18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. DEPUTY Speaker (Mr. X. J. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that the Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, Mr. Beasley, telegraphed a request to the Council of Foreign Ministers that Australia’s views on the Italian colonies be heard? Is it also a fact that the reply addressed to Mr. Beasley indicated that the meeting had no time to hear Mr. Beasley? Under whose instructions was Mr. Beasley acting when he sent the telegram! “Was he acting on his own behalf or by direction of the Prime Minister or the Minister for External Affairs! In view of the fact that the Minister for External Affairs, and the Australian Ambassador to France, Colonel Hodgson, are at the present time in Paris, where the Foreign Ministers and their deputies are meeting, why did not the Minister for External Affairs, as the Minister responsible to the Australian people in these matters, attend to this matter himself; or, alternatively, why was this duty not entrusted to Colonel Hodgson! Is ii correct, as is suggested in some quarters, that the Minister for External Affairs passed this matter over to Mr. Beasley for presentation to the Foreign Ministers with a view to avoiding any possible adverse reaction which would affect his attempts to secure election as Chairman of the United Nations General Assembly?
– I understand thai statements appeared in the press to-day regarding a telegram Mr. Beasley is reported to have forwarded to the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, but I have no official information regarding this.
The Government has always taken the view that Australia should be a party to any consultations involving the Italian colonies, and indeed Australia has in the past been a party to such consultations, one occasion being that on which I attended the last conference of Empire Prime Ministers in 1946. I shall arrange to obtain the particulars requested by the honorable member, with the exception that I shall treat the final portion of his question as I treat other questions of a purely propagandist character.
Lose OF AIRCRAFT “ LUTANA “- TRANS-
– by leave - I wish to announce that a court of inquiry has now been constituted to investigate the circumstances of the Lutana air accident. His Honour Mr. Justice Simpson has been appointed to constitute the court of inquiry, and he will be assisted by two assessors having high technical qualifications. They are Dr. E. G. Bowen, O.B.E., M.Sc., PhD., radio physicist in charge of the Radiophysics Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, University of Sydney, and Captain L. M. Diprose, Chief Pilot, Associated Airlines Proprietary Limited. Captain Diprose is a very experienced pilot whose name was among those submitted by the Australian. Pilots Association. Under the terms of reference, the court will inquire into the accident, and into all matters leading up to and connected with it. In addition, the court is requested to forward to me, as soon as is convenient after the holding of the inquiry, a report stating its findings on the matters referred to it, and adding any observations and recommendations which it thinks fit. The court will sit in New South Wales.
– “Will the hearing be open to the general public?
– I think all such inquiries are.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether Trans- Australia Airlines, in its second year of operations, showed a loss of £260,000, bringing its total losses to date to approximately £750,000? Do members of the Australian National Airlines Commission regard the loss of £260,000 in the second year as satisfactory, in view of the increase of operating expenses due to rising wages and higher costs generally? Does the Prime Minister subscribe to that view? If he does not, what action does he intend to take to arrest this appalling waste of the taxpayers’ money?
– I have not yet received the audited accounts of TransAustralia Airlines for the second year of its operations. Perhaps the Minister for Air will inform the House whether they are available.
– They are not yet available, but they will be very shortly.
– I understand that the figures are not yet available to the Treasury.
– That can be understood.
– I do not think that the time has arrived when the figures should be presented.
– Not those figures.
– I have seen a statement to the effect that it is anticipated that there will be certain losses. I shall endeavour to ascertain the position as quickly as possible so that the right honorable gentleman may be supplied with the information for which lie Iia asked, together with any explanation thai may be required.
– Has the Prime Minister yet had time to consider the requests of the Premier of New South Wales and myself that a Commonwealth grant be made to the Government of New South Wales for the purpose of arresting very serious erosion taking place on Stockton Beach, Newcastle, allegedly due to defence measures taken during the war ?
– A request for a Commonwealth grant for this purpose was made previously by local governing bodies in that area. The matter was examined and reported upon, and it was decided that there was no justification for making a special grant. Later, the honorable member for Newcastle and the Premier of New South Wales renewed the request. The Premier of New South Wales visited the Stockton area a fortnight or three weeks before he left for the United Kingdom, and afterwards again asked me to reconsider the matter in the light of additional facts which would be forwarded. Subsequently, he and the honorable member for Newcastle sent to me further information which I am having examined. I cannot say immediately whether or not the request, will be acceded to, hut I shall make s decision as soon as possible.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that he gave final approval for the allocation of 1,189,110 dollars to the Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited, and his further statement in the House on Friday last, the 10th September -
The honorable member for New England referred to a Mr. Taylor … I have never met Mr. Taylor nor had I heard of him before his name was mentioned by the honorable member -
I ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is his custom to approve of vast appropriations of dollars for companies, the managing directors of which fie has never heard? ifr. CHIFLEY.- A great number of applications for dollars would be refused if the granting of them depended on my having a personal acquaintance with the managing directors of the firms concerned. As I indicated earlier, “.very application is considered on its merits. The Advisory Committee on Capital Issues consists of very reputable nen, including the chairman of the Tariff Board, in addition to those whose names I mentioned in this House a few lays ago. I have no doubt that the committee gives due consideration to the character, qualities and capacity of the persons associated with firms which apply for the right to purchase dollars. Certainly, chat was the practice when I was myself a member of the committee. Of course, many applications are made without my having any personal knowledge of those associated with them. I have already pointed out that I take final responsibility for any large allocation of dollars, or the right to purchase them. Applications in respect of smaller amounts are dealt with by the Commonwealth Bank as the agent of the Treasury, f have nothing further to add.
– For some time there has been an agitation for the development of the Burdekin Valley in the lower Burdekin district. Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction any information about the possibility of land in northern Queensland, particularly in the Burdekin area, being developed for tobacco-growing as a part of the plan for the land settlement of ex-servicemen?
– I recently approved of a proposal by the Queensland Government for the acquisition of a certain area near the Burdekin River for the growing of tobacco under irrigation by -ex-servicemen as a part of the land settlement scheme. Honorable members are probably aware that the agreement between the Common wealth and the States for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land provides for the men to be trained in the form of agriculture that they propose to undertake. :l understand that tobacco was grown in the Burdekin River area many years ago and that the industry was discontinued because certain difficulties were encountered. It is therefore necessary, in order to ensure the success of any land settlement in the area, that the proposed settlers shall be thoroughly acquainted with the methods that they will need to follow. Thus the Department of Postwar Reconstruction has made arrangements whereby the proposed settlers who number, I think, 25 in all, will be trained in tobacco-growing so that they shall be able to overcome the difficulties that will be met. Accordingly, a training centre is being established near the river Ayr on land owned by, I think, the Queensland Government. Another training centre if also to be established in the district. They are to be operated in association with the Queensland Government, which has been most co-operative. In those centres, exservicemen who will take up land in the area will be thoroughly trained in the growing of tobacco. The cost of the training scheme will be about £1,500. I am sure that the training that will be provided for the men before they enter into occupation of their blocks will ensure the complete success of the venture.
– Is the Minister lor Post-war Reconstruction in .a position to give to the House an indication of the progress of the war service land settlement scheme in Victoria? “What total acreage has been approved for this purpose by the Commonwealth? How many holdings have been allotted to ex-service applicants? How many ex-servicemen have received loans for agricultural purposes ?
– I am in a position to give the honorable .member .some information with regard to the progress of the war service land settlement scheme throughout the Commonwealth, and, in particular, in Victoria. In addition tr. the provisions for rural training and for the payment of living allowances to exservicemen during the first year of occupation of their’ properties, there are two main schemes under which the Commonwealth provides assistance to ex-service settlers. The first scheme provides that loans may be made available to ex-servicemen -who desire to settle on the land. That is entirely aCommonwealth scheme. The whole of the COSt is borne by the Commonwealth itself. Up to the present time 10,000 applications for loans, totalling £7,000,000, have been approved for the whole of the Commonwealth. In respect of Victoria, 2,000 loans have been approved, and the total amount involved is £1,250,000. This scheme, I emphasize, is conducted entirely by the Commonwealth. The second scheme provides for the acquiring of properties and their allocation direct to ex-servicemen who apply for them, and it is run in conjunction with the States. Up to the end of July, 77 properties, totalling 570,000 acres, had been proposed by the State of Victoria. Of the 77 proposals, 70, involving 500,000 acres, had been approved by me. For the whole of the Commonwealth up to the end of July, I had approved nearly 1,000 proposals, which the respective State Governments had submitted to me, involving approximately 7,000,000 acres. The number of proposals submitted by the State of Victoria, and the acreage involved, are small in comparison with the figures for the other States with the exception of Tasmania, which .is not a large State. The reason why the number of proposals submitted by Victoria, and the acreage, are comparatively small is the dilatoriness of the former Dunstan Government in setting up a land settlement authority to implement the agreement with the Commonwealth. The total expenditure by the Commonwealth in connexion with the land settlement of exservicemen throughout Australia is £11,000,000. The honorable member for Wannon will be interested to learn that only a few weeks ago I approved a proposition, which the State Government of Victoria had submitted, for the subdivision of a property called “ “Woodbouse” into 25 farms for the settlement of ex-servicemen. That property is in the electoral subdivision which, I am sure, the honorable member for “Wannon will continue to represent after the .next election
– Is the Prim. Minister aware that reports are curren that more than 90 per cent, of Australia’* petrol requirements come from non-dollar areas and that coupons for petrol an freely available on the black market at from ls. 3d. to ls. 6d. for each gallon coupon ? In view of the widespread questioning of the decision to restrict, still further the use of petrol, will he tell thi House whether or not those allegations ar«true, whether they have any bearing on the present position and whether the Government intends to take any action in regard to other oil products?
– On several occasions. I have indicated to the House that normally about 80 per cent, of Australia’s petrol comes from sterling sources and about 20 per cent, from dollar sources. Perhaps at times the proportions vary. About 60 per cent, of the United Kingdom’s petrol comes from sterling source; and about 40 per cent, from dollar sources. That means that 20 per cent, of the petrol used in Australia and 40 per cent, of the petrol used in the United Kingdom has to be paid for in dollars. These percentages apply in some degree also to power kerosene and other petroleum products. Every gallon of petrol saved represents a saving of dollars. Therefore it has been decided in the United Kingdom and in Australia to reduce by 10 per cent, the quantity of petrol used. The honorable member hat referred to the sale of petrol on the black market. As I have stated previously, a* the result of information which had come to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel that there had been some trading in petrol coupons the Auditor-General was directed to make a complete survey of the procedure covering the issue of petrol coupon.’ from the Note Issue Department of th, Commonwealth Bank to the post office.1 where they are distributed to consumers. After a very thorough investigation th, Auditor-General was satisfied that no malpractices existed in the Note Issue Department, but that some postal employee* had been purloining petrol coupons. Legal action has been taken against one of the officers concerned. It was also discovered that some coupons had been stolen and r hat coupons were being forged. Steps nave been taken to deal with all these matters. The Director of Rationing, Mr. Cumming, is giving the subject his special attention and is utilizing the services of Commonwealth officers and members of the State police forces in his efforts to prevent the fraudulent issue of coupons. The honorable member also referred to sales of petrol coupons. Many petrol coupons are, no doubt, passed from one person to another, sometimes between members of families, and are used by persons other than those to whom they were issued. Drastic action has been taken to prevent forgeries and misappropriation of coupons.
Frequency Modulation, Television and Facsimile
– Will the Prime Minister table the report of the Director-General of Postal Services to the Government on the introduction of frequency modulation and television into Australia? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Director-General and other officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department recommended that the new services should be confined to the national services, or whether they recommended that commercial broadcasting stations should be given an opportunity to participate in them? Will the Government consider giving some form of guarantee to the members of the public, so that if they purchase the new receivers and find that the service obtained is unsatisfactory because of poor programmes the Government will refund to them the purchase price of the receivers? Who were the members of the Cabinet sub-committee who recommended the proposed change in policy? Will the Prime Minister say why the Government has not complied with the provisions of section 103 of the Australian Broadcasting Act, which states that the Minister shall not, except on the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee, grant licences in respect of facsimile broadcasting, television or frequency modulation services? Will the right honorable gentleman examine the report of the committee to ascertain whether so far it has sanc tioned only experimental tests at an estimated cost of £48,000, and also whether it has recommended that commercial stations using commercial programmes should be given equal opportunities with national stations?
– It seems to me that the amount of information given by the honorable gentleman makes his question & suitable one for the Minister for Information to answer.
– The Government does not propose to table any report that it has received from its advisers on this subject, because any advice which a government receives from its advisers is always regarded as confidential, lt is not proposed to reveal anything that the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department may have put forward to the Government. The policy of the Government has been clearly stated to the House, and, from time to time, other developments will also be stated. I do not think that there is any conflict between the action of the Government and the provisions of the section of the Australian Broadcasting Act to which the honorable member has referred. In fact. I am sure there is not. The statutory body known as the Broadcasting Committee reports to the Parliament, and the Government may accept or reject its advice. Nothing that the Government has done so far is in direct conflict with the recommendations of that committee. The committee recommended that facilities should be given to commercial stations as well as to national stations to make investigations into the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Reid. The Government decided that the Postal Department, as the authority in charge of all technical developments relating to broadcasting, should conduct the investigations, and il is doing so. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has not made any investigations. From time to time, the Government will elaborate its programme in regard to the use of facsimile broadcasting, television and frequency modulation. I wonder at the hardihood of the honorable gentleman in raising this matter, because he has already got two licences and is using his position in this House to try to obtain certain other advantages for himself, which, in the opinion of the Government, he should not have. In any case, he bought his licences with the money that he received from the sale of “ tin hare “ and “ fruit machine “ licences when he was Premier of New South Wales.
– “Will the Prime Minister say when it is expected that the campaign medals for the 1939-45 war will be distributed to ex-servicemen? Will the names and regimental numbers of the recipients he inscribed on the back of the medals to prevent their misuse?
– The order for the manufacture of medals has been placed. I am not able to say precisely when they will be available for . issue, but I shall obtain that information for the honorable member. It would not be possible, in view of the work involved, to have the names inscribed on the medals.
– Can the Minister for External Territories inform me whether the Government is co-operating with the numerous Christian missions in the carrying out of its rehabilitation programme in New Guinea and New Britain, and if so, to what extent?
– The Department of External Territories has been working in the closest co-operation with the missions ever since civil administration in New Guinea and New Britain was restored about two years ago. The department arranges an annual conference with representatives of the missions, when all matters are discussed, though principally education, in which the missions have been very much interested in the past. The honorable member may rest assured that not only is the department cooperating with the missions, but also that the missions appreciate the department’s policy of consulting them before making important decisions.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a recent report in a Brisbane newspaper which stated that according to shipping officials sugar shipments from north Queensland were 35,000 tons behind schedule due mainly to the slow loading rates of waterside workers which resulted in a slowing down of the turn-around of ships? In view of the seriousness of thi, position will the Prime Minister say what action he intends to take to make those Communist-dominated individuals realize their responsibilities to the nation?
– A fairly lengthy statement would be required to cover the whole of the honorable member’s question. Following upon the recent industrial trouble in Queensland which held up all transport, I saw the Queensland Premier, Mr. Hanlon, who told me that there were about 250,000 tons of sugar which still required transport from Queensland. He also said it was anticipated that the new season’s output which was about to come forward would add another 800,000 tons to that amount. He also intimated that it might perhaps not be possible to shift that additional 800,000 tons irrespective of whether there was shipping or not. because there were limitations upon transport facilities. Accordingly, he asked me whether the Government would arrange to place at the Queensland. Government’s disposal for the storage of that sugar, pending shipment, a number of buildings in Queensland which had been used during the war by the Royal Australian Air Force and other services. I took the matter up with the Minister for Air and we arranged to make buildings available if required. Mr. Hanlon later intimated that last season’s sugar was being shifted faster than had been expected, and 3 understood from him that it was anticipated that it would all be shifted before the new season’s sugar came forward. To ensure that everything was being done to enable sugar to be shifted expeditiously, arrangements were made, on the suggestion and with the concurrence of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, for the Chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, Judge Kirby, to visit Queensland ports to inquire whether anything further was required to assist in shifting the new season’s sugar. A number of factors other than the role of the waterside workers enter into the problem of delay in shipments. On one occasion we found that. men tad been shifted from Mackay to Cairns, where there were sugar ships. When the men arrived at Cairns it was found that port facilities there were not good enough to enable all the men to be employed. Judge Kirby drew my attention to the fact that equipment on the wharfs required alteration to enable expeditious handling of sugar, [t was also pointed out that the railway facilities at Townsville are not adequate to meet any big rush of traffic. Since Judge Kirby’s visit to Queensland I have heard no complaints from Mr. Hanlon regarding the shifting of sugar. I also take it that a recent visit by the Minister Cor Immigration to Queensland, when he jaw various State Ministers, was also satisfactory in its results.
– I refer to the defence programme announced last vear and to a statement by the Minister for Defence to the effect that the programme would be altered in accordance with the exigencies of the times, to’ which end the Government would watch international trends. Has the Minister noticed that the British Government has announced that it is taking measures to strengthen the defences of Great Britain because of the serious trend in world events during recent months? Is it intended that a similar statement shall be made to this House? If none is intended, is the House to understand that the Government’s view is that since the programme was announced nothing has taken place in world events which makes an alteration necessary?
– A meeting of the Defence Council will be held next week and the amendment to the budget which has been moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition has been put forward to draw the council’s attention to what the amendment terms the negative attitude of the Government towards the defence of Australia. I propose to answer that allegation in due course in this House. It would take too long to answer the honorable member’s question in detail at the moment, and it would be more appropriate that I should deal with the whole question during the budget debate.
– Has the Prime Minister had his attention drawn to a statement appearing in this morning’s press to the effect that Australian Communists would fight on the side of the Soviet Union if Australia became involved in a war between Russia and the Western Powers? An urgent telegram I ‘have received from Queensland reads -
At a public debate last night, Mr. G. Burnt, member of the Queensland State Executive of the Communist party, said in answer to » direct question from Mr. Bruce Wright, vice president of the Windsor Branch of the B.S.L - “ Australian Communists will fight on the side of the Soviet Union if Australia become* involved in war between Russia and Western Towers “.
In view of this press statement, and the confirmation which I am now able to present to the Prime Minister of evidence that this prominent executive member of the Communist party has mad* such a subversive statement, what action does the Prime Minister propose to take? In view of the Prime Minister’s own earlier statements that he regards communism as a political philosophy, and not as a subversive element, will he give an assurance to the Parliament and to the people of Australia that his Government will now take strong, firm and immediate action to protect this country and the Empire from those who are so openly claiming, allegiance to a hostile, foreign power ?
– I have not seen the statement mentioned by the honorable member, but since he has raised the matter, I shall ask the Acting AttorneyGeneral, who is in charge of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, to find out whether such a statement was made, and. I shall furnish a reply later. Let me point out to the honorable member that a person who talks of fighting on the side of any country to which Australia may be opposed in the event of war is not, in fact, likely to get the opportunity to do much fighting. People of that kind will be in internment camps by the time the fighting begins.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question bearing upon the impending contract between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Australian Government for the purchase of Australian meat. A week or ten days ago, an item was published in certain Victorian newspapers, and probably in others, to the effect that the conclusion of the contract was being held up because the Australian Government was stipulating as part of the contract terms that the Government of the United Kingdom should provide about £20,000,000 to be expended on the development of northern Australia. Will the Prime Minister state for the information of meat producers whether their produce is being used as a bargaining factor in an endeavour to extract money from the Government of the United Kingdom, or is there no substance in the report?
– There is absolutely no substance in the report. I discussed the development of northern Australia, apart altogether from any contract for the purchase of meat, with representatives of the British Ministry of Food. We discussed the production of beef in the Northern Territory, and I discussed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer long-term arrangements for the supply of meat to the United Kingdom and whether we could get officers representing the Australian Government and others representing the Government of the United Kingdom to confer on the subject. The Chancellor named a high officer of his department who might be able to undertake the assignment. However, the development of the Northern Territory was not discussed in connexion with the impending meat contract.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet able to make the statement which he promised yesterday regarding the proposed extension of pastoral leases in the Northern Territory, particularly those owned by the Vestey and Bovril interests? What concessions have been asked for and what concessions are likely (to be granted?
– by leave - The urgency of obtaining more meat for Britain, together with the deterioration of the Argentine trade, has caused meat interests to look to Australia as the best remaining source of increased supplies. Consequently, negotiations were opened by the Vestey and Bovril interests with a view to obtaining an extension of their leases, because it would take a considerable time to recover the substantial amount of capital which would have to be invested in order to obtain greater returns from their properties.
Negotiations in regard to leases held by the Vestey interests were opened with the Government by Lord Vestey in person in January, and have been continued since then by his senior representatives. The issues involved were regarded as of such importance that Cabinet appointed a sub-committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Minister for Works and Housing and myself to consider the matter.
Because of the number of leases controlled by this company, the strong demand for pastoral land, the policy that, wherever circumstances permitted, land should be made available in areas capable of maintaining a herd sufficient to support a man and his family in reasonable comfort, the shortage of vacant crown land suitable for pastoral purposes, and the comparatively undeveloped state of some of the leases, it was considered advisable that one of the conditions, if any extension of tenure was to be granted, should be that Vesteys should surrender certain of their leases, which could then be developed by individual settlers, and that further conditions should specify a programme of improvements to leases and the introduction of stud stock.
In accordance with the recommendations of the Payne Report of 1937, the Government had decided to issue a new type of pastoral development lease, providing for the extension of existing leases on condition that a programme of improvements, to be agreed upon between the applicant lessee and the administrator, should be carried out within a specified time. These improvement conditions are to be incorporated in the leases, penalty for non-compliance being the forfeiture of the leases.
At the recent meeting of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, the necessary amending ordinance to the Grown Lands Ordinance was passed, and it now awaits ministerial approval and the assent of the Governor-General. The necessary machinery whereby tremendous improvements in the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory can be made is, therefore, nearly complete.
In conducting the negotiations, the Cabinet sub-committee has had to ‘bear in mind the facts that the areas held by these lessees are expensive to develop fully, that these companies can well afford to carry out this development, and that, in the event of the negotiations not reaching a successful conclusion, 30,000 square miles of country would not be further developed until after 1965, in which year i he existing leases will expire, while the demand for more meat has never been more acute.
Negotiations with Vesteys have reached a point where agreement has been reached between the Cabinet subcommittee and Vesteys as to the areas which will be surrendered. These total approximately 9,000 square miles, and include areas which are more easily developed and lend themselves to subdivision. The companies are now preparing their detailed plans for improvements, and no extension of tenure will be granted until agreement has been reached on these points. The companies have, since 1937, shown evidence of good faith in that on “Wave Hill and Helen Springs, improvements above the average in the Northern Territory have already been completed and that work is still proceeding.
Negotiations with Lord Luke, who came out in person to lay his proposals before me, have reached a more advanced stage. The area held by his company has been reduced to 5,494 square miles and the company has submitted a detailed plan to effect new improvements consisting of fencing, water supplies, buildings and yards, together with the complete restoration of existing improvements, which will entail a total expenditure of about £52,000. In addition, the company has guaranteed to commence h stud for herd improvement, has purphased a trail builder for the construction nf its own internal roads, and guarantees t<i complete and operate a meat extract works in Katherine, work on which is proceeding at present. This will offer an outlet for the poorer class of cattle which are at present of no value. I have, therefore, approved of the extension of the tenure of the lease until 1980 if these conditions are observed. The conditions will be incorporated in the lease, and the penalty for their non-fulfilment will be forfeiture.
The leases to be surrendered by Vestey’s are Gordon Downs, WillerooDelamere, Marrakai, Burnside, and Maryfield All the country is held under grazing licence.
– Those are the most remote areas that Vesteys possess.
– I am astounded to hear-
– Order ! The Minister for the Interior has been granted leave to make a statement. Discussion across the floor is quite irregular and must not occur.
– These properties cover an area of 9,000 square miles and. offer excellent opportunities for new settlers, who will be compelled under the terms of their leases to effect necessary improvements and so utilize to the full the carrying capacity of the country. It has to be realized that, in the absence of a programme of this character, there could be no real development of the north-western portion of the Northern Territory until leases held by Vesteys and Bovril expire in 1965.
– by leave - The statement of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), if we consider it superficially, is plausible enough. It will appeal to the uninitiated and ill-informed. The facts are, however, that the Government has been “taken for a ride”, wittingly or unwittingly. Let us get down to “ tin tacks “. Previous governments helped Vesteys and Bovril considerably. When Mr. Paterson was Minister for the Interior, the Government bore half of the cost of improvements, such as fencing, bore-casing’ and windmills. The material was alsocarted on a government road-train at 3d., a mile. The Government also paid onehalf of the cost of the shipping freight on the materials. Those improvement? were placed at strategic points. They were not necessarily used, but were placed in such positions on the very choice lands as to prohibit any future lessees from applying for resumed lands, unless very wealthy, because incoming lessees must reimburse the Vestey and Bovril interests. Chey hoodwinked the then Administrator, Mr. C. L. A. Abbot, by promising to be “good boys” and to develop their holdings. These meat exporter-lessees are a menace. They should be one thing or the other, as Argentina demanded of them in 1935. Then Vesteys elected, under pressure from the Government of Argentina, to be exporters only and, under compulsion, disposed of their land to small holders. As a matter of fact, the Argentina Government saw through their scheme and rackets whereby they utilized their own cattle to depress the prices of small holders’ cattle at the meat works. They were the cattle that the company was striving to buy. They have been practising the self-same scheme at the -meat works on Australia’s eastern seaboard for more than 30 years, but, at the moment, they are checkmated and are very worried because of the high prices ruling for meat. They cannot buy at export prices and were unable to think out a new scheme until the “Food for Britain “ cry was raised. The Government, willing to be “ taken for a ride “, appeared on their depressed horizon. The desperate shortage of food in Britain is being used by them as a means of capitalizing, until 1951, the sections of Commonwealth legislation which gave them freedom from liability to pay income tax. “What is wanted for a period in the Northern Territory is freedom from income tax, not only for the land-holders but also for everyone else, including the workers. If the Government is sincere in its desire to develop the Northern Territory by placing more people there, which is the only way of developing it, it should immediately construct light developmental railways into the grazing areas from northern ports to provide access to those ports for family leaseholders. Nothing short of a royal commission is required to inquire into the developmental policy in north Australia, particularly the Northern Territory, and the lack of a co-ordinated policy of administration. If the Government does , not agree to appoint a royal commission, it will show that it is being “ taken for a ride “ and that the whole subject of pastoral development leases is a racket. Verily, there is something rotten in the State of Denmark !
FORMAL Motion for Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) an intimation that he desires te move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
Circumstances surrounding the disclosure by the Prime Minister that certain shares in radio station 2HD are held by him as truster of the Australian Parliamentary Labour party
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is thmotion supported?
Five honorable members having; risen in support of the motion,
– In the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I dealt at some length with a report in a Sydney newspaper of the extraordinarily high dividend attached to certain shares held by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in radio station 2HD Newcastle. The rate of dividend attaching to these shares is more than three times as great as that paid normally in respect of any other preference shares in Australia. I said that if the newspaper report was correct I regarded the matter as a grave public scandal, and a disgrace to the public life of this country. On the- following day, during hi? reply to some criticism of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) relating to the allocation of dollars to a certain cement company, the Prime Minister, by mere interpolation, replied to the statements made by me. The right honorable gentleman has a very airy and ingenuous way of waving aside matters of grave importance. Is it any wonder that people have become accustomed t’> saying; “Nothing worries our Ben;he takes everything and gives nothing “. In the course of his reply to the honorable member for New England, the right honorable gentleman said -
Only this morning I heard for the first time that some criticism had been levelled against me on the ground that I hold shares in a wireless station. It is true that I hold those shares, but only as trustee of the Australian Parliamentary Labour party-
At that stage the honorable member for Richmond interjected and the following passage occurred : -
– On behalf of the Parliamentary Labour party? That is unusual.
– Never mind whether it is unusual or not. I am stating the facts.
– And the company pays a 16 per cent, preference dividend?
– I know all about that.
Is it any wonder that when the news was given to the House and to the country that the right honorable gentleman held shares on behalf of the Australian Parliamentary Labour party in a commercial wireless station, it aroused nation-wide interest? His statement was one of the most unusual utterances that has ever been made by any public man in this country. I wish to make it clear that I am not dealing with wireless stations held by party interests. J. know that wireless stations are owned and operated in the interests of party organizations. I do not believe that the Liberal party owns one, but other political parties certainly have interests in broadcasting stations. The Labour party, I understand, has interests in station 2KY in Sydney and station 3KZ in Melbourne. The licences issued to those stations were granted by governments similar in complexion to that which now occupies the Opposition benches. I have nothing to say about that. That is an entirely different matter. What I. have to say relates to a political party, the members of which happen to form the Government of the day, holding certain shares in an Australian radio company. This, I believe, is something new in the history of the Commonwealth. We have heard something of the utilization of private party funds for doubtful purposes in other countries. Until certain disclosures were made in Tasmania recentlyI had not known of any political party having special party funds in Australia and investing them in commercial ventures. Something new has arisen which is of grave national importance. The questions that arise immediately are : How much money is invested by the Australian Parliamentary Labour party in this venture? Did the Prime Minister subscribe his own money? Are the shares . held by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) his own personal shares? How much money is invested in similar ventures? Where did the money come from? Did it come from the caucus, and if not, who subscribed it? Was it provided as consideration for services rendered? These questions should be answered and the answers may well involve - I do not say that they do - charges of graft and corruption. The people will not be satisfied until they receive from the Prime Minister some explanation of the private f unds in the keeping of the Australian Parliamentary Labour party which have been invested in commercial undertakings. The history of station 2HD is rather shady. Honorable members may recall that about four years ago the Adelaide station 5KA was offered for sale to the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission for £8,500 subject to the right of the vendors to certain free programme time, a one-fifth interest in the control of the station and the right to appoint directors. Later, a somewhat similar offer was made to sell station 2HD to the Bishop of Newcastle. The circumstances surrounding these offers were never completely cleared up to the satisfaction of honorable members or the people generally. Time has gone on and nothing further was heard about the doings of station 2HD until the publication of the newspaper article to which I have referred.
I desire to deal with this subject along three main lines. The first and most important of the three points which I wish to emphasize is the fact that a political party, members of which form the government of the day, has a vested interest in a commercial radio station in Australia. Surely that is the most outstanding aspect of the matter. One must take into cognizance the fact that the Government of the day has wide powers which enable it to control completely the whole of the ramifications of wireless broadcasting throughout the Commonwealth. It has power to grant new licences and to revoke existing ones. It has power to put a station off the air or to suspend a station from operating for a certain time. It has other very widepowers over programmes. Section 60 of the Australian Broadcasting Act, which deals with programmes, reads as follows : -
The act confers wide powers on the PostmasterGeneral to control all aspects of broadcasting in Australia. But this Government, which has complete control of the situation, has a vested interest in. a commercial broadcasting station. Surely that position is unique in the annals of this country. Knowing the authority that the Government possesses, one would say immediately that those wide powers should be exercised with the greatest discretion and the utmost impartiality. Does not the Government expose itself to the charge that it could exercise, and, for all we know, possibly does exercise, those powers in a manner which does not contribute to the best interests of radio in this country? I, personally, do not know very much about station 2HD, but I have heard that it is notorious for giving; from time to time, a very one-sided slant to the news. The Australian Broadcasting Commission and many commercial broadcasting stations attempt to make an impartial examination of the news, but I have been led to believe that station 2HD is notorious for the reason which I have stated. It follows that, if political parties were allowed to take shares in the radio business, the whole of the foundations of democratic justice in this country would be threatened. The Government, by it action in this matter; deserves the severest censure.
The second point which I desire to raise concerns the profit motive. Frequently, the Prime Minister speaks at length on the subject of profits. On the last occasion that he did so, he referred to the 17,000 unfortunate white people who are being hounded by Communist terrorists in Malaya, as persons who went abroad in search of profits, and not for the good of the country in which they were living. He has made similar statements on other occasions about people of the British breed. Whenever he has mentioned profits, he has done so with a covert sneer. The transaction involving station 2HD is the most outstanding example of profiteering in the history of the Commonwealth. I do not know of any preference shares that carry a dividend rate of 16 per cent. And that if not all. The holders of the preference shares also participate in any distribution to the holders of ordinary shares. No dividend is payable to the holders of ordinary shares until the holders of preference shares have been paid a dividend at the rate of 16 per cent. If the company goes into liquidation, the holders of the “ A “ and “ B “ preference shares have the right to receive £4 for every £1 of paid-up capital before the holders of ordinary shares get one penny. Those are the facts, and the Prime Minister, when replying to my speech on the Address-in-Reply, admitted to the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) that he knew all about the position. Surely this is the outstanding example of profiteering in preference shares in this country, and the persons who are involved in it are members of the Australian Parliamentary Labour party who are now governing Australia. Does it not seem strange that the Australian Labour party, which professes to be the socialist party, and whose objective is the complete subjection and destruction of all private enterprise on the ground that there are profits involved in private enterprise, should provide the greatest example of profiteering that I know of in the financial history of the Commonwealth? Is it not time that the mask of hypocrisy was torn off socialism throughout the world? For too long socialism has been paraded as a theory. Now, it has appeared in its true colours as something which denies to people the right to live their lives in their own way, and to build enterprises if they desire to do so. Certainly, the mask of hypocrisy has been torn off this Government by the revelation of this transaction involving station 2HD. I am glad that that. has happened. Socialism is contrary to human nature, and must ultimately fail, but before it does so, it can cause dire poverty, distress and tyranny. Therefore, the sooner the mask is torn from it so that the people may see what it really is, the better it will be for Australia and the rest of the world.
The third point which I desire to make affects the probity and integrity of men in public life. Possibly it is of even greater importance than the first two points which I have mentioned. Governments come and go, and members of this House come and go, but something which should not come and go, but which should stand like stone, is the high standard of ethics in public life. The probity and integrity of our public men should always be held in the highest esteem by members of all political parties. Democracy depends on the probity and integrity of the public men and women who, for the time being, govern the country. Whilst no written code of ethics exists for conduct in public life, there is an unwritten law which was always observed by all political parties until the advent of the Chifley Government. That unwritten law provided that if a Minister held a position in business which could conflict with his true disinterestedness in public life, he should abandon the business or resign from office. For instance, if a Minister were a director of a company which tendered for government contracts, he should resign from the company or the ministry. The former Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, referred to this principle as a “ sense of the fitness of things “. I could mention a number of men who resigned from directorships in companies when they attained ministerial rank. One wellknown example is that of a gentleman who was the director of a firm which successfully tendered for an order to supply pipes to the Government. Although he had nothing to do with the transaction, he immediately tendered his resignation. A more recent example is that of a former Minister, who, while engaged in a certain transaction on behalf of the Government, happened to lease a race-horse from one of the interested parties. There wa? nothing involved in the matter apart from the fact that the gentleman liked horseracing; but when the late Mr. Curtin challenged his action as being contrary to the ethics of public life, he immediately tendered his resignation. [Extension of time granted.’] This unwritten code of ethics was observed by all political parties until the advent of the Chifley Government. If it is disregarded, we shall noi be able to maintain the parliamentary institution on a firm rock. To-day, apparently, a new code of ethics of a lower standard has been introduced. Almost every morning we open our newspapers, wondering what new scandal has been unearthed in the Commonwealth involving public men. There artmen in the Cabinet against whom grave charges have been levelled in the law courts, but they snuggle closer to their ministerial colleagues in the Cabinet-room where State secrets are divulged. I almost think that if a Cabinet Minister were charged with murder-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must confine himself exclusively to the matter under discussion, which is the circumstance? surrounding the disclosure by the Prime Minister that certain shares in radio station 2HD are held by him as trustee for the Australian Parliamentary Labour party.
– The ownership of shares in a commercial radio station by a political party conflicts with the code of ethics which has become traditional to all British parliamentary institutions. The public must take notice of this disclosure by the Prime Minister. because upon the conduct of public men rests not only wise and just administration but also, I believe, the whole conception of democracy.
– I have no recollection of the adjournment of the House ever having been moved to discuss a matter of less public importance than that to which the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has referred. [ should be very surprised if many honorable members opposite do not hold shares in public companies, or have interests in commercial concerns. The facts of this matter are very simple, and I shall state them shortly. Before doing so, I make the point that there is not much differ- ‘ence between the ownership of shares in a company by a group of individuals such as the Parliamentary Labour party and a number of individuals acting in a private capacity. The honorable member for Deakin referred to the acquisition of this radio station. I have taken the trouble to ascertain the facts from the reputable firm of solicitors who handled the matter. Mr. John Stewart, the secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour party, purchased r.he whole of the issued shares in the company on the 9th August, 1944.
– Who is Mr. Stewart?
– He is a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council and the secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour party. The shares were then transferred to Mr. Stewart and a number of other people as trustees for the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour party. At that time I, as a trustee of the Parliamentary Labour party, did not come into the picture at all. In 1946, as a result of transfers in 1945, S. Fox, J. H. Gardiner Limited, L. 0. Brown, E. C. Mallam and Miss C. Waterman held a number of “ B “ class’ preference shares in radio station 2HD. That was two years after the enterprise was acquired by the secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour party and other individuals. On the 3rd June,’ L946, the trustees of the branch acquired those shares, and paid £4 for each of them. In so doing, they broke no law or regulation. Five hundred of the shares were then transferred to the trustees of the Parliamentary Labour party. The trustees of the Parliamentary Labour party are well known, because their names have appeared at different times in advertisements in hundreds of newspapers throughout Australia. At one time they were Mr. Beasley and myself, and when Mr. Beasley left Australia they were Dr. Evatt and myself. The names of the trustees have appeared in hundreds of advertisements throughout Australia, and will appear again. Dr. Evatt and myself are the trustees, and on hundreds of occasions we have invited contributions to the party funds. There is no secret about that.
– Did the trustees invite contributions to the funds of the Parliamentary Labour party as distinct from the organization?
– We are prepared to take a cheque from the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) tomorrow.
– For what consideration?
– For six or seven months prior to the last general election, advertisements appeared in newspapers throughout Australia indicating that contributions to the funds of the Parliamentary Labour party could be forwarded to the trustees, Dr. Evatt and myself. That was done quite openly at that time, and also by Mr. Beasley and myself, in 1942.
– Those advertisements did not state that the money would be used for the purposes of investments.
– The trustees of the Parliamentary Labour party invited contributions from supporters of the party. There was no deception about that. It has been done for years. The 500 shares to which I have referred were transferred to me as a trustee of the Parliamentary Labour party. That i3 set out in the deed of transfer. There was nothing improper about that. If what was done then by myself as a trustee of the Parliamentary Labour party was unethical, it is also unethical for any member of this Parliament to hold shares in a private company, the interests of which he might advocate in this chamber.
– Or to be a director nf a company.
– I am content to refer merely to the holding of shares in a company. The honorable member for Deakin referred to a dividend of 16 per cent. The £1 shares were brought from the private shareholders for £4 each, so the interest on the money invested works out at approximately 4 per cent.
– That is a new method of computing interest rates.
– The ordinary shares are held entirely by Mr. John Stewart, M.L.C., as trustee for the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour party. The honorable member for Deakin need not, therefore, feel that any arrangements to the disadvantage of the ordinary shareholders have been made, because the ordinary shares also are held by the Australian Labour party. No apology is needed for that. Members of the Australian Country party have been associated, if not directly concerned, with powerful broadcasting companies. The honorable member can rest assured that there has been no breach of any regulation in regard to this matter or the purchase of the original assets by Mr. Stewart. In December, 1944, the issued capital of the company was increased by an allotment to Mr. Stewart of 2,500 £1 ordinary shares. All the ordinary shares are held by Mr. Stewart as trustee for the Australian Labour party, and if any honorable member desires further particulars he may see the whole of the files which are held by the solicitors. I am amazed to learn that everybody did not know all about this matter, which, in fact, was discussed at considerable length at an Australian Labour party conference in New South Wales in June, 1945, with the press and public present. The question of this particular station and its ownership and the matter of the private shareholders was discussed there. Thai conference endorsed the decisions of the Australian Labour party executive in regard to the acquisition of the station and the negotiations for raising the capital from private shareholders. The executive decided later to buy out the private shareholders, and bought 1,750 “ B “ class £1 preference shares at £4 each, 500 of which were transferred to the Federal Parliamentary Labour party, for which I act as trustee. The debit on these shares was the equivalent of 4 per cent, on thecapital invested. Any one who wants any particulars of the matter should be able to find them in the pres3 of four years ago. If the honorable member for Deakin requires any more information I shall arrange for the solicitors, who are a reputable . firm. to give him the information.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in his usual attempt to be disarming, has really been alarming, because it is disturbing when the Prime Minister of this country can announce that he advertised for funds for the Parliamentary Labour party as distinct from the Labour party generally, to be handled not by the political organization, whose job is to obtain the return of candidates to thiParliament, but by the members of the Parliament itself. The Prime Minister invited large concerns to subscribe to the party funds, including importers and other people who would gain advantages if they had access to information which the Department of Trade and Customs discloses to the Prime Minister and Treasurer and to other Cabinet members. At a later stage those who had shown their generosity to the Labour party would expect, one may assume, some favours as a return for their munificent contributions. In the circumstances, I say that the public affairs of this country require a very searching inquiry. The Prime Minister has suggested that such arrangements are commonplace in all political parties. I do not know of that applying to any party on the Opposition side of the House. Does it appear right in the eyes and in the hearts of any member on ‘the “Government side of the .House that >some interested person -could come to the Prime Minister and donate, perhaps, .£500, and say, “ This is to .be spent, not by your outside (organization but by the boys behind you to further their entrenchment. You are the one personally to spend this money, you and your Cabinet officers. We are not, of course, asking for anything in .return at the moment, but we hope that when we do come along to see you .some time you will not forget we were generous to -your party “. That is the ^possibility opened up by the disclosures of the Prime Minister to-day, and I hope that the parties represented on this side of the House will have nothing to do with anything of that character.
The Prime Minister has stated, with unction, that these shares are :all held now by the Parliamentary Labour party, or by the Labour party, of which Mr. Stewart is the secretary in New South Wales. He has said, in fact, that no one has anything to gain .in private profit from the possession of those preference shares, or even from the ordinary shares. I have here a statement taken from the Registrar-General’s office in Sydney on the 10th December, 1947., which shows how a number of the shares are held. It shows that R. A. King, who, [ presume is the prominent member .of the Labour party, ‘holds 750 shares.; that J. B. Chifley holds 500 shares and that Mr. Dan Mulcahy holds 500 shares. It also shows Mr. H. G. Whittle as the owner of 500 shares. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) interjects to state Chat Mr. Whittle stood for the Australian Country party selection for the electorate of Hume. That is an interesting admission, because 3£r. Whittle is supposed to be a trustee for the Labour party, if we accept the Prime Minister’s statement that the shares are all held now by the Parliamentary Labour party or the Labour party. Could anything reveal more clearly than that admission by the honorable member ‘for Hume the need for ‘further inquiry. Mr. ‘Whiffle is a wealthy building contractor of /0-,1— and also ‘owns :a very extensive grazing property *An the ‘electorate of
Hume. 1 .happened to be at an Australian (Country party ‘electorate conference -two or three months ago at which Mr. Whittle was a candidate for selection for the Hume electorate. .How can the Prime Minister possibly identify Mr. Whittle as a trustee of :the Labour .party .holding shares ‘in this station?
– He is .not a trustee.
– The Prime Minister has stated that virtually all the shares in the station are in the hands of the Labour party and that the preference shares mean nothing because no private individual can gain anything from them, as the dividends go back into the Labour party funds. Do the dividends from Mr. Whittle’s 500 “ B “ preference shares go back into the coffers of the Labour party ? Can the Prime Minister answer that? 1 say that the whole transaction calls for investigation. The Prime Minister’s very easy way of passing it off satisfies nobody. Let us now turn our attention to the question of the 16 per cent, preference shares. The Prime Minister, and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), have interjected to the effect that premiums are paid on shares every day in business circles. Can investors ‘to-day stipulate that they will invest only in shares which yield 4 per cent. ? The fact is that any one who buys first-class ^preference shares to-day ‘will receive in most cases a dividend of only 2$ per cent. Yet here is a party which says ‘that its policy and programme is to limit profits, ‘but which has shown itself to be financially interested in the greatest profit-making radio concern in Australia. What is the justification for a 16 per cent, dividend’? If the Labour party, which formulated the prospectus of this company, wanted to limit the profits to 4 per cent., why did not it arrange to issue £1 shares at .4 per cent, instead of £4 shares at 16 per cent. It is obvious that there is some reason not connected with the welfare of the public at large. I say that the case for an inquiry has been established by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson).
There is some disquiet ‘in the public mind as to how frequency modulation and the licences connected with it “will ‘be utilized and manipulated by the Government if station 2HD Newcastle is to serve as a model of the methods of company organization which the Government adopts. There is every warrant for disquiet about the integrity of the Labour Administration in respect of public affairs. The Prime Minister has openly admitted in tho House that he is the trustee for a body soliciting donations, large and small, to go directly into his own hands. This is an instance of the chief executive of this country inviting everybody-
– Order The honorable member’s time has expired.
– This matter was raised four years ago when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the sale of the licenses of radio stations 2HD Newcastle and 5KA Adelaide and its subsidiary station at Port Augusta. There was the usual mudslinging on that occasion, similar to that which has characterized the debate to-day. All sorts of vile insinuations were made, and bitter attacks were directed against the Labour Government for its activities in connexion with the sale of these licences. The licences of those stations originally belonged to the sect known as Jehovah’s Witnesses, which during the war was declared an illegal organization. The licences of the sect’s radio stations wore cancelled and the whole question of the legality of the organization, as well as its right to hold wireless licences, became the subject of litigation in the High Court in 1943. The High Court held that the organization could function legally, but it did not decide that the Postmaster-General could not cancel its radio licences. The Australian Labour party bought the equity for 2HD while the Methodist Church of South Australia bought the equity for 5KA for £5,000. The Leader of the Opposition accused everybody associated with that deal of being corrupt, and when the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) asked if he included the Methodist
Church of South Australia in his condemnation, he said, “1 include everybody who was associated with the unsavoury business “. Some of the most reputable men in the Methodist Church of South Australia were grossly libelled by the members of the Opposition at that time. The Opposition has had four years in which to air this matter. There was an election in 1946 at which it could have done so. However, it said as much about radio broadcasting during that election campaign as it did about the 1945 Banking Act. It did not mention either question, because it was not interested in raising the issues at that stage.
The Labour party raised the money to buy the licence of station 2HD Newcastle, and sold 500 preference shares te Mr. Whittle. We now wish that Mr. Whittle would sell them back, but he will not do so. There were certain other people besides Mr. Whittle who bought preference shares when the licence was purchased by the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party. These people sold their shares, but Mr. Whittle would not do so. although we desired complete Labour party ownership of the station. We at least paid £17,500 for the licence, but the honorable member for Deakin says, if I correctly interpret his sentiments, that it is contrary to ethics for a political party to give itself a radio licence.
– No, I did not.
– In the course of a rambling, ranting speech, the honorable member said many things. There was a certain degree of incoherency in his utterance. At any rate, if it is wrong for a political party to buy shares in a radio station - and that is what the honorable member said, and what the honorable member for Richmond has also said - then it is much worse for a political party to give itself a radio licence. The Labour party paid for its station. The Methodist Church of South Australia paid for its station, but the Opposition in the Seventeenth Parliament besmirched the reputations of every one associated with the deal. What did honorable members opposite do when they had authority to issue radio licences ? The Lyons Government promised the returned soldiers in Victoria a licence when a channel became available, but when the channel did become available, that Government went back on its promise, and gave the licence to the Young Nationalists. It gave the licence to them! The letter which acknowledged the receipt of such splendid news from the Lyons Government was written by Mr. D. Radclyffe, the secretary of the Young Nationalists, and on the letter-head was the name of the present Leader of the Opposition. The letter acknowledges the wonderful gift from the Government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member. There was another name on the paper also - that of the honorable member for Deakin. He, too, was very thankful because his party had got a licence for nothing. A former senator for Victoria, Mr. J. A. Spicer. and the present Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir Edmund Herring, were two of the trustees to whom the licence was issued. Their names appear in the official file. Yet honorable members opposite talk of corruption and misuse of public position!
Now let me deal with the Australian Country party. There was a gang of crooks in New SouthWales known as the McArthur group. They were mixed up with the selling of shares in forestry companies, with the buying of shares in insurance companies, and with the buying of radio licences. They were so crooked that the Government of New South Wales had to introduce legislation to suppress them. They owned a radio station of 2,000 watts at Orange. The licence was cancelled, and the antiLabour Government consisting of United Australia party and Country party Ministers, which was then in power, reissued the licence to the Graziers Association at Orange, and gave it to that association for nothing. And yet honorable members opposite talk of corruption, and of an allegedly unsavoury business in 1944! They ought to be the last persons in the world to talk about malpractice in the issuing of radio licences. They had the issuing of most of the radio licences, and gave them to wealthy com panies, to newspaper interests and to the Graziers Association. In other words, they even gave them to themselves. With all that humbug which generally characterizes statements by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party when in Opposition, they try to cast aspersions on the leader of a party because he openly and honestly solicits donations for party funds from people who believe that they ought to keep in power the best Government that this country has ever had. Not only is the honorable member for Richmond ignorant of what happened in 1944, but he is also ignorant of what has been happening in 1948, because, in an advertisement published on Saturday last in the Sydney Morning Herald, the AustralianCountry party solicited donations to its funds. The advertisement was headed, “ The Country Party states its case “. It concluded in a manner reminiscent of those meetings which ended with some one taking round the hat. The advertisement states -
Money is needed urgently and generously. Make cheques payable to the Australian Country party (New South Wales).
What will the party do with the money! Will it not buy radio licences with it, if possible ? Will it not spend the money in the way best calculated to advance its cause? What is wrong with spending money if, in the opinion of the trustees, the expenditure serves the cause for which the money was subscribed? The honorable member for Deakin said that it was extraordinary that preference shares in a radio company should pay a dividend of 16 per cent. Radio companies sometimes pay much bigger dividends than that. Indeed, a company that pays only 16 per cent is not being very well managed. There are 100 commercial radio stations in Australia, and they have a gross turnover of £3,000,000 annually. Most of that represents the profit to those who are fortunate enough to control this extraordinary valuable medium for making money.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr.Deputy Speaker- Mr. J.. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in theaffirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr.. Deputy Speaker -Mr.J.J.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Mr. Holloway, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move-
That the bill be now read a secondtime.
In his budget speech, the Treasurer (Mr,. Chifley) announced the Government’s in tention to increase and otherwise liberalize certain social service benefits. It it now my pleasure to explain the increases and liberalizations which are provided for in the bill. The main features of the measure are,, first, on increase by 5s. a week ofthe maximum rate of age, invalid and widows’ pensions; secondly; an increase from 20s: to30s: a: week of the amount of income which all classes of pensioners may have without the rate of pension being- affected - the- permissible income of a blind pensioner will be increased from £5 7s: 6d. to £5 17s. 6d. a week- thirdly; the raising of the propertybarfrom £650 to £750 and, lastly; an increase of the rate of child endowment from 7s. 6d: to 10s: a week. As honorable members are no doubt aware; when Commonwealth pensions for the aged were first introduced in July, 1909. Themaximum rate ot pensions- at that time; was 10s. a week, and the permissible income was also- 10s. a week. Since that time the. rate of pension has progressively increased until, in 1947,. it, reached 37s. 6d. ft week. The permissible income^ however, has. only twice been advanced,, on the first occasion, in 1923, to 12s. 6d. a week and, on the second occasion, as recently as 1946, to 20s. a week. Widows’ pensions, which were introduced in. June, 1942, have been subject to the sameincrease of permissible, income as age and invalid pensions.
The effect of the: increase of the rates >f, pensions and the raising of the. permissible income will, be that those age and. invalid pensioners who are at presentreceiving payment at the maximum rate, 37s.. 6d. & week, will, in future; receive 42Si 6d. a. week. Those who are receiving payment, at less than the maximum rate, owing to their receiving other income, will receive increases ranging from 5s. to. 15s. a. week. Pensioners who are receiving reduced pensions on account of the value of. their- property will also receive increases beyond the. general increase, of 5s.
Widow pensioners in class A, that is those with at least, one child under sixteen years of age, who are now receiving 42s.. 6d. a week, will be advanced’ to +7s. 6d. a week. Widows in class B, that is- those over 5.0 years of age who have no children under sixteen years, will be advanced from 32s. to 37s. a week. Widows in class C will receive an increase from 37s. 6’d. to 42s. 6d. a week. They are widows^ without dependent children, who are under 50 years of age and in necessitous circumstances within six’ months after the death of their husbands. Women in class D, that. is. those whose husbands are in prison and who are- over 50 years of age or who have at least one child under sixteen years, will be advanced from 32s. to 37s. a. week. Widow pensioners receiving less than, the maximum rate of pension on account of their; other income or the value of their property will receive an additional increase.
In future,- only income: in excess- of 30s. a week, instead of 20s., will be deducted from the maximum rate of pension. The amount of income which will preclude payment of any age or invalid, pension. to an unmarried or widowed, person, will, be £3 12s. 6cL a week instead of £2 17s. 6d. For married persons; both, eligible: for” pensions, it will be £7 5s. a week- instead of £5 15s. A married couple, both pensioners; will be permitted to receive, *am income, of £3. a week, between them, iis addition to maximum pensions of £ii 2s. 6d. a week each,, making- a total of £7 5s. a week. A widow with at least’ one child under sixteen years of age? will not be disqualified from receiving- a pension, unless her income amounts- to £3. 17s. 6d. a week, instead of £3 2s. 6d. as at present. Additional income of 5s. a. week is allowed in respect of one child under sixteen years if she is not in receipt of.’ any other payment for the child.
The amount of income which a blind person may have without reduction- of pension will be- £5 17s. 6d. a week instead of £5 7s. 6d.. A blind pensioner, will thus be able to have income, plus pension,, amounting to £8 a week instead of £7 5s. Where both husband and wife are blind, they will be permitted to have between them an income ‘of. £5 17s. 6d. a week and each will receive the full” pension of £2. 2s. 6£ a week, a total of £10 2s. 6d: instead of £9 2s. 6d. as at present.
Honorable, members will remember that in 1946 the Parliament agreed to an. amendment of. the Invalid and 01d-a.ge Pensions Act whereby the limit of” property, apart, from. a. home, that a person, may Have with; out being; disqualified” for a pension was increased from £400 to. £650. It is now proposed that this, bar be raised to £750, and that the present, scale of progressive deductions, from pensions, which begins at £1’. per. annum for every complete. £10. above. £5.0. for property up to £400 in value and £2 per annum for. every complete £10 of pro?perty above £400, is to be varied to make the deduction £1. per annum, for. ever 3 complete £10 above £100 in. respect of property up to. £450 in. value and. £2. per. annum in respect of property between £451 and £750. A liberalization. ‘ on similar lines is provided for widows, in classes B and D. The property bar for class- A widows will, remain at £l,000i There are no progressive deductions for. property in. the case of a class, A widow and there, are no specific, property limits f or.- class: (D widows.
As a result of the raising of the property bar, a number of people previously ineligible will become eligible for pensions ranging from £15 10s. to £35 10s. per annum. These are people with property, other than a home, valued at between £651 and £750, or between £1,301 and £1,500 in the case of married persons. Similarly, a number of widows previously ineligible on account of property will be brought into the pension field at reduced rates.
Before referring to another aspect concerning pensions, I should mention that the bill also provides for an increase of 2s. 6d. in the rate of child endowment. As honorable members are aware, the present amount payable is 7s. 6d. a week for each child under sixteen years of age in excess of one in a family. The new rate will be 10s. a week for each eligible child in excess of one.
Coming back to the question of pensions, I desire to explain in some detail a rather important aspect. After the decision made in 1946 to increase the permissible income for age, invalid and widows’ pensions from 12s. 6d. to 20s. a week, it became evident that a number of war pensioners previously ineligible for a civil pension because of the limit of income would be brought into the civil pension field. Although it was apparent that, at the outset, the amount of any civil pension that might be paid would be small, it was realized that with every easement of the means test the amount would increase until ultimately, if no restrictions were imposed, the Commonwealth would be paying two full pensions to the same person, in many instances for the same disability. The easement of the means test now proposed would, in the absence of some restrictions, extend considerably the overlapping between different classes of pension. The principle of paying only one Commonwealth pension for the same disability was recognized last year with the introduction of the Social Services Consolidation Act in which a specific provision was inserted debarring a widow in receipt of a war widow’s pension under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act from receiving, in addition, a civil widow’s pension. The Government has given very careful consideration to this important question and has decided to impose a ceiling rate in any case in which one person is eligible to receive two payments from the Commonwealth by way of war pension and age, invalid or widow’s pension. The ceiling rates will in no way affect the amount of war pension payable. The war pension will be assessed and paid without regard to the ceiling rates. The ceiling rates will operate where a pensioner is receiving both a war pension and a civil pension, and even then income other than pensions will be allowed up to the full extent of the ordinary pension plus the income limit. For example, where a man and wife are in receipt of war pensions and both are also receiving civil pensions, the total payments by way of pension? will be limited to £6 2s. a week, but, subject to the property test, they will still be free to receive other income to bring their total receipts up to £7 5s. a week without reduction of the civil pensions. Furthermore, the effect of the provisions of the bill will be that in no instance, will the combined amount at present being received by -way of both war pension and civil pension be reduced because of the ceiling. In fact, the ceiling rates and other provisions have been designed to ensure that in all instances the increase in war pensions now proposed will be received in full without any reduction of the amount of civil pension at present received. The ceiling rate? for dual payments by the Commonwealth, or by the Commonwealth and the government of another country, in respect of civil pensions and war pensions, or payments similar in character to a war pension, are -
These ceiling rates will he examined from time to time in the light of any change in the rates of pensions or the conditions of eligibility. The cost of the increases in rates of benefits and other liberalizations contained in this bill is £15,000,000 for a full year. This is made up as follows : -
The estimated expenditure on benefits administered by the Department of Social Services for the current year is £80,000,000, representing an increase of nearly £16,000,000 over the actual expenditure during the last financial year. [ commend the measure to honorable members as a further important step toward the goal of social security for the Australian people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McDonald) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. BARNARD, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Lt is proposed in this bill to increase war pensions and service pensions. The proposed increases will cost, in a full year, £1,764,000. Certain general repatriation benefits will also be increased or extended at a cost estimated at £320,000 per annum, making a total increase of £2,084,000. As the main expenditure will be on war pensions, let me first give to honorable members a general picture of the increases and the classes to benefit, taking as an example those of the lower ranks. The largest group of war pensioners comprises members receiving general rates in respect of incapacity assessed at total or lower and ranging down to 10 per cent. The present rate for 100 per cent, incapacity is £2 10s. a week and this will be increased by 5s. to £2 15s. Those members whose incapacity is assessed at a percentage of total will receive proportionate increases, Most of the members in that group are in employment. Where the member is blind, or his disability prevents him from engaging in employment and he is classed as totally and permanently incapacitated, a special rate will be paid. It is proposed that the present special rate of £5 ls., should be increased to £5 6s. The special rate is paid also to members suffering from tuberculosis to a degree that renders them unable to earn a livelihood. If the member is capable only of light or intermittent employment, at a rate in between full general rate and special rate is paid. At present, the rate is £3, but it is thought that it should be higher. The appropriate rate seems to be about halfway between full general rate and special rate. Accordingly the Government has decided to pay such members £4 a week during the time when they are trying to re-adapt themselves to regular employment. This represents an increase of £1 a week for this class of person. While a member is undergoing treatment and is receiving less than full general rate, he is paid medical sustenance at a rate sufficient to bring his pension up to full general rate. If the period of treatment is expected to be fairly lengthy, and the member is regarded as temporarily totally incapacitated, pension is paid at full general rate, with an addition of 24s. for a member with a dependent wife or children, and 15s. to others. For all practical purposes, during this period the member is in no better position than one classed as incapacitated to the degree warranting payment of the special rate. It is therefore proposed that the additional pension be paid at a rate equivalent to the difference between the full general rate and the special rate. Thus, instead of the amounts 24s. and 15s. which I have mentioned, the addition will be £2 lis. in each instance.
These are the increases proposed in war pensions for former members of the forces. We now turn to the question of dependants’ pensions. The rate of war pension for a wife of an incapacitated member receiving full general rate :or -special ‘rate is “22s. This will -be increased to 24s. The pensions of other dependants of incapacitated m’embers such as parents, ‘brothers and sisters, are based -on the rate for wives and these dependants will also benefit. The rates for dependants of deceased members, such as ‘widow, parents, ‘brothers and sisters, will ‘be increased. The present rate ‘for a widow is £2 l’os. and the new -rate will be £3. The rates for certain classes of widowed mothers of deceased unmarried members are twenty in number, ranging from £1 5s. to £3 8s., according to the rate of pay of the member while on service. They are paid irrespective of means an’d irrespective of dependence upon the son. The rates are shown in the second column of the first schedule to the act, and it will be noted that the first four apply where the member’s pay was from 7s. to 10s. a day. These figures cover the various rates df pay at different times to members of the rank of private. Instead of having four different rates of pension, it has been decided that the four items should be bracketed and that a common rate be provided. The present rates are shown in the schedule as fortnightly rates, but I shall continue to state weekly rates. These rates are 25s., 26s. 9d., 28s. 6d., an’d 30s. 6d. and the new rate .will be 35s. Thus the increase will be 10s. in the lowest rate. The remaining sixteen rates in the schedule are to be increased each by 5s. a week. The rates in the second column of the first schedule are also used as the maximum rates payable to other parents, brothers, and sisters, -whose pensions are subject to means test, and they will receive the benefit of the revised schedule, including the substantial benefit achieved by bracketing the first four items. There is a further provision in favour of the particular classes of widowed mothers of deceased unmarried members who are granted pension on relationship alone, irrespective of dependence and means. The present provision Ls that if the rate of pension in any instance is less than £2 10s. and the mother is dependent upon the son, and her income :is below that regarded as adequate means of support, additional pension may be paid to give her by way of war pension. -a total of £2 10s. This pension is to ‘be raised “to £3. The provision also ‘applies ‘to ‘certain other parents -of deceased .unmarried members.
These are _the proposals in respect of war ^pensions. .Before proceeding to other -matters I should like to make *a statement about Commonwealth payments to widows. There is still a certain amount of misapprehension on this matter, probably because incomplete statements have been made at various .times telling only part of the story. I have repeatedly found people who are under the impression that the total war pension, even if the widow has children, is only £2 .15s., and that the only payment made for children is the child .endowment. .Simply and plainly the widow herself .receives £2 15s. war pension. With the proposed increase it will be ‘£3. The war pension rates for children are: First child 17s. 6d.; each other -child 12s. 6d. In the case of a widow with one child or two children, a domestic allowance .of 7s. 6d. is paid. Therefore, at the present time, inclusive of child .endowment, the total payments by the Commonwealth are -
With the increases in the widow’s pension and in child endowment, the new totals of Commonwealth payments will be -
In addition to these payments, her children are assisted during education and training ‘for a skilled trade or similar calling, or a profession. From the age of thirteen, education allowances are paid at rates according to the stage of education or training with an employer. If the child goes to a university, the assistance covers all costs, including fees for tuition, cost of books and material, travelling, and even fees in connexion with ihe social activities of the university, ‘for example, clubs and sports. For personal maintenance, an allowance of £2 is pai’d to ‘those living -at “‘home, “and :£3 ‘ for ‘ those living away, from- home: Medical treatment is- also afforded for the family, but I shall deal with this separately in connexion with a new proposal. With all these substantial benefits, the widow is favorably placed in comparison’ with the general worker’ in the community on an* ordinary wage and bringing up a family.
Service pensions are really a scheme of age and invalid, pensions for mem. b’ers of the forces, and’ the- principles of the civil scheme must necessarily be followed wherever practicable. Accordingly, the increase of. 5s. in the maximum rate for age and invalid pensions will be applied also to the maximum rate of service pension for a member.. In certain instances a service pension is payable to the wife of a member. The present maximum rate is 22s. It is proposed that it shall be increased’ to 24s;. The new income and. property provisions: decided upon, for age and invalid’ pensions will also be applied to service pensions.
There are factors which necessitate the’ fixing of maximum payments from the Commonwealth for certain classes of pensioners under the civil pensions scheme. They have been explained fully in connexion with; the Social Services Consolidation Bill, but I wish to add that they apply also to- service pensions. As I have indicated, the means test for service pensions is the same as that for age and invalid pensions; and with- the generous easing of the means test it is possible for a service pensioner and his wife to enjoy an income of. £7 5s, a week, [t is-not thought; however, that the whole of. that amount should be by way of Commonwealth payments, and therefore ceilings of the amount to be paid by the Commonwealth will be applied in respect’ of service pensions. In the case which I have cited, of a service pensioner and wife who is also a service pensioner, the ceiling- will be £6 2s-. I should like to make it clear that it is a- ceiling only of Commonwealth payments. The member and his wife may still have the odd £1 3s. from other sources, making the total of £7 5s. without affecting the service pension.
If no limitation were marie, then, in the ease of a member and wife, where the member is receiving the highest rate of war pension, that is the special rate designed for the needs- of. a member unableto earn,. it would be possible for- the member and. wife to receive service- pension, of 15s. in addition to war pension of: £6 10s. As honorable members well know, it was never intended, that, service pension should be payable to this class of war pensioner. As a. matter of fact; it was not intended for members on the full’ general rate, but gradually, throughout’ the years since the scheme was instituted,, with the easing of the means test- and frequent raising of the limit of” income plus pension, a member and wife, receiving full general rate and also service pension, have received more and more by way of service pension, and we have reached the position where some limitation of Commonwealth payments must be made. The limit of Commonwealth payments in the case of a single man will be £3 2s. 6d., and’ in the case of a member and wife, where only one is eligible for a service pension, the limit will be £5. The pro- visions apply only to the- pensioner or pensioners who receive service pension as well as: war pension. I. should like, honorable members to be quite clear on two points. First, the limitation applies only to the service pension portion of the aggregate. Secondly, nothing in the. provisions affects- the rate of war. pension, which will be always paid at the rate appropriate under the ordinary provisions in the relevant legislation, irrespective of whether the rate be below or above the proposed’ ceiling in the particular case:
The foregoing, covers practically all’ the main provisions of the bill.. Some other matters not related to the eneral increase of pensions are included, but these are of a minor character and will be fully, explained in committee.
I intimated at the beginning that’ the Government’s- programme also covered certain general repatriation benefits. These will be effected by the amendment of existing regulations; but I wish the House to be informed of the proposals. The first concerns medical sustenance; which is paid during period’s of treatment. The rate must agree with the full general rate of war pension, and it will’ be increased in consequence of the war pensionincreases. I have- had an examination- made into the question of additional sustenance where the member loses wages or salary during a period of treatment, and [ am hopeful that a satisfactory scheme will be devised shortly.
For some time, I have been desirous of extending the present arrangement for the medical treatment of widows and children of deceased members, and widowed mothers of deceased unmarried members. The present arrangement, which was instituted in 1923, when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Treasurer, places them in a position whereby they receive medical benefits on the basis of or similar to those provided by the Australian frienly societies. There are possibilities of arranging for in-patient treatment at repatriation hospitals. Although, at the present time, difficulties of staffing hospitals do not give full scope for my proposal, there are occasions, and I hope that they will become more frequent, when the facilities at repatriation hospitals are not fully taken up. To the degree that it is possible to make suitable arrangements for in-patient treatment of widows, children, and widowed mothers, such treatment will be afforded, and this may bo supplemented by a further arrangement with civil hospitals.
The third general benefit is the soldiers’ children education scheme, which covers assistance for the education and training of children of deceased, blinded, and totally and permanently incapacitated members. The general plan is supervision and guidance from about the age of ten years, and assistance by way of allowances from the age of thirteen years right through to completion of training with an employer, or to graduation at a university. It will be realized that there are several stages in the education and training, and the allowances are designed according to the needs of the beneficiary st any particular stage. I examined the provisions of this scheme some time ago, and increases were made last November in respect of the allowances and income provisions of children at school, and university students. An amount of £30,000 has been provided to enable adjustment to be made in respect of other groups and stages, more particularly as regards bene- ficiaries undergoing training with employers and living away from home.
Since last year’s budget was presented to the Parliament, and in addition to the amount provided in that budget, two important proposals have been approved and instituted. The first was the provision of a domestic allowance of 7s. 6d. a week for widows with one child or two children. This was to bring the income for such families into better proportion with those where there were three or more children. The annual expenditure on this allowance is £210,000. The second item was an increase of the amount allowed for funeral expenses in respect of members, widows, children, and widowed mothers. The amount was increased from £15 to £20.
It would be a fitting conclusion of this speech if I were to give to honorable members some account of the extent of general benefits provided for members of the forces in the 1939-45 war, and their dependants in the way of re-establishment and personal welfare. The figures are for the period up to the 30th June, 1948. Loans in connexion with establishment in businesses and professions constitute the largest amount and total £4,200,000. Tools of trade have been provided to the value of £1,610,000 by way of gift, and to the value of £204,000 by way of loan. For assisting members into employment, £503,000 has been, paid in reemployment allowance, and £175,000 in fares and removal expenses. Supplementation of the wages of apprentices has cost £2,779,000, and although the annual rate of expenditure has started to fall, a considerable amount has yet to be paid. Grants for the purchase of furniture for blinded and totally and permanently incapacitated members, and widows, totalled £310,000. It will be realized that the work of my department is still fairly heavy. The task of giving effect to the increases provided in the hill will be an additional burden, and a very heavy one at that, extending over some weeks. However, the Administration is fully alive to the benefit which will accrue to pensioners, and on that note I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McDonald) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In this bill, it is proposed to grant increases in the scale of compensation which may be paid to Commonwealth employees in the event of injury during the course of their employment. The provision for dependants where death results from the injury will also be correspondingly increased. Important amendments are also proposed with regard to the principles which now govern entitlement to compensation under the act, and the basis upon which compensation is paid. Furthermore, the act will be extended to cover members of the peacetime defence forces and Commonwealth employees outside Australia.
Four and a half years ago, this Parliament amended the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act to provide for increased compensation to employees injured at work. The act was then considered to give more comprehensive and more generous protection than any similar legislation in Australia. Since then, however, five of the States have amended their legislation, and now grant compensation benefits substantially above those available under the Commonwealth act. In Western Australia, where no change has been made in legislation since 1944, a royal commission in April last recommended that benefits be increased generally along the lines of those adopted in Victoria and Tasmania. The Government, therefore, considers that compensation available in respect of Commonwealth employees should be reviewed and that, at the same time, certain anomalies arising under the present act should be remedied.
The following monetary increases are proposed : -
Death. - Whereas the amounts at present payable range up to but may not exceed £800, a fixed amount of £1,000 is proposed. The additional provision for each dependent child is to be increased from £25 to £50. .
Incapacity. - The existing provision of £3 a week or two-thirds of weekly wages, whichever may be the less, is to be increased to a fixed sum of £4 a week. In the case of minors the increase is to be from £1 a week to £3 a week. Provision for a wife or female dependant will be increased from £1 a week to £1 5s. a week and provision for each dependent child under sixteen years from 8s. 6d. a week to 10s. a week.
Specified Injuries. - The present maximum of £800 will be raised to £1,250 with proportionate increases in other amounts shown in the Third Schedule to the act.
Maximum Compensation. - The maximum amount to which weekly payments may accrue will be increased from £1,000 to £1,250, but no maximum will be imposed in cases of total and permanent incapacity.
Compensation is granted to employees of the Commonwealth for personal injury by accident where the accident has arisen out of the employment and in the course of the employment. At present, both of those conditions are required to apply. It is now proposed, however, that, as in the majority of the States, compensation will be paid when either of these conditions has been met. Further, it is proposed to repeal the present second schedule to the act which specifies the diseases on account of which compensation will be granted, and limits compensation to particular processes causing disease. Following the example of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, compensation will, under this proposal, be granted on account of incapacity for work caused by any disease provided that it is due to the nature of the employment. Again, it has been required hitherto that where a lump sum is paid to an employee in redemption of a compensation liability, the total of any previous weekly compensation payments shall be deducted from that lump sum.
En four ‘States, there is either partial or total elimination of these deductions. In future, such deductions will not be made from lump sum payments under the Commonwealth act.
Payment of weekly compensation will be permitted pending any litigation under common law against the Commonwealth or a ‘third party. This will be subject to recovery of the compensation if damages are received as a result of the -litigation. An employee will be allowed twelve -months within which he may institute proceedings *to ‘recover damages from the Commonwealth. As regards compensation for injury sustained while travelling to or from work, it is proposed to liberalize the provisions of the act in the ‘light of recent criticism in the Workers’ Compensation ‘Commission of Hew South ‘Wales regarding similar provisions “in the legislation of ‘that State, which form the basis of the present Commonwealth legislation. The present limitation in the act to a journey while “travelling to or ‘from ‘the place of abode of the employee will be removed. An interruption or deviation from a direct ‘journey “which does ‘not involve added risk, will not deprive ‘the -employee of wrights under the act. Compensation will be granted where ian injured employee .is -again .injured .while ‘travelling .to -obtain :a medical certificate .or .to receive medical, surgical or ‘hospital .treatment cor compensation.
A provision .in ‘the ‘Commonwealth act which does not appear in other legislation of -this nature :and which protects the large ‘.family, iis .that the maximum weekly payment ‘to ‘a totally incapacitated ‘employee is limited only by his pay at the date,of the injury. .It .is proposed “to extend this benefit to cases of partial incapacity in which, at present, Ihe amount of weekly compensation is the difference between the ‘amount Which the injured employee is ‘earning or,18 able to earn, -and the amount =of -his ‘weekly pay art the date of ‘the injury. It is now proposed that not ‘only will the amount of -weekly pay on which ‘compensation is based vary in accordance with the provisions of any relative award or cost of living increase but ‘also the partly incapacitated employee with ‘a large ‘( family -will receive in pay and ;com- pensation -not less than the total weekly payment for total incapacity.
It is recognized as an injustice under the present act that the Commonwealth contribution to the pension received by an employee ‘under the Superannuation Act when ihe has retired .on .account of injury is .set off against -.any ‘weekly compensation payable to him. Thus the benefits of superannuation pensions .and of any .increase .in them :such .as thai granted last year are nullified. To remedy this it is proposed that any employee retired through injury will receive “his full pension, and that his compensation right will be commuted by the payment of an amount not exceeding £1,000. As already mentioned, it is proposed ‘to extend the provisions df the act to employees of the Commonwealth outside Australia and to members of the ,peacetime defence forces. Such members, “if injured in future, will receive the ‘benefit? of the Employees’ Compensation Act, and. if retired on account of the injury, they will receive the ‘full benefit of the recently enacted Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. The present provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ ^Repatriation .Act, .Defence Act. Naval Defence Act and any service regulation in ‘relation “to pension, compensation or other benefits ‘for these peace-time -members in respect of incapacity or death -will be terminated. The benefits at ^present being ;para to injured members .of the peace time forces will be “reviewed and adjusted as an act of .grace on .the basu of the new provisions -in this bill. ‘All Injured employees who, at “the time “thi? bill comes into force, are receiving weekly compensation payments under the 1912. T1930 and 1944 acts shall, it is proposed, receive the increased weekly .payment? ; provided in .this bill.
A number of minor amendments, the purport of which will ‘be explained in the committee stages, are also proposed. In total, ‘therefore, “ihe tact. if amended -a? proposed, ‘will be thoroughly mp “to date, and ‘will incorporate a wide ;and ample scheme of safeguards for those who serve the Commonwealth in their daily work. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate ‘(‘on motion ‘by Mr. McDonald) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 15th September (videpage 454), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, Salariesand allowances, £12,000 “., be agreed to
Upon which Mr. Harrison had moved, by wayof amendment -
That the first it em be reduced by £1, as an instruction to the Government - to withdraw and redraft the budget (vide page 430).
– The speech made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) last night was more notable for what was ignored than for what was said in criticism of the budget speech deliveredby the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). The honorable gentleman criticized ‘the Government for not proposing ‘to ‘reduce taxes to a greater degree. That was a legitimate criticism, because no one likes to pay taxes. Consideration must, however, be given to the needs and welfare of the people, and to the promises that were made to those who served in the forces. It must be remembered that we have just passed through the greatest war in the history of the world. I have yet tolearn how we can honour the promises that were made to the members of the services -or pay the debts that were incurred during the war without levying taxation of some kind. It is popular to say thattaxes should be reduced,but a completely equitable or satisfactory taxation system has not yet been devised. That portion of the honorable gentleman’s speech may be regarded aspart ofthe Opposition’s inevitable criticism of the actions of the government of the day, and we may, therefore, pass it over.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition was verycritical of defence expenditure, but I do not propose to enter upon a discourse on that subject.
– -The Acting Leader of the Opposition was critical of what was being obtainedfor the Government’s expenditure.
-Onecan always be critical of that. Some people are even critical of the service’swhicharerendered by members of Parliament.
– And rightly so.
-What happens in this chamber from time to time may provide some justification for that criticism. I have the support of, at any rate, one member of the Opposition to that observation.I do not propose to discuss whether the correct amount of money is expended upon defence or whether what is expended is being used in the right way. It is interesting to note that some honorable members opposite who hold important positions in their parties and in the Parliament argue that the suggested tax reductions are not sufficient and then proceed to criticize the Government because it does not propose to spend enough money upon defence and other activities. It is not possible to reduce taxes and at the same ‘time to increase governmental expenditure, whether it be upon defence or anything else. The honorable gentleman’s inconsistent arguments showed a lack of a proper sense of his responsibility as the Acting Leader of the Opposition. Any suggestion that taxation should be reduced is welcomed by a great many people, and evenby thosewho pay only indirect taxes - which are considerable - and receive substantial amounts by way of child ‘endowment payments. When those persons say that taxes are too high, they are referring to directtaxes, which they do not pay. The argument advanced bythe honorable gentleman is unrealistic, because he knows that the Governmentis under an obligation to provide forthe defence of Australia, to honour the promises that were made to the people at the general election and to fulfil undertakings to the members of the services in “war-time.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition completely ignored the economic structure that the Government has built and to which disinterested tributes have been paid by manypeople. He did not mention the fact that the Australian economy has been described as the soundest in the world. In his budget speech the Treasurer said -
Sound achievements in the Australian economy lie behind the facts and proposals have just related to you. On the financial record of the past three years, war costs have been scaled down, the budget has been balanced, direct taxation on the majority of taxpayers has been more than halved, provision has been made for ex-service men and women, and many valuable services have been established for the community. Far less than this would have been possible, however, had not industry expanded, production increased, and employment kept up to a ceiling level. We have, of course, been helped by good seasons and high export prices.
We have been able to take full advantage of overseas markets because there is a scarcity of commodities in other countries. Those who saw , the film that was shown in this building last night and which depicted happenings in other parts of the world will realize that we in Australia, with an abundance of production, are taking full advantage of the difficulties and the starvation of people outside Australia. Nature has been very good to us. We have had bountiful seasons and a record production of all kinds of exportable commodities, for which we have received the highest prices ever to be paid. We have not been doing too badly. Members of the Australian Country party should not be too critical about this, because they want their pound of flesh. That is only human nature. The point I was attempting to state was that the Acting Leader of the Opposition made no reference whatever to the concluding passages of the Treasurer’s speech. We do not have to seek far for the reason for that. The Opposition has no answer to them. Even the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) will not be able to give an effective answer.
– The Minister should not talk too soon.
– I am making a forecast. I shall listen to the right honorable gentleman’s speech at a later stage of the debate. The Treasurer, in his very fine speech, also said -
Much has been said about providing in- centive for workers,but I believe that the best incentive thatcan be given to workers is a sense of security - security of employment and security against sickness, unemployment, and the disabilities of old age. The industrialist, again, can forward his project with most confidence if he knows that demand will be sustained. Of this the best guarantee is full employment and the pro vision of adequate social services to those people who have to spend the greater part of their incomes on necessaries.
The supporters of the Government, both inside and outside this chamber, may perhaps be excused if they are proud of its achievements over the years.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) congratulated the Treasurer upon presenting his eighth consecutive budget. Unlike the right honorable member, the Treasurer was able to present a budget which is recognized by those who look at it objectively and disinterestedly to be a sound one. I read in this chamber last week a newspaper statement by an Australian industrialist, Sir Norman Brookes, in which he referred to the soundness of our economy.
– Sir Norman Brookes has written to me and has repudiated the statement that appeared in the newspaper. The interview with him was not published in full:
– It is of no use for the honorable member to deny what was published in the Melbourne Herald. Whatever Sir Norman Brooks may have said, in addition to what appeared in that newspaper, at least some of his statement was published. I think it if safe to say that the most favorable aspect of his statement to this Government would not to be published in a newspaper with the political leanings of the Melbourne Herald.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) spoke about the growth of the Public Service. In the first place, he lumped the Public Service in the States together with the Commonwealth Public Service. When he was challenged from this side of the House he confined his remarks to the Commonwealth Public Service. I have examined some of the figures regarding employment in the Public Service. Nobody on this side of the House seeks to deny or to apologize for the fact that the Public Service has grown since pre-war days. I examined the figures because if there is any criticism to be levelled at the growth of the Public Service my own department is one of the chief offenders, if departments can be considered offenders in this respect. In 1939 the Repatriation Department had about 3,268 employees throughout Australia compared with 3,879 at the 30th June this year. The increase in employment in that department has been extensive, but would any honorable member of the Opposition say that it was not justified, and that the Government could hope to carry on the functions of the department with the same number of staff as in pre-war years? Would honorable members of the Opposition say that the growth in the number of employees in the department is out of proportion to the work the department must do? Would they say that the 8,000 beds in repatriation hospitals should not be fully staffed ?
– The Opposition is silent on that question.
– Yet honorable members of the Opposition glibly criticize the Government about the growth of the Public Service. Prior to the war the Repatriation Department did not come within the Public Service.
– What did the No. 1 Entitlement Tribunal say about the department?
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is a confirmed yattler. He yattles and yattles and yattles
– What does the Minister mean by “yattle “?
– Order ! Members of the Opposition are too noisy.
– The Repatriation Department has been brought under the Public Service Board since the war. Although employment in that department has almost doubled since pre-war days, it still requires hundreds of employees for hospital work. It is unable to obtain an adequate number of nurses or attendants, despite the generosity of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), who has made available a considerable number of Bait immigrants who are now employed and doing good work in repatriation hospitals. When the total employment in the Public Service increases, as it will do, the Opposition will protest about the in crease, but it has not the courage or the decency to say that many of those employed in the Public Service are attending to the sick and wounded. That is one criticism from the Opposition which is not valid. If on the one hand, the Opposition intends to criticize the growth of the Public Service, it cannot, on the other hand, ignore the fact that a substantial proportion of the increased number of employees is accounted for by the employment of individuals who are attending to those who served the country well in war-time, and for whom we promised to do everything possible when they returned.
The Opposition clamours for more road construction work and appears to be dissatisfied with the amount of money expended on that activity. Yet it attacks the Government because of the growth of the Public Service, which includes the Department of Works and Housing, which is responsible for the building of roads. The Opposition cannot have things both ways. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who is interjecting, enters this chamber occasionally and makes a speech. I have heard him make practically the same speech a good many times. His speeches invariably relate to butter, or some problem in the medical field, or alleged inaction of the Government in relation to child welfare or the birth-rate or the like. It would be amazing, if it were not so tragic, that a medical man of the standing in the medical world of the right honorable member for Cowper, for whom I have a great respect, should come in here and talk about milk for children when every one knows that at the present time in Australia there is not one man out of work who is willing and able to work. The fact is that not one-half of 1 per cent, of the working population of this country is unemployed. There is always a hard core of permanently unemployed persons, who constitute a social problem however prosperous the community might be. But, by and large, this country was never so prosperous as it is to-day, nor were there ever as many people employed as there are to-day.
– Why was the Department of Social Services established?
Me.. BARNARD.-The establishment o£ that department;. as< we know it to-day, was first recommended: unanimously by; the Social Security Committee in 1942… A similar recommendation was. again made in 1944.
– That is- not an answer;
– It is not an answer to the honorable member because he is a lone wolf who does not subscribe to any party alinement when it does not suit him to do so. That was the recommendation of a committee, half of whose members were from the Opposition side of the House.
– What is the department doing now ?
– The right honorable member for Cowper knows perfectly well that every one is employed to-day and that it is impossible to produce more milk than is being produced to supply current demands in the cities. He knows that Australia, requires great quantities of milk for the making of butter to send, to the people overseas who are in dire need of it, yet, for the sake of political propaganda, he tells us the same old story that he has been telling us ever since he has been in opposition. I sat on the. Opposition benches when the right honorable gentleman was associated with a government and when 20 per cent, of our working population was unemployed.. Did he at any time in that period talks about milk for needy children?’
-. - He did.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden)1 was not here at that time. When theright honorable member for Cowper was in the government he never on any occasion, as far as 1 know, raised his voice in support of a proposal to supply milk to needy children. The right honorable gentleman was Treasurer when the Government borrowed such large sums of money overseas that finally; because of falling prices for our exports, it’ was compelled to borrow money with which, to pay interest on the money it had already borrowed. It’ borrowed £5.000,000 from the Westminster Bank for this purpose. He now makes speeches about providing- milk. for. children, but he did nothing to provide milk when he had the - opportunity to* do - so.’ His’ onlypurpose in referring* to- the’ matter now is- to make- political capital- out of it:
– Was he not called Australia’s most tragic. Treasurer.?1
– Yes, and. he certainly was a tragic treasurer. He spoke of the shortage of dollars, and he pui himself in step with Professor Copland by advocating the borrowing, of. dollars, so that luxury motor cars might be imported into Australia. Honorable member>. opposite do not. like me to. mention such, matters. Their policy is to go on borrowing overseas until, eventually, we arrive at the stage when, we shall have to pay interest on previous borrowings. If the right honorable gentleman were to ge back into power again he would, no doubt, go on borrowing overseas until Australia found’ itself once more on the- slippery, downhill road leading to- financial’ disaster. The more money we- borrow overseas for the purpose of importing goods, the greater the financial problem we shall finally create for ourselves. Far from applying such a. policy, the- present Government has paid off some- of Aus?tralia’s external, debt to the United State? of America, and the United Kingdom That makes for national solvency.
The right honorable member/ for Cowper also spoke of our social services. As far back as 1941, the Social Security Committee recommended a scheme, of unemployment relief and sickness benefits to be financed in accordance with the ability of taxpayers to provide the money. The honorable member, for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) was a member of that committee, and. although he did not* entirely agree with its- recommendations-, he did. agree that those best able to pay should contribute most. The right honor1 able member for Cowper said very nicely and quietly, though with meaning: that he would impose a system of national insurance of the kind” which he recommended’ years ago, under whichthose receiving low incomes would bfcalled upon to finance the whole undertaking.
– As is done- in NewZealand.
– I’ am not concerned with what is done in New Zealand.
– What has Stalin done in regard to social services?
– The honorable member aught to know. He has gone so far in the direction of fascism that his policy and that of. Stalin almost meet. The right honorable member for Cowper described, as crazy the present budget and. the Government’s social service programme. I wonder, how the public will regard, those statements. The Government has increased child endowment from 5s. to. 10s.. a week, it has increased age and invalid, pensions, and has provided for the gradual elimination of the means test. Instead of providing for the payment of a dole to the unemployed, it has introduced an excellent system of unemployment benefits under which a man who is out of work may receive assistance as a right instead of as a charity. Unemployed persons may go to an employment office established for the purpose of’ directing him to the kind of employment to which he is accustomed. Provisions of this kind have profoundly impressed’ the minds of the public and, as a- result, the people declared, by their votes at- the last election, that the Labour Government was a- good government. The Labour Government has delivered the goods. It has honoured its promises, and is, therefore, likely to remain in office for many years to come.
There are many things which I could say in connexion with- my own department, but I shall refrain until the appropriate legislation- is before the House. An opportunity will then be afforded, honorable members to discuss what the Government proposes to do, and what anomalies it proposes to remove. This Government has done more than any previous administration to improve social services and to place the general economy of the country upon a sound footing. I am able to express complete agreement with the concluding, paragraphs of the Treasurer’s budget speech, in which he says–
Therefore, security, in the largest sense, has all. along been the key-note, of the Government’s financial and economic programme. We have iii mod to reduce taxation and have done so, but not at .any stage before financial conditions warranted’ the step. We have aimed to lift standards of social benefits and- have -done 8. but, nguiu, no measure has been adopted before the. resources were, in sight.
I have stressed earlier the need for greater all-round production. That is a job for ever) one, as well as being a national responsibility. The Government can assist in many ways, but most of all by the wise use of its resources and a careful but progressive approach to economic and financial problems.
It is necessary to- obtain the co-operation of all classes in. the drive for greater production. By this I mean that we mus have the co-operation of the big businessexecutive as well as the employee. The business executive should not regard himself1 as free to wander off’ on two or three days of the week tb play golf, thus setting- a bad example to his employees. We cannot hope that the world will get out of the economic mess in which it now is unless everybody is prepared to work hard.
Sitting suspended from 5.57: to 8 p.m.
.- Before the sitting was suspended, we were treated by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) to one of hi,characteristic speeches.
– Could it be described as a speech?
– It was not one of the honorable gentleman’s best efforts, but he spoke- with- pride about several subjects, including repatriation. His attitude if that it is wrong to criticize any government department, especially the Repatriation Department, which, though it needs thousands more employees, is giving great service to the community. I am glad- that he referred to the Repatriation Department, because I am enabled to. reply to him. before I deal with the budget itself. The Minister for Repatriation is obliged under statute, to present to the Parliament every year a report on his department. I have asked’ more than once for that report to be presented. To-day, without success, 1 tried to have another report on repatriation tabled. The last annual report of the Repatriation. Commission was tabled” by the honorable gentleman’s predecessor. All honorable members know how much his predecessor was criticized. But if there could have been a- worse Minister for Repatriation than he was, he is in office now. The last report, which was tabled in 1946, covered the year 1944-45. On the title page of the report appears the line “Presented pursuant to statute, 19th June, 1946 “. The date should have been 18th June, to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. I mentioned in my speech on the budget last year that section 22 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provided -
The Commission shall furnish to the Minister annually, for presentation to the Parliament, a report of the administration and operation of this act.
Vet the Minister suppresses the report. I do not know whether the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is aware of that. If he is privy to it, he stands indicted equally with the Minister for Repatriation; if he is not, let him inquire how this Minister, who is sworn to do his duty, can suppress for two years the reports on his department’s activities. I believe that the reports have been printed and that the Minister has them but will not table them. It amazes me that he has the audacity to tell us what a wonderful organization the Department of Repatriation is. Last year I read to the Minister the following statement by one of his own repatriation committees about the working of the Repatriation Department : -
Closer attention to the requirements of section 47 would result in a considerable number of these claims being allowed without the necessity for an appeal to this tribunal.
The reference is to claims for new pensions. That was the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal No. 1, which was set up years ago by a former government to be the umpire, as it were, in repatriation matters. An exserviceman seeking a pension for a war disability applied first to the department. If the pension was refused by the department, he applied to the Repatriation Commission. If it refused his claim, he then appealed to the judicial body, the chairman of which was an eminent lawyer. It heard his case again. But the Minister, apparently, objected to being criticized by the tribunal, because he has since abolished it. That would be like the Prime Minister abolishing the High Court because he did not like the court’s rejection of his banking legislation. The Minister for Repatriation is seemly innocuous, but he has the characteristics of a dictator in his actions, although he may be deputy for a dictator. His attitude is that criticism should be stifled by the simple process of not presenting the criticism to the Parliament. The Minister stands indicted on the charge of not having submitted to the Parliament the report on his department’s activities in 1945-46 and 1946-47. He is also withholding another report. I extracted that admission from him to-day. I am glad to see him come into the chamber. Perhaps the paper under his arm is the report that I want him to submit to the Parliament.
– If it is, the honorable member will not get it.
– Exactly ! You heard his retort, Mr. Acting Chairman. I reiterate for his benefit that the last report presented to Parliament on the activities of the Repatriation Department was that for 1944-45, which wat tabled by his predecessor in 1946, just before the-last general election. The War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal No. 1 has made a report to the Minister. I asked for it last week and again to-day. The Minister admitted that he had it. I asked whether he would table it and he said that he had to receive some other report first. The tribunal criticized him last year in a public document. The tribunal has submitted another report that he does not dare to table.
– Why not?
– J do not know. I asked him to table it before the budget debate proceeded and before the repatriation legislation that he introduced yesterday was brought down. But he still holds the report. The tribunal consisted of a man nominated by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, a nominee of the Government and a lawyer. One of the members served with the tribunal for nearly twenty years and did excellent work.
– There is no War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal No. 1.
– I said that the Minister had abolished it.
– That is right.
– Is that because its report was adverse ?
– Of course! Another member was a man of 38 years of age who served and lost an eye in World War II. Ee gave up a good job to serve on the tribunal. But he was pushed out in the cold. The Minister tries to evade charges by saying that there is no War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal No. 1. There were two tribunals. They were set up years ago by different governments. The Minister said, in answer to questions about when he proposes to table the report of the No. 1 tribunal, that he did not intend to table it until he received the report of the No. 2 tribunal. Because the No. 1 tribunal criticized him he abolished it. That is how the department is administered. Before his advent, the department had an excellent record. All members of the staff were ex-members of the armed forces. That is no longer so, because the Government incorporated the department into the general Public Service and would not allow it to be a department consisting purely of exservicemen. If the Minister continues to defy section 122 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, his commission hs a Minister should be cancelled. I say deliberately that the Prime Minister should take him to task and ask him why lie has not tabled the reports that I have mentioned. If he cannot give a reasonable excuse, he should be dismissed from the Ministry.
– I can give a reason, but not an excuse.
– I do not see how the Minister could give a reason, judging by his earlier long rambling statements. The Minister tried to create the impression that he was called upon to deal with matters of tremendous importance. He was making a desperate effort to say something favorable about the Government. Last week, in his efforts to do so, he even dragged in the name of Sir Norman Brookes, and claimed that that gentleman had said something favorable about it. His playmate, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie”! also referred to what Sir Norman Brookes had said. When I returned to Melbourne at the week-end, Sir Norman Brookes, who is ill in hospital, telephoned me about the audacious statements made by this Minister who cannot do anything right. He also wrote a letter to me on the same subject which began -
Herewith is a statement I have made in reference to a discussion which took place in the House of Representatives about a state ment made by me to the press. If you wish to make use of it in any way, please do so.
I do not propose to read all that Sir Norman Brookes told me in the letter, but I propose to read a few excerpts from it in order to show how irresponsible the Minister for Repatriation is. Sir Norman Brookes wrote -
This morning I was listening in on the 3LO wireless to the debate in the House of Representatives on the Governor-General’s Speech. Mr. Barnard was the speaker and, to my surprise, I heard him make reference to the statement I made to a Melbourne Herald reporter after my arrival by the Orion from England. In it I pointed out the sad conditions under which the “ Old Country “ was suffering and that Australia was indeed fortunate in comparison.
He then referred to prices control and to the appointment of Professor Copland as Prices Commissioner by the Menzie Government and added that if any credit was due to the present Government it was for carrying on the good work of prices control in the subsequent period. He went on to say -
Prices for our raw materials are the fortuitous circumstances of World War II. and are in no way attributable to or reflect credit on the present or past governments.
Another statement by Sir Norman Brookes is this -
As the reference made to my statement was made in a debate which had some reference to the budget, I cannot refrain from taking this opportunity of referring to the question of taxation and its incidence on the welfare and prosperity of this country. At the present time, through the effects of the very high rates of taxation on the incomes of the wool and wheat growers of this country, they are paying at least 80 per cent, of their profits to the Government.
I do not think I need read any more. Those are Sir Norman’s views and Ministers must be desperately hard pressed to say something favorable about their discredited and incompetent administration when they seize upon a few words that that gentleman said on his return from abroad. The Minister hap- shown himself ‘to be recreant to his duty *nd his department. Little as honorable members have listened to him before they vill listen less to him the nest ‘time he “peaks.
– Did not Sir Norman Brookes say that Australia is still the est country in the world?
– He probably did.
– That is to the credit of lie Government.
– I also say that Aus.tralia is the best country in the world, and L have seen other countries, too. Hut I lo not give the credit for that to the administration of the Labour Government, as .the Minister for Repatriation tried to lo. Australia is the best country in the world because we are of British stock. That is an inheritance that the Labour Government has forgotten. How lightly members of the Government regard their British “upbringing is shown by the disparaging remark of the Prime Minister that there are only 17,000 white men in Malaya and they .are there for the profit motive. The British Empire is somehing infinitely greater than the United Nations can ever hope to be. That fact, too, is completely forgotten, especially by -he Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who wanders the world telling other countries how to solve their problems, but could not even solve our problem of how to send exports to Java. The Prime Minister has often been asked by ne and other honorable members on this side of the chamber to make a gift of food o Great Britain, but not one ounce of food has been sent by the Government to help the British people out of their plight. Yet food gifts have been showered on Asian countries and gifts of wool have been made to satellites of Soviet Russia. The budget provides for a gift of £10,000,000 co Britain this financial year. But that is a mere book entry that will not fill one English stomach. It is well that we have in this country people with the pioneering spirit who stand for essentials and are not class-conscious bigots, as are so many honorable gentlemen opposite. But for the inaction of the Government, Australia would be going ahead, because it was undamaged in the war; It would have made great progress <even under th, Labour administration had not “the ‘Government wasted on fantastic socialistic enterprises the money collected from a too-heavily taxed people.
The Acting Loader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) lias proposed an .amendment .that the first item of the Estimates be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government to withdraw and redraft the budget so as to make more liberal tax concessions, both direct and indirect; to prepare ‘a more positive defence plan in view of the .grave world situation; and to take steps to increase the productive effort of .both primary and secondary industries. The people will not thank this Government for the grudging and niggardly tax concessions proposed by the Treasurer. According to the Treasurer the value of the tax remissions will amount to £2.6,000,000. The right honorable gentleman however, did mot point out, except by an .addendum .to his speech, thai subsidies, which were formerly used to .keep down the price of food, will be reduced by £25,000,000. In other -words subsidies are to be practically discontinued. Although the Treasurer proposes ‘to grant tax concessions amounting to £26,000,000 the Government will pay £25,000,000 less in subsidies alone, so the people will be as heavily taxed this year as they were last year. Last night the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) said that while the total of tax concessions was slight the percentage reduction -was very great. He was followed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) who rightly pointed out that the people cannot buy anything with percentages. What the Government has forgotten is that what counts is not the nominal value of salaries and wages, but what the money earned will buy. The ordinary working man knows that when he received £5 a week - a wage which we now know to have been too low - he was able to buy a suit of clothes for the expenditure of approximately one week’s wages. Now, with the cost of clothing soaring to unprecedented heights, despite wage increases it takes two to three weeks’ wages to buy a suit of clothes. The working man does not need to be a student of economics to know that. because df the heavy taxes which he is called upon to pay and which 30 raise the prices of commodities necessary for his existence, he is very much -worse off to-day than he -was in the past. The Treasurer has tried to lead the people to believe that he he is now making some worth while concessions ; but he is endeavouring to mislead the people as to their extent. In total the people are more heavily taxed co-day than they ever were before. Taxation seems to have become almost an obsession of the right honorable gentleman. Expenditure on the services of the Government last year amounted to £455,000,000. Before the war the comparative expenditure was £98,000,000. “While we all know that taxation is necessary to finance the services of the country, particularly for defence “and social services, there is no reason why the heavy rates of tax imposed during the war should be continued almost indefinitely. This year the Government will gather in £49S,000,000, and it has budgeted for an expenditure of £510j000,000. The Treasurer is playing with millions. He believes that he has some mission to fulfil and some right to the savings and salaries of the people to finance his grandiose schemes for buying out the private banks, for instituting the Government’s so-called free medicine scheme - ‘that will certainly not be free - and for other nonsensical socialist extravagances. ‘Do the people who do not want to travel by air believe it is right that they should he taxed to pay for a government airline that is .being operated at a loss? Do “the -numerous customers of the private banks want their hanking institutions taken over by a government that is so incompetent as this Government has shown itself to be? Because the Treasurer was at one .tune .appointed a member of a royal commission which inquired into the monetary :and banking systems of .Australia, he seems to have an obsession that he is a financial wizard who is able to bring about socialization by taxation. Mounting taxes, ‘which a re .killing initiative and incentive in Australia, coupled with .the Government’s spineless attitude towards the industrial saboteurs “who ar.e hindering mir :local and ^export trade .are impeding progress and destroying Australia’s good name. That, I suppose, is the way of the .dictator. It is -extraordinary that Ministers like the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) should he able to dictate “who shall travel here or there, and that the Minister for Transport (MrWard) .should he able to decide who may and who may not obtain a permit to buy a motor vehicle. These gentlemen. “ dress’d in a little brief authority “, are lusting for power. Having attained office largely by deluding the people, they are going on with their system of socialization patterned on :an alien model. The only way these things can .be put rightit is too late to reform these gentlemenis to instal a new government by means of a general election. After the next election these dictators will be relegated to the oblivion from which they should never have emerged. These are mere generalizations. Let me be specific. The tax concessions announced by the Treasurer will cost the Government nothing. In fact they will result in more revenue being poured into the coffers of the Treasury. In a most mendacious document entitled “ Taxation and the Economy : Relief to the Individual “, the Treasurer after itemizing the income tax reductions “made since 1946, makes this “.most misleading statement -
The above figures of cost to revenue under “state ‘the value to taxpayers of the reduction*, made.
Imagine this Government understating anything -it did! The statement proceeds -
They were calculated on ‘incomes at the time. “War-time rates of income tax applied to .current incomes, the yield of that taa alone would be more than £100,000,000 greater than the yield at the rates now current. ‘To this figure -may be added £20,000,000 on account of the proposed reduction in rates «* from 1st July, 1948.
That document .shows that since 1946 reductions of taxes .. amounting to £70,000j000 have ; been made. The .story told in the document is like the “tale :of the commercial “traveller ‘who sold vacuum cleaners on commission and became :so eloquent that he started selling them to himself, getting more and more commission until .finally he had so many vacuum cleaners and obtained -so much commission that his ‘employers sacked him. If the Treasurer had even a very elementary knowledge of economics lie would know something about the “law f diminishing returns” and would realize that there is a taxation peak above* which no Treasurer may go without courting disaster. The right honorable gentleman realizes that he lias already reached that peak and he is making these paltry reductions only because he realizes that no more can be squeezed from the people. Let us consider how previous reductions of taxes have affected the revenue position. In 1947-48 the estimate of tax collections was £397,000,000, but after tax concessions had been granted the Treasurer collected £457,000,000. The three income tax concessions which the right honorable gentleman paraded as benefactions to the people were as follows: -
Thus, the total for the two budgets and supplementary budget worked out at C70,500,000; but according to the arithmetical calculations of the right honorable gentleman £270,000,000 minus £70,000,000 leaves £232,000,000. Our experience in the past has shown that despite concessions in income tax and sales tax the Treasury receipts from those sources has continued to grow. This demonstrates the inflationary trend of the policy pursued by this Government. Again the present budget is an inflationary budget. The Treasurer believes in taking money from the people so that they will not spend it and he uses the money ito finance the many grandiose socialist schemes which his Government has initiated. In some instances the rates of sales tax have been increased by 25 per cent. It is true that the Treasurer has made some reductions of sales tax in this budget, but as in earlier years the revenue from that source will continue to expand. Before the war revenue from the sales tax amounted to £9,000,000 ; last year it was £36,000,000. Next year, in spite of the concessions announced by the Treasurer, it will be still greater. The right honorable gentleman should make drastic reductions which. would give real and lasting benefits to thepeople. A man in receipt of the basicwage, or a skilled artisan who is married: and has family responsibilities, has thegreatest difficulty in making ends meet. He is concerned not so much about what he gets in his pay envelope as about what he has to pay in taxes. This Government is levying exorbitant taxes on the peopleby way of sales tax, primage and excise. Primage was originally a revenue tax loaded on to customs duties and increasing the price of imported products, principally luxuries. It is now imposed on a number of imported necessaries which are in short supply because of man-power shortages in this country. Instead of intelligently looking at the tariff and saying, “ Supplies of this line are insufficient and the cost is high; let us waive the duty for a period in order that price? may be brought down “, the Government blindly allows the existing rates to continue and the people are becoming more and more restless. I do not wonder that there is trouble in trade unions to-day and that the Communists are able to capitalize this unrest by engineering strikes in our key industries. The average man working for his living, or a retired person on a small income, is heavily punished because of the obsessions of socialistic politicians who pattern their policy on the principles of an alien ideology instead of studying the- welfare of their own people. The sales tax should be considerably reduced.
The most important subject dealt with in the budget speech is defence. I agree that taxes should be imposed to provide for our defence, but I am sorry that this subject cannot be approached nationally by a committee of the Parliament which would formulate a sane defence policy for this great white outpost near the teeming millions of Asia. Our defence policy should be framed in co-operation and collaboration with the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and our allies. It should be designed to ensure that this country may be held against an aggressor and that Australia may continue to be a land of which we, and our children and our children’s children may be proud. The Government, however, has tackled the important subject of defence on a purely party political basis. Capital is made by honorable members opposite of what somebody may have said in the past about defence. Last night the honorable member for Perth, who is a relatively newcomer to the Parliament and may not know all the facts, said that in 1937 the late Mr. Curtin had a plan for the defence of Australia which involved the purchase of a great number of aircraft. It is true that Mr. Curtin had an aviation plan and that he expounded it in various places, but nothing came of it. “Whether caucus prevented him from implementing it, I do not know. When Labour was in opposition its members strongly opposed every defence measure brought down by the Government. When we wanted to increase the size of the Navy and bought the cruisers, Sydney, Hobart and Perth, we were greeted with a statement by the present Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), that he would not allow any Australian naval vessel to go into alien waters. That statement was repeated by many honorable members opposite. On the 3rd November, 1938, just after the declaration of war, the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said -
The Government is expending much too rapidly on defence. It is making plans for more than adequate defence nf Australia. I make no excuse for saying that.
The Minister for External Territories said - lt is amusing to hear people say we will not give up New Guinea. To these people I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our Mandated Territories, they should defend them themselves.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said, on the 12th October, 1938-
Personally, I would not spend threepence on armaments or on defence works of any kind in Australia.
I do not propose to quote extracts from speeches made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) years ago, though I invite him to read some of them and to ask himself whether he feels proud of them now. I refer him particularly to the speech in which he opposed Australia’s defence preparations on religious grounds. This Government should have learnt the necessity to prepare for war, because in World
War I. and World War II. we lost the flower of our young manhood. How if the Government behaving to-day? It attacks those people who try to make Australia ready to defend itself. I was never satisfied that we were sufficiently prepared for World War II. I was a member of the Australian forces under the voluntary and compulsory training systems, and I constantly urged that our forces should be strengthened. But, al least, we did have some forces in those days. For instance, our citizen force? between World War I. and World War II. were larger than the Government has at the present time. Members of the Citizen Forces are not being trained. According to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), recruiting is proceeding satisfactorily for the Regular Army. I hope that the honorable gentleman if right. The Minister for Defence, the Minister for the Army, the Minister foi the Navy (Mr. Riordan) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) are responsible for the defence of Australia, and 1 exhort them to examine their responsibilities from the national standpoint. The Prime Minister was Minister for Defence in the Scullin Government, which reduced Australia’s defence allocation of £6,700,000 to £3,200,000. It effected economies by placing all the permanent staff on half pay; it abandoned Duntroon as a location for the Royal Military College and moved the institution, in skeleton form, to the barracks at Darlinghurst; and it closed the Naval College and sent our submarines to England. Older members of the House will recall those happenings.
– Who gave the then Minister for Defence instructions to effect those economies?
– Sir Otto Niemeyer.
– That is ridiculous. If the then Minister for Defence was such a puppet as to base his policy for the forces on the instructions of a visiting financier, he was better fitted for another place than he was for this Parliament. The Minister for the Army talks a good deal of claptrap, as the following passage will show: -
Compared with the defence forces in existence at the outbreak of war in 1039. when it was obvious that war was inevitable, and considering the expenditure allocated for der fence in the years preceding’ 193!), the defence policy of the Government stands out in marked contrast: as- being realistic.
The Minister has made other remarks” in a- similar strain. Let us examine the position to-day. I do not want to hurt the feelings of any “ pinks “ or “ near- pinks” among honorable members opposite, but it is an undeniable fact that Russia would tear the world apart if given the opportunity to do so. The democratic countries are on the defensive before the forces’ which have embraced the ideology emanating from that frustrated’, cruel and impecunious man, Karl Marx, who lived on his friends. Lenin adopted his policy, and his opportunity came when he violently removed the weak Kerensky Government, which bad deposed the Czar, and exterminated tens of thousands of people. Lenin believed that he was doing the proper thing, but in his declining years be” relented considerably. His more brutal and oafish successor, Stalin, has followed his policy with even greater cruelty.. If honorable members will read any authentic documents by Russians such as Kravachenko and other authorities, they will’ learn that Russia has suffered greater bloodshed’ and misery under the Bolsheviks than it did during the Tartar invasion in the Middle Ages: Yet there are in- this fair land of Australia Moscowtrained traitors who are obeying the orders of the Kremlin to upset the workings of our domestic system, which we desire to keep on the British parliamentary model. In China, Burma, India, Malaya and Java civil war is raging, and the population of those countries is suffering untold misery. In Berlin, we see all the ingredients for World War TIL, which will be on a more gigantic basis than World War II. This week, we read in the newspapers that Great Britain is calling for more men, aircraft and armoured vehicles, and is formulating new defence plans. Great Britain is not” a nation which panics. Probably the British are the most mature people, in the world. They are the calmest people in a time of crisis. If they are making defence preparations now I should like to know why the Australian Government is reducing its defence vote. The Government plans to reduce expen- diture on the Army by £11,942,000 and. on the Royal. Australian Air Force- by- £2,696,000.. Are honorable gentlemen’ opposite proud of that, reduction ? When the Minister for Defence, was asked to. outline, the Government’s plans for. Aus1 tralia’s defence, he sneered, for about a week,, but. then admitted, in reply, to. a question, that the Defence Council would meet next week. I urge the Government to be forthright, and to declare- that it supports: Great Britain, ami our other- allies, who are now standing up to Russia. We have had sufficient appeasement. History i* repeating itself. Something even, worse than a Munich is happening here in. Australia, and the Government, which is traditionally opposed to providing for the adequate defence of the country, hae only a token Army and. Air Force. If honorable members opposite believe thai that statement is only a generalization, I am prepared to support, ifr with figures.
The Royal Australian Air Force to-day has- seven squadrons for home defence and nine squadrons, we are told, for a. task force. I have- heard: the jeering remark, from honorable members opposite that” Australia had only a small air force at the outbreak of World War II. in 1939. They have spoken of our Wirraway aircraft engaging in combat with Japanese Zeros. All those who were members of the Royal Australian Air Force know the truth. In 1928, Air Marshal Salmond visited Australia at the invitation of the government of the day to advise on adequate air defences for Australia. He formulated a plan, but in 1929 the Scullin Government scrapped it. Five years later, the Lyons Government began to increase the strength of the Air Force. In 1938, we had five regular squadrons at full strength - not like the skeleton squadrons to-day. I challenge the Minister for Air, who said, last week that recruiting for the Royal Australian Air Force was satisfactory., to state whether one squadron in Australia is ready to go into action. There may be one, but X do nol think that there is. In 1939. . w< had five regular squadrons at full strength, and some of their member? made imperishable names. No. 3 Squad ron fought in the Middle East, and No.
SquadroninMalaya. Inaddition, we had squadronsof the Citizen Air Force, and seventeen partly formed squadrons which were tobe ready in 1940. We had alsoestablished an aircraft industry whichcould makeexcellent machines. Hadwe been properly advised, and had we beenmakingSpitfire and Hurricane aircraft at thattime,we should have acquitted ourselves even better than we did.
At present, we have onlyone jet fighter in Australia. Great Britain still leads the world in the manufacture of fighter aircraft and our allies are purchasing these machines from the United Kingdom. As honorable members know, Britain will not sellthese aircraft to Russia. I should like to know what action the Government is taking to obtain equipment, and whether it proposes to utilize the services of some ofthe splendid men who formerly served in theRoyal Australian Air Force. During World War II., there were 180,000 of these men of all ranks, and they served onevery front. In 1943, I pleaded with the Government to retain a sufficient number of those young men for 30 squadrons which I regarded as being a moderate post-war Air Force . Unfortunately, the Government allowed our then well-trained force to disperse. Many of the men would have liked to make a career in the Royal Australian Air Force. They liked aviation, and felt that they should continue to serve Australia. To-day, the strength of our Air Force may be estimated at . 54 aircraft in Australia and a task force of 90 aircraft, most of which are in Japan. Of the personnel, only 190 are members of the Citizen Air Force. Hundreds of aircraft are rotting on various airfields throughout Australia. Whyhas oursplendid Air Force been allowed to disintegrate in this way? I notice that the Minister for Air is making notes. Ishall bevery glad if he will tell Australia that arrangements will be made immediately to increase the number of our fighter and bomber squadrons, and that orders have been placed for jet aircraft. If he will make such a statement to the people, they will feel that the Governmentis facing itsresponsibilities.
Thepeople ofGreat Britainare still in the throes of austerity, andare living underconditions of great stress. In 1940 they saved Australia and, for that matter, civilizationwith a few fighter aircraft. Incidentally, they also saved Soviet Russia, the nation with almost inexhaustable man-power which screamed for a second front. The followersof Russia in Australia chalked on walls, “Demand a second front”, but they did not suggest a second front against the Japanese. Great Britain would not ask Australia to introduce compulsory military training, butwould like us to do so. Many honorable members opposite shudder at the mention of compulsory military training. In my opinion, it if the most democratic part of any young man’s education, because during such training he meets all classes of men. Many young Australians who were not members ofa club, or who did not mix with other young men, found a congenial companionship in the drill hall and in the sport and interests associated with their citizen force which made them better citizens. ‘This training helped the Australian ImperialForce in World War I. to be so efficient. The Government has inaugurateda rather elaboraterecruiting campaign. Army vehicles stand in the streets, and men in uniform ask young civilians to volunteer for service. If a few men come forward, their photographs are published in the press as news items. Defence is a national responsibility. The Government should call up drafts of young men so that we shall have an adequate force to meet any situation that may arise. Great Britain proposes to increase its strength of jet fighter aircraft. Australia should follow that example. In addition, we Should speed up the manufacture of equipment. At this stage, I pointout that the Government has sold more than 40,000 rifles. I obtained that information in an answer to a question which I had placed on notice some time ago. The Government admitted that it had sold a few of these firearms to various rifleclubs and gunsmiths. I should like toknow where the remainder have gone. I should also like to know the destination of the ammunition that has beenstolen . The Government hasalso sold Catalina aircraft to a company with Communist affiliations, and no doubt those machines are now flying in Malaya. Our stocks of ammunition should be closely guarded. I suggest, again not in any party spirit, that members of the Opposition should be invited to confer with the Government on defence matters. We need not tell the world about our preparations, but the Opposition wants to be assured that our forces are as efficient as they should be. The spirit of the young men is right, and the spirit of Australia is also right. If Australia is known favorably throughout the world, it is so because of the deeds of its fighting men in tWO world wars. If Australia for any reason has to hang its head in shame, it is for some of the mistakes that its politicians have made, particularly at international conferences. “Whenever an international conference is held, members of the Labour party rush to attend it, and are prepared to sign any kind of document. They should realize that their principal loyalty is to Australia, and they should make the country secure against attack. Our defences cannot be adequate unless we have an increase of population. Here, I pay a small tribute ro the Minister for Immigration.
– Why spoil a good speech?
– It is very unusual, I know. Perhaps the migrants would come to Australia in any event. Indeed, tens of thousands of people are waiting to come here. I urge the Government to spend more money on defence instead of upon its wasteful socialist schemes.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- This Government has allowed itself to become mesmerized by figures. The budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has proved that. It has been said that figures can prove anything, and the Government has exploited that theory to the utmost limit. It has deluged the Parliament and the country with figures. The Treasurer is more reckless with figures than the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is with ancient political history. It is because the Government is mesmerized by figures that this is the budget of a miser. Its aim is to extract the maximum and to disgorge the minimum. It is completely divorced from economic reality. The budget should be more than a national stock-taking of government income and expenditure. It should be more than a government’s exposition of its own finances. The budget should include a positive statement of national economic policy. That policy affects the daily life of every man, woman and child in Australia. The budget ultimately must be translated into simple terms of what it means to the individual members of thecommunity. It should be based on human values. This budget is not based on human values. Its author thinks in terms of millions instead of in pounds, shillings and pence, and the effects that they have on the daily life of the average worker. That is the basis on which I propose to consider this budget.
Has the Government a clear view of the over-all economic impact of its policy? It is obvious to any one who listened to the Prime Minister that it has not. ls the average worker as well off to-day as he was prior to the last war? The Government says that he must be, because statistics prove it. It has a policy of full employment. Its statistics prove that there is no unemployment. It says thai it believes in higher wages. Statistics prove that wages are higher than they were before the war. So if we accept the Government’s complacent outlook, we can delude ourselves, as the members of the Government have deluded themselves. But the truth is not to be found in the Bureau of Census and Statistics in Canberra. It is to be found in the homes of the Australian people. Before the war, the average worker was able to afford a new suit of clothes every eighteen months, hut he cannot afford to do so now. Before the war. the average worker was able to obtain a wide range of commodities that he can no longer afford. Before the war, there were few without decent homes. To-day, we still have thousands living under exactly the same conditions as they lived under during the depression. There are fewer amenities to-day, not more. The standard of living is lower in Australia to-day than it was in 1939. During th, depression, we had plenty of goods but no money. To-day we have plenty of money but not sufficient goods. In 1930, we were told that that was a financial ^paradox. To-day we are again told that -the situation is a financial paradox. It is a paradox, exactly in reverse to what it was before. It is a paradox that still -affects the average man and woman, and it affects them in exactly the same way.
We are only better off if cur standard of living is improved and if we have greater security and enjoy more leisure, [f our people have money in their pockets but are unable to obtain homes, they are obviously not well off. If the housewife gets £2 a week more as her share of the pay envelope, but has less meat, butter, vegetables, fruit and milk for her children because those articles are too dear, how -can that family be better off? If everybody in the family has a job, but the members of the family are still unable to afford the clothes they require and the food they need, both in quantity and variety, how can their standard of living be better? If we have to go cold in winter because there is no firewood, or because of gas and electricity shortages and rationing, how can we be better off than when every home had all the heating it needed in winter? If the family cannot go to the beach on a Sunday because there are no transport facilities available, how can it be better off? Before the war a skilled worker could buy a new motor car for a year’s income. To-day he would be lucky to purchase one for two years’ income, even if he could get a permit to do so. Before the war, he could build a new home for no more than three years’ income. To-day he would be lucky if he could build it for six years’ income. Before the war, a man could purchase for a week’s wages a suit made from the best Australian cloth. To-day he cannot huy one for two weeks’ wages. He can, of course, buy an imported suit for the equivalent of a month’s wages, but that would mean going without everything else. If the Treasurer wants to know bow the Australian people are faring under his policy, let him leave Canberra and go into the homes of the people. Let him ask tho housewife about her experiences. During the war we were told that many of the casualties were due to neurosis. To-day thousands of housewives of the Commonwealth are the victims of a new worry neurosis - the worry of trying to feed, clothe and care for their families. They are fighting a losing battle.
The Treasurer very glibly, explained it all in terms of dollars, sterling balances and the rest of the official financial mumbo-jumbo. He talked in millions. He gave us tables of figures. But when it is all over, how much better off will the average person be ? That is the only real test that can be applied. Paltry increases in pensions for age, invalid and war pensioners are immediately swallowed up by a depreciation in the purchasing power of money. Tax reductions are worthless if the taxpayer is worse off. The truth is that money is progressively losing its value in this country. Thai is the reality that the Government of this country and its people must face.
– Why did the honorable member vote “ No “ 1
– Why did the honorable gentleman say he was prepared to die for me? Call our present procedure inflation if you like, but whatever name is given to it, the unpalatable truth is that the savings of the people are losing their face value. Instead of improving, the standard of living is steadily going down. Some of the so-called experts tell us that that is inescapable after a war. The theory if that a nation can spend unlimited amounts of money on war, but must go without essential goods after a war in order to pay debts contracted in the defence of the country. That is the basis of what is termed orthodox finance, to which the Treasurer subscribes now and to which he subscribed during the depression.
– So did the honorablemember
– I have always rejected that fetish. I believe it is the function of government to control money and not allow money to control government; but money is controlling the Government to-day, just as it has done before. The economy of this country should not be tied to any artificial external exchange control. whether it be dollars^ sterling; marks or roubles. If Australia ties its currency to dolla.rs then a. shortage- of dollars means that it must go without essential needs. That means that our external position governs our internal position. If the Australian currency is tied to sterling, then a depreciation of sterling in relation to dollars, will make our position become worse,.’ and that is what is happening to-day. Australia, is returning to the fundamental proposition which I advanced in 1930, that its currency should be completely independent of external control. In. i930, the fetish was the gold standard, just as to-day it; is the dollar standard. When, in 1930, I. suggested the abandonment of the gold standard, F was called a financial anarchist.. What has happened ?. The. world has abandoned gold and the gold, reserves- have been buried under the ground. What happened to the gold standard must: happen to the dollar standard,, if the- world continues to be unable to trade because of lack of dollars. When I proposed, in 1930 that the gold! standard’ should be replaced by a goods standard of currency, there was world-wide consternation. To-day there is wide acceptance of the idea that currency should be expressed in the real terms of the goods that currency can buy rather than in an artificial way. That view found expression in the economic terms of the Atlantic Charter-. If we are to have stability and security in currency, then we must express currency in real terms and not in any fictitious terms or on the exclusive basis of any one nation. The real approach to our economic problem is that Australia has the resources and the skill’ to provide its people, with the highest standard of living of. any country in the world. We must not, however; sacrifice our entire economy to our export requirements. Australia can produce most of the goods that its people require. We can also produce a sufficient surplus, of such goods for- export and from, which, we should receive, in return from other, nations goods of- a type which we. are; unable- to produce for ourselves. We exchange goods for- goods; hut that does not mean, direct barter. It docs mean, however, that the medium of the exchange must not become the controlling factor..
Once- we commence to- think in- simple, terms of improving the standard of living for all our people, this problem, is not. as complicated as the experts would try to make us, believe it to be.. The Government must assume- responsibility.. It can not delegate, that responsibility: Its- task is. to ensure that our. money will buy mort goods- and not less,, otherwise we shall lose ground, which is what the Treasurer admits is. happening to-day. If thai happens, there must be widespread suffering. While money is losing value there is always a time lag that impose* hardship on the workers on fixed1 wages, and. on the pensioners, especially those, such as former public servants, on superannuation. So far as the general body of wage-earners is concerned,, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court recognized that situation in a similar period after World War I., when the Powers 3s. was added’ te the basic wage to compensate for the lag of wages, behind prices. The position to-day is much worse than it was in 1920. There is no relief for those on superannuation, not even by the abolition: of the iniqui-tous means test. The Government adopts an attitude of economic fatalism.. It apparently believes, that there, is some occult power controlling, our financial destiny and that it can do nothing about it. except to offer Australia, to the world as a. mendicant, nation..
I believe that we are: heading; fox as economic, crisis^ that can. only be averted by resolute action and a positive- policy. The remedy is not to be- found in more controls which produce more government interference with the daily lives of the people. That would only mean- more economic- waste, higher- costs, and. still further depreciation of the value- of. the currency.. If wages: are. doubled- and prices quadrupled, then every one must be worse off., That is what has been happening all over the world. It has happened: in Europe and in Asia. Even the- United. States, of. America has- not been free from it. This country is already in the. throes of the same1 agony.
The questions– that. the. Treasurer should ask himself are very simples They are:- Will the pensioners be- as well off in three months’ time as; they are. to-day? Will the tax- remissions provide more of the urgent, needs, of the people?: Will thai war widow be able-, to: live, satisfactorily on her pittance?
It is no use to- gloat: over huge revenues, or- over a. surplus in theTreasury, if the standard of living is being reduced. Inflation is even affecting government, finances. The Treasurertells us that after, making what he calls, tas concessions amounting to £22,000,000, he still expects to collect £36,000,000 more revenue than last year. That means that he is taking back nearly twice, as much as he says he is giving to the taxpayers in remissions. That is typical of what happens during a period when money is losing its value. Can we arrest that drift? That is the challenge to Government to-day. I am firmly convinced that it can be stopped and that it must be stopped. The real problem is not in the production of an exportable surplus, but in the production of more goods for consumption in this country. We must face the truth. “We have full employment, but we have not full production.. Every one is on a pay-roll, but. that does not mean that the economy of the nation is properly organized. Full’ production can only be obtained when there is a proper balance, and when there is proper organization. “We cannot have full production if we have inefficiency. If there are too many impediments in the way of production, then we must- have inefficiency. “We hear much about the industrial and managerial revolution. That all started with Mussolini and fascism. Russia and Germany both followed. Since then, we have had State planning- on a world-wide scale. It all adds up to more managers of. industry, and. less workers in industry..
That has happened in Australia; and the budget shows to what an extent. If everyone is to become a manager, then we- will have no producers.. It- does not matter whether the- managers are employed by private enterprise or- by the States, the result is the same. There are less goods going into consumption channels, and there is more waste. That must mean a lower standard of living for all. It means higher taxation and more- nonproductive labour. The burden must fall on the. workers in industry. If a plant has too big an overhead, it goes bankrupt and its workers become unemployed.. If a nation, has. too- big an. overhead, then, the workers have to pay out more in taxes, and the nation, can also go bankrupt. It does not matter whether it. iecalled inflation or just plain inefficiency. The net result is the same.. The real job of the Government is to get more peopleinto the work, of production. Examinethe classified columns of any newspaper in. the Commonwealth, and you will, find: the same story.. Industries are crying out. for more labour, which means that plant and. equipment are not being, employed to their full, capacity. That is. why money is.- losing, its value.
The Government still believes that ii can stop a. depression by arranging- un: limited public works programmes. That is a delusion.. Public works must, bear a proper relation to produc-tion. If every one is digging: ditches for the: Government, how are* the people going to be fed 1 Instead of main? taining a huge centralized army of bureaucrats in- Canberra, and elsewhere; to think, up means of impeding production, the Government should restore a proper balance between management and production, with the. emphasis on- production.
That, is the- first- step. The next- step is to guarantee to workers in industry a greater share in what they produce, and to give them an incentive to produce more. The- present- policy of the Government is directed towards the achievement of neither of these ends. The Government’s policy is to rob the workers of the fruits of their labour- by taxation. It regards taxation as a method of reducing the- consumption and demand1 for goods. By keeping taxation high, it believes that it can share available goods on an equitable basis. It forgets that in the process it is killing the incentive to produce: “What incentive is there, under the present policy, for a worker to produce more? The harder he toils, the more he contributes to the Commissioner of Taxation. That is- why we have- the week-end black market in- labour. In order to provide their families with, a few extra comforts, some workers- have been forced to resort to evasion, so that the genuine employer is at a disadvantage, and a premium is placed on dishonesty. This- proves- once again that no law or economic system can prevail, unless it is founded on justice, and the workers do not regard the present taxation system as just.
The workers in industry are not the only ones who have had their strikes. The bosses have also been on strike. There is a common saying throughout Australia: “What is the use of working harder than you have to ? It only goes to Chifley”. So, the boss plays golf. He goes for long vacations. Instead of trying to produce more, he is satisfied with a minimum of production that will provide him with a maximum return under the present taxation system. The worker’s psychological reaction is the same. No matter how hard he works, he is no closer to that new suit at the end of the week. All his thinking is in terms of tax stamps.
We can re-establish the value of the Australian pound only by producing more. To do that, we must provide the workers with a real incentive. They must be assured that the more they produce, the more they will be able to buy with their wages. We must restore the incentive to produce. Instead of regarding the worker who owns his own home, as a ‘ little capitalist “ we should encourage all workers to achieve that objective. Why should not the average Australian worker own his own Australian-made car? Why should he not have an Australianmade refrigerator, a washing machine and other electrical laboursaving appliances in his own home ? Why should he not be able to enjoy his annual vacation with his family, without worrying about the cost? Why should his wife be harassed by the rising cost of living? We have the plant to produce the goods we need. We have the technical skill, as we proved during the war. We have the natural resources. Then why have we always with us the haunting spectre of want? Why should the people be always fighting a losing battle against their own currency?
We shall not get anywhere by mouthing shibboleths about more production. Must we convince our people that more production means a higher standard of living. At present, the harder the people work, the less they get in relation to the effort expended. That is wrong. There is only one sound system. It is the system that ensures that the harder the people work, the more they will get in return. The same rules that apply to the employers must apply to the employees in industry.
The Government abandoned Labour’s policy on all these matters. This budget is proof of that. It provides neither hope nor inspiration for the worker. Both are needed urgently. Instead of statistics, we need sound common-sense in our approach to our economic problems. Instead of getting up in the clouds about dollars, the Government should apply the principles of the Labour party’s own platform. Its present policy is leading to creeping economic paralysis. The Treasurer’s recital of millions for this, and millions for that, sounded like some strange, foreign dirge. What the people of Australia want to know is, how well off they will be in the future. We are getting nowhere by consistent calamity-howling about inflation and the coming depression which have become this Government’s theme song. We hear it repeated whenever the Treasurer talks about dollars.
The people want to know what this Government proposes to do about it. The paltry concessions contained in the budget are not a policy. They are about a* useful as putty to a sinking ship. Although overwhelmed with his millions, the Treasurer failed to pay even lip service to Labour policy. He ignored the claim that the first child should be recognized in family endowment. He gave the pensioners a contemptible pittance, instead of sufficient to provide them with a decent standard of living. They are the real victims of rising costs. Their original allowance was related to the basic wage, at a time when many workers were on the basic wage. To-day. the basic wage-earner has almost disappeared from industry, but the pensioner will receive only the old ratio, even after the proposed adjustment. With prices still rising, he will derive no real benefit. War pensioners, retired public servants, invalid pensioners and widows will all remain victims of the Treasurer’s failure to recognize their real need. With his huge reserves, he could have done much for them., but he has failed them again.
Despite two world wars, we are still a wealthy nation. The people must be given their proper share of the national wealth. No one is more entitled to better treatment than the war widows, the war pensioners, and those who have rendered a working life-time of service to their country. This budget passes them by, for it drops only a few paltry pence into their fortnightly envelopes. Surely there are still men on the Government benches who believe in the doctrines of the Labour movement. Surely there are still men with sufficient faith in the future of this country to demand that the workers should be entrusted with a real stake in its prosperity.
The Treasurer’s outlook, as reflected in the budget, is hopelessly at fault. The position calls for a positive policy, not one of drifting towards the abyss without doing anything about it. It calls for a complete overhaul of our taxation machinery. It calls for a proper adjustment of currency to the amount of goods available. It calls for fewer managers, and more workers. It calls for the restoration of incentives in industry. It calls for more efficient management in both private and government business. It calls for better recognition of the claims of those no longer able to engage in industry, and for more encouragement to the family, especially through recognition of the first child by family endowment. Above all, it calls for a progressively improving standard of living for the Australian people. The budget fails on all these vital points. It attempts to confound all criticism with a flood of figures that mean nothing to the ordinary man and the ordinary woman. Et has even confounded the Treasurer’s own followers.
.- lt is a truism that no budget ever presented gave complete satisfaction to every one at the same time, and this budget is no exception. However, when one enters the lists to criticize it, to try to relate its virtues and imperfections to the national requirement, not only of to-day but also of the future, one is reminded of the last words of Cecil Rhodes, “ So much to do, so little done “. lt is very easy to criticize. The looker-on usually believes that he can do a job better than the person entrusted with the responsibility of doing it, but there are occasions - and I believe that this is one of them - when the looker-on has something to support his belief. Therefore, like many other honorable members, 1 enter the debate with mixed feelings and some misgivings, not only because of what is happening in Australia, but also because of what is happening abroad. This, in certain circumstances, could have very serious consequences to ourselves. A brief study of international trends, such as the Berlin incidents, the war in India, and . actions very much nearer home, forces us to conclude that the world is once again at the cross-roads when the wrong road is easier to take than the right one. There are, indeed, signs tha? the wrong one is being taken in some instances, with the result that a debt is being piled up which will have to be met at some time in the future. Within recent weeks, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in a speech which he delivered in this House, advocated, although he might not have intended to do so, the taking of the line of least resistance. When he visited Berlin he was valiant. He said that, in his opinion, the attitude of the Western Allies was correct, and that they should stay in Berlin. This, of course, implied resistance to any attempt to force them out; but here in Australia, only last week, he said that if Russia chose to march across Europe, and to occupy the channel ports, resistance would be futile, because the strength of Russia was so great that it would be hopeless to oppose it. This, coming from the executive head of the Australian Government, invites the people to console themselves with the fatalistic belief that what is to be will be. I admit that such a contention contains a semblance of logic, but it is defeatist and extremely mischievous. All nations, including Russia, whatever their strength, should be told very plainly that those who are so contemptuous of human rights as to begin once again the forward march of armies will be resisted every inch of the way. It might not do any harm to whisper in their ears that victory does not always rest with the biggest battalions. It is in this melancholy atmosphere from the world-wide point of view that we are presented with a budget, a buoyant budget, a budget that I say is the product of either irrepressible optimism, or a dogmatic belief that the millennium has arrived. The .Labour party should learn a lesson from the story of .Belshazzar at the feast, who was so preoccupied with the riches of his conquests and the abundance from which he was feasting, that he failed to read the writing on the wall, which, interpreted in modern language, meant that he failed to heed the signs of the times, and, for his sins, would be relegated to well-deserved destruction. I say to the Labour party, “ Unless you desire to qualify .for a one-way ticket to the same destruction, you should introduce more realism into your plans for the future of this country”. I admit, and I think most people will admit, that there is some merit at least in spending money when it is available to establish national essentials, but orthodox economists have always, in my opinion wisely, counselled against the lavish spending of money to supplement a boom, and none will deny that this is the greatest money boom in history. Their counsel has always been to conserve excess spending power in order to counteract the possible effects of a depression or a recession, which the Prime Minister so .frequently talks about. I believe that we should capitalize our prosperity and have faith in our future, so long as it is not a foolish faith, based on the belief that that part of the national revenue that is obtained from prices paid for our primary products overseas will always continue on the same high level as it is on to-day. .Social services, the framework of which is gradually being developed in this country, depend entirely for their continuance on the existence of a high national income, and the Government gives no indication of how social services are to be financed in the event of the collapse of prices overseas, which is possible. Indeed, the Prime Minister envisaged such a possibility in his speech in which “he used this .significant language -
Clearly the present comparative ease of revenue conditions must not be taken as the sole guide to budget policy. On the one hand, export income, which always has such a strong influence upon conditions within Australia, could fall rapidly if droughts occurred or if export prices, especially wool and wheat prices, were to decline from their present high level, this would have a .drastic effect upon public revenues. .Moreover, delayed sources of revenue, such as those ‘from tax arrears, which will again contribute substantially this yea-r. must diminish in later years.
Those are significant words “from the Prime Minister. Equally significantly, he fails to mention an alternative system of finance if that one should fail him. Members of the Labour party might well learn something from the Prime Minister’s talks to the nation, which are for them as well as other people. He talks of the dollar crisis. He tells people that we can no longer exist in the realm df splendid isolation and that we can no longer be unaffected by economic trends in other countries. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), who usually puts more thought into his speeches than do most of his colleagues, last night gave the impression to any one listening to him that, in -the event ‘of a collapse of prices, money Would not matter, prices would not matter, goods would not matter, and international relations would .not matter, and that all that would be needed would be the Australian Labour party. We want more realism than that. So this budget, from which so .much was obviously expected, failed to evoke the paeans of praise that those who desired to applaud expected it to do. The much-heralded reduction of taxes instead of being a benevolent gesture, proved, upon examination, to be a .malevolent deception. During the referendum campaign the people were told that if the Prime Minister carried out his threat to discontinue the payment of subsidies there must be a reduction of taxes to enable them to pay the increased costs that would inevitably follow such discontinuance. So, with that in mind, let us see what the budget offers. It ‘ offers relief in direct taxes of £26,000,000. That figure is significant, and I ask honorable members to keep it in mind. As against it, subsidy payments have been discontinued on .many items including wool, jaw cotton, textiles and yarns, potatoes and coastal shipping, and the amount so saved is, :coincidentally enough, £26,000,000, exactly the equivalent of what is pretended to be relief from taxation. So it will be seen that the people generally - I am not referring to individuals - will reap absolutely no benefit from the so-called relief from direct taxes. There are a few small items of indirect tax of which they are to be relieved.
I wish now to refer to subversive elements in the community. I refer first to communism as a factor that will militate against the laudable objective of the Prime Minister to increase production in this country. I do not doubt the right honorable gentleman’s sincerity when he says that that is his earnest desire, and [ wish him well in his attempt to achieve it, but, when one relates that desire to other factors in the industrial set-up, which I shall refer to, it merits, to use a Johnsonian phrase, description as a triumph of hope over experience, or a kind of twisted reasoning which, if I may use a cliche, would be amusing if it were riot so politically tragic. For the last three years, the Opposition has been hammering at the Government to give the people some incentive in order to achieve quickly this increased production as a possible solution of the world’s problems. The answer that we have received on every occasion has been negative. It has been a recital of figures purporting to show the difference between production to-day and production in some remote era of the past. It has been negative all the way through. The Government has launched its campaign for increased production at a time when industrial sabotage is being threatened or practised on a scale hitherto unknown in Australia, when the 40-hour week which was sponsored by the Labour party in a period of unprecedented shortages is doing more to retard production in this country than any other single factor, and when excessive taxation is still acting as a deterrent. All that emerges is our satisfaction that at last the Government has recognized that the millions of pounds in money that it so gleefully quotes on all sorts of inappropriate occasions is not an effective substitute for millions of tons of produce that a hungry world is waiting for. But despite all the handicaps both parties of the Opposition will give of their best to ensure the success of the drive for noi increased production. I tell the Ministry now that the primary producers will readily co-operate, particularly if they are encouraged to believe that their efforts will be reflected in their own bank balances instead of in the swollen coffers of the Treasury. But, in my consideration of this Communist menace, and the apparent reluctance of the Government to take any positive steps to circumscribe the activities of Communists, I have always found it strange that the Labour party, whilst affecting to abhor communism and all its works, has never once failed to encourage the Communists by defending them in this Parliament on every single occasion when they have been assailed. It is my belief that this is simply a part of a new technique, which is to use communism as a sort of stalking-horse and to induce the country to become agitated over communism while the Government tries to implement its policy of socialism. If I may use sporting parlance, I believe, that what Australia has to be afraid of is that the Government will feint with communism in order to deliver a knock.OUt punch with socialism. Socialism has been described as the twin brother of communism or the kindergarten stage of communism, and it is well said that if we get either our future will be a state of disciplined slavery. Let us throw aside the idea that communism flourishes only in squalor and destitution. This theory, which has been put forward by Ministers in the Parliament, shows a very poor appreciation of the zeal of the idealists who propounded the doctrine, many of whom have university degrees and only a most abstract knowledge of what privation means. It may be true that hungry and disillusioned people may provide a fruitful source of recruitment, but those people do not embrace communism as a deep-rooted conviction. They embrace it in the hope that they will be able to pp-t something out of it. The doctrine of communism is not instilled into them at all. Communism is and is intended to be a system of government which is opposed to democracy. If it were otherwise, I should say that there would be no communism in Australia because as a logical consequence of the shortages brought about by the war, there are more jobs than men in Australia to-day. Yet, in spite of that, communism is becoming more arrogant with every year that passes. The admirable objective of work for all has been achieved in this country, not because of anything that governments have done, but in spite of it. Australia’s problem is not necessarily to ensure work for all. Our problem is to ensure that all shall work. It is in this respect that the Communist is frustrating the efforts of government and private employers alike. Let us be more realistic in. our dealings with this menace to constitutional government. If communism is a political philosophy, as the Prime Minister seems to think it is, it is a challenge that must be accepted by democracy. We should cease to follow the line of least resistance, and of trying vainly to console ourselves with the belief that things that have happened elsewhere cannot happen here. They can happen here. A well planned coup could reduce us very quickly to the position of many other peoples in the world whose tolerance wrought their undoing. They too believed that these things could not happen in their countries. I instance Roumania, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Poland. The people of each of those countries thought that what had happened elsewhere could not happen in their homeland ; but it did happen. If the Government does not want Australia to become a satellite of a foreign power, let it take fiction to protect the country from the menace that is threatening it. [ propose now to touch briefly upon the subject of defence. It might be reasonable to say that the 7,500,000 people in Australia cannot afford to provide the millions of pounds necessary effectively to defend this country, but it can with equal truth be said that we cannot afford not to expend those millions of pounds. As a feature has been made of the millions of pounds which the Government intends to expend on defence over a period of years, it is perhaps appropriate that I should say that honorable members on this side of the committee will not cavil at that expenditure so long as they have reason to believe that we are getting value for our money. The people of Australia are
Mr. Bowden. entitled to be warned that the number of millions of pounds expended on defence is by no means a suitable criterion by which to judge the effectiveness of our defence preparations. They are entitled to know that our security may be seriously undermined by bad administration, and by bad diplomacy which begets enmity rather than goodwill in our neighbouring States. The evil effects of bad diplomacy can never be compensated for by the expenditure of millions of pounds on defence. The ‘Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) hit the headlines in the press last week with his statement on defence. The honorable gentleman, boasted that the Government to-day is expending 6.5 per cent, of the national income on defence, whereas, before the war, when the danger to Australia’s security was more imminent, a non-Labour government was expending only 4 per cent, of the national income for that purpose. If he had related the national income before the war to the national income to-day he would have found that, proportionately, the non-Labour government had expended considerably more od defence than the present Government is doing. Obviously his statement wa* published in an attempt to discredit the non-Labour government and I wish to make some comments on it so that what the Minister has said and what I have to say may be put side by side by the people. The 4 per cent, of the national income expended by the non-Labour government on defence was voted in the teeth of all the opposition which the Labour party of the day could bring to bear. The people should know that in 1939 Labour was so little cognizant of the menace to the safety of this country that every single Labour member in this House voted against the National Security Bill. If by chance some one might think that Labour members had merely slipped a little on that issue, let me continue the story. When an amending bill was brought down in June 1940, nine months afterwards, no fewer than nine members of the Labour party voted against taking the most elementary precautions to secure the safety of the country. The public should know these things. The policy of Labour right through the ‘thirties was that not one single person who enlisted in the armed forces should be required to serve outside Australia. That meant that any potential enemy was virtually told that he could take all the time he chose to establish his bases around our coast line and that when he was ready he could come here and make a battleground of our country. That was Labour’s policy in the ‘thirties. Yet Labour supporters to-day are criticizing what was done by the non-Labour government in 1939. I join issue with the Minister as to whether the danger was any greater in 1939 than it is to-day. He would be a bold man who would say that it was. I doubt very much whether we were less prepared in 1939 than we are to-day. Although we now have a few items of equipment, a few guns and a few aeroplanes, we have lost something immeasurably more valuable. In 1939, between us and a potential enemy we had a unit of the fleet of a friendly power and the goodwill of the nation that owned the fleet. I refer to the Dutch nation, and the Dutch fleet which was a considerable factor in the defence of Australia. To-day, both the Dutch fleet and the goodwill of the Dutch people, are like the mows of yesteryear, non-existent. No number of millions of pounds expended on defence in Australia will compensate us for the loss of the goodwill of the Dutch people. The sooner the Minister for Defence wakes up to this fact the better it will be for him.
Honorable members may have read recently that General Sir Thomas Blarney has taken the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to task for inviting soldiers in army units to go over the heads of their commanding officers and write to him upon matters that concern them. When politics enter the Army, discipline walks out of it. No self-respecting commanding officer who has an obligation to maintain discipline and, at the same time, to bring his unit to a state of fitness to meetany contingency or crisis that may arise, would tolerate political interference with his command.
– The Russians found it necessary to abolish political commissars from their armed forces.
– That is so. Any soldier is free to write to the Minister on matters not related to army routine, but most of the letters which the honorable gentleman will receive will be from disgruntled individuals who, having been disciplined by their commanding officers, are still smarting under it. They will tell him how naughty their commanding officer has been. The Minister will probably ask for an inquiry into these complaints. No self-respecting officer of the Australian Army would stand such interference. It might be said by the Minister, “ We shall sack the officer and get some one else to take his place “. If bt did so he would be compelled to sack officer after officer until he got some sycophantic lap-poodle who would be willing to do his bidding. The parallel to this state of affairs is to be found in Russia. It is in the memory of most of us that Russia, with 180,000,000 people, declared war on a little State of 4,000,000 people, like an elephant attacking a mouse, but that the little State, because it had discipline in its ranks, held up the Russians for several months, thereby losing to the Red Army considerable prestige. The reason is not difficult to find. At that time the Russians had placed political commissars in army units with authority to override orders given by commanding officers. These political commissars exercised their powers to such a degree that the mouse almost defeated the elephant. As soon as the Russians learned their mistake the political commissars were withdrawn from the armed forces, and ever since the Russians have been careful to avoid political interference in the affairs of the army. I ask the Minister to take notice of the warning of Sir Thomas Blarney and to scrap his proposal before it goes any farther. If he does not do so, I would undertake to defeat his army with high school girls from Canberra. Commanding officers will have no control whatever over their units if the Minister persists with this silly invitation. ‘At least the honorable gentleman cannot claim that he has not been warned.
I come now to the subject of widows’ pensions. I believe that the only way to tackle this problem of widows’ pensions is to appoint a committee of the Parliament to investigate the whole subject. There are so many complexities about widows’ pensions that the proposal to make an overall increase of 5s. in the pension rate is simply to evade the issue. The president of the War Widows Craft Guild, Mrs. Vasey, only last week said that with the 5s. increase the widows are now worse off than they were in 1945. . believe that to be true. The position cannot be met by the Minister for Repatriation arranging with one of his colleagues to ask some question which enabled him to refer to the £7 or £8 a week which certain widows receive. Payments of that amount are made only to widows with large families. I ask the Minister to consider the plight of widows with only one child who at present receive 47s. 6d. a week. Such widows are permitted to earn a maximum of 30s. a week, bringing their total income to £3 17s. 6d. a week. If they have to pay 30s. a week for rent and to feed and clothe their children they would not have much out of their meagre pittance to invest in government loans. If, however, for any reason they are unable to earn the permissible income of 30s. a week their position is desperate indeed. The Parliament should admit that widows’ pensions constitute a complex social problem, and I suggest that the matter should be thoroughly investigated by an all-party committee in an endeavour to evolve a system which will give reasonable satisfaction to all.
A study of the pensions scheme for ex-servicemen discloses a condition of affairs which reflects little credit on the government of the day or the country which will tolerate it. In 1934, in the middle of the financial and economic depression, the maximum pension was 42s. a week, or 65 per cent, of the then basic wage. The present proposed increase of 5s. will bring the pension to only 47.5 per cent, of the present basic wage. That position is most discreditable, because it shows that the value of the pension has never been so low since 1934. As the basic wage is computed on the cost-of-living index, a pensioner is worse off during the greatest boom in our history than he was during the blackest days of the depression. On the 11th September last, Smith’s Weekly published two articles which provide an interesting study in contrasts. Whatever honorable members opposite may think of that newspaper, and however they may try to excuse themselves for reading it on the ground that they do not like it, they should sit up and take notice of these items. The first of them is entitled, “ Unions want £6 Rise in the Basie Wage “, and it states -
Arguments that the basic wage for a family unit (man, wife and two children) should be between £10 and £11 a week will be advanced by union advocates at an Arbitration Court hearing shortly.
The Court, which will sit probably in 0CU ber, will hear a claim for an immediate in crease of 30s. in the basic wage pleaded by * panel of union advocates.
Apart from this immediate claim, the panel is preparing a case for a basic wage rise oi £5 to £6 to meet the present-day cost of living.
I can almost hear honorable member* opposite saying, “Hear, hear! Good luck to them. I hope they get it”, and all that kind of drivel. We all might echo, “ Good luck to them “ if the country could afford it, and if such an increase would not paralyse industry and reduce everything to a state of chaos. But before we offer our best wishes, I shall read a portion of the second article, which if entitled “ Five-bob Insult to War Heroes in Pensions Increase “. It reads -
To hundreds of sick and wounded ex-service men who, in the battle against poverty, have to drag their aching and mutilated bodies daily to work, this “.five-bob” insult is » crowning humiliation.
Who can deny the truth of that statement? Who will dispute the fact that this partial Utopia in which we live ha» been made possible by those who sacrificed their virility in war, who have suffered ever since from that cause, and who, because of inadequate recognition resulting mainly from inexcusable ignorance, are condemned to an uninteresting, humiliating existence in the country to which they gave of the best that God gave to them - the glory and the bloom of their youth? Recently in this House, I joined with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and others in making a plea on behalf of the men who literally rotted for years in the horror prison camps of the Japanese. We urged that they should be paid a subsistence allowance at the rate of 3s. a day as the alternative to their daily ration, but our request was refused. I notice that the budget discloses a surplus of £17,000,000 in the
War Damage Insurance Fund, which was established to meet compensation claims for damage done to inanimate objects. Every native hut and coco-nut palm in New Guinea had its monetary value, and every claim has been paid, but not one penny of the War Damage Insurance Fund is to be paid for war damage done to the bodies and souls of human beings. It is a disgrace that we should give a newspaper the opportunity to describe an increase of pension as a “ five-bob insult “ and prove it to be true. The Government cannot dodge this issue. How easy it would have been to allocate £2.000,000 or £3,000,000 from the £17,000,000 surplus in the War Damage Insurance Fund to meet, to that amount at least, what is owing to former prisoners of the Japanese as a subsistence allowance. The balance could be earmarked for gratuity payments when they became due. The money would not be taken from the Consolidated Revenue fund and the cost would not have to be met from tax collections. If the Government were sincere, it would have granted that demand. I urge a revision of the pension scheme with a view to restoring at least the same relation as it had to the basic wage during the worst days of the financial and economic depression in 1934.
Reference is made in the Treasurer’s budget speech to hospital benefits. Honorable members opposite should listen carefully to what I am about to say. If :hey have not encountered this problem in their own electorates, I should like them to know what is happening in my constituency. The Treasurer proposes to increase from 6s. to 8s. a day the pay- ment for each bed occupied in the. public wards of public hospitals. Do honorable members opposite realize that the hospital benefit scheme has reduced almost to bankruptcy every hospital in Victoria? Hospitals which had no difficulty in financing their operations before the introduction of the scheme now do not know whether they will be able to pay their staffs from week to week. The reason is easy to discover. People who had cheerfully donated £10, £20, £25 or £50 to hospitals now take the view, “ We pay the social services contribution, and the Government is paying 6s. a day for every bed occupied in a public ward of e> public hospital, so why should we continue to make donations ? “. So they’ hand over a miserable £1 or so. Unintentionally, no doubt, the Government hae-‘ practically driven into bankruptcy every’ country hospital in Victoria. The sooner the Government realizes what is happening, the better it will be for all parties. Either the Commonwealth should assume financial responsibility for all these hospitals, or remain out of the field completely and allow the people to finance the institutions as they did in the past.
– Before World War II., the cost of maintaining a bed in a public ward of a public hospital was less than 5s. a day, but in future, the hospitals will receive 8s. a day for every occupied bed in a public ward.
– But the hospitals’ expenditure has been increased by rapidly rising costs.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) should not try to emulate the duck which, as soon as it wants not to see daylight, puts its head under its wing and “ kids “ itself that night has fallen. The Minister for Labour and National Service has some knowledge of the position, and I urge him to heed what I have said.
House adjourned at 10.10 p.m.
The following answers to question were circulated: -*
Exports: Budget Reference.
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
Mr,White asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
On how many occasions had the PostmasterGeneral’s Department been mentioned in the news service of the Australian Broad- casting Commission over the past twelve months?
Is there any reason why special consideration should be given to this department, other than the commission is controlled by the PostmasterGeneral?
Does the Postmaster-General’s Department advertise for employees over the commercial broadcasting stations ? If so, what has been the expenditure during the past few months?
Is this work that could be carried out by the Department of Labour and National Service? If so, why is this department not used?
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Regional directors’ have been appointed in New South Wales and Western Australia and are located in Sydney and Perth respectively. They are responsible to the DirectorGeneral for the general control and direction of Civil Aviation in their regions. In addition, they are responsible to the DirectorGeneral for the administration of the departmental staff and activities in their regions in accordance with approved policy. In particular they are responsible for ensuring that (i) the provisions of the Air Navigation Regulations and Air Navigation Orders are complied with-; <(«>) all air service operations are conducted in accordance with the -terms of the licences issued; (in) all aerodromes are maintained in a serviceable condition-; (iv) air -route and airway facilities are operated in .accordance with the standards defined.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice - “What is the total amount of taxation collected per head of the population in each State ot the Commonwealth for the year 1947-48 in relation to income tax (including companies) and social services contributions!
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The total amount of income tax (including war-time (company) tax) and social services contribution collected per head of population in each State of the Commonwealth for the year 1947-48 from individuals and companies was as follows:-
These figures do not include collections by the Central Office. A dissection of Central -Office collections according to State of residence is not available.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 September 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480916_reps_18_198/>.