18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Notice of Motion - Want oi Confidence in the Government - taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.
That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
That, within the forms of the House, is the appropriate expression to be used on a motion of this kind. Otherwise, it might have -been couched in different terms. It might have been expressed in this way - That the Government, since the last elections, and in the light of recent events, has lost the confidence of the people.
There can be no doubt, and it could scarcely be seriously denied by anybody in this House, that there is a rising tide of public dissatisfaction in Australia about many matters. There is widespread uneasiness.. There has been a marked fall of public morale during the last few months. All of these things have been caused, or assisted, by circumstances for which this Government must accept responsibility. I do not propose to endeavour to cover the whole field this morning - that would be impossible - but I do propose to make four accusations against this Government, and then to proceed to sustain them.
I accuse this Government of having ‘ constantly practised political jobbery in public appointments. I accuse this Government of having aimed a blow at the prestige and significance of the office of Governor-General of Australia. I accuse this Government of having failed to provide either leadership or authority in the securing of industrial peace. And I accuse this Government of having maintained a depressing burden of taxation upon the people, and therefore on production, at a time when substantial tax relief is quite practicable.
I shall take those in turn. The first of them is the charge of political jobbery. There are certain public posts to which a man of political experience may be appointed with advantage; everybody will agree with, that. For example, a man without considerable political knowledge would be handicapped in acting as High Commissioner in London or as Ambassador in “Washington. The attack, therefore, is not upon all appointments of politicians to public posts. That would be absurd. That would be a charge, or an attack, which could not be made usefully by anybody in this place. But the attack - let me make this perfectly clear so that there will be no .confusion in the debate - is upon the appointment of a politician to a public post for which his only substantial qualification is that he is a retiring, or defeated, politician, and that his party desires to provide for him. If that distinction is kept in mind there will be less confusion in the course of the discussion than otherwise may ‘be the case. In the last few months we have seen a series of appointments of former government members or supporters, not because they were qualified, ‘ but because they were government members or supporters, and because the Government thought that they should be rewarded, or provided for at the public expense. If honorable members will look at the membership of the last parliament and then look around them in this chamber they will find that certain government supporters in the last parliament are no longer with us. They have Deen translated, an most instances at high salaries, to the pu’blic pay-roll. I shall mention their names, not because all of them are subject to criticism, but in order to have a complete list. I shall put them in alphabetical order. Even in comparing the list of members in the last parliament with those in this one we find the names of Mr. Beasley, Mr. Breen, Mr. Bryson-
– The appointment of Mr. Bryson was not a Government appointment.
- Mr. Coles, Mr. Forde, Mr. Frost, Mr. Makin, Mr. Martens, Mr. Mountjoy, and last, but not least, Mr. Wilson. As to Mr. Beasley, Mr. Forde and, Mr. Makin, I offer no comment whatever beyond this: that I do not think that any one of them is disqualified from the office to which he has been appointed by the mere fact that he had been a senior Minister in the Chifley Government, or in the case of Mr. Forde, by the fact that he was defeated at the last elections. I, myself, have not been at all affected by that circumstance in considering this particular matter But I am not to be taken as subscribing to the view that in each of these cases the’ appointment is necessarily the best one.
However, as that is purely a matter of opinion, I do not propose to say any more about it. I have no quarrel with the qualifications of Mr. Coles- ie is a highly competent ‘business administrator - but there is a strange inconsistency-
– He knows nothing about aviation.
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition is addressing the House.
-*! repeat that there is a strange inconsistency between the opinions that Mr. Coles expressed in this House regarding the formation of a government air service and his prompt acceptance of its control thereafter. I also say nothing - this is in reply to the interjection of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) - regarding the appointment of Mr. Bryson, because the appoint ment which he holds is one which involves the Minister’s personal nomination and association. But putting those on one side, I defy any one to tell me what qualifications for their present positions are possessed by Mr. Martens, Mr. Breen, Mr. Mountjoy, Mr. Frost and Mr. Wilson. Mr. Martens is a director of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Mr. Breen is Trade Commissioner in the Middle East. I pause here to say that I had understood that applications were called foi the posts of Trade Commissioners by advertisement, that they were controlled by an act of Parliament, -and that in the advertisements the statement was piously made that the provisions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act would apply. Indeed, I was under the impression that the applications for the trade commasionership in the Middle East had closed before the general elections. Are we to take it that Mr. Breen, with intelligent anticipation, realized that he would be ousted by my distinguished young friend, the new honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), and got in early with his application; or are we to take it that the calling -of applications was mere shop-window stuff, as was also the reference to reestablishment? Are we to understand that the real attitude of the Government towards this ‘man was, “ You have lost your Beat, and are now qualified to be appointed, at a suitable emolument, to be Trade Commissioner in the Middle East”? When the matter was first raised, one newspaper reporting in what I hope was ironical fashion, stated that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on being questioned, had replied : “ Mr. Breen is over 21. He has had a fair education. What is wrong with him being Trade Commissioner in the Middle East ? “ I will not say anything more about Mr. Mountjoy’s appointment than lias already been said in this House. The subject was threshed out during the last sitting of Parliament. We now come to the appointment of Mr. Frost as Commissioner in Ceylon. He is a very amiable man, and enjoys the personal friendship of every member of this House, but I ask honorable members to consider where do his qualifications begin as Commissioner in Ceylon? As for the former honorable member for Wimmera, Mr. Wilson, who is now Administrator of Norfolk Island, all I can say is that lie may be admirably qualified to talk to the non- wheat-growing inhabitants of Norfolk Island about the hardships of growing wheat on a farm in the Wimmera, but otherwise his qualifications for the post are non-existent. The simple fact is that these five gentlemen are in their new jobs because they were Government members and supporters, and for no other reason. Never before in the history of Australian politics has there been such a. cynical succession of hand-outs. The Government has made it clear that any man who sits in this House as a Labour member and loses his seat will, with a Labour Government in office, be provided, out of the taxpayers’ money, with a post carrying a, reasonable salary. The public is not unaware of this succession of events, and has not failed to draw inferences.
I now turn to the most conspicuous of all the appointments - and this brings me to the second part of my case - the appointment to the GovernorGeneralship. The opinion of the Opposition on this matter was expressed by me and by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) (luring the last sittings of Parliament, when the appointment was rumoured but not confirmed. I do not desire to repeat in its precise terms what was then said, but I emphasize that the essence of the Opposition’s criticism is not that Mr. McKell is an Australian, and not that he is a Labour man. It is recognized that GovernorsGeneral may well have private political beliefs of all sorts and kinds, and I have no doubt that Governors-General in the past -have had their own private political beliefs. The real essence of our attack lies in this : that Mr. McKell was, at the moment when his appointment was announced, Premier of “an Australian State, and actively engaged as a partisan leader in Australian political affairs. That is a grave disqualification. It strikes at the very foundation of the office of the Governor-Generalship, because that office in Australia should be as far removed from party politics as is the Crown itself in Great Britain. The fact that there is this grave disqualification, and all that is involved in it, is underlined by the events that took place after the announcement had been made, from both London and Canberra, that this appointment had been decided upon. What happened? The Governor-General designate took part in a Labour party caucus ballot for the appointment of a successor as Leader of the State Labour party in New South Wales. He did not at once say, “ Eight ; I have finished. I will at least minimize this disqualification; I will walk instantaneously out of political affairs ; I will not enter into them in any shape or form “. On the contrary, from the moment this announcement was made he busied himself as to who should be his successor. He took part in all the negotiations and all the manoeuvrings, and it is notorious that his own favoured candidate was defeated. Was there ever such a humbling thing done by a GovernorGeneral designate to the great office he was to occupy? The spectacle of a man, whose selection as Governor-General had been publicly announced, engaging in these activities shocked responsible opinion all over Australia, and, I say to honorable members opposite, shocked the feelings of many thousands of Labour supporters in this country. It is accepted by political thinkers and commentators as far to the left as the famous Professor Laski that “ the strength of the Crown rests upon the conviction that its neutrality is, in all cases, ‘above suspicion “. And if that be true of the Crown, as it unquestionably is, it must be true of the King’s representative in this country. What is true of the King must be true of the Governor-General. The whole movement in modern times has been to approximate in every respect the powers and duties of the Governor-General in Australia to the powers and duties of the Crown in Great Britain. Moreover, in this country of ours, the GovernorGeneralship is the living symbol of the monarchy, the visible imperial tie between Australia and Great Britain, and it should never be held by anybody who is not completely above the Australian political storm. It is continually stated by those who understand these matters that in the appointment of a Governor-General the King is bound to act upon the advice of his Australian Ministers. That only emphasizes the conclusion that the Chifley Government in this case has so far misconceived the whole value and importance of the GovernorGeneralship as to choose to force upon His Majesty, by depriving him of any other choice, one who in the nature of things will be regarded by Australians generally not as a representative of the King but as a representative of the present Prime Minister. There are one or two other implications in this matter which are rather interesting to reflect on, although I do not desire to pursue them beyond the stage almost of a hint. What I do wish to point out, however, is that if the King of the British communities of the world is bound to act on the advice of Australian Ministers in the selection of a Governor-General, he is equally bound to accept the advice of those Ministers in the removal of a GovernorGeneral.
– That will never happen. The right honorable member will not be here to do it.
– Let me say a few words about this aspect of the matter: I shall begin by quoting with as much approval or support as my own very limited authority will give to it, a passage from & well known book by the present Attorney-General and Minister for Externa] Affairs (Dr. Evatt) entitled The King and his Dominion Governors. At page 197 of that volume, the right honorable gentleman, who has just been referring to some observations by a well known legal writer named Jenks, says -
Now Jenks’ logical inference from the 1920 Report-
That is the Imperial Conference of 1.926- that the appointment of a Governor-General is exclusively a matter of Dominion concern, seems to justify the further inference - equally logical - that the termination of the appointment of a Governor-General is also a matter exclusively of local or Dominion concern. So far as the position of strict law is concerned, it is well established that, in the absence of a controlling Statute, a person holding such a position as that of Governor or GovernorGeneral holds it at the pleasure of the Crown.
In Australia of course, the controlling statute, which is the Commonwealth Constitution, expressly provides that the Governor-General shall hold office during “’ the Queen’s pleasure “, as the language is. I now continue my quotation from The King and his Dominion Governors - lt would seem, therefore, that Dominion Ministers must possess sufficient “ constitutional “ authority to approach His Majesty directly, i.e. without any intervention by Ministers in Britain, for the purpose of advising the King that the appointment of the Governor-General should be terminated. This course was apparently f,he procedure adopted when the De Valera Government of the Irish Free State secured the termination of Mr. McNeill’s appointment as Governor-General in the year ]!)32.”
I refer to that perfectly clear principle because two observations should be made about it. The first is this : If all political parties in Australia took the same view as the Labour party does about the Governor-Generalship - in other words if all parties in this House believed the Governor-Generalship was simply a political “ plum “ to be handed out to some party colleague in Australia - then, of course, with every change of government the appointment of the GovernorGeneral would be terminated and some other politician put in his place. I ask, if not honorable members, at any rate the people of Australia, to consider what will happen to the Governor-Generalship if it is to be regarded as an office, occupancy of which should fluctuate with every change of the constitution of the Commonwealth Parliament? This is degrading the Governor-Generalship by making it the direct product of the party politics of the country. That is the first comment I have to make on the matter, and it is one which I believe must have the closest consideration of all Australians who value the Governor-Generalship and who value the supreme symbolism of the Crown. It would be, I agree, a very different matter if, some notoriously party political appointment having been made, an incoming government rescinded that appointment and selected somebody who was far beyond the political storm. That would be restoring the Governor-Generalship to its proper place. I leave both of those considerations in the minds of honorable members.
The third matter to which I referred was that of securing industrial peace, and again I have no desire to repeat what has been said in this House before; I have no desire to provide any catalogue of industrial events of the last few months. But it is, I believe, of great importance that we should at least face the fact that the industrial disturbances of Australia in the last year or eighteen months have been of an entirely different character from what used to be described as industrial disturbances. In the first place, they -have been substantially and in some cases entirely political and not industrial. Consider the major dislocations of the last six months, let us say, and you will find that for the most part they have been a challenge to the wage-pegging regulations, a challenge to the Government’s own law, and have arisen, therefore, though in the form of industrial disputes, in substance entirely differently. A demand is made on an employer to pay a certain rate of wage. His reply is, “I cannot doit: the law does not permit it. Wagepegging prevents me from paying more than so much. Therefore, I cannot concede your demand “. If the matter is taken into the Arbitration Court, the Arbitration Court has to say exactly the same thing, “ Here is a demand that is entirely outside our jurisdiction. This demand is a challenge to the law and not in reality a dispute with the employer at all “. The use of industrial weapons to force changes of the public law is one of the new and dangerous developments of the last two years, and it is not to be forgotten - I hope it will not be forgotten by Australians - that this is not a case of demands being made that can be conceded and, therefore, some argument arising as to whether the wage should be this, that or the other, these are political disputes. They represent a challenge to the Government’s own law and an attempt to use industrial pressure to enforce changes of the law through the Parliament. That pressure strikes a blow at free and popular self-government in Australia, through ihe Parliament, and if it continues to succeed, it will destroy the essential character of the Parliament, because if there are to be changes of the law of this land, this has to be the body to make them. There are to be detected some implications that are not very clearly seen, certainly not very clearly seen by the Government. When a strike is a strike against the Government’s own law and is based upon a demand for something that the employer cannot lawfully concede, the usual rule of leaving it to the Arbitration Court and backing up the Arbitration Court does not apply and cannot apply. It is all very well for Ministers to turu to us and say, “ You have always said you support the Arbitration Court”. Yes, but that comment has no relevance to this problem, because however we may desire to leave the matter to the Arbitration Court and to support the court, the position will be as-you-were, because the demand is not one that the employer can concede and in respect of which the court can make an award. It is a demand against the Government that the Government shall change its own law. Therefore, the Arbitration Court being as powerless as the employer in this case, or the employee, the problem is one for the Government of the country, and for nobody else. Now, the Government, having made, an industrial law such as wage-pegging, has three courses open to it. It can enforce its own law; it can do nothing; or it can alter its own law from time to time under pressure. So far, the policy of this Adminstration has been a weak mixture of the second and third courses - a weak mixture of doing nothing and then suddenly becoming sufficiently active to enable it to retreat a little on its own law and concede to violence and pressure what it has been prepared to deny by argument. That is a hopeless position for a government to be in. I know that there is a tendency, particularly in the more vocal and Communist elements in this country, to say that any proposition that the law should be enforced or upheld i3 Fascist. I beg of honorable members whatever their political views may be, to put aside that dangerous doctrine. The non-enforcement of the law made by the people merely involves anarchy. It has nothing to do with democracy. Of course, democracy is contingent, first, upon the making of laws by the people themselves, and, secondly, upon the scrupulous and impartial upholding of those laws against the weak and against the strong - and particularly against the strong. But this Government is not prepared to uphold the law. Can anybody look back over the disputes of the last twelve months and seriously believe that their course and their impact upon the public, and the gross hardships which they have inflicted upon the community have been one jot different from what they would have been if there had not been a government in office ?
There is another characteristic of these strikes and disturbances. They indicate, particularly in the Communist controlled unions, a new branching out in the technique of radical industrial unionism. They have shown a desire to control general commercial and social policy and activity through industrial action. The old and legitimate conception of industrial action for industrial purposes is being increasingly rejected. The position now is that we find - to take a characteristic Communist controlled union on the waterfront - that its secretary or its chief comes along and says : “ “We will not load these goods, although they are in tb,. ordinary course of commercial transit, because we think that Australia’s foreign . policy should be favorable to one group of people in the Netherlands East Indies and not to another; and because we have taken sides in the matter, we will not load the goods. We are using industrial action not to enforce a demand upon the employer but to enforce upon the community a certain political policy “. Then another official comes on to the wharf, and asks, “ Where are these goods being sent ? “ An example of this occurred only a few days ago. It so happened that the goods were to be sent to Egypt, to which zone we have just appointed a trade commissioner, presumably for the purpose of getting trade. The official was told: “ These goods are destined for the Middle East.” His reply was this : “ Oh. Well they are not to go because our information is that goods of this kind are in short supply in Sydney. Therefore, I say that they will not be loaded. You cannot go on with your sale to your buyer in Egypt. You must cancel that if you can, and sell these goods to a buyer in Sydney if you can find one.” As long as these men are allowed to get away with this kind of thing, so long will it be true that industrial pressure will force changes in the social, industrial and commercial structure of Australia to which a majority of the Australian people may ‘be opposed. I emphasize that this is not an academic matter. It goes right down to the root of our way of life. If we are to have great and fundamental changes in Australia, let us have them through the will of the people, translated into terms of legislation in a parliament which is elected by the people. If the Government is going to be supine in the presence of organized minorities who say, “We shall obtain by force and pressure what the majority of the people do not want to give to us “, then it means the end of parliament, the end of the rule of law and the beginning of an era of utter disorder and disaster in Australia.
There is another aspect of these strikes. The transport strikes in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania have all shown that private ownership is not the issue, because in each case, those strikes have been against the public body controlling the transport facility in question. The strikes have shown abundantly clearly that the answer to industrial unrest is not public ownership, that nationalization is not the cure for these industrial disorders, and that, in reality, we have to go much further back to examine the relations between -employer and employee in Australia. Particularly during the last two years with which I am concerned, we must go to the fact that, basically, the trouble is that although there is a law of the land the Government will not enforce it.
My next comment on these disturbances is one that I make with great regret. A few years ago I would not have expected to be called upon to make such a comment. It is that there have been organized attempts to terrorize the Arbitration Court, to destroy its independence and its value, arid that these organized attempts, which were once the prerogative of a little band of “ reds “, aTe now part of the settled and published policy of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. This organization, which represents the great body of trade unions in Australia, made decisions on the 6th February which are not to be forgotten because all of them are still pending. First of all, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions decided to call a strike of approximately 1,000,000 workers on the 1st May to enforce the 40-hour week; that is, it decided to call the strike unless before that date the Arbitration Court ga ve judgment on the 40-hour week case in favour of a 40-hour week. It decided that, from the 1st May, unionists will not work more than 40 hours a week, so that, irrespective of the Court’s decision, the unions will take the 40-hour week by direct action. It decided also that the unions will not take part in any basicwage case until a decision has been given on the question of a 40-hour week. The Arbitration Court decided that, in the long run, time would be saved if evidence taken on certain aspects of the 40-hour week case were treated also as being evidence in relation to the basic wage inquiry so that the two things might run concurrently and the effect of one on the other might be examined. However, these gentlemen in the Australasian Council of Trade Unions said : “ The Arbitration Court may be of opinion, but we will decline to be associated with the basic wage case on those terms.” Then, for good measure, they formulated their own basic wage claims, and indicated that, unless these were conceded by the 1st May, the executive should decide a course of action to enforce them. I hesitate to attempt the task of expressing in my own terms the opinion that I have of that extraordinary decision. I believe it to be the most revolutionary decision ever made by trade unionism in the history of Australia; because, as I say, it is not the decision of a few crack-Dot Communists, but is the decision of the official interstate body of trade unionism, and it constitutes the greatest single challenge to and the most violent public expression of contempt for the Arbitration Court that we have ever witnessed. I was very interested to notice that the Melbourne Age, which will be free from the allegation of being a supporter of the party that I have the honour to lead, and which has a long record of, at the worst, tolerant sympathy for the Labour party, and at the best, very strong support for the Labour party, said this in its issue of the 10th February - .
By deciding for a general strike on 1st May, and thereafter to enforce a 40-hour working week, whatever the finding of the Court, the A.C.T.U. lias delivered a heavy blow at the arbitration system, and ranged itself with the extremists whose influence has been manifest in much recent turmoil.
A little later, it said -
Implicit in this policy is defiance of all authority, and a declaration of industrial war on the public.
Those words are moderate, and true. The public of Australia will want to know what the Commonwealth Government is proposing to do about the matter. Are we, the people of Australia - because, after all, we are the people of Australia - to sit mumchance while this state of affairs drifts on? Is every housewife in Australia to be looking forward to the 1st May as the day on which all the dislocations of life will again begin? Is there no public interest in these matters? If there is one body in the whole of this community which ought to express the public interest, which ought to stand resolutely for the law, which ought to use every conceivable means to turn the Australasian Council of Trade Unions back from this mad course, it is the Government of a Parliament only recently elected by the Australian people. But the Government does nothing.
The last matter that I want to occupy any time of the House about is my fourth charge, the charge which is associated with tax reductions. There is very great danger that we shall talk about tax reductions so much that they will achieve an almost humorous character. Yet there is nothing humorous about them. This country, and every section of its people, need tax reductions. The burdens that are laid upon the Australian people to-day are too great to be indefinitely borne. In 1945-46, the last completed financial year, the yield from personal income tax, on the Treasurer’s figures, was £139,000,000, and the yield from social services contribution was £20,000,000. The prima facie cost, therefore, in a full year, of the 20 per cent, cut which was referred to in my own policy speech, would after making necessary adjustments have been of the order of something under £30,000,000. Let me take it at £30,000,000, merely for the purposes of argument. The party that I have the honour to lead has considered right through that tax cuts would be so stimulating, if they were real cuts, that national income would rise with higher production, and that the prima facie cost of them, accordingly, would be considerably reduced. But let me, notwithstanding all that, take £30,000,000 as the figure. What happened? My right honorable colleague, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), and I were both roundly assailed during the election campaign. We were accused of bribery, of being dishonest people. When the election was over, some of my friends on the other side of the House lost no opportunity of claiming that the people gave this Government a victory at the polls because they did not accept the Opposition’s tax reduction proposals as being either practicable or seriously intended. That is the claim that they made - “ The people did not believe you. They were not satisfied that you meant business. They were not satisfied that you could make the reductions. They thought that the whole matter was purely illusory”. Yet, notwithstanding those facts, in the last budget the right honorable gentleman at the table (Mr. Chifley) made reductions of indirect taxes; and he made them with that disarming appearance of mild generosity which he can assume so readily. He made concessions in respect of indirect taxes, sales tax, and customs and excise, which he estimated would be worth £20,000,000 in a full year and £11,500,000 for the remainder of the current financial year. His bitterly disappointed supporters on the other side, recovering themselves with that rapidity which characterizes the Labour party, sat up, smiled, and said “Very good; most satisfying; this is a splendid idea; now you come to mention it, we on our side do not want reductions of income tax ; now you come to remind us, dear sir, we realize that your reductions of indirect taxes are exactly what the doctor ordered “. And with that sickly expression of pretended satisfaction on their faces, they went out. It is very interesting to them, I trust, as well as to others, to read the figures that are issued from time to time by the Treasury. Seven months of the financial year ended on the 31st January of this calendar year. In that period of seven months, if the money had come in from customs duties at the rate estimated in the budget - that is to say, if we take the clue proportion of the total budget estimate for that period of seven months - we would have had from customs receipts £21,583,000. But, in fact, we had £24,875,000. If the budget had merely been lived up to, we would have had from excise receipts in that seven months £30,333,000. But, in fact, we had £33,072,000. When we turn to sales tax, the reductions in which were so acclaimed by my friends on the other side, or appeared to be, if the estimate had been lived up to we would have had £18,083,000, whereas in actual revenue we got £24,323,000. If honorable members, following their invariable practice of perusing in Hansard with the greatest care the speeches that I address to them, will add up those figures, they will find that, if the budget estimates had been lived up to, we would have had in round figures from the sources mentioned £70,000,000, whereas in fact the revenue has been £82,250,000. That is £12,250,000 above the estimates in respect of customs excise and sales tax. There may be some one somewhere who says, “Yes, naturally, the Government has more than it estimated, but still its revenue is lower than in the previous year, and so it really has not anything to play with “. In order to check that, I looked up the figures and I found that on the Treasurer’s own circulated figures, customs and excise revenue for the seven months ended the 31st January, 1946, amounted to £42,500,000, whereas for the seven months ended the 31st January this year it amounted to over £57,000,000. That is to say, it- rose by £15,500,000 between January, 1946, and January, 1947. That indicates to us very vividly that unexpected additions to revenue - unexpected by the Go,vernment but clearly anticipated by us on this side - have in seven months improved the Government’s capacity to reduce taxes by £12,000,000 or £13,000,000. But on the expenditure side, concerning which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) made some criticisms and prophecies in earlier speeches, what has happened? The announced expenditure for the seven months ended the 31st January this year was £217,000;000, whereas, the budget estimates made it £236,000,000. If we take those two things together - a reduction, or lag, of expenditure and the surplus revenue - the effect is that at this moment the Government is £30,000,000 better off than it expected to be according to its budget estimates. As it happens, that is the very figure for a full year which I had in mind when I advocated a reduction by 20 per cent, of the tax in respect of personal incomes. These are facts that are worthy of examination. If the figures are wrong they are certainly worthy of contradiction. I am certain that when the Leader of the Australian Country party examines the figures with his special knowledge, it will be found that my figures are a very modest account of the situation. That is what has arisen only a few months after an election in which those who advocated tax reductions were told that they were either rogues or fools. It is up to the Government and its supporters-
Mr. James interjecting,
– It is up to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), as one of the supporters of the Govern ment who has advocated tax reductions, to do something. On other occasions the honorable member has poured crocodile tears all over the table about the tax burden on the coal-miners and has told us that that is why the miners will not work. If he wants tax reductions it is up to him to put a little pressure on the “ do-nothing government “ which he supports, in order to get for the people of Australia the tax reductions which are abundantly feasible on any examination of the figures. Yet, in spite of that, there is no hint of reduced taxes, although the burden of taxation is undoubtedly one of the main causes leading to slackness of production, and a general feeling of frustration in the community which is threatening to become fixed into either complete irresponsibility or complete despair.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in his opening remarks referred to the appointments of certain former members of this Parliament as political jobbery. I wonder whether he has taken his mind back over the years to the time when his predecessors, who represented the same political philosophy, made appointments to various positions. I am not one of those who believe that because a man has occupied a political position he is unable to detach himself from politics and act impartially. Had I held that belief I could have criticized the appointment to the High Court of the present Chief Justice, as he had been engaged in the political life of this country for a long time and was indeed a bitter political opponent of the Labour party.
– Or the appointment to the High Court of the present AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt).
– I never had anything but complete confidence that Sir John Latham would discharge his high duties with complete honesty and impartiality, because I regarded him as a. completely honest man. As Chief Justice of the High Court, a body entrusted with the interpretation of the Constitution under which Australia is governed, he occupies what I believe to be the most important position in. this country. Time has justified my confidence in Sir John Latham. Nothing that has happened since he has occupied his present position has caused me to change that opinion. I take my mind hack also to the appointment of the present Acting Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court. He was previously a member of the Senate and was violently engaged in the political struggle. Indeed, he was more than an ordinary politician because he was campaign director for the conservatives.
– He was appointed to the Arbitration Court after he had lost his seat as a senator.
– I do not think that that enters into the matter at all. A nian is no less able, and no less honest, because he has ceased to command the support of the electors. If it were otherwise, Mr. Winston Churchill would never have been Prime Minister of England, because he was defeated on a number of occasions. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), who has had a long experience of arbitration matters, will, I believe, agree with me that in the determinations of Acting Chief Judge Drake-Brockman there is not any evidence of political bias. The policy which he espoused when a politician has not influenced him in his judgments.
Let me come to more recent happenings - the appointment to various positions of a number of defeated Labour candidates by the Lyons Government. At the time I admired that Government’s- tolerance, generosity and broad outlook. I shall not mention the names of the men concerned, but evidently the Lyons Government believed that their experience in this Parliament and their knowledge of world affairs which had been revealed in their speeches in this Parliament qualified them for appointment to such positions. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), when Leader of a Government, made at least one appointment of that nature and I congratulate him on being broad-minded enough to do so. The right honorable gentleman said that he did not criticze the appointment to high positions overseas of Mr. Makin, Mr. Beasley, and Mr. Forde, men with a long record of public service in this Parliament whose honesty and integrity are beyond question. Therefore, I accept his assurance that their appointments are outside the field of his criticism, but he did criticize the appointment of certain other ex-members of Parliament. Well, in regard to those appointments, I should have thought that three years, or six years, experience as a member of this House, with opportunities to listen to debates and hear the views of honorable members, and to acquire the knowledge and information which can be gleaned by a studious member, would constitute an admirable training for a man who might be appointed to represent this country abroad. Assuming that the man was of sound intelligence and possessed a reasonable outlook on life, even though he might be attached to some political philosophy, I should have thought that his experience as a member of this Parliament would in itself be a qualification for an overseas appointment. If the Leader of the Opposition means that the men concerned are not of sufficient intelligence to warrant their appointment, let him say that, apart from their politics, he believes them to be incompetent to fill the positions they hold. However, he did not say that, and even if he had, it would still be a. matter of opinion as to who is competent and who is not. I recall that Mr. Fenton, a defeated member of this Parliament, was appointed to the directorate of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, to which, as the Leader of the Opposition has reminded us, Mr. Martens has been appointed. Mr. Martens served as a member of this Parliament over a long period of years, and his service did not bring him great rewards. He was always regarded as a man possessing broad views and an impartial outlook on world affairs. The appointment which he received with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited cannot be regarded as a lucrative one. As I have said, a previous government appointed Mr. Fenton to the position, and although succeeding governments could have removed him they did not do so. He remained in that position for many years until he had attained a great age, and made room for some one younger.
– Some one younger?
– I remind the honorable member that there is a considerable difference between the 70’s and the 80’s, as he himself will find out if he lives long enough.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the appointment to the Governor-Generalship. I have no wish to burke discussion on that subject. The right honorable gentleman suggested that because the Governor-General designate had been actively associated with party politics up to the time his appointment was approved he was an unsuitable person for the position, and that his appointment would in some ways weaken the bonds uniting Australia and the United Kingdom. I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition made it clear that the Crown is in no way involved, in this matter. He said that the appointment was made without any other names being submitted to His Majesty by me as Leader of the Government. That is true. When I was previously a member of this Parliament, Sir Isaac Isaacs, who was then Chief Justice of the High Court, was appointed Governor-General. His appointment was criticized on precisely the same grounds as those on which the present appointment is being objected to, and the then Opposition joined in the criticism.
– His offence was that he was an Australian.
– Sir Isaac Isaacs had long been dissociated from politics, and he occupied a high position as Chief Justice of the High Court, but the same violent opposition was offered to his appointment as is offered to-day to the appointment of Mr. McKell. I, as Leader of the Government, accept full responsibility for the nomination of Mr. McKell, and I offer no apologies for having made it. I am completely confident that as time goes on I shall have no reason to regret my action. I recommended his appointment as a distinguished Australian who had retained the confidence of the people of his own State in the political field for his administrative capacity over a considerable period. Mr. McKell will bring to the position a ripe experience of affairs, and a knowledge of administra tion in Australia. He will bring with him also a full appreciation of the aspirations and ideals of the Australian people. Let me remind honorable members that a South African, a man who was also a politician, was appointed GovernorGeneral on the recommendation of a government with which Field Marshal Smuts was associated. Speaking later on the subject, Field Marshal Smuts declared that the appointment of a citizen of South Africa as GovernorGeneral in no way weakened the ties linking that dominion to the Mother Country. I maintain that the position is the same in Australia. Any Australian citizen of sufficient ability, reputation and integrity of character is entitled to occupy the position of Governor-General.
The Leader of the Opposition also had something to say ‘about the industrial position, and about arbitration, but he contradicted in the latter part of his speech what he had said in the beginning. I make no attempt to condone some of the things which have occurred in the industrial field, and which I regret. However, the right honorable gentleman said that the wage-pegging regulations were, ir. some degree, responsible for industrial unrest, and that the stoppages which had occurred were the result of direct action aimed at the wage-pegging regulations. Ir. the latter part of his speech he pointed out that a recent resolution adopted by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions was directed towards the establishment of a 40-hour working week. Not for a long time has there been any restriction on the Arbitration Court to prevent it from dealing with claims for a 40-hour week. Therefore, any unrest that raa7 have arisen because of a desire on the part of unions to achieve a 40-hour working week can have no reference to wage-pegging regulations. As a matter, of fact, the Arbitration Court has for seme months past been hearing claims in respect of the 40-hour week. Similarly, no industrial unrest that has occurred in connexion with applications for an increased basic wage can be attributed to the existence of wage-pegging regulations. As was recently proved, no restriction has been placed upon the court in determining what the basic wage should be.
In respect of those two fundamental industrial matters, hours and the basic wage, the court is in no way fettered by the provisions of the wage-pegging regulations.
As to the wage-pegging regulations themselves, it is true, as the Lea.der of the Opposition well knows, that prior to the war with Japan some form of wage-pegging was found to be necessary in order to prevent employers offering unduly attractive wages to secure labour of certain types. Unless some control of that description had been instituted there would have been industrial chaos in this country. The right honorable gentleman knows what happened in regard to highly skilled tradesmen in the engineering trades. He is well aware that in the big cities some employers - I do not place them all in that category - seeing a chance of reaping a quick profit under the cost-plus system, did not care how much the Government had to pay for their products. Only by the institution of the cost-plus system was the Government able to induce many manufacturers to undertake certain classes of work. It was an inevitable expedient in those days because many industrialists had not the requisite equipment or experience in the production of certain requirements essential for the prosecution of the war. The government of the day was therefore forced to adopt a system under which manufacturers were paid a profit on their cost of production, irrespective of what those costs might have been. I do not condemn them for that nor do I condemn the system ; in the circumstances the Government had no option but to meet in that way the extraordinary position created by the war. As I have said, however, one of .the weaknesses of that system was that some manufacturers did not care how much they paid for their badly needed skilled men.
– The Prime Minister is not under the impression that I said the wage-pegging regulations should not have been promulgated?
– I must confess that I drew an inference of that kind from what the right honorable gentleman said, though I would not have thought he believed that.
– I have consistently made it clear that I thought these controls were quite properly instituted at the time.
– I shall briefly trace the history of these regulations. It was found that, under the cost-plus system, certain manufacturers were prepared to buy labour at any price. The right honorable gentleman will agree that if some action had not been taken to peg wages chaos would have resulted. The Amalgamated Engineering Union realized at once that this vieing for labour could not go on and accordingly it agreed to what was the first wage-pegging regulation, that covering the engineering trades. It has, however, been realized by everybody that wage-pegging, apart from providing stability to the community and maintaining a reasonable price level and a stabilized ‘ economy, undoubtedly created grave hardships for some people who, as the result of it, have not been able to get what has been called wage justice. But it was a matter of the greatest good for the greatest number, of what was best for the whole community in the circumstances. As the war progressed, the Curtin Government was compelled to enforce a much more rigid form of wagepegging. I do not think that anybody, even its most rabid critic would assume that the Labour party found the institution of rigid wage-pegging a popular act and that it did not regret the necessity for the imposition on the great body of unionists of such restrictive conditions. However, in the face of what was a national emergency, it had no alternative but to do so, and in the interests of the general welfare of the nation, it did not hesitate to do so. That condition of affairs continued during the period of the war and for some time after the war had ended. Prior to, and at the last elections, however, the Government made it clear that as soon as it was practicable to do so and as opportunity offered, and in the judgment pf the government - which of course could be right or wrong - circumstances permitted, the wage-pegging regulations would be relaxed from time to time. The first relaxation covered hours and the basic wage. The Government’s promise in that direction has been kept. The
Leader of the Opposition refers to that relaxation as appeasement of the workers. One has to strain one’s imagination to agree with him on that point. In this country there are still many manufacturers who, seeing a plenitude of money in the community and an opportunity to sell their goods in short supply at high prices, care little what wages they pay because the prices of their products are fixed upon costs of production, plus a margin of profit on their turnover. In these circumstances they are still prepared to offer what might be called attraction, rates of pay which, in the long run, can only be disastrous to the general economy of the nation.
There are other circumstances that must be guarded against, namely, those that arise as the result of employers and employees engaged in industries which are almost monopolistic coming together and reaching an agreement - no matter bow extravagant they may be - with a certainty that they will be permitted to pass on to the consuming public the excessive costs arising from such agreements. A number of instances of this kind has been brought to my notice. Agreements of that kind have, in turn, a peculiar effect on other sections of industry which seek to obtain similar conditions. Because of all the circumstances - I shall not recapitulate them, because they are well-known to honorable members - the Government has relaxed the. wage-pegging regulations very considerably. It has now given to all industrial tribunals the right to make certain increases in marginal rates and I assume that the standard applied in respect of employees working under awards will also be applied to cover people who are not covered by awards. The formula for the increase of marginal rates is a simple one. Notwithstanding general rises in costs since 1939, due to wage-pegging, marginal rates have changed only to a minor degree, until now the purchasing power of wage margins, based on the 1939 level, is approximately 25 per cent, less than it was in- 1939. In order to rectify that position industrial tribunals in Australia have been given the right to increase marginal rates by 25 per cent., and to add to wages an additional amount of 3s. a week. In addition, in- cases where margins were very low prior to the war - in some cases they may have been only 2s. or 3s. - the industrial authorities may now make reasonable adjustments of marginal rates. Every industrial tribunal in Australia now has that right, and where it is thought that adequate justice cannot be done by the application of the formula, a case may be referred to the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court to be dealt with on other grounds.
The Acting Chief Judge himself pointed out n week or two ago that he had very wide power, almost as wide, in fact, as he would normally have in the absence of wage-pegging regulations. Some people may ask why the same wide power cannot be given to any industrial authority, but I point out that we have some rather painful experiences, particularly with one or two State Arbitration Court judges who have adjusted claims in such a way as to place the conditions of certain groups of employees completely out of uniformity with general industrial conditions. At present, any industrial authority may submit to the Acting Chief Judge a case for the consideration of a particular matter without regard to the general formula, and if the Acting Chief Judge decides that an adjustment can be made without destroying any uniformity that may exist throughout the Commonwealth, he can give to the industrial authority concerned permission to make an award. As an instance of the harm that may be done, I point out that in Melbourne not long ago there was a transport strike because somebody allowed certain penalty rates for Saturday and Sunday work. That decision was so completely out of harmony with the general trend of awards in this industry that immediately a whole crop of industrial troubles arose. I remind the House, however, that not all industrial disputes are attributable to wage pegging. For instance, the recent strike of gas-works employees could have been adjusted at any time. The wagepegging regulations were not a hindrance to a settlement in that case, and, in fact, an agreement was reached up to a certain point, but the Acting Chief Judge decided that one special matter should go to the
Full Court. There was no restriction upon the Acting Chief Judge or the court itself in dealing with this matter.
I come now to another phase of the Leader of the Opposition’s charges against this Government, namely, industrial troubles that constitute a direct attack upon the arbitration system. I firmly believe that there are some people, be they communists, near communists, or otherwise, who are determined to destroy the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as the federal industrial authority in this country. I regret, too, that a great body of trade unionists in this country have allowed themselves to be led into passing resolutions and making decisions which they must realize, if their sanity and love for their own country prevails, can only result in industrial and economic chaos. Trade unionists and Communists are not the only members of the community who are blameworthy in this regard. The daily press, which from time to time has been one of the bitterest critics of such controls as wage pegging and price fixing, the aim of which is the preservation of the economic stability of the country, has been just as irresponsible on some occasions as so-called communists and others whose object has been to foment industrial agitation. Neither I, nor my colleague the Minister for Air and Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), who has had longer experience of arbitration matters than I, has ever pretended that the Arbitration Court is perfect. Far from it. For instance, undoubtedly on occasions there has been undue delay in hearing -cases, with the result that, over the years, the grievances of the workers against the court have accumulated. Well, before long the Parliament will have an opportunity to say how this situation should be met; but, in all the circumstances, I believe that this country, during six years of war, and in the difficult period since the end of the war, has not been entirely unfortunate and I think that the workers should at least endeavour to assist whomever is responsible for providing improved ^economic benefits - ‘but providing them ,in an orderly way. As I have said, the Arbitration Court itself has not fulfilled all the hopes that were held at its inauguration. The proposed strike of 1,000,000 trade unionists in this coun- try - they represent a substantial proportion of the population of Australia when one includes also their families and dependants - would be very foolish indeed. But what action would the right honorable gentleman take against 1,000,000 striking trade unionists?
– Prosecute the leaders.
– That has been tried once or twice. In this House not long ago I gave an instance of what happened to a government in New South Wales that gaoled and leg-ironed so-called trade union leaders. In fact I gave the history of two governments that employed these tactics. I do not say that was the only reason why they were defeated but defeated they certainly were. I do not believe that coercive action against 1,000,000 people could possibly succeed.
– Who has suggested that it could ?
– Lf the Opposition does not believe that coercion could succeed, why do honorable members opposite suggest it? There is a limit to which the law can be applied in the enforcement of discipline and I suggest that in no case involving a breach of the law by hundreds of thousands of people has the law been applied. Apart altogether from the efficiency of our arbitration machinery, the entire world to-day is in a state of turbulence. Industrial and economic dislocation is not peculiar to this country; it is world-wide, and is due to the unleashing of emotions pent up during yea.rs and years of war. The conduct of the war necessitated the changing of old laws a.nd the imposition of new laws. Hundreds of thousands of men in the armed forces saw even military laws flouted. War service to a great majority of men meant the frustration of their ambitions and the dislocation of their domestic and economic life. How can we expect them so soon to exhibit great national spirit and love of country ? They have returned to the civil community suffering from emotionalism and, looking at the world picture, they cannot help but feel further frustrations. The men and women who fought and worked and the relatives of those who died in the six years of world carnage and devastation have a sense of frustration. They witness the difficulty that the nations of the world are meeting with in their efforts to produce a period of peace in which living conditions will be better and in which people and nations will be more tolerant towards each other. It is easy for anyone who wants to attack a political party to tickle the ears of the unthinking by making sensational charges such as we daily read in the press and hear from politicians. We are all inclined to be sensational. Even I and members of mv party have been guilty of that. It is because we are human and like to raise a cheer and become popular. I have been amazed at the change that has taken place in the outlook of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who, since becoming a politician and a member of this Parliament, has shown intolerance and partiality instead of the tolerance and impartiality that he displayed when he and I were together in another field. I know that the honorable gentleman will pardon, me for having mentioned his name, because I have done so only to illustrate what has happened to the minds of men in this difficult period. He could say quite truthfully about me what I have said about him. So we have this feeling of frustration abroad. People doubt the capacity of governments to bring about the better world that they hope for. Their feelings are being played upon all the time by the making of striking statements, the delivery of ultimatums and sensationalism of all kinds. All I want to say is that we shall have ample opportunity when the bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act comes before us to debate activities in the industrial field. I think all honorable members will agree that industrial peace depends not so much on laws as on restoration in the minds of the people of love for their country and a desire to do their best for each other. Tolerance is needed amongst the trade unionists and also amongst the employers, not only towards their employees but also towards one another. We all know that bitterness exists amongst sections of the employers. That old friend of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), Mr. Gregory
Foster, who is well known in the coalmining industry, came here-
– What has all this to dr with the motion of want of confidence? It is like the flowers that bloom in the spring.
– Order! The honorable member for Wentworth will be admiring the flowers if he does not remain quiet.
– The charge is that responsibility for a great deal of industrial unrest and the inability to cure the economic and industrial ills can be laid entirely at the door of this Government. I take that as being, in effect, the charge levelled by the Leader of the Opposition. I -have no doubt that it will be repeated by some other Opposition members. It is as well to make it clear that, strive as you may to meet the situation, you cannot remove the psychological influences in a day. My hope is to bring back, not by laws, a realization among workers and employers alike of their obligations to one another and a spirit that will ensure a better state of affairs in the industrial life of the country.
The right honorable gentleman’s references to reduction of taxation were a repetition of what he and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), in .more technical detail, as the right honorable gentleman has stated have said before. We shall have an opportunity to discuss taxation matters in detail later, because certain proposals to amend the taxation laws will be brought before thisHouse after they have been approved by the Labour party. Honorable members will then be able to traverse the whole field of taxation. I cannot say when that legislation will be introduced, whether it will be soon or late, but it will be introduced. I made a simple statement previously that when economic circumstances permitted it, taxes, direct and’ indirect, would be reduced. A very substantial reduction of indirect taxes wasmade last year. The Leader of the Opposition repeated the charge that I and other members of the Labour party accused him and the Leader of the Australian Country party of dishonesty in. their taxation proposals during the last general elections. I dealt with that matter briefly the last time we met. I said then that it was perfectly proper for the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party to tell the public that taxes should be reduced by 20, 30 or 50 per cent, if they liked to do so. Whether it was capable of accomplishment, I said, was another matter. The public are sceptical about promises made by political leaders during election campaigns. That was not a field that I proposed to enter. I was not at the auction market. But I did say that I thought that the proposal that taxes should be reduced was politically dishonest when, having said that, both right honorable gentlemen talked about some sort of contributory tax, not specified in pounds, shillings and pence, for social services.”
The Leader of the Opposition made a veiled reference to the introduction of national insurance, to which he is wedded now, as he was wedded before as a member of the Lyons Government. To promise national insurance was perfectly proper, but the people ought to have been told what it would cost them. They ought to have been told the truth. When the Opposition promised the people a reduction of taxes on the one hand, it ought to have told them what it proposed to do on the other to finance national insurance. But what did the Leader of the Australian Country party have to say about a contributory tax? This party is pledged to do, and has done, more than any other government since federation in the field of providing the people with social security. The Opposition parties, when they were in power for years, had a great opportunity to make increased provision for social security. They brought in one measure to provide child endowment and make certain adjustments in other social security services, but it was not until the Labour party took office that any real social security work was done in this country. It was the Curtin Government that brought down measures to provide social security to people who, through no fault of their own, fall on evil days. When we did that we found the Opposition trying to outbid us in the social security field. It knew that the
Curtin Government had done something that appealed to the people. Consider its proposal that endowment should be paid for the first child at a cost of about £20,000,000 a year. I can imagine the feelings of the Leader of the Australian Country party, with his technical mind about taxation, when he heard about that. I do not blame him for advocating his party’s, proposal. The right honorable gentleman has never spoken to me personally about the matter, but I can imagine, from his thorough knowledge of the mathematics of taxation, how he felt about that proposition. The Labour party has made considerable progress in granting social services to the people. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has consistently tried to make political capital out of our policy. Far from complaining about his attitude, I desire to cite his example. As the Minister for Labour and National Service in the Menzies Government, he introduced the child endowment legislation, and deserves every credit for having done so. Since then, in his speeches, he has made pointed reference to the fact that social services have been considerably expanded. Indeed, the Labour party has increased social services to a greater degree than all previous Commonwealth governments. I return now to the subject of taxation.
– “ Return “ is the correct word.
Mp. CHIFLEY.- Before the last elections, the Labour party made certain promises and it has never broken its promises. An honest individual, and a political party, should always be reluctant to make promises unless they are completely certain that they will be able to keep them, having regard to possible changing circumstances in the future. I do not propose to exceed the period which has been allotted to me. because only a limited time is available for the debate, and, undoubtedly, a considerable number of honorable members will desire to participate in it. At a later stage - not immediately - I shall make a statement regarding the Government’s policy on the reduction of taxes. The Treasury has increasing commitments, and I do not believe that honorable members who advocate substantial reductions of taxes are looking as far ahead as they should, because they must realize that we are passing through a difficult economic period. Indeed, economic conditions may become even more difficult in the future.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to wage-pegging. He made it perfectly clear that he realized that wage-pegging and price control were desirable. Incidentally, I remind the House that price control was not introduced by the Labour Government. The Leader of the Opposition declared that the continuance of price control was essential, although the Government’s announcement of its retention was greeted with moans and groans of protest. “We have to evolve a policy which will best serve the interests of the whole community, even though pressure groups here and there, by kicking up a row, endeavour to bring pressure to bear on some particular individual or section of a political party in the hope of influencing the whole economic situation. I do not propose to discuss the subject of taxation at great length now. From time to time in the past, we have heard a great deal about it. But I have no doubt - I am not making any promises at this stage - that at the appointed hour and not as the result of any pressure from any person, or groups or even the Opposition, ample opportunity will be given to honorable members to discuss this matter.
.- As the Leader of the Australian Country party, I wholeheartedly and vigorously associate myself with the motion of censure which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has so ably moved. Admirable as his speech was, I consider that it benefited by comparison with the vain and futile endeavour by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to reply to his criticism. Indeed, it may be truthfully said that the Prime Minister replied to everything except the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition. Since the Parliament went into recess last December, every responsible Australian must have been impressed by the degree to which the national integrity and economic stability have drifted. The posi- tion has gone from bad to worse. The administration of the Labour Government has been marked by decided weakness, gross partiality, political impropriety and a total lack of realism regarding finance. Those who have studied the general situation and the maladministration of this Government must recognize with concern the degree to which parliamentary authority and the rule of law have been dissipated.
I have always believed that the fundamental reason for the industrial and commercial discontent which Australia is experiencing is that oppressive and unscientific taxation is now inflicted upon the people. To attempt to prevail upon the Prime Minister to accept the point of view of the Australian Country party and taxpayers generally would be nearly as futile as endeavouring to push an elephant up a hill. From time to time, the right honorable gentleman has explained that the day will arrive when taxes will be reduced. At the beginning of the last election campaign, he informed the people that taxes could not possibly be reduced. Shortly afterwards, he shifted his ground slightly by stating that he could not promise reductions of tax until he knew what would be the future defence commitments of Australia as an integral part of the British Empire. When that horse did not run true to form, he again changed his ground, and promised that taxes generally would be reviewed from time to time. “ Reviewed from time to time “, but with what objective? If he has reviewed taxes, he has certainly kept the result of his investigations to himself. So far as I am able to ascertain, no person or group, with the possible exception of caucus and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, has been taken into his confidence. We have not been supplied with the essential data that would enable responsible people to assess the nature of the commitments at which the right honorable gentleman has hinted.
In my opinion, the Government is deserving of censure, if only for its failure to substantially reduce direct taxes. The economic situation of Australia supports a reduction of taxes, and all the information available to honorable members certainly confirms our claim that the existing high rates should be reviewed. The promises of substantial reductions, which we made before the last elections, could and would have been observed in their entirety because the resources of Australia, both real and potential, are available for that purpose. But what is the attitude of the Prime Minister towards reducing taxes? He appears to adopt the role of a miser who counts his money every evening. After having looked at it, he puts it back into the drawer, hoping that it will accumulate overnight. According to his view, taxes must be collected, and the total receipts known, before he will reduce the present rates. He exhibits a most pessimistic outlook towards the future of this fair country. Indeed he has a poor opinion of the developmental and expansive capacity of Australia. He does not appear to realize that a reduction of taxes will bring about contentment in industry, encourage employees to work overtime, and increase the incentive to produce. Honorable members must recognize that it is production which finds the wherewithal of government. The Government does not create money. It collects money, and expends it. The extent and wisdom of that collection and expenditure depends upon production. What is the history of production in Australia? I shall prove, in the course of my speech, that production is rapidly declining, to our national disadvantage, particularly in the rural industries. If the incentive to produce depends upon lower taxes than those operating at present, is it not time that the Government acted ? I am positive that a reduction of direct taxes will be a major factor in removing industrial discontent, absenteeism, and other things which are so disastrously militating against the establishment of a sound economy in Australia, and the discharge of our international obligations.
The Prime Minister’s stubborn antitaxreduction policy undoubtedly contains the seeds of an internal depression. This policy of maintaining taxes at excessively high levels is killing the incentive to produce. As an accountant, I make that statement with the authority of my professional experience. The life of every taxation specialist in Australia is made miserable from March until the end of each taxation year by clients asking for assessments of the amounts of tax that they will be required to pay. Upon these estimates, the clients gauge the efforts that they will make in the last quarter of the tax year to sell stock or harvest crops. A nation cannot afford to tolerate such conditions. Australia cannot remain static; it must go forward or go backwards. The Government has a responsibility to ensure that full advantage shall be taken of the nation’s productive potentialities, so that Australia may advance and at the same time help the starving peoples of the world. The basic and urgent necessity of government administration at present is a substantial and sensible reduction of direct taxes. Reduced taxes would encourage manufacturers to produce goods, and increased production would bring into existence goods which are now in short supply. The fact that goods are in short supply is the reason for rationing and prices control. The best way to eliminate the need for such controls is to encourage competition, and the best way to foster competition is to increase the supply of goods. The economic welfare and the happiness of the Australian people depend upon a wise policy of tax reduction, but the Government has stubbornly refused to acknowledge this fact.
Recently the workers were granted a 7s. a week increase of the basic wage. This increase brought their incomes into higher taxation groups. The result is that employers now have to pay more wages and employees have to pay more taxes, so that the Treasury receives a greater income. Employers must also contribute more pay-roll tax on their increased wages bills; therefore their production costs have increased, and this has caused the cost of living to rise. This increase ultimately falls on the shoulders of the workers. They represent the terminal point in the economic structure beyond which the increase cannot be passed. The most scientific way to increase wages, namely, a sensible reduction of direct taxes, is readily available to the Government. Such a reduction would represent the transference of money now available to the Government to the pockets of individual taxpayers, who- would thus have greater purchasing power. Obviously, an increase of the workers’ real wages by means of a tax reduction would not add to the cost of living, because it would not increase costs of production. The price of tobacco was increased recently as the result of the withdrawal of the Government subsidy amounting to about £1,000,000 a year. This means that the worker has a few more pence taken out of his pocket each week for tobacco and cigarettes, although the Government is already extracting about 4s. a week in indirect taxes from the average smoker. According to information supplied to me by leading butchers in Brisbane, the £1 note to-day will buy only about 10s. worth of meat. There is every indication that the price of tea will be substantially increased when the Government carries out its plan to remove the subsidy which it now pays on that commodity. To-day’s newspaper reports foreshadow a removal of the subsidy paid on- cloth, which means that there will be a substantial increase of clothing prices.
We are taxed more heavily to-day in the aggregate than we were during the war years. Each set of monthly figures demonstrates strikingly that the Government’s financial position amply warrants a substantial tax reduction. Our visible resources alone, even if the Government has no faith in the nation’s productive potentiality, could enable taxes to be reduced. I showed that the Government could afford to reduce taxes considerably when I made my financial survey just prior to the last elections. The accuracy of that survey was afterwards conclusively proved by an analysis of the Treasurer’s budget statement. The figures in the budget showed that the promises which the Opposition made to the people at the elections could have been easily put into effect. However, what has happened ? When seven months of the financial year had passed. Australians had already paid £24,875,000 in customs duties, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, for the privilege of engaging in overseas trade. Smokers and drinkers had contributed £33,000,000 in excise, and housewives and other purchasers of goods subject, to sales tax had footed a bill amounting to £24,000,000. All of these figures are substantially in excess of the estimates of revenue submitted to the Parliament by the Treasurer. Apart from these huge sums, the harassed citizen paid into the Treasury a total of £113,877,000 in income tax, pay roll tax, entertainment tax, land tax, gold tax, gift duty, estate duty and miscellaneous dues in the first seven months of the financial year. The large items, such as customs and excise duties and sales tax, had exceeded the Treasurer’s estimate of revenue from those sources by some millions of pounds in each case. Cash receipts by the Treasury are still soaring beyond the Treasurer’s expectations. Governmental expenditure .should be materially reduced in this second year of peace, in view of the absence of the costs of war. But is it being reduced? Is a sufficiently keen check being maintained upon governmental expenditure? The answer is “ No “, as I shall prove by reference to only one or .two items of government expenditure. The Government does not have to finance a war now, and nearly 500,000 soldiers have been demobilized. Nevertheless, Australians are paying more and more in taxes with each succeeding year.
For the pre-war year 1938-39, taxes of every kind, State and Federal, amounted to just £18 per capita of the population. Last financial year, which was the first post-war year, taxes assessed on a comparable basis represents £51 per capita, or almost 300 per cent, of the pre-war figure. Nobody will be foolish enough to argue that we shall be able to return to the pre-war level of taxation. That is not possible. However, there is a great disparity between an amount of £18 per capita, and one of £51 per capita, and that disparity must be reduced in the interests of the economic well-being and future security of Australia. The Prime Minister and his colleagues claim that they have provided many social benefits for Australia. They have done nothing of the kind. They taxed the people at the highest possible level in order to meet the emergencies of war, and now, rather than reduce taxes and make the individual responsible for himself, they continue to impose excessive taxes in order to make the people subservient to their socialistic policy. There is no other explanation. Instead of allowing the individual to guide the destiny of his own cash, the Government considers that it can spend his cash collectively better than he can individually. That is consistent with socialistic policy, and it affords an explanation of the high taxation to which the people are now subjected. The object is to make the populace subservient to, and dependent- on, the “dole” policy of this Government. Nobody believes that he has not to pay for what is being done.
Let us analyse the reason for the establishment of the National Welfare Fund. No discerning person will be deceived. That fund was established because the Government was not courageous enough to tax the lower ranges of income. Admittedly it has taxed lower incomes than were taxed by administrations composed of the parties that now sit in Opposition, which observed the limit of £156 a year. Despite the Labour party’s resistance to our budget, it was compelled to realize the necessities imposed by the war, including the restriction of purchasing power, and reluctantly included in the ambit of taxation incomes as low as £104 a year. But it was not straightforward and honest, as we had been. It camouflaged the position, by telling the people on the lower ranges of income that it was establishing a National Welfare Fund, into which their contributions would be paid in order that provision might be made for social services in which they would participate. What is the state of the National Welfare Fund to-day? So far as real cash is concerned, it is financially bankrupt, because, in order to finance its administration, the Government has substituted treasury-bills for the amount that stood to its credit.
In the period between 1938-39 and 1945-46, the tax borne by housewives on goods such as groceries, clothing, footwear, soap, children’s sweets, baby carriages, and various other items on which reductions were made only in the last budget, increased from £1 7s. to over £4 10s. a head. In respect of customs and excise alone, the impost on the worker’s glass of beer, his packet of tobacco, and imported goods, rose from £6 17s. 6d. to £10 10s. a head. So the sorry story goes on. .These exceedingly high taxes have not been reduced appreciably. As we on this side prophesied, the effect of the reductions that have been made has been to increase the volume of the receipts. The wise trader reduces his selling price, recognizing that the deficiency will be made good by an increased turn-over. That has been the effect of the recent reductions of taxes, which were so reluctantly given. The rate of tax has been reduced, but the aggregate receipts have increased by many millions of pounds.
Linked with the Government’s taxation policy is the present and future fate of the great rural industries. The man on the land is not only suffering hardship because of crippling taxes, but is also at the mercy of the unsympathetic fiscal policy of the Government. It is well recognized that the land is the basis of all wealth. It supplies the material from which tax revenue is derived. Here is a picture of rural Australia, presented by the Commonwealth Statistician according to the latest figures available: Between 1943 and 1946, the number of sheep declined by 28,000,000 head, the number of dairy cattle by 132,000, and the number of ‘horses by 250,000. The Government has driven our export primary industries further into the morass into which war-time conditions and a disastrous man-power policy forced them. Without justification, the Government interfered with the stable pattern of marketing legislation that had been introduced and developed by the Australian Country party and the party associated with it prior to the war. “ The Government so altered the wheat legislation as to deprive the Wheat Board of its independence of decision. Under the Meat Export Control Act, it provided that the chairman of the Meat Export Control Board, its own nominee, should have the power to veto the whole of the decisions of the board. Not until this month did a member of the Ministry awaken to the fact that the great need of primary producers is stability of return. That is an inescapable basis of their security. This belated discovery was made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who declared that rural producers were apprehensive of the future. The honorable gentleman merely discovered what honorable members on this side of the House had been urging on the Government for the last four or five years.
The Government has been living in an atmosphere of optimism, and has been deceiving the people in regard to the stability of the policy it has been following. The Labour party stands condemned for having pursued a policy which has tended to create instability and uncertainty in rural industries, particularly the wheat and dairying industries. In the former, it was responsible for arbitrary and confusing price discrimination; and in the latter, it not only failed to give to the producers a payable price for their product, but also withheld from them money received from Great Britain on account of butter consignments from this country. Butter production has declined by 21,000 tons in the last three years. The President of the Queensland State Council of Dairymen recently informed me that the production for 1946-47 will be 76,000 tons less than the normal production. Wheat production at the present time is 11,000,000 bushels less than it was three years ago. Sugar production is about one-half what it then was; meat production has declined to a degree that is known to every one conversant with the industry; and maize production has declined by over 1,000,000 bushels. Primary production is the surest index of prosperity in Australia. To those who will take heed, I am sure that the figures F have given will prove startling. They illustrate the degree to which this country has retrogressed by reason of the policy pursued by the present Governin en t.
Linked very closely with both the taxation and the rural policies of the Government is the disclosure that was made yesterday, I believe rather inadvertently, by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in regard to sales of wheat to New Zealand. Members of the Opposition, and particularly of the Australian Country party, have referred to this matter repeatedly. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) raised it as long ago as the 16th July, 1946, after he had received information of a secret arrangement having been entered into between the Governments of New Zealand and Australia, which on the face of it was decidedly to the detriment and at the expense of tha Australian wheat-grower. The Government has been guilty of deception, evasion, and untruthful statements in connexion with this matter. In an endeavour to arrive at the truth in relation to the contract that had been made with New Zealand, the honorable member for Indi, on the 16th July, 1946, asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the following questions upon notice : -
To those questions the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) replied -
– The Government sold 4,500,000 bushels of wheat to New Zealand in January last at the price at which all other sales were being made at the time. This was done in consultation with the Wheat Board and with its full knowledge. The Government undertook to meet New Zealand representatives at a future date on the subject of future sales. This meeting has not yet taken place.
That was on the 16th July, 1946. I have here the New Zealand Hansard of Sth October, 1946, on page 522’ of which the Honorable D. G. Sullivan, Minister of Industries and Commerce, in reply to a question is reported to have said -
The understanding reached with the Australian Government on the 19th December, . 1945, with regard to wheat was that, subject to confirmation by .the 20th January, 1946, by the New Zealand Government, the Australian Government would supply New Zealand with 4,500,000 bushels of wheat in 1946 at 9s. 6d. per bushel f.o.b., sacks extra, and our requirements for the following four years at a price to be negotiated, but which was not to exceed 5s. 9d. per bushel f.o.b., with the possibility that the price might be lower than 5s. 9d. The Australian Government was advised that our requirements for the five years 1946-50 were estimated at 18,000,000 bushels. The acceptance of this offer was sent to the Australian Government by cablegram on the 20th January, 1940. No acknowledgment of our cablegram was expected or considered necessary, as it was merely an acceptance of the arrangement made with the honorable Mr. Scully, in Australia. That the arrangement is in force, and is being operated upon by the Australian Government, is evidenced by the fact that shipments of wheat have been, and still are, coming forward at the price arranged. No word was received from the Australian Government that the slightly delayed acceptance voided the contract.
On the 31st July Senator Allan MacDonald asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the following questions: -
In reply, he was informed -
That reply was an absolute evasion. In reply to Senator A. J. Eraser, the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Senate said, “ No “ when asked whether many sales had been made to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel. On the 31st July, 1946, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay) asked the following questions : -
The Minister, in reply, said that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. No.
That answer was given on the 31st July, 1946, but according to the New Zealand Minister the agreement had reached finality in the previous January. Even if there were no other reason for this motion of want of confidence, the facts which I have related to the House would justify the Government being censured. The Government has been guilty of a political misdemeanour. I could continue in a similar strain but I shall content myself by giving the history of this matter. In December, 1945, Mr. Sullivan stated in the New Zealand Parliament that an understanding had been reached with the Australian Government in regard to wheat trading. He stated that he had written to the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) setting out his understanding of the arrangements. He added that Mr. Scully had acknowledged his letter and that the arrangements had been confirmed. In January, 1946, the New Zealand Government, by cable to the Australian Government, accepted a proposal to buy 4,500,000 bushels of 1945-46 wheat at 9s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. New Zealand’s requirements for the next four years were to be met at a price to be negotiated, but which would not exceed 5s. 9d. a bushel. On the 4th July, 1946, in the New Zealand House of Representatives, Mr. Sullivan named the price for Australian 1945-46 wheat as 9s.1d. a bushel. On the same day he attempted unsuccessfully to have Hansard altered to read 9s. 6d. a bushel. On the 16th July, 1946, in this House, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) questioned the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture about the price of 9s.1d. a bushel mentioned by Mr. Sullivan and asked what other selling arrangements had been made. The Minister gave an evasive reply which has since proved to be dishonest. On the 31st July, 1946, Senator J. M. Fraser stated, in answer to a. question, that 1945-46 wheat was sold to New Zealand at 9s. 11½d. a bushel bagged and 9s. 6d. a bushel bulk. He also said that Australia had not entered into any agreement for the sale of wheat to New Zealand for 1947-48 and 1949. On the 13th September, 1946, in the New Zealand House of Representatives, Mr. Sullivan declined to explain Mr. Scully’s statements. His attitude was that it was not politic, in view of the forthcoming Australian elections, to participate in a discussion on the matter. On the 5th October. 1946, in the New Zealand Parliament, when Mr. Sullivan was attacked for his action in the matter, he produced a letter from Mr. Scully dated the 20th December, 1945, and gave a full account of the events which I have recited. On that occasion Mr. Fraser, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, said that if he had been askedpreviously why Mr. Sullivan had not made an explanation he would have advised Mr. Sullivan not to make it until after the Australian elections. [Extension of time granted.]
Silting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.
I have here copies of correspondence that passed between the appropriate Minister in the New Zealand Government and the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The first letter, dated from Sydney, on the 19th November, 1945, is from the New Zealand Minister, Mr. G. D. Sullivan, and is addressed to the then Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. It is as follows : -
Sydney, 19th December, 1946
Dear Mr. Scully, - Prior to my return to New Zealand I would like to place on record the understanding reached between us in connexion with New Zealand’s requirementsof wheat from Australia.
You have given me the following alternative quotations which are subject to acceptance by the New Zealand Government within a reasonable time, and I am hopeful of letting you have our decision prior to 20th January, 1946.
The alternative offers are set out hereunder : -
We pay 9s. 6d. f.o.b. for the 4,500,000 bushels to be taken by the 30th November, 1946, and thereafter for the following four years a price to be negotiated, but which will not exceed 5s. 9d. f.o.b. It is understood that there is a definite probability of the price being lower than5s. 9d., and that you will endeavour to secure, if possible, the fixing of a lower price.
You have agreed to supply our total requirements for the five years 1946 to 1950 inclusive, at present estimated at 18,000,000 bushels, but with the proviso that we limit our demands to 4,500,000 bushels in your wheat year ending 30th November, 1946.
May I also take this opportunity of thanking you for having given me the firm options as above. I realized the problem confronting your Government in Australia at the moment, and feel sure, too, you will subscribe to the necessity of our doing everything possible to assure a continuity of mutual trading between us. Accordingly, I will endeavour to obtain as quick a decision as to which method we will follow as soon after my arrival as possible.
To this letter, Mr. W. J. Scully, then Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, writing from Kembla Buildings, Margaret-street, Sydney, on the 20th December, 1945, replied -
Dear Mr. Sullivan, - I acknowledge your letter of 19th December confirming the understanding which we reached in regard to New Zealand requirements of wheat from Australia. I note that your Government will advise the Commonwealth Government of their decision in this matter before the 20th January, 1946.
With warmest personal regards and wishing you the compliments of the season.
Yours sincerely, (Signed) W. j. Scully.
Later, the following cablegram, dated the 26th January, 1946, was received by the
Australian Government from Mr. Sullivan, acting on behalf of the New Zealand Government -
Mr. Sullivan lias informed us of the cordial and helpful discussions he had with the members of your Government and officials regarding the arrangements for the purchase of wheat. In his letter to Mr. Scully dated 19th December alternative bases of purchase by the New Zealand Government were outlined, and we desire to inform you that we accept on the following basis: - New Zealand to pay 9s. Od. f.o.b. for the 4,500,000 bushels to be taken by 30th November, 1940, and thereafter for the following four years, a price to be negotiated which will not exceed 5s. 9d. f.o.b. It is understood that there is a definite probability of the price being lower than 5s. 9d. and that endeavours will be made to secure, if possible, the fixing of a lower price.
We wish to thank you for your co-operation and help and for the cordial and kindly way in which you received Mr. Sullivan and the officials who accompanied him.
This correspondence was first made public in the House of Representatives in New Zealand on the loth October, 1946, and is reported in the New Zealand Hansard, No. 19, for that year. I direct the attention of honorable members to the evidence of evasion, misrepresentation and, indeed, of dishonest practice which this correspondence discloses. In the light of such evidence it is difficult for us to believe what we are told in response to the questions which we, as representatives of the people, ask of Ministers of the Crown. This much is evident from the misleading and dishonest reply of Ministers to questions asked about the wheat industry and the dairying industry. I refer particularly to the disposal of the amount of £3,300,000, which the Commonwealth Government received from the Government of the United Kingdom on behalf of the dairy-farmers of Australia.
That is a disquieting record of crime against the accepted principles of democratic government. The Government’s recent attitude on this matter will not deceive anybody. There can be no doubt that it was not the intention of the Government to compensate the Australian wheat-grower for the difference between the contract price of os. 9d. a bushel agreed upon and the world parity price. There is no shadow of doubt that the pressure brought upon the Government by honorable members on this side of the House made it realize the degree to which the Government was again jeopardizing the future of the wheatgrowers of Australia by entering into a contract to sell Australian wheat to New Zealand at 5s. 9d.- a bushel when world parity price was ever so much more. As a matter of fact world parity price to-day is in the vicinity of 14s. 2d. a bushel. The Government was, however, reluctantly compelled to amend the proposal and to provide for payment to the growers of world parity price. “Who is to make up the margin of 8s. 5d. a bushel? Obviously it could not be made up by the wheatfarmer. It is not to be made up by the New Zealand Government, which has been made the recipient of a favoured agreement. (It is to be made up by the taxpayers of Australia. On 4,500,000 bushels the total difference between the contract price and world parity would represent £1,800,000 a year, and it is that amount which will have to be provided annually by the taxpayers of Australia. In other words the Australian taxpayers, the highest taxed persons in the world, will be called upon to subsidize the standard of living of the New Zealand people to an amount of £1,S00,000 per annum. That is what the Chifley Labour Government has done for us. Let us see what the Labour Government in New Zealand had to say just prior to the last elections. In its manifesto to the electors the New Zealand Labour party said -
The aim of the Labour Government is to give to the New Zealand people the highest living standard in the world.
The highest living standard in the world ! The Labour Government in this country has claimed that the Australian standard is the highest in the world. We leave it to the Labour Governments of the two countries to fight it out between themselves. Is it any wonder that we moved this motion of want of confidence? Is it any wonder the Australian public is sick and tired of the financial and economic humbug which characterizes the policy of this Government? Charity begins at home.- ‘Why should the Australian taxpayer be taxed to finance this ridiculous agreement? Nobody blames the New Zealand Government for getting the best possible deal for its people, but everybody realizes that there is a sensible maximum to which any country must limit ite charity. The Government should realize that it is unjust to mulct the Australian taxpayers by the imposition of this additional subsidy in the manner proposed. Let us relate this proposed £1,800,000 subsidy to certain economic factors in this country. According to the Commissioner of Taxation those with taxable incomes of £300 a year who have dependent wives and children contribute £1,600,000 in taxes. It can be safely said then that taxpayers with wives and children receiving an income of only £300 a year will, under this arrangement, subsidize the cost of living of the New Zealand people. Let us relate this £1,800,000 to what the Government has recently done with regard to the tobaccosmoking community of this country. The Government recently relieved the budget by removing the subsidy on tobacco by virtue of which the price of tobacco to the Australian smoker has been increased by an amount of £1,000,000 per annum. The Australian smoker will therefore be called upon to subsidize the New Zealand people by virtue of this rotten agreement. From whatever angle the searchlight of criticism is thrown on this Government, whether it be on its domestic, internal, external, financial or industrial policy, the Government must stand condemned in the eyes of every responsible and discerning member of the community.
– Under our democratic system the Government is of necessity properly subjected to criticism and must be ready to answer such criticism at any time. The very apex of criticism is reached when a motion of want of confidence is made in the House in relation to the activities or the alleged inactivities of a government. Accepting that, it is unusual to find a motion of this kind moved without full particulars of the matters complained of being placed before the House to-day. “We have no complaint on that score because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has indicated the broad lines of the attack being launched upon the Government. When a motion of this kind is made the Government is naturally anxious to deal fully with each ground of criticism. But this should be added, we should not lose sight of the fact that the two Chifley Govern ments are really a continuation of the Curtin Government, and that during the last five or six years it might fairly be said that Australia has been governed by the Curtin-Chifley Governments and that those Governments advance, not merely in answers to the few points of attack such as have been made here to-day, but on their positive record. They are governments which honorable members of the Opposition will, I think, admit did an excellent job for the country during the great crisis of war, a crisis which threatened our territorial integrity and the safety of our people, and their war-time record has been followed by a process of economic reconstruction which must stand as one of the most satisfactory in the world. Our soldiers have been rehabilitated. My friend and colleague, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction ,(Mr. Dedman) can give all details as to that. The accomplishments of the Curtin-Chifley Governments have indeed been very great, and it is against the background of their fine work and achievements that one must view a motion of this kind. There has been no attack, as far as I am aware, on the external policy of the Government.
Opposition Members! - Oh !
– I have not heard it. Who is to make it? One would expect that if such an attack is to be left to the rank and file of the Opposition it is not regarded as of real importance by the leaders of the two opposition parties. The Government can only direct attention to the precise grounds of censure made in the course of the debate. I would like to say only a word or two in regard to the criticism of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I have no doubt that his complaint in regard to the wheat agreement will be dealt with effectively by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). I gathered from the right honorable gentleman’s remarks that he does not object to the final agreement, and that his objection is related mainly to an alleged misstatement regarding it that was made some considerable time ago. The right honorable gentleman assumes that the price of wheat will always be above 5s. 9d. a bushel, but the whole basis of the stabilization scheme is that the price may go below 5s. 9d. a bushel. On that footing a very fair arrangement has been made with the people of New Zealand. Further discussion on that aspect of the agreement will no doubt take place when the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) makes his contribution to this debate. The Leader of the Australian Country party says, “ It is no wonder we moved a motion of want of confidence. Look at this wheat agreement”. As a matter of fact the wheat agreement with New Zealand was brought up in this House only yesterday afternoon, yet a motion of want of confidence in which the wheat agreement now appears to figure largely had been decided upon 24 hours before the making of the agreement was announced in this chamber.
Honorable members interjecting.
– Order ! There appears to ‘be an attempt at organized interruption of the AttorneyGeneral’s speech. So far in this debate, each speaker has been heard in silence, and I shall afford that privilegeto subsequent speakers. Any honorable member who seeks to interrupt a speaker will be named immediately.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) suggested that, there had been some unfair treatment of primary producers by Labour governments, but I remind him of the financial assistance that has been given to primary industries by those governments. From October, 1941, to December, 1946, subsidies paid to primary industries totalled £72,000,000, including £25,000,000 to the dairying industry, £12,000,000 to the wheat industry, and £15,000,000 for stock feed. To a substantial degree, the wheat and wool industries have been stabilized, and the entire debt structure of primary industries generally has been altered considerably as the result of the policy of the Labour governments during the past four or five years. It is estimated that the aggregate debt of primary producers of this country has been reduced by approximately £60,000,000 or £70,000,000 during that period. That figure may require some qualification owing to certain deductions to be made, but it clearly shows that since Labour has been in office in this country constant care and vigilance has been exercised over the welfare of primary producers, and by no one more than the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), who, I regret, has been attacked by the Leader of the Australian Country party. The right honorable gentleman also brushed aside the social services payments that have been made by Labour governments. For the current financial year, the estimated expenditure on social services is nearly £6S,000,000 compared with £17,000,000 prior to the war. New or improved social services introduced by the Curtin and Chifley Labour governments include increased pensions and improved conditions for invalid and old-age pensioners, funeral benefits for pensioners, pensions for widows, maternity allowances, sickness, hospital, and tuberculosis benefits. One illustration of the change is that the present rate of the invalid and old-age pension is 32s. 6d. a week, whereas when Labour took office in 1941 it was only 21s. 6d. a week. One cannot consider the question of taxation completely divorced from the fact that the modern State, whether it be Australia, New Zealand, or Great Britain, is becoming in some respects a social services State, recognizing as its legal duties the moral obligations discharged privately for so many years. In spite of that, taxes have been reduced. The annual value of tax reductions made by the Chifley Government since the end of the
Avar is no less than £61,000,000, including a reduction of £37,000,000 in income tax, £20,000,000 in sales tax, and £4,000,000 in customs and excise duties. As the Prime Minister previously announced, and repeated this morning, the Government is keeping the taxation position under close review and further reductions will be made as circumstances permit.
The Leader of the Australian Country party claimed also that there was no incentive to produce in this country because of high taxes. But there is certainly no sign of lack of incentive in Australian industry generally because the demand for labour, plant and materials for undertakings of all descriptions appears to be insatiable; there has been a record issue of new shares, profits are high - probably too high - the output of pig iron, black coal and basic steel products is above pre-war levels, and the value of wholesale and retail trade is 60 per cent, higher than in pre-war years. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said, there is considerable confusion and turbulence throughout the world, yet in this country we have an economy of full employment. Whilst that itself creates new difficulties, I believe that when the industrial situation referred to by the Leader of the Opposition is examined fairly, we shall find that some of the difficulties that have arisen have been due to the fact that to-day as during the war when labour was found to be so precious that it had to be used for the safety of the country, new problems of arbitration and conciliation arose. The new stresses and strains require new methods in conciliation and arbitration. That is the view of the Government. We propose to introduce during the present period of the session a bill embodying new methods of dealing with industrial disputes. 1 come now to another point that has been made during the debate, and, as the Prime Minister has already dealt with the matter effectively, my remarks will bp brief. I refer to government appointments. In order that the Government’s attitude on this matter may be fairly stated, let us look at overseas appointments as a whole, and not merely select two or three of them. First let us take our High Commissioners. There has not been any criticism of the appointment of the present High Commissioner in Great Britain. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition referred to that appointment in terms which indicated approval. As High Commissioner in India, we have General Sir Iven Mackay, who has a splendid record of war service, particularly in the early days of the war, when Australian forces were fighting under great difficulties. I am sure, too, that no one will suggest that the Australian High Commissioner in South Africa, Sir George Knowles, was appointed for political reasons. Our representative in New Zealand is one of the most distinguished soldiers of the recent war, Lieutenant A. R. Cutler, V.C., who is carrying out his duties splendidly.
And surely there cannot be any real objection amongst honorable members opposite to the appointment of Mr. F. M. Forde as High Commissioner to Canada. I: is extraordinary to suggest that membership of this Parliament ‘should in soma way disqualify a man for appointment in some other walk of public life. In my opinion, experience of public life in a State Parliament or in a Commonwealth Parliament is in itself a most valuable qualification for the performance of duties of the character I have discussed. It has frequently been said that to get into the Australian cricket eleven was hard, but that, to get out of it was even harder. That, unfortunately, does not apply in the political sphere. It is hard to get into the Australian Parliament, of which there are only 111 members, but it is much easier to get out of it than to get out of an Australian eleven. I find it hard to understand the logic of the suggestion that has been made. The Prime Minister referred to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) ; but, whilst I do not wish to pursue any particular illustration, I believe that there are many members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate whose experience in the full life of the National Parliament must be a qualification and not a disqualification for other public service. Then, why should the defeat of a member of Parliament constitute a disqualification? A man may fight a political battle for his party and win against great difficulties; but he may be defeated through no fault of his own on the swing of the political pendulum. I arn not speaking of particular appointments and I am trying to avoid the use of names. Our appointments will not only pass muster but also rank as good appointments in the interests of Australia. Consider the Ministerial appointments - representatives at legations. At Paris we have Colonel Hodgson. He has no connexion with politics and had” a distinguished record in World War I. In the Netherlands we have Mr. Officer, one of the most experienced career men in the department, appointed by this Government. I could give illustrations covering appointments in different parts of the world. But a few appointments are selected and the Government is accused, not only before the Parliament, because the object is not so much to convince the. Parliament as to spread propaganda among the Australian people and all over the world that the Government is guilty of political jobbery because appointments are made of men whose only disqualification is that they have served the country in the National Parliament. I say that that is not a disqualification but a qualification for any office in the land. I claim that 90 per cent of honorable members will agree with that.
I turn to what I consider is a very important matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition - the subject of industrial peace in this country, and that recrudescence of industrial disputes, especially in the last few months, and whether there is any substance in his charge against the Government. He started his speech by saying “ I accuse “. What is his accusation in relation to this matter? He does not speak with any precision. With much of what he said we can all agree. It is true that some stoppages have been directed not against the employer as such in a specific demand for increased wages but against the retention of the wage-pegging regulations. That is to say that there is a political aspect to the demand that the employer cannot grant. It is a very serious development. It must be and is being closely watched. I think the essence of the case that the Leader of the Opposition implies rather than states expressly is that there should be more resolute enforcement of the law. I am waiting for the “ Hear, hears “ to come, but they are not coming.
– Hear, hear !
– I thank the honorable member.
– Order ! I have already directed that there must be no interruptions.
– When the demand is for enforcement of the law in connexion with industrial disputes it is fair to ask what law has been broken. There used to be a book sold to the junior members of the legal profession which was very useful to them. At any rate, the idea was a good one. It was called Where to Find Your Law. I want to know the sections of the law that have been broken. There is a complete failure to appreciate that when the war was over the Government repealed the regulations relating to absenteeism. That was demanded by all sections of the community and by all political parties. So there is no law in that respect. The wagepegging regulations are not binding as such on the employees, but are machinery regulations designed to define the jurisdiction of the courts. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act used to prescribe many penalties for strikes and lock-outs. They were introduced for the most part by the Bruce-Page Government in 1927 or 1928. The .Scullin Government came to power subsequently and, although there was a majority against the Government in the Senate, the law was considerably amended, and practically every provision relating to penalties of that kind was removed from the act. In the last sixteen years, during most of which the Opposition parties have been in power, there has been no attempt to restore those provisions.
– What about the Crimes Act? Does that not prescribe penalties?
– The only penalties with any relevance are contained in the part of the Crimes Act that is particularly obnoxious and fascist in tendency. It provided the remedy of deportation in connexion with industrial disturbances. One section was invoked twenty years ago against two trade union leaders after a long course of penalties had ‘proved to be a failure. The High Court decided that that section was ultra vires the Parliament, as indeed much of that part is. We are going to bring down a bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We feel that the present situation has been contributed to by delays in the court. The court has suffered heavy losses through deaths and illness. Further, conciliation commissioners have very limited powers in actual practice under the present law. I am not going to anticipate the debate that will take place in the House later, but we are anxious and have worked particularly hard to improve the act in a number of respects and in a way that I think should commend itself to the Parliament as a whole. The
Prime Minister and the Cabinet subcommittee, which includes myself, have heard views from all sections of the community interested in the subject, employers as well as employees. It is perfectly true that a section of the employers made a public statement favouring reimposition of drastic penalties and the like, but the section of the employers with more experience- in the industrial field, the manufacturers, are, I am convinced, averse to changes of that kind. In principle what we come to in this matter of arbitration machinery for industrial disputes is the question whether the process is to be by conciliation or coercion. There is no end to the process of coercion once it is started. Illustrations were given by the Prime Minister this morning and I think they convinced members of the Opposition about the difficulties of that course. It is a fact that under the present Commonwealth law most of the disciplinary powers are given to the court.
– “What of the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations.
– To what is the honora’ble member referring?
– I am referring to the provision outlawing absenteeism.
– That has been repealed.
– I am referring to regulation 19.
– The one relating to absenteeism? It has been inoperative in fact since the end of hostilities, if it has not been repealed. Most of the remedies as to cancellation of awards, suspension of awards and suspension of organizations are vested in the court. The court has the power to deal with those matters, but the court, of its own motion, has not seen fit to do so, and, when the court has chosen to take that course, it would be quite wrong for the Executive to interfere. Disciplinary measures should be entirely in the court’s hand and it should act of its own motion. So the broad ground of the attack that there has been no enforcement of the law by the Government has not been established. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) suggested that the National Security (Economic Organization) Regula tions might be invoked to deal with absenteeism.
– The regulation is still in force.
– The Commonwealth has not prosecuted any person under that regulation since the termination of the war, and will not do so. That law applies equally to every person, whether he be an employer or an employee, who was absent from his employment without reasonable excuse. We should be obliged to apply the provisions of the law to the company director, the manager or the person in an executive position who is away from his employment without leave or reasonable excuse. Introduced purely as a war-time measure, this regulation has no application to peace-time conditions. We must make a positive approach to this problem in order to see whether we can improve the machinery of the Arbitration Court. The Government is doing that. Believing that our policy will be successful, we ask all honorable members for their assistance to gain that objective.
– The difficulty is that the Arbitration Court does not produce any goods. The Government has to get the men back to work before production can be resumed.
– If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) means that the success of the system depends upon the judges of the Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners, I agree with him. The machinery is contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Its success depends entirely upon the fearlessness, impartiality and common sense of the judges and conciliation commissioners, and upon their knowledge of industry. I say that the judges of the Arbitration Court have done excellent work under very great difficulties. What is required now is a great extension of the conciliation system in order that the judges may be able to reserve themselves for the hearing of important public questions like standard hours and the basic wage.
The Prime Minister has dealt with the subject of taxation, and I do not propose to add anything to his remarks. I have not referred to the appointment of the
Governor-General, because that subject has also been adequately covered by the Prime Minister. The appointment was made on the responsibility of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition does not object because the appointee is a gentleman who holds Labour opinions, and has been active in politics. What the right honorable gentleman did contend was that the appointee should not have taken an active part in politics after his appointment was announced. Apparently some period of quarantine must be imposed upon him before he can become eligible for appointment. How long that period of quarantine should be - 40 days or more - I do not conjecture. Therefore there is no substance in the point, and I do not propose to add anything to what the Prime Minister has said about it.
These are the criticisms that have been mentioned by the Opposition, and I submit that there is a complete answer to them. The Prime Minister has already given that complete answer. The record of the Labour Government is a positive one. The important thing for the House to remember is that even if there be discontent and a feeling of frustration throughout the community, we are placed in a far better situation than are people in many other countries where there is so much misery, unhappiness and actual starvation. In the circumstances, the Prime Minister has shown infinite patience regarding the solution of these problems. The wage-pegging regulations have been modified - indeed, about 90 per cent, of them have been repealed - and the task which now confronts us is to improve the machinery for dealing with industrial disputes. Profiting from experience, we have come here prepared to do that positive job during this period of the session. We ask the House to reject this motion, so that we may get on with that job.
.- After having listened with great interest to the speech of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), I am somewhat surprised that he took part in this debate. Although a motion of want of confidence has been submitted the right honorable gentleman appears to consider that the criticisms voiced by the Opposition can be answered by not deal ing directly with any of the points raised, but by referring indirectly to them, and then mentioning all the “ marvellous “ things that the Labour party did on previous occasions. No person who is aware of what is happening in Australia to-day, can avoid the conclusion that public morality, the standard of the Parliament, and the attitude of people towards the law have declined. Everywhere we find a rapidly growing black market of very extensive ramifications, and widespread tax evasions. These things, I suppose, are nothing to do with the Government. Any one who knows the functions of government realizes that they are directly associated with the government of the country.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) dealt, so I suppose he would believe, with the points made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies.) My only comment is that if the manner in which he deals with the points raised in debate is some indication of the manner in which he deals with the problems of this country, it is no wonder that we are slipping into the conditions that we are now experiencing. The speeches of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) were the most lamentable that I have heard in this House for a long time. Replying to points raised regarding industrial dislocation, the Attorney-General would have us believe that nothing is really taking place which should occupy the time of the House for one moment. “ Let us get on with the functions of government “, he said. I do not know -what those functions are because, in my opinion, this Parliament has no longer any functions of government, and from my observations, the government no longer has any such functions.
If honorable members will pause for a moment to consider the industrial chaos in Australia to-day, they will find on every hand defiance of the law - a law which, the Attorney-General says, does not exist. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) pointed out, by interjection, that the law does exist, but is not being enforced. As an instance of how the Government answers criticism, the Attorney-General, who is charged with the administration of Commonwealth law in Australia, said that the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations relating to absenteeism had been abandoned. When that statement was proved incorrect, the right honorable gentleman replied, “ Well, the law has not been enforced since the termination of the war.” If one law is to .be enforced, why is not every other law enforced? Perhaps he will explain to the House whether the wage-pegging regulations have been enforced effectively, and if they have not, what is the reason. No one who knows what is taking place in Australia to-day can avoid the conclusion that there is a direct conflict now between the industrial unions of this country and the functions of government of this Parliament, and I would have thought that it was a matter which the Prime Minister would acknowledge. The unions say, “ We will get what we want by any means in our power, whether those means be legal or not, or whether those means be in conflict with the Government or otherwise “. Yet all we hear from the Prime Minister, in reply, is the question, “ Well, what can you do? If 1,000,000 men are on strike, what can you do? “ The AttorneyGeneral asked, “What is the law which we must enforce ? “ All I have to say is that if there is no law in existence to enforce, it is about time that this Government introduced such a law. This attitude deserves severe censure. Yesterday, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), when dealing with a matter involving employees of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited - it is already sub judice - asked “What is wrong? The men ought to stand out for these things “.
– It is a good lead for the men concerned.
– It is a good lead to the industrial unions when the Minister says, “ I think you are right, so stick to it, boys “. When it was indicated to the Prime Minister that on the 1st May next, the Australasian Council o£ Trade Unions intends, unless its requests are granted by a court of law, which is now deciding the case, to call all its members out on strike, the right honorable gentleman asked, “ What can you do about it ? “ At least, he can do more than encourage the unions to defy the law. At least, he might do more’than encourage the Communist leaders of the trade unions to defy the Government. At least, the Attorney-General might personally do more to survey the activities of the Communist party in Australia. In every English-speaking country of the British Commonwealth, inquiries have revealed that Communists have engaged in subversive activities not only during the period before Russia entered the war but also since that time. To-day I read in the newspapers that there will be a careful survey of ships bringing passengers to Australia in Order to ensure that no espionage agents enter the country. But. such agents are already in Australia. It is strange that nothing has been done about them. I should like to know whether the Government ever instructed the Commonwealth Investigation Branch not to investigate the activities of the Communist party. If no such instruction was issued, I want to know positively whether the branch was ever instructed to investigate the activities of that party.
– The answer is that the Investigation Branch was never instructed not to investigate the activities of the Communist party. The duties of the branch are not dependent on Ministerial instructions, but go on continuously.
– That answer could be called a “ pass off “. The fact is that the Communists are defying the law of the land. Mr. Thornton, who is receiving great encouragement from this Government to engage in his destructive activities, said recently, “ In two years time we will probably be celebrating not the Russian revolution but the Australian revolution “. Only to-day we read about the activities of a gentleman - if gentleman be the proper term - called Elliott, the Communist leader of the Australian Seamen’s Union, who is in New Zealand. Mr. Semple, a New Zealand Minister, asked, “ How did he get over here to create dislocation and chaos in New Zealand?”. Elliott told the New Zealand press that he is there on behalf of the Australian Government. He also said that the Government considered it desirable that he should watch the interests of the crew of Wanganella, and that it had issued him with a No. 1 priority to fly to New Zealand. I expect that, as usual, a denial that he is in New Zealand on behalf of the Australian Government will be forthcoming. Nevertheless, he flew to New Zealand with the cognizance, of the Australian Government. Did it give him authority to proceed to New Zealand by air? The Communist party sent Thornton overseas, it has men like Elliott defying the Government of the country, and heaven knows how many others have infiltrated into the industrial movement of Australia. The Government says, “ We are opposed to communism”, but it only fights the Communists with words. It has never yet stood up against them in any real sense.
Does the Government believe that the lav/ ought to be enforced, in any circumstances, against those who strike? Recently there was an inquiry into the trade union organization known as the coal-mining industry in which the miners federation was involved. In his report, Mr. J Justice Davidson, who was not, to use the words of the Prime Minister, “ tickling the ears of the ignorant “ but was reporting to the Government on the steps that need to be taken to restore order in the coal-mining industry, said that there was a lack of authority in enforcing the law on behalf of those who have that obligation on their shoulders, and that this was leading to chaos in the industry. Mr. Justice Davidson laid down, as the Prime Minister will find if he only takes the trouble to read the report, the steps that the Judge thought should be taken to enforce the law. No member of the Opposition has ever said that, if 100,000 men go out on strike, the Government should put all of them in goal. That is a “furphy” that the Government always broadcasts when it is charged with inability to enforce the law. However, if examples were made of the ringleaders in strikes, the law would be enforced. Otherwise, finally the law, selfgovernment, democracy, and all those things which Labour supporters pretend to have fought for will be destroyed.
To-day, Ministers have revealed what is either a refusal to understand a clear statement by honorable members on this side of the House or a moral incapability of appreciating the responsibilities of government. I refer to a vital matter which was dealt with by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who has been in this House throughout the debate, apparently paid so little regard to the arguments adduced that he rose and said that there had been no criticism of the arrangement made by the Government for the sale of Australian wheat to New Zealand. I should have thought that anybody with any sense who had listened to the debate would realize that this arrangement was specifically criticized by the right honorable member for Darling Downs. He attacked it on two grounds. In the first place he refused, on behalf of the people, to accept a burden of £1,800,000 a year in added taxes for the benefit of the people of New Zealand. He said that this charge on the Australian people was wrong. In the second place he said that the conditions under which the agreement was extracted from the Government indicated reprehensible conduct on the part of its Ministers. I shall deal only with the second ground, because I do not want to repeat what has been said regarding the merits or demerits of the arrangement. In view of the conduct of Ministers in this respect, there can be little wonder at the decline in the moral standard’s of the community in these days when the honest man, burdened with heavy taxes, is finding it increasingly difficult to live decently while, all around him, black marketeers and “ smart Alec “ tax evaders are flourishing. There are men who go to race-courses and bet on race-horses in amounts of £500 and upwards. Where do they get the money?
The Government has failed to defend itself against the charge made by the right honorable member for Darling Downs. What is the nature of the charge expressed in clear terms ? I hope that the Attorney-General will not misunderstand me. In clear terms, the charge is that this Government, through its Ministers, gave false and misleading statements to members of this Parliament who sought information on public matters. That is the charge, and it does not rest upon only one incident. Listening to what the right honorable member for’ Darling Downs called “ the calendar of crime I heard most clear and damning proof that a Minister in this House had, to say the least, kept from the House information that he knew was important. Questions were asked last year as to the arrangements that had been made in respect of wheat produced in Australia, and to be sold to New Zealand for a number of years ahead. The right honorable member for Darling Downs has already discussed what has happened in this House. I shall refer to what took place in the Senate. On the 31st July, 1946, six months after the arrangement for the sale of wheat to New Zealand had been made, Senator McLeay asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Senate the following question: -
Has the Australian Government entered into any arrangement for the sale of Australian wheat to the New Zealand Government for the years 1947, 1948, and 1949?
The question could not have been expressed in wider terms. The answer given to that question by Senator J. M. Fraser, who represented the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in that chamber was “ No “. That answer was false. Either it was false because the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture did not inform his mind properly or it was false within the knowledge of the Minister. One alternative is almost as reprehensible as the other. The charge laid against the Government by the right honorable member for Darling Downs was made before the suspension of the sitting for lunch to-day and the Government, if it were seised with its moral responsibilities, has had ample time in which to check the facts. However, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) merely said, “ Oh well, there is apparently no charge against the merits or demerits of the arrangement, which was announced only yesterday, and somebody else will deal with it again later “. This is a lamentable revelation to the people of the cavalier attitude of the Government, which is recreant to its trust and its democratic responsibilities. There is an obligation upon this Government to make clear, not in general terms but factually, to what degree, if at all, the charge made by the right honorable member for Darling Downs is wrong. If his statements be correct, then members of this Government are guilty of having refused to give information to the elected representatives of the people. I shall carry the matter one stage further. A statement was made yesterday about the wheat agreement with New Zealand by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). It is significant that neither’ the Minister nor his predecessor in office (Mr. Scully) has been present in the chamber during this debate. Perhaps they are “ cooking up.” a reply to the charges now. Yesterday the Minister made this statement -
When this contract was under discussion–
That was in December, 1945 - the question of’ supplies for the following four years arose–
That is the language in which this statement is couched, in order, I say, to mislead, whoever prepared it - and it was agreed that in due course a further agreement be negotiated.
That is their equivocation. It is about time an end was put to such equivocation in this House. Having dealt with that aspect, the Minister went on to say -
When Mr. Nash, the New Zealand Minister for Finance, was recently in Australia he had with him the New Zealand Wheat Controller and a contract was then negotiated and approved. Its main clauses are as follows:-
Australia to supply all New Zealand’s requirements over the four years 1946-47 to 1949-50.
A maximum of 4,500,000 bushels would be supplied out of each season’s crop at 5s. 9d. a bushel f.o.b. bulk.
Any quantity supplied above 4,500,000 from any one season’s crops would be at a price to be negotiated.
New Zealand would not take less than 3,500,000 bushels from any one of the four seasons’ crops.
– As a matter of fact, that is not truthful, because the agreement is for the payment of not more than 5s. 9d. a bushel.
– I am not astonished at that. I have come to the conclusion that when one seeks information in this House it is remarkable if one receives a straight answer; it is a coincidence, or accidental. This matter must be inquired into. I have known of Ministers who have been compelled to resign from
Cabinet on matters of less consequence than this. Either what was said in the New Zealand Parliament is correct, in which event what was said in this House was false or vice versa. In the interest of good government in this country, this matter ought to be inquired into and a final conclusion reached. That i3 all that I want to say about the subject.
I wish now to comment on some observations by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General about the enforcement of Jaw in this country. We have had from the Prime Minister a recapitulation of the reasons for the introduction of the wage-pegging regulations. We all know what those reasons are, and agree with them. They have less to do with the problem which now exists, because that problem is to what degree and in what circumstances should the wage-pegging regulations be lifted. I agree that they should have been modified a long time before they were. The gravamen of the complaint is that the regulations were modified, not as a result of voluntary action by the Government, but only in consequence of pressure that was exerted from outside of this Parliament, either through the medium of public discussion, or more likely through union defiance of the Government. In the course of his statement, the Prime Minister said that the law still was that wages were pegged except along certain specified lines, which, he said, gave full opportunity for an approach to the courts for a declaration of additional marginal rates. I shall show that the Government, with the knowledge that the law is being broken, is sitting idly by in this as it has done in respect of other matters. Two or three months ago, I wrote to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice), who is responsible for administering these regulations, asking whether it was not a fact that the Prices Commissioner was investigating various industries for the purpose of determining, among’ other things, whether they were paying more than the pegged rates of wages to their employees; because it is common knowledge that the purpose of the regulations is being flagrantly broken throughout the community, and that many employers are paying their employees more than the pegged rates. Employers are outbidding one another in an endeavour to obtain employees on a labour-short market. The charge that I made was .that the Government through its prices control system was “ wanking the eye “, to use the vernacular. The employee was receiving more than the pegged rates of wages, and the employers were taking it out of the price that they were permitted to charge for the commodity manufactured. In other words, the Government, through the Prices Commissioner has taken the stand, “ We do noi mind if the law is broken so far as the employee is concerned; take it out of the hide of the employer”., I know that the AttorneyGeneral has been very busy in other parts of the world. Perhaps he will tell me whether he knows of a provision in the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations which has not been repealed, providing that it is an offence for any employee to receive more than the wa.ge3 allowed by the regulations. That is the law, and it has never been enforced by this Government, although the Government knows that there have been wholesale breaches of it. If the law is a bad one, it should be repealed, or it requires amendment, in which event it should be modified. So long as it remains on the statute-book, it ought to. be enforced. That brings me to another matter - a minor matter, perhaps, but one which demonstrates the preparedness of the Government to avoid difficulty for itself. Recently. Communist-led agitators called “ squatters “ forcibly took possession of Royal Australian Air Force hutments in Brisbane. Royal Australian Air Force personnel on the spot sought to resist them. One of the officers said publicly afterwards that they did not know where they stood, because they had received instructions not to do anything to embarrass the Government, the Air Board, or the Minister for Air. That allegation has never been dealt with by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) in this House. His attitude, like that of the Prime Minister, apparently is, “ Oh, well, what can one do ? If they are going to break the law, they will break the law”. I have grown tired of such a lamentably weak reply. It is characteristic of every ministerial reply when the desire is to avoid acceptance of responsibility. Perhaps the Minister for Air can answer this question during the course of the de’bate : Did he take any action, and if so, what, to enforce the law? Did he take any action indicative of his desire that the law should not be enforced, or did be simply “sit tight” and hope that he would not get into trouble? I know what the answer will be to that question. Probably that he did not do anything. I feel certain that he did not give any direction for the enforcement of the law, because Communists were concerned, and Communists are supporters of the Government, probably its greatest supporters at election time, and one I suppose cannot expect action to be taken against them..
The one other matter to which I want to refer is the anti-British sentiment that is being increasingly fostered in this community. The Government, rather belatedly, is attempting to make it appear that it is seeking to arrest this antiBritish sentiment. For two or three years, we witnessed a deterioration of the relationships between ourselves and Great Britain. Then there was a change of face, and now the Government is making it clear that it stands - I believe that it does - in principle for close collaboration with the British Commonwealth. But that is not the point. The point that I am seeking to make is, not what principle the Government believes in, because we hear of that ad nauseum, but what positive action it is taking for the purpose of arresting the anti-British sentiment that is being encouraged in this community. I referred a little while ago to the Communists. The AttorneyGeneral, had he wanted to do so, could certainly have brought the matter before Cabinet; and Cabinet, had it so desired, could have ordered an investigation of the activities of the Communist party in this country. The Government is in possession of information to the effect that, before Russia came into the last war, the Communist party, then composed very largely of the same people as those who now compose it, through its leaders, was engaged in widespread subversive activities against Australia and the British Empire as a whole. These men have not changed their attitude; they are still engaged in this manoeuvre by every means available to them. They are seeking to destroy the political Labour movement because, amongst other things as I have said, it stands in principle for collaboration with Great Britain. We must do something about this matter. In both Canada and South Africa investigations of the activities of these people have been undertaken. The findings of the Royal Commission appointed in Canada are illuminating. Does any sensible man believe that these people in Australia are different from their comrades in other countries ? There is a direct nexus between their nefarious activities and the growth of anti-British sentiment in this country. These are matters from which the Government cannot escape. I have never said that everything that the present Government has done has been wrong. These are difficult times and I know that many problems confront the Government. In the transition from war to peace a good deal of discontent and some dislocation are inevitable, but although hostilities ceased nearly eighteen months ago there is still no evidence that the Government is determined to deal resolutely with these problems. I support the motion because I believe that the Government is indeed worthy of censure.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is an adept at making vague generalizations, and when he does make specific charges he frequently bases them on wrong information. I have already exposed his ignorance of the legislation affecting coalmining when he was discussing the control of coal-miners. To-day he has referred to a certain regulation relating to absentees and has demanded to know the reason why the Government is not giving effect to it. The honorable member ought to know that that regulation was repealed in March, 1946. As the foundation of the honorable member’s charges is so unstable I do not propose to say much in answer to his remarks, but I have no doubt-
– I rise to order. The Minister is misrepresenting what I said. I drew attention to the fact that, the regulations prevent an employee from receiving more than the pegged wage.
– There is no point of order.
– We are discussing a motion that the Government has lost the confidence of this House. In attempting to justify the motion, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made certain specific allegations, and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden’ also made a number of different allegations. I have no doubt that as the debate proceeds other Opposition members will make still further accusations against the Government. Those charges will be met by Ministers and supporters of the Government, and I have no doubt that they will be refuted. I propose to widen the scope of the debate. Even if the accusations and allegations made against the Government were substantially true - which is not the case - that would not necessarily mean that the people of this country desire a change of government. Even if the present Government has made some mistakes - and at the moment I am not admitting that it has done so - it still has a record of achievement which far outweighs any minor errors of judgment that it might have made. Therefore, instead of examining the accusations and allegations of the Opposition, I desire to say something of the purpose underlying this motion. I should like a decision on it to be taken after honorable members have studied the items on the credit side of the ledger as well as those which Opposition speakers allege should be placed on the debit side. One implication of the motion is that the Opposition is capable of forming a government, but it does not take much thought to realize that that is ridiculous. Not only from the point of view of numbers is the Opposition unable to form a government, but we must have regard also to the calibre of the individuals who comprise it.
I propose to deal with certain accusations and allegations voiced by Opposition speakers so far in this debate. The Leader of the Opposition confined his remarks to four specific matters. One would expect the right honorable gentle man to choose the four most important matters on which the Government could be criticized, but an examination of the four points mentioned by him reveals at once that two of them are of minor importance.
– Which two?
– The first two. The third matter mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition related to taxation, which is only one factor in the economic activities of the community and must be considered in relation to other economic factors. I admit that the fourth matter, namely, that of industrial unrest, is of great importance. I shall deal first with the charge that the Government has been guilty of political jobbery. I am astonished that the Opposition should lay that charge against the Government in view of the record of the parties now in Opposition when they were in power. The Leader of the Opposition dealt with this charge in an exceedingly cunning way. First, he read out a long list of names, and then, having injected that poison, he proceeded to excise from that list the names of a number of men to whose appointments he said he had no objection at all. It is of some interest to examine the appointments to which the right honorable gentleman said he had no objection. One immediately comes to the conclusion that he excised them from the list because of the fact that previous governments, in some of which he was a Minister, had been guilty of what he states now to be a crime when committed by the present Government. For instance, he said that he had 110 objection to the appointment of the present High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. He could not very well object to Mr. Beasley’ s appointment because a non-Labour Government appointed Mr. Bruce to that position some years ago. The same remark applies to the appointment of Mr. Forde as High Commissioner to Canada, because Sir William Glasgow, whom a non-Labour Government appointed to a similar office, was an ex-senator. Nor could the right honorable gentleman consistently object to Mr. Makin’s appointment as Ambassador to the ‘ United States of America because a government led by him had previously appointed the former member for Corio, Mr. Casey, to represent Australia at Washington.
– Every High Commissioner in London has been an ex-minister.
– I am only pointing out that the Leader of the Opposition made his attack very cunningly. He prepared a long list of names, and then excised a number from the list because he could not make out a case regarding them. There are several other appointments which come to mind.
– Sir John Latham.
– The Prime Minister dealt with that case. .Apart from him, Sir George Pearce was appointed by the present Leader of the Opposition to an important post in the Defence Department. Exception has been taken to the appointment of Mr. Breen as a trade commissioner. There is a gentleman, Mr. McGregor, occupying the position of trade commissioner, who was an anti-Labour politician in this Parliament.
– That is an absolute lie!
– If I am in error I accept the correction, but there are several other names one could mention. There was a gentleman, a namesake of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), for example, who had been a member of this Parliament, and who was appointed as administrator of the Northern Territory. The appointment of Mr. Wilson as administrator of Norfolk Island has been criticized. One, at least, of the predecessors of Mr. Wilson was also a political appointee of a previous government.
– I rise to order. No previous administrator of Norfolk Island had ever been a member of this Parliament.
– There is no point of order.
– I agree with what the Prime Minister said on this point, and his remarks were emphasized by what was said by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) : If members or ex-members of this Parliament have the necessary qualifications to take up appointments, the very fact that they have been members of Parliament is, in my opinion, an added qualification. One of the charges brought against the Government is in connexion with an appointment for which I, as Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, was responsible. I remind honorable members that some time in 1945 I brought before the Parliament a bill to amend the act dealing with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research so as to increase the number of members of the executive committee of the council from three to five. I explained at the time that the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was expanding so much under this Government that it was necessary that there should be more members on the executive committee. I also stated that I wished to broaden the basis of membership. I had in mind, as I think I explained at the time, that there should be on the executive committee a representative of the man in the street to ensure that the point of view of the common man would be taken ‘ into account when deciding- what matters should be investigated scientifically. After all, the purpose of scientific research is to achieve progress in the technique of production, so that the welfare of the community may be enhanced. Therefore, it is only fair that there should be on the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research a person who represents the community as a whole. It is not necessary that every member of the executive committee should possess scientific knowledge.
– But he should have some knowledge.
– All but one member of that committee have scientific knowledge. I have no apology to offer for the appointment of Mr. Mountjoy to that position. I believe that the charge of political jobbery, which has been brought against the Government, falls to the ground.
The next point of criticism relates to the appointment of Mr. McKell as GovernorGeneral of Australia. I congratulate the Prime Minister on having made that recommendation. The whole point of the objection raised by the
Leader of the Opposition to the appointment was that, in his opinion, no one who was active in politics should be appointed as a representative of the Crown. Let me point out that the British Government - and the Leader of the Opposition is very prone to point to British practice as something which we ought always to follow in Australia - has never felt bound by any such theory. Two GovernorsGeneral of Australia in the past came straight from active participation in politics.
– In England, not in Australia.
– What does that matter? The Leader of the Opposition did not make the point that his objection applied only if a nominee for the position of Governor-General had been politically active in Australia, or whether he was active on one side of politics or on the other. All he said was that he objected to a person who was actively engaged in politics being translated from that activity to the position of representative of the Crown. As I have said, the British Government has never felt itself bound by any such theory. For instance, Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson was a member of the British House of Commons from 1S84 to 1914. He was then translated straight from British politics to the position of Governor-General of Australia, which position he held until 1920. In British politics he was a so-called Liberal. Not only did he come straight from active politics to the position of Governor-General of Australia, but after his term of office here he went straight back into politics in England. After his return, he re-entered politics, land held the portfolio of Secretary for Scotland from 1922 to 1924. Let us consider now a more recent appointment to the position of Governor-General of Australia, that of Lord Stonehaven. He was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, from 1919 to 1922, and from 1922 . to 1924 was Minister for Transport in a Conservative Government. He became Governor-General of Australia in 1925, -and continued in that position until 1931. I know that other representatives of the Crown were also appointed directly from the active political field. For instance, several of the governors ‘ of Indian provinces went straight from politics into positions as representatives of the Crown. Indeed, the most recent appointee as Governor of Bengal, following the resignation of Mr. R. G. Casey, came straight from British politics. Another Australian example was the appointment some time ago of Sir James O’Grady a3 Governor of Tasmania. All this shows clearly that the British Government has never felt itself bound by the theory which the Leader of the Opposition has enunciated. Another appointment which comes to my mind in relation to India is that of Lord Reading, who was appointed Viceroy of India during the years of World War I., and who had been a Minister in either the Asquith or the Lloyd George Government. Lord Reading went straight from politics to what is, I believe, considered to bf- the very highest position as representative of the Crown in the whole of the British Commonwealth of Nations. There is ample precedent for the Prime Minister’s recommendation to His Majesty the King that Mr. McKell be appointed Governor-General of Australia.
The third charge brought by the Leader of the Opposition was that this Government had failed to reduce taxes to the degree it should have done. The first observation I want to make about that is that this issue was decided at the elections. At the recent elections the Leader of the Opposition, supported by the Leader of the Australian Country party, put forward certain propositions to the people of this country in regard to taxation. The Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour party then put forward the Government’s viewpoint, the same viewpoint as was expressed by the Prime Minister to-day, that is to say, that as and when it became possible to make reductions of taxes, the Government would make them. The people of this country had their choice. They refused to believe what the Leader of the Opposition told them at election time, just as they turned down the propositions put to them by the Leader of the Australian Country party. In this connexion let me say that in bringing forward his motion the Leader of the Opposition confined himself to some general charge against the Government of having failed to reduce taxes, and left it to his colleague, the Leader of the Australian Country party, “with his more expert and technical knowledge “, to use his own phrase, to deal with the matter in detail. At election time, and, indeed, at all times in this House, the Leader of the Australian Country party has set himself up as an authority on taxation matters. The first thing I want to say in regard to that is that I see no reason why some one who happens to be an accountant should be more expert than any one else in taxation matters. Secondly, if one looks at his record, one will see that instead of being a real expert in these matters, he is merely a “Pooh Bah”. The right honorable gentleman put certain propositions to the people of this country at election time. Let us go a little further back than that and see in what position this country would have been placed had it followed the advice given by him and kept in office the Government of which he was at one time a member and later Prime Minister. In his budget speech delivered on the 25th September, 1941, the right honorable gentleman proposed that a part of the revenue required by the Government should be financed by means of post-war credits. He suggested that one-third of the amount required for the prosecution of the war should be raised in that manner, that it should be paid back to the people after the war, but that, during the intervening period, those holding the credits should be paid the prevailing rate of interest on their holdings. It was proposed that this war-time contribution be introduced during the financial year 1941-42 and it was estimated that in that year the yield from post-war credits - other people had different names for them; we called them compulsory loans - would have amounted to £25,000,000. If that proposal had been adopted what would have been the position? If the same proportion of the revenue required for the prosecution of the war had been raised this means in subsequent years the Government would have obtained through post-war credits a total of more than £200,000,000. Is it any wonder that that budget was turned down and that the right honorable gentleman was turned out of office? If his proposals had been followed the Government of this country would to-day have owed the people of this country over £200,000,000 more than it owes them to-day, and in the intervening period it would have paid to the holders of post-war credits at current rates of interest between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 a year. “What the right honorable gentleman proposed was that, instead of imposing certain rates of taxes, part of the amount that would have been taken in the form of tax would have been regarded as post-war credits. It was by no means a substitute for loans; it was clearly a proposition distinct from that. I ask this House and the country can any one looking at the budget proposals that the right honorable gentleman put forward in this House in 1941, and at the elections in 1943, have any confidence in his judgment in regard to taxation matters? In their criticism of the Government’s taxation policy, the right honorable gentleman and several members of the Opposition take no account of the benefits received by the community in return for the money taken from the people in taxes.
There is a curious anomaly in the attack launched by the Leader of the Opposition in that I think it can be said that he brought these four specific charges against the Government in an attempt to prove that the economy of this country is in an unhealthy condition. One of the reasons that he offered in support of his view was that in the seven months of the current financial year, revenue had been much greater than the budget estimate whereas expenditure had been considerably less than the estimate. In actual fact the budgetary position to-day is buoyant for the very reason that the economy is in a comparatively healthy condition. The characteristics of our economy at present are these: The demand for labour, plant and material is insatiable; there is a record volume of share issues; high profits prevail - I am rather ashamed to admit that but one must face the facts - there is full employment in practically every district and in every industry; production is rising in almost every field of economic activity; the output of black coal, pig iron, and basic steel is far above pre-war levels ; the output of bricks has risen by 150 per cent., roofing tiles by 200 per cent., and similar increases have occurred in the production of- other building materials; the value of wholesale trade is 50 per cent, above the pre-war level, and the value of retail trade in Sydney- is 60 per cent, above pre-war levels ; and the export income of this country is double what it was in pre-war years. These are all characteristics of an economy which the Leader of the Opposition endeavours to prove is in an unhealthy condition. I have emphasized that this matter should be examined not only in relation to whatever justification may exist for the charges that have been made, but also in relation to the achievements of this Government; but before I proceed to deal with some of those achievements, I wish to adduce some more evidence of the healthy nature of our economy. I have before me a paragraph which appeared in the London Financial Times of 27th August, 1946. Incidentally, the Government did not have anything to do with the publication of the report although I recall that on one occasion, when the present Opposition was in occupation of the treasury bench a big sum of money was surreptitiously paid in order that a favorable report on the Australian economy should appear in the Financial Times. This Government does not need to descend to tactics like that. The paragraph states -
It is evident, therefore, that the war has brought a useful improvement in the standard of living of the Australian worker. Australia has achieved this improvement and, at the same time, maintained during the greater part of the war an unexampled stability in wages and prices. That, undoubtedly, is a striking testimony to the success with which the Government has handled the stabilizing machinery of rationing, price and wage controls and subsidies. This stability is now attracting capital from abroad. It will attract capital still more powerfully if controls are operated as successfully in the future as in tho past.
I have made statements from time to time in this House showing how many new industries have been set up in Australia, the nature of employment that will be given in those industries, and how we have successfully disposed of Government factories to private enterprise in order that new industries may be set up in the localities in which those factories are situated. The Secondary Industries Division of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction has been responsible also for sponsoring visits of Australian business men abroad in recent months. These business men have been asked to report upon their return to Australia their views on industrial prospects in this country compared with other countries. To date, 52 of these reports have been received. They have been classified under certain headings and a number of points have been brought out. The industrialists have been asked whether they are optimistic about the future of their business undertakings, and whether they consider that Australian industry will he able to compete on world markets. Almost all who have replied to these questions have considered world conditions advantageous to Australian industry at present. Thirtyfive of the reports subscribe to this view, fourteen make no comment. Four of the favorable reports give substantial credit for Australia’s good economic position to the successful policy of price control pursued in this country. Several have said that our industrial troubles are slight compared with the chaos in other parts of the world; that overseas industrialists recognize that Australia is now one of the few countries offering opportunities for industrial expansion; that in general, we are ahead of other countries in the reconversion of industry; and that Australia is bound to progress industrially. Finally, on that score, let me read from a written report by a business executive of an important American concern with factories in all parts of the world, dealing with the question of establishing a factory in this country. It states -
Our engineering department has made a very complete study of the equipment, location, labour, power and waiter, and other general operating conditions all of which tend to indicate that these conditions are favorable to the proposed operation.
A natural manufacturing country where our competitors have done well and are apparently still doing well with their manufacturing operations.
Recent reports from Australia indicate that it is very well advanced in its reconversion from war activities and there are also indications of high industrial activity over a long period of time.
While figures do not show the expectation of as large a return on investment in Australia as in some of the other markets where we manufacture we have there the prospects of continued stable government, a good economy to provide for a population of approximately 7,000,000 people and less political disturbances than in many other places.
The company has decided to proceed “with its proposal. I think I have shown that taxation is only one of the factors that affect the economic life of Australia. I have shown too, that in spite of what has been said in regard to taxation, the economy of this community can be characterized as very healthy indeed.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and ably supported by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) who made some startling disclosures. I had not intended to touch upon the question of Government appointments, but as previous speakers have done so, I should like to refer to the appointment of a former honorable member of this chamber to the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I did not engage in the discussion here at the time of the appointment, for I had a reason to keep out of it; but I say now that this man should be included in the category mentioned this . morning in the press and his associations should be investigated. We read that investigations are being carried out of people coming into this country to guard against espionage and sabotage. I have been informed that while the war was in progress this appointee was prone to say to a friend of mine and a leader of a trade organization in Western Australia, “ When are you going to join the colours and fight, the imperialistic war?” He knew that this man had volunteered and been rejected as being medically unfit. But when Russia was forced to fight, this appointee proclaimed it as a sacred, war and wanted for Russia all the assistance that he could get. It is well known in Western Australia that this man, even if he is not a Communist, has Communist affiliations, and the people of Western Australia are amazed and annoyed at his appointment to the post be is occupying. Another thing the people of Western Australia object to - and I hope that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) bears this in mind in making future appointments - is the fact that ex-servicemen were not even invited to apply for that position. The only answer that I received to a number of requests that I sent to him on behalf of the people in the Swan electorate was a curt statement that he was responsible to no one else but the Parliament in making the appointment. Before leaving the question, I suggest to him that he ascertain what it is costing the taxpayers of this country in air travel fares for this gentleman. Is it a fact also that he has been told to ward off reporters when they meet aircraft arriving in Western Australia. To my knowledge he has had a number of trips to the eastern States and, at £48 return fare for each trip, the taxpayers’ bill in regard to that one appointee is amounting to an alarming degree. I intend to ask for that information later.
While these appointments are being made - the salaries and emoluments of some of the appointees we do not know - the people are suffering the burden of high taxes. The policy of any labour party, particularly of any labour government, is the attainment of a high standard of living for the people.
– Exactly. To attain that high standard of living we must have the maximum production and, having the maximum production, Ave get a proper distribution, and anybody, any party, any section that endeavours to place obstacles in the way of that maximum production and distribution is not working in the interests of the people of any country, and I fail to realize how a party that is carrying on as this Government is carrying on can honestly call itself a Labour party and a representative of the masses. To my way of thinking the one way to get increased production is to reduce direct taxes. The need for that was mentioned in this House during the last sittings, and members of the Government kept on repeating that a reduction of 28 per cent., the figure presented by the Leader of the Australian Country party, would mean only a few pence to men on the lower ranges of income. That is not the only man whom we want to encourage and in whom we want to create the incentive to increase production. It is the tradesmen, the men earning from £7 to £10 a week, whom we want to encourage and create the incentive in to increase production. They are the men who make the goods and provide the services for the people. It is only that increased production, which will give the maximum quantity of goods, that will give to the people whom the Government is supposed to represent that high standard of living that it claims is so necessary. The Government is paying only lip service in making that claim. At any rate, in order to achieve that, it should immediately tackle the problem of reducing direct taxes. I shall not be in the least surprised if in the very near future we hear from the Government that it has given serious consideration to the figure presented by the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– “We have a mind of our own.
– Supporters of the Government may have minds of their own, but they are great copyists. They submit that they must have high taxes to assist in providing, amongst other things, social security for the people. “We heard the Prime Minister say, “ Give the people something real, real social security.” Do Ministers say that by applying the means test to thrifty people they are providing real social security? Employees of the “Western Australian Government Railways pay lOd. a week into a provident fund so that should they fall sick or meet with an accident they shall receive £2 a week. Those self-same men pay the social security tax from which they hope to benefit should they be forced to apply for sickness benefits. However, they find when they go to the Department of Social Services to collect that benefit that under section 22 of the act of 1944 any income that they have in excess of £1 a week must be deducted from any benefit to which they are entitled. If any government - and I do not care what government it is - can say that it is fair to the working man to “ kid “ them up the garden path, I have a lot to learn. That it comes from a Labour government supposedly representing the masses is disgraceful. On top of that, we have another example of this “ real “ social security that the Prime Minister referred to. The people of this country and members of this Parliament in particular know that any war pension given to an ex-serviceman is just a small measure of compensation for some disability that he has received as a result of having served this country. I cannot believe that any body of men would do such a thing as to provide that a war pensioner should be subjected to the means test. A member of the Senate told the State secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Autsralia in “Western Australia that war pensions would be outside the means test, but to-day men in receipt of war pensions in excess of £1 a week who are forced by their disabilities to discontinue their work and who apply for sickness benefit find that the amounts of their pensions in excess of £1 a week are deducted.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service promised to take that up with the Cabinet.
– It has never been taken up. It is in the act. I am prepared to accept the fact that the Administration never intended that these men should be subject to the means test and provided the Government immediately promulgates a regulation relieving all war pensions of the means test in regard to sickness benefits, I shall continue to accept that view. My offer is most fair. I intend to criticize, but I trust that Ministers will recognize the legitimacy of my claim and assist these men.
I shall cite one instance of particular hardship. A man was discharged from the forces suffering from arthritis in the feet. Now the arthritis has moved up his legs and is affecting his hips. He is not able to obtain light employment. Because he is receiving a war pension of 25s. a week, an amount of 5s. a week is deducted from his sickness benefits. I remind the House that while that man was in employment he contributed to the Social Services Fund, so that he would have the right to enjoy sickness benefits. I hold in my hand a letter from the Repatriation Commission announcing its intention to deduct £7 16s. 5d. from his war pension to cover the excess payments that he received during the last few months. If the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) desires to know the name of this man, and if the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) cares to verify the facts before promulgating an amending regulation, I shall be pleased to supply the information. Failure to act will prove that the Government is not earnest in its announced intention to assist ex-servicemen. Some employees attempt te insure themselves against periods of sickness and unemployment by subscribing to provident funds, but I contend that the Government is leading the workers “ up the garden path “ and is not. encouraging thrift. When that condition of affairs occurs, it is the beginning of the degradation of a portion of our nation, if not the whole of it, because a nation depends upon the quality of the individuals, and if the individuals are thrifty and in. a sound financial position, the nation itself will soon be on a firm financial basis.
During this debate, extensive reference has been made to industrial disputes. I was gratified to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). Undoubtedly, he possesses the fire to deal with this matter. However, I was not pleased with the speech of the Prime Minister, who stupidly said, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, “ What can you do with 1,000,000 men who go on strike? “ Any person with an atom of common sense knows that the Government cannot take action against 1 ,000,000 strikers, but the Prime Minister has been warned that a general stoppage may take place on the 1st May at the instigation of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. Last week, a delegate attending a meeting of the Trades and Labour Council at Ballarat asked, in reference to the proposed general stoppage on the 1st May, “ What are we going to strike about?” When a delegate to the Trades and Labour Council in a city like Ballarat makes such a remark, it is proof positive that the majority of trade unionists do not know what they go on strike about, and I firmly believe that they do not desire to go on strike. A militant minority of mixed mentality is the real cause of mass industrial unrest.
This discontent in industry may be traced back for several years. For example the dispute at Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited began when two unions disagreed regarding which of them certain employees should join. The result was that 8,000 men became unemployed. We have heard in this House a. suggestion to the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth should assume control of Morte Dock and Engineering Company Limited. Those are the tactics of Hitler. He sent a few obstructionists to cause trouble, and then ordered his hordes to follow them ostensibly for the purpose of maintaining peace. In Victoria to-day, members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union are still on strike, and, according to to-day’s newspapers, the organization will not permit 24 engineers to return to work at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. The result is that refined sugar is in short supply in Victoria, and thousands of tons of fruit, which normally would be canned, will rot. That is a sorry condition of affairs. When we examine the root of the trouble, we find that the difficulty is caused by the militant minority. There is a way of dealing with them. Other countries deal with them. The Premier of Queensland, Mi1. Hanlon, has started on the right track. He brought about the termination of the strike in the meat industry. When he introduced legislation to amend the State Arbitration Act, the militant section did not like the inclusion of a. provision for holding a secret ballot before the men went on strike. Later, I read that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, when it met the Prime Minister to discuss amendments of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, opposed a suggestion for the incorporation in the legislation of a similar provision. However, members of the rank and file of the unions say that, provided the ballot is conducted by either a Commonwealth or State electoral officer - they do not trust their own crowd - they favour the incorporation of the provision for the taking of a secret ballot before going on strike. The Government should tackle this trouble at the core. These men, who are in charge of the unions and who give such stupid advice to their members should be penalized. Unfortunately, to-day. as the result of a strike of engineers and moulders in Victoria, farmers in Western Australia are experiencing great difficulty in’ obtaining spare parts for their seeding machinery, and I doubt whether they -will be able to sow the acreage that they planned to sow.
Since I became a member of this House, I have repeatedly asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land in Western Australia under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme could be expedited. As a sop, I think, he asked a colleague to supply the information that 736 men had been settled in that State under the scheme. To that statement, I give the lie direct. Not one man has been settled in Western Australia under that arrangement. The 736 persons to which reference was made, are men who are re-established on the land with a grant of £1,000.
– That is what the Minister said.
– The honorable member is incorrect, as a reference to Hansard will show. In Western Australia, more than 100 properties are available for the settlement of ex-servicemen, and, on making investigations, I am convinced that the responsibility for the delay lies at the door of the Bureau of Agricultural Economies. At present, this organization is endeavouring to calculate the cost of money, but in the meantime, thousands of returned soldiers are waiting to be settled on the land. Honorable members should bear in mind that I am. not criticizing the scheme itself, other than to say that it is too good, because a returned soldier who is settled on the land under this scheme will be in a similar position to a person who is fortunate enough to win Tattersalls. Unfortunately, a considerable number of ex-servicemen will not be settled on the land, but as that is a matter for the State Government, I shall not discuss it here. As I stated, certain properties in Western Australia have been available for some time for exservicemen to occupy, but not one man has been settled on them. I do not know what has occurred in other States, although I have heard that a similar condition of affairs obtains in two other States. We must get these men settled on the land. Already, they have lost two seasons, and it seems likely that they will lose a third.
There is another matter which will effect the ex-serviceman. The Commonwealth has taken little cognizance of the fact that it is -to provide stock and plant for returned soldier settlers. Although some hundred properties are ready in Western Australia for the settlement of ex-servicemen they will require a few head of sheep, and X doubt if the stock is available at present in that State. During the last two months, many clearing sales have been held but the representatives of the War Service Land Settlement scheme have had no authority to make purchases. The Government also has failed to honour its obligations “to exservicemen in relation to rural training. Not one man has yet started rural training in Western Australia, although the Government has appointed two gentlemen to the remunerative positions of principal and chief instructor of the rural training school. Their salaries, I believe, are £750 and £600 a year respectively. I should like to know what they are doing. It is easy for the Government to squander the people’s money, because revenue is so plentiful. The Government has also appointed a liaison officer under the war service land settlement scheme at a salary of about £840 a year. I know that he wasted a considerable amount of his time trying to find out whether I had applied for a £1,000 loan under the scheme. He even had the audacity to ask me whether I had done so and I told him, “You find out; you are paid for that. You can tell the Minister that I told you so “.
I refer now to the agreement made by the Government for the sale of Australian wheat to New Zealand. The statements made this morning by the right honorable member for Darling Downs did not surprise me because I had read them previously, but I am certain that they will surprise the people of Australia, particularly the wheat-growers. Supporters of the Government’s stabilization scheme during the elections vehemently protested that no such arrangement had been made. However, to-day we find that the agreement was accepted both by the New Zealand Government and by the Australian
Government in January, 1946. It provided for the sale of wheat to New Zealand at 9s. Id. a bushel for one year and at a maximum of 5s. 9d. a bushel for the next four or five years, and the N,ew Zealand Government retained the right to negotiate further. The arrangement was to sell wheat to the New Zealand Government at concessional rates, a proposal which was one ground for our objections to the wheat stabilization plan introduced by the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). That honorable gentleman was- repeatedly asked in this House whether there was any truth in statements which were circulating to the effect that an agreement had been made with the New Zealand Government, but he repeatedly evaded a direct answer. To-day, the right honorable member for Darling Downs read out a list of dates, beginning in December, 1945, and he stated what happened on each of those dates up to yesterday, when a statement was made by the Minister for Commerce aud Agriculture (Mr. Pollard).
– He will be sorry he made that statement.
– Yes. He said something for which I believe he will be very sorry. This Government is supposed to represent the unions. It claims to believe in unionism and to uphold union principles. I say that it- does not know the first thing about unionism, because it has used a union in Australia to defeat u union in New Zealand to the detriment, not of the wheat-growers, but of its own supporters. I shall make my point clear. When the New Zealand Minister for Commerce came to Australia to negotiate the purchase of Australian- wheat, the New Zealand farmers were withholding their wheat from the New Zealand Government because they wished to obtain a better price than that of 7s. Id. a bushel, which was offered to them by the New Zealand Government. The New Zealand Government would not agree to increase the price, particularly after it had made an arrangement- with the Australian Government to purchase wheat for 9s. Id. a bushel for one year and for a maximum of 5s. 9d. a bushel for the succeeding four- years. The New Zealand Government then forced the farmers of that dominion to deliver their wheat to it. A letter which I received from New Zealand at that time, stated - lt appears that the Labour Government of Australia is assisting the Labour Government, of New Zealand to defeat the aims, of the Farmers Union in this country (New Zealand), and that defeat will be to the detriment qf the wheat-growers in Australia.
I do not know whether the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture made his statement yesterday because of the failure of the State governments to pass legislation complementary to the Commonwealth legislation or for some other reason. There is only .one point about that statement on which I wish to correct him. He said, in reply to an interjection, that the agreement was concluded, only a fortnight ago. He should have said a fortnight and twelve months ago.
– The honorable member is a liar about that. I shall produce the evidence if that will be any good to him.
– Order ! The Minister must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw in deference to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– As was proved conclusively to-day, the agreement was concluded on the 26th January, 1946. If that is not over twelve months ago, I shall go back to school. Nevertheless, the Minister said yesterday that it had been concluded only a fortnight ago. The position now is that the Commonwealth Government will pay to the Australian wheat-growers the difference between the price of 5s. 9d. a bushel and the world parity price at the time of sale. But who will provide the money? The answer is that some of the Government’s own supporters will do so. The Government will penalize the taxpayers, as the right honorable member for Darling Downs pointed out, to the amount of £1,800,000 for the 4,500,000 bushels of wheat that will be supplied to New Zealand annually. With that money, a great deal could be done te lighten the burden which is carried by the people to whom the Government looks for support and whom it claims to represent adequately. This is- one of the most disgraceful affairs that has ever come to my knowledge. I do not know what can be done to remedy the position, but I trust that some action will be taken to bring to book people of the calibre of honorable gentlemen opposite, who have for so long misled with their mistruths, not only the Parliament of Australia but also the entire population.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and others who have spoken in support of his motion. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) adopted a policy which is characteristic of honorable members opposite by making an attack from his “coward’s castle” in this House upon the ex-member for Swan, Mr. Mountjoy, whom he defeated at the last elections. I have always believed that a. victor can afford to be generous. The honorable member for Swan, having defeated Mr. Mountjoy, should not come here and malign him as he has done. He has said that Mr. Mountjoy should be questioned by the “ powers that be” regarding his loyalty to this country. That was wrong and ungenerous of the honorable member. He made certain suggestions about Mr. Mountjoy; he might as well have been quite candid and said that he believed Mr. Mountjoy to be a member of the Communist party.
Air. Holt. - Does not the honorable member believe that?
– No, I do not believe it. If I had a brother who belonged to the Liberal party - thank God that I have not - I could not fairly be accused of being a member of the Liberal party. I believe that Mr. Mountjoy has a brother who belonged to the Communist party, but Mr. Mountjoy did not belong to that party. This point has to be considered : We claim to bc staunch advocates and defenders of democracy, yet some of us would deprive a man who happened to be a member of the Communist party of the right to voice his political opinions. If anybody has the right to attack the Communist party it is I, because, if it were not for that party I would not be opposed in my electorate. The parties that sit in opposition never nominate a candidate to stand against me. When a man has been defeated in an election campaign the victor should be a little generous towards him and not attack him in such circumstances that he is unable to reply. However, the present honorable member for Swan is new to parliamentary life, and may learn to behave better as he gains experience. He mentioned the application of the means test in connexion with certain social services. Can he recall the circumstances that existed in 1933 ? I remember them very well. The Scullin Government, which was in office at that time, was compelled to reduce all governmental expenditure, including invalid and old-age pensions and the pensions payable to the dependants of deceased servicemen, in order to balance the nation’s accounts. The action then taken split the Labour party, eighteen members of which voted against the Premiers plan. The parties that now sit in opposition assisted the Government of the day to give legislative effect to that plan, under which a great deal of expenditure was subsequently saved. All parties agreed, however, that when there was a semblance of a balanced economy the first step should be to restore pensions to their former level. Following the defeat of the Scullin Government, the first Lyons Government took office. It was composed of members of the United Australia party. They did not want the assistance of the Australian Country party, of which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was then the leader, because i-hey had sufficient strength in their own ranks to carry on the government unaided. When the time arrived for the restoration of pensions, what action was taken by that Administration? One of the provisions which it enacted was that any income derived by a pensioner should be deducted from his pension. If an oldage pensioner was honest enough to admit having been given any amount up to 2s. 6d., that amount was deducted from his pension, thereby reducing the pension payable to 15s. a week. One of the most iniquitous pieces of legislation ever enacted in the history of British parliamentary government can be placed to the account of that Government. Under it, an old-age pensioner was deprived of the right to dispose under his will of any property he possessed. It had to revert to the Crown, and the Treasury deducted from the proceeds of the sale of it the amount which the pensioner had been paid during his life-time. Instead of squealing about the means test, honorable members opposite who supported such a proposal should hang their heads in shame. How can they justify the withdrawal of that right from an old pioneer, who had blazed the track and had handed on to posterity the advantages which we of a later generation enjoy? They should never criticize the application of the means test. The building of many of the homes affected by this most rotten and iniquitous legislation was made possible by the sweat and toil of members of the families of widowed mothers whose husbands had been killed in industry.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has claimed that the Government has been guilty of political jobbery. The right honorable gentleman has never displayed more hypocritical concern in respect of any other matter. According to him, the Government should repeal the wage-pegging regulations, and reduce taxes. What is the record of this great Messiah, this enunciator of what should be Labour’s policy? The right honorable gentleman suggested that the Government should adopt the policy which he placed before the people at the last elections. At that time, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) attempted to gain favour with the people by offering a slightly better bargain on the hustings, namely, tax reductions 8 per cent, in excess of those which the Leader of the Opposition had claimed were practicable. I wonder whether those right honorable gentlemen and their followers would have continued to be the mutinous crew they had always been in the past when in office, had they been returned to power ! They fought like “ Kilkenny cats “ when the plums of office were not sufficiently plentiful to satisfy the desires of the Australian Country party. I can remember the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) having to vacate a seat on the treasury bench and take his place on a back bench, during the administration of the present Leader of the Opposition, in order that a larger number of portfolios might be given to the Australian Country party. I believe that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) suffered a similar fate. The Australian Country party then assumed the role of dictators. I can also remember the late honorable member for Forrest, Mr. Prowse, urging that taxes should be imposed irrespective of the amount of income earned, yet at the same time demanding that he should have the right to participate in a bounty which the Government of the day proposed to distribute among needy wheat-growers, notwithstanding the fact that he was in receipt of a parliamentary allowance. I shall never forget the retort of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who was piloting that legislation through the House. It was, “ This is a bill for the needy, not the greedy.” That is an illustration of the greed and avariciousness of some members of the Australian Country party. The Leader of the Opposition, answering an interjection that I made during the course of his speech - I admit that I put my chin out - said, “ The honorable member for Hunter is a loyal supporter of the Government. “ I am a loyal supporter of the Government. I am proud of my support of an administration which has done such a good job as has been done by the present Administration. The right honorable gentleman said that I had shed crocodile tears in connexion with the taxes imposed on coal-miners. I have said, as I have the right to say, that I believe that relief from heavy taxes would provide an incentive to greater production. The Leader of the Opposition said that I shed crocodile tears about the coal-miners, but he should hang his head in shame for the rest of his life because of his action in forcing the waterside workers at Port Kembla to ship pigiron to Japan just prior to the outbreak of war in 1939. It was by such means that Japan gained the raw materials with which to attack this and other countries.
Let us consider now the charge that the Government had been guilty of politiC.:1 jobbery. I shall not repeat what the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said in answer to this charge, except to say that the present Government was set an example in this respect by previous nonLabour governments. T recall that an ex-senator, now Acting Chief Judge Drake-Brockman, who was opposed to Labour was appointed by a non-Labour government to the Arbitration Court. Similarly, the present Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, who was previously a strong opponent in this chamber of Labour, was appointed to his present high position by a non-Labour government. I recall, too, that the BrucePage Government appointed to the Arbitration Court, at a salary of £3,000 per annum, a man who had retired from the Queensland bench on a pension of £2,000 a year. I refer to the late Judge Lukin. We hear a good deal about the need for peace in industry, but nothing created more discontent in industry than did the appointment of that gentleman. Thanks to a Labour government, he was railroaded. The present Government should act in a similar way towards some of the judges who are opposed to carrying out government policy which, after all, is the policy of the people. They should put these persons where Judge Lukin was put - where they can do no harm.
– The honorable member should tell the judges that.
– I have told them. I would put them into divorce and bankruptcy jurisdiction, where they could do no harm to the workers.
I come now to the attack on Mr. McKell, who is a good Australian. I am proud to think that Mr. McKell has risen from the humble position of a boilermaker to the highest office in the Commonwealth. He is conscientious, honest and true, and no man dares to assail his character. The United Kingdom Government has never hesitated to make political appointments when filling the office of Governor of a State, or even the position of Governor-General. I have in mind Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson and Lord Stonehaven, who filled the high office of Governor-General of Australia and, in addition, many others appointed to governorships in South Africa and Canada. In this matter Canada has taken a stand which Australia should follow. The highest position in the land should be available to every Australianborn citizen. I say frankly that I do not believe in overseas appointees to such positions. Among the citizens of this country are men with ability to occupy any position, such as that of Governor or Governor-General, and they should be appointed when vacancies arise.
On the subject of industrial troubles, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we should change our laws ; but when we have sought to do so in order to give to this Parliament added powers, the Opposition, for party political purposes, has opposed the attempt. In my opinion, Australia cannot make the progress of which it is capable so long as we have seven parliaments with thirteen Houses. If in twenty years time I should be sitting in opposition in this chamber, and a non-Labour government were to introduce proposals to amend the Constitution to give more power to the Commonwealth Parliament, I should support them. That may sound rebellious, but I believe that opposition merely for the sake of opposition is wrong. Constitutional reform should be above party politics.
The honorable member for Swan referred to strikes in Queensland in which he said the Commonwealth Government did not intervene. The honorable member should know that the Commonwealth Government cannot interfere in any industrial dispute unless it extends beyond the borders of one State, and then only by request and not on its own initiative. What did the Leader of the Opposition say once regarding strikes? At the end of 1943, when we were in the midst of the greatest waT in which the Empire had ever participated, he said that as the coal-miners would not obey the Government let there be a three months’ general strike in order to see who would rule. What a tragic thing that would have been at a time when the nation was in desperate need of raw material. At the very time when men were being slaughtered in defence of their country, and when our ports were being attacked by the enemy, he advocated a general strike. It has been said that much of the industrial trouble now occurring is due to the activities of Communists in control of unions. As a matter of fact, the Communists do not control all the unions, nor have they a majority of union membership. I admit that there may be some Communist agitators. It has been said that the Communists are trying to prove that the Russian brand of economy is superior to that of the capitalist countries; that they want to show that Russia, which played so important a part in the war and suffered so much, will be the first to recover after the war. The allegation is that they are trying to retard industrial recovery in the capitalist countries by bringing about a wave of strikes. Whether or not that is true I do not know, but I do know that the coal-mine owners do not want social progress in Australia because they believe that it means higher taxes. They ave opposed to the policy of the Labour party in this regard, a policy which aims at providing security and some measure of comfort for those who. have spent their lives in industry. Such persons have earned whatever social benefits that we can give them. In their case what they receive is theirs by right, and not by charity.
Honorable members will recall that during the war an agreement known as the Canberra code was entered into between the coal-miners and the owners, at the instigation of the Curtin Government. One of the points of the agreement was that the miners should be allowed to hold pit-top meetings lasting twenty minutes. It must be remembered that the miners do not live near the pits. They live in villages sometimes as far as 30 miles away, so that there is no hope of their assembling to hold meetings except at the pit itself. The least time that can be occupied in holding a pit-top meeting, even merely to adopt a resolution previously prepared by the secretary, is from ten to fifteen minutes. Just recently, when this Parliament was about to assemble, the coal-owners varied the existing practice. Honorable members opposite talk about co-operation between the Communists and the Labour party, but it seems to me that there is a great deal of co-operation between the coalowners and the Opposition. Prominent members of the Opposition are seen too often in the company of Mr. Gregory for me to believe anything different. The owners have now broken away from the Canberra code, and if the miners hold a pit-top meeting lasting only five or ten minutes, the whistle is blown telling them that they must go home. That has happened on the northern field. The record of the western field was very good right throughout the war. It is’ the smallest coal-field in New South Wales, but its record for production has been remarkable. This may be because it is in the electorate of the Prime Minister, and every one has confidence in him. In any case, every one, including the coal commissioner, has complimented the western miners for maintaining production. The industrial officer for the district, Mr. Barney Cunningham, was accustomed to address the miners at pittop meetings, and I have myself addressed them when disputes have arisen, and they always went back to work. Now, however, if they send for Mr. Cunningham, and he addresses them, the whistle will be blown, and they will be sent home. In the same way, if I address them in an endeavour to get them to return to work the whistle will be blown by the management, and there will be no work for that day. ‘ In the southern district, the general secretary, Mr. Maurice Fitzgibbon, sent out a circular regarding a levy, and the men were asked to express their opinion regarding it. After they had been considering the matter for only five minutes, the whistles were blown simultaneously at five mines, and there was no work at any of them for that day. That was only yesterday, and on that day there was the greatest decline of coal production in the history of the field, not because of any action of the miners, but because the owners sent the men home. That is a tragic state of affairs when coal is still so urgently needed. For this information I am indebted to the general secretary of the miners’ federation, Mr. Grant, who telephoned me last night.
Honorable members opposite have charged the Government with political jobbery. I do not believe that we shall ever get away from the practice of making political appointments. If somebody has rendered good and faithful service to a party, and been loyal to it, that party will reward him with an appointment of some kind. The present Opposition, when in power, did it just as we have done it. The Lyons Government .adopted a very fair attitude when it appointed as industrial commissioner, Mr. Arthur Blakeley, a former member for Darling. It was apolitical appointment, but the man appointed had been a member of the Labour party. We are frequently accused of appointing too many of the supporters of the party opposite. Indeed, it has been said that the best way to get an appointment from a Labour government is to join the Liberal party.
– The Menzies Government appointed your own Prime Minister to a post.
– That is perfectly true, so what are you squealing about? The party opposite has made such appointments in the past, a.nd will, no doubt, continue to do so in the future.
– Does the honorable member believe that the recent appointees will make good trade commissioners?
– I do. So far as Mr. Breen is concerned, he has had just as good an education as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). He has been through a university, and the honorable member for Fawkner has done no more than that. I have never heard that the honorable member for Fawkner distinguished himself particularly at the university. He was able to obtain a. better education than have most of us, because he enjoyed the advantage of having some one who could pay for. him at a university. My own beginnings were more humble. My education has been practically nil. The only education I had was in the school of goddam hard knocks.
– Order ! The honorable member’s language is unparliamentary.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker; it was incited by the interjections by my friend the honorable member for Fawkner. From my experience over the years in this Parliament I well know that it is customary to introduce motions of want of confidence solely for the purpose of political propaganda. Honorable members opposite seek to take advantage of the workers’ cry for the lifting of controls of all kinds, for the abolition of wage-pegging and the lowering of taxes in order to jump on the band wagon and pose as the champions of the workers’ cause. They say, “ We will lift wage-pegging and reduce taxes “, but they have no idea how they could bring about those desirable things. On the one hand we have a “ squeal “ from people who want social services to be increased, and on the other hand we have those who are loudly agitating for a reduction of taxes. We cannot have it both ways, and so the Government has said that as soon as finances permit, and then only, taxes will be reduced. Let the workers be assured that when the Prime Minister brings down his proposals for the reduction of taxes Herod will be out-heroded, and that far greater benefits will be conferred upon the people, not only by way of tax remissions, but also in long overdue social reforms than could possibly be provided if a government led by honorable members opposite were in office.
.- When the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) rises in his place in this House he always seeks to create the impression by a display of emotionalism that, although he may be a rough diamond, he is prepared to tell the truth. On that basis he gets away with what closely approximates murder because, even about the things of which he has had a lifetime experience, he has been proved wrong so often that honorable members in this House take very little notice of any statement he makes relating to his own calling, and pay little regard to his political arguments generally. I take two examples from his speech this afternoon. The honorable member spoke chidingly of the Australian Country party. He asked how could the opposition composed of two warring factions form a government. He said that the Australian Country party is a pressure group which would require from any partner a quid pro quo for its support. Nobody in this House has a better right to speak on the subject of a quid pro quo than has the honorable member for Hunter, the one-time deputy leader of the Lang party in this House, the party that infamously back-stabbed the Scullin Government. The honorable member was also deputy leader of the Australian Labour party, non-Communist.
– That is a lie.
– He was at least a member of that party whose very title implies that the official Labour party waa a Communist party.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I have been, misrepresented.
– The honorable member must wait until the honorable member for Wentworth has concluded his speech before he is entitled to make an explanation.
– I did not belong to the party to which the honorable member has referred.
– Let us see how pressure tactics benefited the members of that little group. Mr. Beasley, who was formerly a senior Minister in the Curtin administration, is now Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. You, Mr. Speaker, have attained a very elevated position in this House. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) was a former Minister in the Curtin Government. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is now a Minister of some standing in the present Government. And even the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is now some sort of liaison officer on the coal-fields and receives all the emoluments associated with such a position. The unfortunate member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) is the only honorable member of that party I know of who has not received any emoluments from his association with the Lang group at that time. So the honorable member for Hunter is highly qualified to talk about pressure tactics and exacting a quid pro quo for support. The honorable member said that the Leader of the Opposition should wear sackcloth and ashes because he insisted on the loading of pig-iron at Port Kembla. I want to say something about this in my general observations with regard to this Labour Government, this synthetic Government, which occupies the government benches at the present moment. I believe that the members of this Government are deliberately conniving with the Communists to promote the introduction of commissar-control in industry. I propose to give instances where that has occurred. There was an attempt on the part of the Communists to establish commissarcontrol in connexion with the loading of pig-iron at Port Kembla, but this move was defeated because there was in office at the time a government strong enough to enforce the law. What are the facts about the pig-iron episode? He would indeed be a brave man who would criticize the shipping of pig-iron at Port Kembla at a time when, as everybody knows, the Labour party in Western Australia sought to prejudice the whole of Australia’s iron ore heritage at Yampi Sound for the sake of a royalty of 3d. per ton which had been offered by the Japanese. A deputation of Labour members, which included the late Mr. Curtin, arrived in Canberra at a time when the now Leader of th e Opposition was AttorneyGeneral in the Lyons Government seeking approval of the sale to Japan of our heritage of from 30,000,000 to 60,000,000 tons of iron ore for the paltry royalty of 3d. per ton. It was the Menzies and Lyons Governments which prevented that catastrophe. Let. us look at. what happened with regard to scrap iron. The Labour-controlled City Council of Brisbane was responsible for shipping thousands of tons of train lines as scrap iron to Japan. Why does not the honorable member tell the whole truth? I have “iven two illustrations of the honorable member’s approach to matters of this kind which will be sufficient to enable the House to assess the merits of the speech he has just made. In speaking to this motion I do not propose to mince words. First of all I want to say something in answer to the extraordinary observations that have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and his deputy (Dr. Evatt), as a sort of fighting reply to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I have never heard from responsible Ministers such puerile arguments as have come from the Government side this afternoon. What a team has been put up to answer the charges levelled against the Government ! Is this an indication that the Labour Government is on its way out and does not care to defend itself? Is it. that it is aware of public feeling against it and is not prepared to answer these charges? Consider the McKell episode, and how it has been side-tracked by Government spokesmen. The Leader of the Opposition referred to political jobbery. If ever a man established a case for a charge of political jobbery it. was established by the Leader of the Opposition this morning. The right honorable gentleman referred to the mass appointments of men who had no qualifications for the pOSt S for which they were selected other than that they were over 21 years of age and had had a good education. Men appointed as trade commissioners, for instance, have to deal with our entire trade fabric in a world that is demanding our products. And surely if it is necessary at all to have somebody other than scientists and experts as memhers of the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, it would have been possible to appoint a man of standing and repute in the community. These are questions that cry aloud for .an answer, but so far no answer has been given. I come now to the latest appointment, that of Mr. McKell as Governor-General of this country. “We on this side of the chamber have made it clear that we do not object to the appointment of an Australian as GovernorGeneral ; but this appointment comes within an entirely different category. Here we find a man who has been appointed to the highest position in the land besmirching his office by indulging in political jobbery within caucus in an endeavour to have a certain individual appointed to succeed him as Premier of New South “Wales. How can the Government expect the position of GovernorGeneral to be held in respect by the people of this country? Do honorable members opposite really wish the office to be held in respect, or is this appointment a deliberate attempt to lower the status of the ‘Governor-General in the community in order that certain other action may be taken by those who do not wish our association with the British Empire to be continued? This man started his political career as an anti-conscriptionist when he was of military age and eligible to serve his country in the front line; yet as Governor-General he will be CommanderinChief of the fighting forces of the Australian Commonwealth. Could anything do more to lower the dignity of that high office ? Is it any wonder that the federal body of the returned servicemen’s organization has entered a very strong protest against the appointment? These are questions that honorable members opposite have not attempted to asswer.
However, I shall pass from that matter. As I have said, I shall not mince my words in dealing with .matters in connexion with which the Government is deserving of censure. In the five months that it has held office, this puppet, synthetic Government has forfeited the confidence not only of members of this House, but also of the people of Australia. .1 do not agree with honorable members who have claimed that this country’s industrial troubles are due to the Government’s apathy and inefficiency. I believe - and I make this charge against the Government - that it is conniving with the Communist party to bring about a form of revolution in this country to overthrow the present so-called “ capitalist “ system, in the hope that the Labour party, which is pledged to socialism, may be able, in the ultimate w.ash-up, to establish a socialistic state. I warn honorable members opposite who are hoping that the Communists will pull their chestnuts out of the fire for them that they are underrating the Communist organizations. The Communists have learned the last lesson in a very hard school, and a continuance of the Government’s present attitude will result ultimately in the introduction of something far worse than a socialistic state. “What has been the reply of the Government to the numerous challenges that have been made by the Communists to government control and to the very laws of the country? The Government has deferred, appeased, placated, compromised, and then retreated in the face of -every onslaught by the Communists. It has retreated from its sworn obligation to govern. Again I say that it is a synthetic .government. Apparently not one principle that has been laid down *by law in the industrial field is .sacred. The Government has failed to enforce the law against its own followers, and from this failure there has emerged a sort of commissar-control qf industry. Each section of industry is seeking to impose its own control, and to this end it is prepared to flout the law. The Government rightly has been condemned for its handling of the industrial situation ; but what has been the Prime Minister’s approach to industrial problems in the past? His attitude to lawlessness has been one of complete inaction. Last month the Tight honora’ble gentleman said -
I admit I am getting rather tired of these industrial disturbances ‘which -have occurred so frequently lately. . . . Long speeches are .not likely to get us any where.
T’he next sentence will appear somewhat ludicrous to honorable members who know the right honorable gentleman’s (Stubbornness, lethargy, and apathy. He said -
I prefer action and a solution ‘can be found that way.
We -should all like to see some of that promised action. It has not been evident tip to the present. These words of course were empty words such as we have heard in this chamber on many occasions from the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues. Almost every section of the community has suffered acutely in some way or other because of the continued industrial unrest. There have been strikes in the metal trades industries, in dockyards, on the -water front, and in the coal and transport industries, while people have been denied .gas and electric power; yet, all that we have been able to get from the Prime Minister is a belated admission that he is tired of strikes and prefers action. I can assure the right honorable gentleman that the Australian people, particularly -the housewives, became tired of the repeated strikes long ago. They are also tired of a spineless Commonwealth Government which lacks the courage to stand up to irresponsible trade unionists. The Prime Minister has only himself to blame for the industrial turmoil that kas prevailed. Honorable members will recall that during the electioncampaign the right honorable gentleman, strangely enough, advocated the right to strike; but of course votes were required and lie was tossing for votes. Every week some section of workers, encouraged by the Prime Minister’s incitement to break the .law, resorts to direct action, -and the Prime Minister’s advocacy bas now boomeranged upon kim. The Prime Minister .advocated strikes during the election campaign. He incited the -workers to strike. They .have taken bian nt his word. Se sowed the wind and he is reaping the whirlwind. The threatened strike of the 1st May is likely :to involve more than l,000j000 men.
Postal and other governmental workers were in ‘Canberra this week appealing for more consideration as regards pay, indicating -unrest within the Public Service itself. All these people are expressing extreme dissatisfaction with the Government. For this deplorable state of affairs the Government is solely to blame. Its whole history has been abdication in Favour o’f industrial outlaws, with the result that minorities in trade unions show utter contempt, -not only for the -Labour ‘Government but also for the basic needs of their fellow citizens, and that state of affairs in a democracy is dangerous. When we find that workers are not concerned about the home comforts of their colleagues and friends but prepared to exploit them to the utmost, we are in a dangerous state. The shocking drift in the industrial front is disclosed in figures furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician. I propose to place them on record. The deterioration in industrial conditions since Labour took office is evident in these figures which I hope the Government will take notice of and be able to take comfort from. In 1939, there were 416 disputes with a loss of 459,154 working days; in 1940, taking into account strikes which were purely political in character, the figures were 350 and 1,507,252 respectively. Those are figures that no government can be proud of when we realize what it means in loss of production of essential goods and the effect upon the national income. No government can be proud of a record such as that. But let us go further. In 1941, disputes numbered 567 and working days lost 984,174. Labour took office in October, 1941, and the following figures reveal the trend in the industrial sphere : - 1 do mot know -what the record for .19:46 will ;be when it is published, but if the strike on the 1st May becomes .an established ,fact. the number of working days lost in 1945 and the other years will be a mere bagatelle compared with the number of days that will be lost in 1947. I put it to honorable members that this record alone is sufficient to cause censure on the Government. No government, let alone a government that claims to represent the workers, can stand up to a charge of this sort. <It is sufficient in normal circumstances to destroy any government. Yet we hear the Prime Minister saying, Well, what can we do about it?” That has been his attitude throughout. Instead of ‘ improving under the Labour administration, the position worsened. For instance, the loss of working days in the June quarter of 1946 was at the rate of more than 3,000,000 a year and was 318.0S1 more than for the whole of 1939, when a non-Labour government was in office. This lamentable state of affairs is attributable to the Chifley Government’s failure to enforce its laws and regulations and its policy of appeasement. This has brought it into contempt in the eyes of great numbers of industrial workers. Another contributing factor is the activity of Communist agitators, who have been given every licence by this Labour Government to disrupt industry and undermine constitutional authority. Let us analyse this, because it is the gravamen of my charge against the Government. I believe that the Government knows that out of the turmoil and strife that may be brought about by commissar groups taking control of industry and the challenge levelled against governmental authority may come some change of the system. It hopes that it will be a socialist system. The Government is playing with fire. The commissars have forgotten more about political organization than the Labour party has ever known. That is evident because the trade unions are swinging in behind them. All the disruption that has occurred in the last five months since the Labour Administration was returned to office, has now been concentrated . into one protest by the Australian trade union movemest. The unions propose to stage a strike on the 1st May if the Arbitration Court does not give them a 40-hour week. There is no alternative. It is not that the Arbitration Court should arrive at a decision that might be a decision for other than a 40-hour week. They have used the court and placed evidence before it, but they now say, “Notwithstanding all the evidence placed before you, for or against, you must give us what we ask for, and if you do not we propose to stage a strike of 1,000,000- odd workers on the 1st May “. Let us see what the leaders of those unions say about it, because, as I have tried to point out, this is just an acceptance of the Communist principle of commissar-control. I spoke of the possible revolution and the Labour party’s hope to establish a. socialist state. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) drew attention to “ Ernie “ Thornton’s statement in Melbourne in November when he said that they were then celebrating the Russian revolution but that in a couple of years they might be celebrating the Australian revolution. Back as far as last April, the secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the principal labour organization which has threatened the Government with a strike, and by doing so, has challenged governmental authority, said -
If the court rejects the 40-hour week application, then we will take up the struggle, and it will be a pretty bitter struggle too.
Within the last few weeks, Mr. Monk has had this to say -
The trade union movement docs not feel disposed to engage in further legal contests to achieve improved conditions.
Does that mean that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions has adopted collective bargaining? It seems to me that it has, if they say, “We want a 40-hour week by the 1st of May or else ! “ That demand is the first stage of the adoption of the Communist principle of collective bargaining. The Australian Workers Union, the last bulwark of the moderates, at its annual conference last month, directed its 30,000 shearer members to accept employment only on a 5-day 40- hour week basis after the 15th March. The secretary of the Queensland branch of the Australian Workers Union, Mr. Pall on, said -
Strikes in certain seasonal and key industries would be the best strategy for enforcing the 40-hour claim if other methods failed.
I ask honorable members to recall the statement by Mr. Sharkey, the president of the Communist organization, who said -
Political strikes are a higher class of struggle Ulan economic strikes. Such strikes challenge the Government, the State, the rule of the capitalist class. One of our chief trade union tasks is the politicalization of strikes.
The Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Workers Union are advocating the “politicalizat,1 on “ of strikes - the very thing that the Communists demand. The Communists have gone through the ranks of the industrial organizations, and infected the principal bodies of the Labour party. The Labour party has fallen for it, and the struggle between the political wing and the industrial wing is becoming more pronounced. It appears to me that the political wing will have to go “left” if its members value their seats in this Parliament. The general secretary of the Communist party, speaking in the Sydney Domain on the 2nd December last, said -
The Communist view is that a general strike should only be called when there is a revolutionary situation and the workers are ready to take part. I have been working all my life to prepare them for that, but that time is uncertain. It is not now.
Before it is too late, the Government should take action to ensure that the general strike which may precede the revolution of which Sharkey spoke, shall not occur. I do not know whether the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is attempting to establish the conditions that Sharkey wants, but it is certainly moving in that direction. The Prime Minister cannot shed his responsibility lightly. He must insist that the rule of law, which he and his colleagues are sworn to uphold, is administered fairly and fearlessly in the community. In every major industrial dispute, this trend towards commissarcontrol has been manifest. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the tactics used are in accordance with the Soviet pa ttern - coercion of employers by threats of direct action, and demands which are neither within the power of the employers nor the Government to grant. Therefore, the only course open to the Prime Minister is to enforce the law, or introduce legislation so that he and his Ministers will not be in the unhappy position of having the laws of the country challenged and the power taken out of their hands by these militants. The Government has deliberately fostered extreme methods by allowing the rule of law to be taken out of its hands. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned one example of commissarcontrol when he directed attention to the fact that the Waterside Workers Federation would not permit the loading of certain ships. There is another example. Recently the well-known . Communist, “Comrade” Bulmer, who controls the Building Workers Industrial Union, and who sought to break the Ship joiners Union, said -
Without regard to what the law says or what Judge Kelly says or what Mr. Curtin or Dr. Evatt say, we are determined to crush the ship joiners, and it shall be done.
A former judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the late J udge O’Mara, isued an order against “ Comrade “ Bulmer forbidding certain discrimination. The facts, His Honour said, showed a form of conspiracy regarding representations by the Building Workers Industrial Union during its efforts to bring about the de-registration of the Ship Joiners Union. Now, this man has the temerity .to declare, “My union will determine what homes shall be built and where they shall be built “. He said that his organization would not permit the erection of luxury homes. I do not support any argument in favour of building luxury homes at the present time, but I point out that the Government, of New South Wales does issue the building permits and “ Comrade “ Bulmer reserves the right to declare whether construction shall proceed, or not. He said, “ My union will continue its drive against luxury building until the law is fully observed “. The irony of it ! This is the man who Judge O’Mara said should be committed for criminal conspiracy, and who threatened to defy the Arbitration Court.
A similar position has arisen regarding the double-dumping of wool. When the double-dumping dispute occurred, the former Minister for the Army, Mr. Forde, said that he would immediately ask the Stevedoring Industry Commission to inquire into it. The Communist leader of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Healy, decided that the inquiry should not be held. He shelved any approach by the commission until after the regulations had. lapsed. The commission’s inquiry collapsed after 25 minutes. The position now is that wool, which other countries urgently require, is not being loaded in sufficient quantities, and the delay which occurs in the loading of it is a travesty. This is another form of commissarcontrol. Leading Communists say, “We shall load just so much wool, and will disregard the decisions of a properly constituted tribunal. The Stevedoring Industry Commission has no power over us.”
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), in his usual style, has viciously attacked all forms of industrial disputes, whether they be justified, or not. I believe that, the honorable member, who has made such a forceful speech against the working people of Australia, may be termed No: 1 striker in the Commonwealth, because only recently he announced that he would go on strike about accepting any further invitations from His Majesty’s representative in the- Commonwealth, the Governor-General.
– Hear, hear! It is worthwhile, too.
– I remind the honorable member for Wentworth that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. It behoves him to set an example to those, people, whom he so roundly condemns, by not going on strike himself over’ a matter about which he disagrees. He should set a proper example to the people, and should not do the very thing for which he condemns them.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Wentworth criticized the appointment of Mr. W. J. McKell, K.C., ex-M.L.A., a. former Premier of New South Wales, to the office of Governor-General. In. keeping with the sentiments expressed by the- Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), 1 d.0 not make any apology for supporting the- appointment, because. I consider it is one which should! win the commendation of every Australian citizen. I. con: aider: also- that the statements by the Leader of the Opposition and the- honorable member for Wentworth were: a very low, form- of political attack: - possibly the lowest, form ever introduced into this Parliament, because it is a direct attack on an. appointment made by His Majesty the- King. It is a subject which, no matter what political, advantage honorable members opposite .might, have wished to gain, they should not have mentioned in a debate of this nature. In their eye3, the cardinal sins committed by the man who has been selected to occupy this exalted position are, first, that he is an Australian, and, secondly, that he was a member of the Australian Labour party. These seem, to be the main reasons why criticism has been levelled by the Opposition at the appointment of Mr. McKell. 1 make my position clear by saying that an appointment of this nature is not new. In. recommending, a native-born citizen for this high position, the Prime Minister was merely following in the footsteps of one of his predecessors who some years ago recommended the appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs to the. office of Governor-General. The governments of South Africa and other countries have at various times appointed natives of their countries to similar, posts. The Opposition has claimed that the appointment was political. They say that Mr. McKell will go direct from politics to the position of Governor-General and, therefore, he cannot be impartial in his approach to the problems that will confront him in the new position. In this connexion it is interesting to note- that Lord Stonehaven was appointed GovernorGeneral of Australia in 1.925 when he was Minister, of Transport in the. British Government of the day, and that, immediately after his term as- Governor-General of Australia expired, he became chairman of the Conservative party in Great Britain. It is freely ad:mitted in Australia that Lord Stonehaven successfully discharged the duties of Governor-General, and that, because of his honesty of purpose, his political, affiliations, prior to his. appointment, had no effect, upon, his judgment. He performed his duties honestly and to the satisfaction of. the people, of Australia.
In South Africa-,. Sir Patrick Duncan waa appointed Governor-General in. 1937. At. the time of his appointment, kei was plain. Mr; Duncan:,, and. held the: port1folio of Minister of Mines. Het was- a native of South Africa. Mr. Gideon B. van Zyl, the present Governor ^General of South Africa, was formerly a member of Parliament for the electorate of Sea Point in that dominion. He was a Chairman of Committees in the South African Parliament and a lawyer. I understand that, at the time of his appointment, he was a defeated politician. He, too, was a native of South Africa. Coming closer to home, Sir James Mitchell, a former non-Labour Premier of Western Australia, was appointed LieutenantGovernor of that State when he was Leader of the Opposition. I do not believe that anybody will deny that he is serving his State and his nation very satisfactorily in his capacity as Lieutenant-Governor, even though he was a member of the Nationalist party. The instances which I. have cited show that the appointment of Mr. McKell is in line with the practice of other dominions, in which native-born citizens who have served their country well in various spheres and who have the ability to carry out the duties of in office comparable to that of GovernorGeneral of Australia have been selected for appointment. The precedent was established in Australia during the term of office of the present right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Seullin) as Prime Minister. It is being followed in this instance, and I have no doubt that the appointment will be successful. It is also interesting to note that in Australia we have Sir John Northcott as Governor of New ‘South Wales .and Sir John Lavarack as Governor of Queensland. In addition to being men of integrity and ability, they are natives of Australia. I believe that the criticism by the Opposition of the appointment of Mr. McKell is due mainly to the facts that he is an Australian and that he was a member of the Australian Labour party. Had Opposition members been asked to nominate some non-political -personality for the appointment, they would probably have selected Mr. R. G. Casey or Viscount Bruce. They consider that men such as those have no political affiliations. No sound reason has been advanced to support the claim that the appointment of Mr. McKell is not a good one and not opportune. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) went so far as to threaten -that Mr. McKell, as the King’s appointed Governor-General, would be promptly dismissed if the Opposition parties were returned to power. I agree with the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) that, fortunately for all concerned, such an eventuality lies at least 20 or 30 years in the future. That being so, the office of GovernorGeneral should be safe from interference by honorable members opposite.
With the appointment of Mr. McKell to the position of His Majesty’s representative in Australia, we have an opportunity to strengthen, not weaken as the Opposition suggests, the bonds which unite Australia with Great Britain. Par from weakening our loyalty to the Empire and the King, the appointment will show clearly that Australia has citizens capable of filling this high position who will enjoy the support of the people and who will be capable of uniting Australia to Great Britain more closely than ever before, if that be possible. The man selected for this appointment has risen from a humble station in life “to the highest position available in this country. The appointment establishes the important precedent that any son of Australian parents can rise to this position and serve his nation in the highest possible sphere, provided that he has the ability and the desire to do so. Mr. McKell is a notable Australian. He has served the people of New South Wales in the Parliament of that State for many years. He became Premier of New South Wales in 1941, and he rendered great service when he led the Parliament of that State during the difficult years of the war. He became a King’s Counsel through his own efforts. We can admire him for his ability and resourcefulness and also for the achievements which lie to his credit after a lifetime of service to the people. The Opposition’s attack on Mr. McKell was completely unjustified. It was a low form of attack designed to gain political advantage and it will be condemned by all decent and thoughtful Australians. It is disgraceful that honorable members opposite should sink so low as to attack, in this Parliament, an appointment made by His Majesty the King.
The Leader of the Opposition, spoke of political appointments and political jobbery. In doing so he particularly exempted from his attack the Australian High Commissioner in Great Britain, Mr. Beasley, the Australian High Commissioner in Canada, Mr. Forde, the Australian Ambassador to Washington, Mr. Makin, and the Chairman of the Australian Airlines Commission, Mr. Coles. I suggest that his exemption of Mr. Beasley, Mr. Forde and Mr. Makin was not based on charity or appreciation of their services to Australia, but was due to his memory of appointments made by anti-Labour governments. An anti-Labour government appointed Mr. R. G. Casey, when he was a member of this House, to a post in Washington and an anti-Labour government sent Mr., now Viscount, Bruce to London when he also was a member of this House. The Leader of the Opposition condemned and criticized this Government for doing things which parties of his own political colour did in years past. The Prime Minister mentioned also other notable instances: Sir John Latham, Judge Drake-Brockman - a defeated antiLabour senator - and General Ryrie, who resigned his seat as member for Warringah when appointed by the BrucePage Government as High Commissioner in the United Kingdom. Possibly all of those were at the back of the right honorable gentleman’s mind as he criticized, in his own way, the appointments made by the present Government of several men who had served this nation very well in this Parliament during very difficult times, and had won the respect of all citizens, particularly those whom they had represented. I agree with the Prime Minister that a man’s political beliefs should not debar him from accepting a high position in the service of the nation. When members of the Opposition endeavour to criticize the Government for having appointed Mr. Breen, Mr. Frost, Mr. Mountjoy, Mr. Martens and one or two others to positions in the service of Australia, they exhibit biased reasoning. It must be remembered that those men possess ability, and have enjoyed the confidence of a large section of the people of the Commonwealth. They know the productive capacity and the future possi- bilities of Australia, and have a sound belief in its destiny. In the positions to which they have been appointed, they will be able to do a notable job for the Commonwealth. It should be remembered that some of the positions mentioned are not what may be described as lucrative. They are, however, in keeping with the ability of the men concerned, who can continue to serve the people at home and abroad. We should also bear in mind that the defeat of a man in the political sphere does not necessarily mean that he lacks ability, or those other qualities that are needed in order to serve Australia. We all know that political winds blow in many directions, and suddenly. Some honorable members who may consider that they have safe seats, may, because of a change of political fortune, find themselves in a short space of time no longer members of Parliament. Many men occupying high positions in the political, industrial and commercial world might fail to hold seats in Parliament through no fault of their own, notwithstanding their ability. Defeat in the political sphere should not debar a man from accepting a governmental appointment. We should have regard to the qualities of the men concerned, and realize that they have devoted a lot of time and energy to the service of the people in this Parliament. If it be possible for them to continue to serve Australia at home or abroad, it is the responsibility of the Government of the day to utilize their services. We can honestly say that that is what has been done in respect of Mr. Breen, Mr. Frost, Mr. Mountjoy, Mr. Martens, and other exmembers. To my way of thinking, it is cowardly to say that a man is not capable of doing a job satisfactorily because he may not have had the good fortune to have been in that . sphere of activity previously. ‘Criticism of the appointments that have been made is based mainly on the fact that the men concerned are not professors or experts in the various spheres in which they have been placed by the Government. The Prime Minister and the Government are to be commended upon the decision to utilize their services. There is no need to make any apology for the appointments. They are citizens of whom we may be proud. I am sure that when their work lias been completed it will be found that they have rendered great service to the people of this country.
I also wish to say a few words in connexion with the industrial position. Opposition members, characteristically, have levelled strong criticism against the Government in connexion with this important aspect of our national life. It is worth mentioning once again that not at any stage during their criticism of the Government on the ground of alleged inactivity in connexion with industrial affairs have they offered any constructive suggestions as to how the conditions that exist in some industries to-day may be remedied.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– In launching an attack on the Government because of the industrial unrest in the community the Opposition proceeded along lines which it has followed on every occasion that it has approached the subject. Both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Wentworth indulged in destructive criticism, but on this occasion, as on others, they did not submit one practical suggestion to minimize or eliminate industrial unrest. The sorry record of administration by non-Labour governments is conclusive evidence that the parties now in opposition have no solution of this problem. Before criticizing the Government, or, indeed, any other section of the community, for existing conditions, honorable members should examine the industrial set-up throughout the world. If we do that, we shall find that the situation in Australia is not so bad as it is in many other countries, such as Great Britain, and the United States, where similar troubles, although on a much greater scale, are facing the authorities. It can be said with truth that industrial unrest is world-wide at the present time. The latest figures in respect of Great Britain are to the end of 1945. According to the Ministry of Labour Gazette, they show that the working days lost in Great Britain in 1945 totalled 2,835,000. Figures published in the World Almanac and Book of Facts for 1946 show conclusively the magnitude of the industrial upheaval in the United States at that time. The figures are given for each month of the year. In February, 1945, there were in the United States of America 310 strikes, in which 109,000 workers were involved. The time lost totalled 412,000 man days. In November, 1945, there were 335 strikes, involving 405,000 workers, and resulting in the loss cf 6,100,000 nian days. The average time lost each month in 1945 in the United States of America was approximately 2,000,000 man days. Figures for Great Britain and other countries show a corresponding increase of industrial unrest during 1946, so that, obviously, the trouble is not confined to Australia. There were similar industrial upheavals after the first world war. Statistics show that the number of man days lost in Australia in ]944 totalled 1,112,000, compared with 5S0,000 in 1918. In 1945 lest time totalled 2,120,000 man days, but in 1919 5,600,000 man days were lost. The industrial unrest throughout the world to-day is mainly due to war causes; it is an aftermath of the war, and is mo3t noticeable in countries which were seriously affected. It is not a local problem confined to Australia, nor is the Commonwealth Government the only government which is facing industrial troubles «f great magnitude. Indeed, the problem has been tackled more successfully in Australia than in most other countries, and the measure of success achieved by the present Government exceeds that of its predecessors.
The Labour party does not condone every strike that takes place; but it does not believe that the workers should have to go on strike in order to obtain justice. There are times when a strike is justified, and consequently the machinery set up to deal with industrial upheavals does not always meet the situation. The Government believes in arbitration, but it realizes that the system has its faults. In a bill which will be presented to the Parliament shortly a remedy has been provided, and it is believed that when that legislation is on the statute-book many of the difficulties associated with the present arbitration system will be removed. Various factors contribute to industrial stoppages. The Prime Minister referred to the settlingdown process following the termination of the war. There is also the demand for better conditions in the post-war period,, the claim for higher wages and shorter
Louts, and other conditions to which the workers believe that they are entitled. In addtion, there is a great shortage of labour, and wage earners, in common with others. who have something to sell, take the view that they are entitled to a fair return for their labour. Their attitude in. regard to the price to which they are entitled for their services is not different from that of the business man who asks; higher prices for goods which are . inshort supply. The man who- has only hislabour to sell is as. much entitled to claim the best price for that commodity that he can obtain as is the merchant who. has at small supply of goods for which there is a keen demand. It is. true that a method by which redress of grievances may be. obtained is provided, namely, appeal to the Arbitration Court, but those who approach the consideration of this problem with an open mind realize that people in industry are likely to become inpatient at delays, and are disposed to take action which, at times, is indiscreet and does not react to their benefit, either individually or collectively. We should do well to keep all these factors in mind.
Opposition speakers have referred to the influence of Communists in thiscountry, and Australian workers would do well to remember that it is the policy of the Communists to destroy the arbitration system. Therefore, it behoves every worker to ensure that the Communist party does not make headway in Australia. The only way in which it can be beaten is by better organization than its own in the places where its members work. The Labour party has. nothing to gain by association with the Communists who are the arch enemies of Labour, and neither- have the Australian workers. However,, the activity of Communists is only one of the factors making for industrial unrest. If all Communist influences were removed to-morrow there would still be industrial, disputes. This Government has tried to. do justice to both sides in industry; but it has. not been helped, by the action of certain waterside employers in locking out. thousands of men. Neither has itbeen helped by destructive criticism of the kind voiced by the honorable- member for Wentworth nor by the action- of honorable members opposite in. trying to> force a reduction of taxes- by sponsoring, production strikes.. Those manufacturers who refuse to produce because taxes are higher than suits them, thus reducing their profits, offer little encouragement to the workers to produce to capacity. The- present Government, hassought to preserve peace in. industry, and in this its record is in marked contrast to that of the Leader of the Opposition who, in the middle of the war,, advocated action designed to provoke a. general strike. This Government has sought to improve industrial conditions by expediting arbitration processes, and bringing, about the prompt settlement of disputes. I remind honorable members opposite that if only one man breaks the law it is easy to prosecute him, but if a. million, men break the law it is very difficult, toput them all in. gaol, or to punish them in any other way. The Opposition had the opportunity for years to try out its. proposals for maintaining industrialpeace, but it was tried and found wanting. When the Opposition was in. power there were more strikesthan there have been during the present regime. Let us. recall what happened: during the time the Fadden Government, was in office from the 2.9th August, 1941. to the 7th October, 1941, a period of five and a half weeks. During that time,, no fewer than 368,800 working days were lost - an average of 67,055 days a week. What a terrible record for any government during a. war ! During the period of office of the Menzies Government, from the 3rd. September, 1939, to> the 29 th August, 1941, a total of 103 weeks, 2,072,600 working days were lost, an average of 20,122 days a week. Those records cannot bear’ comparison with the sound record of this Government. I do not condone all the industrial disturbances which have occurred., but it must be remembered that important factors are operating at the present time making for unrest. The best way to overcome- the. difficulty, apart from improving our arbitration, system and’ conditions- of. employment is to promote a better spirit in industry, and to develop mutual trust between, employers and employees. We must try to heal old sores caused by ill-treatment in the past, and to develop an appreciation of their responsibilities to the nation among the employers and employees. It will take time to do this, and our efforts will not be helped by irresponsible attacks from the Opposition. The record of this Government will bear comparison with that of any other administration. The present Government has nothing to be ashamed of in regard to industrial matters, or in connexion with any appointments which it has made. I am confident that the House will reject the motion of the Leader of the Opposition, and will demonstrate by its vote that the Government enjoys the confidence of the Parliament.
– I expected that the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) would have attempted to make some reply to the charges of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) against his Government, and I thought that it would fall to me, as the speaker following him, to deal with his reply. However, instead of attempting any such reply, the honorable member for Martin followed the pattern set by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) in evading the charges, and the only explanation that I can offer is that members of the Labour party find themselves unable to answer those charges. The Government has been charged with failing to take appropriate action in the face of a devastating succession of industrial disturbances, and it is no answer to cite the number of working days lost in Great Britain or in the United States of America. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) remarked to me while the honorable member for Martin was speaking, “ This fellow draws happiness from the knowledge of other people’s illness.” Thus, I find myself absolved of any obligation to reply to the speech of the honorable member for Martin, a speech which failed completely to answer the charges brought against the Government.
However, I. cannot but remark on the astonishing failure of the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs to reply to the serious charges made from this side of the House against the Government. Since I have been a member of this House, I have listened to a number of debates on motions of censure and motions of want of confidence, but never before have I known a Prime Minister fail to reply to changes so serious as those which were made to-day. In reply to the charge that the Government had been guilty of political jobbery, the Prime Minister merely said, “ Well, why should not these fellows be given jobs? “ The Prime Minister was charged with having nominated for ‘the post of GovernorGeneral^ giving His Majesty no alternative choice - a man who was at the moment engaged in leading a political party in a partisan fight, a man whose political affiliations constrained him .to attack half the population of the country for their political views, and to incite one section of the people against the other. In reply to criticism against recommending the appointment of such a man to the highest post in the land, a post demanding complete impartiality of the occupant, the Prime Minister said, “ He is my party colleague, and I have no apologies to offer “. That is no reply.
– He did not say that.
– He said just that, and if the honorable member had been here he would know it. This is the nature of the Government’s reply to these devastating allegations. I have never before listened to charges so strongly preferred against and so inadequately replied to by any Government. I find it unnecessary to add to the specific charges that have been made against the Government but I shall give illustrations to support them.
I wish first to refer to a very serious incident which is occurring at this moment and has been progressing for some time in Victoria, the Government’s inability to deal with which is sufficient to condemn it and warrants a decision that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the House. I refer to the impending loss of thousands of tons of foodstuffs in Victoria. Many hundreds, and possibly thousands of tons of fruit have already been lost, and many additional thousands of tons will certainly be lost in the next week or two if this Government does not bestir itself to do something about the position or if, as on former occasions, a happy fate does not come to the rescue of the Government. I refer to the shortage of refined sugar in Victoria which has already resulted in the closing down of some of the most important canneries in that State, a shortage which if not overtaken within a matter of days, will bring about the cessation of activities in many large fruit-growing areas in Victoria and a. stoppage in the processing and canning of the pears and peaches the growing of which represents a year of work by many Victorian orchardists. It has been claimed by Ministers that this shortage arise3 from a dispute affecting employees of Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited in Melbourne, and that as the dispute is now before the court it is outside the ambit of the authority or concorn of the Government. That was indicated only yesterday by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). Certain disputes concerning the relationship between employers and employees could easily be resolved either by direct governmental intervention or by invocation of the machinery of conciliation and arbitration. I do not suggest that this or any other government should make a regular practice of intervening in every industrial dispute; but there are industrial disturbances of other kinds to which no government which accepts the responsibilities of its office can close its eyes. Industrial disputes and disturbances of such a character as to affect the security, peace and good order of the country, and which have a wide effect upon our physical wellbeing and the maintenance of supplies of valuable foodstuffs are surely matters with which any body of men assuming the mantle of government must accept as their concern and responsibility. If they ignore them they are not fit to continue in office. That is the charge we level to-day against the present Government and those who keep it in office, and it is a matter upon which this Parliament may well deliver its judgment on the motion before the House.
What are the facts in this case? The canning fruits industry produces a vast crop which must be harvested within a very short period of time. Thousands of tons of pears must be harvested and processed within two or three weeks. Tens of thousands of tons of peaches must be harvested and processed within the space of at least four or five weeks. The cessation of refined sugar production which has been provoked by a handful of men has already had the effect of terminating employment in several canneries and of bringing other canneries within sight of closing down within a. matter of days. What will be the effect of this? A committee which investigated the canned fruits industry not long ago stated, among other things, that SO per cent, of the growers were small men having not more than twenty acres under production. That indicates the kind of industry which is jeopardized by this dispute. It is an industry in which every employee works under award condition?. I, who live in the midst of a fruit-growing area, cannot recall a single incident that has led to a dispute or a cessation of work between the orchardists and their employees. I have been told authoritatively, and I know from my own knowledge, that for years past almost every orchardist has paid his employee above the prevailing award rate of wages. These are the men who are to be brought to financial ruin by a direction issued by a union to twenty maintenance engineers at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s premises to cease work, men who have no dispute with the company but who have been directed to strike merely because the union to which they belong is in dispute with other employers. It is an act of ruthless and unparalleled coercion. I have known the meat industry intimately for many years and it is expected that, as surely as the sun rises, strikes in the meat industry will continue from time to time; but in every instance they are strikes brought about by men seeking to gain advantages for themselves. In this case, though the men concerned at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s works are not seeking to gain advantages for themselves, they have been instructed by the union to precipitate what must amount to a terrible crisis in the canning fruits industry. Such an instruction is nothing less than an act of blackmail. That is the only word that properly fits the occasion. The union is enforcing this devastating loss on the canning-fruit growers and the company merely in an endeavour to force concessions for their members in other ‘ branches of . industry. No Minister will contradict me when I say that if the company were to concede to its twenty odd employees the additional amount of wages to secure which members of the union have been on strike for a considerable period of time, it could do so only by breaking an existing law. In these circumstances can the Government regard itself as immune from liability to intervene?
Yet the Government has done virtually nothing in the matter. What could it do? It could, of course, ensure that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s works had sufficient labour. I realize that such action would involve widespread industrial trouble, but I say that that is what a government could do. However, I shall suggest the easiest course that a government could adopt, and that is to secure sugar from alternative sources to keep the fruit-canning industry in operation. But what has been done? Yesterday, the suggestion was made that the Government had been active on that matter, and that sugar was in transit from northern ports, but I am informed authoritatively that whatever sugar is in transit from northern ports was already on its way when the strike occurred, and that not 1 ton - 1,600 tons are expected in Melbourne during the coming week-end - has been placed in transit as the result of any action by this Government to avoid the calamity that is looming. A few months ago, when there was a shortage of cement - a nonperishable commodity - in Victoria, scores of great motor trucks owned by the Government were provided to make round trips of more than 1,000 miles carrying cement, worth £4 a ton, to that State. Some of it was carried even to certain canneries, but sugar which is worth £30 a ton, and is urgently needed to process perishable and irreplaceable foodstuffs, cannot be transported by motor truck, train, or ship to prevent a loss which would, spell disaster not only to fruit growers, but also to thousands of cannery and orchard workers and, at the same time, bring shame upon this country in the eyes of the world because a breakdown in our canning industry will mean a reduction of our exports of canned fruits to Great Britain and to Unrra for distribution amongst starving European peoples. This charge alone is sufficient to warrant honorable members deciding that the Government has lost the confidence of the House. Before the present debacle was precipitated I did my best to prevent it. I sent telegrams to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who is concerned in this matter because he administers the Canned Fruit Control Board, but until I endeavoured, by public statements, to prod these Ministers into at least an acknowledgment of my communications, I was not even given the courtesy of a reply. It is well known that I represent an overwhelming proportion of growers of the canning varieties of fruit.
– I acknowledged the honorable member’s communication promptly.
– I do not deny that it was acknowledged, but I say this-
– The honorable member did deny it.
– The first acknowledgment I received in reply to my representations was a telegram from the Prime Minister sent on the morning on which my criticism of nonacknowledgment appeared in the press. Later I received a letter from the Minister of Trade and Customs, bearing a date subsequent to the publication of my criticism, courteously acknowledging my telegram, but to date I have not received any word from the Minister of Commerce and Agriculture.
– A reply was sent to the honorable member but probably he left it to his private secretary.
– That is not correct, and I ask the Minister not to reflect on a public servant. However, I do not wish to be side-tracked by this discussion. I say that I have not received any acknowledgment from the Minister. I ask the Government, even at this late hour to bestir itself and procure sufficient sugar to save the canning fruit crop. If it is not prepared to do that, then I suggest that with whatever sugar is available, first priority be given to the fruit-canning industry. I .am sure that the civilian population would be willing to use unrefined sugar. In any case, preference should be given to fruit-canning over jam-making, because fruit for jam may be processed without sugar, and the sugar added at a later stage, whereas fruit for preserving can be processed only once. I strongly urge the Government to do its utmost to save this valuable foodstuff by making available at the earliest possible moment whatever sugar can be procured from any source.
I pass now to my second point, namely, the wheat agreement with New Zealand which already has been dealt with comprehensively by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). There are two issues in this matter, first, the .merits of the agreement itself, and second, the ethics of the making of the agreement. In regard to the first issue, surely it is unprecedented and extraordinary that a Minister should come into this House and reveal that his government has contracted for five years to sell wheat to another country at a price which, if the prevailing export parity continues as one has every reason to believe it will continue, will cost the taxpayers of this country £1,800,000 a year at least. But even more extraordinary is the fact that not one Government supporter has uttered a word in explanation of why such an agreement is necessary. This Government has been most vocal in explaining why taxes cannot be reduced, why invalid and old-age pensions cannot be increased, and why certain concessions cannot be given to basic wage-earners ; yet it is able to provide nearly £2,000,000 a year to give away to New Zealand. This action may be warranted, but even more warranted is an explanation of the reasons which prompted the Government to make this extraordinary and unprecedented decision. If we on this side of the House cannot provoke the Government into giving an explanation, surely its own supporters who sit silently behind it in this chamber, will not be so silent in caucus and will force out of the Government some statement on the matter.
As to the ethics of the deal, here again we have something utterly unprecedented. One of the promises made by this Government before and after re-gaining office was that the affairs of this great wheat industry would be placed i the hands of an Australian wheat board, on which there would be a majority of growers to control their own industry. What the Government did was to trick the growers by appointing a board that had a majority of growers and then strip that board of all authority for it is now revealed that it denied the board knowledge of major transactions in wheat that were conducted behind its back by the Minister of the day. That i.- outrageous. Spokesmen of the Austalian Wheat Board continually said that they had no knowledge that such a deal had been made; but months after the completion of the deal, the New Zealand Minister for Supply, to his regret, I bet, exposed the existence of the transaction. Of course, we asked upon our own initiative and at the request of the wheatgrowers and wheat-growers’ organizations, the facts of the transaction. The history of our attempt to discover the facts of this vast transaction in wheat, other people’s property, is one of the sorriest records of responsible government in this country. It was a succession of evasive answers by the Minister, culminating in a flat denial that any transaction had been made. I see the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture at the table. No doubt he will speak, although it will be very fitting if the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), who is in the House, himself explained his own actions. Here are the facts as they are revealed to us. Not only can this House form its own opinion, but the wheat-growers, who, by virtue of the generosity of this Government, are permitted to hear something of their own business, can form their own opinion too. Shortening the story, as I am obliged to, I say that the Minister for Supply in New Zealand, while in Australia in December, 1945, and subsequent to discussions with the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), wrote to him in the terms of a business arrangement to confirm on paper his verbal discussions - an ordinary prudent business procedure. He said -
Sydney, 10 December, 1945.
Dear Mr. Scully,
Prior to my return to New Zealand I would like to place on record the understanding reached between us in connexion with New Zealand’s requirements of wheat from Australia.
You have given me the following alternative quotations, which are subject to acceptance by the New Zealand Government within a reasonable time, and I am hopeful of letting you have our decision prior to the 20th January, 1946.
The alternative offers are set out hereunder -
You have agreed to supply our total requirements for the five years . 1946 to 1950, inclusive, at present estimated at 18,000,000 bushels, but with the proviso that we limit our demands to 4,500,000 bushels in your wheat year ending 30th November, 1946 . . .
The then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture reactedin the normal business manner by acknowledging that letter in these terms -
Dear Mr. Sullivan, - I acknowledge your letter of 19th December confirming the understanding which wo reached in regard to New Zealand requirements of wheat from Australia. I note that your Government will advise the Commonwealth Government of their decisions in this matter before the 20th January, 1946.
– It is a report in the New Zealand Hansard of a statement made in the New Zealand Parliament by the Minister for Supply in New Zealand about this vast transaction. Carrying this business to its conclusion, Mr. Sullivan explained to his Parliament -
Later, a cablegram was sent, dated the 26th January, 1946, which read - “Mr. Sullivan has informed us of the cor- dial and helpful discussions hp had with the members of your Government and officials regarding the arrangements for the purchase of wheat. In his letter to Mr. Scully dated 19th December alternative bases of purchase by the New Zealand Government were outlined and we desire to inform you we accept on the following basis: - New Zealand to pay 9s.6d. f.o.b., for the 4,500,000 bushels to be taken by 30th November, 1946, and thereafter for the following four years, a price to be negotiated which will not exceed 5s. 9d. f.o.b. It is understood that there is a definite probability of the price being lower than 5s. 9d. and that endeavour will be made to secure, if possible, the fixing of a lower price. . . . “
That is what happened, and when, in July, subsequent to that, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay) addressed a question through the appropriate Senate Minister to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, asking in simple, unequivocal language, “ Has any arrangement been made to sell wheat to New Zealand at5s. 9d. a bushel ? “ the simple answer of the Minister was, “ No “.
– He did not say “arrangement”; he said “contract”.
– All I say is that that was not the only denial. It was the most forthright denial, but there were equivocal answers, evasions, and denials by officials ; in fact if there had been a cock standing by to crow every time there was a denial, it would soon have become hoarse keeping pace with the denials. It was a most extraordinary incident. There has been no attempt to explain why the transaction was carried out at a time when the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture knew that an international wheat agreement was pending, an agreement which provides Australia with an assured export quota of 76,000,000 bushels a year for the next fouror five years.
– And which is not yet agreed to. Half-truths again.
– All right, I take the Minister up at that. Not yet agreed to ! True, but it was in prospect at that time. It has been agreed to as a draft and there is little reason to think that it will not be agreed to. Unless this agreement is sabotaged, for four or five years there will be a guaranteed market of 76,000,000 bushels of wheat at shillings a bushel higher than the price charged to New Zealand. What does the Government do? Does it intend to undersell its own international agreement, or sabotage this international agreement by declaring that it is not able to enter into it because it has already acted as a world price cutter? At the same time as this agreement was concluded, it was known, unless the Government was so stupid as not to know what was happening, that the Canadian Government had entered into a four-year contract to sell wheat to Great Britain at more than 10s. a bushel for the first two years and at not less than 7s. 3d. a bushel for the second two years. But in spite of this prevailing established world value for wheat, the members of this Government sold to their Labour colleagues in New Zealand wheat at 5s. 9d. a bushel, and intended, beyond fear of contradiction, that the Australian wheat-growers should pay for their generosity.When their action was discovered, they twisted and put the obligation on the shoulders of the Australian taxpayer, who now will bear the burden during the next few years.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), as is characteristic of him, took the opportunity throughout his speech flagrantly to misrepresent not only the facts surrounding the wheat agreement with New Zealand but also the facts surrounding every other subject that he mentioned. First, I direct the attention of the House to the fact that the honorable gentleman alleged that he had sent to me a telegram regarding the shortage of sugar in his constituency and that, in effect, I had not had the courtesy to acknowledge it.
– That is correct.
– It is fortunate that, available to me within the precincts of this House, is the copy of the official file on which is kept all telegrams sent to honorable members, and any other person in the Commonwealth upon any subject with which they may have dealt.
– That does not prove that the honorable member for Indi received the telegram.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is guilty of an evasion. No doubt it is the kind of evasion in which the honorable member for Indi deals. He hoped that he would “ get away “ with this statement, and make it appear that I, as the Minister vitally concerned with the preservation of the fruit industry in the Goulburn Valley, had been so callous as totally to disregard the representations that he made.
– That is precisely what the Minister did.
– I throw back that accusation in the honorable member’s teeth. I hold in my hand a telegram from the honorable member for Indi.
– What date does the telegram bear?
– It was despatched on the 15th February from Stanhope.
– When did the Minister reply to it?
– I replied to it on the 17th February. The delay was due to the intervention of the week-end. Immediately that telegram was placed upon my desk, I took action to see that a reply was despatched at once. My reply reads -
Your wire re sugar to canneries to hand. Every endeavour being made to overcome difficulty. - Pollard.
That effectively disposes of the honorable member’s accusation.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! I warned members of the Opposition this afternoon that the Chair would not tolerate this organized interruption of speeches. It is obvious that honorable members opposite are taking it in turns to interject. If they continue to do so, I shall name them.
– I consider that my remarks have most effectively refuted the allegation made by the honorable member for Indi.
– I hope that the Minister will endeavour to discover what happened to his telegram, because I did not receive it.
– The fact that the honorable member did not receive my reply does not justify his alleging, in no uncertain terms, that I had not had the decency to despatch a reply to him. The honorable member should have qualified his statement by saying that probably he had not received my reply because he happened to be travelling to Canberra or some other place. The honorable member made a bald charge, and thought that he would “get away” with it. He did not succeed in doing so. However, this is probably a side issue.
– What did the Minister do about it?
– Order ! I have warned the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) what I shall do if members of the Opposition continue to interject. If I hear the honorable member interject again, I shall name him.
– The honorablemember for Indi was particularly keen that this Government should take action to end the unfortunate dispute which threatens very seriously to affect the fruitcunning industry.
– Does not the Minister consider that the Commonwealth should take action to end the dispute?
– I cast my mind back to a period in 1943, when this Government asked the people of Australia to grant to the Parliament of the Commonwealth power over the terms and conditions of employment.
– A permanent alibi.
– At that particular time, the people who busied themselves most in endeavouring to persuade the people that it would be dangerous to grant to the Parliament of the Commonwealth power over the terms and conditions of employment included the honorable member for Indi and other members of the Australian Country party.
– Hear, hear!
– It is not an exaggeration to say that, had this Government possessed that power to-day it is possible that effective steps could have been taken to remedy the unfortunate dispute which threatens so seriously the fruit-canning industry.
– Possible, but surely improbable.
– I know that the Opposition cannot take it.
– The Commonwealth still possesses full industrial powers.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) knows perfectly well that the prolongation of this dispute is very largely due to the fact that a settlement involving wages and conditions of employment must finally be determined by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– That is in accordance with the policy of the Labour party.
– Our policy was clearly indicated during the referendum campaign in 1943, when we asked the people to grant to the Commonwealth Parliament power over terms and conditions of employment, and over employment itself. I suggest that, had that power been granted, a more effective way of settling this dispute might have been available. This trouble might even have been avoided. However, the effective work of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), in this dispute, will result in adequate supplies of sugar being made available for the fruit-canning industry at the earliest possible moment.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service said that the employees were entitled to go on strike.
– When the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) has fat lambs, hay or live-stock to sell, he waits until the market is sufficiently buoyant before he markets them. It seems to me that if it be logical for the honorable member for Bendigo to point an accusing finger only at the man who has his labour to sell, then it is also logical to force the honorable member to sell the products of his labour when and how some authority considers that he should do so.
Mi”. Rankin. - I do not ask any government to support me. The Government’s crowd asks it to back them up.
– I know that the honorable member finds it very difficult te take his medicine, but that will no deter me from administering large doses of it. I return now to the subject of the New Zealand wheat agreement, so-called.
– Did the Minister say “ so-called “?
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has said that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) is probably a member of the firm of “ Fog, Fog and Pettifog “. In view of the- honorable gentleman’s membership of that firm, I have no intention of allowing him to interrupt my line of argument. I shall not pay any attention to him at all. I was about to say, before he interjected, that from time to time numerous speeches have been made in this House on the subject of this agreement.
– And many lying statements.
– As the honorable member says, there have been many lying statements, but they have been made exclusively by members of the Opposition, and of the Australian Country party in particular, not only in this Parliament but also throughout the length and breadth of the land. Every statement made in this Parliament on that subject, either by my colleague, the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), or by myself, has been a truthful statement. The chief burden of the complaint of the honorable member for Indi in regard to this matter before the last Commonwealth elections was that there had been a “ wheat steal “, that the wheat-growers had been robbed of millions of pounds because, as he said, “ the Australian Government had entered into a contract with the New’ Zealand Government to supply wheat at 5is. 9d. a bushel “. Does he deny the use of the word “ contract “?
– And so it did enter into a contract.
– For the benefit of the firm of “Fog, Fog and Pettifog.”, and as New Zealand Hansard has been extensively quoted during this debate, I refer to the official report of a .speech made, not by a member of the New Zealand Government but by an enemy, a member of the New Zealand Opposition party. After hearing it, the honorable gentleman will have to choose between accepting the word of a member of a party with affiliations similar to those of the-
Liberal party in Australia and continuing to assert that a contract, or agreement, was made.
– The Government made an offer and the New Zealand Government accepted it. That was a contract.
– There was no contract.
– Would the Minister have repudiated it? That is the test.
– I am not in the witness box.
– That will be the day.
– When the vacuous laughter of honorable members opposite dies down and their obvious attempt to cover up their frustration in this matter ceases, I shall proceed to quote a speech made by Mr. MacDonald, a member of the Opposition in the New Zealand Parliament, on the 5th October, 1946. He said -
After conducting some negotiations in Australia during the previous December, the Minister had returned to New Zealand, where ho met the wheat-growers, who had asked for a price of Ss. for the coming season. The information given to the wheat-growers was that future contracts with Australia were to be on thu basis of a price of 5s. !)d. a bushel, as a ceiling price, for the next four years, and that possibly the wheat would be obtained at a lower figure than that. Those facts could be checked by a public statement made by the wheat-growers on the 5th July. On the 20th August, Mr. Scully, Minister for Commerce in Canberra, had been asked about future agreements with New Zealand, and whether there was any contract to sell at a ceiling price of 5s. 9d. for the next four years. Mr. Scully had denied that there was any such contract.
– Of course he did.
– I repeat, “Mr. Scully had denied that there was any such contract”. A few minutes ago honorable members opposite accused the Minister’ of denying that he had made such a statement and attempted to fasten on him a statement that an agreement had been made. The fact is that the honorable gentleman said specifically that there was no contract. Members of the Opposition claim that nobody knew anything about this matter until they forced the “ revelations “ which they have 111eli.tioned to-day. The fact is that* a3 long ago as August, 1946, the minutes of the
Australian Whoa.fr Board recorded the following statement : -
Discussions have taken place between the Government, and New Zealand, authorities- regarding, future supplies, but, no agreement has yet been made. Any arrangements that may be made between the two governments will not affect the board which will get its export parity for wheat.
That was at a time when the honorable member for Indi was roaming the country and accusing the Government of perpetrating a great “wheat steal”. To-night he has shifted his ground and he now- accuses the Government of stealing the money of the taxpayers. Actually, he is afraid that in due course as the result of his tactics, the Australian electors will take steps that will result in his silently stealing- away in. the- night. The statement in- the minutes of the Australian Wheat Board continued as follows : -
Any arrangements that may be made between the two governments will not affect the board which will get its export parity for wheat, i.e., the price at which wheat is selling to other destinations at time of New Zealand shipments.
That makes clear that,, as far as the board was concerned, there was no contract. It also makes very clear that the board, was fully aware that,, if any arrangements or agreements were made, or if any talks were held, it had the Minister’s assurance that the price would be made up to the wheat-growers. It has been said that there was a contract. My friend the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) said to-day that a contract had been made twelve months ago. That is not true.
– An agreement had then been made.
– First, the statement is that there was a contract, and then, that there was an agreement. We have maintained all along that there was no contract, although there were talks and negotiations, and tacit agreements. With the passing of the federal elections; it became necessary for this Government to continue the negotiations, and, if possible, bring them to the final point. With that end in. view, I communicated with the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand;, and suggested that during hisvisit to Australia on. business connected. with the South-West Pacific Conference he might take the opportunity of conferring with me, with a view to making a contract in regard to this wheat that has been so much discussed. I met Mr. Nash in company with his wheat officers- at Parliament House on three occasions. After discussion of the various matters at issue, we decided that the time had arrived to finalize a contract. With the authority of the Government, Mr. Nash and I drew up the terms- of the contract, and both of us signed it. That was the first contract, that had been signed, notwithstanding the statements of members of the Opposition. M.r. Nash returned to New Zealand. In order that I might give the fullest information to this House, I cabled to him on the 18th of this month in these terms - 1 shall be’ glad if you will let me know by Wednesday whether our proposals for supplies of wheat from Australia to New Zealand are confirmed.
He had to consult his Cabinet.. On the same date, I received from the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand a reply in these terms -
Minister, of Industries and Commerce, Mr. Sullivan, and the Government approve text of our agreement. Will confirm later by letter.
That finalized our protracted negotiations. It is obvious that the deal that has been made is a most satisfactory one from the standpoint of the people of both New Zealand and Australia. Members of the Australian Country party in this House are loudly articulate in claiming, their interest in the primary producer, yet they seem to resent their- fellow stock feeders in New Zealand obtaining- wheat at the reasonable price for which the contract provides. It would appear that the New Zealand farmers cannot expect sympathy or reciprocal treatment from them. They regard New Zealanders almost as foreigners. The pertinent fact associated with, this arrangement is, that to-day and in the future this market will prove most valuable to Australia. New Zealand’s requirements of wheat aggregate from 6,000,000 to 7,000,000, and even 8,000,000 bushels, per annum. Because of the climatic conditions- in that dominion, it has always been found most difficult, and it is becoming increasingly so, to grow adequate supplies of wheat there for local consumption. If, by means of reciprocal arrangements, we can develop a. market in such close proximity to Australia, it may prove a veritable sheet anchor for the Australian wheat industry in the days that lie ahead.
It is true that under this contract Australian wheat is to be sold at 5s. 9d. a bushel bulk. I emphasize that that is equivalent to 6s. 2£d. a bushel f.o.b. bagged. On this year’s supply, a. difference will have to be made up by the Australian taxpayer. So long as the present high world parity continues, the difference will be that between 6s. 2-£d. and 14s. 6d. a bushel. If world wheat prices decline this year - we hope that they will not - this deal will prove most advantageous to Australia. A declinecould occur towards the end of this year. It could be experienced in the second year of the contract. It is more likely to happen in the third year of the contract, and maybe it is certain to arise in the fourth year of the contract. The fact is that we have established in New Zealand a stabilized market for the Australian wheat-grower. In my talks with the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, he indicated that they were agreeable to enter into this arrangement despite the risk that, in the final two years of the contract, the price of wheat in the world’s markets may be 3s. 9d. a bushel, and New Zealand may be paying Australia 5s. 9d. a bushel bulk or 6s. 2£d. a bushel f.o.b. Despite that hazard, they will still be prepared to negotiate with us in the near future for a continuance of supplies of wheat from Australia. In those circumstances, I suggest that the stunting of members of the Australian Country party, and the Opposition generally, indicates that they are disappointed and frustrated because of inability to sustain their charge that this is a gigantic wheat steal. They have shifted their ground and now they say that this is a case of stealing from the Australian taxpayer. For a party which is always urging that the taxpayer should find substantial subsidies and bounties for the people whom they allege to represent it is too laughable for serious consideration to be given to its charges. History reveals that since the Australian Country party has been a political force in this country its members have talked a great deal about assisting primary producers, but that only Labour governments have given substantial assistance to primary producers by means of subsidiesand bounties. I leave the Australian public to judge the merits and demeritsof this matter. I hope that my prophecy that the New Zealand Government may be buying wheat from Australia for 5s 9d. a bushel when the world parity price of wheat is 3s. 9d., or even 2s. 9d. a bushel will not be correct, and that the Commonwealth Government will have to make up to the Australian “Wheat Board considerable sums of money because the wheat-growers of Australia will be in receipt of higher prices for their wheat than some of the most optimistic members of the Opposition expect..
– That means that the Minister hopes that the price of wheat will fall.
– The colleagues of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) have been so loud in their disorderly conduct that he has failed to grasp what I have said. I did not say that I hoped that the price of wheat would fall. What I said was that I sincerely hoped that the situation in the future would be such that the world price of wheat would remain high and that the Australian taxpayer would have to pay to the Australian Wheat Board- -
– The Minister did not say that.
– I ask the Minister to repeat what he did say.
– I shall not repeat it for the benefit of stupid people who do not wish to hear the truth because it is distasteful. By their behaviour to-night honorable members opposite have demonstrated that they do not like to hear the truth.
– We have listened to-day to speeches by four Ministers of State from the table in answer to a motion of want of confidence in the Government submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). During the twelve years that
I have served in this House, I have listened to many debates of this kind, but never in my experience have I heard four Ministers to worse advantage than to-day. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) comes an easy last. His statement to-night about wheat, following his voluntary admissions yesterday, was of such a nature that nothing short of a select committee of this Parliament to inquire into the facts will satisfy the people. It is useless for the Minister to quibble about arrangements and contracts in the light of the reply in the Senate last year by the then Minister for Health (Senator J. M. Fraser) in answer to Senator McLeay, who asked -
The answer was - 1 and 2. No.
I should like to know from the Minister, or, better still, from the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), who is a King’s Counsel and was a justice of the High Court and should know the difference between an arrangement and a contract, what distinction, if any, there is between the two terms. I put this to the Minister, and to honorable members who sit behind him, that ‘to the grower who loses his money there is no essential difference between an arrangement and a contract. In this connexion I point out that the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was for three years the assistant of the Minister who preceded him, and therefore he cannot plead that he is a newcomer to office or is ignorant concerning the administration of the department. He knows every move that has taken place, and, therefore, I repeat that a select committee of the Parliament should be appointed to inquire into the statement of Mr. Sullivan, the Minister for Industries and Commerce in New Zealand, and also the statement of the Prime Minister of that dominion, who had the audacity, or it may be the courage, to say that had he been consulted no statement such as that made by Mr. Sullivan * would have been made until the Australian elections were over. If ever there was a case of “ letting pussy out of the bag”, this is it. I leave the matter there. I am sure that this House will not allow the position to remain in the unsatisfactory state in which it rests to-night.
On the motion generally the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had only one defence to make - a defence that I have heard time after time in this chamber. Whenever a Labour government is attacked, it falls back on the defence that it appealed to the people for more powers and was refused those powers, and therefore is unable to govern. I put it to the Government that if the constitutional position in which it is placed does not permit it to govern, the honest and democratic thing to do is to resign and make way for another government. No government ought to remain in office if the conditions under which it operates are such that it cannot secure the well-being of the people committed to its care. The Minister’s statement to-night shows that that is the position. Usually after four Ministers have spoken in a debate it is not difficult for an honorable member to occupy an hour in replying to their statements, but the speech to-day of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) was unusually barren and featureless even for him. The main complaint of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) was that no motion of confidence in his administration had been moved, and therefore it did not matter how the other eighteen Ministers got on. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) did make an attempt to explain, but not to defend, some of the matters to which the Leader of the Opposition referred in his motion, and he also anticipated what the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) would say. The position in which the Prime Minister finds himself in regard to financial matters, particularly in relation to taxation, is that he obtained approval from a committee of this Parliament last year for the expenditure of money that he cannot spend. His own figures show it, and he raised taxes last year which he does not need. Again, his figures prove the point. No stronger condemnation of any treasurer of any government could be made than that, and yet the statement cannot be refuted by any one Minister or by any concatenation of them, should they all rise in their places and attempt to defend the Government. A statement issued under the signature of the Prime Minister himself in his capacity as Treasurer is proof of what I say.
It is only five months since the Government was returned at the elections with the flush of their exertions on their faces, while the faces of some of their supporters were still white from their fear of what might have been the consequences of the stand taken by the Prime Minister during the campaign. Nevertheless, on the brows of honorable members opposite were the laurels of victory placed there by the people themselves. As I have said, it is only five months since then, but let us look at the sorry state of affairs at home and abroad. I shall discuss them in turn. Yesterday, Parliament met after the Christmas recess. The first question asked came from the Government Whip (Mr. Fuller), whose complaint was that there were so many rabbits in the Hume electorate, because there was not enough wire netting to be had, that they might become an even worse plague than his representation. The next question was asked by the honorable member for Robertson (Mi-. Williams), who stated that the condition of the roads in his electorate in New South Wales was such that the Commonwealth Government ought to do something about it. I point out that the manufacture of wire netting is the sole concern of New South Wales, which enjoys a monopoly of the industry, and the Federal Aid Roads Agreement is of long standing. In New South Wales there has been a Labour administration for some time past, although it is hoped that it will not be there at the end of this financial year. However, that is a matter which the people of New South Wales must decide. It is a striking thing that on the very day on which Parliament met, the Government should be condemned out of the mouths of its own supporters, who complain of a shortage of commodities and of the state of the roads. In this building yesterday there were representatives of the postal employees asking for improved conditions, and neither the Prime Minister nor the Attorney-Gen- eral or any other member of the Government can deny that the Commonwealth has control of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Government can pay to members of the Public Service what wages it likes. It does not need any amendment of the Constitution; it only needs to mend its ways.
In this Parliament yesterday were dozens of men - they did not see me, but they have been in correspondence with me - who came here to complain of the failure of the Government to remedy the position in which so many people find themselves as a result of industrial disturbances, and of inefficiency which seems to be rather the pride than the sorrow of the Labour Government. These conditions are the result of strikes, stoppages, high prices, shortages in the retail shops, shirking in the factories and in mines and on the wharfs, where men are asking 12s. for putting in an appearance whether they work or not. If that practice is to be allowed I am sure that many people will hope that they are never asked to work, so long as they can get 12s. a day for turning up and doing nothing. Another of the demands is for three weeks’ holiday on full pay. I presume they are not asking for full pay for time lost in strikes and stoppages, but perhaps it will come to that eventually. The purchasing power of money cannot be preserved unless there is adequate production of commodities, and production is at present being retarded by a number of factors, the chief of which is the high rate of taxation, which this Government wrongfully imposes on rich and poor alike. In this respect the Government is entirely heartless. Last spring, the oracle spoke, and his pronouncement, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, cannot be altered. The Attorney-General, who sits at his right hand, that great exponent of humanitarianism in all countries but his own, has apparently no influence over him. When the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) follows him as leader of the Government, we may perhaps expect things to happen, but in the meantime we must be patient. If Job were to look down and note the rate of progress of the present Australian Labour Government he would probably feel that, instead of his being regarded as the personification of patience, it would be more appropriate if lie had a reputation as a speed merchant and a road hog. 1 contrast the actions of the Commonwealth Government with those of the Government of my own State of South Australia - the only anti-Labour Government in the whole of Australia. It has been in power for fourteen years, for eight of which, it has been, led by the present Premier, the Honorable Thomas Playford. In two weeks’ time it will face an election, and the great Australian Labour party, which maintains that it is the only party worthy to govern in Australia, has had to admit that it cannot find a candidate to put up against the Premier. A world’s record in democratic government has been achieved in that the entire Ministry in South Australia, together with the Speaker of the Parliament, have been returned without opposition. Out of nineteen members constituting the Liberal and Country party in the South Australian Parliament, nine have been returned unopposed by any party. That record is in striking contrast to the record of the Commonwealth Government, which has become noted for its inability, and its unwillingness to do anything, as well as for its capacity to speak with a number of: voices. The policy of the Commonwealth Government should be made known in respect of several -things, not least of which is the Bretton Woods Agreement. The Prime Minister, apparently, has definite views on the subject, but might yet change them under pressure. I do not think that the Minister for Transport is likely to change his views, but his vote might go anywhere according to caucus instructions. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) was apparently most anxious to lock horns with his Cabinet colleague on this matter, but was obliged to refrain from doing so. This is a sad condition for any government to find itself in.
The first ground on which the Leader of the Opposition based his motion of want of confidence was that the Government had been, guilty of what he called political jobbery. I propose to discuss only one of the jobs - that of GovernorGeneral. The Crown is the symbol of the unity of the peoples of th& British Empire, and I am not ashamed to use the word Empire. Neither am I ashamed of. the history of that Empire, or of the methods by which it was got together. Wherever the forces of the British Empire have gone, it has not been long before they have been followed by the forces of justice, of liberty and of self-government. I regret to say that in all too many sections of the world where British power has prevailed for a long time past we see a tendency to disintegration which the powers of Europe and Asia have, over a period of centuries, been unable to accomplish. We have seen the Spanish Armada, we have seen the French forces locked in combat with the British, we have seen Napoleonic armies and, latterly, twice within our life-time, the armies of Germany, unable to accomplish certain things by force of arms; but because of certain internal difficulties and dissensions it seems that the British people might accomplish for themselves what outside pressure was unable to do. I say that with regret.
In regard to the Governor-Generalship, 1 say that, according to the Constitution, the Governor-General should be the King’s choice, for His Majesty the King is king of Australia just as much as he is king of Great Britain; and if he is to be the king of Australia then I contend that the man who represents him in the Commonwealth should be a person of his choice. To-day we have one who has been chosen by the Prime Minister, and the very proclamation from Buckingham Palace which announced his appointment disclosed the secret, for that proclamation says that His Majesty the King “ acting on the advice of the Australian Commonwealth Government “ has been pleased to do so and so. It does not say, as on other notorious occasions, that His Majesty the King has been pleased to do so and so. The onus of choice is thrown right back on the Australian Government. ] put it to the Prime Minister that if a Governor-General of the King’s choice is appointed he should be here at the King’s pleasure, but that if he is appointed on the Prime Minister’s nomination then he should remain in office only for as long as the Prime Minister remains’ in office. If I were in charge of the Opposition, and honorable members on this side of the
House gained a majority at the next elections I have very definite ideas as to how I would then deal with the situation. It is true that a Labour government appointed the King’s brother to be GovernorGeneral of this country. In those circles in which I move, where men are entitled to know what I think, I then expressed my fear that it was intended so to exalt the Governor-Generalship as never before only so that, as soon as that appointee went home, it could be levelled to the dust ind trampled in the mire. That is what I feared and expected, and that is precisely what has happened. In the circumstances in which the present GovernorGeneral designate has been appointed, as soon as the maker of the GovernorGeneral falls his nominee for the GovernorGeneralship should fall with him.
If anybody on the other side of the House is game enough to state that the policy of the Labour Government is really aimed at the establishment of a republic instead of the maintenance of the monarchy, let him say so. W e are certainly getting very close to it now. If we are ever more to have local Governor-Generals appointed by the present method then I say that it is better that the appointment should be made by the people of Australia rather than by its Prime Minister for the time being, for we shall know not in what circumstances the Governor-Generalship may end and in what circumstances the government of the day may be existing and may be impelled to make an. appointment. I say, too, that one of the unfortunate features about the recent appointment is that it raises issues which were better dead in this country. It goes right down to the very roots of the conscription issue and dissatisfaction with it has been expressed from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. This is not a good thing. But if you look at the appointment, as some are inclined to do, and say, “ After all it does not matter; it is just a game of politics”, let, me say that to me it looks very much like a game of cricket. The Prime Minister went on to the field and said to the Leader of the Opposition, “ Well, we will toss and see who goes in first “. The Prime Minister won, and he- went to the right honorable gentleman and said, “ Well, now, Bob, I will send my men in to pitch as soon as I select my umpirefrom among the juniors “. But the umpire, having been selected, said, “No,. Bob, you cannot start yet because I have to select my successor as captain of thejunior team “. In these circumstancesmany of us arc not entirely happy about either the method, the purpose or theend of an appointment of this description.
I have indicated that I would say some- thing about the Government’s record abroad. What is it? What is the position of the world to-day? The greatest need in the world at present is that the devastated areas be reconstructed, that millions of people who through no fault of their own to-day face starvation, are short of clothes and warmth and the very necessaries of life, should be succoured. What has this Government clone, this Labour Government which claims to represent the underdog, the humanitarian section of the community, rather than what might be termed the “upper ten”? First it has girdled the world with ambassadors, ministers, high commissioners, trade commissioners and other gentlemen with roving commissions who are too numerous to mention on occasions like this. We all know who they are. The need of the world to-day is not for Australian ministers abroad but for Australian food, for sustenance, for succour, raiment and shelter, and those are the things which this Government has failed to supply. It is not taking the necessary steps to produce them at home or to see that they are transported to those parts of the world where they are so urgently required. We have listened just now to an argument about New Zealand wheat. There are some interesting things that could be said about that. For instance, a Minister referred to the necessity for the importation of stock feed. This Government, which is not lifting a finger to help, holds up its hands saying, “ What can we do when supplies are held up on the wharfs? “
Speaking from the table of the House yesterday, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), disclosed that thousands of Indonesians who owed allegiance to the Dutch Government were kept in this country at the expense of the taxpayers, that they were not put on Dutch ships because they said they did not want to go in them, and that Australian ships were chartered .to take them back to Indonesia. Those Australian ships would be better employed in taking food and clothing to our own kith and kin overseas. “Whatever may be said about the rights or wrongs of the Indonesians let me say that the t position at present is that the future of Dutch power in the Far East is extremely doubtful, and at the moment Dutch power becomes doubtful in Java and the East Indies the position of Australia becomes doubtful, too. The Indonesian Army has been organized, armed and trained by the Japanese troops whom we were fighting; but, on the other side of the world what do we see? On the highway of history we see the European civilization bruised, battered, robbed, and ravished as it never was before, yet this Government passes by - a Levi te Government. It has little to offer, and apparently it is little concerned about conditions over there. I could pardon that, perhaps, if it were not for its attitude towards the Mother Country. On the same highway to-day is Great Britain, and had it not been for Great Britain, this House would not be meeting here to-night. Although Britain’s arm may be wounded and its wrist injured, the Mother Country still holds aloft the best torch of liberty and justice that the world knows. Perhaps the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) who, I understand, will follow me in this debate, will be able to tell us what his Government has done for Great Britain. I ask him to compare the record of this administration even with the record of the muchcondemned government of the Argentine - a country that bears upon its raiment the mud of charges that it is fascist, proNazi and anti-democratic. From that country gifts have flowed to Great Britain, and gifts have come also from New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and from some of the States of the Australian Commonwealth ; but up to date, all we have heard from the Prime Minister of this country - and this was last December - was that he was prepared to give the matter consideration. I say that that is not enough. It is time that the Australian Government devoted less atten tion to the court of human rights, and more attention to the court of human necessities and the need for succour, justice and food. But there is no sign of any movement in that direction. The position of Great Britain to-day is desperate. It may be that it is too poor to buy. Certainly it is too proud to beg; .but there is a responsibility upon this Government to do certain things. If ever there was an occasion in the history of the British race when the words of Burns rang true, it is to-day - “ Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn “. In this country, any body who has a grouse, who does not want to produce, or who has an antiBritish, axe to grind, is free to do so. I leave this to the judgment of the country, and I leave the Government to its sins, its shams, and its shames.
– I had hoped that in launching this want of confidence motion, the Opposition would at least have put up some sort of show, because there is nothing I welcome more than a political fight. No doubt the Opposition has selected what it believes to be the best points of criticism of the Government, and the first point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) related to government appointments. I make no apologies for the appointments that have been made by this Government of members of the Labour party and of others associated with it, because I believe that a government is justified in placing in important key positions men who are in sympathy with its policy. In many respects, the really important work is done in the field of administration, and therefore, it was rather interesting to note that certain appointments were approved by the Leader of the Opposition whereas others were questioned merely on the grounds of the qualifications of the appointees. Whether or not a man is qualified to fill a particular position is a matter of individual opinion. If we are to judge qualifications by the number of successes that a man has achieved in the sphere of activity in which he is engaged, we can hardly regard the Leader of the Opposition himself as being fully qualified either in the legal sense or in the political sense, because in none of the electoral contests in which he has been engaged as leader of his party has he been successful and in the legal sphere he has suffered a number of notable reverses. I trust, however, that anything that I say to-night will not influence the Opposition to make a change of leadership, because the present arrangement suits us admirably. While the right honorable member remains Leader of the Opposition, we on this side of the chamber shall retain occupancy of the treasury bench.
As Minister for External Territories, I had something to do with the appointment of Mr. Wilson, the former honorable member for Wimmera to the post of Administrator of Norfolk Island, and I listened with great interest to the criticism of honorable members opposite concerning this appointment, expecting to hear some evidence that Mr. Wilson had failed in his work. The fact is, of course, that Mr. Wilson has been a huge success in his present position, and is now proceeding with a progressive policy which has met with such approval by residents of Norfolk Island that they have expressed in messages to me, their appreciation of Mr. Wilson’s appointment. Therefore, political bias can be the only reason for the criticism by honorable members opposite.
I trust that honorable members on this side of the chamber will not attempt to apologize for appointments that the Government has ‘made from the ranks of the Labour movement. Individual opinions may have existed as to who should fill the post of Governor-General of this country, but the Government was quite within its rights in making a recommendation to His Majesty the King. And what is wrong with Mr. McKell’s appointment to this very high position? As the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has pointed out, the appointment is not so important as certain appointments made by honorable members opposite when they held the reins of office, to positions in which much more authority could be exercised, and decisions with far-reaching effects upon the Australian community made. The decision of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) to absent himself from vice-regal functions during the term of office of Mr. McKell, leaves me quite cold. The honorable member, who incidentally, has now become known as “ The man who would not come to dinner “, is so full of his own ego that he believes that because he will not be present -at a particular function, there will be a day of national mourning. The same applies to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie ‘Cameron). I have not yet heard anybody, even amongst the political colleagues of these honorable members, .expressing regret that they will not attend vice-regal functions; but I have heard many other people say that the gatherings will be all the more enjoyable because the two biggest bores will not be there. I personally do not enjoy official functions very much. I am .far too busily engaged in the work of the departments under my control, and the work of the Labour movement to be able to afford very much time for such gatherings. But if I did absent myself from them I would not regard myself as of such great importance that anybody would weep about my absence.
Some years ago Sir James Mitchell, a vicious leader of an anti-Labour party, was appointed LieutenantGovernor of Western Australia, shortly after his defeat at the polls. We had Lord Stonehaven as GovernorGeneral and. Sir Phillip Game as Governor of New South Wales. As honorable members know, Sir Phillip Game made decisions that could be regarded as partisan, decisions against a constitutionally elected Labour government. There has been no criticism of those appointments by honorable gentlemen opposite. Consider the elevation of Sir John Latham to the position of Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. Sir John Latham was Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament and a bitter and vicious anti-Labour advocate. He -was appointed Chief Justice, not because he was regarded by the government of the day as best fitted for the post, but because that Government at that time was looking for a seat in this Parliament for the right honorable gentleman who has launched this motion of want o’f confidence. So, after a great ‘deal of political manoeuvring behind the scenes, it was decided to appoint Sir John Latham as Chief Justice. Other appointments have been mentioned, for instance, -the appointment of a former anti-Labour senator, Judge Drake-Brockman, to the Arbitration Court. Another appointment was that of the late Judge Dethridge, also antiLabour. Whatever opinions others may hold., I am not so sure that on their appointment they forgot all their past activities and all the opinions they had held, because it is very difficult for a man who has been in political life or an active member of the community to be completely free of strong political opinions. They may not be consciously biased, but they certainly must be unconsciously so.
To hear honorable gentlemen opposite speak one would be led to believe that all the troubles of this country are the sole responsibility of the working men. It is argued by Opposition members that they will not co-operate, and because they ask for better conditions, all this industrial turmoil has taken place. A claim was made that the industrial disputes are political in character. Reference was made to the action of the waterside workers in the Indonesian trouble. The Leader of the Opposition said that the waterside workers took sides in that dispute. In fact, they did nothing of the sort. What they endeavoured to do was to see that no side should be taken in the dispute. Et was their intention to see that neither the Indonesians nor the Dutch who controlled the area obtained war supplies from Australia. Their attitude was disinterested and impartial. There have been political strikes in the past. This is no new feature of industrial affairs in this country. I well recollect strikes that might be regarded as having been political in character. It does not necessarily mean that because strike action is taken they have the support of only a minority of the Australian people. I well recollect that when the Leader of the Opposition was a prominent member of an .anti-Labour Government the waterside workers, because their conscience dictated that they should not send pig iron to a potential enemy, Japan, would not load it. They recognized the danger to Australia’s future security. The right honorable gentleman, because he said that the waterside workers were not going to dictate foreign policy, coerced them into loading it. He was condemned by the Australian people for having done so. He says that he delights in being known as “ Pig-iron Bob “, and that unpatriotic act alone makes certain that, his party will never again occupy the treasury benches while he leads it-
Honorable members opposite say that we give way to the demands of the trade unions when they apply pressure. I do not know exactly what they mean, but if they mean that the Labour Government listens to requests made by the workers through their organizations and meets their wishes whenever the claims have merit, I cannot see anything wrong with it. When the anti-Labour parties are in power they receive requests from all sorts of people. They attend to the interests of big business monopolies, and if the Labour Government is not going to heed the request of the trade unions, what possibility i3 there that the workers will receive justice? I have heard a lot of loose talk about the coal-miners. The honorable member for Wentworth cited figures in regard to stoppages, but, in 1942, when I was Minister for Labour and National Service in the first Curtin Ministry, and my method of handling disputes was criticized - I was told that I was applying a policy of appeasement to the miners - we got more coal than ever previously or since. That was because of my sympathetic dealing with the problems of the. men in the industry. The important thing to remember is that if you want production stepped up you must recognize that the only men who can give you greater production are the men employed in industry. I have a clear recollection of the honorable member for Wentworth recently trying his hand at a little work. He injured it so seriously that it has been of no use to him since. It is scarcely fitting that these gentlemen who talk so freely about what some one else should do aTe not capable of doing something ‘to increase production themselves. They complain because the waterside workers refuse to load goods that are in short supply. I took their reference to he to the refusal of the waterside workers to load tallow to send overseas. Tallow is required for the manufacture of soap in this country. But not one word was said by the Opposition about the men who are cornering tallow in order to send up the price of soap and exploit the community. Not one word of criticism would they level against them !
In referring to the transport strikes Leader of the Opposition said that they provided evidence, because .the transport services were a public utility, that the people did not want industries nationalized and that it was evident that nationalization of industries was not the way in which to solve our industrial troubles. The fact is that under the present arrangements in this country, with numerous bodies to fix wages and conditions, and a great division of authority between the Commonwealth and the States, even with Labour governments in charge in all but one of the States, it is extremely difficult to ensure that the employees shall receive proper wages and work under proper conditions. Honorable members opposite talked about minority rule, but did they have anything to say about the dairymen’s strike when supplies of milk were withheld from men, women and children because certain of the dairymen wanted to force the governments to give them a greater price than they would normally receive? Was there any protest from the Opposition about the activities of the master butchers who closed their shops and refused to retail meat that was in abundant supply? Did they have anything to say about the metal trade lockout in Victoria and the attempt by the employers to extend it into the other States? Did they have anything to say about the strike of the British Medical Association against the Government’s social services programme? To all of these particular groups, the Opposition evidently looks for political support, and, therefore, honorable members opposite were silent regarding their activities, and could only concentrate upon the “ terrible workers “, who, now that the war has concluded, are asking for some ment, and for an increase of real wages, alleviation of their conditions of employ-
I well recollect that the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations, which were promulgated in 1942, included the wage-pegging provision, and members of the Opposition did not object in that year to the action of the Curtin Government in consulting the trade unions in order to get their acceptance of those regulations. They recognized that unless the unions accepted the regulations they could not become operative. The unions, having regard to the difficulties of this country, were more patriotic in their outlook than were many of those who are opposed to them to-day. Contained in those regulations was a. proposal to peg profits and dividends to 4 per cent. If honorable members will refer to the pages of the parliamentary records, they will discover that member after member of the Opposition rose in his place and protested against the pegging of profits and dividends on the ground that this action would retard production. They declared that if the Curtin Government limited dividends, a reduction of production would follow. I have in my hand an extract from one of the newspapers of the day. The heading reads, “ Taxation of Companies - Reduction in War Effort Feared”. These are the “ patriots “ who wanted to retard production in war-time. The item reads -
Heavy war-time taxation may cause companies deliberately to curtail production, and so affect the war effort, Mr. J. A. L. Gunn, chartered accountant, told the select Parliamentary Committee on Prices and Profits yesterday . . . Some companies, he said, preferred to spend money rather than let the Government get it.
This occurred at a period when the country was fighting for its very existence, and when the workers were anxiousto produce more, and were prepared to have their wages pegged ; but those who now criticize the workers were unwilling to accept restrictions on profits and dividends. Honorable members opposite protested and appealed to the Government, and I regret that, on that occasion, it did, in my opinion, show weakness. It should never have departed from the proposal to limit the profits of the companies engaged in production. It is said that the Australasian Council of Trade
Unions now intends to terrorize the Arbitration Court and that the decision of that body to hold a one-day strike on the 1st May next is an indication that it is opposed to the system of determining industrial matters by conciliation and arbitration. I do not consider it in that light. This action on the part of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions - I am expressing no opinion whatever about its decision - is to draw attention to the urgent need for the introduction of a 40-hour working week and an improved basic wage in this country. In my opinion, it merely indicates that Australian workers are now asking those in authority to give to them the first instalment of the New Order that they were promised during World War II. Does anybody believe that the workers are not entitled to ask for an improvement of their lot? I am amazed when I learn of the smallness of the wage envelopes received by many workers in Australia. I wonder how they manage to exist. After deductions are made, some postal employees receive less than the basic wage, and men who are in receipt of the basic wage are, in my opinion, having regard to the increased cost of living, having a tremendous struggle to carry on. Who are the first members of the community that a Labour government should assist? The people who are actually in need of assistance! Therefore, we should have regard to their difficulties.
The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Wentworth talked about the difficulties of the housewife, which are, admittedly, very great. One might be excused for imagining that the Australian housewife had never experienced difficulties in the past. But in 1938, a census was held in Australia, and it is well that I should make one or two references to the conditions of the people under anti-Labour governments, so that the people may be fully appreciative of the actual achievements of the Opposition rather than the words that they express when they are in opposition, knowing that they will never be charged with the responsibility of giving effect to their promises. The census of 1933 disclosed that more than 2,000,000 breadwinners in the Commonwealth received less than £3 a week ; 375,000 persons were in receipt of an income of between £2 and £3 a week; 570,000 persons had an income of between £1 and £2 a week; 875,000 persons had an income of less than £1 a week; and 348,000 persons had no income whatsoever. Evidently they were working for the wealthy elite as domestics for their keep only. I know that this section of the Australian community considers that it is bestowing a benefit upon fellow Australians if it provides them with work, no matter under what conditions. Extracts from newspapers published in 1939 show the conditions that prevailed in Australia in that year. One of them reads -
Filling Gap in Diet.
Work of City Mission at Schools.
More than 1,200 school children, many of whom would be classified as undernourished by medical men, received hot soup yesterday in eight of Sydney’s industrial suburbs. The soup filled a serious gap in the diet of many.
Another is as follows: -
Of nearly 350 boys, between six and eleven, who assembled to-day in the yard of the Erskineville Public School nearly a third were bare-footed and nearly all were without coats.
Those conditions prevailed under antiLabour governments. A newspaper published on the 16th February, 1939, reported that a man who had stolen food for his children had been sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. An appeal for leniency had been made, and the magistrate who tried the case remarked that there was little doubt that the accused had committed the robbery in order to obtain food for his family.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) in particular insist that the law must be enforced. I recall that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) was not so eager for the rule of law to be enforced when a company, with which be was associated, was fined by a magistrate for having engaged in blackmarketing in Queensland. Then, the right honorable gentleman was anxious that the rule of law should not be applied. The honorable member for
Warringah, complained because squatters had taken charge of certain unoccupied premises in Brisbane^ and because the Government was not prepared to throw them out into the street. I remind the honorable gentleman, who is always talking in this chamber about his consideration for ex-servicemen, that the persons who occupied those premises are exservicemen and their wives and families. No wonder the honorable member for Warringah complains about squatters! He happens to be one of the fortunate people in this community who does not have to worry about looking for a shelter for his family, because he has several. He occupies one in a suburb adjacent to Sydney. Prom the outside, it is a palatial home. I have never been inside it. At Palm Beach, he has another palatial dwelling. I remind the honorable member, and I am prepared to produce the papers to show that what I say is correct, that during the war years, he infringed Commonwealth regulations by carrying out alterations and additions to his palatial home at Palm Beach which were not contained within the approval that had been given to him by the Commonwealth department. There are other- instances. Mr. Henderson, of the Sydney Morning Herald, carried out alterations to his palatial dwelling at Wahroonga, which were not in keeping with the permit issued to him. Does the honorable member for Warringah desire the law to be enforced against the persons who committed those infringements of the regulations? As a matter of fact, they want the rule of law to be applied only against the workers. They want a system under which there will be one law for the rich and another for the poor. They do not want an equitable application of the law in all cases.
I turn now to the subject of tax reductions. During the last election campaign, this matter was made a feature from the hustings by the representatives of all political parties. There was no agreement amongst the Opposition parties. I well recollect that the Leader- of the Opposition promised a 20 per cent, reduction of taxes if his party were returned to power; whilst the* Leader of the Australian Country party went as high as- 28 per cent. Had the elections been put back a couple of months, they would probably have promised the electors that there would be no taxes at all if they were elected- to office. Although they demand tax reductions to-day and say that the Government could easily grant remissions, they are not concerned about the lower-paid members of the community. I should like to see whatever money is available for tax remissions used to alleviate the conditions of persons on the lower-income levels. Honorable members opposite are concerned only about the ceiling- rate of tax which applies only in the case of the very wealthy. Turn up the reports of their speeches and you will see that during the war years they argued that the ceiling rate of 18s. 6d. in £1 was destroying the incentive to produce and therefore retarding production. They secured one reduction of the ceiling rate, but then they wanted a further reduction. During the election campaign they made promises which they knew, if carried into effect, would mean that the lower-paid workers would have more deducted from their pay envelopes than previously. I believe that we have allowed taxes to bear too much on the lower-income groups and that the Government should do whatever is possible to lighten the burden of those workers. The Leader of the Opposition to-day cited figures relating to the seven months of the financial year which have already elapsed. He said that in that period revenue had increased by £12,500,000 over the previous year’s collections and that expenditure had decreased by £19,000,000, representing a total improvement of £31,500,000. That indicates at least a very healthy financial position, which will afford the Government an opportunity to implement many of its plans for the alleviation of distress in Australia. The Leader of the Australian Country party made an astonishing statement. He said- that social service benefits in Australia make people subservient to the socialist policy of the Government. I do not know what he was advocating or what he meant. However, Ido not believe that the social services which have been provided by this Labour Government represent anything more than a just alleviation of the suffering and distress caused by the- operations- of a- capitalist economy.
I do not believe that there is any association between the social services provided by this Government and a programme of socialism. But if, as the right honorable gentleman has said, the alleviation of distress by the Government is socialism, I arn certain that the Australian people will say, “ Give us more of it “, because it means some measure of social security for them. Honorable members opposite argue that to destroy the Government’s social services would create a self-reliant community. All of this hollow talk about restoring self-reliance would lead one to believe that there are ample opportunities for workers in Australia on all occasions and in all circumstances to obtain remunerative employment. In the past I suffered in the ranks of unemployed workers at a time when it was impossible to get employment and when unscrupulous employers were taking full advantage of their opportunities to force down standards of living. The Leader of the Australian Country party said that production had fallen, particularly in primary industries. He made no reference whatever to the serious droughts that have occurred in recent years. Surely he is not blaming the Labour Government for the drought conditions ! He then referred to the Government’s action in withdrawing the subsidy from the tobacco industry. He complained that workers to-day had to pay higher prices than previously for their tobacco. I believe that the workers should get their tobacco more cheaply, but is there any need for the price of tobacco to be increased just because the Government has withdrawn the subsidy? “Why do not the manufacturers make up for the subsidy out of accumulated profits? They are making huge profits. Would anybody deny that the British tobacco trust is not making large profits in Australia? In my opinion, all that the workers are demanding to-day is that they be given some reward for the sacrifices which they made during the war in order to secure victory.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) objected to the Waterside Workers Federation asking for “ appearance money “. All that the federation asks is that, if a waterside worker attends at his place of employment and no employment is available for him, the industry should be obliged to pay him for his attendance. That is a fair proposition, and I consider that the reform is long overdue in this industry. I remind members of this Parliament that they are in a much more fortunate position than the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. They may stay away from the Parliament for days, weeks, or months at a time, and still continue to receive their parliamentary allowances without any deductions being made. It might be a good idea to adopt the principle of payment only for attendance in Parliament. At least the waterside worker must attend his place of employment before he can receive his money. The honorable member for Warringah objected to the waterside workers having three weeks’ annual holiday. iSo did the honorable member for Barker. “ What a terrible thing “, they said. “ What is the country coming to?” I am amazed that industrial workers did not ask for these concessions many years ago. It is time that they began to ask for improvement of their industrial standards. The honorable member for Wentworth protested because the waterside workers would not handle wool in double dumps. The honorable gentleman would not know a double dump if he saw one. I have seen this work being done on the Sydney waterfront. Elderly waterside workers actually endangered their lives, running the risk of serious accident, in the handling of wool in double dumps. However, because they were good patriots they continued to handle it during the war. They recognized the necessity for doing everything possible to speed up the turn-round of shipping and to conserve shipping space. But why should they have to endure, in the days of peace, conditions which they accepted d during the war only because they recognized that the country was in danger ?
The honorable member for Barker said that, wherever the British Empire had extended its influence, liberty had followed. The policy to extend liberty was kept in cold storage until a Labour Government took control in that country. Now that our Labour colleagues are in control there, they are taking a more reasonable attitude than that of previous governments towards dependent peoples. Thus, we find that the British Government has decided to give to India the independence which was promised to that country many years ago. I commend our British colleagues for taking this action. The British Government has done likewise in Egypt. In Ceylon, the people are to be given self-government. Obviously, the Labour Government in Great Britain is carrying out a very realistic policy. The honorable member for Barker, referring to the external policy of the Government, asked, “ What is the Government doing about rehabilitation? Why does it not do something more for Great Britain?” Actually, this Government has done its utmost to send aid to Great Britain. It recognizes the difficulties. of the British working people. However, when the Government proposes to do anything of a tangible nature, members of the Country party say, “Yes; we will send our wheat, wool, butter and other dairy products, but we must get world parity prices for them “.
-The Minister’s time has expired.
– To me, this debate represents the logical and inevitable conclusion of a long period during which patience and forbearance have been exhibited by the people of Australia, a period during which the early hopes of the Government proving itself capable of handling the difficult post-war problems steadily gave way to disappointment, frustration, and even anger at the inaction of a government that had proved itself entirely incapable of handling the problems of post-war reconstruction with the courage and energy that were necessary to lead the country to a successful outcome. At the conclusion of hostilities there were certain fundamental problems, the successful resolution of which was essential to the country’s progress. I shall cite those problems briefly. First, there was the problem of the re-establishment in civilian life of large numbers of men and women members of the fighting forces. Then, there were other problems, the solution of which was dependent largely upon the production of consumer goods; for example, the thousands of homes that were needed for the adequate housing of our people. There was also need for the rehabilitation of industrial, pastoral and rural properties, the re-establishment of essential transport facilities, not only shipping but also motor transport, and the development of essential communications. These difficulties could not be overcome until production had been recommenced. There is another fundamental problem which, although not entirely dependent upon production, nevertheless is allied to it, namely, the problem which arose out of the accumulation of many contentious industrial matters, the determination of which had been held in abeyance during the war years, and which, if left, undetermined for any further period, would inevitably lead to serious industrial unrest. I believe those to represent the major matters which any thinking person must have realized would have to be tackled boldly and immediately the country became free from the entanglements of war. That was where the Government could have given the first evidence of real leadership. Obviously, the position demanded the development of detailed and far-sighted plans, aimed at relieving the country of impediments to progress; for example, crippling taxation and other factors responsible for industrial unrest, as well as the shortages of materials which, until overtaken, would hamper the development of the country. It must have been evident that detailed planning for peace was just as essential as had been detailed planning for war during the early period of- the conflict. Had the Government, after the cessation of hostilities, gone to the country with a detailed plan, stating exactly what difficulties confronted it and how it proposed to deal in detail with them, and telling the people plainly what was expected of them, who can doubt that the community generally would have responded to that call just as readily as. it did to the call to arms? It is now history that the Government prepared no such plan. Judging by its record, it apparently has been prepared to drift along, in the hope that the position would right itself. Justification for that contention may be found in the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) this morning, when he said that the present position was largely due to the emotional upset - I do not think that those were bis exact words, but that is what he meant to convey - due to the war, and that, if we kept quiet for a little while and allowed matters to jog along, doubtless the position would right itself and there would be no need to be greatly worried about it. That is characteristic of the attitude of the Government.
I proceed now to an examination of the present position, as I view it, in relation to those fundamental problems. A period of eighteen months has elapsed, during which the Government should have attempted to deal with those problems. Let us consider, first, the reestablishment of ex-servicemen. If concrete evidence were needed of the lamentable failure of the Government adequately to deal with that problem, it is to be found in the repeated requests by organizations of ex-servicemen for a speeding up and an improvement of the various phases of re-establishment. I shall deal with two main headings - land settlement and post-war training. The lag in the development of schemes under the federal land settlement scheme has become so pronounced as to give rise in many quarters to considerable doubt as to the real intention of the Government. I have heard the question asked : Is that real intention to choke off, to freeze out, or to sicken with disgust, such a large number of ex-servicemen who wish to become land settlers, that ultimately the Government will be relieved of a considerable degree of its responsibility? In some States, no settlement whatever has taken place under the Government’s land settlement scheme, and the total number of men placed on the land under that scheme can be stated in hundreds instead of thousands. Another unfortunate feature has developed for which the Government must accept, the blame. Landholders find that, in many instances, their lands have been frozen for more than two years, and that it is impossible to ascertain from any authority the true position in relation to their properties. Having no idea of what is likely to happen, they cannot be expected to expend capital on their holdings and, in many instances, the land is virtually lying idle. Beyond the initial surveys, nothing has been done by the Government to develop such land. The position, therefore, is that the present owners of the land do not know the future of their property, whilst ex-servicemen who desire to settle on the land are becoming impatient at delays and are drifting into other vocations, with the result that the country is losing many excellent wouldbe farmers.
Recently, a good deal has been said, and figures have been cited to show what is being done in connexion with the postwar training of ex-service men and women. I expect that in reply to these charges the Minister will present figures to the House showing that so many men have applied for training and, therefore, I point out that such figures do not disclose the numbers of men who, for various reasons, are denied training. They will not, for instance, disclose the number of men who were more than 21 years of age when they enlisted, and therefore are automatically excluded from training; nor will they disclose the number of men who had no previous training in the particular calling in which they desire training. The figures will exclude also the men who, because they saw service in non-technical units, were not tradegrouped in the Army, and they will not include particulars of the restrictions on the eligibility of men desirous of entering various diluted trades. Finally, they will not disclose the important fact that the allowances being paid to fulltime trainees are entirely inadequate. These allowances were insufficient to provide a decent standard of living when the scheme was initiated, but the position has become worse because they have not moved upward in accordance with increased living costs and upward variations of wages. The allowance to a single woman is £2 10s. a week, to a single man £3 5s. a week, and to a married man £4 16s. a week, and is subject to tax. It is only necessary to state the amounts of the allowances for honorable members to appreciate their inadequacy. Any government that is prepared to face the situation honestly would not need pressure to he applied to have the allowances increased.
The Government is also deserving of criticism because of its policy in connexion with war gratuities. With the general principle that gratuities should not be made available to ex-service men and women until 1951, I agree, but I do not agree that it is necessary to administer that principle as if it were a law of the Medes and Persians. The practice of withholding the gratuity in almost every case is to be condemned. Already the Government has acknowledged the correctness of this principle by making gratuities available for housing, but why should they not be made available to exservicemen who wish to engage in business on their account when it can be shown that the proposals are sound and that the money will not be frittered away ? I have in mind a case of a farmer who had committed himself to what he believed to be the limit of safety. He desired that a couple of hundred pounds payable to him as gratuity should be paid to him at the commencement of the drought in order to provide water facilities on his farm and purchase a few additional cattle. The proposal was refused because of the hidebound restrictions imposed by the Government, with the result that he lost the opportunity to increase the value of the gratuity payable to him in 1951. I hope that one of the immediate results of this debate will be a review of .those regulations.
The history of rehabilitation indicates that the law is not being administered with the energy, despatch and sympathy necessary to ensure success, and, therefore, I ask the Government to consult immediately with accredited representatives of ex-servicemen’s associations with a view to effecting improvements. I emphasize that my criticism is of Government policy in this matter and not of the officers administering that policy. I have found that the officials with whom I have come in contact are actuated by a desire to do all possible for ex-service men and women.
Many other problems, some of them fundamental, are facing this country.
Among them is that of housing, which is a matter of national importance. Housing conditions before the war were unsatisfactory, but the restrictions imposed -during the war have aggravated the position. A vigorous programme for the supplying of building materials is required. I refer to houses to be built not only by governments, but also by private enterprise. The Government has the necessary powers to do all that is required. It also had control over prices, and this should have enabled it to handle the matter satisfactorily. In short, the ‘Government was armed with all the authority necessary to ensure an orderly transition from war-time to peace-time production. By now, it should have been in a position to relax many of the price controls on building materials without the unfortunate results that would follow if controls were relaxed under present conditions. However, it appeared as if the Government could net get out from under soon enough. It provided a classical example of “ passing the .buck “ by handing the whole matter over to the States, which did not possess the same power to handle it as satisfactorily as the Commonwealth authorities. As a result, there is still a serious lag in our housing programmes, and for this the shortage of materials is chiefly responsible. When representations were made on the subject, the reply always is that the materials are not being produced. Why are they not being produced ? There is a market for them, there is raw material available, and there is the infinite capacity of Australian manufacturers and Australian workmen to produce. Why, then, is there a shortage?
I further charge the Government with having failed to take advantage of the opportunities which existed to provide temporary housing accommodation for those who need it. It is well known that as demobilization proceeded a large number of army and air force camps were vacated, leaving empty huts which, at a little expense and in quick time, could have been turned into reasonably satisfactory living quarters for those who had no other accommodation. Had the Government applied a vigorous policy in this regard thousands of persons, many of whom are still homeless, could have been provided with houses. Instead of doing this, however, the Government preferred its policy of masterly inactivity. The position was allowed to drift, and the Government has now presented Communists with a wonderful opportunity to pursue their disruptive tactics, and they have not been slow to take advantage of it. What should have been utilized as a means of providing housing for those in need has been seized upon by these disruptionists and turned into -a vehicle for the defiance of the law. However, there is still time for the Government to provide some relief. At Bundaberg and Rockhampton there are Royal Australian Air Force camp3 with empty buildings which are about to be handed over to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. The need for housing in those areas is acute, and I suggest that the Government should use these buildings to relieve the shortage.
At the present time, industrialists and primary producers cannot get the materials they need. Farmers are unable to obtain machinery, fencing wire, iron pipes, stock feed, &c, which they need to bring the properties back to normal production. People are still seeking improved transport facilities, and are being fobbed off with statements that everything possible is being done. No doubt the Commonwealth Shipping Board is doing its best, but as yet no relief is in sight so far as shipping is concerned. The ships which could have been built in Australia are not available, with the result that most of our smaller ports are being starved for service. The limited quantity of goods available cannot be distributed to the outlying areas, and essential foodstuffs are often in short supply. Recently, in Rockhampton, there was an acute shortage of tinned milk at the very time when fresh milk was very scarce because of the drought. Workers whose livelihood depends on shipping are unemployed, and have to rely on social relief. It is usual to look upon waterside workers as persons who earn -considerable incomes but, because of the shipping shortage, the highest amount earned by waterside workers in one seaport in the north was £280 for the year. Instead of there being any improvement of the shipping position, it is becoming worse in the north. One small ship,, the Poonbah, was re cently sold, I should like to know why. The people of that area cannot do without it. Moreover, certain Australian ships were used to repatriate Indonesians, although Dutch ships were available. Thus, the Government, instead of trying to improve the position, has made it worse.
As for motor cars and motor trucks, the position eighteen months after the end of the war is worse than ever, and is still deteriorating. Essential users, particularly primary producers, cannot get vehicles with which to carry on their businesses. It will startle some honorable members to learn that in Queensland, in February, the number of utilities made available to essential users was 96 less than for the previous month, while the number of cars of all kinds declined by 171. At the same time, the Ford Motor Works in Brisbane had to displace 50 employees because it was impossible to obtain materials.
In Rockhampton, tailors are being forced to pay off most of their hands because they cannot get materials. As a result, unemployment is increasing, and will continue to increase if nothing is done. For this tragic state of affairs, there must be and is a basic cause, but apparently the Government ha3 not seen it, for it has not done anything to remedy it. In my electorate, even the newsboys are crying out in the street about these things. Goods are not being produced because no one wants to produce them ; in fact, no one can afford to produce them, because of the present crippling load of taxation. This is the fundamental reason why industry has failed to meet the demands made upon it. The use of the word “ incentive “ reminds me of the fact that to-day, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), in an attempt to deny the very point that I am making now, stated that there was plenty of evidence of incentive in the community. The right honorable gentleman, citing an instance, said that the large orders which had been placed for machinery, indicated an insatiable demand. That, he said, was evidence of incentive which existed throughout the community. There is undoubtedly an insatiable demand. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the word “insatiable” means “something that is not capable of being fulfilled or satisfied “. That is our trouble. The demand is really insatiable, and this is becoming more pronounced because materials are not being produced, owing to the present crippling load of taxation. Another effect of high taxation is to he seen in the prevailing industrial unrest. Much has been said from time to time about the Communist influence on the industrial position. I agree that the Communists have had a great deal to do with the development of industrial unrest, but I also say that the average Australian is not an easy mark for the Communist ideology. The Communist ideology is not of a type that appeals to the average Australian and any success the Communists have achieved in dislocating industry has undoubtedly been due to unrest arising from the high rate of taxes which is robbing the workers of incentive to get on with the job. As in housing so in industrial matters the Government’s lack of policy has presented this disruptive element with a breeding ground for the dissemination of its foul doctrines. In respect of the realistic and fundamental need for the reduction of taxes the Government stubbornly refuses to act. For its failure to do so it has offered various excuses, such as fear of inflation. Now, however, when the Government is unable to hide the buoyancy of its revenues we are told that new commitments justify the retention of the present rates. The major factor which we must face is that taxes must be reduced. If some commitments appear to demand the continuance of the present high rates some way must be found by- the Government to enable an effective reduction of taxes to be carried out. Such a reduction is just as vital for the defence of the country to-day as was the need for the defence of our shores in 1941-42. Because of its failure to realize that the Government has failed in its task and has lost the confidence not only of this House but also of the community generally.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 February 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470220_reps_18_190/>.