17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. J; S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Resumption op Diplomatic Relations.
– Has the Acting Minister for External Affairs read in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph the report that th« British Embassy in
Tokyo was re-opened this week, and that Australia, which on a population basie made the greatest sacrifices in the Pacific war, is not a participant in the affairs of Tokyo to-day? Does he consider that Australia should have official representation in Japan while that country’s national life is being reshaped? If so, how far behind Great Britain_ does he expect Australia to be in establishing its legation there?
– The report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph gives an entirely erroneous idea of the situation. According to the advices that have been received by the Department of External Affairs, the British Embassy in Tokyo is being used as a residence for officers. It would be most unusual if diplomatic .relations’ with Japan were resumed until at leastthe instrument of surrender had been made effective. It cannot be expected that there will be any diplomatic repre*sentation in Japan until a peace treaty has been negotiated. The Australian Government will act when that stage has been reached. ‘ The inordinate desire of some persons to resume trade and commercial relations with an enemy so deeply steeped in crime as is Japan, will not have my endorsement. Any surplus foodstuffs that Australia may have will be made available to our kith and kin in the United Kingdom.
Tax . Concessions
– Has the Treasurer informed the Queensland Co-operative Dairy Companies Association that further tax concessions cannot be granted to primary producer cooperative associations? If so, will he state why such associations, which are established not to make profits for themselves but to ‘process raw materials produced by farmers, should not be granted a tax exemption iii respect of reserves that are set aside to provide industrial plant and buildings? In view of the importance of rural production, especially in the dairying industry, will the right honorable gentleman review the matter and afford some relief to these cooperative associations?
– The honorable gentleman asks whether I informed somebody that no further tax concessions could be granted. That has n familiar ring. I probably did. I do not remember the particular instance mentioned, but I shall look up the case, examine the matters raised and give the matter further consideration. As I have said before in the House, matters of taxation are constantly under consideration.
AUSTRALIAN prisoners of
Treatment in Singapore - Increased Food Ration.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen the paragraph in the press to the effect that Australians rescued from the Japanese in Singapore have again been cooped up in prison ? Is this in keeping with the general policy? Is the Minister prepared to allow this treatment of our nien to continue?
– My attention was drawn to the report and I am having inquiries made. I do not know the circumstances. Majors-General Callaghan is in charge of the Australian forces in Singapore. He himself was imprisoned by the Japanese for three and a half years. Until I get some information as to the circumstances I cannot make any statement.
– As most Australian prisoners of war will desire to return to their homes as soon as they are well enough to do so, and in view of the fact that they are seriously undernourished because of Japanese ill treatment, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs take steps to ensure that they will be given at least double the number of sustenance coupons, particularly for such foods as butter and meat, which are in short supply ?
– Having in mind the right honorable gentleman’s professional qualifications, I am confident that my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs will give sympathetic and favoraril<> consideration to hi? suggestion.
Peace with Italy - S n risen deb in Netherlands East Indies.
– It has been suggested in the press that largely as the result of insistence by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) Australia is being given a voice in the determination by the Council of Foreign Ministers of the peace terms in respect of Italy. Can th<Acting Minister for External Affairs tell the House what instructions the Government has issued to the Minister for External Affairs in this regard? What policy is to be applied by him? Also, will the Minister explain why the representatives of the Netherlands were not permitted to sign the surrender instrument in the Netherlands East Indie? recently?
– by leave - The Council of Foreign Ministers, consisting of the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Soviet Union, China and France, began work in London early last week. Thimain business so far has been consideration of the terms of the peace settlement with Italy. The Minister for -Externa’ Affairs (Dr. Evatt) was designated by the Government as Australia’s special representative . in connexion with tb<matters before the council. The Australian Government’s view concerning participation in the peace settlement it that all members of the United Nation* that have chiefly contributed 10 final victory should have adequate and effective opportunity to present their views. The council’s work will h? decisive in the peace-making process, and. therefore, Australia and other similarly placed Allies should have thi opportunity of access to the council’s dis - elusions. Information from Dr. Evatt indicates that this view has been endorsed and actively supported by the United Kingdom Government. The Council of Foreign Ministers has also accepted the view urged by Australia. It has been announced that the council will invito all the United Nations at war with Italy to submit in writing their views concerning peace terms with Italy. In addition, the council invited Yugoslavia, Italy, Autralia, Canada. India, New Zealand sud South Africa each to nominate a representative to attend’ the council meeting on Monday, the 17th September, to express the views of their governments concerning the frontier between Yugoslavia, and Italy. The Government has taken steps to see that Australia’s interests in regard to the settlement with Italy shall be fully placed before the council by the Minister for External Affairs. It is obviously not possible for me at present to disclose the progress of negotiations, since they are concerned with matters of high policy and are still under active consideration by other governments.
The present discussions of the council concerning the Italian peace treaty are preparatory only. Approval of any final draft of a treaty will have to be given by the Australian Government and the Governments of other members of the United Nations at war with Italy. Australia cannot forget the infamous record of Fascist Italy in joining Hitler, and the sacrifice of Australian lives which this cost. No just peace settlement with Italy can ignore these facts. At the same time, many thousands of antiFascist Italians fought bravely against the common enemy, even during the German occupation. The Australian Government hopes that, a new democratic Italy will arise, free from all trace of fascism and able to play a full part in furthering the cause of the United Nations.
With regard to the representation of the Netherlands Government at the signing of surrender terms in the Netherlands East Indies, I shall make a statement later this week.
Use as Troop TRANSPORT
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that the work of converting the Queen Mary from a luxury liner to a troop transport was carried out in Sydney? If so, are all of the luxury furnishings still stored in Australia? Are they to be shipped to England for re-installation? If so, would it not be a great saving of shipping space to use the Queen Mary to bring the wives, children and fiancees of. Australian servicemen to Australia and arrange for the work of refurnishing to be carried out here where the material* are at hand ?
– Only a partial refit of the Queen Mary was carried out in Australia. The major portion of the ship’s original fittings were removed when the vessel was refitted as a transport (first in the United Kingdom, and later in the United States of America. Only a small portion of the complete work of refitting the vessel as a troopship was actually undertaken in Australia. Of the vessel’s original furnishings only the carpetings are now in Australia. At present, the Queen Mary is being utilized for the transportation of American servicemen from the European zone to the United States, and it would not seem to be either convenient or desirable, at the moment, to interfere with that important work. At all events, in view of the facts I have given, it would not be possible to restore the vessel’s complete furnishings in Australia.
-.- I draw the attention of the Minister for Immigration to a rather extraordinary report published in the Melbourne Herald last evening purporting to convey knowledge of a letter which the High Commissioner in London, Mr. Bruce, intends to issue shortly as advice to prospective migrants to Australia. In this letter, it is stated, Mr. Bruce will advise intending migrants that, for various reasons, including demobilization of Australian forces, shortage of housing and shortage of shipping, it will not be possible for any measurable flow of British migration to Australia to begin within two years. If the article is well founded, will the Minister state whether the Government’s policy rests on its acceptance of the view that, because of these various factors, no measurable flow of migrants oan begin before the expiration of two years ? If that is the Government’s policy, will the Government re-examine the position with a view to arranging for the reception of immigrants before the very large number of people who to-day are unsettled in their minds, and therefore disposed to migrate, settle down in jobs, get married and obtain houses to live in, so that they will no longer consider transferring to another country ?
– I read the article purporting to contain extracts from a letter proposed to be sent by Mr. Bruce to intending migrants. I also read the editorial comment on the letter. The term “ extraordinary “ should be applied to the editorial comment rather than to the facts of the situation. While the honorable member was absent in the United States of America, I made a statement outlining the policy of the Government in regard to immigration. The three central facts in regard to that policy are these: first, we shall not bring people to Australia until the rehabilitation of our own service personnel is completed, or is within sight of completion; secondly, we shall not bring people to Australia until we are within measurable distance of a solution of our housing problem ; and thirdly, we cannot bring people to Australia until the necessary shipping becomes available. The shortage of shipping is particularly acute. The Minister for Repatriation is responsible for bringing to Australia, wives and children of Australian servicemen to the number of 2,500, in addition to which there are 500 fiancees of Australian servicemen. I am responsible for bringing back 2,000 men, women and children who have been marooned in Britain since the outbreak of war. The demands on shipping are very great, and the British authorities . are able to make very little available to us. The most reliable advice is that only a slight improvement can be expected within the next twelve months or so. The House debated the statement which I made on immigration, and suggestions were made by honorable members of tall parties as to methods for speeding up immigration. The Government is conscious of the need to increase the population of this country, and immigration is just one phase of the problem. We are aiming to bring 70,000 people to Australia from overseas as soon as we can procure shipping and decide on the right type of migrants. Those 70,000, in addition to the ordinary excess of births over deaths each year, amounting to another 70,000, will represent an increase of 2 per cent, of our population annually, and experience has shown that 2 per cent, is about the limit of what a nation oan absorb without disturbance to ite economy. Some people say that our immigration policy is ‘ too timid. The newspaper comment of last night was that our policy was over-enthusiastic. The truth is that there are many physical difficulties in the way of bringing people to Australia, and we are trying to overcome them as quickly as possible.
– Does the Minister expect two years to elapse before shipping can bc supplied ?
– We expect eighteen months to be the minimum period bef ore shipping will be available to bring people to this country in large numbers, tn order to bring 70,000 people a year to Australia, we should require liners capable of holding 2,000 people each to make 35 trips a year, and the volume of lapping—
– Probably half of the ships now afloat were built in three years.
– Very few ships trading between Australia and Great Britain carried more than 1,000 passengers each trip in pre-war years. We should require vessels twice as big as the Strathnaver or any similar ship, and they would have to make a combined total of 35 trips annually. The problem cannot be solved easily. What Mr. Bruce said in London was not at all in disagreement with what I said in this House; in fact, it was entirely in consonance with my statement. The misinterpretation placed upon it by certain newspapers may have created con- fusion in the public mind. I shall be glad to tell the honorable gentleman anything more that he might like to know about the Government’s policy, and I shall make available to him a copy of the speech which -I circulated in his absence to other honorable members, and which sets out very clearly the attitude and desire of the Government in regard to immigration. At least I have the satisfaction of knowing that, whilst certain newspaper editorials in this country condemned me and the Government’s policy, I have been praised in a leading article in the London Times for having; announced a realistic policy.
Massacre of Australian Nurses
– As the news of the massacre of Australian nurses by Japanese troops - the most diabolical atrocity on record - has stirred the civilized world, will the Minister for the Army assure the people of Australia that the statement made by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten that there can be no reprisals, has not the endorsement of the Australian Government? Furthermore, as means are available for identifying the Japanese regiment which committed the crime, will steps be taken to ensure that these war criminals shall be dealt with immediately and effectively?
– I entirely agree that the massacre of Australian nurses is probably the greatest atrocity on record. I have not seen the statement attributed to Admiral Mountbatten regarding reprisals. However, the honorable gentleman may rest assured that the policy supported by this Government is that of arresting and trying, before a properly constituted tribunal, all war criminals. Statements to that effect have already been made by responsible members of this Government. We all were horrified at the terrible news that was published in the newspapers regarding this dastardly act, and anything that I or the Government can do to bring to book those responsible for the atrocity will be done promptly.
Seizure oe Stocks of Wholesale Butchers.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that the meat supplies of three wholesale butchers in Melbourne were seized yesterday by order of his department. If so, can he state the reason for this action? Does he not consider that the people most likely to be penalized by this action are the customers of the 60 or more retail butchers supplied by the wholesale butchers, rather than the wholesale traders themselves?
– I thought that only the Army, in -the worst days of the war, did <u oh things. I have not heard previously of this seizure of meat. I do not know what motives actuated those responsible for it, but I shall certainly make immediate inquiries and answer the honorable gentleman’s questions as soon as possible.
H.M.A.S. “Sydney”- H.M.A.S. “ Perth “.
– Has the Minister for the Navy received any authentic information regarding the disappearance of H.M.A.S. Sydney ? If not, will he seek it as early as possible in order to relieve the anxiety of relatives of thiship’s crew?
– Everything possible has been done to secure tidings of th? ill-fated H.M.A.S. Sydney. As I have already intimated to the House, I recently had a signal sent to Commodore Collins, who is now in Tokyo, asking him to make inquiries there as to the fate of the vessel. Unfortunately, Commodore Collins has replied that no information on the subject is available in Tokyo. A.= H.M.A.S. Sydney is thought to have been engaged in battle with a German raider, it is probably correct that particulars of the engagement are not known in Tokyo. Every effort has been made to obtain authentic information regarding the rate of the vessel, but so far without success.
– Have German prisoners of war been interrogated?
– I have instructed my department to arrange for German prisoners of war to be further interrogated.
Mr. MAKIN (Hindmarsh- Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions and Minister for Aircraft. Production). - by leave - The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie - Cameron) last week asked a question in regard to prisoners of war &&-H.M.A.S. Perth. I first stress that .”.11 information concerning personnel of H.M.A.S. Perth received by my department has been passed on immediately to the next-of-kin concerned. This policy, which has been faithfully followed since the first reports of prisoners were received, is still adopted. It may have been considered in many quarters that, with the recovery of the four survivors who were rescued from the Japanese transport torpedoed last year, the complete story of the loss of H.M.A..S. Perth, and. the fate of her personnel, must have become known to the authorities. I regret that such is not the ase. Although valuable information regarding the action was obtained iron’ the interrogation of those men, they were able to add practically nothing, with any reasonable degree of certainty, concerning her personnel, to what had previously been known in my department and had already been passed on to next-of-kin. They had sufficiently conclusive proof, however, of the death of seven men while prisoners of war, and the next-of-kin were informed accordingly. In this regard, honorable. members will appreciate the grave consequences which could arise from the acceptance by my department of reports of deaths which were not proved beyond all reasonable doubt. The honor- it hie member for Barker asked whether any hope could be held out for those personnel not yet accounted for. It is, of ‘011 Me impossible for me at this stage to answer that question categorically, as it is not yet known whether any of the personnel of whom no advice’ whatsoever has been received, were killed in action, drowned, or evaded capture by’ the enemy. Such information can be obtained only from a careful and detailed examination nf the information obtained by interrogation of released prisoners of war, information supplied by the Japanese, and lie results of searches carried out by the forces of occupation. The whole matter is greatly complicated by the fact that he prisoners have been scattered as far part as from Java to Japan. Therefore, nui all survivors have been recovered md are in a fit state for interrogation, the full story will not be available. I regret to state that up to the present., here is no news of any of the personnel who bad not been reported prior to Japan’s capitulation. The present position is that of a total complement of 676, ‘(()4 are still missing, 87 ar<? prisoners of war not yet released, 39 are known to have died while prisoners of war, and 166 [prisoners of war have been released. The general health of those released from Tokyo is believed to be satisfactory, but i mi reports on the health of prisoners released from other centres have yet been received. In order to ensure the most efficient tracing of naval prisoners of war, naval contact units are working in conjunction with Army units from Singapore and Manila. Further units are based on Morotai, and can be sent to any destination at short notice. All these personnel have been appointed for the express purpose of tracing the fate or whereabouts of prisoners of war not yet located, or of personnel still regarded as missing. These parties are also charged, with the welfare of released prisoners of war.
Releases - Discharges to Pkiu abt Industries.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether, when the points system for the release of service personnel is brought into operation, the system will apply to Army officers who have held executive positions for a number of years, so that officers with fewer points may take their places?
– The points system will apply to all personnel of the Australias Military Forces, whether officers, noncommissioned officers or other rank*.
– I take it from the statement of the Minister for the Army that it is intended to double the number of proposed releases in the current halfyear. On the basis of 3,000 releases, only 800 would have been released to Victoria. From the most recent statement it appears that not more than twice that number will be released to Victoria. In view of the fact that 10,000 applications for releases are outstanding in Victoria alone and that the stated policy will provide for the release of only a small percentage of that number, will the Minister for the Army further examine the possibility of additional releases of men to meet the labour shortage in primary industries?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the claims of Victoria for not only primary industries, but also all other industries, in common with those of the other States, are constantly under examination. As I have stated previously, the position does not remain static. With the end of the war the number of discharges will be greatly increased. So many releases will be made within the next six months that if all concerned will have a little patience and consideration for the physical difficulties in the way of getting back from the islands to the north of Australia some 70,000 or 80,000 persons, they will soon be satisfied. I think that within the next few months the difficulties will be overcome. I assure the honorable gentleman that I have every sympathy for the claims of primary industries as I have for home-builders and other sections of r.he community. In conjunction with the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, I have the claims of industries for the release of men constantly under review.
– J understand thai arrangements were made for men T,o ob:ain leave from the Army in order to participate in urgent harvesting operations. Although applications for releases have been made they have not been granted, and the men sought to be released are still in the Army. Will the Minister for the Army confer imme-(lately with the Minister for Labour and National Service, in order to secure the immediate release of men whose services ave essential for harvesting operations at the present time?
– 1 shall be glad to confer with the Minister for Labour and
National Service. .1 realize the importance of men being granted leave with>ut pay for the purpose mentioned. A decision to that effect has been made. Furthermore, it has been decided thai there shall be 3,000 discharges for engagement in primary industries in addition to the 3,000 already announced, making a total of 6,000 apart from normal wastage and the number to be discharged when the rehabilitation plan is brought into operation as from the 1st October next.
– The policy of the Government in relation to demobilization is referred to as the points system.
Arp we to understand that the points system applies to all cases without any exceptions? For example, does it apply to a man who is in Australia, who is otherwise eligible and has a job to go back to - the job he left when he enlisted ‘< Under the law, the employer is compelled to keep the job open for him and to employ him when he is ready. It such a man not to be released unless he has the required number of points, or if the Minister has discretion, to what extent is he exercising it ? I have received in the last few days at least 50 letters referring to cases of that kind.
– The points system i> not rigid. Exceptions can be made under it. “ Provision is made for occupational releases as exceptions to the system. The number of men who will be released in any- given period will be limited h) certain physical factors such as transport. In general, the points system lays down only the general principle that thi men who will be demobilized during a given period will be those with the highest number of points, but exception? to that rule will occur. Men required for key positions in industry O) important tasks in the civilian community will be released regardless of tbnumber of points they have. I cannot say more than that now, but if the right honorable gentleman supplies instance in which it appears to him that exceptions should be made in respect of particular persons, I shall have then’ examined. I point, out that general demobilization will not start to operate until the ls) October.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether in view of the good supply of milk at this time of the year he will assist small seaside shopkeepers whose business largely depends on the sale of ice cream, by removing restrictions imposed on the manufacture of that essential foodstuff?
– I assure the honorable gentleman that my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs will give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s pressing representations.
Rocklea Factory Plant and Equipment - Military Huts
– Reports indicate that large quantities of plant, operated by the Allied Works Council, have been forwarded from Queensland to the southern States for sale. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping see that a reasonable quantity of all plant and materials, including lend-lease road-making plant, shall be made available in Queensland where so much damage to roads has. been caused by military vehicles? Will he, where possible, ensure that building materials and general equipment, which are urgently required in country centres, -hall be distributed to the best advantage and offered at prices within the reach of - country residents ?
– So far as 1 am aware, the practice is to dispose of these surplus goods at the places where they are located in order to avoid transport and other charges. If the honorable gentleman will give me some specific instances of materials being moved from Queensland to other States, I shall have something definite on which to base ray inquiries. I appreciate the honorable member’s desire that building materials shall be provided for the residents of country districts. He has a duty to see that wherever practicable they shall obtain supplies, but there are difficulties to be overcome. I shall discuss the honorable member’s question with the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Aircraft Production seen the report in to-day’s Courier Mail that Queensland’s secondary industries have not had an opportunity to render for plant and equipment at the Rocklea factory of the Aircraft Pro- <! notion Commission, quantities of which, although ostensibly required for the department’s works at Melbourne and Sydney, have gone to southern States as sex-called surplus equipment, and therefore, to private enterprise in those States? If so,; what explanation has the Minister to offer, and will be explain why, if a statement attributed- to an official is correct; machines, including machinetools and gauges, lathes, and other heavy equipment weighing from 6 to 7 tons, and worth from £4,000 to £6,000, are being sent as far as Adelaide? Will he say why such plant has not been made available to encourage and develop secondary industries in Queensland?
– I have not seen the press report to which the honorable gentleman referred. I shall have the transfer of the machine tools examined, but the disposal of other plant and equipment would be dealt with by either the Secondary Industries Commission, which conies under the administration of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, or the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
– il ask the Minister i-f presenting the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether it is the policy of the Government to dispose of all surplus vehicles, equipment and took in the State in which they are located? If so, has lie seen the statement attributed in the Brisbane press to the Acting Premier of Queensland referring to the removal of surplus goods from the munitions works at Rocklea to southern States?
– In answer to an earlier question I said’ that I believed it to be the policy of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to dispose of surplus goods in the State in which they are located. Since replying to that question I have had handed to me a copy of the Courier-Mail which contains a report dealing with removal of plant from the munition works at Rocklea to southern States. The report deals particularly with goods under the control of the Aircraft Production Department. Two reasons may exist for the removal of such goods to southern States : First, this plant, perhaps, is being shifted to areas for use with future aircraft production; and, secondly, it may be thought that the plant can be more readily disposed of in the southern States than in Queensland. The article includes a statement attributed to the Acting Premier of Queensland that he was not disturbed about the removal of this plant. He said that, he had discussed the matter- with the Secondary Industries. Commission and was satisfied that an ample pool, of machinery remained in Queensland from which Queensland could drawits, requirements. He also referred to the possibility of this plant being made available to universities for use in training schemes to be undertaken under the rehabilitation programme; and went on to say that he had been informed that some of the machinery at the munitions works at Rocklea- was not suitable for Queensland industries. I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member.
– 1 nsk the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and -Shipping whether he is aware that the National Fitness Council of New South Wales was refused the gift of several military huts at West Head, at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, although the huts are no longer required by the Army authorities, and that, consequently, the council was compelled to bid at public auction for them? Will he now consider remitting to the council the purchase price involved i» view of the national character of the council’s work?
– The policy of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is to give first opportunity to acquire goods to governmental and semigovernmental instrumentalities, and I should have imagined that the National Fitness Council of New South Wales would be directly associated with the Department of Education in that State. If the facts given hy the honorable member are correct, it would appear that the council has not approached this matter in the right way. If it approached the Disposals Commission through the Department of Education, it might come within the category of governmental instrumentalities and thus be entitled to prior consideration in the disposal of surplus plant or material. However, I shall look into the matter, and, if necessary, advise the National Fitness Council to take steps along the lines I have indicated.
S l”gak - Household Linen - Cotton Clothing.
– Can the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Trade and Customs, indicate how long sugar rationing is likely, to continue?. Is it a fact that sugar rationing is .seriously retarding the development of many secondaryindustries, particularly food manufactures, in Australia?
– I am unable to say offhand how long sugar rationing is likely to continue, but I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs. Compared with the sugar ration in other Allied countries, the present allowance in Australia does not inflict upon the community any great hardship.
– The development of industry is being retarded.
– Inquiries will be made to ascertain to what extent industries are affected as a result of their inability to obtain adequate supplies of sugar as one of their raw materials.
– During the last five or six years stocks of household linen have become seriously depleted in many bornes, and much of that now in use has had to be repaired so frequently as to be now almost unrecognizable as the article purchased. In view of the return to Australia of many prisoners of war, and the discharge of large numbers of members, of, the forces, will the Minister representing the. Minister for Trade and Customs have representations made to the Rationing Commission for the augmentation of supplies and the lowering of the rationing scale, in order that household stocks may be replenished?
– As household linen is imported^ doubtless there is a shortage of supplies. I shall be glad to discuss with the Minister for Trade and Customs the possibility of additional supplies being made available as soon as possible.
-As we all know, Queensland is tropical, and, with the approach of summer, there is an increasing demand for cotton clothing. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ask his colleague to give immediate sympathetic consideration to reducing the ration coupon rating in relation to cotton goods in Queensland?
– I shall confer with my colleague, who; iri turn, will discuss the matter with the Rationing Commission, and the honorable gentleman’s suggestions will be taken into consideration.
– Can the Minister for Munitions inform the House of the position in regard to supplies of plain and barbed wire, wire netting, and other essential materials for the man on the land?
– Such commodities are produced by private industry, but. the Department of Munitions controls the distribution of them. Last week, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) stated that Lysaght’s Proprietary Limited was working to full capacity in the production of galvanized iron. Inquiries that I have made reveal that that, is not correct. As I indicated at the time, all the facilities that are available for the manufacture of commodities in this class cannot be utilized at present owing to the shortage of essential man-power. Everything possible is being done to speed up production and make the largest distribution. Owing to the tremendous quantities that have been required by the fighting forces, orders for civilian requirements are in arrears by about nine months.
Parcels for Civilians
– At the present time, th«: weight of food parcels sent to GreatBritain must not exceed 5 lb. if addressed to civilians and 11 lb. if addressed to service personnel. Having regard to the abnormal circumstances that now exist in Great Britain in view of the cessation of lend-lease, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture examine the practicability of having the weight limit raised in order that larger parcels may be forwarded?
– I shall be pleased to examine sympathetically the suggestion of the honorable member; but I take this opportunity to make it clear that this restriction was imposed not by the Australian Government but by the Government of the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Maranoa evidently appreciated that fact when he asked whether representations would be made to the British Government with a view to raising the weight limit of parcel* of foodstuffs for civilians in Britain from 5 lb. to 11 lb.
– Could the Australian &>vernment indicate that we would be prepared to send parcels of a greater weighif the British Government raised thi limit?
– The British Govern ment imposed this restriction in ordeto ensure a more equitable distribution of foodstuffs to civilians in Great Britain My point is that the honorable gentle man’s question gave the impression thathi? restriction had been imposed by th> Australian Government to the detriment of the people of Great Britain, whereas i’ was imposed by the British Govern
– Has tu, Minister for Repatriation seen the strong criticism in Smith’s Weakly of the 15tl September of the policy of his depart ment in placing war neurosis cases ii mental asylums? Has he also read thi statement of the Victorian President oi the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Mr Holland, that the Government should establish special clinics for war neurosis cases? In view of the fac! that, unfortunately, an increasing number o1 war neurosis cases will be returning t> Australia now that the war is over, wil’ the Minister institute a completely nev policy that will not require these men who are paying dearly for having served their country, to associate with lunatics?
– I have not seen threport in Smith’s Weekly. I know that it publishes a number of reports, but 1 do not bother about them. We have thi matter of neurotic cases in hand. We ari doing everything possible for them. T’ any one has any special case to briny forward, we will investigate it. But t< make vague, wild statements that thea, men are neglected is quite wrong. They are not being neglected. We are doin/j everything possible on their behalf. The? are being cared for by the best doctors and specialists obtainable.We are not saving money at their expense.
– But are they kept in mental asylums?
Mr.FROST. - We are seeing that they are properly treated.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will take up with the War Graves Commission, as soon as shipping is available, the possibility of enabling relatives to transfer for reinterment in this country the remains of loved ones now buried overseas?
– I shall have the matter examined. The honorable member is aware that it has been discussed from time to time, and that it involves many difficulties.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the rationing of electricity in certain suburbs in Sydney as the result of the strike at Bunnerong power station? If so, will he tell the House what is the position with regard to intervention by the Commonwealth Government in the dispute? If the Commonwealth Government has not intervened, will it do so in order to effect a speedy settlement?
– I stated on a previous occasion that the dispute at the Bunnerong power station is one between the Sydney City Council and its employees. Those employees are working under State awards, and thus the dispute comes entirely within State jurisdiction. The Commonwealth Government has not intervened at all in the present dispute, and. at the moment, I am unable to say whether intervention by the Commonwealth Government would effect a settlement more satisfactory than that which is likely to be obtained within the framework of the State law and the awards which govern the employees concerned. Although the Commonwealth Government was concerned in a previous dispute at the Bunnerong power station, it has not intervened in the present dispute, and does not intend to do so.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purposes of financial assistance to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to the payment during the current financial year of special grants aggregating £2,996,000 to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The payment of these special grants has been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its twelfth report which was tabled recently for the information of honorable members.
The grants recommended by the commission for payment this year compare with those actually paid last year as follows : -
The general principle adopted by the Grants Commission in arriving each year at the special grants which it recommends to be paid to these States is that the special grants should be sufficient to meet the financial needs of these States. At the same time, the commission has emphasized in its reports from time to time that no fixed formula can suitably be applied to the assessment of special grants and that the methods employed must be sufficiently flexible to meet changing circumstances. Accordingly, the commission has made certain changes in its methods during the war years and has made several relaxations in favour of the claimant States in its twelfth report.
The methods adopted by -the commission in arriving at .the grants recommended for payment in 194!5-46 took into account two imam considerations. In the first place, the commission assessed the grants on the financial results of the States in 1943-44, the latest year for which .complete statistical information is available. As a first approximation to the assessed grants, >the ‘commission calculated the” amounts which would have been .esquired to give the claimant States a balanced budget in 1943-44. The total of these amounts was assessed at £2,386,000, as compared with £2,027,000 last year. Honorable -members will recall that, in its previous three reports, the commission adopted a balanced budget standard, in view of the fact that the surplus budget standard .enjoyed by the non-claimant States was a resultprimarily of Commonwealth war finance and hence scarcely appropriate as a standard for purposes of Commonwealth assistance. In previous years, the commission considered it equitable that States seeking financial assistance from the Commonwealth should be required to make some special effort to redeem .their financial position. Accordingly an adjustment, calculated as a percentage of certain expenditure of the claimant States, was made to the assessed grants. Last year, the effect of this adjustment was to reduce the grants which would otherwise have been payable to the States by £200,000. This year the commission decided temporarily to suspend this adjustment, in view of the limited scope for special effort on the part of the claimant States. After making certain adjustments designed primarily to pre-‘ serve relativity in standards of revenue and expenditure between the States, the grants asessed by the commission on the financial results of the States in 1943-44 amounted to £2,369,000, as compared with £1,714,000 in the previous year.
Secondly; as in past years, the commission, where necessary, made adjustments to -the assessed grants in order to brins them into line with the prospective financial -needs of the claimant States in the current, -financial year. Thus the commission recommended that an additional payment of i£55’5,*000 be made to
South Australia, -and that payment of £153,000 .of the .grant assessed for Western Australia be deferred. No adjustment was considered necessary in the case of Tasmania. After taking into account an amount of £225,000, the payment of which to Western Australia was deferred until this year, the net effect of these adjustments was to increase the assessed grants by £627,000, thus making the total grants payable in 1945-46. £2,996,000.
In previous years, any additional pay ment recommended by the commission has been termed .an advance payment, and the commission has stipulated thai any such advance will be deducted from the grant assessed on the States’ financee two years later - that is when the year in which the grant is paid becomes the year of review. In order to meet fear.1’ expressed by some States that their financial future might be prejudiced under this procedure, ‘the commission has now abandoned the term “ advance payment”, and has indicated that any additional payment will not be deducted from a future grant unless the budget position of a State has sufficiently improved to warrant the adjustment. Conversely, a deferred payment will, in future, not necessarily be added .to the grant paid in the following year.
I shall now; outline briefly the grant.recommended for payment “to each State : The amount recommended for [payment to South , Australia is £1,400,000, or £200,000 more than last year. This increase is due almost wholly to the fac.! that, after excluding the special grants paid in those years, the amount required to give South Australia a balanced budget in 1943-44 was £317,000 greater than in the previous year. The consequential increase in the ^special .grant this year, as compared with last year, was partly offset by the fact that last year’s grant to South Australia included a payment deferred from the previous year. ‘South Australia’s financial position has shown some deterioration recently, and the fact will ‘be recalled that last year, in addition to the usual special grant, income tax reimbursement to that State was increased by £553,000, thus enabling the budget to be balanced. The increased
Specialgrantthisyeartakes account of the deterioration in South Australia’s finances.
The grant recommended for payment to Western Australia is £950,000, or £46,000more than last year. This grant was arrived at after deferring an amount of £153,000 which, afterexamining current budget trends, including estimated savings in public debt charges, thecommissionconsidered would not berequiredby Western Australia duringthe currentfinancial year.
The special grant recommended for payment to Tasmania is£646,000, or £96,000 less than last year’s grant, which was the highest ever recommended by the commission for payment to that State. The reduction in the grant is due to two main factors. In the first place the commission excluded from Tasmania’s expenditure in1943-44 an amount of £48,000, which was set aside as areserve to meet arrears of railway maintenance when labour and materials become available. Under the commission’s methods, expenditure on deferred maintenance will be taken into account when the expenditure is actually incurred. Secondly, last year an additionalpayment of £65,000 was made to Tasmania tobring the assessed grant into line with Tasmania’s requirements in 1944-45. After examining current trends asthey may effect Tasmania’s financialposition in 1945-46, the commission considered that, provided lottery revenues were maintained and items of an extraordinary character were not included in the State’s expenditure, the grant of £646,000 should meet the financial needs of Tasmania in 1945-46.
The Government has carefully considered the twelfth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and has decided that, as in allprevious years, the commission’s recommendations should be accepted.The aggregate of the grants recommended for payment in 1945-46 is the highest since the commission was established and should prove sufficient to meet the financial needs of South Australia, WesternAustraliaand Tasmania in the currentfinancial year. I commend the bill tohonorable members.
Debate (on motion byMr.Menzies) adjourned.
.-I move -
Thatthe Chairman of Committeesdoes not possess the confidence of thisHouse.
In order that this matter, and the issues which arise in relation to it, maybe discussed on a proper level with no misunderstanding, I want to say that this is inno sensea personal attack on the honorablemember for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). The honorable member, in hispersonal capacity,enjoys the goodwill ofhonorable members, including myself. What I desire to do is to discussthedischarge of his duties in the office of Chairman of Committees. The function of the Chairman of Committees is not merely to uphold the authority of the Chair, enforce the Standing Orders and maintain discipline in debate, but it is also to protect the rights of honorable members. In two major respects the conception that the Chairman has of his duties in the Chair runs entirely counterto the legitimate interests and rights of honorable members. The purpose of the motion is to enable us to criticize the handling by the honorable member for Kennedy of his duties as Chairman. In particular, I want to direct my mind to two matters which I shall illustrate by reference to quite recent events. The first of these matters is that the Chairman has developed a practice of delivering what I venture to describe as very hastyrulings, frequently thereafter refusing to honorable members the right todiscuss them or to submit arguments inrelationto them. It is proper, I believe, that every time a ruling is given on a contentious matter, honorable members should have the right to direct themselvesto that point, and to have their arguments upon it heard and considered. Inthe second place, the Chairman of Committees has also developed a practice of very abrupt treatment of honorable members, calling them to order and sometimesbringing about disciplinary measures against them in a precipitate manner.Perhaps that is not his intention,butthe effect in committee is very marked.
I illustrate these two matters by reference to what took place as recently as Thursday last, because we had then two excellent examples of the kind of thing that I want to discuss. The first of them is concerned with the suspension of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). Honorable mem bers will find in Standing Order 262b, paragraph c, this provision -
A motion without notice may be made, that a member who is speaking “ be not further heard,” and such question shall be put forthwith, and decided without amendment or debate.
That is a perfectly clear standing order. Every honorable member has the right in the House or in committee to submit that motion and to have it voted upon. This concerns all of us; it is not a party matter. The standing order sets out our right in relation to that procedure. What took place on Thursday? The honorable m ember for Watson (Mr. Falstein) had been addressing the Chair. He had made some remarks on the subject of demobilization, and they had given rise to an incident to which I shall refer in a few minutes. After the incident had been discussed, the honorable member for Watson proposed to resume his speech, and, being on his feet, was in the act of doing so. He was called on by the Chairman, when the honorable member for Richmond rose and said -
I move -
That the honorable member for Watson be no longer heard.
That was a motion in the plain terms if the standing order. It was perfectly in order. The honorable member for Watson had been called, and was on his feet in the act of resuming his speech. The honorable member for Parramatta intervened and said -
I want a ruling.
I mention that merely because it took place; it has no bearing on the point which I am making. The Chairman then addressing the honorable member for Richmond said -
Unless the honorable member for Richmond resumes his seat I will name him.
He again called the honorable member for Watson. Perhaps things were not heard clearly, but at any rate the honor able member for Richmond came back to his motion and said -
I have resumed my seat- which he had done - and I now rise again and move -
That the honorable member for Watson be no longer heard.
I have every right to do so.
– What was his object?
– We are not concerned with his object. The object of a motion that an honorable member be no longer heard is to prevent him from being heard any longer if the House or the committee agrees with the motion. My point is that, under the Standing Orders, every honorable member has the right to submit such a motion. The honorable member for Richmond did so.
– I might make such a motion now.
– The honorable member may if he likes. Is he going to doso ?
– Not just yet.
– Very well. The honorable member for Richmond said -
I have resumed my seat, andI now rise again and move -
That the honorable member for Watson be no longer heard.
I have every right to do so.
Thereupon the Chairman said -
I name the honorable member for Richmond.
The honorable member for Parramatta again, somewhat plaintively, said -
I want a ruling.
The Chairman told him to resume his seat, and repeated that the honorable member for Richmond had been named. The honorable member for Parramatta said -
ButI want a ruling.
– And I still want it.
– The record of the proceedings then continues -
– On a point of order-
– Order! I ask the honorable member for 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 Chairman again intervened -
I inform the Prime Minister that I have named the honorable member for Richmond.
The Prime Minister then moved for the suspension of the honorable member for Richmond, and his suspension was agreed to by 30 votes to 20. I have this to say to honorable members who were amongst he 30: No offence whatever1 was committed by the honorable member for Richmond. He exercised a right which I have heard a score . of honorable members exercise since I have been a member of this House, a right which is given to every honorable member by the Standing Orders. Nobody can quarrel with the terms which the honorable member employed. He sat down in obedience to the Chair, he rose again to exercise his right, he submitted his motion under the Standing Orders, and he was named. Either he was named because the Chairman entirely misunderstood what was going on, or confused him with somebody “dse, or was muddled in his mind as to what was occurring, or we have here, by implication, a ruling that an honorable member who exercises his rights under the Standing Orders is guilty of disorderly conduct which merits his suspension from the service of the Houses - a proceeding which perhaps we take fairly lightly but which, after all, involves discredit to the honorable member who is removed- That was the first incident.
I’ now refer to the second incident and draw attention to Standing Order 266 -
No member shall allude to any debate of the dame session upon a question or bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in committee except by the indulgence of the Bouse for personal explanations.
That standing order is in reality a crystallization of the practice of the House of Commons. In his Parliamentary Practice. 12th edition, at page 289 - the same passage occurs in other editions -May says - lt is a wholesome restraint upon members, to prevent them from reviving a debate already concluded, and there would be .little UBe in preventing the same question or bill from being offered twice in the same session if, without being offered, its merits might bp discussed again and again.
That is a perfectly clear statement, and it is taken up by our own Standing Orders. Lft me again refer to Standing Order 266. Tt begins : “ No member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or bill not being then under discussion. . . .” The prohibition is against referring to a debate that has occurred. On Thursday last, the honorable member for Watson was directing himself to a variety of matters arising out of the budget, and among them hementioned the points system of demobilization. I shall relate what then occurred. First, I shall quote the concluding passage of the honorable member’s observation so as to put things in their right relationship. The honorable member for Watson was speaking and the record of the proceedings in Hansard reads -
The Leader of the Opposition said that speedy demobilization of the forces waa 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 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 mem bers 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 bc « great inconvenience to them if your ruling were insisted upon.
– It is the practice of thiHouse that an honorable member may noi 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 motion was decided by the House. Therefore, it is not competent for any honorable member to revive the debate now.
T venture to say that if that ruling, in those terms, is good, the time-honoured practice of this Parliament in relation to budget discussions has gone. 1 have had seventeen years of parliamentary experience - some other honorable members have hud a much longer experience, and there are one or two who, I think, will have a shorter term - and in that period
I have found that, there are two types of debate in which it Iia? boon thought that honorable members had the whole field open to them. The first is the debate on the Address-in-Reply. That opportunity occurs- only occasionally, because a new session begins only infrequently. The other occasion occurs year after year when the budget is before the Parliament. That is the one time in the year when any matter which has any bearing upon the government of the country, or upon its finances, may be brought under review by honorable members. The budget debate is the time, of all times, when grievances may be aired, because, by a long parliamentary history, the rectification of grievances should precede Supply. Into the middle of that practice - a practice important not only to every member of this House personally, but also to every member as a representative of the people whose spokesman in this place he is - comes a ruling which treats the budget debate as being as narrowly confined as a debate upon some specific and limited measure.
When the honorable member for Watson wished to say something on the subject of demobilization and was told that that would be a revival of the debate on a motion that a statement relating to demobilization be printed, I regarded’ the decision as an extraordinary one. If that ruling be correct all that, is necessary is for some honorable member to move that a paper on a certain topic be printed-, and for another honorable member to secure the adjournment of the debate so. that the item goes on the notice-paper, and that topic will be on the prohibitedlist for the rest of the session. Let us see how- this strange ruling would work, out. The Orders of the Bay for to-day. number nineteen. In respect of every one of them, except the first which is for. “further consideration in committee” the words “ Resumption of debate “ are used. In other words, the list contains eighteen matters in relation to which debate has already commenced. If the ruling of the Chairman be right, any honorable member who in the course of his speech refers to any of those matters will be reviving the debate on that matter. The notice-paper for to-day relates to such subjects as the National Welfare Fund, sales tax, social services contributions, income tax, hospital benefits, food supplies to the United Kingdom, and full employment in Australia. If we were to ascertain what was included within the scope of those eighteen itemswe would hardly be able to exclude from them any economic or financial consideration that now arises in Australia. If the ruling be correct, the budget debate become.? a mere sham. The Chairman of Committees apparently realized that such a ruling could not be upheld; and so he says . that honorable members may make passing references, but not more than passing references, to these matters which either have been debated or are on the list for debate. I do not understand what he means by “passing references “. If he means that an honorable member may lay his hand gently on a topic, and then drop it like a hot brick, he reduces the rights, of honorable members to a farce. There is nothing in the Standing Orders or in parliamentary practice to say that an honorable’ member should not develop his views fully on the question of hospital benefits,, sales tax, full employment, or any of theother matters on the notice-paper. Whatis the object of a budget debate if it. is not to enable us to develop fully our views, whatever they may be, on a series: of problems of profound public importance? Yet a ruling was given, and: persisted in, the effect of which was tocreate a grave degree of disorder in the chamber. The ruling means, in effect,, that an honorable member may not say anything in terms of real debate about any subject which has been mentioned in., some previous proceedings in theHouse, or anything in the nature of real debate about any matter which is on thenoticepaper awaiting discussion by theHouse. That would be a denial of theelementary rights of members of thisHouse.
– Many honorable membersdid not participate in the demobilization debate, because they proposed to expresstheir views on the subject in the budget - debate.
– Quite so. I myself am in that category. The honorable member for Watson pointed out quiterightly that- 1 did not take part in thedemobilization debate; but I seem toremember having something to say about:. it in my ‘budget speech. Apparently, I was fortunate, because it was only after £ had concluded my speech that the deluge arrived. There, we have two examples. /[ shall mention them once more, and then conclude. In one of them, an honorable member was expelled from the House because he observed the Standing Orders, and exercised a right given to faim, in common with all other honorable members, by the Standing Orders. In the second, a ruling was given which, if it is to be maintained in the terms in which I have read it, will mean that, in future, the rights of honorable members to discuss the highest matters of moment an this country in the course of the budget debate will be seriously curtailed, and, indeed, reduced to a mere sham.
– I second the motion. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that this is not a pleasant motion with which to be associated, and, definitely,” it is not in any sense directed personally against one of our colleagues. But it is directed against an officer of the Parliament who was appointed, not by the Government, but by members of this chamber and who holds office during their pleasure. The necessity for the Opposition to focus the attention of the House upon the competency and fairness of the Chairman of Committees, and the propriety of his continuing to preside over the committee proceedings of this chamber, arises from what we regard as an infringement of two fundamental requirements of the Parliament, if it is to function: First, the freedom of honorable members to discuss matters on proper occasions; and secondly, the right of private members themselves. Of all the major issues that can come before a parliament for detailed consideration, nothing is quite so important as the forms and procedure of the House, and the rights of members themselves. No matter of principle, which is brought before the Parliament for legislative decision, is quite so important as the general principle of the entitlement of the Parliament to discuss subjects. Parliamentary procedure will be reduced to futility if an honorable member can be dismissed from the House upon the whim, or under a pretext, of one of the presiding officers. These matters touch the fundamentals of British parliamentary procedure and practice. Upon them, the satisfactory continuance of the parliamentary system depends.
The procedure of this House is governed by the Standing Orders, decisions by Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of ‘ Committees, and recorded precedents. But some of the decisions of the Chairman of Committees are completely at variance with the explicit rule set down for our own guidance, and for the instruction of the presiding officers. An honorable member was capriciously dismissed from the House, and his dismissal was endorsed by a majority of honorable members, who support the Government. I remind those, who to-day sit on the right of Mr. Speaker, that their individual rights are just as much at stake as are the rights of those who sit on the Opposition benches-; The day will come when we shall change sides in this chamber, and honorable members opposite must recognize that it is just as necessary for them to protect their own interests while they sit on the right of Mr. Speaker as it will be in those less happy days when they form the Opposition.
The Leader of the Opposition dealt very carefully and lucidly with the events which led to certain incidents last Thursday. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), speaking in his place, said quite clearly, and I am sure every member thought quite harmlessly -
The .points system is only a part of the Government’s demobilization plan. In addition men will he released on occupational grounds, and for health reason*.
If, immediately after the conclusion of a war, a member of the National Parliament is not permitted, in the course _ of a debate on the Government’s financial proposals for the year, to make such a statement as that, there i3 no justification for the existence of this chamber.
– Particularly as those financial provisions included the Government’s proposals “for demobilization.
– The Treasurer referred to them in his budget speech._
– Quite so. The matter requires no explanation. If honorable members in the general debate on the budget may 11Ot refer to subjects appearing on the notice-paper, this Parliament will become completely futile. The Chairman of Committees gave a certain ruling. His ruling was challenged, and honorable members were required to uphold or reject it. Honorable members opposite solidly supported it. I am not a mind-reader, but I have little doubt; that not a single member of the Government party was satisfied with the manner in which he was casting his vote. In the cold light of the next day, there wa3 probably not ia man who did not think that the chairman’s ruling on that issue was wrong. Every honorable member would recognize that to uphold such a ruling, which might become a permanent decision, would be completely to abrogate the functions of honorable members.
It ii easy on the following day to recapture the atmosphere in which a foolish decision was given and endorsed, but. if will not be so easy, years hence, and us I have mentioned, and as be Chairman of Committees himself pointed out on that occasion, the practices of the Parliament are governed Not only by the written Standing Order.’ but also by custom and precedent. If this ruling be not withIrawn, it will be competent for an honorable member of this chamber, years bence, to rise in his place and challenge, in a point of order, the right of another honorable member, who is debating the budget, to discuss any subject which appears on the notice-paper. To support His contention, he may turn to Hansard 4nd point out that this matter was raised m the 13th September, 1945, that the Chairman of Committees gave that ruling, and that the chamber upheld it. If allowed to stand, this ruling will furnish unassailable justification should an honorable member on a future occasion claim the right to suppress another honorable member in similar circumstances. Such a. state of affairs should not be tolerated. The Leader «f the Opposition has lucidly explained the circumstances which led o the suspension of the honorable mem»er for Richmond. While the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) was speaking, the honorable member for
Richmond availed himself of the right given by the Standing Orders to move. “ That the honorable member be no longer heard “. He was not ignored, but was recognized by the Chairman of Committees, who said, “ Resume your seat “. The honorable member did so, but immediately rose again and said, “I have resumed my seat. I now rise again and move, That the honorable member be no longer heard ‘ “, upon which the Chairman of Committees said, “ I name the honorable member “. Surely, not one honorable member of this House would regard himself as having been justly treated in similar circumstances! This was not an isolated act. by the Chairman of Committees. I rose and said, “ Mr. Chairman. I desire to speak to the point of order “. The Chairman replied, “ You may not speak to the point of order. Resume you seat”. I did so. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) then rose and said, “ I want to submit a motion “. The Chairman directed him to resume hip seat. As he failed to do so instantaneously, the Chairman said, “If the honorable member does not resume his seat, I shall name him “. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) raised a point of order, and then moved, “ Thai the Chairman’s ruling be disagreed with “, or something to that effect. Almost simultaneously, the Chairman of Committees said, “ If the honorable member for Warringah does not resume his seat. I shall name him “. Within half a minute, exactly the same course was followed in connexion with the honorable member for Richmond, who, quite within his rights, sought to’ submit a motion provision for which is clearly made by the Standing Orders. He was first directed to resume his seat, and was then named and suspended from the service of tincommittee, subsequently from the service of the House. This is not a light matter, but one which affects the very existence of our parliamentary system of government, which is singular, to the British Empire.
– It is the system of government for which we have been fighting in this war.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman.’- It is also what our ancestors fought to achieve.
For a thousand years, the efforts of British people have been directed towards evolving and perfecting the system of government by an elected majority, with official recognition of an elected minority, which in the Parliament has a definite function to perform and enjoys certain rights that are safeguarded by the Standing Orders. If the Government merely backs up a capricious and ill-informed decision by the Chairman of Committees, which has the effect of preventing an honorable member from discussing a matter, and of suspending him from the service of the House, the parliamentary system which provides for a government and an opposition can no longer function and will no longer exist. The Government is regarding the matter too lightly if it considers that its obligations are dischargedwhen it merely endorses, with the aid of its majority, any decision that may be given by the Chairman of Committees. The offices of Speaker and Chairman of Committees are honoured ones and impose the heavy and important responsibility that the occupants shall be competent to discharge the duties devolving on them and shall maintain a completely fair mind as between Government a nd Opposition members in the conduct of debates. It is because this was not an isolated incident, but the culminating point in a succession of incidents illustrating the failure of the Chairman of Committees to maintain order or to observe fairness, that the Opposition has felt impelled to submit so serious a motion as that which we are now discussing.
. -Evidently, the Opposition does not feel very happy about submitting this motion, because each member of it who has spoken has in turn offered to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr.Riordan) the apology that it has no personal significance. They have endeavoured to state a case against the Chairman of Committees’ interpretation of the Standing Orders. Their reasoning has been far from convincing, and certainly has not been in accord with standard practice. Had they consulted the precedents which guide us in such matters, they would realize that these were strictly observed in every particular by the Chairman of Committees. I give to that gentleman the credit of exercising tremendous patience and forbearance in his relations with members of the Opposition. I have occupied the high and distinguished office of Speaker. I assure honorable members opposite that hadI had to deal with such disorderly conduct as that which led to the suspension of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) last Thursday,my patience would not have been equal to that) of the Chairman of Committees who is tobe commended for his admirable restraint. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was not in the chamber throughout the proceedings. Had he been, he would not have permitted his supporters to indulge in such conduct. I was present during the whole of the incident, and can say that it did not reflect any credit on those members of the Opposition who took part in it. They should set a very much better example of decorum and the observance of order than they did. This is a face-saving motion, intended to make the public believe that the Opposition has a deep-rooted grievance against the Chairman of Committees. The Chairman has applied the Standing Orders with strict correctness. I bring to the notice of honorable members Standing Order 266, which was quoted by the Leader of the OppositionNo member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or bill not being then under discussion, nor toany speechmade in committee, except by the indulgence of the House for personal explanations.
The Leader of the Opposition has sought to exempt from the provisions of this standing order the budget debate.I remind honorable members that the Standing Orders are framed for the protection of members of Parliament. The Chairman of Committees did not frame them himself, but he is required to apply them strictly so as to preserve the rights of Parliament. He has no right to depart from the provisions of the Standing Orders.
– Does the Minister say tha the ruling of the Chairman of Committees was correct ?
– I do say so.
– Does the Minister mean that in his view Standing. Order 266 is of universal application?
– Then how comes it that to-day we are referring to a debate that took place last Thursday?
Mi-. MAKIN. - The right honorable member cannot trap me like that. “We are now adjudging the circumstances which brought the matter into question last Thursday night. We are in order in discussing it because it concerns the standing order in question. If it had been intended to exempt some kinds of debate - whether the Address-in-Reply or the budget debate, or any other subject - from the provisions of this standing order they would have been expressly excluded. The Chairman’s interpretation of Standing Order 266 is supported by May’s Parliamentary Practice. I quote from Edition No. 10, which is the one under which this Parliament works. At page 308; the following passage occurs : -
A member, while speaking to a question, may not allude to debates of the same session on any question or bill then under discussion.
Thus, the Chairman’s ruling was in accordance with the Standing Orders, and with accepted parliamentary practice. Honorable members will surely not question the authority of such a person as Sir Frederick Holder, who was the first Speaker of this House, and one of the most distinguished who has ever occupied the position. In 1905, he gave a ruling on the interpretation of Standing Order 266. It is recorded in Hansard, Volume 29, page 5773, as follows: -
– Order ! I do not think that the honorable member was in the chamber when at the beginning of the debate I pointed out the risk of this discussion overlapping the debate which closed last night. I have allowed the honorable member very great latitude indeed, but he has not yet connected his remarks with the question before the Chair. I thought that he might perhaps have done so ere this. I feel bound to read to bini Standing Order 206, which says -
No member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or bill not being then under discusion.
The honorable member will see that that standing order imposes an absolute prohibition upon even an allusion to as debate- which has taken place during the1 present session!.. A* I ha.ve already allowed the honorable member a larger amount of latitude than I ought to have done,. I must ask him to debate the. question- which is before the: Chair.
I submit that the ruling given by Speaker Holder on that occasion must necessarily have application, to- the matter now being discussed. Speaker Holder gave anotherruling on the same point, which is recorded at page. 5763 of the- same volume, and is as follows: -
It is my duty to prevent any debate that: may have- any bearing on the discussion which closed last night. This debate is entirely separate, and cannot be regarded as a continuation of that which took place yesterday and on preceding days. Any debate upon what were called, the “ gag “ or guillotine proposals, adopted last night will be entirely inadmissible on this occasion. At the same time, 1 recognize that the second proposal which i& now before honorable- -members does so far cover’ the area, to which- I have been referring that I cannot prevent references from time to time which may go back over the previous debate. It will be my duty - and’ I rely on honorable members to assist me - to avoid aft far as. possible any duplication of the debate which closed last night.
On the expressed desire of members of the Opposition, the Government made possible a debate on demobilization last Wednesday, and the debate continued for all that day. Honorable members freely exercised their rights to speak, and no honorable member who wanted. to speak was denied the opportunity to do so. If the Leader of the Opposition really (“bought that he could discuss demobilization on the budget while that subject waslisted on the notice-paper, all I can say is tit at his earnest desire to proceed withthe debate on the Wednesday prior l.o the budget debate on the Thursdaywas most remarkable. Evidently, he wasanxious to ensure a full and separate debate on demobilization. In this matter honorable members opposite have noreason whatever for complaint. Therecords of last Thursday’s proceedings, show that although five honorable members had addressed themselves to thebudget on Thursday and Friday, nonewas interrupted in his - speech by theChairman of Committees. As the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition contained a reference which might have had some slight relationship to the subject of demobilization, namely, the rehabilitation of service personnel, each of those honorable members was permitted, to make passing reference to that subject. However, when the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) proceeded; to deal with matters which were basic t.o (he debate that had taken place* on. the Wednesday, the- Chairman of Committees directed the honorable member’s attention to tE at’ fact. At that juncture honorable members’ opposite- saw «n opportunity to cause disorder, and endeavour to prevent the honorable member for Watson from continuing his speech, because two-thirds of the honorable member’s time was taken up by the disorder which they caused. Then, a most remarkable thing happened. After the honorable member for Richmond assumed the role of defender of the right of the honorable member for Watson to deal with demobilization, and general uproar ensued, the honorable member for Richmond, we- are now told, finally endeavoured: to- move that the honorable member foi- Watson be no longer- heard. What a travesty of justice! It. was clear hat honorable members opposite desired solely to delay proceedings, and deprive the honorable member for Watson of his full opportunity to make his contribution to the debate.
If honorable- members opposite regard themselves- as- the champions of free speech in this House, Heaven save this country from them and their kind. In this incident honorable members ignored parliamentary practice. They have-sought >n previous occasions to belittle parliamentary privilege by affording little or no respect to the presiding officers.
From that charge- 1 except the Leader of the Opposition, because I believe that a i all times he. respects the Chair; but I cannot say the same of the great majority of honorable members who sit behind him. They have sought repeatedly to cause- disorder. Surely, the- impartiality of the Chairman of Committees cannot be challenged, particularly in view of the fact that the ‘first honorable member he corrected in this matter was a member of - the ministerial party, and not a member of the Opposition. Therefore, the Opposition cannot make out a ase in support of the motion. As to the parti played by the -honorable member for Richmond’ in the disorder which took place’ on Thursday, night, any one of five Honorable members might have been named, and with full justification. It would, have been- very difficul ti for any one to have- heard above the uproar caused solely by honorable- members opposite any motion- which: the- honorable: member for Richmond endeavoured to propose.- The Chairman’ of Committees’ was intent on one- thing; audi foE” this- he is- to be commended, namely, to,ensure that the honorable member for Watson should not be denied the.” full opportunity to express his opinions.. Honorable members opposite may feel some elation over the matter, but the fact remains- that every honorable member has tha right to an opportunity to express his opinion upon matters oi vital” interest to- has constituents or the nation- as- a- whole. Honorable members opposite caused1 this disorder in an endeavour to deny that- right to the honorable member. In such, circumstances, the honorable member for’ Watson was entitled* to the protection of the Chair, and iii. that respect the Chair acted commendably. I believe that if the honorable member for Richmond has any grievance, it is solely with his colleagues, because they created such disorder that no one could possibly have heard’- any motion; he may have sought to move, although, as 3 have pointed out, the motion which we are now told he intended to move would have, been totally inconsistent with his expressed desire to conserve the rights of the honorable member for Watson. Such a motion could not have been submitted in good faith by the honorable member.
The ruling given by the Chair in thismatter is strictly in accordance with the Standing: Orders, the precedents laid down by successive Speakers, and May’s Parliamentary Practice. Indeed, according to May’s Parliamentary Practice, if the budget debate in this House were restricted to the limits observed in the House, of “Commons, it would ‘be’ limited to the subject of national finance. Therefore, the Chairman dealt with this matter justly and fairly, and is to be warmly commended for his restraint in the exercise of his powers. Undoubtedly, he endeavoured to afford to every honorable member , fair and reasonable, treatment-
Instead of dealing collectively with all the points of order raised on Thursday evening, he went to the pains of dealing with eachpoint of order separately. If honorable members opposite consult the record of Thursday night’s proceedings, they will find that my interpretation of the incident is perfectly correct. The Chairman of Committees showed willingness to help Opposition members to a degree that was indulgent. If anything is to be said about the incident it must be condemnatory of the conduct of honorable gentlemen opposite. If any oneis deserving of censure they are.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– Order! A motion that the question be now put is always in order.
– It was not on Thursday night.
– Order! Another standing order is strict that Mr. Speaker must be heard in silence; yet another empowers Mr. Speaker to name any honorable gentleman who disobeys him.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the Chairman of Committees does not. possess the confidence of this House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee of Supply: Considera t ion resumed from the 14th September (vide page 5478), on motion by Mr. Chifley-
That the first item in the Estimates under Di vision No.1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £8,820 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Menzies had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- When the debate was adjourned on Friday, I was dealing with the position of the brick-making industry and the necessity for improving conditions in it in order to induce ex-servicemen to enter that trade. I realize that nationalization of industries is a matter for State governments, but the Commonwealth Government could lend assistance, particularly in connexion with co-operative concerns. I am greatly in favour of co-operation as a means of providing for the workers a greater share of authority in the conduct of industry and of profits arising from their labour. I consider that cooperation offers the key to our future welfare. Since the discovery of the atomic bomb, we have learned that the nations must co-operate or perish; that statement applies with equal force to all aspects of our community life. Cooperation might be the solution to the problems of the coal-mining industry, for instance. The Commonwealth Government could do valuable work by sponsoring co-operative organizations and assisting them financially. A good example is the co-operative building scheme in New South Wales, which has been in operation for some years. Under this scheme, over 20,000 people have been able to obtain their own homes. By a mere stroke of a pen, the Government guaranteed the project for £20,000,000 with the financial ins titutions, but it has not been called upon to pay one penny. Co-operative societies are conducted on a democratic basis with decentralized administration, the cost of which represents 0.25 per cent. of capital invested. Co-operation can also solve our housing problem.
By concentrating on housing, the Government will provide employment in many industries and thus help to achieve its objective of full employment. It is estimated that 100 trades are associated with the building industry, and that 600 people are interested, directly or indirectly, in the construction of a home. When the New South Wales Government introduced the co-operative building scheme in 1936, the unemployment rate in that State was the highest in Australia.. representing 10 per cent. of the employable members of the community. But; within two years the rate had fallen to the lowest in Australia, namely, 4½ per cent. The Government has already taken in hand the problem of re-establishing ex-service men and women in industry., and has provided for adequate vocational training where it is needed. However, the rehabilitation of nearly 1,000,000 servicemen will offer many problems, particularly in relation to pensions and the treatment of disabled persons. I hope that the Government will consider reappointing a standing committee to deal with the various problems of repatriation that; will arise from time to time and with anomalies that will appear in the re-establishment legislation. Such a committee could deal with many problems that must arise amongst men suffering from war neurosis who are colloquially said to be “ bomb happy “. These men will need special care and treatment, and I hope that the Government will establish hostels where they can be looked after as they deserve until they are re-established in civil life Upon the surrender of Germany, the Government took early action to repeal many national security regulations and to lift various restrictions arising from war conditions. I congratulate it upon its prompt action in this regard. Consequent upon the termination of hostilities with Japan, most of these regulations will have to be repealed within a very short time. However, some of them must remain in operation for a limited period, and the co-operation of the States must be obtained for this purpose. For instance, prices control must continue for the time being, particularly in its application to building costs. I am glad that the Government dismissed this matter with the State Premiers recently and secured agreement to continue prices controlfora minimum period of three years. I hope that this time there. will not be a repetition of the events relating to agreements between the State governments and the Commonwealth Government for the wartime transference of various powers, which resulted in the referendum being held a year or so ago. This agreement is of vital importance to the nation. The costs of building materials must be kept in check. A booklet issued recently by the Master Builders Association of Victoria shows how the cost of home-building increased after the war began.
– The honorable member is not entitled to talk about housing. He is anticipating debate on an item on the notice-paper.
– Can I not speak without interruption from honorable members opposite, who claim to believe in free speech? I am dealing with the subject of housing generally, not with the special bill which deals with a particular method of construction and finance. At the moment I am dealing with the costs of building materials, which 4Ere of -vital importance -to the community. This booklet contains some statistics showing ,-tihe rising -costs of building materials since .the commencement of the war. One paragraph reads -
What lies behind the rising cost o£ housing the people? An analysis of the two basic factors .in building .costs, labour and material, will assist in answering this much-discussed question. During 1934-1944 the cost of constructing a medium-sized ‘five-roomed dwelling ranged as .follows: - In 1934: .£730 .for a timber-framed dwelling; £864 for a brick veneer; £960 for a brick dwelling. In 1944: A timber dwelling cost £1,035; a brick veneer cost £1,250; a brick cost ‘£1,365. An increase in the cost of construction of 40 per -cent, during the last ten .years. Why?
There is ‘then an .analysis of costs :and a graph which sets out how costs of materials have risen. It shows that the retail price of hardwood rose from 23s. for 100 superficial feet in 1934 to 32s. in 1944. The price of a ‘thousand -bricks rose in the same -period ‘from 57s. :6d. to 87s. 6d. I ‘believe that in New South Wales the price is over 100s. a thousand. The price1 of cement has -fallen slightly, but the price of tiles rose from 47s. to 70s. a square. Other materials used in building have also ‘become much dearer.
Those figures indicate the need for price control of building materials to continue for some time, particularly in view of the great demand for homes .and the increased purchasing power of the people. In the interests of ex-servicemen, we must do all in our power to prevent inflation. Whilst members of the fighting services have taken great risks and have made big sacrifices, those who have remained at home have had to bear the burden of’ heavy taxation. Even persons in receipt of less than the basic wage were taxed to finance the war, whilst those in the higher ranges .of income were taxed up to 18s. 6d. in the fi. The people bore that burden without complaint, but if efficiency in industry is to be maintained, taxes cannot remain at the existing high levelTherefore, I congratulate the Treasurer on his prompt action in granting an allround reduction of 12% per .cent, .of taxes, and his promise to review the position later in the year. I trust that when that .review takes place special consideration will be given to persons in the lower income groups, particularly those whose incomes are less than the basic wage. That is a matter of some urgency, because the basic wage is fixed on the cost .of the bare necessaries of life.
The Treasurer has indicated that consideration will be given to -the removal df the means ‘te3t in -connexion with social service benefits. As the elimination of that test would represent an increased burden on the budget, amounting ‘to approximately -£35,000,000 a year, it is a matter which requires careful thought. I hope that consideration will be given to increasing the permissible income of -persons in receipt df social benefits, and that those sections of ‘the community, including public servants, who have contributed to ‘superannuation funds will not be penalized. I ‘should like -the -Government to become a partner in voluntary -superannuation schemes, many of which exist in thi* country. If ‘the contributions from ‘those schemes ‘were supplemented -by ia government ‘subsidy, -many men could retire on the basic wage, as is possible in New Zealand. An income -of, say, £5 a week would enable persons in retirement to enjoy some of the comforts of life, and to take a more active part in the life of the community.
Another matter which sooner or later will have to be faced is the health of the nation. Good health is the desire of every person in the community, but the British Medical Association has refused to co-operate with the Government in its free medicine scheme. The Government’s plan provides for unemployment and sickness benefits, as well as free medicine and free hospital treatment, and, in addition, £250,000 is to be set aside for the treatment of tuberculosis. Our efforts should be directed more and more to the prevention of disease, and therefore all that cam be done to build up the resistance of the human body to disease should be encouraged. For that reason, I hope that greater assistance will be given to those bodies which aim at improving the physical condition of the community. In this connexion I emphasize the value of providing Olympic swimming pools wherever possible. Knowing the beneficial results which have followed the establishment of swimming pools, I should like to see an Olympic pool in every town and suburb. Despite the attitude of the British Medical Association, many medical men, particularly young doctors who have served in the armed forces, will be prepared to cooperate with the Government in the implementation of its free medicine, unemployment and sickness benefit schemes. If the British Medical Association will not co-operate, the Government should subsidize those young doctors who are prepared to do so. That will be the best answer to the challenge of the British Medical Association. I would not quibble over the amount of remuneration to be offered to doctors. If they could earn £1,000, £1,500, or £2,000 in private practice, the Government should pay them accordingly, and assure to them economic security.
Many medical practitioners have their economic problems, and the conditions under which they practise are not of the best. They receive emergency calls from patients in the early hours of the morning and late at night. Under a proper health scheme conducted by the Government, provision could be made to give them relief from those conditions, and also opportunities to undertake research work. Medical science in Australia is backward. Many new methods, particularly in regard to osteopathy and manipulatory treatment, which have been adopted abroad, are not used in our hospitals. If our doctors enjoyed proper professional conditions and economic security, they would be able to study abroad, and bring their knowledge up to date. The British Medical Association appears to be forcing to a head its difference of opinion with the Government. If the Government, as it appears to be doing, will concentrate upon meeting the fundamental needs of the people - food, clothing and shelter - the basic problems of health will be almost solved. Utopian schemes may be realized in due course, but for the time being the Government should endeavour to satisfy the immediate needs of the people. When we provide economic security for them, the higher cultural and spiritual aspirations which are in the hearts and minds of men will be realized.
– The consideration of the budget, unfortunately, reveals a policy of “ All for the party, and nothing for the taxpayer “. An examination of its pages is like looking into a crystal ball. The more one peruses the document, the more clearly does one realize that millions of pounds of revenue have been concealed. Receipts from taxation during this financial year, will be greater than the budget estimate, and other items of revenue have been written down by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). This process is one of several in the budget which enables the Treasurer to withhold the hoped-for reduction of taxation at a time when industry and private citizens urgently need it. The purpose is to accumulate a large surplus, and one does does not need to be a fortune-teller to prophesy the reason. Next year, an election will be held, and I forecast that the Government proposes to use this surplus as a justification for substantially reducing taxation. The object will, obviously, be to attract votes. One does not need to be a political genius to associate this policy with the next election.
The scheme is most unfair. The people have very willingly contributed large sums of money *to victory loans, and borne crushing taxes during the war. Now, they look forward eagerly to relief from the burden, which is heavier proportionately than that in any other country. Although a reduction of .taxation is practicable, the Treasurer has withheld it for political reasons. Estimates of expenditure are unnecessarily high. The average reduction of income tax this year will be 6£ per cent., but the lower rates will not operate until the 1st January next. That is the only promise in the budget of taxation relief. Obviously, the employment of more persons in industry this year compared -with last year, the re-opening of industries which for manpower reasons were closed during the last few years, and the re-establishment of one-man businesses will increase the number of taxpayers. After a few years of restricted production and rationing, the (demand for personal .and household goods will be great. Even if the Government granted substantial reductions of taxation, revenue would not suffer, because the increased number of persons in employment would maintain receipts from income tax, and the enormous demand for personal and household goods would increase returns from sales tax and excise. Obviously, income tax receipts must be considerably greater than the budget estimate.
It is only natural that with the termination of the war, people should expect some relief from the onerous burden of taxation. They realize that all war expenditure does not cease immediately hostilities -conclude, but they expect a fair reduction of the cost. In the budget speech, under the heading, “Defence and “War (1939-45) including New Works and Debt Charges “, it is estimated that this year approximately £152,106,000 will be financed from loans. But £207,849,000, or £14,000,000 more than last year, will be financed from revenue. Income tax receipts, with the social services contribution, will total £211,000,000, which, on paper, is £14,000,000 less this year than last year. War-time factories are being converted to the production of civilian requirements, and this must increase the receipts from sales tax and income tax. Considerable sales tax will be collected on1 the
Mr. Bernard Corser. “timber needed for the 40,000 houses that are likely to be built. Although the timber industry has been working at full pressure throughout the war period, sales tax has not been charged on the output because the timber was purchased by the Government. The total amount received from taxation will be far in excess of that estimated in the budget. A further factor is the improvement of rural conditions throughout the continent. Last year, fearful droughts which ravaged the best of the rural country in three States caused the incomes of primary producers to decline sharply. During this year there should be a large increase of the income tax from this source, as well as of the revenue which follows production in rural areas. The wheat production last year was 38,000,000 bushels, whereas in 1942-43 it was 142,000,000 bushels. The Treasurer has not taken this into account in the presentation of the budget. Apparently his intention has been not to disclose large increases of revenue that are likely to be obtained from different sources.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Another item that shows clearly the Government’s determination to hide the tax resources available is the delay in issuing tax assessments to many large Australian businesses. The result is a pool of money to enable reasonable tax relief in the election budget next year. But the people will have to pay in advance.
Country dwellers, both in the towns and on the farms, have played so great a part in this war that they are worthy of early consideration. Country stores were left practically without staff and even stocks to sell. Transport difficulties were general. Tyres were almost unavailable and petrol was insufficient for ordinary needs. Garages were stripped of manpower, and that in turn affected the farmer who was expected to produce food for our fighting forces and Civilians. Old men, women, and children carried on heavy farm-work under the greatest difficulties, and not at high war-time wages. Unlike the city dwellers, country people have uncomplainingly played more than their part without increases of pay for their labour and almost without recognition. I cannot see any provision in this budget aimed at alleviating the hard lot of the country people, without whom the great industrial cities would perish. Parenthetically, I point out that unless the Government stamps out the industrial lawlessness prevailing on the coal-fields, the people will be deprived of food owing to lack of transport.
We find that £208,508,361 is provided from revenue for the Department of the Army for this financial year. That is greater than Army expenditure from revenue last year. Is the Government serious in arranging for the release of service personnel when the budget provision for defence and war services total £360,614,361, and when for the Army alone there is provision for £175,041,073, which again is greater than the provision last year. And this does not provide for repatriation, deferred pay, gratuities, or any other such payments. We are transferring some war factories to civil production, but we are continuing others. I strongly oppose any determination to place in highly paid permanent positions in the city factories those who worked in them at the highest wages while enjoying civilian life and comforts, and to keep the bulk of our servicemen in the forces where they are debarred from even competing for the jobs. Again, we find that with the war over, £2,300,000 is provided for Army buildings, works, fittings, and furniture. Surely we have Army buildings, fittings, and furniture for sale. We find also that £32,000,000 is provided for the Navy and £86,305,000 for the Department of Air, and worse still, £7,515,741 for Munitions. Yet Australia and. the islands are overloaded with: munitions and ships are arriving here with more. Another item of expenditure worthy of question is in connexion with Aircraft Production. The expenditure of £4,724,000 is provided for and that ia nearly £3,000,000 more than was spent in the last year of the war. While the Department of Air is again budgeting for continued high war expenditure this year, no provision has been made for civil aviation expansion. No inspections or surveys are being made in new areas where ground facilities will be required for commercial airways to carry valuable perishable food products. We should be seeking out landing grounds in centres where now none exist so that Australia shall be provided with light air services to take provisions to the bases of the great inland and overseas airways, both passenger and goods.
I urge the Department of Air to keep in perfect condition, for commercial use, the great air-fields that this war has given our country. Instead of nationalizing existing air-passenger services at a cost of £10,000,000 in compensation, let the Government initiate a great chain of goods services for the transport of our fruits, fish, meat, and other products throughout Australia and to northern and eastern markets, thus rendering a real service to this country. During the war country roads, particularly in Queensland, were used day after day for months on end by not only heavy vehicles but also tanks. They have been seriously damaged and the cost of repairing them will fall heavily on local government authorities. The National Government should devise some scheme of financial assistance to local government authorities for this purpose. ‘Considerable sums of money are also required for water conservation in country areas. By damming rivers we can avoid to a great degree the heavy losses which we now sustain as the result of drought. Drought losses in this country in some years are estimated to amount to approximately £50,000,000. Surely it is worth our while to avoid such losses by expending a few million pounds in the provision of water and in conserving f odder. ‘ Light and power facilities in country areas should also be provided. In that way we shall save many producers, and, at the same time, increase production immeasurably. Numberless communities in country areas desire electricity facilities and also adequate water supply systems. However, many communities are now denied electricity facilities because of the lack of power mains.
The Commonwealth Government now holds in trust no less than £14,654,000 in the War Damage Insurance Fund which will earn £366,350 in interest this year. Only a small proportion of that fund will be required for the purposes for which it was collected. All of. the money will not be expended in New Guinea, because war damage in that territory should be the responsibility solely of the National Government, as is the case in other countries which have sustained damage due to war. I suggest that this money should be made available to local government authorities in order to assist them in the development of their respective areas in the national interest. In view of the expenditure provided for in the budget one would expect that it would include provision to improve telegraphic and postal facilities in country areas. No such provision is made, but, at the same time, the Postal Department is estimated to make a profit of £4,000,000 this year. For many years country dwellers have been looking forward to these improvements, whilst telephone users throughout the Commonwealth have been waiting for the elimination of delays in making trunk-line calls. If these improvements were provided the revenue of the Postal Department would be correspondingly increased. When one wishes to make a telephone call between capital cities one can expect a delay of from six to nine hours. It is obvious that many people, rather than put up with that delay, refrain from making calls. Thus the Postal Department is losing revenue. I also suggest that the system of charging rentals for telephones should be abolished. To-day, telephone users are charged rental in advance every six months as well as for every call made. In the United States of America, where the public telephone system is under proprietary control, no rental charge whatever is made. There, when making a call, a user places a coin in a slot. When I was in the United States of America, since the outbreak of war, one could telephone from San Francisco to Ottawa, or New York, and be connected within ten minutes. The present Government has much to say about socialization of industry. It would do well to review the management of public services already under its control. It has a monopoly of postal and telephonic services, but, these services can be greatly improved. In this respect, I do not for one moment blame the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs or the officers of bis department. During the war they have -done yeomen service. My complaint arises from the fact that the system is overloaded. The Government should now take stock of the position. By abolishing the system of charging rentals for telephones, and arranging slot machines for the making of calls, considerable expenditure now involved in making departmental records would be saved. While I am on this point, I also suggest that in rendering telephone accounts the department should list every trunk line call in respect of which a charge is debited, against the subscriber. If we really mean to make conditions in the country comfortable and more inviting to residents we must effect these improvements as one of our first post-war jobs. I refer not only to telephonic services but also roads, particularly roads serving isolated settlements and farms. To-day, the local government authority bears the whole of the responsibility for the construction and maintenance of these roads, and they finance this work by a rate charge on land-holders. I do not know who originated that idea, but, obviously, under present-day conditions, the system is bad. It places too great a burden on local government authorities and settlers who reside off the main roads. When a local authority from its meagre rate fund opens a road, not only local residents but also the community generally derive benefit from it, because other than local settlers use the road to transport their products to the railways, whilst persons under contract to the Postmaster-General’s Department help to earn the surplus revenue of the department by using these roads. Such roads are also used by commercial men, particularly in dry weather; but local residents and school children have to use them in all sorts of weather. It is time that the nation realized that it has la responsibility in maintaining these roads. We should link up the dead-end roads, and thus form valuable national highways, which will enable users to save miles in the haulage of products.
I invite the Government to consider the suggestions I have made in the interests of not only country residents but also ex-service personnel, great numbers of whom, no doubt, will find themselves situated in similar circumstances. At the same time, the National Government can thus help local government authorities to carry their mammoth responsibilities. Any one who has been a member of a local government authority realizes the degree to which their trials have developed to-day. Local authorities are doing everything possible with the small amounts of revenue derived from settlers in the form of rates. They should be given the most powerful available machinery at once free from all taxes and duties. The Government can and should review its huge estimate of revenue of £360,000,000, and devote some of the saving that could be effected to expenditure on essential services such as I have mentioned for country residents, thus creating work which will at the same time provide some comforts for country women and their children, whose husbands are developing the outback areas. Tt is true that the Government is making provision for the settlement on the land of ex-servicemen, but no scheme to provide for the disposal of increased primary production has yet been initiated. It is useless to establish men on the land unless they can obtain markets for their products. To do so would be to endanger the livelihood not only of those men but also of others already engaged in primary production. The Government so far has not made provision for any trade agreements for the disposal of primary products. I ask the Government to examine this important aspect of post-war planning and to take some positive action as soon as possible. In the immediate future, primary products will find a ready market, and we must look to the more distant future. “We are manufacturing and exporting modern powerful machinery to China and India, and Russia is exceeding expectations in the production of such equipment in order to increase primary production. We must prepare now to meet the competition of those countries in the markets of the world. It is unfortunate that a big national scheme to settle ex-servicemen on the land has not yet been started. Neither this Parliament nor any State parliament has yet passed legislation providing for it. So far, not even one acre of land has been surveyed in Queensland in readiness for the initiation of the project. I am glad_ to say that bills providing for the pur chase of farms at low rates of interest have been passed by some State parliaments. However, we need a big national scheme for ex-servicemen. We must provide these men with opportunities on the land and in industry. They deserve the best that the country can give to them, and they should be given preference in all forms of employment. Every effort has been made by members of the Australian Country party to provide for preference to ex-servicemen in land settlement and in employment, but the weight of votes has been against us in this Parliament.
The budget speech indicated that price control will be even more severe in the coming year than previously, althoughwe had hoped soon to be rid of this wartime restriction. The estimated expenditure on prices control is £520,000, which is greater than any previous vote for that purpose. The people are to be relieved of very little, even in the way of direct taxes. Although income tax will be reduced by 6-J per cent., the Government will take more from the people than ever before in direct and indirect taxes. A sum of £52,000 is set aside for the campaign against cattle tick, but nothing has been done to assist the producer by means of research to find a way of eradicating the pest entirely. Nothing is set aside for the fight against the buffalo fly. When I asked the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman) some time ago to take action to guard against the inroads of the buffalo fly, he told mc that this was a matter for the States and that the> Commonwealth could pay only for research. No provision has been made in the estimates for research into methods of eradicating cattle tick, buffalo fly, and all the other pests which cause losses to primary producers, who have to continue the fight unaided. Some sheep raisers in Queensland have had to transfer to other forms of production because of the ravages of dingoes, even though they have contributed heavily to the fight against that pest. The Commonwealth prevented high prices being charged for dairy produce during the war and initiated a subsidy .scheme by means ,of which it augments the prices received by producers.
Last year, the subsidy on these commodities amounted to £6,250,000, but, in order to reduce the cost to the Commonwealth, the Government asked Great Britain to increase the price at which Australian butter was sold to British consumers. This was done by the British Government, and, according to page 96 of the budget, it is estimated that £1,000,000 will be recovered this year in the form of repayments from London. Therefore, a portion of the subsidy necessary to provide a satisfactory guaranteed price to Australian, producers is being extracted from the unfortunate British consumers. Furthermore,- the Government is grabbing that money for itself instead of passing it on to the dairying industry. It must be remembered, too, that the subsidy was introduced to enable dairy products to be marketed in Australia at less than the cost of production. Thus, the overburdened British public is now helping to provide for low prices to Australian consumers. “We have reason to complain because heavy war taxes have not been reduced. I refer to many impositions other than income tax. For instance, consider the charges levied on smokers. The huge customs and excise duties added to the prices of tobacco will extract this year from Australian smokers an amount of £21,900,000. Surely some relief should be granted. Furthermore, the quality of tobacco now being sold by the manufacturers should be improved. Cigarettes sold at the exorbitant price of Id. each for lower quality brands or ls. Id. for nine of the better brands, are considerably smaller than pre-war cigarettes. The people arc being “ taken down “, and those facts deserve immediate investigation. People who drink spirits or beer will pay into the coffers of the Government this year an estimated total of £27,928,000; it is likely that this total will be exceeded. Excise or customs duties are added to the cost of liquor before it leaves the breweries and distilleries or the wharfs. Perhaps an even worse case of extortion is the customs duty on paint. It is estimated that £10*,000,000 will be obtained from this source in the current year. That is an unfair imposition on people who need paint in order to preserve their buildings.
Huge amounts of revenue from indirect taxation will help to build up a great total of wealth which the Government will use for propaganda purposes at the elections next year. Taken collectively, the budget provisions appear to be designed wilfully to maintain taxation at a high level at a time when the taxpayer rightly expects to obtain relief and when conditions make relief possible. Taking everything into consideration, the Government has not been fair to the people. It has not given them the relief that they expected and deserved, but 1 hope that, before the current -financial year has ended, the Government will see, in the light of the colossal surplus of funds that will accrue, the wisdom of giving an early and large measure of relief to the taxpayers.
.- The budget debate enables me to make certain observations which otherwise might be outside the scope of the subject before the Chair. I support the Government’s financial proposals and welcome particularly the proposed reductions of income taxation which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has announced, and also the reduction of the sales tax on so many important commodities. I should like to have seen a greater measure of relief, but as I am sure that the Government has carefully considered the financial position of the country, I have every confidence in the Treasurer’s proposals. If he had thought it wise to give further relief I am sure that he would have done so.
The liberalizing of social legislation by the present Government is a step in the right direction. The Government can be complimented on- having done so much in this direction during the war. It has been said by some that in a time of high taxes increased social benefits should not have been granted, but, in my opinion, the first duty of a government is to look after those who, through force of circumstances, have been unable to look after themselves. I have read press reports and have heard honorable members opposite say that high taxation is crippling industry, and that the people are called upon to bear undue burdens, but in the light of the huge profits made by many, companies their arguments are not convincing. I have here an extract from the Melbourne Herald which states that Warburton Franki (Melbourne) Limited made a profit of £9,389 during the year ended the 30th June last, compared with a profit of £6,006 in the previous year and £5,714 two years ago. lt .also states that Buckley and Nunn Limited made a profit of £56,048, after making provision for taxes, that amount representing 9£ per cent, of their shareholders’ average funds. Further, the savings banks deposits indicate clearly that despite high taxes the people of Australia are better off than ever before. T. am in a position to know something of the profits made by business concerns during recent years; it is surprising that they should be so great in time of war. The greater purchasing power now in the hands of the people makes necessary the continuance for some time of price control, as otherwise inflation, with its harmful results, would be inevitable. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) complained of the cost of the Commonwealth Prices Commission, but its coat to the taxpayers is more than offset by the good work that it has done in controlling prices.
A good deal has been said in the press mid elsewhere regarding social benefits
Hnd the elimination of the means test. The Treasurer has promised to give that matter his earnest consideration, and I urn sure that should a thorough investigation show that some relief can be given, action will be taken; but for the press to say that there was a big row in caucus over this matter was far from the truth. [ know that the press always has its ear to the ground, but on this occasion it must have heard the rumblings associated with the return to the Parliamentary Liberal party of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). 1 assure the country that the solidarity of the Labour party was never more evident than it is to-day. I should like, to see some measure of relief from the means test, but I am prepared to leave this matter to the Treasurer, because he is in a much better position than is any private member to know what can be done.
A good deal has already been said regarding the rehabilitation of service men and women and on the subject of land settlement. I listened with interest to a speech delivered in this chamber recently by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) . During his speech there were times when I almost convinced myself that I was listening to a great reformer, such as Tom Mann or Karl Marx, or some other great Labour leader, saying what had been done for the soldiers of the last war, but after a time I realized that the honorable member, who had just returned from San Francisco, was giving his own experience as a soldier settler. He recalled that the settlers in one district erected a hall at a cost of approximately £1,400. After having made repayments for about 20 years, they discovered that the principal had not been reduced. Interest charges had absorbed all the repayments. According to the honorable member the building was insured and a fire liquidated the debt. The story which he recounted was very sad. I listened to it with great interest, and thought that it became even more significant in view of its moral. That such things could occur did not do credit to the government which settled exservicemen on the land on that occasion. Having heard the honorable member’s revelations, we should be careful to avoid a repetition of those conditions. We shall experience them again if we are not most cautious. Obviously, the interest burden was largely responsible for what happened to those settlers, because the honorable member for Indi gave figures to prove his case. I have examined the proposed agreements with the States.
– Does not this subject appear on the notice-paper? Is the honorable member in order in discussing it?
– I am making only a passing reference to it. With divided control there is danger, because the agreements are not uniform. The difficulties which the honorable member for Indi mentioned could occur again. But regardless of the form of the agreements, danger lies in divided control. I have said before that this is not in the best interests of ex-servicemen. When difficulties arise, as they will do, one authority or the other will try to “ pass the buck “ and shirk its responsibility. The only sure way in which to overcome this is to hold a referendum immediately for the purpose of asking the people to confer power in respect of land settlement upon the Commonwealth.
– There would be opposition to it.
– That is immaterial. This matter is so vital that the only method of solving it is by a referendum. In the meantime the Commonwealth should not delay proceeding with the scheme, and if the referendum were carried, as I have no doubt it would be, the National Government could assume the whole responsibility. No doubt would then exist as to whose duty it was, and the whole scheme could be financed, as it should, by the Commonwealth Bank. Interest should be, not at the same rate as that payable on long term bonds, but at cost of issue. The ex-serviceman who had settled on the land would then have a reasonable chance of success. As I have said previously, the ex-serviceman who settles on the land, and primary producers in general, should be financed by that means if they are to succeed. That would be in the best interests of all concerned, because it has been the interest burden over the years that has made the land unprofitable. The soil has not been unprofitable to the financier, but it has certainly been unprofitable to many of the men who have been working it. This would be a more business-like way of assisting the producer than paying to him bounties totalling millions of pounds, as has been done in the past, to enable him to remain on the land.
Pastoralists have not been given any relief over the years, and with adverse seasons, they have had a bad time. At the moment, they seem to be no one’s problem. I am satisfied, from my personal observations, that for the most part they urgently require assistance. The State Government should in extreme cases give a “ holiday “ regarding the payment of rent so as to enable them to re-stock their properties and carry on. In addition, they should be given relief either through the Mortgage Bank Department or the Commonwealth Bank at a more reasonable rate of interest than at present. What is the use of opening up more land if at the same time we lose men who have spent a lifetime on their properties and now, through no fault of their own, are forced to give up. In my opinion, that is not a wise policy. Those men may be enabled to carry on because of their indebtedness to banks and stock agents, but that will only be under the sufferance of financial institutions, and the men will always have that fear of insecurity which they have had in the past. This caused the abuse of the land in previous years, and has been one of the main factors responsible for soil erosion. Mr. R. L. Herriott, Soil Conservator for South Australia, was reported in the Adelaide Advertiser on the 14th December, 1944, as having said -
Drought has shown up a very fundamental weakness in the land policy of this country. On the surface, the problem appears to be one of conditions brought about by the drought, and it is certain that the drought is mainly responsible. But for the underlying cause it is necessary to look deeper. From the earliest days of settlement the natural bust cover has been eliminated from this country, and’ unfortunately the process is still going on. Even those pastoralists who are handling their properties most efficiently are conscious of the fact that their bush is slipping. No pastoral holding is safe from erosion as a speargrass proposition, however much we talk ourselves into believing that it is the desirable condition. Bush cover is the fundamental requirement of the country and everything must be done to prevent further deterioration. Babbits and woodcutters have for long been the familiar bogey, and it is time we took a realistic view and recognize the ‘ sheep as the problem - almost permanent damage is being done to a very large area of pastoral country, and unless definite steps are taken to allow this country to recover after the drought breaks, much further damage will certainly occur.
I also desire to quote the opinion of Mr. F. K Ratcliff, of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who, after investigating the problem of soil erosion some years ago in the pastoral areas of the north-east of South Australia likened the process to a cricket match. Every drought, he said, meant one wicket down. The soil was always losing. In an editorial, one newspaper made the following comment: -
To save ourselves we must find millions for irrigation - must train farmers and graziers in anti-erosion techniques. We must restrain pastoralists from overstocking.
This cannot be done unless the National Parliament heeds the perilous position of the pastoralists and does something in the way I have suggested to rescue them from the bondage of financial institution’s, thereby enabling these men of long experience to remain on their holdings. On this vital matter of soil erosion, the Adelaide Advertiser, on the 22nd November, 1944, concluded a leading article with these words -
It is all very well for Canberra to devote its attention to the planning of elegant bungalows surrounded by resident parks in the urban areas, but the circumstances of the time make it needful to insist that the continued existence of our cities, whether planned or unplanned, depends upon the preservation of extensive deserts in the hinterland by which, in the final analysis, all of us must live. The frills of legislation are attractive, but the essence of government must be our first concern, and there is nothing more essential than the preservation of that which we do well to call mother earth.
The Commonwealth Rural Reconstruction Commission, after hearing evidence on soil erosion, said that the statements in regard to the extent of this scourge had not been exaggerated, and that, if a national calamity was to be averted, drastic action would be necessary within the ensuing ten years as, failing better methods of land utilization, the menace would spread to even wider areas than were at present affected. “Why ten years should be fixed as the period within which so vital a matter should be tackled is beyond me. The commission gave these reasons for erosion being allowed to continue: (a) Those who are unobservant and unaware of the damage which is occurring or impending; (fc) those who are obstinate and refuse to face the facts of the situation, although they are aware of them ; (c) those who see no way of re-organizing their methods of working their farms so that erosion can be. avoided; and (d) those who, although they know what ought to be done, lack the machinery, or the time, or the finance to do it. The commission laid emphasis, as I have to-night, on the financial capacity of the primary producer. It took the view that the nation cannot permit any individual or generation of individuals to use any land in such a way as to damage it irreparably. Land is held, in a sense, as a trust for posterity, and no individual or corporation, whatever the title to ownership may be, should be permitted, either wilfully or through ignorance, to use land in such a way as to render it liable to erosion. The report went on to say that the longer action was delayed the more expensive would the remedy become.
Recently, this matter has been linked with water conservation. I was impressed by the remarks of Mr. Rawlings, Commissioner for “Water Conservation in New South “Wales, in reference to the Tennessee Valley Association scheme. He pointed out that the need for stored water in Australia ultimately will call not only for the damming and weiring of our various river systems, but also for creek storages. He foresees the time when every worthwhile bridge across every worthwhile creek will be so designed as to serve the dual purpose of traffic and water storage. In Canberra to-day a bridge is being so constructed that, water may be conserved. In. his book on the dam that he built across the River Nile, Sir William Wilcocks said, in effect, that had Australia expended half as much on water conservation and power generation as it had on railway construction, the railways “would have built themselves”. Australia should have learned a lesson from the experiences of America, but it has not. Vast areas of fertile land in the United States of America became a desert in a comparatively few years. The loss and misery caused were enormous, and much of the harm was undone only because planning, as well as restorative and preventive measures, were effectively undertaken on a national scale. Australia, as the recent drought made only too clear, cannot afford anything less than a national attack on the problem of soil erosion, in which the whole of the people of the Commonwealth should co-operate. We have the water; when are we going to make use of it? It is for this generation, with the aid of science and engineering, to devise plans for a great national soil and water conservation scheme.
I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) blame the present Government for lack of action in connexion with water conservation. His speech was confined to matters that come within the prerogative of the States, which have all the powers that they need to move in the direction desired, even though they may not have the- necessary financial resources; this deficiency could be remedied by the Commonwealth. Every one should co-operate in ensuring the accomplishment of the task, not alone for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of future generations. I remind the would-be defeatists that when Geoffrey Lloyd, Minister in charge of the Petroleum Warfare Department in Great Britain, proposed that a petrol pipe line should be laid from Britain to France under the English Channel in connexion with continental military operations that were then being planned, the experts said that the project was impossible. We too have experts who claim that certain schemes are not practicable. As this was a matter of urgency, Mr. A. 0. Hartley, engineer of the AngloIranian Oil Company, was approached and undertook to do the job, with the result that a 1,000-mile pipe line was completed, and played a tremendous part in the defeat of Germany. I sometimes think that it would be better to replace many so-called experts with practical men who are guided by common sense. Other great engineering achievements could be cited. They were carried out during the years of war because our race was in danger of being annihilated and the matter was one of life or death. I have been trying to impress that view on the people of Australia, and this Parliament in particular. Why not have a vision as wide as the continent and its needs? As I have said previously, a nation without vision must perish. These are great problems. If we face them realistically, future generations will give thanks that there were men of vision in this National Parliament and in Australia.
.- This budget has been called “ the transition budget”, but it would be better labelled “ the timidity budget “. It represents the most timid approach I have ever witnessed to a review of national finance. It is much more marked by what it does not provide and by the national questions it avoids than by actual matters covered. Window-dressing is evident throughout the whole budget, and if it is an indicator of the extent to which the elector* are to be told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth by this Government, the label “ the 6i per cent, budget “ could also be well applied to it. What does it contribute towards the peace-time economy now that we are at peace again after long years of war ? What steps does it propose towards the resumption of peace-time vocations? What assistance does it promise for the restoration of peace-time industry? What indication does it give of progress towards solving the problems of restoration and rehabilitation? None! It- is just another estimate of receipts and expenditure, carefully prepared to disclose as little as possible. It evades all dangerous topics, skirts ticklish subjects, and is devoid of any reference to the major problems that confront the nation. The budget speech itself clearly shows that, in spite of many warnings given by the Opposition from time to time, the Government has no plans for peace-time development of the nation. The end of the war caught it entirely unprepared for the orderly absorption of members of the armed forces in industry. It has no proposal* for the expansion of Australia’s trade. All the co-operation of public bodies in the States in supplying evidence to royal commissions and committees of inquiry, particularly the Rural Re-construction Commission presided over by the present Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Wise, to ensure, with the return of peace, the rapid development of our primary and secondary industries has been a tragic waste of time. Where are the complete plans for the damming of our rivers to store water for the provision “of electric power and irrigation for the resistance or mitigation of droughts and the more economic production of primary products? Drought relief has cost this country millions of pounds more than it would cost the Government to implement the plans that have been put before it, hut, in spite of all the evidence submitted to commissions and committees and in spite of all the reports that they have submitted to the Government, it is doing nothing. It has not one proposal ready for public works to absorb the men being discharged from, the armed forces and the men no longer needed in war industries. It has no proposals for fodder conservation. None of the amenities promised to our country people by the Government during the war to encourage people to stay on the land already developed and other people to develop other parts of the country are being provided. Idle promises ! The people who gave evidence before the committees wasted their time. In being caught unprepared for peace, the Government has fallen down on the job.
What does this budget provide in respect of the’ loan programme or the problem of outstanding treasurybills. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) budgets for a deficit of £152,000,000, and indicates that we shall have to raise this amount by public loans. Yet on the first page of his speech he points out that, for war purposes, we have raised £343,000,000 by treasury-bills. Incidentally, is it not worth noting that the public has contributed £95S,000,000 towards the cost of the war in loans and that treasury-bills represent more than 35 per cent, of public loans. But we have £343,000,000 of treasury-bills outstanding - apart from pre-war treasury-bills of about £100,000,000. What a dead weight this must be. What arc the Treasurer’s proposals to deal with this load ? Is it to be gradually funded from public loan flotations? Is it to be gradually redeemed by -cmo miracle? Or are we to continue to carry this in some perpetual juggling operation. What about the possibilities of a contracting economy? Suppose bank notes begin to return to the banks. Suppose businesses, at present short of stock, begin to stock up again, and credit balances become overdrafts again. Suppose the banks’ special deposits begin to contract. What will be the position of this treasury-bill burden? The shadow of this huge unfunded obligation . hangs darkly over our whole economy. By over- pressing for loans for fundi ug operations the Treasurer could, mop up all the money available for enterprise, restrict credit, ‘and limit production. For the sake of our business enterprises, for the good of our national economy, and for the encouragement of development that will provide employment for so many, a clear, concise and definite statement about our unfunded debt should have been made in this budget. The Treasurer avoided this as he avoided other subjects. We are, however, indebted to the Minister for his supporting document about national income, public borrowings and the like. Obviously, the Treasurer skirted around these dangerous subjects. Between the lines of the budget one can read the timidity of the Cabinet which was not game to tell caucus the truth.
– Does the honorable member call a “ whack “ of £360,000,000 in taxation timid?
– The Cabinet gave little or no information to the caucus in spite of the way in which the caucus bullied it. The caucus is equally timid. Very few honorable members opposite have spoken in this debate. On this occasion, the Treasurer had an opportunity to place before Parliament a considered review of Australia’s economic structure. Instead, he has placed before us a tax-gatherer’s report with pious hopes that we will accept it and help him to avoid major issues. The country will not be misled. The people require a clear-cut and definite statement from the Treasurer concerning Australia’s economic position, particularly as we are now on the eve of post-war reconstruction. However, the Government gives no clear indication of its proposals for restoration. Not content with avoiding the main issues, the Treasurer has indulged in window-dressing which calls for severe criticism. Let us examine the talk of ministeral supporters of the proposal to reduce income tax by 12& per cent. What are the facts? The proposal is cunningly inserted in the budget, but the reduction will operate for only six months of the present financial year. On that basis, on the statement of the Treasurer himself, the reduction is only 6^ per cent. But that statement also is not correct. Income tax collections last year amounted to £155,000,000 whilst revenue from income tax this year is estimated to amount to £132,000,000, In addition, social service contributions will amount to £20,000,000 making a total of £152,000,000. Thus tax collections, including the social service tax, are estimated to total only £3,000,000 less than total income tax collections last year, and this represents a reduction not of 12-J per cent., or 6i per cent., but only 2 per cent. Nevertheless, honorable members opposite, without examining the budget, are prepared to shout from the housetops that income tax will be reduced by 12-J per cent. Let us examine other evidence of timidity in the budget. What about the Government’s great boast of full employment about which we have heard so much talk for quite a long time? If there is to be full employment collections from the pay-roll tax should be substantially increased. Last year this tax yielded £11,088,000, but this year it is estimated that revenue from this source will be £88,000 less. The Treasurer, almost childishly, makes this estimate - he simply cuts off the odd £88,000- but the fact remains that in order to achieve his estimate there must either be less employment, or wages must be reduced. Either of those prospects offer a very gloomy outlook for members of the forces, workers who must be transferred from war industries, and wage and salary earners generally.
I now turn to expenditure in respect of the fighting services. This year this cost is estimated to amount to £360,000,000, or a decrease of £100,000,000, compared with last year’s expenditure on the services. Despite the frequent promises made in this House that releases from the Army were to be made at the rate of 4,500 a day it is apparent from this proposed expenditure that the Government does not intend to release service .personnel at anything like that rate. The daily correspondence of honorable members with reference to applications for releases, and the refusal of such releases, makes it quite clear that expenditure on this item could be substantially reduced. Hundreds of thousands of men in the fighting forces are anxious to return to their previous occupations, and a great majority of these men have long service in the forces to their credit. At the same time, thousands of employers are waiting for the return of these men whilst under National Security Regulations the jobs held previously by many men are guaranteed to them on their discharge. In addition, many men experienced in primary production should be released in order to enable us to increase our production of foodstuffs. A very great number of men now in the forces were previously engaged in primary production. Upon their enlistment their aged parents, who were living in retirement, or partial retirement, took over the farms and for the last five or six years have been carrying them on. However, applications for the release of men in this category in order to afford relief to aged parents are refused even in the case of the men who have long service in the forces to their credit. In such circumstances, farms have necessarily deteriorated, and urgent repair work for which, by the way, essential material such as wire netting and galvanized iron and piping for irrigation are unavailable, now awaits attention. Under such a policy the Government will not be able to effect substantial reduction of expenditure because it cannot retain in the forces hundreds of thousands of men in all the categories I have mentioned without incurring expenditure in respect of their pay, deferred pay, allotments, gratuity payments, food, maintenance, medical supplies and treatment and transport costs. Had the Government not fallen down on its job, but made proper preparations for demobilization this expenditure could be immediately reduced by a substantial amount, and the Government would thus be enabled to effect a substantial reduction of income tax.
I repeat that this is the most timid budget brought down since I have been a member of this Parliament. The Government must change its stubborn attitude towards the release of men from the armed forces in order to bring them back into industry. They have fought to save Australia and are entitled to be discharged at the earliest possible moment so that they may re-unite with their families, settle in industry, and lead happy and prosperous lives. The Government is interfering with the achievement of this objective, and is wasting public funds ‘by keeping the men in the services. Nothing hampers trade and industry generally more than crippling taxation, which also reduces standards of living. Excessive taxation will destroy the whole economic structure of Australia unless the Government grants early relief. The effect of the present high rates of income tax is shown by the fact that the huge sum of £32,894,000 of uncollected taxes was outstanding at the 30th June, 1944. That shows how hopelessly crippling our taxes have been. People have been unable to meet their commitments. If we add to that amount the taxes due at the 30th June, 1945, which some taxpayers have been unable to pay, the total will be staggering. Recent statements in the press also show that, at the 30th June this year, 275,000 income tax assessments had not been issued to the public. Had the amount of taxes represented in those assessments been collected, it would have been possible for the Government to effect a substantial reduction of taxation this year. The Government has avoided relieving taxation, which would have encouraged the development of industry and enabled the rapid absorption of ex-servicemen in employment. It proposes to carry on the present heavy rates of taxation for many more months so that it will be able to make substantial reductions on the eve of the next elections. This is a highly improper method of conducting the nation’s business, and I ask the Government to change its stubborn attitude.
The Government’s proposals for social services require the closest examination. Under its new proposals, it intends to collect from the people by means of a tax an amount of £73,000,000, which its economic advisers describe as “ a contribution towards social security”. Some people call social service payments “ charity “, but I prefer to use the term “ social security “. The list of estimated social security payments this year is as follows : -
Apparently the Government wants to increase social services without endeavouring to provide a fund for the purpose. By relying solely on taxation as a means of financing these payments, it will find that as soon as Australia, encounters heavy economic weather, social service benefits will have to go through the mincing machine just as they did during the last economic depression at the hands of the’ Scullin Government. Nothing was safe under the Scullin ‘Government. All the existing social services and repatriation benefits were reduced, and some of them have not yet been fully restored. I believe in maintaining adequate social services and in providing a better standard of education. It would probably benefit some of the loud-mouthed persons on the Government side of the chamber to attain a higher level of education. We cannot guarantee these ‘benefits to the people if the Government continues to have an utter disregard for proper systems of taxation and fails to introduce a form of social insurance to finance the everincreasing social service bill. The experience of all countries has made it clear that, without some tripartite system of contribution by employers, workers, and the Government to establish a trust fund, social services cannot be maintained at an adequate level. Under a contributory scheme every eligible member of the community would be entitled to participate in social benefits as a right and the objectionable means test could be abolished. Payments would go into a trust fund which would be earmarked for social benefits. There was a great deal of shilly-shallying and shuffling by the Treasurer during the last election campaign on this subject. Now he has changed his policy for financing social services for the third time in three years. The estimated total of £’73,300,000 for social security payments in the current year is more than four times the total amount contributed by Australians in income tax in the year 1.938-39. Accordingly, with such taxation, how can any one ever hope for reduction of taxes ? This system of financing social services is hopelessly insecure find unsatisfactory.
If the estimated revenue of the Government under this budget were reduced by £20,000,000, it would be possible to exempt from income taxation every taxpayer with an income of or under £10 a week. The following is an analysis of tax which will be paid this year by persons earning incomes of £10 a week or less: -
In 1939 the total number of taxpayers in Australia was approximately 300,000; today, 1,7Q0,0Q0 persons pay taxes. Payment of the social security benefits envisaged by the Treasurer will be possible only by having a tri-partite national insurance scheme, under which moneys will be put into a trust fund, and paid out to the people as a right. If the charges on the national purse are to be increased, and if no trust fund be available from which to draw, a reduction of taxes will be impossible. There is no chance of getting more money from i he taxpayers in the higher income groups. According to the report of the Commissioner of Taxation, the 2,000 highest incomes in Australia derived from salaries and dividends amount to less than £5,000,000 after income tax has been paid. An examination of the budget shows clearly that taxes could be reduced immediately by at least £80,000,000 a year. If unemployment is to be avoided; if industry, trade and commerce are to expand; and if service men and women and displaced war workers are to be rehabilitated, all wasteful expenditure must be avoided, and taxes must be reduced. For the reasons that I have given, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the first item he reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to withdraw and recast the budget in order to provide for reductions of taxes, to ensure the employment of members of the fighting forces and displaced war workers, and to eliminate wasteful expenditure.
– If we were to analyse carefully the speeches delivered by honorable members opposite we would be struck by the dissimilarity of the stories which they tell. On the one hand, they say that the Government is socialistic in its outlook and actions, or, at least, that it holds extremist views ; on the other hand, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) accuses the Government, of timidity. Even the mental agility of honorable members opposite is insufficient to reconcile such diverse statements. The story which has been told during this debate by honorable members opposite has been told throughout Australia many times during recent months. It was heard at a number of by-elections which have been held recently. The things said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) during the Fremantle by-election were said unavailingly. Indeed, the electors of Fremantle were so unimpressed that they returned the Labour candidate with the greatest majority than any Labour candidate in that seat since Federation, except in 1943 when the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, had a majority of 23,000 votes over his United Australia party opponent.
– The boundaries of the electorate have been changed since then.
– There was a time when Labour won that electorate by only a few hundred votes; recently its majority has run into thousands. That indicates the confidence of the electors in the present Government. On the same day there was also a by-election in the district of Prahran, Victoria, when the Labour candidate defeated a Liberal opponent, notwithstanding that the Liberal party had held the seat for twelve years.
– Prahran is in the federal electoral division of Fawkner, and is represented in this Parliament by a Liberal member.
– That is so.
– The Labour party may win Fawkner some day.
– The Labour party is not without hope of doing so. The present Government’s record is so good that not one Liberal seat will be safe at the next election. On the same day as that in which Labour candidates were returned in Fremantle and Prahran, the electors of Blacktown in New South Wales went to the poll to select a member in succession to a Labour member who had died. Labour .won the seat for the first time in. 1941, and won it again in 1944. At the recent by-election it won the seat with a bigger majority than ever before. Last Saturday there was a byelection for the Manly district of the New ‘South Wales Legislative Assembly. That is a seat which Labour has never yet won, but the Labour candidate reduced the majority of the successful candidate to about 1,000 compared with a majority of 3,000 .at the previous election. From those facts I deduce that the people of Australia are satisfied with the present Government and are not influenced by the stories told to them by the Opposition.
– Does the Minister say that the result of last year’s referendum indicated confidence in the Government?
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) may learn in time that the vote on the referendum was not a vote against the Labour Government. The Government took steps to ensure that men on active service should have a vote at the recent byelection in the Fremantle electorate. Many people who talk glibly of the reaction of servicemen to legislation introduced by the present Government seem to forget that the service vote was four to one in favour of the Labour candidate. It is also true that the servicemen were not misled by the vicious propaganda of vested interests during the referendum campaign, but cast their votes for the Government’s proposals.
The Department of Information is frequently attacked and misrepresented by people with some malign purpose to serve. The Leader of the Opposition and those few honorable members who think that Australia is expending too much money in maintaining this department are living in an age which has passed, and will never return. When the Japanese brought war into the Pacific, the greatest handicap under which Australia laboured at the time was the absence in other parts of the world of any proper appreciation of this country, and the Australian people and their way of life. Although the Department of Information was set up at the outbreak of the European war in 1939 by the Menzies Government to take over the duties of censorship and the dissemination of information concerning Australia and its war effort, the very necessities of the strenuous six years through which it has lived broadened its functions and made a call upon its resources for worldwide publicity on virtually every phase of Australian life, industry and effort. The result is that this country, like Great Britain and the United States of America, has emerged from the war with something that it has needed for very many years; that is, an expert coordinated organization of national publicity capable of carrying its message into every part of the world.
The organization we now have, falls under four main categories -
All these units are welded into one co-ordinated publicity organization which, working ‘as it does in the closest association with the Advertising Division of the Treasury, is capable of presenting Australia’s case in relation to every phase of national policy at all relevant points in the outside world.
– Is the migration vote included in that provision?
– No, I am referring to migration inquiries conducted hy the Department of Information, apart from the activities of the Department of Immigration, which will ultimately do a great deal of work on its own account. As yet, no organization to encourage migration has been established in the main centres from which we hope to draw migrants.
– What about the publicity side?
– The publicity work will be undertaken by the Department of Information, and the charge will ultimately be debited to the immigration vote. Therefore, any figures which are quoted in connexion with the Department of Information are quite apart from immigration publicity expenditure.
To talk of breaking up such .a completely integrated organization and returning to the conditions that existed before the war is the height of absurdity. Inspired suggestions in the press and elsewhere that the Department of Information should become an adjunct to the Department of External Affairs are just as unpractical. Inspiration for the idea probably resides in the discomfiture of my critics at our continued success in the realm of overseas publicity. I would remind those who advocate a change in control that the first Minister for Information, the late Sir Henry Gullett, was also Minister for External Affairs, and that he deliberately separated the functions of these two departments. One very adequate reason for the division was that the activities and functions of the New York News and Infor.mation Bureau, which he established, are subject to supervision by the Department of State, with which department the bureau must be registered. The activities of the bureau must therefore be independent, though in matters of discipline its officers are responsible to the Commonwealth Minister at Washington.
The aim of .the Government is to use the machinery of the Department of Information in a way that will eliminate overlapping and redundant expenditure, and at the same time ensure that the
Australian story shall be told in a balanced and effective manner at each point overseas where we have representation. When the estimates of the department are examined in relation to this machinery, honorable members will see that there is every justification for the increased expenditure for which the Government is budgeting. Of the amount of £325,900 proposed to be expended this year the short-wave service will absorb £58,090, the film activities, including the operations and administration of the National Film Board, will absorb £67,880, and the news and information bureaux and press attaches at overseas points will account for £97,570. This is a total of £223,540, leaving an amount of about £102,000 for editorial and administrative services within Australia.
– Is any revenue derived from the hire of films or the sale of publications ?
– A small amount of revenue has been derived, somewhat unexpectedly, from the sale of some of our films, but we have never produced films with the idea of marketing them in competition with films made by private companies. As I shall indicate later, some of our films have been so outstanding that private companies abroad have asked for the right to purchase them. We have sold a few. However, we do not sell any of our regular publications such as Facts and Figures, and Southwest Pacific. They are distributed free.
– I saw in the Parliamentary Library a publication marked “Department of Information. Price, 2s. 6d.”.
– We have produced a South-west Pacific Annual, which we have sold to the public.
– The publication which I saw was called Action.
– Yes, another publication is called Action. The proceeds from the sale of those publications have almost defrayed the expense of producing them. They were published because of an insistent demand from people who had seen copies of South-west Pacific, which circulated almost exclusively to editors throughout the world in order to inform them by articles and pictures of what is really happening in this country. We considered that the people of Australia might desire to read some of those articles and see some of the pictures, hut the department has not sufficient funds to enable it to make a free distribution throughout the Commonwealth. We printed many thousands of South-west Pacific Annual last Christmas and we propose to print another issue this1 year. We make no profit on our publications. I shall give more figures as I proceed.
In the amount of £102,000, to which I have referred, is included provision for the operation of censorship for three months of the financial year, and for carrying on operational reporting and photography until the return of all major Australian operational forces to the mainland. The amount proposed to be allotted is the minimum that a nation anxious for goodwill and needing new industries, new capital, and new citizens could spend on national publicity.
Publicity of the right kind is a paramount need for Australia. Whether in the fields of foreign relations, defence, commerce, finance, tourist trade, or immigration, well-directed publicity is necessary. Australia holds a very favorable position among the nations of the world, despite what internal critics may say. Other nations will believe us when we tell them that Australia is interested in the welfare of their peoples as well as in the welfare of Australia. They must be told that Australia is not imperialistic and has no territorial ambitions.
There are other nations of the world which are not suspect, but few have deservedly won the admiration of the world to the extent that Australia has. This comes to-day from Australia’s war effort on many battle fronts, as well as on the home front. It is most important that this priceless goodwill should be maintained as much as possible, and I am confident that it can be done by an expenditure that is very small in comparison with the sums spent by other countries.
Australia, to millions of people, is still a land of opportunity. For the sake of our continued existence we must keep this idea alive. Planned Australian publicity will be highly important after the war. Representatives of all parties and all shades of thought in this country are agreed on that, In fact, the charge very often and very inconsistently levelled by some critics is that we do not spend enough. When the Department of Information speaks of publicity, it thinks in- terms of its name. It believes, and carries the belief into effect, that the only national publicity policy is to make information available freely in the most interesting way possible. This information, it insists, must be factual.
Australia has a wonderful opportunity to attract a large and constant flow of tourists and migrants now that the war has ended. I feel sure that many American families will want to visit this country when ships can bring them. It is essential that the prospective tourist or migrant to this country -should be able to readily obtain accurate information. A constant stream of inquiries is being received by the Department of Information’s bureaux overseas and by myself and the department in Australia. These are always promptly met with facts.
As a matter of fact, approximately 1,600 inquiries a week by prospective migrants to Australia are being received at Australia House. I have no doubt that when I am able to announce in this Parliament the terms of an agreement with the British Government in respect of the migration to this country of British ex-service personnel and other British citizens, the number will rise very considerably. Grateful acknowledgment of information supplied, which we have received from universities, schools, newspapers, magazines, authors, travellers, children, representatives of foreign powers, and servicemen and people throughout the world, are the department’s reward and a part of Australia’s profit.
Let me now give a few facts about how this Australian information is put out by the small, hard-working staffs of the Department of Information overseas, who are supplied by the small, equally hardworking staffs in Australia. Let us remember that they have been working on what, comparatively speaking, is the smallest national publicity budget in the world. The London office of the Australian News and Information Bureau was established in January, 1944. Considerable difficulties had to be overcome in establishing the bureau on an efficient, economical basis in war-time Britain. Prior to that we had one elderly but distinguished Australian, in the person of Captain Smart, and one typist, doing all the publicity work for Australia in Great Britain. We acknowledge gratefully the assistance given to us in the early stages by the British Ministry of Information. Flying bombs and V2 rockets did not dampen the ardour of the bureau’s staff, which to-day numbers three journalists and fourteen others, including a librarian and bis assistant, a receptionist, typists, messengers and other office assistants. Of the seventeen ‘members of the staff, nine are Australians. In the financial year ended the 30th June, 1945, the net expenditure was £13,550 for the whole of the United Kingdom. Operating on this small budget, the bureau distributed 286,000 booklets, leaflets and posters, and 12,000 photographic prints of Australia and Australian war activity. The booklets included 35,000 copies of Enow Australia for the British Ministry of Education, and 120,000 booklets in French for issue at an exhibition in Paris. Three exhibitions were held in London and Paris. One hundred illustrated and nonillustrated special articles were placed in the United. Kingdom periodicals in the last nine months of the year. This was in addition to the hundreds of news stories and paragraphs used by newspapers and periodicals. Each day news transmissions from the department’s short-wave broadcasting service in Australia were monitored by tie British Broadcasting Corporation and widely circulated in Great Britain. We have only a few officers in the short-wave division of the department in Melbourne. The cost of maintenance of the shortwave broadcasting station at Shepparton is borne by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
In the last six months of the year, 500 film issues were made and some of these returned a profit for the Australian taxpayers, as well as being invaluable to Australia as publicity.
About 600 written, telephoned and personal requests for information about Australia are dealt with each week, apart from inquiries by prospective migrants. This is in addition to more than 1,600 a week received by the London office of the Immigration Department, which the bureau assists in answering and to which I made reference a few moments ago. It is my intention to utilize to the full the facilities of the Department of Information in furtherance of the Government’s plan to encourage migrants of the best type to make Australia their fu tun home. The bureau conducted a series of lectures for lecturers, so that every speaker going on tour would have ihe latest information about Australia.
Without going into too much detail, it may be mentioned that, as a result of the department’s efforts, considerable space has been devoted to presenting Australia in a favorable and factual light in such publications as the Times magazine section, Picture Post, with its circulation of well over 1,000,000, the Glasgow Herald and other national dailies, the Strand, the Wide World, the Tatler, the Field, Illustrated Lond’on News, Civil Engineering, Journal of Education, Poetry Review, and many others. Background information has constantly been issued to correct misinterpretation of Australian policy and many press conferences have been arranged for Australian Ministers and official visitors. The establishment of a reference library, attached to the London bureau, has both stimulated interest in Australia and satisfied inquirers. The collection at present numbers over 900 Australian books and pamphlets, in addition to government -documents. Ninety Australian periodicals are regularly received, and a system of 317 subject files covers Australian press cuttings, statements, announcements and statistical reports. Seventy-five assorted maps and charts of Australia and the Pacific are on display.
A considerable number of callers at the library are prospective migrants, seeking information about economic, industrial and social conditions in Australia, but a large number are teachers, business and professional men, authors, journalists and artists. Teachers have obtained lists of suitable Australian books for use in’ their work, or for inclusion in school libraries. A selection of current Australian books and documents has been included in the review of the monthly bulletin published in London. Inquiries for items reviewed have come from newspapers, public libraries, individuals, State Agents-General, British government departments, and members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
An important activity has been the critical revision of articles on Australia, or chapters in books on Australia, submitted for correction by authors or publishers. This is rather a remarkable development. When the department was established., it was not intended that it should act as a correcting agency for the publishers of books; but so valuable is the service now rendered by the staff, and so great the goodwill established, that prospective publishers bring their publications along in order that the departmental staff may check any points on which they may have doubt. The noticeably increasing British interest in Australian publications has prompted the librarian to appeal to us for greater resources from, which to answer future inquiries. Articles on Australia are published strictly on their merits. Indeed, matter coming from a government agency has, generally speaking, to be of superior quality to the work of members of newspaper staffs or private contributors, in order to gain entry to the pages of highclass publications.
The information being circulated through the. press and other publicity media will assuredly maintain the interest of intending migrants in Britain until passenger ships are again sailing to schedule and carrying new citizens to these shores. Answering the increasing number of written and personal requests for facts about Australia will keep our London bureau very busy in the future. No amount of money could have bought the sort of publicity we have gained in Britain as the result of my department’s work. That, in itself, is a fitting answer to those who say that we should either close down the department or make it a branch of some other department. No other department has in Australia the service which could enable the London bureau and the New York bureau to continue functioning. I make no comment, at the moment, upon the work of the press attaches who are engaged in the diplomatic service, attached to the various Australian High Commissioners, or to the heads of the Australian missions that are accredited to the foreign countries in which we have legations.
In the United States of America, the department has had a similar success to that of our English experience. Costs are much higher in America than in Britain, and the Australian News and Information Bureau has been operating on an expanding ‘basis for four years. In 1944-45 expenditure on the bureau was £40,701 in Australian currency. In that period 194,000 copies of general knowledge booklets, statistical publications, maps, posters, and study ‘ courses were distributed; 16,000 schools, teachers, students, clubs, army camps, navy bases and general inquiries participated in this distribution; 8,000 telephone and mail inquiries were answered. These inquiries came from librarians, schools, newspapers and news agencies, publishers, film companies, radio companies, writers and lecturers, government offices, and the United States fighting services; 700 Australian “ spots “ were arranged on American radio programmes. This was apart from routine servicing, research and inquiries. In addition, certain American radio stations broadcast news summaries from the Australian short-wave stations operated by the Department of Information; 80,000 short-wave news releases were sent out by the bureau; 919 copies of Australian films were lent to educational organizations, army clubs, factories,, trades organizations and lecturers; 400 lectures arranged by the bureau were delivered ‘by 30 Australians; press conferences were arranged for distinguished visitors, including Lord Gowrie; and 6,000 prints of Australian photographs were supplied to agencies, journals and publishers. Pictorial exhibitions have been circulated throughout the United States to large departmental stores, information and education bureaus and departments, to Army, Air Force and Navy establishments, and to hospitals. The bureau has had published through newspapers, magazines and news agencies, articles dealing with the Australian war effort and way of life. Assistance has also been given to publishers in reading and checking manuscripts. Numerous newspapers, including the leading dailies of the United States, have been helped to give the facts about Australia and magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Look, Life, Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post have used our material and thanked us for aid in research.
In addition, in two months to the beginning of August the bureau placed 31 articles on facets of Australian life in American magazines. Such articles have to be very good to make the grade, and the space they occupy simply can not be bought. This successful record has been achieved on a publicity expenditure in the United States which is a quarter of that of Belgium, a fifth of that of Holland, a seventh of that of Poland and one-twentieth of that of Britain. Tho Premier of Queensland, Mr. Cooper, writing last month from New York, said that Commonwealth officials at the Australian offices in New York were youthful, enthusiastic, competent, and extremely anxious to do the best for Australia. They were able to get excellent publicity for Australia in magazines and periodicals, and he asked that all possible information concerning Queensland should be regularly supplied to them. Through a link-up of 26 radio stations on the 17th August, thousands of American people heard Mr. Cooper speak of Queensland. His broadcast was during a popular question and answer session, and was arranged by my department.
In a lesser degree, because of smaller organization and opportunity, success has been achieved wherever the department has had its officers stationed. In Ottawa, New Delhi and San Francisco equally important work is being done. The report from those cities is of a great increase of favorable, factual publicity about Australia, because there is on the spot a suitable organization to rebut incorrect statements, to give out accurate background information, and to answer inquiries. Press attaches will also soon be proving their worth to the country in France and South America, where Australian interests are developing rapidly. Our total representation in any of these places would not exceed three officers of the Department of Information. Our representatives abroad are getting a regular and smooth flow of the right kind of material from Australia, thanks to the excellent work of the department’s staff. In addition to suitable letterpress and photographs, films and short-wave radio broadcasts are being competently used.
We still have a long way to go in Australia in the production of films, but I am very pleased with the progress that has been made under war-time difficulties in the production of documentary films by the Department of Information. I have great hopes of the recently established National Film Board, consisting of representatives of State Departments of Education, Commonwealth departments interested in rehabilitation and post-war development and the general public.
During the war the Department of Information has produced such films as Jungle Patrol, Kokoda Trail, Island Target and Australia is Like This. Several other films of equal merit, some in colour, are practically completed. Our war-time documentaries, giving Australia the best sort of publicity, have received high praise overseas and in Australia. They have depicted our fighting forces in a way that has created lasting impressions. Moreover, they have proved a commercial success in open competition, although that was not the primary object in making them. It is hoped that many more documentary films in this now established form of publicity will be made. It is hoped that under the National Film Board young Australians will be trained to surpass our previous excellent work and rank eventually with the best documentary film makers of other countries. Those men are being trained not to compete with men who make films for commercial exhibition. They are being trained to make films. for that branch of film work called documentary film production - a work that has received great stimulus since the outbreak of war and has made great progress within the British Commonwealth of Nations because of the remarkable success of Mi. John Grierson, a Scottish film producer, who came to Australia in the early days of the war, but was not appreciated, and then went to Canada, where he received a high appointment from the Canadian Government.
– Who is in charge of the documentary film section in Australia?
– We are negotiating at the moment with the Canadian Government for the release of Mr. Ralph Foster for twelve months. He is an officer of the Canadian Film Board under Mr. Grierson, with whom he trained.
– What about Mr. Maplestone?
- Mr. Maplestone has been released from the Army, where he served as a lieutenant-colonel, and has taken charge of the cinema branch of the department in Melbourne. He is working in collaboration with Mr. Foster and with Mr. Williams of my department in making a number of films. I have no doubt that the Canadian Government will accede to our request for the loan of Mr. Foster’s services. We have also had the benefit of the advice of Mr. Jorgen Ivens, the film advisor to the Netherlands Government in Australia and one of the greatest authorities on the making of documentary films.
Short-wave radio, which my department directs, also has a big part to play in the post-war plans of Australia, as it has in the plans of other nations. The asset that Britain possesses in the shortwave services of the British Broadcasting Corporation, which has established a dominant position through large and densely populated areas, sets us an example that we would do well to emulate, and intend to emulate. In the highfrequency short-wave station established at Shepparton, Victoria, Australia has as modern a short-wave centre as exists in any part of the world. Indeed, it embodies certain technical refinements not incorporated in even the latest systems of other countries. The station at Shepparton can send a direct beam to almost any part of the world, and reception of its transmissions at loudspeaker strength is possible in all major population centres abroad. In the field of external affairs, short-wave broadcasting is an essential aid to foreign policy. The information received through Shepparton will be a valuable and highly important addi- tion to the reports on the policies and opinions of foreign powers that the Department of External Affairs receives from other sources. It would be wrong to’ imagine that short-wave broadcasting has merely a war-time usefulness. Its peacetime potentialities are as great. Most post-war radio sets throughout the world will be of the dual-wave type and listeners in other countries will be able to pick up Australia’s official voice from Shepparton. In carrying out immigration policies short-wave radio can be a valuable aid in explaining Australian policy to potential migrants, while keeping alive their interest in the opportunities that Australia offers. Later, it can be profitably employed in direct migration publicity. ,Short-wave radio can help to convey to the rest of the world an appreciation of the competence of Australia’s administration in the native territories it controls. A Commonwealth and State Export Advisory Committee has endorsed the use of short-wave, broadcasting as one means of stimulating post-war trade. Its view is that special language broadcasts to the Netherlands East Indies, Malaya, China, Thailand and French Indo-China should be continued, to help improve Australia’s trade prospects by making its industrial potential better known. Shortwave broadcasting offers one means of securing a favorable attitude among the people of other countries to Australia’s special needs and problems, and of winning overseas markets for our products. Because of favorable physical and geographical factors, Australia’s short-wave signal is more clearly heard in the Far East than signals from American and British transmitters. Even during the war, big direct listening audiences have been built up in Asia and the Pacific zone. Smaller but still important audiences have been won in America, Canada, Britain and Europe, notably France and Scandinavia. Newsagencies, radio networks, and individual stations make full, free use of the facts contained in Australian short-wave transmissions. These are broadcast in 22 sessions daily taking up eighteen hours of the 24.
My department has its critics. Some of these are carrying on personal vendettas, some persistently indulge in inaccuracies and distortions, and display complete ignorance of the department and its work. Fortunately all of our critics have not been so petty. Generally speaking, they have said that we are not spending enough. I doubt whether any honorable member, or any editor in his sober senses, would advocate the abandonment of our short-wave asset, or restriction of our film-making activities, or abolition of the very efficient publicity agencies we have built up in New York, London and elsewhere.
– They could be transferred to some other department if necessary.
– We could separate the activities of the Department of External Affairs or the AttorneyGeneral’s Department but unless we got a better service by so doing it would not be advisable. I hope that I am proving that it is highly desirable to maintain an integrated department which has done and is continually doing good work for Australia. Lt is obviously useless to set up agencies abroad unless they are efficiently serviced from this end. The cost of servicing our various bureaux and missions from Australia is the very reverse of extravagant.
The overall estimate of the cost ‘ of the department is one-sixteen hundredth of the budget expenditure. For the Leader of the Opposition to contend that taxation relief could be given by abolishing the Department of Information is, therefore, ludicrous. I believe that I have shown that the department has done an excellent job and that given the opportunity and funds it can do an even better one. The need for expansion of Australian publicity services in other countries has been emphasised for years. Long before the war, and during it, Australian newspaper correspondents, well-known visitors and publicity experts, have complained that Australia is insufficiently known outside its own borders. There is less justification for criticism on that ground to-day than ever before; but more can be done and will be done to make Australia better and more favorably known in other countries. Newspapers in Australia, which for years have urged that more money must be spent on publicity overseas, must, to be consistent, support the efforts that the experienced news papermen of the Department of Information are now making to tell Australia’s story to the world. Those who control some of the news services emanating from newspaper offices could help by showing a greater sense of responsibility than in the past, when, on the newspapers’ own admission, Australia was consistently depicted as a land of droughts, bushfires, violent crime, strikes, kangaroos and koalas. This was the case before the advent of the Department of Information, and is a complete answer to some people who have suggested that the publicising of Australia could be left to such irresponsible agencies. No Australian government in the state in which the world is to-day could afford to bewithout adequate information services at key points abroad. This is recognized on every side. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), upon hisreturn from the United ‘States of America,, some months ago said -
We need in America a broad and overall, public relations programme to strengthen Australia’s position in relation to the United States ot America and because of the importance of American friendship to Australia: in the post-war period.
Senator Foll, a former Minister for Information, has repeatedly urged expansion of our overseas publicity. Other honorable members of both Houses of the Parliament have spoken similarlyLeading newspapers have commented editorially that too little has been done by the Australian Government to stimulatelatent American interest in the Commonwealth, and that the field of intelligent and helpful Australian propaganda thereshould be systematically expanded. 1 agree, in part, but I would emphasisethat it is not our intention to enter the realm of propaganda. We intend to stay in the realm of factual information. On every side, and by representatives of all political shades of thought, it is agreed that Australian publicity overseas must continue. If so, we must have the organization to provide this publicity.
I would like it to be firmly fixed in the minds of publicists that the Department of Information is not a government publicity agency. It is a national publicity agency. Even a cursory - examination of its output will show that it is no more a government publicity- agency than is the Commonwealth Gazette, which circulates Government and ministerial decision and announcements. Many honorable members who receive regularly copies of the splendid publications issued by my department have expressed admiration at their high quality.
Australia has special needs, principally immigrants, new capital, new industries and an extensive tourist traffic. Therefore what other countries propose to do with their publicity organizations is not always applicable to Australia; but it is interesting to note the plans announced in other countries. Britain intends to retain a powerful overseas publicity unit which, according to World’s Press News, will bo a fairly large organization. We have just had information , that >two senior officers of the British Ministry of Information have left London since the end of the Avar to open offices in Sydney and “Melbourne. The well-known organization, “Political and Economic Planning, which has at times been highly critical of the British Government, has recognized that the Government is bound to play a larger part in social and economic life than formerly. Its’ latest survey says -
It is high time that wider and simpler explanations of government activity should be given to the great majority of people who have the right to know what the government has done, is doing and wishes to do. Explanations cannot be left entirely to the initiative nf newspapers and booksellers.
In conclusion, I remind honorable members that Australia spends less on national publicity at home and abroad in a year than some commercial firms spend in Australia alone in advertising their products. Our national publicity budget is only a small fraction of the turnover -of a large Australian daily newspaper, fu the United States of America, President Truman (has announced that he -considers a foreign . information programme should continue, and the foundations have already been laid for America’s first peace-time publicity agency. I have traversed at some length the work of the Department of Information and will answer any request for further details when the estimates of the department are under consideration at a later stage -of the committee’s deliberations.
.- Every word spoken by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) exuded optimism. He commenced by saying thai the result of the Fremantle by-election indicated that the principles on which the budget is based have been approved b the people of Australia. He went on to say that strongholds of the Liberal part> would not merely be assaulted at the next election; all of them would be in very grave danger. The Minister then ascended still higher in his flight of optimism. He is now optimistic enough to believe that he has really made out a case for the retention and expansion of the Department of Information. I should like to answer him immediately on one or two points. The first thing one notes i.– that the expenditure on this department is increasing annually. Last year its vote amounted1 to £297,000 whereas this year it amounts to £326,000 or an increase of £29,000; and speaking from memory I think that the vote last year exceeded that for the previous year by approximately £60,000.
– Due to the transfer of the short-wave division to the department from the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– It is quite clear that this department will grow year by year if the plans and ambitions of the Minister are carried into effect. When this department was established, it was, I thought, a useful and not unpleasant baby, hut to-day it is growing into a very acquisitive adolescent. It is seizing everything within its reach like an over-grown child. Already it has got its hands upon the film industry, and it now controls a radio station. I fail to see why the department should launch into the film industry which can be carried on more efficiently by private enterprise, or why it should take the short-wave division from the Postmaster-General’s Department. I shall not be surprised if it finishes up by swallowing most of the other departments. The suggestion has been put forward that it might be merged, or might work in close co-operation with the Department of External Affairs. That would be in keeping with the procedure adopted by all diplomatic missions which have their attaches, or other special means of issuing publicity.
– Military attaches are controlled not’ by the Department of External Affairs but by the Army authorities.
– From the points of view of financial economy and efficiency it would be far better for this department not to be abolished, but to be placed as a directorate under the control of another department, preferably the Department of External Affairs, and to have its liaison officers in various departments, such as the Department of Immigration, to put Australia’s case before the world at large.
There is a great feeling of disappointment throughout Australia at the nature of this budget. That is a considerable under-statement of the fact. The people were led to believe that the income tax cut was to be of the order of 12£ per cent. Actually, it proved to be only 6J per cent., as stated by the Treasurer, and, as shown by the figures in the budget, the real saving to the taxpayer will be only a little over 2 per cent. Last year, revenue from income tax was £155,682,242. This year, it will be approximately £152,000,000. In other words, there will be a reduction of only £3,000,000 in £155,000,000, which represents about 2£ per cent. In addition, although income tax payers will receive a remission of only £3,000,000, the ordinary taxpayers will be mulct of an amount of nearly £5,000,000 through additional customs and excise duties. Customs revenue will increase by £3,512,000, and excise revenue will increase by £1,310,867. In other words, the country is being called upon to pay an additional £5,000,000 for those two items. Furthermore, we must take into consideration the arrears of taxes which have not yet been collected, amounting to about £38,000,000, most of which, presumably, must be collected this year.
– Most of the money is in the “kitty”. It has been collected through tax stamps.
– That is not so. In the main, incomes in respect of these particular arrears have never been assessed. There are individuals and companies who are still liable for this amount, and who will have to pay it. Therefore, this year the country is being called upon to produce even more money than it was required to produce last year, as ‘the result of increased customs and excise charges plus arrears of income tax. With regard to expenditure, we are merely given one round figure of £100,000,000 by which the Government expects to reduce combined war and peace expenditure. As far as the taxpayers are concerned, the only compensation is that they will be saved an amount of about £3,000,000 of income tax. The balance of the £100,000,000 will be saved by not issuing any more treasury-bills, and by reducing the amount of loans from the public. We all agree with these measures, but apparently the Government is of the opinion that it should expend the money available in this country rather than the individuals who earn it. In other words, it believes in the good old socialistic principle that it is much easier and better for the money to be expended according to the Government’s plans than for the individuals to expend the money in their own way.
– The Government has done very well to date.
– I have not noticed it. I wish the Minister would explain that statement to me some time.
If taxes are reduced proportionately to the needs of the people, they will obviously have more money to spend. That is what everybody requires to-day: It has been said that, if money is made available by means of a reduction of taxation, we shall face inflation. I admit that there is some danger of inflation, but we still have a very strong weapon of defence against that danger in the form of prices control. From the experience that we have gained during this war, I cannot believe that inflation will occur in Australia’s present circumstances as long as prices are controlled. The individual needs more money to spend. It is not a question of buying surplus commodities. He requires money to put in order those assets which have deteriorated or to replace those that have been lost during the war. I venture to say that there is not one house that does not require a new coat of paint, or repairs to the gutters, roof, or fences, not one estate that does not need one hundred and one different repairs to improvements, and not one industry, small or large, that does not require new plant, or repairs to plant, and things which are needed to increase production.
– While all the things required are in short supply, the release of extra spending power would tend to cause inflation.
– 1 shall deal with that point now. If resources exist by which supplies can be made available - and I believe that such resources do exist in the form of materials and man-power - the best policy for the Government to pursue is obviously one of making these supplies available in order to satisfy demand. If demand is encouraged and satisfied, the wheels of industry will be set in motion once more and we shall be able to reemploy the hundreds of thousands of men who are being released from the munitions works and the armed forces. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) spoke of the timidity of the Government. I speak of the lightheartedness of the Government in bringing forward a budget such as this without really estimating the needs of the country, and, above all, in making the various parts of the budget so obscure that not a soul knows exactly what they mean. I shall ask some questions on that point soon. Instead of imposing drastic curbs on purchasing power, the obvious and wise course is to ease such restrictions to the utmost point compatible with our obligations to service men and women and with our commitments arising from the war. If possible, people should be able to buy what they like in addition to what they need, and industrial programmes should be broadened to meet their requirements. It is useless to set machines and men to work turning out materials if there is no money available in the country to buy those materials. For a very large majority of taxpayers, direct and indirect taxes have been such as to make it impossible for them to obtain things that are necessary and desirable. Many taxpayers have been selling their assets in order to pay their income taxes, and they need to reestablish their financial position before they can spend any money at all.
– How does the honorable member account for the increase of bank deposits?
– That money is largely in the hands of a few people who managed to make money.
– The number of depositors has doubled.
– There is a big increase of savings banks deposits, mostly by people with small incomes.
– That they are people with small incomes is all to the good.
– I agree, but because of the heavy burden of taxation many farmers have not the wherewithal to make necessary repairs or additions.
– Surely _ the pent-up purchasing power of the people will enable much to be done?’
– The real income of many wage-earners has not increased. In 1939, a man with a gross income of £416 * a year retained £390 after paying £26 in income tax, whereas in 1945, when his tax was £102, he had only £314 left. When’ we reflect that the purchasing power of money is only four-fifths of what it was in 1939, we realize that that represents a further reduction of £63, leaving him with a net income of only £251.
– What about unemployment and overtime?
– That does not affect a man earning £8 a week. Many workers are in receipt of a reduced real wage. There are good reasons for reducing taxes in order to provide additional employment.
– Deferred pay of service men and women will represent £54,000,000, and war gratuities will amount to £75,000,000.
– War gratuities will not be paid for five years.
– The deferred pay will be available this year.
– That is so. It is however, clear, that if expenditure is to be maintained at the present level there can be no appreciable reduction of taxes. The vote for the Army has not been decreased to the degree that should be possible now that the war has ended. The vote for the present financial year is set down lit £174,757,000, compared with an expenditure of £173,618,116 in 1944-45. That is an increase of £1,138,884. I cannot understand that increase, as the war is over and the financial year will not end for another nine months. An examination of the Army vote gives some startling results. For instance, the expenditure in 1944-45 under division 117 - Army Inventions Directorate - was £42,526. ‘For 1045-46 it is estimated that £54,000 will be required under that heading. ‘What is the reason? One would think that with the cessation of hostilities the vote would be reduced. Another item which is even more extraordinary is division No. 112 - Arms, Armament. Ammunition, Equipment and Reserve- for which £24,183,000 is set down for this financial year. That is a reduction of only a little over £3,000,000 compared with the expenditure in 1944-45, which amounted to £27,813,234. Surely we have more armament, ammunition, and equipment than this country will require for the next 50 years. For the acquisition of sites and buildings, £300,000 is set down for this financial year. Last year £324,000 was expended under this heading. .Surely in six ‘years of war all the sites and buildings required by the Army have been acquired. Indeed, so many buildings have been acquired that the trouble is to know what to do with them.
– The honorable member seems to forget that some months of the financial year elapsed before hostilities ceased.
– I realize that, but there is still nine months before the end of the financial year, and I cannot understand why these items are so big.
– There is a satisfactory explanation.
– The committee is completely in the dark, and would be glad to have that explanation. A similar state of affairs exists in connexion with the Department of Air. Last year £45,230,673 was expended in pay and allowances in the nature of pay to members of the Royal Australian Air Force. This year ‘ the proposed vote is £50,000,000. For civilian services. £950,000 which is only £11,120 less than the amount expended last year, is asked for. For the maintenance of Royal Australian Air Force squadrons overseas £1,121,283 was expended last year : this year £1,170,000 is sought. What is the reason for that increase? Most of the squadrons should be back in Australia before the end of the financial year.
– Over 11,000 members of the Royal Australian Air Force are still overseas and cannot yet be brought back.
– The proposed vote for the Department of Aircraft Production is £4,724,000. Last year the expenditure for that department amounted to £1,855,230. What, is the reason for thai big increase?
– Does not the honorable member think that it is desirable to establish the aircraft industry here ?
– Yes, but not at too great a price, especially when the machines being made here are already obsolete. The amount set down for “ Engine Factory, Construction and Equipment” for this financial year is £680,000. That is a big increase over the £80,750 expended under that heading last year. Similarly, the proposed expenditure of £2,005,000 on plant, equipment, and machinery is far in excess of the £3S,400 expended under that heading in 1944-45. One would have thought that all the fittings and furniture needed by the Department of Aircraft Production had already been acquired, but the Estimates provide for an expenditure thi3 year of £450,000, which is nearly £20,000 more than waB expended last year. For maintenance £50,000 is sought, although last year only £2,692 was expended on maintenance. The increases in some instances are so great, and generally the information conveyed to honorable members by the figures is so vague, that I wonder that the Government had the courage to introduce such a budget. Expenditure on munitions last year amounted to £9,965,937, and the estimate for this year is £7,432,000. On what munitions will this money be expended ? We have dumps of shells everywhere, and munitions are being tipped into the sea for the purpose of getting rid of them. But apparently we shall continue to make munitions, although there is no demand for them.
Expenditure by the Department of Trade and Customs will increase from £747,000 last year to £767,000 this year. The position of certain organizations within the Department of Trade and Customs is astonishing. The Division of Import Procurement dealt with, lendlease transactions, but those arrangements have now been cancelled. Last year, expenditure on. the Division of Import Procurement amounted to £410,000, and the estimate for this year is £398,000. Although the Rationing Commission has reached the peak of its activities, its expenditure this year will exceed last year’s figure by £30,000. Last year, expenditure on the Commonwealth Prices Commission was £490,794 and this year it will be £520,000. The functions of those organizations are decreasing, but we are being asked to vote larger sums of money for their administration. If the figures were reversed, we could understand it.
Having examined the budget, I can only believe that the Government is wandering with its head in the clouds, as many thousands of Australians are doing. The general conception of the so-called “ new order “ is that there shall be less work, more pay and more leisure. Honorable members opposite say “ Hear, hear “. I remind them that we cannot have efficiency in this country, and advance as a nation unless the people get back to work properly. Honorable members opposite forget two things. Australia has emerged from the war a very impoverished nation in many ways. Our overseas assets have largely disappeared, and our internal assets have deteriorated. We have a big leeway to overcome. An even more important fact is that many of our men have forgotten how to work. Employers of labour state that efficiency has deteriorated by from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent. Before the war, a bricklayer laid from 700 to 1,000 bricks la day on the construction of a villa. In recent years, bricklayers have laid only 400 bricks a day. Persons qualified to express an opinion state that the increase qf costs in the construction of the Captain Cook Dock in Sydney was due largely to the poor output of labour.
Workers produced about half the normal output, but received about twice the ordinary rate of remuneration.
– Many of the labourers were taken from departmental stores and had never before used a pick and shovel.
– I am aware of that. In the brick and pottery, pipe and tile industry, the volume of production per £1 wage paid to employees in Victoria decreased in 194344 by 24.04 per cent., but, wages and salaries increased by 75.13 per cent. Those figures appear in the Victorian State Year-Booh. We cannot rebuild Australia if we adopt the slogan of “ more wages, less work “. If we are to improve the standards of the Australian people, they must get back to honest, solid work. I am in favour of high wages, but I hope that the worker will give an honest day’s work in return for his remuneration. , Otherwise, efficiency must decline.
– The honorable member began by arguing that wages had decreased, but is now arguing that wages have increased.
– On the contrary, I said that real wages had decreased. In a speech recently, the Treasurer said that certain classes of people were entitled to and would be given certain concessions, particularly in regard to sales tax. Some of those sections are obviously entitled to the concessions, but one particular class has been treated in an anomalous manner in the past. I refer to bush nursing hospitals^ particularly those in Victoria. Other honorable members and I have made strenuous efforts to obtain for those hospitals exemption from pay-roll tax, entertainments tax, sales tax, and tax on donations. In a letter to me in 1944, the Treasurer set out reasons why the exemption could not. be granted. He wrote -
Exemption would lie under the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act if the bodies concerned were public hospitals or public benevolent institutions, and under the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act provisionally if they were public hospitals, public benevolent institutions: or public charitable institutions. However, the association and its centres do not come within any of these classifications for the reason that they are not “ public “ within the meaning given to that term by the courts.
Having made representations regarding entertainments tax a few months ago, T am gratified to say that hush nursing homes are now exempt from this tax on the following grounds : -
Until the present time the Commissioner has taken the view that your association and its centres are not conducted for public, philanthropic or charitable purposes and accordingly are ineligible for exemption from entertainments tax. However, the Commissioner recently had occasion to seek advice of the Crown Law authorities in regard to a somewhat similar organization and, as a result of that advice, he now acknowledges that your association and its centres are conducted for charitable purposes within the meaning of that expression as used in the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act.
This opinion given by the Government’s legal advisers must obviously apply to sales tax, pay-roll tax and the tax on donations. I urge the Treasurer to give very careful consideration to the removal of these anomalies as soon as possible. The sum paid by these hospitals is not very large, amounting to a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand pounds a year, but the burden of the payment is very heavy on small hospitals which have not large funds. Therefore, there is every reason why the ruling in regard to the entertainments tax should be applied quickly to the other taxes. Sales tax is in a somewhat different category. I ask, however, that the exemption granted to other bodies in this respect be granted also to bush nursing hospitals.
The time is appropriate to raise another important matter. The committee is fully aware of the principle “No taxation without representation”. In this country to-day there are people in three categories who are disfranchised - criminals, lunatics and residents of the Australian Capital Territory. The time has come to consider very seriously the giving of parliamentary representation to the residents of the Australian Capital Territory. There may have been reasons originally for their disfranchisement. When the seat of government was first established at Canberra, there were very few people here, but within recent years the number has grown considerably, and the total population is now about i4,000, of which about 9,000 are of enfranchisable age. The numerical sizes of the electorates in Australia range from 20,000 at the lowest to 90,000 . at the highest. I cannot see why the injustice’ that is now being done to the residents of Canberra should be continued, even though their number is less than that of one of the smallest of the existing electorates. The Northern Territory, which now has a population of 4,000, but which normally, before the war, had a population of about 8,000, has representation of a sort, in that the residents of it return to this Parliament a member who,’ although without a vote except in respect of ordinances that deal with the Territory, is able to express their views. We have been told that we are at the commencement of a new order. Therefore, all anomalies should be removed where possible. I hope that consideration will be given to the parliamentary representation of the residents of the Australian Capital Territory.
I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) because I believe the budget to be fundamentally unsound and unsuited to the existing conditions in this country; consequently, I hope that it will be withdrawn and redrafted.
ARMED Forces: Food Supplies fob Troops in Borneo.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I raise a matter which, to me, appears to be of considerable importance to a number of our troops in the Borneo area, and possibly relates also to Australian troops serving in other areas. If the facts brought to my notice in a letter that I have received to-day from an officer in the Australian Imperial Force are correct, they reflect either wanton neglect or a supine and disgracefully weak-kneed attitude by the Government towards an industrial issue which has been depriving these men of supplies of fresh food for a period of months. I attach a great deal of weight to the letter, because it comes to me from a man whom I know very well personally. As he points out, he has not during the period of war written to me on any matter which he considered called for criticism, because the country was at war and he was observing the requirements of the position. But, in view of the fact that peace has now come, he considers that he should bring to my notice a number of matters, to one of which I direct the attention of the House to-night. I quote his own language -
This formation has been in Balikpapan since the 1st July and it is not a very congenial spot. We have had no fresh meat and very little fresh food at all. I will quote, verbatim, a routine order, evolved by formation and reproduced in unit orders, which was received here a very few days ago. It runs as follows under the heading “Refrigerated Cargo to Balikpapan “ : - “Non arrival of refrigerated cargo to this area is causing much discontent among personnel and unwarranted criticism of the Australian Military Forces. In order to clarify the position the following information is advised. Two refrigerator vessels have been assigned to Balikpapan and were on berth in Sydney on the 13th July and the 15th August; respectively. Owing to labour troubles these vessels have not yet completed loading. The estimated time of departure from Sydney is now the 2nd September and the estimated time of arrival in Balikpapan is late September “.
That letter was written on the 9th September. Apparently, at that time, no advice had been received that these vessels had left the port of Sydney. It is unlikely that this is an isolated incident. We know that there have been troubles on the waterfront in Sydney for a number of years. Apparently, they have come to a head in recent times. They are affecting not only the passage of vessels interstate but also the supply of fresh food which these men have not had for months, although they are in a remote and uncongenial area. I bring the facts to notice in the hope that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) will make an immediate investigation of the circumstances, and that he will advise the House whether or not these vessels have yet left Sydney, as well as the reason or reasons for the inordinate delay in the loading and supplying of the fresh food which they are able to carry. As the routine order states, and my correspondent confirms, the matter is causing a great deal of discontent, and unfavorable criticism by the men of the authorities in Australia. I have raised this matter at my first opportunity in the hope that the Government will give it immediate attention.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1945 - No. 47 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union.
Canberra University College - Report for 1944.
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for 1944.
Housing - Final Report of Commission appointed under the National Security Regulations.
National Security Act - National Security ( Shipping Co-ordination ) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 95, 96, 98.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinance - 1945 - No. 9 - Canberra Community Hospital.
Regulations - 1945 - No. 3 (Building and Services Ordinance).
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Fruit and Vegetables: Processing.
Machine Tools and Appliances.
Canberra: Mail Service.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The food control organization, first established on the 28th June, 1943, was formed by merging the functions of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture with the Defence Foodstuffs Section of the Department of Supply and Shipping. So that the honorable member shall have a clear appreciation of the duties and responsibilities of food control, I refer briefly to those carried out by its main divisions. The Service Foodstuffs Directorate of Food Control attends to the procurement (including detail, contractual arrangements and consequential action) of all food and forage -
This work must still be carried out. Where food is not required for the services it must be procured to meet other urgent obligations. Urgent requests have recently been received by Australia from the British Ministry of Food for supplies of tinned milk tobe sent to the civil administrations at Hong Kong and Burma. Requests for other nutritious foods for liberated areas are being received daily. The Directorate of Agriculture has co-operated with the States in the production of all major unprocessed foodstuffs: In addition it has -
The Directorate of Food Manufacture is responsible for processed foodstuffs. It has supervised the erection of 30 dehydrators for the production of fruit and vegetables. Of these sixteen are Commonwealth-owned and thirteen wholly or partly equipped with Commonwealth plant and machinery. The value of the output of dried vegetables for the past twelve months is estimated at £4,000,000. Vegetable dehydration served a useful purpose in war-time, but production is now being scaled down because of a falling off in demands for dried vegetables. Output of canned vegetables, under the stimulus of the Directorate of Food Manufacture increased from 272,000 cases in the year before the war to a yearly production rate of 4,500,000 cases. Production of certain types of canned vegetables is being tapered off because of the greatly reduced demands for this type of food. Dehydrated and canned vegetables are only two of the many processed foods handled by the Directorate of Food Manufacture. They are mentioned because they serve as an illustration of the work of this division. I refer briefly to two other sections of Food Control for the information of the honorable member for Wide Bay. The Technology Section was established to enable the Commonwealth Government to guarantee the quality and safety of the food procured or prepared for the services and thus avoid wastage. The annual value of these foods exceeds that of the Commonwealth’s largest peace-time budgets. The Stores, Transport and Cold Storage Branch has held stocks of food which the services, for one reason or another, were unable to accept from contractors. The branch is now holding and shipping all stores on behalf of the services, Ministry of Food and Unrra. The importance of this work cannot be over emphasized. The honorable member for Wide Bay will appreciate that the world-wide shortage of certain types of food, the effect of drought on Australian production and the need for importing fodder to maintain our animal population has greatly increased the normal functions of Food Control. He will also, I am sure, appreciate that had Australia been without a centra] authority to co-ordinate the production of food, to arrange for essential imports of fodder and food not normally produced in Australia, to deal with the urgent requirements of the services and Great Britain and to conduct negotiations with the Combined Food Board, the London Food Committee and other international authorities dealing with the distribution of food, the difficulties of those United Nations’ instrumentalities would have been greatly accentuated.I mention this because the honorable member’s question suggests that he is not fully aware of what has been done, or of the relationship which exists between Food Control and the other United Nations’ food organizations. Food and the essentials for the production of food during the war were produced, allocated, distributed and transported according to international plans. For all practical purposes Food Control was a unit in a gigantic international food organization established to further the war effort of the United Nations. Each unit of the organization was familiar with the problems of the other. Each helped the other according to the limit of its own resources. Because of the need for the continuance of this co-operation the United Nations have agreed on the retention of the Combined Food Board and other war-time instrumentalities for a limited period.
While the Government is anxious that control of food shall cease as soon as possible, Commonwealth Food Control, as the Govern ment food procurement organization, still has tremendous responsibilities to the Australian, British and Allied services, the British
Ministry of Food, the Combined Food Board and other United Nations’ organizations. The demands on Australia for food are now the highest in our history and are still increasing. Our own prisoners of war, who have just beer liberated, required special supplies of food, while, as I have indicated, the British Ministry of Food has requested that substantial quantities of highly nutritious foods be made available to the civil administrations of Hong Kong and Borneo. As service demands commence to taper off it will be the responsibility of Food Control to insure that there is the greatest possible increase in the food sent to Britain. It must of course be understood that while Australia allocates supplies of food to Britain the Ministry of Food determines just where the food allocated is to be sent. The reason for this is that the Ministry of Food has responsibilities to civil populations and services outside Britain. In view of the facts outlined, the honorable member for Wide Bay will understand that I am unable to say at what late it will be possible for the remaining functions of Food Control to be taken over by the permanent staff of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. He may he assured, however, that there will be a continuing reduction in the temporary staff consistent with the honoring of our obligations - obligations which the Government entered into with the United Nations, and which I am sure the honorable member for Wide. Bay wishes to see honored.
r asked the Minis ter for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are a* follows : -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– By arrangement willi the United Kingdom Government, Australian service casualties are published at quarterly intervals in a coordinated statement of British Empire casualties. The latest date for which these statistics are available is the 31st May, 1945, and the following tables show details of casualties in each service and in various theatres of war to that date. A further statement showing casualties to the end of August, 1945, is in preparation and will shortly be published : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450918_reps_17_185/>.