19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. P. Adermann’) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is it .possible for the Minister for Supply to assist South Australia to obtain supplies of hard-wood ? Will he discuss this matter either directly with representatives of shipping companies or with the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport with a view to arranging for a steamer to call at Busselton in Western Australia, where supplies of hardwood, particularly jarrah, which are urgently needed for building purposes, are awaiting shipment? No ships aTe listed to visit the port and I have been asked by the timber merchants concerned to ascertain whether the Government can assist in the matter.
– The honorable member may not know that the Department of Supply no longer controls hardwood within Australia. I am sorry that South Australian consumers are in difficulties and I shall consult with other Ministers, including the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, and will inform the honorable member of the results of my inquiries.
– In view of the grave shortage of timber in Australia, and particularly in South Australia, I ask thi: Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for External Territories, whether he will consider taking action to expedite the felling of logs in New Guinea, New Britain and Papua?
– I shall certainly have the matter considered promptly in the Department of External Territories.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is a fact that members of the Royal Australian Navy have been subjected to brutal assaults by Soviet agents in Australia because of their participation in the United Nations campaign in Korea? If so, can the Minister inform me what steps are being taken to protect men wearing the King’s uniform from such indecencies? What penalties are provided in law to deal with the ‘ perpetrators of such outrages? Is the offence merely one of civil assault, or are there special penalties that can be applied to .persons who attack members of His Majesty’s forces?
– Naturally I am very concerned about certain events that hare taken place since H.M.A.S. Shoalhaven has returned to Australia after assisting the United Nations forces in Korean waters. Unfortunately, assaults have been made in Sydney and Melbourne cm members of the vessel’s crew mha .axe now on leave!’ These matters re a’ *be hands of the naval intelligence organization and the civil police. I should like to make the observation that I believe that the delay of the Senate in passing the accessary legislation to deal with Communist .activities in Australia is giving a Lot . of encouragement to certain people. If the -civil police or the naval intelligence authorities can locate the perpetrators of the crimes, the law will he enforced Against them with the utmost rigour.
– Is tie Minister for Works and Housing aware of the inadequacy of .the housing accommodation provided for members of the Royal Australian Navy at the naval air station’ at Nowra, which is causing hardship to naval personnel and their families? Oan the Minister .say whether building sites have been selected for married personnel at H.M.A.S. *Albatross, the naval air station at Nowra, and whether prefabricated houses have already been loaded overseas for shipment to Australia? Are sites yet ready for the erection of prefabricated houses? When will the erection of the houses, commence, and when will it he completed?
– The honorable member was good enough -to advise me of his interest in this matter, and I informed myself of the position so that I could answer has question. The Department of Works and Housing is well aware of the difficult housing position at Nowra, and particularly at the naval air station. One hundred and fifty prefabricated houses have been ordered from overseas, but they have not yet been shipped. About half the building sites are in course of preparation for the erection of prefabricated houses, and all of the sites will be ready before the houses arrive. It h? estimated that the houses will arrive and be erected in February, 1951.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a press report to the effect that the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will deliver its judgment in the basic wage case -next
Thursday? Oan he say whether any increase of the basic wage that may be granted will apply only to members of those unions which were represented in the .case ? If so, will tb* right honorable gentleman say whether it is the view of the Government that the new basic wageshould apply to all basic wage earners ov only to a section of them? Will the Government consider applying any increase of the basic wage to all workers from the same date? Is the Prime Minister aware that the seventh annual report of the Metal Trades Federation contains .1 statement that members of the six unions which were excluded from the basic-wage hearing, and which represent 200,000 workers, will be denied the benefit of any increase of the basic wage? If the court does withhold the benefit of airy increase from those workers, will the Prime Minister say whether he will agree with such high-handed action by the court, or whether he will take steps to rectify the matter so that a real ground for industrial discontent will be removed ?
– I have’ observed reports in the press that it is anticipated by somebody that the decision of the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will be delivered next Thursday tut that is all I know about the matter. Concerning the honorable member’s suggestion that the Government should give some indication to the court that certain persons should be brought within the scope of any award that the court may make, I have no doubt that that body will follow its usual practice of dealing: either immediately or ultimately with al! persons within its jurisdiction. I know of no way in which the Government can extend that jurisdiction.
– The conference referred to by the honorable member was convened by the Institute of Pacific Relations, which is- not an official body. That is to say, it is not a government body of any kind, but is a private, voluntary association which, I have no doubt, performs work of great interest and of very great value. However, the conference is in no way connected with the Government of Australia. As a matter of fact, I was not even aware that it was occurring until a few days ago, when I read the criticism in the newspapers on which the honorable member’s question is probably founded. It should be made quite clear that the Institute of Pacific Relations is in no way related to the Government but is a purely private body. I am unaware of what arrangements have been made by private citizens to attend the conference, or of what reasons they may have had: for not doing so.
– It has been Announced that members of the permanent military forces will ‘be asked to volunteer to make new attestations, and that those who do so will be attested te serve in any part of the world. “Will the Minister for the Army say whether those members of the permanent military forces who arc not prepared to be re-attested on such conditions will be retained in the service? If so, will the Minister give an assurance that they will not be penalized in any way for not making fresh attestations?
– The members of the permanent forces have not yet been reattested. I am hopeful that they will all see the wisdom of joining with their colleagues in signing on for overseas- service. Until that position has been clarified I am not able to answer the- honorable gentleman’s question to any further degree than I was able to answer it when he asked it last week.
– Has the Minister for Supply seen the statement attributed to Sir Edmund Herring, the DirectorGeneral of Recruiting, that the Army is not being supplied with uniforms quickly enough? Is that statement correct? If so, what steps is the Minister taking to remedy the position ?
– It is true that we need more battledress uniforms for the Army, and I suppose that Sir Edmund Herring was referring to those requirements when he made that statement. It is also true that very great efforts have been made by the Department of Supply, notwithstanding the difficult situation which this Government inherited from its predecessor, to increase the production of uniforms. I understand that, to date, approximately 50,000 battledress uniforms have been delivered, and we hope to have 90,000 of them by the end of the year. The Minister for the Army was good, enough to indicate that that number was satisfactory to him at the moment. Our difficulty arises, not with textiles, but with the actual manufacture of the clothing. Sir Edmund Herring was probably endeavouring to give some encouragement to clothing manufacturers, and I certainly join with him in doing so. I hope that the output of battledress uniforms will be increased.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that considerable concern is experienced in country districts by those engaged in training recruits for the Citizen Military Forces because of the lack of training equipment, including rifles? Will the honorable gentleman confer with his colleague, the Minister for the Army, in an effort- to expedite the supply of adequate equipment to country training centres in order that the good work may continue?
– I can assure the honorable member that there is no shortage whatever of rifles. The Minister for the Army has. informed me that his department holds ample stocks of rifles, and, in addition, additional stocks are delivered by the small arms factories from time to time. If the honorable member will give me details of other equipment which is apparently in short supply in country districts, I shall be glad to take up the matter with my colleague.
– I direct a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture based on the facts that barley growers in the northern part of Victoria, and no doubt elsewhere, are perturbed regarding the rumoured late arrival of new cornsacks from overseas. Barley crops, in parts of Victoria, especially along the Murrayville line, will be ready for harvesting in November. Melbourne jute merchants advise that new cornsacks will not be available in time for the barley harvest. Is it a fact that the Australian Wheat Board is not in a position at present to book orders for new sacks for barley? Will the Minister cause investigations to be made with a view to ensuring that sacks will be made available for the barley crop, which, according to all indications, will he a record one and which will be ready for harvesting in November ?
– As the honorable gentleman probably knows, there is great difficulty in obtaining sufficient cornsacks from India at the moment, because of internal difficulties in that country. 1 have taken that matter up with the Australian Wheat Board, which is aware of the situation regarding supplies of sacks for the early crops of barley, and it has assured me that it is confident that it will be able to meet the requirements of sacks in time.
– Has the Prime Minister become aware that the always precarious economy of Korea has now so far collapsed, owing to the Korean war, as to cause widespread starvation in that country? Would the right honorable gentleman reconsider the Government’s decision to allow rice to be consumed freely in Australia, and purchase some rice through Australian Government agencies to ensure that some of our available supplies will go to Korea to tide that country over the period of reconstruction, so that any political settlement will have a better chance of being effective by not having to rest on a rotten economic foundation?
– The matter of rendering some assistance to Korea, which I agree is much needed, is at present engaging the attention of the representatives of the various nations concerned, in the United States. I myself have just been in communication with my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, about, the matter, not only in relation to assistance by way of money, but also by way of goods and in kind generally. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that the whole matter is being urgently and most sympathetically considered.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the supply of gas was severely rationed throughout almost the whole of Sydney last week-end and yesterday, and that this rationing, which will continue until ti) is afternoon, has affected and is affecting not only homes but also many industries? Was this caused by the refusal of certain gas employees, believed to be organized by Communists, to work reasonable overtime when required to doso by the needs of the industry and in accordance with the terms of their award? Can the Minister say whether the gas company concerned has taken reasonablesteps to invoke the disciplinary provisions of the Commonwealth arbitration acts? If the company has not done so, will the Government itself consider taking action against what is plainly a plan to disrupt our lives and industry?
– I understand that there was a hold-up in gas supply along the lines mentioned by the honorable member. It is a fact that the gas employees, in apparent breach of the requirements of their award, have refused to work overtime for some considerable time. Their decision arises from a dispute in which they sought an increase in their marginal rate of payment, which was, I gather, denied to them. I am advised that the company made application tothe Commonwealth Arbitration Court for an order directing the employees toabide by the provisions of the award.. The union then took out a writ for aninjunction by the High Court on the ground that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court did not have jurisdiction to deal with the matter. The High Court has not yet examined the matter but I understand that it will be doing soshortly. It is not practicable for the Government to take any further action in the matter until the appropriate tribunals have determined this issue.
– No doubt the Minister for Works and Housing is aware of the large number of war service homes that are being built at Pascoe Vale in Victoria but he may not be aware that in many instances there are great delays in the construction of these homes. About a week ago I examined a fourroomed weatherboard bouse which had taken two years and four months to build. An ex-serviceman has now taken possession of that house but it is still not quite finished. A large number of homes are partially constructed and quite a number of them have had no work done on them this year. Ex-servicemen have entered into-
– What is the question?
– I shall come to that.
– The honorable member must ask his question.
– Will the Minister have some of his officers ensure that war service homes at Pascoe Vale are completed in periods of considerably less than two years? At the present rate of construction some of these houses will never be completed.
– Unfortunately, delays in the construction of buildings occur throughout Australia to-day. I had not heard of the case which has been raised by the honorable member for Wills but I should be surprised if the War Service Homes Division were not experiencing the same difficulties as every other constructional organization in Australia. Building delays are due to shortage of labour, the high turnover of building workers and interruptions to the supply of materials. This is the first complaint that I have heard about undue delays in the construction of ‘war service homes in Victoria. If the honorable member will give me more particulars I shall have the matter investigated and endeavour to have the construction of the homes expedited.
– In view of the increasing anxiety of people throughout the Commonwealth with regard to housing can the Minister for Works and Housing answer the following questions : - 1. What is the number of prefabricated houses definitely ordered by this Government and by State governments, and what is the approximate time of delivery ? 2. What further orders will be placed by the end of this year ? 3. What is the total value of orders placed, and the estimated average cost of each house when erected? 4. What other prefabricated buildings have been ordered for public purposes, such as schools and hospitals?
– The figures are well known to me. The Australian and State governments have already ordered over 10,400 prefabricated houses, apart from other buildings, at a total cost of approximately £20,000,000. In addition to that number the Australian and State governments have ordered about £2,000,000 worth of buildings other than houses. All the components already ordered should be erected within Australia within a. year from now. It seems likely that about 5,000 additional houses will be ordered by the Australian and State Governments before the end of 1950. The cost of erecting each house varies from £1,900 to about £2,500. The size of the houses vary in proportion to cost from about 8^ squares to about 11 squares.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works and Housing, and concerns war service homes. I say, in explanation, that the maximum loan allowed under the War Service Homes Regulations, to an exserviceman who wishes to build a brick house, is £2,000. This sum was adequate at the time it was fixed, but, as the Minister is aware, the cost of housing has risen very greatly since then and the sum is no longer adequate. It is known that ex-servicemen can get finance from building societies and other institutions, but they prefer to do as they are entitled to do, which is to borrow from the war service homes authorities. Will the Minister give consideration to raising the amount to be loaned in order to bring it near to the present cost of housing ?
– The matter raised by the honorable member has been previously brought to my notice by returned servicemen’s organizations as well as by the honorable member himself. The maximum amounts to be made available to ex-servicemen were considered not long ago and fixed at the present figures. The matter was carefully investigated by the Government, and, because of our general budgetary circumstances, I cannot hold out any hope to the honorable member that there will be an upward revision in the near future.
– Is the Minister for Health aware, that, despite his representations, the Queensland Government has refused to take over Tannachy Private Hospital at Rockhampton and that the hospital will close on the 18th October, and thus deprive the people of Rockhampton district of approximately a third of their private hospital bed capacity? “Will the Minister make further representations to the Queensland Government so that this hospital may continue to serve the sick and the suffering, and also maternity cases?
– When the honorable member first brought this matter to my attention the Queensland Minister for Health and several of his officers were in Canberra. As it was a State matter I brought it to their notice. They stated that they were in sympathy with the request and would see what could be done. I shall have further inquiries made on this subject.
– More than six months ago I asked the Treasurer a question concerning a federal subsidy for surf life-saving associations. He informed me that the matter would be investigated. Is the right honorable gentleman now able to tell the House whether his investigations have favorably disposed him to a federal subsidy being granted to surf lifesaving associations?
– A reply to the honorable member’s question will be incorporated in the budget which is to be brought down on Thursday.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the increased cost of interment justifies an immediate increase in the present scale of funeral benefits to age and invalid pensioners? Will he give favorable consideration to making the monetary benefit a minimum of £10 rising to a maximum of at least £15 ? Will he also give favorable consideration to the application of funeral benefits to widowsin receipt of widow pensions?
– The representations implicit in the honorable member’s question will be communicated by me to the Treasurer and the Minister for Social Services.
– I preface a question to the Prime Minister by pointing out that male employees of 65 years and over who become ill temporarily and apply for payment of sickness benefit under the social services scheme are refused payment of that benefit ,by the Department of Social Services, and are advised to apply for age pensions. Will the Government amend the social services legislation in order to enable such persons to elect whether they will take sickness benefit or claim an age pension? For personal reasons, some aged men who fall sick for a short period prefer not to claim age pensions while they are capable of resuming their employment, and, in any event, it is in the interests of production that aged people should be encouraged to remain in employment.
– I do not appreciate at the moment all the implications of the honorable member’s question, hut if he will be good enough ito give me a copy of it immediately after question time I shall treat it as being on the notice-paper and deal with it accordingly.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service what action, if any, has been taken with respect to the building of sub-standard shacks or dwellings at Deer Park and Maribyrnong by displaced person migrants in. locations that are not provided with sewerage, drainage and other sanitary facilities? As this state of affairs is rapidly extending bo Albion and Maribyrnong and as the building of such structures is causing a feeling against migrants in those areas, amounting almost to resentment, -which the Braybrook .and other councils concerned were anxious to avoid, will the
Minister take early steps to have the position examined with a view to remedying it?
– The honorable member will ‘be aware of some action that has already been taken in that he, accompanied by the honorable member for Lalor and myself, recently ‘inspected one of the areas to which Tie lias referred. I am indebted to the honorable member and his colleague for having brought the matter to my notice and also for the manner in which they made their representations to me. Following that visit, I asked officers of the Department of Labour and National Service and of the Department of Immigration to give urgent attention to the problems being created by the erection of substandard shacks and dwellings in those areas. The matter is already receiving the attention of the Immigration Planning Council, whilst officers of the Department of Labour and National Service are ascertaining whether we can make additional labour available to the Braybrook Shire Council to enable it to expedite the work of providing sewerage, drainage and sanitary services. As I pointed out to .the honorable member at the time, the councils concerned, out of their genuine desire to help migrants, may have aggravated the position by condoning substandard living conditions in the first place because that action may have encouraged other displaced person migrants to come into the areas and build similar make-shift accommodation. However, I hope that as the result of the co-operative approach now being made to the problem by the shires concerned and the departmental planning authority we shall be able to adjust the matter satisfactorily.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior how many tenants in governmentowned houses in the Australian Capital Territory have been granted a reduction of rental of 20 per cent, and how many such tenants have been granted lesser reductions of rentals as promised by the Minister in a statement that he made to the press on the 20th June last? How many government-owned houses have been sold to tenants in occupation under the scheme that the Minister announced early this year ?
– a.s the honorable member advised me that he intended to seek the information that he now requests I am able *o inform him that 157 tenants of government-owned houses have had their rentals reduced by 20 per cent. No lesser reductions have yet been granted. No government-owned houses have yet been sold to ‘tenants but nineteen valuations have been made on behalf of applicants. “Of these fifteen have ‘had offers of sale made to them whilst the remaining four will have similar offers made to them within the next few days.
Mr. Deputy Speaker having called the honorable member for Darebin,
– Do you not see -me, Mr. Deputy Speaker ?
– I have a record of all the questions that “were asked last week.
– You have called two honorable members in succession from the Government side of the chamber.
– One of them was the honorable member for ‘the Australian Capital Territory, who is an Independent.
– Is the Treasurer aware that quite a number of persons who are trying to complete courses at universities are also endeavouring at the same time to earn their living in various occupations? I point out to the right honorable gentleman that those persons are having difficulty in paying their fees to the universities and in purchasing the books that they require for their studies. Is the Treasurer prepared to allow them to claim the cost of the course and their text-books as deductions for taxation purposes ?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s question.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Works and Housing the following series of questions: - (1) Was the construction of the West Beach aerodrome, in South. Australia, commenced without a master plan being drawn and without complete specifications for the whole constructional works being compiled? (2) If there were original plans and specifications for the project, is it practicable and possible to construct the aerodrome according to such drawings? (3) Has it been necessary to have sectional plans altered or amended considerably, because of the inefficiency of- an overall master plan, or the lack of one? (4) Has the cost of constructing the aerodrome been greatly increased- by necessary alterations to the working plans, and has any delay in the progress of the work resulted from changes made in the plans?
– What one might call a master plan for the West Beach aerodrome was prepared by the Department of Civil Aviation in conjunction with the Department of Works and Housing. The full specifications for that big new capital city airport were prepared in the first place in 1947. Modifications have been made to the design and layout progressively during the last three years, largely owing to rapid advances in the design of aircraft and of airports. The West Beach aerodrome was originally designed for four runways, and then, as matters developed, it was found that only three runways would be necessary. Two runways are now under construction, and it seems probable “that not more than two will be required. All the modifications have been evolved in the course of three years, and the plans “have been altered accordingly. I do not believe that any delay has occurred that it attributable to the change of plans. The construction of the airport has suffered from the disabilities, such as man-power problems and’ the like, that attend all constructional works throughout Australia at the present time. The estimated cost of the field has been affected by increasing rates of wages and by higher costs of materials, but I do not consider that the aerodrome will cost more by reason of the inevitable change in the plans over the last three years.
– Can the Minister -for Health inform the House whether any protection against overcharging is afforded to the purchasers of those drugs and medicines that are not included in the Commonwealth formulary, of which he has told this Parliament nothing? If the Minister believes that this is a matter for the State price fixing authorities, will he give the House his assurance that he will take it up with those authorities in an endeavour to prevent overcharging on such drugs and medicines? There is evidence that overcharging is taking place.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to suggest that overcharging was taking place for drugs that are issued free. That cannot be so.
– No. I was referring to drugs that are not issued free.
– Control of the prices charged for ordinary medicines is a matter entirely for State governments. However, if the honorable member wants information on the subject, I shall try to ascertain what is taking place.
– I ask the Minister for Health, in view of his statements from time to time that doctors wish to prescribe whatever medicines they consider necessary, what is the objection of the Minister and the Government to allowing doctors to prescribe any medicine whatever under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme? If the Government does not intend to make such a provision immediately, or if there is some objection to doing so, will the Minister give an indication to the people and to the House when the 95 per cent, of the people who do not participate in the ‘benefits of the scheme at the present time will have any chance of getting any return from the taxation that they pay to finance social services?
– The whole of the information that the honorable gentleman has given to the House is absolutely incorrect. I have seen dozens of chemists who have told me that at least 20 per cent, of the prescriptions that they are dispensing are on the free medicine list, and involve about half the total cost of the whole of their dispensing, because the drugs supplied under the scheme are expensive drugs directed towards the saving of life and not for indiscriminate use. The Government’s desire is to provide life-savins: dmes free and not to have people drinking bottles of medicine as has become the case in New Zealand and Great Britain. In twelve years in New Zealand the cost of medicine has increased by 800 per cent., and in three years in Great Britain it has risen by 300 per cent., and the number of sick people has also increased in both New Zealand and Great Britain. The Government has no intention of following the policy that is followed in those countries.
LESLIE. - Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that there is an acute shortage of qualified surveyors in Western Australia and possibly in other parts of Australia? The consequence of the shortage is that developmental work is being retarded, especially in connexion with the surveying of additional town sites, roads and bridges. In view of that unfortunate effect, will the Minister consider asking officials at Australia House, London, to seek qualified surveyors amongst prospective British immigrants, or, alternatively, will he consider having a sea rch made amongst new Australians in order to ascertain whether any of them are qualified to act as surveyors?
– I understand that the shortage of surveyors applies generally throughout Australia. The suggestion implied in part of the honorable member’s question was that Australian immigration officers in the United Kingdom should be instructed to include qualified surveyors in the nomination scheme for immigrants. That suggestion will be considered. I do not think that any special action has been taken yet to include surveyors in the categories of nominated immigrants. The honorable member is no doubt aware that the Government has made approaches to various bodies of professional men and women in Australia to seek their cooperation in having professionally qualified immigrants from European countries accepted as practitioners in this country. I shall ascertain what stage our representations have reached in relation to the acceptance of surveyors and whether the situation can be relieved by that means.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has considered maintaining a permanent shipping link between Australia and the United States of America after the 2nd January, 1951? On that date the vessel Aorangi will discontinue the present service and, as a result, hundreds of Australians in the United States of America have been advised of the cancellation of berths that they had reserved for later dates in 195.1. Is the Prime Minister aware that this development virtually means that those people will be stranded in the United States of America, because the costs of air travel and the charges for berths on cargo vessels, which are double those charged for berths on Aorangi. are beyond their means? In view of the necessity and urgency of maintaining a permanent shipping service between Australia and the United States of America, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the Government’s intention in this matter?
– The maintenance of the Pacific shipping service that is at present provided ,by Aorangi engaged the attention of the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and Canada a few months ago. No finality was reached on that occasion, when there were some differences of view about the amount of assistance, if any, that should be given to the service. I had further conversations about the matter both in Canada and in New Zealand recently, and as a result the subject is once more undergoing consideration. The Government is well aware of the considerations that the honorable member has in mind, but beyond what I have just said it is not possible for me to say anything at present.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that in Newcastle three or four ships which carry coal, iron and steel to various States have been held up because of a shortage of seamen? Is he also aware that the owners of some of those ships will not send the ships to sea unless they have full crews? Is the shortage of crews due to the fact that many seamen are aging and are retiring, and that there are not sufficient apprentices being trained as seamen to take the places of the older men as they retire? If that is a fact, and if it is a result of any agreement, will the position, be rectified? I have: been approached about, this matter not- only- on behalf of ship-owners but also on behalf of some of the trade unions that are not opposed1 to the training of boys as> seamen.. Unless some action is- taken- to train boysto replace seamen who retire- we shall always suffer fro-re a- shortage of crews.
– It is a fact that because of crew shortages a number of ships have been, held up in the port of Newcastle in recent weeks, particularly ships transporting steel to other parts of the Commonwealth.. I am informed, that,, following a series of episodes of that kind, the. ship-owners have, in certain instances,, given notice to crews, and are awaiting a call-up that will give them full crews before obtaining’ any further men for ships. I do- not think that the problem is by any means- as, simple, as the honorable member has. suggested by stating- that it derives purely from a shortage of crews or a failure to train apprentices. For example^ when a call-up was made at a pick-up centre at Newcastle for a, crew for one- ship carrving steel, at, a time when 60 or 70 seamen were present, and although the- call-up- was repeated three times for- that, ship: only, not one man offered. On the other hand,, shortly afterwards, when a call-up was made for men for an Australian Shipping Board ship, a full crew was obtained. I have come to’ the. conclusion that there is a definite link between the hol’d;-up of ships carrying steel from the port of Newcastle, and the sporadic strikes that have- occurred and are occurring in coal mines operated by the Broken Hill’ Proprietary Company Limited. I believe that these hold-ups are part of a definite plan to retard the production of steel in Australia. When I discussed this matter with the New South Wales Attorney-General and the New South Wales Minister for Mines yesterday they both endorsed that view, and authorized me to state publicly that they shared it. I should like to believe that the. matter was as simple as the honorable member for Hunter has indicated, and that the solution of it was also as simple as he has suggested/but I consider that as a Government and as a people we are up against something more complex that the provision of additional labour on the waterfront.
– My question embodies a constructive suggestion for the PostmasterGeneral. Will the Minister give sincere consider a,tion to the reintroduction of stamp booklets similar to those that were in circulation prior to World War II? Those booklets were a great convenience to many people. If the department resumes the practice, will it include in the booklets up-to-date general postal information, especially concerning parcel post rates within the Commonwealth ? I make this request because parcel post rates are not generally known’ and because many people do not have ready access to post offices when they want to obtain such information. Many country people have no idea what postage will be charged on parcels with the. result that they often have to forward money with mail men, thus adding to the work of those officers. It would be advantageous if such people knew what the rates were so that they could weigh their parcels and stamp them at home-. This would relieve mail men of a great deal of extra work.
– Consideration has been given to the re-introduction of stamp booklets similar to those that were familiar to us before World War II. Those booklets contained useful information about postal rates and also were convenient for Carrying in pockets. Their use has not- been resumed because of difficulties affecting the note printing branch. The note printer is also the stamp- printer, and he has advised me that it is almost impossible to carry out the request owing to conditions under which he is working at present. Machinery difficulties as well as labour difficulties are involved. The printing of stamp booklets entails a great deal of extra work. However the honorable member may rest assured that the old stamp booklet will be issued in a revised form as soon as production difficulties can be overcome, and I hope that it will contain all the information that he has suggested.
– In view of reports that are published almost daily of record profits earned by industrial and commercial undertakings, will the Prime Minister make a statement at an early date regarding details of the Government’s profit-sharing scheme which he announced in the course of speeches that he made during the last general election campaign? Will he also indicate the approximate date when the proposed scheme will operate?
– I am unaware that any such scheme had been announced, and the honorable member must tell me about it one of these days I am aware that I indicated recently that the Government proposed to introduce an excess profits tax, and that that proposal brought down the most bitter criticism by the right honorable member for Barton.
– Statements have recently appeared in the press and in other quarters to the effect that certain sections of the Australian Labour party are endeavouring to have authority conferred on the Labour caucus, that is, on the Labour members of this Parliament, to decide what the attitude of that party shall be on certain major legislation, instead of having the decisions made by the executive of that party. If those statements are correct, will the Prime Minister say whether they imply that at the present time the attitude of the Labour party towards all major legislation is decided, not by the elected representatives of the people, but by other individuals to whom the people have given absolutely no authority to make such decisions?
– Without possessing any inner knowledge of the matter, I am bound to say that that is exactly how the position appears to me.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the war service homes insurance fund will show a handsome profit this year although the. rates charged by it are approximately 50 per cent. less than those charged by private insurance companies? In view of the Government’s recent conversion to the need for controls and socialism, as announced by the Prime Minister in the course of broadcasts that he made last week, will the Treasurer indicate when the Government proposes to introduce legislation to nationalize insurance?
Mr.FADDEN.- The answer is “ Never “.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statements that have appeared in the press concerning the seven-member commission that is to be appointed by the United Nations to investigate conditions in Korea? Can the right honorable gentleman inform the House now, or at a later stage, who will be the Australian representative on the commission, and how deep the proposed investigations will go?
– I can assure the honorable member that it is intended that a very close investigation indeed shall be made of the situation in Korea. Discussions are already proceeding between the Minister for External Affairs and myself about the selection of the Australian representative on the commission, and I hope to make an announcement within the next day or two on the matter.
– In the course of a letter to the president of the Australian Primary Producers Union that was written at the end of last August, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture stated that, following an opinion furnished by Mr. Eggleston, K.C, the Government was anxious to give legislative effect to the guarantees given to those engaged in the dairying industry, but that the Senate was preventing the legislation from being passed. Will the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether legislation of the kind mentioned has been introduced to either House of the Parliament, and will he undertake to correct the wrong impression created by the statements made by his colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture?
In doingso, will he ensure that equal publicity is given to the correction to that given to the misleading statement made by his colleague?
– The honorable member must be aware, I am sure, that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is overseas, and that, therefore, the foundation for any statements that he made while in Australia would be a matter within his private knowledge. I do not know whether such a letter is even in existence, and therefore the honorable member’s question had best be referred to the Minister when he returns.
– I. ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that the prices Ministers of various States anticipate an increase of the price of beef by 3½d. per1b? Is it also a fact that they are blaming the Australian Government for the anticipated increase on the ground that it has allowed the indiscriminate export of beef? If those are facts, will the Minister take immediate action to limit the quantity of beef exported, so that the price of beef for home consumption maybe kept within : reason- able limits?
– Meat prices are completely under the jurisdiction of the prices commissioners of the States. I realize that it is customary for the States to blame the Commonwealth in connexion with such matters as the honorable gentleman has mentioned, and therefore it is not unusual in this case. I do not know what the anticipated increase of the price of meat may be, but if the honorable member suggests that an embargo should be placed on the export of meat, andthat the meat producers should not be permitted to obtain the market prices for their product, he had better raise the question during the budget debate.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr.
Adermann). - I wish to advise honorable membersthat two diplomatic receptions are being held this evening and that it has been suggested that the sittings of the House should be suspended a 5.30 p.m. until 8 p.m. “With the concurrence of honorable members I propose to take that course.
– I have received from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The removal from office of Messrs. Cullen and Johnston, chairman and commercial representative respectively, on the Australian Wheat Hoard, and the appointment of Messrs. Teasdale and Tilt in their stead.
I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion.
– I do not suppose that, during the last 25 years in Australia there has been more controversy in the Commonwealth sphere about any subject than the problems that are connected with the vital wheat industry. The subject on which I wish to speak differs from a. great part of that controversy in as much as, to the minds of many people, irrespective of their political affiliations, it concerns a display of personal spite, venom and vindictiveness by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen).
When the present Government took office, the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board was Mr. F. H. M. Cullen. Mr. Johnston of Western Australia was the commercial representative. Mr. Cullen has been superseded by Mr. J. S. Teasdale, who was previously a growers’ representative on the board and Mr. Johnston has been superseded by Mr. R. C. Tilt, who is a resident of Victoria. I admit that the Minister has complete and absolute statutory power to take the action which he took, but it has been the almost invariable practice of new governments to leave inviolate the appointees of previous governments provided that they have not been guilty of misconduct or inefficiency. Incoming governments of different complexion to their predecessors have sometimes nut a new man in charge of a government instrumentality or a new member on its board if the term for which the previous head of the instrumentality or member of its board bad been appointed has expired. Nobody could take much objection to that procedure, but even that practice has not always been followed. Irrespective of the politics of appointees, new governments have generally allowed them to continue in occupancy of their positions.
When the Curtin and the Chifley Governments took office they allowed Mr. Stanley Melbourne Bruce to remain in London as the representative of the Commonwealth of Australia, although, as a former Prime Minister of Australia, he had been most bitterly opposed to Labour and all that Labour stood for. Such instances could be multiplied a dozenfold. I believe that the action taken in this case resulted from no other motive than sheer political malice and personal venom.
The person who succeeded Mr. Cullen as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board has neither the qualifications nor the standing to enable him to perform the duties of the position as successfully is Mr. Cullen has done. When, in 1946, the Labour Government succeeded in putting a wheat stabilization act on the statute-book for the first time in in its. history, I sought to appoint as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board somebody who had the qualifications and attributes to fill the position successfully. After examining many applications, my choice fell upon Mr. Cullen. I say, truthfully and honestly, that never once during the period that I was seeking to fill this position did Mr. Cullen, by inference or directly, suggest to me that he desired appointment to the Australian Wheat Board, much less that he should be its chairman. Among other things, that was one reason why I considered him to be a very suitable appointee. Of all the people associated with wheat growing and the Wheat Stabilization Act, I did not know of anybody who, on his performances, had a greater claim on the chairmanship. When I told
Mr. Cullen that the Government sought an appointee to this office, and wished him to accept it, he was dumbfounded with surprise. In due course he was appointed by the Labour Government.
Notwithstanding comment to the contrary the last administration did not seek i people of its own political colour to fill appointments. It sought people who were competent in every way to fill them Under the Wheat Stabilization Act there was provision for the appointment of an accountant to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board. I sought a man of integrity and capacity and I knew that a Mr. Brown, of Sydney, had rendered notable service to the Commonwealth in many capacities. I wrote and asked him whether he would accept appointment to the board as its accountant member. He indicated that he did not feel disposed to accept the appointment because he was not a. supporter of the party to which I belonged and, under those circumstances, would feel uneasy if he thought that in offering him the position I had made the mistake of thinking otherwise. I hastened to assure him that I was only concerned with his competence.
The commercial representative who has been removed from this board never indicated his political affiliations to me prior to his appointment, but I have been told that he was a Labour supporter. I make no apology for his appointment. Mr. Brown, I think, was a Liberal and Mr. Cullen has been a lifelong member of the Australian Country party and the Victorian Country party. Politics did not enter into any of these appointments, but the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, over a. long period of years, has harboured resentment and personal animosity against Mr. Cullen. Let us examine the qualifications and standing of Mr. Cullen and his suitability to hold this office. He was educated at the Prince’s Hill school in Victoria and. subsequently, at Scotch College, where he was dux of his class. In 1940 lie was appointed to the Australian Wheat Board by the Menzies Government as a. growers’ representative. Subsequently be was appointed by the Menzies Government as sole government representative on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board. He was appointed by the Menzies Government as executive member of the board in May, 1941, and remained in that position until 194S, serving under the Curtin and Chifley Governments, after the Menzies and Fadden Governments had been defeated. In 1948 he was appointed as chairman of the Australian “Wheat Board. In 1945, he was appointed to an inter-departmental committee to examine the possibilities of a post-war stabilization plan. He w.as appointed by the Victorian Government to the Wheat Products Prices Commission in 1938. He was an executive member of the wheat-growers’ organization from 1932. He was a vicepresident of the same organization in 1936, and State president of it in 1938-39 and 1939-40. He was congratulated upon his excellent service by Sir Earle Page, when that gentleman was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I know that it will be said by the Minister, who defends the action of his colleague in this connexion, that all -these qualifications do not en-title a man to claim to be able to administer, in the capacity of chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, our great wheat industry. I remind honorable members that business capacity is not necessarily determined by previous experience in business. In that connexion, I remind the House of the famous1 example of Mr. Arthur Coles, who was at one time a member of this House. When he returned from the first world war, it is said that the Repatriation Department refused him a business loan on the ground of lack of experience. Many other instances can also be quoted in this regard. The Australian Wheat Board employs a competent manager, who is fully trained in all business procedures and who can guide and assist the chairman.
Furthermore, the Minister who arranged for the dismissal of Mr. Cullen and Mr. Johnston has never made any charges about inefficiency of administration. The Minister merely sent a curt letter, dated the 8th July,’ 1950, to Mr. Cullen. It reads as follows: -
The Government has been reviewing the operational policy and personnel of the Australian Wheat Board.
Because it is felt that the board should be as strong as possible in members having long experience in the selling of wheat and all asso- ciated operations, it has been decided to appoint as chairman of the board Mr. J. S. Teasdale, who will take up duties of chairmanship as from the 7th August next.
This necessarily means, I regret to say, the termination of your appointment from the same date.
I direct the attention of honorable members particularly to the last portion of the letter which reads -
On behalf of the Government, I wish to thank you for the services you have rendered to the Government and to the industry during the period you have been associated with the board.
No charges have been made against Mr. Cullen that he has failed in any way. Mr. Cullen is a returned soldier who rendered distinguished service in World War I. In fact, he ultimately achieved commissioned rank. When the previous administration appointed him to his position he was entitled to anticipate that he would hold this office for at least the five years laid down by the act, and make personal, arrangements accordingly. Instead of being retained for that period, hewas almost summarily dismissed. I suggest that that is an outrageous state of affairs. I shall now direct the attention of honorable members to’ certain public reactions to this action of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. At a protest meeting held in Bendigo it was resolved that a £1,000 fighting fund should be raised and that a cable should be sent to the Prime Minister, who was then abroad. The action of the Minister was said to be a negation of democracy and a grave injustice. It was said to be a vicious attack on Mr. Cullen and on wheat-growers. Mr. Teasdale was said to be an avowed opponent of wheat stabilization. Mr. Pearce said that he was a strong Country party supporter, but that he resented Mr. McEwen’s stab in the back. Mr. Armstrong, the Queensland representative on the board, supported Mr. Teasdale, but said that Mr. Cullen had rendered good service as chairman. Mr. Armstrong made it his policy to attend only every second meeting of the board. At the Bendigo meeting Mr. Everett said -
Only a fortnight ago the board sold Egypt 7,250,000 bushels at 18s. On Mr. Teasdale’s advice it would have sold at 10%. and lost £725,000.
Incidentally, Mr. Johnston moved that the board should ship this wheat itself, instead of having it shipped by Burns, Philp and Company Limited. The board thus saved ?33,000. Mr. Brownbill said that the replacing of Mr. Cullen was the worst disaster ever suffered by wheatgrowers, and that Mr. Cullen was the greatest figure in the wheat world. Mr. Hunter, the senior vice-president, said that if the Menzies Government continued to appease the McEwen clique then it was no longer fit to govern. He said that the more one considered the position the more dangerous seemed the powers proposed to be invested in certain men under the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. He said that the Government would be fought at the next election. Mr. Pearce said that the dismissal was a grave injustice to a man who had given his life to the industry. Mr. Conver said that growers were not fools and that returned soldiers had a right to demand that Mr. Cullen he given the rights of democracy. He also said that there was a need for the appointment of a royal commission, and that growers should follow trade union practices and withhold produce. Mr. Sudholtz said -
Remember what Mr. McEwen did in 1939 - lie refused to introduce a deputation to the Prime Minister when wheat was ls. 6d. per bushel.
Mr. Brysen said ;
No man lias done more for wheatgrowers than Cullen did in twenty years fight. [Extension of time granted.]
Mr. Sheahan said that there was disgust at the Minister’s action amongst his former supporters in the electorate. Mr. Howell said that it appeared that the change was to permit commercial interests to gain more control of the industry. He said that Mr. Teasdale was 73 and Mr. Cullen twenty years younger. Mr. Thornton said that when he asked Mr. McEwen whether the GovernorGeneral would be sacked, Mr. McEwen had replied, “ Why stop at the GovernorGeneral ? Why not Cullen of the Wheat Board too ? “ Mr. Thornton also said that the Minister’s action, coming after this statement, indicated that the dismissal was made because of personal animosity.
I remind the House that none of the gentlemen whom I have quoted are
Labour supporters as far as I know. Now let us consider Mr. Teasdale’s background. I have perused Who’s Who in Australia and I have discovered that Mr. Teasdale was a member of the Australian Wheat Board from 1939 to 1942 and from 1944 to 1946. He is vice-president of Messrs. Nicholls and Company, Fremantle; a director of the Perpetual Trustee Company of Western Australia and a director of Westralian Farmers Limited.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor is entitled to be heard in silence.
– Now let us consider the great business ability that Mr. Teasdale has and that it is said Mr. Cullen has not. When I was administering the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, I carefully perused the minutes of the Australian Wheat Board, and I believe that by virtue of my great care the wheat-growers of this country benefited to the extent of millions of pounds.
– Like they did through the New Zealand sale?
– I had nothing to do with that. I submit that a good enough case can be made out about Mr. Teasdale’s appointment to give grounds for the appointment of some inquiry committee. Mr. Teasdale is a director of Westralian Farmers Limited. The Australian Wheat Board’s London agents are Overseas Farmers Co-operatives Limited and John Darling Limited. Westralian Farmers Limited are participants in Overseas Farmers Co-operatives Limited. _ In January, 1949, Mr. Cullen communicated to me that Mr. Perrett, manager of the Australian Wheat Board, had suggested that he visit London to deal-with difficulties that had arisen in respect of the chartering of ships, and that the board had concurred with its manager’s suggestion. I indicated to Mr. Cullen that I thought that during the period the new contract was being negotiated with the United Kingdom Government the manager’s place was in Australia, and that when he went to London there was much more to be investigated than th” mere chartering of ships. I also suggested that the payment of £100,000 during the previous two years to the Overseas Farmers Co-operatives Limited and John Darling Limited for acting as London agents of the Australian Wheat Board was nothing but sheer extravagance and that when Mr. Perrett did visit the United Kingdom he should investigate that matter. Eventually, I agreed that Mr. Perrett should go to the United Kingdom on the board’s business. He went, and upon his return) he reported that the Overseas Farmers Co-operatives Limited and John Darling Limited were prepared to act as agents of the board for a fee of £37,000 per annum for a period of not less than four years, and to continue to do the work for which the board had previously paid them £100,000 in 1946-47 and 1947-4S. That change of outlook on the part of the board was due to my vigilance when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. However, the significant fact was that at that time Mr. Teasdale was, I believe, a director of Westralian Farmers Limited, which in turn v.-as part of the organization of the Overseas Farmers Co-operatives Limited which was part and parcel of the board’s overseas agency. When a fee of £37,000 per annum was proposed, I suggested that the board should open its own agency overseas, but Mr. Teasdale opposed that suggestion when it was embodied in a motion that was submitted to the board and which the board nevertheless agreed to. In view of his boasted ability and efficiency and of the organizations with which he was affiliated - whether he is still affiliated with them I do not know - he should have been the one member of the board who was able to put the remaining members wise to the extortionate payment that the board had been making to its overseas agents. When I relinquished my position as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I had instructed the board that . I would not agree to its making a payment in excess of £25,000 per annum to its overseas agencies. I do not know how my successor has resolved that matter. By insisting upon a reduction of the fee paid to the board’s overseas agencies, I saved the wheat-growers approximately £60,000 a year for four years or approximately £250,000. But the man who should have suggested that change in the first place was John S. Teasdale. I do not deny that Mr. Teasdale possesses outstanding qualifications and knowledge in respect of the wheat industry. Mr. Teasdale has been a very strong opponent since its inception of the plan for the post-war marketing of wheat which, it is obvious, has the fullest support of growers and has proved a success. When that plan was under consideration he stumped the country in opposition to it.
– Order ! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
– I have no objection to a. further extension of ten minutes being given to the honorable member.
– Order ! Under the Standing Orders a further extension of time cannot be granted to the honorable member.
– At the outset, I shall answer some of the remarks that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has made. First, he based his attack upon the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who, as honorable members know, is at present overseas, on the premise that all that the Minister has done has not been in accordance with a proper sense of his public duty. He said that the Minister was actuated by venom, personal animus, resentment, and malice. I propose to give to the House a. totally different story. The honorable member said that Mr. Cullen, whom he appointed to the Australian Wheat Board, was completely dumbfounded when he was told that the legislation which re-established the Australian Wheat Board had been passed and that he was to be appointed chairman of the board. If that be correct, Mr. Cullen was the only man in the wheat industry who was dumbfounded when that information was disclosed; and if that is a sample of his business acumen, ‘what the ex-Minister has said in itself condemns him as unsuitable tu be chairman of the board. The real question is where the interests of the Australian wheat-grower lie in this matter. Do his interests lie in having in charge of the sale of his wheat the most competent and experienced person that can be found in Australia? That is the crux of the matter now before the House.
Mr. Teasdale was appointed chairman of the Australian Wheat Board because the Minister who, after all, is responsible to the Parliament for the administration of the board, considered that he was the most knowledgeable and experienced man in this country in the marketing of wheat under conditions prior to and during the recent war as well as under conditions that have existed since the end of that conflict. I should like to review briefly the changes that have taken place in the marketing of wheat during recent years. It will be remembered that prior to the recent war every grower disposed of his own wheat. He sold it to organizations such as the Dreyfus organization, the Bunge organization, the Farmers and Graziers Association and various other agencies, and he endeavoured to procure for himself through those organizations, which were experienced in the sale of grain, the highest possible price that he could obtain for it. When the recent war broke out the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, introduced legislation under which a board was established and all wheat produced in the Commonwealth was vested in that board. The grower was no longer able personally to handle the sale of his product. Mr. Teasdale was appointed a member of that board of which the original chairman was Sir Clive McPherson, about whom I shall say something later.
The honorable member for Lalor said the Government of which he was a member did not interfere with the appointments that the preceding government had made to that board. I can say with every justification that the present Government has interfered as little as possible with appointments that were made by the preceding Government. In that respect, I mention that this Government has not disturbed the appointment of Mr. Makin as our Ambassador to Washington or that of Mr. Forde as High Commissioner at Ottawa.
During the recent war the sale of wheat was controlled completely by the Australian Wheat Board. The grower was entirely out of the picture. Sales were made on a government to government basis and such transactions did not call for the knowledge and experience of the horse trader, if one may use the expression. The skill that was formerly required in the selling of wheat was no longer essential. That system operated throughout the recent war. Mr. Teasdale was appointed a member of the original Australian Wheat Board but when the Curtin Government, in which Mr. Scully was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, reconstituted the board in 1942, it sacked Mr. Teasdale. In fact, that Government abolished the board and later reconstituted it solely for the purpose of eliminating from it Mr. Teasdale, Mr. Tilt, Mr. Darling, Mr. Cameron, and other gentlemen. That Government did not have the courtesy to inform those gentlemen directly by letter that their services had been dispensed with. The first intimation that Mr. Teasdale received that he was no longer a member of the board was when he heard that fact announced in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news broadcast. Mr. Cullen has at least been treated with every courtesy.
At this stage, it is necessary for me to say a few words about Mr. Teasdale. He has been the chairman of trustees of the Western Australian Wheat Pool over the last 25 years, and he has attended to the marketing of wheat throughout the world. The occupant of that position must possess a knowledge of bulk handling, transport, shipping and all the many incidentals of that business. During the course of those years he handled not less than £50,000,000 worth of Western Australian wheat on behalf of, not a private firm, but the growers of Western Australia, as their trustee. Therefore, honorablemembers opposite, before they question his credentials and ability, should examine his record of administration in Western Australia. Mr. Teasdale was removed from the Australian Wheat Board in 1942 by the then Minister for ‘ Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, but he was the successful candidate at the next election that was held to select a representative of Western Australia on the board. As a matter of fact, he was returned, not with a simple majority, but with a majority that exceeded the combined votes of all other candidates. Yet honorable members opposite say that Mr. Teasdale does not possess the confidence of wheat-growers. I pass to the next stage in this matter. The Labour Government iii Western Australia, of which Mr. F. J. S. Wise was the leader, required a competent person to advise it on the wheat industry, and whether that State should become a party to the stabilization plan that had been proposed by the Commonwealth. It selected Mr. J. S. Teasdale as the chairman of the royal commission that was appointed to inquire into and report upon those matters. I mention a fact at this point in reply to statements which are being circulated to the effect that Mr. Teasdale has really been appointed to the board for the purpose of undermining the stabilization plan. Some honorable members may be astonished to learn that such a story is being repeated in various parts of the country. I shall read an extract from a letter that was written by a Liberal member who represents a Brisbane seat to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in order to indicate the wide extent of this completely false propaganda that has been inspired by» interested parties. It is as follows : -
I have been informed that Mr. John Teasdale, who has recently been appointed Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, has been a staunch opponent of stabilization.
Stories of that kind are being circulated throughout the country in an endeavour to damage the reputation of that man, who has been the -father of co-operation among the wheat-growers in Western Australia.
– But not of stabilization.
– The perfect reply to the interjection by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) may be found in paragraph 38 of the .report of the royal commission of which Mr.
Teasdale was the chairman. It is as follows : -
That a self-supporting equalization scheme should be commenced in prosperous years so that funds would be available in low price years. For that reason the present is an appropriate time to lay the foundation in anticipation of less favorable conditions in the future.
Yet honorable gentlemen opposite state that Mr. Teasdale is opposed to stabilization !
– It was also upon the basis of the Teasdale report that the Labour Government of Western Australia introduced the necessary legislation to bring that State into the stabilization scheme.
– That is correct. Yet some people say, in effect, that this fellow, Teasdale, and also McEwen, will bring about the undoing of the stabilization plan, and that the appointment of Mr. Teasdale as the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board is only a part of a very long-laid plot. I ask you to excuse me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for referring to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in that way, but- he has been spoken of in that manner outside this Parliament.
It should not be necessary for me to elaborate any further upon the credentials, qualifications and character of the man whom the Minister has appointed chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. However, I should like to inform the House, as a counter to the many messages that the honorable member for Lalor has quoted, that Mr. Teasdale has received congratulations from Mr. Simpson, who is the President-elect of the Australian Wheat-growers Federation, from the Queensland Grain-growers Association, from the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, and. from the Primary Producers Union.
– All of which are opposed to the plan.
– The honorable member has said that many organizations are opposed to this, and opposed to that. I shall remind the House of some of the provisions of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act, for which the honorable gentleman was responsible when he
Was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in 1948. That legislation provided for a predominance of growers on the board, and honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber will heartily agree with that provision. It also provided that of the board of twelve members, seven should be representatives of the growers. In other words, the growers were to be in the majority. Other members of the board were to be representatives of the flour mill owners, of the employees, and of commerce, respectively, and one was tobe a finance member. [Extension of time granted.]
Mr.CHIFLEY. -Will the Minister tell the House something about the salaries?
– No, I shall make my speech in my own way. The act also provided that the ministerial nominees, including the chairman, should hold office during the Minister’s pleasure. Had the’ honorable member for Lalor followed the procedure that had been adopted in other legislation relating to boards, the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act would have provided that the chairman should hold office during such period as the GovernorGeneral directed. That provision would have meant that Mr. Cullen could have been appointed for two, three or five years. However, the honorable member for Lalor, when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, did not adopt that course, because he wanted to have the right to remove the chairman if, at any time, Mr. Cullen did not suit him. That point brings me to the answer to the story that the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is actuated by malice, venom, and the like. When the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill was being considered by this House in 1948, he made the following statement in respect of Mr. Cullen:-
Mr. Cullen is an experienced grower who has held high office in growers’ organizations.
Nobody disputes that Mr. Cullen is very well qualified in certain specific fields, such as that of organization. He is held in high regard on that account, but he had no experience in the handling of wheat prior to World War II. and he lacks the knowledge of the complexities of the wheat business that is possessed by Mr. Teasdale. The present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, speaking as a member of the Opposition on the 29th October, 1948 added-
The sale of, perhaps, £100,000,000 worth of any one commodity is the biggest single business in Australia, but Mr. Cullen who, it is rumoured, is to be appointed chairman of the board-
Mr. Cullen did not then know that he was to be appointed chairman of the Australian Wheat Board - has had no experience whatever in the merchandising of wheat.
Still holding that view in July, 1950, the honorable gentleman, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in this Government, declared that he did not consider Mr. Cullen to be the best man available for the position of chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, whereas he considered Mr. Teasdale to be adequately equipped. That was the reason for the change in the holder of the office. The Minister’s action was consistent with his responsibility to the wheatgrowers and to this Parliament in the light of the belief that he had expressed two years previously. The Australian Wheat Board and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture have a great responsibility to secure for the wheat-growers the maximum return obtainable for their product.
This Government does not intend to meddle politically in the sale of wheat. It proposes to leave such transactions in the hands of the Australian Wheat Board, but it insists that the Minister’s nominee on the board, the man on whose advice the Minister must act in informing this Parliament, shall possess the complete confidence of the Minister in relation to his ability to discharge his duties. The Minister has been completely consistent. There has been too much political meddling with wheat. We saw how £7,000,000 was lost to the Australian growers by the action of a Minister in connexion with the New Zealand wheat deal. We saw how another financial loss was forced upon the growers by the action of the present honorable member for Lalor, the sponsor of this motion, when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In negotiating a contract for the sale of 60,000,000 bushels of wheat to the United Kingdom, the Australian Wheat Board decided that the price ought to be 18s. a bushel. There was some delay as the result of the board’s stand, and the present honorable member for Lalor stepped in and ordered the board to sell the wheat at 17s. a bushel. That single act of interference cost the wheat industry of Australia a total of £3,000,000. The Government has a responsibility, not only to the wheatgrowers, but also to taxpayers in general, to ensure that wheat shall be sold on the best possible terms. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture considers that the man most competent to handle the sale of Australia’s wheat, by virtue of long experience before, during and since World War II., is the man who sold 50,000,000 bushels of wheat for the growers of Western Australia, Mr. John Teasdale. The Minister has asked me to tell the House that he wishes to make no apology for having appointed Mr. Teasdale chairman of the Australian Wheat Board.
.- I was touched by the tender regard shown by the “Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) for the capabilities of the gentleman whom his colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), appointed as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, and I am staggered by the prospect of what will happen when Mr. Teasdale is no longer able to carry on his duties. According to Who’s Who. which presumably is correct, Mr. Teasdale is 68 years old, and if he is the only man who can be trusted to dispose of the Australian wheat crop one wonders what will happen when he is unable to continue in the post. In fact, that argument employed by the Postmaster-General cannot be sustained.
Nobody doubts Mr. Teasdale’s knowledge of the wheat industry, but we doubt very definitely whether he has any faith in wheat stabilization. The royal commission to which the Postmaster-General referred consisted of a man who had been engaged in the wheat industry and who had had wide commercial experience as well, another active farmer, and Mr. Teasdale. Mr. Teasdale declared himself without equivocation to be entirely in favour of a State wheat stabilization scheme. He stumped the country in support of his idea and told the Western Australian growers that they were losing millions of pounds annually through the Commonwealth stabilization scheme. That, of course, was a gross deception. The truth is that a wheat stabilization scheme is not needed to-day. No such form of organization is necessary in a time of high prices like the present, but what the growers want is an arrangement that will protect them against the hazards of periods when prices slump. A slump would immediately disclose the very real and fatal weakness, from the point of view of Western Australian growers, in the argument that Mr. Teasdale advanced throughout the country. The small volume of home consumption and the consequent large exportable surplus of Western Australian wheat provide the paramount reason why the Western Australian growers, above all other growers in Australia, should participate in a Commonwealth stabilization scheme. I shall not have time to discuss and reply to all the arguments that were advanced by the Postmaster-General.
The honorable gentleman stated that when Mr. Teasdale was removed from the Australian Wheat Board on a. former occasion, the circumstances of which are not familiar to me. he learned of his removal only by chance when listening to a. radio news session. Exactly similar circumstances marked the removal of Mr. Cullen and Mr. Don Johnston. Mr. Johnston was not told of his replacement, so far as I am aware, until he returned to Melbourne to attend the last meeting of the Australian Wheat Board at which he was present. When I saw him just prior to his departure for Melbourne, the only intimations of the change that he had received had been gained from an item broadcast in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service and reports published in the Western Australian newspapers. That was a scandalous way in which to treat a man who had rendered signal service. The PostmasterGeneral said that the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had declared in 1948, when he was a member of the Opposition, that Mr. Cullen lacked the skill and the knowledge that were needed for the handling of wheat under post-war conditions. But there was a much more bitter note in the criticism expressed by the then honorable member for Indi than the PostmasterGeneral has indicated. This is what the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said in this House on the 29th October, 194S-
To every town in which I have ever addressed (i meeting Mr. Cullen has followed me, ostensibly in his guise as president - or ex-president us his position was from time to time - of the Wheat Growers Association, attacking the point of view I put forward and sponsoring Hu- Labour party’s point of view.
That note ran through all the comments that the honorable gentleman made about Mr. Cullen during the life of the last Parliament. We believe definitely that the same bias influenced him to remove Mr. Cullen and Mr. Johnston from the Australian Wheat Board.
But let us assume that Mr. Teasdale’s knowledge is indispensable to the conduct of the Australian Wheat Board and the sale of our wheat. Mr. Teasdale was, in fact, a member of the board until he was appointed as its chairman by the present Minister. Whatever knowledge he possessed, whatever information he was able to give, and whatever assistance he could render were even then at the disposal of the board. The arguments submitted on behalf of the Government in justification of the two appointments arc .merely intended to serve as a smokescreen to cover the outrageous removal from office of two men who had done a great deal of valuable work in the jobs that they had held. The PostmasterGeneral speciously pointed out that the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board and its members held office at the pleasure of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture under the terms of legislation that was introduced in this House by the honorable member for Lalor when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The honorable gentleman tried to suggest that appointments were intended to be only of brief duration whereas we know, in fact, that tenancy of an office at the pleasure of a Minister virtually implies occupancy during good behaviour. Both appointments in this instance were terminated as the result of a change of government and with a scandalous disregard for the value of the work that had been done by the men concerned. Normally, neither appointment would have been terminated unless the occupant had become unable or unwilling to carry out his duties. Therefore, the argument employed by the Post.masterGeneral was specious. Various factors in relation to these changes have not yet come to light. The change represents a blow at wheat stabilization, because Mr. Teasdale does hot believe in wheat stabilization. Furthermore, his appointment represented a pay-off for services that he had rendered to the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when he was the honorable member for Indi in the previous Parliament. I do not know Mr. Teasdale well, but I have the highest regard for his integrity and I have learned to appreciate his wide knowledge of the wheat industry. However, it was common talk in the last Parliament that he supplied the ammunition that was used by the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. It was common knowledge, too, that he led the campaign for the Australian Country party and the Liberal party in opposition to the Labour Government’s wheat stabilization scheme. Furthermore, it was common knowledge, months before the change in office in the wheat board was made, that Mr. Teasdale was to be appointed to a high position at a salary of £4,000 a year. That was told to me two months before Mr. Cullen was removed from the chairmanship of the Australian Wheat Board to be replaced by Mr. Teasdale. I was told then that
Mr. Teasdale would not be made chairman of the board but would be appointed to some executive office in which he would have power even over the board as it was then constituted. I was asked whether the law would permit of such an appointment being made, and I replied that an appointment of that character could not be made without an amendment of the act.
Now I come to the facts as they occurred. Mr. Teasdale was appointed to a high office, at a new salary for that office of £4,000 a year. The present Government has not yet explained the reasons for Mr. Cullen’s dismissal, and the appropriate Minister should make some statement on behalf of the Government. Mr. Cullen, who was paid a salary of £2,000 a year, carried out his duties as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board with satisfaction to the wheatgrowers and to the country, and with credit to himself. He was removed from office, not because of any failure of duty or want of competence on his part, but because he was an opponent of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and was a firm believer in wheat stabilization. When he was removed from his position the salary of his office was raised from £2,000 to £3,000 a year, and, in addition, an allowance of £1,000 a year was paid to his successor.
– Order! The honorable “member’s time has expired.
Mr. HAMILTON (Canning) 4.30].The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) said that Mr. Teasdale was opposed to stabilization, and stated that his reason for making that assertion was that on one occasion Mr. Teasdale, who had acted as chairman of a committee appointed to inquire into wheat marketing and stabilization, had recommended to the Government of Western Australia that it should form a State pool. I remind the honorable member that at that time the other States had not then decided whether or not to support the proposal of the previous Chifley Administration to introduce stabilization in the wheat industry. I also remind him that the other three members of the committee of which Mr. Teasdale was chairman, who are well known in farming and political circles in Western Australia, also recommended that the Government of that State should conduct its own pool.
– The honorable member ought to say who they were.
– The other three members were Messrs. Donovan, Sadler and Roberts. Mr. Teasdale has never been opposed to stabilization. The work that he did from the inception of the voluntary pool in Western Australia until he was appointed to the Australian Wheat Board at the beginning of the wa v is positive proof that he always endeavoured to get the best possible returns for wheat-growers. He also realized that stabilization, if it were administered according to a sound scheme, would enable wheatgrowers to receive a proper return for their labours. He was, I repeat, in fa vour of stabilization on a just basis.
I do not contest the correctness of the allegation made by the honorable member for Perth that Mr. Teasdale supplied information to members of the Opposition parties during the last Parliament when they were opposing sections of the stabilization scheme introduced ‘by the Chifley Administration. I am proud to admit that Mr. Teasdale supplied us with information. However, the information that he supplied to us was factual, correct and fair. He was not opposed to stabilization, but was opposed to those parts of the scheme introduced by the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who is now the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), which were unfair to growers. There is abundant evidence that the representative of the former Minister at meetings of the Australian Wheat Board dictated to members of the board on certain matters such as the price at which wheat was to be sold, and the only member of the former board who stood up to the Minister was Mr. Teasdale. The assertion was made by the honorable member for Lalor that Mr. Teasdale was appointed to the board by the present Government because of hi3 political affiliations and because he was opposed to stabilization, and that the appointment was inspired by spite, vindictiveness and a spirit of vengeance. Indeed, the honorable member is more deserving than is Mr. Teasdale of having those epithets applied to him. The fact is, as I have already pointed out, that Mr. Teasdale was never opposed’ to stabilization. The scheme introduced by the previous Government would have deprived a wheat-grower who was forced, by say misfortune or some other cause, to leave the industry, of the money that he had paid into the stabilization, fund. Does any member of the Parliament now suggest that such a provision was fair and just? Of course, it was not. Mr. Teasdale was also opposed to the proposal that the wheat stabilization scheme should operate only for five years. He contended that wheat-growers should be paid a price for their wheat which would cover the cost of production and include a margin of profit, and said that, if that point were conceded, he considered that stabilization could continue indefinitely. I shall not waste any more time on the remarks made by the honorable member for Perth.
The honorable member for Lalor, who was, I remind the House, Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the pre.vious Administration, said that it was the practice of all administrations not to interfere with appointments made by preceding administrations unless a particular appointee had shown want of capacity or had misconducted himself. I was astonished that the former Minister should have invoked that principle, because he must have known that his immediate predecessor, the former honorable member for Gwydir, Mr. Scully, had terminated Mr. Teasdale’s appointment to the Australian Wheat Board. Mr. John Thompson, also a Western Australian, had been appointed manager of the Australian Wheat Board. Those two men did more than any one else to lay the foundations for wheat stabilization in this country. They established the organization which handled the crops during the war. As a result of the efficiency of that organization the wheat-growers realized that if it could continue to operate on sound lines stabilization was practicable and desirable. It is clear, therefore, that the contention of the honorable member for Lalor that the present Government had violated the principle of the sanctity of administrative appointments does not say much for his memory - indeed, I almost said, for his mentality.
The honorable member for Lalor went on to say that when Mr. Cullen was informed that he was to be appointed chairman of the Australian Wheat Board he was dumbfounded. I do not doubt that statement for one moment, because Mr, Cullen knew that the right man for the job was Mr. Teasdale.
I propose to say something now concerning the appointment of Mr. Johnston, who is a Western Australian, as commercial representative on the Australian Wheat Board. The honorable member for Lalor claimed that he knew nothing about Mr. Johnston’s political views or his political affiliations. The fact is that when Mr. Johnston was appointed by the previous Government to his position on the Australian Wheat Board he was a member of the metropolitan council of the Australian Labour party in Perth, and I am sure that the majority of farmers and business men in Western Australia were amazed at his appointment. The former Minister made the extraordinary claim on Mr. Johnston’s behalf that that gentleman had had considerable experience in the handling of wheat in Western Australia. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have made these statements concerning this gentleman only because his name was mentioned in the course of this debate, and not from any desire to injure him. The point is, however, that the present Government has no fear of any repercussions from the dismissal of Mr. Johnston from the service of the Australian Wheat Board.
– The honorable member is merely whistling to keep up his courage.
– I do not need anything to sustain my courage. The honorable member for Lalor also read a number of letters in the course of his speech; but I point out that most of them were written by residents of Victoria. Do honorable members opposite imagine that the Australian Wheat Board is a Victorian institution? Why did not the honorable member for Lalor read some of the letters that were written at that time by people in all parts of Australia? Of course, Mr. Teasdale is a Western Australian, and I should have been quite happy if the honorable member had read some of the letters that were written by people in States other than Western Australia or Victoria.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- My participation in the debate has already brought a smile to the lips of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride), who is at the table. No doubt he regards this matter as the preserve of those who represent wheat-growers. I remind the honorable gentleman, however, that the -consumers of wheat are entitled to be heard through their representatives in this Parliament. However, I shall leave this aspect of the matter at that because I do not intend to discuss the wheat industry itself in the course of my remarks. I am concerned about an entirely different aspect of the matter before the Chair. I want to know from the ex-servicemen amongst the Government supporters what their answer is to the charges that have been made about the dismissal without cause, in other words the job assassination, of Mr. Cullen, who is an ex-serviceman. Mr. Cullen has been deprived by the Government of a position in which he was earning £2,000 a year. I therefore ask these rabid ex-servicemen, who have almost constituted themselves professional representatives of ex-servicemen, whether they approve of the dismissal of Mr. Cullen, who was, I remind honorable members, dismissed from his position without any more formality than is bestowed on the sacking of an office boy.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) referred to the fact that on the 19th July last a. letter was sent to Mr. Cullen informing him that he would be dismissed on the 7th August. Although I have listened attentively to the debate that has taken place this afternoon, and particularly to the speeches made by the Postmaster-General and the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), !i did not hear either of those honorable gentlemen advance any reason to justify Mr. Cullen’s dismissal. They contented themselves with defending Mr. Teasdale by asserting that he was in favour of stabilization, but they did not come out clearly and express their views on the justice or otherwise of Mr. Cullen’s dismissal. I remind honorable members opposite that the general public is concerned about this matter. The dismissal of the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board and his replacement by another individual at an increased emolument is a matter which not only concerns the wheat-growers and their representatives, but also involves a principle that is vital to many thousands of Australian exservicemen. After all, the ex-servicemen of this country have been assured by the anti-Labour parties again and again that they will defend their rights to the death; and are certainly entitled to an explanation of the Government’s action in this matter.
I do not know a great deal about the respective qualifications of Mr. Oallen and Mr. Teasdale, but my impression, formed some years ago, is that Mr. Cullen was thoroughly competent to discharge his duties as Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, and my impression has been confirmed by the observations made by the Postmaster-General and the honorable member for Canning this afternoon. Indeed, both honorable gentlemen bestowed fulsome praise upon Mr. Cullen, who is, I am informed, a man of high intelligence and one who possesses an excellent scholastic record. Implicit in his appointment is the fact that he possesses sound business training. Mr. Cullen is 56 years of age, and his successor is aged 69 years. No valid reason has been assigned for the termination of Mr. Cullen’s services, and his replacement by ;i. man aged 69 years, and one naturally wonders what is behind all this. Although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who was responsible for Mr. Cullen’s dismissal, is absent from Australia at present, I feel justified in voicing my conviction that Mr. Cullen’s dismissal occurred as the result of a. personal vendetta against him by the Minister. I recall that in the last Parliament, when the present Minister was in opposition, he frothed at the mouth whenever Mr. Cullen’s name was mentioned. Statements made by the Minister, who was then the honorable member for Indi, appear in Hansard and in newspapers published at that time and accused Mr. Cullen of following the honorable gentleman round in his constituency “ peddling Labour propaganda “. Of course, the present Minister has changed his views about stabilization since then, and it is difficult to determine now precisely what he was advocating at the time when he alleges Mr. Cullen followed him round in his electorate.
If the Government believes that Mr. Cullen was incompetent to discharge his duties on the wheat board, why does it not say so ? If he was dismissed for some other reason, then why does the Government not state the reason fairly and defend it? The summary termination of
Mr. Cullen’s services was a most callous mid brutal trick. As I have already pointed out, the Postmaster-General, who spoke on the matter, avoided entirely the only real issue in the matter, which is the reason for Mr. Cullen’s dismissal. He ali if ted his weight from one leg to the other, told us about the wheat industry, canvassed the details of previous wheat deals, and re-hashed a lot of old history: but Jio did not come out clearly and sharply and say why Mr. Cullen was dismissed. Similarly, the honorable member far Canning, who has a considerable knowledge of the wheat industry and is not by any means devoid of logic in considering matters such as this, studiously refrained from discussing the real reasons for Mr. Cullen’s dismissal.
– Our reinforcements are coming up.
– Yes, that may be: but we expected the honorable member himself to deal fairly with the matter, because he is interested in the welfare of ex-servicemen. It is significant that in this matter, which affects the welfare of ex-servicemen generally, he is strangely silent on the real reason for Mr. Cullen’s dismissal Of course, the honorable gentleman, who is a member of the Australian Country party, knows that his political party has a rotten brief in this matter. The dismissal of the former chairman and his replacement by another individual are obviously the result of a vendetta waged by the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The only reason that the Postmaster-General and the honorable member advanced to defend the action of the Government in this matter is that they are seeking to buttress what they know to be a rotten case. I believe that both of them drew attention with some gloating to the fact that the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) had made the terms of employment so flexible that it had been possible to get rid of Mr. Cullen., The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture went looking for a victim almost before the ink was dry on the announcement of his appointment to the Cabinet. He found his victim and dismissed him with the celerity with which he would dismiss an erring office boy. How insincere the statements from the Government side must seem to people listening outside when at one moment they hear that Mr. Cullen has many desirable qualifications, and he was a sort of beau ideal of the wheat-farmers, the very acme of what a wheat-growers’ representative should be, and at the next moment hear the same honorable members telling why the Government had, sacked him. The Government wrapped Mr. Cullen’s service to farmers and the nation in emotional phrases and then sacked him like an office boy. Where is there any validity in that sort of thing? There is no justification for it and honorable members opposite are jumping from one foot to another trying to explain it away. I ask honorable members opposite, particularly members of the Australian Country party, where they stand in the country areas and with the country newspapers? Whatever may be said of journalism, and a great deal may be said for and against it, there is no doubt about the sturdy independence of the country newspapers. The honorable member for Canning has talked about letters to the editors of country newspapers, but I remind honorable members of the vigorous editorials that have appeared in those journals, which they all have read, in relation to the dismissal of Mr. Cullen. The editors of those newspapers, who are Australian Country party stalwarts, were shocked to find how Mr. Cullen had been treated. Do honorable members opposite think that those editors are afraid of the Australian Country party? Of course they are not. They speak their minds, and they spoke it strongly in this particular case. They said that Mr. Cullen’s dismissa.1 was pure victimization that would have political repercussions ; that it was scandalous and was damaging to the prestige of ex-servicemen and of the Government.
Those Government supporters who have spoken so far have advanced the most vapid case that I have ever heard advanced on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House. The facts as put forward by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) have not been controverted, and apparently cannot be controverted, because there is a case of victimization to be answered and nobody on the other side of the House has the courage to stand up and answer it. M.y role in this debate is to fight on behalf of a returned serviceman and to find out why he was sacked. If the Government says that he was not incompetent, that he knows the wheat industry thoroughly, and that he is a fine gentleman, and so forth, then why did if sack him? Even a child could realize that the dismissal was the result of a vicious vendetta that has been followed through with great thoroughness. Mr. Cullen was appointed to his position on the executive of the Australian Wheat Board at a time when the wheat industry was being stabilized, when one of the most dramatic things in history was happening in this country, not only in relation to wheat hut also in relation to other primary products. His achievement in securing a living wage for the farmer would have merited only the commendation of anybody but an extremely bitter and vicious Minister. I cannot see for the life of me where there is any justification for his dismissal.
I return to the chorus of protest about the dismissal that has been made by wheat-growers. There have been threats of splits in the Government parties over this matter, and talk of running candidates for election against the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The suspicion, not only of country people, but also of many other people, particularly those who think that there is a valid claim by an ex-serviceman that requires investigation, has been aroused in relation to this matter. The whole thing is possibly a breach of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. Governments get away with breaches of that act on the score that they want more competent men than they could obtain if they observed its provisions. I do not think that that could truthfully be said in the case of Mr. Teasdale, of whom I know nothing, but about whom I have read a great ‘Leal. 1 am not discussing the merits of wheat or anything of that nature. I am discussing the representative merits of a man who is competent, patriotic and sincere and who attempts to do a job for his fellow men and gets the sack for so doing.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I consider that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) spoiled whatever vestige of a case he had in the first few minutes of his speech, because he suggested that Mr. Cullen was dumbfounded to learn that he was to be appointed to the chairmanship of the Australian Wheat Board. Let us look at the history of this appointment to the chairmanship of the board. The office was left vacant for a period of more than eighteen months, and the matter was frequently raised in .this House. At one sta.ge the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the present honorable member for Lalor, said in reply to a question -
The appointment of chairman of the board is a matter of Government policy.
Honorable members can read what they like into that. Later on in his speech to-day the former Minister spoiled his case further by suggesting that Mr. Cullen was a member of the Australian Country party. It is true that Mr. Cullen contested a constituency as an unendorsed- member of the Australian Country party, but he then advocated giving his preference votes to the Labour party candidates in lieu of the Australian Country party candidates. It is rather strange to hear honorable members opposite suggesting that the appointment of Mr.’ Teasdale was a part of a political pay-off. Then, as though the honorable member’s case had not already been completely spoiled, he suggested that Mi-. Teasdale’s claim to. recognition was simply that he was a member of the Westralian Farmers Cooperative. Mr. Teasdale has a long history in connexion with wheat stabilization and marketing schemes, and I propose to recount his record for the information of honorable members, because I do not believe that any one here has done complete justice to it.
In 1911, Mr. Teasdale commenced farming at Belka in Western Australia. In 1915, he was an original member of the Farmers and Settlers Association. In 1916, he was elected a member of the executive of that association. In 1916, he organized co-operative companies in his district. In 1921, he was appointed one of the original trustees of the voluntary wheat pool of Western Australia. la 1926, he was appointed to represent Australia at the first international wheat conference in the United States, and while abroad at that time he studied the Canadian elevator system and spent four months in London studying wheat marketing conditions. In 1927, he investigated conditions relating to the discharging of Australian wheat in British and European ports. In 192S, he organized the flotation of Australian Outturns Limited an organization for superintending discharging of Australian wheatships. In 1939, ho was appointed a member of the Australian Wheat Board and in 1941 he had the distinction of being dismissed from that board by a Labour government. In 1942, he was elected a growers’ representative on the board, which shows what opinion the wheat-growers had of the Labour party’s earlier dismissal of him. In 1946, he was appointed chairman of a royal commission on wheat marketing and stabilization by a Labour government in Western Australia, and for eight years he was president of the Primary Producers Association in that State. He was one of the directors who organized Co-operative Bulk Handling Limited. Can any one suggest that a man with that record is opposed to wheat stabilization? The whole course of his training and history fits him more than anything else for the position that he now occupies. It is ridiculous to suggest that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) is in league with Mr. Teasdale to wreck wheat stabilization, when we consider that a part of the policy that the Minister announced to the country during the general election campaign was that wheat stabilization should continue for a period of ten and not five years. The whole truth is that the Minister’s attitude is as was stated by him in October, 1948, when the Wheat Stabilization Bill was before this House. He said then -
We shall make the Australian Wheat Board a .body of principals instead of a body of puppets. No Minister shall be empowered to make secret sales of other people’s produce at concessional prices in order to gain a political advantage.
That is the policy of this Government, and it is well that the Australian people should realize it. I suggest that what the ex-Minister for Commerce and Agri culture has had to say about the dismissal of his nominee from the board shows he disagrees with the principle of having a strong and independent board with free grower control. This suburban member, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who pretends to assess the relative merits of the case, but really knows nothing about them, has talked about victimization.
– The Government has not been game to answer the Opposition’s charges.
– It was rather amazing to hear an honorable member from that side of the House taking up the cudgels on behalf of ex-servicemen. The former Labour Government never gave the slightest consideration to exservicemen when making its appointments. I suggest that, if the honorable member for Lalor has any foundation for the suggestion that there was any personal spite, venom or vindictiveness in connexion with this appointment, he completely spoiled his case by the inaccuracy with which he presented it, and I believe that when the people of Australia realize the respective qualifications of the two men concerned they will completely support the appointment made by the Minister.
I have no personal knowledge of Mr. Cullen, but I do say that, on his record, he has had no practical experience of wheat marketing. Whilst he may be a good wheat-grower, and may have done valuable work for the wheat-growers, that would not necessarily imply that he had had any experience of wheat marketing. A gold-miner cannot claim to have had experience of currency reform merely on that account, and an efficient car driver may not know how the engine of his car works. I consider that from the standpoint of qualifications there is no doubt that Mr. Teasdale is well suited for the office to which he has been appointed.
– In the absence of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Edgar Russell), who is a member of the Labour party, I find that I am the only honorable member representing South Australia in this Parliament who is in a position to speak on behalf of the wheat-growers of that
State. It is a tragedy that a member of this House who represents a highly industrialized district, as I do, should have to rise in this chamber to safeguard the interests of the farming community. Farmers in South Australia have told me that since the honorable member for Grey has been unable to attend to his parliamentary duties, because of a serious illness, they have been unable to find one member of the Government parties from South Australia who is prepared to put to this Parliament their views on the appointment of Mr. Teasdale. The general secretary of the Wheat Growers Federation, Mr. Stott, has made it clear in the newspapers of South Australia that the wheat-farmers are completely opposed to the unjustified dismissal of Mr. Cullen and to the appointment of Mr. Teasdale in his stead. Mr. Stott has repeatedly pointed out on behalf of the wheat-growers of South Australia that this position is now filled by a man who, for the whole of his life, has been opposed to wheat stabilization plans of any kind.
– Rubbish !
– That is not rubbish. I can prove it. It is a well-known fact that Mr. Teasdale was one of the strongest opponents of the wheat stabilization plan, and that Mr. Cullen was one of the strongest supporters of the plan. Mr. Cullen visited South Australia, and, I think, other States advocating a vote in favour of the wheat stabilization plan and while he was doing that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who sacked him from the job as soon as he got the political power to do so, was touring the countryside advocating a “ No “ vote.
– That is not true.
– It is true. Every honorable member who is aware -of the position knows that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture advocated a “ No “ vote and did everything that he could to sabotage the efforts of the growers who were trying to get a stabilization plan. In order to condemn this man who cannot speak for himself and who was prepared to do for £2,000 a year a job for which Mr. Teasdale is now being paid £4,000 a year, honorable members opposite are prepared to sink to depths that should be beneath the dignity of any honorable member. One honorable member had the audacity to accuse Mr. Cullen of having stood for Parliament as a Country party candidate and of having urged that his second preferences be given to the Labour party candidate. He has never stood for a parliamentary seat in his life. Those honorable members opposite who have so much to say about preference to exservicemen while the Chifley Government was in office, raise their hands in holy horror-
– Order ! The honorable member is getting away from the motion before the Chair.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, this matter has been referred to-
– The honorable member will accept the ruling or sit down.
– Very well. The ruling stands. Apparently, I must not refer to a matter that has already been referred to at length by honorable members on the Government side.
– Order !
– Mr. Cullen’s war record is second to none. Mr. Teasdale has no war record. Surely this Government which has claimed in the past to be bent on giving preference to ex-servicemen should have taken Mr, Cullen’s war service into consideration. Mr. Teasdale had an opportunity to serve in three wars because lie was of age when the Boer War broke out. This action has been taken against Mr. Cullen because he aroused the vindictive spleen of the Minister by advocating a “ Yes “ vote for the wheat stabilization plan so that the farmers would not have to remain forever in the clutches of wheat speculators. The Labour Government introduced the wheat stabilization plan in order that vulture speculators might be prevented from waxing fat on the efforts of the farmers by buying wheat when the price was low, holding it, and then selling it at exorbitant prices. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture did his best to destroy that stabilization plan. Not one member of the Australian Country party from
Victoria, let it be said to their credit, has yet risen to his feet to defend the appointment of Mr. Teasdale to this post. Whatever faults those honorable members may have - and they have many - they ut least know the requirements of the farmers of Victoria in this matter and not one of them has defended this unpardonable action on the part of the Minister.
I am certain that the Minister’s action has been motivated by the fact that he knows that Mr. Teasdale is a cold, callous opponent of wheat stabilization who intends to do everything possible to sabotage the wheat stabilization plan so that the Government can use its failure as a reason for abolishing the plan so that the control of the wheat market can be handed back to the men who have robbed the farmers of millions of pounds. For too many years have the wheat farmers been robbed by wheat speculators. The Australian Wheat Board has taken away from these robbers their power to exploit the fanners and now the Government, which has always represented vested interests, is doing its best to hand it back to them. I challenge the Minister to say definitely that he did not advocate a “ ~No “ vote when the plebiscite was taken in connexion with the wheat stabilization plan. Everybody knows that Mr. Cullen advocated a “ Yes “ vote and that this is the penalty he has had to pay. Honorable members opposite have criticized the previous Government for having introduced a bill which placed the Australian Wheat Board under ministerial control. Listen to what the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, after his acceptance of that portfolio, was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 2nd August, 1950, as having said -
As Minister I ain finally responsible for the administration of the Wheat Board. It is obviously because of this that the Act provides that the chairman shall hold office during the pleasure of the Minister.
The Meat Producer and Exporter, the official journal of the Australian Meat Board, said in its issue of June, 1950 -
The Minister said it was essential the Government should reserve the final right of decision in two eventualities. The first was where a Treasury liability, actual or contingent, existed; for instance, in an industry which had a government guarantee.
That statement came from a Minister who criticized the Chifley Government ‘because it insisted on some government control of the Australian Wheat Board. Let us hear what Mr. Speaker said.
– Order f The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- All ray life I have been led to believe that there is many a man in the Cameron clan who has followed his chief to the field. If the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), in bringing forward this matter, is the chief of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) all I can say is that the latter is following his chief to disaster. 1 am disappointed that when the honorable member for Lalor spoke on the matter he excluded from the telegrams that he read to the House that which I sent, which was the most important one. When I was asked to express my views on the decision of this Government to supersede Mr. Cullen as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board by the appointment of Mr. Teasdale in his stead I sent this wire -
Lord bless my soul. For nearly thirty years I have known John Teasdale. And I also know little Freddy Gullen.
That telegram expressed my views entirely. I speak as a wheat-grower who has been engaged, in the industry for the whole of my life. I speak as the immediate past president of the Farmers and Settlers Association, the oldest, and, if I may say so, the most reputable producers’ organization in the Commonwealth. I speak as a past president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, a federal organization which controls the State bodies connected with the wheat industry. I speak, too, as a man who has devoted his entire life to a study of the subject of wheat stabilization. What I have heard said by honorable members of the Opposition reveals to me their ignorance, not only of wheat stabilization, but also of the enormity that was perpetrated by the previous government in the guise of a wheat stabilization scheme.
There was no cause for concern over the appointment of John Teasdale as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board.
There was cause for consternation when he was not so appointed when the board was first formed and Sir Olive McPherson became the first chairman. There was cause for disappointment when Sir Olive McPherson retired of his own volition and Mr. John Teasdale was not appointed to succeed him. In his stead, Sir Louis Bussau was appointed. There was cause for disappointment when Sir Louis Bussau died and left the vacancy on the Australian Wheat Board to which Mr. John Teasdale was not appointed. I was fully aware of the manipulations that went on at that time to secure the appointment of Mr. Cullen and long before his appointment I knew, Mr. Cullen knew, and every wheat-grower knew, that there would be no doubt about the appointment of Mr. Cullen as chairman of the board. Yet the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that Mr. Cullen was dumbfounded when told of his appointment. If that is so, he was the only man in the Commonwealth in that unhappy position.
No man is better qualified to hold the office of chairman of the Australian Wheat Board than is Mr. John Teasdale, of Western Australia. For 30 years he has been an outstanding world authority on wheat” marketing. In my humble opinion he should have been appointed chairman in the first place. As that did not happen, he should have been appointed chairman in the second place. And as that did not happen, he should have been appointed chairman in the third place. That has happened. The honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Hindmarsh tried to measure a man with no experience of wheat marketing against a man who has devoted his whole life to that intricate business. The Australian Wheat Board carries on the largest business in the world and it requires as officers men of absolute integrity and profound experience. In searching for such a man the Government found this one who had also been available to the previous Government. He was a representative on the board at the time Mr. Cullen was appointed but because of political prejudice he was prevented from taking his rightful place as chairman. When the present Government assumed office, Mr.
Teasdale was given his rightful position. The honorable member for Lalor, who was the previous Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, tried to prove that Mr. Cullen was the best man for the position. His contention cannot be justified, because the previous Government had so little faith in Mr. Cullen when it appointed him that it decided at that time that he should be appointed at the will and pleasure of the Government. That was done so that if he refused to obey the Minister he could be summarily dismissed and another could be put in his place. These circumstances have exercised the minds of all wheat-growers who have a knowledge of the true facts of this matter. The same can be said largely of the supercession of Mr. Johnston. This gentleman was a clerk employed in Mr. Teasdale’s office. He had no knowledge of wheat marketing or of commerce other than the knowledge of a clerk, yet the previous Government appointed him as the commercial representative on the Australian Wheat Board. It is obvious that when the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was required to justify this appointment to the present Government, neither he nor anybody else could do so, and it was necessary for him to submit to a reasonable Cabinet, free from political prejudice, the names of gentlemen likely to serve best both the Government and the wheat-growers of this country.
It astonishes me to hear time and again honorable members opposite trying to make out a case for the wheat-grower. They have no knowledge of the wheat industry or of the people concerned in it. They have never cared much about what happens to the wheat industry or to the wheat farmers. For the first time in a number of years the Australian wheat-grower has cause for confidence in the activities of the Australian Wheat Board because Mr. Teasdale, a man of integrity and experience, is in charge of it. They also have cause for satisfaction with the appointment of Mr. Tilt as commercial representative and with the rest of the personnel of the board which, to a large extent, is elected by the growers themselves.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The significant characteristic of this debate has been the absence from it of Victorian members of the Parliament. That is significant of the burning resentment amongst the Victorian wheat-growers because of the removal of Mr. Cullen and the appointment of Mr. Teasdale. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who constantly poses as the wheat-grower’s friend, has been silent during the two hours that this debate has been in progress. He is standing idly by seeing a man who has done much for the Victorian wheat-growers removed from office and replaced by a man whose appointment has been made out of sheer prejudice.
-Order! The motion is not concerned with the actions of the honorable member for Mallee. I must ask the honorable member for Grayndler to deal only with the motion.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the spirit in which it is given; but I think that I should make passing reference to the fact that Victorian members have taken no part in the debate and that the full brunt of the defence has been borne by Western Australian members of the Parliament. What has transpired in the last two hours has seemed to me more like an election campaign than a debate on a motion. The appointment of Mr. Teasdale is merely a pay-off to him as one of the saboteurs of the wheat stabilization scheme introduced by the previous Government. It is significant that during the last Parliament the honorable member who is now Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) made no secret of the fact that he was bitterly opposed to Mr. Cullen and was a strong supporter of Mr. Teasdale. He indicated that if an opportunity arose he would take this action, which obviously has been motivated “by malice on his part. More significant than that is the fact that the Government has displaced a man who is a returned serviceman. We are often told that honorable members of the Government parties are the only defenders of the rights of ex-servicemen, but in this instance a competent ex-serviceman is removed and is replaced by a man who has not been a serviceman. That is an indication of the insincerity of honorable members on the Government side.
The appointment of Mr. Teasdale is a further indication to the people of this country that the Government’s policy is one of “ spoils to the victors “ and if the shady record of appointments by the Government during the last nine or ten months is examined it will be found to consist mainly of the replacement of Labour appointees. Very little legislation has been passed and the Government’s record consists of a series of pay-offs. I instance the case of Mr. Frost, who has been recalled and paid off, and that of Dr. Burton, who was forced out of his position in the Department of External Affairs because he dared to stand for election as a Labour candidate. Mr. Taylor also has been removed from his office in Trans-Australia Airlines. During the last ten months the Government has had a sorry record of removing from office competent persons who were appointed by the Chifley Government. The replacement of Mr. Cullen is another example of the methods of a vindictive government which is prepared to spend thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money to get rid of competent men merely because they were appointed By a Labour government.
What charges has this Government levelled against Mr. Cullen? It has not said that he is incompetent and that he did not carry out his job satisfactorily. Surely all such matters should be fully ventilated. Is it that he did not do what the wheat-growers decided should be done ? According to the statement of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), Mr. Cullen pleased a big and influential section of the wheat-growers, and no doubt, for that reason, honorable members from Victoria have not spoken in this debate. They know, as does every fair-minded man, that the Government has removed Mr. Cullen only because the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture hates him, in a political sense, and opposed his appointment when it was made. Honorable members on the Government side have defended the appointment of Mr. Teasdale, in regard to whose capacity we probably do not quarrel. They have to defend, not so much Mr. Teasdale’s appointment, as the removal of a competent man to make way for him. The question might also be asked why the Government almost doubled the salary of the chairman when Mr. Teasdale was appointed. The Government and its supporters are very fond of talking about the rights of ex-servicemen, but here is a case of an ex-serviceman being removed from office to make way for a man who is not an ex-serviceman. If this position is worth £4,000 a year now that Mr. Teasdale is occupying it, then for even the short period of Mr. Cullen’s occupancy of it during the regime of this Government he should have received the same salary. Honorable members on the Government side will need to have a much better case before they will be able to convince this House that the correct action has been taken. Up to the moment they have merely succeeded in putting forward a series of apologies. Every Government supporter who has spoken to the motion has apologized for the action of the Government. No sincere attempt has been made by the Government to defend its appointment of Mr. Teasdale.
The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) spoke in an empty, irresponsible way, which is astonishing in such an honorable member, who should have known better. He also has been merely apologetic, and has said nothing to justify the removal of Mr. Cullen by the Government. It is very interesting for Opposition members to behold honorable members of the Australian Country party, who are supposed to represent the country people, acting against the wishes of those whom they are supposed to represent because they want to vent their spleen on a man who has .opposed the wishes of a powerful minority. Parliamentary government has fallen to a sorry level in this country if a man may be removed from a position of trust as unceremoniously as this Government has removed Mr. Cullen merely because he held views which he thought were in the interests of the largest section of the primary producers. It is no encouragement to men to assist governments, of whatever colour they may be, if their tenure is to be as insecure as Mr. Cullen’s has proved to be. We, on this side of the House, want to hear something from responsible members on the Government side. We should like to hear from the Victorian defenders of the wheat-growers. What do they think about this matter? We also require some more tangible evidence from the Minister and his supporters of why they removed a competent ex-serviceman and replaced him with another man who has not the same capacity, knowledge or background, and who is not an ex-serviceman.
I know as much about the wheatgrowers as do most honorable members of the Australian Country party. I hazard a guess that very few of their number have ever been on the land. The rest of them are Sussex-street farmers. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who is Deputy Prime Minister, is a public accountant. Yet he leads the party which is supposed to represent the country people. The only experience on the land that most members of the Australian Country party have had is that which they have gained from eating what it produces. Everybody knows how the Australian Country party sold out the wheat-farmer and the primary producers. It exercises power far in excess of its numerical strength in the Parliament and stands aside from any real fight for the benefit of the farmers.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to deal with some of the points that have been raised in this debate which, having regard to the fact that it is taking place in the National Parliament, has sunk to a low level. Members of the Opposition persist in raking round muckheaps in order to gain headlines in the press. If ever a monument were erected in Australia to honour the work done by any one man. in the interests of the wheat industry, it should be erected to John S. Teasdale. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) said that Mr. Teasdale was selling out to the wheat barons, he spoke in ignorance of that gentleman’s record. Mr. Teasdale is, perhaps, the only man in Australia who, during the last 25 years, has persistently and consistently preached the principles of stabilization and orderly marketing to the wheat-growers.
– Is he a socialist?
– It is obvious from his history that he is not a socialist. Evidence of that fact has been provided in this debate because he has been revealed as a man who has refused to submit to the whim of any Minister. He is determined not to allow wheat to be made the plaything of party politics as happened under socialistic governments. For many years Mr. Teasdale worked for the establishment of the voluntary wheat pool in Western Australia. He had to fight very hard to achieve that objective. That pool was completely voluntary and it owed its establishment mainly to Mr. Teasdale’s own efforts and the confidence that he inspired among the wheatgrowers. So much, therefore, for the suggestion that he is endeavouring to sabotage the present wheat stabilization plan !
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) referred to the fact that Mr. Gullen is an ex-serviceman. References by the honorable member and his colleagues to preference in employment to ex-service personnel are disgustingly hypocritical, because when governments that they supported provided for such preference they surrounded the provision with so many conditions that it does not really operate at all. By accepting the principle of preference in employment to ex-service personnel one does not accept the view that a uniform or a returned soldier’s badge will turn a sinner into a saint or will automatically endow a man with capacity that he does not possess. I do not know why Mr. Teasdale does not wear a returned soldier’s badge. I do not know why the honorable member for Hindmarsh or other honorable members do not wear such a. badge. Whether they do so or not is none of my business. However, when the Government seeks a man to do a very onerous job it is concerned about not only whether he is an ex-serviceman but also whether he possesses the requisite qualifications. Mr. Teasdale is recognized as a world authority on wheat and as chairman of the Australian Wheat Board he has been entrusted with the marketing of a commodity worth hundreds of millions of pounds. He holds a position of trust on behalf of the wheat-growers and he is determined not to fill that position merely as the agent or mouthpiece of any Minister. The Government’s recognition of that principle was responsible for hitappointment.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 92.
Sitting suspended from 5.S5 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 5th October (vide page 432), on’ motion by Mr. FADDEN -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) [S.0”. - The situation this evening is unique because, according to the will of the Government, honorable members may discuss one of two bills in relation to the Commonwealth Bank. One of those two measures was extensively debated by this House a few months ago, and was amended by the Senate in order to give expression to the Labour party’s views on banking principles and on the control of national credit in a country like Australia. Possibly, this evening will be historic-
– Order ! The honorable member may not refer to the proceedings in the Senate.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and shall discuss the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1950 [No. 2], the purpose of which is to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1948 and to repeal the Banking Act 1947. At the outset, I remind the House of the principal provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, which has given to Australia a banking system that meets all the requirements of the people. That act contains six major principles, which may be enumerated as follows: - (1) The strengthening of the central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank; (2) abolition of the Commonwealth Bank Board ; (3) subordination of the Governor of the Bank to the Government of the day ; (4) active competition with the trading bank9; (5) abolition of the board controlling the note issue; and (6) abolition of the currency reserve. Honorable members who have closely studied banking policy in this country will recall that members of the present Government, when they were in opposition, strongly attacked the provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Bill when it was introduced into this House in 1945, and they forecast that, if it became law, Australia would experience a banking debacle that would be followed by a national crisis. Even at this comparatively late stage, it is worthwhile to recall that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he opposed that bill, made pointed reference to certain matters which, he declared, should be uppermost in our minds when we are discussing banking. He stated that every banking proposal must be tested by asking, not how it would affect the bankers, but how it would affect the people. Yet an examination of the bill that is now before the House discloses that its purpose is to amend only one of the six principles to which I have referred. It is not intended to deprive the Commonwealth Bank of its jurisdiction over the general advances policy, and to remove the obligation that now is imposed upon the private trading banks to lodge certain deposits with the central bank.
The principal purpose of this bill is to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board. The Government proposes thai that authority shall consist of ten persons, the identity of only five of whom has been disclosed to the House. Presumably the remaining five will be brought in off the street to assist to administer the great Commonwealth Bank. Honorable members should keep prominently in their minds that the fundamentals of central banking, as described in the act of 1945, are to control economic policy on behalf of the people, and to direct the private trading banks in many respects. Because of that, Opposition members are firmly resolved that decisions on banking policy, which may have a serious impact on the lives of the Australian people, shall not be made by five persons, who may have been brought in off the street, and who may foregather casually one day a month to discuss those matters. Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party, when they were in opposition in 1945, forecast that dire results would follow, the passing of the Commonwealth Bank Bill in that year, and the then Leader of tl, e Opposition (Mr. Menzies), stated that, at the first opportunity, his Government would review the changes that had! been made by the Chifley Government in: our banking policy. I submit three questions to Government supporters at this, stage. The first is - Has there been anything in the management of the Commonwealth Bank since the legislation of 1945- became law that can be cavilled at? That question was completely answered recently by the honorable member for Bennelong- (Mr. Cramer), to whom I. shall refer later. My second question is: Has -any action been taken by the two governors of the bank since 1945 that has been contrary to the national interest? Oan Government supporters answer “ Yes “ to that question?
– A school-boy could not have made a mistake in administering the Commonwealth Bank during the last five years.
– If we can produce more school-boys of the calibre of Dr. Coombs and his associates, this country will be well satisfied ; but we are not convinced that school-boys can be brought in from the street to administer the great Commonwealth Bank satisfactorily. My third question is- Has anything been done since 1945 that has not been for the good of the community and in the interests of the sound management of the bank? The Government has had ample opportunity to review the management of the Commonwealth Bank since 1945, and even the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has not been able to “offer one word of criticism of it.
– What has happened to the ex-servicemen’s war gratuity? That is a different matter.
– Unfortunately this Government has displayed weakness in checking the spiral of inflation. However, that matter is not pertinent to the bill that is now under consideration. The interjection of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) truly reveals the shallow thinking of which some Government supporters are guilty. The honorable member for Bennelong, in making a rather lengthy contribution to this debate, has stated quite definitely that there is nothing wrong with the management of the Commonwealth Bank at the present time. According to my notes he said, “It is a magnificent institution “.
– Hear, hear !
– I welcome that interjection.
– “Who has made a statement to the contrary?
– Government supporters remind me of the man who dreamed that he was suffering from cancer of the kidney. Although doctors advised him that his health was sound and that he looked like living to the. age of 100, he insisted upon having the kidney removed. Government supporters are insisting upon a change of the management of the Commonwealth Bank because they have dreamed that, in the near future, the Labour party will be returned to office. If that is evidence of the Government’s national outlook, the sooner the people are given an opportunity of indicating their opinion about it, the better will we be suited.,
The quickest way in which to destroy the reputation of an institution in a democratic country is to cast reflections upon1 those who control it. The honorable member for Bennelong said, in effect, “Dr. Coombs has done an excellent job over the last ten months under this Government, but I cannot say the same for the job that he did as head of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction “.
– Quite right.
– The honorable member went further, and said that one of the associates of Dr. Coombs in that department was Dr. Lloyd Ross, who, he stated, was at one time a Communist.
– That is correct.
– 1 sometimes wonder whether the honorable member for Bennelong and other Government supporters look under their beds at night to see whether Communists are lurking there. Although, in the eyes of the Government, Dr. Lloyd Ross has such a terrible reputation, the Melbourne Herald, which capably supported it during the last general election campaign and which, indeed, continues to support it, has been glad to secure the services of such an outstanding Australian on its staff. Yet, the honorable member for Bennelong, by innuendo, cast a reflection upon the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank because he was associated, at one time as the head of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction with a man who is now employed by the Melbourne Herald. If that argument is typical of the grounds on which the Government bases its case for the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board, is there any wonder that Opposition members doubt its sincerity?
– I merely called him a socialist.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) used the expression “ Stalinizing the Commonwealth Bank “ a number of times in his speech. He made the point that, had the Labour party been in office during the last ten months, Dr. Coombs and the advisory council of the bank might not have done such a good job as they have under this Government.
– Hear, hear !
– I put it to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) that the reasons for the appointment of the advisory council were bona fide and have been justified by experience. That body gives a true interpretation of the meaning of the expression “ control by the government for the people “. Let us assume that the statement by the honorable member for Wide Bay to the effect that, during the last ten months, the advisory council has rendered satisfactory service in accordance with the wishes of the people, is accurate. Is it not right that if the people change their opinions, the advisory council should give effect to that alteration pf view? Opposition members claim that the Government should not re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board for the purpose of depriving the people of their right to express their opinions on banking in the interval between two general elections.
What right has the -board at any time to take away from the people their democratic right to articulate their point of view in respect of banking through the government of the day? The views of the great, Australian Labour party on banking have been incorporated in the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1948 and in the Banking Act 194’7, and have given complete satisfaction during the last five years. Under its present system of control, the great Commonwealth Bank, through ,its central banking functions, was able to make available to the nation the vast sum of £343,000,000 at a. time when money was badly needed. Anybody who compares that achievement with the efforts of the former Commonwealth Bank Board must acknowledge that, with international affairs in the unsettled condition that prevails to-day, any interference with the present structure of the Commonwealth Bank would be utterly unjustified. Honorable members recently engaged in a debate on international affairs in which every supporter of the Government interpreted the subject to mean “ defence “. The financing of the vast plan that the Government claims to have in mind for the defence of the nation can be achieved only by means of close co-ordination between the government of the day and the banking authority of the country. Yet the Government proposes to hand over to a board, including five persons who may be brought in off the streets, the power to determine what amount of money shall be expended in order to preserve our national security! It should shoulder its responsibility instead, and accept the present management of the Commonwealth Bank as the proper authority on banking matters. That authority will give effect to Government policy according to the best financial principles.
I propose to make an honest comparison between the present method of control of the Commonwealth Bank and that which the Government proposes to re-establish, because no supporter of the Government has yet dared to do so. The purpose of the advisory council is to advise the government of the day in respect of banking policy. Who are the members of the council ? They are Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the bank;
Mr. E. B. Richardson, the Deputy Governor; Mr. G. P. N. Watt, the Secretary to the Treasury ; Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician; Mr.. Melville, the economic adviser to thebank; and Mr. Armstrong, who has received high tributes from the Treasurer for the work that he is doingas manager of the Industrial FinanceDepartment of the bank. Never in its history has Australia had such a panel of experts to deal -with policies of the most vital concern to its future. I defy any Government supporter to justify one word of criticism of the general ability, administrative capacity, honesty of purpose and knowledge of bankingmethods and policy of any member of the advisory council. That body lias been able to develop the activities of the Commonwealth Bank to such a degree that the honorable member for Bennelongnow freely admits that it is a magnificent institution. Yet the Government intends to abolish it ! Honorable members would bc well advised to heed the comment that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald when the Government’s proposals were first made known. In a leading article on the 17 th March last, that newspaper referred very pointedly to the Government’s plan in the followingterms : - “ It will be the function of the governor,” Mr. Fadden asserts, “ to administer the Bank in accordance with the policy laid down by the Board.” Thus the head of the Bank is to have his own subordinates at each Board meeting laying down instructions which he must carry out. In practice, either the governor must dominate the proceedings, or else intolerable friction will arise within the Bank itself.
That is the comment, not of the Australian Labour party, but of the Sydney Morning Herald.
The advisory council is well qualified to advise the Treasurer on all matters that affect banking policy and to notify the Government of the courses of procedure that are in the best interests of the nation. Either the Government does not sincerely wish to retain economic stability in Australia or it is afraid to accept the responsibility of determining banking policy for the immediate future. The proposed board will be an authority in itself. Anybody who believes that the will of the people, as expressed by the
Parliament, will prevail if a disagreement between the board and the Treasurer should arise is either optimistic enough to be willing to take a great risk affecting the future welfare of the nation or else is foolish enough to believe that the board will never make a mistake. The board will consist of ten members, including the Governor of the bank, the Deputy Governor and the Secretary to the Treasury. The remaining seven members will be appointed by the GovernorGeneral. Of these, two may be either officers of the bank or members of the Public Service. The worst feature of the Government’s scheme is that the remaining five members may be brought in off the streets. They may be called upon to meet only once a month, just long enough to drink the decanter of whisky that no doubt will be kept in the cupboard in the board room. Those five members will be appointed on the following basis : - One for one year, one for two years, one for three years, one for four years, and a lucky one for five years. After listening to the debate that took place in this House earlier to-day, one cannot dismiss the possibility that the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank may be removed from office at any time even though they are now accepted by the Treasurer as being highly efficient men. We have seen that such dismissals can occur under the administration of this Government.
Serious consequences could flow from the formation of the board on the basis that the Government has in mind. Two of the five members who may be appointed from anywhere in Australia - casual appointees who need know nothing of banking - could constitute a majority over the expert members of the board. One of these could be a man appointed to the board for only twelve months and the other could be a man appointed for only two years. Their votes could destroy completely the work of the present advisory council. When this Government goes out of office, it may be succeeded, for instance, by a government dominated by the Australian Country party and, as members of the Liberal party know, the Australian Country party is opposed to any policy designed to stabilize our currency. That government could appoint to the Commonwealth Bank Board five people who had no knowledge or understanding of banking policy. The member appointed for twelve months would have his ear to the ground with the object of expressing the viewpoint of the Treasurer so that he could be assured of being re-appointed at the expiration of his first term. I have seen that sort of thing happen in the industrial movement. It leads to instability of control, which is damaging to the organization with which it is associated. The Labour party will always fight against the establishment of an organization capable of taking control of banking policy out of the hands of experts and transferring it to a few casual appointees. The result could be economic chaos. We shall never accept the bill.
Some supporters of the Government may not remember what happened in Australia in 1931. I refer them to the book Towards Industrial Peace in Australia, by Foenander. At page 99, the author stated -
The chairman of the board, Sir Robert Gibson, in April, 1031, definitely informed the Loan Council of Australia that a limit was fixed to its advances to Government. It would have been useless for Government, because of the state of its credit, to appear in the market to raise a loan.
That is what could happen under board control of the Commonwealth Bank. The former board told the government of the day to reduce its commitments on the ground that its prestige had been so lowered that it would be useless for it to approach the loan market in order to raise a loan for the purpose of putting good Australians back into jobs.
– That happened under a Labour administration.
– But the Commonwealth Bank Board had been established by an anti-Labour government. Is it to be wondered at that, as soon as a later Labour government had the opportunity to do so, it made sure that the nation would no longer remain at the mercy of casuals who might be recruited from the streets to direct banking policy? The Labour party will not allow the financial structure of the nation to be governed by other than those who represent the people, The main concern of the honorable member for Bennelong was .that, in the event of a change of government, there would he a change of banking policy. The people have the democratic right to change their government. If they exercise that right, should their new government be bound by a financial policy that had failed under the retiring government ? The present system of central bank control is capable of giving effect to the expressed wishes of the people. It is the most admirable form of bank control that exists in any country. I conclude my remarks by saying that so long as the Labour party exists it will never hand over to casuals brought in off the streets the right to determine the banking policy of Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) became rather heated on the subject of banking and the proposal of the Government to establish a board to administer the Commonwealth Bank. He made some rather scathing remarks about the capacity of the members of the proposed board and suggested that they will be individuals taken in off the streets. I do not know whether he imagines that on one fine morning the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) will leave his office, walk down the street and seize the first wandering minstrel or street musician whom he encounters and invite him to take a seat on the bank board. I have no doubt, nor has any one else, that the members of the proposed board will be chosen for their competence. However, I remind the honorable member, who so roundly condemned the principles of board control, that the previous Labour Administration set up no fewer than 157 boards to administer the affairs of this country, and that nearly all those boards included individuals who were recognized as captains of industry. Those individuals had proved their ability in private enterprise and they more than justified their appointment to the boards. In fact, it was probably due to the ability and the application of those individuals that the life of the community was carried on so efficiently while the young men of this country were absent in the services. I remind the honorable member that nothing was done by the previous Labour Administration to terminate the services of Mr. Essington Lewis, who was placed in charge of the production of munitions during the war. To take a further example, I point out that when the socialist Government required some one to run Trans-Australia Airlines it chose Mr. Coles, who had been successfully engaged in private enterprise for many years selling merchandise at nothing over 2s. 6d.
– What is wrong with Trans- Australia Airlines ?
– Nothing; but 1 point out that the previous Labour Government saw no harm in “going into the streets “ in order to find an individual who was capable of running that undertaking. I repeat, for the benefit of members of the Opposition, that during the tenure of office of the previous Government no fewer than 157 boards wereappointed to run the affairs of the country.
The honorable member for Blaxland said that not even the Treasurer himself could have the courage to criticize the administration of the Commonwealth Bank. Of course, if the Treasurer is not qualified to engage in criticism of that institution, then I shall probably be regarded as presumptuous if I embark upon criticism of it. However, I propose to take that risk. At the outset, I must say that Dr. Coombs must feel hap*that he has at least one champion in this House, in the person of the honorable member for Blaxland, who has such unquestioning faith in his abilities. Unfortunately, I do not think that that opinion will be endorsed by many of those who know something of financial policy and of the direction of the Commonwealth Bank under Dr. Coombs. I consider that one-man dictatorship of that institution has proved a failure. No one who has studied the management of our overseas funds in recent months can feel very happy about the results of Dr. Coombs’s management. It is obvious that the sooner we give Dr. Coombs the assistance of a board composed of individuals who are experienced in finance, banking, administration and the conduct of primary and secondary industries, the better will it be for Australia generally.
I was astonished when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), in an exhibition of that delightful irony which sometimes characterizes his remarks, urged that we should seek the opinion of Dr. Coombs on the proposed alteration of the exchange rate. I suggest to the right honorable gentleman that he should study the latest masterpiece of Dr. Coombs, the annual report of the Commonwealth Bank, in the course of which he performed the most acrobatic feat of railsitting we have witnessed for a long time. In fact, no one who peruses that document will find in it any signs of guidance or leadership in this matter of the exchange rate. Of course, it is generally accepted that Dr. Coombs was financial adviser to the last Government. If that is true, it would be foolish indeed for any one to seek guidance from him, because the financial incompetence that characterized that Administration in the handling of the national finance is notorious. After all, Dr. Coombs is not a banker in the true sense, but is merely a political banker, who was appointed to his position almost without any banking experience. His greatest qualification was that he was a socialist, which, of course, made him. most acceptable to the socialist Government of that time. He was to be the commissar for finance who would nationalize the whole banking structure. It is not astonishing, there-“ fore, that Dr. Coombs’s main recent, activities have been concerned with socializing banking by stealth, notwithstanding that on the 10th December last the people of Australia delivered a smashing verdict against the nationalization of banking.
The Commonwealth Bank is empowered by law to control the advances made by trading banks, and a comparison of the advances made by the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks shows that, whilst the advances made by the trading banks have contracted sharply, those made by the Commonwealth Bank have advanced by leaps and bounds. That has coma about because- in many instances in which the Commonwealth Bank has directed the trading banks to refuse advances to applicants, it has subsequently made the advances itself.
– Oan the honorable member give us a few illustrations?
– I can supply them. In fact, if details were revealed of the instances in which advances were refused by the trading banks, at the direction of the Commonwealth Bank, and subsequently were made by the Commonwealth Bank the revelation would cause a sensation.
Dr. Coombs’s socialist efforts do not end there. The funds of the Commonwealth Bank are now being used to publish a series of advertisements that are pure political propaganda and appear to be directed to no other purpose than the conversion of people to nationalisation. Those advertisements contain misleading half-truths which would turn Dr. Goebbels green with envy if he could read them. Asan example, I shall cite a gem from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5th October, under the heading, “ These profits serve Australia “. It states -
Your money made these profits. These profits serve Australia - £4,300,000 note issue profits; £2,000,000 banking profits. . . .
The amounts paid into public revenue and the National Debt Sinking Fund are equal to the income tax paid by G5,000 average taxpayers. Putting it another way, had the bank not been able to make those contributions the income tax of every taxpayer would have needed to be increased by over £2 to provide the same revenue.
– Hear, hear !
– Order ! ‘ The honorable member can make hia speech without the benefit of running interjections from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– I am afraid that honorable members do not like the truth that is being conveyed to them. Theseadvertisements are merely an attempt to delude the taxpayers into believing that they are better off because of the activities of the Commonwealth Bank. Two obvious tricks are used to achieve that objective. The first trick is to credit the Commonwealth Bank with the hugeprofits made on the note issue. It is obvious to every one that there is a big. profit on selling small pieces of paper for £1, £5 and £10, and that profits will be made from thenote issue whatever the management of the bank may be. The point is that those profits really belong to the Treasury, which could collect them even if the Commonwealth Bank did not exist. As a matter of fact, in some countries which have no government bank, the government issues the notes and collects the profits from their sale. In Australia, the Commonwealth Bank merely acts as agent for “the Treasury in making the note issue, and only by reason of the accident of legislation introduced by a Labour government is it able to claim the profit before paying it to the Treasury.
Apart from the profits made by the Commonwealth Bank on the note issue, the actual profits made by that institution totalled approximately £2,665,000. Now, “the bank pays approximately £1,000,000 into public revenue and the National Debt Sinking Fund over and above the profit on the note issue. However, if the Commonwealth Bank did not exist a similar profit would be made by the trading banks. I point out. to members of the Opposition that from that profit the trading banks would be liable to pay company tax amounting to approximately £S00,000 a year. Then the remainder would be paid out to the banks’ shareholders in the form of dividends, on which the shareholders would pay a high rate of tax because their income would be regarded as income from property, and, as every one knows, the rate of tax on income derived from property is high. It is safe to assume, therefore, that altogether the Commonwealth would collect in taxes considerably more than the £1,000,000 that was paid to the Treasury by the Commonwealth Bank, or, in other words, the Treasury would be much better o ff financially if the Commonwealth Bank did not exist. Yet Dr. Coombs and his associates have the audacity to claim that if it were not for the operations of the Commonwealth Bank every taxpayer would have to pay an additional £2 in income tax. I need hardly remind honorable members that the Commonwealth Bank does not pay income tax; yet the advertisement to which I have been referring bears the notation in rather small type: “Relieve direct and indirect taxation “. “Whilst agreeing that the old commercial maxim that “It pays to advertise “ is quite sound, I remind honorable members of the importance of another maxim which insists on “ truth in advertising “. I commend the latter maxim very earnestly to the Commonwealth Bank officials who have been responsible for those misleading advertisements.
During this debate honorable members opposite, one honorable member in particular, probably realizing the weakness of their case, have attempted to cover it up by making despicable attacks upon officers of the trading banks and upon the war records of their officers and directors. Those matters have nothing to do with the matter under consideration. In any event it ill behoved the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to make such an attack as he made last week during his speech on this measure. I realize that the honorable member’s vision is clouded by the unreasonable class hatred that characterizes the speeches that he .makes in this House, but that fact’ does not excuse his outbust of that character against worthy officers and directors of the trading banks. I point out to the honorable member that only this week I was informed that 80 per cent, of the members of the bank employees’ committee that fought against bank nationalization were ex-servicemen. At the time when these men were fighting against the nationalization of the banks they realized that they were fighting for their freedom just as much as when they were fighting Germans and Japanese, and they must ha.ve wondered what they had returned to from their service when they learned that the Labour Government had had secret recordings taken of alleged conversations of theirs, which were to lie produced at the appropriate time.
– What is the honorable member talking about?
– That was the gestapo touch, indeed. The honorable member asks what I am talking about. If he reads the Hansard report of a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition, he will know what I am driving at. It is unworthy to make attacks on trading bank officers merely because they are trading bank officers. These men belong to a recognized and registered trade union, yet apparently they were to be victimized by the socialist government, had it been returned to power.
– That is not true, and in any case what has it to do with this bill?
– The Labour Government was prepared to go to any lengths, even to the length of planting bidden microphones, in order to obtain anything it could against these bank officers.
– That is not true.
– I ask the honorable member to read page 1235 of Hansard of the 2Sth March last, which contains a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition during the previous debate on a similar measure.
– I shall read it.
– I believe that action of that nature was an object lesson to all workers about what could happen to them under socialism.
– But it did not happen.
– No, because the people of Australia awakened to the clanger.
– It is only in the honorable member’s imagination.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will be dealt with if be continues to interject as he has been doing all the evening.
– Under socialism there would be a government monopoly of banking which would be hedged round with restrictions and regulations. There could not possibly be any freedom of banking associated with a bureaucracy bound up with red tape. We on this side of the House, on the other hand, as we have shown in this bill, wish to make the Commonwealth Bank a people’s bank that will serve the people. The Labour party wishes to make it a financial tyrant. That states briefly the two differing points of view. We stand, as we have always stood, for democracy in banking as in everything else. Honorable members opposite stand for monopoly and dictatorship, as socialists must always do. The whole controversy in relation to this bill resolves itself into a question of whether there shall be totalitarian control of, or a democratic approach to, banking. I suggest that as we are discussing the appointment of a board for the bank, it is as well to point out that this Parliament is in the nature of a board that has been elected to govern the country. It follows, therefore, that if honorable members opposite believe in having dictatorship control of the Commonwealth Bank they must also believe in dictatorship for the country. But if they believe in the combined wisdom of a Parliament, then I cannot understand why they oppose the combined wisdom of a board to control the Commonwealth Bank.
There remains one undisputed fact, which is that at the last general election the Government received a mandate from the people in relation to banking. In obstructing the purpose pf the Government in this House and in another place, honorable members opposite and their colleagues are thwarting the expressed will of the people. Let them not complain when they have to meet the consequences of their action.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) said that the economic depression of the 1930’s was mainly due to the private banks. I suggested to him that it was totally due to the private banks, and the honorable member agreed with me. I know that there are some people, like the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), who do not believe that banking policy created the socalled economic depression that continued with diminishing effects from the beginning of the 1930’s until the outbreak of war in 1939. In reality it was not an economic depression at all. It was a financial dislocation. Briefly the position in the United States of America, Great Britain, South America, Australia and elsewhere was that vast quantities of the necessaries of life were available, but could not be exchanged for other commodities. That is, commodities could not be exchanged either for other commodities or for services. At that time services were available in unlimited degree. Men were idle in hundreds of thousands. Therefore, the depression was caused by a lack not of productive capacity or of production, but of the capacity to distribute and exchange. The function of the banking institutions in this and other countries is to distribute and exchange. As was tersely stated by Professor Gregory, the position in Australia and throughout the rest of the world, when the economic depression struck, was that there was an overproduction of primary products. Despite that fact people were dying from starvation in thousands throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands of people in this country were suffering from malnutrition. In Australia people were losing their’ homes and primary producers in thousands were ruined. Underconsumption, and not over-production, was the cause of the depression. I have in my hand a book written by the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes). The right honorable gentleman was probably inspired when he wrote it. In it he points out that there was no lack of the necessaries of life in Australia at that particular time but that there was overproduction. He said -
In fact, production had overtaken consumption.
– He was only a young man then.
– Not very young, because he wrote the book about 1930. He went on to say -
What is necessary in this country is an improved credit system, a rationalized credit system.
I agree with the right honorable member that that was what was necessary at that particular time. A rationalized monetary system and a method to utilize the credit of this country were necessary and could have led to an exchange of the commodities that were not merely lying idle but also rotting or being destroyed, for an exchange of the services that were lying idle and for the use of the man-power that was going to waste. At that time there was no famine and there were no floods or other natural disasters in this country that could be blamed for the position that existed. Had there been .such natural disasters I should agree that honorable members opposite could claim justly that men were not responsible for the tragic consequences of the depression. In reality we were passing through a period when nature was bountiful, when goods were plentiful and were available for the use of mankind but were simply not being used. The banking system in Australia at that time was the main factor in the creation of the economic crisis or financial dislocation that afflicted this country. Had we had a sane policy this country would have surmounted its difficulties without any dislocation at all, and without the tragic suffering that followed for about ten years in Australia.
– What about the rest of the world?
– The position was the same in the rest of the world as it was here. Brazil had primary products in abundance, and coffee and goods of all kinds were being destroyed in that country. America was destroying cattle, and using beef for manure. It was also destroying vast quantities of every kind of primary product, including wheat, because the banking system there, which was responsible for the distribution and exchange of commodities, was, as in this country, incapable of functioning effectively.
– International bank control ! ‘
– Yes, that is right. The honorable member’s remark is buttressed by the particularly experienced right honorable member for Bradfield in his book Bond or Free, from which I have quoted. But let me deal particularly with the depression as it affected Australia. The overseas price of Australian primary products was reduced. Before the direct effect of that price reduction’ was left in this country, the private banking institutions, anticipating the shrinkage that would occur in purchasing power and in the value of properties and real estates, recalled advances and refused to make new advances on the same terms as they had been making them in the past. Something similar happened just after the first World War to that which is happening now. There was a period of temporary boom, during which the banking institutions lent their money freely. When the shrinkage of prices occurred overseas, anticipating that the inflated values of properties, shares and businesses in this country would drop, they recalled advances. As a result of that action thousands of men and women were put out of work. The reduction of the purchasing power of .those people caused thousands of others to be put out of work because the effects of unemployment are cumulative. Those conditions were caused by the banking policy of this and other countries. They resulted from the control of the banks of this and other countries by vested interests which put their private profit before the welfare and development of the country.
– “Who are the interests to which the honorable member refers ?
– Time does not permit me-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order !
The honorable member is entitled to be heard.
– Time does not permit me to enumerate all the vested interests that control the private banking institutions of this country. A number of private interests were represented upon the Commonwealth Bank Board at .the time of which I speak. There were representatives of pastoralists, banking interests and people who were interested in every kind of private enterprise on the Bank Board in 1930. These men brought about economic and financial dislocation.
In 1930 the Labour Government had a solution of the problem which required a fiduciary notes issue. It proposed to utilize the credit of the country in order to put the unemployed to work and to assist the farmers. The dominant party in the Senate and the Bank Board frustrated the Government’s attempt to put that policy into operation. In 1939, the present Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), when war broke out, said that, in the creation of credit for the defence of this country, the sky was the limit. The second world war was almost totally financed by a fiduciary notes issue or by a utilization of the credit of this country which the Labour Government, in 1930, sought to use in order to put people to work. The first world war was financed to a big extent in the same way. The first Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Sir Denison Miller, admitted that that had been done, and when asked whether those methods that had been employed to finance the defence of this country in the hour of its danger could be utilized when hundreds of thousands of people were trudging country roads and city streets in a hopeless search for work, said that most decidedly they could be. But that was not done.
– The Labour party accepted the Premiers plan.
– The honorable member does not know the history of his predecessors in the conservative parties of this country. They initiated the Premiers plan. They were the people who said, as the right honorable member for Bradfield pointed out in his booklet on Sir Otto Niemeyer’s report, “Produce more “. They told the unemployed that there was only one solution of the country’s difficulties - produce, produce, produce! Yet they were unable to do anythink to put the people to work in order that they would be able to produce. That was due entirely to the fact that the Commonwealth Bank was controlled by directors whose first object was not the development of this country but the making of big profits for the various industries in which they were interested.
A famous English historian has said, “ No man is such an infidel as not to believe what makes for his own profit”. He probably had bank directors in mind when he made that remark. The present Prime Minister probably shares, to some degree, the opinion of Mr. Puller. Shortly after taking control of the Government, the Prime Minister told his Ministers that they must not be interested in private enterprise. I agree with that idea. It would be most undesirable for the Minister for Trade and Customs, for example, to be a huge importer. It would be most undesirable for the Minister for the Army and Minister for the Navy or the Minister for Air to be munitions makers or aircraft manufacturers. It would be equally undesirable for the Minister for Health to be the controller of a vast chain of chemist shops. But those things are no more undesirable than that the members of the bank board should be interested in private enterprise. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James
Harrison) said that, under this bill, fivepeople from anywhere could be placed on the bank board. I say that more than five such people could be placed on the board. Proposed section 23 (2.) reads -
Of the seven members appointed under paragraph (d) of the last preceding sub-section at least five shall be persons who are not officers of the bank or of the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
That means that the whole seven need not be officers of the bank or servants of the Commonwealth. I should prefer to choose somebody who had very small financial interests for a position on the board, no matter what his mental calibre might be, rather than a person who had vast private interests to serve, no matter what his mental calibre might be.
This provision is so worded as to enable the Government to stulify the operations of the Commonwealth Bank in the interests of the people and to make it merely the puppet of big business and the servant of other banking institutions which at one time cause booms and, on other occasions, depressions. They cause inflation and deflation and only a bank dominated and controlled by representatives of the people can function in support of the national welfare.
The Government’s purpose in proposing to appoint a board is to divorce control of the bank from the Government, and, consequently, from the people and to place it in the hands of those who have vast private interests to serve. Because of that, I believe that if honorable members, no matter on what side of the chamber they sit, have learned the lesson of the last depression and can see in the conditions that exist to-day the prelude to conditions similar to those that existed in the 1930’s, and if they do not want the spiral of inflation to drop as ‘ rapidly and disastrously as in 19>29 and 1930, they will ensure that the control of bank credit and the monetary policy of this country shall be vested in the people. I am not saying that the Government should take over all private banking institutions. Let them operate, as the Privy Council has said, in competition with the Commonwealth Bank, but let us not hamString the Commonwealth Bank in its efforts to compete with them and to serve the people of this country.
.- Whenever the Commonwealth Bank Bill comes before this House I am amazed to hear the story of the depression repeated and the then Commonwealth Bank Board accused by the Opposition of being responsible for that catastrophe. If honorable members attribute responsibility for the depression to the Commonwealth Bank Board, in all fairness they should attribute the present inflationary trend in the monetary system of Australia to Dr. Coombs. Nobody would be silly enough to do that. It must be remembered that the 1945 banking legislation set up an administration composed of a single governor of the Commonwealth Bank to control not only the policy of the bank, but also the whole financial policy of Australia. Two pieces of banking legislation were passed in 1945, the Banking Act and the Commonwealth Bank Act. The Commonwealth Bank Act provided for control by a governor without a board. The Banking Act gave to the Commonwealth Bank the sole direction of banking policy throughout Australia. Consequently, under those two acts one man controls the whole of our banking system. It is questionable whether, if one person had been controlling our banking system in 1929-30, this country would not have suffered far more than it did. One honorable member opposite has said, “Let us forget the depression “. I should like to forget it, and I think it would be a good thing for this House if honorable members opposite did forget it, because a depression such as that was a new experience in the history of the world, and undoubtedly errors were made in dealing with it.
Honorable members opposite have complained that the Commonwealth Bank Board refused to allow the government of the day to issue £18,000,000 worth of fiduciary notes. The board, and the people, had already learned a lesson from what had happened in Germany when fiduciary bank notes were issued. The German Government printed bank notes to try to substitute financial theories for hard work. When the printing presses were started they went on and on until so many notes were printed that they became worthless and a new note altogether, the Reichsbank note, had to be introduced.
– Fiduciary notes were printed and issued in Great Britain at the same time.
– That note issue was controlled by a board.
– Did that make the issue any different?
– Yes, because the issue was not controlled .politically. Political control is governed by political expediency. To accuse the Commonwealth Bank Board of causing the depression and not give it credit for what it did t” help us out of it is unfair, because we all know that Australia was one of the last countries of the world to feel the effects of the depression and one of the first to get out of it. Honorable members opposite have said that the depression continued for ten years, hut the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) said in 1935-
– It was in 1937.
– I thank the honorable member. The honorable member for Bendigo was applying at that time for a prosperity loading on behalf of certain unions. He said that Australia’s recovery from the depression was the most spectacular recovery that the world had ever seen. I remind him, and other honorable members opposite, that that recovery was brought about largely by the efforts of the Commonwealth Bank Board. There has been much talk about taking control of the finances of the country out of the hands of the elected representatives of the people and putting it into the hands of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Such talk is completely misleading because this bill does not do that at all. It gives control to the Treasurer. The Treasurer will have the right to disagree with the board, and when he does so the board will be entitled to answer his case. Then the facts of the whole matter will be laid on the table of this House and will be open for debate. That provision cuts the ground from under the argument that this bill will take control from the elected representatives of the people. Honorable members opposite have asked, “ What has Dr. Coombs done that is wrong? “ The question is rather not what he has done that is wrong but what he might do that would be wrong; because we all are in his hands. If a board is set up under this bil] varied opinions of its members will be of great value. A pool of brains has more chance of solving our problems than has one man. Moreover, persons will be appointed to the board who are not cluttered up with specialized knowledge such as a knowledge merely of figures, without a knowledge of human beings, the outside world, commerce and trade.
Honorable members opposite have spoken about picking some one up off the street and appointing him to the board. They might as well talk about picking up and appointing one of the speakers from the Sydney Domain. That will not be done. The Treasurer will select people on account of their experience and integrity. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that the capitalist system was crashing to the ground. I wonder whether that is his original thought, because if so I think that Stalin must have filched it from him. He is voicing the usual Communist propaganda. That kind of propaganda is put out regularly from Moscow, but to hear it used in this House astonishes me.
Honorable members opposite have asked what is wrong with the Commonwealth Bank. I do not think that there is much wrong with it except that the dictator of the banking policy of this country is a doctrinaire socialist. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) introduced the matter of the bank’s advertisements.
– Dr. Coombs is subject to the Treasurer at present.
– Yes, and the Treasurer is a busy man and cannot watch the whole of the workings of the Commonwealth Bank. If the Treasurer had the advantage of a board at the head of the Commonwealth Bank he could overlook the policy of that board in order to ensure that the finances of the country were being safeguarded.
– But he is a busy man and would not be able to do that.
– The Treasurer would be warned of danger by somebody on the Commonwealth Bank Board. If I were a member of it I should certainly inform him of such a matter. With regard to the Commonwealth Bank advertising its wonderful performances, I agree that it is doing a big job and I have tried to compare its work with that of the trading banks. I have investigated the figures supplied by various banks and published in the Commonwealth Gazette. I remind the House that the trading banks are required to supply to the Government much more information than is supplied by the Commonwealth Bank. The shareholders’ funds of the Bank of New South Wales are approximately of the same amount as the capital of the trading branch of the Commonwealth Bank, excluding the note issue, the central banking and the savings bank departments. The Commonwealth Bank has a capital of £15,749,577. The Bank of New South Wales has shareholders’ funds amounting to £15,426,273. During the financial year that ended about September, the Bank of New South Wales paid £910,000 in tax, and then showed a net profit of £760,740. Let us compare that with what was done by the trading section of the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank, paying no tax, showed a net result of £822,843. I have contended for a long time that government enterprise competing with private enterprise should pay the same taxes, and I again urge the adoption of that principle on the Government. It is the only possible way of obtaining a yardstick with which to measure the efficiency of government enterprises. The Bank of New South Wales pays more in taxes to the Government than is paid by the Commonwealth Bank, and the same thing obtains wherever private enterprises are competing with government enterprises. The Commonwealth Bank has paid about £5,000,000 into the Treasury from the note issue and from branches, whilst the trading banks have paid well over £4,000,000 into the Treasury in taxes. Moreover the Treasury has also benefited to the extent of possibly from 7s. 6d. to 10s. in the £l on the dividends paid to the shareholders.
While the Commonwealth Bank is busy indicating how it is saving the taxpayer money, we must be fair and admit that the trading banks also are contributing to the Commonwealth Treasury and to Australia’s finance. It is most important to mention this matter because people should know that every business that is making a profit pays taxes to the Treasury. Consequently every person in Australia is sharing that profit. To-day, because of current high taxation, they are receiving a big share. It is said that the Commonwealth Bank Board will meet once a month. Perhaps it will meet once a week. This bill is in conformity with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. Plumtre, who is Assistant Professor of Political Economy in the University of Toronto, writing on Central Banking in the British Dominions, said -
The Board of directors of any central bank is more likely to act as a shock absorber than as a steering gear.
If the Commonwealth Bank Board is chosen properly, and represents wide interests in the community, it will keep the bank management on the right lines ; but it cannot do the whole of the steering. Furthermore, it will give the people confidence when they know that the finances of their country are in the hands not of a dictator but of their Treasurer with the guidance of a board. The point has been made that the Governor has the advantage of the Advisory Council but there is nothing which compels him to take its advice. If the Treasurer disagrees with him, under the present circumstances he can order him to do certain things without anybody knowing anything about. Consequently, the public are not able to attach blame for wrong decisions. If, as happened during the administration of the previous Government, the Treasurer and the Governor of the bank must decide whether the Australian £1 should be revalued or not, no one will know by whom the decision is made. Nobody knows whether it was Dr. Coombes idea to revalue the £1 or the idea of the then Treasurer, who is now Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). Under this bill, if the Treasurer disagrees with the board he will have to justify his disagreement in this chamber to the elected representatives of the people.
This measure and its predecessor have been debated for a long time, both during the previous sessional period and during this sessional period, and the matter to which the Opposition seems mostly to object is the proposed reconstitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Honorable members opposite have repeatedly emphasized that the previous board brought about all the misery of the depression. In the minds of some honorable members opposite the only qualification that a man requires in order to be a member of this House is that of having been “ on the dole “ during the depression. I heard one honorable member call across the chamber something to this effect: ““Were you on the dole in the depression? “ I do not regard that as a qualification for membership of this House, but I do think that the people who carried on with their jobs and kept the business of the country going during the depression are entitled to some respect and some regard.
– How did the honorable member treat the workers in his business during the depression?
– I kept them all working for the whole time, on full pay. I did not dismiss one employee.
– How many people did the honorable member sell up?
– I did not sell up one person; therefore the answer to the honorable member’s question is “None “.
.- As this debate proceeds, it becomes increasingly apparent that the antiLabour parties still hate to be told of the success of the Commonwealth Bank. The predecessors of honorable members opposite violently opposed the establishment of the bank. They referred to it as a socialistic enterprise, and hoped that it would fail. Despite the fact that honorable members opposite still describe certain activities of the bank as socialistic in character not one of them has been able to show that the bank as a government undertaking has been anything but a success.
– When it was controlled by a board.
– It is also interesting to note that the reason for the bank’s success is that it was enabled to commence operations without having to borrow capital. It was established by a Labour Government and commenced with £10,000 till money and its operations were backed by the credit of the nation. Because it did not have to pay dividends to private shareholders it was able to give to the people a service which they had not previously received from the private banking institutions. The bank has earned enormous profits, much to the benefit of the nation, because those profits have contributed towards a reduction of the national indebtedness. However, honorable members opposite have not lost hope of being able to cripple and eventually destroy the bank.
This measure contains a number of provisions many of which originated as war-time controls that Labour initiated under the National Security Act. With those provisions Labour has no quarrel. The Opposition, however, crosses swords with the Government with respect to the system of control of the bank’s and the nation’s financial policy which we believe should be determined by the Government, as the elected representatives of the people rather than by representatives of private financial institutions who are not responsible to the electors. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) has interjected that the Commonwealth Bank achieved its successes when it was under the control of a board. I point out to him that the bank from its inception until 1924 was controlled by a governor only and that during that period it achieved some of its greatest successes, particularly in the financing of war-time pools for the marketing of primary products. From 1945 up to the present the bank has again been controlled by a governor only. Not one honorable member opposite who supports the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board has given a single instance of the bank having failed to function efficiently when it was controlled by a governor only. None of those honorable gentlemen has said that the proposed board will interfere with the administration of the bank. They admit that the board will not have anything to do with the direct administration of the institution but contend that it will deal solely with policy whereas members of the Opposition contend that the determination of financial policy should be the sole responsibility of the government of the day. I do not fall for the talk that if the proposed bank board and the Treasurer disagree, the view of the Treasurer of the day shall prevail. We may rest assured that the board will be so constituted that there will be no possibility of any dispute arising between the board and a Treasurer in an anti-Labour government on the policy to which effect is to be given. The only period when disagreement could possibly arise between the board and the Treasurer of the day would be when a Labour government was in office.
It is interesting- to recall that during the last general election campaign and the most recent referendum campaign supporters of the present Government parties continually emphasized the necessity for preserving a competitive banking system. What is the Government’s purpose in seeking to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board? It is solely to ensure that there shall be no effective competition between the Commonwealth Bank, which is the people’s bank, and the private banking institutions. No such competition existed from 1924, when the original board was established, to 1945 when the Chifley Government abolished the board. It is now history that when the Curtin Labour Government -assumed office there was in existence a direction that the Commonwealth Bank Board had issued to the managers of all the bank’s branches throughout Australia that in no circumstances were they to accept any new business if in doing so they might take business away from the private banks. Evidence to that effect was given before the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in 1935, which was also told that in innumerable instances the Commonwealth Bank had refused to accept business from persons who wished to transfer their accounts to it. It is obvious that the Government’s purpose in endeavouring to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board is to ensure that there shall be a. uniform, banking policy and that that policy shall be determined by the private banking institutions, which are the real backers and supporters of the present Government.
The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) advanced a peculiar argument. Whilst he would not say frankly that he believed that the affairs of the Commonweal bh Bank should be wound up, that was the effect of his argument. He said that in that case the private banks would now be making the profits that the Commonwealth Bank is making and that the Treasury would benefit as the result of .taxes imposed on those profits. The honorable member endeavoured to lead the public to believe that they would not be disadvantaged if the Commonwealth Bank were to cease to exist altogether. If he believes that that view will be accepted by the people, I suggest that he advance it at the next general election. If he does so, I am sure that we shall not be troubled with him in this chamber again.
Let us examine the Government’s proposal to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board. At first glance anybody would imagine that the Government intends to place ten expert bankers in charge of the institution. It is admitted by members of the Government that the board will not be required to direct the administration of the bank. If that were intended, its members would, no doubt. be required to possess a knowledge of banking, but, already, many experienced officers employed by the bank are capable of carrying that responsibility. In the past anti-Labour governments, when making appointments to the Commonwealth Bank Board, did not select men who were banking experts. Indeed, the reverse was the case, because those governments appointed men who would merely obey directions and would not question their decisions. I remember honorable members opposite boasting that Sir Robert Gibson had no banking experience when he was appointed chairman of the original Commonwealth Bank Board, In some instances anti-Labour governments appointed to the board, men who had earned no distinction other than as polo players. The consequences of such action did not matter because members of the board were not charged with the responsibility of directing the administration of the institution but were selected merely to carry out the wishes of the private banks. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) took a great deal of Credit to himself for the establishment of the bank board when he was Treasurer in the Bruce-Page Government, but the right honorable gentleman might refresh the memories of honorable members and of the people regarding the events that happened immediately after that board was established. I remind the House that during the first year following its establishment the primary producers of this country were obliged to pay in export charges alone millions in excess of what they had paid in such charges during the preceding year.
The Commonwealth Bank Board gave to the private banks the right to draw Australian notes without lodging any security, and by that means enabled them to earn enormous profits. In addition, the board arranged the payment of war gratuities in respect of World War I. through the private banks which charged interest at the rate of 5 i per cent, on the money they made available for that purpose. At the same time, the private banks were given the right to draw notes from the Australian Note Issue Board in respect of which they paid interest at the rate of only 4 per cent. However, they did not draw any notes because they had no need to do so. So long as they had the right to draw there was no need for them actually to draw notes. Sir John Garvan, as chairman of the Note Issue Board, made a demand upon the private banks that they exercise their right to draw, which would have had the effect of reducing the enormous rake-off which they were obtaining .under the arrangement with the Commonwealth Note Issue Board. In making that demand, Sir John Garvan was supported by the Minister for Health who at that time was Treasurer. However, the banks were not worried by the demand because they knew they had the whip-hand over the anti-Labour government of the day, and at a secret conference that was held between representatives of the private banks and that govern ment in 1934, as the newspapers werethen frank enough to admit, the private banks got their way on every point in dispute. Therefore, it is ridiculous tosuggest that the board proposed to be re-established under this measure will not be dominated by private bankinginterests.
The honorable member for Mitchell complained that the Commonwealth Bank had in recent years been expanding its advances programme. It is true that under Labour, which abolished the board, the bank was encouraged to expand its advances policy by providing requisite finance to home purchasers and builders and to encourage industrial development. Many Australian inventors, whose inventions were held to be of considerable commercial value, were unable to obtain finance through the private banks because, no doubt, exploitation of their inventions would interfere with vested interests. Those inventors were readily financed through the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank when the last Labour Government was in office. The honorable member for Mitchell hopes that the board will reverse that policy.
Honorable members opposite have said a great deal about Dr. Coombs, the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. They have referred to- him as a socialist and have said that he is giving effect to a socialistic policy. Why can they not be more specific and tell the people about any of his actions to which they object or which they regard as being socialistic in character? Dr. Coombs has had much to do in encouraging the expansion of the bank’s business by establishing branches of it in country districts throughout Australia, and he may also have had something to do with liberalizing the bank’s advances policy for the purpose of encouraging industrial development. Honorable members opposite regard such policies as socialistic. If they believe that Dr. Coombs should be placed under the control of a board - they have implied that he should not be allowed to continue what they term one-man control of the bank - why do they not say specifically in what respect they disagree with his policy? The purpose of the proposed board is to change the present policy of the bank. If honorable members opposite believe that Dr. Coombs will not give effect to the policy of the Government in the future why do they not say so? Why do they not sack him? However, they say that the Government will not do that, but, on the contrary, will appoint him chairman of the proposed board. But it is clear that as a member of the proposed board Dr. Coombs will be outvoted if his views should conflict with those of the private banks. The Government should be frank on this matter and indicate the kind of men that it intends to appoint as members of the board.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) spoke of certain rumours that were current a few months ago when the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1950 (No. 1) was before the chamber to the effect that some men .of pronounced anti-Labour views had been mentioned as probable members of the bank board. One of them, I think, was Professor Hytten. Everybody knows that Dr. Coombs and Professor Hytten would not see eye to eye on matters of policy. Dr. Coombs, who has confidence in the future of this country and believes in a policy of development and of full employment, would be in violent conflict with Professor Hytten, who believes in establishing a pool of unemployed in order to restore discipline among the workers. No doubt such a policy would suit the present Government, because various honorable gentlemen opposite have spoken of the need for stepping up production, and whilst they have advocated a system of profit-sharing and incentive payments to achieve this end it may be taken from me that the weapon that they propose to use is the economic weapon that they have found so useful in the past. I refer, of course, to the establishment of a pool of unemployed.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his broadcast a few night ago, stated that he expected the States to reduce their expenditure on public works by 20 per cent, and that he would ensure that the Commonwealth would effect a similar economy. He proposes to re-introduce the control of capital issues. No doubt if the people are prepared to accept controls of that kind, the next step will be to control wages, and after that, to control manpower. This Government, which was elected on a promise to abolish controls, is now leading the way back to a controlled economy. I agree that some controls are necessary in the interests of the orderly development of the country and in order to deal with the immediate problems with which the nation is confronted, but there is a vast difference between the imposition of controls in the interests of the community, and the imposition of controls for the benefit of vested interests of this country. Yet that is the aim of the Government, because it hopes, by the restriction of activity, to establish its pool of unemployed, and then to use that economic weapon to force workers to “ speed up “ on the job. One of the things deemed necessary by the Government in this campaign is to place the control of the Commonwealth Bank in the hands of private financial interests. References to socialism or to communism are deliberately introduced into nearly every debate in this Parliament, and outside it, because the Government hopes to persuade the people to accept its policy by implying that anything that is put forward by the Labour party is Communist in character. An old advertisement that was issued by the anti-Labour parties reads as follows : -
Communists will control your money if the Curtin Government abolishes the Commonwealth Bank Board and places the hank under the control of the Treasurer.
That should be an illustration to Opposition members of exactly what the Government means when it speaks of the menace of communism. The Government really means the menace of Labour policy - the menace to the interests whom it represents if the Labour party is able to remain in office sufficiently long to enable it to develop the policy in which it believes. It is obvious that there is not competition between the private trading banks to-day. If competition is to exist it must be between the private banking combine and the Government bank, which is the Commonwealth Bank. No other competition is possible in the field of banking to-day. But once the private financial interests are able to get control of the
Commonwealth. Bank as a result of the re-establishment of the bank board, competition will cease. A virtual banking monopoly controlled by private interests will exist, and I therefore contend that it is in the interests of the public that the board be not reconstituted.
Government supporters frequently state that they believe in a policy of assisting workers to own their homes. Of course, they only make those statements in an effort favorably to impress their constituents, because they do not really believe in that policy. Anti-Labour governments and the interests they represent are opposed to workers owning their homes. They believe that home ownership would give to workers a measure of independence, and that is exactly what the anti-Labour parties do not want the workers to enjoy. However, the Labour party wishes to use .the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of assisting people to construct and purchase their own homes, and to provide them with cheap money so that they will not be weighed down with an interest burden that will prevent them from becoming the actual owners of homes within a reasonable period of years.
– Why did not the Labour Government adopt that policy when it had an opportunity to do so?
– Purchasers and builders of homes were able to borrow money at a lower rate of interest when the Labour Government was in office than at any previous time in our history. The Labour Government, had it remained in office, would have continued to reduce interest rates. In my opinion, the interest that is charged on money for the’ purpose of home construction should not be any greater than is necessary to meet the service of the bank and the cost of issuance. But does any honorable member imagine that such low rates would suit the people who provide the enormous campaign funds for the Government parties in order that they may continue to exploit the people? During World War I. and before World War II., workers who borrowed money to build or purchase their homes were lucky if they were able to obtain it at 8 or 9 per cent. Because of those high rates of interest, it was impossible for those borrowers to become the owners of homes within a reasonable period of years. The Government does not tell the Australian people it believes in the policy of restricting advances to workers for the construction and purchase of homes, because it knows that such an announcement would be politically unwise. The Government is too dishonest to .take the straight-forward course of telling the Australian public that it proposes to reestablish the bank board so that ihe wishes of the private financial interests shall be given effect. If, at any time the bank began to restrict advances and as a result caused unemployment, the Government would turn to the people and say, “ That is not our policy; it is the decision of the Commonwealth Bank Board, .which functions independently of the Parliament and of ourselves. I hope that the Australian public realize that one of the instruments by which they can relieve the burden of interest payments in, this country is the’ use of the facilities of national credit through the Commonwealth Bank.
Let us consider the financing of public works, whether they be undertaken by local authorities, State governments, or the Commonwealth itself. Does any honorable member object to the principle of the Commonwealth, through its own bank, financing its own works? Are Government supporters unaware of the fact that a part of the cost of the eastwest railway line was financed by such a method, with the result that the people were not burdened with annual interest payments, such as they are obliged to meet on moneys that were borrowed to finance other works in this country? Because Labour men and progressive thinkers in Australia are beginning to argue along those lines, Government supporters are becoming greatly disturbed. In any case, we have nothing to fear at the moment in respect of the Government’s proposal to re-establish the Commonwealth Lank Board, because, fortunately, the representatives of Australian democracy are in charge in the Senate, and Government members who wish to establish a financial monopoly in this country will be unable to carry out their purpose. I am perfectly satisfied that when we have the opportunity to present our case to the Australian people, they will not repeat the mistake that they made at the last general election on the 10th December, 1949. The public may have been fooled on that occasion by the enormous volume of propaganda that was disseminated by anti-Labour parties with the use of unlimited funds that were provided by the private financial institutions, but they have since had the sorry experience of the failure of the anti-Labour Government, d tiring the ten months of its existence.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have talked of giving effect to their pre-election promises. The re-establishment, of the Commonwealth Bank Board no doubt was given some mention during the election campaign although the Australian people generally could not benefit from it in any way. It was a promise aimed to please She Government’s wealthy supporters outside the Parliament, and doubtless they will do their best to carry it into effect. It will be remembered that during the last general election campaign, honorable gentlemen opposite spoke of placing the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a small board. The present proposal is for a board of ten members. In this debate, they have endeavoured to prove that the Labour party is inconsistent in objecting to the re-establishment of the bank board by saying that it established boards at various times. I shall examine that charge in order to discover whether or not there is any truth in it. The Labour party has never objected to what may be called administrative boards composed of representatives who are engaged exclusively in the undertaking itself. The Labour party would have no objection to or advisory board for the Commonwealth Bank it if consisted of the various branch managers of the institution itself - the men who control its banking activities and whose exclusive function it is to care for the welfare of the hank itself. But we object strongly to the kind of board that is proposed by the Government, because some of its members would be persons who were interested in private finance. I realize that, in reply to that statement, honorable gentlemen opposite will read the provision in the bill which states that a person who is actively connected with a. private banking institution shall not be eligible for appointment to the board, but the Parlia- ment and the people will not be tricked by that device. We know that, as a result of the interlocking of directorates in this country, it would be easy to appoint to the bank board men who might not be directly connected with a private bank, but whose interests would be so closely associated with them that that would not make any difference. The Labour party established the Commonwealth Bank as a people’s bank in the face of fierce opposition without the assistance of private finance, and we wish to retain it as such. I recall, and the Australian people should be reminded of it, that the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who was Commonwealth Treasurer in 1938, submitted to this House a bill, the purpose of which was to authorize the introduction of private finance into the Commonwealth Bank. Had that legislation become law, in-scribed stock and interest-bearing debentures would have been issued. That private capital was neither sought nor needed by those who controlled the Commonwealth Bank and its activities were not being restricted by lack of capital. The legislation was introduced by the then Treasurer who aimed to hand the virtual control of a successful government undertaking to private financial interests. What would have happened ? The considerable profits that were earned by the bank, instead of being used to reduce the national indebtedness and increase the reserves -of the bank, would have been used to pay interest to the holders of the inscribed stock and to the private holders of the debentures. Se; impudent was the proposal, and so loud was the outcry from the public, that the government of the day was compelled to withdraw the bill. That shows what was in the mind of that anti-Labour Government, and if this Government considered that it could “ get away “ with, a plan for the introduction of private capital into the Common wealth Bank for the purpose of .gaining control of that institution for the private financial interests, it would readily do so.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The arguments of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) were very difficult to follow because bis contribution to the debate was limited almost entirely to an attack upon the( honesty and integrity of anybody who did not agree with him. He expressed no constructive ideas. His speech could have been reduced simply to the declaration that people who agreed with him were honest and those who did not agree with him were thieves, liars and blackguards. Therefore it would be a waste of time for anybody on this side of the House to reply to his .statements. However, I shall make a few suggestions that might well be considered by the honorable member and his colleagues.’ He said that the people of Australia had been deluded last December into voting the Liberal party into power and that, if given another opportunity, they would not do so again. The people last December gave the biggest majority that they could give to the parties represented on this side of the House because of the former Labour Government’s policy in relation to banking. Primarily and essentially, the election was won on the banking issue. I remind the honorable gentleman that the Labour Government that was in power at the time of the economic depression, of which we hear so much, was defeated in 1931 and that the Labour party was defeated again at successive elections in 1934, 1937 and 1940. The Labour party took a very long time to convince the people that it could be entrusted with control of the Commonwealth Bank and the direction of Australia’s economy.
Members of the Opposition have used extraordinary arguments in this debate. According to them, it would seem that we are dealing at the moment only with the proposed re-establishment of the Com.monwealth Bank Board. They have skated very lightly and very freely over the former Government’s legislation of 1947 for the nationalization of banking, but they have led us to understand that they are quite agreeable to the repeal of that extremely stupid act, which stirred the people as very few enactments had stirred them previously. In discussing the proposal to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board earlier this year, I dealt with some of the failures of the Commonwealth Bank that had occurred entirely, in my opinion, as the result of not having in control of it a board including men experienced in a greatmany activities of banking other than the simple process of money lending or the essential central banking function of the Commonwealth Bank. I shall not repeat what I said on that occasion. The argument employed by the Opposition against the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board strikes maas being magnificently illogical. It israther like the captain of an Australian, test cricket team declaring that, becausethe wicket-keeper had dropped threecatches in the last match, his side would! play without a wicket-keeper in future. The Opposition contends that, as the Commonwealth Bank Board committed mistakes in 1929, 1930 and 1931, we should not have a board again. I do not agree that the former board committed mistakes, and even if it had I should not regard the argument as being sound or useful. Had a governor been in charge of the Commonwealth Bank during the depression, he might have pursued the policy that was pursued by the board.
As one who spent a great deal of time travelling about the world during that period, I am able to assure the House that the board’s policy was fairly well justified by the definite fact that Australia recovered from the depression quicker than did any other country. Had the bank been under the direction of a single governor at that period, the Labour party would tell us now that we could never afford to have that form of management of the bank again because of what happened during the dreadful depression and that we must have control by a board. The depression in Australia was horrible and we should try toforget it and get it out of our system. I was employed by the United KingdomMinistry of Labour during the depressionof 1919, 1920 and 1921, and I know something about the employment situation in England then. I saw a great deal of the depressed areas that were a dreadful blot upon western civilization and everything; connected with it following those depressions. It is a curious fact that a socialist government in the United Kingdom, which has the power to give effect to its own will, has nationalized the central bank but has not appointed a governor in sole control of it. The board of the Bank of England consists of seventeen members. Boards control every central bank, except the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, outside the Iron Curtain. Those boards have the advantage of the combined commercial and industrial experience of the countries concerned in order that they may carry out their important functions thoroughly and well. Examples are the central banks in India, New Zealand, the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain. No government in any of those countries has suggested that its central bank should be controlled by one man, although there have been one or two interesting departures from the principle of board control in the past. Under the old democratic constitution in Germany, during the regime of the Bruening Government, Dr. Schacht was the Controller of the Reichsbank but the institution was governed by a board. When Hitler took control of the country, the board was dismissed and the single administrator remained in charge of the central bank. To-day that system applies in some countries with which we trade, such as Czechoslovakia, with the result that trading has become extremely difficult.
I cannot believe that the Labour party sincerely believes in the argument that it has advanced. I cannot believe that it thinks that the final control of the Commonwealth Bank should be in the hands of somebody selected possibly, and in future probably, on account of his political convictions. The appointment of a Governor with complete control of the bank might mean that, with a change of government, the Governor would be dismissed and a man subservient to the political ideals of the party in power would be appointed. The control of the Commonwealth Bank could thus become a plaything passed from one side to the other with the varying fortunes of politics. I cannot believe that the Labour party sincerely wishes to introduce any such system or that it is prepared to disregard entirely the wish that was clearly expressed by the people at the election of last December, which was contested primarily on this banking issue. Surely it is not so completely divorced from democratic ideals as to be prepared to set aside that decision “and” to assert that the majority that it obtained in the Senate in 1946 should overrule the will of the people. Having had a great deal to do with export trade, I firmly believethat it is absolutely vital that the Commonwealth Bank should be guided by the best financial, commercial and industrial brains that are available in the country. In fact, I consider that this bill is not sufficiently far-reaching and that sooner or later we shall have to separate the central bank from the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank. However, .that subject cannot be debated at present. Under the terms of this bill, this Parliament will have adequate control over banking policy and the administration and development of the Commonwealth Bank. Nobody is more determined than I am to maintain and develop the Commonwealth Bank as the people s bank. The right way to go about developing the bank is to appoint a strong, active and intelligent board to control it and to prevent control of the bank from becoming a mere political shuttlecock to be tossed backwards and forwards between the parties represented in this House.
Mr. CLAREY (Bendigo) [10.101.- The bill deals with three principles, in respect of two of which there is no difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition. It aims at repealing the Banking Act 1947, and the Opposition has intimated that, in view of a decision given by the Privy Council, it does not object to that proposition. It also contains a proposal to increase the capital of the Commonwealth Bank, and the Opposition does not object to that. At this stage, I express my regret at the fact that the Government did not make those two proposals the subjects of separate bills so that the Parliament could give legislative effect to them without being hampered by controversy over the third proposal. The issue over which controversy has arisen, with justification from the Opposition point of view, is the Government’s proposal to abolish the present method of control of the Commonwealth Bank and substitute a board of directors. The Government intends to take the management of the Commonwealth Bank from the Governor, who is assisted by an advisory council and who is subject to control by the Treasurer, and to appoint a board consisting of certain persons whose positions are specified and certain other persons whose identity is not known to us.
The Commonwealth Bank has operated under three forms of management since it was established in 1911. The first form was control by a governor. It is significant to remark at this stage that the question of whether the Governor of tha Bank should be subject to political domination or instruction gravely concerned the Parliament in 1911. A section of the Parliament at that time strongly held the view that the person who was a ppointed as Governor of the Bank should be entitled to administer and direct the policy of the bank without any interference from the government of the day or the Parliament. Therefore, from 1911 to 1924 the policy and the administration of the bank were controlled by the Governor. Prom 1925 to 1945 the bank was controlled by a board of directors. The board had complete control over it3 policy, and the Governor had control over its administration. In 1945, the Commonwealth Bank Act was amended so that, since that time, control of policy and administration has been vested in the Governor, subject in refined of policy to the influence of an advisory council and also to the jiews of the Treasurer of the day. The measure now before the House proposes that we shall revert to the old system of a board of directors and that the policy of the bank shall be controlled by a board. Under that system the Governor of the bank would be subject to control by a board.
It is interesting to consider some of the arguments advanced by those who favour the reintroduction of the system of board control. One honorable member opposite who spoke last week in support of the proposal said that the hank should be subject to modern conditions of management, and that it should not be subjected to a horse-and-buggy form of control. It is interesting to recall that the whole idea of board control emanated from the joint stock companies, which were them selves the product of the days of the horse and buggy. Persons were appointed to the boards of joint stock companies to represent the interests of shareholders, and were chosen from amongst the shareholders. The whole theory was that those who had subscribed money in order to carry on a particular enterprise should elect, from amongst their number, the members of a board, who would be, in turn, answerable to the shareholders whose assets they controlled. However, it is important to notice that the Commonwealth Bank is not similar to a joint stock company and that it is not suited to a similar form of control. In the first place, the Commonwealth Bank is not owned by shareholders- in the ordinary sense of that term. Furthermore, the capital of the bank does not consist of money subscribed by shareholders to carry on the undertaking. The Commonwealth Bank is owned by the Commonwealth of Australia, which acts on behalf of the people of Australia, and the Australian Commonwealth first guaranteed the capital of that bank. The profits that have been made by that institution from its establishment in 1911 until the present time, which are the ordinary profits that would be made by a private bank during the same period, have furnished the capital with which the bank functions at present. If the bank, which is owned by the Commonweatlh of Australia, is to be controlled by some one, the question arises, who. are the best people to exercise that control ? How can the Government ensure that the asset which it owns and controls will be administered in accordance with its policy and in the best interests of Australia?
In dealing with the Commonwealth Bank it must be borne in mind that we are dealing with an authority which assists largely in the formulation and implementation of government policy and is vitally concerned in the development of this country. Above all, the bank is the mainstay of the financial structure upon which our economy is based. Therefore, when we are dealing with the control of such an undertaking, it is essential to ensure that that institution shall not be divorced from the basic principles for which it was established and which it is carrying out now. It is necessary that the control shall he of such a nature that the bank shall be readily available to carry out the policy of the government of the day and shall be constantly in touch with the Treasurer, who is the mouthpiece of that policy. I can think of no more satisfactory arrangement than that which provides for a governor to have control of policy and administration, advised by a body which includes the very best brains in the service of the Australian ‘Commonwealth and by men who are skilled in the transaction of financial and banking ‘matters, yet safeguards the right of the Treasurer to express freely the views of the Government upon matters of national policy which may be the subject of some difference of opinion. In fact, such a form of control is essential if the Commonwealth Bank is to perform the functions which it should perform on behalf of the people of Australia. Decisions should be made quickly and in such a manner that there will be no possibility of persons being able to speculate for their own profit on those decisions.
I suppose that the best illustration T can give of speculation by investors on government decisions on financial matters is supplied by what is taking place at the present moment. The world believes, rightly or wrongly, that there is a strong possibility that the Australian £1 will be revalued or appreciated in relation to the American dollar. That belief is evidenced by the fact, of which we all are aware, that during the last three weeks or so £200,000,000 or £300,000,000 of “hot money “ has been invested in various countries in the purchase of Australian currency. At present that currency can be purchased very cheaply, and it is obvious that if it is appreciated, against either the American dollar or the £1 sterling, the speculators will make huge fortunes. When the decision to depreciate the Australian £1 was made last year, the Government and the Commonwealth Bani; scored a great triumph over the would-be speculators because the decision to depreciate was made so promptly and quietly that the speculators and gamblers had no opportunity to take advantage of the decision. That is a most important consideration, and must be kept in mind constantly in considering the best form of control for the ‘Commonwealth Bank. If the Commonwealth Bank were entrusted to the control of a board, as is proposed in this measure, it would be almost impossible for that board and the Government to maintain complete secrecy about their deliberations and to make quick decisions. I submit that, in the interests of the Australian economy, it is highly undesirable that matters that are so closely interwoven with government policy and are of such vital importance to the welfare of every member of the community, should be subjected to discussion and decision by a board of directors, irrespective of the integrity, capability or goodwill of the individuals concerned.
In the course of the debate which has taken place on this measure a statement which I made before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in 1937 has been cited by various supporters of the Government as evidence of my belief that in 1937 either the political government of this country was excellent or, as the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) has suggested, that the management of the Commonwealth Bank Board at that time was responsible for the major improvement that had taken place in the economy of Australia. The fact is that in 1937 I appeared before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in company with other persons, on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions in order to seek, not a prosperity loading, as was stated, but an actual increase of the basic wage. It was a part of my duty to review the economic developments that had occurred in Australia for some years prior to that time, including the period of the depression. In the course of a very exhaustive examination of the economic trends of this country between 1929 and 3 937, I made certain submissions to the court which indicated my opinion that Australia, had made a remarkable recovery from the effects of the depression. The submissions that I made on that occasion have been quoted since by my political opponents with a view to indicating that I believed at that time either that the government of the country was in very good hands or that the administration of the Commonwealth Bank Board was everything that could be desired. I emphatically repudiate the construction that has since been placed on the submissions that I made to the court. I have always believed that four factors were responsible for the improvement that took place in our economy between 1931 and 1937. They were, first, the strong tariff policy introduced by the Scullin Government; secondly, the tremendous amount of money that came to Australia for capital investment in consequence of that policy; thirdly, the reversal of the policy of raising loans in Great Britain, and the decision to raise them in Australia, which had a tremendous influence in stimulating the investment of capital in this country; and, fourthly, the remarkable rise that took place in 1937 in the overseas prices of our products. The price of wool recovered, and the price of wheat rose to 6s. a bushel. In addition, most of our exports were riding on a wave of high prices. In consequence of the case that was placed before the court on that occasion, the court decided to award a. “ prosperity loading “ of 6s. a week. I hope that I have made my position clear.
The actions of the Commonwealth Bank Board had nothing whatever to do with the improvement that took place in our economy. Without examining the causes of the depression, which is, I agree, a. very controversial sub ject, I say emphatically that every action taken by the Commonwealth Bank Board between 1929 and 1936 militated against our recovery and accentuated the effects of the depression. Had the board carried out the policy that it should have implemented in a. period of economic recession, Australia would not have gone so deeply into the mire, and would have got out of ils troubles much quicker than it did. Every one who has studied the causes and effects of depressions knows that it is necessary to administer a stimulus to the national economy at a time when prices on international markets are falling and unemployment is increasing. Every informed person knows that the first thing that should be done to stimulate economic recovery at such a time is to reduce interest rates in the community. Instead of reducing interest rates from the high rate of 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, that was then operating in connexion with government loans, the Commonwealth Bank persisted in charging high rates of interest until eventually the rates were forced down after the adoption of the Premiers plan. At a time when the community was suffering from lack of credit, when every industry in the country was crying out for the means to enable industrial expansion to be undertaken and to create a better market for goods, the Commonwealth Bank failed to discharge its responsibilities. I agree with an honorable member who said earlier to-night that during the depression there was no lack of the goods that were necessary for the support and sustenance of mankind, but that the lack was one of the purchasing power for those goods. In the early 1930’s credit expansion was necessary in Australia, but instead of enabling credit expansion to be effected the Commonwealth Bank, which, as a central bank, should have used the instrument of credit for the purpose of enabling industrial expansion to be undertaken, led the private trading banks into making- the effects of the depression worse by tightening up on advances, keeping interest rates high, refusing to give loan accommodation and, in fact, by encouraging the trading banks to call in existing overdrafts. Those two factors in themselves made the position in Australia a. good deal worse than would have been the case otherwise.
We should bear in mind what the atmosphere in this country was during the depression. Australia was mainly a primary producing country, dependent for its livelihood upon the financial return from the export of its primary produce. In 1928 prices at the wool sales were falling. Wool, which had averaged 2s. 3d. or 2s. 4d. per lb. in 1925, fell in price at the 1928 sales. I can quite understand r,he Commonwealth Bank directors saying then, “ This may be a temporary fall. There is no need for action now.” But the price of wool fell further in 1929 and continued to fall in 1930. In those circumstances it is reasonable to think that the men who constituted the then bank board and who were supposed to be shrewd and to understand markets and finances and the operations of the economy as it then existed, would have sensed that, with wool prices having fallen steadily in three seasons, and the prices of all our exportable products also falling, an economic cataclysm was approaching that would call for the exercise of all the ability and ingenuity of the banking system in order to save this country from disaster. But the men on the Commonwealth Bank Board still followed their policy of high interest rates and credit contraction, and did nothing to overcome the difficulties. Had they realized the gravity of the position in 1929 and, because of our falling London funds, taken the very necessary step of depreciating the Australian £1 in relation to the £1 sterling, they would have saved the wool-growers and the wheat-growers of this country not tens of millions of pounds but probably hundreds of millions of pounds. That board, which was in control of the central banking of this country and which should have given a lead to the banking system of Australia, failed miserably in connexion with the exchange rate, and the task of taking the necessary steps in respect of the depreciation of the Australian £1 was left to a private banking institution. If the Bank of New South Wales had not taken those necessary steps and shown the required initiative in consequence of which the exchange rate for the Australian £1 in relation to sterling fell from par of 100 to 130, the position would have grown worse before the Commonwealth Bank Board would have done so.
T turn now to the subject of credit expansion to overcome the difficulties of a government whose revenues were falling al. a time when funds in London were down so low that treasury-bills had to be secured from the Westminster Bank and when great difficulties were being experienced in the carrying on of the government of both the Commonwealth and the States because of acute depression. At that time the Commonwealth Bank and its board of directors, consisting of skilled, experienced and knowledgeable businessmen, were unable to find any way to assist either the governments or the people of Australia out of their difficulties. When a suggestion was made by the then federal Treasurer, which was echoed by persons who had some reputation as economists and financiers in this country, that in order to restore credit and enable Hie impoverished primary producers to have some income and also to overcome thb difficulties that were besetting the nation, a fiduciary note issue of £18,000,000 might be made available, the Commonwealth Bank Board “ poohpoohed “ the idea and opposed it. Yet at the same time as the suggestion for a fiduciary note issue was being turned down in Australia by the Commonwealth Bank Board the Bank of England and the English Government adopted a fiduciary note issue for Britain in order to overcome the difficulties besetting that country. The Commonwealth Bank Board refused to follow the lead that had been given by the Bank of England in relation to the situation in England. In 1930 and 1931 the Commonwealth Bank very reluctantly made available some treasury-notes to assist the Australian government of the day. It had insisted on the Premiers plan being put into operation by all the State governments and the Australian Government before agreeing that that money would be made available to pay public servants and pensioners and to meet the just debts of the Government itself. Even after it had forced the Premiers plan upon the governments of Australia, thereby becoming the actual government of this country, it still followed the policy of not being prepared to make .credit available to the people. It followed a policy of restriction of loans and it was still reluctant to make treasury-bills available to the government of the day. Then a few years later, when two of the banks broke away from the provisions of the Premiers plan and commenced to increase interest rates at a time when an increase was bad from the economic standpoint, the Commonwealth Bank Board had not sufficient courage and determination to force them immediately back into line.
We have had one experience of the depths of despair and of tragedy into which this country and other countries can descend in an economic: depression. Having had that experience of the complete lack of knowledge of the steps that should be taken to protect governments and the community that can be shown by certain people, no matter how well intentioned, honest and able they may be, we certainly would be foolish if we, as representatives of the people, were prepared to accept that form of bank control again. I suggest that we should he guided by experience, and because our experience of a Commonwealth Bank Board has been so distasteful, I trust that the proposal put forward by the Government in this measure will not be accepted by the Parliament.
.Members of the Opposition, in opposing this legislation, have confined their remarks to a discussion of the economic depression of the 1930’s. The bill proposes to do three things, the most important of which is to repeal the 1947 banking legislation, but no member of the Opposition has addressed himself to that subject. Labour supporters have not declared themselves in favour of the nationalization of banking. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech before the last general election, said that if the nonLabour parties were returned to power, the new Government would introduce legislation to repeal the 1947 act, and that is what the present bill provides for. The people of Australia are intensely interested in this matter, because they want Australia to remain a free country. The Government parties stand for the repeal of the 1947 legislation, and I invite honorable members opposite to declare where they stand on that proposal.
The bill also provides for the appointment of a Commonwealth bank board, and for making available additional capital to the bank. Labour supporters have had a great deal to say about what the Labour party did to establish the Commonwealth Bank, but the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) revealed to-night that the Fisher Government provided the bank with only a paltry amount of capital. No bank can give proper service to the people without adequate capital. Non-socialist governments have always led the way in making capital available to the Commonwealth Bank, and the present bill provides for increasing its capital still further. In a growing country like Australia, the Commonwealth Bank must have adequate capital reserves if it is to function properly.
As I have said, members of the Opposition have made frequent references during this debate to the economic depression. They should remember that opinion regarding many matters has changed a good deal during the last twenty or 25 years. When we are tempted to condemn those who controlled our banking institutions in years gone by, we should try to place ourselves in their position, and consider the problems of the time as they appeared then. Bather than condemn our predecessors, we should learn from their experiences. The honorable member for East Sydney declared in his usual reckless fashion that the banks contracted credit, and thus brought about the depression. The real cause of the depression was the decline of prices for our exports. Conversely, the present high prices for our exports are responsible for the unprecedented prosperity that prevails to-day. As a matter of fact, the banks did not contract credit to any notable degree during the depression. In 1920, the amount of bank credit in Australia stood at £257,000,000. In 1930, it was £280,000,000; in 1931 it was £261,000,000; in 1932, it was £262,000,000; and in 1933, it was £279,000,000. During that period, the private banking institutions assisted the government very considerably. In 1930, the Commonwealth Bank was controlled by a board, and at that time the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) held office in the Government. If the Labour Government wished to change the method of control of the Commonwealth Bank, it could have sought a double dissolution of the Parliament, and gone to the country on a policy to place the bank under the control of the Governor. The Labour Government did not do that. Indeed, it must have recognized the advantages of a board because, only a little later, the then Treasurer, Mr. E. G. Theodore, introduced legislation which provided for the re-appointment of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Not only the non-socialist parties but also the Labour party has also advocated the establishment of a bank board. In recent years Labour has changed its thinking and adopted a policy of control by a dictator. It is on that ground that honorable members supporting the Government join issue with them.
In no other country outside the Iron Curtain will the main banking institutions be found to be under the control of a single dictator. If a board cannot successfully control a bank how can we expect one to control other bodies? Yet there is the Tariff Board and other Commonwealth boards which attend to matters of a confidential nature. There are many trained, capable and honest men who would give their services to the country as directors and keep the confidence of the Government just as soundly as any man on the Socialist side of the House would do it. The socialists endeavour to create the impression that they are the only ones who can be honest and that no one else has the desire for the welfare of the country that they have. But it would not be difficult for the Government to select men who would fill their responsibilities with competence.
This bill provides for the appointment of a well-balanced board. It provides not only for the appointment of men who would be drawn from the vital activities of this country but also of men who have the highest responsibility in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. The Governor of the bank and other officers mentioned as members of the board are among the most competent public servants who could be recommended for this responsibility.
In everyday life men with practical knowledge enter various types of bodies and make a very great contribution towards their successful management because of the great practical knowledge that they possess. For anyone to suggest that a great financial institution such as the Commonwealth Bank, which is the people’s bank and in which the people must have confidence, should be left to the control of one theorist who has no knowledge of the practice of banking is asking too .much. The people of Australia have declared themselves on the 1947 Bank Bill and the appointment of the Commonwealth Bank Board will give expression to their wishes.
The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) had a great deal to say regarding the objections to a bank board but during the greatest war in history - the last war - the responsibility .for financing the nation’s war effort was carried by the Commonwealth Bank Board until it was removed in 1945. It is most remarkable that while the Commonwealth Bank Board was in office the country’s economy was reasonably balanced. Immediately the bank board was removed under the 1945 act there was a drift in the economic position and inflation began. Some of the blame for those circumstances can be attributed to the fact that the Commonwealth Bank was placed under the control of a single Governor.
Honorable members of the Opposition seem to have a tremendous amount of confidence in the financial ability of the Leader of the Opposition. I do not share that confidence with them. Whilst that right honorable gentleman was Prime Minister he developed governmental control over this country’s financial affairs and that control is failing to solve the problems of the nation. The blame for all the difficulties that the Government faces now can be laid at the door of the last Government. Had the Commonwealth Bank been controlled by a board of men who had sufficient time to study the problems of the Commonwealth and advise the Government, the present state of affairs would not have been experienced. Behind all the talk of members of the Labour party to-day, there remains the desire to socialize this country. That was why the Labour Government abolished the Commonwealth Bank Board, and placed the entire financial structure of this country under the control of a Treasurer who was neve?trained for that responsibility, and an economist, who is Governor of the bank. I have never yet seen an economist who was not prepared to suit his view to the policy of those whom he served. We are all aware of the results of the twoman control of our economy. There is an urgent need for the restoration of the Commonwealth Bank Board so that the financial structure of this country may be cared for by men of ability and practical experience, instead of by theorists.
One after the other, members qf the Opposition have expressed doubt about the integrity of proposed board members, and questioned their ability to place the interests of the nation before their own personal interests. That is an extremely serious charge to make. If it can be levelled against men from outside the Public Service, it can also be levelled against men inside the Public Service. I would be quite prepared to trust members of a bank board with confidential information about our national economy. It is most desirable that the Commonwealth Bank Board should he reappointed so that there may be effective administration of our finances.
– What about the manager of Standard cars?
– Members of the Opposition may throw in whatever ideas they like, but we must consider the principles involved in this measure, and face the situation as we see it. Earlier to-night, the honorable member for East Sydney had the effrontery to make another reckless speech of the type that we hear so often from him. He endeavoured to show that members of the Government parties had no desire to see working people owning their own homes. I remind him that it is only a few years since one of his colleagues in the Chifley Ministry stated in this chamber that lie did not want to see working people becoming “ little capitalists “, by owning their own homes. That has been the attitude of the Labour party down the years. Members of the present Government parties have been better friends of the genuine working people than Labour in embers have ever been.
We have been told that certain financial interests dominate the private banks but an. examination of the shareholding lists of those institutions shows that shares are held in small parcels .by people living all over the Commonwealth. There is no evidence of dominating influences. I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition must accept a share of responsibility for the deterioration of our finances in the years since the Commonwealth Bank Board was abolished, and during which there has been an absence of the practical approach to financial problems which always characterized the board’s administration.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order ! If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) continues to disregard the Chair, I shall name him.
– Under the 1945 act, the profits of the note issue are paid in full into Consolidated Revenue, except for an annual payment of £150,000 to the capital of the Mortgage Bank Department, but that payment can be made only until the capital of the Mortgage Bank Department reaches £4,000,000. Under this bill, up to £500,000 may be paid from the profits of the note issue to the capita] of the trading sections of the bank each year for five yeai’3, so that, with an equivalent amount from central banking profits, a total sum of £5,000,000 will be available to increase the capital of trading sections over the next five years. That shows clearly that there is a real desire on the part of the Government to provide the working capital required by the bank to meet its expanding needs in the light of the growing financial responsibilities of this country. This will be the largest addition to the capital of the trading sections of the bank, authorized by any act of this Parliament. At the 30th June last, the only amount transferred from the previous year’s profits to the capital of the trading section was £393,7S9 which was paid to the Mortgage Bank Department. If the 1945 act were to continue unchanged, and similar payments were to be made under that act to the Mortgage Bank Department in 1950 and 1951, the capital of that department would reach the limit of £4,000,000 prescribed by the act, and, thereafter there would not be any payments from profit to the capital of the trading sections. However, this bill permits the bank to use £5,000,000 of its profits within five years to increase the capital of the trading sections. The difference therefore is that, whereas under the 1945 act, £800,000 can be transferred from profits to the capital of the Mortgage Bank Department, under this bill £5,000,000 can be used to increase the capital of the four trading sections over the next five years. The Government is determined to repeal the 1947 bank nationalization act, and so to end the attempt by the Labour party to socialize the Commonwealth Bank. It is also determined to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board and to appoint to it men of ability who will represent various activities in this country. The Government, moreover, intends to ensure that the bank shall have sufficient capital to meet its expanding needs.- I. am confident therefore, that the Australian people will solidly back the Government in seeking the passage of this legislation..
Debate (on motion by Mr. -Beazley) adjourned.
Pensions - Royal Australian Navy - Australian “Wheat Board: Mr. F. H. Cullen.
Motion (by Mr. White) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister for Air (Mr. White), who is in charge of the House, certain matters relating to social services which I should like him to refer to the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) with a view to rectifying the harsh treatment which at present is being meted out to many people receiving invalid pensions. Recently, in my electorate, a raid has apparently been conducted by the Department of Social Services on certain people, particularly those receiving age pensions. I have taken up three specific cases ‘with the department in Sydney. Two of the pensions in question which had been stopped have now been restored. My purpose in bringing these matters to the attention of the Government is to ensure that any repetition of the treatment meted out to these persons will be avoided in the future, and that some steps will be taken to check the medical opinion when persons are certified as not being 85 per cent, incapacitated.
My first example is that of a man aged 42 years who was receiving the invalid pension for 21 years. The department advised him, acting upon medical advice, that he had been certified as fit for work. According to the Department of Labour and National Service to whom he was advised to apply for work, he is unemployable, and that department informed him that there was no possibility of placing him in a position. He was completely paralysed on one side of the body, was unable to read or write, and generally speaking was a complete invalid. He was told by the Department of Social Services’ to apply for employment, and that placed him in the position of being able to get only the 25s. a week unemployment assistance. Out of that money he paid 10s. a week for board and lodging, and in consequence was placed on the books of a charitable institution in an attempt to keep body and soul together. He suffered in this way from the 20th July to the 2Sth September. His case was supported by highly reputable residents of the district in which he was known, and by certain trade union organizations. His case was generally recognized in the district as one in which the withdrawal of the pension was unjustified. In this criticism I exclude the officers of the Department of Social Services, but this person told me that the doctor who examined him treated him most rudely and that he was very upset by the treatment. I am of opinion that the. doctor who certified him as fit is one who should not occupy a position, however high it may be, in the Department of Social Services. The fact that this person subsequently had his pension restored proves conclusively that an error was made. It is a particularly sorry state of affairs that 21 years should have elapsed before the department discovered that this man was not fit to receive a pension. Cases such as this should be avoided, otherwise the Department of Social Services and the whole social services system will fall into disrepute. I suggest that this case requires investigation.
The second case is that of a young man 26 years of age who has never been able to work and who has suffered from a glandular deficiency since birth. His eyesight is defective and he is in a very poor state of health. During recent years his health has not improved, and yet, after having been paid a pension for a considerable time, he was certified as being fit to work. He still behaves as a boy of five or six years. He was certified as being fit for work and on review the medical officer who examined him merely glanced at him and said, “ You are a case that should never have been certified to go off- the pension and I cannot understand why any medical superintendent bothered to certify you as fit for work “. The officer certifying this man as fit for work is another doctor at whose credentials the Minister should have a good look. If those two cases represent the ordinary process whereby people are taken off the pension, then a sorry state of affairs exists. I have taken tip these two cases with the department, and the pensions have been restored in each case. The point that I desire to make is that these persons should never have been removed from the list of persons entitled to pensions, and that the Minister should scrutinize closely the credentials of the doctors who certified them as fit. I am able to give him full particulars of those two cases because they are recognized as glaring examples of the inefficiency of certain doctors, and callousness in the treatment of men who for years have been unable to earn a living.
The third case is that of a woman 41 years of age who has been receiving a pension for some considerable time. She has been an invalid practically all her life and has never been able to work. She is mentally deficient, but she was told by the Department of Social Services to report for work to the Department of Labour and National Service. The department’s representative in the area to which I refer thinks that it is a colossal joke that such invalids should be sent by the Department of Social Services, on medical advice, to seek work. The parents of this woman are temporarily receiving 25s. a. week to keep her and are undergoing great mental stress and strain through worrying about how to keep her in the future. Other cases exist of which I have no particulars, but these are three examples that have come directly under my notice, and they indicate that it is time that the Minister checked up on the qualifications of the doctors concerned. The Minister indicated recently that he expected the aged, sick and infirm to work in order to supplement the pensions that they were receiving. He said that he felt that a number of such people would be better suited in employment, and would be more satisfied. I disagree entirely with his contention, and I think that in fact a method is being adopted by the Minister and the Government to try to save a few paltry pounds at the expense of the helpless pensioners.
It is a sorry state of affairs in the administration of our social services, which should be sympathetic, if people are to be treated as these three people have been treated. It is a sad thing if money is to be saved at the expense of incapacitated people and that they should be expected to augment their meagre income by working, when by so doing they are probably further breaking down their health and will die at an earlier age than would otherwise be the case. The Government has posed as the protector of the pensioners and of the aged and infirm. I have seen letters, signed by the Minister and sent to pensioners’ organizations in my constituency, such as I would not send to an enemy because they callously set aside the claims of people for the considerable increases which have been sought because of the failure of the Government to make the pensions worth their face value. The Government has failed to improve the position of pensioners because it has failed to honour its promise, as stated at the last general election, to put value back into the fi. The cases which I have mentioned are only a few of many , throughout the metropolitan area. I make no charge against the officers of the department, who in most instances are courteous, but there must be some doctors employed who are incapable, or who are case-hardened and who should have their credentials investigated. I suggest that the Minister should do this, and should not persist with his policy of forcing such people to work because of errors made by the department.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Dr. DONALD CAMERON (Oxley) fi 1.19]. - I cannot vie with the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in speed of rhetoric, but I desire to make a few matters clearer about invalid pensions. The honorable member for Grayndler seems to have lost sight of the fact that, before a person can be given an invalid pension, two things must happen. First, the person must visit his own doctor. Secondly, he must be certified by the government medical officer as being a person suitable to receive an invalid pension.
There is another aspect of this matter to which consideration should he given. Surely, in the interests of the community, it is much better for an individual to be restored to some measure of earning capacity which enables him to pursue his normal way of life, than to be regarded as a hopeless invalid. To my knowledge many people who at one time were certified as incapable of earning a living :ind had been granted an invalid pension have been restored to wage-earning capacity as the result of adequate medical care. I have no knowledge of the specific cases that were quoted by the honorable member for Grayndler, but I can assure him that many people who are granted an invalid pension are regarded not only by their relatives but also by the community generally as incapable of being restored to any measure of wage-earning capacity, when frequently such is not the case. Many people who have drawn an invalid pension for a considerable time have by adequate assistance and medical supervision been restored to some degree of wage-earning capacity.
– The percentage would not be very high.
– In many instances persons who have been regarded as hopeless invalids have been restored to full wage-earning capacity - even to the degree of enabling them to reach that mecca of all good Australians, the basic wage. I urge the House not to be carried away by the idea that once, a person has been declared an invalid he will be incapable of earning a living for the rest of his life. With the care and attention of medical practitioners who understand the full implications of their disabilities many invalid pensioners have been sufficiently restored to health to enable them to undertake some measure of useful work in the community.
Whilst 1 have every sympathy with those who are permanently incapacitated - I have had an intimate acquaintance with many persons in that category for a number of years - I repeat that a great many persons now in receipt of an invalid pension could, with adequate care, remedial measures and proper therapeutic aids, be restored to some measure of earning capacity. The measure of the benefit to such persons is incalculable. If a man knows that he can do some useful work in the community and earn at least a part of his living he is in a very much better position than the person who is solely dependent on his pension.
– Why does not the honorable member say that to the company directors?
– Company directors have nothing to do with the matter. This is a human problem and if we address our minds to it we can do much to assist many of these people. In making such an interjection, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) clearly indicates that he is completely out of touch with reality. I have spent more than twenty years in intimate contact with invalids and I know what I am talking about. It is of far more value for us to devise and to employ measures to restore invalid pensioners to active life than to listen to wailing statements about the reasons for the withdrawal of an invalid pension. Let us not be carried away with the idea that the invalid pension is the beall and end-all of invalidity. With adequate medical care and the help of the excellent therapeutic constitutions that have been established by successive Australian governments, hundreds of invalid pensioners may be restored to health and enabled to undertake helpful work in the community.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the Government to a communication that I have received from members of the Royal Australian Navy relative to the lack of accommodation for members of the forces in our capital cities where they can spend either extended leave or week-end leave. My correspondents also make some suggestions for the remedying of this disability. The letter reads -
Using an example, our ship’s company who would represent every branch of tin; services, and living in every State of the Com mon wealth, we find that on extended leave periods, i.e., week-ends, &c, for non-natives accommodation of a suitable nature in accordance with our pay rates is practically unobtainable, resulting in our spending these leave periods in the drab atmosphere of our barracks, or ships, as applicable in our case. Fortunately, naval ratings in Sydney are able to obtain accommodation and hospitality of a very practical nature at Royal Navy House, Grosvenor-street, Sydney. But what of other services in Sydney and all services elsewhere? The nearest approach to this institution in any other city is a willing and helpful, but inadequate, attempt on the part of the Young Men’s Christian Association, Melbourne, who realize the need for a -services hostel during peace as well as in war periods. Even so, this house can supply only a limited amount of accommodation, which consists of a bed only, without lockers for the hanging of clothes, placing of valuables, &c. (many of these beds being placed in corridors and passageways). Thu nearest approach to lockers is a cloak room on ground-floor level. (Accommodation is on the fourth floor.) Placing one’s clothes here for safe custody overnight is akin to preparing to retire; cloaking one’s cases at Central Station and appearing in pyjamas (if one possesses same) to collect the clothing the following morning to dress.
We would suggest, sirs, that you, our local members, place for consideration by the House the following recommendations, namely: That -accommodation and recreation centres of a permanent nature for servicemen be erected in capital cities. We suggest likeness to Royal Navy House, Sydney. This centre provides the following amenities: - Accommodation - 1. Beds well kept in large polished dormitories. 2. A locker beside each bed. 3. Fee for accommodation 2s. Od. per night. Adequate toilet -facilities. Beading and writing rooms. Billiard tables. Cafeteria serving three-course meals at reasonable rates and snack bar at night.
The persons who wrote this letter suggestthat the Army Canteen Services Fund that was established during the recent war might be used to provide some of these amenities in peace-time. Finally, they make the following pertinent observation : -
To this end we would state that under the Government’s new defence policy this position will be more acute than ever with the many thousands more mcn in uniform and therefore the need for action in (regard to these centres more urgent.
– From whom did the > honorable member receive that letter?
– I shall not disclose the names, but I assure the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) that the letter was written on behalf of members of the Australian Navy. I believe that the Minister will agree that the suggestions that have been made are practical. I urge the Government to give effect to them in the interests of service personnel and to promote the well-being of members of the services generally throughout the Commonwealth.
– The matter that the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) has raised has been under the consideration of the Naval Board and myself for some considerable time, and special efforts are being made to provide in Sydney the amenities that he has mentioned, for Sydney is more or less the head-quarters of the Navy. A limited area at Garden Island is being reserved for that purpose. Representations have been made to the Lord Mayor of Melbourne to co-operate with the Army and Navy authorities in the provision of similar amenities in that city. Personally, I have never been satisfied with the existing position. I raised the matter on my own initiative and the department is now moving along the lines that the honorable member has suggested. Our great difficulty, however, is to obtain adequate accommodation. Substantial sums are being made available to the Young Men’s Christian Association in Melbourne for the provision of accommodation at nominal charges for recruits from the Flinders Naval Base. The Chief of the Naval Staff and a representative of the appropriate fund in Melbourne inspected the premises of the Young Men’s Christian Association and as the result efforts are being made to provide the requisite accommodation. This problem did not arise a few days ago. Labour governments that were in office for the preceding eight years did nothing in the matter and they must accept responsibility for the present position. I appreciate the action of the honorable member in raising this matter, which, I repeat, has been under consideration for the last three months. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the splendid work that the Lord Mayor of Melbourne and the commanding officer and the padre at the Flinders Naval Base have done in seeking to provide suitable accommodation for naval personnel. They have endeavoured to arrange for the billeting of naval personnel at nominal charges in private homes. I hope to make a full statement on the matter at an early date.
– I wish to take this opportunity to make a personal explanation. When
I was speaking to the motion for the formal adjournment of the House earlier to-day, I made a mistake which I now wish to correct. I stated that Mr. Cullen, the former chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, had stood as a candidate for Parliament. In doing so I inadvertently confused him with another gentleman who also had been a member of the Australian Wheat Board. I assure honorable members that I had no intention of misleading them in the matter, and I now express regret for having made the mistake that I have indicated. -Mr. WARD (East Sydney) [11.35].- I support the views that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has expressed with respect to the treatment of invalid. pensioners. Whilst the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) has had some experience in dealing with invalid pensioners, evidently he is not aware of the manner in which these persons are treated if they accept casual employment. Invalid pensioners should be encouraged and assisted to obtain suitable employment because the rate of pension is not sufficient to meet their needs. It is all to the good if by trying to earn their own living their health can be improved. Persons must be certified to be So per cent, permanently incapacitated in order to qualify for the invalid pension. Previously, they had to be certified 100 per cent, permanently incapacitated, but a Labour government reduced that percentage because it found that .the administration of such a provision operated unfairly in cases in which a person was able to carry out light duties but unable to earn a. livelihood.
Many pensioners who are able to engage in light employment are terrified of doing so because should the department be informed that they are earning any income they are liable to have their pension withdrawn immediately and would find it difficult to regain the pension even should their health deteriorate and compel them to cease work. I have had brought to my notice cases of pensioners who accepted light employment, such as the collection of tickets at the gates of sporting arenas. In many instances pensioners who accepted such employment have been reported te the department, and although they thereby received very little income the department withdrew their pension entirely. The pension provisions are being very harshly interpreted in other ways also. I do not believe that merely because of a change of government, departmental officers are acting in such instances on their own initiative. I can only assume that this change in administrative methods is the result of ministerial direction. I refer now to the treatment of an invalid pensioner the income of whose parents is taken into account in determining the rate of pension. I know of the case of a girl who is now nineteen and a half years of age. She has been receiving a pension for total invalidity since she was sixteen years of age. She is still a total invalid, and her mother also is an invalid. Her father, who is a labourer, earns an income of £8 12s. a week. His house rent amounts to £2 4s. 6d. a week and after allowing for tax deductions his net income is very meagre. The department reviewed the case of that girl. It decided that the income of her father was sufficient to enable him to maintain her partially and, consequently, it reduced her pension by one-half. That is a very miserable way of effecting economy in expenditure upon social services. The Government should do something about it. If it claims that its officers are not acting on direct advice, it should take action to see that they are advised that the provisions of the act are to be more generously administered. It may be that the Minister will reply that certain regulations have been in existence for some time. At the outset the permissible income of pensioner’s parents had a much greater purchasing power than it has to-day. Regard must be had to the enormously increased cost of living. A few years ago a wage of £8 12s. a week may have been regarded as quite a considerable income, but with the enormous increase in the cost of living that is not so to-day. I therefore suggest that the Government should direct the officers concerned to administer more generously this particular provision. If the regulations governing the activities of the department require some alteration, the Government should amend them.
I direct attention also to the attitude of the Repatriation Department towards applicants for war pensions. Exservicemen of World War I. find it particularly difficult to convince the repatriation authorities that their disability is due to war service. There are honorable members in this House who know that after a space of years it is most difficult for applicants to prove that matter to the satisfaction of the repatriation doctors and officials.
– They do not have to prove it.
– I am glad of the interjection because I, too, was of the opinion that the obligation was on the department to prove that the disability was not due to war service. That may be technically so under the wording of the act. As to the administration of it, if the honorable member for Oxley desires some information concerning cases that have been brought to my notice I shall be pleased to supply him with it. A case has been brought to my attention of an ex-serviceman who is suffering from a coronary occlusion. He has been advised by his civil doctor that he should not go to work and that he is likely to collapse at any time of the day. He should therefore remain in bed and have complete rest. That unfortunate man is entirely dependent on his earnings to maintain himself and his family. He has applied unsuccessfully to the Repatriation Department for a pension and he has also appealed against the department’s decision.
– What age is he?
– I think he would be slightly younger than the honorable member for Oxley. He is of an age one might expect an ex-serviceman of World War E. to be. I should take him to be a man of 55 or 56 years of age, judging by his appearance. It has been argued that there is no evidence in his official military record to indicate that his heart condition is due to war service. It seems to me that where a man is examined and accepted as physically fit for war service, there should be an obliga tion on the Government of the country, if he falls ill from any cause, to see that he is given an adequate income to maintain himself and his family. If a man is physically fit when he enlists and subsequently endures all sorts of privations during his war service, as this man did, because he was gassed on a “number of occasions, he should be entitled to war pension if his health deteriorates. I dare say it would be very difficult, even for a medical man such as the honorable member for Oxley, to be able to say with any certainty that the privations and injuries such a man had suffered during the war had not in some way contributed to his present condition. Why does not the Government say, “ We will accept responsibility for these people”.
I have heard honorable members on the Government side expressing some disappointment at the failure of the recruiting drives.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– in reply - Quite a lot has been said, in this discussion, about the application of the Social Services Consolidation Act to invalid pensioners. There is a good deal of merit in what has been stated, because often what is intended for general application sometimes falls harshly on individuals. The type of case described by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), where the means test is applied to parents of juniors, may be a case in point. Hardship sometimes exists in those cases and the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) is examining the matter to see how it may be overcome. I was sorry that the honorable member f or East Sydney stated that some direction must have been issued to the officials of the department that they should deal more harshly with applicants for pensions. I am sure that the honorable gentleman does not really believe that that has been done. We all have the greatest sympathy with invalids, and I am sure that the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) will agree with me when I say that very often an invalid is a much better person if he can be encouraged to feel he is not a burden and can work and so earn his living. In orthopaedic hospitals in Victoria much of the equipment for other hospitals is made by cripples, who are learning to become thoroughly equipped tradesmen and are earning full wages. Where that is not possible, employersshould encourage such people to enter into partial employment, and, of course, the most generous view should be taken generally with regard to pensions. The Government is at present examining the whole question.
On the matter of repatriation, the honorable member for East Sydney referred to the case of a man with a coronary occlusion which was not considered due to war service. I had much the same experience myself in the case of a man who had been a prisoner of war. Ultimately his request for a pension was agreed to. The honorable member for Oxley will know that that is a complaint of middle age and that it may or may not be due to war service. If a man has had very good service it may be agreed that his condition is due to war service. But there is a tribunal to which he can appeal. It is not, as the honorable member for East Sydney would lead us to believe, on the mere say so of the Repatriation Department that a pension is refused. If a pension is refused the applicant may then appeal to the appropriate tribunal. The previous Minister for Repatriation abolished one such entitlement tribunal because it criticized him. The honorable gentleman said that too many cases were sent to the tribunal. This Government has reconstituted the tribunal. If the honorable member for East Sydney cares to mention the case under discussion to the Minister for Repatriation, I am quite sure that if there is any further relevant evidence available it will be considered by that tribunal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations - 1950 -
Nos. 45 and 46 - Musicians’ Union of Australia.
No. 47 - Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia; and others.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior - C. F. Hutchinson.
Postmaster-General - P. Abbottsmith, P. H. Allen, R. G. Ball, M. R. F. Ballantine, D. F. Barry, W. G. Beard, A. M. Beaumont, T. K. Bourke, J. D. S. Brookes, J. H. Curtis, J. P. Diamond. J. T. Duke, A. W. Dunstan, N. P. Ferstat, I. R. Foster, B. S. Hewett, V. B. Hodgson, D. H. Howatson, L. V. P. Kennedy, F. Loewenthal, R. A. Lorimer, T. H. D. McCall, J. P. Malos, N. T. Pyle, R. S. Riley, K. E. Sandercock, W. G. Shapley, D. L. Shaw, J. D. B. Strickland, J. D. Thomson, F. Throssell, A. Traill, W. S. Trudgian, L. M. Wallace, G. Ward, D. R. Watson, C. J. White, J. G. B. Whitelaw, A. G. Wilson, G. H. Woolfall, K. E. Young. Prime Minister - D. McCarthy.
Supply - J. M. Nelson.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Order - Inventions and Designs.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Carnarvon, Western Australia.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applications for release from payment dealt with during the year 1049-50.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1950 - No. 7 (Mining Development Ordinance).
House adjourned at 11.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.E. James Harrison asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 October 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501010_reps_19_209/>.