18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. DEPUTY Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Social Services will recall that I asked a question in this House earlier this year concerning the care of pre-school children. I now ask whether the Minister for Social Services has arrived at any decision regarding the provision of a service for that age group. Has an opportunity been given to organizations which at present carry out pre-school work to discuss the matter with the Minister 1 If not, will such an opportunity be given? Will the Minister arrange to meet representatives of some of the voluntary committees 1
– I do not think that a definite decision has been made yet. As the result of the question that the honorable member asked, I discussed the matterwith the Minister for Social Services, who has since discussed it further with officers of his department. He has in mind a scheme to he carried out if the Commonwealth has sufficient powers to enable it to do so. I shall ask him how far he has progressed with the plan and will inform the honorable member of the result of my inquiry.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he can ascertain and advise the House why the Postmaster-General has taken no official action to inform telephone subscribers of the new numbers of telephones connected with the North Canberra exchange. Is he aware that the only list of those numbers available in Commonwealth departments is one published by the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party? Is it forbidden for unauthorized persons to be given confidential information concerning “ silent “ telephone numbers? Is the Postmaster-General aware that a confidential list of new telephone numbers, including “ silent “ numbers, was secured irregularly by a member of the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party ? What action does the PostmasterGeneral propose to take to inform subscribers of new North Canberra telephone numbers and to investigate the irregular leakage of official information to a member of the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party?
– There is no doubt about some people. They always lead with their chins. There is not the slightest scintilla of truth in anything that the honorable member has said in his statement. The truth of the matter is that the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Manufactures - in fact, everybody in Canberra - had the same right to peruse the telephone list as the Australian Labour party had.
– Including “ silent “ numbers ?
– Including whatever was puhlished by the Labour party. Other people had the right to peruse that list and to publish it if they wanted to do so.
When a new telephone exchange was opened recently, there was no opportunity to publish a new list. I understand that all those interested were invited to inspect the list. As a matter of fact the Canberra Times published a list of the new telephone numbers. I do not know anything about silent lines; I do not know which are silent and which are not.
– You will.
– I do not know that I shall.
– But you will.
– Order ! The Minister is entitled to answer the honorable gentleman’s question in his own way. The conduct of the honorable member for Wentworth is much too disorderly.
– I do not know what mean and miserable inference is contained in the interjection. Any information I get, I get officially and any information I use, I use in the best interests of the people. The honorable member has some miserable purpose to serve in asking the question in the way in which he did ask it.
– Order !
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the position regarding the sale of Australia’s gold production abroad has changed in any way since the statement issued by him on the 5th September, 1947, in which it was announced that all gold was being sold to the United Kingdom as a special measure of assistance in order to enable it to obtain more dollars ? Is the gold sold to the Bank of England and credited to our sterling reserves? If so, how could it appear as a dollar credit in this country’s balances? To clear up the position, will the Prime Minister table a complete statement showing all that is involved in striking a dollar balance for this country with the United States of America ?
– I do not know that any lengthy statement needs to be published to explain the position. We hold in reserve a certain quantity of gold. When the United Kingdom got into difficulties, we agreed to let it have all current gold production. The arrangement is not a. permanent one, but is renewable from time to time. The United Kingdom, of course, uses the gold as it thinks most suitable. Gold has to be paid for imports into the United Kingdom from Switzerland. Some of it, of course, has to be used to pay for our imports from Switzerland. Some gold has to be paid to Belgium. Australia has a very favorable trade balance with Belgium, but the United Kingdom has a very unfavorable one with it. We pool our resources. Whatever deficit remains has to be met with gold. Any hard currency Australia earns is paid into the Empire pool to assist Great Britain in its dealings in the hard currency area. Great Britain in turn assists us in the matter of dollars. I think I can answer the honorable gentleman in a simple way by saying that, although we provide the United Kingdom with our gold, we are credited with its dollar value in calculating our dollar deficit. I do not know that there are any papers that could be tabled to assist the honorable gentleman. Most of the arrangements were made some time ago. Many arrangements, such as that relating to the alteration of the exchange rate, have been made in telephone conversations. So that the honorable gentleman may know the position precisely I shall try to inform him of the exact position of current gold production. The gold is sold to the Bank of England, as the agent for the British Treasury.
– As to-day is the anniversary of the birthday of the Prime Minister, I interrupt the political warfare long, enough to say that I and all other honorable members desire to offer to him personal birthday greetings.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I thank the right honorable gentleman for the kindly sentiments he has expressed and for his good wishes. I also thank other honorable members who have conveyed to me their kind regards and good wishes on the attainment of what is rather an advanced age but nevertheless is a very pleasant anniversary; they are very much appreciated.
International Bank - Imports from Dollar Areas.
– Will the Prims Minister inform the House of what is to be the position in relation to the £60,000,000 in gold and the balance of the £400,000,000 in other currency that Australia deposited with the International Bank in accordance with the Bretton Woods Agreement? Will the gold be retained by the bank at the old rate, or will the new rate apply? Will the balance in other currency retain its previous value?
– The honorable mem ber’s question relates to amounts placed with both the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank. Owing to devaluation, some readjustments will be necessary, not in connexion with the gold placed in either case, but in connexion with non-interest bearing securities. I dealt briefly with this matter last night. For the benefit of honorable members generally, I shall prepare a short statement covering the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of what will be the position of importers of goods from dollar areas who obtained import licences or placed firm orders overseas prior to devaluation being announced ? Will they he required to pay for those goods at the higher rate?
– This matter will require examination. Generally speaking, where exchange has already been granted for the importation of goods, and delivery had not been completed prior to the 19th September, those goods will come in without any additional charge because of devaluation. In other words, if exchange had been provided prior to the 19th September, for goods from Canada or the United States of America, they will be permitted to enter this country as if there had been no devaluation. Therefore, for a considerable time to come, goods on the water and other goods involved in transactions for which exchange has been granted will . come in. without the additional charges that were mentioned last night by the Leader of the Opposition, and other honorable members. Of course, some readjustments will be necessary because Canada devalued its currency by only 10 per cent. The fairly large figure that the Leader of the Opposition mentioned’ last night, which is correct so far as imports from the United States of America are concerned, will not apply with such severity or steepness to imports from Canada. Probably two-thirds of the number of motor vehicle chassis and 50 per cent. of the timber that are imported into Australia from the North American continent come not from the United States of America but from Canada, which country has not devalued its currency to the same degree as the Australian currency has been devalued. It has been necessary to confer with the banks upon certain matters. To-morrow the Minister for Trade and Customs will issue a short statement dealing with the supplementary import licences that will have to be granted to meet the situation that has been caused by devaluation. I shall try to have another statement prepared covering the points that have been raised by the honorable member for Griffith. If import transactions were completed and exchange granted prior to the 19th September, the goods concerned will not be the subject of an additional impost due to devaluation.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether a deputation of exservicemen’s associations, including associations of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, waited upon him. and the Prime Minister last week? Did the members of the deputation ask whether some adjustment could be made to ex-servicemen’s pensions in order to compensate them in some measure for the increased cost of living? Did the representatives of the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen’s organizations point out that although the basic wage has been increased by 46 per cent, during the last twenty years, the pensions that are paid to ex-servicemen have been increased by only 19’ per cent. ? Was. the request for an adjustment of pensions refused by the honorable gentleman and by the Prime Minister ? If so, why?
– Representatives of totally and permanently incapacitated, blinded and partially incapacitated exservicemen’s organizations waited upon me last week. They presented a case to me that was similar to other cases that have been presented to me during my term of office as Minister for Repatriation.
– Why does not the Government do something for them?
– More has been done for ex-servicemen under the regime of this Government than had been done for them during any other period in the history of the Repatriation Department. A.t the present time, the amount of pensions and allowances being distributed by the Government to ex-servicemen is just under £3,000,000 a year more than was being paid when I became Minister, three years ago. That is not an inconsiderable sum of money. In my view, the Government is not acting ungenerously in this matter. The representations that were made to me last week by the deputation to which the honorable member for Balaclava has referred were on all fours with other representations that were made to me previously. It is true that ex-servicemen’s pensions have not been increased to the same degree as the cost of living has risen. I point out to the House that such pensions have never been related to the basic wage. The Attorney-General reminds me that if they were so related, they would bc liable to be decreased as well as increased. We have had one experience in thi? country of pensions being related to the basic wage. When the ‘basie wage rose and pensions were increased, the pensioners were quite satisfied, but immediately there was a movement in the other direction they clamoured for the removal of the relationship. When the members of the deputation had seen me, I took them to the Prime Minister, who. explained to them that no provision had been made in the budget, for the payment of increased pensions to ex-servicemen.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation, in view of his severe criticism some time ago of the use by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited of DC3 aircraft fitted with four seats in each row, whether he will state why TransAustralia Airlines is now using such modified aircraft?
– I should say that as a result of the insistence of Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on placing 28 seats in such aircraft, Trans- Australia Airlines has been forced to follow suit to a very limited extent. Personally, I regret the need for putting 28 seats in any aircraft of that kind, but I think that the honorable member knows or should know, as one experienced in aviation, that so long as the all-up weight of the aircraft is not exceeded no objection to installing extra seats can be sustained. In every case in which 28 seats have been installed in such aircraft the maximum permissible all-up weight has not been exceeded. So far as I am aware the Department of Civil Aviation has no power to prevent an airline company from increasing seating accommodation in aircraft so long as the all-up weight is not exceeded and is properly distributed, but as the two purely commercial enterprises referred to have taken such action regardless of the comfort of their passengers, Trans-Australia Airlines has had to follow suit. However, I am glad to say it has done so to a very limited extent compared with what has been done by the private enterprase airlines which exercise less care about the comfort of their passengers.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether his department has issued the instruction that Connellan Airways, which operates throughout central Australia from Alice Springs, will be permitted’ to use only those air strips that conform to international standards? Does not the Minister realize that the enforcement of that policy will destroy this airline which has rendered valuable service to remote areas during the last eleven years ? Why has the
Minister sent the Director-General of Civil Aviation to inspect the air strips? Does he intend to renew the airlines charter, or is he going to blot it out by means of Trans- Australia Airlines?
– I know of no such instruction as that mentioned by the honorable member having been issued. However, since he apparently’ claims to have seen a copy of some instruction, I think that the document which he saw must relate to a request to airline operators to comply with I.C.A.O. standards. However, I have made it quite clear on previous occasions that the standards set by that organization are put forward mainly as an ideal, and are not intended to be attained immediately in such operations as are conducted by Connellan Airways. I realize that if those standards were strictly enforced in outback areas it would be very difficult for the airlines to continue to operate there. I think that Mr. Connellan would be the first to admit that he has received every consideration during my administration of the Department of Civil Aviation. We try to give him all the assistance that we reasonably can. I had intended to traverse what I consider to be one of the most interesting air routes in the world but due to unforeseen circumstances I had to ask the DirectorGeneral to make the inspection instead. The service is being operated under a large subsidy. Whether or not that subsidy is completely justified is a matter for consideration. We have assisted Mr. Connellan in very many ways. We realize that he has some personal attachment to the particular line that he is operating, and we are considering how we can best assist to give travel facilities to the people who are living in the outback regardless of what it costs us, but having regard, at the same time, to the necessity for having a co-ordinated plan throughout Australia to give the service required and to endeavour to reach standards of safety about which honorable members opposit will have no cause for criticism.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs cause an inquiry to be made into the landed cost and the selling price of pepper? It used to cost 5d. an ounce retail, hut since Commonwealth prices control was abolished housewives have suddenly found themselves “ slugged “ in the shops for ls. 3d. an ounce. Will the Minister make some representation to the sis States which now endeavour to control prices, with a view to having this matter decided, because sellers of pepper are making it too hot altogether?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and request that a suitable answer containing the required information be conveyed to the honorable member.
– As far as I am aware the Australian Government is not considering any such transaction; consequently, there is no need for me toanswer the second portion of the honorable member’s question.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether, in view of the assurance given to me a fortnight ago in this House that the Government would favorably consider guaranteeing acquisition to fruit-growers in Tasmania, and to some extent in Western Australia, for the coming season, the Tasmanian Fruit Board has yet made any representations to him on the matter? Would the conditions of the scheme be the same in all respects as those of last year’s scheme?
– The Government has received a request from various interested parties in Western Australia such as fruit-grower’s organizations, and also from the Minister for Works and Hous ing, the Western Australian Government and other people in Western Australia, requesting that we operate this year a scheme similar to that which was operated jointly by the Commonwealth and the Western Australian Government last year. Apparently, as the result of the reply that I gave to a question that the honorable member for Wilmot asked recently, I received a communication from the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania expressing interest in my announcement that favorable consideration will be given to the Western Australian proposition and seeking the terms and conditions under which the Australian Government will be prepared to enter into a scheme in respect of Tasmania. At this juncture I can only say that the Australian Government has not yet made a decision on the matter that the honorable member has raised. When such a decision has been made, it will be conveyed to him and to interested parties in both Western Australia and Tasmania.
– I have in my hand a sixteen-page booklet entitled The Facts, which contains extracts from speeches that have .been broadcast by members of the Government. The booklet bears the imprint, “Published by J. B. Chifley, M.H.R., and H. V. Evatt, M.H.R., Parliament House, Canberra, and printed by the Government Printer “. In view of the fact that the bulk of the material in the booklet is Labour political propaganda, will the Prime Minister say whether it was published at the expense of the Australian Government? If so, how many copies were printed, and to whom were they distributed ? How many copies were sent to branches of the Australian Labour party?
– -I understand that the publication to which the right honorable gentleman has referred is a pamphlet that was produced as a departmental document. I shall endeavour to supply him with a complete answer to his question. I am not aware that any special distribution of the pamphlet has been made. I understand that it has been made available to the public in the ordinary way.
– Iii 1928, Vesteys released certain land for agricultural purposes in the Katherine River valley in the Northern Territory. As the area has been proved to be suitable for agriculture there is a wide demand for blocks among ex-servicemen and others. Will the Minister for the Interior immediately resume for that purpose the land for one mile on each side of the Katherine River down to the Daly River, after providing watering places for the limited number of cattle affected by tick that are now roaming in that area?
– The honorable member is fully aware that investigations are being made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization into the suitability for agriculture of land in the Katherine River valley. That organization has been experimenting on plots in that area for the last three, or four, years. Before that land can be thrown open for agricultural purposes it is necessary that thorough tests be made of the soil. I am as anxious as the honorable member is that a final decision shall be reached in the matter as soon as possible. I discussed it with officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization during my recent visit to the Northern Territory, and as the result of information that I received from them I am hopeful that they will be able to make a report on the subject to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction at an early date. When that report has been received and fully considered a decision will be made with respect to the allocation of land in that area for agricultural purposes.
– For how long does the Minister for the Navy expect aircraft carrier Sydney and its sister ship, which, I understand, is to be added to the Royal Australian Navy soon, to be in commission? As those vessels are considerably smaller than the standard United States of America aircraft carrier, is the Minister and his departmental experts satisfied that they are big enough to be readily adaptable to carry the jet aircraft now envisaged as the standard type of military aircraft for the next decade?
– When the Government first decided to purchase aircraft carriers as the nucleus of an expanded Royal Australian Navy, consideration was given to the whole matter of the development of naval units in the light of experience gained during World War XT. According to naval experts in this country, in the United Kingdom, and elsewhere, that experience indicated that the type of aircraft carrier known as the light fleet carrier would be suitable not only for present-day sea-borne aircraft, but also for aircraft of other types that will be in general use when the reciprocating engine is replaced by jet or turbo jet motors. It was decided therefore to purchase carriers of the Sydney type. Ever since this Government announced its plan to build up naval strength in Australian waters, a vicious section of the Australian press has endeavoured to “ write down “ the Navy. Recently, to the disgust of officers and ratings of the Royal Australian Navy, and of most decent Australians, these newspapers sought to give the impression that H.M.A..S. Sydney waa obsolete. That is not so. Sydney is the most modern vessel of its type and size afloat.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether numerous ministerial references are awaiting attention by the Tariff Board, and will require a considerable time to investigate? Will this delay deprive Australian manufacturers of the benefits of increased tariff duties which they might otherwise receive? Has a strong case been put to the Minister against the dumping of British textiles in Australia ? If these are facts, will the Minister consider appointing a second tariff board to dispose quickly of the accumulated work.
– I shall answer the honorable member’s question because it covers more than just customs duties. Some time ago a problem arose over textiles. Yarn was being sold out of the United Kingdom to Australian manufacturers at a higher price than that charged to British manufacturers.
– And the yarn supplied to Australia was of a poorer quality.
– That is so. I made representations on behalf of the Government to Mr. Harold Wilson, the President of the British Board of Trade, pointing out that, as the result of this differential treatment, British textile manufacturers were able to undersell Australian manufacturers on the Australian market. I have not time to deal adequately with all aspects of this matter in reply to a question, but I may say that difficulties also arose over nylon yarn, which was not being supplied in the quantities sought by Australian manufacturers. That matter, too, was taken up with Mr. Wilson. Subsequently an allotment of 600,000 lb. of nylon yarn per annum was made to this country. Apparently there is still some doubt about whether the quality of the items being supplied to this country is satisfactory to users of this type of material. That matter has been taken up with the Tariff Board. The chairman of the board has prepared an interim report for presentation to the Minister for Trade and Customs and myself. The board proposes to conduct an inquiry into the whole matter of imported textiles which are undercutting Australian-made textiles, apart altogether from the aspect that nylon yarns are sold to our manufacturers at a higher price than is charged to British manufacturers. Mr. Wilson has informed me that the differential anomaly has been removed and that an adjustment has been made so that Australian manufacturers will not be placed at a disadvantage compared with British manufacturers by having to pay a higher price for yarn.
– Will the inquiry be completed expeditiously?
– The letter that I have received from the chairman of the Tariff Board states that the inquiry will be completed as quickly as possible.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in connexion with the calling of honorable members at question time. During the first 35 minutes of the proceedings yesterday I rose at every opportunity, but did not get a call from the Chair. This morning I have again risen at every opportunity and have not received the call until now. I understand that it is the practice of the Chair to. call alternately Liberal and Country party members on this side of the House. This morning you called in turn from this side of the House the honorable member for Balaclava, the honorable member for Franklin and the honorable member for Wakefield, and ignored the fact that I had risen at every opportunity during the first 35 minutes of our proceedings. Is there an established rule upon which the Chair determines this matter?
– The matter is one for the determination of the Chair. Honorable members are called by the Chair in the order in which they are observed to rise.
Mr. White interjecting,
– Th* honorable member for Balaclava has the bad habit of endeavouring to answer himself questions he has asked, and is then not satisfied with the answer he receives.
Mr. White interjecting,
– Order ! I ask the honorable member f or Balaclava to cease interrupting.
– I was praising you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I had noted the name of the honorable member for Richmond and had intended to call him for the second question allotted to the Opposition side of the House. I do not know whether or not the honorable member was tired, but he did not rise at the appropriate time, and, consequently, he was not called. I then called the honorable member for Bendigo in his stead. I looked for the honorable member for Richmond on another occasion but he was not on his feet. I have called him now because this is the first occasion on which his turn has come.
– Some considerable time ago I asked the Attorney-General a question concerning the consolidation and codification of the ordinances of Papua and New Guinea, which are well known to be in a confused and chaotic state. On that occasion the right honorable gentleman gave me a general reply which indicated that the matter would be given consideration. I now ask him to say how far the work has proceeded. What steps have been taken to make the laws of those two territories readily accessible to members of the legal profession who are engaged in administering them and to the public in those territories?
– The work referred to by the honorable member, which is extensive, is in charge of Professor T. P. Fry, of the University of Queensland, who is now at Canberra working on the task, which fell into arrears because of the war. I shall endeavour to ascertain how far the work has progressed, but I point out to the honorable member that the task cannot be completed in a matter of weeks or even of months.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Information relating to that excellent publication, South-West Pacific, which is published under his authority. Is the Minister able to state to what organizations or individuals the publication is forwarded? Is a copy supplied to all schools in the Commonwealth? If not, will the Minister, following the return of the Labour Government at the end of this year, give consideration to the desirability of making available a copy of the publication to all school children in Australia in order that they may profit by the excellent information which it contains ?
– The publication referred to in the honorable member’s question is unanimously voted to be a splendid success. It is prepared in Australia and is sent to leading newspapers abroad and to English-speaking countries particularly. It is quoted from extensively and renders a valuable service to Australia. The Department of Information does not supply it to schools in Australia. However, if the Treasurer will let me have more money after the forthcoming election I shall do what I can to carry into effect the excellent suggestion that has been made by the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Information say whether the Australian News and Information Bureau’s journal Australia, which is written, produced and distributed in the United States for Americans, contained an articleon the forthcoming general election which gave no space to the Opposition parties’ case ? In view of the fact that the article in question is described as “ a political guide for the benefit of editors, broadcasters, teachers and students “, will the Minister say whether he authorized the publication of this one-sided political propaganda? Will he arrange for the leaders of the two Opposition parties to be given space equal to that given to the Government to state their views?
– I understand that a man named Cox of the Melbourne Herald wrote that question for the honorable member, and that the basis of the question asked the honorable gentleman was a cable from a man named Randale Heymanson, who is the New York correspondent of the Melbourne Herald.
– The Minister is a bad guesser.
– I am a pretty good guesser. I know the whole story and I know that the statements made by the honorable member are not true. The leaders of the political parties opposite are given, and were given, space in this publication, which is issued by the New York office of my department.I knew nothing about the matter until I received a copy of the publication, but I have had an assurance from Mr. Bonney, who is in charge of the depart ment’s office in New York, that the allegation that the Opposition parties were not given space to state their views in the article is not true. In any event, I can assure honorable members that if political matter is to be presented in any of the department’s journals, equal opportunity will be given to all political parties.
– I remind the Minister for Information that approximately two and half years ago the Melbourne Herald produced an excellent publication entitled Listeners’ Guide to Canberra. The booklet included the photographs of all the members of the Commonwealth Parliament and gave much detailed and interesting information about the functioning of this legislature. The publication was of great value to schools. I understand that the supply of copies is exhausted, and that the Melbourne Herald does not propose to issue another edition. On behalf of the many people who have approached me personally about the matter, will the Minister make representations to the proprietors of the Melbourne Herald, provided he can get an audience with them, in order to ascertain whether that newspaper will issue another edition of this excellent publication, if not immediately, then after the forthcoming election when the number of Labour members of the Parliament will be substantially increased ?
– I shall give sympathetic consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion that I consult Sir Keith Murdoch about the production of a joint Commonwealth-Melbourne Herald publication for the information of members of the Parliament and for the edification of the people generally. If Sir Keith Murdoch is willing to have the assistance of the Commonwealth, and we are willing to have his assistance in the matter, we may be able to produce a joint socialist-private enterprise publication that will b’e in keeping with many other splendid examples of what this Government has been able to do in conjunction with private enterprise.
– -Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me how many tons of sulphate of ammonia of Australian manufacture were lost during the recent coal strike? Will he state whether the loss exceeded 10,000 tons? Has an endeavour been made to meet that loss by importing supplies of sulphate of ammonia from the United Kingdom and Russia at substantially increased prices? Have those higher prices been passed on to the whole of the Australian farming community by increasing the price of sulphate of ammonia by £2 a ton under the direction of the Commonwealth fertilizers pool? Will the farmers receive a direct subsidy in respect of the sulphate of ammonia on which the excess price is being charged? At what price is this fertilizer being made available to industrial users and to primary producers respectively ?
Mr. POLLARD. The honorable member for Richmond has asked a most comprehensive question and unless he places it on the notice paper, I shall not be able to give a detailed reply. However, the position generally is that because of the coal strike, a very considerable tonnage of locally produced sulphate of ammonia was lost. Every endeavour is being made to recoup that loss.
– By whom?
– By the Commonwealthowned plants, in the main. That is another example of the socialist ventures of the Government, and I do not think that the honorable member will disagree with it. I desire to explain, for his edification, that the major part of the sulphate of ammonia that is manufactured in Australia is produced in Governmentowned plants that were installed during the war at the time of our greatest need. They are now operated _ by a very efficient private firm, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, but without the existence of the plants established by the Government, losses from the coal strike would1 have been very serious indeed. The existence of those plants enables us to produce sulphate of ammonia. In an effort to assist primary producers to recoup their losses, the Government agreed to the importation of a shipment of sulphate of ammonia from Russia. The cost is some pounds a ton above that of sulphate of ammonia produced locally or imported from the United Kingdom. I speak from memory when I say that the Government subsidy on all sulphate of ammonia distributed in Australia amounts to about £500,000, and the amount of the subsidy will remain fixed. The result is that for a portion of the supplies now forthcoming producers will pay more.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1949.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. 1 propose to say something very briefly about the general purpose of this bill, and then to direct particular attention to its provisions, when honorable members have the bill before them. Some little time ago, the Government brought in a bill dealing with irregularities in trade union elections and, in the course of the debate on that bill, I took the opportunity to say something about the general case for secret ballots. As I suspect that the time allowed for this debate will not be unlimited, I do not propose to occupy the time of the House by reiterating what I said then. I can sum up the case for a secret ballot in. industry in a very few words. Organizations are vital to the arbitration system. Every honorable member who is familiar with the Commonwealth arbitration system knows that it is literally founded on organization - organizations of employers, and organizations of employees, better known as unions. Trade unions and, to a much lesser degree, organizations of employers, are a vital element in the structure of the Arbitration Court. The union itself, under the arbitration system, is given very great powers. I remind honorable gentleman that it has, among other things, the right to create disputes, the right to put forward claims on behalf of its members, the right to represent its members before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, whether before a judge or before a conciliation commissioner, and the right to enforce an award by taking the necessary proceedings to ensure that the member of the union is paid what he ought to be paid under the award and that the prescribed conditions are being observed in relation to him. In addition to those things, there as and has been for many years in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, a power to award preference to unionists. Thatpower, of course, is now exercisable by the conciliation commissioner, not by the judge. I merely recite those facts briefly in order to remind the House that the trade union, the organization of employees, is now inextricably bound up with the whole of our notions of the arbitration system. In those circumstances, we believe, and have said so repeatedly, that it is of the first importance that these great organizations, with all their proper power in the community, should be democratically controlled.
The first requirement in the democratic control of any body is that there shall be a system of voting which reflects the true opinion of the people who are entitled to vote. As I have said very many times in public - and I am sure that many other honorable members also have said the same thing - nobody in any democratic country like Australia would dream of going back to the old open ballot. In the political field, we recognize at once that the only vote that is worth having is a vote taken by secret ballot. Yet, in the industrial field, we have shambled along for many years with a system which permits great decisions to be taken in very great trade unions by chance votes at mass meetings, not by a system of secret ballot. Bitter experience has shown, particularly in recent years, that an open vote taken at what may be, in very large measure, a chance meeting does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the organization at all.. There must be very many people in Australia who believe that one-half of the great strikes that we have had in the last three years would not have occurred had the rank and file member had a chance to cast a vote by secret ballot on the issue of the stoppage. All of that can be summed up by saying that a vote that is a mere minority vote at a mass meeting is not democratic and that the only democratic vote is that in which everybody has the right to vote without fear, favour or affection. I imagine that, in the eyes of most, Australians, I need not argue that basic proposition for very long. I am convinced that there is an overwhelming body of opinion in Australia in favour of the secret ballot for industrial purposes. That being so, how should we go about introducing it? That question has given us some cause for consideration.
It is very undesirable, I think, that a secret ballot should appear to be forced upon unionists from outside sources. I am quite familiar with the feeling that every trade unionist has that he ought to be the master of the affairs of his own trade union and that nobody else should interfere them. That, of course, is the whole object of the hill. A man will never be the master of his own trade union until his vote is as good as the vote of anybody else in that trade union and until rank and file control of elections in the union and of great decisions of tha union has been completely established. Therefore, the bill is really designed, not to interfere with, but to strengthen the rights of unionists and to give to them an unquestioned power over matters that are vital to them. I speak of unionists, although the principle of the bill applies equally to employers’ organizations, which, of course, have nothing like the same measure of development as employees’ organizations have secured.
Applying the principle that I have just mentioned, the bill proposes that the secret ballot shall be introduced as a part of the rules of registered organizations. Most honorable members are familiar, some of them particularly so, with this machinery, but I point out for general information that, before a union can have itself registered in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, it must prepare its rules, which, under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, must comply with certain conditions. If honorable members will look at the act, they will find, in section 70, the following provision: - (1.) Any of the following associations or persons may, on compliance with the prescribed conditions, be registered . (2.) The conditions to be complied with by associations so applying for registration and by organizations shall be as set out in Schedule B or as prescribed.
The conditions that appear in Schedule B were, in fact, replaced many years ago by regulation, but without going into the details, honorable members may take it that there is a list of provisions with which the rules of the union must comply before it can become registered. The very first of those conditions is that the rules must provide for the election of a committee of management of the organization and of its branches and of officers of the organization and of its branches under a system of voting which makes adequate provision for absent voting. Thus, in fact, the Parliament looked into this matter many years ago and actually provided that a union seeking registration must provide in its rules for a system of voting, including absent voting, or in another form, postal voting.
What we propose in the bill is that a further provision shall be imposed in relation to the rules of a union applying for registration. That provision will be found in clause 3, which proposes that in section 70 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which I have mentioned, these words shall be inserted - (2a.) In addition to the conditions referred to in the last preceding sub-section, the rules of associations applying for registration and of organizations - (a.) shall provide that the system of voting for the election of a committee of management of the organization and of its branches and of officers of the organization and of its branched shall make adequate provision for postal voting and for the conduct of the voting by secret ballot under the supervision ofsome person approved by the Registrar:
The reason for the use of the expression contained in the last few lines is that there may be some organization that is controlled, for example, by Communists. In such a case, the Industrial Registrar might say, “I am not satisfied that this man is going to conduct the ballot properly “. However, I have no doubt that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the Registrar would automatically appoint the man who was normally the returning ofiicer for the union. The essence of the proposal is that there is to be in the rules of the union a provision for the conduct of voting by secret ballot so that the union’s own rules will embrace the secret ballot.
– It will still be optional for members to vote, though.
– Yes, I quite agree. I gave some consideration to that point, but there were very great difficulties in the way of devising a system of compulsory voting, as the honorable member will realize when he looks through the bill carefully. I agree that this bill contemplates noncompulsory voting. If some one can devise a system for. making it compulsory, I shall be very happy to accept an amendment along those lines. In the second place, there is a provision to be put into the rules, and certified as reasonable by the Registrar, under which, if any members of the organization are concerned in any industrial dispute and there is a proposal that there shall be a lockout, in the case of the employers’ organization, or a strike, in’ the case of the union, no such lockout or strike shall take place until the question whether it shall take place has been submitted to a secret ballot of those members of the organization who would become parties to the lockout or strike if the proposals were carried out. That means that there are two proposals or topics to be dealt with by the rule which is to be put into the body of the rules of the trade unions and employers’ organizations. The first is that there shall be a secret ballot for the election of officers and the second is that there shall be a secret ballot among those concerned before a lockout or strike may take place. The next provision in the bill is that if a lockout or strike takes place and a secret ballot has not been held in accordance with the rules of the organization, the Registrar may proceed to conduct, or cause to be conducted, a secret ballot on the matter. So, if an organization fails to conduct a secret ballot, the Registrar may step in and conduct it instead. In order to be complete, the bill contains definitions of “ lockout “ and “ strike “, which are substantially in line with the definitions of “lockout” and “ strike “, which stood in the act for many years until the provisions for the prohibition of lockouts and strikes were struck out the better part of twenty years ago.
– If a lockout were proposed, who would vote in the ballot?
– The members of the employers’ organization concerned. There are two types - lockouts by employers, strikes by unionists. The employers would vote in a secret ballot on whether or not there should be a lockout and the unionists would vote in a secret ballot on whether or not they should strike. If the parties to the proposed lockout or strike did not conduct a ballot, the Registrar would be able to step in and say “ As you have failed to take a ballot on this matter,, I now propose to hold one”. When he has held one, he will have to ascertain its result and publish it forthwith in such manner as he thinks fit.
– How would the proposal apply to a lockout by one big firm in an industry in which there were no other firms ?
– That would not be a registered organization. A ballot would be irrelevant. It is one firm and it makes one decision.
– That is often where trouble arises.
– The honorable member must not suppose that any one thinks that a secret ballot is going to prevent all lockouts or strikes. No one supposes that for a moment. In the case of a lockout by an individual employer, it would be absurd to talk about a secret ballot, for there must be unanimity in a decision when he is the only man to make it. But organizations, which have very great powers under our legislation, ought not to be able to exercise those great powers in a way that may injure the community, unless, first of all, it is clear that its members want to take the suggested action. A strike that injures the public is, goodness knows, bad enough at any time, but a strike that injures the public and represents the will of only some and not the majority of the members of the union is a strike for which no justification can possibly be found. So we say that complete industrial democracy inside the trade unions would exist as the result of this legislation. No one outside the union will be able to tell it what decision it has to make. Only the rank-and-file members will be able to decide what course the union shall take. That is an eminently democratic proposal.
– What is sought, in effect, is a secret ballot on strikes rather than on the election of officers.
– There are many cases in which officers of unions are elected by ballot.
– They are in most of the big unions.
– But in some they are not. From the public point of view, the more burning question is whether there : should be a secret ballot before a lockout or strike.
– All that the honorable gentleman is worried about is strikes, not elections.
– May be. I am not prepared to debate that at all. The overwhelming public interest concerns strikes or lockouts. That is the major consideration in the bill. Provision has been made for the election of officers by secret ballots, because that provision makes the bill logically complete, although the conduct of a secret ballot i3 not nearly so important on the election of officers as it is on a stoppage of work, which may have very wide repercussions. Many things might be said about the bill, but I am anxious that the House shall have the opportunity of expressing its view. I put forward the hill as an eminently democratic measure, which, far from impairing the strength of trade unions, will strengthen their position by making certain that decisions taken by them shall really be the decisions of their Tank-and-file members. I commend the bill to the House. I commend its principle as unanswerable. Some changes may need to be made in point of detail. Indeed, if amendments are put forward in committee, I assure honorable members that I shall not use my majority to ensure their rejection. On the contrary, I shall be happy to consider them on their merits.
– I must say at the outset that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has explained his bill in a way that is helpful to the House and tends to bring before the House and the country what is the great problem in democracies - the problem of industrial peace. I agree with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) that the more important part of the proposal relates to strikes. What I ask the House to consider is that the whole background of the problem has entirely changed. I think it is fair to say that the right honorable gentleman prepared the bill before recent legislation was passed’ by the Parliament, because the title refers to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitra tion Act 1904-1948, when, of course, there is no such act. The act now is the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1949. The right honorable gentleman, no doubt, had the bill in preparation before the recent legislation, which is very important legislation, was passed. I shall refer to that legislation a little later.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that I gave notice of this bill before the bill to which he refers was submitted to the Parliament and passed.
– That is quite correct. The right honorable gentleman drafted legislation to meet a situation that has changed. That is my point. The situation has been changed’, in my opinion, by the passage by the Parliament of the recent amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, in which very important changes were made in the provisions governing the elections of officers of registered organizations. I shall return to that a little later. The substance of that law is important. It is being administered actively. There are cases at present before the court under its terms in order to ensure that the affairs of these organizations shall be conducted in a way that is above suspicion. The court has power under that act to order a new ballot, and to add to a returning officer of the organization its own appointee as joint returning officer. Very drastic consequences have been imposed by Commonwealth law for the first time, all designed to ensure the regularity, correctness, and propriety of the organization ballots.
– I agree that the amending legislation of 1949 deals with additional powers, and is designed to prevent irregularities. However I think that the Minister will agree that it has no relation to a power in connexion with a strike or lockout.
– I entirely agree with the right honorable gentleman and I thought that I had made that point clear. The bill is divided into two parts, one relating to the election of officials, and the other to strikes, which is of crucial importance in the modern industrial age. That aspect is enormously more important than the first. So far as the first part of the bill is concerned the background has changed entirely as a result of the passage as recently as the 12th July last of the bill dealing with irregularities in the elections of officials of organizations. That measure was enacted, and, as I mentioned a moment ago is being actively implemented by the Registrar and by the Court. In my opinion it will do everything that the first part of this bill aims to do. Further, I think it is equally important to call the attention of the House to the fact that although the bill itself became law the industrial background has changed entirely because of the legislation passed by this House in connexion with the coal strike. I refer to the National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act 1949, that was passed by the Parliament on the 29th June. As a result of action taken by the Government thereafter, and by the great majority of the trade union movement, that great crisis was successfully surmounted. I want the House to bear that in mind when addressing itself to the second part of the bill, which deals with the subject of strikes. At this moment a great convention of the trade unions of Australia is being held. It has already adopted a new code in order to restrict and control strikes. As I have said before, this represents a complete and overwhelming defeat for those sections of trade unions into which political matters were injected by the Communist party of Australia. In my judgment nothing is more remarkable in Australian industrial history than the determination of the trade union movement during the coal strike to see that the community was protected, that the Government was supported, and that the small number of extremists in substantial control of a few unions would not be able to impose their political will directly upon this Government and the arbitration tribunal, and indirectly upon the whole arbitration system of this country. The problem of the strike, as I ventured to suggest to the House when bringing that legislation forward during the coal strike, is really a by-product of something which in itself is essential to the welfare of Australia, that is the full employment of our people. Reference has been made to the lockout. Although that is rarely resorted to in times of full employment, it would again become a very great menace to industrial peace in this country if depression came and there was a substantial army of unemployed. In times of full employment there is no longer any question of a lockout. In my opinion, the object of those who wanted to continue the coal strike in order to bring pressure to bear upon the Arbitration Court was to secure a political advantage and so, a minority of people was able to inflame the minds of the members of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, resulting in an overwhelming majority in favour of a strike. I do not wish to go into the detailed history of this matter. The legislation now submitted to this Parliament does not provide that there must be a ballot to see if the members of a union may lawfully strike or not. At the best it provides that there will be a secret ballot; if the members vote in favour of a strike, it can be gone on with. If they vote against a strike, it can still be gone on with. That is the net effect of the second part of this bill. That part does nothing to stop a strike; it merely provides that the trade unions must have in their rules a means of taking a vote before their members strike. If a ballot is not taken the Registrar may, if he thinks fit, order a vote; but if that goes in favour of the strike, what then? In my judgment it gives an imprimatur to the regularity and propriety of a strike, which, if it were of the nature of the recent coal strike, might be aimed at the very life of the community. Therefore it is like offering a couple of aspirins to a man in a desperate state of health, suffering from some disease that must be dealt with by drastic methods, such as a major operation, and saying to him, “ These will make you well for an hour or two ! “
– It is the Registrar’s duty to publish the result.
– That is so. He need not take a ballot. It would be in no sense an attempt to solve this great problem, but the Government of this country, supported by the Parliament in the emergency coal strike legislation, the trade union movement, and the Labour movement of Australia are engaged in tackling that question to-day. Whilst some of the observations made by the right honorable gentleman are perfectly true, the background of this legislation, which I have endeavoured to describe, may also include legislation that was passed in 1947, but which honorable members may have forgotten. The Communist party endeavoured to boycott the defence project at the Guided Weapons Range at Woomera. It engaged in that objective merely for political purposes, not to improve the industrial conditions of the workers. We passed legislation in this Parliament the effect of which was to put a complete and absolute stop to the boycott, and because of that legislation there has been no further attempted interference. Although the firm enforcement of the emergency coal strike legislation by the Arbitration Court held the fort at a time when everything seemed in danger in this country, we could not have carried the matter to a successful conclusion were it not for the fact that the overwhelming body of officials of the trade unions who had no connexion with communism, that is to say, 90 per cent, of the unions in Australia, and the Labour movement of Australia, gave their overwhelming support to the Government, as indeed did the Parliament, by passing the emergency legislation.
– A secret ballot was taken during the big timber workers’ strike.
– I shall refer to secret ballots in another connexion, but as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) has said, they have been taken before. In my opinion, had a secret ballot of the coal-miners been taken on the same day as that on which the aggregate meetings were held when the decision to strike was made, the result would have been exactly the same. Twice the number of men would have voted, but the taking of a secret ballot would not have prevented the strike. No doubt there could be a situation in which it might be useful to order a secret ballot, but the court can do that to-day;
The provisions of the second portion of the bill insofar as they deal with strikes are substantially covered, as I shall establish, by existing legislation. It is quite unnecessary for the House to approve of a provision which would substitute the
Registrar for the Arbitration Court. Because of the association of the recent general coal strike with industrial peace, I should like to read to the House an article that appeared in the News Chronicle, a leading English newspaper that is not associated with either the Labour party or the Conservative party in Great Britain. I think that the article sums up the position fairly and generously. It reads as follows : -
The final collapse of the strike is a signal triumph for Mr. Chifley’s government and a heavy set-back to communist influences among Australian workers.
We want to build upon those gains. The endorsement by the Australian Council of Trades Unions yesterday on the amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to prevent irregularities in the election of trade union officials shows, that the Australian trade union movement is building upon the victory that has been won for the system of industrial arbitration and industrial peace as long as it is associated with industrial justice. The article continues -
Mr. Chifley has not only struck a blow for industrial democracy and properly constituted methods of arbitration, but he has discredited and exposed the Communists in a way the Australian working man is going to remember for a long time. Australian Labour has proved to the world that a government, based on working class support, can deal with communism as effectively as any other.
Perhaps I can dispose at once of the portion of the measure which deals with the election of officers. The right honorable gentleman, very fairly, has said that he attaches very little, importance to it. The fact is that he has not pointed to organizations the rules of which do not provide for secret ballots for the election of officers. How does the right honorable gentleman think that the elections of the members of the national committees of Australian trade unions are conducted? In the overwhelming majority of cases they are conducted by secret ballot. I understand from my study of the position that that remark does not apply to the election of the officers of every local branch of a trade union. There may be some trade union branches in country districts in which the voting for the election of a chairman, for instance, is by open ballot. That is a matter in which, I presume, the trade union exercises its right of selfgovernment. We should not impose rules that are designed to meet every possible situation that may arise in connexion with the minor activities of great organizations. The fact is that in the unions that have some Communist officials, such as the Waterside Workers Federation, the Seamen’s Union and the miners’ federation, the committees of management are elected by national secret ballot.
– That is true also of the Australian Railways Union.
– Yes. Those unions comprise the core of the Communist influence in the union movement.
– Did the right honorable gentleman say that the committees of management of those unions are elected by secret ballot?
-Yes, by their rules.
– Oh, by their rules!
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is correct when he says, “ Oh, by their rules “. If the ballot is not in fact conducted as a secret ballot, the deficiency can be made good by the legislation that was passed by this Parliament in June of this year.
– That legislation will not be enforced.
– It has been enforced. The right honorable member for North Sydney should know that during the last two months six cases have been brought before the courts under that act. Applications have been made for ballots to be held under the provisions of the act. I am pointing out that as far as the first part of the bill is concerned, in practice the secret ballot exists in the vast majority of cases.
In dealing, with the question of the returning officer, the right honorable gentleman has very fairly said that normally he would be the returning officer of the organization concerned. The bill provides that the rules shall specify that the returning officer must be approved by the Registrar. That is a curious way in which to seek to amend the rules of the unions. The amendment might be strongly objected to by some of the unions on the ground that they preferred to elect their own returning officers and that they want to have the right to do so. Under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1949, in the preparation and presentation of which the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) played such a prominent part, if the Registrar receives a complaint from any member of a trade union that there has been an irregularity in the conduct of a ballot for the election of officers of the organization he is bound to consider the complaint and, if he considers that a prima facie case has been established, refer it to the Arbitration Court. As I have said, six cases have been brought before the courts under the act during the last two months. The system is working smoothly. Therefore the first portion of this bill is quite unnecessary. I presume that the right honorable gentleman would not have included it if the bill had been drafted after the passing of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1949, but, quite clearly, this measure was drafted before then.
I turn again to the more important portion of the bill, which deals with strikes. Let the House understand what is proposed. All that the bill provides is that there shall not be a strike or a lookout until a secret ballot has been taken of those who would become parties to the strike or lockout if the proposal were adopted. The same remarks apply to this provision as apply to the provision dealing with the methods of election of officers. The bill will not do anything to prevent an organization from taking a free vote on a proposal for a strike or a lockout. If a strike or lockout were to take place without a secret ballot having been held, what is the sanction?
– The sanction is the court.
– The sanction is not the court. Under this bill the sanction is ineffectual. It is that the Registrar may order a secret ballot to be conducted. A trade union can be deregistered if it takes part in a strike, irrespective of whether there has been a ballot. The power to deregister is not dependent upon the taking of a ballot. It is there but it is not helped by this proposal. I am pointing out that so far as strikes are concerned, this measure would not operate in such a way as to prohibit them. It is quite different from the Hollway act, if I may refer to it in that way, dealing with essential services that was passed recently by the Victorian Parliament. Mr. Hollway’s act is more logical than is this measure. It provides with regard to essential services, which cover a wide field, that it is an offence against the law for men engaged in essential services to strike without having taken a ballot to decide the issue. In that respect, there is a sanction in the Victorian act itself. But I should add that although a number of strikes -have occurred in Victoria since the act was passed, the legislation has not been found to work in practice. As I understand the position, the act was proclaimed’ in 1948. Only on one occasion have prosecutions been launched under it. They were instituted against certain officers of the Australian Railways Union and of the Tramways and Motor Omnibus Employees Union following a 24 hours’ stoppage by members of those unions on the 17th November, 1948. When the cases came on for hearing, they were, by consent, adjourned sine die, and they have not been restored to the list since that date. So far, no other action has been taken under the Victorian act.
– The Victorian Government prosecuted men who were opposed to the strike.
– That is what may happen under legislation of that kind. I do not wish to say anything further about the Victorian act other than that it is quite different from this measure. This simply says that there shall be a ballot. If a union does not take a ballot then the Registrar may order the taking of one if he thinks fit, but under this bill he is not bound to do so.
– Why does the Attorney General not tell the whole story?
– That is the whole story. What remains to be added to it ?
– The court has complete power if the union rules are disobeyed.
– That is not the point at all. I am dealing with the question of the purpose of this legislation and I ask the House to address itself to one crucial point. Supposing a ballot is taken and the vote is in favour of a strike - as a vote by secret ballot would have been at the time that aggregate meetings were held on the coal-fields during the recent coal strike - what then ? About eighteen months ago, a deputation of representatives of manufacturers waited upon the Government. One of its submissions to the Government was that there should be a secret ballot before a strike, either on the lines provided in the Victorian Essential Services Act, or with some other sanction added. Members of the Government put this question to the deputation : “ Supposing the vote is in favour of a strike, what then ? “ The members of the deputation confessed that there was no way out of the impasse because if there were a vote in favour of the strike how is there to be-
– You will have the public’s interest.
– Of course, but the honorable member must really address his mind to that great difficulty in practice. I admit that it is a difficulty that is inherent in the nature of the problem, but it is one which appears very prominently in this proposal. Some reference was made to lockouts. Of course, it would not be possible to have a law dealing with strikes unless there was also a law dealing with lockouts. Supposing there is a registered organization of employers at a time when full employment is no longer operating and there occurred, as happened in the coal industry in the 1930’s, a lockout by the employers? Who is to vote on whether a lockout should be staged? A registered organization of employers, as the right honorable gentleman has said, is usually an amalgamation or an association of companies, and not of individuals. There may be a few individual members, but the whole trend now is towards corporate enterprise. A decision regarding a lockout by, say, twenty companies may be necessary. Who is to vote ? What say have the shareholders of the individual companies? Put simply, each company itself votes and shareholders will have no real say. A lockout cannot be considered in any different light from a strike, and that fact indicates the very difficult nature of the problem. This bill, as the right honorable gentleman has fairly said, is a bill in which, as far as lockouts arc concerned, the effective voice would be the voice of individual companies.
Now I come to what I consider to be a crushing answer to the argument that the House should pass this bill. I refer the House to section 72 of the present statute which gives the Arbitration Court power to act at any stage of the proceedings in relation to a dispute - and as honorable members know the proceedings in relation to an industrial dispute extend, often, over the whole period of the operation of an award or an attempt to vary it. Section 72 states -
The Court may order at any stage of the proceedings in relation to a dispute, that any matter upon which the Court thinks Jit to ascertain the views of the members of an organization or of a branch of an organization that is a party to the dispute be submitted to a vote of the members of the organization or of the branch thereof taken by secret ballot (with or without provision for absent voting) in accordance with directions given by the Court.
Section 73 creates offences in the case of any attempt to obstruct by intimidation, the taking of a ballot.
– That provision has been in the act since 19.28.
– It has not only been there since 1928, but it was retained in 1930 by the Scullin Government. It has never been amended since and it has been used in a case that I shall cite to illustrate what can be done under such a power. The case was dealt with by a conciliation commissioner, Mr. Morrison, as recently as March, 1943, when he directed the Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees Association to take a secret ballot of its members to ascertain whether a resolution in favour of a stop-work meeting, passed at a meeting of the New South Wales branch of the union, was, in fact, a true representation of the views of the membership of the New , South Wales branch and of the union as a whole. The commissioner directed that the ballot be conducted by the union itself, .and it was so conducted with the union’s own ‘returning officer and scrutineers. The result of the ballot showed that the majority of the members of the union were not in sympathy with the resolution adopted at the meeting, and were opposed to the holding of a stop work meeting. As -the result of that ballot no stoppage ensued. That is an illustration of a case in which the court has power, if it thinks fit, to do exactly what this bill seeks to provide.
– Only after the matter gets into the hands of the court.
– Only while there is an industrial dispute.
– No !
– With great respect, yes. At any stage in. the proceedings. That is how a matter would come before the court.
– The point is that the court must have the matter in hand before it can intervene.
– The right honorable gentleman speaks about having the matter in hand. Under the industrial arbitration system, as the right honorable gentleman knows, the court has practically continuous cognizance of an industrial dispute. An application could be brought to the court under the section that I have quoted and the court, in relation to the dispute of which it has cognizance, could deal with it. Otherwise the matter would not be within the court’s jurisdiction. The court could order a secret ballot if it thought fit to ascertain the views of members of the union.
– The case that the Attorney-General has quoted shows that a stoppage did not occur when the court ordered such a ballot.
– Mr.. Morrison, who I assume was acting for the court, ordered a secret ballot, not to settle a dispute, but so as to ascertain the wishes of the membership of the union. It is quite clear that the court has, under section 72 of the existing legislation, the power to do what this bill seeks to empower the Registrar to do. Is it not better that the court should exercise that power than that the Registrar should exercise it ? So far as taking a ballot can be of value - and at times it can be of value-
– I entirely ‘disagree with the Attorney-General.
– The right honorable gentleman may entirely disagree with me, nut he may be entirely wrong. I have put the view taken by the Government and its advisers in relation to this kind of matter. We considered during the recent coal strike the idea of having a secret ballot taken while the dispute was actually in progress. No action was taken at that stage because there was a struggle in the coal-miners’ union between those who favoured arbitration and those who did not. In those circumstances the Government felt that the matter should be allowed to proceed so that those in favour of arbitration could prevail, and that actually happened. Of course the Government will retain reserve power to deal with situations of that kind. One of the most striking actions taken in the past - and I hope that it will not be necessary to repeat it - was taken during the recent coal strike. The National Emergency (Coal Strike) Act prevented financial aid from being given to continue that strike. That legislation was perfectly justified in the emergency, and it was entirely successful. In fact, no financial assistance was made available by registered unions to keep the strike going, and that fact had an enormous effect upon the strike. But the Government’s emergency legislation would not have proved adequate had the trade union movement failed to rally to the support of the arbitration system. The Leader of the Opposition admits that under the existing law the Arbitration Court has power to deregister a union which participates in a strike. That is a sharp weapon which the court has seldom used. However, it has used it in some instances. The principal act also deals with officials of trade unions who take part in any boycott of awards. It also empowers the court itself to act in such instances. The court exercised its powers very firmly during the recent coal strike, and in doing so it won the approval of the overwhelming majority of trade unionists. The court possesses great power and great responsibilities; and it exercised its power with singular firmness in the circumstances which arose during the coal strike.
I have dealt with the first proposal in the bill. With respect to postal voting, my understanding is that the rules of trade unions provide for postal voting because no other method of absentee voting can be effectively provided. With respect to the second proposal, which is the more important because it deals with strikes, what is the position? The facts are that the Government and the Parliament must have reserve powers to deal with strikes of a major nature. However, the proposed provision that a ballot which will merely inform the minds of persons interested, which must be conducted in every instance, but which will have no consequence in law, seems to me to be futile. In any event it will do little more than reproduce a provision contained in the existing law. In that respect no sanction is contained in the bill or in the principal act; but whenever the court deems that it should do so it has power to order a secret ballot. There being a dispute before the court, it may ascertain the views of members, but no sanction is applied and no offence is created.
– But any attempt to prevent the conduct of a ballot ordered by the court would be a serious offence under the present law.
– That is so.
– That provision would apply under the principal act if my proposed new section were inserted.
– That is my submission. In substance, the proposed new section merely reproduces the existing law. Therefore there is no real justification for the bill from the point of view of maintaining industrial peace in this country. The movement in favour of the court’s processes for the maintenance of industrial peace and the vindication of the court’s authority has been greatly strengthened by recent action on the part of the trade unions. The trade union movement is alive to the position. Yesterday, the Congress of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, now being held in Sydney, expressed approval of and endorsed the amending legislation which the Parliament passed during the preceding period of the present session. That is important because the essence of a trade union is self-government. Under our legislation any ballot conducted by a union can be brought for scrutiny to the Registrar, and, ultimately, to . the court. The Congress also laid down a new code for the prevention of strikes within the arbitration system. I am sure that honorable members will recognize that that is a very important development. Since the conclusion of the coal strike, ballots have been held by the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Meat Industry Employees Union in Brisbane and other unions, and in each instance the great majority of the members of those organizations made it clear that they will uphold the arbitration system. In the long run, that system cannot be adequately imposed upon the unions from without. To be successful it must have the warm support of the members of the union. But for the support given to the Government by the trade union movement during the coal strike greater perils would have confronted the community and there would have been much greater suffering in Australia. Those facts are important. The struggle for arbitration is succeeding, due largely to the action taken by the Government and by the Parliament in enacting the legislation that I have mentioned. The Government will not tolerate any attempt by Communist officials to disturb, or destroy, the arbitration system. The Communists suffered a tremendous defeat in the coal strike, and they now have arrayed against them the overwhelming force of the trade union movement of Australia. The Government holds in reserve the power to take any action which might be necessary in the future. “We can go ahead on that footing and adhere to the principal act which the bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition would not affect substantially. The right honorable gentleman admits that the principal act provides adequately for the election of officials of trade unions and for the proper conduct of ballots, whilst with respect to the prevention of strikes his bill, in substance, is a mere reproduction of the existing law. In these circumstances the bill does not really meet the problem that he seeks to solve.
– The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) really justified the introduction of the bill in his concluding remarks when he said that Communist control of the trade union movement had been stemmed. As evidence of that fact he cited the result of secret ballots conducted recently by certain trade unions which he named. The right honorable gentleman knows, as all honorable members know, that the object of providing for secret ballots is to ascertain the views of the rank and file of members of trade unions. That bill has the support of the Australian Country party, which seeks to improve our existing arbitration law in order to minimize industrial dislocation and to reduce losses of man-power and materials caused by strikes. There is not one member of this chamber who does not know only too well just what industrial dislocation has meant to this country at a time when all our efforts should have been directed to the fullest exploitation of the productive capacity of Australia. What has been the result? Low production levels due entirely to the abuse of the strike instrument have prejudiced both our internal and our external economy. The Attorney-General said that this bill would be virtually useless, but then he proceeded to say that all its provisions were adequately covered by existing legislation. On the one hand, therefore, he says that the bill is futile, and on the other hand, that legislation already exists to meet the views of the Opposition as expressed in the bill. The right honorable gentleman asked what the position would be should a secret ballot be held, and a decision made to strike. He claimed that by legalizing such ballots we should be, in effect, condoning and even encouraging strikes, and that there would be no alternative but to accept the majority decision. But I ask honorable members to consider this bill in relation to Labour’s industrial policy to-day. The Labour Government upholds the right to strike, and, in fact, has legislated on the basis of that right. Honorable members opposite believe that the strike is a legal instrument for remedying industrial grievances ; but what is the position of the rank and file unionists in relation to the right to strike? No provision is made for a compulsory ballot, and there is no machinery for the holding of such a ballot. The issue, therefore, is whether there should be a continuation of the present state of affairs in which there is a right to strike without reference to the rank and file, or whether there should still be a right to strike but only on a majority decision of the rank and file at a legalized ballot. In other words, are strikes to be called by Marquess of Queensberry rules, or by Raffferty’s rules ? Even at the Attorney-General’s pessimistic valuation, this measure is at least an improvement on existing legislation, and surely it is the responsibility of every member of this House to do his utmost to improve industrial relations in Australia. This bill should be welcomed by the Government. I should have liked the bill to go further than it does. I should have liked to see provision made for a compulsory ballot. Under this measure voting would be voluntary. I recognize, of course, that there are difficulties in that connexion, but I see no reason why it would not be possible to require all trade unions to lodge with the Registrar of the Arbitration Court, complete lists of the names of their members so that ballots could be held by the court not only on the election of union executive officers, but also on whatever important issues may arise from time to time. That was done during the meat strike in Brisbane. The unions concerned were compelled to keep lists of their members so that a compulsory ballot could be taken. I understand that the New South “Wales Labour Government has already investigated the possibility of introducing compulsory secret ballots on industrial matters.
The Attorney-General said that the legislation passed earlier this year to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and assented to on the 12th July, amply covers the main aspects of the bill now under discussion. However, I draw attention to a very decided difference. Under the existing legislation, the initiation of action to remedy grievances over union ballots is left to the aggrieved persons. It provides that any member of an organization, or any person who has been a member of an organization within the preceding twelve months, who claims that there has been an irregularity in the election of an officer of the organization, or any branch of it, may lodge an application for an inquiry by the Arbitration
Court into the matter. The entire onus there is on the aggrieved individual. That is an undue responsibility, and certainly the measure does not go far enough to meet present-day circumstances. The Australian Country party wholeheartedly joins with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in urging acceptance of this measure. The right honorable gentleman is to be congratulated upon the introduction of legislation calculated to improve the existing law. The bill is consistent with the basic principles and policy of the Government on industrial matters. Government supporters continuously affirm the right to strike. Very well. Let there be a properly conducted ballot of the rank and file of union members on the strike question. That is the underlying principle of this bill.
– It is interesting to find emanating from the Liberal party the principles contained in this bill - the first to be introduced by a private member for -many years. It was the Liberal party or its equivalent, together with the Country party, that tried to abolish the Arbitration Court in 1929.
– The Liberal party founded the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member’s interjection indicates his guilty conscience. He, together with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), voted in this Parliament in 1929 to abolish the Arbitration Court.
– To abolish it or transfer it?
– Its activities were to be restricted to two maritime unions, but it was to be abolished as a federal court, and workers were to be left to go to the State courts for the determination of their wages and conditions. The then Government had no mandate from the people to do so.
– And it held no secret ballot to ascertain their wishes.
– That is so. Within twelve months of the election campaign at which spokesmen for that Government had promised to uphold- the federal arbitration system, it introduced such a measure into the Parliament. When an election was subsequently forced upon the country the Government was defeated and its leader, Mr. Bruce, lost his seat to the former secretary of the Trades Hall council, the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). In a discussion of this sort I always like to give a little background history so that the public generally and comparative newcomers to this Parliament may know what motivates honorable members opposite when they talk about the Arbitration . Court. The two Opposition parties, and the Communist party, are the three political parties which have tried at some time or other to destroy the arbitration system. They have all failed.
The proposals in this bill are twofold. They have been dealt with extensively by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) out of the plenitude of his knowledge and experience of industrial matters. No one has had greater experience of this matter, both as an advocate in industrial matters before the High Court, and as an interpreter of our industrial laws as a distinguished member of the High Court bench, than has the right honorable gentleman. His criticism of this bill was so lucid and cogent that I should have thought the Opposition would withdraw it immediately after he had concluded his speech. Honorable members opposite persist in pursuing two lines of thought, the adoption of neither of which would have the slightest effect on industrial peace. They say, “Let us have a secret ballot before a strike. Do nothing about the causes of the proposed strike. If a secret ballot results in a strike, all will be well “. They also say, “ Let us have a. secret ballot for the election of office bearers of the trade unions “.
– Deal with the second point.
– I shall come back to it later. The Attorney-General dealt with the second point equally as well as he dealt with the first one. The statute-book of Victoria contains a provision which is on all fours with the proposal now before us, but on every occasion on which the Premier of Victoria has been called upon to use the provisions of the Essential Services Act he has either run away from the challenge or has made a mess of the action which he has taken. In the case that was cited by the AttorneyGeneral involving the prosecution of certain members of the tramways union the persons who were prosecuted turned out to be anti-Communists who had voted against the strike. In one instance a summons was served on a man who had not been present at the union meeting in question and who, had he been present, would have voted against the proposal to strike. When provision is made for punitive action of the kind proposed we must be sure that what may be done shall be just and shall promote peace in industry. What is the purpose of the Arbitration Court? The court was appointed to promote and preserve peace in industry and to attempt to bring about better industrial relations. Judged by that criterion, the Arbitration Court has been eminently successful. The Opposition parties now propose that a provision be inserted in the act to provide for a secret ballot to be held before a strike is declared. Such a provision would not prevent strikes or lock-outs from occurring. In the metal trades strike, which took place a couple of years ago, the president of the Chamber of Manufactures, Mr. Cecil McKay, locked out certain engineers who were not involved in the first strike, and then objected strongly when the engineers said, after they had been permitted to return to work, “ We have a few matters that we want to square up “. It will be impossible to implement the provisions of this bill because if workers in an industry decide to strike, as the Attorney-General says, the strike then becomes legal. Had a secret ballot of the coal-miners been held in the early stages of the strike, the majority of the miners would undoubtedly have voted in favour of the strike because the Communist party, with its incessant propaganda, had been exploiting the use of the strike weapon and had been misleading the coal-miners for a long time.
– It had conditioned the minds of the coal-miners to favour a strike.
– That is so, and for some considerable period prior to the strike. If the miners had voted in favour of a strike, could the Government then have carried on, as it did, a successful campaign against the Communist party? In those circumstances the Government would have been seriously hampered in winning the great trade union movement to its side against what it believed to be a Communist conspiracy. It would not have been able to use. successfully, as it did with the cooperation of the trade unions, Army and Naval personnel to protect the community against the Communist conspiracy. The Australian Labour party was opposed in the strike openly by the Communist party and covertly by the Liberal and Australian Country parties. The Opposition parties wanted the Communists to win the strike in the hope that as a consequence the Government would lose the next election. The Communists lost the strike, and the Opposition will lose the election. That is the reason for a good deal of the soreness that has been exhibited by honorable members opposite in regard to this matter. Earlier the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked me to deal with the proposal relating to the holding of secret ballots for the election of office-bearers in the trade unions. In New South Wales the Labour caucus, in association with the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, has agreed upon the introduction of certain legislation containing provisions for the holding of secret ballots, for compulsory voting at such ballots and for compulsory unionism. These proposals all form part of one plan. Do honorable members opposite believe in compulsory unionism? Do they want compulsory unionism? They want only so much of the New South Wales plan as suits them. If they favour the plan as a whole let them propose an amendment to the bill now before us so that we can deal with the whole of the plan agreed to by the New South Wales Labour caucus. In most instances trade union rules provide for compulsory voting and secret ballots.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was about to refer to the provisions in the rules of the Waterside Workers. Federation, an organization with a Communist secretary and a Communist assistant secretary, which (provide for compulsory voting and for secret ballots. Many unions have rules which provide for the taking of secret ballots and some also have provisions for compulsory voting. I think that it is desirable that all unions should adopt those principles. The principle of compulsory and secret voting has obtained in Federal and State elections for many years and I can see nothing wrong in applying it to elections for leadership of trade unions. However, the unions have a suspicious attitude - borne of experience, of course, of the treatment they have received from anti-Labour parties over the years. They remember the attempt made by the BrucePage administration to abolish the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and they naturally suspect any proposal that emanates from the anti-Labour forces. To suggest that the unions should accept a suggestion that emanates from such a quarter is to strain their forbearance a good deal. They do not want secret ballots to be held in respect of strikes. I do not want to stress the matter any further because, as the Attorney-General pointed out with such great clarity this morning, the proposal of the right honorable member for Kooyong provides only for the taking of a secret ballot before deciding upon a strike. If such a ballot were taken and it resulted in favour of holding a strike, the arbitration authorities and the Government would be powerless to do anything. There will always be strikes, I suppose - at least, as long as capitalism survives. Whenever men feel discontented they will strike. However, I should think that strikes would now be reduced to a minimum by the streamlined arbitration machinery that this Government has introduced. Of course, some strikes are politically inspired, such as those instigated by the Communist party. Whatever the cause may bt, men will go on strike, regardless of the fact that they are the worst losers from strikes.
Strikes have occurred and, I suppose, they will continue to occur, not only amongst workers, but also amongst other classes of the community. I have here a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald of the 26th August last, which reports a meeting of the New .South Wales division of the Australian Primary Producers Union, and I particularly commend this report to the notice of members of the Australian Country party. That union claims to represent 9,000 New South Wales farmers, and on the previous day it voted overwhelmingly in favour of a proposal that farmers should strike or take direct action if they ‘believed that such a course was necessary. Of course, this bill has no provision to deal with strikes of primary producers. It might be said that the primary producers are not an organization registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. However, the report also states that the conference decided “ to seek registration with the Arbitration Court as an industrial organization “. The preceding paragraph states -
The Australian Primary Producers Union has 51,000 members in Australia, including 0,000 in New South Wales. It hopes to form one union for all primary producers.
If the farmers succeeded in obtaining registration with the court - I do not know whether or not they would be eligible to do so - what would ‘be their position under this proposed legislation if they decided to go on strike to obtain better conditions? I remind honorable members that the farmers of Australia have come a long way in the last 28 years. At -one time they held very conservative views on such matters as industrial arbitration. I am indebted to one of my colleagues for a copy of the Melbourne Herald of the 31st March, 1931, which reported an annual conference of the Country party. Under the banner heading, “ Farmers Want Arbitration Court Abolished “, the following report appears : -
By an overwhelming majority the 14th annual conference of the Victorian Country party decided to-day in favour of the abolition of the Arbitration Court.
Of course, that is a little ancient, but I remind members of the Australian Country party of the question in the Bible-
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?
The Australian Country party is just as much out of touch with the primary producers of this country to-day as it was in 1931. Then, as now, that party represents primarily the big squatters and wealthy land-owners who want to get rid of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The workers realize that, and for that reason they look suspiciously upon any proposals that emanate from the present Opposition parties to alter the rules which regulate the court. In my collection of newspaper and other clippings I have found the Hansard report of a speech that was delivered by Sir Stanley Argyle in the Victorian Legislative Assembly on the 30th June, 1931. At that time Sir Stanley Argyle was the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, and the present Leader of the Opposition in this House was either Sir Stanley Argyle’s deputy or his third in line. I know that at one time the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber was deputy leader of .Sir Stanley Argyle’s party in the Victorian Parliament. In discussing the attitude of his political party to the unemployment relief proposals advocated by the Australian Labour party, Sir Stanley Argyle said -
My friends opposite will have to disregard standards of living, basic wages and Commonwealth Arbitration Court awards. If they do not, then something worse is coining to them.
I remind the House that those words were uttered by the honorable gentleman less than two years after the Bruce-Page Government has attempted to abolish the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The idea that is still uppermost in the minds of many members of the Opposition is to get rid of the court. They do not like the idea of collective bargaining at all. They want to revert to the old principle of laisser-faire, and to afford free play to the law of supply and demand. If they have to tolerate the existence of trade unions they will seek to regulate- them as much as possible in the interests of the employing class. That is the reason why the workers of Australia have no faith in the Opposition parties and cannot possibly place any confidence in any proposal that emanates from the Opposition.
Before the suspension of the sitting I had referred to the fact that in this
Parliament in 1928 the Leader of the Bruce-Page Administration moved to abolish the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Significantly, the only four members of the present Parliament who voted for his motion are in Opposition to-day. They are the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). It is true that Mr. Bruce tried to sugar-coat the pill by offering the assurance that the workers would revert to the control of the State industrial arbitration systems. However, he also said that because the States had refused to transfer additional powers to the Commonwealth, the worsening condition of the national economy demanded that the nation should get rid of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and he hinted very darkly at the storm that was then looming, and which later culminated in a 10 per cent, reduction of wages. Subsequently, Mr. Bruce lost his own seat to a man who only a short time before had been the general secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and is now the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in the present Government. Now, we view with the greatest suspicion the proposals which emanate from honorable members opposite. We know why the Government of New South Wales is introducing legislation to provide for the holding of a secret ballot of members of trade unions for the election of office bearers. Allied to that proposal is the proposal for compulsory unionism. If honorable members opposite want a secret ballot for the election of office bearers of trade unions, are they also prepared to agree to the principle of compulsory unionism? There was a day when they did not want even preference to unionists. An election was fought in this country on the issue, of preference to unionists, and the Labour parry won it.
– There was a day when employers did not want unionists.
– Yes, and that was not so very long ago. The honorable mem ber for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), in their role as organizers of the Australian Workers Union, have been chased off properties by graziers and squatters who did not want shearers to be organized so that they could claim award rates of pay. Many men in the industrial life of this country, including some members of this Parliament, have known victimization at the hands of employers’ organizations for their activities on behalf of unionism. The interest of the Opposition in the cause of unionism is not so convincing as honorable members opposite think it is. As the Attorney-General has pointed out, the Parliament of “Victoria passed the Essential Services Act, but that legislation has never been used. Every time the Premier, Mr. Hollway, has indicated that he intended to use it, he has either withdrawn from a position which he has found to be untenable, or has ultimately refused to act.
– He has changed his mind repeatedly.
– That is so. When he launched prosecutions on one occasion, he summonsed the men who had opposed strike action and were supporters of the Labour party, but he did not serve one summons on the Communists. One man whom he summonsed was not even at the meeting when the decision to strike was taken. Mr. Hollway gave, as his excuse, that as the union officers were elected under the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, they probably were not within the reach of State legislation. So he had some excuse. Everybody who knows Mr. Hollway recognizes that he is the worst Premier that Victoria has ever had, and that he is leading the most hopeless government that any State parliament in Australia has ever known. He is hardly the person to cite as an example of how to operate legislation such as that which is proposed in the first provision of this bill.
I believe that it is a good thing that we occasionally have an opportunity to study a bill that has been introduced by a private member. In my opinion, the Parliament would be better if, occasionally, private members’ bills were circulated and discussed. That procedure has not been followed since the Parliament has met in Canberra, with the exception of this occasion.
– That is not so.
– There was one other occasion.
– At any rate, such occasions have been altogether too rare. I ask honorable members opposite, who seem to be so concerned about the right of the worker to have a voice in the control of the affairs of the union to which he belongs, whether they are prepared to give the worker, as a worker, an equal right with every other citizen in the election of members of the four reactionary Legislative Councils in Australia. The workers are as much entitled to that right as they are to the right to vote in a secret ballot in union affairs. The restricted property franchise in legislative Council elections puts hundreds and hundreds of ballot-papers into the ballot-box before the election really begins - all to the disadvantage of the wage-earner of the community. The Commonwealth Parliament - and that includes the Senate - is the only real, popularly-elected Parliament in Australia outside the unicameral system which operates in Queensland. I make those remarks in passing because I think that if we are to be a real democracy, if we are to have compulsory unionism, and if we are to have secret ballots in respect of union affairs and for the popularly elected chambers of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, then we should make provision for compulsory voting and universal sufferage for the election of members of Legislative Councils. Those chambers deal with such matters as strike prevention, increased production and industrial relations in State legislation and if the principle which the Leader of the Opposition has enunciated to-day is laudable, it is a good thing in respect of our parliamentary set up. My own purely personal view on the matter is that we should make some provision in our constitution, by a referendum, for setting up an authority clothed with full statutory powers and including representatives of employers and employees to deal with industrial relations, the management of industry and all other matters relating to the promotion of peace in industry, increased production, and the increasing of the workers’ share of the productivity of their own labour. We shall not obtain peace in industry merely by paying a worker a regular wage or salary. If the industry is thriving, the worker is entitled to share in the bounty that he is helping to create.
– Incentive payments ?
– I do not believe in the kind of incentive payments which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has in mind. They are a spur to the worker to make him produce more for the boss. The worker should have a share in the management and the profits. He is certainly at a tremendous disadvantage to-day, and any proper system would make provision for him to receive those benefits.
I believe that the bill is entitled to more consideration. The first part is unacceptable to the workers at any time, and I do not believe in going very much beyond the point to which the organized trade union movement of this country is prepared to go with the Government. The unions showed at their congress yesterday that they are prepared to endorse what they regard as fair and legitimate provisions. They endorsed the action taken by this Parliament to prevent corruption in union ballots. I think that they will be educated eventually to the view that we should have compulsory voting and secret ballots for the election of union office bearers. I see nothing wrong with the proposal in principle, but it is the suspicion, borne of the experience of the last few decades which makes them chary of anything that emanates from honorable members opposite. The explanation that the Attorney-General has given of the relevant provisions of the existing act, and of the intentions of the Government generally, should satisfy any person of goodwill, and I support all that the. right honorable gentleman has said. I urge honorable members opposite to desist from the attacks which they are continually making on the working class, as if the workers are the people who are responsible for every disturbance that occurs in industry.
As Minister for . Immigration, I acted in association with the Minister for Labour and National Service a few days ago in helping to convene a conference under the chairmanship of the Minister for Building Materials in New SouthWales in an attempt to get a number of new Australians into brickworks in that State. What did we find? Just before the coal strike the employers, in order to encourage a number of workers to go into the brick pits, offered a bonus payment. When the coal strike was in progress and the employers thought that a considerable number of new Australians were available, they decided to withdraw the bonus. They thought that the new Australians would work for them at lower rates, and that, consequently, Australians would be forced to work with them for lower wages. There is a greed and an avarice on the part of a big section of employers in Australia which must be contended with. The employers in the brickworks did not get the new Australians on the conditions that they offered. They had to continue to pay the bonus to the Australians, who went back to their employment after the strike, and also to the new Australians who they had engaged. However, the owners of two clay pits held out. The employers are more at fault in respect of industrial stoppages than are the workers. All the worker has to sell is his labour, for which he receives payment in the forms of wages or salary. On that payment he and his family depend for their existence. If he goes on strike he loses his wages, but the employer, particularly if he is associated with a big company, can sit back and draw on reserves, without suffering any deprivation. By their cupidity and selfishness, employers often contribute greatly to industrial troubles, which every one deplores. I endorse the views that have been expressed by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt).
– The Government does not intend to gag the debate, but we do not think it wise to continue it this week. I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 24th February (vide page 655), on motion by Mrs. Blackburn -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the Commonwealth Constitution be amended to provide for the Initiative, the Referendum and the Recall, and that at the next general election there be submitted to the people a proposal for alteration of the Constitution accordingly.
Motion (by Mr. Lazzarini) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Are honorable members calling for a division ?
– I heard only one honorable member. I ask those honorable members who have called for a division to stand in their places.
Some honorable members having risen in their places,
– I do not know that a division is necessary with only three members standing, but the House will divide.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 21st September (vide page 453), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances,£ 12,400, be agreed to.
.- Although some honorable members may have forgotten the fact, the committee is discussing the Government’s budget proposals for the financial year 1949-50. 1 have listened with considerable interest to the speeches that have been made, and I want to refer particularly to some of the points that have been raised by honorable members opposite. First, I direct attention to certain observations made by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), who tried last night to create an impression that anything and everything done by act of Parliament or by regulation represented socialism. He declared, amongst other things, that if the larger estates in Australia were subdivided in the process of time into smaller holdings, this would be a process of socialization. The assertion was completely erroneous, as were other arguments of the same character that he used. No camouflage of that kind will allay the anxiety in the minds of the people that the Government intends to proceed with its programme of socialization. This nation could face no greater menace than the nationalization of our major industries that this Government proposes to effect. Its policy is stated clearly in the Labour party’s platform. As the first steps in its campaign, the Government has set out to nationalize our hanks, our airways, our health services, and our broadcasting system. The weak efforts of the honorable member for Wannon to calm the fears of the people were futile. Honorable members opposite will have to stand up and take their medicine when the people dole it out to them at the forthcoming election.
I also refer, in passing, to some of the observations made by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley). The honorable member, who scarcely ever appears in this chamber-
– Shocking! He is here very often.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Burke) . - Order ! The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) is not entitled to reflect upon the presence or absence of other honorable members.
– The honorable member for Lilley said that I was quite indifferent to the treatment of ex-service men and women and that I had evicted many of them from their homes when I was Minister in charge of War Service Homes. I propose to give chapter and verse to show what happened, but before doing so, I propose to establish the unworthiness of the statements by showing the unworthiness of the person from whom they emanated. The honorable member has disfranchized his own electorate. He is the deaf mute of this Parliament. He hardly ever makes a contribution to the debates. In his speech yesterday, he made not one reference to the budget. He spent his whole time in abusing every one whom he could think of. He makes a speech once every three years, just before the general election. If honorable members doubt that, they may check in the Hansard index the infrequency of his utterances in the Parliament. The speech that he made yesterday could not have been delivered unless it had been prepared . for him. I should like to know who prepared it, although I have a very good idea who it was. The facts are that in 1929 the Scullin Government took office. Thereafter unemployment mounted rapidly month by month. That is proved by figures of the Commonwealth Statistician in regard to unemployment. The unemployment figure for the September quarter of 1929 was 12.1 per cent. It rose to 18.5 per cent, in the June quarter of 1930, to 20.5 per cent, in the September quarter of 1930, to 23.4 per cent, in the December quarter of 1930, and to 25.8 per cent, in the March quarter of 1931. In the September quarter of 1931, just before the Scullin Government was defeated, the figure was 28.3 per cent.
When the Scullin Government went out of office, the late Mr. J. A. Lyons was called upon to become Prime Minister of Australia. He asked me to accept the portfolios of Minister in charge of War Service Homes and Assistant Minister for Defence. When I came to Canberra to take over, I accompanied Senator Sir George Pearce, who was the new Minister for Defence, to the offices then used by the Minister for Defence where he took over from the outgoing Minister. Mr. “ Lou “ Cunningham, M.P., was Minister in charge of “War Service Homes in the Scullin Government. I arranged to take over from him at 2.30 p.m. the same day. Before that time arrived, he had left Canberra by car. So, there was no formal taking over of the War Service Homes Department. . After I had met the officers of the department, I learned why he had cleared out of Canberra. There were hundreds of files on his table that had been left unattended for a long time. The department was in chaos. I drafted a memorandum to the Government, which accepted my proposals.
I take this opportunity of pointing out that there was only one eviction when I was in office and I shall refer later to the circumstances of that solitary case. I will give honorable members chapter and verse in regard to that eviction in a few moments. When I took over difficulties abounded. I was told by my ‘officers that many war service homes in Australia were unoccupied and that people were breaking into them and stealing baths, electric light globes and fittings, sinks and all sorts of fittings and were stealing even internal and external doors. No one could imagine the position that existed without seeing it for himself. I was determined to give fair play and encouragement to ex-servicemen. At that time, 36,811 war service homes had been built in Australia. They were scattered all over the country in every State. With the War Service Homes Commissioner, I visited war service homes in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland as quickly as I could in order to get a complete grasp of the situation. I gasped at the losses that had taken place under the Scullin Government. Among my recommendations to the Cabinet was one that it was imperative to keep the exservicemen in their homes. Apart from our special desire to ensure that they should be housed, it was imperative that the assets of the Commonwealth in the homes should be protected. We set out to achieve our purpose in two ways, because there “were two groups of ex-servicemen with whom we had to deal. The first group consisted of those who had jobs and had some income and who, accordingly, might pay something. We decided to help them by reducing the interest rate straight away and by extending the period of repayment from 25 years to 45 years, which made it possible to reduce their weekly payments substantially. Then -we set out to help those who were out of work and could not meet their commitments. Payments were fixed according to the following scale: -
The primary objects were to ensure that men who could pay even a small amount should do so in order to give them security of tenure and to encourage them to stay in their homes. The Government hoped by these means to keep the ex-servicemen in their homes and to protect these important assets. That is the story of what we had to do immediately we came into office. “ The whole effort of the Government, under my administration of the War Service Homes Department was to ensure the continued occupation of the homes by ex-servicemen.
Some time later, on the 29th July, 1932, I recommended to the Government that it should appoint a committee of inquiry into the ramifications of the War Service Homes Department to ascertain whether it was possible to do anything more to help the occupants of the war service homes to . complete their purchases than I had already done. The Government accepted my’ recommendation and a committee of inquiry was appointed. It was presided over by Mr. J. L. Treloar, who is now Director of the Australian War Memorial. Its other members were Mr. W. C. Thomas, who was then Custodian of Expropriated Properties in New Guinea and who is now a senior officer of the Treasury, and Mr. G. C. Allen, of Queensland, an officer of the Taxation Branch. The terms of reference governing the inquiry were as follows : -
Messrs. J. L. Treloar, W. C. Thomas, and G. C. Allen are hereby appointed a Committee for the purpose . .’ .
of inquiring into and reported to the Minister administering War Service Homes upon the effect of the present industrial depression in, and economic conditions of, Australia upon the carrying out of contracts enteredinto by purchasers of homes under the War Service Homes Act 1918- 1929 and upon the repayment of advances made under that Act ; and
of making recommendations to the said Minister as to the action which should, having regard to the last preceding paragraph, be taken with a view to the completion of the contracts entered into by purchasers and borrowers under the said Act and the continued occupation of the homes in course of acquisition by those purchasers and borrowers by virtue of the said contracts.
The Government exerted every effort to keep these men in their homes. That was to be the basis of the Inquiry. Although I do not wish to quote at length from this report, I shall cite sufficient of it to indicate to honorable members the committees opinion of the work that the Lyons Government had done, and of the sympathetic treatment that it had extended to ex-servicemen. Paragraph 33 of the report reads -
I emphasize that this committee pointed out that sympathetic consideration had been exercised by the Government and myself in the administration of this measure and this made it difficult for them to suggest further improvements. Paragraph 71 of the report reads -
During the inquiry many tributes were paid by witnesses to the War Service Homes Commission and its agents and representatives, ft was generally acknowledged that the administration was sympathetic and helpful, and that every consideration was being shown to deserving clients who have been adversely affected by the depression.
That is a complete endorsement of the action that was taken by the then Government, and a tribute and eulogy to the Minister and the Government for the work that had been done in an effort to keep these men in their homes. That was in 1932. Now, seventeen years later, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley), who makes no worthwhile con tributions to the debates in this chamber, and completely disfranchises his constituents by doing nothing at all, raises this issue almost on the eve of the general election. During his speech last night he cited a 1945 question. However, I shall remind honorable members of a question that was asked’ by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) on the 25th September, 1935, that is, ten years before, and the answer that was furnished by the Minister then administering War Service Homes, Mr. Thorby. The honorable member for Lang, of course, has proved himself to be a great friend of good government by the way in which he attacked my friend the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). As recorded in Hansard, volume 147, at page 597, the honorable member for Lang asked the Minister administering War Service Homes -
Will he supply a detailed answer to each of the following questions in respect of each of the periods, 1st August, 1932, to 30th September, 1933; 1st August, 1933, to 30th September, 1934; and 1st August, 1934, to 30th September, 1935 - (1) How many applications have been made in the courts of New South Wales for ejectment orders against war service homes purchasers; (2) how many evictions have been ordered by the court; (3) how many have been carried out; (4) how many war service homes have been surrendered?
Detailed information was furnished in the answer, following which this explanation appears - (N.B. - Where more than one application has been made in respect of a purchaser the figures in item (1) have been increased accordingly. A similar position exists in connexion with item (2). As to the warrants obtained, 136 were cancelled upon arrangements being entered into by the purchasers to make suitable payments, whilst 125 related to purchasers who were in a position’ to forward the required payments, but rather than do so surrendered their homes. The balance of purchasers who surrendered their homes, i.e., 40, were hopelessly involved, with no reasonable prospect of completing the contracts they had entered into. Altogether eleven warrants have not yet expired.
There were no evictions in any of those cases. All of the warrants taken out by the department were withdrawn. They were never executed. Only one warrant was executed. That was in Victoria. The circumstances were that a certain man kept on saying for a period of two and a half years that he was unemployed, and accordingly he made no contributions.
It was found out later by inquiry that during the whole of the time that this man said he was unemployed he was, in fact, employed in the service of the Commonwealth Government, and was receiving a very good salary. “When those facts were made known to the court he was ordered to be evicted. Cabinet had decreed that no one was to be evicted unless on my authority. I never signed any final authority other than the one in connexion with the case I have just mentioned, and accordingly no one else could have been evicted. I hope that this is the last time that I shall have to refer to this matter. I am always in doubt whether it is claimed that it was a hundred years ago since seventeen men were evicted, or whether 100 men were evicted seventeen years ago. This was a most futile matter to bring forward. It has been raised almost on the eve of the general election in the hope that it will discredit me in the minds of the ex-service men and women in this country.
Although the honorable member for Lilley must know that I am speaking about this matter he chooses not to come into the chamber. I was first elected to this Parliament 27 years ago, when I obtained a majority of 2,000 votes over the Labour candidate. At the last general election my majority was 20,000 votes. I have mentioned these facts, not because of ego, but because of the utter futility of certain honorable members of the Parliament indulging in offensive, abusive observations, which cannot in any way uphold the tone of the Parliament. The honorable member for Lilley has not made any contribution towards that end. In my opinion, the constituency of Lilley is at present as good as disfranchised. The honorable member also chose to remark that honorable members on this side of the chamber were utterly indifferent to the welfare of ex-servicemen. However, anybody who cares to check the records of honorable members now sitting in Opposition will find that more than a third of us are returned servicemen of either one or the other, or both, World Wars. I do not wish to deal with the position in detail. It is sufficient to say that, without exception, the returned servicemen’s organizations in this country are utterly dissatisfied1 with this Go- vernment’s treatment of the exservicemen. Newspapers published in all parts of this country contain articles showing that those organizations are up in arms against this Government for its treatment of ex-servicemen. The following article appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph of the 20th October, 1948:- “ We are bitterly disappointed at the attitude of the Federal Government on representations the R.S.L. has made on behalf of ex-service personnel,” says Mr. Eric Millhouse president of the R.S.S. & A.I.L.A. in his annual report.
The attitude in some quarters is one of resentment and often it appears that the Government asks: “Why should we do anything further for these people? After all the war is over “, he says. However, the league will carry on the fight to see that those who served reap the just reward which is their right in the difficult post-war period. . . .
Mr. Millhouse says the league’s executive views with a good deal of concern the plight of neurosis victims and feels that the Government should do something more tangible to help them before they crack up completely.
On reconstruction training, he says that for the past two years the league has been telling the Minister (Mr. Dedman) that there has been a serious breakdown in the scheme. Nothing has been done, however, to overcome the training lag which is driving many young men- and women into dead-end jobs.
That is a complete denunciation by the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia of the attitude taken by this Government towards ex-servicemen. Yet in face of that the honorable member for Lilley has the audacity to come into this chamber, which he only enters on rare occasions anyway, to make charges against the present Opposition parties so as to provide a defence for the Government’s callous treatment of exservicemen.
– Were the eviction figures cited by the honorable member for Lilley correct or not?
– They were entirely incorrect.
– I heard the honorable member for Lilley make his allegations about evictions.
– I quoted to the committee the report of the committee of inquiry and I also referred to the relevant page number of the Hansard report. I also told the committee that I was the only person authorized to sign, orders for evictions, and that I had signed only one such order in relation to one person. The figures that the honorable member for Lilley cited were taken from Hansard, volume 126, of the 26th July, 1945. If the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) will examine the report he will find that it includes a concocted question asked by the honorable member for Adelaide, Mr. Chambers, and answered by the then Minister in charge of “War Service Homes, Mr. Frost. The figures given in the report of the committee of inquiry were correct and the figures given in 1945 in the House were entirely, wrong. The question was asked in 1945 in an attempt to create a false impression.
I want now to refer further, in reply to the allegations made by the honorable member for Lilley to the present Government’s treatment of ex-servicemen. First, I shall quote from a report that appeared in a newspaper yesterday under the heading, “ Servicemen’s Protest “. It reads -
Nine ex-service organizations decided in Sydney yesterday to ask the Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, to grant war pensions increases “ comparable with the increase in the cost of living since 1939”.
Conference carried unanimously a protest against the Commonwealth Government’s failure to provide such increases in the budget. “When the Prime Minister was interviewed on one occasion, he said, “ I won’t budge from the budget “. The report continues -
The organizations represented were the Air Force Association, Armoured Corps Association Australian Legion, Eighth Division Council, Limbless Soldiers Association, Returned Servicemen’s League, Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association, T.B. Servicemen’s Association and Partially Blinded Soldiers Association.
The State President of the R.S.L., Mr. William Yeo presided at the conference. “ The only thing politicians fear is the vote “, said Mr. Yeo. “ We can’t give our members a how-to-vote card, but we can inform them of the steps we have taken and of the reactions of the candidates in their electorates.”
The report then states, under the heading, “ Callous Disregard “ -
Mr. H. Mitchell (Legion) said - “ After experience of these Ministers, no organization can expect anything but callous disregard of its claims.”
He said that all ex-service bodies must fight to have war pensions related to the cost of living.
Those are complete and absolute denunciations by all ex-servicemen’s organizations, without exception, of the treatment meted out by the Government to exservicemen. Yet the honorable member for Lilley has accused honorable members on this side of the committee of being indifferent to ex-servicemen. I shall quote a letter that I received recently, strangely enough from a person living in the electorate of Lilley. The letter states -
Enclosed please find a copy of a letter I received from the Department of Social Services, and also how much I have already paid into social services. I have been unemployed because of the strike.
During the 1940-47 period I paid £21 10s. and in the 1947 period I paid £26 8s. I haven’t received this year’s yet, and I expect to pay about the same for this year.
– If the honorable member will wait I shall tell the whole story. The letter continues -
I am receiving a war pension worth £4 lis. a fortnight and as you can see by the enclosed copy I can’t receive payment for unemployment. I don’t think that is fair as I still have to pay into social service.
Here we have the case of an exserviceman of “World War II. who, counting this year’s probable contribution, will have paid roughly £60 in social services contributions and who was stood down from his employment because of the coal strike. But because he has an income, or so-called income, of £2 5s. 9d. a week, which he receives because he is disabled as a result of his war service, he is unable to obtain the unemployment benefit to which he is entitled. Similar issues have been raised by ex-service members of. the Opposition parties again and again. On the first occasion, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), wept crocodile tears and promised to bring the matter before the Cabinet. He said later he had done so, but nothing happened. For six years now we have asked that exservicemen’s pensions for war disabilities should not be regarded as income in the assessment of entitlement to unemployment benefits. Ex-servicemen thrown idle through the recent strikewere unemployed through no fault of their own. I say that the policy of the Department of Social Services in this matter represents a grossly improper procedure, against which we on this side have been fighting for a long time. Yet we are told that we show no sympathy for exservicemen. I shall quote another instance of an ex-serviceman who did a very excellent job in the war and who has a very excellent record. He, too, was thrown idle by the coal strike. He is a recently married man in good employment and has a reasonable income. Like the other exserviceman whom I have mentioned, he has paid substantial amounts in social services contributions duringthe last three years. His wife and he are endeavouring to build a home and wish to raise the money to do so as quickly as possible so that when they have a family they will not be burdened with a great load of debt. Although that man has paid social services contributions for three years, he was not paid unemployment benefit while he was idle through the coal strike because his wife is receiving an income of £5 10s. a week. It is preposterous that because that man and his wife were both employed, hoping that with their joint income they would be able to build a home of their own, he was unable to draw unemployment benefit. Both the husband and the wife had to continue to meet their obligations to make weekly payments in respect of social services and on their home and their furniture, as well as on their insurance policies and the like. ‘ Such a position is preposterous. In order to indicate this young man’s resentment of the treatment he has received, I shall read his letter. It is as follows: -
I have been a personal friend of yours for many years, and as such thought it my duty to bring to your notice the fraud the present Labour Government is putting over my people.
At the beginning of the coal strike,I as an employee of C- H- was stood down through rationing, and therefore applied for social service benefits.
After six weeks with no payment or notification of the reason for non-payment. I was compelled through necessity to visit their offices. I learnt then, to my amazement, that as my wife was working and in receipt of £5 10s. per week, I was not eligible for social service benefits.
I complained thatboth my wife and I paid social service tax as single person, and I was only claiming relief for myself, but waa informed that it still did not make any difference.
I am one of many returned soldiers who found that on return to civilian life the Golden Era so loudly voiced by the honorable the Prime Minister was nothing but a farce - or perhaps a pipe-dream of his own. In other words I found that my military deferred pay, together with the allotment I had made from my Army pay, were totally insufficient to allow me to build a home with costs as they are to-day.
Therefore my wife decided to go to work so that we could save a little money to build a home without having a huge debt around our shoulders for the rest of ourlives. For that we are penalized when, through no fault of mine,I am stood down from work. May I ask how I am supposed to pay my rent and other commitments.
It would seem that the promises made to the soldiers were just a lot of “ hot air “. I ask you, am I supposed to become a “ bludger “ living on my wife’s earnings, just because the Government clouded the social services position?
I shall not read the remainder of the letter because it is couched in language which, perhaps, might be considered as conflicting with the Standing Orders. In view of the treatment which the Government has meted out to ex-servicemen in spite of the fact that ex-servicemen’s associations are bombarding it to-day because of its failure to do a fair thing by men who served in the defence of their country, it ill-becomes the honorable member for Lilley and his colleague to speak in the strain in which they have spoken in this debate.
The budget is most unsatisfactory. It is disappointing, dreary and unimaginative and indicates that the Government is not making any constructive effort to meet the many difficulties that will confront this nation in the near future. The Treasurer simply accepts as inevitable the present spiral of costs and prices. In fact, he anticipates that there will be still more increases during the current financial year. The Government offers no solution of our increasing difficulties. The Treasurer merely draws attention to them. Although the recent war ended in 1945, the Government this year will extract from the people the sum of £489,000,000 in income tax compared with its revenue of £358,000,000 from income tax in 1946-47. To-day, five years after the end of the war, the Government is collecting more in company tax and income tax than it collected in any year of the war. Whereas collections under those headings in 1946-47 amounted to £156,000,000, the Treasurer estimates that the sum of £177,000, or the large increase of £21,000,000, will be collected from those sources during the current financial year.
In view of those facts, we cannot hope that the economy of the country will be re-established’ on a stable basis. The Government’s revenues have never been so buoyant as they are at present. In that respect, the Government is extremely fortunate, because our increased national income is due solely to the increased prices that we have received overseas for our primary ,and secondary products. That additional income has not resulted from’ any action taken by the Government, but has been earned solely by the primary producers and manufacturers of this country. Our industries- have achieved that result in spite of crippling taxes, increased costs of transport, materials and supplies and recurring hold-ups in industry, particularly in the coal-mines and along the waterfront. The Government is scared stiff of the Communist disrupters in basic industries. It allows things to drift until it, is forced to take some action. It cannot claim any credit for the buoyancy of its revenues during the last four years. Our increased income is not the result of increased production. I repeat that it has been derived from the increased prices that we have received for our exports, although, at the same time, our total production has decreased because of industrial disruption due to the causes I have mentioned. It is clear that this spendthrift Government will spend every penny that it can extract from the taxpayers. Its revenues are increasing year by year. Yet, it has budgeted’ for a deficit for the current financial year.
Although this is an opportune time to make provision to meet the future requirements of the nation the Government has failed to do so. The great majority of Australians will be surprised at the magnitude of the expenditure incurred by the Government during the last four years. Government expenditure increased from £390,000,000 in 1945-46, the second year after the conclusion of the war, to £431,000,000 in 1946-47 and to £464,000,000 in 1947-48 whilst it is estimated that expenditure for the current financial year will amount to £554,000,000. In each of the last three years the Government’s expenditure . exceeded its estimate. It is clear that this reckless Government will continue to spend its revenues until it wrecks our national economy. If it does not curb its wastefulness Australia will find itself in the valley of despair and will be unable to achieve the golden age about which the Treasurer has se often spoken. In spite of the buoyancy of the Government’s revenues and of record collections of income tax, the Treasurer still speaks about the possibility of a recession.
The fact is that under the present socialist policy production is steadily declining. I refer, for example, to the coal-mining industry. In 1948 production of underground coal in New South Wales was 6.1 per cent, below the 1939 level. In America under free enterprise production of bituminous coal in 1948 was 50 per cent, above the 1939 figure. In Canada it was 28 per cent, higher, and in South Africa it was 48 per cent, higher. These figures show that everywhere except in Australia production of this basic requirement of industry is increasing substantially. That is a damning indictment of socialism. A similar story is told by figures relating to world production of iron and steel. In New South Wales, the production of steel ingots has fallen. In America, it is bounding higher and higher. The inadequate supply of coal and iron and steel in this country means that; we are also short of essential materials for industry and for the construction of homes for the people. Supplies of wire, wire netting, irrigation requirements, galvanized piping, roofing iron and spouting, baths and stoves are far short of demand.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I deplore the unjust attack that has been made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) on the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley). I have a high regard for the honorable member for Lilley which, I am sure, is shared by all honorable members on this side of the chamber, and by at least some honorable members opposite. Probably no other member of this Parliament is held in higher esteem. The honorable member for Moreton said that the honorable member for Lilley is rarely in this chamber. 1 challenge Opposition members to examine the records of the House. If they do so, I am confident that they will find that the attendance record of the honorable member for Lilley is as high as that of any other member.
– Where is he now?
– Never mind about that. I challenge contradiction of my claim. I have heard several Queensland representatives in this Parliament say that no member is more attentive to his duties in his electorate than is the honorable member for Lilley. In the final session of this Parliament, it ill-becomes any honorable member to make a personal attack upon a colleague who has given splendid service to his constituents .and to the Parliament itself.
– Did the Minister hear the attack that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) made on me? He said that my attitude to returned soldiers had been callous.
– The honorable member for Lilley read a statement of the number of eviction notices served on exservicemen during a certain period. The honorable member for Moreton has denied the accuracy of that statement, but he has not produced other figures in support of his assertion. He has said that the statement read by the honorable member for Lilley was an answer to a question asked by me some years ago of the then Minister in charge of War Service Homes Mr. Frost. I have never had any reason to doubt the accuracy of that statement. It has never been challenged until to-day. However, I was not aware of the origin of the quotation made by the honorable member for Lilley until the honorable member for Moreton spoke to-day.
– The Minister does not know what was said.
– What does the honorable member mean by that? I was in the chamber when the statement was read by the honorable member for Lilley and I know now that it was the answer given to me by the former Minister in charge of War Service Homes. I repeat that it was not challenged at that time nor has it ever been challenged until to-day.
I was amazed also at a newspaper report read by the honorable member for Moreton which purported to quote the words of the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Mr. Eric Millhouse. I have not seen the article, but I was in Adelaide at the invitation of the league, of which I am a member, when Mr. Millhouse was farewelled prior to his departure overseas to attend a conference. It is on record that Mr. Millhouse on that occasion paid a glowing tribute to the Labour Government for its consideration for exservicemen.
– When did he say that?
– Three weeks ago, on the eve of his departure. The function was attended by people from all over Australia, including the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford. I repeat that Mr. Millhouse eulogized the Government for its treatment of ex-servicemen.
– The report that I read was correct.
– It was a press report, and I am inclined always to doubt the accuracy of press reports. For instance, the Sydney Morning Herald to-day reports the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) as having said yesterday in the chamber that there were supposed to be 30,000 men in the Regular Army, but that the last figures he had seen showed only 4,000, with outgoings much greater than incomings. As I did not think that the honorable member for Bendigo was so ignorant as te have made such a statement, I obtained a proof of his speech. This is what he said-
– I rise to order. I point out that an honorable member is not permitted to quote from the Hansard report of a speech made during the current session.
– I do not propose to quote from the Hansard report.
– Then I shall ask that the document from which the right honorable gentleman proposes to quote be tabled.
– I do not need to quote from the report. “What the honorable member for Bendigo actually said was that there were supposed to be 19,000 in the Regular Army, but that we are 4,000 short of that number. If statements made by honorable members in this chamber are so grossly distorted by the newspapers, as was the statement of the honorable member for Bendigo, is it not likely that the statement said to have been made by the federal president of the Returned Servicemen’s League was not similarly distorted ?
– The gentleman concerned has a reputation for making accurate statements.
– Why has not the Minister answered the question in relation to this matter which has been standing in my name on the notice-paper for a fortnight?
– It has been on the notice-paper, not for a fortnight, but for a week.
– It should have been answered by now.
– It will be answered when the Government decides to answer it and not when the honorable member thinks it should be answered. [Quorum formed.^ The honorable member for Moreton has complained that the honorable member for Lilley has continually criticized him, as a former Minister in charge of War Service Homes, for the treatment which he and others meted out to ex-servicemen during the period when the Opposition parties were in office. Honorable members opposite are foolish if they attempt to compare their treatment of ex-servicemen after
World War I. with the record of the present Government in repatriation and rehabilitation matters. During the period when no fewer than 700,000 of our people were unemployed-
– That state of affairs existed when the Scullin Government was in power.
– Does it matter what Government was in power at that time?
– The Scullin Government was responsible for that position.
– If honorable members opposite want to hear again the story of what happened when the Scullin Government was in office, I shall be glad to oblige them. The Scullin Government which had a majority in this House was handicapped by having a minority in the Senate. Its hands were tied by the banking interests of this country. It was to avoid a repetition of the state of affairs that existed during the regime of the Scullin Government that the banking legislation, which was recently rejected by the Privy Council, was introduced by this Government. Let me remind honorable members that I supported the proposal for the nationalization of banking because deeply embedded in my mind was the remembrance of the tragic conditions that operated when the Scullin Government was in office but could not put its legislative programme into effect because of the hostile majority in the Senate. The Scullin Government was prevented from obtaining the money with which to feed, clothe, and house the thousands of people in this country who were then destitute. Honorable members opposite say that at that time there was a depression in countries on the other side of the world. That may be true, but let me remind them that when there were 700,000 unemployed in Australia, when men, women and children were living on the dole, when thousands of persons were ‘being evicted from their homes, when Toe H and other charitable organizations were collecting worn and left-off clothing for the destitute in the community, and when hungry children were lining up in queues for a plate of warm soup, the banking institutions through their representatives in the Opposition parties, prevented the Scullin
Government from obtaining the necessary finance with which to correct the position. I notice that honorable members opposite are muttering. They do not like to hear the recapitulation of what happened when the Scullin Government was in office but not in power in this country. When the Scullin Government sought to raise a loan of £18,000,000 with which to provide employment for 700,000 good Australians, the Senate threw out the proposal. The present Government introduced the legislation to nationalize the banks in order to avoid a repetition of such a dreadful state of affairs.
– The Scullin Government could have sought a double dissolution, but it did not do so.
– In those days, when 700,000 persons were out of work, when there was a great housing shortage and when thousands of people were forced to live without adequate food and clothing, this country was capable of producing everything that was needed by the community. The only thing lacking was finance. So it is useless for honorable members opposite to claim that the Scullin Government was ever in power.
– Just before the outbreak of World War II., no fewer than 200,000 persons were out of employment.
– That is so. Indeed, the first recruits to the armed forces after the outbreak of the war were lads who had left school in the years immediately preceding the war but who could not obtain employment.
– That is a lie.
– It is the truth. Many of the older men who enlisted in the armed forces in 1939 had been out of work far up to two years.
– That is a dreadful misstatement.
– I would not have referred to this matter but for the attempt made by the honorable member for Moreton to attack this Government’s record in relation to ex-servicemen. No government in our history has been more considerate of the needs of our ex-servicemen than has been this Government. Responsible people throughout the world have paid tributes to the Australian Labour
Government for its generous rehabilitation and repatriation policy for exservicemen. I do not say that exservicemen have been too well treated. All I say is that the Government’s record in this respect is very much better Khan the record of governments formed by the Opposition parties during and immediately after World War. I. Let honorable members contrast the rehabilitation benefits conferred upon the ex-servicemen of World War II. with those given to the survivors of World War I. Let them look at our land settlement scheme. Land settlement for the exservicemen of World War I. meant what it said - the men were “ settled “. We know the tragic result. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) last night told the story of those who were settled on the land after World War I. Not one-third of them were still on the land when the depression occurred. In South Australia, in which my constituency, and those of two members of the Opposition who are now present are situated, the State government built 1,000 homes for ex-servicemen.
– The Minister ought to read what Stan Whitford said about them in the South Australian Parliament.
– It does not matter what Whitford said about them. The fact is that the State built 1,000 homes, and all these homes were occupied. In 1931-32 50 per cent, of those homes were vacant. Why? Because the occupants could not afford to continue to pay rent. A similar situation occurred in other States. The criticism of members of the Opposition of the treatment given to ex-servicemen by the present Government is quite unjustified. I recall that under anti-Labour administrations ex-servicemen in South Australia had to live in tin and bag shanties along the banks of the river Torrens. In New South Wales thousands of ex-servicemen and their families were living in unemployed settlements at La Perouse and other places. Yet members of the Opposition have the audacity to accuse the present Government of having treated ex-servicemen unfairly.
Another complaint frequently voiced by members of the Opposition is that nothing has been done to provide houses for the Australian people. Of course, the Opposition is simply trying to stampede the people before the forthcoming election. Those who are aware of the facts of the housing situation know that never before have so many houses been built in Australia as have been built in the last few years.
– So few for so many !
– Why are only so few houses available for so many? The reason is that during the depression when hundreds of thousands of Australians were walking the streets, starving and illclad, nothing whatever was done by the anti-Labour administrations to build homes for the people, notwithstanding that all the labour and materials were available for large-scale house construction. That was the time when people should have been given the opportunity to acquire homes. In 1931-32 our population was in the vicinity of 7,000,000.
– That is ridiculous.
– The population was much more than 6,000,000, at any rate. In 1938 it had increased to 7,000,000. During those intervening years no effort was made by the anti-Labour parties that were then in power to enable the people to build homes. In any event, people could not then afford to build homes. What is the position to-day? General conditions are so good and the Australian worker is so well off that he not only has enough money to pay rent, but also is able to place a substantial deposit on a home. He owes his prosperity to good government and sound administration. I was a member of the last Parliament, and I remember that when the general election of 1946 was approaching members of the present Opposition were continually complaining that we had treated the exservicemen so badly that the people of Australia were fed up with us. They prophesied that the people would show us what they thought of us at the election. Members of the Opposition are just as incapable now as they were in 1946 of analysing and assessing the mind of the Australian people.
For what does the Opposition condemn the Government? Its members have’ repeated two catch-cries continuously during the last three years. They harped on communism for as long as they could do so.- Of course, they got such a shock at the Government’s action during the coal strike that we have heard very little of communism since. Previously, they tried to stampede the people into believing that the Labour party was allied with the Communist party, notwithstanding that they knew very well that the Communists hated Labour and would do everything they could to defeat us. They knew those things because the Opposition parties have been associated with the Communists.
– The Opposition parties paid the Communists to attack us.
– I do not go so far as to say that, but it has been proved that any association which the Communist party has with Australian parties is confined to the Opposition parties. It was left to the Government to quieten the Communists - and in doing so it quietened1 not only the Communists but also the Opposition. I am willing to wager now that at the forthcoming election, for every member of the Opposition who will be opposed by a Communist candidate, six supporters of the Government will have to fight them.
– That is mere camouflage.
– If the Communists are our political partners, why are they so anxious to defeat us and to return s Liberal government ? The second catchcry that we have heard so frequently from the Opposition is “ socialism “. However, as the honorable member for Wannon said1 last night, the socialist bogy is so old and worn that its continued repetition is an insult to the intelligence of the Australian people. To-day the Australian workers enjoy full employment, and they have advantages that they have never had before. Women, in particular, appreciate the domestic amenities that were previously beyond their reach. The average Australian working man can now afford to pay a deposit on a home. Admittedly, thousands of homes are still required, but the point is that people now have the money with which to buy a home. Consider all the other indications of prosperity. If we want to travel interstate by rail, we have to book three or four months in advance. If we want to travel by a tourist coach we have to book six months in advance. Even air travel is booked out in advance. Does not that indicate very clearly that the people of Australia are enjoying more prosperous conditions than they have ever enjoyed before? Of course, members of the Opposition do not like to be reminded of those facts. The answer to the contention of the Opposition that the Government is endeavouring to socialize the country is that under Labour administration people have enjoyed full employment, more clothes, more food, more amenities and greater social services than they have ever had before. Unless I am greatly mistaken, the people will say to themselves at the next election, “ If these improvements are socialism, then let us have more socialism “. Is it evidence of socialism when the Labour Government increases the age pension and child endowment by 100 per cent, in the space of a few years ? Is the Government guilty of pursuing a socialist policy because it introduces widows’ pensions and provides hospital and sickness benefits for the people? When the Opposition parties occupied the treasury bench, they did not provide pensions for widows, or hospital and sickness benefits. I could cite other instances of the practical way in which the Australian Labour Government has shown its concern for the welfare of the people, but its actions speak for themselves. If the social services policy of the Government is evidence of socialism, honorable members opposite may brand me as a socialist. So long as I am a member of the Parliament, I shall advocate the extension of social services benefits. It ill becomes the Opposition to criticize the Government for its social services policy. Of course, I realize that the Opposition parties are tottering. Never before in the political history of the Commonwealth have the non-Labour parties occupied the Opposition benches for so long. I advise honorable members opposite to resign themselves to acceptance of the fact that they will continue to occupy the Opposition benches for a much longer period. At last, the people have realized that Australia is a great country which offers them many benefits. The Government is now making those benefits available to them because it is most considerate of the welfare of the masses.
Some members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), have criticized the Government’s defence policy.
– The Government has no . defence policy.
– When war broke out in 1939, the Liberal party, which was then called the United Australia party, and the Australian Country party were in office. Australians generally have a knowledge of the condition of our defences in that fateful year. The honorable mem ber for Bendigo, who supported the government of the day, was a high-ranking officer in the Army. A few moments ago, he interjected that the Australian Labour Government has no defence policy. That statement is easily disproved. Five years after the cessation of hostilities, with Germany, Italy and Japan totally crushed, the Australian Regular Army has nearly 16,000 personnel, and the Citizen Military Forces have a similar number. The cadet force has approximately 24,000 personnel. But in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II., the Australian permanent Army had only 2,500 personnel. Every thoughtful person realized after the Munich agreement in 1938 that war with the Axis powers was inevitable. I invite the honorable member for Bendigo to read the report of General Squires, who was critical of the non-Labour government in 1939, in respect of the state of Australia’s defences. I do not propose to give details of our equipment at the present time because such a disclosure is not necessary and would not be wise. However, I inform honorable members that for every piece of equipment that we had in 1939 we have thousands of pieces to-day.
– “What was the strength of the militia in 1939?
– Approximately 26,000 men. Five years after the cessation of hostilities, the Australian Regular Army has 16,000 personnel. As
The Minister for the Army, I am proud of that achievement, and I am certain that if the world were on the verge of war now, as it was in 1939, the Australian Labour Government “would take a more realistic view of the situation than was taken by the anti-Labour government ten years ago. The honorable member for Bendigo is interested in comparative figures. I invite him to consider the condition of our ordnance stores in 1939. Sv.ch establishments as Moorebank, Bandiana and Nungarin did not exist. Again, in that year, we had only a few thousand .303 rifles. The number was so few that one could not be issued to every man who was called up for service. I need say no more. Members of the Opposition should defend Australia’s defence position. In 1949 the only possible enemy that we can see is Russia, but in 1939 arrayed against the democracies were a powerful Germany and Japan, which internally had not been touched in World War I. Those are the facts. To-day the military might of those nations is crushed. The Labour Government has done much to assure the people that they have ample security in the present international set-up.
The Labour Government has given to the people conditions and benefits that were not available to them in the past. To-day, Australia has no unemployment problem. There is work for all, clothing for nil, and food for all. That is a social condition that the people desire, and the Labour Government will continue to provide it. I am confident that just as the people elected the Labour party to office with overwhelming majorities in 1.943 and 1946, they will return this Government to office at the forthcoming election. Members of the Opposition have described the budget as a pessimistic document. I advise them to read an article that the Argus newspaper has published about it. Throughout the years, the Argus has supported and been supported by members of the Opposition, and, therefore, its views on the budget should interest all honorable gentlemen opposite.
.- The budget speech that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) delivered was most depressing. The budget is completely uninspiring, and is a soulless approach to the future of the nation. It was given the reception that it richly deserved. I have never known Government supporters to be more depressed than they were when the Treasurer was making his speech. The budget offered them nothing, and many of them walked out of the chamber while their leader was speaking. They were not consulted about the policy or framework of the budget until after it had been printed .and sent all over Australia. The Treasurer is an absolute dictator on finance. He neither seeks nor welcomes advice. He has his own ideas, and rejects all others. His ideas are a strange mixture of reckless extravagance on his pet subjects, and skin-flint, parsimony in dealing with the needs of people who are in need.
This is not a Labour budget. There is nothing in it for the age pensioner. There is nothing in it calculated to reduce the cost of living for the housewife. There is nothing for the public servant approaching retirement. There is nothing for the wage-earner looking for relief from taxation. There is nothing for the small businessman seeking protection against the dumping of overseas imports into Australia. There is nothing for mothers still seeking endowment for their first child. There is nothing for those still denied pensions because of the iniquitous means test. There is nothing for war widows, and nothing for disabled ex-servicemen and women, or for exservicemen who desire to settle on the land. There is nothing for reconstruction trainees. Never was a government in a better position to give effect to Labour policy. Never has a government tried to do less.
Finances are buoyant. There are huge accumulations of money in secret reserve funds. At the end of last financial year, the Treasurer was at his wits end to hide the surplus so that State governments could not claim it. Labour governments in the past have had to tackle hig social reforms in time of financial stringency. Most major social reforms, in fact, have been enacted during hard times. Now, however, there is no excuse. The money is there, the need is there, and all that is lacking is the will, and one man alone stands in the way - the Treasurer.
Big business has done remarkably well under this Government. This is a monopoly-minded government. When it sends out its representatives, such as the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), and the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong), looking for campaign funds for the election, where will they go first? They will go to the big combines which have done so well under the Government, and they will not come away empty handed. We shall probably see representatives of the combines on the platform of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) during the election campaign, applauding his speeches and cheering him on, but they will subscribe to the Labour party’s campaign fund, hoping that the present Government will be returned. They know that a Menzies Government could not, and would not, do as much for them as the Chifley Government has done.
Taxation remissions have all favoured big business, not the general taxpayer. The only concessions made in the budget will help wealthy companies, but the benefit of the concessions will have entirely disappeared before they reach the average citizen. The support given by big business to the Government has paid handsome dividends. No wonder the Leader of the Opposition complains that the Government has stolen his policy. In framing his budget, the Treasurer on every occasion has started at the wrong end. He has begun by putting down on paper how he can help those who have helped him and the Government. He never begins by putting down proposals to help those who need help.
The pensioners have no lobbyists in Canberra. The war widows cannot get past the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). The housewives make no contribution to party funds. The Government believes that there is no need t? worry about the wage earners. They have voted for Labour at every election, the Government says, so why worry about them now? They do not need what the Treasurer described in his budget speech as election bribes to induce them to support the Government. Therefore, there is nothing for them in the budget. The people whom we see in the lobbies of this Parliament, or going in and out of Minister’s offices, are mot the rank and file of the Labour movement. Ministers keep very strange company. Not long ago, a royal commission examined the diary of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) in order to learn who visited him. Most of the visitors had some connexion with the Labour movement. But other Ministers’ diaries would tell us a very different story. The people to whom the doors are thrown wide open include the wealthiest men in Australia. They openly support this Government, not because it is a Labour government, not because it believes in socialization, not because it has looked after the workers, but because it has looked after the selfish interests of the wealthy people of this community. That is why this budget is not a Labour budget. When this Government wants advice on policy, it does not go to the Labour movement. It goes to its wealthy friends and supporters. It goes to men like Mr. W. S. Robinson, who personally introduced it to the representatives of overseas combines. It goes to the lawyers who walk the corridors representing other combines. It goes to the newspaper proprietors, whom the Minister for Information abuses in this chamber and then rushes off to meet at cocktail parties with an assurance that nothing that he said was personal or was intended to be personal. That is why the budget fell flat in this chamber and why it aroused no interest amongst the general public.
The budget makes no attempt to grapple with the real human problems of the nation. The Treasurer thinks in terms of millions and millionaires. A true Labour treasurer must think in terms of human welfare. He must think of how he can assist the people with the greatest need, of the responsibilities of the community to the aged and afflicted, and of how he can give effect to the policy of the Labour movement. This budget provides nothing that gives cause for any hope in that direction. That is why honorable members supporting the Government appeared to be stunned and depressed while the Treasurer was delivering his budget speech. The Treasurer talks, about record revenue and record expenditure. He appears to regard that as a great achievement. But then he tells us that wages and internal prices have risen rapidly during the past two years and will probably rise still further during the coming year. In other words, he tells us that we are in the midst of inflation. The Australian pound has a disappearing purchasing value, and the Treasurer says that it will continue to slide. Before the war, we had a note issue of £47,000,000. It had remained almost stationary for nearly twenty years. Now we have a note issue of £212,000,000. For every £1 that we carried around in our pockets before the war we now have to carry £4. The £1 note is buying less and less. That is why we have to have more notes in circulation. What has happened in China is happening here on a lesser scale. That means that the savings of the workers are losing their value, that there is a lag between rising prices and wages, that wages do not rise sufficiently to keep pace with the climbing prices, that the basic wage no longer buys the things that it is supposed to buy, that it becomes more and more difficult for people to buy their own homes, that those who are living on fixed incomes are becoming poorer and poorer.
When the Government tells us that wages and pensions have never been higher, it fails to add that never have they bought less. That is the crux of the problem. How does it affect the average man and woman? I shall cite one very simple example. The headmaster of one of Sydney’s largest and most famous schools retired recently. When he retired he was still receiving less than many first-class tradesmen are paid today. The Government of New South Wales has been unable to keep public servants’ salaries in line with the inflation because State income is pegged by the Commonwealth. Since the depression, the headmaster had been unable to save much. First there was the depression salary reduction. Then there was high taxation. Since 1919, he had been paying into the New South Wales State Superannuation Fund. Because of his age when the fund was established, he could qualify only for the minimum pension. Therefore, he retired on the princely income of £2 5s. a week. That was all that was left for a man who had educated thousands of the very best citizens in New South Wales. He had paid every week into the National Welfare Fund at the rate of ls. 6d. in the £1 - more than £1 out of his pay envelope in addition to taxes and superannuation payments. He had accumulated a small amount of property, but not enough to provide himself with a regular income. He had reared and educated* a large family. The superannuation might have given him enough to live upon when he started saving, ‘ because £2 5s. a week was then as much as the basic wage. To-day, it is not a pittance. It would not pay rent. But what happens if that man seeks the age pension from this Government? He has paid into the National Welfare Fund. He has been provident. If he had not paid into a pension fund, he would be entitled to a full pension. He would have collected £2 2s. 6d. a week. But if he has more than 30s. a week coming in, his pension is reduced by all over that amount. If he has an income of £3 12s. 6d. a week, he is not entitled to draw anything from the Commonwealth. But how can that man live on £3 12s. 6d. a week? That is the iniquity of the means test. It is immoral. That man should have refunded to him the money he has paid into the Superannuation Fund or the money he has paid into the National Welfare Fund. He should not be caught both ways. The Government has no moral right to withhold the full pension from him. What applies to the schoolteacher, applies to the enginedriver, the clerk, and every one else in a similar position. The means test victimizes the thrifty. It should be abolished! But in addition to being victimized by the Government this man is the victim of the inflation. His life’s savings are losing their value. What applies to superannuation also applies to every other section of the community.
It is not the amount of money that is important, it is what it will buy that counts. This Government’s attitude is that of the “ Jubilee Plunger “. It is mesmerized by all the money passing through its hands. It thinks that because people have more pound notes in their pockets, and in the banks, than ever before, they will believe that they are better off. But that will not convince the housewife when she has to pay out her week’s allowance to the butcher, the milkman, the greengrocer, and the other tradespeople. She knows the real value of her money, and just how far it will go. She knows that she is not buying as much clothing for her family as she bought before the war, because the clothing is too dear. There is a family crisis now when the husband needs a new suit. The home that could be bought for £700 before the war now costs up to £2,500. That is the simple meaning of inflation. How long will the home-purchaser have to work to pay it off? Has he any safeguard against falling prices leaving him stranded with an impossible burden of debt? In a period of inflation, prices always outstrip wages. It is a problem that has to be tackled. This budget makes no attempt to face up to it. Taxation is one of the major factors in creating an inflationary economy. Reduction of taxation is one of the first steps that should be taken to counter the trend. This budget makes no contribution in that direction. If we are to counter inflation, as it now exists in this country, we must see that all sections of the community shall be given a fair deal. That is where this budget fails.
Instead of thinking in terms of sums of money, we must think in terms of what that money can buy; of how we can improve the standard of living of the pensioner ; of how the basic wage can be made to buy more ; of how the housewife can be enabled to meet her bills at the end of the week without worry; of how the number of people can buy their own homes can be increased; of how the small business man can be protected against a sudden collapse in his business; of how the family can be reared in more comfort; of how we can keep our obligations to those who served in the armed forces by relievingthem of hardships. Will the Government be honouring its obligations to the exservice men and women? They areentitled to a war gratuity. But as they wait for their gratuity, they can see itsvalue disappearing. They know what £100 would have bought for them in 1945. They know that it would to-day buy only a fraction of what it would have bought then. But they do not know what it will buy when the gratuity falls due for payment. They will suffer because this Government has failed totackle the problem of inflation. There is an urgent need for a re-valuation of gratuity payments. They should be worth as much at the time of payment as they were in 1945. The holders should not be victimized. The budget should be much more than a conglomeration of figures in terms of millions of pounds. It should represent a positive, constructive government approach to the problem of national finance. Last year this Government expended £554,000,000 out of an estimated total national income of £1,955,000,000. It is expending almost 40 per cent, of what the country, as a whole, is earning. From every £1 earned it takes just -on 8s. to carry on. Before the war that cost the administration, only 2s. in the £1. The Government itself is one of the chief contributors to inflation. Depreciation of currency starts with government waste and extravagance. It is cumulative in effect. Once started, it is difficult to arrest. The problem is how to reverse the process, and to re-establish the purchasing power of the Australian pound, not only in relation to dollars, but also in terms of the goods that can be bought in Australia. The real problem of government finance is that of directing national revenue into economic spending, and the elimination of waste and unnecessary taxation. It is not economic for the Government to impose too much taxation, and then divert its surplus into hidden reserves. That makes for inflation. It is not economic to pyramid public expenditure abroad, as this budget proposes to do. Rather is it economic to provide a better distribution of national income. Increased expenditure on pensions goes back immediately into the economic stream. Increased demand for goods helps to increase the national income. Although we expend millions of pounds on international organizations, what do we get back? Can we afford the millions of pounds that we are expending on immigration ? Too much of the money involved in this budget represents non.economic expenditure. Too much money is being sterilized. Altogether too much money is being expended on theories and on bureaucratic centralization. The Government has not tackled any of these problems. It is just drifting into the rapids of inflation. There is not a single new constructive proposal in the whole budget, but only ways and means of expending more money. The entire field of government expenditure requires a complete overhaul. The joh is not one for the Treasurer alone. He has been too closely associated with the development of the present system. In the main it is his own creation. He has taken the responsibility of government away from this Parliament and handed it over to boards. He has encouraged the Canberra school of so-called experts, the professors, the bright young men with bright young ideas of how to expend public money. The job should be tackled first within the Government. There should be a decentralization of power, and there should be greater supervision of expenditure by the Parliament. The budget itself should be referred to a number of specially appointed committees of the Parliament, for investigation of the proposed expenditure of the different departments, and report back to the Parliament. That procedure has been successfully adopted in other democratic countries. This budget was framed not by the people who were elected to supervise public expenditure, but by those who will expend the money. The Treasurer’s own party followers were ignored. They either had to rubber-stamp it after it had been printed and circulated, or challenge the Treasurer with what he would have interpreted as a motion of no-confidence. Some of the rank and file members who did raise vital matters relating to Labour policy were promptly sat upon.
The National Welfare Fund should be the subject of special examination. The abolition of the means test is the immediate responsibility of that fund. Since every one pays into the fund, every one should be entitled to its benefits. There should be a committee reporting on our defence expenditure. Are our defences being adequately maintained? Are we being kept abreast of modern defence technique? Are our establishments topheavy ? Are there too many “ brasshats,” and not enough rank and file? If so, is it because the conditions for rankers are not attractive? Other committees should investigate and report concerning the amounts of the proposed votes that will be under consideration in connexion with overseas representation, the Departments of Immigration, Information, Health, and other departments. There should be a special study of, and recommendations made regarding, the Government’s secret reserve funds. The departmental representatives should be examined by committees of this House. They should be called upon to explain and, if necessary, defend their requisitions on the public purse. The system adopted by Congress in the United States of America is a sound one. Unless some positive action is taken along such lines there will never be any real supervision of governmental expenditure. The AuditorGeneral can only certify that money has been properly expended in accordance with the votes of this Parliament. It is not his job to certify whether such expenditure was warranted or not in the first place. At present, only one man in this House has any say on financial policy. His followers are not even invited to express any opinions before seeing the completed brief. The other urgent need is to reduce costs by restoring competition. That is the quickest way to reestablish purchasing power. Monopolies are bad, whether they are government or private. This Government has encouraged monopolies. Many businessmen in a small way have been driven out of business by government policy. Monopolies do not make for efficiency. A government bank monopoly would soon become inefficient. A government air monopoly would be inefficient. Strong, vigorous competition is the quickest way to reduce prices. Government controls that stand in the way of restoring such, competition should be abolished immediately.
The proposals that I have outlined provide a constructive approach to the problem of a national budget. The job of a Treasurer is to see that he has clearly defined principles of policy on which to frame his programme of the year’s operations. That is where the Treasurer has failed again. His attitude, as reflected in this budget, is that the people can take him and his Government with the present policy, or look elsewhere for some alternative. There are to be no concessions, no attempt to tackle the ^problem of rapidly rising costs. The Treasurer’s attitude is that if the Australian pound continues to fall in value, there is nothing that he can do about it. He says that if prices rise, then wages will rise in their turn; the courts will get round to the problem in time. It is not his worry, he tells us. But that does not take care of all the people who are losing their savings as the country slides further and further towards inflation. It does not take care of the pensioner, who every day is becoming worse off; who sees what is left of a life’s savings disappear; who finds that the pension to-day is not sufficient to pay his rent.
Is this Government afraid to stand up to the Labour party’s .policy ? Is its election appeal to be that it is more conservative than the Liberal party, that it looks after “ big business “ better than the Liberal party does, and that it has done things against the Labour movement that a Menzies government would not have dared to do? If so, then this budget is a true reflex of its attitude. It is cynical and contemptuous of the needs of the people. It offers them nothing - not even hope.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time is exhausted.
.- I have been unusually fortunate this afternoon in hearing two consecutive speeches from the Government benches. It is not very often that one has that somewhat doubtful privilege. On this occasion I have found both speeches very interesting, for quite different reasons. I always find the speeches of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) very interesting. Sometimes he has good ideas and at other times he has extremely bad ideas, but whatever he says it is always refreshing. When he speaks of the history of the Labour party I listen with even more attention than usual because I know that he is one of the great stalwarts of the Labour movement. I have often desired to know for certain the source of the great funds of which the Labour party has had the disposal. I know that substantial funds are held by the trade unions and are used to assist the party, but I am interested to know that the party also receives funds from various large monopolies mentioned to-day by the honorable member for Reid. I have always suspected that something of that sort was the case, and for that reason I am very glad to have confirmation of it from the honorable member. The fact that certain big monopolies in Australia are an important source of Labour party funds, is perhaps the reason why the Labour party is so kind and friendly to them.
I turn for a few moments to the speech delivered by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers). He started off by saying that he considered that statements made on numerous occasions by representatives of the Returned Servicemen’s League showed that ex-servicemen’s organizations were strongly in favour of the Labour Government. I do not wish to enter into any argument with the Minister or indeed with anybody else about whether the Returned Servicemen’s League supports the Labour movement or the Opposition, because I do not know the answer. That answer will be disclosed quite definitely in a few months’ time when the general election is held.
The Minister made some very unkind remarks about the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in connexion with war service homes and the manner in which evictions were carried out seventeen years ago. I do not intend to answer him on that matter except to say that the honorable member for Moreton explained very clearly what actually took place and it seems to me to be a waste of time to raise a matter that was settled many years’ ago and should now be forgotten. The rest of the Minister’s speech consisted, as do so many speeches from the Government benches, very largely of misstatements covered up by alibis. The Minister suffers from a disease that seems to overcome so many members on the Government side. They are still living in the atmosphere of the period between 1930 and 1932. They cannot forget those times. When almost any question is raised in the Parliament the Minister talks about nothing else but the depression. Perhaps there is no reason why he should not do so, but all I ask is that when he does so, he should adhere to the truth about what occurred during those years. The Minister mentioned for instance, that there were 700,000 unemployed in Australia in 1931-32. 1 do not know where the Minister obtained his figures. I have in front of me a record of the unemployment figures of those years which shows that at the end of 1931 the percentage of unemployment was 28.3. I believe that that figure refers mainly to members of registered trade unions. I believe that there were in addition a few hundred thousand more persons unemployed and the figure that I always understood to be approximately the correct one is 300,000. When the Minister deals with statistics pertaining to a specific period he should cite only correct figures in support of his arguments. He did not lack alibis in defence of the Government. I was not in Australia from 1930 to 1932, when the Scullin Government was in power, but I always wondered what sort of a government it was. I always thought that the Scullin Government was exactly like the Chifley Government, and the Minister has now confirmed that impression. The Scullin Government, like the Chifley Government, was in power, but it never governed. The Minister spoke about the national difficulties which confronted it and said that it could not get sufficient money to meet its requirements because the Commonwealth Bank refused to make money available to it. And he said that the Scullin Government could not do anything in those days, because it did not have a majority in the Senate. What can one think of a government which simply folds its arms and does nothing when confronted with difficulties of that kind? If the Scullin Government was so badly in need of money why did it not take over the Commonwealth Bank as the Chifley Government has done?
– The Seullin Government did not have the power to do that because it did not have a majority in the Senate.
– That is another alibi advanced by honorable members opposite in defence of the Scullin Government. Could it not have sought a double dissolution? When the Opposition parties are returned to power at the next general election they will not have a majority in the Senate. What will happen then should the Menzies Government insist upon the passage of legislation which it considers to be vitally necessary? Will it simply fold its arms and do nothing? No. It will do what the Scullin Government should have done when it was in office but failed to govern. The people are rather tired of the present Government because it has failed to take positive action to deal with our main economic problems; and I do not think that it ever will. The three main problems confronting the Government are: first, the decreasing productivity of industry; secondly, the increasing inflationary trend in this country, and, thirdly, the dollar shortage. The Government is not doing anything to meet those problems. One would have to be a super-optimist to believe that any government under the leadership of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) would ever take positive action to deal with any problem. He is a super-exponent of the policy of wait and see. He believes that any difficulty will eventually solve itself, that if one waits long enough something will turn up in the end. That is a dangerous policy. Experience in life shows that if one must do something, the sooner it is done the better. All of us are aware of the severity of droughts, but we know that even the worst drought will break. However, any farmer who failed to cart water for his stock, but simply waited for rain, would be considered a fool. The same observation applies to the Government’s attitude to our present problems. I am sure that all of them will eventually be solved, because the world always finds a solution of its problems. But if our present problems are to be allowed to solve themselves the results for Australia will be disastrous. The Prime Minister, however, believes in the policy of waiting on events. I do not need to cite examples to illustrate that fact. In the recent past, the Parliament discussed the ban that was placed by the waterside workers’ federation on Dutch shipping shortly after the conclusion of the recent war. That ban is still in operation. However, the Prime Minister, no doubt, supposes that if he waits long enough the waterside workers will get tired of the ban and will remove it. They have not yet done so, and I do not believe they will remove it until they are forced to do so. As another example of the Prime Minister’s policy of wait and see, I cite the present shortage of petrol. Years ago the Government should have foreseen the present dollar shortage and how it would affect supplies of petrol to Australia. However, the Government did nothing to meet that problem in advance, but allowed our present difficulties to come upon us. The same observation applies to coal production. For years past we have been practically living from hand to mouth so far as coal supplies are concerned. Because of hold-ups in the coal mines, many industries are languishing. Many of our citizens have endured great inconvenience for long periods because they could not use electricity for cooking or obtain coal for fires. The coal-mining industry is still under the influence of the Communists, who simply do as they please. The Prime Minister did nothing to meet that problem .except to appease the Communists until he was forced into a corner when, to some degree, he fought back.
I should like to deal further with the problem of decreasing production. At the conclusion of the recent war Australia had a golden opportunity to expand its markets overseas. We completely failed to take advantage of that chance. A comparison of the figures relating to our present export trade with those for 1939 is most depressing. Whilst production has increased in some industries, the overall picture is one of decreasing production. This is in spite of the fact that the number of persons in employment, mainly in secondary industries, has increased by over 700,000 whilst we have increased our industrial potential as the result of our war-time activities and have imported considerable quantities of industrial plant. Nevertheless, we are not able to supply our own needs, let alone increase our exports. The Government has an alibi for its failure in that respect. What does the Prime Minister say on the subject? He claims, first, that the Communists are preventing industries from working to their full capacity; and, secondly, that production is interrupted by strikes. Those are facts. But do not strikes occur in other countries which are now increasing their production? The Prime Minister says that the decline in production is due to the lethargy that overcomes a people just after they have come through a war. That is true ; hut we find that in young countries like the United States of America, South Africa and Canada production, is increasing by leaps and bounds. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) cited figures to illustrate that point, and it is well that I should repeat them. In the United States of America, the production of coal has increased by 50 per cent, since pre-war years. In Canada, the increase has been 35 per cent., and in South Africa 48 per cent.. Steel production in Canada has increased by 160 per cent, in the same period, and in the United .States of America by 180 per cent. Australian figures show a measly increase of 9.45 per cent, for all coal-mines, including, of course, the new open cut mines. Actually production in underground mines has decreased by 6.1 per cent. What does that mean? It means that whereas before the war, we produced coal at the rate of 49.3 tons per man-hour per month, the production figure is now 48.2 tons per man-hour per month. That reduction may sound small, but it is significant. Steel production has fallen from 10 tons per man per month to 9.9 tons per man per month. Cement production - another most important industry - has decreased from 18.5 tons per. man per month to 13.1 tons per man per month.
– Where did the honorable member get those figures ?
– From the Commonwealth Statistician.
– I shall disprove them.
– They are correct.
– What about the 40- hour week?
– That has contributed to the decline, but not to a great degree. Production has fallen mainly because the people are not putting their heart and soul into their work as they did years ago. Government supporters are continually saying “ What wonderful men we are. Look at the wonders we have done for this country. How rich and prosperous we are ! “ The figures that I have cited should make every honorable member opposite hang his head in shame.
– The honorable member is being dirty now.
– If honorable members opposite could see these things as I do, they would realize that it is not a matter of being dirty. If they loved this country as I do, they would do their best to get the best out of it; but they are going the wrong way about that now.
I come now to the second principle, namely the inflationary trend in this country. Here again we have government alibis. We are told that there is inflation in every war period. Any student of history knows that for hundreds of years inflationary trends have become evident in time of war. Sometimes they have been serious, and sometimes they have not. Inflation in wartime may be inevitable, but it is noi inevitable that inflation should continue after a war has ended as it has done in this country. Here again we have alibis from the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman says, in effect, that owing to the unfortunate decision of the High Court on prices control, and the resultant reversion of that control to the States, enormous price increases have accentuated inflationary trends. That is not quite correct. I have before me figures showing quarterly cost-of-living increases both before and after the prices referendum. The increases for the three quarterly periods immediately prior to the change from Commonwealth to State control were as follows: -
Then came the referendum and the reversion of prices control to the States. Subsequent price increases were as follows : -
All those figures are comparable with increases that occurred in the immediate pre-referendum period. The curve is continuing just as before. The increase for the March quarter, 1949, was only 1.71 per cent. It must be remembered too, that subsidy payments amounting to £20,000,000 annually were withdrawn by the Government after the referendum, for reasons best known to itself. One would have expected price increases to be much steeper for that reason. That disposes of the Government’s alibi that the defeat of its prices referendum proposals has caused inflation. High prices are not the cause of inflation. They are the result of inflation. They are a sign that the economy of the country is out of balance. The reason for that lack of balance is that the Government’s approach to our economic problems is wrong. I see that my friend the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) is listening attentively. He made one very good remark in the course of his speech earlier this week. He said that in prosperous times, a government should live within its means; but what is the position to-day? The prices for our primary products overseas are extremely buoyant. The local demand is still far from satisfied. We have full employment. These are all elements that make for financial economy. I am sure that the honorable member for Hindmarsh will agree with that. The Government should not be expending all its revenue each year, but should be placing reserves aside for bad times; but this budget provides for the expenditure not only of all the revenues that are expected from taxes, but also of approximately £35,000,000 of loan money. Virtually that makes this budget a deficit budget. That is a wrong” financial policy to adopt at present. Government members are entirely fascinated by glittering statistics. The national income of this country is now more than £1,900,000,000, an increase of 140 per cent, since 1939. The cost of living increase of 50 per cent, has been a mere bagatelle in the Government’s estimation. National income and cost of living are highly illusory when they appear in their present setting. What is forgotten by the Government - and the honorable member for Reid has referred to this - is the catastrophic fall in the value of the £1. Statisticians tell us that the £1 to-day is worth only 12s., but, as I am sure housewives will agree, 10s. is nearer the mark. My second point is that to-day’s prosperity and greatly increased national income are being chalked up in large letters by the Government to its own credit. Honorable members opposite apparently believe that, by prayer or by some other means, they have brought this prosperity to Australia ; but even accepting the national income of £1,900,000,000 at its face value, what is its composition ? Is it made up of a vast increase of production and higher wages paid inside this country, or is it made up - and this, I suggest, is the answer - of the greatly increased prices now being received from the sale of out primary products overseas? The latest figures indicate that our annual overseas income is now £540,000,000 compared with £119,000,000 in 1939. If, however, our present overseas income were at a rate comparable with that of 1939, our national income would be reduced by approximately £400,000,000. Our national income has increased by approximately the same percentage as has the cost of living. Compared with 1939 the cost of living has increased by from 60 per cent, to 70 per cent. This budget does nothing to correct the rising cost of living which hears so heavily on the people of this country. The Treasurer has granted us a paltry concession in sales tax which will amount to not more than about 5d. a head of the population a week.
I shall now deal briefly with the devaluation of our currency, which is a new element in our economy. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said last night that devaluation may or may not have a long term effect on the United Kingdom and therefore upon ourselves and, what is perhaps more important, that, as the result of devaluation, the cost of living in Australia is certain to be forced up still further. The inflation which must follow the devaluation of our currency makes it imperative for the Government to do something really positive in the matter. Honorable members opposite should be aware of the facts. Our present prosperity, about which Government members have so much to say both inside and outside the Parliament, is based entirely on shifting sands and is completely illusory. It is not prosperity as the business man who has built up a sound business understands the term. It is much more in the nature of that of a punter - such as the one in Melbourne about whom we recently read - who, having a lucky day, goes home with a large sum of money in his pocket. He may lose it again as easily as he won it. That is the position that may confront us unless we take steps to guard against it. It is wrong for honorable, members opposite to boast about our prosperity lest one of these days the people are brought down to earth with a great bump. Indeed, some people can be taught to think’ sensibly only in that way; others are prepared to listen to reason.
I propose now to deal briefly with the dollar shortage which has arisen because we are not selling as much of our products to the United States of America as we desire. That applies also, but to a greater degree, to the United Kingdom. T do not know whether the Treasurer will agree that our position to-day in this respect is broadly the same as it was in 1929 when, as the result of American action, there was practically ‘a cessation of trade between the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
– We lost both in quantity and price in those days.
– The situation to-day is, broadly speaking, somewhat the same, although the factors that have given rise to it are quite different. The problem that confronts not only Australia but also, and more vitally, the United Kingdom, is how to correct the dollar shortage. Expansion of the sale of our goods in the United States of America offers the most practical means by which we can earn more dollars. I trust that the Government is taking every opportunity to achieve that objective and that it is doing everything possible to assist private traders to develop markets in the dollar area. Australians are apt to forget that they must offer goods of the right quality and type that are packed in the right kind of packages to suit American tastes. They must remember that a potential buyer will use his discretion as to whether or not he buys them. Whether the United States will accept more of our goods, I do not know. All that we can do in this direction is to endeavour to increase the sales of our products in America. Devaluation may help us to attain that objective. The selling of larger quantities of our products to the United States constitutes the most direct method by which the dollar shortage may be overcome. Another method is to raise a dollar loan, through either the Import and Export Bank or some other channel. I do not know how far negotiations for such a loan have progressed. We must at all costs make clear to the Americans the purposes for which we require that loan. We do not want them to think that we want dollars to pay for nylon stockings, newsprint and the like. We should tell them that we need them for the purchase of capital plant and equipment.
– The Premier of Victoria suggested that the proceeds of a dollar loan might be used for the purpose of obtaining petrol.
– I should be the last person in the world to expend loan moneys on the purchase of petrol. Another means by which we may obtain dollars is by the encouragement of American investment in Australia. At one time we obtained all our investment capital from the United Kingdom. We all agree that the possibility of doing so to-day is somewhat remote for a number of reasons, but chiefly because British businessmen have not sufficient capital to cover investments in this country. Obviously, then, we must look to the United States of America. Capital should come to us from America in the form of plant, farm machinery and technical assistance. American businessmen are known to be pretty tough. They will not invest capital in Australia if there is any possibility that they may lose it. As honorable members know, the experience of American businessmen in relation to foreign investments in pre-war years was not a happy one. They have not had much trouble of that kind since the war because most of the money that has gone out of America in post-war years has been in the form of Marshall aid.
– American businessmen have invested an enormous amount of money-in foreign countries since the war.
– They had their fingers badly bitten in pre-war years and they are not now as optimistic as they were. Devaluation may help to attract American capital to this country. As honorable members know, under the provisions of the American Economic Reconstruction Act, for the payment of a small premium a company can obtain a guarantee of the return of its European earnings in dollars. I do not know whether the Government has explored the possibility of having the provisions of that act extended to cover investments in Australia. If the Government has not done so, I suggest that it should endeavour to negotiate an agreement of that kind because it would be very helpful in obtaining a loan. At the same time we must realize that there are certain factors which deter American investors from investing money in Australia. The first is the conditions surrounding the repatriation of any dollar loan. Any one who makes a loan requires to be assured not only that he will have his money returned in due course, but also that he will receive a reasonable return on his loan. The second factor that is deterring Americans from investing capital in this country is that they are highly suspicious of socialist governments.
– Has the honorable member any evidence that investors in the United States of America have discriminated against socialist countries?
– Yes. American investors
– American investors have treated Great Britain very generously.
– The fact is that American investors are chary of investing money in Great Britain. They have observed the effect upon the economy of Great Britain of the political developments that have taken place in that country. For instance, they have observed the mounting burden of the cost of social services. I shall not at the moment enter into any discussion of the soundness or otherwise of increasing such services, but it is obvious that increased social services must increase costs of production; and no one wants to invest his money in countries where the costs of production are unduly high. American investors have also observed the result of nationalizing industries in Great Britain, in the course of which that country has already lost £78,000,000. Those factors have seriously impaired the confidence of American investors in Britain’s economy. When they examine Australian conditions they see evidence of similar tendencies here to those which have manifested themselves in Great Britain. The position would be different if the Australian Government were to say to American potential investors: “As a matter of government policy we are determined to socialize all the industries that we can, but if we nationalize the industries in which you invest your money we shall make adequate compensation to you”.
Another deterrent factor, the importance of which seems to have escaped the attention of both the Government and the people, is the state of the relations between Americans and Australians to-day. Whilst it is perfectly true to say that any Australian who visits the United States of America is received with great friendliness, and perhaps with more outward show of welcome than is an Englishman, and that any American who visits this country is well received, the fact is that the relations between the Government of this country and that of the United States of America are quite different. I trust that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) already, appreciates this, and if he does not, I hope that he will take notice of what I am saying. Information which I receive from various sources indicates that a marked coolness is developing between the two governments.
– That is not correct.
– I am afraid that the Prime Minister’s information is not quite correct.
– Yes, it is. I know the source from which the honorable member receives some of his information.
– The Prime Minister ha3 not the vaguest notion of the source of my information. In fact, he could not guess it even if I gave him a thousand guesses. I happen to have a number of correspondents in both Great Britain and the United States of America, and they let me know exactly what is going on. Why has this coolness developed in the relations between the two governments? One reason is to be found in the difficult manner in which the Australian Government has conducted negotiations with the American authorities on a number of matters. Only the other day I mentioned the failure of our Government to take action to enable Australians to avail themselves of the benefits conferred on us by the Fulbright Act, which provides that American funds left in overseas countries after the termination of lend-lease could be utilized for cultural purposes. What has happened in Australia ? Speaking subject to correction, we are the only people who have not yet availed themselves ‘ of the funds provided by the Fulbright Act. The Government has permitted certain minor technicalities to prevent the implementation of that generous scheme. Consider the negotiations for the elimination of double taxes on American investments and salaries. Although negotiations have gone on for months and months no satisfactory result has yet been achieved. Why has that matter never been settled? The Treasurer has indicated plainly that he wants his pound of flesh. Surely it is worth while, in such circumstances, to concede something for the sake of friendship between our two countries. What about the Navigation Act? Consider the story of Manus Island since the war. Did our Government make any kindly gesture to welcome the establishment of the Americans in Manus Island ? Finally, the antics of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) have obviously not conduced to more friendly relations between the two governments. I need only recall the unpleasant publicity that arose out of the case of the “ Manila girls “ and the Gamboa incident. In themselves, those were only minor matters, but the cumulative effect upon American opinion of our Government’s action must have been most damaging, more so because the Americans are a tolerant people. They must have said to themselves, “What sort of people are the Australians? What sort of government have they?” In conclusion, I repeat that it is high time that the present Government got out and made way for a decent administration.
.- Among the many fantastic statements made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who has just concluded his speech, was the suggestion that coolness has developed between the governments of the United States of America and this country. He must have got his information from some underground source in the United States, because published statistics certainly do not support his contention. Those statistics indicate that approximately £143,000,000 has been invested in Australia by British, Swedish and American interests, and already the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has had to impose some restriction on prospective overseas investors because of our incapacity to absorb all the capital available at the moment. The honorable member for Flinders cannot support his statements with valid arguments in view of the soundness of our whole economy and the eagerness of Americans to invest capital in this country. The honorable member also said that Americans are scared to risk investments in socialist countries like the United Kingdom and Australia. However, Mr. Paul Hoffman, who is the Administrator of Marshall aid, has paid a remarkable tribute to the United Kingdom for the manner in which it is tackling its economic problems. However, I shall not pursue that subject, because another Government supporter will deal with it at length at a later period of the debate. It is obvious that the honorable member’s story that Americans are reluctant to invest their capital in Australia is fantastic.
– The honorable member is speaking of governments, but I was referring to individuals.
– Americans, individually, are not reluctant to invest their capital in this country. I now desire to deal with the budget itself. Many honorable members have departed completely from the budget, and have used it only as a vehicle for attacking the Labour Government. I shall not follow their example, but I shall deal with details of the budget under the following headings : - Freedom, Production, Migration, Socialization and Taxation.
The comparatively few criticisms that I have heard of the Labour Government have been based on the premise, not that it has done too little, but that it has done too much. In other words, a few people consider that the Government’s policy is one, not of “ too little too late “, but of “ too much too soon “. However, I have not heard of a government being defeated simply because it has achieved something for the country and carried out a progressive constructive legislative programme. That is why this Government will be returned to the treasury bench at the forthcoming election. The financial year 1948-49 closed with a credit balance, the second since the end of the war. That achievement on the part of the Treasurer is unique among countries of the British Empire. Of the surplus, the sum of £5,800,000 has been .put into the war gratuity reserve fund, which now contains approximately £28,000,000. In about eighteen months’ time, the Government will disburse approximately £80,000,000 in war gratuity to Australian ex-servicemen. That is one way in which the Treasurer has shown foresight in the interests of the men who are eligible to receive the war gratuity.
Some of the features of the budget are as follows: - 1. For the past two years, no borrowing for current purposes has been necessary. 2. Tax reductions on present income levels during the last four years amount to approximately £280,000,000, and, consequently, the pledge which the Prime Minister gave before the last election has been honoured completely. The latest reduction of direct taxes, amounting to £36,000,000 per annum, began to operate on the 1st July last and has greatly eased the burden on income groups under £600 a year. Even a man with a wife and two children in receipt of £1,000 a year will benefit by a tax reduction of £33. 3. Large outstanding war accounts, including lend-lease settlements, have been met. 4. An amount of £108,000,000 has been provided for the repatriation and re-establishment of exservice men and women in the past four years. 5. Gifts that have been made to the United Kingdom since the war will total £45,000,000 after the amount of £10,000,000 provided in this budget has been paid. 6. Contributions worth £30,000,000 have been made for the relief of war distressed peoples in a period of four years since the war ended.
I shall now deal with some special details of the budget. One is the proposed gift of £10,000,000 to the United Kingdom. Another is that a further grant of £1,000,000 will be made from the petrol tax to the municipalities for outback roads. The total grant for this purpose in the present financial year will be £3,000,000. Tasmania will receive approximately £150,000. It is a splendid move on the part of the Government to assist the municipalities to repair and construct vital arteries in our outback areas. It behoves the States and municipalities to ensure that that money shall be expended wisely. A third point is a reduction of indirect taxes amounting to £9,650,000 for the current financal year. That concession will assist to reduce the cost of living. Primage has been removed from 400 items, mainly raw materials, semi-manufactured goods and industrial equipment. Sales tax at the general rate has been reduced from 10 per cent, to 8-J per cent, and most of the items subject to the rate of 25 per cent, will in future be subject to a tax of 8^ per cent. Motor cars for the personal use of ex-servicemen who are in receipt of special pensions - the blind, the limbless and the totally and permanently incapacitated - will be exempt from sales tax. All building materials and wire netting and plain wire, which are imported, will be free from customs duty. A fourth feature is that companies and primary producers may now elect to deduct 40 per cent, depreciation in the first year in respect of all new plant, equipment and machinery. Hitherto, a deduction of only 20 per cent, has’ been allowed. The proposed new deduction of 40 per cent, will apply to all such machinery installed after the 30th June last. A fifth point is that the amount of income tax rebate for life assurance premiums and superannuation contributions by individuals has been increased from £100 to £150. A sixth feature is that the tax on all classes of entertainment has been reduced by 20 per cent., representing an amount of £1,100,000 per annum. All fair-minded people believe that this is the budget of a treasurer who places nation above party, and performance above politics. It reveals an economy which is geared to take the shock of any financial depression, and is designed to maintain an economic security second to none in the world. The Melbourne Age published the following comment on the budget on the 8th September last: -
In broad results the Federal Budget is a record of achievement, of sound management of huge resources and of prudent foresight.
The Melbourne Argus of the same date published the following paragraph in a leading article: -
Mr. Chifley has produced a lower cost of living budget. He has resisted the tendency. tempting for political leaders, of making spectacular 11th hour concessions in an election year. The budget is a sound one designed to under-pin the social service programme and to maintain full employment and economic development. This budget embodies the concepts of setting the people free, freeing the people from the fear of social insecurity and from the menace of unemployment. At the same time it extends freedom to industrial enterprise. It is a good budget.
Those two newspapers acknowledge, because they are fair in their survey, that this budget is free from wild election promises, and is sound in every respect. After the irresponsible promises and election baits that the Opposition parties have flung out, it is to the credit of the Treasurer that he refuses to use the national budget as a vehicle for flambuoyant election promises at the country’s expense. In this mattery the Treasurer has set a new standard in Australian statesmanship.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– I now propose to discuss the subject of freedom. Members of the Opposition bandy that word about this chamber and use it in their radio broadcasts and in newspaper advertisements to such a degree that one might be justified in believing that they have a monopoly of it. This Government is pledged to support the United Nations Charter, which guarantees freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of worship, and freedom of speech. Before the war, thousands of people in Australia experienced both fear and want. They feared the loss of their jobs, which is one of the worst kinds of fear. They feared the loss of their homes or farms or businesses. They feared the loss of their self-respect, and even their faith in God. They feared to bring children into the world. Between 1930 and 1935, the birthrate fell because of economic pressure, and there were thousands fewer children in the community than would otherwise have been the case. People were afraid of their bankers who, before the war, forced producers to toe the line, and to ask permission to buy fertilizers, bags, spare parts, fodder, sheep and cattle. People went in fear of poverty, of being forced on to the dole, of sickness and of old age. For tens of thousands of Aus tralians there was no freedom at all but only economic and financial slavery.
On the 27th July last, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), speaking at the annual conference of the Australian Country party in Brisbane, made some most extravagant statements and hair-raising predictions about Labour administration. Indeed, members of the Opposition are vieing with one another in this election year to see who can make the most extravagant statements about the Labour Government. So far, I believe, the Leader of the Australian Country party has earned the trophy. Here is an extract from his speech -
If Labour wins the next election the High Court will be packed, arbitration and conciliation will be abolished, private lands will be seized and collective farms will be established with conscript labour. Banks will be nationalized. Hours and wages will be determined by Parliament instead of by the Arbitration Court. There will be industrial conscription and pegging of wages, government control of all industry and insurance, and abolition of the Senate.
That is an extract only. The whole speech rose to new heights of extravagance, even for the Leader of the Australian Country party. The reason, of course, is that Labour must be beaten by fair means or foul, and fear is still the. best way in which to play on people’s emotions. The right honorable gentleman seeks to play upon the most primitive fear of all by a technique that was well understood by Goebbels, one of the leaders of the Nazi regime. Therefore, the fear factory managed by the Leader of the Australian Country party is in full production. There are no stoppages. It is working day and night, forging fear as a weapon with which to waylay the electors. The firm is a partnership of Opposition candidates and members. The right honorable gentleman’s fearful fantasies about Labour may be said to out-Disney Walt Disney, with his fantastic productions. It is pathetic that members of the Opposition have to resort to such tactics, and it is terrible to think that they place so low an estimate on the intelligence of the electors.
The Leader of the Australian Country party deliberately refrained from mentioning the Australian Constitution, because to do so would destroy bis own fantastic prophecies. People are not conversant with the provisions of the Constitution. Aware of the limited knowledge of the people in this regard, members of the Opposition attempt to deceive them. In section 51 of the Constitution the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament are defined in black and white. Beyond those powers no government can go, without first obtaining the permission of the people in a referendum. It is utterly false to assert that any Australian Government could grab the farms, businesses and homes of the people. The Constitution is the nation’s bulwark against nationalization, and1 against any kind of Russianism in Australia.
In order to show how untrue are charges by the Opposition that the Government desires to nationalize industries and farms, let me cite official figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician in answer to a question which I asked in this chamber about a month ago. I asked how many factories in Australia were privately owned, and how many were owned by the Government. The reply completely refutes the assertions of the Leader of the Australian Country party that the Government is strangling private enterprise. According to the figures supplied from the Commonwealth Statistician, there were 445 government-owned factories and 27,229 privaely owned factories in Australia in 1944. In 1947, there were 402 government-owned factories and 34,336 privately owned factories in the country. In other words, while the number of government factories decreased by 43 in three years, those owned by private enterprise increased by 7,725. While Labour is in office, farms and homes and businesses will remain in private ownership, and monopolies and combines will be checked, and prevented from buying up small businesses. The Government’s policies of full employment, of free circulation of purchasing power and of economic security have, in eight years, made it possible for thousands of farmers to own their own farms, thousands of business men to own their own businesses, and thousands of citizens to own their own homes. Labour has helped farmers, business people and home-dwellers to enjoy economic and financial freedom for the first time. They are now free from the fear of economic insecurity, free from financial slavery, and free from private banking monopolies, investors, speculators and mortgagors, who held them bound in financial chains in 1940. Labour, so far from taking away the freedom of the people to own farms, businesses and1 homes, has given them for the first time the chance to be really free. In 1935, wool and wheat-producers alone paid to the banks and usurers £14,000,000 in interest on overdrafts and mortgages. The farmers were debtridden and enslaved by private financial overlords. Yet Opposition members speak about the freedom of pre-war days. In 1939, the wheat-growers and graziers were still paying about £10,000,000 in interest. Altogether, primary producers in Australia were in debt in 1935 to the tune of £500,000,000 and only 5 per cent, of them paid income tax. At that time, businesses, homes and farms did not belong to the nominal owners; they belonged, in fact, to the money-lenders. After eight years of Labour administration, the farmers of Australia have paid back about £100,000,000 of their overdrafts. Many thousands of business people and home-dwellers have also paid off their debts, and to-day enjoy a measure of economic freedom such as they never knew under anti-Labour governments from 1934 to 1940. Farms have been paid for, and amenities provided in farmhouses for the wives of farmers, while the farms themselves have been improved and mechanized. That is important, because primary production plays a tremendously important part in the national economy.
Wage and salary earners were not free in 1940, either. There existed a vicious form of economic conscription under anti-Labour governments. Two hundred and ninety thousand people were out of work in the Commonwealth in 1939-40, although war had already broken out. Those who had jobs then had an average income of about £187 a year, and they had to work like slaves because they knew that, if they did not, they would be replaced by other people who were waiting in queues outside the factory gates and the wharfs. There were people, too, who were lined up along the roads where road works were in progress so that, if a labourer were sacked, his shovel would be picked up before the handle could become cold. Yet honorable members opposite talk about economic freedom ! There was no such thing in those days. There was only a vicious form of conscription of man-power. A man had to do what the boss said and work where and when he was told to work. He dared not answer back, or express his own views or show any signs of physical or mental weakness for fear that he would lose his job. How can honorable members opposite talk about freedom in those circumstances ?
– They want to have that state of affairs again.
– Yes. Under Professor Hytten’s “ hytten-miss “ plan for a pool of from 6 per cent, to 8 .per cent, of unemployed persons, which he announced earlier this year in Tasmania, those conditions would return to Australia. Many honorable members opposite want that to happen, though they are not game to say so openly, so that the boss can become a tyrant again. In those days, fear and unemployment hung over every man, even over farmers, for 20,000 farmers walked off their farms between 1930 and 1935. The law of the jungle prevailed. It was a case of every man for himself and the devil take the stragglers - and he took a lot. The bailiff became a Frankenstein monster. Farmer was against farmer, businessman against businessman, wage worker against wage worker, and unionist against unionist in a ruthless, crucifying, dignitydestroying struggle to survive. Yet honorable members opposite have the audacity to talk in this chamber and throughout Australia about the freedom of prewar days and the frightfulness of Labour! Their policy, up to 1940, strangled freedom and free enterprise for thousands of decent Australians. They talk loudly about economic conscription being enforced if Labour continues in office, when their own financial and economic ideas, if put into operation, would soon produce the same kind of economic conscription as we knew prior to 1940. Freedom to choose a job was a mockery in those days, for if a man left a job or was sacked, he might go workless for months. To talk about freedom is hypocritical in the face of those facts.
Business people and farmers should remember that, during eight years of Labour administration, there has been a fairer distribution of wealth and a greater purchasing power amongst consumers than there ever was under anti-Labour governments. They should know that, as soon as purchasing power falls, the markets for their farm products and the goods made in their factories are undermined and the dead hands of mortgage, overdraft, bank interest and depression again lie over private enterprise - farm, business and factory. Full employment and good wages create the home market without which farming and business would languish and die. The Labour party is pledged to fight to maintain full employment and adequate purchasing power, and that is why more farmers and business people vote for the Labour party to-day than ever before in Australia’s history. “Fadden’s fearful fantasies “ therefore are truly unreal, fantastic and misleading.
I refer honorable members to the incidence of bankruptcies in the years before the Labour party came into power. The figures give a reliable indication of the economic instability of the nation at that period. In 1931, during the depth of the depression, there were 4,633 bankruptcies in the Commonwealth. Last year the number was 331. The suicide rate also is an index of economic instability. Suicide statistics for the depression years tell a very grim story. In 1930 there were 943 suicides in Australia. In 1947, the latest year for which figures are available, the figure had fallen to 746. It may be of interest to note that about four times as many males as females commit suicide. The reason for that is obvious. ‘ The man who makes the money has far more worries than the person who spends it!
The next subject that I shall discuss is that of production. Day and night throughout Australia, members of the Opposition parties tell the people that production has decreased under Labour’s administration and that we are slipping back to the conditions of the Middle
Ages. If their statements were true, one might reasonably expect people who had just migrated to this country to scramble1 aboard the next ship and return to the countries from which they came. Production is, as we know, the keystone of the Australian economy. It is not of much use for people to have thousands of pounds in their pockets if there are no goods for them to buy with that money. Figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician prove that the statements made by honorable members opposite about decreasing production are completely false. Primary production has increased considerably in many fields since 1938-39. I shall cite the figures in order to illustrate the advances that have been made.
– Only in terms of prices.
– Honorable members opposite are always saying that production has increased in value but not in volume, and they challenge us to produce figures of actual production. Everybody knows that prices of primary products are higher in both overseas and domestic markets. But the truth is that our output of primary products has increased in terms of solid quantities. I obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician only last week figures which give a specific comparison between production in 1938-39 and production in 1947-48. The following table shows a startling increase in the production of some commodities : -
Butter is the only commodity in respect of which a decrease has occurred and that decline is due principally to the fact that there has been a great increase of wholemilk consumption in Australia as the result of natural population increase and immigration. This has meant less milk for butter production. The figures for other milk products are as follow : -
Australians exported 3,720,388 bales of wool in 1947-48, compared with 2,916,385 bales in 1938-39, an increase of 804,003 bales. Linseed production increased from 175 tons in 1938-39 to 273 tons in 1947-48. The output of hops, in which I am not interested, although the growers naturally are, rose from 21,450 cwt. in 1938-39 to 24,449 cwt. in 1947-48. Production of milk for all purposes increased to 1,168,000,000 gallons in 1947-48, which is 2.3 per cent, above the average for the three pre-war years ended 1938-39. There has been increased output throughout the whole field of primary production. The production of fresh fruits, including tomatoes, reached a high level in 1947-48. It jumped to 852,800 tons from 749,900 tons in 1946-47 and the average was 672,000 tons for the three years ended 1938-39. The output of jam and canned fruit reached record levels during the year. Potato production was considerably above what it was before the war, while the 1947-48 onion crop was a record and was more than double the pre-war average. Egg production was greatly above what it was before the war. The production of fresh fish was above the pre-war figure. The peanut crop, harvested in April and May, 194’8, was more than double the pre-war crop. That is the story of production of our vital primary products. The story that has been bandied around Australia consists of falsehoods, and it proves to me, anyhow, that the Opposition is trying, by hook or by crook, to defeat Labour.
By stating untruths about production, Opposition members hope to delude the people of Australia. When we turn to secondary industry production, we also find a big improvement, in spite of the fantastic stories told by Opposition members. They would have the people believe the production of black coal has declined. Nothing of the sort! The production of black coal rose from 12,198,000 tons in 1938-39, to 14,744,000 tons in 1947-48. The production of brown coal was nearly doubled, rising from 3,643,000 tons in 1938-39 to 6,415,000 tons in 1947-48. Measured in kilowatt hours, generation of hydro-electricity rose from 611,800,000 units to 1,042,000,000 units. The production of roofing tiles rose from 39,683,000 in 1938-39 to 41,774,000 in 194”-48. The production of cement tiles rose from 4,491,280 to 20,268,000 in the same period. The production of portland grey cement rose from 867,849 tons to 1,012,911 tons in those years. The production of fibrous plaster sheets rose from 7,596,628 square yards in 1938-39 to 11,719,294 square yards in 1947-48. The output of asbestos-cement building sheets rose from 9,491,877 standard square yards to 19,695,311 selling square yards in the period I am reviewing. We produced no newsprint in 1938-39, but, in 1947-48, we produced 31,335 tons. In spite of the figures cited by the honorable member for Wentworth - I do not know where he got them from but I obtained mine from the Commonwealth Statistician - the production of pig iron, which is a part of our iron and steel industry, increased substantially, from 1,104,605 tons in 1938-39 to 1,235,574 tons in 1947- 48. The production of ingot steel, which is a vital commodity in our building programme and in the construction of bridges, rose in the same period from 1,171,787 tons to 1,343.153 tons. Those increases prove conclusively that the Opposition, if it persists in some of its recent statements about production, will be continuing to tell straight-out falsehoods. We have been told that more coal strikes have occurred while this Government has been in power than in the term of office of anti-Labour governments, but let me quote the official statistics. In the four years after ‘ World War I., from 1918 to 1921, when the Nationalists, the progenitors of the Liberals, were in power, 9,716,783 man working days were lost in Australia owing to industrial disputes, whereas, under Labour rule, in the four years after World War II., from 1945 to 194S, only 7,061,551 man-working days were lost from the same cause.
– Despite the fact that there are now 750,000 more workers.
– That is correct. Immigration has helped Australia in many ways in the last few years. The figures given by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) a few days ago were illuminating. They show what has been done by immigrants in Australia. Immigrants have helped to increase sugar production in Queensland. They cut 346,931 tons of sugar-cane last season, which is equal to 50,000 tons of sugar, or the equivalent of £1,400,000. The 300,000 tons of sugar that went from Australia to Great Britain saved Great Britain the dollars that it would have had to spend to buy an equivalent quantity of sugar from the dollar area. Immigrants have also helped to increase timber production. There are 2,400 of them working in the timber industry. They have helped to improve the output of lime, cement and bricks. The chairman of directors of a brick company in Victoria said recently -
The brick industry in Melbourne has been saved by displaced persons workers who now comprise one third of the labour in that industry.
The production of hydro-electric power in Tasmania has also been greatly helped by immigrant labour. In my electorate, 900 immigrants have done a magnificent job on the giant hydro-electric works that are in progress. We intend to naturalize 450 of them soon. They have also helped in the production of high-tension porcelain insulators, which are vitally necessary in the reticulation of hydro-electric power. Whereas only two or three kilns were burning previously, immigrant labour is enabling six kilns to operate now. In rural industries immigrants have done well. In the production of baths and sinks, window glass, ceramics, and iron and steel they are doing a magnificent job. Five hundred or 600 will soon be engaged in the iron and steel industry. They are boosting man-power, production power and consuming power, and are providing a home market for our primary products.
In the debate on petrol a few days ago the Leader of the Opposition said that the Government was so busy nationalizing industries that it had no time to do anything else. I challenge him to name one industry that the Government has nationalized.
– The High Court has stopped it.
– I challenge any honorable gentleman opposite to name one industry that the Government has nationalized.
– What about the banks ?
– Banking is not an industry and the banks have not been nationalized.
– Only because the High Court stood in the Government’s way.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke).- Order ! The honorable member for Wilmot must be heard iri . reasonable silence.
– It is obvious that the Opposition cannot take up my challenge. Yet its members tell wicked lies all over Australia to the effect that we are nationalizing Australian industries and businesses. It is about time that they woke up to themselves. From recent propaganda, it is obvious that the Liberals and the Communists are united in one great aim to defeat the Labour Government. The coal strike was a Communist conspiracy to smash Labour and win over to the Communist party thousands of workers. For that purpose they used the catchcries that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is a Hitler, that Labour has betrayed the workers, and that the Communist party is the only true workers’ party. The Liberals and the Communists have one aim in common. Both are striving to defeat Labour. The extreme right, the Liberal party, and the extreme left, the Communist party, are united in one great aim, to defeat the Labour party, which is neither extreme right nor extreme left. Let us look at this terrible thing called socialism. Socialism is community ownership of enterprises and utilities through a government, on behalf of all the people. Socialism is opposed to private ownership, only where private ownership is operated against the nation’s interests, but also when it merges into monopolies and1 combines. In spite of their high-pressure propaganda against socialism, the Liberals believe in socialism. That is what makes their vicious propaganda so hypocritical and dishonest. If the provision of a good town water supply is socialism - and it is - the people agree that there should be more of it. If the provision of hydro-electricity for lighting, heating, and power in the homes, factories and farms is socialism in action - and- it is - the people want more of it. If the provision of a government veterinary service for the assistance of farmers is socialism - and it is - the farmers want more of it. If stabilized prices, guaranteed markets, and guaranteed prices for farm products, designed to achieve stability and to take the gamble out of farming is a form of socialism - and it is - the farmers would’ like to see more of it. If the provision of rural medical services, mobile dental and X-ray units is socialism - and it is - the people desire more of it. If the provision of free medical and surgical treatment in public hospitals is socialism - and it is - the nation wants more of it. If the provision of a free and public educational system from kindergarten to university is socialism - and it is - the war against ignorance demands more of it. If the provision of the cheapest postal, telephonic and telegraphic service in the world is socialism - and it is - common sense demands more of it. If a governmentrun line of modern, fast, cargo vessels which will reduce freights is socialism - and it is - in the interests of progress there should be more of it. If government-run airlines, which raise the standard of air travel, is a form of socialism - and it is - common sense approves of it. If the provision of good State highways, arterial roads and municipal roads constitutes a socialist enterprise^ - and it does - the people realize that they want more of it. If the governmentrun free libraries, governmentowned wharfs, great national projects such as the Snowy River hydro-electric scheme, government-sponsored and financed’ irrigation schemes, and Commonwealth and
State railways are examples of socialism - and they are - the people want more of them. If government-sponsored research farms, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are examples of socialism in action - and they are - the nation is grateful, and approves of the extension of them. The Government cannot nationalize the coal, iron and steel, and chemical industries of this country, nor the hospitals, as honorable members opposite have suggested. Although the Government may have its own research farms, and acquire land for the settlement of ex-servicemen and for the construction of government buildings, it has no constitutional power to nationalize land or farms, even if it wanted to. If socialism is such a Frankenstein monster, why have not the Liberal Governments of Victoria and South Australia handed back their government-run projects to private enterprise? I shall conclude by repeating the statement that I made at the beginning of my address. In its leading article on the 8th September, the Melbourne Age made this comment -
In broad results the federal budget is a record of achievement, of sound management, of huge resources, and of prudent foresight.
The Melbourne Argus, in its leading article on the same day stated -
Mr. Chifley has produced a Lower Cost of Living Budget. He has resisted the tendency, tempting for political leaders, of making spectacular eleventh-hour concessions in an election year. The Budget is a sound one designed to underpin the social service programme, to maintain full employment and economic development. This Budget embodies the concepts of setting the people free, freeing people from the fear of social insecurity and from the menace of unemployment. At the same time it extends freedom to industrial enterprise. It is a good budget.
Those were excellent commendations from two newspapers that are not usually favorably disposed towards this Government. I am convinced that we are considering the budget of a real Treasurer, who has put the nation above party, and performances above promises.
– One could only conclude from the speech of the honorable member for
Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) that he is endeavouring, by every means available to him, to disown the pledge that he obviously must have signed when he became a member of the Australian Labour party. In common with all other members of that party, he must have signed a pledge under which he actually gave a power of attorney to give effect to, or allow to be carried out to the greatest degree possible, his association with the fundamental principles and policy of Labour’s platform. The fundamental principle of Labour is the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The methods by which that basic or fundamental objective is to be carried out are outlined in no uncertain or ambiguous form in the printed policy of the Australian Labour party. I repeat that the honorable member must have signed a pledge to carry out that policy and that objective. Irrespective of whatever apology he has endeavoured to make to-night, either he intends to adhere honorably to that pledge, or he does not intend to carry it out. I shall leave the decision in that regard to the honorable member.
There is ample scope for criticism and condemnation of the budgetary proposals, particularly in the light of subsequent events under which the sterling £1 has been devalued. In consequence it appears that the Government is belatedly canvassing or investigating the opportunity or possibility of raising a dollar loan. Although Sir Stafford Cripps, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced officially to the world only on Monday last that the British £1 was to .be devalued, it is an economic fact that sterling devaluation actually occurred months ago, because, if what we read is correct, in many of the European countries sterling has been found to be too “ hot “ to hold by most of the countries that held it. Consequently black-marketing was being indulged in for the purpose, of getting rid of sterling for the available number of dollars that could be obtained. That number was obviously less than the recognized or official number. Sir Stafford Cripps has actually admitted that this is important, because he stated that in the difficulty of devaluation his
Government had to take into consideration the black-market price of dollars that had been prevailing. The devaluation of sterling has been forced on the British economy by the indisputable fact brought about by the United Kingdom Government’s socialistic policy. That cannot be denied. The facts could be proved by one simple illustration, if illustration were necessary. The United Kingdom socialistic Government recently, at the first opportunity, nationalized or socialized the coal industry of that country. The loss in the first year was so great that the Government was forced to increase the price of monopolized coal by approximately 4s. a ton. As a consequence of that increase the users of coal had to increase correspondingly the price of their products. The spiral thus commenced has run right through the fabric of the economy of the United Kingdom.
In consequence of rising and uncontrolled costs in the United Kingdom, British export prices to dollar markets have become too high for people desirous of buying the goods that the United Kingdom could export or desires to export into the dollar areas. Therefore, unfortunately, the adjustment that we have been acquainted with has had to be brought about, in the hope, that by reducing the dollar value of the SI, Great Britain will be able to sell more goods at lower prices. That country now receives only 280 cents for the same quantity of goods that would have brought 403 cents if devaluation had not become necessary. As the Leader of the Opposition said last night, this means that the United Kingdom will have to step up dollar export sales by not less than 44 per cent, before it can obtain the same dollar return as it obtained previous to the devaluation of the pound. But we have been given to understand, and it has not been denied, that there is full or, at least, maximum employment in the United Kingdom. If that is so, how will England be able to produce say, three motor cars where it is now producing two? That, of course, is what it will require to do to even up its dollar returns. In addition to that; it will have to sell its cars in the United States of America at the same price as that which prevailed last week. “We have already been told that the living standards of England must decline, particularly in respect of bread and possibly in respect of meat. That will mean a lowering of the living standards of the British worker at a time when it will be necessary to obtain greater production.
Australia’s position through devaluation is somewhat similar to that in the United Kingdom, except that the primary producer of Australia, and not the industrial worker, will be hit hardest and hit earliest. There is a great shortage of farming implements in Australia, which has resulted in no small way in an unsatisfactory production barometer, as 1 shall outline in the course of my remarks. In addition to the problem occasioned by that shortage, which has persisted far too long, what will be the future position regarding the earnings of primary production? The prices of American tractors will increase enormously, and so will the price of petrol. As a. consequence of those increases the cost of transport by motor trucks and utility, trucks. The cost of weed killers, rabbit poisons, and many other necessities indispensable for production, that all have a dollar content, will also increase. For each tractor with a dollar content the farmer will have to pay 9s. for every dollar .represented in the price, compared with 6s. 3d. prior to devaluation. That will mean an increase of from 40 to 50 per cent., and as a consequence of that, if justice is to be done at the point of production, primary products will cost more and Australian living costs will rise, because wages will have to be increased. The inflationary spiral will thus be accentuated. It has been stated, on the credit side, that there will be an increased opportunity, as a result of devaluation, for the sale of more Australian wool. But if Australia is able to sell more wool for dollars it will have to sell, at the least, only a few points under 50 per cent, more to obtain even the former dollar return. “We have no huge exportable surplus of wool, by which we can earn more dollars, nor, having regard to the policy of this Government, is such an increase in sight. The productive potential of Australia ‘has not been encouraged, and indeed has been discouraged, because of the policy that this
Government has pursued. It is claimed that as the result of the policy of this Government employment in Australia is at its maximum, and that, in effect, there is full employment. If that is so, how can we rear and shear three sheep for every two that we reared and sheared prior to devaluation ?
Dollar goods are required immediately to increase primary production. That cannot be denied. We require more production to secure more dollars to buy the materials necessary to increase production. So there is a sphinx-like riddle that only a dollar loan can solve. Obviously such a loan, or some alleviation in that direction, is an immediate necessity. If we are to take advantage of the market for wool, as some optimists have claimed we can do, then three blades of grass must grow where only two grew before, and that grass must feed three sheep where only two subsisted before. Three bales of wool must be sold in the dollar market where previously we sold only two, before we can get even the same return for that commodity as we obtained prior to devaluation. Primary production will assuredly be called upon to carry the added cost of dollar imports required to increase output.
There are only two paths out of the maze that I can see. The first is to step up production, and the second is to negotiate a substantial dollar loan to enable us to buy necessary goods and implements hitherto unavailable to the producer, but absolutely indispensable if production is to be maintained, much less increased. I propose, therefore, to deal with those two prerequisites in their proper sequence, and to examine the Goverment’s attitude and record regarding them. First, let us take production, which constitutes the source from which the millions of pounds of revenue expended by the Government are derived. Governments do not make money. They merely collect it and expend it. The quantum of production conditions the volume of governmental expenditure. Secondly, the level of production, compared with the real and potential national capacity, is a prime test of good or bad government. The Treasurer has indicated in his budget speech that for the second time since the end of the war hia budget has been balanced. He did not say, however, that that result had been achieved at the expense of the aggregate household budgets of Australia. He claimed, further, that there had been a great improvement in national finances under post-war conditions. He did not emphasize however that continued heavy governmental expenditure depends upon the maintenance of high export prices and favorable seasons, although he did acknowledge that Australia had been aided by the seasons and by unusually high export prices. The Treasurer has warned us that good times cannot be expected to last. What a masterly understatement, when the export value and quantity of Australia’s exportable products in 1938, compared with the latest available figures, those for 1947-4.8, are considered. let us examine the figures for butter, wheat, wool, beef and sugar, which are our five most representative primary products. I have compiled a table in which the value of the quantity of each of these commodities exported in 1938-39 is compared with the value of similar exports in 1947-48, the latest year for which official figures are available Those figures reflect Australia’s prosperity to-day in relation to our prosperity in the year immediately preceding the recent war. I have made my calculations as nearly as possible on a comparable basis allowing for the slight variation in the arrangement of the Commonwealth Statistician’s export tables for that period of ten years. Consequently, my calculations are sufficiently accurate to provide a basis for broad general conclusions. They show, first, that in 1947-48 the volume of exports of the five products I have mentioned was only ninetenths of the volume of exports of the same products in 1938-39; and, secondly, that, on the basis of 1938-39 values, the value of those products exported in 1947-48 would have been approximately £60,000,000, or £7,000,000 less than the income that was actually realized’ from exports of those commodities in 1938-39. The quantities of those commodities which were actually sold for £201,000,000 in 1947-48 would have brought a return of only approximately £60,000,000 ten years earlier at the prices ruling at that time. The value of those commodities in 1947-48 was three times their value in 1938-39. Thus, the real unit of production of primary products has been almost obscured by the high prices which we are obtaining for our exports. Our high export incomes of the post-war years have been due to the acute world demand for food and raw materials. Therefore, the Government cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim sole credit for these unusual conditions. Indeed, the figures that I have taken out show clearly that this country’s capacity to export primary products has seriously declined. Because of the importance of these figures, I shall, with the consent of honorable members, incorporate in Hansard the table that I have prepared. It is as follows : -
In addition to the facts that I have already mentioned, the table shows that exports of the five products I have mentioned have declined as follows: - Butter 44,700,000 lb.; wheat 2,900,000 bushels; greasy wool, 19,200,000 lb.; beef, 25,300,000 lb.; and sugar, 342,649 tons. That is the test of the effectiveness of the Government’s rural policy.
I come now to the subject of costs. The Treasurer and his colleagues constantly claim that the nation’s finances are stable. “What are the facts? An analysis of the factors involved shows that hundreds of thousands of wageearners find it almost impossible to make ends meet because of the soaring cost of living. Thousands of people are homeless and vital necessities are in acutely short supply. Yet the Treasurer claims that the nation’s finances are stable. Controlled economies throughout the world are in a shocking mess so far as production is concerned, whereas the free economies of the United States of America, Canada, South Africa and Belgium are well ahead of ours. Reports indicate that shops in those countries are bulging with goods, and that their exports are at record . levels. Surely, results of that nature are preferable to the theoretical planning of the socialists and to their blue prints for a golden age. Neglect of production is characteristic of socialistic control. Socialists invariably concentrate upon distribution. In theory, they leave production to the primary industries, but in fact they hamper those industries by imposing all sorts of controls.
I shall now analyse the budget from the point of view of the man in the street. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) claimed that primary producers in this country were never so prosperous as they are to-day. He and his colleagues cite as evidence for that claim the increased bank balances of primary producers and reductions of overdrafts which have been effected by farmers. However, honorable members opposite in citing that evidence make no allowance for postponed improvements and maintenance charges requisite for maximum production. Because of the policy pursued by the Government, producers have been obliged to bank their surplus money instead of being enabled to expend it on the provision of fencing, general repairs, pasture improvements, restocking and the purchase of implements. Their surplus money has been immobilized because under present conditions they have not been able to invest in it revenue-producing assets for their farms. One of the greatest drawbacks to maximum rural output is the acute shortage of farm machinery and other rural requirements. Three factors are primarily responsible for that shortage. The first is the almost continuous industrial dislocation which the Government has allowed to go unchecked; the second is the Government’s unsympathetic attitude to the needs of primary producers; and the third is the Government’s failure to appreciate fully the requirements of rural industries in its handling of the dollar situation. The magnitude of existing shortages may be gathered from surveys conducted by rural organizations. Requirements of members of the Farmers Union of Western Australia include 3,100 tractors, 1,800 harvesters, 2,000 combines, 2,350 ploughs, 1,700 trucks and utilities, 65,000 miles of fencing wire, 4,000,000 steel posts, 9,750,000 feet of galvanized piping, and 1,000 stationary engines. Members of the United Graziers Association of Queensland need nearly 10,000 tons of barbed and fencing wire, 5,400 tons of steel posts, 1,900 tons of wire and strip netting, 5,110 tons of galvanized iron, 6,600 tons of water piping and 2,300 tons of bore casing as well as hundreds of tractors. Information received by the Graziers Association of New South Wales from fourteen of its branches indicates that members of that association need 6,000 tons of fencing wire, 2,889,000 steel posts, 4,800 tons of strip netting, 1,830 tons of galvanized iron, 566 tons of water piping, plus considerable quantities of wire netting, barbed wire and bore casing.
The Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales is planning an investigation, but it has already been advised that shortages in New South Wales are equally acute as those in other States. The association’s secretary has informed me that, last month, New South Wales farmers were still awaiting delivery of machinery ordered three and four years ago. It has been estimated also that Australia requires 300,000 miles of rabbit netting. Notwithstanding this appalling situation the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) admitted in
September, 1948, that during the financial year 1947-48 agricultural machinery, including ploughs, harrows, harvesting machinery, &c, valued at £596,671, was exported. Of that total, more than £270,000 worth went to foreign countries. In the nine months ended March, 1949, exports of ploughs, cultivators, harrows, harvesters, combines, reapers and binders and miscellaneous harvesting machinery totalled £340,848. Twice in the past eighteen months representatives of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales and the Queensland Grain Growers Association have discussed with the Minister for Trade and Customs the restrictions on imports of tractors, agricultural machinery and spare parts from dollar sources. The deputations suggested that greater dollar allocations should be made available to import tractors of more than 30 horse-power and also certain agricultural machinery, and that if a dollar allocation could not be secured, a dollar loan should be arranged for the purpose. The Minister said that he could not hold out any hope for sufficient improvement in the dollar position over the next two or three years to enable importation of the desired machinery and equipment. Yet, in April, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was reported to have urged intending importers of equipment from dollar countries to submit their applications for agricultural sponsorship. The fate of these applications can be gauged from information given to me by the Prime Minister to the effect that provision had been made for the 1948-49 financial year for the importation of the following limited numbers of special types of agricultural machinery from dollar sources : - 124 pick-up hay balers, 44 combine or all-crop harvesters - small seed harvesters - 36 corn planters, 23 corn pickers, 9 ensilage cutters and harvesters, 4 hay’ choppers, 4 manure spreaders, 3 ensilage blowers, 2 hammer drills, 2 beet harvesters, 1 cotton harvester, 1 beet drill, 1 beet loader and 1 disc harrow. This list contains just over 250 different pieces of agricultural machinery for the whole of Australia for one financial year. The programme was prepared in consultation with the Department of Commerce.
In view of this ultra-restrictive programme with which the Minister must have been conversant, his announcement to the Australian Agricultural Council, that, despite the dollar exchange position, new machines imperative for primary production would be imported, must be regarded as just one of those election year assurances that cannot be taken seriously. Only last week, it was reported that the New Zealand Government had, since 1948, allocated 5,500,000 dollars to buy tractors and machinery, in addition to an earlier allocation of 1,000,000 dollars. The Chifley Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot impose its policy of savage restrictions on dollar imports and, at the same time, expect primary producers to step up or even maintain output. The Government prates about the prosperity of the primary industries. We are told that most primary producers have paid off the mortgages on their properties. What is responsible for this prosperity apart from the hard work that the farmers themselves have done? It is due to good seasons, and the high prices ruling overseas for our exportable commodities. Primary producers have the cash, but they cannot buy with it the materials and machinery that they so urgently require to maintain the productivity of their properties. What else can a farmer do with his money when he cannot spend it on a new tractor, fencing wire, galvanized iron, a utility truck or the thousand and one items which every farm needs but cannot get? One thousand pounds in the bank is as useless to a farmer as an engine without petrol, but how can he spend it on a new tractor or combine when the Government will not supply facilities for their importation ?
That brings me to a consideration of food production in this country in relation to the world food shortage, and particularly in relation to the requirements of the United Kingdom. Primary industry as a whole in Australia has reached danger point. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has warned us that, unless primary production is increased, Australia will be forced to import food as its population expands. What are the facts? Last year, we had fewer cattle, sheep and pigs than in 1945. Wool production in 1948-49 was lower than in the five years ended 1943-44. Wheat acreage was less than in the five pre-war years, although production was somewhat higher. Butter production was 30,000 tons below the average for the five years ended 1938-39. Production of mutton and pork was below the 1938-39 figure, while the total meat production was only 5,000 tons above 1938-39.
The Australian population has increased by 1,142,000 since 1938-39. Consequently the demand for foodstuffs within Australia itself, to say nothing of Britain and Europe, has increased considerably. Apart from providing for the natural increase of the Australian population, provision must also be made to feed the huge army of migrants coming to this country. The Chifley Government, however, has failed to appreciate the need for a vigorous rural policy, and as a result Australia, a major primary producing country, faces the prospect of having to import food for its growing population. Could anything be more fantastic? Could anything constitute a greater indictment of this Government than that? The Government cannot escape these unpleasant facts by a monotonous recital of the monetary values of rural products and of the surface prosperity of farmers who are unable to obtain the material requirements necessary to enable them to get on with the job. The essential requirements of our primary producers are being denied to them because of industrial strife and dislocation and the socialistic monetary policy of the Government, and the Government stands idly by. Ministers should have wakened from their lethargy and apathy and have done something positive to help the man on the land.
Obviously the Government’s supporters are the only persons in the community who are satisfied with our efforts in the food production sphere. Rural Australia would be on a sound footing to-day had the Government heeded the advice given to it by the Opposition for some time past. The Australian Country party has consistently advocated a better deal for the primary producer to enable him to increase production so that Australia may take its rightful place in meeting the requirements of the starving world. The Opposition has offered constructive suggestions designed to obtain a greater flow of badly needed dollar imports to Australia, but it has been rebuffed by socialist Ministers. The Government should have given to the producers a greater share in the handling and disposal of their products, and Ministers should have taken them into their confidence when overseas contracts were being negotiated. The Australian primary producer wants only the opportunity to work to the maximum of his energy and capital, to utilize his land to the best possible advantage, to sell his products at a reasonable margin of profit, and to live his life in his own way without interference from socialist planners. Ministers have been unrestrained in the tributes they have paid to Sir David Rivett. Addressing the British Association in Great Britain early this month, Sir David Rivett said that Australia’s contribution towards feeding the world was disappointing. Ministers who never tire of proclaiming their desire to assist Great Britain and the starving countries of Europe should take that statement to heart.
I come now to the consideration of the cost of goods and services. Every householder is well aware of the impact of rising costs on the family budget. One would expect, in the years following the cessation of hostilities, there would have been such a remarkable expansion of commercial and industrial activities that production would have reached a scale unparalleled in our history. “We had all the opportunities for such an expansion. We had great resources and the markets of the world were open to us. We had the advantages of improved technique in every field of industry. Modern machinery had been installed in our factories and every facility was available to us to step up production to meet the nation’s many post-war demands as well as the special requirements of a starving world. But the Government’s appeasement of industrial outlaws, its inexplicable delay in arresting Communist infiltration, its failure to outlaw strikes and petty stoppages, and its inaction in the face of pronounced “go slow “ methods, gave rise to a spirit of “ don’t care “ in industry as the result of which production has lagged and goods which were sorely needed for industrial expansion were not available and are still not yet available. This trend was accentuated by the maintenance of taxes at inordinately high rates for an unnecessarily long period. From the point of view of money values the effect of this trend is seen in the falling barometer of the purchasing power of the Australian pound. Goods are in short supply and many are not serviceable as they are of inferior quality. The Treasurer has already pointed out that overseas prices may not be maintained. He has expressed this fear on other occasions. In the meantime, what has he done to safeguard the nation against the disadvantages that will accrue from a fall in overseas prices? The obvious safeguards are, first, to increase the output of commodities, both for internal and external consumption, and, secondly, to combat any price recession by minimizing and stabilizing the cost of producing goods without interference with local standards. Australians generally do not share the satisfaction of the Treasurer and his colleagues at our present situation because the Government’s policy has tended to discourage incentive in this country. Substantial increases have been made in the cost of fares, freights, electricity and gas, and recently the Government increased postal, telephone and telegraph charges. There is no necessity for me to emphasize the shortage of houses and building materials. The cost of houses, both to build and to buy, has increased to such an extent that the acquisition of a home is far beyond the reach of thousands of potential home owners.. To sum tip, while wages and salaries are increasing, costs are increasing even more steeply and they will continue to increase. The recent devaluation of sterling will do nothing but aggravate the position. Australia should be warned by the fact that there are far too many crippled economies in the world to-day as the result of planning and austerity controls. The Australian people should insist that the Government shall not place them in a similar plight by denying to our economy the products so essential for continued expansion. [Extension of time granted.’]
I thank the committee for the indulgence that it has extended to me.
I come now to the means that I believe to be at hand to arrest, if not to cure, the unsatisfactory situation that I have outlined. I have in mind particularly the need to overcome the shortage of essential goods so that we .may produce to the maximum of our capacity. Any financial realist would have concluded long ago that the Government would be forced to explore the possibilities of obtaining a dollar loan. Had the Government carried out a survey similar to that made by the farmers’ organizations, to which I referred earlier, it should have been seised with the necessity to remedy the first situation by encouraging the farmers to maintain their existing rate of production, apart altogether from any consideration of increasing that rate of production. Now, belatedly, the Treasurer has admitted that the Government is examining the possibilities of borrowing as a means to provide additional dollars. His attitude is a welcome change from the negative stubbornness that has characterized the Treasurer’s mishandling of the dollar position. His negative approach and rejection of Opposition suggestions has proved costly to Australia. In December, 1948, the Prime Minister said the Government had no intention to negotiate^ a dollar loan from America. Australia is a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and of the International Monetary Fund. “We have deposited in those institutions many millions of pounds in gold and securities but we have received exactly nothing in return. In other words, we have contributed in order that other nations may become the beneficial recipients. Australia has 200,000,000 dollars worth of shares in the Bank, of which 2 per cent, has been paid in gold and 18 per cent, in currency. The balance is subject to call when required. When I suggested during March last that we could obtain dollar credits from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and/or from the Export-Import Bank, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) retorted -
If Mr. Fadden wants to have for electioneering platform purposes the borrowing of money from America, he can have it as an election issue as far as I am concerned.
In. May last, when I repeated my suggestion, the Minister declared that it was “ a ridiculous policy “. He said also that when one took into account the national interest, the policy I had advocated was obviously very foolish. On the 30th June, I inquired what investigation had been made regarding the possibility of obtaining a dollar loan from the International Bank or the Export-Import Bank. The Prime Minister replied that the Government was reluctant to raise further loans which would involve dollar commitments. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that at the moment the Government did not feel disposed to enter into such an arrangement. In the first three years’ existence of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to which we have contributed, it has made fourteen loans, aggregating 635,000,000 dollars. The paid-in capital of the bank, which is one-fifth of its subscribed capital, is about 1,660,000,000 dollars. The bank itself obtained some of its loanable funds by borrowing in its own name from investors in countries that are able to invest capital abroad. To do so, the bank sold two bond issues, amounting to 250,000,000 dollars to the investing public and institutions of the United States in July, 1947. The interest rate for the loans is as low as 2-J per cent, and has been not higher than 3^ per cent. In 1947 the bank made a loan of 250,000,000 dollars to France to assist the reconstruction and development of that country’s French economy. In the same year the bank lent 195,000,000 dollars to the Netherlands, and a further small loan was made to that country in 1948. Loans were made by the bank to four Dutch shipping companies at an interest rate of 2i per cent, about twelve months ago. Denmark, which is our greatest competitor in the British market for dairy produce, borrowed 40,000,000 dollars to finance payment for essential import goods, including agricultural and textile machinery, machine tools, trucks and steel products. Luxembourg purchased equipment for its steel industry, and rolling stock for its railways by obtaining a loan of 12,000,000 dollars from the International Bank. An instrumentality of the Chilean Government that was created to promote economic development, also obtained a loan from the bank to purchase United States equipment and supplies that were required for the development of electrical power and water facilities in Chile. A second Chilean loan, at 2^ per cent, interest, was granted in March, 1948, to finance the purchase of agricultural machinery in the United States. A loan of 75,000,000 dollars was negotiated at the beginning of 1949 by the Brazilian Traction Light and Power Company for expansion of hydro-electric generation and the distribution of facilities and the installation of long-distance and local telephone services. Two further loans have been granted to electricity commissions in Mexico for similar purposes. At the beginning of 1949, the bank had before it applications from a dozen or more different member countries. Australia, however, was not included. All we did was to contribute the means, the method and the facilities for other nations to become participants. My latest information is that the Netherlands has borrowed a further 15,000,000 dollars from the bank to modernize its industrial plants. Finland was lent 12,500,000 dollars to finance imports of special equipment. The railways of India will also receive 34,000,000 dollars, and a further loan of 41,000,000 dollars will be made to that country in the immediate future for electric power development. A development company in Colombia also got a 5,000,000 dollar backing for imports of agricultural machinery. Last month, the bank was reported to be investigating projects in Yugoslavia, connected with an application by that country for a loan of 280,000,000 dollars.
It is indeed ironical that Australia, which is being starved by government policy of petrol, motor vehicles and tractors from dollar areas has not. even attempted to approach the International Bank, notwithstanding that it has, I repeat, contributed directly to assist other nations that are in competition with it. Other countries, including such competitors as Denmark, have used the International Bank to obtain loans to finance agricultural machinery imports, as also has a private company in Colombia. Australian production is being gravely retarded because of the lack of American utilities and other motor vehicles, and yet the Government has not even seen fit to approach the International Bank for the necessary dollars to obtain them.
Of course, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is not the only ‘ agency from which we could obtain a dollar loan. Australia is also a member of the International Monetary Fund. At the end of May, 1949, the fund held 8,400,000 dollars worth of Australian gold, and 191,600,000 dollars worth of our currency, which is equivalent to 96 per cent, of our quota. Australia is entitled to purchase 25 per cent, of its quota in any period of twelve months, and to purchase even more if the fund deems it desirable to waive the 25 per cent, restriction. Generally speaking, the fund’s resources are to be used for exchange stabilization purposes by helping member countries to finance temporary deficits in their international current accounts. Australia now finds itself confronted by a temporary deficit in its international current account. The regulations that govern the operation of the fund also provide that its resources are not to be used for reconstruction or for development, because the provision of finance for reconstruction and development is the function of the International Bank.
To the 30th April, 1949, the fund sold more than 700,000,000 dollars for membercurrencies. Seventeen member countries purchased United States dollars in exchange for their own currencies. Great Britain purchased 300,000,000 United States dollars from the fund. France obtained 125,000,000 United States dollars, the Netherlands 62,500,000 dollars, India 100,000,000 dollars, Belgium 33,000,000 dollars, Mexico 22,500,000 dollars, South Africa 10,000,000 dollars and Denmark more than 10,000,000 dollars. Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Norway, Turkey and even Ethiopia received some millions ‘of dollars from the fund. Australia has had the honour and the privilege of being only a contributor to it. On the 25th March, 1948, India applied for and received from the fund 25,000,000 dollars in exchange for rupees in order to assist it to meet its trade deficit with the United States of America. Australia is not mentioned in the list of purchasers of United States dollars from the fund, despite our need to overcome the dollar deficit which is strangling our progress. This country could have been receiving annually from the fund approximately 50,000,000 United States dollars, but the Government apparently did not even bother to make the necessary inquiries. Other countries which I have mentioned have had the advantage of obtaining dollars from the fund.
Another avenue which could have been explored with advantage is the American Export-Import Bank. That institution was established in 1934 as a wholly government-owned corporation devoted to financing and facilitating the exports and imports of the United States of America to the extent of 3,500,000,000 dollars. By 1947 the amount outstanding had been reduced to about 2,700,000,000 dollars so that approximately 800,000,000 dollars were available at the time for additional loans. As the result of repayments about 960,000,000 dollars were available for loan early this year. This month, it was announced that the bank had granted to Yugoslavia a loan of 29,000,000 dollars for American mining materials and equipment. The Export-Import Bank also approved a loan to Israel for the purchase of American materials for harbour works at Haifa. On the 7th February last, the bank made a loan of 20,000,000 dollars to Chile for steel plant construction. That loan was in addition to a loan of 28,000,000 dollars that had been granted in 1945. The rate of interest is 4 per cent. On the 19th January last, the bank granted to Israel a loan of 35,000,000 dollars for the purchase in the United States of America of equipment and materials for the development of Israel’s agriculture, and a further credit of 65,000,000 dollars for the development of transport, communications and the like. Both loans were at the rate of 3^ per cent. The agricultural credit was calculated to establish and equip 8,000 new farms, re-equip 16,000 farms and 6,000 citrus groves. The credits as a whole were a part of an overall programme for a balance^ development designed to establish a self -sustained economy in Israel. [Further extension of time granted^] I thank honorable members for their indulgence. I desire to develop my survey of the dollar position.
In April, 1948, the Export-Import Bank provided a loan of 29,000,000 dollars to Japan to finance cotton shipments. In December, 1947, Belgium was granted a loan of 50,000,000 dollars by the bank for the purchase of United States raw materials and equipment. That was the second loan to Belgium. The first loan, which was an amount of 100,000,000 dollars was made in 1945. Italy has been granted a loan of 100,000,000 dollars by the bank, which has also extended to various countries short-term, credits amounting to 140,000,000 dollars for the purchase in the United States of America of specific commodities such as tobacco and cotton.
As Professor Copland has suggested, there is a fourth course - a loan on the New York market. With the other avenues available, the adoption of that course should not be necessary; but I point out that recently Canada floated1 a loan of 100,000,000 dollars on the New York market and it was over-subscribed, although the rate of interest offered was less than 3 per cent. A loan sought by Australia would probably not be quite so successful as was the Canadian loan, but, at least, I am sure that the money would be available.
Before I leave the subject of dollars, I ask honorable members to note that the many European countries that have obtained dollar loans from the international agencies to which Australia has subscribed have abandoned petrol rationing. For example, the consumption of fuel is not restricted in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal, Turkey and Finland. ‘There is no rationing in the strict sense in Holland and the Scandinavian countries with the exception of Sweden. Gasolene, it is stated officially, is unrationed in Poland and Roumania, and since April last, in Hungary.
– Those countries are producers of fuel.
– They are not all producers of petrol. Last Tuesday it was reported that because of the devaluation of sterling the price of petrol in Australia would be increased by Id. a gallon. The Prime Minister has advanced various arguments to show the dollar content of petrol consumed in Australia. Again, he has been caught in a cleft stick. The increase that is allowed in the price of petrol should truly reflect its dollar content, otherwise the Government would be compounding a black market. An increase of Id. a gallon is equivalent to only 3 per cent, of the retail price, so the real dollar content, both direct and indirect, must ~be smaller than we have been led to believe. A dollar’s worth of petrol now costs 9s. instead of 6s. 3d., out the price of petrol in Australia, instead of being increased by approximately 5d. a gallon, will be increased by only Id. a gallon. That is the answer to the question whether petrol should be rationed in this country on account of the dollar content. The Treasurer will need all his ingenuity, and will need to exchange many cables with Sir Stafford Cripps, in order to explain away that discrepancy. The ministerial attitude in this matter is characteristic of the Chifley Government’s general approach to problems, the solution of which calls for vision and enterprise. Having no ideas of their own, Ministers resent it when others advance constructive suggestions, especially when those suggestions emanate from honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber. Instead of exploring the possibility of adopting the suggestions, they resort to criticism, and frequently abuse, of members of the Opposition who submit proposals for stabilizing the Australian currency. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are just as conscientious and eager to render public service as are the Prime Minister and other Ministers.
The Government has been like a glider, riding high on an up-current of hot air. It has little visible means of support, once the unusual conditions of the starving post-war world become nearer to normal. It has rejected a far-sighted policy for encouraging production in favour of the goal of socialization for as many means of production, distribution and exchange as the High Court and the easy-going elector will allow. The Government has ignored the fact that wealth cannot be distributed unless it is produced. It has failed to use the means available to secure dollars in order to purchase essential requirements that are at present scarce.’ It has deserted the primary producer, who has had to fight a losing battle single-handed against declining production and shortages of every kind, when the Government could have alleviated the position by raising a dollar loan. For these reasons, the Government’s policy, as set forth in the budget, must be condemned as contrary to the best interests of Australia, to the interests of this nation as an integral part of the United Nations, and as a potential contributor to world peace by feeding the hungry people of the world. The Australian Country party, on the other hand, is pledged to a prosperous, expanding economy, free of restriction, and of the taint of socialism.
.- Last night, we heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) deliver a coldly analytical statement on the subject of the devaluation of the pound sterling, and on the economic problems which face Australia. He brought to the debate a scientific objectivity and a dispassionate approach. To-night, we have heard from the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) a speech which was, by and large, a series of very grave falsifications. He spoke of the decline of production. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who spoke before him, gave actual statistics of production. I propose to take the Leader of the Australian Country party at his word when he invited us to consider, not money values of exports, but actual quantities, and I propose to show the gross intellectual dishonesty of the method by which he took for a certain commodity exports for 1938-39 and compared them with exports for 1947-48. I propose to cite figures from a table which he used, and to give the facts which he suppressed. The right honorable gentleman instanced wheat, and compared figures regarding wheat exports.
Let us look at the year-by-year fluctuations in wheat exports, and ask whether any man could honestly compare two years and then draw inferences from the figures regarding the effects of Government policy. The figures are as follows : -
If one were guilty of the same sort of intellectual dishonesty as that of the Leader of the Australian Country party one could say that in 1945-46 we exported only about 12,000,000 bushels of wheat, but that, owing to the brilliant policy of the Government, exports rose two years later to 60,000,000 bushels. Of course, no fair comparisons can be made, and no honest conclusions drawn as to the effects of Government policy, by studying the export figures relating to seasons in which production fluctuated so violently. The honorable member made particular mention of the dairying industry. There is no doubt that the mobilization of man-power during the war delivered a grave blow to the dairying industry. Many herds were sold, and went out of production. Labour was not available. Any intellectually honest person would be prepared to admit that, before the war, wages in the dairying industry were very low. Therefore it was one of the first industries to suffer when the opportunity arose to find more lucrative employment elsewhere. However, in every post-war year there has been a steady growth of exports to the United Kingdom, and I cite the following figures from the table used by the Leader of the Australian Country party, but I shall use the figures that he suppressed -
However, if I were to turn myself into a figure-shouting machine like the Leader of the Australian Country party, I would weary honorable members, and I have na desire to do that. The right honorable gentleman took the peak of pre-war production, ignored the disastrous effects of the war, and compared pre-war exports with those for a selected post-war year,, preferably one in which recovery was not yet complete. He ignored the fact that,, owing to seasonal conditions, production of primary products has fluctuated gravely. I do not claim for the Government credit for the fact that exports of wheat increased from 12,000,000 bushels in 1946-47 to 60,000,000 in the following year. Obviously, the drought had a great deal to do with the low exports of 1946-47. I have no doubt that when the cumulative effect of the floods in New South “Wales is reflected in reduced production of primary products, the Leader of the Australian Country party will blame the taxation policy of the Chifley Government.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) condemned the Government’s taxation policy. He said that the consumption of beer and tobacco was increasing, and then, on the authority of an unnamed cleric, claimed that this increase was due to the demoralizing effects of heavy taxation. The same argument might have been used to support high taxation under which the production of beer and tobacco has evidently increased, because it must be remembered that beer and tobacco bear not only ordinary taxation, but heavy excise duties as well. Notwithstanding those imposts, because of the tastes of the Australian community, the production of beer and tobacco has increased greatly.
The most dishonorable feature of the speech made by the Leader of the Australian Country party was his reference to Great Britain. I have never heard the Leader of the Opposition engage in political falsification on any matter that was of real international importance. In that respect he stands very remotely from the Leader of the Australian Country party. After the present Leader of the Opposition had visited the United Kingdom, as Prime Minister of Australia, for discussions about the war with the Conservative Government of that country at a time when Great Britain was selling all its foreign assets in order to finance the importation of munitions from the United States of America, he said, in one of his last utterances as Prime Minister-
I encountered no thinking human being in Britain who did not realize that the price of victory is poverty.
The right honorable gentleman forecast then that Great Britain would be impoverished in the post-war era. Now the Leader of the Australian Country party suggests that the existing poverty in Great Britain is the result of the policy pursued by what he calls its “ socialist “ government. He was supported this afternoon by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who spoke of “American suspicion of the British socialist Government “ and said that, because of the level of social services in the United Kingdom, the United States of America was not prepared to grant the measure of assistance that it would otherwise have granted. Such utterances provide superb support for Communist propaganda in Australia. They suggest, as the Communists try to suggest, that the Government of the United States of America consists of “ money bags “ who watch closely and discriminate against any socialist government or other government of whose ideology they disapprove. That is the very point that Communist propaganda - and I mean Russian propaganda - is trying to press home upon all the recipients of Marshall aid. It declares that any American aid to a foreign government has strings attached to it and that those strings involve lowered standards of living. We heard this afternoon, from member after member of the Liberal party, that the social programme of Great Britain - and I speak of social welfare, not socialism - was one of the factors that had made for American reluctance to assist Great Britain because America believed that it led to inefficiency. Obviously, the opinions of honorable members about what Americans think of Great Britain are worthless by comparison with what the American Economic Co-operation Administration has to say about Great Britain.
Among the dishonest features of the speech made by the Leader of the Aus tralian Country party was his reference to the recovery of Holland and Belgium. The Economic Co-operation Administration specifically contrasts the greater recovery of British industry with that of Holland, and Belgium in a table that I propose to quote. In reference to the petrol situation, the right honorable gentleman continued his intellectual dishonesty by implying that a dollar problem was involved and telling us that South Africa, Holland, Roumania and Poland did not have petrol rationing. When I interjected that Holland, Roumania and Poland were producers of petrol, he informed me that that was not so. Has Holland no empire in the Netherlands East Indies? Does it not control the Royal Dutch Shell organization ? Has it no oil resources in Sumatra 1 Roumania, of course, is the greatest producer of petrol on the continent of Europe outside Russia. South Africa produces £80,000,000 worth of gold for export annually, and the United States of America will exchange petrol for that output because gold is a commodity that it will accept. The right honorable gentleman did not explain how Australia was to multiply its gold1 production eightfold. For his information I point out that Poland has large petrol resources in Galicia, which is why we recently heard those “ furphies “ about its capacity to export some millions of gallons of petrol to Australia. I shall quote what the Americans have said about Great Britain in the report to Congress of the Economic Co-operation Administration of the United States, which is the statutory authority engaged in handing out assistance to those countries which are in need of it. Pointing out that Great Britain has been the most successful in boosting production of all the countries receiving aid, the report, which 1 have obtained by courtesy of the American Commercial Attache in Canberra, states -
The substantial achievement of the United Kingdom in boosting its exports and curtailing imports continued to dominate the -European Recovery Programme foreign-trade picture. In the fourth quarter of 1948, the United Kingdom’s export volume was 46 per cent, higher than in 1938-
I shall not draw any inferences about the efficiency of socialism from that, because I recognize that American aid would have been one factor affecting the increase, but that was the method of argument used by the Leader of the Australian Country party when he compared production figures for certain years. The report continues - while imports were 20 per cent, lower than in 193S. If the United Kingdom is excluded from the composite index, exports of the remaining E.K.P. countries in the quarter were 4 per cent, below pre-war . . .
If that discloses any inefficiency on the part of the British Labour Government, what is to be said of the governments of Holland, Belgium and all the other countries which received the approval of the Leader of the Australian Country party in the course of his speech? Continuing to discuss the British situation, the same report states, quite objectively -
Hard hit by the costs and damage of World War II.-
No fantastic lying about socialism there ! and the loss of foreign-exchange earnings following the war, the United Kingdom faced a large deficit in its balance of payments, despite the austere standard of living imposed on the population. In the last half of 1948, however, the United Kingdom succeeded in closing the gap in its overall foreign accounts by severe limitation of imports and increased production and exports.
Then the report states that the position is nevertheless serious, but it adds that the United Kingdom plans to overcome the loss of its foreign investments by 1952. The report also contains a table of production indices in terms of quantities. Taking 100 as the index for 1938, it shows that the production level of the United Kingdom for 1948 was 123 - a 23 per cent, increase over the pre-war level. The level in France was 108 and in Belgium 116. Belgium, due to the early surrender of the Government of King Leopold, did not sustain so much damage to its capital equipment as did some other States. The index for the Netherlands was 112. Thus, the efficiency of Belgium and the Netherlands produced increases much below the United Kingdom percentage. So much for the right honorable member’s observations!
Since some members of the Opposition have falsified the American attitude to aid abroad and have, unwittingly I hope, subscribed to the Communist theory that the Americans are a miserable lot of Capl. talists who will give aid only reluctantly to anything other than unadulterated capitalistic States, I shall quote an official statement of the United States view. The Government of the United States has made its own statement concerning foreign aid in these terms -
Here is a proposal- talking about their total scheme of aid - that we hand over to Europe, during the next four years, goods and money in the neighbourhood of $20,000,000,000. Some of it may be in the form of gifts or grants, some in the form of loans. Much of it will not return to America in any tangible form. This great outlay will not be just a bookkeeping transaction, lt will represent a certain continuing strain on our economy, a certain sacrifice on the part of individual Americans. There is no use fooling ourselves about that.
That was the statement of Will Clayton, former Under-Secretary of State in the United1 States Cabinet. He went on to say-
Europeans, for their part, must also have understanding if the plan is to succeed. America does not want any hosannas of gratitude, but we are entitled to a fair appraisal of the burden we are assuming, and of our motives - which I take to be a mixture of ordinary human decency-
I direct the attention of honorable members to the unflattering remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that they would refuse aid to semi-starving people of whose ideology they disapproved - our old tradition of helping friends in distress, and an enlightened self interest - shared by Europe - in the rebuilding of a free, prosperous and secure world. In so far as Europeans swallow the Communist line- which was put up this afternoon by the honorable member for Flinders, unwittingly which depicts us as a lot of greedy imperialists, dumping surpluses in order to prevent an American depression and to enslave Europe to the dollar sign, the entire programme will limp. Men who believe that are not going to do the kind of work which recovery requires. Only if Europeans catch the spirit of this programme, feel the pull of this mighty effort in friendly co-operation between countries and continents, will they be able to fulfil the great commitments which their governments have made on their behalf.
There has never been any suggestion by the United States administration that it would refuse aid where it disapproved of the ideology of the government in office.
Of course, it is inevitable that when we have these debates, we shall have endless references to private enterprise. Many of us are very interested in those references. Some of us, for instance, hear the accredited representative of private enterprise, Mr. Latham Withal expounding on its virtues. It is then depressing to get circulars from the organization represented by that gentleman asking for increased tariff protection against the imports of British apparel because they are sharply increasing. I- am fascinated when I attend the dinners of Rotary Clubs, Apex Clubs and similar associations, where free private enterprise is praised. No doubt, Masonic lodges, if ever they published their proceedings, would be found to share similar sentiments. When one hears speeches about private enterprise and sees in the press reports of a similar character, it is an interesting experience to get letters from the very gentlemen who made the speeches ‘complaining about foreign competition. When the shoe begins to pinch there is a sharp disappearance of their championship of free competition and open and unshackled enterprise. But what is the Liberal party’s policy oh this matter ? The Federal President of the Liberal party, Mr. Casey, speaking, I presume, for the party, made a speech recently. It was one of the most interesting of speeches. It was not the one in which he said that Australia was bleeding to death, which is a speech that, perhaps, we might mention. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) mentioned it last night when he referred to the Liberal party’s obsession with blood. No, it was not that speech! This speech was delivered on the 18th March this year. I quote from the newspaper account of it - “ It will be impossible in these complicated days to get back to completely free enterprise,” said the Federal President of the Liberal party (Mr. Casey) in Launceston last night.
I do not know whether he saw that he had a working-class or a’ middle-class audience and trimmed his sails accordingly, but that was what he said. The report continues -
Mr. Casey was discussing his tour of Tasmania. He was seeking, he said, support for the maintenance of regulated free enterprise.
How one regulates free enterprise I do not know, but it does not matter, for it i3 a good phrase. The report goes on -
He said the Liberal party did not aim to get back to complete freedom of free enterprise. Some control was needed because of the complicated times.
A complicated argument, too! Then he said -
Free enterprise had to be regulated in the interests of the people.
We have every faith in the judgment of the Australian people if they have the facts of our situation presented to them in a fair and reasonable .way. The presentation is up to our party and its supporters.
The party’s policy would be stated within the next six months.
We thought it had been clarified long ago-
Every party in Opposition had the same problem as to disclosing its policy. At present Labour was most anxious , to wheedle the Liberal party’s policy, for it had six months in which to “ pinch parts of it and discredit the rest “.
It Ls rather amazing that a party that claims to be open and above board should accuse other people of seeking to steal its policy. But he said that the party was clever and would conceal it; because, otherwise, the Labour party would “ pinch “ some of it and try to discredit the rest. The report went on - “ Our policy-making is very well advanced,” he said. “ When it is announced publicly in full it will be found to be a constructive policy to improve the situation of all sections of the Australian people.”
So Mr. Casey’s speech leaves us somewhat confused about what the Liberal party policy is. It contains an admission that, so far, the Liberal party policy has not been announced.
The Leader of the Australian Country party has had a great deal to say on the subject of industrial unrest. There is one thing to be said for the Prime Minister. I am not certain that it can be said for any other Australian politician in federal history. Who would have said, in February of this year that, owing to the policy of the Government in making clear to the rank and file of a militant union like that of the coal-miners that their leaders had misled them, they would vote two to one to go back to work although their leaders were imprisoned? But that is exactly what took place. So successful was the Prime Minister’s appeal, beyond the leaders of the coalminers to their followers, that, notwithstanding the imprisonment of their leaders, they voted two to one to resume work. The miners repudiated the Communist leaders. During the crisis, the Leader of the Australian Country party had his usual battery of emotional words to offer, such as “ The Government is weak-kneed,” “ The Government is dramatizing its handling of the coal strike,” “ The Government hesitated to stand up to Communist blackmail,” and so on ad infinitum and ad nauseam. It is a fair question, therefore, to ask how he handled industrial unrest. Let him say if he appealed beyond the coal-miners’ leaders to the rank and file. He was Prime Minister for a short term of six weeks. In that time, his actions on the coal-fields were somewhat doubtful and they led to the appointment of a royal commission conducted by a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Sir Percival Halse Rogers. The royal commission arose out of the fact that £300 of government money had been paid to the Communist president of the miners federation, Mr. Charles Nelson, and paid in a most peculiar manner. There was said to be a fund called “ The Australian Democratic Front Fund “. It consisted of £4,995. But, as the royal commissioner said, its title in no way indicated, that the organization called the Australian Democratic Front Organization had anything to do with it. They were quite separate. It is one of those confusing twists of the right honorable gentleman. The £300 was paid to the Solicitor-General. That £300 was then taken from the private bank account of the Solicitor-General and paid into the private bank account of the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney, Mr. G. A. Watson. From him it was paid to Mr. Joseph Winkler, and he paid it to the president of the miners’ federation. It was a most peculiar process. It had to go through all these stages. Although that may have been necessary for security reasons, it was not security for defence, but security against the Auditor-General. The £300 that was received by Mr. Nelson was to be used, so the then Prime Minister said on oath before the royal commission, to enableMr. Nelson to combat subversive activity on the coal-fields. The war was on, theCommunist party was illegal, and Russia had not entered the war. The Communist party was opposed to the war. It was openly boasting at the time that it had sought to foment strikes against the war, and yet the most prominent Communist in Australia at the time received £300 of Government money to combat subversive activity. He received it from the Crown Solicitor, via the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney and Mr. Joseph Winkler. The royal commissioner had to struggle to get to the bottom of this whole subject. He had this to say at page 7 of his report -
One of the great difficulties in the case from my point of view as Commissioner is that some of the witnesses have given definite answers on matters of recollection and later, when their attention has been directed tocertain proved facts which are inconsistent with their testimony, they have been forced to admit that what they had previously sworn could not be correct. In other words they had to admit that their recollection has been at fault. This shows, to my mind, that in regard to many matters they did not sufficiently review the events before going into the witness box . . .
At page 8 of his report the royal commissioner stated that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was then Attorney-General -
I do not propose to labour this proposition. There is no need to labour it, because honorable members may read the report themselves. However, in his finding, the royal commissioner stated -
For the reasons given, I am driven to the conclusion that I should find that the moneys in question’ were paid out of the account established in the name of the Australian Democratic Front by Mr. Watson under the instructions of the Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes, with the approbation of the Acting Prime Minister, Mr. Fadden; that the moneys were paid out through Mr. Winkler to Mr. Nelson in accordance with the instructions of the Acting Prime Minister; that the purpose for which the moneys were paid was that indicated in the receipts and in the letter from Mr. Watson to Sir George Knowles already referred to, that is to say that it had relation to the promise of the executive officers in the coal industry that there would he freedom from further strikes in the coal industry during the war . . .
Contingent on getting this £300, that promise was made. The finding continued -
If government money was being paid to a Communist during the war period to oppose Communists, and no attempt was made to ensure that he used it for that purpose, one would think that the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) would have had the decency to keep quiet about others being weak-kneed in the face of the Communists and the industrial unrest on the coal-fields. The truth of the matter is that his policy was the most miserable policy possible. It was the contemptible policy of Ethelred the Unready - buy them off! The right honorable gentleman’s speech was not one of the major contributions of the Opposition to this budget debate. We have heard that the Liberal party is divided on devaluation. A heading in the Melbourne Herald suggests that. Why this was regarded as news I cannot fathom. Rather would it be news if the Liberals were united on any question. They are also divided on the subject of uniform taxation. Last year, in many interesting issues, the Sydney Morning Herald tried for many desperate months to establish the right honorable member for Darling Downs as a statesman. That newspaper then devoted several columns to tearing down . his budget speech as unsound. While Mr. Spooner and Dr. Louat were supporting uniform taxation, many other prominent members of the Liberal party were opposing it. There is no uniformity amongst honorable members opposite on the question of uniform taxation, which the right honorable gentleman has stated that he supports. In the course of this debate the leader for the Liberals, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made a statement in favour of the abolition of indirect taxation and a reversion to direct taxation on incomes as a means of financing the budget. That is a sound socialist principle. That statement was immediately followed by a statement in the press by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that the higher incomes should be left free from direct income tax so that the recipients of them may invest freely and thereby stimulate industry. He also stated that our budget should be much more geared to indirect taxation as, in fact, pre-war budgets were. Of the £95,000,000 budget in Australia in 1938, more than £60,000,000 was financed out of indirect taxation. So we will be interested to hear from somebody in authority in the Opposition of its stand on devaluation, uniform taxation, and indirect taxation. So. far we have not heard many statements by honorable members opposite about these matters. In the course of his budget analysis the right honorable gentleman asserted that it revealed no consideration for the future. In this enormous budget there is one item which is clearly not for immediate expenditure. It is the £121,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund, set aside because our experience during the depression was that at the first blast of the financial blizzard all social services were immediately cut as there was no Treasury reserve to keep them up. An amount of £121,000,000 has been placed in reserve to make sure that in the first breath of the recession there will not be a sudden cutting off of such social services as age and invalid pensions. With one exception, honorable members opposite have suggested, without citing any specific American authority, that the United States of America was critical of Great Britain’s social services programme. The exception was the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who cited Mr. Black of the International Bank.
– I quoted him because of his position, not because of his nationality.
– That is true. I am not disputing it. I am merely saying that it has been the Opposition thesis that the United States of America has been attacking the level of Great Britain’s social services. The President of the United States has himself endeavoured to persuade Congress to pass a very large social services programme this year because of the superior wealth of the
United States of America. One would have thought that Opposition members who, some time ago, stated that they favoured endowment of the first child, which would cost £31,000,000, and the abolition of the means test, which would cost another £58,000,000, would have very little to say about the necessity for curtailing expenditure on social services. I ask any subsequent member of the Opposition who speaks during this debate to reconcile those statements, which are quite clearly part of their election programme, and the honouring of which would cost £89,000,000, with promises that there would be no increase in taxation and no increase in social services contributions if elected to the Government of this country. This is very complex. The statements that nave been made have been chiefly directed at Great Britain, insofar as our consequential adjustments of the purchasing power of our currency have been part of the budget debate. It is not hard to see the reasons for the criticisms of Great Britain that have emanated from the Leader of the Australian Country party. It is not hard to gather an inkling of the contempt in which he is held in British official circles since his celebrated revelations on the subject of alleged secret documents. He is a former Prime Minister of a British dominion, a man who has been elevated to the Privy Council, an honour which gives him the right to participate in British Cabinet meetings and, in time of war, in meetings of the British War Cabinet. That such a man should have engaged in party politics on such an issue, in respect of documents that he said were secret, is something which is not understood abroad. It seems a fair inference that the psychological reason for the recent obsession of the Leader of the Australian Country party for bashing Britain, covered by the veneer of bashing socialism, is to be explained in terms of that experience and the knowledge of what the attitude towards him in Britain is at present.
The most violent speech from the Opposition in this debate came from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who referred to Sir Stafford Cripps as a “ traitor “, and at a later stage of his speech as an “ arch-traitor “.
Mr. Churchill is not noted for handing out bouquets to socialist leaders or Labour party leaders, but he paid the warmest tribute to the work of this alleged traitor in organizing aircraft production in the period when .Sir .Stafford was called upon to achieve a vast expansion of production of British warplanes. At an earlier stage in his career Sir Stafford was entrusted with a mission to the Soviet Union at a time when Britain’s relations with that country were unfriendly, and when it was crucial that Russia, which was then tending towards the German orbit, should be persuaded by diplomacy to move in another direction. Ultimately, I will admit, Russia was so persuaded by the German invasion of its territory, but at the same time, this man who was defamed yesterday by the honorable member for Bendigo, was chosen by Mr. Churchill during the war for that key mission, and for a key portfolio. I am not suggesting that the Leader of the Opposition would subscribe to the particular idiocy that has emanated from some of his followers on this subject, but it is necessary to point out the confidence that Mr. Churchill had in Sir Stafford Cripps during the war years.
The Leader of the Australian Country party has shown himself to be once more at variance with the Leader of the Liberal party. The Leader of the Liberal party made a clear statement in which he said that he did not propose to challenge devaluation. The Leader of the Australian Country party, who claims peculiarly to represent the farmer, made a discovery that no economist, not even the most hostile to devaluation, and ho business man in this country has discovered, namely, that devaluation will hit the primary producers. He went on to imply that it would hit the primary producers more severely than it would hit any other section of the nation, although quite clearly the policy of the Australian Country party, when it was a participant in non-Labour governments before the war, was to maintain a devalued currency, on the very theory that our export industries would gain thereby. The Leader of the Liberal party says that devaluation is acceptable and the Leader of the Australian Country party says that it is not. It is almost like the 1943 general election, when the Leader of the Australian Country party informed us that he intended to hand hack to the people after the war taxes they had paid during the war. He was going to have a compulsory savings scheme, spend the money raised thereby on the war, and, a year or two after the war, the savings would :be handed back to the community. But he did not explain how, after the money had been spent, we would be able to get it back. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out at that time that taxes would have to be increased to enable the money to be paid back to the taxpayers, and he repudiated the nonsensical proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country party. We have waited for years to hear these two anti-Labour leaders sing in harmony, and now, when we are faced with the subject of devaluation, we find that once again they are not in harmony.
For the benefit of the honorable member for Flinders who has just re-entered the chamber, I shall explain that I have been alluding to statements from the Economic Co-operation Administration expressing the American attitude to the British economy and pointing out that that economy is regarded by the administration as the most recovered economy in Western Europe. By so doing I have refuted the honorable gentleman’s suggestion that the American Government is suspicious of governments of which it does not approve and that it is retarding aid to countries where such governments are in office.
House adjourned at 10.27 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (o) The number of personnel serving on continuous full-time duty in the Australian Military Forces on the 7th September, 1949, was 14,958. (6) The number of personnel serving in the Citizen Military Forces on the 7th September, 1949, was. 16,202. 2. (o) The number of personnel serving on continuous full-time duty in the Australian Military Forces on the 7th September, 1949, in head-quarters and UnitS such as army headquarters, head-quarters of commands and military districts, army records offices, medical and dental units, recruiting staffs, inspection staffs and education units was 5,518. Similarly, the number of personnel in armoured, artillery, engineer, signal, infantry, supply and transport and other units of a like nature on the 7th September, 1949, was 9,440. It is not practicable to distinguish between personnel employed on administrative duties and other members of the Australian Military Forces as, even in war, certain personnel in every unit are required for administration, such as clerks, storemen, telephonists, &c. It is also not practicable to regard personnel so employed as being engaged on non-combatant duties, as all personnel, with the exception of soldiers of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps and the Royal Australian Army Dental Corps, are required to carry arms and are trained in their use. (6) The number of personnel serving in the Citizen Military Forces on the 7th September, 1949, in Divisional Headquarters, medical and dental units and other similar units was 648, whilst the number of personnel in armoured, artillery, engineer, signal, infantry, supply and transport and other units of a like nature on the same date was 15,554.
L - On the 7th September, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) drew my attention to certain scripts which had been prepared for broadcasting by the Queensland branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and asked whether they had been banned under section 89 (3) of the Australian Broadcasting Act which prohibits the broadcasting of any dramatization of political matter current at the time of the broadcast or during the five preceding years. I have been informed by the Postmaster-General that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia wished to have the two scripts to which the honorable member referred broadcast by certain commercial stations in Brisbane. Following on discussions between the league’s representative and the local branch of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, the latter body took the view that the broadcasting of the scripts in their original form would have involved an infringement of section 89 (3) of the Australian Broadcasting Act relating to the broadcasting of dramatizations of political matter and was not prepared to agree to the broadcasting of the scripts in lie form proposed. “Whilst under a strict interpretation of the section, the federation was probably right, it is considered that the proposed broadcasts could have been brought into line with the provisions of the act with only minor modifications which would not have reduced their effectiveness. In an effort to prevent any similar misunderstandings arising in future, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has issued an interpretation of section 89 (3) of the Broadcasting Act for the guidance of all concerned.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. This explosion does not fall within the scope of happenings to be investigated by my department pursuant to the Air Navigation Regulations, and consequently no such investigation has been made. However, the matter was placed in the hands of the New South Wales police and I am inquiring the result of their investigations.
r asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Is the minimum safety length of runway laid down by Pan-American Airway b approximately 6,200 feet?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490922_reps_18_204/>.