18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Sydney-Hobart Ser vice.
– Some time ago, when I asked a question on. the subject, I was informed that an air service could not be established between Sydney and Hobart because of insufficient beam and aerodrome, equipment. As Skymaster aircraft cross the Pacific and fly overland to Perth, not on the beam all the way, and in view of the absence of a passenger boat service between Sydney and Hobart, will the Acting Minister for Air arrange for an air service by Skymaster aircraft twice weekly between these ports?
– I do not know what reasons have been advanced . for failure to establish an air service between Sydney and Hobart. I shall investigate the possibility of establishing a service with the use of Skymaster aircraft, and shall let the honorable member know the result.
– I understand that recent researches of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in respect of the action of the insecticide DDT on buffalo fly have demonstrated that this makes a more effective and lasting cattle ‘ dip than does arsenic, and that its use may prove of considerable benefit to the raisers of beef cattle and to the dairying industry generally.Will the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ask that body to publish in pamphlet form the results of its’ researches, and to state the manner in which DDT should be used and the cost of the dipping compared with arsenical dipping?
– I know that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has made intensive investigations of this matter. I take it that, in due course, the council will publish the results it has obtained, as it does of all the investigations that it makes. I shall ask the council to expedite the publication of x pamphlet on the matter. I am sure that it will do so.
– The schedule of the census to be held on the 30th June gives a long list of personal questions. Questions on dwellings concern the class of dwelling, the materials of which outer walls and roof are made, number of rooms, number sleeping out, condition of occupancy, weekly rent, whether supplied with gas, electricity and water, toilet and cooking facilities, as -well as date of building. As there is a penalty of ?50 prescribed for an untruthful statement, will the Prime Minister say whether these questions . have been asked in previous census returns? If persons refuse to answer questions which may be regarded as an invasion of their privacy, is it proposed to lodge prosecutions in each instance? What steps are being taken to ensure that the census cards are kept confidential ? Will the collectors be given the right to examine the cards? What inquiries were made into the records of applicants for the position of census collector, bearing in mind the opportunities the job might provide for those desirous of embarking on illegal pursuits?
– Practically all the questions on the census paper are,. I understand, the same as were asked when the last census was taken, but a couple of additional ones were added with the approval of the Government, and some were eliminated. I have not looked at the card since it was first drawn up, but I shall examine it again. As to the honorable member’s questions about secrecy, the -credentials of those who will be engaged to collect the census papers, and possible prosecutions and penalties for supplying wrong information, I shall discuss these mat^era with the AttorneyGeneral and the Commonwealth Statistician, and let th? honorable member have a complnte answer later.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral a question relating to anomalies in postal charges on food parcels sent from Australia to the United Kingdom, a subject about which I havo previously asked questions. My attention has been drawn to an address delivered by Sir Claude James, Agent-General for Tasmania, while on a recent visit to that State, in which he informed the British Ex-servicemen’s Legion that the British authorities desired a reduction of postal charges on food parcels to Britain. Can the
Minister say whether that statement waaactually made? If so, how does the Minister reconcile it with his own state-, ment in answer to my question on the 30th April last, that the British Government did not desire any reduction of postal rates on such parcels?
– The honorable member for Wentworth is not the only member who has asked questions on this subject. Questions have been asked by members of the Labour party, the Liberal party, and the Australian Country party. Only recently I had a conversation with the honorable member for Balaclava, and I hold him that the Commonweath Government had cabled to the Government of the United Kingdom saying that it would welcome an alteration of the terms of . the- agreement between the twogovernments regarding rates of postage on food parcels Rent to Britain. That, 1 think, effectively answers the questionasked by the honorable member for Wentworth. I am not interested in what Sir Claude James says on this or on any other subject, and I am not going to take the trouble to find out whether he was accurately reported or not. What the people of Australia will be interested to learn is that the Commonwealth Government is prepared to vary the terms of the agreement, and has asked the Government of the. United Kingdom for an expression of opinion on the subject. As soon as a reply is received an announcement will be made by the Government on the subject.
– The Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture has stated in a letter that last year Australian manufacturers were unable to secure their full requirements of dried vine fruits, that long-term arrangements have been made with the British Ministry of Food for the purchase of all of the available exportable surplus up to and including the year J 948, and that the British Ministry of Food wants the raw dried fruits and not the articles manufactured in Australia therefrom. Docs the Minister realize that unemployment in Australian manufacturing industries is threatened unless the manufacturers can obtain more dried fruits?
Does he believe that it is desirable to build up British manufacturers at the expense of Australian manufacturers and the employees here? Will the- honorable gentleman take steps to ensure that a sufficient portion of our sun-dried fruits is retained m Australia in order to keep our factories fully engaged, and will he arrange to send more manufactured lines to Great Britain?
– The facts as stated by the honorable member are substantially correct. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board, in conjunction with the various State Fruit Boards, after ascertaining the yield of dried fruits for any particular season, proceeds to allocate the quantity to be sent to each of the various markets. The board allocates the quota to be sent overseas and that to be retained for the home market. It is true, as stated by the honorable member, that we are under an obligation to supply a very substantial portion of our production of dried vine fruits to the United Kingdom. That obligation largely arises from the fact that, in normal circumstances in the past, the United Kingdom market has absorbed approximately SO per cent, of our total yield of dried fruits, and therefore constitutes a substantial market for our fruit-growers. This year, unfortunately the yield of dried fruits amounts to only about 64,000 tons - a very low yield. Despite that fact, and in order to assist the unfortunate people of Great Britain, the Dried Fruits Export Control Board has recommended - and I have concurred in the recommendation - the export to Great Britain of 8,500 tons additional to the quantity we would normally be justified in exporting to that country. I commend the hoard for this decision. It is true that the loss of this additonal quantity of dried fruits may cause some difficulty to Australian manufacturers who, at the instigation of traders in Great Britain and elsewhere, desire to export dried fruits in the form of plum puddings. The United Kingdom Government, however, having regard to the difficulties confronting it, prefers to import its requirements of flour and other constituents of plum puddings from markets nearer than Australia. “Whilst it is regrettable that the decision of the board may result in some diminution of the output of
Australian manufacturers, having regard to the value of the United Kingdom market to the Australian dried fruits industry, it is felt that the board has taken the right action. With the dearth of labour now obtaining it is thought that there should be no difficulty in the way of Australian manufacturers diverting their activities to other forms of production.
– With reference to certain matters associated with the Land Sales Control office in Sydney and SubDivision Estates and Land Proprietary Limited, will the Prime Minister inform the House of the nature of the immediate change which he said had been made in the administration of the office? Will the Prime Minister next week make a detailed statement, to the House concerning the serious departures from procedure which have been discovered, and will he also inform the House of the result of investigations now being made in connexion with activities of the office in Sydney ?
– T have answered a question on notice asked by the honorable member about that matter. I caused an investigation to be made into allegations about certain transactions approved by the Land Sales Control in Sydney. There is no justification for the suggestion that a purchase by Australian Iron and Steel Limited had been improperly approved, because the company purchased mineral rights in the land. 1. am satisfied that there ‘have been serious departures from the procedure laid down for transactions of the nature of the transactions i:i which Sub-Division Estates and Land Proprietary Limited were concerned. Immediately the matter was brought to my notice, the administration of the office was changed. Investigations are proceeding. I will ask when they will be completed, and inform the honorable member.
H.M.A.S. “ Shropshire ‘’ - -Prize MONEY
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Navy been drawn to a report broadcast on the 12.30 p.m. news to-day of discontent in the Navy? If so, has he any comment to make?
– I did not hear the 12.30 p.m. news, but I think the reference was to incidents on board H.M.A.S. Shropshire. On Tuesday last, the 13th May, certain subversive slogans, evidently the work of a disgruntled individual, were chalked up in H.M.A.S. Shropshire. These slogans called on the ship’s company to strike for better conditions, but I am informed they aroused no great interest among the ship’s company. The commanding officer informed his men of the incident and has expressed himself as perfectly satisfied with the behaviour of his ship’s company. The Naval Board feels certain that Royal Australian Navy personnel can be relied upon to maintain the enviable reputation t hatthey have achieved over the years.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether the sum of £13,000,000, representing prize money, is to be distributed in the Royal Australian Navy ? If so, will officers receive a higher iimount than ratings? Will the Minister ensure an equitable distribution?
– I shall investigate the matter, and let. the honorable member know the result.
– In February last,I wrote to the Prime Minister directing his attention to the widespread misuse of the Australian merchant flag and ignorance in Australia as to the correct Australian ensign. I pointed out that it was the blue ensign and had been so proclaimed in the Commonwealth Gazette in 1904. I told him that the almost universal practice amongst Australians was to fly the merchant service flag instead of the blue ensign. On the 21st February, the Prime Minister promised to issue a press statement on the matter. Has the right honorable gentleman issued that press statement? If not, when will he do so?
– I remember indicating the general terms of a press statement to be made on that matter. If it has not yet been made, a misunderstanding has occurred and I will issue the statement. If it has been issued, I will give the honorable member a copy.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to the use of the Commonwealth Bank to enable the people of Australia to build homes without getting themselves into financial difficulties? Will the right honorable gentleman make money available forhome-building, either at a nominal rate of interest - 1½ per cent. or not more than 2 per cent. - or even as low as mere bookkeeping rates ? Does not he consider this proposal reasonable as a gesture to homebuilders from the people’s bank?
– Speaking from memory, I believe that to date the Commonwealth Bank, through. its housing department, has approved in various ways advances of approximately £11,000,000 to building societies and others. The honorable member asked whether the Government is prepared to direct the Commonwealth. Bank to make loans to home-builders at a nominal rate of interest, and I assume that she means that the rate charge should be almost nothing. It is difficult’ to fix a nominal rate of interest for home-builders, different from rates of interest charged on loans for other purposes. The rate of interest has been reduced considerably, and I believe that the present figure is a just one. I am not able to recommend that advances should be made to home builders at. nominal rates of interest.
– On the 5th May, I
Addressed a question to the Prime Minister relating to Sister Savage, and I received an answer which, I believe, constituted an evasion of the Commonwealth Government’s responsibility. I remind the right honorable gentleman that Sister Savage was the heroine of Centaur, and was awarded the George Medal. She desires to go to Great Britain for the purpose of studying for an advanced nursing certificate. Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that she served the Commonwealth of Australia and risked her life in the service of the nation ? If so, how can the right honorable gentleman say with justification that assistance to -enable Sister Savage to go abroad comes within the jurisdiction of a State government? Does he not consider that she deserves Commonwealth assistance for the furtherance of her studies?
– The honorable mem.1,er has not adduced any new facts to justify an alteration of the original decision. If he submits to me any new data which warrants a re-examination of the case, I shall be pleased to consider them.
– As a 40-hour week for workers in industry under a State award is scheduled to -commence in New South Wales not later than the 1st July next, has the Attorney-General any information to give to the House as to the prospects of an early decision by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court regarding the application made :some months ago by trade unions .for the introduction of a general 40-hou.r working week ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the matter and supply an answer at an early dale.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen the press announcement that the Australian Workers “Union has instructed its members in the pastoral industry not to work more than 40 hours a week from the end of J une next ? Is the Australian Workers Union one of the unions that are represented in the claim for a 40-hour week that is now before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
– I have seen the statement mentioned by the honorable member. The Australian Workers Union is one of the parties to the claim for a 40-hour week that is now before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– A deadlock has arisen, or, to say the least, great difficulty is being experienced at the International Conference on Trade and Employment at Geneva, as the result of the United States of America asking for the imposition of even higher duties against Australian wool. As this request is contrary to the spirit of the conference, will the Prime Minister consider the withdrawal of the Australian delegation, and propose to the Government of the United Kingdom that, an Empire trade conference be held that will assist Empire trade and world trade, and bring the Ottawa agreement up to -date? As the leader of the Australian delegation to the conference at Geneva, Dr. Coombs, has been recalled to Australia, will the Prime Minister make arrangements for him to address the political parties which constitute the Opposition in this Parliament on the difficulties confronting the conference?
– I am not aware that any deadlock has occurred at Geneva.
– The position is difficult.
– That is true, but difficulties would be inevitable in such varied negotiations as those being con- ducted at Geneva, irrespective of the position in regard to wool. The difficulties over wool have not prevented the general consultations from proceeding. I do not propose to recommend the Government to withdraw the Australian delegation from Geneva. Dr. Coombs is returning to Australia and is expected to arrive here next week. He expressed a wish for further consultations with Ministers associated with the Cabinet sub-committee on the trade negotiations at Geneva. He’ is not coming back because the Government felt that he was not competent to carry on the negotiations, but he desired further consultations with the Cabinet sub-committee. I do not think that anything is to be gained by attempting to precipitate a crisis in this matter. Every avenue should be explored in order to reach agreement in the Geneva negotiations. The calling of an Empire trade conference would be a matter largely for the United Kingdom Government. I am not authorized to speak for that Government, but I believe that it would be reluctant, at present, to engage in further discussions of that kind. I shall discuss with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party the suggestion that Dr. Coombs should address the Opposition parties.
– Is it a fact that the
Prices Commissioner is sending requisitions to small shopkeepers who supply icecreams and ice-blocks to school children, with the object of levying an additional tax on these items? The syrup that is used is already taxed at the rate of 12½ per cent., and when the water is added the tax is increased to 25 per cent., on the ground that it is being applied to manufactured goods. Will the Treasurer take a little bit of the lead off the drag-net of the Taxation Department so that it will not dip so deeply into the pockets of the kiddies?
– I am not aware that any circulars of the kind indicated have been sent out, but I shall inquire into the matter. The rates of sales tax are constantly under review.
– This is a tax on water.
– A further review will be made before the budget is presented to the House later in the year; and I shall at that time give consideration to the representations of the honorable gentleman.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether any representations have been received by him for the lifting of the embargo on the export of stud rams from Australia, and if so, by whom have they been made. Has the Government reached any decision on the matter, and, if so, what is the nature of it?
– Quite a number of representations have been received urging the lifting of this embargo. I have not yet submitted the matter for the consideration of Cabinet. I am closely examining every aspect of it. At present I do not feel sufficiently informed to draft a recommendation.
– Can the Prime Minis ter give me any further information concerning the participation of Australia in the whaling industry? I ask the question because the Government of Tasmania is intensely interested in this matter.
– The subject has been under consideration for some considerable time, and investigations are being made into the possibility of Australia participating in the industry. I. am not able to give up-to-the-minute information to the honorable member, but I shall furnish him with further particulars after I have made some inquiries.
Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction state whether 1 6,000 applications have been lodged by ex-servicemen for land in Victoria ? Was an agreement made between the State and Commonwealth Governments to limit the number of successful applicants to, 5,000? If so, will the right honorable gentleman state the reason for the limitation?
– Applications by exservicemen for land go finally to the State department concerned. I am not aware of the number of applications lodged in Victoria. It is untrue that the Commonwealth Government has placed any limitation on the number of applicants, or on the number of those who may receive a benefit under the land settlement scheme.
– Will the Minister for Defence state whether the Government’s plans in relation to defence embrace the sending of technicians abroad to gain experience in defence industries in technically advanced countries such as the United States of America and Great Britain? If not, will the honorable gentleman consider granting such technical scholarships, with a view to improving the calibre of the workmanship in Australian factories in a variety of skilled trades?
– I am not able to answer the question at the moment. If such a proposal were adopted it would be on the advice of the Minister for Munitions. I shall ask my colleague to inquire as to whether anything in the direction suggested is being done.
Visits Abroad by Industrialists: Reports.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction lay on the table of the House, for the information of honorable members, observations or reports that, have been presented to him by the 52 industrialists whose visits overseas were sponsored by the secondary industries division of his department? How many representatives of primary industries have had visits overseas sponsored by his department? Will he make their reports also available to honorable members?
– The secondary industries division of my department has sponsored visits overseas by a number of industrialists. It is not within the province of my department to sponsor visits overseas by persons interested in primary production-, that is a function of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I cannot agree to lay on the table of the House reports that have been made by those industrialists whose visits have been sponsored by my department, because many of them contain confidential information, and I do not believe that it would be right that I should let it be known generally what views are held by each individual concerning industrial conditions, or the conditions in particular industries.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen the allegations that were published in a weekly newspaper, concerning steps that were being taken by the Commonwealth General Assurance Company to force the lapsing of its industrial department’s policies, to the detriment of policy-holders and the advantage of the company? Has . the Government made any inquiry, with a view to determining whether or not the allegations are correct? If so, what was the result of the inquiry? If not, will the Attorney-General arrange to have the charge investigated?
– I shall consult the Prime Minister on the matter. As far as I know, there has been no investigation by Commonwealth authorities up to the present. I shall have the matter inquired into.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been directed to an article published in last night’s Melbourne Herald by the very distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sydney, Dr. A. P. Elkin, one of the greatest authorities on native races in Australia, in which he stated that, in his opinion, no danger would be caused to the natives who are occupying the country over which the rocket range in Australia is to be built, or to their tribal customs? Will the Attorney-General have that opinion of this distinguished gentleman made known to those religious and other bodies which have protested so vigorously against the construction of this range, on the ground that it will interfere with the rights and interests of the native population in the area?
– I have not read the article mentioned, but am greatly interested to learn that that is the opinion of so distinguished a person as Professor Elkin, who has taken a very keen interest in aborigines for many years. The honorable member’s suggestion will receive full consideration.
Great Britain’s War Debt to Australia
– Will the Prime Minister state the amount owing to Australia by Great Britain as the result of World War II.? Does the right honorable gentleman agree with the suggestion of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer that the war debt owing to Australia by Great Britain should be scaled down? When will the Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury arrive in the United Kingdom. ? What instructions have been given to him by the Australian Government?
– The honorablemember has raised a matter on which one could speak at considerable length. I am not quite sure what is meant when peoplerefer to war debts. The majority of the direct debts that were contracted between the Australian Government and the Government of the United Kingdom in connexion with the war have already been settled. Some of the amounts may be outstanding. Adjustments were made some time ago in connexion with costs incurred by the Royal Navy in this country. Practically all of the debts incurred by Australia in the conduct of the war have been paid. There is room for a difference of opinion in regard to what constitutes war debts. . When the war with Japan finished, Australia’s sterling credit balance in London was about £147,000,000. That, of course, does not represent debts owing to Australia ; they are credits in favour of Australian commercial interests for the sale of products in the United Kingdom, largely by Australia’s primary producers. At the present time, the sterling credits held abroad by Australia amount to about £230,000,000,’ the difference between this and £147,000,000 representing credits which have accrued since the end of the war with Japan. I have not seen the complete text of the statement by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, arid [ do not propose to make any comment on it. Neither am I prepared at this stage to make a public statement on the Government’s views which were conveyed to the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. McFarlane. before he left Australia. There will be an opportunity later to discuss the matter, and I will then give to the House as much information as possible about sterling balances. I do not think that the British Chancellor of the Exchequer was talking about war debts, as such.
– On the 8th May the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Samson) asked me as the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, a question concerning the alleged black-marketing of timber. I have received from that Minister some information which would interest the honorable member and I ask for leave to make a statement on the subject.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition MEMBERS - No !
Leave not granted.
FORMAL Motion for ADJOURNMENT
– I have received from the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The need for the Government to institute a public inquiry into the objectives and activities of the Australian Communist party.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen, in support of the motion,
– I have taken this step in order to provide the House with an opportunity to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The need for the Government to institute a public inquiry into the objectives and activities of the Australian Communist party “. , I bring this motion forward, not as a red-baiting stunt, nor, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) implied earlier this week, as propaganda to embarrass the Government. This Government provides adequate material for its own embarrassment if we care to use it. I bring the matter forward as a serious contribution to a problem which commands the attention of all loyal Australians, and which must, be faced by a Parliament charged with the responsibility of upholding democracy. The Australian Communist party is an officially recognized organization with substantial head-quarters in all our capital cities. It conducts several newspapers. It nominates candidates for election to our various legislative assemblies. It exercises the rights of free speech and free publication, free movement and unrestricted organization - rights which are enjoyed by the free people of the Australian democracy. The party, on its own claim, consists of approximately 16,000 members. One might ask what need exists for a public inquiry into what is an officially recognized, political party. It is. represented in the parliaments of this, country by one member only of the Queensland House of Assembly, yet it is able to exercise a growingand powerful influence on the political life of the country. The explanation is to be found in the control which Communists, by carefully planned infiltration tactics, have been able to obtain over transport, power and other industrial unions. There is no need for mie to elaborate that proposition in this Parliament. It is known vividly to all members from their own experience, and from industrial developments in Australia over the last few years, but the significance and menace of this control of the key unions is not so widely known. By skilful exploitation of the legitimate, grievances of trade unionists whom they represent, the Communists can disrupt industry, undermine democratic institutions such as the Arbitration Court, and discredit governments. They can discredit those trade union leaders who stand by constitutional methods. The results of this policy are to be found in the record of the Communist party before Russia entered the war which has just concluded, and in the industrial chaos in Australia since the war ended. Thus, while enjoying the privileges of a democracy, the Communist party is working towards the day when it can smash our democratic institutions with its proletarian revolution. Other Englishspeaking countries have become alive to the Communist menace, and are resisting it. The findings of the Canadian royal commission which inquired into this matter are fresh in our minds. I also remind honorable members of the evidence given by Mr. J. E. Hoover before the House of Representatives Appropriation Committee earlier this month. The report of his evidence reads -
Communists have penetrated every field of activity in the United States, and over the last few years the penetration has been intensified. He was giving evidence on the Appropriation Bill as relating to the Department of Justice. He said that Communists had penetrated into radio, newspaper, motion picture and labour organizations spheres and for every one of the 74,000 members of the Communist party there were” ten other individuals ready to do the party’s work.
In the press next day it was reported, that the House, of Representatives Appropriation Committee, although it slashed deeply into other government appropriation.?, decided to ask the House to grant the Federal Bureau of Investigation the entire £10,700,000 requested for its operations. This unusual action by- an economy minded committee, it was stated-, was. based in. part on the evidence of Mr. Hoover that Communists had invaded every field of activity in the United States of America. We may ask ourselves how seriously we ought to regard similar activities in Australia. What about the “ red bogy “ ? Even the Prime Minister recently said that communism was a bogy that existed only in the minds of certain people. Perhaps there was some reason for that. We are not a revolutions ry people. In fact, it is remarkable how free even our most bitter industrial disputes are from physical violence, and it is hard to conjure up, in a setting of peaceful streets and suburbs, a vision of violence and revolution. Those who come from Victoria find it less difficult to believe in that possibility now than a few weeks ago, because we believe that we wore very close to chaos, if not to revolution, then.
Let us examine whether this is a bogy which exists only in our imaginations, or whether it is a menace which must be closely watched. There is, of course, the argument that the Communist party has only 16,000 members. What harm can 16,000 people do, especially having regard to the small number of votes for the party in proportion to the total number cast at election contests? In fact, I understand that it was stated, after the recent election in New South Wales, that the results showed a drift away from the Communist party. That, however, is not what the Communists themselves think, if the following extract from the latest issue of the Tribune is to be taken at its face value -
So we’ve slipped back ten years in our election vote in New South Wales according to the Telegraph. We’ve only scored the highest aggregate in our history with about 30,000 votes. We’ve stood sixteen seats averaging one vote - fourteen or over 1,800 - each, and its news to the party veterans that we could hay.e done that ten years ago.
Even assuming that the numbers are not large, we would be fooling ourselves if we assumed that that in itself was an answer to any fears that might be entertained. I believe it is trueto say that in Russia itself to-day there are probably not more than 2,000,000 members of the Communist party, notwithstanding that it is the home of communism and that the Communists are in political control and constitute the administrative force in that country. I myself have some recollection of how effectively a small but closely unified political organization can work. I refer to the Young Nationalist Organization formed in Victoria a few years ago. It never numbered more than 300 members but it was able, in a short time, to gain far more than its proportionate share of seats not only in the State assemblies but also in the Commonwealth Parliament. If the Communist party in Australia can claim 16,000 active members, then from what we know of the energy and ability of their leaders who possess the fanaticism of zealots it can be described as one of the most powerful political organizations in Australia at the present time.
– That is not right.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) knows what Communist control has meant on the coal-fields of New South Wales, and that during part of this year, from the coal-fields of New South Wales we have lost twice the volume of coal that was lost in a corresponding period of last year. We do not gain comfort from the knowledge that the numbers of the Communist party are limited. What of its programme? Up to the present time it has been held by a lot of people, and believed by many, that the Communist party is primarily concerned with redressing the grievances of the workers of this country. How does that work out in practice? We all recall the significance of the Communist-led strike as quoted by Sharkey in his book, Theory and Practice of Trade Unionism, which he published in 1942. Honorable members will recall that he then said that strikes properly led. and conducted are a revolutionary weapon. In addition to that we have the instructions contained in the handbooks issued by the Communist party itself. There is the Australian Communist Party Training Manual issued to the members of the party, and there is the Handbook for Tutors in which they are told that they must first smash the bourgeois institutions of our democracy, the very system under which we work, before they can successfully stage a proletarian, revolution. In theHandbook for Tutors published at Marx House in 1945 we find this passage -
The dictatorship of the proletariat is possible only after the complete smashing of the bourgeois State apparatus.
That is to say, the Parliament and the great democratic institutions of this country -
This is necessary because the only way to destroy one force is with a superior force.
The latest development has brought into sharper relief the significance of these statements. In the past many of us have felt that these lurid and revolutionary statements occurring in the manifestoes issued from Marx House, Sydney, are so much fustian, that they do not thrive in the healthy democratic atmosphere of Australia, that there is little cause for concern in our country that these things may have any sinister influence. But we have seen the control which the Communists have gradually been able to obtain of key industries, and just how much damage can be caused by calling out a handful of men in key positions, men who, in the majority of instances, are completely unaware of the way in which they are being used as dupes for Communist policy. I come now to the latest development under Communist leadership, namely, the decision of the Communist party to declare black the constriction work on the guided weapons testing range in Central Australia. The party advanced certain reasons for doing that, but there was such a storm of protest, one of the healthiest re-actions from the industrial movement of this country that we have seen for many a long day, that the Communist party, whose views on this issue are clearly set out in its own publications, had to turn a complete somersault. The significance of what is being done is underlined by the findings of the Canadian royal commission on espionage. Although we have referred to the report of that commission on other occasions, it is, I believe, of sharper significance to u-s to-day. I refer to one passage T believe to be directly in point in connexion with this matter. The principal witness before that commission was the Russian Gouzenko. On page 29 of the report M. Gouzenko is reported to have said -
To many Soviet people abroad it is clear that the Communist party in democratic countries has changed long ugo from a political party into an agency of the Soviet Government: into :i fifth-column in these countries to meet a war; into an instrument in the bauds of the Soviet Government for creating unrest and provocations.
If we may interpret the views expressed by the Attorney-General to the meeting of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party earlier this week, the right honorable gentleman himself believes that this action is being taken, if not at the direct instigation of a foreign power, then in the interests of that foreign power, and his statement’ has been adopted by the federal executive of the Australian Labour party. In his statement of the 10th October, 1945, which he corroborated with documents, Gouzenko said -
The announcement of the dissolution of the Comintern-
That was the organization set up in Soviet Russia to handle these international developments in foreign countries - was probably the greatest farce of the Com munists in recent years. Only the name was liquidated, with the object of reassuring public opinion in the democratic countries. Actually the Comintern exist? and continues its work.
Having regard to these statements and to what is occurring in respect of the guided weapons testing range, I refer to a statement reported to have been made by Mr. Blake, the Victorian secretary of the Communist party, who has been twice in Russia and who, possibly, with other leading members of the party, has attended the Lenin-Marxist School established there. Mr. Blake expressed, the belief that war between Russia and the United States of America was inevitable. If that is his view, and that of Communist party members generally in Australia, we can place our own interpretation on the decision of that party relative to the guided weapons test ing range. In its finding the royal commission in Canada had this to say -
It became manifest during the inquiry, and was overwhelmingly established by the evidence throughout, that the Communist movement was the principal base within which the espionage work was recruited.
It not only supplied personnel with adequately “developed” motivation, but provided the organization framework wherein recruiting could hu and was carried on safely and efficiently. In every instance but one, espionage agents in Canada were shown to be either members of or sympathizers with the Communist party.
The evidence also disclosed that secret members-
All are not included in the 16,000 that they claim. They have taken good care to ensure that the most significant and valuable workers should retain anonymity lest they should be repressed or banned at any time because of their activities - of the Communist party played an important part in placing other secret Communists in various positions in the public service which could be strategic not only for espionage, but also for propaganda.
That was the finding of the royal commission in Canada. Is there not need for a full public inquiry in Australia? I am not able to cite any trade union leaders in Australia that have become converts from the Communist party, but I can quote what was said by Mr. Pat Sullivan, president of the Canadian Seamen’s Union, who is full-time secretary of the Trades and Labour Congress in Canada. He announced in March last that he was relinquishing the presidency and leaving the Canadian Communist party, because he had become convinced that the interests of organized labour were being subverted by the agents of communism to their own ends. He would continue as full-time secretary of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada. He said that he had been a fully-fledged member of the Communist party since 1937, and added -
From what I saw of the underground activities of the group, I am convinced that in the interests of Canada and particularly in the interests of organized labour, their activities should bc exposed. * Extension of time granted.]*
That was the statement of a responsible industrialist in Canada, who, I understand, is still the secretary of the Trade3 and Labour Congress of Canada. There’ have been similar developments in. Australia, and it is time that the activities and objectives of the Communist party of Australia were also exposed. I know that the Attorney-General will tell us that’ the’ Government maintains an organization that keeps an eye on all subversive movements and developments in Australia, but what is needed here is not so much information held by the Government itself about the significance of happenings as’ information conveyed to the mass of the Australian people, the overwhelming majority of whom are utterly loyal to this country and its democratic institutions. I am convinced that most Australians, and, in particular, most Australian trade unionists, have only to bc shown the disloyal and anti-democratic activities of the Communists to repudiate them and reject their efforts. Let the trade unionists, and those well-meaning but gullible people who have swallowed Communist propaganda, he made aware that they have been made the dupes of the Communist party’s policy, a policy which, according to Mr. Pat Sullivan, is not in the interests of the country or the workers for whom it claims to speak. Let us have the Communist’s activities brought to- light, because, if we make known to the Australian people what they are doing and the significance of the motives tinderlying their work, the task of those people who stand for democracy in Australia, will be made easier to uphold the’ democratic institutions that they represent and defeat the menace that has developed. I have deliberately couched my motion in the terms stated, because the Prime Minister has indicated that the Government will not appoint a royal commission to inquire into the activities of the Commonnists. I think there is great merit in having an inquiry by a royal commission, but if the Government is as sincere as we are on this side in facing the problem of communism squarely, it will agree to the only practical alternative to a royal commission, an all party committee of this Parliament to investigate Communist activities. Every honorable member claims to be opposed to communism and to stand for our democratic institutions. If we believe that citizens of this country should know about the activities and the menace of the Communist party and endeavour to defeat it, let us ourselves conduct an inquiry and bring to the light of day what has occurred. If the Government rejects the proposal, it will deny to the Parliament the right to fight for itself. If democracy is not prepared to fight it must expect to perish.
.- I said many years ago that communism was the most deadly enemy of the Englishspeaking races. At first I was laughed and jeered at. I stood then in the position I stand in to-day because I believed it then, and I believe it now. But I am confident that truth will ever come uppermost and justice be done. Before your advent to the Commonwealth Parliament, Mr. Speaker, I was engaged in this fight and was unpopular. I regret to-day that the fight is still unpopular. I regret it because communism is more menacing. The subject is too big to deal with effectively in the ten minutes at my disposal. The history of the world shows that empires come and empires go. Pew people realize the numbers of empires that have gone. The British, German, Japanese and Italian empires have gone. All empires have gone except two - The Russian Empire and the American Empire, both of which are adopting an aggressive policy. Prior to World War II. the major nations prevented Russia from obtaining access to “ warm water ports “. To-day it has warm sea ports, which will enable it to possess an enormous navy. It will have ports free from ice that can be -used throughout the year. Catherine the Great and Peter tha Great could not do what “Stalin the Small” has clone. The only protection that the rest of the world has is the American Empire. The United States of America is stretching its hand out as it must. It must consolidate the Americas - North and South - as Russia is consolidating Europe and Asia. In between we are to be the buffer. The fight is to come. It annoys me to hear people talk soothingly about traitors whom they call fifth columnists. What is the meaning of “fifth columnist”? Franco coined the word when he led the revolt against the Republican Government of Spain. He said that he had four fighting columns in the field and a fifth column in Madrid. The only way in which he could take the city was with his fifth column - a column of traitors within the city itself. The fifth columnists to-day are traitors. To call a Communist a fifth columnist is only a polite way of describing a traitor. Why do we not speak the blunt truth, and call them traitors? Everybody knows that to-day the United States of America is preparing for war. War against whom? Not against us? There is only one power in the world against which the United Stales of America is preparing for war. Honorable members know the country to which I am referring. During World War II. the Dominion of Canada had these traitors within its own camp. While the war was in progress, Canada was fighting for the English-speaking peoples. Are we to allow these fifth columnists, these Communists, to operate in Australia during this period of peace and during the next war?
I know what will be said in reply to my speech. When placed in this position, a government always asks, “What would you do in the same circumstances “ ? I admit that it is difficult to supply an answer; but if I were the Prime Minister I would stop talking and begin acting. That it why I am not liked. I would not use nice words, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), use when referring to Communists. I would act. The time has arrived when we should act and not talk. I shall say what I think. In Australia, there are persons who are avowed Communists. Honorable members may ask: Who are they? They are such men as Williams, of the miners’ federation, Thornton and McPhillips of the ironworker’s federation, Howe of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, Brown of the Australian Railways Union, Healy, Moran and Elliott of the wharf labourers and seamen’s unions, Hughes of the Federated Clerks Union, and Thompson of the Building Labourers Union, who have brought all this trouble on us today. One of the laws of New South Wales prevents people of low morality, who are obnoxious to the community, from consorting together, because they are criminals. The object of that law is to prevent these people from extending their criminal activities.I know, as every honorable member knows, that Communists obtain their positions of authority because of their trade union principles. They may be better than an official Labour man, who through incompetency, inefficiency, or other reasons, cannot perform his duties. The Communists may be more reputable men and good trade unionists when they are appointed to their positions of authority. They should act as good trade unionists and do what their fellow workmen consider that they should do. I would not allow them to consort with their fellow Communists. For example, I would not allow Thornton, McPhillips, Rowe, Brown, Healy, Moran, Elliott, Hughes, Thompson and Sharkey to consort together for the purpose of destroying the Australian Labour movement, Australia and all the English-speaking people for something that is entirely foreign to us. I do not criticize their ability. I have nothing to say against them personally or about their trade union principles. But when their fellow unionists appoint them to positions of authority within industrial organizations these men have no right to use their positions to destroy Australia and its people. The Government should stop talking and start acting. If the Government is not prepared to do so, all its soft wordswill not satisfy me.
– I am not taking part in the debate at this moment, but I desire to move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate being concluded without limitation of time.
– Is the motion seconded ?
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. McEWEN (Indi) :r3.52].- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has made a powerful case on a subject which is as important as any that could be discussed in this Parliament and which, as he clearly revealed, touches the security of this country. His speech was made in the presence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and I am at a loss to understand why the customary procedure has not been followed of replying to his ease forthwith, for never has a case submitted to this Parliament called more loudly and insistently for an immediate answer from the Government. I trust that an answer will be made, and that no political trick will be used to cause delay until the Opposition has exhausted its case, though, it appears now that one may be tried. This matter has come to our attention, two years after the conclusion of the war against Germany, when the three great powers which defeated Germany and Japan are maintaining their arms at a higher state of preparedness for war than ever before, except in a time of war. Never before in peace time have defence budgets been higher or international acrimony more acute than at present. History provides no parallel of peace settlements appearing more nearly insoluble than those at present being attempted. The areas in occupation by the victors, and the zones ‘of their influence, are being maintained as almost watertight compartments. Intensive scientific investigation of methods of destructive warfare are being conducted at high pressure. It is an understatement to declare that the world recognizes the possibility of another war. The Australian” Government is as much involved, relatively, in this connexion as any other government. Clearly, therefore, no government spokesman could possibly be justified in attempting to dismiss as alarmist hysteria any attacks that are being made upon our security. Facing all this, and finding it bounded by America’s abandonment of its traditional Monroe doctrine, as indicated by the current American loans to Greece and Turkey which are being accompanied by military advice and being paid for in part by military equipment, I say, with a full awareness of the import of my words, that the present circumstances, and any guidance to be derived from history, point to the possibility of war between the United States of America and Russia. Britain would inevitably be involved in such a war. These are the circumstances that we face. The federal executive of the Australian Labour party, following an address by the Minister for External Affairs regarding propaganda and decisions connected with the guided weapons testing range project for Central Australia, reached a resolution in the following terms : -
It is apparent that propaganda recently issued by the Communist party in connexion with this undertaking is for the sole purpose of defeating Australian defence policy, in the interest of a foreign power.
This is the atmosphere in which a debate has been provoked in this Parliament to which no answer has been attempted by the Government. Neither the Parliament nor the country has yet been treated to the courtesy, putting it on its lowest plane, of an explanation of the danger which the Government, according to the Attorney-General sees for our country from the activities of the Communist party. This Parliament is entitled to such an explanation. I am happy that the Attorney-General should have spoken as he did to the federal executive of the Australian Labour party, but I certainly hope that he will treat this Parliament not less seriously, and that he will not delay in apprising this Parliament of the matters on which he apprised the federal executive of his party. The responsibility of the Government in this matter is clear. Et must brand as treasonable any activities designed to defeat Australian defence policy in the interests of a foreign power, and it must deal, as with traitors, with those who engage in or lend themselves to such practices. Failure to act by any one who has authority to act in this matter is treasonable in a degree secondary only to saboteurs themselves. The attempt to sabotage the guided weapons testing range project fits; as we well know, into the pattern of the comprehensive sabotage being practised by the Communist party over the whole of this continent, and in every area of our national life. It is a part of the comprehensive pattern cunningly planned to undermine our security, to use the words of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party, “ in the interests of a foreign power “. This matter cannot be brushed aside. It strikes at the very vitals of our national life. We can have disputations upon points of social policy, or economic or political matters; but the security of this country is the foundation upon which we plan our future, and it is a devastating revelation that there should emerge from such a meeting as was held yesterday a resolution prompted, as this one was, by what was revealed by the Attorney-General. These activities of the Communist party are a part of a complete pattern to disrupt the physical defence preparations of Australia, to disarm and weaken this country, and to transform its people into such a psychological condition that internal feuds will reduce our capacity to defend ourselves. The Government must apprehend and deal with the traitors. An exposure by means of a public inquiry would be the best method of defeating the psychological warfare plans of our enemies, plans which are directed against the entire populace of this country. [Extension of time granted.] Finally, the Labour movement, from which this Government springs, must take steps to remove the opportunities that are now open to Communist-controlled affiliated unions to select, discipline and direct Labour members of Parliament, and Labour candidates for election; for the constitution of the Australian Labour party, whilst denying to Communists membership of the party, yet permits Communists, through their membership of affiliated unions, to vote on vital preselection ballots for Labour candidates and the re-selection of retiring members of Parliament. This is the portcullis through which communism has gained entrance to and authority in the government of this country. We have to remind ourselves not only of what is occurring in Australia but also of what has occurred in other countries and of what was revealed by a royal commission in the sister dominion of Canada, where it was shown by those who sat on the committee, and in these words -
We know that far more than that has been disclosed in Canada and the United States of America. We also know that there are most powerful men in this country who make “ no bones “ about admitting their membership of the Communist party, and their advocacy of all the pernicious destructive doctrines which communism preaches. We know that some of the most powerful unions in $iis country, most of which are affiliated with the Australian Labour party and therefore throw open to their members all the opportunities which exist to exert an influence on the Government of this country, are unions which have selected as their leaders men who admit that they are Communists and subscribe in every particular to the policy of destruction of the Communist party: Mr. Rowe, now notorious in Victoria, is the secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in that State and a strike leader; Mr. Brown, who is known to every Victorian as the leader of the Victorian Railways Union; Mr. Thornton, the leader of the ironworkers federation, who, during the Battle for Britain, said, “ We make strikes our business “ ; Mr. Donald Thompson, of the building workers federation, who, during the Battle for Britain, visited the workers at Benalla aerodrome in my electorate and urged them not to work on the construction of aerodrome buildings to aid a capitalist war; Mr. Williams, recently elected to the presidency of the miners federation; Mr. Healy, of the wharf labourers federation ; and a score of others whose names come to our minds. These men achieved leadership in the body of Australian trade unionism, and because of the peculiar constitution of the Australian Labour party, have gained for themselves, and for all of those whom they have been able to persuade, opportunities to exert a most powerful influence on every man who aspires to stand as a Labour candidate at an election. These are matters than which none could be more important for discussion by this Parliament. The objectives of these men are such, that none could be more deadly to the security of this country. I am sure that the Prime Minister is not a subscriber to, or a sympathizer with, communism, but the reverse; and the same can be said of the Attorney-General. But I affirm that, being in office in this country, they have most pronounced responsibilities. I repeat, that (hose who have aimed at the security of our country, in the interests of a foreign power, are traitors. [ further repeat, that any man, be he Prime Minister or any other office-holder, who has it in his power to root traitors out of this country, and fails to do so, is almost equally culpable.
– The House has now had a statement of the case on the subject on which the motion of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is based, and supporting speeches by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). I propose, quite frankly, to state my opinion of some of the matters that have been mentioned, and then to discuss what 1 believe to be the remedy.
The attitude of the Australian Labour party is perfectly clear. Quite recently. I read the declaration of the late Mr. John Curtin in connexion with the policy of the Labour movement towards communism. I shall not repeat it. The Communist party opposes itself to the Labour party and strives to destroy it. That declaration is reinforced by the decision of the federal executive of the- Australian Labour party only yesterday, in relation to what is called the guided weapons project. In my opinion, the evidence is very strong indeed that the objective of the Communist party in relation to that project is not at all the protection of Australian, aborigines. It* primary object is to terminate the project. I believe that that statement is supported by many of the surrounding circumstances, to which I shall refer presently. In the Communist paper Tribune of the 29th November last, this statement is attributed to Mr. Watt, the secretary of the Communist party in South Australia -
Australia must nut become an imperialist armed camp like Palestine. If Australian policy was one of peace, of friendship with all peaceful nations, of loyalty to the United Nations Charter we could have disarmament, lower taxes, higher living standards. Workers and farmers of the dry north must fight for peace. They must demand that the rocket range be scrapped and that the extension of the pipeline must be made to their own towns’ for their own peaceful needs.
There is not a word in that paragraph of the position of the Australian aborigines. Honorable members will see the real purpose behind the agitation in this paragraph, which I quote from the samp newspaper of the 28th March last -
The rocket plan is part of the Attlee-Bevin and Chifley-Evatt policy of turning Australia into an imperialist base. This threatens early involvment of Australia in any future war fought with guided rockets and atomic bombs.
Then there is the document that I referred to in the House only yesterday. I did not read the whole of it, and shall not do so now. In a pamphlet published by “Alf” Watt, secretary and central committee member of the Australian Communist party in South Australia, under the title “ Rocket Range Threatens Australia “, reasoning of the same kind has been employed. It is true, and I should state it, that in that pamphlet there is a reference to the danger which is alleged to threaten Australian aborigines. But that is not the main thesis of the pamphlet. On pages 11 and 15, there are passages such as this -
Truth is that Australian policy is not based upon the United Nations. In July, 1940, Mr. Chifley said that “ Against future aggression mir co-operation with Britain and the United States is fundamental “. Where does this lead Australia? lt will be observed that, in all of those quotations - and they could be multiplied -the argument is quite frank and plain that the objection is to this defence project being undertaken at all, not that in the course of it some peril, loss, or interference with rights, may affect Australian aborigines. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) today cited an opinion expressed by Professor Elkin, which I believe to be substantially correct. It is the view of the Government that this project can bo carried out without interference with, or danger to, Australian aborigines. Therefore, that matter should be excluded from our consideration. There have beer arguments as to whether Australia should embark upon the guided weapon project in co-operation with the United Kingdom and . other members of the British. Commonwealth. It is perfectly open to people in this country to state their views publicly. Arguments are put forward by pacifists, and, I am sorry to say, by repersentatives of some of the principal churches, in support of the view that the range should not be constructed, but they are actuated mainly by a desire to protect the aborigines. The fact that such views are being put forward is not, in itself, hurtful, because there is an answer to them. In a democracy, if views are advanced which are wrong and hateful to us, the proper thing is to answer them. A more serious situation arises if an attempt is made to give effect to views of that kind by boycotting the project, or by placing a ban upon work in connexion with it. When people say that Australia should not par ticipate, with the Government of the United Kingdom and other members of the British Commonwealth, in measures for the defence of democracy, such arguments can he answered ; but if people go further, and say that there will be a boycott to prevent the project from being operated at all, then a > very serious situation arises. If the instrument of boycott, or attempted sabotage, is employed to make the demand effective, and to prevent the success of the experiments, it is a very serious matter. Only two days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) gave to the House and the country an assurance that no interference with the carrying out of the plan would be tolerated. It was that intimation of policy which the federal executive approved in its resolution.
– How is it to be done?
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) wants the Government to say how this is to be done. The honorable member for Indi clearly expressed our abhorrence of some of the views which he quoted, and then he referred to the duty which lies on the Government to ensure that measures for the defence of the country are not interfered with. I answer him broadly by saying that it is those to whom the security of Australia is entrusted by the people - that is, the Government - who must determine how that responsibility should be discharged. It is not possible to indicate precisely now what will be done in a situation as it may exist next week. Even if we were to state our plans now, they might be interfered with by events. Those to whom the national security of Australia is entrusted are the best judges of what that security demands. We have in Australia a security system. I have stated previously that I wished that system to be strengthened on the civil side, as well as on the defence side. Precisely what that organization is doing at any given- time it would be most improper for me to state. Statements such as those purported to have been made by Mr. Thompson, threatening a labour boycott of the guided weapons project, would, if that threat were put into effect, probably constitute a breach of the existing Commonwealth law, and that law would bt’ enforced against any one who made statements of that character.
What does the proposal on which the honorable member’s motion is based, suggest? I have no objection to this debate. The Government cannot object to it. The proposal suggests action. What action should be taken? Many of the facts stated by the honorable member for Fawkner are public knowledge, although I do not necessarily endorse every statement he made. For two reasons, the Communist party may become a menace to the safety of Australia. It may allow its desire to forward the interests of Russia to induce it to take steps opposed to the security of this country. I wish to make it perfectly clear - I thought I had done so yesterday - that I did not indicate that the Soviet Government itself was responsible for ‘this agitation. I think the wording of the resolution of the federal executive is correct. The pamphlet to which reference has been made clearly states that Britain Australia and the United States of America are engaged in preparing for war against Russia. That statement is utterly false, and without foundation. Indeed, one could describe it in even stronger terms. Fancy any one saying that it is the policy of the Australian Labour Government, after our experience in two wars, to embark upon preparations for war against Russia! The statements in this pamphlet are like the outpourings of an imbecile mind.
Consider, for instance, the position in regard to weapons of mass destruction; So far from the countries named taking steps to prepare for war against our ally - and Russia proved itself a great ally of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America in the last war - they have put plans before the United Nations for the removal of weapons of mass destruction, notably the atomic bomb, under certain conditions. Those conditions are so reasonable that I do not think that one person in a thousand in Australia could take exception to them. The conditions are simply these : The United States of America has declared its willingness to destroy its atomic energy plant and its stock of atomic bombs provided a control system be instituted in the international field by which it will be possible to enforce decisions of the United Nations, and prevent those weapons being made anywhere in the world - including Russia.
– Who refused to agree to that?
– The Government of Soviet Russia does not state in simple terms that the proposal is impossible. It says, “Let the weapons be destroyed now, and let everybody agree not to use them “. That is what I describe as unilateral disarmament of the kind which impeded and frustrated all disarmament projects in the period between the two wars. Far from entertaining any desire to make war against Russia, we desire peace. It is not enough in international affairs, however, to want peace. Many countries wanted peace after Japan left the League of Nations, but they found that other nations had armed against them, so that the democracies were relatively unprepared for war against the countries led bv Hirohito, . Hitler, and Mussolini. After cur experience in two wars the Government would be recreant to its duty and a traitor to the people of Australia if it did not endeavour to provide for the defence of the country. There can be no dispute about that. Any argument to the contrary is false, and must be answered openly. The honorable member’s proposal concludes with a request that a public inquiry should be held into the activities of the Communist party.
– Why not?
– It is easy to ask, why not? However, the honorable member himself suggested no remedies for countering the propaganda of the Comunists
– The holding of a public inquiry is itself a remedy, as I made clear.
– The honorable member for Reid suggested that we should pass legislation similar to the Consorting Act, in New .South Wales. I am sure that if he re-read the debate that took place in the House of Assembly in New South Wales when that measure was under discussion, he would realize the difficulty of putting his present suggestion into effect. The Consorting Act is directed against convicted criminals, and makes it an offence for them to speak to one another, a penalty of twelve months imprisonment being provided.Such a provision would be utterly out of the question in the situation we are discussing. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) suggested deportation - a very drastic remedy. Apparently, he did not concern himself about the legal power to deport Australian citizens. After all, we should not forget that these Communists are our fellow Australians, misguided though they may be. Even though we detest their views, and even though they disseminate propaganda against the interests of the country, we do not solve the problem by deporting them. If that policy were carried to its logical conclusion, we would reach the point which Germany reached under Hitler, and the end would be the destruction of democracy. Another suggested remedy is to ban the organization, to provide by law that Communists may not publicly advocate their views; but that, I think, is an inadequate remedy. [Extension of time granted.]
– From what the Attorney-General is saying to-day, the “corns” would never brief him to defend them in court.
– They never did brief me. The Government makes no attempt to under-estimate the importance of this matter.We are responsible for the security of the country, and its security has been our policy since the Labour Government came into power in 1941. No one is better aware of that than are members of this House, and it is well known to the people of Australia, also.
Reference has been made to what happened in Canada. In that country a number of Canadians, most of them members of the Communist party, or associates of Communists, engaged in actual espionage activities. An inquiry was held by a royal commission, and in due course several persons were brought before the courts, and convicted of various offences; that is to say they com mitted breaches of the official secrets law of Canada.
Mr.Williams. - Were not the facts known to the Canadian authorities before the royal commission was appointed?
– No. Those who have studied the royal commission’s report will know that the greater part of the investigation took place in camera. That was done for an obvious reason; the sources of information had to be kept secret. That is one strong argument against this proposal to hold a public inquiry into the activities and objectives of the Communist party. We know what its objectives arc, and, to a substantial degree, we know what its activities are. If there is any breach of the law, it can be dealt with by the courts. The existing law will be enforced in the event of a boycott or a threatened boycott of this defence project. I have stated my view frankly on the criticism of the Communist party of the guided weapons testing range. I regard that criticism as misguided: and completely wrong. I go further, and say that it is vicious and false, as everybody in this House knows it to be. The Communists made their criticism as to the intention of the project and we have given them the lie direct. The Government intends to go ahead with the construction of the range. Open expression of opinion is of the very essence of the democratic system. Let truth and falsehood grapple. Whoever knew truth to be worsted in open encounter with falsehood ? Any breach of the criminal law by people who try to interfere with this project will be met by the application of the existing law, and if there be defects in the law it will be suitably amended. The suggestion that a royal commission should inquire into this matter seems to me to be quite useless. The Investigation Branch of the Security Service and the Defence Intelligence Branch know everything that has been stated by honorable members on this subject - and a great deal more. The officers of those branches are responsible for our security; they are the eyes and ears of the Government in connexion with national security; and they can be trusted. Further - and this is important - a public inquiry would undoubtedly have the effect of impeding and frustrating their work in obtaining the information required by the Government. The prime function of these services is to investigate and inform the Government, or other authorities in Australia, with respect to organizations whose activities might affect the security of the Commonwealth.
– Was that result achieved in Canada?
– The inquiry there was directed towards specific act of espionage or acts for the direct benefit of a foreign power. These matters are not dealt with off-hand. The appointment of a royal commission to inquire into subversive activities of the Communists was canvassed some time ago and it is being canvassed again to-day. In my view, and in the view of those responsible for security investigations - and those investigations are in safe and experienced” hands - there would probably be four results from a public inquiry if it were instituted now. First, there would be a premature disclosure of information which, in the public interest, it is not desirable should be disclosed; secondly,, it would compromise the sources of information and thus jeopardize the future work of the Security Service; thirdly, it would inform undesirable parties of the methods by which their activities might be kept under notice; and, fourthly, such a royal commission would not add to the information already possessed by the Intelligence Branch of the Defence Service or the Investigation Branch of the Security Service. That, shortly, is the position. If, when work is to be commenced on the project, there be any interference by any persons or groups of persons, the law will be enforced against them. I have- indicated that the best way to deal with the activities _ of the Communist party is by public criticism and condemnation. Our security may safely be left in the hands of the Government and its advisers. A public inquiry, far from doing any good, would, in the four ways I have mentioned, actually be prejudicial to the work of our investigators and to the security of Australia.
consisted in its first half of a very powerful vindication of the case presented by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) ; in its second half it became completely irrelevant. What was put before the House by the honorable member for Fawkner was an expression of desire that there should be, not necessarily a royal commission, but a public inquiry into the activities of the Communist party. What the honorable member was aiming at wa? that those things which are now hidden by the Communist party should be brought to light, so that the people of Australia, and not merely our security officers, could know what the Communists are doing, and in what disguises they work. The truth about the Communist party in Australia is that its work assumes many forms. Not all Communists are to be found just openly conducting themselves as members of the Australian Communist party. You find them in the Eureka Youth League, in all sorts of apparently simple, honest, above-board civic movements,, and it is because of their faculty for working under cover that .they manage to. bring into association with themselves so many highly respected people, who would, if you put it to them plainly, be horrified to be told that they were helping Communist activities. The whole purposeof a public inquiry - some of the proceedings of which I remind the House may easily take place in camera if it is desired that the security officers should have their sources of information withheld from the public - is a full disclosure to the people of who these people are, what their machinery is, what their techniques are, what they are doing, and what forms they assume. If that were known to the people of Australia, there is not a man in this House who would not agree with me that the people would, from that time onwards, have none of them. One reason why I have repeatedly expressed the view that these people should of dealt with in the open is that I have complete confidence in the basic sanity of our own people. If we deal with these people openly we shall defeat them; but we cannot deal with them openly unless their operations are known, unless they themselves are known. What objection is there to some competent body, perhaps a select committee of ‘this House, examining the activities of these people and stating authoritatively to the Australian people, “ Hero they are; this is what they are doing; this is the machinery they employ so that they may be identified and all their works may be known? What answer is there to that? The only answer made is a piece of rambling irrelevancy as to what punishment should be inflicted upon them. That is not the point in this debate. We are here to determine not what particular processes of the law should be applied, but what facts should be elicited. Any man who commits himself to a precise course of conduct in relation to a problem before he knows the facts associated with it is taking a rather serious risk. In the few moments I have left I wish to emphasize two things about these people. The first is that they are engaged in constant assaults by nonparliamentary means, non-democratic means, upon democratically formulated policies. We have only to look back over the last year or two to recall several instances of these assaults. We all recall the Netherlands East Indies incident. Now we have the direction of the Communist party relative to the boycotting of the guided weapons testing range. These are not matters on which I find myself in disagreement with the Government of the country; they are matters oh which there are established policies in Australia and these people have conducted a series ofassaults upon ‘them. These assaults have not been mere sporadic thing’s ; these have not been mere chance melees; the assaults have obviously been organized, r should like to know, and the Australian people would like to know, who organizes them; what is the extent of the organization; what is the association between one of these things and the next? We cannot discover that merely by being assured that this is in the hands of the officers of the Security Service who are competent men. I say nothing against the security officers, but what they lock up in their bosoms will never answer the queries which the people are entitled to make and have answered. The second aspect of the activities of the Communists is the techniques they employ in Australia. These people seek to divide the people of Australia. They are the apostles of class war. It must not be thought for one moment that class war means war between employers and employees. In their own jargon, class war is achieved when you take one group of people and set it up against another. It may or may not be on industrial grounds. I blush to say that in the past it has been on sectarian grounds. Sectarianism has now been seized upon by the Communists of Australia as a weapon in class war, as a means of dividing the people among themselves.’ On this matter, too, I and my colleagues would like to have the operations of the Communists exposed. I had occasion recently to refer to it in public. As honorable members know, I have never concealed my detestation of sectarian brawling in a country of this kind. But we know what is going on. Every trade unionist we meet can tell us the story. We know that particularly in certain unions men are told, “ Look ! You must be a Communist, because if you are not a Communist, you must be on the side of the Pope”. We know that goes on. Why does it go on? - because the Roman Catholic Church has - and I say it as one who has been described as a “ black Presbyterian “ - waged a consistent and unrelenting warfare against the Communists in this country. I respect the Roman Catholic Church for it. To my mind it is a great pity that every branch of the Christian Church has not long since realized that there can be no truce between anti-Christian doctrine and the doctrine of Christianity. But these people, pursuing their devious course, try to persuade members of trade unions that if they are not careful the unions will be delivered over to people of another religious complexion, and that they therefore must join the Communists and fight the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. I do not mention this policy because I take any pleasure in it. I mention it in order to denounce it. The activities of these people are directed, notonly towards creating in the minds of employers and employees a feeling that their interests are irreconcilably hostile, but also towards creating in Australia a degree of religious warfare which the bitterer it becomes the less Christian it becomes. I want to have these things brought into the light of day.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has moved the adjournment of the House to discuss -
The need for the Government to institute a public inquiry into the objectives and activities of the Australian Communist party.
It is not necessary, but it may be advisable, for me to repeat that all my life I have rejected the philosophy of the Communist party, found its economics completely faulty and despised its activities. I still think a motion like this begs the question. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) departed from the strict adherence to the principle of civil liberty in this country, for which I have highly respected him for years. It would be preferable if the right honorable gentleman, since he has gone as far as he went this afternoon, went the full circle and joined the Australian Country party in its demand that the Communist party be banned in Australia. The motion asks for a public inquiry into the objectives and activities of the party, but what would be discovered? A royal commission which would be able to take evidence on oath and bring to light all things disclosed to it is not asked for. The proposal on which the motion is founded asks for “ a public inquiry into the objectives and activities of the Australian Communist party”. Every one knows the objectives of the Communists. The real Communists have never refused to disclose them. They desire a proletarian revolution and a left-wing dictatorship. They have never disguised the fact that the second objective, which ‘is primary in importance, can never be attained without a revolution. The objectives of the Communist party do not need definition by a public inquiry. They are well known. The activities of the Communists, too, are clear, in general terms if not in detail. Their purpose is an organization, small in numbers, but welded together by fanatical faith, whose loyalty is assured by stringent discipline. What more than that would a public inquiry reveal? Nothing,
I suggest. A public inquiry would not add anything to the knowledge we already have about the Communist party and its objectives and activities. That really brings us to the position that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) referred to: This Government has decided not to ban the Communist party in Australia as an illegal organization. According to his oft-repeated remarks, the Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Liberal party subscribe to that view. With the concurrence of the Liberal party, the Government has unequivocally declared that, in the present circumstances, the Communist party should not be banned. What work then lies ahead of the Government to counter the deeds and influence of the Communist party? It must act as the situation demands. The Attorney-General was neither rambling nor vague, but definite, in enunciating the Government’s policy. The work on the guided weapons testing range on which the Government has decided, in collaboration with Great Britain, shall go on with fixed and nudeviating determination to the end. That has been made clear by the Government through the Attorney-General several times. He has said that if anything be done in an attempt to prevent that work from being completed, the Government will do all things necessary against any person or organization that seeks to thwart it. The Government has fully answered the case stated by the honorable member for Fawkner.
It has been said that the Government ought to take certain action against the Communists. But what action it ought to take is often not defined. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) blew hot and cold. He said he was unpopular because of his stand against the Communists. I could give other reasons for his unpopularity, but this is not the appropriate time. The honorable gentleman then said, “ It is hard to decide what the Government should do “, and added, “ The Communists should not be allowed to associate with one another”. What would the honorable gentleman do - trail them day and night to ensure that they had no association with each other? Only by trailing each avowed Communist day and night and by the use of force, if necessary, could the avowed Communists be kept apart. To even suggest that that he done would be utterly foolish. At any rate, that course could be followed only with avowed Communists. Every one associated with the industrial movement for a few years knows that avowed Communists are not the only Communists, or even, perhaps, the major Communists. While the avowed Communists, the little fry, perhaps, in the Australian community are being pursued, a great many others, the unknown, are working behind the scenes. That there must be a great many other people in the Communist movement than have declared themselves is obvious from the influence and power that the party exerts, and the funds that it possesses. Those who operate behind the scenes would be completely immune to the measures suggested by the honorable member for Reid. The Communist party has not been banned in Australia. Liberal men - I do not confine that expression to members of the Liberal party of Australia - do not subscribe to banning any organization, notwithstanding the disturbed state of the world to-day. The history of politics and the human race shows that suppression of thought is never effective. The weapon of .suppression was tried against the first adherents of Christianity, but, instead of stifling Christianity, it gave the Christian movement tremendous stimulus and implanted in its adherents a greater strength of purpose and convictions. Perhaps that is one reason why Christianity is a living force in the world to-day. I reject the renunciation of reason in the hysterical cry, “We ought to ban the Communist party ! “ The proposal on which the motion is based is weak. I reject it. I do not agree that we ought to hold a public inquiry into the objectives and activities of the Communist party. The Government is taking the course that it should take. No government believing in democracy could fail to pursue the same course. Work on the testing range will go on. The business of the country, whether it be on defence or industrial progress, will go on. The Government does not believe in limiting the rights of individuals or people to a degree that is not necessary cr avoidable. An inquiry would be con cerned with, first, the avowed Communists, secondly, the near Communists, and thirdly, “ fellow travellers “. I invite honorable gentlemen on both sides of the House to ask themselves, “ Where will this heresy hunt end?” History shows that suppression is the weapon of dictators. The Government’s policy is the right policy.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The House is disappointed at the speech of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who is responsible for the Security Service and “ Intelligence “ in Australia. His speech gives little encouragement to those who believe that we have within our midst a menace that requires combating. The initial reason why a public inquiry should be held into the activities of the Communist party in Australia is the fact that in the last few days the Communists have exposed their hands and identified themselves with an effort to prevent the construction of the guided weapons testing range. We know that that work will go on, as the Government has said it will, despite the opposition of the Communists, but the salient fact is that, for the first time, the Communists have come into the open and shown that they are the agents of a foreign power. It has been known and stated for years that they are, of course, the agents of a foreign power. But for the first time they have unmistakably identified themselves with those opposed to the development of weapons that could be used only against one power. Every realist knows that if war breaks out again, and the signs are that that is not an impossibility, it will be between Russia, on the one hand, and the United States and its allies, on the other. That being known to the Communists, they have come into the light of day in an endeavour to serve their masters. In a specious speech, the AttorneyGeneral suggested that that is practically the only damage which the Communists could do to the national war effort in the event of another conflict occurring. That view is completely unrealistic. The delay in constructing the range for testing guided weapons in central Australia would be one of ;the lesser things which would affect the security and defence of Australia compared with tying up ships, calling strikes in foundries and munitions establishments, and the infiltration into the Public Service of spies who are undoubtedly in the employ of a foreign power.
– “ Schmidt der Spy “ told the honorable member that.
– The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) always interjects in favour of the Communists. I warn honorable members opposite that there can be only one party engaged in the fight against communism. On the one side there will be the Communists, and on the other side there .will be the people oi Australia, including members of the Labour party. If the Communists get control in Australia - and that is not beyond the bounds of possibility - the only person here who will not be liquidated is the Minister for Transport. Probably he will then be revealed in his true colours. Instead of being a “ fellow traveller “, he will have a No. 1 ticket all the .way to Moscow.
I direct the attention of the House to the circumstances in which the Government of Canada appointed a royal commission to inquire into the activities of Communists. The investigation was not launched because the Government had any knowledge of the activities of the spies. An employee of the Russian legation, named Gouzenko, was ordered to return to Russia. Gouzenko, who was 28 years of age, had been a lieutenant in the Red Army, and had been stationed in Canada for two or three years. While living in that dominion, he had come to value the free way of life. When he was ordered to return to Russia, he evidently felt that he would lose the freedom to which he had become accustomed. Therefore, he secured approximately 100 documents from the files in the Russian Embassy, all of which proved conclusively that the staff of the embassy was engaged in spying activities in Canada. First, he took these documents to various newspapers, and to certain persons. For 36 hours, no one would believe him, or become interested in the case. Finally, when Gouzenko was shadowed by mem bers of the Russian embassy and went in fear of his life, he approached the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As the result of his disclosures to the authorities, the Government appointed the .royal commission. The Attorney-General has courteously handed to me a copy of its report.
– In Canada, the Government had some reliable evidence on which to act.
– What happened in Canada was the result of an accident. The Communists’ announcement of their intention to place a ban on the construction of the testing range in central Australia, was an accident on their part. They are now busily engaged in beating a retreat. They are endeavouring to cover up their tracks. Some of them are declaring that they opposed the project because they feared that the lives of aborigines would be endangered by the tests. The Attorney-General himself pointed out in his speech that the reasons which the Communists offered for their attitude were specious, and that their real purpose was to serve the interests of a foreign power. What are the aims of the Communist party in Australia ? Do they propose to improve the lot of the working man and the ordinary citizen? Their aims are definitely to establish a small dictatorial group, the members of which will be empowered to control completely the lives of the rest of the community. The Communists are .striving to give effect to those objectives in a spirit of complete fanaticism. One of their aims is to destroy the present system of government. They have already succeeded in exercising control over this Government. Another aim is to promote strikes ostensibly for the purpose of obtaining for the working class higher wages, shorter hours of work and improved conditions. The truth is that their activities in fomenting industrial unrest worsens the conditions of the working class. Then they blame the plight of the working ,man upon the short-comings of the Government, and the capitalist system. That is their modus operandi, and it is -proving very successful in Australia.
– The working man could not possibly have worse conditions than those which obtain on the honorable member’s banana plantation.
– The Minister for Transport has never worked in his life. If he had used any portion of the £10,000 that he has received as a Minister during the four or five years, to provide employment for even one person, instead of “ socking “ it away in the bank, he would have done something useful. The whole philosophy of communism envisages the destruction of capitalism by war. How shall we, in Australia, meet the challenge if the Communists occupy the key positions in the Public Service? During the last few weeks, two female agents have been in Canberra enrolling public servants as members of the Federated Clerks Union. Although the Public Service Clerical Assiciation meets these needs, these agents have been attempting to recruit members in the Taxation Department, and probably in the Prime Minister’s Department. I am not suggesting that those who enrol as members of the Federated Clerks Union are Communists.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr, McEwen) negatived -
That the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) be granted an extension of time.
.- As I led the protests in this House against the construction of the testing range for guided weapons in central Australia I do not see how I can refrain from taking part in this debate. More than anything else, what has prompted me to speak is the remark that the protest against the work can now be seen in its true light. It is said that those who protested against this project are the dupes of the Communist party, and that the Communists are the agents of another power. All opinions must have free expression, and I know that I speak for many thousands of people in this country. The pamphlet which has been discussed in this debate was issued long after the protest against the construction of the range had been made. This protest emanated from people who did not know or care what opinions were held by Com munists. Tens of thousands of protests against the project have been received in Canberra, principally from church people, but also from others, .and they did not speak with any political motives. They did not regard this subject as a political matter. Last year, it was difficult to obtain even a small paragraph in the newspapers when protesting against, this proposed work. Now, the project is receiving widespread publicity. Great excitement prevails. Something has happened, and the Government and the Opposition alike have been provided with plenty of material to justify their support for the construction of the testing range. I knew that that was likely to happen. On the 7th March last, I saw for the first time the “ red “ pamphlet being circulated among honorable members in this chamber. As I watched the expressions on the faces of honorable members on both sides of the House as they read the pamphlet^ I knew that the time would come when those of us who hate this project, would have not only to fight against the range but also to protect ourselves against the lie that out protests were merely Communist propaganda. I have seen the pamphlet in the hands of honorable members. Some person took care to see that I received two copies of it. T have no idea what its contents are other than the references that I have heard to it in the House. But Communist papers and pamphlets on many subjects are so freely published that it is ridiculous to single out any particular one and say, “ Here is a sensational disclosure. Here is evidence that a foreign power is attempting to prevent the construction of the testing range”. The pamphlet itself is negligible. The large numbers of people who are protesting against the project are not negligible. The Communists may agree with this great body of public opinion, but they are only a fractional part of it. Because they have spoken against the project, members of the Government and the Opposition alike have grasped at the opportunity, as if it were a stink-bomb, in the hope of bringing public opinion into line in favour of the work.
Debate interrupted under StandingOrder 257b.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1947. Customs Tariff (Southern Rhodesian Preference) Validation Bill 1947. Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1947.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Chifley) read a first time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:’ Consideration resumed from the 27th March (vide page 1270), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That a tax be imposed upon incomes at the following rates : - * . . [vide* page 1267).
– I move -
That paragraph 1 be postponed, as an instruction to the Government - to redraft the resolution to provide for the retrospective application of. the new rates to the 1st January, 1947.
I have submitted this motion because the buoyancy of revenue, as the result of the under-estimation of collections pf revenue and the over-estimation of expenditure, as is revealed by the condition of Commonwealth - finances at the conclusion of the first ten months of this financial year, is such that the loss of revenue involved by applying the proposed new rates from the 1st January last, will not be great.
It should be recognized that the Government is only the collector of revenues from the Australian community. It does not engage in any productive activities; it simply levies taxes and exexpends the revenue to carry on its functions. The buoyancy of the revenue must be attributed to the consumers and taxpayers of Australia. Some days ago I said in the House, when addressing myself to the financial statement, that the Treasurer’s predictions when he submitted his budget last year were hopelessly astray in regard to both revenue and expenditure. A statement of receipts and expenditure which has just been issued for the first ten months of this financial year which ended on the 30th April, indicates that with only two more months of the financial year to go, the budget estimate of customs revenue has approached within £136,000 of the total estimate of £37,000,000 for the full twelve months. As collections last month were more than £4,000,000, it can be seen that there will be a surplus of many millions of pounds from this source alone, well before the end of the financial year. Sales tax was estimated to yield £31,000,000 for the full year, but that total has already been exceeded by more than £250,000, and there are still two months to go. “With monthly collections at their present level it is probable that this item will show a surplus over the budget estimate of about £5,000,000 by the time the end of the financial year is reached. Gift duty is another item which is well above the estimated yield for the year. It was expected by the Treasurer that gift duty would provide £300,000 for the full year, but collections have already reached £449,000. The total will be well over £500,000 at the end of the financial year if the present rate of collection is maintained. On the expenditure side the deficiency which the Treasurer expected to have to finance by means of loans was about £59,000,000. With ten months of the financial year passed, loan fund expenditure has totalled not quite £9,500,000 for defence and post-war charges, or almost £50,000,000 less than the Treasurer anticipated. Advances to the States for building, also payable out of the loan funds, were anticipated to be in the vicinity of £12,500,000 for the full financial year. However, for the first ten months of the year they have not quite reached £9,000,000. From the rate of expenditure at present it would appear that, the estimate will not be reached by the end of June. Buoyancy in the cash position is indicated by a consideration of the figures in relation to the unfunded debt. Treasury bills amounting to £5,000,000 were redeemed last month, making a total redemption for the year, so far, of £70,000,000.
All the factors that I have mentioned indicate that the Treasurer could have given tax relief at the scales now proposed from at least the beginning of this calendar year, and still maintain consistency with the assessment of the Commissioner of Taxation of the cost to the budget for the full financial year. To have done so would cost about £’ 000,000 only. The Commissioner of Taxation has informed me that the cost of the proposals now before Parliament would be £34,000,000 for a full financial year. Consequently I am well within the figures when I say that the giving of these concessions from the 1st January to the 30th June would involve only about £15,000,000. I am well aware that the Treasurer will probably say that many complications would arise if the proposed tax relief were to be made introspective to the 1st January last, but that argument would not carry weight with me. 1 recollect, and remind the right, honorable gentleman, that the tax reductions provided in the 1946-47 financial year, which were claimed by the Government to amount to 12-J per cent., had application only from the 1st January, and so applied for only six months. The reductions, therefore, were equivalent to only 6£ per cent, for the full financial year. .1 do not agree that making retrospective to the let January last the reductions now proposed to operate only from the 1st July next would cause undue complications. On official figures, the buoyancy of government finance is such that the Treasurer should grant the concessions not from the 1st July next, but from the 1st January last. The buoyancy of government finance has, of course, been reflected in the unfavorable household budgets of taxpayers who have had to bear unnecessarily heavy indirect and direct imposts. The state of government funds makes my case irresistible on all reasonable grounds. The report of the Auditor-General has demonstrated, again and again, that the administration of the Government on the expenditure side has been extravagant and inefficient. So I submit that, from whatever angle the searchlight of criticism be thrown upon the financial capacity of this nation, it will be clearly shown that relief from taxation to an amount of at least £15,000,000 over and above that proposed by the Government could easily be granted. The Australian economy is such that tax reductions could have been applied at a much earlier date than that proposed by the Treasurer. The acceptance of my amendment would enable the Government to counter some of the damage already caused by its lack of imagination in estimating the receipts and expenditure for the current financial year.
– It is needless for me to say that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) does not expect me to accept his amendment, and, of course, I shall not do so. The Government has taken into consideration all the arguments which he has advanced. I do not base my objection to the amendment on the ground that to grant relief for only six months of the financial year would cause complications, for the Government has already adopted that procedure in relation to this financial year. My main reason for rejecting the amendment is to ensure that our finances shall be kept in a sound state, and that this has been so will be revealed clearly when the budget is brought down.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Riordan do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 27th March (vide page 1271) on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That, in lieu of the basic rate of contribution and the concessional rate of contribution set out in paragraphs (1.) and (2.) of the First Schedule to the Social Services Contribution Act 1945-1946, the following rates apply: - . . . (vide page 1270).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Riordan do pre- pare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 27th March (vide page 1266), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Gift Duty Assessment Bill contains certain amendments of the principal act. The first of these amendments is one which, for the variety of reasons stated by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), increases the exemption from £500 to £2,000. The second amendment is really consequential upon that, because it provides that returns are to be made where the sum is £1,500 instead of £250. I agree that that is a proper consequential amendment. The third proposal is that section 16 of the principal act shall be repealed. That is the section which deals with a disposition of property by a person to a person connected with him by ties of blood or marriage, and applies in particular where moneys are left unpaid and are secured in some fashion. The Treasurer has offered reasons in support of the repeal of that provision. The fourth amendment is that by which section 15 of the principal act is repealed, not in order that it may cease to be a part of the law but because it is proposed that it shall be embodied in another act.
The only comment that I desire to make, because it would be of no use merely to repeat the observations of the Treasurer, is that one problem seems to be left inadequately covered by. the amendment. That is the problem which arises where a parent establishes a son who is an ex-serviceman, on the land, for example. That does not exhaust the possi bilities. If we take that case, I suggest to the Treasurer that particular consideration should be given to the matter, because it may eventuate that, far from increasing the burden, or reducing the revenue, of the Crown, as the case may be, encouragement of generous treatment of a son, in establishing him, after service, in the forces on the land, in some business, as the case may be, will itself tend to lighten the burden that is placed on the Crown. Consequently, perhaps we ought to be giving greater encouragement in that respect than is given in the present state of the law.
There is another aspect of the matter. I know that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has in mind an amendment, with the principle of which, I say here and now, I entirely agree. Apart from these comments,I have no objection to offer to the passage of the bill.
– I am pleased that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has seen fit to bring down these amendments of the Gift Duty Assessment Act. We know very well that when gift duty legislation was first introduced, the primary object was to prevent evasion of tax, and the secondary object was to obtain revenue that was desired for war purposes. It was one of many sources which had to be tapped in order to obtain the wherewithal to wage successfully and pay for the war. The gift duty produced £300,000 last year, and was estimated to produce £393,000 this year. Up to the 30th April last, £449,000 had been raised, and the receipts for the full year will doubtless exceed £500,000. Consequently, the amendment that I intend to submit, even if viewed in cold blood, would not cause an undue strain to be placed upon our gift duty resources. I repeat, with emphasis, that the estimate of receipts from gift duty will be greatly exceeded. The excess has no doubt been contributed to by a method of rehabilitation that has been followed by parents who desired to settle their sons, and indeed their daughters, in businesses of various kinds after the war. This has relieved the Government of a good deal of responsibility, and considerable expenditure. In addition, the sons and daughters of those parents have been placed in productive work, which will increase the receipts from taxation. I shall place before the Treasurer particulars of a typical case in a country town in Queensland. My correspondent, who is an ex-serviceman of World War I., has summed up the position generally, and has lent weight to the desirability of the amendment that I propose to submit. This is his letter to me -
I have transferred to my son, who was a prisoner of war in Japan, a half interest in my business. Under Queensland law, any returned soldier is exempt from gift duty to an amount of f 2,000 if the gift is for his rehabilitation. Under the Federal Act, I had to pay 3 per cent, gift duty. My son has not availed himself of Federal Government assistance, as many others have done. If I had delayed this gift until the amended act came into force. I would not have had to pay gift duty at all. I presume that my case is by no means an isolated one. Could not this act have been made retrospective as far as returned soldiers arc concerned? If parents are prepared to rehabilitate their own returned soldier sons, surely some consideration should he given them by the Commonwealth Government. Large numbers are receiving over £3 per week for a period of years from the Federal Government for their rehabilitation. The unfortunate parent who is prepared to rehabilitate his own son has to pay Federal gift duty for his generosity.
That letter adequately expresses the sentiments and the experience of very many parents in Australia. I now give notice that, in committee, I shall move for the insertion of this new clause designed to exempt -
Gifts the value of which do not exceed £2,000, made in good faith by the donor since the 20th October, 1941, to a member of the forces as defined by the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945, for his or her rehabilitation and/or re-establishment in civil life in Australia. Any gift duty paid in respect thereof since the abovementioned date shall be refunded.
That is quite a. reasonable request in all the circumstances, and with particular reference to the fact that the men who have made gifts have undertaken a national service which, by reason of its effect, has relieved the Commonwealth) Treasury of responsibility for rehabilitation. The most desirable form of rehabilitation is the establishment by parents of their sons in their former avocations and in any other businesses. The proposal has all the merits that could be desired morally, economically ami nationally.
.- I support strongly the suggestions of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). It is well known that there is a good deal of disappointment in the minds of some people, particularly in the country, owing to the inability of ex-servicemen to purchase single unit farms under the reestablishment scheme. Under an early regulation, it was provided that land could not be purchased by an ex-serviceman in an area that was not sufficiently large for the settlement of two, three or more farmers. In other words, the Government subscribed to the principle of group settlement. It was represented to the Government that many desirable farms were available, each of which was capable of supporting an ex-serviceman. I understand that latterly the Commonwealth Government has approved the purchase by the States of such small farms, but still insists that every ex-serviceman who makes application for one has to take his chance of having one allotted to him. .1 believe that numerous fathers are very anxious to have their sons settled in areas with which they are acquainted, on country to which they were accustomed before their enlistment, because they would then have handy to them the advice of parents, friends or neighbours, and would thus have a very much greater chance of succeeding than perhaps they would have if sent to districts with which. they were unacquainted and in which they would have to learn new methods of farming. This would give a considerable incentive to farmers to make over property to their sons. I admit that the proposal of the Government is to extend the amount of the gift that can be made. Nevertheless, in relation to the establishment of exservicemen not only on the land but also in businesses and other occupations, an exemption might be made of the amount which may be given by parents or, indeed, any relative who felt so disposed. It could be confined to parents if that were considered desirable. I believe that that .would encourage parents to make gifts, and, I am sure, would do a real service to the men themselves. It would also assist, very substantially the Government’s re-establishment plan. I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to consider this aspect of the matter. I doubt very much whether the aggregate cost to the Treasury would be great. 1 1 would be an indication of the Government’s desire to have the men settled successfully and as early as possible,
.- I doubt very much whether those honorable members who have spoken have realized everything that the measure contains. Lt appears to me to furnish further evidence of the Taxation Department having become lost in a jungle of its own creation. If the purpose of the bill be to raise, revenue, and I presume that it is because it is a taxing instrument, it is a classic example of the Taxation Department having defeated its own ends. The proposal is to raise the exemption from £500 to £2,000. For what reason? ls it an admission that inflation is already here? If we admit that the price of homes has risen from £250 to £1,500, then we are admitting that inflation is with us already. Honorable members may talk of ex-servicemen and their farms; but this provision will apply mostly to homes, and the exemption has been raised from £250 to £1,500. Perhaps consideration was given to the fact that, as the wagepegging regulations have been relaxed, all prices must go up.
This is an amendment of the income tax law, but the people are more concerned with the way in which the department administers the act,, than with the actual contents of the act itself. The provision which it is now proposed to amend was introduced early in the war. If the purpose of the act is to raise revenue, then it is not enough. During the operation of the National Security Act, it was provided under section 102a of the Income Tax Act, that where gifts were made by a husband to a wife so as to increase the wife’s income to more than £200 a year, all income in excess of that amount should be treated as the income of the husband for purposes of taxation. That provision is now no longer in force, and the department has only the old act to fall back upon. This provided for the payment of 3 per cent, gift duty on gifts exceeding a certain amount. The amount used to be £250, and it is now proposed to increase it to £1,500. This provision will work tothe advantage of the wealthy taxpayer. He can transfer part of his incomeearning assets to his wife, and pay only 3 per cent, gift duty on them, instead of anything up to 15s. in the £1. In a single year a wealthy taxpayer could save more in income tax than he would pay in gift, duty, and in subsequent years he could make even greater savings.
The revenue that will be raised under this provision is negligible. I have in my possession a letter from the Acting Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South “Wales, Mr. H. C. Higgins, dated the 28th January, 1947, and addressed to a widow. The letter sets out the provisions of the act, and then proceeds to ask the woman who supplied her with the amount of £1,000 for the purchase of her home. The letter continues -
It is pointed out that if any part of the purchase money was provided by any other person a gift to you of that amount is indicated.
The writer of the letter then asked her who provided the purchase money for the property, and whether a mortgage had been given. The woman’s husband had left her a house when he died. Then, probably, because she did not require such a large house, she sold it, and from the proceeds she was buying the house that was the subject of the inquiry by the Acting Deputy Commissioner. It was quite an innocent transaction, but when she received the letter from the Taxation Department it almost appeared as if she was guilty of some wrong-doing. I say that the sending of such a letter in those circumstances was callous, and the phrasing of the letter was almost insulting. The part of the letter which I have quoted was not part of the ordinary, standard departmental inquiry. It was typed in. separately. As everybody knows, a verdict has already been given against a taxation official . for the unjustifiable publication of information obtained by the Taxation Department. Why, then, should the department be given a licence to pry into the private lives of people? Why should it be permitted to assume things that may exist only in the imagination of the official who is making the inquiry? Apparently, the Taxation Department starts off with the assumption that no woman has a right to purchase any property - that no woman has a right to purchase a home in her own name, and so it begins looking for something wrong. En the process it affronts the feelings of people who have given no reason at all to justify such an inquiry. I have quoted that part of the letter which had been typed in. “We now come to the standard departmental letter sent out in such cases. I draw the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to this significant paragraph, because he may not be aware of the pin-pricks administered by his officials. This is the standard communication which the department sends out -
You are advised that money saved by the wife from her housekeeping allowance is deemed to be the property of her husband. Consequently, any money provided by the wife from savings other than from her own personal exertion or separate estate are not to be considered to be contributions by the wife.
Let us consider what this means. The wife saves up for years to assist in paying for the home to which both husband and wife are looking forward. The husband has already paid income tax on the money. It may be that the wife, during the war, has gone out to work, and has earned a certain amount of money on which she has paid income tax. The point is that the wife has saved money instead of wasting it. Then, when the day comes for the husband and wife to sign up for their new home, the home they have dreamt of, the home which has been paid for from their careful savings, they decide that it will be held in their joint names. However, before the wife can claim her share in the home in return for the money she has saved, the husband, according to the law, has to make a gift to her of her own money and, if necessary, pay gift duty on it. It is not merely the matter of taxation that is so obnoxious. It is the method by which the taxation officials go about their inquiries into such transactions.
Many people are prepared to pay lipservice to the four freedoms, but if every innocent person involved in some transaction of this kind is to be regarded as a violator of the law, there is no freedom left. What incentive is there to save?
If, during the war, a wife saved money in accordance with the Government’s repeated appeals, and put it into war bonds, the Taxation Department tells her that the money doe3 not belong to her. If she had used the money to back horses and had won, her winnings would be regarded as her own, and would be exempted from taxation. The presumption behind the attitude of the Taxation Department is that no married woman is entitled to anything more than her mere board and lodging. She is not entitled to save money. Her savings bank account does not belong to her, according to the department, but belongs to her husband. This bill perpetuates that principle, the only difference being that the exemption is raised to £1,500. The bill creates anomalies in all directions. Take lottery winnings, for example. Such winnings are exempt from taxation, but if a man wins money in a lottery, and decides to share it with his wife, he has to pay gift duty on her share. If he uses the money to build a home in their joint names, ho must pay gift duty on his wife’s share. The amount of money raised under this provision in 1944-45 was only £329,000. That was when the exemption stood at £250. I have not heard what the estimated return is under the provision as proposed to be amended.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I am more than surprised to think that a measure of such importance as this should be dismissed without comment by other honorable members. I do not feel like apologizing for interrupting the serenity of honorable members on a matter such as this. I have pointed out that under this measure it will be possible to take away from a wife her rights in her home and the savings of her household. I mentioned the awful case of a widow who sold her home and bought another one, only to be asked by the taxation authorities where she got the money to purchase the property. That is a terrible thing, yet it is happening under this legislation. If no other honorable member will stand in his place and tell these things, it is my duty, as I know it, to do so. I gave full particulars of this case and it is for the Treasurer to inquire as to the accuracy of the statement I have placed before him. He will find that what 1 have said is true. Having checked the facts, it is for the right honorable gentleman to bring about the necessary rectification. 1 also pointed out that this measure is designed to give to the very wealthy people a privilege to which they are not entitled. If a wealthy person dispossesses himself of his assets worth thousands of pounds and makes a gift of them to his wife, the revenue derived by the Government in respect of that gift amounts to only £3 per cent.; but such a man evades tax, not of £3 on every £100, but, maybe, of up to 15s. in every £1. That is not right and proper, and it is not good legislation which permits that to be done. I also pointed out that if a man happens to win a lottery, whether it be the Queensland or New South “Wales lottery, Tattersalls consultation or a lottery conducted outside Australia, and, seeking to make security for himself, his wife and family, buys a home with his winnings, puts it in the joint names of himself and his wife, he is penalized under this measure. Prizes won in the New South “Wales lottery are free from tax, but the moment a prize-winner disposes of his winnings by investing them in a home, and puts it in his wife’s name, as well as his own, he becomes liable for the payment of gift duty. I also draw the attention of the House to the fact that, according to the latest figures available to me, the amount of money raised under this legislation last financial year’ amounted to only £329,000. That was when the exemption was £250. It will be much less under the bill now before us. The Treasurer knows that it is not worth while imposing a duty which will return a revenue of only £329,000 if it is an irritant. My reading of the measure indicates that the exemption will, in future, be £1,500. During his secondreading speech the Treasurer said that the exemption would be £2,000.
– That is what I said.
– I do not cavil about it. The amount of the exemption is neither here nor there; it does not affect my argument whether it be £1,500, £1,750 or £2,000. “Whatever it is, it is obvious that the revenue will, in future, be even mors inconsequential than it has been in the past. If that be so, can this measure be justified? Is it worth while taxing the people for such a small :amount if the tax is an irritant? As the legislation makefile worth-while contribution to the revenue of the Commonwealth, it .should be abolished. In case some official says to the Treasurer,” “We know there is little in. it; we know that it is an irritant; but it. does catch the tax-dodger “, I remind the House that, far from catching the taxdodger, it helps the very wealthy taxpayer ultimately to dodge the payment of taxes. In fact it offers the very wealthiest taxpayers a. perfectly legitimate method of dodging taxation at the highest level if he so desires. I can appreciate why honorable members opposite, including the Leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Eadden), would not draw attention to this sort of thing.
– All the wealthy men are on the Government side, are they not?
– Not at all. This measure was treated with scant courtesy; it was given little consideration ; it was just presented and treated like a piece of paper, as though it were of no consequence. I hope I may be pardoned for having drawn attention to the fact that it is not a mere piece of paper. We should be informed of the cost of collecting this duty. If the officials had appropriately briefed the Treasurer on the bill they would have placed before him figures relating to the cost of collection of the duty. It needs no science, no cleverness, no accountant, to prove that, if the cost of collection is greater than the money collected, this legislation is doing an injustice, not only to the wives and widows I have mentioned) but also to the Commonwealth of Australia. Perhaps the most practical approach would be to abolish the legislation altogether. If it is a question of revenue - and I do not think it is - the revenue would be much .better obtained by a properly graduated income tax that would ensure raising the money from the people who have the largest incomes, and are best able to pay taxes. I’ ask the Treasurer to examine what I have said, not in any party spirit, and, if the collection of the tax costs more than it brings in, to wipe it out. I should like him to supply the figures to show whether my remarks are true or not.
– The only matter on which I desire to address the House is that raised by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride). The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has so many things to think about that he may have forgotten correspondence between us. about landholders in my district who desire to transfer property to ex-servicemen who are their sons, other relatives or close friends, who could almost be regarded as members of the family. The exemption from gift .duty that is proposed in this bill will not be sufficient to cover those transfers. I submit to the right honorable gentleman that from the Government’s own selfish point of view it would be better to forgo the gift duty and allow men to establish on the land ex-service sons, relatives and friends rather than that they should he established on the land by land settlement boards with most of the cost falling on the Commonwealth Government. For that reason, I am prepared to support any amendment that the honorable member for Wakefield may move in committee to provide that land worth up to £5,000 transferred to approved ex-servicemen shall be exempt from gift duty, r would not lay it down that the exemption be automatic, because I agree that the Treasury has the perfect right to protect the revenue, but there ought to be power in the hands of the Treasurer to forgo gift duty when the recipient of the gift is an ex-serviceman. I cannot imagine any better method of land settlement of ex-servicemen than the transfer to them of land held by their families. What we want in this community is a tradition of land-holding within a family, under which it becomes almost a family disgrace for land to go. outside the family. I know that that may appear to some of my friends opposite as too conservative, but, by whatever name they dub it, pride of ownership of land that bas passed from generation to generation is one of the bases on which solid land-holding stands in the older countries of the world, and the sooner we incorporate it in our community life, the better it will be for Australian agriculture. I will not labour the point, which is perfectly plain. I will support any move, by the honorable member for Wakefield or any other honorable member, to broaden the scope of this measure in the interests of men who desire to give a property to relatives or friends to help them without cost to the Commonwealth.
– in reply - The amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) cannot b<; accepted. He proposes exemption from gift duty of gifts, the value of which does not exceed £2,000, mad*.’ in good faith by the donor since the 29th October, 1941, to a member of the forces, as defined by the Re-establishmen i and Employment Act 1945 for his rehabilitation and/or re-establishment in civil life in Australia. He also proposes the refund of any gift duty paid in respect of such gifts since that date. If that were given effect all sorts of claims would be lodged, and it would be impossible to determine whether the gift ‘ on which the refund of gift duty was claimed had. been made for the purposes referred to in the right honorable gentleman’s proposed amendment. Doubtless the same matter would be raised in respect of the Estate Duty Assessment Bill.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked why the Taxation Department should pry into the private affairs of people in the community. I hope I did not hear him correctly.
– I did say that.
– It” is a most extra- . ordinary statement, lt would have the hearty approval of all tax-evaders and racketeers in Australia. Tax collectors have not been popular since the day; of the Roman Empire. If the Taxation Department took every one’s word, 3 think we might as well abolish it, for the number of honest people would diminish progressively as people found other people profiting by dishonesty. .1 hope that the honorable gentleman did not mean it in that sense.
– I did not.
– I do not think the honorable member would claim that the Taxation Department is not entitled, when it doubts the bona fides of people who make returns, to ascertain for itself whether the returns are correct.
It is perfectly true that the gift duty does not in these days of hundreds of millions of pounds of revenue bring into the Treasury a great amount of money. It was found that the duty on gifts of £2,000 or less did not amount to much. That is why gifts of up to £2,000 will be exempted under this legislation. I believe, however, although some people will disagree, that the gift duty was introduced more as a. deterrent to taxpayers than for revenue purposes. I see no reason yet to depart from that view. The honorable member referred to a specific case, but did not state the name of the person concerned. If he supplies me with her name in confidence, I will take the matter up with the Taxation Department to see what can be done.
– That would be no good unless the Treasurer stopped the practice from continuing.
– I beg to differ. The person’s name will not be disclosed if it is supplied to me, and, in consultation with departmental officials, I will ascertain whether something has occurred that should be rectified.
– Will the practice be stopped ?
– We will certainly examine it. However I may differ politically from the honorable member for Reid, if I am satisfied that a citizen is being unjustly treated in comparison with others, I will repair the wrong.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
New clause 2a.
– I move-
That, after clause 2. the following new clause be inserted: - “ 2a. Section fourteen of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (c) the following paragraph: - (ca) gifts, the value of which does not exceed Two Thousand pounds, made in good faith by the donor since the 29th October, 1941, to a member of the Forces as defined by the Reestablishment and Employment Act 1945 for his rehabilitation and/or re-establishment in civil life in Aus tralia. Any gift duty paid in respect thereof since the abovementioned date shall be refunded; ‘ “.
The excuse of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) for his refusal to accept the amendment which I foreshadowed in my second-reading speech is specious. One reason advanced by him was that it would be difficult to ascertain now whether a gift that dated back to 1941 was bona fide .
– Not only now, but at any time.
– The Taxation Department has all the facilities to ascertain whether transactions affecting income tax are bona fide. Therefore, it is specious to say that it has not the facilities or the ability to discover the facts associated with a gift.
– Or the other aspects referred to in the amendment.
– I say that if a transaction is factual its bona fides are easily ascertainable. The bona fides of land transactions are ascertainable as are those of all transactions that come under the National Security Regulations. As for the retrospectivity of the proposed new clause to the 29th October, 1941, and the alleged difficulty of ascertaining the bona fides of gifts made back to that time, not many transactions would have been made then that would come within the scope of my proposal, because members of the forces were not being demobilized in such large numbers that parents would have had the opportunity of re-establishing sons or relatives. When one weighs the credits and the debits of my proposal, one must favour the credits. If only for the purpose of encouraging men to re-establish their own sons, gifts for that purpose should be encouraged. The economics of the proposal are good. The Government wouldbe relieved of the cost of re-establishing ex-servicemen reestablished by parents, relatives or other people who made donations to them for that purpose. It is poor consolation for a father who has given money to his son to enable him to settle on the land and engage in primary production, if he is required to pay duty on the gift. If I spoke till I was black in the face, the Treasurer, having made up his mind, would not budge. To move the Treasurer is like trying to push an elephant up a hill. But I will call for a division to test the sympathy of honorable members opposite in the matter of encouraging the re-establishment of exservicemen.
.- I support the amendment. The objection of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) seems to be to its retrospectivity and the difficulty of tracing gifts back over the years, but there is plenty of precedent for retrospectivity in governmental regulations, for instance, the deductions made from the deferred pay of Royal Australian Air Force flying instructors for four years. That was done by the Government. The men concerned won an action against the Government in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, but, on taking it to the High Court, the Government won the appeal on law, but not on justice. If the Government can commit such an injustice as this, it should give some benefits to exservicemen. People who make gifts to ex-servicemen for the purpose of settling them on the land or establishing them in business deserve every possible encouragement. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) referred specifically to the re-establishment of exservicemen in primary industries. I desire to refer to the father who decides toestablish his son in a small business. Let us consider briefly the difficulties that the young man encounters. First, he must face the competition of the large corporations, which are well organized and able to succeed, despite the severity of the taxation. In addition, he may be beset by industrial unrest. He is not able to obtain, a priority for the installation of a telephone. Because he was absent from Australia for several years on active service, he is not able now to purchase a motor vehicle. Even an ex-serviceman, whom the Repatriation Department proposes to establish as a. carrier, is unable to get, a motor vehicle. If he desires to become an importer, he discovers that he must have a basic quota, determined on his business in .1939; and because he was not. in business then, he is not now able to import goods. If he desires to become an exporter, he is confronted with a variety of difficulties. In many ways, he is severely handicapped. The Treasurer should accept the proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country party, because it will assist the re-establishment of exservicemen and help them to success.
.- I strongly support the proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I have had considerable experience lately of ex-servicemen who are settling on the land in Victoria under the provisions of the State legislation relating to single-unit farms. That legislation provides for a maximum loan of £6.000, and the ex-servicemen must provide at least 10 per cent, of it. Sometimes, the value of the land is £7,000 or £8,000, and an ex-serviceman might not be able to purchase one of these properties unless his father makes him a gift. Such gifts are now being made by fathers to their sons, so that they may take advantage of the State legislation. The State act is a good one. The proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country party, if adopted, will provide many exservicemen with an opportunity to take advantage of this ‘loan. Some fathers might not be anxious to make a gift to their sons if they are likely to be taxed on it. Those who have made these gifts would be assisted by the proposal if it were adopted.
As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) pointed out, many exservicemen desire to engage in small businesses. This matter should receive the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). All ex-servicemen, and those who are interested in their welfare, realize that this proposal, if adopted, will give practical b°l> to ex-servicemen who are attempting to re-establish themselves either on the land or in businesses. The Government should do everything possible to encourage people to make gifts to exservicemen, because such gifts will relieve the Commonwealth Government of certain expenditure that otherwise it would incur in helping them, and will enable exservicemen to secure a greater equity in their holdings. The Treasurer has been described as a man who never changes his mind. There is a first time for everything, and perhaps this will be the first time that he will see the light, and adopt the proposal of the Leader of the Austraiian Country party
Mr. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) S.34]. - Many ex-servicemen will be disappointed if the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) declines to accept the principle of this amendment. If he considers that the proposed amount of £2,000 is excessive, I urge him to accept a lower amount. From time to time, many honorable members have advocated the adoption of an amount of £2,000. The right honorable gentleman must know that donors of gifts to enable exservicemen to re-establish themselves on the land or in small businesses will be greatly encouraged if those amounts are. not subject to the gift duty. Unless a person has engaged in black-marketing, the money that he earned during the war has already been severely taxed why, then, should a gift that he makes to an ex-serviceman be subject to an additional tax? In the central western districts of New South Wales a land owner sought to assist exservicemen, and at the same time relieve the Commonwealth Government of the obligation to help them, by providing land for three of them. In my electorate, a citizen who was not able to serve Australia in the armed forces, divided a large estate among four ex-servicemen. Why should these donors be charged gift duty on the value of those holdings? By re-establishing these en the and they are . relieving the Commonwealth Government of certain expenditure to assist ex-servicemen. Hundreds of men desire to help their relatives, who are ex-servicemen, and they should be encouraged to do so. They are discouraged by the knowledge that the gifts which they would like to make will be taxed. The Treasurer should make a gesture to encourage these persons to re-establish ex-servicemen on the land and in small businesses. I hope that the Treasurer will ensure that the generosity of people who have made gifts to ex-servicemen in i he past, and were taxed on the amount of those gifts, shall now receive recognition. I urge him to reconsider his attitude towards the proposed new clause.
.- In supporting the amendment, I remind the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that Queensland already grants this exemption. The right honorable gentleman is an ardent advocate of uniform taxation. So far, his efforts have been rewarded, because he secured the introduction of a uniform income tax. The present proposal enables him to secure uniformity in regard to gift duties. After World War I. many ex-servicemen who settled on. the land, failed because they were too heavily in debt. The suggestion of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) might easily prove to be the means of enabling many ex-servicemen of World War II. to secure a foothold on farms or in small businesses, and make a real success of their ventures. Acceptance of this proposal will noi; result in » substantial loss of revenue, but might encourage people to be more generous in making gifts to their relatives, who are ex-servicemen, thereby enabling them to make a useful start in life. I beg the right honorable gentleman to give further consideration to this . matter. If he accedes to our request, it will redound to his credit, and ensure the success of many ex-servicemen.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [8.40 J. - I support the proposed new clause. 1’he Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) would confer a substantial benefit on many worthy and generous people if he agreed to make retrospective this concession in respect of gift duty. As the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and other honorable members have spoken eloquently in favour of this proposal, I shall direct my remarks to the fact that the Government appears to have somewhat of a dual principle in this matter. The Treasurer settles into the “ deep slumber of a decided opinion “, as J. S. Mill stated, and nothing on earth will shift him. However, I shall point out exactly what the Government’s practice is in relation to retrospective legislation. As long as the Government is able to collect money from taxpayers, it has no hesitation in making legislation retrospective. Last year, the Government passed the Wheat Industry Charge Bill, which imposed a tax retrospectively on the wheat crop of 1945-46. In that instance, the tax was made retrospective for nearly twelve months. The Government adopted the principle of “ take all you can from the taxpayer”. The other principle, which the Government adopts is that it will not surrender anything to the taxpayer by way of retrospective legislation. For that reason, the Treasurer has refused to adopt the proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country party that this legislation should be made retrospective to 1941. Because acceptance of the proposal would entail making refunds, the right honorable gentleman has remained obstinate. This legislation will not become operative before the 1st July next.I emphasize that fact. The Government should be consistent. If it introduces retrospective legislation for the purpose of taking money from the people, it should make legislation retrospective for the purpose of returning money to them. Ex-servicemen, who received gifts to assist them to settle on the land, or to re-establish themselves in small businesses, fought for Australia. As the result of receiving this generous assistance from various donors, Consolidated Re venue is relieved of some of the burden of re-establishing them. The Treasurer should encourage citizens to make gifts to ex-servicemen, and, in that way, give them a better deal in their new civil life.
– I indicated in my reply to the secondreading debate that the Government would not be able to adopt the proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). At the same time, I do not want honorable members to gain the impression that because a Minister says that he is not now prepared to accept an amendment, the matter is never reconsidered. In the. present instance, the Leader of the Australian Country party has suggested that the proposed new clause should be made retrospective for more than five years. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who supported it, knows that the Government would not introduce a bill to provide for the collection of money retrospectively for a similar period, unless the debt were legally due, and the Government had not a proper knowledge of it.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted Mr. Fadden’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment : report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 27th March (vide page 1271), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That, notwithstanding anything con tained in section four of the Gift Duty Act 1941 . . . (vide page 1271).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Holloway do prepare and bring in the bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 27th March (vide page 1267), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- As the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) stated in his second-reading speech on this bill, the measure is of a non-contentious character. The Opposition, therefore, does not desire to impede its passage in any way. [ take the opportunity, however, to refer to certain developments in relation to the assessment of estate duty which took place during the war and which, I believe, should be reviewed, in the light of our subsequent experience. I hope that the Treasurer will make such a review before he presents his next budget. Early in the war, when the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was Treasurer a substantial increase was made in estate duty. When the present Treasurer assumed office he caused an additional duty to be superimposed on the then existing rates. The result has been that the quantum of tax collected in respect of many estates in Australia has been virtually doubled. At the time these increases were authorized, we expressed some concern as to the effect of the high duties on estates which were in the nature of going business concerns or going concerns on the land. We considered that some difficulty might be experienced by executors in providing liquid resources to meet the high rates of duty that had been agreed to, and that further difficulties might develop later, which would call for a reconsideration by the Government of the policy which was being applied. The high rates imposed by the Australian Government have to be considered in conjunction with estate duty which is also payable to State governments. The high rates being imposed by both Commonwealth and State authorities brought the total sum payable in estate duty in Australia higher than the amount payable in Great Britain, in respect of comparable estates. We had formerly considered the British rates to be very high indeed. There was the danger, in our opinion, also that estates might become embarrassed so that, instead of being revenue-producing agents for the Commonwealth year after year, they might lose their capacity to provide such revenue. However, looking at a table supplied in the latest report of the Commissioner of Taxation, it would seem that the fears which we expressed have not been realized, because whereas in 1940-41 the number of estates involved in the payment of estate duty was just over8,000, and the total assessment a little more than £2,200,000, in 1944-45, the latest year for which figures are available, the number of estates involved in the payment of duty was 9,700 and the total amount payable something in excess of £3,300,000. The amount of duty paid had increased by only about £1,100,000 in respect of the additional 1,600 or 1,700 estates. One reason for this result was that parents saw the wisdom of passing on a considerable proportion of their assets to their children before they died. This was a healthy result, from the point of view of the community. So far as 1 am aware, therefore, the policy of imposing high estate duty has not bad the serious effect that some people feared it. would have. Nevertheless, I ask the Treasurer to examine the whole subject before he presents his next budget and to obtain some specific information from his departmental officers for submission to honorable members so that we shall be in a. position to decide whether any amendment of the principal act is necessary.
– I was not aware of the existence of any particular difficulty. I shall examine the point which the honorable member has raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Sections seventeen and eighteen of the Principal Act are repealed and the following section is inserted in their stead: - “ 17. - (1.) Tor the purpose of assessing the value for duty of the estate of a deceased person, there shall, subject to this section, be deducted from the gross value of the assessable estate -
Federal and State income taxes assessed in respect of income derived by him before the date of his death; and
– I move -
That in sub-section (1.), paragraph (c), after the word “ death “, the following words he inserted: - “and Federal income taxes assessed in respect of any amount which is included in the assessable income of the trust estate of the deceased person in accordance with the provisions of section one hundred and one a of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936- 1941, or of thai Act as amended at any time, and which is included in the estate for the purposes of this Act”.
The purpose of paragraph c of sub-section 1 of the proposed new section 17 is to allow a deduction in respect of income tax as assessed on income derived by a deceased person prior to his death, and at the same time to ensure that no deduction shall be allowed in respect of income tax as assessed on income derived by his estate subsequent to his death. There are, however, cases in which an executor of an estate may be liable to pay income tax on income earned by a deceased person during bis lifetime, but not received until after his death. The case of a professional man who compiles his income tax returns on the basis of fees actually received during the year is one in point. En such a case, the debts represented by fees uncollected at the time of his death would be included in the assets of his estate, on which estate duty would bo assessed, and when those fees were subsequently received by the executor they would be subject to income tax in the hands of the executor, in pursuance of section 101a of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The proposed new section provides, in effect, that the executor shall pay income tax on the fees as they are received. Under paragraph c of the subsection as drafted, no deduction on ac count of such income tax paid by the executor would be’ allowed. As, however, the uncollected fees at the date of death would have been earned by the deceased during his lifetime, and as they would form a part of his estate, on which estate duty would have been paid, it is considered that a deduction in respect of income tax assessed thereon should be allowed. The amendment that I have moved will ensure that that deduction will be allowed.
.- The Opposition has examined this amendment. I am sure that it will be welcomed by all professional men in the chamber, as well as by many others outside it. We commend it to the consideration of the committee.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee: Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Before section eighty-one a of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted in Part VII.:- “ 81aa. - (1.) For the purposes of this Act there shall be a. Bureau of Research and Statistics. “ (2.) The functions of the Bureau shall be-
Senate’s Amendment. No. 1. - Proposed new sub-section (.1.), leave out “a Bureau of Research and Statistics “, insert. “ an Office of Economic and Industrial Research “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The amendment relates merely to the name that is to be given to the Bureau of Research and Statistics which, by the decision of the House, was to be attached to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. There is, in fact, at the present time, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and other honorable members know, what is called a Bureau of Census and Statistics; it is attached to the Department of Labour and National Service. The object of the amende ment is to avoid confusion.
– Is there any reason why the other office should not have the conduct of this work?
– That will still be possible. The organization of the office is to be prescribed by regulation. The matter has not been finally determined. We do not want confusion to arise between the two bodies, nor do we want to duplicate their work or to have unnecessary expense. It was considered, especially by the Commonwealth Statistician, that it would be better to have this office or bureau called by the amended name.
.- Although I do not oppose the amendment at this point, I consider that the Government has brought the matter to a stage at which some clarification is required. Lt is proposed that there shall be established an office which will provide information on economic and industrial matters to the conciliation commissioners. The committee is asked to agree that that organization shall have a title which will distinguish it from a somewhat similar body that is now conducted by the Department of Labour and National Service. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has said that, as yet, the shape which the organization is to take is not quite clear, and that it is desired that confusion shall not arise. At the same time, the committee will not want any duplication to arise. If already, under the Department of Labour and National Service, a body is functioning which could devote itself to this kind of work, why should we agree to the setting up of another bureau, with an additional team of economists, clerks, typists and the like?
– The House and the Senate have already decided that matter. The amendment merely refers to the name that is to be adopted.
– Apparently, the Government has not yet made a decision, because the Attorney-General has stated that it is not clear whether there is to be one organization or two separate organizations. The committee is asked to give a very loose approval to an arrangement which has by no means been worked out.
I take the opportunity to ask the Attorney-General whether he proposes that we now have rather more time available to us than was the case when the bill was previously before us.
– Order ! The change of name is the only matter that, is before the committee. The establishment of the department having already been dealt with, the honorable member must confine his remarks to that matter.
– The Attorney-General might indicate whether he is prepared to give to us an opportunity to discuss various other amendments which we wanted to discuss but were not permitted to bring forward when the bill was originally before us.-
– The honorable member knows that that would not be permitted.
– It could be permitted, with the approval of the committee. 1 take it that the right honorable gentleman will not provide that opportunity.
.- Will the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) say whether this will mean the employment of a larger number of public servants? The strength of the Public Service to-day is greater than it was during the war years. If this means a further expansion of it for the purpose of compiling a few statistics, I am opposed to it.
– The honorable member is not entitled to discuss that, aspect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’s Amendment No. 2. - Proposed new sub-section (2.), leave out “Bureau”, insert “ Office “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment is purely consequential upon the amendment to which the committee has just agreed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 19th March (vide page849), on motion by Mr. Ward-
That the billbe now read a second time.
– In this bill, which was introduced by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), provision is made for the expenditure of about £6,000,000 - £4,500,000 on the construction and maintenance of roads £1,000,000 on the construction of roads in sparsely populated areas, £500,000 for strategic and access roads to Commonwealth property, and £100,000 for the promotion of road safety principles and practices. At first glance, it would appear that a substantial sum is being made available by the Commonwealth to the States for the construction and maintenance of roads, but when one examines the matter and compares the proposed expenditure with the amount that is derived from the petrol tax, one is forced to the conclusion that the Government has been particularly parsimonious. The Minister, when submitting the bill to the House, made some play on the fact that £6,000,000 per annum is to be expended upon road works, and compared that with an average expenditure of £3,800,000 in the three years immediately preceding the war, and an average of £2,500,000 per annum in the ten year period 1930-40. Honorable members must have noticed that the honorable gentleman carefully avoided making any reference to the year 1945-46, during which approximately £3,000,000 was expended for this purpose. Yet in the same period the Commonwealth collected in excess of £12,000,000 from the petrol tax. Actually, only about 27 per cent. of the money received by the Government was used for the purposes for which it was collected. In considering this measure, we should have regard to the reason for the introduction of the original legislation. I remind honorable members that some of the States had sought to impose a petrol tax. It was urged in certain quarters that, under the Constitution, the States had not the power to do that, and it was suggested that the Commonwealth, which had the power, should collect the tax on behalf of the States and that the money should be made available to the States for those purposes.’ In the early years of the Federal Aid Roads Grant the whole of the money collected by means of the petrol tax was expended for the purpose for which it was collected. Later, in the years of the depression, an additional impost of 4d. a gallon was placed on petrol, and the proceeds were used to assist in balancing the Commonwealth budget. At a still later date, during the war years, a further3½d. was imposed, raising the total to11½d. a gallon. A study of the figures makes one thing apparent. There should be either a substantial reduction of the petrol tax or a substantial increase of the amount which is made available to the States.
– For road purposes.
– That is so. There has been profound disappointment among local-governing bodies because none of this money is to be made available direct to them. It is to be expended by the States through the agency of Country Roads Boards, with the approval of the Minister for Transport. When the matter came before the Parliament in 1926 the provision was made that the money should he expended under the direction of the Minister, but after a trial of three or four years that was discovered to be a most cumbersome and unsatisfactory method. Some of the States had roads boards which had been set up for the specific purpose of providing good arterial roads. The members of those bodies were experienced in the work that they had to do, and it was found that the money could be expended to very much greater advantage under State than under Commonwealth administration. The Country Roads Boards, in turn, relied largely upon country municipalities and their engineers to ensure that the money would be expended in the most economical and expedient fashion. Most local-governing bodies have experienced engineers and excellent staffs, and in Victoria and New South Wales their work has been carried on during the last twenty years in a very satisfactory manner. To-day, they are concerned because they believe that, superimposed on State and municipal governments, will be a federal body which will make for delay and added expense. I believe that their fears are not altogether groundless. From the revenue which the Treasurer derives from the petrol tax a substantial amount should have been made available to localgoverning bodies, in addition to what is granted to State governments. The proceeds of the petrol tax are allocated on the basis of two-fifths according to population, and three-fifths according to area. This system works out satisfactorily for most States, but not for Victoria, which contributes 30 per cent, of the revenue, and receives only 18 per cent, in return. This is just another example of how uniform taxation has worked out.
It is estimated that, for this year, the petrol tax will yield about £15,000,000, and the Minister has told us that, when the consumption of petrol increases, more money will be expended on the construction and maintenance of roads. That is true, but I remind him that the Commonwealth Treasury will also receive more revenue. It will actually benefit more than any of the States. I do not quarrel with the proposal to expend £1,000,000 for the purpose of opening up good land which is sparsely populated. Had it not been for the expenditure of money under the Federal Aid Roads scheme, there would still be no road access to fertile land in many parts of Victoria. In some places, transport facilities were so bad that settlers had to take their produce out on sledges, because it was impossible to use wheeled vehicles. I have in mind an area in the Beech Forest where, during the war, tremendous quantities of potatoes, which were then badly needed, were produced. This area acquired a reputation for seed potatoes which are now in demand in various parts of Australia. Thirty years ago, there was not one mile of metalled road in the whole district. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Country Roads Board, combined with the State and Federal authorities, there is a network of splendid roads which enable the settlers, after many years of difficult pioneering work, to reap the reward of their labours. It is not too late to consider expending a greater pro- portion of the money received from the petrol tax for the purpose for which it was originally collected, namely, the construction and maintenance of roads. The petrol tax is a money-spinner for the Government. Even under the scheme as outlined by the Minister, the road constructing authorities will receive only about 40 per cent, of that tax, while 60 per cent, will go into the Commonwealth Treasury. That is unfair to the people, because motoring has ceased to be a luxury. In country districts a motor car is as necessary as a harvester. It is part of the equipment of every farm which claims to be up-to-date, and it is a sore point with farmers that they contribute so much in petrol tax, and get so little in return. The landed cost of the petrol in the capital cities of to-day is ls. 4£d., to which tax is added. In other words, the petrol tax amounts to 62 per cent, on an article which is used by poor and rich alike in carrying on trade and industry, and in farming operations. Scant justice has been done to the State governments, and less than justice to local-governing bodies, which have been shut out altogether from any share of this huge revenue which is collected each year from petrol-users, lu New South Wales there are 126,000 miles of road, but only 26,000 miles benefit under the Federal Aid Roads scheme. Local-governing bodies are responsible for the other 100,000 miles of road.
The Commonwealth Government owes a great deal to local-governing bodies for the splendid work which they did during the war and, in view of that, it is hard to understand the attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards them. When there was fear of invasion, the local-governing bodies were made responsible for evacuation arrangements. They were also expected to distribute petrol and tyres, and to attend to the dozen and one other things which would be necessary, besides doing their ordinary work. In addition, a tremendous quantity of equipment was commandeered from localgoverning bodies for the purpose of making roads of strategic value. It is not yet too late for the Government to show its appreciation of all this in a tangible form by granting to localgoverning bodies some of the revenue raised by the petrol tax. The Government may be sure that real value will be obtained for any money so granted.
Local-governing bodies cannot increase their revenue without increasing rates, because property values have been pegged at the 1942 level. They hesitate to increase the rates, which, it is believed, are already so high as to be a heavy burden upon property-owners. I take this opportunity to pay a sincere tribute to the local-governing bodies of Australia. I have been associated with them for over 30 years. I have also had some experience in a State parliament and in this Parliament, and I say that localgoverning bodies do their work more expeditiously and economically, and with less red tape, than do either State or Commonwealth parliaments. In Victoria, only one-ninth of the roads will benefit from the Commonwealth Aid Roads scheme, while the other eight-ninths will remain the responsibilities of localgoverning bodies. Now, with the increased cost of labour and materials, it is practically, impossible for them to meet their commitments and to maintain the roads. During the recent railway strike in Victoria, had it not been for motor transport, Melbourne would have been on the verge of a famine. Running on the roads to-day are trucks carrying 10, 15 and 20 tons, but the roads were never intended to carry such weights. The average municipality cannot raise enough revenue from its ratepayers to maintain roads under such traffic. Thus, the roads have become a national responsibility, and the ideal way in which to raise revenue with which to maintain them is by a petrol tax. Naturally, when the people find, that the money so raised is not being used for the maintenance of the roads, they are loud in their complaints. If the Treasurer is determined to maintain the petrol tax at its present level - and our experience during the last few weeks indicates that this is so - there is still an opportunity for him. to do the fair thing by making available to localgoverning bodies the revenue represented by 3d. out of the tax on each gallon of petrol, so that they may maintain the roads which do not come under the Federal Aid Roads scheme.
.- I commend the honorable member for
Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) on the speech that he has just delivered. It is the first that I have heard him make since I have been in the Parliament. It was a very good speech, and had been carefully prepared. I also commend those who helped to keep essential supplies moving during the recent industrial troubles in New South Wales and Victoria. Without their aid, the people of those two States would have suffered much more severely during the strike. They set a remarkable example of courage and perseverance, working long hours without sleep, and it is fitting that we should recognize the value of their work. The great loads carried by the lorries must have played havoc with the roads. Most of the haulage, however, was on main roads, which do not come within certain provisions of this bill. It is well for us to understand fully the history of the Federal Aid Roads scheme. It was originated in 1926 and, accordingly, has been in operation for 21 years. The scheme was originally financed by a levy of 3d. a gallon on all petrol consumed within Australia, which yielded approximately £4,500,000, the total varying from year to year according to the consumption of petrol. The proceeds of the tax were allocated to the States for road purposes. Subsequently, during the depression an additional tax of 4d. a gallon was added to help the country meet that great, economic and financial crisis. As far as I am aware, none of the proceeds of that, additional tax was used for road construction and maintenance. At the commencement of World War II. a further 4$d. a gallon was added to the tax, principally to increase the Consolidated Revenue Fund to meet defence commitments. Recently the Government reduced the overall tax from 11½d. to 10½d. a gallon, at which amount it stands at present. In recent years approximately £13,000,000 annually has been collected from the tax. The figure varies, of course, according to the consumption of petrol in Australia. The bill now before us provides for the payment of £6,000,000 from the Trust Account to be utilized directly for road construction, reconstruction and repair work. In spite of what has been said by the honorable member for Corangamite, that figure represents £2,300,000 more than was allocated by members of the Opposition for this purpose in their best year in office. Of the £6,000,000 an amount of £4,500,000 is to be paid to the States directly for works on main roads. In addition, £1,000,000 is to be paid to the States and ear-marked especially for work on outback roads. States like New South Wales and Queensland have many thousands of miles of outback roads more than the smaller States, and consequently they will rightly be given a greater amount of this additional grant. Tasmania’s allocation will be £50,000. An amount of £500,000 is also to be expended on the construction and maintenance of strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth properties, such as aerodromes and i he like. These are the general purposes of the bill now before us. I agree with the honorable member for Corangamite that municipal councils or shires, as they are called on the mainland, now more than ever before need assistance for the maintenance of their roads. In the last six years motor haulage has increased considerably and the heavier types of motor vehicles now in use are playing havoc with gravel or earthen roads, which constitute the majority of the roads f jr which the shires and municipalities ave responsible. Consequently, it is far beyond the capacity of a small municipality lo maintain its roads adequately from the funds normally at its disposal. Municipal councils derive their revenues principally from rates, but they cannot expect io get much .additional revenue from that source because the greater part of the areas over which they have control are now settled. Therefore, they look to the governments of the Commonwealth and iiic States for assistance. The amount nl’ £4.500,000 which is to be distributed lo the States for main roads works will indirectly benefit many municipalities, especially those through which the main roads are constructed.
My criticism of the measure relates to iiic paucity of the additional amount to be. allocated to the States for outback roads. I believe that the amount proposed could well be doubled. Road construction costs to-day are very high and will remain high for a very long time. In addition, the cost of roadmaking equipment, most of which must be imported from overseas, is very heavy. Equipment of this type is not available in sufficient quantities to meet demands, and when it does become available it will very considerably reduce the amount allocated to each State from the grant for the construction and maintenance of outback roads. For that reason I believe that the grant for this purpose might well have been increased to £2,000,000. Municipal authorities in Tasmania report that much heavier vehicles are now operating over their back roads than formerly and that the cost of maintenance has, accordingly, been greatly increased. It will be the responsibility of the State governments to ensure that the moneys apportioned to municipal councils is expended in accordance with the provisions of the bill. There is no way by which this can effectively be policed. If the Commonwealth Government is informed that the money is not being expended in accordance with the terms of the grant it will, no doubt, bring the offending State to book. It will, however, have to rely largely on the honesty of (he State Departments of Works to ensure that the money provided for back roads is properly expended. Dissatisfaction may arise from some municipalities fearing that they are not getting their rightful 3hare of the grant. It will be difficult for the State Public Works Departments to allocate the grant equitably between the municipalities within their own borders. However, those difficulties can bc met if and when they arise. Maybe this will work out very much better than 1 anticipate.
In Tasmania haulage on country roads has increased immensely. Timber is in great demand and heavy timber trucks are using the hack roads of rural municipalities in my electorate day after dayIn the municipality of Deloraine, where log hauling was extensively carried out last year, the roads were so badly damaged that it will be necessary for the municipal authorities to construct a new road to by-pass an area where the surface was destroyed. New construction of this kind involves the councils concerned in much added expense. Timber haulage and cartage for bridge construction and hydro works in Tasmania is taking heavy toll of country roads. Also, as i lie result of the greatly increased potato production, outback roads of Tasmania are being severely taxed. The municipal councils of Tasmania will therefore welcome this bill. During the war it was not possible to maintain roads and, consequently, reconstruction and maintenance work is now very heavy. For that reason it might iia ve been better to have provided a larger amount for distribution between the States this year and next year and to provide for the payment of reduced amounts in, say, two or three years time. If our existing roads are to he preserved, a great deal of work will have to bc done within the next twelve months. Much of it must be done immediately and, therelore, a larger grant might well have been made at least for this year. From the inception of the petrol tax Tasmania has received 5 per cent, of the revenue derived from that source. One-twentieth of the Jd. a gallon imposed, or, in other words, one-twentieth of £4,500,000, represents a total of £225,000. Thus, it will be seen that Tasmania has been very favorably treated in this matter in comparison with the distribution among the mainland States. That treatment has been greatly appreciated by the Tasmanian people.
I commend the Government for increasing the grant for road works throughout the Commonwealth. My sole criticism of the bill is that the grant to the States for outback roads is not sufficient considering the work to be done, the heavy cost of earth-moving equipment, and the fact that municipalities have little or no chance of increasing their revenue from rates. A member of one of the municipal councils in Tasmania, when discussing this bill, told me recently that the council of which he is a member, which did control a large area, was able to expend :”rom its rate receipts only 7d. a mile on its own roads. That is fantastic, and emphasizes the fact that the coffers of many municipal councils are practically empty. Many of them because of the lack of finance are compelled merely to patch their roads, and very often this patching work is worn out again in three months. A heavy shower of rain after the grader has been over the road and the material is washed away. Many miles of roads in Tasmania have to be rebuilt. Enormous cost is facing municipal councils in that State and the mainland of Australia.
– Most of the municipal councils in Tasmania have had to apply to the Public Works Department for a subsidy.
– Yes. Many councils, in desperation, have had to apply to the Public Works Department for a special grant to enable a portion of a road or a bridge to be constructed or repaired the cost of which is beyond them. To the credit of the Labour Government of Tasmania in the vast majority of instances, it has made those grants, and the municipal councils in Tasmania must pay credit to the State Government for its help. The revenue of the State itself is not large. Owing to its dependence on reimbursement from the Commonwealth Government of taxation revenue under the uniform taxation system, there is a limit on how far the State Government can help of its own accord. I put those facts before the Minister, not in any vindictive spirit, but as the result of practical experience to show why the £6,000,000 could be increased without embarrassment to Commonwealth finances.
– Some years ago the Commonwealth Parliament, with the advent of increasing motor transport, found it necessary to provide financial assistance to the States to enable the roads to cope with the growing demand placed upon them. A tax was imposed on petrol for the purpose of a fund from which money was distributed to the States for that purpose under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement The agreement was subsequently reviewed and renewed ever) three years. In the first few years it was necessary for the States to submit to the Commonwealth Government schedules of the works proposed, but during the regime of the Scullin Government that provision was dropped and the States were given practically a free hand in the expenditure of the Federal Aid Roads grant. In some States, particularly
Queensland, State governments on receiving money from the Commonwealth Government for the construction of roads, diverted to Consolidated Revenue some of the money received hy it from taxes levied on motor vehicles and drivers instead of using it for the purpose for which it was ostensibly collected, namely, road construction and maintenance, and thereby annually deprived the people of £100,000 or £200,000 worth of work that should have been done. As the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) have clearly explained, the provisions of this bill, which will operate for three years from the 1st July next, differ in- some respects from the provisions of the act that it will replace. An increased grant to the States is provided for, but it will disappoint many local authorities. In each of the next three years, £6,000,000 is to be made available. The petrol tax has been reduced by Id. a gallon to 10$d. a gallon. But the revenue from the petrol tax will be further swollen when petrol rationing is abolished. So it is reasonable to expect that with the lessening or removal of restrictions on the use of petrol and expanding industry, the Commonwealth Treasury will still receive substantial revenue from the petrol tax. Without going into many details of the bill, which has been so clearly explained, I desire to refer to’ the disappointing omissions from the bill. Several times Inst year I advocated in questions and by other means certain provisions that I consider ought to have been embodied in this legislation. The ‘first was that the local -govern ing bodies ought to receive a direct grant to assist them in their big job of constructing’ and maintaining roads. The second was that there ought to be a direct grant to them for the construction and maintenance of aerodromes in their areas. The third was that appropriate local-governing bodies ought to be given a grant to enable them to construct boat- harbours to assist fishermen and to attract tourists, who were so lucrative a source of revenue in many countries before the war. Unfortunately the bill makes no provision for those grants. It does provide that money shall be granted to the States for the construc- hen. reconstruction, maintenance and repair of main and arterial roads. It also provides for the expenditure of an amount by the States upon the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads through far-distant sparsely . populated areas. That will naturally be a relief to certain local-governing bodies ; but I sincerely hope that the distribution of the money will be well policed so that the most urgent roads shall receive first attention throughout Australia, not. in any particular State. ‘Another new provision is that £500,000 may be expended by the Commonwealth in the construction and maintenance of strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property. As the honorable member for Wilmot says, most airfields already have roads to them. The difficulty that faces local-governing bodies is the cost of constructing .airfields. That is most expensive. It is a great pity that the Government did not take more serious notice of the representations I made from time to time. Air transport is increasing from year to year. It is useless for the Department of Civil Aviation to place the responsibility on local-governing bodies to construct aerodromes when they are already over-burdened financially. We shall not obtain the necessary impetus to the construction of airfields in country areas unless the Commonwealth Government makes money available to the localgoverning bodies. Another £100,000 is to be provided for expenditure by the Commonwealth in the promotion of road safety practices.
It has been suggested by honorable members that the Government could and should have made a greater increased payment to the States on behalf of local-governing bodies. I do not think that moneys for local-governing bodies should be paid to the State governments at all. Several times I asked the Treasurer to make direct to the localgoverning bodies a contribution that would assist them and their ratepayers lo do their job. No section of public administration is so deserving of assistance as local-governing bodies. Years ago, for some reason, the idea was invented that a gentleman by the name of
Mr. Ratepayer “ should provide all the. money necessary for the local-governing bodies to operate. That idea was all right when all the traffic on the roads that were the concern of those .bodies was an occasional horse-drawn dray or buggy, hut times have changed and the amount of money taken from the ratepayers, who, in country districts, are the landholders and are taxed on their land and everything they produce, is too great. They have to dig into their pockets to pay for all users of the roads. Every one benefits from the roads, particularly country roads. The railways are fed by country roads, but railway revenues contribute nothing to the maintenance of those feeder roads. The Postmaster-General’s Department, which makes a profit of about £4,000,000 a year, uses the roads to collect the mails on which it earns much of that revenue, but it does not contribute Id. towards the cost of their maintenance. Commercial firms use the roads first to sell and then to deliver the goods on which they make their profits, but they contribute not Id. to the cost of maintenance. The poor old ratepayer has to bear the burden, a burden which has been increased by the advent of fast-running heavy trucks. The localgoverning bodies ought to be given greater assistance. It is to be hoped that another 3d. a gallon of the petrol tux will be earmarked to provide another £6,000,000 to be contributed by the Commonwealth’ Government direct to localgoverning bodies as an indication that it realizes that they need help. I have had an amendment prepared along those lines. Highways are not the only national concern. Country roads are also nationally important. The local-governing bodies deserve recognition of the time, patience and trouble that they have gone through mid continue to go through from year to year.
The Federal Aid Roads Agreement provides for the granting of financial assistance to local authorities to enable them to construct roads, wharfs and jetties in order to assist the fishing industry. Unfortunately, that provision has been omitted from this bill. Perhaps the. assistance could be continued under the heading of “Road Provision”, but that does not refer specifically to the fishing industry. I fear that this with drawal of assistance will be a severe disadvantage to the fishing industry.
The honorable member for Wilmot claimed that increased1 financial assistance should be granted to local authorities. He mentioned the fact, which is well known to all honorable members, that during the war the Commonwealth Government commandeered the road-making and repairing machinery of the local authorities and used it to construct aerodromes and strategic roads. In the coastal regions of my electorate, and on the main highways, large numbers of heavy army vehicles, including tanks, were assembled during the war, and these vehicles severely damaged roads which had been built by local authorities at the ratepayers’ expense. In some instances, the Army granted some assistance to the local authorities, but did not attempt to replace the bitumen or concrete .surfaces which had been cut to pieces by heavy vehicles. For this damage, the Commonwealth owes the local authorities hundreds of thousands of pounds. Even back roads, which the dairy-farmer uses when taking his cream to the butter factory, on which children travel to and from school, were extensively damaged. The honorable member for Wilmot suggested that in the transition period from war to peace-time conditions, the Government should make a .special grant of money to local authorities -to enable them to repair these roads within their boundaries. .Some local-governing bodies have raised loans to meet the cost of partly restoring the roads, though not to their pre-war condition. However, there has been a gradual deterioration of roads in many districts because no labour or machinery was available to arrest wear and tear. The Government should make a direct contribution to the local authorities for this work. I am not in favour of paying the money to the States. Often when that procedure is adopted, the States pay the money into revenue, and do not expend the total sum on roads, or lend it and later receive it as revenue. The Australian Country party considers that an amount of £5.000,000 or £6,000,000 should be provided for this purpose. The war damage insurance fund contains approximately £12,000,000, which is earning interest. To what better use could this money be put than to meet the cost of repairing roads damaged in war-time?
The bill provides for the granting of financial assistance to local authorities to enable them to purchase heavy machinery for the construction and repair of roads, if they have not the requisite finance. The Government should be generous in this matter, because localgoverning bodies are faced with heavy repair bills as the result of the damage which Army vehicles did to road surfaces in war-time. Honorable members should not consider that the expenditure of an additional £2,300,000 on main and arterial roads will meet all requirements. The Opposition believes that -the local authorities should be paid an additional 3d. a gallon from the petrol tax in order to enable them to undertake these essential works, and provide safe roads for the use not only of farmers when taking their produce to market, but also school children. These roads should be serviceable despite floods. Under existing conditions, wet weather renders them practically unusable, and consequently the rural community suffers great hardship. This condition of affairs discourages young people from remaining in the country.
.- This bill will continue the operation of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. The Bruce-Page Government introduced the original legislation in 1926, and the Lyons Administration continued it for a further period of ten years. The act is a good one. Under it, arterial roads throughout the Commonwealth have been improved, and good roads have been constructed in country districts. However, much more can be done. Roads on the continent of Europe and in England and the United States of America are an improvement on Australian roads. An authority on road construction should be invited to come to Australia .in order to examine our roads and report on possible improvements. On main roads in Holland accidents cannot happen at intersections, because one road passes underneath the other. Devices of that kind have not been adopted in Australia. We expend money on the construction of roads in the old-fashioned way, and continue to have two streams of traffic on the one road. In the United States of America the system of divided roads has been adopted with success. The suggestion of the Royal Automobile Association of Australia that an expert should be invited to come .to Australia and advise on the expenditure of this money is an excellent one. An allocation of money has been made for road safety - a very laudable objective - because the loss of life in road accidents is heavier than the toll of war. These accidents should be minimized.
The construction of roads is financed under a scheme of area-cum-population. Thus, Victoria, the most densely populated State, is assisting to finance the construction of roads in Queensland and Western Australia. New. South Wales contributes to a lesser degree to the making of the roads in those distant States. Therefore, we should carefully examine the allocation. This legislation has been altered from time to time. The original act provided an amount of £2,000,000, and the whole of that money was used for road construction. The amending legislation which I introduced in 1937 effected some alterations, which were not so drastic as those made in this bill. In 1946-47 an amount of £11,500,000 will be collected from the petrol tax, but only £3,500,000 will be expended on roads. The remaining £8,000,000 will remain in Consolidated Revenue. I ask : Is that a fair allocation ? A more sensible proposal would be to reduce the petrol tax, and make motoring cheaper. Australia is a land of great distances, and its communications, other than the air services, which are good, are mediocre. We require more roads and more motor transport. Although Australia is approximately a? large as the United States of America, it has only 500,000 miles of road, compared with America’s 3.500,000. The United States of America has a much bigger population than Australia, but the needs of people in a sparsely populated country are just as great as are the needs of people in a densely populated country. The Government has not given proper consideration to the allocation of the money. I entirely agree with the proposal of the honorable member for
Corangamite that a part of the sum which will be given to the States should be definitely earmarked for local authorities, t am glad that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has supported this proposal of the Liberal party. When an amendment embodying this proposal is moved, I hope that he will support it. It will be refreshing to see whether the Labour party treats this bill as a nonparty measure, as it should be. <> The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is endeavouring to grapple with the immense problem of transport, and lie should realize that there can be different points of view and various ways in which the money can be allocated. The municipalities in Australia differ from the county councils of the United Kingdom, in that they have not the same power although they undertake much the same work. According to the policy of the Government, the States may expend the money on roads or pay. it into Consolidated Revenue. The Government should provide that a certain percentage of this money should be allocated to the municipalities specifically for road work. The amending legislation in 1937 contained a clause relating to strategic roads, and this bill is an improvement on that provision. Doubtless many honorable members like myself have received letters from municipalities regarding this legislation. One letter which I received from the Heytesbury municipality in Victoria [ have forwarded to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). The St. Kilda Council, which is in my electorate, is one which, honorable members might think, would be able to cope with its own road problems. It is not able to do so. With its financial resources it can handle the arterial roads, but it cannot afford to make minor roads. When I visited the electorate of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr.’ Dedman) last Sunday, members of the Shire of Queenscliff informed me that not a single road could be made in the Point Lonsdale district because all available money had to be expended on combating wind erosion and strengthening the bases of the cliffs which had been worn away by the sea.
Generally speaking, the main roads which we are paying to maintain are being subject to excessive use. Obviously, if we have a bigger road mileage, transport will be dispersed and distributed and the upkeep of roads per mile will be considerably reduced. The allocation proposed for the States should be doubled. The municipalities and shire councils are served in an honorary capacity by aldermen and councillors who give of their best to the public life of this community, and they may be trusted to expend wisely any money that is made available to them. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) will know that there are many roads in his constituency upon which money should be spent. 5few roads could also be made which would open up country that at present is not easily accessible. If the proposed allocation were doubled, it would be a very good thing for the country. When the first Federal Aid Roads Agreement was made in 1926 it provided that the whole of the money received from the petrol tax of 3d. a gallon should be earmarked for road construction and maintenance. In 1930 an additional tax of 4d. was imposed, partly for the purpose of providing revenue to meet needs that had arisen during the depression. Later additional taxes amounting to 5£d. a gallon were imposed in order to assist in providing funds for defence purposes. The total amount of the tax which reached 11½d. has since been reduced to 10½d. However, our complaint is that the Government is retaining about £7,000,000 a year from the proceeds of the petrol tax, whereas the purpose of the original legislation was to provide money for the sole purpose of road construction and maintenance. I hope that the Minister will see the justice of our claim that the proposed allocation from the petrol tax for road work should be doubled. In view of the fact that Government revenues from customs and excise duties, primage, sales tax, income tax and other sources are so buoyant it is not much io ask that a more adequate allocation should be made from the petrol tax for road purposes. If our roads were up to date many valuable lives might be saved in this country every year. We should adopt more scientific methods of construction and discontinue the old double track system, in favour of single track roads which are in accord with the best modern overseas practice. I sincerely trust that the Government will give heed to our request for a review of the allocations proposed in this bill.
.- We have before us “ a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purpose of financial assistance to the States to be applied in the construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of roads and works connected with transport, and for other purposes “. The underlying purpose of the measure is undoubtedly excellent, but the results that have been achieved so far have been disappointing, due to the fact that an inadequate proportion of the petrol tax has been earmarked for road purposes. The municipal and shire councils throughout Australia should receive much more substantial grants from the petrol tax than hitherto. I cannot believe that the Government fully realizes the important place transport holds in the national life of Australia, though perhaps the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) does. No less than a quarter of our total expenditure is required for transportation in one form or another. Nineteen per cent, of that total expenditure is required for road transport. It is perhaps surprising to those who hear it for the first time that the average weekly cost of transport to the entire population of Australia is 19s. lOd. a head. Of this amount 14s. lid. is spent on road transport, 3s. 4d. on rail transport, 7d. on trams, 9d. on shipping, and 3d. on air transport. An amount of £174,165,000 is involved in the annual operation of our motor vehicles, £6,250,000 on operating horse-drawn vehicles, £S6,120,000 on ‘loading and unloading motor vehicles and £21,250,000 on road works. Of the total of £382,856,000 only about £65,000,000 is expended on railway fares and freights. The expenditure on all road transportation is three times greater than that of all other forms of transport in Australia. We have, in this country, approximately 500,000 miles of roads, of which one-third may be described as very bad, one-third as only fair, and one-third as fair to good. Our roads suffered very severely during the later years of the war because of the heavy war transport that they had to carry. It was impossible to maintain the roads in proper repair on account of shortages in man-power and materials for the purpose. Honorable members who travel very much in country districts - the Minister for Transport, I understand, does a considerable amount of travelling in motor vehicles - must realize that our roads are in a very bad state of repair. The only exceptions are the main roads which have stood up fairly well to wartime traffic. The maintenance of our roads system apart from the main roads is to a considerable extent the responsibility of shire councils. These bodies are, in fact, responsible for the maintenance of all minor roads. The difficulties which they have had to face during the last few years have been very great in consequence of increasing costs and lack of man-power. Labour costs for roadwork have increased by 40 per cent., materials have gone up by almost as much, at any rate by not less than 33 per cent., and the price of bitumen has increased from £7 a ton pre-war to £20 a ton to-day - when it can be obtained. Our roads are being called upon to provide an ever-increasing service for the country. Motor traffic has increased greatly in volume and this has involved shire councils in added responsibilities. In Victoria, where a number of new State instrumentalities have sprung into being during the war years, the roads are used far more than formerly, yet the shire councils are not able to increase their income proportionately from rates, because many of these State instrumentalities are not liable to rating in the ordinary way. The general financial policy of the Government has also handicapped shire councils in relation to their rating capacity, for pegged land values have also had the effect of pegging rates.
– The shire councils may increase the rates.
– That is not so.
– I am a shire councillor, and I know that they can increase the rates.
– They may increase the rates if the value of the land goes up, but when land values are pegged, rates also are pegged. Government revenue has increased considerably but money value, as we all know, has decreased by 33 per cent. When the petrol tax was first imposed in 1926 the rate was 3d. a gallon. The yield from that tax was a little more than £3,000,000 and the whole of the money was devoted to road construction and maintenance. The tax was increased by 4d. a gallon in 1930, partly for the purpose of increasing the revenue of the Government to cope with depression problems. During the war years another “>d. a gallon was imposed. The war-time tax has since been reduced to 3$d. a gallon, but petrol users are still paying a tax of 10£d. a gallon, which is an extremely heavy impost.
The bill before us indicates that the Government is willing to do something more than it has been doing to assist shire councils. The bill provides for the following allocations: - £4,500,000 to States; £1,000,000 for road work in sparsely populated areas; £500,000 for strategic -roads, and £100,000 for the adoption of road safety measures. Actually, the State governments will receive about £6,000,000, but of that amount £1,500,000 is ear-marked for specific purposes, leaving only £4,500,000 for road work. That is not adequate to meet the needs of the situation. The revenue in 1945-46 from the petrol tax was £12,167,335. It is not reasonable that the Government should allocate only about half of that amount for the original purpose for which the petrol tax was imposed. It is unfair, in my opinion, that £6,000,000 from the proceeds of the tax will be paid into Consolidated Revenue. In the ten years, 1.937-47, a total amount of £101,000,000 was collected in petrol tax. The Government has diverted 70 per cent. of that total to Consolidated Revenue, leaving only about £30,000,000 for allocation to States for the construction and maintenance of roads. The petrol tax is a very heavy burden on motor transport generally. Everybody who own a motor vehicle or a truck has to share in this burden. Motor users have to pay £7,000,000 a year in licence fees, £12,000,000 a year in petrol tax, and £4,000,000 a year in sales tax on the purchase of motor vehicles. This means that they carry an annual burden of £23,000,000. The net revenue of the railway services of Australia is only £8,800,000 a year. Against this must be set a total interest bill of £12,500,000 annually, which means that the operation, of the railway systems of Australia results in a loss of £3,700,000. In other words, motor transport is definitely a revenue producing agency for the Government, whereas rail transport is a definite liability. To put it in another way, motor transport provides the Government with substantial revenue, whereas rail transport does not contribute a sou to the Government’s coffers. In these circumstances, I fail to understand why motor transport should be burdened with so many additional charges. I do not know whether honorable members really appreciate the enormous part which motor transport plays in the production of goods in this country. Until recently, I had not appreciated it.
– Only the cream of the goods.
– It is not confined to the cream of the goods. Every article that we use is more or less affected by transport services. Take the “ common or garden” hat, that any one. of us wears. It is estimated that transport enters no fewer than 32 times into the making of a hat. That must add appreciably to its cost. All farm products are particularly affected. One cannot get a potato for one’s lunch or dinner or an egg for one’s breakfast, without the cost of transport affecting the price. Honorable members do not realize the extent to which the farming industry is dependent upon motor vehicles, including the trucks that transport the produce from the farm to the railway station, and that are used on the farm to transport various implements or fertilizers from one part to another. A tax is imposed on petrol and kerosene. This increases the cost of production and, consequently, the price of the article produced. I have mentioned the sales tax that is imposed on motor trucks. In Great Britain the degree to which this tax increases costs has been realized for some years, and has now been removed from all motor trucks that are used by primary producers. Why should not that be done in Australia with the object of reducing costs? Transport charges necessarily increase the cost of living. Sales tax is imposed, not only on the chassis, but also on the tyres and spare parts that have to be purchased.
– That is a good argument for national organization.
– Nationalized industries do not produce any revenue. If large amounts are to he raised by this means, the whole of them, and not merely a small percentage, should be applied to the improvement of the road transport system. At present, the cost is borne by industry.
I make two further observations on the bill. The first is that previously, before introducing legislation such as this, the Commonwealth Government has always consulted the States in connexion with the various details. I have not been able to learn from the Minister’s second-reading speech, or from any other source, that there were consultations with the States before this measure was drafted; it is entirely a product of the Minister’s mind.
My second observation is in regard to paragraph a of sub-clause 3 of clause 6. It provides that the money is to be expended by the States in accordance with the policy agreed to by the Minister; in other words,’ the Minister is to assume control of general detailed policy in relation to roads in any State. The Government has a craze for centralization. On behalf of the State of Victoria and its people I protest vigorously against that provision. I consider that the money should be expended according to the wishes of the Government and people of the State. I can see no reason why the Minister or anybody else should dictate the manner in which the money shall be expended, or to what roads it shall be applied.
I urge the Government to increase the grant to the States so that an extra amount may be made available to the municipalities, whose responsibilities have increased since the end of the war in the repair of existing roads, and the construction of new ones in order to meet the additional demand for road transport. They have no resources from which to provide funds for that purpose.
– An examination of the second-reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and of the bill makes one fear that the sum to be provided will be totally inadequate to maintain the existing road system in the Commonwealth, or to promote that development which is so essential if this country is to be opened up and settlement is to go forward as it should in the post-war period. The Minister has stated that £4,500,000 is to be made available for the construction and maintenance of roads, £1,000,000 for developmental roads in sparsely settled areas, £500,000 for the maintenance of strategic roads, and £100,000 for the promotion of road safety principles and practices, making a total of approximately £6,100,000. The bill proposes that these grants shall be made for three years from the 1st July. 1947, but the condition is imposed thai the money is to be expended on the basis of a road construction policy approved by the Commonwealth Minister for Transport. Throughout the recent election campaign in New South Wales the State Government, explaining the Labour party’s policy, which is presumed to be uniform throughout Australia, made a very strong point in regard to the decentralization of government, first through the States, and then through local governing bodies. Under this bill, there will not be decentralization through either local-governing bodies or the States themselves. Everything will have to receive the approval of the Minister for Transport. Another provision is that the tax on aviation petrol is to be retained by the Commonwealth for the construction of aerodromes. A proportion of that amount should be allocated to the States for the construction of those minor aerodromes which are so essential in country districts for the conduct of what might be termed air-bus services, where the great airliners which fly between capital cities cannot land. Onesixth of the total amount that is to be allocated to the .States for road purposes may be used by them in connexion with other transport facilities such as jetties, havens, &c. The roads in sparsely settled areas, to which £1,000,000 is to be devoted, do not include highways, main roads or trunk roads. I shall refer later to the complete inability of the departments of main roads in the different States to even maintain road construction or to overtake the lag that occurred during the war years, let alone to undertake new construction, on the very small amount that they will receive. If £1,000,000 is set aside for roads in sparsely settled areas, it will be utterly impossible to expend on main arterial roads what is’ required.Road conditions throughout the Commonwealth must become steadily worse. One would have thought that the Commonwealth Government would trust the States to expend money wisely on the developement of the roads in sparsely settled districts, yet even in this connexion the approval of the Minister for Transport will have to be obtained. This will lead to centralization in Canberra, and the bureaucracy which operates in this capital city will prevent the money from being expended by the States, who know best what is required for the development of their areas.
The Minister went on to say that road vehicles with higher speeds and greater load capacity will compete increasingly with the railways, but he did not draw the deduction which that remark obviously implied, namely, that this would need a much stronger class of road construction than exists at the present time. Anybody who travels over the bitumen roads of New South Wales must realize the terrific deterioration that has occurred in the last six weeks as the result of the enormous increase of lorry traffic, due to the failure of sea and rail transport.
– Should not the weight of the vehicles be restricted?
– I am merely giving the Minister’s words. He said that increasing road speeds and load capacity would result in competition with the railways, but did not point out that there will be greater deterioration of the roads, and that the expenditure will have to be heavily increased in order to provide more robust permanent highways than we have at the present time.
I come now to strategic roads. The Minister stated that some of these had been handed over to the States. I discussed the matter with him to-night, and although he could not give the total mileage of the strategic roads retained by the Commonwealth, we agreed that it would be approximately 30,000 miles. Those 30,000 miles of roads on which the Commonwealth proposes to expend £500,000 a year are situated in a part of the Commonwealth where the monsoonal rains are heavy, and where extreme temperatures are factors which make for rapid road deterioration. These conditions also promote the growth of grass and weeds, another factor contributing to the deterioration of roads. I understand that a recent estimate places the cost of maintaining roads in the Abercrombie shire at £45 a mile. On this estimate, it is seen that £500,000 a year will be nothing like enough to maintain the 30,000 miles of road for which the Commonwealth Government is to be responsible. If no more than £500,000 is to be expended, the roads will deteriorate so quickly that very soon this asset will be completely destroyed. The final item in the schedule is £100,000 to be expended on “roads, safety principles and practices “. As the Minister has not said how this money is to be expended, I make no comment on the matter.
The period of three years fixed for the operation of the present scheme is too short to allow State governments to draw up programmes. My second point of criticism is that not enough money is being provided for the work which it is proposed to do; and my third objection is that local-governing bodies are not catered for at all under the scheme. The present petrol tax of 10½d. a gallon is far too heavy a burden for the users of motor vehicles. We know that building costs are greatly increased because timber has to be hauled long distances by heavy lorries, some of which consume a gallon of petrol to the mile, yet the Government cannot see that a reduction of the petrol tax would be one way in which to reduce housing costs. Local-governing bodies cannot increase their revenue. Property values are pegged, so that they cannot derive any advantage from increasing values. Moreover, in some shires, large areas are rate free because they are the property of the Commonwealth and State governments. Thus, in the PortStephens shire, very little revenue can be collected because so much of the land is held either by the State Forestry Department or by the Commonwealth Government, which controls the Port Stephens NavalReserve and other Defence lands.
In Australia, there is a paucity of roads of all kinds, and particularly of hard-surfaced roads. In the United States of America, of which the area is much the same as that of Australia, there are 3,500,000 miles of roads of all classes, and 1,406,000 miles of hard-surfaced roads. In Australia, our total road mileage is only 500,000 miles, of which 100,7S6 miles are hard-surfaced. When we analyse costs, and see how far the money will go, it seems that our position is desperate. The Main Roads Department of New South Wales issues a periodical called Main Roads. In the issue for September, 1946, there is an article which discusses the effect of the war on main and developmental roads. It is pointed out that during the period from .1939-40 to 1945-46 the lag in expenditure on main roads in New South Wales was £12,433,000, of which the petrol tax would have represented £5,685,000. That work has to be done. However, those figures do not show the true position as it is to-day, because costs have risen very greatly. Apart from wage increases, most other items have also increased, including the price of cement, timber, steel, &c. The article mentions bitumen in particular. In 1938-39 the price of bitumen was a little over £8 a ton. In 1.942 it rose to £25 a ton, and in 1946 it was just over £19 a ton, which, I believe, is about the present price. An examination of costs as between 1938-39 and 1946 shows that maintenance costs have increased by 31 per cent., construction costs by 36 per cent., and the cost of bridge building by 50 per cent. The overall increase is placed at 33 per cent. Bearing these increases in mind, it is estimated that it will be necessary to expend £15,000,000 to overtake the work which was not done during the war. The article points out that all roads, have seriously deteriorated, and this is true also of roads for which local governing bodies are responsible. The article concludes with this statement: -
It will be seen that in New South Wales it will take another live years before the same volume of roadworks can be carried out as in the pre-war year 1938-39, because of increased costs. A period of twelve years will, therefore, have elapsed before the same rate of progress as then prevailed can be achieved.
That time will not be shortened by anything which will be done under this bill, and if lorries carrying heavier weights are put on the roads in greater numbers it will not be possible to maintain the roads even in their present condition. The position of local governing bodies in New South Wales is very serious. There are 126,000 miles of roads in the State, for which the Main Roads Board is responsible for 17,000 miles. In the Western Division, there are 7,700 miles, for which the State Government, through the Public Works Department, is responsible. That leaves 101,000 miles for which local governing bodies have to assume responsibility. It is estimated that to bring the road system of New South Wales up to a satisfactory standard would require the expenditure of £45,000,000. Maintenance will cost £4,000.000 a year. It is estimated that in the Abercrombie shire, of which, I understand, the Prime Minister is president, it. will cost £327.000, or £61 a mile, to restore the roads to their prewar condition.
The amount of money which it is proposed under this bill to devote to road maintenance is not sufficient. The petrol tax should provide at least 4.0 per cent, more revenue for road maintenance than before the war, and even that would only allow maintenance of the pre-war rate because of the increase of road mileage. Local governing bodies should have at least £4,500,000, being approximately the same as the State governments receive. The petrol tax should be reduced to 6d. a gallon, and half the proceeds of the tax should go to the State governments and half should be allocated, through the State governments, to local governing bodies, if we are to have a road system such as the people deserve. If we persist in the present system, we shall have only worn-out gravel roads and rapidly deteriorating bitumen roads.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Williams) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - M. C. McConville.
Commerce and Agriculture - A. C. B. Maiden, G. P. Phillips, P. A. Reid, E. J. Wood.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes - Welshpool, Victoria.
Postal purposes - Balaclava, Victoria.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 5. Following upon the statement made in Smith’s Weekly last week I caused an investigation to be made into the allegations regarding certain cases, which had been approved by the Land Sales Control in Sydney. There was nojustification for the suggestion that a purchase by Australian Iron and Steel Limited had been improperly approved. The person who supplied the information to the newspaper evidently did not realize then the company was purchasing mineral rights.
As regards the transactions of Subdivision Estates and Land Proprietary Limited, I am satisfied that there have been serious departures from the procedure laid down for the handling of such transactions. An immediate change has been made in the administration of the office and the investigations are being continued.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the total cost of administration of the Land Sales Control Branch of the Treasury, and how is this cost apportioned in the various States?
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished as early as possible.
On the 6th May, the honorable members for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked questions concerning valuations of real estate. Further to my remarks in reply to the honorable members on that occasion, I desire to inform them that as yet no formal report has been presented to me by the Technical Committee on Valuations, but I understand that the members of the committee were unable to agree on the form of the recommendations which should be made. In the circumstances, I do not propose to make any changes in the present method of valuation. From my point of view, it is most important that further increases in property values should not take place, because of the repercussions they would have on rent control.
y. - On the 9th May, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked a question regarding the transport of galvanized piping. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
Newcastle. - Total quantity awaiting shipment to all States approximately 50,000 tons. Tonnage allotted to load 38,000 tons for all States, balance being accounted for in current production.
Port Kembla. - Total quantity awaiting shipment about 17,000 tons. Tonnage allotted to load 10,000 tons for Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Queensland proportion of balance is 3,500 tons, which does not constitute a full cargo for type of ship used in this trade, but the Australian Shipping Board expects to arrange a vessel to take this cargo at an early date.
With regard to the shipment of steel products generally, housing requirements are given absolute priority over materials for all other purposes, but the Australian Shipping Board endeavours to make special arrangements whenever acute shortages of steel products for agricultural requirements are brought to its notice.
Commonwealth Literary Fund.
Mr. Chifley. On the 7th May, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked the following questions in regard to the award of fellowships by the Commonwealth Literary Fund : -
How many fellowships have been awarded by the Commonwealth Literary Fund during the past six years?
To whom were the awards made?
For what purpose the fellowship was granted in each case?
What previous writing had been published by these fellows?
Have any fellowships been refused?
If so, to whom and for what reason.
In reply to the right honorable member’s questions, the following information is furnished : -
Twenty-four fellowships have been awarded by the fund during the past six years. 2 and 3 -
J. Baker - Dictionary of Australian Language.
Mrs. K. S. Throssell (Katherine Susannah Pritchard) A novel set in the goldfields of Western Australia.
H. M. Abbott - A volume on the Newcastle packets and the Hunter River district.
Dame Mary Gilmore Her biography.
J. Brady-Life of the late J. F. Archibald.
Jean Devanny - Stories of typical Australian men and women against the background of the war.
James Devaney - Life of the late John Shaw Neilson.
S. McDonald - Work on Australian art.
Tombolt - Dramatic . work on Lachlan Macquarie.
Frank Reid (Bill Bowyang) - History of the Great Harrier Reef - Its romance, adventure and tragedy.
Mrs. Daisy Bates Preparation of a booklet of native stories for children.
Eric Muspratt - Stories of life in the Royal Australian Navy.
Roy Bridges - An historical novel on Port Arthur.
Brian Vrepont - To finish a poetic drama and write a novel on present-day Australia.
Ian Mudie - A volume on the disappearing Murray and Darling, Rivers paddle stea mers.
Dymphua Cusack - Completion of a novel set in war-time Australia.
F. Flexmore Hudson - The writing of a volume of critical essays on the work of Australian poets and a novel of life in an Australian capital and in country townships during the last 30 years.
Betty Roland - Novel based on her early experiences in the literary and artistic life of Melbourne.
M. Green - A critical history of Australian literature.
John Morrison - Completion and revision of a novel set in the Dandenong Ranges of Victoria, dealing with the growth, through two generations, of a typical community in those parts.
Lewis Lett - Life of Sir Hubert Murray.
J. N. Rawling - Life of Charles Harpur.
Paul L. Grano - Book on satire in Australia.
Mrs. K. S. Throssell (Katherine Susannah Pritchard) The Pioneers. Windleshowy. Black Opal Working Bullocks. Coonardoo.Kiss on the Lips. Wild Oats of Han. Haxby’s Circus. Intimate Strangers. The Earth Lover (verse). BrumbyInnes (play). (Translations of various works have been made into French, German, Russian, Czech, Hungarian, and Danish.)
Dame Mary Gilmore ; Marri’d and Other Verses. The Passionate Heart. The Tale of Tiddley Winks (booklet). The Tilted Cart (humorous). The Wild Swan. The Rue Tree. Under the Wilgas. The Worker Cook Book. Hound of the Road (essays). Old Days, Old Ways. More Recollections. Battlefields ( verse ) .
Jean Devanny - The Butcher ‘Shop. Lenore Divine. Old Savage. Poor Swine. Dawn Beloved. Out of Such Fires. Devil Made Saint. Riven. The Ghost Wife. Paradise flow, &c. Also much unpublished original work on anthropology.
James Devaney - Fabian (verse). The Currency Lass. The Vanished Tribes. Earth Kindred (verse). Where the Wind Goes (verse). Shaw Neilson.
SydneyTomholt - Bleak Dawn and Other Plays. Represented in The Best One Act Plays of 1936 (Harrap, London). Represented in Best Australian One-Act Plays. Play revision work for Angus and Robertson.
Frank Reid - 30 years’ contribution of articles, short stories, &c, to Australian newspapers and magazines. Edited Bill Bowyang’s Magazine, The Fighting Cameliers. Toilers of theReef (Juvenile ) .
Erie Muspratt - My South Sea Island. Wild Oats. The Journey Home. Greek Seas. Ambition. Going Native. Russia Plans the Future. The Life of Unk White Forty years. (Several of these books have been serialized in London, Paris, Vienna, Prague, &c.)
Roy Bridges - B.A. University of Tasmania, 1905, in English and Ancient History. History - From Silver to Steel. - romance of the Broken Hill Proprietary. One Hundred Years - romance of the Victorian people. Negrohead (pubished in London). Trinity (published in London). Cloud (published in London). Soul from the Sword (published in London). These Were Thy Merchants (published in London). The House of Fendon (published in London). Sullivan’s Bay (published in London). The Fugitive (published in London). Fires of Hate (published in London). The Bubble Moon (published in London). Merchandise (published in London). Green Butterflies (published in London). Gates of Birth (published in London). A Mirror of Silver. The Vats of Tyre. Legion, For We Are Many.
Brian Vrepont - Articles, Reviews, Verse. Marjorie Ann (children’s verse). Beyond the Claw, C. J. Dennis Memorial Prize Winner 1939. Verse drama, Jungle Flame.
Ian Mudie - The Christmas Kangaroo. The A ustralian Dream. Corroboree to the Sun. Their Seven Stars Unseen. Poems: 1934-1944. This is Australia. Poets at War.
Dymphna Cusack - Jungfrau. Pioneers on Parade (in collaboration with M. Franklin). Red Sky at Morning (play). Morning Sacrifice (play). Comets Soon Pass (play). Mary Reibey (historical biography). Shallow Cups.
Letters (N.Z. ), Melbourne Trainee, Jindyworobak Anthologies, Australian Poetry (Angus and Robertson), Fellowship. Reviewer for Fellowship (journal of the Australian Fellowship of Writers). Ashes and Sparks (verse). In the Winds Teeth (verse and versedrama). The Child Discovers Poetry (aesthetics). With the First Soft Rain (poems).Indelible Voices (along poem lines). As Iron Hills (selected poems). Treatise on Poetry and a Children’s Anthology of Original Verse. (Has studied for fifteen years literary criticism and poetry of England, France, Italy, Russia, America, China. Also Sanskrit and classical Greek and Latin poetry.)
Betty Roland - The Touch of Silk (play). Morning. Are You Ready, Comrade. Don Quixote. Represented in Best Australian One-Act Plays.
John G. Morrison - Won the Fellowship of Australian Writers Production Front short story competition in 1943 - subject All Through the Night. Won the Fellowship of Australian Writers open short story competition in 1944 - subject The Nightshift. Stories published in Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial, Melbourne Argus, Supplements, Australasian Post, and Australian-New Writing.
Lewis Lett - Occasional contributor to Times (London), Manchester Guardian, Blackwoods and Cornhill magazines, and all principal Australian papers. Knights Errant of Papua. The Papuan Achievement. PapuanGold. Papua, its People and Prospects. Savage Tales. Official Handbook of Papua, 5th edition.
Paul L. Grano - The Roads and Other Poems. Quest. Poet’s Holiday (two impressions). Quest (revised). Poems Old and New. Witness to the Stars. Editor Vista, a literary and art journal. Reviewer - Fireside, Catholic Weekly, Miirabooka, &c. Represented Murdoch’s Anthology, Mackaness’s Anthology, Jindyworobak Anthology.
Western Central Australia. Aboriginal Crayon Drawings of the Legend of Wati Jula and the Kinkarumkara. Aboriginal Crayon Drawings Describing Everyday Incidents of the Ngada Tribe of Western Australia. Aboriginal Crayon Drawings of the Topograph of the Ngada Tribe. Contrast in Drawings Made by an Australian Aborigine Before and After Initiation. Rock Paintings at Windulda, Western Australia. A Unique Example of Aboriginal Rock Carving at Panaramitee North, South Australia. Aboriginal Rock Carvings in South Australia, A Survey of the Petroglyphs of South Australia. Gesture Language of the Ngada Tribe of Western Australia, &c.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n . asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What is the reason for the nonparticipation by Queensland in the grant of £50,000 for each State under the Tuberculosis Act?
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following information : -
Under the Tuberculosis Act 1945-46, the Common wealth has made available to the State the sum of £100,000 per annum on £l-for-£l basis for the maintenance of diagnostic and after-care facilities. Up to the present time, Queensland has not applied for any payments under this section of the act. The sum of £250,000 per annum has also been allocated to the States under the act for distribution by the States amongst approved sufferers of tuberculosis. It was agreed to implement payments under the grant according to a uniform procedure decided at a conference of Commonwealth and State officers held at Canberra on 18th December, 1946. Queensland is the only State which has not applied for and been paid its proportion of the Commonwealth grant. It is entirely a matter for the Queensland. Government to decide whether or not it makes application for its share of the grant which was £19,500 for the six months ending the 30th June, 1947.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following information : -
Textiles : Worsted-content Cloth ; Woollen Piece Goods.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : - 1. (a) 6,864.367 square yards, valued at £2,494.724: (b) 843,788 square yards, valued at £379,531. 2. (a) The details are not available, but approval was given for the export of men’s worsted suitings amounting to the equivalent of 87,200 suit lengths during 1946 and 39,000 suit lengths for the first six months of 1947 ; (b) the information requested is not available; (c) as official records do not show the quality of suitings exported, the Prices Commissioner is not in a position to supply the comparable price of such suit lengths in Australia. 3. (a) This information is not available; (b) No.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information:- 1. (a) and (c) - Importation of passenger type chassis - 1st September, 1945, to 3lst March. 1947.
Importations are almost exclusively in the form of unassembled chassis upon which Australianbuilt bodies are mounted. As utility truck bodies are mounted on passenger type chassis, it is impracticable to separate cars from utilities at the time of importation.
September, 1945, to 31st March, 1947 -
These figures include the residue of truck chassis ordered under lend-lease and Canadian mutual aid and imported after 31st August, 1945.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice-
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
Adelaide and Burnie. Left Whyalla 9.41 a.m., 19th May, 1946, and arrived Devonport 7.18 a.m., 29th May, 1946. Total hours under steam, 74.49.
d. - On the 17th April, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following question:-
I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who represents in this chamber the Minister for Trade and Customs, to state whether or not it is intended to. continue indefinitely the war-time practice of import procurement and licensing. If not, what is it proposed shall be done with the huge quantity of Manchester piece goods which is now being held? Could not the rationing of such piece goods be discontinued if those now held were released for disposal? If the Minister cannot answer my question immediately, will he undertake to make a statement upon the matter at an early date?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following information : -
Import licensing will remain in force as long as it is necessary for Australia to conserve its resources of sterling and non-sterling exchange for use in the best interests of the country. Certain relaxations have already been made, particularly in respect of goods of sterling origin and further relaxations will be made as the exchange position improves.
Government procurement of imports is restricted to’ those commodities for which, usually owing to peculiar conditions operating in the country of supply, no .alternative method of procurement exists; .The policy being followed is to* allow imports to be made through commercial channels wherever practicable and goods which at present have to be procured on government Recount’ will revert to private importation as soon as possible.
I also desire to inform the honorable member that the Department of Trade and Customs does not hold any stocks nf Manchester materials or of made-up Manchester goode.
Coal: Shortage in South AUSTRALIA.
– On tie 6th May, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) asked a question concerning the shortages of coal, in South Australia. The- Minister for Supply and Shipping has. supplied ‘ the following information : -
Every endeavour is being made by the Australian Shipping Board to provide vessels for the lifting of coal to South Australia and other States. Some dislocation to coal loading has occurred as a result of the hold-up on tile waterfront in Sydney some- weeks ago, but now this matter has been settled the position is expected to improve. It is expected that sufficient tonnage will be available to load all the coal offering. With regard to the additional six vessels which have been chartered in the Far East, it will not be known definitely until the ships arrive iu Australia whether they will be altogether suitable for the carriage of bulk cargoes, but in any event they will form part of the total pool of shipping and to this extent will assist the shipping position generally.
Y. - On the 23rd April, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked whether I would consider diverting some portion of the “ surcharge on petrol “, amounting to approximately £2,000,000, to shire councils so that country roads could be repaired and maintained.
The amount of approximately £2,000,000 mentioned by the honorable member refers presumably to funds held in the Liquid Fuel Equalization Fund, which was created for the purposes of the price stabilization plan in relation to kerosene and petrol and related products. Credits to this fund terminated in September, 1945. The purposes of the fund do not permit of the moneys being diverted to shire councils for road construction and maintenance purposes. As previously pointed out to the honorable member, the Commonwealth Government is making provision under the Commonwealth. Aid, Roads and Works Bill for financial assistance to the States and shires for construction and maintenanceof roads and this is considered the maximum assistance that can be made available;
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470515_reps_18_191/>.