18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Petitions in relation to banking in Australia were presented as follows. -
By Mr. HOWSE, from certain electors of the division of Calare.
By Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON, from certain electors of the division of Barker.
Petitions received and read.
– I have been informed that the Government has offered a retainer to valuers for the purpose” of valuating the property of the private banks. Will the Prime Minister inform me how many valuers in the. variolic States have been offered retainers for the purpose of ascertaining the value of banking property? How many valuers have accepted retainers for the purpose, and why has this anticipatory action been taken?
– Although I am usually well informed ‘ about these matters, I have not heard of the one which the honorable member mentioned.
– I address a question co. you, Mr. Speaker, as the custodian of tha ‘ forms and privileges of this House. A report in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald states that Mr. A. J. Dalziel, private secretary to the Attorney-General, alleges that a check, made of a petition presented to the Attorney-General’s Department opposing the Government’s banking proposals discloses some disconcerting features. The petition purports to have been signed by some 4,082 voters in the Attorney-General’s electorate of Barton, and the report states -
The check reveals that, there arc 2,397 signatures without addresses; 301 of those who have signed give addresses which are not in the electorate -of -Barton; 53 persons signed the. petition and then crossed their names out.
Of the telegrams of protests received, it is noted that batches of them have the same office of origin and have been lodged at the name time. Some of the telegrams give incorrect addresses, while other names and addresses cannot be traced in the electoral roll.
As petitions are being presented to this House, will you, sir, state what is their standing, and what is the position generally in relation to them? Is it necessary that - they shall conform to accuracy? Should those who sign them be enrolled for the electorates in which they purport to originate? What other relevant circumstances are there in connexion with the presentation of petitions to this honorable House ?
– Th course is that an honorable member who presents a petition assures the House that it is respectfully worded, concludes with a prayer, and is otherwise ‘ in conformity with the rules and orders of the House. My personal belief is that some degree of responsibility devolves upon a member to ensure, to - the best of his ability, that those who sign a petition are, as they purport to be, electors of the division mentioned in it, and that their addresses are accurately stated. All petitions stress that the signatories to them are electors of the divisions mentioned in them, and it . is the duty of honorable members, when presenting them, to inform the House of any knowledge they may have to the contrary.
– In view of the fact that many Labour members on the Government side of the House have received from their electors petitions objecting to. the proposed banking legislation, and have failed in their duty to present them to the House, will you, Mr. Speaker, state what procedure should be adopted by such petitioners to ensure that- their petitions will be presented to this House, through you?
– The honorable member is quite wrong, in stating that the duty devolves upon a member to present ‘ a petition to this House. No such duty is imposed on him. Whether or not he presents a petition which he has received is a matter that is left -entirely to his discretion.
– I desire to inform honorable members that, during the absence abroad of the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) will act as Attorney-General and I shall act as Minister for External Affairs. - The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.’ Holloway) will represent the Attorney-General in the House of Representatives until the return of Dr. Evatt.
– 1 move -
That the Bouse, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, next, at 3 p.m.
It is proposed that the House shall sit on four days a week in the following weeks.
Mir. MENZIES (Kooyong - Leader of the Opposition) [10.35.]. - I have no objection to the motion, but it would assist honorable members were the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to give some indication of the nature of the business to be transacted next week. I understand that he proposes to introduce the budget today, but that the general debate on it will not be resumed before the expiry of a week from its introduction. Presumably, that will mean that, on Wednesday next, some other business will be brought before the House. Oan the right honorable gentleman say what that business will be?
.- Is it proposed to sit regularly four days a week from the week after next until the end of the sessional periods, or is it intended that the House shall ait four days only in the week after next?
– in reply - Next week the motion by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) that certain papers relating to international affairs be printed will be discussed, and, following that discussion, it is proposed to consider the motion of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) relating to post-war defence, [n reply to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) I have to say that, unless some change of circumstances arises it is the intention of the Government that the House shall sit four days a week until the end of the present period of the session. The budget debate will commence on a date to be arranged with the Leaders of the Opposition parties. T understand that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) desire a week in which to consider the budget statement before discussing it. I expect the debate on the budget to last for a couple of weeks.
– The length of the dismission “will depend on the right honorable gentleman’s attitude towards the debate.
– When those matters have been dealt with, other measures will be brought before the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Loss in Mine Sweeping Operations.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform the House of the circumstances associated with the loss of H.M.A.S1. Warrnambool during mine-sweeping operations off the coast of Queensland, and can he say whether danger money for mine sweeping is being paid to personnel so engaged?
– It is with great regret that I inform the House of the loss of the mine sweeper H.M.A.S. Warrnambool on Saturday, the 13th September, while engaged on mine-sweeping operations. Unfortunately, the loss of the ship was accompanied by loss of life, and also resulted in injuries to personnel, including the commanding officer. All the men of the ship have been accounted for with the exception of one who is missing, and, I fear, lost. Three have died. Of those injured, three at present remain on the critically injured list, five on the dangerously injured list, eight on the seriously injured list, two on the slightly injured list, one on the general improvement list, and eleven have gone on leave. I take this opportunity to extend to the relatives of personnel lost and missing, and to injured personnel and their relatives, the deep sympathy of the Government. I earnestly hope for a speedy recovery of all the injured.
Warrnambool struck a moored mine in an Allied mine-field while engaged on mine-sweeping operations north of Cockburn Reef, which is approximately 12 miles north of Cape Grenville. H.M.A. ships Swan, Warrnambool, Mildura and Katoomba, together with two harbour defence motor launches, were employed on that operation. At the time of the accident, Warrnambool was second sweeper in line stationed on Swan’s quarter. Swan’s sweep fouled an obstruction and parted just before crossing the line of mines. Warrnambool altered course away from the line of mines to move into safe water and struck a mine as she did so. Efforts were made to tow Warrnambool clear of the mine-field by a harbour defence motor launch, but owing to the strong tidal stream Warrnambool drifted back towards the line of mines and was finally abandoned after an hour. Later, the vessel sank.
During the war, 37 mine-fields, composed of moored contact mines, were laid by the Royal Australian Navy in the vicinity of the Barrier Reef, covering openings from Townsville to Cape Grenville. Sweeping of the Barrier Reef mine-fields was commenced on the 30th January, 1947, and to date 27 of those fields have been swept. It is expected that all sweeping in the Barrier Reef will be completed by the end of next month. Thousands of mines were laid in these defensive fields. Many of them have broken adrift from their moorings, and hundreds of mines have already been dealt with, by “ rendering mines safe parties “ operating inside the Barrier Reef and in the Port Moresby area. I have already informed the House of the position concerning drifting mines, as distinct from moored mines, and, therefore, will not comment any further at this stage.
As to extra pay to personnel engaged on operational mine-sweeping duties, I inforin the. House that payment was’ suspended temporarily on the 30th June last, pending completion of a review of the continuance of the special payment in the light of the new pay scales for the Navy which had been approved to operate as from the 1st July. That review has been completed and extra payment for mine-sweeping will be payable as an addition to the new pay scales. The pay will be adjusted retrospectively as from the 1st July last.
– Having regard to the importance of achieving maximum production in the primary and secondary industries in order to ensure the stability of our external and internal economy, will the Prime Minister inform the House what he has done to launch the national production drive which I suggested to him in July? Were the State Premiers, the representatives of primary and secondary industries, as well as employers and trade- union organizations consulted? [f so, what was the nature of the cooperation promised?
– The Leader of the Australian Country party did write to me about a production drive. The subject was originally raised at a meeting between representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the manufacturers, and, after considerable discussion, both parties agreed to do everything they could to accelerate production. Since then the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has had several discussions, and has participated in a number of conferences, with a view to learning what can be done to accelerate primary production. The matter has also been discussed with Lord Addison, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has agreed that everything possible will be done to increase production, particularly of foodstuffs. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the hope was expressed that the States would co-operate with the Commonwealth to ensure increased production. I cannot give the honorable member more detailed information at. the moment, but in view of his letter to me of July last, and of the question which he has1 just asked, I propose to prepare for him a reply on the subject setting forth what it is proposed to do.
Operations at Whyalla.
– In view of the fact that the largest ship yet built in Australia, Iron Yampi, of 12,500 tons, was recently launched at the shipyards of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Whyalla, and in view of the statement of the superintendent of the shipyards, Mr. D. J. Dalziel, that these shipyards are the best in the world and could build a ship of 20,000 tons, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether he will recommend that the Government approach the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited with a view to placing an order with these shipyards for the construction of steamers which will he suitable for the purpose of bringing migrants to Australia. In that direction the Minister for Immigration has been doing excellent work. The boats to which I refer might also be used for general passenger services.
– I know that the honorable member is very proud of the achievements of the shipbuilding industry in his- electorate’. This matter has been discussed on a departmental level, and I am sure that the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who is responsible for the shipbuilding programme, will in due course take steps to carry out the honorable member’s suggestion if it be found practicable to do so.
– Some time ago the Government appointed an all-party committee of ex-service members of the Parliament to make recommendations with respect to the payment of war gratuity. Will the Prime Minister now arrange for that committee, or a committee similarly constituted, to make recommendations for just and adequate provision for widows, children and other dependants of deceased servicemen?
– I regret to say that one member of the War Gratuity Committee, ex-Senator Collett, who rendered very great service on that body, died recently, while Mr. Frost, another member of the committee, is absent from Australia. Previously, I promised that as soon as the Gratuity Boards, including the central board, had settled down to their work and had had an opportunity to survey the position, I would arrange to call together the available members of the all-party committee to confer with the central board. I shall do that.
– I am not referring to war gratuity but to adequate provision for widows, children and other dependants of deceased servicemen.
– I did not give any promise in that direction, and I give no such promise now. I thought that the honorable member was speaking of the payment of gratuity. I shall examine the matter he has raised. It has been the subject of review during the last few weeks by a sub-committee of Cabinet, consisting of the Minister for Repatriation, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and myself. At a later stage the Minister for Repatriation will have something to say concerning the results of that review. At this juncture I am not able to give any further information.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question relating to compensation payable to members of the Permanent and Casual Waterside Workers Association. What is the position of these workers in respect of compensation should they be injured when travelling to and from work? As they are not actually employed until they are picked up who is their employer ? How can they be assured of receiving compensation in respect of injury suffered in such circumstances? In view of the fact that they are required by the Stevedoring Industry Commission to present themselves at the wharfs, is the commission their employer so far as the payment of compensation is concerned in the circumstances which I have mentioned ?
– The matter raised by the honorable member involves a most difficult technical problem ; and my answer refers to all waterside workers and not solely to that section mentioned by the honorable member. Waterside workers, in common with other workers, are covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act while proceeding to and returning from work. The Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Supply and Shipping are examining the possibility of covering those waterside workers who report at a pick-up place but may not be engaged. The matter is being examined to ascertain whether it is possible to devise means whereby such waterside workers shall be covered by the workers’ compensation legislation.
Sales to Great Britain and India - Cornsacks - Wild Turnip - Stabilization Scheme
– Has a long-term agreement been made, or is such an agreement being negotiated, with Great Britain for the sale of large parcels of Australian wheat? What are the proposed terms of the agreement, the price a bushel and the conditions of delivery? In what currency will payments be made to Australia and is any clause to be inserted in the agreement providing for price alterations during the currency of the agreement if there be variations of price levels in either Great Britain or Australia?
– No long-term wheat agreement has been negotiated with Great Britain. Exploratory talks have been taking place between Lord Addison and myself on the subject. Consideration is being given to the feasibility of making long-term contracts with Great Britain for the sale of Australian wheat. “When any arrangements have been made a statement will be submitted to the House.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture received complaints, particularly from the Loxton district of South Australia, in regard to the damage that is caused to wheat crops by the weed that is known as wild turnip? Will the honorable gentleman, in his spare time, attempt to nationalize it, with a view to securing its complete eradication, and increasing the wheat yield?
Question not answered.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to the report of a meeting of wheat-growers held at Warracknabeal last Tuesday, at which a resolution approving the establishment of a stabilization scheme prepared by the Wheat-growers Federation was carried, and is he prepared to recommend to the Government that that plan be adopted?
– I have heard of a conference of wheat-growers at Warracknabeal, which I understand was organized by the Australian Country party, but I have had no official intimation of any resolution carried by the conference. I am unable to accept press reports of the conference as being a correct record of its proceedings, and am awaiting official advice of any resolutions carried before I commit myself, or the Government, to accept any scheme agreed to there.
– In view of the proposal to enter into a long-term agreement with the United Kingdom Government for the sale of wheat, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture . confer with representatives of wheat-growers’ organizations before any price is fixed?
– The honorable member’s request will be taken into consideration.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the supply of cornsacks will be adequate for the coming wheat harvest?
– Subject to adequate shipping being available, it is almost certain that the supply of cornsacks will be sufficient for the forthcoming harvest. Shipping prospects are good due to the foresight of the Government, the assistance given by the Australian Wheat Board, the Jute Committee and Mr. Tomlinson of the Barley Board, and to the co-operation of - the Indian Government, with whose representatives I conferred on this matter. The Australian Wheat Board, however, will have to ensure that over-buying shall not occur in order that available supplies may be spread equitably amongst wheat-farmers.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether the Government has been successful in securing current export prices for wheat sold to India under the agreement ?
– All wheat sold to India is sold by the Australian Wheat Board at prices determined by that board. In recent negotiations with the representative of the Indian Government we assured him that any wheat sold to India would be landed in that country, subject to supplies of jute being made available to Australia. The Indian representative explained that his Government issued licences for the export of jute, but it had no power to compel exporters to ship the complete quota for which licences had been issued. However, he undertook that the Indian Government would do its utmost to ensure the export to Australia from. India of the maximum quantity of jute.
– Has consideration been given to the reduction of duty on
Oregon which is the most suitable timber for home building? If not, will an investigation be made to ascertain what can be done in that direction?
– I understand that consideration has been given by the Minister for Trade and Customs to the reduction of the duty on Oregon. I shall convey to him the substance of the honorable member’s question and I have no doubt that in due course an appropriate reply will be received.
DEVELOPMENTS INWESTERN AUSTRALIA.
– In view of the recent statement of the Lord Mayor of Perth that communism is rampant among coloured persons in the north-west ports of Western Australia, and that a hostile attitude is being adopted towards white men in those areas, what investigations, if any, have been made by the Government into these allegations? If investigations have been made, what have they disclosed? If investigations have not been made, will a committee of inquiry be commissioned at once to report upon conditions in the ports and to make any necessary recom- mendations concerning the security of the ports, the safety of the white residents of the areas and the protection of the aborigines?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred. I have only recently returned from a very extensive tour of the north-west ports of Western Australia during the course of which I met representatives of the Roads Boards at every port en route from Wyndham to Carnarvon. I saw no evidence to justify the allegation madeby the Lord Mayor of Perth, nor were complaints of that kind made to me by the representatives of the Roads Boards. Every opportunity was given to the local governing authorities to place before me any matters of concern in the areas under their control. From my first-hand knowledge of conditions in the north-west of Western Australia I should say that the statement is exaggerated and without foundation.
Compensation of Trainees
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether it is correct that ex-servicemen undergoing rehabilitation training are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance either while they are at work or travelling to and from work? If they are not covered, will the Minister take the matter up with the Minister for Labour and National Service to ensure that provision shall be made for these men?
– I understand that the position is as has beenstated by the honorable member. However, in the event of an accident occurring an ex gratia payment is made from the Treasury. The matter is being further examined to ascertain whether or not something more can be done.
– Before the House rose at the end of the last sessional period I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question relating to the apple and pear acquisition scheme, and he informed me that the Government; would consider continuing the scheme should the shipping position warrant this action. I ask the Minister now whether in view of the fact that it appears certain that shipping space will not be adequate, he is able to announce the continuance of the scheme in 1948 ?
– The Government has not yet reached a decision on this matter. It is too early to say definitely whether or not adequate shipping space will be available for the export of apples and pears, and until that position is clarified no decision will be made by the Government.
Manufacture in Australia.
– In view of the likelihood of a cessation of imports of motor car chassis from the United States of America, can the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction say what progress is being made in the production by General Motors-Holdens Limited of an allAustralian motor car? Many men employed in the motor-body building industry in South Australia reside in ray electorate, where the General Motors-Holdens Limited works are situated, and they are concerned at the possibility of unemployment when orders for bodies for motor car chassis already in this country or on the way here have been completed.
– Several firms have plans for the construction of allAustralian motor vehicles. Because of the shortage of dollars the time is opportune for acceleration of those plans. I am not able to say what progress has been made by the various firms interested in the project. The honorable member will have read reports in the press that General Motors-Holdens Limited has completed two motor cars, which are undergoing tests. I have seen a couple of statements about the time when General Motors-Holdens Limited will produce motor cars in. greater numbers, but I believe that delays have occurred as the result of a shortage of various materials. The Government is giving every assistance to firms planning the production of an all-Australian motor car, and, as far as it lies within its power to increase supplies of necessary materials, the Government will act.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the undue delay in obtaining the Treasurer’s consent to the sale of new houses, built for sale, because there are not enough valuers on the job? Could he have this matter examined, and, if necessary, appoint additional staffs so that decisions shall be given quickly and so assist purchasers to get their new homes.
Mr.CHIFLE Y. - I have not had any complaints about delay in valuing new homes, but I shall have the matter examined to see if. it is possible to expedite decisions and to provide additional valuers.
Statement by Mb. R. T. Pollard, M.P.
– Did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture receive in July last a letter from the New South Wales ex-Prisoners of War Association expressing bitter resentment at his slur upon the victims of the capitulation at Singapore and demanding that the matter be cleared up in the Parliament? If so. does he propose to make amends for the remarks he made in the Parliament, which were the grounds for the association’s complaint, or does he intend to adhere to his original statements?
– The statementsI made in the Parliament in no manner reflected on prisoners of war. The letter I received from the New South Wales ex-Prisoners of War Association was based on a complete misconception of the facts. I replied to the association on those lines. I propose to take no further action. If I were miserable enoughI could tell honorable members what the honorable member himself said about prisoners of war in the early part of the wa r.
Lend-lease - Postage.
– In view of the con tinuing austerity in Great Britain and the fact that our progress and prosperity is linked with Britain’s, will the Prime Minister consider the supply of food and raw materials to that country on the lend-lease basis practised by the United States of America during the war, and, if necessary, finance the scheme from the funds that the Government proposes to use in the acquisition of shares and property of the private banks?
– The suggestion of lend-lease by the honorable member is made, I think, in complete ignorance of the facts of the financial relations between the United Kingdom and Australia and the discussions’ that have taken place. I do not say that disparagingly, because he has not had the opportunity of hearing a statement on the matter. The last part of his question is entirely irrelevant and I do not propose to make any comment upon it.
– Has the Minister representing the Postmaster-General seen in the press a statement that the postage on parcels of food sent to Europe from South Africa is being reduced by twopence per pound ? In view of the repeated statement in this House that postage rates on such parcels sent from Australia cannot be reduced because of the British Government’s refusal to do so, will the Minister consider making an equivalent reduction of the postage rates on food parcels sent to Britain from the present exorbitant rates, which represents from £50 to £70 a ton?
– I have not. seen, the press statement referred to, but, I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Postmaster-General with a request i hat a detailed reply be furnished a.s soon us possible. When I was in Britain 1 discussed, with leading members of the British Civil Service the reduction of postal rates on parcels, and I foun’d that the British Ministry of Food is strongly opposed to any such reduction. Therefore, the responsibility for maintaining the existing rates does not rest on the Australian Government at all.
– Did the Minister urge a reduction of the rates?
– On many occasions I have informed the House that the Commonwealth Government has offered no objection to a reduction. It has consulted with the United Kingdom Government as one of the. parties to the agreement, but that Government has refused to agree to any reduction. l.n the circumstances, no purpose would be served by pursuing the matter further. My efforts while abroad were directed to persuading the United Kingdom Government to agree to an alteration of the agreement.
Damage by Military Vehicles.
– On more than one occasion I made representations to the Treasurer for the payment of compensation to the Townsville City Council for. damage done to its roads by heavy military traffic during the war. The result was that the council was paid an amount of about £3,000. Hovever ; the Cairns City Council,, and, I believe, the Charters Towers City Council, were each paid £7.000 for war damage to roads. The Treasurer obtained particulars of this matter when he visited Queensland recently. Can he now inform me whether further consideration has been given to the Townsville City Council’s application for compensation ?
– -I am aware of the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member. The Minister- representing the Acting Attorney-General informs- me that a report on this matter will be available soon. I hone to be able to answer the question within the next week or two.
– Will the- Prime Minister inform, me whether any public announcement has been made at any time that the Commonwealth accepts responsibility for damage done by military vehicles to roads? Will he also state the number of. electorates in respect of which compensation has been paid, and the principles on. which the compensation has been determined?
– I have no recollection of any statement having been published in regard to this matter. It is true that where cases are proved of unusual damage or unusual wear occasioned by Army vehicles, recompense is made to the local governing body concerned. However, no figures have been prepared showing the total amount which has been paid to local governing bodies, but I shall obtain a statement of the amounts paid and, if possible, furnish details of some cases. The general policy adopted has been to consider each application on its merits and.- without reference to other cases.
– In view of Great Britain’s urgent need for butter and fats, of the declining production of butter in Australia, which i9 due principally to the unprofitable price paid to farmers, and of the fact that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture constituted a committee to examine costs and prices in the dairying industry in December, 194:6, will the Minister say when. an. announcement of increased; prices for dairy products may be expected ?
Ma-. POLLARD.- In the first place; the honorable member’s question is based? on false premises. Butter production in Australia: is not declining; in fact, production is- accelerating. Secondly, the price1 being paid to- primary producers for butter to-day is- reasonablygood’ and is substantially higher than ever before in the history of Australia, with the exception of a period of several years after World’ War I. The report of thecommittee appointed’ to inquire into dairying costs is expected to become available about three weeks hence. The (rommittee met recently, and, I understand- adjourned for about a fortnight. As soon as the report is received it will be considered by the Government and a decision will be made upon it. The honorable member’s statement regarding declining production demands some explanation. He has apparently misconstrued facts and figures. I read a few days ago in the Sydney Morning Herald that, since 1939, the milk consumption of Sydney and Newcastle had increased by 26,000,000 gallons a year, which, according to a rough calculation, represents about 7,000 tons of butter a year. The fact that a reduced quantity of butter is. available for export to Great Britain at certain periods is due to the fact that, under the regime of this Government, there has been full employment, higher purchasing power, and consequently a greater opportunity for workers to buy milk.
– Has not butter rationing been a factor?
– The honorable member for Richmond is well aware that whole milk is not rationed, and if unrestricted supplies of milk as such are provided for human consumption reduced quantities will be available for the manufacture of butter. The substantial increase of consumption is due to full employment, higher purchasing power and the greater measure of prosperity under this Government.
– Retail traders in Perth have suggested to me that the grievous lack of shipping to Western Australia can be remedied if overseas ships were permitted to pick up goods available in the eastern States and transport them to Western Australian ports. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether any prohibition under the Navigation Act or any other legislation has been placed upon overseas ships transporting goods from the eastern States to Western Australia? If such a ban exists, will the Minister reconsider it, so that overseas ships shall be allowed to carry goods from the eastern States to Western. Australia and thus overcome some of the shortages existing in that State?
– I shall place the question before the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and ask him to furnish a reply as soon as possible.
Statistical Information - Pay of Poll Clerks
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform me when the Commonwealth Statistician will be able to announce the number of electors in each State?
– At the moment, 1 am not able to state when the announcement can be made. However, I assure the honorable member that the work has progressed very satisfactorily, and the information will bc available at an early date.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that the State Electoral Office of New South Wales has increased the remuneration of the polling booth staffs for State elections? Have any representations been made to the Commonwealth Electoral Office to increase the pay of poll clerks for Commonwealth elections and referendums? If such representations have been made, does the Minister propose to take any action in the matter?
– I am aware that a disparity exists between rates paid t,o polling booth clerks employed during Commonwealth and State elections, and representations have been made to me on this subject by the honorable member for Cook and other honorable members. The matter is now under review, and I hope to be able at an early date to announce that the rates for polling booth clerks employed at Commonwealth elections have been adjusted in accordance with existing conditions.
– Is it a fact that Trans- Australia Airlines recently sought and obtained from the Department of Civil Aviation permission to fly a football team on an eighteen-day tour of Queensland? Did the Department of Civil Aviation recently refuse to issue a similar permit to Australian National
Airways to fly anon-sporting body to New Zealand on the ground that the consumption of petrol would not be justified?
– It is a fact that Trans- Australia Airlines recently applied for permission to carry a football team to Cunnamulla. That application, like other applications from sporting parties, was refused. Because of the difficulty experienced in the purchase of petrol from abroad the policy of the department has been to refuse all applications for special trips other than those required to provide essential services. That policy has been applied to any applications made by both Australian National Airways and Trans-Australia Airlines, but in one instance in which Australian National Airways had made prior application for a special trip to Newcastle from Melbourne permission was granted under certain conditions. The special arrangement was that the service would carry a team to Sydney on its ordinary daily service, and that it would be permitted to operate an additional aircraft to Newcastle and return to Sydney. I assure the honorable member thatno unfair discrimination has been made in the treatment accorded to the different airlines. Recently Australian National Airways was granted permission to carry a party of miners to the asbestos fields, and Trans-Australia Airlines was granted permission to fly mining plant to Kalgoorlie.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state the number of claims for the modification of wage-pegging that are now before the Arbitration Court, how long such claims have been before the court, and when it is expected that the last of them will have been heard ?
– Does the honorable member refer to claims that have been dealt with by industrial authorities, and now await the endorsement or approval of the court?
– I cannot state the exact number, but I know that there are very few, because the justices of the court have endeavoured to keep up to date, so that they may begin with a clean sheet when the new legislation becomes opera tive. I shall obtain exact information for the honorable member.
-I ask the Minister for the Army whether a large number of rifles and pistols has been sold by the Common wealth Disposals Commission. Can the honorable gentleman give any information in regard to those who have purchased them ? Will he also inquire as towhether or not there is any truth in the rumour that a large number of rifles has been sent to Indonesia?
– The Department of the Army declared surplus a certain number of rifles for sale by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. At the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, State Premiers made the submission that, those rifles be not sold until legislation had been passed in the States making it obligatory for purchasers of them to obtain a licence to possess them. I give the assurance that no rifles have been sold to the Indonesians.
Preference to Unionists
– Did the Minister for Repatriation, as the press has reported, instruct employees of the Repatriation Department to join an industrial union? Did he issue any instruction at all in that regard ? If so, under what authority did he act, what is the name of the union, and is it Communist-controlled?
– I have given no instruction to anybody that he must join a union. I wrote to the chairman of the Repatriation Commission, informing him of government policy in regard to preference of unionists. I stated that I desired that that policy should be given effect. I asked him to advise the Deputy Commissioners in the various States that I desired their staffs to be informed of government policy, and of my wish that they should belong to the union which covered their calling. I believe that there are only two industrial organizations which cover the callings of the men who come under the control of the Repatriation Department. An analysis of the affiliations of officers of those organizations will quickly disprove any suggestion of Communist control.
– Will those officers of the Repatriation Department who do not obey the Minister’s request that they should join an appropriate union receive lower rates of pay than other officers of the department who do so?
– The Hospital Employees’ Federation obtained from the Public Service Arbitrator an award which provided for preference to unionists. The Nurses Guild then submitted a claim to be covered by the same award. That was approved. Certain other persons in the employ of the Repat-nation Department are covered by legislation administered by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. All employees not covered by that legislation are expected to join the appropriate organization if they desire to have the benefit of the award of the Public Service Arbitrator.
– The Minister has not yet answered my question.
– In order to obtain the benefit of the award which applies to members of the organizations employees must join those organizations. Unless they do so, so far as I am concerned, they will not benefit from the award.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation, before Parliament resumes next week, or as soon as practicable thereafter, supply a, table showing the rates of pay and conditions applying to various grades of employees in lis department, and also setting out the rates applicable to those who are members of appropriate organizations, and the rates applicable to those who ane not ?
– The award which covers the pay and conditions of employees in the Repatriation Department cannot be supplied to the honorable member, because it is a document which has to bo tabled in Parliament. No official a et ;on has been taken so far concerning (hose employees in the department who are not members of an organization. That matter is being handled by the employees themselves. However, I shall examine the position, and see if the information for which the honorable member has asked can be supplied.
– As a matter of courtesy ?
– Yes, as a matter of courtesy, I shall see what I can do to supply the information to the honorable member. As for preference to unionists, I am just as much concerned that members of the staff of the Repatriation Department should belong to appropriate organizations as is the right honorable member that members of the legal profession should belong to their appropriate organization.
– I rise to order. The question asked by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was whether the Minister would have a table prepared and put before the House. That was all. The question admitted of a straight answer of “Yes” or “No”. Is the Minister in order in making a statement on an entirely different matter without obtaining the leave of the House? Should he not have asked for leave when he is not, in fact, answering the question put to him?
– lt is an old and established practice that members may ask questions of Ministers. So long as in doing so they conform to the Standing Orders they are allowed to ask questions in their own way, and the Minister .has the right to answer them in his own way. He has, in fact, the right to refuse to answer them.
– When a union ban was recently placed on the servicing of Dutch aircraft, can the Minister for Air say whether any orders were issued to the Royal Australian Air Force? If so, what were those orders ?
– The union ban on the fuelling of Dutch aircraft had nothing to do with the Royal Australian Air Force, No official request has been made to me for the Royal Australian Air Force to fuel any Dutch planes. What remains of the Dutch squadron in Australia has ample personnel to do its own duelling. There are other difficulties, such as those relating to customs matters, but there appears to be no reason why the Dutch authorities should not refuel their own aircraft.
– In view of the legislation passed during the last sessional period making it possible for a subordinate legislature tobe set up in the Northern Territory, can the Minister for the Interior inform the House of the reasons for the delay in holding elections, and can he give the approximate date of the elections ?
– The necessary machinery to conduct the elections has been prepared, and a proclamation will be issued immediately after the coming into effect of the amended Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I hope that regulations will be promulgated in time to enable the Northern Territory elections to be held before the wet season, which commences in November next.
– Will the Minister for Immigration indicate to the House when he proposes to make a statement on the Government’s immigration policy, particularly with regard to organizations overseas for procuring immigrants and dealing with their eligibility, as individuals, to be absorbed into the Australian community? Will he, when making such statement, give attention to the operations of the sponsorship system in Australia, particularly as to whether it does not sometimes act to the detriment of the best class of intending immigrant?
– I shall be happy to make a statement later in the session on the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Warringah, who has recently returned from abroad where he studied immigration and cognate matters. I hope that the House will grant me the privilege of making a statement by leave so that I may move that the paper be printed’,, thereby enabling it to be discussed. I take this opportunity of thanking the honorable member for Warringah for the assistance given to me in immigration matters generally during his absence abroad.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending the 30th June, 1948, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
– I move -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £9,900 “, be agreed to.
I desire to explain to the committee the estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 1947-48, and to furnish a statement of actual revenue and expenditure in 1946-47.
It is most satisfactory to record that during the financial year just closed employment in Australia rose to levels never before reached in peace-time. At the end of June this year the number of people in civilian work was 3,212,000. This was 200,000 above June, 1946, and 480,000 above June, 1939. Better seasons and higher prices, especially for wool and wheat, led to an increase during the year in the incomes of primary producers, output rose in most of the basic secondary industries and there was a marked expansion of new manufacturing enterprises. Housing made substantial progress, though hampered by shortages of labour and material’s. Estimates of national income and expenditure in 1946-47 are contained in a separate paper which isbeing circulated with the budget papers.
Mainly because of these conditions, actual revenue in 1946-47 was £412,000,000 as against the estimate of £385,000,000 given in my budget last November. The largest increases were income tax £6,000,000, sales tax £5,000,000 and customs and excise duties £13,000,000.
Expenditure on defence and allied services was £129,000,000. The budget estimate was £147,000,000. Post-war charges, on the other hand, involved an expenditure of £161,000,000 compared with an estimate of £131,000,000. Expenditure on this item, however, included the gift of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom, for which provision had not been made in the budget.
Credits against defence and post-war charges were £58,000,000 compared with a budget estimate of £57,000,000. Net expenditure on defence and post-war charges was, therefore, £232,000,000, this being £11,000,000 above the estimate.
Other expenditure was £218,000,000 which was £5,000,000 below estimates.
Total expenditure in 1946-47 therefore was £450,000,000 as compared with the budget estimate of £444,000,000 and the gap between revenue and’ expenditure, which was financed from loan moneys, was £38,000,000 aga inst a budget estimate of £59,000,000.
Details of revenue and expenditure for 1946-47 compared with the budget estimates are given in statement No. 1. In addition the main heads of aggregate war expenditure to 30th June, 1947, are set out in statement No. 5 and details regarding loan transactions and the public debt in statement No. 6.
In the course of my speech I shall refer to a number of statements which have been prepared and which contain more detailed information on the matters to which reference is made. With the concurrence of the House I shall incorporate these statements in Hansard.
As honorable members know, our reserves of international currency increased considerably during the war period and the greater part of these reserves are held in London.
A number of factors contributed to this increase. Our export income during the war was fairly well maintained and imports of non-essentials were severely restricted. Very heavy imports were made of war supplies but a considerable part of these was made available under lend lease and mutual aid arrangements. This gain was offset by the reciprocal aid extended to the United States forces which had the effect of reducing export income. But the cash expenditure of American troops resulted in the accrual of very large sums in dollars which were sold to the United Kingdom against payment in sterling.
Other countries also accumulated sterling balances, some to a much greater extent than Australia, and since these balances amounting in all to more than £3,500,000,000 sterling were demand liabilities, the United Kingdom had perforce to seek arrangements with the holders as to what would be done with them. Under the financial agreement with the United States, the United Kingdom Government did in fact state its intention to make such arrangements.
The Commonwealth Government recognized how vital this problem was to the United Kingdom and gave much thought as to how Australia could best assist. A gift of £25,000,000 made during the last sessional period as a contribution towards war costs incurred by the United Kingdom in the Pacific zone acted to reduce our sterling balances, and discussions were entered upon with the United Kingdom authorities in relation to the remaining balances. I myself talked the matter over in a general way with the Chancellor of the Exchequer when I was in London last year. Subsequently I arranged for the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. S. G. McFarlane, to proceed to London for the purpose of further discussions.
As a result of these discussions the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Mr. Atlee, suggested to me that Australia could help them most in their present difficulties if we would take it as a broad objective to live for the time being within our external income and, if necessary, to restrict imports from all sources and so avoid the need to call upon our accumulated London funds. Thi.= did not mean of course that we should try to balance our trade exactly month by month, for that would have been impracticable; nor did it overlook the possibility that our export income might in adverse circumstances turn downwards so far that it would be inadequate to pay for even a minimum of essential imports. Should such an emergency arise the whole situation would have to be brought into review in consultations between the two Governments. The essence of the United Kingdom proposal was rather that while doing our utmost to increase exports both to the United Kingdom and elsewhere we would over a period endeavour to keep imports within the limit of what we could pay for from our current overseas earnings.
Taking all factors into account the Commonwealth Government thought that this would be a reasonable arrangement. Indeed with our knowledge of how the United Kingdom stands and our desire to help it by every means possible it is the kind of thing we would have tried to do in any case because every day makes more evident the urgent nature of its needs.
Accordingly I have personally conveyed to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on behalf of the Commonwealth Government the assurance that Australia will do its utmost to assist thorn in the ways they have suggested tous.
I now turn to the dollar problem with which we are faced irrespective of the size of our total export income and the amount of our sterling balances. Australia, and the sterling area as a whole, is not able to earn sufficient dollars to cover the imports which it is desired to obtain from the United States or from Canada. “While this situation continues rationing of dollars is unavoidable no matter what happens to our sterling balances.
The United States and Canada escaped war devastation and quickly regained their peace-time production. On the other hand, many countries, particularly the war devastated countries of Europe, faced enormous difficulties in reconversion and still have a long way to go.
As a result the United States has been the main centre of demand to meet the shortages of the rest of the world. United States exports have been running at a level of about 16 billion dollars and imports at about 7 billion dollars. This gap has been financed from loans, relief assistance, notably Unrra, and reserves of United States currency. These loans and credits have been running down and the position has been reached where the demand for United States goods still persists but the corresponding means of payment are not available.
– It is principally for consumer goods. I shall show to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) certain figures which explain how these particular difficulties arise. It is confidential information, but they will thus he given the background of the position which has arisen with respect to dollars. Later, of course, when the matter has been fully discussed, I shall make further public statements upon it.
When the Anglo-American loan was negotiated it was expected it would last until the United Kingdom had achieved a. balance in its external position. Unfortunately this has not been realized and the loan is now almost exhausted. The main factors which worked against the United Kingdom and led to the running down of the loan were the big rise in prices in the United States, the delay in the recovery of war devastated countries in Europe and the Far East, the severe winter and the demands of other countries for conversion of sterling holdings into United States dollars after the 15th July last -the date when the United Kingdom, under the loan agreement, assumed the formal obligation of converting currently earned sterling into other currencies for current transactions.
Several foreign countries adopted expedients to build up sterling for the purpose of conversion into dollars. This added unexpectedly to the drain on the dollar loan in July and August. As a consequence the United Kingdom was forced as an emergency measure to suspend automatic convertibility of sterling into dollars. An announcement to this effect was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 29th August after consultation with the United States Government. Such dollars as are now available to the United Kingdom, including current earnings, will have to be rationed to meet the most essential needs. The United Kingdom still has a .gold reserve which is a backing for the sterling area as a whole but there .is a limit below which this reserve cannot be allowed to fall.
Faced with this difficult external position, the United Kingdom Government has recently announced further restrictions, including reduced rations, on -its own people so as to reduce imports and increase exports. The task confronting the people of the United Kingdom is verygreat and we must help by reducing our demands on the United Kingdom dollar pool to the minimum possible. The position is now being further examined at British Commonwealth talks in London.
– Who are representing Australia at these talks?
– Mr. Beasley on the ministerial ‘level, Professor Brigden, and Mr. Longmuir, Mr. Haslam and Mr. Breden of the Commonwealth Bank, and other officers. In addition, Dr. Coombs, who is in London for the meeting of the International Monetary Fund and Bank is available for consultation.
It is too early to (predict the ‘time or means by which this dollar problem will be overcome. Discussions have been [proceeding amongst .European countries in Paris in relation to what is known as the Marshall plan. The progress of these proposals, which would require United States congressional approval, will be followed with .great interest.
Australian TRADE .Policy.
The events just rela’ted necessarily affect our international trading and financial arrangements. This year, because of .the good .season and* high prices, we seem likely to have a hig export income. .But these conditions .cannot ‘be expected to hold indefinitely and it might be that even .though we achieve a trade surplus this year, it -might do no more than to offset a trade deficit next year’.
Much depends, of course, on our success in expanding the volume of our exports and our ^policy is to <ensure <the maximum volume of ‘exports consistent with meeting essentia! needs at ‘home.
On the import side the need to conserve dollars and other scarce currencies at present takes .the fore-front. Although we have been .selling much more to the United States than in pre-war .years and have ever since the outbreak of war in 1939 maintained strict control’s Ujpo.ii dollar imports, our direct dollar receipts normally fall considerably below out expenditures in that -currency. When looking at the trade figures I .trust that honorable members will not think that expenditure for the purchase of goods is the only commitment we have .in the United .States of America. “Mr. Spender. - What are the others?
– They include -such items as royalties, dividends and debt charges.
– Is the right honorable gentleman a”ble to give details of them.?
– Not at this stage because they cover a multiplicity of minor matters too ‘numerous ‘to include in the budget speech.
– The reason I ask is that some people cannot understand how Australia’s adverse tr.ade balance with , l. 1, United States of .America was built up to such a high figure having regard to certain Governmental announcements made during the year.
– An examination of the trade figures with ‘the United States of America might lead the average .man to think that the dollar -position should “be very fair. On the base year, however, our adverse trade balance with ‘Canada amounted to approximately £A.14,000,000, and with the United States of America £A.18,000,000, making a total for “the two dollar .areas (of approximately $100,000,000. Under the pooling arrangements which have been in operation we have, up to the -present, been able to meet any deficit in our ‘dollar account by buying -dollars from the United Kingdom against payment in sterling. The continuation cf this pooling arrangement has been possible only because -.of ‘an understanding ‘that Australia -would co-operate with the United Kingdom in making economies in dollar expenditures.
Tie Government proposes to continue this co-operation in the fullest degree and in order to assist the United Kingdom in its present dollar crisis has decided on drastic measures to reduce imports involving dollar expenditure. Details of these measures have already been announced. The Government is keeping the position under constant review and further measures will be taken us necessary.
Apart from a limited range of less essential goods all imports from the United Kingdom and other parts of the sterling area are at present admitted without restriction. It is desired to avoid, if possible, any new restrictions on sterling imports. However, it should be made clear that if our export prospects deteriorate it may be necessary to impose over-all import cuts in order to carry out our undertaking to the United Kingdom that we shall do our utmost to avoid drawing on our accumulated sterling balances.
Defence and Post-war Charges 1947-48.
Net expenditure on defence and postwar charges in 1947-48 is estimated to be £168,000,000 as compared with £232,000,000 in 1946-47 and £378,000,000 in 1945-46. Of this £168,000,000, expenditure overseas is expected to account for £18,000,000. Last year overseas war expenditure was £77,000,000.
Provision is sought for gross expenditure on defence and allied services this year of £80,000,000 against £129,000,000 last year and for post-war charges this year of £120,000,000 against expenditure last year of £161,000,000.
Credits for 1947-48 are estimated at £32,000,000 as compared with £58,000,000 in 1946-47. Full details of defence and post-war charges are given in Statement No. 4.
An amount of £75,000,000 is provided this year for expenditure by service and production departments whereas actual expenditure last year was £121,000,000.
Of this £75,000,000 it is estimated that £40,000,000 will be spent under the postwar defence plan, details of which were given to the House during the last sessional period. It will be recalled that this plan provided for the development of a comprehensive system of modern defences which would be commensurate with the new strategic responsibilities of Australia in the SouthWestern Pacific zone. It envisaged the expenditure over five years of £250,000,000 of which £200,000,000 is to be allocated to the three . services, £33,500,000 to research and development and £17,500,000 to the Departments of Munitions and Supply and Shipping.
The balance of £35,000,000 provided for service and production departments this year relates to war-time commitments and includes £5,000,000 for deferred pay and £7,000,000 for the cost of certain Army and Navy equipment supplied during the war. The maintenance of our forces in Japan is also covered.
Payments of war gratuity are estimated at £5,000,000 this financial year as against £3,000,000 last year.
Thus, while expenditure on defence and allied services includes some commitments carried over from the war effort of 1939-45,. a very substantial part represents the cost of peace-time defence measures.
Australia at the present time is taking a major share in the responsibilities of British Commonwealth countries for the occupation of Japan. We are also in the process of creating a strong nuclear defence force comprising naval, military and air elements and at the same time we are pushing ahead with fundamental research into some of the most advanced problems of modern scientific defence. The amount of the provision made in this budget should emphasize how largely defence must bulk from a financial standpoint, especially if compared with levels of defence expenditure in pre-war years.
Similar considerations apply in respect of post-war charges. Expenditure of £161,000,000 during 1946-47 on this item included non-recurring items such asthe
United Kingdom grant of £25,000,000 and the lend-lease settlement of £S,000,000. ‘ Moreover, of Australia’s contribution of £24,000,000 to Unrra only £4,000,000 remains to be met this financial year. Our contribution of £4,000,000* to Post-Unrra relief was met out of last year’s accounts.
Notwithstanding these reductions, total expenditure on post-war charges in 1947-4S is estimated at £120,000,000. This includes expenditure on reestablishment and repatriation of £39,000,000, an increase of £10,000,000, due mainly to a larger intake of ex-service trainees by technical colleges and universities. The estimate for such training this year is £15,300,000 against expenditure last year of £9,400,000. Expenditure on war service land settlement is estimated at £4,000,000, an increase on last year of £2,000,000, and re-establishment loans for agricultural purposes at £3,400,000, an increase of £800.000.
Public debt charges in respect of war borrowings are estimated at £48,000,000 this year, compared with £46,000,000 in 1946-47.
Details of price stabilization, subsidies aud assistance to primary production are contained in statements Nos. S and 9.
– There is a general statement, but if the honorable member wants detailed information it will be supplied.
OTHER Expenditure 1947-4S.
Total expenditure other than defence and post-war charges in 1947 -4S is estimated at £259,000,000 which represents an increase of £41,000,000 over last year.
The main increases are £4,000,000 in payments to the National Welfare Fund, £15,000,000 on new works, £4,000,000 on postal services, £4,000,000 in payments to States and £11,000,000 on administrative votes. Some comment on each of these items is given. In most of them the effect of rising wages and other costs is reflected although it should be noted that in these estimates of expenditure allowance has not been made for the operation as from the 1st January, 1948, of the 40-hour week.
Statutory payments to the National Welfare Fund are estimated at. £69,000,000- £54,000,000 social services contribution and £15,000,000 pay-roll tax- compared with £65,000,000 last year. Actual cash expenditure on social services in 194748 is, however, expected to amount to £77,000,000 - an increase of £15,000,000 on expenditure of £62,000,000 in 1946-47 - ‘and this will necessitate drawing on the balance in the National Welfare Fund to an amount of £8,000,000.
The main increase in social services expenditure is in respect of age and invalid pensions which are expected to cost £10,000,000 more than last year, partly because of the increase of 5s. per week in the pension as from the 1st July, 1947, and partly because of the increase in the number of pensioners. . Details of the National Welfare Fund arc shown in Statement No. 7.
– I think it is.
– -If not, perhaps the right, honorable gentleman will be good enough to let us have it.
– I shall arrange that.
An amount of £33,000,000 is provided in the Estimates to cover expenditure on Commonwealth works undertakings excluding defence services. Of this amount, £7,300,000 is included for postal and telegraph equipment, £7,100,000 for war service homes, and £2,400,000 for shipbuilding. The balance of the provision is mainly for engineering works and buildings. The Commonwealth Government has at present a very large programme of works, particularly on postal and civil aviation activities. Because of shortages of labour and materials, however, the volume of works which can be undertaken this year has had to be severely limited.
– There is no necessity for such provision in this budget.
Expenditure during 1947-48 on the postal services, apart from capital expenditure included under New Works, is estimated at £30,304,000 compared with £26,756,000 in 1946-47. The increase is attributable mainly to the arrears of maintenance which accumulated during the war and to increased salaries and wages and higher costs of stores and equipment.
Provision has been made for payments to- States of £65,000,000, which is £4,000,000 above the amount paid last year. It will be recalled that last year the tax reimbursement grants payable to the States were increased to £40,000,000 as compared with £34,255,000 under the war-time basis of reimbursement. To assist the States in meeting additional expenditures which are largely due to rising costs and prices, the Government has decided to make additional payments to the States, the effect of which will be to increase the tax reimbursement grants this year to £45,000,000 - an increase of nearly £11,000,000 as compared with the war-time basis. Details of the new arrangements are given in Statement No. 10.
It is expected that the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Grant at £6,000,000 will be £1,200,000 greater than last year.
The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission has not yet been received but a tentative amount of £5,042,000 has been included in the Estimates to provide for the payment of special grants to the three less populous States.
Expenditure on other civil departments this year is estimated at £26,700,000, which is £11,200,000 above expenditure in 1946-47. Of this increase, however, £4,400,000 is due to the fact that expenditures of the Department of .Supply and Shipping not now associated with defence are excluded from defence and post-war charges. The Department of Civil Aviation shows an increase of £2,500,000. This is mainly because payments by the Postal Department for the conveyance of air mails estimated at £1,400,000 for 1947-48 which were formerly applied in reduction of expenditure will this year be credited to civil aviation revenue. Other reasons are the expansion of overseas air services and a rise in maintenance costs because of the provision of additional aerodromes and more efficient technical equipment. The provision for immigration is also increased by £1,600,000. Expenditure by these departments will also be affected by increased wage and salary costs.
A complete review of all Commonwealth departments, including the business undertakings, is being carried out with the object of achieving the highest standards of economy and efficiency in administration on a peacetime basis. The Public Service Board has been re-constituted for this purpose and some progress has been made. The administrative organization which is to handle new and difficult functions of government must keep pace with its responsibilities, but the Government is determined that expenditures in all fields shall be kept under the closest scrutiny to ensure that the community obtains full value and efficient service.
Total Expenditure 1947-4S.
Briefly compared, therefore, total expenditure in 1947-48 is estimated at £427,000,000 against £450,000,000 in 1946-47. Defence and post-war charges are expected to decrease by £64,000,000 and other .expenditure to increase by £41,000,000 so that the total expenditure is estimated to be £23,000,000 less this year than last year.
Details of estimates of Commonwealth expenditure from revenue are contained in Statement No. 3.
With the rates of taxation now in force it is estimated that revenue in 1947-48 would be £404,000,000 compared with actual revenue in 1946-47 of £412,000,000, a decrease of £8,000,000.
After taking account of proposed tax concessions, details of which will be given presently, revenue for the current year is estimated to be £397,000,000, a fall of £15,000,000 on last year.
Income tax and social services contribution is expected to show a fall of £12,000,000 and sales tax a fall of £7,000,000. Revenue from customs and excise duties is estimated to be approximately the same as last year because while imports have been increasing during recent months, the restrictions on imports which have been recently imposed and which may have to be intensified are likely to check this development. Other items including pay-roll tax and postal revenue show increases amounting to £4,000,000. Further details of estimated revenue are given in Statement No. 2.
The budget position for this year, compared with last year, may be summarked as follows: -
Certain self-balancing items of revenue and’ expenditure connected with primary production, for instance the wheat export charge and wool contributory charge, have not been included in these figures.
In addition to the budget gap of £30.000,000 requiring loan finance, there are the Loan Council borrowing programmes aggregating £63,000,000 to cover expenditures by State governments on public works and housing. The Loan Council has also approved a total borrowing programme of £20,000,000 for semigovernmental and local authorities. Hence, the total estimated public borrowing during .1947-48 will he. £333,000,000.
During the last sessional period a series of important tax reductions were brought forward by the Government and operated from 1st July, 1947, so that they will be effective for the whole of this financial year. vs regards income tax and social services contribution substantial reductions in rates were made and an increase was granted in the amounts upon which rebates for dependants are calculated. The value to taxpayers of these and certain other concessions in respect of income taxation was estimated at £34,000,000 per year. Persons maintaining dependants were afforded the greatest relief, the reductions ranging from 100 per cent, on the lowest incomes to approximately 10 per cent, on high incomes.
The annual value to taxpayers of reductions made since the cessation of hostilities in taxes upon individual incomes has now reached a total of more than £70,000,000 and the great majority of taxpayers are now paying half, and in many cases less than half,, the tax payable at war- time rates.
On many incomes less tax is payable to-day than in the year 1938-39. For example, a man with a dependent wife and two children in the State having the lowest rates of tax in 1938-39 who was earning £6 per week would have paid approximately £4 tax for that year. Today he would pay no tax. In- the State which imposed the highest rates of tax in 1938-39 he may now earn up to £8 a week and still pay less tax than he would then have paid at combined Commonwealth and State rates.
The cost to revenue of concessions given in respect of income tax will to some extent be offset this year by increased collection of taxation arrears.
War-time (Company) Tax.
The Government, proposes to abolish the war-time (company) tax which was imposed during the war period as a levy upon the exceptionally high profits made by some public companies Tinder war conditions. Since this purpose has been fulfilled it is considered that the tax should no longer be continued. It will therefore cease to operate as from and including the present financial year, which means that company profits of the year ended the 30th June, 1946. or the accounting period substituted for that year, will be the last year’s profits subject to the tax.
The cost to revenue of removing the tax is estimated at £3,500,000.
Concessions are proposed in respect of sales tax which are estimated to reduce revenue from this source by £3,500,000 in a full year and £2,800,000 in this financial year. Mainly these concessions will take the form of transferring items from the maximum rate schedule of 25 per cent, to the standard rate of 10 per cent. Full details will be given when legislation is brought down later to-day.
With a view to encouraging production of gold as a means of earning dollars and having regard also to increasing costs in the gold-mining industry, the Government proposes to suspend the operation of the gold tax. It is proposed that the suspension will operate as from tomorrow, and legislation will be brought down for this purpose. On the present rate of production, the estimated cost to revenue will be £350,000 in this financial year and £550,000 in a full year.
Membership of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development was formally accepted by the Government on the 5th August, 1947. The terms of admission were on the same basis as those available to original members of the fund and bank.
Two years of post-war experience have shown that full employment holds the key to many of the greatest economic problems of our community. Without full employment the financial burdens left by the war could not have been reduced so far; nor could we stand so well the present costs of defence and social services. Because of full employment, again a notable expansion of industry has been made possible and we are able to adopt such progressive measures as the fortyhour week, which the Arbitration Court has granted. The Government is taking no credit for .that.
If conditions overseas deteriorate we will have to adapt ourselves to the circumstances and leave nothing undone that will contribute to the central objective of keeping all available labour steadily at work. This means amongst other things unremitting efforts to achieve greater production. It also requires a continuance of measures to prevent unwarrantable increases in costs and prices. As I have emphasized previously, there has never been a greater demand, except in the darkest days of the war, for all Australians to give of their best.
In a special sense, our future as a people depends on what we do in this coming year. In fact, that statement does not apply only to the coming year. Great Britain has “ turned-the-corner “ perhaps, but it will have an uphill struggle and Australia will have to lend a helping hand. Within Australia we are laying permanent foundations for security by helping ex-servicemen and women to reinstate themselves, by overtaking the wartime lag in industrial equipment, by extending our social service benefits and by maintaining a post-war defence plan adequate to our responsibilities within the British Commonwealth and the United Nations. Abroad we are fulfilling our obligations for the advancement of security and are contributing as far as we are able towards easing the burdens of the United Kingdom.. Tasks of this magnitude can be fulfilled only if tackled in a willing spirit and with our full national resources.
Notes. - (a)In addition supplies and services to the total value of £283,000.000 (excluding reciprocal lend-lease) were provided for Other Governments. All of this amount has already been recovered except for £32,000,000 which is allowed for in the item “Other war and miscellaneous services”. (b) The total value of lend-lease supplies received from the United States was about $1,500,000,000.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470919_reps_18_193/>.