19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read, prayers.
– Can the Minister for Health state what progress is being made with arrangements for the forthcoming conference on the serious epidemic of poliomyelitis which is still extending, particularly in New South “Wales and South Australia 1 “Will the right honorable gentleman also say whether any decision has been reached on the suggestion by the honorable member for Hindmarsh that Commonwealth assistance should be provided for the treatment of this disease?
– Letters have been sent to the various States about the proposed conference, but, so far, no replies have reached me. I do not know whether any have reached the Prime Minister. The other matter mentioned by the right honorable member is receiving consideration.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong - Prime
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 u.m.
The reason for this motion ib that, as honorable members are aware, a function has been arranged by the GovernorGeneral for -to-morrow afternoon.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– As Australia suffers from serious floods in a number of its rivers each year, with consequent privations and heavy losses, will the Minister for National Development consider assembling a team of scientists and engineers to carry out, as a national work, a programme of flood prevention, water conservation and irrigation in one river basin with the object of evolving a technique for general use? Should such a scheme be decided upon, will the Minister consider the claims of the Hawkesbury River basin for this purpose as it is the location of the oldest river settlement, contains some of the most valuable land in the Commonwealth, and is responsible for the longest series of records.
– Flood prevention, water conservation And irrigation, and other similar undertakings, within the boundaries of any one State, are primarily the responsibility of that State. So far as I am aware, no request has come from the Government of New South Wales for the inauguration of a scheme such as that proposed by the honorable member. However, any such request would receive the sympathetic consideration of the Australian Government.
– I address to the Prime Minister a question relative to the cost of flood prevention and the serious consequences of flood damage in the federal electorates of Hume, Farrer, and the Riverina, and in doing so, I should like to explain that it is asked in collaboration with the honorable member for Farrer and the honorable member for Hume. Is it the intention of the Commonwealth to make funds available to recoup local government authorities for costs incurred to prevent and/or reduce flood damage? Does the Government propose to make funds available for the relief of local government authorities and people in the flood devastated areas in the federal electorates of Hume, Farrer, and Riverina? If the answers to those questions are in the affirmative, and I sincerely hope that they will be, will the Prime Minister make a statement relative to the procedure that will be necessary for the local government authorities and the people to avail themselves of such funds?
– The damage arising from the floods is, very naturally, a matter that gives ‘great concern to governments, Commonwealth, State, and local. It has been brought to our attention, and the Treasurer and I have examined it quite sympathetically. We propose to take action in respect of it, but I shall be in a better position, perhaps, in 24 hours’ time, to indicate the precise nature of such action.
– Every year during the monsoonal rains, the far north of Queensland suffers severely from floods. As many hardships are imposed on the people of that region in obtaining medical aid for the sick and injured, would the Minister for -Civil Aviation consider stationing a helicopter in northern Queensland during the monsoonal period for the purpose of bringing assistance to those people?
– The flying doctor service operates in all States and there is a very good branch of it in Queensland. I think that if it was approached it would assist distressed people in monsoonal regions. The uses of helicopters are limited. The Government has only one helicopter at the moment and it is busily employed in other ways. If the honorable, member communicated with the branch of the flying doctor service in Queensland or with the federal body, that service would investigate the possibility of having air strips laid down in the area he has mentioned. I am sure that, in spite of Roods, there are always places where strips can be laid down for small aircraft. In addition, the Royal Australian Air Force will co-operate in bringing assistance to people who need it, as it is now doing in flooded or otherwise dangerous area9.
– Has the Prime Minister any recollection of a Liberal party advertisement that appeared in the metropolitan dailies and the weekly press of Australia towards the end of November last year, decorated with a DickensonMonteith portrait of himself-
– A very good firm of photographers.
– That may be.
– It had a very poor subject.
– Order ! Let us have the question.
– The advertisement was headed “ Australian Women - This is what we offer you . . . “. Then followed the words : -
An end to shortages ft ltd blackmarkets.
Lower prices . . . A £’s worth for every £ yon spend.
Child endowment for the first child’ (and no reduction in the basic wage).
If the right honorable gentleman’s recollection is perfect in this matter, will hesay whether those were, genuine offers tothe women of Australia in order to obtain their votes, or whether they were just somuch political stunting? If he reallymeant what he said, when does he propose to do something to end shortages and blackmarketing, to see that prices arereduced, and to ensure that people obtain £l’s worth for every fi they spend i
– I cannot profess tohave a perfect textual recollection of theadvertisement mentioned by the honorable member, but I listened to what he had to say about it. I noticed that he drew attention to the reference in the advertisement to child endowment. He then, with singular coolness, asked when we proposed todo something about it. The answer tothat is - when the Labour party displays enough intelligence to let. our legislationdealing with child endowment go throughthe Parliament.
– In view of the serious decline in the value of the Australian £1 since 1945, will the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation bring to” the attention of his colleague the urgent need to increase the allowance -payable to trainees under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme !
– -I shall be very happy to bring to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation the question which the honorable member has just asked, and I am sure that the Minister will give it practical consideration.
– As statements have been made by Government spokesmen that petrol supplies are adequate, will the Minister for Civil Aviation give permission for the inauguration of air services to Broken Hill, Wilcannia and other places in western New South Wales, for which approval was given by the previous Government, but which could not be commenced because of the lack of petrol?
– The inauguration of air services are not being held up through lack of petrol. The, abolition of rationing: applied to aviation spirit as well as to petrol for road use. If applications for the air services mentioned by the honor.able member were received by the Department of Civil Aviation, they must have been lost by the last Government.. No such applications have been received by this Government. If the honorable member can induce the persons interested to- submit further applications they will be considered.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture :a question relating to the report of the Tariff Board on the flax industry. When the Tariff Board commenced its investigations the Commonwealth Flax Production Committee set up by the Government operated all the mills for the production of flax fibre. Since then, on.e flax mill in Western Australia has been taken over by a co-operative company, and it has been announced that the Government is trying to dispose of its other mills. Will the Minister give an assurance that the only co-operative flax mill will be protected against an arbitrary reduction of the price of flax fibre by the Commonwealth Flax Production Committee? In order to give the industry some assurance of stability, will the Minister make an early statement of the Government’s intention regarding the future development of the flax industry?
– I told the House last week that the Government has invited the organized flax-growers and the spinners to consider submitting a proposition to the Government for the joint purchase hy the- two interested parties of all the flax mills in Australia other than the one at Boyup Brook to which the honorable member referred, which has already been sold to the Western Australian Government and is being conducted by a cooperative in that State. The future of the industry must be related to the recent recommendations of the Tariff Board. That body made an investigation and submitted a recommendation, but its recommendation was based on terms of reference which did not oblige the board to take into full consideration the circumstances of the Australian flaxgrowing industry. When the Government gives consideration at an early date to the future of the Australian flax-growing industry and considers the recommendation of the Tariff Board I ask whether it will bear in mind all the circumstances, including particularly those mentioned by the honorable member?
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a ballot was recently conducted in the Victorian branch of the Federated Clerks Union under the supervision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? Is he also aware that the elected representatives of that union- have been refused access by Communist-dominated officials to the premises and the documents and records of the union, including the ballot-papers, and that the federal conference of the union, representing a Communist minority, has refused to admit to the conference the properly elected representatives of the Victorian branch? Will the Government take the necessary action through the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to give effect to the result of the democratic election that was carried out under the auspices of the court, the more so because . the funds supplied by those fighting for democratic control of the organization have been exhausted in the struggle against the minority, which has used the union’s funds to preserve the control which it obtained originally by force and illegality?
– I noticed in the press, which is at present my only source of information on the subject, the result to which the honorable member has directed attention, and I must say that I read it with some pleasure. It seemed to me to be a very good indication of what good results can flow from a properly conducted secret ballot of members of a union. I shall discuss with the Attorney-General the question which the honorable member has asked concerning some resistance on the part of the outgoing officers of the union to see whether any steps can be taken by the Government in relation to it.
– The Minister for National Development recently informed me that the Government is not responsible for the distribution of iron and steel products such as wire netting and barbed wire and thelike, but as the supply of such materials is becoming increasingly acute, will the Minister now inform me whether some assistance cannot be given by the Government to the States in order to increase the supply of wire, wire netting, barbed wire and similar iron and steel products, which are so essential to primary producers?
– One of the earliest matters considered by the present Government was the grievous shortages of wire, wire netting, and steel products generally. However, until coal nan be mined in sufficient quantities to make enough steel to increase the supplies of locally-manufactured wire, wire netting and other similar products, the Government has decided to remove entirely the tariff duty on the imports of wire, wire netting, barbed wire, a wide variety of steel sections, nails, screws and many other items that enter into house building. That was done early in February, with the result that orders for such goods from overseas have greatly increased, and they are now beginning to enter Australia in greater volume that ever before. The Governmentbelieves that, pending the increase of production in Australia, that action is the best which can be taken, and, in the meantime, all the importexport firms concerned are being allowed to increase their orders for those items. The Commonwealth has directed all the agencies under its control to use the imported products, and has encouraged State governments to follow suit. The imported products are more expensive than the locally-manufactured products. That action on the part of the Commonwealth has left the locally-manufactured and cheaper products for the building industries and other industries.
– I direct the following questions to the Prime Minister: - (1) Is it a fact that great hardship is experienced by many parents who have an invalid son or daughter under the age of 21 years? (2) Is it a fact that an invalid pension is not paid to any person under 21 years of age if the income of the parents exceeds £156 each? (3) Is it a fact that the cost of living has increased enormously since that income limit was fixed as the determining factor in the granting of invalid pensions to invalids under 21 years of age? (4) Is it a fact that, in some cases, considerable sums of money have to be expended by parentson medical and surgical treatment for invalid sons and daughters? (5) Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of reviewing the income limit, or removing the means test entirely, so as to alleviate the hardship on many parents who are in the unfortunate position of having an invalid son or daughter?
– The honorable member will appreciate that his question really leads up to a matter of policy, but I shall treat it as being on notice and will convey his suggestion to the Minister for Social Services, so that the matter may then be properly considered by Cabinet.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to make a national broadcast asking the children and friends of age and invalid pensioners to assist in supporting such pensioners? My reason for asking the question is that the Minister for Labour and National Service, in referring to age and invalid pensioners recently, made the following statement: -
Nearly all of them have friends in addition to their own children, their own kith and kin, who gladly assist them to improve their lot.
– I shall treat the honorable gentleman’s question as if it had been placed upon the notice-paper. I shall examine it and supply ananswer later.
– As the payment , of superannuation is, in reality, a repayment of capital saved, will the Treasurer, when reviewing taxation, consider exempting superannuation payments from assessable income?
– The subject that the honorable member has mentioned will be one of the matters which will be examined by the expert committee appointed by me to consider various aspects of taxation.
– Has the Minister for
Health seen a recent press statement by the secretary of the Friendly Societies of Australia. Mr. E. C. Mawson, in which it is stated that friendly societies resent i he Minister’s implication that the Societies are to blame for delay in the implementation of the national health scheme? Mr. Mawson further stated, by way of explanation-, that the societies wore playing a waiting game until they received advice from the Government, and also that no request for a further conference had come from the Government since the 20th January, when the representatives of the friendly societies interviewed the Minister. With a view to informing the public regarding the present stage which the proposed scheme lias reached, will the Minister state what his proposals are and how they have been received by both the British Medical Association and the friendly societies ?
– I was in consultation only yesterday evening with the hoad office of one of the greatest friendly societies in Australia. The statements made by Mr. Mawson arise largely from misrepresentation in the press. Last week the honorable member for Darling asked me a question in connexion with this matter, to which I replied that the accusation that is being made against me at present is, in effect, chat my loyalties are with the friendly societies instead of with the British Medical Association. I found that the press stated that I had said in reply to the question that the friendly societies were responsible for the delay. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the Hansard report of my answer proves.
– Will the Minister for Health say whether he has made any progress during the last week in his negotiations with the turbulent elements of the British Medical Association that appear, to be preventing the finding of a solution of the medical benefits problem? If the right honorable gentleman finds that, as a member of that union, he cannot make any progress with it, will be place the matter iri the hands of somebody else who will finalize the negotiations?
– The honorable member has difficulty in concealing his discomfiture as the result of the fact that very great progress is being made in this matter, not merely with one organization, but also with others. Appropriate legislation will be brought down in this House before he is very much older and he may then show his sympathy for the sick by supporting it.
M>. TURNBULL.- The Minister for the Interior will recall that on numerous occasions during the life of the last Parliament I drew attention to the many anomalies and injustices that have arisen in connexion with the acquisition by the Commonwealth of 9£ acres of land in the city of Melbourne. Will the honorable gentleman indicate what the Government intends to do about that acquisition?
– The Government ha3 directed that an examination be made of the area referred to by the honorable member. When a report is received the Government will decide what action shall be taken.
– In view of the statement made by the present Prime Minister in the policy speech which he delivered in 1946, and also in the one that he delivered in 1949, that “ the women of Australia have established an unanswerable claim to economic, legal, industrial and political equality “, will the right honorable gentleman advise the House when, as a commencement of his policy of equal pay for the sexes, he is prepared to provide equal pay for men and women in government employment?
– A question in substantially identical terms was addressed tome last week. I have nothing to add tothe answer which I then gave.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been drawn to reports of dissatisfaction and unrest at the migrant camp at Enoggera, Brisbane ? If not, will he cause an investigation to be made in order to discover the cause of such unrest, and take steps to remedy it?
– No complaints have reached me regarding conditions at the migrant camp at Enoggera. I shall have inquiries made and shall convey to the honorable member the substance of the information that is furnished to me.
Mr.WARD. - Seeing that the Prime
Minister stated subsequent to the general election on the 10th December last, that it would probably take many years to restore value to the £1, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government proposes to take immediate steps to assist those who are in receipt of Commonwealth social service payments, and workers on low rates of pay, to overcome the difficulties that they face in the interim period. If the Government proposes to take steps to assist such people, is the right honorable gentleman yet able to make a statement of the Government’s intentions? If not, when does he expect to do so?
– As decisions concerning matters of policy are arrived at they will in due form be disclosed to the House.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health regarding sup plies of insulin which are controlled by the CommonwealthSerum Laboratories in Hobart. In the past the Hobart branch of the laboratories carried stocks of protamin zinc insulin, but in recent months that practice has been discontinued and local chemists now have to send orders to Melbourne. In some instances they have had to wait for more than a fortnight for supplies of this urgently needed drug. Will the Minister investigate the position and arrange for adequate stocks of insulin to be held by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories at Hobart ?
– At present there is a shortage of supplies of insulin throughout the world. In fact the pancreas from which insulin is produced is unprocurable in many places. I shall see what can be done in the matter that the honorable member has raised, particularly in relation to Tasmania, where the position is most difficult due to the isolation of that State.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the following statement that was made recently by Mr. L.F. Edmunds, LiberalCountry party member for Hawthorn in the Victorian Parliament: -
The same process is taking place in the Liberal party as happened in the United Australian party. The wealthy are moving in and taking control. The cruelty and suffering that we allow to exist are dragging the name of Liberalism in the mud ?
Can the right honorable gentleman say whether that statement is correct? If so, what does he propose to do to abolish the cruelty and suffering about which Mr. Edmunds speaks, and which he attributes to the political representatives of big business in this Parliament and in some State parliaments?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred. I am, of course, acquainted with the member of the Victorian Parliament whom he has mentioned. If I may say so with great respect to that gentleman, he occasionally imparts a touch of hyperbole in the statements that he makes.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health with respect to the control and eradication of tuberculosis. In view of the fact that whilst the Government subsidizes hospital beds at the rate of8s. a day many sufferers from tuberculosis and other diseases are often not able to gain admission to hospitals, will the right honorable gentleman consider making available the amount of the subsidy to sufferers while they are being nursed at home?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware of the tragic and disastrous fires that occurred recently in certain parts of Western Australia where large numbers of ex-servicemen of both world wars have settled on the land? Will hf consult with the appropriate authorities in that State in order to provide adequate relief to those settlers and ensure that in relation to ex-servicemen of World War II. this early disaster shall not in any way be permitted to check their rehabilitation in those areas.
– Whilst reports concerning the fires to which the honorable member, has referred have been brought to my notice, I have not received any report from the Government of Western Australia regarding any damage suffered by soldier settlers. I shall obtain full information on the matter. I assure the honorable member that the greatest assistance possible will be given to soldier settlers who have suffered loss as the result of those fires.
– In view of the row that has developed in the State Council of the Liberal party of New South Wales, which has been split over the Commonwealth Bank Bill that has been introduced into this Parliament, will the Treasurer postpone further discussions on that measure until- harmony has been restored” within the Liberal party in New South Wales? Alternatively, will he consider withdrawing the measure because it appears to be obnoxious to all political parties?
– I shall refer the matter that the honorable member has raised to the Premier of New South Wales, who already has so many squabbles upon his hands.
- Mr. Speaker, have you read an attack on you - as I trust you will regard it - which was made in the Sunday Telegraph of the 26th March in an article which alleged that you, sir, the chosen upholder of the dignity of this House, used an opportunity arising from the execution of your official duties to indulge a personal feud and vent a personal animosity? Did an incident occur at Government House, as alleged in the article, when the King’s representative offered to you the proper and traditional courtesy upon the presentation of the Address-in-Reply ? If you agree that in stating that your refusal was in pursuit of a personal feud, the ‘ article injured the reputation of this honorable House by picturing its presiding officer as a boorish or churlish fellow, will you pronounce the story to be untrue and take any other steps necessary to repair the damage? Is it a fact that in previous centuries it required both courage and dignity to stand up to the King’s representative, but that it requires none of those qualities to show discourtesy to him to-day?
– I shall examine the article which has been mentioned by the honorable member. I am prepared to leave the judgment of my conduct at Government House ‘ to the honorable members who accompanied me there.
– I understand that the Minister for Works and Housing is interested in the importation of precut and prefabricated houses in order to improve the unbalanced economy of this country. Has the Minister realized that when such houses are landed in Australia skilled labour may not be available for their erection? Has he, or has the Government, considered bringing to this country as immigrants, skilled artisans who would be available for the erection of precut and prefabricated houses if they are imported? Does the Minister intend to arrange for the continual importation of a certain number of prefabricated houses. If so, what is the number that has been fixed?
– T was under the impression tl at I had already given to the House the information for which the honorable gentleman has asked. Part of the task of the mission that has gone overseas to investigate the position in regard to prefabricated houses in the principal countries from which supplies of those houses can be obtained is to inquire whether manufacturers will be prepared, not only to supply prefabricated houses to this country, but also to provide the work force that will be necessary to erect them, thus avoiding the necessity to draw for that purpose upon the inadequate labour force that is available to the Australian building industry at the present time. The honorable gentleman is doubtless aware that the Australian Government has offered to subsidize the cost of a total of 10,000 prefabricated houses if State governments require them, provided that the payment of the subsidy will not reduce the cost of an imported house to such a degree as to bring it below that of a locally built house. After the subsidy has been paid upon 10,000 houses, the State governments must decide how many more they desire to import. Doubtless that matter will be the subject of consideration at the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, over which the Prime Minister will preside.
– In view of the fact that certain articles, used in house cons traction, particularly electrical appliances, are now in full supply in this country, will the Minister for Works and Housing instruct the mission to which he has just referred to inquire whether manufacturers of prefabricated houses overseas will be prepared, when submitting tenders, to exclude such articles from them ?
– It would be foolish, if not dangerous, to import into this country articles that are in full supply here. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that those articles will not be included in imported prefabricated houses.
– My question to the Prime Minister relates to the Australian Government’s £500,000 interest free loan in connexion with the rehabilitation of the Burmese, in accordance with the Spender plan. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Government is -prepared to make a similar loan available to each of the returned servicemen’s organizations in Australia, on the same conditions, for the purpose of enabling them to finance home-building for their members?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s suggestion to my colleagues in the Cabinet.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, in the event of his officers recommending that Quorn and Hawker shall be by-passed by the proposed railway line from Copley to Port Augusta, a survey of which has been made, he will visit Quorn so that civic authorities, business people and industrialists there can place before him reasons and arguments in support of their contention that Quorn and Hawker should not be by-passed?
– As the honorable gentleman knows, a survey was made north of Stirling of a railway line for the transport of coal from the Leigh Creek coal-field. The construction of. the line cannot be undertaken without the concurrence of the South Australian Government, and I understand that that matter is at present under discussion.
Supply or NEWSPAPERS
– My question, which is addressed to you, Mr, Speaker, concerns the supply of newspapers to the party rooms in this building. This afternoon’s Melbourne newspapers will be available in the party rooms at approximately 7 p.m. to-day, but this morning’s Melbourne newspapers will not be available there until approximately 9.30 a.m. to-morrow. I understand that Melbourne morning newspapers are on sale in Canberra between 9.30 a.m. and 10 a.m. on the day of issue. I ask whether arrangements can be made to have all Melbourne daily newspapers made available to members on the day of publication?
-I shall investigate the matter that the honorable gentleman has raised. As soon as possible I shall report to the House the reasons for the delays to which he has referred and also the measures that I propose to take to overcome them.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he said, as reported in Hansard, on the 2nd J une, 1949 -
The official case for the continuation of rationing is that the sterling area is not producing enough petrol for its requirements, and that if Australia gets more, the
United Kingdom will either have to get correspondingly less or spend more dollars. I shall prove that that is a complete misconception …
Has experience proved that the right honorable gentleman was right and that the Government then in office was in error? “Will he make a statement to the House indicating the situation and demonstrating by that means whether he or the Labour Government was correct?
– In the light of subsequent events, I was proved to have been absolutely correct in saying that there was a surplus of sterling petrol. A conference is being held in London to-day with the object of arranging for the substitution of sterling petrol for dollar petrol in deliveries to Australia and other dominions.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether it is a fact that roads in New South Wale3 and elsewhere deteriorated as the result of war-time traffic and lack of maintenance ? Is it also a fact that the process of restoring those roads to their former condition has been delayed by the shortage of essential machinery for local government bodies ? Have recent abnormal rains accelerated the process of deterioration of main, arterial and secondary roads? Is the Government pledged to assist local government bodies in the restoration and extension of road systems ? If the answers ure in the affirmative, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Government has made any progress with arrangements for the supply of heavy road-making machinery to local government bodies and when those bodies may expect to receive the first instalment of the relief that they must have if they are to maintain effective road systems ?
– The conditions to which the honorable member’s question? draw attention apply throughout Australia. It is certainly true that one of the serious bottlenecks in Australia is the shortage of adequate road-making and other earth-moving equipment. At present the largest types of such machinery must be purchased with dollars and the Government is allocating the maximum amount of dollar currency for that purpose, having in mind the dollar needs of all sections of the community. However, earth-moving equipment is becoming available from Great Britain and other non-dollar sources, and it is also hoped that an adequate quantity of such machinery will become available soon from the increasing output of Australian factories. The matter of financial assistance for local governing bodies, which was dealt with in the present Prime Minister’s policy speech at the last general election, will be considered as soon as the Department of National Development is properly organized, and a decision will be made by the Government then.
– In view of the continued allegations of the Minister for Health about misrepresentation by the press, will the right honorable gentleman ask the Prime Minister to appoint a royal commission to investigate the truth, reliability and accuracy of press reports and to devise some means by which the truth or otherwise of the allegations that he and other Ministers have made against the press can be considered ?
– There is no necessity to appoint a royal commission for that purpose, because I can cite an actual case. Last Thursday I was asked a question about my relationships with the friendly societies. I replied that they had given me substantial support and that it had been said that my loyalty was more with them than with the British Medical Association. On the following day, however, the relevant report in the Melbourne Argus was headed, in halfinch black letters, “ Health Scheme Difficulties ‘ with Societies “. I repeat that there is no need for a royal commission. The facts speak for themselves.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to the presence in Australia, of the managing directors of the Union Bank of Australia Limited and the Bank of Australasia, the head-quarters of which are in London ? Can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether they have come to Australia for the purpose of effecting ah amalgamation of their banks? If so, has he given consent to such an amalgamation, as required by law ? If the answer is in the affirmative, how does the right honorable gentleman reconcile the giving of such consent with his repeated claim that there should exist a large number of private banks, in order that the resultant competition may benefit the people of Australia?
– The gentlemen in question are in Australia to finalize matters on the basis of a consent that was given by the Treasurer in the previous Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether in view of the proclamation recently issued under the Crimes Act, it is proposed by the Government to take action exclusively against Communists? If such is not the case, how can the Prime Minister explain his statement that the action of the Government does not constitute an attack upon the trade union movement generally?
– During the currency of a proclamation under the Crimes Act certain matters become offences against the law. The Government does not propose to deal with people who are not offenders against the law, but if offences against the law are committed the Government will then determine in each case whether a prosecution should be launched.
– When does the Postmaster-General expect to be in a position to answer a question that I asked him approximately three weeks ago? That question concerned the laying on the table of the Library of copies of the script of all news bulletins broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission since the 10th December, 1949. Further, why is it necessary to ask questions of the Administration twice before answers are given?
– My answer to the question is plainly and bluntly that there is no intention of laying on the table of the Library copies of all news bulletins broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting
Commission. If the honorable member has in mind any particular broadcast, about which he would like information, I shall be pleased to investigate the matter foi’ him.
– I ask the Prime Minister or the Postmaster-General whether the Government has decided to restrict the short-wave broadcast of “Radio Australia “ to Asia and Europe. If so, what reduction of staff has been made, or is- being contemplated, and has the Department of External Affairs been consulted ? . If the Government has decided upon the restriction of such broadcasts would it reconsider its decision in view of the increasing tempo of political events in Asia and the consequent need for Australia’s voice to be heard there?
– That question applies to my department because it has taken over “ Radio Australia “. A Cabinet sub-committee has been appointed to deal with this matter, and has met. It has also conferred with executive officers of the Australian Journalists Association concerning the maintenance of staff and the continuance of certain short-wave broadcasts. It is proposed to restrict the number of such broadcasts. The Government can see no point in shortwave broadcasting to certain countries, in which, as far as can be ascertained, only a few people listen to broadcasts. However, the more important broadcasts will be continued, and the staffs necessary to prepare and make them will be kept in employment.
– Has the Prime Minister read the reported statement made by the president of the Retail Confectionery, Refreshment and Mixed Business Association, Mr. L. J. Luke, challenging the Australian Government to prosecute members of his association pot breaches of the regulations governing the rationing of tea and butter ? Further, is the Prime Minister in a position to give any information about the future of tea and butter rationing?
– The answer to both questions is “ No “.
Broadcast by Mr. A. D. Eraser, M.P.
– Has the Prime Minister seen an article in the country edition of the Sydney Morning Herald concerning an alleged broadcast by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in which that honorable member said that the Government’s decision to invoke the Crimes Act in connexion with the waterfront dispute in Brisbane was aimed at the waterside workers’ trade union itself and not at the Communists, could strengthen the hands of the Communists and would cause a waterside tie-up and general industrial dislocation? Is it a fact that those statements are calculated to incite disorder and opposition to the resolution of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, which warns trade unionists not to join tine Communists’ proposed defiance of the Menzies Government, and to the call by the Australian Council of Trades Unions for a resumption of work at least until May? If those are facts will the right honorable gentleman have investigations made to see whether the honorable member for EdenMonaro is an under-cover member of the Communist party or merely a puppet seeking cheap notoriety in the press?
– I had an opportunity to read the newspaper report of the broadcast, which seemed to-be a fairly extensive report. If the report is accurate [ agree entirely with the honorable member that it encourages the Communist propaganda that the use of the provisions of the Crimes Act against Communists is an. attack on trade unionists who are not Communists. That is, of course, the current line of Communist propaganda and the broadcast, if it is accurately reported, certainly gives encouragement to that view. If the broadcast is accurately reported it is quite palpably a foolish and, indeed, a dangerous broadcast. I should add that the development of these views in the broadcast is in reality an attack, not upon this Government, from one point of view, but upon the preceding Government, because I noticed in the newspaper report, which I have here, that the broadcaster said-
– The Prime Minister had the newspaper handy.
– A copy of the report was given to me just before question time. I was not aware that it was a parliamentary offence to have a newspaper handy. It is almost a novelty for a Prime Minister in this place to admit that he has read a newspaper. The substance of the report, not the report itself, seems to me to be singularly inaccurate. The broadcaster stated, according to the report -
Let one thing he understood beyond doubt. The Government’s action is a breach of a vital principle of the trade union movement. It makes striking a crime punishable .by gaol and by deportation in certain cases.
It is perfectly true that that statement is almost a precise transcript of section 30.r of the Crimes Act. That is why I say that the broadcast is not an attack on this Government. The last Government, with a clear majority in both Houses, left section 30.T on the statute-book.
– That is a poor argument.
– My mournful friend, the honorable member for Perth, shakes his head and says that that is a poor argument. Am I to understand from that that the Chifley Government left it alone because Ministers thought that it ought to be a dead letter, or that that Government left it on the statute-book to be used in appropriate cases? Honorable members can decide for themselves. This Government knows where it stands on section 30.i.. It will be interesting to know where honorable members opposite stand on communism.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding him of his assurance of cooperation and assistance to the previous Government in combating the Communistinspired coal strike last year. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether he has received similar offers of co-operation and assistance from the present Opposition to combat the current Communist-inspired rolling strikes in Queensland? Has his attention been drawn to the unfortunate trouble-making broadcast of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro last Sunday evening?
– The answer to the second part of the honorable member’s question-
– There has been altogether too much audible conversation during question time to-day. Honorable members have a right to ask questions, and Ministers have a right to reply. An honorable member who has asked a question has a right to hear the reply.
An honorable member having interjected,
– There should be no statement while I am speaking. At times this afternoon the conversation in the chamber has been so loud that I have had difficulty in hearing the questions myself. If this practice continues I shall have to do something about it.
– I have to-day already answered a question similar to the second part of his question. As to the first part I have had no communication with members of the House other than during the debates in this chamber.
– I ask for leave to make a personal explanation because I have been misrepresented.
-Does the honorable member will have to wait until later.
– I wish to make a statement.
– The honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– I ask for leave to make a statement of personal explanation because I have been misrepresented.
-Is leave granted ?
Government Members. - No !
– I rise to order. Does an honorable member need leave to make a personal explanation in respect of what he believes to have been a misrepresentation of his remarks?
– I asked the honorable member for Eden-Monaro if he had been misrepresented. His reply was that he asked for leave to make a personal explanation. A personal explanation can be made without leave so long as the member confines himself entirely to those points on which he claims that he has been misrepresented, but he must not introduce any debatable matter and must not discuss any points other than those referred to in the misrepresentation of which he complains. After I spoke to him, the honorable gentleman distinctly asked for leave, and that is why I put it to the House.
– I wish to make a personal explanation as I have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). The misrepresentations made by them, were based on a broadcast speech that I delivered on Sunday night. They have, from that broadcast, accused me of being a Communist stooge and of having attacked my own party. Various other misstatements have been made completely misrepresenting my position. All those statements are based on the broadcast that I made on Sunday night. I propose to show to the House, by quoting the relevant extracts from the broadcast, my true position and how I have been misrepresented by those honorable gentlemen. I began the broadcast by pointing out that the Prime Minister had announced in the House on Thursday night the proclamation of the gaol and deportation sections of the Crimes Act.
– I am not going to permit the honorable gentleman to. read his broadcast.
– I have been accused-
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I wish to make my position plain.
– The honorable gentleman will not be permitted to read his broadcast address. He is confined to answering those points on which be claims that he has been misrepresented, but he cannot read his broadcast speech again and have another broadcast from Parliament as a method of getting it over.
– Statements have been made in this House. They are false and I want to tell the true statements.
– I rise to order. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in reply to a question asked of him, quoted from what purported to be a broadcast speech bv the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser). The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) also produced a newspaper and read what purported to be a report, apparently a report for the accuracy of which he vouched, based on a report of the honorable member’s broadcast.
– Was it a false report?
– I do not know. I am not in a position to know. I am interested in seeing that justice is done to the honorable member for EdenMonaro. If his broadcast is quoted and he is not permitted to quote extracts from it, I say that is a sorry state of affairs. T ask for your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– The standing order is clear. The honorable member ‘ can explain himself on matters in which he claims to have been misrepresented. I have ruled that he cannot read again the broadcast he made on Sunday night. He is strictly limited to explaining the points on which he claims to have been misrepresented. When he began hie statement I assumed that he would name those points. Hansard can tell what they are. I think I can remember them.
– Following your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member can explain that he was misrepresented, he must te entitled, I submit, to tell the House what he did say and compare it with what has been represented as having been said by him. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro cannot possibly answer any misrepresentation unless he is given an opportunity to compare what he said with what he is alleged to have said.
– In a newspaper.
– In answer to questions based on a report in a newspaper which the right honorable gentleman had when he answered the question. It is a very important ruling.
– Surely, if the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Macarthur can quote from a newspaper, it is not too much to expect that an honorable member who has been accused of being a Communist should be permitted the same liberty. The allegation that the honorable member for EdenMonaro is a Communist is most offensive. However, I leave that aspect of the matter aside for the moment. The honorable member for Macarthur based his whole question on something that he read from a newspaper. You must have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister too quoted from a newspaper. I do not know whether it was the same newspaper. Clearly the questioner and the right honorable gentleman who answered the question were trying to make out a case against the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. As they were permitted to quote from a newspaper for this purpose, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in fairness should have been permitted the same latitude in his attempt to clear himself of the charges that were made against him.
– I think, Mr. Speaker, that you have overlooked one feature of the position of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. As I understand the situation, the honorable member was not reading verbatim from the speech that he broadcast last Sunday night. In his opening remarks, he stated plainly that he had pointed out certain things in his broadcast. He then proceeded, apparently, to give a precis of his broadcast. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro whether that, is in fact what happened.
– I have not yet heard anything to cause me to alter the ruling that I have given. The standing order states quite clearly -
By the indulgence of the House a Member may explain matters of a personal nature, although there he no Question before the Housie; but such matters may not be debated.
It is an old practice. In making personal explanations, honorable members must confine themselves to the points on which misrepresentation is claimed. If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro wants to go further than that he can pursue the normal course of raising the matter on the motion, for the adjournment of the House, and I shall see that he has an opportunity to do so. For the present, I 3ay definitely that I shall not permit him to repeat his broadcast of last Sunday night in explanation of his charge of misrepresentation.
– You know that I do not wish to repeat the broadcast. A false statement has been made, and I claim the right to correct it in this House. If I am not allowed to do that I shall be the victim of an injustice.
– I desire to move -
That the rulings of Mr. Speaker on questions arising out of the explanation by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro be disagreed with.
This is a very serious state of affairs. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has sought the right to make a personal explanation. Under a misapprehension, he first asked for leave of the House for this purpose, but leave was denied on the voices of honorable members on the Government side of the chamber. That reflects no credit on honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has been seriously misrepresented. That is plain to all.
– How does the honorable member know?
– Order ! There is too much noise going on, and too many interjections- passing across the chamber. This is a serious matter, and it should be treated seriously. My ruling is either right or wrong. That is for the House to determine, but there is no doubt in my mind.
Opposition members interjecting,
– This is no laughing matter. The honorable member for Perth may proceed.
– It is a serious matter for the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
-Order ! The honorable member for “Wills interjected after I had warned the House. He must apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro was seriously misrepresented. He was accused indirectly by the honorable member for Macarthur of being an under-cover member of the Communist party or a supporter of that party. At. any time, such an accusation would be serious enongh. With the public mind in its present state, it is a damning indictment. In his reply to the honorable member for Macarthur, the Prime Minister virtually agreed with the suggestion that, according to a newspaper report of a broadcast by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, that honorable member appeared to be a member of the Communist party or a supporter of communism. That, coming from a responsible person such as the Prime Minister, is a grave indictment indeed. Two issues arise immediately. The first is whether the questions were in order. A question is supposed to seek information and to be free from imputations.
– Few questions would be in order if the Standing Orders were enforced rigorously.
– All that members of the Opposition desire is that the Standing Orders shall be interpreted completely and impartially. We feel that that has not been done in this instance.
– Order ! That is an imputation against the Chair, and it must be withdrawn.
– I refuse to withdraw.
– Then, I name the honorable member for Perth.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) put -
That the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Perth thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker in connexion with ‘the request of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for the right to make a personal explanation, be disagreed with.
Mi. Menzies. - I understand that it was.
That the rulings of Mr. Speaker on questions arising out of the explanation of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro be disagreed with.
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker in connexion with the request of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for the right to make a personal explanation, be disagreed with.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) took the first reasonable opportunity-
Mr. White. - Anticipation !
House or on some prior occasion the House could give its consent at any time to a personal explanation being made. However, in this instance the honorable member for Eden-Monaro did the absolutely correct thing by waiting for question time to end before asking for leave to make a personal explanation. You, Mr. Speaker, then said that you would not give him an opportunity to make a personal explanation at that stage, but that you would give him an opportunity to do so 011 the motion for the adjournment of the House. I may be totally ignorant of the rules governing such matters as this, but I should like your guidance if yon can inform the House and myself where you get the power in the Standing Orders to stand a personal explanation over until the adjournment of the House.
– That is not the matter under discussion, which is disagreement with my ruling.
– I do not want to question your right to interject-
– Who is Mr. Speaker now ‘i
Government supporters interjecting.
Mi-. Rosevear. - You all can have a good laugh at this. It might be your turn one day. When Mr. Speaker’s ruling is challenged, one of the tests is for the occupant of the chair to remain silent and have the House blame him or condone his action. It does not rest with Mr. Speaker to defend himself from the chair. I challenge seriously, Mr. Speaker, your right to interject an argument when your ruling is being tested. Your defence, or the blame for your action, must come from the members of the House; and one of the tests of Mr. Speaker - and I have had to go through it myself - is to 6it in silence and listen to himself being charged, blamed and defended, without himself interjecting.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I am sorry if I appear to be lecturing the Chair, but that is the position.
– We are very glad that the honorable member has discovered it at last.
– I have always known it. All that I have to say further is that it is obvious that a very serious charge was laid against the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, both in the question that was asked by the honorable member for Macarthur and in the reply to it by the Prime Minister. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro asked at the earliest possible opportunity for a chance to defend himself against the imputations that had been made against him. Instead of giving him that chance you, Mr. Speaker, offered him an opportunity to do so on the adjournment. The charges themselves were made when the proceedings of the House were being broadcast; but on the adjournment the honorable member will have to defend himself while the proceedings of the chamber are not being broadcast. That is the first unfair condition attached to your offer, Mr. Speaker. The second element of unfairness is - and I challenge contradiction on this point - that nowhere in the Standing Orders, or in the precedents of this House, is there any power which enables Mr. Speaker to order an honorable member who takes the earliest opportunity to make a personal explanation to defer such an explanation-
– No, because the honorable member for Eden-Monaro asked a question afterwards.
– If I want to argue, I shall argue with some one who possesses the elements of common sense. The second point that I want to emphasize is that the honorable member for EdenMonaro unquestionably, and beyond doubt, had the right, when those charges wore levelled against him, to avail himself of the earliest opportunity to take the point that he did take. Indeed, he is required by the Standing Orders to do so. However, although he took the earliest opportunity to seek to make a personal explanation, he was denied the right to make it, and was offered an opportunity to do so on the adjournment, a procedure which has no foundation in the Standing Orders. I therefore submit my motion.
– I second the motion. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) .listened in silence to himself being grossly and maliciously misrepresented by the interpretation that waa placed by the honorable member for
Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) upon words that were extracted from a broadcast which the honorable member for EdenMonaro had made last Sunday night. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Beale), if my perception was correct, produced a newspaper which he handed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and from which the Prime Minister read in the course of his reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Macarthur. However, the right honorable gentleman added to the misrepresentation of the honorable member for Macarthur, and put his own interpretation on what the honorable member for Eden Monaro had said and on the impression which that honorable member had intended to convey to the Australian people in the course of the broadcast that he had made. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro made no protest at any stage, but listened in silence to the whole of these proceedings. He exhibited commendable patience until the end of question time, when with great dignity he asked for leave to make a statement in reply to charges which, in his view, and in mine also, are baseless, namely, that he is a Communist or a Communist sympathizer; to reply, in effect, that he is not a Communist stooge. Those charges had been thrown at him quite gratuitously and insultingly by the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Macarthur.
– That, of course, is quite untrue.
– The honorable member for Melbourne is right.
– I said that the argument that had been advanced by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro would give great comfort to the Communists.
– The same thing.
– The impression that the honorable member for Macarthur intended to implant in the minds of the Australian public was that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was malevolently disposed, that he did not, in his broadcast on Sunday night, tell them, or a portion of them, the facts about the trouble in Brisbane, and that he sought to inflame their minds.
– That is quite right. I heard the broadcast.
Ifr. Calwell. - The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) may place his misinterpretations upon the broadcast, too, but the point is that when all those misinterpretations and misrepresentations had been uttered by the political opponents of the honorable member -for Eden-Monaro-
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is in order in canvassing the merits or otherwise of the basis of a personal explanation that has yet to be made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser). That honorable gentleman obtained leave to make a personal explanation, and he was proceeding with it, but the House has not yet heard the details of it. I should like you, sir, to inform me whether, in those circumstances, the honorable member for Melbourne is in. order in discussing the merits of a personal explanation that has not yet been completed.
-Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne should confine his remarks to the question before the Chair, namely, the motion by the honorable member for Dalley that my ruling be disagreed with. The merits or demerits of what happened on Saturday night. Sunday night, or this afternoon, up to the point at which the motion of dissent from my ruling was made, are not under discussion.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, having risen in his place, said that, he desired the leave of the House to make a personal explanation. That request was refused. I intervened, and Mr. Speaker then ruled that the honorable member would be in order in making his personal explanation, and he proceeded to do so. He endeavoured to read a portion of the address that he broadcast last Sunday night. He explained that he intended to read only a portion of it and you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that he had no right to read his broadcast. At no stage did the honorable member try to read the whole of it. He stated specifically that he wished to read only those portions of the broadcast that were apposite to the misrepresentation to which he had been subjected and those portions that would enable him to place himself in the position which, he .believed, he occupied before the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Macarthur had canvassed what he said last Sunday night. He was proceeding along those lines when you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that he could make his statement on the motion for the adjournment of the House. Of course, the honorable member had that right in any event, and he was aware of that fact, but he desired to speak as soon after the misrepresentation as possible and to take advantage of the provisions of the standing order that permits an honorable member to make a personal explanation when he feels aggrieved because of a misrepresentation, either actual or imaginary. In my view, the honorable gentleman was certainly entitled to read those portions of his broadcast which he desired to read and which you ruled that he could not read. I have seconded the motion to disagree with your ruling because if that ruling be upheld no honorable member who is unable to obtain the leave of the House to make a statement will have any possible chance of clearing himself, at the most appropriate time, of charges that have been made against him. Either your ruling is wrong - and, in my opinion it is - or the Standing Orders require revision a week after they were adopted by the House. I believe that your ruling Ls entirely wrong and that if it be upheld by a majority of the House, the minority cannot hope to counter rehearsed charges made in the form of questions, and the repeated charges made in the form of answers that are arranged on the Government side of the House for the purpose, not of giving information to the Parliament or the country, but of maligning members of the Labour party.
– The motion possesses no substance whatsoever. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) stated that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) took his objection at the earliest possible moment. In point of fact, he did not. Half an hour of the period that is allotted to questions had elapsed, and I think that
I am right in saying that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro asked a question between those events and the time when he rose to make what he alleged to be his personal explanation.
– That is correct.
– It is quite true that I had before me a copy of the newspaper report to which reference has been made. It is also perfectly true that I had been told that the matter would be raised, and, therefore, had obtained a copy of the newspaper report and had it here. That is not a great offence, and even if it were, there is a mountain of precedent for it in this Parliament.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro has not suggested that he was misrepresented in the newspaper. If he had had that complaint, he would have made it earlier. He certainly would have made it at some time during this sitting. Consequently, there is no complaint about the accuracy of the newspaper report. My answer to the question by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) contained a comment upon the broadcast as reported. I was particular to say, “If this is an accurate report, here is my comment”, and the comment was extremely moderate. I stand by every word of it. I have no doubt that the whole purpose of the so-called personal explanation is to have recorded in Hansard, and broadcast from this House, the matter that was broadcast last Sunday night. I described it earlier, and I still describe it, as foolish, and, indeed, dangerous. The Government proposes to vote against the motion, and so that the House shall not bo unduly occupied with it when there are matters of great moment to be considered, I move- -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker in connexion with the request of the honorable member forEden-Monaro for the right to make a personal explanation, be disagreed with.
I gave no such ruling.
Question put -
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker in connexion with the request of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for the right to make a personal explanation, be disagreed with.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That is, the Prime Minister - - described the measure as one to protect trade unionists uga.in.9t their Communist false leaders he has played right into the hands of these Communists.
He has handed them ready made an obvious issue on what to rally support in the name of defence of trade union rights.
Every union official whom lie now causes to be arrested and gaoled for this new crime of striking or supporting a strike can be pic-
Cured at i.mce as a hero-martyr suffering in the cause of the workers.
Every attempted deportation of « union official who is of Australian nationality but not Australian birth is surely calculated to cause a legal battle and industrial hold-up.
M r. SPE AKER. - Order ! Is the honorable member reading from the speech that he broadcast? I have ruled that when making a personal explanation he cannot re-broadcast what he has previously broadcast. I have a feeling that the honorable member is trying to do so. 1 ask him not to try to evade my ruling.
It 9 indeed a Menzies gift from Heaven to the Communists coming at the very moment when they have been casting round desperately for means to retain their weakening grip on various trade unions.
What I arn about to quote now should show my attitude towards communism, mid how false are the statements that 1 nin an undercover member, a puppet “r a supporter of the Communist party -
And. there is no doubt how that grip has been weakened and broken in the last twelve months particularly. The record shows plainly union after union in which the membership itself has defeated Communist officials in ballots and elected Labour party members in their stead. The overwhelming victory of Ted Peters, M.H..B.., and his colleagues in the Victorian clerks union ballot is a case in point.
I went on to say -
The Labour party members carry on the fight against Communist officials inside the union.
How can I show to the House beyond doubt that the statements attributed to me by the honorable member for Macarthur and the Prime Minister are not the statements that I made? Can I not make that clear by reading to the House the statements that 1 did make?
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) put -
That the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mk. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
Debate resumed from the 23rd March (vide page 1191), on motion by Mr. SPENDER -
That the following paper be printed: -
.- At this stage, it is unnecessary to remind the House thatwe live in somewhat troublous times. Australia is an outpost of the white race, left in an isolated position which apparently tends to become more isolated with the rise of Asiatic nationalism. Individually’ and collectively, the people of this country face a very great and grave responsibility. I regret the atmosphere in which this debate has been continued. It seems to me that we should remember the objects of the foreign policy announced by the Minister when he made his statement. I think he defined the object of Australian foreign policy as the preservation of peace and the maintenance of our way of living. Whilst I have no quarrel with that definition, I think that a more realistic point of view might be represented by stating that the object of our foreign policy should be to obtain friends and allies in this very disordered world.
The Minister said that the nation cannot escape its geography. [Quorum formed.] Remembering that, we should consider several broad factors when we discuss foreign policy. As the Minister said, the first and most significant factor is that the policy of the Soviet is of a global nature; the second factor is the rise of nationalism in theFar East, which is the near north as far as we are concerned ; and the other principal factors are the low standards of living and the lack of industrialization in the nations of South-East Asia. Three courses of action are open to the Government in pursuance of its foreign policy. The first, as has been evidenced by some honorable members, is to do nothing; the second is to prepare to meet the inevitable, whatever it may be; and the third is to use such strength as the democracies have to counter the strength of the Communist Soviet regime. Broadly our strength lies in our industrial knowledge, our technical training and our capacity to produce and to educate. The strength of the Soviet lies in the vitality of its political faith. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Chifley) made two very significant statements in the course of his speech in this debate. I speak subject to correction,but I think that, broadly, the right honorable gentleman said, first, that it was of little use for the nations to consider means of increasing production unless they considered at the same time ways of increasing the efficiency of methods of distribution, and secondly, that at the present time India will notbe a party to any pact or understanding that may lead it into war, and that wherever India goes
Pakistan and Ceylon -will follow. Those factors were put forward by the right honorable gentleman, with all his authority and knowledge, as significant, and I accept them as such. Another factor is the lack of stability of many of the new nations that have been created during the last three or four years, because history proves that, generally speaking, when the government of a new nation is in the hands of an educated few the policy of that administration does not tend towards democracy.
Therefore, I suggest - and my suggestion is in accord with the general statement of principle that was advanced by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) - that our broad strategy should be to play for time until a new factor is introduced into the game of power politics. It is probably generally accepted that at the moment the only two factions in the world are the democracies and the Soviet and its allies. Our strength lies in our knowledge of administration, our possession of industrial machinery, our knowledge of agriculture and our knowledge of the way in which we can apply the lessons of science to agricultural production. The weakness of the Soviet lies in the Communist doctrine of infallibility, in the fact that inevitably there will be a clash between that doctrine and the fiery nationalism of the new states of Asia, and in the truism that although political agitation can cause revolutions it cannot fill empty stomachs, as has been demonstrated by speakers from the Opposition benches. I believe it to be generally accepted that a nation’s foreign policy Ls designed to achieve its ends by peaceful means, but that if it does not achieve that objective war is the logical conclusion. Broadly, I agree with those who say that we must envisage the possibility of war. but I suggest that we should attempt to postpone it for as long as we can, because, as I see it, in postponement lies our only hope of maintaining peace. These things have been said before, and I think that they are fairly generally accepted in principle, although there may be dispute about detail or the application of a principle to a particular problem. “We have the knowledge and the men to assist in the administration of some of the new nations; and administration is one of the very real problems that confront those who now rule the new states of Asia. I point out that when I use the word “ we “ in this connexion I refer to the western democracies. We can provide machines and also men to use them and to train others to use them. We can provide agricultural experts, fertilizer* and foodstuffs. I believe that persons who have a far wider knowledge than I have of the problems of South-East Asia will agree with me when I say that the problem of providing additional food for the peoples of Asia is linked with the problem of providing fertilizers for much of the overworked soil of Asia. We can do those things. Not one of them of itself will provide a complete answer to the problem, but I suggest that, taken together, they provide an answer at least to the political pressure of the Soviet. We can also provide educational facilities. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) dealt with that matter in the speech that he delivered last week. We can supply some foodstuffs. I am not so foolish as to suggest that we can supply all the foodstuffs that the East needs. Throughout history the peoples of the East have never had all the food that they needed and it seems unlikely that they will have it in the foreseeable future, but the democracies, between them, can supply some foodstuffs. We can counter the political agitation of the Soviet by helping to fill some of the stomachs that are now empty as a result of the dislocation of industry that has been caused by ‘that political agitation. I suggest that that is a reasoned approach to the problem of ov relations with South-East Asia.
However much we recognize our military obligations, irrespective of what we do we shall always be a relatively weak military power. Our basic strategy must be to do what the Leader of the Opposition has suggested can be done very easily; we must keep the main Asiatic nations at least neutral in the event of war. We must play for time and encourage by all means in our power the growth of democracy in the new nations. Many of those who have a much greater knowledge than I have of these problems will agree with me when T say that that is a real problem.We must seek for peace and awaitthe inevitable clash between the inflexible doctrine of communism and the fiery nationalism of the East. I understood the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) to say that the Asiatic peoples have never been aggressors. I may have misunderstood the honorable gentleman, but if that was what he said it was an amazing statement. If there is any lesson to be learned from history it is that through the years there has been a continual surge of aggression from the East. The conditions that led to that aggression in the past are again appearing. The population of the eastern countries has increased in the last few years, and it is probable that it will continue to increase. As supplies of food are increased, which must happen, the population will continue to mount. That process will inevitably cause the people of Asia to search for some means of expansion. In preparation for that situation, we must do everything that lies within our power to turn their eyes inward upon their own territories so that the new and thriving force will move across the Asian deserts, as has happened many times in history.
There are many other aspects of foreign policy that I have not discussed, but I do not propose to deal with them because other honorable members better equipped to debate international affairs than I am have already done so. I shall conclude by referring to one matter of prime importance to all of us. Even though we follow a course that is designed to lead us to peace, we must recognize that our goal may not be achieved and that we may be faced with the dreadful eventuality of war. Foreign policyisintimately linked with defence policy. I suggest that, whilst maintaining the policy in relation to the East that I have proposed, we should continue to honour our obligations to the British Empire, support the United Nations, and endeavour to perpetuate a close and active friendship with the United States of America. In. order to do so, we must maintain in this country sufficient armed forces to prove the earnestness of our intentions to co-operate in war, if necessary, as we co-operate in peace. I conclude, as I commenced my speech, by emphasizing the great importance of international relationships. A grave responsibility rests upon the shoulders of every honorable member of this House. Some of us may endeavour to evade the duty to our country that is prescribed’ by that responsibility, but history will not excuse those who do so.
– Every honorable member must agree that we are living in troublous times. Somebody has said that it is a great privilege to live while history is being made. That will be so only if we do everything that lies within our power to make the era in which we live one of the greatest periods in the history of our country. Unfortunately, Australia is out on a limb. Surrounded, as they are by many hundreds of millions of Asiatics, the 8,000,000 citizens of this country have very little chance of defending it. We have been able to maintain our White Australia policy, first, through the power of the British Navy, and latterly, through the assistance of our friends, particularly in the United States of America. Therefore, we must realize that, if we are to maintain our present way of life, we must retain the goodwill of our friends who are strong enough to be able to assist us should the need for help arise. I did not intend to discuss these matters, but I have been moved to speak by some of the remarks that have been made by members of the Opposition. One honorable member said that he deplored the fact that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) had not paid tribute in his statement to his predecessor, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). My opinion is that the Minister has been very kind to the right honorable member. If all of us fully appreciated Australia’s dangerous situation and the nature of the feelings entertained towards us by our friends and others in various countries, we should not be very keen to heap praises upon his head. We are dependent upon our friends for the. maintenance of our security. Yet, even up to the time when this Government took office, we were suspect by the United States of America and Great Britain. We were not held to be worthy to be entrusted with defence secrets. We had fallen out with the Dutch. They had been chased out of Indonesia. To-day, notwithstanding what the Labour Government did previously, members of the Opposition are deploring the fact that the Dutch may be chased out of New Guinea. They have urged the Government to take action to prevent the Dutch from being evicted from that territory.
What did we do to the Dutch? In 1945 the Waterside Workers Federation declared Dutch ships “ black “, and vessels were immobilized in Australian ports for as long as three years. That action was taken in support of the Indonesian rebellion, or whatever it was called, but the Government then in office did absolutely nothing to aid the Dutch. It told the waterside workers that they were naughty boys, or something to that effect, but apart from that it remained aloof. It could very easily have helped to send those Dutch vessels to sea by calling upon the Royal Australian Navy, but it ignored the situation that had arisen. The Dutch were our Allies during World War II., and the Labour Government in Australia acted traitorously towards them.
– Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
– A quorum was formed only a. few minutes ago. Under the Standing Orders, a quorum cannot be called twice within fifteen minutes.
– I thank the honorable member for trying to obtain a larger audience for me. Australia let down its Allies very badly. Earlier in this debate, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) read a very serious indictment against the President of the United States of Indonesia. As the honorable gentleman was Minister for Information in 1945, he must have had that information in. his possession then. But did he do anything about it at the time? No. He did not go and read that indictment to the waterside workers. Some people asked why the Labour Government allowed the waterside workers to boycott Dutch vessels. It was freely stated in certain quarters that although the Waterside Workers Federation did not wish to dictate this country’s foreign policy, it would guarantee the Government’s foreign policy. The. subsequent actions of the then Government show that its policy was to support the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia, and thus chase the Dutch out of their possessions in the East Indies. Already the Government of the United States of Indonesia is endeavouring to obtain control of New Guinea. During the recent war the United States of America developed Manus Island into a very good naval base. However, because the Minister for External Affairs in the previous Government (Dr. Evatt) would not allow the Americans to stay there, the United States of America established its defences farther north. We are now left out on a limb. Although other honorable members are better qualified than I to speak on this subject, they have not done so. I consider that it is time some of these matters were brought to the light of day.
Much has been heard, about the United Nations. I, personally, had hoped that that organization would devise means to preserve the peace of th6 world. We were told that the 1914-18 world conflict was to be a war to end war. Yet between 1939 and 1945 the sons of the men who engaged in that war had to do the job again. I am sure that no honorable member wants that state of affairs to recur. We want peace and security for ‘our people. Many countries view with suspicion the activities of the United Nations. Usually the president of that body has been a representative of a very small and insignificant nation - one that could scarcely be called a power. [Quorum formed.’] We must encourage our friends to be prepared to come to our support in time of need. As has been suggested before in this chamber, we must first demonstrate ‘ our willingness to defend ourselves. The defence of this country has been completely neglected. At present we should be an easy prey to any nation that wanted to take charge of us. The present Minister for External Affairs has adopted a realistic approach to this problem. He has a very big job ahead of ‘him. First he must allay the suspicion that at present exists in the minds of the Governments of the United States of America and Canada, and prove to them that this country is worth saving. It is all very well for us to say that we are going to buy Asia off by feeding its people. I do not subscribe to that contention. I do not believe that we can buy off any country by feeding its people. The only way to preserve peace is to be prepared for war, and to be a member of a strong group that other nations would hesitate to attack. There is no possibility of Australia developing into an aggressor nation, but we must be prepared to defend ourselves. We must make friends with our neighbours. We cannot depend on the United Nations.
When the former Minister for External Affairs was appointed president of the General Assembly of the United Nations it was contended that a great honour had thereby been bestowed on Australia. We must remember, however, that his predecessor in that office was a representative of Argentina, which is not a factor in world politics, whilst his successor was a representative of the Philippines, which is likewise not a factor in world politics.
– We have just sent a Minister there on a goodwill mission.
– If the nations of the world were honest in their contention that the United Nations should be an important organization capable of bringing peace to the world, one would have thought that a representative of the United States of America would have been appointed president of that body.
– I rise to order. I take serious objection to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) referring to this country as an insignificant nation.
– That is not a point of order.
– It is offensive to me as an Australian.
– It is offensive to me, also.
– Order ! The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) will resume his seat. The Standing Orders provide that when the Speaker rises an honorable member who is on his feet shall sit down. The statement of the honorable member for Gwydir did not contain anything against which the honorable member for Hindmarsh could appeal under the Standing Orders. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh desires to do so, he may test my ruling at the appropriate time, but not now.
– My inexperience in this House may be responsible for my offending the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I meant to imply that Australia was insignificant from the point of view of strength.
– That is not right, either.
– Past events have proved that Australia produces possibly the best soldiers in the world. However, we are a small country; there are not enough of us. In two world wars our men proved themselves to be as good as the soldiers of any other country. Many sacrificed their lives. Anything I have said should not be construed as a reflection on them. I should like to mention that I had the honour of serving this country during World War I., and two of my sons served in World War II. One made the supreme sacrifice. I do not want my remaining son, or my grandchildren to have to fight another war, or to be at the mercy of the polyglot nations to the north of Australia. That is why I object strongly to. what was done by the previous Government. It caused suspicion amongst our friends, a falling out with our allies, and, generally speaking, left this country out on a limb.
– That is quite wrong.
– Although- the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) disagrees with that assertion, unfortunately, as a result of his interference in matters that did not concern Australia, we have since encountered considerable opposition from our friends. The causes of that opposition are too numerous to mention. In many instances Australia’s representatives voted in the United Nations against other representatives of the British Commonwealth. That happened on a number of occasions, and at one time when Australia supported India against South Africa, other members of the British Commonwealth refrained from voting. We even had the deplorable spectacle of an Australian representative in Paris accusing the Dutch’ of all the atrocities to which he could lay his tongue. That representative was not speaking for himself, but was speaking at. the direction of the then Minister for External Affairs. Today the people of Holland are staggered by what has happened to them as a result of the actions of the wharf labourers of this country, who were allowed to take part in foreign policy unrebuked and uncorrected by the Chifley Government.
– That is completely untrue. The Dutch wharf labourers themselves refused to load war materiel.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should know exactly what the Communist waterside workers were doing, because he seems to have full information about the activities of Communists. I hope that I am wrong, but I am merely stating the general opinion held by the people of this country that the Australian wharf labourers were carrying out Government policy. The Government to-day has the task of correcting that impression at home, and of regaining the trust of the Dutch people and of the other members of the British Empire. I am sure that the Minister for External Affairs and his colleagues will do their best to re-establish the faith and trust in this country previously shown by nations which have been alienated.
Mr. O’CONNOR (Martin) [5.281.- It has been the misfortune of this House during the post-war years to debate the important subject of foreign affairs in the very sombre atmosphere that has surrounded international politics. Perhaps honorable members may be pardoned if they become pessimistic at this stage about the future of the world. Because I am not a prophet and cannot prophesy, I shall deal merely with the state of international affairs as I find them to-day, together with the statement made to the House by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender). That statement proves conclusively that the fundamental points of policy laid down by the previous Government have been preserved by the present Government, although there are some modifications of the methods of giving effect to the general principles. It is refreshing to see a realistic approach by the Minister towards foreign affairs. It is agreed by all those who have read or listened to debates in this House upon this subject, that when the Minister was in Opposition he took a prominent part in debates on foreign affairs, but his approach to the subject was characterized by a degree of unreality. Perhaps the responsibilities of office have had a sobering effect upon him, so that he now realizes that the destinies of this country are not lightly to be placed in jeopardy and he has shed the irresponsibility that he showed when in opposition. The reference in his statement to the present Government of Indonesia was surprising. When this matter was debated last year in the chamber, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs, did not hesitate to say that the Chifley Government should intervene in the dispute on the side of the Dutch. The situation in Indonesia was that a, nationalist movement had taken place in opposition to the Dutch, power. In the beginning that movement had certain Communist elements in it, but since the leader of it, D.r. Soekarno, has been successful and has assumed his present position, he has proved that he has no liking for Communists. In fact he has removed them from his Government. When the movement .began the Communists were not slow to join it, but the movement itself was nationalist in character, and nationalist aspirations are quite legitimate. The movement simply claimed independence for the country as against control by the Dutch. If the expressed opinion of the Opposition at that time - that the Australian Government should support the Dutch - is analysed, it will he seen that in its logical conclusion this country would have been committed to the extent of armed intervention in the conflict in Indonesia. Even while the Minister and the Government are trying to repudiate what they said at that time, their views now, as shown by the statement on -foreign affairs, indicate that the attitude of the Chifley Government was correct. Apparently some of the Minister’s colleagues did not agree with his original views, otherwise he would have committed Australia to a policy which might have involved it in an Asiatic war. The attitude of the Chifley Government was that it was not concerned with the merits of the dispute. It did not take sides and say that Dr. Soekarno’s aspirations were correct, nor did it criticize the Dutch or say that they had no claim in the matter ;
All it said was that it would not oppose any decision on the dispute if it were made by the United Nations. The matter was referred to that body and I challenge any member of the Government to prove from the debates that took place on this matter that the government of the day did take sides in the dispute. The truth of the matter is that the parties then in Opposition advocated that the Chifley Government should intervene on the side of the Dutch. The fact that this matter was referred to the United Nations should receive the approval of the whole world. It is accepted as true by all authorities, that the dispute having been referred to the United Nations and that body having given a decision, thousands of lives were saved by the prevention of a futile war. That happy conclusion was reached through the attitude the Chifley Government took upon this matter. It is easy, when in Opposition, to be irresponsible, but if honorable members have any doubt on the matter I refer them to the speeches made at the time by the present Prime Minister «nd the Minister for External Affairs. In those speeches they openly advocated the intervention of Australia in the dispute on the side of the Dutch. 1 hope that the Government will insist that its diplomatic representatives abroad shall remember that it is not within their province to devise or try to bring about certain policies. Unfortunately in the past some members of the diplomatic corps have taken the wrong line in this connexion. I do not know of any other country where such a condition of affairs would be tolerated. It is the responsibility of the Government and, in the final analysis, of the Parliament itself to determine policy in relation to international affairs. In the past certain representatievs who have been sent abroad have even gone as far as to criticize the government of the day and still remained members of the diplomatic corps or the nation’s representatives abroad. If there is a repetition of such action, I suggest that the Government should come down heavily on those responsible, and should insist that the Government and the Parliament shall be responsible for policy and that the representatives abroad shall simply give effect to it. The Government and the Parliament are responsible for policy, not only in international affairs but in every other sphere. That being so, no individual has any authority in that direction and should not attempt to take that right. In recent years, that has happened all too frequently and I hope that it will come to an end.
Statements have been made concerning the advantages that might accrue from a Pacific pact. In my opinion, those advantages are very limited. Some honorable members seem to believe that if Australia is able to get assistance from its neighbours, then its troubles are solved. But the fact is that Europe, not Asia, will determine world events. Europe is, and will be, at any rate for the next 50 years, the turning point in international affairs. I shall not cover ground that has already been traversed by saying how obvious are the limitations of the pacts to which reference has been made in the House, but when Europe’s place in world affairs is recognized, it is obvious that there is no nation in the Pacific that could be of any great assistance to Australia other than the Great Powers. Australia must of necessity look to those Great Powers for protection in this part of the world, but if Australia entered into pacts, it would not get assistance simply by asking for it. Entering into a pact implies obligations. The only aid that Australia can get is the assistance of Great Britain and the United States of America. It is ridiculous to argue that Australia’s troubles w ould disappear by its entry into a pact with the other nations. It is difficult to imagine that any of them would accept, a pact, with Australia unless some obligations were imposed in return. If Australia accepts a pact for defence purposes. it commits itself to aid the country that is party to the pact if the occasion should arise. On the one hand, Australia is asking for assistance from the powers. If this country gets a pact which ties it up with Great Britain and the United States of America, it must accept responsibilities and face the fact that should there be any European developments in which those countries were involved, Australia of necessity, would be obliged to take part. That is the overall picture, and it is ridiculous to talk about pacts in the Pacific without placing before the House the full implications.
It is quite possible that trade pacts will develop but in the past trade pacts have always been found to have some secret clause. One such pact which involved a great deal in the last war was the so-called secret pact between Russia and Germany. The secret clauses of that pact provided for assistance, and raw material went from Russia to Germany in the first twelve months of the war. On the question of pacts and treaties, I am under no illusion as to my position in this House. I do not mean that it should be otherwise. It is unreasonable to suggest that all the details of pacts or whatever negotiations there may be on the highest ministerial level can or should be divulged. As a consequence, members of this House will find with the passing of time that their knowledge is very limited and that the best approach they can make to this question is on the data available. I put it to the House that on this question of pacts in the Pacific the outlook for Australia is very limited. If it is just a trade pact under which Australia will try to assist in the rehabilitation of the European countries from a humane and economic point of view, that is all to the good. But if there are conditions attached to the pact under which Australia will be involved in other parts of the world it is as well to realize that those conditions exist and may have to be faced. What is happening in Asia is happening all over the world. Since 1945 seven countries in Asia have been granted independence which has been associated with an upsurge of nationalism. As I have said, nationalism is a legitimate aspiration of any nation, but the unfortunate part of the upsurge of nationalism in Asia is that the new governments are endeavouring to cultivate it for their own ends. Honorable members can see what happened in the development of nationalism: in Indonesia where the Communist party tied itself to the nationalist movement. That is precisely what is happening in all parte of Asia, Even India has its problem of communism on a. scale greater than most people imagine. The question of Asia is not only one of the development of nationalism. It is as well to keep in mind also that it is a market and a source of supply of raw material. The retention of Asiatic territories by Great Britain is’ associated with its supplies of tin and rubber which are essential for its well-being. That is also one of the reasons why the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is turning covetous eyes in that direction. Russia is putting out a smoke-screen in an attempt to tell the down-trodden people of those countries that it is bringing to them freedom, whereas actually it covets- their territories merely as a sourceof raw materials. Europe has always been and always will he the cockpit of world affairs. Irrespective of what Australia may think or hope, it cannot avoid its responsibilities and cannot be immunefrom their effects. It is of the highest, importance to Australia to watch the developments in Europe at large. It is indeed interesting not only to watch, the spread of communism in Europe as it is known to-day, but also to notice someof the contributions of members of theGovernment who, in effect, take up a linewhich appeases or defends that whichwas responsible for the spread of communism in Europe. Undoubtedly theinclusion of many European countriesbehind the Iron Curtain has. resulted from the agreements made at Yalta and Potsdam. To-day, those agreements arebeing defended by honorable members opposite on the ground of expediency but it is undeniable that, in the absence of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements,. Russia could never have extended its influence as it has done since the end of thewar. It was not the Labour party that gave Russia the Kuriles. Port Arthurand Dairen. Labour politicians did not put countries like Czechoslovakia behind’ the Iron Curtain. Those things happened, as I have said, because of agreements made by the late President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill at Yalta and Potsdam. I challenge contradiction of that statement. The spheres of influence of the Great Powers were determined by those international agreements. Britain could fight to keep Greece free from communism, and it was due to Britain’s efforts that that country did not come under Communist domination; but Britain also permitted Poland to be brought under Russian domination. Poland to-day presents an interesting problem, because, ostensibly, Britain and Prance went to war to defend Poland against the onrush of fascism. Now there is so little interest in Poland that I have not even heard that country mentioned in the course of this debate. Poland’s fate could not have been worse under German domination.
About eighteen months ago, in this chamber, I referred to slave labour conditions that were being suffered by millions of people. At that time I could not arouse much enthusiasm on the subject, because Great Britain and France themselves were exploiting slave labour. However, it is gratifying, that in recent months greater interest has been taken in this problem which is one of the most pressing in the world to-day. [Extension, of time granted.”] I regret that it has not received the attention throughout the world that it deserves. The result is that, there exists in many countries, conditions reminiscent of days of the Pharoahs. That slave labour should be permitted in this modern world arouses in me the highest degree of indignation. At the end of the war, not hundreds, but thousands and even millions of people were forcibly transported from their own countries to work for the people of other nations. They were transported under conditions that even cattle could never have endured. They were taken to places from which they have not returned. They have been treated in a manner which few human beings could possibly survive. It is incomprehensible to me that this condition of affairs should have failed to agitate the minds of thoughtful people all over the world. Tolerance of slave labour is debasing to every man, woman and child. Many of the slaves fought for the Allies during the war. To-day they are enduring suffering worse than anything that could have been inflicted upon them had they been sent to fascist concentration camps.
– To what people is the honorable member referring?
– Thousands of people have been, transported from countries that have been overrun by the Russians. It is true that, after the war, Britain used Italian labour, and France used German and Italian labour, but about sixteen months ago both those countries ended that practice. So far, the Russians have continued to use slave labour. This matter should receive greater publicity because, while present conditions exist, it is idle to talk about peace or safeguarding the future.
Referring to the work of the United Nations the Minister for External Affairs used the words, “ Peace is indivisible “. The phrase is not original. If I remember rightly, M. Litvinoff used it when Russia made its second re-entry into the League of Nations in the period between the two wars. However, that is beside the point. Truly peace is indivisible and, if it is to be preserved to this world, there must be collective effort. The Minister’s approach to the United Nations was, as I have said, “Peace is indivisible “, but, unfortunately, he qualified Australia’s support of the United Nations. He said that if certain things happened, Australia would do this and that. Hearing such a stream of qualifications, one was amazed to think that Australia wa9 a member of the United Nations at all. Undeniably peace is indivisible, but I repeat that it can be maintained only by collective effort. Therefore, anything that tends to weaken the only instrument that we have for maintaining peace is to be resisted. In the absence of the United Nations, the countries of the world would resort once again to bilateral and multilateral alliances. Such alliances failed in the past to keep the world from war, and they will fail again. In fact they encourage the powers to band together for the purpose of waging’ war. An organization such as the United Nations at least gives the smaller nations an opportunity to participate in world politics, and to state their case. Whilst not denying that the United Nations has shortcomings, I claim that it is the only instrument that can bring and maintain peace. Without the United Nations, the nations of the world would become mere fragments. The wishes of smaller nations would be disregarded. Peace is unobtainable under the qualified terms stated by the Minister for External Affairs. I submit that success can be achieved only by continuing to apply the policy of the Chifley Government. If the present Government is even half as successful as was the previous Government, if it does even half as much to preserve the peace of the world as did the Labour Government, it will do a good job, indeed.
– I would put the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) right on one political point. First, however, I congratulate him upon the moderate way in which he presented his arguments. It would be better for Australia if the Labour party were to act always with similar moderation. The honorable member for Martin said that Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt, by the undertakings into which they entered al Yalta and Potsdam, were largely responsible for the spread of communism throughout the world. I remind the honorable member of what the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) said when he returned on one occasion to Australia. These are the words he used -
Having no clear evidence to the contrary, and having, during the last four years, come to know some of Russia’s greatest statesmen. I take the view that the Soviet Union’s policy is directed towards self-protection and security against future attack. In my opinion, its desire is to develop its own economy and to improve the welfare of its peoples.
After travelling all round the world, the right honorable gentleman came back to Australia and said that to the people of this country.
– I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the state of the House.
– There is a quorum present.
– Some penalty ought tobe imposed on honorable members who interrupt the debate by calling for a quorum when a quorum is present. This month of March is the centenary of the birth of one of the world’s greatest democrats, Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, who declared -
The Bolsheviks have deposed the Czar, but they have not deposed Czarism.
That is the tragedy of the world to-day. Communism is one of the weapons that Russia is using to-day. It is a powerful weapon founded on deceit. It is the Trojan horse with which Russia hopes to conquer the world. Communism to-day transcends all other issues. Russia is the only power that can create war, although it may contrive to give sufficient provocation to other nations to induce them to perpetrate war. Russia is filling the world with its spurious propaganda of communism. It is undoubtedly spurious, and I am certain that if Marx were alive to-day he would be forced to admit that capitalism will not inevitably crumble because of the seeds of decay within it.
– How does the Minister know?
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), whose speeches are always in line with Communist policy, denies my statement.
– I am insulted. The Minister’s remarks are offensive to me. The speeches of the honorable member for East Sydney are not always in line with Communist policy.
– The honorable member for East Sydney has not asked that the statement be withdrawn.
– The statement i.* offensive to me.
– If the remark W:i .0offensive to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Minister must withdraw it.
– I withdraw the statement. I merely point out that the honorable member who has protested is th<same one who once informed his hearers at a Labour conference that capitalism, not communism, was their enemy. I ask for leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Silting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 16th March (vide page 905), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate on the Address-in-Reply was engaging the attention of this House the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) said that when the bill that is now before the House was introduced the Opposition parties would get a very great surprise. Well, I am still waiting for the surprise. One does not become surprised merely because the political parties which comprise the present Government have been able to turn more mental somersaults from time to time than any other political party in the history of this country. I have been very interested to read the reports of the speeches made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and. Treasurer (Mr.Fadden) when the 1945 banking legislation was being debated. I commend those speeches particularly to new members of the House, who did not, of course, take part in that debate, and I have no doubt that they will be very much surprised by the completechange of mind evidenced by the two right honorable gentlemen since then. I might say that in respect of some matters their minds have changed for the better since 1945. However, this particular bill, about which the Minister for National Development said so much, smells of mothballs because some of the aspects of banking control with which it deals have been the subject of consideration for many years. I turn now to a very interesting document, the cover page of which is entitled “ Joint Opposition Policy - 1949 “ and contains a photograph of the present Prime Minister.
– A rather flattering photograph.
– I think that it does the right honorable gentleman full justice. However, that booklet contains some interesting matter concerning banking. I propose to deal with these matters only briefly because there are more important matters in the bill itself with whichI wish to deal as fully as the time available will permit. I shall not attempt to cover all the technical details associated with the bill. However, on page 20 of the booklet to which I have referred the following statement of policy appears : -
We therefore propose -
to set up under control by Parliament, a small Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank, of which the Governor of the Bank shall be Chairman;
I emphasize the phrase “ a small Board of Directors “. Well, something amazing has happened there, because from the proposals for the constitution of the board that are now before us I do not imagine that any one could describe the board as a small one.
– What about the board of the Bank of England?
– On this occasion I happen to be dealing with the speech of the Prime Minister. However, if the Minister who has interjected so desires I can deal later with the institution to which he referred. The pointis that it is apparent from the bill now before us that the Government proposes to make two directors grow where it was previously proposed that only one should grow. I do not think that the number “ ten “ has any resemblance to the description, “ small Board of Directors” mentioned in the joint statement of Liberal andAustralian Country parties policy. The next paragraph of the portion of the booklet from which I am reading states -
I emphasize that point. Because I do not want to be accused of quoting only a portion of the paragraph, I. shall read the rest of it, which is as follows : - . . That is, we shall restore the sound principle that great financial decisions shall not be secret, and that the elected representatives in Parliament shall be able to control them.
All I want to emphasize now is that although it was originally proposed to refer any matter on which the Treasurer disagrees with, the bank board to Parliament for its decision, I am unable to find any single provision in the bill which gives Parliament the right to make a decision of final force.
– Read the measure carefully.
– I have read it carefully, and I have also taken legal -advice in regard to it, and the tenor of the advice I have received is that the laying on the table of the House of an Executive Council minute does not give the Parliament the right to disagree with and to nullify a decision of the Treasurer. However, because of the great legal ability possessed by the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues, they may be able to overcome that difficulty. I am not pressing that criticism. I have mentioned it only to indicate the complete discrepancy between promise and performance on the part of the present Government. Now I come to the most beautiful statement of all, which is contained in the next paragraph of the document from which I have been reading. That paragraph reads -
The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) indicated in the course of his speech - and, quite frankly, I think that any novice in economics would have known this - that the note issue is only an indicator, and, in actual fact, has nothing to do with the control of inflationary tendencies. The paragraph that I have just read is a complete confession of inability; and to put it in mild terms, although I should like to express it more strongly, whoever happen to be the advisers of the
– They have not changed since the right honorable gentleman was Treasurer.
– Then I want to point out that they ought to be sacked, because any man who went to the people of this country and told them that bringing the note issue under the control of the Parliament was going to have any effect on inflationary trends would be talking nonsense. I give the right honorable gentleman credit for having renounced his previous expression of opinion on this point. The note issue, of course, has nothing to do with inflationary tendencies, but is merely an indication of what is happening.
I propose to confine my remarks to one of the main aspects of the bill, which deals with the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank board. The present Government parties talked about a “ small board “ when they were in Opposition, but under this bill they propose to establish a board of ten members. Clause 0 of the bill proposes to repeal the 1947 banking legislation ; but, as I indicated in the course of my remarks on the AddressinReply, that legislation is merely a dead horse on the track. The provisions of that act, with the exception of some minor aspects which do not matter very much, have been declared invalid by the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council. 1 shall not attempt here to question those decisions, and the Opposition makes no objection to the repeal of legislation which merely clutters the statute-book.
The principal matter to which I direct, attention is the provision for the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank boardI should like to ask the Treasurer the following questions : - Has there been anything in the management of the Commonwealth Bank since the legislation of 1945 became law that can be cavilled at? Has any action been taken by the two governors of the bank since that year that has been contrary to the national interest? Has anything been done during that time which has not been for the good of the community and in the interests of the sound management of the bank? The answer to each of those questions must be “No”. Nothing has been done since 1945 which warrants any change in the present system of management of the Commonwealth Bank. It is a remarkable thing that the Treasurer has had to admit that, despite the forecasts which he and the Prime Minister made about the terrible things that would happen to theeconomic system of this country after the passing of the banking legislation in 1945, the foundation and structure of thCommonwealth Bank are completely sound. I shall not attempt to tell t1 story of that institution now, because other speakers will relate it later in th:debate, but I believe that it has been , oik1 of a great, financial romance. Members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party must admit that no justification exists for an alteration of the administration, foundation and structure of the Commonwealth Bank. They must also agree that nothing has been done relative to the bank itself or its administration which has bean detrimental to the national interest. A great deal of the administration of the Banking Act 1945, as distinct from the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, has been undertaken by the Commonwealth Bank. However, I realize that the private banking interests are not satisfied with the present system of control. They provided vast sums of money for the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and placed members of their staffs at the disposal of the opponents of the Labour party for the purpose of assisting in the recent election campaign. I remind the House that the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems declared that the private banks were a semi-public utility; or, in other words, something rather more than an ordinary business. Yet they sent out their employees throughout the country at the expense of the banks, to say the most blackguardly things about the Labour party and its candidates. I know that they will not be satisfied with a touch of the forelock by members of the Government.
– They were very wicked. They actually defended themselves!
– And they want their pay-off now.
– The Prime Minister has interjected that the private banks were only defending themselves, but I say that they were defaming others. I have no objection to them defending themselves, but I do object to the scurrilous lies and the villainous campaign in which they engaged in their personal canvassing from door to door. I took the trouble to have records-
– The Leader of the Opposition is a bad loser.
– I am not. I have taken the trouble to have records made of the conversations of some of these canvassers with householders, so I am able to prove what I say.
– The gestapo.
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition has the floor, and should be heard in silence.
– In view of all the circumstances that I have related the Government must now do something to satisfy the private banks. I know that the Prime Minister has a fairly broad mind about many of these matters, and he applies a very high order of intelligence to this problem. He expressed great diffidence, when he was dealing with the Banking Bill in 1945, about venturing an opinion relative to the technical side of banking and, I presume, central banking. One is largely a matter of money lending, and, perhaps, does not require anything more than sound business administration. However, there had to be a political pay-off for those who had done so much for the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and that pay-off is being made in the form of the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank board. I admit that the way in which the proposed board has been presented to the House has been neatly camouflaged. Some honorable members may not be familiar with the history of this matter, and even some supporters of the Government have offered the criticism that the bill is not all that they had hoped for; but, as I shall show, the proposal relative to the appointment of a bank hoard has a most sinister implication from the stand-point of those who believe that the people’s bank of Australia should be controlled by persons entirely independent of outside interests, and in the interests of the people. The board’s decisions on great financial questions should be in accordance with the policy of the government of the day, whatever that government may be. The Government has moved a long way on that matter. It was said that the French Bourbons never learned anything, and never forgot anything. The leaders of this Government have been able to forget a lot, including all that they said about the control of banking in 1945 ; but, at least, they have learnt something. I judge from the Treasurer’s second-reading speech that they have finally adopted the view that the government of the day should make the final decision about matters of great financial and economic policy in the light of what is best for the community. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) interjected a while ago, “ What about the Bank of England?’”’.
– The Minister for Supply administers the Shipping Board which was established by the Chifley Government.
– I shall deal with the Shipping Board at the appropriate time, but that is not to-night. The Minister referred to the Bank of England.
– No, I did not interject.
– Then an honorable member who sits very close to the Minister on the treasury bench, or an honorable member nearby who doubtless hopes to occupy a seat on it very soon, made the interjection. I inform him that ever since Mr. Chamberlain was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it has been made perfectly clear to the Bank of England that the Treasury and the Government must finally determine great financial matters which affect the national welfare. When I make that statement, I speak on the authority of the people of the highest standing associated with that bank. Even when Mr. Churchill was the Prime Minister of Britain the British Treasury, and not the Bank of England, controlled foreign exchange. The Government proposes to appoint a bank board of ten members. It might appear to people who are inexperienced in these matters, or who have not had an opportunity to study the provisions of other banking legislation, or who have no knowledge of bow the old Commonwealth Bank Board worked, that the provision that five of the members shall be independent members has some particular significance. I have never yet known any one appointed to a bank board to be an independent person. The other five members of the board will be government officials. Let me say at once that, although the five independent members proposed for the board may be independent, presumably of banking, and insofar as the actual management of banks is concerned, there is nothing in the bill, as far as I can see, to prevent them from owning sharesin private banks. I consider that to bea very important aspect of this matter,, because we have had instances wherepeople in very high positions have had some association with banking legislation and have been found to be either directly or indirectly interested in bankingthrough the ownership of shares in private banks. I do not know whereit will be possible to obtain people whohave no outside private interests to serveas their main and dominant interest in life. I presume that the five independent members of the board will be men of great experience and capacity and have some degree of independence. I have studied the history of appointments-
– The right honorable gentleman himself worked for an antiLabour Government.
– I did. As a matter of fact I worked for the Government, just as Mr. Essington Lewis did, becauseit was in relation to the war effort. I do not think that what Mr. Essington. Lewis did in his professional capacity and what everybody else did in those days had any relation at all to their political views. I do not think they expect thanks. They did something to help the country in time of war just thesame as the soldiers did when they went out to fight. They did it whether they were Labour or Liberal supporters. The history of appointments of the old Commonwealth Bank Board shows that nobody was appointed who did not have very conservative views. I am not questioning in any way the honesty of the men appointed.
– Does the right honorable gentleman question their ability?
– I do question their ability, and I have no hesitation in doing so. I am not saying that they were not excellent managers of tobacco* companies or hardware stores, or very excellent polo players or very good sons of successful graziers, but they knew nothing about banking. In his speech the Treasurer offered apologies for their mistakes. Apparently the Government has learned that one of the reasons for those mistakes was that the Governor of the bank did not also occupy the position of chairman of the board. That is a confession of complete ineptitude and of the complete failure of the then conservative parties to recognize that the people who were made mainly responsible for the work of the bank ought to have been people who knew something about their subject. The Governor of the bank was a very estimable man, Sir Robert Gibson, a business man-
– Mr. M. P. Duffy was appointed by a Labour government.
– I have made it clear that I am speaking of directors appointed originally by conservative governments. No member of the Labour party had anything to do with selecting them. Mr. Duffy was appointed by the Scullin Government, and was the only man of liberal tendencies-
– He was an accountant.
– Apart from Dr. Coombs and Professor Giblin, who had a deep knowledge of the subject of banking, nobody really trained in banking was appointed to the board. The Treasurer has confessed the failure of the various bank boards. I shall deal later on with some of the results of the unsympathetic administration of the. banking laws of this country to show the disastrous effects that it had on the country. Those effects will continue to be felt for generations to come. The bill provides that five of the members of the new board, including the Governor of the bank, shall be. public servants or employees of the bank. ‘ The remaining members of the board are to be outside people who will not represent particular interests and may perhaps know nothing about banking. Yet they will be called in on one day a month to determine great financial questions on which the life and the economy of this country may very largely depend.
Let me digress here to say that the present Advisory Council which is associated with the Governor of the bank forms, in my opinion, the finest collection of administrative and economic brains that this country has ever seen working in any one organization. I have no doubt about that. They consist of the Governor himself, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the Treasury, the Commonwealth Statis tician, Dr. Roland Wilson, and Mr. Armstrong, the manager of the Industrial Finance Department. A very high tribute is paid in the Treasurer’s speech to Mr. Armstrong in respect to the success of the Industrial Finance Department of the bank as well as to another representative whom 1 might call the first emergency man, because he acts as observer in the absence of other Treasury representatives. I refer to the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Wheeler. This country has never known a collection of men of the capacity, ability and knowledge that are possessed by these members of the present Advisory Council. That association of men is one of the finest that the present Government has inherited from the previous Government. Those men were selected entirely for their ability to advise on banking problems. I have never heard any of them voice an expression of political opinion and I never want to hear any one of them do so. The policy of the Labour Government was to select the best, men for every job, in the interests of the community. Government representation on certain undertakings with which it is associated, such as the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, over the affairs of which it has no control, is purely nominal. It is interesting to note that under this legislation the two members of the Commonwealth Bank Board who may be officers of the bank or of the Public Service may be removed from office at the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral.
During the Treasurer’s second-reading speech on the measure, he mentioned the names of Professor L. G. Melville, Dr. Roland Wilson, and the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Watt, as among those whom the Government proposes to appoint to the board. No one can cavil at the selection of those men for service in an organization which is associated with banking and with the formulation of the economic and financial policy of the Commonwealth. Two of them, may, however, be removed from office at any time by the Governor-General. All occupants of the office of Secretary to the Treasury have regarded it as their duty to express the views of the Treasurer at meetings of the Commonwealth Bank Board. All of them have invariably pressed for the adoption of the Treasurer’s views as representing the views of the government of the day. Successive secretaries to the Treasury may have expressed different views about certain aspects of the bank’s administration, but all have expressed the views of the Treasurer of the day. I agree that it was their duty to do so. It would be useless for the representative of the Treasurer to express a. view differing from that of the executive government of the day. It is no reflection on the able men who have occupied the high position of Secretary to the Treasury to say that they have invariably expressed the views of the Treasurer at meetings of the board. The second appointee from the service of the bank or from the Public Service is, however, in a different category. Provision foi the appointment of a second representative of the Treasury was made in the Banking Act 1945, and Dr. Roland Wilson was subsequently appointed to that position. The five other members of the .board, however, may hold the same views as do the conservative political parties of this country - and I include the Australian Country party equally with the Liberal party - and be able to superimpose their wishes on the Treasury representatives. The big business interests with which the Government is associated have always hated, the Common wealth Bank and have done their best to restrict its activities and to destroy it.
– On the contrary,, the then Leader of the Australian Country party (Sir Earle Page) was responsible for stabilizing the Commonwealth Bank.
– Under crossexamination on oath before the Royal Commission, on Monetary and Banking. Systems, Mr. Claude Reading, the chairman of directors of the Common wealth Bank, who- was afterwards, knighted,, admitted frankly that the bank did not regard it as its function to- go out after business in competition with the trading banks. An admission was made before the commission that managers- of the Commonwealth Bank had been censured! for soliciting business that would normally have gone to the private hanks.
I am not now repeating something that I read in a newspaper. I am citing facts which were elicited as a result of the examination of witnesses before the royal commission. The present Prime Minister has frequently expressed the opinion in this House that the function of the Commonwealth Bank is to act as a central bank and that it should not compete with the trading banks. The people’s bank was not permitted to seek business which normally came within the activities of the trading banks.
– Under this bill additional capital will be provided to enable the Commonwealth Bank to expand its activities to enable it to compete with the trading banks.
– I do not mind interjections of that kind because they often bring my, mind back to something which I might otherwise have overlooked. I shall deal with the right honorable gentleman’s interjection at a later stage. Whatever the provisions of the bill may be. they were drawn up in consultation with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and those who are advising the Treasury. While a Labour government was in office the Commonwealth Bank was never denied ample funds to cover its activities. Successive governors of the bank have spoken of the ever increasing business of the bank, particularly in ite industrial finance section. At no time has the bank .been prevented from carry.ing out its functions. The Banking Act 1945 was designed to enable the bank to carry out its full functions.
– With limitations.
– With limitations governing capital which were to apply only for the time being. If the bank had asked for additional capital no difficulty would have been experienced m providing it. Additional capital would- have been provided, not from Consolidated Revenue, but from the reserves of the bank which are ample to provide all that may be required:. The statement of the Treasurer1 about the need for an expansion of the capital of the: bank is merely camouflage. It means nothing. When Labour was in office the bank had ample capital to meet its requirements.
I regret that the Treasurer’s interjections have caused me to digress somewhat. I return again to the Commonwealth Bank Board. On the board the five representatives of conservative interests, the protagonists- of private industry, who will be carefully selected, will be opposed, just as honorable members opposite are opposed, to the continuance of the Commonwealth Bank. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have said that they favour free enterprise as opposed to any form of socialism. The Commonwealth Bank is a purely socialist institution and as such they both hate it. Honorable members opposite resent the success achieved by the bank, particularly since the passage of the Banking Act 1945, and they will try to impede its progress in the interests of their political friends. They realize that they cannot destroy the bank. The Treasurer proposes to accept no responsibility for the decisions of the board. The five conservative representatives will be able to outvote the other members of the board, and their decisions will become the decisions of the board. Under this bill such decisions will never come to the Treasurer at all. The Treasurer will be able, through the representative of the Treasury, to direct the five private individuals to lay down a -policy which may be restrictive of the bank’s activities and, at the .same time, accept no responsibility for that policy. The supporters of the Government, when they were sitting in opposition, had much to .say about this aspect when the Commonwealth Bank Bill was passed in 1945, but this measure still leaves with the Treasurer the right to override the board. That was the very thing to which supporters of the present Government objected in the 1945 measure when they were in opposition.
– This measure does “no such thing. The right honorable gentleman .should read the bill.
– I advise the Treasurer to read the speeches that his colleagues made when the 1945 bill was before the House. What this measure does .is to give to the Treasurer the right to overrule, not the Governor, but the members of the board should he disagree with them. It is so much fanciful talk to speak about Executive Council minutes, because the Parliament has no effective control over such decisions. In any event, months must elapse before the Parliament can be given an opportunity to review such minutes and such a procedure is useless where an important financial decision is involved. Should the Treasurer desire to overrule the Commonwealth Bank Board, he can do so under this measure just as under the principal act, as amended in 1945, he can overrule the Governor of the bank. That is the only difference. I make it clear to new members of the Parliament that the Labour party has always believed that the final decision on great national financial matters should always rest with the government of the day whatever its political colour may be.
– -And not with the Parliament?
– I shall deal with that aspect later. I say frankly that the Government of the day is charged with the responsibility of .governing the country. It kas many financial decisions to make and it would be fatal to the economic interests of the nation if such decisions had to remain in doubt pending long and acrimonious debates in the Parliament. During the eight years that I was Treasurer, including the period since the 1345 measure has been in operation, I did not at any time overrule the Governor of the Commonwealth Hank. There was never any need for me to do so, because I was always able to evolve a. .satisfactory decision. That observation applies in respect of not only Dr. Coombs .and Mr. Armitage, who preceded him as Governor of the bank, but also , the Commonwealth Bank Board when it was in existence. I have never issued a written instruction to any of them. I expressed my views about what I thought ought to be done, but at no time was it necessary for me to exercise that power. However, under this measure, the Treasurer may give -instructions to the Secretary to the Treasury and, perhaps, other officers representing the Government, to support certain proposals that are .supported by the five private members of the board; and even though the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the bank might deem such proposals to be highly detrimental to the interests of the country they could be overridden, perhaps, by men who might have little or no knowledge of the intricate subject which was being dealt with. The Opposition stands for decisions of the bank being made by the Governor of the bank.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders he suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) from concluding his speech without limitation of time.
– I reiterate that whatever the policy of the Government on great financial matters may be, it is the province of the Treasurer on its behalf to give instructions in accordance with that policy. I shall cite an instance of what happened when there existed a Commonwealth Bank Board over which the Treasurer had no power of direction on great financial questions. The proposal to appoint five private individuals from outside to the Commonwealth Bank Board, to be reestablished under this measure - I do not care what their capacity, or knowledge of ordinary business affairs may be - must have the effect that the highly intricate business of the financial and economic control of this country will be in the hands of persons who will be called upon to deal with problems that they will know nothing about. Let me give a very striking illustration in that respect. I believe that every member of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems will agree that evidence given before that body revealed that only two’ bankers - it may be invidious to mention their names, although one of them was a violent opponent of the Government on nationalization - had any idea of the wider conception of central banking. I am not questioning the ability of other general managers of banks to control banks and to act as money lenders, but only two general managers of banks who appeared before that commission had the faintest knowledge of central banking and of the wider economic questions. Yet, it is proposed under this measure to appoint to the board some one from the street or out of the financial world ; and, sometimes, I believe that appointees to such positions are selected because of their social affiliations. I do not think that the Treasurer, or the Prime Minister, will deny that the business of international and internal economics is now more complex than it has ever been hitherto. Any man who does not from day to day keep in touch with financial and economic trends overseas and has not the capacity to interpret what that information conveys is utterly incompetent, however able he may be otherwise, to be associated with the management of a central bank that controls not only economic policy on behalf of the people, but also directs the private banks in many aspects of banking policy. There iB no proposal in this bill to take away from the Commonwealth Bank its jurisdiction over general advances policy, the types of advances and the lodgment of deposits by the private banks with the central bank. What would the man in the street know about matters, of that kind? I believe that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister will agree that the work of those who were associated with each of them when he was previously Treasurer has become ten times more complex in the intervening period. The Treasurer admits that the Commonwealth Bank Board was inadequate, in many respects, in its knowledge of central banking.
– I suppose the Treasurer would have the same handicap, would he not?
– I do not ask the Treasurer to answer that question. I say, with all due respect to him, that I am sure he has found it a very difficult and intricate business to understand all the financial ramifications, international and national, of the bank’s activities, which, to-day, are much greater than when he was Treasurer before. He would find trade agreements, financial agreements, currency agreements, relationships with the United Kingdom and many other matters that never had to be thought of before. He would have to consider the control provided for in the 1945 Banking Act over the operations of private banks. I learned sufficient during the eight years in which I was Treasurer to make me realize that it is absurd to take some man off the street or out of a business and bring him in to the Treasury on one day a month as a man would get somebody to cut a lawn one day a month. The fellow who comes in to cut the lawn sometimes knows how to cut it, but a man may be brought in to the Treasury to decide great financial problems of which he knows nothing at all.
It is true that the Labour party believes that the Commonwealth Bank should be entirely free of control by any outside interest; that it should serve all the people, rich or poor ; and that it should assist the Government in its various financial transactions.
Let us examine the history of the Commonwealth Bank under the banking control regulations that were introduced by the Curtin Government in 1941. What did those regulations do? The Treasurer says that they incorporated understandings or arrangements that he had made with the private banks previously. I am not denying that he had made certain arrangements, but they might be called gentlemen’s agreements, and my experience is that there are not enough gentlemen about to make this sort of agreement effective.
– Why did the Chifley Government make so many agreements with Mr. Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps?
– I have found that some of those have not been kept - particularly by the right honorable gentleman, I suspect.
As I have said, there has to be a “ payout “ to those who have given political support to the Government parties. It is absolutely essential, in the interests of Australia, that the great national institution which, to a large degree, controls this country’s economy should have the advice of the Treasurer. The Treasurer has a cabinet of eighteen members to assist him, so it cannot be said that he, alone, speaks for the Government. Three people who are outstandingly capable of advising the bank in the conduct of its affairs are the Governor of the Bank, the Deputy Governor and the manager of the Industrial Finance Section. The two leading officers advise on administrative and others matters. The Governor also has available the advice of the bank’s economist, Professor Melville. The inclusion of names in a statement means absolutely nothing, because nobody knows for how long the -people named will be occupying their present positions. All of them, excepting the -Secretary to the Treasury, can be removed at the Governor-General’s pleasure. Acts of God as well as acts of government could very easily remove these brilliant men from their positions and put others, less brilliant, in their place. Honorable members of the Opposition may say that those men are going to be there, but two of them can be removed at any time. Those men would be worth much more to private enterprise than any government or any bank of this country has ever paid them. They are men of outstanding capacity who are likely to leave their present positions at any time.
Under the Government’s proposals, decisions for which the Treasurer accepts no responsibility could be made by the bank board, overruling the decisions of the governor and the deputy governor. Honorable members on this side of the House will oppose the formation of a bank board of any kind unless, in a matter of great national importance, the Governor of the Bank, as the representative of the Government, is permitted to overrule the board’s decision. There is nothing wrong with that course of action being followed because the Government does represent the people of this country.
On the advisory council there are the men whom I have mentioned from the bank, and there is the Secretary of the Treasury and another representative, Dr. Roland Wilson, who has been appointed by the Treasurer. There cannot be any overruling of the Governor’s decisions by that advisory council but it provides him with the best possible advice both from within the organization and from the Treasury. The Treasurer’s advice would always be founded on the policy of the government of the day. That is to say, the Treasurer would represent the Government. I do not mean to imply that every matter on which the Treasurer made « decision would be placed before the Cabinet. He might discuss some matters with the Prime Minister, but the Treasurer would have to accept the responsibility for making the decision on behalf of the government of the day. The Treasurer has the advantage of the advice of the members of the advisory council, a body which sits once a month. Its members are men of great knowledge and experience. They are thoroughly conversant with all that is going on. They see the cables relating to matters of financial importance overseas that come in from day to day. They are able to talk to the Treasurer and among themselves from day to day and discuss by telephone matters on which the Treasurer is required urgently to give a decision or upon which he is seeking advice. Those men go to the Treasurer with a full knowledge of the important decisions that have been made by the council, so that the Treasurer is able to follow day by day all that is happening in regard to the administration of the hank and general financial policy. No one could improve the present system of control of - the Commonwealth Bank. It is impossible to devise a system under which the Commonwealth Bank, the Treasurer or the Government would be better advised than under that which is now in operation. Even the Treasurer admits that a great deal of harmony exists between the Commonwealth Bank and the private institutions. I admit at once that we owe much to the great capacity of the men concerned, and that it may not always be possible to obtain the services of men of that kind.
We shall oppose all the provisions of the bill that make provision for a bank board. In saying that, I do not intend to reflect upon the gentlemen who have been mentioned as being the nominees of the Commonwealth Bank and. the Government on the proposed board. I say in passing that they are persons who during the. war were referred to as bureaucrats by the present Government parties and the conservative press.
The Treasurer said in his secondreading speech that this matter should not be approached in a partisan spirit, but it would be very difficult fox two political parties that hold opposing views upon it net to approach it in a partisan spirit. I have expressed my views, and I have not dome so lightly. Whatever disagreement there may be between the
Government and myself and my colleagues, there is one matter that we all regard as being of paramount importance. It is the best interests of the people of this country. To appease a section of the people, whether it be representative of vested business interests or of Labour interests, in relation to a highly intricate and difficult form of administration would sap the strength of that magnificent organization, the Commonwealth Bank.
Wheal the 1945 banking legislation was being discussed by the Parliament, the present Treasurer spoke of the great dangers to which it would give rise. He said that I would go to caucus, that it would want another £15.000,000 or £20,000,000, and that I should have no option but to give effect to its desires. What are the facts?
– The right honorable gentleman did not go to caucus at all. He just did things.
– My colleagues know that I consulted them upon all great questions.
– Such as bank nationalization? The right honorable gentleman did not go to caucus about that. He announced it.
– Let me enumerate some of the things that the Commonwealth Bank has done, some of them under the provisions of the 1945 Bank Act and others under the regulations that were introduced by the Curtin Government. The Commonwealth Bank has controlled interest rates in this country and has prevented primary producers and other persons from being robbed by the. imposition of high interest rates. It has provided short-dated treasury bills at very low rates of. interest, ranging from 1 per cent, down to,. I think, a half of 1 per cent, at present. Whenever the Government required temporary advances to carry on the administration of the country it did not have to- go to- the private banks and pay, as it did when the present Minister for Health, (Sir Earle Page) was Treasurer, interest at the rate of 5-J per cent. on three-month treasury-bills.
– The right honorable gentleman used the special accounts for that.
– I ask the Treasurer to listen to “what I am saying. If he cannot take it, he should go outside. I am stating facts. The right honorable gentleman has said that we used the money that the private banks deposited with the Commonwealth Bank. That is a highly, technical matter, and I do not propose .to deal with it in the House to-night. Does anybody suggest that private banks did not make reasonable profits during the war? Does anybody suggest that they have not had all their bad debts paid off and advances repaid that, in other circumstances, would not have been paid perhaps for 20 years? When the present Minister for Health was Treasurer of this country the Government paid interest at the rate of per cent, on three-month treasurybills, but the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government paid less than 1 per cent, interest upon advances that they needed temporarily while revenue was being collected. The present rate of interest on such transactions is, I think, only one half of 1 per cent. At the peak period of borrowing, or very close to it, the Australian Government owed the Commonwealth Bank £343,000,000 on treasury-bills. That sum. had been advanced by the Commonwealth Bank at low rates of interest for the purpose of carrying on the war and the business of this -country. The private banks would have made a profit of millions of pounds if they had supplied that money. I am not taking any special credit to myself for it, but during the period when I was Treasurer the debt of £343,000,000 was reduced by £1.95,000,000. So much for the stories of how the note issue has been inflated to provide for this and that.
I come now to another point. During and since the war the Commonwealth Bank assisted the Treasury to float a huge loan. Not one penny of that loan was subscribed by a private bank, because the Australian Government would not allow private banks to contribute to a national loan, although small savings banks of a semi-governmental character, such as the Trustee Savings Bank in Tasmania, may have subscribed to it. The war was financed at a low rate of interest. Not one penny was borrowed from the private banks and no interest was paid to them.
The House has been extremely patient with me, and I shall not detain it for much longer. Before I conclude I shall, however, deal with what the Labour party fears will happen if men of inexperience are appointed as members of- a Commonwealth Bank board. We know the dreadful story of what happened in Australia when the affairs of the bank were under the control of the board that was established by the present Minister for Health. The events that occurred from 1926 onwards constitute one of the saddest chapters in the economic history of this country. In 1928 the Government that was then in power borrowed excessively from overseas. It borrowed at the rate of approximately £30,000,000 a year. That was reckless finance. Then the depression hit the world. I have stated before that no manipulation of our monetary policy could have protected us entirely from the effects of the depression, but I think it is generally admitted now that a great deal of misery, suffering and starvation would have been avoided and that probably 70 per cent, of the effect of the depression upon Australia would have been removed if there had been a wise financial and economic administration. The government of .the day had no control over the Commonwealth Bank Board. The board was not elected by the people. It was appointed by the Government, but what the Government said about the needs of the people did not matter to it. It was able to refuse -the Government’s requests. When Mr. Theodore wanted to raise a fiduciary note issue of £18,000,000 for the relief of unemployment and the assistance of farmers, he was told that he could not be accommodated. But later, hundreds of millions of pounds were found for the purposes of war and, as I have pointed out, a great deal of that money has been repaid. That period was financially ruinous to hundreds’ of thousands of people. It brought misery, degradation, unemployment, the dole and semistarvation to many citizens. Nobody will deny that, surely! The Minister for National Development talks to-day about great national schemes. Such works could have been undertaken in those evil times. We had the men and we had the coal, the cement, the steel and the other materials needed for the jobs. Hundreds of thousands of men were waiting anxiously for employment, and State governments were eager to undertake works of that type. But the Commonwealth Bank; Board said, in effect, “ It does not matter how many men are out of employment, how many people are on the verge of starvation or what the Government wants to do. There is no money “. Because of the Commonwealth Bank Board’s refusal to support such projects, Australia was deprived of the benefit of great developmental works that to-day, in an era of enlightened financial management, we contemplate with equanimity. I have often thought that, had anybody suggested a project like the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, upon which we propose to expend £200,000,000, the members of the board would probably have died of shock and amazement at the temerity of the proposal. The Government to-day plans to expend £1,000,000.000 upon public works for the good of the people, but all those years of opportunity went by when a board was in control of the Commonwealth Bank and nothing was done. When the establishment of cbe Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank was proposed, the board violently opposed the scheme and declared that it could not be put into effect during a time of war. But the Labour Government pressed on with its plan. The present Treasurer paid a great tribute to the work of the Mortgage Bank Department in his second-reading speech, although he and the present Prime Minister bitterly opposed its establishment in 1945.
The grave and prolonged ill effects of the financial policy that was in force during the depression can be strikingly illustrated by means of statistics. The Australian birth-rate declined steadily during the depression. It had increased to 134,000 per annum by 1928, but it decreased from that year until it reached a level of 109,000 per annum in 1934. Those figures were compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician; they have not been conjured out of my imagination. The rate did not return from that bed- rock level to the 192S figure of 134,000 per annum until 1941. That serious decline was largely, if not entirely, due to the economic conditions of the people. An even more impressive tabulation relates to the annual intake of children into the field of employment. The figures are fixed firmly in my mind, but I shall read them from the Commonwealth Statistician’s table lest any honorable member should think that my memory is unreliable. In 1939, 127,000 boys and girls over the age of fifteen years entered employment in Australia. Those were not the children of the depression; they had been born before the depression fell upon us. From that year onward, the figures fell steadily, showing the effect upon the nation of the economic depression that had been caused by the financial policy that I have discussed. In 1949, only 102,000 boys and girls aged fifteen years came into employment, representing a decrease of about 25,000 in the yearly rate since 1939. The rate will not return to the 1939 level until 1958. Any alteration of the present system of control of the Commonwealth Bank would have tragic effects upon the people. I make that assertion in the light of my knowledge of the Treasurer and of the men associated with the Commonwealth Bank. Private interests should not be involved in. the work of the bank, and before I conclude my speech I shall give a striking instance of the bad effect that could flow from any such association. The Treasurer has talked about laying minutes of the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board on the table of this House. The fact is that acts of the board could not be disallowed by the Parliament. I base that statement upon sound legal advice. However, decisions of the board could become the subject of grave political recriminations which would be damaging not only to this Parliament but also to the credit of the nation, particularly if they related to important decisions made by the Treasurer. The Treasurer for the time being is the man best capable of judging whether, in the best interests of the community, certain facts should be placed before the Parliament. I do not care who the Treasurer might happen to be, because I am confident that only a highly responsible individual would be appointed to that office. Harum-scarums are never selected for the position. The Treasurer very often knows what is likely to cause public fears and doubts, and political recriminations that would be dangerous to the economy of the nation.
The Government’s plan for parliamentary control over the operations of the Commonwealth Bank would be entirely ineffective. If an occasion for dispute should arise, the only result would be that the conflicting views of the board and the Treasurer would be placed before the House so that the disagreement would then become the subject of a violent and bitter political debate. Nobody could be better qualified to determine the course that ought to be pursued in the best interests of the nation than the Treasurer, guided by his colleagues. He receives reliable information from all parts of the world. Much of it is supplied to him on a strictly confidential basis, and he should not throw it before any board or allow it to become available to representatives of private interests who, quite unwittingly and without any dishonest intention, could use it to the advantage of the business organizations with which they were associated. Consider the situation that might arise in the event of any proposed alteration of the exchange rate. Suppose that the Government decided to consult somebody with experience of negotiating with other countries about rates of exchange, such as myself. It might obtain important confidential information from other governments contemplating exchange variations. Should information of that sort be released to individuals engaged in private business? Give me 48 hours’ notice of an alteration of the exchange rate, and, if I so desire, I can become a rich man within that time ! It is not necessary for me to tell any man who is engaged in business about the great advantage that could be gained from the receipt of advance information. Of course, the Treasurer and I may violently disagree in relation to broad financial or economic policies. The man who has all of the information from the most secret sources and of the most confidential character is best qualified to give guidance to the Government and the country about its financial and economic destination. There can be no possible doubt about that. “ It cannot be claimed that a man could be called off the street once a month to deal with questions that the Treasurer has to deal with from day to day, working very long hours. It would be impossible for such a person to be fully informed about what was happening overseas. I say frankly to the people and to the Government that if any legislation for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, such as that proposed, is ever brought into force, a grave disservice will be done to this country. It would be a bad day for the people of this country, and a betrayal of a great national task. The Opposition intends to oppose every clause dealing with the reconstitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board. I have dealt with the subject of the expansion of capital. The Government, with the advice of the Commonwealth Bank, is best qualified to decide whether that is wise. I doubt the Government’s motives in regard to the Commonwealth Bank Board. I am convinced that the objective of the Government’s supporters - I do not necessarily refer to the Prime Minister or the Treasurer - is to cripple the Commonwealth Bank and impede its progress. That would be the worst service that the Government of this country could ever perform.
.- 1 shall refer to several points that were raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). The right honorable gentleman said that in the joint policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) reference was made to a small board. He asked whether a board of ten could be regarded as small. Our answer to that is “ Certainly “. In cases like this, where great financial decisions have to be made, it is necessary to obtain the advice, not of one of two men, but certainly of a number proportionate to their responsibilities. I cannot for a moment see that objection could be raised to the smallness of the board. Honorable members on the Government side of the House consider - and most sensible people agree - that ten is a most satisfactory number. The right honorable gentleman read out certain portions of the joint policy speech. and emphasized the use of the term “ parliamentary control “,_ (particularly with reward to resolving disputes on policy matters and the note issue. He referred to occasions in the past when there had been differences of views between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Treasurer. The right honorable gentleman adopted a specious debating practice. He took those words out of their context, and apparently forgot the principles on which the Government framed its proposals. The Government considers that great decisions should not be made by one man without reference to or control by the National Parliament. That is the overriding and guiding principle. The Leader of the Opposition has stressed the use of the word. “ control “ but has forgotten the principle involved. The right honorable gentleman resorted to rhetoric in his reference to note control. I shall deal with that in the body of my speech. He asked whether the present management of the Commonwealth Bank had done anything contrary to the national interest. Although it might not have acted contrary to the national interest, it certainly did not act. in the national interest. Two great sets of forces have been responsible for inflation, one monetary and the other real. More than any other institution or organization, the Commonwealth Bank has had control of the monetary cause. During the last two or three years, since it has been in control of this factor, inflation has got out of hand. The Australian £1 has lost between 50 per cent, and 60 per cent, of its value. For evidence of failure the Leader of the Opposition need merely look at the creation of his own brain-child. If he has the courage of his own convictions he will admit that there was failure. We are determined to get rid of it. His failure constituted our justification for deciding to re-constitute the Commonwealth Bank Board and give the management of the Commonwealth Bank to that board.
The right honorable gentleman dealt with past appointments, and said that the tendency had been to appoint persons with a conservative outlook. If that is true, let us revert to that practice, because during the period that the Commonwealth Bank was under the control of a board the £1 had its full purchasing value. Every one could buy a £1 worth with a £1 note. But what can be bought with the Chifley socialist £1? The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said the other night that he doubted whether the Chifley socialist £1 could purchase 8s. worth of goods.
– Does the honorable member say that that is the fault of the board or of the Government?
– That state of affairs has developed since the board was abolished.
The right honorable gentleman also dealt with interest rates. The Commonwealth Bank was able to reduce interest rates only because £364,000,000 of trading bank deposits had been sterilized in special accounts. Trading bank moneywas used by the Commonwealth Bank to reduce interest rates to its customers. As the former Treasurer knows, there is a suspicion that the trading bank sections of the Commonwealth Bank were heavily subsidized by the Note Issue Department. A statement to that effect, made by a former director of the Commonwealth Bank, has not been refuted. The simple fact is that nobody outside the Bank knows. It is not mentioned in any independent statement, balance-sheet,- or profit and loss account. It is practically impossible for anyone outside to determine whether this organization is being efficiently managed. However, there is a strong suspicion that it is inefficient. It was because of that inefficiency that the Government decided to take action.
Last but not least, I shall deal with the trading bank functions of the Commonwealth Bank, to which we do not object. All we say is that there should be fair competition with the other trailing banks. That is all that the other trading banks ask for. If competition is not unfair, there will be no real objection. But that is not the case to-day. There is not fair, but definitely unfair competition, as I shall prove later in my speech. I should like to remind the right honorable gentleman of the fact that there is a great distinction between being wedded to an idea and being married to an ideal. I believe that when you marry your ideal, disillusion sets in some time after marriage; but social conventions demand that a bill of divorcement shall not be filed. That may be all right as a social convention in marriage, but it should not be permitted to apply to politics. The Leader of the Opposition, throughout his speech, has revealed that, he lives in the past, and I am afraid that he will have to be interred with it. On the issue that confronts this House in considering the bill, it is well to remember that when the present Leader of the Opposition initiated his banking reforms in 1945, he, for some reason best known to himself, introduced two bills. The first he called the Commonwealth Bank Bill. That related to the structure and management of the Commonwealth Bank, its central banking powers, the problem of a difference of opinion between the Treasurer and the Governor of the bank, and one or two like issues. Its three important provisions were, first, the appointment of a governor in place of a board, secondly, means for resolving differences of opinion, and, thirdly, the exercise of central banking powers by the Commonwealth Bank. The other bill related to banking, and regulated the trading activities of the ordinary commercial banks. It is important to remember that it also provided for the licensing of banks, special accounts, sterilizing of special deposits, and the protection of bank depositors.
The bill now before the House does not interfere with the Banking Act, nor does it touch any of the substantive provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act. The power of the Commonwealth Bank to act as a central bank, or to regulate the activities of the trading hanks, is not altered. Substantive powers are not infringed, but provision is made in the legislation for resolution of a conflict of opinion between the authorities. I wish to make it abundantly clear to the House that the powers of the Commonwealth Bank and of the Government remain intact. The Leader of the Opposition has completely avoided this important fact. Had he objected to possible interference with the powers conferred under section 8 of the Commonwealth Bank Act the position might have been different. This portion of the bill reads like a page drawn from the early manifesto of the Liberal party- Had he said that the Government wasinterfering with the central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank set out in section 13 of the act, or that it was restricting the power of the Parliament, there might have been some ‘ ground for objection ; but he did not say that. He based his objections on formal grounds and on the method of management. Therefore he either does not know what he is doing, or he has decided to embark on a policy of deliberate and unwarranted obstruction. His objections to the bill are both specious and irresponsible.
The present Government parties set out in their joint policy speech which was prepared by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, that two principles would guide them in bringing their banking proposals before the Parliament. The first was that great financial decisions, which, if wrong, are wrong on so great a scale as to injure many thousands of people, ought not to be made by one man without reference to, or control by, the Parliament. Ultimately, the Parliament itself must have the power to review or to control the financial affairs of Australia. The second principle was that a board of experienced, and independent men would afford a guarantee that decisions on policy matters would not lightly be swept away by the political head of the Treasury. Our policy made it clear that those were the principles upon which the Government would base its legislation, and that it would accept no modification of them. They were enthusiastically approved by the people. They are- a part of the policy of the Government and it is not prepared, to compromise about them at all. Those principles will be observed, and if there is any deliberate obstruction from the Opposition, then honorable members opposite must take the responsibility for it, and ultimately give an accounting to our masters, the people. The three important provisions of the bill - the provision of a board, a formula to be used where a difference of opinion arises between the Treasurer and the Bank Board, and the provision regarding the note issue - I shall now proceed to discuss.
The main objection of the Opposition to the formation of a hoard derives from the fact that the Government has decided to change from dictatorial, or one-man, control of the financial and monetary activities of the Commonwealth Bank, to control by a board of management. Both forms of control have been discussed at length in this House since 1924, and most honorable members will have read the debates and will know the contents of the various speeches that have been made. I do not propose to traverse them, but will content myself by dealing with two aspects only, one of which is of critical importance. If men of technical ability, competence and wide experience are obtained, a pool of technical and expert knowledge will be available, thus ensuring that when decirsions are made they will be informed and responsible. The second thing the Government wants to do is to provide a guarantee that the banking mechanism will not be used for party political purposes, or to carry out some ideology or hair-brained scheme of a particular individual. Only this week a second edition was published of a book by R. S. Sayers called Modern Banking. The author makes it quite clear that in the general activities and management of the daytoday affairs of the nation, the banking system should remain neutral or passive; it should automatically respond to the decisions of the Government or to changing economic conditions, but should never take an active role or be used as a subterfuge for carrying out somebody’s political ideas. We consider that if a bank board be constituted it will help to bring about a neutral banking system and will prevent the bank itself or its functions from being used for political purposes. The Government believes that in providing for a bank board of this nature it is carrying out the second principle of its policy, and is providing a guarantee that any financial decisions made will not be lightly swept aside by the political head of the Treasury.
There are a number of features of this banking bill that have been the subject of considerable misunderstanding, perhaps even of misrepresentation. Honorable members have heard it said all too frequently that the Commonwealth Bank Board as it is to be constituted will be too heavily weighted with public servants. I invite the House to study the proposal. It is provided that there shall be three men on the board ex officio. They will be the Governor of the bank, the Deputy Governor, and the Secretary to the Treasury. I do not think that anybody will say that they should not be included in the board. It it proposed that there shall be seven other members, all of whom may be appointed from outside the Public Service or the bank. That means that there can be seven independent men. Therefore, in my opinion the argument that the board will be over-weighted with public servants cannot be sustained. The balance seems to be a fair one, of which honorable members should be proud. The Government has discretionary power to appoint two members from the Public Service or from the Commonwealth Bank, but the bill provides, under clause 23 (3.), that members appointed in that way shall hold office only at the discretion of the Governor-General of the day. In other words, if honorable members of the Opposition ever return to this side of the House and they do not like the two officers appointed, the remedy will lie in their own hands.
I wish to deal now with the matter of procedure. Under the existing act, if there happens to be a difference of opinion between the Treasurer and the Governor of the bank, the matter is decided by the Treasurer, who, in effect, assumes dictatorial powers. But, of course, a difference of view is a complete impossibility at the present time. If there were a well-known hatchet man as Treasurer, would it be possible for the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to oppose his wishes? It would be a complete misunderstanding to think that he would. The Government has said, “Let the Commonwealth Bank go ahead and carry on business activities and make its decisions in the normal way. If the government of the day does not a,gre: with policy decisions that have been made by the Commonwealth Bank Board, the matter will be referred to the Government, which can decide on a policy lineof action and take complete responsibility for it “. The Government goes farther and provides that the decisions thus made shall be laid on the table of the House within fifteen days and become subject to full discussion in this House. The Government regards that as a very wise provision. It does two things. First, it provides for a chain of appeals, and the final appeal rests in this House. Honorable members will have the opportunity of discussion in this chamber, therefore the ultimate power is centred in the sovereign representatives of the Australian people. Secondly, the Government makes it perfectly clear that throughout the chain there shall be adequate publicity. That is very important. The Government wants to know what decisions have been made and to be perfectly certain why they have been made and that they have been wisely made. It provides that adequate publicity shall be given to the decisions and that the reasons for them shall be made known.
I wish to illustrate this point because t think it is of great importance, and I shall deal with it in a practical way. In September, 1949, the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Chifley, decided to devalue the Australian fi in relation to the. United States dollar. On the facts available at that date - those facts do not apply to-day - it appears that the Australian £1 should have been appreciated. The only organization in possession of the full facts was the Commonwealth Bank or the Treasury. The average man has not the ability or the knowledge to say, “ This is what should have happened “. The two relative indexes and the information available to outside sources, made it appear’ that the appropriate time to appreciate the Australia £1 was in September, 1949. I refer to the two relative indexes. The first is the increase of London funds and the second is based on what is called the purchasing power parity theory. It is not pretended that this theory is more than a rule of thumb. If these indexes - the wholesale import index and the domestic import index - are studied it will be seen that there was wide disparity between them. If there was a wide disparity between these indexes it could be said that a movement of the exchange rate in one way or the other was then highly desirable. In addition, the monetary inflationary forces then in existence had either run their course or stalled in neutral. iSo there was ground for thinking that the exchange might have been appreciated. The important thing is that a decision was made by the Treasurer of- the day and nobody knows whether it was based on the advice of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank or whether it conflicted with the advice given by the Advisory Council. Everybody else was left completely and hopelessly in the dark. I want to make one point clear in case it is suggested that I am advocating an appreciation of the Australian £1. I am not because I am not in a position to do so. I have not the relevant facts before me. These two indexes, the international wholesale index and the domestic wholesale index, have moved so close during the course of the last six months that one cannot see that wide disparity which would give ground for thinking that there should be appreciation. In addition wage rates and costs are rising in Australia relative to those abroad. The variation of the exchange itself put into effect fresh inflationary forces until to-day it would need the most skilful technical men to sit down and make a decision. Even then it would be an even money bet that they would be likely to be wrong. The point is that the Government wants publicity to be given to the reasons why things are done. It considers that in the last resort, those reasons should be fully discussed in this Parliament and that when the Parliament does discuss the matter, it should be fully informed on it.
The third point relates to the note issue. The Leader of the Opposition directed attention to the fact that the Government had not brought the note issue under parliamentary control. I do not know whether that is wise or not. It has been the subject of academic discussion for many years. In 1815 the first attempts were made to control the note issue by what were called monopolies and residuary monopolies of the note issue by the central bank. Since then various means have been devised to try to control the note issue. They have universally failed. In Germany and the United States of
America the most complex practices were adopted, but in times of great, national crisis or of rapid economic development, it has been found that the note issue must be increased by legislative action. When that is done it creates the impression in the minds of the people that something is wrong and the most evil effects are generated from that very action. . So to-day it can be said that the best brains in the community tend to the view, although there is no dogmatic view, that the system adopted by the Treasurer is the best that could be devised. It is much the same as the system adopted under the British Bank Notes Act 1939. In other words, the note issue is under the control of the Bank Board. If the Treasury does not like the .policy, it will go to the Government and then to this Parliament, where it will, be the subject of review. I believe that, on the balance of opinion, the steps taken by the Treasurer are right. As honorable members are probably aware, the profits of the Note Issue Department are derived from interest on Commonwealth bonds. Normally, those profits should go either to the national debt redemption fund or to Consolidated Revenue for the reduction of taxation, or for general revenue purposes. There is a belief in some circles that, in times of inflation, it is proper to redeem treasury bills or to take some other counter-inflationary action. We have provided that for a period of five years up to £5,000,000 may be allocated to the trading bank section of the Commonwealth Bank. We have done that because we believe that the activities of that section must be extended. But I should like to make it quite clear that this very action will have both primary and secondary inflationary effects at a time when we should be doing our best to control inflation. However, its strong justification is that the provision is permissive and that the amount is to be limited to £5,000,000 and to a period of five years. After all, that amount is but a drop in the ocean compared with the inflationary effects that are generated by an overseas income which amounts to well over £540,000,000 l year. I do not like the principle, and [ suggest to the Treasurer that a clause be inserted in the bill providing that, at the expiry of five years, all the profits made by the general banking division and the Note Issue Department shall either be applied to the redemption of treasury bills or shall go into genera] revenue. The present issue of treasury bills is roughly £150,000,000. This has a strong inflationary effect. . It also has a strong tendency to depreciate the value of the £1. Action should he taken by the Government to reduce that . issue as soon as possible. Here I should like to interpolate, that, for some extraordinary reason, in the last three or four months of the Chifley Government’s term of office, the treasury-bill issue was increased by £90,000,000” Shortly before that time, the Government had decided to withdraw subsidies. That action appeared to be directed against the Australian people because it devalued our currency and further reduced the purchasing power of the £1. Apparently the Chifley Government acted in a fit of pique and anger and was determined to make the public suffer for its refusal to grant price control powers to the Commonwealth.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to continue, Mr. Speaker, as I have only one more point to make and it is important. It completes the picture and concludes my argument.
Motion (by Mr. Townley) negatived -
That the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) be granted an extension of time.
.- The honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon), made an academic contribution to this debate. We should realize that to-day banking is of more than academic interest to the community. Twenty years ago, it may have been all right for the man in the street to leave the discussion of monetary matters to banking experts, but to-day the position is quite different. Banking is no longer a matter for purely academic debate. For instance, banking policy can have a vital effect on employment and unemployment. It is a bread and butter subject, as we found during the depression years ana are still finding. At the last general election the private banking institutions in this country played a most active part in ensuring the return to office in this Parliament of a political party which held views on banking and monetary matters that were largely in accord with their own. Therefore, I repeat that banking is no longer a matter for purely academic argument. We, as representatives of the Australian people, are endeavouring to decide the best method of ensuring an improvement of the Australian standard of living, side by side with the advancement of the Australian nation in world affairs. The honorable member for Lowe spoke of the reasons for the introduction for this measure. He argued that the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board will only be a small body, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) suggested in his policy speech. But let us compare the proposed board with the advisory body now in existence. That, I submit, is a proper comparison, because the new board will be called upon to do much the same work as the advisory board has done. The advisory board has only five or six members and, in providing for a board of ten, honorable members opposite are falling down on their election promise to set up a small board to control the Commonwealth Bank. If the Government’s intention in introducing this measure was merely to place certain matters of policy in the hands of a board, the measure would not contain very much to cavil at, because, after all, the new set-up of the Commonwealth Bank will not be very much different from its present organization. However, when we consider the policy of the Liberal party in the past, and when we bear in mind the financial assistance that that party has received, and still receives, from private banking interests in Australia, we are inclined to believe that there must be something more in the hill than meets the eye. This impression is heightened by certain statements that have been made outside the Parliament. For instance, according to the week-end press, the New South Wales division of the Liberal party, which controls about one-third of the Liberal party members in this House, decided by only a very small majority to support this bill. It was a close fight. It would appear, therefore, that we on this side of the chamber are not the only ones to whom the bill is not acceptable. Apparently some of those who provided the campaign funds that were required to secure the election of this Government are not very happy about the bill.
The honorable member for Lowe went further and blamed the present organization of the Commonwealth Bank for the falling purchasing power of the £1. He failed to point out, however, that iri the United States of America, for instance, where there is no government bank and private enterprise has the entire banking field to itself, the depreciation of purchasing power has been even moremarked than in this country. Undoubtedlysubstantial price increases have occurred’ during the term of office of this Government and, I concede, during the term of’ office of the Labour Government, tot, tha Australian people are still able to pur”chase all the things that are necessary for their well-being. In Australia, notwithstanding high prices and a limited amount of currency inflation, the people are much better off than are those who live in countries where banking is exclusively in the hands of private enterprise. In the United States of America, there are about 6,000,000 unemployed. Those persons are not particularly concerned about the cost of commodities. They have no money, inflated or otherwise, with which to buy necessaries to keep body and soul together. In Australia, because of the control exercised over credit, and the restriction of the profits of private banks, the national economy is sound, and no one has to walk the streets looking for a job. All have enough to live on. In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) said -
The Government is convinced that the primary responsibility of the Commonwealth Bank is its responsibility as a central bank for the continued health and progress of the hanking system as a whole.
The Labour party has never professed to be concerned with the profits of the private banks, which are quite well able to look after themselves. Our concern is to apply such policies in regard) to banking and other matters as will’ produce the greatest benefit for the Austral an people. Therefore, we cannot agree to the Government’s proposal to change the management of .the Commonwealth Bank. The Government proposes to set up a hoard of ten persons. The bill provides that the board shall consist of the Governor of the bank, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury, and seven other members. Of these seven, at least five shall be persons who are not officers of the bank or of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer informed us that it was proposed to appoint Professor Melville and Dr. Roland Wilson. Therefore, of the five others to be appointed, none shall be a public servant or an officer of the bank. I cannot understand why n man should be debarred from appointment to the board just because he is a public servant. Few men are better qualified by training and experience to serve the Government and the people in such a capacity. [Quorum formed.] There is this difference between the average public servant and a number of the members of this House : the public servant must be intelligent, he must have attained a prescribed educational standard, and his moral record must be good. Many people outside the Public Service would not be able to pass such a test, and that applies to members of this House, as -well as to others. “Neither do I approve of the proposal to exclude from appointment to the board men who are experienced in banking. After nil. banking is an intricate job, which cannot be learned in a day. In order to manage a banking enterprise a man must have had experience, and that can be gained only by working as a banker. Notwithstanding this, the Government proposes to appoint to the board only one man trained in banking practice. Going a little further, we find that there is not to be any unfair competition with private hanking institutions. To my mind that is the whole reason for the introduction of the bill. If the Government were honest it would tell us the names of the five individuals whom it proposes to appoint to the Commonwealth Bank Board from outside, or at least indicate what positions they occupy, so that honorable members might determine whether they are likely to form a com-
Mr. Gordon Anderson. patent and useful body. It is significant that half the members of the board are not to be drawn from the Public Service or from amongst bank officers. What assurance have we that they will not be drawn from the ranks of former officer* of private banks? I know members of this House who were employed by private banks years ago, and undoubtedly there are many bank officers who would he prepared to resign from their positions in order to qualify for appointment to the proposed board. Judging by the political appointments that have been made in the past that is not beyond the bounds of probability. We all know of members of anti-Labour administrations who have gone to a lot of trouble to resign directorships of private concerns in order to qualify for appointment to Cabinet. However, in many instances, the day after they left. Cabinet they resumed their former’ directorships in banking and stockbroking institutions. .1 say, therefore, that the prohibition against the appointment of bank officers does not convince me of the Government’s sincerity in this matter.
The speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) contains certain significant passages, including the following: -
Whilst policy will be determined by the board, the day-to-day administration of the hank will be in the hands’ of the Governor.
The Government should say definitely what the proposed board’s powers and functions are to be. Clause 7 of the bill provides that the board may do anything regardless of what the Government contemplates it shall do, and the board is to be empowered to do all such things as may appear to it to be necessary according to circumstances. I say, therefore, that we have no guarantee of the composition of the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board, and, as I said previously, I am very concerned to know from what sphere the additional five directors are to be recruited. Even if they do not come from private banking institutions they may come from other large private organizations that are closely affiliated with the trading banks. We all know that many directors of trading banks also hold substantial interests in other concerns. For instance, it may interest honorable members to know that Mr. Darling, who is a member of the directorate of the National Bank of Australasia, is also connected with the directorates of three or four large industrial corporations, such as Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, Australian Iron and Steel Limited, and Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Some individuals, such as members of the Baillieu family and. Sir Frederick Tout, are directors of large chains of companies, and it is manifestly to their interests to have some influence on the decisions of the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board. Although directors of banking institutions are to be excluded from appointment to the proposed board, there is nothing in the bill to prevent the appointment of their business associates and friends in allied corporations.
To summarize my remarks, it is apparent that either the proposed board is not necessary, because it will not function differently from the present control of the bank, or the Government desires to appoint certain people to control the banking policy of the country for a particular purpose. On the face of things the Government is accepting the whole principle of the 1945 legislation, and does not contemplate doing anything to assist those who supported it so heavily against the the previous Labour Administration. In other words, those interests who supported the present Government parties when they were in Opposition will not receive any dividend on their capital investment. However, the mere fact that the bill has been introduced and that the Government is determined to establish the proposed, board without letting the House or the people know who is to be appointed to it suggests that there is more in these proposals than meets the eye. In any event the Government is asking too much of the House in seeking its approval of the establishment of a board whose membership it is not prepared to reveal. The 1945 legislation did indicate at least the qualifications of those who were to be eligible for appointment to the advisory council of the bank, so that the people at least had an assurance that the advisers of the Governor of the bank would have no private axe to grind. No such assurance is discernible in this bill, which merely provides that half the members of the board shall not be public servants or members of the present Commonwealth Bank. That is not good enough. As I said before, much of the present prosperity of our people is due to the operation of the legislation introduced by the previous Labour Administration, including the banking legislation of 1945. Our people are fully employed and our rural, as well as our metropolitan, population .is enjoying a standard of living higher than it has ever known before. Australians have been well served by the present Commonwealth Bank and by the previous Labour Administrations, one of which established in 1945 the present form of control of that bank. I should like the Government to explain exactly why it proposes to alter the existing legislation and, in any event, I suggest that it would be well advised to withdraw the bill and allow the 1945 act to .continue in operation.
.- The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Gordon Anderson) said that the proposed constitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board was an insult to the Public Service of this country. On the contrary, I think that it is a very great compliment to the Public Service that of the tcn members of the proposed board, five are to be members of the Public Service or of the Commonwealth Bank. The bill provides that the board shall consist of the Governor of the bank, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury, and seven other members. Included in those seven other members will be Mr. L. G. Melville. Economic Adviser to the Commonwealth Bank, and Dr. Roland Wilson, Commonwealth Statistician. In other words, five public servants will be appointed to the board. The honorable member inquired why officers of banks should be excluded from appointment to the proposed board. I should say that the obvious reason is that the Government believes in fair competition. It would not be right to have a member of a private trading bank acting as a member of the? board of the Commonwealth Bank with which the private bank is competing.
The honorable member also objected to the policy of the Government of preventing unfair competition with the private banks. The policy of the present Government is to be fair in all respects, and fair trading between the banks is just as important as fairness in any other direction. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) asked, in effect, “ What has the Governor of the bank done that is wrong? Why appoint a Commonwealth Bank Board unless you are prepared to point to wrong action that has been taken by the Governor ? “ That is entirely beside the point. For two or three years after Hitler had become a dictator, many people in Germany wanted the governments of other countries to tell them what he had done wrong. Yet those people know now that once a man is given dictatorial powers and chooses to exercise them in the wrong direction, irreparable damage may be done to any community. The same P081 trAarose in Italy. Mussolini, in the early stages of his dictatorship, did a number of tilings that the Italian people thought were in the best interests of that country.
Our objection to the present dictatorial control of the Commonwealth Bank is based, not on the person who to-day is in the position to exercise that control, but on the whole principle that confers on one man dictatorial powers to determine matters that can affect the lives of every citizen of this country. The Government proposes to take away from that man the dictatorial control of the financial destiny, credit and monetary policy of this country, and in future, that authority will be vested, originally, in a most experienced board, and finally, in the elected representatives of the people in this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition has expressed the view that the Treasurer of the day is the person who is most capable of deciding the financial policy of this country. That statement, in my opinion, shows a distrust of the Parliament. I believe that, ultimately, the elected representatives of the people should determine the financial and monetary policy of Australia, and the bill makes the necessary provision for that to be done. The Governor and the Deputy Governor of the bank and other experienced men who will be appointed to the board, will direct the policy of that institution, but should differences of opinion arise, between the Treasurer and the board, the ultimate decision will rest with the elected representatives of the people. That provision in the bill is in accordance with the true policy of the Liberal party.
The Leader of the Opposition has stated that the Commonwealth Bank is a socialist undertaking. That view is completely erroneous. The bank is no more a socialist undertaking than it is * Liberal undertaking. Commerce and industry which the Labour party chooses to refer to as “ The means of production, distribution and exchange”, may be divided into the following categories: - First, those that are undertaken solely by governments; secondly, those that are undertaken partly by government or the State, and partly by private enterprise; and thirdly, those that are, or should be, undertaken entirely by private enterprise. Ever since there has been a Liberal party, support has been given to government ownership and control of such matters as roads, education, telegraphs and many other undertakings. Certain functions come within the second category, and since the inception of liberalism, they have been undertaken partly by the State and partly by private enterprise. Banking comes within that category.
There are other undertakings that, according to Liberal principles, should be undertaken by private enterprise in the best interests of the country. From the Liberal point of view, objection has never been raised to State banks and the Commonwealth Bank. In some of the States, private trading banks and State trading banks operate, and in the national sphere, the Commonwealth trading bank and the private banks function. The vita! difference between the Labour party and the Liberal party on this matter is that the Liberal party believes in free competition whereas the Labour party believes in monopolistic control. For that reason, I consider that clause 3, which provides for the repeal of the Banking Act 1947, is the most important provision in the bill. The Government has decided to repeal that act because the purpose of it is to deprive the people of the right to choose their own. banker, and to establish a complete banking monopoly in this country. If a monopoly bank were established, the governor of that institution would have complete dictatorial control over the lives of every individual in this community. That is why the Liberal party during the recent general election campaign, made such a feature of the banking issue. . The people have given to the Government a mandate to prevent the establishment of a banking monopoly and to preserve the people’s right to choose their bankers freely, and to change them whenever they desire so to do. Honorable members on this side of the chamber believe that the best interests of the community are served by allowing the people to choose whether they will transact their business with a private bank or a government bank. It would be just as dangerous to have a private banking monopoly as it would be to have a public banking monopoly. Therefore, I consider that it is essential that the Commonwealth Bank should compete fairly and justly with the trading banks. Provision should” be made for the Commonwealth Bank to pay the same charges, such as rates and taxes, as the private banks are obliged to pay.
– The Commonwealth Bank pays those charges now.
– I have not suggested that the Commonwealth Bank does not pay those charges. I have merely expressed the opinion that that institution should continue to pay an amount equivalent to the rates and taxes that are paid by the private banks, and thereby assist the local authorities concerned. The Labour party used to champion the rights of the people, but the present policy of that party seems to be to establish a dictatorship and to take away the people’s rights. That is why the Labour Government was thrown out of office at the last general election. The people of Australia have been brought up on traditions of freedom. They are lovers of freedom and like to exercise their right of free choice. They strongly resented the dictatorial action of the last Government when it attempted to take away from them their right to a free choice of the banking institution they should patronize. The government of any British country that has tried to take away the freedom of the people has inevitably fallen. The bill before the House is a masterpiece of cooperation and co-ordination. It provides for the appointment of a hoard composed of those closely associated with the bank and of experts from industrial and commercial life. In addition to that it provides means whereby the Treasurer can from time to time put forward the Government’s views on banking policy. The bill also leaves the ultimate decision about banking policy with the elected representatives .of the people. It is a great advance upon banking legislation of previous governments and will enable the monetary and credit policy of this country to be used to achieve the maximum good for the whole of the people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Tobacco - Adoption of Infants - Aborigines - Broadcast by Indonesian National.
Motion (by Mr. MoBride) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I direct the attention of the Government to a state of affairs in relation to the distribution of tobacco, which, I believe, can be rectified if a proper approach be made to the people concerned. In the rural areas of Western Australia, at least, there exists at the present moment, to describe it mildly, a state of seething discontent about the distribution of tobacco of Australian manufacture. In 1942 the Australian Government assumed control of the distribution of tobacco. I consider that it was necessary for it to do so. In 1945, however, the Government relinquished that control and left the distribution of tobacco in the hands of the tobaccomanufacturing industry. Some such control was necessary in order to avoid a state of chaos, and at that time the distribution was possibly on a reasonably equitable basis. But a considerable number of changes have occurred between 1945 and the present year in relation to the movement of population in Australia. In 1942 and until the time that the control of the distribution of tobacco was relinquished by the Government, it was the practice to supply ex-members of the forces, on their discharge, with a document entitling them bo a regular ration of tobacco. Most of the ex-members of the forces at that time handed their entitlements to tobacconists whose businesses were conveniently located in relation to their temporary places of residence. As a result, tobacco retailing establishments in the metropolitan areas and other big centres obtained many entitlements to collect tobacco rations on behalf of ex-members of the forces. Eventually a considerable number of ex-service personnel found their places in civil life and moved to country districts or to places far away from the areas in which they resided when they handed their tobacco entitlements to the retailers. Instead of some arrangement being made whereby the tobacco rations could be transferred to other tobacconists where the ex-members of the forces could conveniently collect it, those exmembers were compelled to make arrangements to obtain their tobacco rations from the original tobacconists. As a result, many ex-members of the forces now have either to accept a very short ration of tobacco that is dependent upon the charity or generosity of local tobacconists in the new areas in which they live, or to arrange to obtain their tobacco by post or some other means from the original retailers. Most of them do not take any action at all towards obtaining their ration from the tobacconist to which they handed their entitlement, and as a result tobacco retailing establishments in the metropolitan areas have a disproportionate amount of tobacco to distribute to their customers compared with the amount available to country storekeepers. The basis upon which tobacco rationing was arrived at was the 1-942 figure. No alteration has been made by the tobacco distributing committees in the various States to meet the circumstances in 1950. I know that tobacco rationing is not a matter of government control at the present time, and I am not suggesting that it should be in the Government’s hands, but I consider that it is within the ambit of the Government to make an approach to the tobacco distributing committees, the personnel of which, in all the ‘Stages of the Commonwealth, is entirely unknown.
– Where can they be found ?
– As a result of efforts that I made in the State Parliament of Western Australia, I discovered where the office of the secretary of the tobacco distributing committee in Western Australia was.
– Tell us where those committees are to be found.
– That is for the honorable member to find out. I suggest that the Government should make an approach to those committees to alter the basis of their distribution and to make them realize that 1950 is not 1939 or 1942 or 1945. The Government should seek from them an alteration of the basis of distribution in order to provide an equitable quantity of tobacco for people in the rural areas. The tobacco distributing committees could do that without any great difficulty. Some of the tobacconists in the metropolitan areas are in a very favoured position and have plenty of Australian tobacco underneath the counter for their friends, while country district? are short of that commodity. An alteration of the basis of the distribution is long overdue. In view of the continued shortage of supplies some form of control is necessary, but the existing basis should be altered to meet present circumstances. I do not know which Minister is responsible.
-well. - It is a matter for private enterprise.
– It is a matter not for private enterprise but of reasonable approach to the distribution committee. The committee would, I am sure, take steps to meet the situation if these facts were brought to its notice. I appeal to the responsible Minister to make representations to the committee with, a view to the alteration of the existing basis of distribution so that people in the rural areas will be allotted the same quantity of tobacco as is made available to their more fortunate brothers in the metropolitan areas. In the rural areas of Western Australia there- is seething discontent at the existing state of affairs.
.- When I was a member of a State parliament it was not a habit of mine to make statements in the parliament which I could not corroborate with tangible proof. I believe that it is the duty of every member of the Parliament to furnish proof in support of any statements which he rnakes in the Parliament. I regret that as the result of certain difficulties that ure not of my making and which will bo readily discernible from my remarks, I am not able to furnish proof of what I believe is going on in certain capital cities of the Commonwealth. I refer to the sale of babies which is said to be rife in certain capital cities. This is a subject not for flippancy but for the most serious consideration. If this allegation can be investigated by the responsible Minister or by the Government, it should be investigated at the earliest possible moment. I have reason to believe that when many girls who have been betrayed are about to be confined they approach certain private hospitals in the metropolis which in return for work performed prior to their confinement waive the medical and hospital costs involved. The subsequent birth becomes a matter of interest to certain unscrupulous doctors. The particulars of children so born are retained by these doctors who cover themselves extremely well and never appear as the direct negotiator in any subsequent deal that takes place in regard to the disposal of the children. The next step in this sorry process is when a childless couple wish to adopt a child. Through intermediaries they are finally put in touch with the doctor who had attended the mother at the confinement and in return for the payment of a fee, which I believe is £50, the child is legally adopted by the foster parents. There are two methods by which a child may be adopted in Victoria. What provisions apply in other States. I do not know. One is by application to a stipends* ry magistrate and the filling in of certain forms. The other is by securing the service? of a legal practitioner to make application to a County Court judge. When either of these methods is adopted, in 99 per cent, of cases the original entry of illegitimacy is cancelled and a record is then kept of the birth in the register of adopted children. That register is retained in the closest secrecy by government statists in all States. Only by order of a Supreme Court judge may the register be opened for inspection. In all phases of the operation of this scheme and in all the sordid monetary transactions associated with such adoptions the doctor keeps well in the background. I regret that I am unable to produce tangible proof of the accuracy of these statements. I assure the House that my informant is a person of unblemished reputation who is in a. position to speak with authority on this matter. I understand that a doctor is the final person who farms out the baby for adoption. Proof of such transactions is extraordinarily difficult to obtain. As I have said, only by an order of a Supreme Court judge may the register of adopted infants be perused by those who wish to make an investigation. A perusal of the register would probably establish a series of coincidences because, according to the story told to me, some private hospitals specialize in sales of thi3 kind. If a series of coincidences could be established to show that a certain number of illegitimate births had taken place at particular hospitals and that in each instance the same doctor had attended at the confinement and had been the final authority through which the child had been disposed of to foster parents, an interrogation might be made of the foster parents to ascertain whether any sum of money had been paid to the doctor or to any person for the purposes of the adoption. If it could be proved that such a payment had been made the persons responsible for such pernicious sales should be prosecuted with the full rigour of the law. I realize that difficulties might be experienced in obtaining evidence from foster parents. Some foster parents would fear that they had been guilty of a misdemeanour, and that the child would be taken from them. When an application for adoption is made, whether of a legitimate child or a child horn out of wedlock, intending foster parents should bo required to declare positively that they had not paid money to any one in respect of the adoption. If proof is adduced that money has been paid for the adoption of the child, the adoption should be invalidated. I have raised this matter because I believe it to be of very great moment. By a coincidence I saw in Sydney recently a motion picture which demonstrated that this practice has been going on in the United States of America and that it has reached gargantuan dimensions. If the responsible Minister considers it to be worthwhile, he should investigate this matter without delay in the interests of decency and morality. Such an investigation might stop this traffic. It is the same type of obnoxious traffic as the white slave traffic, the drug traffic and other social evils that we so much abhor and have taken such strong steps to suppress. I present these facts for the information of the responsible Minister in the hope that an appropriate investigation will be made immediately.
.- -I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to act upon your advice that any honorable member who wished to obtain more extensive information upon a subject than could be made available at question time, should seek it on the motion for the adjournment. The subject on which I seek information is the welfare of aborigines and half-castes in Australia. I submit that in this field the Australian Government has a dual responsibility. It has a responsibility for those native people who live in Commonwealth territory, and, therefore, are directly under its own administration. Beyond that the Australian Government and this Parliament have a broader responsibility which affects our national reputation in this matter. Only the Australian Government can initiate action in the name of the nation as a whole. Among the many subjects that require comprehensive national action to-day, the welfare of aborigines is outstanding. We cannot take credit to ourselves when we contemplate the conditions of this unrepresented and extremely under-privileged minority in the Australian community.
The questions I wish to ask arise from a conference of Australian and State aboriginal welfare authorities that, was held at Parliament House, Canberra, on the 3rd February, 1948. A similar conference held in 1937 laid down a. policy in respect of native welfare with the intention that it should be applied throughout Australia but it was not applied with the thoroughness that might have been hoped for. Moreover, since that conference was held in 1937 we have witnessed considerable changes in the nature of this problem. Those changes have been .brought about very largely by the fact that the native peoples are now coming increasingly into touch with settlement with the result that the number of completely tribalized natives, those living in their aboriginal state, is dwindling year by year, whilst, conversely, the number of aborigines, or half-castes, who are coining in contact with settlement is increasing. That process was considerably hastened by the war. Unfortunately, the 1948 conference did not make so comprehensive an approach to the problem as a whole as the 1937 conference did, hut the delegates who attended it, who were mainly representatives of the aboriginal welfare authorities in each State and representatives of the Department of the Interior and the Department cf Social Services, reached certain conclusions regarding immediate measures that might be taken. The questions I desire to ask are: First, to what degree have those conclusions been put into effect; and, secondly, to what degree has the agreed policy of the 1948 conference been carried out? I shall briefly recapitulate the conclusions of that conference. The official record shows that the conference recommended -
That as a matter of urgency the Commonwealth Government make a complete medical and health survey of the full-bloods of Australia and follow this with the necessary treatment, and .also that a survey of dietary conditions be made amongst nomadic aborigines in sample areas and also amongst aborigines working on stations and living on government or mission stations with a view to correcting dietary deficiencies, and the States concerned be requested to facilitate the work.
The conference made a series of recommendations for increased provision for the education of aborigines, and also a series of recommendations regarding mission activities. It expressed appreciation of the work that was being done by various missionary bodies and urged that greater financial assistance be given to them. Then, dealing with what is perhaps the crux of the whole problem, the conference passed the following resolution : -
If the States are required to continue to accept responsibility for the welfare of aborigines, it is suggested with a view to more adequate provision of the development of the aborigines, that financial aid by the Commonwealth Government on a basis of £1 for f] expended by the States on aboriginal welfare be made available to the States concerned.
With respect to the provision of financial aid, I point out the plain fact that to-day the burden of native administration falls most heavily on those States that are least able to bear it. Western Australia has one of the largest aboriginal populations in Australia, yet the financial resources of the Government of that State, which is solely responsible for the welfare of those aborigines, are decidedly slender. That situation, which has existed for many years, has become more serious because of the fact that under the de facto financial unification which we have in Australia to-day almost every item of State expenditure is dependent upon the goodwill of the Federal Treasury. The position is that no State has complete financial autonomy - a state of affairs which, in my view, is a misfortune for Australia - and even, if a. State wished to do so, it would not have complete liberty in making increased provision for the welfare of this minority. Yet the failure to make adequate provision affects not merely the credit of one State but also that of the nation as a whole. Whilst I am strongly of the opinion that uniformity, or centralization, of administration would be against the interests of the aborigines, I urge the importance of the recommendations made by the 194S conference to which I have referred and urge that there is a pressing need for adjustments in the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States in order to ensure that those States which must carry the greatest burdens shall have the means to enable them to do so. Looking at the problem from the point of view of the unfortunate natives, it would seem that the first and most equitable way would bo to provide financial aid on the basis of the number of natives within each State’s administration so that the grant would be not on a £l-for-£l but on a per capita basis. Briefly, the questions
I direct to the Minister for the Interior are: First, to what degree have the recommendations of the 1948 conference been carried out? Secondly, has the Government any definite proposals, or further measures, in mind in order to improve the position with respect to the welfare of aborigines? And, thirdly, will the Minister, after the visit that he intends to make to the Northern Territory in the near future, as announced in the press recently, make a considered statement to the House on the whole problem of native, welfare and thus give to the House an opportunity to discuss this subject?
.- I commend to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) the views that have been expressed by the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) in the hope that they will be carefully considered. Recently. I had brought to my notice the case of a married couple with four children who decided to transfer the guardianship of their fifth child, when born, to another married couple. The other children did not see the fifth child, and I doubt whether even the father saw it. That may seem to be unnatural. Perhaps such a case can be explained in the light of the economic circumstances of the particular family. Nevertheless, it is. an unfortunate state of affairs. If the care of children is to be transferred from the parents to other persons, nobody should make money out of the transfer. That was the burden of the honorable member’s complaint.
I ask the Minister to consult the PostmasterGeneral concerning a request that I made last night to the representative of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Canberra for the script or portion of the script of a statement that was broadcast over the national stations last night. I understand that the broadcast was made by an Indonesian national and that during the course of it my name was mentioned. I do not think it was mentioned appreciatively or with any desire to commend me in any way to the Australian public. The advisability of allowing foreign nationals to broadcast over the Government network, and to comment on members of this Parliament or any other Australian personage, is questionable. If a member of this House is mentioned I think that the portion of the script in which his name is mentioned should be made available to him so that he may reply to it either in this Parliament or over the national stations.
I could imagine what would have happened last year when the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) criticized the Indonesian Government if the Australian Broadcasting Commission had permitted an Indonesian official to come on the air in order to criticize the honorable member. Honorable members who are now on the Government side of the House would have demanded an explanation from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and would have asked that the script be made available to them.
After waiting all day, I have not yet received a copy of the script of the broadcast. I consulted the representative of the Australian Broadcasting Commission a while, ago and he said that he had no information on the matter. I do not blame him. He attended to the matter immediately I brought it to his attention at 9 o’clock last night. It is the administration that has failed to reply to my request, and I ask that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) take action so that I may be advised of what was said in the broadcast to which I have referred and, that if I desire to make any further representation on the propriety of the commission’s action in making the time available for this broadcast, or of the content of it, I may do so when the House meets to-morrow.
– in reply - The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) presented a case for greater supplies of tobacco to country districts. The present arrangements regarding distribution are made by a committee of wholesalers, which allocates ‘supplies to retailers and districts. Even during the war, when tobacco was much more scarce than it is to-day, there was no rationing of tobacco to the individual. The present system, or a variation of it, has existed since tobacco rationing commenced. I realize: that it is very necessary that an appropriate distribution should be made in country districts because in them there are not the same opportunities for people to go from store to store in order to obtain supplies as the people of the cities and large towns enjoy. I assure the honorable member that if he gives me a detailed statement of towns or districts which are not receiving fair supplies I shall refer it to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), who will immediately raise the matter with the committee which makes the allocations.
I am sure that the House was keenly interested in the matter raised by the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean). It is of real importance to the community but is almost entirely under the control of the State governments. As the honorable gentleman was a member of the Victorian Parliament he could have presented the matter to that chamber for its immediate attention. However, I shall refer it to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) in order that he may ascertain what action can be taken to stop the practice which, if it exists, is an exceedingly bad one.
As the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) has said, the Government is well aware of the responsibilities which rest on this Parliament and on all parliaments in Australia to care for and control the aborigines of this country. This responsibility has been recognized over the years and although, as the honorable member said, a conference was held in 1948, discussions on the subject took place very much earlier than that. The matter was raised at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Adelaide in 1936 when iti was decided that a conference of chief protectors and boards controlling aborigines in the States and in the Northern Territory should be held. It was in pursuance of that decision that a conference was convened by the Australian Government and was held at Parliament House, Canberra, in April of 1937. It was then decided that a further conference should be held and that was the conference in Canberra in 1948, to which the honorable member referred. That conference was held on a. departmental basis and many matters of importance were discussed. As the honorable member mentioned, it was realized that the control, education and general uplift of the aborigines was of such importance that it was first suggested that the Australian Government was prepared to assume the whole responsibility. The conference did not agree to that action, which was opposed particularly by representatives from Queensland and Western Australia, States which have considerable numbers of aborigines. Those States were not prepared to transfer the control of their aborigines to the Commonwealth, hut it was suggested that financial aid might be given by the Commonwealth to them and to other States to assist in the control, education and general welfare of the natives. Nothing has yet been done about that recommendation. The Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia, while in Canberra recently, mentioned the need for some financial aid to be «x tended to that State, and I have no doubt that the Queensland Government also feels the need for such aid. That is a matter which the Australian Government is quite prepared to consider if representations are made to it by the States concerned on a ministerial level. In 1947-48 a survey was made by the North Australian Development Committee in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and north-west Australia. The survey related mainly to food consumption. As a result, certain decisions have been made and a food regimen for natives of the Northern Territory ha3 been compiled. I informed the House recently in answer to a question that the present Minister for Health has decided to appoint a committee, the -members of which will be medical men, to make a survey of the medical needs of the Northern Territory. The committee, which has not yet been constituted, will be required to ascertain the medical needs, not only of the native population, but also of the white population of the Territory. A decision in respect of education has been made. I cannot say what has been done in Queensland or Western Australia, but in the Northern Territory steps have been taken to extend the education facilities that are available to natives. A school for full-bloods has been opened at Darwin, and arrangements have been made to open similar schools at Alice
Springs, Delissaville - which is a settlement near Darwin - and other centres. An agreement has been made between the Administrator of the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth Office of Education for the transfer and extension of educational facilities for aboriginal children. The Commonwealth Office of Education will supply the teachers and equipment and arrange the curriculum, and the Administrator will provide the sites and the school buildings.
The honorable gentleman asked what was being done to assist missions that are engaged, not only in educational activities, but also in general training activities in various centres. In the past the missions received subsidies for the work that they did. Extensive increases of Commonwealth subsidies to Northern Territory missions have now been authorized and special capital expenditure grants in respect of buildings and other improvements have recently been made. Special staff subsidies have been paid to missions that employ trained school teachers and nursing sisters. At present there are twelve teachers and eight nursing sisters employed at the various mission stations’ in the Northern Territory. 1 am well aware that a staff of that size is not sufficient for the requirements of the Northern Territory missions, but it. is obvious from what I have said that some steps have been taken to help those very worthy establishments. [Extension of time granted.’] We are well aware of the responsibilities that rest upon us in respect of aborigines. When I visit the Northern Territory next week I shall inspect some of the missions, compounds and other services there, and upon my return I shall probably be able to give the honorable gentleman further information.
I shall be pleased to refer to the PostmasterGeneral the request that has been made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I am sure that the Minister will make inquiries to ascertain whether a broadcast of the kind that was mentioned by the honorable gentleman was made and, if it was, whether he can be supplied with a copy of the script in order to see what reference was made to him during the broadcast. Doubtless the Postmaster-General will communicate with the honorable gentleman later.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General -B. R. Gallen.
Interior- E. B. Kell, E. F. Phillips,
R. L. Southern, A. G. Tyler, W. R. Wilkie.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Easement acquired for Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Broome, Western Australia.
Land acquired for -
Department of Civil Aviation pur poses - Mount Isa, Queensland.
Postal purposes - Mount Hawthorn, Western Australia.
House adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follows : - 1 and 2. There is, at present, no separate dollar allocation to the Greater Wollongong and South Coast Timber MerchantsAssociation. These merchants are members of the Country Timber Merchants Association and participate in an allocation made to that Association. The South Coast Merchants also purchase timber from other quota holders and there is no known reason why they cannot continue to do so.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Is the Seralogical Research Section of the Department of Health engaged in research in relation to theproduction of cortisone, either as a glandular extract or as a synthetic product?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
No, as cortisone production in the United States is only in the experimental stages and its claim to permanent therapeutic value without side effects has not yet been proven.
n. - On the 15th Marchthe honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked me questions concerning the Ninth Security Loan. They were -
I now desire to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500328_reps_19_206/>.