18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Ceremony at Butler’s Gorge.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether final arrangements have been made for the naturalization ceremony to be held in the Butler’s Gorge area of Tasmania, at which Polish immigrants are to be nationalized.
– Arrangements have been made, and the ceremony will take place on Saturday, the 8th October. All Tasmania n members of the Commonwealth Parliament have been invited to attend. The ceremony will be performed by the Chief Justice of Tasmania, Sir John Morris, and the Premier of Tasmania will be present. The gathering will also include representatives of the Australian Government, and I hope to be present myself. Several hundred new Australians from the ranks of Polish immigrants who fought with Australians at Tobruk will be naturalized after a residence of only about eighteen months in this country. Their period of service under British commanders during “World War II. is being regarded as portion of the normal qualifying period of five years.
– In view of the report published in the Centralian Advocate that new roads are to be built through the Barkly Tableland from Anthony’s Lagoon to Sedan, a distance of 200 miles, and from Wyndham to the cattle countryaround Victoria River Downs, residents of the Territory are anxious to know whether those roads will be all-weather bitumen roads, or only dirt roads. Can the Minister for Works and Housing give the House any information on that point ?
– At the present stage it is impossible to surface with bitumen the large mileage of roads that the Government proposes to develop not only in the Northern Territory, but also in the northern portions of Western Australia and the Channel country of Queensland. Those roads, therefore, will be dryweather roads. However, it is possible that some of the more frequently used roads in the Channel country of Queensland, will be surfaced with bitumen in the early stages of the scheme.
– As the results of the by-elections held in Queensland on Saturday, the 10th September, have not been published in Victoria and New South Wales, could the Prime Minister, in view of the anxiety of the Opposition to know the results, supply the House with this information?
– It is true that a perusal of the New South Wales newspapers by my press secretaries has disclosed that most of them did not publish the results of the Queensland by-elections. I understand that the reason why the results were not published is because they were unpalatable to certain sections of the press. In one instance a Labour candidate gained a very much larger vote than the Labour party had polled on a previous occasion, and in another instance a Labour candidate won by a substantial majority, despite the fact that he had contested a seat which had been held by a distinguished gentleman for twenty years. Why unpalatable facts of this kind are not published in certain sections of the press is easy to understand.
– Has the Minister for Information read a recent prediction made by the. Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party, after their tour of Queensland, in which they expressed optimism about their prospects in the forthcoming genera] election? Will the Minister for Information convey to the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party the results, including the figures, of voting in the two by-elections for the .State Parliament recently held in Queensland ?
– I shall be happy to do so.
– As you are aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, two by-elections were held in Queensland on Saturday last. Members of the Liberal party were betting even money on the results, and that party distributed 20,000 dodgers which bore the following words : -
If you oppose the reintroduction of petrol rationing and renewed Canberra control, then vote Liberal.
Having regard to the great success achieved by Labour candidates in those elections, do you not think it farcical that the time of this House should be taken up to-day in discussing a motion of censure on the Government for its handling of the petrol situation?
– I do not know whether the honorable member intends his question to be in the nature of a point of order. The matter raised by him is not one for the Chair to decide. The people of Queensland have apparently given their decision on it.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state whether it is true that a large number of new Australians have started work in the iron and steel industry at Port Kembla and Newcastle? Is it also true that a number of Australian workers applied for employment in the industry? If so, were all the Australian applicants employed, and was there any trouble at these works because of the employment of new arrivals?
– It is true that 100 new Australians were employed on Monday at the iron and steel works at both Newcastle and Port Kembla? It is. also true that a number of Australians; - not many - applied for employment at the same time. All of the Australians were absorbed before the new settlers were engaged. An additional 100 new Australians will be employed at both Newcastle and Port Kembla next week. I am glad to be able to say that no industrial trouble has occurred because of the employment of these new arrivals nor is trouble likely to occur on that account in the future. The managers of the steelworks at Port Kembla and Newcastle have given a definite undertaking thai Australians will be given first priority in employment. The unions, my department, and the Department of Immigration have reached complete agreement on the classes of persons that are to be employed.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services give the House any figures relating to unemployment in New South Wales to-day compared with the position last month?
– I thought that the figures would be ready for submission to the House to-day. However, I expect to get them later this afternoon, and I should be able to furnish the honorable member with up-to-date information .to-morrow.
– In view of the report on war neurosis cases in South Australia which I submitted to the Minister for Repatriation some months ago, has the honorable gentleman any information relating to the progress being made with the erection of a ward at the .Springbank Repatriation Hospital in my electorate for the treatment of such cases?
– I have been able to give some consideration to the representations made to me by the honorable member for Boothby in connexion with psychiatric cases in South Australia and their treatment at the Springbank Repatriation Hospital. Some difficulty has been experienced because we have not been able to erect a suitable pavilion for their treatment. Dr. Stoller, the psychiatric expert, has made a report on the subject to the Repatriation Commission, which in turn has reported to me, and we are now endeavouring to .provide suitable accommodation for the treatment, of these cases. At the moment we can deal with psychiatric patients only in army huts which are still available. Provision will be made for the treatment of psychiatric and mental cases. In some instances it will involve custodial care. Arrangements for such care are being made. I can assure the honorable member that we are pressing on with the provision of permanent accommodation for patients of this type because we recognize the urgent need for it.
– In the absence of the Minister for Civil Aviation, I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the unfortunate accident that occurred in Perth on the 2nd July and involved the loss of a number of lives. An inquiry was held. Has the report of that inquiry been received ? Did it establish the causes of the tragic mishap? If not, is any further action contemplated?
– I assume that the honorable member has referred to the accident that occurred at Guildford Aerodrome. The investigations conducted so far by officers of the Department of Civil Aviation, which are almost complete, have not clearly disclosed the cause of the accident and the Minister for Civil Aviation has decided to appoint an air court of inquiry. I have had discussions with the Premier of “Western Australia concerning the appointment of the court, and the Minister hopes that he will be able to announce the composition of the court and its terms of reference next week.
– In view of the absence of the Postmaster-General from Canberra, will the Minister representing him in this chamber obtain for me answers to the following questions: - (1) How far has the Postal Department progressed with the plans for the building of a new General Post Office in Brisbane ? (2) Has it yet commenced the demolition of the old Parcel Post Office in Elizabethstreet, Brisbane, where it proposed to commence work on the first section of the new building? (3) If not, when does the department expect to begin building operations ?
– I shall be pleased to obtain the information from the PostmasterGeneral and I shall let the honorable member have it as soon as possible. I hope that it will be very satisfactory to him.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is prompted by the need to overcome waste of material at a time when many materials are in short supply. Is it a fact that it costs about £500 to dunnage a ship, and that every ship brings into port dunnage worth that amount in timber of various kinds, such as hardwood and oregon, of useful quality? Am 1 making a correct statement when I say that this material is burned or otherwise destroyed, sometimes by being dumped overboard at some distance from port? If so, why is such useful material being wasted when timber is so much in demand for homes, home fittings, furniture, firewood, &c. ? Can steps be taken to prevent such waste?
– I assume that the location of the alleged waste is the port of Melbourne. Some questions about waste of certain materials were addressed to me personally a few days ago. I do not know whether they referred to timber or other materials. I am not familiar with all the details, but I promise the honorable member that I shall have full inquiries made and will inform her of the result. If waste is occurring, every endeavour will be made to stop it.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation yet been able to comply with the requests made by ex-servicemen’s organizations for the payment of increased sustenance allowances to exservicemen who are obliged to enter repatriation hospitals for medical treatment ?
– Yes, I have been able to make some progress with this matter, concerning which representations have been made to me by a number of honorable members, including the honorable member for Parkes, who has shown a persistent interest in it. The position at present is that Cabinet has agreed to pay an additional amount of sustenance allowance to ex-service men and women who are obliged to enter repatriation hospitals to he treated for war-caused disabilities. Up to the present, the rate paid to such persons has been £2 15s. a week. The Government has now agreed to the request made byex-servicemen’s organizations for the payment of the totally and permanently incapacitated pension rate of £5 6s. a week, subject to the condition that it will notbe payable to patients in receipt of sick pay or wages. An appropriate regulation is being prepared, and I hope that the new rate will become payable at a very early date.
– “With reference to the case of Mrs. Pauline Lee Tong, the 31-year-old daughter of two Australianborn Chinese, who was born in Hong Kong, but reared and educated in Australia, will the Minister for Immigration say whether he signed a letter dated the 28th June, 1949, addressed from the office of the Minister for Immigration, Parliament House, Canberra, to the honorable member for Lilley? In that letter did, he state that approval could not be given to Mrs. Tong and her two children to remain in Australia indefinitely? Did the Minister specifically state -
I have granted authority for the certificate nf exemption issued in favour of Mrs. Lee Tong and her children to be extended up to the 30th June, 1!)50, on the understanding that this extension is to he regarded as final, and that her bondsmen will complete arrangements for her departure before that date.
ARTHUR A. Calwell,
Minister for Immigration.
Did the Minister mean what was written in that letter ? If not, what did he mean ?
– He does not know what he means.
– Unlike the honorable member for Balaclava, I do mean what I say. I have never let anybody be under any misunderstanding about what I have thought as Minister for Immigration concerning any matter. I sent a letter, a copy of which was given to a newspaper in Brisbane by a member of the Liberal party, because certain members of that party and of the Communist party are attempting to break down our White Australia policy and are using this particular case to make a breach in the traditional policy of this nation. The truth of the matter is that this lady did not tell the truth about herself when she came here. She described herself as a widow. Had she been a widow much more sympathetic consideration would have been given to her case than could be given when it was ascertained that she had a husband living in Hong Kong or somewhere else. Incidentally, I have a shrewd idea that her purpose in telling me that she was a widow was to get authority to stay here indefinitely and to make representations later to enable her husband to be brought here. If I had given her a promise that she could stay here indefinitely, then I would have been asked later on about her husband, whose whereabouts had only just been discovered ‘. We discovered that she bad1 a husband either in Hong Kong or somewhere else, and because she did not tell the truth we were a little careful about the way we handled her application - and I am still exercising care about the way I handle the case.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform me whether the Australian Government or the Department of Immigration has made any arrangements with State governments or any other authorities or persons to bring to this country British migrants who have not been nominated? Has such an arrangement been made with the Government of South Australia, and if so, can the Minister give the House some information about the matter?
– One of the four classes of persons who have been given a high priority in migration consists of persons who can be covered by what are known as group nominations, which are forwarded to the State authority in the State concerned by a State government, a State government instrumentality, an employer or a group of employers. Group nominations cover a number of persons whose names may not be known here at the time the nomination is made. For instance, a group nomination may be submitted for a certain number of migrants of a particular class, and the authority that makes the nomination guarantees to provide the necessary accommodation for those persons. The Department of Immigration at Canberra, on receiving a group nomination from a State authority, forwards it to London, and persons who can meet the requirements of the nominator in Australia are then selected. To that degree, we are helping to bring persons to Australia who are un-nominated in the sense that no accommodation is provided for them by relatives or friends. In reference to the general matter of bringing to Australia from Britain persons who have neither accommodation nor employment awaiting them., I said in the policy statement which I made to the House last week that the Commonwealth i3 now discussing with the State governments the provision of hostels for un-nominated British migrants. When I was in Sydney yesterday, I had a discussion with the Premier of New South Wales, as the senior Premier, on that particular matter. I hope at a later stage to be able to report some progress to the House.
– My question to the Minister for Immigration arises out of one that I addressed to him during the last sessional period. On that occasion, I drew his attention to the fact that official organs of the Communist party and journals of trade unions, key officials of which were Communists, were conducting a sustained campaign to suggest that migrants from Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia and Poland had been deathcamp guards under Hitler, and I asked the Minister whether it would be possible for the Commonwealth Parliament, under its powers with respect to aliens, to pass legislation to make it an offence to foster against foreigners who come to this country anti-Semitic or other campaigns that were based on untruths. I now ask the Minister whether he has conferred with the Attorney-General on this matter. If he has done so, will he inform me of the result?
– I have not yet discussed with the Attorney-General the matter which the honorable member for Fremantle has raised. The AttorneyGeneral returned to Australia after the last sessional period had concluded, and he has since been busily engaged with other matters. However, I promise that I shall discuss the honorable member’s question with my colleague during the next few days, and if the honorable gentleman will repeat this question later, I may be able to give him some information about the powers that the Commonwealth may constitutionally exercise in order to stop this dreadful campaign of misrepresentation and calumny against very good people whose only anxiety is to be left alone in order that they may do a good job for the country which they have adopted and in which they wish to spend the rest of their lives.
– Before the debate on the censure motion commences, I should like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ascertain whether the air-conditioning plant is functioning, because the atmosphere in the part of the chamber in which I am sitting is about 20 degrees lower than it usually is, and, possibly, it may become worse as the day passes?
– Order ! I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman is serious in asking the question, but I shall have inquiries made into the functioning of the air-conditioning plant.
Me. GEORGE LAWSON.- I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services by stating that last week I was approached by a recently arrived British migrant, who asked whether a mother who gave birth to a child in Australia, but who had not the necessary twelve months residential qualification, would be entitled to the maternity allowance. As other honorable members may receive similar inquiries, I should be glad if the Minister would inform the House of any provision that has been made to meet such a circumstance.
– The Social Services Consolidation Act 1948 makes it mandatory that the mother of a child born in Australia must have the twelve months residential qualification in order to be eligible for the maternity allowance. However, both the Minister and the Government recently recognized the necessity for flexibility in this matter, and accordingly the act was amended by the insertion of a section which empowered the Director-General of Social Services to consider all such cases on their merits. Provided that he is convinced of the mother’s intention to remain permanently in Australia, he can, and does, authorize the payment of the maternity allowance in such instances.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services,- relates to the social services explanatory booklet, about which I have asked two or three questions previously in this House. The demand in my electorate and the electorates of other honorable members for copies of this publication is very heavy. Can the Minister say whether the Minister for Social Services has yet decided whether a copy of this great publication is to be posted to every household in Australia ?
– I am as anxious as is the honorable member for Martin that this valuable booklet shall be distributed throughout Australia. I have discussed the matter with the Minister for Social Services, who is greatly taken with the idea. He has told me that if it were not for the fact that he does not wish to impose too great a burden upon the Government Printer, he would accede immediately to the suggestion that has been made. He is still considering the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether press statements made about the result of the conference on the dollar situation held yesterday in the United States of America, between representatives of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Canada, mean that there will be an alleviation of the position in relation to the British dollar pool ? If so, will Australia be considered in that connexion?
– It would be quite impossible for me to go over all of the details with relation to the statement on the conference to which the honorable member has referred, and doubtless discus^sions on certain aspects of the matter are still proceeding. However, as far as I can see at present, there will not be any immediate easing of the short-term dollar position. It is hoped, however, that the statement means that the drain on the gold and dollar reserves of the United Kingdom will be stopped, and that there will be an improvement in dollar earnings because of increased exports from the United Kingdom to the United States of America as a result of the easing of customs tariffs and the purchase by the United States of America of additional goods from the sterling area. It would also appear that the statement means that on the long-term plan there will be an easing of the position, and that there will be an increased flow of trade from Great Britain into the hard currency or dollar areas. Whilst I am unable to give the honorable gentleman detailed information at this stage, 1 can say that at least the drain on gold and dollar reserves will be stopped, and it is hoped’ that ultimately there will be some alleviation of the position.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel by stating that I have been advised that gas was again rationed in Adelaide during last week-end. Will the Minister inform tie House whether he can direct the Joint Coal Board to ensure that betterquality gas coal .shall be made available to South Australia ? If SO, will he do so ?
– I cannot answer the question immediately. I shall confer with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel and supply the honorable gentleman later with the information for which he has asked.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen an article in the Brisbane Daily Telegraph, under the heading “ CallideCoal Haulers Sit and Wait for Pay “, in which it is pointed out that 60 truck drivers are waiting in Gladstone for their money which has been owing to them for three weeks? The drivers, according to the article, are employed by Messrs. Thiess Brothers), contractors. In- view of the argent need for coal by industry in Queensland and other States, will the Minister immediately investigate the dispute between the truck drivers and Messrs.
Thiess Brothers so that the hauling of coal may be resumed without further delay?
– The matter which the honorable member has raised has not been brought to my notice or, as far as I am aware, to the notice of the Arbitration Court or of the Conciliation Commissioners. I shall make inquiries to ascertain, whether it is a fact that men have been standing by for their pay for three weeks. If that be true, we must try to find some way to correct the position.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction tell me how many ex-servicemen have received loans for agricultural and pastoral purposes? What is the total value of the loans? Can ‘the Minister specify the branches of rural industry that have received the larger proportion of the loans ?
Mi-. DEDMAN. - Agricultural loans have been made to approximately 12,500 ex-servicemen. The total sum of money involved is £9,000,000. This money is provided wholly by the Australian Government and is entirely separate from the expenditure that is incurred under war service land settlement agreements with the State governments. I cannot remember at the moment how many loans have been made available to ex-servicemen engaged in each of the various sections of primary production. I recollect that more loans have been made available to persons engaged in the dairying industry than to persons engaged in any other branch of rural industry. Approximately 3,000 loans, involving a sum of approximately £2,500,000, have been made to applicants engaged in. the dairying industry. Fat lamb and wool raising propositions have accounted for nearly 3,000 loans, involving an expenditure of almost £2,500,000. I shall arrange for a statement to be compiled for the benefit of the honorable gentleman, setting out in detail the information for which he has asked.
– In view of the improvement of the health of His Majesty the King, will the Prime Minis ter cause inquiries to be made to ascertain whether it is possible for arrangements to be made for Their Majesties to visit this country in the near future?
– The proposed Royal tour of Australia and New Zealand had to be deferred because of the illness of His Majesty the King. It was stated by His Majesty that he hoped that the deferment would not be regarded as an abandonment of the tour, and that he hoped to be able to visit Australia and New Zealand at a later date. My latest information is that that hope is still entertained. I arn doubtful whether it will be possible for the Royal tour to take place in 1950, because I understand that a general election in the United Kingdom is to be held during that year. We hope that Their Majesties will be able to visit Australia in 1951, and I have suggested personally that Their Majesties should give favorable consideration to making their visit then.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any information to communicate to the House regarding the importation of large quantities of galvanized wire and wire netting which has been approved of by the Government? Have importing firms taken advantage of the Government’s approval of the imports, so as to assist primary producers to obtain such supplies? Less than 100 tons of German galvanized plain wire which arrived at Launceston was of excellent quality, and was sold out in one and a half ‘days.
– The Government, as the honorable gentleman knows, has issued import licences for the importation of galvanized wire, wire netting and barbed wire. Importers have taken out licences fairly freely, and sales are being effected by the various wholesale and retail authorities throughout Australia.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any information about when Commonwealth textiles labelling regulations are likely to be implemented? Under such regulations textile manufacturers would have to declare the various proportions of cotton and other strong fibres and wool used in textiles. Can the Minister inform me when the regulations are likely to be implemented and whether there is any delay in their implementation because of the failure by the State governments to take necessary complementary action ?
– This is a matter about which the honorable member for Wannon has shown very great interest in the past. For a long period of years he has urged that some very definite and specific action should be taken in the matter. As the outcome of the honorable member’s urgings the Australian Government about twelve months ago called, a conference of Commonwealth and State authorities about which an arrangement was agreed to that uniform State and Federal legislation and regulations should be issued. Some delays have occurred owing to the difficulty of defining the proportions of various fibres which may be utilized and described in imported textiles, but I am glad to inform the honorable member that on the 4th August last regulations were gazetted by the Australian Government which make it mandatory for imported textiles to be labelled specifying the proportion of the various fibres they contain. Unfortunately, up to date there has been some uncertainty on the part of State authorities regarding whether they will, simultaneously with the Australian Government, bring into operation State legislation and regulations so that the States can play their part in the complementary effort being made to enforce the labelling of textiles. The purpose of the legislation and the regulations is to protect the Australian woollen industry, and the producers of wool, by preventing the sale to the public of textiles which . give an impression to the buyer that the article is pure wool or primarily wool. Under the new regulations, as T have said, labelling will be mandatory, and the public will be protected and will know exactly the proportion of wool and other fibres in textiles that they purchase from wholesale and retail firms. The Commonwealth regulation will take effect from the 4th November. It is hoped that the State governments will prove immune to the propaganda now being disseminated by overseas interests, and some local interests also, in an endeavour to delay the operation of this very desirable regulation.
– Has the Minister for Works and Housing seen a report in thepress that Mr. Kellway, Australian TradeCommissioner at Washington, stated that American contractors and manufacturers are keenly anxious to take part in the great Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project? If so, has the Minister been in touch with such contractors and manufacturers, with a view to ensuring that this great project shall be pushed on as rapidly as possible?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred, but I have received correspondence from several large contractors in the United States of America who have not only inquired about engineering undertakings associated with the Snowy Mountains scheme but have also offered to send out personnel to examine any phase of this great construction project and to submit tenders for certain portions of the work. I have also received1 similar inquiries from contractors in Great Britain. Recently, I had a communication from the Chairman of the British Board of Trade, Mr. Wilson, in which he intimated that he is most anxious that British contractors -shall be given an opportunity to undertake portions of the scheme. It is the intention of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority to endeavour to interest contractors in sterling areas, particularly in the United Kingdom, who have successfully undertaken very large hydroel er.tr iciity projects in the north of Scotland’. Such contractors have the skill and “know-how” required for carrying out portion,?! of the Snowy Mountains scheme. The Government intends to interest those contractors in this project and, if possible, to have them undertake part of the construction work.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the- Notice of
Motion - Censure Motion - taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, the present shortage of petrol supplies in Australia, which is increasingly affecting vital production and transport, is to a substantial extent duo to the policy and inaction of the Government, and that the Government in consequence deserves the censure of this House.
This problem of petrol supplies to Australia and of ‘petrol distribution in Australia is exciting a very great deal of public interest all over the continent, and one of the things that is really badly needed - and it is one of the reasons for this debate - i3 that there should be a clear concentration of the public mind upon the real facts, and’ upon the factors that count in regard to it. During the last few weeks a very considerable attempt has been made in certain quarters to place responsibility for petrol shortages on State governments and State administrations, and that is, of course, completely wrong, as I believe I shall be able to show without any difficulty. The real problem is one for this Parliament and for the Administration of the Commonwealth. In my remarks I shall not attempt to cover all the ground. That would not be possible or reasonable in. one speech. My colleagues on this side of the House will, I trust, deal very thoroughly with particular aspects of this matter. I know that they will, and I say “ I trust “ only because I do riot know how much time they will be granted to put their case. I shall endeavour, first, to do a little clearing of the ground on this subject. If we ure to consider the petrol problem fairly, we must first distinguish clearly and definitely between the position of the Commonwealth and that of the States in relation to petrol supplies. Their positions are, of course, entirely different, notwithstanding the confusion that has been created in the public mind in the way that I have described. The Commonwealth of Australia has control of imports into Australia. It therefore has control over the total volume of petrol, or, indeed, of any other commodity, that comes into this country. The Commonwealth has control of finance. It is the Government that is charged with the responsibility of dealing with Australia’s national and international financial problems. Insofar as petrol is related to dollars, petrol is the problem in Australia of the Commonwealth, and not of any State. The Commonwealth has control of imports and also the control of the relevant finance. It controls international trade. Its control of each of those matters is, for all .practical purposes, exclusive, as members of the Government must agree. The States cannot deal with imports. If all the State governments of Australia got together to-morrow, they could not increase by even one gallon the volume of imports of petrol or any petroleum product. That is a matter for the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has the power and the responsibility to determine how much petrol is to be allowed, to corns into Australia, and from what source or ‘sources it shall come.
If the supply of petrol is seriously inadequate to meet public demands, as we are now told it is, there arises at once the problem of distributing the reduced amount. Whether the petrol is to be distributed by ;i rationing process of one kind or another, or in some other way, the problem of distribution arises only when the total supply coming into Australia is seriously inadequate to meet public demand. But the point I wish to emphasize is that the problem of distribution and rationing is a secondary problem.. The primary problem is total supply, and total supply is under the control of the Commonwealth and no other authority.
I think that it is not inappropriate for me at this stage to put a question fairly and squarely to the Government on this matter. Did this Government think that its power over rationing, acquired during the war and exercised under the defence powers, was interminable? Did it believe that it held that power permanently? Obviously the Government could not have thought so. . I am sure that the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) will agree with me when I say that rationing by the Commonwealth stood on exactly the same foundation as prices control by the Commonwealth. Each was a product of the defence powers. Consequently, the Commonwealth could scarcely have thought that, whilst its power over prices was so temporary that a referendum had to be held on the subject, its power over petrol rationing was so permanent that no question of its validity could arise. Quite plainly, the Commonwealth knew that for all practical purposes its .power over petrol rationing would not last any longer than its power over prices. What did the Commonwealth do to retain power over the rationing of petrol ? I am sorry to occupy the time of honorable members in this way, but it is most desirable that we should analyse this problem quite clearly, and rid our minds of some of the confusion that has existed in the past. What did the Commonwealth do to retain its power over rationing, which arose originally out of Commonwealth import controls and commodity shortages, and out of no other real factor?
I remind the House that, in the course of the last five years, indeed, of the last seven years which has been the lifetime of the present Government, repeated attempts have been made to alter the Constitution of the Commonwealth to extend the powers of the Australian Government. In 1942, two proposals were put before the people. One of them had a brief appearance in this chamber. It was put forward by the Attorney-General. It was as broad as it was long, as honorable members will recollect very well. Then there was then a convention of representatives of the States, and of all political parties. The first proposal disappeared, and another arose instantly and was discussed at a convention. That second proposal with certain changes became the foundation of the 1944 referendum. What did the Commonwealth ask for in 1944? We must not forget that the war was on, and that petrol rationing and prices control were in existence. What powers did the Australian Government seek in 1944 ? The answer is that, having regard to this problem amongst others, it asked the people to give it power over two things. That is rather understating the position because, in fact, the Government asked for power over fourteen matters as we will all remember, but in particular it sought powers over two matters. One was the production and distribution of goods, and the other was the organized marketing of commodities. I daresay that one or other, or both, of those powers would have covered petrol rationing. I should think that the “ distribution of goods “ would cover the distribution of petrol, and that the “ organized marketing of commodities” - a very wide term - would also cover the rationing of petrol. So, between those two items, ‘ the Australian Government, in 1944, asked foi power over this matter which, I repeat, is subsidiary, the primary one being total supply. The Commonwealth asked for those powers for five years after the end of the war. It imposed a time limit. The proposals went to the people and were rejected. Another referendum was held in. 1946, and the remarkable feature of that referendum was that the same Government again asked for power over “ organized marketing “, but substituted “ of primary products “ for “ of commodities “. In other words, it had dropped the idea of getting power over the organized marketing of petrol, which could hardly be described in that setting as a primary product. To put the matter in another way, the 1946 referendum proposals indicated that the Government had apparently dropped all idea of asking for power over rationing, although at that time the war had ended and the importation of petrol into Australia was still limited. That referendum was defeated. Another referendum was held in 1948. I recall that one with some interest, because I have had the experience, and I am sure some other honorable members have had it too, of ardent Labour supporters at various meetings pointing the finger and saying, “ Yes. there is all this trouble about petrol ; why did you people oppose our last referendum?” An attempt is being made to create the impression that the last referendum had something to do with this petrol problem.
– The right honorable gentleman told the people of the States that he could control these matters very much better.
– I find that my ever reliable ally, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), comes in. Obviously he is labouring under some misapprehension on the matter. I realize that he is a little heated because I gather from a question that he asked earlier in this sitting that some Labour man had his majority reduced by only 50 per cent, on Saturday last.
– Another had his majority increased by 300 per cent.
– I was referring to the misapprehension, which is carefully cultivated in some quarters, that the last referendum in Australia had something to do with petrol. Therefore, it is necessary to remind the House and the country that at the 1948 referendum the Government was careful not to ask for any power over rationing. It asked for one power and for one power only. Et asked for permanent power over rents and prices, including charges. Not a word was said about rationing. That was the result, I have no doubt, of the exercise of deliberate judgment on the part of the Government. It said nothing about rationing. It merely asked for power over rents and prices, including charges. That referendum, of course, was defeated.
I have rehearsed that brief history because it is well to remind every one concerned that although to-day the Government is endeavouring to fasten some responsibility on every one else for the petrol problem, when it had the chance to ask the people of Australia to give it power over the rationing of petrol, it went a long distance out of its way to avoid doing so. Not a word was said about petrol rationing in the referendums of 1946 or 194S. Therefore, the inevitable conclusion to be reached is that the Commonwealth was content to relinquish its rationing powers in favour of the States, although the States had no control over imports and would, if necessary, have to ration upon a basis of total supply already determined for them by the Commonwealth. In these circumstances attempts are now being made by the Government - we heard the echo of one of them here in the last ten minutes - to convey the impression that petrol supplies are a State responsibility, or to blame the Opposition parties for the defeat of a referendum from which rationing was carefully omitted. These attempts are not only false but also almost unbelievably shabby.
None of us in this House, except those who have access to all the figures available to the Government and to all the communications that have passed between governments, is in full possession of all the facts dealing with dollars or with our financial commitments. 1 suppose that it would be agreed around the House that there has been a dollar shortage since the war. Indeed, I notice that on two occasions in two conferences the Prime Minister has said, whether humorously or not I do not profess to know, that the last time when dollars were in good supply in Australia was during the war when the American soldiers were spending them here. I take it that the right honorable gentleman did not make that remark entirely light-heartedly. I assume for the purpose of discussion that there has been a dollar shortage in Australia since the war. I am concerned now only with the period since the war. After all, it is of no use to go too far back on these matters. If the case in regard to dollars is as I have just put it, when did the Government decide that petrol would be short and would continue to be short for years to come ? If it came to that conclusion years ago, and has remained of that opinion right through the period since the war ended, why did it carefully refrain from seeking to control rationing at a time when it was asking the people to allow it to control prices? Why did the Government refrain from asking for such a power if it believed that petrol must be rationed and that the power to ration it must be exercised ? If, on the other hand, the Government came to the conclusion only recently that petrol would be short, what new facts have arisen which create the emergency? The Government can take its choice between these two things. It literally cannot have it both ways on that matter.
I am not going to instigate some entirely irrelevant argument about rationing. I state my own view quite plainly that if supplies are seriously short of demand and cannot effectively be increased and vital industries may go short unless there is a fair distribution, there is a plain case for rationing. I notice that the Premier of South Australia has recognized that by the statement which he has recently made on the subject. I do not argue about it. If these conditions exist there is, of course, a case for equitable distribution. We in this House, and those whom we represent, are entitled to ask: “What are the facts ? “ The Prime Minister has steadfastly refused to lay the full facts before either the Parliament or the people. It is true that the right honorable gentleman, was kind enough on one occasion to indicate that he would show me some figures confidentially. With great respect to the right honorable gentleman, that is beside the point and is not sufficient.
– I also distributed in this House a document giving a great deal of information on the subject.
– That is so, but not all of it by a long chalk. The right honorable gentleman must agree that if there are facts of great moment which can be offered only to the Leader of the Opposition in confidence, then quite plainly there are facts which have not been made known to this Parliament or to the. people of Australia.
– Were they not made known to the Premiers of the States?
– I understand that some of them were given to the Premiers of the States. I say to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) that in relation to a problem of this kind the people of Australia are entitled to the whole of the facts.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman believe in respecting a confidence?
– I do indeed. That is why I never table a confidential document and never quote from one. But the honorable member will agree with me that we do not make a matter confidential merely by saying that it is confidential.
– If the right honorable gentleman receives confidential information, is he not in favour of treating it as such ?
– Undoubtedly. The people of Australia are entitled to say to governments, including the Australian Government, “ We are the people who must accept the burden of diminishing petrol supplies. We are the people who are entitled to know exactly why that comes about “. They will say, and I think quite rightly, “ The war has been over for four years. There is no question of military security “. Nobody pretends for one moment that there is some question of military security or national security that affects this matter. Consequently. I repeat, the people will say and will continue to say, “ Tell us the facts. We are big enough and sensible enough to look at them fairly and squarely. We must know the facts “.
– The right honorable gentleman is not asking for the facts. He is proposing a motion of censure.
– If the right honorable gentleman will express himself along those lines later, it will be a pleasure to bear him.
Petrol, even though some honorable members opposite do not appear to realize it, is vital to primary and secondary industry in Australia. Only a very small fraction of our petrol is used for pleasure. Various factors in the modern history of Australia have caused a bigger and bigger demand for petrol supplies for industrial and productive purposes. We have had a very grave shortage of coal. That has retarded rail transport and placed an extra burden upon road transport. Every honorable member in this House who represents a country electorate knows that the demand upon road transport, which uses petrol, has been increased out of sight in recent years. Therefore, petrol is vital for vital transport. It is vital also for rural production. With the increased mechanization of farms and a constant and proper demand for production on farms, there is a growing demand for petrol for what I shall describe broadly as rural industry. The result is that we are dealing with something that is vital to primary and secondary industry. The people know that and they know also that restrictions are now imposed upon this vital commodity at a time when we have a record trade balance and our sterling earning capacity is at the highest possible level, although there was an abundant supply of petrol at one time when our trade balance was very much smaller than it is now. The people are aware of that, and all honorable members ought to be reminded of the fact. It is a very grave mistake for people to discuss this problem on the assumption that the community of Australia is made up of children. The people of Australia are grown-up people, and they know that petrol is vital to them and that our general capacity to buy things from abroad is higher, by reason of high prices for our exports, than it ever has been in our life-time. Therefore, when the Government says to the people, notwithstanding that, “ You are not to have more petrol “, I say to the Prime Minister, “ The people are entitled to be told why “. If the Government simply says, “ “We know the facts and we are in a position to judge. You are not to know the facts. You will just do what you are told and take what you are given “, then the reaction against the Government in the public mind will be very widespread and very profound. I repeat that, if all of the facts bearing upon this matter were laid before the Parliament and the people, as they would be if the Government felt assured of its case, then there is not a man on this side of the House who would not be prepared to consider those facts fairly and objectively. As for the people of Australia, they would, if satisfied of those facts, accept the position to which at the moment they are violently opposed.
There is another aspect of this matter that I want to mention very briefly. Australia is a top market for British motor vehicles. I have not the precise figures, but I doubt whether there is any greater market than Australia for British motor vehicles at this moment.
– And it is a rapidly growing market.
– That is true. We cannot separate petrol from all other problems. That is perhaps one of the mistakes that frequently occurs. Petrol is a part of the body of our international trade. It is true that we are in consultation and co-operation with Great Britain on these matters, and rightly so. I should not dream of challenging that for one moment. But what are we to say about a total trade set-up in which there is an increase in the supply of motor vehicles to Australia and at the same time a decrease in the supply of petrol with which to use them.
– That is not true, of course.
– But is it not true?
– No, it is not.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction says that that is not true, meaning by that-
– The right honorable gentleman said “ a decrease in the supply of petrol “.
– I know exactly what the Minister means. He is prepared to get up and say that we are using 440,000,000 gallons of petrol annually now and that we were using only 360,000,000 gallons annually before the war. If he thinks that that is an answer, then he has another guess coming. The real test of this matter is the quantity of petrol that we have for each vehicle. The truth is that, as the supply of motor vehicles coming into the country increases and our own production of motor vehicles increases, so the amount of petrol available for each vehicle is reduced, not increased. We will learn that before the year is out.
– That is not true.
– The honorable gentleman is very fond of saying, “ That is not true “. Does he deny that the proposal that the Australian Government is putting to the States at this moment is that there should be rationing and that the ration should be smaller than it was at the beginning of the year? Does he deny that? I notice that for once he does not say, “ That is not true “.
– I shall answer that in my own time.
– But the honorable gentleman was not so anxious to take his own time a few moments ago. The Minister is a most interesting man. When he thinks that he has a good answer, he slips it in quickly. But when he knows that he has not, he says that he will take his own time. He will have an opportunity to answer my question not only here but also in other places. In the meantime, I invite bini to devote some time to explaining to the people in the electorate that he represents how it is that it is good trade policy to have an increasing number of motor vehicles coming into the country all the time and bad trade policy to provide the petrol without which they cannot be- effectively used.
– The people in the Minister’s electorate go in for bicycles.
– I am told that the latest motto down there is, “ You’d be better on a Malvern Star “.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is entitled to a better hearing than he is getting.
– I am making no complaint. The next point to which I want to refer, quite briefly, is this - and again I end with a note of interrogation - I want to know something! The liberated European countries like Prance and the low countries are, I believe, in possession of unrationed petrol. At least one of the defeated aggressor countries. Italy, has unrationed petrol. Is Italy inside the dollar area? Is France inside the dollar area?
– Does not that country receive Marshall aid?
– Great Britain does, too. Now, if it is true that those countries have unrationed petrol, are not the people of Australia, including the people of Western Australia, entitled to be told why it is that, although the Italians and the French and the Dutch and the Belgians and other European countries can have unrationed petrol, we in Australia cannot have it? The members of the Government cannot answer that question merely by waving the hands and saying, “ Leave it to us “. The Government can answer the question only by doing something that it has not yet done - and that is, to tell the people of Australia exactly why it is that at a time like this, when petrol was never more important to us than it is now, we must go without it while some of our erstwhile allies, and some of our erstwhile enemies, are in possession of it.
There is another matter to which 1 want to refer now. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has repeatedly told us that petrol is in free supply from sterling areas, and, therefore, that crude oil can be readily secured by our available sterling credits, but that the limiting factor is refinery capacity - limitation of the refinery capacity in the Middle East, in the Netherlands East Indies, in Great Britain, and in Australia. In all those countries refinery capacity is the limiting point! All right; but I remind the Government that the war has been over for four years. What assurance have we that the development of our refinery capacity has received close and prior attention during the last four years? We know that projects of that kind have been delayed. What has delayed them? So far as Australia is concerned, we have had a tragic shortage of coal, and the Government must accept its responsibility for that situation. We have had a shortage of steel, which is a direct result of the shortage of coal. That shortage has been so grave that during the last three or four years the Australian steel industry has not been producing more than 70 per cent, of its .productive capacity. If those are the circumstances that have kept back the development of refinery capacity the Government cannot stand up and plead guiltless of its responsibility.
There is another factor that has deprived the development of primary industry of priority, and I ‘believe that there is a growing disposition in Australia to realize how true this is. The socialists have been completely preoccupied with nationalizing industry, not only here but also in Great Britain. That preoccupation tends to impair the morale of competitive industry generally. Apparently the Attorney-General dissents from that proposition, but it is of no use for the right honorable gentleman to suggest sotto voce that one is not to criticize what happens in Great Britain. I say that in considering problems such as the one which we are now discussing we are acting in mutual arrangement with Great Britain. If there is a shortage of refinery capacity in the sterling area that shortage concerns Great Britain and Australia; and I make no bones whatever about saying that in Great Britain, as in Australia, the socialist preoccupation with nationalization has had a deterrent effect upon productive industry generally.
The next point that 1 make- is that our approach to- the dollar problem.’ ha>s been- negative: It has- involved some idea of saving by imposing restrictions, not by earning dollars by expansion’ and drive and the- reduction- of costs-. I must confess’ that I was astonished myself to read that erne- of the major- terms- of the arrangement made in the United1 States of America the other day contemplated1 a real’ attempt to get costs1 of production down- to a competitve level1. Why it should need an international agreement to. produce- an understanding of that truth I dd not- know. Our approach to the- dollar- problem has; been much too negative; I aim not going to elaborate that criticism; because I know that at least one of my colleagues will have something to- say about it. However, I was very interested to hear the Prime Minister himself make the following- statement last week: -
Restriction: of imports . . . cam of itself, contribute nothing to the- solution of the dollar problem, which requires a positive effort to lift levels of trade rather than to reduce them.
That statement was contained in the budget speech made by the- right honorable gentleman. It was not elaborated, but I took it as rather an admission of a grave- defect in tha whole- approach to the- matter. It is clear that if the solution of the petrol1 problem is dollars, then we should devote a- whole lot more importance- .to earning dollars, and- a great deal1 less attention and- anxiety to a mere- restriction- of the use of dollars.
All the matters- that I have mentioned - and in fact - everything to which I have referred to-day, stems from the present socialist Government’s two great allied failures. It has failed to increase production in the basic industries. In this country we are served by a first-class statistical bureau, which publishes the figures of employment from time to time. From, those figures I was- very interested’ to learn that although the population of Australia had increased by 11 per cent, between 193’9 and 1949, the number of people engaged in mining and1 quarrying, which includes the vital industry of coalmining; had increased by only 1 per cent. I emphasize that the increase of employment in that vital industry was only 1- per cent. Although employment in transport and’ communications increased by 60 per- cent. during the same period, the increase of employment in- the building and construction industries amounted to only 22 per cent, and at a time when the demand- for products for building and, construction was- never as great as it has been since the- war: Our economy has got out of balance. Because of the policies that have been pursued the basic industries in Australia are the- industries in which production- has not been encouraged. There has been a failure to increase production in the basic industries, and,, side by side with that failure, and, I think, as a result of it,, there has been a failure to secure world markets, without which we shall never be able to buy all the things that we need in, this country. There has been a failure to secure those markets- while the going was good - and the going was good during the few years which immediately followed the wai:. Australia had an enormous opportunity. We had been untouched by war,, and our potential had increased out of all’ knowledge by the war. Our engineering experience and skill was developed by the war, and we had a marvellous opportunity to develop our markets and to secure new ones.
All I say by way of conclusion is that this problem is full of queries, and that those queries must be answered by the Government. There is one thing about which people are quite clear to-day. It is this: That without adequate petrol, we cannot produce as we- should, we cannot transport as we should-, and we cannot market as we should. Therefore^ the supply of petrol should be a high priority matter for any government, and a matter upon which it is prepared at any time to satisfy the public mind that all that can be done is being done to ensure that this country, at a time when it needs petrol most, shall not have petrol least.
– I cannot escape the feeling that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) did not have his heart in his subject. After all, he usually sets an example to this House of the way in which logic should be applied to analyses- of problems. His views about various matters may differ widely from the opinions of the Government and myself about them, but he at least tries to discuss them logically and explain them in simple terms. This afternoon, however, the right honorable gentleman has completely evaded the real issue. It has been said that the Government has not supplied to honorable members any information about the petrol situation. I hold in my hand a thick bundle of documents which contain the information that has been given to every honorable member about the subject.
– No information is given.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not use the words “no information “.
– These documents, while not dealing with minor matters, give an almost complete statement of the whole dollar position. The sense of logic of the Leader of the Opposition must compel him to recognize -at once that the primary reason for any difficulty in respect of obtaining petrol arises, not from- the Commonwealth’s constitutional power to curtail its importation, but from the inability of the whole sterling area to obtain dollars to pay for additional suplies. It is of little use to- say, as the right honorable gentleman has said, that Australia is now earning more money overseas than it has ever earned in the past, and possesses bigger balances overseas than ever before. I do not have to tell him, or for that matter, any honorable member that our sterling balances overseas, in themselves, will not buy one dollar’s worth of goods from the hard currency area. The only currency that will buy petrol or other goods from the dollar countries is the dollar. Australia can obtain dollars in only two ways, first, by earning them, and, secondly, by buying them from the United Kingdom Treasury. There is no third way. If a great export drive to earn dollars is possible, why is it that in only one or two years during a period of approximately twenty years, Australia has earned more dollars than it has spent ? Before the war, so long as we owned sterling, we were able to buy dollars, because the United Kingdom then had dollars to sell to us for sterling. Our overseas sterling balances were convertible, and we were able to obtain dollars for them. That day has passed. I need not elaborate the situation, because it is fully covered in the papers that have been supplied to every honorable member. Since World War II., the United Kingdom has not been able to sell dollars for sterling, as it did previously. I need hardly speak about the sale of its overseas investments during the war, of the drain on its reserves, of all that that great country has done, and of the trials and tribulations through which it has passed. The people of the United Kingdom are still suffering privations and hardships as the result of the war. In the eyes of the Opposition they were wonderful people a few years ago. But the Opposition does not regard them as wonderful people to-day.
– That is nonsense.
– The Opposition does not regard the people of the United Kingdom as wonderful people to-day, because they have elected a Labour government.
– They have since found out their mistake.
– Honorable members opposite should not run away from this issue. That attitude towards the people of the United Kingdom is evident among members of the Opposition. and, indeed, in other countries. There is a suggestion that the United Kingdom has not done so well as other countries have done in making an economic recovery since the war. But that view has been contradicted by men who are competent to know. One such man above all others is Mr. Paul Hoffman, the administrator of the European recovery programme. No one in this country or any other country is likely to take the word of a member of the Opposition here against that of the man who is administering Marshall aid. Is anybody here prepared to take the word of a member of the Opposition against the statistics that appear in a recent issue of the Economist! That paper is not partisan in the sense that it supports the Labour party, yet the figures that it has published show, as Mr. Paul Hoffman and Mr. Williams, the adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of America, have stated, that England’s effort since the war, despite the destruction of property and heavy losses in other respects, is better than that of any other country which-
– Which is receiving Marshall aid.
– Of course, I am referring to the countries that receive Marshall aid. All the countries that constitute Western Europe share in Marshall aid. Has the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) a knowledge of conditions in countries behind the Iron Curtain? I mentioned to-day the association of the Liberals with the Communists. The honorable member may know more about conditions behind the Iron Curtain than do honorable members on this side of the House. If the honorable member suggests that the countries behind the Iron Curtain which, it has been said, are entirely socialistic, are faring infinitely better than Western Europe is, let him go out and defend that statement ! If it were true, it would completely refute the contention that the Leader of the Opposition has advanced this afternoon. However, I make it plain that my remarks relate only to the countries of Western Europe. I do not profess to have all the knowledge about what happens behind the Iron Curtain that some people profess to have.
Opposition members interjecting ,
– Order! There are too many interjections. The Prime Minister must be heard in silence.
– On the authority of the administrator of the European recovery programme, Mr. Paul Hoffman, of the adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of America, Mr. Williams, of the American ambassador-at-large in Europe, Mr. Averil Harriman, and of the Economist, one of the most reliable papers in the world and certainly not a partisan publication, Britain has done better than any other country in Western Europe under Marshall aid in respect of total production and production per man-hour worked. Let any honorable member try to refute those facts!
– No one denies that.
– Everybody knows it.
– The Leader of the Opposition has said that the air should be cleared. Before I conclude my speech, I shall refer . to some of the misstatements that have been made about the petrol situation. The right honorable gentleman has said that, because Australia- has large overseas balances, we should be able to get from abroad any goods that we require. The position is that, no matter what overseas balances we have in the sterling area, we cannot obtain the goods that we desire to purchase from the hard currency area unless we can buy dollars. I return to the primary reason for restricting the importation of petrol into Australia. I make it clear that I am speaking of refined petrol. I do not want any confusion to arise about petroleum products and “ crudes “, because the subject of this debate is refined petrol, and, to some degree, aviation spirit of 100, 91 or 73 octane. We ourselves are not able to earn sufficient dollars to enable us to buy all the goods that we want from the dollar area. Those goods include petrol. The only way that we can get additional dollars is to buy them from the British Treasury. Last year we bought 164,000,000 dollars, and despite our efforts to reduce the drain on the dollar pool, we have had to buy 72,000,000 dollars this year. It has been contended that as Great Britain is the banker for the sterling area, and as there would be a very serious economic crisis if that country collapsed, there should be maintained in the United Kingdom a reserve equivalent to at least £500,000,000 sterling in dollars and gold. A few weeks ago the reserve was far below what the Federal Reserve Bank of America and the Bank of England regarded as a safe minimum. That was due to the fact that the demands of the British Commonwealth had been great and that the members of that Commonwealth had not been able to earn as much as previously. Although it is not for me to say how low that reserve has dropped, it was announced recently that it had fallen to below £400,000,000 sterling in gold and dollars.
– Was there a change of mind during last week-end ?
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) must cease interrupting.
– No one has done any mind changing. I am not basing my remarks on supposition, or on what some one said on the wharfs in Sydney or Melbourne. We all know that Great Britain carried the bulk of the burden of the recent war. In order to do so it had to sell its investments and borrow huge sums of money from the United States of America under the Anglo-American Loan Agreement, from which we gained some benefit. That debt has not yet been repaid. Under the European recovery programme, known as Marshall aid, Great Britain received an allocation of dollars. Let us make no bones about the great debt of gratitude that we owe to the British people. In fact the whole of the civilized world owes a great debt to them.
– Hear, hear!
– They are still bearing the bulk of the burden resulting from the war. Is it fair that the people of Australia, which is far better off than is any European country, should1 enjoy privileges that are denied to the British people? As honorable members know, petrol rationing broke down in this country because of the decision of the High Court of Australia. Although I am not questioning that decision or complaining about it, I must confess that it surprised me, because petrol rationing was introduced to meet the unfortunate state of affairs that developed as an aftermath of the war, and because the conservation of dollars became imperative in the interests of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I remind honorable members that the ration scale for petrol in Great Britain when rationing was at its height was based on 90 miles travelling a month. At that stage the Australian ration was based on 160 miles travelling a month. Why should we have been so much better off than the British people, who were suffering many privations ? We must face the hard cold facts. The primary reason that we cannot obtain from the dollar area all of the petrol and other commodities that we should like, is that we can neither earn nor buy enough dollars to pay for them. I should regard any one who cannot clearly understand the position from that simple explanation, as very stupid and possessed of a very low order of intelligence. I repeat that the only reason why people in the United Kingdom, South Africa, New Zealand, India, Ceylon, Australia, and other places, must be deprived of goods that they desire to obtain from the dollar area is that there are not enough dollars available to them to pay for those goods. In other words, they themselves cannot earn or buy the requisite number of dollars to purchase what they regard as desirable or essential. That simple statement should be clearly understood by everybody. As the Minister for ‘ Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) participated in a conference in Great Britain recently in connexion with petrol and oil, it is well that I should refer to some of the misstatements that have been made .about the availability of petrol. It has been said that if the Government had been active enough it could have obtained sufficient petrol from the sterling area to enable it to dispense with rationing. One should be annoyed that some honorable members, including, I am sorry to say, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), are prepared to chase any hare that springs up. As a matter of fact the right honorable gentleman has reached the stage when, like the greyhound dogs, he is chasing tin hares. It is indeed regrettable that any member of the Parliament, or any other responsible citizen, will not face the facts of this matter, but is prepared, because of political viciousness and the hope of gaining ‘a political advantage, to repeat statements that are completely untrue and which he is not prepared to guarantee. The statement that Mr. Nash was in favour of the abolition of rationing was completely untrue. Furthermore, the statement that petrol could be bought in Bahrein from the Bahrein Petroleum Company, and paid for in sterling, because it did not have a dollar content, was proved to be completely untrue. I want to exonerate people who based their comments on the belief that that statement emanated from Caltex Oil (Australia) Pty. Ltd. Because I did not want Mr. W. C. Field, the general manager of that company, to be under any illusion, I interviewed him personally. He assured me that he w.as not under any illusion, and he repudiated entirely any association with that campaign, both personally and in writing. He said that he was prepared to accept the figures prepared by the Bank of England that I quoted to the House and furnished to the State Premiers, in preference to statements that had been made by other politicians. Those figures showed that the Bahrein Petroleum Company finally had to be paid in dollars for 90 per cent, of its output of petrol. Mr. Field said at once, quite frankly, that he accepted those figures. Indeed, nobody has ever attempted to refute them, because it is not possible to do so. That story that has been told by the right honorable gentleman and others has been completely discredited.
Another statement that has been constantly repeated is that unlimited quantities of petrol are available to motorists in Italy and France, and that petrol is not rationed in those countries. European countries control the use of petrol by methods other than the rationing system that was in force in Australia. In some instances, the method is related to the number of vehicles licensed, and in others there is a system of allowances for zonal travelling. In some European countries no
Pleasure motoring is allowed on Sundays, n France petrol is the subject of what is called a double sector price. It would take me a long time to explain the various methods of controlling the use of petrol that are adopted. No British company has sold refined petrol to either Italy or France. I want to make it clear now, as I have done before, that supplies of crude oil are plentiful. Our difficulties are caused by the lack of refining capacity in the sterling area, and I repeat that no British company is supplying any refined petrol to Italy or France.
On one occasion the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said that he had been informed by an anonymous person on the Melbourne wharfs that supplies of petrol from the Netherlands East Indies to Australia had been restricted because of a ban that had been imposed by the waterside workers on shipping from the Netherlands East Indies to Australia. He stated that petrol from the Netherlands East Indies had no dollar content. Both of those statements were completely untrue. There has never been any restriction or ban imposed upon the movement of tankers from the Netherlands East Indies to Australia.
– There has been a ban on shipping travelling the other way.
– I am speaking now of petrol. There has never been any restriction or ban imposed at any time or in any way upon the movement between the Netherlands East Indies and Australia of petrol tankers carrying petrol for the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited or the Shell Company of Australia Limited. I have been told by the general managers of those two companies that that is so. I do not ask the House to take my word for it. Those two companies are the only two oil companies that are operating in Sumatra. The Vacuum company is an American company, and, consequently, there is a very large dollar content in any petrol that we purchase from it. The Shell company is a British company, but, because of the dollar component in its equipment, &c, petrol purchased from, it has a dollar content.
The next statement that has been made is that Britain has entered into an agreement with Argentina under which it has contracted to supply Argentina with large quantities of petrol. The inference that is intended to be drawn from the statement is that the agreement relates to refined petrol. That is completely untrue. The agreement provides for the supply of very small quantities of refined petrol.
– How much?
– I understand that it is less than 100,000 tons.
– It is 250,000 tons. The Prime Minister has been misinformed.
– If the information that the Leader of the Australian Country party has just supplied is in line with that which he has supplied previously, I do not think anybody in this country will believe it.
Attempts have been made by the Opposition to gain favorable publicity from the fact that a company has made an application to import Polish petrol. It has been said that there has been some difficulty with the Australian Government. It is true that Australian Motorists Petrol Company Limited, generally referred to as Ampol made an application for a licence to import Polish petrol. “When we are considering imports from countries behind the Iron Curtain, we make close inquiries regarding the conditions that may be imposed by the country issuing the export licence. The Australian Government gave Ampol permission to import Polish petrol. I have already made a statement indicating that if the cost of imported petrol and the associated transport charges can be met in sterling, the necessary import licences will be granted. I was told that there were two tankers at Stettin which were ready to bring the petrol here. I was naturally rather suspicious of the prospect of continuity of supplies from Poland, because that country is buying crude oil in the Persian Gulf and taking it to Poland to be refined.
– “What is wrong with that?
– To buy crude oil in the Persian Gulf, take it to Stettin and then inland to the refineries, and then send it again to Stettin for shipment to Australia would appear to be a strange kind of commercial transaction.
– It is only a question of what we pay for it.
– I can give information about costs. After Ampol had made its application for a licence to import petrol from Poland and the licence had been issued, I received a telegram from London. I remind the House that it was said that the vendors were waiting and that the option would expire if permission to import were not given within, so to speak, five minutes. The telegram reads as follows : -
Polish petrol. Stevinson Hardy and Co., London Associates of Ausn. Motorists’ Petrol Co., approached Trade Commissioner to-day and advised that Centrala Produktow Nafto wych were having difficulty in obtaining Polish export licence for this particular shipment of petrol. They requested support in making representations to the Polish Government.
– The Poles must have a Labour government.
– I ask the House to listen to this lovely passage -
At the same time they asked that this information be treated confidentially, as they did not wish to embarrass their Australian associates, who are most perturbed at this development. Would appreciate instructions.
The tankers were supposed to be ready in Stettin, waiting to come here. We sent a telegram to the Australian High Commissioner in London telling him to instruct the company to make proper application to the Australian Government. That application was made yesterday. Ordinarily this transaction would have been negotiated in the normal course of business, but politics has been brought into it. I should not be concerned with cables of this kind if I were dealing with people who play the game. As I have said before in this House, if people are not prepared to fight under the Marquess of Queensberry’s rules, I have some knowledge of the other rules. Despite all this fuss about Polish petrol, all that can be done about it is now for the Australian Government to go to the Polish Government-
– Why not?
– I am not arguing about that. I have already sent a telegram to find out what has caused the trouble at the Polish end. It is not as simple a matter to obtain this Polish petrol as was imagined.
Another charge was made regarding Russian petrol. It was stated that an application had been made to import Russian petrol, and had been refused. Up to a few hours ago no application had ever been made for the importation of Russian petrol. It has been stated that somebody penetrated the Soviet zone of Germany and consulted with the Soviet Military Commission. Those are the fellows who blockaded Berlin and starved the population, so we are not likely to meet with much success there. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Government had not made inquiries regarding non-dollar sources of petrol. The fact is that we have made inquiries regarding such petrol all around the world’. I do not ask honorable members to take my word alone regarding the difficulty of obtaining petrol from behind the Iron Curtain. That has been, and can be, proved by certain extracts. I shall not go into that aspect at great length, but shall quote one extract, from the Petroleum Press Service. I could, if I chose, quote a number of other extracts, all of which confirm the information with which the Government has been supplied to the effect that petroleum was not readily available from behind the Iron Curtain. The extract from the Petroleum Press Service reads -
The trade agreements concluded or negotiated with Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Egypt and other countries, stipulating the delivery of petroleum products by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have so far either not been followed up, or the quantities involved have been comparatively small. In Britain only one cargo of petrol has arrived from Russia since the members of the Petroleum Board resumed their direct supplies to this country a year ago. Even such exports as have to be made to dependent countries behind, the Iron Curtain, like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, are only enough to meet their minimum essential needs .
I merely quote that extract to the House, although I do not suppose a great deal of attention should be given to press statements. The fact of the matter is that we were informed that Australia would probably be able to obtain from behind the Iron Curtain only odd lots of petrol. Odd lots are no good to us. All the big American oil companies are distributing their petrol in accordance with the wishes of, and after consultation with, the United Kingdom Government. They bitterly resent the suggestions that have been made that they have not played the game. I believe that they have played the game. The decision as to where, how,’ and to whom their petrol supplies will flow, is, as I have said, made after consultation with the United Kingdom Government, for the purpose of keeping what the oil companies themselves describe as “ the delicate balance “ of essential supplies to the countries in the sterling area and to other countries in whose welfare the United Kingdom is vitally interested. Does anybody doubt that had it not been for what the United States has achieved in Europe by means of Marshall aid, and what the United Kingdom hasdone in Europe with sterling credits, the whole of Europe would now be under Communist control? Everybody knows that the only means by which Communist control of all Europe has been averted has been the action of the United Kingdom, working in conjunction with the United States. I have shown that the statements about the petrol position to which I have referred have been proved to be complete fabrications. I only desire to add that I have verified with the oil companies every statement I have made about the dollar components in petrol. I am not asking the House to take my word alone. Figures supplied by the oil companies confirm my statements.
I turn now to the aspect of petrol consumption. In June last the withdrawal from stocks, and perhaps even the sale, of petrol, was 45 per cent, above what it was when rationing was in operation. It was apparent even to the oil companies that that drain could not be sustained, and’ therefore the companies agreed amongthemselves to try to curtail supplies of petrol in some way so that that huge drain, could be avoided. They agreed to makesome sort of rationing arrangements. My attention has been drawn to a press statement issued by the Leader of the Opposition. I cannot believe for one moment that he ever intended it to mean what it apparently means. He said -
The whole matter rente in the hands of the Federal Government. It has already rationed petrol to the States.
I do not think that the right honorable gentleman meant that statement to refer to the rationing of petrol supplies to individual States, but that is the meaning that his statement would appear to have. If that is the meaning intended then the statement is entirely misleading. The Australian Government has imposed no rationing as between the States. It is perfectly true that during the period of petrol rationing each State received a quota of supplies. That is not the case at present, because the Australian Government now has no control over the allocation of petrol to different States. That matter rests entirely with the petrol companies themselves. Honorable members opposite said that there would be no increase of the consumption of petrol if rationing were abolished. . I shall cite figures that will show the falsity of that view. After allowing 5,250,000 gallons for usage occasioned by the recent coal strike, the average sales of petrol over a period of three months following the cessation of rationing increased by 21 per cent.
– Petrol consumers were panicked by all the talk about Australia’s inability to buy sufficient petrol.
– That increase of sales occurred even although during those three months the companies themselves were endeavouring to ration supplies in some way. That answer to the contention that consumption would not increase with the cessation of rationing 5,s provided by the companies themselves, not by the Government.
– It is not an answer, because everybody was thrown into a panic.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) persists in interrupting I shall deal with him in the only way available to the Chair.
– The answer is supplied in the figures given, not by me, but by checks of bonded stocks, and of sales and usage. The fact is that honorable members opposite do not desire to recognize the truth when they see it. Everything that I have said this evening is the complete truth. The statistical information that I have given is absolutely correct.
Now I turn to the matter of the State Premiers. All this badgering about petrol has gone on amongst members of the Opposition. I should be surprised if they have much genuine information on this subject. The Government supplied the Premiers of the States with complete and confidential information about the petrol position. T have not spoken to them since the conference. The Government has not attempted to badger them. We placed the facts before the Premiers, and I told them that the Commonwealth has lost the power to ensure an equitable distribution of petrol. We fear that unless provision is made for the equitable distribution of available sup plies many essential users will not be able to get the petrol they need, particularly at harvest time, and that conditions could become chaotic. In effect, I said to the Premiers: “We ask you to consider this matter, not on political grounds. We know that rationing is not popular, but we have a public duty to perform in the interests of the people generally, and particularly of those to whom petrol is essential in their business, and for the carrying on of the trade and commerce of the country. If there is any fear of a shortage of petrol we believe that the States should either introduce their own rationing system, for which the Commonwealth would pay, or they should refer the necessary power to the Commonwealth, which would operate a rationing scheme “.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will discuss the subject of refineries. That is another matter, I merely point out here that the Government of the United Kingdom is proposing to expend £120,000,000 on the erection of refineries. From that expenditure Australia as well as the United Kingdom will benefit. I put it to the Premiers that they should consider what was best for the country rather than what was politically expedient, and I believe that the Premiers did, in fact, look at the matter in that way. Of course, I do not pretend to he able to read their minds. They had a conference among themselves, and the decision they came to is a matter for themselves alone. However, I believe that all the Premiers were fully convinced by the information that I placed before them, and that they all recognized that if there was only a limited quantity of petrol available - a fact for which the Commonwealth accepts responsibility because of the dollar position - the only way to ensure its equitable distribution was to introduce a rationing system. Mr. McGirr, Mr. McLarty, Mr. Hanlon, Mr. Playford and Mr. Fagan all said that they were prepared to accept some form of rationing, and to introduce the necessary legislation. I have not mentioned the matter to them since. I understand that there are difficulties in Victoria, other than those associated with petrol. One does not go around patting one’s opponents on the back. Some of them have said hard things about me, but I believe that Mr. Hollway had a full appreciation of the position.
If the States refer the necessary power to the Commonwealth, we will introduce a rationing system, and honorable members opposite can shout about it as much as they like. The Government owes a duty to the country, the welf are of which is our first consideration. We are not going to try to browbeat the States. I have stated facts, not suppositions. In the last six months, the sterling area, including the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, has been in a perilous economic position. I was very hurt by the fact that some members of this Howse should have completely disregarded that position.
– The Prime Minister told us that we were entering the golden age.
– That ha3 nothing to do with it. Let us remember that the head of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Great Britain, and with it Australia, have been very close to drastic economic difficulties. At the recent conference in Washington, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. Bevin were able to convince the Americans - though some of them did not want a great deal of convincing - that it would not be wise to let Britain totter to economic ruin. We in Australia should remember that the United Kingdom. is our best customer. Therefore, apart from sentiment, and apart from any recognition of the debt of gratitude we owe Great Britain, we should do what we can to maintain the economic stability of that country. And yet some of us are kicking up a fuss because we are asked to suffer some of the things that Great Britain has been suffering. We should have unlimited petrol! We should have an unlimited number of American motor cars, while Britain is on the verge of economic ruin because of its depleted dollar reserve ! That is what some people have been advocating. I hope that some benefit will derive from the talks at Washington. We are merely trying to help a country that has helped us. Our economic welfare largely depends on that of Britain which, as I have said, is our best customer. I should be failing in my duty as Leader of the Government if I hesitated to advocate the reintroduction of petrol rationing, regardless of what political odium may attach to that course. Some time ago, it was agreed that there should be a 25 per cent, cut in dollar expenditure by countries of the British Commonwealth. In Australia, 97 per cent, of our people arc of British stock, and yet some of us here are grizzling because we are asked to help the people of Britain. But Ceylon, whose people are not of British stock, and which earns far more in dollars than it spends, is prepared to cut its dollar expenditure by 25 per cent. In India, whose people also are not of British stock, Mr. Nehru and his colleagues have an appreciation of Great Britain’s need which has been sadly lacking among some honorable members opposite. That remark is not true of all members of the Opposition parties. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition has a full appreciation of the position. However, certain interests are driving him along. Whatever the political difficulties might be, we on this side make no apology for the fact that we are prepared, to accept this responsibility so that we can help those who help us.
– It is indeed regrettable to have been the recipient of the opening remarks made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his speech on this very important matter. The right honorable gentleman must be made to appreciate that he is not the only citizen in this country who conscientiously desires to discharge his public duty as he sees it. I have persisted in the attitude I have adopted towards petrol rationing and the Government’s policy in this matter because I conscientiously believe - and my belief has been strengthened by the effluxion of time - that the Government either has been misled or has failed to consider the problem in the best interests of motor users in Australia. The right honorable gentleman can sound a personal note as much as he likes and talk about chasing tin hares and being a receptacle for all sorts of “furphies”, but in the course of my remarks I shall produce some live hares of an electric nature which I believe he will not be able to evade as he has evaded’ the real substance of the motion now before the House.
Without doubt, the two most important aspects of the petrol problem are : First, is an adequate supply of oil necessary to Australia’s economy and development ? ; and, secondly, is oil available to us? The first question was answered effectively by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Every student of the problem as well as every honorable member must appreciate that Australia’s economic progress depends upon an ample supply of petroleum products. Without such supplies our productive capacity would be kept at a minimum, our post-war recovery retarded and our future as a nation imperilled. Indeed, our defence strategy and security as a whole would be jeopardized. In this matter I have endeavoured to survey Australia’s position in comparison with that of other nations and I have come to the conclusion that adequacy of petrol supplies is more vital to Australia, having regard to the peculiar circumstances in which this nation finds itself, than it is to any other nation. Australia is sparsely populated and much of it still undeveloped, but we have a responsibility as one of the great primary producing countries of the world to help to save the starving peoples of not only the United Kingdom, but also other countries which were devastated in the recent war. Members of the Opposition parties stand second to none in their support of the United Kingdom. This is not a newfound love with us, if it is with honorable members opposite. It is sheer hypocrisy for supporters of the Government to talk as they talk to-day about their desire to help the great United Kingdom. If they look back through the pages of Hansard they can ascertain what they have really done in that direction over the years. They have opposed every action taken by previous governments for the purpose of co-operating fully with the United Kingdom in its defence obligations and needs. On that point I emphasize, if emphasis be really necessary, that members of the Opposition parties do not require to be lectured by the Prime Minister concerning our duty to help the people of the United Kingdom.
Motor cars, utility trucks and tractors are integral parts of our national pro- ductive system. Only by providing adequate supplies of petroleum products can we keep the wheels of transport moving in this country and thus maintain maximum production in our great primary industries for whose products the United Kingdom and other countries are clamouring at the present time. The second question on which the Prime Minister is at variance with me is : Are petroleum products available to us to-day? Because of its importance I shall deal with the answer to that question at some length. If petrol rationing is re-introduced in Australia, the only person who will be responsible for such action will be the Prime Minister. The re-introduction of petrol rationing will be due solely to his policy of using Commonwealth laws, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, to restrict the importation of petrol and thereby force the hands of the various State governments by a system of Commonwealth rationing at the source of supply. This restrictive policy is supported by the Australian Labour party because in typical socialistic fashion that party always places restriction before freedom and reduction before production and always endeavours to maintain the greatest possible degree of control over the individual citizen. The Prime Minister has dealt with the petrol problem in a manner that leads one to only one conclusion. He wants petrol rationing solely for rationing’s sake; he does not want to relax his policy of control over the individual. That attitude is consistent with the socialist’s policy of subservience to the Government. The right honorable gentleman has exerted all his efforts to find a means by which petrol rationing can be re-introduced in this country rather than remove the need for the re-introduction of petrol rationing. One has only to recall what happened on the day on which the High Court announced its judgment declaring the Commonwealth’s petrol ration regulations to be invalid. The ink on that judgment was not dry before the Prime Minister stampeded and announced that chaotic conditions would result and that the responsibility for avoiding such conditions was cast on the States; and ever since he has been determined to see his prophecy come true.
I repeat that the Government has not lifted a finger or made one solitary effort to remove the need for petrol rationing. On the contrary, it has exerted all its efforts with a view to creating reasons for the re-introduction of rationing. The Government expends nearly £200,000 a year on the maintenance of its commercial intelligence service overseas. It has trade commissioners in many countries as well as ambassadors, ministers and consular representatives at most of the important centres overseas, but I challenge the Prime Minister to produce any evidence whatever that those government instrumentalities were even approached on the matter’ or were capable, on their own initiative, of finding alternative sources of supplies of petrol in order to avoid the need to re-introduce petrol rationing. It was left to an independent oil company, which is controlled exclusively by Australian enterprise, and consists of 5,000 Australian shareholders, to seek other sources of supplies in an endeavour to prevent Australian citizens from being harassed in their efforts to develop this country.
I come now to the availability of petrol supplies, recognizing, of course, the fact that petrol is essential to maximum production in this country. On the evidence that is available, certain facts relating to the petrol position cannot be denied by any reasonably informed person. First, there is a world surplus of oil. In fact, to-day there is an oil war between the major international petroleum companies. Within recent hours a reduction of 75 cents a barrel for American oil has been announced. The world’s oil resources are now placed at a higher figure than ever before. The latest figures show that known global crude oil resources increased in 1948 by 4,890,000,000 barrels or 6.6 per cent. During the ten years 1939 to 1948, 25,000,000,000 barrels of crude petroleum were produced, yet the estimated proved oil resources grew during that period from 34,000,000,000 barrels to 78,000,000,000 barrels, a net gain of 129 per cent. If the oil that has been taken from the ground is added, the gross increment in reserves has not been far short of the startling figure of 70,000,000,000 barrels.
Let us turn now to movements in the sterling area. It is from that area, of course, that Australia can most advantageously obtain its oil supplies. In 1948, there was a substantial surplus of sterling oil. Production amounted to 64,000,000 tons, and the total British Commonwealth consumption was only 45,000,000 tons. Only about 330,000 tons, or a mere fraction of that surplus, would be required annually to abolish rationing permanently in this .country, even on the most pessimistic consumption estimates given by the Prime Minister. Let us consider the position that the Government has allowed to develop in this country. During the last session of this Parliament a petrol freezing measure was passed ostensibly because it was necessary to build up emergency stocks in this country. In spite of the plentiful supply of oil throughout the world, and the surplus of sterling area oil to which I have referred, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) admitted in this House on the 1st July that stocks of motor spirit held at the seaboard in Australia in 1948 were, at one stage, less than one month’s rationed consumption, and that the average held throughout the year had been only enough to meet Australia’s demands for five and a half weeks.
I turn my attention now to the lifting of petrol rationing by European countries. The Prime Minister, either intentionally or otherwise, but obviously only halfinformed, misled the House on this subject, which has a most important bearing on the petrol problem. Obviously, it is most desirable from all points of view that we should obtain as much sterling oil as possible. The information in my possession is authentic and is available to any one. It shows clearly that several European countries have removed restrictions on the use of petrol, although the Australian Government has refused to follow suit. There is no restriction upon the consumption of motor spirit in France in spite of what the Prime Minister has said. The right honorable gentleman was merely playing with words when he took the Leader of the Opposition to task for having said that France received only crude oil from the sterling area. I leave that matter there for -the present, but J shall refer again to hath France .and Italy as I proceed. I repeat tha.t there is n.o restriction .on the consumption of motor spirit in France. A similar position exists in Belgium, Luxemberg, Switzerland,, Portugal, Turkey and, since February of this year, Finland… There is no rationing in ‘the strict sense pf the word in Holland .or in the .Scandinavian .countries with the exception ,of .Sweden. In Denmark, a special unrationed holiday period pf one month is .allowed) an-d a similar period of , thr.ee weeks is allowed in Norway at the choice pf the motoristPetrol is officially seated to be unrationed in Poland and Roumania and, since April, it has been unrationed in H,unga-ry. The .only Marshall aid countries in which rationing still operat.es a,re Britain, Iceland, and Haly. Restrictions in Italy are slight and cannot be compared with those operating here. The British ration is .approximately the same as in Australia. Apparently, no special .consideration is given to the vast distances over which motor vehicles h.a-ye to travel in this country. Most pf the unrationed petrol consumed in the countries that I have mentioned is undoubtedly sterling in .origin and, any wide awake government, knowing -those facts, would naturally inquire into the possibility pf pb.ta-in.ing the diversion to this country .pf some of .the available supplies. Particularly in view .of the statement on .defence stocks made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction the Australian Government, which is responsible for the sa.fe.ty and economic well-being of this country should have investigated fully all possible avenues pf supply. Increasing consumption of sterling oil and other non-dollar oil by European Marshall aid countries is apparent from figures that I shall give to the House. It was interesting to hear the Prime Minister say that had it npt been for the United States pf America the Marshall aid countries would now be under .Communist control. Let us see to what extent British oil companies have increased their sales to those countries. In 1947, oil sold to European Marshall aid countries iota-lied 19,500,000 tons In the fiscal year 1948-49, that figure increased to 2’6,.8O0,p66 tons. The esti- ma.te for the current fiscal year is 3,0,90.0,00.0 tons. The increase ,bv.er the last three years, ther.ef.ore, has been ap.proxjmat.eiy 50 per cent. Yet, the people .of Australia are expected to believe that it is net possible to send $.0 this country the mere trickle of S.0,00.0.,000 gallons annually which is required .to ensure adequate .supplies. I turn now to the Middle Eas’.t .sterling oil share of European tra.de. In 1938, 24 per cent, of Middle East sterling oil went to Europe. In 1947 the figure was 32 per cent. In 1949 it rose ,to 47 per cent, .and the .estimate for the .current financial year is 54 per cent. Whore and how has Australia participated in this increased availability of sterling oil? We are asked to believe tha.t petrol rationing is the only means by which equitable .distribution of petrol can b.e .achieved in this undeveloped nation. British oil interests have captured, and .are still capturing, foreign markets for British oil. An oil war is being waged between the big oil companies. Current British and American petrol journals highlight the fact that in their endeavours to save dollar currency continental .and Marshall aid countries .are buying sterling oil from Britain’s increasing sterling production. In addition, three other important countries - Egypt, .Sweden and Argentina - have recently switched to British oil Conditions in Norway indicate that that country, too, may be forced to rely on sterling oil because of its dollar situation. Does the Minister who will follow me in this debate know, and if so will he admit that sterling oil is going into China? Where are we getting sufficient sterling oil to make up even the pessimistic ration proposed by the Prime Minister? We have npt taken .advantage of these supplies in order to safeguard the economy of this country. Great Britain is committed to supply to Argentina £29,000,000 worth of petroleum “products during the first year of operation of the Anglo-Argentine agreement. These products will be supplied .by British oil-producing companies and wi.ll .comprise lj.800,000 tons of crude oi), 3,7.50,000 tons of fuel oil-which is refined o.il - and 250,000 tops pf other petroleum by-products. Under a trade agreement completed between Britain and
Brazil on the 3rd August last, Britain has undertaken to supply Brazil with £7,4S6,000 sterling worth of petroleum and petroleum products. What will be the dollar component of the products covered by these two agreements which in the aggregate will be worth approximately £36,500,000 to Great Britain? We are aware that Great Britain must obtain foodstuffs quickly, and that in order to do so it must depend on Argentina and be willing to make concessions in return. It is regrettable that Australia cannot obtain even a trickle of sterling oil to develop its productive capacity when at the same time its greatest competitor in the meat markets of the world is made the recipient of large quantities of sterling oil which, after being refined, will undoubtedly be resold. The Prime Minister has said that the contract with Argentina covered the supply of only 100,000 tons of petrol. Even if his statement is correct E remind him that that is equal to 30,000,000 gallons, a quantity which would go a long way towards relieving the petrol position in Australia. How are we to expand production in Australia in order to meet our commitments to the United Kingdom, unless we obtain sufficient petrol to meet our needs? Sterling oil trade agreements have also been concluded by the United Kingdom with Denmark, which is our greatest competitor in dairy products. As the result of the petrol shortage our dairying capacity must remain static. Our dairy-farmers are to be deprived of the requisite petrol to enable them to expand their activities so that they may be able to take advantage of desirable and promising markets. Sterling oil trade agreements have also been concluded by the United Kingdom with Sweden, India, and Israel. The Prime Minister has admitted that Britain has supplied quantities of crude oil to our former enemy, Italy. Indeed, the right honorable gentleman took the Leader of the Opposition to task for mentioning that fact, saying that after all it was crude oil, not refined oil. The supply of that oil places Italy in an ‘advantageous position. The Italians have established refining capacity and are selling refined oil to India and other countries. Nothing has been, done to obtain oil from Italy as a means of obviating dollar expenditure on petrol. I doubt whether the Government even knew of the existence of such an arrangement until it had been mentioned in this House. At present these continental and Marshall aid countries, in many of which petrol is unrationed, enjoy the advantages of dollar saving while Australia suffers the disadvantage of having to pay for its petrol in dollars and at the same time have its supplies of petrol rationed through the Chifley Government’s control of imports. Last month, the chairman of the British Automobile Association, Canon Hassard-Short, referring to the British Government’s explanation that rationing must continue for economic reasons, said very pertinently -
We should like to know how it is that other European countries which were conquered and overrun by the Germans are able to abolish petrol rationing and we m-e not.
Could not a similar question be asked by Australians with regard to the Australian position? When the European recovery plan was evolved it became clear that, on a long-term basis, increased refinery capacity would be necessary to avoid a heavy drain on the dollar or foreign exchange requirements of the importing countries. The provision of such increased capacity was a basic requirement. Britain has planned to increase its refinery capacity from 3,000,000 tons to 20,000,000 tons annually. Marshall aid Europe and associated Middle East oil production areas increased their refinery capacity from 70,000,000 tons in 1947 to 92,000,000 tons in 1949, and plan to increase capacity to 137,000,000 tons by 1952. What requests were made by the Chifley Government during the progress of that phase of long-term dollar planning, or since, to assure dollar conservation for Australia in the light of the warnings that were obvious from these facts? In the light of that information, all documented and authenticated despite what the Prime Minister may say about it, Australians are asked to accept the British position on faith alone without being supplied with sufficient facts on which to judge the case for themselves. One could not advantageously enlarge upon what the Leader of the Opposition had to say when he pointed out that honorable members had not been entrusted with the information that the Government must have in its possession so as to enable them to arrive at a sound decision in relation to petrol rationing. We are expected to follow the Government blindly, and the people are obliged to accept the decisions that are forced upon them by the Government. The Prime Minister told the Premiers that the total net cost of oil to the sterling area was well in excess of 400,000,000 dollars, or £100,000,000 sterling, annually. Subsequently the London Economist, which the Prime Minister cited as a non-partisan journal this afternoon, proved that the real cost of petrol and other oil products purchased from United States companies was only about 160,000,000 dollars a year. The balance, of well over 240,000,000 dollars, was split up into non-recurring capital items, such as refinery equipment, and current operating expenses at British exploited oil-fields outside the sterling area. Even when faced with this proof, the Prime Minister reiterated in the Parliament that the drain on the dollar pool in respect of petrol was well over 400,000,000 dollars a year at a very conservative estimate. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) challenged his statement by interjection, the right honorable gentleman admitted that the cost of petrol was only £42,000,000 a year and that the balance was made up of “ incidentals “ .associated with petrol.
– That is not so.
– It is recorded in Hansard. What is the good of saying that the Prime Minister did not admit it? The Minister denies everything.
– That is not in Hansard.
– I will bet that it is. Returning again to the figures stated in the Economist, I point out that the amount of 160.000,000 dollars is not a net figure, as no reduction has been made for the re-export of coal at a profit in foreign exchange, which has been made possible by the substitution of oil for coal as a fuel in the United Kingdom. What has the socialist Government of the United Kingdom done in order to boost its nationalized coal industry? It has carried out & campaign for the conversion of industry to fuel oil consump tion. The latest United Kingdom Hansard that I have received shows that 1,300 industrial undertakings have been converted, to use oil instead of coal, thus making it possible for Britain to export coal to Sweden and other countries and earn about £1 15s. 4d. a ton in exchange advantage. Much of the refinery equipment needed by the sterling area might bc supplied through the Marshall aid plan. When assembled it would be a future dollar-earning, or at least a dollarsaving item.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) from concluding his speech without interruption.
– I thank the Prime Minister for the generosity that he has extended to me in moving the motion that lias just been agreed to by the House. Before the suspension of the sitting I mentioned the Prime Minister’s admission that the cost of petrol itself was only £42,000,000 a year, and that the “incidentals “ associated with it made up the balance. That admission is to be found in Hansard of the 7th July last, at page 21SS. I also pointed out that even then 160,000,000 dollars is not a net figure, because no reduction is made for the re-export of coal at a profit in foreign exchange, which is made possible by the substitution of fuel oil for coal in the United Kingdom. The socialist Attlee Government’s policy has been to make the maximum possible .use of fuel oil, which it imports in order to relieve the demand on British coal, so that more British coal can be exported in order, no doubt, to boost the nationalized coal industry.
The United Kingdom imports of motor spirit alone from dollar sources, including aviation spirit, but excluding other oil products, are officially stated to have amounted in 1948 to only £stg.l6,000,000 f.o.b. My authority for that statement is the. authoritative journal which the Prime Minister himself quoted this afternoon, Petroleum Press Service, London, and the statement is contained in the issue of May, 1949. That is the figure for refined petrol, and it is surprisingly small when compared with the total dollar expenditure for all petroleum products, including the heavier oils similar to those supplied to Argentina and to Brazil. Furthermore, the London Petroleum Times of the 28th January, 1949, published a table of total United Kingdom imports of crude oil and refined . products for the calendar year 1948 from the various countries of consignment. Those imports were calculated from the preliminary official data published in the Trade and Navigation Accounts of the United Kingdom. They were preliminary figures only, but are sufficiently accurate to enable broad conclusions to be drawn. They show that the United States itself consigned only 551,000,000 gallons of crude oil and refined products to the United Kingdom in 1948, or 11.8 per cent, of total imports, the cost in sterling being £26,293,011, or just over 100,000,000 dollars. In the previous year, 1947, the United States supplied the United Kingdom with 25.7 per cent, of total imports, so that in one year the percentage supplied by America has declined to less than half.
Those figures, however, apply to the expenditure side only. They give only the gloomy half of the picture. The income side, which is far brighter, has not been given to the Parliament by the Prime Minister. He alone knows whether it has been given to him by Sir Stafford Cripps. From an exhaustive survey of British White Papers, I have calculated that receipts for petroleum sales by British companies will be in the vicinity of £170,000,000 net for the calendar year 1949. The British budget statement that was presented in April of this year emphasized the high hopes placed by the British Government in oil companies as earners of foreign exchange. Net invisible income, which includes the overseas earnings of British oil companies, was provisionally estimated at £100,000,000 in 1948, in contrast with a net deficit of £190,000,000 in 1947. Consequently, my provisional estimate for 1949 should not be very far astray. In any case, it must be admitted that Great Britain is making substantial inroads into world oil markets with considerable resultant profits. Dollar expenditure on oil is naturally closely related to Britain’s entry into world oil trade. Petrol rationing in Australia is also very closely related to it. All members of the Parliament are vitally interested in Great Britain’s economic recovery, and it may be that sales of sterling oil, or even oil with a dollar component, to other countries are a considerable factor in assisting that objective. If that is so, then let us have the full particulars of British oil trade and collateral advantages, so that we can form our own judgment in Australia of the necessity or otherwise for these trade manipulations to Australia’s disadvantage.
If Australia is being called upon to make more and more sacrifices to bolster up British economy, let us be treated with the frankness that is necessary between partners who, from sentiment as well as from economic necessity, are determined to revive a run-down business. Many thinking people consider that the British socialists have no practical plans for getting out of their troubles. If that view is wrong, the British and Australian Governments should dispel it by frank facts and detailed figures. Otherwise, Australia must be prepared to stand up to the British socialists. We must push on with our own development as a great nation, instead of slipping back into the position of the old colonial days by paying tribute to a bankrupt socialist economy in England. The situation must worsen if the Australian people meekly accept the dictates of Sir .Stafford Cripps, without having the factual basis to check his judgment to discover where we are heading for.
This afternoon the Prime Minister quoted the opinions of various people in a comparison of the rate of recovery of the United Kingdom with other countries that have received Marshall aid. He told us to give those comparisons a reply, and to ponder over them. I quote now the statement recently made by no less an authority than Mr. Winston Churchill.
– A tory.
– No one can ever accuse Winston Churchill of being anything but completely British. He said -
Every account which reaches us from Europe shows how more rapid in many ways has been the recovery of all the European countries than it has been here at home.
Some of these countries were our enemies and were forced to surrender unconditionally after being sheltered in war. Others have been defeated and overrun and held down for five years by foreign invaders.
But there is not one outside the iron curtain behind which socialism and communism prevail, which has not managed to get its life going in an active and civilized manner in many ways better than we have done under our Socalist Government with its mania for regulation and restriction.
Mr. Churchill is an eminent world figure, and even his greatest enemy must admit the outstanding value of his efforts towards saving the civilized world during the last war. I have read to the House Mr. Churchill’s appreciation of the position of the countries of Western Europe that are in receipt of Marshall aid compared with the plight of the United Kingdom under socialism.
As the Australian Government evidently is prepared to adopt a completely negative attitude towards increasing bur petrol supplies, the Opposition will suggest ways and means that may be explored to avert rationing in this country. I have already given the House authentic figures about the position in the countries of Western Europe that aTe in receipt of Marshall aid and in other countries, notably our former enemy, Italy. We in Australia are at a disadvantage compared with them. However, I leave aside that aspect, and even omit from consideration for the moment the wisdom of using every possible effort, as the Government should have done, to obtain at least a portion of the unrationed supplies of petrol from those countries in order to relieve the petrol situation in Australia. I shall now produce indisputable evidence, which is available to every honorable member, in order to show that petrol rationing can be averted, to the advantage of this country. Sterling tankers should be employed as far as possible to replace dollar tankers on the Australian run. My information is that approximately one-half of Australia’s imports of petroleum products arrive here in dollar tankers. If sterling tankers were used in preference to dollar tankers, the saving in freight, according to my advice, would be about 8,000,000 dollars a year. That amount would be sufficient to purchase, even if we were forced to purchase, 70,000,000 gallons of dollar petrol annually. At present, sterling tankers aggregating 100,000 tons are laid up. That figure includes five vessels each of which exceeds 8,000 tons dead weight which normally carry crude and dirty oils. I also understand that a considerable quantity of Panamanian tanker tonnage is laid up. The owners, in most instances, are willing to accept sterling in payment for freight. Although it may not be practicable to replace all the dollar tankers used in the Australian trade, a substantial saving of dollars, and a consequent increase of imports of petrol, should result from a thorough exploration of my suggestion.
An immediate investigation should also be made with a view to increasing refinery capacity in Australia. The Prime Minister has admitted that sterling crude oil is readily available to us. However, it is useless to import crude oil unless we have the necessary refining capacity. According to an official review of the Australian petroleum industry by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, dated August, 1949, approximately 16 per cent, of Australia’s requirements of refined petrol are provided by local refineries. The review also states that the output of the Australian petroleum industry from refineries is currently at the rate of 649,000 tons a year. This output is the result of using only 75 per cent, of the present refining capacity. Although it is a common practice to keep the output at about 85 per cent, of the capacity of the refineries, this figure may be exceeded in times of shortage or emergency. Therefore, by increasing the present output of Australian refineries to full capacity, as it is the responsibility of the Government to do, between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000 additional gallons of motor spirit could be refined each year in Australia. Combined with supplies obtained by other methods, that quantity would go far towards overcoming the need for petrol rationing in this country. I suggest that, because of the importance of this matter, the Government should give first priority to means for steppingup the capacity of refineries already operating in Australia. As I have stated, the output at present is only 75 per cent, of the capacity of the refineries. One of the companies which is already engaged in refining operations iii Australia is Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which, the Australian. Government has .a contrpiling interest,
I sis© suggest that available European sources of refined petrol, which may be purchased for sterling, should be more fully explored immediately. An independent Australian company, Australian Motorists Petrol Company Limited, .commonly known as Ampol, has paved the way for this method of ‘relieving petrol rationing in Australia. Obviously, if sufficient petrol from those sources is available and if the Government is prepared to issue an import licensee to cover them, the rationing of petrol in Australia, can be averted. One licence has already been granted to Ampol to import .3,500,00,0 gallons of Polish petrol.
– Will the company get that petrol?
– I shall deal in a moment with the reason why Ampol has not obtained the petrol, and I shall also refer to the scurvy treatment given to it by the Government in connexion with the matter. I understand Ampol was asked whether it would be prepared to market substantial quantities of Roumanian petrol in Australia. Negotiations are now under way as to quality, specification and price, and it is probable that substantial quantities will shortly be offered for firm shipment. An approach has also been made to sell petrol to Ampol through a Dutch source, for shipment to Australia. Here again, negotiations are in progress as to quality and price, but cargo load quantities are available from this source. Further, from two separate sources in London, firm cargoes of motor benzol have been offered to Ampol for shipment to Australia from a Russian port in the Black Sea, near the Turkish border. Negotiations are still in train with regard to these cargoes.
A licence to import Polish petrol has already been granted to Ampol by the Australian Governmnent. The London agents have advised that the necessary Polish export licence is in process of being issued to the Polish Government agency, which is the seller of the petrol. Advice has also been received from the
London .agents that .additional cargoes from, the same port and supplier will also be available. The whole of the suppliers pf petrol fr.pm all the sources which I have listed are prepared to accept non-convertible sterling for supplies. It would be impossible for these suppliers to obtain dollars for the petrol under the arrangements being negotiated. If an independent Australian petrol company, with its limited international resources, can unearth sterling petrol from more than one European country, why has not the Government been able to do at least as well with all of the facilities available to i t ? Failure to locate sources of European petrol offering for payment in sterling proves that the Australian Government has been guilty of gross negligence and of a callous disregard for the rights of Australian citizens, and, indeed, of the future defence and prosperity of this country.
By an agreement signed in New York on the 3rd June, 1948, the Australian Government agreed to supply the Government pf Poland with £A.250,000 worth of Australian wool as a free gift, and to pay the cost of procurement, storage, transport and shipping to the port of entry into Poland. That adequately combats the sneers of Government members with relation to Russian petrol. On the 29th June, an agreement was concluded in London to supply the Hungarian Government with wool worth £A.150,000, while on the 5th July a further agreement was concluded to provide Italy with £A.250,000 worth of Australian wool. In July, also, agreements were made to provide Austria and Yugoslavia each with £A.150,000 worth of wool. These are all free gifts of Australian wool that has been grown by rationed Australian primary producers, who are supposed to accept meekly, and without protest, the Prime Minister’s ultimatum with relation to petrol rationing. According to an official statement, for the nine months ended March, 1949, Russia purchased £A.11,375,000 worth of Australian wool. Why should we not p.ow take advantage of the petrol offered by some of these countries for export to Australia? We are not depriving other sterling areas of petrol, and we could purchase it with our overseas balances of which we have about £380,000,000 lying idle in England. What arrangements have been made for Russia to liquidate its wool debt to us of over £11,000,000? Are we to be supplied with goods, including petrol, in exchange, or will our idle London balances be augmented? Great Britain signed the Anglo-Soviet Trade Agreement in Moscow on the 27th December, 1947. Under that agreement the Soviet receives locomotives, rolling stock, excavators, caterpillars, cranes, generating equipment, and even oil purifying equipment, in return for grain. On the 13th April, 1949, it was announced in London that the negotiations were proceeding for a one-year trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Russia, but details of commodities were not mentioned, and are not available. These agreements surely provide the pattern for Australia. If we are selling Australian wool to Russia, and if we are giving wool free to her satellites, why should we not negotiate for petrol from Russian-controlled territories in exchange, and, indeed, approach these countries to facilitate the granting of necessary European export licences? In reply to the Prime Minister’s disclosure this afternoon of what he said was a confidential cablegram from London to the effect that Ampol had applied to the Australian Government to lend its aid to facilitate the issue of the requisite export licences, I point out that the right honorable gentleman accepted that as a weakness and a change of front. The definite responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Government is to facilitate these requirements on a government basis. If this Australian company cannot get the Australian Government to assist it in connexion with the requirement of export licences from Poland, to what other source can it apply? Instead of Government members sneering and jeering at the request, the Government should have exerted expeditiously every possible effort to assist the company to obtain the export licences.
I come now to another alternative. If it were necessary it could be implemented, although assuredly it is not necessary, in view of the evidence of availability of extra petrol. I challenge the Government to announce what it has done to exert its influence and discharge its responsibility to Australia in this regard. There should be a round-table conference with other Commonwealth countries to secure a more equitable re-allocation of dominion quotas. What is the position in relation to so-called reciprocal trade, sentiment, and British Empire preference? Irrespective of the Marshall aid position in Europe, what is the position in relation to Australia and its sister dominions in the British Commonwealth of Nations? The figures issued by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the accuracy of which has never been denied, indicate that the Australian motorist gets the lowest quota per vehicle of any British Commonwealth country. Canada uses 726 gallons, India 664, and South Africa 612 gallons a vehicle each year, which is more than twice the Australian quota on which the Australian consumers are asked to maintain the activities of this nation. This anomaly is unfair to Australia, and it should, and could have been rectified long ago. Apart altogether from availability, this is decided evidence against the necessity for petrol rationing in Australia.
The construction of a new, complete, modern refinery should be commenced immediately in Australia by Australian oil companies, and every assistance and encouragement should be extended to that project by the Australian Government. The official post-war reconstruction report, to which I have already referred, states that the case for undertaking such a project in this country as soon as possible is definitely considered to be strong. Such a refinery should be fully equipped to produce all commercial oil fractions, and to meet the most up-to-date specifications and utilize the gases by means of modern synthetic processes. It should have an annual throughput of not less than 500,000 tons, or about 150,000,000 gallons a year. On the basis of costs in the United States of America this would necessitate an expenditure of about £A.6,000,000. Even from a defence point of view alone the expenditure of so large a sum in dollars could be fully justified. Great Britain is spending millions of dollars on refinery equipment for use in that country. I have already described what other European countries that are in receipt of Marshall aid are doing. In 1948 the United Kingdom Government -authorized the oil industry to embark on an extensive programme to establish oil refineries in the United Kingdom capable of handling 20,000,000 tons of oil a year. That Government has also interested itself in the provision of refining plant in other countries in the soft currency area. Under Marshall aid, European refinery capacity has almost doubled since the war, as shown by the following figures : -
Italy has increased its refinery capacity in two years from 3,000,000 tons a year to 5,300,000 tons a year and is planning for a capacity of 10,000,000 tons a year by 1952. If Australia cannot obtain sufficient dollars from the dollar pool to establish a modern refinery here, we should immediately negotiate a dollar loan for the purpose from one of the international financial authorities of which we are a member. Such a refinery in Australia, using the modern cracking process, would supply us with high octane aviation fuel, refined petrol, kerosene, fuel oils, bitumen and lubricating oil. If the search for flow oil in Papua and in Australia itself happens to meet with success, we should be prepared with a refinery of a capacity sufficient to utilize the crudes that will then become available. Even if no flow oil is found here, we shall be able to obtain sufficient crudes from the islands adjacent to our north-west coast to keep such a refinery working at full capacity. The official post-war reconstruction review admits that sufficient supplies of crude oil are available in the sterling area. The Prime Minister also admitted in this House on the 7th July and has done so again to-day.
Recently it has been indicated in many English and American petroleum trade journals that the amount previously authorized under Marshall aid to provide for petroleum refineries in Europe is to be substantially reduced. Mexico is considered by many people not to be a progressive nation, but the Mexican Govern ment has seen the possibility of obtaining some of this divertible refinery equipment and has applied for 100,000,000 dollars’ worth of refinery plant. Articles in current journals indicate that a loan for this purpose will be granted through the Export-Import Bank. Has the Chifley Government watched this overseas development with the same interest and concern for the Australian people as that with which the Mexican Government has watched it on behalf of the Mexican people? Has it thought of applying for a share of this refinery equipment, or has it given any consideration to the matter whatever? The Dominican Republic is a small part-island in the “West Indies. Its area is approximately 19,000 square miles, and its annual budget is only £14,000,000.. The Government of the Dominican Republic has announced that an oil refinery is to be built there at an estimated cost of 15,000,000 dollars. The capital is to be provided jointly by Dominicans and foreign investors living in the republic. Evidently the Government of that relatively small and poor territory has displayed a greater concern for its people in a modern world than the Australian Government has done for our people.
I consider that I have submitted a most detailed case for the permanent abolition of petrol rationing which should convince every member of this House, every member of the State parliaments and every Australian citizen that the restrictions upon petrol imports that have been imposed by the Prime Minister, and the consequent rationing of supplies, are unreasonable and unnecessary. It is owing only to the obstructionist policy of the right honorable gentleman that the States have been put into the difficult position in which they now find themselves. They should never have been stampeded into accepting a responsibility, or any part of it, that assuredly is the Prime Minister’s responsibility. He is the head of the Australian Government, and he alone will be to blame for either emptying the bowsers or stopping the people from getting the supplies that they need without coupons. The facts and figures that I have presented show beyond all doubt that there is no ground whatever for the re-introduction of petrol rationing, even accepting the Prime Minister’s pessimistic forecast of future petrol consumption, -which he conveniently but unwisely bases upon abnormal conditions. If the right honorable gentleman can do no better than he has done, he should give way to a government that will have something positive to offer in exchange for his negative, stagnant policy of obstruction. He has no hope to offer in a world brimming with surplus oil.
Britain is supplying oil to European countries, which have been able to abolish rationing, but the Australian motorist has been left out in the cold. British oil companies are capturing world markets. Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Sweden and Norway can buy British oil, but Australia cannot get enough. Canada, India and South Africa have double our petrol quota per motorist, but our Government will not fight for a better quota. We know that British oil companies arc making profits by selling elsewhere oil . that could come here, but nobody has told us how large those profits are. The British oil companies know that the Australian market can be picked up at any time because the amount of oil that it absorbs is, comparatively speaking, only a trickle. Consequently, they are concentrating on the more favorable markets from their point of view, and that is to the disadvantage of undeveloped Australia. Dollar tankers come to Australia, while sterling tankers are idle. Other countries can obtain modern refining equipment, but Australia is left out on a limb, and in fact is not even using the refining capacity that is available to it. The Australian Government has not lifted a finger to get available non-dollar supplies of petrol. It has adopted obstructionist tactics against those who have refused to accept its defeatist policy and have bestirred themselves to improve our position. The Government has left its run too late, and is now blaming every one else for its own shortcomings. Petrol is available. Those who seek it will find it if they have the will to do so and are encouraged and assisted by this Government to take the necessary steps.
I support the motion of censure that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I say that every honorable member who votes against it, in face of” the facts that have been presented, will vote in favour of petrol rationing, to the detriment of Australian petrol consumersand of the nation as a whole.
– I have never heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) to less advantage than I heard him in this House this afternoon. The right honorable gentleman made very heavy weather of his attack upon the Government. He was followed by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition was absent from the chamber during most of the time that the Leader of the Australian Country party was speaking.
– That is quite untrue.
– Where is the Prime Minister now?
– Order ! The Leader of the Australian Country party was heard almost without interruption. There is only one way in which the Chair can deal with honorable members who disregard its rulings. I shall take that action against any honorable member who persists in interrupting the Minister.
– Had the Leader of the Opposition -been here, I am sure that he would have blushed with shame at the vicious attack that was made by the Leader of the Australian Country party upon the people and the Government of the United Kingdom.
I am allowed to speak in this debate for only 35 minutes. There are a number of matters with which I wish to deal, but I feel that I cannot begin to do so until I have dealt with some of the matters that have been raised by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party. The Leader of the Opposition wasted a good deal of time in dealing with the referendums that have been initiated by this Government to obtain greater powers for the Parliament. There is only one fact that emerges from a consideration of those referendums.
Mr. McEwen interjecting,
– I warn the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that I shall name him if he continues to interject.
– In 1944, this Government asked the people, by referendum, to. grant powers that would- have enabled it, had they been granted, to control the distribution of materials and goods: in short supply. Had that referendum been carried this Government would have continued1 to ration petrol in the interests of the people. On the occasion of that referendum the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party both requested the people of this country to vote against the granting of that additional power to the Australian Government.
Opposition MEMBERS - Hear, hear!
– There is no question about responsibility in this matter. The Australian Government makes it quite clear that in the best interests of the people of this country, considering the position that we are in to-day, it stands for a renewal of petrol rationing within Australia, because, the only alternative to petrol rationing will be an inequitable distribution of the limited supplies available. The leaders of the Opposition parties who have both spoken in this debate issued a joint statement to the press late last week in which the following words were used: -
We believe that the Chifley Government is open to very grave criticism for its policy and actions, but State governments, with no power over imports, and therefore no responsibility for their character or volume, must accept the position which Mr. Chifley creates , . .
We agree, under the circumstances forced upon the States, with the attitude of South Australia, and believe that all States should, under protest, adopt the same course.
In other words, they said that even if it is the fault of the Australian Government that petrol rationing is made necessary, the one thing that the States can do at the present time is to agree to its reintroduction. That is what the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have said in the joint statement that was made last week before the launching of this censure motion. But what attitude did those parties take during the campaigns in connexion with two State parlia mentary by-elections held in Queensland last week-end? They gave the electors eligible to vote in. those by-elections, opposite advice to that contained in the statement that they issued to the press last week. The two parties issued a statement to the electors in the Queensland by-elections. which contained these words. -
If you oppose the re-introduction of petrol rationing and renewed Canberra control, vote Liberal.
In other words, as I have said, they gave those electors exactly the opposite advice to that contained in their earlier joint statement. It is thus that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party prostitute principles for vote-catching.
– They put politics before the interests of the nation.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party and the Leader of the Opposition made some references to the petrol position in European countries. Both right honorable gentlemen said that there was no petrol rationing in France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark and a number of other countries. The plain fact is that no refined oil goes from the United Kingdom to either Italy or France, and in any event both Italy and France are recipients of Marshall aid, and can buy, with dollars provided for them by the United States of America, as much crude and refined oil as they wish, or as the United States will permit. So if there is any criticism about the fact that neither France nor Italy rations petrol or petroleum products, then it is criticism of the United1 States for being too generous to those countries. It cannot possibly be criticism of either the United Kingdom Government or the Australian Government. It is also a fact that in both those countries, and in other countries like Denmark and Holland, other methods are used to restrict petrol consumption. In France there is a two-price system under which supplies are made available to essential users at a certain price, whilst a much higher price is charged to non-essential users. In Denmark there is a limit to the area in which vehicles may operate. In Holland only essential vehicles are licensed and people who would like to use vehicles for non-essential purposes cannot obtain a licence and therefore cannot use petrol for such purposes. Motoring in Holland is also restricted to days other than Sundays.
Petrol rationing, of course, is closely linked to the dollar shortage. I want to draw attention to some of the facts that came to light at the recent financial conference held in London, but first I shall deal with some of the points raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party. The right honorable gentleman’s whole argument was that the United Kingdom was not giving Australia a fair deal. He suggested three specific ways in which Australia could be helped to obtain more petrol. He said that we could cut down expenditure on dollar tankers by using sterling tankers that were tied up. It is a plain lie to say that there are sterling tankers tied up. There are no sterling tankers tied up anywhere in the world.
– That is the lie.
– Then the right honorable gentleman said that there is a great shortage of sterling tankers. In fact, dollar tankers cost the sterling area nearly 100,000,000 dollars a year. One cannot imagine the United Kingdom using dollar tankers if it had sterling tankers available, and the plain fact is that it has no unused sterling tankers available. There are other considerations to be taken into account. There is a clause in the AngloAmerican loan agreement under which the United States made a large loan to the United Kingdom some years ago which provides for restrictions against discrimination by the United Kingdom in the use of tankers and other items. So the United Kingdom does not have quite as free a hand in this matter as the Leader of the Australian Country party seems to assume it has. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that if there were no sterling tankers available then there were Panamanian tankers available. Apparently he does not know that Panama is in the dollar aTea and that it is impossible to obtain Panamanian tankers without in the last resort paying dollars for them. He went on to talk about what is being done in Mexico and the Dominican Eepublic and other areas within the dollar area regarding the establishment of refining plants. Such’ work is being done with the assistance of the United States which makes dollarsavailable to these countries to enable them to build refineries. He also mentioned the matter of refining capacity in Australia, and referred to a very finereview that was compiled by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. He said that Australia’s refining capacity is being used up to 75 per cent. only. That is perfectly true, but what he did not make clear is that there is no refining plant in Australia, except the small plant at Glen Davis, which can crack crude oil. The oil that comes into this country is semi-refined. The Opposition parties were responsible for erecting the only refinery plant in Australia that is capable of cracking crude oil. I refer to the Glen Davis plant. But it would be quite impossible to bring crude oil into the ports of Australia and have it refined at the small plant at Glen Davis. That plant has not sufficient capacity to do the work necessary, and in any event the work now being carried out there at the present time would have to be suspended. So that is the explanation why only 75 per cent. of the refining capacity in Australia is being used at the present time.
The Leader of the Australian Country party then discussed how Australia could obtain petrol from other sources. He referred to the application by the Australian Motorists Petrol Company Limited, known as Ampol, which had asked for permission to import petrol from Poland. The Prime Minister replied to that point, but in order to put it on record again I propose to quote the cable received from the Australian Acting High Commissioner in London. The right honorable gentleman suggested that it was a confidential document, but if honorable members wish me to lay it on the table of the House I am prepared to do so. Do they wish me to do so?
– Then I lay on the table the following paper : -
Petrol from Poland - Copy of Cablegram, dated 0th September, 1949, from the Australian High Commissioner’s Office, London.
The cable reads as follows: -
Polish petrol. Stevinson Hardy and Co., London, associates of Australian Motorists Petrol Co., approached Trade Commissioner to-day, and advised that Centrala Produktov Naftowych were having difficulty in obtaining Polish export licence for this particular shipment of petrol. They requested support in making representations to the Polish Government. At the same time they asked that this information be treated confidentially as they did not wish to embarrass their Australian associates who are most perturbed at this development. Would appreciate instructions as to whether you would wish an approach to be made to the Polish Government representative.
It is clear, therefore, that the Leader of the Australian Country party made a statement which has no backing whatsoever. I shall be very much surprised if Ampol or any other company, even with all the assistance which the Government is prepared to give provided the petrol can be paid for in currency other than dollars, can get petrol from Poland, Roumania or Russia, or from anywhere else behind the Iron Curtain.
– Will the Minister table the reply to that cablegram?
– The reply is not here, so I cannot table it. The speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party consisted very largely in an attack against the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries generally. He said that the petrol ration in Australia was less .per vehicle than in any other part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. He cited figures which were supposed to have been given to him, as I understand it, by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. I do not know whether the figures relating to other British Commonwealth countries were correct, but those relating to Australia and New Zealand certainly were not.
– I did not cite any figures for New Zealand.
– The right honorable gentleman’s remarks were based, so he said, on a statement issued by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, and I repeat that the figures relating to Australia and New Zealand were wrong. According to official figures received from New Zealand, the petrol ration there is slightly below what the Australian ration used to be. Thus, once again, the Leader of the Australian Country party has made an incorrect statement. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government was endeavouring to peg the quantity of petrol consumed in Australia at a time when a great number of new vehicles was entering Australia from the United Kingdom. Thus, he said, whilst the number of vehicles on the road was increasing all the time, the total amount of petrol available was pegged, so that the amount per vehicle was decreasing. I interjected to say that the statement was incorrect. Last year, petrol consumption in Australia amounted to 415,000,000 gallons. The figure fixed for this year is 440,000,000 gallons, the quantity having been increased to allow for the greater number of motor vehicles in use. Therefore, the statement of the Leader of the Opposition was misleading and incorrect.
The quantity of petrol which can be imported is governed by the dollar position. That matter was discussed at the conference of British Commonwealth Ministers in London which began nine weeks ago to-day. The conference was called because of the catastrophic decline of the gold and dollar reserves in the sterling area. It was agreed by all those who had examined the figures, including the representatives of the United States of America, that the gold and dollar reserves should not be allowed to fall below £500,000,000. They were held at that figure up to the end of the first quarter of this year, but between then and the 30th June, they fell to £406,000,000.
– What was the cause?
– It was due very largely to a decline in exports from British Commonwealth countries to the dollar area. There was a decline in sales of wool by Australia to the United States of America, and a decline in sales of rubber and tin, as well as of manufactured commodities, including motor vehicles, by the United Kingdom to the United States of America. According to calculations made by Sir .Stafford Cripps when we were in London, three-quarters of the decline in the gold and dollar reserves was due to a decline in exports from the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries. I feel certain that his calculations were correct, because I had all the figures before me. During the .period the conference was in session in London, the reserves fell from £406,000,000 to £385,000,000, and if the decline continued at the same rate, reserves would be entirely exhausted within twelve months. Members of the Opposition do not seem to realize how calamitous it would be for the United Kingdom, for the British Commonwealth of Nations, and for men and women all over the world if the dollar and gold reserves in the sterling area entirely dried up, as they would have done within twelve months if no action, had been taken. Let us have a look at what that would have meant. It would have meant a. calamity for every country concerned. It would have meant that the people of the United Kingdom and of Australia would have had to live within their dollar income. When I make it clear that last year we expended 70,000,000 dollars moN than we earned the people will be able to understand how much suffering and confusion would have been caused to our economy, to what degree our economy would have disintegrated and to what degree unemployment would have risen had we been obliged to reduce our dollar expenditure last year by that amount. A cut of that magnitude in our dollar expenditure would have involved many of our great industries. I refer first to the motor body building industry in South Australia, One of the fairly big items in dollar expenditure is motor caj- chassis imported from dollar countries. It is true that we are importing many motor vehicles from the United Kingdom, but they are in the lighter classes. The heavier vehicles and chassis required for medium weight trucks are imported from dollar areas. Our transport system requires those vehicles. In order to maintain full employment in South. Australia it is necessary for the time being to continue the importation of motor car chassis, but if we had reduced our dollar expenditure to the degree I have indicated we would have had to reduce those imports by at least 60 per cent. In addition we would have had to reduce imports of tractors for primary producers. Spare parts for motor vehicles, trucks and farm machinery would also have had to be drastically reduced. It is almost impossible to estimate the consequence of a cut of the magnitude which would have been necessary had the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area been exhausted. Yet members of the Opposition parties suggest that we ought not to have followed the course of action that we took at the London conference. I have said sufficient to show that such action was essential in order to arrest the decline in gold and dollar reserves in London. After considering all the factors all the representatives at that conference agreed that certain recommendations should be made to their respective governments. That decision, which was unanimous, was madeby representatives of a number of countries which cannot be said to be controlled by either Labour or socialist governments.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party in their joint statement on this matter made it clear that they were attacking the people of the United Kingdom because those people had elected a socialist government. Incidentally, the people of the United Kingdom are entitled to elect whatever kind of government they like, and having elected a Labour government - whether it is a socialist government I shall not say - it can at least be said that the people of the United Kingdom have up to date shown complete confidence in that Government because it has not lost one of the 34 by-elections that have been held in Great Britain since it assumed office. If that Government is good enough for the people of the United Kingdom neither the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party nor anybody else in this country has a right to criticize them for electing the government. However, honorable members opposite have shown themselves in their true colours. They arelining up with the enemies of the United Kingdom because the very attitude they are taking up on this matter is the attitude that has been taken up by certain vested interests in the United States of America which are bitter enemies of the United Kingdom. Every honorable member has r heard of the Hearst press, and has read statements published in sections of the-
American press in criticism, of the United Kingdom. In fact, when European aid was under discussion in the United States Congress not long ago, one member of that assembly actually moved that such aid should be given to the United Kingdom only upon the condition that the United Kingdom Government did not go any further with its nationalization proposals. That is the antithesis of democracy. No representative of the United States of America is entitled to lay down conditions under which the United Kingdom Government shall conduct itself. The whole of this attack by members of the Opposition parties is, in fact, an attack upon the Labour Government of the United Kingdom.
I have said that all representatives at the London conference agreed that action must be taken immediately to arrest the decline in the gold and dollar reserves in the sterling areas. In attacking the decisions of that conference honorable members opposite apparently believe that they are attacking socialist governments. As a matter of fact, the majority of representatives at that conference did not represent socialist governments. The recommendation to reduce expenditure on imports from, dollar areas by 25 per cent, was unanimous. As the Prime Minister “has pointed out, that recommendation was supported by the representative of Ceylon, which has not a Labour government and which in fact earns more dollars than it actually expends. The recommendation was also subscribed to by South Africa, the government of which is not of a type that can be called either socialist or Labour. Incidentally, the representative of South Africa made it clear that he would recommend to his Government that it should take steps to restrict the consumption of petroleum products in that country. In fact, the representatives of each of the British Commonwealth countries promised to make certain that steps would be taken to restrict the consumption of petroleum products in their respective countries. The representatives of Canada which, technically, is not within the sterling area, and the representatives of Southern Rhodesia, Pakistan and India also agreed to that recommendation. As & matter of fact, the representatives of
Labour governments at that conference were in a minority, there being only three of them. They were the representatives of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. I repeat that all representatives at the conference agreed to the recommendations to reduce expenditure on imports from dollar areas. All of the governments concerned went into great detail in their investigations of the amount of dollars that would be available to them for expenditure next year. They took into account the amount of dollars that would be available to the United Kingdom under the Marshall aid plan. For the benefit of the Leader of the Australian Country party who has implied that the United Kingdom is not giving a fair deal to Australia in this matter, I point out that the plain fact is that if the United Kingdom had not gone into debt by borrowing to the extent of 3,700,000,000 dollars from the United States of America and 1,200,000,000 dollars from Canada and by drawing upon the International Monetary Fund to the extent of 300,000,000 dollars, Australia would not have been able to expend anything like the amount of dollars that it has expended during the last two years. Therefore, so far from the United Kingdom having given us an unfair deal it has treated Australia and other British Commonwealth countries very generously. The fact is that we have been expending dollars we could not afford simply because the United Kingdom was going into debt to the United States of America, Canada and the International Monetary Fund. Therefore, the case advanced by the Opposition parties completely falls to the ground. If there is any foundation for this motion at all, the Opposition party leaders should have shown just how Australia could save dollars. The dollars available to us are limited. Our resources consist of the dollars that we ourselves can earn, plus the dollars that we can obtain from the sterling area dollar reserve. The degree to which we can draw upon that reserve is declining, and if the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party had had their way, that source would have been exhausted long ago. Having decided upon the total number of dollars that we can expend in a particular year, that expenditure has to be allocated over a large number of essential imports. If honorable members opposite believe that the allocation of dollars for petrol should be increased, then they should suggest how dollar expenditure in other directions could be reduced. Are we to curtail the importation of motor chassis for instance, and thus create unemployment, particularly in the motor body industry in South Australia? The astute Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, knows that any curtailment of the importation of motor chassis would create serious unemployment in South Australia, and so he is supporting the re-introduction of petrol rationing.
The Opposition has failed to substantiate its criticism of the Government. On the contrary it has made out a good case for the re-introduction of petrol rationing. We all know, of course, that the Leader of the Opposition was forced to adopt his present attitude to this matter because his colleague, the Leader of the Australian Country party has taken a certain stand in this House. The Leader of the Opposition has had to so conduct himself as to create an impression of unity of purpose between the two Opposition parties which in fact does not exist. The Government is doing all that it can do to earn more dollars. It is making the best use of the dollar funds that are available to this country. It is assisting the United Kingdom by curtailing dollar expenditure to the limit so that the Mother Country may have sufficient dollars for its own rehabilitation, and to continue to play the part in Europe that it has played so successfully in the past, in maintaining a strong bulwark against the advance of communism.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in the opening sentences of his speech, said that I had been absent from the chamber during the bulk of the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). That statement was, of course, made on a set policy. It is not true. The Leader of the Australian
Country party addressed this House for 73 minutes, and it is some reflection on the Minister that he failed to observe that for 45 minutes of that period, I was sitting in the corner of the Opposition, front bench which is the place that I usually occupy when another honorablemember is at the table. For the remainder of the time, I heard the Leader of theAustralian Country party from the roped-off corner of the chamber, except for fourteen minutes, during which I was compelled to be absent on other matters. I have taken the trouble to check up the times with the clerk. Therefore, the statement that I was not in the chamber for the bulk of the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party is completely untrue. I had the advantage of hearing practically the whole of that speech - an advantage which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) did not enjoy either in relation to the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party or that of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
.- Having heard the blather of words from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), I do not wonder that no concrete proposal has been advanced by the Government to deal with the problem of petrol. Petrol is the life-blood of Australia. This is a country of wide horizons and long distances, and I should have thought that this debate would draw from the Government side some worthwhile proposal or at least some hope for the morrow, but neither has been forthcoming. The Government is a government of alibis. Whenever it is in trouble it blames factors for which it cannot be held responsible. On this occasion the dollars shortage is blamed. However, when the rains fall from heaven, and the harvests are bountiful, we are led to believe that the credit is due not to the Almighty who sends the rains, but to the Labour party. In other words, when things are right, the credit goes to the Labour party, but when things are wrong, the fault always lies with something else. When we send a man such as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to international conferences, it is little wonder that Australia’s voice is not heard because, in truth, he does not speak with the voice of Australia. It is time that we in this chamber said quite plainly that our obligation is to Australia, and to Australia is the obligation that I shall discharge to-night. Let us put this problem in clear perspective because it has been made most complex by the thousands of millions of dollars that have been thrown around the chamber. To the people, the problem is simple enough. Although four years have elapsed since the war ended, there is still insufficient petrol in this country. Let us review the facts. The world is producing more petrol than the world needs. That cannot be disputed. Australia is one of the few countries which export more than they import, and thus enjoy a. favorable balance of trade. Australia is producing the very commodities of which the world is in great need, yet the Australian Government is unable to suggest any means by which we can marry our production capacity to sufficient of the world’s over supply of petrol to sustain a sound economy. I think that a few words should be said about the petrol problem itself without burdening the people of this country with too many figures. I do not expect, of course, that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will take any notice of what anybody on this side of the chamber says, but it is well that the people of this country should know the facts. Some time ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), speaking in this House, estimated the cost of abandoning petrol rationing in Australia at 17,000,000 dollars which, reduced to terms of Australian currency, is something less than £6,000,000. That is the issue - a mere £6,000,000 when, throughout the world to-day, Marshall aid is being spoken of in terms of more than £2,000,000,000 ! The Marshall aid allocation to Great Britain this year is approximately £300,000,000. The actual cost of abandoning petrol rationing in Australia, as I have said, would be less than £6,000,000, yet this Government is incapable of measuring up to that problem. Petrol has h greater significance to Australia than it has to most other countries. The Prime Minister, in a speech which I hope shortly to prove was most unfortunate, made a footling comparison of the Australian petrol ration with that operating in Great Britain. He said that the
British motorist was able to do only 90 miles a month compared with 160 miles for the Australian motorist. He might have mentioned the vast distances that motor vehicles have to cover in this country, and the pressing need of Australian primary producers for motor transport to haul their commodities over hundreds of miles. In that respect, the economies of the two countries are entirely different. I say that, in terms of criticism not of what has been done in Great Britain but of our Prime Minister. Not until recently did the right honorable gentleman confess that restrictions do not solve any problem. I should have thought that that was obvious to any one years ago. Only recently, the Prime Minister, always throe years behind those who deal with and think about this matter, agreed that restrictions will not solve any problem. For three years this problem has been confronting us, but nothing has been done about it. Now, we are told that perhaps in 1952 everything might be all right. Indeed, for all the right honorable gentleman knows, it may well be three or ten years after 195:? before everything is all right. This is a problem that can be expressed in simple terms. The world is producing so much petrol that more is available than the world needs. This country - I am speaking about Australia and we should not be confused by what is taking place in Afganistan or Colombia - produces goods which the world needs, yet we are told that we cannot obtain £6,000,000 worth of petrol through the ingenuity of leading Ministers in the Government-
– The honorable gentleman was not told that.
– We were told that. Restrictions are the very philosophy of socialism. Socialists believe that they can create by destroying. To-day Australia’s wealth is being destroyed and its productivity restricted because neither imagination nor intelligence is displayed by the Government in the solution of our problems. Let me deal with the problem a little more closely. It has confronted us for three years. The Government asks, “ What can we do about it?” To-night the Prime Minister said four or five times over that there are only two ways in which the problem can be solved - by earning more dollars or buying more dollars. The right honorable gentleman did not suggest how we should earn more dollars and he said that we cannot buy more dollars. That is the philosophy which is advanced by the Prime Minister of this country. I shall suggest to him some ways in which this problem can bc met. Our representatives should really represent Australia rather than pretend to represent Australia. For years past we have heard of international free trade and the removal of trade barriers, yet the very thing which the Government is doing is to impose more and more trade barriers. This Government pretends to stand for Australia, burt every action it takes is against Australia’s interests. If this problem had been put to the people they at least might have supplied the solution. Surely we could have said when Marshall aid was being discussed, “ We as a country produce the wool, the wheat and the meat for which the world is clamouring. All we ask is that because we participate in the re-adjustment of Europe and supply the things without which Europe cannot >e resuscitated, we should be given something in return, not necessarily the equivalent of what we supply, but that which is- necessary to enable us to .maintain our economy so that in turn we can produce more, and thus make the problem of European recovery more easy of solution.” Would it have required the exercise of great brain power to formulate such a demand ? Time and again our Ministers have gone overseas; we have representatives in all parts of the world; but what advantage has Australia derived ? We hear a great deal ,a.bout the declaration of human rights and that sort of thing. What we are concerned about is how are Australia’s interests to be served by building up vast sterling balances in Great Britain which we cannot use ? We should strive to get something- better than great balances in return for our goods. The Prime Minister did not deal with what has occurred during the last three years. He spoke constantly of the shortage of dollars, and said, “We cannot do anything about it:” The right honorable gentleman wants to get control of this country by imposing petrol rationing for another three years-
– Rubbish !
– I agree with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) that it is rubbish. Indeed, it is the worst kind of rubbish we have ever heard from any Prime Minister. No doubt the Minister for Immigration will engage in one of his characteristic replies later in the debate. The Prime Minister’s ideology is the ideology of every Socialist. Like every other Socialist the right honorable gentleman believes in a policy of restrain and restrict. When the Government sought to deal with production by controlling prices it very largely destroyed the ability of the country to survive. What has the Government proposed’ as a solution o’-f this problem? It has offered no solution whatsoever. Apparently we can produce as much as we like hut there are to be no move dollars to meet the important requirements of our economy.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction cited some figures to-night to which I should like to refer. Once again his figures were incorrect. The honorable gentleman said that last year Australia had drawn in dollars the equivalent of £A.70,000,000. We did nothing of the kind. Our adverse balance was £70,000,000, but we drew dollars to the value of only £A.51,000,000. It is nothing new for Australia to draw upon Britain for dollars. That has been a feature of our economy ever since we have been a nation. The pattern of our trade and commerce is such that we settle in sterling. Whatever dollars we earn must go through Britain. By reason of the pattern of our trade we cannot earn dollars with which to meet the requirements of this country.
– Would the honorable member express the amounts which he has quoted in sterling?
– The conversion is simple. It is necessary only to multiply by five and divide by four. In 1946-47, when petrol rationing was in operation, £16,900^000 was drawn from the dollar pool. In the following year the amount was £51,200,000. The year 1947-48 was a year of increased dollar imports for many reasons. For the year just ended it had been estimated that our adverse balance would amount to approximately £29,500,000 and on that basis the amount which would he required to be remitted would be approximately £14,500,000. From the amount of £29,500,000 there must be deducted first the estimated value of the inflow of American capital amounting to £5,000,000, and the estimated value of gold production amounting to £10,000,000, leaving a net adverse balance of £14,500,000 as estimated. This amount has, I know, been somewhat increased since the date of the estimate. I draw attention to the fact that in May of this year the Prime Minister said in this House that the abandonment of petrol rationing would cost an additional 17,000,000 dollars or £A.6,000,000. One factor seems to have escaped the Government’s attention. If we produce more gold we can immediately obtain the equivalent dollars in world parity. We produce approximately £A.10,000,000 worth of gold annually, and that is sold for sterling. ‘We get the benefit of it because to that extent we do not have to draw upon the dollar resources of Great Britain. It is remarkable that this Government, faced with a problem which, in terms of money, is not very great, has made no attempt whatever to increase Australia’s gold production. It is significant that our gold production has declined by 50 per cent, since 1939. The following table shows what has happened : -
Then production started to decline sharply. By 1945, output had decreased since 1939 by 1,000,000 fine ounces to ‘645,000 annually. Production for the last two complete years was as follows.: -
If we could achieve even the pre-war rate of production, we should immediately benefit, at the present price, by £8,000,000, £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 annually. Yet the Government says that nothing can be done about the dollar, situation! Why has it not encouraged1 gold production? I should have thought that it would be to our advantage to pay a substantial subsidy upon gold. I know that limitations are imposed by the international monetary agreement to which this Government subscribed, even though certain features of it were opposed by honorable members on this side of the House. The economy of the country was considerably hampered by the Government’s action in that respect, but there are other ways in which production of gold can be increased. Had Australia’s gold production returned to the pre-war level, there would be no need for petrol rationing in this country to-day.
– Who wants to go goldmining, anyhow?
– The Minister is not concerned about whether farmers have sufficient petrol or not. His only concern is to make silly interjections about an important matter of grave concern to the people. What kind of a Prime Minister is it who comes into this chamber and says, notwithstanding the facts that I have stated, “ Well we cannot buy what we want because we have not enough money and dollars are short. The only way is to earn more dollars, and that is difficult. I cannot suggest how it can be done “ ? The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has made concrete proposals, and I have just made another one. Before this debate ends, 1 should like some honorable member on the Government side of the chamber to answer this question : If gold production is increased, will not our dollar problem be relieved to the value of that increased production? If that question is answered in the affirmative, as I believe that it must be, I should like to have an answer to this question: Why has the Government done nothing whatever to increase gold production above its present low level, the lowest level that it has reached in this country for many years, with the exception of the war period? There are many other ways in which this problem could have been .attacked but which this Government has neglected.
We are concerned to-day with the problems of Great Britain. A very unworthy speech was made by the Prime Minister. Apparently when any honorable member stands up for Australia’s rights in these matters, the fashion is for Labour party members to say that he is attacking Great Britain. This new-found support for Great Britain, I should have thought, would stick in the throats of some Ministers. I can remember, not long ago, when I sat with them in the War Council and’ elsewhere, hearing some disgraceful comments made by them about Great Britain. But at that time there was a Conservative leader in Great Britain. To-day, I say quite deliberately, Australia’s interests are being obscured because this Government is a socialist government, and it is being led by exponents of the socialist ideology on the other side of the world1. What is the use of balking on this matter? Apparently we must not criticize what takes place elsewhere. We are to be simply the tail of the dog. For my part, as an Australian I refuse to be the tail of the dog. I say that we, as Australians, are bound to assert our position in the world and that we can do so quite consistently with the interests of Great Britain. Indeed, if we display any wisdom, we can do so in support of Great Britain. I shall suggest how we can do so. Great Britain’s problem is not a dollar problem alone. It is also a sterling problem. This problem has been discussed at Washington, and 1 should have thought that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction would be in some way acquainted with it, if he can ever see it through Australian eyes, which I very much doubt. It involves the mounting sterling balances of India and other countries in Great Britain. Australia’s sterling balance in the United Kingdom is becoming substantial. Our top-ranking Ministers should assert Australia’s rights and should sit with the representatives of other nations in conference to solve this problem. I cast no reflections upon Mr. Makin or Mr. McFarlane when I make that suggestion, but they are not the men whom I want to see representing Australia in such discussions. I want our top-ranking Ministers to accept their responsibilities and say that we can contribute to the solution of the problem, not by giving Great Britain another £10,000,000 from our sterling balance, but by reducing that balance substantially, provided that Australia, in return for giving assistance in the rehabilitation of Europe - and the solution of Europe’s problems is not yet complete - can get the things that it needs to develop the nation. That seems to me to be the long and the short of the matter. But the Labour party’s policy is to do nothing except restrict.
There can be nothing but disaster for Australia if we do not speak forth courageously and assert our rights in the world. Furthermore, I believe that, if we speak plain sense, we shall be given a decent and satisfactory answer. The attitude of the Government has been revealed by its reply to the proposal that has been made for the purchase of Polish petrol. 1 mention this subject in order to show how the Government has failed to face up to its responsibilities. The situation is clear enough. It is the responsibility of the Government, since it is restricting petrol imports, to endeavour on a governmenttogovernment basis to obtain additional supplies of petrol from non-dollar sources.
– How do you know that it has not done so?
– Obviously it has not. done so. When the public was told for the first time that there was a chance for Australia to get petrol from Poland, the Scottish Minister, whom listeners have probably identified1 by his burr-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy).- Order!
– Well, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. What did the Minister say when that statement was made to the public? He said that it was a lie, that it was quite false, and that if Mr. Warner was not speaking from his abysmal ignorance he would know how silly it was. That is why I know that the Government has done nothing. The Prime Minister said that he would make inquiries about the proposal to import Polish petrol. If the Government had already made inquiries, why did he want to make more inquiries? The truth is that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and others like him are trying to fool the public into believing that the Government has not been inactive in this matter. That is a good example of the morals of public life as exemplified by the Labour party. The point I want to make is clear enough. When the Prime Minister spoke, in the course of the debate, he revealed exactly the same lack of scrapie as did the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, because he quoted from a cable that was confidential in order to incommode those who were criticizing the Government. The right honorable gentleman did not care that he was disclosing confidential information. Although the cable was asked to be treated confidentially, that request was utterly disregarded. When the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction mentioned ‘ the cable, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) interjected and asked, “ Where is your reply ? “ “ Oh,” said the Minister, in effect, “ I did not bring it to school”. He did not bring it into the chamber! Why did he not bring it into the chamber? I venture to say that the last thing the Government wants is that Polish petro] should be brought into this country, so that it cannot be said that the Government failed to exert itself, as was its bounden duty, I should imagine that it is doing its utmost to sprag any such attempts.
There will be occasion during the budget debate to make certain observations on the dollar problem generally. For my part, all I want to say now is that at no time has this Government made any positive attempt to solve the petrol problem. It has not encouraged1 the investment of American capital here; on the contrary, it has rebuffed any such proposals. Not so long ago the Prime Minister said that he was not desirous of having too much American capital invested in Australia. Indeed, he refused one particular application to invest a sum equivalent to more than £1,000,000 on the ground that if the undertaking concerned successfully established itself m this country its operation would involve the remission of dollars to the United States of America. What a short-sighted policy for a Prime Minister to entertain! To-day, a different policy is being adopted. The new policy has been forced upon the Labour Administrations of Australia and Great Britain by criticism from the non-Labour political parties. Time and again in this Parliament members of the Opposition have told the Government : “ One of the ways in which you will solve your problem is to encourage the investment of American capital in the sterling area,” What has the Government done to attract American capital to this country? It has done its utmost to prevent the investment of American capital in Australia. Indeed, it has combated the investment of United States capital by its dollar taxation provisions, in contrast with the concessions that it has extended to Great Britain. The only reason why we are deficient in dollars is that we have an adverse balance against us in the United States of America.
So it is that this Government stands condemned on all counts. It is a government of too little, too late. The attitude that it has displayed in this matter of petrol shortage is similar to that which it displayed during the recent coal strike. It took seven or eight weeks for the Government to do what the Opposition suggested it should do in the first week of the strike. And sooner or later the Government will be compelled to follow the course advocated by the Opposition in this matter, because that course is the only rational solution of the problem. I support the motion of censure.
– I ask leave to make a personal explanation.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy ).-r-Does the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction consider that he has been misrepresented’ by the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) ?
– Yes. The honorable member for Warringah stated just now, and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) said earlier, that for ulterior motives I withheld from the House a reply to a cable that was quoted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley).
– I said nothing of the sort. Do not tell lies.
– Order ! The Chair is in control of the House. The Minister has sought the right to make a personal explanation, and he will be heard. I will name the next honorable member who interrupts.
– I repeat that the honorable member for Warringah alleged that I had withheld, for ulterior purposes, the reply to a certain cable. That is not correct, and if the honorable member for Warringah or the honorable member for
Reid wants to see the reply to that cablegram I am prepared to show it to him.
– I do not want to see anything privately. None of your backdoor methods with me.
– With the permission of the Chair, I propose to read the reply to the House.
Opposition members interjecting,
– The honorable member for Warringah .apparently does not want it read.
– I call the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke).
– I rise to order. The House is governed by the rules of the House of Commons, which provide that the member who first rises and catches the Speaker’s eye shall be called. I have risen at every stage in this debate. I rose immediately after the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had spoken, again after the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had spoken and again after the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I then went and put my name down at the Speaker’s chair, and there was no other name there. I have consistently risen, but I have been refused a call, and I raise the point of order that I am now entitled to the call in preference to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) whom you have just called.
– I rise to order.
– Order! It is the practice of the occupants of the Chair to call honorable members as it sees them. I know nothing of the earlier attempts of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) to rise in his place. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) had concluded his speech I saw the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), and I gave him the call.
.- The censure motion before the House must surely be the weakest ever moved in this assembly. It seeks to censure the Government on the handling of the petrol situation. The motion reads -
That, in the opinion of this House, the present shortage of petrol supplies in Australia, which is increasingly affecting vital production and transport, is to a substantial extent due to the policy and inaction of the Government, and that the Government in consequence deserves the censure of this House.
No evidence has been brought forward to prove that that is the case. No evidence has been submitted to show that petrol supplies can be obtained outside the sterling area. It is true that statements have been made from time to time that petrol can be obtained. In fact, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) suggested that petrol was flowing like water throughout the world. Of course, the Opposition is wholly disingenuous in this matter, and its allegations are entirely unsupported by the facts of the present situation. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) truly said that petrol is the life-blood of Australia to-day. In fact, it is the life-blood of all modern communities in peace as well as in war. For that reason it is doubly true that if the total supplies of petrol to this country have to be limited some form of rationing must necessarily be introduced. Since petrol is the life-blood of the country, it follows that the continued distribution of petrol without rationing at a time when we are confronted by a serious shortage, would definitely have the effect of starving the Australian community by creating dislocation and chaos in all forms of production. The honorable member for Warringah went on to say that our first obligation is to Australia. That is undoubtedly true. Our first obligation is to Australia, but our obligation to ourselves involves us in obligations throughout the world. We are also under an obligation to Great Britain, not for sentimental reasons at all, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) truly said to-day, hut because of the cold hard facts of the present situation. We do not earn sufficient dollars to buy all the petrol and other dollar products that we need. For that reason we have to go to the centre of the sterling area, the British Isles, to obtain the extra dollars that we require. Honorable members opposite appear to suggest that we have some actual or legal right to obtain the dollars that we require. We have no such legal right. By sheer force of circumstances Great Britain might be forced to deny dollars to us. Indeed, by its own deliberate action Great Britain ‘could deny dollars to us. We ‘have no right that could not “be alienated if the United Kingdom sought to obtain more dollars for itself or was unable to obtain dollars. Custom and practice throughout the years have Jed us to believe that “we can obtain all the dollars that we ‘require by holding out balances in London. However, the fact cannot be too strongly stressed -that we have no legal claim or automatic right to demand from the United Kingdom the dollars that we need . That means, therefore, that our obliga- tion to Australia - ‘the very obligation to which the honorable member for Warringah has .referred - demands that *e join with ‘Great Britain in an attack upon this very real dollar problem.
The honorable gentleman also told us that Australia -should receive something in return for all that it is giving. We are building up sterling balances abroad, and because of that, he suggests that we should obtain dollar goods. However, nearly every country in the world - certainly all the countries in the sterling area with the exception of a few like Ceylon - has the same dollar problem. I stated on a previous occasion, and I repeat it this evening, that the dollar problem is not a recent development. Indeed, it has existed for many years, and was met in the pre-war period only by the enormous volume of American tourist traffic and a growing volume of American investments abroad. The American tourist traffic was a real source of benefit to the countries in which the dollars were expended. However, American investments abroad were not such a material advantage as is generally believed to-day. Shortly after World War I-, American investments abroad made a substantial contribution to the improvement of conditions in all the countries of Europe, ‘but when a financial and economic depression developed and it appeared likely that the countries to which the loans had been granted or in which the investments had been made were not able to meet the interest payments or repay the capital, the American investments were withdrawn. On that account, the deteriorating economic situa-tion in the countries concerned Was greatly accentuated. Consequently, an increase ‘tff American investments overseas is no’t the real -answer to ‘the present dollar problem. Indeed., American investments ‘in the past have aggravated, not cured, -the situation. That might be repeated at a future date, should a financial ‘and economic depression develop.
The honorable member for Warringah claimed ‘that he .possessed an easy solution of the dollar problem. He declared that an increased production of gold would solve our dollar problem overnight. What the honorable gentleman forgets is that gold mines are a wasting asset. The gold is continually petering out, and cannot always be mined profitably. Such a situation now exists in the Australian gold -mining industry. After having ‘been worked for a long period, many mines are petering out, and that factor is probably one of the major causes of the decline of gold production to-day. lt is true, of course, that high costs in the industry generally have had a marked effect upon the production of gold. However, another fact is inescapable. The United States of America is the only final buyer of gold in the world, and it refuses to pay more than the amount fixed in dollars for an ounce of fine gold. It is true, in theory, that the price is fixed by the International Monetary Fund, to which the United States of America is a large contributor, but whether that fund existed or not, America, as the only buyer of gold in unlimited quantities, would still be the nation that would determine the price of gold. The American nation, and not necessarily the International Monetary Fund, has expressly stated that it will not buy gold from countries which subsidize the production of the precious metal. That is the first answer to the claim that the increased production of gold will solve our dollar problem overnight.
However, there is a second answer, and, in my opinion, it is an even more vital one. I refer to the manpower situation in this country. Even if the gold were iri the earth, We could not greatly increase the production without also increasing the man-power engaged iti it. Every industry urgently requires man-power In order to obtain additional gold with which to purchase more e dollars, we should need to divert man-power from Other essential industries. Such a policy would not be to the advantage of food-producing industries, and certainly would not alleviate the hunger and famine that still exist in many countries. The honorable member for Warringah said that he would gladly give away our sterling balances in London for the goods that we need. He meant, of course, that he would gladly exchange our sterling balances in London for all the dollar goods that we need. What is the position? Even if we were to give away every penny of our sterling balances in London, we should still be unable to buy more dollars from the general pool for the simple reason that additional dollars are not available to countries which desire to convert their sterling balances into the hard currency. The honorable member for Warringah said that the Government had done too little, too late. Actually, the Government’s policy has been ahead of the situation on every occasion. The Government sought, by referendum, to obtain power to continue prices control, because it realized that the authority which it derived from the defence power under the Constitution was disappearing. The Government also sought to obtain power to continue rationing, because it knew that its authority in that respect would be tested in the post-war period. The Government was denied those powers. The people believed that the Commonwealth’s authority would continue until conditions returned to normal. Instead of being guilty of the charge of “ too little, too late “, the Government has been ahead of public opinion in these matters. Too late, the people realized that the Government’s approach to the problems was the correct one.
– Can the honorable member prove that?
– The growing feeling in the States to-day indicates that my assessment of the position is strictly accurate. Liberal governments and Labour governments are willing to refer to the Commonwealth power to continue petrol rationing. Is that not evidence of the truth of my words? The Liberal governments of Western Australia and South Australia, which are content to refer to the National Parliament power to continue petrol rationing, clamoured loudly a few years ago for the return to the States of various powers that the Commonwealth had exercised during the war. Their slogan was, “ No more power to the Federal Labour Government “. Petrol is only one aspect of the larger dollar problem, which has been thoroughly analysed by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). Honorable members opposite state that Australia should seek more dollars from, the pool for the purchase of additional petrol to meet its domestic requirements. This demand is an example of the factors that have caused the whole dollar problem. The vast loan that the United States of America granted to Great Britain after World War II. was a most worthy effort on the part of the American people. However, the granting of the loan was contingent upon a condition which, in my view, has brought about the existing situation and defeated, in a large measure, the whole purpose of the loan. That condition required the United Kingdom Government to agree to convert sterling into dollars twelve months after the granting of the loan. That caused a run upon British sterling, and resulted in the present drastic dollar situation. Immediately that twelve months ended the countries throughout the world that were selling commodities to Great Britain demanded convertibility of sterling to dollars, and there was an enormous drain on the accumulated dollars in the pool. That loss has never been recovered. In less measure the Opposition claims that we should get more dollars, thus causing a greater strain upon Great Britain’s sterling reserve pool. As honorable members know, Great Britain is suffering hardships greater than any that exist in Australia to-day. The speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party was most unworthy. The right honorable gentleman referred in most disparaging terms to the British Government and the British people. He quite clearly stated his position. It is abundantly clear that whatever views favorable to the people of Great Britain he expressed in bygone years were solely due to the fact that a tory administration had ruled the British nation for many years. Apparently it only takes a change in the British Government from
Liberal to Labour to make the right honorable gentleman, and, I am sorry to say, some of hi3 supporters, anti-British in their outlook. The right honorable gentleman has said that Great Britain is capturing the markets of the world. Is that a terrible thing to do? That is the claim that is made by the industrial magnates of the United States of America, particularly the financiers of “Wall-street, because Great Britain has sold sterling petrol to countries which otherwise would have needed dollars to pay for it. His speech did nothing to advance his case, and was most unworthy, having regard to the hardships through which the British people have gone, both during and since the war period. The right honorable gentleman mentioned that Great Britain had supplied petrol to countries throughout the world. The sources of petrol are well known, and the spheres of influence into which they fall can very easily be decided. Broadly speaking, there are three main sources from which petrol can be obtained at present, according to geographical groupings. First, there is the American source, which demands dollars for all petrol supplied. Secondly, there are the British interests in the oil-fields throughout the world. The petrol situation, of course, from the time that use was first made of oil, has been a most mixed one in the industrial history of the world. “We still cannot decide to what degree other interests are involved and dollar commitments are concerned in connexion with supplies of British petrol that might come to this country. It is certainly true that even in British petrol there is some dollar content, as the Prime Minister has said. Thirdly, there is the Russian source, embracing countries within the Russian sphere of influence. It is interesting to hear honorable members opposite suggest that petrol rationing is unnecessary in this country because of supplies that are available from behind the Iron Curtain. Although in the past they have argued long and loudly against any association with countries coming within the Russian sphere of influence, to-day they suggest that we should in fact, use all of the available supply, and enter an unrationed period, relying on the thought that we might obtain sufficient supplies of petrol from Russian zones or Russian spheres of influence to carry us through.
– Ban the “ Corns “, but buy their petrol!
– Although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has suggested that the Communists should be banned in this country, Mr. “Warner, Minister for Housing in Victoria, expressed his opposition to that view very forcibly. He said that he did not believe that the banning of the Communist party would achieve any useful purpose. I understand, however, that he is the head of a group which seeks to obtain Russian petrol. This interesting situation has been brought to my mind by the interjection of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). However, as I have said, we know these three main spheres of petrol supplies through the world. It is idle to suggest that in holes and corners throughout the world there are tucked away vast stores of petrol to be had by this country for the asking. The simple fact is that every nation that has petrol to-day, with the possible exception of the United States of America, can sell it readily to buyers throughout the world. That is not wholly true of crude petroleum and crude petrol. It is certainly true that, except for the dollar problem, every gallon of petrol raised and refined could be sold to ready buyers throughout the world. That explains the British situation, and particularly the British deal with Argentina. Great Britain requires a vast amount of goods that are not available from countries that are allied to Great Britain in the sterling bloc. A considerable quantity must come from the United States of America. For the purchase of goods from other countries; however, particularly the Latin American countries, oil is quite useful Great Britain was able .to obtain vast quantities of meat and other goods from Argentina because it had petrol to offer in exchange. Had that petrol not been available Great Britain would have had to pay out dollars that it sorely needs for a variety of other commodities from the hard currency areas. The Leader of the Australian Country party himself delivered a smashing blow to the case that he presented. He pointed out that the bulk of the petrol coming to Australia to-day is brought in American tankers, and although wo are buying sterling petrol, a vast amount of dollar expenditure is incurred for tanker space. That as true of the present situation. Any increase of the quantity of petrol brought here would involve additional dollar commitments. In any case, even if we were able to buy more petrol from British suppliers and bring it to Australia in British tankers, Great Britain would still be committed to sell large quantities to consumer countries throughout the world. That would involve* the Mother Country obtaining petrol from dollar sources in order to honour commitments. No matter how the situation were juggled, any increase of petrol supplies to this country would result in additional dollar commitments. Let us consider the application of petrol rationing in the various countries of the British Commonwealth. They have all had problems, such as problems of distance, to which the honorable member for Warringah referred. The most striking example that can be brought home to us is the spectacle of what happened in our sister dominion of New Zealand. That country had a period of unrationed petrol, when, shortly after the war, it abolished petrol rationing. The dollar situation was then not so acute as it is to-day. However, the people of that country could not get through successfully during that period of unrationed supply. People who could afford to buy, and were “ in the know “, were able to get petrol, whilst others were not able to obtain supplies vitally required. The Government of New Zealand then somersaulted, which is one of the most difficult things for a government to do. It reimposed petrol rationing and, I presume, reintroduced a coupon system. That demonstrates conclusively that petrol rationing is still necessary in the Dominions. It would be necessary here, even if we were not assured, as we undoubtedly are, that we cannot obtain additional supplies of petrol without drawing upon the sterling area dollar pool. That pool is diminishing at an alarming rate. Petrol is still rationed in Great Britain although, as I have already pointed out, the Government of
Great Britain has a perfect right to say, if it so desires, “We can get sufficient dollars from the dollar pool to meet all of out essential requirements “. Great Britain needs petrol for transport and other industrial purposes equally as much as we need it in Australia, but, owing to the stringency of the dollar situation, it is unable to abolish petrol rationing. We are equally unable to do so. Even if none of the facts of the present situation had been made available to us, I believe that the acute shortage of dollars that now exists throughout the world and will continue to exist for some years to come would make us very careful about taking steps to abolish petrol rationing in this country, if we had power to retain it, owing to the additional dollar expenditure that the abolition of rationing might involve.
A conference between representatives of Great Britain, the United States of America and Canada has just concluded at which various means of alleviating the present acute dollar shortage were considered. The United States of America has made some very generous concessions. I believe that it has been forced to do so. I do not mean that it has made the concessions against its will, but that it has done so because it realizes that Great Britain is a very fine customer of the United States of America and a major world power that may collapse, with disastrous consequences to the rest of the world, if aid is not extended to it. The United States of America has made some vital concessions, to which large sections of the American people are bitterly opposed. It has made them partly because it realizes that Britain has done a great deal for the world in recent years, but mainly, I believe, because it understands, first, that Britain constitutes a market for American goods that is of vital importance to the United States of America; secondly, that Britain is important as a bastion against the rising tide of communism ; and thirdly, that Britain is a factor of vital importance in preventing the outbreak of a third world war. I believe that the United States of America has made concessions because of those three factors. Let us leave aside questions of sentiment, to which the honorable member for Warringah referred scathingly.
Because Britain is very important to us as a market for our goods, because its position in the defence systems of the world affords a guarantee against a third world war, and because it is a bastion against the rising tide of communism in Europe, Australia cannot do less for it than the United States of America has done. Petrol rationing in Australia was irksome and inconvenient, but it did not impose a great hardship upon the Australian people. “When petrol rationing was in force here, persons who needed petrol for vital purposes were always assured of supplies that would be ample for their needs. It is true that, under rationing there was some black marketing, but if petrol remains unrationed there will be a much more extensive black market than existed previously. The Prime Minister, in his handling of this situation, as in his handling of so many others, has given a lead which honorable members on both sides of the House might well follow. It is in the interests of Britain and of Australia that we should ration petrol here again. “We can do it without imposing great hardships upon our people. The Prime Minister has said that the Commonwealth is prepared, if the States will refer the necessary powers to it, to conduct the rationing of petrol itself and to accept the odium that is associated with any restrictive measure in this country. He has also said that, if the State governments desire to conduct the rationing of petrol themselves in collaboration, the Commonwealth will provide the funds necessary to enable rationing to be reintroduced.
I believe that this motion is not only useless but also harmful. It has not been justified by argument, and cannot be so justified. It is a disservice to the interests of this country and of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
.- The people of Australia are crying out for petrol, but all that the Government apologists have offered are excuses, alibis, and petrol rationing, which must adversely affect the efficiency of our essential services. Some honorable gentlemen opposite, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), have indulged in unworthy abuse of members of the Opposition, and have attacked their patriotism and attachment to Great Britain. It does not lie in the mouth of any member of the Government to gibe at members of the Opposition in this connexion. The suggestion that honorable members on this side of the House have not a keen appreciation of the hardships from which the people of Great Britain are suffering and that they are unwilling to aid them because of the existence of a socialist Government in that country, has been proved to be absolutely false. Approximately two years ago I submitted a proposal that the Australian Government should give to the people of Great Britain £25,000,000 worth of food free of charge. It will be remembered that I was prevented from proceeding with it for several months. Finally, the Government brought down a measure which provided’ that a gift of £25,000,000 worth of frozen credits should be made to the British Government. The gift to Britain of frozen credits was like giving ice to a man who was frozen and hungry. Honorable members on this side of the House were prepared to give the man a feed of good meat. If my proposal had been adopted, Great Britain would, have saved some dollars, because it would not have needed to buy so much food as it has bought from Argentina and other countries. “We should, thereby, have been enabled to acquire the petrol that we need1 at the present time.
– It would not have given Great Britain any more food than we have sent to it.
– We could have sent to Great Britain much more food than we have in fact sent. The way in which food production in Australia has been sabotaged during the last seven or eight years and the effect of that sabotage upon our exports of food to Great Britain is a disgraceful and indelible blot upon the record of the Government and the people of Australia.
The Prime Minister presented a pitiable spectacle in this House to-day. The right honorable gentleman has been asked to provide £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to enable us to import sufficient petrol to avoid the necessity for petrol rationing. Although the Labour party has been, assuring us for many years that a Labour government would insulate Australia against economic shocks from outside, we find that to-day the Government is unable to find that amount of money. In order to avoid the necessity for petrol rationing in Australia we need to import an extra one-twentieth of 1 per cent, of the present annual world production of petrol, which is estimated to be 400,000,000 tons. Australia uses approximately 2,000,000 tons of petrol a year. An increase of that quantity by approximately 15 per cent, would enable us to be absolutely certain that we need not ration petrol. It is pitiable when the Prime Minister of this great country, at a time when the value of Australian exports is greater than it ever has been, has to say that we cannot find a miserable £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to buy the small extra quantity of petrol that we need. Figures that I obtained recently from the Department of Trade and Customs reveal that we were importing approximately 400,000,000 gallons of petrol a year, the cost in sterling being £8,000,000 or £9,000,000. Therefore, the extra 15 per cent, that we need in order to avoid rationing would not cost us more than £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 Australian.
The Prime Minister read a cable in which it was suggested that it would be necessary for the Australian Government to give some support to a company that desires to import Polish petrol. The right honorable gentleman apparently considered that that was a matter for grave reproach. That is a strange attitude on the part of the head of the Government, whose fetish for many years has been government-to-government trading. The right honorable gentleman apparently desires that system of trading to be kept in existence almost forever, because recent contracts entered into by the Government have been for terms of five, six and fifteen years. Notwithstanding that, when the right honorable gentleman is asked to take some governmental action that might result in the avoidance of petrol rationing in Australia, he looks upon it as something to be regarded with suspicion. The rationing of petrol proposed by the Chifley Government is a direct negation of its trading policy as expressed in the legislation that it has brought down to the Parliament. That policy has always been said to be based< upon freeing world trade. On this excuse of freeing world trade it justified Australia’s membership of the International Trade Organization and the passage of the legislation that was associated with that membership. On this ground also the Government justified the abolition of substantial Empire preferences, but in practice we have found that there has been no freeing of trade; instead, there has been a continuing curtailment of trade with import restrictions and rationing of goods that are essential to Australian production. Therefore I say that there are five main reasons why the Government should be censured for attempting to ration petrol. The first is that rationing is unnecessary during the existing conditions of world expansion of oil production. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has pointed out how world production of oil has been steadily growing. There would not be much difficulty in obtaining the wherewithal to buy dollar or sterling petrol if production in this country had not been sabotaged during the last four or five years while this Government stood by like Saul at the stoning of Stephen, holding the cloak, while the miners sabotaged production. The second reason is that the policy of rationing petrol in Australia must damage British trade and impede Britain’s recovery. The sale of motor vehicles by Britain to Australia has increased to a great degree and this year it is expected that Britain will sell to us £24,000,000 worth of motor vehicles, including cars and tractors. Nearly all the tractors are being sold to the farmers of Australia with a definite undertaking that the Government will ensure that the farmers will obtain an ample supply of petrol to enable the tractors to be fully worked. The third reason is that the rationing of petrol would seriously damage Australian production, prevent our own recovery and limit our capacity to assist Britain. If it limits our capacity to produce, damage will ;be done to the British people in two ways. The first will be that we shall be able to send less of our products to Britain; the second will be that as we are selling our products to Great Britain at a lower price than to any other country in the world, that country’s dollar position will be worsened if it has to buy such products elsewhere because of a fall in Australian production. Petrol rationing, by limiting essential services, will lower our production and our opportunities to expand our overseas trade. That in turn would help to retard the recovery of the whole world. If the Government succeeds in having petrol rationed it will be found that rationing will defeat itself, because every time that petrol has been rationed it has been found that a black market has grown. Rationing feeds the black market. The Vick report in Great Britain estimated that there were 36,000,000 gallons of petrol a month on the black market; but when a test was made by issuing red-coloured petrol to commercial and essential users, it was found that the petrol black market accounted for, not 36,000,000 gallons, but 1.14,000,000 gallons a month. Those were the official figures given in the British Parliament. Therefore the members of the Government cannot just go on talking airy nothings and making abusive speeches. The Government must explain why, while a world expansion of petrol production is taking place, it has not made provision to meet all the petrol contingencies of Australia. It must also explain why petrol shortages occur and why, now that the High Court of Australia has declared its rationing powers invalid, it suddenly finds itself in its present mess and must call on the States to give it aid. Petrol rationing would be a most serious step for the Government to take, because petrol is as universally the raw material of primary industry as electricity is of secondary industry. A year ago the Prime Minister made a statement in which he said that 90 per cent, of the petrol used in Australia was used for essential purposes. I believe that that is absolutely true. A moment’s reflection shows that the countryman, especially the remote countryman, cannot move without petrol. He cannot get his produce to market or bring fertilizer to his farm unless he has petrol. The use of petrol has doubled the number of stands of timber that can be commercially used at the present time in Australia, because lorries can now go to places many miles from timber mills and bring ‘back timber. That makes an extraordinary difference to the number of houses that we can build in this country. To-day road transport plays an important part in every phase of national and domestic activities. The importance of road transport was emphasized during the recent coal strike, because I am convinced that the Communists would have won completely if we had not been able to mobilize road transport and thereby mitigate, to some degree, the hardships of the people by enabling them to obtain some of the essentials and amenities of life. Homes could not be built without the use of road transport. Most homes are now built away from railway lines, and the material for their construction must be carried to the site by means of road transport. For the construction of an average brick house, up to 150 tons of material has to be carried to the site by road transport. Sometimes timber used in house construction is carried by road transport several times during its movement from the stand, of timber to the home site. In fact, we have found that many new undertakings that have been situated far from rail transport, can be kept going and the employees taken to and from work only by the use of road transport. During the last few years there has been a revolution in our education system. Hundreds of thousands of children are now able to attend bigger schools than was formerly possible, and are thereby given a better chance in life, because of the use of road transport to carry them to and from school. Now it is suggested that we should re-introduce petrol rationing, with the result that bus services for children would have to be restricted, fewer homes would be built and factory production would be reduced. Certain classes of goods such as refrigerators, gas stoves, &c, are not easily transported by rail. For them road transport is the most suitable. The use of fertilizer is necessary to increase agricultural production, and approximately 1,000,000 tons of fertilizer are carried annually by road transport. For the most part, milk and cream are also transported by road. It cannot be denied that petrol is indispensable to our economy. The total world consumption of petrol is about 400,000,000 tons, of which Australia uses approximately 2,000,000 tons, or half of 1 per cent. We need only another 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 gallons, or onetwentieth of 1 per cent, of total world production, in order to make rationing unnecessary in Australia. The Prime Minister has just introduced a budget for more than £500,000,000. Our exports this year are expected to total £550,000,000, leaving a surplus over imports of £140,000,000. Yet, the Prime Minister says that he cannot find money to pay for the extra petrol needed to make rationing unnecessary. When the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) suggested that petrol might be obtained from Poland, the Prime Minister replied that :the Government wanted some guarantee before it could rely on that source of supply, but in regard to other commodities he is continually dealing on a government-to-government basis. Australia is finding hundreds of thousands of pounds, and, I suppose, millions of dollars, to buy iron and steel from Belgium, which is a hard currency country. We have got into our present unfortunate position regarding petrol partly because of our remoteness from London and New York, and partly because Australia’s consumption of petrol is relatively insignficant. I am sorry that the late High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley, died recently, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to his work. We all deeply regret his death. Were he alive, he could vouch for the truth of what I am about to say. During the war, Australia got into almost the same difficulties regarding petrol as we are in to-day. In 1941-42, we found that, although we were rationing ourselves in Australia, the big oil companies were following the ration down in their allocations to Australia. One of the things I was asked to do when I went to London was to obtain, if possible, a better allocation of petrol. I discussed the matter with the authorities in Great Britain, and also in the United States of America, and found that, because our requirements were relatively insignficant at that time about 250,000,000 gallons a year, little attempt was made to meet our needs. Tankers were made available to carry petrol to South Africa and other countries, when we were unable to obtain essential supplies.
We have been told that there are not enough dollars available to pay for all the petrol we need, but we should consider what is happening in other Empire countries. In Canada, the consumption of petrol per vehicle is 726 gallons a year. It is true that Canada is a dollar country, but I have no doubt that if the matter were put to the Canadian authorities they would be prepared to allow Australia to have some of the petrol which is now received by Canada. In India, petrol consumption amounts to 664 gallons a vehicle, in South Africa to 612 gallons, and in New Zealand to 385 gallons. Therefore, we should do as the Leader of the Australian Country party suggests: we should approach the other Empire countries with .a view to obtaining their assistance in this matter during the present time of stress. In 1941, at my insistence, we were able to obtain from the Netherlands East Indies all the petrol we needed before the Japanese struck. Tankers were made available, and we were able to draw our supplies from the East Indies until those territories were over-run by the Japanese. It is the irony of fate that the Prime Minister should be telling us now that we cannot get petrol because of currency difficulties when, for many years past, he and his colleagues have been saying that it is only necessary to rig the financial situation in a certain way in order to get everything in the world we want. Now, for lack of a few million dollars, Australia has to do without an essential commodity. Australia is in a terrible position in this respect, but its present situation need not be permanent. We could earn more dollars if we were placed in the position to produce more. Not only could we produce more wool and food, but we could also produce more gold. Before the war, the production of gold was higher by £6,000,000 than it is to-day. Recently, one of the Sydney Sunday newspapers published the following article under the heading, “ This crazy dollar setup “ : -
Our industrial development is being retarded, and our primary production hamstrung because of blind adherence to Britain’s socialistic financial policy. The fetish of cutting dollar imports has been carried to extremes. Because we cannot get the machinery and the raw materials for development of secondary industries and to step up production in primary industries, a state of stagnation is being reached. The future of Australia is oi primary importance to Australians, and not the success or otherwise of socialistic experiments and pipe dreams in England. It is time a halt was called to the negative approach to the so-called dollar crisis.
Englishmen - Australians too - have been told, as each crisis in dollars is reached, that the only solution is more cuts in dollar imports. Then, still further cuts in dollar imports, and so on, ad infinitum..
At last, even the Prime Minister has rebelled, and in his budget speech last week he said that the Government was considering raising a dollar loan, and trying to produce more so as to earn more dollars. We shall have to do something very quickly, or we shall have petrol rationing on us again. This should not be necessary, when we consider three aspects of our economy. The first is that Australia’s purchases from Britain are helping Britain materially, partcularly in the disposal of petrol-using vehicles. Secondly, Australian production is making a tremendous contribution to the dollar pool. Thirdly, ample supplies of petrol are indispensible to greater production in Australia, production which is necessary in order to feed Britain, and to ease Britain’s dollar position. Therefore, we should have a clear picture of the use that is made of petrol in Australia and of its value to Great Britain’s export position. We must do so in order to study rationing and the dollar position in their proper perspective. From the 31st December, 1939, to the 31st December, 1948, the total registrations of motor cars and taxis in Australia increased by 70,000 vehicles, or 12.1 per cent., whilst in the same period the total registrations of commercial vehicles and buses increased from 229,000 to 389,000, or an increase of 70 per cent. During the same period imports of commercial vehicles, trucks, vans and buses from Great Britain increased from 20 per cent, to 60 per cent, of our total imports, whilst imports of cars from Great Britain increased from 39 per cent, to 80 per cent, of our total imports of cars. This trend is becoming increasingly pronounced. Most of the motor vehicles in use in Australia to-day are not used for luxury purposes. The figures I have given show that the greatest increase has been in commercial vehicles. Incidentally, that increase has been most marked during the last few years because most vehicles previously in use in this country were worn out during the war. Whilst the number of tractors and other heavy gear vehicles imported from Great Britain in 1948 was 5,758, the number imported during the first six months of this year was 7,036. In 194S, the number of new cars imported from Great Britain was 60,000 whereas in the first six months of the cur-rent; year 40,000 new cars have been imported from that country - a rate of 80,000 a year. The Australian Government offered a special inducement toencourage the importation of British, tractors by promising ample petrol supplies for use in such vehicles. If petrol’ is rationed this profitable outlet for theexport of vehicles will undoubtedly be; lost to Great Britain. The amount of money necessary to obtain the additional dollar petrol in order to obviate rationing and to supply new vehicles expected to arrive would not be more than £A.2,000,000 for next year. Surely, it is treachery to Great Britain to jeopardize the maintenance of Britain’s exports of motor vehicles worth £24,000,000 a year to this country in order to effect that saving. In any event, should such a saving in dollars become imperative, why should it not be effected in respect of luxury items rather than items, which, like petrol, are indispensable to production, particularly the producton of foodstuffs and raw materials. It is said that we cannot use the cruder forms of petrol because we have not refineries in this country. What is the reason for that lack ? Two years after World War I., the Government of which I was a member established the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The Government has a major holding in that organization, which is associated with the Anglo-Persian group, and I should think that at a pinch it could obtain a few million gallons of petrol.
As I have said, an adequate supply of petrol is essential to the maintenance of Australian production. Indeed, any increase of that production will help Great Britain considerably to meet its dollar problem. The Australian Government has failed to take a very important factor into account in its approach to this problem. I refer to the fact that we supply to Great Britain many primary products at must lower cost than that which Great Britain pays for similar products which it obtains from other countries. For instance, it is obtaining butter from Australia at 6d. per lb. less than it pays for butter which it imports from Denmark, whilst it is being supplied by Australia with meat at 4d. per lb. less than it buys meat from Argentina. In fact, Great Britain can get meat from Argentina only by providing 5,000,000 tons of fuel oil as part payment. In addition, Australia’s contribution in wool to the dollar pool in the sterling area is nearly double South Africa’s contribution in gold. Last year, Australia’s wool clip was worth £240,000,000, of which approximately £A. 200,000,000 was exported. In addition, much of the £40,000,000 worth of wool which was used in manufacture in this country was exported and thus helped our dollar position. At the same time, we exported wheat valued at £60,000,000 and lead and zinc exports were worth £20,000,000. All these commodities can be used to assist Great Britain’s general position by helping to reduce its dollar imports. The Government should be encouraging the production of these items to the maximum. I warn it that should petrol rationing be re-introduced in this country, the production of those commodities will inevitably decline. I venture to say that one of the biggest factors in the decline of the dairying industry was the miserable petrol ration allowed to dairy-farmers during the recent war. In many instances, owing to the absence of the dairyman’s family on active service or on other war work, he and his wife found themselves unable on their meagre petrol ration to leave their farm for years at a time. The result is that to-day many dairy farmers have abandoned their holdings after experiencing four years of penal servitude in the bush during the war. Stimulation of production depends essentially upon efficient petrol transport. The meagre amount of dollars necessary to obviate the re-introduction of petrol rationing could easily be saved if the Government did not sabotage production in other spheres. For instance, it has stood idly by for years while coal reserves have been whittled away. The loss of 2,500,000 tons of coal due to industrial disputes has forced us to import thousands of tons of iron and steel and many other building materials which could have been made much more cheaply in Australia. We have been importing wire netting from the United States of America at a cost six times greater than that at which it can be produced in this country.
– The right honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
Dr. Evatt having been called,
– I rise to order. I direct the attention of the Chair to the “ General Rule for Conduct of Business”, which provides thai; -
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by Sessional or other Orders, resort shall be had to the rules, forms, and practice of the Commons House of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland in force at the time of the adoption of these orders, which shall be followed as far as they can be applied to the proceedings of the House of Kep r esentatives.
The Standing Orders later provide that the member first rising shall be called. I have risen at every opportunity to-day, but I have not been called. I am strongly of the view that the Chair should not confine the call to members of the Government and Opposition parties. All members elected by the people have a right to be heard in this chamber. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that earlier to-day I asked you whether there was a list of speakers so that I could be sure of receiving the call. I did not see any names there. I appreciate that Ministers have preference over private members in receiving a call, but several private members have already spoken, and I consider that I have been unfairly and unjustly dealt with by the Chair. I understand that the gag will be applied immediately after the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has spoken-
-Order! The honorable member is not entitled to make a speech on this matter.
– Very well. I am raising this point now because everybody in the House knows that the gag will be applied after the Attorney-General speaks. I have my rights and I want you to protect them.
– Order ! The honorable member has stated his point fully. He claims to have been overlooked by the Chair. I remind him that the “ General Rule for Conduct of Business “ does not apply in contingencies covered by the Standing Orders. Standing Order 255 states -
When two or more Members rise together to speak the Speaker shall call upon the Member who, in his opinion, first rose in his place; but it shall be in order to move, that any Member whohas risen “ be now heard,” or “ do nowspeak.”
The Chair has called honorable members in the order in which they have risen in the House. The honorable member for Reid did speak to me, and I told him that the name of the honorable member for Perth had been noted. The honorable member for Reid asked me to note his name, which I have done. I informed him that the procedure was to give Ministers precedence over private members, and he said that he did not expect to receive the call while Ministers wished to speak. I repeat that I have called honorable members in the order in which they have risen. The Attorney-General now has the call.
Motion (by Mr. Lang) put -
That the honorable member for Reid be now heard.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speakeb - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Honorable members must agree that the debate has shown first that the problem of the importation and rationing of petrol is merely incidental to the general dollar problem and also that even the dollar problem is not a purely Australian problem. Thirdly, the dollar problem affecting us in Australia is essentially a British Commonwealth problem, and has been treated as such by this Government and by every member of the British Commonwealth. If these points are made good, they will show clearly that the actions of the Government throughout warrant not the censure but the endorsement of the House.
I shall deal with the first point relating to the importation and the rationing of petrol. It is perfectly clear that it is not a question, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) in regard to the production of gold, of simply looking around to find some sources of production which may be increased. The degree to which production is increased in this country is immaterial unless dollars can be obtained for the resultant output. Therefore, the suggestion of the honorable member for Warringah that this problem would be solved at once by a mere increase of the production of gold in Australia, irrespective of all the other circumstances - the dollar problem generally and the British Commonwealth position - has no substance whatever. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said, among other things, that the Government has adopted this policy because of the preference it has for rationing petrol. He said that the Government wanted to ration” petrol simply to enable it to control’ the people of this country. That statement is absurd, as well as completely incorrect. What government would! wish to ration’ petrol if supplies were freely available? Petrol rationing is difficult to administer. It was undertaken in time of war’ because’ of the overriding interests of the’ nation at that period. Therefore, the question is not one of rationing at all. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has stated the position with absolute frankness and fairness. He said that if Australia as a part of the British Commonwealth is to tackle the’ dollar problem causing a restriction upon imports, petrol rationing must automatically follow. If the importation of petrol must be limited by the availability of dollars to Australia, then the decision must be either petrol rationing or uncontrolled sales in circumstances which would result in only a few people getting supplies, and the ordinary member of the community being denied a fair share. The problem,- as the motion suggests, relates,- not to a policy of rationing of petrol, but to the bringing of petrol into this country.
I submit that the following facts have been established in connexion with what I might call the Australian dollar deficit. The facts are incontrovertible, clear and undisputed. . First,, we do not sell, enough goods to Canada and the United States of America to cover the goods and services that we want to buy from those countries.
– Does the right honorable gentleman believe in bilateralism ?
– No; we want a broader approach. These facts must be understood and appreciated in their entirety before a proper conclusion can be drawn. Secondly) throughout the twenty years between the two world wars, we had a deficit with the United States of America and Canada, even taking into account the exports of gold to the United States of America. Thirdly, only in the exceptional years of the second world war, when the American forces, were here, and we were receiving American lend-lease aid, did we show a1 surplus. Fourthly, Australia’s dollar deficit fluctuates widely from year to year. Earnings vary widely because of fluctuations in the volume and value of wool’ export’s to the United States.
It is not correct to say, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said, that wool is everywhere worth dollars. It is not. It is worth what it brings in the relevant currency of the buyer. American demand for Australian wool has fallen. There has been a good deal of unemployment in the United States of America and there has been a consequent decline in the sale of wool to that country. Wool cannot produce dollars as and where the seller of the wool wishes.
– Many countries have shipped wool to the United States of America after buying it from us.
– What the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has said, is true; but it is irrelevant and quite .beside the point.- It is true that some profiteering took place in respect of Australian wool,- but as was pointed out by the Prime Minister during his mission to the United Kingdom last year, that has been checked. Having mentioned these four points, I should like to state shortly the Australian trade deficits in certain key areas after allowing for sales of gold. In the period from 1936-37 to 1938-39, the three years immediately preceding the outbreak of World War II., Australia had a deficit of 36,000,000 dollars in its trade with Canada and the United States of America. In 1946-47 the dollar deficit amounted to 54,000,000 dollars and in the following year it was 164,000,000 dollars. The latest available figures show that in 1948-49 there was an estimated deficit of 72,000,000 dollars. It must be clear to the House and it will be clear to the people that if Australia had said, “ We are hot interested in any other country. We look upon this matter purely from an isolationist point of view “, we should have had in the last three years an aggregate deficit of 2-90,000,000 dollars, or an average deficit of more than 90,000,000 dollars in each of the three years. If Australia were segregated from the British Commonwealth we could not obtain any dollars with which to meet such a situation as confronts us at present. That is why dollar deficits are financed by converting into dollars surplus sterling earned from trading with other parts of the world. Before the war the United Kingdom could convert as much sterling into dollars as was required by Australia. Because of the general dollar shortage, that is now impossible. The limited dollar resources of the sterling area are held in a sterling area dollar pool. But for that fact Australia’s position would be hopeless. It is not merely a question of sentiment - although sentiment does play its part - but as the Prime Minister has indicated a matter of hard fact. The policy of the present United Kingdom Government has been criticized by many speakers on the Opposition side of the House. That government, however, continues to meet all our dollar requests on the one reasonable condition that we co-operate with the United Kingdom and other members of the Commonwealth in conserving dollars. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruc (Mr. Dedman) recently visited Great Britain and an agreement was made between all members of the British Commonwealth in relation to the conservation of dollars for the mutual advantage of the whole of the Commonwealth and the sterling area. The whole of- the problem comes back to this question: Are we going to stick to that agreement or are we going to repudiate it? That is the essence of the problem. Repudiation, apart from being completely alien to our policy, would be completely futile and would not put us in a better position at all. It was agreed at the London conference that Australia would take action to achieve results comparable to those to be achieved by the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has announced that the 1949-50 dollar imports are to be cut to 75 per cent, of the 1948-49 level. The Australian Government has reduced allocations for dollar import licences for the September quarter of this year by the maximum amount possible without causing severe disruption to Australian industry. There has not been disruption. There was a large volume of temporary unemployment during the coal strike, but that has been reduced to an infinitesimal figure, which should be disregarded, as was indicated by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in the statement that he made to the House last week. Now, we again have full employment.
The aim of the policy agreed upon at the conference in the United Kingdom was to reduce dollar expenditure on imports to 75 per cent, of the 1948 level. However, it is clear that a full 25 per. cent, saving in dollar expenditure is not possible in the present financial year because of the commitments on outstand*ing licences and, as I have stated, the Government is investigating the possibilities of borrowing. The honorable member for Warringah made a sneering reference in his speech to the International Monetary Fund. That fund may well turn out to be enormously helpful to Australia in dealing with the extraordinary problem of balance of payments, and it may well meet the very situation for which it was devised. I agree with what the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said about the war-time position. I join in his tribute to Mr. Beasley, who had’ to save almost every gallon of petrol during the terrible crisis of the war. But the situation to-day is quite different. During the war, the lend-lease agreement with the United States of America did what a writer expressed graphically when he wrote that President Roosevelt “took the dollar sign out of the relationships between the allied countries “. The tragedy of the post-war period was the suddenness with which the lend-lease arrangements were terminated after all the sacrifices that had been made by the British people, not solely on our account and their account, but on account of all the democracies of the world. Other forms of assistance had to be substituted, on the footing, however, that the currency that mattered in the world was the dollar. The dollar sign has returned to international trade. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) was correct when he suggested that our objective should be multilateralism. When we signed the lend-lease agreement, the United States of America insisted, as far as we were concerned, upon a stipulation tending towards multilateralism, not bilateralism. The whole assumption was that it would not be a currency that would stop international trade as is the position to-day. But that is not the immediate problem. It is the problem behind the problem. That type of problem was discussed, I have no doubt, between the representatives of the United States of America and Great Britain at the recent Washington conference. We have to get something that will be a substitute in world trade for what President Roosevelt arranged in the crisis of war and in the great lend-lease plan.
It is a remarkable paradox that what is essentially a currency problem should interfere with the free flow of trade. I believe that, through international cooperation, the objective that we all have at heart will be achieved. There is no other way. It was possible for President Roosevelt to achieve that objective only because of the war. But it may be possible for President Truman to do something of the same character; and all his recent speeches indicate that he is following broadly the principles laid down by the late president, who was one of the leaders of the allied forces in time of war. I do not wish to repeat any arguments that have already been used, but it is obvious that, if what I have said is correct, our very lifeblood, as far as dollars are concerned, depends upon British Commonwealth co-operation. Therefore, far from criticizing the Chifley Government for what it has done, the people of Australia ought to be and will be grateful for the action that has been taken by the Prime Minister. Consider the alternative. As the figures that I have read to the House prove beyond question, the alternative would have been catastrophe for many Australian industries, some of which have been enumerated by my colleagues during this debate. It is quite logical for members of the Opposition to attack members of the British Government as they have done. I do not think that they have done so because they are opposed to Great Britain. I think that they have done so because they do not agree with the policy of the British Labour Government.
– Hear, hear !
– Unless I am deceived, I hear indications of agreement from the opposite side of the House. That is a perfectly logical position to take. But is it correct? I have studied something of the history of the intervention of the State in public affairs, in government and in industry in Australia. The parrot cry of “ socialism “ was first raised in 1905 by Sir George Reid. Condemnation of Sir Stafford Cripps is contained in the records of this debate. It was expressed, I think, by a member of the Australian Country party. The socialist ideology was denounced by the honorable member for Warringah. Considering the plain facts of Australia’s position, such criticism is completely absurd. I thought that everybody in Australia believed in the intervention of the State for the welfare of the people of Australia. That is common ground. We do not talk about socialism in the abstract sense, like Marxism or anything of that kind. Socialism in Australia is the name given to intervention by the organized community when there is exploitation of the people or some other attack upon the welfare of the people.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I ask honorable members to search their memories a little and go back to 1905 and the great debate between Sir George Reid and the then Leader of the New South Wales Labour party, Mr. Holman, as to the Labour objective of socialism. They may remember also the “ socialist tiger “ depicted by the great cartoonists of the Bulletin of those days. I wish I could speak as well about the cartoonists of to-day. The Commonwealth Bank is a good illustration. Rail transport in Australia is the function of the community. Socialism ! Why did the State intervene? Simply because private enterprise would not or could not, and did not, intervene. The State had to intervene. Therefore, we have rail transport, tramway transport and omnibus transport conducted by the .State. When railway transport, which has always been a government function in Australia, was taken over as a State enterprise in England, there was an outcry against the “ socialist ideology “. The question is whether those who denounce socialism by resurrecting this decayed corpse of the “ socialistic tiger “ of 1905 are prepared to advocate the handing over of the transport systems of this country to private enterprise. I need not stop at the transport systems, because I could give illustration after illustration of the successful operation of State enterprise. In the early days of settlement in this country the State was the owner of all the Grown lands and was the great landlord. The State has intervened in Australia and in New Zealand more than in al.1 y other part of the world, and the consequence is that in our two countries the standard of living is the highest. The birth-rate is also the highest, and the death-rate the lowest. Those are not things to be ignored. The recovery of Great Britain in spite of the enormous sacrifices which that country has made-
– I rise to order. Can you enlighten the House, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, in what way the incidence of the birth-rate or the death-rate in Australia and New Zealand has anything to do with the shortage of petrol in this country?
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. lazzarini). - The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is replying to arguments adduced by the Opposition.
– The only part of your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, with which I must quarrel is your description of the Opposition’s statements as “ arguments “. Usually the Opposition parties impress upon us the need for loyalty to Great Britain. “We are accustomed to be told that we must be patriotic to Great Britain. But, of course, when that country is governed by a Labour administration we are asked to have another look at the issue. As the Prime Minister pointed out this afternoon, the critical view of Great Britain expressed by the Opposition is not accepted anywhere outside the most extreme reactionaries of Wall-street. President Truman expressed himself on this matter only the other day. Incidentally, I suggest with respect that the principle involved in the practice f ollowed in the House of Commons, that the internal affairs of the Dominions is not a matter for parliamentary debate in that chamber, might be not only the most convenient, but also the safest principle for us to adopt in these matters. After all, at the conference to which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) referred, when the whole dollar position, of which the petrol problem is a. mere incident, was considered, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were all in agreement with the United Kingdom Government’s request that it was necessary to restrict dollar expenditure. It is extraordinary, then, that criticism such as that which has been made by the Opposition should manifest itself in this country. Members of the Australian Country party in particular object to socialism. But they are the greatest advocates of practical socialism. If they want to guarantee a minimum return to every farmer who grows a bushel of wheat they do not hesitate to employ State instrumentalities. The pools which were established in war-time are being continued in peace. That is practical socialism, and socialism in .the sense that is advocated by the present Government and by the Australian Labour party. It is also the same type of socialism as applies in Great Britain to-day. I ask the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who admires the great success with which the wool stabilization scheme has been carried out, to remember - perhaps with a start - that the wool stabilization scheme is a very practical example of the organized community intervening by law for the benefit of the people. I could give, for the benefit of members of the Australian Country party, a hundred examples of the benefits enjoyed by primary producers from the Government’s practical socialism. Members of that party are all for socialism for the man on the land; and the man on the land can attribute his satisfactory position in the dairying, wheat, wool and pig industries to the action of the present Labour Government in applying practical socialism. The same applies to our kinsmen in Britain. The references that have been made to Sir .Stafford Cripps were most unworthy, because no one has done more than Sir Stafford Cripps to reestablish the economy of Great Britain.
So much for the case that was sought to be made against the Government. Let meread to the House the motion that is before it in order to show how absurd it is. The motion reads -
That, in the opinion of this House, the present shortage of petrol supplies in Australia, which is increasingly affecting vital production and transport, is to a substantial extent due to the policy and inaction of the Government, and that the Government in consequence deserves the censure of this House.
Not a single fact has been brought forward to show that that is the case. On the contrary, the Prime Minister has shown that the fact that we are able to get petrol, notwithstanding our tremendous dollar deficit in this country, is due to British Commonwealth co-operation. In that co-operation the Prime Minister has given a lead to every member of the British Commonwealth. It is because of that policy that we are getting petrol to-day, and it is because of the success of that policy that the Government proposes to continue to follow it. I oppose the motion.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 189), be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented:
Commonwealth Public Service Act - A ppointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - J. A. Zwar. Defence - G. J. Stephenson.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Prahran East, Victoria.
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for 1947-48.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Thirtyeighth Annual Report, for year 1947-48.
House adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Dr.Evatt. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2.Conciliation commissioners are appointed by the Governor-General, and the Chief Judge assigns to such commissioners particular industries or groups of industries.
The industries assigned to conciliation commissioners are as follows: -
Mooney, G. A., Chief Commissioner -
Metal trades (including agricultural implement and oven and stove ) ; motor body ; aircraft.
Stewart, M. M. -
Railways salaried officers (including professional officers).
Knight, H. -
Merchant Service Guild; marine engineers; marine stewards, marine cooks; seamen; marine radio employees.
Findlay, G. A. -
Clothing trades, textile (including knitting section); felt hatting; group of industries within the Australian Capital Territory.
Wallis, A. R. -
Banks, insurance officers; trustee officers; municipal officers; health inspectors; clerks; journalists; shipping clerks; architects, engineers, surveyors and draftsmen employed by municipal or shire councils or other local government bodies; professional engineers employed by municipal or shire councils or other local government bodies; mathematicians, statisticians, biometricians, computers, actuaries, physicists, geophysicists, astronomers, geographers, meteorologists, metrologists, radiologists, radio-physicists, radio engineers, chemists, chemical engineers, biochemists, pharmacists, metallurgists, metallurgical engineers, biologists, zoologists, botanists, bacteriologists, entomologists, pathologists, medical scientists, physicians, surgeons, dental scientists, dentists, optometrists, oculists, physiotherapists, dietitians, veterinary scientists, agricultural scientists, agronomists, agristologists, forestry scientists, geneticists, social scientists, hospital almoners, anthropologists, ethnologists, archaeologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, geologists, mineralogists, petrologists, assayors, employed by municipal or shire councils or other local government bodies.
Austin, L. P. -
So much of the railways industry or group of industries as comprises locomotive enginemen, engine drivers and firemen, metal trades employees (including ironworkers assistants); so much of the tramways industry or group of industries in the State of New South Wales as comprises other than traffic employees.
Galvin, J. M. -
The railways industry or group of industries (excluding so much thereof as comprises locomotive enginemen, engine drivers and firemen, metal trades employees, ironworkers assistants salaried or professional officers and so much of the traffic section of the New South Wales Government Railways industry or group of industries as is the subject of the assignment hereunder made to Conciliation Commissioner Vivian Gerald Hall).
Morrison, D. V. -
Liquor trades; brewery employees; food preserving; manufacturing grocers; confectioners; flour millers; tobacco.
Dwyer, J. V. -
Timber; furniture trades; shipwrights; ship carpenters; coopers; paper manufacture.
Buckland, G. H. -
Rubberworkers ; glue and gelatine workers ; artificial fertilizers; saddlery and leather goods; rope and cordage; boot trades.
Portus, J. H. -
Printing industry (including newspapers) ; Northern Territory; storemen and packers; airways salaried officers (clerical, professional, technical and administrative officers). Executive or administrative officers employed by wool selling brokers.
Blakeley, A. -
Theatrical employees; musicians, actors; broadcasting technicians; radio telegraphists (other than marine) ; hospital employees; architects; engineers, sur veyors and draftsmen except those employed by municipal or shire councils or other local government bodies; professional engineers except those employed by municipal or shire councils or other local government bodies;mathematicians, statisticians,biometricians, computers, actuaries, physicists, geophysicists, astronomers geographers, meteorologists, metrologists, radiologists, radio-physicists, radio engineers, communication engineers, electronic engineers, chemists, chemical engineers, biochemists, pharmacists, metallurgists metallurgical engineers, biologists, zoologists, botanists, bacteriologists, entomologists, pathologists, medical scientists, physicians, surgeons, dental scientists, dentists, optometrists, oculists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, dietitians, veterinary scientists, agricultural scientists, agronomists, agristologists, forestry scientists, geneticists, social scientists, hospital almoners, anthropologists, ethnologists, archaeologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, geologists, mineralogists, petrologists, assayors, except those employed by municipal or shire councils or other local government bodies.
Kelly, F. D. -
Tanning; wool and basil workers (fellmongery) ; meat industry; shop assistants.
Blackburn, A. S. -
Road transport workers (including mobile crane) ; glass workers, gas employees, tramways.
Donovan, J. R. -
Australian Workers Union (pastoral), hops, construction, mining, fruit-growing, rice, flax, dairying, harvesting; wool classing; municipal employees.
Hall, V. G. -
So much of the traffic section of the New South Wales Government Railways industry or group of industries as is included in Part III. of the interim award made on 24th February, 1947, concerning whose wages hours and conditions of employment the New South Wales Industrial Board (whose appointment is cancelled at this date) had commenced the hearing of claims in connexion with the disputesNos. 380 of 1946 and 1 of 1947 but excluding from this assignment the hearing and determination of all claims in connexion with the said dispute relating to allowances for night or shift work.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he prepare a statement setting out all available information in relation to the following items and services in Canberra, showing their comparison with similar items or services in the States: -
home building - construction costs per square and for an average twobedroom house, not including cost of land;
production costs of ordinary homebuilding bricks;
cost of other building materials, such as timber, roofing tiles, flooring, guttering, piping, &c. ;
the annual cost of running the Canberra omnibus service, the annual revenue from such service and the loss, if any, sustained during the financial year 1947-48;
the annual cost per mile for the maintenance of roadways within the Australian Capital Territory in comparison with that of municipal and district road boards;
the cost per unit of electricity supplied to householders;
the cost-of-living index;
the over-all estimated annual cost to the Federal Government of maintaining the City of Canberra; and
the population of Canberra?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Information as to comparative costs of road maintenance by municipal and district roads boards is not available. if) Electricity is purchased in bulk from the New South Wales State southern electricity supply at approximately .6d. per unit. The cost of distribution and annual charge for interest and depreciation is approximately 2d. per unit. Electricity is supplied to householders at the rate of 4d. per unit for basic units and ljd. per unit for all units in excess of the basic units.
Average sis capital cities - 1,364.
g asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Will he furnish a list of delegates who have attended international conferences convened by the United Nations or its auxiliary organizations, together with a statement of the cost to the Commonwealth for each delegate?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Since the United Nations Conference on International Organization was held in San Francisco in April, 1945, Australia has been represented at approximately 220 conferences and meetings convened by the United Nations or its specialized agencies. It is not practicable to prepare a comprehensive list of delegates, representatives and advisers who have attended these conferences, nor is it practicable to furnish a return showing the cost to the Commonwealth for each delegate or even each conference. Costs in some cases are borne by the international organization concerned. In many others in which overseas representatives attended the conferences costs are included in costs of permanent missions overseas. However, an indication of the cost to the Commonwealth of representation on such international conferences can be gathered from the estimates of the Department of External Affairs, where the cost of representation on the United Nations, and the cost of contributions to and representation on the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, the International
Labour Organization, World Trade and Employment Conferences, and International Labour Conferences, are set out. The estimates of the Department of Health will show the expenditure of the World Health Organization, and the estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation the expenditure on the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Attorney-General’s Department :
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
What rates of duty should be imposed on goods covered by tariff items - 105 (aa) (2), knitted or lockstitched piece goods except when wholly of wool. 1 1 5, socks and stockings for human attire. 110 (b) (1), underwear being knitted apparel or apparel made from knitted or lockstitched piece goods.
Quantity figures are not readily available at present. The Commonwealth Statistician is now preparing final figures for the year and quantities should be available within a week or two. 3. (a) No tariff agreements have been contravened; and (6) this angle will be considered by the Tariff Board during its investigations.
g asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will he have prepared a statement showing the total amount of fees paid by the Government for each financial year from 1944-45 to date to the following: - W. B. Dovey, K.C; J. W. Shand, K.C; J. D. Holmes, K.C; H. Alderman, K.C.; and E. S. Miller, K.C?
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as it is available.
d. - On the 7th September, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked the following question: -
Can the Tariff Board report on raw cotton he investigated by the Government without further delay and a decision regarding a guaranteed price for cotton expedited?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the following information : -
The Tariff Board has not yet furnished its report. It will be given consideration by the Government as soon as it is received.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
d. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
How many gallons of (a) aviation spirit, (6) petrol, (o) power kerosene, (ti) lighting kerosene, and (e) fuel oil are contained in one ton of 2,240 lb,?
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
The conversion factors for the various petroleum products vary according to the specific gravity of the products. For customs purposes each cargo is assessed in accordance with analysis made by the Commonwealth Analyst on” the arrival of the cargo. In order to ascertain approximate round figures, the following conversion factors are generally used: -
Aviation spirit - 310 gallons to ton. Motor spirit - 300 gallons to ton. Power kerosene - 280 gallons to ton. Lighting kerosene - 280 gallons to ton. Fuel oil - 250 gallons to ton.
r asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What salary and allowance are paid to the chairman of each of the following boards:. -
Control Board, (6) The Australian Wheat Board, (c) The Australian Meat Board, and
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The salary and allowance paid to the chairman of each of the following boards are: -
A fee of £5 5s. a day whilst attending meetings of the board or the executive committee of the hoard. 2. A fee of £4 4s. a day whilst engaged on such business of the board as the board determines provided that this allowance is not payable on any day on which a fee is payable for attendance at board or committee meetings. 3. Travelling allowance at the rate of £2 2s. a day which is not payable on any day on which a fee is received.
A salary of £2,000 per annum. 2. Travelling allowance at the rate of £2 2s. a day.
A salary of £1,600 per annum. 2. Travelling allowance at the rate of £2 2s. a day.
A salary of £1,350 per annum.
Travelling allowance at the rate of £2 2s. a day.
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4. The questions now asked by the right honorable member are in identical terms with questions previously asked by him, and answered in the House by the then Acting Attorney-General on the 7th August, 194.6. The answers given in 1946 were as follow: -
Three funds of the category referred to by the right honorable member have been in existence during the whole or portion of the period since the 7th October, 1941, namely -
Security Service Special Fund, established in March,1942, and closed on the 31st December, 1945;
Australian Democratic Front Fund, established in 1940 by the then Attorney-General (the right honorable member for North Sydney) and closed in 1942 after its operations had been the subject of a royal commission ; (iii)Investigation Branch Special Fund, established over 30 years ago and still in existence.
As to (i), during its existence, £8,662 11s. 4d. was paid out of the Security Service Special Fund. These moneys were expended in securing information in all States on matters affecting the security of the Commonwealth, including subversive activities.
As to (ii), during its existence, £4,963 6s.1d. was paid out of the Australian Democratic Front Fund which was ordered to be closed by the present AttorneyGeneral as soon as he knew of the purposes for which the moneys were being used.
As to (iii), when the present Government took office, £646 was standing to the credit of the Fund and £9,000 has since been paid into the Fund and £9,185 has been expended. Since the Government took office payments out of this Fund have been made as follow: -
Portion of these moneys has been used in investigating subversive activities in all States.
This Government takes no responsibility for the manner in which the moneys made available through the Australian Democratic Fund were expended but the disbursements from the Security Service Special Fund were, and the disbursements from the Investigation Branch Special Fund are, at all times subject to audit by the Chief Audit Inspector.
Since 1-948, the only change in the funds referred to .has arisen from the establishment in 1949 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization with Mr. Justice Reed as Director-General. Having regard to the wide discretion of the .Director-General, who does not act under Ministerial direction, the manner in which the funds provided by Parliament for the purposes of security are disbursed by the Director-General ensures satisfactory accounting and auditing. Broadly Breaking the system is modelled upon the practice in the United Kingdom, and has the express approval of the Auditor-General of (he Commonwealth.
T.– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. As stated in my reply to a question without notice asked on 7th September, 1949, by the honorable member for Fawkner, the investigation of Marx House, Sydney, was made for the specific purpose of obtaining evidence of suspected offences under the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act 1D49. The other matters referred to by the honorable member fall within the responsibility of the
Director-General of Security, -who acta in his own discretion and not on ministerial direction. It is not in the interest of security to give information as to the knowledge opinion or actions of the Director-General.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
S.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon- notice -
N asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will he furnish a reply to the question asked without notice on the 10th June, by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition concerning the organization of Communist “ strong-arm “ or “ commando “ units to protect Communist leaders in Australia?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Under the charter issued to the DirectorGenera] of Security, the matters referred to by the honorable member arc within the responsibility of the Director-General, and jit. is not in the interest of security to disclose the information available to him or his opinions and actions. The honorable member may rest assured that the internal security of Australia is being fully and amply provided for.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490914_reps_18_204/>.