ You can’t get a licence unless you give the Australian Labour party an interest”, I want to know on whose authority he was acting. These facts can only be brought out in an open inquiry before a royal commission, and Parliament should demand the appointment of such a commission.
How did Mr. Alderman proceed in the case of the Newcastle transaction? Flushed with his success in Adelaide, he approached the Diocesan Council of Newcastle, and left i’t in no doubt of the terms and conditions upon which a licence would be made available. The council must give the Labour party a one-fifth share in the station, with the right to appoint one director, and the Labour party must he given free broadcasting time. If the council would agree to those terms its chances of getting the licence would be particularly good. However, the Diocesan Council would not be a party to this corrupt proposal. It has been stated that Bishop Batty made no reflection upon the Minister, but the fact remains that he did not withdraw the original suggestion of corruption.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I am astounded at the extravagance of the unwarranted allegations made this morning by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The right honorable gentleman has made certain charges which implicate the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission, and although names have not been mentioned specifically, his statements inevitably involve particularly the Reverend Samuel Forsyth and the Reverend George White, who were associated with the arrangements. He also made allegations damaging to the reputation of other persona, including the Honorable R. S. Richards, who was connected with this matter. In the strongest terms I am capable of expressing, I repudiate these sinister and highly improper suggestions. I have no doubt that these gentlemen will reply in strong terms to the charges made against them. I can assure the House that there are no more honorable men to be found in the community than those who were associated with this transaction, and it comes as a shock to me that a public man should rise in his place in this House and endeavour to ‘besmirch their characters by questioning the terms and methods of this transaction. The extravagant charges of honorable members opposite that there has been corruption, and bribery, and trafficking in licences, only proves that they will say anything when they see an opportunity to make political capital and attack the Government. If they are able to attach some sinister meaning to an innocent and straightforward transaction, they will not hesitate to do so. Everything that was done in connexion with the sale of 5KA was perfectly honorable, and will bear the most searching examination”. Those concerned in the matter will have no difficulty in proving that their probity is superior to that of any honorable member of the Opposition. Immediately the High Court decided that the station known as 5KA, with its subsidiary station, was available for disposal Mr. R. S. Richards got into touch with M.r.’ Alderman, who was acting on behalf of the owners, and obtained an option for the purchase of the assets. It was Mr. Richards who wa« originally in negotiation with the Central Methodist Mission, and it was he who transferred to the Mission his option on the share now held by the Workers’ Weekly Herald. Here is the statement of Mr. Richards on the subject -
I hold the option in my own name, and whatever negotiations took place were peculiarly personal, made by me. Whatever interest the Worker’ *Weekly Herald had in the company was under the terms of transfer of my option rights to the Central Methodist Mission. At no time did the Labour party enter into the discussions, and at no time were they promised by the Minister or any representative of the Government, any concession in regard to SKA.
– Now apply that to the Newcastle transaction.
– I am answering the honorable member’s charge of corruption in regard to station 5KA. I am keeping to that, because that is the only transaction which has been completed, and is the one about which I know something.
– Will the Minister explain the position of the Labour party in the matter?
– No concession has been made to the Labour party as such.
– Mr. Richards is a member of the Labour party.
– Yes, but he has individual rights apart from that. He communicated with the vendor, and secured an option as any one else might have done.
– Only over the assets, not over the licence.
– We are also dealing with the composition of the company and the transactions consequent thereon. The Leader of the Opposition has asked why the Workers’ Weekly Herald was given a one-fifth interest in the company. The reason is that the Central Methodist Mission evidently thought that it was to its advantage to obtain the option which had been secured by Mr. Richards, who later transferred his rights to the Workers’ Weekly Herald. That is a perfectly honorable proceeding. The entire religious community of South Australia is satisfied and happy with the whole arrangement. I assure the House that the charges made by members of the Opposition will arouse the greatest indignation in South Aus tralia and will be warmly repudiated. The church authorities, and those who speak for the Workers’ Weekly Herald, will be able to defend themselves against the charges in a manner convincing to the public. They will have no difficulty in showing that tha charges are malicious and baseless, and that there was never any justification for making such extravagant allegations against men of the highest probity.
– I am sure that the House and the public must be impressed with the case made out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in regard to what he properly described as an unsavoury transaction. The House must also have noted the futile and puerile defence offered by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) in his capacity as representative of the PostmasterGeneral. The agreements entered into in respect of the Adelaide broadcasting station and proposed in respect of the Newcastle station, details of which were read to honorable members by the Leader of the Opposition, were negotiated on behalf of the Labour party by Mr. H. G. Alderman, an eminent King’s Counsel, of Adelaide, who is well known to be sympathetic towards the policy and principles of the Labour party. In the case of the Adelaide station, the agreement bestowed, and, in the case of the Newcastle station, the agreement proposed to bestow, upon the Labour party benefits for which payment was neither made nor proposed. The Bishop of Newcastle wrote in the following terms to Mr. Alderman : -
It is my intention to call a meeting ot our trustees of church property as soon as I can secure their attendance, in order that we may discuss the proposal put before Mr. C. A. Brown and myself this morning in regard to the purchase of the assets of station 2HD, and the transfer of its licence.
Whilst the matter is fresh in my mind, and in order that my fellow-trustees may be fully informed in the matter, I am now setting out the terms of the proposal you made to us.
T invite honorable members to listen to those terms and to relate them to the term.0 in the contract for the sale of the Adelaide station -
You told us that the purchase price of the station’s assets would be £17,500, and that you were of opinion that our chances of securing the transfer of the licence were very good, subject to certain provisos.
Obviously, the assets would be worthless without abroadcasting licence. Consequently, Mr. Alderman said that the licence would be transferred under certain conditions.
– It is a question of assets, not of the licence at all.
– The Minister knows that wireless broadcasting equipment is useless without a licence to broadcast.
– Mr. Alderman had no authority to negotiate in regard to the issue of a licence, and he has never claimed that authority.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that I am making this speech.
– I wonder why Mr. Alderman toldBishop Batty that his chances would be good if the Diocesan Council complied with certain conditions.
– Because he knew that the licence would not be transferred unless the conditions imposed by the Labour party, the party administering the issuance of licences, were accepted.
– The negotiations broke down on the price, not on the conditions.
– The negotiations broke down because the Bishop of Newcastle was not prepared to agree to the same conditions as were accepted by the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission.
– No, the Diocesan Council was not prepared to pay more than ?15,000 for the station.
– The bishop’s letter continued -
These provisos were -
1 ) That we should give the Labour party in this districta fifth share in the station, allowing them to appoint one director on a board of five.
Absolutely the same conditions as were contained in the agreement in respect of the sale of the Adelaide station !
– That is not denied.
– The letter went on-
Again, the same condition as was contained in the Adelaide agreement -
The granting of time for broadcasting was to be subject to some agreed stipulation as to some portion of it being in the evening hours most suitable for broadcasting.
Again note the similarity.
– If Dr. Batty is right, the Methodists were wrong.
– Of course they were.
– The bishop’s letter continued -
You told us that if we were prepared to agree to these provisos you thought our chances of securing the licence would be more than good, but that if we did not agree there would be little prospect, in your opinion, of our securing it, seeing that the PostmasterGeneral would be guided in his decision by the advice of the parliamentary committee, on which there is a majority of Labour politicians.
The Government would be guided by the conditions contained in the agreement formulated in respect of the Adelaide sale by its agent, Mr. Alderman.
– That is an outrageous lie. He is not the Government’s agent.
– He is a most effective agent.
– He is not the Government’s agent. The repetition of a lie does not make it the truth.
– Bishop Batty continued -
To the best of my own and Mr. Brown’s recollection, these were the terms of your proposal. I should be glad to have your confirmation of them not later than Wednesday (the 7th July), so that I may put them before my fellow-trustees.
Mr. Alderman replied ;
I am in receipt of your letter of the 2nd July. In broad outline, your letter sets out what I expressed to you.
I am enclosing herewith a copy of the SKA (Adelaide) agreement, which will give you and your trustees some idea of the precautions that are taken to see that the tie-up does not interfere with the commercial success of the station. Any agreement entered into would follow roughly on the lines of this draft, although, of course, certain alterations would have to be made to accord with your wishes and with local stations. [Extension of time granted.]
I shall not delay the House any further. The facts have been adequately stated by the Leader of the Opposition and unsatisfactorily replied to by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), with the ineffective support of other Government members. The unsavoury details of this scandal should be thoroughly investigated by a royal commission. I say that with considerable personal feeling, because it will be recollected that I was humiliated by a royal commission into the expenditure by the Government of which I was Treasurer of the paltry amount of £300 on fighting communism. If that royal commission was justified, the facts which have been adduced to-day make a royal commission into this matter imperative.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Sir. Menzies), in moving the adjournment of the House in order to draw attention to the issue of certain broadcasting licences, went to considerable lengths to impute improper motives to the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission in connexion with the purchase of station 5KA, and said that the circumstances of that sale and the proposed sale of station 2HD in Newcastle to the Church of England should ‘be investigated by a royal commission. If we are to have a royal commission, its terms of reference should be far wider than the matter of those two transactions, because statements made by the Minister for Information (Mr. ‘Calwell) and documents on the files of the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) disclose the existence of a most unsatisfactory state of affairs in broadcasting when the right honorable gentleman was Prime Minister. But I do not propose to support the proposal that a royal commission should be appointed, because the charges made by the right honorable gentleman have been effectively answered by the Minister for Information. The completeness of the reply was disclosed by the right honorable gentleman’s attempt, by constant interjections, to spoil the Minister’s speech. He had frequently to be called to order by the Speaker. That, was a most effective answer to the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition.
That right honorable gentleman also declared that in 1942 the Broadcasting Committee was dominated by members of the Labour party. An examination of the personnel of the committee at that time disproves his contention. The repre sentatives of the Labour party were Senator Amour and Messrs. Calwell, Barnard, Johnson and Riordan. Sir Charles Marr, Senator J. B. Hayes and Dr. Grenfell Price represented the United Australia party, and Senator Cooper represented the Australian Country party. Thus, the Labour representatives exceeded by only one the representatives of the other two political parties. An examination of the recommendations of the committee will reveal that in the majority of cases the decisions were unanimous. Therefore, the statement that the Broadcasting Committee was dominated by the Labour party is incorrect, and I have pleasure in placing the facts on record.
– Mr. Alderman made that statement to the Bishop of Newcastle.
– Never mind what Mr. Alderman said ! I am dealing with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that the Broadcasting Committee was dominated by. the Labour party, and that its decisions were coloured by the views of the Labour party. Nothing could he further from the truth.
I became a member of the. Broadcasting Committee after the preliminary stages of the agreement had. been completed, but I know that the sale of the assets of station 5KA was amicably arranged and that corruption was never alleged. The transaction was negotiated in the first place by Mr. Richards, whose honour is above suspicion. To imply, as did the Leader of the Opposition, that this transaction was corrupt, is to impute that the Methodist Church lent itself to corruption. That is unworthy of him. Those tactics are resorted to by a barrister when he is presenting a very weak case. The right honorable gentleman’s association with religious bodies has been sufficient for him to know that although they may be criticized by some sections of the community, at least their actions and motives are not corrupt. The object of the Methodist Church in this transaction was to serve the Christian community. The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in Adelaide are each allowed by station 5KA one hour’s broadcasting time on Sunday. Every one knew about the proposed agreement. The suggestion of the Leader df the Opposition that improper practices were employed in negotiating the agreement, is not worthy of him.
I heard Bishop Batty give evidence to the Broadcasting Committee at Newcastle. As the Minister for Information stated, the Bishop was most indefinite. First he asked for the licence, then he did not want it. Later, he desired to hold the licence for a time, or to have it transferred to Sydney. In this matter, the Church of England did not conduct negotiations very satisfactorily. The arrangement for the control of the assets of station 5KA Adelaide was negotiated by Mr. Alderman, as solicitor, and the whole transaction was most amicable. As the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) showed, the agreement had been in operation for twelve months, and not a word of criticism has been directed against it.
– The Prime Minister did not know about it last week.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is seeking to draw a red herring across the trail. Everybody accepted the agreement, and all parties were satisfied with it. The arrangement is serving the churches very well in South Australia. [Extension of time granted.] I direct attention to the fact that in Newcastle, where the community is predominantly Labour, the Church of England has not benn able to make a similar arrangement. In Adelaide, where the community was not predominantly Labour, at least when the agreement was made, the arrangement worked satisfactorily. As the Minister for Information indicated, the obstacle to the sale of 2HD Newcastle to the Church of England was not so much the licence as the price to be paid for the assets of the station. The Leader of the Opposition failed to make out a sound case for the appointment of a royal commission to investigate his charges, and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) could not support his charges of corruption. What does the agreement, which the Leader of the Opposition read to the House, contain? Probably the right honorable gentleman himself has written letters in similar terms on behalf of clients.
– Unfortunately for the honorable member, I have never written a letter on behalf of a client. But I have appeared for people like the honorable gentleman.
– -The Leader of the Opposition has appeared also for Labour organizations - quite satisfactorily, in fact - and has been duly paid for his efforts, because Labour organizations always pay well,
– I have appeared for people charged with corruption, and I have defended them successfully. But they did have a defence.
– On those occasions, the right honorable gentleman appeared in open court. He was not making an attack under parliamentary privilege.’ If he cannot submit a better case than he has done, the Labour organizations might not employ him in future. The terms and conditions of the sale of station 5KA Adelaide are above suspicion. The “fly in the ointment “ is that the Labour party has an interest in the station, and that the agreement is working satisfactorily. Honorable members opposite fear that the Labour party will obtain an interest in station 5HD Newcastle and that annoys them. Therefore, they seek to discredit the transactions by alleging corruption and improper practices.
– I have often wondered why the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) hurried home from London when breath-taking events were about to happen. Now, I am beginning to understand the reasons for his haste. He returned to Australia because he feared what “ the boys “ were doing at home during his absence. I remember directing the attention of the right honorable gentleman to the action of the Government in expending public money for propaganda purposes during the recent referendum campaign.
– Public moneys misappropriated.
– I saw on the face of the Prime Minister an expression of surprise and bewilderment. From the reply which he gave to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) in regard to the sale of broadcasting stations, the
Prime Minister was obviously unaware of what has been happening behind the scenes. The Leader of the Opposition made a very grave charge - in plain words, a charge of bribery and corruption in regard to transactions in the sale of two broadcasting stations. To those charges, no satisfactory reply has been given. In an endeavour to conceal the truth, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) spread a smoke-screen, the effectiveness of which would surprise even FieldMarshal Montgomery. But he made two significant statements. First, he denied the necessity for the appointment of a royal commission to investigate those charges, thus revealing a real fear that the facts would be proved in a judicial inquiry. Secondly, he agreed that the terms of the contract, which the Leader of the Opposition read, were correct.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has said that the integrity of certain clergymen in South Australia has been assailed. If that is so, surely -both he and the clergymen to whom ho has referred should welcome the appointment of a royal commission to deal with the accusations. I do not suggest that the clergymen have acted with any intention to do wrong. They may not have realized that their actions would bring their probity into question. I should think, however. that they would wish their good name to be cleared by a tribunal of unimpeachable authority. The Minister also mentioned a Mr. Richards. That gentleman is, of course, the Leader of the Parliamentary Labour party sitting in Opposition in South Australia.
– Docs the honorable member impugn Mr. Richards’s honour?
– I should like that gentleman t,o answer a few pertinent questions : Did he have an option over the station : if so, what did he pay for it? How did he know that the station would come on the market for sale? Did he have some devious means of obtaining this information, or did he obtain it through some security service? “Those are pertinent questions which should be answered. If a person holds an option and surrenders it he usually receives some consideration for the surrender. Was any such consideration given in this instance, and was any money paid to a particular political party? If no honorable gentleman opposite can answer these questions they should be submitted to a royal commission for investigation.
Reference has been made to the granting of the. licence of station 3XY Melbourne. There is nothing wrong with any government granting a licence for a radio station to a political body. For a number of years the Labour party has operated station 2KY in Sydney, and 3KZ in Melbourne, and no question has been raised respecting the propriety of the granting of those licences. But an entirely different situation has arisen in South Australia, and similar circumstances . are now under review concerning a station in Newcastle. I ask, plainly, whether blackmail has been levied and paid in connexion with these stations? It has been said that the transactions in Adelaide took place many months ago, and that hitherto no questions had been asked about them. A police officer might be asked whether a degree of roguery has occurred in connexion with a certain matter; if only one instance of the kind be brought to his notice, he may say that it is not likely, but if a second instance-be brought to his attention he may say that roguery is quite possible. If a third instance should occur he would probably say, “Well, they would be lucky to get away with it this time “.
I direct attention again to the letter written by the Bishop of Newcastle, from which extracts have already been read during this debate. The contents of the letter have been certified as correct by no less a person than Mr. Alderman. The Bishop wrote in his letter -
Whilst this matter is fresh in my mind-
The reverend gentleman no doubt had in mind the happenings in South Australia and, unlike the clergymen involved in that State, he was not willing to act without careful consideration. After deliberation, he wrote this letter. The Bishop stated that Mr. Alderman had said -
Our chances of semiring the transfer of the licence were very good, subject to certain provisos.
Bishop Batty’s letter to Mr. Alderman also contained this passage -
If we did not agree there would be little prospect, in your opinion, of our securing it, seeing that the Postmaster-General would be- guided in his decision by the advice of the parliamentary committee on which there is a majority of Labour politicians.
Mr. Alderman indicated that the transaction in respect of the Newcastle station would ‘be similar to that which resulted in the transfer of the Adelaide station. And we must pay some regard to the role in which Mr. Alderman acted.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As a descendant of one of the pioneer Methodist families of this country, I deeply resent the imputations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The right honorable gentleman read extensive extracts from an agreement made by a Methodist Church organization in South Australia and a newspaper which has some affiliation with the South Australian branch of the Labour party. It appears to me that the agreement breathes the very tenents of the Christianity which is practised by the church organization concerned.
– “ Sell all that thou hast and give to the poor.”
– Quite a number of people preach that doctrine, but do not practise it. The principles of Christianity ave been practised, throughout its history, by the ‘South Australian Methodist organization concerned in these transactions.
– ‘Does the Opposition want an inquiry into every broadcasting licence which has been issued? I know of one which would not bear investigation.
– I am shocked to hear honorable members opposite allege that a transaction which, by the terms of the agreement on which it is based, is so essentially Christian, is- corrupt. The allegation of the Leader of the Opposition is outrageous, and I am astonished that the right honorable gentleman should consider it necessary to ask for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the subject. If corruption has occurred in relation to this matter, obviously all the parties to the agreement must be involved. Does the Leader of the Opposition consider that the Methodist clergymen whose nam’es have been mentioned are such simple people that they would allow themselves to be hoodwinked into signing an improper agreement? The whole thing is so ridiculous that it does not bear a moment’s thought. The allegation that corruption has occurred is absurd.
– Then why not allow a royal commission to investigate it?
– The time allowed under the Standing Orders for this debate has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) (put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate being concluded.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. J. S. RosEVEAR:
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 19th September (vide page 1007), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £8,480 “, be agreed to.
.-Twelve months ago, I was elected to this Parliament to represent the blue ribbon constituency of Australia. During my term I have listened to members of the “ fighting Opposition “ - their own expressiondeliver attack after attack on the Government, with the object of discrediting it in the eyes of the people, and on every occasion I have seen them driven deeper into their dugout. I believe that the people will never again entrust their destinies to them.
In presenting the budget last week, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) told the Parliament that during last year the total mobilization of bur man-power had reached peak level, and that it would be a mistake to imagine that the war strain had decreased or that either the direct war effort or the control of private expenditure could be relaxed. Notwithstanding these warnings, and the assertion that no state of mind would be more fatal to the stability of our economy than one which assumed that, with the increasingly favorable turn of war events, prices control ‘ and rationing could be relaxed, the story that he related of the financial stability of the nation was by no means a sad one, having regard to the enormous burden which has to be shouldered. The honorable gentleman said that the present tax levels, are so high that further contributions from that source would be impracticable. He was able to inform the country that the estimated expenditure was not so great as it was last year, and that the war expenditure alone would show a reduction of £39,000,000. A gratifying feature of the war expenditure, estimated at £505,000,000 compared with £543,000,000 last year; is that no less than £452,000,000 is to be expended in Australia, and only £52,000,000 overseas. Gratifying also is the intimation that, in connexion with civil expenditure, the provision for social services will show an increase o’f £37,700,000 compared with that for 1940-41. These services will include the pharmaceutical, unemployment and sickness benefits which are to become effective in January, and a hospital benefits scheme agreed to at the Premiers Conference, legislation for which is to be introduced. The decision of the Government to budget for a reduced war expenditure was made only after a full review of Australia’s war effort, and does not imply any diminution, but merely a reorientation of that effort; The increased demands of the American forces and of the United Kingdom necessitate the diversion of man-power from the armed forces and munitions production to the production of food and other essentials. Releases from the fighting services and munitions establishments have been arranged for this purpose. The Treasurer also said that the releases from the armed forces had exceeded enlistments by 25,000, and that approximately 18,000 persons had been or would be released from government munitions factories.
Considering the war restrictions, our export and import figures are quite favorable. It is interesting to note that it was possible during the year to repay a temporary loan of £12,000,000, raised in London in 1940-41, after meeting an overseas war expenditure of £56,000,000, despite the adverse exchange, which must always puzzle and annoy Australians. Our external financial position showed a substantial improvement during the period under review. It is also pleasing to note that, although it has not been possible to estimate accurately the demands that will be made by rapidly changing and important operations in the current financial year, approximately 20 per cent, of our war ‘ expenditure, totalling £110,000,000, is being provided this year in connexion with reciprocal aid to American forces in this country and the South- West Pacific. This is equal to the amount provided last year, mid is expected to meet requirements.
The Treasurer has not been able to offer tax relief, or encouragement to those who anticipated the relaxation of rationing and prices control. I emphasize that rationing applies to goods which are in short supply. However, certain concessions are embodied in the income tax assessment bill that has been introduced, and these will prove a veritable godsend to many wage-earners who have domestic and other responsibilities. Instead of the present limit of £50 for each taxpayer upon which a rebate is allowed for medical expenses, the Treasurer proposes a rebate upon £50 for each member of a taxpayer’s family, and a further concession is that medical expenses may include dental fees up to £10 in each case. The rebate of tax in respect of dependent children is to be extended to cover children between the ages of sixteen and. eighteen years, who are receiving fulltime education. There are also provisions which relate to accumulations of repairs and maintenance of property and plant, and the abolition of the sales tax on building materials for the assistance of home-builders. All of these demonstrate that the Government is anxious to give relief wherever possible to those who are hard pressed or in need. We are determined to maintain those humanitarian principles upon which the Labour movement is based, and for the preservation of which the war is being fought. We all realize that tremendous difficulties will be encountered during the period of transition from war to peace. Whatever criticism may be directed against the Government regarding its performance of a thankless job, no one can find fault with its intentions as expressed in the present budget. However, I hope that soon the war will be over, and that this is our last war-time budget. I look forward to the time when the Government will be able to afford the poorer sections of the community relief from the burdens of war-time taxation which they have so willingly shouldered during the period of the war. Those in the lower income groups must be the first to be given relief, especially men with family responsibilities. Basic wage earners should be free of all forms of direct taxation.
A review should be made at the earliest possible moment of invalid and old-age pensions with a view to granting substantial increases. It is to the credit of this Government that, notwithstanding the demands made by the war, invalid and old-age pensions are to-day higher than ever before. Nevertheless, I believe that they are not yet high enough to enable pensioners to live in reasonable comfort. I suggest to the Treasurer that, when post-war plans are under discussion, consideration should be given to the proposal to establish in every important town in Australia a government-controlled home for old people. We have all seen old people, who have done their part in the pioneering of Australia, bundled away to a home in the city, there to spend the last days of their lives among strangers. Many of the sons of these pioneers shed their blood in tho last war, and some are again serving in the present war in defence of our freedom. Therefore, I urge the Government to give serious consideration to my suggestion.
I believe that the war will not last much longer, and that we should begin now to plan for the future. When the war ends, we shall be confronted with gigantic problems which will differ materially from those that had to be solved after the last war. To-day, for instance, we have about 1,5.00,000 people’ engaged in war activities of one kind or another. The demobilization of so vast a number will have to be undertaken with great care and judgment if we are to avoid economic confusion, and prevent hundreds of thousands of people from being thrown on to the labour market. An obligation rests upon the Government to ensure that poverty and unemployment shall be abolished after the war. We are fighting for something vastly better than what existed before the war. We should never forget, that, during the depression, 30 per cent, of the working population of Australia was unemployed, and that 700,000 men, women and children were living on the dole. In those dark and desperate days I saw men and women lined up at police stations throughout the country asking for relief, while moths and silverfish were eating the clothing in shops and warehouses, and mice were destroying stacks of wheat at railway sidings - and all this because, as we were told, there was no money. As soon as the war started, however, there was plenty of money. Millions of pounds ‘ was produced overnight. I do not say that we should not have spent money on the war. Victory is cheap at any price, but let it never be said again that there is no money with which to feed and clothe the people. Human life transcends every other consideration. We must set up an orderly economic system in place of the chaotic conditions which -brought misery and ruin in their train. The Government is determined that, after the war, men and women shall be free in the true sense of the word, and to that end they must be given the full measure of economic security which is their birth-right. In order to ensure this, it will be necessary to inaugurate a vast programme of reproductive public works such as housing, the construction of new roads and railways, hydro-electric schemes and soldier settlement. The need for new homes, to the number of many thousands, was never greater. The Government must embark upon a vigorous policy of homebuilding which will provide the nation with a roost valuable asset. Every one agrees that a great deal will have to be done after the war to restore our roads to the condition in which they ought to be. A great many shire councils not only lost their employees, but also their equipment, which was taken over for war purposes. There is also an urgent need for new roads, including one from Tumut to Canberra. This undertaking should be included in the- post-war reconstruction plans, and the work should be done by the Department of the Interior in co-operation with the State authorities. The road would open up some of the richest farming country in New South Wales, and make available, for exploitation, great areas of timber. It would also enable supplies of fruit and vegetables from surrounding areas to be brought to the market in- Canberra. A further advantage would be that the distance from Canberra to Melbourne would be shortened by many miles. In fact, this should be regarded as a strategic road which would have a high defence value, and the undertaking should be given a high priority. I also appeal to the Government to co-operate with the New South Wales authorities in the construction of the Yass-Canberra railway. A sum of money should be placed on the Estimates for this work, and construction should begin immediately the war ends.
Electricity is an amenity which every Australian citizen is. entitled to enjoy. Water and electric services should -be made available, not only to residents of country towns, but also, where practicable, to every farm-house. Let us make it possible for every country dweller to have an electric stove, a refrigerator, a bath-heater and a radio. The provision of these amenities will do much to promote a better understanding between residents of the country and the cities, and will tend to bring about a better distribution of population, something which is urgently required. Water and electric power are of such importance that, wherever possible, the rivers of the country should be harnessed in the service of the people. Much preliminary work has already been done by the State in connexion with proposals for the harnessing of the Tumut. River. During the last three years, borings have been made for foundations for a dam. This work, if completed, would supplement the Burrinjuck irrigation and hydro-electric scheme, and would be of great value to the whole of the Riverina ‘by providing cheap power for country industries.
The Snowy River ought to be harnessed as a part of a hydro-electric scheme for the generation, of power, not only to serve south-eastern New South Wales and- north-eastern Victoria, but also to augment through the grid system the electricity supplies of all eastern Australia, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, as far north as southern Queensland.
The burning question of land settlement should be immediately gone into in co-operation with the State governments, in which the control of lands is vested. The time is overripe for the problem of land-locked country towns to be grappled with. One of the tragedic consequences of the defeat of the recent referendum is .that’ the Commonwealth is limited in such matters as the breaking up of vast estates to’ the influence it may exert through the Loan Council. In the Hume electorate, one of the safest primary producing areas of Australia, the towns are land-locked to an alarming degree. They are surrounded by holdings of up to 40,000 acres. Such a state of affairs must not he allowed to continue. With the prosecution of a vigorous policy of subdivision, thousands of exservicemen could be placed on the land with advantage not only to themselves, but also tq the nation in the development which would follow. We should, therefore, co-operate to the very limit with the States in order to smash the land monopolists who have land-locked our country towns into stagnation.
I was “ beaten to the post “ in the debate last week on the adjournment motion by the Deputy Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) on stable wheat prices. Otherwise, I should have spoken then. It was amusing to hear Opposition members tell how their hearts bleed for the primary producers of this country. They must think the primary producers have short memories and have forgotten that the honorable member and his colleagues in the years in which they occupied the treasury bench failed dismally even to attempt to ease the farmers’ burdens. The most effective answer to the hiflutin “ political propaganda of the honorable member is a leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald of last Saturday -
If, however, the scheme be judged from the standpoint of public policy, it must be conceded that it has made a substantial contribution to national welfare. In many ways it has been the simplest and most effective of the various attempts made in recent years to help the grower, and to small producers it has been especially valuable. Though they may not have reaped large profits, they have enjoyed a payable price and a stability hitherto unknown in the industry, under a scheme which was brought in when a surplus of 150,000.000 bushels was overshadowing a collapsing market.
Just over ten years ago the world was in the throes of a financial depression; millions walked the streets of the world’s greatest and wealthiest cities in a hopeless search for work, and in millions of homes” dreadful hunger drove the spirit of resistance from men-, women and children. Battalions of undernourished children became the unfit men and women who in the last five years have failed to meet the- medical and’ physical requirements of the services. In every great wheat-field of the world lay the mightiest surplus of wheat the world has ever seen, and, while men’ arid women struggled for a few pence with which to buy bread1, millions of bushels of unharvested wheat rotted. In America, millions of bushels was burned- and millions of acres of wheatland went out of production because there was no prospect of payable prices. To’ the wheat-growers of Australia, the financial loss of ‘ the depression years was the grimmest hurden which they have ever had to bear. Many, deeply committed to banks and other financial institutions, were forced to abandon their properties, bankrupt and broken, and swell the hordes of unemployed in the towns and cities. The years that followed the depression were almost as bad. Wheat prices on the world markets recovered for a while, only to slump again, and, for years, fluctuating prices menaced the. farmers’ security. To-day, however, that is merely a bad memory. Time has blurred the stark picture of ruin. Since the. outbreak of war, the wheat marketing system has undergone several changes, and it is- now the soundest ever known by the industry. Early in the war, the. Commonwealth Government established a wheat stabilization scheme under which all wheat was pooled under the control of the Australian Wheat Board. But the Menzies-Eadden Government failed to recognize that the prices ruling just before the war were ruinouslyinadequate, with the result that, from the early pools, farmers frequently did not receive even 3s. a bushel, and had to wait for months for payment. To the farmers’ (protests, the Government’s reply was : “ You are lucky to get 2s. 6d. a bushel.” The Leader of the Australian Country party had failed the farmers again by backing the right honorable member for “Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and “big business” against the farmers. He let the small farmers go to the wall. The wheatgrowers who could afford to wait were given the chance to squeeze smaller competitors out of production. When the Labour party took office, plans were immediately made to stabilize wheat at fi payable price through the “ Scully plan “. Originally, this plan provided for the payment of 4s. a bushel at growers’ sidings for the first 3,000 bushels, and a first advance of 2s. a bushel on the balance up to 1,000 bags. Immediate payment is made on the first 1,000 bags, which is known as “quota wheat”. -Payment is made at the siding and the Government meets freight, handling and storage charges. The industry benefited by £4,000,000. In 1943, the first advance on “ non-quota “ wheat was raised to 3s. a bushel, and, to meet the cost of the award for workers in the industry, the first payment on “ quota “ wheat was raised to 4s. ltd. a bushel. Growers receive further advances from time to time on “ non quota “ wheat from each pool as it is sold. In addition, the Government has subsidized cheap wheat for feed by £780,000 a year. ,So, without cost to the grower, wheat can be given an additional outlet by being sold to stock-feeders at 3s. 6d. at buyer’s siding. The Government also decided to give producers control of their own industry, and members of tie Australian Wheat Board are now elected by the farmers themselves. The practical experience that the farmers have brought to the Australian Wheat Board has been extraordinarily helpful to this great national industry, which is in. a far sounder position than ever before. I feel certain, therefore, that the high–powered political propaganda used by the honorable member for Indi and his colleagues will have no appeal to any section of primary producers, and that the farmers will be true to the Labour party, which has saved them from bankruptcy.
– In an age which is characterized by rapid changes in the affairs of men, it is perhaps not surprising to find this trend manifested in the presentation of the federal budget. Until recent times, no Treasurer would consider that he had done his duty properly and no parliament would con sider he had done so, if he had not presented a balanced statement clearly outlining the sources from which he contemplated collecting his revenue and equally clearly indicating the directions in which the money was to be expended. The final item of a budget, whether Commonwealth or State, was invariably an indication of a surplus or a deficit in the public accounts. But no longer does the presentation of a budget tell a complete financial story. Rather has the document become an economic thesis ; it is none the worse for that, perhaps, but it illustrates the change to which I referred.
The Treasurer told the House that the expenditure for the financial year would be £653,000,000, and that revenue from all sources would be £325,000,000. He added that the gap to be bridged was £328,000,000, and that large sums would be required from the public by way of loans. He did not even tell us this year, although it had been his practice in previous years to do so, how much loan money will be raised on the ordinary market by voluntary subscriptions, and how much will be bank credit.
In presenting this statement, the Treasurer also revealed, quite apart from the heavy expenditure for war purposes, that non-war expenditure will be not less than £147,800,000. If it were not for the psychology which has adapted. us to think complacently in terms of millions, greater notice would have been taken of this substantial increase of non-war expenditure. Only a few years ago, the then Treasurer, Mr. Spender, directed attention to the fact that for the first time in our history the budgetary proposals contemplated an expenditure exceeding £100,000,000. In the present budget, nonwar expenditure is estimated at £148,000,000. .Strangely enough, the Treasurer told us that we must not take his budget figures too seriously. I quote from his printed speech -
The budget war expenditure does not exactly measure the amount of Australian resources used for war purposes.
He did not explain another significance of the statement. It is true that when standing alone the figures do not reveal clearly and unequivocally the war expenditure, and the same may be said, although the Treasurer did not say so, of the figures for nonwar expenditure. For example, in the total of £148,000,000, the sum of £30,000,000 is being appropriated for the National “Welfare Fund. That is in accordance with the law. But £30,000,000 is not being expended for the purposes to which the fund should be applied. Indeed, the Treasurer told us that this year only £12,000,000 of the £30,000,000 will he expended on social services appropriate to the trust, and that £18,000,000 will be invested in short-term treasury-bills and these will be utilized for war purposes. One might well ask, why did the Treasurer thus juggle the figures by increasing nonwar expenditure by £18,000,000, and decreasing war expenditure by a similar amount? To honorable members who have had some years of parliamentary experience, the explanation is very simple. We know that when the Treasurer introduced his new taxation proposals two years ago, and brought into the dragnet of the Commissioner of Taxation persons in the lower income groups, he was careful to assure them that the money was designed not -for the prosecution of the war, but to provide social security for them. That is why the sum of £30,000,000 has been placed in the schedules as non-war expenditure, when a more correct division would he £12,000,000 for non-war expenditure and £18,000,000 for war purposes. Last year the situation was even more aggravated than it is this year. Although the Treasurer hypothecated £27,000,000 for the National Welfare Fund, only £2,250,000 of that amount was expended on the appropriate social services, and the balance of £25,000,000 was invested in treasury-bills. Thus it -became a part of war expenditure, instead of non-war expenditure as the Treasurer claimed.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) pointed out that a considerable portion of the Treasurer’s speech summarized the Government’s social services. One ought to be surprised at the scope of those social services, in view of the fact that we were told, during the recent referendum campaign, that all Commonwealth social services were in jeopardy, unless the people cast an affirmative vote on the 19th August. Yet, two and a half pages of the Treasurer’s budget statement are devoted to a description of contemplated expenditure on social services. One paragraph is very significant -
The Government is pressing forward towards its goal, which is to ensure that ali essential health and medical services will be available without charge to -all persons needing them. I can here record two further steps forward-.
The Treasurer then proceeded to inform honorable members about free hospital accommodation and treatment of sufferers from tuberculosis. Are our memories failing us ? Were we not told a few weeks ago that the Commonwealth Government was prevented from entering the field of public health, even in co-operation with the States, and that only an affirmative vote at the referendum could remedy the position ?
– We are not supposed to remember that.
– I do not think that my recollection is wrong when I say that an affirmative vote was not recorded at the referendum. Yet the result had no effect upon the Treasurer’s programme for social services. Honorable members have heard a good deal about the National Welfare Fund, which, in my opinion, is more a pretence than a reality. Last year, only £2,250,000 was expended from the fund for social services, and this year only £12,000,000 is ear-marked for the same purpose. The balance of £43,000,000 will be used, as it was always intended to be used, for war purposes. The Treasurer has provided money for maternity allowances, funeral benefits, and unemployment and sickness benefits, in spite of the fact that the people were told that unless they gave to the Parliament of the Commonwealth authority to deal with industrial matters, it would be impossible to provide for them these various social benefits. The Treasurer has informed us that on the 1st January, 1945, certain social service legislation, already in existence, will come into operation. A sum of £8,500,000 has been ear-marked for the second half of this financial year. If my mental arithmetic is correct, this means that the Treasurer is predicting 2 per cent, of unemployment for that period. That does not accord with the story that we hear from the man-power directorate about the wretched shortage of man-power throughout Australia. Financial provision is made also for pharmaceutical and hospital benefits, invalid and old-age pensions, and child endowment. But even the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) did not hesitate to announce that the child endowment scheme might have to be withdrawn unless an affirmative vote were cast at the referendum.
– Does the honorable member regret that money has been provided for child endowment?
– Certainly not! If the honorable gentleman’s record in furthering social legislation compares with mine, he will do very well. The Treasurer stated that the cost of child endowment for this year is estimated at £11,900,000. He does not suggest that this payment is illegal, and that the people, having rejected the Government’s referendum proposals, will be denied child endowment in future. Indeed, the budget does not suggest any weakening of the present social services because of the failure of the referendum.
The honorable member for Hume emphasized also that the Australian Labour party and the Government are keenly interested in the rehabilitation of exservicemen. Not long ago, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) introduced legislation to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The measure contained many liberal provisions, and honorable members on this side of. the chamber assisted to make it even more liberal, sometimes to the obvious concern of the Minister.
– Be fair. The bill was a non-party measure.
– The Opposition declared that an obvious omission from the bill was a provision to grant to returned soldiers preference in employment. Honorable members will recall that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) submitted an amendment to repair this omission, and frantic attempts were made to induce him to withdraw it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was brought into the chamber, and made an ex cathedra statement that if the honorable member would withdraw the amendment, the Government would introduce effective legislation to grant to ex-servicemen preference in employment. Since then, nearly two years have elapsed, but the bill has not been introduced. Frequently the Prime Minister has emphasized that the Commonwealth Government’s power to implement the principle of preference is limited. He has indicated that the Commonwealth Government is ready to grant preference in the rather limited sphere of Commonwealth employment. Yet to-day, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked whether exservicemen were being dismissed from a munitions factory in his electorate while female employees were being retained. The honorable gentleman might have said that trade unionists were also being retained in employment although exservicemen were being dismissed. I leave the honorable member to meet any challenge that may b© made concerning the accuracy of his statement, and merely point out, at the moment, that the Government is apparently denying preference of employment to ex-servicemen even in the factories which it controls. The whole community is waiting for the Prime Minister to honour his promise to introduce a bill to provide preference for all ex-service personnel.
I am glad that I can commend some provisions of the budget. The Treasurer stated that last year the subsidy to the dairying industry totalled £7,346,000, whereas this year provision is being made for an expenditure, under this heading, of £7,500,000. That is commendable, but the transfer of man-power from some government enterprises, where it is now being wasted, to employment in the dairying industry would be of far greater assistance to dairymen than even a subsidy of £7,500,000. A more realistic and permanent method of assisting the dairying industry is necessary, and I suggest that a great deal of good would bo done if the Government would assist dairymen to improve their herds. The butter-fat product per cow in New South Wales is shockingly low, being only 148 lb. per annum. It should be twice as much. By sympathetic and scientific co-operation such an improvement could be achieved.
The Prime Minister told us in his speech that the total cost of the war to date had been £1,651,000,000, of which £529,000,000 had been provided from revenue, £739,000,000 from public loans, £328,000,000 from treasury-bills, and £55,000,000 from temporary bank accommodation. This is a very heavy burden, which the people will readily shoulder so long as they can bc satisfied that the money is being efficiently expended. But can that be truthfully claimed? During this debate several honorable members have directed attention to evidence of wastefulness in the management of war activities. I -shall not traverse that ground again, but I invite the attention of the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) to a report that a gross waste of man-power is occurring at the aircraft factory in Parramatta-road, Lidcombe. I also direct the attention of the appropriate Minister to the reports of the waste of man-power and money by the Allied Works Council in the interior of Australia. I understand that the War Expenditure Committee has submitted a report on this subject to the Government. That report should be placed in the hands of honorable members without delay and certainly before the conclusion of the discussion of the Estimates. Unless the report flies in the face of the evidence it must give evidence of waste in many directions. Probably the document will not be released until .the Estimates have been passed. We are being told that the Allied Works Council will be continued as a government instrumentality after the war, though on a voluntary instead of a conscript basis, so that it can be used in connexion with post-war rehabilitation. I understand that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has made a statement to that effect. Not long ago the aid of the Allied Works Council was invoked in the rehabilitation of burned-out settlers in Victoria. I shall not repeat all the stories that have been told in that connexion, but I remind honorable members of the report that at one camp controlled by the Allied Works Council it was costing £52 18s. per hundred to provide fencing posts. If that result be used as a yard-stick to measure the “ benefits “ of this organiza- tion to the community, we all must hope that it will not continue in existence for any longer than is necessary.
I am glad to turn again to a provision of the budget which I can commend. The Government contemplates increasing the appropriation for the purpose of providing Australian representation at the International Labour conferences. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has recently enjoyed the privilege, which I enjoyed some years ago, of representing Australia at one of these conferences. I am sure that he will be a better man for the experience. I am glad to know that Australian representation is likely to be arranged on a more equitable basis in the future than has been the case in the past. Hitherto, the policy of the Government has been to invite the trade unions to select their representatives, and the Government has paid all travelling expenses both ways and made reimbursements for lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses. The method of securing representation of the employers was not so satisfactory. Usually inquiries are instituted to ascertain whether any qualified employer is likely to be rambling in Europe or America at the time of the conference, and, if so, to appoint him to represent the employers. I hope that the larger appropriation of public funds for the purpose of providing representation at these conferences may be taken as an indication that the Government intends that, in the future, the representation of employers and employees will be on the same financial basis. It is desirable also that the numerical strength of our delegation should be increased. At the meetings I attended at Geneva in 1935, Japan had sixteen representatives and Great Britain 37. I have great confidence in the peacepreserving possibilities of such international gatherings.
I cannot commend the Government so enthusiastically in respect of some other matters. In fact, I strongly condemn it for its expenditure on the recent Constitution alteration referendum. The last general elections cost the nation £108,000, hut the recent referendum, in which it may be said that there were only two candidates compared with the multiplicity of candidates in the general elections, involved the country in a cost of £125,000. The explanation, of course, is that whereas at general elections the various political parties provide the money for their propaganda, in the recent campaign the money for the “ Yes “ propaganda by the Labour party was provided from Treasury funds. I am surprised that the people of Australia have been so complacent about this. Possibly they have become so accustomed to scandals of the kind exposed this morning in connexion with radio stations that a government expenditure of a trifle of £60,000 on party propaganda does not irritate them.
Turning now to the Government’s taxation proposals, I regret that the Treasure!’ could not see his way clear to ameliorate the conditions of the taxpayers to a greater degree than he has done. The proposed concessions, though welcome, are almost negligible. The lifting of sales tax from building materials is a welcome gesture. I dislike that word, but it is the only one that will fit the case, for, in view of the fact that restrictions on building are to continue, the removal of the tax is little more than a gesture.
I refer now to a matter of great financial significance which is not specifically referred to in the budget, and which, so far, has not been mentioned by any participant in this debate. I refer to the Prime Minister’s promise to the coalminers that, under certain readily realizable conditions, he will institute a federal scheme of pensions for coal-miners. No one can suggest that I am opposed to a policy of security for the workers against the vicissitudes of old age, accident, illness or infirmity. Quite modestly, I can. claim that few citizens have done more than I to create a public conscience on this subject. But I am opposed to the selective treatment of a section of the people. All citizens should enjoy the same security under identical conditions. I am totally opposed to the holding out of a financial inducement to one section of the community to perform its simple national duty. Parliament is entitled to know what is in the Prime Minister’s mind on this subject. The right honorable gentleman has publicly stated that because a certain rate of coal production was not maintained during a specified period, his promise was withdrawn; but another promise was made that if the desired conditions are achieved the promise may be restored. The taxpayers, and, in fact, the whole community, should be told by the Prime Minister what he contemplates doing. Has he in mind a non-contributory scheme, for that is the declared policy of the Government in regard to pensions and other social security provisions ? The coal-miners have stood up to their obligations for ten or eleven days. If they stand up to them for another similar period, does the Prime Minister intend to introduce a non-contributory pension scheme? If he is prepared to apply this principle to a scheme for 17,000 coalminers, does he intend to convert the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation fund to a non-contributory basis ? Is he prepared to say to the railway workers and school-teachers : “ You have been making contributions in order to receive superannuation. We do not like that ; it is a capitalistic system. We shall introduce a complete scheme of noncontributory superannuation. We have had to do it for the miners, and we do not see why we should not do it for you also”? I cannot imagine that occurring. But, if the Prime Minister is prepared to give to the miners an elaborate pensions scheme without obliging them to contribute to it, he will destroy the very basis of our social security. What are the beneficiaries of this promised pensions fund to receive? In the absence of any advice from the Prime Minister, we should be safe in assuming that, as a minimum, it will be on the same generous scale as the present miners’ pension scheme in New South Wales. Either the Prime Minister or the miners would have to change in order seriously to contemplate any scheme that would be less generous. The present scheme, which is not likely to operate much longer, unless the Prime Minister or somebody else comes to its rescue, was introduced in July, 1942. It contemplated a pension at the retiring age of 60 years, or earlier in the event of incapacitation, of £2 a week for the miner, with an additional £1 a week if he had a wife, and 8s. 6d. a week for each child under the age of sixteen years. The scheme operated on that basis for twelve months. The contributions were by the miner 2s. 6d. a week when he was working and nothing when he was not working, and 5d. a ton on all coal mined in New South Wales. These two contributions were supplemented by a Treasury contribution of £80,000. Claims did not become effective for some weeks. As a matter of fact, the submission of them was slow in the first year, with the result that the fund showed a surplus at the end of the year. Then the orgy commenced. Under pressure, the New South Wales Labour Government seriously amended the scheme. One amendment provided that the husband of a woman who was eligible for an old-age pension should receive an increase of 5s. a week. Peculiarly enough, the pension went not to the wife, but to the husband, and that has caused very great concern to the womenfolk on the coal-fields. This increase of 5s. a week followed the lead given by the federal legislature when it increased . the old-age pension by a corresponding amount. I was amazed when I read in the report of the qualified accountant who investigated the fund - a gentleman who was a member of the royal commission which had first reported on it - that whilst the legislation restricted the increase to the husbands of women who were entitled to the old-age pension, in fact it has been paid in all cases, in the belief that the Government of New South Wales will ultimately validate the payment. Because of further liberalization in the form of retrospectivity, the fund is wellnigh bankrupt, and in a few years the contributions will be, not 5d., but 10d., a ton, and not 2s. 6d., but 10s., a week by the miner. Let me show what I meant when I said that the retrospectivity concessions have seriously affected the solvency of the fund. It is well that we should consider these, because no scheme of pensions promised by the Prime Minister would b’e acceptable which did not give to them at least what they are now receiving. One of the amendments after the fund had been operating for twelve months is to be found in section 10, sub-section In. It has caused the march of the fund to bankruptcy, and provides -
The tribunal may award a pension to the widow of any person who was, at any time after the first day of January, one thousand nine hundred and twenty, engaged in the coal or oil shale mining industries of New South Wales, and who died before the commencement of this Act, where the tribunal is satisfied that the granting of such a pension would not be inconsistent with the general scope and purpose of this Part and that, having regard to all the circumstances of the particular case, it is just and equitable to award a pension to such widow.
In other words, if a man employed in this industry died 23 years ago, his widow can now claim a pension.
– A long wait for just treatment.
– I have no objection to compassionate treatment ; hut it cannot safely be given under a scheme of this kind. If that is the sort of thing which the Prime Minister has promised to the miners, this Parliament has the right to know exactly what he has in mind. But it is not the only element of retrospectivity in these amendments. Section 7 provides that a miner injured since 1930, and even one injured since 1920, shall be able to claim a pension from the fund, provided he had worked in or about a mine for twenty years.
Some honorable members have been rather diffident about accepting my analysis of the position. Perhaps they will not be so eager to refute the quotation which I shall now make from Common Cause of the 16th September, 1944 - an authoritative and uptotheminute source. This is the relevant paragraph from a statement by Mr. J. Jack, who is no less a person than the State president of the Retired Mine Workers Association, and, as such, is very greatly concerned about the solvency of this pensions scheme -
If the scheme had been carried out as was first intended, that is, that the men employed in the industry being compulsorily retired at CO years of age to make way for youth, and not going back to 1928 to bring in men who voluntarily retired twelve years previously, and if we did not have the spectacle of the Federal Government cancelling invalid and old-age pensions (which necessitated them being placed wholly on our pension fund), the miners’ fund would have been solvent to-day and there would he no need to raise the workers’ contributions.
If my friends opposite are not prepared to accept my version, they may accept the implication in that statement that the fund Ls no longer solvent and that the insolvency has been caused by retrospective liberalization. I have mentioned this, not because I want to “throw cold water “ on the New South Wales miners pension scheme, but because I want the country and this Parliament to know what is implied in the promise of the Prime Minister. If I have misstated the proposal, and the right honorable gentleman has in view some other scheme, we shall be glad to hear of it. If we are not given any information, we can only take the present scheme as a basis; and I repeat that no scheme so unsoundly based as is the New South Wales miners pension scheme could be acceptable to the people of Australia.
I join in the hope expressed by the previous speaker and others, that before this Parliament is called upon to consider another budget the present conflict will have been brought to a satisfactory issue and that the Treasurer’s demands upon the community next year will bc of more normal proportions.
.- I congratulate the Government on the budget. Although Opposition members have had very little criticism to offer concerning it, I have noticed a tendency on their part to advocate a reversion to the old financial order of things. Two years ago, when we were in a very dangerous position, we heard expressions of approval of a new order, and I arn somewhat disturbed when I now hear the question : “ Where is the money to come from ? “ It would appear that they are beginning to receive orders from those whom they represent. The matter of finance will be most important in the future, and we must not revert to the old order. The direction’ of it must not again be entrusted to large vested interests. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) spoke of misery that had been inflicted .unnecessarily on the people. That was due to a system under which finance was controlled by private enterprise. The Government must bring down at an early date legislation which will restore to its former status the Commonwealth Bank. That institution was established by a Labour government, but its usefulness was destroyed by the parties now in opposition. The major factor was the Australian Country party, which even to the present day poses as the representative of the primary producers, yet lines up’ with “hig business” whenever the pressure is applied, in order to prevent, what would confer a benefit on not only the primary producer, but also all other sections of the people. I hope that the Government will legislate to prevent future interference with the Commonwealth Bank should the parties opposite again, unfortunately for the country, be returned to the treasury bench, and thus ensure control of finance by ihe people through their parliamentary institutions.
Last night, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) raised the subject of soldier settlement, and shed crocodile tears over the suffering of soldiers who had been placed on the land with insufficient money to purchase stock, erect homes, and effect improvements. I agree that the returned soldiers were badly treated, and I thought that there was no possibility of the same sort of treatment being meted out to them again. I have always advocated that the Commonwealth Parliament should have full power to legislate in respect of matters associated with repatriation, including soldier land settlement. Recently, I heard the honorable member for Indi deliver an address over the air in which, as usual, he lined up with “ big business “ in opposing the grant to the Commonwealth of those powers which would have enabled it to help the returned soldiers. I am. glad that the soldiers themselves voted for the referendum proposals, but the honorable member and his party let the soldiers down, as they have done before. He knows that the Commonwealth has no power under the Constitution to acquire land for soldier settlement, or to control settlement schemes. Nevertheless, the honorable member, in one of his usual misleading and untruthful statements, posed as a champion of returned soldiers. I am one of those who suffered under the previous soldier settlement scheme, and I do not want a repetition of it. Probably members of the United Australia party are more honest in this regard than are members of the Australian Country party, who are not so well acquainted with what actually happened in connexion with soldier settlement. The price of corrugated iron after the last war was £50 a ton, yet I was charged £410 for a three-roomed, unpainted house .built with timber sawn out of the red gum that grew on the place. One of the greatest handicaps with which .returned soldiers had to contend after the last war was inflation of land values, but there is no hope that the State governments will do anything to control land values. The State governments are under the domination of. the Upper Houses of the State Parliaments, and the Upper Houses are the mouthpieces of vested interests. Nevertheless, the honorable member for Indi opposed the granting to the Commonwealth of powers which would enable it to control land values. The honorable member for Indi, with his usual carelessness of the truth, even posed as a returned soldier settler. He is not a returned soldier, although I read in a newspaper the other clay that he was one. What reliance can we place on the word of a man who makes statements like that? He was trying to gain kudos .for himself, and there are probably thousands of people in Victoria now who believe that he is a returned soldier. I understand that he was in camp for a week or two before the armistice; yet I heard him say in a broadcast that he was a returned soldier.
Mv. MoEwen. - I desire to make a personal explanation. I made no such statement. I have listened in silence so far to the honorable member, but I am not prepared to be misrepresented. The honorable member has said that I am untruthful. That is objectionable to me, and I ask that the statement be withdrawn. He has also said that he heard me say that I was a returned soldier. I said no such thing.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).The honorable member is not permitted to interrupt the speech of another honorable member in order to make a personal explanation. But as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) used an expression which was objectionable to the honorable member for Indi, I ask him to withdraw it.
– And I shall make my personal explanation later.
– Out of deference to you, Mr. Chairman, I withdraw the statement of which the honorable member complained. The honorable member for Indi sets himself up as a champion of the returned soldiers, but he is not, as a matter of fact, the champion of the soldiers or qf any other section of the primary producers. In order to show what the returned soldiers really desire in the way of land settlement, I quote the following extract from the report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission: -
So- far us administration is- concerned, the intentions of the league were clear to the commission, i.e., that they desire complete Commonwealth control of returned soldier settlement. It is significant that similar representations were mode by the league in 1918 when discussions were taking place between the Commonwealth and States with regard to. soldier settlement after the 1914-18 war. In. the discussion on evidence it was pointed out. to and admitted by the president of the league that the administrative design of the bill could not bc implemented without constitutional amendment* under which the Commonwealth secured, for purposes of soldier settlement,., sufficient of the existing- exclusive powers of the States in thu control of land and land settlement.
One of the vital provisions of the draft bill prepared by the Returned Sailors,. Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia was -
Land settlement for returned soldiers is to. be entirely under the control of the Commonwealth, and the administration is to be vested in a Commonwealth Land Settlement Commission, subject to the control of a Commonwealth Minister.
As the committee pointed out, the States, after having incurred enormous losses on soldier land settlement, asked the Commonwealth to assume responsibility forthe losses. That should not beallowed tq happen again, but I havelittle hope that a similar situation can be avoided while soldier settlement remains under the control of. six State Parliaments. In particular, I fear that we shall once more have the experience of inflated land values, leading to overcapitalization and a heavy interestburden. I did my best to ensure that theCommonwealth would be granted power to take over soldier settlement. Thosewho opposed the granting of the powercan make their own explanations, but thesoldiers themselves will know that they have to lay the blame on men like the honorable member for Indi who opposed the referendum proposals.
We all are looking forward, now to an early termination of hostilities in the European theatre of war, and we hope that peace in Europe will be followed shortly by peace in the Pacific. Therefore, we should now be making our preparations for the time when peace comes, and particularly making plans to provide employment for ex-servicemen. Other nations are preparing for an expansion of industry after the war in order to provide employment. We in Australia Have been engaged largely upon primary production. We have produced at low cost commodities for export to other parts of the world, but I believe that a great deal of extra employment’ could be provided in Australia by the proper development of, the wool industry. Hitherto, the wool has been shorn and baled with all its natural grease, and with burr, seed and other foreign matter adhering to it. Honorable members may be surprised to know that with every 1,000,000 lb. of wool which we export we send also 500,000 lb. of waste matter, most of it just dirt. That is a most uneconomical proceeding. I suggest that there should be a great postwar extension of our textile industry in Australia. It may be argued that we have not the experienced men for such a development, but neither did we have experienced men at the outbreak of war for the making of munitions and the building of aeroplanes. We trained the men we needed for those undertakings, and we can do the same in the textile industry. All wool should be at least scoured before export. I suggest that it should also be carbonized and spun into yarn. That would provide an enormous amount of employment. We should manufacture in Australia all the cloth we need for our own requirements. There is no reason why that could not be done because I have seen samples of Australian-made cloth that would sell in any part of the world against any competition. However, I do not suggest that we should weave all our wool into material. We know that Great Britain, which has been a large buyer of our wool in the past, will want to rehabilitate its textile industries after the war, and we can sell to Great Britain our wool made up into yarn or tops.
Great Britain could buy from us yarn instead of greasy wool, thereby saving shipping space and freight with economic benefit to every one concerned, including the growers.
A thorough investigation should be made of the great disparity between the price at which woollen cloth is sold by the manufacturer to the wholesalers and the price at which it is retailed to the public. A man engaged in the textile industry told me after the last war that a mill in which he worked sold cloth to warehouses in Flinders-lane at 4s. a yard and that, after having passed through the warehouses to the retail houses, the price of the cloth to the public was marked at 10s. a yard. In my opinion, there is no justification for that, because service commensurate with the increase could not possibly be given. It is necessary that the cost of woollen articles should be kept down to a level at which wool will be assured of being able to compete with synthetic fibre. I am not, however, afraid of that competition. I think that the possibilities of synthetic fibre being a serious rival with wool have been exaggerated as a part of a campaign to keep the price of wool very low. The manufacturers of synthetic fibre also have to contend with costs of production. The disparity between the two selling prices is one reason why I should like to see prices control continued for years after the war ends. A greater danger to the woollen industry than synthetic fibre is the development in this country of the manufacture of shoddy, in reference to which I shall read the following extract from the Weekly Times of the 10th May, 1944 :-
Explaining that shoddy was practically unknown in this country until aliens established mills about ten years ago, and made shoddy cloth to compete with the virgin wool production of older mills, Mr. Comper declared that it was deluding the public and penalizing honest manufacturers.
Describing shoddy aB “ a menace to the health of the wearers “, Mr. Comper said before the war his firm had tried out consignments of alleged woollen coatings manufactured by the type of mill indicated.
They were made from reconditioned wool, polluted with extraneous matter of questionable character, and silk waste. In some pieces of material particles of elastic, obviously formerly portions of women’s garments, had been found.
This material smelt objectionably. When small cuttings were placed in water, a thick scum came to the surface and the dye came >ut.
After one or two such experiences they decided to cease to trade with these mills.
Mr. Comper then showed the Board a sample of what he called typical shoddy. This, he said, was being used in large quantities and was made in a mill in a Melbourne suburb by aliens.
Coats manufactured from this shoddy were shabbly after two months’ wear. “ Can it be wondered if the public clamors for imported cloth when such cloths masquerade as typical Australian woollen?” he said. “ What beats me is that Australian mills of integrity seem to have been flooded with government contracts, while these mills of alien ownership seem to have a free run.”
Before the war investigations were made into the origin of this shoddy. It was found that waste merchants, calling themselves flock merchants, paid up to £12 a week for the privilege of sweeping the floors of clothing and such factories. They not only gathered up waste scraps of material, but also scraps of food, sawdust and dirt of every description.
All this stuff was carted to the flock merchant’s warehouse and sorted in a casual way. Rats were everywhere and a foul smell pervaded, the place.
He had been informed that in one week 28 Ions of this waste matter was supplied to one mill making shoddy, which was eventually foisted on to the public as the bona fide allwool product of Australian mills.
It was obvious that the labelling of woollen goods was long overdue. If a trader sold margarine for butter he could be prosecuted for fraud, but if a trader sold something for virgin wool which was not virgin wool the public had no redress.
I point out to members o’£ the Australian Country party, especially the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has asked the various State Governments to introduce legislation providing for the compulsory labelling of shoddy. But that will not prevent its manufacture and sale to the public in the guise of pure wool, because Victorian manufacturers will sell in New South Wales, and vice versa. Mr. Comper laid the blame for the manufacture of shoddy on aliens, but I am not so sure that he is right, for shoddy has been made in Australia for a long time. The extent of its manufacture should be inquired into.
– It is bought by the big companies which the Opposition represents.
– Yes. The honorable member for New England has never protested about it, notwithstanding that it is a greater menace to the prosperity of the woollen industry than is artificial fibre, because pure wool can compete against the artificial product which, in my opinion, is more a substitute for cotton than for wool.
The Government should make every effort to obtain a continuance of the wool agreement for at least five years after the war ends. That would ensure against wool prices being depressed through the sudden release of stocks of wool held in Great Britain and America. Releases should be made progressively to meet demands. I anticipate a renewed demand for wool from the great woollen mills of “Prance. I do not believe that they have been destroyed. The people of the cold European countries, after having had to wear ersatz clothing for about four years are, I should say, yearning for woollens. Those countries have always bought Australian wool.
Expansion of the woollen industry and the textile industry is vital if we are to overcome the problem of how to employ our people after the war. The treatment of the wool from its virgin state through all stages must be undertaken in order that we may be able to export the finished product instead: of selling it in its raw state to Great Britain and our other customers. Thereby we shall be able to provide an enormous amount of employment. We have the asset, and it is our duty to use it.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), apart from calling me untruthful, which remark he was obliged to withdraw, said that I had claimed that I was a returned soldier whereas I was not. He said that he had heard me say in a referendum campaign broadcast that I was a returned soldier.
– So I did.
– ‘What I said in my referendum broadcasts was subjected to censorship and the records of my speeches are available for perusal. I challenge the honorable member to scrutinize the records of any speech that I have made, and indicate where I have claimed to be a returned soldier. If the honorable member is a man of honour, he will withdraw his remark. The Parliamentary Handbook and other records show my military service. In 1918 at the age of eighteen years I enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force.’ At that time, no soldier was permitted to leave Australia before he attained the age of eighteen and a half years. The armistice occurred before I had an opportunity to go abroad. I am a soldier settler at Stanhope.
– But not a returned soldier settler.
– I have never claimed to be a returned soldier. Soldier settlement in Victoria is not limited to returned soldiers, but extends to discharged soldiers. Any man who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for service overseas, as I did in 1918, was eligible to become a soldier settler. I took up land at Stanhope as a. soldier settler, and I still occupy it. I challenge the honorable member for “Wannon to prove that at any time I said or implied that I was a returned soldier. I hope that my explanation will prompt him to withdraw his charge against me.
. 1. congratulate my leader (Mr. Fadden) upon. the deep thought that he gave to his examination of the Government’s financial proposals. His analysis of the budget was one of the clearest and best that I have ever heard in this chamber. One honorable member described the budget as dull and unimaginative, yet this is the very time when those words should not be applicable to a statement of the Government’s financial policy, though they are, I regret to say. After a seemingly endless night, men’s eyes are now turned to the dawn that heralds an era of peace. We must endeavour to anticipate the problems of peace, which will be so quickly and intimately brought before the Parliaments of the world for debate and decision.
To many people, this war has seemed endless. As the Nazi terror spread, the lights of Europe went out one by one. Civilians, have been tortured by the Gestapo in. concentration camps, or were subjected to the horrors of the corpse factories, like the terrible depot at Lublin, in Poland. For five terrible years, the Jewish race, which has suffered much throughout history, has endured untold horrors at the hands of the Nazis. Now, one by one, the lights of Europe are being rekindled. Bulgaria, Rumania, and Finland, three of the Axis satellites, have left the Axis. The reason why liberty ami freedom, are being restored again in Europe is that the United Nations have had supreme leadership from the nien who have guided the destinies of the four principal powers in, waging the battle for freedom. As a private member, I may hold a comparatively unimportant position in this House, but I believe that we should pay tribute to the two great bodies that have been most responsible for our successes in this war, namely, the leaders of the United Nations, and the infantrymen of those nations. The “ foot-sloggers “ are the unheralded heroes who have fought the good fight in this war. Their deeds have not been extolled in the press. The searchlight of publicity has not fallen upon them. But they have won. the battles that have made possible the defeat of the Nazis. The success of. the United Nations would never have been possible if the “ foot-slogging “ infantry had not performed so nobly as they have done. The infantry at Blenheim, Ramillies, and Malplaquet, made the reputation of the great Duke of Marlborough, and the fighting infantry of the United Nations, in the ice-bound wastes of Russia, in the heat of the desert of North Africa, arid in the feverinfested jungles’ of New Guinea, have made secure in history the fame of Marlborough’s great descendant. Winston Churchill.
The first of the leaders of the United Nations to whom I pay tribute is the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill. He is the very embodiment of courage, unconquerable in defeat and supreme in victory. The President of the United States of America, Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt, is the leader of an ally which, was not a belligerent in 1939. Not until the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbour did the United States of America become involved. But long before Pearl Harbour the leadership of Mr. Roosevelt made the Americans realize that their entry into the war was inevitable. Mr. Roosevelt’s policy enabled us to carry on the struggle as effectively as we did during those terrible months when the British Empire stood alone in the world against the onslaught of the Axis. By supplying the British Empire with arms and munitions, Mr. Roosevelt gave us invaluable assistance in the struggle. He realized that if Germany conquered, freedom would perish.
Stalin, the leader of Soviet Russia, is a man of steel, as his name implies. Of indomitable spirit, he inspired his people to stop what many people believed to be an irresistible force, when the Nazi hordes were racing across the plains of the Ukraine. Then he smashed the forces of Germany on the spearhead of Stalingrad. That was the turning point in this war. After that German defeat, the crescendo of music in the world’s orchestra rose to the present pitch, and the first notes of Germany’s funeral march are now being played by the Allied Annies in Western Europe and by the Russians in Poland.
General Chiang Kai-shek has kept the spirit of resistance burning in his tortured country since 1937. For years his armies have been ill-equipped to stem the powerful, well-armed aggressor. The Japanese have committed against the Chinese dreadful atrocities, but Chiang Kai-shek with supreme courage, has carried on the battle.
– Will the honorable member pay a tribute to our own Prime Minister ?
– Although Australia has not become abattlefield, and our cities have not been subjected to terriblebombing attacks, this country missed the fate of Europe by the narrowest margin. I recollect one afternoon in this House in 1942 when the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) announced that the battle of the Coral Sea was in progress. When the history of this war is written, that engagement will probably be described as one of the decisive battles of the Pacific. It decided the fate of Australia. Between this country and the most savage and barbaric enemy that any nation has ever fought there were only the thin plates of the warships in the Coral Sea and what Tennyson described as “ the nation’s airy navies grappling in the central blue “. On sea and air power was the resistance of Australia based. When I was referring to the great leaders of the United Nations the honorable member forReid asked me what I had to say about the Prime Minister of Australia. Honorable members know that the Prime Minister and I do not agree on many subjects, and I am not afraid to speak my mind to him, and he is not afraid to speak his mind to me. But I would say that the verdict of, history will be that the Prime Minister in those dark days and hours did not fail his country.
The budget lacks realism, and does not plan that edifice which must be built for the destinies of Australia, and also of the world, insofar as we may be able to assist. Recently a conference was held atDumbarton Oaks in the United States of America to consider proposals for setting up an organization to ensure the future preservation of peace in the world. I know that the Commonwealth Government has done everything in its power to implement the Atlantic Charter and the Mutual Aid agreement, and that it was represented at this conference. One part of the Prime Minister’s speech which impressed me was his emphasis that the destiny of Australia lay within the ambit of the British Empire. We realize the impracticability of any other thesis. We do not believe that 7,000,000 people would have any voice in the world’s affairs, or would be able to do anything towards shaping those affairs. As a unit of the British Empire, Australia can have a big say in the formulation of Empire policy. I believe that this country must abandon all isolationist tendencies and seek its development within the framework of the British Empire. Our leaders should do what they can to influence Empire policy in directions that will benefit the Commonwealth.
I desire to read to the House extracts from what is probably one of the most prophetic poems ever written, Tennyson’s Locksley Hall, which was penned in 1842, more than 100 years ago. I invite honorable members to consider the following remarkable lines from it: -
For I dipt into the future, faras human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder that wouldbe;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Var along thu world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro’ the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and tho battle flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe, the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.
Every honorable member could surely subscribe to those views. If a referendum could be taken of the peoples of the world. I believe that they would endorse almost niianin.ioi.isly (lie ideal of ‘”’ the Parliament of man, the federation of the world “.
– The honorable member is an optimist.
– Of course I am. I know that such a referendum is impracticable. But if all the sneerers and jeerers throughout the world, continue to see only the dirty little spot of light that is thrown on the floor and can never look to the stars, our future will be poor indeed. Of course I am an optimist. I believe in humanity.
The reports, that have come from the Dumbarton Oaks conference give us some hope that we may look for the establishment of a world organization that will give us prospects of security beyond any ever promised by the League of Nations. The conference has recommended to the governments of the three powers represented that a council shall lie formed of four permanent members representing Great Britain, America, Russia and China, and representatives of six or seven oi her powers to be elected periodically, and that there shall also be an assembly consisting of representatives of the Allied Nations. Almost immediately the conference met. a di vision of opinion became apparent concerning sanctions and the military forces necessary for their enforcement. The question was whether this “Parliament of man” should be responsible for the organizing and maintenance of an international police force or whether each constituent member should maintain its own navy, army and air force. It is to the credit of the Soviet that its representatives strongly -advocated the formation of an international air force. I do not believe that there will be any security for mankind unless an international navy, army and air force can be established. For want of a better name I would describe that organization as an international police force. So long as the different nations compete among themselves in the development of armaments, what has been called “ the bloody traffic in arms “ will continue as it existed for many years prior to the outbreak of this war. The Commonwealth Government should do everything possible, through whatever channels it can express its views, to stress in these international organizations the importance of establishing an international police force.
– The honorable member is going “ red “.
– I do not mind what colour I go so long as I can do something to prevent the red blood of the people from being shed on the battlefields of the world every 25 years or so. It may be expressing only a pious hope to say that I look forward to the day, whether it be near or distant, when an international police force will operate to preserve the peace of the world. In the meantime, there is an urgent necessity that steps be taken to standardize armaments. One of the great curses that we had to contend with at the beginning of this war was the variation in the calibre of weapons for sea, land or air fighting in the different countries. Prance had adopted standards different from those of either America or Great Britain, and. of course, the calibres of British and American weapons also varied. Steps should be taken to ensure as high a degree of uniformity as possible in connexion with any munitions programme that may be developed by the United Nations.
A grave defect of the budget speech was the omission of any reference to the future of Australia’s export industries. This will be a serious matter for us immediately the war ends. Recently, Dr. J. P. Belshaw, lecturer in economics and history at the New England University College, Armidale, published a small book entitled The Future of the Australian Export Industries, a study of which I recommend to every honorable member, and, in ‘fact, to the whole community. The writer states that the outlook for our export industries is not nappy, and that we cannot, assume that conditions in the future will be similar to those which existed before the war. In the early part of his book he states that the export industries of this country have always had an enormous influence upon its prosperity. I do not think that that statement will be assailed. Any person who followed the course of events in Australia during the depression will agree that a healthy export trade is essential to our prosperity. The first people in this country who felt the heavy impact of the depression of a little more than a decade ago, were the primary producers, for, almost within a calendar year, the overseas prices of their products fell by 50 per cent. Consequently there was a serious contraction of, the buying of secondary products by people engaged in primary industries. The result was reflected at on.ee throughout the whole economy of the nation. The writer then went on to stress the dependence of our export industries on purchases from Great Britain. In this connexion he referred to three factors of outstanding importance which made the British market one capable of such large imports. The first was population. He pointed out that tile population of England and “Wales had increased from 8,900,000 in 1801 to nearly 41,000,000 in 1931. During that period the teachings of the Manchester school influenced liberalism in British polities to a remarkable degree and led to the adoption of the British policy of cheap food. This brought about increased importation of cheap foodstuffs and the consequent establishment of overseas markets for British manufactured goods. The writer also pointed out that British imports were valued annually at between £300,000,000 and £400,000,000 more than British exports. This amount, has been called “the invisible imports of
Britain “ and is made up as follows : - Returns from shipping of foreign goods, about £] 00,000,000 ; insurance, £80,000,000; and overseas investments, £4,000,000,000, resulting in an increase to Britain of £200,000,000 per annum. British markets, he pointed out, played a predominant part in the trade of Australia. To-day, the population of Great Britain is not increasing; it is actually falling. It is estimated that by 1995, about half, a century hence, the population will have declined by 11,000,000 people.
The second point made by Dr. Belshaw has relation to British agricultural policy. There is little doubt that a strong endeavour will be made in the future to maintain rural production in Great Britain at a high figure, which is at present, two-thirds of the nation’s requirements compared with one-third before the war. I recommend any honorable member who is interested in this subject to read also the report on agriculture issued by a committee of the House of Lords, which included the Labour Peers, as well as Conservative.; and Liberals. A study of that, document will indicate very clearly to honorable members that the dawn of the coming day so far as Australian export industries are concerned, will not be exactly without clouds.
The third point made by Dr. Belshaw is that after the war it will be found that the British overseas investment income will have dropped from £200,000,000 to £100,000,000 because Great Britain had sacrificed its overseas investments in order to buy munitions of war with which to destroy the Nazi tyranny.
Another point to which we should give consideration is the food position that is likely to exist in European countries after the war. We have been led to expect that very large quantities of Australian foodstuffs and raw materials will be required in Europe after the war.
– What is the position at the Australian end ?
– I shall come to that presently. I believe that it will be found that the position in Europe will be very different from what we were led, only a few months ago, to expect. Reports have come to hand lately which indicate clearly that the food shortages in Europe are not so serious as they were thought to be. In fact. in some parts there seems to be little shortage. The two countries which are in a bad state are Poland and Greece. The position in Normandy at the time of the Allied landings was not bad, and we have been informed that if there is any shortage of foodstuffs in Paris it is due to maldistribution. The live-stock position is also worthy of our close attention. Mr. Youdale, London manager of the overseas fanners’ co-operative organization, who was in Australia, recently, told us that there would be considerable shortages, but later information has indicated that the shortages will not be so serious as was at first anticipated. Figures published in the Swiss Neue Zurich Zeitung, in May, 1944, concerning the sheep population of Europe, stated that although Hitler had planned for the sheep population in Germancontrolled countries and neutral countries in Europe to bc increased to 130,000,000 head, the figure that had been achieved was “100,000,000. When one considers that the sheep population, of 100,000,000 in. Europe, plus those in Great Britain, exceeds that of Australia, producers in this country must feel disturbed. Then there are the live-stock numbers in the dairying countries. It is believed that the pig population of Denmark is now greater than when the Germans entered that, country; and probably the dairy herds have not declined to anything like the degree that was expected.
Let us look at the wheat position. The number -of tractors in Great Britain has increased from 40,000 before the war to approximately 150,000; and that greatest of all granaries, the Ukraine, has been mechanized to a remarkable degree. But there is no occasion to despair or to consider that the position will be irretrievable if a wise and strong government be ready to .take the initiative, and act quickly. Obviously, wc have to change from old to new markets. The greatest market in any country is the home market. I shall, therefore, have much pleasure in supporting any move by the Government, or from elsewhere, which will bring migrants to this country who will help to develop it and increase the consumption locally of the products that we grow. Many
Australian minds are disturbed by the uncertainty whether or not there is n genuine desire on the part, of -<une persons to maintain what I regard as the foundation on which the security, strength, and development of Australia must be established. I refer to the White Australia policy. The history of nations throughout the world proves that the mingling of the bloods of people of different colours is not conducive to happiness or development. When the Portuguese first went to the East Indies, they mixed freely with the natives, with whom they intermarried and interbred. This was the beginning of the disintegration of the Portuguese as a nation. In ancient times, Borne was sapped and finally defeated because of the intrusion of black people, from Africa. The same result followed the invasion of Spain by the Moors. The intrusions that have been made by coloured races in the Mediterranean area have resulted in a lowering of the standards of the people in that basin. Therefore, there should be an unequivocal statement not only from every member opposite, but also from the Government itself, of their and its intention to stand firmly and strongly for the maintenance of the White Australia policy. But there have been signs of weakening and the abandonment of that policy is implied not only in the views that have been expressed by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), in this House, but also in. statements made in other responsible quarters of the Labour movement. It was very disturbing to read that the leader of the Labour party in South Australia, Mr. Richards, had made this statement on the 5th January, 1944-
In his opinion, lie said. Britain could not send migrants. The war had drawn off the flower of the manhood of most nations, hut particularly of Britain. If Britain were to retain a place and prestige which would justify her being a force in European and international affairs generally, she would have to build up a solid defence involving the maintenance of a vigorous, useful population. Vital statistics showed that Britain, if she had not already done so. was fast becoming a nation of ‘aged people.
Australia had to decide first whether migrants were to come from within the British Empire, and, if so, from which dominion or colony. Surely, said Mr. Richards, there was one definite pointed-. If people were to address the question to the newly-appointed Governor of Bengal, Mr. Casey, he would probably inform them of the probabilities associated with iiic problem. Mr. Richards emphasized thai lie was not propounding Labour policy, but directing attention to a problem that the Australian people and government would have to face.
He is not entitled to speak with one voice as a private citizen and with another voice as the leader of the Labour party and, at the time, a prospective Premier, of South Australia. He continued -
Tin; problem raised the question : Would the British Commonwealth agree that any dominion should rest content with a standard nf living and an adequate defence system while other dominions had teeming millions of starving citizens who were ready mid eager to populate and defend it?
He there stated concisely the position in relation to the migration to this country of citizens of India. I do not believe that the people of Australia consider that coloured people are their inferiors: our sole desire is to keep this nation white and to preserve the internal economic conditions of the Commonwealth. Australia would be swamped by a coloured stream if migrants were allowed to come here from any portion of the globe, and we should have a more acute racial problem than has been caused in similar circumstances in any other country.
My next quotation is from a speech which the honorable member for Hunter made in this House last July. In January, 1944, Mr. Richards, the leader of the Labour party in South Australia, merely suggested that the members of one COl.oured race, namely the brown people of India, should come to this country. On the 19th July, 1944, .however, the honorable member for Hunter went a long way farther than that, for he suggested that all the colours of the racial spectrum should be brought to this country.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– The honorable member is reported to have said this - 1 am forced now, however, to make some remarks which may bc severely criticized because of their possible effect upon the White Australia policy which I always advocated. I. fear that I shall never make a shrewd and cunning politician, who can say what he does not think. I say what I think, although some people have told me that I do not often think. I am quite sure that I shall never be able to control my remark* in order to aave myself from unpleasant political repercussions. I have always said what I think, and I shall continue to do so. I believe that when I iwc a debt X ought to pay it. When people du me a good turn i consider Unit I ought to do them a service in return. In connexion with the problem that is in my mind now it may be said, “ You accepted black, brown, yellow, and brindle races into Australia when it was necessary to defend this country, Yet von say now that because of the White Australia policy such people cannot remain here mid live with you. They may shed their blood for you, but they may not live with you”. I. feel rather inclined to reject the idea of any people of a different colour coming to defend mc, unless I am prepared to say afterwards. ‘ Welcome, brothers “. We have to ask ourselves some questions about our White Australia policy.
The expression of such sentiments is very disturbing indeed. The opinions that are held by the honorable member carry great weight in the councils of the Government. He is liaison officer between it and the coal-miners, and his voice has often been heard loudly and long in political debates. The time is ripe for the Government to define its attitude towards the White Australia policy. It is all very well to say that we should allow any one to enter this country - brown, black, brindle, yellow, piebald, skewbald, half caste, quadroon, or octoroon. That is not the question. Such people came to our aid, just as white people went to the aid of the people of Java. The question is a national and an economic one, namely, whether Australia is to he preserved to the white race or is to be converted “into a coloured continent. We have to be sure that 41.. Government will protect the rights of the Australian people, and will not depart one iota from the White Australia policy. It may have pressure put upon it; it must resist that pressure for the White Australia principle is the rock on which the nation .stands or falls. In The Myth of the Open Spaces, W. D. Forsyth has made an extremely able study of the trends of world population and migration. His work contains some very interesting information .as to the trends of population shifts today, compared with those of a few years ago. He has shown how the sources of migration from the old world have dried up during the last 100 years, and how new sources have been tapped. He has pointed out that whereas during last century migrants came to new areas in the main from northern and western Europe and the British Isles, to-day the countries in which, migrants would have to he sought arc, principally, the Netherlands, Eire, Italy, Poland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria and the Ukraine. These, according to him, are the countries in which the net reproductive rate stood above unity. In the other countries, it stood either at or below unity, which means that the population is rapidly passing into the older age groups, whilst the young, fertile groups are not being produced in. the necessary ratio to maintain an adequate population. Although Forsyth, would, not entirely rule out the possibility of obtaining migrants from the countries of north and northwest Europe, in his opinion it is most improbable that many of them would be attracted.
One other kind of migrant has been mentioned in this chamber, namely, the orphans and waifs- of Europe and the United Kingdom. Before the Prime Minister left for Britain, I asked him in a question whether he personally, or through his officers, would explore the possibility of securing more orphan migrants from the United Kingdom through the instrumentality of the Barnardo Homes and other similar organizations. The Government could very well take up with the Vatican the .migration of orphans from the warscarred Catholic countries of Europe. There must be an enormous number of children in Spain, France and the Balkan countries who could be brought to Australia through this social organization. Whatever difficulty there might be regarding language and the congregation of older immigrants in separate communities would not apply to little children, who would very soon forget the old language and learn the new one. No matter in what country in Europe they wore born, they would realize that they were Australian citizens living under the Southern Cross and the flag of freedom. * Extension of lime granted.)* It is of no use just making pious speeches in the House about the need for immigrants. We. must take action. Neither must we do as Mr. P. J. Clarey, of the Aus tralasian Council of .Trade Unions Hid, when he was in the United States recently. He declared that Australia could support a. population of 130,000,000 people, a statement which is palpably absurd. When people occupying representative positions in Australia visit overseas countries, they should weight carefully their utterances. The Government should set up an authority to study migration. It should arrange to bring here European migrants free of charge, and should see that they get jobs. It should also ensure, of course, that our own people are in full employment. That is already the policy of the Government, as it is of the Opposition parties. Only by increasing the population can we enlarge our home market.
We must also extend our existing overseas markets, and establish new ones. This requires planning, and effective overseas publicity of the kind employed by the United States and other countries. In “ particular, we should endeavour to develop markets in the East. The Irade statistics of India make sorry reading for an Australian because they reveal how small is our trade with that country compared with the trade of other countries. Indeed, one might be pardoned for believing that Australia was a small island, no greater than, say, Tasmania. Although the appropriation for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture was £824,000 for 1940-41, and although this amount rose for the following year to £969,000, the amount allotted for the commercial intelligence service abroad dropped from £34,200 to £33,352. The voice of Australia is not heard overseas, whereas other countries are going “ flat out “ to extend their markets. We have a good example of long-term planning in the action taken, by the Standard Oil Company many years ago to place its products on the Chinese market. The internal combustion engine had not then been invented, and kerosene was a large outlet for petroleum. The Standard Oil Company flooded China with hundreds of thousands of small lamps stamped with a Chinese inscription in order to create a market for its kerosene. I suggest that we in Australia should consider manufacturing spinning machines and looms for the people of China so that they might manufacture cloth from good Australian wool at a reasonable price. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) say that he was not afraid of the competition of the staple fibre and rayon industries. If the honorable member were to look up the figures he would see that the pre-war cost of staple fibre was lOd. per lb., which corresponds to a price of 3d. per lb. for greasy wool. If he believes that Australian woolgrowers can carry on at that price he is a super-optimist.
The journal of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Services for June, 1944, quotes from the evidence given before the Rural Industries Committee to show the cost of wool during various stages of manufacture. It gives the price of scoured wool at 2s. 6d. per lb., other prices being, tops 2s. lid., yarn 5s., and cloth 8s. 4d. Then there is a jump from 8s. 4d. to 21s. 4d. for the wholesale price, whilst the retail price is 30s. I suggest that the Government’s economic adviser to the Prime Minister, and author of the Premiers plan, Professor ‘Copland, ought to use some of his spare time, which he now devotes to investigating the price of furniture for dolls’ houses, to finding out why there is a difference of 250 per cent, between the cost of manufacturing cloth and the price charged to wholesalers. When we know that such enormous combines as Courtaulds Limited and. Dupont Nemours Limited are a’bout to commence operations in Australia, the public will realize that we need only the I.G. Farbenindustrie of Germany in order to have established here the whole international cartel of staple fibre and artificial cloth manufacturers, one of the greatest, combines in the world.
Recently, a monetary and financial conference was held at Bretton Woods in the United States of America which discussed, among other things, the international ra te of exchange between various countries, including Australia, Great Britain and the United States of America. Under the terms of the agreement the voting power lies with the United States of America, Great Britain and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Those countries can fix any rate of exchange and bring about a revaluation of world currency. I point out that if the exchange rate between the Australian pound and the pound sterling is reduced it will cause chaos in our primary industries, and will seriously affect our secondary and tertiary industries as well. I realize that Australia cannot remain in a state of economic quarantine, or it would have to resort to >i system of barter for its overseas trade, but I draw the attention of the Treasurer to some points of the agreement which are of particular importance to primary producers. To illustrate my argument, I point out the enormous price fluctuations that have taken place over the years in the price of wool tops. For sixty-fours, prices have been as follows : -
As the Treasurer knows, when prices drop so much as has sometimes happened in the past;, we are faced with the depletion of our London funds and the impossibility of paying for our imports. According to the report prepared by Professor Melville, the monetary conference reached the following agreement regarding exchange : -
A member may buy foreign currencies from thu fund until the fund’s holding of its currency equals twice its quota, subject to the limitation that the member may not use more than 25 per cent, of its quota in any one year.
Australia’s quota is £63,000,000, with a right to draw £A15,600,000 each year. If we are not to be allowed to bolster up our London funds by more than £A15, 600,000 in any one year, and the exchange rate may not be varied, by more than 10 per cent., we may find ourselves in such a position that we shall have to get out of the agreement and resort to a system of barter, or have prices and wages within Australia determined by an external body.
– External funds could still be built up by other means.
– If the prices of primary products slump on the world markets, the capacity does not exist to build up external funds except by external loans, and, in the event of a slump, the money market would be tied up. ‘[Further extension of time granted.) In paragraph 19 of his report, Professor Melville says -
We could vary our exchange rate, without the approval of the fund, provided that the change, together with all previous changes, whether increases or decreases, did not exceed 10 per cent, of the initial par value.
That is another rigid restriction. Then in paragraph 21, he states -
It is true that, if the fund considered that the change in our exchange rate waa not justified, it would, after the expiration of a reasonable period, have power to expel us from the fund.
That is a most drastic provision. In paragraph 25 he states -
Nevertheless, for this reason, the purposes of the fund to which we must conform in order to safeguard our right to make full use of our quota are not altogether satisfactory.
I impress upon the Government that its own representative considers that the purposes of the fund are not satisfactory. In paragraph 44 he states -
The degree of flexibility proposed for exchange rates is a« favorable as could reasonably bc expected.
The Treasurer and I, who shared the honour of being members of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems, found that when it was attempted to pin the Australian exchange rate to gold, the exchange rate on the black market was 133 per cent. The whole Australian economy in 1929 revolved around the price of 15-Jd. per lb. for wool. Later, when we felt the full impact of the depression, on the basis of 15£d., the exchange rate should have been 130 per cent. According to evidence given to that commission at that time, the black market rate was 133 per cent. So I believe that every possible effort should be made by the Government to ensure that more flexibility than is envisaged shall be given to Australia and other great primary-producing countries. I hope that later the Treasurer will bring down a more colourful supplementary budget in which he will set out the Government’s intentions in respect of our exporting industries, immigration, and the preservation of a “White Australia.
.- I congratulate the Leader of. the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on his having had the grace to pay a generous tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). Now that the referendum is over we are hearing some truths from the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman also complimented the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) upon the budget. I think he said that he had almost felt impelled to kiss the Treasurer for bringing down such a nice budget. That makes me suspect that the budget may not be popular with some members of the rank and file of the Labour party outside this chamber. I congratulate the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) on the common sense he displayed in his speech, because he spoke on a number of matters on which I had resolved to speak. I agree with him that there is no room for isolationism in Australia’s policy. Isolation is dead as far as Australia is concerned. It is a long time since I have heard such conciliatory speeches as have marked this debate. That may lead some people to conclude that we are inclined to move to the right and the Opposition to the left. It is remarkable that the honorable member for New England saw fit to lecture Government supporters on the White Australia policy, because, but for the efforts of the Labour party over the years, I very much doubt whether we should have had a White Australia to-day. Reverting to the tributes paid to the Prime Minister, I think that this is as good an occasion as any to declare that Australia was fortunate in finding a nian of the quality and qualifications of the Right Honorable John Curtin to lead the Commonwealth through this war.
The worst thing that honorable gentlemen opposite could say about the budget speech was that it lacked imagination. No doubt it did. Men seem to lose their imaginative powers when elevated to the treasurership. But the budget provides us with the opportunity to talk about everything under the sun and ample scope to exercise our own imaginations. I should serve no good purpose by reiterating arguments that have been repeated over and over again in this debate. This Government has done such a great job in this war that eulogies from me would be superfluous. We have- heard in this debate from economists, sound and unsound, about the need to sustain prices and to find markets for our primary products. Much of what has been said is speculation and wishful thinking. Whether we like it or not, a great many matters affecting this country will be determined for us by the people of other countries. It is good to let the public know that we are cognizant of our disadvantages as well as advantages. I cannot see how we can do very much at all unless we can increase our population by at least another 3,000,000 or 4,000,000. We have not enough people to develop this country properly. I have always been puzzled that so often so much poverty should exist in the midst of so much wealth, developed and undeveloped. When we have brought this war to a triumphant close it will be important that we should induce to. come to Australia thousands of migrants. We shall have to expend a great deal of money on doing so, but I can think of no better way of expending public money than on the development of an immigration policy. Our policy in that respect should be overhauled. I favour the appointment of a director of immigration at a salary of not less than £5,000 a year. We all agree that this country must be kept white. We should, therefore, make every newcomer so welcome that he will remain here instead of returning to his homeland after two or three months of discontent. Hitherto we have approached the matter of immigration wrongly. The trade unions, unfortunately, took the stand that bringing people into this country would cause unemployment and reduce wages. Although that view was wrong, the unions had good reason to hold it, because when immigrants were coming here in large numbers many Australians were unemployed, and sons of farmers were not able to obtain farms for themselves. Immigrants took the jobs and farmlands that were the just due of the Australian-born. Ill feeling and discontent were bred and the whole scheme of immigration failed. The trade unions would now admit that they were shortsighted, because the more people we have in the country the greater will be the development, with more jobs and in. creased consumption of all kinds of goods. We must make this country attractive to migrants. Once we start a- soundly organized system of ..immigration the stream will develop into a flood if we treat the immigrants well, as they ought to be treated. Australia is the greatest undeveloped country in the world, and other parts of the world will no doubt closely watch its future growth. Of course, it is relatively easy to bring migrants here; the greater difficulty is in .providing jobs for them or getting them properly settled.
I am very happy that during this war we have made such close and friendly contacts with our cousins across the Pacific, the men and women of the United States of America. I look forward to the settlement in Australia of many Americans.’ A great bond of friendship has been forged between the two nations. Many of the Americans here now will, no doubt, return to Australia after they have been demobilized. We have been well advertised during this war, and I think that we have learned a great deal from our visitors. I hope that’ we shall not forget the lessons that we have learned in observing the Americans’ direct ways of getting things done. Undoubtedly, migration, in the past was badly handled. In 1933, the Development and Migration Commission was in existence, and the Parliament of the Commonwealth passed legislation to compensate migrants who had been brought to Australia under false pretences. Honorable members find difficulty now in imagining that a Commonwealth Government actually resorted to such measures in order to induce people from Great Britain to come -here. The unfortunate migrants were told that if they came to Australia they could make a living from areas costing no more than £1,000 to £1,500. This unfortunate legion found in, Australia nothing but disillusionment and despair. That dreadful condition of affairs should not be permitted to occur again. Australia received from the episode such a bad advertisement that the expenditure of £1,000,000 now to boost the attractions of this country would be hardly sufficient to repair the damage. People in Great Britain still remember the incident, and “will not readily forget it. Any immigration policy must be based on good faith by the Government towards the immigrant. A vigorous and generous policy of land settlement is more urgent to-day than ever before. Bringing migrants to Australia is useless unless we are able to settle them on the land or find them suitable jobs. There; is no use bringing new people to Australia if they are going to enter into competition with Australians for jobs and farms. Therefore, Australia must be developed concurrently with the introduction of migrants. Many persons left employment and good homes in England; for the purpose of settling on the land in Australia, and they were bitterly disillusioned. In future we must advertise Australia faithfully, and produce “the goods
Water conservation goes hand in hand with land settlement. Great projects such as the Hunter water conservation and irrigation scheme should be commenced as soon as possible. In the bulldozer Australia has found, a new friend. If the machinery used by the Allied Works Council is applied to the damming of rivers, remarkable achievements will be possible. I understand that the Government of New South Wales has given to the Hunter water conservation scheme a high priority in its programme of post-war works. People should be encouraged to settle on the land’, and conditions should be made attractive for them. The best method of making life attractive in the rural areas is to provide water, electric power and light. The future, prosperity of our country depends upon water conservation.
We are living in exciting and inspiring times. Australia has already received a great advertisement from the war, and a bright future lies before us. I take the most optimistic view of it. We have the country and the assets. A vigorous and progressive policy by the Commonwealth Government will bring the world to our door.
One omission from the budget has caused me great disappointment. No provision has been made to increase invalid and old-age pensions. This omission is a matter that the Government may find difficulty in explaining. A person who is required to exist on 27s. a week experiences dire poverty. The condition of those old people is something about which we cannot speak with pride. We should lose no time in increasing the pension. There is a lot of money in the country. Enormous sums of money have been raised by taxation, and great fortunes are being made on the black market, but these helpless people have been deserted and forgotten. The invalid and old-age pensioners of Australia have been “ by-passed “. The Government should not proceed further with social benefit schemes until it makes a success of the original scheme, namely, the old-age pension. I consider that invalid and old-age pensioners should receive at least £2 a week. If the Commonwealth Government is unable to finance that increase, the free hospital and medicine scheme should be deferred. It is better to do one thing well than to do half a dozen things indifferently. Old. people and invalids should receive sufficient money to enable them to live in dignity and comfort. The purpose of granting a pension is to provide them with a reasonable sum with which to maintain themselves.
The war in Europe appears to be moving to a close, and I express the hope that, when Germany capitulates, the Australian people will receive the news with quiet satisfaction and restraint. Some people are preparing to “ paint the town red” when the news of Germany’s surrender is received, hut we should remember, and the Government should ask the people to remember, that there will be no holiday for Australian troops. For many of them, the real fighting will bc only commencing. Our thoughts should be with our fighting men and their relatives, and we should be fired with determination to remove the yellow peril from our front door. Although victory over Germany will give us a great deal of satisfaction, it will not mean the end of the war-time restrictions. If Germany happens to surrender shortly, the Second Victory Loan, which will open on the 26th September next, will no doubt be quickly oversubscribed as a thanksgiving for victory.
I congratulate the Government on its intention to grant a gratuity to members of the fighting services.
The men who have fought to save this country from the invader should be given every consideration. If it had not been for the valour of our soldiers and our gallant Allies, the Japanese would have taken possession of this country. The Government should do everything in its power for the men who have fought in this war, because nothing will be too good for. them. Men who have fought to save this country deserve the best that Australia can give to them.
Sitting suspended from 5.5k to 8 p.m.
.- At the outset of a budget address in time of war, it is fitting that one should express appreciation of the efforts of members of our fighting forces. I do that unhesitatingly, giving full credit to all branches of the services. I add also a word of appreciation .of our primary producers, who have stuck loyally to their task, and, in fact, of all classes of workers who have not failed their country in its time of need. I have in mind particularly, people stationed in the back-blocks of this country, where they cannot enjoy the amenities of life, and are more or less imprisoned by their isolation. These worthy individuals have not failed to play their part in support of our fighting forces.
I regard the budget not as one that should .be eulogized, but rather as one of sheer necessity, providing for maximum taxation and a full war effort. However, it is unsatisfactory to a degree, because it does not deal adequately with planning for future works, and for the problems of the immediate post-war period. I refer specifically to the rehabilitation of our ex-servicemen.
One matter to which I shall refer may be regarded as a minor detail, but nevertheless it is an anomaly. I have before me the papers of a case in which an employer included in his tax return the sum of fi a week in respect of each of two employees whom he boarded while they were in his employ. The Commissioner of Taxation, however, allowed only 15s. in respect of each employee. The same two employees, in their taxation returns, stated the vain p. of their board as £1 a week, but the Commissioner of Taxation altered these figures to 25s. Apparently the Commissioner wants to have it both ways, and I submit that he cannot do so. If in the case of the employees board is regarded as being worth 25s., it should be given the same value in assessing the employer. That is a glaring anomaly which should be corrected.
I am opposed to deferred maintenance payments being allowed as a taxation deduction only if they are deposited with the Treasury. That, in my opinion, is a forced loan without interest, and, in the case of most primary producers, will be merely an addition to their bank mortgage upon which they are paying current rates of interest. It is unfair to expect individuals to add to their financial burdens, merely because they claim what is justly due to them in the form of deferred maintenance payments. I remind honorable members that local governing authorities are permitted to set aside reserves at fixed deposit interest rates.
Many speakers in this debate have claimed that invalid and old-age pensions are not high enough. If so, we should apply the biblical saying, “ Now is the day of salvation “, and the wrong should be righted now. Why seek political kudos by expressing sympathy with the pensioners and agreeing that their’ payment is insufficient whilst making no effort to rectify the anomaly? If honorable members opposite are sincere in their professed sympathy with the pensioners, I shall support any move that they may make to secure an increased payment.
There is one provision relating to pensions which I contend’ should be relaxed. I refer to the limit placed upon the income which a pensioner may earn without suffering a reduction of his pension. At present, a pensioner is permitted to earn only £32 10s. a year without having his pension reduced. That is far too little. The hardship is greatest on a bread-winner who is unable to work. Either he and his wife have to live on 27s. a week .or his wife must augment that income by working, which she usually does. However, once she has earned £32 10s. in a single year, the pension payable to her husband becomes subject to reduction. That is an unfair provision.
– - The honorable gentleman is wrong in his facts.
– There certainly is an anomaly in a case at Kingaroy, which has been brought to my notice. I contend that both husband and wife should be allowed to earn £52 a year each, or a total of £104, before the pension becomes subject to reduction. That would enable these unfortunate people to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. It often happens that pensioners suffer illness in the eventide of their life, and, toeing unable to look after themselves, they are looked after by friends, relatives, or some other Good Samaritans. In many such cases, because *he people looking after the pensioners do not seek payment for their hospitality, the pensioners are regarded as being in receipt of an income of £1 a week each, and their pensions are reduced accordingly. These .are anomalies which must ‘be remedied if there be any sincerity in the sympathetic professions of honorable members opposite.
I come now to the matter of decentralization, and in that regard there is an interesting exhibit in the King’s Hall of this building. That . exhibit shows 69 instances of decentralization in Australia. A Queensland newspaper last week reported the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) as having said that Queenslanders were “ moaners “. This time they certainly have something to “moan” about, and I am sure that you, Mr. Chairman, will agree with me in that regard, because of the 69 instances of decentralization set out in the exhibit to which I have referred, only two are in Queensland. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to establish new undertakings in the more densely populated parts of this continent. I am afraid that the Queensland Government is somewhat negligent in that regard, unless I am assuming unfairly that the policy of that Government was voiced recently .by the head of a State department. In August of this year, a conference was held of representatives of local governing authorities in the south-western area of Queensland - an area about twice as big as Victoria. The local governing bodies paid the expenses of their delegates to the con ference, which was held in Brisbane, to discuss water conservation and the building up of secondary industries in that area. They asked the chairman of the Irrigation Commission of Queensland to be present and his reply was, “ No good purpose could be served by my discussing it with you at this stage “. That is an outrageous statement, and I trust that it does not represent the attitude of the Queensland Government. I do not think that that administration would be so neglectful of this all-important subject.
However, I cite that case in support of my complaint that the budget does not plan adequately for future industrial development. Water conservation is the basis and the foundation of all industries, and if the fertile areas of Queensland are not to be used for land settlement schemes, I have yet to learn how the Commonwealth proposes to settle thousands and thousands of discharged servicemen on the land after the war. The other States of the Commonwealth, have not the huge areas of fertile land that are to be found in Queensland. I heard one member of the Government suggest that the land around Canberra should be cut up for this purpose, but I emphasize that in Queensland there are many millions of acres of undeveloped, fertile country. Leases are expiring from time to time, and it would be an easy matter for the Government of Queensland to retain some of this land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. It is important, however, that provision be made for an adequate living area. Funds must be made available now so that the planning of land settlement schemes may be commenced immediately the war ends. The rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank has rendered valuable assistance to primary industries, and I see no reason why its scope should not be extended to the provision of funds for the creation and development of secondary industries. I do not think that this could be done under its present charter. I trust that the Government will consider my suggestion seriously.
However, I submit that national works such as water conservation schemes are the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State governments, I urge that the most economical method of undertaking these projects is by utilizing the local government authorities. I do not contend that the Allied Works Council could not be used for this purpose, but the personnel of that organization is decreasing rapidly. The cost of national works must be the responsibility, not of the individual taxpayer, but of the Commonwealth and State Governments. The Minister for the Army stated a few days ago that 4,000 men were to be released from the Army for dairying purposes, from operational units if necessary. According to the Sydney press of two days ago, Mr. Bellemore had announced that 3,000 of the first 20,000 to be released from the Army and the Air Force were to go to dairymen in New South Wales, and 4,000 were to go to other industries. It looks as though that great capitalistic State has again obtained first preference. It is only the third largest of the dairy-producing States. On the basis of its allocation, Victoria should get 4,500, Queensland 4,000, and the other States 1,200 between them. I do not know how the 20,000 will meet the allocation if Mr. Bellemore’s plan is to be sustained. I am concerned about. dairy production. Immediately I entered this Parliament I voiced that concern, and . it has not since been allayed. Dairy production declined from 211,000 tons in 1939-40 to 157,000 tons in 1943-44. This has had an effect on exports. The Australian consumption has not declined, except by the civil population, because of the large quantity used by the forces. We have to assign the cause of the decline, and determine how it may be remedied. The Government issued a questionnaire to the managers of butter factories, and 429 replies were received. In 331 instances the reason stated was lack of man-power, in 312 instances it was food shortage, which in reality is lack of man-power, in 101 instances it was lack of equipment, and in 50 instances it was seasonal conditions. During the last two years, 3,508 dairies have passed out of existence, and 2,198 dairymen have stated that they intend to undertake the fattening of beef cattle. I am concerned as to how these people are to be restored to dairying operations. The release of men from the Army in order that farmers may be given some assistance, will not alone achieve that purpose. I am afraid that those who have withdrawn from dairy production will remain out for as long as the war lasts. I am not decrying the efforts of the Government to increase the production of ‘butter. I do not know when its policy in regard to the release of man-power was finally defined. I am still receiving the stereotyped reply that a man whose release has been sought is attached to an operational unit, and therefore cannot be discharged. That is the experience of all country members. I do not know w.here the fault lies for the lack in the number of men discharged. The release of men for the dairying industry in Queensland represents only 33 per cent., compared with 46 per cent, in the lowest of the other States, and rising to 58 per cent.- Yet Queensland had the highest percentage of rural workers, namely, 32.7 per cent., compared with 19.6 per cent, in New South Wales, and 21.8 per cent, in Victoria. The Labour. Minister for Agriculture in Queensland has voiced this comment -
Iri view of the criticism that has been levelled at the Queensland Government over the decline in food production, I consider it my duty to point out that Queensland has been, and still is, more seriously handicapped by the (Shortage of rural man-power than any other State, and’ in spite of the highest rural population and the highest percentage- of enlistments from the country areas, has had the lowest percentage of releases.
That State offers the greatest possibilities for an increase of production. The _ release of a man named Wittkopp was asked for on the 23rd March last, on the ground that he was a key man in the peanut industry. A reply was not received. I approached the Army Department in order to learn what the position was. After a check up with the Minister for the Army, who took the matter to the Commander-in-Chief, the reply reached me that the Man Power authorities in Brisbane had not made any recommendation, and that if they recommended the man’s release he would be discharged in the course of two or three days. I wired to Kingaroy, which contacted the Man Power authorities in Brisbane; they in turn stated that a recommendation for his release had been made. Yet yesterday, I received advice that Army had refused, his release. This man had four years’- service in the last war, and has had four years’ service in this war. He is 48 years of age. Under what part of the Government’s policy is he kept in the Army?
-Is he serving on the mainland, or outside Australia?
– He is in Australia, in a supply column. He has been on the mainland for nearly ten months. His release was sponsored by Food Control.
– Has he applied personally, to be released?
– He has. ;
– The- direction given was in such terms that he. should be released. I shall inquire as to his case .personally, if the honorable gentleman will give the particulars to me. The rules relating to releases provide for the release of a man in the circumstances narrated by the honorable gentleman.
– We have asked for his release not lightly, but because he is’ a key man whom we. have always employed in the industry for maintenance purposes. The distribution of the peanut crop is held up. With the assistance of the Government,- we have been able to import, from the United States of America a peanut shelling machine. With a record crop, the distribution cannot be made within twelve months unless we have the machine installed.
– The man is not a rural worker ?
– He is a rural worker, because his duties are incidental to the distribution of that crop. The Government assumes control of . the peanut crop, and instructs us as to where it shall be sent for distribution, yet we cannot get the key men who would enable us to make the distribution.
– Every man whose release is sought is marked with an asterisk as a key man. Apparently, all the men in the Army are key men in industry. I do not believe it. There is too much of this “ key man “ business. But the case cited - the age and service of the man, and the fact that he is on the mainland - is covered by the direction to grant a release.
– We applied for the release of four men for that industry, and placed them in order of preference. This man was number 1. There is greater difficulty in regard to the release of the other men, for which there may be valid reasons. I have tried to be fair. If the Government will not give to us some labour which will enable us to install the peanut shelling machine, we shall not be able to distribute the crop. When I approached the Food Control Branch concerning blackmarketing in the Northern Territory, and the distribution of this crop, I found evidence that Queensland is regarded as a pampered State which must take what was given to it. If I cared to do so, I could show that Queensland is not pampered. That, however, is beside the point. This man has been classed as a key man. An ordinary carpenter is not qualified to do the job. We were prepared to try to have it done by a carpenter, but could not obtain one. In view of the shortage of man-power in Queensland, compared with the position in the other States, I shall be pleased if the Prime Minister will investigate the matter.
I introduced to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) a deputation of representatives of Queensland tobaccogrowers, who submitted an application for the remission of a percentage of the excise of 10s. 6d. per lb. on Australian leaf. The growers are supposedly receiving an average, approximately, of 2s. 5d. per l’b., the price varying according to grade. Any one who visits the tobacco areas will see many growers who are living under starvation conditions. That condition is revealed in the acreage that has been planted in recent years, and the reduction of production. Earlier, the growers had asked for an increase of price, and it was granted to them, but to offset the benefit the tobacco manufacturing interests persuaded the Government to agree to the elimination of four or five of the lower grades. The result of this elimination was that the growers were not one whit better off; the combine had seen to it that they did not derive any benefit from the increased price. The deputation stated that men would not grow tobacco leaf if they did not receive a better price. So, on this occasion, rather than offend the buying combine, the growers proposed that ls. 6d. per lb. of the excise which the Government collected should be given to them by the Government, which would not lose thereby, because the industry would so benefit and the growers would .be so satisfied that the area under tobacco would be increased, and the volume of receipts from the excise would be raised instead of lowered. They suggested that as a way out. I have asked twice for a reply from the Government. I have ‘been unable to obtain any, but I have been told that the growers have been informed that the request has been refused. Bearing in mind the Government’s treatment of the tobacco combine within recent months, one wonders whether it is a friend of the monopolists. In March last, the combine did not pay dividends. It said that its profits would not allow it to do so. It went to the Government for compensation, and received £750,000, which, in effect, was a gift to enable it to provide dividends which it had refused to pay. The Government can give three-quarters of a million pounds to the tobacco combine, but it has no concessions for the tobaccogrowers. Is that the proper way to treat primary industries in Australia? The reply of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to a question in this House yesterday, that the position of the tobacco industry would be inquired into, calls to mind a promise that he made to a deputation in December last that, in the course of a few days, he would declare the Government’s policy on the establishment o’f stock-killing works in the country. Apparently those few days have not yet expired, because the deputation is still waiting for an answer. If there is any delay in finalizing this matter, even for two or three weeks only, the decision will be too late for the planting of the crop. If a serious decline of tobacco production occurs, it may be taken for granted that the Government’s action in supporting the combine by making a gift to it of £750,000, and by refusing to give any assistance to growers, has delivered a knock-out blow to an industry which should be fostered.
I now turn to the vegetable industry. There are eight dehydration plants in Victoria, five in Tasmania, twelve in New South Wales, two in Western Australia and five in South Australia. Queensland, of course, has none. Over a period of nine months, up to the 31st December, 1943, the value of dehydrated vegetables produced .throughout the Commonwealth was £3,785,000 and the weight of the produce was 6,500,000 lb. It is estimated that by the end of 1944 the production will amount to 30,000,000 lb. I approached the Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock, expecting that, ‘being a Queenslander, he would consider sympathetically the neglect of that State, but he “ passed the buck “ to the Minister for Agriculture, who seemed to think that the matter was one for the Commonwealth Government, and so nothing was done. The Minister for the Army has stated that Queensland does not produce a sufficient quantity of vegetables to justify the establishment of a dehydration plant in that State, but let us consider the acreages planted in the various States. In New South Wales, there is 243,000 acres under vegetables; in Victoria, 277,000 acres; and in Queensland 141,000 acres. On that basis, if New South Wales was entitled to twelve plants, Queensland should have seven. South Australia has 49,000 acres under cultivation for vegetables and Western Australia, 42,000 acres, whilst Tasmania has 234,000 acres. The request from Queensland was that, that State should have at least one dehydration plant. That was not an unreasonable request, because a market for the product would have been available after the war. Evidently Queensland has been neglected. The reason why the people of that State voted “ No “ at the recent referendum is that they objected to a central government exercising control over their affairs and depriving them of their rights. Is there any good reason why the Government should not have provided at least one dehydration plant in Queensland, which is the only State where the growers are not able to get contract prices for vegetables? Repeatedly, when a glut of vegetables has occurred there the dumping of the product has been. necessary. The Government should show a truly national spirit. If federation is to mean anything at all, Queensland should get a fair deal. Australia will never he able to progress as a nation, unless Queensland progresses with it, because of the vast area of fertile land in that State.
– The war has resulted in an extra 500,000 consumers being quartered in Queensland, and that has created a demand for goods over and above the normal market which Queensland enjoyed prior to the war.
– I was not discussing the question of supplies available to civilians, but I maintain that the Government is blameworthy for not having made available the extra quantity of supplies needed to cater for the large number of servicemen in Queensland.
– The honorable member evidently believes that the requirements of service personnel should be met by others, and that the people of Queensland should carry on their trade and business in the ordinary way; but that cannot be done.
– I have shown that Queensland has no vegetable dehydration plant, and no vegetable contracts. ‘As to man-power, that State has the lowest percentage of releases from the fighting services and the highest percentage of enlistments in proportion to its population. It has been ignored in the matter of secondary industries. It has an overburdened transport system breaking down with the strain, and the only support given by the Commonwealth Government to enable the State Government to meet the situation was a few Garratt engines which the railway officials could not operate. They sent tin inspector to investigate the matter, and he suggested certain improvements, then they sent a second inspector, and he suggested more improvements, but the engines are still unsuitable and cannot give effective help to the overburdened railway system of the State. The price of beef in Queensland is still lower than in the other States. Hides realize approximately 1-Jd. per lb. less than in the southern States. One can take tallow from Queensland to New South Wales and get £2 a ton more for it than is paid in Queensland. The over-all price of tin is £3 6s. a unit in Queensland, as compared with £3 15s. a unit just over the border in New South Wales. As for wheat, growers in Queensland formerly got 4s. 7id>. on an average over nineteen years under the State Marketing Scheme. Production has declined by one-third. The growers now get less under the Scully scheme than formerly, hence the reduced production. Insufficient provision has been made for ordinary day-to-day supplies, and the people have to accept the position that they cannot get all they require, but Queenslanders have had far less in the way of every-day supplies than have the people of the other States. I did not intend to raise that issue, and will not press it now, because I realize that the position has been brought about by transport difficulties. Excepting that I have emphasized this position time after time, and have pointed out to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that, if Queensland did not import about 400 tons of wheat daily, more transport would be available for war and civilian supplies.
– Do not apply that argument to sugar.
– I do not think that the sugar-grower is getting any benefit now. There has been a decrease of the acreage under production and a consequent detrimental effect on the industry. Some days ago I heard the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) interject about sugar, but I think that those who are getting most benefit out of the sugar position are the capitalist jammakers of Tasmania.
Much has been said in this chamber regarding the urgent need for increased housing accommodation for the people, but I have never heard the Government emphasize the necessity for a rural housing scheme to enable people in the country to build their own homes, although they are just as short of houses as are people in the cities. I agree with those supporters of the Government who have advocated the provision of rural amenities, particularly electricity and refrigeration. Another aspect of homebuilding is the difficulty of ex-servicemen, on discharge from the forces, in getting homes built. “We should see that they are treated liberally, but, when they desire to set up homes for themselves, they have difficulty in obtaining the necessary .building material. Carpenters are not available, and even the initial building permit seems impossible to obtain. Preference should be given to ex-servicemen in that regard, and, if they wish to establish their permanent homes they should be permitted to build them. I shall not discuss the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen at this stage, but I desire to give credit to the Government for its promised recognition of the claims of those men when the war is over. I ask the Government to give more sympathetic consideration at present to two classes of ex-servicemen who are not being treated as fairly as they ought to be. [Extension of time granted.) I know of ex-servicemen who suffer from ulcers and neurosis, but they are not receiving any consideration at all. 1 am sure that returned soldiers suffering from a mental complaint will be treated sympathetically, but I suggest that they should not be accommodated in homes adjacent to existing mental institutions. To do so would be to create a wrong psychological condition which would retard their recovery. As for ulcers, medical history may be against me in this, hut I know several men who were suffering from ulcers before they were accepted by the Army, and passed as Al. Then, when the hardships of the service caused the ulcers to become active again, they were discharged from the Forces, but in no case have they received any consideration on account of their disability. I maintain that once the Army accepts a man as fit, it should accept, responsibility in regard to his health.
– Why did they receive no consideration? The onus is on the department to prove that whatever they are suffering from is not due to war service. Previously, the onus was on the soldier.
– The department merely says that their disability is not due to war service, and that is all about it.
As for the budget generally, its merit is not to be judged by the praise or blame which it happens to win. Honorable members should not seek political kudos. The situation with which the country is faced requires us to face realities, and these demand sincere government and the implementing of a policy to meet the needs of the future. There must be an all-out effort by members of Parliament and by the public generally to meet the just claims of ex-servicemen when the war is over.
.- The time is past when we were justified in sacrificing economy to the extreme haste required in the creation of a war machine with which to defend ourselves against the attack of the Japanese. The time has now come for more careful finance, and having regard to the character of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) we might expect this requirement to find expression in the budget. That, in fact, is what has happened. He has given no promise of rt-lief from the crushing burden of .income taxation. As a matter of fact, no such promise, if given, could be honoured, Because those who wage war must pay for it. We might cushion the impact of taxation by using our reserves, and by postponing expenditure on maintenance and the provision of capital goods. We might defer the building of. new houses and manage with fewer clothes. We might even require future generations to pay in part for the war, but, in spite of all such devices, the fact remains that the great burden of the war, including the taxation necessitated by the war, must be borne by this generation. Actually, the real cost of a war is in human lives, in human energy, in the sacrifice of hard-won and cherished rights, and in the non-production of capital goods. The most we can do is to ensure that the burden is distributed as widely as possible over the community. That this has been done is borne out by bank returns, and by the records of the sale of war savings certificates. Some people profess to see in the accumulated savings pf the people a danger of inflation. Paradoxically enough, they argue that because people have saved money during the war, there is a danger that they will spend it prodigally after the war. It is as if they were to accuse a trading firm of extravagant tendencies because its balance-sheets showed a healthy cash reserve. Theris no justification for supposing that, because the people have been frugal and have saved their money during the war they will, when the war is over, lose their heads and spend their money recklessly. I assure the Treasurer that he need not fear anything of the kind from the people in rural areas who have been able to accumulate savings.
I have heard! the term “concealed inflation “ used by honorable members when discussing income taxation. There is such a thing as concealed inflation, but it applies rather to indirect taxation, and we should study this form of taxation very carefully in order to note its effects. Probably the Treasurer had in mind some of the evil effects of indirect taxation when he agreed to reduce by 12£ per cent, the sales tax on building materials used for home construction. An authority, writing in the Co-operative Building Society’s Gazette, estimated that, on a building costing £800, this concession would be worth £70. The Treasurer has stated that the concession will cost the revenue approximately £500,000. On an estimated building programme costing £6,000,000, the interest bill would amount to £300,000 at 5£ per cent. Interest on the amount of £500,000, which would have been collected in sales tax on building material, would amount to another £25,000. I maintain that additional costs of this kind should not be loaded on to such an enterprise as home building. For the year 1942-43, the revenue derived from excise and customs duties amounted to £65,000,000. This was the extra cost loaded on to the goods concerned, and the interest bill on this amounted to a further £3,000,000. This is a further example of concealed inflation. It must be remembered that costs of this kind do not add anything to the value of the commodities used. It is solely a matter of allowing interest to those who provide the finance to enable these articles to be distributed to the community but who expend no physical effort. They are examples of concealed inflation. I said that the Treasurer need have no fear of inflationary . tendencies because of the amount of cash reserves held by those engaged in rural indus tries. On page 68 of production bulletin No. 35 of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics there is a set of tables giving the index numbers of the prices of the principal primary and secondary commodities.. If we take as a basis the period between 1923-24 and 1927-28 and allot to it the figure 1,000, we find that the figure for 1938-39 for all primary industries is 696. The total value of all primary industries in 1938-39, the year of the outbreak of war, was £236,784,000. “Working on the basis of the values in the base period and using that index figure, 696, the total value of primary production in that year should have been £338,264,000. By using the same index numbers of quantity production for that year, with 1,000 as a base, we get a result of 1,421, which shows an increase of 42 per cent, in quantity ‘production. Notwithstanding that increase the amount of money received was less than the average amount received during the base period. We find that in 1938-39 the primary producers received £111,479,000 less for their products than they would have received had values remained the same as in the base period 1923-24 to 1927-28. As the figures stand, they might mean that the farmers became more efficient, that they used better machinery, or that the seasons were better. But those who travel over the country now can see the reason for the greater production, and also for the amount of money that has been saved - estimated by the Treasurer at £12,000,000 a year during the war period. They know that that saving has been made at the expense of the land, the buildings thereon, and the means of production in primary industry. .In country districts to-day, travellers see many broken fences, millions of acres of land being destroyed by erosion, dilapidated buildings, and worn-out machinery. Whatever money may be available to those engaged in primary industries when the war is over - and according to the Commonwealth Statistician the amount will be less than in the base years - will be required for the rehabilitation of the land and the means of production. There is no danger of farmers running amok, and bidding against one -another for expensive motor cars or wireless sets, thereby causing inflation, because every pound of credit that they can get will have to be put back into the land in order that their capital goods may be rehabilitated. In other words, their money will have to be devoted to the means of production, which means restoration of land, fences, and machines. These things may be restored, but the human energy which has had to be expended because of a shortage of man-power cannot be restored. Those are some of the disabilities under which farmers labour. The taxation system as it applies to rural finance should be completely reviewed. There is a tendency for the financial advisers of the Government to make a common rule for the whole of Australia. That rule may be satisfactory to those engaged in secondary industries in metropolitan districts, but it does not meet the financial structure of primary industries, such as credit arranged by country storekeepers, and the overdraft system of the banks, stock and station agents, and wool brokers. A system that does not give security to either the lender or the borrower, who is more or less dependent for success on good seasons, cannot be said to be entirely satisfactory. I wish to direct attention to the difficulties which confront a farmer, or a group of farmers or a private company consisting of farmers working the land as working partners, and to the attitude adopted by the Treasury when these people ask for relief from taxes. A rule which applies well to secondary industries is not always a proper measure to adopt in other cases. Some weeks ago, I received a letter from a private company which operates the Auburn Vale estate. All the shareholders in the estate are members of one family. The purpose of forming the company was that each family might more easily attain to a reasonable standard of living, and by rendering mutual assistance be enabled to remain on the laud, an aimwhich at times has proved to be most difficult. The director of the company says that the one big disadvantage is taxation, because the system provides that, as a consequence of forming the company, higher taxes than would be paid on the same income under other circumstances have to be paid. He points out that for the year ended June, 1943, between £1,400 and £1,500 was paid in taxes, in spite of the fact that shortage of labour, low prices, rationing, &c, reduced the income from what it otherwise would have been. The letter proceeds -
Thirty-seven persons are dependent upon the estate. You see the difficulties that we are compelled to labour under. A compensation would be lower taxation; especially a lower company taxation.
Healthy agrnrianism is undoubtedly the chief asset of the state. A very large part of the well-being of all depends on the work and efforts of the man on the land. If “ Auburn ‘Vale “ is an isolated case that is only accidental. The general principle still holds good: agricultural companies, which by the mutual help of various families, can maintain a decent way of life on the land should not be burdened by the penalty of an excessive company taxation.
In order that you may know the full nature of our complaint it would be well to explain to you the inner organization of the company. The property of the company (land 4,000 acres, stock, houses, shed, farming plant, motor truck, cars, engines, &c, &c.) is held in common. The various families eat the company’s meat and vegetables: use the company’s horses, milk the company’s cows, &c.
The property of the individual. Each shareholder is paid £5 per week in wages. Over and above this there is an allowance for doctor’s expenses and travelling so that he really receives £6 per week. Besides the wages paid to the shareholders the company will find it necessary to pay wages to the sons of various shareholders for their work on the estate, when their education is completed. At certain periods of the year, for example at harvest and. shearing time, men are employed and paid by the company.
The money made over and above what is paid out in wages, goes into the company: dividends, increasing the value of shares. Each family is independent in private life.
This system, and I think that you will agree, is of great assistance for the man on the land. The one big disadvantage is double taxation: taxation on the company, and then taxation on the individual shareholders. To our mind this double taxation hardly seems fair.
The law relating to the assessment of private companies may be summarized as follows : -
Private farming companies are so different from ordinary private companies that it is wrong to apply to both the same rigid rule. An ordinary private company, unless it experiences bad luck, can almost guarantee that year after year it will earn a fair average income, but a private farming company is dependent on the vagaries of the seasons, and, in one year, may do well, even extremely well, and, in the next year, do bo badly as to lose some of its assets. The system of placing the assets of a farming community in a private company is becoming the vogue because of its success. Provided that there is a common tie of kinship, thought, or culture in such a community, its children can be educated more cheaply than can the children of scattered families. The pooling of farm implements also places such a community in a much more favorable position than that of a number of individual farmers. The system has proved successful in keeping people on the land and it should be encouraged, instead, of discouraged by the imposition of a punitive tax. Lately, I applied to the delegate of the Treasurer for con:sideration to he given to the division of an estate among the members of the family. He objected because it might enable the dodging of tax. The federal land tax provides for the exemption of the first £5,000 of unimproved capital value, and imposes on the remainder a graduated tax of so much in the £1 according to the unimproved capital value. It is a punitive tax. Its purpose at the outset was to compel the subdivision of large estates, but now’ the primary purpose of the tax is to raise revenue and the splitting up of estates is only of secondary importance in the mind of the Commonwealth Government. In that respect it is at cross purposes with the Government of New South Wales, whose policy is to break up large estates, whereas the Commonwealth policy appears to be to compel them to remain large. In moving the second reading of the Settlement Promotion Tax Management Bill in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales on the 21st March, 1943, the Minister for Lands, Mr. Tully, said -
The Government has in mind in this connexion family partnerships, under which lands, though separately owned by different members of the family, are worked as one holding, perhaps from one homestead. In regard to such existing family partnership it is recognized that some concession is justified. It is thought that to treat them as joint owners, with only .the one deduction of £5,000 from the total of the unimproved values of the several parcels of land, would be somewhat severe. To meet these cases, a provision is contained in the bill that a deduction shall be allowed in respect of each member of the family from the total unimproved value of all the lands worked in the partnership. The deduction for each member shall be limited to the value of that member’s interest, where it is less than £5,000, and to £5,000 where it exceeds that amount. It is to lie observed that this provision relates only to members of a family a? defined in clause 31, and only to family arrangements which were in existence a.t the date of introduction of this bill. Such family arrangements were doubtless entered into without cognizance of this legislation. This is a generous concession, and a similar concession has been made to members of a family who, at the introduction of the measure, own land jointly and work it as one property.
Honorable members can see that the design of the State Government is to encourage the formation of private farming companies in the hope that rural conditions will bc thereby so improved as to encourage the sons and daughters of the farmer members of those companies to remain in primary industry instead of seeking a living in the metropolitan area. But the Commonwealth Government’s policy runs counter to that. If we use the land tax only for the purpose of raising revenue and not for the purpose for which it was first intended, we shall soon find ourselves “ on the rocks “. I mention that as an example of the difficulties under which people on the land labour.
They also meet with difficulties in trying to get articles in short supply which are manufactured in the big industrial centres, but which could be manufactured in country towns where, in spite of the overall shortage of labour, there are groups of spare labour who, according to seasons, could be engaged in industry, if such industry existed. A constituent of mine has written to me a letter which shows what benefit would accrue to the man on the land if small factories existed in country towns for the manufacture of his needs. The letter is as follows: -
I am taking the liberty of attaching hereto a letter received from Messrs. H. V. McKay Massey Harris Pty. Ltd., in reply to a hostile letter I wrote them in connexion with two plough shares I have ‘been urgently requiring to enable me to put a plough into commission.
Kindly read the letter and then tell me how the hell a cocky can help produce foodstuffs if a simple thing like a steel plough share is unprocurable. Cast shares can be obtained but are useless in the volcanic soils of our district.
If you can kick the backside of some dumbbell in the Food Control Department who screams for potatoes, barley, &c, and can’t organize a supply of plough shares I will be very grateful.
It is of no use for him to turn the vials of his wrath on some departmental officer when the articles he needs are just not there. They cannot be conjured out of nothing. The reply of H. V. McKay Massey Harris Proprietary Limited was as follows: -
We thank you for your letter of loth April but, are sorry to say that we still have no steel plough shares of this type available. We quite agree with what you say, and think it would be a very good idea to write to the Food Control. Actually, our inability to manufacture adequate supplies of either farm machinery or duplicate parts is wholly and solely due to the dreadful shortage of man-power which exists in our factory.
The trouble is that the workshops are in the big industrial areas where sufficient labour is unprocurable, whereas there are no workshops in the country towns where men are available according to the season. Costs of production would be less and the people would have cheaper food if farming machinery were manufactured in the localities where it is used, because heavy freight charges would he avoided. The danger in which we stood through having our industries concentrated on the vulnerable seaboard became so apparent early in the war that it appeared that steps would be taken to decentralize industry, but we appear to be getting back to the bad old ways.
I made a speech in this chamber in February, 1942, in which I mentioned the shortcomings of our electric power system. By arrangement with the Speaker, much of the information which I gave was kept out of Hansard. I gave figures relating to the electric power generation in various parts of Australia. Honorable members can imagine how useful such information would have been to the Japanese when they were within striking distance of Australia. Had they been given exact information as to the whereabouts of the power generating plants they could have struck a mortal blow at our armaments industry. Mr. W. J. Smith, who was then in charge of one phase of munitions production, said that if Sydney were knocked out, it would be the end of our war effort, regardless of whether our armies remained intact and we still held a great, part of the continent, because there would be no production owing to the loss of our electricity-generating plants. Hastily, we proposed to establish generating plants in other parts of the country, despite the fact that three or four years before the outbreak of the war, our technicians advised that it was not good engineering practice to try to harness some heads of water required for irrigation to hydro-electric turbines. Nevertheless, such turbines were hurriedly installed at inland centres. As honorable members know, the enemy actually shelled Sydney and Newcastle, and in the latter city the shells just fell short of the Zarastreet power house. Had that power house been knocked out, our war effort would practically have collapsed and we should probably have been obliged to retreat behind not only “the Brisbane line “ but also “ the Adelaide line “. For the reasons I have given, the Government decided to establish war industries inland, but since the passing of the danger of coastal attack, the capacities of the plants at Newcastle, Sydney and Port Kembla have been doubled. This was done despite the lack of adequate power plants west of the range, and the hugh potential of coal in the Lithgow field for the generation of electricity by steam, and also despite the fact that the water conservation system west of the range would probably be sufficient for the generation of electric power. We are still concentrating the production of energy on the coast; and population is drifting from the country to the cities. “Whilst 40,000 females have entered rural production, male man-power in those industries has decreased by 60,000. [Extension of time granted.] The female population which has replaced the former rural male population since the inauguration of food production programmes, such as vegetable production, will return to the cities upon the completion of those programmes. At the same time, it is most unlikely that the former male population, which provides the only real basis of development in the country, will return to primary production. “What would they return for? The big munition factories established at inland centres, which might have formed the basis of future industrial development cannot function under . Government control in peace,. because under the Constitution, the Commonwealth Government cannot engage in trade. . The alternative to closing down those factories will be to invite private enterprise to take them over; but let us examine the difficulties which will confront private enterprise in such circumstances. Those factories will have to be run in competition with similar factories situated in the capital cities. They will be at a great disadvantage in such competition because the largest markets are in the cities, and the country manufacturer must hear the additional cost of transport over distances of from 200 to 300 miles to those markets, as well as consequential handling and packing costs. About two years ago the Government of New South Wales endeavoured to ease such conditions in the interests of manufacturers in country centres by allowing them freight concessions. This concession was applied particularly to the flour, milling industry. Australia at that time was fulfilling an order for 500,000 tons of flour for export, and practically every mill in the country was engaged on a share of that contract. However, it was found that the contract price was at port. Consequently, the country millers had to pay the cost of transporting the flour from their mills to the seaboard, and this placed them at a decided disadvantage in competition with mills situated in coastal cities. The action of .the New South Wales Government in giving that freight concession as a bonus to country millers was challenged by big business interests in the capital cities, and the High Court upheld the objection in subsequent litigation. That emphasizes one of the main features of industrial development in Australia. It shows that we are drifting back to prewar conditions when we concentrated industry and population in the five capital cities. How shall we be able to defend this country in the future if that policy be continued? We shall not be able to defend this continent by relying merely on five fortresses situated on our coastline. We shall be enabled to do so only by distributing our population and vital industries as widely as possible throughout the country. However, under the Constitution, as I have already said, the Commonwealth does not possess power to give effect to a policy of that kind.
I have emphasized that sufficient resources of coal exist in the country areas for the steam generation of electric power. That leads me to ask: what use shall we make of our coal measures? It has been stated on good authority that the existing resources of oil used for fuel in internal combustion engines will peter out within 25 years. For that reason, investigations are now being made in the United States of America of the production of oil from coal. Germany produces three-fifths of its total oil requirements from its coal measures, and Great Britain also produces a substantial proportion of its oil from coal. What is our position in that respect, particularly in New South Wales ? The Greta seam is probably the best allpurpose coal in the world, but considerable waste has occurred in extracting that seam. It has been estimated that in some mines where the seam was 34 feet thick, only three-fifths of the seam was mined. The productive capacity of that seam has been estimated at 242,000,000 tons. When the war is over, and the greatest demand arises for all-purpose coal, because of cheaper production cost and the quality of the coal itself, the Greta seam will be exhausted in about twenty years should our own requirements remain at approximately 12,000,000 tons a year. We have no other seam in this country comparable to the Greta seam for the production of oil. In addition, we must also bear in mind the importance of by-products such as coal tar. This is being used as a base in the production of synthetic rubber, which is not a mushroom development that will vanish after the war, because many kinds of synthetic rubber are being produced. In addition, alcohol manufactured from grain is also used in the production of synthetic rubber. The Chemical and Engineering News, an American publication, is my authority for saying that for 1944 the United States of America production target of power alcohol is 640,000,000 gallons, of which 333,000,000 gallons will be used in the’ production of 330,000 tons of synthetic rubber. Let us look at our own resources in this respect. We have a power alcohol plant in New South Wales which uses 1,500,000 bushels of wheat annually to produce about 3,000,000 gallons of power alcohol. This power alcohol is suitable for the production of synthetic rubber. At present the complete output of this factory is earmarked for war purposes, but those needs will disappear upon the conclusion of the war. It would seem that the Commonwealth will have to close down that factory because under the Constitution it cannot engage in trade. . In that case, the country will be deprived of the opportunity to develop fully the power alcohol industry, and with it the manufacture of synthetic rubber. I urge the Government to give careful consideration to tills problem because only the Commonwealth is in a position to finance research in .this matter. The States cannot afford to do so. The job, therefore, devolves upon the Commonwealth. I submit that the Treasurer in future budgets should make provision for such research work. It has been said that Australia spends relatively nothing upon research in industry. We should amend that situation, and be in the forefront of scientific research workers, because we have the ability, and men from our universities have made their names overseas in all phases of science. The spade work was done in Australia, and the world instead of Australia reaped the benefit of it. We should correct that position as quickly as possible, because we of all people most need the help that scientific development can give us. if we are to compete on the distant markets of the world against producers who are close to those markets, and if we are to produce with white men’s labour commodities which are turned out by cheap-labour in countries close to our shores. There is an abundance of that cheap labour, whereas we have to use dear labour and dear machinery, and we cannot do that with any hope of success unless we develop our scientific potential to its utmost capacity.
I wish, in conclusion, to speak of the necessity to increase invalid and old-age pensions. I realize that, in time of war, when the demands on the credit resources of the country for war purposes are so great, it is difficult to allocate more than is being provided at the present time to assist invalid and old-age pensioners, but in the post-war period, if we can make it worth while for the older section of the community to withdraw from industry, and for the youthful section of our people at the other extreme to do likewise, and if we can then concentrate our productive effort among those between the ages of 21 and 50 years there will be less danger of unemployment than if we attempt to carry on with our present programme. Unemployment and depressions have followed all wars for the last 200 years, and so closely have depressions followed wars that one could be excused for stating didactically that depression was a consequence of war. I believe that, as war can be avoided, so can depressions. It depends on the individual and national approach to the problem. I hope that our future will be an approach for peace instead of for war. [Quorum formed.]
– Before I begin my speech on the budget, I wish to comment briefly on an event that has happened to-night. Like, I suppose, thousands of Australians and some other honorable members here, I listened for a brief time to the broadcast of a debate in the Albert Hall, announced as an open forum on the question of the nationalization of the coal industry. It was extraordinary from two aspects. In the first place, the Speaker of the House (Mr. Rosevear) occupied the chair. I have no objection to that, and I mention it only because it was unusual. But the debate was novel on another much more important and serious aspect. That was the fact that a Minister of the Crown took the platform and, in an address over the air, which went throughout the . length and breadth of the Commonwealth and could be picked tip by listeners overseas, espoused a policy inconsistent with the policy of the Government regarding the coal industry, and inconsistent with the terms of the Prime Minister’s announcement on the subject. This means the introduction into Australian politics of a new conception of cabinet responsibility, if not of cabinet morality. It has been the custom in all British Houses of Parliament for all members of a cabinet to share a common responsibility, so that when a Minister speaks he does so on the lines of the policy determined by Cabinet. That is traditional in Great Britain, and has been the custom in this country ever since the introduction of responsible government. Tho fact that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) proposed to speak to-night was brought up in the House yesterday by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), and elicited from the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) a most unusual answer. He said, in effect: “ Well, the Minister for Transport is a member of the Cabinet, but he is also a private individual, and, therefore, he is quite entitled to take the platform and express his own ideas, apart from any sense of responsibility to the Government to which he belongs “. If that is to be the conception of cabinet responsibility in this country, any member of any cabinet may go anywhere, and voice any policy that he desires to voice, at the same time completely absolving himself from adherence to any policy adopted by the government of the day. That is a most unusual form of cabinet unity. If the Prime Minister is to be the only person who can voice cabinet decisions, or give directions upon government policy, then one man is to all intents and purposes in charge of the country, and people are compelled to look to him only for any indication of the course the Government may take. I mention this matter because it is unusual, and worth while recording in Hansard.
There is a second point of great interest in what happened to-night. The Minister for Transport was asked how he would deal with .the coal mine-owners if the mines were nationalized, and whether he would compensate them. He very cleverly sidetracked the question in the first part of his answer, and then he said that that was determined by the Constitution of the country, but, he added, were it not for that, if he had the power, he would deal with them and with this problem in an entirely different way. That comes from a Cabinet Minister who, if he is not the leader of a section of the Cabinet, is at least one of a rather large section of Cabinet, and also one of a rather large section of the Labour party. Apparently his idea is that, if compensation has to be given, and the Constitution does not interpose any barrier, then any person who owns property in Australia can look for a poor deal. 1 believe that that is of great interest to every person who owns a home, a farm, a business or a shop. It is vitally important to remember that our Constitution guarantees that, in the event of the Commonwealth Government acquiring land or property from a citizen, the fair, just market price must be paid. The Minister’s reply to-night brings very clearly before the minds of the people how wise they were when only a short time ago they blocked an attempt to alter the Constitution which would or could have reached down to the very fundamentals o’f life and property. It shows us how significant was the crushing defeat which the Government suffered’ in the returns that came to hand on the night of the 19th August last. The two matters I have mentioned are of major importance. There was to-night a complete departure from the principle of Cabinet responsibility, and an indication from a Minister for the Crown o’f how, had he the power, he would deal with the rights of propertyowners.
I turn now to the budget. In common with other honorable members, I shall deal with certain specific subjects, apart from the main document as it appears from an accounting point of view. I do this because the presentation of the budget synchronizes with great events overseas. Most of us to-day are contemplating an- early end of the war with Germany, followed by the massing of the gigantic forces of the
Allied countries against Japan, and we are hoping that, after those forces have been concentrated for the attack, not more than twelve months will elapse before Japan in its turn hears the terms of surrender dictated to it.
Consequently our thoughts are tending now towards post-war problems, and that is right, because we do not want a sudden cessation of hostilities to catch us without ways and means of dealing with the problems of tremendous importance that will then confront us. I wish, therefore, to-night to comment upon three main subjects; first, the future of the Australian wool industry; second, the need for an educational policy in Australia; and third, land settlement. It is needless for me or any other honorable member to dwell at length on the importance of the wool industry’ to this country. It is true that, with the building up of secondary industries in Australia, we are achieving a greater degree’ of economic stability than we have possessed in the past, but it is equally true that in the years to come the fortune of almost every industry and every individual in the country will rise and fall to a marked degree with the rise and fall of the price of wool. The position to-day, while relatively stable because of the fixed prices given to the wool-grower by Great Britain, will in the future, I believe, present problems of gigantic importance. What matters is that after the war, Great Britain, so far as we know, will continue to buy Australian wool. Last year, wool sales meant to Australia between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000, which paid our commitments overseas, including interest and imports. In the year before, the wool cheque was between £70,000,000 and £80.000,000, and anything that cuts across the orderly marketing of this product at a payable price will therefore have a great effect upon the economic welfare of Australia. At the end of the coming wool season, there will be a wool carry-over in the world of more than 10.000,000 bales, of which 6,000,000- equal to two wool clips - will be in Australia. At the end of the last war also, a problem was created by a carry-over of wool, but the difficulty then was small compared with what it will he at the end of the present war. When the last conflict ended, Australia’s carry-over was 2,700,000 bales, most of which was sold over a period of years by an organization set up for that purpose and known as Bawra. We have no guarantee that when this war ends our wool will be bought by any country. On top of that, as I have pointed out, there will be the problem created by a world-wide wartime accumulation of 10,000,000 bales. So far as I know, the Australian Government has not taken any action to deal with this problem. Another important factor which will affect the sale of our wool in the post-war period will be the complete or partial absence of competition by Japan in the market. Whilst I believe that Japan deserves all that it will get in this conflict, we must realize that the diminution of Japanese buying in the wool market will be a serious matter. It was not so much what Japan bought in pre-war years, as the competition which Japanese .buyers offered, that largely determined, the price which the Australian wool-grower received for his product. This problem is a serious one from the viewpoint of. all the major components of the British Empire. It is of vital importance to Great Britain as a manufacturing country, and to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa- as woolproducing countries. It is a. major Empire problem, and I believe that, at the earliest possible moment, there should .be a consultation between the Governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, in an attempt to formulate a policy which -would give some degree of stability to this, our most important industry, in the post-war years. If no .great measure of co-operation can be achieved at that conference, it behoves this Government to assist the wool industry in this country during the difficult post-war years, lest the entire economic foundation of Australia be imperilled.
Allied to the wool industry is the question of developing the textile industry in this country, and in that regard I shall have a few words to say about what has happened in that industry during the war. Our wool-growers have been able to place upon the world market a product unexcelled in any other country. In fact, it is the one product in respect of which we can look the world in the face. “ This we produce, and no country can produce better.” Therefore, one is entitled to state the corollary, namely, that in the years ahead, with this fine raw material at their disposal, textile manufacturers in Australia should be able to produce goods of unsurpassed quality. It should be possible also to induce British textile manufacturers to set up factories in this country where the raw material is available. Unfortunately, our textile manufacturing has not earned a good reputation during the war. Has this been due to government interference, or to lack of initiative, incentive, or care on the part of the industry itself? Undeniably, the Government is responsible in part; but I do not blame it entirely for what has taken place during the last five years. I believe that textile manufacturers, in common with certain other industrial interests, have seized upon the war as a glorious excuse for inefficiency. There is no doubt that, during the war years, there has been poured on to the counters of Australian shops a large quantity of woollen manufactured goods which can be described only as absolute rubbish. Like most other people, I have had to buy some of this rubbish, and many of my friends have been forced to purchase these inferior goods. The textile industry, by this behaviour, whether or not it has been due in part to government interference, has undermined its reputation to such a degree that one frequently hears the remark: “ When the war is over and I can get British textiles, I shall never again have anything to do with Australian goods.” Although I am in.terested in the building up of industries in the United Kingdom, I am more interested in the development of this country, which I hope will become the major Empire power in the years to come, and instead of being dependent upon the Union Jack, will be the protector of that flag. The future of our textile industry is a matter of great moment, and something should be done to remedy the present position. Men associated with the textile trade say that advance copies of magazines and catalogues coming here from Great Britain indicate that, in the early post-war years, the British textile industry will place upon the Australian market, and, indeed, the markets of the world, cloth unparalleled in the history of that great textilemaking nation. Therefore, there will be a real challenge to our own textile industry. What can we do about it? The industry is one which could expand greatly, and one which has a great future in the export trade. I believe, in fact, that the manufacture of textiles in this country could be expanded to such gigantic proportions that the industry would be able to use much of the raw material produced here for the advancement of this country both internally and externally. This problem is one affecting not only the manufacturing side of the wool industry, hut also all branches of that industry. There should be held at an early date a conference of all sections of the wool industry in this country to discuss ways and means of putting not only the raw product, but also finished articles, upon the world’s markets at the conclusion of the war. There is a need for a considerable research into the manufacture of textiles, and for a publicity campaign to advertise the virtues and quality of Australian woollen goods. The sum of 6d. is deducted from the price of every bale of wool that is sold, as a contribution by the wool producer. This is paid into a ‘fund to provide for research and advertising the different branches of the wool and textile industries. The total sum thus derived is £81,000 per annum, of which possibly £50,000 or a little more, is expended on advertising Australia’s main product, worth between £60,000,000 and £80,000,000 a year, and substantially more with the addition of the value of the manufacturing industry. A manufacturer of soap expends as much as £120,000 or £130,000 a year upon advertising. The manufacturer of a brand of toothpaste thinks nothing of expending £30,000 a year, and large sums are expended by furniture manufacturers and the proprietors of cough mixtures in establishing, through the medium of advertisements over the air and in the press, the qualities of their products. Yet this most important industry, upon which depends practically the whole of the economic structure of Australia, has expended on it by way of advertisements the monstrously, outrageously low amount of £50,000 or £60,000 a year. I would quadruple the contribution of 6d. a bale which the wool producer now has to provide, and then subsidize the pool by at least £500,000, not humbug with a few thousands, to be used for research and in advertising the qualities of wool. Almost all items of women’s woollen underwear, and many of the items of men’s woollen underwear, have gone out of fashion. To-day, we practise more or less the American mode of dress by wearing light underclothing and protecting ourselves against the weather by the use of heavier top-coats. This is a world trend. Is there any reason why woollen manufacturers cannot make a light garment which would be as soft to the skin as is anything made from synthetics ? I see no reason. Such a garment would have hygenic qualities which cannot be given to garments that are manufactured from any substitutes. Our textile industry, in conjunction with our wool industry, can produce goods of these types, and recapture many of the markets that have been lost. Ry means of a vigorous advertising campaign, we could enhance the prospects of the textile industry. I may be asked where I would expend the great bulk of the money that should be devoted to advertising the qualities of woollen goods after they had been produced. Strangely enough, I would not look first to the Netherlands East Indies or to Russia, or China, even though the attempt should be made to develop markets in those countries, but would go “ all out “ on a real campaign to put Australian textiles “ on the map “ in the United States of America. Many of the men in the wool and textile industries, as well as advertising men, who have been to the United States of America, would favour this course. That country contains 130,000,000 people with a high purchasing power, who to-day are using less than one-half the quantity of wool per head that is used in Great Britain, and much less than is used in Australia. I found America to be more or less starving for really firstquality woollen goods at a reasonable price. Any big firm in Melbourne, if asked what happened when American boats called at our ports before the war, would say that, in the main, those who travelled on them purchased Australian woollen goods.
– Why does not our wool go to America ?
– I am referring to manufactured articles.
– The high tariff in the United States of America prevents it.
– I agree that there is a high tariff. Nevertheless, there would be a market for our goods, if they were manufactured and properly advertised. A few years ago, a person in Melbourne commenced to manufacture tennis rackets. He was a joiner, and had not sufficient money to travel even round Australia, let alone overseas. He began to compete for the Australian trade, but was not very successful because of the strength of the combine which operated in this line of sporting goods. Therefore, he sent his rackets to Canada and the United States of America, with the result that to-day be is one of the coming business men of this country, and his principal trade, strangely enough, is with the United States of America. The results that could be obtained from research, ingenuity, enterprise, push, and efficiency, backed up by an advertising campaign, cannot be estimated. The use of wool in that country is only 4.1 lb. a person, whereas in Great Britain it- is between 8 lb. and 9 lb. I do not subscribe to the idea that America is a country which does everything in the best way. It was a great disappointment to me in many ways. But it is a paradise for the advertising agent, and offers a tremendous .market for good woollen garments.
Hitherto, education has been regarded as purely a State matter. Events will tend more and more to push it into the foreground of Commonwealth activities. In my view, that is the right course. As a Parliament, we cannot fail to take cognizance of educational policies in this country. It would seem that, in the past, our expenditure has been at the wrong end. The budget proposes an expenditure this year of £22,000,000 on old-age pensions, a proportion of which is paid to men. In other words, we are expending money on a social service at the end of a man’s life, when, for some reason, -he has not the wherewithal to maintain himself, instead of concentrating expenditure at, the beginning of his life, in training him to fit himself for what he has to undergo and to maintain his independence and status in his declining days. 1 would be surprised if more than £16,000,000 is spent each year on education, so that we are spending nearly £7,000,000 a year more on the maintenance of people after they reach the age of 65 than we spend upon fitting them in their youth for their life’s work. When I was speaking on the coal-mining industry recently, I said that the people in the coal-mining districts had no idea of how to invest money. That is true of the populations of all industrial centres. There is a complete lack of knowledge of what to do with money. That fact constitutes a challenge which we should meet by improved educational methods. In country districts no facilities for technical education are provided and-, as a rule, only the children of well-to-do parents are able to attend a high school, let alone a public school or a university. Something should be done to remedy this, and it is not unreasonable that the move should come from this Parliament. I would not wait until the war is over. I would send off a delegation of half-a-dozen leading educationists, including one with a knowledge of technical education. and another with experience in administration, on a trip around the world to study educational methods because, in all the western countries, much attention is being concentrated on this subject. I would allow them to take their own tin and to incur what expenses are necessary. One of them should be a linguist who could discuss with educationists in other countries the problems to be solved. T would ask them, when they returned, to formulate an educational policy, after which the matter of cost could be gone into. Their recommendations would be considered by Cabinet, and there should eventually emerge the finest educational policy of any country in the world. Education should not be regarded as a State matter exclusively. It concerns all of us. There is only one set of taxpayers, so what does it matter whether taxes are paid to the State Governments or to the Commonwealth Government, or whether we pool our resources? The establishment of a system of education such as I have envisaged would constitute a most important social service.
Soldier land settlement is a subject which frightens most people who devote any thought to it. The history of soldier land settlement in Australia does not make good reading. According to a report prepared in 1927 the loss incurred on soldier land settlement schemes up to that date amounted to £23,000,000. By 1943 the loss had increased to £43,000,000, or £1,200 for every man settled on the land. Such a loss in a country with a population of little more than 7,000,000 is disastrous. Before embarking on any further land settlement schemes we should try to discover why sp much money was lost, and seek to profit from the mistakes of the past. There seems to be a fairly widespread belief that any one can be put on the land and he will make good. That is a mistaken belief. The fact is that inexperienced people have more chance of making a success of almost any other occupation than that of farming. A successful farmer must have a highly developed sense of the virtue of thrift. No matter how much he may do in the way of conserving fodder for the feeding of animals his returns, in the long run, depend upon natural pastures which, in turn, depend upon rainfall. Therefore, his income will necessarily fluctuate from year to year, and in the good years he must put aside something to tide him over the bad years. The farmer must, in addition, have a shrewd business sense. He must take a lively interest in technical advancements associated with his industry. He must know his soil, because the nature of the soil, together with the climate, will dictate what he ought to grow or produce. Lastly, he must not be afraid of bard work andi a bit of dirt. We must be careful whom we settle on the land. Wo must recognize that there will always be losses associated with land settlement, and these losses should be faced at the outset. If wc have 75 per cent, of successes we shall be doing very well. Hitherto, our efforts at land settlement have always been sporadic. Usually they have been attempted only after we have indulged in a war, and this has militated against their success. When a great many men are settled on the land at the same time an increased demand is created for live stock and for farming machinery. This tends to force up prices. Thus, we start with a wild burst of enthusiasm, and finish up with a final “bust.”
I shall diagnose the faults that have developed in” settling people on the land, and place before honorable members ways and means of avoiding them. We should not embark on a sporadic scheme of great magnitude for a few years and then suspend operations. Land settlement should he a continuous process. There will always be a certain drift of population from the country to the cities, and on that account we should always have a land settlement policy in operation, in order to give to city youths, as well as country lads, an opportunity to settle on the land. We should not embark on a scheme of settlement by the_ use of millions of pounds of loan money, as was done after the last war. We should prefer to set aside a certain sum annually from revenue, using the repayments of those who have been placed on the land in settling others. The last scheme was administered in the main by the State authorities. There was an almost indecent haste in those days to purchase country properties, and many mistakes were made. There was no proper selection of settlers with a result that many thousands of completely unsuitable persons were doomed to failure from the outset. The repayment of moneys advanced to them was entirely on wrong premises. In the first few years they had no payments at all to make, but the sums which they should have paid in the early stages were merely banking up for future years, and the burden of interest eventually became so heavy that it damped their ardour and destroyed their initiative. I am at a loss to understand why such a policy was adopted. Under a proper system of land settlement the earlier years would always be the harder, and the burden would gradually become lighter, until finally the cost of the farm would be met.
Under the last scheme, chaff was selling in Victoria at up to £15 a ton. Prices of stock were high, but under these conditions the settler had no contribution to make towards the cost of the scheme, and it is not surpris- ing that a wrong psychology developed. As prices fell the settlers were left with an ever increasing burden of interest and sinking fund payments. [Extension of time granted.] That caused a loss of interest on the part of the landowner in his property, because he had no real equity in it, having in many cases invested no money of his own in it. In other cases the blocks were too small, and the purchase prices too high. Surely it is possible to learn from experience in formulating a new policy. Land settlement in future should be a ‘Commonwealth matter, although it should be administered with the assistance of the States. Settlement should take place first in those States where there are vast areas available for settlement, and where land values are not unduly inflated. In the purchase of such land, great reliance should be placed on the valuations of the local governing authorities. It is almost impossible for a land valuer from Melbourne to make a correct valuation of land in, say, the upper Goulburn district of Victoria. If, after valuation by local bodies1 on a fair market value, it is con- sidered that the value is above a productive basis, then the difference should be absorbed by the State.
The blocks should be large enough to ensure satisfactory working, and a most careful selection of the settlers should be made. An educational system should be adopted whereby settlers could obtain training to fit them for work on the land. There should be no wild rush to settle thousands of men in the course of a few years. It will possibly be most difficult to avoid this fault, because, after the war, the urge will be to assist exservicemen to get on the land as quickly as possible. That would result in a repetition of one of the great defects of the last scheme. I know men in Victoria who were members of selection boards which functioned in connexion with the last scheme, ‘ and they told me that they were well aware that many of the men placed on the land would fail, because they were entirely unsuitable. Pressure ‘ was brought to bear by the government of the day, which declared that the men wanted to go on the land, and that no time should be lost in meeting their requirements. Under a new scheme the . repayments should he spread over a period of years, and the hard years for the settler should be the earlier part of the purchase period. The earlier years would be a period when the settler would have a reasonable assurance of satisfactory prices for his main products, because the demand for foodstuffs after the war will be steady and strong. In the earlier years the settler should make contributions by way o’f interest and sinking fund payments, and, as the years pass by, and prices might be expected to weaken, he would find that the burden had been gradually reduced. As he sees daylight ahead and the prospect of owning his property, he has an added incentive to produce, and- to become more and more efficient. If every settler had a financial interest in his holding - some equity in the land which he works - it would be an added reason why he should exert himself to the utmost to make a success of the venture. I have some knowledge of land settlement and I have shown some of the faults of the previous system. A wise government will learn from the mistakes of the past, and after this war it should be possible to settle many thousands of men on the land at a cost lower than under the previous system. As I have dealt with three subjects, each of which involves a certain amount of expenditure, I emphasize that the background of financing the scheme which I have advocated must be soundly conceived. I do not think that any one who studies the present budget can be other than sceptical as to Australia’s ability to deal with vital post-war problems, in view of the system of finance favoured by the present Government. Expenditure for other than war purposes is estimated nt £148,000,000 for the year. In other words, expenditure under civil headings has more than doubled in the last ten years, because in 1934 the total amount budgeted for was about £70,000,000. Figures supplied by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) .showed that during the last twelve months the administrative costs of some departments had risen by £650,000, and that over a period of two years the amount had increased by about £1,750,000. One would have expected that the expenditure of war-time departments, which were set up in a hurry, would by this time have fallen following an increased measure of efficiency, .but costs have risen rather than fallen. To-day, 70 per cent, of the national income is being expended by Commonwealth and State Governments. The former is going ahead with a policy of social services under which grants are made, first to one section, and then to another section of the people. The bill for social services is already over £50,000,000 a year, and with the addition of repatriation payments and other promised social benefits, it is soon likely to reach £80,000,000 a year- more than the total expenditure of the Commonwealth in 1934. Moreover, the social service schemes of the Government are to be financed- out of moneys raised by the impositiou of taxes,’ and the National Welfare Fund is to be established out of loan moneys. We cannot hope to continue the social benefits envisaged by’ the Government, because unless these schemes be established on a sound actuarial basis, they must crash sooner or later. This form of finance will militate against the success of any scheme of post-war reconstruction. Among other things, it will prevent any substantial assistance to our wool industry, any increase of educational facilities, or the success of any soldier settlement scheme. More consideration must be given to the economic well-being of the country than the budget before us indicates. Indeed, the document displays an almost complete absence of an understanding of this country’s economic structure. I go so far as to say that the budget indicates that the Government has no real idea of economic planning, but is merely rushing in wildly to spend money which will buy votes. If that be a correct summary of the situation, the budget must be described as a bad document, because in that event, instead of ushering in an era of prosperity, it will add tremendously to our post-war difficulties, and may even lead to chaos and confusion and eventually threaten the whole basis of democratic government in this country.
.- Australia is confronting many problems, but in that respect this country is not greatly different from the other countries which have engaged in this war. T pay a tribute to thu Government for the wholehearted way in which, in a time of national crisis, it has applied itself to the defence of the country and to the organization of its resources so that the nation might play a worthy part in the struggle for freedom. At the same time, I must express some disappointment with certain aspects of the budget. But I do say that the Government snowed great courage by facing its responsibilities in a way which cannot rightly be criticized. It did not hesitate to do many unpopular things. It imposed restrictions here and controls there with the one object of doing everything humanly possible to prevent the invasion of this country and to ensure that we should play our full part in this struggle, I believe - and I speak as one who was abroad not so long ago - that we can hold our heads high for the part which we have played. While I pay tribute to those ‘who have administered the affairs of the Commonwealth in this time of crisis, I also honour the men of the forces for the valour they have shown and for the uncomplaining way in which they have done their duty and helped to bring us to this day when we at least have victory in sight. I am disappointed with the budget. I am disappointed because, although war expenditure is declining this year by about £40,000,000, there is no evidence of any relief for the taxpayers on low incomes. It does not reflect credit on the Government that persons earning as little as £2 a week should have to pay income tax ; that persons on the basic wage should be taxed as heavily as they are, and that persons earning little more, married and family men earning an artisan’s wage, should be taxed up to £2 a week. In spite of the difficulties associated with war-time finance and the necessity to maintain the value of our currency, I do not think that there is any need to continue such heavy imposts, and I hope that this is the last budget which we shall see without some relief being given to those sections. In speaking of workers on low income and salary earners generally, I also refer to farmers who, in the main, Barn small incomes. The majority are really on a par with artisans and working professional men whose income seldom exceeds that earned by those sections. Some relief ought to be given to them also.
I hoped that we would have in thisbudget an instalment of Labour’s financial policy now that the Government hasa solid majority in both Houses of this Parliament. While I do not agree with everything in the Labour party’s platform, I have a great deal of faith in itsfinancial policy. The time is ripe and thepeople are ready for the reforms proposed. We should go straight ahead and deal with the financial position by bringing in a system of national control of the whole banking system. Nothing short of that will meet tie needs of the nation in the years that lie ahead. Unless the Government can control its finances and be sure that it shall be able to carry out the policy it enunciates to the electors, it will continue to take second place to the non-elected group rulers outside.
There are other commitments which to a degree will offset the reduction of warexpenditure this year. There is, of course, the international commitment, amounting to £12,000,000, referred to by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in respect of assistance to distressed nations. That is quite justifiable. We as a nation are favoured in many ways and must play our part in that respect. Subsidies associated with the Government’s prices pegging policy are a rising commitment, and it is estimated another £12,000,000 will be required this year to provide for that contingency. I quite agree with the policy of subsidizing prices to keep down the cost of living, and to obviate any inflationary trend. There are other commitments referred to in the budget to which I need not refer. There is, of course, the evermounting commitment resulting from the orthodox method of finance that we have followed, namely, the interest bill, which I think I am right in assessing at £66,000,000 per annum for the Commonwealth and the States. I should have liked some enunciation from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) as to how he proposes to meet the position in the post-war years. I should like to know whether the Government has any proposal in mind for the reduction or redemption of some of those loan commitments, both overseas and in Australia. We have had to borrow to win the war, but we cannot continue in peacetime merrily on our way, borrowing our way to national disaster. Any government which thinks it can borrow its way to ^prosperity will find itself in the long run in the same position as that of the individual who thinks that he can do the same. Let us have an early statement from the Treasurer as to how the Government proposes to deal with the ever.accumulating national debt. There must a change because we cannot go on for ever in, this way. I hope that the Government has some plan which will show us the way to national solvency. The Treasurer, in his budget speech, referred to Ure redemption of a loan which was contracted in 1941. I am glad to know that at least one loan has been liquidated. I am a comparative layman in these matters and did not gather clearly the method by which that loan was liquidated. Had we known exactly what was our trade balance and the position of our London funds, we might have been able to clarify the matter for ourselves. The Treasurer indicated that that loan was liquidated by the issue of treasury-bills through the Commonwealth Bank. I had imagined that our London balance would have been sufficient to enable us to liquidate that loan in the normal way.
The proposed system of rebates of income tax is probably similar to that provided in last year’s budget, whereby certain taxpayers became entitled to rebates provided that they claimed them. The proposal on this occasion is not so generous as it might be having regard to our present financial position. I urge the Treasurer to revert to the system of straight-out deductions in respect of family commitments. It is much fairer than the system of rebates which only complicates the working out of tax liability. Very often, owing to such complications, the taxpayer does not claim even the rebate to which he is actually entitled.
Many country areas are now experiencing their second year of drought, with the result that farmers in those areas have had no income for some years. They are really in the position of those who suffer a bushfire, or some other visitation. As they will have no income at all this year, I should like to have clarified their position with respect to their tax obligations. Under the averaging system, which is applied generally to farmers, they may have to make some payment despite the fact that they have had no income during the past year. I hope that in such circumstances they will be relieved entirely of tax.
I now refer to the Government’s referendum proposals which were rejected by the people. I supported those proposals because my experience in this Parliament, although not very extensive, has convinced me of the need of constitutional reform. I still believe that, had the people been given a better opportunity to study and understand them, the result of the referendum would have been different. I sincerely hope that the Government will not capitulate at this stage, but will place its proposals in a simpler form before the people at the earliest opportunity. I am certain that once the people of Australia understand the facts, they will agree to constitutional reform. I have more faith in them than I have in honorable members opposite who, a few years ago, were advocating similar reform, but opposed the Government’s proposals during the referendum campaign because they did not like the present Government. If the people could be educated as to the real facts, the result would be very different. I mention this matter because our people are looking to the Commonwealth Parliament to do the really big jobs confronting this country. For the time being, the States have had a victory, and are sitting back retaining their sovereign powers; yet the people do not realize that those powers are essential to enable this Parliament to handle these problems in the interests of the development and safety of this country. Therefore, I urge the Government to take up the fight again at the earliest opportunity. It has right on its side, and, despite the forces of Mammon, which opposed its proposals, it will achieve victory.
I have already referred to the drought being experienced in many parts of the Commonwealth. Whilst I understand that the Government has taken some steps in collaboration with the States to provide a measure of assistance to sufferers, the farmers themselves look to this Government to help them to recover a portion of their losses and carry on until more favorable seasons occur. Their position is desperate, and calls for the provision of a considerable sum. I know that whatever help is provided by the States will be in the form of loans, but loans to a farmer who has suffered two years of drought- is tantamount to inviting him to get into deeper difficulties. The Government should provide for these sufferers assistance similar to that which it provided to those whose properties were devastated by bushfires, namely, a substantial straight-out grant. These farmers have not had any crops for two years. The Government can. honour its obligation to them somewhat along the lines it proposes tq help, the populations in the countries devastated by war. I do not begrudge that assistance, to sufferers from war; -but when we- can provide £12,000,000 for that purpose, we should be able to help in an equal degree our own people who have borne the heal and burden of the day by carrying on under adverse conditions. That is the least the Government can do to honour its obligation to them.
I now refer to the wheat industry. It would be most unusual for me to speak in this chamber without referring to that subject. Some days ago, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), moved the adjournment of the House in order to discuss this matter. I was absent at the time owing to illness; but, during that debate, honorable members opposite alleged that the wheat-growers were being cheated out of millions of pounds. Honorable members opposite spoke of mythical millions, and based their arguments on premises which were patently groundless. “Whilst talk of that kind might be good party political propaganda, it is not in accordance with the facts. The position is that, under the present wheat stablization plan, growers receive a guaranteed net price for a certain portion of their production. For the balance they will receive the average net return based on the whole of the sales of the wheat. Whatever imperfections it .may have, it is a vast improvement upon any scheme of stabilization of the wheat industry that we have had previously. T have accepted it
Ifr. Wilson. in that view. I believe that improvements can be introduced into the scheme, but it is very good as it is and has been most helpful. Much has been said of the losses that farmers are suffering because of the operation of the scheme, and owing to shipping freights and other considerations. Shipping freights on wheat are very high but they are -not the responsibility of this Government. They are fixed by the British Ministry of War Transport, and amount” to about 4s. 6d. on a bushel of wheat. That. is a very high impost indeed, but it is beyond our power to rectify the position: I hope, however, that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) will not be indifferent to the’ situation, but will do all he can in negotiations with the British Government to have the excessive rate reduced, so” that the farmers may get a fairer and better return by means of a lower freight rate.
There is also the question of the cornsack subsidy, which is very helpful. I pay tribute to the Government for its policy with respect to subsidies. It is paying something like £500,000 for the benefit of the wheat-growers in the form of the subsidy on cornsacks, whilst another £1,000,000 represents approximately the subsidy on fertilizers paid for the benefit of wheat-growers, apart from other sections of rural industry. Those are all items on the credit side, and I give the Government full marks for them.’
– The various subsidies amount to nearly £3,000,000.
– I calculated that the total paid in subsidies w’as between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. There has been some controversy as to whether the wheat-growers are bearing the cost of the low price which the Australian Wheat Board is ‘ charging for the wheat which it sells as stock feed to other primary producers, but the Minister cleared that matter up some time ago. He gave the assurance that wheat-growers will not suffer any loss from this concession, and that when the pools are finalized any deficiency will be ascertained and made good. I accept that assurance, and am citing it again to-night so that wheat-growers throughout Australia may know the facts.
There is no world parity price for wheat to-day. There is only one huyer of wheat, and that is the British Government. Any other buyers are of such small consequence that they may be ruled out. Great Britain is buying all the wheat necessary to feed the people in the countries which have been re-occupied, and in distressed countries where food has to be provided. We have reached a stage in Australia when stocks of wheat are sufficiently low to justify the lifting of the acreage restriction for at least a period of two years. I give that as my considered view. I would not advise the Government to discontinue the system of registering wheat farms. That is to be commended and should be retained, but I do urge that it should lift the acreage control and allow those who have the plant at their disposal, and are able to put in increased acreages with whatever plant and labour they have, to do so. I urge the Government to give the most serious consideration to that suggestion. The matter is urgent because we shall be able to dispose of all the wheat that we can grow for the next two or three years. Of that I have no doubt whatever.
T emphasize the urgent need of providing something in the nature of a provident fund to which wheat-growers, when they encounter a period of drought or other adverse seasonal conditions, can have recourse as a right, not to get loans, but to obtain grants on some equitable basis. I suggest to the Minister that a small deduction, if only of £d. or Id. a bushel a year, should be made to build it up. In that way in two or three years we should have a fundi amounting to two or three million pounds, which would be a great stand-by for the wheat industry. No stabilization for the industry will be fully effective until some provision of that nature be made. Whilst I realize the constitutional limitations that may come into the picture in- the years immediately after the war, I still advise the Government to give the creation of such a fund urgent consideration, and -to act on it as quickly as possible, because we shall always have recurring periods of drought and financial stringency in the industry. A fund of this nature would put the growers on an independent basis, relieve the Govern ment of responsibility, and save the appeals which we have to make from time to time on behalf of growers.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) spoke of education. The Commonwealth must come more and more into the education field. The standard of education as conducted by the States is lacking in uniformity, is niggardly as compared with other countries, and is not giving us a race of young people sufficiently educated to compete with the people of other countries. We are lagging far behind, and the whole situation is discouraging. It is hard upon parents to have to supplement the free education provided by the State schools by means of secondary education. That is a burden upon them, and in addition the teachers who are interested in the work are discouraged by the lack of finance for the provision of equipment and facilities, which, as I have been able to see, are very far behind those, o’f other countries.
I wish to refer to repatriation and land settlement for soldiers. We have amended the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which is claimed to be very much better than it was, particularly because the onus of proof of disability is now upon the Repatriation Commission. Many other extravagant claims have been made about that act, but I have been disappointed with the position, which I find is not materially improved. Hundreds of people who have been in the fighting services and should be able to look to the Repatriation Department - and these are to my mind very worthy cases indeed - are not able to get what I believe is their due. The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act cannot be left static. It requires further and repeated overhaul from time to time, and I suggest that the Repatriation Committee which did such fine work a little while ago should be reconstituted and act more or less as a permanent committee, to examine and overhaul the act, so that the men of the fighting services will obtain what they are entitled to, or at least a greater measure of justice than they have had. The position is bristling’ with anomalies in respect of administration. I believe that it is mostly on the administrative side that the difficulties arise, but that does not absolve the Government or the commission from responsibility. We have an obligation to these men, and I should like to see it discharged more honorably than was the case after the last war. Preference to returned soldiers, as we have known it in the past, has been a mere empty gesture. If there is to be a scarcity of jobs or’ another depression, in the post-war period, preference in employment must be given to those men and women who have done so much for their country, but I should like to see something more positive offered to them. Let us train them for the jobs for which they are best suited. That would be better than a. guarantee of preference in employment, which, in effect, is merely a political catch-phrase. I believe in security for all, but,- failing that, I shall support the principle of preference in employment for ex-servicemen.
The. budget makes a substantial provision for social services, the machinery for some of which has yet to be set up. I believe in social services up to a point. Assistance must be given to aged people who are unable to continue in employment, and to very young people in the way of education, so that the raising of families will be encouraged. It is upon these two sections of the population that we should concentrate. Other members of the community who are strong enough in mind and body to support themselves should be given an opportunity to do so. Failing that, there are many organizations such as friendly societies which make provision for them. I am not keen on the proposed free medicine scheme. I say let the people have work, and they will be able to look after themselves.
I shall refer now to what is known as the Mortgage Department of the Commonwealth Bank. This is a matter in which many people, particularly primary producers, are vitally interested. Much was expected from that new institution, hut I am one of those who are very disappointed at the results. Whilst the setting up of this organization might appear to be of real assistance, at least in theory, in actual operation it bas been found that there are all kinds of qualifying conditions which prevent individuals from obtaining loans. In the wheatgrowing areas of Victoria, there are thousands of farmers who are unable to obtain loans because, according to the bank, their properties are overcapitalized. When the Treasurer introduced legislation setting up the Mortgage Department, he said, in effect, that side by side with the new organization, steps would have to be taken for the rehabilitation of the financial position of the farming community generally. To-day, the financial position of many wheat-growers is as bad or even worse than it was when a royal commission reported upon this industry some years ago. Even the efficient, wheat-farmers are labouring under a heavy burden of debt, or are working on over-capitalized properties, and these disabilities make it impossible for them to obtain, loans from the Mortgage Department. They are able to carry on only because of the reasonable prices that are being paid to-day for their products. But these conditions cannot last long, and most of the wheat-growers have no financial reserves. Their position is very critical indeed, and I ask the Treasurer how soon can we expect to hear something from this Government about the rehabilitation of the finances of farmers to enable them to qualify for loans? A previous administration provided £10,000,000 for the adjustment of farmers’ debts, and not until a similar amount or even a much greater sum is made available will there be any real relief in the wheat-growing industry. Surely that industry is worth something to Australia. The majority of primary industries in Australia are able to carry on to-day only because of the present satisfactory prices. The canker of over-capitalization and debt will have to be dealt with before our rural community can look to the future with any degree of hope.
The interest rate charged by the Mortgage Department is still” too high. It has not been reduced since the new organization came into existence, and I trust that there will be a reduction soon. The system of valuing properties is also far from satisfactory. Undoubtedly the valuers employed are honest men, but in many cases their background does not fit them for the job and they are not competent to make valuations. That is one cause of a great deal of dissatisfaction, and I suggest that the matter be examined.
I should like an extension of branches of the Commonwealth Bank to many more country towns. In Victoria one can travel many hundreds of miles without seeing a branch of the Commonwealth Bank. Usually if a farmer wishes to deal with that institution, he has to travel many miles, or to. conduct his business by correspondence. I hope that that position will be rectified^ at an early date. I should like also a position created in which any man who has an asset, whether he be a farmer or business man, shall be entitled to obtain from the Commonwealth Bank - the people’s bank - a loan upon that asset. That cannot be done to-day because there are all kinds of difficulties.
I should like to refer now to some of the monetary proposals which were under consideration at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. I have here a remarkable document which in effect is a conglomeration of complicated phraseology, dealing with the manner in which the proposed monetary fund is to be set up. I have never seen the equal of it. From a preliminary perusal of it, I should say that the scheme is designed to circumscribe the trade of this country, and in my opinion it would have the effect of preventing the development and expansion of our natural industries. On that account, I trust -that this Parliament will have an opportunity to go very carefully into it in a full-dress debate, so that all honorable members will be able to examine its implications. It ought to be rejected. I see nothing wrong with the present means for dealing with the external trade position. I have witnessed, during this war, benefits that have been derived under the system that is known as mutual aid or lend-lease, and I should like that principle to be carried forward into the years of peace. “Whether it be called by that name or some other nam” or whether or not alterations be made’ to it, so long as we have that principle it will provide the greatest mod-its *vivendi for the development of world trade and good relations between the nations of the world, thereby avoiding war. If we are to honour our obligations under the Atlantic Charter, and do something for the distressed peoples of the world, we must produce and allow those countries to have our production on whatever terms may be suitable to them, so long as our producers and manufacturers can be paid. We shall then evolve along the lines that are implicit in the principles of lend-lease, and thus fulfil our obligations under the Atlantic Charter.
The present trend among wealthy landowners and speculators is the purchase of land. In recent times, there has been quite a “ gallop “ in the acquisition of land. I believe that the Treasury regulations have had a beneficially retarding effect, and that without them the position would have been very much worse than it is. [Extension of time granted.] Many properties suitable for soldier settlement are in some of the most favoured areas of the Commonwealth. Because of the large incomes derived by some individuals, a great deal of money is available for investment. Something ought to be done to arrest this trend to a, greater degree than has been the case. Purchases are continuing, although prices have not been inflated because of the control that has been exercised; but the land will not be available for the settlement of soldiers and others if action be not taken to correct the position. I earnestly urge the Government to deal suitably with the problem.
With the defeat of the referendum, the future use to which war-time factories shall be put has been somewhat changed. It has been stated in the press that the Government might enter into partnership with private corporations and other bodies, to operate them on a 50-50 basis. If we are to judge by the successes achieved on behalf of the people by such a system, it cannot be recommended. If constitutional power does not reside in the Commonwealth, the Government might enter into agreements with the States for the best use to be made of factories that are considered suitable for production that would be to the advantage of the country, thus providing employment, especially for members of the services, who will have to he put into jobs which will assure, them of a reasonably good career.
I hope that shipbuilding will he continued in Australia. I have seen many of the vessels that have been built by and on behalf of the Commonwealth since the war began, and they are fine examples of workmanship of which Australia may be proud. I am glad that the Government has announced its intention to continue these operations. I hope that the vessels will be retained under the ownership of the Commonwealth, and will become the nucleus of a Commonwealth line of steamers. I have met some of the officers and men. They are very proud of the ships in which they sail, and want them to become ships of a Commonwealth line. In addition to building cargo-carrying types, we should build passenger vessels and others suitable for the carriage of refrigerated cargoes. I believe that there is nothing in the Constitution which would prevent action along those lines and which would assist our overseas trade. The cooperation of the States could be obtained, where needed.
I agree with the honorable member for Deakin that country districts are likely to’ be overlooked in connexion with the provison of homes for the people, and trust that whatever agreement the Commonwealth may enter into with the States in relation to housing will make it imperative that a reasonable proportion of the houses shall be built in country areas. Thus we could contribute to the decentralization of population and industry.
There are great opportunities, particularly in the eastern States, for the development of irrigation schemes which would provide for the closer settlement of many large areas. Some Ministers have been through the territory which adjoins my electorate along the Murray River, and along the Darling River in New South Wales, and consequently are aware of its possibilities. In many dry areas may be seen the bleached bones of hundreds of thousands of stock, which could have been saved had we had bigger water storages which would have made
Ifr. Wilson. irrigation possible. The possibilities are vast, and I hope that they will not be overlooked in connexion with post-war reconstruction. A complete survey should be made. Wherever possible, there should he a system of pipe lines which would make the most economic as well as the fullest use of the available water, in preference to the use of open channels, which often waste by evaporation up to 97 per cent, of the water that is; pumped into them at the headworks.
I should like ‘ the Commonwealth authorities by arrangement with the States, or by any other means available, to introduce a uniform system of aerial and, land transport throughout Australia. It is paradoxical that the laws relating to transport should vary at State borders and that a bias should be shown in favour of districts near metropolitan areas. Commonwealth intervention could eliminate many of the anomalies and could provide a fair system of transport throughout the continent.
For a few years after the war Australia is likely to enjoy great trade prosperity. Ample markets will be available for primary produce of all kinds, and raw materials will be required in large quantities; but whether that state of affairs will continue for an extended period 1 am very doubtful. With the rapid mechanization of all forms of industry, especially the agricultural industries, I fear that there may be a great curtailment of the markets which we have enjoyed in the past. It will be necessary to seek new markets among the people of the depressed and the coloured nations. An unlimited market could be developed if credit could be made available to get our produce to the people who require it. Australia should rid itself of the financial limitations which prevented these things from being done in times of peace. They were brushed aside when war broke out, and let us act similarly when peace returns, so that this country may enjoy a degree of prosperity which it has never previously known. In that wa,y Australia could make a contribution to world prosperity which would be worthy of our race.
The following papers were presented : -
Immigration Act - Return for 1943.
Lands ‘ Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Commonwealth purposes -
Albany, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Cann River, Victoria.
York, Western Australia.
Telephonic purposes - Broken Hill, New
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of essential materials (No. 8).
Fly and insect sprays.
House adjourned at 11.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he now supply for incorporation in Hansard the list of all government boards, trusts and commissions appointed by the respective governments since the inception of the war; with personnel and remuneration paid, which was sought in the last Parliament by the then honorable members for Perth and Parkes, and which was supplied by letter to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition early this year?
– The answers given to the then honorable members for Perth and. Parkes are very lengthy and comprise 28 foolscap pages of typescript; copies are available to any honorable members desiring them.
Mr.Fadden asked the Treasurer, upon notice - -
Is he yet in a position to furnish a reply to the question asked by the right honorable member for Darling Downs on the 7th September concerning the so-called “War Savings Army of Australia”?
Will he indicate when it is proposed to abolish the system?
y. - Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
British War Orphans.
n asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Civilian Dental Services in North Queensland .
y. - On the 14th September, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) asked me the. following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
on asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Canberra Services Hut.
s asked the Minister for
Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.(a) On the 3rd July, a letter was received by the Director-General from the president of the Canberra Repertory Society requesting the immediate building of a section of a community centre for Canberra to provide facilities for the work of the Repertory Society and other similar organizations. On the 22nd August, a further letter was received emphasizing the difficulties the society was experiencing in carrying on its work. Similar letters wore received by the Department of the Interior.
The council of the club replied that it was unable to adopt this suggestion.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440920_reps_17_179/>.