18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Post-warReconstruction inform me w hether Glenmore Estate, which is near Rosewood in my electorate, is to be acquired for the purpose of land settlement of ex-servicemen?
– Yes, the estate that the honorable member has mentioned hat been approved for acquisition under the war service land settlement scheme. It consists of about 750 acres. The primary production to bo undertaken thereon is fat lamb raising. The approval of this property brings the total number of properties approved for acquisition in New South Wales to 439.
– The newspaper have reported that a deputation that tried to see the Minister for Immigration on Friday last claimed to be a deputation representing, among other bodies, a body associated with thePresbyterian Church and other churches. According to the report, it transpired that the deputation was of quite a different character. Is the Minister for Immigration prepared to lay on the table of the House any communications that passed betweenthe members of the proposed deputation and himself before their arrival ?
– I shall be pleased to do as the Leader of the Opposition suggests.
– “ Christian Churches ‘ was the expression used.
Mr.CALWELL. - Yes; “ Christian Churches “ was the statement made in the first letter that I received. I shall lay the papers on the table of the House to-morrow. They will include not only the correspondence that preceded the arrival of the persons who desired to constitute themselves as the deputation, but also certain documents that were put on the table of my secretary after I had refused to receive the deputation.
Transmissionfrom Tasmania to the Mainland.
Mr.SHEEHY.- Has the Prime Minister any information about the likelihood of electric power being made available to the mainland from Tasmanian hydro-electric plants? ‘
– A couple of years ago, Senator Lampbrought to my notice suggestions by certain scientists overseas that developments were taking place that might enable electric power to be transmitted long distances under the sea by a special type of cable. He asked whether I would hare inquiries made. Inquiries were made by out experts in Germany and other European countries. Certain information came back showing that there were possibilities of such a development ; but no method had been devised at that’ time. I cannot tell the honorable member any more than that at the moment, but I shall’ try to find out whether any concrete suggestions have been made by scientists. I shall advise him of: the result.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, atits rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– Can the’ Minister for Commerce and Agriculture tell the House what prospect there is of Australiangrown rice becoming, available on the local market?
– There is no prospect whatever of Australian-grown rice becoming available on the local market for some time to come. The Government holds the view that, in order to assist the United Kingdom which in turn is rendering aid to various colonies that are short of rice, it behoves the Australian people to do without rice for the time being. In the circumstances, I cannot give the honorable member an encouraging answer.
-I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that his depar tment proposes to repatriate Jerm Bulgetr, the Siamese servant of the Reverend C. W. Norwood, of Mosman Park; Western Australia? If so, does he intend to review the case of this Siamese servant, who hasnow been living in Australia for more than nine years?
Mr..CALWELL.- In reply to the honorable member. I should like to mention the salient facts of the case of Jerm Bulgetr; the Siamese servant of the Reverend Mr. Norwood. Jerm Bulgetr was brought to Australia by Mr. Norwood in January, 1946, in spite of the fact that permission for her entry into Australia had been refused by the then Minister for the Interior, Senator Foll. She was allowed to remain for six months, a period that was later extended to twelve months on the understanding that she would be repatriated at the’ end of that time. Early in 1941, Mr. Norwood sought a further extension of her stay in Australia. He made the following statement to the immigration authorities at that time : -
I am ready to bind myself bya written agreement to repatriate Jerm Bulgetr at the end of the war.
That application also was. refused by Senator Foll, but when Japan entered the war the servant was given permission to remain until the war ended. Mr. Norwood has now stated that, he and his family will leave Australia this year and that, he will take his servant with him when he leaves. He has been told that if he gives a written undertaking to do that, his servant can remain here until that time. Mr. Norwood isan Englishman who was serving in Siam until he came to Australia. He proposes to go back to the diocese of Canterbury, to which he belongs.. He has refused to give that written undertaking, but if he will give it now I shall ensure that his servant shall be allowed to remain until he is ready to leave. In the handling of this case, sympathy for Mr. Norwood and full consideration for his servant have been shown. I have inquired into the welfare of the servant since she has been in Australia and have discovered that while she is in the employ of Mr. Norwood she is being paid £4 10s. a month with keep provided. The present ruling rate for a domestic servant in Western Australia is £2 10s. a week with keep provided. That is £10 a month, or more than double the amount that is being paid by Mr. Norwood to his Siamese servant. This is the very practice that I and previous Ministers have had to take a stand against. I am determined that we will not allow aliens to be brought to this country and kept here under conditions such as would destroy Australian wage levels and lower our standard of living. If Mr. Norwood were allowed to employ cheap imported domestic labour, any other person in the country could claim the same right. The result would he a chaotic disruption of Australian wage levels, working standards and employment conditions.
– As the security of the Indian Ocean, Australia and New Zealand depends upon halting the Communist advance before it engulfs the land that bridges China and the Indian Ocean, and as the establishment of a Pacific defence organization on the same lines as that of the Western Union in Europe appears to be necessary, will the Prime Minister take the initiative in discussing with Great Britain and the various dominions the formation of a Pacific pact to meet the immediate challenge of Communist victories in China, even though such a move may have results outside the decision of America to join ‘such a pact?
– The formation of a regional security pact in the Pacific was raised by the Australian Government years ago, following the participation of Japan in World War II. The Australian Government has made every endeavour to form such a pact in conjunction with other governments interested in the Pacific, including not only the United Kingdom and New Zealand but also Holland and Portugal. It has not been possible to obtain agreement to a general Pacific pact, except upon the basis of the arrangement that was made at the conference of Prime Ministers in London in 1946 between the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. That agreement provided that those three countries should proceed with a general defence plan and endeavour to bring other countries interested in the Pacific into the scheme, or into a regional pact. That objective has not been achieved, because, as I explained a few days ago, the United States of America has been deeply involved in Europe, and regards its work in that theatre as its outstanding and fundamental task, at least for the time being. When I make that statement, I am only assuming that I am correctly expressing the view of the United States of America, but I know that various American Secretaries of State have taken that attitude. The Australian Government and, I am sure, the United Kingdom Government, and, certainly, the New Zealand Government will welcome at all times an arrangement for a Pacific pact. The only power apart from the United Kingdom that will be of really great value to such a pact is the United States of America, although we are anxious that other countries interested in the Pacific should be parties to such an arrangement. However, the United States of America at present is not prepared to enter into a Pacific pact.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform me of the terms and conditions under which it is proposed that Bait labour shall be employed in the coal mines and at the iron and steel works at Newcastle and Port Kembla?
– I can prepare a statement on the subject for the information of the honorable member, or perhaps it will be better if I follow the example that I have set in replying to a question by the Leader of the Opposition, and lay a statement containing the salient facts on the table so that all honorable members may read it.
– The Ex-prisoners of War and Relatives Association has expressed anxiety about the delay in bringing Japanese to trial for war crimes. Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Australian war crimes tribunal in Japan is awaiting orders from the Australian Government in relation to the trials? Is it a fact that some 70 Japanese are waiting trial for war crimes, and that the trials can proceed if the necessary approval is given? Will the Prime Minister state whether some of the men waiting trial are those accused of the worst atrocities against Australians? What is the reason for the continuing delays ?
– There are a number of matters associated with the trials of Japanese for war crimes, not only in Japan but also at Hong Kong. I have discussed the matter with the Minister for the Army, under whose jurisdiction certain of the proceedings come, and I shall have a statement prepared for the honorable member covering the position.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction indicate the degree to which .land settlement of exservicemen is assisting the production of tobacco in north Queensland ?
– Towards the end of last year I arranged for a special training scheme to be commenced in the Burdekin River area to enable ten ex-servicemen to receive general training in tobacco culture. Those men have now completed their training, and they have been allocated blocks in that area under the land settlement scheme. It is intended that each block shall be planted with tobacco and that ultimately each farm shall produce about 10,000 lb. of good tobacco leaf for Australian consumption. Because the scheme will reduce the demands on the dollars available to us for the purchase of American goods it should benefit greatly not only the ex-servicemen concerned but also our general economy. The progress of the scheme will be closely observed by the Government to determine whether more ex-servicemen can be trained and settled on tobacco-growing country.
– Last June I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether lighthouse keepers and attendants would receive the benefit of the 40-hour working week, and whether any improvements of condition* could be given retrospective effect? In April I received an intimation from the Minister for Supply and Shipping that my request could not be acceded to, but that the men concerned would be allowed £1 a week in compensation for the longer hours that they are called upon to work. I now ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether he considers it fair that those employees, who work a 68-hour week, should receive only £1 a week, or les* than ninepence an hour, to cover the inordinately long hours that they work?
– I shall answer the question because it refers to a matter that has been discussed with me. The honorable member for Wannon also raised the matter with me recently, and a great deal of correspondence has been forwarded directly to me because the Public Service Board, which functions under the Prime Minister’s Department, has been interested in certain orders that have been made in respect of lighthouse keepers. Complaints similar to that made by the honorable member for Corangamite have been mentioned to me also in the course of recent representations. Yesterday I discussed the matter with the chairman of the Public Service Board, and asked him to investigate it fully, in view of the complaints made, and to submit a report and recommendations concerning the treatment of lighthouse keepers. I shall ask him to expedite the submission of his report and recommendations, and will inform the honorable member for Corangamite and the honorable member for Wannon of the result in due course.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether any progress is being made towards a settlement of the dispute at Iron Knob?
– Following the application made by the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association to the Arbitration Court last week in respect of their members employed at Iron Knob, Conciliation Commissioner Austin, who deals with applications from that organization, entered upon negotiations for the settlement of the dispute. He visited Iron Knob and had a conference with the parties concerned. He also walked up the hill and rode down the hill himself in order to compare the disadvantages involved in employees having to walk up the hill with the dangers associated with mechanical transportation. In his decision he did not include any order to the employers to provide mechanical transport for the employees, but ordered that an additional 3s. 4d. a week be paid to the employees in accordance with the order made by the President of the South Australian Industrial Court, Judge- Morgan, some time ago in respect of members of the Australian Workers Union employed at Iron Knob. The Commissioner added a rider recommending that inquiries should be made to ascertain what improvements could be effected to the road concerned so as to make it safer for both pedestrians and vehicles. I shall obtain a copy of the Commissioner’s order go that the honorable member may acquaint himself with its actual terms.
– In view of revelations contained in a London report published in the Melbourne Herald of the 23rd May that feeling in Great Britain is running high against this country because of shoddy goods exported by Australia, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the Government has received information from Australia House, London, that numerous complaints have been made that shoddy goods and inferior types of foodstuffs have recently been shipped to England from Australia? If so, will the Minister release the details of the information ? If no information has been received from Australia House, will the Australian Government request its representatives in London to institute investigations with a view to ascertaining the names of the
Australian food processors and distributors whose products have been the subject of complaint by English consumers? Are Australian food processors and distributors under an obligation to submit their products and packing materials for inspection by food, health and nutrition authorities before the products are exported? If they are not under that obligation, what authority has the Australian Government to prevent the export of products that are of inferior quality or badly packed?
– Complaints have been received from the Australian High Commissioner in London regarding the quality of small quantities of Australian goods, but we have not received numerous complaints. A number of complaints from the United Kingdom have been forwarded to Australia, officially and unofficially, from recipients of food parcels under the gift scheme. I have stated in this House repeatedly that the Australian Government has very little control over the contents of such parcels. People are at liberty to buy tins of meat, vegetables, cakes and other products in shops and to pack them. They may then send the parcels overseas by parcels post to help the people of the United Kingdom. Such products are, in the main, manufactured under State health legislation. It would be impossible for Commonwealth inspectors to examine the parcels at the point of departure from Australia without completely disrupting the scheme. To adopt such a practice would necessitate the employment of an army of what the honorable member for Moreton would be prepared to call bureaucrats, and it would provoke further comment from those people who are continually objecting to an increase of the number of Commonwealth public servants. Within the last fortnight, I have addressed a communication to the appropriate State Ministers suggesting that it might be advisable for the State governments to consider amending their health legislation to require that products for consumption locally shall be of a standard that will render them suitable also for export to the United Kingdom. Incidentally, I remind the honorable member that Australia has had reason to complain of the inferior goods that have been seat here at times from other countries. If the honorable gentleman requires information about that matter, I can supply him with it.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a statement, attributed to Professor Hytten, that Australia is likely soon to face a recession. Has the right honorable gentleman any information to support that view ? Is it not a fact that the financial policy of the Australian Government is directed towards the maintenance of full employment and national prosperity?
– Professor Hytten’s personal views on that subject were referred to in this House some time ago as the result of an address that he gave in Tasmania. Professor Hytten’s view, I understand, is that there is likely to be a recession in the United States, although he does not pretend to predict the magnitude of it. His view, of course, is based on the fact that prices for raw materials have fallen in the United States. The prices of materials such as lead and copper have been falling, and the index figures relative to the sales and production of some lines, such as steel, have indicated some measure of recession. The number of unemployed persons in the United States is stated to have risen to about 3,500,000. It was thought earlier that some of that unemployment was seasonal and would adjust itself, but since it has not adjusted itself certain economists have taken the view that it indicates some measure of recession. I have not read the article to which the honorable member has referred but some of the points made in it have been mentioned to me. I have often taken opportunities during the last few years to dicsuss economic matters with Professor Hytten. The mere fact that we differ about such matters does not prevent me from having a fairly high opinion of Professor Hytten as one who has given a great deal of study to economic matters and on his return from visits abroad I have made a point of talking matters over with him. My own view about the economic position, although it may not coincide with the views of other honorable members, is that following upon the very great boom conditions that have obtained throughout the world since the end of the war, some measure of recession could be expected, although I would not attempt to say how great a measure it may be. That is one of the reasons why this Government has felt that Australia should buttress itself against the effects of any recession. That is also a reason why the Government is trying to maintain a stable economy and to strengthen our sterling balances so that we shall not be short of sterling with which to pay for capital goods required for works in this country. The Government has also provided, through the National “Works Council, for a programme of public works that would enable us to give effect to our policy of full employment which, I believe, can be done even in the face of some measure of recession overseas.
– Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider that Australia has adequate stocks of cornsacks to meet the needs of the next wheat harvest? If not, what steps is the Government taking to ensure that stocks of cornsacks are increased before the harvest? Is there any prospect of the price of cornsacks being reduced, or is an increase in price anticipated?
– At the moment there are not sufficient cornsacks in Australia to fulfil the requirements of the next wheat harvest, but the Government anticipates that, prior to the harvest, sufficient cornsacks will arrive from overseas in fulfilment of orders that have been already placed and that are in process of delivery. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, and cannot therefore prophesy whether there will be a reduction or an increase in the price of cornsacks.I point out, however, that under the system of Government purchasing of cornsacks, we have paid say, 24s. or 25s., and sometimes 30s. a dozen, but the price to the users has been, on some occasions, adjusted over the full range of purchases. Users have had a substantial advantage under that system, compared with the old system under which they paid at the higher rate for such purchases.
– Will the Minister for the Interior examine the position relating to compensation claims for land that the Commonwealth acquired during the war? In my electorate, for example, notably at Albion Park where 26 owners are affected, and at Nowra, land was acquired from many owners in 1941 and 1942 for aerodromes. Ever since the acquisition of their land by the Commonwealth they have been deprived of its use, although they are still required to pay rates on it. They have received no payment for it yet. Did the Commonwealth promise to settle those claims when the war ended, and has it since decided to retain those areas for aerodrome purposes, as I understand is the case? If so, and while I recognize the difficulties that would be involved in connexion with surveys and legal formalities, can these claims now be finalized? If not, can some advance payments, at least, be authorized, because many of the owners are in urgent need of the money?
– It is true that delays have taken place in connexion with the acquisition of property, due sometimes to the excessive values placed on land by the owners. The act provides that reputable valuators shall be employed by the Government to value every parcel of land which it is proposed to acquire. When their valuation is not acceptable to the owner, a conference is held with a view to reaching a settlement. If a long delay takes place, the owner is protected by that fact that interest at the rate of 3 per cent, is paid on the value of the land from the date of acquisition. In other instances, a considerable proportion of the purchase price is advanced even before negotiations are completed. I am not acquainted with details of the two parcels of land referred to by the honorable member, but to the best of my knowledge neither of them has yet been acquired by the Government. However, if the honorable member will supply me with the particulars, I shall have inquiries made and furnish him with full information.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a statement by the Minister for Immigration, which was broadcast in the 1.30 p.m. service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on Sunday last, intimating that he had written a letter to the Prime Minister regarding the failure of the Australian Delegation at the United Nations Assembly to reply to attacks on Australia’s immigration policy? Was this public statement by the Minister a direct reflection upon the Minister for External Affairs, as Leader of the Australian Delegation at Lake Success, and upon the Australian Ambassador in the United States, Mr. Norman Makin? Will the Prime Minister inform the House what action he took after receiving the letter? Has the contents of the letter been conveyed to the Minister for External Affairs, and to the Australian Ambassador in Washington? Now that the Minister has publicly disclosed that he has written the letter, will the Prime Minister, in fairness to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Australian Ambassador in Washington, place on the table of the House both the letter from the Minister for Immigration, and the replies furnished by the Minister for External Affairs and Mr. Makin?
– I have not heard any broadcast by the Minister for Immigration of the kind mentioned. I did hear what I took to be an excerpt from a broadcast in which the Minister for Immigration was reported to have referred to press statements on the subject as mendacious, and from what I heard over the radio, I should say that he was justified in so describing them. Never at any time has the Minister for Immigration written to me reflects ing on the Minister for External Affairs or the Australian Ambassador in Washington, or even mentioning their names. Neither has he questioned the ability of either of those gentlemen to perform his duties. The only thing the Minister for Immigration said was that he thought a public statement might have been made after the conference similar to the statement that I made in thi*
House to the effect that the question, of immigration, involving whom we shall allow to enter this country and whom we shall allow to stay, is a matter of domestic policy and not a matter for discussion at the General Assembly of the United Nations. On that subject the Minister for Immigration has not communicated or referred anything to me about any Minister or any ambassador in any other country.
– In view of the statement by the Prime Minister that the outcry of a small minority is responsible for the attention that is being directed to Australia’s immigration policy at present, has the right honorable gentleman any information to show that the present administration of our Immigration Act is making good friends for Australia among our northern neighbours?
– I do not know what the honorable member for Wakefield means by the phrase “ making good friends for Australia among our northern neighbours “. During the last few months, I have had the opportunity to speak with some of the leaders of the nations to the north of Australia, and from such conversations I have gleaned that they offer no objection to our right to say who ought, or ought not, to be allowed to live in Australia; and they implied that they, themselves, retain that right in relation to their own countries. We have heard a lot of talk about Malaya. I have been amazed to hear honorable members opposite speaking as they have done about who should and who should not be admitted to Australia from Malaya. When I visited that country I found that the Malayan Government had a complete prohibition upon the immigration of Chinese and Indians, which had been in force for some time. Similar restrictions are in operation in other northern countries, each of which makes it clear that it retains the right, as Australia retains the right, to decide who shall bo allowed entry. Precisely the same principle is applied by the Government of the United States of America. I have no doubt that certain interested parties desire to stir up trouble and with that object in view are always ready to make statements to the press. Our immigra tion law was administered more rigidly, if anything, before Labour came into office than it is being administered to-day, because, during the war, for compassionate reasons, the present Government gave refuge in this country to a number of persons, some of whom are now objecting to the honouring of their obligation to return to their own countries.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen in a recent issue of the official organ of the Waterside Workers Federation what purports to be a photograph of a passport, or some other personal document, belonging to a Lithuanian, Latvian or Estonian migrant? The photograph shows the person concerned, whose name is not given, in Nazi uniform, and the accompanying letterpress states that the photograph proves that the Government is admitting Fascists and Nazis to this country as displaced persons. Has the Minister made any inquiry upon the matter from the Waterside Workers Federation? Has he found out whether the suppression of a name in association with this important document is due to the fact that the document is a fake! Should it transpire that it is a fake, will he take steps to protect these migrants from the campaign of vilification now being conducted against them by the Communist party and the Lang party?
– I did not see the issue of the Maritime Worker to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I have no doubt that the photograph published in that journal is the same as one I first saw published in the Guardian, the organ of the Communist party in Victoria. The allegation is. that on a recent oyage of Worcester Victory to Australia a wallet was picked up and that included in that wallet was a photograph of a person in Nazi uniform. Nobody who travelled on the vessel bore the slightest resemblance to the person whose photograph was in the wallet alleged to have been discovered on the boat. No wallet was discovered by any officer of my department or of any other Commonwealth department. I do not believe that any wallet was discovered at all. I believe that the whole thing was a fake, and that it was just one of those stupid, clumsy fakes about which we hear so much from time to time. It is the same sort of stuff that was attempted to be perpetrated last week by a would-be deputation which alleged that it was acting under the aegis of various universities and church bodies, but which, in fact, was only masquerading as such. The campaign of villainy and vilification, and the slanderous attacks made on Baltic migrants by members of the Communist party, and by that old friend and colleague of theirs who now pretends to attack them, the leader of the Lang party of New South Wales, will not deceive anybody. All these Baltic migrants are welcome additions to Australia’s population, and I hope that every right-thinking Australian will give them the welcome they deserve and ignore these villainous attacks. I asked the security officers to see what they could find out about this document, but they were not able to establish anything about it. I believe that the whole thing is a fake, and I am glad that the honorable member has drawn public attention to the matter so that everybody who is listening to the broadcasting of these proceedings or who reads Hansard will know it for what it is worth.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether a request has been made to him by the Victorian Government to render certain services to that Government to enable the royal commission accepted by Mr. Justice Lowe on communism to function? If so, ot in the event of any such request being made, will the right honorable gentleman adopt a co-operative or a non-co-operative attitude towards the request?
– No such request has been received. Should a request be made it will be given the same courteous consideration that is extended to all requests from State governments.
REPRESENTATION in Australia.
– I address a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs. Three or four years have elapsed since we established a High Commissioner’s Office in South Africa, and, as far as I am aware, no appointment of a South African High
Commissioner to Australia has yet been made. Is the Commonwealth appointing high commissioners to countries that do not desire the exchange of such appointments, and has the Prime Minister any information about the appointment of a South African High Commissioner to Australia?
– The circumstances pertaining to the appointment of the Australian High Commissioner to South Africa are not unusual. We have accepted in Australia an Italian ambassador, but we explained to the Italian Government that, for a number of reasons, including the shortage of suitable officers, the time was not appropriate for Australia to reciprocate by appointing an Australian ambassador to Italy. When an exchange of representatives between South Africa and Australia was considered, we thought it highly desirable that an Australian representative should be appointed to South Africa. South Africans may have thought that there was not the same need for the appointment of a representative of their dominion to Australia. I assure the honorable member that there is no ill feeling about the matter. Australia believes that its interests should be represented in South Africa, but South Africans apparently believe that there is not the same urgency for their interests to be represented here. In answer to the last part of the question, I. am unable to indicate at present when an appointment of a High Commissioner to Australia is likely to be made by the South African Government. Certain changes have been made in the composition of the South African Government since the original decision was made.
– If I might interrupt the right honorable gentleman, a press report of a proposed appointment was published, including the name of the appointee.
– I have read the report. During my recent visit to London I spoke to South African representatives, but they did not appear to be very definite about the matter. I understand that consideration has since been given to the appointment, but no date has been indicated.
– Recently, the Prime Minister stated that Great Britain had not released for publication figures showing the net drain on dollars caused by the consumption of petrol inside the sterling area, but that such figures had been supplied to him in confidence. As the statistics are essential to any critical examination of the dollar problem, and appear to be only trade figures in the final analysis, I ask the honorable gentleman on what grounds of public policy are the figures being withheld from this National Parliament? Is national security the reason? If not, what is the reason? Has the Prime Minister made a request to the Government of the United Kingdom to waive its insistence upon confidence in this connexion so that this Parliament may be apprised of those essential facts? If so, what was the result? If not, will such a request be made?
– It was my hope that the Government of the United Kingdom would be able to agree to the release of all the figures associated with dollar expenditure. I understand, however, that the figures relate to other international obligations and affect a number of countries in the Middle East and a number of oil companies operating in that area. Publication of the figures would involve the disclosure of certain private information I had hoped to be able to announce the figures in detail, and that course would have suited me well. I have received a detailed statement on the position and I have the assurance of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, that the figures supplied to me are correct. Middle East oil arrangements and the affairs of the American companies operating in that area are most complicated. I am still prepared to show the Leader of the Opposition the personal cable that I have received from Sir Stafford Cripps about the total dollar drain, and also some of the details contained in another communication. More than that I cannot do at present. I have not made any request to the Government of the United Kingdom to be allowed to disclose the confidential figures.
Alleged Black List
– Last week, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question relating to the blacklisting of a chemist in my electorate on the alleged ground that he had not paid his accounts. Last Saturday, the Sydney press published a statement by the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, Dr. Metcalfe, to the effect that certain persons, including one or two chemists in New South Wales, had been told that they could not obtain supplies of serum on credit from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories; that the chemists concerned had run up large accounts with the laboratories and had consistently refused to pay; and that there were no other reasons for chemists being unable to obtain supplies of serum on credit. Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that the chemist to whom 1 referred last week, Mr. Wherrett, of West Ryde - I have been authorized to disclose his name - was on two occasions recently refused diphtheria serum urgently required on a doctor’s prescription, once on the 3rd May when he telephoned, and again on the 4th May when he applied in person at Erskinestreet, Sydney?
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to make a statement when asking a question.
– Was the Minister aware when Mr. Wherrett asked for this refusal to be put in writing that the clerk, Mr. Ryan, refused to put it in writing? Mr. Wherrett still asserts that he pays his bills promptly, and is prepared to produce his accounts to support his statement. In view of that, does Dr. Metcalfe still maintain the attitude that he adopted with relation to the statement in last Saturday’s press, or is he prepared to admit that there has been either unjust discrimination against Mr. Wherrett or a stupid blunder on the Dart of the department?
– Honorable members will recollect that the honorable member for Parramatta asked during question time last week whether it was true that a chemist, or a number of chemists, had been refused certain drugs, and if there was a “ black-list “. On that occasion the honorable member did not mention the name of any specific chemist and was thereby guilty of making a stupid blunder himself. Had he done so he would have saved the time of the House. He merely said that he could supply the name of the chemist if required. I sent an answer to that question to the honorable member this morning. Although he may not yet have received it, doubtless it has been delivered to hia room. Briefly, the answer is that chemists have been refused certain drugs because they will not pay their debts. In some instances they have neglected to meet their obligations even after legal letters requesting payment have been addressed to them, [n no case where drugs were urgently needed have they been refused, even to chemists who have not paid their debts. Because the supply of certain drugs to chemists who are a long way behind in meeting their commitments has been refused, patients were not thereby deprived of the use of those drugs, because they could have been obtained from any other chemist or from a hospital.
– Does that mean that there is a “black-list”?
– Yes, if the honorable member chooses to so describe it. It contains the names of chemists who will not pay their debts. There may be one or two from the honorable member’s electorate. To-day’s question relates to a specific chemist. ] shall see that the honorable member receives an answer as soon as possible.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the fact that the Government of New South Wales is at present imposing restrictions on the use of electricity at times when power is normally required by dairymen who milk their cows with electrical apparatus. I understand that the restrictions were imposed primarily to enable the authorities to cope with peak hour transport loads in Sydney. Will the Minister inquire whether it is possible to mitigate the restrictions in the dairying districts?
– I am not aware that the Government of New South Wales has imposed any restrictions on the use of electricity by dairy-farmers. However, that is a matter entirely within its own jurisdiction, and I suggest that either the right honorable member for Cowper or a member of the State Parliament should make any representations desired to the Government of New South Wales direct.
FULBRIGHT Interchange Plan.
– Under the Fulbright Act the United States of America is making large sums of money available for educational and cultural purposes by certain lend-lease adjustments. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform the House when that act will come into operation in relation to Australia and what is the reason for the long delay? Is some action, or inaction, of the Australian Government responsible ?
– The honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Flinders, too, have been interested in the subject of the Fulbright Act for some time. As Treasurer, I made certain arrangements on behalf of the Australian Government with the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Mr. Dean Acheson, about the final settlement of lend-lease, as the result of which a part of the money payable by Australia was to remain in Australia, as sterling, for the purpose of furthering certain, cultural objectives. It was one of the first lend-lease settlements made. The Fulbright Act had not been passed or even proposed at that time. When the Fulbright Act was passed, a great deal of negotiation was necessary in relation to the countries with which agreements were proposed, because intricate tax questions are involved in respect of persons visiting one country or the other. The representatives of the Government of the United States of America and the Australian Treasury reached what we thought was a settlement, the terms of which were sent to Washington, but apparently some defects were discovered there.
– Is it a matter of double taxation ?
– I shall not weary the House with the details. The matter is very intricate. , It has been held up in the United States of America for some time. The Washington authorities are very busy with other matters. Recently, a further communication was received, and, although some technical points are still outstanding, particularly in relation to taxation, which can be finally determined only by the inland revenue authorities of the United States of America, it appears that finality is in sight. I sent a cable to Washington last week on behalf of the Government. It should meet with general approval in America. Although we shall not be able for a while to dispose of the technical points that have arisen, I hope that a general agreement will be reached soon.
– I have been advised by a number of people in my area who are seeking to establish small refreshmentrooms, tuck-shops and the like that there applications for a ration of butter have almost all been refused by the Rationing Commission on the ground that we cannot subtract from our present supplies of butter to the United Kingdom. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether butter production in Australia is such that the requests have to be refused ?
– The latest information that I have is that as far as Victoria is concerned, at least, the position is such that the relaxation of butter rationing in relation to cafes and eating houses would cause a very considerable adverse impact on the amount of butter available for Great Britain. I understand that in the circumstances the Rationing Commission is not prepared to recommend that increased quantities of butter should be given to cafes and restaurants, or that supplies should be allowed to new cafes and restaurants other than those opened by ex-servicemen. I do not propose to do anything about the matter other than to pass the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is responsible for the administration of butter rationing.
– I ask th* Minister representing the Minister foi Health whether he can procure for me information that would show to what extent salaried medical officers in the Commonwealth Department of Health, or any other Commonwealth department, are issuing prescriptions for medicine on the free medicine basis? I should like that information to be procured to show to what extent that practice is being followed in each of the six States, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
– I shall be glad to ask the Minister for Health to provide me with the particulars required by th* honorable gentleman in order that I may convey them to him.
– I have received a letter from the Minister for the Army about an ex-serviceman who was killed after he had been demobilized. His parents found that the will that he made while in the Army was not acceptable for probate. I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is the responsibility of the Department of the Army to ensure that wills made by servicemen shall be valid? Men serving in the forces have made wills under instruction from the Department of the Army. Could arrangements be made for all such wills to be scrutinized by the legal section of the Army in order that other parents may not be placed in an invidious position ?
– The case referred to by the honorable member for Calare was examined. During the war, it war necessary for every serviceman to make a will and deposit a copy with the service with which he was associated. Sine* the cessation of hostilities, that requirement has not been enforced. Full notification was given to all members of the services that wills that were made during the war could be legal or could be altered. It is the prerogative of all ex-servicemen to decide for themselves what coursethey will take. They may choose to stand by the wills made during their service or to make fresh wills. I shall again take up Wit the Department of the Army the point raised by the honorable member. The case he referred to is an unfortunate one. [ shall ascertain whether it is possible for servicemen to be reminded of their responsibilities. I shall also try to ensure that servicemen shall make wills and notify the Department of the Army to that effect.
Debate resumed from the 27th May (vide page 288), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The immigration policy of the Government appears to have gone completely berserk. It has uo possible relation to the defence or the economic problems of this nation. It is just an opening of the floodgates of immigration. The Government is prepared to take any one just for the sake of building up the numbers. It thinks entirely in terms of immigration statistics without bothering about what is to be the outcome of each additional shipment of immigrants. The Government’s policy is to engage in frantic competition for immigrants. It is prepared to pay out huge subsidies. It is spending millions of pounds of the people’s money housing the newcomers. “We must satisfy ourselves that such investments are in the best interests of Australia. First, let us examine the defence problem in relation to immigration. The Government’s central proposition is that Australia is in need of more population in order that it may be able to defend itself. With that there can be no disagreement, but we must be satisfied that such new additions will strengthen and not weaken our defence policy. The spectre of communism is no longer an empty threat to Europe. It is a cancer that has eaten into the vitals of the European nations. This Government has admitted that we must expect the proportion of Communist sympathizers amongst our immigrants to be the same as the proportion of Communists in their countries of origin. It says that, if one-third of the Italian population votes for communism, we must expect one-third of our Italian immigrants to have Communist sympathies. Those are the views of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). If the security of this country is threatened, it will be by the Communist hordes of Asia. Communists inside any country in the path of those hordes will not fight for the country in which they live; they- will fight for the success of world communism. Australian Communists could be dealt with by any government that was prepared to do the joh. But this Government has. flatly refused to do the job, although it could be done without any great difficulty.
What is going to happen if we are to have brought into this country thousands and thousands of foreigners who have Communist sympathies? Will they not be more difficult to detect after they arrive here? Think of the trouble that there was in rounding up Italians at the beginning of World War II. Then we had little more than 1,000 Italian nationals in Australia. Now this Government proposes to bring into the country 40,000 Italians alone. It will not be long, therefore, before Italian Communists in Australia will completely outnumber Australian Communists. To suggest that all of those aliens are properly screened is fatuous. The Italian Government would be only too happy if all the Communists in Italy were to come to Australia. Have the representatives of this Commonwealth free access to the complete police files in the countries of origin of immigrants? In the case of displaced persons, the only records are the records of the Nazis. Are they to be accepted as the final word?’ Canada has already discovered a lieutenant of the Soviet army’s intelligence service who entered Canada as a displaced person. Could not that happen here? Have any members of the Russian Communist party been discovered amongst the displaced persons in Australia, or is that to be a close secret? If we are to hold this country we must have positive, not negative, additions to our defence strength. Even if 90 per cent, of our immigrants become good citizens prepared to fight for Australia and only 10 per cent, are Communists, the balance will be against us. The more the immigration scheme is allowed to get out of hand, the greater are the risks that we run. Our defence position depends upon the kind of people that we bring to the country, not upon the numbers. Statistics can foster very dangerous illusions. Unless we make sure of the real Communist or anti-Communist sympathies of new-comers to our country our defence position will be definitely weakened.
Next there are the economic and social problems involved. Those problems are involved in any wholesale migration movement, and* they can be classified under the following questions : - 1. Are the numbers to be brought in within the absorptive capacity of this country? 2. Can satisfactory housing be provided for them after all Australians have been properly housed ? 3. Will the racial position of the Australian people be maintained and will necessary precautions be taken to ensure that foreign communities shall not develop in Australia? 4. Are the persons being introduced into this country the kind of immigrants that we need to develop our industries and are they fully capable of being moulded into the Australian way of life? 5. Can this country maintain the policy of full employment by providing jobs for the new-comers as well as keeping every Australian fully employed? 6. Have the necessary precautions been taken to ensure that there shall be no whittling down of our industrial conditions and that the new-comers will join trade unions? 7. Are the conditions under which immigrants are being admitted such as to make them fully independent units, or are they being subjected to a form of assignment of labour that is totally opposed to the principles of the Labour movement?
Dealing with the question of our absorptive capacity, the Government set its own yardstick when it announced its immigration policy on the 2nd August, 1945. It established the maximum ceiling for immigration at 70,000 persons a year on the basis that no nation could absorb more than 2 per cent, of its own aggregate population in any one year. Allowing for the excess of births over deaths, that made provision for immigration at the rate of 70,000 persons a year. That number was to be the maximum. The Government went to great pains to prove that no more persons could be absorbed. Even then, the Government did not take into consideration the problem of reverting to a peace-time economy. The Government also gave an undertaking that even that total of 70,000 would be regulated by the housing position. But on the 7th January last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) announced a new target of 110,000 from 1949. No explanation was given of the reason why the ceiling limit was to be raised. However, the new figure was to be only the first of the steps of an escalator. Three months later, the Prime Minister announced an increase to 140,000 for the present year, or double the number that the Government had set originally as the maximum. On the Government’s own policy declaration, those numbers cannot be absorbed here. The Government has abandoned the safety limits that it previously set.
Apart from the considerations I have already mentioned we must face the problem of housing these hundreds of thousands of people in the next few years.. Last year, 27,972 building permits were issued for government and private home-building for the whole of Australia. That did not mean that the 27,972 homes were completed last year. The Government itself has stated that the maximum that Australia can achieve is 5,000 new homes a year. A reliable estimate is that because of the war-time lag in building Australia already needs 400,000 new homes. We certainly shall need more than 100,000 new homes every year if we are to accommodate those persons who are now entering our country. What will happen about the lag? The Minister talks glibly about increasing the production of bricks, but the problem does not end there. How many skilled tradesmen are we bringing to Australia? It is not enough to have unskilled labour for the housing programme. We need more steel, processed fittings, and electrical fittings, and more plumbers, electricians, painters and carpenters. The Government proposes to accommodate the newcomers in wool stores. How long does it believe that those persons will remain in such premises, and where will the wool be kept in future? Already the newspapers carry many advertisements inserted by migrants who offer to buy homes and who are not concerned about - the price that they pay. Displaced persons are seeking employment in places where husbands and wives may live together instead of apart, as they have to do under the Government’s scheme. Our housing problem must become worse as the flood tide of migrants increases, and Australians themselves may quickly become the displaced persons in their own country. The Government is already taking scarce building materials from the pool to remodel such places as Broughton House at Burwood, New South Wales. It is using materials for which homebuilders have been waiting for many months. However, the Government airily dismisses those facts, and says that it will be Able to step up production with all the new labour that it is bringing to this country from overseas. Will any one be able to step up production with new labour in Sydney and Melbourne? Those two cities, which are the principal cities of Australia, are to-day slowing down production because of the shortage of electricity. If electricity supplies are not sufficient to meet our present needs, what will happen by 1951? If we cannot construct a sufficient number of homes to house the people who are already here, how shall we be able to house the new flood of migrants? The volume of our production will be decided, not by the number of persons available for work, but by the power houses at Bunnerong in New South Wales and Yallourn in Victoria.
My third point deals with the problem of racial composition. Are we to upset the predominantly British origin of Australia? According to the census figures taken on the 30th June, 1947, the Commonwealth’s population was then 7,579,358. Of that number, 6,880,367 were born in Australia, 541,467 in Great Britain and Ireland, 110,139 in other European countries, 24,096 in Asia and 11,630 in America. In other words, 97.7 per cent, of our population was born either in Australia or in Great Britain and Ireland. We were then a predominantly British country. Now, the Government proposes to dilute our British stock. On the 28th November, 1947, the Government signed an agreement with the International Refugee Organization to bring in a maximum of 12,000 displaced persons a year. That number was to be the safety ceiling. Within a few months, the number was increased to 20,000 a year. If we accept the latest figures given by the Prime Minister, we are to obtain up to 250,000 displaced persona in the next sixteen months. In addition to that number, we are to bring in the nationals of Holland, Belgium, France and the Scandinavian countries, as well as 40,000 Italians. We are also told that we have to absorb some of the surplus 7,000,000 women in Germany. Whatever merits there may have been in the original agreement on compassionate grounds, there is no justification for the present mad scramble for displaced persons. The original quota was to be 17 per cent, of the total intake. Now, it exceeds 50 per cent. ! British mass migration still lags behind. The difficulty is said to be shortage of shipping; but the people of Great Britain are not guaranteed accommodation by the Australian Government, as are the displaced persons. Many British migrants have been bitterly disillusioned by the shortage of housing accommodation in this country. Any sound migration policy must be integrated with the defence requirements of this country, and must provide that at least 80 per cent, of migrants shall be British-born. The present racial composition of our people must be preserved at all costs.
The next question that arises is whether we are getting the right type of migrants. The Prime Minister said that unless we get in at the early doors we shall miss out. His observation assumes that we are getting the right type of migrant now. It is significant that most of those who have arrived in Australia have been placed in unskilled trades, and that fewer than 300 have been allocated to primary industries. Nearly half the migrants who have come to this country are labouring on the roads and on railway and sewerage works. They have no trade or special skill, and many were engaged in similar work for the Nazis. An American congressional commission investigated the displaced persons’ camps in Europe on the spot, and its report was certainly not very flattering to the inmates of those camps. Under the Revercomb Act the United States Congress imposed a limit of 205,000 as the maximum number of displaced persons who could be admitted to that country in two years. The United States Congress refused to sanction a larger quota because the displaced persons commission was not satisfied with the type of migrant available even then. Furthermore, I emphasize that the Americans had the first choice of migrants amongst the displaced persons. The Australian Government is apparently prepared to accept a greater number than is the United States Government. That nation, which has a population of 140,000,000, is chary of its ability to absorb more than 200,000 displaced persons. How then does the Australian Government expect our population, which is less than 8,000,000, to absorb the same number of migrants? The Prime Minister warned us against getting the dregs from amongst the displaced persons available as migrants. His remark is certainly no testimonial for the scheme. “We do not want, under any circumstances, to receive the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel.
Another important consideration is the effect of mass, migration upon the maintenance of full employment in this country. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) stated that the number of jobs available in Australia is 114,000. How then can industry absorb 250,000 migrants? Is the policy of full employment to be abandoned? Is that why so many powerful employing interests are so enthusiastic about the Government’s scheme? Is it the policy of the Government to establish a surplus of man-power? If so, who will be the surplus in the pool - the Australians or the displaced persons? Many of the jobs included in the tally of positions vacant prepared by the Minister could not be filled by newcomers. I remind the .House that in spite of migration the number of workers employed in the, building trades decreased by 3,000 from the 30th June to the 31st December, 1948. It is apparent, therefore, that the migrants are not entering the building trades. It is also obvious that migrants are not being selected according to the national requirements of particular industries.
That is just another instance of the failure of the Government’s mass migration scheme.
My sixth point is that the wholesale dumping of migrants may undermine the trade unions of this country. In 1916; the Australian Labour party attacked the Hughes Government because of the entry of a few hundred Maltese, and in 1925 ii attempted to censure the Bruce-Page Government because of the admission to this country of 1,000 Italians. In both instances the Australian Labour party objected to the entry of foreigners on the ground that they might undermine Australian trade union standards. The present Minister for Labour and National Service was then the secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall, and he must surely remember the protests that he made at that time. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), unlike some of the present members of the Australian Labour party who only found Labour when it offered them personal emancipation, all have some knowledge of trade union thought on this matter of the entry of foreigners. They knew then, and realize to-day, the problem of assimilating foreign migrants into the trade unions of Australia. Had the present scheme been sponsored bv a “ Menzies government”, we can imagine the howls of protest that would have been raised by those who- support the present Administration. The only reason why the majority of trade union leaders are silent now is that they do not wish to embarrass the present Labour Government. Too many of them have forgotten their members, and are waiting for the plums to drop from the Cabinet table.
Finally, we have the problem of assimilating foreigners into the Australian community. The system under which large numbers of migrants are placed in camps is bad. They are not being assimilated into the community. Undoubtedly they will tend to establish foreign communities and to introduce their own standards instead of adopting the standards of Australia. The system of indentured labour in operation is even worse. It is slavery; it is the same system as that under which convict labour waa assigned in the early days of this nation. We have returned to the convict days. We thought that we had got rid of slavery when we suppressed the trade in Kanakas, and the “ blackbirding “ that was associated with it; but to-day an indentured displaced person is compelled to contract himself into slavery for a period of two years. He has to work where he is directed to work. If he breaks his contract, he is deported. He can be held in gaol indefinitely while awaiting deportation. That gives employers a hold over such labour that is repugnant to decent trade unionists. The displaced person is a free man only while he satisfies his boss and the Minister. If he complains, he is deported, and he may be imprisoned while awaiting deportation. How can good Australian unionists be made from such material? According to the March issue of the journal for migrants that is issued by the Department of Immigration, some migrants signed up for “ at least one year “. The Minister has now directed that the contract is to be for two years. That is how the old-time slave dealers on the Barbary Coast worked. It i3 very doubtful whether the contract is a valid one. All migrants admitted to this country should be free men and women. They should accept the same union responsibilities and have the same rights as Australian trade unionists. If immigration is regulated properly, there will be no need for indentures. Above all, the danger of foreign communities should be avoided. Company unionism persisted in the United States of America because the trusts, combines and cartels exploited non-English speaking foreigners. Those foreigners were kept together in communitites of their own. The present flood of migrants into Australia can set the Australian labour movement back for half a century. It can throw our living standards into the melting pot. It can lead to mass unemployment and the undermining of our security. There are many honorable members on the Government benches who have exactly the same fears as I have. They owe a duty to their party and to the nation to ensure that the Government’s present immigration policy is replaced by a well-balanced programme, based on predominantly
British stock, in keeping with the absorptive capacity of the Australian economy.
.- The immigration problem, to which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has referred, is a deep one, fraught with great significance for this nation. The Government’s plan is well known and has, I think, secured the general approval of the Australian people, both inside and outside the Labour movement. The chicken-hearted statement of the honorable member for Reid, that this country is not capable of absorbing hundreds of thousands of migrants under a plan that has been carefully prepared and that is altered from time to time in accordance with changing circumstances, indicates that the honorable gentleman is actuated by a crashing hatred of the stranger and a love for a new cause rather than any serious concern for migration. In the course of my investigations in the City of Sydney, I discovered the reason for the honorable gentleman’s frantic disputation with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) regarding whether immigration is good or bad for this country. His stooge and editor said at one of his coffee shop conspirators’ sessions at 11 a.m., “ Commos are getting a bit on the nose. I think we must attack Arthur on migration “. The utterances of the honorable member on the subject of migration do not spring from a high sense of duty. They are a part of another of the rackets from Reid.
In a humble way, I have been studying the migration problem. The Government’s immigration policy is not a political issue but an Australian ideal. Even the honorable member for Reid, in the books that have been written for him by his secretaries and other persons, has admitted, by and large, that we mustpopulate our empty spaces. In one of his first books, the honorable gentleman talked airily about the immigration programme, but he did not then hold the views that he holds now. His attitude to immigration is, unfortunately, the attitude of many Australians, although the majority of our people have overcome their fear of the stranger and the prejudices that arise from Australia’s geographical isolation. The migrants who came to this country before World War II. did not come here in pursuance of a planned immigration programme. They were the victims of the depression. The reason why we saw many of them in the housing camps and “ Happy Valleys “ of Australia was not that immigration is inherently bad but that planning was inadequate in those days. Every attempt is being made at the highest levels to ensure the success of the present scheme. The honorable member for Reid has indulged in empty talk about the Government going berserk and the Minister for Immigration entering frantically into competition with other countries to secure as immigrants some of the many thousands of displaced persons in Europe. I remind the honorable gentleman that in the past we did not secure for ourselves the manpower that we needed. A great many of our present difficulties are doubtless due to the fact that we thought we had gone far enough and eased down in regard to immigration. The displaced persons who are now entering the country are doing so under contracts to work where directed for two years. They will be directed to work in essential industries that are desperately in need of labour. After two years, they will be free to make their own way in the community. That is being done under an agreement that Australia has made with the International Refugee Organization. Similar agreements have been made with the organization by other member countries of the United Nations that are now admitting migrants, including New Zealand, South Africa and Brazil.
How mealy mouthed was the approach of the honorable member for Reid to the problem of defence in relation to immigration! He said that in the long run migrants may be of use to defend us. That is the least of the considerations that should influence us. Having used them to assist in the development of this country and inspired their faith in it, we could expect them to stand alongside us if ever we had to face an invader. In that event, numbers would be extremely important. I remind the honorable member, who has spoken airily of man-power reaching saturation point, that in Australia man-power has never reached saturation point. It did not do so even in the depression. At that time the economic situation of the country was twisted. Australia has always been hungry for men and women to assist in its development. The migrants who are coming here now will fill a want. Never mind looking at Blue Books. The honorable gentleman admits that he hates planning and dislikes statistics, but he and his directors use statistics cleverly when they wish to make a point. The honorable gentleman has said that it may be all right to use migrants for our defence. Having brought them here under a contract to work where directed ‘ for two years and having asked them to live in sheds in which twenty years ago shearers refused to live, are we to tell them that if they stay here long enough and are absorbed into our economy they may have the pleasure of marching with us in another war, if one should occur ? Surely the right thing to do is to assimilate them into our community and make of them good Australians, who will be proud to defend this country of their own volition. We should not think of them as cannon fodder or cheap labour. But those migrants are not cheap labour. They are, as the honorable member said, under some assignment. He complains that the introduction of migrant labour may mean a breaking-down of the standards of Australian trade unionism. One of the biggest gangs of Bait labourers in Australia is working in the honorable member’s own electorate, and his organizers are very busy among them with an eye to future elections and the preservation of the position in this House of the honorable member himself. He is using the smoke-screen of hypocrisy when he speaks as he has spoken to-day. He has not said to those Bait workmen, “Australians will not do those jobs because they prefer other and better jobs “. The people who are doing most of the rough work in this country are, in the main, displaced person immigrants. The honorable member has also said that we must give consideration to our capacity to absorb people from abroad. He has very little faith in this country to be terrified by the fact that the Government has decided to alter its original estimate of 70,000 immigrants this year, to 140,000. That alteration was not made in any fantastic hurry, or to impress the world that we were taking large numbers of immigrants. It was made because the pool of available immigrants is becoming depleted. When the countries of Europe complete the work of rehabilitation that is now proceeding at a fast rate, and when Britain can spare no more of its people, we shall be unable to find a source of immigrants. That is why we are obtaining as many as we can now. The Government’s policy has been one of bringing here all the available man-power that we can obtain. The International Refugee Organization has announced that it must cease its activities in 1951, or, at the latest, 1952. Europe must get rid of its displaced persons, and it has asked members of the United. Nations to do all that they can to help. Australia has done a splendid job in taking immigrants, and its target for this year is one of which it can be proud. Neither I nor the average Australian is afraid that this year’s immigration target will mean an overwhelming flood of people who will take the houses and jobs of Australians away from them, or debase Australian unionism. Nor do we fear that those people will be, as the honorable member has said, “ Communist-inspired “. There was never a more twisted utterance than the honorable member’s statement regarding the 40,000 Italians who are expected to come to this country. He said that the Minister for Immigration when referring to them, had said, “ Of course, one-tenth of these people are Communists”. The Minister said nothing of the sort. What he said was that, owing to the miseries of the war, and the problems caused by invasion and the overthrow of Mussolini’s Fascist regime, the people of Italy had become bewildered, and a proportion of them had voted for Communists, not because of their political convictions - Italy is one of the most Catholic countries in Europe - but because of hunger. Referring to the Italian elections the New York Times said, “ This is not an Italian vote but a belly vote”. People on the verge of hunger do not act as they would in other circumstances. In addition, the armies of occupation were, at the time of the elections, still causing complexities, as all armies of occupation do. The fact that the Italians were living under a military government and that no peace treaty had been signed, caused many of them to be influenced by Communist propaganda. The Italian Communist is as unlike his brother Communist in Russia as one would wish to see. The record regarding the situation in Italy at the time of the ‘ elections is contained in broadcasts and statements by commentators. It shows that those who voted for Communists in the elections were not voting’ according to their instincts on the matter.
The honorable gentleman sees in the plans for the immigration of Italians the prospect of a seething mass of Italians descending upon us, all of them Communists and all bent on destroying this country in which the honorable gentleman himself has so little faith that he thinks that we can neither blend those people into our population nor control them. Surely if the honorable gentleman really believes in democracy he will not expect all those Italian immigrants to be perfect. Where would a perfect man find a place in this imperfect country? We Australians are democrats, possessing all the faults of democracy as well as sharing its blessings. We shall find, undoubtedly, that there are some people among immigrants from Italy who are unsuitable for Australia, but, in the main, Italian immigrants will prove eminently suitable for us. The honorable gentleman has also some doubt about the screening of immigrants. We have a rigid scrutiny of the health of each immigrant, particularly regarding whether he suffers from tuberculosis and whether he is young enough to work. Then we also have a security screening. When an immigrant leaves a displaced persons camp in, say, Germany, neither his medical nor his security screening has been completed. It is continued on the ship and in the displaced persons camps in Australia, until we know all that we need to know about him. I make that statement despite a number of mistakes that were made in the initial stages of the immigration scheme due to the facts that our selection team was not adequate, the union representatives on the immigration panels had not had the necessary experience, and th” men and women whom we took from displaced persons camps had been either in those camps or in enemy prison camps for five or six years, which had led probably te some degree of deterioration. Immigrants to Australia have, in the main, been splendid material. In my opinion they have proved to be better material than the immigrants who took part in the big immigration flood to America in the hey-day of the greatest immigration movement in the history of the world.
The honorable member for Reid also said that we are losing our British character as a nation. I did not know, previously, that he was very concerned about our British character, because every time that the Government has desired to do anything for Britain he has been on the other side of the fence. Such talk on his part is mere glibness. Our forefathers came from the continent of Europe to the British Isles, as did the forefathers of all the British people. Scandinavia and the Baltic countries were the sources of the people who made up the population of the British Isles, and also of the race strain that was the basis of Hitler’s theories regarding so-called “ Nordic descent “. If the honorable -member really seeks a valuable aggregation to the British race the region around the Baltic Sea is the best place to find it. I have been in Scandinavia and I know how splendid the Scandinavian people are. They have a grand history of their own. One period that immediately springs to mind is the reign of Gustavus Adolphus, during which the Swedes and the Baits had their greatest hour. The Baltic countries have been ravaged by Red invasion and conquered by the Germans. Yet all that the honorable member and his ilk can say to those people is, “ Come here at your peril. You may not be allowed to obtain houses because you would be taking them from Australian workers and you may do our most servile work, but we shall hate you all the time “. The honorable gentleman has not attempted any sound analysis of the subject of immigration. On the contrary, he has exhibited the fears of people whom we could call “ little Australians because they are afraid to let any one else share their heritage. To return to the question of our capacity to absorb immigrants, I admit that 140,000 immigrants in one year seems to be a considerable number when there are shortages of goods and also the gravest kind of shortage, the housing shortage. But I remind honorable members that, with the best will in the world and with the best brains of the nation at work, we have been unable to overtake the backlog of housing. Shortage of basic materials is the reason for that. How can we hope to develop our supplies of basic materials unless we have sufficient labour to produce them? Among its other objectives the immigration programme has that of increasing our labour supply so as to enable us to overtake production shortages. Statistics that the Minister in charge of employment has given show that there are 114,000 jobs in Australia waiting to be filled. How can we overtake shortages of housing when our brick-pits and timber mills are idle because of insufficient labour? Instead of deriding the State governments and the Australian Government because building targets have not been reached, we should do everything to get the men working, willing and ready as they are. In this way we shall have no need to worry about absorbing immigrants.
The honorable member said that there were 114,000 jobs waiting to be filled, but that the Government was proposing to bring 500,000 migrants to Australia. Surely the honorable member knows that one job makes another. It is a basic and elementary fact, that when one man starts a small business, work is provided for another man who delivers his newspapers, and another who brings him hie milk, and so on. However, to get back to the housing problem. The Baits are housed under conditions which the average Australian would not willingly accept. They live in camps, military camps for the most part, which are adequate to shelter them from wind and storm, but not much more. They are well fed, and from the central camps they are sent out to industries where required, and are employed on farms, building projects, &c. The immigration plan is further ahead in Canberra than in the States, where some temporary hold-ups have occurred, but the position there is being improved.
The honorable member referred to what he called “ Broughton House “ in my electorate, saying that an attempt was being made to create a glamorous reception centre for migrants. As a matter of fact, it is not “ Broughton House “, or “ Broughton Hall “ either. It is an old-fashioned home that used to be known as “ Broughton “. During the war, it provided accommodation for the Australian Women’s Army Service Corps. After its members left, temporary accommodation was provided in the building for nurses attached to the Yaralla Hospital. As the representative of the exservicemen, I tried to get the building for a library and club for returned men. The building was also sought by the Burwood Municipal Council, not for housing exsoldiers or migrants, but as a library; and in order to provide accommodation for departmental officers. The council bad most patriotically purchased a sixteenroomed building and made it available for the use of ex-servicemen. Broughton was lying unused for a considerable time, while it was being sought by the returned soldiers and the municipal council, among others.
At Broughton, the immigrants are housed in huts, or in hostels from which they go to the places where they work. Their presence does not affect the housing situation, except to improve it, because they work in basic industries. The honorable member for Reid spoke about British migrants, saying that no accommodation was provided for them, while the Government looked after foreigners. That is a lie, or at any rate, a misstatement if the honorable member did not know the truth. All assisted British migrants are guaranteed accommodation by friends or near relatives, having been sponsored through the Immigration Office in Australia House. Upon arrival in Australia, they are received by welcoming committees and by their sponsors and relatives. They are taken to their sponsors’ homes, and given jobs. There is no trouble about assisted British migrants, and we should be delighted if we could get more of them. However, because of man-power difficulties in Great Britain the number of British migrants is restricted. The Attlee Government has taken a broad view of Empire relations, and has allowed
Australia to have as migrants as many technicians as can be spared. It is certainly not true that assisted British migrants are not being properly housed, or that they are being allowed to float around, as it were, to find their own accommodation.
The honorable member for Reid then worked up some indignation about Baits advertising in the newspapers for accommodation. It is part of my job to know about these things. In the honorable member’s own electorate, the Baits are employed upon the construction of a new sewer tunnel. A cook, with two children, finding the tent wet, and the accommodation bad, so that her children were getting colds, slipped an advertisement into the Sydney Morning Herald, stating that she would be available to work as a domestic in return for accommodation for herself and her children. What a crime that was! It was not that the job was too hard for her, but only that she wanted other accommodation for herself and her children, and an opportunity to send her children to another school. Surely we are not going to put our heels on these people’s necks if they happen to make a little mistake of that kind.No Balt has advertised seeking to buy a house at an inflated price. The honorable member for Reid is himself a real estate agent, and he knows that what I say is true. . British migrants have done so, particularly those who have come here independently of the migration scheme, but, as the Prime Minister has said there is no perfect time for immigration. If we wait until all the fields are green, all the houses are built, and every button is fastened and every string is tied, we shall miss our chance to get immigrants. Those whom we might have had would by then have settled down in their own countries, and would not be prepared to leave. The real reasons for great movements of population are poverty and war. Migrants are coming to Australia because they are looking for a better place in which to live, and rear theirchildren. Most of those who come here want to be real Australians. Yeoman service has been rendered by those charged with the duty of educating the new-comers. The Office of Education, the Department of Works and Housing, and the employment officers have all worked as a team with the Minister for Immigration. It is a tremendous undertaking, and the organization is most efficient.
The honorable member for Reid expressed a fear of racial mixtures. Every country in the world has a mixed population. The British race is no exception, consisting as it does of a mixture of Britons, Picts and Scots and, later, of Norman French from the Continent. There are no purebreds amongst human races. The idea of purity of race was one of the fascist myths in which Hitler professed to believe. Therefore, I am not surprised that we should have heard of it again from the honorable member for Reid, but it distresses me just the same. If we are to replenish the blood stream of the Australian people, it could be done from no better place than f-rOm the white races -of northern Europe. If we have to extend Our field of immigration to southern Europeans, where could we get better workers or, in the final analysis, better citizens, than Italians of the second generation? It is all nonsense to be afraid of racial mixtures. There has been much talk from members of the Opposition about white Australia, and we stand serene in support of Australia’s traditional policy in that matter; but to adopt a niggardly attitude about the admission of representatives of other white races is to make us seem paltry and mean in the eyes of people overseas. Last Week, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) delivered an inspired speech in this House when introducing a measure providing for the inauguration of great hydro-electric and irrigation works associated with the Snowy River,. His was a touching speech, because he believed every word he said in referring to a tremendously important project that has been at the pine-print stage for 50 years. His speech was simple, but it epitomized the energy of the Government in getting on with big ventures. Where shall we obtain % sufficient man-power for such undertakings? We do not know what the Snowy Mountains scheme will cost, but, whatever it costs, it will mean a great thing for this country. Cities will be established in the Mumimbidgee Valley, and millions of people will settle in the
Murray Valley. Such settlement will be on the age-old classic principle of cultivating the river valleys. The Garden of Eden was situated in the valley of the Euphrates. Not 5,000, or 500,000, but millions of people, including migrants as well as our own natural increase of population, will be required to develop this country. If, oh the one band-, we have movements and plans of vision such as the Government now contemplates undertaking in the valleys of two of our great rivers, and, on the other hand, we have a niggardly, pernickety approach to the entry of people to this country, the millions of Asiatics will one day say to themselves, “ What is wrong with these Australians? They have been there for only 150 years and it is about time that we blotted them out”. However, this Government is one of action; it has the application and it has a plan for the development of Australia*
Many of my constituents have discussed the Snowy Mountains scheme with me. Speeches of the kind made by the honorable member for Reid may disturb many prospective migrants. His cleverly prepared propaganda may tend to lead them to believe that they cannot come here* The only reason* apparently, that the honorable member can give for that point of view is that Australians have not the “ guts “ to share their prosperity with others. But let us examine fears of that kind. Who is going to damage the unions? I suppose that the honorable member for Reid has done more than any other person to damage the trade unions in this country. He claim’s to be horrified by the admission of these migrants ; but “ by their fruits ye shall know them “. The Immigration Advisory Council includes representatives of the trade Unions, and the Minister consults the unions on any aspect of immigration appertaining to their interests* The Bait does not show any disinclination to join a trade union; but we must study his background. Under Hitler he was not allowed to join a trade union, whilst under Stalin he did not know how he stood in that respect. Upon his arrival in this country the Ba.lt is a man of fears, and we must dissipate those fears. Every worker in Europe realizes that it is a good thing to have the protection of a trade union in one’s calling. Does any one mean to tell me that the Baits are non-unionists or Fascists? All we need to do is to make them good Australians. The fears which the honorable member for Reid alleges are entertained by trade unionists are nebulous. Many of these migrants have already joined trade unions. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) told me only recently that 1,000 Baits who were sent to the cane-fields in north Queensland to help in the cane-cutting had done splendid work and were good unionists. When the first batch of Baltic migrants was sent to that area one farmer said, “ Why send me another batch of foreigners?” But recently that farmer and his neighbours wrote to the Minister and asked him whether he could send the same gang back again because they had done such splendid work the previous season and knew the conditions on the cane-fields. In any event the trade unionists are protected under their industrial awards. This is not 1906. These people come from the finest democracies; they belong to nations which, before disease and war ravished their countries, cherished the socialist and trade union concept. .Some unions merely adopt a dog-in-the-manger attitude towards these migrants, and other unions under Communist control discourage them while they wait to see how the infiltration cat will jump. But we want to produce more steel, bricks and coal and the accessories for home construction and thus break the bottleneck in housing. There is no other way to do that. How else can we fill the 200,000 jobs which are now waiting to be filled? I believe that within’ two years comparatively few Europeans will want to come to this country. Perhaps at that time the present stream of migrants from Europe and the United Kingdom will have decreased to 10,000 annually. The honorable member for Reid was not sincere in the final point he made about the trade unions. Union organizers who move among these migrants know that many have not been prepared to join unions simply because of the fears which have been engendered in them in their own countries in the past. But adequate attention is given to that aspect by the screening committees which select the migrants in Germany. Those committees, which deal with labourers, intellectuals, and medical and legal practitioners, give due consideration to the industrial outlook of the migrants. All aspects of that problem are thought out, and every precaution is taken to ensure that selected migrants will accept the industrial outlook of this country.
I have answered six of the objections raised by the honorable member for Reid. It is impossible to answer his final Objection, that is, his little Australianism and fear of the stranger. By talking in that strain he can whip up quite a number who take the same view as he does on this matter. Such people blame the Baits for everything that goes wrong with the trade unions. They will blame them for blackouts. Such an outlook is silly. In this matter many Australians are simply looking for a scapegoat, because they have not got over their isolation outlook and fear of the stranger. We inherit that fear, first, because we have been living for so long so far from the centre of civilization; and, secondly, because we do not yet feel quite safe because of our experience of large-scale immigration in the past. This Government will not do anything that will tend to worsen the conditions of the workers. The honorable member for Reid said, in effect, “ Let’s throw away our migration plan. Let’s get rid of the 200,000 migrants that are to come here. We cannot find work for them because the power station at Bunnerong is not working to full capacity and Yallourn is in difficulties “. All over the world after the war ended, peoples were confronted with the problem of expanding economies, whilst some countries were confronted with the difficulties associated with armies of occupation. Does any one believe that it is beyond the wit of the Australian people to provide sufficient turbines at the power station at Bunnerong eventually? Can we not overcome problems of that kind by adopting a sound engineering approach to them? Such problems have nothing to do with the influx of migrants. To what -degree will the migrants who are sawing wood for fuel at Kalgoorlie worsen that problem ? To “what degree will those now engaged in digging trenches for the sewerage being undertaken, appropriately, in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Reid worsen that problem? How much electricity will be used by migrants engaged in gaining clay for brick-making or by those who are supplying labour which the primary producers so urgently need?
The honorable member for Reid also criticized the Minister with respect to the occupation of the building which he described as Broughton House. I have inspected that building. At least the bare requirements for ablution, washing and cleanliness are available to the migrants housed there. The structure is of brick. Admittedly, one section is notoccupied by migrants, but is used for administrative purposes. However, out of that place every morning 300 workers proceed to employment in brick pits, paint works and to the works at Chiswick in the electorate of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), where wire netting is being produced to meet the needs of primary producers. But that is only a beginning. Everybody in my electorate is satisfied that the best use is being made of Broughton. A unit of Lysaghts, as well as paint and stove works and three, or four, brick pits, have been opened in that locality. I admit that whilst Broughton looks a stately old home from the outside, those migrants are living in quarters which the average Australian would not tolerate if he had any choice. The point I make is that this problem is being approached* not merely on a governmental or party level, but on the Australian level. The facts pay tribute to the dogged planning of the Minister to get migrants to come here, particularly migrants who will work. I regret that it is necessary because of certain difficulties to make them work under assignment on specific jobs for a period of two years, but they cheerfully accept that condition because they know that at the expiration of that period they will be enabled to choose their own avocations. If we become niggardly in this matter we shall merely point out to the rest of the world that we do not deserve the chance of survival. There are great possibilities and great potentialities in this country. For the great works that are to be undertaken we must have more people.
– The honorable member has greatly changed his policy on immigration.
– Not at all. When we on this side do anything we do it thoroughly. Our immigration policy is in great contrast to the policy of mis-immigration adopted by antiLabour governments. Indeed, it is so colourful that even the ranks of Tuscany can scarce forbear to cheer. The Minister for Immigration has done a remarkable job and his administration cannot be faulted. If the views of the honorable member for Reid concerning migration, his “mewling and puking” about housing, his horror of new people, and his fear that this country will turn in on itself and dry up, were shared by the average Australian a grave disservice would be done to Australia generally. The Government and the people generally desire only to make this country great and immigration is one of the plans to that end.
– For some time it has been evident from statements made by honorable members opposite that they have adopted a concerted plan to turn to the advantage of the Australian Labour party at the next election the result of the referendum on rents and prices held last year.
– The honorable member is “ getting the wind up “.
– There is nothing in my remarks that can be interpreted as indicating that I am “getting the wind up “. I desire to nail this matter once and for all and to show exactly how illconceived is such a plan. During this debate a further attempt to bolster this plan has been made by honorable members opposite. On Thursday last the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), when referring to the referendum, stated briefly that the Government had requested the people of Australia to agree to the writing into the Constitution of permanent powers authorizing the Australian Government to control rents, prices and other charges. He stated that Opposition members had agreed to the exercise by the Commonwealth of such powers temporarily, but that they opposed the writing of those powers into the Constitution as a permanent feature of the Commonwealth’s legislative authority. The honorable member also referred to the action of the Government in withdrawing subsidies immediately the referendum results were known. Later, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) challenged the statements of the honorable member for Wimmera and made some specious, hair-splitting remarks which appeared to contain the same sort of misrepresentation as that with which he had charged the Opposition. The honorable member for Wilmot stated that during the referendum campaign Opposition members had misled the electors by conveying the impression that the Government not only desired that these powers should be written into the Constitution, but also that it intended to use them permanently. Let us consider the facts, because the people want to know the truth about this matter. The true position was expounded by hundreds of Opposition speakers during the election campaign. First, they said that there was need for the continuation of some form of Commonwealth control of the prices of certain things. In the statements made by Opposition speakers opposing the referendum proposals, the need for the continuance of prices control was not questioned. It was pointed out, however, that the Government had been exercising these powers temporarily under the defence provisions of the Constitution. Opposition members pledged themselves on the hustings, as they have done in this House on numerous occasions, to support the continuance of Commonwealth control for as long as such control continued to be necessary.
– The honorable member said that the States could exercise these powers very much better than the Commonwealth had done.
– That pledge was repeated on every political platform by Opposition speakers. When it was said by Government spokesmen that, unless the referendum proposals were carried, control of rents and prices would be handed over to the States, we said that in that event the States would be able to carry on, the assumption being that the Government would have the decency to place the States in at least as favorable a position as the Commonwealth had enjoyed to administer those controls. Our main objection to the Government’s proposals was that it was seeking authority to continue to exercise those powers on a permanent basis. We pointed out that the defeat of the referendum did not necessarily mean the end of the temporary control by the Commonwealth of prices, rent3 and other charges. It was also made plain by Opposition speakers that the Opposition parties generally opposed the granting of permanent powers to the Commonwealth in this field.
– The honorable member’s own leader wanted the abolition of all subsidies.
– It was the people who decided not to give power to the Australian Government on a permanent basis to control rents, prices and other charges. They made that decision, in my opinion, rightly, and I am sure that in spite of what has transpired since the referendum, they would make a similar decision again to-day if the matter were referred to them. My point is that the argument that a mistake was made by the people at the referendum, which honorable members opposite are trying to put forward, is false. The real issue is that, following the defeat of the referendum proposals, and smarting under that defeat, the Government set out to retaliate and in so doing is deliberately hitting the pockets of the workers and the people generally. Responsibility for the control of rents and prices was handed over to the States with unseemly haste and action was immediately taken to withdraw the subsidies upon which the Government’s price stabilization plan had been based. I do not quarrel with the Government for handing over control of prices to the States. If the Government decided that the people by their vote at the referendum had given a clear indication that responsibility for prices control should be assumed by the States, well and good. But the Government need not have acted with such unseemly haste. The withdrawal of the subsidies, however, was an act of sabotage.
No body of men knew better than did the members of a Government which had operated the price-fixing machinery over the difficult period of the war that these subsidies were necessary if prices were to be kept within reasonable bounds. We must give the members of the Government credit for having at least some common sense. They must have known that by withdrawing practically all subsidies after they had handed over the control of prices to the States, which had not much experience in the price fixation field, they were imposing on the States an almost impossible task. Incidentally, in spite of the many difficulties, the States are doing a splendid job. In some instances, they are handling matters more efficiently than they were handled under Commonwealth administration. The withdrawal of subsidies on essential commodities has meant increased prices, the blame for which lies entirely with the present Government. The Government deliberately sabotaged the prices control mechanism so that, at the forthcoming elections, it would be able to say to the people of this country, “ You made a mistake at the referendum. You should no longer support the people who misled you on that occasion “. That is the plain pattern of the Government’s policy, although obviously honorable members opposite do not express their attitude quite so bluntly. Ostensibly, subsidies were withdrawn because the Commonwealth would not be able to supervise the expenditure of the money by the States. Let us examine that claim for just a moment to ascertain its strength, or, alternatively, its weakness. To show how weak the reasoning of Government supporters is on this matter, it is only necessary for me to cite one example of a Commonwealth payment that has been made for a long time, and continues to be made. Every year, members of this chamber debate a measure under which the Commonwealth makes grants to the States for the construction and maintenance of roads. Certain definite conditions ‘are attached to all such grants. I contend that with the price-fixing machinery existing at present, the Australian Government would be in a much better position to police - if I may use that word - subsidy payments on essential commodities than it is to supervise the expenditure of moneys granted under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act. Grants to the States made under that legislation come out of Consolidated Revenue and, if there is any merit at all in the argument that price stabilization subsidies cannot be continued because the Australian Government will not be able to exercise proper surveillance over their disbursement, surely the same argument can be applied with at least equal force to grants for roads and works. The Ministers who control prices in the various States meet regularly, and there is no bar to the attendance at such meetings of a Commonwealth representative who could require the State authorities to account for the moneys expended by them on price stabilization subsidies. That analogy should be sufficient to emphasize the lack of merit in the arguments advanced by Government spokesmen for the withdrawal of subsidies. The Government’s sole purpose in withdrawing the subsidies was to ensure that the defeat of the rents and prices referendum would react upon the people of the Commonwealth. The Government’s action has been taken at a time when it is highly desirable that costs should be kept down, and when every one from the Prime Minister downwards is advocating increased production. With such advocacy, of course, I agree wholeheartedly, but of what use are calls by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to the nation for increased production unless they are accompanied by governmental action to ensure that such an increase shall be possible ?
There are many angles from which one could view this subject, but I shall deal now with recent statements about the development of the beef industry in this country under an agreement with the United Kingdom foreshadowed by the Prime Minister upon his return from the United Kingdom. The right honorable gentleman called to the nation for increased production of beef and announced that negotiations were in hand for a fifteen-year meat agreement with Great Britain. So far, we have received few details of the proposal, but we have been given to understand that the target will be to increase beef exports to Great
Britain to approximately 400,000 tons a year in ten years. In the absence of details of the proposed agreement it is not possible for me to debate the matter fully, but there are certain factors that should be considered now. News of the proposed agreement has produced certain reactions amongst grazing interests. Graziers generally are anxious to play their part, not only because of the benefits that will accrue to themselves, but also because they are anxious to assist the people of the United Kingdom. However, there is some perturbation at the tenor of the announcements already made. No one knows better than do the graziers themselves the difficulties “associated with increasing production to such a degree. What are those difficulties? First, the graziers are rather perturbed to learn that there will be little or no representation of their interests in the discussions that will take place prior to the signing of the agreement. If I am correctly informed, a delegation will visit Great Britain for preliminary discussions, but, first, members of the delegation will discuss the proposals with departmental officials in Canberra. I have not heard of any assurance that the accredited representatives of -graziers’ organizations will be consulted on the various phases of the agreement. Surely before any such agreement is reached, representatives of the men who know all the practical difficulties of, and the problems associated with, the project should be consulted, not merely to ensure equitable treatment of the industry, but also to ensure the success of the scheme as a whole. From information already published, apparently it is hoped, as I have said, to increase beef exports to 400,000 tons per annum within ten years. In 1947-48, beef of all types exported from Australia to Great Britain totalled 112,500 tons. That means that we are planning for an increase of more than 300 per cent, in our beef exports within a relatively short period, and at a time, I remind the House, when home consumption will increase substantially, due to the influx of immigrants. After all, fulfilment of the agreement will depend largely upon the efforts of the graziers, and it is upon the graziers that any blame for lack of success of the scheme will fall. For that reason they are entitled to concern themselves with the details of the proposal. The first point that occurs to those engaged in the industry is that it takes five years to double a herd, without providing for sales, drought losses and so on. The estimated present cattle population of Queensland, the Northern Territory and the north-west of Western Australia is a little over 6,000,000. In order to turn out 400,000 tons of beef per annum for export another 10,000,000 head of cattle would be required, according to reliable authorities. On conservative estimates this plan will involve a doubling or trebling of the volume of exports and present holdings of cattle in Australia. Such a proposal is fantastic. unless something radical is done to ensure reasonable returns to the producers. Factors relating to material and labour must first be adjusted. Does the Government realize that enormous quantities of fencing material are required before much can be done to increase the present herds? Thousands of tons of piping and troughing, as well as windmills and other adjuncts to closer settlement and the development of properties are necessary in order to ensure a greater out-put per acre than previously. These are details that will have to be adjusted before there can be any possibility of putting the agreement that is envisaged into operation. Hundreds of miles of fencing wire are needed by graziers and farmers for their boundary fences. These materials are still in short supply, and unless something radical is done to remedy the fundamental causes of the shortages it is idle for honorable members on the Government side of the House to talk glibly of increasing beef production three-fold or four-fold within the next ten years. Let us hope, of course, that it will be done. If these facts are realized by the Government, what steps are being taken to increase the supply of such materials? In order to increase cattle production it will be necessary, particularly following years of drought, for breeding herds to be enlarged considerably. I know from personal visits to Central Queensland that many graziers, during the last two or three years, have been forced to sell all of their breeding herds in order to save them from dying. After selling the herds, the graziers’ capital assets were taxed as profit, with the result that when the rains came again they did not have the necessary capital to re-establish breeding herds. Whilst 1 am in favour of the expansion of the cattle industry, I fear that as a result of years of Government mismanagement this fine plan will not be able to achieve success because of the position that I have outlined. It would be completely unfair for the beefproducers of Australia to be committed to an agreement that would involve them in a task fraught with very many difficulties, unless they were granted an effective voice in discussions in Australia and Great Britain to determine the conditions that will be written into the agreement. The Prime Minister, or any other Minister handling this aspect should ensure that in the initial discussions the graziers’ organizations will be consulted, and that they will be given representation on any delegation which may be sent to Great Britain. In view of some of the existing legislation with relation to primary producers’ boards I am not too confident that that will be done.
I shall now refer to another hardship suffered by people in rural areas. Great difficulty is being experienced by them in obtaining telephone facilities. It is high time that steps were taken by the Government to amend the regulations governing the provision of telephone services in country districts. In view of the proposed drive to increase cattle production, every effort should be made to make conditions in country areas at least comparable with those in the centres of population. Despite the many representations that have been made about this matter from time to time, it is becoming increasingly difficult for primary producers to obtain extensions of telephone lines, and they are being forced to expend large sums of money to secure the facilities that they need. I realize that the shortage of labour and materials makes it impossible for the Government to provide all of the services necessary, but there is one aspect of the matter which should be rectified. I refer to the fact that the regulations provide for government expenditure of £100 for each subscriber on constructional work in the provision of new services in country districts. I understand that the provision was originally £50, and that it was increased to £100 about four years ago. Since then labour and material costs and other charges have increased very considerably, with the result that £100 does not now provide nearly the length of line that it did originally. Construction costs now vary between £150 a mile, when the going is reasonably good, and over £300 a mile in difficult country. The present provision enables the Construction of only between one-third and two-thirds of a mile per subscriber, or less than a half of what was provided three or four years ago. I cannot see any sound reason why people in the country should not be treated at least as favorably in the matter of telephones for business purposes as are those in the cities. Action should have been taken to increase the grant per mile in keeping with increased costs and charges. Let us consider whether any hardship would be caused within the Postmaster-General’s Department if the amount of the grant were increased. According to the report for 1946-47, which unfortunately is the latest I have been able to get and apparently is the latest published, expenditure of the Telephone Branch in that year amounted to £10,000,000 and receipts amounted to about £13,800,000. There was a gross surplus of £3,800,000, which, on the expenditure of £10,000,000 amounted to 38 per cent. The net surplus was £2,500,000, which, on an expenditure of £10,000,000, was 25 per cent. In other words, the Telephone Branch is in a sound financial position. The Postal Branch had a net surplus of £2,800,000 on an expenditure of £9,900,000, or about 28 per cent, profit. Those figures are sufficient to indicate that the department could well afford, in view of increased cost of materials, labour and so on, to increase the amount that is now expendable by it on new constructional work. More than ever is it justified in making the increase when it is proposed, as I understand that it is proposed, to increase telephone rentals, telegraphic charges and certain postal charges. Those increases will obviously improve the general financial position of the department. So, if those charges are to be increased, and bearing in mind that the constructional work of the department has been steadily receding, I put it to the Government and to the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) that the amount made available by the department for construction should be increased from £100 to £200 a mile and that there should be a considerable increase of the amount that can be expended by the department on private property from the miserable sum of £5, which would be just about enough to pay for the erection of a single pole. The time has come for the Government to make it possible for telephone services in country areas to be installed without undue cost to the producers. In the last twelve months, I have heard of dozens of proposals put before the department by small groups in isolated areas. Details of the proposals have been worked out by the engineers and submitted to the producers, who have been forced to turn them down because the cost is beyond their means. My proposals would obviate that difficulty and enable the producers to have facilities that they are now forced to deny themselves because of the heavy cost involved.
Another matter requiring adjustment is the entitlement to the war gratuity. It will be remembered that the “War Gratuity Act provides for the payment to ex-servicemen of the war gratuity not as a right but as a grant. Certain rates are prescribed. There are overseas qualifying service and general qualifying service. Overseas qualifying service war gratuity is payable at the rate of £3 15s. a month and general qualifying service gratuity is payable at the rate of 15s. a month. Section 7 (1) (/) provides that, after service overseas and on return to Australia, a period of 90 days is credited to ex-servicemen as a part of their overseas qualifying service. But there is a qualification that the 90-day period, which aPparently was given as an act of grace and which carries the higher rate, would not apply if a member of the forces had returned to Australia at his own request or for other reasons. After the cessation of hostilities, when the troops were awaiting return to Australia in various places in the islands, an Army routine order was promulgated, which said that any men who had essential jobs in Australia to return to would b« considered for immediate discharge. They were requested to apply for immediate discharge. That assisted in the early rehabilitation of Australian industries and, at the same time, assisted in the general rehabilitation scheme of the Army. It took a number of servicemen, as it were, off the shoulders of the Army. Some men took advantage of the request from the Army and applied under the routine order for return to Australia. The were returned to Australia and discharged and then they returned to their jobs. Some time later, they were credited with gratuity based on their overseas service, plus 90 days. Within the last six or twelve months, some of them have been told that they had been wrongly credited with the 90 days because they had returned to Australia at their own request. Their entitlement to war gratuity has been reduced by £9 or £10. I submit to the Minister for the Army that that places a wrong construction on the section that was not intended. I and everybody else understood that the intention was that the qualification should apply to those who applied to return to Australis for compassionate or other reasons entirely on their own initiative. The ex-servicemen whom I am now referring to applied to return to Australia really at the request of the Department of the Army to assist in rehabilitation measures. Therefore, an unfair penalty is being imposed on them. I speak not on behalf of the two or three cases that I have come up against but on behalf of all similarly affected ex-servicemen. I ask the Minister for the Army to investigate this matter in order to ascertain whether a wrong construction has not been placed on the section. I also ask him to issue an instruction that the original entitlement is to be reverted to and that no further action is to be taken along the present line.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
.- Most honorable members who have spoken during the debate so far have exercised their ancient right to air their grievances before granting Supply to the Crown. As a result of this tradition, the debate has ranged over a very wide field, but the gravamen of the charges levelled against the Government by the Opposition is that, because of the economic policy of the Government, production is falling. Although they have not specifically related the word “ production to the subject of building materials, most honorable members opposite have taken the opportunity to make assertions concerning a decline of production of building materials. The expression “ production is falling “ is an extremely vague one. One cannot speak about “ production “ in a vacuum ; the word must relate to something. I propose to itemize the complete range of building materials in order to determine whether or not the charge made by honorable members opposite is true. First, however, I point out to them that, although they contend that production is falling, profits are admitted to be at record levels, even after taxes have been allowed for, by the companies whose affairs are published from time to time in the financial pages of the Australian press. Therefore1, if production is falling in association with a record level of profit, some of the businessmen of the community with whom the Opposition, or at any rate the Liberal party, is peculiarly identified, must be profiteering at a great rate. Let us see whether the friends of the Liberal party are as bad as honorable members opposite contend, by implication, that they are. Let us determine whether, in fact, the production of building materials is falling. I shall be specific. Production has fallen below pre-war levels in respect of only one of quite a number of items. Statistics issued by the Commonwealth Statistician show that the monthly average production of asbestos cement sheets in 1938-39 was 791,000 square yards. In 1947-48 it was 1,560,000 square yards, practically double the pre-war output. Bricks were manufactured before the war at the rate of 60,000,000 a month. Production decreased during the war, but recovered in 1946-47 to 41,000,000 a month, and in 1947-48 reached 48,000,000 a month. For the eleven months of the current financial year the rate has been 56,000,000 a month. Those figures show that there has been a continual upward trend since the war, although output has not yet returned to the pre-war level. Before the war, Australia’s monthly production of cement amounted to 72,300 tons. In 1947-48, the rate was 82,400 tons a month, and for the eleven months of the current year it has been 92,800 tons. Those figures disclose a very marked increase over the pre-war level of production. Before the war, the output of fibrous plaster sheets aggregated 634,000 square yards a month, and that rate has been increased to 956,000 square yards a month. The output of roofing tiles has increased from 3,681,000 a month before the war to 5,145,000 a month now. With the consent of honorable members I shall incorporate the following table of statistics in Hansard in order that I need not weary them by reciting the entire list: -
Since it is a common charge by the Communists that wages in the building industry are not sufficient to attract workers,’ the numbers since the war provide an interesting commentary.
Honorable members will note that the table discloses a substantial increase of the rate of manufacture of gas stoves, electric stoves, fuel stoves, baths, basins, sinks, and other household utensils. It shows that the friends of honorable members have not been profiteering. The manufacturers of building materials have gained the extra profit from increased production. The statistics show that the claims made by honorable members opposite are contrary to the facts in most instances.
I refer now to the speech that was made earlier to-day by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). It is not difficult to forecast, whenever a financial statement is before the House, that the honorable member for Reid will take the opportunity to speak on the subject of immigration. This afternoon he pursued with his usual malevolence his bete noire, the displaced persons who, to him, are not Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish or Ukranian men and women, but “ reffos “ or “ DPs “ in the inimitable language of the Century. Little doubt has been left in our minds that the honorable member normally makes two charges against these people. The first is that they are taking houses from Australians. The second is that they are taking shipping space from British migrants. I shall deal with the second charge first, and examine the subject of the ships that carry displaced persons to Australia and the numbers of immigrants that they bring. During 1948, 1947, 1948, and the first quarter of 1949. the number of British immigrants who declared their wish to settle permanently in Australia was 96,993. The number of alien immigrants during the same period was 48,751. Thus, the proportion of British immigrants to alien immigrant* was two to one over the three and a quarter years of the post-war period for which we have complete statistics. The ships that leave Great Britain naturally carry British immigrants, but there is far too easy a tendency on the part of the honorable member for Reid, and also the newspapers, to imply that aliens who arrive in Australia on a ship under alien registration and flying an alien flag come to the exclusion of British immigrants. In most instances, such alien ships have never called at British ports and, unless they brought alien immigrants, would have carried no immigrants at all. In dulling with the calibre of the immigrants who have come to Australia under the scheme of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), I shall deal particularly with those whom we have selected in the displaced persons camps, because they are entirely the responsibility of the Australian Government. They were selected by the Government, their fares were paid by the Government and they have given a guarantee to the Government that, for a period of two years, they will undertake work specified by it. In Canberra during the recent week-end, many of us were privileged to see an exhibition of the craftsmanship of Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian and Ukrainian people, who displayed their handiwork and demonstrated their folk dances, their music and their culture generally. It has been the custom of the honorable member for Reid to evaluate nations and peoples when he speaks of migrants in this country. I regret that the honorable gentleman was in Sydney last weekend, because had he attended the exhibition, his mind might have been considerably broadened regarding the status of these alien guests of the Commonwealth, who have come from displaced persons camps. Most of them are northern Europeans, and, I venture . to say, they are superior to the alien migrants of the pre-war period. However, that is purely a matter of opinion, possibly even a matter of racial prejudice. What cannot be doubted is that the people whom we saw at that exhibition as persons, craftsmen, artists and workers have a great contribution to make to Australia. If that exhibition is a specimen of their work. I believe that the selection committees in Europe have done an extraordinarily good job for the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Reid has -suggested that migrants are taking houses from Australians, and, by their presence here, they have harmed Australia. The honorable member has viewed them as additional workers who demand electrical power to enable them to operate their factories at a time when supplies of electricity are desperately short. I have obtained some figures which, I admit, are not right up to date, but which are most appropriate to this discussion, because they reveal the various classes of employment in which the migrants engage. Of 11,371 male displaced persons who have come to Australia, 20 per cent, are employed in the production of building materials such as bricks, tiles, pipes, cement, wall-boards, paints and timber; and another 20 per cent, are employed in providing water and sewerage and similar services that are essential for home building. In other words, in a period of full employment, Australians are not trying to obtain that particular class of public work, and the migrants are filling that gap in our economy. An additional 20 per cent, of the 11,371 male displaced persons are employed in earth and road works to improve our capacity to transport materials from points of production to where they are to be used. Another 10 per cent, are working in brown coal and hydro-electric schemes. I thought that the honorable member for Reid would have enough doubt about his own assertions, that is, if they are his assertions, and not assertions written for him by somebody else, to query his own statement concerning electricity, because it is so well known that the new hydroelectric projects in the more remote areas of Tasmania are manned almost entirely by Polish migrants who arrived in Australia recently.
– That is correct.
– The contribution of those displaced persons, assuming that they are to be consumers of electricity as the honorable member for Reid fears, is greater, I have no doubt, than the quantity that they will use. The remaining 18 per cent, of the 11,371 male displaced persons are employed in primary industries and in hospitals and similar institutions, which, until their arrival, were in grave straits for labour. Of 3,158 women employed at the time to which these statistics relate - and they have not been brought right up to date - 60 per cent, were id hospitals and similar institutions. The practical effect has been that many places that formerly were under-manned have now adequate labour. I should have thought that; in a period when most industries are urgently in need of labour, the ancient “ work fund “ fallacy would not have been trotted out by any member of the Australian Parliament. The “ work fund “ fallacy is a theory that there is a certain fund of work in a country, and if the government brings in new people, it fills up all the available gaps and pome one is likely to be unemployed. That fallacy does not recognize the fact that the work performed by the newcomers may, in itself, enable industry to expand and thereby open new avenues of employment. The theory, of course, is puerile.
I shall not say any more about migrants because I feel that, apart from the honorable member for Reid, who has his own motives in waging a campaign against them, no honorable member is so irresponsible as to try to arouse national passions against an alien minority in our country. I do not accuse members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party of identifying themselves in any way with the statements of the honorable member for Reid. I propose to leave hia assertions, and turn to some of the matters to which the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has referred. She dwelt for some time on the subject of Australian manufacturers who, as the result of making shoddy goods, are losing their opportunities to develop an export trade. Just as the statement that production is falling is sadly lacking in specificity, so is the statement that some firms are manufacturing shoddy goods insufficiently specific. The honorable member for Darwin would have rendered a service to the community had she chosen to mention the names of the responsible firms - she said they were available to her - because many housewives in Australia pay a great deal of attention to her opinions, and they would have been glad to receive a warning about certain brands of shoes. Her public service, in that respect, fell short.
The honorable member rather took the Government to task regarding the number of sheep in Australia. She suggested that the Government was not doing anything to encourage an increase of the flocks. The truth of the matter is that the animal population of Australia has fluctuated rather violently during the last 60 or 70 years, but there is some evidence to indicate that Australia’s maximum carrying capacity of sheep is about 130,000,000. On several occasions the sheep population has reached that number and has then sharply declined. The honorable member mentioned that in 1941-42 the number of sheep was 125,000,000, and she stated that the number now is 95,000,000. Actually, the latest figure is 110,000,000, so that the recovery from the period of drought is evident. But the charge that the Government has not done anything to encourage an increase of the flocks is unfair. I do not suggest that the honorable member has accused the Labour Government of being responsible for the drought, but she has charged it with having failed to pay sufficient attention to means of increasing the carrying capacity of the country. The fact is that the present Government has increased the expenditure on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research from £800,000 a year in round figures to £2,250,000 per annum. Honorable members opposite rightly claim credit for the fact that under their administration the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research dramatically solved the problem of the prickly pear in Queensland. However, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has also performed extensive work on pasture improvement. As the result of researches into copper and zinc deficiencies in the soil, more than £500,000 worth of wool a year has been added to the South Australian clip. The most recent issue of Change Over, a journal issued by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, contains a long article on the conversion of the Ninety Mile desert in South Australia into an area capable of production. The story is ae impressive as is that of the saving of land from the menace of the prickly pear, and shows that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ha* been most active in conducting researches into the problems of Australia’s staple industry - the wool industry.
The honorable member then referred to prices control, and accused the Government of attempting to pass on to the Opposition parties responsibility for the increases of prices. I doubt whether the public mind has been exercised on the problem of prices control so much as honorable members on both sides of the House appear to think that it has. The public made a decision on prices control, and I presume that it did so because it was more impressed by the arguments of honorable members of the Opposition than by those of the Government. However, if honorable members of the Opposition adopted a more reasonable attitude, and one which was more in accordance with tb* attitude that they adopted at the time of the referendum campaign, we might pa;» more regard to their present protestations. If they believe that high prices will stimulate production and thereby lead ultimately to a decrease of prices, their advocacy of free enterprise might command more support at the moment. The point is that they have never adopted that line of argument in this debate. They opposed control of prices by the federal authority during the referendum campaign, but now they imply that prices control is a good thing and that the State governments are administering it satisfactorily. The most astonishing feature of the speeches delivered by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) and the honorable member for Darwin was their assertion that it was false of the Government to contend that it could not validly subsidize the prices of goods under the present system. They attacked the Government’s contention that the payment of a subsidy by the Commonwealth presupposes the existence of power to ensure that the subsidy shall be passed on to the consumer in the form of reduced prices. In support of their contention that the Government could, and should, subsidize prices, both honorable members were sufficiently devoid of humour to mention the fact that the Government subsidizes State governments and local authorities in respect of the construction and maintenance of roads. Of course, there is no analogy whatever between the proposal to subsidize the prices of commodities and the payment of subsidies on the construction and maintenance of roads. A grant for road construction and maintenance is not a subsidy to a seller of goods, but a payment to a purchaser. The local government body which receives a roads grant is not going to sell its roads, but is going to expend the grant in order to hire labour and purchase materials to construct and maintain roads. Obviously, it has an interest in obtaining its labour and materials as cheaply as possible. However, when the Government pays a subsidy to a seller of commodities it has a bounden duty to ensure that the benefit of that subsidy shall be passed on to the ultimate consumers, and that presupposes the existence of a constitutional power to ensure that the seller shall pass on to the community the benefit of the subsidy. To demonstrate how utterly impracticable it would be for the Commonwealth to ensure that the benefit of commodity subsidies was being passed on to the community, I need only mention that every year £2,300,000 was paid in shipping freights on all goods passing by sea from one State of Australia to another. The range of goods carried is almost infinite, and it is obvious that it would not be possible to police the ultimate selling prices of goods carried from one side of Australia to the other. It is clear that the Commonwealth would not be justified in paying out money as a. subsidy to reduce the prices of those goods to the consumers because it could not possibly ensure that the benefit of the subsidy was being passed on to the ultimate consumers.
Members of the Opposition astonished me when they stated that they had always believed in subsidies, because the propaganda which they circulated during the campaign on the referendum to control rents and prices certainly did not advocate the payment of subsidies. In fact, they made a number of statements specifically attacking subsidies which they have probably forgotten. I shall quote some of the propaganda which they circulated at that time. A typical instance is contained in the pamphlet authorized by C. Palmer, 115 St. George Terrace, Perth, which bears the imprint of the physiognomy of Mr. Ross McLarty, Premier of Western Australia. It stated -
Price control also imposes a heavy burden on taxpayers because price control makes subsidies necessary. Subsidies this year are expected tocost the nation £19,000,000, and is regarded as a major reason for continued penal taxation.
If that is not an attack on the payment of subsidies, then I do not know what is. The honorable member for Capricornia asserted that the Liberal party - for which he has no authority whatever to speak - did not anticipate that commodity subsidies would be removed. I have before me an advertisement issued by the New South Wales Division of the Liberal party. That advertisement, which was authorized by J. L. Garrick, of 30 Ashstreet, Sydney, was headed -
Chifley Tries Political Blackmail.
Threat to Withdraw Subsidies is Culmination of Deceptive Referendum Campaign.
Before the referendum the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had made the point that it would not be possible to continue to pay subsidies on commodities that the Australian Government could not control, and he had stated his reasons quite clearly. The author of the pamphlet undoubtedly bad this in mind when he wrote -
Mr. Chifley’s inference that subsidies will be withdrawn if his socialist Government is defeated in the referendum is on a par with his false statement that price and rent controls will also disappear if Australia votes “ No “.
There, the Opposition was speaking for the Government! The pamphlet continued -
If you vote “ No “ subsidies will not be withdrawn, price controls will not disappear, rent controls will not be lifted. Don’t be bluffed into socialization. Vote “ No “.
Those statements of the Opposition have been completely falsified by events. The fact remains that the people believed the story that the States could more efficiently control rents and prices, and accepted the arguments advanced by the Opposition parties. A surpassing example of their propaganda was the advice tendered by the Liberal party in Western Australia in a pamphlet which stated, “ Vote ‘ NO ‘ to keep prices down “. However, the referendum campaign is a thing of the past, and I do not propose again to refer to it. I do not blame the Opposition for advocating a free economy, provided, first, that they do not complain when the trade unions, confronted by increasing prices, endeavour to force up their wages; and, secondly, that they do not fall between two stools by insisting, on the one hand, that the situation that has developed is an exemplification of their contention that the States can more efficiently administer control of prices, and, on the other, that the States could administer prices control more efficiently if the Australian Government underwrote their efforts.
Although honorable members opposite have had a lot to say about production, they have never been specificThe honorable member for Darwin referred particularly to the cost of erecting houses. She said that in 1949 the erection of 49,000 houses gave no cause for satisfaction. However, she did not say whether the record of the Lyons Government in regard to house construction was more satisfying. I remind her that in the first year of the Lyons Government’s administration the number of houses erected was 5,700; in the second year, 10,800; in the third year, 18,300; and in the fourth year, 19,700. The rate of house construction in each of those four years was less than half the present rate. However, I do not propose to make propagandist use of those statistics, because it is perfectly obvious that housing, perhaps more than any other form of production, is dependent upon, and is, indeed, an indicator of, the current economic situation. I do not for a moment consider that the Lyons Government was wholly responsible for the inadequacy of housing accommodation during the depression, because that Government was certainly not responsible for the world depression. However, if the honorable member is prepared to use statistics to belabour the present Administration she should at least be consistent and submit all the relevant statistics. The facts regarding housing are sufficiently depressing. In 1924 the total number of houses built was 48,100, in 1925 the number was 54,000, in 1926 it was 55,500 and in 1927 it was 50,700. The total for 1926 has not since been equalled. The number of houses built fell spectacularly to 5,700 in 1931, the first depression year, and up to the outbreak of World War II. the rate of construction in the predepression years had not again been reached, although it had reached 40,000- a year in 1939. With the permission of honorable members, I shall incorporate in Hansard the following table showing the total number of dwellings built in every year from 1922 to 1948 inclusive -
The figures are sometimes subjected to challenge from quite another angle. The Communist party contends that because wages in the building industry are not sufficiently attractive workers are not going into the industry. It is not for me to say whether or not wages are sufficiently attractive, but it is untrue to say that workers are not going into the building industry. On the 30th September, 1945, there were 34,669 men in the industry, on the 30th June, 1946, there were 65,260, on the 30th June, 1947, there were 84,152, on the 30th June, 1948, there were 96,569 and on the 30th September, 1948, there were 98,918, with an expected influx of approximately 17,000 reconstruction training scheme trainees within the next few years. It is obvious that the number of men engaged in the building industry has increased greatly during the last four years. Therefore, the line of propaganda that is being pursued by the Communist party is obviously not sound insofar as it asserts that men are not being attracted to the building industry.
More important perhaps than that is the production of timber. In 1938-39 691,000,000 super feet of timber was produced in Australia. With imports added and exports deducted, the total quantity available for local consumption was 979,000,000 super feet. In 1947-48 timber production had increased from 691,000,000 super feet to 1,027,000,000, an increase of nearly 400,000,000 super feet. The total quantity available for local consumption had increased to 1, 153,000,000 super feet, despite the fact that imports of timber, because supplies were not readily available, fell from 324,000,000 super feet to 144,000,000 super feet. As far as the basic materials of the building trade are concerned, it is not sound to contend that production is decreasing. Nor is it sound to contend that there has not been a rapid increase of the number of houses built in the post-war years. In 1945 approximately 11, 000 houses were built; in 1946, approximately 25,000; in 1947, approximately 39,000; and in 1948, approximately 49,000. That rate of construction, of course, is not fast enough. It is not of much use to talk of housing statistics unless the marriage statistics are related to them. The remarks of the honorable member for Darwin were most sound on that point. Honorable members opposite are doing a great disservice to this country by their generalized statements about production decreasing. It is much better to itemize the actual commodities to which reference is made, as I admit was done in regard to steel. The general statements that appear in the Australian press have been uncritically repeated in a stupidly damaging article that an American wrote in the United Nations’ magazine in which the writer said that one out of every five Australians to-day is unemployed. An article in a reputable magazine stating that the production of all sorts of commodities is decreasing despite the increased labour force does not do Australia much good abroad, and does not happen to correspond with the facts.
I shall address myself now to one or two items of government expenditure. The presence at the table of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. I edman) reminds me to speak of some of the work that he has been doing. The honorable gentleman can claim much credit for the great expansion of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, now the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, under his care, and especially for the increase of the allocation from £800,000 to £2,200,000. Although the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is doing excellent work, it is facing an acute problem in connexion with the recruitment of persons trained in scientific research techniques. Some officers of the organization have not hesitated to say that they are required to spend much time in training in research techniques science graduates who should have been more fully trained in those techniques in the universities. Training is not the proper function of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It should have completely trained personnel at its disposal. That brings me to the subject of the poverty of Australian universities. I am aware that the universities are primarily a State responsibility. But the Commonwealth was empowered in 1946 to confer benefits upon university students and has, under the act which established the Universities’ Commission, the power to grant funds to a State or to any educational authority for educational purposes. However, the sum of £104,000 a year which the Commonwealth at present grants for expenditure on scientific research does not amount to very much when it is divided among the Australian National University and the six State universities. I am not belittling the grant. It may mean that in any given year the training of thirty or forty research students in research techniques is financed. That is not by any means to be derided, but it is not comparable with the effort that the United Kingdom Government is making in regard to British universities, or it would not be were it not that the Australian universities have gained many permanent benefits from the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. The expenditure of more than £36,000,000 on that scheme so far makes it, by any standards, one of the greatest educational efforts in the history of the Commonwealth. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction may well claim that he has done much to compensate the men who have actually been trained to overtake the deficiencies of State education before the war. In any event, £36,000,000 represents three years’ expenditure on education for the whole of Australia before the war. It is perhaps not sufficiently realized that the universities have gained some permanent assets from this scheme. Admittedly a large proportion of the £36,000,000 has been expended upon living allowances. Although that expenditure has helped to produce trained men, it has not provided buildings or equipment for the universities. But the benefits that those universities have received are very considerable. I am sorry to say that I have not the figures regarding assistance to technical schools, which must be much greater as technical schools have more students than universities have. In five years the universities have received £1,202,000 in subsidies and £1,020,000 for buildings. In four years they have received £368,626 for the purchase of equipment. The Government’s policy of assisting universities has done something to make good the deficiencies left in the States by State budgets of the pre-war years. I believe that it is not sufficiently understood that if we are to maintain, in this country, a university standard equal to that of universities abroad, we must either have large individual bequests such as the universities of the United States receive, or, alternatively, we must make larger grants to universities and technical schools, as is done in the United Kingdom. I am not in any way belittling the record level of the grants that I have just quoted. At the same time, the production of trained personnel of a professional standard is an urgent, problem facing the community,’ and therefore we should do more than we are doing at present. The problem of obtaining grants to universities from individuals appears to be insuperable. In the United States business undertakings have been to a large extent, personal ventures. There is no Australian equivalent of Ford. Mellon or Carnegie, who made large grants to American universities. There is no opportunity in Australia for a man to take a company’s profits and hand them back to the community by way of grants to universities. Universities in Australia do not receive grants from joint stock companies because no individual would have the power to make such grants. The days of the big personal fortunes of the Hacketts, the Bonythons and Barr-Smiths, among others, seem to have gone. Modern taxation has destroyed such huge individual fortunes, and if there is to be a diversion of money to higher level education similar to that in America, it appears that it must come from governments - and not from individual bequests. I do not complain about that. I am in no way minimizing the tremendous effort that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has put into the Government’s programme, especially in regard to grants to universities, which constitute the best aspect. of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. But I do ask him to consider, for the sake of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the possibility of making increased grants for scientific research to universities and technical schools throughout Australia.
– The measure now being debated is a Supply Bill with accompanying data to assist the House to arrive at the desired decision to grant supply to the Government for four months of the next financial year. In order to have a proper survey of the Government’s requirements it is, necessary to examine the financial results that have been forecast for the current year in the light of those that have already been achieved up to the 30th April last, which is the last date for which official Treasury figures are available. Eight months ago the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) performed the most important task assigned to his portfolio when he presented to the Australian people its national budget. The budget is, as it were, the financial bible for the current year. I shall review the pertinent features of the budget in simple terms. The Treasurer expected to receive, from various forms and methods of taxation, a revenue of £509,500,000, and he estimated that he would have to expend, in accordance with his assets, £527,200,000. Consequently, he expected to show a deficit of £17,700,000. To balance his budget he intended to raise a loan, and, of course, to expend the amount of the loan. Those were the main financial assumptions on which the Treasurer then fixed the tax rates that he would charge for the current year. If they proved to be seriously wrong, then the whole basis of the Government’s tax policy must necessarily be completely unsound also. The Treasurer presented that budget in September, and only five months later, in February of this year, he revised his budget figures, in the financial statement that he then presented to the Parliament. His bad budget of the previous September had by then caught up with him, and he could no longer conceal from the people thefact that by the end of the financial year he would have collected far more revenue and expended much less, than he had anticipated. Consequently, the case for tax reductions was irresistible and the Treasurer very reluctantly introduced the necessary legislation to effect desirable and much-needed tax revisions. But he indulged insome leg-pulling. He engaged in a piece of horse-dealing that gave the Australian people a decrepit old nag instead of the staunch horse for which it had paid and had fed, and had expected to receive. This is how the trick was done. The financial buoyancy that the Treasurer discovered last September represented an improvement that had occurred during the current financial year, and consequently the funds that resulted from it could and should have been made available for immediate tax reductions. Instead, the reductions that the Treasurer gave were made to take effect in the future only, that is, from the 1st July next, which is the beginning of the 1949-50 financial year, consequently, they cannot possibly affect the September budget or the February financial statement, but will affect, and only in part as I shall prove, the 1949-50 budget and the budgets of subsequent years. Thus the Treasurer maintained his now notorious policy of withholding much-needed and well-justified tax reductions until the last possible moment. Consistent with the policy that he has pursued, he has ensured that the money has been well in the “ kitty “ before he has made any alleviation of taxation. Taxation affects the domestic budget of every household and taxpayer in Australia. Each month the Treasurer’s statement piles up further evidence of his obstinacy in withholding relief. Receipts of revenue for the ten months to April, 1949, show an increase of almost every division of revenue over the amounts forecast by the Treasurer. There is a particularly bad miscalculation evidenced in customs revenue, which will be greatly in excess of the amount forecast by the Treasurer in the budget.
On the other side of the ledger, expenditure from the National Welfare Fund will be- far less than was anticipated. Age pensions will require about £4,000,000 less, widows’ pensions £1,000,000 less, unemployment benefits £2,000,000 less, hospital benefits £1,500,000 less and other items £6,000,000’ less, than was estimated, in the budget. Public works will cost £7,000,000 less, and other departments about £2,000,000 less than was anticipated. The Loan Fund Expenditure account was credited with £5,100,000 in April, 1949, and £18,300,000 was paid into that account from defence trust accounts. Thus, there will be a substantial surplus by the 30th June, and not a deficit, as was forecast in. the budget. The Treasurer will repeat the pattern of last year, when he was hard put to it to tuck away surplus revenue so that a surplus of only £1,500,000 would be shown in the published accounts.
On the 13th September, 1948, I wrote to the Commissioner of Taxation asking what would be the approximate yield from income tax and social service contributions if the rate of tax and contribution contained in the proposals then before the Parliament were adopted. The Commissioner replied giving me the information sought, and pointing out that the yield was based upon the estimated levels of income at the 30th June, 1948. The Commissioner’s letter is as follows: -
I am setting out hereunder the information required by you in your letter of 13th September, 1!)48.
The approximate yield from income tax and social services contribution if the rates of tax and contribution, contained in the proposals, submitted to Parliament, are adopted, is set out in the tabic below. This table is based upon the estimated level of incomes as at 30th June, 1948. It will, be appreciated that marked changes in income levels occurred between 1947 and 1948, but it will he some time before accurate statistical information us to the distribution of these changes as between income grades will be available. The data upon which the table is based has been adjusted, so as to take into account all known factors, but is necessarily subject to revision as later and more reliable data comes to hand. lt is considered, however, that it gives areasonably accurate picture: of the anticipated yield: under, the proposals.
As regards your inquiry as to the proportion of the total tax and contribution collected from employees and non-employees you are advised that the proportion is roughly half and half. This proportion is based upon the assumption that only the assessments for a particular income year are raised in subsequent assessment years. In actual fact, the proportion is varied to the extent that more or less than a. year’s work is performed in an assessment year. Thus, if arrears of assessments are overtaken in an assessment year, the proportion of tax attributable to nonemployees will rise. If, however, the assessments for a particular income year are not all issued by the close of the subsequent assessment year, the proportion of tax- attributable to employees will rise.
Commissioner of Taxation.
It will be noted that 2,500,000 taxpayers were expected to contribute £69,000,000 in income tax, and £60,000,000 in social services contributions, a total of £129,000;000 for the financial year. 1948-49. On the 21st February, 1949, I again wrote to the Commissioner of Taxation asking for details of the information, presented to the Treasurer to enable him to review Commonwealth finances, and upon which were based the tax reductions amounting to £36,500,000 a yearwhich were to take effect from the 1st July, 1949. The Commissioner advised that the movement in incomes since the table of the 13th September; 1948, had been supplied to me necessitated a revision of the table as a pre-requisite to calculating the effects of the proposed reductions. As a result of this revision, the estimated assessment yield from individuals at the rate in force had been increased from £129,000,000 to £160,000,000, an increase of £31,000,000. The Commissioner further stated that it was this figure of £160,000,000 which would be reduced by tax remissions aggregating £36,500,000. The second letter from the Commissioner of Taxation, dated the 21st February, 1949, is as follows : -
With reference to your letter dated 15th February, 194!), I desire to inform you that it would be quite impracticable for me to supply you with all the relevant data and information placed before the Treasurer from time to time for the purpose of reviewing Commonwealth finances. I am, however, setting out hereunder such information as is available in reply to the specific requests contained in paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of your letter under reply.
Dealing first with your request for an uptodate table similar to that contained in my letter dated 13th September, 1948, I have tb advise that the movement in incomes since the table was compiled necessitated revision of the table as a pre-requisite to calculating the effects of the proposed reductions. As a result nf this revision, the estimated assessment yield from individuals at the rates at present in force has been increased from £129,000.000 to £100,000,000. It is this latter figure which is being reduced by £30,500,000 as follows: -
I should mention that although the table of estimated yields has been adjusted to take into account all known factors, it is necessarily subject to further revision as later and more reliable information comes to hand. It may, however, be regarded as a reasonably accurate picture of the anticipated yield under the proposals at present under consideration.
Turning to your request for information as to the up-to-date estimated yield from company taxation, I have to advise that the revised estimates of collections prepared for consideration in connexion with the financial statement delivered by the Treasurer on 15th February, 1949, included an assumption that the collection from companies during the cur- rent financial year would probably be about £2.000,000 in excess of the budget estimate of £76,000,000.
Your remaining request concerns the amounts by which arrears of unassessed and uncollected tax have been overtaken. In this connexion, there is little that I can usefully add to the information set out in my letters to you dated 21st July, 1948, and 13th January, 1949. except to refer you to the last paragraph of page 1 of the financial statement wherein it was intimated that at this stage it is not possible to foretell accurately the final figures for this year. The present position is that the current assessing programme is well advanced compared with recent years and it is anticipated that all returns lodged in respect of the income year ended 30th June, 1948, will be assessed by 31st May, 1949, thus making it possible to have all assessments issued and due for payment by 30th June, 194!). If these assessments issue as planned. there should be a consequent decrease in the amount of assessed but uncollected tax at 30th June, 1949, compared with previous years,
Commissioner of Taxation.
I draw particular attention to the final paragraph of the letter, in which the Commissioner refers to the issue of tax assessments. I want the House and the country to realize that a definite campaign is being undertaken to collect as much as possible of arrears of tax before the 30th June, and, therefore, one must add to the figure given to the House on the 30th April last the extraordinarilylarge amount that will be collected as the result of that drive, which, according to the advice given to me by letter by the Commissioner of Taxation, is being made in the months of May and June. 1 have compiled a table from the two yields of taxes, first, the one upon which the budget was based, namely, £129,000,000, and, secondly, that upon which the financial statement was based, involving a reduction of taxes amounting to £36,500,000 to take effect from the 1st July next. These figures are very interesting, and they should be considered in conjunction with the statement made recently by the Prime Minister to the Australian Council of Trades Unions that he had no intention of holding out any bribe for the purpose of winning the next general election. These figures show that the right honorable gentleman has already given such a bribe. The table which I have prepared is as follows: -
When the second statement was prepared on the 21st February, the number of taxpayers had increased to 2,700,000 compared with the 2,500,000 shown in the statement prepared in the preceding September. My table shows how the increased yield of £31,000,000 is distributed over the various income groups. Column 4 shows the degree to which each income group will participate in the proposed reduction of £36,500,000 for 1949-50, and column 5 shows how each group will fare, comparing new yields with proposed reductions. For instance, the incomes of 1,765,000 taxpayers who are in receipt of up to £500 a year declined by £800,000 as the result of the revised yield, yet such taxpayers will participate to a total of £6,800,000 in the 1949-50 reductions.
The incomes of 2,130,000 taxpayers who are in receipt of up to £600 a year will contribute only £700,000 to the new extra yield, but such taxpayers will obtain relief or refunds amounting to £10,600,000. The incomes of 285,000 taxpayers in the £601 to £800 a year group will contribute £5,600,000 to the extra yield, but such taxpayers will receive a reduction of only £5,200,000 and will thus show a net loss of £400,000. The incomes of 115,000 taxpayers, from £801to£l,000will yield £4,900,000 more, butthose taxpayers willreceive relief amountingto only £4,600,000, and will thus show aloss of £300,000.In the next group,60,000 taxpayers with incomes of from £1,001 to £1,250 show an increased yieldof £3,300,000, but their taxreductions will amountto only £2,700,000, and they will showa loss of £600,000. Wenow come to the groups which containparliamentary and ministerial salaries. The incomes of 30,000 taxpayers in the £1,251-£1,500 income grup will return an increased yield of £1,100,000, but those taxpayers will receive relief amounting to £2,000,000 under the 1949-50 proposals, and will thus have a clear gain of £900,000 for the group. A. similar result is shown in respect of the next group, namely, £3,000 a year. Their increased yield will be £4,300,000, but they will receive in tax relief £5,900,000, or a gain to the group of £1,600,000. In the last group, 20,000 taxpayers earning £3,000 a year and over will return an increased yield of £11,000,000,but they will participate in reductions to the amount of only £5,500,000, that is, a clear loss to the group of £5,600,000.
To sum up, those earning up to £600 will receive substantial relief for which they do not materially contribute. Those with incomes of from £600 to £1,250 a year will contribute more in additional tax than theywillreceive by way of relief. For taxpayers with incomes from £1,250 to £3,000 the refund is to be more than the additional yield, while forthose with incomes over £3,000 the yield is to be substantially greater than the refunds, being more than twice as much. The estimated yield of £160,000,000, like the original yield of £129,000,000 is based upon the estimated level of incomes as at the 30th June, 1948. The increase of£31,000,000 in such yield consists of an increase of £20,000,000 from income tax, that is from £69,000,000 to £89,000,000, plus £11,000,000 from social services contribution, namely, from £60,000,000 to £71,000,000. That yield is being collected from 2,700,000 taxpayers compared with 2,500,000 under the original estimate. In presenting these figures I do not wish tobe misunderstood. I agree that re ductions of tax should be granted to taxpayers in the lower ranges of income. However, I submit that thereductions thataretotake effect from the 1st July next are completely disproportionate. They are not spread equitably in respect of all rangesof taxable incomes. I have already demonstrated that fact. I repeat that whilst taxpayers on the lower ranges of income will receive a benefit of £9,900,000 over the total yield of taxes from such incomes, a greater measure ofrelief should have been givento taxpayers inthe other ranges of income. Indeed, as Ishall show later,the measure of relief that istobe granted to taxpayers in the lower ranges of income could have been substantially increased also. Because it is so important I shall repeat the statementmadeby theCommissioner of Taxation in his letter to me in reply to my query regarding collections of arrears of income tax. It reads -
The present position is that the current assessing programme is well advanced compared withrecent years, and it is anticipatedthat allreturnslodged in respectof the income year ended 30th June, 1948 will be assessed by the 31st May, 1949. Thus makingit possible to have allassessments issued and due for paymentbythe 30th June, 1949.
If these assessments issue as anticipated, there should be a consequent decline in the amount of assessed but uncollected tax at the 30th June, 1949, compared withprevious years.
The following facts aregleaned from the information supplied by theCommissioner of Taxation: -
Has thein creased taxable capacity of the greater wage fund, higher commodity prices, including those of exportable commodities andprimary products,suchas wool, meat,wheat, . &c.,been taken into consideration?The wage fund alone has increased from , £728,000,000 in 1946-47, to . £858,000,000 in 1947-48, and, judging by the returns forthe first two quarters of 1948-49,itwillbe over £1,000,000,000 by the30th June, next.The national income rose from £1,284,000,000 in 1945-46,to £1,359,000,000 in 1946-47, and to£l,635,000,000 in 1947-48. Total exports of wool an the six months ended December, 1948, were valued at £103,000,000, compared with£55,500,000 for the corresponding period of 1947. For the same periods, the values of other exports increased as follows : - wheat, from £6,7505,000 to nearly £32,000,000; flour, from £13,000,000 to £20,000,000 lead, from £7;750,000 to £11,000,000; butter, from £8,500,000 to £10,000,000; and sugar, from £1,000,000 to £8,000,000.On the most pessimistic and conservativebasis, and assuming that the levelof incomes as as the 30th June, 1948, has remained static and that there has been no improvement that would yield additionaltaxin 1948-49, the increased yield for 1948-49 inexcess ofbudget estimates, is£31,000,000, to which must be added the Commissioner’s assumptionfrom anincreased yield of about £2,000,000 of the collectionsfrom companies during the current year.Consequently, the Treasurer, on his department’s estimate,has a minimum of £33,000,000 with which to provide annual reductions of £36,500,000for 1948-49 as well as for 1949-50 and following years. The budget for 1949-50 will not be affected to the full anticipated annual amount of £36,500,000, because it willbe affected onlyby the reduction of tax relative to “ pay-as-you-earn “ taxpayers, plus certain adjustmentsof provisional tax paidby other taxpayers. The means used by the Treasurer in arriving athis figures are, of course, not available to me. The Commissioner of Taxation, however,has advised me that, of the taxpaying community, approximately 50 percent.are ‘” pay-as-you- earn”taxpayers, the remainder “being assessed onreturnsfurnished at the 30thJuneeach year. Accordingly, if thereductions granted toall taxpayers are ultimatelyto affect the revenueby £36,500,000 a year, the position for 1949-50 willbe that “pay-as-you- earn “ tax-payers will receive a reduction of one-half of the estimatedamount forthe full year, or£18,250,000. Allowing, say, £10,000,000 for adjustments madewithrespect toother taxpayers, the total amount will reach a maximum of approximately £30,000,000, which is£6,500,000 shortofthe amount bywhich we areasked to believethat the 1949-50 budget is to be affected by refundswhichtheTreasurerisso generously to giveusfromthe 1st July next.It will beseenthat, ignoring all such favorable factors as increasing financial and taxable capacity overand above income levels as ; at the : 30th June, 1948, upon which theestimates havebeen made, the increased tax yield of £33,000,000 for thecurrent financial year willbe greater than the amount by which the budget for 1949-50 can be affected. These factors sufficiently prove thatthe . Treasurer could and should have reduced taxes earlierthan from the 1st July, 1949, and could and should have refunded taxes unnecessarily collected during the year ending the 30th June, 1949. Based on the data available to me, taxes,direct, indirect or both, could and shouldhave been reduced in 1948-49 by from £35,000,000 to£50,000,000, unless, of course, theTreasurer believes that there canbe no improvement of taxable capacity resulting from increased production compared with the 1947-48 incomes. In addition to the increased income yields to which I have referred, and the excessof those onwhich the budget wasconstructed, there is greater buoyancy of income in otherdirections as well as a reduction of estimated expenditure. That is why Ihave always maintained that the effect of the Treasurer’s taxation policy has been to cause undue delay in refunding overpayments of taxes. In the light of the information which I have received from the Government’s ownofficers, the socalled reduction of taxes, belated as it is, represents in fact no reduction at all. It constitutes merely a belated refund of money that should never have been collected. In the collection of taxes the urgent necessity for arresting rising costs, and the consequent lowering of living standards, has been totally ignored by the Government. It will be noted from the information supplied by the Commissioner of Taxation that even after future refunds of social services contributions, amounting to £S,000,000 a year, have been taken into account, the estimated future yield is £63,000,000 or £3,000,000 greater than the yield upon which the budget was based. For the current financial year the yield from these sources of revenue represents an increase of £11,000,000, namely, from the estimate of £60,000,000, as outlined in the budget, to £71,000,000 for the year ending the 30th June, 1949. I draw attention to the fact that the financial statement issued by the Treasurer containing the figures to the 30th April last indicated that the social services contributions estimated to be received for the whole year had already been exceeded. The credit in the national welfare fund which, for budget purposes, was estimated at £74,000,000, will be increased to £85,000,000 by the new estimated yield assessable and collectable within the current financial year, and that amount will be added to by short spending of the estimated expenditure provided in the budget. The surplus in the national welfare fund might even reach £100,000,000 by the end of June. Such a reserve would far exceed a whole year’s expenditure on social services. The reserve has not been created as the result of good organization or wise administration. As a result of bad budgeting it, like Topsy, just grew up. We are well aware that the estimates of expenditure for social services have never been reached, but collections of the social services contribution have been continued year in and year out. I agree that adequate reserves should be established in the national welfare fund, but it is a matter of quantum and of common sense. Existing contributors should not be too heavily taxed to provide social services for future generations. The people of the present generation have had to finance two wars and a depression, and they are entitled to a real alleviation of the heavy taxes they had to pay during the war years. I emphasize the point made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), that an unfair proportion of capital expenditure, has also been financed by imposing excessive taxation upon the present generation.
To sum up, in September, 1948, the Treasurer budgeted on the basis that revenue from taxation would amount to £246,000,000, made up of £69,000,000 from income tax, £60,000,000 from social services contributions, £76,000,000 from company tax, and the remainder by the collection of arrears of taxes levied in previous years. All yields were based on income levels of 1947-48. The estimated revenue of £246,000,000 would, of course, be constituted by the yield from taxes for the current year, minus arrears arising during that year, and plus arrears and unissued assessments relating to previous years. In February, 1949, the Treasurer found that there were 200,000 additional taxpayers and that he had £33,000.000 in additional taxation revenue, including £2.000,000 from companies. He then promised to reduce taxes, not in respect of 1918-49, but during the following year, and only then to the extent which I have indicated. He has totally ignored the undoubted possibility that a reduction of taxes can be effected in the current year. He still bases his tax refunds for 1949-50 on the 1947-48 levels, ignoring the expansion which in the meantime will take place. The taxation revenue receivable in 1949-50 must be that incidental to the yield of income at the 30th June, 1949, and not that of the remote year ended the 30th June, 1948. This state of affairs vindicates my criticism of the Treasurer’s taxation policy of “ too little, too late “. His proposal for the election year commencing the 1st July, 1949, amounts to a refund of taxes and not to a reduction as he claims. His policy is. like that of the storekeeper who overcharges for his goods and, when compelled to make a refund, tells the exploited customer that he is reducing the prices previously wrongly charged. According to a reported statement by the Treasurer to the conference of the Australian Council of Trades Unions held at Canberra we can expect no further relief in the forthcoming taxation year, apart from the adjustment of a few direct anomalies. I am excepting, of course, the concessions that were outlined last February. The present position reminds me of Sydney Smith’s complaint in the early 1800’s. He said-
The schoolboy whips his taxed top - the beardless youth manages his taxed horse, with a taxed bridle on a taxed road - and the dying Englishman, pouring his medicine, which has paid T per cent, into a spoon that has paid 15 per cent., flings himself back upon his Chintz bed, which has paid 22 per cent, and expires in the arms of an Apothecary who has paid a licence of a hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death.
Sydney Smith would have plenty of similar complaints if he lived in Australia under the administration of the present Treasurer. The Treasurer mentioned anomalies when he addressed the conference of the Australian Council of Trades Unions at Canberra. Here are a few that T could bring to his notice - The Government pays a heavy subsidy of considerably more than 2s. per lb. on tea, and, at the same time, discourages the use of substitutes for tea by imposing an import duty on cocoa and sales tax on coffee. Increasingly heavy expenditure is being incurred to improve national health, but sales tax of 2s. in the £1 is collected on toothpaste, bath soap, and most other toilet requisites, and there is a heavy impost of 5s. in the £1 on cosmetics. Cheap transportation is an aid to increased production, but the Treasurer collects an average of at least £60 in sales tax on every motor car and utility truck that is sold, and ls. 2d. a gallon on all petrol that is used. There is a marriage tax in the form of an impost of 5s. in the £1 on wedding and engagement rings, and the levy on wristlet watches is 2s. in the £1. Besides the annual wireless licence-fee of £1, there remains a wartime excise duty of 3s. 9d. on every radio valve. In addition, of course, sales tax is payable on the completed set. Essential commodities such as ice carry a sales tax of 2s. in the £1. Even wild flowers sold by kids on country roads are subject to sales tax. Three-fifths of the price of a packet of cigarettes represents import duty, primage, excise, and sales tax. An ordinary 2-oz. packet of tobacco costs about ls. 3d. more in tax remittable to the Treasurer. The beer excise duty is nearly 7d. a pint, and the cost of four out of every nine packets of matches goes to the Federal Treasury. Even canned cabbage and breakfast foods are subject to a tax of 2s. in the £1. The cost of home-building is increased appreciably by indirect Commonwealth imposts. Taxes are payable on all nails, screws, bolts and nuts, most electric light fittings, shelf brackets, hinges, draw pulls, shower screens, sink heaters, towel rails, electrical flex, bathroom mirrors, cup ventilators and curtain fittings. Sales tax is payable also on paint brushes, tools of trade, shellac, methylated spirits, French polish, varnishes, glues, waxes, and wallpaper paste. Particularly heavy imposts are payable on water heaters, refrigerators, grillers, boiling rings, gas fires, and radiators. In view of the tremendous increase of indirect tax receipts since the Treasurer assumed office, and the resultant increase of the cost of living, it is high time that the Government, in fairness to Australian consumers, substantially reduced indirect taxation. I repeat that the Treasurer’s taxation proposals are nothing more than leg pulling. They are not reductions at all. They are belated refunds of taxes that should never have been collected.
– This debate has proceeded on familiar lines. Because of the latitude allowed by Mr. Deputy Speaker, honorable members have selected certain items of budget expenditure and devoted their remarks to them. Very few Opposition speakers have dealt with the matters set out in the bills now under consideration. Exceptions, of course, include the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The first objective fact dealt with in the legislation now before the House is that revenue will exceed by £35,000,000 the estimate given at the time the budget was drafted. The honorable member for Warringah said that this was a substantial excess and that, in fact, revenue had been deliberately underestimated. Calculated on the total budget figure, an excess of £35,000,000 represents 7 per cent. That is not a very large increase as estimates go, and I remind honorable members that budget figures are essentially estimates. However, the criticism offeredby the honorable member f or Warringah and the Leader of the Australian Country party could be accepted as justifiable only if those honorable gentlemen themselves had clean hands. The honorable member for Warringah presented a budget to this Parliament in November, 1939. At the end of the financial year it was found that the actual revenue was 10 per cent. in excess; of the budget estimate. The Leader of the Australian Country party was, of course, a supporter of that Government.. Fortunately, the honorable member for Warringah was not able to present more than one budget to the Parliament. In the following year, if I remember correctly; the budget was presented by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and once again the forecast of revenue was exceeded by 10 per cent. The Leader of the Australian Country party was a supporter of that Government. Therefore, neither of the two honorable gentlemen who have criticized the accuracy of the present Treasurer’s budget estimates has any right to do so at all. As I have shown, they were both occupants of the treasury-bench when estimates of revenue were considerably more inaccurate than they have been in the current financial, year. While I am dealing with matters raised by the honorable member for Warringah, let me mention also indirect taxation to which the Leader of the Australian Country party, too, devoted considerable attention, for each of them accused this Government of collecting far too much by way of indirect taxes.On the budget figures, the proportion of revenue raised by indirect taxes is 30 per cent. Again one could understand the criticism offered by those two gentlemen if they themselves had clean hands, but I find that in the budget presented by the honorable member for Warringah in 193 9, indirect taxes accounted for 60 per cent. of the revenue, or exactly doubles the percentage collected underthe current budget. Therefore, in that regard also neither the honorable member for Warringah nor the Leader of the Australian Country party has any ground for complaint if their own actions are to be taken as a criterion. The honorable member for Warringah said that 33 per cent. of the national income of this country was being collected as Commonwealthrevenue. I do not know from where the honorable member got that figure. I have before me the official figures prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician which show that the taxation collected in Australia, represents 22 per cent. of the national gross product. A comparison of that figure with the percentage of the gross national income collected in other countries in the world reveals that Australia collects the lowest percentage of any of the countries from which we can get statistics. The figures of those countries are as follows: Canada, 24 per cent.; the United. Statesof America, 25 per cent.;New Zealand, 25 per cent.; and the United Kingdom 31 per cent. It will therefore be seen that Australia collects 2 per cent. less of the national income than the lowest percentage among those countries.
– Who determined the figures with relation to theAustralian Government ?
-The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) will have an opportunity to speak later in the debate. I am citing official figures, which cannot be refuted. The Commonwealth. Statistician is the authority, and if the honorable member were to address his question to that official he would receive in reply the same figures that I have cited, which show quiteclearly that the percentage of the national income taken by the Australian governments as revenue is less than the percentage taken in any of the countries that I have mentioned. The honorable member for Warringah suggested that expenditure is getting beyond control, and he alleged that £14,000,000 more was to be spent than was estimated in the budget..I endeavoured to point out to the honorable gentleman during the course of his speech that he was under a misapprehension, because expenditure will not be as much as was estimated in thebudget. It will be about £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 below the budget estimate, not £14,000,000 in excess of that estimate. The honorable member f or Warringah asserted that the
Governmentdoes not disclose the items on which revenueand expenditure are increasing, butmerelydiscloses aggregate figures. The Leader of the Australian Country party has already disposed of that argument. The Tight ‘honorable gentleman said that an examination of the monthlyreturns issuedby the Treasurer (Mr.Chifley) would show quite clearly how money was beingexpended. If the honorable member forWarringah knew anything about Treasury matters, he would be aware that the monthly statements are readily available, and that he could examine month by month exactly what expenditurewasbeing undertaken and what revenue had been received. The honorable member forWarringah said that the Government is spending every penny that it gets instead of conserving resources against badtimes. That conflicts with the argument advanced by honorablemembers opposite fromtime to time. Clearly the Leader of the AustralianCountry party and the honorable member for Warringah should get together on this matter so that theycan present a unified argument to the Parliament, because it is quite obvious that this Government is trying to ensure that it raises sufficient revenue to meet expenditure, and does not go into debt. The honorablemember for Warringah also said that theGovernment had contributed to the increase in the cost of living by withdrawing subsidies. I shall deal with that matter at a later stage of the debate, and shall tell the House what the Government has expended on subsidies from the inception ofthe scheme. The Leader ofthe Australian Country party stressed that it is anticipated that revenue will exceed the budget estimate by £35,000,000. There are very good reasons whyrevenue should be higher than the budget estimate. One reason is that nobody in this country could fore- see thatour export incomes would remain at a veryhigh level.Everybody expected that there might be a fall in the price of wool,and that there would be a much bigger fall in the price of wheat than has occurred. Consequently the Treasurer budgeted on the basis that there might be aconsiderable decrease in the price payable for our exports, and that thereforethe incomes of primary producers generally would not be nearly as high as previously. Another reason is that, inthemain, arrears of taxation have beenovertaken. This is , a matter regardiing which the Leader of theAustralianCountry party has complained from time to time in this House. He has contended time and again that, before continuing to impose taxation on the scale set out in the budget, the Treasurer should try to recover arrears of taxes. The Government has been able to do that work more speedily than had been expected and now, the right honorable gentlemanis complaining that lit has done so.
– The Government has also been accused of collecting all that it can during the current financial year.
– That is so. The right honorable gentleman attacked the Government when the budget was introduced last year, and nowcriticizes the Government for doing what be then suggested should be done.There are other reasons, also, why revenuehas been higher than was expected. Inorder to understand the position clearly one should project one’s mind backwards to the economic and financial situation as it appeared to the Treasurer at the time that the budget was introduced. One must also take into consideration what was probably in the mind of the Treasurer about world trends in relation to markets, prices, and production generally. That involves an examination of present trends. Doubtless honorable membershave read recent newspaper reports about some recession in prices in the United States of America. When press representatives asked me several days ago what I thought about the matterI said that I would make some observations on world trends in the course of a speech which I intended to make on the measure before the House. Manyof the things that are occurring to-day throughout the world could, infact, be foreseen two or three years ago. When I was in the United States of Americain 1948 I pointed out that full employment in that country at that time depended upon the fact that stocks had not been maintained at pre-war levels,and that there was aflowof unrequited exports from the United States of America. I said that should either unrequited exports be not sent out of the United States on the scale on which they were then being sent or should stocks be built up to the pre-war level, there would be some fear of a recession in the United States of America.
– Did Mr. Truman agree with the Minister?
– Mr. Truman quite understood that. It was because he said that certain action had to be taken to meet a situation of that kind, should it develop, that he won the last presidential election in the United States of America. All I am saying is that the situation that has developed in the United States of America could easily be foreseen when the Treasurer framed the budget in September of last year.
– What situation in the United States of America is the Minister referring to?
– Inventories of stocks are at a very high level. There has been a recession of the prices of certain base metals. The production of steel, for example, is meeting the demand in the United States of America. There will probably be a recession in the price of steel. The prices of motor cars, lead, zinc, and wheat have gone down, and more than 3,250,000 people are unemployed in the United States of America. Those are signs of a mild recession in that country. If one examines the economy of the United Kingdom, one will find it apparent that there is fear lest a similar situation should develop there. If one examines the economy of France and Belgium, one will find that statistics justify a belief that a similar situation could develop in those countries. A similar situation could develop in many countries, which can best be described as a tendency towards a mild recession.
– From an inflationary situation ?
– I am not arguing about how it did develop; I am talking about the level of economic activity and the trend of future economic activity in many countries. It was because the Treasurer foresaw a situation of that kind that he determined, in framing his budget, to play safe. So he said, in effect, “ I shall base my estimates of revenue on the expectation that at the end of the financial year we shall have to face a rather difficult economic problem throughout the world generally “. The Treasurer, therefore, determined that, as nearly as possible, he would balance his budget and be in a strong position to meet the threat of a mild recession should it threaten to extend to Australia in the months that lie ahead. Answering the press inquiries, I said that .1 did not think there was any fear of a depression developing in Australia of anything like the magnitude of the one that we experienced in the early ‘thirties But that statement is subject to two reservations. The first is that the Labour party must remain in power. I cannot promise what the Opposition parties would do if they became the Government of thi* country. We know that one of their advisers, Professor Hytten, has said that he believes that full employment cannot be maintained. Therefore, I cannot guarantee that the bad effects of a depression of a mild recession developing in the United States of America and spreading to perhaps the United Kingdom and continental Europe and eventually having itf consequences upon our own economy would not result in a depression or mild recession in Australia if the Opposition parties were in power. For one thing, if we want to meet a threat of that kind we must sincerely believe in the policy ,of- full employment. Honorable members opposite have no sincere belief in the policy of full employment. They have admitted that. They have criticized the policy of full employment. I do not believe that, if they were in office, they would take the necessary steps to maintain full employment in Australia. So I have that reservation about the maintenance of full employment in Australia and the warding off of any depression that may threaten this country. My second reservation is that the existing banking legislation must remain as it is, because, in order to maintain full employment, the Government must have full control over the financial policy of the community. I direct the attention of the House and the country to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition when he was speaking on the 1945 banking legislation. I am not speaking of the more recent legislation on the nationalization of banking, because honorable members opposite argue that the nationalization of banking is not really necessary, as the Government has all the powers it needs under the 1945 banking legislation. But the Leader of the Opposition, speaking in this House on the 1945 legislation, made it perfectly clear that if his party were returned to power, it would immediately revert to the system of control of the Commonwealth Bank by a board, which operated before the 1945 legislation was placed on the statute-book. I point that out to the country because of the threat of a mild recession in other countries that may spread to Australia. I make clear to the people of Australia what they would face if honorable members opposite were returned to the treasury bench. They are pledged to revert to the former method of control of the Commonwealth Bank by a board. The people would then be in exactly the same position as they occupied in the early ‘thirties, when the Commonwealth Bank, which was controlled by a board not responsible to the government of the day in any way whatever, refused the necessary finance to the Scullin Government to relieve the unemployed and assist the wheat-farmers of Australia. These considerations were in the mind of the Treasurer when he framed the budget. In effect the Treasurer said, “ “Well, export incomes may drop and we may have to face at the end of the financial year on the 30th June next an international situation in which a mild recession may develop in certain countries, and we want to be in as strong a financial position as possible “. It was because of that that he decided to make his estimates of revenue on the basis that there might be a .reduction of export income and that there would be a need to be in as strong a position as possible at the end of the year. Bather than be criticized, he should be commended for his foresight in taking the course that he took.
I have said that one of the matters dealt with in the bill concerns the £35,000,000 of excess revenue compared with the budget estimates. The bill proposes to appropriate a part of that sum for certain purposes. In one bill £16,900,000 is to be appropriated and in another bill £6,000,000 is to be appropriated. Of the £35,000,000 of extra revenue that will come into the Treasury, £15.000.000 is automatically appropriated to the National Welfare Fund because it will come into the Treasury in the form of social service contributions. That leaves £20,000,000. As I have said, it is estimated that there will be a saving of expenditure of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, or perhaps more. Expenditure will be that much less than was estimated in the budget. Therefore, the Government has £23,000,000, or perhaps a little more, to work on. The proposed appropriations of £16,900,000 in one bill and £6,000,000 in the other bill provide for that amount. We should end the financial year with a slight surplus. That is the purpose of the bills that we are debating.
The honorable member for Warringah criticized the policy of financing out of revenue works which ordinarily would be financed by way of loan. That, in fact, is what these bills are designed to do. The budget that was presented in September, 1948, provided for about £18,000,000 of our expenditure to be financed by way of loan. But, as we have the extra £35,000,000 that I have mentioned, it will not be necessary to use money obtained from loan, and all Commonwealth expenditure for this year will be financed from revenue. I point out to the honorable member for Warringah and other honorable members opposite that exactly the same policy is being pursued in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada. I have here some comments in relation to the policies of the Governments of those three countries. In his budget message in January, 1949, President Truman said -
In a period of high prosperity, it is not sound public policy for the Government to operate at a deficit. A Government surplus at this time is vitally important to provide a margin for contingencies, to permit reduction of the public debt, to provide an adequate base for the future financing of our present commitments and to reduce inflationary pressures.
In the United Kingdom; the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, made the following statement in his budget speech of April, 1948: -
We must secure an exceptionally large Budget surplus, big enough to yield a balance after all forms of Government expenditure have been met.
I have no statement at my disposal regarding Canada’s policy,but the position is that Canada met its subscriptions to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank and, in addition; all other expenditure of a capital nature, for the last fiscal year for which figures are obtainable, without any increase of the national debt. In fact, it paid all of its expenses out of public revenues Thus; one cansee that there is very little substance to the criticisms of the Leader of the Australian Country party audi the honorable member for Warringah. The Leader of the Australian Country partyis continually coming forward in public withsome hare-brained scheme. I have said that the honorable member for Warringahfortunately was able to present only onebudget, to. this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition presented a budget the following year. The Leader of theAustralian Country party was not so fortunate as they were, because, although’ he presented a budget, his government was defeated on the floor of the House on that issue. Thus he never had an opportunity to learnhow hisbudget would have worked out in practice. However, we know that the budget proposals that he submitted in 1941 contained a provision for post-war credits.
– So did the Canadian and the United Kingdom budgets.
– I am not talking about those countries.Iam talking about Australia. Had that budget been put into operation, with its post-war credits scheme, the national debt of Australia to-day would havebeen £250,000,000 higher than it is, and the Budget would have had to be increased by £7,500,000 every year to meet the interest bill on that amount. That is the sort of harebrained scheme the right honorable member brings forward !
If now, mention the subject of petrol rationing. The right Honorable gentlemam evidentlythought that petrol rationing providedhim with a good opportunity to attack the Government. Here was something which he thought offered him good scope for political propaganda. The right honorable gentleman is very fond of wrapping the Union Jack around himself, but underneath the Union Jack he is quite preparedto carry a stiletto and stab the United Kingd’om Government in the back whenhe gets the chance.
– Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, the remarks of the Minister are objectionable to me and I demand a withdrawal.
-I ask the Minister to withdraw the remarks to which the Leader of the Australian Country party has taken objection.
– I withdraw the remarks. At the same time,I want to make it quite clear that the right honors able gentleman makes a great show of loyalty to the United Kingdom and his desire to assist the United Kingdom, but when he sees an opportunity to make political capital out of certain events the wish to help the United Kingdom does not influence him very much. The same statement applies- to ther honorable member for Warringah.I proceed to deal with the subject of petrol rationing. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), of course, has dealt very effectively with this matter, and all that I propose to do is to reinforce his arguments. I shall do so by quoting from a speech that was made in the United Kingdom. House of Commons by the Minister for Fuel on the 19th May, only about two weeks ago. The quotation will show quite clearly that the course of action advocated by the Leader of the Australian Country party would be to the detrimentof the Government and the people of the United Kingdom. It is as follows: -
I hope it will now be clear that immediate increases in the consumption of oil generally in the sterling area are bound to lead to an increased dollar drain on sterling area reserves; British-controlled production has to. bc used not only to satisfy the needs of the sterling area countries but for, export to foreign countries which we must supply to earn or save gold or dollars to secure essential supplies for the United Kingdom to assist in the rehabilitation of Europe or to maintain our existing oil concessions and investments.
I recognize, of course, that some increase in oil consumption in sterling areas is inevitable and that it will be greater in, some sterling area countries than in others since conditions vary greatly. But I am sure that we cannot afford at the present time to abandon rationing of motor spirit for non-essential uses. The plea that in any particular case the amount involved will be relatively small is misleading because de-rationing is contagious and each instance of it makes more difficult the retention of rationing in other, parts of the sterling area. We oughts, therefore, to take into account the overall effect on sterling area reserves. It is for these reasons that we have urged on all: sterling area countries the need for continuing economy in oil consumption generally and in motor spirit consumption in particular.
Sir Stafford Cripps also made a clear statement on the subject in a cablegram which he sent to, the Australian Prime Minister. It is understood, of course, that the Prime Minister has offered to make this and other cable messages available to. the’ Leader of the Opposition, and because that is so honorable members opposite cannot allege that I am misinterpreting them. The Leader of the Opposition can see the documents if he wants to do so.
– Will the Minister make them available to the Leader of the Australian Country party?
– Will the Prime Minister make them available to the Leader of the Australian Country party?
– The honorable member should direct that question to the Prime Minister. I shall now read an extract from one of the cables that the Government has received from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps. It is as follows: -
I should be grateful for your co-operation in ensuring that petrol is not increasingly used for less essential purposes.
It is perfectly obvious that the Leader of the Australian Country party advocated a course that would be definitely harmful to the people and the Government of the United Kingdom. I sometimes think that honorable members opposite are concerned not so much with the people of the United Kingdom as with Conservative interests in the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Warringah made that position perfectly clear when he stated, in effect, that the- Australian Government was giving too much assistance to the socialist government in the United. Kingdom. The honorable member thereby showed that he isinterested in the people of the United Kingdom only if they have elected a Conservative government. He is not interested in the welfare of the people of the United Kingdom generally.
– What is the date of the. cable that the Minister has quoted?
– If the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) will ask me that question later, I shall give him. the information.
– Why not give me the information now?
– The next hairbrained idea that the Leader of the Australian Country party put forward recently was in connexion with our sterling reserves in London. It is true that at the present time we have very big sterling balances. It is perhaps not generally recognized that a part of that sterling reserve is, for the. time, not usable because of a gentleman’s agreement that has been entered into between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the express request of the Government of the United Kingdom. The Government of the United Kingdom pointed out that that was one of the ways in which the Australian Government could assist the United Kingdom in these difficult times. Because the Australian Government is always anxious to help the people and the Government of the United Kingdom it readily acceded to that request, and therefore not all of the sterling reserves are available for expenditure at present. Another fact which must be taken into consideration is that some of those sterling reserves are the result of transfers of money, because, apparently, a number of people think that the exchange rate may be altered in the near future. Money of that kind cannot be readily used, and we cannot bank on it, because it may vanish for the same reason as it has accumulated there. Nevertheless, it is true that, over and above moneys accumulated as sterling reserves in London on those two counts, we have very large sterling reserves in the United Kingdom at present, but, once again, I consider that the Treasurer has shown very great foresight in this matter. I invite honorable members to cast their minds back to the spendthrift governments which were in office in the early 1920’s. Indeed, I can draw a close analogy between the course of events after World War I., including inflation and manipulation of the exchange rates, and some of the happenings in the international sphere at the present time. If honorable members will recall some of the events that occurred under spendthrift governments in the early 1920’s, they will acknowledge that our lack of sterling reserves aggravated the financial and economic depression which struck us with such severity in the early 1930’s. The present Australian Government will not be caught napping as Liberal party and Australian Country party governments were caught napping at the end of the 1920’s. We shall make certain that should there be a recession overseas or a drought in Australia leading to a decline of our export incomes from wool and wheat and other produce, we shall have sufficient sterling reserves in London to meet our requirements. Therefore, the Treasurer has adopted a wise policy in accumulating sterling reserves in London, and I do not believe that he should be attacked on that score.
The Leader of the Australian Country party has suggested that we should borrow from the United States of America. Has any one ever heard of such a ridiculous policy as that?
– I have never recommended any such thing.
– The right honorable gentleman is reported in the press as having done so.
– I referred to the International Bank,
– According to the press report, the right honorable gentleman stated that we should borrow dollars from the United States of America.
– I said no such thing.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party says that he has advocated borrowing from the International Bank.
– Does the Minister always believe what he reads in the press ?
– I do not always believe what I read in the press, but the Leader of the Australian Country warty has interjected to the effect that he has advocated that Australia should borrow from the International Bank. What kind of currency would Australia borrow from the International Bank? Obviously, this country would not require to borrow sterling from that institution, because our sterling reserves in London are high, and are available as currency to pay for anything that we like to buy from a considerable number of countries. With the exception of the dollar countries, the only countries with hard currencies are Switzerland and Portugal. Obviously, we do not want to borrow money from the International Bank in order to buy goods from Portugal or Switzerland. Therefore, the only other countries from which we want to buy goods, and in respect of which we could use the International Bank as an instrument to borrow money, are countries within the dollar area. Consequently, the original statement that I made is correct. The right honorable gentleman did advocate borrowing dollars to meet the present position.
Honorable members opposite have heard statements by the Prime Minister about the shortage of dollars. I could devote considerable time to analysing the position and assessing the chances of dollars becoming more freely available in the future. This matter is the subject of review by the Government from time to time. It is closely investigated and examined regularly by an interdepartmental committee, and a sub-committee of Cabinet also deals with it. All the people who have examined this problem are of opinion that the dollar position will become tighter, if anything, in the months and years that lie ahead. Everybody believes that when Marshall aid ends in 1952 dollars will be even scarcer than they are at present. No one knows exactly what will happen in 1952 because dollars will be so scarce. Therefore, if we have a capacity to borrow dollars, that capacity should be retained unused until 1952, when our position may be very much worse in respect of dollar imports than it is at present. When one takes into account the national interest, the policy advocated by the Leader of the Australian Country party in that regard is obviously very foolish.
In previous debates the Leader of the Australian Country party has emphasized the need for a drive to collect arrears of taxation, but this evening he has criticized the Government for making such a drive. I believe that this country is in a very sound position financially, because of the sound policies adopted by the Treasurer throughout the war and post-war years.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Watkins).- Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - G. R. Taylor.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes -
Mallala, South Australia.
Postal purposes -
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at Enfield (Rayleigh Town), South Australia.
House adjourned at 10.11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. According to the information collated in my department for the twelve months to 3 1st March, 1949, .the latest data for which we -have details, the strikes in Australian secondary industries numbered 160 and involved a loss of 348,349 “man days”. 3 and 4. The particulars available do not show what strikes .would come under .the description quoted.
D. - On the 18th May the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid lyons) asked the following questions : -
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
d. - On the18th May the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn.) asked the following questions : -
Can the Minister forTrade and Customs ascertain whether hearing aids are now being imported as British goods,when, in fact, they are manufactured in the United States of America 1
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
s. - On the 20th May the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked the followingquestion : -
During thewar a number of important highways were constructed throughout Australia, particularly in Queensland, such as theroad fromCharleville to Blackall. Although those highways play an important part in our economic organization by facilitating the rapid transport of primary produce, many of them have deteriorated badly because they lack a permanent surface material to bind them. At present local authorities have not sufficient funds even tomaintain them properly.Because of the importance of these thoroughfares to our primary production, will ‘the Acting Minister for Transport say whether the Government will make available from the proceeds of the petrol tax sufficient money to providethose road with a permanentbituminous or other surface?
I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
The position is that it isestimated that the Commonwealth Government will have made available to Queensland in the current financial year, a total sum of £1,431,470 for roads. This includes a sum of £20,000 which has been allocated as a specific contribution to the Charleville-Blackall road. It is pointed out that the responsibility of deciding whether or not the above road should ‘be bitumen sealed rests with the authority in control of the road, viz., the Main Roads Commission. Queensland. In this connexion, I find that the Commonwealth Government, in providing the above sum of £20,000, recognized the desirability of sealing this road by permitting the funds referred to above to be used in part paymentof bitumen sealing on the condition that the remainder of the road is maintained to a reasonable standard.
Postal Department.: Non-official Post Offices; Mildura Facilities.
– On the 25th May the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked the following question : -
I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if he will confer with his colleague, firstly 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 in order to ensurethat sufficientrelieving 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.
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following information : -
The rates of pay and other conditions of employment of non-official postmasters and postmistresses throughout the Commonwealth are in conformity with awards issued by the Public Service Arbitrator after discussion between the department and the Non-official Postmasters Association of Australia. The association recently approached the department concerning certain desired increasesin the allowances payable, and the representations made by the organization are now under consideration. Certain non-official postmasters and postmistresses at the larger offices, where there isfull-time postal employment, are eligible for annualrecreation leave under the terms ofthe relative award and a staff of relievers is constantly employed to fulfil requirementsin this regard. In many cases however, the employee prefers to make independent relief arrangements, and if these are satisfactory to the department approval is given accordingly. In those cases where the award does not confer eligibility for annual leave, and the persons in charge of the offices desire leave of absence for a period, every effort is made by the department to direct them to suitable persons who may be willing to provide the relief by mutual arrangement.
l. - On the 25th May the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked the following question : -
In regard to postal facilities in the City of Mildura, the residents of Mildura 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 Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral present a petition signed by 193 residents of Mildura to the Postmaster-General and ask that he give favorable consideration to these requests?
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following information : -
The honorable member may be assured that it is the aim of the department to provide post office service to the fullest extent justified, and that his representations concerning the establishment of an additional office in the City of Mildura will be considered thoroughly. I shall advise the honorable member of the result of the investigations as soon as I am in a position to do so.
l. - On the 20th May the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked the following questions: -
When replying verbally to the honorable member for Fawkner, I undertook to provide him with all available information on the matter. I now wish to furnish the following details: -
The undertaking to remain in the employment found for them in Australia which is signed by all displnced persons volunteering for emigration to this country is embodied in a printed form. The undertaking is part of a common form which is applicable to all displaced persons. The text of the undertaking is printed in the English language and also in German. The translation of the English text into German is provided because German is the common language understood by these people who have been in International Refugee Organization Camps in Germany for so long. Furthermore, it would be impracticable to produce this official document with a translation of the English text into the many native languages and dialects of the various nationalities coming forward for selection. The English text of the undertaking is: -
I hereby certify that the personal par ticulars supplied by me to the Australian Selection Officers are true in every respect and that I have made myself familiar with the conditions under which displaced persons can emigrate to Australia. I fully understand that I must remain in the employment found for me for a period of up to two years and that I shall not be permitted to change that employment during that period without the consentof the Department of Immigration.
In amplification of my verbal reply to the honorable member, I might add that in tha initial stages of the operation of our agreement with the International Refugee Organization, the period during which the displaced person undertook to remain in directed employment was stated as “ for at least one year “. As other categories of non-British migrants, other than displaced persons, were being admitted to Australia under certificates of exemption from the provisions of the Immigration Act, which required them to follow certain occupations located in certain areas for a period of two years, the period during which displaced persons would be required to accept directed employment was fixed at two years. This period was decided upon in order that the obligation of the displaced person would accord with that of other settlers making their own way to Australia. Notwithstanding that each displaced person selected immediately after the inception of the re-sett’ement agreement had signed the earlier undertaking which stated the period to be at least one year, some who arrived by the first two ships interpreted this to mean that their period of government-directed employment was twelve months only. To remove any doubt in the minds of subsequent arrivals, the wording of the undertaking was changed to the form quoted in full above. All displaced persons now arriving are fully aware of the period of their employment obligation.
– On the 20th May, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked the following questions : -
On the question being referred to me by the Treasurer, 1 replied briefly to the honorable member for Reid and promised full information as early as possible. I now desire to furnish the follow-, ing details: -
The payment to which the honorable member referred is paid initially from the Department of Immigration vote and later through inter-departmental accounting this expenditure is recouped by the Department of Immigration from the Social Services National Welfare Fund.
I might add that the unfortunate circumstances of displaced persons before their arrival in Australia precludes their having with them funds with which to obtain even the bare essentials of life while they are awaiting employment. Even if they were in possession of money before leaving the occupation zones of Germany, currency restrictions would prevent them from bringing it with them. For this reason, this benefit is paid to them, while they are in our immigration centres being prepared for absorption into the community. The displaced persons are not treated as unemployed at this stage as they have undertaken to work in the employment found for them by the Commonwealth for a period of two years after their arrival, and are not at liberty to seek employment of their own choosing. If, however, they should at any time be without work after they have initially been offered employment, they will then be treated as unemployed and dealt with in the same manner as Australians in similar situations.
d. - On the 18th May, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked a question concerning the importation of . 22 calibre rifle ammunition. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
There is a substantial local production of 22 calibre ammunition, but, at present, it falls short of meeting all requirements. However, I understand that steps have been taken to increase local production to a figure which, when supplemented by supplies from “easy currency “ countries, will enable all essential requirements to be met. Import licences are freely issuable for 22 calibre ammunition when produced in countries whose currency in relation to sterling is considered “ easy . Despite the fact that available supplies do not fully meet the present demand licences are not at present being issued for the importation of this ammunition from the dollar area. Licences for limited quantities from the dollar area were issued last quarter, but the demand for allocation of dollars for other goods with greater priority made it impossible to continue the allocation for . 22 calibre cartridges.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 May 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490531_reps_18_202/>.