17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Demobilization - Releases - Leave for Nurses.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether, as was reported in the Sydney press yesterday, the Government’s demobilization scheme isunlikely to begin to operate on the 1st October next, as announced, and that it will not commence until at least two or three weeks after that date?Can the Minister say what progress has been made with the erection of demobilization centres, for which work War Cabinet approved of an expenditure of £250,000 last July? Is the failure to have these works proceeded with likely to be a contributing factor in the predicted delay in implementing the scheme?
– I have not read the statement mentioned. There is no truth in the assertion that delay is likely to occur in the implementation of the demobilization plans of the Government. They will begin to operate on the 1st October next, from which date there will be a steady flow of men from the services to their homes. Whether or not the buildings will te ready for the final demobilization of the men, is not a matter of great importance, because the men will proceed to their homes on leave, and will be capable of taking up employment before being recalled to the demobilization centres for perhaps one day or two days in order to have their demobilization finally effected. The fact that the buildings are not quite ready is not holding up the demobilization plans in any way. There will be no delay in the matter.
– In view of the fact that under present conditions the release of medical and nursing services personnel is not possible under the general plan covering the release of members of the forces with five years’ military service, will the Minister for the Army consider the possibility of granting special “ victory “ leave of, say, from two to three months’ duration, as opportunity offers, to all nurses with three, four or five years continuous service ?
– When circumstances permit, consideration will be given to the request of the honorable member. Because of- the anticipated arrival of many prisoners-of-war, the demands on nurses are great and they cannot be (pared at present; but the suggestion is h good one, and sympathetic consideration will be given to it.
– I have received from Major Nicholson, Queensland Lines of Communication Area, a letter dated the 14th September, in reply to representations regarding the release from the Army of a private who desired employment in a rural industry; it reads -
It is advised that the soldier is not eligible for release under the present occupational release scheme for employment on rural work.
Another lotter, from the chairman of a District Agricultural Committee in a big district, regarding an application on hehalf of a young man in Groveley detention camp whose father is in a very bad state of health, reads -
I have to advise that the man-power authorities state that no applications for the release of servicemen for employment in rural industry are being considered at the present time; consequently, your application cannot be considered. tn view of the tone of those letters, is it to be assumed that the Army and the
Man Power Directorate are opposing the release of men for engagement in rural industry, although both are prepared to grant releases for the harvesting of crops ? Will the Minister for the Army confer with the Minister for Labour and National Service, with a view to evolving a common policy, so that the primary producer may know where he stands, especially in view of the fact that the returns from butter production last year were 13,670 tons below those of the previous year?
– I shall have inquiries made immediately. I am satisfied that Major Nicholson is somewhat out of date in regard to releases from the Army. It has been decided to discharge 3,000 persons for engagement in rural industries, in addition to the 3,000 who f ormed a portion of the last 10,000 occupational discharges. Possibly, Major Nicholson has not yet received the latest advice from Army Head-quarters. The Government fully appreciates the seriousness of the manpower problem in rural industries. I am confident that it will be greatly relieved when demobilization of the forces commences on the 1st October next. A considerable proportion of the normal discharges that are being made will return to rural industries. I shall obtain all the information in regard to the matter, and let the honorable gentleman have it.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether the matter of soil erosion was discussed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held recently in Canberra? If so, were the recommendations of the Australian Agricultural Council considered? In addition to action by the States, what positive action does the Commonwealth Government contemplate taking, either independently or in co-operation with the States, to deal with this national menace? If any action is proposed, can the Minister say when the plans envisaged are to be implemented?
– To say that the problem of soil erosion was considered or discussed at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, would be an over-statement. The matter was raised, on a motion that I submitted to give effect to the recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council - which, as the House knows, is composed of State Ministers of Agriculture, with the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture as chairman. I understand that the recommendation of the council was arrived at unanimously. It was, that a standing committee on soil erosion be established conjointly by the States and the Commonwealth, and that a small secretariat be <set up within the Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture. After a very perfunctory discussion, the matter lapsed. At the moment, I am not able’ to say what the Commonwealth Government can do beyond what it has already done. It will, of course, proceed with its plans to combat soil erosion within its own territories. Beyond mia king to the States the offer I have mentioned, it cannot intervene, because the matter is one solely for the States.
– Does the Minister mean that the States rejected the offer?
– They neither rejected it nor accepted it; it lapsed. The best course to pursue would be to refer the opinions expressed at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers back to the Agricultural Council for further consideration, with a view to ascertaining whether the State Ministers of Agriculture could bring pressure to bear on the Premiers of their respective States, in order to follow the matter up in an energetic way.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) on the ground of ill-health.
– I am in receipt of a letter from the secretary of the shop delegates’ committee of the employees of the Ford Motor Company, Homebush, expressing concern at the delay in the hearing of their claim before the Arbitration Court for fourteen days’ annual leave for men employed under the Commonwealth award. In view of the approach of the Christmas holidays, and the desire of the men to make arrangements for the holidays, will the Minister for Labour and National Service indicate whether the claims are likely to be determined at an early date?
-I cannot say, because the date of the hearing has not been set down; but Judge O’Mara, who took extensive evidence from the workers in the Metal Trades case, has referred that matter to the full bench of the Arbitration Court and the judges have been asked, I understand, to be in Sydney for the hearing of it. I do not know whether the date has been fixed, but I shall make inquiries into the matter.
Machine Tools - Priority foe Troops Abroad.
– 1 have a letter before me dealing with the sale of machine tools by the Department of Munitions to a small firm which wa9 previously using the tools in the manufacture of munitions. The value of the tools is £2,000, and the proprietor offered £300 in cash and three payments of £500 each at six-monthly intervals. He has been told that he must find spot cash within seven days. In the letter, a copy of which I have here, the Director of Machine Tools and Gauges writes -
However, there is no objection to you making your own private arrangements to obtain the money, either through your own bank or through one of the finance agencies who are now arranging to pay cash for machine tool! required by people like yourself, and then reselling them to you under hire-purchase, agreement.
Is it the deliberate policy of the Government to compel small engineering firms of this kind to resort to private finance agencies in order to finance the purchase of machine tools already set up in their factories? If so, has the Government taken steps to investigate and approve interest rates and other conditions applying to the loans made by finance agencies to small engineering firms ?
– This matter was brought to our notice previously by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear).
– And by me, too.
– Possibly by the honorable member for Parramatta, also. The disposal of machine tools is primarily a matter for the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, for which the Department of Munitions acts as agent. I understand that prices are fixed by the Prices Commission. Until about a month ago, the Department of Munitions provided for the hire purchase of machine tools and, so far as I know, the arrangement seemed to be reasonably satisfactory to those who resorted to this method of finance. Then, an alteration was effected as the result of negotiations between the Department of Munitions and the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I have indicated that provision should be made to enable small engineering firms to buy the tools in their factories on the most favorable terms possible, and I understand that discussions are proceeding at the moment with a view to making that possible.
– This letter was written only five days ago.
– Discussions are taking place, and I have no doubt that the matter will be determined at an early date. As for the other matter raised in the letter referred to, I know nothing of it, but 1 shall have inquiries made.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping to take up with the Commonwealth Disposals Commission the possibility of giving some priority of purchase to troops now on service in the islands who have had no opportunity to purchase trucks, machine tools or equipment which they might require for their re-establishment in civil life.
– The honorable member’s question raises the problem of what exactly those men would desire to purchase. Perhaps the honorable member could make specific suggestions in respect of specific persons, or, perhaps, such suggestions could be made through ex-servicemen’s leagues. It would be difficult for the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to go round the country looking for purchasers of surplus goods. If specific requests were made through some body, or person, on behalf of the men to whom the honorable member refers, I am sure that the commission would be happy to co-operate in the matter.
– I understand that considerable delays have been occurring in regard to interstate telephone calls, and it has been stated that the difficulty is due to the fact that some interstate telephone lines are used by the services for priority calls. In view of the fact that hostilities have now ceased, will the PostmasterGeneral take the matter up with tho service authorities in order to secure the release for civilian purposes of as many of these interstate lines as possible so that civilian telephone communication may he speeded up?
– Two factors operate to affect the availability of trunk lines for telephone communications interstate. The first is that under war conditions Army authorities and high government officials require ready access to persons at distant points; and, secondly, there has been greatly increased use of telephonic communications by the general public owing to our expanding economy since the outbreak of the war. Thus, additional burdens have been thrown upon the telephone branch. At the same time, about 6,000 members of the staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are on active service. There has also been a great demand in war industries for the raw material and equipment requisite for the provision of extra lines. It is not yet possible for the Postal Department to foresee when it can provide additional trunk lines. I do not think that the elimination of service demands would result in any substantial increase of facilities to the general public. The Postmaster-General and his advisers are doing everything possible to deal with this matter, which they have had under consideration for quite a long time. Several questions have previously been asked and answered in this House on the subject. The honorable member may rest assured that at the earliest opportunity the department will provide increased telephonic services to the general public.
– With reference to machine tools held in Australia under lend-lease, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Government refused to accept the suggestion of the British Government to join with it in negotiations for the purchase of these tools? Is it a fact that the result of these negotiations was very satisfactory, and that tools, excepting one small category for which the full price was paid, were purchased at discounts ranging from 60 per cent. to 100 per cent. of their dollar value? What progress has been made in the negotiations which the Government itself has been conducting for the purchase of these tools? Is it correct that there is some danger that this purchase may not be completed and that, consequently, vital productive tools may be lost to Australian industry? Will the Prime Minister assure the House that the Government will take all steps necessary to ensure that these tools will be retained for Australian industry?
– I have no recollection of any invitation from the British Government to the Australian Government to join with it in negotiations for the purchase of machine tools. The British Government did reach an agreement with the Government of the United States of America for the purchase of lend-lease machine tools in Great Britain. I need not go over all the varying percentages paid in relation to dollar value. I do not remember any discount of 100 per cent. I do not think the discounts were so great as that, but they were substantial, varying according to the different classes of machine tools. Negotations have been proceeding between the Commonwealth Government and the lend-lease authorities for the purchase of lend-lease tools in Australia. Unfortu nately, those negotiations had not concluded when the present difficulty about lend-lease arose. About two months ago. in an endeavour to end the matter, I arranged with the Minister for Trade and Customs to send the Director of Import Procurement to the United States of America in order to see whether the negotiations could be brought to a head. Certain offers were made by this Government, having regard to the dollar value of machine tools. All I can say at the moment is that the negotiations are proceeding. I am not clear as to what the position will be when the present discussions about lend-lease have been concluded, but we are endeavouring to secure the lend-lease tools, particularly special classes of machine tools. Those efforts will be pursuedin the hope that the negotiations will be satisfactorily concluded.
– After the closing down of the aircraft factory at Chullora, the Minister for Aircraft Production gave an assurance that the project there would be transferred to the government factory at Fishermen’s Bend. I am informed, however, that several machines used at Chullora have been packed up and addressed to a private concern in a southern State. In view of the fact that many workers employed at Chullora will be taken over by the New South Wales Railways Commissioners, through the intervention of the Minister for Aircraft Production and the Prime Minister, will the Minister undertake that the machines will be kept for the use of the Railways Commissioners if they desire them and not handed over to a private concern? I am informed that some workers at Chullora were taken off work that required only a few hours to complete. Will the Minister ascertain whether that work could be completed so as to avoid loss ? Will he also consider whether extra compensation could be granted to the workers peremptorily dismissed at Chullora by the Department of Aircraft Production?
– Whilst I shall certainly investigate the position, I remind the honorable member that the Department of Aircraft Production must regulate the manufacture of aircraft according to the volume of orders received from the Department of Air. It may be more economical not to complete the construction of partly built machines, which possibly may never be required. However, I shall have a proper review made of the matter, so that the honorable gentleman may have a full knowledge of all the facts.
SEIZURE of Stocks of Wholesale Butchers.
– by leave - Yesterday the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) directed to me this question: -
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 00 or more retail butcher shops supplied by the wholesale butchers rather than the wholesale traders themselves?
It is, a fact that the meat of three wholesale butchers operating in the metropolitan area of Melbourne was acquired by the Controller of Meat Supplies at the Melbourne City Abattoirs last Monday. The action was taken following advice tendered to the Controller by members of the Meat Industry Advisory Committee, who had met on Monday in Melbourne to consider the general position of meat supplies in the metropolitan area. It was considered that the action of a number of wholesalers had caused an unequal distribution of meat between wholesalers, and that, whereas certain wholesalers had secured more than their legitimate share of the available supplies of fresh meat, other wholesalers who had complied with the directions of Meat Control had been compelled to take an unduly large proportion of their supplies in the frozen form. The evidence available also indicated that some wholesalers were distributing greater quantities of meat than they were entitled to.
Prior to the acquisition of the meat, arrangements had been made at the direction of the Controller of Meat Supplies for the retailers, who are customers of the wholesalers in question, to be supplied with their legitimate requirements through the Deputy Controller of Meat Supplies, Victoria. The retailers concerned received their supplies of meat on Tuesday morning, and no inconvenience was caused either to them or to their customers. The action has been, and will continue to be, directed against certain wholesale traders who are not complying with the directions which have been given to them by the- Controller of Meat Supplies.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Munitions been drawn to the statements made yesterday by the president of the Graziers Association in Victoria, Mr. Bakewell, that primary producers were being hampered by a shortage of essential plant? “ Has he read Mr. Bakewell’s further statement that the present output of fencing and other materials was totally inadequate, even for the most urgent needs, and that, according to the Department of Munitions, the time lag in supplying wire netting was sixteen months, plain wire eleven months, and galvanized wire seven months? In view of the urgency of restoring rural properties to their pre-war condition, will the Minister inform the House whether he can take action to rectify the position ?
– I have not seen the ‘ statement to which the honorable member referred. The manufacture of wire netting and similar materials is undertaken wholly by private enterprise, which has the necessary machinery and organization. Whilst I earnestly hope for an increase of production, I am. responsible only for the distribution of these materials, and am not empowered to order an acceleration of output. That -will be a matter for private enterprise, as manpower is made available.
– Is the Minister aware of the serious time lag?
– As I informed the honorable member, the Department of Munitions controls the distribution of fencing wire and similar materials, and allotments have been made to the limit of available supplies.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that during the last two or three months practically no work has been proceeding ia.t the works of Lysaghts Proprietary Limited, Newcastle, and that 2,000 men have been almost idle, with the result that the principal concerns which erect fencing for country industries are unable to obtain supplies except from stock? Can the Minister give any information about the matter, and state what prospect there is of the supply being improved ?
– I do not know that 2,000 of the men employed by Lysaghts Proprietary Limited are idle. If they are, the labour problem in connexion with the production of wire netting cannot be very acute. I held last week in Sydney a conference with both parties in the metals industry. Particular attention was devoted to the provision of labour for all sections of the industry, yet this matter was not raised by either side. I shall make inquiries, with a view to determining what substance there is in the right honorable gentleman’s contention, and what steps may be taken to rectify the position, if it be as he has stated.
– Will the Minister for Munitions state whether his department is exercising any direction or influence over private industries which are producing galvanized iron, water piping, fencing wire and such other requirements of the building and rural industries? If the department is not exercising any direction or influence in respect of the quantity and character of the production of such commodities, does not the Government consider that it ought to interest itself in the matter, having regard to the urgent demand for building materials and the desperately urgent and nation-wide need for the production of such goods as fencing wire, wire netting and steer posts for the renovation of farm fences?
– There is no necessity for the honorable member to give a lecture to the Government on this matter, because he and his political friends must take their full share of responsibility for the Government’s lack of power to deal adequately with it. As I have previously indicated, the supply of the materials to which the honorable member has referred is dependent on the efforts of private industry. The Government is constantly urging private manufacturers to operate their plants to full capacity, so that the urgent demands of industry may be met As will be understood, the present shortage is largely due to the heavy demands for those goods by the armed forces. The war being over, we should now be able to direct much of the production to private industry. The degree to/ which the supplies can be improved rests with those who have charge of the manufacture of the goods, and we hop” that all plants will be operated to their full capacity.
PETROL Tax - Supplies.
– No consideration has yet been given to the matter raised by the honorable gentleman, but I shall see that it is reviewed when matter* directly associated with the petrol tas are being considered.
– Following on the occupation of Malaya, can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping give any information regarding future supplies of rubber, and is he able to give us any additional information regarding petrol supplies, with particular reference to the quality of spirit?
– As far as I know, the Government has not received any official information in connexion with thcondition of the rubber plantations in Malaya. Like the honorable member, J read something about this matter in the Melbourne *Herald this week. The article said that the plantations were in reasonably good order and that investigation* were being made in connexion with them.
As far as I know, the Government has not received any further advice in connexion with either of the matters mentioned by the honorable gentleman, but I shall make inquiries to-day from the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and if he can give me any information I shall supply it to the honorable member tomorrow.
Mr.WILLIAMS. - I ask the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research whether any steps have been taken by the Commonwealth Government to control the mining and export of uranium and its compounds? Does the Minister know whether other countries have taken steps to control this substance which, we understand, is of importance in the harnessing of atomic energy?
– Ordinarily, the control of all mining resources would be a matter for the State Governments, but with regard to uranium ore deposits, it is obvious that, since they are related to the development of the atomic bomb, action might be taken by the Commonwealth Government under its defence powers to control them. Throughout the war, this Government was kept advised of the developments that were taking place towards the final manufacture of atomic bombs. Indeed, some Australians played no small part in the initial investigations. I refer particularly to Professor Oliphant, an Australian, who is at Birmingham University in England. When the Commonwealth Government was advised that uranium ore could be used as the basic element for the manufacture of atomic bombs, it examined the matter. Originally, it was thought that the best way to control Australia’s resources would be to issue a National Security Regulation vesting in the Commonwealth Government the control of all uranium deposits in Australia. However, at a later stage it was found practicable to do this by arrangement with the Government of South Australia. The bulk of Australia’s uranium deposits, if not all of them, are in South Australia. As I have said, by arrangement with the Government of South Australia, action was taken to prevent the uranium deposits in that State from being used for purposes other than those of the Commonwealth Government. I believe that this was done by regulation, and that regulation still stands. Nevertheless, the position has altered very considerably and I have been advised that, in the very near future, uranium will not be the only source of atomic energy. I have been informed that very soon it will be possible to use another element, namely, thorium, to produce atomic energy. Thorium is an element in the same group as uranium, but it is more widely distributed over the Commonwealth than uranium, and I believe that there are considerable deposits of it in the eastern States. I have also been advised that the time is not far distant when atomic energy will be derived from elements other than the thorium-uranium group. If that be the case, action will have to be taken to control all elements from which atomic energy might be produced. That, in time, might cover the whole field of metals throughout the complete range of industry. Whether or not the defence power of the Commonwealth could be invoked to that end is a matter that would have to be very closely investigated by the Attorney-General’s Department before a final decision could be made.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether life assurance companies are rejecting applications for annuities, on the ground that they have received a request to that effect from the Government? Has the Government made such a request, or issued such an instruction? If ran instruction has been issued, what is the authority for, and the objective of, it?
– I do not know that any such instruction has been issued.
– I have been definitely advised that it has been.
– I shall certainly make inquiries, with a view to determining whether any instruction bears that interpretation, and shall advise the honorable gentleman of the result as soon as possible.
Treatment in Army Hospital.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether, as the press has reported, Japanese and Italian prisoners of war are being placed among “ Digger “ patients at the 113 Australian General Hospital, Concord? Further, are Australian nurses and Voluntary Aid Detachments required to wait upon these Japanese and Italians, and have Austraiian walking patients “ been required to wait on the Italians? If I have correctly stated the facts, will the Minister inform the House on whose order these enemy aliens were admitted to 113 Australian General Hospital? As their presence is tin affront to our own fighting men, will the Minister arrange for their transfer elsewhere as rapidly as possible, and their independent treatment in future?
– I am not aware that Japanese and Italian prisoners of war are receiving medical treatment at 113 Australian General Hospital, Concord. Colonel Stenning, who is in charge of t!,at hospital, is one of the outstanding medical men in Australia, and the Government has implicit confidence in him. I nin sure that he is doing all that could be clone in the circumstances. I appreciate the points that have been raised by the honorable gentleman, and shall obtain for him the information that he seeks.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service yet given consideration to the request that I have made from time to time, by way of questions and correspondence, for the lifting of man-power regulations in order that men may be engaged in the coal-mining industry at the discretion of the managements and the miners’ federation?
– After the honorable member had last questioned me on this matter, I held a conference, and discovered that a large number of youths up to nineteen years of age had been engaged in the coal-mining industry during this year. In order that operations may not bc impeded by shortage of labour, the instruction has been issued that the in dustry shall not be subjected to any regulation or restriction in this respect. Negotiations for the engagement of labour of any class may now be undertaken without impediment. In addition, all National Service officers have been instructed to pay special attention to the release of extra men from the Army who will guarantee to accept employment in the industry.
– Will the Prime Minister, in la last attempt to influence the coal miners while control of the industry is still in the hands of the Commonwealth Government, endeavour to pursuade the miners’ federation to call off the proposed aggregate strike of one day to discuss the decisions of the recent convention, as such a strike would cause the loss of a further 40,000 to 50,000 tons of coal so urgently required in industry? Will the right honorable gentleman exercise his authority under the regulations already available to him to prevent organized meetings of miners on working days?
– I hope that it will be possible for the miners’ federation to reconsider the direction which it has given to its members to cease work, in view of the very serious shortage of coal. The second request of the honorable member will be considered.
– Many honorable members complain of the insufficiency of the lighting of this chamber. I am advised that it does not conform to existing standards, and that the power should be raised. Will you, Mr. Speaker, have aI investigation made by a competent engineer, with a view to effecting an improvement?
– Steps will be taken to improve the lighting of the chamber, which from time to time becomes weak.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 18th September (vide page 5532), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1. - The Senate-namely “ Salaries and Allowances, £ 8,820 “, bo agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Menzies had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by fi.
– I offer my congratulations to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the budget which he has presented. He has achieved fame for his brevity, conciseness and clarity. The last peace-time budget, reaching, for the first time, the total of £100,000,000, was submitted to the House in 1939. Six years later we now have a , budget totalling almost £500,000,000. During the intervening years, that total was exceeded. It has been truly said that there is no apparent limit to the amount of money that can be found for war purposes. The task confronting the Government to-day is to deal with the aftermath of war - the transition from war to peace. In other words, having defeated the external enemy, we have now to legislate in such a way that the internal foes shall be defeated. Having won the war, we now need to win the peace. W© have to essay the difficult task of implementing the four freedoms, of which we heard a great deal during, the war years. Judging by the speeches delivered on the budget from the Opposition benches, and, indeed by the remarks of members of the Opposition throughout the country, it appears that the “ four freedoms “ have been relegated to the background.
Now that we have won the war, and our lands, industries and homes have been preserved, there is a scamper to maintain the status quo and forget the ideal of a new world. That was obvious from the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He was most critical of the budget and of the provision made for social services. He commented on the fact that the expenditure provided for this year has not been reduced to the degree, as he put it, which the altered circumstances of the war would permit. Nobody can say definitely what war expenditure will be required this year. A part of the year had elapsed bef ore the war ended, and Australia still has many war commitments. The finances of the country must now be cushioned back from war-time to peacetime needs. In this budget the Treasurer has provided £14,000,000 more from revenue for war expenditure than was provided last year, and that is one of the complaints made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). In this connexion, it is interesting to note what has been done in New Zealand. There, the budget was presented before the war ended, and after the cessation of hostilities a supplementary budget was brought down, but it did not provide for a reduction of war expenditure. On the contrary, it provided for increasing expenditure from £105,400,000 to £121,249,000, an increase of £16,000,000. In his explanation to the New Zealand Parliament the Treasurer pointed out that demobilization, the balance of deferred pay, and pay for three months’ leave, &c, would be responsible for increasing expenditure during the remaining part of the present financial year and the early part of next financial year. The New Zealand Government has not reduced taxation at all for this financial year.
– Taxation in New Zealand is much lower than here.
– I am not concerned with that, but I emphasize the fact that the New Zealand Government expects its war expenditure to be higher this year than last year, and it does not propose to reduce taxation this year. The Leader of the Opposition was very critical of the Department of Information, and had I not been abroad last year I might have believed that there was some justification for his criticism. In any case, he was very effectively- answered by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). My experience abroad taught me that if Australia is to play its proper part in world affairs after the war, and if it is to attract immigrants to this country, it must be advertised in other partsof the world. We must tell people in other countries about what we are doing, about our standard of living, and about the attractions of this country which are likely to appeal to their imagination. I found that very little was known of Australia in the United States of America and Canada. We have representatives in those countries, but they have a tremendous task before them to make any effective impression upon the great number of people, there. It is true that our air trainees in Canada and the United States during the war proved to be great ambassadors for Australia, and they did some fine advertising for us, but that is not enough. We need to attract immigrants, and in order to do so we must have a department under a responsible Minister to place the attractions of Australia before the people of other countries. Therefore, the Government acted very wisely in placing the Departments of Immigration and Information under the one Minister. If we are to attract immigrants we must develop a long-range policy in regard to publicity overseas. We must prepare the ground now so that immigrants will be ready to come to Australia as soon as shipping is available. Therefore, the provision made in the budget for the Department of Information is well justified.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) also criticised the budget, and he said that he proposed to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I was surprised to hear him- say that, because I thought that he would be prepared to support many of the proposals for which provision is made in the budget. He spoke of the real wages which workers are receiving, and there may be something in his argument; but the fact remains that we are looking for a new world order now that the war is over. Such an order cannot be achieved unless there is fairly high taxation, and unless we provide a better standard of living for the people.
– That is what I was asking for.
– The honorable member said that it seemed to him that we were wandering with our heads in theclouds; that the workers wanted less work, more pay and more leisure. Let us put it in another way. Let us say that the people desire a greater share of the wealth which should be available for distribution as a result of our increased productive capacity. That is a fairer way to put it, rather than on the basis that we want to work less, that we want more leisure, and want to wander with our heads in the clouds. We must approach our problems realistically. During the war, we said that we wanted a better world, and wanted to preserve the system under which we live. We said that the democratic way of life was best, not because we believed that it was the beginning and end of all things, or that it was a perfect system ; but, at least, it was the best basis on which we could build. Having defeated our foes, I hope that we shall not now get our heads up in the clouds and refuse to face our problems realistically. The greatest problem confronting the world to-day is to ensure employment for every one, with a greater measure of the good things of life which we can now produce. Surely, no one wants to revert to the conditions existing in pre-war days in this country when approximately 250,000 of our .people were unemployed. I do not suggest that all of these people were employable. Inevitably, a hard core of unemployables will always exist in any community; but the great majority of the people to whom I refer were first-class workmen who could not find employment under the system under which we lived. Therefore, in our first peace budget, I hope that we shall not f orget the Four Freedoms about which we talked so glibly during the war. ‘ This is where the criticism of the , budget by honorable members opposite breaks down. It is useless to talk about reducing taxes because the existing rates of tax prevent private enterprise from doing what it wants to do. The primary objective of private enterprise is to make profits for the few. That is the private employer’s outlook on life ; if he cannot make profits, he cannot live.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. Why attack people who have invested their resources in this country?
– They have made such investments for business reasons. They have found Australia a place where they can secure a maximum return on their investments. Under the capitalist system, employers who are realistic know that, if they cannot make profits, they cannot survive. They cannot be expected to be philanthropists. I have no complaint in that respect. The point I make is that if our democracy is to survive we cannot continue a system which demands the existence of a huge reservoir of unemployed whilst, at the same time, we have over-production of the necessaries of life. The people of Great Britain pondered this problem in the last British general elections only a few months ago. To Mr. Winston Churchill, whom everybody regards with deep affection and certainly with great admiration, they said, in effect: “We are not going to have you as the head of a government whose main duty will be peace-time reestablishment. We are going to have a government which is pledged to nationalize the Bank of England, the coal mines, the power and steel industries, and pledged to institute adequate wage standards and social services.” In considering our first peace budget, we also must keep these problems in mind. At a time like the present, two problems are of primary importance. The first is to provide sufficient money to enable exservice personnel to re-establish themselves in civil life. Their demobilization must be carried out - as quickly as possible. They must be found employment at remunerative wages. Secondly, our first peace-time budget must make adequate provision for social planning. I have no doubt whatever that many people, now that the war is over, have little or no interest in the so-called new order. Even the great Mr. Churchill had little to say about this matter during the last British general election campaign. Consequently, the people of Great Britain told him and his supporters that they had no use for him as the leader of a government in peace, although they readily admitted that he had done a wonderful job for Great Britain during the war. In such circumstances, the people of Great Britain elected a Labour Government to establish the new order. It is essential that we place ever-increasing emphasis upon all government activities and legislation affecting the rights of the individual. We must aim at curtailing the powers of the wealthy. We must give added security to the masses through national control of finance and credit. The Government has followed that course up to date. We must ensure the maintenance of adequate wages, and undertake positive action to provide full employment in conjunction with a comprehensive policy of social security. That means of course assumption by the Government of a more intimate responsibility for the welfare of the people collectively and individually. So I welcome the proposal to levy side by side with the income tax the social services contribution. Indeed, such a plan was recommended by the Social Security Committee in its second, third and fifth reports. The committee expressed itself in these words -
Continuation of the post-war period of the principle of a graduated tax on incomes as a means of financing unemployment ‘benefits and to maintain a minimum standard of subsistence for disemployed persons or those suffering from want of the necessities of life.
I need not remind my committee colleague, the honorable member for Flinders that that recommendation was unanimous and was founded on evidence given by a very wide cross-section of the community. Since the Labour party has been in control of the treasurybench a marked improvement has been made in the social benefits provided for the people. This is a suitable occasion on which to place on record the main benefits. Anomalies have been removed from the old-age pension, the rate of which has been substantially increased. Several benefits have been provided. The total and permanent incapacity provisions of the invalid pension have’ been eased to the degree that 85 per cent, of incapacity entitles one to the pension. An allowance is given to the dependants of invalid pensioners. Widows are paid pensions. A system of trained social workers has been established. The position of blind pensioners and the vocational training of invalid pensioners has been improved. Unemployment and sickness benefits have been instituted. The improved maternity allowance is another example of social legislation introduced or improved concurrently with winning the war. Soon we shall be considering legislation designed to provide a hospital bed subsidy and to give assistance to people suffering from tuberculosis. I hope that now that the war is over we shall be able to give close consideration to the recommendations in the eighth report of the Social Security Committee for a comprehensive health service. The Governments proposals in that respect are probably not so comprehensive as they may have been had the Social Security Committee been allowed to continue the investigations it had in train and contemplated.
– I rise to order. I direct attention to the fact that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) is contravening your ruling of last Thursday in dealing with social services. Item 4 on the noticepaper is the Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill, which, of course, covers the whole field of social services.
– If the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) reads the budget speech he will see that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) referred at some length to the matters with which the honorable member for Bass is now dealing.
– Therefor honorable members may deal with subjects appearing on the notice-paper.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) dealt with demobilization, but the Chair ruled him out of order.
– Order !
– On page 7 of the budget speech, the Treasurer said -
The Government considers that the increasing outlay on social services, representing as it does nearly one-half of all non-war expenditure, makes essential a new financial approach. Moreover, now that hostilities have ceased and the budget will be concerned more and more with peace-time revenue and expenditure, the time is appropriate to reconsider the problem of social security finance.
As honorable members are aware, a number of social services is financed through the National Welfare Fund and child endowment is partly financed by the Pay-roll Tax. Old-age, invalid and widow’s pensions are charged to Consolidated Revenue.
The continuance of the means test in connexion with social services, especially invalid and old-age pensions, has been brought into question. I agree with the school of thought that seeks to abolish the means test ultimately, hut I know of no other country that pays invalid and oldage pensions on a more generous scale than in Australia. I know of no other country that does not apply a means test. A booklet entitled Approaches to Social Security - an international survey published by the International Labour Office in Montreal in 1932 - contains several interesting passages. On page 6, under the heading, “a. Old-age and Invalidity Pensions” it states -
The non-contributory pension was originatedby Denmark in 1801. The Danish constitution of 1849 had deprived persons who had received poor relief of the right to vote until they had repaid its cost. In consequence, the aged poor especially found themselves condemned to the disgrace of an inferior citizenship. The noncontributory pension was introduced in order to remedy this disability, which had become repugnant to public sentiment. The pension, financed from taxation, was conceived of as a reward from society, and not as alms, and, in order to mark this distinction, it, was laid down- that the beneficiary must have certain qualifications, including good moral character, and that the pension was duc as a right, enforceable, if denied, by appeal to a higher authority. The desire to make dignified and positive provision for the necessitous aged was beginning to be felt towards the- end of the nineteenth century in several other countries. The necessitous aged constitute a group which is eminently eligible for support by some body financially stronger than the commune. Two methods of making such provision were already exemplified- in legislation; the [Danish noncontributory pension and the German scheme of compulsory, subsidized, saving against old age.
The publication proceeds to review the developments that led to the payment of invalid and old-age pensions from receipts from taxation. It states -
The advantages of the Danish plan were that its scope was universal, that it met the immediate needs of the existing aged, and that no machinery had to be set up to collect contributions and keep the accounts of contributors. These advantages proved decisive, both in that epoch and during the next twenty or thirty years, for those countries especially which were comparatively rich, had a large class of small farmers to consider, and were confining their attention at the time mainly to old age among the social risks. Noncontributory old-age pensions have been established in New Zealand (1898), Australia (1901-8), France (1905), Great Britain and Ireland (1908), and, after the first world war, in Uraguay (1919), Norway (1923), and South Africa (1928). Canada in 1927 introduced a Dominion subsidy to encourage provincial schemes, and by 1936 all the provinces had responded to the offer. In the United States the Social Security Act of 1935 gave similar encouragement to an old-ag, pension movement already existing in the States, and by 1937 all the States had in force schemes eligible for the Federal subsidy-
But none of those schemes is financed from Consolidated Revenue -
Non-contributory pension schemes, it appears, represent a transitional phase in the evolution of social security methods. Except in Australia, Canada and South Africa, they have been overshadowed or even replaced by contributory schemes of later introduction. Thus, in the United States of’ America the federal scheme of old-age and survivors’ insurance seems destined- ultimately to cover the whole occupied population, and’ so to eliminate tin- necessity for the non-contributory pensions which at present take care in particular of agricultural and independent workers. Again, in Prance the establishment in 1928 of a general scheme of social insurance for employed persons has already left the noncontributory pension scheme with residual functions only. In Great Britain, since 1926, the non-contributory old-age pension has been granted automatically to persons covered by the social insurance system on reaching the age of 70, when it replaces the contributory pension awarded at 05; the non-contributory pension at 70, subject to conditions relating to nationality, residence and means, subsists in order to serve the diminishing number of persons who have no insurance record or not one which entitles them to the contributory pension.
In Denmark the non-contributory pension has, since 1933, been reserved for persons who contribute under the national sickness and invalidity insurance schemes, the scope of which is practically coextensive with the adult population. In New Zealand the process was somewhat similar; in 1938 a number of benefits, formerly non-contributory, and a series of new benefits were grouped together for administrative and financial purposes so as to constitute a national scheme of social security, to which all adults must contribute. In Norway, by an act of 1930, the old-age pensions formerly paid by the communes individually out of their general tax revenue were made a national service, financed in part by a special contribution, levied on all adults. Neither in Denmark, New Zealand nor Norway did the conversion of old-age pensions from a non-contributory to a contributory basis radically affect these schemes in other respects.
That is a brief history of invalid and old-age pensions in many parts of the world. Now that the Commonwealth Government has established the National “Welfare Fund, we must examine the means test realistically. I have studied the latest legislation in New Zealand, and this year’s budget introduced by the Treasurer of that Dominion provides for a system of universal superannuation. The present rate of £22 10s. per annum includes an increase of £2 10s., granted on the 1st April last. The maximum of £102 will be reached in 1971. If the Commonwealth is to give effect to its policy for providing social services and social security for the people as a whole, it must adopt first, a long range plan for the abolition of the means test from our social legislation, and secondly, a recommendation contained in the eighth report of the Social Security Committee for a complete medical scheme for the people.
I have concentrated my attention upon those features of the budget which deal with the social questions of the day. Naturally, I am particularly interested in them, because of my activities as chairman of the Social Security Committee. I am gratified that the Government has established the National Welfare Fund, thereby adopting almost in their entirety the recommendations contained in the third, fifth and seventh reports of the Social Security Committee. The budget is a realistic, rather than an optimistic, approach to the problems arising from the transition from war to peace-time conditions, but is evidence of a genuine desire to cushion the return from war to peace. It provides a substantial measure of potential relief for the masses of the people, as well as some general relief from taxation this year. To that degree the Treasurer has presented an excellent budget. From my contact with various persons in the community, I know that the budget is- appreciated by the public.
.- .This budget has been described by one supporter of the Government, in a fulsome gush of commendation, as a “scientific tapering-off of war expenditure”. It is about as scientific as a meat pie, and its ingredients are equally dubious. No honorable member who has studied thi? budget can accept it as an accurate presentation of the Government’s accounts, or as an honest forecast of the Estimates of expenditure for the current year. One can appreciate the difficulties of the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). The war ended sooner than he expected - a result for which we all express our thankfulness - but from a financial accounting standpoint, it left him in a difficulty. He had compiled his Estimates on the assumption that Australia would be at war for another year. Suddenly, with the cessation of hostilities, he was called upon to recast those Estimates, in the knowledge that he would have virtually a full financial year under peace-time conditions. Had the Treasurer acted fairly, he would have explained his difficulties to the Parliament and asked for two months’ supply, in order to enable him to prepare a reasonably accurate forecast of his require- ments, having regard to the altered conditions. Instead of that, he has treated the Parliament in the same off-handed and casual way that has marked his administration, and that of his .predecessor, in recent years. Either he treats us with utter indifference, or with a contemptuous disregard of the rights of members of the Opposition and the Parliament as a whole.
The budget which has been flung upon the table of the House in no way represents a determined and realistic attempt to assess the financial obligations of Australia. A scientific pruning-down indeed ! We have only to examine the estimate of war expenditure to see that the Treasurer decided to cut £100,000,000 off his original figure. No doubt, departmental estimates have been treated in the same crude and arbitrary fashion. I do not propose to analyse the budget figures closely at this stage. When the committee is considering the Estimates we shall be able to deal with particular items. But it would be futile, and a waste of the time of the committee, to treat seriously figures which the Treasurer himself obviously does not propose to treat seriously as far as his own administration is concerned. It is worth pausing to note the progressive decay which has occurred in the status of this parliamentary institution as the watchdog of public finance, a trend which has increased over the years. It represents a process of eating into the authority and prestige of the traditional responsibilities of the Parliament. I can point to recent developments in order to confirm my statements. Over a period of years, we have seen the cursory way in which the Estimates have been dealt with by the Parliament. Usually they have been forced through this chamber in a couple of days and a’U-night sittings by a process of attrition. In the course of this year’s sittings, we have also seen a serious whittling down of the authority of the Parliament by means of the recently enacted banking legislation. Under that legislation, control over the note issue and over the sterling and gold resources, backing of the note issue, and the control exercise through the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, have been taken away from the Parliament. When we on this side of the chamber sought to have Parliament as the adjudicator in the event of differences of opinion between the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and the Treasurer, our attempt to re-establish the authuority of Parliament in that respect was swept aside. Honorable members who support the Government accept the financial proposals in a docile manner. The Estimates are presented to them at a caucus meeting just prior to the introduction of the budget, and thereafter they make no further effort to exercise prudent supervision over the public accounts.
– The honorable member would like to have the same unity in his party as we have.
– Certainly we aspire to unity, but not to the sort of unity to be found in a common gaol. We believe in our party members having some liberty of action. There is no virtue in unity thai is not freely rendered and freely obtained.
In addition to the points which I have already mentioned, there are two important factors by which the public may be misled into believing that there is an effective supervision over public accounts. I refer first to the position of the AuditorGeneral. As we have seen only too clearly in recent months, the AuditorGeneral can express valuable criticism of public expenditure. The weakness of his criticism, from the point of view of prompt parliamentary remedy of the evils to which it draws attention, lies in the fact that his reports are presented long after the events have occurred. We are now considering comments made by the Auditor-General in respect of the financial year 1943-44, which ended fifteen months ago. In some instances, those comments may relate to expenditure incurred in the early part of thatfinancial year. Therefore, we may be attempting to deal to-day with extravagant and wasteful expenditure which occurred more than two years ago. I refer secondly to the War Expenditure Committee, which is expected to exercise effective supervision over governmental war-time expenditure. As a member of the committee for the last couple of years, I say emphatically - and I believe that my colleagues! on the committee will support me - that it cannot exercise proper supervision over governmental expenditure. The committee is capable of doing useful work and, in fact, has done so, but with Parliament sitting almost continuously since February this year, there have been few opportunities for the committee to function as it was intended to do. Although the committee has the assistance of an officer of the Parliament, who works in a secretarial capacity, it has no trained body of investigators attached to it, and therefore is able to deal with only a small fraction of the multitude of matters which require investigation. Thus it can be seen that the public is not obtaining, either through the Parliament or through the instrumentalities established by the Parliament, the close scrutiny of the tremendous expenditure upon which the Government is now engaged. Clearly, if these weaknesses are to be remedied, we in this chamber must take our responsibilities with regard to public finance more seriously than we have done in the past. “We must devise more effective machinery than exists already in order to safeguard the finances of the nation against the wasteful misuse of public money.
The economic problem with which the Government is faced this year, and for which it must make financial provision, falls into two broad divisions. In the first division, we may include the task of the reconversion of industry from the purposes of war to the needs of peace - a tremendous and difficult task in itself. Allied with this, and of even greater importance in a social and humanitarian sense, is the problem of the rehabilitation of, ex-service men and women and of those workers who are likely to be displaced from war-time work. The second division is formed by the emotional and psychological demand for better economic and social systems than existed before the war. This demand .has a tremendous political and moral force, and it must make its impact upon any government in control of Commonwealth affairs. The Government must go through the process of reconversion and rehabilitation and at the same time, in order to meet the legitimate demands of the people, it must provide for an adequate system of social security, higher rates of pay, guaranteed holidays, and a shorter working week. These things represent the immediate problems of the Government. In the light of them we see the dilemma in which the Government is situated. The task of reconversion and rehabilitation must fall primarily, and to an overwhelming degree, on the shoulders of private industry. Before the war about 80 per cent, of employment in Australia was provided by private enterprise and so we must look to that source to provide approximately the same proportion of employment in the years after the war. If this is to be done, conditions must, on the one hand, be created for private industry, by reduction of taxation government encouragement and assistance, or a combination of these and other methods, under which the task can be successfully completed. On the other hand, if improved standards of social services are to be provided, there must be a substantial degree of taxation, doubtless at a considerably higher figure than obtained before the war. Therefore, the Government is confronted with the dilemma that I have mentioned. On the one hand, there is the impulse to reduce taxes in order that the reconversion task may be successfully carried out, and on the other hand the need to maintain taxation at a high level in order that the social benefits demanded by the community may be provided. Only one solution of the dilemma occurs to me, and probably it will occur also to the Government, namely, increased production; because, clearly, that is the only means by which taxes may be reduced, living standards may be improved, and the benefits and amenities indicated by the budget may be provided. The budget proposals for grappling with these two problems will prove futile.
We welcome the first timid and hesitant approach to the very real need that has manifested itself, for the community to make a contribution towards the cost of the provisions for old-age, invalidity and unemployment as those needs develop. The weaknesses of the proposal have been closely analysed. I merely point out that it is not in any sense an effective approach to the first aspect of the dilemma that I have mentioned. The proposed 6i per cent, reduction of taxation during the present financial year will not provide an effective incentive or encouragement that would enable the purpose of reconversion to be achieved, and will prove completely futile. It represents much the same grasping and parsimonious attitude that has marked the Government’s approach to taxation throughout its administration. On two occasions, the Government has sought to afford relief and to give a real incentive to the people of the Commonwealth, but has fumbled both attempts and has nullified the good that might have ensued had the matter been more wisely handled. Had the “pay as you earn” scheme in relation to taxation been applied wisely and generously, a real fillip could have been given to production when it was introduced, but it was stultified by the proposal to place a premium on the obtaining of the benefit, with the result that the most highly taxed community in the world found itself carrying an additional burden, wage and salaryearners immediately and other taxpayers in the ensuing three years.
As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) have proved with unassailable logic, the Treasurer has again fumbled tie possibility of affording real and useful relief, by introducing the “footling” proposal that we now have before us, when he could have given a substantial measure of relief. I have no doubt, and I do not think any other honorable member has, that had a general election been scheduled for this year instead of next year, the Treasurer would have found it possible to give very much greater tax relief than he has indicated in the budget. Figures recently published in respect of the war effort of the United States of America furnish striking confirmation of the argument that the only solution of the dilemma with which we are confronted lies in increased production. America, in common with Great Britain and the other allied nations, found it necessary to embark on tremendous expenditure for war purposes. There is no need to give the details, because the knowledge of them is common to all of us. But what, perhaps, is not so widely known, is that figures taken out in America - my reference is the authoritative British journal, the Economist - show that in 1944 a production rise of 100 per cent, over that of 1939 paid for the real cost of the war to that country for that year. That was a remarkable performance. Employment can be guaranteed, social services can be enlarged and continued, and taxes can be reduced, only if production is greatly increased. In considering our prospectsof meeting the challenge, we have not very much cause for optimism. Our production has definitely been on the decline for the last two or three years. The effort that was made in the year of real crisis, when Japan seemed likely to invade this country, has not been recaptured. I am sure, and my belief is confirmed by a variety of statistics, that production is lagging. Our economy is tired and sagging, and badly needs the stimulus which could be given to it by substantial tax relief. The Government has an obligation to educate the people of Australia in the months that lie immediately ahead. Clearly, the position is not fully appreciated by all sections of the people; this is indicated! by a host of incidents.
Last night, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) made a long apologia for the functioning of his department, and claimed that its continuance is necessary. If there is one real task of great importance and national interest ahead of the Department of Information, it is the education of the Australian people as to the necessity for increasing production. We must endeavour to make the working man realizethat a dispute with his employer which results in a stoppage, of work is harmful not merely to himself and the employer,, but also to his fellow unionists and Australia as a whole. The bricklayer whogoes slow not merely “ takes it out “ of the boss and vents resentment against the Government, but . also imposes a continuing burden of debt on his fellow unionist who hopes to live in the house for, perhaps, the remainder of his life. Similarly, the coal-:miner who will not give a fairand regular day’s work, and thereby reduces production in many other great industries, imposes a burden on bis fellow unionist and the community generally. These are not merely conflicts with the employer, but also a crime against fellow Australians and the country as a whole. I do not believe that the Australian workman is unpatriotic, or is deliberately out to sabotage the productive effort of the nation, but I do hold1 the view that he does not clearly perceive the connexionbet ween his isolated acts and their ultimate aggregate effect on the production of Australia. In Victoria, recently, a strike in the sugar industry lasted for a considerable period. The men involved were on strike, not against the housewives of Victoria or their fellow unionists in factories engaged in a variety of foodprocessing activities, but because of a dispute with the management, despite the fact that the dispute had already been adjudicated upon by an arbitration tribunal. The effect was to impose great inconvenience upon the housewives of Victoria, hardship upon employers in other industries who had to carry on their operations without an ingredient that was essential to their processing, and loss of employment to some fellow unionists because of the effect on the industries in which they were working. The railway workers in one of the States decided that the service should not function on one day. In their view, this was a demonstration against the Railways Commissioners. Nevertheless, the effect was to limit, in some degree, the productive capacity of the State in which the stoppage occurred. The aggregate loss of production caused by all of these isolated incidents combined, is considerable. If the Australian working man could be educated to a realization of the harm done to himself, there would be a reasonable prospect of achieving a greater output of national effort, from which might be obtained many social benefits and a reduction of taxes.
– Those arguments have always been used against strikes.
– None the less, they are just as effective to-day, and strikes are very much more numerous now than they were formerly. At no period in the history of Australia has there been more lawlessness in- industry than at present., and associated with that is an attitude of indifference on the part; of the public to what is occurring to-day. So many things have happened that represent departure from pre-war practices thatpeople almost dismiss, without taking note of it, the fact that another industrial stoppage has occurred. This ropy be holding up, for instance, the despatch of fresh food to troops in the islands north of Australia, who have not had fresh food since the end of May,, or preventing the distribution of urgently needed goods from one State to another. The fact tha.t the public is not registering its disapproval of this state of affairs through the ballot box does not imply that the Gevernment can neglect its responsibility with regard to them. Eventually, the people will find out what harm this conglomeration of incidents is doing to the Australian economy and to themselves and they will take their retribution. Nobody on this side desires for political reasons to wait for that to happen. I urge the Government to start impressing on the people the need for observance o? our industrial laws. There is a demand for resolute and determined political, trade union and national leadership. Trade union leaders must be made to realize that what- is occurring to-day is militating against the prospect of improved standards of living and a betterment of the Australian way of life.
If we are to get the increased production to which I have referred, we must examine further the conditions under which work is being done in this country. One handicap, I believe,, rests in our standardized wage system. Both in the United .States of America and Soviet Russia, it has been found necessary, if maximum production is to be maintained, to give the extra incentive to workers which the piece-work or the profit-sharing system would allow to them. I know all the old arguments advanced against that method of payment. It has been condemned by trade union leaders in the belief that some of their members would suffer if it were extensively applied. In the United States of America, the two great labour organizations, the American Federation of Labour, and the Council of Industrial Organization, have both endorsed this policy and are wholeheartedly in favour of the continuance of the system of private enterprise. So the practical experience of the workers in the United States of America and Russia has dissipated all fear regarding the piece-work system.
I am conscious of the great difficulties ahead of .the Government in the next twelve months. Its task is one which nobody would lightly assess, and it can count on the goodwill and co-operation of members on both sides of the House in its efforts to solve the complex problems of rehabilitation and reconstruction. But it will fail in that task, and in a way which will embitter the post-war history of this country, unless it has a clear view of the economic problem ahead, and a definite recognition that these can be solved only by getting from all men and women in the country the best efforts of which they are capable in the work which they do.
The objective of increased production can be achieved only by the incentive and encouragement which the government can give whether to the employers or to those working for them. I hope that the Government will not ask the Parliament to accept this document as its final word on the budget proposals for the year. I trust that as soon as the Parliament goes into recess, the Government will make a further evaluation of the proposals now submitted, so that, if the Parliament meets early in the new year, the Government can submit a supplementary budget which will give the necessary relief, without which their objectives will not be capable of .attainment.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) picturesquely described the budget as being <as scientific as a meat pie, but a meat pie is sometimes most acceptable and satisfies hunger. The honorable member’s remarks served to demonstrate how wide the gap is between members of the Opposition who represent the “ haves “ and members on the Government side who represent the “havenots”. The honorable member should not have accused the Government of indifference to the rights of the Parliament. The party in office, when it has the necessary numbers on its side, always takes steps to have its policy adopted. When the Opposition was in office, it bludgeoned through the Parliament much legislation which was detrimental to the workers. If the members of the government party are using their numberstoday in order to pass progressive legislation the Opposition has no cause for complaint. The honorable member said that the Government had abrogated the - right of Parliament, because it had forced through the banking legislation, and that parliamentary control should be restored; but the honorable member was1 going too far astray in that contention.
– There is a distinction between the Executive and the Parliament.
– That is true, but the honorable member should not claim that the Executive has all of the control. The Government party, too, has control. When the Opposition had a majority in this Parliament, I presume that the Executive carried out the wishes of the Opposition parties.
The honorable member proceeded to refer to the achievements of private enterprise in the United States of America. I admit that that country is the major industrial power in the world, but it is estimated that before this year ends the number of unemployed will reach 18,000,000. In the depth of the depression the number reached 12,000,000; immediately prior to the war, the figure was substantial. Therefore the economic system of the United States of America must be sadly at fault. Society should undoubtedly provide an opportunity for all to earn a reasonably good livelihood. It may be said that the workers are always trying to get as much as they can for their services, but most workers give a fair day’s work in return for their wages. Ninety-five per cent, of them, or even more, give of their best. The mechanization of industry has increased production, but as productive capacity increases the workers’ share of the wealth produced is reduced. The farmers are indeed a hardworking class. Perhaps in the past they have been the most heavily exploited section of the working class. The working farmers should not be confused with the so-called farmers found in St. George’sterrace, Perth, in Martin-place, Sydney, in Collins-street, Melbourne, or in the Country party. The difficult task ahead is that of obtaining a better distribution of wealth than at present.
The honorable member for Fawkner referred to a one-day strike in Victoria, t regret the occurrence of strikes under present conditions, but they are the only weapon with which the workers can fight.
– Under this Government.
– Under any government. My experience as a railway employee was that the employees may have a first-class case,- but if they appear before a judge who has a class bias, they have no chance of getting from him favorable consideration of their claims. The trade union to which I belong expended thousands of pounds in the preparation and the presentation of a case, and the judge said that because a certain determination had been reached ten years previously he could not give consideration to the claims of the union. When the union replied, “ This is no good to us, we shall stage a strike “, another judge immediately heard the case and the union got something for its efforts. It is necessary at times to exert pressure even on courts. Railway employees in Western Australia were called upon to experience the most trying conditions in the course of their employment. Engine-drivers are required to travel long distances over bad tracks, and use bad coal and bad water. At the end of ten or twelve hours of nerve-wracking work, they had to tumble into uncomfortable barracks which were damp and cold in winter, whilst in some areas during the summer the temperature rises to 120 degrees in the shade.
– The employees were taught to be tough.
– That is why railwaymen who enter this Parliament are tough.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– We must admit that many of the strikes during the last year or two were unjustifiable, but that is no reason why we should take away from the workers the right to strike. Over the whole period of the war the workers have given loyal service. They played their part on the home front just as their comrades did on the battle fronts. Recently, the mercy ship Admiral Chase was loaded and despatched at Sydney seven hours sooner than the authorities thought possible. This was because tb<wharf labourers knew that the ship was going to the relief of prisoners of war.
Honorable members opposite have attacked the budget because, it does not provide sufficient relief for those ou higher incomes. However, it must, in fairness, be pointed out that the preparation of the budget speech and Estimateis a long task. The honorable member for Fawkner and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) art probably right when they say, that after the cessation of hostilities, Treasury officials went over the Estimates and just cut a bit off here and there instead of completely overhauling them. However, there is still a gap of £152,000,000 between receipts and expenditure. Therefore, even if it is true that the Service Departments have been, over-budgetted, and it is found possible to save £100,000,000, that leaves a gap of £52,000,000. Although the war is over, goods are still in short supply. If too much purchasing power is released ii must set up an inflationary tendency. Therefore, I would be happy if there were no i emission of taxation at all, if we had kept our noses to the grindstone a little longer, because the more we raise by taxation the less we have to raise by loan, and the smaller will be our ultimate interest bill. It is not true that the refusal to reduce taxation substantially will prevent the rehabilitation of industry. Only the other day a large company was advertising the issue of £1,000,000 worth of debentures at 4 per cent. It is evident, therefore, that there is plenty of cheap money available. Rather than reduce income tax, I should have preferred the Government to abolish sales tax, which presses most heavily upon those who consume most, namely, the workers with large families. Then, if the Government still had any money left to play with, it could remit income tax to those with incomes of less than £500. Reference was made by the Leader of the Opposition to the National Welfare
Fund, and to the splitting of the income tux into two divisions - ordinary income tax, and a special social services tax. He said that this was a halting step forward. This confirms my own suspicion that it is, in fact, a halting step backward. I do not favour special taxation for social services. I prefer that social service benefits should come out of Consolidated Revenue, because in this way those who can afford to pay most do, in fact, pay. The worker makes his contribution to the national welfare by his years of labour. The biggest contribution to national welfare is made, not by the man with an income of £20,000 a year, but by the worker and the farmer. No one should look upon social service benefits as charity; they are something to which the recipients are entitled.
– Then why not remove the means test?
– We must approach this matter in a realistic way. I should be well pleased to remove the means test, but if its removal will cost the Commonwealth an extra £35,000,000, I should prefer that this money were used to raise invalid, old-age and widows’ pensions to a satisfactory level. If, after .all pensioners are receiving an adequate pension, we can still afford to remove the means test, let us do so.
– How can the honorable member say that the social service benefits are not charity when the Government imposes an indigency test?
– They are not charity. The test is imposed so that the available funds may be more equitably distributed among those who are in need of them. I do not favour the present social system, in which we have great wealth on one side and great poverty on the other. I favour a system under which wealth will be distributed properly. If that were done, it would be possible to pay full pensions to all who are entitled to them, without the imposition of a means test. If the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) wants to effect an improvement he should consider amendment of the existing social system, which has, admittedly, treated him very well.
Honorable members opposite have asked for a greater remission of taxation on higher incomes. The Treasurer promised that the request would be examined, and that, if circumstances warranted it, further remissions would be granted.. It is foolish for honorable mem’bers opposite to speak of the danger of economicinstability in Australia, in view of thesuccessful loan conversion recently effected in London, when 5 per cent, loansamounting to £94,312,000 were converted at 3£ per cent. That is clear proof that the people of England have confidence in. the economic stability of Australia. During the same operation, a considerable part of the loan was retired, thu? effecting a saving of interest payments.
I deny that I am being parochial when I demand that steps be taken to develop Western Australia. The undeveloped state of Western Australia constitutes a threat to the whole Commonwealth. In 1941-42, when it was thought likely that the Japanese might land in Western Australia, it was realized that the State was almost entirely without heavy industries, and it was found necessary to import machinery from the eastern States for the making of munitions. The population must be increased if we are to lighten the burden of debt resulting from ‘the two world wars. I do not suggest that secondary industries in the eastern States should be contracted, although it would be beneficial to those States if industry were decentralized. I do say, however, that Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia should be industrialized more rapidly than the other States, which have already progressed a considerable way in that direction. Competent observers have expressed the opinion that when Australia is fully developed, Queensland will rank as the most important State, with New South Wales second and Western Australia third. The representatives of the other States are quite capable of speaking for themselves, and it is my duty to stress the claims of Western Australia. In that State, there is a large area of extraordinarily good country, although there i.s a lot of waste land, also. The good country is not being used to its full capacity, and there is still room for great agricultural as well as industrial development. The State is capable of producing greater quantities of vine, pome, citrus and stone fruits, all without irrigation. The most favoured part of the State, is, in fact, an agricultural Eldorado - the California of Australia, and it has the climate -which California thinks it has. I am in favour* of standardizing the railway gauges on the 4-ft. 8-J-in. gauge. When that is done, the people of the eastern States will be able to eat Western Australian vine fruits and vegetables, and Western Australian wines will be sold in the refreshment rooms in Parliament House at Canberra. Last summer I saw for sale in the shops in Sydney grapes of a variety which the people of Western Australia would not eat. There, the people consider that only such varieties as Wortley Hall, Muscats, Flame Tokay, Red Prince, Lady Fingers, &c, are worth eating. Those who eat such grapes realize why Western Australians are fruit eaters, and when they taste our wines they realize why Western Australians are wine drinkers. The Swan lands, stretching from Geraldton in the north to Albany in the south, have the safest rainfall in the world. Moreover, the rain falls mostly in the winter, and we have long, dry summers. The copious winter rains put a reserve of moisture in the sub-soil which enables the grapes to nourish. The long, dry summers make it possible to leave the grapes hang on the vines longer than is possible in the eastern States, so that more grape sugar develops in the fruit. Grapes grown by irrigation are mere bags of water, with no flavour and only a small sugar content’. I invito honorable members who have not yet visited Western Australia to take a trip to that State. There they will see a new country, and meet a people unique in many respects and generous almost to a fault.
In the south-west we could very well reverse our conceptions about irrigation. Considerable areas of wet soils around the coast in the south-west portion of Western Australia need drainage and special treatment. This belt extends from north of Moora to east of Albany. Much of this soil is deficient not in plant foods but in rare elements, for instance, copper. In experiments conducted some years ago on a plot at Dandaragan, soil which would not give a yield of oats produced up to 35 bushels to the acre after being treated with copper. This soil is also deficient in cobalt and molybdenum, but science is capable of making good such deficiencies. This area has been shown to enjoy the most reliable rainfall in not only Australia but also the world, a fact which can be verified by a study of rainfall maps. Last year, when the rest of Australia was afflicted bydrought, the driest parts of this country were not a complete failure; water was short, but plenty of stock-feed was available. This year the area has experienced a deluge. One can say without hesitation that the south-west of Western Australia has never known a complete failure. However, in order to estimate fully the potential wealth of this area we need to carry out a thorough soil and geological survey. Such a survey is. advocated by Professor Prescott, an outstanding authority on Australian soils, to whom ] recommend those pseudo-scientists, who. without knowing any better, advocate ventures in the inhospitable and worthless areas in the dead heart of our continent. Nature, and not man, as some people contend, is responsible for that dead heart.
Western Australia has not only great agricultural possibilities; it is also the best favoured of the States in its proximity to European markets. With the standardization of railway gauges, it would be possible to market Western Australian fruits and vegetables and wines throughout the Commonwealth. Western Australia has vast industrial potentialities also. We have not yet been able to discover coal of a good quality, but some experts are of opinion that such resources exist in the State. If we had coal of a coking quality we could go ahead more rapidly with industrial expansion. However, Western Australia, geologically, is the oldest part of Australia, and much of the coal measures in that State are of the same age geologically as the Greta seam. Whether it has been submitted to the same pressure, due to the folding of the earth, has yet to be determined. However, we have other coal areas besides the Collie field. The ash of the CollieBurn seam has a high percentage of aluminium phosphate. Geological _ investigation may reveal the original source of this compound, and should we find the raw material for superphosphate in Western Australia it would he more valuable to Australia than oil or coal. A deficiency of phosporus is the main weakness of Australian soils, only the black soils of New South Wales and Queensland possessing sufficient of that element. Geological investigation could reveal that in West Kimberley we have this Greta coal which would enable us to produce on the spot pig iron from Yampi ore. Industrial expansion in Western Australia has been retarded because of lack of coking coal. The war has revealed that Western Australia leads th© other States in strategic minerals. Sir Edgeworth David in his “ Explanatory Notes” to his new geological map of Australia corrects false ideas held by many people concerning Western Australia’s position in this respect. Sir Edgeworth David had a world-wide reputation, and was without peer among Australian geologists. What did he indicate about Western Australia? He showed that the following strategic metal and non-metal elements exist in Western Australia: - Silver, lead, zinc, tin, mica, copper, iron, diamonds, alunite and radium. Should sufficient quantities of radium exist in Western Australia, we would be in a position to go a step beyond the atomic bomb, which uses isotope of uranium as its base. Other deposits found in Western Australia are chromite, tantalum, phosphate, antimony, arsenic, tungsten, manganese, molybdenum and bismuth. Sir Edgeworth David pointed out that the deposits of tantalum are more than enough to supply world needs for centuries. During the war, the Wiluna gold mines were kept going primarily for the production of antimony and arsenic. Blue asbestos deposits also exist in the Hammersley Ranges. Recently, an article written by Mr. Frank Clune, the well-known Australian author, and published in the Sydney Baily Mirror, dealt with the rich asbestos deposits in Western Australia. He pointed out that in the Hammersley Ranges about 400 tons of fibre was mined and sold to ore buyers, mainly Japanese, in Roebourne Port for £55 a ton, less £9 a ton cartage. He went on to say -
Mr. Foxall, State Mining Engineer of Western Australia, declares: I am impressed with the possibility of establishing one of the most profitable industries in Australia, and I am firmly convinced that Roebourne should be, and eventually must be, one of the principal asbestos-distributing centres of the world”. He estimates that the asbestos deposits in only 264 square miles of country are equal in value to the entire gold production of Western Australia (£246,000,000 to date), and adds, “In my opinion there is the possibility of the existence of hundreds of square miles of productive country. I believe there is a definite possibility of the total value of asbestos production eventually eclipsing the value of gold production in this State”. Mr, Foxall concludes, “ I believe that, properly organized, this district will be able to meet all demands that may be made on it for the production of asbestos during the next century “.
The deposits with which Mr. Clune deals in that article were discovered without difficulty. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that a thorough geological survey would reveal more valuable deposits. The State Government hae also developed potash works at Lake Chandler. These were found some years ago, but were not worked because no private company was prepared to risk money in the venture. For this reason the State Government took up the project. Dealing with these deposits, Mr. Clune. writing in the Sydney Daily Mirror, said -
The salt layer is not deep. It is like the icing on a cake. Underneath is the alunitic clay, dark grey in colour. Washed free of its surface sprinkling of salt, this alunitic clay contains 60 per cent, of alunite. Test borings have revealed that the alunite deposits are at least 20 feet thick over the whole 400 acres of the lake bed. These deposits are estimated to total 12,000,000 tons, containing 1,500,000 tons of potash and 2,000,000 ton* of alumina. This is enough to supply Australia’s total needs of potash for 200 years at the present rate of usage. As the deposit? are right at the surface they require no mining or tunnelling - only scooping up on the flat. The amount of alunite ore reserve, already proved at Lake Chandler, is greater than the total amount available in all the known deposits of the United States of America, which has hitherto been the main source of world supply.
I have shown that in Western Australia exist valuable, deposits of alunite and blue asbestos. The point I make is that a thorough geological survey would probably reveal deposits of related metals and minerals. I emphasize this point because modern industry no longer relies exclusively on iron and steel, but employs a host of new metals which are vital either for use as alloys, such as magnesium - and extensive beds of magnesite exist in Western Australia - or as ingredients in the manufacture of rubber, DDT, and other essential products. I have refrained from mentioning Western Australia’s gold deposits. Sir Edgeworth David was of opinion that more of these deposits will be discovered in the State. Whilst gold is the basis of our currency we shall always need it for that purpose, as well as for its unique chemical properties. The clues which have been given to us by Sir Edgeworth David and his colleagues should be followed up.
The Commonwealth should assist the State in undertaking thorough surveys in order to enable Western Australia to play its full part, both agriculturally and industrially, in the development of the nation. I am confident that such surveys would show that Western Australia has more than a limited amount of good soil with little else. Whilst, to-day, we may not be able to use what we term desert country, we should be able with the. aid of science to make Western Australia one of the most productive States of the Commonwealth. To this end, we must give adequate attention to water conservation. This year, when floods occurred in the south-western portion of the State, according to an article published recently in the West Australian, enough water was flowing over the Avon Weir to fill the Mundaring Weir six times a day; and in August last sufficient water was flowing over the Mundaring Weir itself to fill that reservoir every two days. We have hardly made a beginning with water conservation. We should make water available where it is most needed. In the south-west portion of the State water can be pumped out of the soil, but power is needed for that purpose. The State Government has plans prepared to develop the Collie power scheme which will be of some assistance in this way. It is remarkable what soil can be made to produce with the aid of water and some manures. At Osborne Park, which is situated about 4 miles from Perth in sandy country where water can be pumped from the ground, the productivity of this soil is remarkable when stable manure and: blood and bone are applied. I have said sufficient to show that whilst Western Australian soils may be deficient in some elements, these deficiencies can be made good as the result of thorough soil surveys. Such work would be to the benefit, of not only Western Australia but Australia as a whole. I have great confidence in the future of that State. Using an American slogan, I would say to Australians, “ Go west, young man”. I believe that Western Australia can be made one of the leading States of the Commonwealth, both agriculturally and industrially.
.- The key to Australia’s recovery is an immediate substantial reduction of taxation and the release of controls to the utmost limit possible. That would stimulate the production of new wealth to offset the terrific wastage of war and to permit of the handling of the huge debt incurred for war purposes. Every conceivable means at our disposal must be used to expand internal production and consumption and increase external trade in order to make the fullest use of the labour of the individual on the farm, and in tie factory, the shop, or the office. All Australia’s resources and machinery must be turned quickly to the wisest and least wasteful use. It is essential to provide constant jobs and new opportunities for the new migrants who will come here so that they may fit into our national economy without disturbance. The greatest of these resources and the greatest ordinary factor and driving power in the whole national machinery of production are the goodwill, initiative, enterprise, and readiness of all the workers of Australia to put forth their utmost effort. I use the term “ workers “ in its broadest sense, to cover manual, technical, and professionalworkers, farmers, and executives of industry, in fact, all who work, and they comprise, I should say, 99 per cent, of the people of working age. By work and its product all human progress in civilization has come. The surplus produced over present immediate needs has permitted leisure, research, invention - specialization of labour development and skill and the possibility of wasting the fluctuations of nature. All history points this out. Russia has demonstrated this during the last 25 years. In Australia to-day any one with half an eye can see that the greatest deterrent to the full use of these purposive human resources is psychological. The terrific rate of taxation and the wasteful method of its spending when it is collected are largely inevitable in war when time is more valuable than money and controls and priorities frustrate effort at every turn. A policy of full production automatically removes much of the necessity for the continuance of these deterrents, as I shall show. But before all, Australia is war weary. It is like a man who,, after tremendous effort, has just saved his life by swimming a wide river or climbing a steep hill - he needs some respite, some breather, and must not be immediately and continuously flogged to maintain the same exertions. The breather Australia needs is a substantial reduction of taxes and a release from all the controls that can be lifted. To say that is impossible is not to face the facts. It must be admitted that the budget is hopelessly unbalanced already. If post-war credits had been brought in. four years ago- as the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) wisely proposed, Australia’s public debt to-day would have been, perhaps, £60,000,000- or £100,000,000 higher than £2,100,000,000 ; but the effects of continued high taxation would have been mitigated. Therefore,, it would be better to give immediate taxation relief of £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 to the war-weary Australians and amortize the resultant debt over 53 years under the financial agreement, than to maintain the taxation at its present heights. Taxation always presents a paradox. Reductions to a certain level always pay handsome dividends through both the stimulus they give to industry and the psychological factor they create in restoring industrial morale. In the twenties, when I was Treasurer, I reduced both direct and indirect taxes, with the result that total revenues kept on rising. Industry was so buoyant that, in 1927-28, Australian secondary industries employed more people than at any time up to the outbreak of “World “War II. That was the result of the lightening of the tax load on industry.
Unfortunately, the plight of the individual Australian worker and his dependants and, in fact, all taxpayers, is made much worse than it need be by a continuance of the policy of excessive- controls with the bungling of food production. It is obvious that if the supply of food were ample there would’ -be no need for rationing. It is short supply that makes control and rationing necessary.
An historical fact is that the more Australia rations food the less it sends away. A classic example is butter. Under rationing, production has dropped from 213,000 tons in 1939-40 to 129,000 tons last year, and the export to Great Britain from 110^000 tons to 40>000 tons. The expressed objective of Treasury policy is to hold prices down, to keep everything in short- supply, ostensibly to prevent inflation; so controls are imposed that keep civil production low and taxation high to prevent any private spending. 1 do not believe that giving children and women, to say nothing of the men, enough fruit juices, milk, eggs, butter, and meat to keep them properly nourished or enough woollen clothes to keep them comfortably warm would lead to inflation. Depriving them of those necessaries will lead’ to ill health, and a healthy nation depends on healthy people. What we really need in Australia is to combine with the coupon a- supply guarantee. The giving of a food coupon should be a guarantee of supplies being available. But to-day in Sydney, at every suburban shop, though you have coupons, you must stand in a queue-. If you are not early you get no meat - there was no meat at the weekend’. This- is not due to a shortage of stock; it is due to the Government’s failure to discipline the slaughtermen and- coal-miners. For three months, during this winter, mothers could not get Fares for their children ; for many weeks the family was lucky to get three eggs a week ; milk was severely rationed during the winter ; dried fruits are prescribed at all the welfare clinics, but no family can get them: in quantities. Though prunes and rice are being thrown away by the troops in many places, they are only a memory in many homes. The cause of this position is the timidity of the Government’s policy as regards industrial unrest and its unreadiness to secure and pay for surpluses of food. It has followed the rising costs of production with insufficient subsidies. At the present lime, when increase of butter production is so vital, the Government is paying into the Treasury 16s. a cwt. of what it gets for the butter it sells to the British Government instead of paying that money to the Australian dairymen. Fancy a Government that spends millions, of pounds as prodigally as this does claiming that it cannot afford to give the dairy-farmers the money to which they are entitled for their butter!
The wheat industry has been so messed about that the Government Las been, forced ‘to buy overseas, hi regard to oats, the Government was told two years ago that the price would not pay for production, and so we had no fodder during the calamitous drought. A fight raged for many months to determine whether milk producers should receive an additional fraction of a penny a gallon. The result was that the public went short of milk. Indeed, people have been able to secure sufficient supplies of food only by buying on the “ black market “, mid the prices charged on the “ black market “ are a concealed and insidious form of taxation of the workers’ earnings. Sometimes, butchers have not had sufficient supplies to meet the coupons which customers have presented. Three years igo I said that the Government should recognize that, as in England, a coupon should be a guarantee of supplies. Last week, some of my medical confreres in Sydney informed me that in the last three years they bad treated more middleaged women for digestive trouble than they had in pre-war years. These ailments had been caused by the women being obliged to stand in queues in an endeavour to obtain food, and carry Their heavy purchases home. One day they are able to purchase only 1 lb. of potatoes for a family of five. Next day, they must go to another shop for potatoes, [t is amazing to me that honorable members opposite regard this situation with such complacence. The records of the Australian Labour party disclose that it believes that the regimen of essential goods should be not reduced but increased. A conference of union secretaries in 1935 examined the various items contained in the regimen, and submitted a proposal, which has never been adopted, for increasing consumption. Thus, for a family of five persons, the consumption of oatmeal would be increased from lj lb. to 2 lb. We have not been able to purchase oatmeal for- years. The conference also considered that the consumption of rice, per capita, should be increased from lb. to lb. a week, jam from 1 lb. to 3 lb., and butter from 2 lb. to 3 lb. Now, the butter ration is 6 oz. per person. The weekly consumption of meat by a family of five, persons was 14J lb. Why is meat so scarce to-day ? The simple explanation is that the Government has not the courage to stand up to the slaughtermen, who refuse to kill fat stock. As the result of this defiance enormous losses have occurred. The Government must overcome its timidity.
Psychologically, the Government’s social service legislation will have a very bad effect upon all sections of the community. The innate dignity of the Australian makes him desire to pay directly for the care and treatment of his family, and to have a free choice of a doctor. This, he has been able to do through the medium of the friendly societies, which have done extraordinarily useful work. Hospital insurance schemes have provided money to assist these institutions, and over the years Australians have developed a spirit of self-reliance and initiative. This spirit enables them to get out of the rut, and develop their own personalities. The’ policy of the Government is to end all that by introducing a system of social services under bureaucratic control. The Government will permit only those medicines to be prescribed which are in the formulary. What the doctor desires to prescribe will be ignored. In addition, the Government will not allow patients to choose their own doctor, and under the Government’s medical scheme, doctors presumably will work eight-hour shifts. Every medical practitioner knows that, for example, a patient suffering with pneumonia must be watched constantly by the doctor, who observes every change of condition, and is able to check any deterioration. Whether people like it or not, the Treasurer will take ls. 6d. in the £l,of income tax receipts for financing social services, and in return the bureaucrats will treat them for their ailments. The system is wrong. Often, the patient’s confidence in a doctor assists the cure. Under the Government’s scheme, the mortality rate will be higher than the number of migrants admitted to the country.
The Government proposes to provide unemployment, sickness and superannuation benefits. This tax will really finance a disguised contributory scheme, and the Treasurer has announced that the necessary money will be provided by the annual budget. But, in this changing world, the sky will not always be blue and the sun will not always shine as it does to-day. Some future government will be forced, as the Scullin Government was in 1931, to reduce pensions because they are a recurrent governmental liability. The proper way in which to operate this social services scheme, in keeping with the innate dignity and self-respect of the Australian people is to ensure that social services shall be independent of the budget. Contributory schemes should be established to which the Government, employer and employee would make payments. The fund should be beyond the control of the Government. The sinking fund cannot be raided by any Treasurer, because it is controlled by an independent commission under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of the High Court. The social services fund should be placed on a similar basis. Then, when a financial crisis threatened the country, money would be available to meet the emergency. I appeal to the Government to abandon its stupid policy of attaching social service expenditure to the annual budget. At present, the Government proposes to allot to the National Welfare Fund an amount of ls. 6d. from every £1 of income tax. A future Treasurer might decide to reduce the amount to 6d-, and the fund will then be in a first-class mess.
Because the Treasurer has failed to recognize the basic principles of postwar reconstruction and recovery, I consider that this budget is most disappointing. It does not meet any of our postwar problems; they cannot be solved simply by the bland statement that this is a “transition budget”. Industry will not commence the task of reconstruction unless it has an immediate definition of government policy. If that policy io nationalization, industry will require to know what branches of it the Government proposes to nationalize. The Labour Government in Great Britain has already announced its intention to nationalize four industries. Th« remainder will remain under the control of private enterprise. In wartime, the Government could be excused for having introduced piecemeal budgets because there was no certainty regarding the actions of our enemies and the extent of our own commitments. Now, however, peace has been restored and we need a definite line of policy. Unrelated fragments of policy should not be flung at the Parliament and the country by individual Ministers, as is being done at present. The budget should set out the Government’s financial policy for the whole financial year. Many of our problems of post-war reconstruction must be viewed, not for a year, but for many years hence. We should not dismiss them in an off-hand manner.
To my mind, it is a calamity that the Treasurer should have introduced a hastily revised budget when there was no urgent necessity for him to do so. He should have waited for three months, studied the problems and then made a considered statement covering the whole field of revenue and expenditure. When honorable members examine the budget closely, they will see only one reform, namely, the suggested reduction of income tax by 12J per cent., which will operate from the 1st January, 1946. The Treasurer should not have been so eager to introduce the budget. Evidently, the Government does not know its own mind, and has not formulated its full plans. After the last war, certain fundamental reforms were introduced in Australia’s economy and they will endure for all time. For example, as Commonwealth Treasurer, I established the National Debt Sinking Fund, which is still performing a most useful function.
The outstanding feature of the budget is the failure of the Government to appreciate the real position of Australia. From the way in which the Treasurer flung these Estimates at us without adequate details, he is seeking a free hand to continue on the war “razzle” as if peace had not. been restored. Every nation is taking stock of itself, but in Australia bungling and chaos are evident on all aides. In war-time bungling is often inevitable. Money is not so valuable as time. But with the termination of hostilities, money becomes very valuable indeed. Therefore, I regret that no real plans have been laid, and no effective steps taken to restore the peace-time economy, overtake the lag that war imposed on production generally and secure satisfactory and rapid demobilization. Apparently Australia has not yet made definite arrangements with the United States of America to acquire permanently machine tools which we obtained under The lend-lease agreement. Great Britain concluded its arrangements with America u year ago. Now, with the cancellation of lend-lease, we do not know whether we shall be able to pay for the tools or whether they will be taken from us.
The Government has consistently mulled the ball “ in post-war development. .Regarding the settlement on the land of ex-servicemen after 191S, I have ascertained from records that nearly all The agreements between the Commonwealth and the States had been made in 19.1.6. Now. however, the war has ended hut the agreements have not yet been signed and the House has not been asked to deal with the matter. We are in a much worse position at present to settle exservicemen on the land than we were in L919, because a big proportion of the most valuable land has already been acquired. The only way in which we can make land available is by irrigation and development of electrical supplies in rural areas. [ desire to compare the financial position of Australia immediately after this war with its position immediately after the last war. In 1918-19 the population was 5,300,000; to-day it is 7,300,000. That is to say, there was a gain in population of about 40 per cent. But taxation has increased in the same period by the enormous proportion of 800 per cent. Administrative expenditure of the Commonwealth Government, exclusive of busi- ness undertakings, the post office and railways, budgeted for in the year after the end of the 1914-18 war was £42,000,000. Such expenditure had grown to £54,700,000 in 1938-39- the last year before this present war, when our population was 7,000,000. It is estimated that in 1945^46 this administrative expenditure will total £290,000,000, exclusive of £152,000,000 to be provided out of loans. That is to say, expenditure has increased by 700 per cent, as compared with 1919-20, with an increase of less than 40 per cent, of population, or 550 per cent, as compared with 1938-39 with about 3 per cent, more people.
Let us look at the inescapable payment? to which, under existing legislation, Australia is committed, and compare the position with that which existed at the end of the 1914-18 war. I refer in particular to interest on war debt and other debts, war pensions, repatriation charges and the like. Every one will agree that we must, meet these obligations. In fact they must be regarded as paramount, for we must discharge to the fullest degree our obligations to the men who put their . living bodies a.s a rampart between u.s and the enemy In .1919-20, war services, which included interest and sinking fund on war debt and soldiers’ pensions, totalled £24,570,000. The budget for 1945-46 provides for an expenditure of £67,700,000 under this heading. £20,000,000 of which is associated with the first world war and £47,000,000 with this war. Judging by the rapid increase of pension payments after the last war this figure will soon be greatly increased. In 1919-20 social services cost £6,000,000 ; the budget estimate for 1945-46 if £62,000,000.
Let us now compare revenues. Federal taxation in 1919-20 totalled £41,848,000. The total estimated receipts from Commonwealth taxation for 1945-46, exclusive of amounts required for reimbursement to the States, is £336,300,000, or more than eight times the total of 1919-20. Income tax in 1919-20, which included company tax, yielded £13,000,000. The peak of that period was reached in 1921-22, when the tax amounted to £16,700,000. The budget estimate of income tax on individuals this year, exclusively for federal purposes, is £100,000,000. Company tax is estimated to yield an additional £59,000,000, and the social service income tax £20,000,000, or a total of £179,000,000, which is over ten times as great as that for the previous peak year. These are staggering figures. At the same time, two entirely new taxes appear now which did not then operate, and they draw another £40,000,000 from the people and from industry. This £40,000,000 is made up of sales tax £29,000,000 and pay-roll tax £11,000,000. These new taxes are equivalent to the federal taxation receipts from all sources when the 1914-18 war ended. In addition the post office is drawing an extra £10,000,000 a year from the public by the extra1d. postage. Entertainments tax has grown from £500,000 to £5,000,000-an increase of 1,000 per cent., whilst the population has increased by less than 40 per cent.
This terrific tax of £45 per head per annum on the whole of the population, or £180 a year for a family of four, is, of course, quite intolerable. It cannot continue without depressing industry. The position of the individual, however, is really worse than the figures indicate. In addition to governmental taxation there are all sorts of costs that whittle away the workers’ earnings. The basic wage is kept automatically at its present level on a certain regimen, much of which is unprocurable. The prices of the substitute, often black market, goods that must be obtained to keep life in the body are very much higher than income, already so much diminished by taxation, can pay.
The figures that I have given must be substantially reduced if we are to reach any stable basis of governmental operations. There must be a reintroduction of discipline into our national life. Unfortunately, however, discipline is almost entirely lacking in some respects, and a lack of morale is noticeable throughoutthe whole community. At Runnerong. for example, 800 men are to-day threatening to bring to a standstill the whole of the industrial operations of the great city of Sydney. Even if all the coal-miners were to decide suddenly t hat they would resume work and main tain production at the required figure, it would be of little use if the Bunnerong workers would not put the coal into the furnaces. The standard of living of everybody is at stake when such industrial disputes occur. In fact, we can maintain our standard of living only if all the people do their utmost at their particular jobs. The strike at Bunnerong is really a strike against union officials and is a form of industrial anarchy which the general community, irrespective of political opinions, must do its best to counteract. Unless the law is upheld chaos will come upon us. The general interests of the whole community mustbe preserved at all costs.
The Government of New Zealand faced up to this problem in 1941 when it put into operation a war prices index which included almost three times as many items in its basic wage regimen as previously because of the impossibility of securing articles ordinarily included. I endeavoured, as long ago as 1943, to influence the Australian Government to adjust our position in that respect, but without success.
– The right honorable gentleman held ministerial office for about 25 years. What did he do during that period ?
– The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) is apparently a political Rip van Winkle. I am discussing a war-time index. I was away on active service during the last war and on my return to civilian life I entered the political arena and endeavoured to do what I could to meet what I considered to be the national needs at that time. The proposition that I put to the Government in 1943 was sensible in every respect, but the Government would not look at it Ministers apparently were caucus-ridden, and partly for that reason we are in the mess in which we find ourselves to-day. Unless action be taken immediately to correct the deplorable state of affairs to which I have referred we shall find it impossible to return to a more reasonable financial basis. Nevertheless, it is obvious to all thinking persons that taxes must be reduced.
The net effect of the taxationpolicy of the Government is that all incentive it taken away from workers and wageearners, and from ‘business enterprises and investors. The burden of taxation must be relieved. Both the incidence of taxation and its ratio to production must be reduced. One immediate step that can be taken is to eliminate all waste and duplication. A typical instance of new burdens being imposed is the establishment of a federal man-power authority in addition to State labour exchanges. That position must be examined to see what Australia can afford. It is obvious that the attitude of America on lend-lease is that if will not subsidize either Australia or Great Britain in order that they may socialize various activities. The next thing to do is to increase production. This can be done by uncovering new sources of income and by making new capital available. These two activities are linked like the* Siamese twins.
The losses of the drought through which Australia has just passed, have been estimated by the Government Statistician to total £100,000,000, thus equalling the amount of income tax levied on individual? this year. Yet, practically the whole of these losses could have been avoided had, say, £100,000,000 been wisely spent over the last ten or twenty years on the conservation of fodder and water, power production, and rural transport of various kinds. The fact of the matter is that the State governments have fallen down on their job in this respect. For that reason the whole community is today bearing a double burden - drought losses of £100,000,000, and an impost of about £100,000,000 in respect of income tax. We must, therefore, do our utmost to increase production so that the people may be enabled to carry their financial burdens. ft is interesting to note that the Government of Canada has already faced up to the position. Steps have been taken in the sister dominion to provide within one year additional sources of industrial power, to meet not only military but sl30 civil needs, which are equivalent to the whole of the hydro-electric power that has hitherto been provided in Australia. An amount of approximately £300,000,000 is being expended by Canada in this ‘provision. We should follow the Canadian example and take all possible steps to increase our hydro-electric resources in order that we may be able to take our place in manufacturing industries in the post-war world. We must see our problem in proper perspective.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Air. Corser) referred to-day to the need for a more rapid discharge of men from the forces in order that production may be stimulated. He brought to the notice of the Government a letter which he had received on the 14th September from a young man who was still being kept in the forces although his services were urgently needed for food production. I get similar letters every day, and so, 1 believe, do other honorable members. Everything possible must be done to stimulate production. There is an urgent need for the decentralization of industry. I believe that consideration must be given to three vital factors in this connexion. First, we must increase our volume of electrical power; secondly, we must arrange by some means for a reduction of freights on raw materials required for manufacturing purposes, especially for country industries; and, lastly, we must make an abundance of raw materials available for secondary production. Honorable members of this Parliament should be devoting far more attention to these important matters. I am glad to notice in this connexion that some success has been won by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) in respect of the import-am town of Orange in his electorate. Additional electrical power is being made available there, and the honorable member has been able, by his persistence, to obtain a rebate of certain railway freights.
The OHA IBM AN” (Mr. Riordan).The right honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is appropriate that I should follow the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in this debate, seeing that, in his concluding remarks, he gave me such a good introduction by referring to my efforts to stimulate industry in Orange, the principal town in my electorate. The presentation of the budget give’s to honorable members annually an opportunity to discuss national affairs in a broad way. This debate may be regarded as a kind of stocktaking, quite apart from financial considerations, for the average man, after all, does not think in terms of figures; he sees, as it were,- mental pictures of the nation’s problems. I propose to relate the financial statement to political, social and moral values, so far as I am able to do so. The degree of our contribution to the total effort of the democratic nations in the war through which we have just passed, was made possible by the democratic quality of our institutions and of our citizens individually, who in normal times carry into effect the decisions democratically reached by their representatives and, whether or not they agree, discipline themselves to obedience to the will of the majority. A government, having arrived at a decision in a democratic manner, should have the ability as well as the authority to carry the decision into effect, and to enforce its laws. Unfortunately, a state of semianarchy seems to have crept into our industrial life during the period of the war. Many causes might be ascribed, some of them more important than others. In a time of war some democratic practices have to be temporarily suspended. Because of the very nature of war, decisions have to be made and carried into effect quickly, without the advantage of discussion, such as is possible in a parliamentary assembly, and the consideration of views which differ from those of the authority vested with the responsibility to make the decisions. In consequence, bad decisions often are made, with tyrannous instead of democratic and healthy practical results. This is illustrated in some of the orders that were made during the war by persons not susceptible to control by a democratic assembly. From many of those decisions appeal was not possible. This state of affairs is inseparable from war. That it does occur has been recognized by statesmen in all generations. I quote the words qf a man whom we regard as the teacher of democratic principles, the great President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln -
It lias long been a matter of grave concern whether a government not too strong for the liberties of its people could be strong enough to -maintain itself in times of great stress and strain.
Such a situation confronted the present Government many ‘ times during the course of the war. Decisions made by war-time authorities established by the Government were repudiated by different sections of workers, and in consequent there were strikes which appeared unreasonable, disloyal, and without justification. We still have these industrial upheavals, despite the lifting of the stressof war from many of our industrial activities. There should be nothing to prevent our getting together and composing differences before work is stopped. A stoppage at one spot on the line causes all production to be held up. I attribute the ill discipline - I shall not describe il as anarchy - that prevails in some sections of the Labour unions, to the strategy adopted by the Communist party, in its attempt to gain control of the trade union movement. Those of us who move in that sphere have heard trade union officials described, either deservedly or undeservedly, as “bureaucratic . “ reactionary “, and “ boss controlled “. When the “bone was pointed at him”,, the official made way for somebody else who wanted his job. In the process, the attacker brought into contempt with the members of the union not only the man at whom he was aiming, but also the office that he held. When those who sought to gain control of trade union? achieved that- objective, they in turn found that their instructions and the decisions of their executives received just as little attention and obedience as those of their predecessors which they had done so much to upset. That condition prevails in many industries at the present time. Australia is peculiar. among the nations of the world iri respect of its industrial-political structure. Nowhere else in the world are there so many persons, in proportion to the total number of workers in the community, employed by the Government, as there are in Australia; approximately 30 per cent, of the total number of workers in Australia are employees of Commonwealth and State governments and semigovernmental institutions. The workers must now ask themselves whether they are prepared to abide by the laws thai are made by their own representative* in the Commonwealth and State spheres. and whether the democratic principle is worth while. It is of no use to “hide <.mr heads in the sand “. In the aftermath of war, in the confusion that prevails in consequence of the conflict, the people demolish the artificial barriers to thinking which often prevail during the continuance for many years of a state of peace, during which they get into a groove physically and mentally and make no effort to escape from it. Because of the impact of war upon our mental processes, and of revolutionary changes in our way of life, we begin to view matters in true perspective instead of in a false light. Fresh from the travail and turmoil of war, men have the habit of carrying into effect decisions at which they have arrived, often without full consideration of what will happen if the decisions are bad. The people of the w.n-ld have passed through a blood bath, which T hope will not be experienced by another generation. I believe that another world war would bring civilization to an end. It is incumbent on all who recognize the tremendous evils that are consequential on war, to do their utmost to avoid a. repetition of such a disastrous state of affairs. No nation benefits from war. A military victory may preserve a nation from disaster, but benefits do not ultimately accrue to the community. War has to be paid for by the victors as well as by the vanquished. Ranking returns may disclose that big bank balances are held by persons who in pre-war years had no property or other assets, and were even without a job. The returns credited to primary producers may show that they have more money, but if that money be translated, into terms of property and goods it will probably be found that Australia is much poorer now than it was prior to the war, on the basis of the health of the people, as well as the real value of production. Yet some persons are quickly forgetting the lessons of the war. Despite the example of Mussolini, who uttered the sacrilegious dictum, “War is to a nation what child-birth is to a woman “, and the fate that befell him, many people are still attempting to make a profit, out of war, by exploiting the territories that have been lost by the conquered nations.
We see in our community a tendency towards “ Pacific imperialism”, with the people thinking in terms of the wealth of the Dutch East Indies and the Mandated Territories, forgetful of the fact that we, a population of 7,000,000, are trying to hold a continent equal in area to the United States of America. Weshall have to justify ourselves if we hopeto continue to hold this country. I haveilluminating figures which show how our’ country has been managed since the British race took possession of it less than 200 years ago. A work compiled on the authority of such great geographers, historians and economists of Australia as Professor W. E. Agar, Henry Barkley H. Benham, Professor J. B. Brigden. Professor A. H. Charteris, Sir Raphael Cilento, J. Byng, E. T. McPhee, P. D. Phillips, C. H. Wickens, and Professor G. L. Wood, deals with the population spread, the manner in which Australia has been held, and the methods of exploitation that have been adopted. Al page 74 of this book it is stated that there is in Australia approximately 716,000 square miles of agricultural land, of which one-quarter is too rugged for closer settlement. This leaves an area of 537,000 square miles suitable for closer settlement. The chairman of the Soil Conservation Commission in New .South Wales, whose job is, not to alarm the people but to tell them the truth, made the following statement in April of this year : -
The results of the careful erosion and land use survey carried out by the New South Wales Soil Conservation Service reveal a most serious position. In the eastern and central divisions of this State, 70,000 square miles have already been affected by erosion, some of it to a serious degree, and only 80,000 square miles are at present unaffected.
Tn another part of the same publication the following passage occurs : -
This brief report summarizes the Erosion Survey of the Eastern and Central Divisions of New South Wales, within which is situated virtually the whole of the State’s agriculture and some 00 per cent, of the live-stock, covering an area of 118,310,172 acres (official’ estimate of the Lands Departments of New South Wales).
The exploitation of the land for private profit has resulted in making ploughsick practically all the agricultural land suitable for closer settlement in New
South Wales. Unless something is done to repair the damage, and to prevent further injury, Australia will soon be unable to feed, clothe and house a population of more, than 7,000,000 people. How shall we be able to justify the White Australia policy in those circumstances? Provision is made in the budget for assisting the States to combat soil erosion. I believe that, before we turn our attention to opening up new land, we should do something to repair the damage done to our present agricultural lands which have been injured by exploitation for private profit. I recommend that suggestion to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who discussed the problem recently with members of the Australian Agricultural Council.
Not only have we exploited uneconomically the virgin fertility of our soil without putting anything back into it, but we have also concentrated our population in an uneconomic and unscientificway at various points around the coast. Eventually, we shall find that the people of the cities, whose very livelihood depends upon the ability of Australia to export food to other countries, will be themselves just as much without the means of subsistence as if they were cast away on a barren island. I do not make such a statement for the sake of getting publicity. What I have said is borne out by competent authorities, and by my own observations. I have seen the damage done by unscientific exploitation of the soil. Credit must be given to the Labour Government for having done much, even during the war, when it might have been excused for overlooking the matter, to transfer industry from the coastal cities to the country, thus helping to redress the unbalance of population. In this respect, the officials of the Department of War Organization of Industry are to be congratulated on what they have done. The Government, recognizing the difficulty of finding a market for our wool overseas, where it would be subjected to the competition of synthetic fibres, has encouraged the establishment of textile mills in country areas. Official figures indicate that of about 500,000 workers engaged in rural industries, 95 per cent, are males. Something must be done to provide employment for young women between the il/r. Breen ages of 16 and 26. Hitherto, the only industries able to provide profitable employment for such persons have been located along the coast, so that country women and girls have been denied employment, except on the farm. Wool is the raw material for textile factories, and the Government has encouraged the transfer of mills from the cities to the country, thus .helping to provide employment for female labour. For this, it is to be commended.
The Government also deserves credit for its efforts to provide amenities for residents in country districts and country towns. It has subsidized schemes for the production of electric current, and encouraged its use. In my own district, there is an example of large-scale industrial migration from the- city to the country. Electrical Meters, one of the largest firms of its kind in Australia, has arranged to take over a small arms factory so that, instead of producing weapons of destruction, this factory will produce goods that will help to make life worthwhile for country residents. There is no longer any reason why country dwellers should not have the benefit of modern domestic appliances which are available to people in the cities. Already, transport facilities have’ so improved that country people can come together for amusement and social intercourse. Now, we should set about making it possible for the average country housewife to possess a washing machine, an electric iron, an electric hot water service and an electric refrigerator. Much of the high cost of living in the country is due to the tremendous waste of food that results from the absence of refrigeration, particularly in the hot districts. It is necessary to lay in a considerable quantity of food to carry the family over the week-end, and much of this food goes to waste in hoi weather. Those of us who were brought up in the country have seen a wether, that weighed, perhaps, 45 lb. dressed, killed in order to provide meat for half a dozen people for a day and a half or two days. Of course, only a part of the carcass was eaten, the rest going bad. That is why country people, when they go t-, the chance, tended to drift away from the country to the city where living conditions were easier. 1 understand that the company, which is about to go into production at Orange, intends to produce from that unit 10,000 refrigerators a. year. I hope that within, say, the next ten years, everybody west of the mountains in New South Wales will have mechanical means to preserve food.
I desire to touch on a phase of wartime finance that has not been given sufficient prominence. The statement of public debt shows that to finance the war of 1914-18 about £164,000,000 was raised in Australia and about £90,000,000 in the United Kingdom. The money raised in the United Kingdom was made up of about £11,000,000 borrowed direct from the public, and £79,000,000 borrowed from the British Government. To finance the war just ended this Government called on Great Britain for only £6,000,000, and raised the rest of the money, about. £1,300,000,000, in Australia.
– The honorable member will realize that in 1914-18 we had a large force of men in England or near England, and that necessitated certain financial arrangements which in this war
*pre not needed.
– That is one of the rna sons.
– A very big reason.
– I concede that it is an important reason why there is such a great disparity between the money raised in the United Kingdom for the 1914-18 war and the money raised there for this war. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the per capita cost of this war was greater than that of the earlier war. It cost much more this time than last time to equip a man to serve overseas. I ascribe the disparity between the amounts raised by Australia in the United Kingdom in the two wars to the methods of finance of the Labour Government in contrast to the methods of finance of other governments. It is a clear demonstration that the principles upon which this Government finances the affairs of the nation are much better than were those of its non-Labour predecessors. Opinions clash as to the relative values of the principles espoused by the Labour Government and those of its anti-Labour predecessors,’ and only results can prove which are the better. But the war cost us a lot of money regardless of whether it was raised internally or externally. However, it is important to note that had the war effort been financed from overseas, we should not be able to do anything if it were later found necessary to re-assess the respective sacrifices made by individuals or sections of the community. We were powerless before to do anything in that way, but, because of the internal arrangement of finance this time, we can definitely do something about it now.
During the war some people made the supreme sacrifice, and others sacrificed their health. Others lent their money. In war it is impossible to assess what each individual ought to contribute, having regard to his means, but in peace, we shall be able to determine by taxation, or call-up for military service, what contribution individuals -ha 11 make. If it is found that some people benefited from the war - I am speaking in terms not of money but of total effort - whilst others made great sacrifices, it will be the duty of the legislature, to the extent of its powers, to ensure equity. The system of internal finance gives the nation full control to do that, should it be necessary.
I have a statement from the Federal Council of the Textile Workers Union of Australia. Some of the sentiments expressed in it ought to be brought to the attention of honorable members. To me the statement demonstrates the intention of the trade union movement to participate in the government of the country and in the control of industry. If carried into effect, that intention involves a responsibility to ensure orderly conduct of industry. As I said at the outset, the anarchy in industry to-day is something that the trade union movement has to face and rectify. Otherwise we shall reach the time when all the sacrifices in blood and suffering made to preserve democracy during the war will have gone for nothing. Perhaps the last state of the country may then be worse than the first. The statement to which I particularly direct the attention of honorable gentlemen is -
Insofar as the woollen and worsted section is concerned., this section generally has thi capacity to provide the requirements of th, community in regard to all male and female i piece goods and woollen wearing apparel “.generally. However, it is not sufficient that “we merely turn over to normal peace production, we believe this section lias the capacity to expand even to the extent of the development of an export trade, but to do this the standard of production must be raised to the highest possible level. We feel that there has been too much tendency associated with the industry in the past to accept the policy of “ near enough “ and this has created a tendency to substitute quantity for quality. It must be recognized by all sections that if the natural development of this industry is to take place, the goods produced must be able to hold their place in the open markets in competition with other countries of the world and this will not be done unless there is a realization that quality must be the first consideration.
The sentiment expressed therein that the product of the combined efforts of the management, operatives and machines of the nation should be better carries with it the obligation to ensure that industry shall be carried on smoothly, continually and economically. If other unions, particularly those that think in terms of strikes, daily, weekly and monthly, would reorganize themselves and instil a spirit of discipline into their organization so that all their decisions would comply with their constitutions, this nation would develop and prosper and be able to justify in the eyes of the world the standards that it has set for its people. Then other peoples might be induced to follow our lead. [Quorum formed.]
– In terms that appealed to the gastronomic predilection of the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini), my colleague the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) described this budget as a “ meat-pie “ budget. It was, he said, a mass of pastry around doubtful ingredients. I think he maligned the humble meat pie. If he had said that it consisted of questionable ingredients contained in a lot of- boloney and dough, with emphasis on the “ dough “, I would agree with him, but he was too generous in his description of the budget and thereby maligned an estimable commodity. Not having any gastronomic idiosyncrasies, I do not propose to pursue’ that line. I believe in a more practical approach. I prefer to refer to the budget as a “ phoney “ budget, because it does not make for a true accounting. Not one honorable gentleman opposite has attempted to prove that it does provide a true account of the position. On the contrary, it is designed to create a false impression and deliberately hide from the people and the Parliament the true position of governmental finance. Being a moderate person, I would not go so far as to say that this is a fake budget; but it is suspiciously like it.
Like the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), I was interested to see the budget for two particular reasons. The first was because of the startling and dramatic termination of the war. The Government was caught entirely unprepared. Honorable members are familiar with the procedure associated with the preparation of a budget. Months before the budget is compiled, departments are asked to compile their Estimates. I can see what happened on this occasion. The departments had prepared their Estimates and submitted them to the Treasury. Then, with disconcerting suddenness, the war ended, and the Treasurer had hurriedly to recast his budget. It might have been a more honest document if the right honorable gentleman had asked the Parliament to grant Supply to the Government, so that he might have an opportunity to prepare a true budget. However, he had to say and do something quickly. I can imagine that the instruction issued to departments was, “You must reduce the budget total by £100,000,000”. That was done. Just like that ! The result was chaos. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has forecast that, in the new year, the Treasurer will introduce a supplementary budget, which will reveal the true financial position of the country, and we may be justified in regarding it as an election budget, because it will contain material which the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) -in particular will use to dress the election windows of the Labour party.
The second reason why I desired to see the budget was inspired by the Auditor-General’s report. His criticisms related to the year 1943-44, and I have never read such a scathing indictment of departmental waste and bad accountancy.
The Auditor-General criticized excessive and unnecessary production.
– The honorable member is only repeating what some of the other speakers said.
– This matter will bear repetition. It is a startling indictment of the Government’s policy. On page 83 of the Auditor-General’s report, the following statement appears : -
A matter which attracted attention has arisen from the reduction in the volume of munitions production. The reduced demand required fewer operatives, but there were man-power difficulties in transferring the surplus to other employment. Production of stocks of components was, therefore, continued in excess of service requirements and the cost was charged to production as for service orders.
This is an instance of a department engaging in excessive production. After the cessation of actual hostilities in Europe, this production should have been decreased. But the Government, in order to keep men in employment, continued production in excess of requirements. I shall cite an instance of excessive costs of production, because this is an important exposure of the waste of taxpayers’ money. When honorable members opposite are called upon by the electors to give a true account of this i expenditure, they will have something to answer. On page 89 of the AuditorGeneral’s report, there appears the following comment: -
The accounts of the Tasmanian Wooden Shipbuilding Board were subject to audit by the State Auditor-General, who reported to the Tasmanian Parliament in very adverse - terms in regard to the financial records. In evidence before a Select Committee published in April, 1944, the State Auditor-General reported: “. . . We have no adequate means of determining the actual production costs of these ships. . . . “, and “… lt was found that no records had been kept of the coats and expenses incurred in connexion with the construction of the ships, the only books at present being kept being two cash books, one for receipts and one for expenditure, and an analysis of expenditure book kept in ledger form, which, however, is only a further analysis of the nature of the expenditure. . . . “.
The expenditure by the board was subject to investigation by a cost investigator of the Department of Munitions. Advances made to the board through the Munitions Department totalled £478,666 to 30th June, 1044.
Those are two instances of improper methods of keeping accounts. The
Auditor-General also commented upon excessive costs of production. He said -
The Secretary, Department of Munitions (memorandum dated 6th March, 1045) advised the Department of the Army that an estimate of the total cost of the 32 ships (including engines) is £2,000,000. This represents an average of £62,500 each. The Commonwealth is paying an exceptionally heavy price for these 300-ton wooden vessels, the cost per ton being much greater than for the standard 0,000-ton steel ships.
Other departments also were subjected to scathing criticism for their improper methods of keeping accounts. The 300-ton wooden ships cost, on an average, £256 a ton, compared with steel cargo ships built in Australia at a cost of £63- a ton, and steel cargo ships built in the* United Kingdom at £28 a ton. But thisU only the taxpayers’ money! In theeyes of the Government the differencebetween £28 a ton and £256” a ton is a mere bagatelle. But the Government is prepared to continue waste of this nature. However, the point which I make now is that the Auditor-General’s criticism should have been heeded by the Treasurer’ in compiling this budget. But the right honorable gentleman has ignored that scathing indictment, and departments have continued to pile up costs. If we were told the true position, doubtless the estimates for every department could be substantially reduced.
On page 76 of the Estimates appears an item relating to the. construction of standard ships. I assume that this includes wooden ships. The estimate for last year was £3,000,000, and the expenditure was £2,690,456. This year, although hostilities have concluded and the Auditor-General has indicated this particular department in terms which, I believe, he has never used before, the estimate is again £3,000,000. Honorable members are entitled to an explanation. Will there be a continuance of the waste in the production of standard ships? If so, what justification does the Government offer in the light of the AuditorGeneral’s report?
E am reluctant to leave the Department of Munitions because I have a great liking for the Minister (Mr. Makin). I was interested in the way in which he tried to defend the Commonwealth Disposals Commission at question time to-day. I shall refer to the commission in a moment, because I believe that some questionable methods have been used in the disposal of goods. Manufacturing costs in the Department of Munitions last year were £699,000 and the estimate for this year is £150,000 - a reduction of about 80 per cent. The war has ended, and there is noneed to maintain production at the same tempo as in war-time. Therefore, honorable members should expect a reduction. Expenditure in connexion with armament factories has been reduced from £1,250,000 to £100,000- another substantial reduction. Letme now examine administrative expenses of the Department of Munitions. When I referred to the Civil Constructional Corps, I mentioned that although the number of labourers had decreased, the administrative staff had increased, and the Auditor-General, I hope, took great pleasure in criticizing it. In the Department of Munitions, administrative expenses last year were £2,269,000. This year the estimate is £1,750,000, or a reduction of only 20 per cent. Although production estimates have been reduced by8O per cent., expenditure on the administrative staff will be reduced by only 20 per cent. Again honorable members are entitled to know the reason. Is this the method which the Government has adopted to provide full employment? If it is, taxpayers will be interested, because they are bearing the burden of excessive costs. This budget is costing the taxpayers approximately £1,500,000 a day.
This morning, the Minister for Munitions sought to defend the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I have some interesting information about transactions in his own department. I do not know whether the facts are accurate, but I challenge the Minister to lay the files on the table of the House and give the true story. He may refute the charges, but I shall level them.Auction sales conducted at Forbesstreet, Woolloomooloo on the 6th June and at Villawood on the 20th June, 1945, included tank bogie wheels, American production, which cost £19 5s., and Australian production, which cost £29. They sold for 25s. and 30s. each.
– At auction?
– Some of the honorable member’s friends must have got them.
-I shall show whose friends got them. An engineering firm in Sydney had made a prior offer of £350 for the lot, or an average price of £3 a wheel. That was refused. The wheels were auctioned, and sold at the prices whichI have mentioned. In addition, a 900-gallon hot-water tank which cost £395 was sold to a dealer for £42. An offer of £150 is recorded on thefiles of the Department of Munitions - I make that charge - but it was rejected. The dealer advertised the same lot in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 23rd June last, page 13,for £250. In the light of the revelations I made a few days ago in connexion with the Commonwealth Salvage Commission and the racketeering that is being indulged in. which, asI pointed out, had benefited a refugee firm in Sydney, it is high time that a thorough investigation of the position was ordered by the Government. I stated on that occasion that certain garments worth 6s.8d. each were permitted to be sold by the responsible Minister for £20 a ton, or about 2d. each, That kind of thing cannot be justified, and an urgent need exists for an immediate investigation. Here are two other instances to which attention should be directed: The Department of Munitions sold twelve work benches which cost £207 5s. to dealers for £5 the lot. An offer of £10 a piece had been made previously by an engineering firm in Sydney, but it was not accepted. A grinding machine was purchased at the Forbes-street auction for £150, and sold at a profit of £100 without removal from the premises. Can any honorable gentleman justify the disposal of grinding machines under those conditions? Why should a dealer be able to make a profit of £100 on such an article without even removing it from the place where he bought it? Such occurrences cry to high heaven for investigation. As long as this Government continues to permit disposals under such conditions it must expect to be faced with charges of racketeering. At any rate, the Opposition will persist in its criticism, and its criticism will not be anything like so corrosive in effect as the criticism in which the people at large will indulge. Purchasers who come from country towns to attend sales have not” been able, because of the pegging of prices, to make effective bids, and most of the items have been knocked down to recognized dealers. “Who pegged these prices? Did the person or persons responsible have the necessary knowledge and experience to fix reasonable limits-? I believe that through faulty departmental administration and through pricepegging by officers who are not competent to fix prices, the Commonwealth Government is losing thousands of pounds in the liquidation of Commonwealth assets.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the prices are pegged too high?
– I say that there should be an investigation of the whole position, because the price-pegging is not giving a fair deal to very many people who desire to purchase goods that are available for sale. It is most reprehensible that goods should be sold for prices below amounts that, according to documents which can be found in departmental files, had been offered for them.
I propose now to make a further examination of certain estimates in the budget. The Treasurer has had the temerity to ask us to consent to expenditure in a year during almost the whole of which peace conditions will prevail, in excess of expenditure that was incurred in the last full year of war. [ appreciate that for a short period at the beginning of the reversion to peace conditions it might be difficult to reduce expenditure in a marked degree, but there can be no justification whatever for increases beyond war-time levels. Yet that is occurring in some departments.
In the Department of Munitions, an expenditure of £699,063 was incurred last year under the heading “ Manufacture of munitions, machinery and plant”, and the estimate for this year is £150,000. The expenditure last year under the heading “ Armament annexes, plant, material and experimental work “ was £1,259,546, and the estimated expenditure this year is £100,000, a reduc tion of 80 per cent. But under the head’ ing “ Administrative “, there is a reduction of only 20 per cent, from an actual expenditure last year of £2,269,000 to an estimated figure for this year of £1,750,000. “Why is that so? Under the heading “ Standard ships - construction there is a proposed increase of expenditure from £2,690,456 actual last year to £3,000,000, estimated, this year. Why is this so? The figures in respect of the Department of Aircraft Production also require explanation. The total expenditure last year for this department under the heading “Defence and War (1939-45) Services”, was £1,855,230 but the expenditure for this year is estimated to reach £4,724,000. Why? An increase of £2,868,770 will need a great deal of explaining. We could understand that an increase of expenditure anight be necessary while the war continued, but why should there be an increase after the war has ended? It has been said that the increase is due to certain commitments in connexion with civil aviation, but I fear that the Government is attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the people. Is the Government endeavouring to give effect to its policy of full employment by maintaining estimates at an unreasonable figure ? If so, surely, it could achieve its end by some more effective means. It would be better to pay full wages to men who were not doing any work rather than to pay them to do work which will require the use of essential materials badly needed in civil industries. As a matter of fact the ‘budget reveals a reduction of less than 20 per cent, in war expenditure, for whereas the total amount expended last year was £609,462,000, the estimated expenditure this year is £492,000,000. It will be remembered that the Auditor-General commented caustically on the expenditure on munitions for the year ended the -30th June, 1944. He stated -
Statements presented do not show accurately the factories’ financial position.
The expenditure provided for in relation to munitions factories in 1945-46 is £7,432,000, as against an actual expenditure last year of £9,965,937, a decrease of £2,533,937. Corresponding figures in relation to aircraft production are: 1944-45, £1,855,230; 1945-46, £4,724,000; increase, £2,868,770.
Taking the estimates for the Department of Munitions and the Department of Aircraft Production together, as I submit we are entitled to do, we find that an increase of £334,833 is proposed this year. I am sure that all honorable members will agree that these figures require a great deal more explanation than has yet been given to us. It is true that in the Department of Aircraft Production an amount of £3,000,000 which is provided includes certain estimated costs in connexion with the refitting of Royal Australian Air Force aeroplanes, and the building of Tudor type aircraft for civilian use. In this connexion I ask -whether the Government is satisfied that the provision of Tudor aircraft is the answer to our civilian needs?
I come now to the Department of the Army, Excluding pay and allowances to members of the Australian Military Forces, which amount will include, I presume, deferred pay, expenditure is reduced by only 20 per cent., from £68,000,000, in round figures, to £55,000,000. I direct attention to division No. 122, “ Arms, armament, ammunition, mechanization, equipment and reserves” for which £24,183,000 is being provided this year, £27,813,234 having been actually expended last year. If, as the Government would have us believe, the great majority of the. armed forces will be demobilized before long, why should such a heavy expenditure be required in this financial year? I notice that the Department of Air has managed to reduce its estimates, apart from salaries and allowances, from £75,000,000 to £36,000,000, a reduction of more than 50 per cent. One would have expected the expenditure of the Royal Australian Air Force to remain higher in comparison with that of the Army, owing to its relatively higher peace-time strength and the necessity for a continuation of operations during the transition period, but that has not been realized in the Estimates.
In my opinion the Government should have been ashamed to submit such Estimates as these to the Parliament. The “Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) have analysed other provisions in the Estimates, and I do not desire to traverse the ground which they have covered, but I wish to refer to the important subject of food control. The Auditor-General, in his report for 1943-44, stated -
Since the close of the year losses have been revealed and further considerable losses are anticipated.
Last year £370,000 was voted for expenditure by this department, but its actual expenditure was £413,110. In the light of the Auditor-General’s report, one would have expected that special care would have been taken this year in the preparation of the Estimates, but the Government, apparently, has not worried over the position. In any case it has a considerable amount of explaining still to do. I should like to know what function this department is performing, and whether its activities have proved to be effective.
I shall not spend much time in discussing the figures for the Department of Transport, for it is obvious that they fit into the general pattern of the budget, but I am concerned about the position of the Department of Labour and National Service, in respect of which a reduction of only 10 per cent, is shown, namely, from £1,365,000 to £1,250,000. This department is now performing a negative service, whereas during the war it could have been said to have been rendering positive service. I ask for an explanation of this proposed expenditure. We are aware that the managements of industries have now been advised that they may consider the war-time controls to have been lifted, if not entirely, at least to a considerable degree. Why then should the Department of Labour and National Service need such a heavy and substantial vote? We shall probably he told that certain expenditure will be necessary in relation to rehabilitation and the like, but I hope that the Government does not intend to oblige exservicemen to seek employment through downtown employment bureaux and the like.
The figures given in the Estimates in relation to “Defence and War (1939-45) Services “, under the heading “ Salaries- and Allowances “ are interesting. I direct attention to the following details : -
Defence and war expenditure under other headings yield the following totals: - 1944-45, actual, £297,516,303; 1945-46. estimated, £195,889,000. There is a reduction from the war-time to the peacetime footing of only £101,627,303, or about 34 per cent.
T should like now to make some observations in regard to social services, for a great deal has been said on this subject by honorable gentlemen opposite. A little while ago a contributory scheme was anathema to Government supporters. Rumour has it that the Treasurer was in danger of having to re:cast the budget because it included the contributory principle. Now, however, when we refer to the means test, honorable members opposite say, with a knowing leer, “ Wait and see “. If the intention be to abolish the means test and introduce a contributory scheme on the basis laid down in the budget, confusion will be made worse confounded, because the means test cannot be abolished without the introduction of a properly conceived contributory scheme. I admit the necessity for abolishing the means test, which is most unjust. That is demonstrated by the experience of Commonwealth public servants, who, having contributed to the Superannuation Fund for many years, find themselves in less favorable financial circumstances upon retirement than a man and wife who, without having exercised thrift or made any contribution, .receive the oldage pension of £1 12s. 6d. a week each. It will thus be seen that thrift does not pay dividends. A man who invests £5,200, which he has saved for the benefit of his old-age, receives from the investment only £3 5s. a week on which to maintain himself and his wife. That is no more than the Government pays to the old-age pensioner and his wife. The Government does not appreciate the thrifty man, who is really the backbone of Australia, and contributes, through taxation, to the maintenance of others who may have wasted their substance in riotous living.
It seems to me that the Treasurer has grossly misrepresented the position in relation to revenue. Despite the reduction of income tax by 6^ per cent., the receipts from that source must exceed the amount collected last year, which was £15,000,000 in excess of the estimate. The arrears of tax collectable this year will amount to approximately £38,000,000. En addition, there is an amount of £33,000,000, representing the income tax on assessments not made and issued in respect of incomes derived during the year ended the 30th June, 1945. Reference to this matter was made in the draft budget statement circulated to the press but it was not contained in the speech which the Treasurer made to this committee. Of course, £33,000,000 is of little account to the affluent Government thai now occupies the treasury-bench, but the attempt to conceal the amount constitutes a rather suspicious juggling with figures. This manoeuvre must be given due weight when considering my charge of gross misrepresentation in relation to receipts. With those two amounts in hand, a much greater reduction of tax than the 6^ per cent, proposed for the current financial year could be made. With the other savings that could be effected by proper budgeting a reduction of at least 25 per cent, would be well within the capacity of the Treasurer. If all the figures were supplied to us, we could help the Government to make a reduction which would assist industry to rehabilitate the men whom it will shortly demobilize.
The Government has stated through the Prime Minister that the nation looks to private enterprise to absorb the hundreds of thousands of men who will be demobilized from the services and essential war-time undertakings. How can that be done with taxation at the existing high rates? Unless a man with money to invest is assured of an adequate return from industry, he will either leave the money in a bank or invest it. in gilt-edged securities. So long as the worker is subjected to unnecessarily high taxation, industrial troubles will increase. Honorable members will recall the rumblings from the coal-fields in that connexion. The Treasurer has not sought to give an incentive to industry to absorb labour, or to labour to settle down in harmonious peace-time production. Incentive is destroyed by not only the high rates of tax but also the steepness of the curve >>n the higher ranges of income. Each additional £1 earned increases the rate of tax and gives rise to anomalies which cause the investor, the manufacturer or the professional man to think twice about exceeding a certain income. For example, if a manufacturer earning £1,500 a year increases his plant and staff so as to earn another £50 for himself, 12s. in the £1 is absorbed by additional tax. Oan a man be induced to invest in such circumstances? If a farmer with a return of t’3,000 a year engages additional labour, or sows more crops, and thu3 earns another £50 a year, £21 of it is taken rom him in consequence of the higher rate of tax imposed. This confiscatory taxation may have been justified in time nf war, but it can only hamper he development of industries in rime of peace. The yield from income tax in 1944-45 was about £215,000,000. A reduction of 25 per cent, would cost the Treasury about 654.000,000. The two amounts of £38,000,000 and £33,000,000 to which I have referred would be more than sufficient to provide for that reduction. That would give to private enterprise the necessary incentive to expand for the ultimate absorption of the men who are ro be demobilized. The Government would bc able to recoup itself over a.nd over again. New taxpayers would come into the taxation field. Every man discharged from the Army and going into production is a potential taxpayer. Trade and industry would be stimulated, there would be more money in the pockets of the people, and the receipts from sales tax and entertainments tax would be increased. The suggested reduction is justified by the decline of war expenditure and the additional revenue which undoubtedly will be received thisyear.
I revert to my opening remarks. The budget has been deliberately designed toprevent a true accounting from being placed before the people. There is excessive waste in every government department. Already, questionable methods are being pursued in the disposal of government assets. Taking all factors into consideration, members of the Opposition are justified in supporting the amendment moved by our leader.
.- This post-war budget, of which much waB expected, has effectively dashed the hopes of those who confidently believed that the burden of maintaining a heavy war economy would be eased. Its disappointing features have been effectively uncovered by the leaders of the parties that sit on this side of the chamber, and by other speakers who have preceded me. In order to avoid tedious repetition, I shall confine my observations to policy trends in this country to-day; and, in order that I may be on the safe side, all of them will be related to the budget.
In the taxation field, the 12J per cent, reduction that is to operate for only half a year is merely a gesture, and of little practical value, because it will not provide any stimulus for industrial expansion; The most that we can hope is that it may be regarded as an augury of an ultimate lightening of the oppressive burdens of to-day, the effect of which is to induce in the people a feeling of “ What is the use?”. This mental condition has been brought about by frustrated ambition, and ultimately will lead to a ready acceptance of defeat. We all know that the cost of victory is high. Wars have to be paid for. I believe that the payment could be so arranged that the debt would not constitute a perpetual deterrent to industry and national development. It is a matter of gratification to all of us that after six years of turmoil and strife peace has at last spread its mantle over the earth. That is a matter for general rejoicing, but it ha.s not reduced the responsibility of governments. Rather, it requires governments to redirect their activities to the problems of peace now confronting us. So involved and complex are these problems that no responsible member of Parliament, and no responsible citizen, can regard the process of solving them with any degree of equanimity. We must first overcome one enemy to ordered reasoning, namely, impatience. If we can accomplish this, and induce the people to understand that a machine that has taken 3ix years to wind up cannot be unwound in a few months, that, indeed, the laying of a firm foundation for prosperity may even take a few years, the battle will be half won. I firmly believe that our destiny as a nation will be determined largely by the way we manage our affairs during the next ten years. Posterity will reap what we sow to-day. During this period of evolutionary change, the Commonwealth Parliament must set an example of unselfish service, regarding the advancement of the nation as of paramount importance, something greatly to be preferred to political advantage and the wanning of votes.
I have always believed that Australia, economically, is differently situated from almost; every other country in the world. We achieved nationhood not more than 30 years ago by the valour of our troops on Gallipoli rather than by any diplomatic achievement, but as a nation, we are still in the kindergarten stage. What may be a sound economic policy for an old and more or less fully developed country may prove, in a young and undeveloped country, unsound and stultifying. In this regard, I propose to read an extract from an article written by an American businessman, and published in the Sydney Sun of the 31st March last, because it enables us to see ourselves through other peoples’ eyes.
It would seem to me that the development of your huge country must necessarily involve taking big and frequent risks. But from what I read of the desire for security here, and the intervention of Government in banking, I doubt if risks will be taken.
Civil servants never take risks, it is not in the system.
In other words, Australia seems to have developed the mentality of an old and cautious country, which has nothing new to exploit, nothing new to hope for.
It is like a baby who develops hardening of the’ arteries before he has learned to walk.
So many people want to’ lean on the Government for protection, to have little but to make that little certain. The possibility of a bank failure seems to be the greatest disaster possible. To me it isn’t.
Certainly the greatest disaster in a young country must be to sit down and tell every body that all you want is security and thai nobody must ever in any circumstances be permitted to take a risk.
I say deliberately that, with the exception of the reference to bank failures, this writer very accurately expresses the opinion of many thinking people in this country to-day.
The Government has made some very interesting explorations in the field of social security during the last year. .1 note in the taxation schedule that a specificy levy is to be made for this purpose, according to the capacity of thipeople to pay. That may be regarded as a departure from the non-contributory system which was so virtuously proclaimed by the Government a few months ago. Time, they say, has a mellowing influence, lt solves many problems. 1 am hopeful that the Government will continue to make new discoveries, and chief among them, that it can govern only with the consent of the people, not in -pi te of the people. The general principle underlying this social legislation will, I believe, be readily accepted by a great majority of Australians - namely, the obligation to provide for the sick and aged, and to ensure that children shall not want through any social or economic evil such as we experienced in the early ‘thirties. However, the decision to make provision also for unemployment, however meritorious, is not without humour, coming as it does from a Government that only recently proclaimed to the world that there never should be any more unemployment in Australia, and that at all times there would be potentially more jobs than men to fill them. This proves that while the Government likes to indulge in slogans, it places little reliance in their infallibility.
However, I admit that “ jobs for all “ may be possible during the process of world reconstruction, but after that dreams will count for little in the battle for markets, a battle for which we shall be very ill-equipped unless we begin fighting now instead of waiting until the other nation? have got in bef ore us. While we may go so far with social legislation, I point out that there is a danger of making people too dependent. To inculcate in the minds of the rising generation the idea that the Federal Government is a sort of fairy godfather, and that there is nothing left in the world to fight for, would be to do the greatest possible disservice to the people and to the Government. We would be creating a “ Sword of Damocles “ for our own discomfiture and destroying forever that psychological approach to problems, no matter how difficult, which has made the word “ Australian “ a synonym for rugged independence, self-reliance and initiative. With that warning I am happy to subscribe to the policy of helping people who cannot help themselves. However, to consider this subject in its broadest sense. I wonder whether the Government has forgotten that the population of Australia is still only about 7,000,000 people, who occupy a territory of 3,000,000 square miles which offers unlimited opportunities for the young and ambitious citizen. .Such a person is given no encouragement to carve a future for himself, and is promptly dubbed a capitalist exploiter if he happens to succeed in spite of the obstacles placed in hi3 way. He is, one gathers from listening to honorable members on the other side of the House, somebody to be shunned. I once heard the following definition of ian optimist and a pessimist:
An optimist is one who sees an opportunity in every difficulty; a .pessimist is one who sees a difficulty in every opportunity. I should infinitely prefer to assist the man who sees an opportunity in every difficulty rather than a man who sees fi difficulty in every opportunity. If we continue to its illogical end the policy of making a leaning post of Parliament rather than a body directing the affairs of “ Australia Unlimited “ in the sphere of free enterprise, our prospects of ever becoming great among the nations of the world will vanish.
I think it will be conceded by all honorable members that our future prosperity depends largely on the development of our export industries; so we must cater for the rapid expansion of primary production, which will continue to provide between 80 per cent, and 85 per cent, of our exportable wealth. With the probability that tens of millions of people must die of starvation within the next year or two, there can be no fear of overproduction of food. Farmers must be encouraged to increase the production of exportable goods to the utmost capacity. The world requires primary products, and there i? an obligation on us to supply them, not merely for the purpose of gaining th* goodwill of the importing countries, but also so that we may take such a share in the provisioning of the world as will be expected of a huge primary producing country like Australia.
I am amazed to find in the budget provision for continuing in a modified form the policy of paying an acreage bounty to farmers in a certain State for not producing wheat. I have had a great deal of experience in primary production nf various kinds, and I can think of nothing that would ensure greater success on ;i farm than to be paid for not producing something, whether it be wheat r>- any other commodity. Under this system, it i.= probable that the more acres a man owned, and the more he failed to produce, the more money he would receive. I do not want to be too suspicious, but I can believe that, the paying of a bounty for not producing wheat from certain acres, while allowing those acres to be used for another form of production, might pay very large dividends at a federal election. It should certainly produce a great effect in the districts where this policy. wa.« applied. A brief analysis proves that the world can take all the surplus wheat we arc able to produce.. We have no surplus wheat to-day. In this regard, we are probably in a worse condition than ever before in our history, a state of affairs contributed to by the policy of subsidizing non-production.
– Did the drought have nothing to do with it?
– T said that the policy of subsidizing non-production was a contributing factor.
– The honorable member knows that production is restricted in one State because of the shortage of fertilizer.
– Don’t be funny. Shortage of fertilizer would apply in all States. This country lost about 10,000,000 sheep, thousands of head of horses, cattle, pigs and poultry because of the lack of fodder, which includes wheat. Yet, if I read this document aright the Government intends to continue the incredibly foolish policy of subsidizing restriction instead of abundance. If it has £285,000 to throw away, why not throw it into the pool and increase the price of wheat in order to encourage farmers to grow more wheat, when the world demands it, rather than pay them not to produce? 1 do not want to dwell too long on the subject of defence, because it has been well covered by other speakers. I have always been in favour of a defence policy. But evolution has produced a marked change in the attitude of the Australian Labour party. It has gone from one extreme to the other. In the years before the war the party, or, I should probably say, certain elements of it had a policy of non-co-operation in any scheme of military training or provision for defence
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– J said “clements”. If the Minister for Repatriation provokes, me to read the resolutions of union and labour conferences in those years they will redound to his discomforture, not mine. They have gone to the other extreme, and, now that the war is over, they have a policy involving the annual expenditure of millions of pounds on defence. The people are naturally asking, “Defence against whom? Who is the potential enemy ? “. We have just participated in the greatest victory in the history of the world. The Allied Nations are in control of every aggressive power. So who is the potential enemy? What country can attack us in the next quarter century ? The answer is, “ None “ ! So T say to the Government that it can easily give to the people a breathing space to recover from this war before providing for another. The development of atomic energy will completely revolutionize every known principle of war. That is well worth consideration by the Government.
I think this policy of defence - I am dealing with not the immediate, but. the future maintenance of a defence establishment - is a policy that, considered in conjunction with the parade to San Francisco and the signing of the Charter of the United Nations, connotes the same degree of faith as does the popular song Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. The Government has no faith in the Charter of the United Nations. We are to develop our defence power. I believe in a policy of defence, But I do believe in relating it to practicalities. In the maintenance of a defence establishment, there are advantages and disadvantages. It offers a career and employment for a very great number of people and, consequently, security for a greater number of women and children. Secondly, they are huge consumers of industrial products who do not themselves contribute any saleable products. Thirdly, because defence personnel are nonproductive; as a peace-time body they are a dead-weight on the taxpayer. That is justifiable only when we are threatened with any form of aggression. It is a peace policy that I do not pretend to 1 understand, and I hope that the Government will have a look at it and show a little more faith in the Charter to the making of which, as we heard last week, our delegates contributed so much.
I touch for a moment on the necessity for the Government to assist industries of a national character. We have become accustomed to hearing in this chamber, whenever any mention is made of an industry, “ Oh ! That is a State matter. It is not a federal matter “. But honorable members opposite forget that the Commonwealth Government has “ pinched “ all the money out of the State tills. It gives them back a percentage of what it takes from them. So it is physically and mathematically impossible for the States to develop those industries without federal intervention. My own State of Victoria gets only a portion of what i3 taken from it. I am reminded, of the benevolent footpad who robs his victim and, in a fit of compassion, gives him his tramfare home out of his Own. money. We are in that condition in Victoria. Yet we have raw materials of benefit to the whale nation.
Particularly, we have large deposits of brown coal, which cannot be exhausted in a thousand years and is of much better quality than similar coal in Germany. Germany could manufacture millions of tons of fuel oil from its deposits every year. That production must have been economic. Yet our brown coal is languishing awaiting development. The Commonwealth Government can help. Let the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research examine the deposits to see whether it is possible to make fuel oil from the coal. If it is possible, let us get to work and produce the oil. It will supplement the flow oil that I know is -available in Gippsland, and will, I hope, be tapped very shortly. The two, I think honorable members will agree, would contribute greatly to Australia’s requirements of bil and make us at least partially independent of overseas sUpplies
I note that the budget provides for -£100,000 for aluminium to be expended - on what? I had something to say about this on a former occasion. When the bill was brought down we were told by the Government in grandiloquent terms that the industry was to be established in Tasmania because of the existence of cheap power. We have learnt since that there is no cheap power there, and on very good authority I have heard that the source of the cheap power will not be ready for another three years.
– I shall tell “ Charlie “ Frost about that.
– He probably knew it then. When you consider that the sources of bauxite are in another part of the country, and that brown coal can be vaporized to produce cheaper power than hydro-electric power, you realize that the last prop is kicked from under the Government’s case for establishing the aluminium industry in Tasmania.
– Germany subsidized an uneconomic industry for war purposes.
– Let me tell my young friend that when I came here two years ago I had ideals and ideas such as he has, but I was not long here before I found that the rest of the members did not share my opinion of myself. I have different views now from what I had then. We all fall from the pedestal, and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) will do the same. The other day several honorable gentlemen saw what is called a prefabricated house made of steel. It put into my mind the thought, why not aluminium? It is lighter than steel. If aluminium, could be used for housing, there would be no question about the future of the industry. It would not matter whether the industry was situated in Tasmania or anywhere else, because the bauxite fields of Australia would be developed to full capacity. This is another project that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ought to examine to see whether it is economically possible.
– Why did the honorable member oppose the referendum?
– If the industry can be economic, leave the States alone and let. them find the money. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) asks why I did not support the referendum. 1. am not asking the Commonwealth Government to establish the industry. 1 am asking it not to interfere with others willing to establish the industry tomorrow.
– I shall not attempt to traverse many of the subjects raised in this debate. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, I think quite fairly, thai this budget would come as a shock to the people of this country. It is a peace budget. I am going to say very little about it by way of critical view, but 1 fear that we shall have to brace ourselves against many such shocks in the years that are to follow, for the Treasurer has made it quite clear that be holds out uo hope for a substantial reduction of taxation and he gave no hint of any reduction of expenditure. On the contrary, schemes, admirable in themselves no doubt, are being piled one on the other so that we may expect the conditions portrayed in this budget to be the lot of the people for many years. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) pointed out that the Government had offered a mere crumb of comfort in its reduction of income tax by 12£ per cent., which, in any case, is not to take effect until the beginning of next year. The ^ figures in the budget are astronomical. A few years ago they would have been regarded as fantastic. Their very magnitude obscures their meaning and upon the great mass of the people they make no definite impression. They think it a lot of money and are content to let it go at that. They are quite unable to realize the impact of the conditions created by the war upon their daily lives. They do not appreciate the effect of the burdens that the war has placed upon them - burdens that are not temporary, but will continue for a generation or more. They do not appreciate the fact that for good or evil we are launched into a new and very different world and that conditions in every class of society are very different from what they were in pre-war years. We hear a good deal of talk about the “new order”, and some honorable members - I do not know whether they are what the honorable member for Gippsland .(Mr. Bowden) called optimists - are visualizing a Utopia. They are beginning to talk quite seriously and act, too, in anticipation of a “ new order “ in which hours of labour will be progressively diminished and wages will rise. In short, their reaction to this budget is to hang back in the breeching, and watch the world go by.
I should like to impress upon the people of this country the gravity of the position in which we all find ourselves. The Treasurer has told us that the cost of six years of war has been £2,790,000,000, of which £2,111,000,000 was spent on the war alone. . Every phase of this war has increased our liabilities and added to their number. The liabilities which now confront us as the result of the war, and of our adjustment to the war, should give every person capable of thought, great concern. In the six-year period 1931-36, the total expenditure on defence was £27,900,000. In the last six years, it was £2,111,000,000, or 70 times as much. Our national debt increased in these six years by £1,389,000,000, on which the increase of interest payments is approximately £35,000,000 per annum. The cost of social services has risen from £20.000,000 in 1933-39 to £77,000,000 for the current year. The effect of all this upon the financial structure, and, consequently, upon the economic and social position of every person in the country, is far-reaching and profound. In 1910 Commonwealth revenue from taxation totalled £15,500,000; this year, it will be £373,000,000. In 1910 Commonwealth expenditure was £8,500,000; this year, it will be £525,000,000. Even in 1930, long after the last war, the total Commonwealth expenditure was only £82,300,000. This year, defence expenditure alone is estimated at approximately £360,000,000. One honorable member said that it shows we have very little faith in the United Nations Conference on International Organization. For my part, I am entirely in favour now, as 1 always have been, of a strong defence force for Australia. We, more than any other country in the world, have reason to guard our shores. We are 7,500,000 people, and are ringed about by thousands of millions. The cost of defence is heavy, but we must bear it. The cost of social services has increased by £57,000,000. We also have liabilities under Unrra. What, they are, I do not know ; but we must he prepared to discharge them. We claim to be a nation, taking our place among the free nations of the world. We are committed to the Atlantic Charter, one clause of which is “ Freedom from Want “, not only for ourselves, but also for all other countries. We must do our share in feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked.
The budget figures are astronomical, but the people do not realize their implication. They speak and act as if they can go back to where they were, and even improve the conditions under which they lived before the war. All such ideas must be swept from our minds. Imposed upon us now are heavy liabilities which we must discharge. The budget discloses a position expressed in terms of money. It tells us how much the war cost. But the war was fought not with money, but by men supplied with physical goods - food, clothes and weapons - produced by other men. To-day, the world is very poor. But it is not poor because it lacks money. Of course, money plays a very important role in the modern world, and at times has been permitted to exercise a tyrannical control over the world’s affairs. But at the best, money is only a means to an end. What the world needs now and always is goods. lt requires a thousand and one things very badly. The Treasurer reminded -us of our achievements in the war, which, )happily has ended. Of our achievements we should be very proud.
Our national income rose from £795,000,000 in 1938-39 to £1,256,000,000 in 1944-45, and this increase of approximately £500,000,000 was achieved by bringing into industry some 262,000 persons who were normally unemployed or did not seek employment, and 117,000 persons who had been in retirement or were about to retire. Yet they produced £500,000,000 more wealth. That is the more striking because this great increase of income occurred when nearly 600,000 of the flower of our manhood had been withdrawn from production. The 362,000 persons who were brought into industry during the war may be termed B2 class industrialists, yet they produced £500,000,000 per annum more wealth, which seems to show that with effective methods and continuity of industrial operations it is possible vastly to expand the amount of wealth produced per annum in this country. That is exactly what has been done.
The war was won by blood, sweat, and toil. Peace can be won only by work - [ shall not say harder work - but more efficient work. The Government has put forward a policy of full employment. The circumstances demand it. There is a call for every able-bodied person in the community to be efficiently employed. One of the reasons why we were able to expand the national income by £500,000,000 during the six years of war was that to a very large extent there was only one buyer for all production - a buyer whose demands were insatiable,, urgent, and imperative, but who did not stand too closely on the prices he paid for the goods he needed. So money was poured out with a lavish hand and values raised far beyond the proper normal level. For example, the Captain Cook Graving Dock in Sydney cost £9,000,000, but estimates >of the cost were between £4,000,000 ;and £5,000,000.
But I put these issues aside. “We have commitments .that we must face. They include defence, social security benefits, interest charges, -Unrra obligations, and the like. In order ,to meet them we must work and produce far more than we did before the war. Some people speak as though our standard of living can be raised by merely talking about it. That is not so. It can be raised only to the degree that we produce goods for which there is an effective demand. Therefore there rests upon the workers of this country the responsibility of producing goods. “We must produce more, not less, than we produced formerly. Industry must be organized on a basis that will result in the maximum output. No industry can escape the necessity of being brought up to the highest point of efficiency. I am told, though -I do not know it of my own knowledge, that the dairying industry in Queensland has a milk output per cow only half that of some other States. That situation, wherever it exists, must be altered. Industry everywhere must be on its toes. Our industries in the days before us will be subjected to the fiercest competition, both internally and externally. “We must therefore adopt the most up-to-date methods, install the latest appliances, and provide competent management, and skilled technicians. Only by the application of these measures shall we be able, effectively, to meet the competition that will face us and ensure full employment for our people.
Most important of all, the workers must put their backs into their jobs. They must be impelled by the high purpose of producing as rauch, and not as little, as possible. The time is over-ripe for the adoption of all measures which will ensure an increase .of production.
We must broaden the base of our economy - launch out on national irrigation and other great developmental schemes, and foster a truly national outlook on industry. We must find markets for our goods, both in Australia and abroad. This applies to primary and secondary industries alike. If we are to expand our secondary industries, and absorb in useful and profitable employmerit large numbers of migrants, we must he prepared to organize our industries on a competitive basis. The markets of t[he world, as well as those of Australia, can only be exploited by our industries on a competitive basis. This mean.’ highly efficient production. The need for efficient production on the grand scale is imperative. Every person who can do a good day’s work must do it.
I have had something to do with unionism in days gone by - I know all there is to know about it. It cannot continue to exist and flourish if “ go slow “ methods prevail. There must be a new outlook on industry. I have ‘known the time when the workers of this country were little better than serfs; when they were denied even the semblance of indus.trial justice or political power. They had ito take whatever was offered to them. And so they adjusted their output to their circumstances. But the days of slave mentality have gone ; by their own efforts to a great degree, the workers have be.60me a power in the land, and they stand to-day on a footing of equality with employers. In some instances, in fact, they are able to dictate their own terms of employment. In the days to come, these terms - wages, labour conditions - will depend more than ever before upon output, which in its turn will depend upon up-to-date equipment, wise administration and skilled service. All these factors govern the return which the workers : may expects - or exact - for their labour. The slave mentality, which inspired and justified the minimum output of the worker in days gone by, ought to have no place in the minds of free men. In the world of to-day it is a poisonous evil and at all hazards must be prevented from pervading industry.
We have done very well in this war, “but we have to face up to the conditions the war has created. We have won the war; we must win the peace. To-day -we talk in the easiest way of thousands -of millions of pounds which a few years ago would have been regarded as fantas- tic. These figures slip smoothly from nur tongues, but ‘their meaning leaves very many unmoved. We have much to “be thankful for, even if this budget be regarded as a price of victory, it must be said that we have- made a very good bargain. If we had been on the other side of the world, our bargain would have “been better still. Whatever the war has cost, the fact stands out that it has “ brought us life and won for us a place -on the stage of the world. ‘No price could be regarded as too high for such returns. But having secured our place in the hierarchy of nations, we must prove ourselves worthy to retain it. Wemust be ready to help people who arcless fortunate than ourselves. We must honour our obligations and discharge our [Liabilities to the utmost of our power. Talk about raising .our standard of living will not help us. Our present standard ha.s not been won by words. During my membership of this Parliament. o,ur living standards have been improved by J00 per cent. The result has been achieved .by patient and strenuous endeavours by the workers of this country. If we want to retain our present standards, to say nothing of raising them, we must produce more wealth. The more we produce, the higher will be our standard of living. We cannot afford to go slow in industry. I leave it at that; we have done well during the war, we mus show the world that in peace we can do even better.
Sitting suspended from. 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– In the course of my speech on the budget to-night, I intend to deal principally with criticism by honorable members opposite of the proposed expenditure -on the Army. Before doing so, I extend hearty congratulations to the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the constructive budget he has produced, covering the transition from war to peace. Generally, throughout Australia, the budget has been very well received. Criticism of it has emanated largely from honorable gentlemen opposite. When it has been impartially assessed, it will be regarded as one of the finest budgets yet introduced, taking into consideration all the circumstances, including the fact that we have passed through the greatest war in history, which has cost Australia £2,111,000,000, and 92,211 casualties, including 21,415 men killed. That is a very big price to pay. Thank God victory has been achieved and the people of this country have been saved from the dreadful ravages of war experienced in many other countries, in which tens of thousands of innocent women and children were slaughtered by devastating bombing. If the people of this country have been asked to pay increased taxation, that sacrifice is very small compared with the sacrifice that has been made by more than 500,000 of the flower of Australia’s manhood who were enlisted in the Australian fighting forces.
– The war is over and the taxation is continuing.
– The honorable member considers that if a war ends to-day the expenditure can be halved and substantial tax reductions can be made to-morrow. Any preliminary examination of the commitments of the Government will prove conclusively that the task is not so’ easy as the honorable gentleman tries to make the people believe it to be. The war expenditure last year was £460,000,000, whilst for this year the estimate is £360,000,000, a reduction of £100,000,000. The Army will be responsible for £175,000,000, the Royal Australian Air Force for £S6,000,000 and the Royal Australian Navy for £32,000,000. That very substantial expenditure can be understood when one realizes that the number of personnel even today is 377,000 in the Army, 151,000 in the Royal Australian Air Force and 36,000 in the Royal Australian Navy, a total of 564,000.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), referring to the votes for the Department of the Army, suggested that the estimated expenditure on what were alleged to be war purposes did not represent a reduction in accordance with the true demands of those purposes. Other honorable members opposite, also, because in some instances the estimated requirements for 1945-46 are greater than the expenditure last financial year, have assumed that the requirements are extravagant and without justification. Any impartial observer will admit that these honorable gentlemen have failed lamentably to prove their case. There are factors which must be taken into consideration in connexion with Army expenditure for the current financial year before conclusions can be drawn. I propose to take each item of the Army Estimates separately and to show that the requirements for 1945-46, particularly in respect of those items which involve a large expenditure, have been very care fully examined, and that the services for which the provision is sought are fully justified. The first item is “ Pay of the Australian Military Forces and allowances in the nature of pay”. The expenditure under this vote last year was slightly less than £105,000,000. The requirements for 1945-46 an £120,000,000, an increase of £15,000,000. The expenditure of £105,000,000 in 1944-45 was made up of pay and allowances, allotments, and dependents’ allowances, £97,000,000, and deferred pay approximately £8,000,000. The estimate for 1945-46 makes provision for £69,000,000 for pay and allowances, compared with £97,000,000 in the last financial year, a reduction of £28,000,000, and £34,649,914 on account of deferred pay. an increase of £26,649,914.
– How many men are to participate in the distribution of that £69,000,000?
– I do not propose to traverse the matter contained in the White Paper so eloquently presented by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). In answer to .questions in this House, and in statements by thai Minister, the number of discharges tha1, are to be made from the fighting services during this financial year has been clearly stated. The Minister has a further statement on the subject which he may be able to make to-morrow. Provision .has had to be made for further items which have not appeared in the Estimates for previous years. The termination of the war has brought in its train the recovery of our prisoners of war from enemy hands. During the period of their captivity their pay and allowances have been continued to their credit, and upon the termination of their services these will be made available to them. It is estimated that £8,000,000 has accumulated to the credit of our repatriated prisoners of war, and the Estimates for the current year provide for the payment of that sum. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, in the White Paper on demobilization, intimated that ali members of the forces, upon termination of their services, will be credited with special rehabilitation leave, totalling fifteen days for service of less than six months and of 30 days for service of six months or more.
This and other demobilization leave entitlements to members of the Australian Military Forces whose services will be terminated this year are estimated to require an expenditure of £8,025,000. Honorable members will thus see that whilst the pay and allowances vote for serving members of the forces has been considerably reduced, special provisions which necessarily have had to be made for pay, deferred pay and special requirements on demobilization, require the provision of approximately £51,000,000, compared with a provision of approximately £8,000,000 for deferred pay in last, year’s Estimates. Thai is a very hig increase.
The next item on the Army vote is £1,050.000 for “ salaries and payments in the nature of salary “ for civilian services in the Department of the Army; the expenditure under this vote last year was £.1,065,000. The provision covers salaries and payments in the nature of salary of permanent and temporary civilian staffs of the various branches of the Department, of the Army. It is probable that there will be reductions of temporary civilian employees in many branches; but the continuance of civilian employment, mainly of typing and subordinate staffs, will be necessary in most of the administrative branches of the Army during the demobilization period in the current financial year. Furthermore, the personnel of certain branches of the Department of the Army are now militarized, whilst the normal peace-time functions of such branches are civilian in character. Some of those militarized personnel were members of the permanent civilian staff in peace-time. Upon discharge from the Army, they will be transferred back to the permanent civilian staff, and will become a charge under that heading. Provision has had to be made also for permanent, civilian officers of the department serving in the armed forces who will be discharged to resume their appointments with the department during the current financial year. All of these factors make it difficult to determine with any degree of accuracy the requirements for the financial year 1945-46. However, having regard to all the factors, it is considered that the amount provided con stitutes a reasonable forecast of the total requirements for the year. Honorable members can be assured that no unnecessary expenditure will be incurred on the provision of civil staff, and economies will be effected wherever possible. Committees are at present, investigating all these departments with a view to cutting out unnecessary expenditure. Notwithstanding that hostilities have ceased, the maintenance of the Army must be continued until demobilization is completed. There is a tendency to believe that when ‘ the fighting ceases the Army can fold up, and demobilization can proceed at once. Members of Parliament, at any rate, are better informed. There is necessarily a period between the cessation of active warfare and demobilization when the Army is required to occupy areas formerly held by the enemy, to round up enemy forces, perform garrison duties, collect prisoners of war, and provide for their hospital treatment where necessary, and their speedy return to their homes in Australia. All these activities involve expenditure. Responsibilities of this kind are not peculiar to Australia. In both the United Kingdom and the United States of America the maintenance of military forces, even though on a reduced scale, must continue for a considerable time, and this is accepted as inevitable. The Prime Minister of Great Britain has stated that men who have not already done military service will be called up, and that this form of recruitment will continue for some time. Whilst it is true that recruiting for the Australian Army has been suspended, the tasks which must necessarily fall to the lot of Australia’s military forces require that we maintain a considerable military establishment in the Pacific for some time. Recently, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Beasley) made a statement regarding developments in the South-west Pacific Area since the termination of hostilities. He said that the Commonwealth Government had agreed to accept the initial responsibility for garrisoning Borneo and the islands to the east, but that Australia had not the resources necessary to occupy all these islands. The general surrender at Singapore and the surrender of the main occupying forces in other Pacific theatres will, therefore, he regarded as covering all outlying areas, and the South-east Asia Command will take over from Australia by progressive stages. For instance, it is expected that the South-east Asia Command will take over from us in Borneo within the next five or six weeks, and will relieve our forces in the other islands a little later. That is a matter for consultation between the Governments of Australia and the United Kingdom. The people will not expect that Australia, having taken such a magnificent part in the war, both on the fighting front and on the home front, should now walk out altogether without assuming any of the responsibilities which remain even after victory is achieved. Australia will continue to be responsible for garrisoning Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and it will be appreciated by honorable members that, as a result, we shall have several hundreds of thousands of prisoners on our hands who must be disposed of before maintenance charges for the Army can be substantially reduced. Prior consideration is being given to the recovery and welfare of returned (prisoners of war. This involves the provision of transport, a matter which has an important bearing upon demobilization. During the period immediately past, and for some weeks to come, practically the whole of the transport available to the Australian command has necessarily been used for the conveyance of troops and supplies to areas where prisoners of war are situated. This has been necessary in order to provide for their care and maintenance, and to transport them to Australia. Other transport has been needed to convey troops to Nauru and Ocean Islands, which were occupied by the Japanese. Once the Japanese are contained, a further responsibility will devolve upon the Government until they an be taken back to Japan. This involves the provision of garrisons and supply and maintenance troops, not only in the areas of occupation, but also in bases in the islands and on the Australian mainland. It also calls for additional transport facilities for the shipment of supplies, and for the transport of Japanese prisoners from Pacific areas to Japan. Until those responsibilities are discharged, a considerable force must be maintained, but in the meantime reductions will be effected to the maximum extent and with the greatest speed possible, in regard to both overseas troops and those now serving on the mainland.
It has been suggested that if it be necessary to maintain garrisons overseas for the purposes I have indicated, troops with shorter periods of service now serving in Australia should be sent overseas to take the place of men with longer service. This solution has been given very serious consideration, but for the time being it has been ruled out as impracticable, because it would not effect any real reduction of the overall strength of the forces overseas, and would actually make a heavier demand on our already meagre transport resources at a time when those resources should be used for more essential purposes.
Transport facilities immediately available to the Australian service authorities provide for the shifting of 9,000 persona which, when the time taken for turnround is taken into consideration, means a total lift of 6,500 persons a month. Weare trying to obtain more shipping, but there is an acute shortage everywhere. The Government of the United States of America has heavy commitments. It has a huge Army to move. The Government of the United Kingdom has to provide for the transport of 100,000’ prisoners of war and thousands of internees from the Far East. These demands by Britain and the United States of America increase the gravity of our own problem.
The number of Australian Army personnel at present overseas is 172,000, and it is evident that if we had to rely on. our own transport resources the demobilization of our overseas forces would be a lengthy procedure. However, it is hoped that, as the result of consultations, with the authorities in Great Britain and the United States of America, we shall, be able to solve, in part at any rate, the transport problem. The British authorities are considering the demands from all areas on the total available shipping resources, and we have been informed that they will be inadequate to meet alL such, demands. However, the Australian Government will continue to press for the maximum amount of transport to ensure that our troops shall be brought back to Australia at the earliest possible date consistent with the obligations which we have assumed in the Pacific area.
– I rise to a point of order. According to the ruling which you gave regarding the reviving of a previous debate I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, whether you propose to enforce the ruling against the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) ?
-I ruled that an honorable member would be in order in making a passing reference to a subject previously debated.
– The Minister is building his whole speech on it.
– The Minister is in order.
– His passing reference has already lasted for ten minutes.
– On the assumption that shipping will be available for the transport of demobilized personnel in areas outside Australia, it is expected that the Australian Military Forces will be reduced by 180,000 between the 1st October and the 31st December of this year. Of this number, 80,000 will be taken from our overseas forces and 100,000 from the forces on the mainland of Australia. However, if additional shipping can be obtained, the number of discharges from overseas forces will be increased accordingly, and the discharges from forces on the mainland will be increased by an equal, if not greater, number.
During the early stages of the demobilization a great strain will be placed on the administrative forces in Australia. When we consider the duties that these forces will be required to perform, it will be appreciated that their numbers cannot be immediately reduced below the numbers planned in the present scheme. On the contrary, they will have to be increased for the time being. It is important that there should be no misunderstanding as to what are administrative services. By them we mean hospital and medical staffs, ordnance and store staffs, ration, shipping, transport and supply staffs, and pay and finance staffs. Operational and training staffs and units will be immediately disbanded. However, personnel with a short period of service and low priority points will not be discharged, but will be drafted into the administrative services to enable those in such services with long periods of service and higher priority points to be demobilized wherever practicable. “When referring to the demobilization of troops in the last war, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) stated that 250,000 Australians who were then abroad were brought home in a few months, with the result that the Australians on that occasion were the only troops who did not cause trouble with repatriation. I have examined the record of demobilization for the last war and find that the statement of the honorable member for Balaclava is not correct. The number of Australian troops who were overseas on the 30th November, 1918, was 153,108. The same difficulties of transport as now confront us were met by the Australian Government in effecting the demobilization of Australian troops in 1918, with the consequence that it was found impossible to provide for their removal to Australia at a rate much in excess of 10,000 monthly.
– Is the right honorable gentleman saying all this as “ a passing reference “ ?
– I am replying to criticism made by the honorable member for Balaclava. By the end of October, 1919 - twelve months after demobilization had commenced - 137,242 troops out of a total of 153,108 had been embarked from overseas for Australia, leaving a total of 16,000 troops still in England at that date.
In a report on demobilization, General Sir John Monash stated -
All shipping was then, and remained for many subsequent months, under the control of the Ministry for Shipping. The demand for tonnage to feed the starving populations of Europe dominated all other demands. Further, a large population of Belgian refugees resident in England clamoured to be sent home. British prisoners of war in Germany had to be repatriated. Tens of thousands of African mid Asiatic coolies had, for the best of reasons, to be got out of Europe as quickly as possible. All these demands took priority over the- needs of demobilization, and for the latter requiromenta there was fierce competition for the remaining available tonnage as between die United States, the British
Dominions, the War Office, and the India Office. The needs of the trade of Empire necessarily took quite a subordinate place in the order nf urgency. In view of all these imperious demands, it is indeed surprising that the Commonwealth share of the available shipping proved ultimately to be so much more adequate to our needs than could, at the outset, have been anticipated.
As a result the embarkation of a great number of the Australian Imperial Force was actually completed within a period of eight months after the Armistice, instead of a period of at least eighteen months, which was the current forecast when the Department of Demobilization came into existence. The gain in time was brought about by the exercise of consistent importunity by myself and my staff powerfully supported by the responsible Australian Ministers then in Europe, and by keeping the overwhelming claims of the most outlying of all the Dominions constantly before the Imperial Government.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I direct your attention to Standing Order 256, which provides that an honorable member shall not read his speech.
– The Chair will decide when a speaker is reading his speech. The Minister for the Army was reading a statement made by General Monash.
– Yes, I was reading from a report made by General Monash after the 1914-18 war on the difficulty of obtaining the necessary shipping to repatriate members of the forces. The position that he so graphically described in that fine report to the Commonwealth Government parallels that which confronts this Government to-day. It proves conclusively the need to maintain for the time being so many servicemen on the Australian pay-roll. The fact that servicemen have to remain overseas until we can get ships to bring them back, and the fact that we have to carry out certain commitments into which we have entered, ought to prove conclusively to any impartial honorable member that all the talk about the possibility of a very substantial reduction of Army expenditure at this stage of the financial year i.s baseless. Both the Prime Minister and I have stated that all branches of the Army are being gone through with a fine comb, as it were. Men not fully occupied in one branch are being transferred to other branches. Discharges are being made on occupational grounds, lt is not necessary for me to give the figures again. When the demobilization plan comes into operation on the 1st October there will be a great stepping up of the number of discharges.
The next item on the Estimates is that for “ General Services “, covering all expenditure of a general nature attributable to the administration of the Army, or such as cannot be correctly allocated to a specific project provided for elsewhere on the Estimates. The expenditure in 1944-45 was £7,862,555, compared with the estimated expenditure of £6,000,000, a reduction of £1,862,555. Some of the items in this vote, under which provision was made in 1944-45, have been eliminated, whilst, with the exception of the proposed vote for education facilities, all other items have been considerably reduced. The item for education facilities within the Army has been increased from £166,000 to £212,000, because during the demobilization period the activities of the Australian Army Educational Services will be considerably increased.
The next item on the Estimates is that of the Royal Military College, the requirements for which are relatively small. The expenditure last year was £23,972. compared with a provision of £34,000 this financial year - an increase of £11,028.
Provision for the Army Inspection Branch in 1945-46 is £570,000, compared with an expenditure of £1,657,629 for 1944-45. The figures for 1945-46 are based on a progressive reduction of the personnel during the financial year, and it is estimated that the number employed at the close of 1945-46 will be less than a quarter of those employed at the beginning of the financial year. As 1 have already indicated, the reduction of the strength of the Australian Military Forces will not necessarily result in the complete cessation of orders for all Army requirements, and consequently.it will be necessary for a certain proportion of the Army Inspection Branch to be maintained on the strength. During the first half of the financial year, however, the Inspection Branch will be maintained at a higher figure than in the second half, and it is because of the relatively high financial requirements for the first six months of the current financial year that the proposed vote for the branch cannot be reduced to the extent that some honorable members of the Opposition suggest. The reduction of over £1,000,000, however, is substantial.
The proposed vote for the Army Inventions Directorate also is relatively small. An expenditure of £42,526 was incurred in 1944-45, and the provision for 1945-46 is shown in the Estimates at £54,000. At the time these Estimates went to press the future of the Army Inventions Directorate had not been determined. This directorate was created in the war years in response to an incessant demand from the public for an organization to be created which would enable members of the community with an inventive turn of mind to be satisfied that their inventions were receiving full consideration, and were not discarded without proper investigation. The total number of inventions submitted to the directorate to the 31st August, 1945, is 21,531. Of these submissions 3,659 were referred to the appropriate authorities as containing suggestions of merit, and the number of these inventions successfully developed was 122, a further 85 being under development at the 31st August, 1945. Of an amount of £48,000 allotted for the development of projects, £33,000 was expended on submissions successfully developed and adopted; £12,000 on submissions successfully developed but not adopted; and £3,380 on submissions which, although they appeared to be good, were not successfully developed. The history of this directorate is now in course of preparation, and when it becomes available to the public, it will make most interesting reading, and I wish to place on record my appreciation of the work of the directorate, which has rendered a valuable service to the nation. Since the Estimates were sent to the printer, I have given very careful consideration to the matter, and to the recommendations of the directorate. A decision has now been taken that the directorate should plan for the cessation of its activities as a separate organization by the close of the calendar year 1945; but those submissions under development, which, in the opinion of the directorate, justify their completion, should be brought to finality. The matter of the post-war services inventions set-up is at present under consideration by the directorate, and I am awaiting advice from the chairman, Mr. L. W. Hartnett, before coming to a final decision thereon. It is anticipated that as a result of the decisions which have now been taken that the expenditure for this directorate for 1945-46 will be well below the provision of £54,000 in the Estimates.
A token amount of £2,000 has been provided in the Estimates for rifle clubs and associations. The main expenditure under this item is the provision of small grants to rifle associations to maintain their existence during the war years, pending a decision as to the future policy for rifle associations and clubs. This is at present under consideration.
Provision is made in the Estimates for £100,000 for the maintenance of internees and prisoners of war, compared with an expenditure of £21,965 last year. With the termination of hostilities a considerable reduction of expenditure on this item will result from the release of local internees from internment camps, but expenditure on prisoners of war captured by the Australian Military Forces must continue until arrangements can be made for their repatriation. Prisoners of war and internees, are also maintained on behalf of the British and other Allied governments, but financial adjustments in respect of their maintenance cost are effected with the respective governments and are not shown in the departmental Estimates.
Additional provision of £45,391 is made for war graves in the current Estimates in view of the proposed increased activities in respect of the development, beautification, &c, of war cemeteries. In the war years, these services were provided on a maintenance basis only, but now that the war is over development on a more permanent basis is called for.
The provision of £370,000 is made in this year’s Estimates for the maintenance of the Australian Imperial Force in theUnited Kingdom. It will be observed that no expenditure is shown against thi? amount last year. The amount provided this year is required to provide for payment to the Government of the United Kingdom for the maintenance of our personnel by the British authorities. The major portion .of the provision is for the maintenance of prisoners of war rescued in Europe during the period they are in England prior to their return to Australia.
An item in the Army Estimates which has been the cause of criticism by a number of members of the Opposition is that of £24,183,000 for “ arms, armament, ammunition, mechanization equipment and reserves “, compared with an expenditure last year of £27,S13,234. The Leader of the Australian Country party, in referring to the provision in the current year’s Estimates of £24,183,000 asked: “How on earth can such an expenditure possibly be justified?”. He then said that the Government’s adherence to these figures explained the reason why proper reductions of taxation were not being granted, to the people. It is easy to jump to conclusions on matters of this nature, but honorable members may be assured that in the preparation of the Army Estimates for the current financial year, every care has been taken to ensure that they represent the true requirements of the Army and are not inflated for any reason. Practically the whole of the provision in this year’s votes for arms and equipment does not relate to expenditure that will be incurred during the current financial year. The actual expenditure overseas in 1944-45 amounted to £7,637,000, but there is an. outstanding liability,, which was incurred overseas during the war years and has not yet been met, of £26,000,000, including an amount of £20,000,000 in respect of arms and equipment procured in America in 1942 by the British Purchasing Commission and diverted to Australia. The provision of £2G,000i000 made for this outstanding liability has been reduced by a credit arising from an amount of £2,656,!73, which was made by way of advances for the production, of munitions and. other purposes, and which will be repaid during the current financial year, leaving a net liability brought forward of the amount shown in the Estimates.
It will be appreciated by honorable members that no business organization, even in a small way, could close down its business affairs without notice and not have outstanding liabilities to meet. In an organization the size of the Army it is understandable that the outstanding liabilities would amount to many millions of pounds, and this is clearly demonstrated by the figures I have given. The next three items, which conclude the Army Estimates relate to acquisition of sites and buildings, rent, and the provision of new buildings and works for the Army. With the exception of an estimated expenditure of £10,000 for rent for 1945-46, practically the whole of the amounts provided in these votes are to cover liabilities incurred during previous financial years.
The outstanding liability in 1945-46 for the acquisition of sites and buildings was an amount of £300,000, while the provision of £206,097 under the Buildings and Works Vote is to meet outstanding liabilities brought forward from 1944-45, plus current maintenance. It is proposed to incur little, if any, expenditure in the current financial year for any new works or buildings for Army purposes. I think I have justified the proposed expenditure on the Army in the present financial year, but the Government will do everything humanly possible to curtail this expenditure having regard to our commitments to prisoners of war, the fighting services and the people of Australia.
– Several of my colleagues on this side of the chamber went out of their way to heap upon this budget certain opprobrious terms. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) described it as a meat pie; another honorable member said that it was a meat pie without the meat; and a third, declared that it was the most timid budget he had ever seen. I apply to it a much less unpleasant term which, I think, will meet with the approval of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). In my opinion, it is above all, a Treasurer’s budget, as opposed to an accountant’s budget. I married a State treasurer when I was seventeen years of age, and I know the ways of treasurers. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) expressed some surprise at having discovered an odd £30,000,000 somewhere and £33,000,000 somewhere else, which had not been disclosed in the budgetBut the whole business of the Treasurer is to put away millions of pounds in wardrobes and under sofas and wherever else they can be concealed; and I congratulate the right honorable gentleman on having put away for the future something which may possibly be required and which he has not foreseen.
– Pin money!
– Yes. Obviously, certain things are not predicted and provided for in this budget, but the whole economy of Australia may require them in the next twelve months. As an associate member of the Treasurer’s Union, I offer no criticism of the budget, but certain criticisms may be levelled at it, and have been levelled at it from the stand-point of the economist and sociologist. It is principally from that stand-point that I would criticize it. During this debate, several valuable principles have been restated. The first is that all wealth comes from human effort. Those honorable members who heard the speech of the right honorable member for North ‘Sydney (Mr. Hughes) this afternoon will agree with what he said on that point, and his remarks need no elaboration from me or any one else. But it is nevertheless a truth which we have been in grave danger of forgetting. Even to make a banana valuable from the human stand-point, it is necessary .to put forth some effort to gather it and peel it, so that it can be eaten. Yet some people imagine that we can continually increase the amount of wealth that the country can produce without increasing our effort. The second principle stated that security demands its own price. That is something which must be examined from many stand-points, and I recommend to every honorable member that he read, at the earliest opportunity if he has not already done so, that great book of Alexis Carrel, Man the Unknown. Security can be purchased at too great a price, and in the first speech which I made in this chamber I expressed the opinion that the social security scheme which is eventually adopted here must be based upon some contribution by every person who will benefit from it. I am glad to see in the budget proposals that the Government is beginning to recognize that principle. I do not for one minute believe that the social security scheme which the Government has propounded ‘is sound, and can last. It must eventually be placed on a scientific actuarial basis, and when that has been, done, we can hope for real fruits, notonly in the psychological sphere, but also in the physical sphere.
Over and over again, it has been said that we must develop our national assets.. Of that, there can be no doubt whatever. I am particularly interested that there shall be made at the earliest possible moment a geological, geophysical and topographical survey of the whole Commonwealth. As a Tasmanian, I am most interested in the geological survey. In Tasmania, certain mineral areas have yielded enormous wealth for many years.. The Mount Lyell field has yielded £29,305,S00 sterling, the Zeehan-Dundas field, £5,5S6,000, and Waratah £6,195,000. All those fields are either exhausted or in the process of exhaustion, but a country which in the past has given such returns from its mineral resources cannot, ] imagine, be left unexplored geologically. In Tasmania, it is necessary also to make a topographical survey. Parts of the State - indeed, large areas of it, although the island is small in comparison with the mainland - have never been trodden by the feet of white men. Now, men are being discharged from the services who have received special training in survey work, and their assistance in this matter would be most valuable. In addition, it would provide an immediate outlet for those men as they are demobilized, because no other similar work will beavailable to them. If an aerial survey were made, opportunities would be created for former members of the Royal Australian Air Force. Although th«work’ could not last for a long time, it would provide employment for some exservice personnel and tide them over theperiod immediately following their discharge from the services.
In this budget, as in all budgets, thereare items which are very commendable. One of them is the provision to increasepensions for widows. I have never been able to understand why the Government,, when it increased invalid and old-age pensions, omitted to increase widowspensions. However, I am far from satisfied with the provision made for widows., even in the budget proposals. A few clays ago, I received from a woman1.- organization in Hobart, a letter pointing out that if a widow receives a pension 3he is granted a child endowment allowance in respect of her first child as well as succeeding children. But if she accepts employment for the purpose of increasing her income, that provision is immediately cancelled. The suggestion has been made to me, and it seems to be most reasonable, that the provision of endowment for the first child as well as for succeeding children should remain, regardless of the source of the widow’s income. I know perfectly well that the object of a widow’s pension, particularly for those with young children, is to ensure that they shall remain in the home. If that be the purpose, the provision should be such as to enable the woman to rear her family as if she had a husband to provide for them. We must provide for widows and their dependent children a standard of living at least equal to that of the basic wage. Recently I received the following letter from a woman : -
I am a widow with two young sons and am in receipt of a superannuation pension of £3 per week. Owing to my children needing my -care I can only do a part-time joh for which [ receive £2 10s. per week, making my salary £5 10s. Out of this I have to pay rent, educate my children buy food and clothing.
The salary of £2 10s. per week is tax free - having two dependants, but my joint salary is £2 SO per annum and on this I am taxed £30 per annum. Pay as you earn I have 10s. per week deducted from my salary. Do you think this is fair and should not the pension of £3 be tax free?
That touches a point raised by other -speakers in this debate, namely, the matter of a superannuity. A man who, for most of his life, has contributed to a superannuation fund, pays tax on his -salary while he is in employment. When he retires, he may receive a weekly superannuation payment of £2 10s. If his income exceeds the statutory exemption, he must pay tax on it. But if he had not contributed to the superannuation fund, he would not have to pay tax and would, in fact, become the recipient of an oldage pension. It is high time that some consideration was given to this matter of relief from taxation for the superannant.
I come now to social services. In the whole field, the difficulty seems to be that there is no sign of a change of outlook on1 the’ part of the Government. We talk of entering a brave new world. It should be made a new world. In many respects, it will be a new world, though not possibly an improved one. But we still are ruled by the same old repair complex. We still allow human tragedies to occur, and then try to patch up the damage. We still allow people to herd into cities and work in factories, and we organize the whole of society on the basis of mass production, so that we gradually change the whole course of human existence. Again I refer honorable members to my friend, Alexis Carrel. These things g«> on, and various forms of damage arise, and for the most part we do nothing whatever to prevent them. We have health schemes which might well be called sickness schemes. We erect hospitals, and consider that we are doing something splendid. But a hospital is not a place of health, or a place where one acquires health. A person may get from a hospital freedom from disease, but that is not health. Health is something which if positive, .something which frees the individual from any thought of health or sickness, and it is along that line that we must look to the future building of society if we really desire to progress as a nation. One of my friends in Hobart is a most, remarkable woman. Speaking of hospitals she said, “ Men, particularly politicians, stand back and view hospitals as monuments to their wisdom. As a matter of fact, they are monuments to their stupidity and lack of wisdom. They are monuments to the lack of foresight that allows the development of things which make hospitals necessary “.
A little while ago, I visited the Institute of Anatomy in Canberra to watch a demonstration of cooking carried out by members of a group who are prepared to make a survey of food problems throughout the Commonwealth. The demonstration was most interesting. Set out on a table was all the food necessary for a full day for what is regarded as a basic-wage family, namely, a man wife, and three children of varying ages. The meal was abundant, but very plain. It was prepared on the basis of actual needs, according to the latest scientific research into food values. There were so many vitamins, so many calories and the like. The meal consisted of an abundance of food, but what astounded me, and surprised the people who worked, out the whole scheme, was that the food, prepared as it was on the most economical basis and from the simplest ingredients, could not be provided for that family for less than £3 a week. The basic wage is little more than £4 a week, which would leave a small margin, indeed, for clothing, housing, lighting, fuel and other needs. Until we make adequate provision for all the people in the community to have a proper diet we shall find it difficult indeed to improve the general health of the people, and consequently their social conditions and outlook.
Another matter that needs to be considered is the general health of women. This afternoon honorable members heard the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) speak as a medical practitioner of the damage that had been done to the health of very many women because of certain war-time restrictions. I hope that when the next petrol concession is being considered, and that when more tyres and motor vehicles can be released, a high priority will be given to grocers, greengrocers, butchers, bakers mid other tradespeople to enable them to deliver goods to households.
Finally, in my capacity as the only woman member of the committee I direct attention to the fact that although a year ago I was invited by the Health Department to collaborate with a most eminent woman medical practitioner in the preparation of a report on the general problem of population, and although we spent a great deal of time in the preparation of that document and made important recommendations to the Government on maternity matters, the provision of household help for mothers, a scheme of training in midwifery for doctors and nurses, and other subjects, nothing more has been heard of them. My collaborator and I received a charming letter of thanks from the DirectorGeneral of Health, but since then I have not heard a word about the report. Naturally, I have been most disappointed. My collaborator and I consider that we worked in vain. I urge the Government to turn its attention to the report that Lady Cilento and I prepared, and to other reports that were made toit about the same time, for they suggest methods of developing valuable schemes, for the promotion of the health of women, and, therefore, of the whole community., because the health of the community has-, its foundation in the health of its women.
The honorable member- for Warringah. (Mr. Spender), to whom be peace henceforth in the ranks of the Liberal party - my blessing in this regard is also extended to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr.- Hughes) - has frequently mentioned in this chamber thedangers inherent in the gradual transference of power from the Parliament to the Executive, which has been proceeding- for a considerable time. The honorablemember for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) adduced further evidence of this nature in his-, speech this morning, and i drew attention to the matter in my recent speech on. the Banking Bill. These developmentsmay have a serious effect on the wholecommunity. Grave troubles can follow the concentration of too much power- in the hands of too few people. We haveseen what has happened in this regard in other parts of the world where totalitarian principles have been put into practice. Honorable gentlemen oppositehave frequently expressed a lively fear of the dangers to the community from the development of monopolies. I share such fears but I fear, too, a., monopoly of power in the hands of the Government. Unfortunately, that is thetendency in this country. That policy has its flower in totalitarianism. Duringthe war we have had some experience in Australia of the loss of freedom which, follows such a concentration of power. Although this experience has been dueto conditions over which we have had’ little control, the ill effects of such a policy must be apparent to every thinking person. Someone has said that this, attitude has a touch of medievalism in it. I do not think that any one would’ accuse Aldous Huxley of any tendencytowards medievalism, but that eminentwriter was quoted in a recently published book as saying that the thing that hassaved, freedom in the past and protected the individual from coercion has been, the fact that there has always been an., appeal from one authority to. another - from the Pope to the Emperor, from the- baron to the King. But he added that everything to-day tended to a situation in which there remained no appeal from the Moloch of the State. If the State be the sole employer, to whom may a disgruntled employee appeal ? If a man be dismissed “by the State, to whom may he go for reemployment? If a fanner falls out with the authority of the day, where may he look for redress of his grievance?’
We are aware of some of the things that have happened in the not distant past in Russia. It will be remembered that the late Mr. Wendell Willkie had something to say on this subject. He admired many things that he saw in Russia, but he referred to a visit that he had paid to a communal farm. The manager had only recently taken charge. His predecessor had had the misfortune, or perhaps had been somewhat negligent; in that 100 cows on the farm had died; For that he was liquidated to the extent of twenty years in gaol, and there was no appeal from the authority which imposed the sentence. T know that honorable members opposite would say that the sole purpose of this concentration of power is to secure a more equitable distribution of wealth, hut certain happenings during the war have indicated that a tendency exists, even in the kind of controls that’ we have experienced, to disregard the welfare of small communities and’ individuals everywhere. There is a growing realization that the interests of small sections of the community have been, overlooked in the desire to bring into being organizations which can wield a wide authority. I make no apology for referring, in this connexion, to the experiences of people in my own district on the north- west oast of Tasmania. In consequence of circumstances over which the people have had no control, they have been deprived of air services which they had enjoyed for ten years and which gave them direct contact with the mainland. They have lately been deprived, also, of shipping services. Throughout the. war their two ports were served regularly once a week by shipping, hut the services- have now been reduced to one a fortnight and the only reply that has been received to representations to the Minister for a restoration of the former services is that it has been found that a greater quantity of cargo can be lifted under the new system than under the old. All consideration for the convenience of the local people has been set aside. If this had happened at the beginning of the war, no doubt it would have been accepted without complaint - as was- the reduction from two ships to one weekly - but. it has happened during the last few weeks, when the people surely had a right to expect some alleviation of the hardships which they have suffered during the war years. I urge the Government to look into this matter and to take appropriate steps to ensure that the rights of small communities shall not bidisregarded in the interests of the more intensive organization of industry which is taking place. I am not an opponent of efficiency, but there is such a thins as efficiency run mad. Efficiency in the wrong place becomes inefficiency. A bulldozer is a most efficient piece of machinery. It can be used to flatten a forest in a few hours. But if it were used to remove weeds from a cabbage patch the result would be devastating. I speak on behalf of the “ cabbage patchers “ of Australia. The time ha? come when their rights and conveniencesshould be considered. I sincerely hope that the Treasurer will use a part of the £67,000,000 that he has hidden away to make some provision for1 maternal welfare, the general’ alleviation of the conditions of people who have suffered during the war, and of the difficulties of the relief of widows. I trust also that the Australian Government will not develop into the kind of Moloch of which Aldous Huxley has written.
– (Indi) [9.13].- The committee is deeply indebted to the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid’ Lyons) for the wise, constructive, and eminently practical speech which she has just delivered. It is all too rarely that we have the opportunity to listen to a speech which embodies such high ideals and’ so many practical suggestions. The contrast between that speech and! some others to which we have listened is very great indeed.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) dealt, in a practical way, with the accountancy aspects of the budget. His criticism was lucid. constructive and comprehensive, and appeared ro me bo be unanswerable. However, I trust that the Treasurer will take the opportunity to reply to some of the criticisms to which the budget has been subjected in this debate, for he, also, is an expert in finance. I do not propose to deal in detail with the figures in the budget, for members of the Government have already been given a full-time job in answering the criticisms that have been uttered. When examining a legal document, one has to consider not only what is embodied in it, but also what has been omitted from it. Many legal pitfalls arise out of failure to observe certain omissions. A budget embodies the legislative and administrative proposals of the Government for the financial year. This budget, presented to the Parliament at the termination of years of war, might reasonably have been expected to forecast the intentions of the Government in the years of peace that lie ahead. A very careful study of it will disclose very little indication of the Government having turned its attention to constructive proposals for peace. During the first two years of war I listened in this place and outside it to speeches by honorable members who are now prominent supporters of the Government, but at that time were sitting without responsibility to the left of Mr. Speaker. I challenge anybody to produce a speech by those honorable members during that period embodying constructive proposals for the prosecution of the war. On the contrary, in the pages of Hansard and the records of a hundred other public speeches can be found embracing and encouraging references to postwar planning and reconstruction, to the new order to which the country would become entitled when the war had been fought and won. Having reached the moment when we were to have unfolded the postwar proposals of those who, in the early stages of the war, spoke so constantly and in such airy fashion about the post-war period, I defy any one to find a broad and constructive picture of the Government’s views and intentions in respect of the post-war development of Australia or the care of its citizens. It is true, of course, that there is some provision for the care of
Australian citizens by means of pensions and patent medicines. Important though they may be, they cannot ensure the development of the country. There has to be development in the physical sense if Australia is to be safe in the future. This continent must be occupied by more people than now inhabit it. Production must be stepped up. Australia has to be raised from a country with a small population to one that will be worthy of its resources, so that it may become a more important power in the world. Surely, having passed through the travail of almost six years of war, the people are entitled to be encouraged by the belief that they have a government that has paid some attention to their post-war lives, industries and development. Our latent resources must be. developed in a way never previously attempted. We have to face up to the problem of securing a bigger population. Development of resources and increase of population must bo related to the advancement of existing industries and the establishment of new industries. Ministers have explained why the Estimates of war departments have been reduced to only a trifling degree for the first year of peace, compared with what they wereduring the war. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has explained why we cannot expect a flow of migrants to this country for two years. These statements do not go far enough. Apparently, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is content to contemplate failure to receive migrants in any number for a couple of years.
– We have first to provide for those who already are here.
– Countless thousands of people in the world have been displaced from their pre-war occupations and their lives upset, and equally as many have never lived an adult civilian life. Many people in both categories are planning their future lives as civilians, and are directing their thoughts to what they regard as the lands of opportunity in the world. Australia looms largely as a prospective land of opportunity in the minds of many persons in less-favoured countries. If they have to wait for two years before being able to come to Australia, they will marry and settle down in new occupations. Others with increasing family responsibilities will no longer be able to contemplate movement to another part of the world after a couple of years. Therefore, if we allow two years to elapse before commencing to make it possible tor migrants to come to Australia, the opportunity to obtain them will be lost. Why has the Government not been able to place specific proposals before the Parliament and the people? Heaven knows that during the last few years enough doctors and professors of this and that have been brought into the Commonwealth Public Service to draw up blueprints for post-war planning! It was quite easy, up to a month ago, to claim that plans could not be produced because the war was still being waged. That stage has now passed. The moment has arrived to reveal the plans. Even if they cannot be made to operate to-morrow, at least we should be told what are the intentions of the Government and what advice it has received from its experts.
– “We should not have needed post-war plans had the Government to which the honorable member belonged remained in power, because the Japanese would have been here.
– Had the Minister for Transport succeeded in securing the acceptance by this Parliament of a motion for which he voted three months before the outbreak of the war, no Australian forces could have gone to our own Territory of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. That is recorded in Ilansard, and the honorable gentleman will never live it down.
– It is also recorded that when the honorable gentleman was Minister for Air, there’ were no air patrols in Bass Strait when German raiders were laying mines there.
– Our friends opposite do not like to hear the truth. We are entitled to tell the country the facts. Had this Government been as well prepared for peace as the former Government, in spite of the efforts of the then Opposition, was prepared for war, there would now be plans on which we could proceed to act. The Minister for Transport cast his vote in favour of forbidding any Australian forces from defending the further side of Torres Strait. He also cast his vote in favour of preventing thi? country, within three months of the outbreak of war, from even having a voluntary national register of the people, so that we should at least know how many able-bodied men there were in it. Had he and his colleagues succeeded in imposing their will, we should indeed have been in a poor way. But the Defence Aci was amended, and a national register was compiled. A system of price control was ready to be put into operation. There was a complete plan for the acquisition of primary products. Legislation was passed for the establishment of munitions annexes. There were also complete plans in respect of war insurance and war shipping. All of these preparations had been made to meet the eventuality of war. The War Railways Committee, which was the foundation of the Department of Transport, was in existence at the outbreak of the war. The moment has now arrived for the loud-mouthed persons on the Ministerial side to reveal the plans that they have made to meet the eventuality of peace. War was a possibility, but peace is a certainty; yet the Ministers have nothing to produce. Their only achievement is the most barren budget this country could have dreamt of seeing. What is there in it except a shaving of taxation, which one would need almost a microscope to discover? What encouragement is held out to the people of this country? Taxation is to be reduced by 6-j: per cent., but the votes for the Army Department and for other war departments have been increased.
We want to be told what the Government has in mind for the development of the natural resources of Australia. We have just experienced the most devastating drought that Australia has ever known. After years of alleged thinking by the Government, does the budget give the slightest indication of its awareness of the necessity to conserve water in Australia ? I know it will be said thai hitherto that has ..been a function of the State governments. But with financial control exercised solely by the Commonwealth, through the Loan Council, and by means of uniform taxation, it would be futile to assert that water conservation on the grand scale is now entirely the responsibility of the State governments. It has been promoted, if not on its merits, at all events by the actions of Commonwealth instrumentalities, to the realm of Commonwealth responsibility. This is the most elementary matter about which the country is waiting to be informed. What has been done in regard to water conservation? There are pitifully few dams, a situation which reflects but little credit on previous governments. The waters of the great river Murray should bc conserved in the same way as has been clone in the case of the Tennessee Valley scheme, in which a whole river system has been dammed so as to create a great series of dams. At the end of the backwater of one dam another has been constructed, and so on, until an entire river system, which previously constituted a menace to the countryside because of the danger of flood, has now ‘become a valuable source of power production and a means of navigation, whilst the danger of flooding has been entirely removed. Surely it is realized that what has become an almost intolerable taxation burden can be relieved only by increasing population and production. Nothing can contribute more than water conservation to increased production in what are the natural industries of Australia. Nothing is so calculated to produce more food, more clothing and the other necessaries of life, and nothing is more likely to increase employment and make it possible to reduce taxation. Last year, the State “Rivers Commission of Victoria published figures indicating the almost incredible amount by which production can be increased as the result of water conservation. It was shown that for every acrefoot of water conserved and applied to the land for dairying purposes production could be increased by £10. For every such acre used for the production of dried fruits, production could be increased by £20, and in the case of vegetables extra production would be £100. This affords u= a glimpse of the immense additional wealth which could be produced from the soil of Australia by the conservation of water.
Nothing could be more disappointing than the statement of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) that the production of such urgently needed commodities as galvanized iron, water piping, bore casing, wire netting, barbed wire, fencing wire, steel posts and woven fencing wire was the responsibility of private enterprise, and that if there was a shortage it was of no use to look to the Government for assistance. That is an intolerable attitude for any government to adopt. The urgency of the housing problem is apparent to every one, and the production of the materials necessary for the construction of houses must be the concern of the Government. As a matter of fact, the Government already controls the production of materials and the direction of man-power. The’ trouble is that man-power is being misdirected. Many important works necessary for the development of Australia could be undertaken without delay. We all know of the urgent need to recondition many of our roads. Any one who flies over Australia must become aware of the vast, areas which could be planted with softwood forests. These works do not require the erection of great buildings or the installation of costly machinery. They require only a germ of imagination and initiative, and a determination to do something real for the development of Australia instead of attempting merely tc> catch votes. There is nothing intricate or involved in such undertakings as water conservation, the production of cement, the reconstruction or building of roads, the planting of forests, the making of bricks, and the repair of fencing. On such jobs 10,000 men could be put to work next Monday morning. I see no reason why there should be some extraordinary hiatus while the Government is producing plans for post-war undertakings. I certainly cannot accept the proposition that we should wait for two full years before anything is done to bring immigrants to Australia in considerable numbers. There is no dearth of matter in the budget for criticism, but the most pungent criticism might properly be directed against the budget for its omissions rather than for what it contains. It is evident that the Government is barren of any constructive ideas for the development of Australia..
– in reilly - One note has been absent from the discussions of this budget - a note which was very audible during debateson previous budgets introduced by the Labour Government. During previous budget debates, the Government was deluged with criticism of its financial policy which, we were told, was leading to inflation. Stern denunciations were voiced of the action. of the Government in issuing treasury-bills, and we were told that it was plain that the country was on the road to ruin. It is interesting to note that during the present debate the subject of inflation has not been mentioned once in relation to the Government’s financial policy. Honorable members have forgotten about it.
– No, they have not.
– Then they would be very glad to forget what they said about it before. All their prophecies have been falsified, but no admission to this effect is contained in the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) cr the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The Government has introduced its fourth war budget, in which it is shown that no treasury-bills were issued for the past financial year.
– Surely the Prime Minister does not say that seriously. What about the £32,000,000 worth of treasurybills?
– I am referring to the fact that expenditure has been entirely met from revenue and loans. The Leader of the Australian Country party is talking about the use of the National Welfare Fund to meet government expenditure, but he admitted that the use of trust funds in this way was a government practice for years before the war. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth Government asked the State governments to use their cash balances instead of borrowing money either in the form of treasury-bills or on the open market.
Members of the Opposition have been proved -to be false prophets and they now come forward with various suggestions, none of which is particularly constructive. It is just as well to place on record the fact that during four years of war - and they have been the years in which Japan was at war with us - this Government has maintained a reasonably stable economy in Australia. During the last two years there has been very little fluctuation in the cost of living. It is well that people should understand what a tremendous benefit that has been to every one, particularly to the workers. In other countries, including some allied countries, there has been a spiral of inflation and rising costs, but in Australia the Government has succeeded in keeping down the cost of living. It is estimated that the cost of living has increased by 22£ per cent, over the prewar level, but a part of that increase took place during the term of office of the previous government. We reduced interest rates to the substantial advantage of primary producers and business men. We have immeasurably improved social services. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) said that the Government should give more thought to maternal welfare. No Government has ever done so much to promote maternal welfare as has this Government. It substantially increased the previously niggardly maternity allowance. Recently it added nearly £6,000,000 to the amount allocated for child endowment. Child endowment was, of course, introduced by a previous government. The history of the Government shows that it not only successfully conducted the war at a time when, no one will dispute, it was hard-pressed both physically and financially, but ha3 also immeasurably improved social services.
I do not propose to go over all the ground covered in the debate, but I should make reference to one or two matters. Criticism of war expenditure has been answered to a large degree by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), but I propose to make some comments that ought to satisfy even the most biased critic. Of the proposed war expenditure this financial year, £178,000,000 will be expended on pay and allowances and £54,000,000 on deferred pay. That accounts for about 50 per cent, of the total estimated war expenditure. To that must be added transport costs and outstanding accounts in the United Kingdom. We endeavoured to get those accounts into the last budget, but they were not presented. Interest and sinking fund payments on the war debt account for another £40,000,000. Subsidies on primary production and in connexion with prices stabilization account for £25,000,000. Post-war reconstruction training will involve £8,000,000. All those items account for 80 per cent, of the total proposed war expenditure. The Government of New Zealand hoped if the war continued to reduce its war expenditure this financial year by 25 per cent., but, as the result of the war ending, the estimated expenditure was increased by £9,000,000. In other words, in New Zealand, the end of the war made it necessary to budget for increased expenditure, because of some of the very factors that I have mentioned. One would think, on hearing Opposition members, that the day war ended all ‘war commitments ended too, but the fact is that accounts for million after million keep coming in. In the United Kingdom we have very large accounts carried over from last financial year that have to be met this financial year. In regard to the munitions factories there are many articles that, if they do not require the use of materials needed for other purposes and are usable or saleable, it is far better to finish than to leave unfinished. Contracts cannot be cancelled out of hand. The Government cither has to make arrangements to taper off production, maintaining the production of articles that are usable or saleable, or pay compensation to the contractors. It is perfectly true that most contracts provide for sudden cancellation, but it would be utterly unjust to a man who, a month or even a day before the war ended, entered into a contract with the Government to supply goods, for the manufacture of which he had bought the raw materials if, as soon as the war ended, the Government turned to him and said, “ We do not want your product and we will not compensate you for the expenses that you have incurred “.
– Surely the right honorable gentleman does not advocate continuance of the manufacture of articles that are of no further, use.
– I made it perfectly clear that there are many articles the manufacture of which it is better to end without delay, but there are others, either usable or saleable, that, if their manu facture does not involve the use of materials needed elsewhere, will yield better financial results if they are finished’, than if they are left unfinished. Contracts are being tapered off as quickly aspossible.
I want to make some reference - I hope,Mr. Chairman, that this will be regarded, as only a passing reference - to taxation,, about which a lot has been said. Neither in New Zealand nor in the United Kingdom has there been any talk about reducing taxes. To meet commitments, the Government of the United Kingdom is spending £14,000,000 daily, even though the war is over.
– Taxation there is not so high as in Australia.
– The honorable member is always saying that, but it is only a half-truth. On some incomes the tax in Great Britain is higher and on others it is lower than in Australia. The tax on the higher incomes is higher in Australia than in the United Kingdom, but the Government makes no apology for that.
– In Great Britain the post-war credits system operates.
– That is perfectly true, but as I have not seen that “ colt “ of the right honorable gentleman in the “weights” lately I thought he had scratched it from all events. In a general sort of way, the Leader of the Australian Country party had a great deal to say about social services. There was nothing concrete about what he said. He did not get down to the facts when he talked about the abolition of the means test. All he said was that it should be abolished. This party has always had that objective. When it is possible to abolish the means test, it will be abolished, but the plain fact is that its abolition would increase the cost of social services by £35,000,000 a year. The Leader of the Opposition was delightfully vague about the methods by which the means test would be abolished. I confess that I can understand his vagueness, because the LyonsGovernment, of which he was a member, passed the National Insurance (Health and Pensions) Bill in 1938. We all know something of what happened. The right honorable gentleman is reputed to have been so offended by that Government’s neglect to proclaim the legislation that he ceased to be associated with the ministry.
– “Why does the right, honorable gentleman say “reputed”? After all, I did resign.
– I should have said that that was reputed to be the cause of his resignation.
– Why “reputed”?
– There may have been some other contributing causes.
– I did not hear about them myself
– But the right honorable gentleman some time later came back to lead the government. During his Prime Ministership nobody ever heard anything more about national insurance being put, into operation. I am fully able to appreciate his political difficulties. I know that he would have been very glad to put the act into operation. I say quite frankly that the legislation would have provided a foundation for some kind of social security scheme. It had many defects. It did not cover the section of the community that most needed help, but it was a start, and, though I was not in politics then, I did explain the legislation to the unions and was prepared to support it rather than have nothing. With the passage of time, the right honorable gentleman became Prime Minister, and, although he had resigned from the Lyons Ministry as a protest against its failure to proclaim the act, he took no steps to proclaim it. That Ls fate. This Government has tried to do something about social security, even though its energies have been bent mainly to the task of conducting the war.
When the National Welfare Fund legislation was being debated, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (“Mr. Harrison) ©bowed how lightly he regarded it by describing it as “phoney”. I judge from what the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said the other night that it did not turn out to be “ phoney “. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick1 Stewart), who does not generally use such language, shared the feelings of the Deputy Leader. of the Opposition and also said that it was “ phoney “.
– But I congratulated the Government, on its coming to our point of view by introducing contributory insurance.
– Even conceding that we have embraced the Opposition’s view, we have done more; we have given it effect. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has to eat his word “ phoney “, because the Government has gone on with its social security programme. I have no doubt that the Labour party will go much farther in the same direction. Although some honorable members opposite talked about the .abolition of the means test, they did not put forward any financial proposals as to how it could be done. I inferred from the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, who was not specific, that whatever contributions are to be made to social services ought to cover the whole field of those entitled to benefits, in other words, that there should be a contract and that all incomeearners in the community should make a contribution entitling them without further ado to benefit. But he did not say how the £35,000,000 a year, which it would cost to abolish the means test, would be raised. I inferred that he believed that there should be no exemptions and that every wage-earner should make a contribution to social services, to the benefits of which he would then be entitled as a right. That is a perfectly honest opinion, and I am not arguing the merits or demerits of it. But I should have liked to examine any proposals to meet the cost of social services if the means test were abolished.
– Does the Treasurer mean to say that the social- services scheme which the Government has introduced, would cost an additional £35,000,000, if the means test were abolished ?
– That is correct. The abolition of the means test would add to the present Estimates of expenditure on social services an amount of £35,000,000. In other words, social services instead of costing £62,000,000 or whatever the figure may be under the present scheme, would cost an additional £35,000,000 with the abolition of the means test.
– Making a total of £97,000,000?
– Yes. I should like any honorable member who advocates the abolition of the means test to get down to tintacks, and show me a method by which his object could be achieved. It should be perfectly clear to honorable members that pensions and other social services must be paid from revenue. They cannot be .paid from bank credit.
– The Treasurer will need to repeat that statement several times before some of his supporters will understand it.
– Under the National Insurance Bill, which was introduced by the Lyons Government in 193S but never proclaimed, old-age pensioners would have received £1 a week. At present, they receive £1 12s. 6d. a week.
– Many people who, under the national insurance scheme, would have received £1 a week, now get nothing.
– Under the national insurance proposals, the widow’s pension would have been 12s. 6d. a week; but this Government is paying to a widow with children, £1 12s. a week, and to a widow over 50 years of age without dependent children, £1 7s. 6d. a week. That is an instance of the difference between the payments proposed under the national insurance scheme and the payments actually made by this Government. The Lyons Government had ample opportunity to give effect to national insurance. It had a majority in the Senate, and in the House of Representatives. ‘
– The Treasurer stated that he supported that scheme.
– I said that, as it was the best offering at the time, I was prepared to support it as the beginning of the provision of social security for the people.
– The rates of pensions were fixed at those amounts as the price of the support of the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Curtin.
– I am telling the honorable member the facts. The Lyons Government had a majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and could have proclaimed national insurance at any time.
The Leader of the Australian Country party directed attention to the fact that whereas £51,000,000 would have been paid into the National “Welfare Fund in a complete financial year, only £20,000,000 would be paid into it during the second half of the current financial year. At first glance, the position does appear to be peculiar. The explanation is that the act will commence on the 1st January, 1946, but the last month’s instalment will not be collected until after the completion of this financial year.
– Under the payasyouearn system, will not the tax he collected during this financial year?
– The instalments from the employers are not received until the following month. The Government proposes to change the form of the act as from the 1st January next, and only five instalments will be collected before the end of the financial year. The matter will be balanced in the subsequent months. At one period, I became almost optimistic when the Leader of the Australian Country party referred to “ hidden reserves “ in the budget. I thought for a moment that this financial year would conclude with a surplus. The right honorable gentleman was digging out money from all sorts of places, and he suggested that the figures for taxation receipts, and expenditure, were not very sound. He did not suggest that there had been any dishonesty in the preparation of- the budget, but he certainly conveyed the impression that many of the items could have been shown differently, that income tax returns would be substantially greater than the estimate, and that expenditure should be much less than the estimate. For the first time in about four years, members of the Opposition did not direct attention to the so-called “ gap “ between revenue and expenditure. After the Labour Government took office, we were always being warned about the “ gap “. It is true that in this financial year the “ gap “ will be £152,000,000. but no honorable member appeared to be perturbed about it. Earlier this session, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) blithely suggested that taxation should be reduced by £100,000,000. Now, he recommends a reduction of £80,000,000.
– I said £80,000,000 because of the Government’s extravagance in the meantime.
– If possible, expenditure will be reduced. I have never known of a Treasurer who has hot been regarded even by his colleagues as a very niggardly fellow who employed almost gestapo methods and “ snooped “ on them in an endeavour to reduce the expenditure of their departments.
– ‘Supporters of the Government refer to the right honorable gentleman as “ good old Ben “.
– They never say it to me. I cannot imagine any Treasurer with a sense of responsibility permitting expenditure which could reasonably be avoided.
– Does that apply to the post-war educational scheme in connexion with the last referendum?
– The greatest good for the greatest number! Passing reference has been made to the effects of company tax. In 1938-39, profits before the payment of tax amounted to £89,000,000 and in 1944-45 to £145,000,000. After the payment of tax, the profit remaining to companies was, in 1938-39 £73,000,000, and last year £85,000,000. Regarding undistributed income, the figure for 1938-39 was £43,000,000, and for last year £47,000,000. Therefore, the companies, although heavy taxation and certain restrictions imposed upon them reduced the large profits which otherwise they would have earned, have not been badly treated.
When honorable members warned of the dangers of inflation during the last two or three years, they were justified. Inflation was one of the great dangers which threatened Australia and every other country. We were involved in great war expenditure, money was banking up in financial institutions, and the supply of goods was short. The danger was real, and I have always stressed in this chamber and to members of my own party the disastrous results which can overtake the people of any country, particularly the workers,, if the
Government is unable to control inflationary movements. If those movements gather impetus, they affect the worker in receipt of the basic wage and margins above it, and are absolutely cruel to that, section of the community which is receiving a fixed income. While their income is fixed, the cost of living rises, and those people are absolutely sacrificed on the altar of inflation. The inflation about which honorable members talked a year or two ago could happen one year or two years hence. Hundreds of millions of pounds have accumulated in savings banks and in various liquid or semiliquid forms. Until we have a normal supply of goods in the community, the danger of inflation will be just as great after the war as it was during the war.
– Is not that a good reason for collecting outstanding taxes?
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. The greatest inflationary period in Australia occurred after the last war. An examination of the graphs will prove that. I warn every honorable member, no matter whether of the Labour party or of the Opposition, that we could destroy all the stabilization schemes and the results of the control of prices, even though the war has ended, if we were to relax our efforts to keep down the. cost of living until there is in the community ample goods to meet the demand for them. That is the real test. If there is a shortage of goods, and in the aggregate more money in the community than the value of the goods offering, coupled with an absence of intense thrift, all the work which this Government has done during the last four years of war could be destroyed in twelve months.
The Leader of the Australian Country party asked, by interjection, about the uncollected taxes. That has occurred in some degree every year.
– But never to the same amount as now. In 1941, uncollected taxes amounted to £8,000,000, but to-day the figure is £38,000,000.
– I have promised to supply comparative figures to the Leader of the Opposition. The principal explanation is the great shortage of man-power * and machine-power in the Taxation Department. When the special committee was considering the introduction of the payasyouearn system officers of the Taxation Department indicated that more men and machines would be required than under the old system. It should also be remembered that the number of taxpayers in this country has increased from 800,000 to more than 2,000,000, and that about 2,000 officers of the Taxation Department have been absent on war service. It has been suggested that the issue of assessments has been deliberately delayed. It would be refreshing, I suppose, to taxpayers to know that their assessments were not being hurried out to them.
– But it would be no good.
– That is so; yet nobody likes to receive a bill. The usual complaint is that the assessments are sent out too soon rather than too late. The Leader of the Opposition and some other honorable gentleman opposite have said that the release of personnel from the forces would increase the number of taxpayers in the coming year. At first sight it might appear that that would be the case, but other factors must be taken into consideration. For example, many married women who have been in employment for war purposes and many retired people who returned to active work during the war will this year cease their employment and thus probably cease to become liable for taxation. Moreover, people who enter small businesses in the next two or three months may not become liable for taxation this year. Even many of the persons who will be demobilized will be on leave for a considerable period, so that not a great amount of taxation may be expected from them. These factors offset the contention that the number of taxpayers will be greatly increased because of general demobilization. Honorable members of the Australian Country party have pointed out, also, and probably quite truly, that many primary producers will not have a taxable income this year owing to heavy losses from drought.
I reiterate the absolute need for the maintenance of our stabilization measures in order that we may hold the ground that we have held during the war. Some people seem to think that it would be quite safe to discontinue all controls immediately, but the result would be “ Rafferty’s rules “, which would be bad for everybody. It is necessary that the supply of goods shall be considered in relation to the purchasing-power of the community. Despite the noise and heat engendered during this debate by Opposition members, it is a fact that certain controls will be necessary for some considerable time, otherwise chaos will result. This Labour Government has made a notable contribution to the national well-being during the last four years by reason of the introduction of a stabilized economy, and it intends to continue to do its utmost to protect theinterests of the people. It has done well during the war years, and despite the criticism of the Opposition, Ibelieve that the people confidently rely upon it to avoid wasteful expenditure and dangerous measures in this financial year. As the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) said earlier this evening, the mere fact that a certain amount appears under a certain heading in the Estimates does not necessarily mean that that amount will be expended. The Government will continue to do its utmost to avoid waste and to guard the national economy. It has done a good job in the last four years, and it may be relied upon to do a good job this year.
Question put -
That the item proposed to be reduced (Mr. Menzies’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. W. J. F. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
First item agreed to.
General debate concluded.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Dispute at Bunnerong Power Station.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– To-day, owing to the strike at Bunnerong, Power Station, Sydney has experienced its worst blackout since the strike began. At different hours throughout -the day, nine suburbs have been deprived of electricity for power and lighting purposes. It is reported that preparations are being made for an extended strike, and that strike money has been paid to-day for the first time. On the 19th May, the Commonwealth Government helped to settle a similar industrial disturbance at Bunnerong. On that occasion, the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) gave a direction under the National Security Regulations which had the effect of stopping the strike. The terms of the direction were that the members in the various groups specified under the schedule as being in the employ of the Sydney County Council at Bunnerong, prior to the 8th May, 1945, should return to work on the 21st May; that pending determination by the Industrial Commission of the dispute existing at that date these members should perform similar duties in relation to trades and callings as they were performing on the 7th May, 1945; and further that after determination by the Industrial Commission of the said dispute, they should continue to perform duties in relation to trades and callings in accordance with the award of the Sydney County Council as varied at the date of the determination or any date thereafter. On the 24th May the case came before the Industrial Commission of New South Wales and I quote an extract from the judgment of the commission given on the 5th July. It cites Mr. Dwyer, K.C., who appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, as saying -
It is felt by the Government that the operation of this undertaking is so vital to the war effort and to the health and comfort of alarge number of persons that in the event of the order not being carried out it would be necessary for the Commonwealth Government to take all steps possible to procure its observance. I say this to assist the court in arriving at a decision as to whether it will proceed with the matter.
That is important because it has a direct bearing upon the strike occurring at present. The court decided to hear the reference and gave judgment thereon on the 5th July. Yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister whether he would tell the House the position in regard to intervention by the Commonwealth Government in this dispute. I asked whether, if the Commonwealth had not already intervened, it would do so in order to effect a speedy settlement. The Prime Minister gave the following answer : -
The dispute at the Bunnerong Power Station is one between the Sydney County Council and its employees. Those employees are working under State awards and thus thedispute comes entirely within the State jurisdiction. The Commonwealth has not intervened atall in the present dispute and does not intend to do so.
I ask the House to take notice of that statement because it is entirely contrary to the action taken by the Prime Minister in the earlier dispute. According to the direction given by the right honorable gentleman on that occasion, and the statement made by counsel representing the Commonwealth, the Government is bound to intervene in this strike. Mr. Dwyer, K.C., would not have made that statement without the consent of his client, the Commonwealth Government, through the then Acting Prime Minister, who now says that he will not intervene in this dispute because it is a ‘matter relating to State awards.
– What does the honorable member mean by “intervene”?
– The Prime Minister should now take the same action as he took on the previous occasion, and give a direction under the National Security Act that these men shall resume work. The circumstances are somewhat similar, and there is no reason why a direction should not be given. A state of war still exists and, according to what the right honorable gentleman said earlier this evening, will continue to exist until peace is proclaimed. The operations of the Bunnerong Power Station are vital to the health and comfort of the people in the area concerned. In July, the Industrial Commission gave judgment on the assurance of the then Acting Prime Minister that the Government would procure its observance. Not long ago, the regulation which was invoked by the Prime Minister on that occasion was again invoked to prosecute 52 master bakers in Brisbane for not baking bread on two days. Therefore, I see no reason why it cannot be invoked again if the Government so desires. Is it not equally important that strikers at Bunnerong should be required to produce electric power for hospitals, industry, and domestic use? Already it is on record that certain surgical operations have been deferred because of interference with power and light supplies to hospitals, and we all know that the effects upon the various ramifications of industry have been considerable. For instance, some thousands of chickens in brooders have been killed because of the failure of power supplies. Hundreds of thousands of employees in industry are being threatened with unemployment. Again I submit that the Prime Minister should take action as on previous occasions against the Bunnerong strikers and the master bakers in Brisbane. There should be no favouritism. Why has action not been taken? Has the Prime Minister been warned by the unions to keep out of this matter ? Is this another “ standover “ demand such as those made by the coal-miners? Does the Government propose to meet its obligation to govern this country, or is it content merely to rubberstamp decisions of the true rulers of Australia, the trade unions? This matter is vital to the people of Sydney. If the Prime Minister does not take immediate action and give a direction to the men to return to work, hundreds of thousands of working people will be thrown out of employment.
– in reply - The honorable member’s conception of the law in regard to this matter is a little askew. As I understand the position, I issued an order, as Acting Prime Minister, directing the men to return to work on- prestoppage conditions, the Commonwealth to join with the State Government in making an application to the State Industrial Commission for a rehearing of the dispute and the men to abide by whatever award was made. That rehearing took place. The three judges of the commission made an award, which increased the rate for shift work from ls. 3d. to 2s. The honorable member has suggested that I should issue a further order again directing the men to return to work.
– Take action similar to that taken on the last occasion.
– Without professing to have a deep legal knowledge, it appears to me that the original order is still in force. Does the honorable member contend that prosecutions ought to be instituted for disobedience of the original order ?
– I have said that the Commonwealth prosecuted master bakers in Brisbane, and that it ought to take similar action against these men.
– Any fresh order would merely run parallel to an existing order.
– Very well. Will the right honorable gentleman institute prosecutions?
– Had the honorable member said that in the first place, his intention would have been clear. Negotiations for the settlement of the dispute have been proceeding continuously. The State Government and the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales have used their best endeavours to induce the men to return to work and obey the award of the commission, or to accept an alternative form of working shifts which would bring them within the ambit of the award. There are many ways in which the work at Bunnerong could be performed. I confess that I am speaking “without the book”, because I have not consulted the Commonwealth’s legal advisers since the honorable member informed mp that he intended to raise the matter. If I considered that I could settle the dispute and obtain a resumption of work by issuing an order as Prime Minister, I assure the .honorable member that such an order would be issued. But I do not believe that any action by me or the Minister for Labour and National Service, with whom I have discussed the matter, would be more likely to effect a settlement of the dispute than the unceasing efforts of the State Government, the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales, and even the unions to which the men belong, which have thrown their weight into the balance in an endeavour to induce the men to return to work, if not on exactly the same conditions in regard to shifts as existed previously, at all events under conditions which would bring them within the ambit of the awards that operate in respect of such work. For that reason, I have stated that the only possible intervention by the Commonwealth Government would be the institution of a series of prosecutions on the existing order.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
Wool - Report of the Central Wool Committee for season 1944-45.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In connexion with the balance-sheet or the Commonwealth Bank of Australia as at 30th June, 194Q-
– Inquiries are being made regarding the information desired.
y. - On the 7th September, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) asked me a question relating to the employment of a press cartoonist named Molnar in connexion with advertising for war loan purposes.
I inform the honorable member that particulars regarding the nationality of Mr. Molnar and information concerning his criticism of the Commonwealth Government by the publication of cartoons were furnished on the 18th July, 1945, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). It is a fact that Mr. Molnar has, with other artists, submitted cartoons for use in connexion with loan advertising. All these cartoons have been given by the cartoonists gratuitously to help war loan campaigns, and there has never been any question of the payment of fees for the work. The. cartoons received have been printed on a broad-sheet and circulated to editors and publishers of newspapers who have been invited to select the cartoons they would be prepared to publish during the loan campaign. armed Forces: Service Canteens.
– On the 5th September, the honorable member for’ Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) asked questions relating to the profits on service canteens in the following terms : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e. - On the 14th September the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) asked a question concerning the cancellation of food contracts.
The honorable member is advised that, owing to the many and varied contracts covering food production in existence to-day, it is impossible to give a specific answer to his question, but it is hoped that, consequent on the continuing service demands and heavy demands from other authorities, it will not be necessary to cancel contracts to any great extent.
If and when cancellations are necessary, the compensation payable, it is hoped, will be decided by agreement in accordance with the provisions of the particular contract. Each case will be dealt with on its merits, and fair and equitable compensation will be paid when necessary.
– On the 13th September the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked a question concerning the rationing of ladies’ hosiery. The. honorable member referred to a press statement that stocks of hosiery had accumulated owing to the high coupon rating.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following answer : -
I am unaware to what particular press report the honorable member refers or the terms of such report. However, the supply position of various types of hosiery hasbeen under review by the Rationing Commission anda number of coupon concessions has been made during the last few months.
It is the opinion of the commission that hosiery, especially ladies’ hosiery, has been conceded more special coupon reductions than other types of rationed textile goods.
If and when the commission learns of an accumulation of couponed goods, anappro priate coupon reduction is made where prac-. ticable. Recent coupon concessions which operate in some types of ladies’ hosiery from the15th September, 1945, have been expressly designed to overcome an accumulation or certain typesof graded hosiery.
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
Is he yet in a position to make public the results of his investigations into the alleged rough treatment of an airman by a senior noncommissioned officer at Bondi in May last?
– Following upon the investigation referred to in my answer given in the House of Representatives on the 8th June, 1945, two non-commissioned officers were charged under section 37, Air Force Act, with striking the airman concerned. Both non-commissioned officers were tried for those offences by District Court-martial, and many witnesses were called both for the prosecution and for the defence. In each case, the non-commissioned officer was found not guilty by the court-martial.
N asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
Have any arrangements yet been made to improve the shipping service to Kangaroo Island?
Mv. BEASLEY. - The Minister for Supply and -Shipping has supplied the following answer: -
The vessels of Coast Steamships Limited, which operates the shipping service tu Kangaroo Island and other Gulf ports, are not under requisition by the Shipping Control Bour.). The difficulties experienced in these trades have been due to the fact that three of the vesse’s formerly engaged were taken over fur war purposes, and one has been lost, tt has not been possible as yet to provide any additional vessels for this trade as there are no suitable small vessels available. It is understood that the Department of the Navy will shortly be releasing the Warrawee, and when this vessel has been reconditioned, the owners, Coast Steamships Limited, wi’l doubtless return the vessel to the Gulf service.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450919_reps_17_185/>.