19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speakes (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair’ at 2.30 p.m., and read, prayers.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it true that the honorable member for Maranoa resigned from the Government forces because the Cabinet was afraid to implement the opinions of the majority of its members on revaluation ? Is it true that ho was the only member on the Government side who believed in the principle of majority mie?
– The honorable member for Maranoa has not, bo far as I know, resigned from the Government forces. I understand that the honorable member for Maranoa is still a supporter of the Government, and, indeed, I tad understood from this morning’s papers that all the members of the Opposition are now in the same case.
– In view of the widely held fear that considerable quantities of essential materials are leaving this country to the detriment of the local market, would the Minister for Supply indicate what quantities .of the following products were exported’ during the year ended the 30th June, 1950: - (1) Masonite sheets. (2.) Galvanized roofing iron. (3.) Zinicanneal roofing material. (4.) Galvanized and black fencing wires?
– The honorable member for Paterson was good enough to indicate to me that he intended to ask this question to-day. Therefore, I have available the following figures which though not quite complete, will give honorable members some idea of the export of those materials: - (1) Masonite sheets, quantity 22,598 cwt., valued at £46,000 odd; (2) galvanized roofing iron, shown in the category which includes that material as quantity 55,714 cwt., valued at £136,000 odd; (3) zinicanneal roofing tiles (there is no separate record kept of this item) ; (4) galvanized and black fencing wires are shown under various headings and under the heading, of fencing wire the quantity is 70 cwt., and the value £396. Under the heading of plain, including crinkled or corrugated galvanized tinned or coated and other wire, the quantity is nil, and under the heading of iron and steel wire the quantity is 2,373 cwt., and the value £4,000 odd.
– In view of the urgent demand for galvanized roofing iron for the construction of houses and also for roofing tiles, will the Minister for Supply stop tile exportation of these materials? I am informed that roofing iron valued at £136,000 has been exported during recent months.
– -I shall look into the matter that the honorable member has raised, but I am not prepared to give any undertaking with respect to it. Much of the difficulty that exists with respect to supplies of galvanized roofing iron is due chiefly to under-production, and the honorable member and his colleagues must accept some responsibility for the present position.
– The Labour party must accept Borne responsibility for underproduction generally.
– In the first place, it has held up the passage of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. However, I shall look into the matter and supply the information that the honorable member has asked for.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Navy which arises from the fact - I do not know -whether it is still a fact. - that for some time the widow of one of the victims in the Tarakan disaster refused to accept the payment of £1,200 as compensation in respect of the death of her husband on the ground that she should be paid a widow’s pension. 1 ask the Minister whether the policy of the Navy in treating these deaths in the same way as deaths of ordinary civil servants would be treated is to be continued? If not, when may we expect a change; and, if so, what justification exists for treating nien in the Navy as ordinary civil servants in view of the facts first, that the handling of explosives alone constitutes a danger which ordinary civil servants are not. asked to face; and. secondly, that the Commonwealth completely appropriates the life of a i.nan who is serving in the Navy, and his life is at the Government’s disposal?
– I shall be pleased to supply to the honorable member to-morrow details of the sums of money that have been made available to .Mrs. Moy to whom, I understand, the question that he has asked refers.
– Yes; but I am more concerned about the principle of the payment of a pension.
– Some time ago I arranged for the welfare officer in the Department of the Navy in Melbourne to interview Mrs. Hoy with a view to helping her to fill in an application form for a widow’s pension, but she has not filled in such a. form. The matter is one for her own dension.
– That is a civilian widow’s pension ?
– Yes. I have also arranged for substantial allowances to be made available from the Services Canteens Fund to the widows of men who lost their lives in the Tarakan disaster for the purpose of paying for the education of their children. Those sums range from £5 in respect of the cost of books and educational fees and so on up to the sum of £200 in respect of the cost of the education of children whose parents wish them to follow a professional or technical career. The sum varies with the stage of educational development of the children. I shall supply the details of the sums of money that have been made available to Mrs. Hoy.
– The distribution of prize money to naval personnel has been held up for some time because of certain litigation in the courts of Admiralty abroad, and for other reasons. Can the Minister for the Navy advise the House when the money will be paid
– The money will be paid as scon as it is received from the British Government.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation yet in a position to make any statement regarding the progress of negotiations for the development of civil air routes from Australia to Europe vin the Indian Ocean ?
– Negotiations have been afoot for some time in respect of a service to South Africa. “Whether thai service will be continued to Great Britain remains to be seen. There are many difficulties to be surmounted. The route to South Africa was pioneered just prior to the recent war by Captain Taylor whose reconnaissance proved to be very useful to us during the war. Last year Qantas made an experimental flight with a land machine. It seemed to be the opinion that the Government of South Africa would welcome such a service, as the Australian Government would do so. However, difficulties have arisen in the provision of facilities at Cocos or Keeling Island because the owners of the island have not been disposed to co-operate with the authorities. Apparently, they want to keep the islands as secluded as possible. We believe that some arrangement will btmade eventually. When the negotiation? that are now proceeding between the
United Kingdom, and Australia are completed, it is hoped to inaugurate a service at least to South Africa.
– Is the Minister for Air able to give the House any details of the activities of the Royal Australian Air Force in the search for the Auster aircraft which has been missing since last Wednesday week? The aircraft carried Mr. A. E. Goodwin, a Sydney industrialist, and his wife.
– Within a quarter of an hour of the news being brought to my notice in this House by the honorable member for Hume and the honorable member for Mitchell that the Auster aircraft was missing, machines of the’ Royal Australian Air Force began to search for it. A Lincoln bomber and two Beaufighters were engaged for several days in a search of very rugged country, and I understand that approximately 50 employees of Mr. Goodwin also conducted a search. Unfortunately, all their efforts have not revealed a trace of the missing aircraft, and it can only be presumed that it bas been lost, perhaps at sea.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that hostesses who are employed by Trans-Australia Airlines do not receive overtime rates of payment for week-end and holiday work? Is he also aware that, quite frequently, they are required for duty on their day off? Is he satisfied that they are adequately paid for the work that they perform, taking into consideration their highly specialized attainments, the nervous strain of flying, and the higher rates of pay in other callings?
– I am not aware of the rates of payment for hostesses who are employed by Trans-Australia Airlines, but I believe that that organization pays award rates in all circumstances. There is no shortage of young ladies who desire to join the services of Trans-Australia Airlines or of any other Australian airline as hostesses. I shall have inquiries made into the matters that have been raised by the honorable gentleman.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House when the increases of a,<re and invalid pensions are to be implemented and whether the increases will be made retrospective? Has any date been fixed from which the increases will be paid? If no such decision has been made will he give full consideration to making the increases retrospective as far back as possible ?
– The Government does not intend to make the increased pension retrospective. The higher rate will date from the 1st November next.
– In asking this question of the Prime Minister I emphasize a serious anomaly in the Social Services Consolidation Act which is causing great hardship amongst old people who are unable to get pensions although morally entitled to them. Can some relief be given to those persons who are entitled to a pension but are unable to obtain them because they cannot get possession of their own homes ? Is the Prime Minister aware that in many cases to-day such people are receiving loss rent from the tenants in their own homes than they are paying for the rooms in which they are forced to live, sometimes at great inconvenience and much distress? Could an amendment be made to the act to waive the necessity for such people to live in their own homes before they may obtain an age pension? Many citizens in such circumstances reside in my own electorate.
– I know that the matter referred to has been considered on several occasions by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, but I shall direct his attention to the words which have fallen from the honorable member.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture yet in a position to make a progress statement to the House about the negotiations which are proceeding between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government for the disposal of our butter this year?
– I am not at the moment in a position to make the statement for which the honorable member for Lyne has asked. The Minister .for Commerce and Agriculture should be back in Australia in approximately ton or fourteen days’ time, and he will then be in a position to give the information that the honorable gentleman seeks.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether he intends to accede to the request of the Premier of Victoria, Mr. McDonald, that because of the recent increase of the basic wage, a special conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers be held, to review the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States?
– It was arranged before the termination of the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that a special conference between the Prime Minister and the Premiers should be held for the purpose of discussing the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. That proposal, of course, will be carried out at a convenient time. The particular request which has been made by the Premier of Victoria is now being considered by my colleagues and myself.
– Can the Minister for Supply inform me how many tons of steel, including sheet steel, roiled steel and steel ingots, have been exported from Australia during the last twelve months? Is the honorable gentleman aware that, due to the shortage of steel, of approximately 1,000 tons a week, supplied to Lysaght’s Limited and Stewarts and Lloyds (Australia) Proprietary Limited, many men are working only four shifts a week, in spite of the fact that Australia requires a maximum production? Will the Minister indicate whether the export of steel is the cause of that situation, and whether the position has been brought to his notice? If his answers to those questions are in the affirmative, will he inform me whether action has been taken to correct the position? I am prompted to ask the question, first because of the unemployment factor which is involved, and secondly, because of the loss of production.
– I have not before me the relevant statistics to enable me to answer the honorable member’s question, but I shall obtain them and also sufficient information to answer the remainder of his question and I undertake to let him have a complete answer. Several honorable members have directed questions concerning steel to me recently in my capacity as Minister for Supply, but I suggest to honorable members generally that such questions would be more properly directed to the Minister for National Development, within whose purview such matters fall.
– In view of the importance to Australia of recent discoveries of uranium fields, in which foreign countries have taken a great interest, and of the danger of our research laboratories being contaminated by the introduction of radio-active substances, will, the Minister for the Interior confer with Government physicists and technicians in order to ascertain whether those experts consider, having regard to the relation of atomic research to our national defence, that steps should be taken to survey with geigermuller counters all aircraft and ships arriving in, or leaving Australia ? I point out that such surveys would enable the presence of radio-active by-products of atomic storehouses to be detected and. would prevent the smuggling out of Australia of uranium and other atomic substances.
– The Government realizes the immense significance of uranium to Australia, and I shall examine the proposal made by the honorable member.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether the Postal Department has authorized the Department of the Interior to resume property in Redfern, Sydney, in order to erect a large store-house for departmental equipment? I understand that the site for the proposed building is in the vicinity of Castlereagh and Pitt streets, Redfern, which is now occupied by from 100 to 150 dwelling houses, and I should like the
Minister to inform me whether it is intended to evict the occupants and demolish their dwellings?
– The Minister for the Interior will answer the question.
– It is proposed to acquire an area in Redfern for the purpose mentioned by the honorable member, and I assume that the building will be erected on the site referred to by him.
– Where does the Minister propose to accommodate the occupants of the dwellings at present on the site?
– I shall make inquiries in order to ascertain exactly what dislocation will be caused by the proposal.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that persons desiring employment in the Postmaster-General’s Department who pass the examination for entry into the service are notified of their success ln.it that there then occurs a delay of from six to twelve months before an appointment is made and that after that delay follows a six months’ probationary period ? If this is a fact, can the Minister state the reasons for the delay and arrange for it to be shortened, so as to encourage successful candidates to retain their interest in the department by giving prompt recognition to their proven ability?
– The delay to which the honorable member has referred does occur. Although it is frequently claimed that the Public Service is underpaid in relation to private industry, a great number of people still prefer to enter the Public Service. There are not sufficient vacancies, however, to permit of their admission as soon as they pass their entrance examination and they have to wait until vacancies do occur. Otherwise the number of public servants would be even greater than it is. However, if the honorable member knows of any cases in which there has been an undue delay in making appointments, I shall examine them individually.
– Because of the continual increase in the cost of operating hospitals, many of those institutions, including some in the electorate that I represent, are experiencing considerabledifficulty in meeting their financial obligations and are thereby occasioning embarrassment to local trades people and bankers. Since the Minister for Health is already aware of the position, I now ask him what action is being taken by the Government to provide adequate finance for hospitals ?
– The maintenance of hospitals is a. function of State governments, but at a recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health which dealt with this matter, it was represented to me that although, under the Hospital Benefits Act hospitals ave receiving a payment of Ss. a day in respect of each patient they are prevented by that legislation from imposing any charge on patients in public wards and, in consequence, their aggregate revenue has declined by approximately £6,000,000 a year. The Government has advanced a proposal to overcome the difficulty which is now being considered by the States with a view to making some satisfactory arrangement with the Government.
– In view of the large amount of space devoted by the daily press to trashy, syndicated American comic strips and sensational feature articles, is the Treasurer prepared to say that no portion of the dollar loan will be used to import additional newsprint, and that newspapers shall not be permitted to import any further supplies of newsprint unless they put it to better use than they have done hitherto?
– It is not very difficult to give an unequivocal answer to the honorable gentleman’s question. The answer is that none of the dollar loan will be used for the purpose that he has mentioned.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply concerning the allocation of tinplate for Queensland. During the recent parliamentary recess, the Minister, at a meeting in Brisbane, assured representatives of firms interested in canning that he would call a special meeting of the Tinplate Advisory Committee and that Queensland would be represented on that committee to consider increasing the allocation of tinplate to Queensland. Has the committee met yet, and, if so, has it granted an increase of the supply of tinplate to Queensland?
– I do not recall having given an undertaking .that Queensland would be represented on the committee to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I also am unable to recall offhand whether or not there is a Queensland representative on it, although my recollection is that there is. There was a difficulty about tinplate supplies to Queensland in July and August for the mid-season canning of the pineapple crop, which arose from a shortage of tinplate that was partly due, if I remember rightly, to the sinking of the Marietta Dal. 1 called the committee together and a special allocation was made to Queensland to cover the difficulties of canners in. that State. I am not able to supply the honorable member with figures in relation to the allocation, but I shall let him know what extra allocation was, in fact, granted to Queensland by the committee at that time.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service what action is now necessary, following the decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the basic wage case, in order to give the earliest possible benefit of the wage increase to the worker, and also to what extent the Australian Government can assist in this matter?
– The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has made what amounts, in effect, to a general declaration regarding the increase that is to take place in the basic wage. It now becomes necessary for separate treatment of that general declaration in relation to the 50-odd applications for variations of awards that are before the court. I understand that representatives of the employers and of the trade unions represented before the court are now endeavouring, through mutual discussions, to facilitate the further pro ceedings. One important matter on which they are attempting to reach agreement is in relation to the date from which the increase should take effectObviously a number of procedural and administrative problems arise in the application of a general declaration of the kind made by the court. I cannot say at the moment to what extent the Government can directly assist, but I have no reason to doubt that the representatives of the employers are doing what they can to ensure that the wage increase will take effect as soon as possible. If there is any way in which the Government can assist later, it will do so as speedily as possible.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that a regulation that he issued recently has nullified a number of awards made under the National Security Industrial Peace) Regulations? Is he aware that one of those awards covers persons employed on the guided weapons testing range in South Australia and a number of other employees of the Government ? Will he give an undertaking that the Government will not prevent those employees from benefiting from the increase of £1 a week in the basic wage that was recently announced by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? Will he state whether the Government has decided to pay the full increase of £1 a week to all its employees as from the date that is finally determined between employers and employees or, alternatively, by the court for the making of such payment; or will the Government use some aspect of the court’s judgment as a pretext for opposing applications of unions that cover Government employees for the full amount of the increase? Will the Government take advantage of any aspect of the judgment to argue that something less than the full increase of £1 shall be paid to Government employees?
– As the considerations that the honorable member has raised in the first part of his question have just been brought to my notice, and as the latter portion of his question raises very wide issues involving legal implications, I shall desire time to consider them fully. Therefore, I ask the honorable member to place his question on the notice-paper.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that serious inconvenience is being caused to businessmen, sick people and persons following professional undertakings in the Newcastle district, because of the continued shortages of buildings and materials for telephone installations? Can the Minister say whether this is due to his department’s failure to build a new exchange at Merewether and to make extensions to exchanges at New Lambton and Mayfield ? Is it a fact that new applicants for private telephones in metropolitan areas are required to agree to the conversion of any new service to a duplex system, if that is required to ease the present acute shortage of telephones in any particular area? If so, will the Minister examine the present shortage of telephones in Newcastle and districts and consider applying the duplex system to private installations in areas where such a system is suitable, and will he endeavour to have the building of new exchanges expedited so that relief can be given to this highly industrialized city?
– The conditions which the honorable member has stated exist at Newcastle are common to almost every part of Australia. As the honorable member knows, there is a very great shortage of all basic building materials and the Postmaster-General’s Department can only obtain its proportion of those available because private individuals who want to build homes, other Australian Government departments and State Government departments which are responsible for the building of hospitals, schools and other public buildings must receive their share. Therefore, the Postmaster-General’s Department cannot expect to secure more than its proportion of materials, which is not sufficient to do all the jobs which are essential to-day. Duplex telephones installations have only recently been introduced by the Postmaster-General’s Department. Persons who have had an exclusive service, or who apply for an exclusive service, are now only granted a telephone on the condition that another service can be attached to it.
– Can either party listen in to the other ?
– No. It is not a party line service. Both services are completely secret. Each subscriber dials his own number and each has his own separate account. The only disadvantage of this type pf service is that when one subscriber is using the line the other cannot do so. However, that is not a very big disadvantage in view of the fact that a departmental survey has revealed that there are tens of thousands of subscribers in Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle who only have one or two calls a day and they are “ hogging “ the facilities that are so desperately needed by other people. Therefore, I have instructed that all new subscribers must agree to a duplex service being connected. The question of whether this ruling shall be applied to existing services is being considered.
– In view of the representations that have been made to me by new Australians, could the Prime Minister give any indication when an announcement of policy will be made on the enlistment of foreign migrants in the Australian Military Forces ?
– That problem is at present under consideration ‘but the time is not yet ripe for any announcement.
– As it is the Government’s policy to establish and maintain the shipbuilding industry in Australia, will the Minister for Supply indicate whether any research is taking place in this country on the matter of shipbuilding technique? It is suggested that such research is necessary in order that Australia may not lag behind other parts of the world in shipbuilding technique.
– Some of the big shipbuilding companies have research departments in which are engaged technicians who are highly skilled in shipbuilding techniques. In the shipbuilding division of the Department of Supply there is a band of officers whose work is similar to work being done by employees of some of the big shipbuilding companies. In addition to that, the Australian Shipbuilding Board some time ago founded scholarships for the sending abroad of suitable persons to secure knowledge and technical facility in the shipyards of the Old “World. I believe that Phillips Industries Limited, a private Sydney firm, contributed the large sum of about £5,000 towards such scholarships. That money was used to found scholarships, and two employees of the Australian Shipbuilding Board are now aboard, I think at Glasgow University, studying under those scholarships. They are reported to be doing very well.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware of the fact that there are large numbers of individuals and families in the United Kingdom who are desirous of migrating to Australia and who have made application to the Commonwealth authorities under both the free and assisted migration schemes? In some cases prospective migrants who possess the necessary qualifications have been waiting for long periods without receiving any notice that arrangements for passage have been finalized. Will the Minister indicate whether priority is’ being given to- British migrants under both these schemes as regard shipping arrangements and arrangements for assimilation in Australia? Will the Minister indicate also whether there is any quota fixed for migrants by the United Kingdom Government in conjunction with the Australian Government?
– I can repeat the assurance that I have given this House on other occasions that British migration has been given top priority by this Government. We are providing more shipping this year for British migrants than has been provided at any other time in our history, and this year we shall receive a record number of British migrants. The pool of migrants available from Great Britain is not so large as most people imagine. The honorable member asked whether a quota has been agreed upon between the British Government and this Government. There is no quota. We did set ourselves the target of 100,000 British migrants this year, but for a variety of reasons we are not likely to reach that target although a record number will arrive.
– How many British migrants is it anticipated will arrive in Australia this year?
– Over 80,000 on present indications. The United Kingdom Government considers that there must be a limit to the number of people migrating from the United Kingdom to the Dominions generally, but Australia has been fortunate in obtaining a larger proportion of the British migrants than any other country. The time taken normally between nomination and departure from the United Kingdom averages about four months, I am advised by the department. That is due partly to medical examinations and so forth and partly to the neces sity for migrants to dispose of their assets and wind up their affairs. I assure the honorable member that as far as practicable this Government is doing what it can to speed up the movement of United Kingdom migrants to Australia and to ensure that we get the largest practicable number.
– I wish to ask a question supplementary to one that I addressed to the Minister for Works and Housing on Thursday last. I then inquired whether he would remove the almost total ban on the sale in New South Wales of bricks manufactured in Canberra. The Minister very kindly replied that he was not quite sure what my question was all about, but said that he had never considered that more bricks produced in Canberra should be sold in New South Wales. How can he reconcile that reply with the fact that I hold in my hand not less than eight letters that I have received from him during the last four months, each of them being signed in his own fair hand, in which he states that he is fully cognizant of this problem and that it is receiving his urgent and sympathetic consideration? If the Minister has not yet considered the matter, will he now consider it in view of the serious effects that the prohibition of the sale in New South Wales .of bricks made in Canberra is having in districts adjacent to the Territory where people urgently require them?
– The simple fact is that extensive building operations are going on in Canberra in order to provide accommodation for governmental instrumentalities that are being brought to the National Capital from other capital cities. The brickyards in Canberra are owned by the Government. At present they do not produce anything like a sufficient number of bricks to meet the Government’s requirements and steps are being urgently taken to increase brick-making capacity in this city. In those circumstances, I do not think that it would be reasonable to permit more than a relatively small proportion of bricks produced here to he sold outside the Territory. An acute shortage of bricks exists throughout Australia ; but the shortage is, perhaps, more acute in Canberra, than anywhere else by reason of the great expansion that the Government is sponsoring in building operations. I am afraid that I cannot hold out much hope that more bricks produced in Canberra will be made available to people in the honorable member’s electorate.
– In reply to a question that I asked on the 2Sth September last, I was informed that Mr. -T. S. Teasdale, chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, was paid a salary of £3,000 per annum with a disability allowance of £1,000 to cover the transfer of his domicile to Melbourne and that the allowance was still being paid. In view of the fact that Mr. Teasdale has sold his home in Western Australia and is now permanently domiciled in Melbourne, will the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ensure that payment of the disability allowance shall cease as it is obvious that the disability in respect of which it was originally made available no longer exists?
– Although the honorable member has asked for certain information, he has, at the same time, given me quite a lot of information. I do not know whether Mr. Teasdale has sold his home in Western Australia. I shall look into the matter and ascertain ‘ the details if I can do so.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether it is a fact that the price of lead has increased from £35 to £65 a ton and that of zinc from £40 to £65 a ton on the home market? Is it a fact that subsidiary companies of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are making huge profits and that these profits involve a considerable increase of the cost of the construction of homes which are so badly needed throughout the Commonwealth? If so, will the Minister have an inquiry made into the matter so that something practicable may be done to prevent interference with the building of homes for the people?
– The domestic prices for lead and zinc that the honorable member has mentioned are correct. Those prices are determined by the State price-fixing authorities. I have no official knowledge of the profits that are being made by subsidiary companies of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, although I understand from popular reports that they are adequate. The matter that the honorable member has raised has been under the notice of the Government recently, but I am not in a position to make a statement on the subject.
– I address a question to the Treasurer which arises from the unsatisfactory condition of country roads and the problem that confronts local government authorities in repairing those roads. Will the right honorable gentleman give an undertaking that provision will be made in connexion with the dollar loan to enable local government authorities to obtain the heavy equipment that they require in order to repair roads in their areas?
– Provision has been made in that connexion to enable local government authorities and governmental instrumentalities to acquire heavy equipment for the purpose of repairing roads and thus improving transport facilities which is a pre-requisite for increasing production.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform me whether it is a fact that this Government has requested the Premiers of the six States to reduce their expenditure on public works by 20 per cent during this financial year? If that report is true, will the right honorable gentleman say whether it is intended that the State governments shall economize on the construction of houses, hospitals and schools, and on such works as the Burdekin River development scheme in Queensland, the Eildon Weir in Victoria and the Bronte Marsh project in Tasmania? If the Government desires the Premiers to reduce their expenditure on public works, will the right honorable gentleman make a statement to the House in which he will indicate those public works that the Commonwealth considers the States should postpone for the time being? Will he also inform the House of the action that he proposes to take if the Premiers refuse to be disciplined by this Government?
– The proceedings at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers and of the Loan Council are, I believe, public knowledge. The Prime Minister has recently indicated the intention of the Government to make quite considerable reductions, so far as it is possible, in Commonwealth expenditure on works that absorb materials and labour. I believe that the right honorable gentleman also mentioned that the States would be asked to make such cuts as were possible in their loan programmes. The honorable member for Melbourne referred to certain specific aspects of State works. They cover a very wide field indeed. I am not at all sure that there are not avenues for reducing expenditure on State works in directions which will not have the effects that the honorable gentleman clearly anticipates. Australia has a population of only 8,000,000, and has relatively limited resources. It is not possible to do simultaneously everything that every government and every local governing authority in Australia wants to do, and I believe that, with defence expenditure mounting, it will be necessary to make certain economies in public works throughout Australia which are not so essential as other works.
– What are they?
– I do not feel that I am called upon to particularize at this time or in the immediate future, other than to say that I believe that we must put first things first in our public works programmes, as in all other directions.
– What action does the Commonwealth propose to take if the Premiers refuse to reduce their expenditure on public works?
– That is another story.
– I desire to addressa series of questions to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the Government of New South Wales has submitted to the Commonwealth proposed amendments of the mineworkers’ pensions scheme which operates in that State, and that the Commonwealth has refused to sanction them? Is it also a fact that the Commonwealth makes no contribution to that pensions scheme, and has the State asked the Commonwealth to step aside so that it may administer the scheme without seeking Commonwealth approval of its actions? Although I ask that question, my understanding of the position is that the excise on coal, which i? imposed by the Commonwealth, may assist to finance that scheme. If the Commonwealth were to accede to the State’s request, would the mine-workers’ pensions schemes in other States be affected, and the administration of the Coal Industry Tribunal be affected? I ask the Minister to investigate that position, because it is a serious matter in New South Wales.
– The honorable member for Hunter has asked me a series of questions which cover a wide field. I replied to the subject-matter of the first part of his question some time ago, when I explained the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales relative to the miners’ pensions scheme in that State. I also showed the action that had been taken on certain requests which had come to us for approval of amendments proposed by the
State Government. The honorable member seems to be somewhat confused between the long service leave scheme, and the miners’ pensions scheme. The excise on coal, to which he has referred, is imposed by the Commonwealth under legislation in order to finance the long service leave scheme. It has no relation whatever to the miners’ pensions scheme, which is financed entirely by the Government of New South Wales and by contributions from the owners and the mine w orkers. Representations have been made to this Government in recent times by the Minister for Mines and the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales, in which they have urged that they be relieved of the requirement to consult us and to secure our approval of amendments that are proposed to the miners’ pensions scheme. They point out that such a requirement does not apply to other States which have miners’ pensions schemes. I find a good deal of administrative embarrassment and difficulty in being required to deal departmentally with amendments that have been proposed by the Government of New South Wales. The whole position was considered by Cabinet this morning, and the Government has decided to advise the Government of New .South Wales that we shall raise no objection to it varying its agreement to the degree that is necessary to enable it to determine such matters for itself.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I refer to the case of a person suffering from a chronic disease for whom free drugs are prescribed. It appears that the greatest quantity of a certain drug that can be prescribed at the one time is a “ double quantity “. If more than this quantity is required the patient must return to the medical adviser and have his prescription rewritten at a cost of 12s. 6d. Is there any means of overcoming such a difficulty, and will the Minister investigate the matter in order to arrive at a method of overcoming such great expense to sufferers ?
– A great deal of trouble was taken in drawing up the list of drugs and the number of repeats that could be’ given on one consultation with the doctor in cases of chronic disease. In many of those cases it is possible to get a prescription which will give the patient medicine for up to six months. There are certain drugs in very short supply-
– I am speaking of the disease of cancer and the drug morphia.
– Morphia was discussed by the doctors when they were “drawing up the list and it was decided that the indiscriminate use of morphia would be a most dangerous thing because of the possibility of addicts being able to gain easy access to it. We are trying to find some means whereby it will be possible for cancer sufferers to be properly safeguarded so that there will be no difficulty in the supply of the drug. This matter has received a great deal of consideration and as the scheme progresses we are grateful to find that doctors and chemists throughout Australia are writing to us and suggesting means whereby certain anomalies can be overcome. Such suggestions are being regularly studied by the Department of Health and where possible will be implemented.
Formal Motion foe Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House forthe purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The failure of the Government to provide adequate pharmaceutical benefits and services to meet the needs of the Australian public, and to inform Parliament of its proposals.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– In 1943, the Labour Government decided to implement a scheme to provide pharmaceutical benefits for the people of Australia. Subsequently, in 1944 and 1945, it introduced legislation to give effect to, and in 1947 it introduced its scheme; the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, which repealed the previous legislation and enacted certain new provisions. The formulary embodied in that legislation had great flexibility and permitted the list of free grugs to be extended, contracted or altered in accordance with modern scientific and medical developments. It contained approximately 600 preparations, and thousands of prescriptions could be dispensed from those items. The only drugs that were not included in the formulary were those which had fallen into disuse and those of which the medical profession had not had sufficient experience to justify their general use. The drugs that could be dispensed from that formulary would have sufficed to meet 95 per cent, of the medical requirements of the community. I point out that the formulary was prepared, not by the Government or by laymen, but hy experts of the highest attainments. The basic principle underlying the whole scheme was that every Australian citizen was entitled to obtain, without charge and without being subjected to a. means test, drugs, compounds and mixtures prepared by pharmacists on the prescription of his medical adviser. However, that scheme was never implemented because of the failure of the British Medical Association to co-operate with the Government. The association was aided and abetted in its action by the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who bitterly opposed the scheme.
The main reason advanced by the British Medical Association to justify its opposition to the scheme was that it found the formulary unacceptable. However, besides objecting to the formulary, it also objected to any control by the Department of Health, and, in fact, to the general scheme. It objected to the official forms, to the limitation of quantities contained in the formulary, and, in particular, to the provision that not more than two items could be included on one prescription form. Practically all those provisions are contained, in the present scheme, and the attitude now adopted by the British Medical Association indicates clearly that it was playing party politics with the Chifley Government, and that the real reason for its objection to the McKenna scheme was not the formulary but the colour of the political party which introduced it. The McKenna scheme provided for the establishment of a special formulary committee which included the Director-General of Health, as chairman, and six other persons to be appointed by the Minister for Health, three of whom were to be practising medical practitioners, two to be pharmaceutical chemists and. one a pharmacologist. That proposal has been by-passed by the present Government, and a new formulary has been compiled, by the Minister for Health, with the assistance of the “ secret six “ of the British Medical Association, whose names he refuses to divulge, and that formulary is being used as the basis of the present scheme.
Having furnished that information as a background for the discussion of this matter, I take the opportunity now to deal extensively with the present scheme. First of all, I want to know, amongst other things, why the McKenna formulary, which contained 600 essential preparations, was not incorporated in the present formulary, and why the comprehensive range of drugs that was included in the McKenna formulary has been eliminated from the present formulary. I also want to know why the Minister has accepted the domination of the British Medical Association in the implementation of a scheme which con,cerns all sections of the community. The Government should certainly have at least one representative on the committee which controls the formulary. Although I propose now to examine the scheme introduced by the present Minister for Health, I must admit at once that nearly all the information on which my criticism is based comes from newspaper articles, from statements by the Minister which have appeared in the press and from answers that the Minister has furnished to questions asked of him in the Parliament. As all honorable members are aware, we have been unable to get the Minister- to make a comprehensive statement to the Parliament, and therefore the sources of information that I have mentioned are the only ones available to me. I emphasize that point because any errors or omissions which may be found in the remarks that I shall make concerning the scheme are entirely due to the failure of the Minister to furnish proper information concerning it to the Parliament.
What has the Minister done? He has side-stepped the comprehensive formulary hi id down by the previous Government, which was capable of providing for 95 per cent, of the medical needs of the Australian people, and in its place he has substituted a formulary that is alleged to contain 139 items. I point out at once that the inclusion of such a large number of items does not necessarily mean that a wide range of drugs will be available to the people. For instance, the formulary contains nineteen liver preparations, eleven sulfa drugs and four penicillin preparations. Whilst a few individuals like the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) might require such an extensive range of liver preparations, it is obvious that ordinary members of the community do not require it. The effect of including such a variety of preparations for the treatment of particular complaints is to reduce the number of essentia! preparations available under the formulary to approximately 60. That formulary has, I repeat, been substituted for the McKenna formulary which embraced 600 items, and I point out that when the McKenna formulary was introduced members of the British Medical Association criticized it because allegedly it was not sufficiently extensive. Although I am a member of the Parliament and represent approximately 40,000 electors, 1 point out to the House once more that I have had to get my information concerning the scheme- from the press because the Minister will not give an official explanation of it to the Parliament. Under the heading “ Free life-saving drugs the Sydney Sun of the 3rd September, contained an official advertisement which stated -
Life-saving and disease-preventing drugs will be available free of cost to patients throughout Australia from Monday, September 4, 1950.
There will be no Means Test. The entire cost of the scheme will be met by the Commonwealth Government.
The prescribed list of basic, life-saving drugs has been prepared by a committee of leading Australian doctors. ifr. Daly.
Remember: The scheme will cover only those life-saving drugs and disease-preventing drugs contained in the official list.
Ordinary mixtures prescribed by your doctor are not included.
Who are the doctors who have compiled the list of life-saving drugs referred to? We should certainly like to know. In any event, the limitation of the formulary to such a small range of life-saving drugs constitutes a deliberate infringement of the right of medical practitioners to provide whatever they consider to be necessary for their patients. I shall now read the report of a statement made by the president of the Federated Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia, which stated -
The Federal Government’s latest “free” drug list (life-saving drugs) will cover only 2 per cunt. - 160.000- of Australia’s 8 million people.
I shall be a little more generous and shall stretch the range of the scheme, and, in fact. I shall even double its incidence, but even then it will cover only about 5 per cent, of the population. The report continues -
Mr. Scott said that the enlarged service of “ free “ medicine that the pensioner group would receive would include some of the ordinary compounded medicines commonly prescribed for everyday complaints and illnesses.
Why does not the formulary include every prescription that a pensioner might require? We find that a scheme is to be implemented that will be extremely restricted in its operation, add although we have asked the Minister time and again to expound the scheme he has refused to do so. Altogether more than 56 questions have been directed at the Minister in the Parliament concerning his scheme but we have not been able to obtain one satisfactory answer. We have not been able to find out how the formulary has been determined, or who the doctors are who have prepared it. We have not been able to discover why people are to be denied the medicine that is so essential in any free medicine scheme. The comments made in the press reflect the uncertainty in the minds of the people on this matter, and I shall quote some of them. The Sydney Morning Herald, in its issue of the 2nd February last, published the following report: -
The new medicine plan would be a hard scheme to sell to the public, the Federal President of the Pharmaceutical Guild of Australia, Mr. E. Scott, said to-day. He said, “ This would mean that only 5-8 per cent, of the people would get free medicine “.
On the 17th April last the Melbourne Herald made the following criticism of the scheme : -
It is time the people of Australia were told something, officially, about the Government’s medical service plans. . . . All that the public actually knows at present, is that it nas been promised a medical scheme, and that something or someone appears to be delaying it. The Government should make an early statement. There can be no possible excuse for secrecy.
On the 27th June the same newspaper published the following comment: - “ Health Plan all words. There is certainly little medicine in it.”
On the 24th July the same newspaper carried the following headline: -
Gallup Poll - Page Medicine Plan hasn’t caught on.
I propose now to indicate some of the more glaring faults in the scheme presented by the present Minister. The first complaint I make is that it covers only 60 preparations, which will exclude 95 per cent, of the people from any benefit. Amongst those who will be penalized most severely are age and invalid pensioners. The scheme provides for life-saving drugs only, but the majority of such people who need medical attention suffer from common ailments that at least require alleviation. I defy any honorable member to consult a doctor and to come away from the consulting room without ti prescription of one kind or another. If the doctor considers the prescription to be essential, and it is to be assumed that he does, then it should come within this scheme. Regulation 50 of 1950 promulgated under the National Health Service Act makes provision for free medicine for age pensioners.. That is all we get - words, regulations and no action. Furthermore, under this scheme it is necessary for an applicant to have a disease test. A person has to have one foot in the grave and the other in the doctor’s surgery before he can obtain the benefit of free medicine to save his life.
This must be the first occasion in history on which a disease test has been applied in connexion with a free medicine scheme in Australia. The scheme makes no provision for the supply of medical appliances free. The conditions of the scheme mean that the Minister is providing the drug houses of this country with a benefit at the public expense.
No matter how sick a person is he will have to wait about six months to obtain ^relief because of the shortage of essential drugs. What is the good of that to a man with a bad heart? The scheme is to cost almost £2,300,000 per annum and every person in the community is paying some contribution towards it, yet only a minority of 5 per cent, of the people are able to benefit from it. The Minister should explain to this House why he was prepared to throw overboard the 600 preparations that were provided in the scheme of the former Minister for Health (‘Senator McKenna). Why have these preparations not been included in the scheme? The British Medical Association cannot now take the view that the scheme is being administered by a socialist Minister. My colleagues will speak at more length on this matter and will give the Minister plenty to answer.
Before I conclude my speech I must refer to the complete contempt that the Minister has shown for this Parliament in connexion with this scheme. He has consistently refused to outline to the Parliament any of its details. Since this Parliament opened we on this side of the House have asked 56 questions about the scheme, but both Government supporters and Opposition supporters are still as badly informed as ever about it. We have received only unsatisfactory answers and evasions and the Minister has shown a complete disregard of the rights of honorable members to have full information on this subject. We believe that the reason for the Minister’s evasion is that he himself does not know what the scheme is all about. We believe also that the scheme is dominated by the British Medical Association, and that the absolute muddle that it is in is the reason why the Minister seeks to withhold the details of it from the House. It is completely clear to honorable members on this side of the chamber that neither the Minister nor the Government has any reasonable policy on health. The Minister himself is muddled and evasive on the subject, a fact which can be supported by ref erence to the files of any newspaper in the Commonwealth. By failing to submit details of the scheme to Parliament he has treated honorable members with contempt. Only a few days ago Sydney Truth stated in a report that the Page health scheme could not be understood. It is because of the utter failure of the Minister to do his duty by providing an inexpensive and free medicine scheme for this country, and because of his contempt for Parliament and his complete inability to give details of the scheme, that I have formally moved the adjournment of the House to have the matter discussed.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) illustrates the confused condition of mind of the entire Opposition at the present time, owing to the mess that it is in regarding the Communist Party Dissolution Bill and the Commonwealth Bank Bill. Honorable members opposite do not know whether they are getting their instructions from the federal executive of the Labour party or from their own caucus. I do not require to answer the honorable member because already a member of his own party has answered him in a letter to the Director-General of Health dated the 11th September, in which he referred to an article in the Melbourne Herald. The letter states -
Such a clear-cut step as the provision of expensive drugs causes a great relief to this state of affairs and makes myself, at least, feel that we have not reached a standstill in our material and moral development.
The article of the “Herald”, incidentally, shows a forthrightness of attitude to the changes in the economic structure of the medical profession which to me shows the approach of a statesman, and not a politician.
In passing, it may be of interest to note that my sympathies still lie, however, with the other side of the House.
I should like to thank the Opposition for having raised this matter to-day, for it enables me to deal at .some length with all the silly suggestions and conjectures that have been current in Aus tralia for so many months. The honorable member has no excuse for saying that information about the scheme has been withheld, because when I made my speech in Brisbane on the 23rd May last, I paid the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the former Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) the courtesy of sending them a copy of it on the very day on which I delivered it. Therefore, if the Opposition has not had any information it can seek the reason nearer home.
I turn now to the honorable member’s statement regarding the formulary committee. The honorable member should read the only provision contained in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act that deals with the formulary committee. It reads -
For the purposes of this Act there shall be a ‘ Formulary Committee, consisting of the Director-General of Health and six other persons appointed by the Minister.
But no matter how he may search that act he will not find any mention of any functions having been allotted to that committee. It is just stuck there like a pole out in the wind, or like a ship adrift at sea without captain or crew. There is nothing that the formulary committee can do unless some preliminary action in respect of its functions is taken by means of the issuance of regulations.
– “Whose act was that?
– It was passed during the regime of the Chifley Government. There were three factors in the defeat of the Labour party at the last general election. The first was that the Labour party showed a very great tenderness towards the Communists. That tenderness has been carried into this Parliament. The second was Labour’s policy on banking. The Labour party has attempted to prevent the passage of the present Government’s banking legislation, upon which it received a mandate .from the people. The third factor was the Labour party’s attempt to socialize medicine. The general election demonstrated beyond all question that the present Government has a very definite mandate to prevent the socialization of medicine.
– I rise to order. The right honorable member has proceeded for nearly two minutes to traverse quite a lot of matter that is completely extraneous to the subject under discussion, and I suggest to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if the Standing Orders are properly administered he should be stopped in his tracks.
-Order! The Minister’s remarks have been wide of the subject-matter of the motion before the Chair to which he should confine himself.
– I was merely replying to the honorable member for Grayndler, who, I take it, must have been in order when he dealt with the legislation of the previous Government, as you did not stop him, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was going to say that the legislation shows the Labour party’s sorry disregard for a national health scheme. The Labour party’s health scheme has been well typified by an ancient saying to the effect that the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse - and a ridiculous mouse at that. There is practically nothing left of that legislation that is of any value or that is operating to any great degree except for two matters. One is the tuberculosis legislation which I endorsed at the time and which I was given to understand was drawn up by British Medical Association men which is, consequently, in fairly workable condition. The other is the Hospital Benefits Act, which is of such a character that the great hospital at Lewisham is excluded from its benefits.
Speaking as a medical man, it seems to me that Labour’s health record is very much like the condition that doctors know as pseudocyesis, or false pregnancy, in which the lady thinks she has conceived and presents all the signs of pregnancy. At the end of nine months, no child is delivered, but there is a lot of wind. I think that the Labour party’s achievement regarding health might be typified very well by the title of a best-seller that was in vogue two or three years ago. It might be said to have “ gone with the wind “. The difference between the record of the last Government and this Government is that, though the previous
Government was in office for eight year3-
– Order * There are continual interruptions from the Opposition.
– I am horrified.
– Order ! The honorable member will apologize for interjecting when I am on my feet.
– I apologize, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– Labour was in office for eight years, but could not secure the co-operation of the doctors or the State governments. It is only since the present Government has been in existence that certain agreements have been signed that were drawn up three or four years ago. Despite the charges made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), this Government, during the eight months it has been in office, has achieved the co-operation of all the great providers of medical services throughout the community. It has obtained . agreement . with doctors, chemists, friendly societies and insurance companies and has been able to bring into being a national health scheme which is beginning to be recognized throughout the length and breadth of the world. During the last eight months, and especially during the last two or three months, I have personally examined with the various organizations all the possible difficulties and anomalies of our national health scheme because the Government did not wish to rush into existence a scheme to which it could not ensure permanency. As >a result, every person in Australia is now able to obtain life-saving drugs which attack the killer diseases. The system under which they are able to do that is working most smoothly and is so efficient that what appeared to be one of the great obstacles - the quick payment of the chemists’ accounts - has been overcome. I am informed that, by the end of October, all chemists’ accounts for September will have been paid.
The Government has introduced a very generous pension scheme for people who have active tuberculosis. I understand that the previous Government only added 25s. to the ordinary invalid pension for tuberculosis patients, which, I think, brought their total pension to about £3 7s. 6d. This Government has approved of the payment of a pension of £6 10s. a week, and is permitting such pensioners to earn another £3 5s. Our purpose was to make certain that people who have active tuberculosis shall be properly nourished during the period of their convalescence and shall not be a danger to industry. >
Approximately 135 drugs are available under the present health scheme. The various compounds that were available under the McKenna formulary embraced only 90 separate drugs. The drugs that are now available, as honorable gentlemen who are practising chemists can testify, represent up to 30 per cent, of the total prescriptions that are being issued and up to half the cost of the medicine that is being supplied at the present time. This scheme has a chance of permanence whereas other schemes for the free distribution of bottles of medicine have been threatened with failure. Only three or four months ago, the Economist in England, in commenting on the British health scheme, said that it could not continue in its present form. The scheme was costing about £600,000,000 a year although it had been estimated that it would cost only £160,000,000 annually.. It was said that it could not continue unless a means test was imposed or some” charge made.
In New Zealand, where a similar medical scheme was brought into existence which provided for no check, Dr. Duncan Cook, the Director of Clinical Services, in a report to the New Zealand Parliament a fortnight ago, said that it was impossible to carry on. The whole system would break down unless remedial measures were taken for it9 control. Dr. Cook said that a critical stage had been reached in the development of social security medicine. Increases in the cost of general medical services and pharmaceutical supplies had been of such magnitude as to lead to serious misgivings about whether State medical insurance against sickness was practicable or whether the best method of payment had been adopted. The present system of social security medicine in New Zealand would have to be considerably modified or replaced by a more readily controllable procedure. As Mr. Aneurin Bevan, the British Minister for Health, said of the New Zealand health scheme, all that a doctor needed to have in order to make money in New Zealand was a very fast motor car. [Extension of time granted.’] In England a similar , position has arisen. It was reported in the press two days ago that as a result of a conference of the whole of the medical profession in Britain every member of that profession was signing an undated resignation from the health scheme. Although they would continue to treat people they stated that they would resign from their contracts with the Govern ment because of what was happening to them under a system of nationalization of medicine.
– What is the Government doing for the pensioner?
– I shall come to that in two or three minutes. The honorable member for Grayndler has said that he cannot understand the scheme, but the document which was sent to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has been widely published. One effect of its publication in the Australian Modern Hospital journal was that I received a letter from the chairman of the Manitoba Hospital which reads, inter alia - . . It seems to me one of the most furreaching and progressive [schemes] I have yet seen. Its implementation is bound to affect medical and hospital thinking throughout the democratic nations. We shall look forward with a great deal of interest to hearing of the progress of your plan.
A similar letter reached me from the gentleman who controls all the health insurance systems of the State of New York. Under his jurisdiction millions of people are benefiting. He said that my suggestions were most interesting and that he believed that they could be regarded as the most progressive step that has been taken in ameliorating the position that has arisen in the world because of the tremendous rise in the cost of medical treatment due to the increase in our knowledge and the high cost of medical discoveries.
We have discussed the matter with the British Medical Association and with the chemists. The British Medical Association has readily agreed to give to the Government concessional rates for the treatment of pensioners in the surgery and for visits to their homes. We hope that by the 1st November that scheme will be in operation. We have been in discussion with the chemists and hope to supply them with n comprehensive system of free medicine over and above the lifesaving drugs, so that pensioners will be adequately covered. We shall provide first of all for’ the presentation of the pensioner’s identification card to the doctor and then he will receive free treatment. The doctor will collect from the Government and the chemist will be paid for all medicines supplied. What I have clone and what I am doing in regard to this matter has been within the scope of Commonwealth functions and Commonwealth powers since the beginning of federation. A Labour Government was in office for eight years and it did nothing to bring in a reform of this nature, but this Government has been able in eight months to formulate this system which will be of great be of great benefit to the pensioners. We have been able to do that because I have spent a tremendous amount of time, thought and energy in securing the co-operation and goodwill of those people who provide the medical services for the community. I shall give honorable member’s an instance of one of the difficulties that faced us. In connexion with the list in the formulary which has been sent to every chemist we were able to set out the price of each particular drug. All that a chemist has to do at the end of a period is to add up the number of hundred millions of units of penicillin and so on and claim upon the Government for a lump sum. That means practically no increase in clerical work for the chemist. Chemists have informed me of their amazement at how little difference this scheme makes in their work. In the case of medicines compounded, the McKenna formulary shewed how it was necessary to go into intricate calculations to find out how much each item should cost. The reason why we are at. present delaying the introduction of the full scheme for pensioners is because we must discover through discussions with the chemists and doctors a method to make the payment for the pensioners’ medicine as simple and as easy as the payment for life-saving medicines for the general public. That will help to make certain that the scheme will last. We hope that nobody in six months or so will have cause to feel any resentment at any delay under the scheme. I intended to speak on this matter during the Supply debate, but I aru glad that I have been able to address the House at this time. The reason why I have not been able to speak on it earlier is because the whole of the time of this Parliament has been taken up by manoeuvrings of the Opposition in connexion with the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the Commonwealth Bank Bill and the Social Services Consolidation Bill.
.- The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), in reply to charges that were made against him by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), has tried desperately to justify the existence of his pharmaceutical scheme. But he has not replied to the charge that when questions were asked of him in this House he adopted a policy of evasion and refused to give to honorable members the information to which they were entitled. In the very unintelligible jumble of words which he has just addressed to the House, he has said that- he sent from Brisbane to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) a statement in regard to the scheme. The right place to discuss the scheme is in this House, and the Minister has failed in his duty to answer the charge made against him in that respect by the honorable member for Grayndler. Another charge made against the Minister is that the formulary of the Labour Government has been replaced by one which is more restricted in its operation and which does not contain certain essential drugs or appliances required for the treatment of prevalent complaints. A third is that under the new formulary, ordinary mixtures or compounds prepared by pharmacists will not be available at ail. I add a further charge to those, and that is that a number of items on the new formulary open the way for unwarranted profits to be made by wholesale drug bouses at Government expense. Certain drugs which should be included in this Government’s formulary are not there. For instance, in the asthmatic group only one drug may be found. That is adrenalin, which can only be used or administered by a doctor on the spot. In the arthritis group there is only one drug specified for use, and for allergies or reactions there are no drugs of any kinds. Therefore, in the formulary which this power-drunk politician presumes to present as a good scheme, there are some notable exceptions. Another exception is that there is no provision under this scheme for atomizers for asthma sufferers. Distilled water, which is essential for the preparation of drugs such as morphia and penicillin, is not included, and patients must pay1s. 6d. for a small bottle of it. I suggest that all these things are most important. It is quite apparent that this formulary does not cover nearly as many items as the one drawn up by the “previous Government.
In the pharmaceuticalbenefits booklet, which was issued to chemists in September, 1950, certain drugs are listed under various headings. If a doctor gives a prescription and does not specify the type or brand of the particular drug to be used, the first price shown is charged. If the drug is listed under a particular brand then the charge is greater. Take the case with sulpha quanidine. This is a drug used for bowel infection and diarrhoea. If the type is not specified the prescription rate is 7s. 8d. Then the schedule shows that if shigatox is used the cost is 13s. 4d. If the product of Abbott Laboratories is used it costs 14s.1d. That made by Andrews. Laboratories costs 10s. 8d. Other charges listed are -
Yet each of these items is the same drug of the same quality, and has the same effect. Therefore the difference between the 7s. 8d. for the unbranded item and the price for the branded item represents a considerable amount of profit to the big drug houses. Let us consider another example. That is, dihydro streptomycin. This drug is used in pneumonia and tuberculosis when sulpha drugs are not effective. If it is not specified by brand or name the formulary price is 8s. If it is the product of Abbott Laboratories the price is 12s. 4d. ; if it is branded Parke Davis the price is 13s. 4d., and if Glaxo the price is 8s. Yet it is exactly the same drug in all respects whether it is sold at the higher or the low price. The Australian Government has to pay the extra price of the unbranded drug or where the proprietary line is prescribed the proprietary price which represents abig profit to the drug houses. The right honorable gentleman knows full well that the formulary he has approved is nothing but a wicked ramp at the expense of taxpayers, and does not give the benefit to those who are entitled to the benefits of a. real pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The Minister has said that chemists approved of the scheme which he has put into operation. I shall refer the House to a certain article which appeared in the Melbourne press. That article, which typifies the objections of chemists to the Page plan, reads -
Most serious objection, chemists claim, is the proposal to alter the present. Free Medicine formulary (as submitted by the Chifley Government) to a small arbitrary list of uncompounded drugs which would be available to people, free of charge, provided a doctor has first signed the necessary Pharmaceutical Benefits Act prescription form.
The existing Free Medicine formulary is acceptable to chemists for three main reasons -
It provides for both compounded and uncompounded medicines.
It enables the chemists to mix everyday types ofmedicine for minor ailments.
It safeguards the chemists’ traditional compounding skill.
They oppose that part of the Page plan which” provides for “single” drugs, and virtually by-passes the chemists’ own dispensary.
Under the scheme of the Minister who was formerly described as the “ Tragic Treasurer “ and now appears in the role of the tragic Minister for Health, the chemist is in danger of becoming merely a retailer of compounded, prepacked medicines and drugs;
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The motion now before the chair is designed to embarrass not only the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), but also the Government on the ground that an adequate medical service has not yet been implemented. However, this debate will serve the very useful purpose of contrasting the present scheme with that which the previous Government endeavoured to implement.
– It did not operate at all.
– It failed completely. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) gave certain reasons why the scheme of the previous Government failed. That scheme failed, first, because of the attitude that Senator McKenna, who was then Minister for Health, adopted; and, secondly, because it was designed merely as a means to catch votes. It debased the great problem of public health. Senator McKenna, when he was Minister for Health, set himself up as the know-all of everything relating to medical services. When he became Minister he assumed control of a scheme that the Chifley Government had been endeavouring since 1944 to bring to fruition as a part of its plan to socialize medical services. Upon undertaking that task Senator McKenna became arrogant and bombastic - the idealistic, socialist dictator. There was not a phase of the medical profession a bou t which he did not know all that was to be known. However, he did not have the most necessary qualification, namely, the ability to win and influence friends in order to obtain the co-operation of all the parties concerned in the implementation of his scheme. He adopted a fighting attitude towards all the parties whose help he required in order to establish it and carry it on. He disputed their advice and refused to be guided by them. In his view, the people who ‘had been looking after the health of the community for countless years did not know anything about medical services. Consequently, it is not difficult to discern the reason for the failure of the Chifley Government’s scheme.
The present Minister for Health can be very proud of the fact that during the seven months since the present Government assumed office he has been able to bring together the parties concerned in implementing a plan that is now working satisfactorily. Whatever grounds may exist for criticizing the Page plan, which is still in its teething stage, the fact remains that it is working satisfactorily whereas, after four years of effort, the previous Government’s plan was rejected out of hand by the persons whose co-operation was required. I am very glad that the people have been spared the scheme’ that the Chifley Government sought to impose upon them, because it would have produced a nation of medicine takers and the evil effects that have resulted from similar socialist schemes in other countries. I refer particularly to the schemes that have been introduced by socialist governments in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Medicine swilling has increased to such a degree in the United Kingdom that the cost of the scheme now exceeds £2,500,000 a month. In fact, the British health department is unable to keep up with the work of administering that scheme with the result- that its payments to chemists are twelve months in arrears. The experience of the scheme in New Zealand also has shown that the health of a community cannot be safeguarded merely by the free provision of bottles of medicine.
The McKenna scheme was launched with a great flourish of trumpets. Under it, formularies were compiled in expensive volumes that were lettered in geld. The ultimate McKenna formulary contained 600 formulas many of which would not be of importance to persons who were really sick. It certainly contained 600 remedies, but it excluded many of the expensive life-saving drugs that are included in the 150 formulas and drugs that are listed in the Page formulary. Persons who become really sick are not concerned about obtaining inexpensive drugs such as peroxide and paraffin. They will he helped most under a scheme that provides free of cost life-saving drugs that are most costly. I repeat that the formulary under the Page plan makes available free of charge the most ex-pensive and most beneficial drugs. One of them, for instance, is anreomycin, of which, two treatments costing 20s. and 30s. are required. Another drug included in the
Page formulary is anahaemin, for which the course of treatment costs £6. I could cite a dozen other expensive and important drugs that are included in the Page formulary. At a cursory glance, they include at least 25 drugs the cost of each of which exceeds 20s. None of those drugs was included in the McKenna formulary. By introducing a free medicine scheme that works, the present Minister has brought relief to the sick who urgently need treatment with the most scientific drugs. For that action he has earned the gratitude of the community as a whole.
The present plan provides a. real benefit, and not simply free bottles of medicine. Most of the drugs that are provided under the Page plan must be prescribed and administered under medical supervision. lt is not merely a matter of making available free of charge bottles of medicine which, eventually, will be discarded or find their way on to the crowded shelves of household medicine chests. Thus the community has much for which to thank the present Minister under whose scheme many of the wasteful items that were included in the McKenna formulary have been eliminated whilst the administrative cost that would have ‘been involved under the McKenna scheme in the maintenance of an army of temporary public servants has been reduced to a minimum. The Page plan is most acceptable to the community.
I should like to speak about the benefits that are being provided for pensioners, but within the time at my disposal I am unable to do so. Whilst the Minister may not yet have accomplished all that the Government wishes to do, I believe that he will soon do so and will take the people much further along the road to health and happiness. The Page scheme is ‘based not on political considerations, but on the principle of providing the greatest benefits to the community as a whole.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The object of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in making this motion was to try to force the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to give to the House and to the people some information about the steps that the Government has taken to honour its promise to the people to introduce a workable medical scheme. That promise has been glaringly broken. When the Minister was asked for information about his plan, he referred his questioners to a speech . he had made at a conference held in Brisbane That speech contained very little information indeed. In fact, when the Leader of the Opposition obtained a copy of it from Brisbane he found it to be so unintelligible as not to be worth offering ro any one as a source of information. The Minister spoke about schemes thai are in operation in other countries. He mentioned those in New Zealand and in the United Kingdom. But he said nothing about his own plan because, apparently, no such thing as a Page plan exists.
The right honorable gentleman said that Labour governments that had been in office for eight years had not succeeded in implementing a workable health plan. The people of Australia at a referendum gave to the National Parliament power to alter the Constitution to enable it to legislate in respect of health and medical services. The Labour Government acted on that mandate and introduced a. good scheme. Any unbiased person who studied it would agree that, it was an admirable scheme. However, the doctors of Australia would not cooperate in implementing it. They sabotaged the Chifley Government’s scheme. Whilst the doctors may not have been wholly on strike against the scheme, they staged a regulation strike which they are till carrying on in defiance of the law of the land. I hone that when a certain measure becomes law the Government will nay due regard to the activities of the doctors in that respect because it would be justified in declaring them on that ground.
The Minister also said that certain hospitals in New South Wales were being robbed of benefits under the hospital benefits scheme. That is the fault of tho.=e institutions themselves, ‘because if they were prepared to co-operate in that scheme they, would gain the benefits that 99 per cent, of the hospitals- in this country receive under it. I have no complaint to make about the Government’s health plan, because no such plan exists. I recall the criticism that supporters of the Government levelled at the Chifley Government when it introduced its pharmaceutical benefits scheme. They ridiculed and slandered it. But that Government at least had a scheme, as any person with an unprejudiced mind would he compelled to admit. The Minister for Health has been asked as many as 60 questions about his proposed scheme for n national health and medical service, and he has merely evaded them, and procrastinated in formulating his proposals. His health plan constitutes just another failure to fulfil a pre-election promise that this Government made. Perhaps, it has been, concentrating all its attention on ways of putting value hack into the £1. If so, its efforts have produced no noticeable results. The right honorable gentleman has not given a reasonable reply to any questions that have been asked about his pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The only knowledge that honorable members and the public have been able to glean of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is derived from the many contradictory statements that have been published in the press from time to time. Instead of discussing his proposals in interviews with journalists, the Minister should make a definite and comprehensive statement on the subject to the National Parliament. It appears that the destiny of this matter of national importance now rests in the hands of a fumbling fool, who is being pushed, apparently by the British Medical Association, from one point of dispair to another, because the opinions of that organization are dominating the whole scheme. The health plan, when it is finally formulated, will be fashioned in such a way that the only persons who will benefit from it will be, not the general public, but the doctors and the chemists. The people have been completely fooled on this matter.
On my arrival in Canberra to-day, I received a letter from one of my constituents, Mrs. Jessie Furlong, who is an invalid pensioner residing at Punchbowl. I do not think that she will object to the letter being read in the House. It is as follows : -
I wish to bring to your notice that I am suffering from cardiac trouble and still have to pay for my tablets which I have to take three times daily, and I. understood life-saving drugs were free. What is the use of the other free drug3 if yow heart stops? I trust that you will see if you can have this matter rectified.
The doctors should have co-operated with the Labour Government when it introduced its pharmaceutical benefits scheme, in the interests of the health and welfare of the community. In my opinion, the objections that were expressed by medical practitioners to that scheme were frivolous. When all is said and done, the community provides the universities in which medical students receive their training, and, for that reason, doctors owe a debt to it. Even if the medical practitioners disliked the policy of the Labour Government, they should have accepted its’ pharmaceutical benefits scheme at least to the degree of prescribing for invalid and age pensioners. Some honorable members may not be aware that Australia has 300,000 age pensioners, 78,000 invalid pensioners, and, in another group, 50,000 diebetics The doctors should have modified their hostility to the Labour Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme to the degree of treating those sections of the community under its provisions. At the moment, approximately 200 doctors are prescribing under the Labour Government’s health scheme. I should like to know what the present Government has in mind concerning them when it ultimately introduces its national health and medical service. The majority of those 200 medical practitioners are giving valuable service, particularly to invalid pensioners, who must have certain medicines for the relief of their ailments.
The Labour Government’s scheme will be superseded by the inadequate plan that has been formulated by the present Minister for Health. According to press reports, it provides for only 139 drugs, compared with a range of 800 drugs in the Labour Government’s formulary. Indeed, the only drugs that were not included in that formulary were those that had not proved their value, and others that had become obsolete. Actually, 90 per cent, of the drugs that are in common use were in the formulary that was prepared by the previous Minister for Health, Senator McKenna. As some Government supporters may have forgotten what that formulary contained, I shall refresh their memories. There was insulin for diabetics, to a maximum cost of £12; plaster of paris for a fractured limb, to a cost of £3; courses of penicillin, to a cost of £10; elastic bandages for persons suffering from varicose veins, to a cost of £1 ;. tablets to relieve common heart complaints, many of which may be due to the strain of the present-day conditions under which we live.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Obviously, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has moved the adjournment of, the House this afternoon for the purposes of party political propaganda. I suppose that the frequency with which this kind of motion is submitted is a part of the price that we must pay for broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament. In the last six sitting days, the adjournment of the House has been moved on four occasions for the purpose, allegedly, of discussing matters of urgent public importance, but each of those motions, when the subjects with which they dealt were examined in debate, was found to be completely unjustified. Opposition members have been singularly indiscreet in their choice of subjects, because the record of the preceding Labour Government regarding those identical matters was most unfortunate. The honorable member for Mel- bourne (Mr. Calwell) moved the adjournment of the House to discuss an administrative decision that had been made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), but his charges on that occasion were proved baseless. Subsequently, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the appointment of Mr. J. S. Teasdale as chairman of the Australian “Wheat Board, and the Minister acting for. the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Anthony) had a complete answer to his allegations. Opposition members would be well advised not to attempt to refer- to the administration of the preceding Labour Government in respect of audi* matters as the wheat industry,, and the administration of the customs laws.
Similarly, the charges that have been made this afternoon by the honorable member for Grayndler, and by other Opposition members about the Government’s plan for a health and medical service are without foundation. “Whatever the merits or the faults of the Labour Government’s health plan may have been, the fact remains that, in eight years, it did not work. Regardless of whether Opposition members agree or disagree with the present Government’s health plan, the fact remains that, after eight months, it is functioning- satisfactorily. That situation prompts an obvious question, namely, why did the health plan of the preceding Labour Government fail to function? The basic reason is that it was not acceptable to the 7,000 doctors throughout Australia. A health scheme, without the co-operation of the doctors, is just as impracticable as a plan for the erection of houses without the assistance of builders would be. The next question that arises is : Why did not the doctors accept the Labour Government’s health plan? Opposition members suggest that medical practitioners rejected it because they were subjected to. coercion by the British Medical Association. That statement is completely absurd, because the doctors themselves constitute that organization. At this juncture, I shall reveal to Opposition members a remarkable fact. The former member for Denison, Dr. Gaha, was a supporter of the Labour Government that produced the health plan of which honorable gentleman opposite cannot speak too highly. For many years, he had been the Minister for Health in the Labour Government in Tasmania, and what is more, he had been a good Minister. Had the Labour caucus had sufficient sense to elect him to the Ministry, and had the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, allotted him the health portfolio, the previous health plan might have produced some satisfactory results. However,, the interesting fact is that the former member for
Denison refused to accept the Labour Government’s health scheme in his own practice. If Opposition members retort that he was a victim of dictation by the British Medical Association, they will be wrong, because he has never been a member of that organization. Surely no stronger condemnation of the Labour Government’s health plan can be cited than that attitude of one of its former supporters in this House.
The 7,000 doctors throughout Australia have endorsed the principles of the present Government’s plan, and are working smoothly under its provisions. I emphasize that point. At present, 7,000 doctors and 10,000 chemists throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth are working solidly, happily and convincingly under the present Government’s health plan. Yet the time of this National Parliament is being wasted to-day on the discussion of a fatuous motion that seeks to elicit when that scheme will come into operation. Opposition members are like the members of the staff of a weather bureau, who. closely studied charts and figures, and made many abstruse calculations to prove rain must be falling, whereas if they had had enough sense . to look out the window, they would have seen that the sun was shining. The present health plan is not only working well but also doing in practice the job that it was designed to- do in theory, namely, to relieve the burden of the people who are really ill, and to grant assistance to those who actually require it. Therein lies the essential difference between the health scheme that was propounded bt the preceding Labour Government, and the present plan. The Labour party’s conception of a health scheme may be described as one in which “ millions of bottles of medicine are poured down countless throats “. Had that plan operated for a period, Australia would have been converted into a nation of hypochondriacs. That conception of a national health scheme is 50 years behind the times.
I have some figures that have been taken from a cross-section of 200,000 doctors’ prescriptions, disclosing that the cost of the ordinary bottle of medicine that is prescribed by a doctor is less than 4s. Last year, 19,000,000 doctors’ prescriptions were dispensed in Australia. By a simple arithmetical calculation, we find that the consumption of medicine in this country in that period was two’ bottles per capita at a total cost of approximately 8s. Under present conditions, nearly everybody is in employment, and is receiving wages in excess of those that he was paid a few years ago. Therefore, I fail to understand why the preceding Labour Government should regard as a legitimate governmental expense the provision of two bottles of medicine per annum for each person. It would be just as logical to contribute 7s. 6d. per capita towards the cost of having boots and shoes repaired. Opposition members cannot claim with justification that the cost of an ordinary bottle of medicine imposes a hardship upon people. However, sickness becomes a real burden in certain circumstances. People who are afflicted with a chronic ailment such as pernicious anaemia are an example of what I have in mind. Some heart conditions, goitre, epilepsy, diabetes, and other serious complaints also necessitate constant and consistent treatment and impose a heavy financial burden on those who are unfortunate enough to suffer from them. The second class of case in which assistance is needed is the individual or the family suddenly stricken with serious illness, the treatment of which requires the use of some of the newer drugs, which are most expensive. I know a family whose four children were stricken almost simultaneously with a particular virus disease. Aureomycin and Chloromycetin had to be used in the treatment of the complaint, and a single course of those drugs cost £70. That is a very good example of the type of case in which governmental assistance is needed because, obviously, ordinary individuals cannot pay the cost of such drugs without imposing very severe financial hardship upon themselves and their families. This Government has made a determined effort to relieve the hardship in such cases, and under its medical benefits scheme up to 35 per cent, of the cost of medicines is paid by the Government. Months ago the present Government decided that sufferers from- tuberculosis should receive much greater -financial assistance, and in a few days a scheme will he implemented under which all the medical requirements of pensioners will be provided at the Government’s expense. In view of its impressive record in the .field of providing medicine for the people it is astonishing that we should now be engaged in the discussion of a motion which suggests that no help has been provided for the people by the present Government. I submit that the present motion has as little foundation, as little sincerity and as little substance as the matters that were raised by theOpposition when they moved the adjournment of this House on three recent occasions. In conclusion, I submit that this matter, like the other motions for the adjournment of the House submitted by the Opposition, has been raised not in the interests of the sick and suffering members of the community, but purely in the interests of party political propaganda.
.- The Government has replied to the motion submitted by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) through the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who is a medical practitioner, and through two of its supporters who are chemists, so that it is apparent that it has employed a battery of experts to intimidate those who are capable of being intimidated. However, I suggest that the professional gentlemen opposite who have taken part in this debate have not done any better than lawyers usually do when they embark upon a discussion. The net result of the participation in the debate of honorable members opposite has been that the situation appears more confused than ever. One of the most interesting points that emerged from their contributions is that a bottle of medicine is now apparently regarded by the medical and pharmaceutical professions as being quite useless. One honorable member opposite, who is a chemist, said so. They should not be so brash in their condemnation of the practices of an honorable profession, because their admission must certainly cause some anxiety to pharmacists who are not members of the Parliament. Surely there must be some esprit de corps between pharmacists in this House and those outside, who are still filling the old medicine bottles.
The complaint made by the honorable member for Grayndler was quite valid. He asked a series of questions and made a number of complaints which have not been answered by honorable members opposite. He asked, for instance, where were the ministerial statements on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. In the course of his speech the Minister for Health said that he was absent in Brisbane at the time addressing the British Medical Association. He admitted that he had not sent copies of his speech to the Parliament, although he stated that he had sent copies to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) and to the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). The Leader of the Opposition in an interjection at that stage said that the statement was so confused that he could not understand it.
The second protest made by the honorable member for Grayndler against the Minister’s conduct in this matter concerned the restricted nature of the new formulary. A lot has been said about aureomycin and other modern drugs, most of which have now passed the experimental stage and should be in general use. We do not complain about the use of such drugs, or about the enormous cost involved in supplying them. We say that the formulary is not sufficiently extensive, and we want to know why the basic formulary of 600 drugs that was used by the Australian Imperial Force during World War II. is regarded as being too good for the community and why the medical benefits formulary contains only approximately 140 drugs. It is obvious that a reduction of the number of drugs in the formulary could not possibly operate to the benefit of the people under any general health scheme. Although I listened attentivly to the men of medicine and the pharmacists opposite, I still fail to understand why the Government is so determined that the people shall not have all the drugs that they “need. Apparently, the medical profession has recently been converted to the idea that only a comparative handful of drugs is necessary fort he treatment of disease, and quite suddenly has turned its face against the bottle of medicine.
I interrupt my argument now to deal with the remarks made ‘by some honorable members opposite about the operation of the free medicine scheme in Great Britain, although that matter has scarcely any bearing on the motion that is being discussed. Even if £150,000,000 was expended, on the provision of free medicine for the people of Great Britain, we must admit that the introduction of such a social reform was long overdue. For the benefit of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who has always had everything that he desired except the requisite intellect to enjoy it, I shall make a few comments on the British medical scheme in order to explain why such a large sum was expended under it after its introduction. Included amongst the bene-‘ fits provided for the people of Great Britain were 150,000 deaf aids for persons suffering from deafness, mostly as a result of their industrial occupations. The supply of deaf aids to the large number of afflicted people who we’re working in mines and foundriesenabled those unfortunate people to surmount the wall of silence that existed between themselves and the world. Were they not, entitled to that amelioration, and was it such a bad thing that their sense of hearing should have been restored to them? Nine hundred thousand pairs of spectacles were supplied to persons who had partly lost, their eyesight, and the condition from which many of them suffered was caused by congenital diseases and other agencies which were the consequence of the harsh system of industrialization in the United Kingdom. So much for that aspect of the remarks made by honorable members opposite.
I shall return now to a discussion of matters more directly related to the motion before the Chair. Every day we see advertisements in the press to the effect that the chemist is more than a merchant, and I agree that the pharmacist does much more than sell merchandise. In fact, he is a most useful member of society. Pharmacists dispense the prescriptions given to us by our doctors, and tender valuable advice to us on minor matters concerning our health. Apparently those honorable members opposite who have taken part in the debate suggest that the status of a phar macist has so deteriorated that to-day it is that of a mere salesman. They imply that modern pharmacists, instead of being called upon to exercise their professional skill in dispensing a bottle of medicine that we can take home and consume, feeling that it is doing us good, merely takes behind his red lamp - the colour of which will probably be altered shortly in view of the prevailing hysteria - a container of drugs suppled by a wholesale house, removes the tablets from it and places them in a bottle that carries his own label. By such insinuations honorable members opposite are attempting to debunk the pharmaceutical profession and are making it appear that the wholesale drug houses are the only concerns that are making any money out of modern dispensing. Similar matters were included in the queries addressed to the Minister, but he did not attempt to deal with them in his reply. Instead of doing so, he indulged in a diatribe about the actions taken by the previous Labour Government in 1948. The Minister should certainly have replied to the points made by the honorable member for Grayndler and other members of the Opposition who have taken part in the debate. For instance, he made no attempt to deal with the matter raised, by the pathetic note that was read by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), concerning the supply of tablets for sufferers from certain kinds of heartdisease. It may be that the omission of those tablets from the formulary is a mere oversight. However, those small white tablets are almost universally used in prescriptions for heart complaints, and it is difficult to understand why they have not been included in the formulary. A sufferer from heart disease or any other complaint has to pay 12s. 6d. for a visit to his doctor, and surely it is not too much to expect the Government to pay the cost of the tablets prescribed.
The criticism that has been voiced by the Opposition for some time to the effect that the medical benefits provided by the Government do not constitute a proper health scheme has not been disposed of either by the Minister for Health or by those honorable members opposite who have taken part in the debate. It is plain that the medical benefits provided by the present Government amount only to a patchwork arrangement. I .am not concerned greatly that the British Medical Association did not like the scheme introduced by the previous .Labour administration. Perhaps we were wrong in insisting that medical practitioners could prescribe every, known mixture, compound and unguent from the McKenna formulary; but surely we were not asking too much when we expected medical practitioners to take the responsibility for ensuring that the full scheme of free medicine should not be abused. To say that scandalous abuses are likely to occur under a system which has a wide formularly is to beg the question. It is almost inevitable that some medical practitioners and their patients will enter into collusion in order to obtain remuneration and .medical benefits to which they are not entitled. However, that would not occur generally, and, in any event, any abuse would occur only during the introductory phases of the operation of a free medicine scheme. People have been denied the benefits of free medicine for so long that some abuses are bound to occur when the comprehensive scheme is introduced. Those abuses will not amount to more than a peccadillo in relation to the whole scheme. I know that members of the antiLabour parties who refused to co-operate with Labour representatives on the former Parliamentary .Social Services Committee were responsible for the attitude adopted by the medical profession towards the scheme introduced by the previous Labour administration, which was a good one. In fact, its merit is proved by the action of the present Minister for Health, who has incorporated substantial proportions of that scheme in his own conception of a health scheme.
The motion submitted by the honorable member for Grayndler was not a mere political manoeuvre, and I entirely reject that criticism of it. I repeat that the country is still waiting for the introduction of a comprehensive scheme of medical benefits. The Minister for Health, who sought this afternoon to defend the patchwork scheme for which he is responsible, endeavoured to escape the legitimate criticisms that have been uttered of his scheme by indulging in a medical witticism about a false pregnancy, which I thought was in extremely bad taste. It was signi- ficant that the Minister referred to a bill to provide medical services, but was not even able to give us .the title of that bill.
In the short time that remains to me I wish to emphasize that the Opposition is not concerned about the cost of lifesaving drugs. Although many of the new drugs are most expensive 1 point out that mo3t of them have passed through the period of experimentation and have proved themselves to be invaluable in the cure of disease and the relief of sickness. In reply to the contention put forward by honorable members opposite who have taken part in the debate this afternoon that the supply of bottles of medicine for the treatment of complaints is a mistake and that we should now rely almost completely upon patent preparations, I say that if that is so then the public has been misled for centuries. It is of no use for honorable members opposite who belong to the medical and pharmaceutical professions to endeavour to debunk the old-fashioned bottle of medicine in order to obtain an ephemeral political advantage because they will not be supported by their professional colleagues outside the Parliament. In fact, the only doctors and pharmacists who would support that contention are those who are about to retire from practice. Undoubtedly the present formulary is too restricted, and because of the uncommunicativeness of the Minister his scheme has fallen into disrepute. In conclusion, the point that I wish to impress upon honorable members is that although millions of pounds has been subscribed by the people for the provision of medical benefits, so far they have got practically nothing in return.
– After having listened to th? honorable member for Parkes (Mr Haylen), it would be as well to recall the terms of the motion before the Chair, which are -
The failure of the Government to provide adequate pharmaceutical benefits and services to meet the needs of the Australian public, and to inform Parliament of its proposals.
The subject has been covered so adequately in all its essentials by the Minister for Health (.Sir Earle Page) and those supporters of the Government who have already spoken in the debate that I intend to confine my remarks to answering such arguments as have been adduced by honorable members opposite.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said at the outset of his remarks .that most of his information was obtained from newspaper articles, and the tenor -of his subsequent remarks certainly confirmed his statement. He alleged that the present Government had not carried out the medical benefits scheme of the previous Government mainly because of the opposition of the medical profession. Whilst I admit that the doctors certainly opposed the plan, and whilst I believe that they were quite right in having done so, I remind the House that one of the main reasons why that scheme was not implemented was that it shared the fate of other legislation introduced by Labour of being declared invalid by the High Court. The honorable member appeared to be greatly disturbed by the fact that the McKenna formulary contained ever so many more drugs than does the present formulary. .He pointed out with great emphasis that approximately 600 prescriptions could be supplied from the McKenna formulary, and one member of the Opposition who followed him in the debate increased the number of prescriptions to SOO. [ do not know whether there is any particular virtue in a medical practitioner being able to write 600 different prescriptions. In fact, I am quite certain that no medical practitioner in this country would have sufficient knowledge to write so many prescriptions. The fact is that the great majority of doctors confine themselves to approximately 50 prescriptions, and most doctors probably get along very well using only from 20 to 30 prescriptions. It is clear, therefore, that the claims made by honorable members opposite for the McKenna formulary, and the extraordinary number of prescriptions that could be written from it do not possess any great importance. In fact, the emphasis laid on the large number of prescriptions that could be written from that formulary reminds me of an advertisement which was prominently featured some years ago. The advertisement read, “ Three and a half acres of furniture at Grace Bros.” Six hundred prescriptions are of just as much value to the ordinary person.
The honorable member advanced some remarkable arguments, one being that the drugs included in the formulary would benefit only 5 per cent, of the population. He had given a lower figure earlier, but as an act of magnanimity he raised the percentage to five. I do not know on what basis he made that statement. .
– On the results of an examination of chemists’ books.
– I do not know where the honorable member received the information that the formulary would cover only 5 per cent, of the population but wherever he got it, it is completely wrong, because the present formulary contains all the most important drugs used in medical practice, and covers far more than 5 per cent, of the population. If the honorable member had said that it covered 95 per cent, of the population I should have been ready to agree with him.
The honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) took a different line of attack. One of the objections that he expressed to the scheme was that the drug-houses made profits. I point out that but for the great drug houses and their research institutes, most of the lifesaving drugs that we now use in Australia would not be available at all. He then went on to say that if a doctor prescribed a drug by its name it was obtainable at a lower price than would be the case if he prescribed it as a specific proprietary line. That may be so, but it does not alter the fact that if the Government is to make lifesaving drugs available, surely it must make them available in the form that the medical profession considers most suitable for use in particular cases. The honorable member cited streptomycin. He might have given other instances as well. One honorable member spoke about penicillin. Various preparations are put out by different drug houses, some of which are appropriate for the treatment of some cases and others for the treatment of other cases. They are prescribed by the medical profession not .because of the difference in price but because a preparation put out by one firm may be most suitable for the treatment of one type of disease and another preparation sold by a different firm may be suitable for the treatment of another type of disease. If these preparations were removed from the formulary then obviously the use of those lifesaving drugs would immediately be tremendously restricted. The same position obtains in connexion with some of the preparations of liver extracts which were also mentioned this afternoon. One preparation named campolon is produced by one firm, Bayer’s, and another preparation named anahaemin is produced by another firm, I think British Drug Houses. Both preparations are used in cases of pernicious anmrn]a and other rare types of anaemia. One of the preparations is not suitable in some cases, and therefore a more expensive preparation must be used, [f the formulary is to be so restricted that all a. doctor can do is prescribe liver extract, and not a particular proprietary brand of it that is appropriate to the case that he is treating, then obviously a great deal of the benefit of the formulary will be destroyed.
The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) commenced his remarks by stating that a referendum of the people had given the Labour party the power and the right to introduce a scheme for the supply of medicine free of cost to the person who required it and that the scheme failed to secure the co-operation of the medical profession. I remind the honorable member that after the scheme was introduced the people of Australia promptly threw the Labour party out of office. There has also been some talk about invalid pensioners. Let us get our minds clear on that subject, upon which three things can be said. In the first place the Minister indicated quite clearly this afternoon what he intends to do about, invalid pensioners. In the second place most of the essential drugs required by invalid pensioners are now available free of cost under the present formulary. The third point, which I consider to be very apposite at the moment because a great deal of play has been made at various times in the House about the plight of invalid pensioners and their difficulty in paying for medical attention-
Mp. DEPUTY SPEAKER.- Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is not of much use for the Government to argue that the Minister for Health (.Sir Earle Page) has been giving to this House reasonably fair details about what has been happening in connexion with pharmaceutical benefits. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) mentioned that 56 questions had been asked about the scheme, and that none of them has been fully and lucidly answered. There can be no argument about that fact. The Minister said this afternoon that when he made a statement to the medical congress at Brisbane he was good enough to send a copy of it to me, to the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and to the former Minister for Health (Senator McKenna). But that cannot be regarded as giving information to this Parliament about the matter. In fact, the statement that the right honorable gentleman made at Brisbane was very confusing. The former Minister for Health spent two hours one afternoon going through it with me. It covered about seven pages. Nobody can make head or tail of it.
– The rest of the world can.
– There is no use in saying that the statement that the Minister made at Brisbane, a copy of which he forwarded to us, was a clear exposition in connexion with medical benefits, medicine or anything else. When the former Labour Government originally brought forward this matter of pharmaceutical benefits the then Opposition sneered at the idea, of providing the people with free medicine. Its members talked about pouring medicines and drugs down the people’s throats, and attempted to make the whole proposal an object of ridicule.
– We always advocated the provision of free life-saving drugs.
– I shall come to that, point in a moment. I have studied some of the speeches made by supporters of the present Government when the original scheme was introduced by the Labour Government. I do not intend to hold the Minister responsible for all the statements made by those honorable members. They attempted to heap ridicule on the contention of the Labour Government that the people should be given pharmaceutical benefits. It is clear that the intentions of the Labour Government were thwarted by a very powerful trade union, the British Medical Association. The fact of the matter is that the Minister for Health has capitulated to the demands of that body.
– That is absurd.
– As a matter of fact we have been told that when certain deputations waited on the Minister and made representations to him he rang the secretary of the British Medical Association to find out what he thought about the representations. In other words, the Minister has to go to the trade union of which he himself is a member to find out what he can do about making medicine free.
– That is absurd.
– It is not absurd. It is clear that as time has passed the retail cost of new kinds of medicines and drugs that have been provided for the public is beyond the purse of the average citizen. The Labour Government undertook the task of overcoming that difficulty. However little the present Government has done about the provision of free medicines it has certainly seen the light, and so has even the British Medical Association, to the extent that finally the whole subject of the provision of medical treatment and pharmaceutical benefits, either by the Government directly or by means of Government subsidies, has assumed an important place in national affairs. I read recently a statement by the president of the British Medical Association in England who recognizes that it is impossible for the average working man to pay for the benefit of modern drugs. As I have mentioned in this House before, an ordinary X-ray and diagnosis cost the ordinary working man the loss of four days’ pay and a fee of sixteen guineas, before anybody can tell him what treatment he should have. The average working man cannot carry that burden.
The right honorable gentleman spoke about prescriptions. I have friends who are chemists in a big way and I have taken the trouble to look at their lists of the drugs provided under the scheme. The Minister is using, in this scheme, precisely the same forms as were devised by the Labour Government. The doctors also are using the same sort of form to which they objected when the Labour Government was in office. Apparently the doctors are prepared to use these forms now that a Liberal government is in office, although they would not use them when a Labour government was in office, because they hate the Labour party.
– They objected to the threat of being fined £50 for not using the forms.
– That is a side issue. They are using them now. The Minister referred to the great drug houses. These firms were robbing the hospitals of this country, or at least of New South Wales, until government forms were introduced. I have discussed the matter of prescriptions with a number of chemists and have found that the average cost of prescriptions is about £1 each. I am convinced that that cost is far too high.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) raised the matter of hospitals, which I have no time to deal with fully to-day. He mentioned the effect of the scheme on hospitals and no doubt the Minister will take steps to have the matter adjusted. The upkeep of hospitals is costing more money now than it did before.
The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Cameron) claimed that if it were not for the great drug houses of this country we should not be able to obtain some of the modern drugs. That sort of talk is completely nonsensical. There is always someone who is prepared to provide such things if the Government or somebody else is willing to pay for them. We have only to go back to the days when insulin and penicillin first appeared, and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories had not come into operation, to find out. what the drug houses were doing. But for the restraint imposed by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories the cost of those, drugs would be outrageous to-day. [ was a member of a hospital committee for 25 years and can speak authoritatively on the subject. The drug houses were making 300 per cent, profit out of one simple item, methylated spirits, that they supplied to the hospitals. They were prepared to make the most exorbitant profits from sales of drugs to the public hospitals. Nobody can make me work up any sympathy for the great drug houses. I am not saying that they did not in many instances render good service in regard to medicinal preparations, but I contend that they were very well paid for it and were able to pay substantial dividends to their shareholders as a result. It is only necessary to study the balance-sheets and the history of the big drug houses to find out how well they have done out of the public. Had it not been for the production of insulin by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, which enabled the Government to reduce very considerably the cost of that drug to the public, the drug houses would have made ridiculously large profits out of the sale of it. No health scheme would ever have been introduced into this House had a Labour government not set out on the task of educating the public and the Parliament to a realization of the need for free or subsidized medicine. That need is now recognized by the most eminent doctors in the world.
-Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I have listened with interest to honorable members who, instead of either criticizing or supporting the motion, have attacked the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) for not having given more information to the House on thus subject. That is not the basis on which this matter should be discussed. I deplore that the subject of health should have been dragged into the chamber and made the football of party politics. It is all too significant and important a subject to be made the object of the bitterness of party politics.
Some months ago, in this House, I asked the present Minister for Health if he would consider setting up a select committee composed of honorable members from both sides of the House, in order to draft a bill, free from party bias, dealing with the national health. I am still sorry that the matter was not treated in that fashion and that a bill was not introduced on non-party lines.
A great deal of argument has centred on the formulary which characterized the scheme that was sponsored by the Labour party. It has been stated that the formulary, which consisted of from 600 to 800 compounds, would, meet all requirements. I believe it to be generally recognized now, throughout the civilized world, that the more efficient types of treatment in hospitals and in private practice are those which employ a very limited formulary. If one were to go to the Edinburgh Hospital, the London Hospital, the Prince Alfred Hospital, or the Sydney Hospital, one would be astounded at the smallness of the formulary on which those institutions function. The world to-day is divided into those who use penicillin and sulpha drugs and those who do not, so narrow has become the formulary. A formidable formulary, composed of some 600 compounds of various drugs does not, in my opinion as a medical man, indicate the” degree of efficacy of any proposed scheme. I recall bitterly a visit that I had from’ an honorable member who supported the last Government. I believe it was the then honorable member for Denison - who had previously been Minister for Health in a Labour government in Tasmania. After the medical scheme had been discussed in his party room, he told me, over a cup of tea, “ Although I am the only doctor in the place I am the only one who knows nothing about a medical scheme. The rest of them have it cut and dried.
I take no exception to a reduced formulary at this stage. I hope and believe that the Minister will tell us that the present scheme is nothing more than the first step in a more embracing scheme which will come into operation in the near future. I have found that gastric and respiratory conditions are the greatest cause of absenteeism in industry. Sufficient provision is not made in the present scheme to overcome the disabilities of industrial medicine.
The Minister for Health is to be congratulated on his recognition, in a practical form, of the needs of tuberculosis patients. If he is given the credit he deserves for having increased the pensions of sufferers from tuberculosis he will be well thought of and his name will go down in history as one who took a realistic view of the disability of the breadwinner, particularly the tubercular patient. But in what way does the sufferer from tuberculosis differ from the individual who is suffering from an invalidity which makes it necessary for him to live on £2 10s. a week? I believe that the Minister will indicate in the near future that the Government will give more assistance to age and invalid pensioners.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) referred to the drug houses. Having been for many years a member of the medical profession, I am familiar with the standard and quality of many of the drugs that are produced by the drug houses. I know how enormous is the amount of money that is spent in research by houses such as Burroughs- Wellcome, Abbotts, Andrews and scores of others, and I know how indebted the people of Australia, the medical profession and the whole civilized world are to the drug houses for the purity and excellence of the chemicals that they produce. The Leader of the Opposition paid a tribute to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to add to that of other honorable members my condemnation of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and the Government for the way in which they have treated honorable members in this matter. Last week I asked the Minister what could be done in the case of chemists who overcharged for medicines that were not provided for under the formulary and the Minister’s reply was that he presumed that I was talking about overcharging for drugs that were given free. That is an indication of the attitude of the Minister for Health towards honorable members. It is true that the
Minister made a statement in Brisbane and sent a copy of it to the Leader of the Opposition. But the Leader of the Opposition, important as he is in this House, is only another honorable member. Every honorable member, from time to time, has received queries from his constituents concerning the working of this scheme. If the Minister has treated honorable members on his own side of the House in the same way as he has treated honorable members on this side, we can tell our constituents no more than they themselves have read in the press. That is unfair and the Minister is not entitled to treat honorable members in that way on such an’ important matter.
I was amazed to hear the statements that were made by the honorable member for Denison. (Mr. Townley) and the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) about medicines. Do those honorable members know that there is a chain of chemist shops in Sydney which employs 50 dispensers and that every ^bottle of medicine dispensed by them has to be paid for because they are not. included in the Government’s list?
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 92.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks parliamentary authority for further advances to the States of capital funds totalling £26,100,000 in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945. The amounts advanced have constantly increased from 1945 to date. With the approval of the House, I incorporate in Hansard, without reading it, the following statement which reveals the continued increase of advances made to the States by the Commonwealth since the inception of the agreement: -
During the same period parliamentary appropriations amounting to £69,000,000 have been approved, leaving a balance of £6,17S,000 available at the 30th June, 1950, to enable the building programme to continue uninterrupted in the early months of this financial year. The works programme approved by the Loan Council in September last included £26,100,000 for rental housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
The increase of the provision in this bill over that provided by the Loan (Housing) Act 1949 is to meet an anticipated increase of the volume of traditional housing, rising costs of building, and the cost of the supply and erection of imported houses.
The local building industry gives no indication of being able under present conditions to produce substantially more than 60,000 of the 90,000 new houses a year that Australia must have to meet housing needs arising solely from marriages and migration, so that there is an annual deficiency of approximately 30,000 houses to be made good. To encourage importation to help meet this deficiency the Commonwealth has offered financial assistance to the States of up to £300 a house imported from overseas. Orders so far placed, or in process of negotiation, for importing houses under the Commonwealth offer total approximately 8,000 with options for a further 6,000, and it is anticipated that approximately 6,000 will come under theCommonwealth and State Housing Agreement. These are in addition to orders by the Commonwealth for its own purposes for 2,600 houses, and by Victoria for its utilities for 2,100 not under the Commonwealth offer.
To the end of June, 1950, 40,999 dwellings had been commenced under the agreement in the five States operating under it. Of these, 40,310 had been completed, and 10,589 were under construction at the 30th June, 1950. During the year ended the 30th June, 1950, 7,435 dwellings were completed, and of these 2,552, representing 34 per cent., were in country areas.
The agreement is primarily designed to bring homes of good standard within the reach of persons with smaller incomes.
This purpose is achieved by the provision of rent rebates, under which families whose incomes equal the basic wage do not have to pay more than one-fifth of their income in rent, whatever may be the economic rent of the dwelling they occupy. As the family income rises above the basic wage, or falls below it, the amount of rebate decreases or increases. The total amount of rent rebates granted up. to the 30th June, 1950, was £214,630.
All these houses are available for purchase, since the agreement makes provision for a tenant, if he so wishes, to purchase the home he occupies. It is Commonwealth policy to encourage sales. The States are, of course, principals under the agreement, and it is they who determine the basis of sale. Commonwealth approval is necessary only should a State wish to sell a house below capital cost. To the 30th June, 1950, approximately 530 agreement dwellings were sold to tenants, none of them at less than capital cost. It is anticipated that the volume of sales will be considerably greater in this financial year. An important feature of the agreement during the present acute housing shortage is that all dwellings must be allotted in accordance with the relative needs of applicants and at least 50 per cent must go to ex-servicemen. In practice, the proportion allotted by States to ex-servicemen and their dependants has considerably exceeded this provision.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.36 to 8p.m.
Debate resumed from the 12th October (vide page 798), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As we shall have an opportunity when dealing with the Government’s budget proposals, possibly next week, to discuss the broader aspects of national finances and economic affairs, I do not propose to deal fully with those matters at this juncture. I direct the attention of honorable members to a number of remarkable facts that arise in respect of this measure. The first is that although the Government assumed office on the 10th December last after promising the people all sorts of nostrums for economic ills and although honorable members opposite, when they were in opposition and their conservative supporters of the press severely criticized Labour’s proposals as set out in numerous budgets, the Government has not been able within the three and a. half months that have passed since the end of the last finan- finl year to give a complete picture of the country’s finances. Instead, it now introduces this second measure to obtain Supply for a further two months, although the Opposition agreed during the preceding period of the session to the passage of a Supply Bill to cover the first four months of the financial year. The financial geniuses who never failed to tell the previous Government how the financial Affairs of the country should be run and who, during the last general election campaign, made all sorts of promises including the promise to put value back into the .-El, have not been able to present to the Parliament a clear statement of the country’s finances. We have heard much about the Government’s promise to putvalue back into the £1 and I have no doubt that my colleagues will be able to produce copies of some of the expensive advertisements i«n which the present Government parties made that promise to the people at the last general election. Even when the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) brought down the bill to obtain Supply for the first four months of the current financial year he did not give a. reasonably clear statement in relation to the nation’s economic affairs. I sincerely trust that during the budget debate he will be able to present a clear statement of what the Government’s financial proposals are.
When the right honorable gentleman was in Opposition he used to read reams of prepared statements in which he claimed that the previous Government’s coffers were overflowing and that it was extracting extortionate amounts from the people in taxes. He claimed that that Government had hidden nest eggs all over the place and that it had vast surpluses. Apparently, in the ten months during which the present Government has been in office he has notbeen able to discover those surpluses. If ever a. government muddled along inefficiently and ineptly it is the present Government. I can understand people being sufficiently modest to suggest that they believe they can make a better job of government than those who have that responsibility for the time being, but the Treasurer and his colleagues proclaimed during the last general election campaign that they would clean up the financial position and would make money available for the fulfilment of the many promises that also were made at that time. At this juncture I shall not discuss the Government’s budget proposals, except to say that they are so vague that anybody with experience in these matters finds it difficult to ascertain what the Government has in mind. Various reasons for the Government’s failure to give a clear statement of the country’s finances after four months of the current financial year have passed have been given in the press. Although one cannot always accept press reports as reliable, it is clear that supporters of the Government are una hh? to agree among themselves regarding what steps would be proper for it to take in order to meet its financial and .economic problems.
– We have not an executive to tell us what to do.
– In view of the facts that T have pointed out, supporters of the Government would be able to do much better if they did have an executive to tell them what to do. I shall not bc. diverted from the question before the chair. However, the people of Australia know who are my masters in political and financial affairs. They know that they are not hidden on bank directorates and that they are not wealthy vested interests. Undoubtedly, supporters of the Government would be in a far better position if they had somebody to tell them what plans they should adopt. Although honorable members opposite may giggle and guffaw about these matters, the fact remains that the Government has not yet been able to make up its mind on what financial proposals it will place before the Parliament. The Opposition has been modest enough not to go round the country making rash promises. It has left that to the Government. No person can be so mean, or despicable, as a politician who makes promises that he knows he cannot fulfil.
I fail to understand several items in the measure now before the Chair. I do not expect the Treasurer to be able to give a. full explanation of the matters I shall raise, because the purpose of this bill is to provide Supply for a limited period. If time permits he will, no doubt, give such an explanation when we are discussing the Estimates and budget papers. The general principle in asking for Supply for a limited period, as the Government is doing under this measure, is to seek an appropriation to meet an expenditure that is estimated for the period in question on the basis of the average rate of actual expenditure incurred during the corresponding preceding period. In this instance, however, the Treasurer has pointed out that due to various factors, which have not been very clearly explained, the estimated expenditure for the period covered by the measure is very much in excess of the expenditure that was actually incurred during the corresponding preceding period.
– The Castieau award which grants increases of salaries to public servants is one of the most important of those factors.
– As the Treasurer is experiencing difficulty in explaining his own budget proposals, I hope that the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) will not make his task more difficult by attempting to explain them. The honorable member will have an opportunity to offer his explanation of the items of increased expenditure to which I shall refer. They do not’ relate to any increases resulting from the Castieau award. I appreciate the fact that the Treasurer in introducing this second bill to obtain Supply for a limited period has been obliged to make allowances for increased administrative costs in many departments. I do not say that be has not a complete answer to some of the matters to which I shall refer, but to the average person the increases shown in respect of some of the items appear to be unusually large, particularly having regard to the fact that the estimated expenditure under this measure relates to a period of only two months whereas expenditure provided for under the first Supply Bill related to a period of four months. I shall cite only a few items.
Under this measure a sum of £1,310,000 is being sought for the Department of the Treasury compared with an expenditure of only £1,600,000 during the preceding four months. Another item which is not affected by the Castieau award is the estimate of £844,000 in respect of the Commonwealth .Scientific and Industrial Research Organization compared with an expenditure of £653,000 under that heading during the preceding four months. The right honorable gentleman may deem it fit to give some explanation of the expenditure proposed in respect of the defence services. “Whilst £3,900,000 was expended in respect of the Department of the Navy during the preceding four months, the Parliament is now being asked to provide £7,400,000 for- that department for the next two months. ‘The expenditure proposed in respect of the Department of the Army is £7,446,000 compared with an expenditure of £4,S60,000 during the preceding four months. Supporters of the Government may warmly applaud unlimited expenditure on defence. They are entitled to their viewpoint. I have expressed my view on this matter previously. Briefly, it is that there is a limit to which any country can undertake expenditure for defence purposes whether it be in respect of men, munitions or materials. Some of the newer countries have loaded down their budgets with expenditure on defence. For instance, 42 per cent, of India’s total revenues is being expended on defence. That expenditure is largely wasted from the viewpoint not of security but of economic development. If we follow that example we shall land this country in a financial morass from which it will take us twenty years to extricate ourselves.
– The right honorable gentleman did his best, when he was the Prime Minister and Treasurer for eight years, to lead the country into a financial morass.
– I invite the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) to read the various speeches that were made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden)-, when he was in Opposition, about the Treasury’s nest eggs and overflowing coffers. If he does so, he will discover that his opinion is due either to his complete ignorance of the subject or to the right honorable gentleman’s utter lack of knowledge of the position at that time. One of those two things is correct, but both of them cannot be right.
– The right honorable gentlemen’s financial policy was responsible for the inflationary spiral.
– The Labour Government balanced its budgets.
– I do not mind dealing with that aspect. I am not completely without experience of these matters, and I am inviting the honorable gentleman to read various statements that were made from time to time by the present Treasurer about the financial position of Australia. I believe that I can say, without being unduly egotistical, that, from a Treasury standpoint, the finances of Australia when this Government assumed office were in a sounder position than any previous in-coming Government experienced. I judge by the interjections of Government supporters that they disagree with that statement. The Labour Government was in office for approximately eight and a half years, during which it financed the prosecution of the greatest war in history, and the transition from war to peace-time conditions, and made large contributions to the United Nations and to other international organizations. It gave £45,000,000 to the United Kingdom Government to assist the Government with its sterling arrangements in Europe, and, during the last two or three years it was in office, balanced its budgets. In addition, it substantially reduced the treasury-bills that were owed to the Commonwealth Bank. I realize that the Treasurer will raise certain points about that matter, and will declare that I used surplus moneys from the National Welfare Fund . to redeem treasury-bills. That may be perfectly .true. But Government supporters should not overlook another consideration. I speak from memory, because I have not the relevant figures with me, but I believe that an amount of £343,000,000 was represented by treasury-bills at the end of World War II. Will honorable members opposite examine that indebtedness now? Of course, the money from the National Welfare Fund was correctly credited. It is not suggested that ordinary business methods were not applied by the Treasury in that matter. But let us assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that an amount of £100,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund and another sum in the War Gratuity Fund were used to redeem treasury-bills. Government supporters will find, on referring to the relevant statistics, that the treasury-bill indebtedness was reduced by substantially more than the aggregate of those amounts.
The budget could easily have been balanced, because the Treasurer has indicated in another document that he proposes to finance certain public commitments, not from revenue but from loan money. I shall express the view of the Labour party upon that kind of procedure, and, in doing so, I shall not be in the least concerned about what people may think of it politically. I believe that when a country is in a prosperous condition, it should pay its way, and, if possible, provide an additional sum of money for capital works or for reserves. I make no bones about the attitude of the Labour party in that matter. In my opinion, that is the proper and businesslike method to adopt. I shall have an opportunity to deal with certain aspects of that matter next week, but I make it perfectly clear now that the Labour Government, of which I was only the agent, considered that the country should meet its commitments, including the costs of social services and defence, as far as it possibly could, from tax receipts, and should borrow only the minimum amount .that was necessary to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure. In the period 1947-49, the Labour Government provided £45,000,000 for the United Kingdom to assist it with respect to its sterling aid in Europe. We made large contributions to Unrra, to the International Refugee Organization, and to the International Children’s Relief Appeal. We met all the country’s commitments, no matter what they were, and we provided from revenue a substantial proportion of the cost of capital expenditure. I cannot recall any occasion in the history of the Commonwealth when an incoming government found the Treasury in such a sound condition as that in which the Menzies Government found it upon assuming office shortly after the last general election.
The honorable member for Bass interjected earlier that some inflationary elements were present during the latter period of the administration of the Labour Government. That statement is perfectly true. No one denies it. Such elements were present not only in Australia but also in many other countries. Some people believe thatthe American dollar may have to be revalued in future because of the inflationary conditions in that country, yet the United States is immensely rich. The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium and various other countries have fought strenuous battles against the terrible menace of inflation. At this juncture, I merely comment that Australia will not win its struggle against inflation by adopting piffling measures. The various proposals that have been suggested by the Government for combating inflation are only makeshifts, and may be described as compromises between the conflicting views of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. Any Government supporter who considers that those piffling measures that have been suggested will provide wholly or even partly, a solution of the problem is seriously mistaken. I condemn the Government not for having failed to put value back into the £1 but for having made such a stupid and misleading promise to the people during the last general election campaign. The most that this Government or any other government could hope to do would be to secure some degree of economic stabilization. I realize that. Two or three years ago, I informed my colleagues that the greatest difficulty that every country would have to face in the future would be, not to make its currency more valuable,but to maintain economic stability in the community, so that the prices of commodities would not be increased almost daily. I doubt whether a more ridiculous promise has ever been made than was that which the Liberal party and the Australian Country party made during the last general election campaign to put value back into the £1. I prefer to assume that it was due to ignorance and not to complete cupidity or stupidity. When it was made in the face of world economic events, it was the height of folly, and was calculated to. mislead the people. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party would have been justified in promising that, if they were returned to office, they would endeavour to maintain economic stability, that is to say, stop the headlong race that this country was making towards economic chaos.
The Government cannot shelve its responsibility in that matter by uttering taunts and making interjections. The Labour Government, in which I was the Prime Minister and Treasurer, was obliged to do some most unpopular things. At one time, because of certain tendencies, we had to impose an unprecedently high rate of tax only three or four months before a general election. Obviously, we were not trying to curry favour with the electors, because the increase of tax was most unpopular. Every honorable member and every citizenhas a responsibility to his country. We all are prone to human faults, and may be dazzled by the glamour that is associated with being a member of the Parliament, actuated by the desire to retain a seat, and tempted by the tendency to appease certain sections and to please other sections of the community. Yet all of us have a great national responsibility. I have never been able to bring myself, in politics or elsewhere, to make rosy promises which, in my own heart, I knew were not true, or could not be given effect. When I speak on this matter, I am not influencedby party political bias. I am really perturbed, and, indeed, alarmed at the growing spiral of inflation in this country and, for that matter, in other countries. Neither this Government, nor any other government can be blamed for the inflationary elements. World prices and various other factors have caused the situation that the government of every country has to face. I could speak at length upon measures which, I believe, should be taken to combat inflation, but I realize that the Government would not accept my advice, because.it would be most unpopular with many Ministers. However, I believe that every man in public life who has a sense of responsibility must give serious consideration to such matters as the country’s honour, economy, prestige and standing abroad, and the heritage of its future citizens.
The Treasurer has produced certain figures that may appear attractive to some people, but I should like to. know whether any Government supporter feels satisfied about the economic position. This Government has been in office for nearly eleven months. During the last genera] election campaign, members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party assured the people that they had various cures for the country’s economic plight, one of which was increased production. Of course, that could contribute to the steadying of inflation, but it is not in itself a complete cure. It could be only an ingredient of the cure. Honorable gentlemen opposite also declared that the introduction of the system of incentive payments would improve the country’s economic condition. They may be interested in the report that has been furnished by the members of a British trade union delegation that visited the United States of America recently. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), or one of his officers, has kindly sent a copy of it to me, and I thank him for it. The document reveals that in the United States of America only 30 per cent, of the manufacturing and industrial production has introduced the incentive payment system. In fact, the report to which the Minister for National Development referred indicated quite clearly that the American trade unions do not like the incentive system and that although it is tolerated in certain industries they are . afraid of the abuses that may develop from it. Similarly, the trade unions in Australia are afraid of the abuses that may develop from the introduction of the incentive system.
Neither of the two methods to which .1 have referred will increase production substantially. That is clear from our experience of the operation of the incentive bonus or task system in the textile, clothing and boot trades. The operation of incentive systems in those industries has not resulted in any cheapening of the goods that they produce.
– How does the production per man-hour in those industries in Australia compare with production in the United States of America?
– Any honorable member who wishes to have the relevant statistical information may obtain it from the monthly bulletins issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, and I do not propose to weary the House now by embarking upon a discussion of that matter. I have endeavoured to make it clear that the payment of bonuses and incentive rewards is not, of itself, a cure for inadequate production, although it may contribute to an increase of production. There are certain industries in which production cannot be increased. For instance, the Melbourne express cannot be run more quickly or more cheaply by introducing the bonus system among the railway employees.
– That train would run better if better quality coal were supplied to it.
– It is not true to suggest that the quality of coal supplied is not good enough for the purpose. However, for the purpose of the argument advanced by the honorable member in the course of his interjection, let us suppose that the best possible quality of coal were supplied and that the railways were to revert to the 1938 train time-table, does the honorable gentleman suggest that it would then be possible to operate that service any more efficiently under a system of incentive payments? A train, tram or omnibus service cannot be run any more efficiently or cheaply under the incentive payment system.
– But our trains might be able to run to time.
– The failure of the trains to run to time has nothing to do with the coal-miners.- Like many of my colleagues in .the Opposition, I can claim some knowledge of industry because I spent a good deal of time in industry. In fact, I spent a great deal of time on the business ,end of a shovel. Whilst I do’ not profess to know all about industrial matters, I know that we cannot cure our industrial troubles merely by increasing production. I agree that the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has done a good job and that he has brought a tolerant mind to his task. Indeed, that was the impression that I formed of him when he was a Minister in a previous non-Labour Government. However, tolerance and openmindedness do not characterize all his colleagues in the Ministry, some of whom are bitterly intolerant of the workers. Many of them believe that trade unions should not exist at all. The plain fact is that a number of present Ministers hate trade unions.
– The right honorable gentleman is off the beam there.
– I have been a member of this House for a number of years and I have had the opportunity of hearing the views of many of the present leaders of the political parties represented opposite., If the honorable gentleman who interjected wants .to be educated I shall obtain copies of some of the utterances made by his leaders when they were in opposition that are recorded in Hansard.
I do not want to discuss the broader aspects of the dollar loan or to touch upon matters that I shall discuss in the course of a later debate. I content myself now with reminding members and supporters of the present Government that although their Administration has been in office for nearly eleven months, it has not fulfilled the wild promises that it made to the people during the last general election campaign to restore the economy of this country. I do not blame the newer members amongst the Government supporters for the rash promises that were made at that time because they naturally followed their leaders who had 1 had much more political experience and should have had more sense of responsi bility than to make some of the statements that they did make. Well, eleven months have gone by and they have had an opportunity to redeem their promises. Notwithstanding their undertaking to restore value to the £1, we all know that it has depreciated considerably.
– During the right honorable gentleman’s administration the- £1 was reduced to only half its value.
– What the honorable member does not realize apparently is that I did not make any promise torestore value to the £1, whereas the political party to which he belongs did doso. All that I promised, on behalf of the Labour party, was that we would do our best to improve the financial position of this country. The honorable member and his party leaders promised, without qualification, that they could, and would, restore value to the £1. I am criticizing now, not so much their failure to restore value to the £l, as their dishonesty in making such a promise. I say to members of the Government that if they imagine that all the discussions that they have been having on little piffling things will enable them to redeem the promises that they made to restore the economy of this country they are gravely mistaken, because the decisions that they have made on those matters will not assist our economic recovery at all. I know that in the months that lie ahead the present inflationary spiral will continue, and that the proposals mentioned by the Treasurer, with which I shall deal more fully on a later occasion, will not meet the position.
– Wishful thinking.
– Almost every one has engaged in wishful thinking at some time or other. For instance, in 1943, and again in 1946, I heard the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride), who has just interjected, make speeches that were full of wishful thinking. No political party has a . monopoly of wishful thinkers. I recall an occasion, in 1929, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) indulged in some wishful thinking about the outcome of a dissolution of the House of Representatives, which, in the result, proved most disastrous to them. I therefore advise members of the present Government not to indulge in too much wishful thinking because they have a most formidable economic problem to confront. The best evidence of the magnitude of that problem is supplied by a comparison of the speeches made by the present Treasurer when he was in Opposition during the last Parliament with those that he makes now. Only twelve months ago he alleged that the Treasury was overflowing with money and that my Administration was collecting far too much money in taxation. Honorable members will appreciate the point that I am endeavouring to make because the speeches made by their leaders recently must he very fresh in their minds. Only a short time ago when the anti-Labour parties were in Opposition they complained that Labour was taking the country along the road to economic chaos. What do they say now?
I admit at once that some of the proposals mentioned by members of the Government will contribute towards the re-establishment of economic stability, but I have never believed that the implementation of any one proposal will, of itself, achieve that objective. Some people advocate re-valuation of the £1, but any one who knows anything of economic matters realizes that the appreciation of the currency would not, and could not, of itself, .be a complete cure for our economic ills. Undoubtedly, it might contribute something towards the re-establishment of stability, just as would increased production.
– What, then, should be done?
-I believe that there is a way to stabilize our economy, but during the last general election campaign I did not go so far as to promise that I could restore completely the value of the £1. Honorable members will recall that during that campaign the anti-Labour parties claimed that the “ Labour £1 “ was worth only 12s., and that they could restore its value to at least 15s. I need hardly remind them that the present value of the £1, after eleven months of anti-Labour government, is only about 7s. 6d. In this matter of restoring the value of the £1 the trouble seems to be that the anti-Labour parties appear to have got into reverse gear, so that instead of appreciating the £1 they are actually depreciating it.
I am concerned solely about restoring the economic stability of this country because, apart altogether from political considerations, I am interested in the welfare of the country. I have told trade unionists - and I repeat it to-night - that it was their duty to encourage every worker to do his best, ‘because if any member of the community, irrespective of his particular calling, is not doing his best he is cheating his fellow countrymen.
– What about the bricklayers, who are laying only 350 bricks a day?
– Honorable members opposite have .been in office for eleven months now, and apparently they have not been able to improve the rate of work of the bricklayers. Throughout my life I have consistently advocated that it is the duty of every man in the community to do his best at his task. I preached that gospel ‘many years ago in the Railway Institute when I was an employee of the Electrical Engineering Branch of the railways. I always said that at the end of the day every man should ask himself whether he had done his best. Of course, his conception of his best may not accord with that of other people; but so long as a man has done his best he has done justice to the community in which he lives and has satisfied his own conscience. If he has not done his best, then he has cheated his fellow men. I notice that the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) is smiling.
– I was thinking of the right honorable gentleman’s colleagues in the Senate.
– When I am discussing a serious matter which directly affects the welfare of every member of the community I do not like to be facetious or to treat the matter lightly. I feel acutely the disturbing nature of the present financial position, and I hope that I am not so devoid of a sense of responsibility that I am unable to realize that it is my duty to do all that I can to assist in promoting our economic recovery. Despite all the talk by the leaders of the anti-Labour parties about the prosperous condition of Australia, I realize what ivery great problems confront them in the attempt to achieve, and then to maintain, economic stability. Of course, I was never deceived by the promise that they made during the last election campaign that they would restore the value of the £1. I knew that that was mere electioneering propaganda and that such statements were not to be taken seriously. However, that is past, and I am only concerned now to do what I can for the community. I hope that the Government will do something to correct the present disturbed state of our economy, irrespective of whether such action will be popular or unpopular. I trust that it will Iia ve the courage to confront the problems that beset it, because if it does not take constructive action to improve the present situation the consequences will be experienced not only by the present, but also by future generations. The Government must place the economy of this country on a sound basis. After all, we need only think for a moment of the hardships occasioned to the fixed income group in the community by the continuing depreciation of our money. The pensioners and other people who depend ‘on fixed incomes are the underprivileged class. I shall have something more to say on that matter on another occasion because my time has now almost expired.
– What is the Labour party’s solution?
– I shall not attempt to deal with that aspect, because next week I shall probably have an opportunity to deal with it on a broader basis. T ask the Treasurer to explain these increases briefly at a later stage.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The purpose of the bill now before the House is to supply the Government with the necessary funds to carry on the government and services of the country for two months from the end of this month. Earlier the Government received from the Parliament the authority to expend the funds that were needed to carry on until the end of this month. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) sought to rebuke the Government for asking for Supply for such a short period at a time when its budget is before the Parliament. To any one who has watched political developments in recent weeks the reasons why the Government has asked for two months’ Supply are, quite obviously, because the Labour party has a majority in the Senate and also because in this House it indicated that it was taking a stand on some of the Government’s legislation which, if pursued, would inevitably cause a general election to be held. It became essential therefore that if stable government was to be maintained and social services and public departments were to be financed, the necessary funds should be available to the Government to cover any period in which a general election might be held. Because of the attitude adopted by the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues it appeared inevitable that an election would be held and the Government therefore found it necessary to prepare a Supply Bill providing for Supply for two months. It now appears that the course that threatened a general election has been altered.
The Leader of the Opposition charged the Government with muddle and inefficiency. We have been in office for less than twelve months, during which period our legislation has been repeatedly blocked in another place because we are in a minority there. We have been forced to contend not merely with the ordinary difficult circumstances that any government has to face, but also with the disability of not being able to exercise authority in both Houses of the Parliament. Allowing for all that, if the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues are so confident that as the result of what we have done during our period of office of less than a year we have caused to be implanted in the public mind an impression of muddle and inefficiency, then this request for two months’ .Supply gives to him and his colleagues the power, through their majority in the Senate, to send, us to the country and to have the people say whether they prefer our muddle and inefficiency, as he has described it, to the policy of himself and his colleagues. That is the chance that they have, and we would welcome the opportunity to place our record before the people and to invite their verdict upon it.
The right honorable gentleman uttered a few sneers on the subject of putting value back into the £1. He told us that there had been a headlong rise towards inflation since this Government came into office. He said that the real problem of government is, and was while the government that he led was in office, to secure economic stability, I agree with that statement. Of course, it is the problem of any government that has a sense of responsibility to obtain economic stability for the people. But the headlong rise that he has spoken about was set in motion, and had very much the same momentum as it has now, during the years of Labour rule. Indeed the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently cited facts, supplied to him by the Commonwealth Statistician, which showed that if there was a current rise in the price level it had been, if anything, at a slightly lower rate during the last six months than it had been during the last six months of office of the Chifley regime. I do not make that statement as an expression of satisfaction or because I consider that there is any cause for feeling pleased with the result that has been achieved. I merely ask the Parliament and the people who are listening-in to these proceedings on the wireless to have some sense of balance in this matter, to weigh the facts so that they will see just where we are going. Honorable gentlemen opposite are doing everything they can, for a purely party political objective, to arouse panic and hysteria in this country, which has one of the stablest and strongest economies in the world at the present time. The comments of financial and political leaders in other parts of the world show that to-day no country has a stronger economy and a better financial record than Australia has. Our financial reputation is good throughout the world at the present time, as the Prime Minister found recently when he was discussing the loan of 100,000,000 dollars for this country. So there is no occasion for panic and hysteria on the part of Australia, and those members of this Parliament who, for their own cheap party political purpose, try to produce that false atmosphere, are traitors to the best interests of their country.
Let us face up to the position realistically. In two recent radio talks to the people the Prime Minister gave clear statements about the financial situation. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has placed before the Parliament a detailed budget of our economic affairs. ‘ Later the Parliament will have an opportunity to examine those matters in detail. I wish to-night to devote a few minutes to a discussion of the problem of the rising price level in this country and what we can do, as a Parliament and as a people, to meet that problem. I hope that what the Leader of the Opposition has said will be proved to be true by the result, not only of his own actions, but also of the actions of those who support him here. He said that there is a responsibility on each of us to do his best to make a contribution to the welfare of this country. The financial situation of the nation is not merely a matter for the Government. When we were in opposition we suggested what we considered were practical and constructive courses to the government of the day. It is easy enough for any party in opposition while discussing a matter of this magnitude and with so many facets, to make party political capital out of one aspect or another. If any honorable member derives any satisfaction from such tactics, let him adopt them. But if he has a true sense of responsibility to his country he will ask, “ How can we as a Parliament meet this problem? How can we. individually, help, through the leadership that we can give to the people who look to us to help them ? “
– The Government is crying for mercy already, and is saying to the Opposition, “Please come to our assistance “.
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills will be crying for mercy if he does not cease interjecting.
– Every one of us who seriously and genuinely desires to help with this problem will do all that he can, not to secure a party political advantage, but to help his country to emerge from the situation in which it finds itself. I have already stated that the rate at which the price level has been increasing recently was not alarmingly high when compared with the rate in recent years. In fact, over the last six months it was slightly less than the percentage rate of increase which the cost of living index supplied by the ‘Commonwealth Statistician had shown for the previous six months.
Our position has been tremendously complicated by two notable recent developments. One was the enormously increased price obtainable in overseas markets for our wool, which is our basic primary product. The other was the very substantial increase of the basic wage that was granted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I suggest to the Parliament that those two developments together pose a tremendous financial problem for . us, and will have an impact upon the economy of this country that must be checked if we are not to be involved in the kind of chaos to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred.
I shall give one illustration of the effect upon the economy of the recent basic wage increase. A builder who carries out a lot of building operations in New South Wales and Canberra said just before the court’s decision was announced that according to his rough calculations an increase of £1 a week in the basic wage would have the effect of raising the price of a two-bedroom timber, frame house by £175 ‘ and the price of a similar brick dwelling by £225, unless it were offset by some compensating factors in other directions. I wish to deal with this problem as clearly as I can in the few minutes that I have left., I invite all sections of the Parliament to support the Government in whatever proposals we may jointly agree may lead to the solution of a problem of this kind. If we merely endeavour to score party political points against one another, one party may win some advantage over the other in the eyes of the public, but in the long run neither side will win and the country itself will be the- loser.
Let me trace our production story for a moment, because, as the Leader of the Opposition himself conceded, although increased production is not the only answer, or the complete, answer, to our economic problem’s, no -man in his senses will deny that it is the most important contribution that this country can make to a solution of the problem of holding the price level down. The wage cost is the heaviest element in the provision of most services, so naturally an increase of wages, such as has been awarded by the court, unless it is accompanied by a corresponding increase of effort, will inevitably cause costs to rise, and equally inevitably a great proportion of the value that would otherwise flow to the worker from the wage increase will be lost because of price increases. So I say that as a Parliament we must devote a great deal of our thoughts and efforts to seeing whether we can improve on the national production effort.
Let me give a typical example of what goes on at the present time., I shall start with coal, because everything in, our economy is dependent, in the long run, upon our production of that basic material. I shall deal with the story of coal, through the steel-works on to the ships and into the homes of the people, in order to see what is happening to the productive effort of this country at the present time. I shall give illustrations that are founded upon facts that have been brought before me in my capacity as Minister for Labour and National Service. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, a very efficient steel producer which produces for this country the cheapest steel manufactured anywhere in the world at the present time, operates its own collieries in order to produce that cheap steel and in order to have assumed supplies of coal. I have been down some of its coal mines. Those honorable members opposite who have also been down those coal mines will agree that they are well equipped, that the company is a good employer of labour and that the conditions for the men are satisfactory by all normal standards. Despite those facts, already between the 1st January and the 5th October of this year the collieries operated by the Broken Hill
Proprietary Company Limited have lost 203,000 tons of coal production because of strikes, and not through other causes such as the breaking down of equipment. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which can produce cheap steel for urgent requirements, has been working at about 70 per cent, of its capacity. That means less steel and dearer steel. When steel and coal have been produced, even in that reduced quantity, they must go to other parts of the Commonwealth fey ship. At least five ships are immobilized in Newcastle at the moment because labour will not offer for them. Between them they are loaded with 13,700 tons of steel and 10,600 tons of coal. To-morrow, Australia will go through the farce of having a Commonwealth-wide stoppage on the waterfront by the Waterside Workers Federation as a protest against high prices. Could there be any greater irony than that the shipping in every port in the Commonwealth should be delayed because a union which has contributed more than its share to the causes of high prices by poor- performances when it has been working, and by the undue number of days lost when it has not worked, should hold a nation-wide stoppage to protest against the prices of goods ?
In August, 1939, it cost 20s.’ to send a ton of general cargo between Melbourne and Sydney. To-day, because of the factors that I have mentioned, and one or two others, the cost is 91s. It does not require very much imagination, when it is realized that that cost has to be loaded on to the prices of goods carried and that other percentage costs are added by the merchant, the wholesaler and the retailer, to visualize the effect on price levels. Some of the goods the transport of which is delayed by waterfront stoppages are for use in building homes for Australian unionists. Already, the price of homes has risen as a result of these factors. When the materials have been delivered to the site the home-builder still must have the building constructed. Australia has over 50 per cent, more men in the building industry in “ on-site “ labour than it had in 1939 and between them they are doing somewhat less in building production than was achieved in 1939, for various reasons, not entirely to their lack of effort. The reduced output is partly due .to an uneven supply of materials, the 40-hour week, more holidays, leisure and sick leave. I am not attacking those things. I am merely putting them forward as contributors to the prices that we pay for our goods.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that increased production is not the complete answer to our problems. Of course it is not. But do honorable members not agree that in every one of the stages of the operations to which I have referred there could be, without any great additional effort - merely by doing something like the sort of job we used to do in 1939 - a greatly increased production and a greatly reduced cost of the goods or services so provided? I remind the Leader of the Opposition who has chided the Government for having failed to put value back into the £1 that these conditions have developed during eight or move years of Labour rule. They may not all have been attributable to Labour rule. Honorable members are not going to achieve anything simply by making debating points against one another.
If honorable members want to achieve something for this country they will do what the Leader of the Opposition recommended and what he said he had been trying to do throughout his term of office as leader of the government and is now trying to do as Leader of the Opposition. He tried to impress upon his fellow Australians that they had a duty to do their best for their country. If instead of trying to score points off each other honorable members made a genuine effort to impress on others that we have this duty to do our best, then possibly value would be put back into the currency of this country.
Early this week a very clear and courageous lead was given by a man who is in a position to give leadership to the trade unionists of this country. The president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions pointed out to the wageearners that, if they wanted to retain any real benefit from the increased -basic wage, it was essential that they assist in a campaign for increased productivity. I was concerned at the time because what looked like a common-sense, forthright statement was immediately attacked by some of his colleagues.
– He was not authorized to make that statement.
– There speaks the voice of caucus. We are to be a lot of machines to respond as a button is pressed; The leader of the trade unions of Australia waa not, in the opinion of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), authorized to make a statement on his own account or to speak his own mind. He should stay mute like a dumb figure until some one had pressed a button. Fortunately he has enough “ guts “ to say what he thinks and instead of attacking him we should thank him for it. He was attacked, particularly by Mr. King, the vice-president of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, on the ground that we have not forgotten the hungry ‘thirties when people produced themselves out of a job. It is because that outdated line of thinking is being indulged in by so many of Labour’s supporters that honorable members opposite are in opposition today. This country has moved on from that time and so has the rest of the world. Let us hope that we have seen an end to dole lines and unemployed. This Government is committed to a policy of full employment and will do all that a government humanly can do to see that full employment shall be maintained. Despite the charge that as soon as it got into office the Government would establish a vast reservoir of employment, the Department of Labour has registered more than 117,000 vacancies, which is by no means the full number available at the present time. The Government believes in full employment, but it also believes that if Australians are to enjoy the benefits of full employment they must develop the sense of social responsibility that goes with it. They must be prepared to regard it as a great boon and not as an opportunity meanly to do less than an honest day’s work. Particularly in relation to basic industries in the coal mines and on the waterfront the Government realizes that there is plenty of scope for increased efficiency and better supervision on the part of the employer, but if the employer considers that he is getting a reasonable response from those whom he employs, they can look to him for a better performance.
– That cuts both ways.
– I agree with that. I think that most of the reasonably minded men and women believe that a better attitude towards them is being adopted by their employers, who are developing a stronger sense of responsibility to them. The realization is growing that the Labour party, if it binds itself to the kind of shibboleths that are put out in this story about the hungry ‘thirties, will lose for ever the allegiance of those people who have enough sense to see that there are in the ranks of employers and employees sensible men and women who recognize their responsibility to each other and are looking not to class war but to national teamwork for a solution of our difficulties.
In the United States of America and, more recently, in the United Kingdom, there has been a very clear recognition by the trade union leadership of the need for increased production. I shall not have time to-night to give an outline to the House.
– Hear, hear!
– That comment of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) is characteristic. If any honorable member is interested I ask him to read a report that was published in July of this year by a team of British trade unionists who visited the United States of America. A part of the report reads -
This then is the real problem confronting trade unions: to find ways and means of increasing productivity - a problem concerned mainly with industrial policy and action as distinct from the political pressure to achieve full employment and economic stability.
That lesson has been learnt, quite obviously, by Mr. Monk, who has travelled extensively on behalf of the trade union movement and has come in contact with .more enlightened leaders in other parts of the world. That is a lesson to which the thinking trade unionists will respond.
I agree that increased production is not the complete answer to our problems. Even the eradication of communism from the trade union movement i9 not the answer, although the Government believes that a great deal can be accomplished in that way. But even if communism were rooted out of every trade union in the country it would still be necessary to instil into the minds of many people - particularly the minds of a lot of young men on the coal-fields - a sense of responsibility and a willing acceptance of that discipline which ought to be accepted as a part of our social responsibility to the community in which we live. Associated with increased production must be a planned development by national team-work between the Government and those people, whether employers or trade union leaders, who are in a position to exercise authority. “What is the good of increased production, even on the coal-fields, if the increase is so rapid that the Government is not able to transport the coal output because of insufficient railway trucks?
Summing up, the three essentials are, first, increased production; secondly, the rooting out of communism in the trade union movement and in community life; and thirdly, co-operative planned development making for national teamwork.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I listened with interest to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) speaking of the necessity for co-operation between employer and employee, and appealing to the Opposition to forget party political advantage. I also heard him asking that the problem be dealt with only on a national scale. We should have been more likely to pay attention to that plea if we did not have vivid in our memories the fact that the Minister was one of the leaders in the Government parties’ election campaign of December la.st who took every possible party political advantage in relation to the problem of inflation in order that they might oust the previous Government from office. At that time every leading newspaper carried full-page advertisements promising that if this Government was returned it would restore value to the £1, would effect a reduction of taxation, and would break the stranglehold of bureaucracy on production. The criticism by the Leader of the Opposi tion (Mr. Chifley) to-day was primarily directed at the irresponsibility of the Government parties when they made those promises during the last general election campaign. Honorable members on the Government side tell us that the matter of putting value back into the £1 is very difficult to deal with, and that in the curbing of inflation lies a problem which calls for the attributes of statesmen and which will exercise the keenest brains in the community. Those people who now think in that way did not think so” on the 10th December last. Therefore, they displayed their abysmal ignorance of the problems that then faced the country. Alternatively, if they did realize the difficulties of coping with inflation, and nobody denies that there are great difficulties, they were guilty of the most blatant dishonesty in making such promises’ to the people. When we are asked to forget party political advantage and to deal with this matter from a statesmanlike national standpoint, we must remember that the people who obtained office made their promises in the most blatant, dishonest manner, and we can hardly be blamed if the Minister’s appeal did not arouse a. response from this side of the House. 1 do not wish to add to the political obstacles which we have been told are in the way of the Government effectively dealing with our economic problems. Everybody on this side of the House would be pleased to see our economy on a stable basis, because after all whatever may be said of our political opinions they are held with the aim of helping the Australian people, and we wish to see those problems satisfactorily solved no matter what Government happens to be in office. I see no benefit to either the Labour party or the people whom we on this side of the House represent in a runaway inflation resulting in further depression, unemployment and misery. If this Government is capable of solving the problems good luck to it. If any Government is capable of restoring stability to the economy I am certain that honorable members on this side of the House would be the first to express pleasure at the fact that the standard of living of the ordinary Australian and his security of employment had been maintained. In order to acquire office this Government made many promises in regard to inflation, yet when the problem has to be dealt with it finds itself faced with many grave difficulties. That is because of the philosophy which underlies the Government’s actions and thoughts.
This Government is committed to a philosophy, the basic ideas of which revolve around free enterprise and lack of government interference with private enterprise. In every one of the speeches made by honorable members on the Government side during the last election campaign, in speeches that they have made in this House, and in speakers’ notes issued by. the respective Government parties may be discerned a philosophy which consists of a hotchpotch of the ideas of the Manchester school and of Adam Smith, with a little of Churchill’s rhetoric thrown in for good measure. The prime part of that philosophy is non interference with private enterprise. The Government now realizes that in spite of that philosophy it cannot hope to cope with the present inflation trouble unless it is prepared to espouse controls. That is why its actions are weak and halting. Circumstances have forced the Government to deny the basic philosophy that lies behind its assumption of office. When it is forced by circumstances to take action which, is in direct contradiction of its policy, that is to institute controls, the hand that institutes those controls and that policy is uncertain and unwilling. Therefore the Government hesitates when direct action is required. For that reason the financial policy announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has been one of fumbling uncertainty of action and unwillingness to act. A few months ago when speaking of putting value bade into the £1, I referred to the necessity of the Government retaining capital issues control. Everybody here should remember the sneer of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when I spoke about the retention of capital issues control. Yet a few days ago the Prime Minister endorsed the necessity of capital issues control. That means control over private enterprise, which, as the Govern- ment says, leads to the stranglehold of bureaucracy. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, that the best way in which this Government could deal with the necessity to increase production would be to re-impose the stranglehold of the socialist bureaucracy on private enterprise; because capital issues control was previously branded by him as one of the strangleholds bureaucracy had over private enterprise. The same criticism applies to all the problems that face this Government. Such problems require strong, firm and immediate Government action. But this Government, deterred by its philosophy and outlook and by the interests which are behind it, is unable to take such action. It fiddles while Rome burns; and when more effective controls are required reluctantly introduces some weak controls in an attempt to honour its promise to put value back into the £1. It does this reluctantly, and such controls have nothing like the strength that will be required if inflation is to be checked in this country and economic stability achieved.
The establishment of economic stability is the most important task of this Government. Its success or failure in that task will have an effect in years to come when the names of Ministers now on the treasury-bench will be enshrined only in dusty volumes of Hansard stuck away in a back corner of this building. We have been told that the Government has taken over an inflationary spiral from the Labour Government, but it must be remembered that during four years of the Labour Government’s term of office vast sums of money were expended on the war, and hundreds of thousands of men were taken out of productive work and trained for destruction. Every honorable member in this House knows that the inflationary spiral was started in Australia, Great Britain and the United States by the operation of such factors as I have detailed during the war years. The Labour party recognized what those factors were, and pledged itself to take all steps necessary to alleviate their harmful effects. This Government was not content to do that, but at the last general election gave to the people the definite pledge that it would stop the inflationary spiral and put value hack into the £1. Everybody knows of the Government’s unhappy failure in that regard. We were told by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that primarily our lack of production springs from the failure of the worker to do his job. I should be the last to defend those who preach a Marxist policy, but to say that the major factor in our reduced production is the failure of the worker to work, is to disregard the facts, and the Minister’s own statements. As the honorable member for .Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) mentioned recently, when the Minister for Labour and National Service spoke at a conference in Sydney, at which were representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and other organizations, he praised the workers for their cooperation. Yet he comes to this House and accused them of lack of cooperation. He should have had the intestinal fortitude to stand up at that meeting of trade unionists and say to them the same things as he said in this House to-day. Of course he was not prepared to do that because that is only one side of the matter.
Further arguments in my favour may be drawn from the report of the Tariff Board, which was recently mentioned in this House. It stated that many of our industries are inefficient because they are hiding behind tariff walls. Again I emphasize the fact that management in our secondary industries has the duty of bringing about a greater state of efficiency. That task must be done if we are to increase production and reduce the cost of living. A large percentage of our manufacturers are content merely to shelter behind the existing high tariff wall. Because they are not obliged to face competition from outside they are able to exploit the consumers and, therefore, need not bother about increasing production. They can conveniently take off a half -day or a full day to play golf. Yet members of the Australian Country party sit glumly and dumbly behind the Government despite some of the things that it has done to the detriment of the primary producer. When people talk about the profits of the wool-grower, they might, perhaps, at the next joint meeting of the Government parties insist that manufacturers shall not shelter behind the tariff wall, which the Tariff Board itself has recommended should be reviewed, but shall be made to realize the necessity to increase production. Members of the Australian Country party should not leave the Government, which is dominated by secondary industry interests, to deal with such matters.
Because of the limited time at my disposal, I have been able to deal only briefly with the necessity to put value back into the £1. Secondly, at the last general election the present Government parties promised that they would reduce taxes as a means of increasing production. The Treasurer, in an article that he wrote for the Melbourne Herald, said -
Labour’s stodgy, unrealistic taxation policy has been replaced by a dynamic, full-blooded policy of taxation relief.
Apparently, the Government’s policy in that matter has contracted pernicious anaemia, I have read very carefully the Government’s taxation proposals. We know that the world economic situation was acute just prior to the 10th December when the present Government parties made that promise, and that on the 6th March, the date of publication of the article of the Treasurer from which I have just quoted, the Government had committed itself to compulsory military training and other undertakings which it is now using as pretexts to run away from its election promises. All of those facts were in the minds of supporters of the present Government when they made those promises. But what has the Government done to replace the so-called penal taxation policy which they claim Labour imposed on productive enterprise? Supporters of the Government declared that it was Labour’s policy to impose taxes in order not to raise requisite revenues but to socialize industry by making it unprofitable. They said that by stifling private enterprise by high taxation Labour would bring about socialism in our time. However, in view of the trifling alterations that the” Treasurer proposes to make of the system of taxation introduced by the Labour Government and the trifling alterations that it has effected to Labour’s so-called stodgy, unrealistic taxation policy, it would appear that all the statements by supporters of the Government in that respect were made merely in order to gain some party political advantage. The present Government has not reduced taxes, and I am sure that it will not do so.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I shall leave it to the Government to announce when it will implement its so-called full-blooded, dynamic taxation policy. No evidence of the application of such a policy is provided in the Treasurer’s budget speech. Perhaps, we may find that evidence in the next budget if by some misfortune the present Government should still occupy the treasury bench twelve months hence. The No. 1 promise that the present Government parties made at the last general election was that they would put value back into the £1. Secondly, they promised that they would reduce taxes; and, thirdly, that they would relax the strangle-hold of bureaucracy upon productive enterprise. They promised to reduce the number of public servants. According to the Treasurer the services of at least 100,000 excess bureaucrats were to be dispensed with and that number would be transferred to productive enterprise. However, what has happened ? The estimates presented in conjunction with this measure show that the number of employees in every government department, with one exception, is to be increased. More of the so-called strangling bureaucrats who, according to the Treasurer, have been so harmful to the country’s economy, are to be employed by the Government. The Minister for Labour and National Service was frank enough to admit a few weeks ago, -in answer to questions asked in this House, that it was obviously impossible for the Government to reduce the number of public servants. He said, in effect, that if the people wanted the Government to govern effectively it would be obliged not to reduce but to increase the number of its employees. The only department in which the number of employees has been decreased is the Department of Information which, as honorable members are aware, has been re-organized. Employees of that department have been absorbed in other government departments.
– That is not true.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) knows that at least 75 per cent.-
– Have another guess.
– Well, we shall place a few questions about the matter on the notice-paper, and we shall then see whether or not the Minister is correct. I repeat that the major proportion of the staff that was previously employed by the Department of Information was simply transferred to other government departments. Some of those persons were transferred to positions in which they received higher salaries. Thus, we have the same old story of the Government’s failure to honour any of its election promises. They have turned out to be party political promises. Those who made them had no intention to carry them out but made them merely in order t© obtain control of the treasury bench.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) is a member of the Australian Country party, but he and his colleagues made similar promises at the last general election. I am glad that some members of the Australian Country party are displaying a little interest in the debate. Ordinarily, they merely sit in their places with bovine countenances, lacking knowledge of what is going on, while members of the Liberal party put it over them on every occasion. The members of the Australian Country party seem to think that because, with the aid of a breakaway section of the Liberal party, they have been able to prevent revaluation of the Australian £1 they have done sufficient to justify their presence in the Parliament. I put it seriously to them that our agricultural production is not keeping pace with the increase of our population and that unless we step up that production we shall, in the near future, not be exporting but importing foodstuffs. I invite honorable members who represent , country constituencies to consider that problem, which is one of the most urgent that confronts the community. I ask the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and his colleagues to show me where in the budget, or under this measure, any provision is being made to meet that problem by helping primary producers to increase the production of foodstuffs that our community urgently needs. A study of the relevant statistics shows that agricultural production has remained practically static since 1939. It will be a sad day for Australia should we be obliged to import foodstuffs in order to feed our people. Therefore, I direct the attention of representatives of country constituencies who support the Government to that problem in the hope that they will bring pressure to bear upon the Government to deal with it effectively.
– They can do very little about it. t Mr. KEON.- They had sufficient influence to prevent the Government from revaluing the Australian fi. In spite of the fact that the Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) have advocated revaluation, the shining lights who occupy the Government back benches have prevented it from so acting. Therefore, the- honorable members to whom I have referred can exert some force on the Government, particularly as most members of the Liberal party have insisted that the Australian £1 must be revalued if inflation is to be curbed.
– Is the honorable member advocating revaluation of the Australian £1?
– Yes. The honorable members to whom I have referred owe a duty to themselves, their party and the country to ascertain’ what the Government intends to do to increase agricultural production, particularly in view of the conspicuous absence of any reference to that problem in the Treasurer’s budget speech. If it is all right for representatives of manufacturing interests to “bring pressure to bear on members of the Liberal party in their various clubs to maintain high tariff protection for secondary industries, honorable members opposite who represent .rural constituencies should force the Government to deal effectively with the problem of increasing agricultural production.
– What foodstuffs are in short supply in this country?
– I said that foodstuffs would be in short supply if we failed to increase agricultural production sufficiently to meet the needs of our increasing population. If the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) would address his inquiry to the age pensioners, who are obliged to exist on their miserable pension, they would tell him that nearly all kinds of foods are in short supply. .In order to- inform the honorable member’s mind on this matter, I shall endeavour to have recorded in .Hansard the relevant official statistics relating to agricultural production. Primarily, economic stability depends upon the degree of intestinal fortitude of the Government in dealing with the urgent problems of putting value ba.ck into the £1, reducing taxes and releasing productive enterprise from the stranglehold of the so-called bureaucrats. Because the Government will not interfere with free enterprise, and because it is a prey to the moneyed interests, it cannot hope to d§al effectively with the tremendous problem of restoring economic stability. Consequently, it will not be long before a Labour government will be called upon to do so.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.–The debate this evening has been most interesting. The Labour party has been plunged into the depths of political humiliation, yet the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has had the audacity to make all kinds of wild statements about the Government, none of which has any foundation in fact. He accused it of having failed to fulfil its pre-election promises. Of course, the real responsibility for any failure on the part of the Government in that respect lies at the door of the Labour party, which, during the last ten months, has used its majority in the Senate to prevent the Government from passing important legislation for which it had a mandate from the people. The Liberal party and the Australian
Country party definitely promised the people during the last general election campaign that, if they were returned to office, they would deal with the Communists, and thereby destroy a menace that threatens our industry and even our national security. At the earliest possible moment, the Government introduced the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 to give effect to that promise, and declared it an urgent measure, but the Labour party’s majority in the Senate has employed almost every conceivable tactical device to delay the passing of the bill. To-night, however, members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have the satisfaction of witnessing the greatest political capitulation that has ever been known in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament. Yet, despite those circumstances, the honorable member for Yarra has had the temerity to accuse the Government of having failed to implement its pre-election promises.
The Liberal party and the Australian Country party also promised the electors that, if they were returned to office, they would combat the effects of the socialist policy that had been pursued by the preceding Labour Government. In order to honour that promise, the Government introduced the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1950, one of the purposes of which was to repeal the Banking Act 1947, which provided for the nationalization of banking in this country. The Labour party has employed its majority in the Senate to prevent that bill from being passed.
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Lyne is in order in discussing bills that have been passed by this House during the current session.
– I am not aware of whether the remarks of the honorable member for Lyne are out of order, because another honorable member has been engaging me in conversation. However, I shall follow the course of the debate closely, in order to ensure that references shall not be made to bills that are now on the notice-paper.
– The Government introduced the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1950 in order to honour its pre-election promise to combat the effects of socialist policy, yet the Labour party is using its majority in the Senate to prevent the Government from doing so. When the Government has been able to fulfil its preelection promises by administrative act, it has done so. For example, six weeks after it was returned to office, it abolished petrol rationing. The Labour party’s majority in the Senate was not able to prevent that act. Had it been in a position to do so, it would doubtless have seized that opportunity.
Opposition members are apt to forget the difficult economic conditions that Australia, in common with other countries, is now experiencing. They speak as if the present times are normal. When the last general election was held, no one could foresee what lay ahead, or the threat to this country. Members of the Labour party refuse to recognize even the emergency situation that has arisen in the international sphere this year. . It calls for an extraordinary’ effort from the Government, and imposes a severe test upon our financial structure to meet defence requirements, and to enable us to play our part as a member of the United Nations. The attitude of the Opposition in that respect is astonishing, because the Labour party professes to be a staunch supporter of the United Nations. Yet when the present Government seeks to make preparations to enable Australia to play a real part as a member of that organization, the Opposition accuses it of having failed to fulfil the promises that it made to the electors. Conditions have changed considerably since the last general election, and I am sure that the Australian people as a whole recognize that fact. A government, to be worth its salt, must be able to rise to its responsibilities in the hour of national need, and the present Government has given ample evidence of its worth in that respect. Indeed, its resolution has spread dismay among Opposition members. They have had every opportunity, and they still have every opportunity to challenge the Government, and to ask the people to decide between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party on the one hand, and the Labour party on the other. However, the Opposition is shirking that issue, and is not prepared to allow the people to pronounce their verdict on this Government’s administration during the last ten months. The volte face of the Opposition is extraordinary. For months, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who for some reason or other is absent from the chamber to-day, have led the party down the garden path. They declared that bills introduced by the Government to give effect to its pre-election promises contained principles that were not acceptable to the Labour party, and they vowed that they would resist those measures until an opportunity occurred for the people to express their verdict upon them. When that crisis threatened to develop, they shirked their responsibilities, and surrendered. That those leaders of the Labour party were so misguided is bad enough. What is worse is that they have misled many thousands of people, who probably followed them up to a certain point in the belief that they were genuinely fighting for their principles. At the critical time, they left those people in the lurch. The Labour party has lost its soul, and has forfeited the right to speak in this Parliament on behalf of the trade unions and of the workers. The people will not forget that abject surrender by the Labour party, which had not the backbone to fight this issue fairly and squarely on the hustings. The Labour party saw that a. pistol was pointed at its head, because the GovernorGeneral might have granted a double dissolution within a few days, and, in that event, Opposition members would have had to face the consequences of delaying legislation that had been introduced to give effect to the Government’s preelection promises. They were not “ game “ to face the electors; and surrendered in the hour of crisis. Yet, this evening, they have had the audacity to try to mislead the people by speaking in vague, general terms about what the Government should have done during the last, ten months. The people are concerned, not so much about what the Government has not done, as about what the Labour party has prevented it from doing in that time.
During the general election campaign in 1946, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, announced that Australia was about to enter a golden age of prosperity. However, the right honorable gentleman was not prepared to give the people much information about- his policy. In the following year, without having obtained a mandate from the people, he introduced the Banking Act, the object of which was to nationalize, banking in this country. In spite of all the protests that were made to all honorable members, he was not prepared to give the people an opportunity, at an election or by way of a referendum, to express their views on that proposal. The echoes of his statement about the Golden Age had hardly died away before he warned the people that a period of recession lay ahead. Many people must have lost their confidence in the right honorable gentleman at that point, and others will lose their faith in him after the surrender of the Labour party on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 to-day. I doubt whether they will be impressed in the future with such a leader, and whether they will take any notice of the Labour party for many years.
When the Labour Government was in office, the -tax burden was extremely heavy, and the failure to encourage production was most marked. Many workers “ eased up “ on the job, with the result ‘that to-day, we are paying the price for the Labour Government’s policy. The responsibility for the inflationary conditions that we are now experiencing lies at its door. All the evidence points to the fact that costs increased at a greater rate when the Labour Government was in office than they have since the present Government assumed office. The honorable member for Yarra, who made a number of wild statements and then hurriedly left the chamber, referred to what he described as the “ food industries “. He complained that they were not producing the quantities of food that are required by this nation. The honorable gentleman supports a political party which, when it was in office, imposed restrictive measures on production, and even paid farmers not to grow wheat. Many other industries received little or nc encouragement. In almost every instance, the failure to ensure that supplies should be made available to enable the rural industries to produce the commodities to which the honorable member for Yarra referred, is the responsibility of the Labour party. Indeed, primary producers who were so handicapped during those years made a truly remarkable effort to do as well asthey have done. The primary producing industries have lost valuable labour during the last decade. During World War II., heavy demands were made on them for man-power for the three services, and whatever we may think of the 40-hour week, we must recognize that most of the rural industries cannot work on that basis. Consequently, persons are attracted from them to the bright lights of the cities and towns, where conditions of employment may be more congenial, and the 40-hour working week applies. Yet those who have remained in the primary industries, have done a magnificent job, with the assistance of machinery to increase production. Above all, they have been responsible for maintaining the economy of the country, and in providing for all sections of the community, the greatest period of prosperity that they have ever enjoyed. I represent an electorate in which the dairying industry is well established. Those persons who are engaged in it work possibly move hours a week than any other primary producers work. Even the award that is applicable to that industry provides for a 56-hour working week for the employees, and dairy-farmers who have their own properties, work an even greater number of hours on seven days a week. In spite of the attractions tha.t are offered by other industries in the large cities, they are carrying on the struggle in a magnificent manner, and have played their part in the national production effort.’ If every industry had made a contribution to the welfare of this country comparable with that made by Australia’s primary industries we should not be beset with our present troubles. Our economy is unbalanced, and if we are to restore its equilibrium we must do out utmost to improve our secondary production. If that is achieved our primary industries will be able to do even more for the national welfare than they are doing at present. I pay tribute to the magnificent task performed by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in arranging the dollar loan, which will inevitably result in increased primary production because mechanical equipment and other things that have been badly needed by our farmers for a long time will shortly be made available to them. I hope that the example set by the primary producers of this country will be followed by other industries.
I think that we all are agreed that our first objective must be to make our people happy. To-day the people of this country are receiving from the primary producers food that is cheaper and of a higher quality than is that which is available in any other country. Although we hear a Jot of talk about the need to revalue our currency, do not let us overlook the essential fact that if we are to increase production our people must have an adequate supply of good food. Without, that we can do nothing. Every possible encouragement must therefore be given to the primary producers, who supply the workers in all other industries with food. When we consider the quality and the cheapness of the food available to the workers of this country it must be conceded that the primary producers are doing a great job. If they are to continue to do such a good job they must receive every encouragement. Do not let us panic; because a few members of the Labour party complain about the depreciated value of the £1 and urge us to revalue our currency. Such action might have a most adverse, and permanent, effect upon our economy.
Another matter of national importance is the provision of homes for our people. The once great Australian Labour party should have done a much better job when it was in office than it did, but it. now has an excellent opportunity to cooperate with the present Government in providing homes for the people. Now that the Australian Labour party has agreed, after months of obstruction, to accept the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 and to enable it to become law in this country, I hope that its members will join with the Government in implementing that measure as soon as possible so that we may strike a blow at those who are sabotaging our economy. No one knows better than do members of the Labour party the individuals who are making trouble in the community. If members of the Opposition have any interest in the welfare of the country, and if they intend to live up to the exhortation of the Leader of the Opposition this evening, that every man should do his best in his task, then they should seize this opportunity to cooperate with the Government. After all, we know that the efforts of the Communists in Australia are not only wrecking our economy but also threatening our existence.
– The Leader of the Opposition was thinking of the profiteers when he delivered that exhortation.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) should not worry too much about the profiteers. Although there are undoubtedly many individuals in the community who are only too anxious to exploit us in every way possible, it is a strange thing that members of the Australian Labour party in Australia, unlike Labour men in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, are more concerned about preventing an industry from making profits than they are about the well-being of those employed in it. Trade union leaders in the two countries that I have mentioned are always glad when an industry operates profitably because they know that its prosperity ensures the material welfare and stability of its employees.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) referred to the action taken by the trade union movement .in the United Kingdom in having sent a representative group to the United States of America in order to study methods of production and the nature of the capital equipment in that country with a view to using the knowledge gained to improve conditions in similar industries in their own country. They realized that if the people of the United Kingdom are to enjoy better conditions they must have greater industrial production. In order to achieve greater production, industry must attain the highest standard of efficiency. I was particularly impressed by one passage in the report from which the Minister quoted this evening. It was as follows : -
The weight of inescapable economic fact, driven home by economists, statisticians and even by Labour politicians, seems to have convinced the unions - or at least their leaders - that there is now no prospect of raising living standards through a further sharing-up of available wealth. The lemon has just about been sucked dry. Therefore, progress to a better standard of life for the mass of the people depends now on higher and more efficient production. The hard ultimate logic of economics can no longer be escaped.
I wish that there was evidence that members of the Australian Labour party and of the trade union movement in this country were aware of the fact stated in that passage of the report. I realize that 99 per cent, of the trade union members of this country are solid, loyal and industrious. Unfortunately, during the last eight years, while Labour was in office, they were misled. The former Labour Government continually preached the gospel of class hatred. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) and many of his colleagues went .out of their way to discourage people from working to their full capacity. When the present Government attained office it was high time for the people to receive better leadership, and now that they have received that leadership I am sure that their efforts will rise to a higher level.
Although Australia has produced outstanding personalities in all fields of activity, our production per man-hour is, unfortunately, below that of other countries. The realization of that fact has not yet been brought home sufficiently to the average Australian, but I believe that once he realizes it and appreciates its significance, his standard of production will rise. Of course I know that in order to obtain increased production there must be greater co-operation between employer and employees, and that an abundant supply of capital goods is also necessary. I should like to see greater co-operation between the trade union movement and management in industry. The Minister for Labour and National Service referred to the advice given by Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, to trade unionists generally. I thought that it was significant that when the right honorable gentleman mentioned that matter the honorable member for
Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) immediately interjected to inquire who had appointed Mr. Monk to the leadership of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. It seemed to me that that interjection revealed the lack of any real desire on the part of members of the Opposition generally to give any encouragement to the workers of this country to increase production. Many of the members of the Opposition have completely lost their interest in the welfare of this country and are concerned only with obstructing the present Government.
Every day we bear complaints about the increase of the cost of living. Those who blame this Government for that state of affairs should realize that the. present inflationary spiral, which is not confined to Australia but is affecting the whole world, is largely the consequence of the recent war. Furthermore, statistics show that the rate of increase of the cost of living since the present Government attained office is not so great as that which occurred during the administration of the previous Labour Administration. I have already stressed the failure of the present Opposition to check the existing inflationary trend by encouraging our workers to produce more. It must be apparent to any person who has given any thought to the current inflationary spiral that before it can be reversed it must first be halted. Of course, it cannot be halted overnight. Those honorable members who have discussed this matter lightly reveal their complete incapacity to understand what is happening. “We must, first of all, realize that the causes of the present inflationary trend arose out of our participation in the recent war, when our economy was strained to its utmost, and in addition, we are at the present moment carrying out the greatest immigration programme in our history.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In the last twelve months, especially in the period before the 9th December, but with diminishing frequency, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has given us his prescriptions for the economic ills of this nation. Prior to the general election he advanced several remedies. He frequently advocated incentive payments. The Government of which he is a member has produced no legislation to provide for incentive payments. He said that the most urgent problem before the nation was that of reducing governmental expenditure; that the main inflationary trend in the country arose from the fact that the then Government was expending an inordinate proportion of the national income. The budget for this financial year, of which this Supply Bill is a part, increases the expenditure from £595,000,000 a year to £738,000,000 and is the largest budget in the history of the Commonwealth. He said that we should abolish the sales tax because it was an inflationary tax. The present budget raises the return from sales tax by £10,000,000 to the highest level in the history of Australia. He denounced subsidies repeatedly in this House as being an unsatisfactory device. The present budget increases the volume of subsidies, which is the only good thing that I can say about it, by £20,000,000. He said that all we had to do was to free the country from economic control. In the last fortnight he ha9 been advocating the re-imposition of capital issues control and a number of other controls which he so emphatically denounced previously. The budget of which this bill is a part is for both good reasons and bad reasons the most inflationary budget in the history of the Commonwealth, even taking into account budgets in periods when a very large proportion of the national income was being expended ‘ upon war.
Let us consider the inflationary things which, I emphasize, for good reasons and for bad reasons, the Government is doing. It is under the necessity of expending £13i3,000j,000 upon defence. That is a perfectly justifiable expenditure, but its justifiability from the stand-point of security does not alter the fact that it is an inflationary expenditure because it will divert labour and materials to the production of goods that cannot be consumed. The Government must also pay war gratuities in the coming year to the volume of £80,000,000. That is the Government’s misfortune. I admit that in the last few years of the war the Labour Government accumulated money for the payment of gratuities almost to the point of £40,000,000. The effect of our legislation in relation to those gratuities was to take spending power out of the community and store it up, and, therefore, it was anti-inflationary. It is the Government’s misfortune that it must now inject that money into the community and so cause inflation.
The £50,000,000 that the Government has provided for stockpiling is also an inflationary expenditure because it means that some of our foreign holdings will be expended upon commodities that will not be immediately consumed. It is a perfectly justifiable expenditure, but its immediate economic effect will be inflationary.
But an utterly unjustifiable expenditure for which the budget makes provision is that which relates to. the wool tax. Honorable members who belong to the Australian Country party have been saying a great deal about the actions that were taken by the Labour Government, without a mandate. I am prepared to give £5 to every member of the Australian Country party who can tell me when he went to the wool-growers and told. them that he was going to place a special tax upon wool. If the Government’s mandate to legislate is only in relation to those matters that its candidates mentioned during the general election campaign, then it has no mandate on this subject, as every member of the Australian Country party and, for that matter, of the Liberal party, knows very well. But what we were told about this wool tax was that it was to be a wool “ freeze “. We were told that the wool-growers were a section of the community who had an inordinate amount of purchasing power in their hands, and that the wise thing to do was to take some of that purchasing power from them and store it up against the day when there might be a slump in the industry. But we find instead that the £103,000,000 of the wool tax is to be taken and expended this year. Far from being an antiinflationary device, that will have the opposite effect. The Government is doing two things - it is taxing the woolgrowers, as it taxes everybody else in the community, on one year’s income, but in addition it is drawing on next year’s income in advance and expending the money this year. It is trying to hoodwink the wool-growers, who were not allowed to spend the money that it is taking from them because its expenditure by them would be inflationary, that it has taken the money from them as a deflationary measure. The Government is taking that money in advance of the time of its becoming due, and will shoot it into the economy of the country in the form of salaries and other expenditure. Far from being a deflationary device, it is an inflationary device.
We were repeatedly told by the Treasurer, when he was in opposition, that the 180,000 public servants in the Australian Government’s employ represented such a great diversion of labour into nonproductive fields that the most urgent problem was to reduce the number. At the moment there are 30,000 more of them, so if his criticism was valid when there were 180,000 of them it is 16§ per cent, more valid now. We have also been informed by the Government, quite untruthfully, that the American loan is an anti-inflationary device. Honorable gentlemen opposite have suggested that, because we shall import a volume of goods from the United States because of that loan, the immediate effect of it will be to counter inflation. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), to his credit, has never pretended for five minutes that the American loan was an anti-inflationary device, although some of his supporters have done so. He has pointed out that it is being expended on capital goods and not upon consumer goods. Any one who is familiar with finance will immediately recognize that an expenditure on capital goods is not anti-inflationary.
The other feature of the budget which shows that it does not even pretend to be anti-inflationary, but that it was, in fact, drawn up as an election budget while the Government had the intention of drawing up another one later on, is that in an appropriation of £738,000,000 less than £500,000 is budgeted for as a surplus. Any person who looks at a budget from the standpoint of its being a device to arrest inflation recognizes that in a boomtime it is sound governmental practice to budget for a large surplus. Such a procedure skims off spending power and holds it in reserve so that it can be expended later and thus obviate the need to raise a similar amount by taxation in a period of economic difficulty. But almost every penny of the £738,000,000 that is to be raised is to be expended; £738,000,000 is to be raised and £73S,600,000 is to be expended, to be shot into the community as purchasing power.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have to face the inflationary shock of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court’s decision to increase the basic wage. In his radio speeches just before the budget was introduced, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a statement concerning the measures that the Government would introduce which would have the effect of arresting the inflationary trend. It is very difficult to acquit the right honorable gentleman of blatant deception when one considers that he must have known that this budget was coming down and that it had almost no features in it of an anti-inflationary character. One wonders whether statements about the economic actions that the Government was to take at some undisclosed time in the future were intended to influence the proceedings of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in relation to the basic wage. But I noticed that at least one judge said that the court was in no way influenced by the consideration of prospective economic measures but that, in arriving at its decision, it took into account only what had already taken place.
When the Treasurer was in Opposition he dwelt upon the sales tax and its effect upon the prices of many household commodities. I remember that one of his speeches dealt with what the mother of a family had to do in order to carry out the weekly wash. He spoke about the sales tax on soap. In reading Ilansard reports and newspaper reports of his speeches at that time I was interested to note that none of the items that he mentioned are to be made the subject of a sales tax reduction.
One of the other subjects with which the Treasurer’s speeches in the past used to deal was that of foreign funds.
The right honorable gentleman denounced, in the most emphatic terms, the policy of the Chifley Government of allowing Australia’s London funds to accumulate. He said that we were holding money in London instead of obtaining goods for it, and that if we got those goods, that would tend to arrest inflation. He said that the funds were completely excessive and that the Chifley Government’s policy in relation to them was completely unsound. Now the right honorable gentleman has informed us in his budget speech that the much larger London funds which have accumulated since the Chifley Government was in office must be regarded as no more than are necessary to safeguard the country in the event of any downward trend in which the country would require to call upon them in order to finance imports. So the right honorable gentleman, who wasted a great deal pf breath denouncing the former Treasurer, Mr. Chifley, on account, of the accumulation of London funds, now says that a. much greater accumulation is no more than is necessary.
Another item of his speeches was his denunciation of the budgets of the previous Government on the ground that they represented an excessive concentration of purchasing power in the hands of that Government. The present Government has increased that concentration by a. cool £143,000,000 in its budget. So here is the end of this budget and this Supply Bill. Here is the end of the long epic of. Fadden finance that was presented to the country in a series of speeches which, with one exception, gained the continuous applause of the press. The one occasion on which the Treasurer did not gain the applause of the press was when he drafted a budget of his own and presented it to the House as an alternative to the Chifley budget. Even the financial editor of the Sydney Morning Herald could not swallow the budget that the right honorable gentleman concocted and he devoted two leading articles to the subject in which he ridiculed what the right honorable gentleman had to say.
In contrast with what the Treasurer had to say while he was in Opposition, now that he is in office he has presented a budget that can only be described as bigger and better. It is bigger and better to the tune of £143,000,000. Those honorable gentlemen who have spoken ahead of me have been unable to decide whether the Chifley Government’s policy discouraged or encouraged production. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) asserted that the taxation policy of the Chifley Government, which involved £143,000,000 less in taxation than that of the Menzies Government, discouraged production, especially primary production, and then informed the House that the primary producers have done awonderful job and that there are fine levels of production in the country. The honorable gentleman should decide whether production has increased or decreased. He made the untrue statement that during the regime of the Chifley Government prices rose faster than they are rising to-day. The honorable gentleman may be correct; but, if he is, the Commonwealth Statistician is wrong, and I think that that officer may at least be acquitted of any accusation of policial bias when he makes his analysis of price trends. I do not blame any government for the price structure in Australia. The Government of the Commonwealth ceased to be responsible for the price structure when prices control ceased to operate. If the Government had not made its foolish and untruthful statements about putting value back into the £1, there would be no occasion for criticism of present price levels. My criticism is not that anybody could reduce them in the absence of economic controls which the Australian community is apparently not prepared to give to any government. It is that honorable members opposite, knowing that they could not do it, said that they could. Such statements were made in a series of speeches broadcast by the Prime Minister. In one of those speeches the right honorable gentleman set out what the Government had done and what it proposed to do. What it had done occupied three-quarters of a page. What it proposed to. do occupied six and a quarter pages. There one may find the reason why the Arbitration Court, when making its decision on the basic wage, did not take much notice of the magical methods by which the Govern ment intended to arrest the upward movement of prices.
Of course, in a budget which must set aside large sums for defence, which must meet obligations of honour such as war gratuities, and which must allow for the increases that have taken place in the cost of living by adjusting pensions, any chance of having counter-inflationary measures is destroyed. I make no denunciation of the Government because it has done nothing about inflation in the budget but I do criticize it because the Prime Minister, only three weeks before the budget was presented, made speeches in which he pretended that the Government would do something about inflation, whereas the only thing of that nature that the Government has done is to implement the Labour policy of wool subsidy which is highly commendable.
I think that other honorable members who have spoken have dealt adequately with the matter of Australian production. They have stated that one way of arresting inflation is to increase Australian production. That statement is so hackneyed that I do not intend to repeat it and am content to say that I agree with it. That the Australian economy is working at full blast does not matter. Honorable members should recognize that the 1939 level of prices was produced, in part, by the fact that a great many foreign countries were competitively selling in Australia. Australia did not accumulate a sterling balance in London “because this country sent more goods to England tha* it received from that country. The reverse was the case. Britain now prefers to divert goods to countries which will not give it credit rather than to send them to countries such as Australia which has given long-term credit. In 1939 Czechoslovakia was selling goods to this country and so were Germany and Japan. Japan was selling Australia large quantities of clothing. Those imports helped to keep the price level down. Is it seriously suggested that the Australian clothing industry can replace all the completely eliminated suppliers who provided this country with goods in 1939, and thereby established the pre-war price level?
Australia is, in the main, receiving a reduced quantity of vital goods from abroad, but is paying mere money for them because price levels abroad have risen. It does not matter what the Australian Government does and how much the Australian people produce, they cannot control the prices of goods that come into the country from countries in which the inflationary trend is stronger than it is in Australia. There has been another inflationary leap in the United States, which was a country from which Australia wished to obtain particularly vital goods.
The Government claims credit for the increase -of defence expenditure. In view of the darkening international situation, I believe that that increase is justified. I think it is wise to start stock-piling certain vital goods. When I say that the effect of that policy is inflationary I do not mean to suggest that it can be escaped. But I say that its economic effects must be realized and an endeavour made to offset them as far as possible. I think it roust be remembered that there may be circumstances in which all that we have expended and all that we have accumulated may be completely meaningless. The Government has stated that it rejects the conception of a. press-button war. If it means by that, that modern weapons are so terrifying that there will be hesitation to use them, it may be correct, but if an international war breaks out in which hydrogen bombs are used the whole of the defence provisions of this budget and and of the last five Chifley budgets will be reduced to meaninglessness. I do not think there is any higher authority on atomic weapons in Australia than is Professor Oliphant, who has said this -
Hie super-bomb, as we have called it in the past, was one of the most secret of conceptions and release of information about it seems singularly ill-timed. As a weapon it is so devastating that its use could be justified tactically and strategically only on large centres of population for purposes of mass extermination. I-t is unthinkable that any civilized nation would use it, even as a weapon of reprisal and the only possible reason for developing it is as a deterrent. It will take some years to develop a successful bomb of this type and in the meantime Russia has been given every incentive to use normal atomic wo”. pons before it is ready.
If it had to bo made the logical procedure would have been to do so in secret and to have brought it out as a deterrent only when it was real. As it is Russia has been given the go ahead signal and with her methods may have the answer first. Her, presumably few, normal atomic bombs are -magnified in destructive power by at least 1,000 fold if they become the cores of hydrogen bombs.
We feel that the hydrogen bomb must not be viewed only as a bigger and better atomic bomb. It is as great an advance on the plutonium bomb as that was on the ordinary explosive bomb. It changes the situation radically. (A single hydrogen bomb could obliterate Sydney and all its suburbs 1 and industries.) The necessity for agreement on control is not merely intensified it becomes a problem of far greater urgency, outweighing all other international questions.
We ought to keep that reservation in the back of our minds when discussing the provision of aircraft carriers and destroyers, and proposals for increasing the pay of infantry men. If war is to be waged without any moral check whatsoever, then all these appropriations are already outmoded, and the most urgent defence measure must be the protection of cities against the threat of total destruction.
– Tosh !
– I do not know whether it is so or not, but the advisers of the present Government and the previous Government believe that Professor Oliphant is the best-informed man on atomic weapons. I hope to God he is wrong, and that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) is right.
– Why is Russia arming?
– I do not discount the possibility that nations may be afraid to use atomic weapons, just as they were afraid during. the last war to use certain gases. I think that the honorable member for Hume might address himself to the subject with the seriousness it deserves instead of making cackling interjections.
I wish also to impress upon the Government the need to consider the effect upon governmental expenditure of the recent decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on the basic wage claim. It is> inescapable, I believe, that governmental expenditure will be greatly increased. I have seen estimates which indicate that the basic wage increase will cost the Commonwealth an additional £20,000,000. If so, the present budget of £738,000,000 is largely obsolete, although the increase will be offset in part by the fact that if people have higher money incomes there will be a higher return from income tax than the Treasurer has estimated. However, I doubt whether the extra return will make up for the extra cost of the 210,000 public servants.
The Government has done certain things which are to be commended. I refer in the first place to the increase of the money payments to age and invalid pensioners. I have never pretended that the increases given to age pensioners by the Chifley Government were, in the main, real increases of income. They merely offset, in part, price increases that had already taken place. The largest increase was in October, 1948, when the age pension was raised to £2 2s. 6d. a week, which was 36.64 per cent, of the .then basic wage of £5 13s. To-day, despite the increase, which is commendable, the age pension of £2 10s. does not represent 36.64 of the basic wage of £8 2s. Nevertheless, the increase is very welcome, and will do something to offset rising prices.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-This evening, we have had a spate of statistics. If they were taken at the value placed on them by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) they would create an erroneous impression. The honorable member said that nothing had been done by this Government to reduce the number of civil servants. He paid a high tribute to the Commonwealth Statistician, and pointed out that that official was entirely free from party influences. Well, the Commonwealth Statistician himself proves that the statement of the honorable member for Fremantle is incorrect. The Statistician, in his report for the month of June, 1950, states -
There was a decrease of 1,200 in the numbers employed by public authorities in the Commonwealth and an increase of 1,000 in those of State and local government authorities.
The fact is that the Australian Government, since it has been in office, has reduced the number of Commonwealth civil servants by 5,000. Month by month, and step by step, the Government has reduced the size of the huge, overcrowded bureaucracy established by the Chifley Government. Figures published from time to time in the press tend to create an erroneous impression because they lump together as civil servants the employees of the Commonwealth, of the States and of local governing bodies. It is true that the number of persons employed by State and local governing bodies has increased, but the Commonwealth Parliament has no control over State parliaments and local - governing authorities. There is constant pressure on State governments and local bodies to provide roads, bridges, hospitals, water services and sewerage as part of the national plan for absorbing immigrants, and if such work is to be performed there must necessarily be an increase in the number of persons employed by State, and local authorities. The Australian Government, however, has already taken action to reduce the overhead burden of government expenditure.
The honorable member for Fremantle also made the alarming statement that this is the most inflationary budget in the history of Australia. No statement could be farther from the truth. In support of his fantastic argument the honorable member for Fremantle says that the action of the Government in stockpiling goods to the value of £50,000,000 is inflationary. Surely, if we save money such action is deflationary, and the Government is setting aside essential goods, such as rubber and tin, to create a reserve. It is paying for such goods out of taxation. It is hard to imagine anything more deflationary than the action of the Government in creating stockpiles. The honorable member then spoke of what he erroneously referred to as the “ wool tax “. I remind the honorable member that no wool tax is proposed in the budget. The wool-grower is not to be subject to any taxation other than that to which he is subject under the ordinary income tax law. The budget proposes, for deflationary purposes, to make the wool-growers do what all the wageearners of this country have been doing for years and years, that is to pay the income tax as they get their money. The effect of that will be that at this time, when a sudden increase has occurred in wool prices, a deflationary effect will be caused by taking £100,000,000 out of circulation. The honorable member for Fremantle also complains because this Government intends to honour the word of previous governments to pay a war gratuity to our soldiers. He says that that is inflationary.
– 1 object to those words, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member is attempting to suggest that I object to the payment of the war gratuity. [ said two or three times that this debt was an obligation of the greatest possible weight.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Fremantle may make a personal explanation only at the conclusion of the speech of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). Such an explanation may not be made at present.
– That is so. The honorable member for Fremantle may make a personal explanation, if he wishes to do so, at the conclusion of the speech of the honorable member for Sturt.
– I do not want to be unfair to the honorable member for Fremantle, but I have noted that he complained about the Government’s inflationary actions and quoted four instances in which he said that the Government had encouraged inflation. The first matter was the Government’s expenditure of £133,000,000 on defence. The honorable member should bear in mind that it would not matter to us whether there was inflation or not in this country, if it belonged to some foreign power. Therefore, defence must be a paramount consideration. The honorable member also complained that £S0,000,000 is to be paid out this year as war gratuity to our ex-servicemen. He said that that would cause further inflation. He said that £50,000,000 to be spent in stockpiling goods for war purposes would also cause inflation, and that what he called the “wool tax” of £100,000,000 would have the same effect. I suggest that the whole tenor of the budget instead of being inflationary is definitely deflationary. The Leader of the Opposition said that when a country is prosperous it should pay its way. That is a very safe economic proposition. Itwould have sounded much better if it had not come from a gentleman who, when Treasurer, budgeted for a deficit of £35,000,000 in his last year of office when this country was enjoying the most prosperous period of its history.
– What will this Government’s deficit be?
– The Government has budgeted for a surplus and has carried into effect the very sound financial policy which was enunciated, but not applied, by the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition stated that elements of inflation were present when the previous Labour Government held office. It is interesting to remember that during the last two years of the previous Government’s term, prices were rising at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum. In the first six months of the present Government’s term, although prices continued to rise, the rate of rise was reduced from 10 per cent, to 8 per cent. As the result of measures which are outlined in the budget, it could have been assumed that the fall in the rate of price rise would have continued but an unknown quantity has been imparted to the situation through the recent decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to increase the basic wage. It is difficult to forecast the effects of that judgment without a most careful examination of all aspects of the matter. The Leader of the Opposition posed as the champion of sound finance. If large sections of the community are to be sacrificed on the altar of so-called sound finance then it is not sound finance so far as this Government is concerned. During the period of office of the .previous Government those people in receipt of Avar pensions, widows pensions, and age and invalid pensions were sacrificed because, as one honorable member of the Labour party said, the then Prime Minister was too mean. It is pleasing to note that this Government has recognized the disabilities that have been suffered by people in receipt of war, widows, age and invalid pensions. The budget provides for substantial increases in such pensions. The special rate of war pension for totally and permanently incapacitated persons has been increased from £5 6s. to £7 a week.
– The honorable member is now discussing the budget, which contains matters outside those contained in the bill before the House.
– I submit that Supply is intended to cover all budget items and therefore what I am saying has relevance to the Supply Bill.
– The financial statement may be discussed later.
– The Leader of the Opposition also made a sound statement which was borne out recently by the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. Monk. The effect of that statement was that any man who is not doing his best is cheating his fellow countrymen. That brought an interjection from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to the effect that the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions had no authority to make such a statement. It is an appallingstate of affairs when apparently a Prime Minister cannot make a statement without authority from some outside junta, and when the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions is not permitted to make a statement because apparently some group is controlling him. Where is this freedom for which we fought two wars?
Mr. Clyde Cameron interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Hindmarsh is continually making irrelevant interjections. If he does not desist I shall have to deal with him.
– Many of the Government’s budget proposals are deflationary. Every action that lays the emphasis on money saved rather than on money expended is deflationary. Inflation is caused by two factors. The first is a shortage of goods, and the second is the circulation in the community of more money than there are goods to buy. The best method of solving any problem is the most direct method. So, the cure for a shortage of goods is to produce more goods. The Government has taken active measures to increase the supply of goods. Coal produced in the first six months of this year was 1,000,000 tons higher than that produced in the corresponding period of last year under Labour’s administration. In addition, a considerable quantity of coal was imported. The Government has also taken active steps to speed up the turn-round of ships. There is still much to be done, but the measures already taken will be of great assistance. Generally speaking, industry is producing at a higher rate than at any time in our history. Every industry is flourishing. There are thousands more people in employment than at any other time in the history of the Commonwealth, and a far greater volume of goods is being produced than ever before. In addition, the value of imports increased by £122,000,000 compared with the previous year. All that means that a far greater supply of goods is available to the community as a whole. It is true that our shortages were very great, and that the increased volume of goods may not be immediately noticeable. It is also true that many thousands of immigrants have come into this country and have increased considerably the purchasing power of the community. However, figuresissued by the Commonwealth Statistician show that not only has there been a substantial increase in the local supply of goods compared with the corresponding period under Labour rule, but also there has been a substantial increase of imports. I venture to say that no government in the history of the Commonwealth has a finer record so far as production is concerned than has the present Administration.
I come now to the second cause of’ inflation which, as I have said, is the presence in the community of more money than there are goods to buy. The remedy for this is to reduce the purchasing power of the community. To that end, the Government, realizing that an additional £200,000,000. of purchasing power would be released in the community in one year as the result of increased wool prices, has taken steps not to impose a wool tax, but to impound portion of that money. In addition, taxation on luxury goods is to be increased substantially. The Government has also taken active steps to prevent price increases. A subsidy amounting to £20,000,000 will be paid on clothing in the current financial year. The Government is also subsidizing butter, and quite a number of other foodstuffs.
– A new policy !
– Those measures will tend to keep the cost of living down. The honorable member for Fremantle says, “A new policy”. Subsidies were being paid by the Commonwealth long before he was elected to this chamber. The payment of subsidies may not have been advocated by the present Government parties last year, but we are living in a changing world, and I should not like to think that the Liberal party was so conservative or hide bound as not to be able to change its mind with changing conditions. One of the faults of the Chifley Government was that is just could not change its mind. When it set out to socialize industry, the banks, the medical profession, and the airways, nothing could dissuade it from pursuing that course. I trust that the Liberal party will always have a dynamic policy which will change with changing conditions. To-day’s remedy for inflation may not be a remedy in twelve months or even six months’ time. Conditions change from day to day. It is essential that the Government should keep itself closely in touch with the economic situation and be prepared to mould its. policy towards securing the greatest good for the greatest number.
The Treasurer’s budget speech shows that every section of the community is progressing. The people of this country will benefit not only from direct increases of pensions and other social services, “but also from tax reductions, additional allowances, and the encouragement of saving. One of the most important means of preventing inflation is to encourage saving and one of the best means of saving is insurance. By increasing the allowable tax deduction for insurance and superannuation from £150 to £200 a year, the Government is giving very substantial encouragement to saving. I shall not delay the House further. I wish to deal with the proposed increases of war pensions and the age pension, but as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have ruled that those matters can be more appropriately debated when the budget is before the House, I shall make my comments upon them when the budget debate is .resumed. In conclusion, I am delighted that the Treasurer has acceded to the request of many Government supporters and granted liberal concessions to war pensioners, war widows and age and invalid pensioners.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) represented me as having attacked defence expenditure and the payment of war gratuity. Dealing with the payment of war gratuity, I said that it was an obligation of honour of the greatest possible weight and that no government could escape that payment. I then pointed out that Labour was fortunate in being able to accumulate moneys for the payment of gratuity, but that the present . Government was unfortunate in that it had to inject that money into the community as excess purchasing power, and, therefore, the payment of war gratuity would have an inflationary effect.
– That is not correct.
– Whether or not it is correct, that is the statement that I made. The honorable member for Sturt misrepresented me as having attacked the payment of gratuity whereas what I said was that although the payment was inescapable its effect would be inflationary, and that the Government could not avoid increasing defence expenditure having regard to the darkening international situation ; but I added that as such expenditure would not be incurred on consumer goods its effect was inflationary. In neither instance did the words that I used suggest, as the honorable member has done, an attack upon the payment of war gratuity or on the Government’s defence expenditure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I draw the attention of the House to a matter that is of more than parochial interest. A good deal was said to-day during the debate on the Supply Bill about the number of public servants who are being employed in the conduct of the country’s affairs. The branch of the Commonwealth railways in the Australian Capital Territory is seriously understaffed. The present staff is quite inadequate to cope with the increasing volume of goods that is arriving here from other States, with the result that railway employees are unable to unload with due expedition trucks that contain valuable commodities, including urgently needed medical supplies. Consequently, local trades people are being caused considerable inconvenience. To-day, I received complaints from several local business firms who are directly affected by this matter which I raise in the hope that it will be brought to the notice of the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). The problem arises because the number of employees at the Canberra railway station is insufficient to handle the increasing volume of goods that is coming here by rail from the various States.
– in reply - I assure the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) that the comments that he has just made will be brought to the notice of the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - R. E. Gillman.
Repatriation - W. L. Forsyth.
Supply - D.G. Collingwood.
Orders - 1948 - No. 1 - Judiciary Ordinance -
Rules of Court (Admission of Barristers and Solicitors). 1949 - No. 1 - Quarantine (Animal) Regulations.
Ordinances - 1948 - No. 2 - Judiciary.
No. 1- Oaths.
No. 2 - Marriages.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Twenty- second Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1949-50, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
Thefollowing answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
(At current rates of exchange for overseasdebt.) 3: (a) In Australia a 4 per cent, loan of £27,817,000 fell due on the 15th August, 1950. This was converted on the due date partly into a 2 per cent, issue due in 1953 and partly intoa 3J per cent, issue due 1961-64. .This was the only loan due for repayment but there are 4 per cent, loans totalling £129,000,000 due at various dates, in respect of which the Treasurer has the option of redemption at any time after 31st December, 1950. Other options of redemption are available this year in respect of £917,000,000 at 31 per cent, securities due at various dates, and also in respect of 3f per cent, securities amounting to £9,000,000. (6) No loans fall due in London or New York this financial year. In London options of redemption are available in respect of .3$ per cent, securities amounting to £28,000,000.
e. - On the 3rd October, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) asked whether it is a fact that certain temperance societies are negotiating with the Department of the Interior for the erection of a large temperance hostel in the Australian Capital Territory and, if so, whether certain public servants in the Australian ‘Capital Territory will be denied accommodation at the hostel. As promised, I have looked into this matter and wish to inform the honorable member as follows : -
A lease was granted by my predecessor in office .on the 13th May, 1948, to the Queensland Temperance League of a site on section 7, Barton, at the corner of Brisbane-avenue and Macquarie-street, for the purpose of erecting thereon a temperance hotel, secretariat, and conference room. Sketch plans for the proposed hotel have been approved by the proper authority. and it is understood that tenders will -shortly he called by the company’s architect* with the object of proceeding with the execution of the work. The lease contains no stipulations regarding t-he ClaSs of -person to -be accommodated at the hotel when built - this would be a matter for the company. 1 am given to understand, however, that its general object in initiating and proceeding with this proposal was to overcome the serious handicap that hail existed for some time in Canberra, -owing to shortage of accommodation, to bodies wishing to hold conferences at the National Capital. The company, therefore, desires to provide’ an hotel which would primarily cater for such visitors, rather than for permanent guests. 1 feci that the provision of such an hotel would be an advantage, as it would relieve the demands upon the existing hotels mid guest houses and would also provide convenient arrangements for bodies holding their conferences in Canberra from time to time.
y. - On the 10th October, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) asked a question concerning the shipment of hardwood from Western Australia to South Australia. The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : - in regard to the shipment of timber from Western Australia to South Australia the Central Traffic: Committee is aware Qf the need for the provision of shipping for this pm-pone and has arranged for the vessel Corinda, at present discharging at Fremantle, to commence loading at Western Australian timber ports on the 23rd October. 1,000 loads of seantling and “>00 loads of sleepers. The committee will allot further vessels for this pin-pole a? they become available
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 October 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501017_reps_19_209/>.