19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Having received a request from the Australian National Committee for the United Nations, Victoria Division, I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question of some urgency. Oan he see his way to intervene urgently in connexion with the United Nations appeal for children being organized by the Australian National Committee? The appeal was organized last year throughout Australia, and is now, I understand, in full operation except in Victoria, where it is threatened with collapse because of the lack of temporary accommodation for persons engaged in making it. The committee, as the Prime Minister is aware, is headed by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and by Professor Woodruff. Will the Prime Minister and his colleagues look into the matter to see whether it is possible to do something to enable the appeal to go on?
– The Government takes a very sympathetic* View of the work being done by the committee, and attaches importance to it. The point raised by the right honorable member is at this moment being looked into by the Department of External Affairs.
– Does the Prime Minister agree with the statement of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel that employers and employees are partners in industry? If sp, will he ensure that dividends received by investors and employers are determined in the same way as are the wages of employees - that is, by thorough and impartial investigation of all the evidence ?
– The honorable member has asked me whether I agree with my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and I may say that I usually find’ myself in that happy position. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, it invites an observation on a matter of policy, and it is not proposed to deal with policy in answer to a question.
– In the absence of the Minister for Immigration, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has considered the case of Mrs. Phyllis Wenner, 25 years of age, who, by the irony of circumstances, has been compelled to say goodbye for all time to her four-year-old daughter, and to watch grief stricken at Mascot while a clipper departed carrying the child into the custody of her father, an ex-member of the army of the United States of America ? Has the Government made any representations to the American authorities on the subject? If not, will the Prime Minister see that such representations are made, and stress the pathos of this- parting (for a woman who was divorced only bacause a minor court conviction prevents ber from entering the United States of America? Should an Australian mother be bound by the terms of an American court order so tragic in its incidence?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter, but the terms of the honorable member’s question will be conveyed to my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, who will provide an answer.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral give consideration to the establishment of air-mail services to outback areas of New South Wales and Queensland, and also to areas in the southern part of the Northern Territory that could all be served by similar air services? Will the Minister take representations on this matter into consideration ?
– I may say that one of the considerations of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is to try to provide adequate services to people in the outback. At the present time a review of nil the facilities is being carried out, and we hope to be able to improve the existing services.
– In view of the urgent need to increase facilities for the treatment of war neurosis cases, will the Prime Minister give consideration to an amendment of the conditions governing the distribution of surplus services funds so that finance may be made available for that purpose?
– I shall have that matter examined in consultation with the Minister for Repatriation.
– Will the Minister for the Interior say whether the sudden move to develop a minor industrial area in the Braddon residential area of Canberra in the closest proximity to improved residential sites, which has been announced only by the sudden and incontinent destruction of magnificent pine trees, is being carried out in conformity with section 12a (1.) of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1933?
– I understand that the move to create or establish a minor industries area in Braddon is in complete conformity with the original plan of
Canberra. I support that view when I state that some years ago this area was thrown open for minor industries. The only block that was taken up at that time has a laundry situated upon it. After the area was originally thrown open certain residential areas were provided alongside it. We are now returning to the original conception which, I understand to be in conformity with the general plan of Canberra.
– Is it not obligatory upon the Minister under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act to give 30 days’ notice in the Gazette of the Government’s intention to undertake any project of the kind that it to be undertaken in the area to which I have referred ?
– I understand that that provision applies in certain instances and I shall look into the matter that the honorable member has raised to ascertain whether it applies in this instance.
– In view of the losses that are being incurred by government-owned hostels in the Australian Capital Territory, will the Minister for the Interior say whether his department intends to remain in that field of enterprise? If it does intend to do so, will consideration be given to the establishment of a special commissariat section for this purpose?
– The matter to which the honorable member has referred is now under consideration by my department.
– Will the Prime Minister examine a seeming anomaly in the Public Service Act, in that when a permanent officer dies there is no provision by which the value of recreation leave that has accrued to him can be paid to his next of kin or estate? I understand that such a payment may he made in respect of the value of furlough that has accrued, and it seems reasonable that a similar payment should be made in relation to accrued recreation leave. Will the Prime Minister examine the matter to ascertain whether the apparent anomaly can be remedied ?
– I shall be glad to have that matter examined.
– “Will the Minister for the Interior indicate the prospect of an ex-serviceman, who is a permanent government employee with a wife, one child and a dependent mother, securing a government house in Canberra on a rental basis?
– I shall have the matter investigated and furnish the honorable member with a reply as soon as the information is obtained.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for External Affairs, during this sitting of the Parliament, to make a statement of the external territories policy of the Government, as I understand it is his intention to make a statement on the Government’s external affairs policy? If so, will the honorable gentleman convey the broad lines of the Government’s economic policy in external territories so that the Parliament may debate the matter and the country may be informed of the policy of the new Government ?
– The answer is “ Yes “ to both questions.
– The Retail Traders Association of Tasmania has asked me to ascertain the total revenue resulting from the imposition of the sales tax and also the cost to the Taxation Branch of the collection of the tax. Will the Treasurer supply the desired information?
– I shall arrange for the information to be obtained and shall furnish it to the honorable member as early as possible.
– In the absence of the Minister for Immigration I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman’s attention been directed to a statement which is alleged to have been made by a customs officer to the effect that a gang of Chinese market gardeners was recently detected smuggling Chinese into Australia? If so, will he inform the House of the position?
– My attention has not been personally directed to the matter. The Minister for Immigration is unfortunately absent on public duties to-day. I shall convey the honorable member’s question to him and invite him to deal with it direct.
– Many thousands of foreign migrants entering Australia speak no English and, after arrival, are sent to work in the company of other men and for employers who do not speak their tongue; consequently, their progress in learning the English language and the Australian way of life is slow. Could the Minister for Immigration have books of instruction for these people prepared in their native tongue? Could he have instruction in the English language made compulsory for migrants at holding centres who are awaiting allocation to employers ?
– The Minister for Immigration not being present, I shall convey the honorable member’s suggestion to him.
– In the absence of the Minister for Immigration, I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer him to the great shortage of labour in Australia and to the policy of the Department of Immigration towards new arrivals in Australia whom we term “ new Australians “. I believe that those people are established in camps and undergo a course of education to make them “ good Australians “, whatever that may mean. It is alleged that they are then obliged to undergo a period of indenture to the Australian Government. I ask the right honorable gentleman to state whether that labour is used to the best, advantage. Is it made available to instrumentalities, such as roads boards, which are unable to do all the work they are expected t’o do because they cannot get the necessary labour? Is it good policy to keep able-bodied, healthy people caged up or in indifferent employment for two years while necessary instrumentalities and institutions in this country are short of labour?
– I shall direct the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, to the matter that has been raised by the honorable member. I trust that the Minister will be in his accustomed place in this House tomorrow, when honorable members will be able to address to him questions on matters that come within the scope of his department.
– Is it a fact that the Minister for Supply and Development has received a number of complaints about the allocation of supplies of tinplate for the manufacture of cans? Will the honorable gentleman state what steps he has taken in this matter?
– Many complaints have been made about the allocation of till plate. The simple fact is that the quantity of tinplate available in Australia is about 10 per cent, less than the demand for it. Tinplate comes principally from Great Britain, though some supplies also come from the United States of America. This Government inherited a method of allocation of tinplate, but because supplies are insufficient, many users, both large and small, are dissatisfied and I have received many complaints. In consultation with my officers I am endeavouring to work out a better method of allocation than that which obtains at present. Whether it will be possible to satisfy all those who need tinplate, I have many doubts. The simple fact is that we are trying to get a quart out of a pint pot.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read the subleading article in last night’s Melbourne Herald headed “ Cream ban is now complete farce “, in which the ban is described as a “ pitiful example of gutless law administration”? In view of the utter confusion now prevailing throughout the Commonwealth in connexion with this matter, will the Minister give a definite direction whether the ban should be observed or disregarded ?
– The validity of the ban, which has been operating for some time, is now under challenge in the court. As the issue is sub judice, I do not propose to offer any observations on the legal aspect of it. However, I shall examine at an early date the whole of the issues involved in the ban.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that fire has again broken out in the Bellbird colliery in which 21 miners lost their lives when a fire occurred there in 1920? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that millions of tons of coal in the Greta seams are being lost as the result of what is termed spontaneous combustion in mines? Does he not think that the time has arrived when in view of the necessity to conserve our coal deposits in the interests of the nation generally a committee of experts, including experts whom it may be considered necessary to bring from overseas, should be appointed to inquire into this very vexed question with a view to evolving some method of combating spontaneous combustion in coal mines?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s suggestion to my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, within whose jurisdiction the matter falls, and I shall discuss it with him.
– With respect to the termination of the appointment of Mr. W. C. Taylor as a member of the Australian National Airlines Commission, I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether Mr. Taylor was a competent officer of that body? If so, why was he not re-appointed to the commission? Was his appointment terminated because he was a member of the Labour party and had been appointed to the commission by a Labour government? If so, is it to be implied that the Government in making appointments has adopted the policy of spoils to the victors?
– First, in answer to the last part of the honorable member’s question, although the policy of spoils to the victors was that of the preceding government, it is not the policy of this Government. Mr. Taylor was not reappointed to the Australian National Airlines Commission when his term of appointment expired earlier this month.
He was not a flying man. His place on the commission has been taken by GroupCaptain Gerald Packer, who is an accountant and a man experienced in aviation who will be an acquisition to the board. So far as I know, Mr. Taylor carried out his duties very satisfactorily with the knowledge that he possessed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Before the people of Australia made the tragic mistake of changing their government it seemed fairly obvious that, at the end of the next financial year, Trans- Australia Airlines, after recent losses, would balance its accounts. “Will the Minister state the financial position of Trans-Australia Airlines as at the end of the last Parliament, and its financial position to-day? In order that the Minister may not take credit for the fact that Trans-Australia Airlines will pay its way very shortly, will he give the House an idea of what its prospects were of paying its way at the end of the year?
– Trans-Australia Airlines has suffered substantial losses in each year of its operations. The honorable member heartened me when he forecast that it will pay its way this year. I earnestly hope that it will do so. Maybe that position will be achieved by a change of personnel, and by other actions that have been taken both by the Government and by the department.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware that waterside workers are reported to have formed a cooperative stevedoring organization for the purpose of unloading vessels on certain Melbourne wharfs? If so, does he regard such a scheme as an earnest of the waterside workers’ desire to turn round vessels expeditiously? Does the Minister think that it would be advantageous to encourage the formation of similar organizations?
– I shall bring the matter that the honorable member has raised to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that in the statement of case to the Chambers of Commerce and the Liberal Governments of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on the union submission for an increase of the basic wage, those authorities have asked that all payments by way of -child endowment shall be taken into account in the computation of the basic wage? If so, will the right honorable gentleman indicate the steps that the Government proposes to take in order to ensure that the payment of endowment for the first child, if and when it is made, shall represent a real increase of the income of the person to whom it is paid and shall not be counter balanced, as has been requested by the Chambers of Commerce and the Liberal governments of three States, in the calculation of the new basic wage?
– The case before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is now in the process of being heard, and, therefore, I do not propose to offer any comment, or to enter into the argument which is apparently being conducted before the court. It would not be proper for me to do so. The view of the Government on the effect of the child endowment legislation, insofar as it is within the jurisdiction of the Parliament, will be given to the House when the second reading of the relevant bill is moved.
– Referring to the decline of the purchasing power of the £1, the Prime Minister, in his policy speech prior to the last general election, spoke of -
What did the right honorable gentleman mean when he differentiated between the cost of living as shown by the “ C “ series index, and the cost of living “ in real terms “ ? Was he indicating dissatisfaction on the part of the present Government with the “ C “ series index as a true reflection of the cost of living? As the quotation shows that, in the right honorable gentleman’s opinion, the “ C ‘’ series index underestimates the rise of the cost of living, does the Government intend to intervene in any court proceedings, or, by legislation, to alter the index upon which the basic wage is fixed ?
– The integrity of the “ C “ series index has always engaged the attention of the Commonwealth Statistician. Both this Government and its predecessor have found that statistical experts are anxious at all times to preserve the accuracy of the “ C “ series index. However, I believe it to be notoriously true that the “ C “ series index is necessarily based upon a limited number of items, and, for that reason, may never be a perfect reflection of the cost of living. My personal opinion ip that the price increases of many household goods have been more than those of items falling within the “ C “ series index. To that, degree, therefore, the
C “ series index may not be an accurate, overall measure of the value of money. However, if the honorable member is asking whether 1 believe that the “ C “ series has some defect, I say that I have no quarrel with it because experts believe that it still maintains its integrity as an index. The difference is between what is necessarily a limited measure of value, confined to certain items, and an overall measure. Those two may not coincide.
– I preface a question to the Minister for External Affairs with the explanation that, at the conference of the Australian Country party in Queensland last year, the right honorable member for McPherson, who is the leader of that political organization, made the following statement: -
In Indonesia thu Communist influence is obvious. Soekarno w,-i,s just as eager to assist the Communists as he had been to assist the Japanese during their occupation of Indonesia.
In view of.’ the fact that that statement is in similar terms to statements that he has made in this House, does the Minister’s recent visit to Dr. Soekarno indicate any change in the anti-Communist policy of the Government, or does it mean that the Government has a different policy towards communism in the international sphere from that which it has in internal politics?
– Dr. Soekarno is the President of the Indonesian Republic, and, as such, I visited him.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Supply and Development advised the people of Great Britain to vote the Attlee Government out of office, and in view of the fact that the people of Great Britain took no notice of their advice, where does the Prime Minister now propose to obtain the dollars which, he says, this country now needs for its further development?
– I may be forgiven for not understanding the question. I do not know whether the suggestion of the honorable member is that, because I have the honour to be of a different political party from Mr. Attlee, that gentleman will proceed to deprive us of dollars to which we should otherwise be entitled. If that idea is at the back of the honorable gentleman’s mind, I may tell him that I have a much better opinion of Mr. Attlee than he has.
– Is the Treasurer aware that vital water conservation projects in Victoria and other States are being delayed owing to the inability of the various commissions in charge of the works to obtain dollars for the purchase of earth-moving equipment? Is he satisfied that the increased expenditure of dollars on petrol has been of more benefit to the country than would have been the expenditure of the extra dollars upon the purchase of such vital equipment?
– I am not aware of the circumstances to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall investigate them and supply him with a reply later.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development state the value in dollars of the tractors and other material that he told the House last week had been imported into this country under some special arrangement without the expenditure of dollars by Australia. Will he also indicate the extent to which this practice will be followed in the future and the proportion that the quantity of dollar material, which will be paid for in sterling, bears to the whole of Australia’s dollar expenditure in any one year?
– The approximate value of the equipment is between 1,250,000 dollars and 1,500,000 dollars. The transaction will not require the expenditure of either dollars or sterling because the tractors involved will be bought in. Australia for Australian currency. I am afraid that I have no idea of the proportion of Australia’s total dollar or tractor requirements that is represented by the transaction, but, if the honorable member is concerned, I shall endeavour to obtain the information for him.
– The right honorable gentleman said that the practice would be continued.
– What I said was that I was making every endeavour to extend the principle involved in bringing into Australia, without the exchange of dollars, heavy developmental equipment that is manufactured only in the United States of America.
– Does the Minister yet know to what extent the practice can be pursued ?
– No, not yet.
– Why has the PostmasterGeneral adopted a new practice of loading the financial liabilities of the Postal Department on to country shire councils? I refer to his demand on the Monaro Shire Council that it should make a financial contribution of, I think, £10 a year towards the cost of keeping the Peakview telephone exchange open. What concern is that of a shire council, and why should it have to shoulder that financial responsibility for the Postal Department?
– I have not adopted any policy whereby harsher terms have been imposed on shire councils. If the honorable member will give me the particulars of the case to which he hae. referred, I shall have it investigated immediately.
– In view of the fact that the Postal Department has not been able to satisfy nearly 150,000 applications for telephones, I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether his department will make arrangements for additional public telephones to be installed, not at post offices, but at “ staggered “ locations throughout the metropolitan area of Sydney ?
– The department will “ stagger “ public telephones as much as possible. It is already trying to put the honorable member’s suggestion into practice because of the shortage of instruments for private installations and I hope that the policy will be effective. However, the department hopes that it will be able to expedite the installation of individual private telephones considerably this year.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform me of the progress that the Government has made relative to the introduction of compulsory military training ? When does the Government propose to bring it into operation?
– The Government has made quite satisfactory and sufficient progress in the matter which the honorable member has mentioned. It is not the practice to make statements of Government policy in reply to questions.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he considers that the implementation of the Government’s scheme of compulsory military training would adversely affect the coal-mining industry by reason of the fact that young men in the industry who are doing special work that calls for a great deal of agility would be called up. In view of the urgent Australian demand for coal supplies, does the Government propose to exempt employees in the coal-mining industry from compulsory military training in a manner similar to that in which they were exempted from military service during World War II.?
– When the details of the Government’s military training scheme are being finally settled, the matters that have been mentioned by the honorable gentleman will be taken into account. We propose to go to considerable pains to avoid any unnecessary interference with the productive activities of this country..
– Can the Prime Minister say whether an approach has been made to the Government by representatives of the rubber and textile industries about damage that is being caused to these industries by the influx of competitive goods from cheap-labour countries? If such a complaint has been made, what action does the Government propose to take to rectify the position?
– I am not aware of any such approach having been made, but that does not mean that it has not been made. It may have been made to the Minister for Trade and Customs. I shall find out whether that is so, and whether a statement can be made on the matter.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - On Friday last, the honorable member for Dalley asked a question about the circulation of controversial document written by Sir Walter Massy-Green, which dealt with currency revaluation. The honorable member undertook to supply a copy to me and to discuss the matter with me. So far, he has not done either, but I have a copy of the document, and I have discovered that, so far as the party whips are aware, it was not circulated to members nf the Liberal and Australian Country parties. My investigations show that this document was circulated to members rf the Australian Labour party at the request of a person on the staff of the Leader of the Opposition.
– In view of the reported statement of the Minister for Works and Housing that the experts whom it is proposed to send overseas to investigate possibilities of importing prefabricated homes are not to place orders or to deal with design, but are merely to investigate the matters associated with supply, will -the Minister state what particular expert knowledge these men possess which qualifies them for the performance of this task? Will the Minister also state why he considered it was unnecessary to include a member of the trade union movement in this party of experts?
– The small delegation that is going overseas shortly is to investigate the countries, and the firms within those countries, that are best able to supply Australian needs of houses that are to be imported. The design of the houses will not be investigated. That will be a matter for decision by the State governments, which are and will be the principal orderers of houses, on the advice of this mission when it returns. I discussed fully with Mr. Monk and Mr. Broadby the matter of including a trade unionist in the mission, and I believe that I convinced them that such action would not be appropriate. There is a great deal that a mission of this sort can investigate and report upon to the State governments and the Australian Government. Neither the Australian Government nor any State government, with the exception of that of Victoria, has sent any mission overseas to investigate the possibility of obtaining prefabricated houses from the countries that are principally engaged in their manufacture. Those countries are Britain, Scandinavia, Austria and Italy. I believe that this mission can perform a most useful purpose, but I do not consider that a trade unionist would be a useful addition to it. The mission will be composed of a leading business man, the Director of Housing for the Commonwealth, and a housing officer nominated by the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria.
– The question that. I shall direct to the Minister for Works and Housing also relates to the Government’s intention to send a delegation over-, seas in connexion with the importation of prefabricated houses. Is the Minister aware that many prefabricated homes have already been erected in Australia, and. that representatives of overseas manufacturers are at present in Australia, endeavouring to obtain contracts for large numbers of prefabricated homes? Will the Minister undertake to ensure that the prefabricated houses already erected in
Australia shall be inspected critically before a useless delegation is sent overseas?
– I am well aware that many imported prefabricated houses have been erected in Australia. That number i.?, however, relatively small compared with the number of such units that will be required by various governments in this country during the next few years. The officers of my department are fully cognizant of the various types and makes of prefabricated houses that have already been imported into this country. Furthermore, I am personally well aware of the types of prefabricated houses already here because manufacturers’ agents have already written a considerable number of letters to me about their products. The mission is being directed to investigate the overseas firms that are manufacturing prefabricated houses in order to establish their individual prestige and their ability to produce houses of that type at the rate that it is contemplated will be necessary to meet our needs. I do not accept the implication that the delegation will be useless and wasteful.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing institute a complete survey of prefabricated houses in the Austraiian Capital Territory where there is considerable dissatisfaction with this kind of construction on the ground of its unsuitability to withstand local weather conditions? Will he have the investigation made before the proposed mission goes overseas to arrange for the importation of prefabricated houses from Europe and America?
– My officers are fully aware, I believe, of the various types of imported prefabricated houses in the Australian Capital Territory and elsewhere in Australia, and I do not believe that it is necessary to have the matter further investigated. The officers know of any faults such buildings possess, and that knowledge will help them in their investigations overseas.
– It is reported in the press that the Division of Industrial
Development has issued a report on the production in Australia of domestic electrical appliances, which indicates that the production is greater than the demand for these articles. Can the Minister for Supply and Development give any further information on this subject?
– From time to time the Division of Industrial Development investigates certain industries and issues reports upon them. The division recently concluded an investigation of the manufacture in Australia of domestic electrical appliances. Its report was made available to the press yesterday. The fact that emerges from the report is that, except, I think, in relation to electric refrigerators, the productive capacity of Australian manufacturers of domestic electrical appliances is well in excess of the present demand. The division investigated the productive capacity of 60 or 70 manufacturers of these appliances. The report can be made available to any honorable member who is interested in the matter.
– In the absence of the Minister for Labour and National Service, I address my question to the Prime Minister. The rabbit plague in this country is assuming large proportions. Wire netting is almost unobtainable. That which is imported from ex-enemy and other countries costs almost three times the price of the local product. The wirenetting factory of Lysaght Brothers and Company Proprietary Limited, which has just recommenced production, is producing only 35 tons of wire netting a week, although its production potential is 360 tons a week. Rylands Brothers (Australia) Proprietary Limited is producing only 140 tons of wire netting a week, although its production potential is 180 tons a week. The weekly production of wire netting by one man is approximately 1 ton. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will ask his colleague to consider making available to the wirenetting industry sufficient labour to enable it to utilize the full production potential of the factories to which I have referred?
– I shall take this matter up with my colleague. The shortage of wire netting and other items that .ure badly needed by our main industries is occasioning the Government a good deal of concern, and the matter has been receiving particular study. The suggestion that has been made by the honorable member will be conveyed to my colleague.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that there is considerable discontent among the personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force in relation to compassionate discharges? Is it a fact that compassionate discharges are not granted on any grounds? Has the Minister instructed the commanding officers of Royal Australian Air Force stations that representations from members of Parliament in connexion with compassionate discharges are to be referred to the appropriate air officer commanding and are not to be sent to him, although, as Minister for Air, he should be interested in this human problem?
– I am afraid that the honorable member has been thoroughly misinformed. Considerable discontent does not exist in the permanent air force to-day; the reverse is the case. Applications for compassionate leave are considered on their merits and some have been granted. The honorable member for East Sydney is aware of one such case and other honorable members opposite also probably know of cases.
– I know of three applications that have not been granted.
– They have not reached me yet. I shall be glad to consider them when I receive them.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether any change has been made or is contemplated in Government policy in relation to the rationing of butter and tea. When will the right honorable gentleman be in a position to make an announcement of policy on this subject?
– This matter has been under consideration by Cabinet, in the pressure of other matters, as the honorable member will appreciate, and we hope to be in a position to make an announcement about it before very long.
– In the absence of the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for Health, I ask the Prime Minister what special arrangements have been made to provide complete sanatorium treatment for new Australian citizens who are suffering from tuberculosis. I know of one camp where there are 100 such, people, and I consider that special arrangements should be made to provide sanatorium treatment for them.
– I know that this matter is under consideration, but T cannot answer by the book in the absence of the Minister for Health and the Minister for Immigration. I shall direct their attention to the question and shall have an answer forwarded to the honorable member.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to make a public statement with regard to an application that was made to him by the State Fruit Board of Tasmania for an export licence for the marketing of fruit under the British Ministry of Food Order? I understand that the Minister has referred this application to the appropriate export control board. I ask him whether he has any public statement to make about its decision ?
– Following a deputation that was introduced to me by the honorable member for Franklin, consisting of the chairman of the State Fruit Board of Tasmania and certain other representatives of the Tasmanian fruitgrowing interests, I investigated the position and learned that the State Fruit Board of Tasmania is an instrumentality established under State statute to handle the affairs of the Tasmanian fruitgrowers. It is composed of members elected by the fruit-growers. That board asked me to give to it an exclusive licence for the export of apples from Tasmania under the British Ministry of Food contract. I found that, under the policy being pursued by the Australian Apple and Pear Board, it was not possible to accede to this request. I arranged for the Australian Apple and Pear Board to review its policy, and this having been done, a licence has been granted to the board at my request. It is not an exclusive licence, but it includes a guarantee that the board will be given export permits for all the apples placed in its charge which comply with the requirements of the British Ministry of Food contracts.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether he favours a retiring age for Australian judges, or the maintenance of the present system of giving them life tenure of office, which means, in effect, that no government could compulsorily retire them, regardless of their age or physical or mental capacity? If the right* honorable gentleman believes that a change of the present system should be effected, will he take the necessary steps to see that the people of this country shall be afforded an opportunity to amend the Constitution in order to equip the Government with the necessary power to fix a retiring age?
– The question of the retiring age for federal judges is not one that depends on my opinion or the opinion of any other honorable member, because the judges have life tenure under the terms of the Constitution.
– They gave it to themselves.
– I was not aware that they gave themselves the Constitution; on the contrary, I thought that the Constitution gave us the High Court.
– They interpreted it that way if or themselves.
– The honorable member for Melbourne appears to be making ;i singularly indecent suggestion.
– Perhaps the right honorable gentleman shares it.
– The suggestion is that because it was decided by the High Court, which is, under the Constitution, the proper tribunal to do it, that the Constitution provided for life tenure, the judges are being accused of having given themselves life tenure. I venture to say that the Constitution gave them life tenure.
– It is not as clear as that.
– Perhaps it was. not clear to the honorable member for Melbourne, but it was clear to lawyers.
– There was argument on the point.
– As to the second part of the question I shall, of course, give the most courteous consideration to the suggestion that we should introduce a constitutional amendment on this matter, although I do not fail to recall that on three occasions, when our predecessors in office were attempting to amend the Constitution, they managed to omit that provision from their own thinking.
– Preference to exservice men and women is now limited to seven years after the cessation of hostilities. Will the Prime Minister consider introducing an amendment to the Re-establishment and Employment Act to extend the period of preference?
– That involves a matter of policy to which the Cabinet, will give due consideration.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Development state the number of technical and administrative officers who have been engaged by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, and the number which it proposes to engage? Can the Minister say whence those officers are being drawn?
– I cannot give off-hand the figures sought by the honorable member. The organization of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is only beginning. Recruiting is going ahead actively at the moment, but only a comparatively small proportion of the required number of technical officers has so far been selected. I shall obtain the figures, and make them available to the honorable member.
– From what sources are the appointees being drawn?
– Technical officers are scarce in Australia, and it is inevitable that when a new authority is created it must draw its officers from existing sources. The authority is trying to avoid drawing too many officers from any one State or State instrumentality, and to that end is spreading its recruiting over all the States. The officers, who are selected from those who apply in response to public advertisements, are drawn from’ State government instrumentalities, from among persons in private practice, and from those engaged in appropriate private occupations.
– When the 40-hour working week was introduced, the Prime Minister strongly criticized the change on the ground that it would increase costs. Will he give an assurance that the Government will not, on its own initiative, either in the Parliament or outside of it, do anything to lengthen the working week, which was fixed after most thorough and exhaustive investigation by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
– The honorable member has a singularly unfortunate memory. At the time the court gave its decision on the claim for a 40-hour working week, I made no comment upon it whatever, nor did I at any stage offer any observation on what its result might be. The reason for my silence was that we believe that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is the appropriate tribunal to determine standard hours of work. We do not alter our opinion on that point because its decision happens to go one way or another. We believe that the court is the body to determine the matter and, so far as we are concerned, it will continue to be the body to determine it in the light of its investigations, and in the light of its own unfettered judgment.
Debate resumed from the 24th February (vide page 111), on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
Mav it please Your EXCELLENCY
We the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Aus tralia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- As a new member, I greatly appreciate the indulgence of honorable members, and the courteous attention which has been shown to other new members who have addressed the House. This has produced a very good impression on those who listen to the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings. During the week-end I heard a good deal of comment about the improvement in the conduct of honorable members. I trust that I shall not abuse the privilege that has been accorded to me, and I hope that, (hiring the whole of my term m this House, I shall by my conduct merit the attention of honorable members.
When one reads the Speech of the Governor-General, one is impressed with the fact that the Government’s programme of proposed legislation follows very closely the platform enunciated by the leaders of the present Government parties during the election campaign. The people have placed their trust in this Parliament under the leadership of the present Government. They feel that a great weight has been lifted from their shoulders, and they look to the Government to honour the promises made during the campaign. It is evident from the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government does not propose to let the people down. The people are looking to the Government for a lead that will unite the community, and eliminate those divisions that have existed for too long. I believe that most of the troubles from which we are suffering, such as shortages of goods, depreciated value of the currency, and industrial disturbances, are the result of the active class antagonism that has been preached in Australia for so many years by those who have forgotten, or never learned, that the world has progressed a long way during the last 50 years. Unfortunately, this talk of division into classes of worker and capitalist, has set up a classconsciousness in a country that should have no class divisions. We in Australia should not be afflicted with the troubles that have afflicted the old world. I believe that we have in Australia as nearly as possible a classless society. We have no aristocracy, no peasantry and no large leisured class., I should say that 97 per cent, of the people of this country are workers. We are middle-class working people, and therefore I take strong exception to the man who works for wages being referred to as a “ worker “ and the man who pays his wages, or the professional man, as a “ capitalist “. The sooner we can get over that misunderstanding the sooner will our other troubles be resolved.
This Government intends to bring about harmony in industry and to put value back into the Australian £1. It also intends to take action against the Communist party. I consider that those three matters can be regarded as having a very close connexion with one another. What this country needs as much as anything^ and what will cure our troubles, are a little more good temper, a little more goodwill and a little more good manners. If we could imbue the community with that idea right throughout this country I believe most of our troubles would be overcome. Our class-conscious people would forget class-consciousness, industry would be operated in harmony and we would be able to go ahead with the job that faces us. Each person would be prepared to respect the work done by other people and also respect the responsibilities of other people. Furthermore, an infusion of good manners would probably prevent the loss of a large number of lives on our roads, regarding which a question was asked in this House recently. I believe that by its example this Government will imbue the people of this country with that idea. It is impossible, however, to achieve good manners, good temper and goodwill by legislation. But they can be achieved by example. This Government will set an example to the people of Australia, and I believe that the people will follow the Government’s lead. The Australian is a pretty decent chap. He can be stirred up to do things that are not right, but he can also be influenced by good example.
I believe that the people are looking to this Government not only to carry out the pledges that the Liberal and Australian Country parties made during the last election campaign, but also to restorerespect for this chamber and for the word “politician”, which has for quite a longtime been regarded almost as a word of tha me. I look forward to the day when that word will take its proper place and when a politician will not be regarded as. somebody who is trying to get somethingfor nothing. I know that honorable members of this House do a great deal of hard work in attending to the interestsof their electorates, some of which cover very big areas. They have a great deal to do both in and out of this chamber.. The sooner that we can restore the respect of the people for politics the sooner will their respect for this chamber be increased. The Government’s policy will1 give the people heart and encouragement. It will make them feel that they have an objective, something to work for, and I consider that they will support the Government in carrying the policy out. Asfar as I have observed honorable membersopposite they have no objection to the Government’s policy but have spent their time trying to tell us that we cannot carry it out. In fact, one honorable member almost suggested that -he would see that we did npt do so. I feel sure that the people, by their support, will ensure that the Government’s policy will be carried out.
The Government’s intention to form a Ministry of National Development hasbrought great heart to the people in the far-flung country areas where there areat present little development, few amenities, bad roads and no sewerage. They now have hope for improvements, as Ministers know, because they have had plenty of applications handed to them, including a number by myself on behalf of my electors. The establishment of the Ministry for National Development . will give the people of those areas the opportunity to develop their holdings properly. The town of Inverell in the Gwydir electorate stands at the end of 500 miles of railway track that meanders all over the country. Lack of development iti that area retards the progress of Inverell. Good coal, as well as plenty of bauxite, exists in the area while most of the tin mined in New South Wales comes from that district. If the proposed Ministry of National Development can assist the people there to develop the area I believe that in that inland part of Australia we shall be able to have some very important and large cities that will be of value in Australia’s defence and will help in the distribution of our population. There are quite a number of other areas with their own potentialities.
It was pleasant to note that the Government proposes to use the whole of the resources of Australia and intends to encourage private enterprise and private capital as well as government capital to get on with the .job of national development. If we intend to develop this country it would be very silly for us to do the job and then leave the country undefended. I consider that the Government’s defence policy is very important. I am not like the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who said in this chamber recently that this country had always found sufficient people to defend it under the voluntary recruiting system. This country has never found sufficient people to defend it under the voluntary or any other system, up to the present time. In the last two wars we had a period of twelve months to prepare our men for the defence of the country. I well remember that in 1915, in the days of the Gallipoli campaign, we were sending to the peninsula, reinforcements who had never handled a rifle until three months before. At one stage soldiers who could not even ‘load their own rifles arrived on Gallipoli. In one case a sergeant, while showing a man how to load a rifle on a transport in Lemnos harbour, shot two sailors on the bridge of the ship. That sort of thing has happened in the past. We do not want it to happen again. I lost a son who served in the Royal Australian Air Force in the last war, but I have the knowledge that he was properly trained and was flying in the best aircraft that had been produced up to that time. I do not want to see somebody else’s son sent to fight against a well-trained wellorganized enemy, without having sufficient training to give him a reasonable chance to protect his life. I sincerely hope that the Opposition will not oppose universal military service. The system is fair and democratic. It would be a crime against the youth of this country to deny them the training necessary to protect themselves in the event of war. It is no good for honorable members opposite to talk about war-mongering. We shall never be in a position to start an aggresive war but if we value this country we must be prepared to defend it. I sincerely hope that the Government’s policy will be a good one and not a matter of marching reluctant youths up and down the street every second Saturday afternoon, and that the policy will be carried out as a whole and that thorough and competent training will be given to the young men of this country. During the last war I commanded a unit of the Air Training Corps. It was a very interesting experience, and I found that the boys in that unit wanted to be treated like men. They appreciated discipline and were happy under it. I sincerely trust that when the Air Training Corp is reestablished it will receive the wholehearted support of the Air Board and of the Minister for Air (Mr. White).
In common with most other honorable members of this House, I realize that this wonderful country, for which many have died and for which others are living in great hopes, is ripe for great development. I trust that the national developmental policy enunciated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech will be carried out, that it will receive the fullest support of honorable members sitting on the Opposition benches and that we shall establish a great nation whose people will be able to live in peace, freedom and security, enjoy a high standard of living and remain a united people. It is not sufficient for the Government merely to legislate for the greatest good for the greatest number. Rather is it the duty of the Government to legislate for the happiness of all the people. That, I believe, is the key-note of this Government’s policy.
.- Since I first entered this chamber last week I have listened intently to the proceedings of this House. I pay a tribute to the ‘new members of this Parliament who have already addressed us and for their earnest contributions to the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech which His Excellency the GovernorGeneral delivered in the Senate on Wednesday last. In making this, my maiden speech, I am fortified by the knowledge that other new members of this Parliament who have spoken have confessed to the great strain that had been imposed on them. When I was told that I was to speak to-day I was offered all sorts of advice. I recalled that Disraeli had once said that he would rather have led a cavalry charge than make his maiden speech in the House of Commons. I can well understand how other honorable members must have felt because I now find myself in a similar position.
I compliment you, Mr. Speaker, on jour election to your high office. In conversation with many of my politically older colleagues on this side of the House, I have learned of the high regard in which you are held and of your reputation for honesty and integrity. I am sure that these qualities will be exhibited by you in the carrying out of your duties. When I listened to the Governor-General’s Speech I was elated to hear his announcement that it is hoped that Their Majesties, the King and Queen, will be able to visit Australia in 1952. I hope that it will be possible for Their Majesties to follow the itinerary that was drawn up for their expected visit in 1949, and t] at they will be able to visit Bondi and Waverley in my electorate and see the beauty of the beaches of Australia. The people in my electorate will give Their
Majesties the royal welcome which they deserve.
The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) has had something to say about class distinctions. I assure him that class distinctions will not be drawn by honorable members on this side of the House. We are interested, and not unnaturally worried, about what the Government intends to do. We are concerned lest it be more interested in the private banks and the bankers than in the people of this country. When the Government’s banking legislation is introduced we shall analyse it very closely.
I have also been very interested in the answers given by Ministers at question time, particularly those in relation to subsidies. I am pleased that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has indicated that subsidies will be paid to the Surf Life Saving Associations. I was greatly disturbed by the recent death of two great
Australians who were engaged in surf rescue work on our Sydney beaches. It it pleasing to hear the decision of the Government to subsidize these great lifesaving bodies which are doing such magnificent work.
The Governor-General referred to a great national developmental works programme which is to be undertaken by the Government. I, and other honorable members on this side of the House, wait in wonderment to hear what it will actually involve. I assure the Government that it will have the fullest coopera.tion of the Opposition on all matters that are for the well-being of the nation. There will be no differences of opinion on that score. Honorable members on this side of the House are willing and anxious to do everything possible to assist the Government to develop Australia into a great nation. That task lies ahead of all of us. On the subject of social services many issues are involved. The Governor-General has indicated that a great deal of work will be performed by the Government in this sphere. When the present Government took office it inherited a credit of £100,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund. Thus it has an excellent opportunity to correct the anomalies that exist in the administration of our social service legislation. I regret that the Government has not announced its intention to abolish the means test. The record of the Chifley Government in the field of social services is one of which we are all proud, but notwithstanding that record, a number of anomalies still exist. These should be remedied without delay. I regret that the Government does not intend to follow the policy of the Chifley Government and increase age, invalid and widows’ pensions. The omission from the Governor-General’s Speech of any undertaking in that direction was one of the worst features of His Excellency’s Address. I trust that the Government will give favorable consideration to the plight of pensioners who, because of existing circumstances, are unable to live in homes which they own and, as a result, suffer a loss of portion of their pension. I trust that when the Government has examined their plight it will permit such pensioners to draw in full the benefit to which they are entitled, hut which the Department of Social Services is at present denying them.
Another matter to which the Government might well direct its attention is the need for relieving the State governments of expenditure on social services benefits. The State government of New South Wales at present provides emergency house-keeping services, spectacles, dental services, and surgical aids, free to pensioners who are in indigent circumstances. That State is doing excellent work in that direction but their means are limited. I am hopeful that the Commonwealth will agree to take over the provision of these services on a national basis. The total grant by the Commonwealth to New South Wales for 1949-50 is estimated to be £25,402,000 and is regarded by the State a3 totally inadequate. In eight years the grant to New South Wales has been increased by only £9,945,000, but increases in the basic wage alone, which has risen by 38s. a week in that period, have added approximately £10,000,000 to its total budget expenditure. In those circumstances, I believe that every member on this side of the chamber fully appreciates the position in New South Wales. The fact is that the amount of money made available to that State is insufficient to enable it to meet the expenditure which it must inevitably incur. The Government could make some useful contribution to help the Government of New South Wales to carry out the work that confronts it in that great State.
The statements that have been made in this House with regard to the lifting of the toll on the Sydney Harbour Bridge remind me of the representations that were made by a deputation which waited upon the Premier of New South Wales. That deputation pointed out that whilst nearly £17,500,000 is collected annually in petrol tax from motor users, only approximately £7,500,000 is paid to the governments of the States, the balance of approximately £10,000,000 being paid into Consolidated Revenue by the Australian Government. Although the sum of £6,000,000 is collected iii New South Wales, only £2,000,000 is made available to the State Government for the construction and maintenance of roads. I suggest that out of the balance of £4,000,000 the sum of £400,000, which is all that would be necessary to enable the State Government to lift the toll on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, could be made available by this Government for that purpose. Such a contribution would be timely, because of the necessity to conserve man-hours and petrol. The deputation to which I have referred submitted figures showing that 5,000,000 man-hours per annum were lost under the present toll system on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and that approximately 360,000 gallons of petrol was consumed unnecessarily. In view of those facts, I urge the Government to examine that subject with the greatest care.
I also urge the Government to give the most careful attention to the problems arising in the field of repatriation. I have been informed that the huge majority of supporters of the Government have endorsed the 33-point plan that has been sponsored by ex-servicemen’s organizations. The Government should have no difficulty in implementing that plan, which has been circulated among all honorable members, and represents the views of ex-servicemen’s organizations throughout the Commonwealth. I trust that the Government will implement that plan at the earliest possible opportunity. One proposal under that plan is that the Government should repeal that portion of section 23 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which excludes from the definition of dependants any wife married, or child born, to ex-servicemen of World War I. after the 30th June, 1938. That provision is a blot upon our repatriation legislation, and I believe that it will operate also to the detriment of ex-servicemen of World War II. upon the expiration of a period of fifteen years after their discharge. The Government should take the earliest opportunity to remedy that injustice. Other proposals included in the 33-point plan to which I have referred deal with increased pay to incapacitated ex-servicemen and increases of pensions in respect of the children and widowed mothers of ex-servicemen. I also urge the Government to provide just payments in recognition of the special claims of ex-prisoners of war. I hope that when it introduces its amending repatriation legislation it will provide for the payment of deferred pay that has for so long been denied to those servicemen who suffered severely while they were incarcerated in Japanese prison camps.
I make a plea for special recognition of ex-service personnel who suffer from war neurosis. In New South Wales, exservicemen’s organizations have requested that ex-service personnel, who are certified by medical authorities to be suffering from war neurosis, should be supplied with a card to indicate that they are suffering from that complaint. If that were done any such sufferer who might be picked up in a state of coma, say, for instance, by the police, could immediately be taken to a military hospital, whereas in the absence of evidence of their complaint, they are now usually sent to a reception house. I cannot understand why the Repatriation Department should object to that proposal. However, I believe that differences of opinion exist on that matter in official quarters.
I agree with the statements made by “the Ministerfor Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) concerning the urgency of the housing problem. I trust that that matter will be dealt with expeditiously. The conditions under which families consisting of three, or four, children are -obliged to live in one room constitute the greatest problem that confronts us at the present time. The bousing shortage is the greatest tragedy that has confronted the nation in peace-time. That problem is particularly acute in the electorate that I represent. Many difficulties may exist with respect to the supply of prefabricated houses, but any action that the Government can take to alleviate the present housing shortage will be wholeheartedly approved by the people as a whole. However, in respect of that problem as well as other issues about which the Government has made many promises which, so far, it has not carried cut, we shall suspend judgment of it until we see what it actually does to solve them.
Whilst I realize that it is most important to increase the population of this country by encouraging immigration, nevertheless we must consider our immigration plans very carefully. I believe that by bringing 200,000 people to Australia to engage immediately in industry, we would create industrial turmoil. In order to prevent chaotic conditions from arising in industry, I hope that the Government will deal with any proposal of that kind very carefully. Such action could have serious repercussions. I suggest that the Government might consider bringing single men to Australia. Whilst we urgently require additional manpower, that urgency is not sufficient to justify bringing in married couples who must necessarily compete for homes with native-born Australians who are in need of housing accommodation.
Many other aspects of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech are of grave concern to the people of this great country. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth),who poses as a great defender of democracy and whose remarks dealing with the method of election of the Senate received a great deal of publicity does not need to be a great mathematician to realize that on the basis of the voting at the last general election another election consequent upon a double dissolution would not result in an equal number of Government supporters and Opposition members being returned in the Senate. There are other aspects of the result of the last election to which he might address his attention in the interests of democratic representation, about which he claims to be so concerned. I point out to him that, whilst nearly 2,000,000 people voted for the Labour party, that party gained only 47 seats in this House, whilst Liberal party candidates, who gained 1,660,000 votes, won 55 seats, and the Australian Country party, whose candidates polled 402,000 votes, won nineteen seats. The honorable member for Mackellar might have a look at that anomaly in respect of the representation of the people in the Parliament. He might concern himself, also, with anomalies associated with general elections in the various States. For instance, he might look into the possibility of party political manipulation in New South Wales, the State from which he comes. I point out that the Labour party, although it has been returned with a majority in the lower house in that State at three successive general elections, succeeded only within the last month in gaining control of the Legislative Council. The honorable member might inquire whether manipulation on the part of the opponents of the Labour party has been responsible for preventing it for so long from obtaining control of the upper chamber in the Parliament of New South Wales. That condition of affairs was manipulated, and [ believe that the honorable member has some responsibility in the matter. I advise him to direct his attention, not to Commonwealth constitutional and electoral problems, but to the manner in which the principles of democracy have been negatived in New South Wales. He offered a personal affront to the Leader of the Liberal party when he stated that members of the Opposition in the last Parliament had not realized the full implications of the new method of electing senators. No doubt, his statements will be carefully examined by his colleagues.
I remind honorable members that we on this side of the chamber represent a party that has been formed largely from the trade unions. The Labour party came into existence approximately 50 years ago, and the object of its founders was to improve the lives of working people. Looking back over that period, we are able to appreciate the achievements of the political and industrial wings of the Labour party. That party has .made it clear that its object is to secure for the working people of the community more benefits, more wages, more pleasures, yes, and more treasures. The attainment of those objectives is the ambition and responsibility of members of the Opposition. We shall fight for a better Australia. We shall help to mould this country into the greatest possible land, because members of the Labour party deeply desire that it should be so. But, at all times, we shall have prominently in mind our objective to secure for the people of Australia more pleasures, more leisures and more treasures, so that this land shall exist for the benefit of the many and not of the handful who have controlled it in the past.
.- At the commencement of my maiden speech in this House, I desire to state that I am fully aware of the responsibility that rests upon me as a member of the Parlia-
L«l ment of the Commonwealth. I listened with great interest to the Speech which was delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General, and I noted the plans that this Government has forecast for irrigation schemes and other great developmental projects of many kinds. Such schemes will bring to this country immeasurable benefits, but they are schemes that are measured on the ticker tape of commerce by goods sold and wages received and expended. I wa9 prompted to enter federal politics in the hope that T might play & part, however humble, hi restoring to the Australian community a measure of dignity in its labour and of pride in its workmanship. Throughout my life, I have watched the way in which the Labour party has set out to instil in the mind of the worker the ideas that there is degradation in work, and that, over the years, there can be evolved the kind of state in which men can live without working. In accordance with that outlook, the employers, who provide the salaries and wages which support hundreds of thousands of workers and their wives and children, and who have taken risks to provide that employment, have been branded as thieves and robbers. Propaganda designed to achieve, and which eventually succeeded in achieving, a condition of affairs in which employees became suspicious of and angry in their relations with their employers was disseminated. If some honorable members believe that there is truth in the philosophy of the Labour party that men can live without work, I remind them that we have the classic example of the aborigines, who held this great continent in glorious emptiness for centuries before the white man arrived here. I emphasize that there is no disgrace in hard work. If there be, then I stand as one of the most disgraced members of this House.
That such a seed should have been planted in the mind of the Australian worker is hardly conceivable, but it has been sown, and it has had the effect of doing almost irreparable damage to the whole of our social and economic structure. The effects of that philosophy are twofold. The first, and perhaps the more dangerous of the two, is the psychological effect. Man, in his psychological make-up, has had given to him by the Divine Power the urge to create, and, having created, the feeling of just pride in what his hands have wrought and what his mind has enabled him to place upon paper. He is proud of his achievement. It is the crowning glory and success of his life to be able to create, and, having done so, to be proud of that which he has created. Over the years, the worker has been weaned from that quality. No longer do we hear on every hand that A is the best bricklayer in the whole community, that B is the best carpenter in the district, that C is the best tradesman in his particular sphere, and that D is superior to others in his special calling. No longer can a man go home after a day’s work and say to his wife, “I did more work to-day than did any other workman on the job “. The Labour party, in degrading work, and in taking dignity out of labour, has compelled the average Australian worker to remain silent about his achievements, because he knows that he is prohibited by the Labour party, and its union organizers, from doing his utmost. In the circumstances, he has become suspicious of his employer, discontented with his work, and to a certain degree selfish in his outlook. Generally, he has become upset.
Very fortunately for Australia, the psychological effect of causing the worker to regard his employer, or his master, as he may be classed, as his antagonist, has rebounded on the Labour party. The previous Government set out to be the master of the worker, but the spirit of antagonism towards the employer, which the Labour party fostered for many years, drove him to despise his would-be master, and he took the only course that remained open to him. He rejected that master, and restored his servants to govern.
In the industrial sphere, the damage caused by the psychology to which I have referred has been very great. Indeed, tremendous damage has been done to our economy and to our way of living as the result of this lack of a sense of the dignity of work. In my electorate, we are endeavouring to build a great power house. It is a most noble objective, and I invite honorable members to visualize it. Power lines will stretch for many hundreds of miles throughout the country, and will bring to the residents of the areaserved almost incalculable benefits by providing electricity for the multitudinousneeds of the community. All the materials that had to be imported for the power house are now on the site, but, because supplies of Australian-made materials have not been forthcoming, construction is being so delayed that the future of the project is almost unpredictable. In another part of my electoratean attempt is being made to build a bridge to replace a structure which is in a state of collapse. For this work substantial quantities of cement are required. “Within approximately 25 miles of the bridge are almost unlimited supplies of lime. By some strange providence, or whim of nature, there are alsowithin easy reach of the lime deposits the necessary clay and gypsum for cement making: yet cement for this job is being imported from Great Britain. Most farming areas are short of water piping. Many millions of feet of piping are necessary to provide adequate water suppliesfor domestic and farm use, but this vital material cannot he obtained. Wire netting, too, is urgently required, and in an endeavour to meet the demand, supplies are being imported from overseasHundreds of miles of fencing wire could be used immediately if it were available. All these materials are required urgently if Australia is to continue to be a leadingbeef and wool-producing country. As I travel around my electorate, I see displayed in the windows of stores dealingin rural requisites, cards stating that fencing wire, including barbed wire, can be obtained from Belgium or some other country. The Australian products areunprocurable. There is also a grave shortage of roofing iron. That is not peculiar to my electorate; the shortageis Australia-wide. Australian-made roofing iron is a product of which we can be justly proud, but we are importing thismaterial at terrific cost which, of course, is passed on to the primary producer and to the domestic user who wishes to provide a house for himself and his family. Recently I visited the premises of a firm which, is engaged in the large scale production of agricultural water tanks. I saw there evidence of the Australian workman’s lack, of pride in his job.
There was a case of iron supposedly suitable for tank-making; but, when the sheets were held up, they showed daylight in many places. Yet the material was being supplied to be made into tanks to provide water for domestic use and for the stock that is so vital to Australia’s economy ! We are seeking means of transportation for coal. Nature has endowed central Queensland -with vast coal-fields, some of which rise to within a few feet of the surface of the earth. It is amazing, indeed, to walk into an open-cut mine and see the almost unlimited quantities of coal that they contain. Almost any open-cut field in Queensland has sufficient coal to supply the needs of Australia for the next 50 or 60 years. Railways are required to carry the coal to the coast so that it may be transported to other parts of the Commonwealth where it is urgently required; but material to build those railways is not available. The people of Queensland depend upon shipping for many of the necessaries of life, including most of their food; but ship3 are not being turned around quickly enough in the ports; they are not sailing regularly enough, and so the people cannot get what they want when they want it. Why is this? It is because the Labour movement, for the last 30 years, has been instilling in the hearts and minds of the workers, the belief that there is no dignity in labour and that people can live without working. I believe that we could restore the dignity of work and again imbue the working man with a feeling of pride in his workmanship. That, combined with good employer-employee relations, would mean that every worker in this country would realize that he was not labouring only for himself and his family. He would know that every blow he struck, every nut he turned, and every wheel he set in motion, was for Australia - his Australia and the Australia of his children. The aeroplanes that fly, the ships and the railways that carry our commodities, and the great machines that make and mend, are all the work” of man’s hands. They are meant to be in synchronization with the working of Almighty God. They are meant to give to every man, regardless of his creed or politics, the full benefit of the better living standards that they make possible, and I believe fervently that, during the life of this Government, we shall see all these things utilized to their fullest to make Australia a country of contented people, proud to be playing their part in working for the good of this great Commonwealth.
– I wish first to extend my sincere thanks to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), and other members of the former Labour Administration, for having afforded to me an opportunity to represent the electors of Shortland in this chamber. I also thank the people of Shortland for their confidence in me.. I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, upon the attainment of your high position in this House, and I join with other speakers in expressing the belief that you will carry out your duties with dignity and decorum. I congratulate other new members who have already made their maiden speeches, and those who have yet to speak, I wish well.
I believe that many of the proposals outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech are not in the best interests of the Commonwealth as a whole, and I trust that some of them at least will never be given legislative enactment. Most speakers from the Government side of the House have - deliberately, I believe - blamed the Labour Government for whatever economic ills beset us to-day. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) astounded me by saying that Labour had taken away from the Australian workman his feeling of pride in his work, and his desire to compete with his fellows. He said that there had been considerable loss of production and a consequent lack of materials for farms, industry, and railway services. He blamed Labour for the shortages that have accrued in the last 30 years, but he conveniently omitted to mention that during that period this country has been affected by ten years of the worst depression in the world’s history and six years of the worst war that the world has ever known. How can he say that the Labour Administration was responsible for the results of the war and the depression? He spoke of ships not being turned around quickly enough; but he hid from this House the fact that we lost hundreds of ships during the war. He did not mention the railway rolling-stock that was sent overseas to assist in the struggle for the defeat of fascism. I take exception to his criticism of union organizers, because I was a union organizer for a number of years and we did not have a stoppage in that industry during the war. On the contrary, members of my organization went out in hail, rain, sleet, and snow to see that the transport services of New South “Wales remained in operation. Yet, we find members who are prepared to say, at this time, that Labour has been responsible for all our ills. I do not believe that the leaders on the Government side of the House will accept that view.
I was very pleased to hear His Excellency indicate that Their Majesties would probably visit Australia” in 1952. I regret very much that they were unable to carry out their programme in 1949. Had they been able to come here then I might have had the pleasure of speaking to-day from the Government benches. It has been said all too often that Labour leaders and Labour men are opposed to our monarchy and are not loyal.. I believe it does add prestige to a government to be visited by royalty; such a visit is of great importance when an election is due. However, I believe that by 1952 this Government will have gone, and that members of the present Opposition will then be on the Government side of the House, so, perhaps, the Royal visit to Australia will enhance our prospects of being returned to office at the next election.
I regret that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) was so vitriolic in his attack on the previous Administration in his speech on the AddressinReply the other night. His speech was, perhaps, broadcast to many foreign nations and heard in the high councils of the world. If so, such an attack on a previous administration would not add to the prestige of this nation. His Excellency informed us that the Government intends to set up a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. I fear that the leaders of overseas nations knowing that one Minister is incapable of doing justice to the high position he holds, will not be too happy to entrust confidential matter to the present leaders of our nation.
It was pleasing to me to note that the Government is prepared to accept responsibility for its share of the British Empire’s scheme of defence, in cooperation with America, because I well remember that in 1941, when the late John Curtin made his famous appeal to America and said, “ Without any inhibitions of any kind I appeal to the American people for help in our time of need “, the right honorable gentleman who is in charge of the House to-day said that the Australian Labour Government had sold out to a foreign power. It is therefore gratifying to know that the present Government, led by him, is now prepared to accept its responsibility within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to universal military training. The present regular Army, Navy and Air Force are sufficiently strong to watch the interests of this nation for a number of years at least, because the great leaders of the world have indicated that war is not imminent. When the Labour Administration took office in 1941, after two years of war, it found that the outgoing Government was not even then prepared for war, and did not have the necessary materials of war. That is why, in effect, that Government was thrown out of office by its own Ministers. I would suggest that the Government should act very carefully if it intends to bring in conscription during a period when there is no danger of war. Last week the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) said the Government would not bring in conscription. His Excellency’s Speech contained the following paragraph : -
The strategic distribution of the man-power and material resources of the British Commonwealth and the intensive development of Australia as a vital area in the Pacific are of cardinal importance to the future of the British Commonwealth and Australia.
The only inference to be drawn from that statement is that the Government will be prepared to bring in conscription when it thinks fit.
Australian men and women, especially the working men and women, have never let this nation down. Their loyalty was proved in the early days of the New Guinea campaign when our lads, some of them not eighteen years of age, went into battle at Milne Bay and other places to fight although the government of the day had not had time to train them properly. During the period of national re-organization referred to in His Excellency’s Speech the man-power resources of the country should be utilized to ensure that the working men and women of the nation shall be provided with homes. Honorable gentlemen opposite who say so much about what the workers have not done have apparently never lived in tents or hollow logs, and have never known what it is to be on the dole, year in and year out. Mention has been made of the shortage of this commodity and that, but critics should remember that the workers were not allowed to produce during the period from 1930 to 1940. During the recent war everything that was produced was needed for war purposes. One honorable member spoke of coal deposits in Queensland. There is no need to go so far for coal. Last week, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Bate) pointed out that there was any amount of coal much closer to Sydney. That is true. During the depression, the miners were not allowed to work. Many a time they were locked out of their industry. When it was found that too much coal was stacked at grass, the miners were sent home to eat grass. Labour has said that never again shall that happen.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) said that from 1941 to 1946 there had been political confusion in Australia. The honorable member must either have been out of Australia during that time, or he took very little interest in national affairs. It will be remembered that the Labour Government came into office in October, 1941, after the Menzies and Fadden Governments had been destroyed by their own followers. The Labour Government came into a house that was empty. The war had been in progress for two years, and there were still 150,000 persons unemployed. Within a brief time the Labour Government was able to prepare the nation for war, as well as to plan for peace. There could not have been much political confusion in a country in which the people were able to increase their bank savings from about £200,000,000 to more than £800,000,000, a country in which industry was stabilized and enormously expanded. The people will not be impressed by the statements of the honorable member for Riverina.
The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Gilmore) gave an illustration of the way in which he said the last Government neglected rural areas. He told, us of the wonderful pastoral area that he represented. He spoke of the fertility of the soil, the great mineral resources and the excellent water supply. I understand that the division of Leichhardt is in northern Queensland, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was prepared, during the war, to give away. I have often wondered why he should, have wanted to give away such a fertile area. I. assure the honorable member for Leichhardt that the Labour Government did everything possible to assist the rural industries. To-day, the price of primary products is three times what it was before the war. The Labour Government, in co-operation with the State governments, provided electrical undertakings from one end of the country to the other, and prepared blue-prints for future electrical developments. The present Government cannot claim credit for what was done in the way of rural rehabilitation by the previous Government.
Honorable members opposite speak of democracy, but they seem to believe that democracy is something which should work only one way. They should remember that democracy works two ways, that it should promote the welfare of working men and women who are just as vitally interested in democracy as is any other section of the community. The people on the land are not the only ones who work long hours. Many hundreds of thousands of workers throughout Australia earn their living under conditions that are worse than those of the rural workers. In the railway services men have to patrol the railway tracks day and night, in all kinds of weather, in flood and in fire. They are responsible for the safety of the lives of millions of persons who travel on the railways. Yet honorable members opposite suggest that they themselves are the only ones hurt by present shortages of goods.
It has been claimed that persons working in industry do not give a fair return for what they receive. In previous times, the workers did not receive decent treatment. The employers hounded them from pillar to post, using them for their own purposes. Who would deny the workers the right to take advantage of the period of the war to obtain better conditions of employment, more amenities and more pay? Did not the manufacturers and the primary producers do the same thing? Did not the controllers of industry during the war receive the benefit of the cost-plus system, which meant a fixed profit on top of the cost of production? Under that system, they made greater profits than at any other time in their careers. We should congratulate the workers for being able, during the war, to obtain some economic security for themselves.
During the last election campaign, it was claimed that the socialists would take the people’s homes away from them. I was never afraid of what the socialists would do. During the period from 1941 to 1946, honorable members opposite did not care what the socialists did so long as they saved those honorable members’ hides and property. The Government should coast along very carefully in regard to some of its proposed legislation. The Government has said that it intends to introduce legislation to deal with subversive organizations and individuals. The Governor-General’s Speech stated -
My advisers intend taking strong measures to protect the community against the activities of subversive organizations and individuals, and in particular they have in mind the Communist party and ite members.
I have no reason to have any kindly regard for the so-called philosophy of communism, because Communists once visited my home and tried to bash me. However, although communism has always been abhorrent to me, I have never considered the Communist party to be of any importance. I have often said, and I still believe, that there will never be room for communism in Australia if the workers are assured of freedom from poverty and unemployment. The Communists came into our midst in 1923, and
I have regarded communism as a disease ever since then. The people of some countries describe communism as a philosophy, and I believe that originally it was a philosophy, born of oppression, amongst people who had never known freedom. However, communism developed and spread in Australia as a disease caused by insecurity. We need not cast our minds back beyond the events of 1930 in order to recall the conditions that fostered it. Hundreds of thousands of miners and other workers, including myself, were thrown out of work at that period. Many of us were sent away from our homes along the railway tracks to work one week on and one week off as a relief measure. Can it be wondered at that some of the men and women who lived in tents and hovels for years during the depression were infected with the disease of communism ? The Communists promised those people the right to live decently in good houses, free from unemployment and want.
There will be no place in Australia for communism and it will vanish if the Government will guarantee the people freedom from want. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) declared last week that communism had never been stronger than at present. That statement was untrue, because the Communist party of Australia has never been numerically weaker than it is now. Before a Labour government came to power during the war, thousands of Communist votes were recorded at every election in the area that I now represent, but only between 600 and 700 electors voted for the Communist party candidate at the last election. People who contracted the disease of communism because of unemployment and poverty would shed its evil influence to-morrow if they could be given an assurance of future security. Therefore, I warn the Government that it would be unwise to act hastily against the Communists. Communists occupy important positions in every country. We know that in Australia the Communist party has members in wealthy families and amongst businessmen and churchmen. It is common gossip in the Newcastle district that the present Minister for Supply and Development visited a prominent Communist in that area prior to the general election. What could be said about that? What was the purpose of the visit ? I do not know, but if it be good enough for a member of this Government to visit a Communist, there can be no saying how far the influence of communism may extend throughout the community. Only last week the general secretary of the Communist party of Australia, who had been sentenced to imprisonment for three years for treason, had the sentence reduced because the court to which he appealed considered that the penalty imposed had been too severe for the offence.
We have laws with which we can defend democracy. The Government can take action against subversive organizations or individuals under those laws. The methods by which it apparently proposes to deal with individuals may involve me or perhaps some other honorable member to-morrow. I know what can be done by unscrupulous people who try to “ frame “ members of organizations. Danger lies in the fact that the legislation contemplated by the Government could allow innocent men to be accused recklessly of being Communists. The Government intends to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act as one of its measures against communism. The legislation that was enacted by the Chifley Government already provides it with ail the power that it needs to protect industrial organizations in respect of the election of officers. In any case, if a Communist happens to be elected to office within a trade union in a proper and legitimate way, nobody can justly take exception to his occupancy of that office. If it happened that a ballot were faked, the Government could take action under the existing law to have a fresh ballot conducted under the supervision of the Registrar of the Arbitration Court.
I should gladly support the Government if it proposed to amend the arbitration law in order to provide for the appointment of additional conciliation commissioners so that the work of framing new awards and interpreting existing awards could be expedited. The organization to which I belong has been waiting since 1946 to have its claims for new award conditions to be heard and deter mined. It has not been able to make-any headway with its application because the conciliation commissioner concerned has been fully occupied in dealing with prior claims. Communists hold prominent offices in some trade unions to-day because of the nature’ of some of the regulations governing industrial arbitration and the interpretations that are placed upon those regulations by various clerks and other public servants who have been given the responsibility of administering their enforcement. During recent floods in the Maitland area, a party of men was sent out to repair damage that had been caused by washaways at Hexham. Those men worked continuously for more than 30 hours from 11 a.m. on the Sunday until 6 p.m. on the Monday. However, they were paid only at the single time rate for the work that they did from 7.30 ii.m. to 4.15 p.m. on the Monday. That injustice resulted from an interpretation of the award under which they worked. Unfairness of that character makes men disgruntled. Other men who worked under similar conditions for a greater period of time and who were entitled to a meal break of twenty minutes after each four hours’ work found themselves being credited with such time as resting time, which was credited to their eight hours break provided for in the award. Communism is able to poke up its head in this country, first, because of the apathy of union members; and, secondly, because the interpretations of awards are not lucid enough and those working under them are not able to have their wrongs rectified. If the job is to be done as it should be, a tribunal should be set up for the purpose of interpreting correctly regulations and awards governing workers.
It has been announced that the Government intends to send overseas a factfinding mission to investigate the subject of prefabricated houses, lt would he far better if the Government were to set up a fact-finding committee to interpret regulations and awards and to rectify the numerous anomalies, many of which are a disgrace to social services legislation. Last Sunday a woman aged 59, who was blind in one eye and suffered from arthritis, came to see me. Her husband is 65 years of age and they both are living on £2 ls. 3d. a week because the medical referee in Newcastle said that she was not 85 per cent, incapacitated and was therefore ineligible to receive an invalid pension. Such a thing is a reproach to this nation. It is disgraceful to find officers in our various departments who, by their interpretations of the regulations, oblige people to live on such a pittance. The Government should set up committees, the duty of which would be to abolish the various anomalies in social services regulations.
It has been stated that the Government proposes to endow the first child of a family. I should like to be assured that the people who will benefit by that endowment will not eventually lose through a reduction of the rebate allowed for the first child under the income tax legislation. If the rebate is reduced from £100 to £50, then in the coming year many thousands of people will not receive any real benefit from the endowment of the first child. I remind the Government that if such a thing should happen the reaction will be unfavorable to it. [Extension of time granted.] Child endowment, if it is to benefit the people who receive it, must have no strings attached to it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated quite clearly in his policy speech that a government that he led would pay 5s. endowment for the first child without interfering in any way with the basic wage. Irrespective of the point >f view of the Prime Minister, or his Ministers, the Arbitration Court judges will not take into consideration the decisions of this Parliament on child endowment if they believe that it is having some effect on the structure of the basic wage. I should like an assurance that the Government, will not do anything to interfere with the present method of assessing the basic wage.
Reference was made in the Speech of His Excellency to the rise in the cost of living. The Government must accept full responsibility for any increase of the cost of living because honorable members opposite, with the assistance of press propaganda, induced the people of Australia to reject a referendum to give to this Parliament the power to control prices. Irrespective of what happens in the future, the Government will have to endeavour to keep down the cost of living because we shall not be able to survive if it is allowed to soar continuously. The ordinary working men and women will find themselves in a worse position than ever before unless some control is exercised over the cost of living. I ask the Government to give serious consideration to the need for again fixing the prices of goods required by working people.
One honorable member fluently referred to what should be -done to decentralize industry. I should be pleased if his programme were carried out, but I assure honorable members opposite that the Government has no intention of giving effect to a policy of decentralization because the various constituencies which had an accretion of population because of decentralization would return Labour representatives. Therefore, any reference to decentralization by ministerial supporters lacks substance and no move in that direction will be made until Labour is returned to office. My constituency is an ideal area for the expansion of industry generally. There are natural islands in the Hunter district upon which industrial establishments could be built close to both rail and water transport. .The Government, if it wants to develop industry in the interests of the nation, will have to allocate to the various States more revenue than they are now receiving, so that industry may be developed in them.
Statements have been made about the intention of the Government to simplify taxation. I believe that, whilst the previous Government did much to simplify taxation, not enough has been done by the taxation authorities to give service to the taxpayers generally. I have in mind the case of a railway employee with four persons totally dependent, and one partially dependent on him, whose income during the year ended the 30th June, 1947, was £368, in respect of which his taxation liability was assessed at £29. He wrote to the Taxation Branch on three occasions about the matter, but did not receive a reply. Subsequently, however, he received a notice to the effect that he owed the Taxation Branch £17 lis. He thereupon arranged for the paymaster of the section of the Department of Railways in which he was employed to deduct from his wages an amount of £1 10s. a fortnight and pay it direct to the Taxation Branch in reduction of his liability. At a later date he was informed by the Taxation Branch that he had been fined £6 for late payment. Honorable members can well imagine the hardship that is suffered by working men and women in this country who are penalized so unjustly. When the railway employee received his taxation assessment this year he discovered that an additional amount of £17 lis. 6d. had been deducted from his wages and paid to the Taxation Branch. In other words, he had been called upon to pay his tax liability twice, and, in addition, had been fined for alleged late payment of tax. At a suitable time I shall make personal representations to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) in connexion with this matter.
I contend that the Taxation Branch is most unfair in its attitude towards the ordinary working people of this country. Correspondence should be answered promptly so that the people would understand their position in connexion with taxation matters clearly. In my opinion, the Government’s proposed programme, as enunciated in His Excellency’s Speech, is not in the best interests of the nation. If implemented, it will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers in this country in a manner that I do not believe to be necessary. I hope that the Government will tread very warily in relation to the legislation that it proposes to introduce.
.- May I first express the great satisfaction felt by my constituents at the news contained in His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech that there are strong grounds for hoping that Their Majesties the King and Queen will visit Australia in 1952. In common with people in all other parts of Australia my constituents look forward keenly to the oportunity of demonstrating personally their loyalty to their Majesties.
No one could rise to speak for the first time in this distinguished assembly without experiencing feelings of profound emotion. There is a consciousness of the important task to which one has been called. There is also a certain pride at becoming a member of this House. There is some nervous apprehension about one’s ability to prove equal to the tasks involved. And let me confess at once that I have some doubt about what is going to happen to me in the future when the kindly indulgence extended to a member making his maiden speech can no longer be expected.
Already in this debate we have been reminded of the great variety of problems which confront the people of this nation whom we serve in Parliament. We have heard views expressed by honorable members from the north, the west, and the south, from areas of pastoral production, from crowded metropolises, and even from the lonely spaces of Capricornia. Many of these problems, particularly that one to which I now invite the attention of this House, the shortage of housing, are common to people throughout Australia. This problem of housing is as widespread as the land is broad. I venture to suggest, however, that the impact of this shortage is felt with the greatest force in the closely settled residential areas of the cities, and it is there that it produces its most unhappy results. The electorate that I have the honour to represent is one of these. It is a closely settled residential district in the western suburbs of Sydney; a district peopled by industrial and commercial workers, clerks, transport operators and tradesmen ; people who earn their living in businesses, shops and professions. In short, they are a fair cross section of the people, the men and women of all sorts and conditions, who make up the population of our cities. All of them, either personally or through their children, relatives, or friends, are affected by the desperate need for homes. In the few weeks during which I have represented the constituency of Evans, I have become acquainted with countless human problems caused by the housing shortage. These are a few of them. A man, his wife, and two children living in two rooms. A man, his wife and one child living in one room in a house in which there also lives a tubercular patient. Fourteen people living in a four-roomed cottage and an outhouse. A state of such irritation and incompatibility between two families of decent, respectable people that their differences culminated in proceedings in the police court. Only yesterday representations were made to me by the mother of three children, the eldest of whom is only eight years old. They and her husband all live in a garage. Unfortunately these instances are not unique but are commonplace.
The present state of affairs has two causes. Looked at over half a century, it has roots in a complex sociological phenomenon, one of those strange changes in the way that people live. It is well known that the size of the average family has shrunk during the last half century by about one-half. No doubt many honorable members come, as I do, from large families. I am one of six children. Families of that size were usual not many years ago. But now the size of the average family i9 about three children. The consequences are obvious. Even without any increase of population, twice as many home units as were needed half a century ago are now required. There are also, of course, more recent practical causes of the shortage. For example: six years of war during which no homes were built; shortages of basic materials; movements of population during the war; rapidly increasing population in the post-war period; slow production, and, finally, an urgent need of labour in the building industries. These are all factoi-9 contributing to an insufficiency of homes for the people of this country. There is great overcrowding under many roofs. People are forced to share their homes with other families, and to live so close to strangers that they come to detest them. Young married couples are forced to live with their “ in-laws “. Even given the utmost goodwill and affection on both sides, that is a state of affairs which affords no real chance for the young marriage to strike its roots in stable soil. Many broken marriages are the inevitable result. Young people who are waiting to marry find their youth disappearing while they search fruitlessly for a home. Perhaps the most tragic consequence of the housing shortage is that many young married women who are at an age at which they can do the greatest service to the nation, and who want to do that service, are afraid to have children because they have no homes in which to rear them. An inspector of police, speaking in Melbourne yesterday on juvenile delinquency, said that the housing shortage is the greatest single cause of crime among children. I earnestly suggest to the Government that compared with these facts the other problems which it faces pale into insignificance. Mr. Speaker, that is the problem. It is easy to see and to analyse it, but it is not so easy to suggest a remedy. It is not the business of this Government to build homes. That is the affair of the State governments. In any event, it is my belief that governments can help best to resolve this crisis by stimulating supplies and cutting red tape, thus clearing (he way for people to assist themselves. This Government has already given most encouraging instances of its determination to do these things. I refer to the reduction and, in some instances, the total removal of duties upon imported prefabricated houses and imported building materials, and to the recent appointment of the Mackay fact-finding mission to invesigate the possibility of buying prefabricated houses abroad.
Production is the key to the solution of the problem. The material which is in shortest supply varies from time to time. At present it is bricks; in the past at times it has been tiles. Bricks are the bottleneck now. After bricks come tiles and asbestos cement, then baths, sinks and stoves, the product of the metal trades, and finally timber. Homes cannot be built in large numbers until these commodities are in full and abundant supply. I suggest to the House that here are four ways in which the Government can make a contribution to the provision of that abundant supply. First, the labour force available can be increased. We were told recently byb the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) of the splendid contribution being made in this respect by migrants. I have heard some misguided people suggest that the presence of migrants in this country is contributing to the housing shortage, but the reverse is the case. The Minister has told us that, following the introduction of migrant labour into the brickmaking industry in New South Wales, last November, the production of bricks rose to 32,000,000, which was the highest figure for twenty years. Secondly, I suggest that the Government can assist by encouraging the extension of incentive payments in industry. We know that this is part of the Government’s stated policy, and we wish it success in implementing it. I know that some industrial unions have a rooted objection to incentive payments, but when the country is faced with a need for homes such as that existing at present, surely it is up to all of us to reconsider our fixed ideas and to see whether we can contribute to the building of more homes. There are a good many reasons for heart searching on both sides of the industrial fence. Let us consider, for example, the production of bricks. The present weekly output of the average kiln is 100,000 bricks, but in 1939 it was 140,000. Those figures speak for themselves. I know that the shorter working week has contributed to that reduction, but it does not explain it entirely. Surely it is not too much to ask that both sides should put their heads together to see whether they can devise a means at least of restoring the output of bricks to the pre-war level. Thirdly, I suggest that the Government can attempt to bridge the gap by importing more materials. It has already shown its intention to do this by the reduction or removal of the duties on imported prefabricated homes and imported building materials, and by appointing the fact-finding mission to which I have already referred. But the need for more homes is urgent and immediate. I suggest that the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) should consider whether it is npt possible to invest this mission with power to buy prefabricated homes abroad. It is more important that we should get homes, and get them quickly, than that we should buy the ideal types or buy in the keenest market. Finally, I suggest that the Government can ensure that the very best use is made of the migrant labour now available, and which will become available in future. Migrants are housed in hostels wherever the hostels can be found or built. They are then placed in employment associated as closely as possible with the production of homes and as near as possible to the places in which their hostels are situated. However, in the course of time their work necessarily changes, and many of them find themselves compelled to travel considerable distances to their places of employment. I suggest that it would be profitable periodically to examine the situation of the migrant’s accommodation in relation to the location of his work.
I turn now to a question that is some- what controversial. I suggest that it is of the utmost importance to end as soon as possible the present frequent separation of migrants from their husbands or wives1 and children. I do not make this suggestion in the interests of the migrants themselves, though humanity compels us te have the greatest possible regard for their feelings. I make it in the interest of the* efficiency of the migrants. These people have a background of suffering and sorrow probably unequalled in modern history. Many of them have lost their parents, children, homes, possessions - in fact, all that they had. In this new country the relationship of husband and wife is often the only human tie which they have. Can it be expected that they will work with the maximum efficiency if the prospect of early re-union is not kept firmly before them? I can appreciate that the Minister’s difficulties are enormous, but I believe that this matter goes to the root of the problem of making real Australian citizens of these “new Australians “. Homes must be found before we can make any real progress with our plans for the future development of this country. The Minister for Supply and Development has reminded us earlier in this debate that the ultimate purpose which we serve on both sides of this House is to create a state of affairs in which the ordinary Australian man and woman can live a fuller and richer life. It is within the family circle, for the vast majority of people, that the human spirit finds its highest development, and it follows that while the housing shortage exists, there can be no richness, there can be no fullness, until the time arrives when they can have their own four walls and their own fireside.
– I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate you on your appointment to your dignified post and to express the hope that you will always, in your official position, have the respect that the unanimous welcome that was extended to yon on your acceptance of it would suggest that you will have.
While listening to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, based on the advice of his Ministers, I came to the conclusion that it was like the curate’s egg - good in parts. I am persuaded of this - and it is important that these facts should not be overlooked - because, following so closely on the general election, the present Government has belatedly recorded its appreciation of much of the work of the previous Administration. Conscious of this, I was somewhat astonished to learn that at least one Minister was somewhat at variance with the advice that had been tendered to His Excellency. I endorse the complimentary references that have been made to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, and to the War Services Land Settlement Act, the provisions of which, although declared invalid, will still be carried out in a practical way. I refer also to the external financial position of Australia and the motives which prompted its designing. The Speech also implied the conviction that the policy of restricting the purchase of goods from dollar sources pursued by the former Administration was sound. It also expressed appreciation of the need for cooperation on. both sides of industry. It was unnecessary to imply that that policy had been pursued by the previous Government. There is also the positive statement, unequivocally expressed, that much has been done to lay the foundations of a sound and successful immigration policy. The former Minister for Immigration can hardly he described, as I heard him described a few days ago, as a “ bungler no matter what provocation might have been given. The Governor-General said that the immigration policy had made a substantial contribution to production in Australia. Again, the Speech implies that in furtherance of the immigration scheme there must be co-operation with trade union and other bodies. I stress the trade union aspect in this mater because it will be remembered particularly when subjects having special relationship to it arise. Co-operation, of course, must not be one-sided. I shall have something more to say about that aspect later. It is obvious to me that the health scheme of the previous Government was given general approval in the Speech as it was in the press. The same remark applies to the decentralization scheme. Thus it would seem that there is the paradox that although the Labour party is out of office it is still inspiring the better natures of the. Governor-General’s new advisers. Due and appropriate regard has been paid to His Majesty and gracious expressions concerning him have been recorded. The measure of patriotism that these reveal must be translated into bona fide legislative action. It is with this that I am particularly concerned because of this proposal in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech -
To review the existing machinery for conciliation and arbitration in the light of its operations since the amending act of 1947.
The references that follow are to secret ballots, interference in union elections and direct action preceding disputes. To the unwary and uninitiated person those proposals may appear to have merit, but all of them are fraught with such consequences that the result may be exactly opposite to what is desired in this country. Obviously, the proposed action is to be directed against the Communist party, for which there is very little support in Australia. I am the more disturbed because there is evidence which suggests that there are others who would destroy the fabric of arbitration in Australia. Communists are opposed to arbitration. Most honorable members will recall the occasion on which the Liberal and Australian Country parties sought power to abolish the arbitration system. Communism is the present excuse for interfering with conciliation and arbitration legislation, which, I say emphatically, has not yet been given a reasonable trial. That legislation was approved by the Labour party because it was advised by trade union organizations throughout the Commonwealth that it would prevent pernicious abuse of the arbitration system.
In matters of trade union organization the Ministry, whether Labour or antiLabour, should act bona fide. As a member of a municipal council I know what it is to be admonished to act bona fide. Thus, when a council has a doubt as to its legal position, it acts, not on the advice of ratepayers, who will be called upon to pay for a given scheme, but on the responsible advice of a lawyer. Governments down the years have depended on the trade unions to organize and govern themselves, whether the going be smooth or a crisis exists. Allowing for the weakness of human nature, it must be conceded that that has proved to be the correct course. Communism has raised its ugly, poisonous head in some trade unions. It is the responsibility of anaemic, selfish, unionists to crush the head of the viper as their more alert Australian Labour party group organizers are surely, though gradually, persuading them to do. This is a personal patriotic responsibility, which no legislation can displace. But the Government, too, has a responsibility. As municipal councils must take steps to act bona fide, so should any ministry. It can do this by seeking the aid of experts and acting upon their advice. To act against the advice of the Australian Workers Union and the Trades and Labour Councils of Australia is not to act bona fide. These organizations have been fighting communism effectively for a significant time, and to negative their efforts at a time such as this is to make a mockery of the. patriotic sentiments that have been written into the Governor-General’s Speech. It shows a poor regard for those who have fought the false materialist philosophy of State capitalism, of a supreme State in which man serves the government instead, of the government existing to serve man.
It would be inadvisable for me to leave this subject without directing attention to the possible consequences of precipitate action. If what we fear is done against the unanimous voice of trade unionism, there may be wholesale deregistration of unions as the only means of escaping from government-directed trade unionism. Having studied the operation of a similar policy in other countries, the unions fear this greatly. They know, as we know, that there is not a semblance of real trade unionism where governments extract the kernel and leave nothing but a hollow shell and an inference that there is substance within it. Who, but an organization such as the Australian Workers Union, could know how impractical is the secret ballot when thousands of men change their addresses daily - itinerants who sell their labour from shed ‘ to shed from Victoria to Queensland? It must be fully realized that to act against organized trade union advice in this vital matter of union organization is to authorize the police to throttle the victim and leave him to the mercy of the thug. Would not the Communists welcome wholesale deregistration? If such legislation is persisted with, we shall be justified in saying, “ There are others too’! “
Speaking of arbitration and deregistration reminds me that another powerful organization exists outside the trade union movement. I refer, of course, to the British Medical Association, which, despite the threat of deregistration, is able to command its members to do its bidding even when its desires are outside the law. It is proper to say that at the present time its desires are outside the law. The worst that is being said of existing legislation, and for that matter of proposed legislation, by the President of the British Medical Association, Dr. Dickson, as recorded in the Melbourne Sun, on the 24th February, is -
National health plans by non-Labour and Labour governments did not tackle the problem, but were more in the nature of medicine bottles, hospital subsidies and cost of sickness grants.
That statement may be likened to the placing of the reverse end of a telescope to the eye so that a haystack appears to- have the proportions of a haycock. A telescope focused in this way on the members of the British Medical Association equally reduces the dimensions of the genera] practitioner, distorts the place of hospital subsidies and almost eliminates any necessity for government sickness grants. To put it mildly, I should say that Dr. Dickson is no Irishman. T am at a loss to describe his characteristics in terms of nationality because I know of none whose characteristics are the opposite of hyperbole. Of course, as Dr. Dickson has pointed out, an enormous amount of work is waiting to be done in relation to national health. The British Medical Association, however, has refused tq co-operate even in a modest beginning, if we can accept Dr. Dickson’s statements as having any significance whatever. The British Medical Association, whose primary motive should be service, has become political. It has expended much energy to save itself from giving service to the community which has given the mandate for and paid the price of that service. To date, there has been a deadlock. Side issues such as education, buildings and feeding, all important in themselves, are being used as decoys to distract the eye from the ducks. The British Medical Association has not played a gracious part in this affair. It has not set a good example; it has failed in its obligations, and it has had no regard for the debt which it owes to past and present communities. The past was happy to hand to cultured men the sum total of the knowledge that it had gained in privation and heroic risk ; the present has paid dearly for both the culture and the training Which are inseparable from an essential diploma. No medical man in Victoria pays more than one-third of the cost of his university course, and to that benefit there must be added the payment by the community of the bulk of his training costs in the provision and upkeep of hospitals. Now, a. prescription form and the exclusion of a few preparations are used as an excuse to defy a law that was enacted by public consent and to avoid a binding contract by cash payment.
The outcome is no clearer now despite the fact that the British Medical Association organized for the return of those who now occupy the treasury bench. Freedom of the type desired by the British Medical Association is not even a presentable skeleton. Desirable freedom is freedom to serve in a practical way, to be more and more responsible, and to give one’s life in service without counting the reward. Francis Thompson saw a glorious picture of service - the service of nature to God. He saw a flower struggle to open wider so as to
Mr. Andrews. spread its beauty. He saw it drain its incense in a supreme effort to give back to its Maker what He had given to it. I commend Francis Thompson’s work to the British Medical Association. That body appears to have determined that what it wants immediately is that more and more shall be give to it. It wants more service from the community, but .it is unwilling to give back on the terms of the giver what it has received. Dr. Dickson wants to have money expended on further research, on additional buildings and on the spread of the knowledge that doctors can treat more and more. Co-operation and a helping hand now will undoubtedly bring to the British Medical Association all that it finds desirable. Lack of cooperation can only deprive both the British Medical Association and the community of good and efficient organization. The present operation may be likened to cutting off the.. nose to spite the face.
Three important subjects which were referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, and which are closely linked, are immigration, decentralization and defence. It is pleasant to contemplate that the present policy of immigration is to be continued, enlarged and made constant, and that an endeavour is to be made to fix a set, balanced quota of new- Australians. It is hoped that we shall be able to increase our population at a satisfactory rate by natural means. There must he discoverable reasons why in this country the birth-rate is only 1.328 for each family. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat cited the birth-rate at 1.3, but I have taken the figure that I have just mentioned from the Y ear-Book for 1946 and it was the latest figure that I could obtain. I shall cite several facts which “ he who runs may read “. I am quite aware that economic considerations form a part of the excuses offered for our low birthrate. However, after the years of prosperity .that Australia has enjoyed, I am confirmed in the opinion that I held earlier that the problem of ‘ increasing our population is moral rather than economic. For instance, it is self-evident that rich parents have fewer off-spring than those who may be said to belong to the industrial classes. Furthermore, there is- a marked difference between the birthrate in country areas and city areas. As the result of recent research, authorities on the subject have found that fertility declines sharply after the age of 25 years. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that as our rural population increases the birth-rate will rise correspondingly.
The Governor-General’s Speech states that it is proposed to constitute a Ministry of National Development to arrest the movement of rural population to the cities and to promote rural production. That is a negative approach to this problem. Instead, the Government should adopt the positive objective of stimulating settlement in rural areas and encouraging migration from the cities to those areas. It should implement a plan of closer settlement on the basis of from five to ten acre allotments to each holder. These would enable families to be selfsupporting and, at the same time, provide a source of man-power to meet the needs of secondary production in towns in the neighbourhood of such settlements. This approach to the problem is both economic and moral in concept and would guarantee an effective means. of combating the development of subversive ideas such as those promulgated by Communists. Such a plan would involve a scheme of land acquisition and the provision of easy repayments of capital and interest as well as the decentralization of secondary production. Another effective means of increasing the birth-rate would be the encouragement of early marriages. This would have the added, advantage of encouraging the early acceptance of responsibility by parents which would be a fundamental objective of any educational scheme in this sphere. However, such a suggestion would be utterly impractical unless a living wage were guaranteed to prospective parents prior to the age of 21 years. Otherwise, the community must continue to operate under uneconomic conditions.
A fully populated continent is the first requisite of a sound defence policy. Sabre rattling and boastful or actual aggression can have no place in effective defence preparations. Even in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech the Government has said little enough about this subject, whilst candidates of the Government parties had nothing to say about the matter during the recent general election campaign. At the moment, of course, we are confronted with the important problem of increasing production. Therefore the Government will not be able to release men from industry to indulge in superficial military training. It will have to postpone its objective in that respect until such time as the necessities of production have been met and the country is enjoying real affluence. In those circumstances, a considerable time will elapse before we shall witness any appreciable measure of military training.
To some degree the -cost of living depends upon the volume and efficiency of production. I note that the Government now belatedly admits that that problem is as grave as the previous administration said that it was. Age, service and other pensioners will be knocking at the door for relief and the Government should do its utmost in the sphere of moral advice to encourage the greedy to sell at moral, as well as at economic, levels. It is embarrassing for any Australian to realize that selfishness is largely at the root of the problem of the cost of living. Without doubt, no law beyond the Ten Commandments can be devised to overcome this difficulty during periods of shortages. It is a pity that patriotism is at such a. low ebb and that the policy of grab-as-grab-can prevails among some of the more fortunate sections of the community. This is the scandal of our time. Too often, price comes before production, petrol for pleasure before pity and pomp and pride before principles.
As I began by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, upon your elevation to your high office, I .shall conclude by congratulating the Government, which has been lucky in having found an “ open sesame “ to a veritable storehouse of material treasure which it has inherited from the previous Administration. I trust that wise counsels will prevail upon the Government in its distribution of the wealth that was built up by its predecessor for the good government, peace and prosperity of the people of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
.- I rise to make my maiden speech in this House with mixed feelings of pride and humility. I am deeply sensible of the honour that the electors of Bowman have done to me in electing me to the House of Representatives as their representative. I am also sensible of the responsibility which they have placed on my shoulders, and I trust that I shall serve both the electors of Bowman and this House to the entire satisfaction of all concerned.
The Governor-General’s Speech contains a number of subjects on which I should like to make a few comments. I propose to be brief, and I do not desire to take advantage of the whole of the time that is available Ito me in this debate. His Excellency mentioned that His Majesty the King is the symbol of our British association and of our relation with the countries that are known as the British Commonwealth of Nations. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I note that the Government intends to strengthen the fighting services. The fact that Australia is ‘a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations not only gives us some protection from the co-operation of other countries but also throws a responsibility on our shoulders, and unless our forces are kept in good order and condition, I feel that, in the sad event of another war, we may fail in our duty to the other mein hers of the British Commonwealth.
There is another matter which, to my mind, is even more important than that which I have just mentioned. I can speak from experience about it because I, together with many others who have served in the forces, have seen an unfortunate and considerable loss of life in action because young men have gone into battle without proper training. Nothing that this nation could or should do in order to prevent such loss of life in future should be left undone. As an ex-serviceman, I am most gratified to note the reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the appointment of a sub-committee of Cabinet, at this very early stage in the life of the present Government, to investigate pensions and allowances payable to ex-service men and women. That inquiry should have been conducted a considerable time ago. I firmly believe that when tha t sub-committee makes its recommendations, some increases must be granted to the exservice men and women who are eligible to receive them. Honorable members opposite were somewhat belated in attempting to rectify that matter, but I believe that they will support any measures that are introduced for the purpose of increasing pensions and allowances for men and women who have suffered in the service of our country and who have safeguarded the freedoms of which we peoples of the British heritage are so proud.
The most important subject in the Governor-General’s Speech is, in my opinion, the Government’s proposal for dealing with subversive organizations. I refer particularly to the Communist party. I have already mentioned, as His Excellency did, the loyalty and regard which we have for our monarchy, and I do not believe that we can continue to allow an organization in our midst which has as one of its principal aims the sabotage of the monarchy. Another of its objects is definitely treasonable. I do not see how this House can be opposed to the banning of the Communist party, and I trust that such action will be taken, because it is in conformity with the policy that the Prime Minister (Mr.” Menzies) submitted to the electors last year. I listened with amazement to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) in which he issued a warning against banning the Communist party. For a number of reasons, that organization should be declared illegal. I cannot see that any government or any body has the right to prevent a known Communist from working anywhere as long as he is a member of a legal organization. No moral or other right exists for removing a man from an important defence post or any other position which requires a degree of loyalty and secrecy unless an organization to which he belongs is illegal. A man cannot be removed from a post merely because he is a member of a legally constituted organization. For that reason, I was amazed when the Leader of the Opposition spoke against the proposal to ban the Communist party. He spoke as the Communist party has requested the Opposition to speak, because the Communists want the Labour party to oppose, by all possible means, any legislation designed to declare their organization illegal. Perhaps it is not so surprising that members of the Opposition are supporting the ideas and wishes of the Communists in this matter. It has been said that if the Communist party is declared illegal, it will be driven underground, and, therefore, will work with greater efficiency. I wonder how many honorable members believe that the underground organizations in Europe during World War II. worked with greater efficiency because they were illegal. To say that their efficiency was increased because they were working underground is complete nonsense. Another argument advanced by honorable members opposite is that, if the Communists are driven underground, we shall riot know who they are and we shall not be able to fight them with the same facility as we would fight if they were working in the open. My reply to that contention is to ask honorable members opposite whether they believe that the leading members of the Communist party in Australia are known and are working in the open to-day. Are they not already underground ? I believe that they are.
I shall now discuss briefly the activities of Communists within the trade unions. We have admissions, even from honorable members opposite, that there is considerable Communist activity within the trade union movement. Of course, that fact is well known. I believe that the adoption of the secret ballot within the trade unions before strike action is taken and also for the election of union executives will decrease our industrial problems considerably and, at the same time, will make short shrift of Communists in the unions. The opinion has been expressed by honorable members opposite that the object of the Government seems to be to destroy the power of the trade unions. That statement is ridiculous, to say the least of it. One cannot study the history of trade unionism in the last century or so without realizing the tremendous work that the trade unions have done, not only in Australia, but also in many other parts of the world. I am a member of a. trade union and a firm believer in the principles of trade unionism. I believe, however, that the trade unions must be used properly, and not abused as they are being abused to-day. I have no doubt that many honorable members opposite have had far more experience of executive work in trade unions than I have had, but I speak to-night as a rank and file trade unionist. The Opposition claims that, in proposing secret ballots within trade unions, we on this side of the chamber are acting contrary to the wishes of the trade union movement as a whole. I submit that this Government would not be in power to-day but for the support of rank and file trade unionists. My constituency of Bowman contains many trade unionists. Industrial trouble is not unknown to us, because in Bowman are situated most of the meat works in south-eastern Queensland. The electors of this division also include a considerable number of waterside workers. I have many personal friends among these men, and I am proud to call them my friends. I know how they feel about secret ballots. They want secret ballots just as much as this Government wants them. When members of the Opposition say that the Government, in seeking to enforce secret ballots in trade unions, is acting contrary to the wishes of rank and file trade unionists, they are not speaking for the great majority of trade unionists. Members of the Opposition fear secret ballots because they have only too fresh in their minds, recollections of what happened at the last general election. I repeat that the present Government is in office largely because of the support of trade unionists. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) said that it would be impracticable to conduct secret ballots in some trade unions, but he also admitted that secret ballots were already being conducted in some unions. I believe that anything is possible if one has the will to make it possible. I am confident that secret ballots could be introduced successfully into sections of the trade union movement in which provision is not made for them to-day. If secret ballots can be held when it suits the executive of trade unions to hold them, they can be held at other times too. The British Medical Association has been held up to us as an example of a trade union striking against government legislation.
All I can say is that if other trade unionists in this country continued to work as members of the British Medical Association have done whilst protesting against what they believe to be unfair legislation, the Government would he well satisfied.
The Governor-General, in concluding his speech, said he hoped that we should be guided by divine providence in our deliberations in this Parliament. I firmly believe that this Government, having the backing of such a vast majority of Australian electors, and having already indicated its ability to get things done speedily, will administer the laws of the Commonwealth with justice, common sense and determination. If it does so, I am sure that it will retain the confidence of the Australian people who have elected it to office.
.- I listened attentively to the speech of the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm). It is not my intention to reply at any great length to the honorable member’s statements, but I draw his attention to the fact that, in advocating the banning of a political party, he is, in effect, suggesting, as a. member of a democratic community speaking in a democratic legislature, that we should forsake the ways of democracy in favour of the ways of totalitarianism. The banning of opposing political parties has been a feature of all totalitarian States. Whether they have been Nazi, Fascist, or Communist, the pattern has always been the same - first the prohibition, and then the annihilation, of opposing political parties. Surely the honorable member for Bowman will agree that the last thing we want to do in this country is to adopt the methods of the totalitarian countries that we have had to fight in recent years to retain our freedom and democracy. I say that as one who probably has been more frequently condemned by the Communists than has any other member of the industrial Labour movement. Freedom means the right of people to express their own views and to choose their own form of government. To suggest that because we do not like the opinions of other groups in the community we should ban them, does violence to the principles of democracy. The history of mankind shows that thoughts and ideas cannot be exterminated. Honorable members should realize from their own knowledge of history that the suppression of opinions has never been successful. We, as a community, should hesitate to deny to others the right to hold and express their own opinions, even though some regard those opinions as evidence of dangerous thinking.
The Governor-General’s Speech referred to many important matters. To my mind, one of the most significant paragraphs was the following: -
Of vital importance to the general wellbeing of the people is the question of industrial relations between employer and employee. My Government is convinced that a rapid development of the Commonwealth depends largely on higher levels of production and. with them, higher standards of living, on freedom from industrial disturbances, and on the fullest co-operation of both sides of industry.
That touches one of the most important problems confronting our community to-day. The question of how industrial relations may be improved may be regarded as the modern riddle of the sphinx, and unless society can answer it, the economic life of Australia is likely to perish. Because for many years I have devoted my attention to industrial relations between employer and employee, I believe that in this, my maiden speech to the House, I should offer some suggestions to the Government on this important and difficult problem. Better industrial relations are most desirable, but they are probably the most difficult of all things to achieve under the present circumstances. That probably arises from the fact that better industrial relations are not merely a question of employer and employee conferring on matters upon which they are in disagreement or, indeed, on matters upon which they are in agreement. Better relations depend upon a number of factors which embrace such things as prices, production, the machinery of conciliation and arbitration, the freedom of trade unions and the psychological reactions between employer and employee.
The post-war period was marked right throughout the world by bitter struggles between capital and labour. Those struggles were not confined to Australia. They were found in every country of the world, from the primitive production countries of China and India to the highly organized and technological countries ‘ of Great Britain and the United States of America. Those struggles, which were bitter and fierce at that time, arose from factors which were associated with the war itself. There was a general frustration of the workers in industry because during the war period they had not been able to achieve many things which they desired. In many cases legislation prevented their achieving better conditions. The workers themselves had agreed to some of the legislation because they believed that they were fighting to retain democracy and freedom and the right to live as they desired to live in their own country. So, in every country there was industrial unrest. In America it involved activities from telephones to tugboats and from the automobile industry to the steel industry. Not an industry of that country was free from dislocation. Indeed, there was industrial paralysis because of the difficulties between employers and employees.
To-day, a new outbreak of industrial disputes is sweeping across the world. We need only to look at the daily newspapers to see how, in America, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and elsewhere. bitter industrial disputes are taking place and very earnest endeavours arc being made to find some better way of dealing with these industrial problems. It can be said that, in Australia, our present difficulties arise from two causes. One is the tendency for prices to spiral upwards and upwards, and the other is a genuine belief on the part of the workers in industry that they are not receiving their fair share of the increased production of this nation. Because of these two factors we find considerable discontent. As honorable members know, there is dislocation in the tramway transport system of Victoria. It must be pointed out that the spiralling of prices has a most adverse affect upon the purchasing power of the worker and those engaged in industry. The failure to check rising prices is having a disastrous affect upon the living conditions and the purchasing power of ‘the people.
When the nation was in danger, between 1940 and 1946, the governments in power put into operation, to protect, the interests of the community, and to save the nation from the perils of invasion, amongst other things a very rigid control over prices. As a result of that rigid control, at thu end of six years when, because of conditions both in Australia and overseas, tremendous increases in prices had taken place in every direction, the purchasing; power of money in Australia, from a retail standpoint, had depreciated only by about 25 per cent. Because of good and rigid price control we were able to finish the war in this country with a lower price level than that operating in any other country. But in the last two and a half years the cost of living has increased by 25 per cent. That figure applies to the “ C “ series regimen, in reference to which statements were made at question time to day by the Prime Minister. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that that table, whilst it measures some increases in retail prices, if: not an overall measurement that gives the real effect of price increases in all commodities used by the community. Nevertheless, it indicates a 25 per cent, increase in prices, and the difficulty for those engaged in industry is that they are unable to obtain any adjustment of their wages until at least three months after the prices have actually increased, because the adjustment of wages is made upon the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures for the average of the quarter immediately preceding the adjustment of wages. In other words, wages were adjusted in February of this year, not on the prices in February, but on the average of prices operating between October and December of last year. So, with rapidly rising prices, the worker is constantly losing purchasing power and, as a result, is finding it extremely difficult to make both ends meet. As a number of very important items in the worker’s diet, such as vegetables and fruit, are not included in the regimen because of technical difficulties well known to statisticians, increases of that nature are, of course, not :net by the increased wages.
That difficulty is bad enough £o.r the average worker, but the people who ;are suffering most as a consequence of the spiralling prices are the people who have special skill, special knowledge and special technique and to whom the arbitration tribunals have granted a margin over the basic wage. These people, many of whom are persons who have served five years’ apprenticeship, perform productive work of a most valuable nature. Their margins are not adjusted in accordance with the cost of living and the higher that prices rise the less becomes the purchasing power of their margins. Relatively, they are losing right along the line in the fight to maintain their living standards. It is because of that problem that the tramway strike in Victoria is in progress now. The tramway employees have asked that their margins, not the basic wage, be increased by £1 a week. They are making an effort to regain the purchasing power that they have lost in consequence of the rapid increase of prices that is now so evident.
It was suggested in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that steps will be taken to grapple with this problem. The maintenance of a constant price level is a national question, because the lower we can keep our prices the better we shall be able to compete in the markets of the world, hut, unfortunately, the National Parliament has no authority to deal with it. In 1948, by means of a referendum, the Commonwealth sought power to control prices. During the campaign some honorable gentlemen opposite told the electors that the States could control prices, but it is now common knowledge that, the States are unable to agree upon a co-ordinated or uniform prices control policy. The Victorian Government has decided that prices control is to go. Other States are grappling with the problem and trying to prevent prices from rising further, but they are unable to do so owing to the complexity of interstate trading and other problems. If this Government finds a solution of the problem of prices control, it will have done something that the States have been unable to do. but it is difficult to see how it will be able to do anything unless it first holds a referendum and obtains authority from the people to control prices in the interests of the people.
Another problem that is causing difficulties in connexion with industrial conditions and relations is that of giving to the workers a fairer share of the increased productivity of the nation. I was somewhat dismayed to hear it suggested in the course of this debate that the Australian worker is not playing the game and that he has been taught to think of the degradation of labour. Somebody stated recently that it has been the policy of the Labour party to preach to the worker the doctrine, “Do not do too much work “. I speak in a friendly way and without any attempt to be malicious when I say that statements of that kind do not assist the cause of industrial peace, but make more difficult than ever the problems that face those persons on both sides of industry who desire to see better industrial relations. The truth is that during the last 30 or 40 years no nation has made greater progress than has Australia in achieving increased productivity, an expansion of secondary industries and an increase of the national income. Since the end of “World War I., new industries have been established in this country upon a gigantic scale. No one will deny that the steel industry that was established at Newcastle by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has made the name of Australia famous throughout the world. When we consider the number of new industries that were started in Australia in the spectacular period between 1922 and 1929 and the many new industries that were established during World War II. for the manufacture of all kinds of articles and commodities, including aeroplanes and heavy machinery, we can see that we have made tremendous progress. It is tragic that in the disputes that take place between political parties there is no recognition of what the people of Australia have done and of the manner in which our industries have expanded. When all is said and done, we are Australians, and as Australians, irrespective of the political parties to which we belong, it is our desire that this nation shall progress. That can be achieved only by securing the co-operation of all sections of the community. It is most important that we should have the full co-operation of the men and women who are engaged in industry.
I propose to quote some figures to the House, in order to show the increase of production that has taken place. Some figures that were released recently by Professor Benjamin Ritchie Higgins, professor of Economic Research of the University of Melbourne, reveal that the man-power output in Australian industries increased by 10 per cent, between 1945 and 194S. Dr. Stevens, of the University of Melbourne, has made a survey of 71 Australian manufacturing industries, in which 11,000 people are employed. The survey indicated that during 194S, when the 40-hour week was in operation, output had increased by 9 per cent., and was slightly greated than it was in 1947, when employees were working for 44 hours a week. Professor Higgins has pointed out that the proportion of the national income of Australia paid out in salaries and wages now is substantially less than it was in 1939. These factors are known to those who are working in industry and they are causing difficulties and troubles in industrial relations.
The problem that we have to face is how to co-relate the facts that we know in connexion with prices, production and other matters associated with industrial relations in order to achieve the best possible results for the people of Australia. A good deal has been made of the fact that there is a tremendous demand for goods and that that demand is not being satisfied, with the result that the Australian people cannot obtain the commodities that are essential for either consumption or capital expansion. The truth is that prior to World War II. our productive machinery was not geared up sufficiently to permit it to satisfy the needs of all the people. The economic factors that were responsible for that are well known to all of us. Now, for the first time since the industrial revolution, the persons who are engaged in industry in this country, Great Britain, New Zealand and other countries are enjoying full employment. Prior to 1940, full employment was not known in any country. History shows that between 1900 and 1939 there was a tendency for the percentage of unemployed persons in the community constantly to increase. The figures relating to Australia show that between 1900 and 1910 an average of 5 per cent, of our total working population was unemployed. For the next ten years the average was a little over 6 per cent. In 1920, when we experienced a minor depression, the figure rose to 11 per cent. The period between 1922 and 1929 has been described as the seven spectacular years, or the seven years of plenty. During that period, although we regarded the times and conditions as good, the average of unemployment in this country was between 7& per cent, and 8 per cent. During the economic crisis of the thirties, the proportion of unemployed workers in Australia rose as high as 33 per cent., and Professor Copland expressed the opinion that, after the depression had ended, we would always have 10 per cent, of our people unemployed. Those economic conditions resulted in industry being geared to supply the requirements of approximately 80 per cent, of the community because certain factors operated upon the consumption of goods. Those citizens who were unemployed necessarily diminished their expenditure and those who were fearful of unemployment saved for the “rainy day”. Thus,, because there was not that measure of security that was necessary to give everybody confidence to buy all the things that they wanted, the production machinery was geared to approximately 80 per cent, of the people’s requirements.
After a world-wide war, we found in 1946 that the machinery that had been geared to produce 80 per cent, of the people’s requirements in 1939 was expected to endeavour to supply the wants of all of the people when all of the people were employed or were enjoying income of some kind. Industry simply could not do it. Full employment had given greater confidence and greater independence to the worker. He was able to spend his money without fear of to-morrow. His demands increased. In addition to that, industry was required to make up the shortages that had accrued when more than 50 per cent, of the production efforts of the community had been directed towards war purposes. We are still fighting to increase production to the level that will enable us to satisfy the minimum requirements of our people. I mention that factor because I believe that it is of great importance in relation to the problem of establishing better industrial relationships between employer and employee. The task of providing for the needs of those who are actually living in Australia to-day has been intensified by our immigration policy, under which we are committed to the introduction from overseas of 200,000 people each year. That programme demands that every one of the facilities available for service to the people must be expanded proportionately in order to deal with the new problems and demands that will arise. Every establishment that produces goods that the people want must be constantly expanded so as to meet the needs of the new people. Therefore, a tremendous problem of development awaits solution.
For the first time in the history of Australian industry, employer and employee to-day can meet upon equal terms. When the employee conferred with the employer in days gone by, with the fear of unemployment always before him and when a reserve of unemployed labour was always at hand upon which the employer could draw, the economic strength was on the side of the employer. I do not suggest that the economic strength of the worker to-day is greater than that of the employer, but because of full employment, if John Smith does not wish to work for employer No. 1 he need have no difficulty in obtaining a job with employer No. 2. Consequently he can bargain with the employer upon better terms than ever before. He believes that this new position in which he finds himself deserves recognition ‘and that the legitimate and fair demand that he makes to share, as a right, in the benefits of increased production should be met. How little his demands have been met can be pointed out in a brief statement of the history of the basic wage. In 1907, Mr. Justice Higgins established the famous Harvester standard of 42s. a week, which he deemed sufficient at that time to support a man, wife and three dependent children in a state of frugal comfort. Forty-three years have passed since then. I defy any honorable member to name any standard, except that of the basic wage, that was in operation in 1907 that has not long since been discarded as obsolete and antiquated,, whether the standard be one of transport, communication, methods of production, science, or even democratic government.
The only standard that remains practically unchanged is the basic wage for the workers of the Commonwealth of Australia. It is true that the basic wage to-day is £6 14s. a week, but that wage, with the exception of about 4s., merely represents the purchasing power of 42s. in 1907. Therefore the worker says, and I think with justification, “With all the progress that has been made in the last 43 years the basic wage should be higher and my share coming out of industry should be greater. I therefore expect the community to recognize my just claim and to see that I receive an appropriate increase “. I do not want to mislead honorable members, and I freely admit that in some respects the worker is getting an increased share of the national income in other directions to-day. He has gained some advantage from reduced hours, paid annual leave and social services. However, putting all of those added advantages on the credit side, the worker still maintains that figures of production indicate that his share of the things that are being produced in Australia is not so great as it might be or as the prosperity of the country indicates that it should be. I now come to the question of the best means by which improved industrial relationships can be achieved. I have no doubt that honorable members will say, “ The Commonwealth Arbitration Court is the body to deal with such questions “. But I remind them that the ‘ Constitution put conciliation first when it conferred upon this Parliament the power to make laws with respect to - conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
Conciliation is the first step that should be taken. Unfortunately, conciliation seems to have been by-passed and the general tendency, when demands for the shortening of hours and the improvement of wages and conditions of employment are under consideration, is not to use the first power but to insist that the matter shall go to arbitration for settlement. It is we 1 to bear in mind the fact that, since the establishment of the CommonwealthCourt of Conciliation and Arbitration, two very important functions are now being carried on by a body that is entirely outside the control of this Parliament. In the first place, this court is a body that is able to make laws. It is able to operate as a legislator because the decisions that it makes become the law of the land and are applicable to employer and employee alike. The second very important matter, one that has escaped the notice of the people, is the fact that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has become an economic planning authority. An illustration of its functions in that direction is that the 10 per cent, reduction in wages made by that court in 1931 was deliberately designed to overcome economic difficulties associated with the depression of the early ‘thirties. [Extension of time granted. ] Again, in 1937 a prosperity loading was granted by the court with the economic view of preventing a tendency towards a boom and to create more stable economic conditions in Australia. It depends largely upon how the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is able to deal with the work given to it whether it can continue to be a real asset in the securing of better economic relations. Certain specific functions have been assigned to the court. They are the fixing of standard hours of labour, a basic wage for males, a minimum wage for females, and annual leave. The 40-hour week case was before the court for fifteen months. The basic wage case which is now before the court was first mentioned in February, 1949. The hearing commenced in May, 1949, and that case is still proceeding. One essential for the improvement of industrial relations between employer and employee is that the machinery for dealing with industrial disputes shall be simple, inexpensive and expeditious. One of the difficulties of the Conciliation Commissioners, who to-day deal with all industrial matters other than those specifically assigned to the court, is that they are loth to investigate the matter of increased margins - and one such matter is current in Victoria to-day - because they are awaiting the decision of the court on the basic wage. long delays by the court can cause industrial trouble and make the settlement of industrial disputes much more difficult.
I had intended to deal with the psychological background of the relationship of employer and employee, but although this House has been kind enough to extend my time I shall not proceed to that matter except to say that in the achieving of better industrial relations there is a very strong case for the absolute freedom of the trade union movement. In 1944 I was in Philadelphia as a workers’ representative to a conference of the International Labour Organization. I was astonished to discover at that conference that in many countries of the world there Was not a free trade union movement. American, Canadian, English and Australian delegates congratulated themselves on the fact that they were representatives of a free trade union movement which was not subject to government control or direction. They operated in the best interests of their members and were the negotiating parties in proceedings for wages and working conditions. A problem that faced us at that conference was an application by the workers’ representative of Argentina to be admitted to the workers group. On the ground that Argentina had then a fascist government, a number of workers’ representatives argued that there could be no representation from that country because trade unionism there had been suppressed. On previous occasions the workers group had refused to accept delegates from the trade union movement in Italy because it was controlled by a fascist government.
Honorable members may have read recently that there has been a split in the World Federation of Trade Unions and that a new free trade union international has been formed. That has been done because, amongst other reasons, the workers, through their unions in Canada, America, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Holland and France, claim that the workers representing central European countries and the United Soviet States of Russia do not represent a free movement but are bound by the laws and restrictions placed upon them by the governments of their particular countries, and are merely government instrumentalities for the expression of government opinion. Even if the government does not approve of the laws of the trade union movement as expressed in the rules registered in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration it is undesirable, in a free and democratic country, to interfere with those rules and determine who the officers of the unions are to be and what opinions are to be held by them. By a simple action, the Government may take away the freedom of the trade union movement and make it subservient to the government of the day. The members of every union have the right to alter their rules. I have always believed in secret ballots, and the union in which I hold office has a rule providing for secret ballots, hut I also believe that every union has the right to make its own rules. Members of my union would not attempt to dictate to another union how it should conduct its affairs. Therefore, if industrial relations in this country are to be improved, it is essential that the trade union movement shall be free, and not subject to a government dictatorship or to government regulations as to how its affairs should be conducted.
Finally I make a suggestion as to how better industrial relations might be achieved. I suggest that the brick wall erected between those guiding industry and those doing the work of industry should be removed. The worker in industry is paid for the toil he gives, but the reason why he is doing a job, the objects of the company which employs him, its keenness to expand, its planning, discussion of problems, and the _ one hundred and one other things associated with executive positions, is undoubtedly outside the knowledge of the worker. He is one apart from the actual management of industry. I heard somebody say to-day about co-partners in industry, “If you want the workers to be copartners in industry you have to devise some machinery whereby there can be consultations between the worker and employer about methods of increasing production, and the management’s programme about marketing, finance, and general expansion “. “Wherever employers in industry have indicated that they really desired to co-operate with the workers in the development of the industry, the enterprise has been successful. If that gesture were made it would helpconsiderably in overcoming the suspicion which has existed between organized employers and organized labour. Secondly, I suggest that a very desirableway to achieve better industrial regulations would be regular consultation-, between employers and representatives of the trade union movement on economictrends and problems of industry, and thedistribution of the proceeds of industry. I suggest that this should be done through their official organizations. If both sides met voluntarily to discuss theseproblems, troubles which appear at first very small, but which very often grow larger as time goes on, might be overcome. I am sorry that theMinister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is not present in the chamber to-night, because I am hopeful that some good may be achieved in this direction. I consider that if politics wereleft out of this matter, and there were st genuine desire on the part of honorable members on both sides of the House to secure better industrial relations in Australia, there would emerge a bigger,, grander, and better nation than exists to-day.
.– The old proverb says, “ Great oaks from little acorns grow “. As we turn the pages of history we find that some of the very big events of the world have had relatively small beginnings. In calling “ The honorable member for Lawson “ for the first time in this House, you, Mr. Speaker, have engaged in what may be the making of history. I am not taking that unto myself, and hasten to add that I am very happy and proud to be associated with so many honorable members who are in similar positions as representatives of new electorates. I am both humble anr! proud to be here as the representative, of the electorate of Lawson. It stretches from the fine wool country of the south-east to the rich black soil plains of the north-west, from the wheat lands of the south-west to the timber country of the north-east. It is traversed by large streams, some of which will be dammed within a short time, and the water reticulated to the back country. It is an electorate in which the towns perform not only the functions of clearing houses for the back country, but also as places where thriving secondary production is carried on. The electorate of Lawson is typical of Australia as a whole. It has its rural aspect and its town aspect. The rural electorates contain people engaged in all types of agricultural and pastoral pursuits, as well as all forms of secondary production. They have railways, communications, and local government. In effect they are in themselves small nations. I was therefore greatly heartened, as were other representatives of rural electorates, to note in His Excellency’s Speech specific reference to national development, particularly in rural electorates. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) has already emphasized that point.
It has been said, that Australia rides on the sheep’s back. “Whether that is desirable or not is possibly beside the point. The fact remains that rural production is responsible for a very large percentage of our exports. In this relatively young country
Ave are dependent very largely on the proceeds of our rural production to purchase the goods that we cannot manufacture ourselves. Therefore we must accept the fact that rural production is essential to our economy, and is indicative of the general prosperity of the people.
The note I wish to strike - one which was struck by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) - is that we must get away from sectionalism. Representatives of rural constituencies have one thing in common with all other honorable members - the advancement of Australia generally. When the wheat man receives a little more for his wheat, or the sheep man has the same good fortune, the proceeds are spread throughout the whole community. Every1d. increase of the price of wool benefits not only the woolgrower but also the people associated with him. Therefore, it is quite unwise to look on primary producers with jealous eyes because, when all is said and done, they represent only a small proportion of the population, and, as I have already pointed out, the benefit of their work is spread throughout the whole of the land.
There are very genuine problems throughout Australia to-day. Some relate specifically to country areas. It is quite reasonable for those of us who represent country areas to draw the attention of the House to this fact. They must be dealt with, not in a parochial manner, but on a broad national basis. Rabbits are the cause of terrific loss of production. Not long ago I journeyed through the north-west portion of New South Wales and saw where some of our most beautiful country had been absolutely denuded of all forms of herbage. The rabbits were indescribably bad. Those honorable members who have travelled throughout the country districts know that the rabbit menace has assumed national importance. It is something that must be tackled definitely and deliberately. Erosion by water and wind is another problem that has to be faced. Something has been done, but erosion control is still in its infancy, and more financial assistance from governments is needed. Control measures are costly, and the expense is, in many instances, beyond the means of the small farmer. People who live in the country are not all rich. Some may be rich, but many of them are poor. Those who live on the land have also to face the threat of floods which take their toll of human life, stock, pastures, fences, &c. For many years rural development has been hampered by the lack of machinery which has been very difficult to purchase. Because of the shortage of rolling-stock and rails, the railways are not serving the purpose for which they were originally designed. The completion of the line from Sandy Hollow to Maryborough, which has been under construction for many years, has been held up because is is impossible to obtain rails. To date, about £2,000,000 ha3 been spent on it. The roads are in reasonable condition, but local authorities cannot continue their operations without road-making machinery. I have received many letters from councils in my electorate pointing out that their road-making and repairing programmes have increased many times, but they cannot get on with the work for lack of machinery. Other matters requiring attention are water supply systems for country towns, sewerage, electric lighting and housing. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) spoke at length about housing. One might be pardoned for assuming, after listening to the honorable member, that housing is a problem associated only with cities and large -towns. That is not so. In proportion to the population, the problem is just as acute in the country. The practical impossibility of obtaining galvanized iron for roofing has put building out of the question except for those who happen to have made provision in the past for roofing material.
It has been well said that if a nation is productive its people will be prosperous and happy. Our country is productive, but it is not producing as much as it should. Unfortunately, we are not able to take full advantage of our resources. With the arrival of increasing numbers of immigrants it becomes necessary for all forms of production, including rural production, to be greatly increased. Therefore, it was heartening to note in the Speech of the Governor-General a statement that the Government proposed to do everything possible to increase production. Prosperity cannot be manufactured overnight, although some honorable members seem to believe that it can. They apparently believe that the Government has only to wave a wand and every one will be prosperous. However, the foundations of prosperity can be laid by wise government, and production can be encouraged by the application of a policy such as that outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
A member of this Parliament is not here to represent sectional interests. Once he is elected, he becomes the representative of all the people in his electorate. While he may have certain political views, he must recognize that he is responsible to all the people, and not just to one section of them. Therefore, it was pleasing to note that there is nothing sectional about the Government’s legislative programme. The sentiments expressed in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral are of a kind to which all can subscribe. In the first place, the Speech expressed loyalty to His Majesty the
King. All of us here entertain feelings of the deepest loyalty to His Majesty, as was emphasized by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) and others. We greatly regret that His Majesty was prevented by illness from visiting Australia when the visit was first arranged, and he may be assured that whenever he is able to come to Australia he will receive a loving welcome from all the people.
Reference is made in the Speech of the Governor-General to the defence of Australia from enemies without and within. I emphasize that it is not only from enemies overseas that we must protect ourselves. With our Navy, Army and Air Force we attempt to make ourselves secure from aggression overseas. Unfortunately, there is also an enemy within. During the last war, we became familiar with the expression “ fifth column “, and that fifth column has gone into action in Australia on a number of occasions. I have myself had the experience of coming into touch with it. However, I shall have more to say on the subject when we are considering legislation dealing with subversive elements.. If we are to hold what we have we must protect ourselves from the enemy within our gates just as much as from the enemy without.
The national development plan mentioned in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral is to be implemented in cooperation with the State governments. That is a worthy principle, because no one knows better what is required in a place than do the people on the spot. They may be trusted to see that the job is done. I approve of the proposal to hand over the actual construction work to the State authorities.
The provision of basic materials is of the greatest importance. At present, the worst bottle-neck in Australian industry is the scarcity of coal for the production of iron and steel, and the fabrication of other necessary goods. We need coal for transport, for lighting and heating, and for our industries; yet day after day stoppages occur, sometimes for reasons that are obvious enough, but sometimes for reasons that can only be a part of a political conspiracy, as was the case six months ago. Until the coal-mining industry is freed from the difficulties that at present beset it, coal will not be produced in sufficient quantities.
I was astonished to hear a member of the Opposition say this afternoon that many unfortunate things had been done by officers of the Taxation Branch. He made a very strong claim to have the matter remedied. The honorable member unfortunately overlooked the fact that the remedy lay in the hands of the particular Government of which he was a supporter. I am very sorry he did not receive the relief that he expected as his due when it was possible for that Government to give it, but he may rest assured that the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is determined to see that anomalies in taxation will be remedied and, I am sure, will be equally determined to see that taxation laws are administered with justice to all people. The Government has already gained the confidence of the people; and confidence is the one thing that will solve the problems and that will get nations out of trouble. Conversely, lack of confidence will plunge them into the greatest despair. The Government has established confidence because, in the short time that it has been in office, it has grappled with the problems that have confronted it. Its pre-election promises have been carried out with despatch and with fairness. It has freed the people of rationing control over petrol, which was one of the most iniquitous controls ever imposed. I have no fear that that confidence will not be continued. I believe that this Parliament give9 great promise of achieving fame and I have every hope that it will. It is the first Australian Parliament that has had so many members. From the point of view of the conduct of debates I am sure that, with your guidance - and I believe that honorable members will support your suggestions - the conduct of the debates will be on a i)l ane that will suit the most fastidious persons. We know, through travelling throughout the electorate, that people have been very critical of the manner in which debates have been conducted in the past. I am sure that we shall all be glad to be able to feel that we are participating in the affairs of a House that has considerably more dignity in the conduct of debates than previously was the ease. Thirdly, I believe that this Parliament will achieve renown if it pursues a legislative programme to meet the needs of all sections of the people, whilst avoiding restrictions of their natural freedom. That programme. I believe fully acknowledges fundamentally, the definition given by that grand old man of English politics, Gladstone, who so truly observed -
The proper function of Government is to make it easy for people to do good and difficult for them to do evil.
.- As a new member of this House I join with those honorable members who have spoken before me in this debate and have stressed the high ideals to which they hope to give effect in this Parliament. Starting with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) I think that without exception every honorable member has expressed the wish that the standard of debate in this House should improve and that we should, in this new and larger Parliament, be able to contribute more substantially to the good government of Australia. There is no doubt that during the past few years the institution of Parliament has fallen into some disrepute in this country, as has been previously mentioned in this debate. That condition, can only be the fault of the members of the Parliament. When a nation is contemptuous of its elected representatives it is contemptuous of democracy and the way becomes open for the destruction of national liberties. I have often wondered whether the broadcasting of the proceedings of this House were contributing to its disrepute, because there seemed to be a regrettable tendency on the part of some honorable members to consider that, instead of contributing to the government of this country, they should contribute to the entertainment of the radio-listening public. Some of them even seemed to mistake their vocation and to believe that they were taking part in some sort of vaudeville show. During this debate on the Address-in-Reply, which could be expected to contain very little inflammable material, we have even heard a most slanderous attack on the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey). I regret that the honorable member who made that attack is not at present in the chamber. The services of the Minister for Supply and Development to the Empire, outside Australia, are too well known to require to be detailed by me. Attacks of that nature, which contribute nothing substantial to a debate, have led an eminent Australian historian to comment that Australia and the Australian people have a regrettable tendency not to tolerate greatness in their public men. It should be our aim to correct any such tendency.
I turn now to the problems that confront this Government. It is perhaps dangerous to try to over-simplify those many problems, but arising out of the Governor-General’s Speech there is the very obvious fact that all these problems can be compressed into problems of shortages and stability. The problems that have been discussed in this House during this debate are all encompassed by the words “ shortages “ and “ stability “. The problem of housing is one of shortages, and the problem of putting value into the £1 is a compound of the two items, shortages and stability. The problems of peace in industry, of banking, of prevention of depression, and of increasing our production all similarly come within that compass.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) impressed me very greatly with his sincerity, but I could not help feeling that when he dealt with the subject of communism, which, in its essence, includes the problem of preventing shortages and also of establishing stable government, and in his plea for the prevention of suppression of thought and ideas, he was somewhat astray. In our community, whilst we have great freedom of thought and ideas, we do not tolerate crimes against the community such as murder, robbery or other acts of violence. I should imagine that a person who committed one of those crimes would find it a little difficult in a court of law to plead that he was entitled to freedom of ideas or that his crime was justified on the ground of his political philosophy. Yet, that is the very idea for which the honorable member for Bendigo uttered a plea. Wherever and whenever crimes of violence or of sabotage are instigated in the community it is the Government’s duty to take firm corrective measuresHonorable members opposite unanimously agree with Government supporters that communism is an evil. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) described it as a disease and as a virus. One would imagine that if that were so it would be logical to take strong medical action in the form of disinfection, or purification, to combat the disease. I was struck with that metaphor because that form of disease is similar to the human ailment of poliomyelitis. Communism attacks the community at its nerve centres. Several honorable members opposite have suggested that communism is on the wane. I find it difficult to accept that view. I do not think that they held that belief when the coal strike occurred last year. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) did not think so at that time because he expended many thousands of pounds of public money in a press campaign to advertise the fact that that strike was Communistinspired and was against our industrial arbitration system. It seems to me that honorable members opposite have adopted a policy of despair with respect to communism. They appear to believe that nothing can be done about it, and they resent the fact that the Government hasbeen given a mandate by the people to> do something about it. During the coal strike the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was very outspoken against the Communists. He was reported to have said outside the Parliament that if he had his way he would put all Communists in a concentration camp. Those were strong words. Yet, when he had the opportunity to translate them into action, I rather gathered that he directed his activities into another sphere. He preferred to be photographed in close embrace with poor, unfortunate migrant children. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, T should apologize for that remark in view of the plea that I made in my opening: remarks for a higher standard of debate in the Parliament. However, my lapseserves to emphasize my argument that it: is easy even for a new member to make cheap wisecracks that contribute little to discussions in this chamber. I should follow the more commendable example which ‘ you, yourself, set when in. acknowledging your elevation to your high office you quoted from the Scriptures. I shall do likewise -
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.
Another element in the Government’s task of suppressing communism is reflected in the vague threats that have emanated from honorable members opposite with respect to strikes, stoppages and the deregistration of trade unions. I suggest that if those honorable members sincerely abhor communism as a political philosophy they will use their not inconsiderable experience and their influence with the trade unions to prevent occurrences of that kind, and will co-operate whole-heartedly with the Government which has the courage of convictions which they themselves, apparently, share.
The problem of stability is wrapped up with the problem of currency. The Leader of the Opposition who, at times, appears to have a kind of phobia concerning banking, has expressed himself very strongly in his opposition to the Government’s proposal to introduce legislation to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board. However, his opposition to such a proposal, when it is all boiled down, is merely opposition to some hypothetical composition of the board which he himself imagines could possibly be set up. I gather that if he had the responsibility of choosing the personnel of the board when it is re-established he would not be so strongly opposed to such a proposal and that his opposition to the ultimate control of the Commonwealth Bank Board by the Parliament instead of by the Treasurer of the day is not so much opposition to what, after all, is a democratic idea, but simply boils down to the suggestion which he himself made that in any event it does not make any difference. If that is so it is difficult to imagine that he would go to the extreme length of using the Opposition party’s present majority in the Senate to throw out the legislation that this Government proposes to introduce.
The development of the resources of this country is wrapped up with the problems of shortages and economic stability. I listened with particular interest to the Government’s proposals for the development of our rural areas. I should say that there is more scope for such development in Western Australia, from the Kimberleys to Albany, than exists in any other State. Yet at the opposite end of Australia the same problem exists. In the electorate of Forrest, which I represent, there are 11,000,000 acres of heavily timbered country of which approximately 1,000,000 acres has been brought under cultivation and approximately 3,000,000 acres are forest reserve. The balance is land that should be brought under cultivation if this country is to be adequately developed. The area has an assured rainfall and the soil is fertile. In the past, the only factors that have hampered its development have been lack of stability in the marketing of primary products and a shortage of materials and capital. There are many potential settlers who, with a supply of cheap capital repayable over a long term, could do a great deal to develop it. Labour is also required. a.nd, therefore, the policy of the Government in bringing to this country large numbers of migrants is to be commended. Above all, heavy equipment including bulldozers, power saws and tractors is needed for cutting down and clearing the very heavy growth of timber on those lands. All those factors are related to the problem of shortages, and, in particular, the shortage of dollars. If we are to proceed with this development, we should not be “ penny wise, pound foolish “ in the matter of dollars. If we do not expend a single dollar, we may save expense, but we may not make any progress. By adopting a bold programme of development, we may be able, in the future, to avoid additional dollar expenditure and even recoup earlier dollar expenditure. Even if it be necessary to obtain some form of dollar loan, we should tackle this problem with courage in the same way as a man who, when setting out in business, does not hesitate to obtain a bank overdraft, because he is confident that, later, he will be able to repay it.
I was most interested to hear the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) refer to the problem of rising prices. He mentioned the comparatively small increase of the prices level while the Labour party was in office, and he attributed that stability to the fact that the Labour Government exercised judicious control over prices. It is an indisputable fact that while prices were controlled and wages were pegged, prices rose but little. The rapid rise of the prices level began as soon as the Labour Government was unable to control the demand of its own supporters that wages should be released from control. Members of the Opposition will have the honesty to admit that when wages were unpegged, the Government had no hope, even with the retention of prices control, of controlling increases throughout the whole prices structure. They would be courageous indeed of they were to suggest, as a remedy for the present spiralling of prices, that, wages should be pegged. The honorable member for Bendigo has stated that production has increased since th introduction of a 40-hour week. Statistics belie that contention. I was most gratified to hear the honorable member advocate closer co-operation between employer and employee, and, I understood him to say, a system of profit-sharing, because that is precisely what this Government desires to encourage. Stability can be obtained only when production is maintained at the highest level, but with existing industrial unrest shortages cannot be made good and stability cannot be guaranteed. I feel that honorable members opposite are in complete agreement with the general principles that are enunciated in the Governor-General’? Speech, but they are bound to make token resistance because at the moment they sit in opposition in this House. However, I believe that their threat to use their majority in the Senate in order to defeat legislation cannot be sincere because the Government is making genuine efforts to overcome those two gigantic problems, shortages and instability.
.- I face this formidable audience of “ firstnighters “ with some trepidation because, like you, Mr. Speaker, when you first occupied the chair last Wednesday, I am torn by the conflict that arises from indecision. I should like to make a tactful approach in this debate, but, above all, I desire adequately to express my thoughts. To me, the Governor-General’s Speech foreshadows legislation in accordance with a pattern that has been woven almost wholly by the great Australian Labour party, to which I have the honour to belong. While listening to the speech of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), I came to the conclusion that the time had arrived when this matter should be placed on a proper basis. For what does the Labour party stand? It has a tradition, environment and history of which every Australian who is a member of it may be justifiably proud. I look back on the history of the Labour party, studded as it is with the achievements of great Australian pioneers like John Barnes, of the Australian Workers Union, and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), who graces its ranks at the present time, and I rebut strongly the implication in the speeches of some honorable members opposite that we are the suspects, that our motives and sincerity are doubtful, and that the “ Simon Pures “ of this legislature are to be found on the ministerial benches. I say to the honorable member opposite who has just concluded his speech that if, according to his thesis, communism is a virus and an evil, then just as demonstrably evil is the materialism which has given birth to present-day monopoly capitalism. I do not concede that communism is entirely an idea. To me, it is essentially a dynamic policy of revolutionary action and as such can expect neither approval nor protection. There I leave the matter.
If there is one problem which to-day transcends in importance every other issue, domestic or national, it is that conconstituted by the presence in our near north of 70,000,000 Indonesians, who may veer to the right or to the left and who may some day be a positive menace to the destiny of this country. Our task is to ensure that Australia will always be adequately protected, because unless we do that the very civilization for which we stand may be swept away. The deficiencies of our civilization should- be apparent to all. Even the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), who represents a rural constituency, must recognize the gulf that exists between the “ haves “ and the “ have nots “. Whilst I welcome as he does the flourishing condition of our pastoral industries to-day, bringing as it does an accretion of wealth to the farming community, I remind him that we on this side of the chamber represent a section of the community which also is seeking its place in the sun. These people are legitimately entitled to their aspirations, and we, as thoughtful Australians, should not deny them the opportunities that they seek. I see a. smile of derision on the faces of some Government supporters, implying that there is still some distress in the farming community, but I agree with the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. G. Anderson) that never before have our rural industries experienced such prosperity. Is it too much to ask therefore that, in this National Parliament, some consideration should be shown for the under-privileged people of the community who, as even our political antagonists opposite must concede, are represented adequately only by Labour? Dispassionately and without resorting to personalities - a practice which I wholeheartedly condemn - I submit to honorable members opposite the plain fact that, whether they like it or not, they are receiving the support of certain interests and forces which are. just as revolutionary, harmful, and threatening to a happy Australia as communism could ever be. Let honorable members opposite deny that if they will. Materialism, which is the fundamental basis of the extremism of both monopoly capitalism and communism, is the philosophy of the big industrialists of this country who grind the last £1 of profit out of those who, in common humanity, should be their first consideration.
Honorable members opposite may smile in their complacency and self-assurance. They have acquired, perhaps by inheritance, much more than it is the lot of the common man to possess. If the people of this country are to be united and freed from present-day provocation and friction, extremism must be foresaken by both the left and the right. Will any one suggest that the document prepared by Sir Walter Massy-Greene was inspired entirely by patriotic motives or was altruistic or ethical? Is any one so innocent and unsophisticated that he does not realize that Sir Walter Massy-Greene, like other members of the community whose fortunate place in society is due to inheritance, endowment, or their powers of acquiring wealth, has an axe to grind, and is quite willing, under the specious plea of national interest or patriotism, to further his own interests by publishing a pamphlet such as this? These are the gentlemen who would deny to the Labour party its right to express the views of the people that it represents. There is another type of representation pressure or “ squeeze “ which even I as a new member and, I hope, a tolerably good Australian, resent.
Simultaneously with the receipt of Sir Walter Massy-Greene’s unethical document I received a pamphlet from a person named Brian Fitzpatrick, another active lobbyist and an alleged reformer in the national interest. He is a former member of the Toorak branch of the Australian Labour party from which he was expelled, and is now the secretary of an august body that bears the highsounding name “ Council for Civil Liberties “. The significance of that is that the Council for Civil Liberties is not a body the majority, or even a relatively large proportion, of whose members are members of the Labour party, for example. Its membership is composed of the dilettanti, the wealthy, the bohemians, the professors, and others who confess that their chief’ concern in belonging to it is to look after the freedom and the liberties of the Australian people. This Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick forgot the freedom and the liberty of the Australian people when a man named Miller was victimized in a struggle against the communism to which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) has referred. He forgot to intervene when the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) was embroiled in a struggle for liberty and freedom within the Clerks Union, a struggle which did him great credit and the like of which the honorable member for Forrest has neither seen nor participated in. The extraordinary thing is that this Council for Civil Liberties, composed at times of more than a fair proportion of wealthy men, is concerned only when one of its Communist friends is threatened, or a leftist organization is brought within the ambit of a threat of pressure by the law. It is an extraordinary thing that while our ex-Minister for Foreign Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who did such an outstanding job in the councils of the world, fought for freedom here and elsewhere, councils of civil liberties were conspicuous by their absence when the lights of civilization and culture went out in Europe.
This being my maiden speech I ask that its deficiencies be regarded with tolerance. I say sincerely that this great Australian Labour party of ours needs no apology from me; it needs no dissertation on its merits; its story speaks for itself. I say sincerely, honestly, and with all the conviction of which I am capable, that if there is any force, whether here or in England, which could, in any given set of circumstances, stem the tide of revolution and the rush of the Tartar hordes under the hammer and the sickle, it is only a democracy which functions under a democratic party such as the Australian Labour party. As far as I can see, my task and that of my colleagues is to protect for the worker what he has gained and to restore to him, as far as possible, the property of which he has been dispossessed down the ages, and, having restored that property to him, to protect him against the onslaughts of the unscrupulous and the powerful. Is there any honorable member opposite who will not agree with me that there are people in this community who merit and, indeed, demand that call on my services? The comparatively defenceless, the comparatively weak in education, those who are not competent in the normal procedure of business, of barter, of buying and selling - those are our people. Where are those people housed? They are to be found in the slums of Fitzroy, Carlton and Richmond. It is all very well, again, for the honorable member with the complacent smile opposite to regard such habitations as being quite outside his province and the condescension of his consideration ; but it is a stark reality that thousands of our people, supporters of the Australian Labour party, are living in conditions that are a disgrace to a civilized community. !
An honorable member opposite coupled prices and production “ in a. more or less theoretical and lackadaisical vein. The matter of prices is a stark, obvious, and ever-present reality to the housewife, who has to bear the heat and burden of the day. The effects of the vicious spiralling of prices become accentuated as one descends the scale of economic values. It is brought about very often by a case submitted, judged and assessed, not in open court, not by formal proceedings in a tribunal such as the Arbitration Court, but behind closed doors, as a result of representations made by arrangement, by political lobbying and by interviews. I am putting it that if it be good enough for the worker to have his case analysed and examined in the light of day, and criticized by trained advocates -on behalf of their employers, it is good enough also for corporations, company executives, representatives of monopoly interests, large or small, and any person whose claim has a bearing on the welfare of members of this community, to come out into the open before a properly constituted tribunal and prove that case. Will any honorable member opposite submit to me that the gas corporations of Melbourne and other parts of Victoria have substantiated their claims for successive increases of the price of gas ? Even to a tyro like myself, and others having no business experience, a cursory examination of company prospectuses and balancesheets in the daily newspapers reveals that very often there is no justification for such increases, and that the worker and his household should not be burdened with them.
I do not claim a monopoly for the party in Opposition in this regard, but I really believe that it is the party that is most sincerely and adequately seized with the importance of a happy, serene, and comfortable family life in this community. Some honorable members opposite may say that that is a fallacy. Because of its very nature, and because of the circumstances of the people with whom its members mix in the suburbs in which they find themselves, this party must be impressed more than any other party or individual with the inadequacy of some of the homes and the intolerable deficiencies of some of the family life in our community. I believe that the family is the chief cellular unit of our society. I believe that the Christian hearth in the Christian home is the sole hope of a prosperous and happy Australia. Unless the Australian workers have a serene, calm and contented family life our community life will be deficient and ultimately nothing but strife and evil can come to this country. I take it we are at one in thinking, hoping and asking that this country shall go undisturbed along the road of progress. Therefore, I am disgusted to think that, in spite of the lessons of the past, in spite of the obvious misery and degradation caused by the depression, there is a tendency on the part of certain reactionary interests in this community to take the control of credit from the Government, where it rightly belongs, and hand it over to a board, which can make or mar the destinies of the businesses and enterprises it is supposed to finance. I hope that wiser counsels will prevail. I trust that, in the first flush of victory, after the attempt at nationalization of banking, the conservative section of this community will not make the fundamental error of swinging the pendulum the other way and wiping out that great, progressive, humanitarian piece of legislation, the 1945 Banking Act.
I put it, finally, that Australia has been a very favoured nation. The tragedy of it is that suddenly, in the midst of what I regard as an unprecedented era of prosperity in this country, the Chifley Government was defeated a.nd we are now confronted with a period of chronic uncertainty. I hope for the best, but I fear the worst, not because I credit myself with virtues that I deny to honorable gentlemen opposite, with whom I differ politically, but because I believe that the background, the supporting interests and the general philosophy and outlook on life of the supporters of the Government must inevitably, judging by the cross-section of them that I see in front of me now, redound to the ultimate, disadvantage of the class that I have the honour to represent.
I conclude by saying that there is no necessity for me, as a new member of the Parliament, to apologize for being a Labour man. I am proud of it. My constituency extends from Footscray to Williamstown. At the Footscray end of it. the majority of the working class
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population belongs to the Butchers Union, and at the Williamstown end the majority belongs to the Waterside Workers Federation of Victoria. A finer body of men was never seen on this earth. If any honorable gentleman opposite believes that the Waterside Workers Federation of Victoria has any kind of Communistic bias, any tendency to go slow on the job, or any interests at heart other than the great national interests of Australia, he needs to be disillusioned. The Waterside Workers Federation of Victoria is controlled by members of the Australian Labour party. Its members are, in the main, family men, who hope to have a. stake in the community and to have homes of their own. In every way they command my admiration as citizens and workers. Recently I attended a waterside workers’ picnic at Diamond Creek. During the afternoon a purse containing a substantial sum of money was lost. One honorable gentleman opposite grins. The purse might not have been returned if he had found it. The loss of the purse was announced over the loudspeakers, and I am happy and proud to say that these workers and good Australian citizens who have been maligned by the evening and daily press of Melbourne returned the article in doublequick time. I have no need to apologize for my party or for those who support me. We all belong to a great country, the possibilities of which are immense. I believe that Australia will reach its full destiny and that we shall achieve the industrial peace at which we all are aiming only when its workers have something of which they can be justifiably proudand own something upon which they can concentrate their interests and in which they can find happiness. In other words, they must have an adequate stake in the community. Having regard to their production record, their stake in the community now is inadequate. It is my firm belief that the Labour party will once more gain the confidence of the people . and form the government of this country. When that day dawns, it will be the dawn of a better and brighter Australia.
.- The biggest of the surprises that I ha ve had since my arrival in Canberra is that which I have just experienced. I marvel at the self-restraint of the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) because, despite his despondency upon hearing of the defeat of the Chifley Government, he did not immediately cut his throat! I cannot refrain from making an unfavorable’ comparison between the honorable member’s speech and that of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who placed something constructive before the Government for its consideration. I agreed with much of what the honorable member for Bendigo said. But the honorable member for Gellibrand merely repeated a great deal of foolish propaganda about chronic uncertainty in the future. Such despondency is harmful to Australia. The honorable member said that he considered that his function in this place was to protect the worker. Obviously he does not realize the full extent of his functions as a member of this Parliament. The conception of his duty that he expressed was hopelessly inadequate. I and my associates in this House consider that our function is to progress constantly and to improve the lot of the worker, not merely to remain content with the insufficient policy of protecting them. The honorable member spoke of “the haves and the have nots “. I had thought that the attitude of mind that gives rise to such talk had vanished. He followed that remark with a reference to what he described as the unprecedented and unparalled prosperity that was being enjoyed by the farming community. I wonder whether the honorable member is aware that a very considerable contribution is being made by the farming community to-day, by way of concessional prices to the consumers, towards restraining the rising east of living or whether the honorable gentleman prefers to ignore the fact. I say emphatically that the farmers are doing more than their fair share in helping to keep the nation on an even keel. They do so by accepting lower than parity prices for their products, thus subsidizing the Australian consumer. Surely some recognition is due to them for that. The remarks made by the honorable member for Gellibrand impelled me to reply briefly and, having done so, I shall return to the subjects that I had in mind originally.
First, I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, upon your elevation to your high office. I was not personally acquainted with you before I came to Canberra, but your efforts in the past as a member of this Parliament have not been unknown tome. I take this opportunity to express my personal thanks to you for your efforts in connexion with representationsthat I made to you in South Australia on behalf of an industry in Western Australia that required certain suppliesessential to the farming community. I also congratulate Ministers upon their preferment and the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) upon his elevation to the position of Chairman of” Committees. Although it may not becustomary to do so, I express my appreciation of the confidence that my electorshave reposed in me. The electoral division of Moore extends over an area in which every conceivable branch of primary production is carried on. Gold iswon from the soil there, and large industries are devoted to the production of potash, charcoal and iron. There aresubstantial deposits of coal, as yet unexploited. At present I am not eager to see any development of coalmining in that region. Local deliveriesof coal are sufficient to satisfy immediaterequirements and I have in mind the- “ pain in the neck “ that coalminingseems to be to the community in general. Moore is one of the most cosmopolitan electorates in Western Australia, and I assure my electors that I have a veryhumble sense of my responsibility towards them. I consider that my responsibility is the same as that of the Government.
The first essential is to re-orientate theviewpoint of the people of Australia. We have not yet recovered from our earlypostwar planning. We hear too much pessimistic talk about the prosperity that we enjoy being only temporary and about recessions and “the day of reckoning”. All that sort of talk is sheer rot. The first task of this Government must be toassure the people that economic security exists in Australia. It must inculcate, in their minds confidence in themselves and in the resources of the nation. The chief trouble in Australia to-day arises not from any lack of confidence in any particular government, but- from lack of confidence in social conditions. Circumstances throughout the world have altered so considerably that the troubles that we experienced during the years of the economic depression, which are being constantly recalled to mind by honorable members opposite, will never return. Unfortunately, some leaders of the people have not reorientated themselves to post-war conditions. We suffer from a scarcity of commodities to-day, but that scarcity is deliberately planned. I refer honorable members to discussions that took place at a Summer School of Political Science in Canberra in 1944, at which post-war planning was discussed. Statements that were made at that conference have been reported in a publication entitled Post-war Reconstruction in Australia, edited by Mr. D. A. S. Campbell. Dr. Coombs, who was then the economic adviser to the Chifley Government, and was in charge of post-war planning for Australia said, in reply to points that had been raised during the discussions -
I want to keep our resources so fully employed that they are continuously scarce in relation to the jobs upon which wo want to employ them. In this sense scarcity is the aim of our post-war policy.
The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) made the following statement on the same occasion: -
Unless there is a national plan for the employment of all our people, and that plan is carried into effect, disastrous unemployment seems inescapable.
Those statements were made before the end of the war, and they form a part of the picture that members of the Opposition have painted for the people of Australia. There is a general sense of insecurity throughout the nation, but if the truth were shown clearly to the people that fear would disappear. It must be made to disappear. Anybody who analyses the situation in Australia carefully and intelligently must lose all despondency about the future. I greatly regret that the threat of unemployment has been dragged out as a political bogy. It is nothing more than a bogy. It is sinful to foster soul-searing despair in the minds of the people. Everybody who attempts to do so for political purposes does a grave injustice to the nation. We must make it plain to the people that wealth is not in -mere money tokens. If this chamber were filled with golden sovereigns it would do nothing towards filling the stomach of one baby unless there were cows to milk. We must have goods. Goods are the wealth of Australia, and that wealth is dependent upon the productive capacity of the workers. They can produce wealth if they are given confidence that by increasing their production of coal or iron or other commodities to-day, they will not find themselves out of work to-morrow. The generations of people yet to come will still be asked to work as hard as the workers do to-day in order to meet the needs of this great country. The fundamental responsibility of the Government is to re-create in the minds of the Australian people a confidence in themselves, in the country and in their capacity to make Australia the happiest and most contented nation in the world.
I am delighted, as I am sure the whole nation is, to learn from His Excellency’s Speech of the proposed visit to Australia by Their Majesties, the King and the Queen. When Their Majesties’ visit was previously suggested there was a keen sense of disappointment in Western Australia because it was felt that Their Majesties’ itinerary should have included a longer stay in that State. We felt at that time, and we feel now, that the Boy al programme should include visits to more of the rural areas of this country. Western Australia relies upon its rural production. That State was an enormous contributor to the larders of England during the war and it is still an enormous contributor to them. I am sure Their Majesties would like to see more of the country that produces such an abundance, and more of the people who are responsible for that production. I suggest that there is possibly a greater sense of loyalty and real love for Their Majesties amongst rural people than will be perhaps found among the people in the more concentrated industrial areas where the attention of people is distracted in many ways. I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that because there is a greater production of wealth per capita in Western Australia than in any other State in the Commonwealth the people of that State deserve consideration. If regard is paid to that contention I am sure that His Majesty’s visit to our State will be of greater duration. Their Majesties can see big cities and industrial areas in England at any time, but I believe that they would be more interested in visiting the people outback, who are widely scattered, than in visiting vast concentrations of people in cities and towns.
I welcome .the proposal to establish a Ministry of National Development as, in fact, does everybody. The creation of such a ministry is long overdue. But before the Prime Minister goes too far with his plans for national development, he should consider the convening of a national convention to include representatives of every State and every political party. The relationship between the Commonwealth and the States is chaotic. I speak as one of many honorable members of this Parliament who have been members of a State parliament. Fifty years is a long time, and 50 years ago, when our Constitution was framed, nobody could have visualized the circumstances which, exist to-day. It is time that a different relationship was established between the Commonwealth and the States. I am not in favour of increasing the Commonwealth powers at the expense of the States, but we must have a reorganization. It is most unsatisfactory that the States should have to come to the Commonwealth, cap in hand, for money, like a little boy going to his father at the weekend for a couple of pennies to buy some marbles. The Commonwealth is responsible for national development to-day because the States cannot do anything on their own initiative. In addition to establishing the financial relationship of the Commonwealth and the States on a satisfactory basis, a convention such as I have suggested should discuss the differing laws of the Commonwealth and the States. Our laws are so greatly at variance that they are sometimes unworkable. I refer to laws such as those which apply to commerce and health. The position is such that the States must include in their legislation such phrases as “subject to the Commonwealth Constitution “. The Commonwealth, at almost any time, can interfere with the plans of the State. I should be prepared to move on the floor of the House for the calling of a national convention except that, as a private member, I could not do so, for it would involve financial commitments. However, I ask that the convention be called by the Prime Minister within the life of this Parliament. It will not be easy to convene and its deliberations would take some time, but it should be done. “Western Australia contains a large area, much of which is undeveloped. It offers enormous potentialities. Before any national development plans are made we should get down to greater detail of investigation than we have done in the past. It would be futile and wasteful merely to build upon the present structure. Although an enormous amount of investigational work has been carried out in the field of agriculture, we have touched only the fringe of our problems. We must get down to something more comprehensive. The greatest needs in Western Australia are a complete survey of soil conservation and utilization, and a hydrographic survey. That survey should be so comprehensive as to be completely outside the capacity of the State Government to carry it out. If the State Government were to say to the Commonwealth, “We want to undertake this survey. It will cost a lot of money “, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and the Commonwealth Grants Commission would come into the picture and probably say, in effect, “ Western Australia requires money to build and” maintain hospitals and schools, to recoup losses on the railways, and to undertake developmental work. We can let you have so much, and you must decide where to spend what you have.” The State must of necessity concentrate the expenditure of the limited funds available on its immediate needs. Its scope for undertaking wider and bigger work is very limited. I should like to see the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), in consultation with Western Australia, immediately inquire where assistance can be given in this direction. The biggest need to-day in Western Australia is water. Although Mundaring Weir is situated only a relatively few miles from Perth Town Hall, in the electorate of Moore, there are water problems within six miles of Perth as acute as there are 200 miles inland, where the rainfall is only eight inches a year. As honorable members probably know, the rainfall in Perth averages 30 inches to 40 inches a year. The only way that this problem can be overcome is by a hydrographic survey of the State, and particularly the northern portion of it. People in all parts of Western Australia are crying out for water. Resources are available. It is merely a matter of harnessing them and ascertaining the best ways to reticulate the water. This requires more in man-power and financial resources than Western Australia has at its disposal. I should like the Prime Minister, the Minister for Supply and Development, or the Treasurer, to indicate, even if only by a nod, that this matter will receive urgent attention. I realize, of course, that interjections are highly disorderly.
Unfortunately we are inclined at the present time to estimate the productive capacity of Australia in pounds, shillings and pence. I am rather fearful that the same outlook may prevail in any survey that may be made in connexion with a developmental plan. I believe that we should carry out a survey on the basis of quantity and quality. The matter of values can be adjusted subsequently, as is being done to-day. If honorable members were to read the report of the Government Statistician they would realize that Australia may be faced with a very serious problem in the not far distant future. Here is a country to which the world could legitimately look as a larder. We can supply a big proportion of the people of the world with foodstuffs. Yet because of the slow rate of primary production and development to-day we learn that if our population increase continues according to plan, within two ot three years we may have to import foodstuffs. God forbid that that should ever happen., This country should not have to poll on some other country that cannot feed itself. Therefore I stress that quantity production plus quality must be the basis of any production programme. With all deference to. the other States, I contend that Western Australia possesses the greatest potential source of development. I remind the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), and the Minister for Supply and Development that just as a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, so this nation cannot be any stronger, from a productive, economic or defence point of view, than the weakest section in this community or the’ weakest portion of the continent. Unless a greater degree of attention is devoted to Western Australian resources, and a more sympathetic outlook is given to that State’s requirements than in years gone by,, the outlook for the whole of Australia will not be so happy. I am not being parochial. I am endeavouring to look at this matter from the broadest point of view. Western Australia’s claims must be given an exceptionally careful consideration because m years gone by it has had to wander along on its own. I repeat that hydrographic and soil surveys should be undertaken without any further delay. In the meantime the Prime Minister should give consideration to the’ question of calling a conference of Commonwealth and States’ representatives in order to ‘set Australia’s ship of State on an even keel. I support the motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bryson) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Postmaster-General’s Department - E. A. Brettingham-Moore.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Department of Supply and Development purposes - Hobart, Tasmania.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 February 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500228_reps_19_206/>.