19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. P. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that delegates from the Union of South Africa and Southern Rhodesian branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, who are en route to New Zealand, are present in the gallery of the House. The delegates are the Honorable C. M. van Coller Senator the Honorable J. Duthie, Dr. P. J. van Nierop, and Mr. Gr. J. Sutter, members of the Parliament of the Union of South Africa, Mr. R. 0. Stockil, a member of the Southern Rhodesian Parliament, and Mr. J. F. Knoll, Clerk of the Senate of the Union of South Africa. On behalf of the House I extend to them a very cordial welcome.
HONORABLE MEMBERS - Hear, hear!
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month he given to the Speaker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), and for two months to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), on the ground of urgent public business.
– In the absence of the Minister for Labour and National Service I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether the Government proposes to introduce legislation this week in relation to the basic wage determination now before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court i Will the Government consider the points that were raised in objection to the declaration at the sittings of the court in Melbourne, particularly the objection that was raised on constitutional grounds by counsel for the employers that no amendment of the statute would he able to meet the position? I ask the right- honorable gentleman to consider the matter as being of great urgency.
– I shall bring the right honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service who will bc in attendance in the House this evening.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing inform me when the new building to be used for pick-ups of waterside workers in Hobart is likely to be commenced! Flans for tho building were approved nearly two years ago. Until the structure is completed waterside workers when attending pick-ups will be obliged to stand in the open in all sorts of weather. I ask the Minister to treat the matter as one of urgency.
– Offhand, I cannot say at what stage the project to which the honorable member has referred has reached, but I shall be glad to give the matter sympathetic consideration.
-Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a statement that was published in the Melbourne Herald on Saturday last to .the effect that the honorable member for Maranoa had said that the right honorable gentleman had advised him that “ revaluation of the £1 was right economically, but wrong politically”?’ If that report is correct, does the right honorable gentleman consider it to be either ethically proper or morally decent for him to remain a member of a government that refuses to do what it believes to be right in the interests of the country? Furthermore, will the right honorable gentleman resign his seat in the Parliament in order to give to his electors an opportunity to say what they think of such conduct on his part?
– In reply to the honorable member’s assertion I respectfully draw his attention to my reply to the article to” which he has referred; and and I also respectfully advise him to keep his nose out of other people’s business.
– I refer the PostmasterGeneral to the situation of residents of country centres, such as Orange, Parkes, Forbes and Cowra, who, owing to the oneday train strike, have received no mail for two days. Will the Minister .consider arranging for the carriage of all firstclass mail matter by the normal air services during any rail strike?
– The custom of the Postal Department is to make use of air services when there is a serious interruption of mail services by rail. However, in the -case of one-day rail strikes, especially when we cannot be sure a day or two beforehand that the stoppages will eventuate, it is very difficult to make such alternative arrangements. Should there be any sustained inconvenience, the department will certainly consider the suggestion that the honorable member has made.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral Been a suggestion, made by a correspondent in die Sydney Morning Herald, that Australian wild flowers should be used as designs for the special issue of Australian postage stamps to commemorate jubilee year? As there seems to be difficulty in obtaining suitable designs for stamps, and as flower issues of stamps have been very successful in other countries, will the Minister consider the suggestion closely?
– The designs of postage stamps for the jubilee year had to be in hand about twelve months prior to the proposed date of issue. The note printer, who also prints the postage stamps, requires such notice in order that he may organize the necessary machinery and arrange various other matters connected with the issue of such stamps. The designs for jubilee postage stamps have already been decided upon. They were selected by a special committee that advises me in connexion with that particular matter. That committee includes such men as Mr. Daryl Lindsay, the noted artist, and other people who are extremely competent in that sphere. I shall give some thought to the suggestion made by the honorable member, and the correspondent to whom he refers, in connexion with future issues of Australian stamps.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question regarding appointments to his department. Some years ago an agreement was entered into between the Public Service Board and the union of which linemen are members, to the effect that two permanent linemen would be employed for every temporary man employed. At present there are about two permanent men to every three temporary men and examinations are not being held for the purpose of making permanent appointments. In view of these circumstances I ask the Minister when another examination for appointment as lineman will be held? Will the Minister inquire into the circumstances relating to postal officers aged from eighteen years to nineteen and a half years who are not being given an opportunity to transfer as lineman in training? Will he issue instructions which will make such transfers possible? Will he inquire into the cause of the delay in creating permanent positions and take steps to enable large numbers of ex-servicemen who are at present employed in a temporary capacity to be appointed to the permanent staff?
– I share the opinion of the honorable member for Wills, that it is desirable to have more permanent than temporary linemen on the staff and, for that matter, in other branches of the Postal Department because there is not such a great turnover of labour when men have security in their positions as when they have not that security. Therefore, I shall be very pleased to examine the suggestion that lias been made by the honorable member and ascertain what can be done to rectify the anomalies to which he has referred.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I understand that at present there is a good deal of restiveness amongst temporary employees of the Postal Department because they have not yet received their taxation group certificates. Is there a good reason why the group certificates have not yet been issued, and will the Postmaster-General do something to expedite the matter as these employees are desirous of completing their income tax returns?
– There is no reason why temporary employees should not be able to obtain their group certificates in the same way as any other employees. I shall ask my department to expedite the issue of these certificates if there has been any delay.
– Has the Acting Leader of the House noted a press report that the Australian Minister for External Affairs has expressed the hope that rela tions between Russia and the western world will improve? I ask this question because I have here a copy of last night’s issue of the Melbourne Herald in which appears a photograph headed “ Salute to Stalin - by Owen Gun”. It depicts an Australian soldier in North Korea shooting from an Owen gun at a picture of Stalin on a wall in Masan. Does the right honorable gentleman approve of such actions by Australian members of the United Nations force in Korea and does he consider that the Melbourne Herald has shown good taste in perpetuating a situation in which already strained relations may become even further strained?
– I have not seen the article and I have no intention of taking any notice of it. I am not interested in it.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question relating to the urgent need for an efficient flood warning organization for river valley areas where floods can rise very rapidly. Although I am aware of the great services that have been rendered by the Postal Department during the disastrous floods of recent months, I am of the opinion that there is room for a considerable improvement of the flood warning system and I understand that modern apparatus is now being examined by officers of the department. Can the Minister make a statement on the stage that has been reached in the preparation by his department of plans for the provision of comprehensive flood warning facilities, both telephonic and radio? Is the department prepared to meet the cost of installing such modern facilities as are required ? If not, will the Minister confer with the Prime Minister or the Treasurer for the purpose of arranging for sufficient funds to be made available to the department for the carrying out of such installation work as quickly as possible in river valleys where there is a constant danger of serious loss of human life and live stock as the result of sudden floods?
– Although the Postal Department co-operates with other authorities in trying to provide a flood warning service, that task is not its direct responsibility. The responsibility is shared equally by a combination of authorities - the Postal Department in the Commonwealth sphere, the appropriate State departments, and local government bodies. The Postmaster-General’s Department will provide all reasonable facilities, but it is not prepared, for example, to build miles of telephone line into the mountains, because such work is the responsibility partly, of the State and partly of the local authorities concerned. Once those works have been placed there, we shall be prepared to cooperate with equipment and staff, and in every other way. I shall examine other aspects of the question which has been asked by the honorable member, and I hope to discuss the matter with the State authorities ns soon as possible.
– Is the Acting Leader of the House in a position to inform me whether the Government has decided to support the Burdekin Valley development scheme ?
– The Government is not in a position to state definitely the extent, if any, to which it is prepared to assist and co-operate in the Burdekin Valley development scheme.
– My question to the Minister for Civil Aviation concerns the aircraft accident which took place some four months ago in Western Australia, and ‘by way of explanation, I point out that, to my certain knowledge, the widow of one of the victims of that disaster has not yet received any insurance payment in respect of her late husband. A certificate of death has not been issued so she is unable to administer his estate. Consequently, she is in a most difficult position. Will the Minister inquire into the cause of that delay with a view to speeding up the appropriate machinery, if, unhappily, it should be required in some other case?
– Any delay that may have taken place in the payment of insurance in respect of victims of the Amana disaster in Western Australia is not the responsibility of the Government. Both
Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines carry insurance at the rate of £2,000 for each passenger, and higher rates for members of the crew, if they desire it. The unfortunate accident to which the honorable member for Henty has referred has been investigated at great length in a technical way by the Department of Civil Aviation, and the full report of those inquiries reached me to-day. Steps are now being taken to arrange for a public inquiry into the tragedy, and a justice has been named to preside over it. At the inquiry into the last accident of that kind, Mr. Justice Wolff, who presided, recommended the introduction of compulsory insurance for air travel for all air lines companies. The Government agrees with that recommendation, although it has not yet been decided whether the Commonwealth has the necessary constitutional power to give effect to it. It is the intention of the Government to make such insurance compulsory, if that is possible. If the honorable member will give me the name of the woman to whom he has referred, I shall make inquiries for the purpose of ascertaining the cause of the delay. The public inquiry will now proceed.
– Supplementary to the question that was asked by the honorable member for Henty, I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether there is any reason why a coroner’s court should not issue a death certificate in respect of the victim of a fatal accident?
– There is no reason why the coroner, after examining the circumstances, should not issue such a death certificate. That has been done in many cases.
– As the Government proposes to construct a seaplane base in Botany Bay adjacent to the Kingsford Smith airport, does it intend to construct a breakwater in Botany Bay, and in conjunction with the Government of New South Wales, to dredge the bay with a view to providing modern port facilities in order to expedite the turn-round of ships?
– As I arn aware of the honorable gentleman’s interest in civil aviation matters, I shall obtain the particulars that he has requested and supply them to him.
– Has the Minister for Supply seen a report in yesterday’s Sydney press of the tonnage and value of steel exported from Australia during the year ended the 30th June last? If he has seen it, will he say whether the figures quoted in it are correct, and will he inform me whether it is the policy of the Government to continue the export of raw materials while the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited rations steel to Lysaght’s Limited, which stands down its employees owing to the lack of materials? Did the Minister issue instructions to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to reduce by 1,000 tons a week the steel quota of Lysaght’s Limited ? Is he aware that the Federated Ironworkers Association proposes to put a darg on production at Lysaght’s Limited if the quantity of 1,000 tons a week is not restored to the company, so as to ensure employment for their members on the basis of a five-day week instead of the proposed four-day week? Does the Minister know that the application of a darg at Lysaght’s Limited would create industrial trouble? “Will he have that matter examined with a view to the restoration of sufficient raw materials for Lysaght’s Limited so that galvanized iron will be produced at capacity rate and possible industrial unrest in industry will be avoided?
– I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the figures contained in the newspaper report, though so far as I know they are correct. The matter raised by the honorable member does not come within the purview of the Department of Supply because exports are controlled by the Minister for Trade and Customs. However, if the honorable member will permit me to treat the question as being on the notice-paper I shall consider it with my colleague and furnish an answer to him.
– Did the Minister for Supply issue instructions for the weekly steel quota of Lysaght’s Limited to be reduced by 1,000 tons?
– In my capacity of Minister for Supply I gave no instructions at all.
– On the 26th October I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport a question concerning the purchase of certain American diesel rail units, and I should now like to ask the honorable gentleman a further question concerning the matter. I understand that, so far, only three rail cars have been purchased. Will the Minister now inform me whether it is a fact that the American units are costing approximately £20,000 more per unit than do the diesel rail units, capable of 60 miles an hour, which have been purchased by the Victorian Railways from sterling countries? Is it also a fact that air-conditioning devices can easily be fitted to the sterling units if desired? Why has the purchase been made from a country in the dollar area, and presumably out of the dollar loan, when 36 very satisfactory diesel units are operating in Victoria - that is, of course, when the railways are functioning?
– I shall examine the very interesting suggestions made by the honorable member with the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, and let him have the information that he seeks in due course.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to the anomaly that exists in the Government’s budgetary proposals concerning sales tax which provide for the imposition of a 25 per cent, tax on musical instrument cases and a 33A per cent, tax on fibro shopping cases and suit-cases? Because shopping cases and suit-eases are a social necessity, will the Treasurer consider reducing the rate of sales tax on those articles.
– I shall have the matter examined and will take whatever action is necessary to adjust any anomaly that is found to exist.
– In view of widespread reports that Australian naval and military personnel engaged in Korea, where the winter climate is very severe, are experiencing a shortage of winter clothing, will the Minister for the Army explain to the House the position in this matter ?
– I am happy to assure the honorable member that as soon as the invitation from the United Nations organization was accepted by the Australian Government for the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army to participate in the Korean campaign, instructions were issued that all ships and troops proceeding to Korea should be fully provided with adequate warm clothing in case our forces become engaged in a winter campaign. In anticipation of an honorable member raising the question that has just been asked by the honorable member for Petrie, I obtained certain detailed information for the information of the House. A navy order was issued to His Majesty’s Australian ships about to proceed to Japanese waters to ensure that they were fully stocked with warm clothing and blankets prior to departure from Australia. I have had a check made, and I know that the order was carried out. Orders were also issued by the flag officer commanding His Majesty’s Australian fleet that before proceeding on a cruise the commanding officers of all ships were to review their stocks of clothing, and to take into consideration operational requirements and the climatic conditions expected. On the 24th October the senior officer of the Royal Australian Navy destroyers reported that no complaints had been received from H.M.A.S. Warramunga in respect of lack of warm clothing. It was also ascertained that demands for necessary winter clothing had been lodged by H.M.A.S. Bataan with the Royal Navy authorities in the Far East, from whom we are drawing extra clothing when required. A message has been received from H.M.A.S. Bataan stating that the clothing is available. All warm, clothing, including sheepskin jackets, duffel coats, sea boots and stockings, is available to the commanding officers for issue to the men on both ships if required. Existing types of Australian Army clothing are designed for temperate and tropical climates.
Participation by Australia in the Korean war made necessary the provision of other equipment to meet the severe climatic conditions existing in that area. While the Australian uniform and underclothing were suitable to meet cold climatic conditions they were not entirely suitable for the sub-arctic conditions that are sometimes experienced in the Korean winter. As a result of tests made in subarctic regions we have obtained from the United States forces clothing and equipment of a type that they use in the training of troops and that they have regarded as suitable, after having tested them in the arctic regions of Alaska. I assure the honorable gentleman that, as a result of instructions issued by me to the CommanderinChief of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, LieutenantGeneral Robertson, I am confident that the Australian servicemen have all their requirements of this clothing, including arctic and sub-arctic equipment, which is on hand to be issued as soon as such issue is considered necessary by the commanding officer.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether it has been brought to the notice of the Government that the honorable member for Melbourne, being now unable to use the Department of Information for publicity purposes, has started to issue publicity on his own account? I refer to a pamphlet entitled, Co-operation, a National Responsibility, which bears the words, “ by Arthur A. Calwell, M.H.R.”, and which reads, in part, as follows: -
It is my belief that, under capitalism, justice only ever goes to those who are strong enough to demand it, or strong enough to make it inconvenient, dangerous or unprofitable for those who would refuse it.
Is that statement not a grave reflection upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? The pamphlet also states -
In any case, the basic wage is a minimum wage, but nearly all employers make it the maximum wage.
Is that statement true? The pamphlet continues -
The workers still harbour grave suspicions about the intentions of members of antiLabour Governments and of the employing class who appeal for peace in industry and cooperation between employer and employee. To the worker it sounds like the co-operation-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Some honorable members will receive their marching orders until question time is over unless there is silence.
– The pamphlet also states -
To the worker, it sounds like the co-operation of the wolf and thelamb.
Is this not a form of propaganda that will be enjoyed only by those who are trying to decrease production? Is it possible for a person to charge any price he fixes for such trash ? Is this a way of-
– Order ! The honorable member is getting a bit wide of a matter affecting a public department.
– Does the sale of propaganda such as this not take something out of the pence rather than put value back into the £1?
– The publication from which the honorable member has quoted made his question sound like a conundrum. The more of that publicity that is put out the better honorable members on this side of the House will like it.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of the successful children’s session, known as “ The Argonauts “, broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Is he aware that that session on two occasions last week was reduced by half an hour to permit the broadcasting of a cricket commentary? An extract of the total sporting broadcast time of the station concerned has been obtained, and it shows that fourteen hours weekly were spent on the broadcasting of sporting summaries, rather than the actual broadcasting of cricket matches, and that only two hours, thirty minutes were provided for the broadcasting of “ The Argonauts “ series. As “ The Argonauts-“ programme is a splendid series for children, will the PostmasterGeneral try to preserve this essential listening time, even if it means the reduction of the time allotted to the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings.
– In reply to the last part of the honorable member’s question, I doubt whether he would care to have his own broadcasting time reduced during the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. In reply to other parts of his question, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has very great difficulty in reconciling the interests of all sections of the community. Some people want more racing broadcasts, others want more music, others want more attention paid to the cultural side of radio, and others want more jazz. The Australian Broadcasting Commission does its best to cater for every one in an equitable way. However, if there has been a reduction of time for the children’s session, such as that mentioned by the honorable member, I shall ask the commission to investigate the matter and to ascertain whether this section of the programme can be preserved, perhaps at the expense of some other section that might be considered not to be so important to the community.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any information available yet regarding the quantity of this season’s crop of grain sorghum for which export permits will be issued, and also regarding the conditions under which, such permits will be issued?
– Earlier in the year I made announcements in the House about the quantities and proportions of the crop in respect of which export permits will be issued. I am out of touch with the present state of affairs, but I shall ascertain whether there is a case for review, or whether any review has been made during my absence by the Minister who was acting for me and shall inform the honorable member and the House of the position.
– Is the Minister for the Army in a position to define the attitude of the Government towards the enlistment and the universal training of foreign migrants ?
– The Government is considering the matter that the honorable member has raised. At an early date, I hope to be able to make an announcement on the subject and, in view of conversations that I have had with the honorable member, [ believe that he will be satisfied with my statement on it.
– Some time ago it was announced in the press that the Army authorities intended to give an opportunity to members of the permanent military forces to be re-attested for service in any part of the world. Can the Minister for the Army inform the House of the approximate, if not the exact, number of personnel who have applied to be reattested for such service?
– I have pleasure in advising the honorable member that the response that has been made to the invitation to members of the Permanent Military Forces to be re-attested for service overseas has been eminently satisfactory.
– Can the Minister give the numbers?
– I am not able to do so at the moment, but I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable member.
– I ask the Acting Leader of the House whether in March of this year the Sydney Morning Herald published a number of articles in which it was claimed that the Associated Dominions Assurance Society Proprietary Limited was “ not actually solvent and that the Government should take action in order to safeguard the interests of the policyholders in the company? Did the Insurance Commissioner endeavour to secure access to the company’s books and did litigation arise as the result of his action? If so, has the matter been finalized; and what has been the outcome? Did the Minister for External Affairs act as legal adviser to Mr. W. T. Page, who, I understand, is managing director of the company, or did he act in a similar capacity to the company? Is it a fact that Mr. W. T. Page was a substantial contributor to Liberal party funds ?
– I shall answer the honorable member’s questions in reverse order. I do not know whether Mr. Page was a contributor to the Liberal party funds. I do know that the Minister for External Affairs acted for the company that the honorable member has mentioned. Probably, that was one of the main reasons why the company won the action. Strange as it may seem, I had a conference only this morning with the Insurance Commissioner concerning what further action should be taken as the result of the High Court’s decision in relation to the company’s affairs.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs how many Buick and Cadillac cars, complete with bodies, were imported under special licence from the 1st January, 1945, to the 30th June, 1950? Will the Minister make available a complete list showing the date on which each permit was granted, the date of importation, the identification particulars of each car, the name of the person to whom the permit ‘was granted, the reason for granting it, and details of any undertaking that was given in connexion with the transaction as well as the ‘name of any agent who acted for the importer ?
– I shall obtain the information for which the honorable member has asked from my colleague and advise him later.
– Is the Acting Leader of the House aware that most of the States have no laws providing for the registration of morticians or the conditions under which they shall operate ? Is he aware that the absence of such laws has resulted in the establishment of businesses by “ sharks “ who do not possess the proper equipment or hygienic facilities required for the preservation of bodies prior to interment? As such businesses are free to exploit relatives of deceased persons, will he submit this matter to a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers with a view to securing the enactment of uniform legislation in all States to remedy this position ?
– The matter that the honorable member has mentioned will be brought to the notice of the appropriate authorities and an endeavour will be made to remedy the defects which have been in existence for many years.
– It has been reported
I hat the motor vessel Culcairn has suffered a major machinery breakdown off the Queensland coast. As this vessel is the only one trading between the eastern States and Darwin and as any delay in its arrival at Darwin would cause considerable inconvenience, and actual hardship, will the Minister representing the Minister for Fu nl, Shipping and Transport, if the breakdown is as serious as reports would indicate, consult with his colleague with a view to making another ship available to transport Culcairn’:* cargo to Darwin ?
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport and request hi hi to give special attention to the suggestion that the. honorable member has made. I take this opportunity to inform the honorable member that I propose to visit Darwin this week, where I hope to slay for a few days, in order to investigate various matters in which he may be interested.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make a statement to the House on the stage that has been reached in the negotiations for the sale of Australian butter to the United Kingdom ?
– When I was in London recently I had discussions with the British Minister for Food, Mr. Webb, on the matter to which the honorable member has referred. The negotiations with the United Kingdom authorities are being conducted by Mr. McCarthy, the Deputy High Commissioner in London, who is being assisted by Mr. Howie and Mr. Gibson, who are members of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. Up to date, the parties have been unable to reach agreement, and I understand that the New Zealand authorities also have failed to reach an agreement with the United Kingdom in their negotiations on the same subject. It would appear that whilst the long-term contract governing the sala of Australian butter and cheese to the United Kingdom provides for an annual, review of the contract price, it does not contain any provision for resolving deadlocks that might arise in such negotiations. It has now been arranged that the Australian Government shall submit to the United Kingdom authorities certain criteria, such as the cost of production and associated factors, and that the criteria agreed upon shall be applied in determining the price that shall prevail for each ensuing twelve months. If, as the result of the current negotiations, the price should be varied - it is my hope that it will be varied - the new price will bc ante-dated to the 1st July last. In the meantime the Australian dairy-farmers will not be prejudiced as the result of any delay in reaching a decision in this matter, because they are now being paid the price that has been guaranteed by the Australian Government.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that, although the Government proposes to increase all other classes of pensions, no increase is to be made in the allowance payable to relatives who are looking after invalid pensioners? As this would appear to be due to an oversight on the part of the department, will the Minister look into the matter with a view to granting aproporionate increase in that allowance?
– I shall bring the question to the notice of the Minister for Social Services in order to have the honorable member’s suggestion investigated.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether the investigation of the dried fruits industry by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has been completed ? If the investigation has been completed, does he expect that the information disclosed by it will be released in the near future?
– The investigations either have been completed or are on the point of completion. As soon as the report of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics comes into my possession, I shall refer the substance of it to Cabinet. I hope that in due course I shall be able to make an announcement on the subject to the Parliament and to the industry.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Menzies Government has made any representations to the United States Government for the total elimination of the Americ’an import duty on Australian wool? If any such representations have been made, when were they made?
– Direct representations have not been made exclusively to the United States Government as such.
– For a reason that the honorable member ought to understand very well.
– The previous Government made representations to the United States Government and was successful.
– That is not so. The previous Government made its representations in the form of a submission to the conference of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. I should have expected that the honorable member, as the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, would have known that. This Government has followed a similar course and has submitted a request to the United States Government through the channel of the ‘General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That request for a further reduction of the United States import duty on Australian wool is at present the subject of discussion at the conference of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade at Torquay.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to a statement that appeared in the metropolitan press of Australia last Saturday concerning a meeting of Sydney wool-selling brokers on the previous day in which it was stated that those gentlemen had decided unanimously not to act as collectors on behalf of the Commissioner of Taxation of the 20 per cent, deduction from wool sale9 returns for the prepayment of growers’ income tax as planned in the budget? If the right honorable gentleman has seen the statement, has he given consideration to the legal aspects that are involved, particularly in relation to the right of the brokers to refuse to act as collectors ? If they have that right, what effect will their decision have upon the collection of the amount of £103,000,000 that the Treasurer hopes to get by means of the deduction scheme? Has the attention of the right honorable gentleman been directed also to a further statement by the brokers that they had notified the Commissioner of Taxation that they had no alternative but to refrain from making the proposed deductions because they had received many requests from clients who wished to have the proceeds of wool sales paid to them on the due dates? If the Commissioner of Taxation has been notified accordingly, how does the Treasurer propose to collect the money from the wool-growers after they have collected it from the brokers ?
– In dealing with woolgrowers who have already received their cheques, the Government intends to do what every other government that has administered the Australian taxation laws has done. It will collect income tax from those who owe it as a debt that is due by them to the Crown. The brokers are not under any legal obligation to deduct the amounts for which the legislation provides until the legislation becomes law. However, the Government has asked them to co-operate with it in order to minimize the administrative difficulties that would be involved in going direct to the source and obtaining the money from the producers. When the authorizing bill becomes law, appropriate action will be taken to safeguard all the factors that the honorable member has mentioned.
– I direct a question to the Acting Leader of the House concerning the appointment of Mr. Eric J. Harrison, the Australian Resident Minister in the United Kingdom, as Minister for the Interior. Has the right honorable gentleman read the protest that that has been made against the appointment by people living in inland Australia, who have stated that they regard the Government’s action as an insult to themselves? Is not the appointment fantastic, considering that the honorable gentleman has been appointed to- his position in the United Kingdom for an indefinite period ?
– There is nothing fantastic about the designation of the Resident Minister in the United Kingdom. I have not seen the press report to which the honorable member has referred.
– In view of the fact that poultry-farmers are finding that the cost of production is greater than the price of eggs, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture tell me whether any proposal has been made to assist the poultry industry by subsidy or otherwise?
– Before I left Australia recently, I received certain representations from various sections of the poultry industry along the lines suggested in the honorable member’s question. I pointed out then that it would not be easy to deal with an industry that had not been organized on a federal basis or to take cognizance of representations made by single sections of any one industry. I said that I should be prepared to pay regard to representations made either by the Australian Egg Board, which is a federal body which includes a majority of producer members, or by the organization that is known as the Australian Egg Council, which is the meeting point of all State Egg Boards. I was informed before I left Australia that a submission would be made to me by the Australian Egg Council. I have not learned since my return whether any such representations have been made. If they have been made, the Government will take them into account and examine the case for the poultry industry.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Sturt, and deals with the subsidy on eggs. Will the honorable gentleman inform me whether it wa3 intended that the Division of Agricultural Economies should investigate the poultry industry? If his answer is in the affirmative, will he state whether the division has carried out that investigation? If it has not done so, can he say when it will do so?
– The Division of Agricultural Economics maintains a running review of the costs of the poultry industry for the purposes of the annual registrations on prices in our contract with the United Kingdom. That review would be available in respect of items involved in the cost of production, to which the honorable member for Sturt and the honorable member for Canning have both referred. I am not able to say whether the data available for the purpose of the negotiations with the United Kingdom Government on the price of eggs would be sufficiently comprehensive to indicate whether a case had been established for a subsidy, subject to general Government policy, but if that data is not sufficiently comprehensive, the Division of Agricultural Economics, in conjunction with such other Government instrumentalities and organizations associated with the poultry industry as may be necessary, will extend its investigations.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that experience and the results of examinations have shown that foreign dentists who come to Australia are, generally speaking, far below Australian standards in the dental profession. In order that no unskilled person shall be allowed to practise on Australians, will the Minister assure me that he will not support any lowering of standards and that he will ensure that only dentists acceptable to the General Medical Council of Great Britain or the Australian Dental Association shall be registered ?
– The State governments are the registration authorities for doctors and dentists. However, this Government will continue to try to maintain the high standards that have always distinguished members of the dental and medical fraternities in Australia.
– Did the Treasurer send a telegram to Sir Lloyd Dumas, of the Adelaide Advertiser, during the period when the dollar loan was being negotiated, requesting him as u personal favour not to publish any references to the negotiations? Did the telegram also advise Sir Lloyd Dumas that a letter would follow? Will the right honorable gentleman oxplain what special information had come into the hands of Sir Lloyd Dumas the publication of which he feared, and will lie lay on the table of the House all communications that passed between himself and that gentleman regarding the matter ?
– The honorable gentleman has again got into a mare’s nest. Sir Lloyd Dumas and the editors of all leading metropolitan newspapers in Australia were asked to withhold from publication any information about the dollar lean until an official notification in connexion with it had been issued in Washington because any such information would have been likely to prejudice the expeditious finalization of the loan. If the honorable gentleman, thinks that that was not a good Australian action, lot him get up and say so.
– Oan we examine the correspondence?
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 26th October (vide page- 1546), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the first item in. the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries :i ml ii 11 uwu 11Ccs £13,900”, he agreed to.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) *3.33~. - Any person who examines the budget will agree wholeheartedly with the definition of it given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who described it as a politically fraudulent document. It is fraudulent, because it seeks ‘ to balance the revenue and expenditure for the current financial year by forcing wool-growers to pay an amount of £103,000,000 from the income that they will derive this year from the sale of their wool to offset the income tax that they will not normally pay until the next financial year. If that .practice is not fraudulent, I do not know what is. The people, who expect the Government to balance its budget not only for the curren’ financial year but also for the next financial year, want to know what it will do next year, when the amount of £103,000,000, which it will force the woolgrowers to pay in advance during this financial year has been expended. The Government will be called upon to explain that position - that is, if it is still in office when the next budget is introduced. I am sure that wool-growers will agree with me when I express the hope that the Government will not be in office during the next financial year, but if, unfortunately, that hope is not realized, it will be in a most invidious position. One feature of the wool tax, which should not escape the notice of the small wool-growers, is the fact that the smaller the wool-grower, the less will be the percentage of tax that will be paid on gross income, and the larger the wool-grower, the less will be the proportion of tax prepaid. Let us consider the effect of the wool tax upon a smaller grower compared with a large grower.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is perfectly well aware that it is a tax.
– It is a wool sales deduction or a prepayment of tax.
– It is futile for the honorable member for Mallee to describe it as a prepayment of tax. Everybody knows that it is a wool tax, and it cannot be described in any other way. I shall give some examples to show how that tax affects the small wool-grower. He will be compelled to pay in advance about double the amount of income tax that he would normally pay during this financial year, but the larger wool-grower will not pay anything like that proportion. Let us consider the position of a large wool-growing firm in South Australia, A. J. and P. A. McBride, of which the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) is a prominent member. Its income this year will be £750,000, yet the only tax that it will pay will be at the rate of 20 per cent, of the proceeds from the sale of its wool. The effect of the Government’s proposal is to force woolgrowers to lend it £103,000,000, without interest. What will bc the position of the small woolgrower? He will not be able to meet his payments on his overdraft when his wool is sold, and be will be compelled to- continue to pay interest at the rate of, perhaps, 4 per cent, per annum on his indebtedness to the banks. His financial position will be the direct result of the action of the Government in burgling 20 per cent, of his income from the sale of his wool during this financial year. In case any doubt still lingers in the minds of members of the Australian Country party about the opinions of the wool-growers regarding the tax, I shall read an extract from a statement released by Mr. E. D. Bakewell, who is the chairman of the Stockowners Association of South Australia, and Mr. P. A. Wright, who is president of the Graziers Association. It is a,s follows: -
The Council has made no suggestion to the Government or to the public that the measure in the form in which it has been introduced has thu support of the wool-growing interests.
Delegates who attended the federal conference of the Australian Primary Producers Union at Warrnambool on the 26th October last strongly criticized the prepayment of wool tax as proposed by the Government. One of them, Mr. Rogers, of Skipton, is reported as having said - lt meant a forced loan without interest of river £1.00,000,000. It would not curb inflation, as the Government proposed to use the money as revenue to balance the budget.
Those statements cannot be denied. During the last general election campaign, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party promised that, if they were returned to office, they would take action to combat the insidious inflation which is now affecting our economy.
– The policy of the previous Labour Government caused the inflationary conditions in Australia.
– Nothing of the kind ! When the Chifley Labour Government was in office, the Australian citizen could get reasonable value when he expended £1, but to-day, the purchasing power of the £1 is rapidly decreasing, and, shortly, it will not be worth 5.=. compared with the value of the pre-war £1. The only attempt that this Government has made towards honouring its pre-election promise to put value back into the £1 has been to introduce legislation for the purpose of increasing the sales tax on some articles, and abolishing it on other articles. Let us examine some of the items upon which sales tax will be increased. The impost on motor cars, which the average working man is not likely to be able to afford in future, has been increased from 8-J per cent, to 10 per cent., but the tax on goods that the working nian hopes to purchase for his children at Christmas has been increased from 8-^ per cent, to 25 per cent. That is the effort made by the present Government to check inflation. As part of its anti-inflationary proposals the Government intends to increase sales tax to 25 per cent, on juke boxes and gramophone records. It proposes to take this action, notwithstanding that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has expended thousands of pounds in endeavouring to inculcate in the people an appreciation of good music, and all those people who have become musicminded and like to purchase gramophone records of good music to play in their homes will suffer. The Government has also decided to increase to 25 per cent, the sales tax on cow bells, mouth organs, bagpipes, jews’ harps, kazoos, and blow horns. To be consistent, it should impose a similar tax on its own members because, in view of the failure to carry out their promises to restore value to the £1, they can only be described as political blowhorns.
Before the Liberal party was elected to office its members promised that they would reduce living costs. An advertisement which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser before the last election stated -
The cost of living must be reduced. Elect the Liberal Party and we will reduce living costs.
After the election they had a different story to tell. They had been elected as a consequence of the deliberate lies which they told and the false promises which they made, and which they knew they could not carry out. As an illustration of the falsity of the promises which they made, I direct the attention of the committee to a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) last week, in the course of which he said -
We would lie blinding ourselves to realities if we did not realize that the extent of the success of any production drive must depend on the extent of the co-operation of the trade union movement.
If the Minister’s contention that the success of any productive effort is dependent on the trade union movement is correct - and I do not dispute its correctness - then the sooner the Government resigns the better.
– Why cannot the trade union movement co-operate with the Government?
– Because the trade union movement cannot, and should not, be expected to trust the present Government. Honorable members opposite know in their own hearts that they are out to destroy the trade union movement and everything it stands for. What a colossal cheek the Government has displayed in appealing to the people whom it seeks to destroy to co-operate with it! The only administration that will receive the co-operation of the trade union movement is a Labour administration. If it is necessary, in order to check the inflationary spiral, for the trade union movement to co-operate with the government of the day, then the sooner we get a Labour government the better.
– Why does not the honorable member’s party give the electors a chance?
– Why did not the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) and his colleagues give the electors a chance at the last election by having some regard for the truth in the statements that they made during the campaign? Take, as an example, the following statement which appeared in a double page advertisement in’ the Women’s Weekly during the last general election : -
This is what the Liberal Party offers you - a pound’s worth of goods for every pound you spend.
Yet ten days after the election the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated in the course of a broadcast over the national network -
With our departments re-organized and a proper charter in the hands of Ministers, we hope to attack our tasks boldly. The greatest of them, as I am sure you will agree, will be’ to arrest the present alarming rise in costs and prices, and so put value back into the money you earn and spend. This i3 not a simple job. It cannot be achieved overnight. Its performance does not involve merely the creation of some formula or the passing of some Act of Parliament. It will require leadership, close co-operation with employers and employees, . . .
The present Government cannot give leadership to the nation nor can it obtain the co-operation of the trade union movement. All its Prime Minister can do is to make a. lot of flowery speeches, not one of which has ever been accompanied by action. The Government certainly does not deserve the co-operation of the trade union movement, nor is it likely to . receive such co-operation. Before leaving the statement which the Prime Minister made so soon after the election campaign, I point out to honorable members that it was directly opposed to the statements which the right honorable gentleman had been making during the campaign and until ten days after the election. On the latter occasion he had to admit that he could not do anything without the support of the working class. I turn now to a statement made by the Treasurer on the 19th July last, in the course of which he said -
The Government by itself cannot cure the situation. Its efforts, to be successful, must be accompanied by a greater determination by the Australian people to increase production, to exercise restraint in their demands for higher wages . . .
In other words, he wants the workers to work harder for less money. That is the panacea he has to offer for the cure of our economic troubles.
Let us consider the sales tax which the Government proposes to levy on many goods. It proposes to increase sales tax to 33-jV per cent, on watches, clocks, studs, sleeve links, fountain pens and propellingpencils. Who will suffer because of the increased price of those articles? Obviously, the big business men, who sit at their desks and dictate letters and rarely need to use a ballpoint pen, will not suffer because of the added cost of fountain pens and pencils. However, ti,e workers and their children will bc affected by the increased cost of the articles I have mentioned. The Government proposes to increase the sales tax on toothpicks and smoking pipes. Who will be hit by the increased’ cost of pipes ? Obviously, the greatest number of sufferers will be found among the age pensioners, who smoke pipes. What pensioner can afford to smoke cigars - - a habit that is relatively common among honorable members opposite? The Government also proposes to increase the sales tax on handbags. What are women to use in place of handbags, which, under the new impost, will become too expensive for them? What a ridiculous proposal. The proposed increase of sales tax is the only step proposed by the Government so far to give effect to its pre-election promise to restore balance to our economy. I notice that the Government proposes to remove sales tax from burglar alarms. I should think that this budget will serve as an alarm to the Australian people, and I am convinced that the political burglars who sit opposite will be dealt with adequately at the next federal election. The budget does not contain provision for any increase of’ sales tax on such luxury goods as expensive motor cars, whisky, champagne or carpets, all of which will continue to be taxed at the present rate.
Let me remind honorable members of some of the assurances given by members of the present Government about restoring value to the fi. For instance, the Prime Minister said -
I intend at a convenient date, when my material has been assembled, to instigate a debate on the important problem of the cost nf living to which the honorable? member has referred .
Although that promise was made many months ago it has not yet been fulfilled.
– The debate was gagged.
– That is correct. In the course of a speech that the Minister for Trade and Customs made in the Senate, in answer to a question by Senator Amour, the Minister said -
The honorable senator appears to bo under the impression that the Government has no formula for restoring the purchasing power of the fi. T assure him that it has.
Those statements can be checked by any one who cares to look through the official records.
On the 6th April last the Prime Minister also said that the putting of value back into the £1 was not the responsibility of the Government, but was the responsibility of the people. That statement shows quite clearly that the promise that he made during the election campaign that if he were elected to office he would restore value to the £1 was false. But then Senator O’sullivan had this to say about co-operation - and I quote again from official reports -
The Government does not depend on the political assistance of the Opposition for the implementation of its programme.
That statement seems to contradict the appeal for co-operation that the Government makes almost every sitting day.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan). - Order! The honorable member is not in order in referring to debates in the Senate.
– That is correct. On the 19th April, Senator O’sullivan made the following statement, although I shall not say where he made it-
I am happy to say that considerable progress has been made in restoring the purchasing value of the £1.
I should like to know what progress he was referring to and whether it is commensurate with the promises that the Government parties made to the people. I should like to know whether the people who really need to have those promises kept, including the age and invalid pensioners, will see their fulfilment. The increase of age and invalid pensions to £2 10s. a week as from to-morrow will bring, them up to only 31.11 per cent, of the basic wage. When the former Labour Government fixed the present pension rate of £2 2s. 6d. a week in October, 1948, it was 36.64 per cent, of the then basic wage. Had the present Government maintained that ratio the pension would now be £3 0s. 9d. a week. The aim of the Government is gradually to reduce the pension to the 1941 rate, the last adjustment made under the previous Menzies Government, which was in office before “ the Brisbane line “ proposals were made. The pension at that time represented only 25 per cent, of the basic wage. The Government does not give as much consideration to age and invalid pensioners as is given to horses. Cruelty to dumb animals is punishable at law. I cite an instance of cruelty to a horse that was reported in the Adelaide Advertiser as follows : -
For having negligently failed to supply shelter to a chestnut gelding horse on July (! at Audrey-street, Ascot Park, Lindsay Rudland, of Waikerie, was fined £8 with £5 ls. Od. costs in Glenelg Police Court to-day. . . .
Mr. Ronald, S.M., said Rudland had shown a very callous disregard for the welfare of h is horse. “ His neglect to provide shelter amounts to cruelty,” he added.
If the age and invalid pensioners, who are obliged to live on the miserable pittance that the Government expects them to live on, had the power to lay a charge against this inhuman Government for cruelty, it could not possibly escape conviction. The Labour Government came to power in 1941 and gradually increased the rate of pensions from 25 per cent, of the basic wage to its record level of 36.64 per cent, in October, 1948. We say that the only solution to the age and invalid pension problem is to restore the rate of pension to 36.64 per cent, of the basic wage which would make the rate now £3 Os. 9d. a week. We also say that automatic quarterly adjustments in accordance with the fluctuations of the basic wage shall apply to pensions.
– A Labour Government discontinued that formula.
– Only because it found that the formula was being manipulated. Under the Lyons Government formula, the rate of the age and invalid pension dropped from 27 per cent, to 25 per cent., and every adjustment that was made in relationship to the basic wage made it worse. A new formula must be devised whereby age and invalid pensioners can be put immediately on a pension of £3 Os. 9d. a week and be given the right to an automatic quarterly adjustment in accordance with any adjustment in the basic wage, whether up or down.
Another aspect of this matter that makes me wonder about the intentions of the Government is the fact that whilst the Government has decided that age and invalid pensioners must wait, until the 1st November before they receive an increase of their pension rate, it has decided that justices of the High Court, judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and high public servants, some of whom already receive £4,000 a year, are to be given an increase of £500 a year, which is to be retrospective to the 1st July last. I would not say that High Court justices are not worth £5,000 per annum and that Commonwealth Arbitration Court judges are not worth £5,000 per annum, because I know some lawyers who pay more than that amount in income tax. But I do say that the Government showed some considerable political discrimination when it decided to make pensioners wait until the 1st November for an increase of pension while at the same time it was able to make the increases of the salaries of judges and high public servants retrospective to the 1st July. To say the very least of it the Government showed poor taste in increasing the salaries of High Court justices at this particular time, because its action must have caused the justices embarrassment. Such gentlemen are above any suspicion of bribery by means of an increase in salary but they will be caused embarrassment by the announced increase because people who are not so honorable as they are will be inclined to think that the increase was made for an ulterior motive. I consider that the Government should at least have had the decency to wait until all important matters before the court had been disposed of before it started throwing around increases of salaries. I have heard a. suggestion, which I do not connect with the matter that I have just mentioned, but which’ has been made very freely in circles close to the Government, that the present Chief Justice of the High Court is to become the new Governor-General and that the Prime Minister will become the new Chief Justice. However badly he might carry out his duties as Chief Justice he would make a much better job of them than he is now making of the Prime Ministership.
I consider that the sooner this rumoured elevation comes into effect the better it will be, because we shall then be able to get rid of a Prime Minister who was elected to office on false promises. He has failed to carry out his pre-election promises to deal with inflation and to put value into the fi. He has failed to carry out his promises to reduce taxation and to pay subsidies on goods in the “ C “ series index regimen. He has failed to keep his promise to introduce properly safeguarded incentive schemes. The lastmentioned promise was exposed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) as soon as the Parliament assembled, when he told the House that the Government had no constitutional power to give effect to it. The Prime Minister has failed to provide more and better homes, as he promised to do in every Liberal party advertisement that I saw in South Australian newspapers. Last and not least, he has failed to carry out his promise to make the £1 buy a £l’s worth of goods. I say that an early election is the only chance for a return to sane, honest and responsible government. The quicker we get it the better. The result of such an election is a foregone conclusion. The Liberal party is aware of the fate that awaits it and it is now carrying on a colossal bluff by threatening to ask for a double dissolution if the Commonwealth Bank Bill is defeated in the Senate. It knows perfectly well that under the Constitution the GovernorGeneral cannot grant a double dissolution in the existing circumstances. The Government has deliberately manipulated things to make perfectly sure that the Governor-General cannot act in that respect. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to talk about the Labour party not having the guts to face a double dissolution. I do not like to use the word “ guts “, but the ‘Prime Minister used the word in this Parliament in relation to a possible general election. I believe that it is the Liberal party which has not the guts to face a general election at this stage. It is no use for the Government to try to divert the thoughts of the people from its broken promises by raising side issues. I am convinced that only socialism can save Australia from communism and complete disaster, because socialism deals; with the causes of communism. ~L% is %he, only doctrine that deals with those causes and at the same time ensures that the. parliamentary system of government will remain inviolate. Public ownership and control of monopolies would ensure cheaper and better services. The Labourparty believes that if we had public, ownership and control of monopolies we could divert nearly £200,000,000 profits, that now go into private pockets annually 4 into the Treasury, and it could be used to improve social services. But this Go,vernment states that private enterprise alone can manage certain undertakings. It states that socialized enterprises are a failure. Yet Amalgamated “Wireless. (Australasia) Limited, which is a socialist, concern and which this Government now proposes to hand over to private enter-, prise, is a well-run business. Anothersocialized enterprise, Trans-Australia Airlines, made a profit of £250,000 in spite of efforts that the Minister for Civil Aviation made to prevent it from succeeding. The Commonwealth Bank also, shows a profit,
– I rise to order. I con-, sider the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to be grossly offensive. He said that a Minister of the Crown had tried to prevent a government company from paying. He also said that Trans- Australia Airlines had made a quarter of’ a millionprofit, which is quite untrue.
– I with-. draw my previous remark, but I have been reliably informed that the Prime Minister had to call the Minister for Civil Aviation into his office and instruct him not to sabotage Trans-Australia Airlines, and to make it pay.
– That is another lie.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- TheMinister is not hi order- in saying, “ Thatis another lie “.
– The statement is grossly offensive and untrue and I ask that the. honorable member withdraw it and apologize.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The. Minister has asked the- honorable mem-, ber for Hindmarsh to withdraw thosewords.
– I withdraw.
– The Minister stated that the honorable member had told a lie. He also should withdraw that remark.
Mr.White. - I substituted the word “ untrue “.
– This Government wants private enterprise to run all the payable concerns and leave the provision of such services as railways, harbour facilities, water supply, sewerage, roadmaking and aerodrome maintenance to the State.
Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has used the aerodromes that the people of Australia have provided throughout this country and it has used all services provided by radar and various other expensive equipment that has been installed at aerodromes but it has not paid a single penny for them. When the Chifley Government was in office it took court action to compel Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to pay the same ground charges as Trans-Australia Airlines had to pay. For some mysterious reason that action has been dropped. I understand that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited owes the Government nearly £500,000 in ground charges. I should like to know, and I think that the people would like to know, whether Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited paid the Liberal party anything towards the expenses of its last election campaign.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard), put -
That the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) be granted an extension of time.
The committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr. R. S. Ryan.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I do not know the intention ‘behind the diatribe of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). Perhaps he wished to afford this committee some amusement, and if that was his aim he was to some extent successful. He applied himself to an extraordinarily wide range of subjects, but the general effect of his speech was a mere hotch-potch of criticism. He dealt with many matters of detail which bear little or no relation to the great problems with which this Parliament is expected to cope. I was particularly interested in one of the statements which he made, and which has also been made by many honorable members opposite. He said that the Government neither deserves nor is likely to get the co-operation of the trade union movement in its fight against inflation.
– Hear, hear!
– I perceive that what I have said is endorsed by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who affirms it in his usual way. This attitude on the part of honorable members opposite is quite extraordinary. Although many of them are officials of trade unions they overlook the fact that a great body of trade unionists did not support their party at the last general election. In my own electorate a considerable number of trade unionists did not support the Labour cause. Therefore,’ I suggest that honorable members opposite should think twice before they speak in this House with such assertion and such a show of authority upon what the trade union movement believes.
In compiling the budget, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was confronted by a more formidable task than any previous peacetime Treasurer had had to perform. He was beset by two opposing forces. On th>; one hand was the necessity for taking immediate and stern deflationary action, and on the other hand the necessity for populating Australia, developing its natural resources and extending its defence preparation as quickly as possible in a world situation that admits of very little time. Having been caught between these mutually antagonistic compulsions, no human being could bring down a budget that would give universal satisfaction. Differences of opinion that have been expressed as to the most beneficial courses to follow bear no relation to customary divisions in outlook. For example, on the question of whether the Australian £1 should be appreciated to parity with sterling, we find at loggerheads two such notable eonomists as Professor Copland and Mr. Colin Clark. On the other side of this committee, and among the Government parties, there is a remarkable contrariety of views. At the beginning of this debate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) re-affirmed his hostility towards any upward movement of the exchange rate. Yet a few days before his speech one of his supporters, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), in reply to an interjection, said definitely that he was in favour of revaluation.
Within this conflict of unusually difficult circumstances the Treasurer has achieved much. Had he applied himself solely to deflation, to initiating drastic action to halt the prices spiral, he would have been at the least moderately successful. It is possible for the Government to refuse to re-arm and to stop training the young men of this country. It would be easy for the Government to yield to the popular uninformed, superficial clamour for a drastic curtailment of public, works. The Government could halt the flow of immigrants to-morrow, an idea that seems to find favour with the honorable member for East Sydney. If this were done we should save about £20,000,000 in this financial year. We could allot less money for roads and stop telephone extensions. All these things are feasible, but in the present state of the world none of them is expedient. Does any honorable member seriously believe that along the path of deflation alone lies the way to wisdom? The budget happily takes a long view in regard to development and defence, but it also faces up boldly to the problem of inflation. The honorable member for Hindmarsh made great play, as have certain other members of his party, against the Treasurer’s device of a wool prepayment plan. I was considerably amused to hear the honorable member quoting the reports of the Stock Owners Association of South Australia, and shedding crocodile tears for the graziers. I can assure him and his friends that the wool-growing interests will not be misled by the words of honorable members opposite. It is true that at first sight the Treasurer’s device of compulsorily borrowing £103,000,000 from the wool-growers is unusual. I suppose that the classical school of economists, the followers of Adam Smith, Ricardo and Mill, would say that such a move offended against the basic canons of taxation; but, surely. in the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day it is better that the Government should borrow from the wool-growers rather than from the Commonwealth Bank. T. do not think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), when he. was addressing himself t.» this subject last week, gave sufficient weight to the fact that if the Government did not take this money temporarily from the wool industry in this unorthodox manner, it would either have to resort to the u.;,fi of treasury-bills or increase rates of income tax very sharply. Every honorable member knows that at a time when we are endeavouring to arrest inflation, nothing could be more foolish than the use of treasury-bills. Whilst in theory, at any rate, something may be said for a stiff rise in the ra.te of income tax, such action would severely deter an increase of production whereas, in the long run, increased production is the only real answer to the .problem of inflation.
The Treasurer’s proposal to increase the sales tax is also meritorious as a scientific! means of curbing cbe prices spiral. People who object to the increases should remember their object. They are to be made not merely in order to impose additional taxes or to obtain more revenue but also to discourage spending. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the Leader of the Opposition made amusing comments on some of the items on which sales tax is to be raised. The latter referred to radios and lipstick. In a debate of this kind, it is easy for any honorable member to take up the sales tax schedule and pick out isolated items on which he could make unlimited play. If we were not engaged in a serious public examination of taxation proposals lint were merely debating them for our uwu amusement, I should have no difficulty in citing to the committee certain articles of a most intimate, and to some people embarrassing, nature which it is proposed not to subject to increased sales tax but to exempt from the tax. However. I am quite unshaken by all the talk of honorable members opposite about radios and lipstick. Anybody can proclaim in an arbitrary fashion certain luxuries to be necessaries. After all, what constitutes a luxury is largely a matter of opinion based on personal tastes and social habits. Whilst nothing would persuade rae to regard a radio as a luxury, on the other hand I could understand the wife of a farmer in the Mallee being of that opinion. I am unmoved about the protests of honorable members opposite against the increase of sales tax on lipstick. If that increase causes a diminution on its use - one smear instead of two- women can console themselves that in all probability their appearance will be greatly enhanced, whilst those whose hopes, hitherto, have been thwarted may find that, after all, they are not unattractive to the opposite sex. In any event whatever honorable in eni hers may think about the proposals to increase sales tax, I am sure that all of them will agree that the list of articles to be exempt makes good reading. This list contains many articles the ‘ removal of the tax from which will help to keep prices down. I refer particularly to the remissions on building materials, agricultural implements and foodstuffs. Such proposals not. only are sound politically but also are justified as an anti-inflationary move. In the same category, I place the proposal to subsidize woollen manufactures to the amount of £20,000,000 this year because that will help to stabilize the prices of woollens and clothing.
The Treasurer has indicated other weapons in his armoury that are to be employed. He’ has announced that capital issues control will be re-imposed, a proposal that has earned the benediction of the Loader of the Opposition. The Treasurer has also announced that an excess profits tax will soon be introduced.
– It has not been introduced yet.
– It is corning: the honorable member will not be disappointed. Unfortunately no matter how skilfully the Treasurer may plan in order to bring about deflation, much of hi” ingenuity will fail, but through no fault of his or of the Government. On the day on which the budget was introduced the Commonwealth Arbitration Court gave judgment in the basic waste ca=o. The effect of that judgment will be to inject approximately £160,000,000 of additional purchasing power in the community without, unless I am greatly mistaken, any commensurate increase of output. I am not objecting to the terms of the court’s judgment; but it is regrettable that on so vital a matter so great a divergence not only of opinion, but also of reasoning, should occur in a court that is composed of only three judges. The real problem arises from the fact that it is possible for the will of the National Parliament’, which should lie the principal determinate!- of Australia’s economic: policy, to be frustrated by the independent action of its own croation.
– Does the honorable member wish to get rid of the Arbitration Court?
– No. The honorable member for Burke (Mr, Peters) might be courteous enough to listen to the conclusions of my argument. The basic wage judgment emphasizes the anomaly to which I refer to a degree seldom apparent before. Two of the judges frankly admit that the result of their decisions will be inflationary. One of them, Mr. Justice Poster, went on to say that inflation is a matter for the Government, or the Parliament, rather than for the court; and he and, to a lesser degree, Mr. Justice Dunphy, disclaimed all responsibility for the effects of their majority judgments. Thus two contradictory forces emerged within a few hours of each other. Whilst (lie Government propounded deflation, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court - I am not questioning the court’s motives - decreed inflation. A people who permit their institutions to engage in an economic tug-of-war at so critical a. stage of history cannot expect, decisive results from central government action however skilfully devised such action may be. 1. remind honorable members that the same conflict between the Parliament and the Arbitration Court may readily occur when economic conditions in this country are reversed. The days of prosperity are not: unnumbered. Within the next ten years Australia may be faced with proposals similar to those of 1929. Economic theory, of course, lias altered greatly during the twenty years that have elapsed since the last depression; and any government, regardless of its party political colour, if it were confronted by the storm clouds of a depression, would immediately set in motion a series of acts which economists designate as reflation, such as the lowering of interest rates, attempts to revive confidence, the undertaking of large public works and measures to maitnain the purchasing power of the community.
– The government of the duy did not do that in 1929.
– The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) should have listened to my earlier remarks. I said that economic theory had altered greatly during the last twenty years. It might very well happen that while a government, faced with a. depression, would be doing everything possible to maintain purchasing power in the community and to bring abour reflation, the Arbitration Court would be taking an opposite view such as it i« now taking in relation to government policy. After all, the court in determining the basic wage takes as its criterion the ability of industry in the aggregate to pay. Therefore, during a time of falling prices and a general state of depression, it might very well say that a strong case existed for a reduction of wages. As every honorable member knows, a fall of wages in such circumstances would be gravely inimical to the maintenance of purchasing power.
The time has come when the Parliament should address itself to the problem of finding a way out of this quandary. If it fails to do so, we shall get farther into the mire. We must devise means whereby the policy of the Parliament and the actions of the Arbitration Court can be co-ordinated. Existing provisions of the Commonwealth. Conciliation and Arbitration Act are inadequate. Section 26 empowers the AttorneyGeneral to intervene in certain circumstances, but, in effect, he cannot do more than state a ease to the court cmbodying the Government’s viewpoint. For reasons that I have given, the Parliament should give earnest and immediate consideration to an amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. As a first step - 1 have not considered this matte:’ thoroughly, but advance it now simply in order to stimulate thought and activity on the part of honorable members generally - I suggest that this Parliament give consideration to an amendment of the act that would provide that the court, in dealing with the matters specified in section 25, shall give due consideration to the economic policy of the Parliament.
– That would require an alteration of the Constitution.
– That is a matter of opinion. Such an amendment would compel the court to accept some responsibility for the social and economic consequences of its decisions. With ali respect, I say that the judgments of Mr. Justice Foster and Mr. Justice Dunphy do not show an adequate sense of responsibility, as I am using the term at the moment.
– That is a reflection upon the judiciary.
– It is not a reflection upon the judiciary. It is a legitimate comment by a citizen of this country and a member of this Parliament upon those judgments. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has said that an amendment of the act such as I have suggested would entail some alteration of the Constitution. Mr. Justice Foster gave some attention to this matter, in a rather oblique way, in the course of his remarks. I gathered from what he said that he thought that an alteration of section 51, placitum (xxxv.), of the Constitution would be necessary. However, with all respect to the learned judge, many people will not take that view. At the very least, his observations were controversial and many citizens, perhaps as well qualified as constitutional lawyers as he is, might form a different opinion.
This is a problem as delicate as it is difficult. It does not admit of any facile solution. Above all, it demands, not a partisan, but an impartial approach if we are to achieve positive results. I have -made these observations, not so much with the object of propounding a considered solution as with the object of directing the attention of honorable members to the irreconcilable position that has arisen as between the Parliament and the court. I hope that no honorable member will think that
I am attacking the concept of industrial arbitration. All I am suggesting is that the machinery of arbitration should be brought up to date so as to conform as ably as possible to the swiftly changing; times in which we live. I urge theGovernment, and the Labour party also,, to face this problem without a moment’s delay. For until some harmony is obtained between the policy of the Parliament and the attitude of the court, not only the present Treasurer but also anyfuture Treasurer will be likely to proveincapable of dealing satisfactorily with some of the tremendous problems involved; in this and succeeding budgets.
.- The; fruit of good government is a happy and contented people. Are the people of Australia happy and contented? I ami thinking, not of every individual Australian or of sections of the population,, but of the average men and women whoform the general mass of the communityAre they reasonably satisfied with conditions in Australia to-day and do they look forward to the future without apprehension? Honorable members may ask what this has to do with the budget.. The budget, after all, represents the contribution of the Government to theeconomic and social welfare of the people- It should be the basis of their happinessand contentment in the present and of their security in the future. The budget,, of course, cannot cure all the ills from, which the people suffer. It cannot remove the dangers of natural disasters,, nor can it rid the minds of men of fear of the threat of war. However, it can go a long way towards ensuring that: adequate food, clothing and shelter shall be available to the ordinary citizen. It: can place medical, educational and recreational facilities within the reach of all..
This budget will fail to achieve anyof those objectives. Why will it fail? Why are prices sky-rocketing to-day?’ Some supporters of the Government . maintain that this condition of inflation is due entirely to lack of production because the workers are not working hard” enough. Others say that this condition has been aggravated by managerial’ inefficiency. I admit that there is managerial inefficiency in a few monopoly industries in Australia. The bricksnaking industry is an example.
– Is that a monopoly ?
– In New South Wales?
– I am speaking particularly of Victoria. I know very little about the operations of the State brickworks in New South Wales. However, E know that brick-making generally “throughout Australia is a monopoly undertaking and that bricks are manufactured still in the Hoffmann kiln, a Kin that was introduced in 1861. The practice in Great Britain and other overseas countries to-day is to make bricks by the tunnel method of production. That process has revolutionized the brickmaking industry in other parts of the world. The condition of the local industry is an outstanding example of managerial inefficiency in this country. Howewer, I maintain that neither lack of production nor managerial inefficiency is the main cause of the economic difficulties that confront us.
The greatest contributor to the nation’s economic difficulties is the increasing rate of profits - profits that are biting too deeply into production. I ask honorable members to consider the situation of ;a married couple about to set up home amd rear a family. I am sure that we aM agree that true national prosperity can be founded only upon happy families loused under hygenic conditions. What Australia needs is an abundance of contented families in which the husbands are the sole bread-winners and the wives care for the home and watch over their children. Wives should not be obliged to go out to work in order to augment the family income. In 1939, the average bread-winner earned about £4 or £5 a week. If he wanted to buy a home, he could do so for about four times the amount of one year’s wages. To-day the average bread-winner earns between £7 and £9 a week. But, in order to Duy a home, he must pay the equivalent of between eight and ten times (he amount of his wages for one year! The same inflated condition affects other commodities. ‘Some honorable members may say that my figures exaggerate the situation. The truth is that they are conservative. One cannot buy for less than £3,000, or perhaps even £4,000, in any suburb of Melbourne or Sydney a house that cost only £800, including the building site, fifteen or twenty years ago. If any supporter of the Government believes that he can purchase a twentyyears old house to-day for less than five times the amount of its original cost I can easily arrange for a syndicate to purchase it, confident in the knowledge that it would soon realize an immense profit by re-selling the house.
Unfortunately, the cost of a home is not the only obstacle that confronts a married couple. Furniture must be provided for it. A home could be furnished adequately in 1939 for the equivalent of the bread-winner’s income for six months. The cost of similar furniture to-day represents the husband’s income for twelve months or even eighteen months. And the hero who sets out to buy a home must also buy a suit of clothes occasionally. In 1939 he could do so for the amount of one week’s wages. To-day he is obliged to pay two weeks’ or even three weeks’ wages for a suit. What has caused this alarming inflation? The answer to that question is that profits are taking too big a share of the nation’s production. It can be found in any of the big daily newspapers for the months during which this Government has been in office. In the Melbourne newspapers on Saturday last we read that Moran and Cato Limited had reported a net profit for 56 weeks of £116,791, representing a rate of 15 per cent, per annum. Patersons (Australia) Limited earned £139,703, and its ordinary dividend was equal to approximately 27i per cent, on the paid up capital. The profit of Builders Steel Form Supply Company Limited for twelve months was £4,573, and the dividend was 15 per cent. The profit of H. C. Heigh Limited increased in twelve months from £92,833 to £168,919. A bonus of 2 per cent, was added to the steady ordinary dividend of 8 per cent., and the general reserve was increased by £50,000. The New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Limited paid a dividend of 10 per cent.
The aggregate reserves arid undistributed profits total £1,700,415. Broken Hill South Limited paid a final dividend of 4s. a share, or 80 per cent., and such payment, together with the interim dividend of 2s., made a total profit of 6s., or 120 per cent, on the 5s. shares. Those reports were published by newspapers of one State on one day. Honorable members, if they were to examine the financial pages of leading Australian newspapers for a month, would find that some companies were making a profit of 60 per cent., whilst a profit of 20 per cent, was not unusual. I note that some emporiums are watering their capital.
– Has the honorable member any sympathy for businesses that have failed?
– I should need the assistance of a microscope to find them.
– I can name a few of them.
– Probably those companies were conducted by some of the honorable member’s friends, who possessed about as much knowledge of business as he has, and, in those circumstances, their failure would be understandable. When the honorable gentleman interjected, I was about to mention that some business emporiums paid a dividend of 10 per cent, on their watered capital. The profits of some companies have increased by from 300 per cent, to 400 per cent., and, in several instances, by more than 400 per cent. The orthodox economists, of whom another honorable member has spoken, state that high prices are an index of managerial efficiency and of high output per employee. The Melbourne Herald published on its financial page last Saturday night a statement by Sir Douglas Copland to the effect that wages had increased since the outbreak of World War II. by 100 per cent., whilst the cost of living had increased by 75 per cent. On the basis of the learned professor’s contention, if wages have increased by 100 per cent., the cost of living has risen by only 75 per cent., and profits have soared by 400 per cent, or 500 per cent, since before the outbreak of World War II., production in this country must have increased te- an enormous degree.
At this juncture, I shall digress a little in order to prove my con tention that increased production is not necessarily the remedy for inflation. Between World War I. and World War II. an economic commission over which Mr. H. C. Hoover, a former president of the United States of America, presided, was established to determine the productive capacity of the American people. The members of that commission were not socialists or Communists, but businessmen and professors. Briefly, it found that, by working a 48-hour week, the population of the United States of America could keep all the people of tha world at the standards of living then existing, and that no one else would need to work. We were also informed, not by Labour agitators but by economists, professors and statisticians, that during World War II. the productive capacity of the United States of America again increased by 200 per cent. That industrial development enabled the United States of America to meet defence requirements, and to provide economic aid to many nations, at a cost of thousands of millions of pounds. Therefore, I contend that if inflation could be halted merely by increasing the output per man in industry, the United States of America should not experience that economic condition. Yet, the truth is that inflation has existed in that country perhaps to an even greater degree than in Australia. The workers of Australia are not less capable or industrious than are the workers of America. Industry in the United States of America is not less subject to dislocation, strikes and lock-outs than is industry in Australia. The manufacturers and promoters of industry generally in this country are not so blind to their own interests that they will not adopt the most modern and effective methods of production. Therefore, I emphasize that the cause of our economic difficulties is rising profits, which bite much too deeply into production.
I now wish to suggest some cures for inflation. I have not evolved them myself, but I agree with most of them. They are immediate measures that should be adopted in this country in order to halt the rising tide of intiation, and they have been suggested by the Labour party in Victoria, which gives deep consideration to economic problems of the day.
– And promotes strikes among railway employees.
– The Labour party in Victoria bad nothing to do with the promotion of the strike of railway employees.
– A member of the Opposition in this Parliament is associated with that strike.
– Who is he?
– The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison).
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan). - Order! I think that the honorable member had better address the Chair.
– I shall do so. My attention was diverted from my speech by several peculiar interjections. In reality, the trouble in the Railways Department in Victoria was contributed to largely by the incapacity of the Railways Commissioners and of the Government of the day to meet adequately the demands of the employees. However, I do not propose to debate that issue with the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), who was a former Minister for Railways in that State, and probably was responsible for some of the conditions that brought about the present stoppage. Had the honorable gentleman devoted some attention to them, probably the employees would be contented and the trains would be running in that State to-day.
– Employees of the Victorian Railways did not go on strike in 1949.
– I should like to practise a little of the co-operation of which we have heard so much in this chamber during the last few months. Therefore, I shall submit to the Government certain proposals for stabilizing the economy that can immediately be given effect. They are as follows : - (a) The freezing of all price levels before the basic wage becomes payable, to be brought about by a conference between the Commonwealth and all State governments; (b) a Commonwealth referendum to restore national prices control; (c) control of capital issues and direction of investment to give production of necessities in consumer goods a priority; (d) profit control; (e) immigration to be reviewed to mitigate any inflationary effect on the economy; (/) a review of export and import policies with a view to - (i) reserving adequate supplies for Australian consumers before export quotas are approved, and (ii) importing consumer goods where possible to relieve shortages without disadvantaging Australian industry and living standards.
– Lord Keynes, who by any other pronunciation of his name would talk just as wisely, said -
An increase of real wages may come about either in the form of higher money wages with constant prices or in the form of constant money wages with lower prices.
I hope that all honorable members appreciate precisely what the learned Lord meant by that statement. I agree with him. Probably he is one of the few Lords with whom I do agree. In reality, that statement means that the standard of living of the people may be improved in one of two ways, either by increasing wages whilst at the same time keeping the price level constant, or by keeping wages constant and reducing prices. The noble Lord remarked, “ I prefer the first method “. I, too, prefer the first method. Sir Douglas Copland, according to a report published in the Melbourne Herald last Saturday, also prefers the first method. If the price level is not kept constant under existing conditions, the value of the people’s savings, and of the properties that people have acquired, will be destroyed, and irredeemable damage will be done to persons who should not have to suffer in that way. An increase of wages, whilst the price level was kept constant, would be beneficial.
– How can that be done?
– By adopting the several proposals that I submitted a few minutes ago. We have lived, particularly during the last year, in a paradise of the exploiters. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), that the Government should direct the Commonwealth Arbitration Court not to increase the basic wage if the result of such an increase would be to increase the cost of living, is wholly unacceptable to the Opposition. I point out to honorable members opposite that it is absurd for them to suggest that the present wages of the workers, which are inadequate, should not be increased, while manufacturers and others are making profits as high as 100 per cent., and even 150 per cent. We should not interfere with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but, on the contrary, should allow it to continue to function freely. However, I think that we should interfere with the profiteers who are exploiting the community.
– The State railways, for example?
– My answer to the honorable member’s interjection is that I just heard one of his colleagues whisper that the railways are not making any profits at all at present. In any event, big profits should not be made by any undertaking, whether it be conducted by the Government or by private enterprise. The effect of large profits is to increase the cost of living, and thereby to discourage the workers from having large families, which are so essential to the development of this country. I have no hesitation in saying that I object to the present state of affairs which compels many wives, who are also the mothers of children, to go to work. I believe that the head of a household should be the sole bread-winner of that household, and that we should so arrange our economic affairs as to permit the bread-winner to maintain a large family in comfort and decency. Under the present state of affairs the fathers of even small families have the greatest difficulty in maintaining them. That state of affairs is brought about by the excessive bite that profit is making into production. In conclusion, I hope that some honorable members opposite may be persuaded to see eyetoeye with Lord Keynes, the eminent economist, who has advocated that governments should control prices.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s time ‘ has expired.
.- Many honorable members hoped that the
Government would introduce a budget, consistent with its determination that,, first, there should be a reasonable measure of relief from taxation and, secondly, that the country should be assured of” proper national development. The budget which the Government has put before us> does not accomplish those aims to the’ degree that we expected twelve monthsago. Because of the events that haveoccurred since the Government took office, it has not been able to do moire than afford a reasonable measure of relief to taxpayers. It has borne in mind particularly the needs of that section of the community which depends upon the payment of pensions of various kinds for its subsistence. However, the Government has taken active steps to counter inflation, and I remind honorable members that those steps may prove much morebeneficial to the community than would a reduction of taxes, desirable as the latter may be. It is true that the expenditure provided for in the budget amountsto astronomical figures, but even such: huge expenditure will not give the Government any greater hold over goods and services than previous governmentshave been able to exercise. Unfortunately, the increased figures contained in the budget only serve as a measure of the degree of inflation from which the country is suffering at present. In fact, we may expect the effects of inflation tobe even more severe in future, unless the Government is prepared to take resolute action and unless it obtains the cooperation of the Opposition and of the Australian electors in taking such resolute action.
The major problem which to-day confronts Australia and, for that matter, the whole world, is inflation. For any allout attack which the Government, backed, by the people, contemplates on the present inflationary spiral, the budget now before us represents a reasonable beginning. For twenty years the political parties of Australia have been attempting to fis. upon one another the responsibility for the depression that occurred in the thirties. It seems to me that in thepresent inflationary situation our political parties are still concentrating on the apportionment of blame. I am glad to he in the company of the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who said that te does not blame any government for the -occurrence of inflation. Surely, inflation arises from causes which are very largely beyond the control of governments. How<ever, that does not alter the fact that the policy of a particular government can have a very vital bearing on the ability of the nation to weather the storm, come out of it with its economy intact and do the least possible injustice to all sections of the community.
Most inflationary cycles begin during a war, and the present cycle commenced during the recent war. I heard the honor.able member for Burke (Mr. Peters) attempt to evaluate the cost of a home in terms of the wages of the average worker. The honorable member said that in 1939 four years’ wages would have bought a house, for which ten years’ earnings would now be required. I remind the honorable gentleman that before World War I., two years’ wages would lave bought a house, and in earlier times even less would have sufficed for that purpose. In fact, the further back we go in time the better the situation appears. The difference between the relative costs of houses to-day and pre-war is the measure of the inflation that has occurred. Although inflation is usually a steady progress, it is much -accelerated in war-time, when nations are compelled to resort to unsound methods in order to finance their war commitments. Many of our present difficulties arose out of our recent war effort. Money values were allowed to deteriorate at a time when production was being destroyed. The huge sums expended upon the armed services during the war were, from a purely productive standpoint, mere waste. How little the problem was understood is indicated by the clamour that arose for prosperity loadings at a time when half of our national production was being wasted. If ever there waa an instance of delusion feeding “upon delusion, it was the granting of prosperity loadings during the war, at a time when half our production was being destroyed. Yet, unfortunately - and I use that word advisedly - those increased prosperity loadings were awarded, and they became one of the major causes of our present inflationary spiral. An attempt was made, of course, to control prices during the war, and, according to the argument advanced by the honorable member for Burke, prices control should be re-introduced now. However, any one who examines the results of price fixing during the war must realize that that system merely produced the black market, and that, in fact, the black market was an open market. The high prices charged on the black market for goods and services were a measure of the difference between the quantity of goods available and the value of the money in circulation. Prices control was merely an effort to correct the grave unbalance between the incomes enjoyed by many people and the limited quantity of goods produced for consumption.
Unfortunately, in Australia to-day we are thinking more in terms of money than of money’s worth. I suggest that those two- factors are on entirely separate planes. The great delusion is that high money incomes make for prosperity. However, all of us realize deep down that the thing that matters is not how much money we have in our pockets, but the quantity of goods and services which that money can command. The only real value of money is its ability to command goods and services; and it is only when our money can command more goods and services that we enjoy an improvement of our economic conditions. Unfortunately, we have been measuring our industrial output and the export of our primary products in terms of our elastic £1. It would be equally sensible to endeavour to build a house with an elastic measure; the consequence, in either instance, would be that our structure would be jerry-built. To-day we are learning the hard way that we cannot legislate ourselves out of our difficulties.
– Tell us about restoring value to the £1.
– I shall come to that presently, because, after all, that is the crux of the problem. I propose to tell members of the Opposition now how we can most reasonably go about restoring value to the £1, in which we are seeking their co-operation.
– Does the honor.a bie member expect the wolf to co-operate with the lamb?
– Honorable members opposite claim exclusively to represent the workers of this country, but honorable members on this side of the chamber, of course, reject that claim. Unfortunately, inflation, which is characterized by an ever-accelerating increase of the cost of goods and services, affects most seriously those in receipt of fixed incomes. It hits pensioners particularly hard because their incomes are fixed and cannot keep pace with the cost of living spiral. The man who has invested a portion of his life’s wages in a superannuation scheme finds that the payments which, he receives on retirement possess only about half the purchasing power that they should possess. Similarly, those who are dependent on insurance policies find that they are receiving only a portion of the goods and services which they expected their insurance policy to procure for them. It is clear, therefore, that those who are hit hardest by inflation are the people whom our friends opposite claim to represent. However, when members of the Opposition are called upon to make a contribution to assist the lot of those people they make statements such as that made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who said that the Labour movement would not cooperate at all.
– - I said that I would not co-operate with the present G overnment
– That Government happens to be the Government which was chosen by the people at the recent general election, and it is therefore entitled to the co-operation of the Opposition on matters which affect the welfare of the whole community. There are only two methods by which we can emerge from our present difficulties. The first is to reduce the purchasing power of the community, and the second is to decrease the cost of goods and services by increasing production. I propose to review briefly both methods. If the Opposition fails to co-operate with the Government in restoring the balance of our economy, then the Government must adopt the negative approach to the problem, which is to reduce the purchasing power of the community. If we reduce the purchasing power of the community by imposing high taxes, we shall reduce still further the incentive to people to increase production by working harder. Unfortunately, at present not nearly sufficient incentive is being offered to people to work harder. One immediate effect of increasing taxation is to limit production. However, it should be stated quite plainly that if we cannot obtain the co-operation of the Labour movement in a great national drive to increase production, the only method for the Government to adopt in order to equate goods and services to purchasing power is to impose higher taxes.
It is true that sales tax is one method of reducing the incentive to buy. However, unfortunately, we all are faced with the necessity to reduce the inclination to purchase goods because we have not yet been able to increase the inclination to produce goods. That is the negative approach to this problem. The positive approach is that designed to achieve greater production. We must equate a certain amount of money to an increasing quantity of goods and that equation must come through rigid Government economy on the one hand and on the other hand through any other factor that will increase the quantity of goods without increasing the amount of money available for spending in the community. That point was stressed in Mr. Justice Foster’s judgment in the basic wage case, which honorable members opposite should read. Unfortunately the level of government expenditure is one of the biggest factors with which we have to contend in the attempt to effect deflation, not only because of the amount of money that the Government is expending, but also because in doing so the Government is utilizing materials and man-power, both of which are in short supply, and is diverting them, to a very large degree, to unproductive work.
The Public Service continues to grow despite the Government’s efforts to curb its expansion. That will continue to be an inevitable tendency unless the Government, pledged to the utmost economy, ruthlessly prevents its growth. There is tremendous overlapping between the Commonwealth and the States, particularly in relation to the activities of the Departments of Labour and National Service, Health, Works and Housing, and Commerce and Agriculture.- There is also too much intrusion on the part of governments into fields -which, in my opinion, rightly belong to private enterprise. what we need is a little less government in business and a little more business in government. I am glad to learn that a conference has been, suggested at which the Commonwealth and the State governments will endeavour to streamline ad ministration in relation to the fields of activity that I have mentioned. I suggest that the most constructive proposal for such a conference to consider will be not only to streamline administration but also to examine those fields carefully and to discover from what activities the Government may reasonably withdraw. There is a definite need for every economy that we can make. Reform in connexion with overlapping government activities may pave the way for reasonable government economy. We seem to be losing sight of the fact that Australia is either the most highly taxed country in the world or is not far from being so. This country is groaning under a. burden of taxation that is limiting the people’s inclination to get on with the urgent jobs of construction and national development. We talk of increasing production, of effecting greater economy in the use of man-power and materials, and of instituting, more efficiency. The Government is moving in that direction, in quiet but effective ways, but it cannot undo in a few days the harm that was done by the Labour party during its many years of office.
– How long will it take?
– That depends on how much honorable members opposite will contribute to the solution of this national problem. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said recently that because his party was not in office he had no responsibility to help this country out of any of its difficulties. If ever there was an example of an honorable member playing party politics to the detriment of the national interest it is contained in that statement by the honor able member for Melbourne, for whom I have quite a high regard and who, I suspect, knows a lot better. I believe there is a crying need for a new approach to the subject of public finance.
I turn now to national development. It is unfortunately true that we have to curtail our proposed programme of national development. No responsible government could do otherwise in view of the fact that developmental works make a tremendous demand upon available man-power and material, and are not immediately productive. There is another most important aspect of national development to which I believe we should turn our attention. I refer to the methods adopted for the financing of national development projects. Today this Government, like other governments, is levying general taxation for the financing of national developmental works. I believe that that policy is quite wrong, because it is demonstrably true that money expended from general revenue on national development immediately reappears in the form of the rising values of the lands that are improved by those national works. Naturally those advantages are immediately capitalized, and they reappear in the form of rises in the cost structure. Therefore it seems to me that if we continue to finance our public works by general levies on revenue we shall force the public to pay twice for national development - once by way of taxation to finance the works, and a second time for access to the advantages produced by those works. I believe that the increment provided by public expenditures ought to be recovered for public purposes. By such an arrangement we should prevent the occurrence of another tremendous factor in the inflationary process, which will be here to plague us long after our present illusory prosperity has vanished.
I turn now to increased production. However high the wages paid in industry may be, they are mere palliatives in comparison with the major problem of inflation, which is to increase production without immeasurably increasing our money incomes. There is no worthwhile economic or political authority in this country who does not advocate increased production as the major factor in overcoming our inflationary difficulties. The attempt to improve our standards of living ‘by increasing money incomes has signally failed. I shall quote from the judgment of Mr. Justice Foster, who has given a very forthright and courageous opinion on that matter. Even if we disagree with his statement that rising wool prices are a factor which supports the award of a higher basic wage, he nevertheless has given us some home truths in his judgment. It is true, as the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) has pointed out, that the judge has made some very strange statements and has disclaimed any responsibility for the end product of his judgment. Mr. Justice Foster stated -
Any increase in wages tends to increase prices and reduce the value of money, and there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the increase I -propose will cause a rise in prices in Australia, and this in turn will cause a redistribution of the national income, and affect some sections of the community, including, of course, the workers, adversely.
The call for greater production is not a sectional call. It is a national call of the best kind, because an increase of production does not begin at the bench or the machine. It begins in the conception of an idea. Material and machines must be assembled, markets must fee developed, distribution must be arranged. The process from the conception of the idea to the consumption of the goods or the utilization of the services is a cycle, and everybody who contributes in any degree to that process is, in the finest sense of the word, a worker. I appeal to honorable members opposite who, I am perfectly certain, agree with me in their hearts, to cease pandering to the poorest sentiments in their electorates and to realize that everybody who contributes to production is playing a worthwhile part in our community.
Sitting suspended from 5.30 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I directed attention to the fact that inflation was the greatest problem in this country. This problem might be described as the great unbalance between goods and services and the amount of spending money available. I pointed out that legislation is not, of itself, effective against this problem. I believe that the Government is making a real contribution to the national welfare by increasing administrative economy. I advocate that the Government should ascertain the activities from which it can reasonably withdraw, particularly in the fields of health, labour, housing, agriculture and commerce, into which serious inroads were made by governments under war-time powers. Regardless of what has been done in those spheres, the problem is still one of increasing production.
The process of production does not begin and end at the work-bench or the machine. It begins with an idea and finishes when goods have been consumed or when services have been availed of. Every step in that long process is a productive one and everybody who makes a contribution to it is a worker in the finest sense of the term. This term “ worker “ has been greatly misused in this House. Honorable members should realize that, in the industrial process, the manager at one end and the digger of ditches at the other, are equally indispensable to production and cannot exchange jobs without injury to the Australian public. It is true that there are faults on both sides. It is true that there are loafers in industry; it is true that there are those in management who would exploit; and it is true that the profits of some firms are too high. But, if those facts indicate anything, they indicate that there is not a sufficiently high level of production, that competition is not effective in keeping prices down. More production is needed so that the open market will reduce prices and put value back into the fi. One of the troubles from which this country is suffering is the premature introduction of the 40-hour week. Nobody advocates reduced hours more than I . do. But they should be reduced at a time when advancing industrial techniques and increasing efficiency will allow that to be done without necessitating a corresponding lowering of the standard of living.
The honorable gentleman who presides over a shakey Government in New South Wales and who virtually intimidated the Arbitration Court into introducing the 40-hour week has apparently been bemused by his success and is advocating a further reduction to 35 hours. If a working week of 35 hours were introduced it would have to be paid for in lowered standards of living and increased costs.
The honorable member for Burke discussed the cost of building. An extract from the journal of the Building Industries Congress reads -
The effective working time for the building trades of Victoria at present is 31.15 weeks per man per year - in 1939 it was 47.65 (164 weeks less per man per year, or a drop of 34.0% effective working time).
We cannot have that sort of reduction of working time without a corresponding increase of costs.
Some of the worst blows at the economy of this country come from the continuance of strikes, absenteeism and goslow policies, from deliberate limitation of effort, the darg in the coal industry, and the restrictions on the use of mechanical handling equipment on the waterfront and elsewhere. The position is not improved by the attitude of the waterside workers who recently had a one-day strike in Sydney to protest against rising costs and, at the same time, advocated an increase of appearance money and retirement benefits. Gilbert and Sullivan would be hard put to think of a better subject for a comic opera. I condemn these practices because they aim repeated blows at the Australian economy. Australia can have fewer hours of work if it is prepared to pay the price involved. It can have greater benefits if it is prepared to pay the price of them. It can have indiscipline in industry if it is prepared to pay’ the price of it. It can have the rejection of arbitration - which led to the waste pf this country’s transport facilities on. the last two Mondays - if it is prepared to pay the price that would have to be paid. But when it has paid for all these things one final instalment will remain to be paid for this monumental folly and that may be nothing less than the loss of this country as it becomes submerged by the Asian tide. We are showing that we have neither the wit nor the will to develop the opportunities that lie at our feet. No degree of financial juggling and no legislative action would protect us from the consequences of such foolish behaviour and it would not cure inflation or put value back into the £1.
The Government may encourage us but we must achieve our own salvation individually and nationally in team work and in single-hearted devotion to that work of nation building which is surely beyond the petty and destructive exchanges of party politics.
.- This afternoon an honorable member on the Government side of the committee said that this budget has been brought for ward in the most difficult of peace periods. I find it very hard to fathom what was meant by that statement. I consider that this budget has been brought forward in one of the most prosperous eras in the history of Australia. One has only to look back over the last eight years - and particularly over the first peace period that faced the Australian Labour party as a government - to envisage the most difficult peace period in the history of this country. It was left to the Labour Government to gear Australia to a war effort and to break-
– Oh, what rot !
– The honorable member says, “ What rot ! “ The people whom he represents are the very ones who walked out on Australia in the hour of its greatest difficulty. It is amazing to hear honorable members on the Government side of the chamber condemning the worker.
The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) said, “I believe in a reduced working week, but this is not the time to have it “. If this is not the time, when should we use the scientific and mechanical achievements of the present day? When should the worker, find conditions a little easier than he did in years gone by? It was this same individual who is being continually condemned by members of the Government parties - this same worker - who carried Australia when we were facing a deadly enemy. It was the Australian worker who stood by his machine - for 24 hours a day on many days - and made all the clothing that was required by our Army, Navy and Air Force. It was this same worker who produced the equipment that was needed to fight the war to a successful conclusion. Honorable members opposite said that the workers were heroes in those days as did honorable members belonging to similar parties early in the 1914-18 war. But as soon as the war was over they wanted the return of the old system whereby profit always had precedence over wage.;. The Government is not occupying the treasury bench in a difficult period. The Government’s difficulty is that it has introduced what might be termed an “ election budget “ and lias found it necessary to incorporate in that budget an amount of money that may be used to provide sops for the Australian people in the event of a double dissolution, That is something that the Labour party did not do in December, 1949. The Labour party left it to the Australian people to judge it on its record - and they did so. The Labour party did not offer the sops that the Government parties offered to the people during the last general election. If the Australian people are given an opportunity to judge the policy of this Government in the near future they will seize it.
One Government support said that honorable members of the Opposition had “ squibbed it “. I take it that he was referring to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. Was the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) sincere in asking both Houses of the Parliament to pass that measure? If the right honorable gentleman wanted that bill to be passed, I should imagine that when it had become an accomplished fact he would have said, “ I am satisfied now that the bill has been passed “. But what have honorable members heard? Language that was nauseating and that did not become the leading citizen of this country. The Prime Minister descended to the gutter to find words with which to express his feelings. He said, “ You have not the guts “. What did the Australian people think of the right honorable gentleman when he went down to the gutter to find the word “ guts “ ? Then he thought he was a big man when he said, “Right down in my gizzard “. What did the Australian people think of him ? Prime Ministers who preceded him did not have to go clown into the gutter to find language with which to express themselves. They were able to use the language that they had been taught in Australian schools. It ill becomes any Prime Minister to sink to the gutter to find words to use in the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The Prime Minister and other members of the Government have claimed that the people of Australia were not able to do the work required of them because the Communist Party Dissolution Bill had not been passed. Yet now that it has been passed, the Government does not know how to handle it and does not want it. Members of the Government thought that they might be able to bring about a double dissolution by means of that bill, so they put sops into their budget. They gave increased pensions to the aged and the invalid. I object to the miserable increase of 7s. 6d. a week to the age and invalid pensioners and of a few shillings a week to war widows and ex-servicemen on pensions compared with the, salary increase of up to £10 a week to High Court justices, which is to be retrospective to the 1st July, 1950, whereas the sop to the pensioners will not come into operation until the 1st November of this year.
– The Government ought to resign.
– Yes, it should resign. The Government cannot hoodwink the Australian people by giving them these sops. Do not think that the age pensioners will forget that this Government, at a time when the cost of living is higher than it has been at any other time in our history, has given them a paltry 7s. 6d. a week. The pensioners will also realize that before they receive the extra 7s. 6d. a week, more than that sum will be taken away from them by a further increase of the cost of living.
– During two years .the Labour Government did not increase pensions at all, but in our first year we are increasing them by 7s. 6d.
– The Labour Government increased the age pension by 100 per cent, during eight years. Moreover, it had the courage to maintain prices control in Australia so that the pensions would not lose their value.
– The Labour Government threw prices control away.
– Honorable members on the Government side went out among the people and told them the greatest lies that they have ever told in all their political history. I remind them that they cannot hoodwink the Australian people now, even though they advised them at that time to oppose the referendum on rents and prices. It was a sorry day for Australia and its people when that referendum was lost. The Government says that prices control is not needed. I challenge it to let the people decide at another referendum whether it is needed or not. From the ‘ day when the rents and prices referendum was defeated commodity prices started to soar in this country, and they have reached such a height that the increases now given to the pensioners will be worth extremely little. This Government is giving a tremendous increase of salary to those who do not deserve it, and do not require it to the same degree as do our age and invalid pensioners, our war widows and our invalid ex-servicemen.
The Government has claimed, week in and week out, that it will put value back into the £1, reduce taxation, and bring an era of prosperity to this country which it has never known before. Where in this budget have those promises been kept?
– They have been kept in the Senate.
– The honorable member did not follow me. I asked where this budget shows that the Australian people will receive those benefits. This Government has not kept one of the promises that it made to the people prior to the 10th December, 1950, and living costs are now higher than ever before. The matter of petrol rationing has been mentioned. I should like very much to see an authentic statement setting out the cost in dollars to this Government through the lifting of petrol rationing.
– The honorable member can get that information if he asks a question at the proper time.
– Let the Government place that information on the table and prove that the lifting of petrol rationing did not involve the use of dollars. The Government has not carried out any of its promises to the people, and the people will deliver their judgment at the proper time on the Government’s failure to act. The Government is always attacking the workers of thiscountry, and it is opposed to fewer working hours. It allows them to get an increase of £1 a week in the basic wage, but immediately the cost of living goes up and they are no better off. That will bring nothing but discontent amongst the workers.
– 10 the honorable gentleman a worker?
– If the honorable member is a worker, then I am; but I am speaking of the men working in industry. The financial pages of the daily newspapers show that profits are soaring every day of every week. Prices are not controlled and the wage-earner is not getting the full value of his wages. Naturally he is discontented. In his mind is always the fear that when production overtakes demand he will be thrown out of employment. During the depression there was an abundance of wheat in Australia, yet thousands of persons had empty stomachs. There was an abundance of wool, but hundreds of thousands of persons had cold bodies. There was an abundance of labour and material, yet there were thousands of homeless people in this country.
– There were plenty of dentures, yet many persons had none.
– That interjection does not do credit to a child, much less to the honorable member. It is not worthy of any honorable member of this chamber. Until the Australian worker is given an assurance that when production overtakes demand he will not be thrown out of work, he will always have in mind the fear of unemployment.
Another important item in the budget is the large increase of the defen:e vote. After the last war the Lal. 3” .’eminent made provision for a complete defence system for this country, founded on the advice of the service chiefs. This Government is implanting a fear psychosis in the people to blind them to the things that this Government should do but is not doing. The previous Government drew up a defence scheme that was acceptable to the Australian defence chiefs. The Ministers of this Government do not even speak on defence with the one voice. A few weeks ago in South Australia the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) said that the Labour Government left the defences of this country in a perilous condition. He said that it had left very little equipment in the country, and that troops could not be properly clothed. A week after that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) made a press statement to the effect that Australia had millions of pounds’ worth of the most modern equipment in the world and ample clothing for its servicemen. The latter statement indicated the true position. It would not have been possible to equip and despatch the Korean force insuch a short time if the previous Government had not left the defence system on a firm foundation. In any event, I ask, where is the next war coming from? I could perhaps understand this talk of war better if we had emerged from the 1939-45 war in the same state as we did from the 1914-18 war, that is, with Germany and Japan internally intact. However, after the last war both Germany and Japan were totally destroyed internally, yet there is great talk by the Government about the next war being right upon us. I want to know where it is coming from.
– Honorable members on the Government side say that it is coming from Russia. In doing so, they assume that they have greater military authority than is possessed by Lord Montgomery. When that eminent military authority was in Australia .he said that he was a personal friend of Stalin, and probably knew more about Russia than any one in the world at that time. He said that he had been shown everything in Russia and that Russian industry had been destroyed.
– That statement was made years ago.
– It was made only a few years ago. He also said that 7,000,000 of the most virile people of Russia had been killed and that Russian industrial capacity to build up a war machine had been destroyed. He said further that the time within which Germany would be able to make war was twenty years, Japan fifteen years, and Russia approximately fifteen years. I am not a prophet. I do not say that a world war will not occur sooner than fifteen years hence. But, in addition to making adequate provision directly for defence, the Government has a grave responsibility to expand our industrial economy and to develop our natural resources. That is the best way to protect this country against aggression. There is only one way in which the Government can secure the co-operation of the Australian worker.
– Under a Labour government?
– Yes; because Labour governments have carried out every promise that they have made to the people. Labour does not offer sops to them in order to win elections. Whenever it has made a promise it has done so with every intention to honour it. Labour would not descend to the level to which the present Government has descended by offering a sprat to the age and invalid pensioners while, at the same time, doing nothing to protect that section of the community from ever-increasing costs. Whilst the Government proposes to grant salary increases of £500 a year to persons in the higher ranges of incomes and to make such increases retrospective, at the same time it intends to leave the pensioners to struggle along as best they can. The Government, to its everlasting disgrace, has failed to mete out justice to all sections of the community.
.- Although I could devote the whole of the time allowed to me under the Standing Orders to answering the speech that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) has just made, I shall reply to only some of his statements before I address myself directly to the budget. First, he claimed that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) lacked sincerity when he introduced the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. I give an unequivocal denial to that statement. The people will readily recall that during the last general election campaign the right honorable gentleman who. is now Prime Minister spoke on that subject from every platform. On each of those occasions as well as in speeches that he had made during a considerable time prior to that election, the right honorable gentleman promised that if the present Government parties were returned to office they would introduce a bill to ban the Communist party as soon as possible. Honorable members opposite, both in this chamber and in the Senate, opposed that measure, but when they realized that the people of Australia had no sympathy with their attitude they let the measure pass when they were ordered to do so by the outside junta of twelve persons which controls the Labour party.
The honorable member for Adelaide also claimed that the Government had failed to do anything to help the age and invalid pensioners. I remind him and his colleagues that during the last fifteen months that the Labour Government was in office it did not increase the rate of pensions by Id. Honorable members opposite claim that Labour governments during a period of eight years increased the age and invalid pension by 100 per cent. I point out to them that the present Government, since it assumed office only ten months ago, has increased the age and invalid pension by 18 per cent. The honorable member for Adelaide said that the present Government parties hoodwinked the people about prices control. To-day, the Labour Opposition in the Senate is endeavouring to hoodwink the people in respect of that matter because no government can effectively exercise prices control unless it has the power to peg wages. Prices control by the Australian Government succeeded during the war and in the immediate post-war period because at that time wages were pegged. As soon as wages were unpegged, prices began to rise rapidly. The honorable member for Adelaide claimed that the present Government parties had not fulfilled any of the promises that they made at the last general election. Such a statement is pitiful nonsense. I remind the honorable member that the present Government has removed petrol rationing. It has been said that such action has involved an unnecessary expenditure of dollars. However, although the socialist government in Great Britain, acting in collusion with the government that honorable members opposite supported, endeavoured to continue petrol rationing it did not wait very long after this Government had abolished petrol rationing before it followed the same course. The present Government has also abolished the rationing of butter and tea. It has provided endowment for the first child in a family although for a considerable time honorable members opposite held up the relevant legislation. In the repatriation sphere, the Government has agreed to provide cars free of cost to double amputees.
The honorable member for Adelaide said that supporters of the Government are merely indulging in talk about war in order to cover up their failure to fulfil their responsibilities in other matters. I cannot possibly understand how any honorable member could make such a statement at a time when Australian soldiers are being killed in Korea. The people of Australia will not be able to understand such a statement either. If honorable members opposite would give a little assistance to the Government in its present recruiting campaign they would be doing something in the interests of Australia. The honorable member for Adelaide asked, “ Where is war coming from?” My colleagues and I reply that it is coming from Russia. When we remember what has happened in Southern Europe, China, Korea and Tibet and the threat that hangs over Formosa and Indo-Ohina, we cannot have the slightest doubt about which country threatens to disturb world peace. Honorable members opposite should be ashamed of themselves for advancing arguments of the kind that they have advanced in this debate.
I shall now deal directly with the budget proposals. No budget can possibly be 100 per cent, satisfactory to every one. The present budget makes provision for an additional expenditure of £91,000,000 in respect of defence and an additional expenditure of £31,000,000 in respect of war gratuity. The honorable member for Adelaide described the budget as an electioneering budget ; but those two items were not foreseen at the time of the last general election. I shall make three criticisms of the budget, but in doing so
I shall also criticize the budgets presented during the last few’ years. I do so in respect of principles. First, the Government has a .responsibility to reduce expenditure to the greatest possible degree. I repeat what I have said on previous occasions in this chamber; that is, that expenditure by governments in Australia should not exceed 25 per cent, of the national income. To-day, the collective expenditure of all governments in this country is approximately 30 per cent, of the national income. The Government must effect economies. It can do so by eliminating inefficiency in government services.
– What are those sci1 vices?
– I shall mention several of them. It is not unusual when one passes constructional gangs engaged on government works to see only two or three of a gang of about six men working while the remainder stand round chatting. In view of the fact that the working week has been reduced to 40 hours, it is essential that all employees shall work for that number of hours. I am informed that employees in certain Commonwealth departments are observing dargs For instance, they are allowed to turn out in a day only the number of forms which in the past one person completed in a half-day. That practice must be eliminated. I know of a post office which at one time was operated by private enterprise as an agency of the Postal Department with a staff of one senior male and one senior female. However, since the Postal Department took over control of that post office it has been staffed by three senior males and one senior female to handle practically the same volume of work that was previously performed by two persons. Yet one of the present staff is able to take an afternoon off during the week. Is such a practice fair to the taxpayers? It is also a common practice for some departments at the beginning of the month of June to put in special orders for the delivery of unnnecessary materials prior to the end of that month simply because the amount voted for those departments for the year about to finish has not been completely expended. A little while ago I went into a government office on a Monday morning and I wasobliged to wait for seven or eight minutes before I was attended to. In the meantime three employees in the office sat reading newspapers and discussing the racing results of the preceding Saturday. That loss of time represented a loss of one-third of a man-hour, and if that happened every week, not in one but in many departments, the loss to the Australian taxpayers would be considerable.
There is considerable scope for inefficiency in any large organization. Commonwealth departments have expanded to such a degree that it would be impossible for a Minister to keep his finger on every detail of the activities of the department under his control. Therefore we must insist that departmental heads, and. officers in charge of sections, must be efficient and honest and, realizing that they are servants of the public, must demand efficiency of those who work under their supervision. I was pleased to read in the Brisbane Sunday Mail of last Sunday that the Public Service in Queensland is to be re-organized as the result of a visit to that State by Mr. W. E. Dunk.
I suggest that as a start in effecting economies it may be found necessary to effect an ail-round reduction of departmental expenditure by 5 per cent. Not long ago, when the preparation of the budget was being discussed, it was announced that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) had asked all Ministers to reduce the proposed overall expenditure in departments under their control by 10 per cent. That statement may or may not have been true, but it * probably contained a. modicum of truth.. If a 10 per cent, reduction of estimated expenditure could be effected at that stage,. I consider that departmental heads could plan a further 5 per cent, reduction, during the next three months or six months if they set their minds to the task. The Commonwealth Bank has adopted the motto that if we look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves. The Public Service could well vary it for its own purposes to read, “ If we look after the pounds, the millions will look after themselves “. Unless we economize wisely now. we shall store up difficult budgeting problems for the future. Australia is prosperous to-day, but if the price of wool were to fall by 50 per cent., this Government and the governments of the States would have great difficulty in balancing their budgets. Therefore, I suggest that we concentrate upon increasing the efficiency of the Public Service.
My second criticism bears upon the practice of charging capital expenditure to revenue. This budget provides that a total of £69,000,000 of capital expenditure shall be charged against revenue. Some honorable members may say that this is an anti-inflationary measure, but it can be of little value in countering inflation. The total of £69,000,000 that I have mentioned includes an item of £12,000,000 for telephone exchanges. Why should the revenue for this financial year be required to bear the cost of new exchanges ? Surely the expense should be borne by the people who will use the exchanges over the years. I suggest that the capital expenditure should be financed out of loan funds and that depreciation should be charged in the accounts of the Postmaster-General’s Department, paid out in cash and credited to the National Debt Sinking Fund. Such a method would provide us with a much less misleading view of government accounts and the business of various departments, particularly trading departments.
My third .criticism is of the general basis of government finance. I consider that the approach to government finance to-day is entirely wrong. During the last 20 or 25 years the general policy has been to expend all revenue in times of prosperity and to levy heavy taxes, of necessity, in periods of depression when the people can ill afford to bear the expense. In my opinion, we should levy heavy7 taxes in times of prosperity ‘but should set aside a substantial proportion of revenue as a reserve for expenditure in times of economic difficulty. In. the event of slumps, taxes could be reduced and we could draw upon the reserve to finance national development projects. I commend those criticisms to the Government. They are worthy of consideration by the Public Accounts Committee, the reestablishment of which was forecast by the Treasurer in his budget speech.
I refer now to the associated problems of inflation and production. I shall not discuss their causes because I believe that they have been adequately stated and that all honorable members are in agreement in relation to them. I shall discuss the solution. Basically and fundamentally, the problem is a moral one. ““Whatever a man soweth, that shall he reap “ is a truism that applies to mankind as strongly to-day a3 it did hundreds of years ago. Many individuals in the community are not pulling their weight to-day and, by their neglect, they are storing up hardship for their fellows to-morrow. Eventually, every worker who slacks at his job will be overtaken by the consequences of his conduct as the influence of the vicious circle of underproduction spreads throughout the community. The disability from which our economy is suffering can be illustrated conveniently by reference to the high cost of building. Fundamentally, high building costs are caused by a shortage of coal production. That shortage causes a shortage of steel production and power production, with the result that industry cannot operate efficiently. Most of the houses that are built are needed by salary and wage earners, who constitute about 80 per cent, of the population. Thus, the average working man suffers most from inflated building costs.
The problem of under-production and inflation can be solved only if a spirit of co-operation is developed amongst all sections of the community. I have already indicated the nature of the Government’s responsibility in this matter. The Opposition also has a great responsibility but I say without hesitation that it is not playing the game and is avoiding its duty. The frustrations that we have suffered in this Parliament during the last ten months have indicated which way the wind is blowing. One of the most serious faults of the Opposition is its practice of preaching the doctrine of class hatred. This is a penicious doctrine. It causes discontent and makes sections of the community unco-operative.
Only a fortnight ago in this chamber the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that, whether the attitude adopted by the trade unions towards a law of this country was legal or illegal, he would support them. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) also is guilty of fomenting class hatred. I have received a copy of one of his sixpenny pamphlets which contains some very interesting statements, amongst which the following are worthy of note : -
It is my belief that, under capitalism, justice only ever goes to those who are strong enough to demand it, or strong enough to make it inconvenient, dangerous, or unprofitable for those who would refuse it.
Many Labour leaders feel, as I do, that it is only lack of favorable circumstances and fitting opportunity that prevents the employing class in this country trying to take a greater share of the product of industry than they take at present. In other words, the belief prevails in Labour circles that employers would strive to give the worker less than he receives to-day if they could.
What sort of contribution is that to the spirit of co-operation that must be fostered if we are to overcome the obstacles to the economic progress of the nation? The conduct of the Opposition is making harder the lot, not of the capitalists - the 10 per cent, of the population whose incomes exceed £2,500 a year - but of the wage and salary earners.
Every member of the community has an obligation to combat inflation. The employer is entitled to a reasonable reward for the labour that he provides and as a return on the capital that he has invested, but he has an obligation to carry out planned improvements in industry so that production can be increased. He should take counsel with his employees. That policy has proved its value in industries in which suggestions for increased efficiency and improved methods of operation are accepted from the workers. Employees believe that they have a greater stake in a business undertaking if they are consulted in that way. Workers have an obligation to give a fair day’s work in return for a fair day’s pay.’ Surely no member of the Opposition will deny the justice of that demand.
– Do not the employees give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay?
– Many employees do not do so. They cheat their employers, their fellow workers and themselves and their families. The needs of their own families ought to encourage them to give a reasonable effort in return for their wages.
The basic wage will be increased soon by £1 a week as the result of the recent decision of the .Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. That increase should put the worker’s income ahead of rising prices, but the improvement will be of very brief duration unless production is considerably increased because the addition to the pay-roll will soon add to costs, which will lead to higher prices. The effect of price increases can be overcome only if production is increased. Consumers, as well as employers and employees, have a responsibility to combat inflation. If many consumers would refuse to buy luxury goods and would restrain their demand for other commodities, competition would be fostered and prices would be forced down. For example, the public could resist the rising prices of vegetables if every individual would either establish a vegetable plot in his backyard or increase the volume of his domestic production. If every one were to produce at least some of his requirements, the prices of vegetables in the market would be reduced.
I have tried to demonstrate in a comparatively few words where the responsibility in this problem of inflation and under-production lies. The solution requires co-operation between all sections of the community, and, perhaps, some sacrifices on the part of most people, but if Australians tackle the problem conscientiously, they will overcome it.
.- In previous budget debates, all sorts of subjects have been introduced, and the present discussion has been proved to be no exception to that general rule. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) expressed concern because he happened to see that only two of half a dozen men, who were supposed to be working on a construction job, were performing the tasks for which they were paid. The honorable gentleman’s attitude of mind in that respect was in conformity with the general attack that is made on the worker by Government supporters, when they make pleas for increased production. But he omitted to mention that, during the week, in any city or large town, scores of people, who are not workers, play golf or bowls. To be consistent, the honorable member might have mentioned that in the course of his stroll, during which he saw workers allegedly idling away their time, he also noticed numbers of employers playing golf or bowls when they should have been making a contribution to general production.
I shall not criticize the honorable gentleman’s speech at length, because I wish to discuss a number of important subjects, but I cannot pass on to them before I refer to another of his statements. He said that the increase of the basic wage by £1 a week should overtake rising costs. The honorable gentleman, if he believes that such a statement is true, cannot have his ear close to the ground. If he had an accurate knowledge of the position, he would know that certain costs have already been increased in anticipation of the higher basic wage. For example, girls who are employed in Commonwealth departments in Canberra, and live in hostels, will receive an increase of 15s. a week from the 1st December, but their board will be increased from the 9th November next by £1 a week. They will have an effective answer to the honorable gentleman’s statement, because the increase of the basic wage will leave them 5s. a week worse off than they were before. Such talk about the basic wage overtaking rising costs is futile. I hope that the increase of the basic wage will overtake rising costs to some degree, but female employees of the Commonwealth in Canberra will not give the honorable gentleman a good hearing if he attempts to convince them that they will be in a better position financially than they were before.
The budget, to say the very best of it. is most disappointing because it does not give effect to the Government’s preelection promises. Some time .ago, before the introduction of the budget, the press was not treating the Government in its usual generous manner, and Opposition members were seeking information about its plans to combat rising costs. A government spokesman then invited the people to listen to an amazing announcement, something that would shock the whole community, a proposal for grappling with the problem of inflation. I, for one, am still awaiting that amazing announcement. Apparently, the reference on that occasion was to the fact that the Government proposed to impose a levy on the incomes of wool-growers. Do not let us “ kid “ ourselves about that matter. Such a levy is a most undesirable form of tax. Indeed, any sectional tax, regardless of the political opinions of the Government that proposes it, is undesirable. Of course, the so-called wool sales deduction is only a compromise. Government supporters disagree with that statement, but any person who examines the matter with an unbiased mind must come to the conclusion that the levy on wool is a compromise between the policy of the Liberal party in favour of appreciating the £1, and the objections of the Australian Country party to it. Members of the Liberal party are almost unanimously in favour of the appreciation of the £1. I understand that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is an exception, but I cannot be worried about his antics.
– What is the policy of the Labour party in regard to revaluation?
– The Labour party is not in office at the present time. The Liberal party-Australian Country party Government must accept the responsibility of deciding whether or not the Australian £1 should be appreciated. The Liberal party is in favour of revaluation, but the Australian Country party wing of the Government, apparently with one exception, will resist that policy. The only way in which Ministers could produce any sanity in meetings of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party was to say, “Well, we have to do something, so we shall place a levy on wool-growers who, for the time being, are enjoying conditions of great prosperity “.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the £1 should be appreciated ?
– I believe that the Government will eventually appreciate the £1. I do not pretend to be a prophet; but one does not need to be a prophet in order to make that guess.
– Do not be too sure about that guess.
– The matter of revaluation may well cause a split between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, just as those two political parties split during “World War II. In those circumstances, the Government will not need a “ Commo “ bill or a bank bill as an excuse for seeking a double dissolution. That is my guess.
– Would the Labour party appreciate the £1?
– For my part, I am opposed to the appreciation of the Australian £1, and I can support my opinion on that matter with good reasons. I believe that revaluation would have a disastrous effect on many of our industries, unless the Commonwealth were prepared again to become entangled with the subsidy system. I challenge any honorable member to declare that such a system is sound and desirable. If the Government were not prepared to grant substantial subsidies, the appreciation of the Australian £1 would ruin many of our industries, including the great sugar industry. Already, sugar-growers are asking for an increase of price, because of ever rising costs. No industry is immune from them, but sugar-growers cannot pass on additional costs to consumers, in the same way as many other industries are able to do, and, therefore, they are asking for an increase of price. If the Government appreciates the Australian £1 to parity with sterling, the homeconsumption price of sugar will have to be increased. I invite the Government to give careful consideration to that aspect of the matter.
Another phase of the budget interests me, just as it should interest every other honorable member. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) boasts that the substitution of the deduction system for the rebate system in income tax will grant taxpayers relief by an amount of £1,500,000 this year. It is problematical whether they will receive such relief in fact, but assuming that they do, that- advantage will be offset by several severe disadvantages. For instance, the proposed increase of postal charges is estimated to yield £7,500,000 a year. Does any honorable member suggest that such an increase is not a tax, and that in the final analysis taxpayers generally will not pay iti The Treasurer also estimates that the increases of sales tax will yield £10,000,000 per annum. What is the use of the right honorable gentleman trying to convince the people that, under this budget, taxpayers will be better off by an amount of £1,500,000 per annum, when his own figures prove that they will be worse off by an amount of £16,000,000? I shall not describe the budget as dishonest, but it is certainly disappointing and deceptive.
I was not present in the chamber last Thursday evening when the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) was speaking. I do not wish any government supporter to-tell me that I should have been here on that occasion, because I admit it, but at least I listened to the broadcast of his speech, and heard him make some amazing statements. In a broadcast, the honorable gentleman’s voice sounds delightfully pleasant and plausible. He may be well advised on that account to broadcast more often, but he should be careful about what he says. I heard him say that all union officials used their associations in industrial organizations as a stepping-stone to the Parliament.
– There is an admission. The honorable gentleman pleads guilty. He said that all that a union official had to do was to tell a good story to the members of his organization, and before he knew where he was, he would be elected to the Parliament.
– I said more than that.
– Whether it be a preselection ballot or a general election, the fellow who tells a good story seems to get the majority of the votes. I have been a union official, and I do not apologize to anybody for my activities in that industrial organization. I am not ashamed of them; indeed, I am proud of them. If any person says that my object in becoming a union official was to secure political gain, he does not know what he is talking about. I do not suppose that there is any difference between a union official who tells a good tale to the members of his organization, and a member of the Australian Country party who tells a good tale to the primary producers, because he is the fellow who gets the majority of the votes.
– Members of the Australian Country party are in difficulties because they cannot convince the woolgrowers with their tale about the wool tax.
– That is true.
I come now to the matter of production. A great deal has been said during the debate about the alleged failure of the workers to produce sufficient goods to meet current demands.
– Not the failure of all workers, but only of some workers.
– I propose to deal with a. statement that was made in this chamber a few days ago and which might be misunderstood. I refer to the statement made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who was referring to the appeal recently made by Mr. A. E. Monk, secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The honorable member for Hindmarsh queried the authority of Mr. Monk to make such a statement before first obtaining the approval of his executive, and I agree with what my colleague said about Mr. Monk’s failure to do so. However, the honorable member went-on to say that he had the authority of Mr. Davis, general president of the Australian Workers Union, to say that members of that union would not co-operate in the Government’s production drive, but qualified that statement by adding that the workers of that union would not co-operate while profits remained as high as they are now. Unfortunately, no press report of my colleague’s utterance contained that significant qualification. I do not suggest for a moment that my colleague intended that the construction should be placed upon his remarks which was, in fact, placed upon it by the press and by the public generally.
– Is the honorable member himself sure that he is not misconstruing the statement now?
– I shall clear the honorable member’s mind of that doubt. I was formerly a member of the executive of the Australian Workers Union and at one time president of the Queensland branch of that union. Because of my knowledge of that organization I have jio hesitation in saying that if its executive refused to co-operate in production it would be departing from the principles that it has always observed. The Australian Workers Union has . a huge membership of from 120,000 to 140,000 members, and the executive of that organization realizes, therefore, the very serious effect that any decision to reduce the volume of production would have not only upon the economic, but also upon the social, welfare of the community. Throughout the years the atti-tide of the Australian Workers Union has always been that every man must do his best, not in the interests of a boss or of a number of bosses, but in the interests of the country in which he lives. I say without any hesitation that it would be quite wrong to imagine that the Australian Workers Union has departed one iota from its principles. Indeed, I cha]lengs the authority and the right of the present- general president of the Australian Workers Union to make such a statement as that attributed to him by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Although Mr. Davis- is the general president of the union, he is, after all, onlyone member of the executive council of that organization, and statements such as that attributed to him cannot be made with authority unless all the members of the executive council have first considered the matter. Furthermore, I know the attitude of those who control that union to-day, and I am sure that men like Mr. Golding of Western Australia, Mr. Boland and Mr. Pout of Queensland, Mr. Ferguson of Tasmania, and Mr. Wilson and Mr. Dougherty of New South Wales, would not dream for a moment of supporting any suggestion that members of the Australian Workers Union should depart, from their traditional policy of doing the job they are paid to do.
I spent a. large part of my life in the Australian Workers Union, and know that it is proud of its record. ‘ It is particularly proud that it played such a big part in the establishment and the preservation of the industrial arbitration system. For that reason, apart from any other, any suggestion that there should be any deviation from the attitude it has adopted would be wrong and should be corrected immediately. It would be a tragedy if the executive of the Australian Workers Union told its members that they were not to do the right thing by the jobs in which they are employed. The fact that an anti-Labour government is in office is no excuse for any man in industry not playing his part to bring about increased production and prosperity in this country. There are ways and means of dealing with an anti-Labour administration, .but it should certainly not be dealt with “ on the job “. I trust that I have now cleared up that matter.
So much for the workers’ position in the drive for increased production. I turn now to the position of the employers. All sorts of terrible criticisms have been uttered of the workers and all kinds of complaints have been made about them. However, no honorable member opposite has had the courage to say what particular section of workers is at fault.
– The wharf labourers.
– The complaint that the wharf labourers and the coal-miners are not pulling their weight has become a parrot cry with many supporters of the Government. In fact, many of them must repeat it in their sleep. But I ask honorable members opposite, in all fairness, whether they demand that the men who are working on remote construction jobs in the country and who have to live in tents and draw their water from canvas water bags, could, or should, do any more. Do they expect the cane-cutters and sugarmill works to give any more? Do they want those who go to sea, and are absent from their families for months at a time, to work any harder or to suffer any greater hardships than they are now doing ? The honorable member for Hume, who nods his head, apparently agrees with the proposition that I am putting to the committee. I ask honorable members opposite to be specific when they criticize the workers, of this country. Even if they believe that the workers in some industries are not doing their best, they should be fail1, and mention those industries in which men are playing the game. Disparagement of the workers generally inevitably has the effect of arousing resentment and of causing discontent amongst those who are doing their utmost in industry.
– What about the coal-miners and the waterside workers ?
– I have already said that that has become a parrot cry with many honorable members opposite. The point to which I am leading is that there are many employers who do not play the game.. I noticed in a recent report of a Queensland convention of the Australian Workers Union that in Queensland alone the large sum of £18,000 was collected by union officials from employers and was paid to members. That sum represented the aggregate amount paid to workers as retrospective compensation for money that had been wrongfully and in many cases deliberately withheld from their pay, and as compensation for various other improper practices of employers such as short payments and failure to pay for holidays. Furthermore, I emphasize that the comparatively large sum of £18,000 relates to the detected malpractices of employers in only one industry in one State of Aus. tralia. It is obvious that the aggregate of money wrongfully withheld from employees by their employers throughout Australia must amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds. In the light of that fact, is it reasonable to expect the officials of, say, the Australian Workers Union,to urge members of their union who have been defrauded by their employers to work harder in order to increase production? What would be the reaction of an employee who had been victimized by an unscrupulous employer if he were asked to “ hop into it “ and do his utmost ? What would be the attitude of men whose employers would not even abide by the awards made by the courts? I mention those facts because many honorable members opposite who complain about the workers not increasing their production do not realize, or will not face up to the fact, that many employers are not doing the right thing. Why do honorable members opposite not go to those employers and ask them to do the decent thing? Surely it is not too much to ask an employer to pay his men their award wages and to observe the conditions prescribed for them? I repeat once more that I do not want any misunderstanding to exist about where the Australian Workers Union stands in the matter of production.
The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has managed to balance his budget by proposing to deduct some millions of pounds from the incomes of the wool-growers. I notice that the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) is laughing. Of course, honorable members opposite contend that the proposed deduction from the sales of wool is not a tax. But if it is not a tax, why does the Treasurer propose to include the money in Consolidated Revenue? If it is not a tax it should certainly not be treated as revenue and used to offset the debit balance that would otherwise appear in the budget. On the matter of taxation relief, I notice that although the Treasurer claimed that he was reducing taxation by approximately £1,500,000, the taxpayers will have to provide in the aggregate £16,000,000 more than they did previously. If that is characteristic of the budgets which this Government will place before the Parliament, the sooner the people change the Government the better.
.- I compliment the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) and the Australian Workers Union on their record in this country. The excellent references of the honorable member to the work of that organization are justified, because its members have endeavoured to play their part in increasing production. If the lead given by that great trade union had been followed by other organizations in Australia we should not be in our present plight.
I support the provisions in the budget in general, whilst pointing out, however, as other honorable members have done, that a budget cannot comply in every detail with everybody’s requirements.
At the same time, I am sure that every honorable member appreciates the difficulties that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and the Government have had to face in their endeavours to produce a budget in such difficult times as the present. It has been stated freely during this debate that Australia’s great need in its present difficulties is increased production. To-night the honorable member for Herbert referred to the work of the Australian Workers Union and a few nights ago the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) gave the country some very sound advice about national production requirements. The most tragic aspect of the present debate has been the fact that honorable members opposite have declared here, just as the federal president of the Australian Labour party has declared elsewhere, that the Labour party will not co-operate with the Government in an all-out production programme. Yet the trade union movement of Great Britain sent a delegation to the United States of America to study American production methods in an endeavour to raise Britain’s production. Britain has achieved a remarkable effort of production.
– Under a socialist government !
– I am glad that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has mentioned that aspect of the matter. A socialist government and trade union organizations in Britain are interested enough in an increase of production to investigate American methods, but in this country socialist organizations are opposing every attempt to increase production. Such an attitude is regrettable especially when it is realized that the people who suffer from the lack of production are the wage-earners in the trade unions, and the members of the general public; not wool-growers, doctors, chemists, and so on. The fact that the great Labour party, which tries to make us believe that it represents the workers and the general public, fails to appreciate the need, in the interests of those people, for it to join in the productive effort, indicates clearly that it has lost its sense of proportion at a time of great national need.
I shall now cite to the committee some figures relative to the productive efforts that have been made by different sections of the community. They will show the great effort to increase production that has been made by rural industries over a number of years, in spite of difficulties that are known to honorable members. The production of wheat in Australia, which was 154,000,000 bushels in 1939, had increased to 217,000,000 bushels in 1949. In the same period the production of potatoes increased from 330,000 tons to 460,000 tons. In 1939 the sugar industry produced 740,000 tons of sugar, and by 1949 it had increased production to 940,000 tons. Meat production increased during the same period from 930,000 tons to 1,000,000 tons, whilst the production of milk increased from 1 1.500,000 gallons to 12,500,000 gallons. I point out that those increases of production occurred notwithstanding the fact that 5S;000 fewer persons were engaged in primary production in 1949, than were engaged in it in. 1939. The increases achieved clearly indicate that at least the primary industries have performed their task in a very noble manner.
– They did so under a Labour government.
– In spite of a Labour government! I shall now give the committee some figures which compare the production in some of our other industries with that of similar industries in Canada. Since the pre-war years Canada has increased its man-hour output by approximately 30 per cent., compared with an increase of 3 per cent, in Australia during the same period. Percentage increases in total production, including rural production, in the United States, Canada and Australia since pre-war days ‘are as follows: United States of America, 70 per cent. ; Canada, 50 to 60 per cent,; Australia 20 to 25 per cent.
In the prosperous year of 1937-38 Australia imported 11,000 tractors. During the war the figure dropped to 3,000 and we have not since reached the pre-war figure, despite a large backlag of orders. In .1941, Canada, with three tunes our area under cultivation, had 160,009 tractors, compared with 50,000 in Australia.
By 1947, Canada had added 150,000 tractors to its total, while we bad added only 30,000 since 1939. Whilst Canada has increased the number of its headers and strippers by 50,000 since 1941, we have barely maintained our position. Canada’s production of those machines rose from 3,000 in 1939 to 12,000 in 1947. During the same period ours dropped from 2,568 to 1,683. Australia produces only the following percentages of the local demand for wire and wire netting : - Fencing wire, 39 per cent. ; barbed wire, 43 per cent. ; wire netting, 43 per cent.; field fencing 26 per cent. The annual production of black coal in Australia is 3,000,000 tons below requirements. In the last two years stoppages and go-slow methods have robbed us of 2,000,000 tons a year. Since the war began Australia has lost through strikes, per 100 man-days worked, five times the number of days lost by the United States of America.
I could cite to the committee other figures that clearly indicate our backward position in secondary production compared with the position, in other countries and in our primary industries, but I shall content myself with those that I have already given. I consider that the time has arrived when the people of this country expect this Parliament to show, in the national interest, a co-operative outlook in respect of this particular problem.
There are some aspects of the problem that we should not overlook. Honorable members will recall that during the war our system of production was based largely on the cost-plus method, under which the remuneration paid by the Government to the producers of munitions and other essential materials for our war effort was cost plus 10 per cent, or whatever percentage was agreed upon. That system, was introduced under wartime conditions, and although we may criticize its introduction we realize that in war-time it is necessary to accept conditions that we would not dream of accepting in peace-time. The outcome of that system was that neither employers nor employees worried very much about the actual cost of production. The system has done tremendous harm to the Australian productive effort, because the young workers who grew up in those surroundings based their views on the conditions that then operated in war-time industries, and so have failed to rise to the responsibilities of an efficient productive effort. This Parliament has the responsibility to face up to that problem, in the general interests of the young people of this country, who have never had a real opportunity to be trained efficiently. The fact that honorable members opposite have refused to co-operate with the Government to overcome production difficulties is an indication that they do not appreciate the importance of the problem. If the trade union movement of the United Kingdom considered it wise to send its representatives to study American production methods in an effort to improve British production, then why are we not sending similar delegations to other countries in an endeavour to locate the weaknesses in our system? If there were a measure of co-operation from the Opposition it would be possible for the Government to face up to this problem into which the war-time production system has led us. In this country we have swung far too much to the government job system, which has resulted in a slowing up of production. I am not one of those people who believe that the Australian workman intentionally slows up or fails to do what is fair. Much of the fault lies in failure to provide efficient organization. So much work is now under government administration that the workers do not gain a knowledge of proper organizational, methods, and so fail to rise to satisfactory standards. It is commonly and correctly said that there is a government working pace, that government organizations do not move quickly, in these rapidly moving times, in respect of the provision of equipment and efficient organizational methods which private enterprise can bring into operation expeditiously. I propose to say something more on that aspect of the matter later. I support the budget in general, and I am sure that the committee and the country will recognize that the Government lias faced up to its responsibilities.
Honorable members opposite have had much to say about the proposed wool sales deduction. That proposed deduction will not be a tax, and should never be referred to as such. The Government merely intends to ask the wool-growers to make available, in advance, at the time of the sale of their wool, a contribution that will be credited to them and will be used to offset their future tax liabilities. If they have no tax liabilities the money will be refunded to them. Such a procedure will remove from the economy the amount of £103,000,000 involved, and will ease the inflationary situation. Honorable members opposite say that the Government proposes to expend that money. It is intended to expend it, for the reason that if the Government did not use it .for essential expenditure it would have to raise the same amount from some other source. In that event we should have the wool-growing interests spending a total of £103,000,000 and the Government expending a similar amount, which it had had to raise elsewhere, on defence needs and other national responsibilities. The result would be that two separate sums of huge magnitude would be circulating in our economy, and would further affect the inflationary position.
What is the budget? It embodies the Government’s proposals in respect of the finances of the country and for steadily and soundly administering the affairs of the nation. The present economic condition of this country is the result, not of the budget that is being discussed at the present time but of the last Chifley budget. Last year the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who was then Prime Minister and Treasurer, forecast in his budget the requirements of this country for the current year. Therefore, any ills that exist in this country which a budget could have corrected can be laid a t the door of the Australian Labour party. When this Government has been in office long enough to gain the benefit of its own budgetary work it will be time enough for honorable members of the Opposition and the people to question its proposals.
The Chifley budget failed to make available sufficient funds for the road system of this country. Our road system is down to the lowest ebb since the nation has had a really effective motor transport system. The funds made available by the Chifley Government, particularly during last year, were so inadequate that the roads are now in such a poor condition that our transport system not. only has been very largely held up but also has been rendered much more costly than was necessary. Roads are wearing out for want of repair. The Chifley Government also failed to provide sufficient funds for postal and telephone requirements. I think I can state that during the last six or seven months more work has been done in improving postal facilities than was done during the preceding three or four years. The Chifley Government failed to make sufficient money available to the States to enable them to keep their railway systems working and the main goods yards at Darling Harbour has to close periodically because it cannot accept the volume of goods offering for transport. The previous Government failed completely to meet the transport needs of the country.
It would have been a far sounder plan to provide for the payment of a portion of the war gratuity each year for three or four years instead of making the full amount payable in one year. In this financial year the present Government will have the entire responsibility of meeting that payment, which will add to the inflationary position. The Chifley Government failed to make adequate provision for defence and, with changes occurring suddenly in international affairs, the present Government has had to step up defence preparations quickly. The Chifley Government failed to provide pensions for ex-servicemen, and for invalid and age pensioners. In this budget the Government proposes to make up that lost ground and to increase pensions to a reasonable amount for these people. The Government has met its responsibilities by providing for those things for which the Chifley Government failed to provide during its term of office.
It has been said that when the 40-hour week was introduced the main responsibility of the Government was to see that industry should have sufficient capital goods to ensure that production would be maintained or lifted by the man-power available during the more limited time that employees would be at work. Every effort is being made to ensure that the 40-hour week will be successful. The first step in that direction was the arrangement of the dollar loan, which will make it possible for capital goods to be brought to this country for the benefit of industry and for the construction of roads and railways and the provision of all other essential services. This assistance will go a long way towards making the 40-hour week successful. If one reduces the number* of hours worked, one must use a machine that will produce more during a given time. Arrangements should have been made for the importation of such machinery before the 40-hour week was introduced. The Chifley Government failed in that respect, but this Government has arranged, by means of the 100,000,000 dollar loan, to have these supplies made available at the earliest moment.
The budget reveals clearly that the Government recognizes its responsibilities. It is not wasting time in talking and socializing, but is facing up to the frank and stark requirements of the nation, and in doing so, will receive the utmost support of the people. By proposing to pay subsidies, the Government proved that it wishes to restore value to the currency. Unlike the Labour party, which refuses to help to have goods produced in larger quantities at cheaper prices, the present Government is making available £20,000,000 as a subsidy on woollen goods to that the people may buy them at more reasonable prices. The Government is making available £11,300,000 subsidize the production of milk and butter by the dairying industry so that the people may be adequately fed. That is an increase of about £2,500,000 on the subsidy that was made available during the previous year.
We must regard the luxury taxes in the light of requirements that have been brought about by the country’s difficult position. This country is expanding its population by bringing in immigrants. It needs homes, and materials that are essential for the productive effort, and the only way that we can get them is by guiding the people into these channels of activity. The taxes that have been proposed on luxury goods will affect their sale and, therefore, their production, and will make available a certain proportion of those engaged in their manufacture for employment in essential industries.
There is a real need for the decentralization of industrial activities. Employees in industries that have been established outside of the densely settled cities are more happy and production costs there are lower. The workers in those industries appear to be imbued with the idea that they are a part of the country and of the industry in which they are engaged, whereas in densely st1. t tied cities the sense of loyalty and industry is not so pronounced. In order to expand production in those areas increased power is necessary. There i3 a shortage of electricity in my electorate and the authorities cannot make available to all industries the power supplies required for expansion. A similar state of affairs exists throughout other country areas as well as in the cities. “We have resources that are yet untouched. I pay tribute to the previous Government for its Snowy Mountain scheme. Unfortunately, work can only proceed slowly on that project and until we can obtain power from it, it will simply contribute to the inflationary position. The one way in which we can make progress is to bring to this country private organizations which will provide everything necessary for big public works schemes and carry them out under private control.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- At page 25 the budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) sets out the distinctive features of the budget. Those items in the revenue list which attract attention are customs, excise and sales ta.x returns and the completely new tax which has been called a “ wool sales deduction”. Notwithstanding what the honorable member for Lyne (Mr.. Eggins) has said, this has been called ‘prepayment of tax” by the Treasurer himself.
The statement shows a vast increase of direct taxation, which is estimated, in the first three items alone, at £34,000,000, in addition to the completely new proposal for the wool tax. We have just heard a speech in which an honorable member tried to establish that the wool tax is not in fact a tax. I have no quarrel with him about his belief, but I quote the words of the Treasurer himself, who said in his budget speech -
There is, however, a pressing need to prevent the increased sums being realized for wool from adding to the inflationary pressure. The Government’s proposal is that a proportion of the proceeds of wool sales should flow to revenue in anticipation of the income tax . . .
The attempt has been made by various honorable members, those of the Australian Country party in particular, to prove that this prepayment of income tax puts the wool-grower on the same footing as the rest of the taxpayers who have weekly deductions made from their wages or salaries. That is totally untrue. When I was a civil servant I was subject to salary deductions, but I did not have to pay those in addition to paying upon an assessment covering the preceding year. The wool-grower is having a deduction made from this year’s income as it is being earned, and he will also have to pay income tax according to the assessment made on his previous year’s income. Therefore, in one year he will pay double taxation. I heard what honorable members of the Australian Country party had to sayabout this matter, but their views have been totally rejected by the Australian Primary Producers Union and by the wool-growing section of the Primary Producers Union of Western Australia. I received a letter from that organization which bears on the letterhead the name of H. J. Prater, who is the general secretary of the Country party in Western Australia but was signed by the secretary of the wool-growing section of the Primary Producers Union of Western Australia. He points out that this flat rate deduction of 4s. in the £1 from the proceeds of the realization of wool is, in effect, for many of the smaller producers an advance payment of income tax for a couple of years. On an income of £1,500, 4s. in the £1 is not ordinarily paid as income tax, and a large number of the smaller producers of wool, such as those who produce it as a sideline to wheat, will ordinarily not be required to pay more than 2s. or 3s. in the £1. Under this legislation they will be mulct in advance of 4s. in the £1. The Australian Country party lullaby may prove very satisfactory in conferences of the party, but it does not lull the wool-growers. I refer the committee to a report of the Australian Primary Producers Union conference at Warrnambool that appeared in the Melbourne Age of the 27th October, 1950. It reads -
A bitter attack against the Federal Government was made to-day at the Australia/i Primary Producers’ Union conference which adopted a motion condemning the 20 per cent, levy for prepayment of tax by wool-growers
I remind honorable members that the Australian Country party is always well represented on the executive of that body. I do not complain ‘ about that. The executive committee told the usual story that by strenuous efforts the Australian Country party had saved the woolgrowers from some vast but undefined disaster and that therefore the wool tax must be regarded as a very mild reflection of what might have happened. The article proceeds -
The conference rejected the executive’s motion commending the Government for avoiding a confiscatory export tax on wool, and stating that the prepayment levy of 20 per cent, would not be unreasonable as an inflationary counter.
The Treasurer, who has been wildly using the word “ socialism “ round the country for the last three years, now has his own proposals characterized as vicious, discriminatory and socialistic. The article then continues -
Immediately the motion was read Mr. P. K. Rogers (Skipton) jumped to his feet. Through three extensions of time he attacked tho executive’s proposals.
He said the Government’s 20 per cent, tax on wool was vicious, discriminatory and socialistic. This industry fought low prices for years without any Government aid, and now things are going the wool-growers’ way it wants to step in and take its share.
At a conference of wool-growers in Western Australia, the story of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that this was an inflationary industry was considered by wool-growers, and they directed the right honorable gentleman’s attention to the fact that in 1939 they had sent to him telegrams about the terribly depressed state of the industry and that he had replied directing their attention to the law of supply and demand with which the Government should not interfere. They said that all that they now asked was that the Prime Minister should be as good as his 1939 word and not interfere with the law of supply and demand. What shows up the completely vicious and untruthful basis of this wool tax is the assertion that the wool-growers of this country are responsible or are likely to be responsible for the sharp inflationary trend which the Government apparently expects next year. The Government, through the mouth of the Treasurer, has admitted that there are inordinate levels of profit in other industries as well as in connexion with wool-growing. The Treasurer himself said this -
During the post-war period, it has become increasingly evident that, in many sections of commerce and industry, the pressure of purchasing power has raised business profits to inordinate levels. To a large degree, these profit increases are not the gains of normal business enterprise and activity but the direct result of high prices for commodities in strong demand. In their turn, increased profits add lt> the strength of the forces of intiation.
The right honorable gentleman then spoke vaguely to the effect that at some time or other he might consider an excess profits tax. In fact the only excess profits tax imposed by the Government is this tax upon the wool-grower. I deny that an industry, as an industry, can be inflationary. It is not true to classify all wool-growers as this Government has done, and to say that all should be subject to the penalty of a 20 per cent, deduction because all their incomes have menaced the prices structure. Clearly there can be vast variations of the incomes obtained from the wool industry. Foi instance, a pastoral company might earn £60,000 and an individual might get £6 for the wool shorn from his pet sheep. But the Government takes one-fifth from all of them. It is not true to say that a wool-grower who earns £10,000 is any more a menace to the prices structure in this country than is a bookmaker who earns £10,000 or a. person who earns £10,000 from any industry whatsoever. The only equitable and scientific way of dealing with these excess profits is to tax every man according to his income. It does not matter whether a person earns £10,000 from running a hotel or from the wool industry, that same £10,000 is in equal measure a menace to the prices structure, if the Government regards such an income as excessive. To single out the wool industry and treat it as an industry en bloc and to ignore the fact that many people earn incomes just as high in other industries is completely unscientific, iniquitous and a great betrayal by the Australian Country party of its electoral programme. The Treasurer spoke of other industries in his policy speech. In the printed copy of the speech every rural industry is itemized in block lettering, and he had this to say about the wool industry -
Wo will consult representatives of the wool industry regarding the formulation of a floor prices policy when the existing Joint Organization is terminated.
Instead of talking about measures against rising prices, all that he mentioned was that he would consult primary producers about a guarantee against some possible future fall of prices. His budget speech contains a vague reference to a possible excess profits tax, but nothing has been done about it. If the Government considered that extraordinary methods were necessary it should have treated all high incomes according to those extraordinary methods, whether they were obtained from liquor, retail trade, land and estate agencies, horse racing or any other industry.
One may read extremely interesting statements in the financial columns of the Sydney Morning Herald. At one time one could read statements by the financial editor about the record level of profits, and on another page leading articles by the political editor demanding incentive payments so as to increase the production of industry. One item which 1 read lately related to the united breweries, which in the previous financial year made a -profit of £389,000 and last financial year made a profit of £589,000. That is an increase of £200,000 in a year. The profit level as far as land and estateagencies are concerned has at least doubled. How can the Government justify an attack on one industry when profits are just as great in other industries ? However, there is a logical reason for what the Government has done. Its action is a compromise. This wool tax is the best thing that the Australian Country party could extract from the Liberal party in return for the abandonment of revaluation. The recent basic wage adjustment makes revaluation as dead as the dodo, because if there were many Australian industries which could not face the loss of the 25 per cent, protection represented by the exchange rate before this wage increase, there are many others who cannot possibly face it now that the increase has been granted. A wicked feature of the tax is that it is ungraded. Vague assurances have been given that special hardship cases will be considered. This year, so far as the eastern States are concerned, primary industry has suffered severe damage through unprecedented floods. Floods have occurred in two consecutive years. Everybody knows that a large number of people in such industries are faced with crushing problems of reconstruction and restocking. There are vague assurances that such hardship cases will be considered, but not one word about specific machinery whereby an application may be made for alleviation on the ground of hardship. This is a completely illogical tax. It is not the result of a considered scheme, but is the price which the Australian Country party has to pay for not having the £1 revalued. The Treasurer, during his policy speech, repeated what he said in 1946. Then he said that he would overhaul the tax laws. During hia policy speech he said the following word.” and was so impressed with their fine ring that he had them printed in heavy black type-
We promise that a competent review will also be made of the incidence of indirect taxation, because we recognize the necessity for sensible reduction-
I invite the House to relish those words. He then said - . . in many cases where such reductions will arrest the upward trend of living costs.
I shall examine some of the right honorable gentleman’s “ sensible reductions “. On page 25 of his budget speech a table gives a comparison of revenues estimated to be collected this financial year with revenues actually collected under tax rates imposed by the previous Government. That table shows that in 1949-50 the actual revenue from customs duty amounted to £77,725,761, whereas under this budget the Treasurer estimates’ that source to yield £92,000,000, or an increase of £14,274,239. That is the first of the right honorable gentleman’s “ sensible reductions “. In 1949-50 the actual revenue from excise duty amounted to £66,156,945, whereas under this budget th> revenue from that source is estimated at £70,000,000, or an increase of £3,843,055. That is the second “ sensible reduction “ of taxes that the right honorable gentleman has promised. His third promise refers to sales tax. In 1949-50, the actual revenue from sales tax amounted to £42,424,580, whereas under this budget the right honorable gentleman estimates that the revenue from that source will amount to £58,000,000, an increase of £15,575,420. I emphasize that increase because the right honorable gentleman said that under this budget sales tax would be increased by only £10,000,000. He said-
The additional revenue which it is expected will be obtained as a result will be £10,000,000 in a full year, or, approximately £7,500,000 in the current year.
Thus, the revenue from the first three classes of tax that appear in statement No. 1 of the statements referred to in the budget speech is estimated to increase by approximately £36,000,000 in the current financial year. What a brilliant honouring of the Treasurer’s promise that he would effect sensible reductions of indirect taxes !
The supine press of Sydney - I refer particularly to the Daily Telegraph, which supported the present Government parties in the hope of obtaining additional dollars for the purpose of importing newsprint - claimed that the budget effects a reduction of income tax by £7,000,000. But the Treasurer, like the Lord, giveth and taketh away. In this instance, the right honorable gentleman proposes to forgo £7,000,000 in direct tax - and we have only his word that he will do that - but, at the same time, he proposes to take from the taxpayer an additional £36,000,000 in respect of the three indirect taxes that I have mentioned. The budget proposals can best be judged by an examina- tion of the figures in respect of income tax. Whilst income tax collections from individuals in 1949-50 amounted to £95,416,302, the Treasurer estimates that revenue from that source will amount to £157,000,000 in the current financial year. That is an increase of nearly £62,000,000, which is partly counterbalanced by an estimated reduction of approximately £29,000,000 in respect of social services contribution. However, whilst collections from income tax and social services contribution combined amounted to £195,000,000 during the last financial year, the Treasurer estimates that in the current financial year collections from those sources will amount to approximately £228,000,000, an increase of approximately £33,000,000, in addition to an increase of approximately £36,000,000 in indirect taxes.
When dealing with collections from customs duty, the right honorable gentleman referred vaguely to a reduction of indirect taxes upon essential goods. He has already been given an opportunity to apply the policy that he has enunciated. Recently the Tariff Board recommended that a duty of 4 1/2d. a yard be imposed on imported rayon goods and that revenue from that source be used to subsidize the home production of rayon. At present, we produce annually only 18,000,000 yards of rayon whilst we import 50,000,000 yards.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan). - The honorable member is in order in making passing reference to that matter.
– I am referring to customs revenue in relation to subsidies. That matter is relevant to the budget, and the Treasurer dealt with it in his budget speech. I cannot help it if my remarks embarrass supporters of the Government.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Chairman. I submit the honorable member is evading your ruling. He is now proceeding to deal with specific rates of duty in respect of items that are covered by a bill that appears on the notice-paper.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - As that bill and cognate measures form part of the budget the honorable member is in order in referring to items covered by them; but he will not be permitted to do so at length.
– Instead of applying collections of duty on items in order to subsidize the local manufacture of such items, the Government proposes to impose an import duty of1s. 6d. a yard upon rayon goods, and, in conformity with its proposal to impose a wool tax, it intends to levy the duty at a flat rate regardless of whether the goods cost 3s. a yard or 30s. a yard. Poorer quality rayon goods will carry an impost equal to that to be placed upon the dearer goods. That is in keeping with the Government’s vicious proposal to make deductions at the rate of 4s. in the £1 from the incomes of wool-growers whether they be high or low.
The disappearance of the social service contribution is the beginning of. a new sell-out on the part of the Government. The Treasurer in his policy speech during the last general election campaign said that the social services contribution -
Should be coupled with a progressive modification of the means test, as finances permit, so that, eventually, no one will toe deprived of benefits in respect of contributions made.
In the budget the right honorable gentleman proposes to abolish the social services contribution. I recognize the political wisdom and the economic unwisdom of that action. There is no doubt that if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), when he was Treasurer, had played at politics he would have left the social services contribution hidden in general income tax, but by showing it separately he enabled every one to realize that they pay for social services benefits and he dramatized the fact that the means test deprived many people of benefits for which they had contributed. By lumping the social services contribution with income tax the Government, which has aroused a great deal of agitation with respect to the means test, hopes to allay that agitation while it does nothing to modify the means test. The Treasurer said that ultimately the social services contribution would have to be resorted to as a means of financing all social services. If he meant that, why has he destroyed the structure that now administers social services contributions and which the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Treasurer, intended to be the basis of a social services contributory scheme that could be expanded as certain commitments were excluded from the budget?
During the last general election campaign the present Government parties had the benefit of assistance from many organizations which, in fact, did its promising for it. Some of those organizations generously financed those parties. For instance, in Western Australia a body known as the Citizens Rights Association promised that those parties would make vast reductions of taxes. Whilst I have no doubt that those promises won the present Government parties many votes, at the same time I believe that the supporters of the Government would not protest that they were not responsible for them although the leader of the association stood as a Liberal party candidate for the Senate at the last general election. Bodies of that kind have given the impression overa number of years that vast reductions of taxes would be effected and that the means test would be drastically modified. None of those promises has been fulfilled. Government supporters when in Opposition violently advocated such movements as the Food for Britain movement and in doing so criticized the previous Government when it made grants of £25,000,000 and £10,000,000 to the United Kingdom Government on the ground that those gifts were inadequate in amount and wrong in form. The present Government does not propose to follow the Chifley Government’s example in that respect. During the last general election campaign the present Government parties won many votes by vaguely giving the impression that if returned to office they would do so but now we have no mention of such promises in the budget. The following quotation which I take from Arthur Hugh Clough’s latest Decalogue provides an admirable slogan for the Liberal party -
Bear not false witness; let the lie
Have time on its own wings to fly.
– The honorable member lias placed a false construction on nearly every item of the budget.
– Is any provision made in the budget in respect of food for Britain? It does not give effect to the promise of supporters of the Government to modify the means test. Whereas the Treasurer says that the budget provides for a reduction of the sales tax, the fact is that collections from that source are estimated to increase by £10,000,000 during the current financial year. The budget docs not propose any revision of tariffs downwards. On the contrary, it is proposed to increase import duties on essential clothing goods, such as rayon. I do not blame the Government for failing to honour its promise “to reduce government expenditure. I simply say that supporters of the present Government should not have made that promise during the last general election campaign. Increase of government expenditure is practically inescapable, but whereas under the last Chifley budget the total expenditure was estimated at £595,000,000, under this budget it is estimated to amount to £738,000,000.
Lastly, the budget incorporates a new feature - the wool tax - for which the present Government parties did not receive a mandate at the last general election. In that matter the Australian Country party particularly will be held” responsible by the wool-growers when it again faces the electors. The Treasurer’s policy speech did not contain any forecast of the Government’s present wool plan. On the contrary, the right honorable gentleman rejoiced over the record prices that were being received for wool and said that he did not regard that income as a menace. However, before referring in his budget speech to the Government’s proposal in respect of wool sales deductions, he admitted that other industries were enjoying record levels of profits. If the Government were, not playing at politics in this budget in anticipation pf an early general election, it would have spread its proposed increased taxes equitably over all industries and would not have applied its vicious proposal to withhold income from the wool industry alone.
CUSTOMS Duty on Timber - Northern Territory.
Motion (by Mr. White) proposed - l ini t thu House do now adjourn.
.- On the 5th October I moved the adjournment of this House for the purpose of discussing, as a definite matter of urgent public importance -
Thu notions of the Minister for Trade and Customs hi illegally authorizing and making refunds from revenue of considerable sums of money paid as duty on timber ami other commodities admitted to the Commonwealth for home consumption.
Having been accorded the support required under the Standing Orders, the motion was discussed. The Minister who purported to answer my complaint was the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), who was then Minister for the Interior. He did not know much about the subject, and he indulged in a. certain amount of personal criticism and said that I was a “ stooge “ for the timber interests. He had misinterpreted what I had said, of course. 1 was not primarily worried about, the remission of duty on timber, but I made the specific charge that the Government had authorized refunds of duty that had been paid on timber which had been imported between the 10th December, 1949, and the 17 th February, 1950, under a by-law dated the 17th February. I was concerned about the amount of several hundreds of thousands of pounds that had been refunded. I wanted to know who had received refunds and asked what steps the Government had taken to ensure that importers who had received them should hand the money back to their clients. I sought to learn whether any importers had not asked for refunds because they had been decent enough to acknowledge that they could not trace the individuals to whom they had sold timber, and what importers had taken refunds but had not made any attempt to pass the money cn to their clients. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) participated in the discussion and said that the Chifley Government had taken action similar to that of this Government. He cited Tariff Decisions Nos. 47/320, 47/507, 47/508, 48/86 and 48/163, and said- .
The honorable member baa the audacity to indulge in misrepresentation in this Parliament by saying that when his Government was in office it did none nf these things. I have paged of precedents which I. shall not weary thi’ ‘lionel! by reciting.
In fact, the Postmaster-General misrepresented the position by saying that the present Minister for Trade and Commerce (Senator O’sullivan) had done nothing different from what the Chifley Government had done.
I ha ve examined the tariff decisions to which the Postmaster-General referred and I direct attention particularly to decisions Nos. 4.7/507 and 47/508. The Postmaster-General mentioned that they had been issued on the 1st November, 1947, and had operated from the 1st January,. 1946. He said -
Every im porter who brought those goods into Australia at that time was entitled to a refund of the duties which he had paid for two yeaTS back, yet the honorable member for Melbourne says that thu action of which he complains is without precedent u’nd that it is scandalous action on the part of the present Minister for Trade and Customs.
The honorable gentleman omitted to inform the House - and this is where he misled it - that, in issuing those two bylaws, the Chifley Government took the precaution to attach the following condition to each of them : -
That the Collectors of Customs are satisfied that the full benefit of any duty remitted will he passed on to the users.
Why did not this Government follow the precedent set by the Chifley Government, and insert that condition in the by-law.? We imposed the condition because we were determined that the people who had paid duty on the goods concerned should get the benefit of the remission, and that no refunds should lie made to importers unless the Collector of Customs was satisfied in each instance that the person who had made the initial payment to the importer was to be the sole beneficiary. The omission of that important condition impelled me to raise this matter in the first instance. I want to know now what has become of the huge refunds of duty on imported timber that were authorized bv the present Minister for Trade and Customs under Tariff Item 449 (a) (1). I suggested when I raised the matter on the 5th October that the money had been paid to wealthy supporters of the Government or, at the least, that the Government had been very careless in the way in which it had handed refunds to persons who had no right to them. The cost of housing could not have been reduced even by lcl. merely by the act of making refunds to importers after the timber had been sold and had been used to build houses. As somebody said to me after that debate had taken place, “ T want to know who copped the cop “.
The Government has a serious charge to answer. I know that it has set investigations in train since the matter was raised, and that the Collectors of Customs in the various States are making inquiries in an effort to determine what has happened to the refunds. I shall take the opportunity to ask a question upon notice in order to ascertain exactly what happened to the hundreds of thousands of pounds involved. Tariff decisions Nos. 47/507 and 47/508, which were implemented by the Chifley Government, provided for concessions that involved refunds to motor car and motor cycle importers amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. The PostmasterGeneral must have known that the Chifley Government had taken precautions in order to ensure that the refunds should be passed on to the users of the motor cars and cycles. However, he deliberately omitted the fact from his speech and tried to establish the impression that the Chifley Government had authorized the refunds without providing that the users should, benefit. Those decisions related specifically to motor vehicle tyres, and it was possible for the Collectors of Customs to satisfy themselves that the refunds were passed on to the users because every tyre could bo identified with the invoice for the goods and the vehicle on which it was used. Thus, payment of refunds to the purchasers could be supervised. In thi.event, of any difficulty, the Collector of Customs in each instance was able to withhold the refund.
– Nonsense !
– Let the Minister for Defence trace the records and ascertain whether or not the refunds were passed on u> the purchasers who had finally paid the duty. I challenge him now to have an investigation made through the Department of Trade and Customs of the transactions about which I complained on the 5th October and also of the transactions to which the Postmaster-General referred on the same date. An inquiry will establish that much of the money that was authorized for payment by the Chifley Government was never disbursed because there were some difficulties of the sort that are envisaged by ,the Minister. [Extension of time granted.]
I refer now to by-law No. 47/320 covering veneers for batteries, by-law No. 48/86 covering rayon yarns, and by-law No. 48/163 covering cotton yarns. In those instances, there could not be the same ease of identification of the goods on which refunds were made as was possible in relation to by-laws Nos. 47/507 and 47/508, but the PostmasterGeneral overlooked the fact that at that time the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner had full control over the prices at which batteries and the piece goods manufactured from those yarns could be sold. Any refunds made to importers of yarns would be shown in the costing of the piece goods made from such yarns, and would be taken into account by the prices commissioners in fixing the prices of the piece goods. The same procedure would apply to veneers for battery separators. I may say that I have not taken the Postmaster-General unawares in connexion with this matter. I told him about seven hours ago that I intended to raise it on the motion for the adjournment of the House, and I should like him to consult his officers, and obtain a reply. I am not attempting to take any unfair advantage of him or of the Government.
The Postmaster-General must also have been aware that it would be impossible to trace any timber cleared for home use between the 10th December of last year, and the 17th February of this year. Obviously, timber cannot be traced as easily as can motor car tyres. There was no control of the price of timber as there was of the prices of the rayon goods and the veneers to which I have referred. It would be futile to try to trace every person who went to a timber yard and bought a small quantity of timber, perhaps to finish a house, or to do a small extension job. The Government must have known that when it authorized the re1 funds. It knew that it was making a present of possibly hundreds of thousands of pounds to the importers concerned because there was no possibility of the refunds being passed on. The Government has a case to answer for not having included in the by-laws the provision tint was included when the Chifley Government was in office, namely, that the Collectors of Customs must be satisfied that the full benefit of any duty remitted would be passed on to the users.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is, or at least pretends to be, very naive. He would have us believe that a customs concession on battery parts, tyres, and other similar items which is made retrospective for two years, can be passed on to the users of those goods. Obviously, the tyres would be worn out, and the tubes burst long before the purchasers could possibly be traced. Then, the honorable member had the colossal hide - if I may use that term-
– Oh, no.
– Then I shall say that he had the impertinence to claim that customs officers would be able toensure that the remission of duty would be passed on to purchasers of tyres because all tyres were numbered. Just imagine such a proposition coming from an honorable member who himself has been responsible for the administration of a department ! The honorable member alsoclaimed that the Labour Government had protected the public by insisting that theremissions be passed on. Could anythingbe more absurd? If anything improper has been done by the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan),. then it was done, too, by every Ministerfor Trade and Customs since federation, because this practice has been observed1 since the inception of the Commonwealth. Obviously, it is impossible to police effectively the passing on of all theremissions of duty. Eoi- instance, a merchant may have a supply of timberin his yard. Usually, timber merchants. have about three months’ supply. If they did not carry stocks, the difficulties of builders and others who require timber would be even greater than they are today. When a remission of customs duty is made, usually under by-law, cognizance is taken of the fact that timber merchants generally have stocks in their yards. When the new timber is received by a merchant with the remitted duty, it goes into his stock, and he equalizes his prices over that stock. In general, customs officers are men of integrity and of long experience. It is impossible for them to police a tariff concession on timber right to the last board, but they know whether or not merchants are passing the concession on. The honorable member for Melbourne claimed that, when the Labour Government was in office, customs concessions always carried the condition that they should be passed on to the consumer. I have before me some examples of customs concessions granted by the Chifley Government. For instance, Gazette No. 17 of 1948, published on the 22nd January of that year, contained bylaw No. 427, signed by the then Minister for Trade and Customs, Senator Courtice. The by-law related to item 285 (b) of the Customs Tariff 1933-1939, and the commodity involved was a drug named pyranisamine maleate, imported from the United States of America. The tariff concession granted under that bylaw was made retrospective to the 3rd April, 1947, a period of nine months. The point I wish to make, however, is that that by-law remained in force for one day only, and applied to only one firm, and to one shipment of the drug. The drug had been in use for nine months prior to the date of gazettal of the by-law. Does the honorable member for Melbourne suggest that it was possible to trace the users of that drug all over Australia and to pass on to them the benefit of the customs concession? If he does, he is far more credulous than I believe him to be.
I shall cite another example of the difficulty that is encountered in ensuring that tariff concessions ultimately shall be passed on to purchasers. The honorable member for Melbourne was rather concerned about batteries. That by-law was signed by the then
Minister for Trade and Customs, Senator Courtice, on the 28th November, 1947, and was made retrospective to the 1st January, 1946. During that period, a vast quantity of goods entered this country including tyres, batteries, parts of batteries, tubes and the like, much of which had , been worn out completely at the time the by-law was formulated. Yet the honorable member for Melbourne would have us believe that the ‘ Chifley Government ensured that the purchasers of those goods received the benefit of that remission. Who will believe that statement for an instant ? But I agree that if, as with the timber, the remission enabled a reduction of price to be made over the whole range of goods, a general benefit should accrue to the users. The Department of Trade and Customs states that such a reduction was made over the whole range. All that it was intended to achieve by granting that remission was a reasonable benefit to all users. To say that a packet of Aspros, if one is to descend to the ultimate depths of ridiculousness, or a drug, can be traced to the person who has purchased it at a chemist’s shop, in order to ensure that the benefit has been passed on to him, is to stretch the imagination beyond conceivable limits. I shall not waste much more time in replying to the contentions of the honorable member for Melbourne. Surely to goodness the matter was thoroughly thrashed out recently when he moved the motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing it. Almost all honorable members, including the majority of members of the Labour party, were satisfied that there bad not been the slightest impropriety, that the action taken by the Minister for Trade and Customs was in conformity with the practice which had followed over a long period of years and that such a by-law had been put into operation by his predecessors. It is indeed regrettable that the honorable member for Melbourne cannot take a licking when he gets one. He has dragged up this matter again in the manner of a dog at a garbage bin. We know that he is merely looking for something out of which he can make an issue. If this is the best issue that he can .find, it is a sorry position indeed for the Labour party.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has been so careless in making ‘various statements that it is necessary for me to say a few words about them.
– Order! I rule that the subject of timber may not be further discussed. I was waiting to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and he did not introduce any fresh issues. Unless the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has something new to bring forward, he may not further discuss this subject, which has already been debated during the current session.
– I think I shall be able to introduce fresh matter. Briefly, the Postmaster-General referred to quite a number of customs by-laws some of which had been issued over the signature of Senator Courtice, a former Minister for Trade and Customs. He did not give any details about the value or quantity of those imports, though he referred specifically to one shipment of an American drug, but, again, he did not supply any particulars of it. He spoke in general terms, and made some rather rash statements to which I desire to reply. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that, before he attempts to inform the House about the opinions of Opposition members, he should endeavour’ to ascertain the facts. The statements which he has made to-night about our opinions are completely false, and have no relation to the facts. I propose to rebut them. I state definitely that the accusations which have been made by the honorable member for Melbourne and by other Opposition members about the matter now under consideration, are the opinions of the Opposition, and regardless of the charges and accusations by the Postmaster-General and other Government supporters, honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber are still definitely of opinion that certain friends of the Government-
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills may not proceed any longer with that matter, or discuss again any of the other matters to which he has referred, because I find that the subject-matter of the adjournment motion which was moved recently by the honorable member for Melbourne covers timber and other commodities.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory) j .10.56]. - I wish to bring to the notice of the House a matter which is causing the people of the Northern Territory concern. I refer to the appointment of the former Minister for Defence, Mr. Eric J. Harrison, who is at present representing this Government in the United Kingdom, to the position of Minister for the Interior. My protest about that appointment is based, not on personal grounds, but on the apparent acceptance by the Government of the practice of using this portfolio, as in the present instance, as a stop-gap method of gaining time to enable the Government to make up its mind on certain matters. In this instance it wants to make up its mind what it intends to do with the new Minister for the Interior. The former Minister for the Interior, Mr. McBride, who becomes Minister for Defence, has a senior position in the Cabinet, but, quite apart from that aspect, it is a matter for regret that, when he had acquired a grasp of the Department of the Interior, particularly in its relation to the Northern Territory, and was able, by virtue of the knowledge he had gained, to make decisions on policy and administration, he has been allotted another portfolio. That whole process has to be repeated before his successor can gain the knowledge which is necessary to enable him to administer the department in the manner in which it should be administered. In the meantime, decisions on many important matters of policy may be delayed. When decisions are eventually made, they may, and can, differ from the opinions which were held by the previous Minister for the Interior. Consequently, changes and reversals of policy may go on, as they have done for years, under exactly similar conditions. One would have thought that experience of past years would have caused the Government to view that aspect with concern, yet we find that we are to have as the Minister for the Interior, not a man on the spot, but a gentleman who is stationed in London, where, so far as can be ascertained, he is likely to remain for a considerable time.
The principal cause of discontent in the north arises from the fact that there has been a lack of concentrated attention on the part of Ministers for the Interior in the past to matters of policy and to problems of administration affecting that part of Australia. That fact is apparent to those who have studied the subject, and I should like to quote statements which have been made on it by three gentlemen who are now members of the Cabinet. The present Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), when he was a member of the Opposition, made the following comments about the administration of the Northern Territory: -
There is an urgent need for single control -of the Northern Territory by a courageous Minister, who is prepared to say to the Government, “This H what should be done. II you do not like it 1 shall resign “. Unfortunately, we do not get that kind of men in Labour governments nowadays, but it is time that there was one. The administration of the Northern Territory in recent years is a melancholy and horrible story. But it need not be so. I quote the words of Stuart, the great explorer who, with matchless courage and enduring incredible privations, found his way from Adelaide northwards through the wastes. When, after many months, he finally saw the blue sca on our northern coastline, he said -
Properly administered this territory will some day become one Of the finest colonics under the Crown.”
The honorable gentleman made that statement after he had visited the Northern Territory last year, and had had an opportunity to acquaint himself with the administrative difficulties experienced there. I quote another statement on tho same subject by the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) who is the Leader of the Government in tho Senate. Speaking on the Appropriation Bill on the 15th June, 1949, the honorable senator is reported, at page 965 of Hansard, as having said -
Instead of an administrator of the Northern Territory there should, be a CoordinatorGeneral for the Territory, who should have the authority, subject of course to ministerial approval, to requisition the services of such officers as he may require. ‘
That statement, I contend, envisages the appointment of a special Minister for the Northern Territory because those services could not be co-ordinated under any other system. In a special article which was published in the Melbourne Herald on the 18th August, 1947, the present Minis ter for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) made the following statement : -
There is no reason Wily the Northern Territory should not, at this moment, be on the threshold of marked industrial development and absorption of a groat deal more population. This is my opinion on return from some thousands of miles of travel around the Territory, but there arc certain pre-requisites. The first is a Commonwealth Minister for the Northern Territory, so that decisions can be made by people who are not also loaded with a multitude of other duties.
I trust that those three gentlemen will have the courage of their convictions should a reshuffle of the Cabinet be undertaken. A retrograde step has been taken by the appointment of the new Minister for the Interior j who is even further removed from the activities of the Northern Territory than any of his predecessors. It is true that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) has been appointed Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior, but despite his undoubted administrative capacity, if the measure that was introduced by him in this House last week can be taken as an indication of the troubles that confront him in his own department, he has a mansized job ahead of him without having added to it responsibility for administering the Northern Territory in the absence of the Minister for the Interior in London. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will recall the words which I have read from that special article, in which he indicated that the first prerequisite to the development of the Northern Territory was the appointment of a special Minister for the Northern Territory. The Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior has announced that he will leave shortly for Darwin in order to investigate the problems of the Territory. I shall be pleased to see him go, but I remind him that the problems of the Territory have been investigated by several Ministers since it was acquired from South Australia. When he eventually hands over to the Minister for the Interior on his return from London, undoubtedly the old record will be played again. Is it any wonder that the people of the Territory are fed up with Commonwealth administration? They have repeatedly asked for the appointment of a special Minister, in order that such chopping and changing about in policy and administration may cease. All that this Government has to offer the residents of the Northern Territory is administration by a Minister who is stationed in London.
– I greatly regret that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has felt impelled to offer certain criticisms of the fact that the Resident ^Minister in London (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), has recently been appointed Minister for the Interior. I assure him that the fact that the newly appointed Minister for the Interior is resident in .London will in no way jeopardize the administration and development of the Northern Territory. The Minister who is acting for him (Mr. Anthony) is, as the honorable member has indicated, extraordinarily energetic and active and has already shown his interest in the Northern Territory by announcing that he will visit it within the next few days. I assure the people of the Northern Territory that the Government is well aware of their problems. What is of more importance to them than the holder of the portfolio of Minister for the Interior is the policy which the Government has adopted for the development of that area. I assure them that their interests will in no way be jeopardized by the -recent change in the allotment of portfolios. As other Ministers undoubtedly realize, it is of great advantage to the Minister for the Interior to have associated with him in Cabinet other Ministers who have also exercised control over the administration of the Northern Territory. In such circumstances submissions made to the Cabinet on matters affecting the Northern Territory receive much closer and more sympathetic consideration than would otherwise be the case. I assure the people of the Northern Territory that in deciding to re-allot certain portfolios in the Ministry the Prime Minister has not taken a retrograde step as far as their interests are concerned. It is true that for the time being the Minister for the Interior will continue to reside outside Australia. That, however, is only a temporary arrangement. In the not distant future he will return from London and assume personal control of the Northern Territory. In the interim another Ministerwill have gained experience which willbe of great benefit to the Cabinet and to the people of the territory alike. I regret that criticism has been made of a decision of the Government which I believe to be quite proper before experience hasbeen gained of its efficacy or otherwise. Undoubtedly within the next few months the honorable member for the Northern/ Territory will compliment the Minister and the Government on the excellent results of their administration of the Northern Territory.
– I support the protest of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) in relation to the appointment of the Resident Minister in London as Minister in charge of the Northern Territory. I have visited the territory and have been struck by its enormous potentialities. Irrespective of what previous governments may have done, this Government should have appointed a special Minister for the Northern Territory instead of leaving its administration to a gentleman who is now stationed in London and who is reported to spend a great deal of his time drinking cocktails. How can such a Minister have any idea of the requirements of the Northern Territory? That area has enormous potentialities for the production of peanuts, tobacco and cotton, for which it has proved most suitable, and its present production of beef could be increased ten times. However, the development of the territory and its rich resources is dependent upon the interest of.the Government in the matter. If the Government were really interested, it would undoubtedly allocate the responsibility for the Northern Territory to one of its members as a full-time portfolio. Another important matter involved in the development of the Northern Territory is the defence of our coast-line.
– But the honorable member is not interested in defence.
– I am very interested in the defence of Australia, and I realize that the unoccupied coast-line of northern Australia would permit enemy troops to be landed there without the slightest impediment.
During the prolonged absence of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is 12,000 miles away, the Government has decided to place the territory under the administration of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who is not capable even of presenting facts correctly. My justification for making that very serious statement is that the Minister alleged in the House to-night that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) did not speak for the Australian Labour party when he raised a certain matter a little while ago. The assertion made by the Minister is not correct. I realize that I should be ruled out of order if I said that the honorable gentleman had told a deliberate lie, so I merely say that I resent the statement made by him. The fact is that the honorable gentleman had the unanimous support of the Opposition, obtained at a meeting of caucus, to raise the matter, and everything that he said was true. I will not allow honorable members opposite to impute unfair motives to the honorable member for Melbourne, who has one of the greatest minds in the Australian Labour party. The honorable gentleman not only possesses the complete confidence of the Parliamentary Labour party, but is also revered in all sections of the Labour movement as a man of complete sincerity and as one who possesses a thorough understanding of the principles, policies and ideals of the Australian Labour party. He is clever enough to be able to detect people who are using public funds wrongly, and, in some instances, almost criminally-
– Order ! Is the honorable member inferring that any member of the House has been guilty of such conduct?
– If he is making such an imputation I demand a withdrawal of it.
– I can assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I do not make such an imputation against any honorable member. All I say of the honorable member for Melbourne is that his brains and shrewdness often enable him to detect malpractices on the part of people which other honorable members on this side of the chamber cannot detect. I repeat that I regard him as one of the greatest brains which the Australian Labour party has ever had.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Aluminium Industry Act - Australian Aluminium Production Commission - Fifth Annual Report, for year 1949-50.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment Certificate - M. M. Bourke.
Communist Party Dissolution Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1950,No. 67.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Postal purposes -
Campbell Town, Tasmania.
Dungowan, New South Wales.
Repatriation Commission purposes -
Perth, Western Australia.
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister forFuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : - 1 and 2. Australian black coal production 1939-
All this coal was underground except 43,000 tons from an open-cut in Queensland.
Some figures in this table are partially estimated and subject to revision.
s. - On the 12th October the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked me a question with regard to the importation of coal from India and South Africa. In reply to the honorable member, I would advise that the Commonwealth Government in April last authorized the acceptance of tenders for the supply of 500,000 tons of coal from South Africa at a basic price of £5 16s. 6d. a ton c.i.f.e. and 480,000 tons from India at a basic price of £5 l1s.7d. a ton c.i.f.e. The contracts provide for certain variations in freight rates and do not include unloading charges. Freight rates and unloading charges may vary on each vessel, and it is not possible to determine accurately the ultimate cost to the Commonwealth at this stage. It may bo stated, however, that the approximate cost on wharf of overseas coal ordered on Commonwealth account is at present £6 5s. a ton. At the time the Commonwealth contracts were finalized there still remained a balance of coal to be delivered from overseas on State contracts entered into earlier and for the purposes of the Commonwealth scheme it was decided to regard as Commonwealth coal the first 280,000 tons of Indian coal and the first 200,000 tons of South African coal arriving in Victoria after the 1st July. Having regard to this proviso, the quantity of coal from overseas on Commonwealth account yet to arrive is816,000 tons. For the reasons outlined above it is not possible to determine accurately at this stage the amount of subsidy which will be paid to the States of Victoria and South Australia in respect of coal imported from overseas on Commonwealth account. Furthermore the cost of New South Wales coal varies from month to month, and this affects the subsidy calculations. Based on present costs the approximate subsidy payment to the States will be £2 10s. to £2 15s. a ton. The Government has not yet given consideration to the question of placing further orders for coal overseas, but I can assure the honorable member that if and when the matter arises, careful consideration will again be given to the availability of coal from all Australian sources of supply. As has been indicated on previous occasions, the Government regards the importation of coal into Australia as a temporary measure. At the time the imports were arranged the Victorian and South Australian Governments were in the process of testing Callide coal. Since then, the Victorian and Queensland Governments have been entering into negotiations for the supply of coal to Victoria from Callide. So far, very little coal from that source has been delivered to Victoria. The Government is anxious to take all practicable steps to increase the quantity of coal produced in Australia. It has agreed with the Government of Queensland to participate in a joint committee of inquiry on matters relating to Callide.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1.Prices quoted forimported houses vary widely. On the basis of prices for tenders already accepted by theCommonwealth and some States, the first part of the question is not in accordance with the facts. One of the problems in connexion with the use of locally made prefabricated houses is the inabilityof a number of manufacturers to supply labour for erection. The policy of importing houses with labour to erect them is designed tohave materials already in short supply in Australia available Tor private users and to enable them to carry on housing and building with the available Australian building tradesmen.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 to 4. I understand that there isa scheme of the kind referred to, but the arrangement between the subscribers to the scheme and the medical practitioners in the district is one solely for the parties concerned. I feel that there need he no apprehension that any workman or any member of his family will be left without medical attention under anycircumstances in which it becomes necessary.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 October 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501031_reps_19_210/>.