17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs seen in the press of Tasmania a report which alleges that, because of the high coupon rating, stocks of women’s hosiery have accumulated throughout Australia, the accumulation in the mills of Victoria being 40,000 dozen pairs? Will the Minister bring the report to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, in order that its accuracy or otherwise may be determined? If it be accurate, will he ask the Minister to consider a reduction of the coupon rating?
– I have not seen the report. I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs, to whom I shall convey the honorable member’s representations.
Right to Strike: Broadcast by Mb. j. A. Ferguson.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to a broadcast by Mr. J.. A. Ferguson, State secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union, over national station 2BL, on Thursday, the 30th August, in which this statement: was made -
The trade union movement will stoutly resistany attempt to interfere with the workers’ right to strike . . . strikes representa spontaneous expression rather than carefully guided intention.
Does the Minister consider that the broadcasting of material which might encourage a state of industrial lawlessness should be permitted over the national stations? If so, may the House and the country take that to be an expression of government policy?
– Obviously, the honorable gentleman desires me to bring this matter to the attention of my colleague, so that he may make a considered reply.
I shall do so. For my own part, I see nothing wrong with the sentiments uttered by Mr. Ferguson.
– In introducing in the Queensland Parliament a proposal to assist the purchase of farms for soldiers, pending the survey and opening of soldier settlement lands in that State, the Acting Premier stated -
The objective of the Commonwealth proposal was a fine one, but it was a plan that would not materialize for some time.
Will the Minister for Post-war Recon-. struction say that this proves the contention of members of the Australian Country party in this House that there was unnecessary delay on the part of the Commonwealth, and can he say who is responsible ?
– Honorable members know that land settlement generally is the responsibility of the State governments, but the settlement of exservicemen is, at least in part, the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. The negotiations regarding the land settle- ment of ex-servicemen between the Commonwealth and the State Governments have been very difficult, since the various governments have their own points of view. It is not true to say that the responsibility for any delay which has occurred belongs either to the Commonwealth or tothe State governments. The delay is due to difficulties arising out: of the Constitution under which certain responsibilities in regard to land settlement belong to the States and others to the Commonwealth. The honorable member was one of those who, during the recent referendum campaign, opposed the transfer of powers to the Commonwealth Government. In the main, present delays in regard to the land settlement of ex-servicemen are. attributable to the refusal of those powers.
– Will the Minister for the Navy make a special endeavour to find out what happened to H.M.A.S. Sydney, and when the information it obtained will be arrange to haveit published at the earliest possible moment?
– I am moat anxious to secure any information that can be gathered regarding the fate of H.M.A.S. Sydney. I have had a signal sent to Commodore Collins, who is now in Tokyo, asking him to make investigations with a view to gathering what information is available about this ship.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether active preparations have been made to guard, feed and provide hospital treatment where necessary for the 150,000 Japanese now in New Guinea and adjacent islands, and finally to ship them back to Japan? Having regard to the problem of economic reconstruction involved, is there any reason why the Japanese should not be forced to labour at the task of reconstruction just as they forced Australians and natives in New Guinea to labour? What is the general policy of the Government regarding the bousing of the Japanese and their eventual transport to Japan? Are they to be allowed to live in comfortable camps which they have not themselves erected, and what will be the effect on the economy of this country of the obligation to care for these prisoners?
– The Government desires of course to return the (Japanese to their own country as soon as possible, but there is grave difficulty in providing the necessary shipping to transport them. The problem has been discussed, but I confess my inability to give a clear indication of when and how it will be overcome. The use of Japanese on labouring work has not been discussed, but it may have been considered by the other Allied powers engaged in the war in the Pacific. I would say that there should be a common policy on that matter. The. employment of Japanese prisoners of war, or surrendered enemy, as I think they are now called, wherever they are located, will be considered. As soon as I can give a clear answer to the honorable member’s question it will be given.
Readmissionof Mr. W. M. Hughes,
M.P., and Mr. P. C. Spender, M.P
– Have you been advised, Mr. Speaker, of the changed rela tion of. the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) to the Liberal party? Do you know whether they have lodged good behaviour bonds with the Leader of the Liberal party? Have you been advised whether the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is still Deputy Leader of the Opposition ?
– I have received no advice so far, but I have an exalted opinion of the capacity of both honorable gentlemen to find their own levels.
Re-instatement - Vocational Training.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seen a press report that although a Brisbane firm was fined £40 for having failed to reinstate a returned airman previously employed by it, the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor in Queensland, Mr. Bennett, has stated that there is nothing in the National Security Regulations that could compel the firm to re-employ him? Did the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden) bring this anomaly before the House and did the Minister state that it would be considered when the Reestablishment and Employment Bill was before the Senate? Was such consideration given? If not when does the Government propose to give consideration to it?
– I have not seen the report, but I shall give it my immediate attention and provide the honorable gentleman with a reply.
– Under the Reestablishment and Employment Act, demobilized members of the forces who were over21 when they enlisted are not eligible for vocational training. As a great many members of the 8th Division captured by the enemy are in that category, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction take an early opportunity to review the act with a view to raising the age limit to 30?
– I replied quite recently to similar questions on this subject. lt is true that under the act, reconstruction training is limited, with certain exceptions, t-o those whose age on enlistment was 21 years or under. I pointed out that it is impossible to give reconstruction training to all of the very large number of men who will be demobilized and will apply for it. I also stated the reasons for those limitations. It would be quite impossible to give reconstruction training to all the men who enlisted before they attained the age of 30 years, first, because the teaching staff would not be adequate; secondly, because a sufficient number of buildings would not be available; and, thirdly, because the absorptive capacity of industry would not be sufficient to employ all of them.
– In order to facilitate the expansion of the Commonwealth Bank and meet the convenience and requirements of the public generally in country districts who desire to transact business with the bank, will the Treasurer give favorable consideration to obtaining the use of a room at the post offices in the larger towns which are not yet served by a branch of the bank so that the manager or an officer of the nearest branch of the Commonwealth Bank could attend at regular intervals for the purpose of transacting business?
– I shall arrange to discuss the matter with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. As honorable members are doubtless aware, the need for the expansion of the bank has «been such that many requests have been made by the institution for additional buildings. It has not been possible to give permission for the erection of new premises, but wherever possible, existing buildings have been acquired in places where banking facilities have been needed. I do not know whether the hon.orable member’s suggestion is practicable, but I shall discuss it with the Governor of the bank and supply with an answer.
– Now that the war has ended, may primary producers expect to receive adequate supplies of barbed wire, fencing wire, wire netting and galvanized iron ? If so, when ?
– I would be glad indeed if I could offer to the honorable member any immediate encouragement regarding an increase of the supply of barbed wire, fencing wire, wire netting and galvanized iron, but I am unable to do so. Manpower and supplies of coal are essential to the manufacture of those materials, and I shall bring to the notice of the persons concerned the great urgency to increase the output. I hope that, relief will be given at the earliest possible moment.
– Is the Minister for Munitions aware that Lysaght’s plant at Newcastle, which rolls and galvanizes iron, is running to full capacity? where is the output distributed?
– If the plant is running to full capacity, that is only a recent development, because the firm has been short of the A class man-power that it needs. The manufacture of galvanized iron is a laborious and, in some respects, not pleasant, occupation, and while there are other avenues in which employment may be obtained this industry is not one to which a person seeking work would feel attracted. On that account, this firm has experienced great difficulty in securing the high-class labour that is essential to its purposes. The honorable gentleman is probably aware that up to within the last month or so there were great demands upon’ supplies of galvanized iron, first, in order to meet the needs of the Australian fighting services and later to provide certain hutments and establishments that were essential for the British Pacific Fleet. I cannot say offhand in what avenues the production of the last month or so has been distributed, but I shall make inquiries and advise the honorable gentleman later.
Releases - Discharge op Personnel ABROAD
– Will the Minister for Air inform me what procedure if followed by the Royal Australian Air Force in recommending the release of personnel ? For example, has a “ points “ system been adopted as in the Army? I ask this question because I have received requests from a number of young men in my electorate for information about the matter. One of them is FlightLieutenant Sydney, who has had 300 hours on operational flights and two tours of operations, during41/2 years of service in the Royal Australian Air Force. Whereas his application for discharge in order that he may accept civil employment has been rejected, many other members of theRoyal Australian Air Force, with much shorter periods of service and much less operational service than he, are securing their release.
– The Department of Air treats applications for release as coming on the man-power or employment basis, and they are investigated by the man-power authorities and suitable recommendations are made. Applications for release may also be made on compassionate grounds; they are dealt with in the Department of Air, and, if the reasons are sufficiently strong, the applicants are released.
– Is that why the Royal Australian Air Force discharged the honorable member for Watson?
– The honorable member for Watson had very good reasons for desiring his release.
– Order ! The Minister is only encouraging interjections if he replies to them.
– I am prepared to investigate the case to which the honorable member for Richmond has referred.I cannot remember it having been brought to my notice. I may be observed day after day in this House signing authorizations for the release of men. I signed more than 30 of them in the House yesterday. An endeavour is made to treat cases according to their urgency. Some cases, it will be realized, do not fall within the categories that have been provided. Some such cases have been given attention, and releases granted, on the representations of the honorable member. It is fair to say that cases are treated on their merits. If the honorable member will give me the par ticulars of the case to which he has referred it will be investigated. I assure the honorable gentleman that fair treatment is given to all applicants.
– I have received from the wife of a member of the Royal Australian Air Force in England, who left Australia in June, 1941, and is still away, a letter of which the following is an extract: - .
My husband has been sightseeing and filling in time since last May. I realize that shipping delays arc unavoidable but should not the men with such long overseas service be given some priority? Shipping for repatriation of Royal Australian Air Force personnel hag been forgone in order that Canadians who rioted at Alder shot might be given preference.
Will the Minister for Air make inquiries in order that some explanation of the delay may “ be given ? Will he ensure more positive action to repatriate Royal Australian Air Force personnel from England ?
– The statements in that letter may have some ground. It is quite likely that some members of the Royal Australian Air Force in Great Britain have been disemployed of their own free will since the end of hostilities, but they have been given opportunities to seek employment, on leave without pay, if they desire it, while awaiting a ship. I am not convinced that it is possible to do anything more positive than has been done. The shipping position has been watched very closely. Wow that the war has ended, I can reveal that it was intended to have all the Australian airmen overseas repatriated by Christmas. Owing to a decision of a higher authority, the shipping originally intended for our men was taken for another purpose. Because the war ended sooner than any one expected, that shipping has become available again, and, in consequence, our men will be returning earlier than otherwise would have been possible. I am not speaking of the specific case referred to by the honorable gentleman, but investigations of similar cases may show that the men do not want to return to Australia as soon as possible. However, I shall investigate the matters which the honorable member raised with a view to ascertaining whether the statements are correct.
Demobilization - Release of Nurses - Awards to Auxiliaries
– In view of the heavy burden which Australia has carried in connexion with its contribution to the Allied war effort, I ask the Minister for the Army whether he will make representations to the Allied Nations with the object of securing additional shipping to enable our soldiers to be brought back to their homeland as quickly as possible? Will the honorable gentleman also refer to the Department of the Navy the question of whether warships and carriers can be provided to assist in this work? I should like to know also whether representations will be made to the Royal Australian Air Force to ascertain whether aeroplanes and pilots can be provided for this purpose? Some should be available under existing conditions.
– The Government has already taken action to secure additional shipping to expedite the return of Australian service personnel from overseas. There is an acute shortage of shipping. The Government of the United States of America requires all the shipping at its disposal to meet the needs of its own personnel. We have been granted immediate help by the Government of the United Kingdom in connexion with the return of 6,000 prisoners of war from the Singapore-Manila area. We are hoping that further representations will meet with similar success. Aeroplanes are being used as they can bo made available.
– In order to enable honorable members of this House and the public to follow the progress of the Government’s plans for demobilization will the Minister for Post–war Reconstruction arrange for the issue of periodical statements, beginning from the end of October next, showing: (1) the progressive total of personnel from each service discharged since the cessation of hostilities against Japan; (2) the number discharged in the preceding month ; (3) the number still remaining to be discharged.
– Something along the lines of the honorable member’s suggestion has recently been passing through my mind. The matter will receive consideration.
– Consequent upon the receipt a few minutes ago of an urgent telegram from the Mount Gambier District Hospital, I ask the Minister for the Army whether any arrangements can be made to speed up the release of nurses from the services, with a view to assisting country hospitals.
– Sympathetic consideration will be given to the honorable gentleman’s representations. I point out to him, however, that because of the demands for additional nurses to staff hospitals that have had to be set up to care for prisoners of war, there is at present an acute shortage of nurses in the Australian Army.
– Some weeks ago I raised the matter of the granting of a suitable decoration or certificate of acknowledgment to persons who, as workers for the Red Cross Society, the Australian Comforts Fund, and other auxiliary organizations, gave honorary service in the war. I remind the Prime Minister that that was done after the war of 1914-18. I am aware of the Labour party’s traditional objection to the granting of honours, but will the right honorable gentleman consider making an exception in respect of these voluntary workers to the extent of granting some awards to them?
– The Labour party is opposed to honours except military decorations. I take it that the honorable gentleman desires that members of the honorary auxiliary services shall be specially honoured.
– That is so. Either with a decoration or a certificate.
– I shall arrange to have that matter discussed in Cabinet, and shall let the honorable gentleman know the Government’s decision on the matter.
War Risk Pay - Freights, Fares and Insurance
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether war risk rates are still being paid to members of the merchant marine? Will the honorable gentleman inform the House of the percentage of increased rates still payable in respect of both interstate and overseas shipping? If the rates have been reduced recently, can the honorable gentleman say whether a corresponding reduction has occurred in insurance rates, and freight and passenger charges ?
– About three months ago an alteration was made in the war risk bonus on a variable scale. Speaking subject to correction, the revised bonus was, say, 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. for the Spencer Gulf area, 25 per cent. for the east coast, and 331/3 per cent. for the west coast. The matter is now receiving the consideration of the Minister for Supply and Shipping. I am not sure whether the reductions already made have had an appreciable effect on freights, fares and insurance charges. I am afraid that they have not. I shall obtain detailed information for the honorable member.
Sale of Tickets
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping read in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 11th September the announcement that the Mudgee Shale Oil Company has petrol ration tickets for sale at 4s. each? Is this legally permissible ? Is it not aiding and abetting the black marketing of petrol ?
– I have not read the announcement and, unfortunately, am not able to give any information on the point raised by the honorable member, but I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and advise him later.
Nauru and Ocean Islands
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what is the position in relation to the supply of superphosphate from Nauru and Ocean Islands? Have appropriate steps been taken to make supplies of superphos phate available to primary producers as soon as possible ?
– Australian forces have left for Nauru and Ocean Islands. The bombing by allied aircraft after Japan took possession of the islands caused considerable damage to the equipment on them. The British Phosphates Commission has considerable plant ready for shipment to the islands, but it is estimated that many months will elapse before it can be installed, and that the production of phosphatic rock in the first year of operations will not exceed 100,000 tons, compared with a production of 1,000,000 tons in the last pre-war year. The Government is fully alive to the necessity for expediting the production of phosphatic rock on these islands. Every action will be taken to bring them into production as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether, although many thousands of applications for the installation of telephones have been granted, the telephones cannot be installed because of the shortage of equipment. The war having terminated, will he approach the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, for the release to the Postmaster-General’s Department of any telephones that are not absolutely essential to their operations, in order that they may be made available to civil subscribers?
– Two factors are involved in the supply of telephones to the public - not only the telephone apparatus, but also the cable and the general equipment in the exchanges. Unfortunately, the telephone system became much overloaded during the war period. The honorable member’s proposal has merit. If there are surplus telephones which can be released, they should be made available,
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether a blanket prohibition has been imposed by the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, on all sales and transfers of land, under powers delegated to him under the National Security Act, and that all transfers to ex-servicemen who desire to purchase land by private treaty have been held up? Will the Minister discuss with the Minister for Lands in New South Wales the desirability of having the prohibition imposed only in relation to properties that are considered suitable for the settlement of ex-servicemen?
-The- Commonwealth issued a National Security Regulation giving to State governments the power to prevent the transfer of land which might be suitable for the settlement of ex-servicemen. I shall have inquiries made with a view to ascertaining whether the prohibition in New South Wales extends beyond that point, and how the matter stands.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the average time taken for the issue of consent to a land transaction, when everything is in order, is two months. Have applications for the purchase of. small blocks for home-building purposes often to be supported by independent valuations, obtained at a cost of two or three guineas? Does the State Treasury require evidence of value to be furnished for stamp duty purposes? Will the Treasurer amend the regulations so as to permit the purchase of home building sites without reference to the Treasury when the amount involved does not exceed £500?
– I cannot say offhand whether the delay mentioned in the first portion of the question occurs, but T shall have inquiries made.
– In some cases that have come before me, the delay has been three months or longer.
– Often, when lengthy delays .have been brought to my notice, it has been found that they were due to the matter being held up in the solicitor’s offices by which it was being handled. It must clearly be understood that the object of the regulations was to fix prices at the level of February, 1942. Had that not been done, values would have skyrocketed all over the country. Some delay may occur at times because a value regarded as fair does not appear to be reasonable, having regard to the purchase price of the property, with the result that frequently it is necessary to have separate valuations; or an attempt is made to negotiate at a price approximating what the Treasury regards as reasonable, having regard to the price of land at the base date. I shall have an examination made of the points which the honorable member raised, but I can say now that the Government does not intend to allow land prices to rise above what was regarded as a fair figure in February, 1942.
Duration of National Security Act: War Loadings - Civil Offenders : Remission of Sentences
– Can the Acting Attorney-General advise the House if the signing of the final instrument of surrender at Tokyo establishes a state of peace? If so, what effect will this have on the National Security Act in its application to war loadings in various industries ?
– by leave - I am not competent to express an opinion on the relation of the National Security Act to war loadings. Section 9 of the National Security Act provides that -
This Act shall continue in operation until a date to be fixed by Proclamation and no longer, but in any event not longer than six months after His Majesty ceases to be engaged in war.
The termination of the act is thus fixed by proclamation but, as the section says, the proclamation must be issued not later than six months after His Majesty ceases to be engaged in war. The departmental view of the expression “ ceases to be engaged in war “ is that a state of war continues until the commencement of a state of peace. A state of peace does not merely mean the cessation of hostilities, but extends, not merely to the signing of peace, but to the time when that peace becomes effective. When, after the end of a war, a treaty of peace is made, the normal procedure is for it to be signed by the representatives of the warring countries and, subsequently, ratifications of the treaty are exchanged. Upon the exchange of ratifications, the treaty becomes effective, and a state of peace supervenes on the state of war. If this procedure is adopted in the present case, the National Security Act could continue until six months after the ratifications of the last peace treaty have been exchanged.
In any ease, however, the termination of “the act will be by proclamation by the Governor-General in Council.
Honorable members are aware that at the present time a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the principal Allied powers is taking place in London, and at this meeting the matter of peace treaties will be discussed. I have been advised that the treaty with Italy is first on the list. As for war loadings, it might be argued that these would remain in force until a state of peace had been declared. I am not certain whether war loadings were granted in the first place simply on the ground that the country was at war, or on the ground that, in time of war, workers were subjected to greater strain, anxiety and pressure.
– It was for the second reason.
– I believe that the honorable member was himself associated with the granting of war loadings. I know that there were some loose ends to be tied up when we assumed office. As for the duration of war loadings, the matter will depend, not so much upon the statement which I have just made regarding the termination of a state of war, as upon what the Arbitration Court thinks about it.
– Is the Acting Attorney-General aware that prisoners serving terms in New SouthWales gaols for federal offences are not receiving the reduction of sentences granted by the State Government on account of the peace? “Will the honorable gentleman ensure that the Commonwealth Government in this matter shall be at least as generous as the State Government?
– That is a matter to be determined by the Minister for the Army, who has asked Mr. Justice Reed to inquire into it.
– Before the cessation of hostilities against Japan, Mr. Conde was appointed to investigate the matter of surplus personnel at bases of the various services. Can the Minister for the Army say when the. report will be issued, and whether personnel who have been declared to be surplus must now remain in the forces until they acquire the necessary number of points to qualify for release?
-What is known as the Conde Committee conducted certain investigations, and produced an interim report which is now being implemented. Some surplus personnel have been discharged, and others have been transferred to other work so that those with longer service may be discharged. The committee is not sitting now, but it will be asked to report upon other matters which may be referred to it from time to time.
– I think the policy has been clearly set out in instructions issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service, but I shall have the matter investigated and a reply prepared. If the honorable member tells me the name of the man concerned I shall take his as a typical case in which hardship may exist.
Butler’s Gorge Works, Tasmania
– Now that men are returning from the armed forces and other war-time vocations to their normal peace-time avocation can the Minister for Works and Housing say when men in the Civil ConstructionalCorps who were diverted from city occupations to work on the Butler’s Gorge Dam, in Tasmania, will be allowed to return to their former occupations ?
– I cannot give any exact date, but it is estimated that the
Allied Works Council’s Civil Constructional Corps will practically come to an end about the end of October. In a day or so I shall be able to supply the honorable gentleman with more exact information.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether it is a fact, as reported in the press to-day, that an Australia-wide conference of housing interests, scheduled to begin in Melbourne next Tuesday, has been indefinitely postponed? Was this conference summoned by the Commonwealth Government? Is it a fact as stated in the press that it is expected that when a clear-cut federal housing policy is agreed on the Minister will re-convene the postponed conference? If so, is the postponement to be taken to indicate that the Government so far has no housing policy?
– The Government has a clear-cut housing policy.
– But timber is not being cut for houses.
– There is a clearcut policy as between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. [ do not know where the press got its information about a conference on housing in Melbourne. I have not convened such a conference. The Commonwealth and the States have formulated a policy, and there is no necessity to call another conference on the matter. If the right honorable gentleman sought his information from more reliable sources than from misleading newspapers he would he better informed.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to authorize the execution by or on behalf of the Commonwealth of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to housing, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr. DESMAN (Corio- Minister for
Postwar Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and
Industrial Research) [3.26]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The bill which I have the honour to submit for the consideration of the House to-day is an important piece of social legislation. It will provide means whereby a full-scale attack can be made on one of the worst of our social evils, namely, the bad housing of the Australian people. The soldier and his family need . proper housing; thousands of workers require housing far in advance of what they have had to endure in recent years. More and better houses should help us to induce a higher natural increase of population than in the decade before the war. We must also be able to house the migrants whom we seek from overseas. In this matterof housing the Commonwealth Government recognizes that it, as well as State governments, must play a part. But the Commonwealth Government is limited by the Australian Constitution. In peacetime the States exercise all powers over the physical side of housing, except in Commonwealth territories and for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel and employees of the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth has no constitutional power in peace-time to control the production, allocation and distribution of materials. It has no power to decide who shall first have a house. Therefore, it cannot provide directly that those in greatest need shall be the first accommodated. It has no power to enforce the correct placing of houses within towns, nor of towns within the Commonwealth, since it has no control over regional and town planning.
Despite the restrictions which I have mentioned,the Commonwealth can give considerable assistance and perform effective work. The Commonwealth, by the offer of financial assistance, can encourage the States to undertake certain activities. It can do research and bring to Australia the results of overseas experience. It can set down principles. These things we propose to do, and this bill provides a plan for housing and rehousing families of the lower income group, adequately, effectively and hygienically on a scale in advance of all our past performances. The bill does not provide a housing policy complete in itself. The proposed Commonwealth-State housing agreement covers only rental housing of a good reasonable standard, for those who are in need of proper housing accommodation, and who, for various reasons, do not desire or are unable to purchase their own homes. The agreement would not preclude subsequent sale to a tenant at the discretion of the housing authority.
The Government realizes the need for the encouragement of home ownership. The Commonwealth Bank Act, which waa recently enacted, and the “War Service Homes Act are ample proof of the Corn.monwealth’s interest in that matter. In addition, each State has passed legislation for the encouragement of home ownership by means of rental purchase terms with small deposits - in some cases no deposit at all - and easy scales of payment with low interest rates. But the principal deficiency in Australian housing policy to date has been in respect of good standard houses to be let at rents within their capacity to pay, to families who cannot afford, or are not ready, or on account of their occupations do not desire, to purchase homes.
To our great discredit, there has not been to date a full-scale attack on our slums. At a recent preliminary wartime survey undertaken by the States at the instance of the Commonwealth Government, it was shown that no fewer than 235,000 Australian families are living in dwellings which need replacement, and the number is steadily growing. Nor is this the end of the story. The survey discovered that at the beginning of 1944, at least 200,000 dwellings were required in the Commonwealth. At present, the shortage may be 240,000. Assuming that at the present time, 100,000 of the 235,000 sub-standard dwellings must be replaced, the total number of dwellings needed to-day is estimated at about 350,000.
The Government does not apologize for the fact that little building has occurred in the last five years. If housing had not been drastically curtailed, the war might have been appreciably lengthened. In April, 1943, the Curtin Government appointed a Commonwealth Housing Commission, consisting of five members, within the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction. It visited all States of the
Commonwealth and obtained exhaustive information and evidence from every section of the community. The commission issued three reports. In the final one, which will shortly he laid on the table of this House, the commission considered that governments should take an active part in housing. It said -
We consider it essential that, in Australia, the governments should accept responsibility for ensuring adequate housing of the people, especially the low-income group. This will involve supplementing on a large scale building undertaken by private enterprise.
The commission also expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth Government should supplement the housing activities of State governments.
– Yes. I may remark here that at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers last month, the Commonwealth offered to continue its war-time control over the allocation of building resources, provided the States unanimously agreed to back up its policy. The States were unwilling to do so. Therefore, in accordance with the Constitution, the States will once more accept this responsibility. The Commonwealth, at the request of the States, is examining the question of some form of national control of scarce materials produced in one or two States, but needed by all of them.
After having considered the reports of the commission, the Commonwealth Government decided to offer assistance to the States to undertake a policy of housing for families with low incomes, provided the States adhered to certain general principles. The matter has been debated at two conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and an agreement has been worked out in detail. The final draft, which is set out. in this bill, was forwarded to the States early this month. It is hoped that it will be signed by the Commonwealth and ratified by the Parliaments of the States in the very near future, so as to enable its benefits, especially rental rebates, to be made available to the occupiers of dwellings which have already been erected under the scheme. The bill provides that the agreement shall cover all dwellings erected since the 3rd December, 1943, under the war housing programme, so as to give statutory effect to an arrangement made with the States in that regard.
The measure now before the House is designed to give to the Commonwealth Government power to execute a composite agreement with the States, provided such agreement is substantially in accord with the draft agreement set out in the Schedule to the bill. However, it is not proposed that the implementation of the agreement shall await the passing of legislation by all State parliaments. The bill provides that as soon as the required legislation has been passed by any one State parliament, the agreement shall come into force in that State.
Capital funds for the programme under the agreement are to he obtained by Commonwealth borrowing. The Commonwealth Government will make to the States advances which will be repayable, together with interest, at the same rate as the long-term Commonwealth public loan last raised or being raised, in 53 years or such shorter period as may be agreed. The financial arrangements provide also for meeting the losses of any State in respect of the scheme as a whole. . The Commonwealth will meet three-fifths of these losses and the States two-fifths. The States are to calculate their losses, and render an annual account certified by the State Auditor-General, to the Commonwealth, which will settle on a cash basis.
Honorable members may ask why losses may occur. The Commonwealth Government has taken the view that a family dependent upon the basic wage should not be required to pay more than one-fifth of its income in rent. In the history of Australia there have been few, if any, instances where a working man on the basic wage or less has been able to obtain a new dwelling of good standard, adequate for his family needs, for a rent of one-fifth of his income. Particularly is that so at the present time when building costs are abnormally high. It is of no use to build good houses if families with low incomes cannot afford to live in them. And if such families cannot afford to live in them we cannot hope to stimulate the birth-rate, or to improve the environment and thereby the characters of young
Australians. The Government has asked the States to let these dwellings, whatever their economic rent may be, at, broadly, one-fifth of a family’s income. By economic rent I mean the costs which ordinarily enter into rent, such as interest, repayment of capital, maintenance, rates and taxes, and administration. The difference between one-fifth of the family income and the economic rent would be rebated. As the income rises or falls, however, the rebate will diminish or increase.
Let me take a few examples: If the economic rent of a three-bedroom dwelling be 30s. a week and the family be on the basic wage of, say, £5 a week, the rent payable would be one-fifth of that income, or £1, and the rebate would be 30s., less 20s., or 10s. weekly. Six shillings of that rebate would be met by the Commonwealth and 4s. by the State. If, however, the family’s income increased and reached £6 a week, while it was still occupying the dwelling, the scheme provides that the rebate would fall by one-third of the amount by which the income was greater than the basic wage, that is, by one-third of £1, or 6s. 8d. The rebate would thus fall to 3s. 4d., or taking it to a round 6d., to 3s., and the rent payable would be 27s. a week.
– What machinery is there to ascertain whether wages rise or fall?
– The administration of the scheme will be the responsibility of the State governments, which will, no doubt, establish the necessary machinery.
If the family, while still living in the same house, suffered a fall of income to £4 a week, while the basic wage remained at £5, the rebate under the scheme would increase by one-fourth of the amount by which the income fell short of the basic wage, that is, by one-fourth of £1, or 5s. weekly. The rebate would thus be 15s. and the rent payable would be reduced to 15s. weekly. It is to be noted that the minimum rent is to be 8s. a week.
This scheme may sound a little complicated, but in practice it can be worked out very quickly by means of tables, and it will work to the benefit of the family on the low income. The system is flexible and permits of adjustments according to a family’s changing circumstances. Naturally, a family which requires a rental rebate will have to disclose its income, but this is quite reasonable, considering the large sums of money involved. For instance, such a basic wage family as I mentioned earlier would receive a rebate of10s. a week.. Any rebate granted under the agreement will be made on the application of the tenant and will expire at the end of six months. If the tenant wishes to secure a further rebate he must make a further application. The rebate, however, may be varied or withdrawn at any time by the housing, authority after a thorough investigation. The granting of a rebate is, therefore, entirely at the discretion of the housing authority, which will consider each case on its merits. A double benefit will be obtained by family occupying a dwelling under this scheme - first, a reasonable rent, and, secondly, a good standard dwelling of sound construction.
To cope with the shortage of homes 1 estimate that about 750,000 houses must be built in the next ten years, or an average of at least 70,000 houses a year. Naturally this figure will not be achieved in the first year or even the second year. It is hoped that by the 30th June, 1946, government and private constructions combined will have reached 24,000 dwellings; by the 30th June, 1947, 50,000 dwellings per annum ; and by the 30th June, 1948, an annual total of about 70,000 dwellings will have been reached, at which it will be stable until the shortage has been overcome and sub-standard dwellings have been replaced.
– Will the scheme apply to farm homes ?
– What about homes on mining leases?
Mr.DEDMAN. - That will be a matter for consideration. It is hoped that government-sponsored dwellings will comprise approximately one-half of those annual totals. To date the severity of the Australian housing shortage has led us to’ concentrate our attention on arrangements for the building of new dwellings, and little has been said about slum clearance; This is regrettable but necessary, becausein a housing crisis of the dimensions of that now on our hands, it would be folly to pull down houses on a large scale, except those which actually cause disease or danger to life. Nevertheless persons in bad housing condition:will get an early priority in the rehousing: programme, in view of the system ofallocation already agreed upon by the States which is -
The other 50 per cent, will be allocated, as follows : -
Honorable members will note that under this proposed agreement, the States are the authorities for the construction of dwellings, and will carry the basic financial responsibility and. administer the scheme. They may nominate authorities to act for them and they are required to advise their intentionsto decentralize administrative action. In this regard the Commonwealth hopes that full use will be made of efficient local government authority. The Commonwealth is to provide the money whichit will borrow and advance to the States, and it is to meet three-fifths of the losses. The Commonwealth, in addition to financing the scheme,’ will use its best. endeavours to assist in the procurement of building resources, such as labour and materials, to enable the scheme to function successfully. Action has already been taken to train building labour, especially ex-service personnel, under the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act recently passed by the Parliament. The Commonwealth will continue to engage in housing research, especially through, the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, so as to keep Australia abreast of world developments.
This agreement is a compromise. It is the best that we have been able to get in agreement with the States, and I will not pretend that, in all matters, it satisfies the Commonwealth. For example, we are not yet happy about the provision with regard to standards, particularly maximum standards. The agreement provides that minimum and maximum standards are to be set, as established by the States, in respect of allotment of sites, accommodation standards, construction, and standard equipment and services. The States, however, at the request of the Commonwealth, are to consider a revision of their standards. There is no provision yet for the enforcement of maximum standards beyond which the Commonwealth would not be liable to meet losses. This matter was debated at length at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and, in view of the wide disparity of costs in the various States, and the uncertainty of future costs in the States, it was agreed “ that there should be an upper limit to the cost of houses under the agreement, and that this limit should make due allowance for differences in costs between States and between city and country. At present it is difficult to determine an appropriate limit, but it is agreed that this should be reviewed next year”. In the interim, Ministers agreed to do their best to prevent costs from rising, and, if possible, to reduce them. I have considerable hopes that the States will not be unduly extravagant in their costs, especially as they will have’ to meet two- fifths of any losses. At the end of another twelve months it ought to be possible to come to a definite arrangement concerning maximum costs, as by that time conditions in the building trade may have become stabilized. .
We have come to a satisfactory agreement with the States in respect of the allocation of dwellings to occupiers. Dwellings are to be allocated by the State housing authorities on the basis of need. Criteria of need are to bp determined from, time to time by agreement between the Commonwealth and each State. In pursuance of its rehabilitation obligations, the Government has ensured that half the dwellings are to be allocated to servicemen, exservicemen, members of the merchant navy and their dependants. The proportion is subject to alteration according to changing circumstances. From a defence point of view, an important provision in the agreement is that the allocation of the dwellings as between metropolitan and country areas of a State is to be agreed upon from time to time by the Commonwealth and the State. The Commonwealth may desire to populate certain areas for defence purposes, and for the same reason it may desire that the population shall be decentralized as far as practicable. These matters will be kept in mind when State plans for the location of new dwellings are before us.
All in all, I believe that despite some limitations and drawbacks, this agreement represents a major step forward. It is to operate for tcn years, and may then be renewed. During that, period great developments will occur. Technical changes of a considerable character are to be expected. We are engaged in intensive research into methods of prefabrication, and the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, which we established last year, is actively investigating all forms of economizing in materials and man-power and of speeding up building processes. We hope to lower the cost of building so as to reduce subsidies to a minimum; but good housing for all Australians is the objective, and, within reason, we propose to encourage and assist, the States to use whatever resources are required to achieve this end.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 7th September (vide page 522i6), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. I. - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £8,820 “, be agreed to.
– I do not propose, in the course of my general budget speech, to engage in detailed criticisms of the actual proposals which flow from the budget. There will be detailed criticisms on the income tax and sales tax legislation, and also matters arising on the social services contribution legislation, these I propose to leave to their proper place. But on the budget itself, there are certain matters of broad financial importance which should and, I hope, will be stated and restated, even if, occasionally, the statement is in vain. There are two quotations which, in the first place, I should like to make from the budget speech of “the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). The first passage says this -
As national income expanded, a growing proportion was devoted to war purposes. Nonessential government works and services were eliminated, and the proportion nf the gross national production absorbed by private consumption and investment fell from 8G per cent, in 1938-39 to 60 per cent, in 1944-45.
The second passage is -
At the present time, aggregate incomes are running in excess of supplies almost as strongly as at any time during the war, and the existence of excess spending power will be n dominant feature of the whole transition period. Moreover, the current excess of spending power will be reinforced by that which has accumulated during the war. Great quantities of savings awaiting an outlet are now held in very liquid forms - in notes, in bank deposits, in war savings certificates and other securities.
I have read those two passages because each emphasizes the one central truth; that is, that as private consumption and investment fell of necessity during the war period, so it is true that, in reconstruction, private consumption and investment must rise in order to re-absorb those persons who have been moved in their occupations as a result of war. In other words, the danger in a transition period from war to peace is a danger to the currency - a danger of inflation - which is intimately associated with the danger of unemployment and other social dislocations. The passages that 1 have read from the speech of the right honorable gentleman make it perfectly clear that the practical answer to inflation is renewed civil production. Indeed, if we were to take the whole of the budget speech - and I may almost say this for the Treasurer as well as for myself - and ask : “ “What central problem does it present to us and to the people of Australia ? “ I believe that the answer would be : “ A problem of renewed civil production and civil consumption.” That being so, there are problems allied with it at which we must look. If there is to be renewed civil production, then there must be - I think honorable members will agree - speedy demobilization from war service into peace occupations. There must be, in the course qf demobilization, I believe, effective preference to those with assured productive jobs. This is not a mere matter of determining some issue nf between the servicemen; it goes beyond that. There is a large social interest in this matter, and the interest of the community is that we should get as rapidly as possible into renewed civil production. That is why I have emphasized that as the theme on this occasion. If we are to do that, then the more people who can be got back into productive jobs in the quickest time, the more civil production will there be, and the more balance will there be in the community’s economy.
– And that will be the cheaper way of effecting it.
– Much the cheapest way of effecting it. The third thing that I mention as being allied to this problem, is that there must be a speedy reduction of war expenditure. Those three things I put into the minds of honorable members - first, speedy demobilization ; second, the quickest possible return of people to assured productive jobs; and third, the speedy reduction of war expenditure - because all those things, and, no doubt, many others, will demand that renewed civil production which, as I have indicated, is at the heart of the problem. The points system, whatever may be its merits in the working of justice as between two individuals, will not of itself achieve speedy demobilization, and there are reasons for thinking that it will not ensure the early demobilization of those with assured jobs. As to the third matter - the speedy reduction of war expenditure - I am bound to say, with great regret, that at the moment there are very few signs of it. The actual war expenditure from all sources, both, revenue and loan, for the financial year 1944-45 which has just concluded, was £460,000,000. For 1945-46, a financial year the great bulk of which will be outside the actual period of time in which hostilities occurred, it is estimated that the war expenditure will be £360,000,000. If we deduct the £54,000,000 which the Treasurer estimates will be needed for deferred pay - and that is something which will arise upon discharge - we have left an estimated war expenditure of £306,000,000 for what will be substantially a non-war year. That seems to mo, and I have no doubt to many other honorable members, a most astonishing figure. Because, on its face, it is an astonishing figure, some questions arise. I propose to put one or two questions and, if I can, encourage other honorable members to put some, in relation to so great a problem. Is war production really being reduced pari passu with the real demands of war? Has anything been said in the House or the committee which satisfies us that the expenditure upon what are alleged to be war purposes is, in fact, being reduced in accordance with the true demands of those war purposes? Are all honorable members satisfied that our expenditure on munitions and supplies is literally being reduced in accordance with the true demands of the services? I confess for myself that, in the absence of very convincing statements on the part of the Government, I am completely sceptical about the answer to that question. Let me illustrate it in one way. [ should like to know whether the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is at this very moment selling substantial quantities of goods, of kinds which are still being made or purchased by the Government ?
– The answer, as the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender) has interjected, is that un doubtedly it is. The people of Australia, I believe, would be extremely interested if they could have laid before them by those who are in charge of the departments a statement showing the true answer to that question as to whether the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is at this moment selling what the Government is still in process of buying.
– Is the right honorable gentleman postulating, or making an allegation?
– I have not the slightest doubt, nor has the honorable member, that what I am saying is true.
– I was wondering whether the right honorable gentleman could give instances.
– The honorable member has not the slightest doubt that at this moment we should be saving certain interim charges if some of the goods being manufactured for the Government were delivered for sale direct to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
– What instances can the right honorable gentleman cite?
– Does the honorable member doubt the truth of my statement?
– Give us instances.
– That is a grand position for the honorable member to be in ! I am not in charge of the departments concerned with this matter. All that I say is : Put all these cards on the table, and I shall let the people be the judges as to how far the expenditure is really being cut down.
– They are very good judges.
– They are very good judges, as the honorable member will yet discover. So far, he has eluded their judgment ; but I believe that his time is running out. The expenditure on war from revenue was £193,000,000 in the last financial year, 1944-45. It is estimated that the expenditure from revenue in this new financial year will be £207,000,000. In other words, this country is to expend from revenue £14,000,000 more in 1945-46 than was expended in 1944-45. The amount for 1945-46 is, of course, in addition to a loan expenditure of the order of £1512,000.-000.
– What was the amount of loan expenditure last year ?
– The amount expended from loan last year was £267,000,000. The expenditure this year is to be £152,000,000. What the ordinary citizen in Australia is concerned with, as the honorable gentleman will discover in due course, is, how much is being taken from him by taxes to pay for the war. When he finds that the loan burden is being reduced, but that the tax burden for war expenditure, with the war over, is to rise by £14,000,000, he will want to know the reason. I was about to say, when the interrogatory was delivered and answered, something about one case by which we can form a pretty sensible judgment. I take the expenditure on the Department of Information. This department was established in 1939, and it may be of value to honorable members if I recall an announcement that was made at that time, because it was my privilege to make it. They say he is a wise father who knows his own child. I am a perfect example of that.
– The right honorable member has something to answer for.
– I quite agree, and I am proposing to answer for it now. On the 8th September, 1939, Mr. Speaker Bell took the chair at 3.30 p.m., and read prayers. I should think that it was a very appropriate thing to do, having regard to what followed, .and to what has happened since. I then rose and said -
I have to inform the House that the Government has decided to establish a Ministry of Information. The new administration will come into practice as soon ns the organization is complete.. It is to be regarded as a wartime instrument, and will be dissolved at the return of peace.
I went on to indicate what the task of the new ministry was to be, and it is interesting to recall that there were some prophetic interjections from Labour members. Mr. Beasley - spelt with an “ s “ - said, “ What guarantee have we that it will not be a ministry of propaganda?” There was prophetic vision! The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) threw in a pithy remark, as he sometimes does, about party propaganda. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), now Minister for the Navy and what not, said -
Will the information to be supplied deal exclusively with the inter.nationa.l situation, and such part of .it as may be represented by the contribution of this country towards the efforts being made by Great Britain? Is any other form of domestic policy covered by the proposal ?.
But time has gone on, and those honorable members have crossed the floor of the House. They did not at that time imagine that, before their ministry died, they would find, as they have found, that the new department was the most economical means of party propaganda ever presented to the Labour party. They did not realize that the Department of Information would turn out to be a most useful means for disseminating wholesale propaganda among the armed forces, and for the forwarding of a party political campaign in the middle of a war.
– Neither did the right honorable gentleman himself.
– I did not at that time, but I have learnt it since. I suppose at some time during this year the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) will be able to tell us that the war is over, and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) himself will be in Australia again. In the meantime, I notice that the Estimate? show that the actual vote for the Department of Information for 1944-45 was £279,000, although the first vote for the department was only £22,000. When that first vote was sought, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) ventured the prophecy that the amount would grow. The estimated expenditure by the department for the yea: 1945-46 is £326,000.
– But there is to be an election in that year.
– Yes, and I suppose that some of the money will be expended upon a post-war educational campaign. There is no provision for expenditure on such a campaign in the current Estimates, although last year £45,000 was shown under that head. Thus, without any expenditure on a post-war educational campaign - no doubt that is to come - the estimated expenditure of the Department of Information for the financial year 1945-46 is £326,000.
– The amount does not include any legal expenses ?
– No. I have looked for an item that might suggest some such thing, but .have not been able to find it. l t is estimated that no less than £326,000 is to be expended in what will be substantially a year of peace by what was essentially a war department. It was set up to do two things in particular - first, to control censorship, which has now gone or is about to go; secondly, to attend to matters of publicity bearing on the war effort of the nation. And now the war is over. Of course, it is perfectly clear that the Government intends, not only to maintain this war-time department, but actually to expand it, and to use it as an. instrument of political propaganda. That is why the taxpayers, who have sweated under heavier burdens of taxation than the people of any other democratic country, are to be given no relief whatever from their burdens.
I said no relief whatever, and I propose to establish the truth of that assertion. The budget speech states, optimistically, I think, that it is proposed to make a reduction of personal income tax equal to 12£ per cent, overall; or, in this financial year, an effective reduction overall of 6£ per cent, beginning on the 1st January. Let us see what this will mean. In 1944-45, the yield from individual income tax was £155,680,000, and the yield from company taxation was £59,850.000, or a total of £214,000,000. According to the Estimates presented by the Treasurer with his budget speech, which is supposed to give the people some relief from their burden, income tax yields for the present financial year will be - individual income tax, £132,000,000; company tax, £59,000,000; social services contributions, £20,000,000; or a total of £211,000.000. Thus, this famous and much-advertised reduction turns out to be a reduction of tax yield from £214,000,000 to £211,000,000- actually, only £3,000,000. However, there are two other factors to be taken into account. The Treasurer well knows that, as the conversion to peace-time economy proceeds, as civil production renews its vigour, as more and more people come within the income tax net because they become taxable income earners, so the estimates made at this stage will turn out to be below the mark. No honorable members with experience of these matters will dispute that the estimate of £211,000,000 is much more likely to turn out to be an actual £220,000,000 or £230,000,000 before the year ends. In that event, the tax yield, so far from being reduced, will actually be increased.
My second comment is this: When I said that £214,000,000 was the actual revenue for the financial year 1944-45, I meant actual revenue. I did not include income tax for that ‘year not yet assessed or not yet collected. The Treasurer has said that he will produce figures at some opportune time - I hope that it will be during the period of this debate - regarding the substantial carryover from the last financial year of uncollected income tax. If this amount turns out to be, as one estimate puts it, in the vicinity of £30,000,000, or even anywhere near that amount, and the revenue is collected during the present financial year, then the tax yield for 1945-46 will be substantially greater than the yield for
– Many of those who will be discharged from the services will still be exempt from taxation.
– No doubt the honorable member is quite right, but his statement has no bearing whatever on what I am saying unless he is prepared to admit that, in the course of this year, many thousands of persons who were nontaxable income-earners last year will become taxable income-earners this year.- Whichever way we look at the figures it is evident that, in spite of this alleged reduction of taxation, millions of pounds more will be collected in income tax in 1945- 46 than was collected in 1944-45.
I should have thought that it was almost elementary, when estimating tax yields and determining tax rates at a time like this, to take into account this prospective increase of the taxable proportion of the national income - to remember that there will be more and more people passing from the non-taxable field into the taxable field. Therefore, it must be clear that a much greater cut in the tax rate could have been made with hardly any effect whatever on the tax yield. The Treasurer has made what may be described as a gesture. He says to the taxpayers, “We are going to treat you handsomely. You will be given a reduction of 6i per cent, this year, and we give it to you with all the greater goodwill because we are satisfied that we shall probably still collect £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 more from you than we did last year “. The reduction foreshadowed in the budget relates to personal income tax. No reduction “whatever is to be made of the company tax. I want to say a few words about the company tax, .because I find, as many other honorable gentleman find, widespread public misapprehension on that subject. When we deal with company tax we are not dealing with the interests of a few rich people. If we “were, it would not be worth the consideration of the Parliament. We are dealing with the aggregate interests of a mass of shareholders. There is a more formidable case, as a matter of fact, against a company tax at all, except such a tax as will ensure reasonable distribution of profits, because, in principle, there is no tax on incomes that is half so just as a tax that is graded according to incomes. Therefore, each shareholder in a company with a large income from it ought to pay at a much higher rate of tax than the shareholder with a small income from it, but the company, tax, being in its very nature a flat rate tax, is a flat-rate tax on all shareholders in “the first instance, whether they are great or small. Therefore, personal income tax is immeasurably more an instrument of justice than is the company tax. The chief effects of a heavy company tax are found when you come to consider it in its effect upon expansion and employment. The companies of this country provide a great deal of the employment of this country. Every company that is carrying on an industry with some element of permanency in it - and that is the kind of industry we want if we are to have full employment in Australia - ought to be in a position to establish proper liquid reserves, because it it is only a company that has adequate liquid reserves that can possibly stabilize employment and go in for expansion and development in a time of business recession. The history of business is full of proof of that fact. One thing we should do about the company tax is to make much better provision for building up liquid reserves, provided, of course, that they are not a mere vehicle for the concealment, so to speak, of profits that, in the normal course, would have been distributed to the shareholders and taxable in their hands.
In the second place, if we are to give a fillip to employment and business development in Australia, as we all know we must, we ought to reduce the company tax. Once taxation is seen, not as a mere means of raising revenue, but as the most .powerful instrument for shaping social and industrial policy, surely it appears that there are two tasks that taxation has to perform. One is to increase production, and the other, which is involved in the first, is to increase employment. High taxes on industry - I am not talking about individual income tax; I have said something about that - but high taxes on industry as such, and that is what the company tax is, do at least three things. In the first place, they reduce reserves. That is, they reduce the means that exist for capital development. In the second place, they reduce the incentive to tak* risks with capital, and that is one of the great dynamic- elements in business progress. In the third place, they hold up prices, because company taxes will always be written into prices of commodities. When you hold up prices you begin a process that tends to reduce real wages, unless, of course, you belong to the optimistic band of people who believe adjustments can always be made to enable wages to overtake rising prices. I am not one of those optimists, and indeed, when I look at my honorable friend, the Minister assisting the’ Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini), I believe that he is not either.
I now wish to refer very briefly to persona] income tax. The personal income tax in Australia is, I believe, the highest in the democratic world.
– Or any other.
– I do not profess yet to be fully informed as to what taxation has been applied in Germany, Italy or Japan, but of the countries of which we have some certain knowledge, I would say that the present income tax in Australia is the highest.
– Would the right honorable gentleman deny that we are also living in probably the cheapest country in’ the world ?
– That is a question of which I should like notice. I have uo doubt that it is very much cheaper to live in Australia than in, for example, the United States of America, but if the honorable gentleman were to ask me to institute a comparison between the true purchasing power of money here and that in Great Britain and New Zealand, I would not be prepared to answer offhand. He may assume, if he likes, that this is the cheapest country in the world to live in. That does not matter when you are considering the problem that I am dealing with, because the cost of living tends to reflect itself always in the size of incomes, and the point I am getting at is that our rates of income tax are the highest in the world. That is, in Australia, we take a greater proportion of a man’s earnings, whatever those earnings may be able to buy, than other countries take.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways.
– I do not understand chat remark at all. All I am objecting to, as a taxpayer, is that the Government should have it all one way. There should be a little traffic in the other direction. [ intend to make one or two comments beyond that on personal income tax in Australia. The first is that personal income tax should not bear upon the lowest incomes so heavily as to reduce earnings below the proper living standard or to discourage the attainment of high wages for high or good work. I just want to say this as the simplest expression of my own beliefs and the beliefs of my colleagues on these matters. High effective wages and high productive effort are natural allies. They should never be opposed in our consideration of the position of a country. So. much for the lower incomes. Now I turn to what the people describe as the high incomes of the country. Personal income tax should not bear upon the higher incomes so as to discourage the earning of them, and that is a real problem, because the earning of higher incomes in a country like Australia usually results from extra skill or extra effort. I am putting to one side the limited number of cases of people who sit down, so to speak, on inherited wealth. I am not worrying about them, not for a moment. But, broadly speaking, in a country like Australia, where the mass of men start from scratch, the people who earn higher incomes do it by extra skill or extra effort.
– Be careful or you will wake up “ Artie “.
– Do not worry about the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). He is a conspicuous example of the cases I am referring to.
– I am more awake when asleep than the honorable member for Hunter is when he is wide awake.
– The third thing I say is this: We should recognize, apart altogether from consideration of high incomes or lower incomes, that family allowances, medical expenses and like expenses, provision for education and all those things, should be extremely liberal in a country like this, and should take the form of deductions from earnings and not of rebates of tax.
I turn from taxation to say a few words about social security. This budget, when it was announced, was hailed as containing, after a fight in the. caucus, a new principle - the principle of contribution in social services, and there is no doubt that, to an extent, it does. The social services contribution, which is provided for in a bill introduced yesterday and which was described in, the budget speech itself, represents a hesitant step towards a contributory system. The hesitation was, perhaps, produced by the fact that there were colleagues of the Treasurer who said, “ Stand firm ! “ and there were others who said, “ Take a bold step forward ! “ In the result, a compromise was made, and a certain stumbling movement was made forward. Well, to the extent that there is a movement towards a true contributory system of social security, the Opposition welcomes it, because the Opposition stands and will continue to stand for the principle of contribution as the real basis of social security. Although this hesitant step has been taken by the Government, there are two things to be said about it. In the first place, this is certainly not the New Zealand scheme. Some hints were made tn the press at one stage that it was. It is certainly not the New Zealand (Scheme, because the New Zealand scheme is based on a tax of a fixed percentage oi all incomes. This scheme begins with fi fraction of a penny in the fi tax and rises to a maximum of ls. 6d. in the fi tax, so that it is a graded tax within a graded tax, and, therefore, fits snugly, as no doubt the Treasurer observed, into the income tax structure, and lends itself, As no doubt he also observed, to the Annual consideration of those who in their hearts are opposed to contributory insurance. But it is not the New Zealand scheme. In the second place, it is not really a contributory scheme in the true sense of the word, because it does not provide for a direct relation between the contribution and the benefits, so that the benefits are paid as a right in return for contributions and not on the basis of need. The whole problem of social benefits of this kind is this : Are we to have a system based upon justice, which is in turn based upon a social contract, each contributor being himself fi beneficiary, or is it to be based upon the principle of benevolence? We believe that the people of this country will, at long last, demand justice in these matters - a firm basis of insurance and not some system of benevolence.
Once a really contributory system is established so that there is a permanent relation established between contribution and benefit, the means test ceases to have any justification. It will be noticed that the means test is being retained, and why? - because this is not genuinely to be a system of contribution. If this were to be genuinely a system of contribution so that every earner of income became a contributor and the policy was therefore one of insurance paid for by the citizen, the last justification for the means test would disappear. But the means test is the inevitable feature of social security schemes, which place their emphasis upon community assistance and which are not based upon contract. Before the International Labour Office conference in 1944, a document was prepared on the principles and problems of social security, and I should like to read two short passages from it. This document, I may say, was obviously written in a very detached way. lt wa.* purely an objective examination of schemes existing in various countries, for the use of the conference. The first passage reads -
Two countries, New Zealand and Australia, have created or are creating income security schemes which diverge, by their greater emphasis upon social assistance, from the common pattern followed in Europe and in the Americas.
Later, the report stated -
The proposed recommendation of income security relies on social insurance as the principal means. . . . If it is anchored to the contribution-benefit principle, that U because the view is taken that the economic relation between society and the individual must consist in a fair reciprocity of rights and obligations, although one that should be tempered bv other practical and humane considerations.
I shall say a few words about that in s moment. The passage continues -
The adoption of a contributory basis foi the principal form of income security scheme implies no criticism of the value of the noncontributory schemes, such as those of New Zealand and Australia, in which the limitation of a means test may he considered to be compensated for by the advantage of universal coverage and immediate effectiveness. But it is believed that there is only n small minority of countries which would, at this stage at least, be prepared to introduce non-contributory schemes on these lines.
That, I thought, was a very interesting examination of the comparative isolation which is adopted by Australia and New Zealand. In order to avoid that basis of insurance which exists in many other countries, they have committed themselves to the retention of the means test, and by retaining the means test, they have committed themselves to perpetuating what is really a system of public benevolence which cannot be received by a person unless his poverty is ‘ proved. That is inconsistent with the dignity of a democratic citizen. Every person living in a country like Australia should he a contributor to social insurance, and should be a beneficiary as of right, with no means test and no questions asked. The sooner we decide whole-heartedly to adopt the principle of contribution, in which the contribution and benefit are indissolubly linked, the sooner we shall have a permanent, just and solvent scheme of social insurance.
I stated that I would return to a passage in the document prepared for the
International Labour Office. I refer to “the words - a fair reciprocity of rights and obligations, although one that should be tempered by other practical and Immune considerations.
That, of course, is true. Whatever System of contributory insurance may be devised, there will still be some people who, for some reason or other, cannot be contributors. We shall still have a large number of people who, for some reason or other, are not of themselves incomeearners. To all those people who have already accumulated rights - actually accrued rights - to social benefits, we (shall have a responsibility which no one wil] attempt to waive. All those persons must be protected, and the interests of “those people who cannot become effective contributors must also be safeguarded. Therefore, the Treasury will always be required, in any social insurance scheme, to make payments in relation to those people. I am not for one moment so optimistic as to imagine that the whole of this problem can be removed from the budget in any scheme that may be devised.
– The right honorable (gentleman wants it both ways.
– I am only facing facts. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) and I might, by some miracle of the conjunction of the planets, produce to-morrow a social insurance scheme in which contribution was linked with benefit. It might satisfy him, and it might satisfy me, and it might enable .us to abolish the means test, and put the whole scheme on the ordinary basis of contributions. But there would still be thousands of people who could not effectively become contributors and whose benefit must, therefore, be found by the community. That -is why I concur in the remark which I read from the document prepared for the International Labour Office. There are certain humane considerations which -must always be borne in mind, even -though we may be devising the perfect scheme of contributory insurance.
In relation to social security, the House will have abundant opportunity on the bill itself to indicate where it stands, and, therefore, I shall say no more about :it at this stage. But I do believe that honorable members should be given an opportunity to record their votes on the other two issues which I have raised and to which I direct all the emphasis that I can. I refer to the issue of really reducing expenditure, and the issue of giving some taxation relief in Australia. Accordingly, I move -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
This, if carried, will be an instruction to the Government - to withdraw and redraft its budget in order, (a) to eliminate, excessive and wasteful expenditure, ami (6) to provide, in favour of all sections of the people, effective reduction? in taxation, thus encouraging the successful rehabilitation of service men and women and displaced war workers.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) for reasons which should recommend themselves to every honorable member who has at heart the advancement of Australia and the protection of the revenues of the country. The problem before the chamber does not introduce any deep new principle. It really involves the application of principles. After all, the questions which honorable members should ask themselves when analysing the budget are : First, what is the necessary expenditure for the year; and, secondly, how is that expenditure to be financed? My objection to this budget in particular, although I have recorded a similar objection to several previous budgets, is that honorable members are entirely without the information to enable them intelligently to debate whether the budget is sound.
Throughout this war, we have admitted that .three methods may be employed to finance any given expenditure, namely, taxation, loans, and central bank credit. To date, we have used central bank credit; but this budget contemplates that- that practice will cease, because the necessity for it no longer exists. Consequently, honorable members must ask themselves : First, is ho expenditure a proper amount; and, secondly, is the amount of taxation a fair contribution to revenue? Our problem is primarily to restore the national economy as quickly as possible to a peace-time basis. That involves the repatriation and demobilization of over 600,000 service men and women, who are really subtracted at present from the productive power of the community. Obviously, the quicker they return to production the more expeditiously we shall supply the accumulated needs of the civil population. In other words, so long as the service men and women are unnecessarily kept in camps, we are carrying a heavy dead weight, because exhypothesi, there is no task for them to do other than to garrison islands to the north of Australia or form a part of the occupation forces in Japan. The remainder are simply marking time until they are directed back to industry, or given an opportunity to be reabsorbed into civil production.
Of course, we can proceed either too quickly or too slowly in this matter. The danger of proceeding too quickly, and discharging personnel before the economy of the country is in a condition to absorb them, must be guarded against. But we can also make the mistake of proceeding too slowly, so that the flower of the community will be withheld from civil production. That would retard the satisfaction of all the wants and the resolution of all the problems arising from six years of war. It is my conclusion that the Government is making the mistake of proceeding too slowly, as is evidenced by its budget and demobilization proposals. It is proceeding on the basis that we should maintain a war economy for nearly another year. There can be no justification for that policy. As a former Commonwealth Treasurer, I do not believe that public accounts have been scrutinized sufficiently to give a proper picture of Australia’s financial position at this juncture. For months past, the Treasury has been preparing estimates of revenue and expenditure, and the Government has admitted that it did not expect that the war would terminate so abruptly as it did. Therefore, the Government has been faced with the necessity to introduce the budget at a time when it was not prepared to do so. Honorable members are now asked to determine whether or not the Government’s budget proposals are excessive. It is clear to any one with experience of public ‘finance that the
Estimates have not been subjected to a proper scrutiny. What occurred was that the Estimates were prepared on the assumption that the war would continue for some months. Hostilities suddenly ceased, and the treasury officials were told, in a space of three or four weeks, to redraft the Estimates.
– They carved off £100,000,000.
– That is so. It would seem that an instruction was given that a reduction of £100,000,000 must be made and it was made. It is in that atmosphere that we are required to debate the budget. It would be impossible in the space of four weeks to review the Estimates in any proper way, with the object of reducing the figures to a proper peace-time footing. Honorable members of the committee are being treated like Napoleon treated the Chamber of Deputies in 1803, when he left the members to talk and nothing else. We have not the facts at our command on which to base proper criticism. For a long time I have protested in this Parliament against the progressive diminution of parliamentary control of the public purse. At one time the hall-mark of democracy was the control by Parliament of public expenditure, but who can say that we are, to-day, the custodians of the public purse?
– We hold the purse but we do not know what is in it.
– I am seldom given an opportunity even to hold the purse. Neither I nor any other honorable member of this committee is able to check, in any satisfactory way, the figures which appear in the budget. This Government, and also previous governments, have been obliged, during the war period, to incur a huge expenditure, and honorable members have not been provided with any opportunity to supervise the spending. I consider that a statutory authority should be established to scrutinize public expenditure continually, and it should have power to call witnesses and to demand the production of papers in connexion with any investigation on which it may be engaged. Only when the public accounts can be scrutinized in this manner shall we be able to satisfy ourselves of the true position. If honorable members were able to require the production . of information from a statutory committee of that description they could debate budgets intelligently.
It must he obvious to all honorable members that this budget has been hastily compiled and that the Estimates have not been properly reviewed in the light of the new conditions which will follow the return to peace. This democratic Parliament should not be called upon to consider the budget under such unsatisfactory conditions. The most casual examination of the Estimates reveals that a continuation of expenditure at the rates proposed is entirely unjustified. Only two and a half months of this financial year have passed. It is true that financial operations of considerable magnitude will be required during the remaining nine’ and a half months of the financial year, but surely no honorable member will assert that, even so, it would not be possible to make substantia] cuts in the expenditure estimated to be necessary to meet war-time conditions. I shall mention a few items which appear in the Estimates in order to substantiate my point that the Government’s proposals should be examined by a statutory committee such as I have suggested.
I make it clear to honorable members that I am not proposing merely that the Committee of Public Accounts should be re-constituted. I desire to see established a statutory body of members of the Parliament which will have authority to conduct full and unrestricted investigations into public accounts, and I invite the attention of honorable members to Division 113 of the Estimates under the general head of “ Defence and War (1939-45) Services “ which provides for an estimated expenditure by the Department of the Army in this financial year of £20,000.000 on “Camp Expenses, Training and “Maintenance “, although the actual expenditure under this item last year, during twelve months nf war, totalled no more than £25,626,087. The amount proposed to be expended thi.« year under this one item is much in excess of the amount of the tax concessions which are being provided. What justification can be advanced for an expenditure of £20,000,000 for this purpose during this financial year? Every Treasurer who is doing his job, as the present Treasurer is, should have figures at his command to justify such a proposed expenditure. I invite the Treasurer to produce the figures for our investigation. One would have considered that the expenditure for this purpose could have been reduced, in this financial year, by at least 50 per cent. The benefit of such a reduction would have he enjoyed by every section of the community down to the lowest wage earners, for if - this amount were reduced by 50 per cent., the taxpayers could be granted a reduction much greater than is proposed.
I direct the attention of honorable members also to the proposed expenditure of £570,000 under the head of “Inspection Branch “ of the Department of the Army. The amount actually expended last year under war conditions was £1,657,629. It is extraordinary that this item could not have been reduced by more, although, of course, we were reminded by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the manufacture of many items which are no longer required is being continued.
There is neither rhyme nor reason in many of the Estimates which have been placed before us. I am sure that a big fight will be waged in some branches of the services by men who, no doubt, have done their duty to the country during the war, but who will now resist the reduction of their establishments. A very strong stand will have to be taken by Ministers if expenditure is to be reduced as it should be reduced.
I refer now to the Army Inventions Directorate of the Army, the estimated expenditure of which, for this financial year, is £54,000, compared with an actual expenditure of £42,526 last financial year. In the name of high heaven, I ask why should it be necessary to expend more this year than last year under this heading? Surely we might have expected a reduction of this amount. I have no doubt that many men and women who were engaged in this branch of the service will he extremely anxious to get back to their peace-time callings. This estimate alone justifies my request for the establishment of a statutory body to investigate the Government’s proposals. These are but a few items from Army Estimates which total about the same amount as the expenditure for 1944-45. What possible expenditure can support such figures?
I turn now to the Department of Air, for which an expenditure of £950,000 is proposed under the heading “ Civilian Services”. That figure is only £11,120 below the actual expenditure last year. How can that be justified? An amount of £1,000,000 is proposed to be expended on “Buildings, Works, Fittings and Furniture “ for this department. It might have been imagined that the department would have equipment of this kind to burn, yet a new expenditure of £1,000,000 is proposed. An expenditure of £1,750,000 is proposed in the Department of Munitions under the heading “ Administrative “, compared with an actual- expenditure last year of £2,269,000. How can that expenditure be justified? “ Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salaries” in this department are expected to involve payments of £1,250,000, compared with an actual expenditure of £1,707,722 last year. I cannot understand why such an estimate should have been submitted to us, for I do not believe that it can be justified. An expenditure of £250,000 is proposed for salaries and payments in the nature of salary in munitions laboratories, compared with an actual expenditure last year of £262,701. Can that be justified?
Let us look at the estimates for the Department of Aircraft Production which, like all of those to which I have previously referred, appear under the general heading of “ Defence and War (1939-45) Services “. The total estimated expenditure for this department is £4,724,000, compared with an actual expenditure of £1,855.230 last year. That is most extraordinary, and it requires a complete explanation. The proposed expenditure under the heading “ Administrative” for the Department of Supply and Shipping is £1.387,000, compared with an actual expenditure of £1,278,573 last year. Why should the estimated expenditure this year be in excess of the actual expenditure of last year? On the next page of the Estimates an amount of £6,000 is given as the estimated expenditure for salaries and payments in the nature of salaries on the administrative side of the Department of Home Security. I should like to know what work will be done for these salary payments and where it will he done, particularly during the remaining nine and a half months of this financial year. This section of the Estimates also contains the item “ A.R.P. Works at Commonwealth Establishments - Excluding Defence Services and Post Office (Including Demolitions) £10,000 What is the explanation of that figure!! The proposed expenditure for the Department of Supply and Shipping is £8,326,000, compared with an actual expenditure of £8,569,434 last year. How can that estimate be justified?
The fact of the matter is, of course,, that these Estimates have been prepared in a thoroughly unsatisfactory manner. They were originally framed to meet wai> time needs, and it would appear that a more or less general instruction was given that they must be reduced by £100,000,000 to suit peace-time requirements, and such a reduction was made. If honorable gentlemen agree to estimates framed in this way they will encourage the extravagant spending of public money. The whole matter should be investigated under the conditions which I have suggested, and honorable members should not be expected, at this stage and under these conditions, to say “ Yea “ or “Nay” to the Government’s proposals. An examination reveals clearly that the Estimates have been hastily prepared and not fully scrutinized, and that the amount provided for war is far in excess of what should be provided. Unquestionably, given the will, the Estimates could be pruned bv £50,000,000, but certainly by at least £10,000,000 or £15,000,000. By that means, relief could be given to the tax-paying community greatly in excess of what the Government proposes to give. With a fanfare of trumpets, we have been told that income tax is to be reduced by 12£ per cent, from the 1st January next. This -will be equivalent to 6£ per cent, for the full financial year. The benefit of the reduction will not actually be experienced in any real sense until eighteen months after the 1st January next, for the reason that most of the returns in respect of income earned up to the end of June last have been lodged, and they will be used as the basis of provisional assessments for the year which commences on the 1st July next, as well as for the final adjustment for the year just ended. That is the tax benefit which this country is to receive at the end of hostilities, in return for the tremendous burden which all classes have cheerfully borne during six years of war. It can only be described as a miserable solace, which will cut across the Government’s plans to provide full -employment for the community. It is obvious that, from the basic wage-earner mp to the man earning a large income, there is a growing tendency to go slow in -employment. During the war there was the incentive to provide, something for war purposes. In a time of peace, however, high taxation must have a seriously retarding effect on the economy of the country. Expansion of activity is the only answer to the problems by which we are beset. There is no need for haste. The Government should withdraw the budget, first, in order to have the Estimates properly scrutinized, and, secondly, with a view to giving a greater degree of relief to all taxpayers. Why, may I ask, did the Government not state in the budget that there had been a carry-over of £33,000,000 in respect of income tax Assessments not issued for the year ended the 30th June, 1945 ? The Sydney Morning Herald published on Tuesday of this week the original draft of the budget, which pointed out that there had been a carry-over of £33,000,000. That was -excised from the- final document which was placed before this chamber. Was that fair to honorable members? If there was so huge ;i carry over, it was material to our consideration of the financial position. More and more this Parliament is being treated with contempt. The principle upon which the Government acts seems to be “ Tell them little, and let them talk “. I say with some degree of responsibility that a Government which knew there had been a carry-over of £33,000,000, and withheld the knowledge from this Parliament, was guilty of shady tactics because, if there was one vital matter which we had to consider, it was, what was to be the revenue actually received during the year, that being the basis upon which we budget from year to year. I should like to know from the Government and the people are entitled to know whether, as the Sydney Morning Herald stated, there was a draft of the budget which revealed that there had been a carry-over of £33,000,000, representing tax uncollected for the year ended the 30th June, 1945, the great bulk of which will be collected during the present financial year. If that was so, why were we not told about it? “Not only have we no information, apart from general principles, upon which we can discuss this matter, but, in addition, we are kept in ignorance of a factor that is vital to our consideration. I believe that, given an honest and resolute attempt to control those who are in charge of the expenditure, and to reduce the amount, together with a real scrutiny of the accounts, a very substantial reduction of war expenditure could be effected during the current year. Any reduction in excess of £10,000,000, or even £5,000,000, could be utilized to afford relief to all taxpayers throughout the country.
It is obvious, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that the provisions in relation to social services bear little or no resemblance to a contributory scheme, first because they are not based upon benefits being received in accordance with contributions, and secondly because the means test still is to he applied. I speak with special knowledge of the public servants of New South Wales, whom I have advised for a number of years. I know how harshly the application of the means test bears upon them. Year after year, from the time they enter the Public Service, they contribute a certain amount for a given number of units of superannuation, yet upon retirement they are little better off than others who have not made a similar contribution throughout their lives. It is idle to say that every man’ who draws an old-age pension has contributed something to the country by reason of his labours. So have all others, practically without exception, who by reason of the means test are not entitled to tho pension. Public servants are not the only persons upon whom the application of the means test imposes a very harsh burden. All those who would be entitled to receive social benefits under a proper contributory scheme are in the same category. So, I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. I venture to suggest that this country long has been in need of an organization which would scrutinize our accounts from month to month, and enable us to know, when the budget came before us, the precise factors to which we should direct our attention in an intelligent debate. Twelve months ago, I made this suggestion, but so far no action has been taken. lt will not be taken until the Government insists upon it, because the departments do not want their estimates to be scrutinized. Some departmental officers rather object to even the Treasurer wanting to know how their estimates have beenprepared. I can recall one official who said quite definitely, though courteously, that he knew much more about the matter than anybody else, and certainly much more than any Treasurer could know. Inevitably, unless the Government imposes its will, the real finances of this country will be determined, not by this Parliament, but by the officials who run the departments.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) drew our attention to one aspect of budgets which I regard as most important. He mentioned that budgets have a very important influence upon the economy of the community, and stated that one should concentrate one’s attention on them, not alone as appropriations of revenue, but also because of their economic effect. In that conuexion, I direct attention to three statements in the Treasurer’s budget speech under the block heading “Financial and Economic Policy in the Transition “. First, the right honorable gentleman made this observation -
This problem of a high level of private incomes accompanied by a great deficiency of supplies has not disappeared with the cessation of hostilities.
In other words, we are still confronted with a situation in which purchasing power far outstrips the availability of commodities. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
At the present time, aggregate incomes are running in excess of supplies almost as strongly as at any time during the war, and the existence of excess spending power will be a dominant feature of the whole transition period.
Moreover, the current excess of spending power will be reinforced by that which has accumulated during the war. Great quantities of savings awaiting an outlet are now held in very liquid forms-
I interrupt that quotation to direct attention to the very interesting fact that, although a heart-rending picture has been drawn by Opposition members of the staggering burden of taxation which exists in this country, there has been a vast increase of savings bank deposits as well as of the number of depositors, which at least does not argue a suffering community. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that this pent-up purchasing power still exists, and presumably would cause a rush of expenditure for the purchase of consumer goods, or into investment, during this year, were there no controls. Controls will be exerted in two ways - direct control, such as price-fixing, and controls by means of taxation and borrowing, the effect of which is to skim off some of the purchasing power. The budget speech continued - ‘
Great quantities of savings awaiting an outlet are now held in very liquid forms - in notes, inbank deposits, in war savings certificates, and other securities.
It is now possible to utilize more resources for civil production, but reconversion must be a gradual process. A large proportion of Australia’s resources will still be required to maintain supplies to Australian forces of occupation and those in process of demobilization.
I draw particular attention to the statement, “Reconversion must be a gradual process “. There is a tendency on the part of honorable gentlemen opposite to assert that iftaxation, especially on the higher incomes, were lifted, there would be a flow of investment into private industry, which would immediately provide employment and lift the burden that is borne by taxpayers in connexion with the payment of the servicemen. They contend that such a decrease of taxation on the higher incomes is an essential first step in this year’s budget. Everybody would agree that the absence of price fixation while consumer goods are in short supply, together with the absence of other controls, would lead to an instant skyrocketing of prices. What is not so frequently observed is that there is also a shortage of capital goods; that, in fact, much of the money awaiting investment at the present time cannot be invested because of the physical absence of capital goods. There is the problem of getting the machine tools with which to make a change-over from war-time to peace-time production. Every great nation in the world from which we might normally purchase capital goods is itself facing the problem of converting its industries. Therefore, the only effect of a sudden reduction of taxation and of governmental expenditure would be a sharp increase of prices of capital goods, resulting in over-capitalization of industry. This, in later years, would cause dislocation because of the high initial cost.
I commend the budget for a number of reasons. In the first place, it recognizes a fundamental problem of the immediate post-war period - namely, that there is . an enormous excess of purchasing power and of capacity to invest, together with a shortage of consumer goods and of capital goods. By raising a new loan the Government is postponing investment, and will thus prevent the development of an inflationary crisis of the first magnitude. Such a crisis would inevitably develop if the Government were to accept irresponsible suggestions for a sharp decrease of taxation at the present time. Members of the Opposition have the immense advantage of being able to suggest that there is something furtive in the Government’s budget proposals, that something not quite right is going on. They have taken advantage of their position to say that there will probably be a substantial surplus at the end of this financial year. The Leader of the Opposition said that every one knows in his heart that this will be so. I am not sure that even if this turns out to be true, it should he regarded as a fault in the budget. In view of the existing shortage of capital goods and consumer goods, the postponement of expenditure until there are opportunities for investment, and until we have overtaken’ shortages ought to be regarded as a virtue in the budget. In this regard, I draw attention to a significant statement of M. S. Eccles, chairman of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, an organization which plans federal revenue expenditure in the United States of
America. This is what he said -
Just as an excess of federal expenditures over tax collections tends to increase incomes, enables banks to expand their investments, and, insofar as it results in the creation of new deposits, produces new buying power, so contrariwise, an excess of tax collections over expenditure tends to restrain the growth of spending and to offset the expansion of private bank credit.
The present budget provides for an excess of tax collections over expenditure, and will prevent the expansion of private bank credit. That is all to the good. In every part of the budget there is evident a concern to hold back investment and expenditure at the present time, and to liberate expenditure at a time when it can offset any incipient tendency for a slump to develop. No slump is likely at the present time when there is so much capital awaiting investment, and so much purchasing power in the hands of the people. In the years to come spending power will be increased by the payment of war gratuities, and afterwards there might be a danger that a slump would develop. We ought not to forget that in Great Britain slump conditions developed very rapidly after the last war - as early as 1921. There was a sudden cessation of governmental expenditure, and an enormous rush of private investment. First there was a boom, and very soon after that there was a slump, so that unemployment, which was 128,000 in 1919, rose to nearly 2,000,000 in 192.1. This was the result of an unregulated private economy in which there was a rush to invest as soon as the Government ceased to be the chief financial agent. This produced the boom which was followed so rapidly by the slump. The present budget is an admirable example of the scientific tapering off of inflationary tendencies inevitably set up during the war.
Honorable members opposite have a function to oppose government proposals, and no one expects them to do otherwise. However, when they compare expenditure by government departments in 1939 with expenditure at the present time, they should acknowledge that the purchasing power of money has declined considerably in the meantime. During the Fremantle by-election, Opposition speakers pointed out that a house which cost £600 before the war now cost about £1,000, and they attributed this to inefficiency on the part of the Commonwealth Government. They did not point out, however, that the purchasing power of the fi had declined during the same period from 20s. to 12s. 6d. It is true that price fixation and the imposition of other controls arrested the inflationary tendency in Australia more successfully than in other countries, but the purchasing power of money has, nevertheless, declined, a fact which should not be overlooked.
I welcome the increase of the vote for the Department of Immigration. In 1944-45, the department expended £36,550, hut the estimate for the current financial year is £216,000. In particular, I draw attention to the item of £65,000 for the promotion of child Migration, and £50,000 for British migration other than child migration. The subject of child migration is of great interest to me. I was a member of the executive of the Western Australian State Schoolteachers Union, and we were very interested in the smallscale experiment in child migration represented by the Fairbridge Farm School, which is justly famous. I should like to see the scheme expanded, and many more British children brought to Australia. However, there were certain weaknesses associated with the scheme. For instance, there was a tendency to assume that all the children should go on the land, and this has led to trouble. I hope that the Government, in planning its immigration policy, will provide educational facilities to enable British child migrants to be trained in careers of their own choosing, whether technical, professional or agricultural. I hope that it will provide vocational guidance so that the children may be fitted into the economic life of the community in the occupations which suit them best. The idea that all child migrants should go on the land is obsolete, and I hope that the Government will take that fact into consideration.
I have no doubt, that when the Government’s immigration scheme is fully under way, the vote of £50,000 for the immigration of persons other than children will be greatly increased. Recently, I was privileged to be on board H.M. Aircraft Carrier Implacable, where
I had a conversation with an immigration officer. He told me that many British servicemen had expressed a desire to settle in Australia, preferring thi* country to New Zealand or Canada, which they seemed to regard as the other fields open to them. They had 3een Australia and were attracted by itr and had been impressed by the hospitality of the people. I suggest that the Department of Immigration should immediately concentrate upon supplying information to prospective British migrants who might be interested in entering primary or secondary industries, and that it should, in particular, make such information available now to British service centres in this country. Secondly, I should like to see British exservicemen who do immigrate given all the advantages and privileges conferred by this Parliament on Australian exservicemen. That would be an act of grace and a gesture of welcome that would attract more British migrants to this country. In the United Kingdom, Australian ex-prisoners of war are given facilities at universities and technical schools. We should reciprocate by extending to British ex-servicemen, who migrate to this country, the facilities of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme.. Their services have had as much to dowith the maintenance of the liberty of this country as have the services of our own forces, and I can see no ground for differentiating against them should they desire to settle here.
At the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr.. Dedman) told the Premiers that the Commonwealth Government’s intervention in the field of education this financial year would cost £5,000,000. That is the first substantial item of federal aid to education. I am. disappointed that the aid does not extend’ to primary and secondary education, thebulk of the education of this country. It is concentrated on technical and university education with the idea of expanding universities and technical schools for the purpose of absorbing returning servicemen. Under the Commonwealthreconstruction framing scheme, the-
Commonwealth Government, I am also glad to observe, has set up an Office of Education. It will have more than just a temporary significance as it is proposed that much of the expenditure shall be on universities and technical schools. I hope that this action of the Commonwealth Government is the precursor of a policy of federal aid to education. As a representative of Western Australia, 1 should like to draw the attention of the committee to the particular burdens that that State has in trying to provide education to the community on other than a university or technical school level. Though it is the poorest State, it spent before the war the second highest amount per capita of all the States. New South Wales spent £1 19s. 5d. a head on education and Western Australia £1 18s. 10d., far more than the wealthier State of Victoria. But the return was not commensurate with the outlay because of the scattered nature of the population. There were more than 700 one-teacher schools with anything from ten to fifteen pupils. A salary of £300 paid to the teacher of fifteen children makes the cost of educating them £20 a head. In a more concentrated population where the schools are larger the per capita cost is not so great. The only solution of that problem, which is one that I hope the Commonwealth Government will take into consideration, is the system of a weighted grant that operates in South Africa. Provinces with a scattered population and an especially difficult problem of education receive grants that vary according to the density of the population, and they are thus enabled to distribute the burden of education.
– The Tas.manian Government got over that difficulty very well.
– The Tasmanian Government is able to concentrate on area schools for a. particular reason that does not exist in Western Australia. The area schools are not the solution of Western Australia’s problem. In an area school in. Tasmania, the authorities are able to carry out a diversity of instruction that gives the children a real range of interesting occupations. That does not apply to the wheat belt of Western Australia where children would have to bo transported for much greater distances than in Tasmania and where diverse curriculum could not be provided. The area school is a solution of the problem of rural education only in the extreme south-west of Western Australia, and small children cannot be transported the great distances that would be necessary in other parts of that State. Tasmania has not that problem.
I hope the points that I have made about education and immigration will be heeded by the Government. They are fundamental problems, in this community. In Great Britain it has been recognized that a vast expansion of educational services, particularly technical educational services, to local authorities by the central government is one way of restoring British industry to its former pre-eminence. The Government realizes that British industry has fallen back in comparison with the industry of the United States of America, and as the result a “ total offensive “ in education is being launched. I welcome the first steps in the field of education that the Commonwealth Government has taken. I realize that the rejection of the Premiers’ plea that £10,000,000 should be given to the States almost unconditionally has given honorable members opposite a stick with which to beat the Government periodically, but I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that the projected expenditure by the Commonwealth Government on education is a record expenditure in that field. When honorable members opposite occupied the treasury bench Commonwealth policy in regard to education was not distinguished by such intervention in the field of education as is provided for in the proposed expenditure of £5,000,000.
I believe that this budget will counter inflationary tendencies. With its policy of war gratuities and of accumulating surpluses, the Commonwealth Government is damming up spending power at present with the idea of injecting it into the community when a slump is likely to set in. The Commonwealth Government is not using its power over bank credit to accentuate the inflationary tendency that exists markedly in the community. We should not forget the great increase of savings bank deposits, which does not argue very much for the case of the Opposition for greater reduc- tion of taxation. The Treasurer is to be congratulated on his budget, and therefore this committee has no reason to agree to the token amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
– Some people are born under most unlucky stars, and I think that applies to the present Government. When members of the Labour party took office, almost four years ago, they inherited a first-class war. They had a munitions programme, an army, a navy and an air force already developed to a fairly great extent. It is true that shortly after they took office they got the shock of their dear, sweet lives when the Japanese came into the war. That took a little getting over, but they got used to it, and, for nearly four years, they were in the happy position of being able to get up every morning knowing that they had the world’s greatest war on their hands and, for some time, the Parliament’s greatest and most docile majority. Then things began to change. The year 1944 seemed to he most fortunate for the Government, although it was a most unfortunate year for the country as regards production. Problems were mounting up. It seemed apparent to any one who cared to think that the greatest of wars would last beyond the next general elections, when the Labour Government would go to the people with laurels and garlands of the freshest of flowers around its neck. But 1945 brought slight changes. The Germans caved in and then, to the horror and dismay of the Government, so did the Japanese. So we found the recently “born Chifley Government, in its youthful innocence, suddenly faced with the position that it did not have a war on its hands, but did have a budget in its pocket. No doubt statements - I will not say facts - had been disclosed to some of our friends in the caucus room where they meet nearly every Thursday when the House is meeting. The trouble is that the Government finds itself no more prepared for the problems of peace than it was prepared to deal with the problems of war when it took over - not a bit more!
– The honorable member would know.
– I do know. Honorable gentlemen opposite know that for years I sat in the cross benches with a group that was continually demanding a more vigorous defence policy than the Government that we supported was prepared to put into effect. You, Mr. Chairman, will remember, because you took part in debates and actually voted on occasions to reduce the Estimates as a protest against the money that the Government proposed to expend on defence, that that actually took place. So, when honorable gentlemen opposite tali in my presence about lack of defence, it is a wonder that the words they utter do not blast their tongues. That must be the view of every honorable gentleman who has sat in this chamber while I have been here and listened to debates such as we have listened to in the last ten or eleven years, or, at any rate, for a few years before the war broke out.
– The honorable member did not even want aeroplanes.
– That is a statement that only Ananias would appreciate. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), who is usually one of the decent men in this chamber-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order ! I ask the honorable member to disregard interjectors.
– In the budget debate I can speak on every subject on the earth, in the heaven, or in the regions below. If the honorable member will read the speeches which I delivered before the outbreak of war in 1939, in which I referred to the part that aircraft would play in the conflict, he will discover that I have been badly misquoted. Before he utters what, after all, was a deliberate falsehood on the part of some person, he should peruse my remarks.
The Government is wholly unprepared to deal with the problem of restoring the country to its normal peace-time economy. If any honorable member requires verification of that statement, he need not go beyond the present budget. This document, no doubt, was prepared not long ago for eventualities that did not arise. The old saying, “ the cards will beat the maker “ was never better demonstrated than in this budget. The paci had to be reshuffled. The joker was no longer of any value, and had to be omitted from the pack. Bridge, not euchre, was being played. The Government was compelled to do some furious figuring, and probably a little justifiable juggling, in order to make it appear that people would accept the document.
If I were to attempt to criticize all the shortcomings of the budget, I would still be speaking on the subject at the end of the month. Therefore, I shall select only a few points. In this financial year, only one department has estimated a reduction of expenditure. Is not that amazing, when the nation will not be at war for the greater part of the year? The Australian Country party will find it significant that the only department which expects a reduction of expenditure is the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. A strange thing! On the other hand, the Department of Information, which is regarded as a war department, will expend £50,000 more in this financial year than it did in the last financial year. That is one of the mysteries which the Government should explain to honorable members. The Rationing Commission is another war-time department which anticipates a heavy increase of expenditure during the current financial year. I thought that the natural result of entering into even the transition period from war to peace would be a reasonable reduction of the cost of the Rationing Commission. Instead of that, its expenditure will be increased this year. I believed also that honorable members could look forward to the removal of a number of economic controls. In fact, no sooner had the Japanese Government decided to “ throw in the towel “ than Cabinet, with a great deal of show and noise, and the spilling of a lot of ink, announced to the world that 37 controls had been removed. But that is hardly borne out by the budget figures, because the Treasurer says that during this financial year the Prices Commissioner will have more work to do than ever before, and requires more temporary staff at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds in excess of his expenditure under war-time conditions. Honorable members should inquire into these matters, but I have a strong suspicion that they will not. Perhaps in the early hours of the morning, when the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr.
Pollard) is thinking of cow bells, the Estimates will pass in one fell swoop, without a close investigation of the reasons why the expenditure of these departments will be greater this year than last year.
– The honorable member is basing his remarks on what happened when he was a Minister.
– I derive a good deal of amusement from the Minister for “Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini). Let me tell him that the last budget before the outbreak of war in September, 1939, was introduced bythe Government, of which I was a member, andthe total expenditure, defence as well as civil, was about £100,000,000. But. the budget now under consideration provides for a civil expenditure of” £132,000,000. No honorable memberopposite has yet essayed to explain the reasons for this enormous increase. These matters require close investigation.
Under present conditions, oneis entitled to expect the abolition of certain, war-time departments, but they are tobe retained and their expenditure will be even greater this year than it was last year. For example, the Division of Import Procurement was established asa purely war-time organization, and ithas had a more malevolent effect upon the economic activities and structure of Australia than has any other department. Yet the Division of ImportProcurement will require nearly as much money in this financial year as it did in the last financial year. I was one of those perhaps unreasoning optimists who thoughtthat organizations like the Division of Import Procurement and the Department of Information had outlived their usefulness by now, and that at long last even this Government would have to admit that they were of no value to the community. They certainly had no beneficial effect on the conduct of the war, and will most likely have a definitely evil effect on government in time of peace. The fact; that the Division of Import Procurement is to remain in existence, and its expenditure this year will be greater than it was last year, postulates that this organization’s activities will increase, and that it will pry into, and fool around in, even more spheres than those in which it intruded in war-time. It is amazing! Only yesterday, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) announced that at midnight to-night the censorship of the press and broadcasting in Australia would cease. At the time these budget figures were revised, the Minister must have known that censorship would be abolished ; but if he did, that knowledge is not reflected in the estimated expenditure of his department.
Expenditure and income are closely related. Honorable members opposite would almost certainly contend that the more money the Government expends the more prosperous the community will be. Under present conditions, I would, not be surprised if they convinced many people with that argument; but the time will come when the people will take the view which is held by the Opposition, namely, the more money that the Government leaves in the pockets’ of the taxpayers the better for the community. No doubt the Government and the Opposition will fight out that issue in the electorate next year. The income which the Government will derive can be obtained from only two sources. If honorable members will examine the budget figures, they will find that a third source is mentioned, and I propose to deal with it later. However, the first source, naturally, is taxation, and not many of us pay taxes with much enthusiasm unless we happen to be members of the parliamentary Labour party. The second source - loans - is by no means inexhaustible.- The third source is treasury-bills or internal bills, whatever they may mean. I do not know what the distinction is between them, but, at any rate, they have reached a very substantial figure. On my calculations, short-term debts including bank bills and internal bills, total £50S,000,000. The rate of interest paid on that money is 1 per cent. Interest payable on the public debt at the 30th June last - it is even greater to-day - was no less than £76,000,000, and that figure does not take into consideration sinking fund payments, or the fact that exchange had to ‘be paid on that portion of the interest due in New York, amounting to £1,500,000, and in London, amounting to £4,500,000. That brings the interest
Ifr. Archie Cameron. burden on the Commonwealth public debt at the 30th June last to £81,000,000. This total does not appear in the budget. Our interest obligations are set out in bits and pieces, and one has to find the bits here and there, and piece them together in order to get the true pattern.
At some time in the future, the Government of the day - perhaps not the present Government - will have to meet in some form or other the problem of funding this amount of £50S,000,000 of short-term bank bills and internal bills at an interest rate of 1 per cent. The lowest figure at which the Government can borrow short-term money on the open market to-day is 2 per cent. If the Government requires that money on long-term, it must offer 3£ per cent. I have a strong suspicion that as peace-time conditions return it will dawn upon the Treasurer’s mind that long-term borrowing will bc more profitable politically to the Government, than short-term borrowing. The rate of interest which the Government will have to pay on this amount of £508,000,000 will be at least 3 per cent., and the additional interest involved will be more than £10,000,000 a year. Therefore, the dead weight of the annual commitments of the Australian taxpayer for the national debt to the 30th June last - and this includes State debts for which the Commonwealth is liable under the Financial Agreement - will be not less than £91,000,000 per annum. Next March or April, the Government will doubtless float another loan. The Easter offerings will have to be made. Just prior to the election next year, in order to prove the financial stability of the country and the financial reputation of th(Government, yet another loan will bt floated. I forecast that that loan will bt announced in September, 1946, and that the elections will be held immediately afterwards. By the time the elections are held, the dead weight of interest payments on Commonwealth and State debts will be about £100,000,000 a year. That figure does not take into account sinking fund payments which, under the Financial Agreement, must be made by thiCommonwealth in respect of Commonwealth and State debts.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The amazing lack of contrast between peacetime and war-time expenditure as revealed in this budget deserves some attention from the committee. I am happy that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is in the chamber at the moment. Before the suspension of the sitting the Minister assisting him (Mr. Lazzarini) was at the table. I consider that honorable members are entitled to the presence of a senior Minister in the chamber when Government activities and policies are under discussion - I would not say under criticism, because the Opposition would not engage in criticism ! I invite honorable members to consider the amount proposed to be expended on the services under peace-time conditions compared with the amounts expended during the war. The Department of the Navy touched its highest point of expenditure in 1942-43 when the total reached £39,000,000. The estimated expenditure for the current financial year is £31,815,000. The amount expended last year was £38,173,835. The position of the Department of the Army is still more surprising. Its expenditure reached about £297,000,000 at its peak. Last year the amount expended was £173,618,116. The estimate for this year is £174,757,000. I have been told, though I have no authority for the statement, that the figures are high this year because some allowance has been made for deferred pay in respect of discharged troops. If this is so it might be expected that a similar obligation would rest upon the Navy and the Air Force, but the Estimates, so far as I can see, do not disclose any such situation. The proposed expenditure for the Department of . Air is £86,208,000. The actual expenditure last year was £119,929,146, which is approaching £34,000,000 more than is being provided for this year. Why is not a similar reduction shown in respect of the Navy and the Army? Another astounding set of figures confronts us in respect of the Department of Munitions. Last year the expenditure was £9,965,937. The estimate for this year is £7,432,000. The annual expenditure of this department, at its peak, was more than £28,000,000. The figures in relation to the Department of Aircraft Production are also astonishing. The actual expenditure last year was £1,855,230. The estimated expenditure for this year is £4,724,000, showing an increase of £2,S68,770. I did not consider, even in the dark days of the war, that a separate department should have been established for aircraft production.
– Did not the honorable gentleman believe in aircraft?
– The honorable member for Griffith should grow up. The highest point reached in expenditure by the Department of Aircraft Production was a little under £3,000,000. The committee is therefore entitled to detailed information in justification of the heavy increase that is shown this year. Under the heading “Miscellaneous Credits” there is shown “credit, £20,000,000” and there is another line lower down in the table which reads, “ Other administrations - recoverable expenditure - £20,000,000 “. I should -like to know what those figures really mean. On another page of the Estimates an expenditure of £28,162 is shown for maternity allowance payments, and there is an explanatory note that these are in respect of births prior to the 1st July, 1943. It would appear, therefore, that the Treasurer went out of his way to explain a relatively small item of this description although no information whatever is given concerning two items of £20,000,000 to which I have referred. This situation gives me furiously to think; I wonder whether, after all, this budget was not prepared in a slap-dash fashion by the Government in an attempt to meet a state of affairs which it did not foresee. I have only quoted from one or two pages of the Estimates but, from my study of the document, I consider I have given an f.a.q. sample of the figures. I have read the budget document through, and have made pencilled notes against various items on which, if the spirit moves me, I shall ask some questions at a later stage. However, what I have said has drawn attention to the shortcomings of the budget.
It will be proper for me at this stage to make some observations about taxation. I do not know whether the Treasurer is aware of the manner in which the present system of pay-as-you-earn taxation is affecting the man on the lower rungs of the income ladder. I did not agree with the introduction of the payasyouearn system, and if honorable gentlemen opposite who sometimes study the records of this Parliament care to do so in this connexion, they will find that I voted as I spoke on this subject.
– The honorable member wants the pay-as-you-like system.
– Not at all. Under the present system of deductions of tax from salaries and wages certain individuals are required to contribute weekly and fortnightly, and certain other people contribute quarterly. Salary and wage-earners have paid their taxation up to date at the 30th June, 1945. After the 30th June they are obliged to submit an income tax return, but they will not get a settlement in respect of that return until April of next year. By that time they will not only have paid their taxation for twelve months to the Treasurer who will hold the money free of interest, but they will actually have paid 21 months of taxes.
– The honorable member has been listening to the honorable member for Warringah.
– I was not, although I was in the chamber while he was speaking. Under the best of conditions, the Treasurer will have the benefit of nine months of tax payments under the pay-as-you-earn system, and under the worse conditions for the taxpayer he will hold taxes covering a period of 21 months, and the money will be absolutely irrecoverable as far as the taxpayer is concerned. That is, of course, unless the Taxation Department breaks out in an entirely new place and issues an assessment to every taxpayer every year. I am informed by certain people with whom I associate at times that some taxpayers have not received a taxation assessment for more than two years. It would be a good thing if the law were amended to provide that the Commissioner must render an assessment every year to every taxpayer who furnishes a return every year. As things are, it would appear that the Commissioner does not issue an assessment to every taxpayer every year. Certain individuals who may be considered “ good marks “ are apparently not worried by an assessment every year. It would seem that the amounts for which they are liable are put into “kitty”, an expression which is applied to certain card games which I sometimes watch but never play. Under these circumstances if the Treasurer gets “ up against it “ at some time he can resort to this nest egg. I do not consider that that is sound financial practice. The Government’s accounts on both the credit and debit side should be clearly disclosed to the Parliament every year in the budget statement. There should be absolutely no concealment, and absolutely no sins of financial omission or commission on the part of the government of the day.
I wish now to make some observations on social services. I admit frankly that I did not think it was possible for the Curtin Government, even if it were able “ to get away with it “, to meet heavy war expenditure and at the same time to put into operation a very expensive social services programme, but I underestimated the financial ingenuity of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) who now also occupies the office of Prime Minister. From now on I am prepared to admit that the right honorable gentleman may find a way to do anything that he undertakes to do, or that his party wishes him to do in the financial field.
– The trouble with the honorable gentleman is that he did things that his party did not want him to do.
– I am obliged to the Minister for his interjection, for it brings me back to earth, even if he himself does not want to come to earth. For some years after I became a member of this Parliament in 1934, I frequently’ heard honorable members opposite, who were then sitting on this side of the chamber, including the Minister for Works and Housing, talk about the means test in relation to social services. I remember the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) telling me on one occasion that an honorable senator from Western Australia who has since been gathered to his fathers was in the habit of saying “ Let us go ahead regardless of everything, with no questions asked “, or words to that effect. But sooner or later this Government will have to consider this matter, for it will he compelled to realize that it cannot divide the community into two classes as to benefits, making, in effect, fish of one and flesh of another. The system that- is being introduced will not be the one that will ultimately operate in this country. Honorable gentlemen may have to study the policy of the late President of the United .States of America, Mr. Roosevelt, who brought his country into the war progressively, step by step. I do not intend at this stage to refer to those steps. It may be that the leader of the Government has decided, with his usual ingenuity, to take caucus to a commonsense goal step by step. In due course we may find the right honorable gentleman submitting to the Parliament, if he remains in office long enough, a social services tax fashioned on the lines of that which operates in New Zealand. At any rate, as they say in certain quarters, “ here’s hoping “.
The next matter to which I shall refer relates to subsidies, and it is dealt with in statements Nos. 7 and 8 which accompanied the budget speech. Statement No. 1 gives details of price stabilization subsidies covering potatoes, tea, whole milk, recoup of basic wage adjustment, and other items. The “ other items “, incidentally, account for a total of £3,599,803. I consider that the committee is entitled to details in respect of that huge amount. No private trader would be able to deal with his customers in the manner in which this Government is dealing with the taxpayers of this country. Statement No. 8 relates to assistance to primary production. It discloses that last year assistance to the dairying industry totalled £5,152,000. The estimated expenditure under that heading for this year is £5,250,000. If I remember rightly, it was estimated that last year’s expenditure would be £7,500,000. I hope that the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) will give us some details in this connexion at a later stage. If he does not do so, perhaps the honorable gentleman assisting him (Mr. Pollard), who has just returned from the United States of America, may feel disposed to do so.
Other items that are referred to in that statement relate to the apple and pear industry, wheat acreage restriction in Western Australia, the superphosphate subsidy, assistance to stock feeders, jute products, nitrogenous fertilizers and field peas. The total amount involved in these subsidies was £14,280,284. Taking tables 7 and 8 together, we find that more than £25,000,000 will have to be found by the taxpayers of Australia for subsidies in one form or another during the current financial year. I refer to this matter only because, sooner or later, there must be an attempt to return to economic sanity. I do nol expect the Government to be able to make that return within the current financial year. There must be a sincere endeavour by some government to propound a sound economic policy in the matter of industrial relationships in this country, by which I mean the relations that exist between the Government and industry, in general and in particular, and between industry and industry. No government can continue to carry on indefinitely under a system such as that which- forms the basis of. the economics of supply in Australia to-day. Doubtless the important consideration before the Government is the reconversion of the Australian economic fabric to peace-time uses. I believe that the law of supply and demand will again intrude. I know that many of my friends opposite consider that to be completely out of date. Within the last week or so. the facts have been referred to in this chamber without their significance being understood. Mention has been made of the heavy increase of bank and savings bank deposits. The real reason for that increase is that many people are not able to convert the currency they are receiving into the consumable goods and the services that they need. A return to a state of production which will increase the availability of goods and services to the community will inevitably have the effect of reducing the amount of currency devoted to bank and savings bank deposits. Costs and prices in industry generally will have an important bearing. There can be no escape from the fact that costs of production have increased during the war, perhaps largely as a result of war-time conditions, notwithstanding the herculean efforts of the Prices Commissioner and other people to keep them down. These matters have to be considered in the light of their effect on the post-war economy of Australia. Two things will have to be considered: first, the effect on the internal economic structure of the Commonwealth; and secondly, how will that affect the export economy and the relationships of the Commonwealth with its pre-war customers, or such customers as it may be able to secure for its exports after the war. On that, I digress to remark to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that this budget, which purports to deal with the whole of the economic structure of the Commonwealth for the current financial year, has not been preceded by any public statement of note which would give to the Opposition a bearing on what is the considered policy of the Government in regard to certain important post-war problems. The first of these, of course, must be the external affairs policy of the Government. We have heard a few statements from the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), and as they have not been qualified by anybody senior to, or more vocal than, that right honorable gentleman we may presume that, at any rate for the time being, they represent some approach to a foreign policy. The next matter that requires elucidation is the peace-time defence policy of the Government. The cost of that defence policy, the nature of it, and the type of commitments into which the Commonwealth will have to enter as a result of its international obligations, will have a very important bearing on the internal economic set-up of this country. On that important subject, too, we are in the dark.
We have been given a little information in respect of migration, but not the slightest inkling as to what the Government proposes to do in the matter of trade relations with other countries in the post-war world. The economic stability of the Commonwealth in the past has depended upon its exports. The Prime Minister may say that during the last few days the Government has produced a long-range plan in regard to wool. That is true. But there are many other industries which have not yet been mentioned. Still more important at the moment is the absence of any ministerial statement as to what is considered to be the future of secondary industry in this country. During the war, and because of the pressure of war, very great developments have been made in secondary industries. The degree to which secondary production has carried on, and its ability to supply the Australian market, will have a very vital bearing on the export problem of Australian primary industries after the war. Up to date, the Opposition has not been informed on that point. Arising out of costs and prices, is the value of money. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out very clearly that the value of money had steadily dwindled during the war. I repeat what he said - what was worth fi in 1938 is worth only about 12s. 6d. now. In other words, the purchasing power of the Australian £1 has been depreciated by more than onethird. If that is to be a permanent peace-time level for the Australian £1, then it is of the utmost importance that the people of this country should be so advised. If the value of £1 is to sink lower, it is still more important that they should know that. If the financial policy which the Government proposes to pursue is one under which the purchasing power of the Australian £1 is to rise above its present level, it is important that the people should be told what that policy is. On all these matters, we are most uninformed. I remind the Ministry of a fact to which I have referred in previous speeches, namely, the tremendous arrears that exist in Australia to-day in respect of repairs, replacements and additions. One of the activities in which the effect of long neglect stands out very prominently is the transport industry, particularly the railways. In that respect, we have a very big problem in front of us.
I have heard very little from the Government on the subject of post-war prospects. I do not know whether honorable members are aware of the change which I believe has taken place in the outlook of the Australian people during the last five or six years. As a result of war activities, we have witnessed one of the greatest upsurges of mechanical development which, I suppose, the world has ever known. The generation which has seen so much of mechanized warfare on the one hand and of mechanized production on the other hand, will have a very much greater appreciation of what mechanization means to a community than could have been had by any of us who were young men after the termination of the first war against Germany. That must have an effect. If the Parliament of this country is not disposed to prepare plans to do in conjunction with the States all those things that are necessary-
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. White) negatived -
That the honorable member for Barker be granted an extension of time.
.- We are accustomed to hear in this chamber imaginative flights of oratory from the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), but none has been more fanciful than that which we heard from him this afternoon. What did he say? First, he complained that war expenditure amounting to £207,000,000 is to be met from revenue this year, compared with £193,000,000 last year. The gentleman who made that complaint is the very man who, two or three years ago, publicly made it known that the Government would bankrupt the country if it could not bridge the gap which then appeared in the budget. It may not be known to our friends opposite, but it is the policy of the Australian Labour party to pay for the war out of revenue, as far as possible. All honorable members will appreciate the soundness of that desire. While the right honorable gentleman was speaking, I asked him what amount of the budget finance was being funded from loan, and he replied that this year £152,000,000 was to be provided by way of loan, compared with £267,000,000 last year. If the Government were obliged to raise an additional £100,000,000 by way of loan this year, and rebate revenue by giving tax reductions, in the budget for next year and each succeeding year provision would have to be made for interest amounting to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. The right honorable gentleman not only complained about a matter in regard to which his culpability is the greatest, but also proceeded to cast a doubt and, I suggest, to mislead the committee, by saying that some of the money for which provision is made in this budget was to enable manufacturers to supply goods which could be sold by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. The right honorable gentleman asked me whether I doubted the correctness of that statement. One cannot doubt a thing of which one has no knowledge. In search’ of knowledge upon which I could form an opinion, I asked the right honorable gentleman, for a specific instance, but none was forthcoming. So I say that in that regard the right honorable gentleman was as far from the truth as he usually is.
As I have already stated, the reason for the payment of war expenditure out of revenue, as far as possible, isto avoid burdening posterity with a much larger interest account by keeping loans down to a minimum. If complaint lies against the incidence of taxation in this budget, it should be made by the workers, and not by those persons for whom the right honorable gentleman was endeavouring to secure further concessions. Once the Treasurer decided that an average reduction of 121/2 per cent, would be made it should have allowed a reduction of 20 per cent, to those in the lowest income groups, and one of only 5 per cent, to those in the higher income groups. One of the cardinal points of Labour policy in regard to taxation is that the important consideration is not how much you take from a man by way of tax, but how much you leave to him. If you take £1 from a man who earns only £6 a week it is a much more serious thing than if you take £4,000 from the man with an income of £5,000 because in that case you still leave him with £1,000. The Leader of the Opposition said that speedy demobilization of the forces was necessary, and that speed was not possible under the points system. The subject of demobilization was debated in this House yesterday, but it is notable that the right honorable gentleman did not then speak on it.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr.Riordan).The honorable member is now reviving a debate which was concluded last night.
– The points system is only a part of the Government’s demobilization plan. In addition, men will be released on occupational grounds and for health reasons.
– Order ! The honorable member may not revive a previous debate.
– I rise to a point of order. I understood that it was a recognized principle that, in a budget debate, honorable members were allowed to speak on any subject, irrespective of “whether or not it had been previously debated in the same session. Since honorable members have prepared their speeches on this assumption, it would be a great inconvenience to them if your ruling were insisted upon.
– It is the practice of the House that an honorable member may not anticipate the debate on a subject, and may not revive a debate which has already concluded. Last evening, there was before the House a motion dealing with the demobilization of the forces, and that matter was decided by the House. Therefore, it is not competent for any honorable member to revive the debate now.
– Does your ruling mean that if, before the introduction of the budget, a paper dealing with a specific subject is introduced and debated, that subject may not subsequently be discussed in the course of the budget debate or in the discussion of the Estimates? If so, it is a most extraordinary ruling.
– I have given my ruling. An honorable member may make only a passing reference to a subject which has been already debated during the current session.
– I rise to a point of order. There is before the Chair an amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referring to the need to withdraw the budget and to recast it so as to facilitate the absorption into civil life of men demobilized from the forces. In the Estimates, under the heading of the Army, provision is made for the appropriation of £120,000,000- which is a fair slice of the present budget - for pay, and allowances in the nature of pay, to members of the forces until they are demobilized. Therefore, the matter of demobilization, although it has already been discussed, is still inherent in the question whether or not the committee should agree to the vote of £120,000,000 for pay, and allowances in the nature of pay, to the members of the forces. On both of those grounds, 1 submit that your ruling is wrong.
– The honorable member has raised a point of order in regard to certain proposed expenditure provided for in the budget. I have already ruled regarding debate on the subject of demobilization. An honorable member may not make more than a passing reference to the subject. He may not debate it at length, since the House took action regarding it last night.
– I submit that there is nothing in the Standing Orders which authorizes the Chair to direct that only passing reference may be made to a subject. The Standing Orders make it clear that a subject is open to debate or is noi open to debate. There is nothing in theStanding Orders which limits discussion to a passing reference. You have ruled that- the matter of demobilization wa = decided yesterday. I submit that nothing in connexion with demobilization was decided yesterday. The question before the House yesterday was that a certain paper be printed, and it was on thai motion that the House voted. A decision as to whether or not a paper should bp printed was not a decision on the subject of demobilization. I support the pointaken by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that it is impossible to debate intelligently proposals for the voting of funds, and the manner in which those funds should be expended, if the burning subject of demobilization of the forces is excluded from debate.
– It is true thai the Standing Orders do not provide tha; only a passing reference may be made to a subject, but the proceedings of Parliament are governed by established practice as well as by the Standing Orders. From time to time it has been ruled that, in certain circumstances, a passing reference only may be made to a subject. On the question itself, I have already given my ruling, and I will not allow the ruling to be debated.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) proposed -
That the ruling he dissented from.
– Mr. Chairman–
– I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved that the ruling of the Chair he dissented from, and the motion may not be debated.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the ruling be dissented from.
That this committee has no confidence in the Chair.
Mr, Spender. - Mr. Chairman–
– Resume your seat; you cannot move that motion
– I am speaking on a very important matter, the interpretation ofthe Standing Orders.
– If you do not resume your seat I will name you.
– Then name me, because I will not submit to this treatment.
– Order! The honorable member for Watson.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Watson be no longer heard.
– I want a ruling.
– Unless the honorable member for Richmond resumes his seat I will name him. The honorable member for Watson.
– I have resumed my seat, and I now rise again and move -
That the honorable member for Watson be no longer heard.
I have every right to do so.
– I name the honorable member for Richmond.
– I want a ruling.
– Resume your seat. The honorable member for Richmond has been named.
– But I want a ruling.
– On a point of order–
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– Can I be thrown out of the chamber for wanting to submit a motion in it?
– And a motion that is in order.
– The honorable member for Richmond has merely moved that the honorable member for Watson be no longer heard.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) having entered the chamber,
– I inform the Prime Minister that I have named the honorable member for Richmond.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the honorable member for Richmond be suspended from the service of the committee.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In the House:
I have to report, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Richmond has been suspended from the service of the committee.
Question put -
That the honorable member for Richmond be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved’ in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Richmond thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
In committee of Supply : Consideration resumed.
– Mr. Chairman, I desire to submit a motion.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Riordan).Order! The honorable member may not move a motion at this juncture.
– I direct your attention to Standing Order 407 which provides -
In cases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the House may be suspended for the day’s sitting, on Motion, duly made and seconded, without notice: Provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of the Members of the House.
I desire to move, as a matter of urgent necessity -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a motion of want of confidence in the Chairman of Committees being moved forthwith.
I do this because I consider that the committee has no confidence in you as Chairman, in view of the fact that your ruling has prevented, in the view of the Opposition, any reasonable or competent discussion of matters before the Chair. I ask you to rule that such a motion ic in order.
– Order! The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) may not, at this stage, submit a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, as he seeks to do under Standing Order 407, for two reasons: First, he has not got the call; and secondly, it is not competent for the committee to suspend the Standing Orders of the House. I call on the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein).
– May I respectfully ask for your ruling, Mr. Chairman, for the guidance of honorable members? In the course of this debate, will any honorable member be permitted to refer, other than in passing, to the fact that until a few weeks ago Australia was at war, because the war is the eighteenth item on the notice-paper?
– Order ! Thai matter will be dealt with later.
– I desire to submit a motion under Standing Order 238.
– Order ! It is not competent for the honorable member to submit a motion now, and I ask him to resume his seat.
– I refer you, Mr. Chairman, to Standing Order 238.
– I advise the honorable member to resume his seat.
– I rise to order. I refer you to Standing Order 238, which reads -
A Motion “That the Chairman do now leave the Chair,” will, if carried, supersede the proceedings of a Committee; but the Committee may, on Motion with notice, be revived for a future day.
I formally move -
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair.
– Sine die.
– It is not competent for the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) to interrupt another honorable member for the pur- pose of submitting a motion. I call on the honorable member for Watson.
– If it were the intention of the Opposition to waste the time of the committee and the country by indulging in the tactics that they have during the last half hour for the express purpose of taking up the time allotted to me, I regard it as a shabby trick, but quite in keeping with most of their conduct in this chamber. As the Chairman lias given a certain ruling, I must abandon the particular matters that I had intended to mention. However, I should like to direct attention to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) complained again this afternoon about the incidence of taxation upon companies. The argument which he used was that unless the company tax was reduced, private companies could not be expected to absorb large numbers of persons into employment. The right honorable member would have us believe that the private companies are glad to employ people at all times; but that, of course, is not the case, for they are willing to employ people only when they can make a profit by so doing. The right honorable gentleman is concerned with private companies only for the benefit of such companies, and private companies are concerned with the employment of people only when they can make a profit out of them. Company directors are always looking for profits. The right honorable gentleman referred to the desirability of allowing companies to accumulate liquid revenues, but whenever that procedure has been followed the private companies have taken advantage of the situation to water their stock.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked why the estimated expenditure of the Department of Aircraft Production was £4,724,000 this year, whereas the actual expenditure last year was £1,855,230. Does he not realize that aircraft production is an expanding industry? It is not unreasonable that such an industry should require a greater expenditure this year than was incurred last year. The honorable gentleman also referred to a carry-over of £33,000,000 of uncollected taxes. I did not interject when he made his statement in this connexion, but he knows perfectly well that there is often a carry-over of commitments by organizations. A carry-over of uncollected taxes is no more remarkable than a carry-over of commitments. The honorable gentleman is an ex-Treasurer of the Commonwealth - I hope that he will remain an ex-Treasurer for many years - and his experience in the Treasury must lead him to appreciate the point that I have just made.
The speech made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) may be described by a word which he himself used, “ slap-dash “. The honorable member referred to the provision for deferred pay to Army personnel and said he could not understand why, if money was being earmarked for that purpose by the Department of the Army, it should not also be earmarked by the Department of the Navy and the Department of Air. The honorable member cannot have read the budget papers carefully, otherwise he would have seen that a provision like that being made in respect of the Army is also being made in respect of the Air Force. The honorable member must have been relying on something that was said to him, but the remark was characteristic of that slapdash manner in which he dealt with the budget.
Several important subjects mentioned in the budget have not yet been referred to at any length in this debate, although some of them are of considerable consequence to the people. One of them is wage pegging. No doubt this subject is receiving attention by the Government. I consider that one of the matters that should be taken into account in fixing the basic wage is the making of a proper rental allowance. There should also be provision for the purchase of fruit and vegetables in season. Industrial conditions should be given more consideration in the determination of the basic wage. Attention should be paid to the number of persons to be re-employed, and to the machinery available for ensuring a maximum production of consumer goods. Hours of work is another subject that merits close attention. I consider that working days should be reduced to five a week, with a corresponding reduction of the total working hours
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. WHITE (Balaclava) f9.20].The introduction of the budget gives honorable members an opportunity to discuss many matters of importance to the community. To the degree to which the budget provides for a reduction of taxation it is welcome; but I say emphatically that the statement that income tax is to be reduced by 12£ per cent, is entirely misleading. The reduction will not come into effect until the financial year is half over, and it can therefore be considered only as a reduction of 6^ per cent. So far from being a cause for rejoicing, the budget provision in this connexion is completely inadequate. The transition from war to peace should be made as quickly as possible, and under conditions which will permit of the re-employment of our people in productive industries, for the work in which they have been engaged in the last few years has been otherwise than productive. I look upon this reduction of taxation as a token provision. I hope that the Treasurer will’ introduce a supplementary budget which will indicate a more adequate assessment of the needs of the situation. It may be regarded as heresy by socialists for me to say that low taxation implies prosperity, but the statement is true. Dogmatic socialists would have us believe that socialism is wholly good. In my opinion that is an erroneous view and those who hold it must be put in the class to which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred as “pot bound “. Honorable gentlemen opposite who believe in the socialist policy would have us believe that socialism merely means subjection to a beneficent institution, but in my opinion it is far more likely to mean subjection to remote officialdom, located, perhaps, in Canberra.
The mild reduction of income tax foreshadowed by the Treasurer should be regarded as a gesture which must be followed by effective action in the near future. Australians are still the most heavily taxed people in the British Empire. This country has suffered least of all the Dominions; through the war. “We have not undergone the restrictions to which the people of Great Britain have been subjected and’ we shall not have to undertake such heavy rehabilitation works as will be necessary in the Old Country. Therefore, we have a right to expect a more realistic approach to the problems of taxa- tion. A reduction of taxation would stimulate enterprise, encourage maximum production in our factories, and make possible the immediate employment of many thousands of our people who will be released shortly from the armed forces. It is entirely unreasonable that the existing heavy taxes should be continued. That policy will undoubtedly lead ‘to unemployment. I do not suggest that the Government desires to create unemployment. I believe that it is sincere in its advocacy of a policy of full employment. Unfortunately, it is adopting the wrong measures to realize that ideal.
The new social services tax is a welcome step in the right direction, but, a.” the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, it is only a faltering step. Honorable members on this side of the chamber believe in social services, but we believe in the British system which provides for contributions by all individuals for a pension which will be available to all contributors. Unfortunately our invalid and old-age pensions ar<> subjected to a means test and carry with them the stigma of poverty. That will remain until the means test is entirely abolished. In a democracy there should be no such stigma attached to the pension. All the people who contribute to the pensions fund should be entitled to payments from it, and they should not be obliged to suffer a humiliating examination as to their financial position. 1 hope that the means test will be abolished. I realize that to abolish it by one stroke of the pen would involve an increase of many millions of pounds in government expenditure, but there is no doubt thai the time will come when the means test will be abolished. It is, of course, a discouragement of thrift. The effect of it is that a person who, through great selfdenial, may be able to save, say, £3,500 during his working life, may receive from his investments an amount only about equal to the amount received in old-age pension by another person who may have squandered his substance. It is unreasonable that such a policy should be applied in a democracy. I have received a telegram from the secretary of a Public Service organization, which reads -
My association over 10,000 members strongly protests against contributory payment social services tax ls. Gd. in the £1 unless means test for pensions is abolished immediately.
Public servants contribute to a superannuation fund which is based on actuarial calculations, and it is unfair that they should also be obliged to contribute to the social services tax if they are not to be eligible to receive the pension. I do not desire to be misunderstood. I believe in the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. The legislation which initiated this scheme was introduced by Mr. Deakin, a Liberal Prime Minister, in 1908 and it has operated in Australia ever since, although the amount of the pension has varied from time to time. I believe in a fully contributory pensions scheme under which all persons in the community will be both contributors and recipients. It is significant that public, servants are opposed to the measure which the Government is now submitting unless the means test is abolished.
The means test is also most unfair to the dependants of deceased servicemen. It was never intended that these dependants should be adversely affected by the means test, yet that is what is happening to-day. I have had cases of the kind submitted to me, and I am sure that other honorable members have also received communications on the subject. I have in mind a case in which the two single sons of a family were killed on active service. The parents applied to the Repatriation Commission for a pension and they received instructions to report to the police station in a country town. They were there subjected to a most embarrassing examination as to their means, and because each of them was earning more than 39s. a week they were refused a pension. This case occurred within the last two years. I have received bitter letters from the parents. This -week, I placed on the notice-paper a question in -which I asked whether the Government would place the matter on a proper basis by abolishing the means test in such cases. During the depression, a Labour Government reduced war pensions, and subsequently restitution was made by the Lyons Government in many ways, but my desires were not completely met. In 1938, I moved for the appointment of a select committee, with a view to having such matters adjusted. While I was overseas during the present war, an all-party committee made certain proposals, to some of which effect was given, but this matter has not yet been adjusted. The present is the time to mention it, and I do so very emphatically. I could quote letters which would convince honorable members that what I have suggested ought to be done. It would be a very small price to pay for victory if we were to allow these people to be at least on the same footing as an old-age pensioner and to receive a pension instead of having to impoverish themselves by selling any capital assets they may possess or disposing of other possessions so that they might prove that they were in a state of poverty and thus were entitled to it. If the sons of the couple I mentioned had remained in Australia in work which did not involve risk, or had returned to their home, the parents would not be in their present position. The allotment and the dependant’s allowance ceased shortly after the death of the servicemen.
Expenditure and taxation are very closely linked with rehabilitation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has moved for the reduction of the vote, as an instruction to the Government to eliminate excessive and wasteful expenditure and to make effective reductions of taxation, thus encouraging the successful rehabilitation of servicemen and women and displaced war workers. I did not receive a satisfactory answer when I asked why 11,300 young men in the Royal Australian Air Force are still in England, although they ceased active flying on V-E Day in May. I was given certain statistics. These young men are told that the date of their departure is uncertain, and that meanwhile they should obtain employment. Is it right that captains of bomber aircraft, some of whom have done two operational tours, should have to line up at a labour exchange and take whatever jobs they can get ? They have to do that, because their pay is insufficient to enable them to live in London. I could cite cases of men who are and have been for months doing labouring work and other menial jobs in England. The British people have extended every hospitality to our men, but they now need for themselves every ounce of their food. That consideration, of course, would not weigh heavily with them, hut their own men have to be placed in employment. So long as our men are kept in Britain, they are losing opportunities in their native land to get the jobs which other servicemen, upon discharge, are snapping up. It is high time the Government procured shipping to bring them home, I was glad that a member of the Labour party, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), asked last week whether the Government would endeavour to have the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth made available for this purpose, before they are refitted for resumption of the passenger trade. At the end of the last war, 250,000 Australians who were abroad were brought home in a few months. Australians were the only troops who, on that occasion, did not cause trouble abroad through delayed repatriation. The men who are in England now are told from day to day to keep their kits packed because they may be sent home at any time, yet only a few men are returning. If a definite and firm stand were taken by the Government, they would be home in quick time. They deserve to be repatriated. Some of them have been away from Australia for four years, and it is not right that their return should be delayed. This is preference in reverse. They are not receiving preference, but will suffer disabilities because the return to their native land is being delayed. I urge the Government to view the matter seriously.
There are also surplus men in other establishments. Many thousands of members of the women’s services would be glad to be demobilized, and the Government should take quick action to ensure that they shall be. There are shortages of staffs in hospitals which should be overtaken. That could be accomplished quite easily. Many useless establishments, set up during the war, could well be demolished. That applies to both women’s and men’s services in the Royal Australian Air Force. Because, unfortunately, there have been some air fatalities in operational training units in Victoria, I have asked whether the- training programme has been curtailed, and if not, what is the reason. We have thousands of surplus aircraft to-day in Britain. Many men want to remain in the service, but some do not. The training establishments should not continue with the old routine. The whole scheme should be reorganized. Some months ago, the Government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Slater, a member of the Parliament of Victoria, two other members o.f it being air force officers, to consider the reorganization of the Royal Australian Air Force. I have been pressing for reorganization during the last two years. _ The whole programme should be tapered off, and there should be a post-war’ establishment of some 30 to 40 squadrons. We have splendid human material that is second to none. Those who wish to remain in the service should be allowed to do so, and the remainder should be discharged if they have jobs to which they can go, instead of being retained for lengthy periods until they are entitled to release under the points system. The committee appointed to inquire into the matter has not submitted a report, and in the interim peace has arrived. It is time we were made acquainted with the position.
My suggestion should be adopted in connexion with the three services. Because of our greater responsibilities, we should have a fleet air arm, which we did not have during this war. I have heard that Australia was offered an aircraft carrier by the British Navy, but did not accept it. I cannot say whether that is true or not, and I hope that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) vill make a statement on the matter. A few of our airmen are now being trained with the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. This section of our Navy might be made a part of an Imperial force, .and thereby enable us to live up to some of the responsibilities that will face us in the post-war period. We are living in a new world. Scientific achievements such as the flying bomb, the rocket bomb, and the atomic bomb necessitate complete reconsideration of defence. We cannot be sure that Japan will not rise again. We shall have the obligation to garrison certain islands. Therefore, we must ensure that our defence forces shall be adequate to our responsibilities. Expenditure along those lines can be approved, but not if it is devoted to keeping thousands of men idle in camps, with no prospect of going into action now that the war is over. The men will not submit to a continuance of routine training month after month. If the Government allows the long-service men to be released, and discharges also those who have had two years’ service if they can prove that a job awaits them, a very big result will be achieved. Production in Australia, either primary or secondary, is not what it should be. We are not producing sufficient for purposes of export. Australia sends only certain prime meat abroad, because of export regulations. If those regulations were relaxed, shipment to Britain could be increased by many thousands of tons. The time is ripe to consider such action, because Britain is facing grimmer times in the matter of food than it experienced during the war years, on account of the cancellation of lend-lease.
Money is being wasted. A study of the Estimates will show that an expenditure of millions of pounds is proposed on aircraft that are now obsolete. The programme includes the building of 50 Lancasters and the manufacture of Rolls Royce engines. I pointed out eighteen months ago that the point of production would not be reached before the end of - the war. Neither a Rolls Royce engine nor a Lancaster, has been produced. The Mustangs that we have were brought out here, pulled down, and re-erected. [ want Australia to retain a nucleus for aircraft production. The Lyons Government made a commencement in 193S. But it would be quite uneconomic to make giant bombers when Britain has hundreds of Lancasters, Halifaxes, Stirlings, and the like grounded because, happily, the war is over. Scores of those machines could be flown here in a matter of weeks. Yet we propose to expend millions of pounds in the manufacture of machines that will be out of date before they are finished. Incidentally, may I say that our young men in Britain to whom I have referred would be very glad of the opportunity to fly those machines to Australia. If Britain were asked to let us have a squadron or two squadrons of Lancasters, I believe that the request would be granted. I understand that there are hundreds of thousands of tons of aviation spirit in Britain to-day. It cannot be used for ordinary motoring purposes, and will not keep indefinitely. I am quite sure that, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), who has just left the Royal Australian Air Force, will agree with what I am saying. We are turning to jet propulsion as a power unit for aircraft. ‘The internal combustion engine is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. It is a fact, as the Leader of the Opposition stated, that goods now being made are being passed on to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission for sale.
I know of instances in which model aircraft are still being made in large numbers for aircraft recognition purposes, although the need for that has now ended. However, because the orders had been given they have to be fulfilled, although the manufacturers would be glad to cancel the contract so that they might begin the production of things which the people really need. We know that all the manufacturers of agricultural implements have published advertisements stating that machinery will not be available until the man-power situation is cleared up. Why should skilled men be kept at the manufacture of aircraft that will not be used when, with a little thought and planning, they could be made available for the production of needed commodities? Recently, the Department of Munitions brought out an expensive publication, printed on fine paper, dealing with the manufacture of handling machinery. Why should money be wasted on the issue of such unnecessary publications at a time when printers cannot get paper even for the printing of technical books needed for the rehabilitation of servicemen? The Government should relinquish control of as many activities as possible and give private enterprise a chance.
Ministers have made frequent references to the Government’s housing plan, and we know that there is >a shortage of houses. However, we want the houses themselves, not merely the plans. I hope that the Government will see that municipalities are enabled to borrow money from the housing authority which it is proposed to set up. Many municipalities are ready to begin building operations. They have their surveyors and engineers available for the purpose, and can go ahead with the work if the Government will relax controls and make finance available.
Last week the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, during a session of the “Forum of the Air”, said that all man-power controls had now been abolished. He was discussing the case of a certain nurse who had declared that she would go to gaol rather than pay a fine of £5 inflicted on her for refusing to go to a certain hospital to which she had been directed. However, in spite of the Minister’s assurance, I have been informed that men are still being directed to work, even when they have other jobs to go to. A few days after the cessation of the war against Japan, the Government made a great display of the fact that certain controls had been lifted. I expected that something important had been done - perhaps, that the Department of Supply and Shipping had been abolished, or that the Department of Import Procurement was no more. However, the controls which had been lifted referred only to trivial matters - -it was no longer necessary to prepay freight charges on goods from “Wiregrass to Woopwoop, or to put pink icing on cakes. The Department of Import Procurement, which was a wartime child of the Customs Department, has grown to great dimensions, and is now definitely hampering trade.
– It did a good wartime job.
– Yes, there was need for it when it was set up, but that need no longer exists. It controlled dollar exchange, and dispersed imports from the United States of America. Now, however, if a merchant wishes to import goods from Great Britain he must fill in six forms, and then wait for the permission of the department, which, incidentally, charges him for its service, even though he is ordering from firms which he knows perfectly well. Recently, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked in the House what was the total revenue received by this department for each financial year since its inception, and whether it charged a fee in respect of Government imports as well as private imports. The answer to the question disclosed that, during the war, the department had collected a total of £2,049,453 in fees. It is evident that, even if the department has done a good job, it was well paid for it. The answer continued -
This revenue was obtained by including a small percentage charge in the selling price of goods invoiced by the division of State government departments, other State government instrumentalities and private firms to cover the administrative costs of procurement and distribution. The division does not include any administrative charges in the selling price of goods invoiced to Commonwealth departments.
In some cases, the importing houses know the actual cost of goods ordered in the United States of America, yet they are billed for a higher amount by the department. This is to keep large numbers of civil servants in a department which had a war-time use, but which should have been tapered off during the latter part of the war, and should now be abolished, except insofar as it exercises control over dollar exchange. Before the war, Great Britain was the greatest creditor nation in the world, but it was compelled to realize on its overseas assets during the early part of the war in order to pay cash for war supplies at the time when it was fighting the enemy alone. As a result, Britain has now become one of the greatest debtor nations, and will have a hard struggle to survive economically. The people of Great Britain have never faced a greater economic crisis than the present one, but I believe that they will win out. Britain owes money to some of the dominions as well as to the United .States of America. There is an urgent need for more houses, but it is also necessary for Britain’s economic survival that goods should be produced for export. If the people turn to providing houses for themselves they will not be able to work in the factories producing goods for export. They have compromised, and some firms have already cabled their Australian agents stating that they are ready to begin exporting. It is not sentiment alone which prompts us to accept British exports, although sentiment enters into the matter. Common sense also demands that we should import from Britain which, in the past, took more than 50 per cent, of our exports. Even when its own fate was in the balance, Britain agreed to buy all our surplus food, and to provide ships to lift it. Now, the Department of Import Procurement demands that every transaction involving the importation of goods from Britain must be handled by persons, many of whom are unacquainted with the merchandise concerned. If the Government is anxious to provide more employment it should go through departments of this kind and see that those engaged in them are allowed to go to more productive work. The persons themselves will not want to stay in such departments all their lives if they have any enterprise and initiative. I know it is difficult for orthodox socialists to believe, but the fact is that the more people there are in employment the more people there are to tax. If you keep a great many people engaged in non-productive work the development of the country will be retarded, and Australia will not attract immigrants.
I was glad to hear the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) advocate the encouragement of child migration from Great Britain, and I hope that the Government will do something about it. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) made a statement which held much promise, but he finished up by saying that we could not accept immigrants until all Australians had jobs and houses. In general terms, that is only right. Our own people must come first, but if we wait until every one in Australia has a job and a house we shall never get immigrants. The pioneers came to this country and made the best of what they found. We should encourage ex-servicemen to come here from Great Britain. There are staging camps in Australia, such as the initial training schools established by the Air Force, in which we could hold a thousand immigrants or more until they could be absorbed into the community. As for child immigrants, the Orphan Adoption Society has a long list of persons who are willing to adopt children into good homes, and to educate them. However, if immigration is to be encouraged the
London organization must be improved. I have received letters from Australians who served in this war and the last, and who are now resident in Great Britain. They are anxious to return to Australia, but they have met with nothing but discouragement at Australia House. Some of the widows of Australian servicemen have been trying for more than two years to come to Australia. The Minister for Immigration has sent cables to London on the subject, but our Australian officials in London are not sufficiently alive to the situation to see that these women are given an opportunity to come to Australia. I suggest that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) should, when he is in London, tell the people of Britain that immigrants- will be welcomed in Australia, and arrangements should be made for their transport to this country. If this is done, I believe that Australia will obtain a steady flow of immigrants, and need not look elsewhere for them.
An amount of £72,000 is provided in the Estimates for the promotion of physical fitness. I believe that this will be a very good investment. The money previously granted for this purpose has been well spent in a number of directions. However, one important activity has been overlooked, namely, the work of the Royal Life Saving Society. I mentioned this matter last year, and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) was disposed to offer some assistance. The society is doing very valuable work, and is fostering physical fitness among a large number of young people. I suggest that the Government should make a grant to the society of about £5,000 to be distributed among branches in the various States. Scores of lives are saved every year by members of the society on the beaches of Australia. Thousands of members are serving in the forces. They started life-saving groups in the Middle East and other places where they served, and even in prisoner of war camps. The Royal Life Saving Society is a democratic organization, which has kept going during the war with the assistance “of girls and of veterans and under-age youths. In Victoria the society receives only £100 a year from the Government. It receives a larger amount in New South Wales, but nothing in the other States.
– That is from the State Government.
– The Victorian Government is always mean.
– Some State Governments do not give anything ; neither does the Commonwealth Government.
– Of course, the Commonwealth Government should do everything.
– The society exists in every State and it has a federal body. E speak more than earnestly because I am chairman of the federal body. The Prime Minister, over and over again, has expressed enthusiasm for the organization. He said last year that he would see whether a grant” could be made. Although this is a small matter compared with the bigger things in the budget; nevertheless, it is a domestic matter and something that will pay a dividend to the Government in better health of the people. It is a splendid example of national fitness work.
The people can feel only disappointment at the general tenor of the budget. The reduction of the income tax by 12£ per cent, is actually a reduction of only 6£ per cent., because it will operate for only half of the year. The reduction is quite out of proportion to what should be the. change of economy from wartime, with its heavy expenditure, to peace. I hope that the Government will take the view that Australia’s policy must be expansionist, that we must develop and get our men back to work by all reasonable means, not by making them public servants, but by giving private industry every opportunity. It may come as a surprise to most honorable members to know that before the war more men were employed in driving motor trucks than on the railways. A. great many of those men are now in service transport units. Many garages that gave work to thousands of men are closed. Their equipment has been handed over to the Government, and the operators and employees are in the forces or in other government jobs. All those enterprises have to be restarted. The small shopkeeper who closed his business in order to volunteer finds difficulty in reopening. Assist him back into business now by all means possible. Release the men who are qualified to undertake some enterprise of that kind. Do look at the budget again with a view to giving us something better than this microscopic reduction of the .income tax, something that will allow private enterprise to spend money and thereby bring men back into employment, which will undoubtedly be to the benefit of Australia.
– I take this opportunity of passing some comment on the budget. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has followed war-time precedent in presenting his budget en bloc, as it were. We have to search diligently for particulars of either revenue or expenditure. He gives us a minimum of information, and it is quite a job of research for honorable members to get particulars. For instance, we find that he bulks the revenue of business undertakings under the headings of “Commonwealth Railways” and “ Postmaster-General’s Department “ and, under the heading “Miscellaneous Services “, he tells us that the Government received a dividend of £51,000 from the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited ;. but he gives no information about the quite handsome dividend that it must have received from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. That may, of course, be a part of the revenue of the Postmaster-General’s Department and included therein. But, rather than rush the presentation of the budget, it would have been only fair tlo this Parliament and this country had the Treasurer taken more time and given us more information. It is wrong that we should have to search the Auditor-General’s report for 1943-44 for a guide as to what is included in the budget of 1945-46. If circumstances prevent the Auditor-General from giving us an earlier report upon the finances of this country, at least the Treasurer should do his job and give us the information. In the Auditor-General’s report we find that up to the 30th June, 1944, the Treasurer had been unable to collect £32,800,000 of taxation. That seems to indicate laxity, because in twelve months the amount of arrears increased by more than £14,000,000. That suggests that the proposed reduction of the income tax is not sufficient, because, even if the Treasurer would not be able to collect all the outstanding taxes, if he collected 25 per cent, of them he could eliminate from taxation ‘ altogether two or three of the lower grades of income and thus give the basic-wage earners and others hard pressed to meet the cost of living, a better chance to do so. At least that would enable a greater concession to be granted. I do not think that the Treasurer has played fair in that regard. The Auditor-General rightly comments on the large amount of outstanding taxes. Since then the arrears may have ‘ increased by another £14,000,000.
– They have increased by another £6,000,000.
– That makes the position even worse than when the Auditor-General made his report. One speaker opposite, referring to the prosperity of the country, cited the increase of savings bank deposits as an example. If we take that as our only guide, we shall gain a false impression. “We have to bear in mind that many industries have been closed because during the war they have been classed as non-essential. Many one-man businesses are not operating, and many other businesses are operating only part-time because of war conditions. Obviously a lot of money is lying in the bank waiting to be used. On every hand, we see rural properties depreciating because the occupants have not been able to spend their money. They have not been able to get labour. Everywhere we see fences in disrepair, soil erosion, undergrowth and other marks of depreciation. The increased deposits that may be in the accounts of property owners will be more than offset by the added costs that they will have to meet as soon as they can get labour. Previous speakers have rightly drawn attention to waste. Of course, waste always occurs in war, but the waste in this war has been greater than it need have been, and I think a lot could have been avoided. The AuditorGeneral cited the Civil Constructional Corps in Darwin when the system was being altered and contracts were being placed. The number of men in the Civil Constructional Corps was being reduced. In April, 1944, the wage employees num bered 6,616 and the administrative staff 637. In January, this year, the wage employees had been reduced to 3,616, or about half of the previous number, but the administrative staff had been increased to 837. If the Government allows that sort of thing to operate, we can see how our money is being wasted.
– The Auditor-General gave the reason for the increase of the administrative staff.
– He drew particular attention to it, and I did not see any reason given. I see no justification for it. The Treasurer should have given us some information about the canteen services. It is remarkable that he failed to do so. Canteens operate in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. They have been conducted efficiently, presumably under the authority of the representative controlling boards. Combined, the three trading concerns have a turnover running into millions of pounds a year. It is obvious that the Government must be responsible for the liabilities. Yet we cannot find in the accounts any transactions of the canteens. It is equally obvious that this Parliament is held responsible for the prices that the canteens have charged to the troops. Yet we cannot find any of their transactions recorded. The accounts should be brought into line with the liability that we carry and the responsibility that the public places upon us. Therefore, the Parliament should be consulted as to how the final profits of the canteens shall be disposed of. But, of course, we get no such information- from the Treasurer. “
Regarding the economy of the country, price-fixing and wage-pegging have been of help. I certainly appreciate that in war-time there were many difficulties to contend with in the matter of price-fixing, and subsidies have been necessary. I agree up to a point that we shall need price-fixing during the transition from war to peace. I offer no condemnation of its continuance, but I direct attention to one aspect of the increased cost of living. It is the concealed price increase due to lower output in proportion to the wages paid. That is one of the causes of the increased cost of living. I do not know how we shall get over it, but we must face the fact that the output is considerably less in many instances, and we cannot deny the fact that it increases the cost of living.
I direct attention to the huge profits that are being made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The PostmasterGeneral has recommended, and the Government has .agreed, that no decrease of postage shall take place. In one instance, at least, history shows that when the postage was reduced the revenue increased. I am inclined to think that that would be the case on this occasion, if it were adopted.
The matter to which I desire particularly to draw attention is that in a lump sum, £4,100,000 will be expended on new works. I do not quarrel with that. I wish that the amount were greater. What I am quarrelling with is the lack of information regarding the new works to be undertaken. Yesterday, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) submitted a motion to refer to the Public Works Committee a proposal to erect an automatic telephone exchange and post office building in Russell-street, Melbourne. I assume that a portion of this amount of £4,100,000 will be expended on that undertaking. I do not know how many other automatic exchanges will be erected in the capital cities. What I am concerned about, and what I have been battling for in this House, is a more liberal and sympathetic postal policy in the country districts. No added consideration has been given to country districts for many years and postal officials are doing a very good job, so far as departmental policy allows them. When some honorable members continually demand the installation of a telephone in every house in the large cities, I am not impressed. City residents will not suffer any hardship if they are not able to have a telephone installed in their homes for a year; but hardship is inflicted every day on country residents who are denied a telephone. First priority in expenditure on postal and telephone facilities should be given to works in the country. What does it matter if a city dweller has no telephone? He may either use his neighbour’s instrument, or walk a few chains to the public telephone. The exercise will benefit his health. In the last few years, postal services have been restricted in the country districts, mail runs have been reduced, and country dwellers have been left for periods without those facilities. Therefore, the Government should allot first priority to measures for improving country services. I again make this special appeal to the Government on behalf of people who reside in country districts.
I have repeatedly raised in this House the plight of the tobacco-growers. During the year ended the 30th June, 1944, the Government granted a subsidy of £750,000 to the tobacco companies. The Government claimed that the payment was designed to keep the price down to a certain figure. The need for that payment may have existed, but in July, 1944, I asked the Government to grant some assistance to the growers. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) promised to inquire into their plight, but to date, that investigation has not been completed. I have repeatedly asked for information regarding its progress, and whether the Government would grant some assistance to the tobacco-growers. Recently, I asked what was the amount of subsidy paid to the tobacco companies during the last financial year. I discovered that the amount was £2,000 more than the previous year’s figure; in other words it was £752,000. Evidently, the Treasurer does not consider that a mere £750,000 is worthy of mention. However, I dissected the figures in the interests of the tobacco industry. Twelve months ago, the tobacco combine, because of a subsidy paid by the Government, was able to show a profit of between £900,000 and £1,000,000, and was able to pay every quarterly dividend as usual. The growers did not receive a brass farthing. When I introduced a deputation asking for a rebate of excise amounting to ls. 6d. per lb. - the Government receives 10s. 6d. per lb. - the Minister refused, and the growers were granted only the inquiry promised by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. It has not put one penny into their pockets. The inquiry also left them without a policy during the last twelve months, and although the approaching planting season is at hand they are still without a policy. They do not know whether to plough their ground or not. But the tobacco combine has been paid another £752,000, and I guess that out of that sum it will again be able to pay handsome dividends. The Government claims that it has a reason for the rebate of excise ; it does not like the word “ subsidy “. In effect, that may be true ; but my contention is that if this rebate of excise of ls. 6d. per lb. went into the pockets of the growers, the price would then stabilize the industry, and increased production would not cause a reduction of revenue. That is the sorry history of the tobacco industry. As late as last week, I asked the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what was the policy of the Government. He gave me the same answer that I have heard a score of times in this House, namely, “ The Government will consider the matter at an early date and supply the honorable gentleman with an answer “. That reply has not yet been forthcoming. The. subsidy is paid to the tobacco companies of Australia, and the growers go without. If honorable members will travel through the tobacco-growing districts of Queensland, they will see that the growers are on starvation rations. If those conditions are a sample of the encouragement which the Government will give to ex-servicemen who settle on the land, all I can say is, “God help them “, because they will need some supernatural help in order to get a living.
I have examined the Auditor-General’s report for the purpose of ascertaining the position of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. The records showed that various seasons had been concluded, and stated the results. In each case, the expenses were far in excess of what the growers received from the board. I am not necessarily condemning that, because 1 do not believe in talking about something of which I have not a practical knowledge. I shall leave that matter to the representatives of the fruit industry. But Queensland apple-growers are interested in No. 3 pool which, I believe, was established in the 1941-42 season. I do know that, in that year, apple growers in Queensland should have received at least 3s. 5d. a case over and above what has been paid to them to date. On many occasions, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what the Govern ment proposed to do regarding the payment of that amount, and he stated that no profit had been made. I gather from his remarks that the whole operations of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board for that year did not yield a profit. At any rate, a profit of at least 3s. 5d. was made on the sale of every case of apples in Queensland. Legal proceedings were pending twelve months ago, and the Minister was awaiting the decision of the court before he acted. In one of his replies to me, he, stated that the matter was sub judice. It has been sub judice for a long time ; so much so that the AuditorGeneral has directed attention to the fact that the Minister did not give his decision under the regulations. No wonder growers get discouraged when they receive 4s. or 5s. a case, according to the different classes of fruit, and a case of apples is sold to the public for as much as 30s. The growers know, through their own organizations that there was a profit, and they cannot get it.
– The Auditor-General said that apple-growers were paid for fruit which they could not market, and they received a better deal than they should have.
– Apple-growers in Queensland should not have come under the jurisdiction of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, not only because of the comparatively small quantity of fruit which they produce, but also because of their geographical position. If the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) suggests that 4s. a case is an unduly high return - the grower pays all expenses - he has another “ think “ coming. Actually it is a starvation existence. A return of 4s. a case is most unsatisfactory. I fail to understand the honorable member’s attitude to this matter.
During the last twelve months, the Government granted considerable assistance by way of drought relief chiefly to South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. In those instances, the State Governments contributed on a £1 for £1 basis. I endeavoured to obtain some consideration for Queensland, but my efforts to obtain assistance for drought-stricken primary producers were unsuccessful. I also failed to get frost relief when the apple crop at Stanthorpe was damaged by frost and the growers lost heavily. But the fruit-growers of South Australia approached the Commonwealth Government, and because their fruit had been destroyed by frost, they received assistance. I do not know who is at fault; whether blame is attachable to the Queensland Government for having failed to recommend that relief he granted and to contribute on a fi- for £1 basis, or whether the Commonwealth Government has failed to recognize that Queensland is a part of t he federation. I make another appeal to the Government. There are in the southwest of Queensland some small graziers who have suffered from the effects of three successive years of drought. Many of them have lost 75 per cent, or more of their stock, and their properties are mortgaged to the hilt. If they had to sell their holdings they would have to take their families with them and start again. Naturally, it is the. ambition of men to succeed, and even though adverse times come, it is the spirit of Australians to like to succeed. They do not care to admit failure. They prefer to face adversity and overcome it. I appeal to the Government to assist the small graziers and cattle owners who are “up against it “ financially as the result of three successive years of drought. Money should be made available either by gift, or interest-free loan, in order that they may re-stock their holdings. The assistance could even be partly gift and partly loan. These men are entitled to aid. The Government could apply a “means test “ if necessary, although it did not apply a “ means test “ to wheat-growers in drought-stricken areas. Even if a wheat-grower had deposits in the bank totalling £10,000, he was entitled to assistance. I make this appeal in all sincerity in the interests of these graziers.
I regret that the Treasurer has not made provision in the budget for water conservation for the building up of rural industries. Primarily, of course, that is a State function, but the Commonwealth Government should urge the States to rake action in the matter. One of the essential requirements for successful land settlement is the provision of water supplies. Queensland is probably short of the trained personnel necessary for the drawing up of water conservation schemes, but I have yet to learn that any recommendations regarding the matter have been submitted to the Commonwealth Government. We cannot have successful settlement of the land unless water be conserved and distributed througout the country districts.
.- After listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) regarding the tobacco industry, one might imagine that the Labour party was responsible for the conditions now prevailing in the industry. On the contrary, the fault lies with, an antiLabour government. I once asked the late Sir Henry Gullett, a former Minister for Trade and Customs, how much he had received for his brief to kill the tobacco industry. I was a member of a committee of this Parliament which investigated conditions .prevailing in the industry, and it was understood by the growers that as the revenue from the import duties fell, because of the reduced quantity of tobacco leaf imported into Australia and the increased production of tobacco in this country, the excise duties would be increased. The evidence gathered by the committee showed that the growers were agreeable to that procedure, but the government which succeeded the Scullin Administration decided that whilst the excise duties were to be increased, the import duties were to be reduced. I read in the House a letter from the chairman of the Tobacco Growers Association stating that over £2,000,000 had been expended by the growers in expanding the industry, but that the value of that expenditure would be lost as a result of the action of an anti-Labour government. If the import duties imposed by the Scullin Government had been permitted to operate for three years, the industry would have been established on a sound basis; but, because of the action of the succeeding government and the influence exercised by the British-Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited, a large number of men in the industry were ruined.
Earlier to-day statements were made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) implying that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) had either indulged in falsehoods, or had been advised by somebody guilty of that practice. The honorable member for Barker- said that if honorable members would read his remarks they would find that what had been suggested of him was not true. I shall now read some of his remarks, because they are very interesting. I quote from a speech delivered by the honorable member for Barker on the 25th August, 1937, a.; recorded in Ilansard. The honorable member said inter alia - r pass now “to another statement made by the honorable member for Batman. If the honorable gentleman ever browses over his utterances of past years, I refer him in particular to his speech made in November last on the subject of defence. [ want the honorable member for Barker to make sure of what he said on that occasion. The Leader of the Opposition was then the late Mr. Curtin, who had made certain suggestions to the government of the day as to the need for an air force. to protect Australia from attack, because of the lack of adequate transport facilities and ground organization for aircraft. He also drew attention to the necessity for the best aircraft obtainable. On page 125 of Hansard of the 25th August, 1937, the honorable member for Barker is reported to have said -
The Leader of the Opposition was good enough to tell the House this afternoon o.f the -manner in which we could save expense by placing our reliance upon an air force. This fetish of the air force is one of the most cruel things ever put across humanity.
More trenchant language than that could not have been employed. The honorable member proceeded-
The idea that aircraft arc going to light thu next war is absolutely wrong. Aircraft will undoubtedly play a big part ; but their principal duty will be to obtain information.
Many young men who left Australia to fight in the war just concluded, and who lost their lives, would have been coming safely home now, had it not been for the use made by other nations of air power. Many cities in Europe and in other parts of the world have been demolished from the air. The war has been largely won from the air. Industries have been destroyed by the use of air power. Japan would not have sued for peace, had it not suffered from a shortage of aircraft. The honorable member for Barker went on to say-
The defensive capacity of aircraft, on account of the heights at which the machine.call fly, is very uncertain; it is so easy for them to evade one another. Their limited capacity for hitting targets by bombing ha? been proven in Shanghai quite recently, when* the poor old Chinaman, in trying to hit a Japanese war ship, bombed the International Settlement. That is not the only occasion on which that has occurred.
Australian airmen in New Guinea had half-a-dozen Wirraways with which to fight the Japs, when Japan entered the war, and we all know the tragic result. The honorable member said further -
If we required any lesson on the futility of aircraft as the means of arriving at a quick decision in war, we can obtain it in Spain to-day, where at least four European powers are fighting each other by proxy with some of the best aircraft and the best armoured vehicles tha’t science can produce; yetduring the last few months, there has been a stalemate in the war in that rather unfortunate country. When it comes to pacing reliance for the defence of our country entirely on aircraft I doubt whether the Opposition has given consideration to the fact that aircraft become obsolete even more quickly than units of the fleet. To-day flying machines aw obsolete almost before they have taken to tinair.
There was a good deal of truth in thai, but there is no gainsaying that aircraft have also saved the lives of many men in this war. The bulk of the people realize that but for air power and the wonderful work done by air crews the war would not yet have ended. Because of attacks from the air, thousands of men will not come back to Australia, and others have been maimed. We know that when German bombers flew over Greece and Crete messages were received in Australia that our men were unable to do anything effective, because of lack of air cover. We know, too; that many ship.? have been sunk by air attack. In the light of these facts, it ill becomes the honorable member for Barker to infer that other honorable members are telling lies, or inciting others to do so. Reference has been made to the presence of a gunman in a corner, but if the remark were made it was probably in the nature of a joke at the honorable member’s expense. At that time he flitted from place to place so quickly that it would have been difficult to find him, even to shoot him. During the debate much has been said of the loss of men caused by the war. L.know of nothing worse than a war for creating a lack of balance between the sexes. So long as that ill balance exists we shall not get the best immigrants, which are babies born in this country. If young men are destroyed in war, the natural increase of the population which otherwise might be expected will not take place. Some years ago, the number of women voters on the electoral rolls of Victoria exceeded the number of men voters by 11,000. That revealed a serious state of affairs. The destruction of young men in the war which has just ended has accentuated the lack of balance to which I have referred, and increases the difficulty of maintaining civilization as we know it. Indeed, if the process continues, the black and yellow races will triumph over the white race. I do not know a more irrational individual than the honorable member for Parker. Events during this war have proved him to have been a bad prophet. He has the unenviable record of having been named by Mr. Speaker, while a Minister of the Crown, and of having been suspended from the service of the House on the motion ofa ministerial colleague, the then Prime Minister. When some years ago the then Leader of the Labour party prophesied that aircraft would play a major role in a future war he was laughed at but we have lived to see his prediction fulfilled.
Re-establishment and Employment :
Motion (byMr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I draw attention to the case of a soldier who, on his discharge from the Australian Imperial Force, wished to take up a course of vocational training at the Sydney Technical College but was denied the opportunity to do so. I believe that he was misled as to the actual position by instructions issued by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruc tion (Mr. Dedman). The man referred to was a sergeant in the Australian Imperial Force, who, on his discharge from the Army in May last, was advised by the Department of Repatriation to take advantage of the Government’s vocational training scheme. As he had broken hia apprenticeship as an electrician to enlist, he wished to finish his training under the vocational training scheme. He was sent by the Department of Repatriation to the offices of the Commonwealth Vocational Training Scheme at Shell House, Sydney, and on instructions received there he went to the Technical School at Ultimo, where he was given a test. Later he received a letter from the instructor informing him that he had passed the test and was suitable for training as an electrician. He was told by officials at Shell House that they would notify him in due course whether or not he could take up training. On the 9th August, a letter was addressed to him byG. C. Allen,Chief Administrative Officer of the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction, Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, which stated -
In connexion with your application for fulltime training in the Electrical Trades, under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, I regret that after fully considering your application it is not possible, at this stage, to train you in the desired course.
The reason for this decision is that the trade is, at present, governed by the National Security (Dilution) Regulations, which prevent this Department from offering full-time training in any of the trades allied to the Electrical and Mechanical Trades.
I have studied the regulations referred to in theletter and I find that their purpose was to ensure a sufficient supply of trained men. There does not appear to be anything in them to prevent the department from’ offering to exservicemen full-time training in electrical trades. In my opinion, this soldier has been deliberately misled by the department on the instructions of the Minister. If regulations to prevent him from receiving training exist, they should be cancelled. The decision is a complete breach of faith with servicemen, and contrary to what the Minister said when the Re-establishment and Employment Bill was before the Parliament. The matter should be investigated, and justice should be done to ex-servicemen, who should not be prevented from receiving the training to which they believe themselves to be entitled. If the serviceman in question resumes his apprenticeship, something like eighteen months will elapse before he will be able to undertake the work of an electrician, and during the whole of that period he will be denied the opportunity to earn a living in that capacity. Doubtless many other servicemen are being denied the rights that were promised to them when they undertook to fight for this country.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said earlier to-day that he was not aware of any delays in the granting of approval by the Treasurer to transfers of property. I told him by interjection that I had knowledge of several instances, and that I proposed to mention the matter to-night. The evidence that I have shows that there have been delays of six months or more in dealing with applications in connexion with the purchase of certain properties. In fact, applications made last March have not yet been dealt with finally. I can conceive of no reason for a delay of six months unless there are some factors which warrant it. Action must be taken to speed up decisions by the delegate of the Treasurer in connexion with sales of property. The operation of certain National Security Regulations has resulted in small wageearners having to continue to pay rentwhen they could easily own their own homes.
– Some of them said they were going to be thrown out.
– I shall deal with that point. I shall not mention the name of the honorable member opposite who is interested in the case that I am ventilating, or the name of the firm of solicitors approached by him in an endeavour to exert political pressure, unless the Treasurer so desires, but I shall let him have the names subsequently if that should be his wish. Suspicious circumstances are associated with this transaction. The owner of the properties believes that there has been political interference with the normal functioning of the Treasury in connexion with the sales. He has a number of detached, double-fronted, brick cottages which he desires to sell. The
Valuer-General placed on them values ranging from £600 to £750 each. Admittedly, those valuations were low, because no detached, double-fronted brick cottage could be built at such a cost either to-day or before the war. In November, 1944, two of the cottages were to be sold at £800 each. The delegate of the Treasurer accepted that price. The tenants were then asked whether they desired to purchase the premises that they occupied, and some of them said that they should like to do so. Before proceeding further with the transactions, the owner had the homes valued by a reputable firm of valuers, in accordance with National Security Regulations. They were valued at £800 each. Up to that moment, everything was all right because the delegate of the Treasurer had accepted two valuations of £800 and the sales had been finalized. Then, an honorable member opposite interested himself in the transactions on behalf of certain tenants who, knowing of the valuation of the ValuerGeneral, considered that either they were being asked too much for the properties or they were likely to be evicted if the sales eventuated. The honorable member had pointed outto him that the properties had been properly valued, and that the rights of the tenants were protected . against third-party purchase under National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations, but this had no effect upon his approach to the matter. I understand, from what I have been told, that he approached the delegate of the Treasurer, and used the signatures of the tenants concerned with a view to deferring a decision by that officer on a valuation by a reputable firm of valuers. I understand that he also approached the firm of solicitors acting on behalf of the purchasers, and endeavoured to influence them. Subsequently, the whole of the nine cottages were sold at £800 each, two to occupiers and the remainder to ex-servicemen. The valuation made under the National Security Regulations by a reputable firm of valuers was £800 each for eight cottages and £825 for the remaining cottage. A well-known building society proposed to finance each purchase. The valuation that it made was £810 for each cottage, and it was prepared to advance up to £720 towards the purchase price. I give those figures so that the House will understand that the valuations were correct. The sales have been before the delegate of the Treasurer since March, yet no decision has been made. The delegate of the Treasurer has kept pressing for check valuations of these properties, but the owner has refused to pay the fee of £4 4s. in respect of such valuations. However, two owners agreed to incur that expense in connexion with valuations of their properties, and they duly paid over the fees to the Treasury. Although -they did so some months ago, it appears that the delegate cannot get the valuation he desires. Obviously, if he could get such a valuation he would make a decision in the matter. It appears that he is delaying the transaction until such time as he can find a valuator to give him the valuation he desires, or, alternatively, because the honorable member who originally brought political pressure to bear in the matter is not in Australia at the moment, and the delegate is awaiting his return before taking action. That honorable gentleman interested himself unnecessarily in the purchase of property. In respect of two properties the delegate had agreed to the prices originally proposed. On the facts I have given I have made out a prima facie case in support of my allegation that the honorable gentleman concerned has exerted political pressure in order to Hock this sale.
– There must be a good reason for the delay.
– If there is 1 should like the Treasurer to give it to the House. I should be very interested to learn why transactions of this kind should be delayed six months because of representations made in the matter by an honorable member. I make it clear that I do not . refer to the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). In a letter to the Attorney-General dated the 14th August, 1945, the owner stated -
I have now received a letter from one of the purchasers dated 6th August, stating that the Lands Sales Control has told him as well as the Returned Soldiers League that they definitely will not consent to the sale at the contract price. In view of this, why carry out the farce of having a new valuation?
It is clear that there is no need for a further valuation. The delegate has denied that any attempt has been made to bring political pressure to bear upon him in the matter. I say that in fairness to the delegate. I believe that the AttorneyGeneral has some information as to who is the honorable member concerned in the matter. I take the following extract from an official reply to a letter about the deals -
These applications are being handled by mf personally for certain departmental reasons.
That reply was dated the 11th July, 1945. What were those reasons? Was it because of political pressure brought to bear upon the delegate by the honorable gentleman concerned? That is a fair inference to be drawn from the facts 1 have given. A further official reply dated the 31st July, stated -
Before final consideration can be given to the applications a further valuation by a valuer nominated by this department is required. It has been suggested that a “test” valuation of two properties be obtained. On receipt of the valuer’s report an immediate decision will be given.
– Has the honorable gentleman got those valuations?
– No ; we cannot get them. Three weeks ago I telephoned the delegate, and when I reminded him of the case he said that he was fully aware of it. I asked him when he proposed to get the additional valuation and he replied, “ T am trying to get a valuation “. 1 telephoned to him the following week, but was unable to contact him ; and I again rang him last week. Thus I have given him every opportunity to deal with the matter before raising it in the House. I was given to understand from his secretary that he was about to make a decision, but I have not yet been informed of any such decision. I was informed that he would telephone me on the matter. I believe that the delay incurred in this matter is attributable to political interference. If that is the case, the National Security Regulations are not worth the paper on which they are printed. No department should lend itself to representations of the kind made by an honorable member to block the sale.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. White) put -
That the honorable member for Wentworth be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 1
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) spoke to me about this matter earlier to-day, and I have collected some information on the subject with which I will not burden the House now. I mention the matter because I do not want the honorable member to think that I treated him with disrespect. Some of the information which I have received does not bear out the honorable member’s statements. I know nothing of any suggested political pressure, but I shall certainly inquire into the allegation. The fact is that there are twelve of these properties, six in one street and six in another. The owner wanted to sell them at £800 each, plus £24 commission. The Valuer-General fixed the value of the cottages at £650 each. The valuers panel of the Treasury, which consists of outside men who give their services voluntarily, supported the view of the delegate of the Treasury that there ought to be a check valuation. It is true that the Treasury received a petition from some of the tenants- saying that the homes were sold over their heads, and that they were being asked to vacate the premises. I shall see that the report of the honorable member’s speech is examined by the proper authorities.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker; [11.15]. - I have received a complaint from a constituent who is a propertyowner in my electorate, and who also owns property in Broken Hill, regarding delays in the transfer of property. In one case, a man recently discharged from the Air Force entered into a contract to buy a home in Broken Hill, the place where he normally resides. The papers went forward on the 2nd July for approval. A few days ago, a letter was received asking him to pay a fee of £3 3s. for a check valuation, the city valuer at Broken Hill having already made a valuation. I suggest that if the Government is not prepared to accept the valuation of the city valuer of Broken Hill it should not demand a fee of three guineas for another valuation. The legal representatives of the complainant have written a letter in which they deal caustically with the action of the Government authorities in demanding the payment of this fee. In a letter to the delegate of the Treasury, they say that the same city valuator has been doing this work in Broken Hill for the last 25 years. It seems hard that this transaction should be held up when the person concerned is paying board for his wife and family at Broken Hill while waiting to get into the house which he has agreed to buy. The vendor wishes to go to South Australia, but he, too, is held up until the transaction is completed. I ask that the Government look into this matter, now that the war is over, and arrange for speedy decisions in cases where a willing buyer and a willing seller have fixed on a price which has been approved by a responsible valuator with 25 years experience in the district.
– I draw the attention of the Government as to what I regard as a very serious abuse by a senior officer in the Commonwealth Prices Commission of his authority in endeavouring by representations to the Deputy Director of Man Power in Queensland to use the powers conferred on him by the Man Power Regulations for a purpose not intendedby the regulations, as the Deputy Commissioner must have well known. The matter relates to a person named John M. Murray, and it arises out of a letter written by E. H. Lindsay, Deputy Prices Commissioner for Queensland, to the Deputy DirectorGeneral of Man Power in Queensland. Before raising this matter, I communicated with the writer and recipient of the letter, and confirmed the fact that the letter had been sent. Mr. Murray had apparently “fallen foul” of his senior officer, and an effort was made to discipline him by having him directed to a job with less remuneration than he otherwise could expect. In other words, it was sought to punish him behind the back of the court. This I regard as a serious matter and it does not lose any of its seriousness because the attempt did not succeed.
The letter is as follows: - 26th July, 1945.
Deputy Director-General of Man Power, 99 Creek-street,
Attached hereto is copy of letter of resignation, dated 25th June, 1945, received from Mr. J. M. Murray together with man-power application form to change employment and my reply thereto, dated 29th June, 1945.
Mr. Murray who is a senior officer of this branch (Group Leader) was interrogated on Saturday, 16th June, 1945, regarding certain alleged breaches of departmental discipline, including absence without leave during special investigation duties in Rockhampton and Mackay.
He was informed thathe would be advised later of any departmental action considered necessary in this case.
Mr. Murray commenced recreation leave as from the close of business on Saturday, 16th June, 1945, and was due to resume duty on Tuesday, 10th July, 1945.
He submitted his resignation on 25th June, 1945, and failed to report for duty on 10th July, 1945, or on any subsequent date.
As he has no other leave due other than sick leave supported by medical certificate, he is at present absent without leave.
The matter was referred to the secretary, Commonwealth Prices Branch, Canberra, and I am directed to inform you that all the circumstances of Mr. Murray’s case indicate that his retention in the Prices Branch would not he desirable and that his resignation should be accepted subject to your approval.
I am also directed to urge that all possible disciplinary action should be taken against Murray for his absence without leave, and that he should be directed to an occupation which would not give him the advantages he previously enjoyed.
I am to stress that if no such action is taken particularly against a senior employee the future position of the branch regarding retention of its employees will be untenable, and a similar procedure will be adopted by other employees who have had sheltered and remunerative employment during the war . years but who now desire to leave the branch and seek employment of their own selection, and possibly to the disadvantage of those who have rights of preferential employment. (Sgd.) E. H. LINDSAY,
Deputy Prices Commissioner, Queensland
I hold no brief for Mr. Murray. If he committed a breach of the Man Power Regulations or any other regulations, the proper course was to prosecute him in accordance with the law. To punish him in the manner suggested in the letter I have just read savours of Gestapo methods, namely, the exercise of administrative disciplinary action to the financial prejudice of the person involved. It loses none of its seriousness merely because it did not succeed in achieving its purpose. No doubt Mr. Lindsay, who signed the letter and must take responsibility for it, had it placed before him by somebody else. In fact, I think I know who the officer was but lest I be mistaken I shall refrain from mentioning his name. This is not a matter which can be passed over lightly. There are many people in this country who believe that powers exercised by public officials have been used wrongly and oppressively. I urge upon the Government not only that an inquiry should be made, but also that disciplinary action be taken against the officials responsible.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government, particularly the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) the very great difficulties confronting farmers in the Gembrook and Emerald area of Victoria in regard to fodder supplies for horses. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture has been fully appraised of the circumstances of the case. I have been in touch with officials of that department on several occasions. I raise the matter to-night because so far, nothing has been done. The circumstances of the case, briefly, are as follows : The area to which I have referred is peculiar in that . it grows only one crop, namely, potatoes. In fact, it is one of the three largest potato producing localities in Victoria, and its annual production amounts to many thousands of tons. The land is very hilly and tractors cannot be used, with the result that all the work has to be done by horses. Owing to the drought, there is a serious shortage of fodder in that district, and farmers have been feeding potato tops and even potatoes to their horses; but, as honorable members are no doubt aware, this type of food is not suitable for horses which are doing heavy work. Some months ago I took the matter up with the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and I received from him a letter advising me to apply to the State Minister of Agriculture. I got in touch with that gentleman, and he said that he could not do anything. He had no control over wheat supplies, and no hay was available because the Commonwealth Government had seized all available supplies of this commodity. I then returned to the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and received from him a reply stating that no supplies of wheat were available. The situation now is that farmers in that district who have many hundreds of horses will experience the greatest difficulty in planting their potato crop for the coming season. The matter affects not only the farmers themselves, but also the whole country, because unless the crop is planted, there will be no hope of reaching the target set for potatoes. Surely there are some supplies of wheat available in this country which could be diverted to the Emerald district. I cannot believe that the supply of wheat is so short that none can be made available. I ask the Minister to take steps to rectify the position.
– In my capacity as Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I shall be pleased to give sympathetic consideration to the strong case which the honorable member for
Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has presented. The representations of other honorable members will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Ministers, who will furnish replies in due course.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e. - On the 6th September, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the following questions : -
Is it a fact that numerous requests for newsprint by trade unions and various other suburban district organizations have been rejected? Is there any likelihood of relieving restrictions on the issue of newsprint so that supplies may bo made available to such organizations?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What arrangements have been or will be made for the release of soldiers to take up work in the sugar industry in Queensland?
– In the period of the last three years prior to this cane season, the Army alone has discharged over 3,000 men for the purpose of sugar requirements. This year, alone, 600 men have been discharged from the Army for the specific purpose of cutting cane, but by the 25th August, 1945, it was reported that only 316 men so released were working on the fields. On receipt of manpower recommendations for full release of soldiers for cane work, the Army will discharge all men recommended regardless of their present location or other war-time restrictions. Men located on the mainland can be discharged quickly, but shipping and other transport difficulties will necessarily delay men located off the mainland. I am taking up with the Minister for Labour and National Service the question of labour for the cane-fields and suggesting to him that the Director-General of Man Power should submit recommendations to the Army for full discharge on occupational grounds of any soldiers required for the cane industry. In the event of such recommendations being received, expeditious treatment will be given by the Army to finalize all the discharges with the proviso, of course, that the release of men now outside the mainland will take some little time. Recently I discussed the matter with Mr. R. Muir, secretary, Queensland Cane Growers Council, and Mr. E. T. S. Pearce, secretary, Australian Sugar Producers Association, who waited on me in Brisbane.
Publications by Government Departments.
y. - On the 29th August, a statement was furnished in reply to the following questions, upon notice, asked by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. A rchie Cameron) : -
The following supplementary information relates to publications issued by the Department of Air : -
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Australian Army : Car Park at North Ryde.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice - ‘
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The following numbers of vehicles have been declared by the Army to Commonwealth Disposals Commission for release to the public from 1st March, 1945, to 8th September, 1945-
The numbers from Ryde included in these numbers are -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What amount of subsidy was paid, or is due to be paid, to tobacco companies in Australia on imported tobacco for the year ended the 30th June, 1945?
Mr.Forde. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question : -
No subsidies have been paid to Australian tobacco companies, but a rebate of excise duty has been allowed to afford partial relief from increased costs of imported tobacco leaf. The amount of rebate for the year ended the 30th June, 1945, was £753,571.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Northern Territory : Gold-mining ; Carrying of Firearms by Aborigines.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Does the Commonwealth now propose -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) The Mining Industry Advisory Panel is to meet towards the end of the present otolith to prepare a report on and recommendations for the rehabilitation of mining throughout the Commonwealth; (b) actionis being taken to invite applications for the position of battery manager at Tennant Creek. When this appointment is made it will be possible to treat ore as soon as certain necessary adjustments have been made to the hatter; machinery; (c) engineers in the employ of the Department of Works and Housing recently visited the field and examined the water supply position. Their report is now being prepared; (d) a scheme is in handfor the provision of adequate light and power for t he Tennant Creek township. A sum of £2,000 has already been spent on this scheme. A further £4,400 has been provided on the draft estimates for the current financial year.
n asked the Minister for the Interior,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The licence granted to this aboriginal has now expired and the rifle is in the possession of his white employer who has made arrangements to get meat supplies from a local cattle station.
Landsettlement of Ex-Servicemen.
y. - On the 15th June. 1945, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) asked a question relating to the participation of serving soldiers in land settlement schemes for exservicemen.
I now inform the honorable member that the Commonwealth has advised the States that it is in favour of permitting serving members of the Forces to apply for participation in land settlement schemes. Furthermore, it is considered desirable that all relevant particularsregarding the applicant should be recorded and examined prior to his discharge.It will be appreciated that an applicant’s eligibility cannot be determined until he is actually discharged ; nor should a final decision be made as to his suitability while he is still serving, since personal interview is considered essential, and this is not in all cases possible. Furthermore, war service may in the meantime render him unfit for farming. Serving member may be assured that their interests are being fully protected in the land settlement schemes, and that discharged servicemen will not have any special advantageover those still serving.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450913_reps_17_184/>.