18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mi. J. j. Clark) look .die chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– On various occasions the honorable member for Boothby and I have asked questions in connexion with the shipment of coal to Adelaide and the statements that have been made by the Premier of South Australia to the effect that that State is no,*, getting its fair quota, according to the arrangements made, of the coal produced in New South Wales. Can the Minister representing Hie Minister for Shipping and Fuel give me any assurance that the quota promised to South Australia is being. sent there?
– It is true that the honorable member and other representatives of South Australia, including the Minister for the Army, have been very concerned that South Australia might not have been getting its fair allocation of coal. I can give the honorable member a firm assurance that South Australia has been receiving its fair share of the coal exported from New South Wales. In 1947, at a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and the States, « target figure of coal production was decided upon and, in accordance with that figure, « quota was decided upon for export from New South Wales. At no time was a definite quota promised to South Australia or to any other State.. What was promised was that each State would receive an allocation in accordance with the production figure calculated at that time. South Australia was granted an allocation of 38 per cent, of the total volume of coal exported from New South Wales. From that time ,to the end of the first quarter of this year, that State has in fact received 34 per cent of the total quantity of coal exported from New South Wales. Therefore it is clear that South Australia has at all times received its fair share of such exports.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is true, as reported in the press, that he told an American United Press correspondent, Mr. McCadden, in an interview, that some prominent Americans in Tokyo were engaged in a conspiracy to assist Sergeant Gamboa to evade Australian immigration laws. Is it also true, as reported, that, in referring to .this matter, the Minister said that these American! included the chief of General MacArthur’s legal section, Mr. Alva Carpenter? Would the Minister consider, it to be an abnormal duty for an army legal officer to give advice on a point of law to a member of the army group to which he was attached? Has the Minister any evidence of a conspiracy by Carpenter or any other Americans in Tokyo such as that to which he has referred ? If so, what is that evidence? If there is no evidence, will the Minister make a statement to clarify a situation which appears to be calculated to impair the good relations between Australia and the United States of America?
– It is a fact that J gave a statement to Mr. George McCadden, a representative of the American United Press. It is also a fact that the statement, as I gave it to Mr. McCadden, has been published factually and textually. There has been no attempt on my part to impair relations between Australia and the .United States of America, and there has never been any such attempt in respect of any matters that have come before me concerning the treatment of people who want to come into this, country, or the treatment of our nationals who, under various subterfuges, have gone to other countries. I did say that there was a conspiracy upon the part ofcertain Americanofficials attached to Tokyo head-quarters to try to circumvent the Australian immigrationlaws. Ihave evidence of that, which I could disclose, but my case can rest entirely on the statements that have been tnade in the Australian press on this matter. The Melbourne Herald, onthe29th March of this year, said that action by Colonel Carpenter in theBamboa case had to be held up for a day because he was being married. The Melbourne Herald described Colonel Carpenter as SergeantGamboa’s lawyer. That newspaper has attempted tomake it appear that Colonel Carpenter spoke as General MacArthur’s legal adviser. Sometimes that newspaper says one thing and at other times it says other things, but the SydneyMorning Herald, on the 30th March last, attributed to Colonel Carpenter the following statement in reference to Gamboa : -
I gave him a few ideas to think over and he will let me know in a day orso what he has decided to do. Gamboa is a bit confused about developments and needs time to think themout.
In those words, the Sydney Morning Herald told us what Carpenter had to say about Gamboa. According to the same newspaper, Carpenter added -
I was speaking to him as a friend, not in an official capacity.
So, if Carpenter were speaking to Gamboa as a friend, General MacArthur does not come into the matter at all. If Carpenter did not speak in an official capacity, the American Government is not involved, and, therefore, the answer to the honorable member’s last question is that anything that I have done cannot possiblyimpair good relations between America and Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald puts it as I have stated and honorable members opposite, who are the political “ stooges “ in this Parliament for big business, of which the Sydney Morning Herald is one of the newspaper mouthpieces cannot run away so easily from that newspaper’s opinion. Sergeant Gamboa was not without ideas about how to circumvent Australia’s ‘immigration laws. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 28th March last, he was reported as having said in Tokyo that he intended to propose to Colonel Carpenter that he should be transferred temporarilyorper- manently tothe United State) Military Attaché’s staff in Melbourne. According to the capitalist press of this country. Sergeant Gamboa added thefollowing words:-
If the Australian Government objects to that, it isn’t SergeantGamboa they are attacking but the United States War Department.
Apparently that idea was a little too hot for ColonelCarpenter, because he did not attempt to crash through our immigration laws by trying to forceGamboa upon us as an unwelcome guest in the role of a chauffeur to the American colonel who is stationed in Melbourne. On the28th March last, the Melbourne Argus reported that Sergeant Gamboa had not given up hope Of getting to Australia, The report added -
Sergeant Gamboasaid he had an appointment with Mr. Carpenter and intended to propose that he should be transferred either temporarily or permanently to thestaff of the American Military Attache in- Melbourne.
Honorable members will recollect that I have quoted the opinion of the Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th March, two days later, stating that Colonel Carpenter had given Gamboa a few ideas to think over, and was waiting until the sergeant had done so. Then, ofcourse, a day was lost when Carpenter went and got married, which further delayed the operation of the conspiracy. Onthe28th March the Melbourne Argus reported that Sergeant Gamboa had not given up hope of getting to Australia.
Opposition members interjecting,
Mr.CALWELL- I realize that honorable members oppositeare getting too much informationnow-far too much. The Melbourne Herald stated that it was reported from Tokyo that diplomatic observers were puzzled by the “curious inflexibility “ of the “White Australia policy.Incidentally, it has nothing to do with America whether we have aWhite Australia policy or not. These “ diplomatic observers “, who were referred to later in the reportas “one American Embassy official”, are reported to have stated that this was the second time that General MacArthur” had personally intervened to request modification of the official Australian policy to prevent what he believed to be individual hardship or unjustifiable discrimination.
Of course, that assertion is entirely false. General MacArthur made no personal representations to the Australian Government on Sergeant Gamboa’s behalf, nor did he protest against the Australian Government’s decision in the matter. Another American diplomat was reported by the Melbourne Herald to have observed -
Taking a long-range view, it would seem that stiff-necked refusal to make reasonable exceptions will do more harm than good to the policy in the long run.
This was sheer interference with Australia’s immigration laws, which are the concern only of this nation. I hope that L have satisfied the honorable member for Wentworth that the Melbourne Herald is an unreliable source on which to base questions. I point out that in 1942 the attitude adopted towards the Americans by the Melbourne Herald and most other Australian newspapers was so hostile that most of their executives were not welcome at the American head-quarters.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Immigration, arises from statements that were made to me by several people during a recent visit to Darwin and North Queensland. Is the Minister aware that a considerable number of migrants from central and southern Europe, who have travelled to Darwin in chartered aircraft and proceeded southwards from Darwin by local aircraft, have been persons of a highly undesirable type, particularly in. their personal habits and hygiene? Is it true that the aircraft in which they have travelled south from Darwin have been found, on arrival at their destinations, to be in a revolting condition and have had to be fumigated and scoured before they could be used again? If this is so, what steps have been taken to educate these new arrivals in proper hygiene and cleanliness ? Is it proposed to permit any more of them to settle in Australia?
– I do not know whether the honorable gentleman personally investigated these allegations during his sojourn in Darwin and North Queensland or whether his statements are based merely upon what he has been told by other people.
Mr. Gr; mer*. ; We hear of similar happenings almost every day.
– The honorable member for Henty is every day the victim of fantastic stories that are told to him by all kinds of people. I shall cause inquiries to be made into statements that have been made by the honorable member for Parramatta. It may be that there are numbers of people coming from central and southern Europe who have noi the same standards of hygiene as have people from other parts of the world. They never did have them, if that is any information to the honorable gentleman. They will learn from their relatives and friends here to acquire better standards. If the inference that the honorable gentleman intends to be drawn from his statements Ls that these people will debase Australian standards and remain undesirables, I can assure him that that is not so. The aircraft in which these migrants travel to Australia are chartered aircraft. They are not now allowed to discharge their passengers at Darwin, but must come right through to Sydney. In all instances, the chartered aircraft comply with international aviation regulations. The standards required by those regulations are much lower than the standards required by the Department of Civil Aviation in Australia. According to our standards, the chartered aircraft are overcrowded but they are not overcrowded according to international standards.
– I referred also to local aircraft.
– I understand that local aircraft are no longer engaged in this traffic. The matter of charter flights is continually under review. Conditions have been considerably improved, even during the last fortnight.
– In view of the general uncertainty among English, Irish and Scottish migrants - ‘and I have spoken to many of them in my electorate - will the Minister for Immigration inform me of the position of such folk in relation to electoral enrolment?
– Any migrant from England, Scotland or Ireland who comes to Australia, either by paying his own fare or under the free and assisted passages scheme, is entitled to be enrolled as a voter for federal elections and, I think, for State elections too, after he has been resident in Australia for six months. The passage of the Nationality and Citizenship Act has not affected that position. The fact that such people have not become Australian citizens at the time of their enrolment does not prevent them from exercising all the privileges they would be able to exercise if that act ‘had not been passed.
– The Tumit-Gundagai road is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the Tumut and Gundagai shires, and is the main outlet to the Hume Highway. When work is commenced in the upper reaches of the Tumut River on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme that road will have to bear all the traffic.
– Order ! What is the honorable member’s question?
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing consider making a grant to the Government of New South Wales under Commonwealth defence power to enable the surface of the TumutGundagai road to be sealed,’ -so that it will be able to bear heavy traffic when work is commenced on the Snowy Mountains scheme?
– We hope that most of the heavy traffic will be carried by rail, although it is inevitable that additional use will be made of the roads. I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s request and take the matter up with the State authorities.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether preparations have been made for a survey of the Indian Ocean Empire air route from Western Australia to the United Kingdom via Cocos Island, Diego Garcia, Seychelles, Mombasa and Malta ? If not, is such a survey contemplated by the Government ?
– The honorable gentleman will probably remember that an announcement was made of a survey flight, which has since been completed, from Perth to South Africa via Cocos
Island and Mauritius. The flight was entirely successful, and it will be possible to operate a service over that route if the occasion arises. It is also possible to operate a service to England via Mombasa and through Castel Benito as an alternative route. A survey of the routes revealed that Cocos Island would have to be developed to provide adequate radio installations and repairs to airstrips. In its present condition it is not fit for use for regular services. However, a thorough survey has been made and the information obtained has been published. It is now known that it is possible to operate a service, and when the time comes we hope to be able to use it.
– Last week a Skymaster aircraft belonging to Air Ceylon, the Ceylon Government’s airline, was delayed at Darwin for some days, causing expense to the passengers and the company. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether trouble such as occurred then can be obviated in the future. I understand that the Minister said that a permit had not been granted for the entry of the aircraft. Does he not consider that the action taken, which caused considerable expense to the company as the result of what apparently was red tape procedure, was rather high-handed? Was that action influenced in any way by the fact that Air Ceylon uses crews employed by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which has a working arrangement with the company, and by the Tact that Ministers of the Ceylon Government, who visited Australia some time ago, were very critical of the Minister and alleged that he had been discourteous to them?
– The Australian Government was in no way responsible for the situation that arose, and some of the suggestions that have been made, including one by the honorable member, if it was correctly reported in the Melbourne Herald last Friday, were unwarranted. This matter has become confused by the varying reports which have appeared in the daily press and from which it might be deduced that the passengers on the Air Ceylon Skymaster delayed at Darwin last week suffered injustice and inconvenience as the result of action taken in .Australia. That is completely without justification. Whatever inconvenience or injustice was caused to the passengers was entirely the fault of those responsible for the arrival of the aircraft at Darwin without the prior authorization of the Australian authorities having been obtained. There were no grounds for an assumption that the flight could be undertaken without such authority and there was no room for any misunderstanding on the matter. Air Ceylon was involved in a similar incident only a few weeks ago, and as a result of an exchange of views on that occasion, the Government of Ceylon agreed specifically that no further flights to Australia would be permitted without prior authorization being obtained from the Australian authorities. Australia agreed, at Ceylon’s request, to permit four unscheduled flights in the March-April period, but emphasized to Ceylon that prior authorization must be obtained for each particular unscheduled flight. This provision is an international one and does not impose any unusual conditions on or against Ceylon. It is laid down by the Australian Air Navigation regulations, and a similar provision is imposed by Ceylon and was published in Notices to Airmen issued by Ceylon in 1948. There is nothing in the International Civil Aviation Organization Convention that permits Ceylon or any other country to disembark passengers and/or mail and cargo in Australia or any other country on unscheduled flights without permission and, in this case, permission had not been obtained. A published statement attributed to Mr. Ivan Holyman, managing director of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which is a partner in and operates for Ait Ceylon, show, if it has been correctly reported, that he is either misinformed or has not seen fit to make known the facts. Approval was sought by him on Friday, the 20th May, from my department for special relief aircraft to be sent ,to Darwin from the south to bring the passengers to Sydney. The matter was referred to me on the same evening, and I informed the Director-General of Civil Aviation that, if Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited chose to send a relief aircraft, no objections would be raised. In Mr. Holyman’s absence, as previously arranged, his operations superintendent was so informed, but apparently no enthusiasm existed for the operation as it was noi undertaken. Any delay to passengers from the 1.7 th May to the 20th May can be definitely attributed to the Ceylon Government and from the 20th May to ,the 22nd May to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited as the operator for Air Ceylon. As the result of further assurances given on behalf of the Ceylon Government, the aircraft was allowed to proceed on Saturday, the 21st May, and I hope that the necessity for delays of this kind will not again arise. It is essential that undertakings arrived at between governments should be carried out, and the undertaking given was not observed by Ceylon in this case. The matter is being further pursued and, in my view, it would not be helpful to enter into details on the steps taken or to be taken to avoid a repetition of .the occurrence. A communication has been received indicating that Ceylon accepts responsibility, and repeating assurances that permission for unscheduled flights will be sought. The suggestion by the honorable member for Balaclava that the action taken was high-handed is as ridiculous as were his uninformed comments, if they were correctly reported, which were published in the Melbourne Herald on Friday of last week.
Australian Broadcasting Commission : News Service
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission is completely re-organizing its independent news service, following a report by Mr. W. T. Harris? Is Mr. Harris an experienced journalist or press executive and competent to recommend such sweeping changes? Will the control of the new service now pass from one man to three men ? Has the Director of News been relegated to an administrative position at a lower salary? Is the officer who for many years occupied the position of Director of News, the position having now been abolished, identical with the officer who gave evidence before the Broadcasting Committee in 1946 in favour of an independent news service? Will the Minister request the Broadcasting Committee to inquire immediately into the re-organization of the news service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission with a view to ascertaining whether or not the former Director of News has been victimized?
– I shall bring the question asked by the honorable member to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral and request that a reply be given at an early date. From my own knowledge of broadcasting, as a former chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, I can say that Mr. Harris is not a journalist but a retired treasury official. I know Mr. Dixon, the Director of News, to whom the honorable gentleman has referred. He is one of the most honest men in the employ of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. My own feeling is that he has been victimized for his honesty.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation state whether there has been any development in relation to the request that I made some weeks ago that surplus beds at the Repatriation General Hospital, Rosemount, in Brisbane, should be made available for the use of civilian patients ? I referred to the desirability of handing over a portion of the hospital to the Brisbane and South Coast Hospital Board so as to assist in relieving the shortage of .beds for civilians. The Minister was good enough to send MajorGeneral Wootten, the chairman of the Repatriation Commission to Brisbane regarding this matter. Can he now say whether any satisfactory arrangements have been made along the lines that I suggested ?
– Inquiries regarding surplus accommodation at Rosemount Military Hospital have now been completed. I wrote to Mr. Jones, the Minister for Health in Queensland, this week, offering a certain portion of Rosemount Hospital to the Brisbane and South Coast Hospital Board to help relieve congestion in the accommodation for certain types of patients in that hospital. Several wards will be made available to that hospital and also certain ancillary services. This will be of advantage to the Queensland Government. I understand: that some additional wards will be available in the early future. The position is now being examined, and if we find that we have surplus beds at Rosemount they will be offered to the Queensland Government for use for civilian patients.
– In directing ‘ a question to the Minister for the Interior I refer to reports published last week-end that many aborigines were brought from Central Australia to Adelaide to take part in the making of a film by a private company, and that for more than two days and two nights they were in cattle trucks without hygienic or sanitary arrangements of any kind, and that their only covering was two blankets each. Ls the Minister’s department not responsible for the protection of the Australian aborigines in Central Australia, and, if not, who is responsible for the ghastly mis-treatment of this particular group of aborigines?
– The honorable member apparently has been misinformed. No natives have been transferred from Central Australia for any reason connected with the making of a film. The transport of the natives referred to was solely under the jurisdiction of the South Australian Government. The natives came from Ooldea in the far northern part of South Australia, and were taken to Quorn, which is also in South Australia.
– Ooldea is on the Commonwealth’s transcontinental railway line.
– Ooldea is in South Australia and the natives concerned are not under my jurisdiction, nor has the Australian Government any control over them. They were at all times under the control and supervision of the Minister in charge of native affairs in South Australia. The only allegation that could be directed against the Australian Government in this matter would be in respect of their transport on the Commonwealth railways. I had that aspect investigated and this morning I issued a statement to the press revealing that they were transported in vans which had been used for the transport of Australian soldiers during the war. No sanitary conveniences were provided in the vans because of the frequency of stops at each of which points such conveniences are available.
Sales Tax on Ice - Income Tax Rebates.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister relating to sales tax on ice. I. should like to explain that ice is used in homes for the purpose of food preservation and to that degree it is as indispensable as electricity and gas used in the operation of mechanical refrigerators. As electricity, gas and basic foods are not subject to sales tax, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the removal of the 10 per cent, sales tax at present charged on every block of ice?
– Th e imposition of sales tax on ice has been the subject of a number of investigations. On the last -occasion on which representations were made to me on this subject which was about eighteen months ago, I referred it to the special advisory taxation committee of which the Minister for Health was acting as chairman in place of the right honorable member for Yarra. On several occasions I have rejected requests for the removal of sales tax on ice, and the report of the advisory committee on the subject fully justified the decisions which [ have made from time to time. However, sales tax is constantly under review and its application to ice as well as to other articles will be examined when the sales tax schedules are being reviewed.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer concerning the income tax rebate allowed to persons who pay insurance premiums. In view of the fact that legislation enacted during the war greatly increased the amount of estate duty payable on estates and in view of the depreciated value of the £1, Australian citizens have found it necessary to insure themselves for high sum 8 in order to provide for the security of their families. In the light of those circumstances, I ask the Treasurer whether the Government has considered or whether it will consider increasing the maximum amount which may be applied under this heading for tax rebate purposes. The maximum amount allowed at present is £100.
– The honorable member for Fawkner has mentioned this matter to me personally on a previous occasion, and a number of other honorable members, including the honorable member for Griffith, who has always feltstrongly about the subject, as well as several deputations have raised this question with me, and made particular reference to the aspect of superannuation. The honorable member for Fawkner will recall that the maximum rebate for employers and employees, except in special cases relating to employers, has been fixed at £100. I have examined this matter very fully, and have asked the Commissioner of Taxation to prepare a report on ii for me. The representations that have been made to me by honorable member.-; on both sides of the chamber and by deputations will receive consideration before the budget session.
Non-official Post Offices - Mildura Facilities.
– I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether he will confer with his colleague, first, with a view to increasing the salary of non-official postmasters and postmistresses who at present are sadly underpaid in comparison with salaries paid in other occupations and, secondly, with a view to ensuring that sufficient relieving officers are made available to enable these persons to take holidays, most of them having been unable to do so for a number of years?
– I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to prepare a full reply to the honorable member’s question, and I shall convey the information to him as soon as possible.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in regard to postal facilities in Mildura. The residents of that city desire the establishment of a new post office situated one mile from the main office to serve 1,500 people in the area. No new building would be required. In such circumstances does the Postmaster-General view with favour the establishment of additional post offices? Will the honorable gentleman present to the Postmaster-General a petition signed by 103 residents of Mildura who. asked that favorable consideration be given to these requests?
– I shall be very pleased to discuss with the PostmasterGeneral the matters raised by the honorable member. Seeing that the petition has been signed by local residents, and that it concerns the provision of additional social services and has nothing to do with the nationalization of banking, I shall present it to the Postmaster-General with pleasure.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing table a list of all building contracts let under the £11,000,000 housing scheme for displaced persons together with the estimates received? Has the fixed fee principle been generally applied to such contracts? On what basis is the fee computed ; and who is responsible for the policing of sub-contracts under the scheme? Will all details be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report? Where superior sites and buildings have been obtained by the Commonwealth for this project will the Government consider the transfer of such sites and buildings to the States concerned for emergency accommodation in exchange for buildings at present used for such purposes? In particular, will the Minister consider the exchange of Broughton House, at Burwood, New South Wales, for an equivalent amount of accommodation available at Hargrave Park ?
– Thanks to the cooperation of the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Air many huts and other structures have been made available which we shall be able to convert for housing displaced persons. In addition, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has made available many wool sheds which were used during the war for storing wool which had been acquired under the British appraisement scheme. The partitioning of these huts and sheds will require the use of very little material. Because of these arrangements it will not be necessary to expend anything like the amount of £11,000,000 which has been provided for this purpose. Portion of the money will be expended in bringing to Australia Nissen huts from Great Britain, which were purchased a« the result of a very good deal made by the Prime Minister whilst he was in that country, and Quonset huts from Manus Island which were obtained as the result of an excellent arrangement made by the Prime Minister with the American Foreign Liquidation Commission. Only a limited amount of work will have to be done to make these huts habitable. That work, and the installation of interna! fittings in the woolsheds, will be carried out by day labour by my department. Prototype construction will be decided upon after the differences between army huts, Nissen huts and Quonset huts have been checked. Some of the work will be undertaken on a contract basis, but most of it will be done on a fixed fee basis to be determined after our quantity surveyors have assessed the value of the work. All of the work will be carried out under the supervision of the Department of Works and Housing. The honorable member has asked whether these works will be submitted to the Public Works Committee. Generally, contracts for housing and accommodation are let in comparatively small amounts and for that reason are not submitted to the committee. Broughton House, to which the honorable member has referred is under the control, not of my department but of the Department of Immigration.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction what is the number of Asiatic students studying at Australian universities under the auspices, and at the expense of, the Australian Government? What is the total financial commitment of the Australian taxpayers for this purpose ? Have similar opportunities been offered to the United
Kingdom and Dominion students to study in Australia? If not, will such opportunities be offered? When will the Fulbright Act, under which American students may attend Australian universities at the expense of the Government of the United States of America, be permitted to operate? Is the act in-operative now because of the inaction or disapproval of the Australian Government?
– Obviously I am not able to state off-hand the exact number of Asiatic students now attending Australian universities, nor can I state the cost. I shall obtain the information that the honorable member seeks, and supply it to him as soon as possible. The latter part of the honorable member’s question Ls a matter for the Prime Minister in his capacity as acting for the Minister for External Affairs.
Assistance to Large Families
– I understand that it is customary for a special monetary contribution to be made to the parents of triplets. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether consideration has been given at any time to giving special financial recognition to parents who have more than fifteen children. If not, will consideration be given to this matter? I have in mind a family of seventeen children, the father of whom is earning a very low wage. Does the Minister not think that the gift of a home would be a reasonable gesture in such cases?
– I must admit that I do not know whether any special grants have been given in the circumstances outlined by the honorable member, but I agree that they should be. I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Social Services.
– I address a question to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction which arises from a letter that I have received from the secretary of the Murray Valley Soldier Settlers’ League. The activities of that organization cover the Cobram-Numurkah-Nathalia area, in which, I understand, the biggest soldier settlement scheme in Australia is being undertaken. The secretary of the league states -
I am instructed by the members of the above league to request you, as our member, to ascertain from Mr. Dedman, Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, the Federal Government’s attitude towards soldier settlement in Victoria. The reason for this request is, that whenever we, as settlers, inquire the reasons for the delay in valuation of our blocks, we are informed, that the State of Victoria cannot reach agreement with the Commonwealth. We would very much appreciate your assistance in this matter, in order that we may know the Federal attitude.
My question is contained in that letter. The point that I wish to emphasize is that although the war ended four years ago, and many hundreds of ex-servicemen have been settled on the land it is not yet possible, owing to circumstances that I do not understand, for any of these men, in Victoria at least, to get a valuation of his property. This obviously is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
– I was asked a question in the House last week on the same matter. I explained then that a difficulty had arisen in relation to the interim valuation of soldier settlement blocks in Victoria. That is the only State in the Commonwealth with which I have had any difficulty, all the other States having accepted the principles laid down by the Australian Government. Because I could not reach agreement with the Soldier Settlement Commission in Victoria, the Premier of Victoria entered into correspondence on the subject with the Prime Minister and asked that a conference should take place on this matter. A conference on a departmental level was held. The results of the conference have not yet been communicated of the Prime Minister or, I understand, to the Premier of Victoria. Certainly, the Prime Minister has not heard further about the matter from the Premier of Victoria, and, until the Premier of Victoria makes further advances on the matter, there is nothing that I can do about it. I assure the honorable member that the Australian Government has the matter in hand.
Proposed Industrial Disturbance
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service give the House any information about the strike which, according to press reports, is to take place in Canberra to-morrow? Will the strike involve many employees in Canberra, and will it include those concerned with transport and the supply of food for members of Parliament and other members of the- Public Service? Is the Minister aware that very many of the persons who have been directed to strike are most reluctant to do so and would welcome the protection of the Government? Have any arrangements been made for the Parliament to meet at a later hour to-morrow in order that honorable members may have time to make their own beds and get their own breakfasts?
– I assure the honorable member for Fawkner that his bed and breakfast will be all right. There was some talk about a strike in Canberra. T do not know that anybody was very serious about it; but, whether they were or not. it is all off now.
– In view of the great importance” of Hong Kong to Australian defence I ask the Prime Minister whether Australia has considered using its Army, Navy and Air Force personnel in Japan for the defence of Hong Kong if it should be threatened by the Chinese Communist army? Should the British Government request such help - and that is quite likely, I imagine - is Australia able to supply any armed assistance from either Japan or Australia ?
– The sending of Australian troops to Hong Kong has not been considered by the Government. No request has been made by the British Government for such assistance. I have discussed the matter generally with the British Government and with British ministers but there was no sugestion that additional assistance would be needed from Australia. If a request is made, naturally the Government will give it immediate consideration.
I think I said in answer to a question last week that I believed that fear for the safety of Hong Kong was rather exaggerated. The British Government has taken steps for the preservation of law and order by sending certain forces to Hong Kong. If a request for assistance from Australia is made by the British Government, it will be given every consideration.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Conde, the commissioner administering the electricity undertaking in Sydney during the present power crisis has been urging industrialists to install auxiliary power plants to relieve the situation? If so, will the Prime Minister inform the House of his policy on the issue of petrol allowances to industrialists who install such power plants? Some time ago. the Prime Minister told me that it was not the policy of the Government, to grant petrol allowances for auxiliary power plants. In view of the grave crisis threatening Sydney, will the right honorable gentleman alter that policy and announce to the House that industrialists who are enterprising enough to install power plants will be assured of petrol supplies ?
– The use of auxiliary power plants was considered first in the case of the trouble that occurred at Perth as the result of the failure of generators in that city, and a decision was then made on the circumstances in which petrol or other oil fuel would be supplied for such plants. The principle laid down worked very satisfactorily. Mr. Dumas administered the scheme. It was necessary under that scheme to ascertain before quotas could be granted whether requests for allowances of liquid fuel for auxiliary power plants were justifiable. I discussed the situation in Sydney with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel last week and on other occasions. A decision was made in the Perth case that auxiliary power plants were not to be installed without the permission of the authorities controlling the rationing of petrol and oil. We wanted applicants to understand clearly that auxiliaryplants were not to be used for non-essential purposes. Subject to that requirement, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel dealt with each case on its merits and supplies of fuel were allotted to essential users. I am sure that the Minister will give careful and sympathetic consideration to all applications that may be made for liquid fuel allowances for auxiliary power plants in Sydney. I know of no obstacles caused by petrol rationing which would prevent effect being given to the request made by Mr. Conde, who is in charge of electricity rationing in Sydney. I emphasize, however, that, before a petrol quota can be granted for the operation of an auxiliary power plant, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel must be satisfied that the plant is absolutely essential to industry and is not intended to be used in connexion with entertainments or other non-essential activities. The Minister must be satisfied that the use of auxiliary power plant is necessary for the conduct of industry and the maintenance of the economy.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether farming machinery is still being exported from Australia. If so, will the Minister prepare a statement setting out the types of machinery being exported, the value of such machinery and the countries to which it is being exported, according to the latest available figures?
– Only minor quantities of Australian agricultural machinery are being exported. Those exports are subject to permit and consist mainly of types of implements that are in surplus production in Australia. In addition, some quantities of replacement parts are being shipped to the United Kingdom for implements which were supplied to that country during the war.
Accommodation at Lapstone Hotel.
– On the 17th March last I asked the Prime Minister certain questions about expenditure that the Australian Government had incurred on the Lapstone Hotel in connexion with the conference of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. As I explained to the right honorable gentleman at the time, the hotel was being advertised for sale by public auction at an early date. The right honorable gentleman informed me that the Commonwealth had spent approximately £8,000 on the hotel, and be promised to ascertain for me how much of that amount had been recovered. To date, I have not received the information, and I now ask the Prime Minister whether it is available.
– If the detailed information has not been supplied to the honorable member, I must apologize for the delay. An amount of approximately £8,000 was expended on the hotel in connexion with the conference of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. After the conference had concluded, the Department of the Interior proposed to dispose of the fittings and other equipment that had been installed for the occasion. However, the proprietors or the manager of the Lapstone Hotel asked for an opportunity to make an offer for those fittings in order to avoid removing them from the premises. Apparently, I have failed to make available to the honorable gentleman the details of the amount that the Commonwealth has recovered from the expenditure of the £8,000, but I shall supply the information to him as quickly as possible. I understand that the Lapstone Hotel has been offered for sale at public auction.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you have observed in last Sunday’s issue of Truth a report that the Victorian police will make an application this week to the Postmaster-General to have all the telephones at the federal members’ rooms in Melbourne cut off as the result of a person having been convicted of a breach of the State gam bling laws by using those premises for that purpose. I realize that honorable members will have an opportunity to raise this matter during the debate in committee on the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1949-50, butI should like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to inform me who is responsible for ensuring that persons do not use the federal members’ rooms in various cities to break the gambling laws of the respective States. Will you also say who is responsible for performing a similar function in respect of this Parliament House?
– I have no knowledge of the newspaper report to which the honorable member has referred. The Department of the Interior controls the federal members’ rooms in the various cities, and is responsible for the maintenance and the conduct of those premises.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether any persons other than British nationals may be elected to the Legislative Council that will administer the territories of Papua and New Guinea?
-I am not aware that any persons other than British nationals or subjects have an opportunity to be elected to the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea, but I shall study the ordinance relating to the control and election of that body and supply an answer to the honorable member’s question as early as possible.
Mr.CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Prime
Minister and Treasurer). - by leave - in response to a question by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) on the 18th May last, I promised to make a statement to the House on the present position in relation to petrol rationing in Australia. In recent months there has been a considerable improvement in the world supply position of petroleum products and also in the availability of tankers. If supply considerations were the only factors to be taken into account, there would probably be no need to continue petrol rationing in Australia at the present time. However, it is still necessary to ration the consumption of petrol in Australia in order to save dollars. Because significant and increasing quantities of petrol are available from sterling sources of supply, the need for restricting imports on dollar conservation grounds is frequently not clearly understood. The matter must be considered from the standpoint of the sterling area as a whole.
In spite of increased output, the production of petroleum products from British-controlled sources is still not sufficient to satisfy the needs of the sterling area and maintain exports to foreign countries which must be kept up in order to save gold or dollars, secure essential supplies and assist in the rehabilitation of Europe. The substantial net deficiency has to be made up by importing petroleum products into various parts of the sterling area from dollar sources of supply. Accordingly, it is still necessary to limit consumption in Australia in order to assist in reducing the dollar cost of petrol to the sterling area as a whole and thus reduce the drain on the gold and dollar reserves of the United Kingdom.
If Australia’s imports of sterling petrol are increased, the net result will be to compel some other country in the sterling area to import a greater proportion of its requirements from dollar sources. On the other hand, any reduction of Australia’s imports of petrol from any sources saves dollars because it reduces the quantity of petrol which the sterling area, as a whole, requires to import to make up the deficiency between production from British-controlled sources and the requirements of the sterling area and other essential markets.
Apart from the fact that the sterling area has to import petrol from dollar sources, dollar costs are involved even in respect of petroleum products from British-controlled sources. In a speech made in the House of Commons on the 19th May last, the British Minister for Fuel and Power, Mr. Gaitskell, pointed out that of the total production of the sterling companies, only 10 per cent. is produced within the British Commonwealth and only about another 5 per cent. in sterling countries outside the British Commonwealth. Accordingly, about 85 per cent. of the output of sterling companies is produced outside the sterling area and the companies incur heavy dollar expenses for production equipment. plant, &c., and have to pay heavy royalties to Persia and Venezuela. These expenses, although not paid directly in gold or dollars, have an adverse effect on the sterling area’s balance of payments with the countries concerned, and ultimately give rise to gold or dollar payments. Further, when explaining why the United Kingdom itself could not obtain more motor spirit from British companies and pay sterling for it, Mr. Gaitskell pointed out that if these companies were forced to give up their other markets, which are predominantly in the sterling area, the other sterling area countries would be forced to draw- more dollars in order to replace the petrol diverted to the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom Government does not publish figures indicating the extent of the net dollar drain arising from the consumption of petroleum products in the sterling area, but estimates are supplied to the Australian Government on a confidential basis. I am, therefore, not at liberty to disclose to the House the precise figures involved. I am willing, however, to show confidentially to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) the latest estimates of the net dollar cost to the sterling area of petroleum imports, which [ have just received from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I feel, however, that honorable members should know that the net dollar cost of oil consumed in the sterling area currently amounts to some hundreds of millions of dollars.
– This heavy dollar expenditure must be viewed against the background of the very grave overall dollar position with which the United Kingdom, Australia and other sterling area countries are confronted. In pass ing, I point out to any honorable member who imagines that the difficulties of striking a balance in the dollar area have decreased that he is very much mistaken, because, if anything, those difficulties have increased. Despite rigorous economy in dollar expenditure and strenuous efforts to increase dollar earnings, the sterling area’s balance of payments with the dollar area remains heavily adverse, And if it were not for the continued dollar aid which the United States Government is providing under the European recovery programme the remaining gold and dollar reserves of the United Kingdom, which are the reserves of the whole sterling area, would be rapidly dissipated. In 3948-49 the allotment of European recovery programme dollar aid to the United Kingdom was 1,239,000,000 dollars. “With this aid the United Kingdom Government was able to meet its current dollar commitments without any substantial drawing against its remaining gold and dollar reserves. Even if the full amount of dollar aid contemplated by the United States’ administration in 1949-50 is approved by Congress - and that is by no means certain - the allotment to the United Kingdom is to be cut to 940,000,000 dollars, a reduction of 25 per cent, on the 1948-49 figures. It is the firm policy of the United Kingdom Government to maintain its gold and dollar reserves at about the present level, and this means that the United Kingdom dollar import programme has had to be adjusted to take account of the reduced level of aid which will be available for 1949-50. The dollar problem remains the most difficult and pressing problem with which the United Kingdom Government is confronted in the economic field, and honorable, members will be aware that the dollar export drive has been placed in the forefront of the United Kingdom Government’s economic programme for the coming year. In the light of this general situation there can be no justification for contemplating the abolition of petrol rationing in Australia at the present time.
Some of the statements which have been made in the last few weeks have given a completely false impression of the situation. For example, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has made repeated statements concerning an offer of additional Middle East supplies against payment in sterling not convertible into dollars. The right honorable gentleman has referred to letters from the company concerned dated the 31st August, 1948, and the 18th October. 194S. I have since received a further letter from the company dated the 10th May, 1949, and a letter dated the 24th
May, 1949, from another company, offering additional supplies from the same source in the Middle East. As I have already explained on a number of occasions, additional supplies of petrol are available from many companies provided we have the dollars to pay for it. These companies, however, have claimed that they can supply the petrol against payment in sterling. I have made thorough inquiries into the currency aspects of these offers. On the detailed and authoritative information supplied to me by the United Kingdom Treasury and the Bank of England, it is quite clear that, although the initial payments may be made in sterling, the Bank of England is ultimately required to provide dollars for the supplies concerned. The crude oil from which the petrol is produced is paid for in dollars up to the extent of 75 per cent. The refinery uses American refinery plant and employs dollar-paid staff. Dollars are also required for profits and depreciation. In fact, the oil which has been offered is, in the ultimate, almost entirely paid for in dollars.
Statements have also been made suggesting that if petrol rationing in Australia were lifted, the additional cost would not exceed 5,500,000 dollars a year. Actually, the increased expenditure would be much greater. Th© Government has gone into this matter very carefully and on all the information available has come to the conclusion that if rationing were terminated petrol consumption would go up by about 20 per cent. Consumption on the present rationed basis for 1949-50 is estimated at 440,000,000 gallons, and an increase of 20 per cent, on this rate of consumption would involve the purchase of an additional 88,000,000 gallons, which would cost somewhere about 1.4,000,000 dollars. If controls on other petroleum products were also lifted, as would be necessary, the additional cost would be about another 3,000,000 dollars. The total cost of abandoning controls would, therefore, be about 17,000,000 dollars in the next twelve months. A further point is that the Australian position cannot be looked at in isolation. If petrol rationing were lifted throughout the sterling area, the additional cost would represent a very heavy additional burden on the sterling area’s dollar resources.
It has been suggested in some of the statements that Australia is being called on to make greater sacrifices than other Empire countries. Comparisons of this kind, which take no account of differing circumstances, in the various countries, are extremely misleading. After examining the position and taking account of all the circumstances, I am satisfied that the share of the common burden imposed by the dollar scarcity which is at present being borne by Australia is no more than fair and. reasonable.
Even on the present rationing basis, consumption of petrol in Australia ‘asteadily increasing. This increased usage arises partly from increased demands bv essential users and tartly from the rapid growth of new registrations of private motor vehicles. The increase in consumption over the past three years itshown in the following table: -
Thus, even with the present scale of rationing, larger imports of petrol will b<required to meet increasing demand.
Looking to the future, the British Minister of Fuel and Power emphasized in the speech that he made in the House of Commons on the 19th May that, although the output of petrol by sterling companies in 1949 was. expected to be about 500,000 tons above 1948, sterling area consumption, on the present rationing basis, was also increasing. Further substantial increases in output from sterling refineries are planned but will take some time to bear fruit. As newrefineries are completed in the next few years it is expected that it will be possible to achieve quite a substantial reduction in the net dollar deficit of the sterling area as a whole. Because of the direct relationship between the petrol position and the over-all dollar situation, the Australian Government has maintained the closest contact with the United Kingdom Government on petrol rationing policy, and this consultation will continue. Future developments will be closely followed and rationing policy will be varied from time to time as circumstances permit. The present restrictions in Australia are broadly in line with those which the United Kingdom Government is imposing on its own people. Special inquiries made during the past week have indicated that similar pressures for the relaxation of petrol rationing have developed in certain quarters in the United Kingdom, but that the United Kingdom Government has re-affirmed the necessity for continuing to exercise strict economy to save dollars.
There is no desire on the part of the Australian Government to continue rationing. Indeed, I should not think that any administration would desire to continue rationing, with all its attendant difficulties. Rationing is anything but popular, and it presents considerable administrative difficulties. It is being continued purely because the Government desires to play its part in helping the United Kingdom in its economic struggle. It is in fact the aim of the Government to remove petrol rationing at the earliest possible moment, consistent with the paramount need to assist the United Kingdom in overcoming its overall dollar difficulties. Earlier, while I was speaking, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked, “Why can we not have the figures?” The figures that I have obtained were supplied confidentially by the British Treasury. A number of other bodies associated with dollar commitments, including the European recovery plan administration, were involved in their preparation. If they were my figures, I should be glad to disclose them to the public in order to show how stupid this kind of agitation is. It has been aroused entirely by vested interests with the object of increasing their profits, but with a total disregard of the interests’ of the Empire. I am not permitted to disclose the figures, but I shall do the. next best thing by giving an assurance, “to the public that the Government’s attitude .in regard to petrol rationing is fully justified. I am prepared to show to the Leader of the Opposition the “ figures that have been supplied to me by the British Treasury and also a confidential statement from Sir Stafford Cripps, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom Government. I am prepared to do so to prove to him that the statement 1 have made on behalf of the Government is absolutely correct and that the continuance of petrol rationing is necessary in the interests of the economic security, not only of the United Kingdom but also of all the countries in the sterling area.
Bill presented by Mr. Lemmon, and read a first time.
Debate .resumed from the 18th May (vide page 16), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the .hill be now read a second time.
– In the debate on this bill I propose to allow references to the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1948-49, the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1949-50 and the Supply (Works and Services) “Bill (No. 1) 1949-50. The procedure on the last three bills will not be affected. I propose to allow a fairly wide financial debate at this stage, although it will not be of the scope that is permitted in a budget debate, in order that the House may discuss the national finances, the items in the Estimates contained in the schedules to the bills and all the matters that .have been referred to by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in his second-reading speeches.
– May 1 ask for the information of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether your ruling will affect the discussion of these bills individually in committee?
– That will be a matter for the committee to decide itself. The procedure that I am proposing shall he followed now is that there shall be a general discussion of the four bills. Each bill will then be disposed of separately.
– As four bills are to be discussed, are speeches to be limited strictly to 45 minutes or will extensions of time be granted?
– There is provision in the Standing Orders for the granting of extensions of time to honorable members, but whether such extensions shall be granted is a matter entirely for the decision of the House. For the convenience of honorable members, I propose to allow four measures to be discussed on this motion. The measures are inter-related and it would be difficult to discuss one of them without referring to the others.
.- The House is now considering two appropriation bills. One of these is a general appropriation measure and the other relates to works and services. It also has before it two supply bills. The purpose of the two supply bills is to provide funds for the Government for the first four months of the year 1949-50. The two appropriation bills are designed to appropriate certain sums of money which, as a result of what are called Additional Estimates, it is necessary to appropriate following the disclosure by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) of a surplus for the year up to date. The House now has an opportunity to consider the financial methods that have been followed by the Treasurer.
It is obvious from these bills, the second-reading speeches that have been made by the Treasurer in respect of them, and previous budgetary statements with which they must be taken in conjunction, that in his approach to the problems inherent in finance the Treasurer has revealed several faults. First, there has been a hopeless miscalculation of both revenue and expenditure for years past. Secondly, there has boon increasing and extravagant governmental expenditure. Thirdly, there has been revealed, particularly by the Auditor-General in his last report, a complete lack of control of expenditure, although such control is necessary to ensure the efficient spending of public money. In a budgetary statement by the Treasurer one would expect to find expressions of policy showing where his policy is leading, if it is leading anywhere, and what precisely are the effects of the budget proposals upon the economy of the country. To-day, a budget is not merely a calculation of anticipated expenditure and revenue. It is the prime instrument of governmental economic policy. That is the way in which it should be regarded by this House. From a budget and the expressions of policy contained in it, it should be possible to determine the effect of the Government’s financial policy upon, for example, the price structure of the country, and upon what is called full employment, not merely to-day, but in the period that lies ahead. It is, therefore, necessary first to consider the nature of the Treasurer’s Estimates for any financial year. The Estimates of the present Treasurer have been characterized by gross miscalculation. I shall examine the figures in a moment. Either the right honorable gentleman is quite incapable of making any estimates because his statistics do not enable him to do so, in which event there is a lack of proper administration of the Treasury, or he is concealing a surplus that he knows is likely to accrue each year as a result of his budget proposals but which, for political purposes, he proposes to keep hidden. There are no other alternatives. Having studied the right honorable gentleman’s secondreading speech on the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1948-49, I am compelled to say that he has shown a supreme contempt for this Parliament in his approach to financial problems and in the information that he is prepared to vouchsafe to honorable members. All that we have received is a statement that revenue and expenditure for the year may exceed the budget estimates by approximately £35,000,000 and £14,000,000 respectively. A sum of £35,000,000 is more than one-third of the annual government expenditure before the war, but that to the Treasurer appears to be neither here nor there. No information whatever is given of how those totals are made up, and if past experience is any guide, w. I shall point out in a moment, it is probable that the estimate is simply a shot in the dark anyhow. All that the Treasurer has revealed is that he now anticipates that revenue for the year will be £527,000,000, or £35,000,000 more than his original estimate, and that expenditure will be £524,000,000 or £14,000,000 more than he estimated. It must be obvious that there is no possibility of having any scientific or rational approach to the financial problems of this country if estimates made at the beginning of the year prove to be so hopelessly miscalculated as those have proved to be. The Treasurer has given no details, for example, of what items of revenue he expects to return more than he originally estimated, or to what extent those items will be surplus to his budgetrequirements. Gross miscalculations of revenue expenditure are not new for the Treasurer. Indeed, it will be shown that in the past three or four years he has made serious miscalculations. It is said from time to time that the Treasurer is conducting the affairs of this country efficiently. The truth of the matter, as I shall prove, is that the policy that the Government has followed has contributed to the increases of prices in this country, and has increased our economic problem by reason of governmental demands upon labour and materials that are in short supply. The Government’3 policy is also creating future problems of such intricacy that they will be very difficult indeed for any succeeding Treasurer to solve. As I have said, it is not uncommon for the Treasurer to under-estimate his income as well as his expenditure. In 1946-47 he estimated the anticipated revenue at £405,000,000. That proved to be an underestimate by £26,000,000. In 1947-48, when his estimate was ako about £405,000,000, he underest mated the revenue by £60,000,000. For the current year his revised estimate is £510,000,000 but the actual revenue received will be probably £545,000,000, showing an underestimate of £35,000.000. I have been quoting round figures only. In a period of three years he has underestimated his revenue by a total of more than- £.120,000,000. How can it be said that we have efficient budgeting when over such a short period we have such hopeless miscalculation of the expected revenue? To judge by past performances the Treasurer’s latest estimate is almost certain to prove inaccurate. Almost exactly a year ago this chamber was called upon to debate a measure similar to the present one. It was introduced by the Treasurer only one month before the end of the financial year. Now* the House is being called upon to debate this measure only one month before the end of this financial year. Last year the Treasurer announced that his revenue would probably exceed the estimate by £46,000,000, and four weeks later it wax shown that he had at that stage miscalculated the revised estimate by £15,000,000. I draw attention to this matter because, I say with respect, until expenditure and revenue are reasonably and accurately estimated there is no possibility whatever of having any sound budgetary policy in this country. Another interesting aspect of the matter is that despite so-called tax reductions which, asfar as I can see, are always less than the real surplus that the Treasurer .shows each year, and despite the Treasurer’s statement time and time again that the actual burden of taxation is diminishing, the position is established, by figures that I have, to be exactly the contrary. This Labur Government makes a practice of drawing attention to the fact that lower income groups have teen removed of direct taxation to a great extent. B it every one knows that in determining the burden of taxation and its effect on the cost of living we must have regard to the total weight of taxes, both direct and indirect. I shall quote to the House some extraordinary figures concerning the incidence of direct and indirect taxation. The total revenue per head of population has shown remarkable increase? between the financial year 1942-43 and the last financial year. The peak year of the war was 1942. when the total revenue a head of population was £40. In 1946-47 it was £57 a head and in 1947-48. £61. The revised estimate for this financial year shows that revenue will be £70 per head of population. That represents an increase of 72 per cent, over the 1942-43 figure. Over the same period the basic wage has increased by only 22.6 per cent. I take, as my base, the December quarter of 1942 for comparison with the. December quarter of 194d, and the Government can verify my figures if it chooses to do so. The Treasurer tells the people that the burden of taxation has been reduced, when, in fact, the total taxes, direct and indirect, have been increased from £40 a head of population in 1942-43 to” £70 a head in the current financial year. That is an extraordinary increase, and yet the Government says that the load of taxation has- been lightened. The truth is exactly the contrary. The burden of taxation has been increased, but its incidence’ is undisclosed. That incidence reflectsitself directly in the cost of living, as a. result of the policy followed by the Government, because it must be plain to the’ point of demonstration that indirect taxesbear very quickly and harshly upon the cost of living. To-day we spend onethird of the total national income through governmental channel’s. In other words, the Government takes* one-third of’ the income .produced by the country and spends it in its own way. Speaking in very general terms a person who earns, say, £450 a year will pay, not byway of direct taxes, but by way of the total weight of taxation, one-third of his income for governmental purposes. The proper way for people to understand how the Government’s policy has directly pushed uri prices is to take as an example what might be termed the average budget of the average man, covering the items that make up his cost of living, and allocating to each item how much the Government takes by way of direct and indirect taxes; If taxes on companies are- imposed at a certain rate they will reflect themselves in the cost of the goods produced or handled by that company. Indirect taxes, such as excise or customs duties are reflected in the ultimate costs of goods to the consumer, not merely by an amount’ equivalent to the tax, but by that amount plus something, else, because by every mutation following the imposition of the tax until the goods reach the consumer another impost is added so that the total burden on the consumer is more than the amount of tax imposed on the goods themselves. If the Treasurer were really trying to find ways and means of increasing- the price structure in this country he could not find any better- means of doing so than those to which he has resorted, because whilst he says, as he has said, “ I am reducing direct taxes”, and that is the only reduction the average man understands because it gives him more pay in salary. The total impost of all taxation has increased. Financial prosperity interms of high income doe9 not mean real prosperity. The truth is that to-day it costs about as much to make a deposit on a home than it did to buy a home ten years ago ; it costs more to make a deposit on furniture than it cost to purchase the furniture outright not so long- ago; and it costs a person, more to-day to provide for the actual equipment of school children, including such items as clothing and school requisites, than the children’s total schooling cost ten years ago. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) may smile. He is not: much concerned about what I am sayings he is drawing a good salary. In truth, the Government is. very little concerned about the matter. However, it must explain away, as, doubtless, it will attempt to do so,, the fact that the total weight of taxation in this country has increased during the last four years from £40’ to- £70 per head of the population. That is the first observation I wish to make. Taxes are rising and they are- having, a serious effect Upon our economy. They are pushing, up very rapidly the cost- of living because every tax finally finds, its way into the cost of living. In addition, the Government has contributed to theincrease of the intrinsic cost of living by, for example,, abolishing price stabilization, subsidies amounting to £26,000,000 annually, by investing at least £15,000,000 in socialistic ventures within the last year or so, and by its high rate of governmental expenditure.
I said that a government’s financial policy should’ be revealed’ in its budget, but this Government’s financial policy is not revealed to the slightest degree in the statement now before- us. Australia faces a period when it is obvious that world market prices are declining. We- have gone beyond the peak of high prices,, and, at the- same- time, mainly as the result of the Government’s . financial policy, we have pushed up our internal price structure. That will not only make it more difficult for people to live, but ultimately will also have a serious effect upon our export markets, because to the degree that we increase our internal price structure we must lessen our ability to compete in the world’s markets, particularly at a time when our former enemies, Germany, Italy and Japan are coming more and more into the competitive field, without the disability of anything like the cost structure we have built up as the result of the war. The Government should take all steps to reduce the cost structure. The important thing, on the reverse side of the coin, is not so much the amount the Government raises by way of tax but how it expends that revenue. I have already emphasized that the Government’s action in taking one-third of the national income represents a very serious impost upon our economy; but equally important is how the Government uses what it receives. Even conceding for the time being, for the purpose of argument, that there is a good case in a time of high incomes for imposing high taxation, both direct and indirect, the important consideration is, how the Government expends that money. On more than one occasion the Treasurer has said that in order to check inflationary factors it is necessary to maintain taxation at a high level in order to damp down expenditure by the private citizen. The Government exhorts the private citizen to save, but, at the same time, it spends practically every penny it receives and competes for both manpower and materials in a market already struggling to meet the backlog of the demands of the civilian population. Inevitably, such competition pushes up the price structure. I make it clear that f. am not one who believes that the Government should return to the people all revenue over and above it3 current requirements. On the contrary, I take the view that anti-cyclical budgeting is a proper approach to our problems. In other words, in times of depression the Government should deliberately budget for a deficit and, by the same reasoning, in times of high income it should deliberately budget for a surplus so that it will have a nest-egg set aside whereby it can assist the economy when depressive conditions commence to operate. It must be obvious that when the Government is taking over £500,000,000 from the people each year to the degree that it spends that. money it is merely competing with the rest of the community for labour and materials and that, therefore, it does not assist at all in the maintenance of full employment because, in truth, there is no unemployment problem. On the contrary it adds to the problems caused by the scarcity of labour and materials. Even if the Government were to expend £100,000,000 a year less the demands of the civilian population would be sufficient to maintain all of our people in full employment. The Government should direct its attention not to present employment and competition with the civilian population while resources are still scanty, but rather to its responsibility to maintain full employment when depressive conditions commence to assert themselves. On that very rock the Government will founder, because its present policy is not only pushing up prices but is also making it difficult for it or any other government to implement the necessary corrective measures when depressive conditions set in. I make it clear that when I speak of depressive conditions I am speaking not about another depression, but about conditions which represent a substantial falling away from present-day levels when we are enjoying a high national income clue mainly to the very vast sums which our export industries have been able to earn during the last three or four years. As a consequence our sterling balances overseas are now nearly £400,000,000. But all, or nearly all, of the income we have earned on overseas markets kas found its way into our economy through distribution to primary producers. Therefore, when overseas prices commence to fall and the backlog of civilian demands from the war is arrested, both those factors must affect employment and the national economy generally. Unless during periods of high national income, and of good times in terms of financial returns, money is set aside by way of surplus budgeting, we shall have to face serious problems in the future and the Government’s objective of full employment will, I venture to prophesy, be destroyed. It is not difficult to establish that fact. Theoretically, when it becomes necessary to engage in deficit budgeting, it is not necessary to have a surplus in hand from previous years ; but from a practical point of view it is essential that we should. Since Government spokesmen are so fond of referring to times of depression, let me point to the lesson that we learned from the last financial and economic depression. Antecedent to that depression there had been what had been regarded as extravagant government expenditure. With the onset of the depression there was a popular demand for reduced governmental expenditure. Such a demand is inevitably made when extravagance, or imagined extravagance, is followed by a depression. On the occasion of the last depression that popular demand found expression in what was known as the Premier’s plan. That is in truth what then happened ; and it may happen again in this country. The Government has not set aside any worthwhile nest-egg in times of high incomes. It is true that the National Welfare Fund at present has a credit of £80.000,000, but it is equally- true that should another depression come upon us that credit would disappear in a very short time, and there would he nothing left to do except to prime the pump. Money would lose its value very rapidly, demand for goods would diminish, and the reduced demand would be reflected in lessened production. Over and over again the same cycle of depression is thus repeated. This is not merely theory. We have the experience of the past on which to draw. The shock of economic depressions can be cushioned only by provisions which we build up in good times. Let us look at the expenditure side of the problem. The people themselves, perhaps with greater wisdom than governments. are very much concerned about expenditure. They realize that prices are trains up, that despite the fact that, they have money in the bank and enjoy high incomes, they cannot make ends meet. They realize that they are much worse off now th-m they were a few years aso. The realization of that fact is reflected in the attempts made by the unions to secure a higher basic wage. So, they ask : On what is the Government expending its money? I believe that that question deserves a little attention. At present no attempt is made by the Government to prune down expenditure. As I have pointed out, the Government’s revenue is increasing despite so-called tax reductions, which are reflected only or mainly in the field of direct taxation. In the three years, from 1946-47 to the present financial year, the revenue of the Government increased by £105,000,000. As fast as the Government obtains money that money is expended. It does not require more than very limited intelligence to realize that if to-day we spend money as fast as we get it we are following a policy which will ultimately result in serious consequences when times are not so good. In his secondreading speech on the Appropriation Bill, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said that expenditure had increased by £14,000,000. That is his estimate for the year; but on the basis of the figures which have just been issued for the first ten months of this financial year the additional sum required for the whole year will be only £1,700,000 and not £14,000,000 as stated by the Treasurer. One is almost forced to the conclusion that there has been some juggling - and “ juggling “ is a word which I do not like to use - with the financial figures. When there is such an extraordinary disparity between the estimates of revenue and of expenditure as has been disclosed, either those who advise the Treasurer are quite incompetent to make reasonable estimates, or the Treasurer, for reasons of his own. has not disclosed the true financial position of the country.
– There has been some misunderstanding about the meaning of the parage in the Treasurer’s speech which was referred to by the honorable member.
– I think not. The Treasurer said -
The Estimates have now been revised in the light of figures for ten months of this financial year, and whilst conclusions drawn from them must f.till be tentative, they Busiest that revenue mav exceed the budget estimate by about £-15.000.000 and expenditure by about £14,000,000.
That i3 clear enough. In other words the Treasurer said that after revising the estimates in the light of the figures for the first ten months of the financial year, and drawing tentative conclusions from them, expenditure is expected to increase by about £14,000,000.
– The Treasurer’s words were not intended to convey that meaning.
– If the expenditure for the first ten months amounts to £512,700,000, the proportionate figure for the year involves an increased appropriation of not £14,000,000 but £1,700,000. This House is entitled to be told more fully how this additional £14,000,000 is made up; but honorable members are told nothing. As I have shown, under this method of finance it is possible to have a miscalculation of revenue in one year which is almost equal to a pre-war total budget figure of £60,000,000. What reliance can be placed upon a Treasurer who, a month before the end of last financial year said that the revenue would probably exceed the estimate by £46,000,000, but whose calculations were proved to be wrong to the extent of £15,000,000 when the final figures were known? The same sort of error will be made again. Let us look at some of the items of expenditure that have been dealt with by the Treasurer, I have no quarrel with the right honorable gentleman for applying any surplus he may have to finance from revenue works for defence purposes that would normally be financed from loan. While I believe that method to be correct, I think that the Treasurer is adopting a totally wrong method in charging to revenue capital items which should normally be financed from loan funds. Let me deal with the amount of the additional appropriation. The Parliament is asked to provide a total additional amount of £16,900,000 for the ordinary services of departments and for business undertakings, and an additional amount of £6,024,000 for additions, new works and other services. Additional estimates of expenditure, excluding those for new works and services involving capital expenditure amount to £21,100,000, less £4,200,000, provided under votes which will remain unexpended at the close of the year. Here again no details are given to the House. The Treasurer said in his second-reading speech -
Amongst the items of post-war charges which seem likely tu be somewhat lower than estimates are reconstruction training and war service land settlement.
I consider that the House is entitled to some information on those matters. Apparently, although expenditure has grown to mammoth proportions on practically all other items, there has been an overestimate in respect of reconstruction training and war service land settlement. We know from what has been said from this side of the House, particularly by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) from time to time, that there has been a lack of government activity on those matters, and, in my opinion, the Parliament is entitled to know more about them. Has reconstruction training fallen short of the Government’s promises to ex-servicemen because certain Communist-directed unions have refused to co-operate? I ask the Treasurer to explain to the House, before this debate concludes, the over-estimate of expenditure on reconstruction training and war service land settlement. There has been a dispute between the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and his counterpart in the Labour Government of New South Wa-es over approximately 29,000 acres of land that have been made available for soldier settlement near Moulamein. Apparently the two Ministers have been unable to agree on how many settlers should be placed on that land. Has the underexpenditure been due to that dispute, with resulting prejudice to the ex-servicemen concerned? These things should be explained, but so far as I am aware, no adequate explanation has been offered of a large number of matters covered by this measure.
The Stevedoring Industry Commission to date has expended £860,000 of the taxpayers’ money without any apparent improvement of conditions on the waterfront. Although the Government is now, in substance, the employer, the relations between employer and employee on the wharfs are no better than they were when private employers were in the field. We all know that there has been no acceleration of the loading or unloading of ships. The Stevedoring Industry Commission has failed to achieve its purpose despite the expenditure of this large sum of money.
– Is that the commission of which Healy and Roach were members ?
– Yes. They were appointed by this Government, which pretends - that is all it ever does - to be fighting the Communists. Occasionally it does prosecute one or two, but it appointed Communists to this commission which is costing such a large sum of public money. That money is just going down the drain. I come now to TransAustralia Airlines. The Commonwealth has advanced taxpayers’ money amounting to £4.370,000 to that organization, which, despite its preferential treatment, particularly in the carriage of mails, has shown a deficit of £SOO,000. Then there is the Joint Coal Board, into whose administration there has also been some Communist infiltration.
– Order ! Communism has nothing to do with this debate.
– Why not?
– Mr. Deputy Speaker has already ruled that, although he will permit fairly wide scone in this debate, it will not be as wide as a budget debate.
– Do I understand that, in dealing with the expenditure of the. taxpayers’ money. I am not entitled to draw attention to the fact that certain bodies to which the Government ha3 appointed Communists, are wasting money? I submit, with respect, that I am entitled to do so. However, it is sufficient for me to say that, although the Joint Coal Board, the Communist influence behind which is well known to the public, has received from the Commonwealth and State governments combined £1,279.000, the coal position has not improved since the board commenced operations. On the contrary, it is worse, because the loss of coal . through strikes increased from approximately 1,300,000 tons in 1946 to approximately 2,000,000 tons in 1948. Open-cut production, it is true, has increased, but the flow of coal extracted below the ground has constantly diminished, in spite of the substantial public funds that have been poured out in an effort to improve the situation.
Provision is also made for the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. Of an estimated ultimate total expenditure of £3,000,000, the Commonwealth has already allocated £1,048,000, including this year’s appropriation, for the production of aluminium, in this country, but we have not yet produced 1 lb. of aluminium. The intention was to produce aluminium from Australian bauxite deposits, but, as I have said, not 1 lb. of this metal has yet been produced. In fact, bauxite has been brought from overseas. Apparently there is little to show for the expenditure of more than £1,000,000 on this project. Advances to capitalize Qantas, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, Overseas Telecommunications, and Commonwealth Engineering, total another £5,000,000. Some of these are proper contributions, but no particulars have been vouchsafed in this bill, and we do not know whether we are getting full value for every £1 that is expended. Those items, taken at random, together with the strictures that have been made by the Auditor-General from time to time and to which, incidentally, the Government has paid no regard at all, are sufficient to show that there has been extravagance and waste in the expenditure of money appropriated by the Parliament.
So far I have dealt with items other than new works. Let us further examine the Government’s financial programme. It is charging to revenue the cost of new works which I suggest clearly should be met from loans.. I shall give some examples: The amount of £500,000 is required by British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines for additional capital. But that is a trading organization. Why should it be capitalized from revenue? An ordinary trading organization that requires additional capital gets it on the market. Whether the money is obtained by the issue of shares, or debentures, or by overdraft, a return has to be paid on it. Yet the Treasurer is placing an added burden on the taxpayers of this country by charging to revenue £500,000 which clearly should come out of loan funds. This inevitably must be reflected in the cost of living.
Mr. .Dedman interjecting,
– I know that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction considers himself to be an expert on finance and everything else, but surely he is aware that if the Government finds it necessary to raise any sum of money, then, whether it be £500,000, £5,000,000 or £500,000,000, that money, if it comes from revenue, will find some reflection in the cost of living, because it has been taken from the people in taxes. The cost of living will be forced up or down, depending on how the money is expended. If it is expended in time of shortage of labour and materials in competition with the public, it pushes up prices; if used to retire indebtedness by way of securities, it helps to push down or stabilize prices. But the Government has not applied revenue, except to a minute extent, in the retirement of indebtedness; on the contrary, it has expended its revenue in other ways. These Estimates provide a good example of how contemptuously the Government treats the Parliament. The sum of £1,724,000 is to be expended on the “joint acquisition with the New Zealand Government from Christmas Island Phosphate Company Limited of assets and leasehold property of Christmas Island “. I leave aside the point that that may be a very good purchase, but the Government asks us to approve of the application of that money without telling us anything about the project. Its attitude is, “ We have the money to appropriate and that’s that: never mind the Parliament “. That shows a complete disregard of the ancient function of the Parliament - it has disappeared rapidly since the Labour party has been in power - to keep the control of the public purse. The Joint Coal Board is to have £700,000 advanced to it as “grants and advances for capital purposes.”. Those are capital expenditures that should come from loan. Finally, I refer to the Department of the Navy, which is to have £300,000 for capital works. I ask the Treasurer - and I think the public are entitled to know - whether he has investigated the allegations made bv a man named Sharpley, formerly a member of the Victorian State executive of the Australian Communist party, about the cost of work executed at the Royal Australian Navy Dockyard, at Williamstown, Victoria. Sharpley’s statement, for the benefit of the Prime Minister, who has the strange faculty of not reading newspapers, was as follows : -
I would like to hear an expert opinion from, a British or American naval architect on thefantastically slow progress at Williamstown* on the building of the R.A.N, destroyer Anzac. She has been building nearly two years already and probably will take another year to complete. A frank Navy statement of work doneat Williamstown in the past . . . and its cost . . . would shock Parliament.
A measure of the sly but skilful Communist sabotage could he a comparison between man-hour output at Williamstown, wherepublic funds are being squandered, and manhour output at Whyalla, where management, does not tolerate what the R.A.N, seems to, tolerate at Williamstown.
That statement was made by a man in many respects discredited, but obviously he was speaking with knowledge. The Parliament should know the cost per man-hour at Williamstown as compared with the cost at the Whyalla works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. When we have a frank statement about that matter we may have a better guide on whether it is true, as I allege, that governmental expenditure is being wasted without any real control by the Parliament.
I now come to an extraordinary item which the taxpayers of Australia have been called upon to bear solely for Labour party political purposes. I refer to the statement that another £2,200,000 is required to meet the conditions of the Australia-New Zealand Wheat Agreement. The Australian Labour Government has asked the taxpayers not to meet a mere, sudden emergency in New Zealand, but to satisfy the political purposes of the New Zealand Labour Government. It has asked the taxpayers, as I shall prove, to carry more than £7,000,000 in three years and to continue to carry an increasing burden indefinitely. The wheat agreement with New Zealand was an outrageous political deal that would do credit to Tammany Hall. It means in the end higher costs of goods needed in homes. Under this outrageous deal, the taxpayers have had to subsidize the New Zealand Labour Government of the New Zealand people by the following amounts: - 1946-47, £S76.962; 1947-48, £2,692,337; and 1948-49, including the £2,200,000 that is now being sought, £3,700,000. That is only half the story, because the liability runs on. But, to date, the Australian taxpayers have been called on to outlay £7,269,299 under the agreement from which no benefit flowed to the Australian taxpayers, who have had to pay the piper without any chance to call the tune. These are things that the public ought to know about, because it is not the Government’s money, but is money that the Government has taken from the people in different ways, and, having taken it, has expended it in ways that cannot be justified. That gives some idea of the expenditure position and of what has been taking place in Australia.
Let me go further and deal with the National Welfare Fund. I said a few words about it a moment ago. Since the war, mainly because of the extraordinarily high prices that have been received overseas for our primary products, we have enjoyed great prosperity and good times. Although the Treasurer has been built up in the press and otherwise as the only man who knows what is needed to occupy his position, had there been realy scientific budgeting, he would have set aside money against the future. But what has taken place? The National Welfare Fund this year should have a credit balance of perhaps £SO,000,000 or £90,000,000. That can be checked by the Treasurer. I have no objection to a credit balance being built up in the fund, and I am not in favour of returning to the taxpayers in good times every penny of revenue taken over and above requirements. Every man with any sense, knowing that bad times may lie ahead of him, sets aside against them the money he earns in excess of his requirements in pood times. Similar provision against the future is needed in governmental finance.
Yet we find that only this small sum has been set aside in the National Welfare Fund. I should have thought that if the Government was seeking ways and means of expending its grossly swollen revenues, it would have chosen the course of ameliorating the lot of people in the middle section of the community. The means test bears harshly upon them. The reduction of the severity of the means test as applied to people in that group would not cost much. If a fraction of the revenue that has been under-estimated in the last three years had been applied to that purpose great relief could have been given to people in the middle income group.
– We have already donn that.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), who once went abroad and has not forgotten it, says “ We have already done that “, but he has not even tried to calculate how much money would be required to extend social benefits to the degree that a person could earn from work or investments sufficient to bring his income together with the pension to the level of the basic wage. I have made that calculation and only a small part of the revenue that has accrued to the Treasury in excess of the estimates in the last three years would be needed to enable such people to qualify for that benefit. People in the superannuated field, with a small investment in a home, or drawing small sums of money from this or that source are worse off under present conditions than they would have been had they been profligate all their lives. A very decent section of the community is getting no assistance whatever from this Government. At least the Government might have taken a lesson from the Labour Government of Great Britain, with which it is always claiming a close alliance, and from the Labour Government of New Zealand, because both of those Governments have sought by long-term programmes to establish national insurance in their countries so as to gradually extend all social benefits without any means test whatever. The Labour Government in Australia has not commenced to do that, except in a shockingly piece-meal fashion. It is utterly inconsistent of the Government to exhort the people of Australia to save money when, in point of fact, it is itself doing exactly the opposite of that, lt is my opinion that what the Government is doing will first tend to destroy the standard of living in Australia, and, secondly, make the problem of providing full employment very difficult to solve when depressive conditions commence to assert themselves.
I make the suggestion that two sets of papers should be brought before this Parliament with every budget. The first set should state the actual receipts and expenditure for the year, and the second set should show all credit balances as at the beginning of the year, the extent to which these balances have been used or increased during the year, and should carry on all unexpended balances at the end of one year to the next year. Ample detail should be included in such papers. By that means we should know precisely what unexpended moneys were available and why they had not been expended. By a comparison of both, we could see how much there was in funds at. any particular time to engage in what is called anti-cyclical budgeting to provide for hard times out of the savings that have been made in good times. At the same time, I suggest that this Parliament should have placed before it a budgetary white paper, not a mere white paper dealing with full employment, but a white paper projecting our requirements for four or five years ahead so that we might understand what is likely to be the trend of the national income over that period, what are likely to be the economic factors operating in costs to the community, and by what means the Government proposes to meet those costs. I believe that, if that suggestion were followed, at least we should have intelligent discussion in this House if nothing else. This is a time when we should be enjoying unparalleled prosperity, but in truth things are not as good as they appear, by any means. I venture to say that a statement made by Ursula K. Hicks in a recently published book on public finance applying to the problems of Great Britain could very well be taken to heart by this Government. Mr. Hicks stated -
According to the policy which is made necessary by the British Government’s assumption of responsibility for the level of economic activity in the economy, the relation between expenditure and current revenue is not of less but of greater importance in the Budget. A proper level of economic activity can only be achieved and maintained if this relation is correct. . . the accounting method used in public departments is no longer efficient for its purpose; it is attuned to reveal dishonesty but not incompetence. With the expansion of the public sector this is a situation which should no longer be tolerated . . . There is thus a double problem to be solved in British budgeting and public accounting; first, the reform of the traditional budget so that it becomes an efficient instrument for the control of expenditure; secondly, the further development of national accounting along “ White Paper “ lines, in order to determine the correct balance between revenue and expenditure and hence the place of the public sector in the economy. This double problem must present itself in a more or leas parallel form in any country whose government accepts responsibility for the level of economic activity. [Extension of time granted.] Those statements are of prime importance to this country. They have equal application here. Whatever government is in power, the problems of finance are difficult. It is impossible to deal adequately with the financial problems of the country from year to year. I know, and I concede to the Government, that in some respects it has sought to make its estimates for some years ahead in certain limited instances. But what is needed is a total overall picture. Obviously, our national income cannot be maintained on the high level that we presently enjoy. It may go down slightly or steeply. None of us can say exactly what will happen, and it would be a brave man indeed who sought to make a firm prediction. It may go down, and then go up. The Government should try to evaluate the trends and, to the extent to which they can be evaluated, it should have a survey made over two, three, four or five years. The greater the period that our statistics enable us to cover the better will it he, because we can, from time to time, adjust our policy to the total plan.
I spoke earlier about full employment, and I shall deal more fully with the subject now. The Government has a habit of claiming credit for the fact that full employment exists in Australia. Of course no claim could be further from the truth ! We have a tremendous backlog of demand which has not yet been taken up. That great back-log will take some time to take up, and it is necessary, in the meantime that there should be production over and above what I may call the equilibrium level of normal times. It is because there are more jobs than there are men to fill them to-day that we have a dilemma in the community. We have employers competing amongst themselves for employees. We have the Government competing against private employers for employees. In addition, both are competing for materials. The end result if. not only an upward thrust of prices as the result of the deliberate policy that the Government is pursuing, but also full employment because there is plenty of work for men to do for some time ahead. But the condition of “full employment “ is not the result of any direct policy that the Government has pursued. If governmental expenditure were reduced by many millions of pounds there would still be plenty of jobs for everybody in the community. But the time will come when overseas prices will commence to decline substantially, when money will not be so free as it is today. .Such a situation is beginning already to reveal itself; buyer-resistance is developing. People will become very “choosy “ as to what they will buy, and the demand for goods will commence to diminish, as is happening in the United States of America already. Although incomes were never higher than they are in the United States of America to-day, buyerresistance has already asserted itself there. Many people say that prices are too high and they are prepared to wait until there is some recession in the market. The effect of that attitude spreads rapidly, because less demand means less production, and less production means less employment. That situation will commence to reveal itself in Australia as surely as to-morrow will dawn if the policy of this Government is pursued, and the Government will be compelled to increase governmental expenditure when already it has, in effect, spent its inheritance during the period of good times.
It would be wrong for me to resume my seat without advancing certain specific proposals, beyond those which I have already made, and I propose to do so. The only way in which we can safely face the future at a time when bur money income is so high is by postponing- governmental expenditure to the fullest possible extent. It is too much, and, indeed, it is positively dangerous to ask the people in these times to carry expenditure amounting to 30 per cent, of the total national income. The first suggestion that I make to the Treasurer for immediate consideration is that expenditure should be reduced from 30 per cent, to a figure nearer 25 per cent, of the national income. I realize that because the Government has already embarked on many projects the expenditure on which cannot easily be reduced, the attainment of that goal will not be easy, but that position has arisen as the result of the policy that the Government has adopted. It should certainly be the objective of the Government to reduce, in a period of prosperity, all unnecessary public works, so that they may be expanded in times of adversity. It is no answer to the argument that I am submitting to say that the Government has many other public works in cold storage. The truth is that, when the Government is making an unnecessary demand upon .the economy in good times, it is rendering the economy less resilient to meet the shock that ultimately it will be called upon to meet. Good times cannot continue indefinitely.
Then again, I believe that there should be greater provision for stabilization particularly in relation to social services and rural industries. Only recently I criticized the wheat stabilization scheme that this Government introduced. The fate of that scheme is beside the point. I have mentioned it only because it shows the Government’s approach to the matter. The Government sought, in effect, to stabilize the wheat industry during prosperous times when there were ample returns for the average grower over and above the cost of production. My view was, and still is, that stabilization schemes should cover a long period, if they are to benefit the section of the community. whose industry is stabilized, and the economy in general. There should be more equitable provisions for the eventual distribution of the proceeds of social services contributions, and a broader recognition df the principle that all those who contribute to social services should benefit frog them. One of the typical hardship’s of taxation laws to-day is the retention of £100 as the maximum amount of insurance premium allowable as a rebate for tax purposes. The result is that men who seek .to provide by way alf life assurance, for their wives and children, as decent parents ought to do, find that, because the cost of insurance has risen segreatly, they are unable to carry as much assurance as they would like to have. Such matters should be reviewed by the Government in the interests of a most deserving section of the community.
I believe that there should be no capitalization from tax receipts for industries and services which are enjoyed by only a section of the community and which because of their structure and characteristics should very properly carry interest charges. I have mentioned this matter in the course of my speech. Finally, since honorable members on this side of the chamber oppose nationalization, I contend that there should be no nationalization of commercial and trading ventures that will be conducted in direct competition with private ventures which are already providing efficient services. At the present moment, the nationalization of such enterprises cannot be justified. The truth of the matter, as will be revealed sooner or later, is that we have paid a very high premium to follow the socialist ideology pf this Government not only iri Australia but also overseas. We have spent internally, by the distribution of our own currency, the proceeds of our export markets, and, at the same time, the proceeds from the sale of our goods have been banked up in England in what can only be properly described as blocked-sterling. The way in which that blocked sterling may be used depends almost wholly upon the decision of the socialist Government in Great Britain. In truth, we are bearing, internally and externally, the burden of socialism. Externally, we are assisting to maintain a socialist regime iri Great Britain, a.nd$ internally, we are imposing an increasing burden upon our own people. Such a policy will not produce a higher standard of living ; on the contrary) -it will increase prices and reduce “ the standard of living. Ultimately, it will destroy the policy of full employment that this Government pretends to have ;so much iri mind.
.- Mr-. Acting Deputy Speaker-
A female stranger having interrupted the proceedings, and having been removed from the public gallery,
– When a person interrupts the proceedings of the House with the cry, “ Down with the British Empire “, I must reluctantly concede that the remark is not inappropriate to the times, because the Empire is disintegrating before our eyes.
Mr-. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy).^- Order ! What happened in the gallery has nothing to do with the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1948-49.
– I submit that such a statement has a great deal to do with the bill under consideration.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the measure.
– I am dealing with the subject under consideration, because the proposed expenditure is related to the British Empire and the welfare of Australia. If I am not to be permitted to discuss those most important subjects, of what use is it to have a free British parliament? The consideration of the Government’s financial proposals will become farcical if you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, rule that honorable members will not be in order in discussing them fully. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has dealt most ably with some features of the Government’s proposals. In my opinion, the outstanding point is the appalling discrepancy between the estimates of revenue and expenditure which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) presented to the House a few months ago, and the financial position of the Commonwealth at this moment.. The right honorable gentleman has developed the habit df formulating estimates of expenditure, and basing his taxation policy neon them. He rejects criticism > members of the Opposition that his estimates of revenue are too low and his estimates of expenditure are too high. The condition of Commonwealth finances towards the close of this financial year reveals very clearly that the Opposition’s criticism of the estimates of revenue and expenditure has been justified, and that the Treasurer could have reduced taxes to a greater degree than he did. The Treasurer either has been given a distorted story by Treasury officials, or has been misleading the House. Honorable members doubtless will discuss many aspects of the Government’s financial proposals, but the first matter that concerns every Australian is the cost of living and the effect of the Government’s financial proposals upon salary and wageearners, and particularly upon the ability of young men and women to provide homes for themselves, and rear families. That is inherent in the proposals now before the House. That homes are not obtainable by young people who, during the recent war were absent from industry for four or five years and denied the opportunity of personal advancement because they were either in the armed services or in one of the departments of national service, is particularly distressing. The efforts of many of them to rehabilitate themselves in civil life have undoubtedly been seriously retarded because of their inability to obtain homes. During the last few weeks I have had occasion to make inquiries in Sydney concerning the housing situation, and I have been appalled at the difficulties which confront home-seekers today. The housing situation generally throughout country and metropolitan areas is bad, but the conditions under which many thousands of young married people are existing in the cities are appalling. From time to time we hear a great deal of criticism of socalled slum areas, but my inquiries have revealed that under the aegis of the present Government the slum areas of Sydney have degenerated into a “slum of slums Homes in the poorest and most overcrowded portions of Woolloomooloo and Surry Hills, and the unsightly array of sub-standard dwellings which one witnesses in approaching Central Railway Station,
Sydney, have at least two or three rooms and a backyard of some kind. For years we have all deplored the existence of such conditions; but the point that I make now, with all the force at my command, is that, shocking as those conditions are, they are as nothing compared with the spectacle of whole families living in single rooms. I have seen the plight of unfortunate families who have to live under such conditions, and any member or supporter of the Government who desires to investigate the situation for himself can obtain firsthand evidence of it. I remind honorable members that this intolerable situation has arisen, and is permitted to continue, while Labour is in office in the National Parliament and in some of the Stale parliaments.
– Why did not the Government which the honorable member supported do something about it?
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) inquires why some administration of ten or fifteen years ago did not do something to remedy the state, of affairs that I have mentioned. That is the only reply which members of the Australian Labour party can make to the criticism so frequently levelled at their administration. Apparently they forget that Labour has been in office for over seven years and that the war ended nearly four years ago. Whenever their administration is criticized in the Parliament, or a homeless person comes to this Labour Government and says to its members, “ What about the house you promised me during the war?” they invariably reply, “It should have been built years ago by the antiLabour administrations “.
– The fact remains that Labour has built a record number of houses. It has built far more houses than did any anti-Labour administration.
– I am not interested in .that interjection because it is no answer to the cry of the young married couples who have no homes. To be at all convincing the Government’s answer must be of a more practical nature than any it has yet made. It cannot be denied that a great deal of the home-seekers’ difficulties are directly attributable to the policy of the present Government and to its general attitude towards industrial and financial matters. First of all, I draw attention to the biggest obstacle that confronts young people who desire to make a home.
Mr. McLeod interjecting,
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has told us many times, at length and in detail, about his early struggles on the land. I invite him now to listen to the plight of the young people who are seeking to establish homes to-day. I speak with considerable feeling on this subject because of what my inquiries revealed. Those inquiries were prompted by my desire to assist a young married couple to find a place in which to live. As I say, I was appalled at the difficulties that now confront young married people, and unless there is a rapid and radical improvement of present conditions I cannot imagine how our young people can possibly hope to establish themselves as good citizens of the community. When the parents and grandparents of the present generation married they set up as householders because they were at least able to obtain the tenancy of a home. Look at the plight of so many of our young married couples to-day. They cannot obtain even the tenancy of a small flat, and in most instances they are obliged to live with their relatives. What does the future hold for them ? As I have already said, the stock answer of apologists for the Government is that every individual who now requires a house should have had one built for him by governments of ten, fifteen or twenty years ago. They completely overlook the fact that Labour has been in office for nearly eight years, that its general policy is actually retarding the construction of houses, and that the cost of the comparatively few houses built is so high as to be beyond the means of the ordinary home-seeker.
One of the worst features of the present housing situation is the cost of erecting homes. During the last two or three years costs have soared so high as to be almost out of sight. In the course of my investigations I inquired how much it casts per square to build an ordinary brick home in Sydney. In the cities no home should be built that is not of brick construction. The little fibro shanties thrown up by the Government of New South Wales are certainly not worthy of our people. I ascertained that the cost of erecting a brick home was from £230 to £250 per square.
– Does that include, the cost of the land?
– No. In order to ascertain the facts I spoke to builder after builder, inspected numbers of houses and examined the plans of houses tendered to prospective home buyers. I have no doubt, therefore, that building costs in Sydney are as high as I have stated. A twelve-square house, which is the maximum size permitted to be erected in New South Wales by the Government of that State, costs approximately £3,000 to erect, apart altogether from the cost of the land.
– Now tell us about the. cost of erecting weatherboard houses.
– If the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) wishes I shall tell him about the cost of bag humpies. I was speaking of houses of the standard to .which a young couple are entitled, not dwellings of the kind envisaged by the Australian Labour party. To-day a young married couple must provide £3,000 in order to build a house, or they must remain homeless. Even if they are able to obtain the £3,000 they are extremely lucky to have a house built. They have to wait months, and, in some instances, years. If they apply to the War Service Homes Commission they usually have to wait years. If an ex-serviceman desires to obtain a home within reasonable time it is of no use whatever for him to wait for a war service home. At the moment I am concerned particularly about the plight of young married people of the working class and not so much about the middle class or even about old people. To young married people a home means almost everything. I have in mind the working men and women, the artisans who earn only £S or £10 a week, the labourers who earn even less, and also - honorable members opposite will be glad to hear this - the “ wharfies “, because they are also entitled to a home. What is the reason why homes are unavailable and building costs are so exorbitant? The root causes of this unsatisfactory situation are to be found in the advocacy of “go slow” tactics in industry,, in the excessive taxes levied by the Government, and in the diversion of materials, labour and’ money withdrawn from private enterprise to government use. The introduction of the 40-hour week, of which the present Government and the Government of New South Wales were the joint sponsors, alone added hundreds of pounds to the cost of home-building. According to reports of the Tariff Board, which investigated this’ matter, it has increased the cost of houses by at least 10 per cent, or 11 per cent. Recently I was concerned to find out how married couples in receipt of very modest incomes were able to finance the building of homes at a cost of £3,000 or £3,500. I discovered that in the great majority of instances it could be done only by the wife going out to work and becoming a wage-earner. That is the only way in which the majority of married couples are enabled to undertake the financial commitments that are involved in the purchase of a home. From . the national point of view, that is undesirable, not because the wife is compelled to go out to work, but because she is thereby prevented from performing her natural function of rearing a family of young children. The Chifley Government has said that this is a golden age. It is an age in which we are suffering from a shortage of homes, slum conditions in places such as Hargrave Park and other evils which beset the community.
A sum of £860,000 has been expended by the Stevedoring Industry Commission, a body that was established by this Government in an endeavour to bring peace to the waterfront, to ensure the equitable loading and unloading of ships and to arrange the conditions of employment of waterfront workers. The commission was composed of Mr. Justice Kirby, Mr. Healy, and Mr. Roach. Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach, who were appointed as members of the commission by this Government, are two of the leading Communists in Australia: They have had control of the expenditure of £860,000 of the taxpayers’ money. For several years the Opposition has directed attention to the- fact that Roach and Healy are not persons who are likely to assist the Government to secure peace on the waterfront, but- are more likely to sabotage any efforts that are made in that direction. Mr. Justice Kirby finally complained to the Government that he: could not work with these Communist executives, because everything that the commission attempted to do was thwarted by their actions later outside the commission. . Then, because a general election was approaching and there was a possibility that the people mighttake some cognizance of the attitude of the Government to Communists, a heroic gesture was made. Within six months of the date of the election, the Government sacked Mr. Roach and Mr. Healy, the two Communist members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, but only after Mr. Justice Kirby had said that it was no longer possible for the commission to carry on with them. The latest development in respect of this commission, which has spent £860,000 of the taxpayers’ money, was the Prime Minister’s statement last week that he was still waiting for the Waterside Workers Federation to replace Mr. Roach and Mr. Healy by other representatives. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that if the federation did not do so, he would consider what could be done and inform the House accordingly. The House is still waiting for some information on that matter.- It is reasonable to assume that nothing would have been done about Roach and Healy if it were not for the fact that a general election is to take place in the near future.
The expenditure of the Joint Coal Board is an interesting item, about which the people of Sydney want to know something. Despite the existence of the streamlined Joint Coal Board, which was established by the Australian .Government and the Labour Government of New South Wales to secure .the production of coal, apparently without men working, industry in Sydney is in a worse position than it was in the dark days of the war, when there were approximately 1,000,000 Australians in the armed forces. To-day the supply of electric power to industries in Sydney is being reduced by 30 per cent. The workers who might bo manufacturing roofing tiles, bathtubs, sinks and other articles for use in houses are being laid off for 30 per cent, of their time because the Joint Coal Board hai been unable to provide sufficient coal. It has been unable to do so because the Australian Government has done nothing to deal with those persons who desire to prevent the Joint Coal Board or any other similar board from operating efficiently. I refer to the Communist leaders in the coal industry. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has repeatedly made statements stressing the importance of adequate coal supplies and appealing for greater production. On one occasion he visited the coal-fields. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that we are suffering from an acute shortage of coal, since the beginning of this year approximately 570,000 tons of coal have been lost as a result of strikes. “When this matter was discussed in this chamber recently honorable gentlemen opposite, instead of condemning the people who are destroying Australia’s chance of recovery, said that strikes in the coal mines were the aftermath of the bitterness of past relations between the miners and the mine owners. They said that the reason for strikes was the illtreatment of past generations of miners. Honorable gentlemen opposite did not tell the House what the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) told the newspapers two or three weeks ago. The Minister said that almost all of these strikes are caused by irresponsible youths, who apparently do not know anything about the past history of the coal industry. If three or four wheelers, youths of 17 years of age, go home from the pit, the miners troop home behind them and the mine is closed for one, two or three days. Very few stoppages in the coal industry have occurred as a result of miners’ protests against conditions imposed upon them or caused by employers. They are mainly factional disputes between one union and another. The Kemira coal dispute, for example, which the Joint Coal Board was unable to adjust, was a dispute between the miners’ federation and the Australian Workers Union. The cost of that dispute in coal was between 200,000 and 300,000 tons, enough to have kept Sydney industry operating for a very long time without any need for the imposition of the 30 per cent, cut in the usage of electricity by industry that has now been applied. But as a result of the Government’s lack of a positive policy regarding such matters, and because the Prime Minister is afraid to speak out and say to those people, “Unless you play the game with us we shall deal with you, not as a Labour government, but as a government that functions for all sections of the community “, the drift goes on, and everybody in the community, particularly the housewife, has to pay for it. Housewives are compelled to try to cook the evening meal by surreptitious use of gas or electricity. During periods of power and gas restrictions it is not unusual for the housewife to pull the window-blind down so that an inspector will not catch her trying to carry out the normal cooking processes for her busy household. The people who are being plagued as a consequence of ‘the Government’s policy are the innocent bystanders on the sidelines.
Probably one of the reasons that it is not possible to obtain tiles for the construction of houses, or galvanized iron, or steel of various kinds, is the Government’s use of many of those materials in ways that do not promote community prosperity. The Australian Aluminium Production Commission is an instance. I criticized the appointment of that commission and the proposed expenditure upon it when the matter first came before the House three years ago. I notice that a sum of £1,048,000 has been spent by the commission, and yet not one ingot of aluminium has been produced, nor does it appear that there is any likelihood for a long time to come of one ingot being produced, by the commission. I do not know whether the Government has changed its plans since criticism was directed at it by the Opposition a few months ago, but until then it proposed to bring all the bauxite to be used in the manufacture of aluminium from Malaya. When the project was before the House we were told that its real purpose was to use Australian bauxite to manufacture the aluminium. The Government has not denied that it intends to use Australian money, shipping, labour and time to bring bauxite from Malaya to manufacture aluminium here. The commission has been absorbing individuals from the nation’s labour pool as staff. After all, £1,000,000 must be spent in some way or other. It can be spent in employing clerks, who are so badly needed in outside industry. It can be spent on steel which is so badly required for home building and for the manufacture of other necessities. It can be spent in a thousand ways that are not, at the moment, productive.
Sitting suspended from G to 8 p.m.
– It is, remarkable that two speakers in succession from the Opposition side of the House have had to rise to carry on this debate when members on the Government side, who, presumably, ought to be defending the acta of the Government, or explaining them if they can, have refused to participate, hoping, no doubt, that the debate would fizzle out. However, the Treasurer’s statement will be discussed by the Opposition, and I propose to draw particular attention to a few points. The matter which is concerning most people to-day is the rising cost of all necessaries, including building materials, foodstuffs and clothing. Of course, the answer of the Labour party is that if its referendum proposals had been agreed to the Government would have been able to control prices.
– That is correct.
– The Treasurer has embarked upon a deliberate policy of revenge against the public for their refusal to agree to the Government’s referendum proposals. This is revealed in the financial statement now before us which shows that subsidies amounting to £40,000,000 have been withdrawn this financial year by the Government, despite the fact that the Treasury is overburdened with surplus revenue. The statement also reveals that, despite alleged tax cuts, the Treasurer will have £34,000.000 more to expend than he budgeted for. In this connexion, it is worth while reminding the House that the tax rate per head in 1943 was £40, whereas to-day it is £70; that is. £70 for every man, woman and child in Australia is collected in direct and indirect taxation.
Therefore, it can be easily understood why the cost of everything is so high. No doubt, Labour supporters will claim that high taxes are imposed only on the wealthy; that only the “ tall poppies “ are affected. The fact is. that the tax burden is spread ultimate!^ over the whole community, and is borne by every man, woman and child. Now, as a result of the Treasurer’s vengeful policy against the public for turning down the Government’s referendum proposal, subsidies to the amount of £40,000,000 on food and clothing and other necessaries have been withdrawn. As I have said, Labour supporters will claim that this withdrawal of subsidies was made necessary by the refusal of the public to confer upon the Government power to control prices. The answer to that claim lies in the fact that subsidies have been continued on certain items. For instance, despite the “ No “ vote, the subsidy is, still being paid on tea. Notwithstanding the alleged constitut i 011 a l barriers, the subsidy is still being paid on butter. If the Government can continue to pay a subsidy on butter, why cannot it subsidize milk, which is such an important item in the budget of the average family, especially those in which there are young children? Why has the Government not been able to continue the subsidy on blankets, woollen clothing, boots and shoes? The reason is that the Government has resolved that the public shall be made to pay a penalty for refusing to endorse its referendum proposals. What has been the effect of the Government’s policy on the ordinary working man and woman? The Government has placed a premium, not on the decencies of life, but on a. shorter working week and on lower production. It has said, “ we will have a 40-hour week “. But who has paid for the 40-hour week? Has itbeen paid for by employers and Opposition supporters alone, or has it been paid for by the public generally in higher prices for goods, for houses and for rail and tram fares ?
– Is the honorable member against a 40-hour week?
– I am against a 40- hour week until we can afford it. Now let me ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) whether he supports that plank of the Labour party’s platform which calls for the immediate introduction of a 40-hour week, with progressive reductions to HO hours? If wo are to have a 30-hour week, who is going to pay for it? Let me quote what a Sydney newspaper stated this week about a .typical household in a .Sydney industrial suburb.
– What newspaper?
– If the honorable member were willing to pay a few pence for a paper he could find out for himself.
– The honorable member got it out of the Library, anyway.
– Apparently, this is a joking matter for the wei.md honorable member for Herbert (M’.r. Edmonds), but it is no joking matter for the person concerned. The newspaper article tells the story of a housewife who lives in the suburb of Alexandria, Sydney, with her husband and three children aged 7, 5 and 2 respectively. Every morning, summer and winter, she is in the kitchen at 6 o’clock to prepare breakfast for her husband, who goes to work at 7.15 a.m. Her husband out of .the way, she prepares the children’s breakfast and then, because the traffic is dense in the streets, she takes the children to school herself. Then she returns home, and goes on with her household duties. The ‘family cannot afford a refrigerator, and so she has to go .to the butcher shop every day to buy her meat. What she does on Saturdays when the butcher shops close, I do not know. In the afternoon, she goes to the school at 3.30 o’clock to collect her children. When she gets home again it is time to start preparing the evening meal, and when that is disposed of she spends the evening knitting, mending and sewing in an effort to make clothing last as long as possible. On an average she works fifteen hours a day. Can any honorable member opposite deny the truth of that statement? Her husband earns £S 10s. a week and the family receives an additional £1 weekly in child endowment. Honorable members opposite are smiling. I am talking about one of the people whom they are supposed to champion but, of course, honorable members opposite really champion only those whom they expect to vote for them. This woman in her statement to the press said that it cost her 18s. 6d. for a pair of shoes for her seven-year-old child. As the result of the withdrawal of the subsidy in respect of boots and shoes that’ cost will soon, be increased to 22s. 6d. She says that there is no need to ration eggs in her family because with eggs costing 3£d. each her children are lucky to get two a week. And so the story goes on. That woman works, on the average, fifteen hours a day; yet honorable members opposite say, “ We have reduced the working week already to 40 hours, and it should be progressively reduced to 30 hours. It is inconsequential to us that a reduction of hours to 30 a week will mean a rise of from 10 to 15 per cent, in the cost of building a house, or an increase of tram and railway fares.” I recall travelling on a tram in Sydney one Saturday morning just after the McGirr Labour Government in New South Wales had introduced the 40-hour week on the ground that the reduction of hours could be off-set by technical improvements. Possessing a gold pass I was not required to pay the tram fare, but a passenger sitting beside me handed 9d. to the conductress and the latter said “ 4d. please “. The passenger replied “ 4d. ! It used to be 2d. “, whereupon the conductress said : “ On Saturday morning we have an extra charge ; it is 4d. now “. Where is the advantage that was to be passed on to the public following the introduction of the 40-hour week? Where are the 90,000 houses which the McGirr Labour Government said it would provide in New South Wales in its first three years of office? Only a few thousand houses have been constructed up to date, and there is not the slightest prospect of the leeway being overtaken because sufficient workmen are not available to do the job. Recently, when I was in a metropolitan suburb J met workmen going home after having knocked off work at 3.30 or 3.45 p.m. No doubt they considered it ideal to be able to knock off while the sun was still high in the heavens. But can any one say that it is an ideal state of affairs when thousands are parked at Hargrave Park where they live under the worst possible slum conditions because the workers are encouraged by Labour governments and their supporters to believe that we can achieve prosperity by shortening hours and doing less work?
– The honorable member does not even pay decent wages. What is he squealing about?
– What is the value of wages to a person who cannot find a room for his family to live in? What is the value of wages to young couples who are forced to live with their in-laws with no prospect of ever obtaining a house of their own ? Thousands of people have not the slightest possibility of getting a house constructed because of the policy of this Government and Labour governments in the State.’. The time has Come when we must challenge this state of affairs. I, personally, am compelled to say, “No; I do not believe in a 40-hour week at this stage in our history. I believe in a 40-hour week when we can afford to reduce working hours and when the Community as a whole gets its share of the good things that are enjoyed by the relatively few who are so smug about their position “. However, wo are certainly not yet able to afford a 40-hour working week when thousands of our citizens cannot get even the ordinary decent amenities of life because those amenities are not being provided. The same observation applies to conditions in country areas. The farmer who is urged to produce more foodstuffs for Great Britain finds that he cannot do so when he cannot get fertilizer, barbed wire, and other essentials to enable him to do his job because sufficient of his requirements cannot be produced under the 40-hour week. So much for the cant which we hear about what ought to be, and is being, done by Labour governments. Let us meet the needs of people who require only decent government. I refer to the. people who cannot obtain homes. They are the people whom the Parliament should be doing its utmost to assist.
– The House is considering an Appropriation Bill to grant out of Consolidated Revenue a certain 3um for the carrying on of services for the year ending the 30th June next, and the debate has been broadened by a consideration of a number of cognate mea sures. The .honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made a good deal of play upon the amount of revenue which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has received. The -honor-able member criticized under-budgeting on the part of the Treasurer, and he had much to say about the surplus whic’h the Treasurer expects to have on hand at the end of the current financial year. I suggest that the honorable gentleman would be very happy to be a member of a government which is enjoying such buoyant revenues as the -result of the prosperity now being experienced in this country-. He concluded his arguments by saying that if he were the Treasurer he would reduce governmental expenditure and would deal with the Government’s present overseas reserves in a certain way. He devoted his attention mainly to those aspects. I should like to inform the honorable gentleman of what a political friend of his said not long ago when discussing our present overseas reserves. I refer to Mr. T. B. Heffer, general manager of- the Bank of New South Wales, who said-
At present we have adequate overseas reserves to meet a recession. But we must be prepared for a bad drought or a fall from to-day’s high prices for exports, and so must be careful not to dissipate our advantages.
That is an apt reply to the argument advanced by the honorable member when he criticized the Government for maintaining its present overseas reserves. In a rather jeering manner he referred to the socialist Government in Great Britain and implied that this Government is handling our overseas reserves in some subtle way in order to assist the United Kingdom Government. Honorable members will note a similarity between the argument advanced by Mr. Heffer and the Treasurer for retaining and husbanding our overseas credits. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) made a speech of the kind one would expect to hear from him on the hustings, having regard to the fact that a general election will be held this year. I can well imagine the honorable member making such a speech from a political platform. It was ah ear-tickling speech, full of half-truths and cunning suggestions. He made a great play about three subjects, namely. bousing, coal, and communism. To a lesser degree he dealt with a fourth subject, that of rising prices. Let Us examine these subjects briefly. Despite what might be said about coal-miners not working as many hours or as often as they might, and about petty stoppages, which we all abhor, the plain fact is that during last year coal production reached the second highest peak in our history. During ore-war years nobody cared “ two hoots “ about the coal-miners so long as the production amounted to 9,000,000 tons. In those years people were not concerned whether the miners worked one, two or three days a week because production was sufficient to meet requirements. To-day, because of the prosperity which Ave now enjoy and the expanded requirements of our secondary industries, we need approximately 13,000,000 tons annually. In order to attain such a total production coal-miners must work from 35 to 40 hours a week. Consequently, every stoppage in a coal mine is spotlighted, particularly if it be brought about as the result of the actions ot the miners. I confess that in many instances stoppages appear to arise from very trivial causes. Nobody countenances such stoppages. All I ask is that honorable members opposite be fair to the miners. Coal-mining is a hazardous, arduous, and uncongenial occupation and sufficient men are not now being attracted to the industry because, with the many avenues of employment available, people have become more “ choosy “ in selecting occupations. In spite of that, if our industries are to continue, we must have coal. Honorable members opposite are continually attacking the coal-miners. All we ask is that they be fair and acknowledge the fact that last year our coalminers were responsible for achieving the second highest production peak recorded in our history. So much for coal. The honorable member for Richmond linked coal with the “ Commos “. The Communists may be the friends of honorable members opposite; they are certainly not friends of this Government and its supporters. They do not want this Government to remain in office-
– That statement will not. delude anybody.
– The plain fact is that honorable members opposite cannot make up their minds what they would do with the Communists-.
– Wait until we get into office. We will quickly ban the Communist party.
– There is no agreement between the parties in opposition on the subject of whether or not the Communist party should be banned. Only last week in Tasmania, the organization of the Liberal party carried a, resolution against the banning of the Communist party. In Victoria the Hollway Government does not propose to ban the Communist party. There is no unanimity among the Opposition parties on this subject. On the other hand, there is no doubt about the attitude of this Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and government spokesmen have plainly and clearly stated that it is not the intention Of the Government to ban the Communist party. I shall not now go into the reasons for that decision because they have been well stated in the past. This Government has said unequivocally that whenever Communists break the law they will be prosecuted without exception.- So much for the Communists.
The honorable member also referred to the subject of housing. I propose to touch upon that subject, too, because it is a good story.
– That is all it is- ‘a story.
– I remember the time when, if progressive governments had been in office in this country, many houses could have been built. I used to talk a good deal about housing when I was sitting in Opposition in this Parliament some years ago. In those days labour and material were available and thousands of people were waiting for houses. At one time, even in this Territory, over which this Parliament has sole control, the only house being built was a residence for the then Treasurer, Mr. Casey, who is now stumping the country telling the people what the Liberal party will do to house the people if it is returned to office after the next election. Yet when the same gentleman was Treasurer of the Commonwealth, he closed down the brickyards and employed skilled brickworkers on chipping weeds around the city area. Even then, they were given only one week’s work in three.
– In the Australian Capital Territory to-day there are 3,000 people waiting for houses.
– The number is not so great as that. It is more like 1,000. I concede, however, that the number is very much greater than it was during the regime of the Lyons Government. The reason for that is obvious. To-day we have not the requisite labour and materials to build the houses required in Canberra. Notwithstanding the acute shortage of labour and materials, however, more houses are now being built in Canberra than ever before in the history of this Territory. Let us examine the position that existed in 1927-28, when the Bruce-Page Government was in office.
– Can the Minister go back no further than that?
– That will be far enough to enable me to make my point. In those years, when many honorable members now in Opposition were sitting on the Government side of the House, the then Treasurer, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) told the Parliament a great story very similar to that told to-night by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) about what should be done to house the people.
– Why go back to 1927? Has the Minister been politically dead since then?
– Order! The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was granted an extension of time to enable him to conclude his speech. He should not interrupt the Minister.
– In introducing the Commonwealth Housing Bill on the 5th October, 1927, the right honorable member for Cowper said -
An outstanding feature of modern life is the recognition of the importance of housing in the domestic affairs of the nation. Society can be stabilized and contentment created only by the satisfaction of the intense desire of the individual to own and live in his own home. Muchhas been done by the Govern ments of Australia by their State schemes, not merely to enable individuals to purchase dwellings, but also greatly to encourage thrift. But no one can live in Australia without appreciating that there is a big, bare area as yet uncovered by existing schemes; and the Commonwealth Government has been impelled to attack the problem of housing with the desire to eliminate that bare area. It realizes that the existence of that bare area is due to lack of financial provision, and to the failure to use the full proportion of savings bank funds.
That is the substance of what the honorable member for Richmond has said to-night. The right honorable member for Cowper continued - . . The Commonwealth Government thinks that a great deal more of the funds of the savings bank, which represents the individual savings of the people should be used in providing homes, whether in towns or on farms, for the people themselves at low rates of interest . . . The success of the Commonwealth’s Housing Scheme is dependent upon the co-operation of the State Savings Banks or other home-building authorities. It will be necessary for the State Parliaments to amend their laws to enable those authorities to comply with the conditions laid down by the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Housing Act of 1927-1928 defined the manner in which housing loans could be made and determined the conditions of eligibility. But what was the result? Very little was done. Actually only £1,435,000 was expended under that scheme. Subsequently, when another anti-Labour government was in office, the then Prime Minister spoke of a £20,000,000 scheme for the building of homes for the people.
– And did not spend a penny of it.
– That is so.
– But he did build one home.
– No. The honorable member is referring now to a former Treasurer of the Commonwealth, Mr. R. G. Casey. That is a different story and we may hear more about it later. Under theact passed when the right honorable member for Cowper was Treasurer, New South Wales received £1,000,000 and the Federal Capital Commission received £170,000. Altogether, approximately £1,455,000 was expended, and there the scheme ended. Then, as I have said, in 1934, a £20,000,000 housing scheme was propounded by the then
Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, but the plan was stillborn. The election promises were not honored ; why, it will never be known. The tragic housing situation remained and that, together with the high degree of prosperity now enjoyed by the Australian people, created the problem that exists to-day.” But there is another side to the story. Last year, more houses were built in Australia than in any other single year in our history. Throughout the Commonwealth 49,000 dwellings were completed. Wherever one travels in Australia to-day, one sees houses being built. It is true that some of them are taking an unduly long time to complete, but that is due to a combination of circumstances, one of which, unfortunately, is that workmen to-day are not prepared to work quite as well as they did in former years. However, no solution of the housing problem, which, incidentally, is not confined to this country, but is world-wide, has been offered by honorable members opposite. I consider that to have built 49,000 howes last year, in spite of all the difficulties that existed, was a remarkable achievement. The best pre-war figure for any one year was 40.000, and the average for any ton-year period pre-war was only 29,000. Therefore, honorable members opposite are talking nonsense when they accuse the Government of inactivity in home construction. I realize that there are many people waiting for homes. There are many families in my own electorate who are inadequately housed and are seeking new dwellings. Every member of this chamber knows of heart-rending cases. That is one of the tragedies of the postwar years, but for honorable members opposite to lay the blame on the Government’s doorstep is utter nonsense. The Government is not responsible for the situation. Under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement the Commonwealth Government has advanced not merely the £20,000,000 of which a former Prime Minister spoke, but £40,000,000 for home-building. That expenditure has been spread over all the States with the exception of South Australia, which is not participating in this scheme. The Government has shown clearly that it is prepared to do something practical. Under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement, the Common wealth provides the money and the States utilize the available material and manpower to the best advantage. In fact, the Commonwealth is going even further. It is subsidizing rents by making rebates to people in the lower income groups. That is a matter upon which the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) could speak in much more detail. To say that nothing has been done by the Commonwealth is just begging the question, and is so much political propaganda. The plain fact is that the people of Australia are enjoying a degree of prosperity never excelled or even equalled in the history of this country. They are house conscious. People who in years gone by have beer prepared to share dwellings, now want homes of their own and we are doing our best to provide them. The construction last year of 9,500 more homes than were erected in any other single year is, I contend, a worthwhile contribution to the solution of this great problem.
I come now to prices. The Opposition will find it most difficult to evade responsibility for rising prices when they face the electors of this country. Honorable members opposite know quite well that the withdrawal of subsidies and recent price increases have resulted from the defeat of the rents and prices referendum which they so strenuously opposed. During the referendum campaign they described Government warnings of the consequences of a “ No “ vote as nonsense. They claimed that the States could control prices more effectively than could the Commonwealth and that the defeat of the. referendum would not mean the withdrawal of subsidies. However, in the Prime Minister’s first referendum speech he stated emphatically that certain subsidies would have to be withdrawn if the Commonwealth relinquished control of prices. The Opposition therefore cannot escape the blame for the present situation. It is their baby and they must carry it. They may delude a few people, but not many. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has pointed out that the subsidy on tea has continued, but he knows quite well that the retention of that subsidy has presented no difficulties because tea is bought on a government to government basis, and is sold to the Australian people at a fixed price. The subsidy on tea at present it approximately 2s. 8d. per lb. It would be quite impossible, however, for the Commonwealth to police the payment of a subsidy on say woollen goods, because it has no jurisdiction in that matter. The butter subsidy is another story. Butter was subsidized long before the war and for quite a different reason. The honorable gentleman knows that. All this talk is mere political propaganda issued in the hope that some people will be deluded into believing that Australia is being mismanaged by the present Government.
– They are not deluded.
– Some may be deluded, for there are always a few foolish people who allow themselves to be deluded by catch-cries. Let me examine the financial supplement of the Sydney Morning Herald. I do not mind stating the name of the paper from which I propose to quote. The honorable member for Richmond quoted, from the yellow press, a story which, of course, is perfectly true. I know that a woman gets up early if she has three or four children, but that has gone on throughout the ages. Being a member of a large family, I can remember something of the same sort happening in our home when I was a youngster. I grew up the hard way. I do not propose to quote from the yellow press. The paper that I propose to quote from is the Sydney Morning Herald, which to some honorable gentlemen opposite is almost the Bible. I am sure that the honorable member for Richmond reads it every day, at the breakfast table if he can. Sometimes the Sydney Morning Herald publishes some really good stuff. In the supplement, it tells the story of the Commonwealth surplus and the overseas debt, and it tells us quite a lot about the trading banks5 strength and the central bank reserves. The whole supplement consists of excellent material.
– Written by the sporting editor !
– That could not be the honorable member for Warringah, for he could never be regarded as a sporting gentleman, in that sense. There is a debit side to this Government and its activities. The debit side may be summarized in a few words. One of the items on the debit side is our difficulty with housing; another is our difficulty, with production ; and yet another is our difficulty with the distribution of the things that we have to the people who need them. We must accept some responsibility for those debit items, much as we try to minimize the difficulties. There is also a credit side. It is disclosed by the financial supplement of the Sydney Morning Herald. It almost forecasts the golden era that the Prime Minister referred to some time ago. On page after page the headings give testimony to Labour policy. The following is a selection of headings from the supplement : -
External reserves reach record level.
People’s savings deposits at all-time peak.
Life cover exceeds all savings deposits’.
Trading banks show nation’s strength.
Nation’s money income soars to £2,000,000,000.
British industry in Australia. Why Loudon is turning to our shores.
Company profit? nominally show slight increase.
Commonwealth surplus builds up. Big expenditure on works.
The last item is the one that the honorable member for Warringah does not like. If he were Treasurer, he would like it. Like all Treasurers he would be glad to see the money flowing into “the Treasury. The next heading is -
Social services on an extensive scale.
Headings dealing with primary industries give a similar testimony to Australia’s growth under Labour. Those headings, I think, are on the credit side of Labour’s administration of the nation’s affairs. The Treasurer has held his office for nearly eight years. That testimony comes not from a Labour newspaper but from one that is traditionally opposed to Labour. That supplement was published on the 3rd May last.
– Not on the 1st April?
– No. It was too good for April Fools’ Day. Talking seriously, I propose to refer to another item on the credit side of the ledger, that is, our record of employment. There were 2,436,600 persons receiving salaries and wages in Australia at the end of March this year compared with 1,732,200 in July, 1939.
– A quarter of them work for the Government.
– Let me deal with that interjection straight away. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) says that a quarter of those people are working for the Government.
– Which government?
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) dealt with that matter very effectively only a few days ago.
– I shall deal effectively with him if I get the chance.
– The honorable member cannot get out of it. He is trying 4o imply that the quarter working for the Government are working for the Australian Government. They are not, because every little shire council, so dear to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), contains people who want roads built and rabbits destroyed. Those are activities that absorb labour. Every shire council wants to do something that absorbs labour.
– Hear, hear !
– I agree with the honorable gentleman that those things should be done, but they can be done only by a governmental or a semigovernmental body. The activities of shire councils, State governments, and semigovernmental bodies like marine boards, harbour trusts and country roads boards make demands on the labour market. Honorable gentlemen opposite want to see done all the things the people need to have done and they want them done now, but, immediately more men are put to work on doing them, they say : “ Look at “the people working for the Government ! “ and they imply, as the honorable member for Fawkner implied, that they are employed by the Australian Government, which is not the truth. So much for that interjection ! The figures that I have just cited do not include wage-earners in rural industry, women in domestic service and members of the defence forces. The largest number were employed in manufacturing. That group provided employment for 900,000. There were 238,100 engaged in retail trade. Rail and air transport accounted for 106,000 and other transport and communication services for 158,200. The balance were employed in banks, and in connexion with property and finance, wholesale trade and commerce. The smallest employment groups were forestry, fishing and trapping, only 28,200 persons being engaged in these occupations. We are proud of our record in Tasmania. There are 57,000 males and 18,400 females, a total of 75,400, employed in that State to-day. That is an all-time record. Approximately four years have elapsed since World War II. ended. Let u3 take our minds back - beyond 1927 for the information of the honorable member for Warringah - to conditions in Australia four years after the end of World War I., and compare employment figures then and now. The following extract from an advertisement published in a leading Australian journal at that time gives a very clear indication of the state of the employment market -
For many of our returned soldiers there is no work. They have tasted something that chu be more bitter than war - unemployment. What makeshifts the brave fellows have resorted to in order to make ends meet God knows - selling soap and tape and little haberdasheries at our doors.
That quotation was taken from an appeal for funds for distressed “ diggers “ published on the 4th April, 1922. On the 19th April of the same year, 900 unemployed were listed in the employment section of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of . Australia in one capital city. Three hundred of those men were entirely without means of livelihood apart from government rations. What do we find in Australia to-day, nearly four years after the end of World War II.? Not unemployment, because there are no unemployed to-day. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) can tell us that the names of only a handful of unemployed are registered on his books and that, in the main, they are seasonal workers or men who have been thrown out of work as the result of “ some industrial distu rbance. We have record employment in Australia to-day - in every State. There are no unemployed and there is a waiting list of employers seeking labour. That is due to the prosperity of the nation. In addition, the Government is bringing thousands of immigrants to the country and placing them in employment immediately, or as soon as they have gained a working knowledge of the English language. They are all placed in profitable employment. That state of affairs contrasts in a marked degree with the situation that prevailed in the days when anti-Labour governments were in office, when people lived on government doles while they looked for work.
That is one item on the credit side of the record of Labour governments over the last eight years, during which the nation has passed through the greatest trials, tribulations and dangers in its history. The Labour Government has so organized the economy of the country that a record number of people is in employment and nobody is out of work. Furthermore, if any man or woman falls ill by the wayside the Government provides financial aid and free entry to a public ward of a hospital. I am confident that the funds that the Government now requires to enable it to carry on the affairs of the nation for the next four months will be granted by the Parliament. After all, it is only a matter of numbers, which is appropriate. I am sure that, as well as having a majority in the Parliament, the Government also commands the sup-port of a majority of the people a?, the result of the legislation that it has enacted. It has organized and planned so that it i* equipped to meet a recession if there should be one. It has increased our credits abroad ; it has developed our economy at home; it has planned work that can be undertaken in time of economic stress, and it employs the minimum number of people needed in the Public Service to provide for the efficient service of the country. In the light of that record, I am convinced that the people will endorse the policy that the Government has been pursuing during the last few years of its life.
-571. - The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) spoke of the last years of the life of the Government. Yes, that this is the last year of its life the people hope and we earnestly believe. The Government is asking the Parliament to appropriate £128,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money, not the Government’s money. In these circumstances, the responsibility and duty of the Parliament is to dissect the Goernment’’s programme of expenditure and criticize, helpfully we hope, although we know that the Government can force the appropriation through Parliament or “ gag “ it through. We know that, as the Minister for Repatriation has said, the Government has the numbers necessary to force its wishes upon us whatever it i embers of the Opposition may do. Nevertheless, as freely elected representatives of a democratic people, we are entitled to voice our criticisms. Before embarking upon a discussion of the two subjects that I propose to analyse - finance and defence - I must comment upon some of the utterances, of the Minister for Repatriation. The honorable gentleman went back more than twenty years into history and, with simple faith, he told us also of the prosperity of the Australian people to-day. He believes that our present prosperity may be attributed to the activities of the Government. Apparently the record prices that are being paid for our wool and wheat and the fact that a starving world is clamouring for everything that we can export have passed him by ! He spoke of a period four years after the end of World War I., when there was some unemployment in Australia. Unfortunately it seems that he has not studied the history of the ‘thirties. I am sorry to remind him of those days, and I should not do so if he had not to’d the Parliament and the listening public that there was a depression four years after World War I.
The depth of the depression, when there was a record number of unemployed persons in Australia, was reached during the previous, term of Labour administration, under the Scullin Government. The Labour party told the people, who were about to face a world-wide depression, that if it were given power it would “ plan them into prosperity “. That has a familiar ring. The Minister told us the same thing to-night. When the Scullin Government came into power, unemployment increased until it reached record proportions and, after’ witnessing its pathetic performance, a disgusted people at last threw it out of office. A democratic government took its place and Australia was the first country in thu world to climb out of the depression. I do not say that the recovery was entirely due to the efforts of the Lyons Government, but it was. hastened because that government gave the people opportunities to work and prosper instead of relying upon centralized planning. To-night the simple-souled Minister for Repatriation has told us about plans for a recession and the plans that the Government has made to save us all from ourselves. The curse of the democracies to-day is the planner. We have planners in Canberra, crystal-gazers, long-haired boys and shorthaired women, who sit behind the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), whom somebody has aptly called the “ Minister for Duplication “, and with pencil and paper believe they can control the destiny of nations, solve all problems and run our lives infinitely better than we can do ourselves ! The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is such a planner. I need deal with only three of the matters that the Minister for Repatriation has raised to prove that statement. The honorable gentleman referred extensively to housing. Does he not know that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has stated that the Labour Government does not intend to create a nation of little capitalists? As all honorable members are aware, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction made that statement during a debate in this House when we were urging the Government to accelerate the building programme. This Government believes in the socialist state, a subservient people and a kind of organized shabbiness. The whole team of Ministers believe in that doctrine. Indeed, they would not be allowed to remain in a socialist government or party if they did not believe in it. The contention that the building programme is leaping ahead is ridiculous. Building is lagging in every State, but the two States in which the position is improving are Victoria and South Australia, which have Liberal Governments. The Victorian Government has taken measures to overcome some of the shortages of building materials. If materials cannot be purchased locally, that Govern ment imports them from overseas and pays the difference between the local and imported prices.
What contribution has the Australian Labour Government made to homebuilding? It has provided large sums of money for public works, but not necessarily for housing. In the Australian Capital Territory a short distance from Parliament House, we see huge stones standing on end, suggesting a modern Stonehenge, and excavations for a huge public building. Hundreds of bricklayers, carpenters and other tradesmen will be employed on that project and large quantities of materials will be required for it. To that degree, the construction of homes will be affected. But honorable members opposite profess that they are the friends of the working man. I believe that a man is a better citizen if he has his own home, but there are thousands of Australians who cannot obtain homes. The Commonwealth Department of War Service Homes is likewise not able to meet the demands upon it. The Minister endeavoured to placate the coal-miners, and, in doing so, claimed that the work that they do is hard. The work that many Australians perforin is hard, but I venture to say that no one is harder pressed today than is the Australian housewife. She knows the full meaning of rising prices. As the months pass, she finds that her husband’s wages will buy fewer and fewer goods, for it is not the height of wages, but what they will buy, that matters. The reasons for that condition of affairs are not always obvious, but the cause is largely attributable to indirect taxes.
To-day, customs and excise receipt* amount to £123,000,000 per annum, which is more than the total receipts from direct and indirect taxes before the outbreak of World War II. Returns from customs and excise exceed the Treasurer’s estimate by several millions of pounds. Primage duty is purely a revenue tax intended to relate to inspections at the customs, yet on some goods, it is 10 per cent. The result of the imposition of that tax is that 10 per cent, is added to the imported cost of the goods. The cost is further increased by the imposition of sales tax. Are honorable members aware that 35 items required by the building trade are still subject to sales tax? The result is that the unfortunate individual who is paying for the erection of a home is loaded with inflationary taxes. So inflationary is the effect of these taxes that the Government has introduced a bill the purpose of which is to increase the amount that may be lent to a person who desires to build a war service home. Houses that would have cost a few hundred pounds before the war now cost more than £1,000. That is an example of this Government’s management and planning. Those conditions are definitely the responsibility and fault of thi3 Government. They are evidence of the Government’s haphazard and stupid policy.
During World War II., subsidies were paid from revenue for the purpose of reducing the price to the public of certain foodstuffs and other commodities. The Government conducted a referendum in which it asked the people to vest permanently in the Parliament of the Commonwealth power to control rents and prices. The people rejected that request, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was so piqued that he said, in effect, “ The Commonwealth will abandon prices control immediately, and will withdraw the subsidies “. The Prime Minister acted like a small boy who says, “ If you do not let me make runs, I shall take my bat home “.
– Why does not the honorable member go home?
– I do not think that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has ever played cricket either in the Parliament or elsewhere. The Prime Minister’s precipitate action in withdrawing the subsidies has caused not only confusion in the States, but also increased prices. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has reminded the House that the subsidy in respect of whole milk was withdrawn, but that another subsidy on tea was retained. The Commonwealth has ceased to pay subsidies on foods required for children, but has retained them on other commodities.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) represents the Minister for Trade and
Customs (Senator Courtice) in this House. He is aware that there is an import duty on tea, although tea is not grown in Australia. As the Minister for Repatriation has proudly announced, the Government is the sole buyer of Australia’s tea requirements.
– Why did not the honorable member remove the import duty on tea when he was the Minister for Trade and Customs?
– I did so, but the Labour Government reimposed it. I am glad that’ the honorable gentleman made that interjection, because I am able to correct him. To-day, a Gilbertian situation exists. The duty on tea is 3d. per lb., and even more on some weights, but the Commonwealth pays a subsidy in respect of tea in order to keep down the price. Did honorable members ever hear of a more stupid instance of so-called planning and management than that?
I do not propose to speak at length on communism. That subject is now prominently before the people, and any one who cannot see the menace of this hideous creed is a fool, or a knave, or a traitor, or all of those things. The Minister for Repatriation said that the Communists are the friends of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and that the Liberal Government in Victoria had not attempted to declare the Communist party an illegal organization. Of course, the Minister is perfectly well aware that the State Government cannot ban the Communist party. That is the responsibility of the Commonwealth. However, the Liberal Government of Victoria has taken steps to appoint a royal commission for the purpose of ascertaining who are the Communists and their under-cover friends. It will be most interesting to discover, even in this Parliament, the hidden friends of the men who desire to wreck this community. I do not forget that the Prime Minister has described communism as a political philosophy. The Minister for Repatriation, who has referred to Communists, should read in Hansard the report of a speech by Senator Morrow. That speech may well have been made by a man who is not a member of* the Australian Labour party. Certain utterances have been made by persons in this House, whom I shall not name because some of them have already been in sufficient trouble. However, the royal commission should produce some further revelations: Honorable members may not believe Mr. Sharpley, but they will have to believe the evidence given before the royal commission.
– Does the honorable member intend to give evidence before the royal commission?
– I should love to give the history of the Minister for Transport to a royal commission. That would be most interesting.. To-day, I received from the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) an answer to a question that t had asked’ about the construction of the destroyer Anzac. The Minister confessed that the construction of that warship would take four years. T do not criticize the Williamstown Dockyard or the men employed at that establishment. Our engineers and artisans are. equal to any in the world, and, at Williamstown they are doing good work.. But mischievous saboteurs are endeavouring to reduce production in. this country and wreck this democracy. I asked the Minister whether he had seen a statement, under statutory declaration, that this man Sharpley had worked in the- dockyard and under his own. name. The Minister gave. the following, reply :-
For security reasons, 1 do not propose to furnish the information sought by the honorable member other than to state that my department was well aware of Sharpley’s identity and presence in the dockyard and nhat he performed his duties diligently.
I.’ have no doubt that he performed diligently not only his duties at the dockyard but also his efforts to wreck anything that savoured of the British democratic way of life.
I come now to two items that I intend to scrutinize. The House is being asked to- vote to the Government’ £129,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money. This afternoon, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made a very careful analysis of some Commonwealth departmental expenditure. In my opinion, taxation in Australia is oppressive. Only high prices for our exports have made it possible for the people to carry the burden. High wages to-day are not real’ wages and have not a great purchasing power ? They will not buy any more goods than a substantially smaller wage would have purchased twenty years ago. Australia’s population of fewer than 8,000,000 is contributing annually almost £500,000,000 in taxes. All types of tax have been increased four-fold and five-fold. Customs revenue has increased from £44,000,000 to £123,000,000. The- Government has made it clear that it -has little regard for the “ little man “. It panders to the monopolists because it is itself a monopoly. Members of the Government and their supporters aspire to become socialist dictators so that they may monopolize every activity. To thatend they punish small businessmen by such measures a3 that which was recently enacted to impose punitive taxation on small proprietary companies. Some of those small concerns were forced out of business, whilst others have been compelled to form themselves into public companies. The fiat recently issued by Dr. Coombs, the socialist Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and economic dictator of Australia, that private trading banks must now “ get tough “ and tighten up their policy concerning advances is in line with the Government’s general attitude. What will be the effect of that direction to the trading banks? Substantial businesses will not be penalized because if they find themselves short of funds they can always make a special share issue.
– It was done with the concurrence of the banks.
– I understood the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mt. Pollard) to say that the trading banks were directed to curtail their advances in the ‘thirties. The Minister forgets, of course, that the political party to which he belongs has for years condemned the Lyons Government because the trading banks during the depression were alleged to have restricted advances, though this was disproved. Members of the Australian Labour party complained at the time, and ever since have continued to complain that the trading banks were too restrictive; but now that Labour is in office the Government is ordering the trading banks to adopt a restrictive policy. That policy has the whole-hearted support of the present Prime Minister, who was Minister for
Defence in the Scullin Government. In that capacity he sought to economize by sabotaging our national defences. Our submarines were returned to theRoyal Navy, the Staff Corps was placed on half pay, theRoyal Military College was moved from Duntroon and the expenditure on the naval training college was drastically reduced. Of course, the right honorable gentleman, as he now is, was rejected by the electors at the general elections that followed. While he was out of the Parliament hewas appointed a member of a royal commission on monetary and banking systems by the non-Labour government of that time.
– The members of that Government were “ big mugs “.
– No, they were not.I was a member of that Administration, and I think we were wise to have every section of the community represented on the royal commission. As a member of the royal commission, the present right honorable gentleman admitted that there was a place in our financial system for the trading banks. To-day he is emphatic that they must bn abolished. That was why he introduced legislation to destroy the trading banks. He has hypothecated one hundred million pounds of public money to buy out the shareholders of the trading banks, and, had the High Court not declared the legislation to be ultra vires the Constitution, undoubtedly the private banks would now have ceased to exist. Notwithstanding the High Court’s rejection of its legislation, the Government has decided to expend large sums of public money on an appeal to the Privy Council. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) is now appearing before the Privy Council–
– Hear, hear!
-Apparently the Minister isalso enthusiastic aboutthe nationalization of banking and the squandering of public money in attempts to do so. For the benefit of the Minister I shall read a statement which he made inOctober, 1938, when we were confronted with the immediate prospect of war. He said -
Personally I would not spend threepence on armaments or defence work of any kind.
– Hear, hear!
-Apparently that is still the view of a prominent member of the present Government. I turn now to a brief examination of the national finances. It is necessary to examine them in some little detail to realize how the Government has squandered the people’s money. I propose to deal with two or three examples of gross extravagance. The first one is the Aluminium Production Commission, to which other honorable members have already referred. During the war the Government discovered that we had very little aluminium and it was seized with panic. It promised that it would set about manufacturing aluminium. Already it has spent approximately £1,000,000 on the manufacture of aluminium, and althoughI understand that the necessary plant is at last on the way to Australia, not a single pound of aluminium has yet been produced. If only half the huge sum of money which has been expended on the commission had been used to purchase aluminium abroad we should bynow have had a stock-pile of that metal which would have sufficed for our needs for probably twenty years. The precipitate andextravagant action taken by the Labour Administrationresponsible is typical of itsunbusinesslike attitude.
– The Labour Administration which was responsible for the appointment of the commission made all sorts of promises to woo the electors of Tasmania, but at the subsequent general election it did not succeed in winning an additional sent in that State.
– That is so. The present Labour Administration, besides endeavouring to abolish the trading hanks, sought tostrangle all private airlines. However, the High Court, which is the umpire in our constitutional system of Government, declared the legislation to be ultra vires, and held that although theGovernment is entitled to operate airlines, it is not entitled to establish a complete monopoly of air services. In the teeth of that decision the Government hassoughtto destroy private airlinesby slowstrangulation. For example. it hasimposed excessive charges on private airlines for the use of aerodromes.The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has pointed out that within aperiod of two years Trans-Australia Airlines has lost over £800,000 of the taxpayers’ money.
Whether an individual taxpayer travels by air or not he is compelled, as a taxpayer, to contribute towards the losses incurred by the national airline. Now the Government proposes to nationalize shipping. Ignoring altogether the hard fact that the turnround of ships is much slower in our ports and that ship-owners as well as passengers and consignors are subjected to all manner of delays and frustration, the Government included in its legislation a provision that all vessels shall be declared obsolete after twenty-four years’ service. The measure provides, that all new vessels used by the lino shall be built in Australian yards, but priority is to be given to the construction of vessels for the new Government monopoly line. In other words, private shipping companies are to be driven to the wall. That is a clever device to circumvent the Constitution. Inevitably costs will mount, and ultimately the people will have to pay.
I have already referred to waste in government offices. A question which I asked concerning the number of government buildings in course of construction and the total labour engaged upon them appears on the notice-paper, and I do not intend to spend much time on the matter just now. However, I point out that articles have recently appeared in the press protesting against the excessive office space acquired by government departments and instrumentalities in Melbourne. Large buildings such as Chancery House and Henty House have been appropriated for use by those instrumentalities. The Department of Civil Aviation, which already occupies Almora House, a big building, has acquired Henty House compulsorily, though it could have been housed in government barracks at Albert Park, whilst Trans-Australia Airlines occupy a “sky-scraper” in Swanstonstreet. I emphasize that this unwarranted expansion is occurring while ex-servicemen and young businessmen who desire to establish themselves are unable to obtain premises. A recent article by the real estate writer in the Argus stated -
The position has not been improved by the acquisition or purchase by governments of city buildings for use of departments. It is freely stated that these government depart ments are not making the best use of the space they have. Chancery’ House, Little Collins Street and Bourke Street, is regarded as a classical example.
I trust that- some honorable members can hear me despite the considerable noise which honorable members opposite are making. The report from which I have quoted goes on to mention that Craig’s Building in Elizabeth-street was bought during the war by the Commonwealth Bank. Building operatives are at present engaged in remodelling premises for the Commonwealth Bank in various States, and in carrying out extensive additions to Parliament House in Canberra. Such unnecessary diversion of labour and materials is occurring while exservicemen and other young married men are unable to obtain labour or material to build homes. Undoubtedly the present grave shortage of housing accommodation is due in a large measure to the 17118-USB by the Government of money, men and materials.
The Government’s extravagance is also apparent in connexion with action taken under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act and the National Health Act. The Government is endeavouring to coerce our medical practitioners, who are members of a noble and honorable profession, and to conscript people by ordering them to place themselves under the Government’s control. Our doctors are to be transformed into “ vets “, and people are to be treated as units of a herd. They will be directed to seek medical attention from a particular “ vet “, and they will be treated only for certain “ official “ complaints. Individuals will not be able to consult the doctor of their choice. In sickness, as well as in health, they are to be regimented and be cured only with official prescriptions. The operation of a similar socialist scheme in the United Kingdom indicates what lies in store for us. In Great Britain people have been denied proper medical attention through delays in form filling, although dentures, wigs, corsets, spectacles and all kinds of superfluous accessories have been provided at tremendous public expense.
– Hear, hear!
– That might suit the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who apparently needs medical attention this evening- to judge from his drivelling interjections. However, that is not what the people of Australia want. They want the medical profession to be kept on its pedestal and they desire freedom of choice in the matter of receiving medical attention. The Government has cunningly secured the passage of a measure under which it proposes to provide that one half of a doctor’s charges to his patient shall be paid by the Government, but, by regulation, at any time it can provide that, it shall pay the whole of the charges. If that were done, the whole of the medical profession would be conscripted immediately, although it was specifically provided in the Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill 1946 when it was being considered by the Parliament that neither the medical profession nor the dental profession could be conscripted. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) accepted an amendment to that effect, and accordingly the Opposition adopted to the proposed amendment of the social services power in the Constitution, an attitude different from that which they adopted to the other amendments proposed at that time. Now we are to have more coercion by this Government, which is composed of doctrinaire socialists. It would be more honest if honorable members opposite said openly that in this matter they think that the Government can do better than private enterprise. Instead, they are giving free rein to the obsession that the Prime Minister has that everything must be nationalized. The right honorable gentleman is endeavouring to achieve nationalization by taxation, by specious legislation that the people cannot see through and by similar devices. All that will be put aside for the few months between now and next general election. That election will be in the nature of a referendum on our liberties. The Prime Minister and the other members of this Government constitute a team of petty despots. There is one Minister who wants to push people out or pull them in at his will, there is another who does not want to see “ little capitalists “, and there is the dictator of New Guinea, of whom we have heard a lot but who has been rather quiet lately. If the quiet Minister for Repatriation stuck to hrs last and, from the huge sur- pluses that the Government has been accumulating, gave a little more money to disabled ex-servicemen and exservicemen university students and ensured that war widows receive a pension approximating the basic wage, he and the Government would be doing something for worthy people. Some of the students to whom I have just referred are now on their way to Canberra to plead for a little more money because many of them are being forced to give up their university courses owing to the fact that the allowances that are paid to them are so mean and petty. Last week the Minister -was asked whether the Government would provide motor cars for totally disabled soldiers as has been done in Great Britain.
– Why did honorable members opposite not do that after World War I.?
– It was a non-Labour government which brought down the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and there are many more disabled ex-servicemen and cars now than there were in 1918. I support the provision of motor cars for totally disabled exservicemen, and when this Government is turned out we shall provide them. Great Britain, which is now the most underfed country in Europe, although it is manfully fighting its way back to its pre-war position, has many more totally disabled ex-servicemen that has Australia, but it is providing them with motor cars. Although the Australian Government has surpluses amounting to millions of pounds and is squandering public money in a prodigal manner, it will not spend a few thousands of pounds on this worthy cause.
The Parliament is being asked to approve of the expenditure of many millions of pounds upon defence. I remind the House -that during the last few weeks Lieuten ant-General Rowell, a brilliant Australian general, and Vice-Chief of the General Staff, said in Melbourne that Australia was “never more- strategically isolated than it is to-day “. He was not criticizing the Government, but was speaking factually. We kin ow that Russia is using lie terrorist ideology of communism as a war weapon and that -it/’has its hidden army in every other country. At the moment the “ red “ tide is being checked in Europe to a large degree, but that tide is flowing in Asia and is coming close to our shores. We have alienated the friendly Dutch. We have given away the Mandated Territory of New Guinea to a trusteeship council. We know that the lights of freedom have gone out in many European countries, some of which formerly were democratic countries. Little is known of democracy in Asian countries. Our last bastions in the Pacific are Malaya and Hong Kong, but, although they are so close to us, Britain is paying for their defence. I remind the House that there are five Ministers concerned with our microscopic defence forces. They are the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) and the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong). On every occasion on which honorable members on this side of the House raise the question of our inadequate defence preparations, they are told by the Minister for Defence that £250,000,000 has been voted for defence purposes. It is not the amount of money that is voted for defence that is important. What is important is the way in which it is spent, the training that is given to the armed forces and the materials that are available. That was proved in the last two wars. The Australian people will do their duty, but if the Government does not do its duty and ensure that citizens are trained, the members of that Government will be the guilty men. There is a possibility that a third world war may occur. If it does geography will not save us. World War I. passed us by and World War II. touched our shores. If a third world war were to occur, it would be fought with the aid of atomic bombs and guided missiles. Bacteriological warfare would probably be engaged in. We shall be within range of many of the new and hideous weapons that science has discovered in the last few years. When the Minister for the Army is asked questions about training, he adopts a fatalistic attitude and says that the next war will be a pres3-button war. Apparently the honorable gentle- man assumes that some one will press a button and that it will soon be over. Armies are still the vogue in Russia and will be necessary in other countries as well until the danger of war has passed. What forces would be available to us if war should occur? General Blarney, a successful Australian general and one who retained his command throughout World War II. and became CommanderinChief of the Australian Imperial Force, said a few weeks ago that we have two scattered, nominal militia divisions, with very few troops. That is the smallest force that we have had in 30 years. That fact should make honorable members opposite hang their heads in shame. In the period between World War. I. and World War II. we had four or five militia divisions, but to-day we have only .two nominal divisions. In the whole of Australia we have approximately 15,000 men in the Militia and 10,000 in the regular army. No honorable member will say that that force would be adequate if trouble occurred. It is wrong that the position should be allowed to remain as it is. Questions regarding the air force are received with abuse and insults from the Minister, and it is said that the Government will not supply information that might be of use to a prospective enemy. Does the Government think that the representatives of foreign nations in Australia do not know their jobs and that they cannot find out what they want to find out about the state of our armed forces? Is it suggested that the men who masquerade as union leaders but who are really Communists have not entered the unions for definite purposes of their own and do not know the position ? It has been admitted that the Government knew that Communists were working in the naval dockyard. Honorable members cannot discover the strength of the Air Force. We know that it has a nominal establishment of seven squadrons for home defence and nine squadrons for a task force, but I believe that it consists of six understrength squadrons. There are thousands of excellent young men who would have joined an air force of reasonable proportions, but who have not had an opportunity to do so. These men would join the Citizen Air Force if there were vacancies. In Melbourne and Sydney, the two largest capital cities of. Australia, the Citizen Air Force establishment is 150, and the Government has gone abroad to try to obtain recruits. I asked the Minister for Air about the progress of recruiting, hoping for a favorable answer. But one gets the usual answer from the Minister although one reads in the press such statements as the following: -
R.A.A.F. fails in U.K. drive. … The R.A.A.F.’s recruiting drive in Britain is still lugging seriously.
It is now three months since an appeal was launched for 1,000 ex-R.A.F. skilled tradesmen, but so far only about 30 men have passed all the trade, medical and other selection tests.
We are combing Britain for air force recruits. Our first aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. Sydney arrived in Australia last week. Many of its personnel had to be recruited in Great Britain because this Government will not take the steps that it should take. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) says that we are spending £250,000,000 on defence. How is it being spent? Does the Minister think that a rocket range will defend the country? Britain to-day is spending £800,000,000 a year on defence. The British know the price of failure. They have borne the brunt of the fighting in the past and we, as an important part of what we should all be proud to call the British Empire, without omitting the word British, are not doing, or paying, our share. Britain is spending sixteen times as much as we are spending and is calling up to the colours, on draft, some 170,000 men. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and I, as well as others who approached the Minister for the Navy to find out when young surgeons who enlisted in 1939 and who have not yet been demobilized, would be relieved by others permitted to leave the Navy to set up their practices, have been told by him that those young men cannot be excused from service. Trade unionists would not be treated in that scurvy manner. Yet the five Cabinet Ministers who control the destinies of Australia are giving us an air force of the kind that I have mentioned. The cruisers now in the Navy, which had such a magnificent record in the last war, were ordered by previous govern ments and those lost have not been replaced. At the time when those cruisers were ordered we had the present Minister for External Territories saying -
It 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.
He also opposed any Australian cruiser being ordered to fight in foreign waters. Where did he think a cruiser should fight? In Sydney Harbour? The present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said on the 12th October, 1938, that he would not spend threepence on defence of any kind. On the 3rd November, 1938, when the war clouds were dark, the Minister for Labour and National Services (Mr. Holloway), who recently acted as Prime Minister while the Prime Minister was away in Britain conferring on government defence matters, said this-
The Government is expending much too rapidly on defence. It is making plans for more than adequate defence of Australia. I make no excuse for saying that.
These leopards have not changed their spots. These men are now the government of the day and profess to believe in adequate defence and that we should stand or fall with the British Empire in its battles and vicissitudes. Last week I asked the Prime Minister whether, seeing that Britain had taken its fighter squadron from Malaya to send to Hong Kong he would consider sending an Australian fighter squadron to Malaya to replace it. He said, “The British Government has not asked for it “. I asked him whether he would consider making Empire cooperation a reality by sending our aircraft carrier to Hong Kong. Its presence there might avert a tragedy. There might be a drama awaiting us that is unexpected and that might be appalling. Shanghai, a city of 6,000,000 people, is under fire. If the Communist drive continues to be successful and comes further south there will be nothing left but the small island of Hong Kong. That is our real line of defence, but we are doing nothing about it. The Government is displaying the Maginot mind. Its members are burying their heads in the sand. In answer to my question about whether he would consider sending the aircraft carrier to Hong Kong, the Prime Minister said -
No; no request along those lines was mads to me when I was recently in Great Britain.
I do not know whether he meant that, but I am quoting from the Hansard report. Let the Prime Minister be frank and tell us what Britain did say. Let him be generous and offer our help, because Britain’s defence is our defence, and the fall of Hong Kong would have serious consequences for us. In a publication named the National Review, Air Chief Marshal Sir Guy Garrod, K.C.B., O.B.E., M.C., D.F.C.. who is one of the great authorities of the Royal Air Force, had something to say about defence. The V;ce-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) guffaws. He does not know what those letters after Air Chief Marshal Garrod’s name mean. Air Chief Marshal Garrod was one of the leaders of Bomber Command. He has written an illuminating article that all honorable members would do well to read. He stated -
For centuries past the Royal Navy has been the sure shield of Britain-
I interpolate here that the Royal Navy has been a sure shield to us. We would never have been allowed to grow to national status if it had not been for the Royal Navy. The article proceeds - protecting it from invasion, and keeping open thu sea communications of the world so that our trade, which is our life blood, could continue tn flow and our armies could be transported in safety to the theatres overseas whore they were required to light. To-day this protective role nf the Royal Navy is shared with the Royal Air Force. Our home waters cannot be guarded and our sea communications cannot be kept open except under the cover of air power and with its assistance in all offensive operations. Furthermore, with the advent of a.ir power the true strategic frontier of Great Britain has been thrown forward from the Channel as far at least as the Rhine and north-eastern Holland.
Surely, if we have any vision in Australia, wc know that our frontier is not the coast of Australia or its contiguous islands, but that it extends as far as Malaya and Hong Kong. Therefore wc should be ready to assist Britain in those areas. I summarize by saying that our defence forces to-day, and our financial provisions for defence, are quite inadequate. If trouble should come upon us because of our inactivity the fault will lie upon this
Government, and upon it alone. History is repeating itself. The man who was Minister for Defence in the early 1930’s, when our defences were cut down to dangerous proportions, is Prime Minister to-day. He should be frank about his conversations in Great Britain and tell us whether Britain has asked us to do more than we are doing.- Yesterday was Empire Day, and speeches were made about the unity of the Empire. But words means nothing unless we back them up with a’ction, such as by lending some of our Air Force to Britain, and by placing it in strategic places where it will show that we mean business, or by using our Navy in certain circumstances.
To-day we are being over-taxed, and the. liberties of the people are being gradually whittled away, their savings are being squandered and their lives are becoming more and more regimented. This may gratify the Government’s obsession for socialism, but a majority of the people know that the Government came into power only because of dissension among the Opposition parties. The forthcoming election will resolve itself into an issue between socialism and individual liberty, and I am convinced that the people, by their votes, will relegate the Labour Government to that oblivion from which it should never have been allowed to emerge.
– In the course of this debate, honorable members have strayed far from the subject before the Chair, but I propose to confine myself to a discussion of national finances. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), as the leading speaker on the Opposition side, made some remarks that are worthy of notice. For instance, he said that, during an economic depression, a government should budget for deficits, whereas, in time of prosperity, it should budget for surplusses. Then he went on to complain that, during the last three years, the present Government had budgeted for a surplus year after year. Perhaps it is a matter of degree, and of just how big a surplus a government should budget for during prosperous times.
The honorable member also objected to the action of the Government in using revenue to finance works which, he claimed, should be financed out of loan money. However, the real hurden of his complaint was that, in his opinion, the Government was taxing the people too heavily, and, in support of his contention, he said that in 1942-43, when war expenditure was at its highest, taxation amounted to £40 a head whereas, in 1949, it is £70 a head. The honorable member overlooked the important fact that it is the duty of a government to ensure, by means of taxation, that the national income is fairly distributed. England is often held up to us by honorable members opposite as an example - not so much England under its present Government as the England of some years ago. In any case, for a good many years past, taxation has been levied in England in such a way as to break up great aggregations of wealth and property, and to ensure more equitable distribution among the people. In bygone days, kings rewarded with grants of land those subjects who rendered signal service to ,the nation. That land was later bequeathed by the holders to their descendants who, in general, had rendered no particular service to the nation. In this way, huge estates were passed on from father to son for generations. Eventually, it was recognized that something should be done to ensure a fairer distribution, and special taxes were imposed with this purpose largely in view.
Honorable members opposite sometimes taunt the Labour party by claiming that socialism is the same as communism, but the fact is that the Labour party in Australia came into existence to ensure tha-t every one in the community received a fair share of the national income. There is a tendency nowadays to overlook that important fact. The honorable member for Warringah claimed that the Government was taxing the people above their ability to pay, and in this he has been supported by other honorable members opposite. The fact is that a working man on an income of less than ‘£10 a week pays less in taxation to-day, whether he has children or not, than he ever paid formerly. I have taken out some figures from tables distributed to honorable members during the last sessional period which show the amount in tax that will he payable by various groups of taxpayers from the 1st July this year. I emphasize that that reduction of taxes is not merely a promise. The relevant measures have been passed by the Parliament and have received the Royal assent, so that the reduced rates will apply as from the 1st July next. Even though present rates of taxes are comparatively low, they will be reduced still further as from that date.
– The honorable member ‘ cannot have received an assessment for quite a while.
– The honorable member for Bendigo apparently refers to the assessment in respect of the year ended the 30th June, 194S. He and his colleagues invariably imply that Government supporters cannot help harking back to the past. In this matter, I intend to deal solely with the latest reductions of income tax, which are to have effect from the 1st July next.
– What about going back to the time of the Scullin Government?
– Many of that Government’s actions were forced upon it because the Commonwealth Bank was then dominated by private financial interests which virtually ruled this country. The honorable member will agree with the proposition that a government which does not, in fact, control the nation’s purse strings cannot rule effectively; and I have no doubt that he is familiar with the saying, “Finance is government, and government is finance “. In answer to the argument advanced by the honorable member for Warringah that taxation has been increased from £40 to £70 per head of the population, I shall show how that burden is actually distributed by comparing the rates of income tax payable by persons in the lower ranges of income in 1942-43 with the rates which they will pay from the 1st July next. Whereas a single man with no dependants, with an income of £350, paid tax amounting to £75 in the former year, he will pay only £18 tax from the 1st July next, whilst, in the same income range,, the tax payable by a man with a wife will be reduced from £53 to £9, the tax payable by a man with a wife and one child will be reduced from £37 to £4, and that payable by a man with a wife and twochildren will be reduced from £31 to £2. In each case I have omitted the odd shillings.
– The honorable member has also omitted to mention the fact that in 1942-43 we were at war.
– I admit that; and 1 admit also that at that time taxes were higher than at any other period during iiib war. “Whereas a single man without dependants earning £500 a year paid £136 tax in 1942-43 he will pay only £53 from the 1st July next.
– The Curtin Government was in office in 1942-43.
– That is so; but, as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has just said, the Curtin Labour Government assumed office as the result of dissension in the ranks of the non-Labour parties at that time. Every one knows that, although those parties had a majority in both this chamber and the Senate, they disagreed so much among themselves that they were glad to see the Curtin Government accept the responsibility which they themselves were not prepared to shoulder. Incidentally, I remind the honorable member for Balaclava, who had so much to say about defending the Empire and about Australia’s share in that responsibility, that the real reason why the Curtin Government assumed office was because members of the non-Labour parties at that time were not satisfied that their Government was capable of defending this country effectively. We know that, although the Curtin Government did not have a majority in either this chamber or in the Senate, it carried out that responsibility with the result that at the election which followed in 1943 so great was the landslide against the non-Labour parties that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was the only nonLabour candidate in South Australia to be re-elected. Continuing the comparison I was making, I point out that a single man without dependants with an income of £500 paid tax amounting to £136 in 1942-43, whereas from the 1st July next he will pay only £53. In the same income range, the tax payable by a man with a wife will be reduced from £109 to £25, the tax payable by a man with a wife and one child will be reduced from £88 to £17, and that payable by a man with a wife and two children will be reduced from £80 to £14. Those figures prove that the Government is distributing the taxation burden equitably. Dealing with taxpayers in the higher ranges of incomes, a single man without dependants with an income of £1,000 paid tax amounting to £355 in 1942-43 whereas he will pay only £137 from the 1st July next. In the same range of income, the tax payable by a man with a wife will be reduced from £319 to £116,’ the tax payable by a man with a wife and one child will be reduced from £293 te £103, and that payable by a man with a wife and two children will be reduced from £285 to £96. Therefore, whilst, the Government has practically exempted from tax most persons with an income below £500, at the same time it is giving substantial relief to persons with an income of £1,000. Corresponding relief will also bc given to persons with incomes in the higher ranges. They are the people with whose interests honorable members opposite are mainly concerned. During the war a taxpayer with no dependants who received an income of £5.000 a year paid £3,530. His tax has been reduced to £2,095. The tax of such a taxpayer with a dependent wife and no children has been reduced from £3,485 to £2,050; that of such a taxpayer with a wife and one child from £3,440 to £2,008; and that of such a taxpayer with a wife and two children from £3.432 to £1,993. It will be seen that appreciable reductions have been made to taxpayers in those categories. During the war the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin, rightly said that those who had most to protect should pay most for protection. To the taxpayer with no dependants in receipt of £10,000 derived from personal exertion, he said, “ We shall take £8,155 from you “. That was a heavy impost. Such a. taxpayer now pays £5,637. Taxpayers in receipt of a similar income but with a. dependent wife and who formerly paid £8,110 now pay £5,592. The tax on those with a wife and one child has been reduced from £8,065 to £5,547, and the tax on those with a wife and two dependent children has been reduced from £8,057 to £5,532. The taxes on income derived from property are somewhat higher than the rates I have quoted.
– What does such a taxpayer have to pay if he has a de facto wife?
– If he is supporting her I assume that he is taxed at the same rate as a taxpayer with a wife de jure, l am not dealing with the rights or wrongs of that situation. I propose now to reply to some statements that were made some time ago about the social services contribution by the honorable member for Barker (MY Archie Cameron). After dealing with the basic and concessional rates at length the honorable member told the people that the formula constituted the greatest conundrum that had ever been put before them. He wanted to know what the people thought of it. I then told him that the formula had been devised in order to provide for a graduated tax as the income increased and that the manner in which the tax resolution was drafted constituted the only way in which the calculation could be fully set out. I then said that it was simple to understand. When I said later that the calculation of the tax payable by a taxpayer might involve a stun in algebra there was great hilarity. Only a few weeks <ago a conference of taxation associations was held in Brisbane. When the president and the secretary of the South Australian Taxpayers Association returned from Brisbane to Adelaide they reported that the taxation system was so complicated that the great bulk of the people could not understand it, and that it should be simplified. I was surprised when I read that statement. I recalled the criticism of the formula by the honorable member for Barker, who said that it looked like n. Chinese puzzle. When, however. I looked into it I found that it was comparatively simple. Since then I have had the opportunity to point out to many people just how simply the ordinary working man can ascertain the tax he will be called upon to pay after the 1st July next. No difficulty at all is experienced in assessing the tax payable by a person in receipt of £500 a year or less and of some taxpayers with dependants in receipt of more than that amount. In February last, the taxation system was greatly simplified. Honorable members know that from the 1st July next no person will be called upon to pay income tax in respect of the first £500 of income. Social services payments will be made at rates fixed in accordance with the balance of taxable income left after deduction of the amount of rebates to which they are entitled. Workers generally do not receive more than that amount. There are some however who engage in additional occupations in their spare time and others who are in receipt of high overtime rates whose incomes exceed £500 a year. Irrespective of whether or not they have dependants, persons in receipt of £500 a year or less will not be called upon to pay income tax. Those in receipt of an income of more than £104 who are not entitled to rebates will be liable for social services contributions. I have worked out the tax payable by taxpayers in certain groups in order to illustrate the relative simplicity of the present system. A person earning more than £104 a year will pay social services contribution at the basic rate of 3d. for the first £100, and increasing by 3/80ths of a penny for each £1 by which the income is in excess of £100. The estimate of the amount of contribution due in respect of any given income involves a simple mathematical calculation. I propose to give two illustrations, one in respect of a person earning £150 a year and the other in respect of a person earning £500 a year, neither of whom can claim rebates. A single taxpayer in receipt of £150 a year pays at the rate of 3d. in the £1 in respect of the first £100, increasing by 3/80ths of a penny for each additional £1. The remaining £50 is multiplied by 3/80th, of a penny, giving 1.875 pence which, added to the 3d., results in a rate of 4.875d. in the £1, or £3 15s., which is the amount due on his income of £150 calculated to the nearest whole shilling. What could be simpler than that? A single taxpayer in receipt of £500 a year without, rebates pays 3d. in the £1 in respect of the first, £100, increasing 3/80ths of a penny for each additional £1. Three times 400 equals 1.200. which divided by SO, equals 15d. ‘ With the addition of the 3d. for the first £100 this gives a rate of ls. 6d. in the £1, or £37 10s. on his income of £500. How could the method be made simpler than that? It may be said that difficulties arise in respect of taxpayers with dependants in respect of whom they are en: titled to rebates. I have worked out the tax payable by a taxpayer with a dependent wife in receipt of an income of £250 a year. He is entitled to a rebate in respect of his wife of £150, and to a special rebate of £50 for a taxpayer with a dependant whose income does not exceed £250. That leaves him with a balance of income of £50. His rate is determined by this balance proportionately to £100 to 3d., so that he pays l-Jd. in the £1. Thus, his tax amounts to £1 lis. 3d. The calculation is made to the nearest ls. and he pays £1 Ils. according to the taxation tables. Again that is quite simple. A man on an income of £500 a year and with a dependent wife, does not pay income tax at all. He pays only the social services contribution. He receives a rebate of £150 for his wife, which brings Ms income down to £350. His rate of tax is worked out in the same way. Threepence in the £1 on the first £100, plus 150 times 3/80 ths on the balance of £150 income, brings his rate to 12.375d. in the £1. His total commitment, therefore, would be £25 15s. 7d., or according to the tables, £25 16s. “Why any further simplification of this method of calculation should be sought I cannot understand. Some one may ask, “ What about an income-earner with children?” The calculation is just as simple. For example, lake the case of an income-earner with a wife and one child. If his income is £300 a year, he receives an exemption of £.150 for his wife, and £100 for the child. TTc also receives half of the £50 special exemption. This represents a total rebate (if £275, which leaves a taxable balance nf £2:”). T shall not go into all the figures, but his contribution is small, being 3/4 ths of a penny in the £1, which again works out at the figure stated in the table, which is 19s. In the case of a man earning £500 a year, claiming rebates of £250, the tax rate on the balance of £250 is 8.625 pence in the £1, or £14 ls. on the £500 income. I come now to the income-earner with a wife and two children. If he has an income of £350 a year, he receives a rebate of £150 for ‘his wife, £100 for the first child, and £50 for the second child, making a total rebate of £300, and leaving a balance of £50 of his income. Fifty pounds is half of £100, so that his contribution is based on half of 3d.
Therefore he pays 1-Jd. in the £1, and his contribution for the year is £2 3s. 9d. on the £350 income, or £2 4s. according to the tax scales. If his income is £500 a year, again his exemptions total £300, leaving £200. He pays 3d. in the £1 on the first £100, which, added to 3/SOths multiplied by the next £100, gives a total of 6.75d. per £1, which works out at £14 ls. 3d. According to the taxation scale he pays £14 ls. a year.
Dealing with the housing, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) pleaded for the man down at the bottom. He said that his inquiries in Sydney showed that it cost £250 a square to build a brick house and that, as twelve squares were needed, the cost of a brick house was £3,000, exclusive of the cost of the land. I do not know of any workers who could afford to pay that amount of money for a house, but I do know that, whereas private contractors in Sydney quote that price, people in South Australia, through the State Bank and Housing Trust contractors, can get a three-bedroom house for £1,500, including the cost of land. The honorable member blamed this Government for the high cost of steel and other materials needed for the construction and furnishing of houses. I am sure that bath tubs and steel rods for foundations and galvanized iron roofing cannot be shipped from New South Wales to South Australia and sold there more cheaply than they can be sold in Sydney. The honorable member for Richmond also referred to young couples having to live with “ in-laws “ because they cannot afford to buy or build houses at prevailing prices. Immediately he said that, my mind raced back to the depres- sion years in South Australia when people lived in two-storied houses without lavatory accommodation, except downstairs. The houses should have been condemned and demolished, but the authorities would not condemn them ‘because the occupants could not afford to pay the rents that they would have been charged for better accommodation. Young people did not perhaps live with “ in-laws “ then, because they could not marry, as the men were without work. To-day nearly every one has a job and people can buy the things they need. I concede that they are dear. The housing shortage to-day is partly due to the decline in the birth-rate that took place in the depression. The honorable member for Richmond also referred to the high cost of furniture. That is not entirely the fault of the Government, as the honorable member would have the people believe. He referred to the duty on furniture and furnishings. I remind him, however, that dealers in furniture assess their margin of profit not on the cost of manufacture but on the cost of manufacture, plus the duty, lt is not so much the Government that is making a profit out of the customs duty as it is the traders who not only pass on the duty to the purchasing public but also bring the amount of the duty into their calculations in assessing their profit margins. The manufacturers of valves for wireless sets wrote to honorable members last year complaining about the tariff on valves. They said that the price of valves was magnified because they and the retailers had to pass the duty on to the public and that extra money was being made out of the tariff. The Government is blamed, but if manufacturers and retailers were content to base their profits on the original costs and not on the costs plus the duty, commodities would be a lot cheaper. The Treasurer is to be commended for budgeting for a surplus and for paying for needs out of revenue instead of out of loan money which would involve taxing the people in bad times in order to pay the interest on money borrowed in good times to pay for things that should have been paid for out of revenue.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act- Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1949 -
No. 27 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
No. 28 - CommonwealthStoremen and Packers’ Union of Australia.
No. 29 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 30 - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.
No. 31 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia) and Postal Electricians Supervisors and Foremen’s Association.
No. 32 - Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 33 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 34 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - A ppoi ntments - Department -
Defence - P. Grange, S. G. Silveston.
Labour and National Service - R. Turner.
Postmaster-General - W. A. Thorogood. A.E. Tonkin.
Post-war Reconstruction - M. J. Coleman, E. A. Rowe.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and Designs (5).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes-
Adelaide, South Australia.
Darlinghurst, New South Wales.
Mount Mee, Queensland.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinances - 1949 -
No. 3- Companies.
No.4 - Industrial Board.
Regulations - 1949 -
No. 3 (Stock Ordinance).
No. 4 (Building and Services Ordinance).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Royal Australian Navy: H.M.A.S. “ anzac “- Williamstown dockyard Employees - Mr.c.H. Sharpley.
. Is a Royal Australian Navy destroyer, the Ansae,being built in the Naval Dockyard at Williamstown?
Has the Anzac been under construction for nearly two years?
What evidence has the Government of Communist sabotage in this dockyard?
Mr.Riordan.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
What was the estimated cost of H.M.A.S. Anzac?
What has been the cost to date?
For how long has H.M.A.S. Anzac been building, and when will this ship be completed ?
What was the cause of its delayed launching?
What promises did he make to ensure that a launching would take place?
What security check is made upon dockyard employees at Williamstown?
Has he seen the statement under statutory declaration in a Melbourne newspaper of the 16th April, by Cecil Sharpley, a former member of the Communist Executive, in which he said “ I, then one of Victoria’s seven top Communists, went to the R.A.N. Dockyard at Williamstown and asked for and trot a job as a painter and docker. (On the Wednesday after Christmas Day, 1948.) I did this openly and under my own name. My signature will be found in the Navy pay-roll. For two weeks I worked inside that important defence post … as far as I know without the Navy knowingI was a Red”? If so, is the Minister satisfied with a system that permits the employment of possible saboteurs?
£1,460,000 (excluding armament, ammunition and general naval stores).
Keel laid 23rd September, 1946; estimated completion date, December, 1950. 4 and 5. These questions are covered by my reply to a question asked by the honorable member in the House on 29th September last - vide pace 940 of Hansard. 6 and 7. For security reasons I do not propose to furnish the information sought by the honorable member, other than to state that my department was well aware of Mr. Sharpley’s identity and presence in the dockyard and that he performed his duties diligently.
Was Cecil Herbert Sharpley, a former Victorian executive of the Australian Communist party, ever employed at Williamstown Dockyard; if so, when?
Was he screened by the Commonwealth
Security Service; if so, with what result?
Is the Security Officer who screened Sharpley still employed in the same capacity?
Yes. From 29th December, 1948, to 7th January,1949. 2 and 3. For security reasons I do not propose to furnish the information sought by the honorable member, other than to state that my department was well aware of Mr. Sharpley’s identity and presence in the dockyard and that he performed his duties diligently.
Skipping: Overseas Ships Trading Interstate
The Australian Union Steam Navigation Company is a company incorporated in the United Kingdom, but the company’s vessels are registered in Australia, Burns Philp and Company Limited is incorporated in Australia, although several vessels of that company are registered overseas. The Blue Funnel Line of the United Kingdom has two vessels on the Fremantle-Singaporerun, and they engage in coastal trading en route, under continuing permits. Vessels at present under charter to the Commonwealth are as follows: -
Income Tax. - Profits derived by a United Kingdom resident from operating on the Australian coast ships registered in the United Kingdom are exempt from tax under Article V. of the Double Taxation Agreement between the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom This exemption does not extend to profits derived by a United Kingdom resident from the operation of ships registered elsewhere than in the United Kingdom. Subject to the exemption mentioned, income tax at the appropriate ratesis levied on 5 per cent. of amounts paid in respect of carriage of passengers, livestock, mails or goods shipped in Australia in a ship belonging to or chartered by a person whose principal place of business is out of Australia.
Sales Tax. - Sales tax is payable on taxable ships’ stores which are consumed on the ships whilst in Australian waters, Most foodstuffs are, of course, exempt from Bales tax.
Pay-roll Tax. - Tax is payable inrespect of wages paid to crews operating under Australian articles,
Immigration : Jewish Migrants
Mr.Gullett asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Electoral: Australian Citizens Abroad
Guided Weapons: Testing Range : Fire at Administrative Building.
Afire did occur in the Woomera area. It was not a principal administrative building that was destroyed, but a temporary building belonging to the construction unit. Investigations were carried out as to the cause of the fire. Result was an open finding. There was no evidence ofsubversiveness.
Mr.Dedman. - On the18th May, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) asked a question concerning ships allocated for carrying coal on the Australian coast. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : - -
Vessels for coal loadingare allotted week by week by the Combined Traffic Committeein conjunction with the Joint Coal Board. The Combined Traffic Committee which comprises representatives of the Australian Shipping Board and private shipowners, fixes vessels for coal as they become available after completing their previous voyages and the same ships are not necessarily allotted continuously to any particular trade. The major number of Australian cargo vessels are thus at some time or other allotted for coal trips, in accordance with the procedure by which all interstate shipping, whether Commonwealth or privately owned, is used to the best advantage taking into consideration the overall tonnage position. So far as South Australiais concerned. 42 cargoes of coal have been shipped from Newcastle to South Australia since the beginning of the year. The following statement shows the names of the ships employed, the number of coal trips each has made and the age of the respective vessels: -
The service speed of. the “River” class vessels is 12 knots, the speed of other vessels abovementioned ranges from 8 to11 knots, but older and slower vessels are used only when the faster vessels are not available. The Minister of. Shipping and Fuel has control through the Australian Shipping Board of all Commonwealth-owned and chartered vessels, but he does not direct the employment of any privately-owned ship. At the same time the Australian Shipping Board and the private owners, through the Combined Traffic Committee, work in conjunction in allocating the tonnage available in the pool to the best’ advantage to meet the essential shipping requirements of the Commonwealth. It is the desire of the Government that the best possible shipping service should be provided for all States and the Joint Coal Board and the Australian Shipping Board work in close liaison to ensure that all coal available for shipment interstate from Newcastle is moved expeditiously to its destination.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 May 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490525_reps_18_202/>.