18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Petitions in relation tobanking, in Australia were presented as follows : -
By Mr. McBRIDE, from certain electors of the division of Wakefield.
By Mr. FRANCIS, from certain electors of the division of Moreton.
By Mr. BLAIN, from certain residents of New Guinea.
By Mr. ANTHONY, from certain electors of the division of Richmond.
By Mr. BERNARD CORSER, from certain electors of the division of Wide Bay.
By Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON, from certain electors of the division of Barker.
Petitions received and read.
Shipments to South Australia and Tasmania
– In to-day’s edition of the Adelaide Advertiser there is a statement attributed to the managing director of John Lysaght (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Mr. Parry Okeden, thathis company was holding orders covered by government permits for 4,347 tons of galvanized iron for South Australia, which was held up owing toshipping difficulties. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supplyand Shipping informme whether anything hasbeen done in response to my representations that the Australian Shipping Board that be so, when shipping is available should direct steamers to pick up this galvanized iron and steel products available for South Australia, instead of proceeding from the eastern States in ballast to Whyalla for the purpose of loading iron ore for Newcastle? .
– The Commonwealth Government has relinquished control of interstate shipping, so the Australian Shipping Board cannot direct the steamship companies to take cargo instead of travelling in ballast. However, I understand that the Minister for Supply and Shipping has the matter in hand, and I am sure that he will do his utmost to ensure that galvanized iron and steel products are taken to South Australia.
– An announcement has been made that John Lysaght (Australia) Proprietry Limited has abandoned the State quota system for the distribution of galvanized iron, and that quotes for States other than New South Wales are now being absorbed by New South Wales because of the shortage of shipping. In view of the continuing urgent needs of this commodity in the southern States, particularly Tasmania, which is solely dependent on shipping for the transport of its supplies from Newcastle, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping ascertain whether it is possible, as a way out of the impasse, to have the quotas for the southern States transported by rail or road from Newcastle to Melbourne, andto Adelaide if necessary, so that the Tasmanian quota may be shipped from Melbourne?
– I am not sure where the honorable member obtained his information in respect of this matter.
– It was contained in a report in (his morning’s press.
– The Australian Government allocates quotas of galvanized iron to the States and accordingly the distribution has nothing to do with the company referred to by the honorable member. Because of shipping difficulties, however, the quotas of States other than
New South Wales may temporarily have to be absorbed by New South Wales. If greater allocations will be made to ‘ the other States. I shall discuss the subject with the Minister foi Supply and Shipping and ascertain whether -anything can be done to provide transport facilities in order to expedite the despatch of galvanized iron to the southern States.
– Can the Treasurer say whether it is a fact that relative security to the extent of 80 per cent, to 100 per cent, is demanded in order to establish documentary letters of credit overseas? Is it a fact that a member of this House recently established a letter of credit to Japan with the Commonwealth Bank in which he was allowed a 25 per cent, relative security cover? If so, what is the name of that member? What were the circumstances associated with the transaction? What was the amount of the letter of credit ? Is it customary for members of this House to be granted an advantage over other traders to the extent of 65 per cent, to 75 per cent.? If so, what is the reason for granting such preference? What pressure was brought to bear by the member in question in order to obtain such an advantage?
– The fact is, of course, that letters of credit - and I presume that the honorable member is referring to dollar credit - are handled by the Commonwealth Bank. Except where very large amounts are involved the matter would not be referred to me. The bank authorities are given certain discretionary powers, and, naturally, I do not attempt to interfere with a citizen in his private work.
– He soon will be interfered with.
– The honorable member has been saying that for a long time, but nothing he has said has come true. I shall examine the question with a view to seeing whether the information sought is of a type which I should supply to the honorable member.
Motion (by Mr. CHIFLEY) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to tomorrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture relating to the decision to increase the overall basic return to the dairy-farmer at the factory door to 2s. per lb. on a commercial butter basis. Has there been a considerable delay in this matter since the appointment of the committee to inquire into costs of production in the dairying industry? Has this decision, which is certainly a step in the right direction, been delayed since receipt of the committee’s report? Is this the final action of that committee? Is it now to be dissolved, or is this an interim report? Can the Minister give any further information as to the basis upon which the annual adjustment of prices will be made in accordance with the rise or fall of demonstrated costs ? What will be the body to make recommendations to the Government in that respect? Can the Minister give any information on the very interesting proposal to allocate £250,000 a year for the purpose of promoting improved farming practice in the dairying industry?
– The honorable member’s question is rather long, and I shall answer it as briefly as possible. As to whether there has been any delay in dealing with the interim report of the committee which inquired into costs of production in the dairying industry, I may say that that report was furnished to the Government only this week, and within 24 hours the Government made its decision as recently announced in the press. That, I suggest, was a very prompt decision. At the moment I cannot completely enlighten the honorable member with respect to the provision to be made for review. The report of the committee is an interim report, and I take it that when its final report is presented it will contain some recommendation as to what authority should make the- automatic adjustment which the Government has approved and which will be made on an annual basis.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the cheques making retrospective payments on account of the proposed increase of the price of butter will be distributed in time to enable their recipients to cash them before the 8th November next?
– 1 am quite sure that the honorable member has submitted his question in facetious vein, and that it is designed to suggest that the Government’s decision to guarantee for five years a substantially higher price to the dairyfarmers of this country is due to the imminence of a general election in Victoria. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This Government appointed a committee to inquire into costs in the dairying industry. It received the report of that committee early this week, and acted promptly on the recommendations that it contains. In consequence of the Government’s decision, the dairy-farmers of Victoria, New South Wales and the other Australian States will receive substantial cheques, representing retrospective payments to April, 1946, ‘ but not necessarily before the 8th November next.
Preferences - Agreements
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction a question relating to a report published recently that the international trade negotiations at Geneva, at which the press also predicts final agreement will be reached, are now nearing completion. Can he assure the House and the industries concerned that in the course of those negotiations the Government’s representatives will not agree to an abandonment of such a proportion of Empire preferential duties -applying to Australian canned fruits and dried fruits as would prejudice the capacity of those industries to maintain “their present rate of production and their present capacity to give employment?
– I give the honorable member an assurance that the negotiators on behalf of the Australian Government at Geneva have not agreed to any proposal which might result in the industries referred to by the honorable gentleman being disadvantaged in the way he suggests. These discussions have been of a multilateral character, eighteen countries participating in them, and it is not possible at this stage to give details of the proposed agreement. I -make it clear, however, that no final agreement has been reached. This Parliament is the only body which can ratify such an agreement on behalf of Australia. The negotiators are merely discussing the lines upon which such an agreement might be made.
– In view of reports that British Ministers have been appointed to negotiate trade agreements on matters which vitally concern Australian primary producers, can the Prime Minister inform the House whether he has an arrangement with the United Kingdom Government that it will not make any firm agreement without first consulting the Australian people and obtaining their concurrence?
– I am not sure whether the honorable member refers to commodity agreements between the United Kingdom and Australia or to the International Trade Organization.
– I referred to the preferences which were granted under the Ottawa agreement.
– I assumed that the honorable member referred to the proposals which’ were discussed at Geneva recently.
– And to the conference held in America.
– Conferences on this subject have been held in many parts of the world, including America, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and South Africa. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction dealt with the matter fairly fully a few moments ago.
– Only in regard to one section.
– The discussions’ have been lengthy. The negotiations are still proceeding, and the position at the moment is entirely fluid. I believe that the Minister intimated that the interests of Australian primary producers would be protected, and, if possible, improved as the result of any proposals which were made. He also made it clear that only the Parliament can ratify any agreement. Should the negotiations, which have progressed considerably during the last week or two, reach finality, it will be a matter for the Government to submit the proposals to the Parliament for consideration.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform me whether it is a fact, as reported, that the Government will shortly announce trade agreements with twelve countries? If so, can the Minister indicate at this stage the countries which are included in that group? Oan he also say whether any negotiations have been entered into for a trade arrangement or agreement with the group of countries in Europe which recently formed a union for economic purposes ?
– It is not true to say that the Government will shortly announce that trade agreements have been reached with twelve countries, including “Benelux” - Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, which I said formed a customs union. As I said earlier, discussions had taken place with twelve of the eighteen countries which took part in the negotiations at Geneva. The result of those discussions will be that certain proposals will be put before the Australian Government, and if Oa.bin.et so decides, those proposals will be submitted to this Parliament. No agreement will be reached with any country until the Parliament has considered the proposals.
Australians in Japan.
– What provision, if any, has been made for the return to this country of Australian members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force of Japan whose term of service expired on the 10th April, 1947 ?
– It is the practiceto return the troops to Australia by thefirst ship leaving Japan after the termination of their period of service. A vessel is now en route to Australia carrying some of these time-expired troops. Every effort is being made to return the troops to Australia as soon as possibleafter the termination of their period of service.
– In to-day’s press thereappears a report that three of the sixteen conciliation commissioners, appointed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, haveresigned, including Mr. Wallwork, who was to be assigned to Darwin. Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state why Mr. Wallwork resignedand will he provide for another conciliation commissioner to be sent to “Darwin, which has suffered for many years because of the absence of a conciliation commissioner to tackle industrial problems there?
– It is true, as 1 stated in reply to a question by the honorable member last week, that Mr. Wallwork resigned after he had been sworn in as a conciliation commissioner and appointed to Darwin. The reason for Mr. Wallwork’s resignation was that he could not undertake travelling. He thought that he would be stationed in Western Australia and would not have to travel. Mr. Commissioner Portus lias now been appointed to Dar win, and will go there very soon if he is not already on his way. He will start dealing with Darwin matters immediately.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether two other conciliation commissioners, apart from Mr. Wallwork, of Western Australia, have resigned their positions? Did they apply for appointment in the first place? What were the reasons for their resignations? If and when other commissioners are appointed to replace them - ‘the Government having, indicated that it requires fifteen conciliation commissioners - will the Government’s promise to give preference to exservicemen be honoured?
– It is true that two other newly appointed conciliation commissioners have resigned. Mr. Beers, an officer of the Victorian Department of Labour, was not sworn in as a commissioner; he resigned just before the swearingin ceremony. I understand that he decided to remain with the State department. Mr. Roberts resigned because, although he Believed that he would be dealing with the engineering and metal trades, a section of industry that he knows well, he discovered that he would also have to handle matters affecting other sections of industry. He decided that his health would not permit him to investigate industries with which he was not acquainted, and therefore he resigned. The Government is now considering filling the vacancies that have been created, and in doing so it will take into consideration the granting of preference to ex-servicemen, as it always does.
– Recently I asked the Prime Minister whether he would table in this House the papers relating to the purchase by Dr. Coombs, Director of Post-war Reconstruction, of a house in Cremorne, for £3,630, when the 1942 valuation was £2,850. The Prime Minister, in his reply, stated that the purchase price had been supported by two independent private valuers and confirmed by departmental valuers. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is aware that the Valuer-General of New South Wales has recently - since the sale to Dr. Coombs - valued the property at £3,250 ? Will the Prime Minister disclose the names of the valuers mentioned in his reply to my original question, and the valuation that each made? In view of the important public position held by Dr. Coombs and the difficulties that are being experienced by other people in getting the present-day value of their homes approved by Land Sales Control as the basis for sale, will the right honorable gentleman table all the papers relating to this matter ?
– As I informed the honorable member previously the property sold to Dr. Coombs was valued by two approved valuers and confirmed by the departmental valuers. I examined this matter as it appeared that aspersions had been cast upon a very valued and capable public servant. I was unaware of the other points that have been mentioned by the honorable member to-day, but I shall have them investigated. I do not propose to table in this House all the papers that are asked for in relation to the transactions of private individuals in the community.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether prices control is being used as a form of profit control ? If so, what percentage of profit is permitted? Does the same percentage apply to each industry, or do rates of profit, vary from firm to firm and industry to industry ?
– I shall provide the honorable member with a prepared reply to his question.
– Can the Prime Minister say what is the value of the reparations that Australia is receiving from Germany? What types of goods are being received, how are they being paid for, who will have an opportunity to select them, and will they be allocated on a quota basis to the various States ?
– It is not possible for me to tell the honorable member the precise value of plant obtained from Germany as reparations, but the Australian Government has received a considerable quantity of machine tools. Some are being retained by the Department of Munitions and some are being allocated or sold to private enterprise. Arrangements are being made for the lease or sale of some of the heavier machine tools to private engineering firms. Allocation of machine tools as reparations was made on a percentage basis rather than on a value basis, but, as soon as I can, I shall try to supply the honorable gentleman with an estimate of the quantity and value of the articles that have arrived, are on the water, or are likely to be brought to Australia from Germany. The handling of the material is the responsibility of the Department of Munitions.
– I have received a letter from the Graziers Federal Council of Australia in which the grave charge is made that serious inaccuracies appear in the Sixth Report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission and that, in the section dealing with federal pastoral awards, errors occur in practically every paragraph. I ask the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction whether the allegations have been investigated. If so, what was the result of the investigation, and what action is it intended to take in the matter?
– The Sixth Report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission has been received by the Government, and, in accordance with the ‘ procedure, referred to the Premiers of the States for their observations on it. I have not heard of any complaints such as that mentioned by the right honorable gentleman as coming from the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, but I am sure that when the Premiers examine the report they will bring to the Government’s notice any errors in it.
– During the war many Indonesians came to different parts of Australia and were employed. A great many worked for the government at Port Adelaide. I understand that some months ago the Indonesians were repatriated. The wives and children of many who married while in Australia are left without any means of subsistence. I ask the Minister for Immigration whether his department can make any arrangements with the Depart ment of .Social- Services to ensure that the Australian wives and children of Indonesians shall be able to obtain social service benefits equal to those granted to deserted wives and others in that category.
– My duty as Minister for Immigration was to see that those Indonesians who had come to Australia as temporary refugees should be repatriated to their homeland as soon as hostilities ceased, and to that end the Government arranged for the Department of the Navy for the use of Esperance Bay, on one occasion, and Manoora, on two occasions, to take back about 2,900 Indonesians to their homeland. They were sent on ships flying the British flag to territory not occupied by the Dutch. It was an arrangement to which the Dutch gave their approval. Every one seemed to be quite happy. In a few instances the wives and children of the Indonesians accompanied them. When fighting brokeout in Indonesia, the Indonesian authorities requested us to facilitate the return to Australia of Australian-born women and children. We have repatriated them. A number of wives had not gone toIndonesia with their husbands and the Indonesian authorities asked us to delay their departure for the time being, which we did. I do not know at the moment what provision was made ‘by the Department of Social Services, but I shall takethe matter up with the Minister for Social Services and will supply thehonorable member with full information at the earliest possible moment.
– In view of the fact that some Australian women who married Indonesians returned to Australia, afterthey found that their husbands wereliving as semi-savages in native villages, can the Minister for Immigration givean assurance to the House that he will investigate the cases of all other Australian women who are still in Indonesia,, with a view to ascertaining whether they are happy with their husbands, or arebeing held against their will and wish toreturn to Australia ?
– I should certainlyhave a full-time job if I set out to ascertain if all Australian women married to-
Indonesians are happy. ‘ When I reached Sourabaya, on my way ,to England, in June, the Australian Consul-General at Batavia, Mr. Ballard, saw me. I asked him to ascertain how many Australian women married ‘to Dutch nationals, Eurasians, or Indonesians desired to return to Australia. The impression that I gained from him was that Australians who had married Dutch nationals had no strong desire to return to Australia, immediately although they all hoped that ultimately they and their husbands would settle in Australia. I also formed the opinion that Australian women married to Eurasians had no strong desire to return to Australia at that stage, even if their husbands were allowed to settle here. With regard to white women married to Indonesians-
– I have in mind particularly Australian women who wish to return without their husbands.
– The impression I gained from my conversation with’ Mr. Ballard was that all the Australian wives of Indonesians desired to return to Australia, and that arrangements were being made to repatriate them. When the Indonesian authorities requested the Australian Government to repatriate Australian women residing in Indonesia the request covered all such women. I do not know of any Australian women who are still living in Indonesia, but I shall make inquiries and see what oan be done in the matter.
– I understand that, in view of the Victorian political crisis and the consequent hold-up of the barley industry legislation, the Australian Government proposes to extend its control of barley to this season’s harvest. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state how this will affect Tasmanian barley-growers, 400 of whom are organized in the Tasmanian Barley Growers Association?
– The position which the Tasmanian barley-growers occupied prior to the dissolution of the Victorian
Parliament and prior to the announcement that the Australian Government did not intend to continue the Australian Barley Board’s operations will remain unchanged.
Telegraph Traffic Supervisory Officers Association
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the Postmaster-General is aware of the considerable discontent within the ranks of the Commonwealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers Association in regard to the following matters: - (1) The recent refusal of the Public Service Board to reclassify the supervisory positions in the telegraph branch in the same manner as was done in other branches of the Public Service; (2) the low salary ranges allocated to telegraph supervisors of all classifications, and the salary ranges of assistant superintendents, telegraphs; and (3) the apparent determination of the Public Service Board to retain the low salary ranges allotted to the telegraph supervisory positions? Is the Postmaster-General also aware that various branches of the Commonwealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers Association has requested the federal executive of the organization to advise the Postmaster-General, the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, and the Chief Inspector of Telegraphs of this considerable discontent? Will the Postmaster-General take cognizance of this serious state of affairs affecting the telegraph communications section, so that immediate arrangements may be made for a conference between the parties concerned with a view to preventing further discontent and probable action ?
– I cannot say whether the Postmaster-General is aware of any discontent, if there be such, in the ranks of that section of the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department to whom the honorable member refers, but I shall bring these matters to the notice of the Postmaster-General and, as usual, I am sure that he will take appropriate action.
– A telegram which I received to-day signed “ Johns, secretary district council Country party”, reads -
Sugar position inadequate supplies worse than ever two pound limit all families when available some stores out of stock last five days Mildura district quota inadequate.
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs make representations to his colleague with a view to increasing the sugar quota for Mildura? In view of the widespread shortage of sugar, will the Minister ascertain what is being done to relieve the position ?
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to providing an adequate sugar ration, not only for residents of Mildura, but also for the community generally.
Heidelberg Hospiita l.
– Following a recent statement by the chairman of the Repatriation Commission that shortage of nurses may necessitate a review of the conditions of entry of ex-servicemen into repatriation hospitals, I have received a letter from the Caulfield central subbranch of the Returned Servicemen’s League, which has a membership of 3,350 ex-service men and women, making certain inquiries. Can the Minister for Repatriation inform the House whether several wards of the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital have closed, although patients are still seeking admission? If so, can the Minister state whether the reason for closing the wards was a shortage of nursing staff and orderlies? Is it not a fact that nurses and orderlies have resigned from the staff of the hospital because of the poor food and living conditions and lack of amenities? If so, what action is being taken by the Repatriation Commis sion to rectify the causes of complaint and to increase the nursing staff at that hospital ?
– A number of wards in the repatriation hospital at Heidelberg; have been closed because of shortage of staff, particularly of nurses. It is most difficult to obtain nurses, because there is a shortage generally throughout Australia. Trained nurses are quite free to choose their places of employment, and they cannot be compelled to accept positions anywhere. I discussed the matter of the shortage of staff at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital with the chairman of the Repatriation Commission only yesterday, and he informed me that unless the commission is able to secure the services of additional nurses, another ward, and possibly more, may have to be closed. There is not sufficient accommodation for the nurses and the whole staff at the hospital. Heidelberg Hospital was a military establishment prior to its transfer to the Repatriation Commission, and the accommodation available for military personnel in war-time is not adequate for civilians in peace-time. I have heard no complaints, however, with regard to the quality of the food, and I do not think that the food has had anything to do with members of the staff tendering their resignations. Nevertheless, I shall investigate that aspect of the matter and supply the honorable member with the result of my inquiries.
Employment in Government Service.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether Mr. “ Jock “ Garden, who was once the secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in New South Wales, is now attached to the staff of the Department of Labour and National Service, or to that of the Department of Transport? If Mr. Garden is attached to the former, can the Minister inform me of the nature of his duties? Is it a fact that Mr. Garden is now, and has for some time past, occupied an office on the eighth floor of the Commonwealth Bank building, Sydney?
– Mr. J. S. Garden i.« a member of the staff of one of the departments that I administer. He occupied that position long before I began to administer the department. His duties involve maintaining contact with employers and trade unionists, and assisting the industrial section of the Department of Labour in New South Wales. During industrial disputes, he keeps in contact with the leaders on both sides, and reports direct to me as well as to the officers of the industrial section of the Department of Labour in New South Wales, He has been, and is, a very useful and helpful officer. In the exercise of his functions, he has been the means of avoiding the outbreak of many disputes, by notifying me in the early stages of the trouble. He occupies a very small room in the Commonwealth Bank building, Sydney, because he can there keep in close contact with everybody whom I want him to contact.
– I ask the Treasurer whether any provision exists whereby Commonwealth public servants, as contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, may secure finance for home-building purposes?
– Public servants have the right to obtain finance for home building from all the sources that are available to the average citizen. I do not know what the honorable member has particularly in mind.
– Can they use their superannuation as security?
– I am not aware of any such procedure, but I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member have an answer as early as possible.
Far Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited
– On the 26th September last, [ asked the Prime Minister a question concerning the wrongful transfer of an import licence involving the sum of £43,500. As the information which I sought must be readily available in the department concerned, can the right honorable gentleman explain the inordinate delay in furnishing an answer ? Does he intend to withhold the information until the estimates of the department concerned have been passed, so that the matter may not be discussed?
– Whether or not the question is answered is entirely within the discretion of the Prime Minister; he may use his own judgment.
– If there seems to have been an unduly long delay in supplying an answer to the question, I regret it. I asked the Minister concerned to make sure of all the facts, because so many statements are made in this House which, when investigated, prove to be entirely fallacious. The latter portion of the honorable member’s question makes an imputation of which I do not propose to take any notice.
– Has the Minister for Defence noted the intention of the United Kingdom Government to withdraw 500,000 troops from overseas garrisons, including the Middle East, and the whole of the force in Japan, due to financial stringency at home? In view of this contingency, does not the Government consider that it should revise its defence plans, because of the undoubtedly inadequate army and air force-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not debate the adequacy or otherwise of the forces.
– Does not the honorable gentleman consider that the Government’s plans should be revised, in view of their having been made bef ore this contingency arose? Is it intended that the Australian garrison in Japan shall he enlarged, so as to replace the British troops that are withdrawn?
– The matter of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom contingent from, the British
Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan is still under discussion by the Australian and United Kingdom. Governments. I have no doubt that when finality has been reached the Aus.tralian Government will consider whether the British Commonwealth Occupation Force should remain in Japan, or should be strengthened. I should think, at the moment, that all the indications point to the Government not proposing to send additional troops to Japan, and not to withdraw for some time those Australian troops that are now in that country.
– Can the Minister for External Territories say whether the Government has yet decided where the new capital of New Guinea is to be located?
– No decision has yet been made. I hope to visit that territory early in the new year, and subsequently to announce the Government’s decision.
– Was the Minister for Transport responsible for the press statement that has been published since has return to Australia, in which the railway system of the United States of America was eulogized ? If he was, did he observe during bis transit through that country that the railways were privately owned?
– I do not know to what particular press statement the honorable member directs my attention. I have made some reference to technical improvements which had been effected in the American transport system, particularly the railways. I have likewise drawn attention, and this has not been published in the press, to the good deal of waste which occurs in connexion with the operation of the American railways under private ownership, due -to the duplication of services. An executive officer of an American company told me of an instance where five separate railway tracks are operating between two main cities in America, although three would be quite capable of providing for the business that is offering. We have recognized that great advantage would accrue to the Australian railways by the adoption of some of the technical improvements that are enjoyed by railway travellers in America. In my opinion, however, disaster would overtake the operation of the railways in this country if we were to dispose of them to private interests.
– As I am receiving in increasing number of inquiries from former wheat-growers who were forced to pay money into the so-called stabilization fund under the authority of the Wheat Tax Act, and for reasons of ill health have since withdrawn from the industry, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether such persons are entitled to repayments from that fund since they will have no chance of participating in any future dividends that may be paid?
– There is at present no provision whereby persons who have withdrawn from the wheat-growing industry may receive a refund of the amount contributed by them to the stabilization fund, but it is hoped that when the Commonwealth and States have passed the necessary .complementary legislation, some payment to them may be possible.
– That is a change of attitude on the part of the Minister.
– It is not. When legislation providing for the tax was before the Parliament, it was stated that endeavours would be made to meet cases such as those mentioned by the honorable member for Wimmera.
Motion (by Mr. Barnard) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1946, as amended by the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1947 and by the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1947.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare - (a) that the Estimates of Expenditure are of an urgent nature, (b) that the resolutions preliminary to the introduction of the Appropriation Bill are urgent resolutions, and (c) that the Appropriation Bill is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the Estimates be considered of an urgent nature; that the resolutions be considered urgent resolutions; and that the Appropriation Bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed - That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, the resolutions, and the stages of the Appropriation Bill, be as follows: -
– It cannot be said that the “guillotining” of the Estimates is without precedent. I am not going to say for one moment that some reasonable allocation of time would not meet with the approval of honorable members of the House. The whole problem is to determine what is a reasonable allocation of time, and in that connexion I wish to refer to some features of the schedule before the House. For instance, the second group consists of the Department of Works and Housing, Civil Aviation, Trade and Customs, Health, and Commerce and Agriculture. All those departments are grouped together, and a period of three hours is proposed to be allotted for their discussion. The debate on the first line of the Estimates was unusually short, so that the Government cannot say that any undue amount of time was occupied on the general debate. On the contrary, the termination of the general debate meant that considerably more time was left for the discussion of the estimates for individual departments. That is, of course, a very important period of debate for all honorable members. Some may want to discuss housing; other, or perhaps the same honorable members, may wish to discuss aspects of civil aviation. The discussion of the Estimates provides that one opportunity to discuss housing; it provides the one opportunity to discuss, for example, the operations of TransAu« tralia Airlines, and other aspects of civil aviation. It also provides the one opportunity to discuss certain trade treaties which are the concern of . the Department of Trade and Customs. As for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, consideration of the estimates for this department will provide one of the few opportunities to discuss such important problems as what is to happen to the wheat stabilization scheme; and what changes the Government has in mind, and for honorable members to put forward suggestions.
When the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) puts the estimates for five departments into one batch to be disposed of in a period of three hours he knows very well that the whole of the time may be occupied in discussing the estimates of the first department. That matter is not under the control of members of the Opposition. Members of the Opposition may decide not to discuss one department, or to limit the discussion from their side to one speech, so that time will be available for debate on other departments. However, we are not the only members in the House, and if it is desired - we may as well be open about it - to prevent honorable members from saying anything whatever about civil aviation or the Department of Trade and Customs, or the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the result is very easily achieved by occupying the whole of the allotted time in a discussion on the first department in the group. After all, it would only take about half-a-dozen speeches of the length allowed under the bounding Orders to take the whole of the time, so that no time at all would be available for discussing, say, the Department of Works and Housing. I ask the Prime Minister whether I am right in assuming, from the allocation of time proposed until 6 p.m. on Thursday, that the House will not sit on Thursday morning?
– I understood that that was the arrangement.
– I assumed so, also, but then I am at a loss to understand why the schedule shows a period of four hours for the discussion of the departments in the fifth group. If the House sits at 2.30 p.m. on Thursday, questions will occupy until approximately 3.30 p.m. so that the time left for the discussion of those departments is something less than three hours, instead of four hours as shown in the schedule. Because the Government has - if the expression is a legitimate one - saved a good deal of time on the general debate, it can afford to be generous in the allocation of time for the detailed discussion of the Estimates. What is more, the public will expect that, when we are appropriating over £400,000,000 of their money sufficient time will be allowed to discuss matters which concern them in the administration of the departments. The second observation I make is that it will hardly be said by the Government that it is pressed for time, that it has urgent legislation coming forward; because the truth is that it has no urgent legislation to bring before the House.
– The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– On behalf of the party which I lead, I enter an emphatic protest against the inadequate time proposed to be allotted for consideration of the remainder of the Estimates. We are to be allowed only eighteen and a half hours for that purpose; and in that time we will be asked to pass proposed votes exceeding £427,000,000, or an average of £23,000,000 an hour. Why the Government should want to curtail discussion on the Estimates is beyond my comprehension, particularly when we recall that the general d’ebate was disposed of in record time. In that matter the Opposition co-operated with the Government, with a view to gaining for honorable members the maximum time for consideration of the estimates of each department. However, despite that, the Government now proposes to deprive us of adequate time to consider proposed votes involving expenditure in excess of £400,000,000. A glance at the allotment of time shows how unfair the proposal is. It is also unwise. For instance, honorable members will be allowed only three hours in which to consider the estimates of the Departments of Trade and Customs, “Works and Housing, Civil Aviation, Health and Commerce and Agriculture, whilst we will have to deal with proposed votes in respect of the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Papua-New Guinea and Norfolk Island in one hour. That is a poor compliment to pay to the people residing in those territories. I urge the Government to reconsider the proposed allotment of time, and to make a re-allotment on a sensible basis which will enable us to consider with some semblance of responsibility a total expenditure in excess of £400,000,000.
.- I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) in asking the Government to reconsider the proposed allotment of time .for the remainder of the Estimates. This is Pa.r- liament’s accounting time, when Ministers have an opportunity to explain expenditure in respect of their departments. Parliament ceases to be a deliberative assembly when we are allowed practically no time at all to consider the estimates of such departments as the Department of the Interior, which is acquiring properties in a way that even a totalitarian state would envy, the Department of Civil Aviation, whose airlines are incurring overhead expenses running into millions of pounds, the Department of Works and Housing, involving the inadequacies of the Government’s housing policy, and the Department of Trade and Customs. Our trade and economic destiny will depend upon agreements which have, perhaps. already been signed and of which we have no knowledge. We shall have no opportunity to ask the Government what is its policy, or how much money it is expending in that direction. It seems to be merely a formality for the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to say bo us, in effect, “ You will have so many minutes to discuss the Estimates covering a total expenditure of over £400,000,000; and what you say does not matter “. This is the only opportunity which honorable members have to speak on such matters. The ‘Government has lost all sense of proportion when it wishes to push on in this manner with its quixotic, socialist policy of nationalizing the banks. I urge the Prime Minister to allow the debate on the Estimates to proceed in the ordinary way in order that we might deal effectively with some of the more important departments. That is preferable to rushing on to discuss legislation of which all Australians are aware, and which could be postponed for some weeks. Nobody wants that legislation.
– The honorable member must deal only with the allotment of time.
– Surely, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his calmest moments must realize that it is against the best interests of the community to rush through the Estimates in the manner proposed.
.- There is little that the Opposition can do to prevent the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) from carrying out his intention to guillotine the debate on the Estimates. We realize that the Government has the numbers to enforce its intention, and that it will use its majority just as brutally as any majority was ever used in the Reichstag. Under the proposed allotment of time we are asked to consider the Estimates of 32 departments, involving a total appropriation of over £400,000,000 in eighteen and a half hours, or an average that allows a little over half an hour for the consideration of the esti- mates of each department. When we remember that each honorable member has the right to speak for half an hour.. it will mean that, on the average, only one honorable member on each side of the House will have the opportunity to speak on the estimates of any of these departments. I strongly protest against the proposed allotment of time, because, bearing in mind our experience of the methods employed by the Government, we have every reason to believe that Ministers will take up the majority of the time in lauding their own departments ; or, if they do not do so, honorable members opposite will “ stone-wall “ in order to prevent reasonable criticism of the actions of the Government during the past twelve months. The opportunity to consider the Estimates is given to honorable members only once a year. This is our only opportunity to criticize the budget, to offer suggestions, and to bring before the Parliament instances of maladministration, the difficulties confronting particular industries and shortcomings in the Government’s financial policy. However, although we are given that privilege only once a year, the Prime Minister now filches that right from the Parliament. We -are reaching the’ stage when Parliament as an institution will be, as the Prime Minister intends that it should become, merely an instrument through which honorable members draw their parliamentary allowances. The Prime Minister is guillotining the Estimates in order to enable the House to proceed to the consideration of matters appearing on the notice-paper. But what is the importance of those matters? Are they really ur-gent? They include, for instance, the Treaty of Peace (Roumania) Bill.
-Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to whether adequate time is being allotted for the consideration of the estimates of each department.
– I repeat that only eighteen and a half hours is being allotted for the consideration of the Estimates of 32 departments, involving a total expenditure exceeding £400,000,000. I know that my protest will not be effective; nevertheless, I shall continue to register it against this high-handed action of the Government.
.- Like the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), I realize that it is useless for any honorable member to protest against the inadequacy of the time to be allotted for consideration of the remainder of the Estimates. These are record peace-time Estimates and we are expected to get through them at record speed. If ever there was a time when an opportunity should be given for full discussion of the Estimates, it is on this occasion, when the people are looking to the Government, and to the Parliament to justify the continuance of the heavy expenditures of public money. We are denied this opportunity, however, because other urgent business is pending. What is this other urgent business?
-The honorable member is perhaps not so well acquainted with the Standing Orders as are most other honorable members. The House has already declared that the Estimates of expenditure are of an urgent nature. The only question before the House is whether the allotment of time proposed by the Treasurer is adequate.
– As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, if the time allotted for the consideration of the defence and service departments, with which are associated six other proposed votes, be shared equally, each will have to be dealt with in less than 35 minutes. Such a brief period is totally inadequate. This Parliament does not sit for long periods. At most it is in session for about six months of the year, and if honorable members are prevented from discussing adequately the affairs of important departments, parliamentary government has degenerated into an absolute farce. The Government stifles discussion on most important questions, thus making an utter farce of our deliberations. The only reason advanced for this unseemly and unnecessary haste is that to-morrow, come hail or sunshine, we are to start the first day of this nationalist-socialist business.
– Order !
.- I doubt the sincerity of honorable members opposite on this matter. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) stated that the time allotted for the remainder of the Estimates will mean that we shall .be obliged to vote money for the services of the Government at the rate of £18,000,000 an hour. Let us examine the tactics adopted by Opposition members during the last two sitting days. The whole of those two sitting days was devoted to the consideration of one division appearing in the Estimates. Why, it took ten hours-
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in referring in the House to what has happened in committee unless the committee so directs.
– I stress the fact that we spent ten hours considering one subject, communism- .
– I have already ruled that the honorable member is not in order in referring in the House to what has transpired in committee. I ask him to confine his remarks as to the adequacy or inadequacy of the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates.
– The time already taken-
– The Chair has already ruled that the honorable member is not entitled to continue along those lines.
– If the rate of progress hitherto achieved on these Estimates had been maintained, the consideration of the Estimates would occupy a total of 57,000 hours.
– Order !
– If Opposition members are sincere in their expressed desire to expedite the business of the House, they should confine their remarks to matters of relevancy and not allow themselves to be side-tracked as they have been in the past.
.- The time-table proposed by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) for the discussion of the remainder of the Estimates is indicative of the increasing measure of contempt in which this Parliament is held by the right honorable gentleman and the Government. It is outrageous that only two hours should be allotted for the consideration of the estimates for the Attorney-
General’s Department and the Department of the Interior. Such a short time will permit only three members on each side of the chamber each to speak once, or one member on one side to exhaust all the time at his disposal and for two other members on the opposite side to speak. The time allotted f or the consideration of the Departments of Works and Housing, Civil Aviation, Trade and Customs, Health and Commerce and Agriculture is ludicrous. The Treasurer would do better to come out into the open and stifle debate completely than go through the farce of allotting paltry periods for groups of departments, in the pretence that opportunity is thus being given to honorable members to engage’ in deliberative consideration of the Estimates. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) comes into the House occasionally and asks questions about shipping-
– I am in my place all the time.
– Might I inform the honorable member that the Estimates cover supply for the services of the Government and that an opportunity must be given to the Senate before the_ end of this month to deal with the Appropriation Bill which will be founded upon them.
– If I correctly interpret the interjection of the right honorable gentleman- he does not care about this House; he is concerned only that the Senate should have an opportunity to discuss the Appropriation Bill. Honorable members who have indicated that they desire to discuss certain subjects, as the honorable member for Wilmot has- done from time to time, should not be prevented from speaking by such drastic curtailment of debate. The Northern Territory, which covers more than 500,000 square miles, is the exclusive responsibility of this Parliament, yet a total of one hour has1 been allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, Papua and New Guinea and Norfolk Island. The people will recognize that this is a mere pretence of giving adequate time f or the discussion of important matters arising from our administration of those territories. We are expected to discuss the whole of the primary industries ofthis country in the period of three hours allotted for consideration of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and four other important departments. Honorable members have prepared speeches which they desire to make in relation to the dairying, wheat, meat, wool and tobacco industries, all of which fall within the authority and administration of the Department of Com merce and Agriculture. The only opportunity afforded to them to do so is when the annual Estimates are before us. Most of those who look to this opportunity to make representations on behalf of these industries are to be prevented from doing so by this ridiculous time-table. The Government ofthis country is drifting rapidly towards the kind of government established in totalitarian countries.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) attempted to bolster a rather weak case by casting , an unsavoury slur on the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) by saying that he was rarely in the House.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member said that the honorable member for Wilmot comes into the House occasionally.
– I said that the honorable member for Wilmot comes into the House and occasionally raises certain questions.
– Having made the unworthy imputation, the honorable member should be prepared to listen to the reply. The honorable member for Wilmot is constantly in attendance in this chamber.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the allocation of time for the remainder of the Estimates.
– One reason for the curtailment of the debate on the Estimates is that the Opposition turned the discussion of the proposed vote for the Attorney-General’s Department into an anti-Communist propaganda campaign.
– Order ! The honorable member may not refer to what has occurred in committee. The question before the House is whether the times allocated for discussion of the remainder of the Estimates is adequate.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your guidance. One would think, from the criticism that has been levelled by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and certain of his colleagues, that this is the first occasion on which the guillotine has been applied to the debate on the Estimates, and that the time allowed is unduly short compared with that provided on previous occasions. I have before me certain figures relating to the application of the guillotine to the debate on the Estimates by anti-Labour governments. These show that the time allowed for discussion on this occasion compares more than favorably with that permitted in previous years. The present proposal provides for a further eighteen and a half hours for the discussion of the remainder of the Estimates. In 1934, when the late Mr. Lyons was Prime Minister, the time allowed was only thirteen hours. In 1935, when Mr. Casey was Treasurer, the time allowed was eleven hours, and in 1938, still when Mr. Casey was Treasurer, the committee was allowed only from noon on the 29th November to 1 a.m. on the following day - ten hours of actual sitting time - to deal with the Estimates. It will he seen, therefore, that on this occasion the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has been quite generous.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 10th October (vide page 662).
Proposed vote, £528,000.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £1,246,700. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– So far, the discussion of the proposed vote for the Attorney-General’s Department has related to only one phase of the activities of that department. We have listened to a prolonged debate on communism. Whilst I do not think it desirable that any more time should be devoted to this subject, certain challenges made by honorable members opposite should be answered. It has been claimed that Government supporters representing industrial areas, in which there are Communist influenced unions, have not the courage to speak on this matter. The electorate of Hindmarsh, which I represent, includes large numbers of unionists and the organizations of which they are members no doubt include many Communists. Therefore, if any honorable member in this chamber be subject to Communist influences, it is I. It has been alleged that the Waterside Workers Federation is dominated by Communists.
– The honorable member surely does not deny that.
– In the district in which I live, about 1,000 waterside workers are registered as members of the Labour party. Most of these have a vote at Labour party pre-selection ballots. I make this .clear to the Opposition : If we know that a man is a Communist, he is not permitted to participate in these ballots. I was the returning officer at the Labour pre-selection ballots for the last federal elections in South Australia, and it was my duty to distribute ballot-papers to those entitled to vote. Known Communists were not given ballot-papers. Members of this chamber who claim that Labour representatives of industrial electorates are afraid to say what they think about communism obviously have little knowledge of this subject. They talk about fighting communism, but mere statements, no matter how brave, have no effect On Communist organizations. The real task of fighting communism is left to members of the Labour party. The pre-selection ballot in the electorate of Hindmarsh, following the resignation of Mr. Makin, was contested by 21 candidates. I was one of the 21, and the Communist ticket marked me number 20. Obviously the Communists were not anxious that I should be elected.
– I thought that Communists could not belong to the Labour party.
– I am speaking of the propaganda that they issue. I have already said that known Communists were not given ballot-papers. In South Australia there is a rule that no member of the Communist party can belong to the Labour party. We also have a rule, brought into force in recent years, providing that, at every meeting we hold, members shall be asked whether they belong to any other political party - not just the Communist party. 1 am endeavouring to show the fallacy of the argument advanced by the Opposition, that members of the Labour party representing industrial areas are afraid to voice their opinions about communism because of the influence of Communists at pre-selection ballots. I am fully aware that communism in Australia is detrimental to the Labour party. I agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that if members of the Labour party do not stir themselves and by driving out the Communists ensure that they shall retain control of the industrial organizations in which most of the workers are enrolled, the Labour movement will be harmed.
– They have not had much success so far.
– I belong to, and, for many years, was president of, the Road Transport Workers Union, and, long before honorable gentlemen opposite began to talk about the dangers of communism, I fought the communistic element in that union. I did not wait until I entered the Parliament of South Australia in 1930 to fight the Communists. Charges that we are afraid to fight the Communists show how little honorable members opposite know of the inner workings of the trade unions. I was opposed at the last general elections by a Communist. He is not a trade unionist, unless he is a member of the British Medical Association, hut a doctor. He was appointed to one of the big institutions in South Australia, not by a Labour government, but by the representatives of the municipal bodies in the metropolitan area of Adelaide, which are controlled by people opposed to the Labour party. When honorable gentlemen opposite talk about the appointments by this Govern., ment of men with communistic beliefs to positions that men with such beliefs should not fill they should not forget that their supporters in Adelaide have appointed to a high position a man who is not just suspected of having communistic beliefs but is a declared Communist. They should look around a little more before placing all the blame for the appointment of Communists to official positions in the Labour party.
– Name those people.
– Which people?
– The people the honorable member says have been appointed by the Opposition.
– I said that a Communist was appointed to a high official position by the anti-Labour municipal councils in Adelaide, which lately have been carrying resolutions in conformity with the Opposition’s ideas. They appointed him, not because he is a Communist, or because of his political beliefs, but because he is a very capable doctor and a capable administrator of an infectious diseases hospital. Communists are appointed to administrative posts in trade unions for the same reasons as many honorable gentlemen opposite give work to men on their sugar plantations or sheep stations. When honorable gentlemen are engaging sugar-cane cutters or shearers, they do not ask them whether they are Communists or opponents of communism. All they ask is that they shall give a fair return of labour for their wages. They are not interested in their workers’ politics. When honorable members opposite condemn the trade unions because their members appoint Communists as officials they should remember that very often the reason for the appointments is the ability that the rank and file consider these Communists have. We have proof of that. I have told how I was opposed, at the last general elections, by a Communist, who is not a trade unionist but a medical man. He had all the Communists working for him. Yet, although many members of the Australian Railways Union, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Federated Iron
Workers Association of Australia and the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the very organizations that members of the Opposition declare are controlled by the Communists, who, they claim, are going to control the Labour party, live in the Hindmarsh electorate, my opponent lost his deposit. He received about 7,000 votes compared with my 53,000-odd. Let Opposition members not think we are not game to say where we stand.
– We oppose the Communists at elections.
– Yes. Generally though, Communists nominate for constituencies where there is a strong Labour vote. Now and again, of course, Communists oppose leading men in other parties for particular reasons. In South Australia, at any rate, whether it be at State general elections or Commonwealth general elections, the Communists have always nominated candidates in areas where there is a big body of people who, as a rule, vote for the candidates of the Labour party.
I was pleased in one way to know that Opposition members are opposed to communism. One of their reasons is that communism is anti-Christian. I think most honorable members opposite know that the great bulk of the members of the Labour party are mem’bers of one or another Christian faith. We have very few members - in fact, I cannot call to mind one - who are atheists.
The strength of Communists in the trade unions has arisen not from the laxity of the Labour party, but the conditions that have prevailed throughout industry over the years. I have personal knowledge of the conditions that prevailed in the depression years of 1929, 1930 and 1931 in Port Adelaide. A great many people would he termed Communists to-day were they to repeat their utterances of those years in protest against their economic conditions - their inability to feed and clothe their families as they considered they should be fed and clothed. They came to the conclusion that the economic system and the political system that they were living under did not meet the reasonable needs of the people, and when Communists began to advance arguments, very often specious, that the people were entitled to food and clothes when there was plenty of wheat and wool in the land they fell easy victims. It was poverty in the midst of plenty that bred communism as we knew it in the depression. Many workers support the communistic leaders to-day, not because of a political belief in communism, for they are opposed to communism politically, but because of the active part that those Communists have played in endeavouring to obtain what the workers believe to be their rights. They also have fears. Honorable members opposite may say that there should he no fear, but they do not understand its cause. One has to work in industry and see one’s mate put off when things are slack, or see the man next door living on rations and gradually using up his savings, in order to appreciate that fear and know why it still remains in the hearts and minds of many working people. The support that many have given to the Communists arises from fear of the future and insecurity of employment. I make clear to honorable members opposite that I am prepared to fight com.munism, not just in this chamber or on public platforms when I have a crowd of supporters, but anywhere in the industrial organizations which the Communists seek to control. Honorable members opposite would help the cause which 1 believe they want to help, the advancement of this country under the democratic system as we know it, if they ceased claiming that the Labour party is not prepared to fight communism and gave more credit to those who seek to prevent this foreign ideology from gaining a foothold in Australia. They do no good by telling people that the Labour party is afraid of the Communists and is doing what the Communists tell it to do. The Labour party is fighting the Communists. Some honorable members opposite and their supporters outside of this Parliament are using propaganda, in relation to a matter which I need not discuss now, which is based on the allegation that the Labour party is dominated by the Communists. They claim that the Government proposes to take certain action upon which it has decided because the Communists have forced it to do so. The object of these innuendoes is to cause distrust of the Labour party amongst the workers and the people generally.
– There is a time limit on the Estimates. Give us a chance.
– It is no use honorable members opposite complaining about the time limit now. They have taken up hour after hour debating this very question.
– The honorable member voted for the “ guillotine “.
– I am not speaking about that. It ill becomeshonorable members to complain that weon this side of the chamber will not say what we think about Communists and! then, as soon as some of us do so, to talk about a time limit and demand that we stop talking.
– We did not apply the “ guillotine “.
– I know that, but I remind the honorable .member that a time limit on debates is not an innovation in this Parliament. From my experience, I know that when a warning is given that the “guillotine” will be applied, honorable members opposite, instead of using every available minute to discuss the subject under consideration, invariably waste time arguing about something else. A time limit was applied when the Estimates were under consideration last year and honorable members opposite then wasted a great deal of time merely in protesting against it. That time could have been usefully employed in discussing the Estimates. However, instead of doing so in an intelligent way, they hammered all the time at the proposed vote for one department.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the matter before the committee.
– All I desire to say about the remarkable speech to which we ‘have just listened is that it was- the longest apology for the Communists that I have listened to in the course of this debate. If that is a sample of the honorable member’s method of attacking the Communists, I have little surprise left in me as to the measure of their success in the trade unions and in the Labour party. As the Estimates in relation to the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of the Interior will be passed 54 minutes from now, I want to turn now to the Department of the Interior. I move -
That the amount of the vote - Department of the Interior, £1,246,700 - be reduced by £1, as an instruction to the Government - to include in the Estimates of that department provision for the cost of a referendum on the proposed nationalization of banking.
This is an appropriate department upon which to raise this matter, because one of the divisions of the Estimates is for the Electoral Branch, and on this I suggest that the provision made is too small. It is too small because there ought to be provision for a referendum, and without provision, for a referendum there can be no real upholding of the democratic government to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has just been referring. The case for a referendum on the bank nationalization proposal is not merely the case of members of the Opposition in this Parliament. It is also the case of the people of Australia because, beyond all question - and the Government and every one of its members know this- the people of Australia are, by a. vast majority at this moment, demanding that they should be consulted about this revolutionary proposal. We had a short debate about this matter a week or two ago in the House and in a different form. At any rate the discussions that have occurred so far have enabled us to know one or two things of great moment.
The first of them is that the Prime Minister of this country, who will himself introduce the legislation for the nationalization of banking, does not claim that he got a mandate for it at the last elections. What the Prime Minister says is this : “ We got a mandate for it when the people voted for the Commonwealth Constitution in the ‘nineties. Because there is a provision in the Commonwealth Constitution giving power to the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws with respect to banking, and because my legal advisers tell me that that includes power to nationalize the banks, I now tell you that 50 years ago the mandate that you are talking about was obtained from the Australian people “. Of course that argument is an argument of pure desperation. It is nonsense for anybody to pretend that, because there are 39 powers set down in the Commonwealth Constitution which this Parliament can exercise there is authority from the people for the Parliament to make any conceivable law that will come within the four corners of those powers. In order that thought on this matter among the public may be clear, I point out that there is a very great distinction between two types of authority. One is the authority which is contained in the Constitution. That is an authority which is given to all parliaments and which those parliaments are to exercise according to their political complexion, according to their judgment, and according to the charter which they have obtained from the voters who elected them. But the other type of authority is the authority which a government obtains, when, having gone to the public and ‘presented its policy to the public, it receives authority to put that policy into operation. In other words, there can be no honest and proper exercise of the constitutional power on a matter involving a great revolutionary change unless the people themselves have authorized it. In this case, and this is the whole foundation of the argument for a referendum, there is no pretence on the part of the Prime Minister that the Government has any authority from the people to destroy the trading banks and set up a political monopoly bank. It is for that reason that we say, and that hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of people outside are saying, that the people ought to be consulted, and the quickest way in which to consult them, and I should have thought from the Government’s point of view, the most painless way of consulting them, would be by having a referendum. In addition, this would be a fairly cheap way of consulting them, if that is any consolation to the Prime Minister. As the answers given to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) indicate, we are to have a referendum anyhow, which will cost a substantial sum of money, and the additional cost of a further question in relation to the nationalization of banking would not be worth discussing for one moment.
I am puzzled - extremely puzzled - by the dogged persistence of the Prime Minister and the Government, though it appears primarily to be his matter, in going ahead, as he will to-morrow, with these proposals when he knows that public opinion is against him. The Prime Minister of a country who introduces and forces through the Parliament a major measure when he knows or believes thatpublic opinion is against him, is striking a blow at the democratic structure.
– The Prime Minister does not know that public opinion is against him.
– How does the Prime Minister know that?
– If my two taciturn friends, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) ask, “How does the Prime Minister know ? “, my reply to them is, “ He can very soon find out “. If those two honorable gentlemen were confident that public opinion was in favour of this proposal, wild horses would not restrain them from having a referendum.
– There would be no need for a referendum.
– Nothing would prevent them. They would say, “ This is exactly what the doctor ordered. We propose to have a referendum on a couple of other matters, so it will be simple to include the question of the nationalization of the banks. When the people agree with us, as of course they will, that will be not only the end of the referendum question, but just about the end of the Opposition “. I cannot see them hanging back if they believe that, but, of course, they do not believe it. They well know, and so does the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who is nobody’s fool.
– The people have already agreed to it.
– At the last general elections.
– The honorable gentleman must argue that with the
Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister does not profess that he received a mandate at the last elections. The Prime Minister’s only answer in this chamber was, “It is in the Constitution, and, therefore, the Parliament was given a mandate nearly 50 years ago”. My retort to that, among other things, is that the power of the Upper House to reject a supply bill is also in the Constitution - exactly the same Constitution - but when the Legislative Council of Victoria threw out a supply bill in order to give the electors of that State the only chance that they have to cast a vote on this matter, honorable members opposite howled to high heaven; and yet when they are asked. “ Where is your authority from the people ! “, their reply is, “ We got it 50 years ago ! “ But the Minister for the Interior, realizing with his native common sense that that is a hopeless argument, says, “No, no, the Prime Minister was wrong. We got a mandate at the last elections.” I hope that the Minister will tell us how he got that mandate.
– I shall tell the Leader of the Opposition.
– I hope that the Minister will tell us where and how he got the mandate. The Minister must explain to the people, as he f ailed to explain to them at the last elections, that, in reality, when they voted for the Labour party in 1946, they knew that they were voting for the nationalization of the banks.
– That is not true.
– Of course it is not true. I am glad to have the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) tell me that it is not true, because, of course, it is not. The outcry that has come from the people of Australia is conclusive evidence that those people were, in common with all the private members of this House, staggered when’ they opened their newspapers and read the announcement by the Prime Minister that the Government proposed to nationalize the banks. I shall not exceed the time limit that I have placed on myself, because there may be another opportunity to say something on this matter.
– There will be.
– I hope that there will be. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation will consent to break his long silence, and tell lis, in this discussion or some other debate on this subject, what he told his electors in Bass about the nationalization of tie banks during the election campaign in 1946. I venture to say that I could put a microscope over everything which he published during that campaign and not find a word in it about nationalizing the banks. But, still, he will have his chance to explain it to us. All I want to do before I conclude my brief remarks is to make a reference to the legal adviser and law officer of the Crown - the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) - who, unfortunately, is not with us, but who obligingly has left behind him one of his books, from which a most trenchant selection was made recently by the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Spender). The hook is entitled The King and His Dominion Governors. Oh, that mine enemy would write a book! I shall read an extract from page 199 of the first edition of this valuable book; I do not know whether there has been- a second edition.
– A cheap sneer !
– It is very disorderly, I understood, for an honorable member to interject from other than his own seat in the chamber.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order! That is in order.
– So that is in order ! That will enable me to get a little exercise around the chamber. The passage at page 199 of the Attorney-General’s book reads -
It is sufficient to make the point that, in the interests of the people, and because of the absence of controlling constitutional provisions requiring great changes to be endorsed by vote at a referendum, some reserve authority may have to be exercised to prevent the abuse of legislative power, and to require great changes to be submitted for popular approval.
That is a very cogent justification for the taking of extraordinary measures to force some consultation of the people - a very appropriate justification of what has recently occurred in Victoria, and an unanswerable argument, because it is based upon the one thing which the
Attorney-General’s colleagues now forget, namely, that all power within the term of a parliament, as distinct from the organic law contained in the Constitution, comes from the people. It is the will of the people that matters, and no revolutionary change ought ever to be made without consulting the people, or in defiance of the popular will. If I may, I shall refer once more to the Attorney-General’s book. At page 295 the following passage appears : -
Of course, there is a school-
A school of thought, and I now understand that the Minister for Repatriation is a member of this, and a scholar of this, school -
Of course, there is a school which still asserts that the will of Parliament, not of the people, should prevail. But, on the whole, parties now seem to be agreed that consultation of the electorate is an essential condition to great and important changes in the law.
In other words, the principle of the mandate is almost universally accepted. When the learned gentleman wrote that passage - and he was, in my opinion, quite correct in what he wrote - he was, of course, referring to the great political parties in Australia ; the Australian Labour party and the parties represented by members of the Opposition in this chamber : he was certainly not referring to the Communist party, which despises the popular will, and which avowedly bases its policy upon revolutionary action by a highly organized and unscrupulous minority. Because that is the Communist policy, that party would reject the doctrines contained in this book, notwithstanding the colour of its binding. But the people of Australia will not reject those doctrines; and that is why we give to this committee the earliest opportunity of deciding whether provision should be made in the Estimates to take a referendum in order that the popular will may be established.
. - I propose to break the long silence which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has accused me of maintaining, and I intend to take just as long as I wish to say what I have ito say. I do not speak very often in this Parliament-
Mr. White interjecting,
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) reminds me that I used to speak regularly on one particular day of the week some time ago; but now that that opportunity is denied me I do not speak very often. I do not propose to attempt to transgress the Standing Orders, but I want to point out to the Leader of the Opposition that his speech was rather badly timed for the Victorian State elections. That was obviously what he had in mind when he made his speech to-day. He sought to influence the Victorian people, whose popularly elected government has been compelled, by the action of a body elected on a restricted franchise, to go to the country. The legislative body which has brought about this state of affairs has refused the people of Victoria the right to express their opinion on its own action. I recall that the right honorable gentleman made a speech with a similar objective in view on the eve of the State elections in New South Wales a short time ago, and I suggest that the speech which he delivered to-day will have precisely the same effect on the Victorian elections.
– The honorable gentleman has already wasted quite a lot of time.
– I might say that the right honorable gentleman also wasted a lot of time, and I claim the same privilege. He said that the Government’s proposals for the nationalization of banking are a defiance of the popular will, but he has no authority for making such a statement. The plain fact is that the private banks have had circulars printed which bear the names of honorable members, and invited their customers to sign protests. These protest forms are addressed to honorable members, and I think that it is a fairly safe assumption that the private banks are paying for the postage-
– And the telegrams, too !
– And there is no doubt, despite the noise being made at present by honorable members opposite, that the cost of the letters of protest, and even of the telegrams, is being paid by the private banks. However, the Government is going forward with its proposals, and when the opportunity comes for the people to express their opinion of the actions of this Government, including its conduct in regard to particular matters, supporters of the government will accept the people’s decision with good sportsmanship, as the Leader of the Opposition always does.
The Chairman has, with commendable patience, allowed the discussion of the Estimates to assume a very wide character; in fact, discussion of the Estimates has developed into a full-dress debate on communism. I know that it has been said of me since I have been a member of this Parliament that I am a Communist, an atheist, and all sorts of other things, but those accusations do not make very much impression. However, I think it is desirable to make a few observations on the remarks made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) on the 10th October. That honorable gentleman chided the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) with being associated with a particular trade union, and he also criticized me on similar grounds. It is perfectly truethat I am an official of a certain organization and I have never denied it. I was an official of that organization for years before I became a member of Parliament ; I have retained connexion with it, and I propose to continue to do so.
Mr. White interjecting,
– The honorable member for Balaclava has already expressed himself on two occasions during the debate on this division of the Estimates, but apparently he is not sportsman enough to sit and listen to the answer to a question which he asked.
– Order ! The Minister must confine his remarks to the departments before the Committee.
– I am the federal president of the organization to which I referred - something which the honorable member for Balaclava did not know! The honorable gentleman criticized the Minister for Air, alleging that he was associated’ with Mr. Brown; in fact, he said that Mr. Brown was his boss. The answer to that accusation is that the honorable member does not know anything about union affairs. The Minister is not even associated with the organization to which Mr. Brown -belongs. as he himself explained the other day. It seems that when members on this side of the chamber assert themselves in trade union circles they are doing something wrong. On the other hand, if they do not so bestir themselves they are accused of hanging back and allowing the Communists to assume control of their organizations. When Communists do occasionally secure control of trades unions, we are accused of being disloyal and of permitting disloyal people to “ run “ the trade unions. No matter which step one may take, it is wrong, in the opinion of Opposition members. Is ir. not much better that members of this Parliament who have been associated with trade unions should hold office in the industrial movement, and give to it the benefit of their guidance and assistance in determining in a constitutional way the problems with which it is confronted, than that they should remain aloof from it? The honorable member for Balaclava accused me of having been absent from my place when I ought to have . been here, because I was doing another job. I was absent for a few hours on one day, because a conciliation commissioner had the misfortune to break a limb and was not able to fulfil his promise to deal with a certain matter during the parliamentary recess, and thus make it possible for me to attend his tribunal as well as the Parliament when it resumed its sittings. I feel bound to place that on record, because of the not very commendable insinuations that were made last. Friday against the Minister for Air and myself.
Members of the Opposition are pointing to the clock, implying that I 01 occupying too much time. I have not spoken previously during the consideration of the Estimates. The honorable member who “ points the bone “ at me has availed himself of every opportunity to discuss the Estimates, and has spoken twice on those that are now before the committee. He does not exhibit much sportsmanship when he tries to prevent a Minister from making a speech after having been chided upon maintaining .silence on the very important subject of communism. Members of the Opposition have shouted, “ Why do not Ministers rise in their places and declare where they stand ? “ For their edifica- tion. I ‘propose to declare where I stand. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who derives a great deal of amusement from such situations, will probably be interested to know exactly where I stand. The Estimates provide, in relation to the Commonwealth Investigation Service-
– I rise to order. The proposed vote for the Commonwealth Investigation Service is not now before the committee, it having already been disposed of.
– There is no substance in the point of order. The estimates of both the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of the Interior, as well as the amendment, are before the committee.
– The provision for the Commonwealth Investigation Service is £74,200. The expenditure on that, service last year was £52,125. I agree that the existence of communism represents a considerable menace to this country. But its existence in this as well as in many other countries is due almost entirely to past governments, which failed to provide something like decent living conditions for the people. A few years ago I referred repeatedly to the importance of housing the ‘people of the Australian Capital Territory, over which the Commonwealth Parliament and the Australian. Government have complete control. At that time, hundreds of people were waiting for houses.
– The number is much 1 larger now.
– It is more than twice as large to-day as it was from 1934 to 1836. The honorable member adds point to my argument that nothing was done to provide houses for the people when, something could have been done. At that time men were given a day’s work chipping weeds, although ample supplies of bricks and other materials for the provision of homes were available, and there was plenitude of good things, which the people. should have been enabled to enjoy. During the depression the number of people in the Australian Capital Territory waiting for houses grew, year after year, yet the Government, which was supported by honorable members opposite, did nothing to provide them. The then Treasurer, Mr. Casey, who to-day talks glibly about communism, socialism, and the like, built a house for himself, but made no similar provision for the workers while he was in office.
– Does the Minister know that, in the last year of the Menzies Government, there was a record building programme in this country?
– I realize that. I do not usually compliment the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), but I believe that it was his insistence as Minister for the Interior which was responsible for that building programme. Lf the governments of this and other countries provide for the equitable distribution of the good things of life among the people who need them there will be no trouble from communism or any other “ ism “. Honorable members opposite talk “ with tongue in cheek “ when they accuse the present Government of having failed to take measures to improve the state of our society, because they know that no previous government, either in peace or in war, has done so much for the people of this fair land. Last week, the honorable member for Indi said that there was no more important function of government than that of dealing with the Communist party. That is true; any menace to the wellbeing of Australia ought to be dealt with. But the problem must be approached in the right way. I do not believe that the problem will be solved by banning the Communist party. On the contrary, I believe that such action would result only in driving the movement underground. What has kept the British nation free but the privilege of the advocates of every theory to “ blow off steam “ in Hyde Park and elsewhere whenever they like? A man with the most unorthodox ideas on any subject is at perfect liberty to mount a box, or platform, and express his views. The right way to deal with potentially dangerous minorities is to act as the Government has acted in connexion with the guided weapons range. It has passed legislation to deal effectively with any seditious elements in the community. The best, way to counteract communism is to improve living standards, because in that way persons who might otherwise be led astray by various “ isms “ are more willing to seek reforms by constitutional methods. Although my views do not appear to be acceptable to some members of the Opposition, I am not disturbed, because I have never been greatly influenced by what honorable members opposite say or think. On the infrequent occasions when I speak in this chamber, I believe in expressing my views whether or not they coincide with the views of honorable members opposite. I am reminded that not long ago’ the Leader of the Opposition said that he was not in favour of banning the Communist party. Where does the Opposition stand in; relation to this important question? It must be important, because the Opposition has talked about it for several days, during which period the Chair has exercised much patience and tolerance. Can it be- said that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) sees eye to eye with the Leader of the Opposition on this subject and would ban the Communist party? On this subject the Opposition does not speak with one voice. Can any honorable member opposite say that the parties forming the Opposition in this Parliament are agreed on any plan to control communism? With whom do private members of the Opposition parties agree - the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Australian Country party? The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has an individual approach to many problems. I commend him for his courage in expressing his own views on many problems that come before us for discussion. A sum considerably in excess of the amount voted last year has been included in the estimates for the Commonwealth Investigation Service. I think that honorable members generally are agreed that it would be unwise to disclose all the avenues in which this expenditure is incurred. The proposed vote is evidence of not only the Government’s willingness, but also its desire, to strengthen the investigation service so that* it shall be in a position to conduct any investigation that may be considered desirable. I have no brief for communism. I do not know anything about the Communist ideology; and I do not want to know anything about it, because the system which we enjoy in this country, and to .preserve which we fought the recent war, provides the best political, social and industrial conditions for our people. Therefore, we should hear no more about the “ isms “ of which honorable members opposite talk so glibly. Ever since I was elected to the Parliament, honorable members opposite have talked about “ fear of the people “, “ fear of the unknown “ and “ fear of the bogy man round the corner “ ; but they have never endeavoured to appeal to the better judgment and finer feelings of _ the people. Despite their propaganda, the Labour party has grown in strength and importance, and as the ‘Government in this Parliament has done” more for the people than any other Government in our history.
– In the few minutes at my disposal, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) as a protest against the fact that no provision is made in the estimates for the Department of the Interior for the holding of a referendum on the very important banking proposals soon to be brought before the Parliament. The Government is completely silent as to whether it will recognize the protests which have been made by the people throughout the Commonwealth against its banking proposals. If evidence were required as to the views of the people on that matter, it is to be found in the correspondence which every honorable member has received. Those protests have been made spontaneously during the last few weeks. Would any one suggest that this large ‘bundle of petitions which I now hold in my hand is the result of organized effort and have not been signed as the result of spontaneous indignation on the part of the signatories who are requesting the Government to afford them the opportunity of a referendum to express their views on its revolutionary proposals? It is absolutely useless for honorable members opposite, or the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), to assert that the Government has a mandate to give effect to its banking proposals. The Government does not possess any such mandate at all, because the policy of the Labour party to-day with respect to banking is exactly what it was in 1934 when a Labour government went to the country under the leadership of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), when the late Mr. Curtin, as Prime Minister went to the country in 1937, and when the present Prime Minister went to the country in 1946. I shall read that policy; and I challenge any honorable member opposite to deny that the Labour party’s policy with respect to banking to-day is the same as it was after the enactment of the Banking Act 1945. That policy has not been altered. Indeed, it has been reaffirmed since that time, and remains to-day the policy that was propounded as the Labour party’s policy in 1934. It is as follows : -
That was the Labour party’s policy when the Government went to the polls at the last general elections; and it is the Labour party’s policy to-day. Therefore, the Prime Minister has no mandate from the people to nationalize, or socialize, the banking system of this country; and, having regard to the constitution of the Australian Labour party, he has no such mandate either from the party itself. In those circumstances, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, which is the most appropriate means offered under the forms of the House, should be carried namely, that the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior be reduced by £1 as_ an instruction to the Government to provide for the cost of a referendum on the Government’s banking proposals and as a protest against the callousness of the Government in ignoring the requests of the people for such a referendum. It must now be plain to the Government that the majority of the people desire such a referendum to be held. The Government should comply with that request.
Mr.DUTHIE (Wilmot) [5.56].- Far from the petitions in respect of the Government’s banking proposal representing a spontaneous protest on the part of signatories, it is safe to say that at least onethird of the letters which honorable members on this side have received on this matter have been forwarded under some degree of duress. I, personally, would like to examine for myself the signatures on the petitions which the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) held up to our view a few minutes ago. Honorable members on this side have found that a substantial number of the signatories of letters which have been forwarded to us on this subject, protesting against the Government’s banking proposals, are not even residents of the respective electoral divisions which we represent. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in submitting his ridiculous motion at this stage, is merely playing to the gallery in connexion with the forthcoming Victorian State elections.
In the few minutes at my disposal, I should like to reply to an allegation made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) on Friday, when he said that honorable members on this side are wedded to the Communists, and that the Communists control the Labour party. When I asked, by way of interjection, why, if that were true, we always advised Labour supporters to give their last preference to the Communist candidate, the honorable member replied that I was a preacher and that I preached every Sunday, and he implied that instead of supporting the Communists I, as a minister of religion, should be one of the first to fight them. The honorable member’s implication is a lie, and I throw it back in his teeth. I assure the honorable member for Henty that I, as a minister of religion, have always opposed Marxism and Kremlin communism. It is fantastic to suggest that I am a supporter of communism.
– Why does not the honorable member stand up and fight the Communists ?
– I have only a few minutes at my disposal to deal with this subject; but I endeavoured unsuccessfully to get the call when the subject of communism was discussed in the course of the budget debate.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of the Interior has expired.
Question put -
That the amount proposed to be reduced (Mr. Menzies’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.8 to 8 p.m.
Proposed vote, £1,902,000.
Proposed vote, £3,821,000.
Proposed vote, £1,322,000.
Proposed vote, £304,400.
Proposed vote, £742,800. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Government to the soaring cost of living brought about as the result of steeply rising prices. A statement of commodity prices furnished to me only yesterday by the Commonwealth Statistician shows that in some instances the prices the housewives and the community generally now have to pay have risen by as much as 300 per cent. since September, 1939. Prices are now rising even more steadily than they did at any time during the war. In view of the figures contained in the document it is difficult to understand how honorable members opposite can protest that prices are not rising. The apologist for the Government, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) challenged me to name any commodity required from time to time by the ordinary housewife, the cost of which had risen more than 50 per cent. I shall name many of them. The Government seems to be utterly impotent to prevent rising costs. The basic wage is now probably higher than it has been at any other time in our history, yet the standard of living of basic wage earners has reached its lowest ebb. So steadily have costs mounted that every increase made in the basic wage in recent years has been more than offset by rising prices. Many families have the utmost difficulty in making ends meet. The only way to curb rising living costs is by bringing about increased production, but the Government has failed to encourage the increase of the supply of goods to the community. The principal factor retarding increased production is ever increasing taxation. As the result of appeals made by honorable members on this side of the chamber the Government recently approved of limited reductions of the companies tax and indirect taxes. The statements in the budget clearly indicate that indirect taxes have risen substantially in recent years. The Government should make some practical approach to the problem of rising costs by reducing wasteful expenditure and administrative charges in government departments. Recently I received from the Western Australian Division of the Australian Pensioners League a circular in which appears the following paragraph : -
The promise of an increase of pension made in February, to be available in July, has not been a benefit it was expected to be. The progressing advance in the cost of living had the effect when the increase took effect that the amount of foodstuffs and clothing which could be bought was very little, if any, more than the pension bought in January.
The high cost of living is pressing most severely on people in the lower income groups. I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a. brief statement showing the percentage increases in the prices of certain . commodities between the quarter ended the 30th September, 1939, and the quarter ended the 30th June, 1947.
– Is it a long statement ? Difficulties arise in connexion with the printing of incorporated matter.
– It consists of two pages of typed matter.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
– I shall deal with the main items on the list. Under the heading “ Food and Groceries “, the following percentage increases have taken place : -
The reason why the Prime Minister does not want these figures inserted in Hansard is quite plain.
– It is merely a matter of the physical difficulties involved.
– The list continues-
Since these prices were compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician there has been an all round increase of l1/2d. in the price of meat. Under the heading “ Clothing “ appear the following : -
Working shirts, 113.48 per cent.! That is probably why the Prime Minister did not want these figures to appear in H ansard -
I ask if the balance of the matter may he incorporated in Hansard?
– Then I shall read on -
In household drapery the increases are staggering -
These figures answer the challenge of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), who said that no item had increased by more than 50 per cent. This Government obviously has failed dismally to look after the workers of this country. Honorable members opposite pose as friends of the workers and ask them to believe that this Government’s administration has been in their interests; but its administration has revealed it as the enemy of the working people. Honorable members opposite should hang their heads in shame. The increases in respect of household utensils are as follows : -
Old-age pensioners complain in circular letters sent to honorable members that their pension increases have been quite inadequate to meet the increased cost of living. The basic wage to-day is higher than it has ever been in this country, yet in terms of purchasing power it is worth less than ever before. This is a record of which any government should be ashamed, and I ask the Prime Minister to appoint a Cabinet sub-committee to review the whole question of rising costs. During the war, the Labour Government exercised wide powers, of which it still retains quite a number. Certainly it has adequate power to deal with this matter. Why has it failed to act? Why did the Prime Minister refuse “to allow me to have the figures that I have just read incorporated in Hansard11. Is the Government afraid of the truth? It stands condemned in the eyes of the people not only because of its projected banking legislation, but also because of its poor record of administration throughout its term of office.
Every day in the press, we read that graziers and dairy-farmers throughout Australia, but particularly in ‘Queensland, are complaining because of their inability to obtain barbed wire, plain wire, wire netting, and galvanized iron that is urgently required to maintain their properties. Thousands of tons of these materials are needed in Queensland immediately if production in these industries is not to decline seriously. Already dairy herds are considerably depleted, and the depletion will continue unless materials can be obtained to repair fences. At the beginning of this year, Queensland experienced two severe floods, and thousands of miles of fencing was washed away. I have sent many telegrams and letters to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) and have interviewed him on several occasions in regard to this matter, but, although he has promised to do everything possible to improve supplies, the quantities forthcoming are only a decimal percentage of what is required. Many dairy-farmers are pulling down their dividing fences to erect or replace boundary fences with the result that they are unable to grow crops for stock feed. Again I appeal to the Minister and to the Prime Minister himself to take steps to ensure that improved supplies of fencing materials shall be forwarded to Queensland. Records show that dairy production in Queensland has fallen by 44 per cent. Some of that, of course, is. attributable to drought, but undoubtedly two of the biggest factors are the lack of fencing materials and inadequate prices. The Government is crying out for increased production so that more food may be made available to Great Britain and to the people of this country ; but what do we find ? Production continues to fall because the grain crops required for stock feed cannot be grown. Idle promises have been made by the Minister for Works and Housing. I make this protest now because I believe that if a concerted effort were made there would be little difficulty in procuring supplies of urgently needed plain wire, wire netting, and galvanized iron. The lack of these materials is bringing protests from all over Queensland, particularly from the Atherton Tableland, the Darling Downs district and the south coast of Queensland. I urge the Minister to make every effort in cooperation with the State Government, the shipping authorities and the manufacturing interests to have supplies of these materials made available in the areas where they are most needed. It is no use saying that because of trouble in the coal mines it has been impossible to get sufficient coal to keep Stewart and Lloyds and Lysaghts Limited and other manufacturers in full operation, or that sufficient ships have not been available to bring iron ore from Iron Knob in South Australia to Newcastle. These are administrative difficulties that must be expected, and the Government should exercise its authority to eliminate them. It has failed to do that. It is the most incompetent administration that I have ever known. Early in this year the Parliament agreed to an appropriation of £1,000,000 for the improvement of roads, including roads of access to country areas.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the proposed vote now under discussion.
– I am referring to this matter merely as an example of the Government’s incompetence. As I have said, the Government appropriated £1,000,000 for road improvements. A substantial part of this money was to be spent in rural areas. Although the Parliament passes legislation, the effect pf it can be destroyed by administrative action. The Government should do something to bring down costs so that the man on the basic wage will’ not have- to go on paying for necessaries prices which are anything from 100 per cent, to 300 per cent, above the pre-war level. The basic wage is higher now than it ever was-, but the wage-earner cannot buy with his wages nearly as much as he could in 1939.
Earlier in the year I sent many telegrams to Ministers pointing out the damage which had been done by floods in Queensland, and the urgent need to make available wire and wire-netting with which to restore fences. The floods aggravated an already serious position which had developed because, throughout the war years, all available stocks of galvanized iron, wire and wire-netting had been rightly commandeered for war purposes, so that farmers had to go without. A limited quantity of black wire was released during the war, but in coastal areas, especially, it was of little use because it rusted within a few months. Almost a year has gone by since I made representations about supplies of wire and galvanized iron and still very little has been done to relieve the position. I should like to know why nothing has been done.
The same record of maladministration has been achieved in regard to housing. The Government bungled the situation, and then “ passed the buck “ to the States. Having done so, the Government then nullified the efforts of the States by assuming control of housing material. No Labour supporter has any reason to feel proud of the record of the Government. I ask for an undertaking that the wire which was promised early in January of this year will be made available immediately, and I should like, in particular, to hear from the Prime Minister when something is to be done to reduce prices. In this, as in other matters, the Government has proved itself to be hopelessly incompetent.
, - The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) should try to bring his informa tion up to date. The control of galvanized iron, wire and wire-netting has, for the last four months, been vested in the Secondary Industries Division of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Evidently, the honorable member has been asleep, and does not know what department controls what. Now this Rip Van Winkle wakes up after his sixteen weeks’ sleep, and asks for particulars of materials which have been supplied to Queensland over four months ago. The Commonwealth Government controls the distribution of materials only as between the various States. Once materials reach a State their allocation to individuals becomes a matter for the State authorities. The production of these materials is entirely in the hands of private enterprise. When this Government sought power from the people by way of referendum to encourage increased production in the heavy industries, the honorable member for Moreton, along with other honorable members of the Opposition, took the platform against us, and helped to defeat the proposal. At that time, we told the people what would happen if the powers we sought were refused, and events have justified us. Nevertheless, the honorable member for Moreton, and other wreckers among the Opposition, go on repeating their charges, and demanding to be told why production, despite the set back of the war years, has not caught up with demand. Without advancing any proof, the honorable member declared that the situation in regard to housing was chaotic. The fact is that during the past twelve months 33,000 houses were completed in Australia.
– Mere shacks.
– The standard of construction to-day is better than that of any period throughout the history of Australia, and the reason is that a more scientific architectural approach is being made to the housing problem to-day.
– Yes, they are building houses with only one outside door.
– Oh, call off your dogs! During the ten years before the outbreak of war, when tradesmen were walking the streets out of work, and when many of the mills and brickyards were idle for want of orders, the average rate of production was 27,000 houses a year. Therefore, this Government may well be proud of the fact that during the last twelve months 32,000 houses have been completed. During the last four months of the financial year just ended, houses were begun at the rate of 50,000 a year, so that there is every prospect that the commencement target of 52,000 for the next twelve months will be reached, and even improved upon. There is no justification, therefore, for saying that the housing situation is chaotic. I am confident that within the next two or three years the efforts of private builders, and those in charge of State-sponsored housing schemes, together with the co-operation of the workers in the industry, will result in completely overtaking the existing housing shortage.
.- 1. shall refer briefly to the speech of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mi-. Lemmon). I want to be brief in order that my colleagues on this side of the chamber shall have an opportunity to speak about some of the important subjects which, are before the committee tonight. The departments whose operations we are now permitted to discuss are Works and Housing, Civil Aviation, Trade and Customs, Health, and Commerce and Agriculture. If only one-third of the number of members in opposition spoke for one half of the time which normally they would be entitled to take, they would speak for a total of 50 hours> but we have been allotted only one and a half hours for the purpose.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to talk along those lines.
– I do not think that anybody on either side of the chamber seriously accepted the statement made by the Minister for Works and Housing about the present high standard of construction of houses in Australia. I do not think that he took the statement seriously himself. Those of us who listened closely noticed that, when an honorable member on this side of the chamber interjected during his speech, the Minister said, “ Call off your dogs “. He must have been thinking in terms of dog kennels, which are about the standard of the average house being built in Australia to-day. New houses are so small that, if a big double bed is put in the front room, the occupant has difficulty in getting in and out of bed. The Minister’s reply to the interjection indicated how his mind was working. When he said “ Call off your dogs “, he was expressing what was in his subconcious mind. The high cost of house construction is alarming. Earlier this year, I supported a bill, introduced by the Minister, which raised the permissible advance to an ex-serviceman for the construction of a war service home from £.1,250 to £1,750. At the time I expressed the hope that, when the bill was passed, the Minister would get busy and build homes. I hope that he has been busy, and T shall not criticize him because he may have been doing a good job; it is, as yet, too early to tell. However, even if he is doing so, the ex-servicemen will be paying an additional £500 each for their homes. That represents the average price increase in Australia for the sort of bouses that they are having built for them. We cannot expect the present state of prosperity to continue for too long after the war. When that bubble bursts, as it must, many ex-servicemen will be saddled with a £1,750 liability for a house that will be worth probably £800. That will be the true value then. Everybody knows that the present standard of house construction is very poor.
– Slums !
– Yes. Houses that are being erected in Australia to-day have been described as “ modern slums “. In Kerang, Warracknabeal and Merbein, in my electorate, in Melbourne, and everywhere else, an inspection of the type of house now being built will prove the accuracy of that description. I do not believe that the Minister himself thinks that the high standard of which he spoke is sustained in any of the houses that he has seen under construction. Every Australian who cares to inspect these houses can see for himself that the standard is very low. I shall speak no longer on this subject, because I wish to give my colleagues an opportunity to take part in the debate.
I refer now to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. This department has representatives in many parts of the world, including Canada, New Zealand, Egypt and the Middle East, the United States of America, India, the United Kingdom, France, China, Brazil, the Netherlands East Indies, Singapore, Chile, Hong Kong, South Africa and the Philippines. Nevertheless, when I invited the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) recently to go to the Wimmera electorate, in order to meet the farmers of that great wheat-growing area, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) interjected and asked me, “ Will you pay his expenses?” Fancy that! Pay his expenses to visit the wheatgrowing area of the State in which he resides! The proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is £742,800. Yet the honorable member for Fremturtle asked me to pay the Minister’s expenses just to go to the great wheatproducing area on which Australia and the United Kingdom largely depend for the supply of foodstuffs which we require and of which our kinsfolk on the other side of the world are sorely in need ! Could anything be more ridiculous? The department seems to be represented in all parts of the world, but I have not heard of any of its representatives meeting the wheat-growers in the Wimmera area. This sort of thing seems to be a common fault of the Government. It goes far afield and forgets what is happening to its own producers. I and my colleagues have asked many questions about the home-consumption price for wheat, but the Minister has been fairly successful in evading the issue. I refer honorable members to a statement by the honorable gentleman which was quoted in Digest of Decisions and Announcements a.nd Important Speeches by the Prime Minister. No. 128. Under the heading “ Post-war Production Costs - Inquiry “, the pamphlet states -
On 4th July, 1947, Mr. Pollard said- “ The chairman of the Wheat Costs of Production Committee informs me that over 3,000 questionnaires were issued at random to wheat fanners and that only 250 have been completed and returned. I have informed the committee that I would not ask it to make a report if it were of the opinion that the facts before it were not sufficient to give a true picture of the industry. I ask wheat-growers to fill in the questionnaires and return them without delay “.
I agree that the committee could not make a satisf actory report without having complete data for its information. But why have not the wheat-growers returned the questionnaires? The answer is crystal clear. The questionnaires sent out by the committee are so complicated and lead to so much misunderstanding that most growers, after reading them through and through, have put them to one side in desperation. I know that to be so. I can hear the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) groaning and saying “ No’”. I venture to say that the honorable member and most of his colleagues have not read the questionnaire. Their views on this subject” count for nothing, because they lack knowledge. In the questionnaire, the farmer is asked to state the value of food produced on his farm which was consumed by his family in the last five years. Apparently he is expected to have a record of every egg that his family has used ! He is also asked to state the value of his farm at the 1942 level, which is the level approved by the delegate of the Treasurer for the purposes of sale. He is then asked to state the value of the farm on the open market to-day. How can he be expected to know all these things? I am expressing the views of many wheat-growers to whom I have spoken, not just my personal opinion. They complain about the complicated nature of the questionnaire and say that the questions are very difficult to answer accurately, and accuracy is essential. I suggest that the Minister adopt some other means of ascertaining the costs of wheat production and do something definite for the growers. Goodness knows, they need help badly enough! Week after week I have asked the Minister why the home-consumption price for wheat has not been increased, but he has evaded my questions. Each time he has told me to wait until the committee investigating costs of production has notified the Government of its finding. But the committee is not working on reasonably practical lines, and it cannot supply the information to the Minister. I ask him to state the percentage of questionnaires issued by that committee which has been completed and returned to it. He should realize that the wheat-growers are anxious to supply the information sought by the committee because they are anxious for the home-consumption price of wheat to be increased to a level bearing some relation to the present Australian standard of values. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) referred a few minutes ago to rising costs in Australia. Of course, the prices of some commodities are rising, although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has authority to control them. For example, the price of meat in Australia is fairly high. One of the reasons for that may be found in the following news item : -
Mr. Officer, the secretary of the Graziers Association of Victoria, has said that it has recently been reported that the United States of America Government ha.s purchased tallow from its producers at £A.156 per ton for prime tallow and £A.170 per ton for edible tallow, compared with the Australian ceiling prices of £32 os. and £45 per ton respectively for similar grades.
Compared with the American values, the prices in Australia for tallow are very low indeed. I understand that in Argentina the prices are 25 per cent, higher than those ruling in the United States of America. There is the position. If we were to pay our producers a reasonable price for tallow, it would reduce to some extent the price of meat to the Australian consumer. Many things can be done to help the person in receipt of the basic wage - the man who requires assistance and whom this Government claims to represent. However, I agree with an earlier speaker, who said that the name “ Labour party “ has long since lost its significance. To-day, the Labour party is not legislating for the basic wageearner or many of the people who still support it.
– Yet the people still support the La’bour party.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) should tell that story at his meeting at Gundagai in the next few days. I could deal with many other matters, but time compels me to limit my remarks to a few. The Department of Civil Aviation has taken over many buildings, and increased its staff, depriving many industries of urgently required man-power. Earlier to-day, I asked a question about the availability of sugar supplies for Australia in general and Mildura in particular. When I was in Canberra last week, I went into a shop and asked the storekeeper, “ What is the sugar position ? “’ He replied, “ We have not had sugar f or three weeks- “
– That happens underprivate enterprise.
– Honorable members opposite may verify my statements.. If the truth hurts, I cannot help it. Ask Australian housewives whether they are able to obtain supplies of sugar? Their answer will be an unequivocal “ No “~ Sugar is not now a rationed commodity, and I am of opinion that the Department of Trade and Customs, realizing that in future it would not be able to meet the supplies represented by the coupons issued, decided to abandon sugar rationing. The present position has now arisen, and some honorable membersopposite blame private enterprise for it. Rather is it an instance of fine foresight on the part of the Department of Trade and Customs. Under the heading of the; Department of Commerce and Agriculture, I could deal with many matters, but I shall make way for some of my colleagues. . However, I expect answers tothe matters which I have raised.
.- For the first time since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have heard thehonorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) guess correctly. He forecast that at the conclusion of his remarks an honorable member on this side of thechamber would refer to the shortcomings of private enterprise. The best argument against private enterprise that I haveever heard since I have been a member of” this chamber was expressed by the honorable member for Wimmera and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). I rose principally for the purpose of submitting a couple of complaints against one or two departments, ‘but, before doingso, I must offer some criticism of the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton. .Sometimes, I am almost ashamed to think that an honorable member who can make such statements as> he made this evening comes from such a grand State as Queensland, whence T also come. However, the honorable member said that in all probability the basic wage is the highest that it has been for some time. The truth, of course, is that the basic wage is infinitely higher than it has ever been in the history of Australia.
– That is what I said.
– The honorable member said also that, despite the fact that the basic wage is high, the living standard of the workers is the lowest in the history of the country.
– It always is when the Labour party is in power.
– I said that the basic wage is the highest on record and the standard of living of the people is probably the lowest.
– The honorable member for Moreton was a Minister in a government at a .time when hundred.* of thousands of people were unemployed in Australia. They were unable to obtain the wherewithal to provide for their wives, their children and themselves. Yet the honorable member talks about the living standards of the workers being the lowest on record !
– The honorable member is referring to the period when the Scullin “Government was in office.
– Order ! The honorable member for Moreton is constantly interjecting. If he does not behave himself I shall name him.
– The honorable member for Moreton was a member of a government which brought about in this country a condition of affairs which compelled thousands of men to walk from town to town in order to get the “ dole “.
– The old, old story.
– It is the old, old story, but it is still as true as ever. For any honorable member opposite to speak, as did the honorable member for Moreton, at a time when everybody in Australia is employed and receiving higher rates of pay than ever before, is so ridiculous that I am afraid I have wasted time in even referring to the subject. The arguments submitted by honorable members opposite regarding increased costs of living also call for a brief reply. The honorable -member for Moreton mentioned that the prices of many necessaries of life show a definite increase.
– Up to 300 per cent.
– The prices of those necessaries of life have increased, although prices control is still in force. I ask: “What will be the position if prices control is not retained ? Honorable members must remember that it is not the Government but private enterprise which is charging these prices. “With private enterprise acting in this manner while prices control still exists, I am afraid to think about what would happen if prices control were abandoned and private enterprise were given an “ open go “.
– The Labour Government is retarding production with its policy.
– The Labour party should be grateful to the honorable member for Moreton, because his remarks definitely support the Government’s case for the retention of prices control.
– Prices control should be removed.
– Order ! The honorable member for Moreton will be removed if he does not remain silent.
– Earlier, I mentioned that I proposed to submit one or two complaints. The first is in regard to prices. I sincerely trust that not for a considerable time shall we in Australia be without some form of prices control. However, I believe that the administration of prices control should be reviewed. I understand that many onerous and needless formalities are placed in the way of applicants for fixation and alteration of prices. A case was recently brought to my notice of a hotelkeeper who took over an hotel in my electorate a short time ago. Whilst I hold no brief for hotelkeepers as such, I believe in justice and fair play. When this man took over the hotel the tariff for board and lodging at the hotel was £2 2s. a week, and that price had been charged for some years. The Queensland office of the Prices Branch then informed the hotelkeeper that the tariff had to be reduced to £1 15s. a week. He replied that as his predecessor had been permitted to charge £2 2s. a week for years, he considered that in fairness he was entitled to make a similar charge. The Prices Branch then forwarded to him, for completion, a questionnaire of eleven pages which contained all sorts of queries, including one as to the way in which his wife spent her time, another as to whether there was hot and cold water in the bathrooms, and a lot of other irrelevant inquiries. I mention that case as an example of the aggravation which can be created by the Prices Branch, and I ask that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) should review the administration of the branch.
My next complaint concerns the Department of Civil Aviation. I know that for some time past pressing requests have been made by people in small towns all over Australia for the construction of aerodromes, and I appreciate that it is quite impracticable to construct aerodromes at all those places. However, consideration of existing aerodromes and those under construction indicate, so far as Queensland is concerned at least, that facilities are to be provided only for the largest towns. The people in those town9 already enjoy amenities not available to the residents of smaller towns, and it does not seem equitable that further favours should be conferred upon them. In my electorate, substantial towns like Proserpine, Ayr, Ingham, Tully and Innisfail, each of which has many thousands of population, are to be deprived of the amenity of an aerodrome. If the people in those and other large towns require to travel to Bris-‘ bane or farther south by air, they have first to travel considerable distances by rail or road, and it seems idle to talk of decentralization unless we provide facilities to enable people to travel quickly and easily. The provision of aerodromes for many towns would not be an extravagance, and I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) not to overlook the claims of smaller centres when deciding upon the location of aerodromes.
.- I draw attention to what seems to me to be a cardinal principle in considering the estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs. I refer to page 50 of the Estimates and to page 19 of the budget, under the heading “ Consolidated Revenue “, which shows the revenue received from customs and excise duties.
Those statistics reveal the customs, revenue received from the importation of a large number of items, which are now affected by restrictions imposed on imports from dollar countries, and many other items will be affected by restrictions which have been foreshadowed. It seems impossible to give proper consideration to the budget papers without knowing the real position in regard to dollars. The debate on the Estimates follows the general debate on the budget speech made by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) some time ago. When attention was drawn to the great scarcity of dollars which necessitated the imposition of restrictions on the importation of goods from dollar areas, the Treasurer was asked for details of the dollar deficiency in the last financial year, 1946-47. It must be obvious to members of this committee that it is quite impossible to discuss, for example, the excise figures shown on page 19 of the budget papers and the revenue expected to be received from the items listed there without knowing the exact restrictions which have been placed on importation of those items. The cardinal proposition which I am urging to-night is that this committee is entitled to be given full particulars of dollar deficiencies not only in regard to Australia, but it should also be informed of the position in regard to the United Kingdom. It is freely acknowledged - and I would be the last to deny it - that we are under an obligation to assist Great Britain in the economic crisis confronting it; but if restrictions are to be imposed on imports from dollar areas, we should bear in mind that many of the restrictions which we impose upon ourselves will not be compensated for by the import of goods from Great Britain.
It is essential that we should understand the real reason for the extent of the imposition of restrictions. Unless we know that we cannot hope to understand the dollar position. I took the trouble to inquire from the Treasurer the dollar deficiency for 1.946-47. and his reply, which has been incorporated in Hansard, is exceedingly important. His reply indicated that the deficiency balance on merchandise only imported from Canada and the United States of America was £A.3,600,000. The total deficiency balance for the year 1946-47, which includes such items as freight on imports, film remittances, exchange payments, lend-lease settlement and many other items, amounted to £A.31,600,000. I stop there to draw attention to the fact that that was the deficiency for the financial year ended June, 1947, because that was prior to the imposition of the first restriction on imports from dollar areas, which was estimated by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) to produce a saving of approximately 40,000,000 dollars a year. It is important to observe two things. Obviously, the £A.31,600,000 is an overstatement, because, as the Prime Minister has conceded, no allowance was made for the inflow of North American capital into Australia, which, as every one knows, has exceeded by far during the last two years the exports of capital from Australia to that country. Therefore, it would have to be reduced by whatever that amount is. In addition, no allowance was made for gold production, which, in the year ended June, 1946, totalled £A.10,000,000. It must be clear that, with the removal of the gold tax, the gold production in Australia during this financial year must exceed £A.10,000,000. I am seeking to arrive at a normal balance. One has to exclude from that £A.31,600,000 the only non-recurring item which I notice, namely, the last payment of £A.6,200,000 on account of lend-lease, thus bringing the amount of the recurring dollar liability, on the basis of 1946-47, to £A.25,400,000. The Treasurer, in his reply, said that gold may be regarded as equivalent to dollars. The sale of current gold production would on the basis of these figures reduce Australia’s recurring liability for this year to £A.15,400,000.
– Does the whole of that gold production apply to the reduction of Australia’s dollar liability?
– In respect of last year, it did not, because it was given to Great Britain I understand, on a sterling basis. I am speaking now of this year, and I have quoted the Prime Minister’s own statement. ‘On those figures, the recurring liability in respect of dollars in this financial year will be £A.15,400,000. After the end of the financial year 1946-47, restrictions were imposed on imports from the dollar areas, and these were estimated to effect a saving of 40,000,000 dollars a year. We have now been told that further cuts are to be made, and these. are estimated to effect a saving of about 60,000,000 dollars. I direct attention to that, because it seems to me that the Parliament is being completely disregarded in the matter. There may be every justification for all the dollar restrictions that have been imposed. What I assert is that we are not told the reasons for their imposition, except in completely general terms, which do not permit of our arguing as to their necessity or otherwise. Recently, the Prime Minister was asked what was the estimated dollar deficit for 1946-47. I have sought to reconstruct, as I believe it ought to be reconstructed, what ought to be the dollar deficit for this year, on the basis of last year’s figures, if no restrictions were imposed on imports from dollar areas. The answer of the Prime Minister in respect of 1946-47 was that no estimates were yet available, because of the uncertainty of American woolbuying during the current season. Although further cuts calculated to effect a saving of 60,000,000 dollars are to be imposed, we are told that no estimate is available in respect of the dollar deficit for this year! On what ground, therefore, can it be suggested that there is need for all of these dollar restrictions, unless Great Britain itself is in need of dollars and consequently we must go to its aid? I do not dispute that proposition. But the proposition which I am seeking to establish is that this committee ought to be informed in much greater detail in regard to the dollar shortage in Great Britain. We have asked the Prime Minister to state the position. The Leader of the Opposition has been good enough to show me his reply, and from it I understand that the figures are confidential and we are to be told nothing about them. It is rather important, therefore, that we should go to a document which the Prime Minister himself has circulated in the Economic Survey for 1947, issued by the British Government in February of this year. In a notation in the circulation that has been made by the right honorable gentleman, he has drawn attention to the crucial significance of this paper in connexion with world economic affairs generally, and particularly in its bearing upon the economy of this country, in relation to Great Britain’s - position and its dollar indebtedness. The document shows that, as at the beginning of this year, Great Britain had a dollar credit of approximately fstg.955,000,000.
Mr. Falstein interjecting,
– I realize, as well as the honorable member does, that many factors have contributed to the dollar shortage. The point that I ami seeking to make is that we ought to he told how the money has been expended, .because our economy is directly affected by the economy of Great Britain; the two of them are largely wrapped up together. It is quite idle for this Parliament to seek to debate the dollar shortage unless it has ful information as to how the money has been expended by Great Britain. The Economic Survey for 1947 states, at page 18, that at February of this year £955,000,000 remained unexpended of the United States and Canadian credits. It bad been estimated that the drain on dollars for the financial year 1947 - their balancing period being different from: ours- would be £350,000,000. That, of course, could be added to by other factors, such as disbalance in trade, and the results of Great Britain’s convertibility obligations under the Anglo.American financial agreement. But the important point that 1 draw attention to is that we have not been told how the dollars have been expended. I assert that we are entitled to know that, because otherwise the Parliament will have no information upon which it oan properly determine whether or not dollar restrictions ought to have been imposed to the extent that they have, or should he imposed to the extent contemplated. Whilst I concede that the economic condition of Great Britain is largely the result of the aftermath of war and the great sacrifice which its people made during the war, at the same time I do not blind myself to the conclusion that it has been aggravated by inefficiency of government. The question which one asks oneself, in the absence of particular information as to how these dollars have been expended is,
What are the reasons for the deficiency? It seems to me that they fall under twoheads. The first is, that there has been in Great Britain capital expenditure which was not related to production - the key necessity of Great Britain - and the second is that there was leakage of sterling, which in turn builds up liabilities in dollars, at a time when, had there been wise administration in Great Britain, sterling balances could have been blocked so as to prevent the leak. From both of those causes there has been a substantial contribution to the present dollar shortage in Great Britain.
– The honorable member is straying from the Department, of Commerce and Agriculture.
– I am referring to the Department of Trade and Customs.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– I shall not challenge your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I think that my remarks are in order. An examination of the budget papers will show, under the heading “ Consolidated Revenue Fund “, particulars of revenue derived in respect of a number of items many of which come from dollar sources. Some of them were mentioned by the Treasurer as items in respect of which dollar restrictions had been imposed.
– The honorable member is entitled to discuss imports and exports as they affect the dollar position, but he is not entitled to engage in a long dissertation in respect of the international dollar situation.
– I have not attempted to engage in a long dissertation on that subject. I have been asserting the need for the committee to have full information on the subject. The peculiar thing is that, at a time when our export market is expanding, the Government is imposing restrictions. It is also an amazing thing that, although our net exports of goods and services for 1946-47 show a substantial increase over the figures for 1938-39, our imports and our standard of living have been depressed as a result of the policy being followed by the Government. I do not say that it is not a policy which may be forced on us by external happenings, but I do assert the need for fall information to be given to us, both in respect of our. own dollar commitments in this country and the dollar commitments of Great Britain, because our economy is bound up with that of Britain. What has happened to the £Stg.l,250,000,000 which was the amount of the original loan to Britain? According to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, the drain to the 20 th August apparently amounted to £350,000,000, to which must be added £150,000,000 sterling used to the end of 1946. From the same source we learn that to the 20th- August £50,000,000 had been used to finance a sterling area deficit over and above the British deficit. That makes a total of £550,000,000 and leaves unexplained £475,000,000 sterling in terms of dollars. Those particulars ought to be furnished to this chamber as well as to the Souse of Commons. These observations are important, because an examination of the position in Britain reveals that a large sum of money, which
I estimate at £400,000,000- -
– The honorable member is carrying the debate beyond the matter referred to in the Estimates.
– I shall summarize by saying, first, that, in respect of the dollar shortage which affects Great Britain and Australia, a large sum of money was absorbed in capital expenditure which bore no relation to production and, secondly, a substantial sum of money has been paid to redeem sterling indebtedness which had been recouped from the dollar loan. These things ought to be made plain to the Parliament. I rose particularly to submit, first, that we should have from the Treasurer a more detailed statement as to what the Empire position in respect of dollars will be during the next financial year, and secondly, that there should be no secrecy as to what has happened to the dollar resources of Great Britain, so that we may understand the problem and thus be in a position to render the maximum support to Britain or, at least, to suggest ways and means of meeting the situation. This is another example of the way in which this Parliament is being deprived of essential information requisite for intelligent debate. We are asked to debate vital matters affecting this country’s economy, yet we are not given the data that we should have. Moreover, the Government is not making any effort to furnish that data to us.
.- I shall refer particularly to the Department of Trade and Customs and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) criticized the Australian system of prices control, and cited figures showing that the cost of many commodities had increased. No one will deny that prices have risen, but despite some mistakes which have been made in a most difficult administrative field, Australia has emerged from the war and two years of post-war. experience much better off than any other country which introduced prices control. In spite of the mistakes that have been made, the Government has earned the gratitude of the people of Australia. It has received the commendation of many people overseas. In this connexion, I am reminded that Sir Frederic Bain, chairman of Empire Industries, who visited Australia recently, said, “Australia is a core of sanity in a chaotic world “. Honorable members opposite may not agree with that statement, but I remind them that as its author had the prefix “ Sir “ to his name he probably did not come from the same section of society as we on this side represent.
– What about Sir Stafford Cripps?
– Those words are worthy of- consideration. The chaos which occurred in the United States of America is, perhaps, the best illustration of what happens when control is tampered with, or removed. We do not want to have in this country a repetition of what happened in the United States of America when controls were lifted. Next year the Opposition will have an opportunity to express its views on the continuation of prices control, and I hope that it will stand behind the Government and will support the referendum.
The honorable member for Moreton gave the gloomiest picture of this country that any one could give. If he is not satisfied with it why does he not arrange with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) to migrate to Great Britain, Europe or America? The honorable member may have given the impression to the uninitiated that industry is being strangled by high taxes. Time and time again he has alleged that the Labour Administration has placed this country in a terrible state and that private enterprise is being, as it were, run out the back door. But 1 ‘propose to give illustrations of how industry is standing up in this so-called, but mis-named, socialist country. I quote excerpts from financial reports on only two days, the 29th and 30th September- “ Hardie Company’s assets grow “ ; “ Mount Isa profits now satisfactory “ ; “ Share market holds fully firm. Demand covers wide range’’; “Mount Morgan shows much higher profit - £65,361 increase”; “McPherson’s better result of £20,000 more “ ; “ Truth and Sportsman Limited shows increase “ ; “ G. Edgell profits improve - £2,400 increase “ ; “ Textile mill profit up, Bradford Cotton earns £117,316- £16,799 increase “ ; “ Tax removal will aid retail store “ ; “ Hadfield’s record profits, £17,859- loss of £15,700 last year; over £23,000 better off “ ; “ Illawarra Coke shows profit “ ; “ Murdoch’s profit best since 1930 - £39,043”; “Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited, profit of £269,889 as against £227,000 last year - increase of £42,000 “ ; “ Burling Mills has better year -£36,000”; “Australian Soap Limited profits increase”; “Wilcox Mofflin increase by £15,000”; “Zircon Rutile Limited “increase by £13,000”; “Australian Estates Company Limited great year with £65,000 increase “ ; “ Arthur Cocks and Company Limited profit show*? increase”. Only two companies showed any decrease of their annual profits. Those figures were arrived at after the companies had taken out depreciation and the taxes that the honorable member for Moreton claims are strangling industry. Speaking of the upward trend of wool prices, the chairman of directors of Winchcombe Carson Limited, Mr. Harold Bell, said, at the annual meeting of the company on the 26th September -
I have no hesitation in expressing the opinion that pastoral products have a promising future. More than 40 countries now buy Australian wool and ample scope for increased production prevails.
That seems to bear out Sir Frederick Bain’s statement that Australia is the core of sanity in a chaotic world. It gives the lie to the repeated statements of Opposition members, which we are sick and tired of hearing, that this country has “ gone to the dogs “, that every one is nearly bankrupt and that high taxes are strangling industry. I refer to savings bank deposits as another indication of the stable economy of this country. Savings bank deposits, which are the deposits of the small investors, have risen-
– Order ! I think the honorable member is straying from the matter before the Chair. He is entitled to deal with prices control, but not the general economy.
– I am sorry that the Opposition is deprived of the opportunity of nearing what I should have said about that matter. For years honorable .gentlemen opposite, particularly members of the Australian Country party have promised to help the man on the land without having done so. The four enemies of primary producers are: First, drought, flood and fire; secondly, insecurity through booms and slumps in price levels; thirdly, the nightmare of high interest rates ; and, fourthly, lack of organization amongst the primary producers. So bitter and narrow is the outlook of many people, that the - Labour Government has been ‘ blamed for the droughts, fires and floods that periodically ravage primary producing, but I am glad that the honorable member for Moreton has admitted that drought has played havoc with dairying production. He ought to know, as a Queensland member. Insecurity through booms and slumps was characteristic of every phase of primary production before the war. Having been born in the Wimmera, the son of a wheat-farmer, and having worked on the farm, I can speak with experience about wheat-farming, which is a subject that I am particularly interested in. In 1935, a committee was set up to inquire into the indebtedness of primary producers in Australia. It found that 41,807 wheat-farmers with 50,000,000 acres had a total debt of £151,459,270 and that 60 per cent, of them could not pay their way. They were paying annually £14,000,000 in interest, which was half the value of the harvest in 1935. The total debt of the woolgrowers and the wheat-growers was £288,000,000. That is typical of the condition of Australian primary producers before the war. It was common before the war for potato prices to rise to from £18 to £20 a ton, which the farmers regarded as good. They were encouraged to intensify their production in the next year by interests not concerned with their welfare - the middle-men, the merchants, who have governed their markets for so long. I am glad to know that their activities have ‘ been curbed. The next year, when more acres were sown, all that the growers could get for the potatoes they dug was ls. a bag for use as pig food. Tons of potatoes were left in the ground. The farmers’ outlay was not returned. They were saved from bankruptcy only because many of them, particularly in Tasmania, were engaged in other forms of primary production. Diversified production saved Tasmania’s agriculture. Wheatfarmers and wool-growers, who depended on one product, had a lean time. In that period the prices of all primary products were ridiculously low, and, from one year to another, the farmers never knew what they would receive. The man that engaged on primary production on a large scale was at a decided advantage, because he could store his produce in barns and wait for a rising market, whereas the men in a small way could not alford to hold their produce and had to sell on whatever market was available. Accordingly they always received the lowest price for their products. The big farmers were not happy about stabilized prices during the war, because the small man got the same prices as they did, which is most .unusual. Stabilization of the primary industry, with a guaranteed price, is essential to a stable economy in this country. Many farmers, regardless of party politics, have come to realize that fact to-day. Our problem now is to discover how we can do it.
That leads me to my next point, that all progressive farmers to-day do not want to return to the kill or cure, hit or miss, boom or bust, methods of 1939. The changes effected during the war were made as war measures. I do not say that the Labour Government was solely responsible for those changes. However, the Government organized them; and many farmers are amazed to think that a Labour government was sufficiently interested in agriculture to inaugurate the stabilization schemes which have proved so successful, but which no previous government attempted to introduce. As the result of organized . marketing and guaranteed prices during the last five, or six, years, the farmer to-day, particularly the small farmer, is again on his feet. He has paid off his mortgage, and, in most cases, now owns his own farm. That, of course, cannot be said of those who have just gone on the land. However, the longsettled farmer has won prosperity for the first time after from 30 to 40 years of solid work on the farm, and he has paid back to the banks and lending houses approximately £70,000,000 in the reduction of mortgages’ and overdrafts. 1 come now to the subject of high interest rates, which crucified the majority of our farmers before the war. I know that it crucified my father, who was a farmer, and many of his neighbours. They were obliged to pay interest on loans at rates from 5 per cent, to 12 per cent. In 1935, the total indebtedness of the wheat-farmers and wool-growers was £28S.000,000 in respect of interest; whereas the wheat-farmers alone were paying off that indebtedness at the rate of £14,000,000 annually. This Government was determined to help the farmers defeat their enemy in the form of high interest rates, and it decided to control those rates. No farmer, regardless of his political colour, could ever want the pre-war interest rates to return. The f armers learned a lesson which they cannot possibly forget. Interest rates have been controlled for the last few years.
– That control was instituted by the Menzies Government.
– No, it was not.
– I am not concerned about, which government introduced those controls. To an ex-serviceman about to go on the land a stabilized agricultural economy is absolutely vital. The policy of low interest rates will help those men who are struggling to get on the land in the post-war era. We know that costs have risen substantially within the last seven years, and, therefore, our present price-control structure must be maintained in order to protect farmers in the purchase of agricultural machinery and all the equipment essential to scientific farming, I have enumerated the four main enemies of the farmer before the war. In addition, the farmers have learned to organize themselves in many ways. They are combining to work out their own salvation ; and they will not be obliged to do so in fear and trembling.
I shall now deal with the dairying industry. I agree with honorable members opposite who represent rural electorates that dairy production has declined; butthat has not been due, as they maintain, to mismanagement and a don’t care attitude on the part of the Government towards the industry. I take the following facts from the latest report of the Commonwealth Statistician. In March, 1943, dairy cattle in Australia totalled nearly 5,000,000. In the two succeeding years the number declined by 84,000 and 99,000 respectively, but in 1946 and 1947 the downward movement was less pronounced. The number at the 31st March last was 4,592,000, or a decrease of 17,000, whereas the decrease since March, 1943, has been 406,000 or 8.1 per cent. Decreases this year were recorded in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, but increases occurred in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. In Victoria, the increase was 112,000, or 8.6 per cent. Milk production showed a slight decline in 1946-47. The proportion used in butter manufacture decreased from 78 per cent, in 1939 to 63 per cent, in 1946-47. Cheese production, however, reached the record figure of 42,098 tons. Therefore, the picture is not so black as honorable members opposite would like to paint it.
There are two reasons why dairy production declined. During the war cash cropping became very popular with farmers. With guaranteed prices for their products, they realized that they could obtain very big incomes for a comparatively small outlay. In Tasmania, great quantities- of a variety of vegetables were produced for the services, and many dairy farmers in that State cut down the number of their dairy cows in order to turn over land to crops. Many of those f armers now realize their mistake. They are trying to build up their herds again, but with prices at from £20 to £30 a head they are finding it almost impossible to. do so. Drought and cash cropping during the last five, or six, years has contributed to the slight decline in butter production. There has been an upward- trend in total gross farm income for agriculture throughout Australia based on gross value of rural production at the principal markets as computed by the Division of Agricultural Economics. There are three main divisions, agriculture, pastoral and dairying and farmyard, the last mentioned division including pigs and poultry. The actual average for 1934-35 to 1938-39 was £80,900,000, which increased by 1945.-46 to £141,400,000, whilst the. estimate for this year is £171,600,000, or more than double the pre-war income. In the. pastoral division the average for the. five years period preceding the war was £81,900,000. By 1945.-46 this had increased to £102,700,000, whilst the estimate for 1947-48 is £162,600,000. In the dairying and farmyard- division, the average for the five-year period preceding the war was £48,2.00,000. This increased, by 1945-46 to £89,200,000, whilst the estimate for this year is £87,000,000, or a slight decrease. The- total actual income of primary producers throughout the whole of the Commonwealth during the five year period preceding the war was £211,000,000. The estimate this year is £421,200,000, or just double. I admit that in many phases of primary industry costs of production .also may have doubled. The financial returns of the hanks, including the savings banks, however, point to the fact that, despite the mistakes that have been made, primary production in this country has never been in a more sound condition. All who have contributed towards that success deserve commendation, including the farmers who have cooperated with the Government in implementing the controls imposed by it.
Despite the fact that the Japanese captured our main source of supply of superphosphate, the Government was able to maintain fertilizer imports into this country at a remarkable level during the war years. Some people advocate the discontinuance of all subsidies, including the subsidy on superphosphate, on the ground that they impose too heavy a drain on people generally. I do not agree with thom. Let us consider what happened in New Zealand following the discontinuance of the subsidy on superphosphate in that dominion. Since the subsidy was discontinued, prices have increased in the North Island for supply in jute bags to £10 2s. a ton and in paper bags to £9 10s. a ton, and in the South Island to £10 13s. and £10 ls. a. ton respectively. Commenting upon the effect of the removal of the subsidy in Australia, the Superphosphate Industry Committee said -
If subsidy were removed from superphosphate in Australia, the selling price would need to be raised to about £9 15s. per ton in jute sacks to cover costs and a small margin of profit, though it is probable that the Prices Commissioner would accept the companies own repairs and maintenance costs in place of standardized figures for this item as used by this committee. In addition, the Prices Commissioner would almost certainly allow manufacturers a higher rate of profit than their present email guaranteed one. Having regard to all circumstances, it seems fairly safe to say that, if our subsidies were removed, the selling price of superphosphate would be about £10 Ss. per ton in jute sacks.
I understand that the price is now £6 ls. a ton. I trust that the Government will see its way clear to continue the subsidy, not only for the remainder of this year, but also during next year and the following year.
– The honorable member believes that the Government should continue what was commenced by the Lyons Government.
– I am more concerned with facts and figures than with what government was responsible for the introduction o.f the subsidy. Even the most bitter critic of the Government must give it credit for the manner in which it has organized the vast field of agricultural production.
Much has been said by honorable members opposite regarding our alleged failure to maintain Australian exports to the United Kingdom. Let us consider the facts. In 1944-45 and 1946-47 our exports of meat and farm products to the United Kingdom were “as follows: -
– The honorable member should compare those figures with the exports made in pre-war years.
– I am showing the recent upward trend in our exports to the United’ Kingdom.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The ‘honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has made a very generous speech to-night and, on behalf of the farmers of Australia, I express my gratitude to him for the small token of respect he paid them when he said that for the very fine results which have flowed from the Labour Government’s methods and policy, everybody deserves some credit, even the farmers, the men who are out ploughing the fields from daylight to dark, the dairymen who milk their cows seven days a week for 365 days a year, while the Minister for Trade and Commerce (‘Senator Courtice) and his colleagues in the Ministry struggle with great success to keep their prices down to an unprofitable level! The honorable member painted a pleasant picture, claiming that everything should be well. It reminds me of the man who, despite the fact that his wife pleads that she has not had a new dress for years and the children are running around with patched pants and without shoes, assures his wife that they are better off than they ever were before. The honorable member cited a mass of figures which completely, distort the real picture. Production expressed in terms of money means very little ; what .matters most is the volume of butter, meat, wheat, sugar and other farm products. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and his colleagues in the Ministry would find it very difficult to persuade the people of Great Britain that all is well in the farming industries of Australia, when our kinsmen overseas know that last year they received only one-half of the quantity of butter they were able to obtain from Australia in the first war years, that they now receive tens of thousands of tons less meat, that our exports of sugar are almost nil and that essential foodstuffs which they desperately need now are not coming forward. They may be assured with all the charm of the honorable member for Wilmot and the more rugged charm of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, that Australia is doing a good job; but their ration books and the bare shelves in their stores will reflect quite a different picture. I shall quote some figures to demonstrate how production in certain primary industries has fallen, due to the incompetence of this Government. In 1939, the production of wheat totalled 155,000,000 bushels; in 1946-47- the latest year for which figures are available - production was only 116,000,000 bushels. This decline occurred largely during the term of office of this Government.
– Due to droughts.
– The same excuse has been offered year after year. It was a drought last year, a drought the year before, and so on ; but what is happening now ? We are having a favorable season, and the crops are waving green over tens of thousands of acres. Harvest prospects are better than ever before, but the trouble now is a shortage of bags, and insufficient harvesting machinery. The Minister blames Providence. Apparently everything would have gone well except that Providence would not cooperate; but I remind honorable members opposite that it is not Providence that is filching from the wheat-farmers the benefits of their hard work. Although the world parity price of wheat to-day is approximately 17s. .a bushel, the wheatf.?. “.’-Tiers of this country will be lucky if they get 7s. a bushel from this Government. The balance will be appropriated by the Government in return for a promise of repayment in the years to come. But there will be no repayment for those unfortunate wheat-farmers who, through ill health, will have to retire from farming after this season, or for the widows or dependants of others who may die this year or in the near future. What answer have honorable members opposite to that ? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture sits silently in his place awaiting the fall of the guillotine when the time allotted for this discussion expires. He will not give an answer; but the wheatgrowers are demanding to know what the Government has to say on this important question.
I turn now to the sugar industry. Perhaps the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who is the representative of a sugar-growing electorate can explain the drop in production in that industry. In 1938-39 sugar production amounted to 5,678,000 tons; the figure for 1945-46 was only 4,718,000 tons, a reduction of nearly 1,000,000 tons. Is it any wonder that sugar rationing has been necessary in this country? Is it any wonder that the people of the Wimmera electorate and other districts throughout the Commonwealth have been unable to obtain supplies ? Is it any wonder that we are not meeting our commitments to Great Britain? No doubt the honorable member for Wilmot will have his own explanation, but the fact remains that under the administration of thi? Government sugar production has progressively declined.
For another illustration of the incompetence of this Government, let us turnto the dairying industry. The honorable member for Wilmot has quoted certain figures ; I do not contest them, but I shall elaborate them, because I have before me figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician as recently as the 17th September. This statement shows that dairy cattle in this country decreased from 5,000,000 in 1943 to 4,592,000 in 1947 - a period entirely within the term of office of this Government. In four years, therefore, there has been a reduction of more than 400,000 dairy cattle; in other words, 100,000 a year.
– But only in three States.
– My friend from Wilmot says “ only in three States “. I say throughout Australia. Does Australian production not mean anything to the honorable member? Is it any wonder that butter production fell from 206,000 tons in 1939 to 150,000 tons in 1945-46?
– Be honest and say why.
– I shall. The number of dairy cattle in this country, and therefore butter production, has fallen because of the policy of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in particular, and of this Government in general, in pegging the return to the unfortunate farmer at a level which ‘has not permitted him to produce butter profitably. Many dairy-farmers have been forced out of the industry. The honorable member for Wilmot really put his ringer on the trouble when ‘he said that dairy-farmers had gone in for “cash cropping “. I assume that the honorable member meant that they had turned to vegetable-growing and to other avenues of production that offered better returns. They abandoned dairying because it meant working seven days a week for 365 days in the year, and undertook other forms of production that enabled them to work shorter hours and secure higher monetary returns. This defection has continued while honorable members on this side of the chamber have been complaining of the Government’s policy in pegging prices. Now, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has announced an increase of the price of butter from ls. 7$d. per lb. to 2s. per lb. On several occasions during the last two years I have moved the adjournment of the House to urge upon the Government the necessity to increase the price of butter to 2s. per lb. if the decline in production is to be arrested. I was sidetracked repeatedly. A year ago the Minister appointed a committee to inquire into production costs in the dairying industry. Apparently it took that body twelve months to discover that the price of butter should be 2s. per lb. That could have been determined in a week. In the policy speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) in September of last year he said that the dairy-farmers should receive 2s. per lb. for their butter. Under the policy of the Government, the producers in Australia have suffered, and, more important still, the people of Great Britain have had to go without the butter which they so much need. The price of 2s. per lb., which the Government has at last agreed to pay, is no more than what the British Government is paying now for Australian butter.
– That is not true.
– Well, the British’ Government is paying ls. 11½d. per lb. The world parity price for butter is very much more than 2s. per lb. For years past, the Government has been filching from the dairy-farmers their just profits so that others may buy butter at a price below that at which the industry can carry on.
Under the heading of the Department of Health I wish to say something about the Government’s plan for free medical treatment - if it has a plan. I should like to know something more about it, and so would the people of Australia generally. This proposal of the Government vitally concerns the health of the people. I propose to quote from a statement issued by the federal council of the British Medical Association in order to give Ministers an opportunity to state the facts. The British Medical Association is very much concerned over this talk of free medicine and free medical treatment. Members of the association do not understand the details of the Government’s plan, but they have reason to believe, as the result of conversations with government officials, that the results will be unsatisfactory. I quote from the statement as follows : -
It is now plain, from both official and unofficial sources, that the Government’s policy is to replace private medical practice with government medical practice, the private doctor with the government doctor.
The implication of this is clear. There is to be a loss of freedom for the .people, and a loss of freedom for the doctors.
Every one seems to be losing his freedom these days. The statement continues -
This suppression of freedom, according to the government statement, will not be by one swift stroke, ‘but slow, deliberate and ruthless. It is to be made in the name of the people, and in the nairne of “ freedom “.
That is both the irony and the danger of it. It is to be accomplished by a vast, new bureaucracy - a further- 20,000 State employees.
The scheme involves the disappearance of the family doctor. We believe that he is an institution which ordinary people do not wish to be abolished.
For a great many .people the relationship with their family doctor is a constant and dependable thing in their lives. They know him as one of their few friends in times either of prosperity or of adversity.
Under no system such as the Government proposes, where the doctor’s first responsibility would be to his employer (the State), could there be the traditional intimacy and confidence of patient and doctor. The original basis for the creation of that relationship would be absent.
Doctors of sufficient experience and instinct know that the patient’s right to choose his doctor is a vital thought intangible element in his treatment.
A system under -which doctors would be State officials could not, for practical reasons, allow this freedom.
As the Government admits, the doctor must be directed where to work, and the patient directed to attend not any doctor, but the government doctor.
Is that the Government’s scheme? Is the last vestige of freedom to be taken from the people and from the doctors? Is it proposed that a doctor shall be ordered to serve in any prescribed district in accordance with the desires of a government official appointed for the purpose? Is this the scheme of free medical service of which so much has been made ? If so, it is a travesty of what a medical service ought to be.
I wish now to bring to the notice of honorable members the situation which lias developed in regard to the sale of second-hand motor cars as a result of the Government’s retention of price control. I have heard honorable members opposite speak of the effectiveness of price control in keeping down prices to the consumers. Does any one believe that the regulations regarding the control of prices for secondhand -motor cars are being observed to-day? Does any one believe that a person can buy a reasonably good motor car at the fixed price? There is not one honorable member in this House who would so declare himself.
– Does the honorable member want the regulations lifted?
– I do, certainly. I believe that the regulations are incapable of being applied. I believe that, in spite of the regulations, the real value of a motor car is determined by the vendor and the purchaser, irrespective of what the Government says, and every one knows that to be the case. Therefore, in the interests of the community, for the sake of decent trading and a better appreciation of the moral responsibility of the Government towards the community, it would be better to abolish control altogether rather than have the law brought into contempt. In saying this I am not expressing my own opinion only. I quote now from the statement by Mr. H. I. Johnson, general secretary of the National Roads and Motorists Association in New South Wales -
Our attitude is that the system has broken down because of the Government’s inability to police the law.
Even the most law-abiding person has no scruples in either buying or selling a vehicle on the black market-
That is a telling indictment of the prices control regulations and of the Government which inflicts them upon the community. The statement continues -
Even the most law-abiding person has no scruples in either buying or selling a vehicle on the black market, especially since the moral urge to obey that law largely disappeared with the end of the war.
The general secretary of the National Roads and Motorists Association might reasonably be expected to know the facts in relation to the motor car business.
In conclusion, I express regret that I have not sufficient time in which to deal with the housing situation, which the young Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) so enthusiastically described in his speech to-night. He said that the situation was wonderful, that 33,000 houses had been built last year and that the position was now better than ever before. I ask him earnestly to tell the same story to the thousands of people in this country who ‘ are either homeless, or keeping a family in one room, or otherwise bereft of what they are entitled to have - a decent home.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), when he addresses this committee, never really addresses it with any degree of sincerity. If the listening public could see him-
– I rise to order. The Standing Orders provide- that a member must not question the sincerity of another member. Therefore, I ask that the Minister withdraw his remark.
– In deference to the honorable member, the Minister should withdraw his remark.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I withdraw the remark if it is offensive to the honorable member. I point out that he does not even adhere to the truth. Does he question that?
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should not take any notice of the Minister because of his methods, but nevertheless I think that his remark does not comply with the Standing Orders. He should observe the Standing Orders in making his speech in reply.
– The language used was definitely unparliamentary and it was offensive to the honorable member. Therefore, I ask the Minister to withdraw his remark.
– May I demonstrate
– I ask the Minister to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw the statement. May I proceed immediately to demonstrate that the honorable member does not make correct statements? Is objection taken to that?
– I shall let it go.
– I shall now proceed to demonstrate the truth of my assertion. The honorable member stated in his speech that the price which the Australian Government had agreed to pay to the dairy-farmers for butter, namely, an amount of about 200s. sterling per hundred-weight, was less than that which it obtained from the United Kingdom Government. The honorable gentleman well knows that in respect of one price he quoted a figure in sterling and in respect of the other price he quoted a figure in Australian currency.
– That is not correct.
– The price paid by the United Kingdom Government for Australian butter to-day, in Australian currency, is 216s. 10½d. f.o.b., and the honorable gentleman knows it. The honorable gentleman knows, too, that the price paid to the Australian butter producer is also 216s. 10£d.’ less factory and f.o.b. costs. Does he deny that?
– I said-
– The honorable member made an attempt to get away with misrepresentation, and I am at least entitled to refute his statement and prove that it was wilful misrepresentation. Nobody knows better than the honorable member for Richmond that it was so. .
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I take exception to the Minister using the term “wilful misrepresentation”, which also is not in accordance with the Standing Orders. The figures which I used were quite correct and can be checked in Hansard. However, I ask for a withdrawal of the statement about “ wilful misrepresentation “.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The words “wilful misrepresentation” are definitely out of order and unparliamentary, and the Chair asks that they be withdrawn.
– May I say that the statement made by the honorable member for Richmond was made in ignorance? The fact is that the Australian Government is paying to the Australian dairy farmer to-day the full price which it receives for butter from the United Kingdom Government. The honorable member knows that, and I hope that he will not deny it further.
I refer now to the dairying industry in general. The honorable member for Richmond has endeavoured to convince us that the decline of dairy production in Australia and the reduction of the number of dairy cattle are due to the neglect of the present Government. The plain fact is, as the honorable member would admit if he were not a political partisan, that the decline - and there has been a decline - is due in part to factors far beyond the control of this Government, or of any other government. However, the honorable member knows also that some of the factors were within the control of the government of which he was a member and that others also were undoubtedly within the control of this Government, of which, fortunately, he is not a member. Everybody knows that during the last few years Australia suffered two of the most disastrous droughts that it has ever been the misfortune of Australian people to experience. Everybody knows that this situation necessitated unparalleled measures of assistance to the primary producers. One has only to examine statistics of wheat yields in Australia during those disastrous drought years in order to see how parlous was the condition of the wheat industry. Vast areas of land which normally produced wheat carried no wheat crop whatever. The farmers did not have the wherewithal to resow their crops. They had not sufficient money to purchase seed and artificial manures and, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, free assistance was rendered to them by the Australian Government so that they might sow -crops for succeeding years. That drought relief was provided in the form of a straight-out payment to the growers and no repayment was asked for or expected by the Government. That also was unique in Australian history It is true that the grants were made on the condition that the State governments made equal grants, but the State governments agreed to that condition. One has only to refer to these facts in relation to the wheat industry in order to realize that the repercussions of the drought must have been great in the dairying industry. The honorable member for Richmond talked about the return to the dairy farmer and his financial difficulties. The fact is that during the war, before the Labour party came into office, there was absolutely no restriction whatever on the enlistment of dairy-farm labourers and dairy farmers’ sons who volunteered for service in the armed forces. There was no restriction on military call-ups in any form. But, as soon as this Government came into office, it took steps to prevent any further drift of labour from dairy farms.
– On the recommendation of the Rural Industries Committee.
– I remind the honorable member that that committee was created by the Curtin Government to advise it on primary production problems.
– By the Menzies Government.
– In any case, if the suggestion was made by the committee and was accepted by this Government, surely that redounds to the credit of the Government. Much has been said about the financial position of the dairying industry. I know something about the dairying industry. I was engaged in it for years. More is the pity, I was engaged in it when anti-Labour governments graced the treasury bench of this country. Within the last twelve or thirteen years, I have sold commercial butter for as little as 8$d. per lb. At no period during the term of office of this Government has butter fat been less than ls. 3d. per lb., and to-day, we have the satisfactory knowledge that the price of commercial butter is guaranteed for five years at 2s. per lb.
– The price of butter fat has not been less than ls. 4-^d. per lb. since this Government took office.
– That strengthens my case.
– In the meantime, the value of money has depreciated.
– What the honorable member for Fawkner- (Mr. Holt) says does not matter. The Opposition is always offering excuses. As a matter of fact, honorable members opposite suffer from frustration when their records of administration are compared with those of the Labour Government. They had golden opportunities, which they ignored. For a number of years before the outbreak of . World War II., anti-Labour governments were in office. At one period, the honorable member for Richmond was Assistant Minister for Commerce, and had a golden opportunity to assist primary producers. Unfortunately, their position became so desperate that the then Minister for Commerce, Sir Earle Page, was obliged to introduce legislation providing for the adjustment of farmers’ deb:s. So such problem has arisen while the Labour Government has been in office.
– Why should it, in view of war expenditure?
– -The case for putting the dairying industry and other primary producing industries on a sound footing is a much sounder proposition in an era of peace than in war-time, when a country i9 wasting its materials and losing its man-power. When a country is at war, the difficulties of many of its primary industries are almost insurmountable, but in an era of peace, the circumstances are entirely different. What did honorable members opposite do for the dairying industry when they were in office? I have with me some figures which will interest the honorable member for Moreton. They are extracted from the report of the Queensland Farmers Co-operative Association Limited, the chairman of which is Mr. C. H. Jamieson. These figures depict the situation under a Labour government and an anti-Labour government. According to the report, the association’s factories had 3,038 suppliers in February, 1946, and 2,S63 suppliers in June of that year. That would be an average of 3,000 suppliers. They were paid £1,153,136 for 13,030,000 lb. of butter, or an average of £371 for each supplier. In 1941, when the Menzies ‘Government still occupied the treasury bench, the factory handled 10,626,673 Lb. of butter, for which it paid suppliers £625,571. Again, I point out that in June, 1946, the amount paid to suppliers was £1,153,136. If there had been 3,000 suppliers in 1941, the average payment to each would have been £280, compared with £371 which suppliers received under the Labour Government. However, the report gives a better basis for comparison by showing that suppliers averaged ls. 2.13d. per lb. in 1941, when the honorable member for Richmond was Assistant Minister for Commerce. and ls. 8.54d. in 1946, an increase of 6.41d. per lb. From 1934 to 1938, when the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce, the position was worse for the suppliers of the Queensland Farmers Co-operative Association Limited. They got a raw deal. Their returns for commercial butter were as follows : -
It is interesting to note that in 1937, when the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce, production fell to 7,247,000 lb. However, I must be fair and point out that the decline was due to drought conditions. The right honorable gentleman was not responsible for the fall of production in that sense. Returns to suppliers of the Queensland Farmers Co-operative Association Limited since the Labour Government took office have been -
In accordance with the statements which appeared in the press yesterday, a price of 2s. per lb. for commercial butter will be guaranteed for the next five years. I know that members of the Opposition will contend that the higher prices for butter since the Labour Government came into office are due to the higher prices obtained for overseas butter. One must be honest in this matter, and I must admit that the higher prices obtained overseas for butter have been a not inconsiderable factor. However, the Government guarantees for five years a price of 2s. per lb. for commercial butter, which in terms of butter fat is 2s. 5.28d. per lb., irrespective of what the price may be overseas. In other words, this Government bases this guarantee to dairyfarmers not on what we obtain overseas but on what we have ascertained to be the cost of production. We guarantee to pay this price notwithstanding the fact that we have no guarantee as to how long the overseas price will remain at the present figure. We recognize that dairy-farmers are entitled to the cost of production as ascertained by a responsible authority. The Government appointed a committee, on which the producers were represented, to inquire into the costs of the industry. This is the first time in the history of this country that any Australian government has set up a committee of this kind to ascertain the cost of production of butter fat.
– In view of what the Minister said, what is the meaning of that part of the statement in to-day’s press, that if prices rise or fall, a review will be made immediately?
– The meaning is that the basic cost is guaranteed at 2s. per lb. for commercial butter for five years based on present-day costs; but if the cost of production rises or falls, still based on the ascertainable cost of 2s. per lb., there will be a variation. It bears no relationship
– Then it is not a guaranteed price for five years. We have learnt something.
– Order! The Minister is entitled to be heard in silence.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) asked a question which I was endeavouring to answer when the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) interrupted. That honorable gentleman never likes to hear his statements refuted nor to hear an elaboration of the Government’s case, and he cannot bear to hear a recital of the record of this Government in regard to its treatment of primary producers. When these unpleasant truths are enunciated, he endeavours to stifle them by indulging in a continual barrage of interjections designed to confuse the honorable member speaking. However, his tactics do not influence nae at all; in fact, they only serve to emphasize the sense of frustration under which he and other members of his party are labouring when the achievements of this Government in regard to primary production are recounted. Those honorable gentlemen persist in comparing conditions to-day with those obtaining in the piping days of peace before the great wastages of war occurred, when there was a surplus of man-power and abundant raw materials available to provide the necessities df life for the community.
With regard to the wild accusations made against the Government that it is robbing primary producers of export prices for their produce, every intelligent citizen knows that in 1943 the Labour Government embarked on a policy of price stabilization in order to prevent inflation on a gigantic scale, an action which was taken in the interests of all sections of the community. According to the theories postulated by members of the Australian Country party, the Government should permit primary producers to charge export prices for all produce sold in Australia which would otherwise be available for export. The fallacy and the stupidity of that contention is illustrated by consideration of the position that would arise if transportation facilities were available for shipment of primary produce to the United Kingdom, India and the European countries, which are so desperately in need of food. Every ounce of food and every grain of wheat would be shipped overseas so that the primary producers could get the benefit of the higher export prices, quite regardless of the necessity to provide food for our own people. The object of the Government in continuing control of prices and markets is to ensure, amongst other things, that the primary producers themselves shall receive a fair return for their, produce.
– What about wheat?
– I can tell the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) that when his colleague, the honorable member for Indi, was a member of the composite government the wheatfarmers of this country were reduced to comparative poverty during the term of office of that government.
– We never robbed the wheat-growers, anyhow !
– I remind the honorable gentleman of the occasion during his term of office as a Minister of the coalition Government, when representatives of the wheat-growers asked him to appeal to the then Prime Minister for assistance to them, when he replied, “Do not ask me to embarrass the Prime Minister by asking him for assistance “. That is on record.
Opposition members interrjecting
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) must cease interjecting.
– If members of the Opposition want to save my time and their own they will cease making stupid interjections.
– The Minister is not prepared to “give us a go”.
-If the honorable member will discontinue his interruption, his hard-pressed colleagues of the Australian Country party will have ian opportunity of sustaining their case. I pointed out that the policy of price stabilization and economic control is not a “ one-way traffic “ thoroughfare, as the so-called representatives of the primary producers in this chamber would have us believe. There are thousands of commodities which the primary producers of this country need and which they are able to buy at Australian price levels. If we were to permit them to export all their produce at the inflated prices ruling in other countries it would only be reasonable to permit the manufacturers of this country to demand from the primary producers export prices for the manufactured articles which they supply to them. As an instance of the lower prices charged to primary producers for articles manufactured in Australia, as compared with the prices of those articles abroad, I recently received a cable from New York quoting a price for 1,000 tons of barbed wire. I emphasize that £his quotation came from the United States of America, the great country whose economy has gone “ haywire “ and its prices through the roof!
– But the United States of America is producing half the world’s manufactured goods.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Bolt) has been complaining that members of the Opposition have not much time left to debate the Estimates, but he cannot contain himself for- a few seconds to hear some home truths. The price quoted for American barbed wire was £3 15s. a cwt. The price for barbed wire manufactured in Australia is approximately 28s. 6d. a cwt.
– When one can get it!
– I anticipated that the honorable member for Indi and the rest of his “ clackers “ would interject, “ When one can get it “. The fact remains that barbed wire is being manufactured in increasing quantities in this country, and, in due course, there will be adequate supplies of it for sale at the internal price level, which is substantially less than the price which would have to be paid for imported barbed wire. Wire netting is another item which is used extensively by primary producers-, and. I noticed from a recent price quotation brought to nay, notice that the price of English wire> netting landed in this country is exactlydouble the price of Australian wirenetting. A few years ago almost all. the agricultural machinery used in this; country was imported from the United! States of America and Canada, hut today we are relying on machinery manufactured in Australia. The fact is that the price of local machinery is substantially lower than the price of imported machinery. Another factor which should be borne in mind is that the primary producers of this country consume a substantial quantity of tea, and to restrict the price of this commodity to a reasonable one the Government is paying importers a subsidy of approximately £3,000,000. Primary producers are also protected by prices control in many other ways. As an example, the price of the clothing which they wear is fixed. I think that it should only be necessary to recite these facts to convince the people of this country that the solicitude evinced by members of the Australian Country party for the primary producers is so much arrant humbug, and is nothing less than a deliberate attempt to mislead them.
– It is a disgrace that, the Government having “ guillotined “ the Estimates, a Minister should occupy the time of the committee as the honorable gentleman is now doing.
– The honorable member for Richmond is a very successful banana producer. I pay a tribute to his acumen in that connexion. I have been reminded that during the term of office of the Menzies Government he sold his .bananas at. 8s. a case, and that to-day he is receiving up to 40s. a case for them.
Were it not for the economic controls that have been imposed by the present Government, I have not the slightest doubt that he now would be receiving 60s. a case for them.
The honorable member for Wimmera had something to say about wheat.
– When is the homeconsumption price of wheat to be brought up to Australian standard values?
– For the second time in the history of this country, a committee has been appointed to inquire into costs in the wheat industry. But a rather different situation has arisen. Sir Herbert Gepp was appointed as a royal commissioner by the Lyons Government in 1935. He presented a splendid report, but the then anti-Labour government took no action upon it.
– That is sheer misrepresentation.
– The honorable member for Indi knows full well that the government of which he was a member–
– Established a homeconsumption price for the first time; and it has stood ever since.
– The honorable member for Indi says that the government of which he was a member established a home-consumption price for all time.
– For the first time, and it has continued ever since.
– I rise toorder. Is the Minister in order in going beyond the time normally allotted to honorable members, in the course of a debate which is to be “ guillotined “ ?
– There is no point of order. The Standing Orders provide that honorable members shall he confined to a specified time. The Minister, when replying to the debate, is not so confined.
– I was about to inform the honorable member for Indi that the government of which he was a member had established a homeconsumption price.
– I have so informed the Minister.
– That price guaranteed to the wheat producers of this coun try 5s. 2d. a bushel, but only in respect of that portion of their wheat which was consumed within Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Holt.) put -
That the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) be not further heard.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
I was about to outline the means by which the home-consumption price for wheat was implemented, and what it really meant. That scheme provided that the farmer was guaranteed 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.b. in respect of only that portion of his crop which was consumed in’ Australia. Moreover, that price was to be paid out of funds provided hy the imposition of a tax on the bread consumers of Australia, known as the flour tax. Honorable members know that poor families eat more bread per member than families in better financial circumstances, and that, therefore, the homeconsumption price for wheat was paid to wheatgrowers at the cost of the consumers of bread, particularly those with large families.’ As I always endeavour to be fair to the Opposition when I speak, I admit that the iniquitous flour tax still remains, but honorable members do not need to be reminded that the country has been engaged in a war, and that its economic structure has been seriously affected. I hope, however, that during my term of office the flour tax will be removed, and that that time is not far distant. I emphasize that the homeconsumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat was guaranteed only in respect of the portion of the wheat crop consumed within Australia. For their export surplus, wheat-growers had to accept whatever prices were ruling in the markets of the world. It will be remembered that at one time those prices were substantially below the home-consumption price of which the honorable member for Indi has boasted. Honorable members would do well to contrast that plan with the scheme of the present Government, which guarantees to wheat-growers 5s. a bushel for bulk wheat, which is equivalent to 5s. 8d. a bushel for bagged wheat, and that that guaranteed price relates to all wheat produced, and will continue for seven years, when the scheme will be reviewed, and it may be extended to cover a period of ten years.
Question put -
That the proposed votes he agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Before the House adjourns I should like to draw the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to something which must surely be regarded as a serious abuse of the processes of the House. At an earlier stage to-day, the Prime Minister made a declaration of urgency, and it was carried. He then submitted the motion setting out the various times that were allotted to various groups of departments, and, as was pointed out at the time, that meant, of course, an extremely limited period of time for the various departments. The departments that have just been dealt with were five in number, and t]]e total period of time available for their consideration was three hours. That is, the Department of Works and Housing, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department of Health and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture were all considered in three hours. I am not canvassing, nor should I be at liberty to do so, the application of the “guillotine” and the imposition of time limits. I accept those, but I do point out that in the case of the discussion that was just terminated-
– Order! The right honorable member knows that he may not refer in the House to anything that happened in committee.
– This is the only opportunity I shall have.
– That is not correct. The right honorable gentleman may refer to the matter when the House again resolves itself into committee.
– I content myself by putting my remarks to the Prime Minister interrogatively. Would he consider it a proper thing, in the event of a debate in this House being confined to the period of three hours, for a Minister to occupy 50 minutes of that time, not in replying to matters that have been raised, but primarily occupying time?
– The right honorable member is not in order in proceeding on those lines.
– I am discussing an entirely hypothetical case. I put it interrogatively to the Prime Minister. Would he consider it a reasonable thing that, with no time limit being applicable to a Minister, a Minister should occupy an undue proportion of the very scanty time available with the remaining 73 members cf this House? I invite him to consider this matter, because it has a very great bearing on the reasonable co-operation that might be expected on both sides of the House in carrying out the business of the House.
– I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) what assurance he will give to the Opposition as to how time will be utilized on the remaining matters that are to come within the “ guillotine “ timelimit of eighteen and a half hours, which has been reduced to fifteen and a half hours:
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is not in order in referring .to anything that took place in committee.
– I rise to order. Under the “ guillotine “ resolution for the allotment of time, some debate must take place in the House, because the resolution refers to an appropriation bill, all stages of which must be completed by 3 p.m. on Friday. Therefore, I submit that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is in order in referring to an appropriation bill for the consideration of which time has been allotted, not by- the committee, but by the House.
– It is obvious that the right honorable member is referring to possible proceedings in committee, and he is not in order in doing so.
– I ask the Prime Minister what will he his attitude in respect of the Estimates that have yet to be considered?
-Order ! The Prime Minister will not be in order in answering that question.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has put to me a hypothetical question, and I am not versed in answering questions of that kind. He asked me whether it is reasonable for a Minister to take what might be regarded as an undue proportion of the time allotted to the consideration of certain estimates. I assume, generally speaking, that a Minister must keep within the Standing Orders in whatever he has to say; and, knowing my own Ministers as I do, I believe that only very provocative utterances could induce any Minister to occupy so much time. I should believe that in such a hypothetical situation, a Minister, if he took so much time, would feel quite justified in doing so, in view of what had been said by other honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointmen ts - Depa rtmen t -
Commerce and Agriculture - L. White.
Interior - T. A.Dalton. L. C. A. Hope, J. F. V. Knight,E. G. Newman, H. Preston-Stanley.
Works and Housing - H. Eisler, A. K. Knox, D. Livingston, L. J. Osborne, L. C. Wilson, 1. K. Wotherspoon.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Council for Scientific and Industrial Research purposes - Armidale, New South Wales.
Science and Industry Endowment Act- Report by the Auditor-General on the accountsof the Science and Industry Endowment Fund for year 1946-47.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinances - 1947 -
No. 4 - First Offenders (Women).
No. 5 - Police Arbitral Tribunal.
No.6- Motor Traffic.
No. 7 - Canberra Community Hospital.
Regulations - 1947 - No. 3 (Canberra University College Ordinance).
House adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
Food for Britain: Alleged Hold-up of Shipments.
r asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Major recommendations contained in the third report, entitled “ Land Utilization and Farm Settlement”, have led to the establishment of an improved agro-climatological service within the Meteorological Bureau, and to the creation of a Standing Committee on Soil Conservation, comprising Commonwealth and State authorities. By arrangement with the State Premiers, all other recommendations of the commission are now under consideration prior to discussions to be held between the Commonwealth and States regarding their possible implementation. electricity Services : Bakelite Accessories.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he give the comparative figures for the export of bakelite switches and other electri cal fittings used in house-wiring for the last period for which statistics are available and for a similar period before the recent war?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
Exports of bakelite switches and other electrical fittings used in house-wiring are not recorded as individual items but under a generic statistical heading reading - “ Miscellaneous Electrical Fittings and Wiring Devices”. Exports recorded under this heading during the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1947, were valued at £47,300. This statistical heading was adopted as on and from the 1st July, 1945, and in pre-war years exports of goods which are now recorded under it, were recorded under a more comprehensive heading, and it is therefore not possible to furnish figures representing exports in pre-war years, which would be of use for purposes of the desired comparison.
Diathermy Treatment: Use of Portable Apparatus.
l. - On the 30th September the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked a question concerning the application of National Security (General)Regulations No. 11 (3) (a) to portable short-wave diathermy equipment, andI promised to ask the Postmaster-General for a report on the matter. The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
The regulation referred to by the honorable member, which is still in force by virtue of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act, prescribes that a person shall not use any appliance in such a way as to cause interference with the transmission of reception of communications by wireless telegraphy.
Certain electro-medical equipment, particularly that which is not of modern design, is capable of causing severe interference to defence wireless services, and it is the practice in these cases to suggest the screening of the apparatus as file most effective method of avoiding the trouble.
Interference may also becaused to important civil communications and to broadcast listeners over a wide area. It is considered neeessary, therefore, that the Postal Department should, in the public interest, have the power to insist on appropriate action in cases where serious interference is caused. It is intended to consider an appropriate amendment of the Wireless Telegraphy Act on the return of the Australian delegation from the International Telecommunications Conference at Atlantic City (United States of America), where matters relating to this particular problem were discussed.
In the meantime, the regulation concerned will be administered with the desire to cause as little inconvenience as possible to- owners of equipment and, provided interference is not caused to wireless ‘signals, electro-medical apparatus may be used in private homes without restriction. Should, however, serious interference occur, it will be necessary to require the owner of the equipment to adopt remedial measures.
Shipping: Service to Mackay.
n.- On the 9th October, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) asked a question concerning the shipping for the Port of Mackay, Queensland.’ The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied’ the following information : -
Since the derequisitioning of coastal tonnage the provision of shipping services betweenvarious Australian ports is no longer the sole responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. The trade between Sydney and Mackay is ordinarily carried out by private shipowners who for a number of reasons have been unable to .place a vessel in this service -in recent months. It is understood, however, that there is only, a limited quantity of cargo in Sydney requiring direct shipment to the port of Mackay and .that the transhipment service at Brisbane for .Mackay which is the method usually adopted for transporting cargoes between the ports mentioned, offers a reasonable means of shipment. The shipowners in the trade are unable to indicate at the present time when a vessel will be available for discharge direct at Mackay from Sydney.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471014_reps_18_193/>.