18th Parliament · 1st Session
House of Representatives.
Wednesday, 7 May
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m.. and read prayers.
– Has the attention ofthe Prime Ministerbeendirected to areport published in BusinessWeek,the leading Americanbusiness journal, in its issue of the8th March, headed “ World Bank Goes WallStreet - Professional Bankers,not Diplomats, Will Set Policy Now”? The report states that,at BrettonWoods, the American Treasury and State departments tried to exclude Wall-street, but have now been forced to surrender control of the International Bank to private bankers. It went on to say-
Fromhereon, professionalbankers, not professionaldiplomats, will set the policies of what is potentially the biggest lending institution in the World. So far, the reshuffle has brought three men, allwithWall-street background, into the bank’s top jobs.
-Order ! Thehonorable member hasgiven sufficient of the reportto indicate thenature of his -question.
– I merely want to give the names ofthemen referred ‘to, and I shall then have concluded that portion of thematter. The report further stated -
They are: John McLoy, the new president, aWall-street corporation lawyer; Eugene Black, vice-president ofChase National Bank of New York, asexecutive director;Robert L.Garner, financialvice-president of General Foods, and the New YorkGuaranty Trust, as vice-president.
The report also claimed that Wall-street bad insisted on these appointments before thebig banks and financial houses would support the International Bank in its borrowings. In view of this report, will thePrime Minister review the position of Australia inrelation to the Bretton Woods Agreement, in the light of the assurance that he gave to this House that the International Bank was to be controlled by governments and not by private interests? Prior to committing Australia to membership of an institution dominated by Wall-street bankers, will the right honorable gentleman obtain further assurances in regard to the control of the International Bank? If he has been misled, will he suspend Australia’s application for membership of thebank?
Mr.CHIFLEY.-As the honorable member is aware, many widely differing opinions have been expressed on this subject . The fact that a man appointed toanexecutive position in the organization of the International Bank may formerly have been associated witha priivate banking institution would not indicate that he would not be completely representative of the government which he had been appointed to represent. I have not seen the article mentioned by the honorable member, nor do I know that the opinion has been expressed, except quite frequently in some of the discussions that have taken place in regard to this matter, that the International Bank wouldbe dominated by private banking interests rather than by governments. I have said, and I now repeat, that under the Bretton Woods Agreement the International Bank -willbe controlled by direct representatives of governments and not by direct representatives of private banking interests. I made it perfectly clear when the International Monetary Agreements Bill was introduced in this House that the decision that Australia should make application to become, a member of the International Bank and of the International Monetary Fundwould always be subject to review if,as the result of international developments and conferences, it was considered that Australia would derive no advantage from such membership. That refers particularly to international trade and employment organizations. When the Bretton Woods Agreement was before the House I made it clear that the Government reserved the right to withdraw from the fund or the bank if it thought that Australia’s membership would be detrimental to the best interests of the Commonwealth. , I have nothing to add to what I said then. At the moment the Government, has no intention to withdraw its application for membership of the bank or of the fund, but should such a course be deemed wise at any future time the Government will take the necessary action.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether it is a fact that 1,840 bags of silene, weighing 94,000 lb., were imported by the Commonwealth Government at a landed cost of £1 9s. per 50 lb. (7d. per lb.), or a total of £2,773? Can he say whether a rubber company offered51/2d. per lb., the recognized landed cost of silene, which would have realized £2,154 3s. 4d., and was that offer refused?
Will he say whether the goods were sold later by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to two other rubber companies for £587 10s., representing lid. per lb.? Did the sale result in a loss to’ the Government of approximately £1,566 13s. 4d? If these are facts, will the Minister inform the House why the offer of 51/2d. per lb. was refused? Will he say what company made that offer, and to what companies the silene was sold at a loss to the Government?
– I am not supplied with complete schedules showing quantities and prices of all commodities that are imported. The honorable member’s question seems to be related to the administration of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. If the Commonwealth Disposals Commission were to adopt the procedure of accepting offers from private firms for goods and did not offer those goods for sale by public tender or auction the honorable member would be the first to object. In my opinion, the Commonwealth DisposalsCommission adopted the proper course. As I obviously cannot give details of the transaction offhand,I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
– I present the fifteenth report of the Broadcasting Committee relating to the financing of the national broadcasting system.
Ordered to be printed.
Mr. E. A. Harbison
– On the 30th April last the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked certain questions regarding the employment of Mr.’E. A. Harrison-
– Does the honorable member desire leave to answer the question?-
– Is leave granted?
Honorable Members. - No
Return of Dr. Coombs
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the report is well founded which indicates a possibility or probability that Dr. Coombs will be brought buck to Australia for consultation? If there is substance to the report, will the Prime Minister say what circumstances have, arisen in the course of negotiations at Geneva which justify the recall of the leader of the Australian delegation?
– There is no intention . nt present to recall Dr. Coombs for consultation, which is the only reason for which he would he recalled. I spoke to him in London the day before yesterday on behalf of the Cabinet sub-committee which has been dealing with the International Trade Organization agenda and work associated with it, and we discussed certain matters. There seemed to be no immediate need, as the result of that conversation, why he should return. As the discussions at Geneva develop it may become desirable later to bring Dr. Coombs back to Australia to discuss with the Cabinet sub-committee some of the points which have arisen, but my own impression is that it will not be necessary.
Mis. BLACKBURN.- Has the Minister for Works and Housing seen in yesterday’s Melbourne Age the report of the meeting of the Collingwood City Council held on Monday evening? The report stated that many houses in the municipality were sub-standard because they were owned by persons who did not reside in the vicinity, and who squeezed the last amount of money from their tenants without improving their properties; and that many of the houses were owned by banks ;ind investment companies.
– The honorable member is not in order in citing the reasons which the Collingwood City Council believes to be responsible for the existence .- of slums. The honorable member may state that there are slum dwellings, but she may not state why somebody else thinks there are slum dwellings.
– As this no doubt applies to other municipalities also, will the Minister confer with the Prime Minister with a view to the introduction of such legislation as will make it an offence for any property owner to receive rent (.or a habitation that has been declared sub-standard or unfit for human occupation ?
– I have not seen thereport mentioned by the honorable member, but the Government is well aware that the conditions referred to in that report- do exist. That was why the Commonwealth Government, under the leadership of the late Mr. John Curtin, called a’ conference of State Premiers in 1943 in an endeavour to devise a method for improving the housing situation. However, we must take a realistic view. It would- be a waste of time to embark upon slum clearance when so many people are without- houses of any kind. There is a provision in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to the effect that, when government and private building overtakes the existing housing shortage, slum clearance will be undertaken. A start has been made in co-operation with the Government of New South Wales which made the first effort in building what are known as workers’ flats. Such buildings are still in the experimental stage, but should they prove successful they will be erected on a larger scale.
– To-day’s Sydney press features a statement by a well-known specialist and dietitian, Dr. Franklin. Backnell, to the effect that the people of England are dying of starvation. He substantiates that statement with details of the calory content of the present British diet. I ask the Prime Minister whether he will contact the High Commissioner for Australia in London immediately in order to ascertain whether Dr. Backnell’s statement substantially represents the position in England to-day? t If it does, will the right honorable gentleman, in co-operation with other Dominions, treat the subject as a matter of extreme urgency calling for immediate action on the part of .the people of Australia?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable gentleman, refers ; but I understand that some medical man did make certain statements about the prevalence of malnutrition in Great .Britain and to the effect that the British people are being half starved’. I understand also that in the House of Commons last night the appropriate Minister denied the accuracy of. such statements, and said that medical evidence was available to the Government from nutrition experts indicating that Dr. Backnell’s statements were quite untrue. T believe that the Minister added that reliable evidence showed that the stand. arc of nutrition among the British people at present was still very good,, and that there had been little or no deterioration. I might, add that I do not feel obliged to comment on statements made by all and sundry, some: of which, of course, are nane, and others simply hair-brained.
– I do not desire* to embarrass1 the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but many stockowners in the country desire elucidation of his statement in the House that the Government and the Australian Meat Board propose to seek the co-operation of graziers and meat exporters to improve the supply of meat for Britain. I have asked several questions about this matter, but the Minister has displayed great coyness and bashfulness.
-Order ! What is the honorable member’s question?
– Will the Minister tell the- House exactly what are the’ plans in which the co-operation of the graziers and others supplying meat is expected?
– If the honorable member is prepared to arrange with members of the Opposition that I be given leave to make a statement, I shall be glad to. provide him with the full- information that he seeks.
Opposition Members. - Make the statement’ on the adjournment.
– Oh Tuesday of last week I’ asked the Minister for Post-war
Reconstruction’ to ‘give consideration to the request of- students who are undergoing a rehabilitation course in accountancy in. Sydney foi- a mid-June1 break of one week in their studies.. I understand that the director of. the course ha* said that additional .leave is not necessary. In view of the fact that teachers are given this concession and still have great difficulty in completing their course, will the Minister again- consider my request having regard to the fact that the. course in accountancy is equally difficult?
Mi-.. DEDMAN.- When the. honorable member made his request last week I. was under, the impression that provision was already .made for three weeks’ leave, for the trainees to whom he. refers, and that the week’s leave which he now requests on their, behalf was actually in addition, to that already provided. However, I shall look- into the’ matter further.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to’ an article in the latest issue of Smith’s Weekly under- the- heading, “ Staggering Revelations in Land Sales Control Fabulous price jumps. Consent before applications”? As this journal claims that official files which its representative has inspected and information in its possession show cause for a full inquiry into the administration of land sales control in Sydney, and in view of the further allegation that in a number of cases which were specifically cited, prices approved by the delegate- of the Treasury were far in excess of the limit stipulated in the regulations, will the Treasurer institute an immediate inquiry into this matter and’ make a full statement on the subject, to the House?
– I. have not seen the article to which the honorable member has referred. As a matter, of fact, I have not read Smith’s Weekly for a long time. If the. honorable member will compile, a list, of the. specific cases to which he refers and’ is prepared to vouch for the accuracy” of the information- concerning them, and. forward the list to rae, I shall have the matter examined.’
– Duringthe recent election campaign in New South Wales I was asked by a grower of oats if the Commonwealth Government had guaranteed 3/3d. a bushel for feed oats during the coming season and I replied that it had done so. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether or not that is a fact ?
– It is true that the Commonwealth Government has guaranteed3s. 3d. abushelat grower’s sidings for feed oats for the forthcoming season.
Australians in Japan: State Electoral Rights; Future Policy -
– Idraw the attention of the Minister for the Army to a statement appearing in yesterday’s press that, although Queensland troops in the occupation force in Japan were able to vote at ‘the Queensland elections held last Saturday, New South Wales troops were given no facilities to record their votes in the New South Wales elections. Were ballot-papers for the New South Wales elections supplied to the New South Wales members of the occupation force in Japan, and, if not, why not?
Mr.CHAMBERS . - The question asked by the honorable member concerns the State of New South Wales and is in no way connected with my department. The matter has nothing to do -with the CommonwealthGovernment.
– Is it a fact, as stated in this morning’s press, that the Australian occupation force in Japanwill be withdrawn in less than two years and be replaced by an Allied CivilianPolice Control Force on which Australia will be represented ? Is thewithdrawal being made on the advice of General MacArthur, and does General MacArthur hold the view that all allied troops should leave Japan as soon as the peace treaty with Japan is signed? Has the Government decided upon the strength of the Australian representation on the Allied Civilian Police Control Force? Is the Government satisfied from information it is reported to have received from General MacArthur that the sug gested Allied Civilian Police ‘Control Forcewill be adequate to maintain peace inJapan and to preventthe return to power of thewar party in that country?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - The honorable member will I am sureappreciate that the latter part of his question in particular relates to matters which will have to be made the subject ofdiscussions with other countries. Thehonorable member asked whether the occupation force in J apan wouldbe withdrawn. Clearly that depends on what the allied governments may determine; but if the honorable member will puthis question on the notice-paper, I shall give him whatever information I believe to be reasonable in the circumstances.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is correct, as reported in the press to-day, ‘ that Australia is tohave a peace-time army of 51,000 men? Will this force be raised entirely by voluntary enlistment? Will it be enlisted on a militia or a full-time service basis? Does the Government intend to maintainthe present Staff College, and will it maintain school cadet corps and volunteer militiaunits?
– The Government still has under consideration the composition of Australia’spost-war defence forces. When a decision has been reached, an announcement will be made on the matter.
Standardization of Gauges
-Can the Minister for Transport state the present position in relation to the development of standardized railway gauges in Australia, the development of the suggested YassCanberra railway, and the investigations concerning the reimbursement on a quid pro quo basis, of expenditure incurred by the Tasmanian Government on its railways ?
– In order that the honorable member may be ‘fully advised I shall have a complete ‘statement prepared as to the exact position in relation tothe matters mentioned by him.
– There is a belief throughout the country districts that phenothiarzine, the most powerful medicinal drench known for the destruction of internal parasites in sheep, can be purchased in the United. States of America for 8d. per lb., whereas in this country, the locally manufactured product costs 7s. per lb. “Will the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain whether it is possible to purchase this drug in the United States of America for8d. per lb., and, if so, what would be the landed cost in this country free of duty? “Will he also have an inquiry made by the Prices Commissioner into the manufacturing costs of phenothiarzine in Australia with a view to ascertaining whether the present price of 7s. per lb. can be reduced ?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– About a fortnight ago, the Minister for External Affairs informed me that the residue of £400,000 from the Australian contribution to Unnra would be made available for 20,000,000 destitute children in Europe who are being looked after by a humanitarian sub-committee of the United Nations. . The Minister also indicated that a Cabinet sub-committee was considering further aid. I should like to know whether any decision has yet been reached by that sub-committee.
– The Cabinet subcommittee dealing with this matter will report to Cabinet early next week, and I shall inform the honorable member of the result.
– I wish to ask the Min ister for Repatriation a question that I put. to his predecessor, who is no longer with us, in relation to the means test applied to dependent war-bereaved parents which is causing undue hardship. Has the Minister recommended that the means test in relation to war-bereaved dependent parents be abolished, and, if so, will legislation giving effect to that decision be brought before the House? If not, why has he not done so?
– I have not recommended to the Government any alteration of the present law in regard to the means test. The terms of thepresent act were considered by an all-party returnedsoldier committee of both Houses of the Parliament.
– The committee overlooked that.
– I am not prepared to accept that the committee overlooked anything in its consideration of this matter. It made a comprehensive report to this Government and, in the main, its recommendations were accepted and the measure that was passed in 1943 was the result. If cases of extreme hardship are brought to my notice they will be dealt with individually.
Advisory Committee on Production Costs.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say when the report of the committee now examining the cost of butter production will be completed? After the report has been received, how long will be required to give consideration to the recommendations contained therein and to what date will the expected increase he retrospective?
– I cannot state a specific date on which the inquiry will be concluded.But I am hopeful that it will not be more! than about three months from now, and it may be even less. When the committee’s report is received it will be dealt with in the expeditions manner inwhich the Government deals with all reports received by it. If an increased price is recommended and accepted by the Government it will be retrospective to the 30th April, 1947, I think. Any increase recommended to compensate for increased production costs attributable to the recent basic wage increase will probably operate from the date of the increase of the basic wage, sometime in December last year.
– Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister if it were possible to arrange with the importing authorities in Australia to enable Australia to get utility trucks from overseas instead of luxury motor cars. He promised to examine the position and ascertain what could be done about it. I understand that few utility trucks have been made available to Australia from overseas and that large numbers of luxury motor cars have come into the country.
– Order ! What is the question ?
– Is it possible to arrange for a. number of utility trucks to bo made available to this country?
– I regret that I have not given the honorable member an earlier answer to his question. The types of motor vehicles to be brought to Australia were closely examined ;by the Department of Trade and Customs in consultation with the Minister for Transport, and it was decided as the result of that examination that only utility types of cars and trucks should be imported particularly from America, and that expensive and luxurious cars should not be included in the quota of motor vehicles available to Australia. The carrying out of that intention, of course, requires some arrangement with the importers. I will supply the honorable member with a statement setting out what has been clone about the matter.
– As the Prime Minister pointed out, I think last week, there are other difficulties in the way of resumption of trade between Australia and Indonesia, and representatives of Australia are now in Indonesia negotiating with the Dutch and the Indonesian :i mthorties with a view to the early resumption of trade with this country. I consider that the so-called ban, to which the honorable member referred, is not the obstacle to such resumption at present. I shall give the honorable member the specific information for which he asked regarding the original decision’ on this matter as soon as I can do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in relation to the recent increase of the price of chaff hags. Many farmers ure under the impression ‘ that they are not entitled to add the increased cost of 9s. 6d. a dozen for chaff bags to the ceiling price of chaff. I have been informed by the Prices Commissioner that the increase may be so added. Will the Minister take up the matter with the Prices Commissioner and have this fact publicized in the interests of the many farmers who are not aware that they may add the extra cost of bags to the ceiling price of chaff?
– I shall be glad to discuss with the Prices Commissioner the question of passing on. the increased cost of chaff bags to the purchasers of chaff and to convey to the honorable member any information that I receive on this subject.
– I ask the Prime Minister how many fellowships have been awarded by the Commonwealth Literary Fund during the last six years? To whom were the awards .made? For what purpose was the fellowship granted in each case? What previous writings had been published by these Fellows? Have any fellowships been refused; if so, to whom and for what reasons?
– I think I had better be precise in regard to this information, which will cover a period of some years. At the moment I can give only approximate answers to spine of the questions, anc! therefore I shall have a statement prepared setting out such information as it is possible to give.
– Following, the arrival in Australia of Professor Jones, of the University of Cardiff, a statement appeared in the press reporting that the Prime Minister would make arrangements for the establishment of a Chair of the Faculty of Mining at the Australian National University. Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether appointments to the proposed position will be confined to students from mining villages and townships, in. accordance with what the British Government has done in connexion with the Rushton College Scholarship and similar awards in Wales, so that they may be able to. do much good; as Professor Jones has done in the villages of Wales, in the interests of the health of mining communities?
– I desire to make it clear that I made no promise about the establishment of a Chair of Mining Engineering at the Australian National University. It is true that Professor Jones told me of what he regarded as the great value of such a chair and’ explained to me in some detail the way in which it would render service in the community. I said that I was much impressed with the case that he had put to me and that I would seek further information. Professor Jones himself undertook to supply mewith information on some phases of the matter; also I did propose to discuss the matter with the Joint Coal Board and with those responsible for the establishment of such chairs; I promised to ask my colleague to give early consideration to the matter. Nothing more has been done. Offhand, I am not able to supply the detailed information for which the honorable member asked. The matter will have to be examined in conjunction with the responsible authorities.
– Is the Minister for Externa] Affairs in a position to supply any information regarding the negotiations between the United States of America and the Australian Government concerning the request by America to use
Manus Island as a defence base in the South-West Pacific ?
– On several occasions, the honorable member has referred to this important matter.. While negotiations have certainly been protracted, they are still actively in progress. Earlier this week, I spoke to a representative of Australiain Washington and to the American Ambassador, who is on a visit to Washington, to ascertain whether the matter could be expedited. As soon as it is possible for me to make a public statement on this subject, I shall do so.
Visit of Field Marshal. LordMontgomery.
– Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, who is the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, will visit Australia next July to co-ordinate the defences of the Dominions. Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of holding a secret session of the Parliament, which the Field Marshal could attend, so that members of all political parties may be fully informed on this vital national subject ?
– I do not think that one of the principal objects of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery’svisit to Australia is to co-ordinate the defences of the Dominions.
– No doubt the matter will be discussed.
– That may, be so. As far as I know, the intention of Field Marshal. Lord Montgomery is to make himself familiar with all the circumstances surrounding the defences of the Dominions. No doubt as the honorable member stated; various aspects of those defences will be discussed. I do not know that an agenda of subjects for discussion with the Field Marshal during his visit to Australia has been compiled. The honorable member also asked whether arrangements could be made for. the Field Marshal to attend a secret meeting of the Parliament in order that all honorable members might be fully informed on this vital national question. From previous experience I have my doubts about the efficacy or the secrecy of these secret meetings.
Ml Rankin. - And we have- our doubts about the accuracy of some of the information which was given to honorable members at those- secret meetings.
– I am afraid’ that some, of the secret information may have been misused. However,. I shall consider the. honorable member’s, suggestion..
Debate resumed’ from the: 6th- May (vide page l’95:6i)>, on motion’ by Mr. Chifley -
That the’ following; pa-per toe- printed’: -
Financial’ Statement by the Eight Honorable’ Ji. B. Chifley, M1P., Treasurer..
.-I’, congratulate the. Treasurer. (Mr., Chifley) on presenting, this financial, statement to the. House; His. tax reduction, proposals will’ afford’ substantial relief to the community. These- remissions far exceed’, the expectations of Government, supporters; and’, greatly surprised’ honorable members opposite, including, the. honorable: member, for Reid (Mr. Lang). At the last elections the country witnessed the spectacle of a bargain arcade at which the rival leaders of the Opposition parties auctioned their policies. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies.) promised the electors, that if he became Prime Minister,, he. would immediately reduce taxes- by 20 per cent., but the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) went one better and offered to reduce them by 28 per cent. . However, there were no takers. Contrast with that the courageous statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who said’ that he would make no promises, for the purpose of votecatching: However, he was adamant in his statement that lie would’ reduce taxes immediately the position, of the country warranted it and provided he was satisfied’ that a balanced economy could be preserved. Now, he has carried’ out that promise. There is to be an all round reduction of approximately 85 per cent., which reduces to insignificance the offers of the two fakirs of the Opposition parties- Further, taxes have been reduced on the lower incomes, of £2.50 to £400 by from 50 to 100 per cent. A taxpayer with a dependent wife and three children will be- exempt from, tax on an income up- to- £632. Nobody1 in his wildest dreams expected that, and- that generous proposal is- an indication of the Government’s willingness-, to help, the struggling family man, so that- he may be financially able .to give to- his children not only a- reasonable standard of living but also- an opportunity of secondary education. As evidence of this I repeat what the- Treasurer said- in his- statement, namely, that men liable to pay tax, as distinct, of course, from social’ service contributions, will benefit under the new scare. to the following- extent: - An unmarried’ taxpayer who at present pays tax on an- income of £200’ will’ not pay tax on less than £250. If he has> a dependent wife; he formerly received exemption- up to- £280, but his income will now be exempt up to £396’. A taxpayer with a dependent wife and one- child’, whose income was formerly exempt up- to £345; now enjoys an exemption- up to £513, an increase exemption- of £168: A taxpayer with’ dependent wife and two children, whose permissible tax-free income was £37S, now enjoys exemption up to £572; an increase in exemption of £194. A taxpayer with dependent wife and1 three children whose- income was- formerly exempt up- to £412 is. now exempt up to £632’, an increase of £220 ian permissible, income. A widower with one child, whose income was formerly exempt- up to £245, will now- receive exemption up to £344, or an increased exemption of £99* A widower with two children’, who- has been paying- Dax on- an income of £275., will not be- required to pay in future until’ his income is £396, an- increased exemption- of £121. A widower with three children-, who has been- paying tax on an income of £304, will not be required to pay in- future until his income is £4r54, an- increased exemption of’ £151’. It will’ be noted that these proposals are designed to- benefit the workers with families; who deserve the most assistance. In, the past, the- majority of them had not two “ coppers “ to rub together after they had paid their household accounts and1 had met their liabilities- in respect of time payment on furniture and instalments on a home. What is the reason for the opposition to- the Government, which has always tried to help the “ u under-dog “ ? I believe it to be a desire to benefit the “ tall poppies “ on the higher ranges of income. Those who are in this group will have their income tax reduced by 10 per cent., and this will prove a substantial benefit to them. What should count most is the. amount which a mau has left after he has paid his tax, and the greatest consideration should be given to men who are rearing families. The majority of those who have large incomes are not in that category, and probably many of them are not married. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.. Fadden), and other honorable members opposite, have claimed that taxes” should he reduced so substantially as to give an incentive to production. That principle might be applied to the workers, but I cannot see that the effect hoped for would be gained if we were to treat in that fashion others whose tendency is to exploit rather than to produce. I am sure that the critics of this financial statement would not give to taxpayers in the lower income groups relief equal to that proposed. Rather would they rob the poor in Order to give to the rich. The Government has adopted a humanitarian, it may even be termed a Christian, policy. The Prime Minister has practised rather than preached Christianity. Actually, he has obeyed the exhortation of the lowly Nazarene, who, when asked, ‘ What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”, replied, “Sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor.”. That precept has been- followed by the Prime Minister, who has endeavoured to give greater relief to the poorer sections of the community. Yet on that account he is criticized ! The right honorable gentleman has been described, somewhat unkindly, as an “iron” man and a “pigheaded “ man. I claim that he is definitely the man whom this country needs. Whilst treating all sections fairly, he is giving the greatest relief to those who are the most deserving, in accordance with the principle of taxing according to .a man’s ability to pay. i admit that he may be a firm man. But I have always found him to have nothing but a heart of gold, and to be the essence of kindliness and sympathy when listening to any case that is being presented to him. He has always been prepared to give relief where it has been needed. The scale of taxes that I have quoted shows that income tax will not be levied until a taxpayer has an income of £250 a year. The social services contribution will begin on an income of £125 a year if the taxpayer be a single man, but even then the contribution will be only £2 17s. per annum, compared with the war-time tax of £6 ls. per annum, a reduction of £3 4s., or 52.9 per cent. [Quorum formed.] Only one member of the Australian Country party and two members of the Liberal party were present when attention was drawn to the state of the House. Opposition members adopt the practice of calling for a quorum more frequently when the proceedings of the House are not being broadcast, and listeners cannot learn that the majority of them are absent from the chamber. On a single man’s present tax of £8 4s. there is to be a reduction of 7s., or 10.9 per cent. The Prime Minister has displayed sympathy with the worker even in connexion with the social services contribution, because he is giving to those who are in most need. A taxpayer with a dependent wife will not be liable to pay the. combined levy of social services contribution and income tax unless his income exceeds £200 a year. A taxpayer with a wife and one child will be exempt up to £2S3 a year. A taxpayer with a. wife and two children will be exempt up to £317 a year; and a taxpayer with a wife and three children will be exempt up to £350 a year. Surely this indicates that the Government’s policy is to assist a family man ! There lias always been a good deal of criticism of social services in this country, the claim being that thrifty people have always been penalized. It is true that thrift has been penalized, -and that a single man with an income far greater than that of a family man could dissipate the whole of his earnings on gambling and other forms of enjoyment. The thrifty man, particularly the married man with a family to maintain, who wants also to provide for bis old age, is penalized in that the value of any property which he owns, apart from the house in which he lives, is taken into account in assessing his pension. I have no doubt that the means test will .ultimately be abolished, but that stage has not yet been reached.
In addition to provision ,for invalid and old-age pensions legislation is on the statute-book providing for widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment and sickness benefits, hospitalization, free medicine and so on, most of which has been introduced by Labour governments. That’ legislation will remain, because no future government will dare to repeal it.
There was a time when incomes as low as £.104 per annum were subject to tax, but under the existing legislation no social service contribution is made by persons with incomes lower than £200 per annum. In their cases, there has been a reduction of taxes by 100 per cent. Persons in the £250 income range pay a small social services tax ; a man with a dependent wife only pays £3 15s. as his social service contribution. The average income of workers in regular employment is probably between £300 and £400 per annum. Under the Government’s proposals a person in receipt of £300 per annum will pay £11 5s. in combined social services levy and taxes, whilst an income of £350 will be subject to a tax of £21, and a person in receipt of £400 per annum will pay £50 to the taxation authorities. ‘ Those rates represent a reduction of from 58 per cent, to 36 per’ cent. I could give other illustrations, but I shall not wear) the House with further details. ‘
Several Opposition speakers, as well as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) criticized the system of prices control. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) stressed that the system destroys incentive. Obviously, the honorable member had in mind persons who would exploit the people, but were checked by the exercise of these controls. He had in mind middlemen, such as land agents who exploit those who desire to own their homes. These exploiters want controls lifted so that they may make further profits. Some control over land sales is necessary as a check against their avarice.
– The honorable member for Wakefield did not criticize the principle of prices control, but its administration.
– I thank the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) for her interjection, but I heard the honorable member for Wakefield say that the continuance of prices control removed all incentive to increased production. It may be the adminstration of the system is not as efficient as it should be, but, in my opinion, those who have administered the controls have done a good job. They have prevented the people from being robbed, particularly in respect of houses and land. Honorable members know what happened after World War I. I recall that in .one district a number of Jews provided charabancs to take miners and others to a lake-side area where land worth not- more than £10 was offered for sums as high as £250. When the bottom fell out of the market during the depression, many who had undertaken to huy blocks could not pay the rates on them, and had to sell their holdings for as low as £5. The present Government, with the assistance of the State governments, has prevented a repetition of that kind of thing; the Stales have agreed to hand over the control of prices to the Commonwealth f6r a further three years. In my opinion, prices control should continue to be uniform throughout Australia. I consider also that . the basic wage should be the same in all States. As it is, with conditions varying in the several States, goods can be produced more cheaply in some States than in others, and the result is the manufacturers establish their works in the State with the lowest basic wage and then flood the markets in the other States with their goods. The system of controls should be uniform, not only in war-time but also in times of peace.
On a number of occasions I have advocated the removal of the restrictions on the payment of war gratuities. I know that these restrictions were imposed in order to avoid repetition of what happened after World War I., when large numbers of returned servicemen spent their war gratuities foolishly. We mustremember, however, that World War II. ended more than eighteen months ago, and that most of the men who have come back from active service have settled down in civil occupations. Many of them have married, and now want their gratuities to purchase homes, or to pay cash for furniture and thus avoid the high interest associated with time-payment purchases. The regulations provide that war gratuities may be drawn in order to make payments to approved institutions for the purchase of homes. However, the average house in a miming village isworth not more than £550, or £600, and they are bought and sold by direct negotiations between the parties. Usually, the transfer is put through by the local member of Parliament in order to a,void the payment of fees to ‘lawyers who, in my opinion, get a little too much for their services. However, I do not want to pursue that topic, because I have been chided in the pastfor expressing opinions about it. If Tom Smith buys a house from Jack Jones for ‘£500 he should be able to draw his war gratuity in order to complete the payment, rather than having to raise a mortgage and pay interest on the borrowed money. In the same way, a man should be able to use his war gratuity to buy furniture for his home, rather than be compelled to buyit on time payment from firms which are only waiting for him to make one slip in his payments in order to repossess the goods. After all, the war gratuity money belongs to the men themselves, and the Government does not pay them as much interest upon it as they have to pay on the money they borrow to buy homes and furniture.
The honorable member forReid accused the Prime Minister of departing from the policy of the Labour party, and also of breaking his election pledges, but those accusations were unfounded.The Prime Ministerhas never broken a pledge. During the last election campaign, even when the leaders of the Opposition parties were trying to outbid him by promising tax reductions, he refused to make promises which he was unable to honour. During the last two elections, the leaders of the two -sections of the Opposition haveput forward conflicting policies. Indeed, after the last elections the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies)said that if it had not been for the statementissuedby the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.Fadden) the Opposition would have won the election. Those are the persons w howant to be given theright to govern thecountry, although they cannotagree among themselves in this House andon the election platform. The only point of agreement between them is that they want to get into power, and if they did there would be the old fight once more about the allocation of portfolios. The firstLyons Government was returned with such a majority that it was able to dispense with thesupport of the Australian Country party. However, Mr. Lyons was prepared to allot some portfolios to the Australian Country party, but its then leader, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), said that hewanted performances - not portfolios. Nevertheless, he wanted five portfolios, and when he was unahle to get them he refused to play ball. After the next election the Lyons Government needed the support of the Australian Country party. Principles were then thrown to the wind, and the old battle royal for five portfolios was on again. That sort of thing is of no use to a country which needs stable government. The Opposition parties, when ‘they get into power, always fight like Kilkenny cats. This is in marked contrast to the harmony which prevails in the Labour party which, since it assumed office, ‘has made only two changes in the Ministry - one because of ill health, and one theresult of a death. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison.) always seems to be at odds with his party. One week be is onthe front benchand the next onthe back bench. He was a Minister once, but he did not stay in office long enough to qualify for a goldpass for life.
The honorable member forReid said that the Prime Minister had promised to reduce taxes when the state of the revenue permitted, and he went on to say that, when revenue became buoyant, the Prime Minister should not ‘have waited till the 1st July to reduce taxes-. The honorable member forReid has had a wide parliamentary experience, and he knows that when a government introduces a ‘budget for the year, it is usual to wait until the end of thatfinancial year before making adjustments. Ideny that the Labour party hasbrokenanyof its pledges. Iremember the honorable member forReid, at a conferenceof the NewSouth Wales branch of the Australian Labourparty,declaring fromthe platform that Labour supporters should thank God every morningthat they belonged to the Labour party. Those who were not with theLabourparty, he said, were against it.Well,thehonorable memberfor Reid is not with the Labour party to-day, andhe has become the associate of strangers. The other dayhe defendedin thisHouse big businessmen who, he said, were afraid to leave their shops lest prices officials should visit them.Whathasthat to do with Labour men?The honorable memberf or Reid cal led th ePrices officials bureaucrats, and he said that the Prices Branch was inefficient. If it is inefficient, what is the reason? It is because people with money arenotprepared to assist the officials in theirwork. It is the duty of all of us who believe in abalanced national economy to assist the prices administration. We have reason tobe proud ofthe way in which our national economy has been maintained. Recently, I was overseas, and I was able to compare conditions in other countries with those in Australia. Irealized then whatan excellent job had beendone here. The control of prices has done more than anything else to protect our economy.
.- The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) spent a considerable portion of his time in praising the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Cabinet and caucus, and, in fact, every one connected with the Labour party excepting the honorable member forReid (Mr. Lang). With such a galaxy of virtues and abilities in the ministerial party, it is surprising that the country has not received something more in the nature of a strong lead and more than mere words for the solution of the many problems with which we are confronted today. I do not propose to follow the tortuous arguments of the honorable member for Hunter, but shall address myself directly to the financial statement, which sets out in a comprehensive way our present financial position. In my view the most important paragraph of the financial statement is the following: -
It is clear that in the future total Commonwealth expenditure is unlikely to fall below £400,000,000 ayear compared with £88,000,000 inl936-37,only ten yearsago.
That fact presents .a very. grim picture so far as the future -of this country is concerned. All’ of us realize .that . this great burden isipart^of .the price we. have now to:pay for victory lin rthe recent war, and for our survival. :But ‘the outlook is pretty grim -when ‘our population of 7,000,000 ‘must. bear i a (taxation burden of £400>QOO,.00.0 a year. The only possible way this burden. can :be relieved is by increasing the income of the. country itself.. That –means, , in. effect, .that we must, increase our production and -also our population. Analysing this bill of £400’,000,000 a year we find that it consists :of .a hard .core of amounts which cannot be reduced by any action which this Parliament mayrtake. Debt charges and war pensions amount to £20,000,000 in respect of World War I. and £100,000,000 in respect of World ‘War EL, whilst .payments to the States, including reimbursements .under uniform income tax and sums -to cover debt charges, .amount to £5Sj000,000. .In addition, .expenditure in the provisioniof isocial services -within the -next ifew years will .amount to .at least £100,000y000 a year, and will continue to increase. AH of ‘the items which I have mentioned represent a total expenditure of £27:S,0Q0,000. The .other items of expenditure Gan be considered to be variable in that they are subject to . some control by .the Parliament. These include defence expenditure amounting to between £40,000,000 to £60,000,000 a year, and the cost of government itself, including that of administrative services, which amounts to between £80,000,000 and £90,000,000 .a year. This total of £400,000,000 .a year represents -a .tax of between £45 and £50 per capita. That is. a stupendous burden.
I should like to make two general observations on the financial .statement. The first is that .while we have this large hard core of expenditure which we cannot reduce appreciably, there are certain -items, particularly administrative expenditure, :which can and should be reduced if we set : about that ;matter in the proper way. There ismo doubt that to-day we : are witnessing . a continuance of- the extravagance which characterized the financial. operations of this country during -the ‘war itself. First, ‘there has been an extraordinary increase of the number of public servants. In 1939 the Commonwealth Government employed fewer than 60,000 men and women, but, to-day, government officials number 160,000 ; ‘and the States are following suit in this matter. The latest figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in February last there were 2,193,000 wage and salary earners of whom no fewer than 550,000 were employed by the Commonwealth and Stale Governments, whilst ‘private persons employed 643,000. In other words, we have one government employee for every three employed in private enterprise. Taking the whole of the wage earning population, including those in primary industry, this means that one person in every five is today a servant of either the Commonwealth, or a State, -Government. What are all these government employees doing? A certain number is engaged in essential services such as transport services, but the vast majority of them are sitting in offices producing nothing. They are preparing . blueprints, they are administrating and controlling, and restricting the activities of the ordinary citizen; but none of them is producing a grain, of wheat, an ounce of butter or a yard of cloth. In a sense, therefore, they are parasites on the rest of the population, necessary parasites in some instances, but, nevertheless, levying toll ‘ on the labour and expenditure of energy of the vest of the’ population. This; of course, has increased our expenditure.
In 1939, government departments in Australia absorbed £55,209,000 of the tax-‘ payers’ money and loan funds, whereas in 1946-47 those departments absorbed not less than £268,453,000. The additional money has been taken out of the hands of private persons,- who probably know how to expend it to their own advantage, whereas governments do not expend it to the advantage of the nation. Are the people as a whole any better off for this large increase of government officials and .consequent expenditure on administration? What benefit has any single person in the community enjoyed from this increase of the numbers of public servants? Are they living in the houses which private citizens would 3ike to occupy? Can they even obtain a house of any kind? Yet we have large staffs of government employees whose function is said to be to provide houses for the people. We have not gained one advantage from this large and expensive staff. Are we living as well or as cheaply as we did before the war? The experience of every individual in this country is that we are infinitely worse off than we were before the war. That is confirmed by economists who had gone into the question on a statistical basis. So bad is the position that we might almost assume it takes 100,000 government officials to keep our standards down instead of raising them, as we hoped they might. The maintenance of large bodies of civil servants will certainly not raise our standards. What we want is work and more work by every citizen in this country. We shall not obtain increased production or a better standard of living merely by the issue of pamphlets, blue prints and regulations. No salvation will be found in a large body of civil servants, yet this expansion continues. For the current financial year we have provided £223,000,000 for civil expenditure, an increase of 33.4 per cent, over the expenditure for last year. I admit that this increased provision is partly to meet new commitments on social security measures about which I propose to say a few words later. I could cite figures covering the whole range of government departments to show that our public departments are still expanding. I shall content myself, however, with citing but a few to emphasize what is happening and to point the moral. Consider the Department of the Treasury. We are now debating the Treasurer’s financial statement introducing certain tax reductions, but notwithstanding the fact that tax reductions have been made over the last eighteen months, the staff of the Department of the Treasury has been steadily increasing. The number of officers in that department has grown from 5,017 last year to 5,391 this year. The staff of the head office of the department at Canberra has risen from 159 last year to 219. this year, an increase of 60. The staff under the control of the Minister for Works and Housing increased from 311 last year to 946 this year, notwithstanding the abolition of the Allied Works’ Council. The staff of the Department of Civil Aviation, excluding the officials of Trans-Australia Airlines, has increased from 727 last year to 1,652 this year. None of these increases can be justified. Nor is there any justification for the increase of the staff of the Department of External Affairs. In that department extraordinary expansion has taken place during the last year. Expenditure last year amounted to £600,000; this’ year the vote is £1,265,000. Since Labour governments have been in office, the annual expenditure on that department alone has grown from £200,000 to the present estimate of £1,265,000.
– In the early years of Labour’s administration, Australia was merely in the category of a principality jU matters of foreign affairs.
– We are spending money on that department to-day as though .we were a great power. Before the war it was accepted as a general principle that we should have direct representation in the countries bordering the Pacific, the Hinted States of America, Japan and China, but the war changed the old alignments. Russia has now become of greater importance to us than in the past and Japan has ceased to be regarded as of importance. We are now concerned with India, and, to some degree, with Indonesia. Why is it necessary to have such large legations in. Pacific countries as compared with the rest of the world ? If we want to retain these legations in foreign countries, we must cut our coat according to our cloth. Instead of retaining expensive legations in other countries we could very well conduct a great deal of our diplomatic affairs as we did before the war, namely, by making use of the services of the British Foreign Office. Wc ave expanding our legations throughout the world, and in conformity with that expansion we have had to extend the central office of the Department of External Affairs in Canberra, the staff of which has grown from 31 to 135. The vote for administrative costs of the department for this year is £75,000, compared with an expenditure of £37,000 last year, and general expenses have increased from £37,000 to £150,000. In the minds of some honorable members opposite these may be insignificant figures, but they all add to the total cost of government. The vote for the Australian Legation at Washington is £93,500 ; ‘ at Nanking, £44,000; and at Moscow, £27,000. All of these legations are, I believe, necessary; but there are others that do not appear to be essential, for instance, France, £33,200 and Brazil £30,900. What contacts have we with Brazil ; what trade are we likely to do with that country? The vote for the legation at Chile . is £32,500. What are our relations likely to be with Chile other than those of a friendly but remote neighbour across the Pacific? On the legation in the Netherlands we are to expend £20,200. What, are our relations with that country? Why is it necessary to retain such a large staff at The Hague? In addition, we are providing large sums for the establishments of our High Commissioners. I admit that these establishments are necessary, but they cost us a large amount of money. For instance, for the High Commissioner’s office in Canada the vote is £27,500; in New Zealand, £12,700 ; in India, £25,700 ; in Eire, £18,000; in South Africa, £19,000; and in the United Kingdom, which is the most important, £250,000. Those figures by no means give the complete picture. The vote for consular representation abroad is £102,300, and our contributions to the United Nations - necessary, but expensive - amount to £160,000. Then there are those peripatetic missions sent from this country and providing joy-rides for fortunate members pf the Labour caucus which, too, are all extremely expensive. One sometimes asks, what return do we get for expenditure of that kind ? The estimated cost of the delegation to the International Conference on Trade and Employment is £30,000, and representation at the meetings of the Internationa] Labour Organization, to be attended by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward”) and a member of the Senate, will cost an additional £30.000. Our representation at a coal conference which is to be held today will no doubt cost a similar amount. Either we must forgo altogether representation at some of those conferences, which cannot mean very much to this country, or we must reduce the costs that we incur in relation to them by curtailing our representation and altering its form. I have no doubt that many con.ferences of this nature are- regarded by honorable members1 opposite :as opportunities for- a pleasant jaunt abroad at the Government’s expense. At a time such as this, when it is necessary to- exercise economies-, these expeditions- overseas should not be permitted.
There are many other government departments with which I could deal. One ie . the Department of Information,, the cost of which this year- is £330,000. Probably that figure will increase. ‘ Then there is the huge food control organization and so on ; but I have said enough to give point to the argument- that I am using. If we are to have a reasonable budget, and to reduce the burden of taxes cn the people of this country, we must effect economies whereever they can be made. My mind goes back to the first few years after World War- 1., when the same thing happened in Great Britain which is happening in this country to-day. Bloated st’affs remained from the war-time administration, and naturally the officers in charge- of those staffs had no wish to reduce their importance or- their numerical strength. Therefore-, the- government set up what might- he called a cheese-paring committee, known as- the Geddes Committee;, to eliminate extravagances and’ curtail activities that cost considerable sums of money- without- bringing; any- return. An- inquiry of that type- is. required1 in this country to-day.
I’ come now to the urgent;’ problem of production. I said! earlier- when dealing with our- Targe expenditure that the only way in. which the- burden of taxation could’ be reduced was by increasing, the income of the country, and’ spreading the burden over- a wider population, thus reducing the- per- capita’ incubus.” That can be done by increasing population or increasing production. Only in these ways- can- we deal with- this problem as a long-term project. The other remedy I have mentioned, namely,, economies-, could reduce expenditure a little; The trouble with honorable members opposite is that they put, the whole emphasis to-day on full employment. I am- in- agreement with the principle of full’ employment. If is- most desirable that every man and woman who is able and willing to work should be employed” and should’ be- drawing’ wages ; but where the Government goes wrong is that it confuses full employment with fu]1 production, whereas these things are quite, different., We can only, progress by full’ production. It is, not sufficient’ that every man and woman in this country who is able and willing to work should be in. employment; the average output’ may be low, as is the case to-day. What we require, therefore, is not’ only full employment, but also full production, with every worker giving- of his utmost. Honorable members opposite talk repeatedly of the. last depression,, which, they argue, was caused’ by overproduction - top many goods and- insufficient money- to. pay for them. That undoubtedly was one. of the many factors that contributed to the depression but it. is. not the whole stony. To-day- we are faced, with- the opposite problem - too much money and too few goods: If. we carry on as we are at present, we shall inevitably slide into a depression- similar to the last, although for different seasons. Success in- this or any other country, can be attained only if everybody is. in employment and giving of hi.= best. That unfortunately is not the- condition, that, prevails- to-day.. The problem boils, down to this.:. The whole socialist policy,, by which of course, I. mean the whole Labour policy,, is. one-, of restraining the individual and distributing,, existing resources. I have not, heard, any voice from, the, Government? benches,, except perhaps an odd occasional- cry- in -the wilderness,. emphasize the- need( to.- create new wealth.. This spirit., of restriction that seems to.- guide the- Government is slowly- but surely killing- ail initiative in this.- country,, and- 1 believe^ 18 the end., it will- kill the. country itself.
The- socialist- doctrines that honorable members’ opposite practice- and! preach are entirely out of date: They were devised originally as desperate, measures t’o> overcome1 the abuses that arose largely in the nineteenth’ century. The- present Labour party has inherited them from men who were buried 50 or 1 00’ years- ago ; but still they remain alive in the mind’s of honorable members opposite. Labour government’s are giving effect to! these antiquated doctrines in this- modern worl’d in which conditions are entirely different from those experienced’ when the doctrines were formulated”. All th( old abuses- have gone and many were abolished by governments of the- political colour that I represent. But the Labour party has not forgotten these things. It is still fighting1 the old battles that were finished a hundred years ago. The whole emphasis of government action to-day is on restrictions. 1” have spoken of the burden of taxes. Everybody knows that the initiative of the Australian people is cramped’ by heavy taxes. That applies not only to. individuals; but also, and’ with even greater force, to companies. Any one who had examined recent company Balance-sheets published’ in- the press will appreciate that. I could give dozens, of instances, but I shall? refer to only two examples. The first concerns the very well known Australian firm Moulded Products’. Limited. In 1’94’5; that organization made a profit, of £23,417. of which £8)87:8- was1 paid in company tax. In 1946;, the> company made a- profit: of £6^,230 and- paid £44,85.1 in- -Bases: In other- words,, all. the- additional profit of £41,813 was absorbed by taxes,, except £5,000. Another interesting case- is- that of Repco Products- Limited which also is-, a- well known- company. In the: yea* ended; September, 19,4.5-, the tax levied on the. profits, of this organization! was. £4’8,943: In the following year the profits had increased- by £27,587. Extra taxes: paid amounted to, £26j500, which left, only £l,087f to the company as. a reward foi” its- efficiency,. The Government took 19s. 2-Jd’.. of every £1 of. extra profit.. That- treatment of companies-, by the Government: is not confined” to- one or two> companies but. applies to; the., whole range of companies, large and small., in this country.
Another form- of restriction of business is exercised by the- Prices Commissioner. The- Leader of the Opposition instanced the treatment of Miss Daveney Proprietary Limited in Sydney, but many similar instances- have occurred’ in Melbourne. The Prices Commissioner allows firms the- choice of two alternatives.. They must cut prices so that their profits- shall remain unchanged or reduce sales to the old level for the same purpose. That is. an unfair- restriction on tha enterprise and adventure that bring- ‘about expansion of business. The delays that occur in the Prices Branch intensify the restrictions on the business. A- manufacturer or an importer with a new line must ask the Prices Commissioner to fix- the price at which he shall be allowed to sell. Decisions are not given for months and months. The result is a rise of overhead costs and frustration of the people concerned. A somewhat similar policy is applied to primary production by the Labour Government. Its restriction of wheat, acreage is an illustration., Another is the restriction, placed, on the poultry industry which- seems- designed to reduce production rather than to take the obvious course of stimulating production. There ar,e restrictions everywhere. Importers must go through a host of. formalities and. delays to obtain, permits to, import.
As a. member of the. Social Security Committee, I supported the recommendation of that committee on which the Government introduced unemployment benefits-,, but; one cannot blink the fact that, unemployment benefits have turned out to he- an encouragement to workers- to strike or to: condone strikes- by other workers. If, workers: in one industry know tha-t- if. a strike occurs, in another industry they will be thrown out of work andi on to.- their own- resources, they are more than likely to. exercise, influence in the1- trade union movement to avert a strike;, but when they know that,, instead of having to. shift for. themselves through their,- being, cast into unemployment by strikes elsewhere, they, will- become- a charge upon the- Government, their anxiety to avert a strike is not so pronounced-.
– Would the honorable member abolish, the unemployment, benefits, scheme because of that.?
– No. I merely- point out the. effects, which- were not intended, of the- scheme. The cost to the- State Government of the- Victorian, dispute, which I hope has- ended, was £100’000; apart fr-om unemployment benefits. The strike last- year in Queensland cost the Government in. unemployment benefits £50,000 a month- and then £65,000 a month. The strike in New South Wales cost even more, about- £1501000) a. month. Tha* means- that the strike funds of unions are being subsidized bythe unemployment benefits scheme. The effects of different schemes are sometimes not obvious when introduced, but they have a cumulative effect on the economy of the country.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The financial statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) takes us a step further forward in our legislative programme for the people of this country. I compliment the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) on his analysis of the social progress of this country and the financial commitments occasioned by it. The honorable member has facility in dealing with figures and at the same time keeping the human element well to the fore. He is in marked contrast to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr, Ryan) who politically is rather an anachronism. His constituency owes its name to Matthew Flinders, the man who plotted the Australian coastline, and gave us our continent. Yet, in his speech, the honorable member said that Australia was a principality. As a man the honorable member is a splendid type, but he is politically a crusted tory. He charges us with being 50 years behind in our thinking. He has the “ wood on us “ in that he is 150 years back in his. His approach to the problems of the day is peculiar. What he has said to-day is merely a rehash of press articles written by people complaining about price fixing, taxes and controls generally. ‘He and they ought to realize that they are living in a new ‘ and entirely different world. People have realized what is behind the Government’s financial policy and they return Labour goverments again and again.
– The honorable member does not defend the proposition that a thing is good because it is new?
– No. But I thought that the crusted conservatives were as dead as the dodo. That one should persist in the shape of the honorable member for Flinders to make statements that in the general consensus are out of date illustrates my argument, while not entirely denying the argument of the honorable member for Darwin. In the first place the honorable member for Flinders com plained about our expenditure of money overseas. If this country is accepted as a young, growing nation and not as a principality, it must spend money overseas. A. complaint was made about the extraordinary amount of money spent on the establishment and maintenance of overseas embassies and legations. The honorable member for Flinders was not quite fair in comparing our costs in different countries. Costs vary according to countries. Australian representatives in Europe find it hard on the money they receive to keep up with their opposite numbers from other countries.
– I did not raise that matter.
– The honorable member said that the expenditure was excessive in South America and various European countries and that he did not know why we should spend money at The Hague. The inference to draw from the honorable member’s remarks is that we should continue the old system of centralizing all our overseas activities in London and depending on the Government of the United Kingdom to do our work for us in other countries.
– Can the honorable member say what good comes from spending money in South America on diplomatic representation?
– There is a discrepancy between the amount of money spent by Australia in Europe and the amount spent by it in the South American republics; but I think that could be more fully explained by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) than by me. The cost of living in the South American republics is probably very high but I think we shall reap our due reward for having exchanged diplomatic representation with South America by coming to a better understanding and increased trade with Latin America. True enough, Brazil is not a high contributor to Australian trade, but that was the case with Mexico and other countries until Australia appointed official representatives to them. If is niggardly of the honorable member to complain about expending money on expansion of that sort. He would not complain if he were in business and a company in which he had a financial interest decided to use funds for the establishment of new branches. That is merely what Australia is doing in other countries. Our representation abroad may be in the nature of an experiment in some instances. Some of our legations eventually may be closed altogether, or their work may be handed over to British representatives, as was formerly the case. Nevertheless, there is nothing unsound financially in providing for reasonable Australian representation abroad. The honorable member for Minders sneered at “ joy rides “ overseas. I remind him that anti-Labour governments also sent representatives abroad from time to time. From my own experience, I know that representatives who are sent abroad by this Government are expected to do a sound job of work, not to take a holiday at government expense, and that, in the main,- they do what is expected of them. If honorable members opposite are too tired to read the reports prepared by Australian representatives at the International Labour Organization, migration, and other conferences abroad, and judge for themselves the value of the work done by those representatives, they have only themselves to blame for their ignorance. Such reports show that care has been taken to secure proper documentation of the position in Europe, and that Australia’s representatives have not been engaged on mere “ joy rides “. It was unfair and unreasonable of the honorable gentleman to describe such trips in that way. I am sure that he did not seriously mean what he said; I believe that he was merely seeking a phrase with which to garnish the end of a sentence and that he seized upon the expression on the spur of the moment. I have done the same thing myself at times. There was no substance in the honorable gentleman’s comment.
The honorable member set a low level of debate by trotting out the old criticism of civil servants. This was another mewling attack upon the people who work for the Government. By virtue of their jobs, public servants are always vulnerable to attack. They are frequently shot at in this House by honorable members opposite, who claim that public servants are redundant and should not be employed and that they achieve nothing. In spite of such attacks, I suppose that honorable members opposite avail them selves of the service of public servants as frequently as do other members of the community. It is ungenerous of honorable members opposite to talk as frequently as they do about a “ superabundance of civil servants “ without attempting to show in what way such employees of the Government are redundant. The old jibes about civil servants are outmoded and without foundation. They are the sort of thing that “ Mrs. Pro Bono Publico “ writes about to the Sydney Morning Herald in a letter which fills a little space in an out-of-the-way corner . and of which nobody takes any notice. Such contributions to a debate of this nature are nebulous and of no value. The honorable member ‘for Flinders described ‘public servants as “ non-producers “ and said that they were useless members of the community. He apparently regards them as parasites, as does the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who would have them treated as parasites and eliminated. Public servants fill an important niche in the economic structure of this nation, and they should not be subjected to attack by honorable members opposite who happen to be short of something to say. The honorable member for Flinders and some of his colleagues have made extraordinary statements about expenditure on housing. They complain that, in spite of such expenditure, houses are not being built. The honorable gentleman, to whom I listened patiently, made some comments which interested me and others which appalled me. It seems to me that he has made his election speech a week too late. If he would visit New South Wales - assuming that he is not banned from that State, as is his leader - he would see a tremendous amount of activity in relation to house construction. Surely housing should be a subject above political bickering. We must put a covering over the heads of our people.
– Many of the houses in New South Wales are roofless.
– Probably the honorable member has a twinge of sympathy in that event, because such a condition parallels his own mental state.
On several occasions, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has fulminated about the great expense of. the Department of Information. I .find myself a little wearied by the preaching of the right honorable gentleman on the subject of expense. Whenever he .speaks in this House, .he makes me feel that the auditors are in, that the housekeeping bills are to be checked and double checked, and that everybody is to be given .a roasting if any wasteful expenditure is brought to light. Doubtless .that is the result of the aught honorable member’s training as an accountant. His ability to examine accounts is useful, but unfortunately he is unable “to appreciate the reasons for expenditure carried out by .the Government. He sees that a great .deal of money has been disbursed, and he takes the easy way out “by saying that expenditure should be curtailed. He could just as reasonably argue, if he were so inclined, that .expenditure should be increased. His particular hatred seems to be directed at the Department of Information. He claims that this organization is no longer necessary. I remind him. that, if we have a migration policy which is approved, in principle at least, by the Opposition and by the people generally, and if we have :a .desire to develop Australia as much as possible, we must have representation abroad and particularly we must have good publicity abroad. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, honorable members opposite have frequently complained about the lack of Australian publicity in other countries, particularly the British Isles. If they demand such publicity, they must expect the Government to provide a larger “ shop window “ for Australia in ‘Great Britain and Europe. Therefore, their present complaint that too much money is being expended on the Department of -Information points to the fact that every thing they have said has a merely political basis. I have ‘had first, hand experience of the efficiency of the Department of Information, both in New York and in London, and I believe that other travellers will confirm my views in this respect. When an Australian first arrives in London, he will receive, provided that he has made his movements known to Australia House, a roneoed copy of news from Australia - ;a .very .useful service.
– Does that happen to every Australian or only to ‘those who are travelling on government business? It did not happen -to me.
– Did the honorable member contact Australia .House ?
– I understand .that the practice which I ‘have mentioned is general in London nowadays. Of course, the service cannot be provided in the Midlands, but if an Australian stays in London at an hotel within .reasonable distance of Australia House, that service is available. About 200 copies of Aus- tralian news are issued daily.
– That would be only in the West End, not in the East End.
– I do not know about that. I suppose that some Australians stay at East End hotels just as others do at West End hotels. A Labour Government would not object to sending copies of Australian news to East End hotels. In view of the attacks made upon the Department of Information by honorable members opposite, I considered it worth while to gather some ‘details of its activities ‘to use in its defence. In London itself, at least one well-illustrated article dealing with some aspect of Australian life is published every week. Material is published in newspapers of such high circulation and prestige as Picture Post, which prints illustrated articles, the Financial Times, which publishes financial news, and the ‘Evening Standard,, which gives a general news coverage. It has been said, with a reasonable amount of veracity, that Australia does not secure enough publicity overseas. That is not the ‘fault of the Department of ‘Information. The real reason is that British newspapers are not greatly interested in news from. Australia. Generally speaking, the work of .the Department of Information in London is sound. It handles Australian news very effectively, and also produces films that .are screened in various towns. Approximately 150 lectures have been given (throughout the United -Kingdom, and half a .dozen splendid films have been shown. In New York the .Department of Information is also most active. Whilst New York is not in the same category ais the United Kingdom for interest in Australian news, a broadcast is* given once a week from the Department of Information^ which, I .understand, is heard by about 5,000,000 persons in that city. In addition, magazines take articles on Australia every week, films are released and exhibited, and a considerable a-mount of material for lectures is provided for hundreds of thousands of persons in the United States- of America. A daily news summary is sent to 703 newspapers and weekly news reviews in New York alone. In Canada, there is a close tie-up with British and Australian news sources. If the story is newsworthy, Canadian newspapers publish it, and our service sees that Australian news is given prominence. In 1946, the press of Canada published 5,323 single column inches of material about Australia, which the Department of Information distributed. All this information is provided and published free of charge. In our relations with the people of India, the department has rendered a very real service. In Singapore, which is recovering from the effects of the war, we have an Australian Trade Commissioner, and- the Department of Information has told the Australian story well and effectively. In Paris, and various European countries, the same story is repeated.
Returning to the activities of the Department of Information in Australia, I believe that one of its most successful achievements, upon which I congratulate it, is the making of excellent documentary films. From personal experience I know of the difficulty of obtaining direction of films. The acting, the situation and the appropriate story do not present serious -problems, but the finished article suffers if the direction is not first rate. The Department of Information, by appointing from overseas a director of documentaries, and ‘having its own officers to study the whole technique of the documentary film, which is the film of the future, has evolved some splendid short features. Many honorable members have seen them. I refer specifically to Native Earth, a story of New Guinea, the story of the break of gauge in the Australian railway systems, the story of food for Britain and the -story of the shearing sheds, Woolaway - a splendid piece of work and a monument- to the industry of the Department of ‘ Information. These films are released to the public- on commercial screens in .the theatres of the big cities, and, in many instances, an acknowledgment that the films- were the work of the Department of Information is not shown. Some of these theatres will accept the films only if they are able to put on them their own acknowledgment, and the people who see these illustrations of the Australian way of life do not realize that they have been produced by a government department. When we think in terms of publicity, we must think in terms of millions- of pounds. Vast sums are expended in the establishment, and conduct of newspapers, which have a practical experience of this business. But the Department of Information has been conducted on a paltry £300,000 a year. Every politician must know from his experience in his limited sphere of publicity during an election campaign how costly the printed word and publicity on: the screens, of motion picture- theatres can be. The- publicity handled by the Department: of Information is on a national scale, and I say, in all sincerity, that it has done a yeoman service for Australia for a reasonable expenditure. The statement that the department is redundant is extraordinary. If we are to attract any attention from the world, and, in addition, induce the right kind of immigrants to come to Australia, we must tell the people of other countries something of our story.
– Are we doing that?
Mi-. HAYLEN. - We are doing it very effectively.
– Are we attracting to Australia the right kind of immigrant?
– Yes. I am glad that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has raised this subject. The Department of Information has, by its similarity, been able to merge itself into some sections of immigration, particularly with information relating to immigration. Our films of aspects of jungle warfare, in which Australian troops participated, have aroused great interest in other countries, and proved to be a great success in Europe- after the liberation. The people of Europe had not known of the campaigns in the Pacific, and, for that reason, those films are an extremely valuable contribution. The Department of Information has co-operated with its sister, the Department of Immigration, in mak- ing the peoples of other countries, who are potential Australian citizens, aware of our way of life.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
-When the sitting was suspended, I was concluding my remarks in regard to the expenditure on the Department of Information and its sister department, the Department of Immigration. Any criticism of the relatively small amount spent on either of those departments is justified, apart from anything else, by their progress and their performances.
I turn now to the grant made by the Prime Minister’s Department to the Commonwealth Literary Fund. This fund was created for the purpose of assisting Australian authors by granting financial assistance in the form of fellowships to applicants whose work, in the opinion of the advisory committee, is of such a nature that it may be of national benefit, and covers works of art, novels, original research work of a commendable nature or some other literary or artistic task which could not be prosecuted without Commonwealth assistance. This fund has been operating for twenty ‘ years, but latterly, I note with regret, outside influences are attempting to operate on the advisory board by criticizing its awards. As a member of that committee - not because of my literary attainments, but because of my sympathy with the struggle of the Australian writer - I believe that no conscientious person can remain a member of it if there is to be instituted a kind of; political censorship by its critics. These critics seek to substitute their biased opinions as to the allocation of awards and fellowships, for those of the advisory committee, and they are motivated by considerations of extreme political partisanship. They have asked questions and made malicious comment because of the award of a fellowship to a deserving author, whose only sin, in their view, is that he was a Communist.
Surely, any one in assessing the merit of a literary work should disregard his own political sympathies. In my own case, for instance, I had to disregard my natural political affiliations when adjudicating upon the merits of a work by a gentleman whose brother, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), is, of course, an ardent protagonist of the anti-Labour point of view. The gentleman I refer to is, by all standards, a fine Australian writer, and the board recommended an award to enable him to continue his work. That, of course, was my plain duty; but it is intolerable if members of the board, after observing the most conscientious scruples in determining their awards, are to be subjected to lampoon by political partisans and unsuccessful authors. We are under a constant barrage of hostile criticism from these people, and I know that the House will bear with me in this regard because I, personally, am involved in this most unfair criticism. Apart from personal feelings, however, it is nothing less than deplorable to find responsible people suggesting that an applicant’s political affiliations, or some other equally extraneous consideration, should be taken into account in adjudicating on the merits of his artistic work. There is a more sinister aspect, however, in suggestions that are being voiced in this chamber at the instigation of these people, that the recipients of awards are unworthy of them for various reasons quite unconnected with the intrinsic merit of their artistic work. One man’s name has been mentioned, Mr. J. M. Rawling. and I feel impelled to refer to this matter because of what I term the “assassination of his character “ by his critics.
Mr. Pawling was at one time associated with the Communist party - a fact which he frankly admitted to the Prime Minister, although he is now a virile protagonist in the struggle against the Communist party. This gentleman is Australia’s foremost authority on the eminent Australian poet George Harpur In his lifetime, Harpur was associated with a famous figure in Australian politics, the late Sir Henry Parkes. Mr. Rawling’s sources of reference and the plan which he has prepared for his work on Harpur are little short of magnificent.
The advisory board decided to recommend the award of a fellowship at £S a week for twelve months to enable Mr. Bawling to complete this work. However, disgruntled people with little knowledge of the actual facts and animated by the most pronounced political bias, have attacked the award and are’ demanding to know the reasons for it. By the folly of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) these people of ill will have been enabled to introduce the matter into this Parliament, and have made a most unprincipled attack upon this man. As it happens, Mr. Rawling is working in a scholastic field in which it is possible that he may be injured by the unfair and unfounded allegations made ‘against him. This is typical of the activities of those people, and it is a dreadful thing if the considered judgments of the board of experts and others constituted to determine these awards arc to be impugned by persons who are neither disinterested nor just, and who do not hesitate to enlist the support of members of this House in their attempts to discredit deserving men. These people have the audacity to suggest that members of this Parliament can, by a gaggle of opinions amongst themselves, decide whether an artist is entitled to assistance, because some irresponsible person outside has whispered in the corridors of this House. In this case, I have no doubt that the individual who is responsible for this campaign against Mr. Bawling and who did the whispering in the corridors was a member of the staff of the Bulletin, who had failed to win an award, because of the incapacity that he revealed in the work which he had submitted to the board.
In building up Australian literature, we should not allow it to become involved in political controversy, because it hi almost elementary that an artist’s political creed has no relation to his literary achievements. If we allow this vicious practice to become established, we shall do a. terrible injustice to Australian letters and the literary craftsmen responsible for them, because, at this time particularly, they need nourishing and sustaining much more than men engaged in other activities in this country. Since I feel keenly the fact that Mr. Rawling’s name has been bandied in this Parliament, I think that I should pay a tribute to his fine capacity for writing and his profound research. Furthermore, he has made an even more direct contribution to his country inasmuch as he was a young soldier in “World War. I.
.- On the resumption of the debate on this motion the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made certain clear, concise and critical comments on the financial statement submitted by ‘ the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and I, in common with other members of the Opposition, have been waiting in the hope of hearing some thoughtful and intelligent attempt to answer those criticisms. But no such attempt has been made, and as this debate has proceeded, it. has become increasingly clear that there is no answer to be made, because no logical reply oan be given. Having no effective answer to make, supporters of the Government have. fallen back on a tactic which has already become familiar to me in the short time I have been a member of this- House. Lacking anything constructive to put forward, they have resorted to the old and tried Labour party expedient of delving into the depths of the financial and economic depression and stirring up the mud to be found there. Whenever a Labour politician is embarrassed, whether it be at a public meeting or in this House during the broadcasting of the proceedings - and that has occurred quite often lately - he delves into the depression and tries to convince the people that honorable members who now sit on this side of the House were responsible for’ the miseries that were experienced during that unhappy period. His first consideration is to keep those memories ever green in the minds of the Australian workers. If members of the Government party choose to talk about th depression, they should at least be truthful. Why do they not say that the illstarred Scullin Labour Government then struck rock bottom, and in a very brief period, after a most disastrous term of office, was removed from the Treasury bench, leaving the financial and economic reconstruction of the Country to the Lyons Government, by which it was succeeded ?
I listened with keen interest to the remarks last night of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), both of whom devoted a portion of their time to an analysis of the causes of the decline of production in this country. Although 1. do not agree with the reasons that they gave, it was refreshing to find that they admitted that there is a problem in this connexion which has to be faced. Until the Leader of the Opposition had seized every opportunity to drive home the truth, ‘they seemed to consider that there was no connexion between production and the standard of living and of wealth in this country.. Both honorable gentlemen said that, on the whole, the level of production is not what it should be because there is not a sufficiently large working population in this country. The truth is that, on the showing of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, we do not lack a sufficient working population. Whenever this matter is raised, we are told that never previously in our history have so many people been employed as are in employment at the present time. So the reason for .the shortage of goods and lower standards everywhere in Australia is, simply, that the output per head is not so great as it should be. If we examine any industry, whether primary or secondary, but particularly secondary, we shall find that the output per -man is now less than it wa3 before the last war. That can have only -one result. Inevitably, we shall loaf our way into a lower standard of living. Why is production per head so low to-day? Why are we loafing ourselves into shortages and lower standards? Surely the reason cannot be that the people are “ bone-lazy “, and will not work ! Are we to believe that they cannot work? We know that that is not true, because they worked splendidly during the war. The reason is that to-day we are so cluttered up with taxes and regulations that there is no incentive to work.
– What about the war years ?
– During those years, there was the incentive to survive. Now, there is no incentive, because it has been taken away, and the duty of the Government is to restore it. Referring to the shortage of working population, the honorable member for .Denison said that one reason for low production is that 1,400,000 men and women who were discharged from the services have to be absorbed in industry. The honorable member directly implied that because of some mysterious influence those persons cannot be .absorbed in production effectively. Where did he get that extraordinarily high figure? Ten minutes later, the Minister for Post-.war Reconstruction informed the House that the number is approximately 580,000. Of that number, not many thousands were doing such work as makes difficult their absorption in civilian life. It is ludicrous, therefore, to pretend that that is the reason for the shortage of production. Furthermore, as an ex-serviceman, I very greatly resent the honorable gentleman’s implication that ex-servicemen are not pulling -their weight, and that consequently this country is experiencing a shortage of production.
– I did not say that.
– The Minister ‘for Post-war Reconstruction gave .a reason for the shortage of working population which must be regarded as one of the most audacious, as well as childish, that has ‘ever been placed before this House, when he said that our present difficulties are due to people not having ‘been born w,ho should have been born. This man, who is in charge of the whole of the reconstruction programme of this country, when asked to put his finger on one of the root causes of our distress, said that everything would have been all right had certain persons been born. What a childish statement that was! Had he said that if certain people who have made it their business in the last few months to reduce us to our present desperate’ plight had not been born, he would have been right; in truth, we .should have been a great deal better off. The main endeavour of the Minister was to take us back to the days of the BrucePage Government, and to talk of the depression. His remarks would have been more to the point had he brought himself a little up to date, and had he concerned himself with what is likely to be the position when his own grandchildren will have to be considered, instead of talking about the state of .affairs that existed when not a few of the members o”f this House were in their infancy. He said that one reason for the shortage of people in this country is that, in 1921-22, when conditions were fairly good, our birth-rate was 24 per 1,000. I know ‘that to be the truth. But in subsequent years, due entirely, according to him, to the maladministration of the Bruce-Page Government, the birth-rate fell. He might have mentioned another very ‘significant fact, namely, that in the year 1921, about which he spoke so much, approximately from 80,000 to 90,000 migrants came to this country. In 1920, the figure was very much the -same, and in 1919 also it was substantial. That was the source from which we obtained an accretion to our working population, rather ‘than from a higher birth-r.ate.
In discussing migration, one cannot help referring to the large increase of the number of migrants who came to this country after World War I. The state of affairs at that time compares most favorably with the unhappy position in which we find .ourselves to-day. How many migrants are we getting now? We were told late last year that -the number of migrants coming to Australia this year would .be about 45;000. That number was reduced progressively, until in .January of this year it became 6,000; and the latest estimate is 14,000. How many of those can rightly be regarded as migrants? How many of them come within the scope of the Department of Immigration? Very few I think. Most of them are people who are anxious to come in here in any case, and do not need the services of the Minister and his minions to bring them to Australia at the expense of the taxpayers. Those who have come here only because of the activities of the department can be reckoned in hundreds, not in thousands. This year we shall probably receive 1,000 migrants from Great Britain. What will it cost to bring them here ? The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that the cost of the Department of Immigration was only a paltry sum, but that department and the Department of Information cost the taxpayers of Australia over £1,000,000 last year. What have we to. show for .that expenditure? By what number has the ;population increased as the .result of their activities? -Can the
Minister say that .even 1,000 migrants - Britishers or other nationals - have been brought here as a result of that expenditure, in addition to people who would have come here in any case? These assisted migrants must be the most expensive immigrants acquired by any country.
Coming now to the Department of Information I notice that there are two kinds of information with which the department is concerned. .First, there is information for people in Australia, and then there is information for people in other- countries. As for the former, I admit frankly that I cannot see any excuse for continuing this service except as government propaganda. Recently at a picture show I saw a long so-called “ short “ documentary film dealing with die standardization of Australian railway gauges. That may, or may not, be an admirable project, but it is a political matter. Yet that documentary film, .which obviously cost a large sum to produce, was merely a paeon of praise of the Government for its achievements in connexion with the standardization of gauges. Although it will be an enormously expensive scheme, not one word was said. as to its cost. The picture was merely an .attempt to tell the people what a wonderful job .the Government is doing. That may not be reprehensible in itself, but it is wrong that the people should be taxed to pay for this form .of self-delusion.
As to the service abroad which is rendered by the Department of. Information, the honorable member for Parkes said that one justification was that when people go abroad they have brought to them each morning a printed sheet giving Australian news and thus they .are kept acquainted with happenings in Australia. So far as it goes, that is admirable, but it seems to me that such a service is outside the scope of a government department. It merely means that the taxpayers are called upon to provide this service for the privileged few, .such as those -whom the honorable member for Parkes criticized recently for travelling .in luxury in Orion. Is that the service that this department renders -to the people? Surely the honorable member was not serious when he referred to it.
There are other and more expensive toys for the Minister ;o play with, such as magazines, short-wave broadcasts, and an expensive scheme for buying space iri newspapers. What is the upshot of all this ; does it in any way assist in attracting business, or in inducing persons to migrate to Australia? I think not. People who desire to come here or to invest their money here want to know how the Government is dealing with the causes of industrial unrest; they want assurances that those who come here to work may work without having first to obtain the authority of some Communist agitator. Information of that kind is not supplied, although it would be most valuable.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction told us that it is not possible to reduce taxes appreciably at this stage, and particularly that it was not possible to reduce defence expenditure greatly. I shall say a few words on the subject of defence because the Minister said that the Government had riot yet decided what form the Army should take in the future. Whatever form Australia’s defence is to take, the Government would do well to recognize the obligation, indeed the privilege, of every citizen to undergo training to bear arms in the defence of his country should the necessity arise. The Labour party is traditionally opposed to conscription, but it is not opposed to every form of conscription. During the war it insisted - rightly, I believe - that every person should serve the nation in some capacity, either on the home front or abroad. Surely it is only natural that citizens should be trained to perform this essential service in defence of their country? I ask the Government and its supporters to consider the good, results that can accrue from a period of military training. Let -us suppose that the Government decides that every young man shall serve six or eight months in the armed forces. In would be wrong for that period to be taken up entirely with military matters. The young men should be trained in other aspects- of citizenship. During their period of training they get the benefit of a thorough medical test and their health improves. They are given good food, and they enjoy many social benefits. Men of all walks of life come together with happy results. Then there are many educational possibilities. No one can say that, as. a people, Australians are over highly developed in the matter of civic responsibility. During the period of, training sound ideas of citizenship could be inculcated into the minds of these young men. Such training would be valuable to them and of benefit to Australia. Already we have seen some of the benefits of rehabilitation training. When that training is completed the men should be classified with a view to being fitted into jobs for which they are suitable. If given sound advice, they should start out in life well equipped. I hope that when the Chief of the General Staff, Field.Marshal Lord Montgomery, comes to Australia, notice will be taken of his recommendations. We know what he told the people of Britain, and how he warned them that they could not afford to relax, but should do everything possible for their own defence. He impressed upon the people of Britain that, despite their hardships, it was necessary for- them to continue the system of compulsory military training. Other great nations, notably the United States of America and Russia, have compulsory military service. I hope that the Government will heed the advice which will be given to it.
– The introduction of this financial statement gives to the House an opportunity to discuss matters closely affecting government departments. At the same time, it gives the Prime Minister an opportunity to foreshadow the introduction of certain financial measures. He has already done so, and I do not propose to say anything about the bilk which will come before the House in due course for debate. However, I wish to say something about one paragraph in the financial statement because. I believe that it is worthy of close analysis. In the course of his statement the Treasurer said -
The Government is maintaining a firm control over prices and cost movements, but it is evident that some vises in wages and prices are inevitable.
I emphasize the words “ firm control “. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had something to say recently about prices control. He made it clear that Australia had reached a stage when the Government had to choose one of two alternatives either to give up trying to control prices, or to enforce rigorously the prescribed penalties against those who broke the regulations. Thorn is plenty of evidence to show that existing attempts at prices control are quite ineffective, and serve only to create an amoral community. Black marketing is rife. It does not: matter where one goes or to whom one speak?, he will find some one somewhere buying on the black market, goods denied him in the ordinary way of trade. Therefore, the Government must police the regulations rigorously, or- abandon the attempt to control prices. It would be foolish for any one to suggest that price control had never been necessary. Of course it was necessary in time of war, but we are now at peace, and price control has served its purpose. Now, it is apparently being used, or misused, as a punitive measure against industry generally, and has had the effect of creating inefficiency, and restricting the production of goods that are already scarce. If any evidence is needed to show how wide-spread black marketing is to-day, and how it is affecting the moral sense of the community, it is to be found in the report of the Taxation Commissioner on tax evasions, in which it was stated that between March and June of last year 400 tax-evaders were listed to appear in court in Sydney alone. One black marketeer’s assets increased from £400 to £45,000 in Wo years, while the assets of others increased from a few pounds to £25,000. It is an alarming situation, and the Government must do something to remove this canker from the body of society. The Government tries to close its eyes to what is going on, but it is well aware that black marketing is rife. The chairman of the Capital Issues Board, Mr. Balmford, reported in December last -
There is no use shutting our eyes to it. There is a black market in 1 n nd. Prosecutions are dependent on people Riving us the information, and the persons involved are usually the only ones who know anything about thom.
In September last, the Government sought to meet the situation by amending the- regulations to provide that- a. person who pays more than the amount speci fied in the contract of sale can sue for its recovery. That was an extraordinary precedent to create. It was an attempt to give legal protection to a person who had been engaged in an illegal transaction. For instance, if the contract specified that “ X “ hundreds of pounds should be the purchase price of a piece of land, and the buyer paid more than that amount, he could advise the department, and there would be no need to honour the undertaking. But the Government did not in fact, give protection to the man who was prepared to do that, and therefore the amendment served no useful purpose at all. I do not suppose that any single person ever took advantage of that extraordinary amendment.
The Deputy Prices Commissioner in New South Wales, Mr. Herlihy, was reported to have announced an ali-out drive against black marketeers. When asked whether any one who had been black marketing in timber had been prosecuted he said. “ No “. He was concerned over the matter, he said, and over the exploitation of home-builders. We know that, there has also been black marketing in bricks from the State brickworks in New South Wales, and investigations revealed that the State Government was aware that one of its own instrumentalities knew that black marketing in the bricks was taking place. Mr. Herlihy was going to start a “blitz” against black marketeers, and when he was asked why it was so difficult to catch offenders, he said that if the buyers would- not co-operate with the authorities it was an almost impossible task. All this supports my claim that the Government must either police the prices control regulations more effectively, or admit that prices cannot be controlled, and give up the attempt. When asked whether the Prices Branch had had specific information laid before it by other government authorities Mr. Herlihy was reported to have said, “ No; no information was put before us “. It is common knowledge in the cities of the Commonwealth that almost SO per cent, of land and property sales are effected on the black market, lt is also said, and it is never denied - and I doubt whether it will be possible to impose a check - that between 60 and 80 per cent, of used motor car sales are effected on the black market.
X- have ‘had some -experience -of’ the sale of Spare parts for motor- vehicles. I was speaking to a garage proprietor recently who told me that he was seeking to obtain n ball-race for a Vauxhall car. The normal price of the- ball-race was- about 30s. ; . he was offered one for £32, or a pair for £52. He gave me the -name of the person who bad made the offer to sell. He resides in my own electorate. That is rather strange, because in an electorate such as Wentworth, generally men of high standing and good character are to be found. Mr. Johnson, secretary of the National Roads and Motorists Association, speaking to motor trade officials, reported that the shortage of spare partsbad resulted in the creation of a black market, for such -as- were available,-, that car owners - had to pay up to seven times, the value of spare parts- an order to keep, their motor vehicles running; and that, thousands of cars would j be off: the. road* by the end of the year because of the acute shortage of; spare parts. Mr. Johnson also said -that some truck owners had to. pay £27 for an axle worth only £4 10s. and £35 for a. differential ball-race worth 35s. That seems to bear out the information given to me by my garage, proprietor friend- who was- also seeking to obtain a. ball-race. Mr. Johnson also, reported that truck owners were paying £7’ for crown wheel bearings worth only 30s. This gives some indication of- the effect of the black market.
It- is characteristic of the ineffectiveness of the control of sales of real estate that a great deal of confusion exists in connexion with rented properties, I cite for the information of honorable members the case of a- property owner who had no alternative but to endeavour to secure’ repossession of ‘his own- house in order to protect the health of his wife; !’ brought this case before the AttorneyGeneral, and it was, I” understand, .inferred by him to the Minister for Works and Housing, but- notwithstanding that the: facts have been under- consideration for two or three months the owner has obtained no redress. The man concerned owned a home at Turramurra, but leased it to a young naval officer and went to live in a flat. in a seaside area. Unfortunately, his wife- developed pulmonary tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis, being, a. notifiable disease,, the health authorities advised him. to take his wife to a high altitude district, and, he sought’ to obtain- repossession of his home at Turramurra in which . the Lady : Davidson Home and a sanatorium for the* treatment1 of sufferers from tuberculosis, are located, in order that, his wife may have a- reasonable chance of recovering! her health. He was unsuccessful, in his attempt to-, obtain, repossession of his home so he took the matter to court; but the magistrate said, “ Unless you can provide the person occupying- your- home with alternative accommodation of acomparable area I- cannot give a ruling that he -should vacate your home “. The man said, “How can I do that? Thebuilding regulations preclude me from building a home of’ like area to that occupied by my tenant “. The magistrate said,’ “I am sorry; I’ can do nothing for you. The law is* clear on the matter. Unless you can provide- him with alternative accommodation of a comparable areaI’ shall not order his eviction”. The tenant is still in this man’s” home at’ Turramurra, and my constituent asks; “‘What must I’ do?’ Must I see my wife languishing in a flat at the seaside, or must I’ pay out’ the money necessary to buy the key or the furniture of some other home iri defiance of the law? My, home is at Turramurra. I cannot build alternativeaccommodation of a- comparable area for ray tenant; I cannot obtain occupancy of ‘my own home; and there. fore I shall’ be forced to go on the black market in order to- try to save the life of my wife”. This man served his country as- a soldier in- the last war. The confusion brought- about by prices control means that if he wishes to save the life of his; wife he has no alternative but to break the law. Prices control should be amended iri such a way as to make it effective.
I’ have said that prices control delays the supply of commodities to the people generally. One has only to look around in industry, to. see that that is so. The Leader of. the- Opposition gave an illustration of-how: unfairly the prices regulations operate recently when he* referred to- the Daveney case. That is. only one- of many; cases- of a. similar kind that has been brought before- us. I know of- a manufacturer turning out a much-needed kitchen commodity who has evolved a process of “ manufacture which would enable him to increase his production by 15 per cent. The. Prices Commissioner said, to him, “Because your overall net profit is satisfactory you may not increase your production by 15 per cent, unless you reduce your prices “. The manufacturer said, “Is that restriction to apply to everybody in the trade who manufactures this commodity?”. The Prices Commissioner said, “ No ; the price at which you were formerly selling is all right, but your present profits are such that if you increase your production by 15 per cent, you must not continue to sell at the existing price “. What can he do in these circumstances? He can only continue to use the outmoded form of manufacture, taking the easy way out. Meanwhile, the people are crying out for the commodity which he manufactures.
A textile company in a closely adjacent State, the name of which I shall withhold for the present, engaged in the manufacture of dress material of a certain quality, submitted its price for approval by the’ Prices Commissioner. It was directed to sell the cloth at ls. a yard less than the cost, of manufacture on the understanding that the Government would pay a subsidy of lOd. a yard. The Prices Commissioner expressed the opinion that increased production would enable it to bridge the gap of 2d. a yard. After selling 40,000 yards of the material the company applied for the Government subsidy; but the Prices Commissioner said, “Your balance-sheet shows a reasonably satisfactory position”, and refused to pay it. The company refused to manufacture any more cloth of that kind, notwithstanding the heavy demand’ for it.
As the result of prices control goods are also being held up on the waterfront. A question asked in the House recently revealed the extraordinary fact that 124,700 tons of cargo were then awaiting shipment on the Sydney wharfs. The goods await shipment because the price to be charged at the port of delivery has not been fixed by the Prices Commissioner. That is characteristic of the situation to-day. Only last month the secretary of the Australian Exporters
Federation, Mr. Birch, said; that Australia was losing £20,000,000 worth of export trade a year, and was in danger of losing most of its overseas customers. Contributing factors which he listed, in addition to strikes in industries producing raw. materials and finished articles, were : excess control by overlapping government departments and boards, high company taxation, and profits control. Mr. Birch said that overseas firms were reluctant to tie up money for long periods and that there was a danger that they would refuse to extend credit periods. Tons of goods are held up on the wharfs because a price cannot be struck. No wonder goods are in short supply. This morning I asked a question about a commodity called cylene. It was imported by the Department of Import Procurement and an offer of 5 1/2d. pper lb. which was made for’ it by a’ reputable rubber firm was refused. It was subsequently sold, however, to two other firms for l£cl. per lb. The Minister representing the Minister for .Trade and Customs said that the Commonwealth Disposals Commission had to sell goods at public auction, because sales by private treaty would be frowned upon by honorable members. That .J —- was sold, not by public auction, but by private treaty. That is only one of the many commodities handled that way. The Government must have some knowledge of the system or must make inquiries. I have’ some other information of which the Government must take notice. I understand that three or four months ago Willard hat’teries, the landed cost of which to the Commonwealth was £7 9s. 4d. each, and £2,398 worth, were sold by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission privately for 17s. 6d. each to -a company in Liverpoolstreet, Sydney, whose name I can supply to the Minister later. The comment of a section leader, a Mr. C. Hart, or Hant, was -
Due to long period at storage it is considered that only the outer cases of these batteries are saleable.
A person named Mr. S. Marsh, who was, I understand, in the department, saw that they were going cheaply, and seeing the opportunity to make money, formed a syndicate that offered £2 a battery. Some of the batteries were damaged in transit, but Bennett and “Wood Proprietary Limited was prepared to put them in first-class order for. 9s. each. Yet those batteries were sold to a Sydney firm for 17s. 6d. each. A few thousand pounds is involved in that deal. . The Prime Minister would do well to look into it.
– Were they sold by auction ?
– No, by private treaty. The Minister tried to cloud the issue this morning by saying that sales were made by auction; but, in those two instances, the sales were by private treaty. A few hundred thousands pounds is involved in the next transaction to which I direct attention. The others may be regarded as “chicken feed”. On the 9th October, 1946, machinery parts, the landed cost to the Commonwealth being £141,379 13s. 3d., were sold to the International Harvester Company of Australia Limited for £15,959. The loss on realization was £82,013, which was written off, and on” the subsidy, £44,090, which was also written off, or a total of £126,103. The International Harvester Company of Australia Limited has a permit to import spare parts and would have to pay market value for all spare parts imported by it. The spare parts sold to it were imported by the Department of Import Procurement. How it countenanced a transaction like that is more than I can understand. Apparently the view taken is that it is only the taxpayers money that is being wasted, that there is plenty about and that there is no need to worry. The Government must police the prices control regulations and ruthlessly apply penalties for breaches, “or acknowledge that the regulations are of no value and scrap prices control altogether. I have ‘a question on the notice-paper about 400,000 yards of good quality shirting that was sent to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to he sold by private tender, instead of going through the ordinary channels that would enable the trade to have the opportunity of obtaining it. Legitimate traders have been trying to obtain some of this shirting and were prepared .to pay the Commonwealth Disposals Commission price for it, but they were not able to obtain it. The direction of this material to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission means that three or four men can get together, arrange to make different bids and obtain the ma’terial that was denied to the trade. Ordinarily, only the lower grade material, which is not wanted by legitimate traders, is diverted to the commission to be disposed of to the highest bidder. At disposals auctions there is a ring df buyers. They band themselves together, and if an outsider dares to bid he is warned off. If he refuses to obey and gets the commodity they have means of dealing with him. Every one who frequents the sales knows the practice. I want to know whether the Government is doing anything to circumvent the machinations of the members of the band, who defraud the Commonwealth Government of hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Prime Minister claims that the Government has a firm control over prices, but it is not firm enough. He must acknowledge that a state of emergency still exists in Australia and that control of prices must be maintained to preserve the commercial morality of the community, because, if present conditions are allowed to continue, we shall be a most immoral community commercially; alternatively, he must acknowledge that prices control must be abolished, and that the stage has been reached when the Government must encourage production.
Last December, the worker on the basic wage was awarded an additional ls. a week as an incentive to ‘ increase production. One honorable member opposite said, only too truly, that increased production will come from the employers rather than from the employees. I say, “ Give the necessary incentive to the employer, and do not penalize him through the present system of prices control. If the Government considers that his profits must be restricted, let the appropriate action be taken through the taxation laws. Above all, do not fret him, and destroy his incentive to increase production by having prices control officials standing over him “. Some df these officials are helpful when an employer is having difficulty with an application, but sometimes a dishonest prices official may use practices with which the Prime Minister would certainly not agree. As an illustration, I point out that it has come to my notice, and this practice is fairly generally known in the trade, that when an employer does not know how to handle his application to the Prices Commissioner successfully, he may obtain the advice and assistance of a prices official. He may pay that official for the help given in other than departmental hours. That practice is common. It is done almost freely everywhere. I would not be surprised to find that the existence of this practice is known in the Prices Branch itself. However, it is dangerous. An official who has made out the application for firm “ A “ might well be the officer who will sit in judgment on it when it reaches the Prices Branch. If that occurs, we have the worst possible form of bribery that could be introduced into a government department. If. the Prime Minister has inquiries made from prices officials, he will learn this statement is correct. Prices officials do assist, in their private time, firms who desire to make an application to the Prices Commissioner. Those officials,- in many instances, do receive something for their help. The danger lies in the fact that these men might make decisions on the applications which they assisted to compile and for which they received some reward. These are the bad aspects of prices control, and urgently require adjustment. These are the things which permit me almost daily to make in this House charges of maladministration which cast a reflection upon the honesty of governmental administration. These are matters which permit ordinary citizens and myself to discuss with impunity the. morals of the Public Service and administration which we should never have to discuss, because the public servants keep the administration of this country on an even keel and represent possibly the best administrative staff that we can find. However, those are the weaknesses of the Government’s system of prices control. If they are not corrected, matters will drift from had to worse. The Prime Minister must either agree to “ the abolition of prices control, or take the necessary steps to safeguard the .morals of the community.
– When I look at the figures which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has presented to the House in his financial statement. I am staggered by the terrific commitments that Australia has to face. Those commitments are at least three or four times the actual volume of Australian governmental commitments before World War II. Yet we ‘have only 500,000 more persons to bear those enormous commitments than we had before the commencement of the conflict. If we think back for a period of 30 years, we shall find that the total governmental budget of Australia, with 7,500,000 people, is practically equal to the total budget of Great Britain in 1914, when it had to bear the cost of Empire defence and had between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 people. We have to face, not only these huge governmental commitments, but also huge private commitments for developmental purposes, restoring industry, engaging in the construction of homes, and overtaking the lag which has occurred during the last eight years, when we have not experienced normal conditions. In addition, we must buy from overseas many necessaries which cannot be produced in Australia. For transport purposes, we must import huge quantities of petrol at a cost of many millions of pounds annually. If we are to meet these commitments, we in Australia must produce more as a nation and as individuals, and sell more goods no.t only in Australia hut also overseas. We cannot provide houses, services, telephones, electrical supplies and the like unless we produce the goods required of them. In addition, we must supply many goods for sale overseas. At present, what we can sell overseas is almost as important as what we sell in Australia. It is particularly important now, with the position of Great Britain with sterling exchanges and dollar exchanges so acute. Our exports either to Great. Britain, which will save it from having to buy goods in the dollar area, or to other countries, which will yield dollars for the Empire monetary pool, will be of great advantage.
About four months ago, honorable members were told that the solution of our troubles would come through the International Conference on Trade and Employment at Geneva. The mainspring of this solution was to be an almost universal whittling down of world tariffs in.- order to enable a much freer interchange of commodities. The .United States of America was expected to give a lead in this .matter. America is almost the only country which now has substantial purchasing power, and Australia must be able to sell -goods to American consumers in large quantities. If our goods are made to leap an almost insuperable barrier, -their sales in America will be seriously affected. We were told particularly that the position would be remedied, and much of the loss which Australian production and economy might have suffered by the destruction of Empire preferences would be offset by a. substantial reduction of the American tariff on wool Unfortunately, the Geneva conference is not running according -to plan. That the United -States of America is not prepared to reduce its high tariffs on many imports is revealed in the following message from Geneva yesterday: -
The United States tax on wool imports from Empire sources may rise to 125 per cent.
Reuters correspondent says that Empire sources at the International Trade Conference believe that the United States Government is proposing to impose further taxes on wool imports which would raise the present ad valorem tariff from 60 to 7a per cent, to 100 to 125 per cent.
The State Department was at first willing to reduce tariffs, but American wool-producers exerted pressure through thu Department of Agriculture.
Empire .wool-producers said it was just possible that the United States delegation had taken this stand as an extremely strong- ba]gaining point in exchange for a reduction in other important Empire preferences.
British observers say that the battle, at the moment, concerns only raw wool, and. if an oiler of United States tariff reductions on imports of woollen manufactures is made to Britain, a further domestic battle is likely in America between wool-producers and sellers of woollen goods.
A statement in reply, which was made from Canberra, appeared in yesterday morning’s Sydney Sun. It read -
International Trade Organization talks -in Geneva have reached a critical stage as far as Australia is concerned., following the report that the United States may increase the tax on Empire wool to 125 per cunt.
The Australian Delegation leader (Dr. Coombs) spoke by phone last night from London to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley).
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is standing by ready to leave at short notice for the conference.
Dr. Coombs was last night given instructions by Mr. Chifley on the attitude he was to adopt at a conference of Empire countries in London.
Should the position deteriorate further, he will be probably flown back to Australia for urgent consultations with Cabinet.
It will be realized, therefore, that the position is regarded as desperate, -not only in Geneva, but also in Australia. It appears to me ‘that :if something is not done quickly -to meet the situation .the Geneva conference may break down. What would be the best way to ensure that we shall be able to get a worth-while result from the Geneva conference?’ We need a result from the Geneva talks which will really assist Australia’s domestic and exporting industries. From my experience of such conferences, and particularly of conferences in which the United States of America is involved, I consider that the best step to take in the interests of Australia, and the Empire as a whole, would be to arrange for a conference of high-ranking Ministers of the Crown of Great Britain and the Dominions to sit contemporaneously with the Geneva ‘conference. An Imperial conference’ or _ council, if sitting simultaneously with the Geneva conference, would be able to do a great deal to strengthen the’ ‘Empire’s bargaining powers. We have to face the fact that there are 130,000.000 to 140,000,000 purchasers of goods in the United States of America, and that there are between 80,000.000 and 90,000,000 purchasers of goods in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. I am quite satisfied’ that if a definite plan were evolved with the object of strengthening intra-Empire trade, such pressure could be brought to bear upon other countries as would ensure satisfactory decisions in -respect of trade and commerce. Such a conference would overweigh the local considerations that are bringing about the recent notable change in the attitude of the United States of America. If an Empire conference were now sitting, and dealing with these trade issues on a broad basis, I am quite sure that the disquieting change in the American attitude, observable since the Geneva conference began its sessions, would not have been manifest. In effect, the American representatives are saying, “ We will not make treaties in respect of trade which are likely to inflict any hardship upon our domestic industries; we will not make agreements unless we can he sure that there will be some quite satisfactory re’.urn “. In this connexion Mr. Winthrop Brown, chief of the American State Department’s Commercial Policy Division, recently declared -
In future we plan to include in every trade agreement a clause which will permit us to withdraw or modify any concession if. as the result of unforeseen circumstances, it results in such an increased volume of imports as to cause or threaten serious injury to domestic (i.e. American) producers.
The London Economist of the 8th March, dealing with the matter, said -
The executive order covering the future pattern of trade agreements was published last week by President Truma.11. . . . The United States now reserves to itself the right to withdraw all concessions wherever imports “ threaten “ domestic producers, and the United States Tariff Commission is empowered to exorcise a constant patrol against imports, and to recommend modification or withdrawal of tariff concessions whenever such “ injuries “ are in sight. . . . The United States Commerce Department will exercise a similar control over export prospects, and all trade pacts must contain most-favoured-nation provisions, occuring the United States fully against any possible discrimination.
The only way in which we can satisfactorily deal with these trade matters is to ensure that the Empire will stand united as a substantial trading base. By standing together the Empire countries would be able to dictate terms and conditions which would be of value to the various dominions, as well as to the Mother Country. If the dominions and Great Britain were associated in a conference such as I have suggested, it would be possible for the Empire, as a lini t, to say to other countries, “ If you will not give us something substantial, including a binding agreement for a specified number of years, we will not enter into any arrangement at all “. I urge the Prime Minister to give the most careful consideration to my suggestion and to take steps to have such a conference convened. I believe that thereby the Empire as a whole would be enabled to secure much better bargains from the United Nations, and particularly from the United States, at the Geneva conference. The holding of such a conference could also do a great deal to restore British prestige.
The Government has introduced a bill for the purpose of providing a monetary grant to Great Britain. Surely, it would be a good thing .if influential Ministers from all the dominions could meet round a conference table to consider how the maximum help could be given to Great Britain in these post-war years, and how our huge sterling balances could be best dealt with. Much more satisfactory results would be achieved by conference consultations, where Ministers would meetface to face, than by long-distance telephone conversations between a Minister here and a Minister there, neither one knowing fully what was in the mind of the other. A conference of the nature I have in mind could be of material assistance to Great Britain in facing the present crisis. The situation that con- fronts the Empire must be dealt with quickly, otherwise, not only Britain itself, but also the various dominions, including Australia, must suffer. We have to recognize that Great Britain is the sole purchaser of our butter, meat and fruit, and is also a substantial purchaser of our wheat, wool and other primary products, the sale of which is essential to the maintenance and progress of our economy. It imperative, in my opinion, that we should do everything possible to organize the financial and economic resources of the Empire on an Empire basis. If steps to that end were taken there would be a quick reaction among other countries. We all are well aware that in the years before World War I. the tendency was for Great Britain to give as good terms to foreign borrowers as it offered to Empire countries, though it is true that the dominions were always able to invest in British trust securities. Nevertheless, we know, too, that Argentina and Brazil, as well as other countries, were dealt with by Great Britain on approximately the same basis as Empire countries. The time has come, however, for a conference of Empire leaders to organize the economic resources of the Empire so as to ensure their use for the development of the Empire in the widest possible way. Such a council would enable British countries to face the rest of the world with a common policy. But the most important consideration from an Australian standpoint is that it could assist materially the re-distribution of industries, population and investment within the Empire. It might be possible to transfer millions of pounds of capital and millions of people in three or four years to places where they could be most profitably engaged in development under modern conditions. In Australia, that would materially lighten the terrific load which our existing commitments place on the taxpayers. Such a result cannot be achieved by making spokesmen of highly placed public servants or by sending a Minister hot-foot overseas because of some difficulty that has arisen. The Prime Minister and a couple of senior Ministers should discuss these problems with representatives of other parts of the Empire, with a determination as great as that with which the enemy was faced during the war to ensure the adoption of a policy which would enable the British Empire to exercise a restraining influence on Russia and America, be a great force for peace, and help the small nations which are being oppressed. If we were to regard the British Empire as one family, we would begin to see daylight more quickly than any other country. To-day, a question was asked in this House in regard to the very difficult nutritional position in Great Britain, but the Prime Minister brushed the matter aside. It is all very well for a member of Parliament to say that everything is all right. He cannot speak with as much authority as can those unfortunate persons who have had to exist on a low ration for eight years. The time has come when Australia must give substantial assistance to Great Britain, and to that enid our production must be increased. I insist, as I have insisted previously, and as my leader has done for many years, that the first and quickest step towards an increase of production is a substantial reduction of taxes. It is good to find the Prime Minister reducing taxes at the present time. But I venture to say with all deference that there are unsatisfactory features associated with the proposal. Under the pay-as-you-earn system of collecting taxes, the benefit of any reduction is not gained until it begins to operate, and there is no incentive to greater effort in the intervening period. Formerly, income tax was levied on the previous year’s production and income, and a pro-
Sir Earle Page. mised reduction of 15 per cent., 20 per cent, or 30 per cent, was a definite stimulus to production. A great psychological mistake has been made. Most of our existing troubles are due to psychological causes. Much more attention should be paid to people having a definite stimulus to increase their output of goods or services. The prospect of having more money to spend would have a strong effect on a man’s outlook. There will not be industrial peace until taxes have been so reduced that the men on the lower ranges of. income will be absolved from liability to pay and the deterrent to the working of overtime or the increasing of production, which is actively in evidence under the present method of assessment, will be removed. Therefore, I urge the Government to have an open mind when its tax measures are under consideration. It should assure the House of its readiness to listen to any suggestions that can he made as the result of practical experience and a first-hand knowledge of’ the means whereby the nation can be best restored to prosperity. The idea that taxes should be imposed as a means of raising revenue should be discarded for the time being. Let us regard taxation as a great weapon with beneficial properties, like the surgeon’s knife. Heavy taxes should be considerably pruned, and over the whole field their imposition should be felt least, by those who have to work the hardest. In such circumstances, the faces of the people would be set in the right direction, and they would have a greater incentive to think in terms of increased production, because of the larger rewards that they would receive. My experience as Treasurer was that the total revenue from all sources was increased proportionately with the reduction of direct taxes. When a man finds extra, money in his pocket he does not deposit it in” a bank but devotes it to the purchase of goods of which he has been denied for many years. He thus contributes to the sales tax and other indirect taxes, and the Government does noi. lose much, if anything at all. More people become employed; and they spend their wages in the purchase of commodities which contribute to the revenue derived from other taxes. The most important factor to consider when reducing taxes is to restore the incentive to work. If men can be induced to produce more, a surplus can quickly be provided, thua automatically doing away with the necessity for the fixation and control of prices and the rationing of goods. The real cure for shortages is not stricter rationing but greater production, the effect of which is to intensify competition among the producers. Immediately rationing and prices control were’ discontinued, black markets would disappear.. The people would be made happier and more inclined to work if their living conditions were improved and their housing was as it ought to be. This cannot be achieved without an increase of the production of necessary materials. Throughout this country, thousands of houses are without roofs, windows and other necessaries. An examination shows that there’ is a bottleneck in the production of those goods, as well as in transport. The removal of those disabilities would enable us to make progress.
My last comment is that the peoplemust be given the services to which they are entitled. The food industries, especially the land industries, cannot be expected to produce more with less labour than they have been accustomed to have. Considerable difficulty is caused by the disrepair of the roads. I am glad that the Government proposes to bring down a measure to extend the operation of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, but I am sorry that it is to be for a period for only three years, and that only an extra £1,000,000 is to be allocated to shire councils. I had hoped for an immediate gift of £5,000,000 to shires whose roads were destroyed by heavy traffic during war-time. If they are to be enabled to restore their roads to a proper, state of repair, they must be given more than £1,000,000. This is war damage whichmust be repaired, and that cannot be done with the funds of the ratepayers. M!any of the shires already are bankrupt because of floods and other difficulties. The key to increased production is the reduction of taxes. If the Empire is to be strong in its bargaining power, and Australia is to be enabled to get that to which it is entitled and that which it needs for its future development, an Imperial conference must be held immediately. Let us make a concerted effort a3 a family council, so that we shall be able to say at Geneva in no uncertain terms exactly what we need, what we intend to get, and the part that we propose to play as a united Empire.
.- This being a budgetary discussion, any matter concerning revenue and expenditure comes under review. I do not intend to traverse those major subjects that have been well covered.
I was rather amazed to hear the reasons given by representatives of the Government for some of the parlous conditions that have arisen. The Minister for Post War Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) submitted that the cause of under-production to-day is the lack of man-power, due to the failure of a large number of persons to be born during a generation in which there was not a Labour Administration. That is as fantastic as the story of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) - that ex-servicemen who have been only half-trained are not producing adequately. All that is nonsensical, and shows how hard put the Government is to explain the difficulties which exist. Australia should not have difficulties to contend with. As a matter of fact, we are confronted now with man-made troubles. We have a country that is blessed with great resources, and we have been presented with great opportunities for increasing our trade. However, largely because of mismanagement, because the Government lacks ability and a proper spirit to take advantage of opportunities, we have not progressed as we should. During the last federal election campaign, the Opposition put forward a proposal for tax reductions, which was opposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). He said that taxes would be reduced when conditions permitted. Now, he is proposing to make some tardy reductions, but had he made the reductions a year ago, we would probably have avoided a great deal of industrial trouble, even including the dispute in Victoria, and production would have increased. While taxes remain high, there is no incentive for employers or employees to do their best. I know that there was a fear in the mind of the Prime Minister that currency inflation might develop i£ controls were relaxed. That was a proper :fear, and I bear with him in that regard, shut the time has now come when the Government controls ought to be relaxed. Canada is to-day perhaps the most prosperous country in the world, and its population is not much larger than that of Australia. It took the risk, and removed economic controls although during the war controls in Canada were as rigid as in Australia. It made a total war effort, and that means economic control. However, when the war was over, the controls were removed in Canada, and industry was allowed to develop.
In Australia, we have self -advertising government departments which tell the public day after day what they are doing, but they produce very little. I propose to give some specific examples, of what I mean. It is easy to -make sweeping charges, ‘but little good is achieved in that way, and therefore I propose to be specific. The position in regard to the installation of new telephones is very unsatisfactory. This may seem to be a small matter to honorable members opposite, all of whom have telephones, but in Melbourne many people have been waiting for years for a telephone service. They have paid deposits, and the Postmaster-‘ General’s Department must be holding hundreds of thousands of pounds paid as deposits for telephones that have not been supplied. We’ know that in cases of acute sickness a telephone is practically a necessity. Many ex-servicemen have been told by the Repatriation Department, that, because of the state of their health, they must find outside work. I know one such man who set up as a carrier. He found himself a truck, and has a clientele, but he is hampered because he cannot get a telephone. Nevertheless, we have to listen almost every week to irritating propaganda from the PostmasterGeneral, who tells us that there ought to be a telephone in every home. His latest effort is to tell people that they must shorten the duration of their telephone conversations. The Government is collecting millions of pounds in revenue, and should hasten the installation of telephones. I do not “blame the officials of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I know that there are. very fine engineers and capable officials in the department, but the policy is wrong, and the Government should apply one that is more progressive.
The profits of the department have increased during the last five years from £5,500,000 to approximately £10,000,000 a year, yet the department insists on profiteering on food parcels to Great Britain. I have asked in this House why the postage rate cannot be reduced, and the Postmaster-General has answered that the rate is fixed by agreement with the British Government. That was the answer I was given when I first asked the question two years ago. Surely the Government has had time during those two years to make a different arrangement with the Government of Great Britain under which a new rate, perhaps only a quarter of the existing one, would be charged. Why should not food parcels be sent to Great Britain at the same rate as applied to parcels sent during the war to servicemen? I suggest that food parcels sent to the British Ministry of Food should be carried free. We know that the postage on parcels sent by private persons to their friends is sometimes greater than the value of the goods, and represents a heavy burden upon people of slender means. People who have no friends in Great Britain to whom they can send parcels, may address them to the British Ministry of Food, but even on these they have to pay the same high postage rate. If people are generous enough to make up food parcels and send them to Britain, they should not be charged high postal rates. We know that food is even scarcer in Britain now than it was during the war. Surely it should be possible for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which earns such large profits, to arrange for the free carriage of food parcels to Britain.
The principal subject to which I wish to address myself to-day is trade. Australia has suffered a great disability during recent years in that the Minister for Trade and Customs has not been a member of this House. During the war, when trade was governed almost entirely by regulations, it did not matter so much, although the arrangements threw a heavy responsibility on officials. Now, however, the position is different. The
Customs Act, the Tariff Board Act, and other acts affect our imports, and havean important bearing on Australia’s economic development. These matters come under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and he should be a member of this House. At present, he is represented by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), and the situation is not fair to him. He has .enough to do in the management of affairs connected with the export of our primary products. “When he is asked a question on some matter relating to excise or customs, he can only reply that he will refer the matter to his. colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs.
I propose to cite some examples in order to show why the present system of control of exports and imports should be relaxed. So rigid are the controls that Australia is in somewhat the same position as Japan in 1867, when Admiral. Perry, of the American “Fleet, broke through the trade barriers in an al tempt to make the Japanese’ people trade with the rest of the world. It is still necessary to obtain an import licence before one can import certain lines from Great Britain. I know one importer who, quite innocently, ordered a consignment of goods from a British exporter without first obtaining an import licence from the’ Australian authorities. When the goods arrived in Australia, he reported the position and applied for a permit, but was ordered to appear before the comptroller to explain his action. The matter was reported in the press, and it almost seemed as if he was attempting to smuggle goods into the country. In the end, he was lucky that the goods were not confiscated. Great Britain must export in order to get credits with which to buy food, and we should not place obstacles in the way of trade between Australia and Great Britain. It is not right that an Australian importer should have to apply to a remote official for permission to import gloves or umbrellas, for instance. In the case I have just cited, the import control was lifted shortly afterwards, but for the time being it appeared that the importer had committed a heinous crime. Australia’s housing pro gramme is held up for want of window glass, but permits are refused to those who would import glass from Sweden or other countries, even though Britain and Belgium cannot send sufficient supplies, although such imports could not, in the circumstances, injure the Australian glass trade. The same applies to tradesmen’s tools, so that enormous prices are being paid for second-hand tools at auction sales held by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Restrictions are also placed upon exports. A visitor to Australia may see something in a shop window which attracts him, and he buys it. If he attempts to take it on to a ship when he isleaving the country he may be stopped* and later prosecuted for attempting to» take goods out of the country without.” a licence. Recently, there was the Marella case in which members of the coloured crew bought a number of articles openly to take back with them to Singapore. The ship was held up, and the captain had to appeal” before the comptroller to explain this breach of the law. All such prohibitions which restrict trade should be scrutinized very closely. No doubt, they were imposed for a sufficiently good purpose during the war, but there is no reason for retaining them now.
– They are being continuously reviewed.
– Yes, but not quickly enough. When I put on the screw some time ago, I was able to have some of the ‘controls relaxed, but there is still much to be done. If a man wants a licence to import certain goods, he may have to wait a month or more before getting it, and in the meantime the demand may have ceased. Restrictions of this kind are the very things which will help to bring on an economic depression, because they hamper the flow of trade. They do not affect the big man so much, because he can probably afford to wait, but the small man may be squeezed out of business. After the war. a great many ex-servicemen, men who had good records in air crews, or in the Navy or the Army, wished to set up in business for themselves. They are men of initiative and enterprise. They do not want to be government servants, or hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Among them, if they are given a chance, may be the Nuffield of to-morrow. They wish to establish industries which will provide employment for others, but they have found tremendous difficulty in finding office and factory accommodation, for instance. One man, who had been in business before he went to the war, returned to find a section of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction established in his own office. When he sought to regain the use of his office, they said to him, “ Well, we are helping the returned men, are we not ? “ He tried to explain to them that they were not helping him, at any rate. As I have said, men are experiencing the greatest difficulty in getting telephones, or trucks, or conveyances of any kind. It appears that the application of those who want motor vehicles for the retail trade are not even being considered. This is not provided in any regulation, and nothing has been published in the press about it. but I learned of it when I supported the application of an ex-serviceman who had been seeking a permit for over a year to obtain a conveyance for deliveries so that he might compete with two other firms in the neighbourhood conducted by men who had not been to the war. When I pressed the matter, I obtained from an official a statement to the effect that they were not considering applications from persons in the retail trade. Preference was given to large employers. This may be a surprise to Ministers, but that is what I was told. The effect of such a policy will be to crush many ex-servicemen out of business. In a little while, under such conditions, they will lose their deferred pay, their gratuities and whatever they have borrowed to set up in business.
The regulations provide that a man may not receive a licence to import goods from Great Britain or from foreign sources unless he was what is described as a “basic importer” in 1939 or some such pre-war date. How, I ask, is it possible for a young man, who has just been discharged from the services, to have been a basic importer in 1939. Ex-servicemen, far from receiving assistance, are at a complete disadvantage by comparison with those who did not go to the war, and with big’ merchants and powerful firms. It is time “that the basic quotas and import licences were abolished. I asked a question in the House on this subject recently and, in a long reply, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said that the continuance of these controls would be reviewed again in June. I trust that they will be abolished. I could furnish the names of many men who are precariously holding on to businesses. Unless they are placed in the same position as their competitors their businesses are doomed. That is an aspect, of our trade policy, which needs very careful scrutiny. For some unknown reason, a prohibition was imposed on the export of soap from Australia. Sometimes the prohibition is implemented by the Communist leader of the Waterside Workers Federation, who decides when it shall be applied and when it shall not. Nonsense of that kind could not be tolerated. A prohibition has also been imposed on the export of tallow. .A firm I know in the tallow trade which wanted to open up business with South Africa was not even allowed to send samples of our Australian product.
I appreciate the necessity for the continuance of some form of prices control, but I believe that many of the orders made under the existing control could be rescinded without any danger of inflation. Prices control in Australia is being carried to ridiculous lengths and the whole system needs constant review. Prices control could be removed from a multiplicity of commodities and be retained almost solely on the basic foodstuffs, rents and other items included in the regimen of the basic wage. It may, perhaps, surprise the Prime Minister to know that almost every item in a hardware store is priced by the prices officials, and that if *a new article is imported- it cannot be sold until many forms have been submitted to the Prices Branch and a selling price fixed. Sometimes traders have to wait up to six months for a decision to be made. There is no common sense in the administration of prices control. Prices officials are compelled to observe strictly regulations laid down during the war period which are now in great, measure no longer necessary. I earnestly suggest to the Prime Minister that if he wants trade to expand and develop, and the turnover not only of big companies but also small businesses to increase, the prices control regulations should be greatly relaxed. A Melbourne shoemaker recently commenced the manufacture of a shoe of a new type, but he could not put a price on it until his costs had been submitted to and examined by the prices officials. After much delay, a decision was finally reached, but when the manufacturer commenced to manufacture the shoes on a commercial basis he found that the prices official who had analysed his costs and. figures had left the department to accept a position with a rival firm. That would not be a common occurrence, but it can happen under the present system. The whole of the prices system should be immediately overhauled. In order that trade and private enterprise may flourish, let us follow the lead given by our sister dominion, Canada, in this matter. We need more employment and increased production. We are all tired of hearing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction reiterate that there is no unemployment in this country: that there are more jobs available than people to fill them. What sort of jobs are offering? If the honorable gentleman can find a suitable job for a former airgunner of the Royal Australian Air Force who completed two tours of operations over Germany, which means that he had flown 60 times over enemy territory, I would be glad if he would let me know. There is plenty of pick and shovel work to be had but little suitable employment for many’ of our people. The various branches of commerce which are so hamstrung by out-of-date regulations would offer scope for their absorption if these harassing restrictions were removed.
Rationing of foodstuffs in . Australia could be much more severe than it is to-day. The food ration of Australian citizens is double that provided for the English people. I am sure that every honorable member on this side of the House would support a much more severe form of food rationing than we have to-day. Without greatly increasing the severity of food rationing in this country we could supply hundreds of tons more butter and meat for the British people than we are doing to-day. Australians enjoy a very liberal food ration scale. Sugar rationing is so liberal that supplies to Australian consumers are approximately what they were pre-war. The rationing of supplies of foodstuffs to storekeepers is fixed on basic quotas which operate to the detriment of the many ex-servicemen who have bought little provision stores in order to re-establish themselves in civil life. There is great heartburning among them over this injustice. From my files on the subject I could quote the names of many people who have endeavoured to make a living by establishing small provision stores and cafes only to find that the Rationing Commission has said : “ You cannot obtain supplies of rationed foodstuffs because you were not in business at a certain time”. The quota system for storekeepers and the small business men imposes great hardship on exservicemen; but aliens or other persons who established themselves in business prior to or in the early days of the war have no difficulty in securing supplies. When I was in Germany in 1938 I asked a German commercial man how the export licensing system operated in that country. He said: “We have to obtain about 30! permits before we are permitted to export anything “. We fought the war to destroy that very system, which we so much abhor; yet we continue to clamp theseunnecessary fetters upon ourselves in time of peace. I suggest to the PrimeMinister that he should consult with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to overhauling the whole of these trade restrictions. The officials of the Customs Department have done a very good job within the confines of the regulations. The Prime Minister should ensure that these hampering regulations are reexamined and that the whole system of prices control, rationing and import and export licences is completely overhauled. If that be done it will be found, I am sure, that 75 per cent, of the restrictions that now hamper trade and commerce could be cleared away. Commonwealth revenue will then soar to new heights. I predicted last year that customs revenue would be trebled, hut the Prime Minister took a more pessimistic view of the situation. It has more than doubled and it will go on increasing if those restrictions are removed. Customs duties are imposed for the purpose of providing full employment, as a means of raising revenue and for the protection of Australian industries. If the Prime Minister will consult with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for Trade and Customs and probe these restrictions fully, I am sure he will find that many of the fetters that now bind us may be removed. The demand for their removal is urgent and merits the immediate attention of the right honorable gentleman and the senior Ministers of his Government.
.- “During the debate on the financial stateanent submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) various contradictory statements have been made by honorable ..members opposite, even including Ministers. The Treasurer made his financial statement by leave of the House on the 25th March last. I propose to deal only with a few matters that arise from it. The financial proposals of the Government were placed before the House by the Treasurer under five headings which appear to be very enticing on paper, but which, upon analysis, do not mean very much. The proposals were summarized under the following headings: - (a) Reduction of the rates of income tax on individuals; (b) increased income tax allowances for tax- , payers with dependants; (c) additional taxation concessions to certain groups and industries in the fields of income tax, estate duty and gift duty; (<2). increased invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, war pensions and reestablishment allowances; and (e) grant to the United Kingdom Government. The first three proposals will no doubt appeal to and be considered as acceptable by the people; but it must be remembered that they were brought before the House only as the result of continued agitation on the part of honorable members on this side of the House. The reduction of income tax now proposed by the Treasurer is in essence the same as the proposals submitted to the electors by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the leader cf the Australian Country party (Mr… Fad d en). The plans put’ forward by the
Opposition parties at that time were based on the same figures as were then available to the Treasurer.. The Treasurer’s acceptance of them at this stage proves conclusively that the Government should have been able to make the reductions of income tax now proposed as from the 1st January last. When the leaders of the Opposition parties put before the people their proposals for the reduction of taxes, the Prime Minister and his followers told the people of Australia that they were dishonest, and that it would be impossible to adopt such pro- posals. During the election campaign, the right honorable gentleman did not promise that reductions of taxes would be made at any specific time; he merely said that the position would be examined from time to time and that as and when reductions seemed feasible they would be made. That- was obviously the easy way out. For the first eight months of this financial year, the revenue of the Government hae been buoyant, and we now find that the Government is adopting the proposals put forward by the Opposition party leaders almost in toto. In submitting his financial statement to the House the Treasurer said that the Government intended to increase invalid and old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, war pensions, and re-establishment allowances. I wonder whether it is intended that- war widows’ pensions shall be in- eluded. If any people in the communitydeserve full and complete recognition of the sacrifices they made, it is out war widows. I understand that war widows are now paid a pension of approximately £2 10s. a week, plus 17s. 6d. for the first child; and 12s. 6d. for the second child, and, in some cases, an educational allowance of 7s. 6d. a week. Thus, the total pension paid to a war widow with two dependent children is £4 7s. 6d. a week, an amount far below the basic wage. If people think war widows with children are not entitled to at least the basic wage there is something wrong with their mentality. Those women should not be made to feel that they are relying on the Government to care for them. They made the greatest ‘sacrifice any person in- the country could make, and it is the duty of any government, regardless of its political colour, to ensure economically- that they shall be untroubled. It is argued that they are like ordinary widows. They are, in that they have lost their husbands, but most o.f them are young and have not had the experience of the battles of life that widows generally have had. They should be helped to the utmost degree, nither than compelled to screw and scrape to make ends meet. Economically they lui ve been thrown completely off their balance. I hope that the Government will soon, if not immediately, increase their pensions retroactively to at least the level of the basic wage. 1 ha ve not heard their plight mentioned in this House before, although I expected to.
The fifth proposal that the Government intends to place before the House i.-j for a grant to the United Kingdom Government. The Treasurer stated -
The Government proposes to make a gift of f 25,000)000 Australian to the United Kingdom as a. contribution towards the cost of her unparalleled war effort. The Australian contribution will be . related to costs incurred by the United Kingdom in and around the Pacific. T inn sure the House will endorse this recognition of the war-time achievements of the United Kingdom and her present magnificent efforts towards recovery.
The payment of £25,000,000 to Great Britain i.s like handing’ diamonds to a man dying from lack of food and water on an island of gold. It is equal to giving a former prisoner of war of the Japanese rice to eat instead of subsistence after he has had nothing but rice to eat for years. The people of the United Kingdom will get out of their troubles, given the wherewithal to meet the rigours which beset them. They want food. No man, woman or child can face everyday life without a reasonably full stomach. Any person in the British Commonwealth of Nations that helps to deprive people in the British Isles of the opportunity of getting the food they need to maintain their living standards is not fit to be a member of it. Every attempt in this House to ensure the supply of extra food to Britain has been “ gagged “, or countered with a statement that some scheme is in operation, but no one can find out what that scheme is. Attempts to do so are jibed at by honorable members opposite. To emerge from their dilemma and bring to fruition their plans for the post-war period the people of Britain want food.
That food must be produced by. the primary producers, but, in my electorate in “Western Australia, I have seen farmers deliberately carting their seed wheat to the market for sale, rather than sow it to grow more wheat, because of the Government’s regulations and the penalties placed on them. I understand that the same thing is to be seen in the eastern States.
– Does the honorable’ member call that a strike?
– I do not. It ii common sense. They are using their land for grazing. The Prime Minister says that the House ought to endorse a grant of ‘ £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom Government. I tell him, and every other honorable member, that any House of Parliament in the Empire would endorse a gift of £25,000,000 worth of food, but not £25,000,000 of “ filthy lucre “.
– We have not come to that measure yet.
– The right honorable gentleman referred to it in his financial statement. The farmers are selling their seed wheat rather than pay the tax that they would incur liability for if they sowed it and reaped a harvest. The reason is that some years ago the Labour party promised that when it obtained power it would introduce a wheat stabilization plan. It did institute a plan, but it was not a real stabilization plan. Why it chose to describe it. as a stabilization plan I have not the faintest idea. The plan was a means of depriving the farmers of their rights. When the Government found that there was great likelihood of farmers turning the plan down, it took the opportunity, in the dying hours of the sittings last year, of bringing down what it described as machinery bills. They were machinery bills of the steamroller type, under which the wheat- . growers were taxed 50 per cent, of what their wheat fetches overseas in order that the Government may retain money in its. so-called stabilization fund lest some day ic should be able to bring about a reasonable stabilization scheme. That is why the farmers are not growing the wheat that they could grow. The Government is holding too much of their money. Perhaps they would not mind that so much if they could learn from the Government, or government officials, how much of their money the Government is holding. No sane man would carry on business under such conditions. During the war- primary producers grew all the wool they could to help the war effort. An arrangement was made between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United Kingdom under which the entire Australian wool clip was purchased by Great Britain at 10.7/16d. sterling per lb. It was further provided that any profit made on the sale, of wool by Great Britain to other countries would be divided equally between Britain and Australian wool-growers. The woolgrowers have no idea how much money belonging to them the Commonwealth Government is holding under that arrangement. The next worry of the wool-growers is the 5 per cent, tax on wool. At prevailing high prices the wool clip this year should be worth about £90,000,000. That means that, the Government will have available to it .from the collection of that tax £4,500,00. I have heard questions asked about the likelihood of a reduction of the tax, but an adequate reply has not been given.
In another paragraph of his financial statement the Treasurer says -
Industry appears almost to have reached a man-power ceiling.
Last night we were told in an enlightening speech by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that the Opposition parties were to blame for the shortage of labour because of the decline of the birthrate in 1930. He claimed that had the birthrate continued at its former level thousands more people would have been available to industry this year, but I remind him that they would have hean mere children. When I began my apprenticeship years ago - it was .a government apprenticeship - the rule was that material wasted by apprentices was’ not to be charged against them because they were to be taught to be good tradesmen. I should like the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction to explain how more boys and girls born in 1930 would have been of such advantage to industry to-day when they would have been just children learning their jobs.
– The Government applies to itself the same rule as the honorable member says was applied to him as an apprentice. It disclaims responsibility for its waste.
– Exactly. The right honorable gentleman proceeds -
This means that increased output of goods and services can come only from higher productivity.
What must we have to bring about higher productivity? According to all ministerial advice ‘that we can get, all the available labour is already engaged in industry. The only means of bring about higher productivity is the increased efficiency of. both employers and employees. The Leader of the Opposition demonstrated clearly the penalty imposed on increased efficiency. The farmer finds that the reward for his increased efficiency is garnered by the Government. The wool-growers and the graziers find the same thing. I thank the Prim’e Minister and Treasurer for his next statement -
Moreover, a continuance of present exceptional prices for wool and wheat cannot <be relied upon.’
That is why the Government should give serious consideration to the stabilization plans that the wheat-growers in particular have wanted for a great many years. Unless something is done very soon 1 can foresee the extension of National Security Regulations for another period in order that the Treasurer and Government may keep a grip on the farmers when they should be left free and allowed to see daylight. He adds -
If droughts or major industrial disturbances occur, production will be restricted.
I agree with the Prime Minister that we do not want more droughts or industrial unrest.
– Or more Labour governments !
– That is so. Thd end of Labour rule would be a blessing to the people. I advise the Government, to make hay while the sun shines and encourage higher productivity. Its controls - and I do not refer at the moment to prices control - are strangling the in- .centive to higher productivity. Wagepegging is causing more trouble .than any other factor. What right has the Government to say to employers or ‘employees, “ You shall not allow or receive an increase of wages “ ? I say : Let industry iron out its own difficulties. Let there be more co-operation . between employers and employees. Last night, the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) said that employers were to blame for the industrial unrest. I can produce positive proof of instances where employers have offered increased wages to employees, and allowed them an opportunity to consider the proposals. Then, insidious individuals have said to the employees, “ Beware of the nigger in the woodpile “, and instead of the employees accepting the- offer and the wheels of industry continuing to run smoothly, industrial unrest has occurred. Unfortunately, we in Australia are very close to the edge of an economic precipice. So long as wagepegging continues, we shall never have real peace in industry. Honorable members opposite never weary of pointing out that allowance must be made for the fact that Australia has passed through six years of war. I contend that now that the war has ended, the Government should allow industry to adjust, its own difficulties. Given the opportunity, industry will do so in a short time. Unfortunately, any agreement which employers and employees reach, is still subject to approval by the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
When we have peace in industry, increased output and full employment will follow. If the employees are contented”, they will be prepared to work for a- fair wage. “ The labourer is worthy of his hire “, and the successful business man, in the long run, is the one who studies the contentment of his employees. If they are satisfied with their working conditions, they will increase their output. Higher productivity will mean more consumer goods for the people. That, in turn, will wipe out the black market, which is a menace to-day. Increased output and turnover will lead to a reduction of prices, and people will be able to buy more goods. When thai occurs, the Government will be able to reduce indirect taxes, which are imposing a severe burden on the people to-day. Last year, indirect taxes yielded £102,000,000. Spread over 7,500,000 persons, that is more than £14 a head. Last night, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction declared that the people were obtaining great benefits from the Government’s social services scheme. I point out that the wage-earner with a wife and four children has to pay about £70 a year in indirect taxes. What the figures will be for this year, we do not yet know. We should encourage contentment in industry by allowing industry to look after itself, and increase production. Any political party or any person who stands in the way of achieving the objects .which I have outlined is an enemy of the people - an enemy of Labour, because Labour’s first and only real objective is the attainment of a high standard of living for the people. I defy any honorable member opposite to prove that my statement is wrong. The Prime Minister said in his statement -
Finally, the spending from savings accumulated during the war period must in time come to an end. *
Surely, this is one occasion when the people of Australia have disregarded entirely a statement by the Prime Minister. As I understand it, the slogan of this Government is, “ Spend less and save more “. That is wrong. When people spend less, turnover is reduced and that does not encourage an increase of production. The Prime Minister, summarizing tax concessions which the Government proposed, referred to -
The allowance of a deduction for capital expenditure incurred in combating or preventing soil erosion or in constructing dams, bores, wells, irrigation channels, &c, on land used for primary production.
I hope that the Prime Minister will allow as a deduction for income tax purposes, expenditure on unsuccessful artesian bores in any one year. I should like to have that assurance from the right honorable gentleman. In the drier areas, particularly in farming districts, settlers are continually boring for water. From my own experience, and I assume that other honorable members have had a similar experience, a farmer might bore for probably 50 or 60 feet, and then lose the drill. He must begin the operation again. Sometimes after boring to a considerable depth, the farmer discovers water, but, upon having it analysed, finds that it contains too much salt for stock. Such a bore was unsuccessful, but, unfortunately. it cost money to attempt to get the water. Therefore, I claim that the expenditure on unsuccessful bores put down in any one year should be allowed as a deduction for income tax purposes.
A few days ago, I addressed to the Treasurer a communication on the subject of allowing as a deduction for income tax purposes expenditure incurred by men who are battling against the encroachment of salt on their properties. I am not au fait with the position in the eastern States, but in the wheat belt of Western Australia the encroachment of salt presents a very serious problem.
– It is’ also a problem in the Wimmera.
– Farmers are battling against- this encroachment by using all sorts of methods. In doing so, they are still keeping their farms in a state of prolific productivity. Salt is one of the great deterrents to successful wheatgrowing. It is only fair that these men, who expend money annually in combating this encroachment, should receive some consideration from the Government. I -hope that the Treasurer will grant this concession. Another proposed tax concession is -
The allowance as a deduction of losses incurred during the seven years preceding the year of income, instead of the four preceding years as at present.
This proposal will have the complete approval of the people of Australia, and I give the Government a pat on the back for it. The Treasurer also proposes to raise the exemption from gift duty from £500 to £2,000. I urge the right honorable gentleman to make that concession retrospective for fathers and other relatives of ex-servicemen who bought properties or businesses upon or in which they placed their sons as a measure of rehabilitation, rather than make the young men a charge upon the Government. They should be entitled to the consideration which I have suggested.
During this debate, the subject of prices fixation has been widely discussed. I bring to the notice of the Treasurer the increase of price of power road graders which the Prices Commissioner has allowed. In Western Australia, several local governing bodies some months ago ordered power graders from manufac turers in Sydney. Some of these graders have been lying at the works or on the wharfs awaiting shipment to Western Australia. Because of shipping holdups or industrial pinpricking and unrest, these machines are still in the eastern States. Recently, the Prices Commissioner approved applications to increase the prices of these power graders by from 20 per cent, to 39 per cent. I have submitted this matter to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice), but I desire also to bring it before the notice of honorable members. In order to purchase these machines, the local authorities were obliged to raise loans, and they have now found that the decision of the Prices Connmissoner has upset the whole of their estimates for the year, in some instances so much so that they have been compelled .to cancel their works programme. Had local authorities in Victoria, Queensland or South Australia purchased these power graders, the machines could have been driven by road to their various destinations. But because of the necessity to transport them by sea to Western Australia, these local authorities, which are doing, necessary’ work for the Commonwealth Government, have been penalized in this manner. As the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon)’ and the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior are doubtless aware, the decision of the Prices Commissioner has increased the prices of these machines by more than £1,000. I hope that the Government’ will not permit this, because of its disastrous effect upon the finances of the local governing bodies.
From time to time, we have debated the Government’s obligation to pay subsistence allowances to ex-servicemen who were formerly prisoners of war in Malaya. Without reviving the general subject, I propose to refer to one aspect of it, particularly at this time when Commonwealth revenues are so buoyant. When the prisoners of war were released, they had no records or papers, and were issued with an interim pay book and a small sum of tikals, the currency in Siam and Malaya. That was charged against them ‘ in their interim pay-books. When they were aboard ship or in an aircraft on their way to Australia,, they were Even a. further payment, and were led to believe that these payments were made from a prisoner-of-war fund inaugurated in Australia and that this money was not to be entered in their pay-books. Some time after these men were discharged, the Army authorities notified them that they had been overpaid and would have to refund this money. Some did, and others did not. But subsequently those among them who had an account with the Commonwealth Bank received a registered letter from the bank asking them to forward their bank pass-book, and the bank, acting under the law debited their account with an amount equal to the tikals that had been paid to them.
– Surely not !
– What I have slated is fact. The equivalent of the money they received was charged against their account.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from4.52to8 p.m.
. -I have listened with close attention to this debate, which has been in progress for some time. Before proceeding to state my views, I intend to refer to some of the remarks that have been made by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) made an astounding statement when he described Australians as “ little people “, and said that he did not mean that numerically. I was amazed at that statement, because Australia prides itself upon having produced some of the best men and women in the world. Our young men have constituted the finest fighting force that has ever gone into action on the sea, in the air, and on the battlefields of the world. As I listened to the honorable member, I thought of four lines by great English poet, one line of which I shall take the liberty of changing. They a re- “We have sailed wherever ships can sail,
We have fought beside the world’s best men,
God grant our greatness may not fail
Through craven fear of being great.
It is not a craven fear, as the honorable member for Denison has suggested, which will prevent our attaining to the summit ofgreatness.Fear has never kept. Aus tralians back, nor has it had that effect on our ancestors in the Motherland. Indifference, slackness, sloth, lack of breadth and depth in thought and planning, the softening of our moral fibre as the result of easy prosperity and luxury, unwise and hampering laws, restriction of vision, and inadequacy of purposeful determination, individually and nationally - those are faults that we have to guard against. Otto Kahn said, when speaking of America, that “ those were the things that must be guarded against “. God grant Australia may not fail to grasp and hold the greatness that lies to her hand. Let us consider the great men and women who have been produced in this country. In the realm of song there is Madame Melba. In aviation there are Kingsford Smith, Boss and Keith Smith, and Harry Hawker. All of. these have carried the torch of progress a stage further in the history of the world. Then there are the great nurses, doctors and surgeons. I believe that the honorable member for Denison is one of the last mentioned. Our great statesmen in the conference halls of the world have compared favorably with all comers. How can he substantiate his statement that we a re “ a little people “ ? We can stand beside any other people, and hold our heads high. I believe that that great Scottish poet, Robert Burns, expressed the correct attitude when he said - “ Gie us a guid conceit o’ ourselves “. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) would include in the list of great sons and daughters of this country Marjorie Lawrence, who came from a town in his constituency close to where he resides. It is highly important that the statement that we are “ a little people “ should be reported in Hansard, which goes all over the world, and if we cannot have a good conceit of ourselves, how can we expect others to hold us in high esteem? The honorable member for Denison also said that tax reductions are no good to basic wage-earners. That claim was supported by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and I, too, support it. They are no good to the small wage-earner, because the Government has not made them large enough. Up to date, they amount to very little. The reductions now proposed, which are to operate from the 1st July next, are on a shade larger scale than those that have preceded them. The honorable member for Denison spoke the truth, and was strongly supported by the honorable member for Balaclava. When those two honorable members are in agreement, one can assume that what they say can be accepted.
The honorable member for Denison further said that never have the people of Australia had as much money as they now have. Probably that is true. But there are two kinds of depression: the one is when there is sufficiency of goods hut not sufficient money with which to buy them, and the other is when there is a sufficiency of money but a shortage of goods. To-day, the quantity of goods available is very small. Therefore, although I agree with the honorable member for Denison that never before, or perhaps for a long time, have the people had as much money as they now have, I echo these words by Goldsmith -
I’ll fares the land to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.
We have to be watchful so as to ensure that there will not be too much money and an insufficiency of goods. That would not be in the best interests of the economy of this country.
The honorable member for Denison claimed that what we really need is a new Constitution, In order to . encompass everything that he envisaged, there would need to be a completely new Constitution.
Honorable members opposite have remarked that the people have become accustomed to uniform taxation and are now satisfied with it. Anybody who has spoken to members of State parliaments, and the people throughout the country who need a water supply and many other amenities, will not agree that there is general satisfaction with uniform taxation. One honorable member has said that uniform taxation relieves the States of responsibility. It does more than that; it divests them of their sovereign right to levy and collect taxes, and thus place themselves in a better position to provide all those things which their people need. The States are responsible authorities, and desire to raise their own revenues.
– Do they not. receive money from the Commonwealth?
– They receive a fixed amount. But there is so much extra which does not return to them that they have not an opportunity to implement all the legislation that they pass.
An honorable member opposite has said th at ex-servicemen who have returned to civilian occupations are unable to adapt themselves to the work that they have to do, and that, in consequence, there is a shortage of production. It is not the men who fought in the last war and have been absorbed in production who are causing shortages, but those who remained in this country for the duration of the conflict. While I was overseas, I heard broadcast, time and again, the announcement that there was a big strike in progress in Australia. I have said in this House before, and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) will support me, that while we were in Changi prison camp word came through of a big strike in Australia because the wharf labourers wanted extra pay to recompense them for the risks which they said they were taking. Yet at that time our men were dying, and could not get any food. Therefore, do not blame the man who has been away fighting and cannot immediately adapt himself to certain conditions. The trouble is deep-seated. I object strongly to such a paltry excuse being put forward.
Filially, the honorable member for Denison said that the Government has no work to do, and has done nothing except reduce taxes. If that be the case, it has not done very much.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) admitted that tax reductions had been advocated by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) during the last federal election campaign. He said that he was quite in accord with the defence proposals of that right honorable gentleman, hut claimed that Ministers had thought these things out before they had occurred to members of the Australian Country party. If so, they must he thought readers. The main consideration is to get down to something that is practical. The Leader of the Australian Country party would have made the tax reductions operate from the 1st January last, instead of from the 1st July next, as the Treasurer . (Mr. Chifley) has proposed. There i3 no justification for that six months’ lag. L do not think that the Treasurer can now claim that there is any justification for withholding his proposed tax reduction for six months, when it is urgently needed to give an impetus to production. The scheme of the Australian Country party would have covered a wider field, and the reductions would have been greater than those now proposed. The collection of the extra tax for six months is burdening the community.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction claimed “that the workers and others are unaware of the reductions that have been made. I assure the Government that workers and others to whom I have spoken can tell just as well as any Minister, solicitor, or tax expert, whether they are being asked to pay more or less when they receive their income tax assessments. What they are unaware of is the amount that they will have to contribute for social services. There was a belief in :his country that the social services scheme of the Government’ represented a gift. The people thought that the Prime Minister had suddenly been transformed into a fairy godfather, who was going to dispense free social services to all.
– Does not the honorable member agree with the scheme?
– The people will have to pay for these social services. When they finally realize what the cost is to be, it will not be a matter of whether or not T agree with the scheme, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has suggested, but whether they are pleased with it.
In a final attempt to justify the Government’s non-production programme, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that those who to-day should he filling the ranks of industrial workers were not born in the early 1930’s owing to the policy then pursued by the parties that now sit in Opposition. What a ridiculous statement that is! It would be just as foolish if I say that had the Australian Country party endorsed him when . he sought its endorsement as a candidate to contest an election in its interests, and he had - won a seat, Australia would not to-day have the benefit of his brains and ability. He said that no member of the Opposition would quarrel about payments to exservicemen, and that is true. Our only quarrel is that sometimes the budget does not make sufficient provision for such payments. I agree that prisoners of war who have to go into hospital should be treated more generously in th’e matter of subsistence payments. Honorable members on this side of the House will never find fault with the Government for treating fairly those who served their country so well during the dark days of war.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said that the Labour Ministry had been kept together admirably, the only changes being the result of sickness or death. I remind him that sometimes changes are effected by the votes of the people, two such changes having taken place after the general elections.
– Perhaps he mean political death, too.
– Yes, .he may have had that in mind. The Government should make financial provision for a better system of wheat stabilization. The Treasurer’s financial statement should set out clearly what is to be done with the millions of pounds which are being taken from the wheat-farmers under the taxing authority, and what interest is to be paid on it. The wheat-growers certainly wanted a stabilization scheme, and honorable members who represent primaryproducing constituencies have fought hard to have one established. The Government can follow one of three courses in connexion with the money, which it. holds under the stabilization scheme. The first is to continue indefinitely the war-time regulations, but I hope it will not do so. The next is to pay back to the growers the millions of pounds which it is holding, but there seems to be little likelihood that it will ever pay back to the primary producers or to the business community any money once it has got its hands on the cash. There is a third course, the one which the Australian Country party advocates, namely, that an effective wheat stabilization scheme should be introduced. . Then there will bo no need to extend the operation of wartime regulations, and no need to pay the money back to the growers, except under the terms of a just stabilization plan. I urge the Treasurer to keep in mindthe claims of the primary producers, including those who produce the golden grain upon which the economic welfare of Australia so much depends.
I am also concerned with the Government’s treatment of the wool-growers. I should like the Government to state for how long it is proposed to continue the 5 per cent, levy on wool, and what is tobe done with the money already collected. Surely, the Government has a plan for the use of the £5,000,000 already in the fund. To-day, more than ever before, the people need an incentive to produce. I do not refer to the men on the land. They carried on during the war, and will probably continue to carry on unless forced out of production by Government policy.
I wish to impress upon the Government the need to assist the States to construct pipelines for the carriage of water in connexion with water conservation schemes. Recently a deputation waited upon the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction with a request that Commonwealth assistance should be afforded in connexion with water storage schemes, and members of the Australian Country party are in favour of such proposals. However, we must ensure that the ‘best use is made of the water once it is stored. For. instance, it is estimated that in certain parts of my electorate only 3 per cent. of. the water stored ever reaches the consumers, and “ on the average not less than SO per cent, of it !.s lost through seepage and evaporation. Therefore, it would be sound policy to run pipelines in order to convey the water to the consumers. The land I have in mind will grow almost anything provided water is available. Indeed, the whole economic future of Australia is largely bound with the proper use of water. The Prime Minister may claim that this is a State matter, but it becomes a Commonwealth matter in these days of uniform taxation. Whether a work is undertaken by a State or by the Commonwealth is now of little moment, because the money comes directly out of the pockets of the same taxpayers.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) said that certain lands in Western Australia- were becoming salted ; that is, the salt was rising, and making the land unproductive.
– That is brought about by irrigation.
– That is so. Farmers in the Kerang district and elsewhere in Victoria are suffering severely from the. same cause, and some of them are faced with bankruptcy. The Commonwealth Government should provide help to overcome this difficulty, which is more ‘serious than appears on the surface-.
I believe that too many war-time government departments are being continued into peace-time. Some of them should have been done away with long ago. The Government itself admits that so many persons are employed in government departments that npt enough are available to do productive work. I believe that the number of civil servants could bo reduced by 33 per- cent, without causing any inconvenience. I know that some of the men employed in government departments would welcome a chance to “.turn to productive work on fair terms.
It has frequently been asserted that petrol rationing should be abolished. I believe that the States should receive a larger share of the proceeds of the petrol tax. The Prime Minister has said that an adjustment is shortly to be made to achieve this end, and I commend him cri his decision. However, it will be of little use if only a few extra thousands are to be made available, but any variation of the present arrangement that will benefit the people, and particularly the primary producers, will receive the approval of honorable members on this side of the House.
Members of the Government frequently speak about full employment, but full employment does not mean anything unless people are engaged on productive work. What we want is full employment combined with full production. Only recently I read in the press an account of a number of men who were leaving Australia, and’ the reasons why they, were leaving. One or two with artistic leanings were going to study art overseas, but a majority of them were leaving because they believed that the average Australian was not making sufficient individual effort to increase production. The reason for this lies in the failure of the Government to reduce taxes. People have had to accept what I can only describe as counterfeit wages. Australia’s unsatisfactory economic condition was caused by the Government’s lack of vision, and it3 continuance of unnecessary departments which might well have been disbanded and their staffs put to more productive work. Over 2,000 years ago King Solomon said, “ “Where there is no vision the people perish “. Unless this Government has a greater realization of the possibili- tics that lie ahead of this country the people may not perish, hut their great opportunity for returning to economic security, which is right at the doorstep of Australia, will vanish, and the opportunity may never be regained.
– Before this debate on the financial statement is terminated I should like to introduce a domestic touch. .1 do so for two reasons. The first is very obvious, that there is a definite tie-up between national economy and economy in . the home. I am not, of course, foolish enough to say that government finance is merely a matter of housekeeping, on a large scale, although housekeeping, undoubtedly, does come into the picture of national finance; but it. is true to say that good housekeeping in the homes of the people does make a vast difference to the national economy, and it is also true to say that the finance of any government has a very close and far-reaching effect on ‘the finances of every housewife. I have a second reason for introducing this domestic touch. Angels sometimes weep, we are told, and even the harrassed housewife sometimes laughs, and I believe the occasion for such a laugh was provided in this House last week when the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), venturing bravely into the kitchen, posed there as the autocrat of the kitchen stove and proceeded to heap derision on the notion that a shin of beef makes good soup. That suggestion of the honorable gentleman, whom I might describe as the “ Stalin of the stockpot “, aroused my curiosity. I should like to know what goes into the stock-pots of -the people in the circles in which he moves. Obviously, they do not use the common six-pennyworth of soup bones, because they are even lowlier than a shin of beef, nor do I suppose for a moment that they use sirloin roasts or fillet steak. I was grieved to see that the Minister exhibited signs of what I call acute food snobbery. Unlike the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable gentleman probably” does not read women’s journals, and probably, does not know that it was recently announced that Princess Elizabeth had chosen, as her second favorite dish, sausages and mash. No doubt that appears to him to he a very plebeian taste. I say in all seriousness that there is far more nutriment in a shin of beef than in several pounds of sausages. What the Minister’s statement really indicates is that he takes a view which encourages, not a better standard of living, but a better standard of spending. That is something we have to watch very closely. We can expend a good deal of money and still, in -all essential things, live very poorly indeed. Many people do not thoroughly appreciate that. So that we may end this discussion on a note of amity, I issue an invitation to the honorable gentleman, when next he visits Tasmania, to dine with me in my home. If he will give me 24 hours’ notice of his coming. I shall provide a meal for him in which, in at least three of the courses the lowly shin-bone will play a leading part. We shall have soup rich in gelatine and rich in juices from the bone and meat of the shin ; we shall have casserole of beef with vegetables, the main ingredient of which shall be the meat from the same shin, and we shall have some apple pie, or some other pie, in which the pastry will contain the marrow from the bone and fat trimmed from the rest of the joint. To honorable. members who, I know, are not accustomed to hear discussed the arts practiced by the housewife; I say that had the Minister a little more knowledge of this matter he would have hesitated before making statement’s of the kind he made the other night.
The Minister for Information went further and said that at the time of the depression I made a broadcast in which I tried to instruct the people as to how to bring up a family decently on £3 a week. That was surprising news to me. I can only say that if any one can produce such a broadcast speech for me, I shall be very grateful indeed, for that is the sort of information I have been looking for ever since I first became a mother. The Minister’s idea, I take it, was to hold me up as something like a modern Lucrezia Borgia, callous and indifferent to the sufferings of the people. Had I been able to give such valuable information I would have been a public benefactor, and if I were able to give it to-day, I would be even greater. Indeed, I would believe that I were able to perform the greatest human miracle since Moses struck the rock - and honorable members may recall that water gushed forth on that occasion. What I did say in the days to which the honorable gentleman referred, and I repeat it to-day with considerable emphasis, was that the greatest financier then in Australia was not any one of the three public figures who were the chief participants in the controversy then raging, not Mr. Scullin, not Mr. Theodore, and not Mr. Lyons, but the housewife, the little mother of the family on a low wage who was making £1 do the work of £3. And might I .suggest that that is equally true to-day except that it could possibly be expanded to say that in these days she is probably making £1 do the work of £4. Everything done in this House, particularly those things which are related to finance, such as prices con,trol, hits the housewife harder than any one else. We should on all occasions try to view our problems from that angle. I know of course the value of prices control to the housewife throughout the war; but we know that at the present time prices control is not doing all that the Government hoped it would do nor what the government ‘responsible’ for its institution hoped it would do. “We know that the cost of living is rising and is continuing to rise in spite of prices control. I would like the members of the Government to think for a. moment of the anxiety in the minds of housewives concerning the price of tea. Rumours are current that the price of tea is likely to rise to 5s, per lb.
– Not 5s., but 4s. 6d.
– I heard a rumour that the price was likely to rise to 5s.- In any event, surely no one can view with equanimity the prospect of paying 4s. 6d. a lb. for tea as they will have to if the Government discontinues the payment of the subsidy. I do not quarrel with the Government for having paid the subsidy during the war period, but certain methods were used in the collection and distribution of moneys for that purpose which were extravagant from the point of view of the housekeeper. The total cost of the subsidy has been £2,360,000. In excise at 3d. a lb. there was collected an amount of £500,000 which was later used to meet part of the subsidy payments. We have only to consider the bookkeeping necessary for the collection and payment of these moneys. There was. incredible waste. I suggest that the Government, should reconsider the margin at present allowed on the sale of tea because it seems to be extraordinarily high. On second-grade tea the margin is approximately 100 per cent. There are very few. items subject to prices control on which such a high margin is allowed.
There is one item mentioned in the financial statement upon which I tender the Government my thanks and sincere congratulations. The Government has adopted as part of its policy a reform which I advocated strenuously throughout two sessions of the Parliament. It now proposes to raise the exemption from gift duty from £500 to £2,000. It is gratifying to me that the Government should have so far yielded to my persuasion that it has now incorporated my suggestion in its financial policy. This concession encourages me to hope that the Government will accept one other point of policy for which I have striven strongly, namely, the extension of the child endowment payment to cover the first child. I know that it is argued that such a payment cannot be financed. It will be recalled that it was freely stated during the last election campaign that the cost of endowing all unendowed children under sixteen years of age would amount to £20,000,000 a year. That amount was arrived at merely by multiplying the number of unendowed children by 7s. 6d. The Treasurer knows very well that the amount would be very much less than that because if the proposal were accepted all the people in the high brackets of income would have certain adjustments made in their income tax assessments which would mean in effect that they financed the child endowment payments made in respect of their own children. Only those people at the lower end of the scale would have their endowment as a direct extra charge on the Treasury. That was why it seemed an excellent move to deal with this section of the taxation problem that way. It seemed a splendid thing to give it because it gave benefit where it was most needed. Argument that it would interfere with the basic wage was entirely false. The argument that it was a move by me, backed by members of my party, to prevent an increase of the basic wage was also entirely “false. As all honorable members know, although the basic wage has risen, the unfortunate fact is that the cost of living is rising with it. Already the price of jam has gone up. I do not know why. I do not believe that the increase in the cost, of jam is really merely a return to the industry of the extra, wages paid. But if endowment of the first child had been given, there would not have been a corresponding rise of costs, and it would have been a direct and absolute benefit to the people most in need of it. I know that some people say that if child endowment is given to those with one child, one-child families are encouraged. I am sure that the Acting Deputy Speaker (Mr. Burke) will agree that no person is induced to have another child merely by the prospect of an additional 7s. 6d. a week for child endowment. But it is true that most people with their first child find life something of a financial strain in these, days. Generally the young couple are trying to build their own home or perhaps buy furniture or other things to provide for their child and their own welfare. Extra money from child endowment would be of considerable benefit to them.
– The first child is the most important in the family, anyway.
– Perfectly true! Another point about child endowment is that often it is not merely the first child of the family that is excluded from endowment. It is also the last child. Take the case of a family of ten or twelve. When the second youngest child becomes sixteen years of age, the parents are getting on in life. The mother, in particular, has suffered a diminution of her physical powers and just at that time endowment for the last child ceases because it is the only dependent child under sixteen years of age. That imposes a considerable hardship.
I have said that there are certain good reasons that remain as they always will for the introduction of this reform. X have said that the cost would not be the amount freely stated some months ago. 1 have also said that in my opinion - in this I am supported by no less a person than the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) - on the figures in this financial statement there is ample evidence that endowment for the first child could be financed. The right honorable gentleman gave a list of items of what he regarded as nonjustifiable expenditure, amounting to £9,000,000. Other statement taken from the report of the Auditor-General show that the careless administration of the Government meant a great deal of wasted expenditure that could have gone towards financing the -scheme.’ For instance, the report mentioned that there were over 3,000 instances in 1945-46 of theft of stores valued at £140,000, of which over £S6,000 worth was stolen from the Army, £21,000 from the Air Force, and £7,000 worth from the Navy. I know that thefts happen at all times; but when they happen on a scale like that there is loose administration. Other instances of carelessness resulting in losses have been cited time and time again. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) referred to refrigerators. Although a report was presented to this House exonerating the person concerned, he was finally convicted on eleven charges of trafficking in refrigerators. The amount involved we do not know. One finds item after item of huge amounts wasted by careless administration. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and, I have no doubt, several independents, pointed out over and over again during the election campaign that in- present circumstances there was hound to be a great increase of customs and excise revenue. In the first ten months of this financial year customs and excise revenue amounted to £S4,224,860. In the comparable period of last year the amount was £62,866,198. That shows an increase of £21,35S,662 for the ten months. It means that the Government collected over £20,000,000 more revenue from that source than it counted on. This year it will collect more than £100,000,000 from customs “ and excise. Most of that, as honorable members know, will come from beer and tobacco. Those two items alone are apparently more than enough easily to finance child endowment. I look forward with great interest to the development of policy on this point that the Government will show to the people in the next twelve months. I cannot believe that a government professing the ideas and ideals that this Government does could long neglect extending to every child in the community under sixteen years of age the benefits of child endowment.
It was pointed out in the .House this afternoon that in spite of the amount expended on the Department of Immigration, few migrants have arrived in this country. I am prepared to admit .that that is understandable in the present circumstances, but the money was expended, and more is to be spent. A comparable amount expended on child endowmentwould provide young citizens of a more valuable type than any we could import from overseas. No one would contest that. Generally the people we let into the country have passed through a large part of their productive lives. What we need is people in the community who have reached production age and are -prepared to have families. Thai will develop this country to the greatness that we all desire.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) paid mc the honour during his speech of referring to certain utterances of mine. First, he drew ray attention to and asked for an explanation of a state-‘ ment in my first speech in this House. I had said that I regarded as a good scheme for the endowment of all people in the community - a . general social security scheme in which there would be no means test.
– All I asked was whether the Opposition intended to reduce the social services contribution.
– I appreciate that. The honorable gentleman was insistent .that I had propounded this scheme the first time I spoke in the House. Therefore he assumed that it was the policy of the Liberal party. He brought out a point that should be thoroughly emphasized. The Liberal party was not then in existence. I spoke for myself. I believe that to be a sound system.
– So did the honorable member’s colleagues.
– I believe in the principle that I then propounded, namely, that to any such scheme of social services every one in the community in receipt of wages should make some contribution, no matter how small. However 1 small ! I emphasized that. But I believed, as I think he knew, that it should be, as far as was possible, under the limitations of my scheme, limitations which I fully appreciate, dissociated from major fluctuations of Treasury finance and that it should be on an actuarially sound basis, standing alone. So the argument is validly based not only on sentiment. It seems to me that everyone should be encouraged to know from early childhood, and to believe in the Tightness of that knowledge, that they themselves were contributing, ‘while able to contribute, to a fund that in old-age would keep them from serious depriva-tion. That ls sound sentimentally and financially.
Then he said that the honorable member for Darwin was hardly fair when she suggested that the full employment figures that the Government spoke about were not representative of the work being done in the country. I do not dispute the figures supplied, but the shortages of a variety of commodities are greater now than they were during the war. During the war hundreds of thousands of men were completely immobilized as far as production was concerned by service in the armed forces. Other tens of thousands were immobilized as far as civil production was concerned, because they were making munitions. Other thousands were producing food for the armed forces of the United States of America, Great Britain and -other countries fighting in the Pacific. None of those factors at present operates. Yet we seem to be slipping back. I call this the great Australian mystery, and suggest to the honorable member for Perth that there is something in it far more than was contained in the answer that the Prime Minister gave to me when I put a question to him some time ago.’ The Prime Minister said that I must be very unobservant because fl-3 I go about the country, I should be able to see that, everywhere government offices are being erected. That is very consoling knowledge to- people who are looking for houses. I could have told the Prime Minister about some offices that are being built, including new buildings to accommodate the Commonwealth Bank. I suggest, in all seriousness, that, at this particular time, these buildings are not. necessary, although they may be desirable. The materials required for them could well be put into homes for people, who so badly need them.
The Prime Minister said that workmen were engaged in building factories and the like. We could put every man who to-day holds a hammer, a bricklayer’s trowel or any other’ building implement into one box, and I would still say that there is not being produced in this country sufficient goods and services to account for all the remaining men.
What is happening? Again, I introduce a domestic note with no apology whatever. I look on this matter as a mother would look at the problem. Many years ago, I had three small children who were sent off on a little errand. They caine back with their hands full of flowers. I asked, them, “Where did you get the flowers? “ They replied that they had picked them through a neighbour’s fence. I did not say, “ That is very naughty of you. You must not do that. We shall put the flowers in a vase this time, but never pick them again “. I said, “ My children, that was very dishonest. That was thieving. You take the. flowers back to Mr. so and so and tell him that your mother sent you back with the flowers which you had stolen through his fence.” I stood behind the curtain and wept as I watched them go. Today, I stand behind the national curtain and weep when I say to the people of Australia, and I do not confine my accusation to any one class, “ You are being dishonest with yourselves and the people of this generation “. That remark does not apply only to those who work with their hands. I agree with one honorable member opposite who, a few days ago, spoke of the men who ceased work and played golf in the afternoon just because they arc conducting their own businesses. I do not approve of the shopkeeper who puts up his shutters because he thinks that he has made enough money for the day and wants to dodge taxes. While I understand his motive, I do not approve of it. I suggest to the Government that it would he a fine thing if, as. far as possible, it removed these temptations from people. The same applies to men who work on farms. We must accept, that as true. I guarantee that no honorable member is prepared to say that he honestly believes that the vast mass of the people to-day are putting all they should into their efforts.
– Many’ business people did not put all they should into their efforts during the war.
– I said that I do not direct my attack at any one section of the community. The honorable member’s remarks apply equally to men who worked with their hands during the war. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) should admit that. But I say that the Government is charged in a more direct way than any private member of this Parliament and certainly more than any private citizen, with the responsibility for telling the people the danger in which they stand. We talk of standing on the threshold of a new era - at the beginning of a new world. I am glad to be able to say that never at any time did I do other than warn people that the end of the war could nor bring in a new era. All that the winning of victory could do was to secure for us the right to begin to build after our own dreams and in our own way. I am afraid we are falling down on that job. It is not one for individuals alone; it is one in which the Government plays the key part. . Unless the Government is prepared to say, “ Although these figures, showing that 95 per cent, of the population are at work, are statistically correct, it is not correct to say that 95 per cent, of the population are producing all that they should “, then the Government is neglecting, not only its opportunity, but also its bounden duty to this generation of Australians, and to future generations as’ well.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) must feel by this time that his financial statement is like a piece of chewed string. He must now be more enlightened as to what repercussions will be in accordance with the varying opinions of honorable members who have spoken in this debate. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) gave a delightful speech - a national speech - but some honorable members spoke directly to their electorates. On one occasion a woman told me that some honorable members become “ too good “ as representatives of their constituencies, particularly when they are appointed Ministers. In other words, they are in a position, by virtue of being a Minister, to do things for their own particular electorates, and make good fellows of themselves in order to keep themselves in the public eye at the next elections. However, I do not know how any representative of the Northern Territory in this House could be too good a member for that constituency, because I regard it as the “ Cinderella “ electorate. It has been forgotten in the past, and it would be difficult for a person to be too good a member for the Northern Territory, particularly when he is endeavouring to obtain for that remote, vast area amenities commensurate with those which already exist in the southern electorates.
I congratulate the Treasurer on not having forgotten the Northern Territory in his financial statement. I pay him this compliment at the commence ment of my speech in order to soften the blow, because I expect to become critical later. The right honorable gentleman has not overlooked the necessity to encourage the development of the Northern Territory. He has agreed to the extension for a further period of five years of the exemption from income tax and social services contribution of income derived by a resident of the Northern Territory from primary production, mining or fisheries in that territory. Honorable members will recall that the Lyons Government, in 1936, granted a similar concession for a period of ten years. That period will expire on the 30th June next, and I congratulate the Government on its decision to renew it for a further period of five years. Many of the people .who will benefit from this concession - I refer to the big cattle men - made handsome profits during World War II, and although their purses are well filled, 1 do not begrudge them the advantage that this concession for a further period of five years will give to them, because I am thinking of the benefit that new settlers will derive from it. The Government intends to introduce new settlers into the Northern Territory, and I hope that, in this scheme, preference will be given to ex-servicemen. Unfortunately, the Government has not yet indicated its intentions in this matter. This concession will be of great assistance to the new. settlers, because they will be starting de novo and will not have the advantage that the large, well-established stations enjoy.
There is one matter regarding this exemption from income tax to which I desire to direct attention. The earnings of the buffalo hunters, who work much harder than the cattle men, are not subject to this concession. These men hunt the buffalo and sell the hides at so much per lb., but their industry is not regarded ns a branch of primary production. Why, T have never been able to discover. The Taxation Department insists that buffalo are not stock but vermin. Again I direct attention, as I have done many times by correspondence, to the necessity for reviewing this attitude, and ensuring that these hard-working men, ‘who live under barbaric conditions when shooting buffalo in the dry season, shall receive the advantages of this tax concession to primary producers. The large cattle men enjoy it ; the hard-working small man is denied it. I ask the Treasurer to make a note of this request, and give effect to it in the Income Tax Assessment Bill now before the House.
The, right honorable gentleman announced that, for taxation purposes, a deduction will be allowed for capital expenditure incurred in combating or preventing soil erosion, or in constructing dams, bores,- wells and irrigation channels, on land used for primary production. Every honorable member should support a proposal to discuss the problems of soil erosion on a non-party basis. Many people believe that soil erosion occurs only in central Australia, between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs, but I warn them that it is an insidious and cancerous intrusion into our national wealth. Methods for combating soil erosion require keen study. This is a scientific problem, as any expert who has studied it from the agricultural standpoint will agree. I urge the Government to confer with inspectors of the Departments of Agriculture of the various States, particularly the Department of Agriculture of New South Wales, which leads Australian knowledge of this matter. I am glad to see that’ the Government of Queensland, in its wisdom, recently appointed an expert on soil erosion. I congratulate the Government on being alive to the need for primary producers to expend their own money, with government assistance, on combating soil erosion, and on allowing such expenditure as a deduction for income tax purposes. Much of this work can be done only with expert advice, which can be given only by officers of the Department of Agriculture of the States, who have made a special study of the problem. Having myself done some of this study, I can speak feelingly about it.
I mentioned, in passing, that expenditure incurred in constructing bores will be allowed as a deduction for income tax purposes. On my small property at Kingaroy, in Queensland, I put down a bore to a depth of 153 feet in basalt, but I did not strike water. The expenditure on that work was money thrown to the winds. I was more fortunate- with a second bore, which struck water at a depth of SO feet. I wonder whether honorable members are aware of how an enterprising settler can be discouraged by official action in Queensland. I hired a boring plant from a friend who had been a prisoner of war with me in the hands of the Japanese. It was only because 1 had met him in Changi camp that 1 was able to get his services. He brought the plant on a truck from Mundubbera to Kingaroy, a distance of 130 miles, and, lo and behold, the State Transport Board imposed on him a tax of 9d. a mile. When the truck returns to Mundubbera, he will again be liable to pay this road tax. That meant, in fact, that ‘ I paid it. This was a developmental bore. No other bore had been sunk in that part of Queensland. In this way, the State penalizes a person for undertaking developmental work in a new district. It is amazing to me that the interests of primary producers in this area should be caught in such a stranglehold.
Having congratulated the Prime Minister on some matters mentioned in his statement - this was in the nature of a sugar coating to the pill I still have to administer - I wish now to refer to the recently announced intentions of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) in regard to land settlement in the Northern Territory. The Government has just issued a. totally inadequate map, on the scale of 100 miles to an inch, covering 623,000 square miles pf Australia, or one-sixth of our total area. It is a shockingly inadequate document. It purports to show - though it does so merely by small black dots - the land that will be made available for settlement. I regret greatly that no indication has been given by the Government that exservicemen will receive any preference in the allocation of this land, the whole of which, I emphasize, is completely under the control of the Commonwealth Government. I have received letters from ex-servicemen’s organizations in Darwin which indicate to me that the replies that they have received from the Minister to complaints that they have made to him in this connexion have been nothing but a series of evasions. Some senior officers in this department have shown masterly skill in this regard. No doubt two replies have been given to the various questions, one to me, as member for the Northern Territory, and the other for the Minister, indicating (1) this is your reply to the honorable member for the Northern Territory; and (2) this is what he really wants to know.’- I find in these replies no indication whatever that exservicemen are to be given preferential treatment in even the slightest degree in the allotment of this land. If the country had been situated in western Queensland, the normal State practice would have been followed of issuing a full description of it together with estimates of ils carrying capacity, natural grasses, soil and specific information of the annual rainfall but no details of that kind have been provided by the Minister for the Interior. From what I can gather, the bare particulars to which I have referred were published last week. The meagre information that was given was most unsatisfactory; Seeing that it is proposed to allot blocks of 400 square miles it is essential that adequate information should be made available to intending applicants. The necessary information must be available for, when I was on the staff of the Northern Territory Administration in 1932, I surveyed large areas of this land, and with my own instruments prepared maps in relation to it. Mr. Driver, the Administrator of the Northern Territory, also knows the country well. His brother, a licensed surveyor, who was also on the staff, was apparently so ‘disgusted at the pigeon-holing of his report that he resigned his post. Detailed information is in the possession of the department in respect of the Barkly Tablelands, Wave Hill station, and the whole of the Victoria River Downs area. It is appalling to me that the announcement that this land was to be made available was published only in the Adelaide press, the North Queensland Register and the Commonwealth Gazette. I urge, with the utmost earnestness, that first preference in the allocation of these blocks should be given to Northern Territory cattlemen who enlisted and fought for their country in the recent war. Some of these men mentioned this matter to me some time ago, and, thinking that I could at least speak with some definiteness on behalf of the Minister in this regard, I told them that there would certainly be some preference for Northern Territory cattlemen. However, I appear to have made a mistake. Second preference should be given to the drovers of the Northern Territory cattlemen, who did a magnificent job in cattle-droving in the war years, to the great benefit of the troops. Third preference should bc given to ex-servicemen from the south. However, the area of land available for allocation is relatively small, and I do not think that there will be enough of it for the Northern Territory cattlemen who enlisted and fought in the war and who will want to settle in the country as their right.
There was a. time when many honorable members of this Parliament held the opinion that it would be impossible to obtain settlers for this country, but that day has passed. I believe that practically all honorable members agree to-day that the Northern Territory is capable of very great development. During the twelve years of my membership of this Parliament I have emphasized that it is the remoteness, and not the lack of carrying capacity for either cattle or sheep, which has prevented small holders from settling in the Northern Territory. I urge the Prime Minister not to listen to big landholders who still declare that the Northern Territory is “ only a big man’s country”. That is all “ hooey When the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was Minister for the Interior I submitted to him a policy for settling the Northern Territory which, I am glad to say, he endorsed. He gave me a most favorable hearing and accepted my view that small settlers could make a good living in our northern areas. I recommended that on blocks of 400 square miles two bores should be sunk by the Government, that advances should be made available at 2£ per cent, repayable in 25 or 30 years, and that wire should be provided for at least boundary fences. If that policy were revived the country could be settled very quickly. The honorable gentleman was most sympathetic to my proposals, and I believe that he had fencing wire available at Alice Springs for immediate distribution to prospective settlers. Unfortunately the whole project was vetoed by some of hi”
Cabinet colleagues. I urge that the programme that I outlined at that time should be revived.
It appears to mc that the proposals of the Government are on a very unsatisfactory scale. I understand that in 1942, while I was absent on war service, the Government, instead of reserving areas tha r. became due for re-allocation, allowed them to be absorbed into existing properties. In this connexion I refer, in particular, to areas of the Rocklands Station, part of which was re-allocated’ to the station itself, and part of which went to the adjoining Alexandria Station; areas of Sudan Station, an outstation of Alexandria, which were allocated to Alexandria; and an area of Wave Hill Station which was allocated to Victoria River Downs Station. I wish to know whether the Minister intends to rescind those new leases which were granted in 3 942 and to re-allocate the areas to exservicemen. I was appalled when I heard that the opportunity of reserving this great area, of. country had been lost.
I submit that block 27G, in the Stuart holding, comprising a large tract of land to the east of Darwin, on the Mary River. which abounds in buffalo, wild game and bird life, should be made available as a reserve for aborigines and half castes who, because of their colour, cannot obtain employment in normal channels. In 1932, while I was still on die .”Northern Territory Administration staff, I made recommendations on this subject. I believe that we should provide appropriate reserves for the aborigines and half castes in our northern areas. At that time ,the whole Stuart holding could have been acquired for less than £4,000, and it would have made a magnificent aboriginal reserve for a halfcaste settlement. I do not say that it could be turned into a bird sanctuary exactly, but it is of such a nature that it would make the kind of reservation that our aborigines and half castes are entitled to have with the opportunity, of shooting buffalo, alligators, and growing their own crops along the fringes of the swamps. I do not suggest that the whole of Arnheim Land should be reserved, for the area would be too large, - but the eastern half of it should be held inviolate for the natives. The western half could be converted into a most attractive tourist resort, for it abounds in buffalo, .Timor ponies, alligators, and native flora and fauna of all kinds. When we have a tourist bureau at Darwin - and I am working to establish one there - I believe that we shall be able to offer a most attractive tourist programme to tourists from the South. I believe also that the 80,000 or 90,000 ex-servicemen who have returned from that area will be ambassadors for the country and that their advocacy of its beauties and attractions will lead many people from the south to visit it. I have been glad to learn that many people in the south, including some honorable members of Parliament, are thinking of investing in the Northern Territory. They would be wise to do so.
I come now to another matter on which I can congratulate the Government. I refer to the provision which is proposed to be made to encourage mineral prospecting in the Northern Territory.
– It is quite a change to hear some congratulatory ‘remarks.
– I am glad that something is to be done for Tennant Creek. Recently I hr.ve received two telegrams from resident* in that locality. One of these requested that urgent action be taken by the Government to prevent a strike there. The first telegram, which reached me about a week ago, from Mr. Rowe, secretary of the Miners Association, reads -
Miners and leaseholders ask you see Minister and ask him grant increases battery employees. Kates asked for general on field. Association want you agitate for permanent conciliation commissioner for territory.
The next telegram, which came from Mr. Kenna, a mine owner, reads -
Would appreciate your support this sitting for settlement Tennant Creek battery strike. My seven men working Westward Ho and Mount working share basis quitting if battery does not soon resume crushings. Position urgent. Regards.
I raise the matter, because the Government seems to be bound body and soul to the principle of uniformity. I heard that principle extolled by honorable members opposite when they sat on this side of the House, and their allegiance to it has not wavered since they have assumed office. I oppose uniformity except when it is applied regionally or locally. Ten years ago, I succeeded in having the wages of carpenters employed by the Works Department at Darwin raised by 7s. 6d. a week, thus making them uniform with those paid to carpenters employed by the Commonwealth railways department in Darwin. The Government is to blame for the position that now exists at Tennant Creek, because obviously, battery men engaged by private concerns are paid a wage that is commensurate with the cost of living in that area, whilst the Government is lagging. I hope that the Minister for the Interior will ensure local uniformity immediately, by making the wages paid at the government battery equal to those paid by private companies.
I cannot resume my seat without again mentioning that the air service from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek has been reduced from three services to two services a week. There is also very little hospital accommodation at Tennant Creek. Dr. Webster, who attended a meeting that was held there last week, in a vigorous speech, pointed out that so small is the financial aid given to the hospital that it cannot treat accident cases, and they have to be flown to a base hospital at Alice Springs or Darwin. I hope that the Government will not overlook the people who live in that isolated area when it is making financial disbursements.
My final point relates to a transport development policy which will make the Northern Territory worth while for the small man. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) assured me last year that a standard gauge railway would be constructed throughout Australia. Since then, however, in reply to a question, he has informed me that, because of disagreement by two of the States, the matter is more or less held in abeyance. I point out to the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth has complete control of the whole of the Northern Territory, and there is nothing to prevent its extending its railway for a distance of 320 miles north of Alice Springs, and thence to the Gulf of Carpentaria, bisecting the
Barkly Tableland, with a loop to Darwin. I should like the Government to state whether it intends to exercise its right in this connexion. The construction of the line I have suggested would transform the Northern Territory from a big man’s to a small man’s country. But should the Government decide not to complete the line from north to south, surely it can complete the section -to Tennant Creek, where there is a proved gold-field, and there is scope for mining operations., not only by companies, but also by small prospectors, who are now working in complete harmony. I trust that the Government will assure me that this line will be constructed as early as possible, and that the existing bitumen roads will be kept in a constant state of repair.
– in reply - I do not propose to traverse all the ground that has been covered by the various speakers. I am sure that any member of the public who listened to the debate would be puzzled by some of the remarks that have been made. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made extraordinary statements in regard to the powers that are given to the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court under the wage-pegging regulations. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), as usual, has done some rummaging in the rubbish bin, to see what articles he could produce from it; and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has claimed to have discovered a Communist under every bed. Looking at the general picture painted by members of the Opposition, including the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), one would imagine that this country is in a miserable condition, and that the people generally are in a bad way. Later I shall mention a few facts which will completely disprove their assertions. I assume from the debate generally, particularly the remarks of the Leader of the Australian Country party, that the chief fault of the Government is that it has kept this country completely solvent, and is’ paying its way, after nearly six years of war and the transition into the peace. I should have thought that any government capable of that achievement would be commended. After all that has been expended in connexion with the war, and all the assistance that has been given to every section of the community, the Government has been able to present a statement in anticipation of the budget for the next financial year which will bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure about which we have heard so much in past years. Yet we are continually the object of condemnation. I can recall the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) speaking very strongly about the wide gap between revenue and expenditure. Yet, when we now place before the Parliament a financial statement which shows that we have done a reasonably good job in balancing the finances of this country, we are condemned ! It would, appear that it is not possible to please honorable members of the Opposition. Any citizen who is acquainted with the expansion and progress that have taken place in this country would believe that be was in a completely unreal world if he had listened to the debate to which F. am now replying. I know that the Leader of the Opposition is aware of the facts in regard to wage-pegging. Perhaps he failed to follow the procedure that is adopted. As I pointed out by way of interjection while he was speaking, his remarks could easily prove misleading. The plain fact of the matter is that the present wage-pegging regulations give to every industrial authority the right to increase margins up to 25 per cent, plus 3s., if, in its opinion, that is reasonable. A better illustration of the application of that principle could not be found than is furnished by the members of the Commonwealth Public Service who are in receipt of salaries of up to £450 a year. The effect of the application of that principle in its entirety is that the additional salaries will amount to £1,500,000 in a full year. That is a specific example of what can be done by an industrial authority without any reference to the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court. It is true that the Full Court jurisdiction in regard to standard hours, the basic wage, and certain other matters, [f any industrial authority considers that the formula which I have just mentioned does not do justice, it can send the mat ter to the Chief Judge, who has complete power to deal with it. The Leader of the Opposition seems to consider that in this respect the Government has passed its responsibility on to the court. During the debate on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill last week, the complaint was voiced that the Government was taking away some of the power of the court. The right to approach the court completely contradicts the arguments that were advanced by the Leader of the Opposition on this financial statement. There is a simple reason for the vesting of this power in the Chief Judge; it is, that he will be able to survey the whole of the industrial structure, and ensure that nothing shall be done which will throw the general industrial conditions out of line. There is no limitation on what he can do if, in his opinion, it is the fair thing to do. Prior to the war, the practice grew up of employers and employees in a monopoly industry reaching an agreement in regard to wages and conditions, and including the extra, cost in the price of the commodity produced. The same thing could happen now. There are two or three big monopoly industries in which the employers, with a view to making quick profits, without regard to extra costs, can make agreements with their employees which will be completely out of line with general industrial conditions, and then ask the Prices Commissioner for permission to pass the increased costs on to the public, without any governmental agency having any voice as to whether or not the agreement between the parties is fair and reasonable, having regard to the interests of the community generally. Those are the specific reasons for the action which has been taken. The Leader of the Opposition astonished me when he complained that some responsibility had been passed on to the ‘court. Such power, in many instances, would reside with the court in any event. It has also been contended that more power has been given to the Chief Judge than is possessed by the Full Court. That is not correct. The powers that reside with the Chief Judge can he exercised also by the Full Court when it is dealing with different matters, particularly those that are referred to it by the Chief Judge; for example, extra payment for Sunday work.
It has been argued that prices control has been used so as to enforce control of profits. The Leader of the Opposition cited the case of Miss Daveney Proprietary Limited and strongly objected to tha Prices Commissioner taking certain action in regard to prices, although they had remained at the level at which they had stood prior to the war. Some of the States associated anti-profiteering measures with prices control, and one State Premier claimed that its legislation in regard to anti-profiteering was, in effect, prices control legislation. However, will any one claim that firms during the war should have been allowed to make huge profits and charge prices out of all relation to what might be regarded as reasonable? The Commonwealth Government was paying tens of millions of pounds in subsidies to industries of all kinds in order to stabilize prices. There was hardly a firm operating in Australia which was not receiving seme benefit, direct or indirect, from the Government’s stabilization scheme. Therefore, it was not right that the Government, which was paying out £30,000,000 a year in subsidies for the purpose of keeping down prices, should allow some firms to profiteer.- The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that the Daveney case had been tested in the High Court, and I point out that the court evidently believed that the law was -sound, even if the decision was reached on the casting vote of the Chief Justice - who, by the way, had been appointed by a conservative government. The right honorable’ gentleman suggested that the Government was placing an improper responsibility upon the Arbitration Court in regard to wage-pegging, but the Government has always believed that this authority should be gradually restored to the Arbitration Court; where it originally belonged.
To listen to honorable members opposite, one would think that industry in this country was stagnant. It was stated by them that, although incomes were increasing, production was lagging. The facts are a complete contradiction of the states ment that taxation is retarding production, and it is a drag on industry, or that there is no incentive to produce. 1 propose to cite some facts which cannot be disputed. In Australia ,to-day, outside the rural industries, 416,000 more people are employed in industry than in 1939-40. In factories there are 200,000 more people employed than in 1939-40. A state of affairs has been reached in regard to industry, that was never anticipated by even the most optimistic idealist, namely, that unemployment amounts to less than one-half of one per cent. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) cited the ease of an ex-serviceman acquaintance of his with a good war record who was unable, he said, to get a job. Afterwards, he suggested in a low voice that the man could probably obtain a job, but only onn which he regarded as unsuitable. Well, it is hardly likely that all the people in this country are engaged in work which they regard as congenial. The political battlefields of Australia are politically speaking, covered with the bodies of people who would like to have got into Parliament, but failed. Representing a constituency in Parliament was what they regarded as congenial employment. I know plenty of people who are unable to get the kind of work they like, but, that does not prove that there is not work available. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and others, are fond of claiming that taxation is impeding production, and they persist in this claim in spite of the fact that companies are doing better to-day than they ever did before the war. The Capital Issues Board is flooded with applications for permission to raise capital for new businesses, or to increase the capital of existing firms. Never before has there been so many inquiries from overseas firms wishing to set up in business in Australia. Indeed, many persons overseas are seeking to invest in government securities here because they recognize that the economic position of Australia is sounder than that of any other country they know.
Honorable members opposite have said that production is lagging. I do not propose to go fully into- the statistics, because, unless a. man is blind and deaf and mentally deficient, he has only to walk through the shops to realize that’ they are filling, up steadily with goods which were not available during the war. Some of them are luxury goods, it is true, but we cannot control the use people make of their labour unless we take authority to direct them into employment. Let me cite some figures in relation to a few of the basic industries. For the six months from July to December of 1946, the latest period for which figures are available, the production of bricks amounted to 238,000,000, as against 118,000.000 in the previous year.
– Tell us about housing.
– Yes, I will have something to say about that, too. Only to-night I looked up figures relating to advances by the Commonwealth Bank, only one of several instrumentalities which advance money for housing. Members of the Opposition should be the last to talk about housing because, when they were in power for years, they did nothing to provide houses. for the people, with the result that there was a shortage of 250,000 houses at the beginning of the war, according to figures compiled by State housing authorities. I shall mention only one other great basic industry, the iron and steel industry. The production of pig iron and steel ingots is now 15 per cent, greater than it was before the war.
Mi’. White.- Another 1,000,000 tons could be produced if every one in industry was working.
– The trouble with the honorable member is that he keeps, on saying what he would like to be true. I am citing the actual figures, and if the honorable member wants further proof, let him read the report of the meeting of shareholders of Australian Iron and Steel Limited held last week, and the report of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– Will the Prime Minister say something about the production of sheet copper and sheet aluminium? I understand that orders for these commodities cannot be filled in less than twelve months.
– I am not able to give any figures in regard ‘to the items mentioned. I have taken out a lot of figures, but I have not taken out those figures, but that is not because I have any desire to avoid- the issue. I had intended to mi ask the permission of the House to insert in Hansard a statement showing the taxation levies, both income tax and social service tax, on various ranges of income in Australia and the United Kingdom, but I know that there is difficulty in getting the matter printed. However, I intend to have a schedule issued containing this information so’ as to kill forever the charge that Australia is the highest taxed country in the world.
– Will the Prime Minister include in the schedule the taxation rates in Canada?
– I will try to do so. Just now I am making a comparison with the United Kingdom because that country is just as anxious to increase production as we are. In the United Kingdom a taxpayer with a wife and three children, who receives £300 a year, pays £13 income tax and national insurance contribution. In Australia such a person pays nothing at all. A man on £500- a year in the United Kingdom, with a wife and two children, pays £40 10s. ; in Australia he pays £30. On £700 a year the figures are, in the United Kingdom £114 5s.; in Australia £72 4s. On £1,000 a year they are £226 15s. and £159 15s. 6d. respectively. I hope that when honorable members have seen the schedule which I propose to issue I shall hear no more of the charge that Australians are taxed more heavily than are the people of other countries. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) spoke in one breath about lifting the living standards of our people, and in the next breath said that he supported the imposition of a more severe form of food rationing. Both he and the’ right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) pictured Australians as having .far more food than they need.
– Of course they have!
– How, then, does that fit in with the dismal dirges that we hear from honorable members opposite from time to time about the sufferings of our people? Although the employment figures prove that all our people are working, we are told that they need an incentive to make them give of their best to their country, and increase its productivity. The right honorable member for Cowper suggested, in effect, that a sterling bloc should be established within the British Empire, and that representatives o.f the United Kingdom and the dominions should confer with a view to establishing it. The proposal sounds very well, but the fact is that the United Kingdom cannot afford to adopt such an isolationist attitude. The economic position of the United Kingdom to-day is such that only by associating with other nations in world trade, and by easing international trade barriers, will it be possible for it to carry on. The position within the British Commonwealth of Nations is that, geographically and economically, Canada is, very naturally, associated wilh the American policy. Therefore, we could not expect Canada to become a member of such a bloc. South Africa has its own difficulties. I do not propose to refer to them in detail, but honorable members know that that dominion has many internal problems, and would not be anxious to join a sterling bloc. “We all know the uncertainty of the position of India. No one can say in which direction that country may go. That leaves only two Empire countries on which the United Kingdom could depend for complete cooperation, namely, Australia and New Zealand, and however much the United Kingdom may desire such an arrangement it must consider its economic position in the light of much wider implications..
– Have British Ministers said that ?
– I gather from the public statements made by British Ministers in the House of Commons and elsewhere that they have given their complete support to these discussions regarding freer world trade. The British Government itself, through the arrangements that it has made under the AngloAmerican loan, and Article VII. of the lendlease agreement during the Churchill Coalition Government’s regime, has recognized the necessity for better arrangements in regard to _ world, trade. While honorable members opposite profess to be sympathetic towards the plight of the British people, they have no complete realization of the economic difficulties that face the United Kingdom in regard to trade, particularly exports to the dollar area. The right honorable member for Cowper should have some appreciation of the difficulties of the United Kingdom Government regarding sterling balances held by countries with which it is associated in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Honorable members must realize the cold, hard facts. They are full of dismal forebodings about the industrial situation. The industrial troubles that have beset us are a small matter compared with the fact that, on a conservative estimate, more than 2,250,000 ‘of our people are engaged in work at the present time. They are giving of their best to this country. I am deeply affected by the fact that many honorable members opposite spend so much time decrying their own country, and the citizens of the community in which they live.
– The Prime Minister himself is always talking about the possibility of a financial and economic depression.
– I am giving the cold, hard facts. Listening to honorable members opposite decrying the great majority of the workers of this country, we could be excused for thinking that industrial trouble was confined to Australia. Industrial trouble has reached epidemic proportions throughout the world. The peoples of many countries are suffering from a feeling of frustration. That is true not only in Australia, but also in the United Kingdom, France,- the United States of America, and other countries. This feeling is engendered by the fact that the people feel that success in the war has not brought to them the fruits of victory. That, however, is no reason why the Government should accept the view of honorable members opposite who demean their country and the people living in it. After five and a half years of war the Government is able to tell this House that it is almost able to meet current expenditure from its income, to enable primary producers to reduce their indebtedness by tens of millions of pounds, to reduce interest rates on mortgages from between 5 per cent, and 6 per cent. to 41/2 per cent., to pay off £70,000,000 of our overseas indebtedness, and to reduce the total interest bill on that indebtedness to £20,000,000 per annum. That record is no mean achievement, especially when most of these things had been accomplished during one of the most difficult periods of our history. To say that the Government’s financial record does not redound to its credit is to ignore completely the facts that I have presented to the House to-night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Orders - 1947, Nos. 10-20.
House adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers’ to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
In addition there is a considerable number of owner-builders not covered by these statistics, so that the commencing target for the six months ended the 31st December, 1946, was exceeded.
n asked the Acting Minister for the Interior, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Acting Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Security Loan Bonds.
y. - On the 29th April the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked a question regarding the delivery of Security Loan bonds to employees who purchase bonds by means of weekly deductions from wages or salaries. I have had the matter ex- amined and desire to furnish the following further information -
An employee who purchases a bond by instalments, is certainly entitled to receive his bond when payments have been completed: if the honorable member knows of cases where employers are retaining bonds, I shall be pleased to have them investigated on receipt of particulars of such cases.
d. - On the 23rd April, 1947, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) asked a question regarding a statement in the Adelaide Mail that 1,350,000 suit lengths had been exported from Australia during the last nine months. X am. now able to inform the honorable member that this statement is not correct. The Commonwealth Statistician does not keep separate records of the suit lengths that are exported from Australia, but the following details of approvals issued by my department are submitted for the information of the honorable member : -
Food for Britain : Cargo for SS. “ Orion “
– On the 22nd April, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked a question concerning the loading of motor cars on Orion. The’ Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
From inquiries which have been made into this matter, it, appears that four uncrated motor cars were loaded on Orion at Melbourne. The estimated time required to load these vehicles was about one hour. As the vessel is a passenger liner, certain time must be allowed for the loading of baggage, and, as the loading of the four uncrated cars was done concurrently with the loading of the baggage, there was little effect on the loading of food on the vessel.
On the 22nd April, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question concerning the loading of Orion in Melbourne. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The loading of Orion at Melbourne, was interrupted by rain for approximately eighteen and a half hours, and also by a stop-work meeting of the waterside workers, which was. necessary in order to enable the waterside workers to discuss their attitude to the transport position. On account of the time lost, cargo, which would have filled approximately 19 per cent, of the space on the ship, was shut out. No cargo was shut out of the vessel in Melbourne in order to take on consignments of other goods elsewhere. I am unable to obtain any confirmation of the statement that the captain of Orion personally thanked the wharf labourers for the work which they performed.
n. - On the 1st May, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question concerning oil research in the State of Tasmania. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
The examination of possible oil-bearing areas in Australia will be . comprehensive and thorough, and due attention will be given to any possibilities which may exist in Tasmania.
Prices Control : Mr. E. A. Harrison.
d. - On the 30th April, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked certain questions concerning the employment of Mr. E. A. Harrison as an officer of the Prices Branch, Sydney. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now advised me that Mr. Ernest Alfred Harrison was employed in the Prices Branch, Sydney, from the 31st December, 1942; that he understands Mr. Harrison is a brother of the honorable member for Wehtworth; and that Mr. Harrison’s services were terminated on the 21st February, 1945.It is not the practice publicly to state the reasons for the termination of services of temporary employees, in the Commonwealth Service.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470507_reps_18_191/>.