19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– On Thursday last the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) asked me for “ a proper interpretation of a paragraph “ in May’s Parliamentary Practice, on page115, “ because it may affect privilege indirectly in the future “. He added later that the time had now arisen when that matter was before the House in one instance and might later arise in connexion with other instances. I have examined the paragraph in May, fourteenth edition, on page 115. It reads -
On 22 June, 1858, the House of Commons resolved, “ That it is contrary to the usage and derogatory to the dignity of this House that any of its members should bring forward, promote or advocate in this House any proceeding or measure in which he may have acted or been concerned for or in consideration of any pecuniary fee or reward “.
This resolution has been held not to preclude a Member who has been concerned in a criminal case which has been decided from taking part in a debate relating to the case.
I have read the debate in the House of Commons upon which the resolution was founded. It appears that barrister members of the Commons had acted for certain Indian princes and others to secure redress of grievances by act of parliament. The kernel of the case for the resolution appears to me to rest on a line of conduct followed by the Lord Chancellor of that day. I quote from column181 of the Commons Hansard of the 22nd June, 1858-
It was well known that it had been the practice of the present Lord Chancellor while at the bar never to take part in any proceedings in that House in which he was professionally concerned out of it, and on the other hand, never to act as an advocate out of the House in any case in which he had been previously concerned within its walls.
The adoption of the resolution was opposed by the Attorney-General and the
Solicitor-General, but was carried on division by 210 votes to 27. The resolution referred to by the honorable member was, on the 1st January, 1901, and still is part of the practice and usage of the United Kingdom House of Commons. I therefore rule that under section 49 of the Constitution and Standing Order1 of this House, it is binding upon all members excepting the Attorney-General when appearing in court on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– by leave - I desire some clarification of the matter that you have just dealt with, Mr. Speaker, in respect of the quotation from May. I have a copy of the quotation that you have read to the House in connexion with the resolution of the House of Commons on the 22nd June, 1858, which reads -
That it is contrary to the usage and derogatory to the dignity of this House that any of its members should bring, forward, promote or advocate in this House-
I emphasize the words “ bring forward, promote or advocate in this House” - any proceeding or measure in which he may have acted or been concerned for or in consideration of any pecuniary fee or reward.
I ask you whether there is anyevidence that any member of this House has at any time acted in that way - that is, that he has brought forward, promoted or advocated - any proceeding or measure in which he may have acted or been concerned for or in consideration of any pecuniary fee or reward.
I consider that the question was intended to refer to the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). I do not propose to argue that matter, but I wish to explain that the right honorable member for Barton has neither brought forward, promoted nor advocated any proceeding in this House in which he had previously been acting as counsel or in connexion with which he had received previously any pecuniary fee or reward. My remarks are designed to make it clear to the House that the House of Commons resolution refers to proceedings in the House that are directly associated with a matter in which a member of the House has acted privately in the way stated in the resolution, and does not relate to purely similar matters in which a member might have engaged some years before the proceedings in the House occurred or in which he may be likely to act at some future time.
Leave - Indulgence of the House - Personal Explanations.
– I think that I should clear up some misconception which appears to exist in the minds of some honorable members in regard to the asking of leave to do certain things and the indulgence of the House accorded to members to make personal explanations. Leave of the House must be given unanimously, and is asked for to do something not provided for by standing orders, such as making certain statements by Ministers or members, or to do immediately something which standing orders say shall be done on a future day. For ‘ instance, Standing Order 214 provides that, after the first reading of a bill, a future day shall be appointed for the second reading; Standing Order 235 makes a similar provision for the third reading whenever the House finally adopts the report of the committee of the whole House. These stages are passed at once if leave is given; or, if leave is not granted, standing orders may be suspended by vote of the House. When an honorable member rises to make a personal explanation he avails himself of an indulgence already provided for under Standing Orders 63 and 65. Indulgence to sick or infirm members is provided for under Standing Order 59 to enable them to address the House sitting instead of standing. In all such cases the Speaker is the authority to decide whether the indulgence of the House can be properly, granted. This is in accord with my reading” of May’s Parliamentary Practice, page 353, on ‘personal explanations. It is stated in the” relevant paragraph on that page that the House is usually indulgent. The only instance of refusal - and that by the Speaker, not by the House - recorded there is one where a member wished to make a personal explanation on behalf of a person not a member of the House of Commons, although such explanations have been sometimes permitted. I agree that recourse to personal explanations should be sparingly used, but, if the indulgence of the House depended upon the unanimous consent of the House, as in the case of the granting of leave, an honorable member might misrepresent another honorable member either absent or present, and then by the use of his own veto, prevent the wronged member from answering the misrepresentation.
My predecessor,’ Mr. Speaker Rosevear, ruled that a member had a right to make a persona] explanation without. leave. I refer to two recent instances, one on the 10th October, 1947, and the other on the 11th June, 194S. On the 10th October, 1947, the then honorable member for Watson attempted to make a personal explanation and Mr. Speaker Rosevear ruled in his favour. The Hansard report of the occasion reads as follows: -
Mi-. White. - Is leave granted?
– In view of the interjection by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) I again point out that 1 have ruled that whenever an honorable member is attacked outside the House he has a right to make a personal explanation. That applies to honorable members of all parties.
The honorable member for Eden-Mona.ro,- on the 11th June, 1948, sought to make a personal explanation. The Ilansard report on that occasion read as follows : -
– Is it not necessary that the approval of the House must be obtained before the honorable member can continue in this manner?
– Is the honorable member for Balaclava an authority on the Standing Orders ? Perhaps he may ‘be better off if he sticks to legal matters.
– I do not know about that!
– I have ruled before in this House that when honorable members are attacked outside the Parliament, they have the right to reply in the House.
My conduct has been, and will be in the future, to grant to an honorable member claiming to have been misrepresented the indulgence prescribed in the Standing Orders to defend his actions or reputation, but such indulgence is granted solely for self-defence. It must not be used for counter-attack.
authority of Ms. SPEAKER OVER
– On Friday last it was proposed that the Speaker has power to control the actions of honorable members outside this building; to be precise, it was said that I had power to prevent the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) from making a certain statement outside this building. I have examined the Unlawful Assemblies Ordinance of 1937. If the honorable member for Mackellar contravened the provisions of that ordinance the police had power to arrest him without warrant. The power of the President, the Speaker and the Attorney-General under the ordinance is confined to authorizing in writing officers other than police officers to arrest without warrant persons contravening the terms of the Unlawful Assemblies Ordinance. None of them has any other authority. The power to arrest without warrant should be used sparingly and honorable members have claims to privilege in such circumstances.
Last year, in cases involving the honorable member for Wilmot and the honorable member for East . Sydney, honorable members on the Opposition front bench contended that the Speaker’s authority was limited to the area within the four walls of this chamber. Last Friday it was contended that I could, and should, exercise authority over ari honorable member outside the building itself. , The area under the Speaker’s authority does not contract or expand to suit the changing needs or opinions of honorable members. Last year the President and I jointly prohibited the entry into Parliament House of a body of visiting Communists. We did so by the use of the Australian Capital Territory police. I have complete confidence in the ability of the police to handle any unlawful assembly. In any case, the Speaker has no power whatever to prevent such things, or to prosecute offenders.
My own conception of the extent of the Speaker’s authority is, and always has been, that such authority ends at the outer walls of this building. If honorable members choose to go outside this House and to use the reputations of other honorable members as targets for their verbal artillery, it is not my responsibility to attempt to restrain them or to assess the damage done to either target or weapon.
– I am not clear in my mind about this matter, Mr. Speaker, and I ask for leave of the House for a few minutes to justify the point that I raised for your consideration.
-Is leave granted?
Government SUPPORTERS. - No.
– Leave is not granted.
– The Prime Minister said “ Yes “, and it is usual for the Chair to look to the Leader of the Government or the Leader of the Opposition in regard to these matters. The Prime Minister definitely said “Yes”.
– Any honorable member may refuse leave. The honorable gentleman himself ruled in that way when he was Speaker.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to the fact that Public Service determination No. 87 of 1950, delivered in December, 1950, which granted wage increases to postal workers in the low wage groups, and made the increases awarded retrospective to the 29th December, 1949, has not yet been implemented in relation to postal employees, who have not yet been paid the increases? Is he aware that this delay is causing considerable discontent among employees? Will he investigate this serious complaint with a view to instructing those responsible for withholding the wage increases to make payment without further delay?
– I shall examine the matter raised by the honorable gentleman and let him have an .answer to his question.
– Has the Prime Minister any information to give to the House regarding the judgment announced by the High Court last Friday in relation to the Communist Party Dissolution Act?
– That matter is being closely investigated by various people, including myself. I propose to make a statement about it to the House this evening.
– I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that age and invalid pensioners are now receiving less than 30 per cent, of the basic wage, or 6.65 per cent, less than was the case when the pensions were increased by the Labour Government in 1948, will the Government give urgent consideration to the matter of again, increasing pensions to at least the standard that prevailed in that year ? As the means test in 1948 permitted a couple in receipt of the age pension to receive £7 5s. a week when the basic wage was £5 16s. a week, will the Government amend the means test provision as a matter of urgency with a view to restoring the principle that applied in 1948. The present arrangement pegs the income of such a couple to a level that is 13s. a week less than the basic wage in New South Wales?
– The amounts and conditions of social services payments are constantly under the attention of the Minister for Social Services and the Treasury. Whenever any decision is made to effect a change, an announcement is promptly made.
– My. question is directed to the Prime Minister. Towards the end of last year on two occasions I asked whether the Government intended to increase the pensions being paid to widows whose husbands had been killed while they were working for the Civil Constructional Corps during the war. In answer to those questions I was informed that the matter was receiving consideration. Can the Prime Minister inform me when a decision is likely to be reached on this matter?
– I cannot; but I shall discuss the matter with the Treasurer to find out what progress has been made in its consideration.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that most doctors are refusing to recognize the Government’s cards which entitle pensioners to receive medical benefits? Has the Government a specific agreement with doctors or with the British Medical Association, and is any penalty prescribed for doctors who refuse to co-operate under the scheme?
– All registered doctors in Australia were invited to participate in the scheme for the treatment of pensioners. Special concessional conditions were offered by the British Medical Association, which are also available to the other doctors. Approximately one-half of the doctors who are in general practice in Australia have volunteered, and all of them are serving the pensioners at the present time.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that many pensioners who are not members of lodges are calling on dispensers in the metropolitan area of Sydney and requesting the supply of free medicine? Will the Minister advise the House whether this benefit is yet available to pensioners? If it is available, where will they obtain their medicines and who ‘ will pay for them ? Will the right honorable gentleman also give a general outline of the scheme to the Parliament ?
– I announced last week the position in relation to the supply to pensioners of -drugs in addition to the life-saving drugs. The pensioners pharmacopoeia is being finally drafted in Sydney now and it is hoped that, as soon as the necessary regulations can be promulgated, the drugs will be made available at every chemist’s shop throughout Australia upon the presentation of the prescription of a doctor to whom the pensioner concerned has presented his entitlement card.
– I ask the Minister for Health what proportion of doctors is cooperating in the Government’s scheme to provide medical benefits to invalid and old-age pensioners?
– In reply to an earlier question, I stated that almost half of the doctors in general practice are co-operating in that scheme.
– I ask the Minister for Health to make immediate inquiries regarding the stocks of insulin in South Australia, with a view to ensuring that sufficient supplies are made available for diabetics. The position as outlined to me regarding supplies is that they are rapidly reaching the stage at which insulin will not be readily available, and that in some instances it is necessary now for diabetics, in order to get this vital drug, to change from one brand of insulin to another. The Minister knows that such a change is not in the best interests of the patient and can be attended by disastrous results, particularly when diabetic sufferers are living and working in country areas. Will the Minister give this matter his- urgent attention?
– Throughout the world insulin is in short supply. Insulin is made from the pancreas of certain animals, and it has been found that there are not enough of such pancreatic glands available to make all the insulin required. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories supply a great deal of the insulin used in Australia,, and have been working overtime in an attempt to obtain the mari, mum amount of raw material.. In addition to manufacture by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, supplies of insulin- are imported, but such imports are limited by the amount of raw material available. Everything, is being done to ensure that the insulin available will, be allocated’ to people on the fairest possible basis.
– If, as the Minister for Health has suggested, the shortage of insulin is fairly serious, will he consider arranging priority to- be given for the use of that, drug for the purposes that the honorable member for Lyne has mentioned rather than for other purposes for which it is being used at present?
– I think that priority is> already given in the manner that the honorable member has SuKgested I may say that the’ Common^ wealth Serum Laboratories has been able to import substantial quantities- of raw materials from New Zealand to augment the quantities available in this country for the manufacture of insulin.
– Will .the Minister for Labour and National Service consider granting long-service leave to temporary employees of the Public Service? By way of explanation may I say that at the present time if temporary employees are discharged as medically unfit or are retired at the age of 65 years, and have in either case eight years service, they receive benefits of long-service leave. If an employee leaves the service voluntarily or if his position is abolished or his services terminated by the department, then irrespective of his years of service he is credited with no long-service- leave.
– I shall examine the matter that the honorable member has now brought under notice.
– -Oan the Minister for National Development say whether the recent decision of the High Court on the Communist Party Dissolution Act will, as far as it relates, to the use of the defence power, jeopardize government projects that are founded either wholly or partially upon the defence power, notably the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme ?
Mi-. CASEY. - I do not believe that the decision of the High Court on the Communist Party Dissolution Act will have the effect to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but I shall cause inquiries to be made into the matter by the appropriate1 government department.
– Last week, the Minister for Health made a statement to the House about the scarcity of the new drug, cortisone. Will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the question of making cortisone available free of charge in cases where patients who need it cannot afford to- purchase it? I know a; man whose income is only £2’ 5s; a’ week and, although he requires- treatment with cortisone, he cannot afford! to- buy the drug.
– When it has been established that cortisone can be used without injury to patients it is the intention of the Government to place the drug on the free list. I am afraid that nothing can be done to comply with the honorable gentleman’s request until, first, more cortisone is available, and secondly, it has been proved beyond doubt by the use of that which is available, that it can be administered to patients without risk.
– Will the Minister acting for .the Minister for the Interior advise me of the Government’s plans for compensating people who are living in and/or own houses that are threatened by extensions of the Kingsford-Smith aerodrome at Mascot, a portion of which is in the St. George electorate?
– Any person whose house or property is acquired by the Commonwealth is entitled to full and just compensation. Failing agreement between the owner of the house and the valuers of the Commonwealth department concerned, the amount of the compensation is assessed by a valuation court. The persons to whom the honorable gentleman has referred will be fully compensated.
– Oan the Treasurer inform me of the total value of the bonus shares that have been issued by companies during the last fifteen months in order to hide the exorbitant profits that they have made?
– That question has already been directed to me by letter. The inquirer was informed that it was impossible to give the information that he sought. The Commonwealth has no control over companies in the States. That is a matter that comes within the jurisdiction of State legislatures and administrations. The Government has no means of obtaining the information for which the honorable gentleman has asked.
– In view of the importance of tin for defence purposes as well as for industrial purposes, will the Minister for Supply say what steps have been taken by the Commonwealth to accumulate stocks of tin and also to develop Australian tin resources? Is the Minister aware of the potentialities of certain areas of north-east Tasmania and Flinders Island in relation to tin production? If not, will he undertake to have a comprehensive survey made of those areas with a view to increasing the production of tin in Australia?
– With regard to the potentialities of Tasmania in relation to tin, I am aware that there is a tin mine at Dorset, in the electorate represented by the honorable gentleman. That mine and I think several others in Tasmania are being operated by the Department of Supply as defence projects. Australia is short of tin. The main production of tin is on the Atherton Tableland and various other places. In addition, as I have said, some small tin projects are being operated by the Department of Supply. We produce approximately 2,000 tons of tin a year and our annual consumption is approximately 2,500 tons, which rises in time of war to over 3,000 tons. The Government is attempting to stimulate tin production, and is giving consideration to the question of granting taxation concessions to achieve that objective. The Government has also re-established the equalization pool which was in operation some years ago and I think that the local price of tin has been advanced to about £850 a ton. The overseas price is £1,800 or £1,900 a ton, but the difference is made up from the equalization pool. The Government has been troubled by the tin situation and is doing what it can to increase production. It has also given consideration to the accumulation of strategic resources. I use that expression as distinct from the jargon word “ stockpiling “, of which I do not approve.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether any shipments of food or other commodities have yet been made under what is commonly known as the Spender plan for the assistance of Asian countries? What quantity and type of foodstuffs and commodities are to be shipped under this plan during the next five years? Have plans been prepared to increase the production of those commodities so that the implementation of the plan will not accentuate existing shortages and add to the inflationary spiral?
– I think that the honorable member for East Sydney must be under some misconception about the nature of the economic plan which arose out of the ‘Colombo talks. This- plan does not involve the mere shipment of foodstuffs or any other commodity. It is based on the need for the development of the different countries, primarily by means of projects which will increase their standard of living by enabling them to increase their production of foodstuffs and other necessaries. Recently a discussion was concluded at Colombo at which the representatives of the various governments examined the needs of Asian countries. I am not in a. position to make a complete statement concerning the result of those talks at the moment, but shall endeavour to do so before the end of the week, or when Parliament resumes.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House of the present position regarding the supply of nickel anodes in Australia? Has it been correctly reported that certain restrictions are in force, or are to be put into force, in England and America regarding the export of nickel? If so, what are those restrictions? Has the Government a stockpile of nickel anodes for defence requirements? If it has not, what does it propose to do in order to procure this vital requirement for jet engines?
– I have been informed recently that the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America have placed restrictions on the exportation or use of nickel in various forms. The United States Government has imposed a prohibition in relation to about 400 items, including plate for motor car chassis. The fact is that nickel is in short supply throughout the world, and Australia, in common with other countries, is in trouble on that account. The Government has given consideration to this matter, but I do not wish to say any more at present than that the honorable member may be assured that care will be taken to ensure that Australia shall have adequate supplies of nickel if and when they are required. Another point which arises from the question, and which the honorable member probably had in mind, is that one of the defence factories of the Department of Supply manufactures chromium sheet in one form or another for sale to private industry. The Government has been compelled recently to give notice .to private buyers that in future they must greatly restrict their orders for nickel alloy sheeting because of the essential need for nickel for defence purposes, especially for aircraft production.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health concerning the regulation which the Government issued recently in relation to the use of certain drugs that are in short supply. The question deals particularly with the method by which those drugs may be obtained. 1 understand that the Deputy Director of Health in each State must approve of a prescription by a doctor before such drugs can be issued. That arrangement may be satisfactory for persons who reside near the . office of the Deputy Director of Health in each State, but it causes undue delay, and can lead to unsatisfactory results for patients, in country areas. Can the Minister advise the House whether some more prompt method of enabling such drugs to be made available in country districts can be devised ?
– Certain drugs are in short supply in Australia at present. Many of these are obtained from dollar sources. The result is that there are not sufficient stocks of them in th° country to enable them to be used indiscriminately. Many of the drugs are very potent, but, for some diseases, certain other drugs’ which are in full supply are effective. Therefore, in order to ensure that there shall be no shortage in respect of patients who need specific scarce drugs, the Government has made an arrangement with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, under which there is a specialist body of four doctors in each State which gives advice concerning the diseases for which those rare drugs should be used. For the purpose of facilitating communication with those doctors, the Deputy Director of Health in each State has been appointed to that body. The situation in country districts has been discussed, and it is considered that the position will be dealt with satisfactorily if the drugs that are in short supply are prescribed by doctors only after consultation with fellow practitioners in .country towns.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact that, if the new demand of the major distributing oil companies for an increase of the price of petrol is met, the retail price of petrol at seaboard capitals in Australia will be 3s. 4d. a gallon? If so, how could this price be reconciled with the statement that was officially made by the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport that he is able to import petrol in bulk at ls. 3d. a gallon at seaboard capitals and that, if the exchange rate was at par, the import price at seaboard capitals could be reduced to ls. ? Is it also true that every increase by Id. a gallon of the retail price of petrol exacts a minimum toll of £2,250,000 a year from the already heavily taxed motoring public? Is it’ not possible that the recent assassination of the Premier of Persia may lead to a change of oil policy in that country, which would have tremendous repercussions against oil distributing companies and would vitally affect the world-wide distribution of this important commodity and thus have a major effect on the Australian economy?
– The only matter . to which the honorable gentleman has referred that is within my knowledge is the assassination of the Premier of Persia. In fact even that is hearsay knowledge. The other matters fall within the province of the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport. I shall have the matter referred to him and will supply the honorable member with an answer.
– In view of the increasing importance of petroleum to Australia, will the Minister for National Development make a statement to .the House indicating the stage that has been reached in the search for oil and the prospects of the discovery of oil accumulations in Australia and the territories under the Government’s control ? In such a statement will he endeavour to cover .the work that has been done in this field by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and also by non-governmental organizations ?
– I shall be glad, as early as practicable, to make a statement of the kind that the honorable member has mentioned.
– In view of the outstanding work that is rendered by the Boy Scouts Association in training the youths of Australia, will the Treasurer give consideration to assisting the association by allowing donations made to that body to be treated as deductions for income tax purposes ?
– I shall be very pleased to consider the merits of the suggestion that is embodied in the honorable member’s question.
– In view of the fact that estates of servicemen who were killed in both world wars were exempt from death duties, will the Treasurer have investigations made with a view to providing similar relief in respect of estates of servicemen who are killed in the Korean war?
– If the honorable member will supply me with particulars of any case that’ he has in mind I shall examine the matter and advise him in due course- of the general principles that are applied.
– My question to the Minister .acting for the Minister for the Interior is prompted by contention which has arisen concerning the War Service Land Settlement Agreement between the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales. What is the status of the Australian Government under the terms of that agreement?
– The Government of New South Wales is acquiring areas of land for the .settlement of ex-servicemen
That Government provides all of the funds for the acquisitions and does not consult this Government in respect of the sum to be paid in any instance. This Government is consulted only in relation to the suitability or otherwise of holdings. Our obligations under the agreement are to provide sustenance for each settler for the first twelve months, to grant certain remissions of interest and to share also in any losses which may be entailed. I point out that the acquisition of land by the Government of New South Wales on terms which are considered to be unjust is effected without the support of this Government.
– I wish to direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. On the 7 th December last a question was asked of the Treasurer with respect to the payment of parliamentary officers for overtime work. The Treasurer then stated that satisfactory arrangements had been made and that payment for overtime would be made retrospectively. I have since discussed the matter with the right honorable gentleman and he has assured me that the matter now rests with you, Mr. Speaker, and also, I assume, with the President of the Senate. Will you state exactly what has happened in relation to the proposal to pay parliamentary officers for overtime work?
-I may say that there was some little difficulty and delay in the Attorney-General’s Department in the drafting of the necessary regulation, but Mr. President and I signed that regulation this morning and it is now operating.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether it is a fact that the warning that was given in many questions asked on the subject by honorable members regarding the storage of ready-cut homes from abroad has proved to be warranted? Is it a fact that some of these homes that have already been erected are being used not to house human beings but to store equipment and materials for other homes?
– I have heard of no complaint or disability of the kind that the honorable member has mentioned.
– Does the Minister say that no ground for suich complaints exists ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain full particulars, most of which, of course, will have to come from the State governments, and I shall advise the honorable member as early as I can.
– I am referring to the Australian Government’s activities.
– If the honorable gentleman has any particular instances in mind, he would help me in my survey by advising me of them.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing state the countries of origin _ of the prefabricated houses that are being imported into this country and the current prices being paid for them? Does the right honorable gentleman propose to expand the basis of these contracts if other suitable sources of supply of prefabricated houses can be found outside those now being exploited?
– The greatest single source of supply of prefabricated houses that are being imported by the Australian Government and the State Governments is Great Britain. Houses are also being imported from France, Italy, Western Germany, Scandinavian countries and Austria. The total number of houses likely to reach Australia from all overseas sources in 1951 is, subject probably to tha availability of shipping, about 10,500, of which number my department expects that more than 8,000 will actually be erected during this year. There is at present no indication of any shortage of supply of prefabricated houses from overseas. I consider that shipping is the only factor in sight that might limit an extension of the system of importing houses into Australia.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Works and Housing with a reminder to him that some months ago I asked him whether proper supervision was being exercised in Europe over the wood components of prefabricated houses to be sent to Australia. I said that otherwise it was quite possible that a new wood bug might be introduced into this country. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is a fact that packing cases in which prefabricated houses have been brought to Australia have had to be destroyed by burning immediately on their arrival because they were infested by borers and other destructive agents? Is it also a fact that these borers, which have been so prolific and destructive in the packing cases, have found their way into the component parts of the homes that were packed in the cases ?
– I have heard nothing of the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred, and I ask him to supply me with any specific particulars that he may have, to aid me in the investigation that I shall put in hand in relation to the matter.
– By way of preface to a question that I address to the Minister for Supply, I point out that in the United States of America, because of the shortage of tin, tinless cans have now been developed. Tinless solders and plastic cements are being used in the manufacture of containers and it is considered that that country is on the threshhold of a new era in this sphere. In view of the serious shortage in Australia of tin, which is now selling at over £1,000 a ton, and also having regard to the fact that in “Western Australia there exists a major deposit of chromide ore which can be mined at a cost of a few pounds a ton, will the Minister request the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to investigate the possibility of having food and other containers chromium-plated instead of tinplated ?
– ‘Only to-day I had a conference with the representatives ot the tinplate-using industries. I take it that when the honorable member speaks of tin and tinless cans he has in mind the fact that tin is used in the plating of sheets which are known as tinplate. The use of substitute containers is under consideration at present. I am aware in r general way of developments in the United States of America in this respect.
The honorable member may rest assured that the Australian Government will do all it can to explore and exploit the possibility that he mentions because we are likely in the future to experience a serious shortage of tin and tinplate in this country and any adequate subsidies will be welcome, indeed.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, as a preliminary to introducing anti-monopoly legislation, the British Government appointed a Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission in January, 1949, to investigate industries that are alleged to engage in monopolistic practices ? Is he aware that that commission published its first report on the 14th December last? If his answer to those two questions is in the affirmative will he give immediate consideration to the setting-up of a commission in Australia for the purpose of examining the activities of the monopolistic trusts and combines that have been exploiting the Australian people so successfully since the present Government took office fifteen months ago? If he is not prepared to follow such a course, will he state the reasons for his refusal to do so?
– The answer to the first two questions that the honorable member has asked is, unfortunately, ‘ No “. I shall endeavour to ascertain the facts in relation to the appointment of the commission of inquiry to which he has referred.
– Can the Minister for National Development indicate on broad general lines to what degree we have progressed with the orders, that have been placed under the dollar loan programme?
– I have not had any precise figures made available to me within the last few days relating to the subject that the honorable member has mentioned ; but I should be very surprised if the whole of the dollar loan had not now been absorbed.
– Last week 1 addressed a question to the Prime Minister in relation to a strike that was taking place among persons who control the supply of hides in this country which was having the effect of preventing hides from reaching the market pending a prospective decision of the High Court. Has the right honorable gentleman investigated that matter? Does he appreciate the fact- that the withholding of bides from the market in such circumstances is somewhat similar to the withholding by workers of their labour from the market? Does he propose to take any action to break this strike against the community by those persons who control this very commodity which is very necessary for the manufacture of not only footwear but also military equipment ?
– The matter that the honorable member has raised does not come within my department. I shall find out from the appropriate Minister what the position is and ask him to furnish a reply to the honorable member.
– In directing a question to the Prime Minister I state by way of explanation that I have received a number of complaints from returned servicemen’s organizations in my electorate regarding changes that have recently been made at the Legal Service Bureau in Sydney. Is it a fact that the services of the Legal Service Bureau in that city have recently been considerably curtailed? If so, is it the intention of the Government ultimately to eliminate the services rendered bv that bureau? If not, will the Prime Minister explain the reasons for the changes that have been made?
– Within the last two or three days the Attorney-General has made a full statement on the matters to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I shall ensure that the honorable member receives a copy of it.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen the report that appeared in certain English and Aus-‘ tralian newspapers to the effect that two English organizations, the Women’s Group of Public Welfare and the National Council of Social Services, which claimed to have conducted research for two years into child immigration, ‘believe that British children who have been taken overseas are being exploited at cheap labour? As this report has been given wide publicity in 1’he London Times, is the Minister prepared to deny that this allegation applies to Australia, and if so, will he ensure that the widest publicity is given to his denial in the English press, so that child migration to this country will not be affected ?
– I am in a position to deny that statement. I. propose later, with the concurrence of the House, to make a detailed statement upon this matter. Such a statement is not possible at question time.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Immigration whether the present Australian teachers at immigrant holding centres are to be replaced by immigrant teachers? In view of the recent press publicity alleging that new Australians will not learn English I ask whether it is compulsory for all immigrant men and women to attend classes in the English language? If this is not so, what steps has the Minister taken to ensure that all immigrants are encouraged to attend such classes?
– I do not think that it is true or fair to state that the majority of immigrants do not wish to learn English. On the contrary, I consider that most of them make quite good efforts to learn the language. I do not think that it is fully appreciated how difficult it is for people who have not previously learnt English to acquire a knowledge of the language in a short time. I am not aware that new Australian teachers have replaced Australian teachers who were appointed by the Commonwealth Office of Education which acts, in this respect, for the Department of Immigration. Every encouragement is given to immigrants to learn the English language from the time of their selection in Europe. Tuition is given on the ship which brings them to Australia and at the reception centres in this country. The Government cannot exercise any compulsion, but, by various means, it seeks to point out the advantage of learning the language and tries to persuade immigrants to do so.
Mr. HOLT (Higgins-Minister . .. . I …. for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration). - by leave - I wish to make a short statement to the House on immigration matters that have been given widespread publicity recently in the press. At question time to-day the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) asked whether the Government had any reply to make to publicity that had appeared in the United Kingdom press about the exploitation of child immigrants. Press publicity has been given to reports by United Kingdom organizations named the Women’s Group of Public Welfare and the National Council of Social Service in regard to child migration. It appears that general charges are made in the reports that British child immigrants are being exploited, without naming any specific- receiving country as the offenders. I want to. make it; clear to the House that there are no grounds for concern so far as Australia is concerned. No child migration organization or institution is permitted’ to introduce British children to Australia until it is first approved as being suitable in all respects by the United Kingdom and Australian Governments and the State- Government concerned. This approval is not given until full investigation of the accommodation facilities, &c.,. and the conditions under which the. children will be. brought up, is made by Australian and State Government officers,, and until the United Kingdom and Australian governments are satisfied that the organization or institution will conform to. all. requirements.
When the immigrant children arrive in Australia, they immediately come, under the provisions of the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act. The powers of the Minister for Immigration as legal guardian of the children are by delegation administered by the child wetfare authorities, in each State, who regularly visit institutions, where immigrant children are located. It will be observed, therefore,, that there is complete governmental supervision over child immigrants in Australia, and that it would be highly unlikely that, any of. them- would be exploited. It should be added that all child immigration organizations in Australia, such as Fairbridge Farm Schools, Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, and church organizations are fully alive to their responsibility in caring for British child immigrants,, and fully carry out their responsibilities in that respect. Child immigration organizations in Australia work closely with parent or counterpart organizations in the United Kingdom which provide the children for immigration to Australia. . All children must be finally approved by the Chief Migration Officer at Australia House, London, before being given assisted passsages. The matter of supplying the full background and history of a child would be a domestic one between the organization in the United Kingdom and the receiving organization in Australia. Children are retained in the institution until they reach school leaving age of fifteen or sixteen years unless they are proceeding to higher education, after which they are placed in either city or country employment approved by the State Child Welfare Department. The institution then normally keeps in touch with their juveniles for after-care purposes. In addition, until the. immigrant children are 21 years of age, the child welfare authorities, as delegates of the Minister for Immigration, exercise a supervision over their wellbeing. It may interest the- House to know that, the- number of child immigrants - i.e., under sixteen years - introduced by child immigration organizations in all States: each year since- 1947, have been -
The other matter which I wish to bring to the attention of the House is a reply, in the form of a report from one of the senior officers of the Department of Immigration, to publicity given to statements made yesterday at, a meeting of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council by Mr. J. R. Fraser: I have no personal knowledge of the matters that I shall bring under the notice of the House in this regard, and therefore I propose to quote in full the? report that has been prepared for the head’ of the Department of Immigration by Mr. Armstrong, the assistant secretary of the department. Mr. Armstrong is known to many honorable members as having been formerly the private secretary of my predecessor when he was Minister. Mr. Armstrong’s report, which I received just before coming into the House, reads as follows : -
In accordance with your instructions I made an inspection of the industrial areas at Kingston this morning accompanied by our Welfare Officer, Mr. Krippner.
The statements made by Mr. j. R. Fraser at yesterday’s meeting of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council refer particularly to that area.
My own observations and inquiries made from the local police, saw-mill owners and others thoroughly conversant with this locality revealed -
i ) That there are three migrant families involved.
One of these families is sharing a dwelling with Australians at Cavanagh’s saw-mill. These premises have been used to house employees at the mill for several years.
The second family has been residing for two years or more in a temporary dwelling erected near a saw-mill which the head of the family took over on completion of his two years work contract. The premises are erected on the property of a wellknown Canberra business man.
The third migrant family is living behind Grinham’s saw-mill in a dwelling of a temporary nature which it is understood was erected and rented to them by the same Canberra business man. They have been in occupation for at least twelve months. More than one person has commented on the remarkable cleanliness of this particular family.
As regards sanitary arrangements, it might be pointed out that the whole area is unsewered and these three families, like others living in this part of Canberra, are provided with a pan service.
There are a number of Australians occupying perhaps ten or more substandard dwellings in the industrial area of Kingston, including, old age pensioners.
No tents could be found.
On the general question of erection by migrants of sub-standard dwellings, the Minister soma time ago indicated that he was anxious to ensure that the problem was arrested before it assumed any proportions. At his. request, therefore, the Immigration Planning Council and Departmental officers examined the question and discussed it with representatives of the Council of Local Government Associations.
Following these discussions the Council of Local Government Associations has agreed that the enforcement of building standards should be uniformly applied to both Australians and migrants. All local authorities were being circulated by them to ensure that no permission was henceforth given migrants to erect sub-standard dwellings where similar permission was refused to Australians. As to those dwellings already erected local authorities were to see that such dwellings were demolished within a reasonable time unless the migrant erected some part of a. permanent structure complying with existing regulations.
The Council of Local Government Associations further recommended a number of possibilities whereby local authorities could assist migrants to obtain the necessary finance.
The question of permitting as a temporary measure erection of part houses colloquially known as “ back enders “ or “ front-enders “ is being considered also by the Council.
The Department of Immigration in its turn has undertaken to intensify its present publicity activities in its migrant centres and through its publications for the purpose of informing migrants of the need to comply fully with local building regulations.
It reflects considerable credit on both the migrants themselves and the local government authorities that after Australia has absorbed something in the vicinity of half a million migrants in the course of four years, this problem arises only in isolated areas and has been kept well under control.
I entirely concur in those concluding observations by Mr. Armstrong. I believe that it is a remarkable achievement f or the country as a whole that we have been able to absorb so successfully such a large number of new settlers, and that although some difficulties have arisen in particular areas, the good sense of the local authorities and the industry and thrift of the immigrants themselves have kept the problem well within manageable proportions.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Synchronous Motor-operated Electrical Time Switches.
The Government has adopted the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which does not involve any change in the rate of duty.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether the Government has taken any steps to compensate the dairying industry, under the guaranteed price plan, for the additional costs incurred by it as a result of the increase of the basic wage by ?1 a week? I point out that the guaranteed price plan gives the dairying industry only a very narrow margin of profit, and that if it is not compensated for the additional ?1 a week for labour costs under the basic wage award, the consequences will be serious and unfair for the whole industry.
– The position is that the added cost to the dairying industry, which may be, or is, the outcome of the increase of the basic wage, will normally be taken into account by the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee when it is making its annual cost-finding inquiry in May and June of this year, and will be reflected in the variation of the guaranteed price for the subsequent period. There has not been an award of an industrial tribunal allotting to the employees of the dairying industry the additional amount of ?1 a week, but I have no doubt that sheer competition for labour has transferred to. that industry the whole or a part of the additional costs. The position, which is not covered under the existing arrangement between the Commonwealth and the dairying industry, except at the end of an annual price period, was brought to my notice by a deputation representing the dairying industry several weeks ago. Members of that deputation asked me to request the Government to make an interim adjustment of the guaranteed price which would take that increase into account. I gave an undertaking to the deputation to bring that request before Cabinet for consideration. I carried out that undertaking, and Cabinet decided that the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee should he asked to investigate and report to the Government on the costs that might have been added to the industry as an outcome of the increase of the basic wage by ?1 a week. As soon ‘as I am in possession of the report of the committee, I shall again brins it before Cabinet, and I have no doubt that appropriate action will be taken, and that any increase which may be granted will be made applicable from the time such added costs incurred.
FORMAL Motion fob Adjournment.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The present serious position of the dairying, industry.
.. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
-Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– My object in submitting this motion is to focus the attention of the House on the present serious position of the dairying industry. The motion is not framed in a way hostile to the Government. There will be no attack upon the Government in the speech that I shall make. The position of the dairying industry, to-day is so crucial that the dairy farmer ought not to be used as a political football. The position of the industry is one which should have the sympathetic attention of all sections of this House. Therefore, when I point to the historical fact, which has been recognized by all the leaders of that industry, that during eight years of office, Labour governments under the leadership, first, of the late Mr. John Curtin, and then the right honorable member for. Macquarie (Mr. Chifley), made substantial improvements in its position, I merely do so in order to encourage the present Government to do similarly during its term of office. Under the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government, the dairying industry made great strides, but so dreadful had been the conditions in it that there was a very long way to go. I am satisfied that had the Chifley Labour Government remained in office it would have continued to show sympathy for the claims of the industry, and to give justice to it.
– That would have been a change.
– That is how the Labour party treated the dairying industry during the eight years it was in office.
Government members interjecting,
– I do not desire to make party political propaganda out of this matter. What I have said is exactly what is wanted from the present Government. I am sure that it is exactly what the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) wishes to do for the dairying industry. That is all that the industry asks. But it is not a mendicant seeking favours. The men who are engaged in it are not afraid of work. They work hard, and their work is productive They accept the inevitable disadvantages of their seven-day-a-week job. The dairying areas which I represent are similar to other dairying areas represented by various Government supporters, all of whom, I hope, will be heard in this debate, in the interests of the industry. Dairy farmers and their families are producing an essential health-giving foodstuff, butter, for all the families of Australia. Every mother in Australia today has cause to be grateful that butter is still in ample supply, and available to her at a price which her purse can afford to meet.
Because the dairy farmers are responsible, not irresponsible, men, because they are patient, because they have faith in the democratic process, and because they believe that they will receive justice from the Government, they do not go on strike, and they present their case reasonably. One reason why the Government should accord a quick and favorable answer to the case presented by the leaders of the dairying industry many weeks ago is that firmly we believe in what we say. The other reason, which is equally as powerful as, if not more powerful than, the first, is that the Australian nation cannot afford the collapse of its butter production, which is already occurring and rapidly extending. Australian families, faced with almost famine prices for most other foodstuffs, cannot afford the loss involved in the total collapse of the butter industry. Yet such a collapse is inevitable.unless the present dangerous drift in it is arrested. It is doubtful whether the ordinary people in the United Kingdom can view comfortably the prospect that Australia will soon cease to be a butterexporting country, and, indeed, may become a butter-importing country. Some Government supporters may consider that I have drawn an exaggerated picture of the situation, but those of them who represent dairying areas know that I have not done so. They are well aware that the dairy farmers whom they represent are’ in a critical position to-day.’ I am sure that dairy farmers will expect to hear the voice of every one of their representatives in the House during this debate. If Government supporters are silent, the dairy farmers will hold them to account for it. It is not enough that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) should recognize the crisis in this industry and be willing to do justice to the dairy farmers. I know that he recognizes the crisis and is willing to do justice to the industry. It is not enough, so long as he is held back by the refusal of the Cabinet to which he belongs, to accept the point of view that he puts forward to the Cabinet. I know that the Minister recognizes the nature of the crisis and the need for action, because he has already told the farmers that. He has also told them that he faces the hard task of convincing Cabinet of the need for action. I am now referring to his speech at the annual meeting of the Producers Co-operative Distributing Society Limited.
I hope that the Minister this afternoon will be able to announce immediate action to meet the plight of the dairying industry. I hope that he will succeed in convincing the majority of his Cabinet colleagues of the necessity for action, and will be able to announce definite decisions on the claims put to him by the leaders of the industry. I hope that his reply will not be mere words which, no matter how soothing they may be, can be of no use to the dairying industry at this juncture. If the Minister confines his reply to mere words he will not be to blame. It will be a clear indication that he has not yet succeeded in convincing Cabinet of the urgency and justice of the dairy farmers’ case. That is where honorable members on the Government side who represent dairying areas must come in. They are in a position to compel Cabinet to take some action. The needs of the industry require them now to stand up to their duty. Surely they will not fail the industry, but will rise in their places this afternoon and tell the Government flatly that they demand justice for this industry, and fair treatment of the claims which for so many weeks have lain in the Government’s hands after having been put there by the leaders of the dairying industry. Then if the Government still remains unresponsive, we shall doubtless give honorable members on the Government side who represent dairying areas an opportunity to match their votes with their words. But that is not a matter for to-day. It is fair that the Government should first be given the opportunity to act, and that the action should be quick. I propose now to set out the present condition of the industry as I know it in my own electorate, and as it has been reported to me from other areas.
– “Would the honorable member answer a question?
– Yes, at the close of the meeting.
– Is the honorable member referring to a particular area or to the whole of Australia?
– I shall make that clear. I shall set out the present position of the industry, and then I shall set out proposals, endorsed by the leaders of the industry, to rectify the position. The reports that I have received have been published in the official organ of the Pastures Protection Union and they come from all parts of Australia. I hope that they will .satisfy the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) on this matter. It will be seen that the propostals that are now put forward are moderate and reasonable. The most obvious symptom of the crisis in the industry is the acceleration of the drift away from the production of butter fat into other more profitable primary industries. That drift is becoming more and more alarming. To the superficial view it is masked in New South “Wales by two most prolific and luxuriant seasons. However, when one enters a dairying area the evidence of the drift becomes quite apparent. I could show honorable members 80 farms in the Bega valley which have gone out of dairy production in the last five years, most of them in the last couple of years. “Where there was scarcely one sheep in the Bega valley a year or so ago, there are now just on 40,000 ; and more are coming in every week.
– That is not an unnatural thing in view of the price of wool.
– It is not unnatural in view of the price of wool. Neither is it unnatural in view of the present return from dairying. Take the example of the Cobargo butter factory, the second largest butter producing factory on the South Coast. I have unquestioned authority for saying that if the present trend continues, within two years that factory will be producing no butter at all. Every second farmer that I have met in the Cobargo district and around Bega has gone out of the business of butter production or is making arrangements to go out of it as fast as he can. The farmers are going into the production of wool, fat lambs, cattle, vegetables and almost any alternative to butter. They are not doing that willingly or eagerly, they are doing it because they are being forced to do it. They have to consider their families and the need to make a decent living under reasonable working conditions. They have to consider the virtual impossibility of obtaining and holding suitable labour on the farms when the return for their products prevents them from competing in wages or conditions with other industries. They have to consider that almost any other form of production to which they can turn to-day will give them greater security, a higher living standard and easier working conditions.
Many farmers are still resisting the trend away from dairy production. They are desperately hoping that it will be unnecessary for them to leave the industry. But they know that their hands will be forced unless the Government quickly gives a promise of adequate relief. Australia cannot afford the decline and destruction of this great industry. Setting aside concern for the farmers involved, it is a matter of national concern. I believe that I am correct in asserting that it is the view of the responsible leaders of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, the Australian Dairy Produce Board and the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited that unless special action is taken without delay within several years the* stage will be reached when little, if any, butter, cheese or other milk products will be available for export, and production will probably fall below Australia’s own domestic requirements with the consequence of very high prices and the probability of the reintroduction of butter rationing. That is the view of the responsible leaders of all sections of this great industry, and surely they are men who have the knowledge and experience which demands the attention of the Government and the House. What is worth emphasizing is that once the damage is done it cannot be quickly repaired. It is already too late to repair some of the damage, except over a long period of years. When a man has gone out of dairying it is no easy task to persuade him to return to it. When a herd is dispersed it takes a matter of years to build up another herd.
Certainly the crisis in the industry cannot be met merely by the result of the annual cost survey of the industry which is now proceeding. The Government would indeed be deceiving itself if it thought -that that would be sufficient in the present time of fast rising prices of everything which the farmer needs, of full employment offering attractive alternatives to farm labour, and of prices for other products out of all keeping with the return on dairy products. I know that the Minister is continuing his negotiations with officials of the British Government on the matter of prices for our export dairy products. I recognize the difficulty which he faces in that respect and the great effort that has been made by the leaders of the industry to obtain recognition of the need for an increased export price. All that can be said is that that effort must succeed. The present prices for exports to the United Kingdom are well below actual and admitted costs of production. As the Minister will be the first to recognize, that is; a tragic and foolish position. [Extension of time granted.] In the long run, adherence to unprofitable prices for butter exports from this country to the United Kingdom must be tragic and foolish for the people of the United Kingdom themselves. Surely they want butter production to continue in this country, but it simply cannot continue at the present unprofitable level of export prices.
The responsibility of deciding in what way the claims of the dairying industry are to be met on the home market rests squarely on the shoulders of the Government, which cannot shelve its responsibility. If it had put value back into the fi, as it undertook to do, the present crisis in the dairying* industry would not be so acute. But the farmer finds that the price of everything that he requires, including .agricultural implements, artificial manures and all dairying equipment and utensils, is rising, if not week by week then month by month, while the price of his own product is adjusted only after he has been chasing rising costs for twelve months. For instance, the price of 2s. 6 1/2 d. per lb. that the farmers in my electorate now receive has remained unaltered for almost twelve months. That price is based upon the costs that were ascertained during a survey conducted well over a year ago. That is the position in which- the dairying industry finds itself. In a time of rapidly rising prices, that position must be adjusted.
– There is provision only for an annual review of production costs.
– I agree. Possibly an annual review is all that can be arranged, but, in .a time of rising prices, a recognition of that lag ought to be imported into the price structure of the industry. The industry has claimed, I think very moderately, that those engaged in dairying are entitled to share in the higher standard approved by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court when the basic wage was increased by £1 a week, and that they should’ not be forced to wait for six or eight months before an opportunity is given to them to share in an increase that has been granted to all other sections of workers in the Australian community. It is essential that the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee should take into full account the influence of the new wage rates upon the dairy farm production costs. In addition, having regard to the decrease of the value of money, the margin of 25s. a week over the basic wage that a dairy-farmer now receives as representing what is considered to be appropriate for his services as manager of his farm is out of keeping with present money values. In present circumstances, possibly it would be fairer to make a straight-out allowance to a dairy-farmer as representing his return for the management of the farm than to base his return upon the basic wage plus a margin of a few shillings.
The industry urgently needs legislation to cover the dairy industry stabilization fund and to give it the legislative guarantee of stability for a period of ten years to which the Minister is committed, but which those engaged in the industry would like to see translated into fact on the statute-book at the earliest possible date so that they have a reasonable guarantee of security and stability in their industry for some time ahead. But measures of that kind - I have named only a few of them- - will not cope with the present crisis in the industry. I am convinced that all representatives of the dairying industry know that to be a fact. Those measures could not possibly cope with the present growing threat to dairying production. More is needed.
For many weeks, the Minister has had before him a recommendation from responsible leaders of the industry that the present crisis should be recognized by the introduction of a system of special incentive payments to dairy-farmers over and above the findings of the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee, and that those special payments should remain in force until the. present threat to the industry has been removed. That claim by the industry is supported by the strongest arguments of national welfare. If the Government has a better solution of the problem than that, it should present it to the House. It would be unforgiveable if there were further delay in this matter. The Government ought to announce what it proposes to do to meet the case presented by the dairy-farmers. They are entitled to know where they stand. They are entitled to know whether or not the Go- vernment wishes them to continue in dairying production, and, if it does wish them to do so, whether it is going to make it possible for them to continue under reasonable conditions. If the Government is not in. a position to do that, then it ought to be frank with the industry and let the farmers know where they stand. Once they knew that nothing was to be done for them, they would quickly make alternative arrangements for their future. That is the position which confronts the industry. I hope that this afternoon we shall hear either a clear statement from the Minister of what the Government is going to do for the industry or a demand from every representative of the dairying industry in this chamber for such action.
Having regard to the fact that the problems of the dairying industry are not raised in this House as often as are the problems of other sections of the community who may be more vocal or more impatient than are the dairy-farmers, I sincerely hope that no step will be taken; to curtail this debate. That would be a shocking thing. It would be wicked treatment of the dairy-farmers, which they would have every reason to resent. I trust that the Government will allow this debate to proceed until every honorable member who wishes to present his views to the House has had an opportunity to do so.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) said that his motion was prompted by the crisis in the dairying industry and he promised that his speech would not consist of an attack upon the Government and that it would not raise party political issues. I shall say something later about whether or not there is a. crisis in the industry. The honorable gentleman made some oblique references to what this Government ought to do and some very direct references to the credit that ought to be attached to the Chifley Government for what it did while it was in office. To that extent he broke his promise, but I do not complain of that.
We can examine the condition of the dairying industry either upon the basis that a crisis exists - and if that is to be the approach, it will be necessary to establish that a crisis does exist - or upon the basis that there is a case for doing something for the industry in order to ensure its expansion and a higher degree of profitability. If I believed that a crisis did exist in the industry, I should not feel obliged to deny that it existed, because obviously this Government could not have created it during its one short year of life. In these circumstances it would be pointless for me to pretend that a crisis did not exist. Nothing would be gained by laying the blame at the feet of anybody else. But the truth of the matter is that, according to official statistics, the production of milk in Australia last year was practically equal to production in the record year, 1939-40. I do not claim credit for that. I state it merely as a fact.
The honorable member has said, and 1 agree with him, that there has been a reduction in the production of butter, but his motion has relation to the dairying industry and not to the production of butter. The dairying industry has various methods of employing whole milk, its basic product. It is true that butter production has decreased. The records with which I have been furnished show that it is also true that the total volume of production of the industry is at an all-time record. So the honorable member has failed to establish the premises on which he said that he would rest his case. Whether there has been a reduction in the number of dairy farms in the Bega area or a reduction of supplies to the Cobargo factory I do not know. I am talking about the dairying industry in toto and I have made these remarks as objective statements of fact.
I admit that Australia has a growing population and that it is desirable to maintain a stated and rising volume of supply to the United Kingdom. This is one of Australia’s important industries which the Government desires to stimulate and an industry cannot thrive if production remains static. The real test of an industry’s prosperity is whether people are entering it, and whether production and profits are increasing. The Government will observe those objectives in order to ensure that the industry will expand for the benefit both of Australia and the United Kingdom.
This industry is being carried on under arrangements which are quite tight and definite and which in their basic form, were established by the previous Labour Government. The present Government cannot alter those arrangements without breaching contracts which were made by the Chifley Government. The industry is maintained on the basis of a guaranteed return for milk which is. used for the manufacture of butter and cheese. This return is reviewable annually in accordance with revealed costs of production. The farmer’s opportunity to enjoy returns in excess of that figure which are put to his credit in a stabilization fund depends upon the prices received under the contract for the sale of Australia’s entire surplus of butter and cheese to the United Kingdom less such quantities as are agreed by negotiation to be sold outside of the contract.
This Government inherited a contract of five year’s duration, a section of which provides that the price shall be reviewed annually and that, as a result of that review, the price shall not be increased or reduced by more than 1 per cent, per annum. On the occasion of the last price review an increase of 7-^ per cent, was asked for. The Government sent the president of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation to London in order to be associated with the chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and the highest representatives of the Government in the conduct of negotiations so that by their intimate and personal knowledge of the industry these men might secure at least a 1 per cent, increase. After six months of negotiation the Australian representatives could obtain nothing more than a blank refusal on the part of the United Kingdom Government to raise the price, even by 1 per cent. There is no provision in the contract that the Government has inherited for the resolving of such a deadlock as this. The Government has refused to agree to accept last year’s price but has had no option but to continue delivering the butter and receiving payment on the basis of last year’s prices.
The price guaranteed to the industry for home production and the terms of the contract for sale to the United Kingdom are still not acceptable to the Government. The existing prices are not completely satisfactory, but the Government inherited them and has observed them with exactitude, and has sought to improve them where possible.
What is the history of the guaranteed price? The guarantee was given in respect of a period of five years which commenced in 1947. A majority report to the government of the day recommended that the price for butter should be 2s. 2d. per lb. but the Government accepted a minority report that the price should be 2s. per lb. After a year, an inquiry revealed that the cost of production had increased by 2d. per lb. which was immediately applied by the Chifley Government in the terms of the guarantee. After another year had passed, a further cost of production inquiry revealed that a cost increase of a further 2 1/2 d. per lb. had taken place ; but this was not applied by the Chifley Government which considered that the increase should be carried by the consumer.
– So did the Minister.
– I do not deny it. The Chifley Government agreed that the Australian consumer should carry that 2£d. per lb. and asked the State Prices Commissioners to increase the price to the public by 3d. per lb. Again, a defect in the basic arrangements was revealed when the State Ministers in charge of prices blandly refused to increase the price to the consumer by 3d. per lb. Nothing could be done about that at the time and nothing was done about it until the closing hours of the last Parliament when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) who was then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture announced that for six months of that year his Government would make good that 2£d. per lb. pending negotiations. That announcement was made on the last day that the Parliament met.
– The Government did not wish to commit an incoming government.
– There was a change of government and on the night that the present Cabinet was sworn in it decided to accept the validity of the 2-Jd. increase and announced that it would do so, notwithstanding that the State Ministers in charge of prices had refused to pass the’ increase on tothe consumer. Cabinet announced that the 2£d. per lb. increase would be payable to dairy-farmers for the balance of that year. It was shown that, even then, dairyfarmers would not receive what they were entitled to receive because factory costs had increased and the factories had to carry on at a loss or deduct from the amount that they paid their suppliers the additional amount of their expenditure. Again, the basic guarantee made no provision for a foreseeable contingency such as that, so the present Government, for the first time, took that fact into account and added to the price a sufficient amount which I think averaged id. per lb. in respect of the year’s production to cover the additional cost of the factories. This was done, not to increase the return to the factories which were not concerned in the guarantee, but to ensure that the dairy-farmer would receive what the two governments had promised him.
– That increase had been taken into consideration by the previous Government in the previous year and had been allowed. The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner controlled the price at that stage.
– I was not aware of that fact. The honorable member for Lalor has pointed out that while the Commonwealth was in control of prices the increases were passed on to the factories and that it was only when the States took control of prices that the practice was discontinued. I am not seeking to rebuke any one but the Government has been rather obliquely rebuked so I wish to set out categorically the facts of the situation. The further cost of production increase of If d. per lb., which was revealed at the end of last financial year, was immediately accepted by this Government and passed on to the dairy-farmers, and the additional fractional cost of factory production was likewise accepted and passed on to the factories so that the return to dairy-farmers should not be diminished. The Government also attempted to negotiate an increased price under the United Kingdom contract, but it encountered a deadlock when the United Kingdom Ministry of Pood bluntly refused to agree to an increase. There was no provision in the contract by which such a deadlock could be resolved. I took the opportunity, when I visited Great Britain in connexion with another matter, to discuss with Mr. Webb and other senior members of the British Government the whole subject of the approach to bulk contracts.
I pointed out then, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and dairyfarmers will be interested to hear, that, if the United Kingdom wanted additional butter and if we wanted our industry to thrive, we could not expect to succeed, in the kind of world that we live in to-day, if the return to the producers were pegged down to the sharpest minimum. I emphasized that we must add an incentive margin in order to obtain an increased volume of production, and I suggested to the representatives of the British Ministry of Food that they should accept, as a basis for periodic price reviews, some pre-determined general criteria that would take into account the Australian cost of production and also, with equal force, an estimate of the profit incentive that would be necessary to bring about additional production. [Extension of time granted”]. I thank the House for its indulgence. I should like to elaborate this theme, but I shall be brief. As a result of those discussions in the United Kingdom, the Under-Secretary of the British Ministry of Food, Mr. Anderson, and the Assistant Secretary of the Ministry, are in Canberra to-day discussing with officials of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture the basis on which we hope we shall be able to determine a price for sales under contract that will include not only the cost of production but also an incentive profit margin sufficient to encourage greater production in the industry. I hope that agreement will be reached in those negotiations. Mr. Webb and I agreed to treat the dairying industry as a test case in our discussions so that, if we could reach agreement on the criteria for determining a price for butter, we could use. the same criteria, with appropriate variations, for other industries.
One point that I concede is that such criteria must envisage reasonably efficient production methods. Nobody could be expected to contract to buy’ at the cost of production the product of a thoroughly inefficient industry. The dairying industry, of course, is not inefficient, but our talks are based upon the assumption of efficient production. Finally, this Government would not wish even such criteria as those to peg the price of any Australian product at a level that would be completely unrelated to prices that might develop in other parts of the world. Therefore, an understanding about references to general commodity prices in other parts of the world will be included in the -criteria upon -which we hope to agree.
I shall devote the brief period of time remaining to me to a recapitulation of the requests that the dairying industry submitted to me about five weeks ago and to a statement of the attitude of the Government to those requests. First, the industry asked for an interim adjustment of the guaranteed price as from the 1st December last in order to cover the £1 a week increase of the basic wage. The present arrangement with the industry is that there shall be an annual price review. I said that I would submit the request to the Government, and I have done so. The Government has decided to ask the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee to examine and report on the cost increases that have occurred as the result of the basic wage increase. That increase was not legally applied to the industry, but there is no doubt that it will be reflected in the costs of the industry. The Government will make its decision as soon as it receives that report. It would not ask for such a report if it did not intend to act upon it.
– When is the report expected to be received?
– I cannot say, but I hope that it will be received very soon.
The disparity between the guaranteed price and the fixed domestic price requires a subsidy of lid. per lb. at present, and the deputation from the industry asked that I take action to reduce that amount. The honorable member for Lalor has reminded me that this Government asked the State Prices Ministers, as the Chifley Government did previously, to increase the retail price of butter by 3d. per lb. The State Ministers refused to do so. The result is that the budget for this year includes provision for the payment of nearly £14,000,000 to subsidize the consumers of butter in Australia. I agree that action should be taken to reduce that amount. Unless the gap is narrowed, some government in the future will decide that the cost of guaranteeing the price of butter, which could easily rise to £20,000,000 a year, is too great a hurden to support. For that reason, the dairying industry fears that the present guarantee scheme will break down eventually under the sheer weight of the consumer subsidy. The Government makes its position on that issue quite clear. The deputation referred to the chairmanship of the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, which Mr. Crawford, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, has vacated. Mr. W. S. Kelly, who was originally a member of the committee, and who is acceptable to the industry, has taken the position of chairman at, the request of the Government. The deputation asked for an incentive payment over and above the cost of production in order to prevent any further swing from dairying. As I have said, this Government has recognized the need for such a payment and has emphasized it in negotiations with the British Ministry of Food. It will try to have provision for such a payment included in tho contract with the United Kingdom. “What it asks the United Kingdom Government to do, it will be prepared to do itself in relation to production for home consumption. The deputation also raised the subject of the reward to the farmer based on the proposed rate of the award wage plus 25s. a week. I informed it that the view which my colleagues and I hold is that a farmerowner should not have his reward calculated by reference to the basic wage plus 25s., or any other such small amount. He is in the realm of management, not in the realm of unskilled labour, and the Government considers that a better arrange- ment would be to agree upon some appropriate flat allowance. The representatives of the industry reacted very favorably to my suggestion, and that matter will be further discussed. The Government has already informed the industry that it is prepared to extend the period of guarantee to ten years on terms that are agreed upon after consultation with representatives of the industry.
– Order! The Minister’s extended time has expired.
.- I approve the action of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) in moving the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing the situation of the dairying industry. I have had some experience of the dairying industry and I realize that, although the leaders of the industry admitted that it was in a reasonably good, if not excellent, situation two years ago, the passage of time accompanied by inflationary trends and rapid price increases affecting other commodities have landed it in a much less favorable position now. There can be not the slightest doubt that, if the industry is to increase production, or even survive, prompt action must be taken to remedy the effect of events of the last two years. The plain fact is that the present Government inherited, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has said, a series of arrangements that had been made by the previous Government. It inherited the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, which was established by the Chifley Government in November, 1946, at the request of the dairying industry. That body is representative of government departments and the industry. It consisted of four representatives of the industry and four representatives of government departments under the chairmanship of Mr. Crawford, who is now the secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, but was then in charge of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. At one of its first meetings, the committee decided upon the basis on which it would assess the cost of production in the dairying industry. Thereupon, it commenced an Australia-wide investigation and eventually made a recommendation to the Government concerning what it considered to be a reasonable cost of production.
The government of the day then undertook to pay to the industry a guaranteed price for a period of five years. That price was to be varied according to any increase of production costs that might subsequently be determined by the committee, subject to its acceptance by the Government. After all the Government could not be expected to sign a blank cheque ! As the Minister has said, up to date both the Chifley Administration and the present Government have accepted the recommendations of the committee. Before proceeding to discuss other aspects of this subject, I wish to remove a misconception concerning the so-called managerial allowance for farmer-owners. The Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee made recommendations in relation to the remuneration of farmers, members of their families and hired labour when it determined the basis upon which the cost of production should be determined. I shall quote the decision that it made in relation to managerial allowances because it is wrongly believed that the decision was made by the government of the day and not by the committee. The committee’s decision was accepted by the industry, and dairy farmers generally were pleased when the cost of production was ultimately fixed on that basis. This is the relevant passage from the first report of the committee -
Apparently the committee considered that what the farmer thought was good enough for his hired labour was likewise good enough for himself, and the committee accepted that basis of calculation. I do not consider that to be good enough. The committee could have been much more generous in respect of both hired labour and the labour of the farmer himself. Dealing with hired labour the committee stated -
Amounts actually paid were taken for all non-family hired labour.
That meant that remuneration for labour obtained from outside the family was considered on the same basis as that for hired labour. In respect of managerial allowance the advisory committee’s report states -
An allowance for management was included at fi. us. per week per farm in conformity with the basis upon which returns to the industry in recent years have been determined. This allowance represents the marginal rate prescribed in the Dairy Industry Award for leading hand charged with the responsibility for supervision and direction of labour.
The committee said, in effect, that a managerial allowance to the farmer had been calculated on the same basis as that fixed in the award to which the farmer was a party in respect of a foreman on a dairy farm. I do not believe that that basis of remuneration is adequate in existing circumstances, particularly in view of the recent increase of the basic wage by £1 a week. In addition, corresponding increases should be made in respect of marginal rates for skill required in the conduct of a dairy farm. It should be pointed out that this remuneration is not the farmer’s only remuneration. For instance, he is allowed certain amounts in respect of his profits and other margins whilst calculations are also made in respect of his outgoings and so forth. Since the present basis of costs was determined and the existing guarantee given to dairy-farmers, costs of all kinds have increased enormously. The inflationary trend has become increasingly pronounced mainly because the Government has failed completely to put value back into the £. In addition, the bounty on superphosphate has been withdrawn.
– The higher costs that result from the withdrawal of the superphosphate bounty will be taken into consideration.
– That may be done when the next examination is made of costs of production in the industry; but I am speaking of the position as it exists at present. If the Government intends to make an interim decision in this matter, I hope that it will take into consideration the additional’, costs that, have resulted from the increase of the1 basic wage and the abolition of the bounty on superphosphate as well as the increased prices of a vast, range of commodities without which the dairy-farmer cannot carry on. When the previous Labour Government made its assessment of costs on the basis of a period of twelve months no one could have foreseen that costs to the farmers generally would increase ,to the degree that they have increased during the intervening period..
I know the difficulties that confront the Government in this matter, and, therefore, I shall not be so severe in my castigation of it as the Minister and his colleague, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), were in their criticism of the Labour Government when they were in Opposition. Another important problem that confronts the Government is the arrangement of contracts with the United Kingdom Government. When I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I was a party to considerable bargaining with the United Kingdom in respect of the sale of primary products. Thus, 1 can say that no one is more alive than I am to the difficulties that arise in this matter.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Daly) put -
That the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. SPEAKER - Hon.. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I was rather alarmed by the dismal picture that the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) painted when he was dealing with the dairying industry. Although some difficulties and dissatisfaction exist, the position is not so serious as he would have us believe that it is. More milk and butter is produced in the electorate that I represent than is produced in any other electorate. The last report of the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee reveals that dairy-farmers in my electorate produce very much more butter fat per cow than is produced in any other electorate. Last year the big dairy factories in it, without exception, purchased more milk and paid higher prices for milk than they had ever done previously in the history of the industry in Victoria. During the recent parliamentary recess I took the opportunity to visit that area with a view to taking up permanent residence in it. On that occasion I found that in the Warragul district land that was regarded as poor dairying land was being offered for sale at approximately £140 an acre whilst prices ranging up to £205 an acre were refused for some of it. I emphasize that those prices prevailed for land to be used not for the purpose of immediately profitable forms of production but simply for the production of milk and butter. A tremendous amount of work has been done in that district in the improvement of land and pastures. “Whilst conceding that the industry is prosperous, at the same time I propose to deal with certain causes of dissatisfaction in it. I have been constantly in touch with members of the local branch of the Dairy Farmers Association. It is feared that this year the period between the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee’s examination of the cost of production and the resultant calculation of that cost will be unduly long. It is also feared that the recent basic wage increase of £1 a week, and the subsequent 8s. a week increase- made as a cost-of-living adjustment, will not be taken into consideration for some time in relation to costs of production in the dairying industry. I wish that it were possible for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to give an interim decision on that particular- point. I realize the difficulties of obtaining a good price for butter, partly because of long-term arrangements that were entered into in all good faith by the previous Government. I do not suggest that there was anything wrong- with making a longterm arrangement with Britain, but the terms of the agreement, which is to be operative until 1952, provide that the maximum increase or decrease of price in any one year shall be 7-J per cent. Last year, as the- Minister has told us, the British Government refused to have anything to do with the 7£ per cent, increase of price for which the Australian dairying industry applied. There was- a small adjustment of the price last year when an additional payment for butter exported to England was made at the rate of ls. 6d. sterling a cwt. There are some anomalies in the difference between the price of Australian and. New Zealand- butter sent, to England and the actual price paid on the free, market.. The price now paid under, the contract with, the
British Government is 317s. 6d. a Cwt Some time ago, before the rationing of butter was discontinued in Australia, and the Australian population was rising, the quantity of butter produced in this country was 170,000 tons. That amount was almost equally divided into two parts, approximately 85,000 tons being exported and 85,000 tons being consumed locally. The price paid under contract for butter that went overseas just about covered the cost of production, as the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee found. It was therefore necessary to pay a sudsidy of about lid. per lb. on the 85,000 tons of butter consumed in Australia. Early last year butter producers were paid £8,750,000 in subsidy. Unfortunately, the position has deteriorated in that to-day the percentage of butter retained for home consumption has risen and the percentage exported has correspondingly fallen. Consequently the subsidy which the Australian Government will be called on to >pay will rise considerably, because the British price is still considerably better than the Australian price. All honorable members should realize the extraordinary nature- of the position.
The Australian Government has guaranteed a cost of production price to the butter industry, but the State Ministers who control prices have the power to fix the price of butter. That position is quite immoral in my view, because the States, without doing any harm at all to the dairy-farmer,, can avoid increasing the price of butter to the consumer. It cannot be confuted by anybody that butter is by far the cheapest food being purchased by housewives, at the present time. The States: have nothing to fear from their dairy-farmers if they care to refuse an increase of the price of butter because some authority outside has guaranteed the cost of production.
I now turn to another1 matter. If we were free to ship butter wherever we liked, we should- receive for it much more than 2s. 10 1/2 d. per lb. If we were free to sell butter to the United States of America or Canada, for instance1, the price we should, receive would be between 6s. and 8s. per lb. So; from that point of view the dairy-farmer has put himself in the- same position, as the wheat-grower and the sugar-grower in that, because of his adherence to the policy of feeding the people whom we want to feed, that is, the British people, he is making a direct subsidy from his own pocket to the people of Australia.
The crisis in the dairy industry to which the honorable member for EdenMonaro has referred is not so serious as he has stated it to be. It is nearly impossible to buy any dairying land in the Gippsland district in Victoria at the present time. Most of the people who have been milking herds there are still milking them. The quantity of milk produced there last year was a record.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to support the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), but before I do so I shall reply to statements that were made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown). Both the Minister and the honorable member have stated that there is no crisis in the dairying industry. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred to the fact that the leaders of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, the Australian Dairy Produce Board and the Commonwealth Equalization Committee Limited, have already said - as was published in the Primary Producer in January of this year - within several years the stage will be reached that little if any butter and cheese, or other milk products will be available for export, and production will probably fall below Australia’s own domestic requirements, with the consequence of very high prices and the probability of reintroduction of rationing.
That statement ought to be a sufficient indication that now is the time for the Government or, for that matter, the Parliament to take cognizance of the fact that we may be facing a crisis in the dairying industry. I consider, therefore, that it behoves the Government to face problems such as these. The honorable member for McMillan stated that dairy-farms have been sold in some parts of Victoria, and that the lowest prices received for them ranged from £120 to £140 an acre. The honorable member then proceeded to elaborate on that statement to such purpose that he more or less said that the farmersare too prosperous and advocated that the price of butter should be reduced. The dairying industry placed before the Minister a request for an interim rise which, it considered was due to it because of the heavier cost that had resulted from the increase of the basic wage by £1 a week. The position of the dairy-farmer in relation to increased costs is nodifferent from that of any other man. His wife and family have to be maintained just as the wives and families of other men. must be maintained. He has to face the same increases of the prices of commodities as other people have to face. In an inflationary period like the present oneevery consideration should be given to the reasonable requests of the dairy-farmers for an increased return. I say to the Minister, with adi due respect for his statement concerning the amount of subsidy that is being paid to the dairying industry, that he should anticipate, to some degree at least, the increased price for butter that will definitely be recommended by the Joint Dairy IndustryAdvisory Committee. If he did so, the dairy-farmers would feel that at least they were receiving some relief during a period of vicious inflation. Since their position in relation to rising costs and wages is no different from that of other people, why should they have to wait until after the 1st July next to obtain an increaseof their return by means of thesubsidy? It is true that the price of butter is a matter for the State authorities. It is also true that the dairying industry is suffering because of the fact that the people refused to give to this Parliament power to control prices. But” although the regulation of prices is beyond the power of this Parliament the payment of a subsidy, as the Minister has indicated. is not. Consideration, therefore, ought to be given to affording somerelief to the dairying industry.
I turn now to the effect of conditionsgenerally on the dairying industry. Despite the statements that the Minister has made, and despite the honorable member for McMillan’s story about prosperity in the industry, there has already been a decline of butter production this year,, which was a year of good seasons, in comparison with the previous year, which was also a year of good seasons. In the year that ended on the 30th June, 1950, 80,000 tons of butter was exported. Up to the end of last J January, 30,000 tons only had been exported in this financial year. Those who know something about the industry expect that we shall be lucky if we export 50,000 tons altogether by the end of the financial year. Those figures are indicative of the fact that the dairying industry is being adversely affected in some way or other. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) could give the House confirmation that certain farms in the Southport area are going out of production. You, Mr. Speaker, know full well that even in South Australia dairy farms are going out of production. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has indicated how the -decline in New South Wales is occurring. At some future time not very far off, we shall be faced, as was indicated by the statement made by responsible people on behalf of the dairying industry, with -the possibility of having to import butter. Queensland is exporting butter to New South Wales to-day because New South Wales is producing only about 70 per cent, of its own requirements. The reasons for that fact, it is true, are that there has been an increased consumption of milk and that the production of milk i.” more remunerative to the farmer than is the sale of butter. Not only is butter production declining; that decline must, in turn, inevitably have an effect on -the pig industry. Mr. C. H. Jamieson, who is the president of the dairymen’s -organization in Queensland, has stated that the dairymen in that State will not continue to produce butter at a price less favorable than that paid for milk in New South Wales. The Primary Producer -considers that the price of milk should be 2s. 8 3/4 d. a gallon. The dairy-farmer in New South Wales and in districts close to large cities in other States, may have some inducement to produce milk, but this Government says, in effect, “ We shall not increase the subsidy to offset the increase of the basic wage by £1 a week last year until the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee has furnished a report on the matter. Any variation of price will take effect ‘from the 1st July next “. That, in short, describes the attitude of the Government. It will wait until the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee furnishes its report. What is to happen in the interim between the date on which the increase of the basic wage took effect, and the 1st July ? Does not the Government know that the dairyman and his family have economic problems similar to those of the wage earner, the self-employed person and other primary producers? He should receive justice in respect of the interim period to which I have referred.
.- It is obvious from the speeches of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) that this subject has been subtly introduced in an endeavour to make party political propaganda out of the catch-cry of the Labour party about putting value back into the £1. The honorable member for EdenMonaro, stated definitely and was supported by the honorable member for Lalor, that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party had failed to give effect to the promise that they had made during the last general election campaign, that if returned to office they would put value back into the £1. The honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Kennedy also referred to inflationary trends.
– Hear, hear!
– If all members of the Opposition were genuinely concerned, as some of them are, about the plight of the dairying industry, they would exert greater efforts than they have used during the last fifteen months to combat inflation. Every bill that has been introduced by the Government in a read attempt to check inflation, which is a situation caused by an excess of money compared with the quantity of goods available, has been obstructed by the Labour party.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– The barracker from Carlton, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), seems to be preparing for the forthcoming football season, but his voice will not distract me.
– Apparently it will not make the honorable member more truthful “than he is.
– Had members of the Opposition endeavoured to assist the ‘Government to check inflation, they would not have mouthed the sentiments that they expressed this afternoon. The honorable member for Kennedy declared that the Government would not assist dairy-farmers until after the 1st July next to meet the higher costs in the industry that result from the increase of the basic wage by £1 a week. I invite the honorable member to read the reply that was given by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to a question .by the .honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Gilmore) on that subject this afternoon. The Minister stated that the Joint Dairy .Industry Advisory Committee would investigate the position, and that, when its report was presented to the Government, consideration would be given to measures ,to offset the effect upon the dairying industry of the increased basic wage.
– I. also stated that such auction would be made retrospective.
– That is so.* For purposes of emphasis, I repeat that such action will be ‘made retrospective to the date on which the increase of the basic wage ‘began to affect costs in the dairying industry. Opposition members who have spoken in this debate have been guilty of mockery and hypocrisy. The honorable member .for Eden-Monaro, in his introductory remarks, said that this discussion of the .plight of the dairying industry should be placed above party politics, yet .he immediately sought to make party political propaganda out of it. He challenged Government supporters who represent dairying districts to participate in the debate, and force the Government to grant immediate relief to the industry. I inform him that members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party do not find it necessary to force the Government to take certain action. I also remind him that the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, in its first report, recommended the payment of 2s. 1 1/2 d. per lb. for butter fat, but the Chifley Labour
Government, in .which the honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and of which the honorable member for ‘Eden-Monaro was a -supporter, adopted the minority report of that committee that was furnished by the Government’s nominees, and .paid to the dairy-farmers only 2s. per lb. Many of the troubles of the dairying industry, if such troubles exist, originated from that decision. Had the Chifley Labour Government made the majority report of that committee the basis for calculations in the future, dairy-farmers would have received a higher payment for their products.
The three Opposition members who spoke in this debate and, incidentally, wasted the time of the House by so doing, claimed that they had not previously hail an opportunity to direct attention to the plight of the dairying industry. Their memories are indeed short. In the last Parliament, a member of the Australian Country party moved the adjournment of the House to discuss. the returns received by dairy-rf farmers, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Kennedy had an excellent opportunity .on that occasion to do precisely what they asked members of the Australian Country party and of the Liberal party to do to-day. But they did not support the motion for the adjournment of the House at that time in an endeavour to force the Chifley Labour Government to adopt the majority .report of the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee. The .honorable member .for Lalor, when the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was speaking, .said, by way of interjection, that the Labour Government had not been able to pay the subsidy that had been recommended in the majority report, because the several State governments controlled prices. He also took the opportunity in this debate to remind the House that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, when in Opposition, had advocated the transfer of prices control from the Commonwealth to the States. The honorable gentleman’s contention is illogical. Has he forgotten that the Chifley Labour Government, only two days before the general election on the 10th December, 1949, found it possible and convenient to pay to dairy-farmers an additional 2$d. per lb. for their product? But that was not all. That payment was made retrospective to the 1st July, 1949, and was to expire on the 31st December of the same year. Such a decision was neither more nor less than a votecatching medium, the object of which was to ensure the re-election of the then Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Lemmon. However, the dairy-farmers saw through that scheme, and he was defeated by the present honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth). The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, the honorable member for Lalor and the honorable member for Kennedy, who have canvassed this matter, are guilty of hypocrisy. Do they believe that dairy-farmers are fools? The Chifley Labour Government, by granting the additional 2£d. per lb. only two days before the last general election, wished to make it as inconvenient as possible for members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party on the hustings, and for the several non-Labour governments in the States.
No charge of having neglected the dairying industry can be validly laid against this Government. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture reminded the House that the Government, on the evening on which Ministers took the oath of office, announced the payment of the subsidy that had been recommended in the majority report of the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee. This Government, during its term of office, has accepted the recommendations of that committee. The Minister has met the representatives of the dairying industry, and has told them plainly what he is prepared to do in conformity with the policy of the Government. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro presented a weak case. He said that 80 dairy-farmers in the Bega Valley, which is in his electorate, had left that industry during the last five years and that most of that number had left it in the last two years. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) interjected at that point, stating that those primary producers had probably decided to grow wool. That may be so. Who knows? I refer to that matter because the honorable member for EdenMonaro appears to have forgotten that this Government has not yet been in office for two years. He was quite prepared to support a socialist government when it adopted the minority report of certain members of the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, as a result of which dairy-farmers were paid less money than was recommended in the majority report. The present Government cannot rightly be accused of having let the dairying industry down. The Chifley Labour Government must bear that responsibility.
The honorable member for Lalor pointed out that the dairying industry is compelled to meet increased costs following the increase of the basic wage by £1 a week towards the end of last year. That statement cannot be denied, but I suggest to Opposition members that they should subject their own actions to an X-ray test with the object of satisfying themselves about the real causes of increased costs. What are they doing to improve the economic position of the country? The Government has submitted an antiinflationary measure to the Parliament, yet the Labour party has issued an ultimatum to the effect that its majority in the Senate will reject that legislation.
– Order ! The honor.able member may not refer to the proceedings of another place.
– I apologize for having done so, but it cannot be denied that the tactics of the Labour majority in the Senate have been responsible for delaying the Government’s programme for checking inflation, and, incidentally, for the increased costs in the dairying industry.
I agree, in part, with the statement by ‘ the honorable member for Kennedy that the dairying industry, if it does not receive an adequate subsidy, may not be able to maintain production in future. If, as was stated by the honorable member, Australia ceases to export butter, the blame will not be attributable to the present Government. Opposition members are inclined to overlook the fact that the population of Australia’ has increased substantially since the end ‘of World War II., and that that has resulted in a greater demand for milk and a consequent falling off of supplies for the manufacture of butter. The provision of free milk for school children may further reduce supplies for butter factories. Everybody realizes that. Members of the Australian Country party have recognized for years the need for exercising caution in making plans for the dairying industry, lest the number of dairy cattle be not sufficient to meet our requirements.
– Milk production has not been reduced.
– I realize that. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has given the relevant figures. The contention that it is the falling off of the production of milk that is causing a correspondingly lower production of butter is so much flapdoodle. A bigger percentage of the production is now being consumed as milk, instead of being manufactured into butter and processed milk, as was the case in the past. The charges that have been brought against the Government by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro are unfounded. They are not in accordance with the facts, as they are known to the Government to-day.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Mr. Speaker having directed the Clerk to read the first order of the day,
– I rise to order. I inform you, Mr. Speaker, that we called for a division when the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) moved the closure.
– I did not hear the call for a division.
– There were calls for a division.
– There was hardly a sound in the chamber when I put the questions “ That the question be now put “ and “ That the motion be agreed to “.
– I rise to order. I called for a division immediately the honorable member for Henty moved the gag. I interjected at that time that it was a shocking thing to move theclosure on such a motion as the House had been discussing.
– Order ! The honorable member has no right to make any reflection on the moving of the gag.
– Can we now ask for a division on that motion ?
– No. The only call for a division that I heard was in the corridor, when the door of the chamber was open.
– I called for a division, and I also heard several other honorable members call loudly for a division.
– I have asked the Clerk to read the first order of the day. A division may not be taken now.
Debate resumed from the 7th March (vide page 90), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper be printed: -
.- In common with other members of the Opposition, I was deeply interested in the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on his recent visit to London and the part that he took in the conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I was impressed with the fact that the principal theme of his address was the grave danger of another world war. Any remarks that I shall make in this contribution to the debate will not be made in criticism of the Government or in an attempt to make party politics of the matter before the House. After the Prime Minister’s prophecy that Australia had three years in which to prepare for war-
– The Prime Minister said that he would not attempt to prophesy.
– The Prime Minister stated that the maximum period of peace that we can expect to have before the outbreak of another world war is three years. One would have expected that after that assessment of the position the Prime Minister would have given his reasons for making the statement. All those who follow the trend of world events have found it most noticeable that neither Mr. Truman, the President of the United States of America, nor Mr. Attlee, the Prime Minister of England, has ever indicated, when speaking of the danger that confronts the world, of a period within which the smouldering international situation will burst into flame. In the light of that it was all the more to be expected that the Prime Minister would have given his reasons for making such a remarkable statement. Honorable members were as much in the dark at the end of his speech as they were at the beginning as to his reasons for that statement. If the people of Australia and the members of this Parliament are to be called upon within three years to play their part in another world conflict, surely they are entitled to know the reasons why they have such a short time in which to prepare. But at the end of the Prime Minister’s speech we knew no more about those reasons than we had known at the beginning.
– There is nothing astonishing about that.
– That remark may be a wisecrack, but of course it casts no light in the obscurity that surrounds the Prime Minister’s reason for making his remarkable statement that we should be at war within three years. Had the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) delivered the Prime Minister’s speech no doubt the obscurity would have been deeper. The people of Australia and the members of this Parliament are entitled to know the principles upon which the Prime Minister based his estimate that Australia has no more than three years in which to prepare for war. The mothers of the young men who will have to play the major part in this war, as the young men always do in wartime, as well as the young men themselves, are entitled to know the reasons behind the Prime Minister’s statement. Honorable members of this House also are entitled to know those reasons. If the parents of the men who are to be prepared for this war are to be asked to endure the same sorrows as the parents of the soldiers of the 1914-18 war and the 1939-45 war endured, they should be told why it is necessary to make these sacrifices.
– Does not the honorable member think that we should prepare against the possibility of a war?
– I should like to be given some information about the proceedings of the London Conference. I desire to know whether there were any expressions of opinion around the conference table about the preservation of peace, and whether any action was taken to maintain peace in the world.
– Why does not the honorable member write to Joe Stalin for that information?
– I shall deal later with that interjection. It indicates how broad a national grasp of a broad national question the honorable member has.
– Like the speech we ave listening to now.
– You have the right to make a contribution to the debate at a later stage.
-Order ! The honorable member will address me, and interjections must cease.
– Throughout thPrime Minister’s speech there was no indication of anything having been done at the London Conference to maintain the peace of the world. Whilst realizing that there are difficulties facing the world to-day and that there are possibilities of war, I still contend that it is the responsibility of national leaders to leave no stone unturned in the attempt to preserve peace. One might ask what can be done to maintain peace. What action has the United Nations taken to do the one thing that will maintain the peace of the world?
– What is that?
– It is to bring about total disarmament. No doubt my critics will now say, “ What about brother Joe ‘ ? “ “ Brother Joe “ is the head of a nation that is a member of the United Nations. That being so, I should like to know whether any action has been taken by the United Nations to place some responsibility upon Russia for the maintenance of peace.
– The honorable member must be completely ignorant of what has been taking place during the last twelve months.
– That is merely a reiteration of the common attack to which those who speak as I have spoken must be subjected. The Minister must be ignorant of international affairs-
– Does the honorable member know anything about what has taken place?
– Well, I have not been on a world tour like the Minister has. The only information that the Parliament receives about overseas trips is from Ministers upon their return.
– The honorable member may go to the library and look up a United Nations magazine which is published monthly, if he cares to do so.
– There must not be a conversation across the table. The honorable member should address the Chair.
– The Australian people do not get an opportunity to go to the Parliamentary Library. They get their information from the Government and the Parliament. Greater efforts should be made to maintain the peace of the world. Our representatives go overseas imbued with one thought only; that is that upon their return they must inflame Australian public opinion with statements that stress the dangers of war. Australian parents as well as the rest of the Australian people are quite aware of the grave dangers of war. The Australian nation has made great sacrifices throughout the last 25 years, and knowing the horror and sacrifice entailed by war the people wish more fervently to assure themselves that all that can be done to preserve peace is being done. It is well known that the United Nations despatched its forces to Korea because the North Koreans took aggressive action against the South Koreans. We have been told continually that the North Koreans have been supported by Russian military strategists and by Russian armaments. If that is so, then Russia is as great an aggressor in South Korea as the North Koreans are. I ask, what action has been taken against Russia as an aggressor in Korea?
– We could send the honorable member up there.
– The interjections of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) are such as would do no credit to a child of kindergarten age. We are entitled to know what action, if any, has been taken against Russia for its acts of aggression against the South Koreans. I suppose that I shall be told that we are not in a position to take action against Soviet Russia. However, I should still like to know whether any action has been taken, and whether Russia is considered to be an aggressor in the Korean dispute. The Prime Minister referred to the United Nations forces crossing the thirty-eighth parallel. I appreciate that it would not be possible to draw any particular line beyond which the United Nations forces should not pass, but I do say to the Government that the first opportunity should be taken to get out of Korea.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– Exactly what I say. I ask the Government not to continue the fight by going farther and farther in Korea until finally we reach such a position that we shall have to remain permanently in Asia. The first opportunity should be taken to arrange for the Northern and Southern Koreans to elect a national government. Then the United Nations forces, including those of Australia, should get out of Korea.
– We have been trying to do that since last October.
– That may be so, but we know that a certain error was made not long ago.
– What was the error?
– I think that we went a little too far.
– ‘Can the honorable member suggest where we should have gone?
– You know where we should have gone.
-Order ! The honorable member should address the Chair.
– It is known to statesmen in other parts of the world that we erred in Korea, and that error should not be repeated. At the first opportunity we should get out of the
Korean dispute and give to Korea the right to elect its own government so that the inhabitants of the North and the South may live harmoniously together.
Another matter upon which I feel deeply, concerns the proposed rearmament of Japan. I do not know the Government’s policy upon the rearming of Japan, but those who have visited Japan and have seen the war graves in Yokohama, as well as those in the north of Australia, will never agree under any circumstances to the rearming of Japan. The Tokio Bay Armistice, which was signed on behalf of Australia by Sir Thomas Blarney, laid down the provision that Japan should not be permitted to rearm and to build up industries which could be utilized for the purpose of manufacturing war equipment. If Japan is permitted to rearm we shall have broken the armistice agreement made in Tokio Bay. Any one who has read the records that are maintained in the war cemeteries in which are buried Australians who were massacred by the Japanese knows that during the last war the Japanese committed atrocities that no Australian would, if he had the opportunity to prevent them, allow to occur again in the world.
I know that, irrespective of what action is taken by the Australian Government, it is quite likely that the United States of America will agree to the rearming of Japan, and I trust that the Australian Government will not accept that situation. We may be faced with dangers if Japan is not permitted to rearm, but I believe that the danger to this country would be greater if Japan were rearmed. The Japanese will agree to abide by all the conditions of a peace treaty, to join the United Nations and to send a token force to any country to which the United Nations decides to send forces, but the thought uppermost in their minds will be to take advantage of the opportunity offered by a peace treaty to establish armed forces as powerful as, or even more powerful than, those that we fought a few years ago. They will accept the terms of a peace treaty and join the United Nations, just as they joined the League of Nations, but when they are sufficiently strong they will walk out. If they are given an opportunity to rearm, the thought uppermost in their minds will be to use their armed forces for the purpose of defeating and massacring those who were responsible for the destruction of their country in the last war.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time ‘has expired.
– We have heard an extraordinary . and illogical speech delivered by a former Minister of the Crown. I find it very dimcult to reply to the honorable gentleman’s remarks. To me, they were patently childish. He talked of the failure of the former Minister for External Affairs, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), to take action against Russia and of responsible Ministers returning to Australia from overseas and not telling the people what they knew. One moment he spoke about rearming Japan, and the next . moment he said that he did not want that to happen. He did not really know what he wanted. If we do not permit Japan to rearm to a certain degree, we shall have to be responsible for its defence. If Japan, with its great industrial potential, were to fall into the hands of Russia, the dangers with which we should be faced then would be infinitely greater than those with which we should be faced if Japan were allowed to rearm. No honorable nation can allow a defenceless country to run the risk of destruction by people who hate it. Either Russia or China would take J Japan if it could do so.
We are debating an important statement that was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on his return from overseas. The right honorable gentleman, in logical sequence, informed us of the deductions he had made as a result of his visit abroad. He told us of the dangers that face Australia, of the threat in Kashmir, of Afghanistan, and of the condition of Europe. In a very careful statement, he warned Australia of the possibility of war within three years. That statement was not made lightly. I ask the people of Australia to reflect upon it. The right honorable gentleman was the man who, approximately ten years ago, made the immense decision of putting this nation upon a war footing and declaring war upon Hitler. People who have had to bear a responsibility as grave as. that do not talk of war lightly. I ask honorable members to consider very carefully the measured words that the Prime Minister used. I believe that no logical argument could be adduced to refute the truth of the warning that he gave.
The Prime Minister was followed in the debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). Having heard - I am sorry to have to use this expression - the “ mumbo-jumbo “ speech of the Leader of the Opposition, I thought that it would have been much wiser if the right honorable gentleman ‘ had moved for the adjournment of the House rather than have delivered that shocking speech, which, mark you, followed a most important pronouncement by the Prime Minister. I have often been critical of the Leader of the Opposition, but generally our differences have related to matters of opinion. On this occasion I find it very difficult to decide whether the right honorable gentleman acted deliberately or accidentally in following an important pronouncement with the use of a cold, wet blanket. There was absolutely no justification for many of the curious statements that he made in answering the Prime Minister’s challenge to the nation to prepare, not to fight a war but to avert a war.
It will -be recalled that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) expressed qualified support of our action in Korea, but I have never believed for one moment that the Labour movement has been sincere in its support of Australian intervention in Korea. The Labour party was in a cleft stick. It supported the United Nations, but its members have never had their hearts in the war in Korea. We know that that war has been a God-sent opportunity to warn the democracies that it is time to prepare. Nothing less than that would have, started the great rearmament programme ,that may avert .a world conflict. Surely, the. averting of -a world conflict is a meritorious objective.
We have heard, especially from members of the Labour party, criticism of the action of the United Nations forces in Korea in crossing the 38th parallel. Let us remember how the preparedness of the North Koreans per- mitted them to drive the United States troops, or the United Nations troops, back over terrain that favoured mobile forces. Against a great weight of numbers, youthful American draftees put up a most gallant resistance. Eventually, as their numbers increased and supplies became available in greater quantities,the tide of the war turned and they crossed the 38th parallel. They have been criticized for having taken that action, not only here but also overseas, but we have not heard any criticism levelled at “ red “ China for its having crossed the 38th parallel. ‘ Several times the Leader of the Opposition said that he did not favour the United Nations forces crossing the 3Sth parallel,- but he did not once criticize China for having done so. The fighting in Korea is now taking place south of the parallel. Surely, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; but it is the democracies and not the dictators who are criticized.
What is this nonsense? When a commander has his forces fighting the enemy, he is losing men in battle every day. if he succeeds in pushing the enemy back, is he to be expected to let the enemy reorganize its forces so that they may again endanger his men ? The war is one against the North Koreans. If the forces of the United Nations had been able to push the North Koreans back over the Manchurian border, it would have been the duty of Manchuria, under international law, to intern North Koreans who crossed into Manchurian territory. If they had done so, the war in Korea would have ended, and elections could have been held and a democratic Korea have been established. But China prevented that. Did the Chinese leaders believe that the comparatively small United Nations forces in Korea either had the desire or were sufficiently strong to endanger the sovereignty of China? They had absolutely no cause to believe that. There was no censorship in force at that time, and every United Nations unit was mentioned by name. The Chinese knew the strength of the United Nations forces and knew that they had nothing to fear from them, yet, while the war was being fought, they were furtively massing, not tens of thousands, but nearly 1,000,000 Chinese troops, socalled volunteers. It takes time to mass large numbers of troops, and the orders for their concentration must have been given long before the trend of the war in Korea altered in favour of the democracies. Surely the object of that massing of troops was to surprise the United Nations forces?
What reason had the Chinese to fear that the United Nations forces constituted a threat to them? There had been no bombing of the hydro-electric power stations in the north of Korea or reconnaissance flights by aircraft over Chinese territory. We know that we had no designs against the integrity of China. To my mind, there are two interpretations that can be placed upon the Chinese action. The first is that what was done was done at the request of Russia, which is the nigger in the wood-pile. The second is that it was done to gain face. Russia had failed in the Korean adventure, and perhaps China wished to show Russia what it could do and thus gain face for itself. Face is very important in the East.
Is it contended that Red China should be recognized by the democracies ? It has broken the international rules of warfare, acted as an aggressor in Korea and permitted rebel troops from Indo-China to train and receive assistance in the way of arms and equipment in Chinese territory. Consider also the Chinese action in Tibet. To my mind, there is, as yet, no reason why we should recognize Red China. Again, I direct the attention of the critics of the action of the United Nations forces and the action of General MacArthur to the fact that no criticism has been levelled at China for having gone south of the 38th parallel. Orders having been given to the Supreme Commander of the United Nations forces in Korea, it is scandalous to criticize the merits or demerits of his actions. There are some of our men fighting in that country. If they are led to believe that we are not fighting for a good and sound reason, they will ask why they should be called upon to risk their lives there. The effect upon the parents, wives and sweethearts of the men who are fighting in Korea of their being led to believe that the war there is not a just war, would be great. Are we the kind of people who like to send our men to fight in an unjust war ? What is happening in Korea may result in war being kept from Europe and from our own shores.
The Leader of the Opposition refreshed our minds upon his view of the troubles in Asia. He is full of theory. In this debate and in a previous debate on international affairs, he said repeatedly that the troubles of Asia were due, not to communism, but to poverty. To the right honorable gentleman, Asia is a mass of teeming millions of people who live in squalor and under terrible conditions. He once visited Singapore and saw the slums there. That is where his ideas originated. If an observer from Europe came to Australia, visited East Sydney, and its counterpart in Melbourne, met the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and then went home and wrote a book in which he described what he had seen as typical of Australia, he would be doing exactly what the Leader of the Opposition has done in this connexion. Whenever the right honorable gentleman speaks of the East, he talks in glowing terms of Mr. Nehru. Mr. Nehru has made a profound impression on his mind. Perhaps it is the contrast to his own parliamentary advisers that causes him to admire Mr. Nehru. But Pandit Nehru has not always been right. He does not constitute the Government of India, although he is the leader of the Indian Government. The Leader of the Opposition implied that the troubles which have arisen throughout the British Empire have been due to the old British colonial policy. But whenever British colonies have reached a stage of civilization which has entitled them to self-rule they have assumed responsibility for their own government and where the British have colonized, British institutions and the British system of justice have always remained. People who speak critically of the old British colonial policy should examine these facts. The Leader of the Opposition praised Mr. Attlee for having recommended that India be given independence, but that was the policy of all political parties in England. The right honorable member complained of casualties in Kashmir, but forgot to mention that what has taken place there has been the result of the partition of India. He gave the impression that Pandit Nehru was right on the subject of Kashmir. Many attempts have been made to settle this problem, but not one suggested solution has met with the approval of Mr. Nehru.
The Prime Minister pointed out how great is the menace of events that are taking place in India, Malaya, and other countries near our continent. He assured the House that he had made no commitments whatsoever; but I believe most honorable members will agree that it is desirable that any action which Australia may take shall be taken off the shores of this country. Such action may be required in Malaya or in the Middle East. I consider that the Prime Minister gave a very careful and thoughtful warning to the nation. There cannot be any honorable member who does not regard the future with misgiving. This is no time for complacency. Coming after the Prime Minister’s splendid address, a speech such as the Leader of the Opposition made could only do harm by engendering doubt and complacency, and conveying the impression that this is not the time to prepare to avert war. I ask the right honorable member to consider what the position would have been to-day if Hitler had had the V2 rockets in 1940, or if he had entered the Ukraine as a deliverer instead of as a ravisher. What would have been the position of Australia now if there had been no Pearl Harbour? We are sitting on the thin edge df great dangers. We do not know what advance the Soviet Union has made in connexion with secret weapons. It is known that it has made great advances in the development of methods of waging bacteriological warfare. Soviet scientists have taken up that work where the Japanese left off and they have used the brains of the best German scientists as well. Nobody knows how much the Soviet Union has achieved in this respect. During each war new and more horrible methods of destruction are invented. Under such circumstances, who is prepared to state to the people that this is not the time to prepare for war? The
Government is not proposing to prepare for war. It has proposed to prepare to avert war.
The honorable member for Adelaide asked why Russia had not. been told to disarm. How can other nations talk effectively to Russia if they are not better armed than it is? Despite its long history of isolation, the United States has at last assumed the leadership of the world. It proposes to expend some 50,000,000,000 dollars on defence preparations during the next eighteen months. The whole civilized world depends on the will to fight of the United States. If America fails, there will be a world war; and if a world war takes place surely it must be accepted that there will be a conflict in the East in order to divide the troops of democracy. If a war is fought in the East, China will demand some reward. What would then be the position of Australia if the democracies lost the war?
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mullens) adjourned.
– by leave - At the last general election the parties which constitute the present Government, in a joint policy, told the people of Australia in plain terms where they stood in relation to communism. The essence of the policy was expressed in these words -
Communism in Australia is an alien and destructive pest. If elected we shall outlaw it. The Communist party will be declared subversive and unlawful, and dissolved.
Backed by an overwhelming mandate from the people, the Government introduced into the present Parliament legislation to give effect to this pledge. For months the Labour party opposed the bill, but at long last, and after special and urgent instructions had been given to it by a specially convened meeting of its Federal Executive, the bill received unanimous support and became an act on the 20th October, 1950. Its validity was at once challenged by the Australian Communist party and others. By suitable procedures three questions were raised for decision by the Full High Court.
The first, question was whether the validity or invalidity of the act depended upon, a judicial determination of any of the facts stated in the recitals of the preamble to the act. This question was by a large majority answered “ No “. The second question was whether the plaintiffs were entitled to adduce evidence in support of their denial of the facts recited. By the same majority that question was answered “ No “. The third question was whether the provisions of the act were invalid either in whole or in part. That question by a large majority was answered in these- terms : “ That the act was wholly invalid”. The position, therefore, is that our legislation is void and inoperative.
It would be foolish to pretend that this decision has not given grave concern to the Government, and, for that matter, to some- millions of the Australian people. It is, therefore, necessary that, aided by the analysis to which the individual judgments have been subjected by the law officers of the Crown, I should briefly indicate how far this historic decision affects our necessary preparations for war and the equally urgent task of dealing with the Communist fifth column which is now operating in Australia. Having done that I shall tell the House what steps we propose to take to rectify the position, if and to the limited extent that it is capable of rectification.
I want to say at once that I have, of course, no legal criticisms to make. The High Court is a body especially established for various purposes, one of which is the interpretation of the Commonwealth Constitution. Its judges are men of great learning and of unquestioned integrity. They are not concerned with political issues as such, nor have they in this case assumed to sit in judgment upon the nature or extent of the Communist activities in Australia. As lawyers, they have simply declared the law of the Constitution. They are not concerned with the merits of any law ; they are concerned merely with the legal questions as to whether that law, if made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, falls within any power granted to that Parliament by the Commonwealth Constitution. The court, in effect, considered the validity of the Communist Party Dis solution- Act in the light of the defence power and also of what, was called the “ Constitution-sustaining “ power - that is, the power to defend the Constitution and the organisms set up under it against subversive attack. In the result, it found that there were certain specific limitations upon the powers, which were violated by the act in question.
First, it said that, though such an act would be valid during actual war - that is, war on a substantial scale involving widespread action in Australia, as distinct from limited military operations such as those now proceeding in Korea - and also might be valid during an antecedent period of imminent danger of war, it could not validly operate otherwise. Secondly, it held that the question whether there waa, on the 20,th October, 1950, the date when the act came into operation, such an imminent danger of war, was one for the court to determine in the light of such notorious facts as the court would, following normal practice, judicially notice. Some reference was made to judicial notice. What is judicially noticed does not require evidence. It relates to facts of such notoriety that the court says, in effect, “ We treat these as facts “. In such a view, it seems that the opinion of the executive government or of the Parliament is held not to be conclusive, and may indeed be rejected. As it is the Government which has the supreme responsibility for handling the international relations of Australia and informing itself fi om the most secret and confidential sources of the nature and imminence of dangers which may threaten Australia, this decision is of very great significance and difficulty.
Thirdly, the court found that, in the absence of war or what the court might adjudge to be imminent danger of war, individuals and associations cannot be brought within the arm of a Commonwealth law except by virtue of specific acts, the nature and effect of which must be established by evidence strictly admissible in court according to the precise and technical rules of evidence which operate in ordinary legal proceedings. This view was concisely stated by Mr. Justice Dixon with reference to section 4 of the act, which provided for the dissolution of the Communist party, in these words -
When section 4 names a voluntary association, declares it unlawful and by force of the Act dissolves it … it provides for matters which considered as specific subjects ure not of their own nature within any of the enunciated powers of the Commonwealth Parliament and prima facie lie only within the province of the States. If the operations of the law . . . were made by the statute to depend upon the actual existence or occurrence of any act, matter or thing, having a specific relation to the purposes of the .power with reference to defence, then . . . the provision would be brought within it as ancillary to the main purpose of the power.
Shorn of any technical expressions, that is sufficiently self-explanatory. That this decision discloses grievous limitations upon the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament it would be hard to deny ; for, as we have repeatedly pointed out in this House, many facts which those responsible for executive government and therefore for the safety of the country know only too well are not susceptible of legal proof, or alternatively could be proved only by the most dangerous disclosure of the personnel and operations of our Security Service.
The Government has all along been deeply affected by the knowledge that we are not seeking to deal with ordinary lawbreakers. On the contrary, we are seeking to deal with a Communist conspiracy, wholly or partly hidden in its activities and manoeuvres, damaging our defence efforts and preparations, retarding muchneeded production, aggravating inflation, causing industrial turmoil and lowering real standards of living. “We cannot deal with such a conspiracy urgently and effectively if we are first bound to establish by strict technical means what an association or an individual is actually doing. “Wars against enemies, either external or internal, cannot be waged by a series of normal judicial processes. The court did not, so far as we can judge, by any means reject the possibility of the Commonwealth Parliament exercising, in advance of and in preparation for defensive war, certain economic controls of a kind which become comprehensive and all-important during hostilities. But such powers cannot be clearly defined, and economic regulations would therefore be open to challenge.
I now turn to the grave political problem which confronts us. “What arewe to do now, while the Communists,, some of whom said such offensive things about the court iri the early stages of the argument, are rejoicing with their friends in what they will falsely claim to be a vindication of their position and activities in this country? On behalf of the Government, I shall answer this question quite clearly. First, we will continue to attack communism in Australia by every constitutional means in our power, even though we are largely crippled by this decision and must therefore resort, subject to future legislative action by a reconstituted Parliament, to an imperfect set of provisions. Secondly, we will, as soon as possible, introduce into the Parliament a Defence Preparations Bill upon the assumption that we have power to take measures from time to time for the economic strengthening of the nation for war.
Thirdly, we have already had passed by this House an amending Concilitation and Arbitration Bill designed to deal, by means of the injunction, with strikes which, as the House knows, are increasingly of the most obvious Communist origin. As the people are well aware, this legislation is being opposed by the Labour party, and therefore so long as a Labour majority in the Senate controls our legislative programme the bill cannot go on to the statute-book. The second bill, designed, as my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has already told the House, to rectify obvious weaknesses in upholding decisions of the Coal Industry Tribunal, cannot without breach of agreement be even introduced without the concurrence of the Government of New South “Wales. That concurrence has so far not been forthcoming. I may say that to-night, just as I entered the House, I received a telegram from the Premier of New South “Wales, which indicated that before any concurrence could be given various aspects of this matter would require further discussion.
Fourthly, I have to-day given notice of the introduction of an amending Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to provide for secret ballots for the election of officebearers of organizations registered under Commonwealth law. “We attach great importance to- this matter, because we believe that the secret ballot will put into the hands of the rank and file of the trade unions a means of protection which they can use with effect against their Communist misleaders. Fifthly, we are closely examining the judgments and the relevant provisions of the Constitution in order to determine - and the problem is not an easy one - whether any new and adequate constitutional power to deal direct with the Communist wreckers can be obtained either by securing, under the terms of the Constitution, referred powers from the States or by direct constitutional amendment approved by the people at a referendum.
But, above all, it is necessary that I should say, on behalf of the Government and on behalf of all honorable members who support it in both Houses, that the legislative machinery of this nation has been repeatedly thrown out of gear by the wilful obstruction in another place of measures for which this Government obtained a clear mandate at the last general election. So far, the Labour party, which controls a majority in another place, has pursued irritation tactics. As is well known, it secured that majority by arranging, while it was still in power, a system of voting for the Senate which guaranteed that the Labour majority of 1946 could not be overthrown by the Liberal-Australian Country party majority of 1949. Of 42 Senate seats contested at the last general election, we won 23 and Labour 19. But the Senate, by reason of Labour’s adroit plan, still has an over-all Labour majority, which seeks to frustrate the people’s verdict of fifteen months ago. Labour used its prearranged majority in another place-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman will not be in order in discussing the proceedings in another place.
– I understood, Mr. Speaker, that we were not at liberty to refer to proceedings in the Senate ; I am referring to another place.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is still out of order.
– Do you rule, Mr. Speaker, that I am not at liberty to refer to the defeat of Government measures except in this House?
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is entitled to refer to those measures, but he is not entitled to go into proceedings in another place.
– I am not going to speak at length on the subject. Honorable members opposite know well what happened about child endowment; they know why they surrendered after a delay which went beyond the point, of all sense of responsibility. They know why they imposed by their authority, which is not confined to this House, the most grievous delay upon the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, a bill which otherwise would have been passed and its validity or otherwise determined long ago in the courts. They know why they did that, and why they permitted that bill to pass many months after its first introduction.
– I rise to order. The right honorable gentleman was given leave to make a statement in relation to the decision of the High Court concerning the Communist Party Dissolution Act.
– And its consequences.
– I submit that the right honorable gentleman has long since ceased to discuss the decision of the High Court.
– Order ! So far, the right honorable gentleman is in order.
– Honorable members opposite know why, finally, they permitted the Communist Party Dissolution Bill to pass many months after its first introduction. It was passed only because their executive outside had decided that the people were on the Government’s side in respect of its proposals to deal with the Communists and because the Labour party must not risk encountering the people in an angry mood. During recent months the Labour party has postponed the commencement of the national service scheme, a scheme the prompt commencement and successful execution of which have so much to do with the safety of Australia. Once again, by a narrow and nervous majority of its outside executive, it has been ordered to support national service; though it has so far failed to exhibit this support by passing the necessary legislation.
– What has this to do with the decision of the High Court ?
– It has a lot to do with that decision; and what is more it has a great deal to do with members of the Opposition. I want to say as plainly as possible that my colleagues and I believe, and have believed right throughout the life of this Parliament, that there can be no strong and effective government, either legislative or administrative, in the Commonwealth until the conflict over these matters has been resolved, and a government is in office which with a majority in both Houses can promptly put its proposals into effect by legislation and by clear and strong executive action.
I should here interpolate, in view of what I find to be a widespread public misapprehension, that in relation to the Communist legislation no case for seeking a double dissolution under section 57 of the Constitution ever arose. There need be no question about this; there is only one party in this Parliament which fears such a dissolution and has so far gone to great pains to avoid it. There is at present before another place a banking bill twice passed by this House, once debated and unacceptably amended in another place, and now before it for a second time. The Australian Labour party - honorable members opposite will correct me if I am wrong - has officially decided to persist in its opposition to that proposed legislation.
– Hear, hear !
– Very feeble “ Hear, hears ! “ This bill, on its second journey, has been before the Senate since October of last year. If the object of the Labour party is to continue to frustrate government in Australia, it will once more have a hurried meeting, get its orders and run away. But if, as it professes, it wants the effective government which the people are entitled to demand, it will now bring this farce to an end. It has, as I have said, publicly announced its intention to reject a vital provision of the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– Let the Government try it.
– Let honorable members opposite hearken to the answer. Let the Opposition promptly reject that measure. Let the machinery of the Constitution work. Let us go to our masters, the Australian people, and ask them to say where they stand on these crucial issues of the Communist conspiracy, of law and order in industry, of the public safety, of the preparation of this country to meet as heavy a cloud of danger as free men have looked at for many long months. This is perfectly simple. The Government will welcome the verdict of the people. It will be avoided only by another surrender. It will be delayed, only by those who prefer shabby expediency to the vital interests of the nation. I lay on the table the following paper : -
Communist Party Dissolution Act - Court’s Decision of Invalidity - Ministerial Statement, and move -
That the paper be printed.
– I shall say at once that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has indicated clearly that the Government is now reaping the harvest of the refusal of its political supporters in years gone by to give very much wider and greater powers to the National Parliament. I know of nothing more shabby in the history of the Parliament than the action of those supporters in that respect, and, indeed, of the Prime Minister himself when his party was previously in office, in denying to the National Parliament complete power, or at least the very much more extended power that the Labour party has always advocated should be given to this Parliament.
– The people refused to give that power to the Parliament.
– That is true, because of newspaper propaganda and also, because of the fact that it is very difficult to carry a referendum in Australia unless all parties in the Parliament give a reasonable degree of support to the proposals that are submitted to the people. It is perfectly true that the people have rejected at referendums proposals to give these greater powers to the National Parliament. That result is typical of referendums generally in every country, including Switzerland which, is the home of the referendum. It is difficult to carry a referendum unless a majority of the political parties are prepared to recommend to their supporters support of the proposals that are submitted to the people. But whatever the position of the Government may be to-day in that respect it can thank itself and its party political predecessors that it does not possess ample power to deal with any situation in any way that it may deem fit to do so. I have personally supported every referendum that has been put to the people for the purpose of obtaining greater powers for the National Parliament. More than that, I have supported such proposals from the public platform and, indeed, have advocated an affirmative vote when members of my own party, for party political reasons no doubt, were opposed to them. I have had a clear cut conception of this Parliaments responsibilities in respect of any matter of a national complexion, and it has been that the Parliament should have complete and absolute power in such matters. I recall that about 1944 when the then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, called a conference of leaders of all parties in this Parliament and in the State parliaments to consider proposals to alter -the Constitution with a view to giving greater powers to the National Parliament, the present Leader of the Government and the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who was then as he is now Leader of the Australian Country party, showed such little enthusiasm for them that the former, at any rate, did not even remain in attendance at that conference until it concluded.
– The proposals were quite silly.
– It is well that the Prime Minister should express his opinion on that matter. I did not think that the proposals that were submitted at that conference went nearly far enough. I may, perhaps, be one of those who are disposed to ask for greater powers from the States than the State Premiers, including Labour Premiers, might be prepared to grant. However, I shall analyse briefly the remarks of the Prime Minister about what he has termed the “ frustration “ of the Government’s legis lative programme. What are the measures that the Opposition has delayed in the Senate, or anywhere else for that matter? Have they a vital bearing upon the main economic subjects that affect the people of this country? I shall take one much discussed matter, the famous “ value in the pound “. Has any one seen a proposal before this House in the last fifteen months during which the Government has been in office, that has had any real bearing upon giving effect to the promise that the Governments parties made at the general election about putting value back in the £1?
– The anti-Communist legislation, of course.
– The Prime Minister has referred to the Commonwealth Bank Bill. Could anybody suggest that the establishment of a board to control the Commonwealth Bank could have affected this country as far as putting value back into the £1 is concerned ?
– Downing the Communists could have done so. That is item number one.
– Do not be ridiculous!
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) thinks that communism has nothing to do with production, and therefore has nothing to with inflation.
– I gave the Prime Minister a patient hearing on this matter, and I ask him to learn the art of “ taking it “. His whole attitude here to-night has been one of bitter resentment and hatred. Let us examine the particular matters with which he has dealt. I shall take them one by one. Could any one reasonably suggest that the establishment of a bank board would have enabled the Government parties to carry out their promise to put value back into the £1? The galloping horse of inflation is to-day galloping faster than ever.
Now we come to the Communist Party Dissolution Act. The Government was in office for nearly four months before we heard of that legislation. That fact gives the measure of the great urgency of that particular matter. If I remember aright the bill was introduced in April of last year, and whether the Labour party had co-operated in passing it immediately then, or now, would not make the slightest, difference as far as the Government’s power to give effect to that legislation is concerned.
– Is the Labour party prepared to go to the people on that matter?
– The position is that whether the Communist Party Dissolution Act went through the Parliament ten months ago or one month ago, the fact remains that the High Court of Australia has stated in unmistakable terms that the act is illegal, invalid and contrary to the Constitution, and, indeed, that it is contrary to the principles of justice. I must also mention, because there may be people in this country who are not aware of the fact that five of the seven justices who now constitute the High Court were appointed by conservative governments, and, therefore, nobody can say that it was a packed court that gave judgment against the act.
– Nobody did say that. That is pure hooey.
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to grant the Leader of the Opposition a fair and reasonable hearing. There are too many interjections. I am quite sure that the right honorable gentleman can state his case without assistance.
– I repeat that the High Court consists of seven justices, five of whom were appointed by conservative governments. At one time the charge was made here that a Labour government intended to pack the High Court. The Labour party was in office for eight years and, if I remember aright, the only justice who was added to the High Court during that period was the Chief Justice of Queensland, so there was not much packing of the court as far as Labour was concerned. That fact is emphasized when it is realized that the Labour party had during that period a clear majority in both houses of the Parliament which would have enabled it to increase the number of justices of the court. I have mentioned the facts because it is desirable that people who may be listening to the broadcast of this debate should know that Labour’s last period of office was marked by complete honesty in relation to positions on the High Court, and was motivated by a desire to ensure that the court should be beyond reproach as far as the integrity of its members was concerned. No judge was appointed by Labour to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which gave a decision against the Government recently, who was not already a judge in the arbitration field. The only judge recently appointed to the court which recently gave judgment against the Government was appointed by the present Government. Therefore it will be seen that the Labour party never at any time attempted to do, or did, anything that might be construed as the packing of courts.
– What about the appointment of the conciliation commissioners ?
– I shall not have time to deal with that matter. I merely wished to remark in passing that of the seven High Court justices, six of whom declared the Communist Party Dissolution Act to be illegal, invalid, unjust and outside the powers granted by the Constitution
– I rise to order. Is it permissible for the Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies) and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to carry on a discussion at the table while the Leader of the Opposition is addressing the House?
– I know that the Postmaster-General and the Prime Minister have been engaging in some discussion at the table ; I could hear it going on. But I could also hear other discussions going on behind the Leader of the Opposition on his own front bench.
– That does not make it right.
– Of course it does not. If honorable members will maintain silence on both sides, we shall have satisfaction on all sides.
– I repeat that the question of Whether the anti-Communist legislation to which I have referred had been passed by this Parliament ten months ago or one month ago does not affect the power of the Government to implement it, because that legislation has been declared invalid.1 Judging from the voting of the various justices against the validity of the measure it is obvious that the judgment would have been the same even if two additional justices had been appointed to the court ten months ago. It is therefore useless for the Prime Minister to go canvassing in a manner which, as I have said, indicates that when he is beaten he is not able to “ take it “. Labour governments have been defeated in cases before the High Court. I, as the leader of such a government, made no complaint about that fact, because such defeats are among the fortunes of war in politics. If a government’s legislation is declared by the High Court or the Privy Council to be beyond the limits of the ‘Constitution, there is only one course to take, and that is to go to the people and ask them for an alteration of the Constitution to cover the matters of national importance, power to legislate on which the Government considers should be given to the Parliament.
Now let us examine the other matters that the right honorable gentleman spoke about in relation to the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Government had been in office for fifteen months before it even introduced these proposals, so it cannot be said that they are urgent. They came before the House only a fortnight ago.
– The decision of the court was not known then.
– .The answer to the honorable member who interjected to the effect that the decision of the High Court was not known then, is that it was certainly not known to me when the amending legislation was introduced a fortnight ago. The decision of the High Court was given last Friday. At 12.30 p.m., or thereabouts, this legislation was dealt with in this House. Unless the Government had some information, which I do not suspect or suggest that it had, then the legislation which came down a fortnight ago had nothing to do with the decision of the High Court.
– It did have something to do with the decision of the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– The decision of the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court might be said to have had some effect as far as that was concerned. However, it took the Government fifteen months to find all this out.
– We did not have a court case before that.
– Do not forget that one of the justices who decided against the validity of the anti-Communist legislation was appointed by this Government itself. I commend the justices for their ability to give judgments without allowing any political considerations to influence them. It cannot be suggested that any man on the High Court bench would allow such considerations to influence him. When the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) have finished their conversation at the table, I shall proceed to use the brief time at my disposal to address the House. I gave the Prime Minister a very good hearing, and I consider that the courtesies of this House demand that we, as the leaders of the parties in the House, should extend courtesy to one another. I make no further complaint about that matter.
Let honorable members opposite point to one other piece of legislation, introduced by the Government, that has had a bearing on the economic condition of the country and that has been delayed by the Opposition unnecessarily. What other measures during the Government’s term of office would, have made any change in its constitutional powers or would have done anything to improve the economic position of the country? Can any Government supporter or anybody else name one? All this talk that we have heard about delays and frustration has consisted merely of millions and millions of words and nothing else. The great eloquence of the Prime Minister has welled out over the radio and across the countryside-
– Will the right honorable gentleman allow the people to decide the issue?
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. Although there have been millions of words the amount of action has been negligible. None of the matters that were raised by the Prime Minister dealt with cures for our economic ilk, and, indeed, no specific proposal to that effect has been submitted to the House, although the right honorable gentleman has claimed that certain legislation, had it been held valid by the High Court, would have played a very important role .in destroying communism in Australia. The right honorable gentleman made a good deal of play about the subject of people who change their minds. In other debates, I have read to the House statements by the right honorable gentleman about his attitude to communism. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House, for its courtesy in permitting me to continue my speech. Some time ago, the Prime Minister was one of the greatest opponents of the proposal to ban communism. Some of his utterances on that subject appear in Hansard, and I have read them to the House in other debates. He suggested that the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour Party, and members of the Parliamentary Labour party had changed their minds from time to time about various bills. If that be so, they are in exactly the same boat as he is.
– But the Prime Minister was a little quicker than they were.
– My evidence is that the Prime Minister went to a party meeting at 10 o’clock one morning convinced that communism should not be banned, but came away at noon advocating that it should be banned. That is my reply to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth).
– It is a singularly false one. The Leader of the Opposition does not know anything about it. He was not there-
– I do not think that the Prime Minister will deny that he has had a complete change of front.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not do so badly himself.
– The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) used to advise the House about the application of section 30j and other sections of the Crimes Act to the Communists. He has been one of the legal advisers of the Government, and I do not think that the House, in view of his performance in that respect, will take much notice of .his advice. He interjected that I had changed my mind. That is not ‘true.
– The Leader of the Opposition obeyed his masters.
– I have never pretended anything other than ‘that the Federal Conference of the Australian Labour party should be the body to lay down its policy. I have fought for that principle and because I did so, I lost my seat in this Parliament in the days when the executive of the New South “Wales Labour party resolved that each State should make its own decisions. For nine years after that, I was not a member of the Parliament. I can be regarded as consistent.
The Prime Minister has spoken about the Labour Opposition in another place. I have memories of the conservative Opposition in that chamber in 1930. I also have recollections of select committees, because I have had rich experience of them. As a Minister in the Scullin Government, I was able to observe the tactics of the then Opposition in the Senate towards the legislation of that Administration, in spite of the fact that it had received an overwhelming mandate from the people in 1929. I make no apologies for the action that has been taken by the Senate towards several bills. I remind the Prime Minister that the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1950, which was returned with a message to this chamber from the Senate last year, has not yet been considered. How has the Government treated another place ? How has it dealt with the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1950 ? The answer to that question is there for all to see. That ‘bill is placed at the bottom of the notice-paper. The Government has treated a message from another place with the gravest discourtesy. Yet that is not all. The Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill 1950, which is a most important measure, appears on the notice-paper under private members’ business. What courtesy has been shown to another place in dealing with that measure? It is all very well for the Prime Minister to sneer at other people, but the Government, which controls the placing of business on the notice-paper, is exhibiting contempt for the will of another House of the Parliament.
The Prime Minister referred to the constitutional powers of this Parliament. If he considers, as we have always considered, that much wider powers should be given to this Parliament, let him place a definite proposal before us. In the past, he has denied that such powers are necessary. Has he ever supported a referendum to increase the powers of the Parliament of the ‘Commonwealth? I have yet to learn that he has done so.
– The right honorable gentleman has much to learn. I was in charge of a referendum in 1936-37.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s statement that he supported a referendum in 1936-37 to give wider powers to the Parliament of the Commonwealth. ‘
– Powers relating to aviation and marketing
– The right honorable gentleman certainly did not support the referendum in 1944, and a later referendum to vest in this Parliament power to control prices in the post-war period. What have the Prime Minister and his supporters done to improve the economic position of Australia-? What legislation apart from what the right honorable gentleman mentioned obliquely, has been introduced that would enable them to give effect to their pre-election promises? I doubt whether there has ever been in the history of this country a government that has used more words and been responsible for fewer deeds than the present Government. I also doubt whether there has ever been a government which has been more inept, which has completely betrayed the people, and which has completely failed to keep the promises that it made to them on the things that really mattered. “ Hiffalutin “ talk, yes ! Some one said yesterday, “If the troubles of this nation could be cured by words’, they would be cured overnight; but if we are waiting for the present Government to cure them by deeds, they will never be cured “. ‘ :
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) in his speech, touched upon everything but the one vital question to which the people of Australia require an answer at this moment. That question is whether the Labour party is prepared to seek the verdict of the highest court in this country - the people themselves. The right honorable gentleman dealt with events in 1930, skated round communism, and said a few kind words about the High Court of Australia, but he did not at any time refer to the challenge that was thrown to the Labour party and himself by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). He endeavoured to construe a part of the Prime Minister’s speech as an attack upon the High Court. No such attack was made. The Prime Minister referred to the members of the judiciary in the very highest terms. Indeed, why should not members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party refer to their honours in the highest terms? Was it not the High Court that prevented the socialization programme of the Chifley Labour Government from being put into effect by declaring invalid the Banking Act 1947? Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party stand resolutely behind the determinations of that tribunal. However, we cannot leave the national situation in such a state that the Government, which was elected by an overwhelming majority of the people about fifteen months ago, will be thwarted in every endeavour to rectify the grievous situations that exist on every hand. Such frustration is brought about, not necessarily by constitutional limitations, but by a situation created by the previous Labour Government having manipulated the election of the Senate in such a way that its majority could not be dislodged during the life of this Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition chided the Prime Minister with having changed his mind about banning communism in Australia. He said that he could cite evidence that the Prime Minister had declared not so long ago that he was opposed to such a policy. But many things have happened since the right honorable gentleman, as the Leader of the Opposition, made that declaration. Has not the Leader of the Opposition heard of the fate of various countries in Eastern Europe? Ls he not aware of what has happened to Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Roumania and the other little countries now controlled by the Communists? Does he not know that the fights of free men in those countries have been destroyed by the Communist terror? Is he not aware that the prelates of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in Hungary and Czechoslovakia have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment? Has he not read of the activities of the Soviet delegates to the United Nations? Have not all those occurrences had any effect upon his mind? If those events leave him unmoved, he now believes something different from what he told the people of Australia a little more than fifteen months ago. I hold in my hand a document that is a recognition by the right honorable gentleman of the sinister activities of communism in Australia itself. I refer to a quarter-page advertisement that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 7th July, 1949, during the coal strike. The following words appear at the bottom: -
This advertisement is authorized by the Prime Minister of Australia.
These words are printed in bold type -
This strike was planned months ago by the Communist section of the Miners leaders.
They did not want the claims to be dealt with by arbitration.
Miners! do not be misled by Communists who want to wreck the Arbitration system.
And I remind honorable members that that was said only eighteen months ago by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister of Australia. Another advertisement was inserted in the press a few days later. It also was authorized by the Prime Minister of Australia who is now the Leader of the Opposition. That advertisement reads, inter alia -
This is a Communist inspired strike against arbitration and everything the trades union movement stands for. Do not be misled! Do not be the dupes of Communism!
But now the Leader of the Opposition says that there is no need at all for any one to change his mind and no need for any one to take action against communism in this country. He also says that the Government has all the power that it needs. I remind honorable members that he says that, even though it has been clearly demonstrated that the Government has little power at present, and will have no more in the future unless certain legislation which will have a braking affect on the progress of communism in Australia can be passed through this Parliament. In saying that I refer to certain legislation which has been rejected in the last few days by honorable members opposite, who have openly stated that they intend to ensure that it shall be defeated in another place.
– Order ! The Minister must not refer to matters that are not at present before the House.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. I have demonstrated that in times of danger the Opposition recognizes the Communist menace. At other times it displays a complete unwillingness to co-operate with the constitutional Government of Australia in measures designed to prevent that danger from spreading. I suggest to honorable members opposite that they have refused enough already, and that certain legislation which should have been passed long ago is still under discussion in another place.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! I direct the attention of both sides of the House to Standing Order 72. I allowed a certain degree of latitude to both the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), but I do not intend to allow the debate to develop into an argument between the two Houses of the Parliament. Standing Order 72 reads -
No Member shall allude to any debate or proceedings of the current Session in the Senate or to any measure pending therein.
I remind honorable members that that standing order is quite specific.
– I shall not refer to legislation pending in another place, but in justification of the efforts of the Government to pass legislation through the two Houses one can point first of all to the inconveniences which are being suffered by the people of Australia through shortage of power, shortage of building material, shortage of coal and iron and the inability of the Government to carry out the various defence projects that are necessary for the security of the country. That is all due to planned strikes which are aimed at keeping down our production, particularly of coal, steel and other basic materials. The activities of the Communists in this -regard are apparent to everybody. Honorable members opposite are very vocal about rising prices and the necessity to put value back into the Australian £1. As a matter of fact the putting of value back into the Australian £1 has become the rallying cry of the Labour party. I suggest to honorable members that if they really want to put value back into the Australian £1 the best course for them to follow is one of co-operation with the Government in its attempts to stamp out Communist-planned strikes and to raise production. I remind the House that in his advertisements at the time of the coal strike eighteen months ago the then Prime Minister said, in effect, that Communistplanned strikes prevent the workers from doing a productive job. In his speech to-day, the Leader of the Opposition referred to many things, but he ignored the challenge issued by the Prime Minister. That challenge is that if the Labour party considers that it is standing for a principle, and if it believes that if the people of Australia are behind it in its frustrating activities in the Parliament, then there is only one course that it can adopt. That is to submit itself to the judgment of the people of Australia.
Opposition members interjecting,
– That challenge stands. It cannot be laughed off and it cannot be shouted off. The gauge is down, and either honorable membersopposite will take it up or they will stand dishonoured. Three times the Leader of the Opposition has run away from the fight. On three occasions, at the very last moment, instructions were received from the Labour party’s Federal Executive to pass the legislation being held up ; and that legislation was passed even though honorable members opposite had said that their colours were nailed to the mast and that they would go down fighting. .
Honorable members interjecting.
– Order! There is too much interruption.
– The Labour party now has the opportunity of its life-time. If it believes in the justice of its cause, and if it believes in what it is fighting for with its majority in another place, let it bring about a double dissolution of both Houses of the Parliament so that the Australian people may decide who shall govern the country. That is the plain and simple issue. All the laughing, all the interjections and all the talk about what the .Senate did in 1930 is of no use to the housewife who is prevented from cooking, and whose house is in darkness for hours at a time because of black-outs caused by lack of coal. All the shortages that our people are suffering from are not a necessary infliction on the community, they can be avoided if the Government and the Opposition have the courage and ability to obtain and exercise the legislative power to pass the various measures necessary to deal with the situation. More than the power of this Parliament is needed to deal with the present situation. We also need the co-operation of the New South Wales Government, but we have failed to secure it. The Australian Government has a joint responsibility with the Government of New South Wales under the Coal Industry Act to try to maintain the production of the New South Wales coal mines. But every approach that we have made to the McGirr Government of New South Wales has been met with the attitude that the matter of obtaining coal has nothing to do with that Government and must be dealt with solely by this Government. I direct the attention of the House to the fact that it is the people of New South Wales who mainly suffer from coal shortages and other industrial troubles, and that therefore the amendment of the Coal Industry Act is certainly a matter the concerns the New South Wales Government. The Leader of the Opposition said that he has supported every referendum that has been held. I have no doubt that he has, because I have the greatest respect for him as. a man of his word. But every referendum that has been submitted to the people by a nonLabour government has been opposed, almost without exception, by the entire body of the Labour party.
Honorable members interjecting,
-The House must come to order. Grave disorder has been occurring during the last few minutes and if it’ does not cease I shall have to invoke Standing Order 303.
– The Government seeks power to deal with a situation without parallel in the history of this country. On the one hand we have a threat of war. The Prime Minister went abroad and conferred with Empire leaders and the leaders of other nations. When he returned he gave Australia a most grave warning as to the need for preparedness. He told the country that there is no time to be lost in preparing our defences, and that within three years we should be ready in the event of a conflict. He did not forecast that there would be war in three years, but he did say, as Mr. Attlee and President Truman have said, that the only thing which may avert war in the next few years will be the preparedness of the democracies and their ability to resist aggression if it should come. That is the only war preventive that we can obtain, and all honorable members have a responsibility in respect of defence preparedness as well as a responsibility to try to halt the increase of the cost of living by increasing production. A part of the plan of the Communist party, a plan that is being put into execution all over the world, is to prevent the democracies from re-arming and so preparing to meet aggression, by seizing on industrial disputes, turning them into political disputes and thus tying up the ships on our wharfs, shutting down the coal mines and steel works and reducing the output of our heavy industries. That is part ‘and parcel of the Communist technique not only in Australia but also in every other democratic country in the world. Therefore it is our plain duty to combat this evil influence. In order to do that we must amend the conciliation and arbitration machinery so as to give to the rank and file of the unions, even those who do not attend their union meetings, an opportunity to have a voice in the election of their officials.
Our proposals are now opposed and have been opposed in the past by organized Labour. We have reached the point at which we say that this state of affairs can no longer be tolerated by the Government or by the people. Therefore, I say to the Opposition, “ Let us see where you stand. If you have the courage, and if you believe in what you say, let the people decide whether you are right or wrong “.
– The House has endured .to-night another theatrical performance by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). There was a time when these performance were impressive, and how long ago that time now seems ! What a contrast there is between the first performance of the Prime Minister, when he announced the determined action to he taken by the Government against the Communist wreckers in the community, and the inglorious finale, in which we now see him engaged as a buffoon, marking the termination in complete futility of his career on the Australian political stage! There was a time when people listened to the statements of the Prime Minister with great attention because they were so full of bold announcements of the action to be taken by his Government. But to-day, as the honorable gentlemen who sit behind him know, the people say, “Is that man talking again? When is he going to do something about the cost of living in this country ? “
To-night, the Prime Minister has once again played the role that he has played in every acting performance that he has put on in this National Parliament. He has engaged again in the tactics of bluff and bluster. He may be able to bluff those who sit unwillingly behind him as his supporters in this Parliament; but, as events will show, he is completely unable to bluff the Opposition - the Australian Labour party. The attitude which the Prime Minister adopted to-night is so clearly an attempt to evade the real issues that now confront him and his Government that I am confident the trick will be seen through by everybody who heard his speech.
What is the issue which confronts the Government of Australia to-day?
Approximately fifteen months ago, the present Government parties went to the people of this country with a programme of many promises, not one of which they have been able to fulfil. Two of their major promises were to dissolve the Australian Communist party and to put value back into the Australian £1.
– The P.rime Minister did not promise to do that.
– Those promises were made at the last general election by the present Government parties. It is useless at this stage to attempt to deny that those promises were made. It is also useless for any honorable member on the Government side of the House to attempt to deny that for fifteen months Government speakers have been saying that it is essential for the Government to have power to dissolve the Australian Communist party in order to put value back into the £1, and that the dissolution of that party would be the greatest single step that the Government could take in order to do so. That has been the case that has been consistently presented. The present position is that no vote of the Australian Parliament is preventing the Government from dissolving the Australian Communist party and, therefore, from putting value back into the £1. What is preventing the Government from doing that is a judgment of the High Court of Australia, given by six votes to one, which stated the limitations upon the constitutional power of this Government.
What, then, is the real dilemma that confronts the Australian Government at this moment? Is it that it is being obstructed by the Australian Parliament from implementing its promises to dissolve the Australian Communist party and to put value back into the £1 ? That is not the position. The position is, in the Government’s own words, that it is being prevented from implementing its promises by limitations imposed by the Australian Constitution and disclosed by a judgment given by six of the seven justices of the High Court. That being the position, if this Government were honest in its professed desire to do either of those two things, the only course open to it would be to go to the Australian people, say that deficiencies in the Australian Constitution had been revealed which prevented it from carrying out the promises that it had made, and ask the people to give it power, under the Constitution, to enable it to honour its pledges by means of legislation. That is what the Government is endeavouring to evade doing. In all the bluster and fluster by the Prime Minister, not one word was said about that obvious solution of his difficulties.
– He did say that.
– At what stage to-night did the Prime Minister announce the determination of his Government to seek power at a referendum to do the things that he claims it is necessary to do in the interests of this community? If the Prime Minister can be taken at his word - and in political matters it is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile his words with any of his actions or his performances - what he proposes, at the most, is another appeal to the Australian people, again with the promise to put value back into the £1 and to dissolve the Australian Communist party - promises which he could scarcely expect the people to place much faith in - to re-elect the Government without having ensured for the Parliament power to do the things that he claims it is necessary to do.
In those circumstances, it will be obvious to the Australian people that tonight the Prime Minister was once again playing his old game of word spinning. Millions of words have dripped from his tongue, but during the last fifteen months his words have come to be regarded by the people as completely meaningless. The blusterings in which he has engaged tonight will fall on deaf ears as far as the Australian people are concerned. They expect him to confront the actual situation which the judgment of the High Court has imposed upon him and his Government and at least, after fifteen months, to take resolute action to fulfil his promises and to carry out the policy on which he was elected to the leadership of this nation. Until the Prime Minister is prepared to do that, he must continue to be regarded by the people of Australia as a political mountebank. There is no question that that is increasingly the way in which they are coming to regard him.
The challenges that he has flung out from time to time since he assumed the leadership of this Parliament have become so numerous and have been so constantly evaded by him that they also are meaningless in the ears of the Australian people. There is no question that the political system of this country must be made to work. There is no doubt that it cannot be made to work at present merely by holding a general election. Every honorable gentleman opposite will agree that to hold a general election now without at the same time seeking from the Australian people the power necessary to enable the Government to carry out its proclaimed policy would merely be to continue the political futility, frustration and deadlock that the Government has imposed upon the country for many months. It is useless for the Government, in the dilemma in which it now finds itself, to blame the Australian Labour party for its failure to give legislative effect to its promises and pledges. It has been disclosed clearly that that failure is clue, not to the Opposition but to a decision of the High Court. Therefore, the action that is required of the Government now is an immediate examination of the constitutional powers of the Parliament in the light of that decision and an attempt to win the approval of the people to an increase of those powers to the degree that the Government considers necessary to enable it to carry through its legislative programme. Why is the Government evading that obvious obligation?
– The Senate is the reason.
– The Senate is not involved in this matter. The Government does not appear to be willing to test the issue. As long as the political system of this country does not work, and it is not working at present-
– I have been explaining that for ten minutes. The’ Government, according to its own statement, is unable to put value back into the £1 and to deal with Communists and subversive persons in this country because of constitutional limitations disclosed by a judgment of the High Court. Therefore, only one course is open to it. Because that is the honest and open course that the people of Australia would expect the Government to take, it became necessary’ to-night for the Prime Minister to draw a red herring across the trail and to attempt to raise any side issue that would save him from the necessity of making decisions and taking action. As those who have sat behind the right honorable gentleman for a long time know already, and as those who have sat behind him for the last fifteen months are increasingly coming to realize, the Prime Minister of this country, although a magnificent man with his tongue, suffers from a fatal inability to make decisions and carry them through.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) made a characteristic speech. He used the words “ political mountebank “, “ buffoonery “, “futility”, “bluff”, “bluster”, “ frustration “ and “ trickery “. He applied those words exclusively to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It has long been known that the dyspeptic role of the honorable gentleman in this House- is that of the sneerer, smearer and maker of personal attacks. I suggest that there was nothing constructive in his speech and nothing to be learned from it other than that he has an intense personal hatred of the Prime Minister. That is not a basis upon which any enlightenment can be gained upon the problems that we are discussing. His speech condemns itself and is not worthy of another moment’s attention.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) said at the outset of his remarks that the recent decision of the High Court was the result of the action of the present Government parties in opposing referendums in the past. I am not aware that the Labour party ever gave the present Government parties much assistance in referendums for which they were responsible. Nor am I aware - and this is the nub of the matter - that any of the referendums sponsored by the Labour party since federation had any relation to the Communist party. The position with which we are now faced in consequence of the decision of the High Court is not the result of our having opposed referendums in the past, because no party has constitutional powers of the Parliament to enable it to deal with the Communist party. There is a -good reason for that. A new situation has been created by the Communist technique, which has not always been known to us but which has been developed by the Communists over the years. Therefore, it is necessary to seek new methods and new powers to deal with new dangers and problems.
Then the right honorable gentleman said that delay did not matter. He was charged that for months, in this House and elsewhere, the legislation that the Government had introduced at the beginning of the year had been held up by the Labour party. He said, in effect, that the Labour party passed the legislation ultimately and that even if there had been something like nine months’ delay that did not matter. But the fact is that if that measure had been passed six or nine months earlier, and if the decision of the High Court upon it had been the same as that which was given recently, in the period between then and now we could have held a referendum, if the Labour party had been willing to pass the necessary legislation without delay. That is highly doubtful; but if the Labour party had been in contrite mood and had passed the necessary measure, we could have gone to the people and asked for extended powers many months ago. If there had not been those intolerable delays, by now the Government would have had power to deal with the Communist conspiracy in this country which is threatening to wreck our institutions and engulf us.
I suggest that five important points emerge from the decision of the High Court. The first is that the High Court has enhanced its reputation for complete impartiality and integrity. Those are qualities which honorable members on this side of the House have always associated with the High Court although they have not been associated with it by some members opposite. It was, perhaps, ironical to find the members of the Communist party cheering the High Court in the Sydney Domain last Sunday. I am almost persuaded that now we shall have the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) talking in favorable terms about the High Court of Australia. [Quorum formed.] I can well understand members of the Labour party not being willing to sit and listen to this debate because a challenge has been thrown down. They have, to-night or very shortly, to decide whether they will stand up and fight or run away, and that is not a question upon which they like to contemplate in public. They prefer to go into a hole and think about it quietly. No doubt, that is why many honorable members of the Opposition are not present in this House to-night. As I was saying, the High Court is a body which increasingly commands the veneration and respect of the Australian people and which is above party politics.
The second important point is the decision that the powers for which the Government asked, for which the Opposition voted, and which were ultimately supported, when they were instructed from outside to do so, by those who sit in another place, would be good powers if a major war was raging or was imminent. That was the decision of the court. But the court did not consider that that state of affairs existed on the 20th October, 1950, when the bill received the assent of the Governor-General and that therefore the powers were not then available to the Government.
The third important point is that this power which the Government has been denied does reside in the States. I emphasize that because the Government has been told from time to time that the powers which it sought were excessive or tyrannical; but the High Court has emphasized that each one of the State Governments of Australia can exercise these powers within its own boundaries in the same way as they can be exercised by the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and the Dominion of New Zealand. It is merely what I may call the accident or incident of our having a Commonwealth constitution which provides for the division of powers between the States and the Commonwealth that has resulted, through the operation of the written document, in the Commonwealth Parliament not having these powers. So let nobody say hereafter that the powers asked for are such that a responsible Parliament should not have them. The only matter that can he debated is whether, by reason of the peculiar form of the written Constitution under which we operate, this Parliament should have these powers or whether they should still remain with the State legislatures.
The fourth point that emerges from the judgment is that there was no doubt whatever in the minds of the justices as to what they thought about the Communist, conspiracy throughout the world. It is quite clear from what they said that they agree with the Government’s opinion on that subject. The responsible people in this House believe that communism is an international conspiracy which threatens to destroy the Commonwealth. I am not sure whether all honorable members opposite would express that opinion but all parties in this House have expressed that belief by their vote if not by words. That that opinion is shared by the justices of the
High Court one may discover by reading their judgments. It is shared also by the Leader of the Opposition. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) has read advertisements over the signature of the Leader of the Opposition in which he expressed the same opinion. The Australian Council of Trades Unions has made a similar statement. Responsible Labour leaders throughout the length and breadth of Australia have said that communism is a conspiracy which threatens to engulf this country. The Parliament, by recitals in the preamble to the act, the Leader of the Opposition and the laymen of the community, reinforced by the justices of the High Court, are all of this opinion. The fifth point, which reveals a weakness in our Constitution, is that in dealing with this revolutionary movement of national and international ramifications the opinion of the Parliament, expressed in its recitals in the preamble to an act, and the opinion of the Executive Government cannot be taken into account by the court. The court says that those opinions are irrelevant and that the extent of this danger in relation to the defence power is a matter for the court as a judicial tribunal to decide.
– What does the Government intend to do to rectify that position ?
– !lf the honorable member will wait for a minute I shall give him the clearest possible statement in reply to his question. Everybody knows that, in the course of administration, governments and executives form opinions and judgments every day of the week on matters of national importance. Nearly all the decisions that they make are made on the basis of opinions or judgments that they have formed. They are not the sort of opinions or judgments that are capable of being examined, criticized or tested by legally admissible evidence in a court of law. Government could not be carried on in those circumstaces. I shall give an illustration to show the paradox of this part of the judgment. When the Cabinet decided to declare war in 1914 and in 1939 it had first formed an opinion. It brought the defence power into operation on the basis of that opinion. It was not an opinion that had been tested by legal evidence. It was simply an opinion formed in the everyday course of administration. That, in itself, enabled the defence power to be invoked and permitted the Parliament to pass the National Security Act and other war-time legislation. Many people thought that that fact, in itself, would have been good grounds for the opinion of the Parliament and the executive being accepted by the High Court.
– I rise to order. The Minister is canvassing, by way of argument, the bona fides of the High Court’s decision. He has stated that it is a paradox that although the High Court accepted certain actions of the Government in 1939 its latest decision is a contradiction of the principles implied in that acceptance. I submit that the Minister is out of order in pursuing that line of debate.
-The Minister is entitled to give his interpretation of the decisions of the High Court. They are public property.
– I am not criticizing anything that the High Court has done. I accept that as the law, but it creates a weak administrative position, as Mr. Justice Dixon himself mentioned in his judgment, when he said that one may well think that hig decision meant, as Dicey had said in his Law of the Constitution, “Federal government means weakergovernment “.
The state of affairs that I am illustrating reveals that to be so. I believe that the point that I am seeking to make will be agreed to by the- Leader of the Opposition. Responsible and serious minded members on both sides of the House will certainly agree that it is undesirable that the Executive and the Parliament should be limited in that way: but that is the law and the Government accepts the position. I have been asked what the Government proposes to do about this position. As the Prime Minister has said, it will pursue every legal and constitutional means- open to it to continue to deal with the Communists.
– What are those means ?
Mk.. BEALE. - The first has been mentioned to-night. The Government will introduce a bill to -provide for secret, ballots:
– What has that to do with- Communists
– A great deal. If the honorable member cannot see that it has a great deal to do with Communists his intelligence must be a little obtuse tonight.. Hundreds of thousands of unionists are yearning for the opportunity to cast a free vote, so that they may elect the representatives that they want and not those who have been foisted upon them by the Communist organizers in the Labour movement.
The Government will seek to have a general election as soon as possible. When that will happen will depend on whether the Labour party is game to stand its ground. Many people say that the Labour party will not stand its ground’. They say that, notwithstanding that it was announced a day or two ago that the Commonwealth Bank Bill will be opposed to the last ditch, within 72 hours the Labour party will, have abandoned that decision as it abandoned its decision on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the Child Endowment Bill and the National Service Bill until the whip cracked. If the Labour party also wants to have a general election after a double dissolution so that the existing state of affairs, may be clarified it should voteaccordingly in another place on theCommonwealth Bank Bill or on any other bill. The Government does noi care what, bill is chosen so long as the1action, taken will enable the people of Australia to; have a vote. Then the ‘Governmentwill ask the people to decide whether they want to fight: against communism tobe carried on or not and will tell themthat if they re-elect this Government with a majority in both. Houses it will either obtain referred powers from the Statesor will quickly arrange for a referendum designed to provide it- with additional powers to deal with communism. Fancy supposing’ that the Labour party, on its record over the last fifteen months, would agree to- the Government taking additional powers- now to deal with the Communist party! The matter would be prolonged for month after month. Honorable’ members- of the Opposition would say. that they would, not give the power to the Government and would then change their minds- as- they did formerly. The bill would, go elsewhere and the same thingwould happen there for month, after month, and another six or twelve monthswould go by.. What we say. is, “ Give us: a double dissolution. Give us a majority in both Houses and we shall quickly giveto the people an opportunity to grant usincreased power on the Communist issue “.
WARD (East Sydney) [9.45].- No doubt many Australian electors at the general election in December, 1949,. believed that the present Government parties genuinely desired to deal with what they called the Communist- menacein Australia. I believe that there would be no more disappointed political organization in. Australia than the LiberalAustralian Country party group if it were to lose its election stock-in-trade, theCommunist party. Let us test the sincerity of the Government’s protestations. If we had an election - the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) endeavoured to work up some semblance of enthusiasm for theproposal,, which I believe that he lacks* - the Government parties would be defeated’ because of their incompetence if for no* other reason. There are four King’sCounsellors in the Cabinet, if we use our imagination and include the Minister for Supply in the tally. The Government also has a number of barristers in its ranks and numerous legal gentlemen amongst its supporters. Let us consider its performances. “With all this legal talent at its command, and professing eagerness to deal with the Communist party, it managed to produce a measure which has been declared invalid, not just in respect of certain sections, but in its entirety. Yet the Minister for Supply would have us believe that the Government genuinely wants to deal with the Communist party! On its performances, the people will throw it out of office as a government of incompetents, of which the Minister is a distinguished member, if they are given the opportunity to do so.
Let us compare the Government’s programme with its achievements. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has challenged it to announce what positive steps it has taken in order to honour its election promises. One of the subjects stressed by the present Government parties during the general election campaign was constitutional reform. They promised . that if elected to office they would organize a convention for the purpose of dealing with problems arising from the limitation of powers by the Constitution. “We have not heard anything further about that promise! The Government refuses to accept the challenge of the Opposition to appeal to the people for an extension of the powers of this Parliament by means of a referendum held concurrently with a general election because it knows that it cannot fool the electors all the time. Some day, in the not-far-distant future I hope, a Labour government will again be in control of the nation’s affairs. The Government knows this, and it is afraid of the uses to which the Labour party would put the additional powers if an affirmative vote was obtained at a referendum.
Notwithstanding all the protestations that have been made on behalf of the Government to-night, its supporters still are States righters as they have always been. They know that the numerous problems of the nation cannot be dealt with effectively by the States. Who was responsible for taking away from this Parliament the power to control prices in
Australia ? The Government ! And what has been the result of that action? Most of the people of Australia realize their mistake- to-day and would welcome an opportunity to give back to this Parliament the power to control prices. The Liberal-Australian Country party Government is aware of the fact, but what does it propose to do? It has declared, “ We shall make Mr. McCarthy, the senior Commonwealth prices officer, available for consultation with the States Prices Ministers “. Everybody knows exactly how much effect that will have. The Government is merely trying to delude the people into the belief that it is eager to grapple with the great problems that are awaiting solution. The Government is continually appealing for increased production. Anybody would imagine, from its declarations, that every price increase and every interference with industrial production is caused solely by a handful of Communists, who constitute a very small minority in the community. But what is the truth? We hear daily of producers withholding commodities from the markets while they wait for prices to increase. No action is taken against them by this Government. Only to-day the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) questioned the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about the actions of certain interests that are withholding deliveries of hides and thus seriously jeopardizing the employment of thousands of workers in the boot and shoe industry. What was the Prime Minister’s reply ? He claimed that he had no knowledge of the facts and promised that he would look into the matter. That is as far as he will go with it. There will be no positive action.
This Government undertook to provide incentives as a means of inducing the workers to produce more goods. We were going to have profit-sharing in industry. Employers and employees were to be partners.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are wide of the. subject-matter of the motion before the Chair, which is the statement by the Prime Minister.
– I am endeavouring to demonstrate that the Prime Minister’s claim that all the difficulties of the Government are due to the activities of a small group in the community cannot be sustained on the evidence. The worker* were promised profit-sharing in industry. But profit-sharing schemes failed to materialize, and doubtless a great deal of disappointment was experienced by certain sections of the workers. Instead of honouring that promise, the Government made available to the exploiters - certain sections of the employers represented bv chambers of commerce and chambers of manufactures - opportunities to exploit the community further. The Government parties were elected to power on a cry that they would abolish controls. They said. “ We want to do away with socialistic controls”. One of the controls that the, mentioned was the control of capital issues. That control was discontinued for twelve months. But what happened during that period of respite that was granted to commercial and manufacturing undertakings ?
During 1950, capital issues were increased, by means, of the distribution of accumulated profits, by a total of £65,400,000, a record increase for Australia. There were 95 bonus share issues during that period, representing an issue of £13,000,000. That was another record for Australia. The companies that made the distributions used all sorts of excuses but carefully avoided telling the exact truth. They wanted to have a greater distribution of profits amongst those who had invested their money in industry without having to increase their dividend rates, lt was another example of the old practice of robbing the people while telling them that they were getting a fair return for their labour and that dividend rates were not inordinately high. Many companies expanded nominal capital without putting one additional .pound of real capital into their businesses. The distribution of accumulated profits by means of bonus shares enabled them to keep their dividend rates down. The Government cannot plead in this instance that the Opposition prevented it from taking positive action. It decided eventually to reinstitute the control of capital issues, but, instead of doing so overnight without giving any warning of its intention, which would have been the proper course to follow, it announced its plan two or three months before it took action. During that breathing space, there was a rush by many commercial undertakings to distribute accumulated profits in the way that I have mentioned. But the Government continues to tell the workers, “We want more production in Australia “. What we want in Australia is less exploitation of the workers and more justice.
Actions such as I have described are the cause of industrial unrest. Members of the Government and their supporters, many of whom have had some legal training, wrongly assume that the worker in industry is devoid of any intelligence or reasoning power. But the workers know exactly what is happening, and they know full well that only a Labour government will deal with them equitably and justly. It is interesting to consider the performances of individual members of the present Government, of whom the Minister for Supply is a good example. The honorable gentleman has proclaimed to-night that he has been doing his best to cope with national problems. He was put in charge of defence stockpiling. What has happened to the stockpiling plans of the Government ? What was done in order to accumulate stocks of rubber, which are urgently needed? The Minister for Supply held aloof from the market in February, 1950, when he could have purchased rubber for ls. 4d. per lb. Today the Government would have to pay over 6s. per lb. for rubber. How did the Minister explain his policy ? When somebody questioned him about it he said, “ We are going about the matter quietly because, if we make a fuss, we shall direct attention to the Government’s plans and prices will be forced up “. Who would have forced up prices ? Not the members of the Communist party ! The supporters of the Government were the only ones who could benefit from any increase of the price of rubber. Therefore, the Minister for Supply held off and gave the friends of the Government the opportunity to allow prices to rise and the members of the community were once again the victims.
A total of £133,000,000 was allotted for Australia’s defence programme this year. Eight months of the year has passed already, but the Government has expended only about £50,000,000. Throughout the period of fifteen months in which it has held office, the Government has failed to take any positive action to deal with the major problems of the nation. We have heard it protesting about the shortage of coal and saying that the lack of fuel has been responsible for all the difficulties of the country. Australia has a great economy, which is expanding at a rate that must necessarily cause difficulties. Last year was a record year for coal production in Australia and, in addition, the Government imported coal. When it should have been developing and increasing coal production on Australian coal-fields, it preferred to go overseas to buy coal at prices much higher than it could have been secured in Australia. That demonstrates its disregard for national interests. Another splendid example of the kind of man to be found in this Government is the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner). What a wonderful brain that honorable gentleman has! His proposal for increasing industrial production was to put aged and invalid pensioners to work. That was the best solution of the nation’s production problems that he could propose!
Revaluation of the currency is another burning subject. Why has not the Government dealt with this problem? Let us face the facts frankly. Even the members of the Liberal party are divided on the issue. Such indecision as this, which leads to failure to arrive at positive decisions on important matters, is confusing the Australian people and making them cry out in increasing numbers for the dismissal of the Government which has brought the affairs of Australia to such a sorry state. When the proposal to revalue the Australian £1 was being considered by Cabinet, the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) opposed it because he happens to be connected with great pastoral interests which would have been adversely affected by the revaluation. The Liberal party was unable to proceed with its plan for revaluation, even though a majority of its members favoured the proposal, because the Australian Country party minority was able to wield sufficient power to thwart it.
Every major problem that has confronted this Government has been fumbled in the same way. Consider its activities in relation to immigration. Its supporters have the amazing temerity to declare that immeasurable benefit will accrue if it merely secures large numbers of immigrants regardless of their qualities or the capacity of our economy to absorb them. Some years ago the experts, who are advisers of this Government, made an investigation and determined that Australia could not be expected to absorb more than 70,000 immigrants in any year. This Government declares that it is effectively screening all prospective immigrants. I have no objection to a properly balanced immigration scheme. I do not believe that we ought to build a wall around Australia in order to shut out people from other parts of the world. But immigration must be carried on according to a balanced plan. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) persists in claiming that the Government’s plan is that which was introduced by the Labour Government. Labour’s immigration plan was quite different, but, regardless of the criticism of members of the Labour party, the Government still persists with its plan. Recently, I read reports that high officials in the police forces of the various States are becoming alarmed at the growing crime wave, which they attribute largely to failure to properly screen the influx of new Australians. A high departmental official in New South Wales has directed attention to the fact that in that State alone 77 new Australians are inmates of asylums for the insane. I do not blame those new Australians in any way. I realize that they have come to this country in an endeavour to escape from the intolerable conditions that existed in their native land. Full responsibility rests with the Government. The Government is bringing immigrants to Australia in numbers that our economy cannot possibly absorb. So long as large numbers of people are compelled to live in Australia under the intolerable conditions that exist here at present, unrest will continue throughout the land and those people will continue to protest and demand that action be taken to improve their conditions. Authoritative reports reveal that in Victoria alone where emergency accommodation is available for only 5,900 persons, applications for such accommodation total over 25,000 annually. Consequently, the present number of evictions in that State is comparable with that recorded during the depression of the early ‘thirties. According to municipal authorities in Victoria most of the evictions are due to the fact that the new Australians are paying enormous prices for properties and then taking eviction proceedings against the occupants of such properties. In New South Wales, although only from ten to twelve additional emergency accommodation units are being made available weekly, the number of applications on hand at present for such accommodation exceeds 7,000. Under such conditions the great majority of those applicants will be obliged to wait for from ten to twelve years before even emergency accommodation can be made available for them.
The Government has failed completely to implement its programme. Dissension in its ranks is obvious and Ministers are at variance with each other. Under such conditions the Prime Minister, who has turned hot and cold week by week on the holding of a general election, now realizes in his desperation that he must do something, and he has no alternative but to rely on the old cry that the Government wants to deal with the Communists, who, it alleges, are responsible for all the trouble that exists in the community to-day. The majority of Australians believe that the sooner the Menzies Government is destroyed the better will it be for Australia. If the Government, as it says, desires a double dissolution to take place, that event cannot happen soon enough for me or for the majority of the people, who cannot afford to see repeated in this country the sort of thing that happened in October, 1941. At that time, when Australia was faced with a crisis and the. previous Menzies Government collapsed, the Curtin Labour Government assumed office not one moment too soon. A similar state of affairs in some respects exists to-day. We must face the position frankly. If the Government wishes a double dissolution to take place it can rest assured that the Labour party will not run away from it. That party is prepared to let the electors decide the issue, but it also suggests that in fairness to the Australian community the Government, if it argues that the only reason for its failure to deal with what it describes as a national menace is its lack of constitutional power, should recognize that it will be of no earthly use to have a double dissolution of the Parliament unless at the same time the people are given an opportunity to confer power on the National Parliament. That is really the position that exists to-day. Regardless of the issue in respect of which a double dissolution may occur, whether it be in respect of a banking bill or the Government’s proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the people will decide what shall be the result of the next general election on the Government’s failure to deal with the most immediate problem that confronts their everyday welfare, and that is the rising cost of living.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– We have just heard a characteristic speech from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He has accused the Government of being a run-away Government. I say without fear of contradiction that the honorable member himself is the greatest authority in this House on running away from one’s responsibilities. All honorable members will recall that he ran away from the Bretton Woods Agreement when the vote was taken in this House on the bill relating to that agreement. Although he was a Minister in the Labour Government that held office at that time and sought the Parliament’s approval of that agreement, he endeavoured to induce others to oppose the measure and then did not have the courage to vote” on it when it went to a division. He was absent when that division was taken. He gave another exhibition of running away tactics when a royal commission was set up to inquire into his allegations concerning the existence of a Brisbane line, which, to-day, is referred to more generally as the “ Brisbane lie “. On that occasion, the honorable member sheltered behind his parliamentary privilege in order to avoid being cross-examined before that tribunal. Thus, he avoided the’’ humiliation of displaying his profound ignorance on that subject. It is entirely humorous to find the honorable member, who was a Minister in the Labour Government, now accusing the present Government of running away from its responsibilities.
However, I congratulate him in one respect. To-night, he revealed himself as having been converted to an immigration policy. Honorable members have never previously heard him make a speech in this House in which he did not utterly oppose the immigration policy that was formulated by his colleague the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), when the latter was Minister for Immigration. The honorable member for Melbourne did an excellent job when in that office and he has commended the present Minister (Mr. Holt) for having continued the policy that he himself laid down as that of the Labour Government. Those facts give the lie direct to the statements that the honorable member for East Sydney made this evening. He rambled round the world.
– What is the honorable member himself doing?
– Much to the discomfiture of the honorable member who has- interjected and that of the honorable member for East Sydney, I am following the bad example that the latter has set in this debate. The honorable member “for East Sydney claimed that the Government is bringing too many people to Australia under its immigration scheme. He forgets that, at present, over 100,000 vacancies exist in private employment in this country. That means that 100,000 more people could be provided immediately with jobs if they were available to fill them. Yet the honorable member for East Sydney has the audacity to say that the Government is bringing too many people to this country! If Australia is to survive as a nation it must have a larger population. I commend the honorable member for Melbourne for the active steps that he took in this matter when he was Minister for Immigration, in the face of vigorous opposition on the part of his -colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney, who was” then Minister for Transport. I also commend the present Minister for Immigration ‘ for having continued the Labour Government’s immigration policy, which I trust will prove to be of great value to this country in the future.
The honorable member for East Sydney made an unfortunate reference to the controls that the present Government has abolished. I remind him that it has removed petrol rationing which honorable members opposite, when they were in office, said it was impossible to remove. They told us at that time that sufficient petrol was not available in Australia to enable the Government to take that action and that the Government could not obtain additional dollars for the purchase df greater supplies of petrol. But what happened ? A few weeks after the present Government assumed office, it abandoned petrol rationing and that control was then removed in not only Australia but also New Zealand and Great Britain. That fact proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Labour Government retained petrol rationing in this country for yea rs after it was really necessary to do so. We have been told that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is accusing a few Communists of having caused the present industrial unrest. Evidently, the honorable member for East Sydney does not believe the statements that his own leader has made on this matter. I remind him that the latter told the Parliament that the serious coal strike that occurred during his Government’s regime was a Communist conspiracy.
– And we handled it, too.
– Yes; the Chifley Government handled that strike .after it had caused loss to the Australian economy estimated at £100,000,000, and after it had cost the Australian Government £8,000,000 tq re-imburse the State governments for losses that they had suffered as a result of it. The honorable member for East Sydney says that the Government is merely blaming the Communists for having caused that tremendous loss to the Australian people. Whilst I admit that the Communists are few in number, at the same time I know that their- friends arid supporters are legion and that if it were not for the very quiet support’” that the
Communists are receiving they could not. continue to disrupt the nation’s vital industries. Of course, we require more coal. The honorable member for East Sydney, rather strangely, admitted that last year the present Government brought about a record production of coal. However, he went on to contradict himself by saying that the Government preferred to import coal from overseas rather than use the local product. The fact that the cost of locally produced coal is considerably less than that of imported coal is a sufficient answer to that silly statement.
The honorable member also referred to the number of evictions that are occurring in Victoria. When he is at a loss for something to say he refers to conditions in a State about which he seems to believe that honorable members will not be well-informed and that in such circumstances he can put anything over the House. I inform him that the landlord and tenant regulations that were introduced in Victoria when the Chifley Government was in office are still in operation . in that State. Considerable agitation exists to have such regulations abolished because many people believe that they unfairly affect persons who own their own homes but are prevented by them’ from gaining occupancy of those homes. I do not propose to argue about that matter. I mention it merely in order to disprove the arguments that the honorable member for East Sydney has presented. He said that more evictions are taking place in Victoria than in any other State. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The honorable member also mentioned the lack of adequate coal supplies and the difficulties that have been caused thereby. I remind him that the lack of coal was brought about when the Chifley Government was in office. As a consequence, railway transport in Victoria was reduced by 50 per cent. The people who suffered most under those conditions were the rank and file of working men and women. Persons who owned motor cars were not so seriously affected. It is clear that strikes in the coal industry constitute war upon the community. .The Leader of the Opposition, when his Government was in office, . recognized that fact rather belatedly but his colleague has never recognized it.
I did not intend to participate in this debate but I was impelled to reply to the misleading statements that the honorable member for East Sydney made and which were broadcast. When he says that the Labour party would welcome a double dissolution, I remind him that the actions of that party during the last fifteen months belie his claim. As a matter of fact we have been prevented by the Opposition from doing the things that we said we would do if we were returned to office. The Opposition delayed the passage of our legislation, and so delayed the business of the Parliament, for months and months, until it was instructed by an outside authority to allow the measures to pass through the Senate. If I were a betting man I should be willing to gamble that members of the Opposition will now run away from the banking issue so as to prevent the occurrence of the double dissolution that they profess to want but that they most sincerely dread.
. -The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the considered statement that he read to the House to-night, sought to divert attention from the Government’s defeat in” the High ‘Court at the hands of six justices, with only one justice supporting it, and from the grave issues that confront Australia to-day, which have been produced largely by the Government’s failure to carry out its election promises, or, in other words, to give effect to its selfimposed promises. The Prime Minister, in the course of his policy speech during the last general election campaign, used these words -
The Communist party will be declared subversive and unlawful and dissolved.
The Prime Minister also said in the same policy speech -
The greatest task, therefore, is to get value back into the pound, that is, to get prices down.
The greatest task was to get value back into the £1. The other task, that of suppressing the Communist party, was subsidiary. The Government has failed in its attempt to pass legislation to deal with the Communist party. Six members of the present Cabinet are also members of the legal profession. There are also several honorable members who are lawyers on the Government back benches who are knocking at the door wanting to take their places. Of the six Ministers who are members of the legal profession, four are King’s Counsel. Their combined effort in the writing of laws was so successful that they could get only one justice out of seven to agree with them. They either knew that their legislation was bad when it went to the court, or they do not deserve to hold the distinguished positions that they hold as counsel to the King. Never before did so many fail so dismally in the matter of law. In addition to these Ministers who are King’s Counsel, the Government had three or four more outside legal lights giving it advice. Having failed completely, dismally and abjectly, the Government comes along to-night and threatens all sorts of things unless it has its will, unless another place does its bidding, unless, in fact, the members of the Government are allowed to be the people to decide everything, regardless of anybody else who is named in the Constitution, either as a part of the judiciary or in any other capacity. In spite of anybody else they must impose their will upon the community. The Prime Minister said to-night-
We shall continue to attack communism in Australia by every constitutional means in our power-
If he had ended at that, one might have been able to say to him, “ What do you propose to do next ? “ But he did not make a full stop after the word “ power “. He proceeded to qualify his statement with these words - even though we are largely crippled by this decision and must therefore resort, subject to future legislative action by a re-constituted Parliament, to an imperfect set of provisions.
In other words, if he ever does anything it will be in the very distant future. There is provision to-day by which this Government can tackle the Communist party. There are legislative provisions which have existed since 1926 and 1932. I refer to the Grimes Act. It is competent for this Government, if it has an earnest determination to rid the country of the Communist party, to take action to-morrow morning under section 30aa or section 86 of the Crimes Act. Section 30aa provides as follows: -
The Attorney-General may apply to the High Court or to the Supreme Court of a State for an order calling upon any body of persons, incorporated or unincorporated, to show cause why it should not be declared to be an unlawful association.
There is a provision that service of a summons under that particular section can be made by advertising in the Government Gazette or in the daily press. It is not necessary to ferret out the people concerned. It is only necessary to cite them, as I have indicated, and then, when the summons is returned, according to the act it - shall be heard by a single Justice of the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State.
If the Government believes that the Communist party is an unlawful association it should take immediate action tomorrow morning against every known member of that party. If it does not take such action then it has no case by which it can sustain its claim that it requires additional power. I know that some people say, “Ah, but that legislation is not constitutional ! “ This legislation has never been challenged in the courts, and is constitutional until the High Court declares it to be unconstitutional. So, before there is any question of seeking more power or of passing additional legislation under any existing power, the Government should exhaust the possibilities provided for in this legislation. There is no doubt about what the Crimes Act provides in relation to members of unlawful associations. If a single justice of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of any State declares a body to be an unlawful association, then, under section 30b any person who is a member of an unlawful association that has been declared is liable to imprisonment for one year. Section 30c provides -
Any person who by speech or writing advocates or encourages -
the overthrow of the Constitution of the Commonwealth by revolution or sabotage;- and that definition includes Communists, according to the Government’s definition of what a Communist is -
the overthrow by force or violence of the established Government of the Commonwealth or a State or of any other civilized country or of organized government; or
the destruction or injury of property of the Commonwealth or of property used in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for any period not exceeding two years, and in addition (if he was not born in Australia) to deportation by order of the Attorney-General as provided in this Act.
Section 30d provides as follows : -
Any person who -
gives or contributes money or goods to an unlawful association; or
receives or solicits subscriptions or contributions of money or goods for an unlawful association, shall be guilty of an offence.
The penalty provided is imprisonment for six months. There is no option of a fine in that case. If the Government is honest it should immediately charge the people who, it believes, come within the ambit of those provisions. Section 86 of the same act says -
Any person who conspires with another person -
to effect any purpose which is unlawful under the law of the Commonwealth, or
to effect any lawful purpose by any means which are unlawful under the law of the Commonwealth . . . shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
The imprisonment prescribed in that case is three years. I challenge the Government now to take action against the Communist party under the Crimes Act. If it does not do so then it is not honest in its protestations, and all it has been presenting to this House is a placard which is manifestly dishonest. It is engaging in a form of dangerous stunting. It is trying to mislead the people into believing that the evils that affect us, such as inflation and under-production, arise because the Communists cannot be dealt with. Through the mouth of their leader, the Government parties said during the last general election campaign
The greatest task, therefore, is to get value back into the £1, that is, to get prices down.
On that issue the Government has done nothing. When the Prime Minister was asked a question by the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) in March of last year, he said -
We believe that value goes back into the £1 when by reason-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is quoting from the debates and proceedings of the present session.
– No, sir.
– There has been only one session of this Parliament so far.
– I am quoting from notes.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman said that he was quoting from an answer given by the Prime Minister to a question asked by an honorable member.
– I did not take the quotation from Hansard.
– It does not matter where the honorable member took it from. He cannot refer to proceedings of the present session, and there has been only one session of the present Parliament so far.
– That is different from what I understood was the practice previously. I understood that the prohibition of quotation from debates was limited to quotations from the debates of the current sessional period.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman, like I have, has served in many parliaments.
– Probably we shall both serve in many more. I come now to the Prime Minister’s somersault on the subject of communism. Some people have denied that at one time the Prime Minister said that he did not believe in banning the Communist party. It was said by his chief apologist here to-night, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony), that conditions are entirely different now from what they were when the Prime Minister made his protestations against the suppression of communism. According to the Melbourne Herald of the 22nd June, 1946, the Prime Minister, who was the then Leader of the Opposition, said on behalf of his party -
Our views are these.In time of war, a ban was placed on the Communist party on the grounds of national security. In time of peace it is a very, very serious step to prohibit the association of people for the promulgation of any particularpolitical views. Therefore, in time of peace we do not propose to place a ban on the Communist party, as such.
We believe that, if the Communist party’s views constitute a real danger to the public, they will be expressed through acts which will represent breaches of reasonable law.
If the Communists are, on investigation, found to be committing breaches of this law, then they will be among the first people prosecuted. In other words, we should deal with the Communists as breakers of the general law of the land and not purely as Communists. And the reason for that is that in any country, in normal times, all doubts about freedom of speech, thought and assembly, ought to be resolved in favour of freedom.
It will be argued by honorable members opposite that the conditions in 1946 were different from what they are in 1951. Rut the Russian Government was just as obstreperous in 1946 as it is now. As a matter of fact this country and the British Commonwealth were much nearer to war during the crisis of the Berlin airlift in 1948, when Russian planes “ buzzed “ British planes and shot down an American plane, than we are at this particular moment in Europe. That is a fact. On the 1st May. 1947, in a sort of May Day message to the nation - and a lot of people delivered messages on May Day in other days, one being Hitler and another Mussolini; and I believe that Stalin still does so - the Prime Minister said -
One reason why I have repeatedly expressed the view that these people should be dealt with in the open is that I have complete confidence in the basic sanity of our own people. If we deal with these people we shall defeat them: but we cannot deal with them openly unless their operations are known, unless they themselves are known.
Those were the views of the Prime Minister when he was in Opposition until only a few years ago. I believe that his views have been changed for party political” reasons, and not because in his heart he believes that it is right that he should be advocating the measures that heis advocating to-day. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) spoke about the cost of the 1949 coal strike. He said that it cost £100,000,000, which is a nice round figure.
I am not so sure about the accuracy of it.
– A little more.
– Even if it were a little more, it is a bagatelle compared with the cost that the country is bearing to-daybecause of the failure of the
Menzies Government to arrest inflation. If Government supporters wish to know of the prices that the people are paying because of inflation, they have only to walk round any suburb of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide or any other large city in Australia and observe what is being charged for goods offered for sale. I cite Melbourne because I know it better than I know the other cities. Last week-end a chicken could not be purchased in Melbourne for less than 14s., or a small leg of lamb for less than 18s. Under those conditions no man in receipt of less than £20 a week can keep himself, his wife and three children decently. The great majority of the people are now buying the cheaper cuts of meat because they simply cannot afford to buy the better cuts that they used to purchase. The Communist party cannot be blamed for the high price of chickens orof lamb. That party cannot be blamed for the fact that cooked ham is selling at 8s. per lb. Those prices are ruling because profiteering is rampant, because rapacity and greed, cupidity and avarice.’ are allowed to continue unrestrained by this Government. The people realizethat the Government has failed, and the Government knows that the people have realized that it has failed, and therefore, it says, “ Let us have a double dissolution now “. Well, the Labour party will manage its own affairs in its own way.
Government supporters interjecting,
– It is all right for Government supporters to interject. When we want a double dissolution, we shall say so. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party will not want a double dissolution, three, four, five or six months hence after two more basic wage adjustments have been made. The next adjustment will take place about the 1st May next and will amount to 12s. or 14s. a week, and another adjustment will become effective next August and will amount to 10s. or 12s. a week. Government supporters will not then want a double dissolution or, for that matter, a single dissolution. They will want to be allowed to continue for the term of the Parliament because they will know that they will never face another Parliament as a government because the people will destroy them.
– Will the Labour party agree to pass the Commonwealth Bank Bill?
– As I said a few moments ago, we shall do our business in our own way. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), I can stand before any audience in Australia and say with truth that I have never voted against a proposal to increase the powers of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, the Labour party was split on the proposals in the referendums of 1926 and 1937. Openly I supported the proposal of the Bruce-Page Government to grant increased powers to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the proposals of the Lyons Government to increase the Commonwealth’s powers in respect of marketing and aviation. Any referendum to alter the Constitution by vesting more power in this Parliament will always have my support. I sho*uld like to know what the Government proposes to do now to give effect to its desire that the Parliament shall have additional powers. If members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party, when in Opposition in 1946, had supported the Labour Government’s’ proposals on industrial and marketing powers, they probably would have found themselves in a much better position to govern than they are at present. If they had supported the prices referendum in 194S they would have been in a better position to control inflation than they are in to-da.y. But blindly and ignorantly, and with prejudice and the bitterness of conservatism, they opposed all change, and now they regret it. I, like the Leader of the Opposition, can claim that my withers are unwrung. If the Government is sincere it will introduce a bill this week or next week authorizing the taking of a referendum to seek the approval of the people to the vesting in this Parliament of full powers to deal with a situation preceding a war or. a situation of national emergency.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The hour is somewhat late and therefore I shall npt. delay the House unduly, but I consider that some of the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) should not be allowed to pass at any hour without some comment. The honorable member devoted a considerable amount of time to the subject of putting value back into the £1 while completely ignoring the causes of rising prices. It is most curious to hear a man express such views,as he did when, less than a month ago, he advised a great public meeting in Melbourne to “ Go ahead and spend all the money that they could and get goods for it “. What result did the honorable member expect would follow that advice? He knew perfectly well what the result would be. He deliberately advised the people to spend their money in an inflationary way, thereby forcing up the cost of living still higher. That is typical of the lack oi scruple that is shown by certain Opposition members. They know perfectly well that inflationary spending must produce an inflationary result; but so long as a Liberal government is “in office they would rather see the people reduced to penury provided the Government could thereby be destroyed than see the people well-off if by some chance that might preserve the Government. That attitude has always been adopted by the Labour party. ‘Their motto has been “ Destroy at any cost “.
The honorable member for Melbourne also claimed that the Government should invoke the Crimes Act. Let us consider a few of the results of such an action. As has been made perfectly clear by the Prime Minister, any prosecution under ‘ the Crimes Act would inevitably lead to the revelation of the Government’s sources of information about the traitors in- our midst. I suggest that Opposition members, knowing that to be the case, have advocated such a course a little too often for it to be treated seriously, or for them to be regarded as completely honest in their convictions on that matter. I say quite openly that some of them would be very glad to see the Commonwealth secret service crippled in that way. It must also be realized that prosecutions under the Crimes Act must necessarily mean lengthy delays.. The honorable member for Melbourne pointed out that an application must.be made , to the High Court of. Australia in such an actions f-We have already had some experience of a High Court action in trying to deal with the Communists, and the honorable gentleman knows perfectly well the delays that are involved therein. As every honorable member knows, this is not a matter that permits of indefinite delays. It necessitates quick and urgent action. I repeat that we must look for the motive of the man and of the political party that always advocate a course which will be ineffective and will produce delays in dealing with the Communist party. Such advice has always been tendered by Opposition members. They urge us to adopt this course or that course, provided it will prove to be completely ineffective. That kind of advice has been tendered to us to-night.
I also point out that the Crimes Act has been invoked only by non-Labour governments. No government that has carried the Labour party’s banner has ever had the courage in any circumstances to use the machinery of that act.
– A Labour government has not found it necessary to invoke the Crimes Act.
– The need to invoke the Crimes Act existed from time to time when a Labour government was in office, but the will to invoke it was lacking. Reference has been made to the so-called somersault by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the proposal to ban the Communist party. The honorable member for Melbourne suggested that the Prime Minister, when he was the Leader of the Opposition in 1947, said that he did not want to ban that party, and was even opposed to the imposition of a ban upon it. The honorable gentleman recalled those circumstances as if there was some grave charge against, or reflection upon, the right honorable gentleman in claiming that circumstances’ had changed, and that that change justified the decision of his Government to attempt to ban the Communist party. But, surely, the circumstances have changed since 1947. To be sure, in the preceding year, the then Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Evatt, returned from abroad, and told the Parliament, “ I have met all the leaders of the Soviet
State, and I can assure the people of this country that they have no aggressive intentions whatsoever with regard to the world “. Does the right honorable gentleman still say that to-day? Do those who sit with him still say that? Surely there has been some change of circumstances. While I am speaking of lawyers, I am reminded of what was said on one occasion by the former honorable member for Corio, Mr. Dedman, who also is a man of considerable legal experience now. Speaking in support of his totally inadequate defence measures, he said in this House only three years ago, that he was quite satisfied there was no possibility of war within the next ten years. Apparently he looked into a crystal ball and believed what he saw. He was very far wrong, as subsequent events have shown. Men of this country, of Great Britain and of the United States of America are fighting the Communists in Korea. To say that circumstances have not changed and that we are not justified in tackling the Communists, is to be guilty of the greatest possible hypocrisy, yet still the attitude of honorable members opposite is, “ We must take action ; but let us take only action . that will be ineffective and will give away our plans for dealing with the Communists “. That is the advice we are always receiving from the Opposition. Labour has a very sorry record indeed in dealing with the Communist party. The miserable truncated and divided Labour party which sits on the Opposition benches to-day cannot speak with one voice on even such a simple matter as immigration. I see two smiling faces on the front Opposition bench at the moment. How do the views of the honorable member for Melbourne on immigration compare with those of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) ? It would be most interesting to hear a debate between them on that subject. As the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) has pointed out, even when the honorable member for East Sydney was a Cabinet Minister, he showed so poor a spirit as to criticize the Government of which he was a member.
Opposition Members. - .So has the honorable member himself. ‘
– At least I am not a member of the’ Government. Labour is in’ opposition to-day primarily because of its failure to deal with the Communists. Honorable members opposite know in their hearts that that ia true because they are told that it is so by their rank and file supporters. Ifrequently receive letters from trade unionists stating that they have written to Labour members begging them to take some action against the Communists. Labour members are instructed by their churches to do something about this menace, but while they pay lip service to those instructions in the Parliament, when it comes to a vote and action is required they sneak round the corner. They will support only action that is calculated to be ineffective. I repeat that Labour is in Opposition today because of its failure to deal with the Communist party, because it failed to remedy the war-caused shortages, and, in short, because it could not govern any more than it can produce a coherent policy in Opposition. Let us have a look at Labour’s record. When the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was first introduced, Labour supporters said that they would not have it at any price. But having been whipped and brought to heel by their masters they turned round and said, “ We meant ‘Yes ‘ “. It is a sorry spectacle indeed to see the elected representatives of a once great party marching up the street and then marching down again as instructed, not by the electors, but by the party bosses. Unfortunately, the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, having been finally passed by the Parliament, has been rejected by the High Court. Last Friday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) came out with a statement that showed clearly that he had voted against his convictions on the Communist issue. He could not have spoken more violently, or made it more plain that at no stage did he ever support in his heart, any effective action against the Communist party. As it has been with communism, so too has it been with defence, because the two problems are related. We are dealing with this great international menace in two ways. We are dealing with it at home by giving the trade unions power to deal with the Communists, and we are dealing with it abroad. The day may well come when our only defence against the Communists will be with our armed forces in the field. The Labour party has never been able to make clear where it stands on the subject of defending this country against the forces of aggression. The measure that provides for the introduction of compulsory military training w.as surely moderate enough to gain the support of honorable members opposite, but once again the whip cracked, and they were told what to do. The Government’s plans to deal with this menace of communism have been rejected time after time by the Opposition. Very properly, the Prime Minister has now said to the Labour party, “ Unless you assist us or at least refrain from obstructing us in our efforts to solve the all-important problems that confront us, we shall deal with you. We shall go to the country, and, miserable as your numbersnow are, they will be reduced to a mere shadow of their present strength.”
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 5.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 6.
Defence (Transitional Provisions.) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property ) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and Designs (3).
Regulations-Statutory Rules 1951, No. 10.
Education Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No.9.
Interim Forces Benefits Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1051, No. 8.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court, dated 18th January, 1051 (Statutory Rules, 1951,No. 4).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land, &c, acquired for -
Defence purposes - Toowoomba, Queensland.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Public Service Act- Appointments - Department of Civil Aviation -
R. Adams, R. F. Alexander, P. H. Allen, K. Arnold, W.F. Barnfield, J. A. Bashford, R. H. Bayly, E. G. P. Beevors, R. C. Bennett, T. Blackley,
Boag, E. J. Bradford, D. W. Brown, J. H. Buckman, R. B. Butters, D. E. C. Charlwood, F. A. G. Cooper, S. H. B. Cooper, R. H. V. Cullenn, K. Eddy, R. J. M. Edey, M. D. Evans, A. A. Gillett, A. H. Green, K. R. Hansen, H. F. Harrison, R. D. Heazlewood, W. L. Jeffrey, F. E. Johnston, G. M. Kendrick, J. E. Lauder, K. J. Leonard, I. C. Lewitzka, R. A. Locatelli, E. G. Long, B. H. Macauley, E. J. McCubbin, J. P. McCubbin, P. L. McMillan, M. S. Miles, T. R. Miller, W. J. Molloy, H. T. Moores, W. A. W. Overell, N. L. Petchler, M. F. Pittman, H. L. Pleydell, R. M. Power, G. J. Quinan, J. P. F. Reid, R. S. Rich, I. R. Richardson, I. D. Rolley, J. E. Sanson, L. A. Sayers, W. B. Skinner, R. D. Stair, A. E. Steel, E. H. Summerville, S. E. Sutcliffe, F. J. Swadling, C. L. Taylor, N. N. Taylor, G. F. Turner, G. Uttley, R. H. Watts, L. J. Weatherburn, B. J. Wells, L. B. Willis, I. H. Winkler.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1951 -
Nos. 9 and 10 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 1 1 - Electrical Trades Union of Australia.
No. 12 - Peace Officer Guard Association.
No. 13 - Federated Clerks’ Union of Aus- tralia.
No. 14 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 1 5 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 16 - Commonwealth Public Service ClericalAssociation; and Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 7.
War Crimes. Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No.11.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
Papua and New Guinea.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4. The Government has decided to pro- ceed with the proposal for the formation of a joint company with Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited for production in New Guinea of plywood, veneer and timber from the stand of hoop and klinkii pine in the Bulolo Valley, Territory of New Guinea. The formation of the company and the establishment of the industry depend upon reports that are to be obtained from specialists in the plywood industry in Canada as to the technical and economic aspects of the proposed industry. Arrangements are now being made to secure the services of these specialists.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 March 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510313_reps_19_212/>.