19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister yet’ in a position to make a statement, as requested by the honorable member for Perth, on the petrol position? If he is not, can he indicate to the House when he may be able to make that statement?
– I am not yet in a position to make the statement requested by the honorable member, but I hope to do so within the next day or two.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior the following questions: - 1. Is it a fact, as stated in the press, that certain subdivisions in section 2 of Forrest, Australian Capital Territory, were advertised for sale by blind auction, and that after being duly advertised, two of the most fancied subdivisional blocks were suddenly, and without notice, withdrawn from sale, five days prior to the date of sale, under overseas pressure? 2. Are there not set apart under the original Burley Griffin plan specially selected areas to meet the expanding needs of British and foreign representatives? 3. Have any of those areas been fully developed ?
– Two blocks in the Forrest subdivision were withdrawn from sale because the United Kingdom Government desired two building blocks in the Australian Capital Territory on which to erect homes for its officers. In those circumstances, I had no hesitation in withdrawing those two blocks from the advertisement, and allotting them to the United Kingdom Government. Certain areas have been retained for allotment to overseas governments for the purpose of ‘building residences and the like, but that provision does not mean that those governments have sufficient areas for the housing of their own officers. Most of the overseas representatives have had to go outside those areas in order to obtain accommodation for their officers, and that course is now being adopted by the United Kingdom Government.
– Oan the Postmaster-General give me any information about the building of the new General Post Office in Brisbane, which has been promised over a long period of years ? Has the department’s proposal to demolish the old parcels post office in Elizabeth-street, Brisbane, been abandoned? If it has, what is the reason for that decision ?
– The matter of rebuilding the General Post Office, Brisbane, or building a new post office for that city, is a hardy perennial. Successive
Postmasters-General have examined the proposal, and some have promised to do something, and others have said that they would not take any action in that matter.At present, I cannot see any prospect of constructing a new post office for Brisbane, in view of the enormous volume of other building work for the Postal Department which, in my view, should have priority because it is more urgent than is the erection of a General Post Office for Brisbane. The project in relation to the parcels post office in Elizabeth-street, Brisbane, will be proceeded with, and I hope that, before long, building operations will be commenced.
– Having regard to the acute shortage of farm labour throughout Australia, will the Minister for Immigration state whether everything possible is being done to attract immigrants with previous farm experience or who are willing to settle on the land? What proportion of migrants at present entering Australia is going on the land?
– I shall reply to the last part of the question first. The latest figures that I saw in the department showed that 4,000 displaced person migrants had taken up work on the land. Of those, 1,500 were engaged in seasonal occupations. That proportion is not as high as the Government would desire and special measures are being taken this year to obtain, if possible, a bigger proportion of immigrants experienced in and fitted for farm work. That is not as easy as it might appear as most countries have a similar problem, but we are doing what we can.
– Will the Minister for Health investigate the records and methods of the Katas-Kaiser Institute for Neuromuscular Rehabilitation, at California, United States of America? Is the Minister aware that Australian patients in a position to do so have travelled to America for treatment with beneficial results ? Will he investigate the possibility of setting up a similar clinic in Australia for the treatment of returned men and civilians suffering from various types of paralysis?
– The matters raised by the honorable member will be given full consideration.
– It was stated in the press this morning that the Premier of Queensland had announced that the Queensland Government intended :o make a free grant of a sum of money for the relief of immediate distress caused in the Mackay district by a disastrous cyclone recently, and that it was intended to ask the Federal Government to grant a subsidy on a £1 for £1 basis. Is the Prime Minister prepared to give favorable consideration to this request when it is received and will attention be given to increasing the supply of iron, wire and nails to Queensland ?
– My knowledge of this most unfortunate occurrence is confined to what 1 have read in the press. As far as I know, no application has yet been received from the Premier of Queensland. When it is received it will receive the earnest consideration of the Government, as will also the suggestion made by the honorable member in relation to materials.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any information on the latest developments regarding the tram strike in Melbourne?
– Just before the House met I was advised of the result of the meeting of the surburban railway guards held in Melbourne this morning. They had been directed by the State executive of the Australian Railways Union to stop work as from midnight last night for 24 hours. This morning they decided by 129 votes to 60 to resume work as from midnight to-night. It is expected by the railway authorities that the suburban railways will resume normal running from the first train to-morrow. The guards’ meeting expressed hostility to the action of the State executive in calling them on strike in view of the previous decision by ballot not to stop work. They are reported to have indicated that the executive should have consulted them and enabled them to have a ballot before calling a stoppage. Any further information that may come to hand during the day will be made available to the honorable member.
– In view of the reported intention of the Government to import coal from overseas in order to create a stock pile of coal in this country, will the Minister for Supply and Development indicate the intention of the Government with regard to the development of coal-fields in Australia, particularly of the enormous open-cut deposits at Blair Athol and Callide in Queensland? I ask the question particularly in view of the much publicized developmental plans of the Government.
– The importation of coal into Australia as a stop-gap measure is being arranged on behalf of the Government by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. The gap between production and demand, which at present is between 3.000,000 tons and 4,000,000 tons per annum, is so great that it can be substantially met quickly only by the importation of coal. However, the Australian demand for coal can be met only by the mining of additional coal in Australia. The Government has a great many plans for increasing the production of Australian-mined coal and it proposes to pursue them with the utmost vigour. It is considering a number of propositions at the present time. The honorable member may re3t, assured that only by the mining of additional coal in Australia can the grave lack of coal be overcome.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform the House whether the quantity of coal produced in Australia during the last three months was considerably less than the quantity produced during the corresponding part of last year ? If that be so, is the decrease of production due to the fact that the workers reposed more faith in the Chifley Government than they do in this Government? Does the Minister expect that production in the coal-fields of New South Wales will increase or decrease in the near future?
What does he intend to do to secure an increase of coal production?
– I have not in my mind the figures relating to coal production in this country during the last three months and the corresponding three months of last year, but I can tell the House that in 1949 .the amount of coal produced in Australia was approximately 4,000,000 tons less than the amount required to satisfy our needs. The Government is doing, and will continue to do, everything possible to ensure that the amount of coal that is produced in this country will come closer to meeting our demands for coal than has been the case hitherto.
– In view of the extreme shortage of public telephones in the Brisbane area, due chiefly to the inability of the Postal Department to obtain a sufficient number of cabinets in which to house these telephones, can the Postmaster-General advise the House what action is being taken to expedite the supply of such cabinets ?
– Although we have ample Cabinet material in this House, we have not a sufficient supply of telephone cabinets in Brisbane. The Postal Department is considering the construction of additional telephone cabinets and every effort is being made to alleviate the situation in the Brisbane area.
– Nearly three weeks ago I directed a question without notice to the Prime Minister concerning the decision of the private banks to oppose a claim by their employees for the same rates of pay and conditions of employment as are enjoyed by employees of the Commonwealth Bank. The right honorable gentleman then stated that he would refer the question to the Minister for Labour and National Service who would furnish the information desired. As I have received no information from either Minister, I now ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he is able to supply the information which was promised to me nearly three weeks ago?
– I am not aware that this matter has been brought to my notice. I regret that there “has been undue delay in the matter. I shall ascertain whether the desired information is being obtained by my department and I shall see that a reply is furnished to the honorable member speedily.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Transport. My question relates to the bad conditions of highways and other roads throughout New South Wales and Australia generally and is based on a statement made by the New South Wales Minister for Transport on Tuesday last that roads in New South Wales are rapidly breaking up. Will the Minister cause a survey to be made of the condition of all highways, trunk, main and feeder roads and roads of other classifications, in order to determine their present state of repair and also to provide the Parliament and his staff with desirable information before the Federal Aid Roads and Works Bill is introduced this year?
Mi’. BEALE. - I cannot promise to have a survey made along the lines requested by the honorable member because, primarily, the responsibility for the roads of each State is a matter for the State Government.. The Commonwealth has nothing to do with State roads, apart from minor roads such as strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property, beyond the fact that it makes a contribution of about £15,000,000 from various sources, to assist the States to repair and rebuild their roads. The Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act expires on the 30th June next and the Government has under consideration matters of policy in connexion with a new bill. Some of the matters mentioned by the honorable member will be taken into consideration in that connexion, but I cannot promise that any survey such as he “has requested will be made.
– by have - I wish to correct an answer that I gave to the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). In that answer I mentioned £15.000,000 as the contribution which, the Commonwealth had made towards the assistance of the States in the matter of roads. In case it may he thought that this is an annual figure, I desire to make it clear to the House that that is not so. The total amount that the Commonwealth has contributed to the States for roads is £21,339,000 over a period of three years. That sum includes the estimate for this year. The annual figure is between £8,500,000 and £9,000.000 based on the estimates for the year 1949-50.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that, when the defence forces erected large-scale temporary offices on parklands in Albert Park, Melbourne, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, promised the park trust and the local municipal councils that the offices would be vacated as soon as possible after the end of the war? Is he also aware that the Army has recently vacated some of these premises, but that instead of the office buildings being removed, the officers of . the Taxation Branch have now moved in and “ squatted “ in them ? Will the Minister order the Department of Taxation to vacate these premises immediately, and carry out the late Prime Minister’s promise to restore the parklands and playing fields to the people ?
– I understand that the honorable gentleman’s statement is correct, but I point out that while certain of the offices referred to may have been vacated by the Army, office accommodation is extraordinarily short in Victoria, and apparently the Taxation Branch required the office space that it has now occupied there. As Minister for the Interior I have no power to instruct any Commonwealth department other than my own about what offices it shall occupy or where these offices shall be.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing give me an indication of the percentage, or possibly the numbers, of imported prefabricated and pre-cut homes that will be allotted to Tasmania ?
– The number of imported houses to go to any particular State will be determined solely by the number of houses that that State desires to buy. The Commonwealth has no power in respect of the allocation of imported houses, but in that connexion is merely acting as the “honest broker” - in this instance its responsibility being to bring together all the States and governments requiring houses, and to attempt to coordinate and rationalize their housing requirements. If Tasmania requires houses it will undoubtedly do its utmost to obtain them.
– Last week, the Minister for Supply and Development announced special customs tariff concessions on imported prefabricated houses. I should like to know whether a similar concession is available on housing components. I have received from a firm in my own district a complaint that it is not being permitted to import, duty free, a number of electric meters which cannot be obtained in this country at present. The firm also states that electric conduit tubing is being allowed to enter this country, free of duty, while Australian firms manufacturing this product are unable to dispose of their goods. Will the Minister take this matter up with the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to having these apparent anomalies eliminated, and ensuring that, while building components in short supply in this country shall be free of duty, a protective tariff shall be retained on imported goods which compete with locally produced articles ?
– One of the first problems to which I directed my attention a couple of months ago was the importation of building components that could not be readily obtained in this country. With the collaboration of the Minister for Trade and Customs, arrangements were made whereby a wide range of these goods - including, I believe, all components in short supply - were classified for duty-free importation during 1950. I emphasize however that that action was not taken before a rapid, but, I consider, effective survey, had been made of local supplies. I believe that the system of duty-free entry is working very well. The honorable member is the first to raise any doubt about it, and if be will provide me with details of the matters to which he has referred, I shall have an investigation made.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by pointing out that a serious position has developed in various States, particularly New South Wales, because the State governments have ‘been unable to provide even emergency accommodation for families evicted from their homes. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House what action the Commonwealth proposes to take, in co-operation with the State governments, to overcome this difficulty?
– The question is one that should properly be directed to my colleague, the Minister for Works and Housing, who has already, not only in the House but also out of it, made a series of statements about what is being done in this matter.
– Is the Minister for Works and Housing aware that many ex-servicemen and other home seekers have applied for a certain type of imported prefabricated house which is suitable for Australian conditions and is said to be available in large numbers? Is it a fact that applicants for this type of home are unable to obtain from lending bodies the finance necessary for their purchase because the rules of those bodies do not permit funds to be advanced until a building has been erected or is in course of erection ? If so, will the Minister investigate means of overcoming the difficulties? Perhaps some form of government assistance could be granted.
– I believe I recognize the case of which the honorable gentleman speaks. There are, in New South Wales, at least two organizations called community advancement societies, one of which is composed of United Kingdom ex-servicemen. This body is attempting to import houses from Britain and is finding some difficulty in financing the project. I believe there are three parties concerned: the building society from whom persons desiring to purchase these homes are attempting to obtain finance; the State Government which guarantees advances by the building societies; and the Commonwealth Bank. If that is correct, I believe that present methods of financing home purchasers do present, difficulties to these people, but the matter comes within the authority of the State* Government and is essentially the concern of the New South Wales Government. I shall be glad to ascertain whether the Commonwealth Bank can assist in overcoming the difficulty. Ah the honorable member for Reid has brought either this matter or a very similar one to my notice the reply I have just given, will apply to his representations also.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Development taken Mr. Rowntree, the Chief Hydro-electric Engineer of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, away from his duties with that authority to engage in an inspection of the great Clarence River scheme? If so, how can that action be reconciled with the Government’s undertaking to prosecute the Snowy Mountains scheme with the utmost vigour? Is it not a fact that Mr. Rowntree is a key man in the authority whose position is second only to that of the commissioner, Mr. Hudson, and that the very construction of the Snowy Mountains scheme depends upon the progress of the researches for which he is responsible? Will the Minister stop taking the staff of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority away from their proper work?
– Mr. Rowntree’s correct designation is “ Chief Investigational and Designing Engineer “ of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Mr. Rowntree was good enough to accompany the Minister for Health, the Minister for Air and me to the Clarence River area during the last week-end. He was there on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. He went of his own accord and gave up his weekend willingly in order to inform the minds of three Federal Ministers on the great potentialities of the Clarence River scheme., All governments in Australia . are so short of senior technical officers that it will be completely impossible to confine the work of these officers to any one activity. On projects for which I am responsible in future, I propose to use officers of any other1 authority from which I can obtain leave to use them in such spare time as they may have. If this course is not followed we cannot possibly face the tremendous developmental task that confronts Australia in the years immediately ahead.
Mr. Rowntree, prior to joining the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, was a senior officer of the Works and Housing Department and had had previous experience of the Clarence River scheme, and so he was able to help Ministers to gain a general impression of the Great Clarence River project.
Mi-. BRYSON. - In view of the recent very rapid increase of the cost of living will the Treasurer state whether consideration has yet been given to making substantial increases in age, invalid and widows’ pensions and in war pensions? If consideration has not been gixen to this matter when can action by the Government in order to alleviate the troubles of these people be expected?
– It is not the practice to deal with matters of policy in replying to questions. That matter will be considered in due course.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether steps are being taken to produce in Australia the aircraft known as the Avro Tudor. If so, what stage has been reached in the production of such aircraft?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether his department’ has given permission to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to conduct flights between Melbourne and Bairnsdale? If so, does it mean that that company has been given the right to operate a service to Gippsland? If it does, why has the company been given preference over Trans-Australia Airlines, the government-owned organization?
– I have already stated that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been given permission to operate the service to which the honorable gentleman has referred. The reason for that action was that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has the best equipment for the operation of the service and can operate it most efficiently.
– It has been reported that portion of Oak-road which connects West Brunswick with Flemington is to be used for the purpose of extending the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in that locality. As that road is essential as a direct means of access to the City of Melbourne from its northern suburbs and is required also to obviate dangerous congestion on the Sydney-road and Elizabethstreet entrance to the city, will the Minister for the Interior take action to safeguard it and make use of other land which is available in the vicinity for extensions to the serum laboratories?
– I have no information regarding the matter that the honorable member has raised. I shall ascertain what the position is and give consideration to the representations that he has made.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that during military exercises conducted on the 5th March in the eastern Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia insufficient fire precautions were observed by the troops engaged, with the result that from 400 to 500 acres of grass and timber country was burnt? With respect to this matter generally, will he confer with his military advisers with a view to avoiding the holding of army manoeuvres in this area during the summer months, when the fire hazard to neighbouring farmers is at its highest ?
– Whilst representa- tions were made to the Department of the Army relating to the necessity for taking precautions during the latter portion of January when manoeuvres were held in the area that the honorable member has mentioned, I have no recollection that similar representations were made with respect to manoeuvres held there earlier this month. I am happy to know that no fires were caused as the result of military exercises held in that area in January. I shall make inquiries into the matter that the honorable member has raised. In reply to the second portion of the honorable member’s question I shall investigate the possibility of arranging for military manoeuvres to be held in that area at periods of the year other than during the summer months.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that although the personnel of the Commonwealth Military Forces in Western Australia were promised unit colour-patches almost two years ago, they have not yet received them ? Will tha Minister undertake to see that colour-patches are issued to them ;is soon as possible?
– Although I am not responsible for promises that were made over two years ago, I assure the honorable member that the issue of colourpatches will be considered during the discussions now taking place in connexion with the issue of new uniforms to army personnel.
– Does the Minister for the Army consider that the strength of the militia is satisfactory? If not, what steps does he propose to take to increase it?
– I do not consider that the rate of recruitment in the militia is anywhere near satisfactory. Methods of increasing that rate will be reviewed by myself and the members of the Military Board next week. It is hoped that before long there will be an acceptance of their obligation in that respect
Itv persons who should be serving.
– In the absence of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I ask the Prime Minister whether, as reported from Tokyo, Japan has decided not to buy wheat from British Commonwealth countries because those countries have restricted their purchases from Japan? Will Australia lose a market for about 400,000 bushels of wheat a year as the result of that decision? If the report is correct, what steps does the Government propose to take in order to protect the interests of Australian wheat-growers ?
– I shall refer that matter to my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In the meantime, I have great doubt about the accuracy of the report to which the honorable member has referred, because quite recently Australia sold 7,500,000 bushels of wheat to Japan, whilst at this very moment in London the International Wheat Federation is discussing the International Wheat Agreement. The particular problem being discussed relates to the terms and conditions upon which Germany and Japan may accede to the contract in which event those countries would become buyers and Australia would become a seller to them.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development a question relating to silting of the Swansea channel at the entrance to Lake Macquarie. It is believed that unless action is taken immediately to dredge the channel from the ocean to the lake’s entrance, it will become unnavigable by even small craft. Apart from protecting other interests concerned, the Department of Air is interested in keeping the channel open to boats at Rathmines air base. Will the right honorable gentleman consult with the Minister for Public Works in New South Wales with a view to initiating the necessary action in this matter ?
– I am not aware that the matter comes under the jurisdiction of any Commonwealth department, but I shall ascertain the facts and, if necessary, have appropriate action taken.
– Can the Minister for Health tell me when the proposed committee of inquiry into health matters in northern Australia will commence its investigations? Who will be the members of the committee, and what will be the scope of its inquiries ?
– The Prime Minister has written to the Premiers of the various States asking for their concurrence in the conduct of the inquiry and stating that an officer of the Department of Health will be sent to the States, as soon as their concurrence is received, in order to prepare a programme of investigation. The next step will be the appointment of the committee.
– Has the Minister for Health made any further advances to the medical profession, or have the doctors made any further advances to him, concerning his scheme for national health services ? In view of the denunciation of the scheme, is he satisfied that he has the support of a majority of members of the British Medical Association? If so, what does he propose to do about those members of the association who declare that they will remain outside the scheme ?
– I assure the honorable member that I am continuously in negotiation with the central council of the British Medical Association and the executive bodies of other federal organizations that are concerned with health matters. An arrangement was made with the central council of the British Medical Association to submit the various proposals to its State committees so that it could obtain their views and then discuss the full details of the scheme with me. The council is still awaiting the results of the discussions in the States, but I expect that it will foe informed of them within the next two weeks.
– Then the matter has not reached finality yet?
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is true that the British Medical Association in all Australian cities has recommended to its members that they increase their fees by 25 per cent., which would mean a charge of 12s. 6d. instead of 10s. 6d. a visit. If so, will the Minister refer this matter to an independent tribunal which would examine the incomes of doctors and decide whether the proposed increase was just?
– I am not aware of the proposal to which the honorable member has referred but, when I remember that the present fee of 10s. 6d. has remained unchanged for 50 years, whereas prices generally have increased tenfold in that time, I am not surprised that doctors are seeking an increased remuneration. In any case, the Commonwealth Government has no power to determine doctors’ feet. That is entirely a matter for the States as the honorable member knows perhaps better than I do.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories a question relating to the visit to Fiji of Sir Philip Manson-Bahr, former consulting physician to the Colonial Office, and world authority on tropical diseases, to carry out research on mosquito-borne and other tropical diseases. In conjunction with Sir Philip Manson-Bahr’s visit, Mr. Telford Work, of .the University of California, has prepared a colour film for use by health organizations throughout the world. Will the Minister immediately the work in Fiji of Sir Philip Manson-Bahr is completed, ask him to “visit the Australian dependent tropical ‘territories? Secondly, will he seek information on the results of Sir Philip’s research, for application in New Guinea and elsewhere? Thirdly, will hs try to obtain copies of films, when available, for use in conjunction with courses in tropical medicine in Australia?
– I shall have consideration given to the honorable member’s question.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the recent stoppages on the New South Wales coal-fields conform to the pattern of Communist-inspired rolling strikes ? Has the Department of Labour and National Service been supplied with the names of the instigators of those strikes? If so, have those persons any close subversive associations with the men who confess that they are developing the technique of the rolling strike in Australia?
– It might reasonably be assumed that the strikes mentioned by the honorable member conform to the pattern of Communist-inspired rolling strikes. Unfortunately I am not in possession of as much information concerning those developments as I should like to have, but I am doing what I can to keep myself fully informed on them. I assure the honorable member that the Government has the matter under very close consideration.
– In view of the urgent need for heavy and medium tractors by primary producers and for modern machinery by municipal councils, can the Minister for Supply and Development say whether the Government intends to maintain, or even increase, dollar expenditure for such vital equipment, much of which must be obtained from the United States of America?
– Projects for the manufacture of an extended range of such equipment in Australia are at various stages of advancement. Furthermore, an increasing range of equipment is becoming available from the United Kingdom. The Government gives every possible consideration to the allocation of dollars for the purchase of such parts of tractors and other machinery as can be obtained only from the United States of America. I assure the honorable member that it keeps in mind the need for all classes of tractors and other machinery.
– Will the Treasurer’s proposed simplified taxation system be in operation during the current financial year? Does the Government propose to introduce a flat rate of income tax?
– No decision has yet been reached in this complex matter. The special committee which was set up to examine the whole problem is at present carrying out its investigation.
– I should like the Prime Minister to tell me whether the Government has yet completed its plans for restoring the full value of the Australian £1. If so, will the right honorable gentleman make a statement in this House at an early date so that honorable members may debate it and pass judgment on the suitability, practicability and value of the plan that the right honorable gentleman has in mind for arresting the extraordinary rise of living costs since his Government took office ?
– I intend at a convenient date, when my material has been assembled, to instigate a debate on the important problem to which the honorable member has referred.
– Apropos of the intimation given by the Prime Minister that he hopes to make a statement with regard to putting more shillings into the £1, can he give the country an assurance that each shilling he puts back into the £1 will not be a shilling decrease of the basic wage?
– I must leave that matter to be argued by the honorable gentleman on a suitable occasion. It cannot be argued now. I am beginning to wonder whether honorable gentlemen opposite want the shillings to be put back into the £1 or whether they have succumbed entirely to the Communists.
– Will the Prime Minister, as a matter of public interest, issue monthly statements indicating to what degree value is being put back into the £1, or to what degree value has left the £1 ?
– I am unable to accept the honorable member’s suggestion. I merely retort that if the honorable member were to exercise some of his undoubted influence with the Communist party, production in Australia would increase greatly, and the purchasing power of money would also rise.
– On a point of order, is the Prime Minister justified in stating or insinuating that any honorable member of this House has influence with the Communist party?
– I am afraid that I cannot give a ruling on that point. I am unable to say what influence a private member may exercise in his own party, let alone in any other.
– Does the Prime Minister still believe that the lifting of subsidies was responsible for the failure of the States to prevent prices from rising? Is it a fact that the right honorable gentleman has advised Mr. Finnan that the Government will not reintroduce the subsidies paid by the Chifley Government prior to the lifting of prices control ?
– The honorable member is under some misapprehension about this matter. It was not said by me, or anybody else to my knowledge, that the lifting of the subsidies was the cause of rising prices. What we said about it was that the lifting of the subsidies in the sudden manner in which they were lifted, and at that time, introduced unnecessary disturbance into the price structure and was indeed a very provocative action. I may have more to say about that on another occasion. It is true that I have conveyed to the prices ministers, through Mr. Finnan, the decision that we are not prepared to employ subsidies as a general means of checking the cost of living, because we believe that in the present circumstances the institution of subsidies as a general principle - I am not referring to individual cases where special circumstances exist - would be a futile weapon to employ in dealing with a process the causes of which lie very much deeper than that.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether his Government has received a legacy from previous governments in the form of Jervis Bay, at which place the Department of the Interior, the Department of Health, the Department of Works and Housing, the Department of the Navy, the Treasury, the New South Wales Education Department and the Aborigines Protection Board have all functioned without any apparent result? Will the right honorable gentleman cause inquiries to be made regarding the possibility of Commonwealth officers being made available for the purpose of undertaking some executive work in that portion of the Australian Capital Territory?
– The honorable gentleman has given me such a fascinating account of this place that I am tempted to go there to behold these marvels for myself. In the meantime, I shall confer with my colleagues on the matter that he has raised.
– My question, which is addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, is prompted by a report that appeared recently in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The report stated that the wives of members of the Parliament should give their husbands good thick handkerchiefs and instruct them to cease coughing and sniffling. The report stated, further, that the Prime Minister and other members of the new Government ure not to blame for these noises, which come entirely from this side of the House. Do you agree tha.t all the noises come from this side of the House? In fairness to the members of the new Government and to their supporters who listen to the broadcasts of our proceedings, will you ascertain whether the broadcasting technicians can find ways and means of eliminating noises that are obnoxious to the listening public?
– I have not seen the report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph to which the honorable gentleman has referred, nor have I heard any reference made to it until now. From time to time I receive from persons who listen to the broadcasts of the proceedings of this House complaints regarding the untoward noises that arc heard over the air. The noises are broadcast because the microphones that are scattered, throughout the chamber are highly sensitive. There is an amplifier in the chair, above my head, and I sometimes overhear conversations that are not intended for my ears. Some of them make quite interesting listening, and it may be that they, also, are broadcast. If honorable members desire that the proceedings of the House shall be broadcast to the best advantage, they should maintain silence while an honorable member has the floor. Conversations among honorable members are quite often audible to me, and sometimes interjections are made that bear no relation to what is being said by the honorable member who is addressing the Chair. If honorable members wish it, I do not mind applying the Standing Orders fairly rigorously, but when that time comes, and the pressure is on, I hope there will be no complaints.
– Does the Minister for External Affairs still believe that Dr. Soekarno was a Japanese collaborator, and a Moscow-trained Communist? Is it a fact that the Minister has already congratulated Dr. Soekarno upon having been elected the first President of Indonesia?
– The first of the honorable member’s questions is one that should not be asked or answered in this House. As for the second question, any message sent to Dr. Soekarno was in accordance with the usages and customs between civilized nations.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is the province of the Minister to say what questions should or should not be asked in the House ?
-The Minister has the right to answer or to refuse to answer any question asked him. Once a question is asked, the opinion of the Minister as to whether or not it ought to be answered is just as good as anybody else’s.
– I ask the Minister to make a supplementary statement on foreign affairs to the House, and include what he said about Dr. Soekarno, when the honorable gentleman was sitting in Opposition.
Question not answered.
– When civil administration was restored in the territories of. Papua and New Guinea in 1945, it was stated on behalf of the Chifley Labour Government that the system of indentured native labour was to be abolished before the end of the next five years. As that period of five years expires towards the end of this year, will the Minister for External Affairs say whether the present Government intends to adhere to the decision of its predecessor?
– Yes. A general statement about labour conditions in the territories will be made in this House within the next two or three weeks.
– Was the Minister for External Affairs, or any officer of his department, responsible for the press statement that he proposed to visit the Philippines, but not for the purpose of discussing migration, trade or any other outstanding question ? If the statement is true, are we to assume that the Minister’s visit is to be nothing more than a pleasure jaunt?
– It is obvious that the honorable member did not read what was published in the newspapers. What I said was that my visit to the Philippines was not concerned with formal discussions about any pact or agreement.
– Can the Minister for Transport say whether arrangements are being completed for standardizing railway gauges in South Australia? If so, what does the Government propose to do about the Silverton Tramway Company’s line from the South Australian border to Broken Hill?
– Towards the end of the last session of the Eighteenth Parliament an agreement for the standardization of the South Australian railways was ratified by statute. The agreement provided that the Commonwealth should bear a substantial proportion of the cost of that work, and that the Australian Government should negotiate with the New South Wales Government for the ultimate acquisition of the Silverton tramway. Although negotiations have not yet formally commenced, I expect that the matter will be discussed with the Premier of New South Wales in the near future.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent, before the Address-in-Reply is adopted, Notice of Motion . No. 1 (Objection to Speaker’s Ruling) taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– I move -
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker given on Thursday, 9th March in relation to Notice of Motion No. 1, ruling such motion out of order as a result of the objection of the right honorable the Prime Minister, he disagreed with.
I refer the House to the ruling that was given by Mr. Speaker last Thursday, as published in the Votes and Proceedings of that day, as follows : -
Mr. Rosevear, proposing to move, pursuant to notice, That the Ruling of the Speaker - that the honorable member for Bennelong was in order in replying to a matter raised in a previous debate when speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House - be disagreed with -
Point of Order. - Mr. Menzies (Prime Minister) raised a Point of Order that the proposed Motion of Dissent was not in order as, in accordance with Standing Order No. 287, objection in the terms stated should have been taken on Tuesday last immediately following the Ruling, instead of yesterday.
Speaker’s Ruling. - Mr. Speaker ruled, that the proposed motion, as presented, was out of order.
The object of the procedure that I have adopted is to enable the House to hear an appeal, under the Standing Orders, from that ruling which I have read from the Votes and Proceedings of last Thursday. Briefly, I remind the House that on Tuesday, the 7th March, during the debate on. the motion for the adjournment of the House, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) referred to a statement that had been made in the House by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) earlier that evening during the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I shall not discuss the details, but I should like to mention certain matters in order that the House may have them clearly in mind whenconsidering its decision. While the honorable member for Bennelong was speaking, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr.Rosevear) raised a point of order. I shall not deal with that, because it is not before the House at the present time. You, Mr. Speaker, ruled that the remarks of the honorable member for Bennelong would be in order so long as he dealt with the facts. Subsequently, the honorable member for East Sydney, to whom the honorable member for Bennelong had replied, spoke on the motion for the adjournment, and suggested that the honorable member for Bennelong might deal with certain matters relative to charges that were made for electricity by the Sydney County Council. Objection was taken by an honorable member to the course of the debate, yet Mr. Speaker allowed the proceedings to continue. In the normal course, the matter would have ended at that point, because Standing Order 287, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred to in the discussion last Thursday, provides -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the House, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.
That is the first point that I make to the House. Had nothing more been said, the matter would have ended there, even though the honorable member for Bennelong and the honorable member for East Sydney had spoken, objection had been taken and Mr. Speaker had given a ruling. But the matter did not end at that point, and the subsequent events raise, in my opinion, a more important question than the correctness of the ruling that was given last Tuesday night. When the House resumed on the morning of Wednesday the 8th March, Mr. Speaker, before questions were called on, referred to the proceedings that had taken place on the motion for the adjournment on the previous evening. I shall read extracts from a document that I have in my hand only for the purpose of refreshing the memories of honorable members, but I think that it is substantially correct and that its accuracy will not be disputed. Mr. Speaker said -
Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, there occurred an incident on which I propose to give a ruling - in fact, two rulings. The honorable member forEast Sydney (Mr. Ward), towards the conclusion of his speech on the motion for the adoption for the Address-in-Reply, referred to the prices charged for electricity by the Sydney County Council. In doing so, he mentioned the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer).
Mr. Speaker then referred to a certain interview that he had had with the honorable member for Bennelong about the course of action that the honorable member should take. That discussion, may I say, was quite appropriate and proper. Then Mr. Speaker made other remarks, to which I shall refer in order to show that they were part and parcel, and, indeed, were made part and parcel of the same ruling that had been given, without reference to the standing orders, on the previous evening. Mr. Speaker sa icl -
When, in accordance with that permission, iiic honorable member began to speak, points of order were taken by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark). The honorable member tor Darling said that there was a standing order which prohibited any honorable member from discussing, on the motion for the adjournment, matters which had been the subject of debate during the current session.
At that point, Mr. Speaker was in control of the House. The business of the day had not been commenced, with the exception of the preliminary reading of prayers. Mr. Speaker proceeded -
For the information of the honorable member, may I tell him that there is no such standing order -
That is to say, Mr. ‘Speaker stated that there was no standing order bearing on the right of the honorable member for Bennelong to discuss the matter to which he had referred on the motion for the adjournment the previous evening. Mr. Speaker continued -
The only standing order which bears on it is number 266 which is as follows: - “No member shall allude to any debate of the same tension upon a question or bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in committee, except by the indulgence of the Rouse for personal explanations “.
When Mr. Speaker had read Standing Order 266, the honorable member for Darling interjected -
What does that mean?
Mr. Speaker replied
It means what I said last night.
The honorable member for Darling then said - _
It means what I said.
Mr. Speaker made a few observations, and then stated -
I shall in future rule that the honorable member attacked may explain his position on the motion for the adjournment of the House. That ruling will stand until it is upset by the House, and I shall not allow it to be challenged except by a motion to disagree with my ruling. [ submit to the judgment of the House that, at that stage, Mr. Speaker had given reasons in which he had elaborated his ruling of the previous night. Although the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Darling had clearly referred to Standing Order 266 on Tuesday night, it was not actually read to the House, but Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday morning, returned to the ruling, reiterated and re-affirmed it, and gave reasons for his decision, just as in a judicial capacity, a court gives a preliminary ruling one day, and returns to it the next day and gives reasons for its decision. For the first time in connexion with the incident on Tuesday night, when the honorable member for Bennelong was permitted to speak, Mr. Speaker referred to the standing order that he regarded as relevant.
After that, the second aspect of the incident on the Tuesday evening was also mentioned by Mr. Speaker, who indicated that the honorable member for Bennelong would be permitted to make a further statement, presumably on a subsequent motion for the adjournment, in reply to matters arising out of questions that had been asked by the honorable member for East Sydney on the motion for the adjournment on the previous night. Mr. Speaker said -
If the honorable member for Bennelong desires to make such a statement I shall allow him to do so.
Then the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) rose to order and argued the matter. He quoted Standing Orders 258, 259 and 260, which, he claimed, must be read in conjunction, and then said -
I ask for. your ruling, Mr. Speaker, upon the matter that has been raised this afternoon.
Then Mr. Speaker said -
On this issue, the honorable member for Bennelong was not misquoted. So far as my memory goes, he did not refer to electricity prices in Sydney, and, therefore, the standing order which has been cited does not apply.
Then Mr. Speaker repeated the statement of his intention to permit the honorable member for Bennelong to reply, if he so desired, to questions which the honorable member for East Sydney had asked. Then followed this important interruption by way of a point of order that was raised by the honorable member for Dalley -
I rise to order. I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether you are at the moment giving a ruling on a matter that happened last night, so as to give the House an opportunity to test your ruling.
Mr. Speaker’s reply was ;
If the honorable member for Dalley desires to test my ruling, he may submit a motion to disagree with it.
I submit that in substance what Mr. Speaker did at that moment was to reply in the affirmative to the honorable member for Dalley and to indicate to the House that his ruling on this matter covering the incident of the previous evening would be open for review by the House, but only if objection was taken by the House. He gave that opportunity to the honorable member for Dalley, and the honorable member for Dalley immediately said -
Very well. I desire to give notice that I shall move -
That this House disagrees with the ruling of Mr. Speaker in allowing the honorable member for Bennelong to reply to a previous debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
So the honorable member for Dalley, as we contended last Thursday, was invited to state his objection to the ruling. He did so and the whole of the proceedings, including the ruling of Mr. Speaker elaborating what had occurred and giving reasons for his ruling of the previous night, were before the House. If Mr. Speaker had, for a moment, regarded what the honorable member for Dalley had said as not covering the point at issue, I submit that he would have pointed that out immediately, and ruled the proposed motion out of order. Standing Order 287 is clearly worded. It states -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing. . . .
The Standing Orders are known perfectly well to Mr. Speaker. If there was any doubt about the matter it was within the competence of Mr. Speaker, indeed it was his duty, to rule there and then that the form of the proposed motion by the honorable member for Dalley was incor rect. Mr. Speaker did not suggest that for a moment. Instead, he said, “Is the motion in writing? “ The report of the subsequent proceedings reads -
– I shall put it in writing.
– Do so now.
Mr. Rosevear having submitted his objection to the ruling in writing,
– Standing Order 287 provides as follows: -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to the House, and debate theron forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.
The motion was then seconded at the request of Mr. Speaker, who said -
In accordance with Standing Order 287, the question will form the first item of business to-morrow and a vote will be taken.
He therefore accepted the statement by the honorable member for Dalley, and treated the substance of the objection as having been correctly stated. The honorable member for Dalley sat at the table, wrote out his objection, and handed it in. The matter came before the House on Thursday, when the Prime Minister took the point that I read to the House earlier, that the objection of the honorable member for Dalley was too late because it had been taken after the business on Wednesday had finished. That is perfectly correct. Everybody concedes that the matter would have been concluded if it had not been raised again on the initiative of Mr. Speaker on Thursday morning. In circumstances like that, when a ruling has been given on one day and a relevant standing order has not even been read to the House, it is competent for Mr. Speaker to revive the incident - that he clearly did so I have proved by what I have read to the House - give a ruling on the objection taken to it, give reasons for that ruling, and indicate how he proposed to act in the future. You did, sir, most frankly indicate the reasons for your decision. The only complaint that is made is that it should have been open to the honorable member for Dalley, and the opportunity should have been afforded to him on Thursday, to argue to the House that your ruling was wrong, and that it was an integral portion of the ruling that had been given on Wednesday. I submit that, if there is any doubt, these matters should be resolved in favour of the House having the right to review a ruling given by Mr. Speaker. What I have read shows clearly and unequivocally that Mr. Speaker took the whole incident into consideration. Understandably, he said that he would hear the honorable member for Bennelong again in reply to the honorable member for East Sydney. He again overruled the objection of the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Darling, gave his reasons, quoted the Standing Orders, and invited a challenge, which invitation was accepted by the honorable member for Dalley. Therefore, I submit that it was not in accordance with the principles of the Standing Orders, nor, indeed, of the just right of members of the House, to appeal against a decision by Mr. Speaker, for the point to be taken on the Thursday that the matter was ended once and for all on the Tuesday, and that the motion handed in by the honorable member for Dalley on Wednesday in the circumstances that I have described, was out of order. That is the short point. Mr. Speaker. I have not canvassed the correctness of the ruling that was challenged on Tuesday and that was to have been challenged afresh on Wednesday in the way that I have described. What I have dealt with is, I submit, a. more important matter. In any circumstances that might occur in any proceedings of the House, where Mr. Speaker intervenes afresh, reiterates, reaffirms, and redeclares a ruling, and invites and receives a challenge, I submit, that that ruling is a ruling as of that day. In the circumstances of this case. Mr. Speaker’s ruling was a ruling as of Wednesday. Everybody thought that, including Mr. Speaker himself, because he said that the motion would appear on the business paper for Thursday and that a vote upon it would be taken. One does not put anything to a vote unless the coast is clear and the green light has been given. Mr. Speaker gave the green light for the challenge on Wednesday, but unfortunately, he was over pursuaded by the arguments that he had to meet on Thursday. I submit that, the House should now insist that a private member’s right to put his views before the House has not been upheld and that, therefore, this motion should be agreed to.
– Is the motion seconded?
.- 1 second the motion, and I desire to speak to it at this stage because I fear that a motion may be submitted, “ That the question be now put “, thus terminating the debate as was done on another occasion. But for that fear, I should have seconded the motion merely formally. It gives me no pleasure to participate in this debate, Mr. Speaker, but I cannot let pass unchallenged your opinion that, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, an honorable member may revive a matter that had been debated earlier during a sitting. If your ruling is upheld, it will be possible for an honorable member who takes part in a debate, and upon whose words other honorable members place a wrong construction, to endeavour to justify himself on the motion for the adjournment of the House. If that is to be permitted, an honorable member who takes part in a debate will be able to reserve to himself the right, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, to resurrect the debate merely because another honorable member may have made a statement not necessarily reflecting on him, but disagreeing with his submissions.
– Order ! The honorable member is now arguing the merits of a motion that I ruled out of order on Thursday. 1 ask him to confine his remarks to the motion proposed by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt).
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, I shall do so. The scene moves on to the next day. I admit that those who disagreed with the ruling given by Mr. Speaker on Wednesday missed their opportunity by not raising objection to it at that stage. Mr. Speaker himself, however, revived the whole matter on the following day. When I read his own words honorable members will see that there cannot be the slightest doubt that he did so intentionally. When he revived the matter on the following day I asked him if he were giving a ruling and he replied in the affirmative. The opening words of his statement read -
Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, there occurred an incident o»i which I propose to give a ruling - in fact two rulings.
No matter what we may think politically about this matter, there can be no doubt in the minds of honorable members, unless the King’s English has lost its meaning, that Mr. Speaker’s words are capable of only one construction, namely, that he deliberately, and without provocation on the part of any honorable member, revived a ruling which he had given during the previous sitting. There can be no doubt about that.
Mr. Speaker having done that it was open to any honorable member to revive his right to challenge that ruling. That is precisely what is being done in the motion that is now before the Chair. I then rose to order and asked whether Mr. Speaker was giving a ruling on a matter that had jj risen during the previous evening, explaining that I did so in order to give the House an opportunity to test the ruling. To that fail- and straight question Mr. Speaker replied -
If the honorable member for Dalley desires to test my ruling he may submit a motion to disagree with it.
Nothing could be clearer than that. First, I asked Mr. Speaker whether he was reviving the matter that had arisen on the previous night, and he said that he was doing so. I then said that I proposed to disagree with his ruling, whereupon he invited me to submit my motion of disagreement in writing. It is perfectly clear that proper procedure was followed. I submitted my motion in writing and, in order to make the matter perfectly clear, I then read the tern:i3 of my motion and repeated them after I had written it out and submitted it. To my amazement on the next day Mr. Speaker said that he had not seen the motion. I submit that he should not require to see a motion which had already been read to him on two occasions. When J raised the point on Wednesday Mr. Speaker invited me to move dissent from his ruling, yet on the following day my motion was ruled out of order. It may be said in extenuation of Mr. Speaker’s ruling that he had given me an opportunity to alter the terms of my motion. It is true that he did so, but I point out to the House, that he has no authority to give any honorable member an opportunity to alter the terms of a motion that has been submitted. Authority to do so can be given only by the unanimous consent of the members of this House. I did not alter the terms of my motion because I considered that the form in which I had couched it constituted a reply to the very challenging attitude that had been taken by Mr. Speaker in reviving on Wednesday an incident that had taken place on the preceding day. I admit frankly that had no further statement on the matter been made by Mr. Speaker I should have been out of court in referring to it on Wednesday, but the fact that on that day Mr. Speaker himself revived the matter and referred to his ruling in regard to it, completely altered the position. Having accepted a motion proposed by me, I submit that it is no defence, when that motion comes before the House, for Mr. Speaker to say, “I did not see the motion until this moment “. As I have said, on two occasions I read the terms of my motion to the House. Mr. Speaker clearly understood its contents and I submit that he should have submitted it to the House for its decision.
Let me illustrate to honorable members, if I may, what is likely to occur if they support the ruling of Mr. Speaker. 1 say quite impersonally, because neither I nor any other honorable member has anything- to gain personally fi- om this matter, that in the proper conduct of the House much is to be gained by an elucidation of this issue at the present time. If we permit to go unchallenged Mr.. Speaker’s ruling that a matter debated earlier may be revived on the motion for the adjournment of the House, it must be obvious- to everybody-
– That is not the matter before the Chair at “the moment. The question before the Chair is whether the ruling which I gave last Thursday was right or wrong. The incident that occurred on Wednesday is not in any way involved.
– The motion before the Chair reads -
That the ruling of Mx. Speaker given on Thursday, 9th March, in relation to Notice of Motion No. 1 ruling such motion out of order as a result of the objection of the right honorable the Prime Minister - be disagreed with.
You, Mr. Speaker, may have some views on the matter, with which I am trying to deal as fairly as possible. Quite frankly, however, I cannot see how it is possible to deal with the matter unless some of the text of the motion that you ruled out of order, is taken into consideration. It is to the text of the motion and the ensuing argument that I am referring at the moment. Personally, it does not matter two hoots to me whether the House carries the motion or not. All that I am pointing out to the House is that if your decision is allowed to stand there can be-
– Order ! The honorable member is getting right off the track. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) confined himself to the question before the Chair. The honorable member is quite entitled to cite the terms of the motion that I ruled out of order, but he is not entitled to canvass the merits or demerits of the case that led to that motion being submitted by him.
– Then, quite frankly, I cannot see, for the life of me, what I may discuss. I do not willingly dissent from your ruling in the matter, Mr. Speaker, but I consider that you, as the Speaker, have as much to gain from having it cleared up as has any honorable member. For instance, I, as a private member,, may leave the chamber when the adjournment is moved, but you may be delayed for some hours listening, to an aggrieved honorable member addressing the House on something that had been said about him during a debate earlier in the day. That is all that I want to clear up. I could cite a number of apposite rulings by Speakers from the time that this House came into existence, including Speakers not of my political persuasion,.
– The honorable member might perhaps be disposed to cite his own ruling which is in favour of the one given by Mr. Speaker.
– I could do that.
– I refer to the ruling given by the honorable member on the 1st June, 1945, when he was Speaker.
– I have come to believe that I was too generous in my rulings as Speaker, and I shall appreciate anything that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) can say to support that view.
– When he was Speaker the honorable member for Dalley merely called out “Sit down”.
– What is the honorable member talking about?
– Order ! The honorable member for Dalley is addressing the House and must be allowed to continue in silence.
– I do not know that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is entirely responsible for what he said, so I shall overlook it.
– Order ! The honorable ‘member for Dalley is not entitled to cast reflections upon the honorable member for Mallee.
– Did the Chair hear the reflection that the honorable member for Mallee cast on me ?
– I did not hear it. If the honorable member takes exception to any reflection that has been made upon him, he has his remedy, but he is not entitled to say that the honorable member for Mallee is not responsible for his actions. All honorable members are to be regarded as being fully responsible for their actions.
– That surely can not be said about the honorable member for Mallee. Returning to the subject of my remarks, I am. not questioning your ruling, but it appears that, to a degree, discussion of that matter is to be circumscribed. I still wish to advise all honorable members what your ruling,, if upheld, can lead to. I do not know whether the Prime Minister can find a precedent for it. He says that he can. He may find such a. precedent during my term as Speaker, but if he does I can assure him that it was only my softness of heart that prompted it. That is all that I have to say within the bounds that you have prescribed for the debate, Mr. Speaker; but I have given my warning to .the [louse because you might be called, some night, to stay back to hear some honorable member reiterating something that was said in debate during the day. I feel bound to say that if the House upholds your ruling it will be the first time that such a ruling has been upheld in the history of this Parliament.
– The motion before the Chair is so frivolous that I do not propose to have the time of the House occupied indefinitely over it. The attempts made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) to canvass the merits of the- decision originally given are really rather whimsical, because if he will examine the records of the House he will discover that on the 1st June, 1945, during a debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, he gave a similar ruling upon what I may describe as the same grounds of good sense as those on which you, Mr. Speaker, based your ruling. But now that you have given the same ruling four and a half years later, it turns out most unfortunately to be a wrong one, or so the honorable gentleman says. That, however, is not the matter before the Chair. The point at issue is whether your most recent ruling is right. Several arguments have been advanced regarding that question. I shall make a very brief reference to the latest of these arguments, that put forward by the honorable member for Dalley, who challenged your right to permit him to amend the terms of his motion. A very arresting submission I found that to be, because I recall - and I have checked my recollection by reference to the noticepaper - that his motion was amended anyhow, .because the document that he wrote, read out and presented to the House, stated -
This House disagrees with the ruling of Mr. Speaker in allowing the honorable member for Bennelong to reply to a previous debate during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
That is not the document which was reproduced on the notice-paper, because the words that appeared on the noticepaper were -
That the ruling of the Speaker - that the honorable member for Bennelong was in order in replying to a matter raised in a previous debate when speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House - be disagreed with.
That is quite a different form of wording. !Now let me take the form of the document in which the honorable member himself raised the matter, because, after all, that is the operative document. “What is the ruling that he challenged? Not the double-barrelled ruling that you, Mr. Speaker, gave on the following day, to which I shall make reference in a moment. Oh no! The ruling that was challenged was the ruling of Mr. Speaker in allowing the honorable member for Bennelong to reply to a previous debate during the debate on the motion for the adjournment. When was that ruling given? Obviously, at the time that the incident occurred. The ruling is described as a ruling “ allowing the honorable member for Bennelong to continue his speech “. That ruling was not given on the following morning. . It is childish to contend that a ruling given on Thursday morning permits an honorable member to make a speech on Wednesday night. Nothing could be more nonsensical. If the honorable member for Dalley had written down that he disagreed with a. ruling given by you that, morning, Mr. Speaker, in which you had indicated how you would decide these matters in future, I could understand that.. But he did not do that, and so he must be judged by his own words, which were - . . the ruling of Mr. Speaker in allowing the honorable member for Bennelong to reply-
Having said that, I have in reality disposed of that matter because, in fact, Standing Order 2S7 makes it perfectly clear that any objection to the ruling or decision of Mr. Speaker must be taken at once. What was your ruling of the following day? It has been confused a little by the arguments which the House has heard. It is quite true that you came promptly to the business at 2.30 on the next afternoon. It is quite true also that you were not bound to do so, but I gathered that what you desired to do was to make clear to the House how you intended to deal with these matters as. and when, they might arise. So you *aid -
I propose to give a ruling - in fact, two rulings.
Now we shall study these two rulings, which appear to he quite clear. You, sir, said -
If any honorable member refers to another honorable member in debate, and the one referred to has already spoken - as the honorable member for Bennolong had in the incident of last night - and if the matter is not. of a personal nature so that he would be in order in defending himself in u personal explanation, I shall in future rule that the honorable member attacked may explain his position on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
That did not relate to the incident of the previous night. Mr. Speaker said, “I shall in future rule “.
That is the first point. Mr. Speaker went on to say -
The other point arises out of the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
He referred to the fact that the honorable member for East Sydney, in the course of his remarks, had addressed a series of questions to the honorable member for Bennelong, and then went on to say -
He invited the honorable member for Bennelong to reply to his questions in a statement on the adjournment motion to-night. If the honorable member for Bennelong desires to make such a statement I shall allow him to do so.
Those are the two rulings: On the first point, “I shall in future rule”; and on the second point, “ If the honorable member for Bennelong, on the adjournment to-night, desires to make a statement, I shall allow him to do so “. Now we are solemnly told, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling - that this motion was out of order because it challenged a ruling given on Tuesday night and was therefore out of time under the standing order - is completely frivolous. I should have enjoyed discussing the other questions because both are technical questions on the Standing Orders, not only so that I might have reminded the honorable member for Dalley about some of his flashes of wisdom in the past in his interpretation of the Standing Orders, but also because I should have been able to find even weightier authorities than that to uphold your ruling, Mr. Speaker. But that does nol arise. “Were you correct in ruling this particular motion out of order? The previous examination of the facts demonstates that you were unanswerably correct.
.- The question, which has been fairly well canvassed, is whether your ruling, Mr. Speaker, given on a previous day, should be disagreed with. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has described this as a frivolous motion, and has suggested that little time need be devoted to a consideration of the issues involved. The motion opens up much more than the right honorable gentleman has suggested. First, it opens up very great possibilities in the interpretation of the Standing Orders of this House. Secondly, it opens up the question of whether a Speaker or a government ought to rely upon what are pure technicalities in order to avoid a debate on a matter of prime importance. The right honorable gentleman said that he would be delighed to debate the major issue first arising, namely, whether a ruling which was given by Mr. Speaker in reply to a request by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) .was in order or was not in accordance with the Standing Orders. The House could have been given the opportunity to debate that issue had it not been for the pure technicality by which that debate was prevented.
The honorable member for Dalley has suggested that a negative vote on this matter will not settle the issue, which will remain open until it is decided by an ordinary vote, taken on a new point of order when similar circumstances arise. Evasive action to-day will not settle it. The decision that has to be made is whether a precedent which has been long established in the proceedings of the British Parliament and a practice which has been followed in this Parliament and for which provision has been made in the proposed new Standing Orders, shall be observed or whether Mr. Speaker may make new rules to justify his conduct of the business of this House. That prime issue cannot be finally decided by a negative vote to-day.
– That is not the subject of the debate.
– The Prime Minister made a number of suggestions about the relevancy and seriousness of this debate. The question which the honorable member for Dalley asked you, Mr.
Speaker, and his motion following your answer, that your ruling be disagreed with, were inextricably bound up with a previous debate and a prior incident. It is idle to say that it was a new matter. It was a continuation of the same matter. Further, by reason of the statement from the Chair, it was divided into two issues. First, there was the issue raised on’ the motion. Then there were the two rulings deliberately given, one of which was that if a future occasion arose such as had arisen then the honorable member for Bennelong could act in pursuance of certain rights that Mr. Speaker would accord to him. Two points were thus raised : First, an invitation was issued to an honorable member of this House to follow a certain course of action which some honorable members may argue is contrary to the Standing Ord rs; and secondly, two courses of action were indicated, either of which the honorable member for Dalley might take. He chose to move disagreement with the ruling given by the Chair in the case in which the honorable member for Bennelong was involved. That motion was perfectly in order. If there is anything wrong with it at all, it is astray to a very limited degree in relation to its wording. In its text, in its sense and in its general implication I cannot see how it can be held to be ultra vires Standing Order 287.
I say deliberately that this case involves a completely new procedure. A negative vote now will not settle the issue for the Government and will not lay down firm -practice for the future. I contend that the motion submitted by the honorable member for Dalley should have been accepted and a motion now to disagree with the ruling which put that motion out of court ought to be, and in the interest of the future conduct of this House must be, upheld.
– The motion of dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling, as it appears in the terms of the notice-paper, represents that ruling as denying to the Opposition the right to have canvassed in this House an important matter of principle. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that a little examination will show that the
Opposition has taken a purely technical objection and that there is no substance in the arguments they have advanced. The whole matter turns upon Standing Order 287, which ought to be read again. Before reading it, however, it is well to point out one misconception of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). He said that there was no right whatever in you, Mr. Speaker, to amend the notice of motion. That was not the point. What you said was that if the honorable member for Dalley sought leave to amend it the matter would be put to the House. I was one occupant of the treasury bench who said, “ Do you want leave to amend ? “ But the honorable member for Dalley, who pretends he is very rarely wrong refused that offer because he knew very well that he would have to concede that he was wrong in his notice of motion. Before you ruled him out of order, Mr. Speaker, and so as to give every opportunity to the Opposition to have the matter debated, you .asked the honorable member for Dalley whether he sought leave to amend the motion. The matter was then in the custody of the House. We indicated from the treasury bench that we were prepared to grant leave to the honorable member to do so but he refused to ask for it, because if such leave had been granted he would have had to admit that he had been mistaken in drafting his notice of motion. The honorable member’s notice of motion did not conform with Standing Order 287 in three particulars. That Standing Order reads -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made . . .
Three points involved in that Standing Order require examination: First, what was your ruling, Mr. Speaker; secondly, was objection taken to it at once; and thirdly, was that objection taken in writing? The notice of motion did not satisfy the Standing Order on any of those points. First, as the Prime Minister pointed out, you, Mr. Speaker, gave two rulings neither of which had any relation whatever to what had taken place on the preceding evening. The first ruling you gave was -
I shall in future rule that the honorable member attacked may explain his position on the motion for the adjournment nf the House.
It is true that you drew attention to what had happened on the preceding evening but you did so merely in order to cite an example of what could take place in the House* It is not for me to debate that point now, but as the Prime Minister has said, ample authority can be produced . in support of the ruling that you gave on the previous evening. The point that is now under consideration is whether the notice of motion appearing on to-day’s notice-paper is in order in the sense that it is properly taken. The notice of objection that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr, Rosevear) gave in writing read -
That this House disagrees with the ruling of Mr. Speaker in allowing the honorable member for Bennelong to reply to a previous debate during a debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
That event had passed, and that objection did not relate to the first ruling that you gave, Mr. Speaker, namely, that in future you would rule that any honorable member who had been attacked would be in order in explaining his position. The honorable member for Dalley has said tha t this is merely a technicality. He occupied the chair for many years and we used to believe that when he gave certain rulings he understood them fully. However, it is quite obvious that even now he does not understand what the Standing Orders mean because the relevant Standing Order required, as he should have known, that he take objection to a ruling of the Chair at once and in writing. I repeat that your first ruling, Mr. Speaker, was -
I shall in future rule that the honorable member attacked may explain his position on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
In giving that ruling you were laying down a rule in respect of the future conduct of the business of the House. Then the honorable member for Dalley, who was supposed to have understood the Standing Orders fully during the six years that he occupied the chair, took objection to that ruling in the following terms : -
That this House disagrees with the ruling of Mr. Speaker in allowing the honorable member for Bennelong to reply to a previous debate during a debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
But, Mr. Speaker, you gave that ruling not in .respect of any objection immediately arising but in respect of the future conduct of the business of the House ; and, in doing so, you merely cited the event of the previous evening as an example of what that ruling could cover. That is clear and obvious.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, you invited the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) to reply on the motion to adjourn the House to a statement that had been made in the preceding debate by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), after the honorable member for Bennelong had spoken in that debate. The Chair gave to Opposition members an equal right to indulge the same privilege. The second ruling was that the Chair would give the honorable member for Bennelong the right to reply to the statement to the honorable member for East Sydney. It is clear that that ruling related first to a future happening and secondly to a specific matter that could happen later the same evening. The honorable member for Dalley was under an obligation to give notice of objection to that ruling in accordance with the relevant standing order if he desired to challenge it. It is easy to say that that is merely raising a technicality. The Standing Orders must be observed. Time and again when the honorable member occupied the chair he chided members of the then Opposition with not knowing the Standing Orders. This particular standing order is clear enough, and it is obvious that the honorable member even now doe3 not understand what it means. In order that the point may sink in, I shall again read Standing Order 287. It reads -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision’ of the Speaker, such objection must he taken at once, and in writing, and motion made . . .
I have read the two rulings that you gave, Mr. Speaker. NO objection was taken to either of them in accordance with that standing order. It has been said that you invited the honorable member for Dalley to place his objection on the notice-paper and that when it came under consideration on the following morning you ruled that it was out of order. It does not follow that because an honorable mom bor gives notice of an objection in writing no other honorable member can lake objection to it on the ground that it is out of order. That is precisely what happened in this instance. Time and time again honorable members have given notice of objection to Mr. Speaker’s ruling and when such matters have come under consideration other honorable members have submitted that the motion was out of order. Secondly, it is well known that Mr. Speaker does not actually see terms of motions of which notice is given in that way. However, although the honorable member for Dalley declined to amend his motion he had altered it previously. I invite the House to note that the motion of which notice appeared on the notice-paper on Thursday, the 9th March, read -
That the ruling of the Speaker - that the honorable member for Bennelong was in order in replying to a matter raised in a previous debate when speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House - be disagreed with.
I now ask honorable members to compare that motion with the actual document that the honorable member for Dalley signed. The two do not bear any resemblance whatever. The objection taken by the Prime Minister was sound. It was proper that it should he taken in order to make it clear that the obligation rests upon honorable members to know what are their duties and rights under the Standing Orders to exercise those rights and discharge those duties accordingly in the conduct of the business of the House. In this instance your ruling, Mr. Speaker, was obviously correct because, first, the notice of motion even as it appeared on the notice-paper of the 9th March did not, for the reasons I have advanced, challenge either of the rulings which you gave; and, secondly, no objection was taken in writing in accordance with the relevant Standing Order. Any objection to your ruling is bad unless it be taken at once and in writing and in accordance with the motion of which notice appears on the notice-paper. I repeat that the notice of motion appearing on the notice-paper of the 9th March was based on an objection which could not be supported, or established, by any objection that was made in writing. Thirdly, the notice of motion appearing on the notice-paper was not in accordance with the notice of objection which the honorable member signed. Therefore, no objection was taken against your ruling in accordance with the Standing Orders.
Of course, the members of the Opposition wish to convey the impression to the public - the suggestion was actually made - that Mr. Speaker dealt with this matter in an arbitrary way, and that this is an attempt by the Government to prevent free discussion in this House. The answer to that allegation is clear. It might be argued that considerable indulgence might be shown towards a new member who might not be conversant with the .Standing Orders, but in this instance an honorable member who previously occupied the chair for a considerable period has failed to observe them. Ear from attempting to stifle debate, Mr. Speaker, you gave the opportunity to the honorable member for Dalley to ask for leave to amend his notice of motion, but he refused to accept that opportunity. I only have to point out that-
– It is not rubbish. This House is able at all times to give leave to any honorable member-
– That is true.
– That is my point. The honorable member was asked whether he wanted leave to amend the notice of motion. I was one of those who asked the question. But he said that he did not want leave. He relied upon his belief that the notice of motion was in accordance with the Standing Orders. For the reasons that have been advanced by the Prime Minister and supported by me, the notice of motion clearly was not in accordance with the Standing Orders. Therefore, the honorable member for Dalley has no cause for complaint.
.- I shall not delay the House by canvassing the arguments that have been advanced already by members of the Opposition, because I am perfectly satisfied with their capacity to state the technical position in relation to the Standing Orders. Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) said that they could cite authorities in support of their case, but it is interesting to note that they did not do so.
– They would not have been in order in citing authorities in this debate.
– In any case, am 1 correct in saying that they did not cite any authorities?
– Yes ; but I repeat that they would not have been in order in doing so.
– I propose to discuss, not the incident that gave rise to the notice of motion, but the method by which it wa3 disposed of by you, Mr. Speaker, and the Government. One incident that occurred has not been mentioned so far during this debate. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) asked for leave to make a statement on the day on which the proposed motion was to come before the House. I objected, and you ruled that my objection was fatal to the Minister’s request. Soon after that, I was asked by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) to permit the Minister to make his statement by withdrawing my objection. The honorable member told me that he had been assured by the Prime Minister that the motion could proceed if the Minister for Immigration were allowed to make his statement in the House and that the debate could continue, if necessary, until after the luncheon suspension. Therefore, it is obvious that the Government had no intention r lion of raising any points of order in relation to the notice of motion. Furthermore. I assumed that you. Mr. Speaker, had no intention of ruling it out of order. because yon had not acted in relation to the matter.
– I cannot give a ruling until a point of order is taken. I ha vp no more knowledge of the Government’s intentions at any time than I have of the honorable member’s intentions.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I recall occasions in this House when Speakers have refused te accept motions because they were out of order, without any points of order having been raised in relation to them. I assume that it is a part of the duty of Mr.
Speaker to ensure that motions that are presented to the House are in order.
– Well, that is my opinion cf the proper procedure. Other Speakers have taken that attitude and have ruled cut of order motions that have been submitted to them. When a suggestion was made that there must have been some agreement between yourself and the Prime Minister, you immediately rejected it.
– That matter is not under discussion now.
– The disposal of the notice of motion is under discussion. It was disposed of as the result of a ruling given by you upon a point of order that had been raised by the Prime Minister (Mr. M’enzies). I contend that anything that refers to the method by which the notice of motion was disposed of is of interest to this House and that discussion of it should be allowed to proceed. However, the final decision rests with you, Mr. Speaker. You said that there had been no collusion between yourself and the Prime Minister, but the House had before it evidence that led some honorable members to suspect that there had been, such collusion. That evidence consisted in the fact that originally the Prime Minister had every intention of allowing discussion upon the motion to proceed and the fact that, according to you own statement, you had no intention of ruling it out of order. As a result, the arrangement, in which I concurred by “withdrawing my objection to the making of a. statement by the Minister for Immigration, was made with the honorable member for Dalley. Evidently, the Prime Minister double-crossed the honorable member for Dalley by revoking the agreement that he had made and raising a point of order in relation to the motion, which you upheld. Whatever technical arguments may bc developed on this subject, I believe that every fair-minded member of this House and of the public will agree that the motion was not disposed of satisfactorily and that there was some evidence of sharp dealing in its disposal. I had hoped that you would have permitted a vote to take place upon the motion in order to resolve all such doubts. Having expressed my view of what happened before you gave your ruling last Thursday, I leave the matter in the hands of the House.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– By whom?
– By the Prime Minister, no less. You may have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister stated during his speech that, on a certain date which he mentioned, I, as Speaker at the time, had given a ruling exactly similar to the ruling that you have given. Strangely enough, although the right honorable gentleman mentioned the date, he did not quote from Hansard. I now produce the Hansard report for the date mentioned by the Prime Minister and say that the right honorable gentleman’s statement this afternoon was completely untrue and without a shadow of a foundation. I object very strongly to the Leader of this House stating, without foundation, that I gave a ruling similar to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I lay on the table of the House a copy of Hansard for the relevant date so that honorable members may peruse it.
– It is obvious that this debate has taken a turn completely different from that which was intended on Tuesday night last week, when the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) raised a point of order concerning your ruling relating to the right of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) to reply to certain charges. The debate has developed into an attempt by the Opposition to save the face of the ex-Speaker of this House, who ought to have known that he should have ‘taken exception .to the ruling that was given on Tuesday night immediately and in writing. He failed to make a proper objection at the time, but came into this chamber twelve hours later, after thinking the matter over, and tried to save his face by producing the written objection that he should have submitted at 11 o’clock on the previousnight. The sole objective of the Opposition now is to try to restore the vanished prestige of the honorable member for Dalley. The motion proposed by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) makes no effort to deal with the subject of future rulings by you, Mr. Speaker, concerning the right of honorable members who are attacked to reply to their attackers at a later stage. The motion is as follows: -
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker given on Thursday, Oth March, in. relation to Notice of Motion No. 1, ruling such motion out of order as a result of the objection of the Eight Honorable the Prime Minister - be disagreed with.
That has nothing whatever to do with the ruling concerning future procedure that was given by you. It merely represents an effort to rescue the honorable member for Dalley. And how badly he needs somebody to come to his rescue! The stand that has been taken by the honorable member is completely at odds with the Standing Orders, which he administered in this place for many years. Now, in order to try to put the honorable gentleman “ on side “, honorable members opposite talk about double-crossing, sharp practices, and untrue statements by the Prime Minister, all of which is merely a smoke-screen intended to cloud the issue. The real issue is whether the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for East Sydney knew the Standing Orders on Tuesday night and failed to do then what the Standing Orders would have entitled them to do. As the Prime Minister said in his concluding remarks, this motion is completely frivolous. Its objectives are clear. The honorable member for Dalley needed some one to restore his vanishing prestige, and for that task he could have chosen no one more able than the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), but the attempt has not been successful, and the question of whether the ruling given last Tuesday night was correct, remains unanswered and cannot be answered whatever the fate of this motion may be. I submit that the motion should be defeated.
.- I should like to state briefly the case history of the matter now under review “because there has ‘been some distortion of the facts. The original ruling, given on Tuesday night, that the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) was entitled to continue his remarks, was challenged immediately by a former Speaker of this House, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and myself, in the firm belief that it was incorrect. However, neither of us took the matter any further on that occasion but, on the following morning, the matter was revived voluntarily, by you, Mr. Speaker, and you gave two further rulings. You said, on that occasion -
Last night . . . there occurred an incident on which I propose to give a ruling. . . .
Those are your own words, and they indicate clearly that you proposed to give a ruling on the incident of the night before and not on any other issue that had arisen. “When you had given your ruling, you were questioned by the honorable member for Dalley, and you stated that the honorable member for Dalley cou’ld challenge your ruling if he wished to do so. There can be no doubt, I submit, that that was what yon meant. The honorable member for Dalley did challenge your ruling, and drew attention to the incorrectness of the procedure that you proposed, to allow, and had allowed on the previous night when you permitted the honorable member for Bennelong to raise, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, a matter which had already been the subject of debate by the House. Standing Order 266 states clearly that no honorable member may resurrect a debate in that manner. The honorable member for Dalley stated clearly in his motion just what he was challenging and I do not think there -was any doubt in your mind, Mr. Speaker, or in the mind of any other honorable member, about the issue that was being raised. You offered no objection to the motion of dissent at the time notice was given of it. The matter is of the greatest importance and I consider that the action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in challenging the terms of the motion was frivolous and mere straw-splitting in an endeavour to prevent the House from expressing its opinion on a ruling which many hon.or.able members consider to be unsound. Such tactics constitute a serious interference with the privileges and rights of honorable members. The only real issue involved in this matter is whether or not your ruling given on the Tuesday night, that the honorable member for Bennelong was in order, was correct. You yourself chose to revive that question on the following day when you gave what was virtually an .explanation of the issue before the House. It was unfair and unjust that advantage should have been taken of a technicality to prevent a full discussion of the matter. Honorable members are entitled to expect a sound interpretation of the Standing Orders and not one of doubtful validity. If honorable members are ito be prevented from challenging rulings by mere technicalities, Rafferty^ rules will prevail.
– Order ! The honorable member may not use that term. He must withdraw it.
– It is a term that has been used by yourself, Mr. Speaker.
– That does not matter. I was “expelled from the House for using it, and if the honorable member does not withdraw and apologize he will be named.
– I withdraw and apologize out of deference to the Chair. I have occupied the chair, and I respect its decisions. I believe, however, that your decision, Mr. Speaker, to rule out of order the motion moved last week by the honorable member for Dalley challenges the rights and privileges of honorable members. I believe also that those rights and privileges have “been infringed by your wrongful action in upholding a mere technical point. The honorable member for Dalley could not have conveyed his intentions more clearly than he did in the motion that you ruled out of order.
– The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) became somewhat heated about this matter. The issue involves a very important privilege. On Wednesday last, you, Mr. Speaker, stated what you proposed to do in the future in certain circumstances.
– This motion has nothing to do with that.
– The PostmasterGeneral made several incorrect statements. I cannot correct them now, but clearly the Minister did not know what he was talking about. Quite apart from the technicality which precluded discussion of this matter last week, the point that I raised on that occasion was that when the honorable member for Dalley gave written notification of his intention to dissent from your ruling, it was quite clear that you intended to accept that motion and permit it to be debated on the following day. You indicated that the item would be the first on Thursday’s business paper and that a vote would be taken on it. With respect, it is not for you, Mr. .Speaker, to determine the order of business. When I mentioned last week that you had probably discussed the matter with the Prime Minister, I did so in no disparagement of yourself, but because I believed that you would not have informed the House that it would be the first item of business the next day unless you had bad the Prime Minister’s assurance on that point. The only person to determine the order of business for this House is the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government.
The Prime Minister stated when this matter was previously before us that your decision on Standing Order 287 was only an indication of your mind and of how you would rule in the future. One of the things that the Prime Minister has overlooked, although I do not suggest that he has done so deliberately, is that Standing Order 287 deals not only with rulings but also with decisions, for it reads, in part -
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker.
Therefore, an objection may be taken to a decision of the Speaker. The Prime Minister and also the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) lightly overlooked that point when they dealt with Standing Order 287. It is not necessary, under that Standing Order, for you, Mr. Speaker, to give a ruling. You may make a decision and you did so when you indicated how you would rule in the future. My knowledge of Standing Orders has been gained over a considerable time, and I consider that a disagreement can occur upon a ruling or upon a decision. I say with great respect, Mr. Speaker, that you had no right to inform the House on your own authority of the order of business for the next day. I do not suggest collusion between you and the Prime Minister. I only state that it is the right of the Prime Minister to indicate the order of business. I have joined in this debate because a very important matter of principle has been raised by your decision. If that decision is to stand, it would be wise for the Government to reconsider the Standing Orders. Otherwise honorable members of this House might be kept here all night, after the adjournment motion had been moved, while some honorable gentlemen rehashed the business of the day. I am completely satisfied, Mr. Speaker, that you considered the matter in the light of the fact that a ruling you had made that day had been challenged. So you said, as it were, “ Let the matter be brought forward to-morrow “. You emphasized the importance of it by indicating that it should be the first business on the following day. Yet when the House assembled the next day, although I had not made the faintest reflection upon your honesty and integrity in the matter, the Prime Minister rose in hia place and took the technical point that, because the matter referred to an incident that had occurred the previous night it could not be dealt with the next day on the ground that objection should have been taken at once on the previous night. I am glad that this matter has been discussed because of the importance of the principle at stake. Your ruling, if it stands, will completely upset the customs and practices of this House.
.- The matter raised by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) this afternoon was based upon arguments that you, Mr. Speaker, had revived your decision of the previous night. I remind the right honorable gentleman that he should know that you cannot revive a decision of the previous night. You could not give another opportunity on the next day of any honorable member to challenge your ruling of the previous night. Therefore, the chief argument of the right honorable member is wrongly based. Neither could you, Mr. Speaker, give the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) the right to revise his motion without the leave of the House, any more than you could re-create an opportunity to challenge a decision given the previous night. Therefore, the case of the right honorable member for Barton breaks down. The right honorable member should know, because of his legal training, that it is not necessary for Mr. Speaker to give a ruling when a notice of motion is given. In fact, Mr. Speaker cannot give a ruling until a point of order has been taken. A judge does not give a decision on a point of law in a case before him until the particular point is submitted. When the Prime Minister submitted his ease you gave your decision, and I submit that you had no alternative but to give a decision according to the Standing Orders. Your decision, as far as the ruling was concerned, was not challenged when it was given and you had no alternative, therefore, but to rule the motion of the honorable member for Dalley out of order.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said that a negative vote on this occasion would not necessarily finalize the matter. That is an admission that the ruling you gave was correct. It does not dispose of the matter because you might give a subsequent decision to the same effect which would be challenged. The honorable member did not argue that your ruling was incorrect, but he has said that because you did not give honorable members an opportunity to discuss the matter then -you could not finalize it. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has said that it was quite clear in your mind, Mr. Speaker, that you intended that the matter should be debated next morning. If that was so, I submit that it was because you, as Speaker, considered that the Standing Orders would be observed by the Government. Dining the period of office of the last Government, notices of motion expressing dissent from rulings by the Chair remained on the notice-paper for months before the House reached a decision upon them, but you know now, Mr. Speaker, that the Government will observe the Standing Orders that govern our procedure and that if a motion of dissent from a ruling is proposed it will be debated and disposed of the following morning. That procedure was not followed when objection was taken to rulings by the Chair during the period of office of the last government.
Standing Order 287 refers to a “ ruling . or decision “. The ruling or decision that you gave last Wednesday, Mr. Speaker, was not challenged by the honorable member for Dalley. In the motion that he submitted he sought to challenge the ruling that you gave on the previous evening, but the opportunity to do that had then passed. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) said that we should not permit a technicality to prevent the House from discussing the rulings. I remind the honorable gentleman that when members of the present Government parties sought to challenge rulings by the Chair during the lifetime of the Chifley Government they were gibed at by some honorable gentlemen opposite, who said that they had missed the bus. The honorable member for Dalley missed the bus when he made an error of judgment in seeking to challenge the ruling that was given on Tuesday last and not that which was given on Wednesday. The right honorable member for Barton has challenged the ruling that was given on Thursday morning upon the point of order that was raised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Under the Standing Orders, Mr. Speaker, you had no alternative to upholding the Prime Minister’s submission, and there is no substance in the argument that has been advanced by the right honorable member for Barton. The honorable member for Dalley missed the bus and he will have to await another opportunity to raise the point that he desires to discuss.
– New members of the Parliament can learn much from debates upon the interpretations that are to be placed upon the Standing Orders of the House. When the ruling that was given last Tuesday was revived on Wednesday, I hoped to hear something that would clarify my mind upon the meaning of the Standing Orders. I listened attentively to what you said then, Mr. Speaker, because, as a new member, I look to the Chair for guidance upon matters of procedure. When you indicated clearly in your opening remarks that you proposed to give a ruling, I was keenly interested because I believed that your ruling would help new members to determine what action they should take if they desired to rebut remarks that had been made about them in the course of debate. It is very important that honorable members should have- a’ knowledge of the procedure that should he followed on such occasions. I listened with great interest to your ruling and then to the discussion that ensued. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear’) asked what appeared to me, from my previous experience of debates of this kind, to be a very pertinent question. He said. -
I rise to order. I desire to know Mr. Speaker, whether you are at the moment giving a ruling on a matter that happened last night, so as to give the House an opportunity to test your ruling.
The honorable gentleman, in effect, asked two questions. He asked, first, whether you were giving a ruling ; and, secondly, if so, whether it referred to an incident of the previous evening. I was aware at that time of the provisions of Standing Order 287 because from the observations that were made on Tuesday night it. seemed to me that at some stage that Standing Order would receive consideration by you, Mr. Speaker, and by the House. The honorable member for Dalley having asked that question, I awaited the answer to it with great interest. You said -
If the honorable member for Dalley desires to test my ruling, he may submit a motion to disagree with it.
The honorable member for Dalley asked whether you were at that moment giving a ruling upon something that had occurred the previous evening, and your reply to the question was of great importance. You made the reply that I have just quoted. The honorable member for Dalley then said -
Very well. I desire to give notice that T shall more -
That this House disagrees with the ruling of Mr. Speaker in allowing the honorable member for Bennelong to reply to a previous debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
The honorable gentleman gave notice orally of his intention to submit that motion. I was surprised to hear theMinister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) direct attention to the difference between the written motion that was submitted by the honorable member for Dalley and the motion that appeared upon the notice-paper. That point was not raised by the Prime Minister in support of the point of order that be submitted when this matter wasdebated last Thursday. You, Mr.. Speaker, then asked the honorable member for Dalley whether the motion was in writing. He said that he would put it in writing, and you invited him to do so then. The honorable member for Dalley, having submitted his objection in writing, you quoted Standing Order 287. In my opinion, this is where the case of the Government fails. There was no doubt that you had received from the honorablemember for Dalley notice of a motion, and you quoted Standing Order 287 in full. Then, so as to put the matter in order, you asked whether there was a seconder. When the motion was seconded, you said that, in accordance with Standing Order 287, the motion would be the first item- discussed next day, and a vote would be taken on it. The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) said that a judge could not give a decision until a case had been presented. In point of fact, a case had been presented to you. You were in the position of a judge giving a decision, and your decision was that the motion would be listed for discussion next day. If a judge gave a decision on Wednesday, and an attempt was made by a barrister on Thursday morning to canvass that decision, he would be promptly informed that the decision, having been given, must stand. It seems to me that the action which the Prime Minister took on Thursday morning came very close to canvassing your decision of the previous day, and I believe it to be wrong that the decision of the Speaker of this House, or of the President of the Senate, should be canvassed in that way. If that is how the business of the House is to be conducted it may become necessary to have Standing Order 287 examined and interpreted by an eminent barrister. If this motion is defeated, the effect will be to vitiate an undertaking given to the
House from the Chair, and that would, create a dangerous precedent. Even though some of us may not agree with the decisions of Mr. Speaker, we should remember that he was elected to his position by the unanimous vote of the House, and his decisions, when given, should be respected. Therefore, I urge honorable members to support the motion so as to ensure respect for decisions from the Chair.
– I think that attention should be drawn to a common fallacy which seems to underlie the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). They all tried to take the point that the consideration of a substantive motion was blocked by the raising of a mere technicality, and that the responsibility for this lay with the Government.
The truth is that the fault lay with the Opposition, and responsibility for failing ,to remedy the technical defect was doubly the fault of the Opposition. As the honorable member for East Sydney pointed out, the Government, at the initiation of the debate on Wednesday, intended to proceed, but in order to clear the decks it first had to get the motion in order, the motion as moved by the honorable member for Dalley being out of order for technical reasons. When that point was raised you, from the Chair, suggested to the honorable member for Dalley that he should cure the defect, and amend the motion by leave of the House. He was further advised by the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Spender) and others to take that course, but he refused to do so. He acted so for reasons which; no doubt, appeared good to him, but because of his failure to ask for leave to amend his own mistake, the substantive motion, which he pretended to find so important, was not debated. The responsibility for that lies fairly and squarely on himself - first, for making a mistake in framing his motion in what was patently the wrong form; and then for failing to take the necessary measures to amend the error when it was pointed out to him.. Therefore, the assumption that the honorable member for Dalley is the victim of a technical error rather than its author is a mistake made in common by the honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable member for Darling, the right honorable member for Macquarie and the honorable member for Blaxland. It is important that we should place the responsibility for what has happened in the right quarter. Therefore, it must be placed on the honorable member for Dalley.
.- in reply - The position has been very thoroughly canvassed. One of the best summaries of the situation was contained in the speech of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). He drew attention exclusively to what had occurred on the Wednesday when the proceedings occurred that gave rise to the motion. Those are the crucial proceedings’. I should like to sum it up in this way: The matter is important because we have had the intervention, not merely of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but also that of the Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann). The first question to be considered is whether it is competent for Mr, Speaker, after considering a matter, to rule de novo upon it, either by reaffirming his previous ruling or by modifying it. I submit that it is clearly competent for him to do so. It is a proper exercise of his high functions and powers as Speaker. I understood the honorable member for Fisher to deny that. I submit that you, Mr. Speaker, could have come into the House on Thursday, and reversed your ruling of the previous evening. It is true that that would not have affected the proceedings of Wednesday, but it would have established a precedent to guide this House. Can he do it ? It has hardly been suggested that he cannot do it, except in the speech of the honorable member for Fisher. The next question posed by the honorable member for Blaxland was : Did he do it ? That depends on what took place on Wednesday, when Mr. Speaker commenced the business by referring to what had taken place on the previous evening. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) lias said that Mr. Speaker revived it. If the purpose of Mr. Speaker is - as it was on Wednesday - to give an opportunity to honorable members to challenge the ruling, that only strengthens the case that has been made that Mr. Speaker’s ruling on Wednesday did carry in its train the substantial point he decided on Tuesday. The House would, be bound by that precedent in the future. That being the position, one only has to turn to what took place. There is no substance in the point raised by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) that there was a variation between what was put in writing and the form of the notice of motion. The words mean the same, although the phraseology varies slightly. In substance it was the same motion. The serious point is that on Wednesday Mr. Speaker re-affirmed the ruling of Tuesday. He carried it forward and indicated how he would apply it in the future. He rejected, from beginning to end, the objections made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) on the Tuesday evening. On Tuesday night the standing order was not even quoted. How could Mr. Speaker rule on the proper material without the binding law before him? It was not discussed. However, on the Wednesday morning he read out the Standing Order dealing with matters that had previously been discussed in the House, and then ruled in reply to the honorable member for Darling that it did not apply. Whether that ruling was correct or not, I submit that the honorable member for Dalley took the proper course by testing it in the way that he did. This kind of situation may arise again, and the House now has an opportunity to decide its attitude on the matter.’
Question put -
That tha ruling of Mr. Speaker given on Thursday, 9th Mardi, in relation to Notice of Motion No. 1, ruling such motion rut of order as a result of the objection of the right honorable the Prime Minister, be disagreed with.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 9th March (vide page 653), on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
Mat it please Your Excellency :
We the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, 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.
.- The attention of the House during the current session will be devoted primarily to two fundamental propositions, compared with which other matters will be mere asides. Those two propositions are, first, the living costs of the people, which are bound up with the Government’s economic and financial policy; and, secondly, the internal and external attacks from which we, in Australia, in conjunction with other freedom-loving peoples, are suffering as the result of what is popularly termed the cold war, which is being conducted by the Kremlin and its satellites. The living costs of the people are influenced by such factors as industrial peace and co-operation between employers and employees, to which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) addressed himself so effectively during this debate. His speech was of the type that the listening public, and, indeed, the large majority of Australian citizens, expect from, a member of the National Parliament. It was a credit to the honorable gentleman who delivered it, and I hope that it will elicit a satisfactory response from those to whom it was addressed. Unfortunately, the “ reaction of Mr. L. Withall, who is the secretary of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, was the reverse of that which I expected from a responsible citizen. If the Communist party in this country were asked what sort of reply it would like to see given to the appeal of the honorable member for Bendigo for co-operation between employer and employee in seeking industrial peace, it would choose the remarks of Mr. “Withall. It was the type of comment that would suit the Communist party and it certainly did not sound well coming from the spokesman of a major section of the employers. On the other hand I was pleased to see that the president of the Victorian Employers Federation, Mr. L. C. Burne, took the reasonable point of view that as an employer he recognized the worth of the statesmanlike utterances of the honorable member for Bendigo. Mr. Burne accepted the appeal of the honorable member for Bendigo as coming from a man with long experience of industrial affairs, and said that he was prepared to cooperate with the trade unions in seeking to promote industrial peace. In other words, Mr. Burne advanced the reasonable point of view that while there would always be quarrelling on what share of the wealth produced should go to each section of the community, employers and employees should not be like small boys arguing about their share of the ice-cream while they allow it to melt in the sun. Those who have the interests of the workers at heart will fight to see that they get a fair share of the wealth that they produce. The employer, on the other hand, is out to protect himself. However, both sides should realize that they have common interests and that it would be poor policy to allow the wealth of the community to be devoured by unnecessary industrial unrest while they argue about how it is to be shared. If there is no production, nobody will get a share.’ I express gratification that one section of the employers is prepared to accept the views of the honorable member for Bendigo, but I regret that a powerful section of employers, as represented by Mr. Withall, should express views which could only satisfy those who desire the promotion of industrial unrest. I hope Mr. Burne’s views will prevail and that we will see some good come from a frank discussion between the two contending parties in our economic life.
I believe that while much good can come from frank discussions of the workers’ affairs, a satisfactory solution cannot be reached until the workers themselves are partners in or owners of industry. Surely it is not necessary for Labour members to emphasize how empty and hollow an appeal for more production sounds in the ears of the workers when it conies from a director sitting in an office in Collins-street. The employees to whom the appeal is made have never seen the gentleman and know nothing about him. Presumably he has never seen the factory in which they work and has not the slightest interest in their welfare. Is it any wonder that such appeals fall on deaf ears? They will continue to fail until the employers have clearly demonstrated by practical . example their real interest in the welfare of the workers and until the workers feel that they amount to something in industry. I remember reading a questionnaire distributed by an American research group. It asked the workers what they needed in industry. The answer was not more money, greater amenities, more holidays or sick leave. The workers replied that they wanted to feel that they meant something in industry. I suggest that if this Government desires to promote industrial peace it could not do better than encourage partnership or ownership for the workers in industry. There will be real incentive for the workers when they know that their efforts will not mean two for the boss and one for themselves. There cannot be peace in industry until the co-operation, of the workers is obtained and until they have a share in industry, own the means of production, distribution and exchange and stand to benefit from that ownership. Any government which really desires to see production, distribution and exchange used for the good of the people as a whole will include in its financial, economic and industrial policy plans to promote ownership by individuals, or co-operative ownership in those fields where it is not possible to have small units. I hope the Government will take that into consideration. I put it to the Government that its parties in the State governments have shown the reverse point of view in their policies. Instead of permitting ownership and worker-partnership in industry, their policies have resulted in concentration of ownership and a greater tendency to monopolies. I have not a great deal of faith in this Government, but I hope that as a result of its activities, we shall move further towards the state of society that I have suggested as most conducive to the welfare of the Australian people.
There is a mental disease known as schizophrenia. As honorable members know, it is split personality. A person develops two personalities and in the conflict between the two he begins to do all sorts of peculiar things. Eventually he has to be put away for his own good and for the good of the community. It seems to me, as a simple and inexperienced observer of this Government’s financial policy, that the Government has contracted a bad case of schizophrenia. Sooner or later, unless it can be cured by the shock treatment which cures others in mental hospitals, it will have to be put away for its own good and for the sake of the community. On examining the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), one inevitably finds conflict in the Government’s proposals. On the one hand, the Government proposes to reduce taxation because it says there is not sufficient incentive for the employer to make profits, although a study of balancesheets does not indicate that that is a valid claim. On the other hand it proposes to reduce taxation when every one knows that the main effect of taxation has been to drain off excessive purchasing power and reduce inflationary pressure. I do not know how the Government proposes to fight inflation and at the same time decrease taxation. How can the Government reduce taxation and simultaneously carry out its promise to extend social services? In its move towards appreciation of the currency there is inevitable conflict between the Australian Country party and the Liberal party section of the Government. That matter, which was studiously avoided during the election campaign, is one that the Government must eventually face. I am afraid that the split personality of the Government will prevent Ministers from courageously carrying out a policy which is necessary in the best interests of the people of Australia. The Government will be swayed, not by the best interests of the people but by pressure groups among those who support it. We have been told that the Government proposes to apply restrictions to those whose sole commodity in the market is the labour which they have to sell while, at the same time, it proposes to remove all restrictions from those who have other and, from the point of view of the Government, more worthwhile commodities to offer. Here again is an instance of the diametrical opposition between the espoused policy of the Government, which provides for the removal of all controls, and the circumstances which will force controls on it.
How does the Government propose to carry out the policy enunciated in the Governor-General’s Speech? How, for instance) does, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) propose to establish tribunals to fix fair and just prices for primary products if he cannot control the product for which the prices are to be fixed?’ Conflict exists between * the views expressed by Liberal party and Australian Country party spokesmen and between the views expressed by government spokesmen and the possibilities of action that can be taken by the Government within our- present set-up. Inevitably the split personality of the Government, and the split policy tha.t must result from it,, must lead to the same disastrous results that occur in human beings who are afflicted with the dread disease of schizophrenia.
In the brief time at my disposal I propose to say a few words about communism, which I regard as the second great fundamental problem with which the people expect this Government to deal. My views on this subject have been made known on many occasions. It is said that the Government proposes to take action to remove from office in trade unions those persons who are known to be Communists. If that is so, I am entitled to ask what the Government proposes to do about the other classes of people in the community who are also known to be Communists. If the Government is prepared to take action to remove from office trade union officials who are known to be Communists, I am surely entitled to ask what it proposes to do about those clerical Judases who grace Communist platforms in Sydney and Melbourne who do not scruple to betray the gospel upon which they live and who are the most valuable assets of the Communist party. Does .the Government propose to say to the churches in which those persons serve, “ Yon shall not allow the Rev. Mr. so-and-so to continue in the ministry because he is a Communist “ ? Why single out trade union officials for action of this kind ? I am not attempting to minimize the dangers of communism in the industrial sphere, but I remind the Government that communism is a disease which is not peculiar only to the industrial workers and trade unions. It has a much more extensive range.
If the Government proposes to remove from office Communist trade union officials, I am entitled to ask whether it also proposes, to say to Sir Keith Murdoch,, in his Flindersstreet establishment, “ You shall not continue to employ Communists in your undertaking “. Does the Government propose to say to him that all the Communists, parlour pinks, reds and near reds who rushed to worship Stalin in years gone by shall not be employed by him? Decent Labour journalists with decent Labour scruples have never been viewed with favour in the newspaper world, but the reds and pinks are welcome* Does the Government propose to say to the newspaper proprietors, “ You shall not continue to employ Communists in positions in which they can influence editorial policy and thus become a menace to the preservation of our democracy “ ? We are entitled to demand that the newspaper barons throughout Australia shall be treated in exactly the same way as. the Government proposes to treat the trade unions. Does the Government also propose to go to the chancellors of our universities and say, “ In charge of the minds of those in your care are pink professors, Communists, near Communists, and those who preach Communist policy. You shall no longer employ them “ ? It is those people who are more responsible than any others for the growth of communism in this community. Indeed, if I were asked who among the subversive elements in our midst I should consider the most dangerous I should say that it is the intellectuals and the university professors who subscribe to the doctrine of communism. They are far more dangerous than any trade union official could ever hope to be. The people of this country believe that if the Government proceeds to implement its announced policy of dealing with Communist official’s in trade unions it should also deal with the other classes of people I have mentioned. From my own knowledge of industrial history Communist trade union officials have never been game to attempt to use their power over the unions they control except for industrial purposes. It. is true that in many instances rank and file members of unions have stopped their Communist leaders from trying to use the unions for political purposes. It is also true that Communist leaders have used industrial issues in order to create chaos for political purposes. Those “with industrial experience agree that the Communists in charge of the federated Ironworkers Association of Australia have never been able to go further than rank and file members have permitted them to go. Despite the fact that the Communists may have caused unnecessary industrial turmoil, rank and file members of trade unions, with few exceptions, have not allowed themselves to be dragged into disputes by their Communist leaders on issues other than those connected with the betterment of industrial conditions. The professors and the newspaper men who mould public opinion, and have within their grasp the power to restore or to destroy democracy are in a different category. The educationists in cur community who lean toward the Communist ideology constitute our gravest danger. In proceeding along the lines of policy indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech in relation to trade union officials the Government cannot avoid the questions that I have posed this afternoon.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to S p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was dealing with the two fundamental problems that face the Parliament - living costs and the conflict of communism. As far as living costs are concerned, this Government is making the econmic bed and if, owing to internal conflicts and irreconcilable ideas in its own ranks, it does not make that bed comfortable enough for the people to lie in, the people will not lie in it. Since it has that responsibility, the Government must do something towards implementing its election propaganda about halting rising living costs.
The Government apparently has the idea that communism is confined to the trade unions and industrial workers. Because of that I view with the gravest suspicion its suggestions that it will deal with the Communists in our midst. If the Government is going to interfere with union officials then it has a duty to look into the affairs of sections of the community besides those representing the workers. I do not wish to underestimate the difficulties caused by communism in the industrial sphere, or the difficulties of any government, no matter of what political colour, in dealing with the industrial problems created by the Communists, because undoubtedly the Communists’ power for evil is very great in the indus- ° trial sphere. Whilst I am one of those who strongly support the view that the main need to-day is to remove the miseries and wants that are the root causes of communision, on which it thrives, I also hold the view that the Communist party is a past-master in the art of creating these causes. In this connexion I wish to refer particularly to the people of Melbourne who had to walk home in their hundreds of thousands this evening because of the arrogant attempt of a Communist trade union official to disrupt transport services in that city. Significantly enough, the tramway dispute that is the cause of the trouble has quite clearly been proved, to be the result of orders from the Communist party, because propaganda dealing with the strike and urging support for it was printed on the Communist party’s printing press prior to the holding of the meeting of the tramway men that decided on the stoppage. As everybody knows, the stoppage affecting suburbantrains was announced by the secretary of the tramwaymen’s union in Bendigo on Sunday, only a day before the executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions had made a decision about the strike.
The question that the people in Melbourne now pose - and I should say that they are not feeling very temperate about communism and industrial disturbances - and that I pose and that all thinking men in the trade union movement must pose is that if the trade union movement objects to internal interference in the affairs of trade unions, what does it propose to do with interference in its affairs by a clique at Communist party head-quarters deciding days ahead that the workers are to go out on strike, without the workers themselves being consulted? The people of Melbourne are asking that question, which constitutes a problem for the only people who can really solve it, because it is a question for the rank and file of the trade union movement. I do not suggest for a moment that the Government, or any of its proposals, could possibly hope to solve the problem. I saw the Essential Services Act introduced in the Victorian Parliament, and I know that where a light touch is needed Libera] governments come in with hobnailed boots, because they lack the necessary knowledge and understanding of the needs of the workers. They do not possess the confidence of the people in charge of trade union affairs. I put it to the trade union movement, and not to this Government, that the people of Australia are asking for a solution of the problem that is caused by some small secret group, acting under instructions from other quarters, dictating to the trade union movement of this country when and bow workers are to work, and jeopardizing the free institutions that trade unionists have worked so hard to establish and maintain. We cannot allow this problem to continue. I remind the Government that the dispute in relation to which the essential services legislation was introduced in Victoria, as well as other disputes that took place, were finally settled because of the good offices of trade union leaders and not because of legislation enacted by governments. The settlement of such disputes will always be dependent upon the goodwill and good sense of those same moderate Australian trade unionists. I urge the Government to act with caution and restraint, even though promises to deal with communism made good electioneering propaganda with which to defeat the Labour party at the last general election. The Government should not rush in with hob-nailed boots and introduce all sorts of legislation. The people of Australia are entitled to expect some answer to the problem that is posed by events in Melbourne. They are entitled to expect a sense of responsibility and caution. They are also entitled to expect the Government to act with restraint and not purely for party political gain without any consideration of a complete solution of the problem. We may be told that the only way to deal with the problem is by using the “ big stick “ that the Labour party cannot deal with it and that it must be treated on a political basis. If we consider the advances that communism has made in the world over the past few years, and seek to lay the blame for those advances where it rightly belongs, it will not be laid on the shoulders of the Australian Labour party or of Labour parties in other countries. Those who sold out to Stalin at Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam were not representatives of the Labour party. It was not the Labour party that at the last general election in Britain suggested another dose of Russian boot polish for the British people. Had Churchill and Roosevelt been delegates to either the Sydney or Melbourne Trades Hall Council for a while, and had they served an apprenticeship in an Australian Labour party industrial group, they would not have urged their policies of appeasement year after year because they would have seen the beast face to face and would have known the treachery with which they were faced. My only regret is that they did not serve such an apprenticeship during the period when they could have learned to deal with communism and Communist representatives in the correct manner. Repressive legislation, no matter in what form, that may be produced by this Government, will not be a final solution of the problem. Obviously number one aspect of the problem is to remove the causes of communism, and, in doing so, I submit that the Government will have to take into account the fact that a great deal of misery and want, which are the basis of communism, are deliberately caused by the Communist party for its own purposes. But we need to do more than that. We need also to urge the press to play its part in exposing the dehumanized living and the slave conditions behind the Iron Curtain. I do not know how the press is to be influenced but the Government would know that, 30 one feels more strongly on communism than do members of the Labour party when they hear the words “ solidarity “ and “ comradeship “ exploited by these people to impose a system of slavery on a large part of the human race. The press of this country has not played its part in exposing all the lies behind the Iron Curtain or in telling people what communism is. Usually, it is too busy using communism as a weapon with which to hit the Labour party. I hope that in future it will realize its responsibilities.
The problem of combating communism overseas will be discussed during the debate on the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender). Every Soviet educational institution is a power house for communism and we in Australia, like the people of other countries, are reeling under blow after blow from communism, and retreating one position after another because we do not seem to have faith in democracy ; because we are opposing a live, burning faith with doubt and unbelief; and because our educational institutions have not been given the responsibility of protecting, preserving and fostering the values upon which our civilization depends. Repressive legislation will not solve that problem We must realize our responsibilities. It has been said that democracy needs a flaming faith with which to oppose the fanatical creed of the Communist party. We shall not achieve that faith until we believe in the values for which we fight; and we cannot get people to believe in those values if all our educational institutions are devoted to destroying the values which make our civilization. The democratic faith ought not to be leading the people in the retreat before the enemies of all we hold dear ; it should be leading them to a spiritual battle against the forces of evil so that we shall see re-established among the Russian people as we’ll as the western peoples free, democratic societies where the inalienable rights of man will be preserved. I hope to see a live, burning faith growing in the hearts of the democracies which will enable them to extend the values of western progress that have brought us to the heights of civilization we know to-day.
.- It is a very great privilege to speak- in this opening debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply in an enlarged House of Representatives. I think that all those members who were in this chamber before its numbers were increased will realize .as the years go on that great advantages will accrue from the enlargement of the House. The varying points of view of the new members are of extreme interest to older mem bers and the smaller electorates will mean that we shall have presented here many different angles and points of view affecting primary and secondary industry. I congratulate the new honorable members on their contributions to this debate.
The honorable member foi- Indi (Mr. Bostock) spoke on the subject of defence. That honorable member played a great part in the defence of this country during his close association with the Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces, South-West Pacific Area, General MacArthur, and I hope that the suggestions he made will receive the very careful consideration of the Government and of the House.
There is a reference in His Excellency’s Speech to His Majesty the King. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has referred to the King’s illness which prevented his coming to Australia. I want to emphasize that it is no longer sufficient, in the British Commonwealth, to refer to the Crown as though it were an abstraction or a symbol. In their minds and hearts the people of this country -always think of the person of the King as the head of the Royal Family as well as the head of each part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That is the tone of the reference to ‘him in the Speech. But that leads to a broader question, which affects Australia as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. From October, 1941, just before Japan came into the war, it was always the object, first of the Curtin Government and then of the Chifley Government, to strengthen the ties that bind the peoples of the British Commonwealth. Those Governments never ceased to fight for closer co-operation amongst the nations of the British Commonwealth. The fact that it is called the British Commonwealth of Nations is largely due to Mr. Peter Fraser, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and to Mr. Chifley when Prime Minister of Australia. There was too much of a tendency to refer to this remarkable group of nations merely as a Commonwealth. That was quite an inadequate description, which was all the more confusing because of its possible reference to Australia. Both the Curtin and Chifley Governments tried to insist on the use of the full title “British Commonwealth of ‘Nations “. Similarly, they never called :the head of the British Commonwealth of Nations or of this country the “ Crown “ ; they .always referred to the King.
It is most important .that co-operation between the nations ‘of the British Commonwealth should be improved in every possible way. Both Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley and their Governments did everything possible to make co-operation between this brotherhood of nations closer and more effective. As Mr. Attlee said recently, “the relationship between the Australian and British Governments was never closer or more intimate than it was during the terms of office of Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley. That state of affairs also obtained while Mr. Churchill was Prime Minister of Great Britain during the war. That is the importance of the reference to the British Commonwealth. I emphasize that point. I entirely agree “that we must have the -closest relationship with other countries, especially the “United States of America, but that relationship cannot be as close, or intimate, as the kinship which exists between the people of Australia and the people of Great Britain.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is entitled to be congratulated upon the great majority that the Government parties now have on the floor of this chamber; but, at the same time, he realizes that that majority greatly exaggerates the difference between the strength of the Government parties and that of the Opposition as reflected in the “total votes cast for candidates of the respective parties at the recent general election. Whilst the Government parties obtained only a very small majority of the total votes cast, it gained a substantial majority of seats in the House of Representatives. There can be no doubt about that. Various speakers in this debate have referred to the effect which that position, bearing in mind the fact that the Opposition has a majority in the Senate, will have upon the workability of the present Parliament. I do not think that this is the appropriate occasion on which to discuss the constitutional aspects of the position. It seems to me to follow that whilst there is a duty upon the Opposition to regard certain proposals that the Government put to the people as having the imprimatur in substance of the people, equally, in view of the Opposition’s majority in the Senate, a duty devolves upon the Government to pay regard “to its views. Workability is ,a two-way doctrine, and it must not be supposed that the Opposition can yield in the stand that it has taken on some of the great questions that will come before the Parliament. At this early stage of the present sessional period, I do not propose to refer to the particular measures until we have had an opportunity to see what they .actually contain.
Speaker after speaker on the Government side of the chamber very properly praised the comments that were made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in his contribution to this debate. Supporters of the Government must study carefully the implications of those comments, because they are of great importance. The honorable member for Bendago pointed out that at no stage in the history of this country, until the recent war broke out, was full employment provided for .the people. The proportion of unemployed to the population had varied from 5 per cent, to 33 per cent, at the worst period of the depression, but not at any previous stage in our history were our people fully employed. However, for some years now the people have been fully employed, and this condition of affairs has placed responsibilities upon the workers because it has created a situation which has given rise to its own difficulties, as those who administer our labour and industrial laws know only too well. The honorable member for Bendigo also pointed out something of equal importance with regard to the basic wage. He said that since 1907, when Mr. Justice Higgins laid down the first basic wage in ,the Harvester ease, there has been only the smallest increase of the basic wage payable underfederal awards - he estimated the actual increase at .approximately 4s. a week - whereas it is of the utmost importance that a substantial increase should be effected in the basic wage. The honorable member also pointed out another fact of equal importance, that whilst the basic wage has been increased periodically in relation to the cost of living, the margin of the skilled worker has relatively deteriorated. That is one of the most important aspects of our industrial life at present, and it is partly responsible for the calamitous tramways strike in Melbourne. I say to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that the industrial amendments of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act effected by the Chifley Government provide adequate machinery for the handling of disputes of that kind. I should like to see that machinery operated more smoothly.
– It is being used.
– Yes ; but the Minister should realize that conciliation commissioners are not merely arbitrators in connexion with marginal allowances, but are / iSO conciliators. Their duty is not at an end when they make awards. They should still act as conciliators, and, in industrial disputes, it should be their objective, as I believe it is under the direction of the Chief Judge, to get the workers back to work so that such disputes can be dealt with, if necessary, even a. second time by the appropriate tribunals. That is part and parcel of the greatest problem with which the Government is confronted and which was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. I refer to the problem of the cost of living, or, as it is now more popularly expressed, the problem of “ putting value back into the £1 “. Certainly that is a problem that cannot be dissociated from the proposals that the Chifley Government put to the people in 1948 when i; asked them to give to the National Parliament power to continue prices control on a nation-wide basis. The Chifley Government then foresaw some of the difficulties that have since developed. However, that proposal was rejected and the verdict of the people must be accepted.
– Thank heaven!
– Honorable members opposite may feel thankful about that fact, but I remind them that they said in their propaganda in opposition to the Chifley Government’s proposals, as it was said by the Premier of Victoria and reiterated by other anti-Labour leaders, that if the power to control prices were left with the States the cost of living would automatically be reduced, that production would be increased and that that problem would be solved quickly. We know that the reverse has been proved to be the case, and that the Commonwealth and the States have been put in an almost impossible position. With the Commonwealth exercising control over trade with other countries and the States enjoying only limited powers, it is almost impossible .to fix the prices of commodities, particularly those that are produced in only one State. Already there are signs that the States will not co-operate with each other in carrying out this important function.
In respect of the problem of the cost of living, I attach great importance to the carrying out of what is a part of the law of Australia until that law is altered by competent amendment. I refer to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act which is part of the statute law of Australia. I cannot understand the attitude that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has adopted towards that statute. What does that act provide? During the recent election campaign opponents of the Chifley Government said that it introduced a scheme of nationalization of the medical profession. Nothing could be further from .the truth. That act was a simple declaration of the right of every Australian to obtain pharmaceutical benefits prescribed by a properly registered medical practitioner on a prescription form provided by the Department of Health. It involved no interference with the freedom of the medical profession. It left a medical practitioner free to prescribe, or to refuse to prescribe, as he thought fit; but the formulary put forward by the Chifley Government covered practically the whole range of prescriptions, including all the sulpha and life-saving drugs, and practically all of the medicaments contained in the British Pharmacopoeia. That was a right conferred upon the people, but the British Medical Association refused to accept that scheme. It is impossible to appreciate the association’s argument. There was no interference of any kind with the freedom of doctors. They could prescribe or not as they chose and they could use the official form or not as they chose, but they refused to co-operate. The result has been that the people of Australia, who are entitled to the service for which the legislation provided, have been denied their rights. The money that would be required to finance the scheme is in the Treasury and the chemists of Australia are ready to co-operate in providing the service. But only a few medical practitioners are working under the law. The Government has a. duty not, to encourage the British Medical Association in thwarting that law, which was designed for the benefit of all sections of the community. The failure of the doctors to co-operate in providing the service has thrown an extra burden upon the people. It has made the cost of living higher, because medicines are very expensive to-day and every family must Iia ve medicines in times of emergency.
One passage in the Governor-General’s Speech laid emphasis upon national development. That subject is of supreme importance, and the truth is that the Chifley Government made the development of Australia one of the main features of its programme after the conclusion of World War II. I state that as a fact, not merely for party political purposes. Nobody would expect national development to have taken place during the war, because all of our physical resources had to be concentrated then on the one task of repelling the enemy. But since 1945, and especially since 1946, the administration of the present Leader of the Opposition was designed primarily for the encouragement of development in Australia. As that right honorable gentleman has repeatedly emphasized, national development involves the development of industry. I shall not discuss the primary industries in detail because, although we have heard complaints during this debate, their situation, has been completely transformed since 1941. In those days the condition of the wheat-farmers was such that they were virtually on the dole. That is not an unfair statement. They could not dispose of their wheat at a payable price. The situation of wool-growers and other primary producers also has improved enormously. I do not think that the magni tude of the development in secondary industry that was brought about under the Chifley administration is generally appreciated. Since the Labour party took office in 1941, the number of factories in Australia has increased from 27,000 to 37,000. In 1940-41, 650,000 persons were employed in our factories. In 1947-48, the total was over 84S,000, representing an increase of 30 per cent. One of every three wage and salary earners is employed in secondary industry to-day. I am well aware that that fact is regarded by those from rural areas as . a defect in the economy of the nation, but I presume that the application to rural production of machinery must, tend to reduce the number of workers required by the primary industries.
I regret that the Prime Minister spoke in a recent nation-wide broadcast of opportunities that had been neglected by the Chifley Government. That statement was not correct. The truth is that, during the four years from the end of World War II. in 1945, to June, 1949, not less than an additional £173,000,000 was invested in Australian industries, 3,707 companies being concerned in that expansion. Overseas manufacturing interests contributed £63,000,000 of that amount of capital. There was a great increase of investment both in new industries and in already existing industries. The number of wholly Australian industries established over that period was 2,400, representing a new capital investment of “ £26,000,000 and the number of new industries linked with overseas capital was 171. representing £25,000,000 of capital. Expansion programmes involving the investment of £S3,000,000 of new capital were launched by 931 existing wholly Australian companies, and 158 other companies extended their operations with financial assistance from overseas firms involving the investment of £37,000,000 of new capital. The fact is that the Leader of the Opposition, as the Prime Minister of the day, gave personal attention to the encouragement of new industrial activities in- Australia from the end of the wai- until the time when he relinquished office. Hundreds of persons concerned with the establishment of new industries or the expansion of old ones sought his assistance as Treasurer, and he co-operated with the State governments in fostering their plans. That development resulted from the initiative and’ enterprise of not only private investors but also the Australian Government.
I am pleased that the present Government has taken over the plan of national development at the stage at which it was left by the Chifley Government.. At one time it was feared that an anti-Labour government might not continue with the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, but this Government has dissipated that fear. I believe also that it will continue with the Burdekin Valley scheme, the plans for the development of the Northern Territory and the great railways projects that were initiated by the Chifley Government. We approve of that, and we shall co-operate with the Government in carrying out those undertakings. However, it would be merely justice if sufficient credit were given to the Chifley Administration, in statements such as were contained in the Governor-General’s Speech, for its initiative in starting enterprises of that kind and in encouraging the development of secondary industry. This Government did not start on a clean sheet.
– The Labour Government did not start on a clean sheet in 1941.
– I am not talking of 1941, and I am. not saying that it did.
– Some day the right honorable gentleman will acknowledge the fact.
– It is fair for the Prime Minister to say that the Labour Government did not start on a clean sheet in 1941.’ That is correct.
– That is the first time the right honorable member has ever made the admission.
– I have admitted the fact frequently. I want the Prime Minister to make a similar admission’ concerning the continued industrial and national development that was fostered by the Curtin and Chifley Governments and to pay them some credit for their achievements.
There may be a* greater degree of agreement between the Government and Opposition parties on such matters than might have been supposed from the policy speeches of their leaders and the keen contests that characterized the general election. Probably the greatest slogan of the present Government parties during the campaign was that which accused the Labour party of an intention, to implement a complete plan of socialization.
Government MEMBERS - Hear, hear !
– I am glad to have confirmation of my statement. I am well aware of the effect that such propaganda had upon the people of Australia. I ask honorable members to consider seriously now whether it was based on truth or not. The present Leader of the Opposition declared repeatedly in his policy speech and throughout the election campaign that the assertions that had been made that the Labour party planned to nationalize farms, homes, 9hops and all industry were completely untrue. Such propaganda was entirely false. I do not think that any member of this House would venture to say that that was a true representation of the policy of the Labour Government.
– Mr. Dedman is not here now.
– I regret that he is not here. He rendered great service to this country.
– He did not believe in little capitalists.
– Ifr is always a pleasure to hear the interjections of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. White). If his change from this side of the House to the other is a blessing to Australia, it is a blessing well disguised. I repeat that Mr. Dedman rendered a great service to Australia both during the war and in the post-war period. I do not think that even his successor in this chamber would’ contradict that. The volume of “ Hear, bear’s “ that greeted my earlier remark about Labour’s attitude to socialism indicated’ that what I said’ was substantially correct. Is that the difference between the parties ? Are the anti-Labour parties anti-socialists? Surely that is not so. A great deal has been written about the use of the State instrumentality in political affairs in this country since the colonial days. Clearly there has never been a dispute between any of the political parties on the proposition that, in proper circumstances, it is correct, just, and politically wise that the State instrumentalityshould be used. The people of Australia have accepted that view. Most honorable members are familiar with the books that deal with this matter. They include State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand by Reeves, one time Agent-General for New Zealand, and Socialisms Sans Doctrines by the noted French observer Professor Metin, who refers to the use of State enterprises in Australia and New Zealand, not as cases of doctrinaire, marxian socialism, but as practical expedients to meet the circumstances of the moment and the welfare of the people by preventing exploitation. Other books that come readily to mind include The Slate in Relation to Labour by Jevons and The State in Relation to Trade by Farrer. The cry that was successfully used by followers of the present Prime Minister at the 1949 election has been used by the anti-Labour parties every eight or ten years - but not always successfully. It was first used, as fur as I am aware, by the late Sir George Reid in 1905, whenhe had his famous debate on socialism with the late Mr. W. A.Holman, in Sydney. The records of that debate may be found in the Parliamentary Library. The slogans that wore used against Labour in those days were used again at the recent election.
– They are still true.
– They are just as true now as they were then. They are true only if one conveniently forgets the facts. The cry in Sir GeorgeReid’s time was the “socialist tiger “, and some honorable members will recall the cartoons that appeared in the newspapers on that subject. The same bogy has been raised to discredit Labour legislation on many occasions since those days. But what are the facts? Not long ago, the present Liberal Premier of South Australia, finding evidence of exploitation in connexion withthe operationsof the Adelaide electricity supply undertaking, introduced legislation to nationalize that enterprise in the interests of the people of South Aus tralia. Is that socialism? Apparently when such things are done by Labour they can be denounced as socialism, but when they are done by the anti-Labour parties, no objection can be taken to them. The fact is, that state intervention is a means employed in this country to prevent exploitation when the Parliament is of the opinion that exploitation exists. I do not think that there is a better statement of the Labour party’s attitude than that contained in the Blackburn Declaration of 1921.
Government members interjecting,
– I gather that honorable members opposite are familiar with the declaration but I propose to quote a short portion of it. The declaration states -
That this conference declares -
That the Australian Labour party proposes collective ownership for the purpose of preventing exploitation, and to whatever extent may be necessary for that purpose.
I am sure that honorable members opposite will not object to that. The declaration continues -
I take it we may say that, in these circumstances, private enterprise is opposed by the Liberal and Australian Country parties as well. The declaration proceeds -
The Prime Minister himself will, I am sure, acquiesce broadly in that proposition.
– Tell me
– Before I tell the right honorable gentleman anything, I should like him to listen to me.
– Order ! There are too many interjections. The right honorable member for Barton is entitled to a hearing.
– I shall compare the Blackburn Declaration by which the Labour party is bound, and which it has observed in practice, in .both Commonwealth and State spheres, with the declaration made by the present Prime Minister during the general election campaign. The right honorable gentleman then said -
We stand for freedom, not for exploitation, and if I can be shown some monopoly business exploiting the people … I would not hesitate to socialize it to-morrow morning.
That was the present Prime Minister speaking as Leader of the Opposition at the last general election!
– He denies having said it.
– I do not think that he will deny that.
– I believe that I even had it printed.
– The right honorable gentleman goes further and admits having had his statement printed.
– And T shall provide the right honorable gentleman with a copy of it if he likes.
– The facts are clear. There is no government in this country, Labour or anti-Labour, which does not. on occasions, according to the dictates of time and circumstances, use state intervention to protect the public from exploitation. It was an anti-Labour government and not a Labour administration that nationalized the A class broadcasting companies in this country. At times, attempts to use the State instrumentality have not proved successful. * Extension of time granted.’]* The point that I wish to place before honorable members clearly and definitely is that the use of the state to prevent exploitation is part and parcel of the policy of the Labour party. That explains and justifies, as a matter of principle, all that Labour has done. Even before federation anti-Labour governments used the State instrument in a similar way. Our railways were placed under state ownership. Over the years, there has been a. great extension of state ownership. The state has come into almost every field of activity to some degree at least, sometimes by direct ownership, sometimes by control, and sometimes by the device of a partnership between private enterprise and tha government, which has proved to be a most successful arrangement in such organizations as Amalgamated Wire less (Australasia) Limited, in which 50 per cent, of the shares is held by the Government and 50 per cent, by the private organization. All those are expedients designed to achieve a certain result,. Civil aviation is another example. Substantially one government corporation and one private corporation operate civil aviation. Another illustration is Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited in which the ownership is divided, 50 per cent, being government and 50 per cent, private. The Australian Country party seems to have objected to this state of affairs only when it has suited it to do so. There is an interesting description of the party’s policy on this matter, by a scholar who is now Senator J. A. McCallum, in a work called Trends in Australian Politics, which was written in the 1930’s. In it he said this -
When individualism suits their sectional interest they out-Spencer Spencer. When collectivism is the card to play, they make Air. Lang appear us a stern champion of the rights nf property.
Nothing is more socialistic, if that term be used in the broad sense of state intervention, than the wheat pool. Thar is a combination of primary producers to pool wheat for the purpose of ensuring that their property shall be sold for flubest possible price at the point of distribution. That is undoubtedly a socialistic us<’ of the state system for the purpose of preventing exploitation. The Australian Country party as well as the Labour party has advocated the establishment of such pools. The slogan that was used successfully at the last general election will never again succeed. Combined with it was the argument, that the Labour party stood for industrial conscription, which was a complete invention. In peace-time industrial conscription is outside the purview of the Commonwealth Parliament, and is opposed to the policy of the Labour party. In those matters the record of the Labour party has been proved good from the point of view of Australia. Great development has taken place in Australia, as I have tried to show, and this Government will have to continue it. In many respects the Government will do so, and will gradually acknowledge the part that the Labour party has played in it. The Curtin-Chifley Government started as a war-time government. During the war it had the assistance of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party, which was then called the United Australia party. After the war, when the Government undertook the enormous task of rehabilitating the ex-servicemen of this country, it did so in such a way that no criticism could be levelled at it. The transition period passed by and the exservicemen were smoothly absorbed into civil life. I think it is appreciated that any legislation for the benefit of the exservicemen has always been supported by Labour. It was so supported during the war and it always will be.
– The Labour party rejected the amendments that we proposed to further help ex-servicemen.
– That is a most unfair criticism because the Government, when dealing with these matters, referred the questions involved to an all-party committee composed almost entirely of ex-servicemen. The record of Labour in its efforts to protect the interests of ex-servicemen is appreciated by them.
Honorable members interjecting,
– There are too many interjections, and I suggest to the right honorable gentleman that if he declines to answer them it might be helpful to the House. I insist that he be given a fair hearing.
– -I have no complaint about the hearing that I am receiving. I like to have interjections from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. White). They may not be accurate or clear, but they are so intended by him. Such interjections give me an opportunity to deal with the issues that are raised. The record of the Curtin and Chifley Governments was a great one and the people of Australia endorsed it. The great majority of the people returned the Labour party to power in 1943 and again in 1946. That proves that our policy was appreciated. A great deal of the work of the Labour governments will be continued by the present Government and as far as the Opposition can co-operate with it on those national matters, it will do so.
Probably Mr. Speaker would not allow me to elaborate any further on the international situation to which some honorable members have referred. The debate on that will take place in the near future. The spectacle of international affairs is a sombre one and I look forward to that co-operation in matters of external relations which is necessary in the interests of Australia and the interests of the British Commonwealth.
– The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has succeeded in the not unremarkable feat of recording in Hansard his election policy speech, because that is what it really amounted to. Nobody can have any doubt, listening to him, that all those arguments were advanced to the electors ; yet in Barton his majority fell to 2,000. The people have expressed their judgment on these arguments. I am therefore not going to reiterate what we said in the course of the general election, because we stated our views just as the present Opposition stated theirs; and we had the fortune to secure the verdict of the people.
Before I proceed to the matters to which I desire to address myself, I must occupy two or three minutes, if I may, in referring to the rather plaintive remarks of the right honorable gentleman about our alleged failure to acknowledge the great services that were rendered to the country by our predecessors. If I delivered a eulogy of our predecessors I should hardly be believed, because I have devoted the last twelve months of my life, night and day, to putting them out of office. Therefore, a eulogy would be indeed strange on my lips. But I remind the House that, whenever we have found occasion to pay tribute to some piece of work by them, we have done so. We have gone to great lengths to give praise where praise was due, for example, to the work done by the former Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). We have clone that not only publicly but also privately. Lest the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should again feel plaintive about a matter of this kind, I remind him that from the very day on which the Government of which he was a member succeeded to the work that had been done by my own Government and by that of the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) in 1941 we sustained from those whom the right honorable gentleman now represents, with theexception of the late John Curtin, « constant stream of abuse. Time after time the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley)” and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) took the opportunity to say that power fell from our hands because they were nerveless, hands. Those right honorable gentlemen! and their colleagues inherited an Australian Imperial Force to which they never succeeded in adding. They inherited a reputation for Australia’s military featsin the Middle East, from which they withdrew. They inherited a munitions effort which, they had only to leave untouched to see it bring forth its fruit Yet,, for all the years that remained of the war, I for one sat silently listening to that. mean,, miserable approach by thosepeople.. They said that until they caine along, nothing happened,, and that when they, the deliverers of the country, like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), came along, everything, was changed and the country was saved. I say to the right honorable member for Barton that he should keep the moan out of his voice because he has nothing to moan about. The Labour party had a fair fight. It had every opportunity to state its case, as we had. The verdict has been, given.
– For a moment I thought that the former member for Corio had come back to us, because I have learned that that is the spirit in which the great Labour party takes a thrashing.
I turn now to the Address-in-Reply. I want to say at once that numerically this is a very much, bigger House than was the last one. We have a large number of new members. I have sat in one House of Parliament or another for over 21 years.
– Too long.
– I sometimes think so, but only under certain circumstances. I can say quite safely that during the whole of that time I have not heard maiden speeches of such a high standard’ as those that have been delivered by the new members of this House. As a relatively old hand in the parliamentary business, I offer my congratulations to those honorable gentlemen who have contributed to this” debate. As one looks round the chamber at the new members, it is apparent that the war generation is, thank Heaven, taking a hand in the peace. It is, without qualification, a. good thing for this country that” those who have served it in war are taking charge of its reconstruction- in peace. That augurs well for the1 future of this Parliament and the service that ft can render to the country.
– Why does the right honor able gentlemen not get” out?’
– We both should have to get out, but I with a little more repute than the- honorable member for East Sydney. It is significant that the preponderance of the war generation that has come into this Parliament has done so to- oppose the regimented state. f believe that that is one of the most significant things- about the last general election..
– What a good general the right honorable gentleman would have made.
– The nearest that’ 3 ever came to being a general was being an Attorney-General, but the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) must, tell me about his experiences later.
The principal tactical scheme of the Opposition has been to speak rather, scornfully, not only during, this debate but also during question time, about getting value back into the £1, as if that were to-day’s funny story. I detect at, once the derisive note that comes into the voice of some honorable gentlemen opposite, even into that of my old and valued friend, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), who is now sitting at the corner- of the Opposition front bench. Let us discuss this talk by the Opposition. Getting value back into the £1 means arresting inflation and driving it back. The first question to be put to the Opposition when all’ the comicopera is over is whether it approves of that objective. I know that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr: Ward ) does not, because his whole public career has been one of glorious irresponsibility. I shall forget about him and address myself to the serious-minded members of the Opposition. Do they approve of the objective of arresting inflation? If they do not, they will find themselves parting company with their leader, because in financial statement after financial statement which the right honorable gentleman made in this House when he was Prime Minister and Treasurer he warned the country of the evils of inflation and committed himself and his Administration to the task of arresting it or, in other words, putting value back into the £ 1. Therefore, I ask whether the members of the Opposition approve of that objective, or whether they think it is just plain good fun. To us, it is one of the great, serious, underlying economic problems of Australia. If honorable gentlemen opposite believe in that objective, do they think it is impossible of achievement? Is it their attitude that that cannot be done? Surely that cannot be the attitude of a responsible political party. Therefore, my next question is whether organized Labour is willing to help us in the task of getting value back into the £1. Is some laughter to be its only contribution, or does it realize that this is a problem that concerns ordinary men and women and, of all people, relatively poor men and women all over Australia? Where does organized labour stand ? Is it willing to help and to cooperate? Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I might ask, speaking through you to the people of Australia generally, whether the people are fully conscious of the basic fact that their own industry; effort and enterprise are in reality much more important on this matter than are acts of parliament or regulations.
Consideration of the problem of getting value back into the £1 brings up the whole problem of inflation. Inflation cannot be halted overnight.N ever was a more puerile question asked than that which I have heard occasionally, and sometimes from the Opposition front bench ; it. is “What is there that you are doing to-night that to-morrow will stop inflation ?” Inflation is not stopped in that way. Inflation is a violently dynamic process. It must be slowed down before it can be stopped. It must be stopped before it can be reduced. It cannot be halted overnight. The processes of years cannot be reversed in a few weeks. That opens up a great economic field which I shall not endeavour to cover to-night because, as I said this afternoon, in answer to a question addressed to me, I hope in due season to present a general statement on economic policy for the consideration of the House.
– What does that mean?
– It means exactly what it says.
– When will the statement be made?
– I said in due season.
– When is that?
– In due course. But al though it is premature in these circumstances to make a full-dress statement on economic policy in a debate at this time, there are some preliminary remarks that can be made with great advantage. The first concerns our inheritance. I have become accustomed to hearing that this Government inherited a perfect machine. In truth and in fact, we inheriteda seriously unbalanced economy.
Mr.ROSEVEAR - The workers were getting too much!
– The honorable memberhad better tell them that. I did not say so, but if the honorable member has decided to become a reactionary tory, he had better tell the workers that they were getting too muck As I have said we inherited a seriously unbalanced economy. Australia was in some respects beter off than it hadbeen before. For instance, farm incomes were higher. There were good seasons and high prices. I do not suppose that either of those factors would be churned as the perquisites of any politician. As I have said, there were higher farm incomes, and largely because of that we had substantial sterling balances. The labour force at work increased between 1939 and 1949 by about, 20 per cent., but factory employment rose by 55 per cent. during the same period. Let me point out with due deliberation, because one hears so much about that almost mythical being; the basic wageearner, that since 1938-39, the average earnings of factory workers have risen by about 30 per cent, more than has the C series index.
– So the Prime Minister does think that the workers are getting too much.
– I did not say so. Again, I leave such a statement io the tory reactionaries. I am a Liberal, and I am delighted that the earnings of the workers have risen. Nothing better could happen than for everybody’s earnings to go up, everybody’s production to go up and everybody’s purchasing power to go up. But the complaint has been made so frequently that waves have lagged behind that I think it proper to point out that when one talks about average earnings, a proper distinction should be made between the basic wage-earner and the factory worker. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has pointed that OUt more than once. Let us now consider the other features, those which constitute disabilities. The first is inflation. The rise of prices in Australia did not begin with the prices referendum. Indeed, the former Government would have had a great responsibility to bear had that been so, because it could have continued the prices control regulations for months and months longer, but it- deliberately abandoned them right after the referendum. That was- purely a voluntary policy decision by the Labour Government. Therefore, the members of that Labour Government can hardly claim that inflation began at that stage. The slightest examination of ths records will show that the inflationary movement began in 1946, and that from then on prices rose in Australia by from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, per annum. Price increases like that create the illusion of profits and the illusion of prosperity, but they also product inevitable hardships, and unequal pressure on various sections of the people. Sv much for inflation.
We now come to employment. Although there has been full employment, it has been unbalanced employment, and that is a very serious matter. I have already said that employment increased by 20 per cent, since 193S-39, but that factory employment increased by 55 per cent. Employment in farming and mining has fallen. Employment in building and construction, which are at the very heart of our economy rose by 20 per cent, in the period during which factory employment increased by 55 per cent. Steel production in Australia is at the pre-war level. It is far below capacity, and far below demand. It is hundreds of thousands of tons per annum below the capacity of the steelworks.
– We all know that.
– I am sure the honorable member does. However, if he will regard all these things as a part of the one pattern, the effect will be beneficial. As for coal-mining, although there has been some improvement from time to time, the actual production of coal is 20 per cent, short of the requirements of Australian industry. If five shifts a week were worked regularly in the coal mines it would be almost possible to close the gap in steel production. I mention this because one hears talk of double shifts, and so on. But we are not getting five shifts, we are getting only four. The production of bricks in Australia is less now than it war* before the war. There are shortages and broken supplies of many building materials, and of many things’ that are needed on farms. Those two factors, unbalanced employment and inflation, co-operate in a. most evil fashion. During a time of inflation, the production of such basic materials as iron, steel, bricks, cement, &c, is hindered by a loss of labour and new equipment to luxury and semiluxury trades. The people have more money to spend on luxury and semi-luxury items, and plant and labour are drawn off for the production of those items. At the same time, production bottlenecks caused by those shortages increase costs and prevent the production of such quantities of goods as would absorb excess purchasing power. ‘ This, as the Leader of the Opposition will agree, is fundamentally the cause of inflation.
Because my time is so severely limited, I do not propose to discuss to-night longterm remedies. I hope to say something about them in due course, but I propose to say now something about short-term remedies. I am not going to discuss financial mechanisms, because they fall essentially within the province of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), and will be duly featured in his budgetary proposals. What are the shout-term remedies? It has been suggested that the right way to counter the rise of prices is to pay subsidies. I do not know whether any honorable member opposite says so because, after all, the last Government dropped subsidies in 1948, except on two or three specific items like tea, which we have continued. Therefore, I do not assume for a moment that any honorable member opposite will advocate the payment of pricsubsidies, but I have not failed to notice that some State Ministers are talking about them. It is necessary, therefore, to say a few words about subsidies. When they were introduced in 1942, they were associated with a. ceiling price plan. At that time, ceiling prices could be fixed because wages were pegged, investments were pegged, taxation was very high, and there were enormous subscriptions to Commonwealth war loans. When the various economic factors were regulated in that way, it was practicable to subsidize prices in order to maintain a price ceiling. To-day, however, the conditions are different. The war is over, and th, Commonwealth’s war powers have, to fi large extent, disappeared. War controls have almost entirely gone. Honorable members will see that there are serious difficulties in the way of subsidizing for the purpose of keeping prices and the cost of living at existing levels. Australia’s national income is about £1,900,000,000 per annum. It is safe to say that £1,500,000,000 at any rate will be spent each year to assist commodities of one kind or another. If the rise in the price level was 10 per cent., and we wanted to stop it, quite obviously, in rough arithmetic, we should have to subsidize production to the order of £150,000,000 in the first year. If the process continued the subsidy would be more in the next year. Within a few years the burden of subsidies in Australia would be so great that it alone would have an inflationary effect just as devastating as anything that we have been considering. I shall not say anything more about that aspect, because our predecessors also share that view, judging by what they did in the matter of subsidies during the last two years. What is our approach? I do not need to repeat, what I said earlier to-day about the abolition of subsidies in 194.8. High prices are not a cause but a result. Although that is a truism it is worth repeating. Many people discuss high prices as though they were a cause of inflation. They are not. They are the result of more purchasing power and inadequate production. Therefore, I have been constantly astonished to hear honorable members opposite, in the course of this debate, put forward with great eloquence the case for increased wages, but say nothing about increased production. In effect they have said, “ You can get over our problem by leaving production where it is and raising wages “. If that were done, quite obviously prices would rise. There can be no halt to the rise of prices until there is more harmony between the supply of the things to be bought and the supply of money to buy them. I repeat that truism bec«.ii« it is commonly overlooked. Subsidies do not eliminate increases of costs. All that they do is to -transfer them into the precise amount of the budget. That does not mean that special items are not to be considered. We are continuing subsidies in a limited way on several items such as tea. Although it may sound paradoxical, we ourselves instituted a limited subsidy on wheat because of its relation to the home consumption price of flour and the price of bread. Dairy products subsidies have been continued. They have to be adjusted to the farm costs of production. All these things represent our view and have been stated in clear terms to the representatives of the Ministers controlling prices in the States. They themselves raised the matter of tax concessions. However, that is a budgetary consideration which will engage the attention of my colleague, the Treasurer. During our short term in office we have placed the main emphasis on raising supplies of basic materials. Subject to a growth of productive effort, local industry is fully occupied, and, therefore, if we are going to add quickly to our supplies of basic materials we must seek to do so by way of imports, not such as will challenge local production or cut across the protective policy of Australia, but designed to fill the gap that exists because our local productive effort is inadequate to supply what is needed. imports of coal, iron, steel, or building materials add to supply. They are, therefore, counter-inflationary in their operation. They absorb purchasing power because they are bought in this country. They do not absorb productive effort, and therefore do not subtract productive man-power from our available forces. Imports of these materials have enormous value, therefore we have attacked that problem. “We have been in office for only a few weeks but have attacked it with a certain degree of success. At least 1,000,000 tons of coal will arrive in Australia this year as a result of import arrangements. My relevant colleagues have been in conference with the interested State governments in order to secure some co-operative machinery. Where a subsidy becomes necessary because of the price of this coal the Commonwealth will accept the responsibility of paying it. The States concerned particularly are Victoria and South Australia, and imported coal will be unloaded in those States, not only to supply their deficiency immediately, but also because the arrival of imported coal in them for steaming or general purposes will set free in New South “Wales for the steelworks quantities of coking coal which now find their way into locomotives or into other uses. As a ]::Suit we believe that we shall be able to assist materially in the ultimate supply of coking coal to the steelworks and, therefore, in the production of steel and right down the line in the production of iron and .steel products. In addition, we are not overlooking for a moment the necessity of local production. The best coa] production is our own, and everybody would be delighted if we could say, “ Our deficiency is 4,000,000 tons. Very well, if we get that out of our own mines, that is the answer “. But, unfortunately, for reasons that I will discuss in a moment, we cannot, and therefore we are bound to import if we are going to face up to this problem of keeping the wheels moving. Steel and other materials have been dealt with already. All I tell the House now, by way of a reminder, is that this Government has taken certain customs action under which steel and other materials of various descriptions can be admitted into Australia this year free of duty, or, in .-some instances, at the British preferential rate. Already there is plenty of evidence that, with this tariff concession in front of them, importers of these commodities are freely placing their orders abroad and we will ,get substantial quantities of steel and other materials into the country. At the same time, because certain materials are short, it is very desirable to subsidize them. We have carried on the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the experimental building station that conducts a constant investigation into those matters. The provision of , prefabricated houses is another way of attacking the problem. There has been a certain amount of mild criticism, but I am perfectly certain that most honorable members will be delighted to know that my colleague who is responsible for the administration of housing has been in touch with State authorities, and is sending a mission abroad. He is determined to secure on the best terms, and in the best time, adequate supplies of prefabricated houses of the best quality. At the same time, as honorable members know, the Commonwealth is paying a subsidy on prefabricated houses that are imported by the States.
One other instrument for attacking the problem of raising production in a short term, which is one of the real ways of attacking the problem of the value of the fi, relates to migrant labour. I am happy to be able to tell the House that, at the present time, approximately 2,000 new Australians are engaged in one branch or another of the timber-getting trade, 1,000 are engaged in the iron and steel industry, and approximately 2,000 are engaged in the production of bricks, cement and other building materials. In order that this new source of man-power may be related to the basic industries in which our most grevious shortages arc occurring, a programme of hostel construction .to provide no fewer than 20,000 beds has been approved. [Extension of time granted.’] I thank the House. The 20,000-bed programme is centred chiefly in the neighbourhood of l>asic industries. It perhaps need not be stated, but the point is worth recapitulating, that there are four good reasons why measures of the kind that I have been describing have a powerful effect. First, coal touches the whole economy. Coal is almost the basic material. It runs right down through the line. Secondly, the reduction of building costs, or the prevention of the rising of building costs, would be a major social benefit. Thirdly, the pressure on the basic industries tends inevitably to influence other industries in an inflationary way. Fourthly, the absorption of purchasing power by the basic industries and basic materials draws that purchasing power off from inflationary spending in other directions and in non-essential industries. To those remarks, I desire to add only one thing.. All those matters that I have discussed are in their own way important, and I have endeavoured to put them into some setting, not pretending for one moment to paint a finished picture but seeking only to highlight a few matters which we should have in mind. But above and beyond all those things we shall not counteract inflation in Australia unless and until we have industrial peace and continuity of work.
– Is the Prime Minister in favour of profit-sharing in industry?
– If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would devote some of his great talents and energy to promoting industrial peace in this country, I should be very grateful to him, because to me and to the people of Australia that is the crux of the matter.
– What rot!
– The people of” Australia do not think that it is rot. I want to speak quite frankly to the House, and I should like to be able to speak quite frankly to all the people engaged in industry, including the great trade unions.
– They do not trust the Prime Minister. Do not worry about that!
– Before the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was ever heard of here, I was their trusted representative in court. The older members of the Opposition know better than the honorable member does about that matter. For example, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) knows better, and certainly the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) knows better. He is the last one who will say that I have not been trusted by them.
– They do not trust the Prime Minister now.
– The honorable member would not know. I was speaking about industrial peace. It is a pity that it seems such a war-like subject. There is a question that should be posed on this matter, and it is as follows: - “Do we in this Parliament regard industrial peace as a problem for all of us, or do we divide ourselves into two groups - those who want it and those who do not want it ? “ Is it a problem for all of us, because if it is, then we in this House must be astute not to encourage the peace-breakers ? Let me say to those who have an intimate association with the great trade unions of Australia, that the trade unions have not only powers - great powers, proper powers - ‘but also responsibilities, great responsibilities, to a community that, has given them great powers. That, after all, is the social law of life. A government’s duty is to co-operate with trade unionism, and it is the duty of trade unionism to co-operate with government. That co-operative traffic must run both ways. Having said that, let me look at recent industrial history. We have had many stoppages. There are many that are now vexing the public of Australia. The previous Government, as we have been reminded by the right honorable member for Barton, streamlined the procedure of conciliation and arbitration. That Government produced what it regarded as a suitable and flexible instrument for conciliation and arbitration in Australia. There it is. The act has been placed on the statutebook. Sixteen or seventeen conciliation commissioners have been appointed, and are functioning within the terms of the act. In those circumstances, how can stoppages like those that we are now witnessing in the State of Victoria be justified ? They cannot be justified on the ground of the absence of arbitration. How. then, can they be justified? As dispute after dispute forces up the cost of living. forces up prices, and forces up what citizens have to pay for houses, thereby taking value out of the fi, we are compelled to come to the conclusion that there is a problem right down at the root of industrial trouble which this Parliament must face, or fail to face at its peril. I refer to the problem of active communism in Australia.
When I talk about communism, let me say at once that I am not talking a-bout what some poor woolly-minded creature thinks is a blend of Marxism or Leninism. I am talking now about the people who are the Communist party, a limited number of men who sit in powerful positions in Australian industry. I was looking to-day at the list of the names of 35 or 40 men who hold key positions in unions and are avowed Communists. We can say of these men, “ That is the Communist party, and they constitute the problem we have to deal with, because they are men of ability, of training and of evil intent “. Where do we stand about those Communists? Let me ask my friends opposite, “Where do unionists stand in relation to the Communists?” When I put that question I beg of every one not only here, but also in the unions themselves, to be clear in his mind on the matter. If communism is regarded, merely as a sort of radical industrial policy,, then, of course, the treatment of it is an industrial matter. It concerns employers as such and the unions as such. If the unions have the view that that is all that communism is, then the unions will find themselves defending their own deadliest enemies in the name of solidarity. Let them think clearly about this matter. Communist propaganda in Australia is already trading on this confusion of thought. Every time a householder open a newspaper or takes a pamphlet or poster out of the letter-box, he finds the Communists are saying, “Let us have common action against the Government. Let us, the honest Communists, line up with you in the union”. Why? “Because,” they say, “ we are merely radical unionists, but we are unionists and therefore we are all in together”. But if these well-placed leaders are regarded as engaged in a dangerous and devilish plot against national survival and security, grave and menacing, then communism is not an industrial movement and it is no more entitled to the co-operation or protection of the Australian unions than any other criminal movement. Where does the Opposition stand on this matter? What is its answer to this analysis?
An Opposition Member. - We shall tell you.
– I hope the honorable gentleman will do so and I hope it will turn out that the Opposition is against the Communists and that it is not preaching that communsm is merely radical unionism. I hope it will turn out then that everybody in Australia will know . just where the Communist plotters are in this House.
One honorable member this afternoon asked, “ Is coal production down in the last three months ? “ This was intended to be a clever question. I say, “ If it is, why ? “. He knows that if coal production is down, the Communists in the coal industry are responsible. I should not say it against my friend, the honorable member, because I do not think he would say it, but somebody would say, “ Don’t touch them. Don’t touch the coal Communists because they are unionists “. Which is just about as silly as saying, “ Don’t touch the Communists because they are Presbyterians “. That would be a piece of utter nonsense. Either Communists must be regarded as being engaged in an anti-Australian conspiracy, in which case no cloak should shelter them, or they must be regarded as merely radical unionists, in which case” the Government has no right to do anything about them at all, nor lias anybody else. These Communists, these leaders, these men who are the real Communist party, are not the true servants of their unions. They pretend to be. They come to high office in their unions, but they are not the servants of their unions. They seek to use their unions and the splendid virtues which made the unions - comradeship and partnership in the struggle for the benefit of their members. These wretched creatures seek to use their organizations and their fellows for foreign and foul purposes.
– What union is the right honorable gentleman in?
– None. That question is gloriously irrelevant, but I will answer it if you like by saying that if 1 were in one, I should decline to come under the domination of a Communist who happened to be a member of the union. Let us get this thing straight. If the unions of Australia allow themselves to be put into this false position by these enemies of .the country and of unionism, they will live to regret it. I want, in concluding, to appeal to the great mass of Australian unionists, which means the great mass of decent Australian people, to face this question, this vital question, squarely, while there is yet time.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the course of a very fine oration, has done a number of things, made a number of statements and posed a very great number of problems. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House and the country, that to all of these problems he has not supplied one answer. The proof of the truth of my statement is to be found in the last problem the Prime Minister presented to this House. It is a problem of pressing perplexity and one that has eluded solution in all the democratic countries of the world. The right honorable gentleman said truly that world communism or international communsm is a threat to our living standards and a constant threat to our safety in time of war and also while the fear of future wars hangs over the world. That is very true. He said, moreover, that Communists constitute, in the key posts in the great industrial organizations of this country, the greatest threat to continued peace in industry, to our production and to our living standards. Yet he has uttered not one word to say what his Government intends to do about it. It is true that during the election campaign and later we heard that a bill was to be introduced to prevent Communists from holding positions in trade unions. “We have not been told to-night in the course of a lengthy speech that that, course is to be taken. The right honorable gentleman said the real Communists of Australia are the men who hold positions in the key industrial organizations. Again, he over-simplified the problem. It is true that some of the figures of Australian communism as we know it are in office in the great industrial organizations, but we know they are not the key figures in the Communist network that exists in’ this country. They ply their trade in their own sphere. They are not the driving force of communism. They do not supply the financial resources which the Communists use on every occasion. The Government, if it is honest, if it is earnest and if it desires results, must look far wider and must examine more deeply this problem before it will be able to present to the Australian people the solution of the real problem that exists.
The right honorable gentleman did not say that it is his purpose to. bring down a law to outlaw the Communist party. No such statement was made by the Governor-General. We have been told that the Government intends to take action to cope with the menace of communism. Is it suggested that we shall provide a solution of the Communist menace in Australia or throughout the world by preventing the Communists from occupying executive positions in trade unions? In order to ascertain the unbiased views of the Prime Minister on this subject we have only to look back over a very brief period in our political history. Those of us who were members of the last Parliament remember that time after time the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, said, in effect. “ The Liberal party does not favour the banning of the Communist party. We believe that if Communists commit an overt act in contravention of the law the full rigour of the law should be invoked against them. If, by any means, not as Communists, but as lawbreakers, they offend the provisions of an Australian statute, we should come down on them with a heavy hand “. Members of the Liberal party adhered to that view in the face of fierce opposition by their colleagues in the Australian Country party. The right honorable gentleman went overseas and found that communism in the old world had remained unchanged. Indeed, the basic philosophy of communism has remained unchanged since it was first enunciated by Karl Marx. Conditions in the old world differed only in degree from those that existed in Australia. In spite of that, however, when the right honorable gentleman returned to these shores, he changed his views about the solution of the problem of communism. During his absence nothing had happened in the industrial sphere cither in the old world or in this counrty that could account for his complete volte face.
– -I call attention to the state of the House.
– Ring the. bells. I observe that some honorable members are proposing to leave the chamber. For the information of new members I point out that under the Standing Orders no honorable member may leave the chamber while the bells are ringing. [Quorum formed/]
– Although nothing had changed in the industrial sphere abroad which might account for the Prime Minister’s complete change of policy in. relation to this complex problem, an evert of major political significance had occurred at home.. A breach had occurred in the Liberal-Country party Government of Victoria as the result of which the Country party members broke away from the coalition government. The Minister’ for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who was then, and still is, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party in this Parliament, roundly attacked the. Liberal party in Victoria, and, indeed, in this Parliament itself. He claimed’ that vast funds which had been placed at the credit of the Liberal party to fight the menace of socialism were being used to fight its- erstwhile ally, the Country party: The Prime Minister executed a major change of front, not. because he was convinced that he was able to solve the problem of the Communist menace, but solely because he desired to placate the Country party. In the interests of amity with the Country party he was ready to abandon views which he had strongly upheld and had’ enunciated in this House on many occasions. The demands of the Australian Country party were made at the point of a gun and’ the Liberal” party capitulated. That alone is the explanation of the right honorable gentle man’s extraordinary change of front. In spite of that, he has now said, in the eloquent phrases which we are accustomed to hear from his lips, that we must ban the Communist party and that those who do not agree wth him stand condemned as the friends of the Communists. Those who hold the view that the Government’s proposal does not constitute an answer to this perplexing problem merely stand where the right honorable gentleman himself stood’ but a short while ago.
Che Prime Minister also had something to say about the contention of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) that the Labour Government had done well for Australia although the truth of that claim is acknowledged, throughout the country. Under the administration of the Labour Government Australia reached a standard of prosperity that bad never before been equalled in its history. Plans were made by that Government for the future progress of this country on a scale that had’ never before been contemplated’. A programme of national reproductive works had been drawn up and” was ready to be implemented as soon as the man-power and materials position permitted. “We had achieved full employment and social services were provided on a scale hitherto unknown. But because the right honorable member for Barton referred to those achievements of the Labour Government, the Prime Minister accused him of moaning. The Prime Minister then made the remarkable statement that under the administration of the former LiberalAustralian Country party Government Australia’s economy was geared for war and that production of war materials was at its peak or wa’s’ rapidly approaching its peak. He denied that the Labour Government had inherited, a legacy of neglect. It has been proved in both the Federal and State spheres’ that coalition governments formed by the parties opposite are unable to provide a. stable government in a time of crisis. The Prime Minister’s claim that Australian economy was geared for war and that the productive capacity of this country- was at its peak when the Labour Government came into office is most amazing. If our economy was then geared for war, if Australian forces were then ready for action and if supplies were then moving forward to the fighting forces in ample volume, why did the coalition Government fall to pieces? Why, in the words of the right honorable gentleman, did it find that the reins of government were slipping, through its nerveless fingers?
Before dealing with the Governorgeneral’s Speech in detail, I propose to> say a few words a-bout the cost of living, and what the right honorable gentleman has said about inflation. Another of his remarkable statements was that prices a,re not the cause of inflation. He then proceeded to explain what the causes were. Every thinking person who looks at the problem: squarely knows that . high prices are not the cause of anything. They are the very inflation of which, the right honorable gentleman spoke so much and they constitute the problem that we face to-day. There is no need to make an. investigation, into the causes of high prices as was suggested in the Governor-General’s Speech or to argue about whether high prices constitute deflation or inflation or are the cause of either. High prices are, in fact, the inflation itself. They constitute a problem that must be solved because if. it is not solved the continuance of price rises will be the major factor that will bring this Government, despite its great majority in this chamber, crashing heavily down. How is the problem to be solved? The right honorable gentleman said that inflation must be halted. Of course it must, otherwise prices will continue to riseuntil a break in world prices for our export commodities brings them down with crashing suddenness, as it will some time. The results in that event would be inevitable - depression, unemployment, and the miserable consequences that we recall so clearly. There are two reasons why the price spiral must be halted. The first reason, is that high prices bring, hardship to every man, woman and child in this country, particularly in families on the lower and middle ranges of income. The second is that every rise of prices,, small or great, is inevitably followed by a recession when production catches up with demand either because of an increase of production or because lower purchas ing power has cut consumption. The higher the spiral the deeper the trough into which we must eventually drop.
The question has been asked whether the Labour party will stand with the Government in tackling this problem. Our answer to that problem, given unequivocally long before the right honorable gentleman ever thought of the question, was that the organized Labour movement, in both its political and! industrial wings, standscleanly against the rising tide of inflation and. for, measures, that can arrest theinflationary trend-. We- look to the- Gevernment in vain for some- means by which the desires of all of us, in the Parliament, and in the country, can. be put. into effect. In the- considered view of thinking people^ and on the lessons to be drawn from the past experience of nations, the steps that the right honorable gentleman has suggested we should take are the very factors that have accentuated, rather than countered the inflationary spiral.. But, the organized trade union movement and the political Labour party do not intend to be led by this Government into the false avenue that we believe lt intends to follow in an. attempt to counter the inflation that now exists and that is daily becoming worse.
That leads me to the industrial problems to- which the right honorable gentleman has referred. Those problems in the main have arisen in protest against rising prices. I do not make that statement generally, but I say that is mainly true. When a considered stoppage of major dimensions takes place it is also a considered protest against the rising cost of living. It is idle- to speak about the present levelof average wages, rates-. Wage rates are at their present level because the rising cost of living has; steadily pressed wages up but, as always happens, wages only follow price rises. So once again the right honorable gentleman, has put the cart before the horse. Instead of dealing with the real cause of the inflation that is leading to- industrial discontent and stoppages, and is playing right intothe hands of the Communists the right honorable gentleman has mistaken the effect for the cause. We. say that at this stage while the Government is not able to do- major things this Parliament at the least should have, and in fact demands, a statement of the Government’s intentions in connexion with attacking this real and urgent problem. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) quite rightly said, we are to be presented with legislation that, if it proves to be any good at all, is certainly not of an urgent character. That legislation will include a measure to repeal the Banking Act 1947, which, measure, to begin with, cannot be implemented at all and would not be implemented, I take it within the three years that this Government will remain in office. We are to spend days and. perhaps weeks discussing the Banking Act 1947 and amendments to the Banking Act 1945, while outside the cost of living soars higher and higher every day ‘and the Government puts not one concrete plan forward to counter this real threat to Australia’s standards of living.
We did not give the right honorable gentleman and the party that he leads the responsibility for handling the inflation that exists to-day. He was well aware while he was Leader of the Opposition, of the situation regarding prices, because it had been explained to him time and time again. He did not really require any explanation, because he is, of course, intelligent enough to grasp the problem for himself. The right honorable gentleman took to himself full responsibility for halting the price rise, for curing inflation and for putting more value back into the £1. The . right honorable gentleman resents any member of the Labour party asking him when he is going to put more value back into the £1. As time goes on and as every man and woman who expresses doubts about the right honorable gentleman’s ability to put value back into the £1 is condemned by him as having no interest in the inflationary problem that exists, he also will be condemned by a lot of Australian people. Daily and hourly the view is growing among the people of this country that the Government is taking no real steps and offering no real suggestions to cure inflation.
Honorable members opposite may say that price rises took place long before the present Government took office. Of course they did. The actual history of prices is that they rose sharply in the early days of the last war and were held relatively stable ‘by a variety of controls from 1941 to 1945. Prom that time onwards they rose in some cases much more sharply than they need to have done. But the right honorable gentleman took full responsibility for urging the people to vote against the Chifley Government’s proposals at the prices referendum. I said at the time that that was a tragic mistake and showed a lack of confidence on the part of the Opposition in their ability, if they were elected to office, to administer the controls that we sought for this Parliament. Because of that situation, and despite the most earnest efforts of this Government, prices were certain to get out of hand. The Government took the full responsibility for any situation that it inherited and followed that up by deliberate acceptance of the task of curing inflation and halting the prices spiral and not merely of holding the prices steady in the face of the enormous forces that were pushing them up day by day. Since that time prices have risen sharply, and are rising every day. I have here a feature article clipped from the Melbourne Argus of Thursday, the 2nd March. It gives a detailed survey of Melbourne prices which indicates that for an ordinary family of five prices have risen by 9s. Id. a week between December last year and February of this year. Can there be any wonder that this Government is condemned by the members of the Opposition and will be condemned by increasing numbers of the Australian people because it has done nothing and has suggested nothing. This is one of the most important problems that face the Menzies Government. It does not call for a play on words but for sober consideration and positive action.
The first measure which I suggest for the purpose of curbing inflation is increased taxation. That is not a very popular measure with any Australian government. However, high rates of direct taxation were one of the major controls this country had in time of war and they should be re-introduced, because they reduce spending power. Lack of production is not altogether the problem in Australia to-day. It is the unprecedentedly high rate of public demand. Those two problems are not the same.
Production is high in primary industry. It is growing higher. What is the result? An inflationary situation becomes rapidly worse. We have far greater spending power in the Australian community, and the goods, in the main, are shipped overseas. The story regarding gold or any other of our primary industries is the same
The housing problem has been cited. I went to the State Housing Commission in Western Australia one week prior to my leaving Perth. I had a desperate case with, me which was the only one I have taken to the commission and I took it because it was the worst case I have seen in six- years. An officer of the commission said, “ We have applications for 13,000 homes on our hooks. We are building SOO or 900 homes a year”. He was referring to the commission’s rental section. He said, “Increasing numbers of people are endeavouring to rent homes because the cost of purchasing them is too high for their means to-day. Applications are coming in daily “. How long will it take to overcome the housing shortage? We may work it out for ourselves. Honorable members opposite say that the worker is not working hard enough. If the workers are made to produce double the number of houses that are being built today and it will still fake seven years to overtake the existing shortage of houses. Whilst that shortage exists how are we going to reduce the demand and the prices? Rents are £2 and £2 10s. a week, but under the price-fixing control which is administered by the States people are paying £1. £1 10s. and £2 per week Eoi- the use of single rooms ; so they are quite willing to pay £2 or £2 10s. a week for a. house. Increased production is vital but a. remarkable production drive is required. Before the price of houses and other commodities can be reduced, Australia must produce or import a quantity of goods which it is far beyond its capacity to produce or import at present.
The importance of an increase of production has been over-emphasized. It is the answer over a long term; but do not let us use platitudes. A great volume of purchasing power which cannot, be satisfied is daily bidding up the post of every essential commodity. That is true not only of commodities but also of the labour force. Industries are bidding against one another for labour because they can sell the product of that labour at any price. They can pay high wages and they can pay for amenities and add the margin of cost to the price of their product and sell all their production to an eager public. So I say that the importance of production has been over-emphasized. Taxation is one of the methods with which the inflationary situation can be met.
The second method I propose is another measure that this Government will never implement. Higher taxation would bring a surplus into the public revenues. As the Minister for External Affairs once very truly said, that surplus ought to be immobilized in the Treasury for use when there is a shortatge of money. But surpluses cannot be immobilized and saved up for the future under an uncontrolled banking system. So the second major control that I propose is a. rigid control of bank overdrafts. But the Government will not control bank overdrafts. It owes too. much to the banking institutions of Australia, which played a part unprecedented in the political history of the world in securing its return. The Government will not try to put into effect the rigid control of bank overdrafts which is essential to check inflation. Bank overdrafts have two major effects. One effect is to provide a means to buy new materials and extra man-power, thus denuding the labour force available. The other is to provide a greater purchasing power in the deposits of the trading and savings banks which constitutes a second strain, upon the price level. Control of bank overdrafts might be a more vital control than high taxation. I suggest that, the Government should consider taking that step.
The third measure I suggest as a means of countering inflation is a complete prices control structure. This would be difficult to achieve but its creation should be commenced immediately. This Government will be condemned completely if it fails to arrest inflation. If it fails in this task it, will plunge Australia into a far deeper depression than the terrific struggle which occurred some years before the war. The higher prices rise, the greater, ultimately, must be their fall.
There is a fourth measure which I believe should be implemented. Taxation of a sort could be reduced, not in a mild form but in a complete and imaginative way. Indirect taxation which does push up the cost of living has been introduced by various governments and perpetuated in the Australian economy as a higgledypiggledy growth without regard to science. There the Government must start. If it makes an attack on indirect taxation and eliminate sales tax and payroll tax it will be taking action which will not tremendously diminish the cost of living but which will arrest the rise in prices that is occurring day by day.
As far as one can see at the moment, those are the practical steps that can be taken. What does the Government propose to do ? It says that it will reduce taxes. At a time when the purchasing power of the Community has reached its peak it will thereby add more money to that ever-growing pile. Yet the Government says that it will provide checks against inflation. Was any proposal more unintelligible, or more calculated to discredit the Government.? Such a policy must bring about the very conditions that the Government asserted that it would prevent. Secondly, the Government proposes to remove controls. On the 7th October, 1943, the present Prime Minister declared, when he was the Leader of the Opposition, that as the country passed into the period of peace every one in the community would have no doubt that Australia must for a long time continue to have controls.. He added -
In the long run, all controls will tend to lie exercised through the State. The function of thu Statu in giving orders to industry and laying down rules to be observed will not be :i “diminishing function: rather will it bo oilher wise-
Yet, in order to gain a paltry political advantage, the right honorable member wont to the country during the recent election campaign and talked about the perpetuation of controls by the Chifley Government and condemned the controlsridden gang ruling in Canberra. (Extension of time granted.]
I come now to another matter in respect of which the Government has made a major mistake. The present Prime Minister, in his policy speech at .the recent general election, said -
There .is a world surplus of production of petrol. We hare been earning a record export income. Yet we are not’ getting the petrol we need.
That was pure deception on the part of the right honorable gentleman. Such a contention will not bear investigation. Our sterling balances abroad, great as they are, cannot enable us to buy one gallon of American petrol if dollars are not available. Yet the right honorable gentleman claimed that supplies of petrol were available, and in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech the Government gave this pitiable excuse lor its attitude on that subject -
Because they felt ‘that .restrictions upon our capacity to produce and sell goods and to receive and to absorb profitably substantial numbers of migrants were most undesirable, my advisers recently announced the termination of petrol rationing.
It is true that the present Prime Minister made that promise to the country at the recent general election. He had an opportunity previously to examine the situation. I believe that he understood perfectly well the world petrol position at that time, as, no doubt, he understands it as it exists to-day. By abolishing rationing at this stage he has done a great disservice, not only to Australia, but also to the sterling countries with which we are irrevocably bound. On this matter, I refer to two press cuttings. The first is a report under a Canberra date-line which says that extra dollars are required to buy petrol. That means that we must either demand dollars from Great Britain which needs all its available dollars for the purpose of buying foodstuffs and other vital supplies for the British people, or reduce our purchases of other dollar goods which we require urgently for our economy.
– Cinema films, and so on.
– Yes ; and also various classes of industrial equipment which our economy so urgently needs -and which are far more vital to our welfare than additional supplies of petrol. It has been claimed that we are getting petrol from sterling sources. On that point I refer honorable members to the following press report of an interview with the chairman of directors of the Vacuum Oil Pro.rietary Company Limited, Mr. Harold Rabling; upon his return on the 10th February last from a visit to the United States of America and England where he made an exhaustive study of the subject. He said -
Statements that Australia, could get sufficient petrol from France to abolish rationing were not supported by facts. So far as petrol was concerned, the whole sterling area must bo considered as a unit. There was nothing to he gained by Australia insisting on a larger percentage of sterling petrol. This would mean that other sterling countries would have to take more dollar petrol. The right procedure was for each country to draw its supplies from the nearest possible source to save tanker mileage and land supplies at the lowest cost.
I thank honorable members for the patient way in which they have listened to my speech. I repeat that at the recent general election the present Government parties made many substantial promises including its promise that it would “ put value back into the £1 “. However, it has done nothing to honour those promises. They included the provision of endowment for the first child of a family under sixteen without allowing that benefit to affect the basic wage. Whether it will honour that promise still remains to be seen. It appears to me that the sound and practicable promises that the Government made represent but a continuation of Labour’s progressive policy during the eight years it was in office. The Government has promised to undertake a vast plan of development but it is simply carrying out a plan of which the Labour Government laid the. foundations. The subservient press of Australia is now representing that plan as one that has been evolved by this Government. The Government is able to carry on those plans because Labour laid sound foundations for them. Labour did not formulate them with a view to tickling- the ears of electors. It can he said to the undying credit of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) that when he was Treasurer he left a surplus sufficient to enable future
Treasurers to avoid repeating some tragic phases of our economic history. However, all his sound work is being frittered away by this Government which is following the traditional policy of LiberalCountry party administrations. The Government’s proposal to reduce taxes and to increase borrowing at a time when we are enjoying unprecedented prosperity will bring about a return of the conditions that existed from 1929 till the outbreak of the recent war. During that period export prices fell and with the Treasury empty we were unable to meet our increasing commitments overseas. If the Government pursues the traditional Liberal-Country party policy, it will- be left to a Labour government once again to clean up a tragic mess.
.- When I took my place at the table preparatory to following the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as the next speaker from the Government side, I was inspired by his eloquent address. As I listened to his remarks, I felt that any reasonable person would take heart so far as the future of this country is concerned. [Quorum formed.’] After hearing the inspiring address of the Prime Minister, I was imbued with optimism for the future; but, after listening for 40 minutes .to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), I felt somewhat like the man who rescued a pessimist who was about to hurl himself over the Gap at Sydney. He drew the would-be suicide away from the danger zone and sat down with him on a bench.. In an effort to discover the cause of his companion’s despair, he talked with him and found that it arose from the depressing state of affairs in the country. So he said, “ Well, let’s talk it over. Surely it is not as bad as that ! “ Half an hour later somebody saw both of them leaping over the cliff edge. I was almost in the same state of mind when the honorable member for Perth finally concluded his speech. According to the honorable gentleman, there is no hope for anybody anywhere and the greatest calamity of all, in his view, occurred on the 10th December, when the Labour party was defeated. He asked what this Government had done since it had been in office and complained that it had waved no magic wands. He declared that it had deceived the people and had been recreant to the trust that they had reposed in it. I shall tell the honorable member of only a few of the achievements of this Government during its still brief period of office. Even that record is already imposing.
The first act of the Government was to try to arrest the rising cost of living in a way that had been evaded by its predecessors for months and months and months. It decided to increase the subsidy on butter in order to compensate dairymen for higher Costs of production. The Labour Government had merely agreed to pay the subsidy at the higher rate until the end of 1949, although it had been under an obligation to confirm that increase. This Government’s prompt decision averted an increase of the price of butter charged to the consuming public and, at the same time, enabled farmers to earn a fair margin over the cost of production. The Government took similar action in relation to wheat in order to protect the public from an increase of the price of flour. Another prompt action by the Government was to arrange for the trial of Japanese war criminals. For four years the Labour Government had neglected to bring those men to trial, .although every other nation that had been involved in the war in the Pacific region had long ago concluded its trials of war criminals. Because of that neglect, this Government had to deal with an ultimatum at its first Cabinet meeting on the 20th December, when it received a communication from General MacArthur which declared that the United States authorities would not accept responsibility for . the detention of Japanese war criminals after the 31st December unless Australia took steps to bring them before an appropriate tribunal.
– Order ! The Minister must not expand upon that theme because a motion dealing specifically with the subject has been placed upon the notice-paper.
– I merely point out that the Government dealt promptly with that situation.
The third important act of this Government was to abolish petrol rationing.
That fulfilled a promise which had been made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech and confirmed by the Treasurer on behalf of the Australian Country party. Petrol rationing was abolished within seven weeks of the Government’s assumption of office. Members of the present Opposition said that the discontinuance of rationing would impose an additional drain upon our dollar resources. It has done nothing of the sort, because consumption of petrol has increased only slightly since the decision was enforced. The Opposition wanted to maintain rationing merely for the sake of subjecting the people to restrictive practices. We abolished rationing in the knowledge that our act would cause no material increase of the rate of consumption of petrol, but would effect a vast saving of man-power and remove a cause of irritation and inconvenience to the people. The honorable member for Perth asserted that the Government had done nothing to honour its promise to pay endowment in respect of the first child of every family. Although it has been in office for only a few weeks, the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) will introduce in the Senate to-morrow a bill that will give effect to that part of our policy. As we promised during the election campaign, we have appointed a special Cabinet subcommittee to review ex-servicemen’s pensions. I have been appointed to that subcommittee, every member of which is an ex-servicemen who has served in a theatre of war. We hope to be able at an early date to introduce some constructive legislation arising from the recommendations of that sub-committee.
We have given close attention to the provision of a national health service, the problems of which our predecessors failed to solve after eight years of office. They promised to provide free medicine for the people, but, because of their bungling and their unco-operative attitude towards every organization associated with the provision of national health services, only about one person in every 10,000 citizens received free medicine while the Labour party was in office. The Government parties promised the people that they would appoint a committee to review and simplify methods of tax assessment. That body will not concern itself with tax reduction, because that is a prerogative of the Government and of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) in particular, but at least it will help to ease the difficulty of preparing tax returns. Last, but not least, I refer to our promise to outlaw the Communist party in Australia. With the aid of our majority in this House, despite the resistance of the Opposition, we intend to introduce legislation soon to give effect to that undertaking. I could recite many more examples of this Government’s positive programme.
I take this opportunity to join with all other honorable members in congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, upon your elevation to the chair. In doing so, I mention with pleasure a fact that has escaped comment so far during this debate. I refer to your restoration to usage of the traditional wig and gown. Your action in donning those adornments may have given rise to derision amongst some members of the Opposition, whose representatives in your office from time to time have scorned them. However, in the opinion of most honorable members, including many members of the Opposition I believe, your decision has fittingly raised the status of the Speakership. Honorable members opposite have indulged in much wishful speculation about the rift that they hope will develop between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Perth drew attention to the troubles existing between the Liberal and Country parties in Victoria at present. I should have thought that honorable members opposite would have remained silent on this subject, at least for the present, because, in New South Wales, we see boiling up, one of the greatest faction fights that have arisen in Labour’s ranks since Mr. Lang relinquished office in that State in 1931. Four sitting members of the New South Wales Parliament, who have represented their constituents for periods of up to seventeen or eighteen years, are being denied by that Goulburnstreet junta, the Trades Hall, an opportunity to give their electors a chance to decide whether or not they should be re-elected to Parliament. No totalitarian commissar could have acted in a more authoritarian manner. I hold no brief for the members concerned. I do- not know a single one of them; but I do say that, in a democratic country, things are coming to a fine pass when members of Parliament who have represented the people of this country for many years can be denied an opportunity to seek re-election, without having had any charge levelled against them. It is said that the reason for the Trades Hall’s action is that the members concerned failed to vote according to a certain “ ticket “ at the New South Wales Legislative Council election. I remind the House that that election was carried out by a secret ballot and that each man’s vote should have been known to himself only. How far are we removed from a police state when knowledge of how people vote at secret ballots is circulated in this manner? In view of these happenings it ill-becomes honorable members opposite to talk about party unity. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) talks about party unity; but, in his speech last week, he condemned the immigration policy now being carried out in this country although that policy was initiated and implemented originally by his colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). What unity is there in the Labour party? I remind the House, too, that the honorable member for Melbourne who, during the regime of the Chifley Government, of which he was a member, supported the formation of the Indonesian Republic, is now telling us that we should have no truck with Dr. Soekarno, the President of the Republic, because he was a Japanese collaborator during the war. I leave those matters there, having directed attention to the mote in the eyes of honorable members opposite who are seeking it in ours.
I come now to the value of the £1. There has been much talk about this matter, and many questions have been asked of various Ministers about it. To-night, the Prime Minister answered effectively the propaganda that is being spread by the Opposition party. He pointed out that the only way to increase the value of the £1 was to expand production so that a greater volume of goods would be available to absorb the enormous purchasing power that is in the hands of the community at present. Just when did the purchasing power of the £1 fall the most? Honorable members will recall that when the Curtin ‘Government came to office in 1941 it inherited from the preceding Administration a prices control organization under Professor Copland. Between 1939 and 1943 prices increased by a total of only 30 per cent. Between 1943 and 1946, owing to the rigid enforcement of controls, first by the Curtin Government and then by the Chifley Government, prices rose by only 6 per cent. In 1947, the increase was a further 6 per cent., and then the spiral gained momentum. In 1948 the increase was 17 per cent.
– That was the year we had the referendum.
Mi-. ANTHONY.- Yes, and that was the year in which the Chifley Government removed price stabilization subsidies from many items that go to make up the costofliving index. That was the cause of the sudden increase of prices from 6 per cent in 1947 to 17 per -cent, in 1948. At the referendum, the people said, “ No. We shall not give you the powers that you seek, because we have a fair idea that you will misuse them “. Then, the Chifley Government, like a boy in a fit of pique, decided to discontinue all subsidies, throw the people into the laps of the State Prices Ministers, and let the country go hang. The consequence was, as I have said, an increase of 17 per cent, in one year. In the following year, although the Commonwealth had withdrawn its subsidies and the powers of the State Prices Ministers were limited, the increase was no greater than 17 per cent. So, in the last two years of the Chifley Government’s Administration, price increases totalled 34 per cent. The Opposition says to-day to a government only a few weeks in office, “What have you done about this matter, and what do you intend tq do about it? “ The most honest person on the opposite side of the House who has addressed himself to this subject in the current debate is the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). He said, “I don’t pretend for a moment that the Government, whatever may be its political colour, should be able to find any easy solution. Those who say recklessly that they will bring value back into the £1 and lead the people to believe that it can be done reasonably quickly and easily are surely deceiving the people “. Therefore, any one who says it can be done easily and quickly, as honorable members on the opposite side of the House have suggested at every question time, is, in the words of their leader, deceiving the people. The Prime Minister detailed to-night the various measuresby which he hoped something would be achieved in this direction, .and mentioned that checking inflation would not be an easy task. To-day the engine is going down the hill. It has gained momentum and the Labour party engine driver jumped off before the Liberal party driver took over its control. First of all, the new engine driver has to get on the speeding engine, and then he has to try to stop it. But the crew of the old engine driver are now saying, “ If we were on the engine, we should have stopped it long ago “. lt will be a long time before that crew are again allowed to take control. I have said enough to indicate that the responsibility for the present inflation lies substantially on .the doorstep of those who previously controlled the destinies of this country. I do not say that they are entirely to blame, because I have already pointed out that in the early years of the war and in the immediate post-war years the Government consisting of honorable members on the opposite side did a fairly good job in controlling prices. However, they completely abandoned responsibility when the people of Australia denied them further powers through the referendum. Instead of accepting the verdict of the people in a sporting way, the Government then said, “ You wont let us do what we want, now you can take the consequences and we shall make the consequences as tough as we can “. Now this Government hastaken over and is doing a reasonably good job with the instruments to hand. It hasa positive policy and believes that something can be done. The first thing to be done, as honorable members opposite will discover when the legislation is presented in a week or two, will be to remove from controlling positions those who are holding up the production of the country and creating an inflationary spiral of costs.
– Brave words!
– It is said that they are- brave words. Honorable members opposite say that we can do nothing and they challenge us to try to improve the economy. They imply that they will stand at one with the Communist party. I have a booklet in my hand entitled In Defence of Freedom. It indicates that it is a “ Melbourne citizen’s protest against repression “. Here are some of the organizations which subscribe to the defence of freedom - the Australian Communist party, Australia Soviet House, Australian Student Labour Federation, Building Workers Industrial Union, Eureka Youth League and the Federated Clerks Union.
Honorable members interjecting,
– There is too much interjecting. Interjections are coming from several honorable members and there is at least one honorable member who knows that, although all interjections are disorderly, they are doubly disorderly when made from another honorable member’s seat. I should like the interjecting to stop.
– I am reciting the names of organizations which are invoking the institutions of this country to preserve freedom of expression. They are organizing meetings all over the country and advocating the formation of a united front with Labour and with union organizations for the protection of what? Is it the general freedom of the community to express itself, or is it the freedom of men to incite others, who want to continue their vocations, to strike? That is the kind of freedom that has created many of the shortages which exist in the community to-day.
– The milk producers have done the same thing.
– Does the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) justify what the coal-miners and the iron-workers are doing? Does he justify the tram strike in Melbourne and the various other acts of aggression against the community simply because the milk producers or somebody else did what he says they did? This Government does not intend to tolerate such a state of affairs. In his speech to-night the Prime Minister gave the country an assurance that the Government intends to carry on with the job. He asked, in the most conciliatory terms that I have heard in this chamber, for the co-operation of all men of goodwill on the other side of the House. He said that it will not be a bill for the Liberal and the Australian Country parties, but a measure that every Australian party which values the preservation of this country should join in supporting. We should get rid of the agents of Moscow from their key positions. Does anybody believe that the Communists are working for the good of the down-trodden and depressed people of this country? Or is it believed that they foment strikes in order to reduce the volume of production in democratic countries so that their masters, carrying on the cold war, may be better served? That is unquestionably their motive. We have appealed not only to the members of the Australian Labour party but to every decent unionist in Australia who values his right to work without being subjected to the disorder created by Communists in control of his union.
– We shall have nothing to do with the Minister. He is a lawbreaker.
– The honorable member would have nothing to do at any time with anything that would throw a spanner in the works of the Communist party.
– The Minister is a lawbreaker.
– The law nearly got the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). If be had not had a very good barrister he would have been in quite a lot of trouble. However, a man cannot be convicted until he has been proved to be guilty. I do not think there is any doubt that the forces that are arrayed against this country in the cold war are acting for a nation against which it is possible that one day we shall have to defend ourselves. Under the modern technique, it is not always necessary for an aggressor nation to land its armed forces on the shores of the nation that it is attacking and subjugate it in that way. The modern technique was practised repeatedly in Europe and it is being practised now in Asia. It is the technique of using fifth columnists to promote internal strife in the nation that is being attacked.
In that way, an aggressor nation can achieve its objective without the use of armed force. That technique is being used against this country, and we ask honorable gentlemen opposite to assist us in the efforts that we are making to combat it. We are- not challenging the organized trade unionists as such, but we are challenging those persons who have become the dictators of this country by virtue of the control that they exercise ever the coal-mining industry. Does any one deny that houses are not being constructed in this country at the rate that h- necessary to provide adequate accommodation for our people because insufficient supplies of coal, steel, tiles, and other articles are available? Our basic industries are being strangled by the activities of . Communists. When we bring down legislation to combat the Communists I hope that we shall receive support, if not from the organized Labour party, from those persons outside the Parliament whose votes put us into the position that we occupy to-day. “Honorable gentlemen opposite talk as though they, were the sole voice of the workers and had a special mission in life on behalf of the workers. I say in reply that had it not been for the fact that tens of thousands of persons who earn their bread the hard way voted for the present Government parties, there would not have been the great array of members on this side of the House that sits behind the Prime Minister. If honorable gentlemen opposite have not learnt their lesson, we shall have to take the issue to the country and teach it to them. Since the Parliament assembled a few weeks ago we have been told by ex-Ministers of the Crown that they intend to use the majority that the Labour party has in the Senate to prevent legislation that is initiated by this Government from being passed by the Parliament. [Extension of time granted.] 1 thank the House for its indulgence in permitting me to finish what I have to say. The Government feels that it owes a duty to the people of Australia to act vigorously in the manner in which the people expect it to act. We shall try to preserve industrial democracy for the decent trade unions of this country, and we shall put a stop to the activities of the conspirators who are now doing their utmost to destroy the security and the economy of this great nation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Timson) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the poor acoustic properties of this chamber. I ask whether something can be done to enable honorable members to hear questions and the replies that are given to them. To-day the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) turned his back upon the Chair and upon the Opposition when he replied to two questions that were asked of him by Government members. We on the Opposition front bench could not hear a word that the Minister said in reply to those questions. It is not that we should have learned very much from the replies or that we were greatly interested to hear them, but the acoustic properties of this chamber should be such that any honorable member who desires to hear all that is said should be able to do so. Some honorable members on this side of the House have asked questions while standing at the table, and I have been told that honorable members sitting behind them could not hear what was said. It may be that the microphones in this chamber are not as sensitive as is the one that hangs, like the sword of Damocles, above your head, Mr. Speaker. At any rate, there appear to be some dead spots in the chamber. It seems that one dead spot was over the position that was occupied by the Minister for the Army at question time to-day. I should like those dead spots to be removed, if it is possible to do so. The old chamber gave us ample space in which to manoeuvre, as it were, but the chamber is now overcrowded, and it would be of assistance if all honorable members could hear what is said on both sides of the House. Whether we agree with it or not, whether we are edified by it or not, and whether we are interested in it or not. at least let ns be informed of all that occurs in the chamber.
.- At the request of the Australian Labour party group on the Melbourne waterfront T desire briefly to direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to a matter in the hope that the honorable gentleman will be able to do something to rectify what is, in my opinion, an anomaly that arises from the operation of workers’ compensation legislation in the States. I realize that workers’ compensation is a matter for the States, but I raise the point to which I am about to refer in the bop’.; that the Minister will take it up with the appropriate authorities in the States. I direct attention to an anomaly concerning waterside workers. At the present time the workers’ compensation legislation that is in force in some States covers a worker who is going to his home from his work or from his home to his work, but it does not cover a waterside worker who is on his way from his home to report at the bureau in the morning to be picked up. If he is engaged in the morning and his job continues for some days, the legislation that is in force in most States covers him, but it does not cover him if he goes to the bureau and does not get a job. If he does not report to the bureau, he is liable to be penalized. As I have said, I appreciate that it is the function of the States to deal with matters such as this, but I am hopeful that the Minister will use his influence with the Stevedoring Industry Board to ensure that representations are made to the States that waterside workers be covered by workers’ compensation legislation during the period when they are going from their homes to the pick-up centre.
– There is reason to complain of the acoustic properties of the chamber since the alterations were effected. I understand that equipment has been installed under the desks of honorable members to assist them to hear what is said, but it is not effective on the back benches. It is not always possible to hear the answers given to questions, or to hear everything that is said during debates. For instance, this morning at question time I was unable to hear an answer given by the Minister for Air (Mr. White). I am not saying this by way of complaint, but I point out that Hamsard reports are not made available to honorable members for a considerable time after the debates take place, so that they are not of much use to enable honorable members to check anything they may have missed. This evening, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was speaking, notwithstanding that his voice is clear, and that he was facing me, I could not hear him because behind me there were people saying such things as, “ That shut them up ! “, &c. It sounded more ‘ like barracking at an exciting football match than a debate in the Parliament. I do not relish having to listen to the loud conversation of people, who are not members of the House. You, Mr. Speaker, have said that you can sometimes hear more than honorable members realize, and I wonder whether you heard the conversations of which. I am complaining. If you did, you must agree with me that they were an unwarranted interruption. I hope that something can be done to enable those honorable members who sit on the back benches to hear more clearly what is said in the chamber.
– When we were in Opposition, we noticed that it was sometimes difficult to hear what was said. Perhaps we were fortunate in that. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) said that he could not hear the reply that I gave to a question this morning. I was asked whether an Avro-Tudor plane was being built, and the answer to that question was “ No “. The other question was about the Gippsland air service. The answer was that the service is to be inaugurated, and operated by private enterprise, the operating company being Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
.- I confess that I was not aware, until after the session began, that the acoustic properties of this chamber had been altered in the course of the remodelling.
It is now hard for even those honorable members who occupy the front benchesto hear. Reference has been made to one Minister who turned his back on the Opposition to-day in order to answer a question. Previously, there were loudspeakers over the doors and in the corners in such a position that no one could obstruct the sound. If the acoustic properties of the chamber cannot be improved in any other way, perhaps it would be as well to replace the loudspeakers which, I believe, gave general satisfaction. Loud-speakers were also installed in the press gallery in order to enable pressmen to hear what was going on. I do not know how they are managing now. I should be obliged if you, Mr. Speaker, would look into the matter and, if the present system of hearing aids cannot be improved, to consider reverting to the old system.
– in reply - The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) have referred to the acoustic properties of the chamber, and all of us who have been here for some time will sympathize with them. I do not know whether I am not so well endowed vocally as others, but I have always had to force my voice in order to make myself heard in this chamber, whereas I have not felt the need to do so when speaking in other buildings. Perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, in conjunction with the House Committee, will engage an expert to investigate the acoustic properties of the chamber, in order to see whether, by draping or by restoring the mechanical aids which were formerly in use, honorable members can be enabled to hear more clearly. I understand that those aids were first installed to enable honorable members to hear the former Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who had some difficulty in making his voice register. I know that you will give the matter your active attention.
As for the matter raised by the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), it seems that an amendment may be necessary to the legislation dealing with workers’ compensation. In most occupa tions, the journey to work is covered for purposes of workers’ compensation. If that is not so in the case of waterside workers going to the pick-up place to seek employment, it seems to be an omission which could be remedied by a suitable amendment. I. shall bring the honorable member’s suggestion before the Chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Board, and ask what is the present position, and whether suitable representations can be made to the State authorities.
– It has been brought to my attention that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) rose seeking the call. I am sorry that I did not see him rise, but the position now is that the Minister for Labour and National Service, having replied, the debate is closed. Unless a resolution is carried allowing the honorable member to speak, I do not see how he can be permitted to do so.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) - by leave - agreed to.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the debate being continued.
– I desire to raise a matter regarding which representations were made to me to-day. I understand that it is the practice in this building for members of either House of the Parliament to take guests from any of the States into the bar. However, it has been stated to me that persons resident in the Australian Capital Territory, and employed in the Territory, though not in Parliament House, are debarred, because of their residence in the Territory, from entering the bar as a’ guest of members. I should like to know whether that is so, and if it is, whether it is possible to have the position rectified?
– To-day, I visited the Canberra Community Hospital to see a friend who is incapacitated because of an injury. For purposes of workers’ compensation claims, persons employed by private employers or contractors within the Australian Capital Territory are covered by Ordinance No. 2 of 1946, relating to compensation to workmen for injuries suffered in . the course of their employment. Under this schedule .the value is far below the values set out in the State and Commonwealth Acts. Furthermore, under this ordinance the injured worker receives ?3 a week,. ?1 for his wife, provided that she is totally dependent on him, and 7s. 6d. for each child. Under the comparable Commonwealth and State legislation the amount paid to a single man in New South Wales is ?4 a week. A married man receives an additional ?1 10s. a week for his wife, and 10s. for each child. In the case that I have mentioned should the lad accept compensation he will be debarred from making a third-party claim. I point out that under both Commonwealth and State legislation the worker can claim compensation and subsequently institute proceedings against the third party. If that claim succeeds he must then repay the amount of compensation and the medical and hospital expenses that he has received. In this particular case the injured worker must continue without any form of income other than social services while the third party action is pending. There is grave injustice in this matter; that is indicated by the fact that under the ordinance only ?400 is payable to a worker for the loss of an eye, compared with ?500 under Commonwealth and State compensation legislation, and only ?720 compensation is payable for the loss of an arm, compared with ?1,000 under the Commonwealth and State legislation. I should be glad if the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) would bring this matter to the attention of his -colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride).
– The matter raised by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald), will be brought to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride). So far as the matter raised by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) is concerned, I think that the present position results from a decision of the House Committee of this Parliament. I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will refer it to. the committee for review.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - The matters raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott)1 will be carefully considered by me. I know that honorable members on the back benches experience great difficulty in hearing the debates. I have received other complaints about that matter. Certain matters in relation to this building are still in a state of flux. There has been a lot of reconstruction and alteration, and such work is still being carried on underneath this chamber.. Until matters are ship-shape there may be difficulty in overcoming some of these troubles. If any information comes to my knowledge that should be passed on to honorable members I shall certainly advise them accordingly.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong referred to his hearing being disturbed by the noise from the public gallery behind him. It must be distinctly understood that visitors occupying seats in the public galleries in this chamber are not permitted to interrupt the proceedings by conversing audibly. I point out, however, that if some honorable members were to refrain from commenting while an honorable member was addressing the Chair they would set a better example to visitors seated in the public, galleries. The honorable member for Maribyrnong could assist materially in .that direction.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred to “ dead spots “ in the chamber. As I do not know exactly what he meant I shall refrain from commenting upon his remark. He also referred to the fact that Hansard reports of what honorable members have said are not freely available to honorable members. The fact is that the proof copies of the Hansard report of each day’s proceedings are supplied to the Leader and Deputy Leader of each party as soon as they arrive from the Government Printing Office.. Corrected copies of Hansard do not arrive for some considerable time. I am told that we get copies of the House of Commons Hansard from London long before we get our own printed Hansardreports, from the Government Printer.
– There is a Labour Government in office in Great Britain.
– Labour was in office in this country also until quite recently. These matters will be carefully considered. I shall be willing to assist the House in any way that is possible.
Mr.Ward. - Would it be possible for additional supplies of Hansard “flats” to be supplied to the parties?
– I am having some little trouble over the distribution of “ flats “. I have seen fit to restrict their distribution. They are endorsed “unrevised and confidential . . . not to be quoted from or used in official files “. If I find that that is happening in any department, that department will cease to receive a copy of the “ flats “. They are not to be used or copied, and are not to form a part of any official file. I shall consider whether a copy might be supplied to the Whip of each party. I assure the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that I do not intend to increase to any very great extent the issue of uncorrected and unofficial copies of the reports of the proceedings of this chamber.
– Could they be supplied to executive members of parties?
– My first reaction to the honorable member’s suggestion is that all executive members of parties should not get them. However, I shall discuss the matter with the leader of the party that the honorable member supports.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
k asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 1st March, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) asked a question in connexion with the grant of Commonwealth financial assistance to municipalities for the establishment and maintenance of home help housekeeper services for mothers when they are ill. I now desire to inform the honorable member as follows : -
An amount of £15,000 was appropriated by Parliament for 1949-50 as a grant in aid to housekeeper services. It was proposed to the States by the former Government that this amount should be apportioned amongst them on a population basis and that they should in theirturn and through their existing organizations distribute the moneys they receive to voluntary organizations or agencies conducting emergency housekeeper services for the benefit of all sections of the community. The States’ co-operation in giving effect to its proposal was sought by the previous Government, but the views of all the State Premiers on the proposal have not yet been received. In the short time it has been in office the Government has not had an opportunity of examining all aspects of the matter fully, but when it has reached a decision on the matter the Parliament will be informed.
y asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 7th March the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) asked me questions regarding a statement made recently in the New South “Wales Parliament concerning the alleged attitude of some wholesale suppliers to co-operative societies. I have since read the Hansard report of this statement and desire to inform the honorable member that the alleged incident inquired into does not appear to fall within the scope of either my policy speech referred to or the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth.
s. - On the 24th February, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked a question, in which he raised the following points : - 1. Whether British immigrants who have qualified for age pensions in Australia lose their pensions if they return to Great Britain - (a) on a visit; (b) permanently. 2. Whether such persons are eligible for comparable benefits in Britain. 3. Whether a reciprocal social services scheme is proposed between the United Kingdom and Australia on similar lines to the agreement between Australia and New Zealand.
In reply thereto the Minister for Social Services has informed me that the Social Services Consolidation Act provides that payment of an age pension shall cease if a pensioner leaves Australia unless the absence is temporary. In the case of a temporary absence payment may be continued for a period not longer than twelve weeks. The act also provides that payment of an instalment of pension shall not in any event be made to a person outside Australia, and instalments are credited to the pensioner and payment made on his return to Australia in the case of a temporary absence. A person receiving an age pension in Australia who leaves to reside permanently in the United Kingdom would not be qualified to receive a contributory old-age pension from the United Kingdom Government. Moreover, he would not be eligible to receive a non-contributory old-age pension from the United Kingdom Government unless he had attained the age of 70 years and had twelve years’ residence in the United Kingdom since attaining 50 years of age. I understand, however, that such a person, if in need, may apply to the United Kingdom Public Assistance Board for financial assistance and the application would be treated on its merits. At the present time there are no reciprocal arrangements between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth for the payment of social service benefits. This question is receiving consideration, however, and discussions are now in progress between Commonwealth officers and representatives of the United Kingdom Ministry of National Insurance who are at present visiting Australia.
Oil and Petrol.
s. - On the 23rd February, the honorable member LoT East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked thu following questions : -
I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
Question (a). Though there are serious elements of uncertainty, the Tariff Board considers the probabilities such as to warrant an affirmative answer.
Question (b). The board sees no reason why Mr. Craig should not be able to develop his proposal to a sound economic production.
Question (c). Yes., provided the Government is satisfied that the employment of tankers for the carriage of crude oil instead of the use of ordinary cargo space for bitumen is possible and desirable.
Question (d). No assistance would be necessary under existing conditions, as production costs in Australia should be well below present landed costs of importedbitumen.
l. asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister for
Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the. honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Permits, licences and leases foi petroleum ore issued by the Department of the Interior in the Northern Territory, by the Department of External Territories in Papua-New Guinea, and by the State Mines Departments in each State. The . particulars desired by the honorable member will be obtained from those authorities. -With reference to 1 (a) it is proposed to obtain information for the period 1919-1939.
The Commonwealth Government assists companies by carrying out geological and geophysical surveys. In recent years such work has been done in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia. The Commonwealth also furnishes complete geological and mud engineering laboratory facilities to assist small companies which are drilling for oil. In addition, the Commonwealth is considering the importation of a modern diesel-driven rotary oil-boring plant for use in testing potential oil-bearing areas which have not been thoroughly explored by private enterprise. No detailed figures of expenditure by State governments in relation to the search for oil are available.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500314_reps_19_206/>.