20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the House that the President of the Senate and myself have received from Copenhagen the following cablegram: -
On the day of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the first meeting of the Federal Parliamentof the Commonwealth of Australia we, on behalf of the Danish Parliament, send our warmest congratulations and good wishes. May the future of the Commonwealth of Australia, where so many people of Danish descent are living, be peaceful and prosperous. May the bonds of descent and democratic ideals that unite our people grow ever stronger as the years roll by.
Steicke, President of the Danish Senate.
Gustav Pedersen, Speaker of the Danish House of Commons.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - agreed to -
That this House thanks the President of the Danish Senate and the Speaker of the Danish House of Commons most sincerely for their message of congratulations and good wishes on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Commonwealth Parliament and reciprocates their expressions of goodwill. It is our earnest hope that the bonds of friendship between our countries will continue to bo strengthened.
– I have to inform the House that the President of the Senate and myself have received the following cablegram from Stockholm: -
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia and in commemoration of the opening of the First Parliament in 1901 we beg, on behalf of the Swedish Parliament, to extend our congratulations and sincerest felicitations.
For the 1st Chamber of the Swedish Parliament,
JohanDilsson, The Speaker.
For the 2nd Chamber of the Swedish Parliament,
August Saevstroem, The Speaker
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - agreed to -
That this House thanks the Speakers of the First and Second Chambers of the Swedish Parliament most sincerely for their congratulations and felicitations on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Commonwealth Constitution and most heartily reciprocates their expressions of goodwill.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is able to furnish details of the costs of the jubilee celebrations and of the functions associated with the opening of this Parliament last week In furnishing the information can he also give details of the various items of expenditure, and further-
– Order ! Detailed information of that description can be requested only upon notice.
– I am not asking for the information to be furnished immediately.
– It should be asked for upon notice, in any case.
– I further ask the PrimeMinister whether any difficulty was experienced about the catering arrangements because of the existing shortage of foodstuffs in Australia. Finally, will the right honorable gentleman indicate to what extent production in Australia has been affected by the absence of the privileged invited guests from their normal activities?
– It is most improbable that the cost of last week’s celebrations should have been worked out, and therefore I am not in a position to answer that portion of the honorable member’s question. I am happy to report that we did have very notable celebrations here, until they were terminated by the melancholy events to which we were referring yesterday,’ I am glad to record that all honorable members except perhaps one or two took part in the proceedings. I am not aware that anybody except the honorable member for East Sydney regards the celebrations as extravagant, but since he has referred to them, I place on record the deep gratitude that the Government and myself feel to all those officers and servants of this Parliament who contributed so much to a notable event.
– The President of the Senate and the Speaker desire to inform all persons proposing to visitParliament House that admission to this building is free of charge at all times, and that no payment is due to anybody from any one being shown over any portion of the building available to visitors for inspection. The levying or collection of fees for such visits, either outside or inside Parliament House, is absolutely forbidden.
– I desire to inform you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, that following upon a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour party, and as the result of the death of our leader (Mr. Chifley), I have had the honour of being appointed Leader of the Opposition. My colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has been appointed Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– On behalf of the Government I offer congratulations to the new leader and deputy leader of the Labour party in this House. A great deal of the business of this House depends for its progress on the cooperation between those on this side of the House and the leaders of the Opposition. As I know from my own experience, that co-operation will be forthcoming.
– On behalf of myself and of the party that I have the honour to lead, I desire to extend congratulations and good wishes to the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) upon their election as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition respectively.
Dr. EVATT (Barton- Leader of the Opposition) . - On behalf of my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and of myself, I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for their expressions of goodwill. We shall certainly continue the same co-operation as was always forthcoming when the late Mr. Chifley was Leader of the Opposition.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to the extreme shortage of supplies of butter in the State of New South Wales. If it is true that Great Britain has indicated that ample supplies are now available to that country from other sources, can the Minister take steps to divert from other States any intended export butter in order to relieve the present shortage in New South Wales ?
– I am aware of the shortage of butter in New South Wales at the present time. It is not true that the Government of the United Kingdom has intimated to the Australian Government, nor do I believe that it is a fact, that consumers in the United Kingdom are no longer in need of Australian butter. On the contrary, I believe that the United Kingdom will continue to depend substantially on Australia for supplies of butter and cheese. No butter is being exported from Australia at present except small quantities of lowgrade butter, and some minor quantities of butter to certain tropical areas such as Singapore and places which traditionally depend on Australia for tinned butter. Such exports amount to a very small quantity. No butter whatever of table quality has been exported from Victoria since early in November last. Every pound of butter produced in that State and a substantial proportion of the production in Queensland since about that time has been stored in order to meet the shortage that is anticipated to occur in New South Wales and South Australia at this time of the year. Adverse seasonal conditions in certain areas and a steep rise in the per capita consumption of butter account for the fact that notwithstanding the storage of all export butter since November a shortage still exists in certain regions in Australia.
– In view of the fact that during this year Australia has exported approximately 40,000 tons of butter, or more, and also in view of the fact that the Government knew that due to the abolition of butter rationing and the great increase of our population there would be a substantial increase of local consumption, what powers, if any, did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture exercise under the Dairy Produce Export Control Act in order to ensure that during periods of surplus production adequate supplies of butter would be held to meet shortages caused by adverse seasonal conditions?
– I have not exercised any power to restrict the export of butter for the purpose that the honorable member has mentioned.
– The Minister left it to the other fellow.
– I left control in this matter to the same persons to whom the honorable member left it to when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Such action on his part is on record. I left it to the Australian Dairy Produce Board and the Equalization Committee to regulate the export of butter. If I had sought to exercise ministerial power in that respect I should have had to turn to those bodies as the expert authorities to advise me on the action that should be taken. Otherwise, I should be exercising an individual judgment and ignoring those specialist bodies. Alternatively, I should have had to turn to subordinate bodies, perhaps to the trade itself, for such advice. The Australian Dairy Produce Board and the Equalization Committee have had the joint responsibility for, I should say, the last twenty-five years, to ensure that sufficient butter shall be held in storage to make good possible shortages in certain seasons and in certain regions.For the last twenty to thirty years the production of butter in New South Wales has been inadequate to meet the demand in that State and, to my knowledge, this is the first occasion on which a serious shortage has occurred. If it is thought to be desirable that we should store adequate quantities of butter to meet the contingency of adverse seasons, [ am bound to say, on my own perhaps inadequate judgment, that very little butter at all would be exported from Australia during flush periods and that it would be necessary to store butter for six or nine months in order to ensure that any such contingency could be met. I am sure that this experience has attracted the attention of the governments concerned, because the State governments are involved on the production side, and of such instrumentalities as the Equalization Committee and the Australian Dairy Produce Board. That, experience has certainly focussed my attention on the situation, and I expect to be able to make, within the next few weeks, some announcements about the price payable to dairy-farmers which will have the result of encouraging a greater production of butter.
– In view of the fact that the continued reduction of the number of dairy-farmers is primarily responsible for the acute shortage of milk and milk products, including butter, will the Minister for Health consider the withdrawal of the scheme under which milk is now provided for school children, in order to enable at least the minimum milk and butter requirements of the Australian home to be available to all ? Will he also consider the returns received by dairyfarmers, and provide that the remuneration which they and their employees gel for their labour, including overtime worked, shall be at least one-half of the amount that has been rejected by the privileged waterside workers of Sydney?
– The provision of milk for school children at a price which is at least twice the price that is paid for milk for butter production, is one means by which the production of milk will be encouraged in Australia. The total quantity of milk which is consumed in the schools at the present time is less than 1 per cent. of the total production in this country, so that the withdrawal of the scheme could not have much effect as a remedy for the butter shortage.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Prime Minister of New Zealand has informed him that New Zealand has butter available for export to Australia? Did the Prime Minister of New Zealand discuss this matter recently with the Minister, and does the Minister propose to remove the restrictions on the entry of New Zealand butter into Australia?
– I have not had discussions with the Prime Minister of New Zealand on this subject although I have discussed with him certain commodity issues which are of interest to both the Dominions. Information has reached the Government through other channels that New Zealand has a surplus of about 5,000 tons of butter a year, which the New Zealand Government has the right to export to countries other than the United Kingdom. I gather that there is no butter immediately available for export to Australia, but that it would probably become available in the near future. It is no part of the business of the Australian Government to import butter from New Zealand. The butter trade can import butter from New Zealand if it wishes to do so. If it did so the novel and difficult circumstance would arise of the necessity to sell New Zealand butter in this country at perhaps a couple of shillings a pound more than is paid for the butter sold according to prices fixed by certain State price-fixing authorities.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. 11 point out, by way of explanation, that it has been brought to my notice that, in the course of the last general election, the names of a small number of people who had come to this country a considerable time ago but had failed to apply for naturalization were on the Commonwealth rolls, and that the persons themselves had voted. Will the Minister inform me whether a check is made before a non-naturalized person can become enrolled to vote at Commonwealth elections ? If such a check is not made, will he state whether one can be undertaken in the near future?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matters to which the honorable member for Bowman lias referred, but I shall be very glad to have them investigated if he will supply me with any detailed information about them.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has yet made a decision upon the future of the shale oil works at Glen Davis ? Is it the intention of the Government, as a part of its defence programme, to develop that project to its maximum capacity immediately?
– I was under the impression that an announcement had been made about that matter when I was it broad recently. I shall ascertain whether any change has occurred, and inform tho honorable member of the position.
– Is the Minister for Immigration able to say whether’ the police are investigating allegations that members of the Italian criminal organization known as the Black Hand Gang have been entering Australia as migrants ? Has the Minister any official knowledge of those allegations? Will he inform me whether steps are being taken by the Department of Immigration to prevent criminals from entering Australia as migrants?
– I am unable to give the honorable member for Hindmarsh very much information at the present time about the matter to which he has referred. The first intimation that I received of it was from press reports, and I have no official information at the moment which could either confirm or deny them. When I saw the reports, I asked officers of the Department of Immigration to supply me with any information in their records bearing on the matter so that I could determine whether any action could be taken by Australia about it. I have not yet had an opportunity to confer with those officers, but I hope to do so this afternoon. I understand from verbal reports of departmental officers that so far we have had no official advice from the police that would enable us to take action against any particular individuals. On the general subject of the prevention of the entry of criminals, I point out that persons of Italian origin have so far been admitted to Australia only under landing permit schemes on the nominations of friends and relatives in Australia and that checks are made in Italy in relation to their health, character and security. Such work is done for us by British consular representatives in those countries where Australia is not specially represented for that purpose. It is most unlikely that anybody with a known criminal record in his country of origin could enter Australia without that fact, becoming known to us. Should any further information be provided in the official reports, I shall make it known to the House in due course.
– In view of the alarming decline in the production of various classes of foodstuffs in Australia and of the fact that one of the causes of this calamity is the shortage of labour for rural industries, will the Minister for Immigration give urgent consideration to constructing, with all possible speed, more migrant hostels in closely settled country districts? Such action would help to arrest the rapidly swelling population of our capital cities.
– The Government is aware of the existence of the problem mentioned by the honorable member and a great deal of thought has been given to it in my own two departments. A programme of hostel construction has already been approved for some country areas. Recently, the Government decided to adopt a type of construction which it is hoped will have the effect of keeping the settlers permanently in their district and thereby assist in solving the problem to which the honorable, member has referred. Obviously, other action will have to be taken if the number of people, who are adopting rural pursuits is to be increased.. I can assure the honorable member that this matter is regarded as one of high priority in the Government’s planning.
– I direct, to the Minister, for Immigration a question relative to complaints, about the low standard of many Mediterranean, migrants, who arrived in. Australia on the ship Hellenic Prince,, and the. Minister’s, subsequent announcement that the matter would bc investigated. After a lapse of five weeks, r.he vessel Protea reached Fremantle last Sunday with Lebanese; and Syrians aboard, and similar complaints were made about, the living standards of those immigrants. Can the Minister give the Ho,use any information about whether the; Government, is satisfied that, in all instances these immigrants: were suitable? If not, what ia being done about immigrants who- have, already arrived in Australia, and who aire not considered suitable ; ako, what is. being done to- prevent such people- from coming to Australia in the future?’
– I recommend to honorable members generally that they accept with. a. certain amount of reservation press reports about, the unsuitability of people- who come to Australia. After all, suitability, is a matter which can take on a different facet in different eyes.. So far as- we- ar.e- concerned, the people to whom tha honorable member has referred have not entered. Australia- under any governmentsponsored scheme or scheme of government assistance: Under such schemes, wei aire able to make, our own selection, and to prescribe certain* conditions which- have to be observed by the immigrants when they reach Australia.
But apart from immigrants who come by way of government assistance we receive people from various countries who hold permits to enter Australia and who have been nominated by their own friends or relatives already in this country. It would be a very arbitrary act on the part of any government to deny to people who are already citizens of this country the right to bring out other people against whom there is no objection on the score of health, security, or character, and who are prepared to pay their own passages *o this country. There are obvious practical limits- and, I believe, very desirable limits-, on- the authority of any government to prevent the free movement of people- against whom nothing objectionable can be- produced. That, does not mean that we do- not experience some concern at- the reports that reach us, and I have- had. these- matters investigated. Where checks have to be made overseas, and’ we- have no> representative present at a- particular place, the- British consular representatives in- the countries concerned make them. Because of reports, which have reached us. about immigrants from the Middle East, we have now arranged to have our own- officer station at Athens. He will be- able’ to consider each application and interview personally each applicant for a landing- permit. Again, by way of conclusion and so- that we may preserve some sense of proportion in- these matters, I would say that since the1 end of the war about l’,200 immigrants- have come to Australia from- Syria and Lebanon. That number represents less than .3’ of 1 per cent, of the total number of new settlers who have come, to this country, and on the whole those people are by no means undesirable. I understand that the famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin, for instance, is a. native of Lebanon, and I do not suppose that any one would place him in the category of undesirable immigrants. We are watching the position generally, and I consider that we must regard as. grossly exaggerated, many of the reports that reach us regarding the unsuitability of persons coming to settle in Australia.
– Whilst it is gratifying to- have* the- assurance of the Minister foc Immigration that the quality of immigrants from Europe is satisfactory and that it is unlikely that criminals will enter Australia as immigrants, nevertheless is it not a fact that specific charges have been made in that respect by shipmasters and British immigrants who have travelled on the same ships with European migrants and that this state of affairs still continues? Furthermore, is it not a fact that an undue proportion of European immigrants have been recently involved in crimes of violence? Does the Minister consider this condition of affairs to be so. satisfactory as to render unnecessary any further investigation or tightening up of existing regulations?
– In reply to the last part of the honorable member’s question, I am glad to be able to assure him not on my own say-so, but on the view expressed by the Chief Commissioner of Police in Victoria, Mr. Duncan, and police officials in other States that the proportion of crimes of violence and other crimes of a serious character that have been committed by new settlers has been established to be lower than the comparable proportion of similar crimes among the Australian population generally. That fact confirms my statement that the selection tests applied to prospective European migrants are rather more severe than those which apply to the Australian community. I assure the honorable member that not only the Government but also its influential advisory bodies upon immigration such as the Planning Council and the Advisory Council are concerned to ensure that the general Australian standard is not lowered by new settlers. We shall watch closely developments as they occur from time to time. It was because of the concern that the honorable member has expressed that the proportion of crimes committed, by new settlers was investigated. Naturally, matters that affect immigrants are very much in the news and, perhaps, crimes committed by immigrants receive wider publicity than similar crimes that are committed by Australians. I do not think that there is any justification for general concern in relation to the standard of new settlers coming to this country. Honorable members who have come in contact with them throughout Australia have been impressed with the very many fine people who have come to help us build this country.
– Has the Minister for the Army read a statement in the daily newspapers that Australian and British padres did not take part last week in the official dedication ceremony of the British Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Yokahama? Is it a fact that the original programme for the ceremony provided for religious observances in which all denominations would take part but that this arrangement was subsequently altered in favour of a programme which was sent to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan by the authorities in Australia and which cancelled all religious aspects of the ceremony? If so, what authorities cancelled the religious ceremony? If the general statement to which I have referred is correct, what action does the Minister propose to take to ensure that such unfortunate incidents shall not occur again ?
– All I know about the matter is what I have read in the newspapers. I hasten to say that no action was taken in Australia to vary the programme for the ceremony to which the honorable member has referred. I read in one newspaper that LieutenantGeneral Sir Horace Robertson, who is the General Officer Commanding the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, had indicated that he had carried out the programme that had been laid down for the ceremony by the Imperial War Graves Commission. However, in view of what I have read in the newspapers, I have communicated with Lieutenant-General Robertson and have asked him to clarify the situation.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to the making of a grant or gift of, say, £ 10 to every invalid, and age pensioner so as to enable these citizens to join with the rest of the people of Australia in the Jubilee celebrations that are now being held? At all functions associated with the Jubilee, our leaders praise the pioneers of Australia for the part that they have played in making the country what it is to-day. It is deplorable that such worthy citizens should be living in want because of the high cost of living.
– The honorable member’s question obviously involves Government policy. The matter will be considered when the budget is being framed.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer concerning the sale of nearly new motor cars at prices far in excess of the prices for new vehicles. In order to make such ventures less profitable and, at the same time, preserve new vehicles for genuine users, will the right honorable gentleman consider altering the present law so as to provide that all profits made on the resale of motor cars shall be taxed instead of being treated, as at present, as capital appreciation?
– The matter will be given consideration in due course.
– I bring to the notice of the Postmaster-General reports that we all have seen to the effect that during the past three or four years, a record number of new telephone services has been installed each year. I have received many complaints from applicants for telephone services, some of whom have been on the waiting list for more than five years. I know a man who, in making application for a telephone service, gave as one of the reasons in support of his application the fact that his wife was expecting her first child. He has complained to me that, although his wife is now expecting her third child, he is still waiting for a telephone. Will the Postmaster-General cause an investigation to be made of outstanding applications for the installation of telephones and instruct his departmental officers that all applications made two years ago or longer shall be acceded to immediately?
– The problem of acceding to applications for the installation of telephones is a very difficult one. Last year, approximately 70,000 new telephones were installed throughout Australia, but there is still a backlog of approximately 100,000 applications. For every 1,000 new subscribers who are connected to the telephone system, there appears to be another 1,000 new applica tions. The Postal Department endeavours, as far as possible, to allot new telephones under a priority system. Exservicemen entering business, doctors, nurses, chemists and expectant mothers have a certain priority. I shall look into the case to which the honorable gentleman has referred and see what can be done to meet it.
– I invite the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the following resolution that has been unanimously reached by the Flinders Municipality : -
That the Federal Government be approached, asking for a freight subsidy to offset the high post of freight and other charges on liquid fuels supplied to Bass Strait islands, pointing out our isolation and dependence upon liquid fuels for transport and power.
Having regard to the fact that almost all the residents of Flinders Island and King Island are primary producers, and bearing in mind the alarming decrease of dairy production and the existing shortage of butter, I ask the Minister whether he will give earnest consideration, perhaps in collaboration with the Minister for Supply, first, to subsidizing air freight charges upon butter exported from the Bass Strait islands, and secondly, to subsidizing liquid fuels imported by the inhabitants of those islands?
– The question relates to an involved subject. I am not responsible, either administratively or in respect of policy, for the subsidizing of freight charges upon commodities sent to or from the Bass Strait islands. I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s suggestion to the notice of the appropriate Minister and ensure that it receives consideration.
– Will the Minister for Supply say whether the tinplate position in Australia is such that this country will receive only 50 per cent, of its tinplate requirements during the next six months? If that be the position, is it correct to assume that first priority in respect of tinplate will be given to manufacturers of foodstuffs ? If so, is it realized that the tanning industry, which is an essential industry, can receive supplies of the goods that it needs only if tinplate containers are made available to manufacturers of tanning requisites ? Will the Government take all steps possible to secure supplies of tinplate commensurate with Australia’s requirements ?
Mr.BEALE. - I am aware that there is a shortage of tinplate in this country. There are two reasons for the shortage. The first is that although the demand for tinplate is increasing every year, our supplies are more or less static. In the last twelve months, the Government was able to obtain substantially increased quantities of tinplate from the United States of America, but we cannot necessarily do that again. The second reason for the shortage, and the cause of our immediate problems in connexion with tinplate, is that the United States Government recently reduced the allocation to Australia from the third and fourth quarters’ rollings. It seems that 8,000 or 9,000 tons less tinplate will come into Australia this yearthanwas imported last year. In those circumstances the Government immediatelymade strong representations to the United States Government on a high level. Talks are still taking place and I amnotyetin a position to tell the House what the . results have been or are likely tobe. However,the honorable member may be assured that the Government will do its utmostto keep the pressure up in an endeavour to procure more tinplate. I am not aware of the facts concerning the consumption of tinplate for tanning purposes. The allocation of tinplate importedinto Australia is not in the hands of theGovernment. It is controlledby a small committee of members ofthe trade which allocates thequantities imported. The Governmentdoes not interfere with their allocations. However, when any one is in particular trouble, it calls the committee together and asks it to consider thegrantling of a special allotment. That is all Ipropose to do. I do not propose, at this juncture, to ask theGovernment to acceptresponsibility for the allocation of tinplate. In fact it has not thelegal power necessary for such action. We shall continue to do all that can be done in connexion with thisvery difficult problem.
– In view of the acute shortage of tinplate to which the Minister for Supply has referred, and of the facts that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been for some months attempting to find : a substitute for tinplate, and that at Coobina in Western Australia there are millions of tons of high-grade chromite which can he mined for a few pounds a ton, will the Minister request the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to investigate the possibilities of using chrome-plate instead of tinplate?
– With the concurrence of my colleague, the Minister for National Development, I shall refer the matter that the honorable member hasraised to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. However, I do not think that I can hold out much hope that such action will help to alleviate our position in respect of the supply of tinplate. The fact is that our shortage of tinplate has not so much to do with the shortage of tin, or nickel, but arises from the shortage of steel which is world wide. We have investigated the possibility of using substitutes because this problem is not merely of -a temporary characterbut will be with us in the days to come. It is difficult to find a suitable substitute for tinplate inthe manufacture of containers. Plastics, paper and glass have been tested for that purpose, but none of those materials is sufficiently heat-resisting. Paper, in any event, is in short supply. TheGovernment will continue its investigation of this matter butI repeat that Icannot hold out much hope ‘that the honorable member’s . suggestion will prove successful.
Mr.BEAZLEY. - During the period between the dissolution of the Nineteenth Parliament and the meeting of thepresent Parliament a controversy took place in the United States in connexion with the dismissal of General MacArthur in the course of which certain highly-placed people in the United States statedthat European allies of the United States did not desiretohave the war extended into Manchuria, a developmentwhich appeared to be implicit in certain : suggestionsmade by General MacArthur. I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether any consultation took place between the Government of the “United States of America and the Australian Government in regard to this matter and, if so, what was the nature of the advice tendered by the Australian Government to the Go eminent of the United States of America?
– There has been a constant interchange of telegrams on this and related subjects between the Governments of Australia, the United States of America, and Great Britain. I do not recollect the purport of the telegrams because I was not responsible for the Department of External Affairs at that time, but I can assure honorable members that the Australian Government does not want any action to be taken that would extend the scope of the war outside of its present ambit.
– Will .the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make available to the House report on the recent survey by the Division of Agricultural Economics concerning the cost of fgg production in Australia?
– The report is not immediately available and I am not quite sure whether it is in its final form. As soon as it is in its final form I shall make it available to honorable members.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Government has taken any action to obtain modern jet-propelled aircraft of British or British Commonwealth production as replacements for, or additions to, the aircraft now operating on Government airlines? If the Government has not yet taken any action in that direction, has any action been taken by any of the Government airlines to obtain modern jetpropelled aircraft such as have been fully tested and are now available for purchase? If no purchase has been made or no option to purchase has been obtained can the Minister say whether it is intended to take such action, and if not, why not? If an option to purchase has been obtained is it still exercisable or has it been allowed to lapse, and if it has been allowed to lapse, can the Minister give the reason why it should have been allowed to do so?
– The purchase of additional aircraft for Government airlines is made by the particular corporations concerned, such as Trans-Australia Airlines, Qantas Empire Airways Limited and Tasman Empire Airways Limited. Of course, if dollar allocations are necessary, approval for such expenditure of dollars has to be obtained. Certain ministerial approval has to be obtained for the purchase of British planes. Up to this juncture, no application has been made to me by any of the companies concerned in connexion with the purchase of jet aircraft.
– Can the Minister for Health inform the House of the number of doctors who are co-operating in the Government’s medical scheme for pensioners? Does he know of any reason that justifies the attitude of those general practitioners who refuse to co-operate under the scheme? What steps has he taken, or does he propose to take, to acquaint pensioners with the names, of medical practitioners from whom they can obtain service under the scheme?
– The total number of doctors who have offered to work for the pensioners under the Government scheme is roughly about 75 per cent, of the number of general practitioners throughout Australia. Many general practitioners who are not co-operating have never undertaken work of a similar nature before, whilst others are old and do not go out at nights. Just prior to the recent general election I was arranging to have submitted to every honorable member the names of the doctors in his electorate who co-operate under the scheme, but action on that matter was delayed because, through the advent of the general election, it was not known who would be representing each electorate. However, now that the general election is over I shall have the lists supplied to honorable members.
– I direct to the Minister for Labour and National Service a question concerning restrictive practices on the waterfront. Is the Minister aware that, because of the very slow rate of loading and discharging ships in Australian ports, a line of Swedish steamers which plies to Australia has recently decided not to accept timber cargoes for this country except on special conditions and at special rates? In view of the serious effect that that decision may have on our housing plans, will the Minister give special attention to the turn-round of timber ships?
– I do not know that I have had brought before me the particular facts that the honorable member has mentioned, but, of course, I, like other members of the Government, have been much concerned about the deterioration over the last few years of service on the waterfront in this country. Certain action already taken by the Government will have become known to honorable members by this time. It was largely because of dissatisfaction with conditions on the waterfront that the Government recently instituted proceedings before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the deregistration of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. I cannot discuss that matter in any detail now, because it is at present before the court, but I assure the honorable member that we have this problem very much in our minds and that we shall do whatever we can, as a Government, to achieve a solution of it.
– Can the Minister for Immigration inform me how many applications for passports were received from persons who desired to attend the youth peace festival in Berlin? How many such applications were approved? Will the Minister make available the names of the organizations concerned in instances of approval? Is the Minister aware that the festival has been recognized in all free countries as merely another front for Communist activity, and that democratic governments will not facilitate, in any way, the transit of individuals to it? What principles guided the Minister, or his department, in approving of applications for passports for the festival? Does approval of the issue of passports from Australia in this instance automatically mean the unhampered return to this country of the dupes and intriguers who attend the festival with the subsequent dissemination by them of antiAustralian doctrines throughout this country ?
-The first part of that question should be placed on the notice-paper.
– If the honorable member will place the question on the noticepaper I shall endeavour to deal with the details of it. The honorable gentleman asked what general principle guides’ my department in matters such as this. The general principle which guides us is that the right of any citizen of Australia to travel outside this country is one which should not be arbitrarily interfered with by any government, except in circumstances in which the security of the country may he involved. We have acted on that principle in all these cases. The procedure followed by the department was recommended to us by our security authorities, after they had consulted security authorities in other parts of the world. In peacetime it is not required that people, when they apply for a passport, shall state the purpose of their travel abroad. Many thousands of citizens leave Australia each year and we do not know what particular functions they may choose to attend in any particular country. In recent times we have written into the passports a restriction to. the effect that they are not valid for use in certain specified countries which may be generally described as the Communist-controlled countries of Europe. If it comes to our notice that any one holding a passport is using it for travel in those specified countries, we take action to cancel it, and we impound it as soon as we can do so. The honorable member for Dalley-
– Order ! The honorable member for Dalley (Mr, Rosevear) has not asked a question.
– In answering the question generally-
-Order! The honorable member must confine himself to answering the question that has been asked.
– In reply to the honorable member for Hoddle I say that there are no powers available to me which would enable me to prevent fin Australian citizen from going abroad. [ have a discretion in the issue of a passport, and that discretion has been exercised on some occasions. The only restrictive power is that which relates to passports. I think that it is a very good thing that this general freedom should exist, and I believe that no government should be in a hurry unduly to restrict it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. As the Minister is aware, it is essential for fruit-growers to use in the early spring considerable quantities of sulphate of copper, otherwise known as bluestone for the control of fungus diseases. At present there is practically no bluestone available in Australia, and I understand that its export from the United Kingdom is prohibited. Can the Minister arrange, through discussion with the Treasurer, to import the necessary amount of bluestone from the United States or some other source?
– I am aware, of the “shortage of bluestone, and of its serious implications for the horticultural industry and for some vegetable industries. Officers of my department have been engaged for some weeks in making inquiries in every appropriate country in the world to ascertain whether we can procure adequate supplies of bluestone for Australia. I assure the honorable member that to the extent that we are able to locate supplies, funds will certainly be made available to bring sufficient bluestone into Australia to meet the essential needs of our industries.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that the embargo on the export of merino rams from Australia has been lifted? If that is a fact will the Minister explain the effect of the lifting of the embargo? Is there, for instance, any restriction on. the number of rams allowed to be exported each year or is any discrimination made between countries seeking to import them ?
– No action has been taken in respect of the embargo on the export of merino rams, or merino sheep generally. At a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council held a few weeks ago in Brisbane, the six State Ministers for Agriculture, representing the three great political parties of the country, carried unanimously a resolution recommending that the Australian Government should lift the embargo on the export of merino sheep. The Australian Government has not yet considered that recommendation. Consideration will be given to it.
– Will the Treasurer give consideration to rectifying the financial difficulties of municipalities with non-rateable Commonwealth property within their boundaries? In explanation I draw attention to the case of the borough of Queenscliff in which there is a considerable amount of property that Las been recently acquired by the Commonwealth, which action has caused a loss of 3 per cent, of the total revenue which would otherwise have been received by the borough from rates during the last financial year. A continuation of such acquisitions without some compensating payment in lieu of these rates can seriously embarass the finances of such municipalities, ,and I therefore direct attention to the matter in the hope that some satisfactory adjustment can be made.
– The Treasury officials are fully aware of the merits of the matter raised by the honorable member and are endeavouring to arrange a conference about it with local authorities in the near future. At present I can say that the matter is under consideration with a view to adjustment along the lines indicated by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior what action has been taken to implement the resolution that was carried unanimously by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council on the 20th November, 1950, in which that body requested the then Minister to initiate, under the provisions of the Inquiries Ordinance of 1938, a full investigation of the slaughtering, delivery and wholesale and retail sale of meat within the Australian Capital Territory. As conditions continue to be most unsatisfactory to both retail butchers and consumers, will he give an assurance that an inquiry will be undertaken ?
– The Controller of Prices has undertaken a very full investigation of certain phases of the matter that the honorable member has mentioned and as a result he has instituted certain legal proceedings. In those circumstances it would not be right for me at this juncture to deal further with that aspect. A comprehensive report is being prepared and at a later stage will be forwarded to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. In respect of certain minor aspects, including the early opening of chillers and the provision of resting paddocks, action hat already been taken along the lines recommended by the council.
– I move-
That the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.
– I second the motion.
– I move-
That the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) be appointed Chairman of Committees of this House.
– I second the motion.
– There being two nominations, the procedure will be the same as is adopted in the case of the election of Speaker. A ballot will therefore be taken.
.- The honorable member forFisher (Mr. Adermann) during the Nineteenth Parliament discharged his duties as Chairman of Committees with great credit to himself and with strict impartiality. During the same period, when you were absent abroad, Mr. Speaker, he acted as Speaker of this House. In every respect he won the confidence of the House in that position. I have much pleasure in thus supporting my nomination of the honorable member as Chairman of Committees.
.- I propose to give reasons why I, on behalf of the Opposition, have nominatedthe honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) for the position of Chairman of Committees. After the general election in 1949 the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) was appointed Chairman of Committees of this House without opposition ; but, in fact, he was elected unanimously because of misrepresentation that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself indulged in. In proposing that honorable member for the position the right honorable gentleman said that he had established - a very high reputation for his quiet approach to problems, his highly intelligent grasp of them, his knowledge of the business of the House and his knowledge of parliamentary procedure.
– So he had.
– If the honorable member for Fisher possessed those qualifications, he cunningly concealed them while he was Chairman of Committees. We found him to be bitterly prejudiced against members of the Labour party, and brutally unfair and incompetent. The Opposition is hopeful that its candidate for the office of Chairman of Committees will be successful, because we know that, in the election of Mr. Speaker, at least one Government supporter had the courage, after many of his colleagues had expressed the intention to vote against the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), to record his vote in the ballot in favour of the nominee of the Labour party, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). It is also understood that the Government has lost its great enthusiasm for secret ballots since you, Mr. Speaker, failed to secure the approval of every Government member when you were elected by secret ballot to your position last week.
– Order ! The election of Mr. Speaker has nothing to do with the motion before the chair.
– I imagined that it would not.
– Order !
– Unfortunately, time does not permit me to adduce all the evidence that could be advanced to prove the case that I have submitted against the reelection of the honorable member for Fisher as Chairman of Committees, hut I shall quote one instance to show that he is prejudiced and is incompetent to occupy that position. On the 21st June, 1950, I was addressing the chamber while the honorable member for Fisher was occupying the chair. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) walked to the table and deliberately insulted me.
GovernmentMembers.- No !
– Order !
– He deliberately insulted me by making what was later admitted to be a distinctly unparliamentary remark. The Chair did not take action against him. I retaliated. Yet I was suspended from the sitting by the honorable member for Fisher, who said that I was guilty of using unparliamentary language, and had refused to withdraw the words in question arid to apologize for having uttered them, He admitted that I had been provoked, and he evidently heard the remark addressed to me, because it was heard even by listeners in the press galleries, but he refused to take any action against the honorable member for Henty and the then Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, directed attention to the circumstances. The honorable member for Henty then withdrew his remark after he had admitted that he had made it for a particular purpose. But he was allowed to remain in the chamber. The honorable member for Fisher argued that I had not asked the Chair to request the honorable member for Henty to withdraw the remark that he had addressed to me and that, therefore, the Chair was not obliged to take any action against him. The honorable member for Perth then raised the point that there was no need for an honorable member to ask that an unparliamentary remark be withdrawn, because such a request should come from the Chair. He further pointed out that if the Chair saw fit to take action in the matter, the honorable member for Henty should also have been asked to withdraw; and that in the circumstances, the honorable member who made the first unparliamentary remark should have been the first to be asked to withdraw it. But the honorable member for Fisher distinctly disregarded what had been said.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has delivered a long and inaccurate diatribe against the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), who has been nominated for the position of Chairman of Committees. I do not know whether the honorable member for East Sydney really believes everything that he has said, but I note that he nominated the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) for the position. Well, we have had experience of the honorable member for Darling as Chairman of Committees and as Mr. Deputy Speaker for several years. If there were any substance in the statements of the honorable member for East Sydney against the honorable member for Fisher, the adoption of his proposal would merely put us out of the frying pan into the fire. I do not think that much more need be said on this matter. This House has had experience of the honorable member for Fisher as Mr. Deputy Speaker and as the Chairman of Committees. When I was the Deputy Chairman of Committees last year, I had opportunities to speak to members on both sides of the chamber about the manner in which the honorable member fov Fisher presided over our deliberations and I can only say that, apart from the honorable member for East Sydney and pne or two other members who really knew nothing about the rules and procedures of this House, otherwise they would not have been so often outside it, I heard nothing but words of praise and expressions of satisfaction with his work. For those reasons, I support him as a candidate for the position of Chairman of Committees.
.- The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) recommended the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) for the office of Chairman of Committees as the lesser of two evils. He stated that whatever might be said about the fitness of the honorable member for Fisher to occupy the chair, the honorable member for
Darling (Mr. Clark) was worse when he was the Chairman of Committees and Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I remind the House that during that time, much contentious legislation was introduced, and feelings in the House frequently ran high. The then Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Eric j. Harrison, was in danger, on one or two occasions, of offending against the Standing Orders. It was wrong of the honorable member for Flinders to suggest that members of the Opposition were suspended during sittings of the last Parliament because they had offended against the rulings of the honorable member for Fisher. I remember that the honorable gentleman called a member of the Liberal party to order, and threatened to name him. He allowed members of the Labour party great latitude when they criticized members of the Liberal party, but he did not permit them the same degree of latitude when they began to criticize members of the Australian Country party. To him, the Australian Country party was what Caesar’s wife was reputed to be - above suspicion. No member of the Labour party, and few members of the Liberal party, believe that such is true of the Australian Country party.
On occasions, the honorable member for Fisher was unfair. I consider that he was unfair to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) late one night. Members of the Australian Country party had stone-walled the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1950 until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., but he refused to see the honorable member for Grayndler when he wished to make his contribution to the debate. On other occasions, the honorable member for Fisher acted, not impartially, but irascibly and excitedly, and unfairly towards certain members of the Labour party. I hope that if he is elected on this occasion, he will not repeat his mistakes, and that he will permit the Australian Country party to be subjected to a certain amount of criticism. I also hope that Opposition members will not have cause to feel so aggrieved as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), felt upon the most unfortunate occasion to which he has referred.
– I have to announce the result of the ballot as follows: - Mr. Adermann, 65 votes ; Mr. Clark, 48 votes. Therefore, I declare Mr. Adermann to be elected as Chairman of Committees of this House.
– «I offer my congratulations to the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) upon his reelection to a post in which he has done well and in which unquestionably he will continue to do well. He enjoys the personal goodwill of, at any rate, 120 members of this House. That will be of some encouragement to him. All that I want to say in conclusion is that I take great exception to anybody even hinting that the honorable member for Fisher looks like a frying pan. I assure him that I have never seen in him the slightest resemblance to a frying pan.
– The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) has been elected as Chairman of Committees by a democratic vote of the House. On behalf of the Opposition, I congratulate him. I am sure he understands that the view that was expressed on behalf of the Opposition was expressed in perfectly good faith. I hope that during the life of this Parliament there will be no more incidents such as those to which reference has been made.
– I thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for their congratulations upon my appointment. I thank the House for its expression of confidence in me. I remember the night when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked for the protection of the Chair. I assure him that, provided he observes the Standing Orders, I shall protect him on any occasion ‘when he asks me for protection. That remark applies to all honorable members.
Motion (by Mr. Eric j. Harrison) - by leave - proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent, before the Address-in-Reply is adopted, the taking of all necessary steps for the introduction and passing through all stages without delay of a
Supply Bill, Supply (Works and Services) Bill, a States Grants (Special Financial Assistance) Bill, Appropriation Bill, Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill, Supplementary Appropriation Bill, Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill, Loan Bill, War Pensions Appropriation Bill, and a Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has referred to a number of bills, but has not informed the House of the details of them. I understand that all that it is proposed to do to-day is to take the bills to the second-reading stage. I ask the Minister to extend accordingly the period allotted for the debate on the Address-in-Reply, in order that honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss the Governor-General’s Speech adequately. I realize that financial measures are important, but I should like to know what the position will be after the second-reading speeches upon those bills have been made and the debates upon them adjourned. Subject to being satisfied in that regard, I have no objection to what is proposed in the motion The matter has been discussed with the Opposition Whip by the Vice-President of the Executive Council
.- This motion, if carried, will bind the House in adyance to suspend the Standing Orders for special purposes. I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to say why it was considered necessary to propose the motion, because the Standing Orders make provision for the adjournment of the debate on the Address-in-Reply from time to time to enable bills to be introduced.
– in reply - May I explain that all possibilities of dealing with this matter were explored, but because of the need for the introduction of a series of bills it was considered best to have a motion of this nature to cover the whole of the bills. It is not the intention of the Government to interfere with the full period that it was intended to allow for the debate on the Address-in-Reply. I discussed this matter with the Opposition Whip (Mr. Daly), who, I understand, approached the Leader of the Opposition. That right honorable gentleman said that he was prepared to agree to leave being granted for me. at this stage, to move for the suspension of the Standing Orders. We found it would be much better to include the whole of the legislation in one resolution so that the House could proceed with all the bills to the second-reading stage, and, at that point, resume the debate on the Address-in-Reply to which we proposed to devote the full period originally intended. It was concluded that this was the best method of handling the” bills. The motion in relation to Supply is designed to cover a period of four months.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That the House will, at a later hour this day, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
That the House will, at a later hour this day, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply to be granted to Hie Majesty.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majestyfor or towards defraying the service of the year 1951-52 a sum not exceeding £120,154,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Eric J Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [4.13]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this hill is to obtain an appropriation of £120,154,000 which is required to carry on the necessary normal services of the Government, other than capital services, for the first four months of the financial year 1951-52. The provision sought may be summarized under the following headings: -
Departments and services -
The bill provides for the carrying on of essential services approved by Parliament in the Appropriation Act 1950-51. Honorable members will however appreciate that under present-day conditions of rising costs for wages and materials, it i3 no longer practicable to limit the provision to the rate of expenditure, provided for in the 1950-51 Estimates. The amounts included in the bill are accordingly based on current rates of expenditure.
The amount of £38,483,000 for defence services provides for “ expenditure on the post-war defence plan and requirements in Korea and Malaya, whilst the amount of £5,110,000 under war and repatriation services covers expenditure on repatriation and rehabilitation and other war charges.
The amount of £15,000,000 for “ Advance to the Treasurer “ is required to enable the payment of the special grants to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to be continued pending the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, also to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure and to provide for any unexpected defence requirements. Except in relation to defence, no amounts are included for new services.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom BURKE) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Hia Majesty for or towards defraying the service of the year 1951-52, for the purposes of Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, a sum not exceeding £21,687,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on Resolution of Supply, reported. [Quorum formed.’]
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Ma-. Eric .f. Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill appropriates an amount of £21,687,000 to enable Commonwealth works in progress at the 30th June, 1951, to be continued until the 1951-52 budget has been passed by the Parliament. A policy of comprehensive long-range planning for capital works covering periods of from three to five years is in operation, in the defence services and in departments such as Works and Housing, PostmasterGeneral’s and Civil Aviation. To enable these programmes to be continued successfully funds must be available without interruption for the purchase of materials in advance, both in Australia and from overseas, and also to ensure continuous employment on the many projects. The bill provides, therefore, for four months’ expenditure on works included in the expenditure programme of £80,173,000 provided for in the Capital Works Estimates 1950-51 and in the Additional Estimates 1950-51. In. accordance with the usual practice in submitting a Supply bill, no provision has been made for any new services.
Debate (on motion- by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee . (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient - that an appropriation of revenue- be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purposes of financial assistance to the States.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Six Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPhersonTreasurer) [4.24). - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment of a special grant of £15,000,000 to the States in 1950-51. Under the tax reimbursement formula embodied in the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946-1948 the States are receiving this year grants amounting to approximately £70,400,000. In addition, under legislation which was approved by the Parliament last November, the grants payable under the formula are being supplemented this year by a further tax reimbursement grant of £5,000,000. The present proposal will, therefore, increase the total payment for 1950-51 to approximately £90,400,000. This is about £27,900,000 greater than the- tax reimbursement grant paid last year. If the Coal Strike Emergency Grant of £8,000,000 paid last year were included in the comparison, the increase would be about £19,900,000.
At the beginning of the financial year it was expected that the tax reimbursement grant of £70,400,000 determined under the formula, plus the additional nonrecurring grant of £5,000,000 would make reasonable provision for the States’ financial needs this year. Since that time, however, various special factors have caused heavy additions to the financial needs of all States. I would mention in particular the special increase of the basic wage by approximately £1 which has operated in the latter part of the financial year, and which -has involved very heavy increases of the payrolls of State governments. After making a detailed review of the immediate situation with which each State government is confronted the Commonwealth Government has decided to propose an additional grant of £15,000,000 in 1950-51 to be distributed among the States as follows-: -
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1951, and Additional Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New “Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1951, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That the following additional sum be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1950-51 for the services hereunder specified, viz.: -
That the following additional sum be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1050-51, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, as specified hereunder, viz. : -
Resolutions reported and adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on Resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir ArthurFadden and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by SirArthurFadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to seek parliamentary approval for additional expenditure incurred during the financial year 1950-51 in respect of certain items for which provision was not made in the Estimates presented to the Parliament in October, 1950. I desire briefly to explain to the House why this measure is necessary. On items coming under annual appropriations, expenditure is expected to exceed estimates by £40,000,000. These items include -
It is for these items of additional expenditure that authorization by the Parliament is being sought. In addition, it is proposed to provide for an additional transfer of £5,000,000 to the strategic stores and equipment reserve, of which a further explanation will be given presently. Thus the amount covered by
Additional Appropriation (Ordinary Services) will be £34,000,000, and the amount covered by Additional Appropriation (Works and Services), which will be the subject of a separate bill, will be £11,000,000, making a total of £45,000,000. It may be pointed out, however, that whilst in respect of the items in the annual appropriation just mentioned expenditure is expected to exceed estimats by £40,000,000, expenditure is expected to fall below estimates in respect ofother items to a total sum of £19,000,000. These items include -
Thus it can be said that the net increase of expenditure on items that come under annual appropriations will be only £21,000,000. There will, however, be an increased net expenditure amounting to £19,000,000 under special appropriations for which legislative authority either exists already or will be sought separately. The items that make up this total are -
Taking together annual and special appropriations, it can be said that the net increase of total expenditure over the budget estimates in 1950-51 is expected to be £40,000,000. On the other hand, it is expected that revenue will also exceed the budget estimates. Although it is still not possible to give exact figures, it appears that the receipts from the income tax and social services contributions will be appreciably above the estimates and that there will also be higher collections than were anticipated on account of wool deductions, excise and pay-roll tax. Revenue from other sources seems likely to be approximately equal to the estimates. Whilst again stressing that individual figures may change to some extent by the end of the financial year, I should say that on balance a small surplus for the year may be realized. It will be recalled that in my budget last October a surplus of about £400,000 was predicted. If a surplus occurs it is proposed to transfer the amount to the strategic stores and equipment reserve so that it may be applied next year tomeeting defence commitments.
An amount of £5,000,000 has been included in the additional estimates to enable this to be done, and this isthe amount of £5,000,000 which I mentioned earlier in my speech. The surplus actually realized may or may not come up to this figure. From the strategic stores and equipment reserve for which an amount of £50,000,000 was included in the budget, I might mention that because of difficulties of procurement overseas only about £10,000,000 has actually been expended. At the same time very substantial commitments have been entered into under the defence programme, and the unexpended balance together with any budget surplus will be available to meet the commitments which have already been entered into.
As to the budget generally, very many forms of expenditure have been affected this year by the steep rise of wages, salaries and costs of materials. This applies particularly to the Postal Department works and to administrative expenditure. Fundamentally, also it is the rise of wages and to general costs that has made necessary the additional grant of £15,000,000 which the Government proposes to make to the States and for which legislation is being submitted to the Parliament. At the same time, of course, revenue has benefited through the higher incomes and purchasing power in the community. This is true particularly of pay-as-you-earn income tax collections and pay-roll tax.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In the second-reading speech, on the appropriation bill for ordinary services, which I have just concluded, I indicated that it was necessary to seek an additional appropriation of £11,468,000 for capital works and services. This bill will give effect to that appropriation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Budget 1950-51 provided for expenditure from. Loan Fund of £25,000,000 for war service homes, and £4,000,000 for war service land settlement. Authority for the raising and expending of these moneys is contained in the Loan Act 1950. Available funds are sufficient only to cover expenditure to the 30th June next and further authority is therefore necessary to cover the period until the Government’s budget proposals are announced. The present measure accordingly seeks parliamentary approval for expenditure of £9,000,000 for war service homes and £1,500,000 for war service land settlement. These amounts will meet requirements for a period of approximately four months at the present rate of expenditure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur. Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden., and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is the customary measure which is submitted to the Parliament from time to time for the purpose of appropriating out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund an amount for payment into a trust account to enable war pensions to be paid in accordance with, such rates as are approved by the Parliament. Expenditure on war pensions is showing a continuous increase,as the following table indicates : -
The amount of £31,000,000 now sought will cover approximately a year’s expenditure at present rates. The balance of the amount of £28,000,000 appropriated in October last is sufficient only to meet payments to mid-July. As I have already stated, this bill merely authorizes the provision of funds for the trust account from which war pensions are paid. It has no relation whatever to the rates or conditions at or under which these pensions are payable.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the year ended the 30th June, 1950, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New “Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ended the 30th June, 1950, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1949-50, for the several services hereunder specified, viz.: -
supplementary e6timates fob WORKS and Services, 1949-50.
That there be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 194.9-50, for the purposes of Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure a further sum not exceeding £2,400,894.
Resolutions reported and adopted.
Resolutions of “Ways and Means, founded on Resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
These Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure total £7,444,206 and relate to the financial year 1949-50. The amounts tot out were expended out of a general appropriation from revenue of £10,000,000 made available to the Treasurer to meet expenditure which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared. It is now necessary to obtain specific parliamentary appropriation to cover the several items of excess expenditure. Full details of the expenditure for 1949-50 which includes these increases are shown in the Estimates and budget papers for 1950-51. These publications show the amount voted for 1950-51, together with the amount voted and the actual expenditure for the previous year which is included for informative purposes. Details are also included in the Treasurer’s financial statement for 1949-50 which was tabled earlier this year for the information of honorable members.
The Supplementary Estimates detail the items under which the additional amounts were expended by the various departments. The chief items in round figures are -
Details of the various items of expenditure will be made available at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The total appropriations passed by the Parliament for capital works and services under this heading during 1949-50 amounted to £79,293,000. The actual expenditure was £73,268,000, that is £6,025,000 less than the appropriation. Due, however, to requirements which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared, certain items show an increase over the individual amounts appropriated and it is now necessary to obtain parliamentary approval of these increases. The excess expenditure on the particular items concerned totals £2,940,894, which is spread over the various works items of the departments, as set out in the schedule to the bill. Any details that honorable members require will be furnished at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tom Burke) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate acquainting the House of Representatives that the following senators had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee, viz., the President of the Senate (Senator Mattner), and Senators Arnold and Maher.
Debate resumed from the 13th June (vide page 61), on motion by Mr. Bland -
That the following Address-in-JReply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– My colleagues and I join His Excellency in the prayer that His Majesty will soon be restored to health. All honorable members recognize the terrific strain under which His Majesty has been called upon to perform his duties in recent months. We pray that His Majesty will be speedily restored to health, and that he will enjoy freedom from illness and anxiety for many years to come. We also join His Excellency in expressing the belief that Their Majesties and Princess Margaret, when they visit Australia next year, will receive a tumultuous welcome. Opposition members believe that His Majesty is the living symbol of democracy. The salvation of the democratic world will depend largely upon the efforts and the example of the British speaking races, and upon their determination to preserve democracy as it is understood in the British Empire. We hope that His Majesty’s view of democracy will not be dimmed, during his visit to this country, as the result of the introduction of legislation of a kind to which he has not been accustomed.
– Order ! I do not think that the honorable member can canvass what His Majesty may think about legislation introduced in this Parliament.
– I bow to your will, Mr. Speaker, and express my hope that, by the time His Majesty arrives in Australia, this Government will not have done, or will not be in the process of doing, something that could be interpreted as weakening democracy in this part of the great British Empire. The Government claims that it has a mandate to give effect to a certain policy. For instance, it believes that the existing laws by which it may combat subversive activities are inadequate. His Excellency the Governor-General said in his Speech -
The existing laws against subversive activities are being closely examined, and amending legislation will be presented to Parliament.
For many years, successive Australian governments have found that the existing machinery has been adequate to enable them to combat subversive activities. The Menzies-Fadden Government believes that it should be armed with greater powers for such a purpose. My only plea is that great care shall be taken to ensure that this Government, being over-keen to combat communism, does not take action that will besmirch the record of Australia as a democratic, freedom-loving nation. Such a danger must be closely watched, lest the individual be deprived of his freedom and his rights.
Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the intentions of the Government in the industrial sphere. Before the Government interferes with the industrial machinery in the way which we are entitled to expect from its statements of policy, I utter a word of warning. Great care should be exercised to ensure that the light of freedom will not be extinguished, or even dimmed. The Government claims that it possesses a mandate to suppress subversive elements in the community. Whilst such a claim is right, I believe that the campaign against them should not be restricted to the Communists in the trade union movement, but should also be directed against doctors, solicitors, and farmers. In the process, the guardians of democracy should be careful to ensure that the tactics pursued by some supporters of the Government during the last general election campaign are not an indication of the kind of legislation that the Parliament will be asked to consider. Ten hours before people- began to vote in my electorate, thousands of placards were plastered round every polling-booth bearing the words in large red type, “ Labor means Communism “. Yet the Communist party candidate polled fewer than 800 votes in an aggregate of 43,000. Such anti-Labour propaganda was completely unjustified. I repeat the prophecy that I made in my first speech in this House, namely, that the plans of the Government for combating subversive activities in Australia will merely have the effect of strengthening communism.
To me, the most important of the other subjects mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is transport. Australia will not be able to make a maximum war effort if the transport systems are not rehabilitated. Under existing conditions the efficiency that was attained during World War II. could not be repeated if Australia were again involved in war. I hope that the Government will assist the States to improve their transport systems, but I am not optimistic about the position. The Menkies-Fadden Government has been in office for eighteen months, and, to date, its policy has served only to shackle the people who have been endeavouring to undertake the work of rehabilitation. Our transport systems, road and rail, constitute an important national problem. Large sums of money must be provided for the restoration of roads, particularly those in the metropolitan areas of the capital cities, to such a condition that they will be able to carry the transport required in a maximum war effort. No one in this chamber or elsewhere in this country doubts that our railways must play a tremendously important part in a war effort. If Australia were to become involved in a war next week, and the necessity arose to move troops, as they had to be moved in World War II., rail transport would fail because of lack of man-power. The number of railway employees is insufficient to cope with the passenger and goods traffic that is offering at the present time.
– Why did not the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, think of that?
– I welcome the interjection by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins). I could easily retort, “Why did not Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, do something about it ? “ The truth of the matter is that all the States are in the same position. They lack the financial capacity that is required to enable them to rehabilitate their railways. In effect, they have been throttled by this Government. Every day of the week, including Sunday, trains are cancelled in each State because the number of employees is insufficient to provide the necessary services. When attempts have been made by State transport authorities, or the transport unions in co-operation with them, to attract man-power to the railways, the State governments have been obliged to oppose them for no other reason than lack of money. I say, with all the seriousness of which I am capable, that our transport systems must be improved. I am aware that the Government has convened a conference of Commonwealth transport authorities and the railway commissioners of the several States to discuss proposals for rehabilitating the railway systems. But until such time as this Government is prepared to recognize the important part that can bt played by the trade unions in that work, its plans will not succeed, because complete co-ordination will not be achieved.
I should like to think that the Government is sincere when it expresses the intention to improve industrial relations between employer and employee. I had a bitter experience, on one occasion, of the kind of assistance that the Government is prepared to give in such matters. Employer and employee were in agreement about what should .be done, yet a shambles was caused through an interpretation that was placed upon an industrial law, and the Government stood idly by, and would not assist to restore order. When a reference is made to industrial relations, I suspect that the Government is talking with its tongue in its cheek. Perhaps it is prepared to attempt what was suggested by Mr. E. Thornton, former president of the Federated Ironworkers Association, on his return from overseas a few years ago, and that is a system of bargaining in industrial relations. As I said in my first speech u this House, the best industrial relation that can be established is the result, of the flexibility that exists at the present time in our industrial laws, with proper guidance and understanding. If difficulties arise within the administration, the cause should be sought. The State governments are gravely embarrassed in the conduct of transport services because of the financial difficulties that beset them. Unless those difficulties are overcome, transport problems will be paramount amongst all our industrial problems. The development of improved industrial relationships will not help to solve those problems in the slightest degree unless substantial financial assistance is given to the State authorities in charge of transport services.
The subject of secret ballots in trade unions has already been discussed in this chamber. I was astonished to hear it mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech because I had thought that the members and supporters of this Government would have learned a valuable lesson from their experience with the legislation that was submitted to the nineteenth Parliament. That experience should have demonstrated to them the wisdom of allowing the trade unions to conduct their own affairs without interference. I hope that the Government will even yet realize the folly of its ways. I invite it to consider what has happened in Victoria since the proposal to compel the unions to conduct secret ballots was first mooted. The Australian Railways Union in that State, which is led by perhaps the most active Communist in Australia, has adopted the Government’s plan for secret ballots. It did so during the last election campaign because the men who are in charge of the union in Victoria know that the secret ballot, with provision for absentee voting, offers the quickest way of strengthening communism in the trade union movement. Make no mistake about that fact !
I was greatly interested in . some of the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe). The honorable gentleman may be excused for his lack of knowledge of industrial matters, but he made two notable false statements. In the first place he said that communism was the most important issue in Australia to-day, ji nd, in the second place, he said that federal control of prices would not be of value to Australia. Time will show that the honorable gentleman’s beliefs are very wide of the mark in both instances. The most serious issue that confronts us to-day is that of inflation, which is far more dangerous than is communism. Yet the first action that was announced on behalf of the Government after the election was an increase of postal charges, which will heap a further burden on industry. The honorable member for Maranoa lays the responsibility for rising prices at the door of the Communist party. Does he suggest that the Post- 1/1 aster-General, whose decision to increase postal charges will raise costs throughout Australia, is a Communist? During the recent election campaign, the Premier of Kew South “Wales was blamed ‘for increases of rail fares and other charges in that State. An election slogan based on that accusation was introduced into the propaganda of the present Government parties. “What do the supporters of the Government, who broadcast that slogan throughout New South “Wales, have to say now about the first administrative action of the Postmaster-General since his re-appointment to office? That action v.-il] impose on industry additional charges that, must be passed on to the public. It i.« unfortunate that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech contained not one word of hope for the improvement of living standards in Australia.
The Government has announced that it will amend our industrial arbitration law. I earnestly hope that it will not proceed with the plan, which it announced prior to the election, to shackle the trade union movement. It cannot rid Australia of strikes by mailed-fist methods. The laws of Canada declare that strikes shall be legal, provided that a period of seven days is allowed to elapse between the announcement of a decision by an industrial tribunal and the commencement of any strike arising from that decision. A in ember of the Canadian Government is responsible, under, the same law, for the appointment of boards to deal with serious industrial disputes. Furthermore, if that Minister fails to carry out his legal obligations, workers are entitled to take strike action within a period of fifteen days.
This Government apparently intends to try to abolish strikes and subjugate the trade unions by force. But I warn the people that, once a government embarks on a course of totalitarianism, there can be no turning back. Since 1933, history has provided numerous examples of oppression that has sprung from small beginnings such as this Government now contemplates. I urge it to have the decency to discuss its plans with the great Australian Council of Trades Unions before it proceeds further with the enactment of new industrial legislation. The Government has already shown that it is willing to make use of the Australian Council of Trades Unions when such action suits its purposes. It used the prestige of that organization to bolster its arguments against the waterside workers recently. It declared blatantly that it was entitled to deal harshly with the waterside workers because they had fallen out of step with the Australian Council of Trades Unions. To be consistent, it should agree to hear the views of the Australian Council of Trades Unions before it enacts legislation designed to hammer the trade union movement into line with its policies by methods which will cause repercussions that it cannot envisage.
Immigration also provides Australia with serious problems. “We all agree, I believe, that immigration is essential to the future progress of the nation. But I urge the Government, with all the emphasis that I can muster, to call an immigration holiday until we straighten out the housing shortage and the other difficulties that are oppressing the Australian people.
.- Before I proceed to discuss the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and the policies with which it dealt, I take the opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, and the Chairman of Committees, also, upon your re-election to your respective offices. At the same time, I should like to clear up a slight misunderstanding from which certain honorable members opposite appear to be suffering. I make it quite clear that, if anybody on this side of the House voted against you, Mr. Speaker, during the ballot which resulted in your re-election, it was not I who did so. I also congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) upon their election by their colleagues to those high offices. I trust that they will bring to the very difficult task that must lie before them the honesty and sincerity of purpose which the parliamentary Labour movement demanded from its leaders in the past and to which, if it is to do full justice to its duty as the Opposition, it must return in the future. It was very pleasing to note from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that there is every possibility that His Majesty the King will be able to come to Australia next year. I sincerely hope that he will visit us, not only for our sake, but also for the sake of His Majesty. If he is able to visit us we 3hall know that his health has improved considerably, a happening which the peoples of the entire British Commonwealth of Nations sincerely desire.
I am glad to know that the defences of - Australia are being reviewed and that they will be reviewed even more carefully during the lifetime of this Government. I do not believe that any honorable member on either side of the House fails, in his heart, to realize the gravity of the dangers that loom over us or to appreciate the necessity for providing adequate defences not only for Australia but also for the remainder of the English-speaking world and the other nations that still believe in democratic government and all the virtues for which democracy stands. If those virtues are to he preserved, we must prepare to defend them. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has frequently said, war can he prevented only by preparation for defence in a way that will demonstrate to any would-be aggressor that, if he attacks us, he stands every chance of being beaten. In my view, preparation for defence offers the only means by which we can prevent war in the years that lie immediately ahead. Opponents of this Government have frequently de- clared that the national service scheme which was introduced during the life of the Nineteenth Parliament will detract from essential industrial production.
– That is an obvious fact.
– If the honorable member will study the figures, he will learn that the loss of man-power due to national service training in any year under the present scheme will be the equivalent of only two days’ work for every citizen.
– What rot !
– It is not rot. It is the absolute truth. If honorable mem-, bers opposite are sincere in their declared wish to protect Australia, I suggest that they advocate that Australians give up two days holiday each year so as to make up for any time that may be lost in industry because of the operation of our essential national service scheme.
– Does the honorable’ member make that suggestion seriously ?
– I do not expect the honorable member to understand the situation,, but I emphasize that I make the suggestion in all seriousness. Bound up with the problem of defence is the problem of dealing with the Communist menace which threatens not only Australia but also all the other democratic countries of the world. The preamble to a bill that was introduced into this chamber some time ago stated that the Communist party in Australia was a subversive and treacherous organization, and that statement was not denied by. anybody in the Parliament. If the Communist party is a subversive and treacherous organization, as is generally agreed, I believe that it should he attacked on the ground of treason. It can be proved clearly from the policy of the Australian Communist party that the aims of that body are treasonable, and we cannot tolerate treason in this country.
– The Government has power to deal with treason.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite say that the Government has power to deal with the Communist party and admit that it is a treasonable organization, yet when the Government for a long time attempted to deal with it they acted hypocritically and indulged in humbug by trying to prevent the Government from doing so. I hope that the Communist problem will be solved, because clearly the vast majority of the people of this country want it to be solved. The results of the last general election and of that in 1949 show only too clearly the opinion that is held by the majority of tbe Australian people in relation to communism.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) referred to tactics that had been adopted during the last general election campaign. He said that, shortly before the polling day, posters appeared in his electorate on which were written in large red letters, “ Habour means Communism “. I say that, unless the Labour party alters its platform, Labour will eventually mean communism. I do not say that that is the deliberate and intentional objective of most of the members of the Labour party, but I do say that unless the Labour party’s platform! is altered it is inevitable, because socialism in any form is bound eventually to lead to a form of communism.
Mr.Clyde Cameron. - Is the Government going to ban the Labour party?
– There is no question of banning the Labour party.
– Order ! I ask the House to listen to the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) in silence. Honorable members onmy left will have an opportunity to endeavour to refute his statements, if they desire to do so. For the time being, I want to hear only the honorable member for Bowman.
– During the course of the last general election campaign, it was stated on a number of occasions by members of the Labour party that there are only 15,000 Communists in Australia. If that be so, then I have one-tenth of them, or 1,500, in my electorate. I do not believe that the figure that was cited by members of the Labour party during that campaign was an accurate one, nor do I believe that those who cited it believed that it was accurate. If they cited that figure believing it to be inaccurate, they were deliberately understating the number of Communists in Australia. I should like to know their reasons for doing that. They might prove to be very interesting.
There is a very important aspect of the problem of the defence of Australia to which I do not believe the Australian people are giving sufficient thought. One of the stepping stones that would be used by any power which attempted to invade Australia would be that the use of which was attempted by an enemy during the last war. I refer to the territories of Papua and New Guinea. One is administered by us under mandate and we have a grave responsibility in relation to it. I believe that, in the interests of the defence of Australia, those territories must be developed. This is a matter upon which I have frequently run into trouble. I have heard many people say that, in the interests of the defence of this country, we should develop the north of Australia by building roads there and increasing the population. I agree that that is desirable, but there are some matters upon which we must put aside what we can readily claim to be in the best interests of our own States and think in terms of the defence of the Commonwealth as a whole. Nobody believes more firmly than I do that there is a necessity to develop the Northern Territory and North Queensland, but I believe that the development of Papua and New Guinea is of even greater importance than that. In New Guinea, as the Japanese proved, an enemy could grow sufficient food to support himself, but there are very large portions of the Australian mainland on which an enemy could not do that. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary for us to try to develop our defence system in New Guinea as quickly as possible. It is a vital link inour chain of national defence.
I noted with regret that in His Excellency’s Speech no reference was made to education. That is not unnatural, because, by and large, education is the responsibility of State governments. But education, especially in Queensland at the present time, is not being conducted as well as it should be conducted in the interests of our children. When I say that, I do not intend to reflect upon the Queensland Government. I am merely stating a fact. In Queensland, the educational facilities and the teachers who are available are not of the standard that is necessary to enable our children to be given the education which, as Australians, they deserve and must have to make them first class citizens. During the last few days, I have read articles published in Queensland and New South Wales newspapers in which responsible Ministers have been reported as having said that they cannot get enough teachers or necesary accommodation and that the States have not enough money to enable them to pay salaries that will induce teachers to remain in their jobs or attract to the educational service men and women of the type who should be in it. I ask the Government to consider whether it is possible for the Commonwealth to co-operate with the States in conducting an inquiry into educational necessities in all States at the present time, with the object of ascertaining where State educational systems are failing, and whether it is possible to give top priority to the provision of houses for teachers and additional school accommodation and to increase the salaries of members of the teaching profession in order to attract to the profession and induce to remain in it the men and women we need to enable us to give our children the education that should be their birthright. I ask the Government also to consider whether it is possible foi’ the Commonwealth to co-operate with State governments in trying to evolve, not a uniform standard of education throughout the country, but some uniformity of standards and methods. Children who move from one State to another suffer the disadvantage of changing from one educational system to another, which does not help them in their education. My concluding remark is that I have every confidence that this Government will lead Australia out of danger and into a period of real prosperity.
.- I have listened to the remarks that have been made by honorable gentlemen opposite about the Governor-General’s Speech, and have paid great attention to the conclusions that they have drawn from it, with which, unfortunately, I am unable to agree. Their general acceptance that the Speech contained important and detailed statements about the intentions of the Government does not agree with the text of the Speech, which was, as usual, rather wide and not intended to go into detail. In this jubilee year, one wonders whether the Government could not have acted generously by letting the people know what is to happen in this year of grace, instead of escaping into an adjournment during the winter months without having said anything really important about many serious problems.
The vapid compliments that we have paid ourselves about our jubilee year would be better earned if we did something about great Australians. On the steps of Parliament House recently, I saw a truly great Australian in the person of Marjorie Lawrence. I did not see her name in the last honours list, although I saw other names in it which, as items of news, were astonishing and diverting to me. When I talk of pioneers in the broad and general sense in which one is permitted to talk of them in a discussion of the Governor-General’s Speech, I wonder what has happened to Captain P. G. Taylor, who is still pioneering air route? across the world. If any honours are to bcbestowed - and the Labour party has some inhibitions about honours - let them go to those worthy Australians whose claims have been so neglected in the past.
I turn to the important subject o! defence. We find that the old circus horses are being trotted around the arena, beribboned and with the whips out, but making no real effort. What are our actual plans for defence? We know that there is a world plan for defence against communism in which Australia is participating, and that in a general sense the conclusions arrived at concerning a peace treaty with Japan and activities in Korea are a part of one pattern. We have heard pronouncements about defence, but we have not heard any down to earth statements about what the Australian Government proposes to do next, with the exception that it proposes to call up our younger citizens, with all the disturbance to industry that that will involve. The Governor-General’s Speech seems to me to lack point and to show no desire on the part of the Government to get anywhere. It is only a formal statement of the type that expires because of its own lack of strength. In it, defence is treated in the same vapid way as are other matters.
I am certain that most people in Australia are satisfied with the valour, performance and tenacity of the Australian troops in Korea, but they are not entirely convinced that those troops are properly equipped and fed and are acting as a unit rather than an appendage of the Americans or the British. In the last Parliament, reference was made to this matter by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis).I told him then that we believed all that he had told us, but that if we found it to he untrue we should raise the matter again in the House. Some serving soldiers have been courageous enough to dare to defy the brass hats and to say that something is wrong with the leave system and the supply system.
Sitting suspended from5.45 to 8 p.m.
– According, to statements made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), everything possible had been done for Australian forces in Korea. Honorable members believed that to be true. Suddenly it was learned from a returned serviceman, a junior officer, that our 3rd Battalion which had fought most strenuously in Korea and during Anzac Day had put up a most notable performance, was short of reinforcements to a most grievous extent.
– That statement was untrue.
– Some of those men had been wounded as many as five times - some of them superficially it is true - and yet they had been returned to the lines. Even members of the Government parties were horrified by the revelations and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said that the positionwas a national disgrace. The Minister said that immediate reinforcements numbering 200 men would be flown to Korea.
– That was to ensure that leave could be taken by the men who were already there.
– It is obvious that there was a lack of reinforcements in Japan to reinforce the 3rd Battalion in Korea, although honorable members had been assured at the time of the adjournment of the last Parliament that everything was in order. Dismayed by these revelations, the Minister decided to make further concessions. Curiously enough he announced an additional benefit to the troops in the way of relief from taxation. If this is the way to improve recruiting and implement large-scale defence programmes I shall be very much astonished. During the interval since the statements to which I have referred were made there has been a correction of the position; but the point that I take is that pious and platitudinous expressions are poor substitutes for action. Upon the statement of the servicemen themselves, which had the endorsement of the Liberal party “Whip and was borne out by an investigation of the facts, adequate reinforcements had not been provided. Let us have the truth on these matters. Let us not play political hide and seek. The whole position was a sorry mess, and upon its having been revealed, there was a great deal too much scurrying from responsibility.
There is another point I must touch on. A very fine service for ex-servicemen, known as the Legal Service Bureau, has been established over the years, and another way of discouraging recruiting is to do what the Government has done recently in regard to that bureau. The matter became serious in New South Wales when the bureau, which attended to housing problems, fair rent problems and general rehabilitation problems of ex-servicemen, suddenly was ordered to disband and would have been abolished had it not been for the intervention of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) to whom I and others went in the hope that he would make representations to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) who apparently did not know all the circumstances. The position has now been retrieved to a considerable extent but the announcement concerning the curtailment of the services rendered by the Legal Service Bureau included a statement to the effect that there must be some point at which rehabilitation would cease. An editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald supported this viewpoint. Of what use is it to tell prospective recruits that in the Army they will have curtains on their windows and music when their real privileges are assailed? One begins to wonder whether there is any sincerity as far as the Government is concerned.
The honorable member for St. George knows the story concerning the Legal Service Bureau. We did not attempt to play at party politics but went to him to see whether we could get something done. The skilled personnel who had worked so consistently in the Legal Service Bureau were sent to other departments. In at least two cases they then received £200 less per annum then their salaries had been in the Legal Service Bureau. When Mr. Yeo and Mr. Nagle, representatives of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia began to make representations, there was some modification of tha Government’s plan for abolishing the bureau. But it was stated that such services as these were now redundant and it seems to me that the Real Estate Institute and the Law Institute object to the ex-servicemen having these privileges. Many ex-servicemen are without housing and the jobs of many of them are by no means assured and the Legal Service Bureau should assist them to deal with the complications of civil life for at least another five years. The AttorneyGeneral has been investigating this matter but the facts which I have mentioned are a condemnation of this mealymouthed attitude which has been covered by broad generalities. If the Minister for the Army is to get recruits he must make soldiering attractive. He must not make statements with his tongue in his cheek and say that what happens is not his business.
His Excellency referred to the immigration scheme which was conceived by the Labour party and implemented by the then Minister for Immigration, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in a way that won the admiration of people in Australia and overseas. The immigration scheme is not now in the healthy position it was in twelve months ago. It is of no use for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) to hide behind the words of his experts. If it happens that a hell ship comes into an Australian harbour with the passengers packed in like sardines he must see that it shall not occur again. If it be found that immigrants have come from a part of Europe which has never heard of a cordon-sanitaire we must put one around them. The people of Australia are prepared to share their jobs and housing with these people and Australian standards must be observed. Adverse reports concerning immigrants should not be dismissed as mere press stories of which an investigation must he made before they can be treated seriously. The burden of immigration is borne by the working people of Australia who are prepared to share their jobs and accommodation with these newcomers. Immigration must be nursed through certain stages because there is a degree of hostility to it.
It is sad to think that nothing has been done in consequence of the protestmeeting held recently by a strong body of public opinion to which I have previously referred in this House concerning the immigration of Germans. Fulsome words have been spoken about the broad sweep of immigration and mention was made of the great things that would happen as a result of new people coming here. Is not the matter one of quality rather than of quantity? A great pressure is being exerted upon the economy of this country and every immigrant costs us about £1,000 ‘because he has to be educated, provided with food and lodgings and generally prepared to enter industry. Tie Government has the right to demand that an immigrant shall be of the proper type and the proper type is certainly not the undenazified German who, it has been established, has come into this country. Yet the Minister will not lower his colours but insists that the screening which takes place is adequate. A TJ boat captain has arrived in this country to work on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Judging from his utterances, I should say that he had never heard of a denazification court. The Luftwaffe was prominently represented in another shipment of Germans. Why the sudden anxiety to have these people? Because they are technicians. But the Government can obtain technicians for its developmental projects at too high a price. It is a well-known fact that infiltries and criminals have crowded in to tha displaced persons’ camps in Germany and as the number of people in the camps becomes lower those who remain require a double and triple screening. But nothing of that kind has been done.
The international refugee organization is at present completing its task and at the end of this year it will have concluded its work in Europe, having sent displaced persons to various parts of the globe and enabled them to enjoy better standards of living, but there are 500,000 young Germans who are still ardent Nazis and with whom General Eisenhower, in a despatch to President Truman, said that he could do nothing. They had been completely saturated with Hitler’s ideology and wherever they went they would cause trouble. There has never been a fifth column in Australia and the Government must provide for the proper screening of these people from Germany in order to ensure that there never will be a fifth column here. In any case, how futile it really is to be worried about them when there are 30,000 Britishers knocking at the door of Australia House. Yet, other Europeans are transported to Australia by aeroplane while the Government does nothing for the British people who are admirable tradesmen and who would be easily absorbed into out economy. This is a phase of immigration of which I have been consistently critical. It is something of which every traveller who returns from Germany will tell you. The “ passport factories “, to use their language, are working at full speed. Undesirable people are getting through the screen and nothing is being done about it. Would it not be wise for the Minister to have these people screened again in Australia in order to ensure that the Government is not admitting persons who are of no use to this country? Those are the matters that particularly impressed me in the Governor-General’s Speech. I refer particularly to defence and to the problems of immigration in that regard.
.- I listened with interest and a good deal of amazement to the rather melodramatic approach of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to the subject of immigration. He knows full well, as most of us do, that at least 50 per cent., and possibly more, of the immigrants now coming to this country are British. I think that he has just over-emphasized an odd case in order to try to make his point. He spoke about there having been no fifth column in Australia up to now.
Apparently he is quite ignorant of the Russian fifth column that exists in this country and in Great Britain. I was rather amused to hear the honorable member advocate support for the recruiting campaign, although I think that he himself is sincere in such advocacy. But I remind him that, to its everlasting disgrace, his own party refused to co-operate in the recruiting campaign.
On an occasion such as this jubilee one can scarcely refrain from covering some of the ground of the last 50 years, comparing the past with the present, and wondering somewhat anxiously what the next 50 years will hold for this country. In many respects this young country has achieved remarkable progress, particularly, perhaps, in the last ten years with the development of its secondary industry and, more recently still, in immigration, in connexion with which we have seen a vast plan unfolding. Admittedly, that plan was launched by the former Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), and we give full credit for that where it is due. But since we came into office we have expanded, developed and accelerated the programme, and have watched very closely to ensure that we had a considerable proportion of British stock among our immigrants. The population of this country has grown to about 8,500,000, and it is the Government’s express intention to increase that population as rapidly as the increase can be absorbed into our economy. We have vast areas that we must occupy, and so it is essential for security reasons that we people the country fully and utilize all its resources, so that the covetous eyes of some of our near neighbours in already over-crowded lands will be perhaps averted from us.
The Governor-General referred to subversive activities in this country. I consider that this is one of the gravest problems that faces us to-day. He said how deeply concerned the Government was about the activities of subversive agencies in Australia. We feel that we have been given a decisive mandate to deal with this element in our population, and we propose to deal with it without pulling any punches. This era through which we are passing could be described, perhaps, as one of prosperity, but, through the actions of subversive elements, we have lost a tremendous number of golden opportunities. One has only to look at industrial production with its low output per man hour, to find an example. People to-day are not taking an interest in their work. There is no pride taken in achievement, no esprit de corps in general, as there was at the end of the first world war. People then came back from the war and soon got into gear and accepted their responsibilities, but to-day we find them shirking their responsibilities and slowing down production. That is the general attitude of the people, and it applies to both management and labour. I am not unaware that, in many instances, management could be more efficient than it is. We must get management and labour to co-operate if we are to solve our economic problems. Of course, the laisser-faire approach of the average employee to-day makes fertile soil for the sowing of the Communist seed. Wo have only to look at our coal industry, which is the basic industry of the nation, with its restrictive darg which makes it necessary for us to import millions of tons of coal, although there are ample stocks of coal in our own ground, to make up the leeway between supply and demand. Obviously, under-production of coal affects our iron and steel industries and every manufacturing concern in the country. Our shipping and our transport industries generally are also affected by the present yo-slow policy. Ships spend two-thirds of their time in port because of the slowness of work on the waterfront. Then we have the bricklayers whose darg restricts them to the laying of 300 bricks a day. I have mentioned those instances as just a sample of the things that the subversive element in this country has already done “to Australia. Workers who are otherwise loyal have been misled into refusing to co-operate in increasing production. We need co-operation if we are to solve our problems. Even members of the Opposition have expressed themselves as being opposed to any sort of co-operation.
– The honorable member is insulting the workers of Australia.
– I shall quote the words of the Federal President of the Australian Labour party, Mr. J. A.
Ferguson. He told a public meeting, according to the Launceston Examiner of the 18th October last - that Labour’s answer to Mr. Menzies’s appeal for all-out production was “ nil “.
That is the degree of co-operation that we can expect from that quarter. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is also famous for a certain outburst. I quote from the Launceston Examiner of the 20th October last,, which stated in a report that the honorable member - said in the House of Representatives . . . that it would be a “ traitorous” act “ by any union leader to call on the workers to work harder than they were working now.
That was said by a former leader of an industrial union. When such sentiments are expressed in this national Parliament one can only wonder where the Opposition party would lead the country if it now held the reins of office. We all are Australians, and surely it isonly common sense that all sections of the community should co-operate to step up production. No matter who or what we are we have common problems. In orderto illustrate the sinking of differences on some occasions, I refer to the tragic death of the late Leader of the Opposition last week. We found on that occasion a common sympathy among all members of this House. Every honorable member, but especially those who sit on this side of the House, evinced deep sympathy over the loss sustained. If a death can produce a common ideal of decency, surely the living are capable of co-operating to produce a similar ideal in order to improve this country of ours. Basically, every one of us has much in common. We breathe the same air, we all eat, drink and sleep, we follow a certain common defined pattern, and in an emergency we even give our own blood to save our fellow men. Why can co-operation not be shown in industrial affairs? In our community life we enjoy common facilities and amenities. Obviously there must be some co-operation if we are to enjoy them. It amazes me to find that the approach of the Opposition to out industrial problem is so bitter. I think that we must come to a stage where we shall have absolute co-operation between management and labour. Large firms throughout the world have already solved many acute, problems around the conference table, without bitterness, and I am sure that if the trade unions to-day were to approach our problems on that basis, instead of adopting the militant tactics that they now adopt and immediately resorting to strike action, they would get what they were entitled to receive. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court is available to ensure that justice and equity shall be dispensed. It might be a good thing if the workers of Australia were to take pencil and paper and work out what strike action has cost them over the last decade or so, and compare it with how much they have gained by such action. I think that they would get a very rude shock.
– The honorable member would be astonished.
– I can only say that those who abuse arbitration methods under the bad leadership of agitators and extremists, harm only themselves and their fellow workers. Of course, to-day we are feeling the effect of a 40-hour week. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court awarded the 40-hour week, but we have discovered that we have to pay for it, and that although it is very nice to have a short working week and to have more leisure, we are faced with the economic problem of how much leisure we can afford.
The Governor-General referred to the nation’s defence. Obviously it is essential from a defence point of view to be prepared, and I think that honorable members opposite will agree in their hearts at any rate that it is only common sense for us to have an adequate training scheme. The security of this country is at stake, and- if we do not have security then we shall have nothing at all. It is obvious that this Government has adopted a realistic approach to defence problems. It has realized its responsibilities, distasteful as those might be to some members of the Opposition. The Government has said, “We shall prepare “. For having said that, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was labelled by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) as a “ warmonger “. As a matter of fact,
I think, if my memory serves me correctly, that it was the Leader of the Opposition who, during the general election, used the slogan “A vote for Menzies is a vote for war “. What a dastardly thing to say ! The right honorable gentleman himself knows that that was false propaganda. Whilst on thatsubject, I think, if my memory serves me aright, that in the electorate of Hume a dastardly statement was put about along the lines of “ A vote for the Liberal party means conscripting your son for overseas service “, or words to that effect.
– That is true, too.
– It is not true. Whoever used that propaganda was deliberately lying. That is what we had to put up with in the recent general election.
– How did the honorable member retain his seat?
– I was able not only to retain my seat but also to increase my majority because the people of Bass knew that they could rely on me to protect their interests.
His Excellency said that food production is of vital and growing importance. That is perfectly true, and I suggest that we are not growing enough food. For some time it has been apparent to me and also to other honorable members that Australia, because of the drift of population from the country to the cities, is likely to be faced soon with a famine. The drift towards famine must be quickly arrested. T desire to quote from an article published in the Melbourne Sun of the 19th June, 1951, which bears upon this matter. The article reads -
The New South Wales Prices Minister has asked the Federal Government to take over what are described as “ surplus “ supplies of butter in other States to help relieve an acute Now South Wales shortage. But Victorian dairy-farmers assert that stocks here are barely enough to cover the demand for the next three months. And the Australian Dairy Produce Board considers that the position may become so critical in the next three years that Australia may be compelled to import butter.
The article then proceeds to explain the reasons for the butter shortage -
The 40-hour week, diversion of labour and materials to secondary industries and the eagerness of many farmers to cash in on the wool boom have been contributing factors to this sorry state of affairs. Nor is dairying alone among our primary industries in having suffered from these causes.
In the past three years wheat acreages have fallen by at least 2,000,000 acres and it has been estimated that by 1960 Australia will have to face acute seasonal shortages of meat It is a tragic fact that an increase of 1,000,000 in ten years in Australia’s urban population has gone hand in hand with a decline of 30,000 in its rural population.
That is the sad story of our food industries, and although much has been said about rural development and about encouraging people to remain on the land, we must deal more practically with the provision of water conservation schemes, feeder roads and amenities. It is very well to read and talk of these things, but action is required immediately to implement as far as possible the ideas so often expressed about the necessity for rural development. Our immigration policy may help to increase food production b> increasing the available man-power of the country. It is necessary that prices be subsidized so as to enable higher rural wages to be paid in order that the remuneration for work in the country may become commensurate with that for work in the city. At the same time an adequate return for his product must be assured to the farmer.
The position of the dairying industry iu Australia is critical. Earlier to-day I mentioned the potentialities as dairying country of Flinders Island, in Bass Strait. I believe that some of the finest dairying country in the Commonwealth may be found in Flinders Island, but the people there suffer considerable disadvantage? through their isolation from other centres of population. There is no electricity on the island and the people rely entirely on liquid fuel to drive their machines and transport vehicles. There must be other places like Flinders Island in the Commonwealth, and all such places should receive the encouragement of the Government through the granting of whatever assistance is necessary to enable them to increase production. In view of the critical state of our dairying industry, every avenue which may lead to increased production should be explored.
His Excellency mentioned social services, and said that anomalies would be examined wtih a view to rectification. I take it that he referred to the means test and its eventual abolition. That is theone thing which this Government must doat the earliest opportunity. Honorable members on both sides of the House will agree that the means test is wrong in principle, and is a penalty against the thrifty. I believe that the new Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) has this problem well in hand, and that we can all look forward with confidence to the abolition of the iniquitous means test.
Action should he taken to increase the maximum advance which can be paid to people who wish to build war service homes. The limit at present is £2,000,. but it is fantastic to expect a man to build a home for £2,000. A house of a certain type can be built for that sum, but why should a man who is ambitious enough to wish to live in a better class dwelling, be restricted to one that costs £2,000? After all he has served his country,, which made great promises to him when it required his services, and this matter should receive the early attention of the Government. I suggest that from £3,500 to £4,000 should be fixed as the maximum permissible advance to a person who desires to build a war service home.
I now refer to the outline of the shipping problem in His Excellency’s Speech. It is interesting to note that the Government intends to obtain the services of an overseas port expert who, .together with leading shipping authorities and trade unionists, will examine the whole problem of Australian port hold-ups. We have an unfortunate record amongst the other nations of the world in that shipping is handled in Australia more slowly than anywhere else in the world. If the waterside workers, led by the subversive element in our community, continue to flout the law then they will have to submit themselves to exceedingly drastic action. If any section of the community sets out to abuse or hold to ransom the other sections, then it must be severely dealt with.
In conclusion, I refer to the programme of works for the Postal Department. His Excellency indicated the intention of the Government to review the postal services. I believe that a need exists for the complete overhaul of the Postal Department, and in fact the whole of the Public Service. If efficiency experts could be introduced into the Postal Department with a view to a lot of unnecessary temporary employment being obviated, great savings could be effected. Unless we can get rid. of this dead hand of bureaucracy, this socialist bureaucracy that was set up in the eight and a half years of the previous Government’s regime, we shall find that we shall never be able to balance our economy.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
, - I congratulate the honorable members who moved and seconded the Address-in -Reply on the interesting nature of their speeches. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) advocated the calling of a constitutional convention to consider the desirability of revising the Australian Constitution. He made that suggestion because 50 years have elapsed since the establishment of the Constitution. It is true that the time has arrived for some review of the working of the Australian Constitution, but the suggested method, by a constitutional convention, would be quite unsuitable. Under the Constitution of Australia the initiative in any attempt to amend must come from the people’s representative Parliament: that is this Parliament. If by a “ convention “ the honorable member means this Parliament, sitting for constitutional purposes in special session, his idea is quite sound in principle. If he means, as I rather think that he does, that the “ convention “ should be a body representative of interests which are not directly those of the people, then It would be a body which could only forward a recommendation to the Parliament, where the whole question would be again reviewed. Past experience indicates that a convention is not suitable machinery for the initiation of any review of the Constitution.
In the United States of America constitutional conventions can, of themselves, under the American Constitution, initiate legislation. Therefore, in that country the constitution can be changed by that method. However, the idea put forward by the honorable member for Warringah is important. After all, we have now gained a tremendous amount of experience of the working of the Australian Constitution. Technical advice and the advice at experts representative of sectional interests would be required, but my feeling is that they should be brought into direct contact with the Parliament. It might be possible for the Parliament, through a committee or a direct parliamentary institution, to give effect to some such idea. The Labour movement has always adopted a progressive attitude in considering any necessary alteration of the Constitution.
I shall now refer briefly to His Excellency’s mention of the possible visit to Australia of His Majesty the King. Everybody in Australia will be delighted if the visit can take place. However, itis most important that nothing should be done which would involve any unfair risk to the health of the King. The King is a man as well as a king, and his unceasing work especially during the war years, has affected his health. I assume, according to the reference in His Excellency’s Speech, that the Government will consider the matter from that point of view. The loyalty of the Australian people does not depend upon such a visit, it is firmly established. Much consideration should be given to the labours of the King during the war years and to the serious effect that they have had from time to time upon his health.
I turn now to the Governor-General’s Speech as a whole. The programme that it contained, taking it as a Government programme, must have been disappointing to many of the Government’s supporters as well as to the nation because it showed a lack of awareness of the acute domestic crisis which at present is mounting in every direction. That crisis is evidenced by the rapidly growing lack of confidence in government securities to which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) referred at the meeting of the Loan Council held earlier this week. That lack of confidence is directly caused by the present catastrophic inflation. Inflation is the key to the whole internal crisis in this country. In the Governor-General’s Speech, the Government has evaded the bread-and-butter problems of the people. The Speech is purely a framework of policy, but as a document it provides no suggestion of national leadership to deal with those problems. The Government has failed to face up to the hard economic realities of what is happening on both the production and distribution fronts. Even the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick), in the course of his speech, admitted the fact upon which I base this comment, although he would not agree with my comment. The programme set out in the Speech is devoid of any constructive proposal to meet the danger of internal collapse of our economy.
Let us cast our minds back on this matter. Eighteen months ago, Labour handed over a robust, virile economy, but, today, we find that the same economy is in a state of debility as if stricken by some form of anaemia. Under the leadership of Mr. Chifley, Labour had successfully negotiated the transition from a wartime to a peace-time economy; consumer goods were rapidly filling up the gaps of war-time scarcities ; production was increasing; homes were being built at a record rate of completion; prices were held in check; and scarcities had practically been eliminated. But what is the position to-day? “We are not supplying many basic foodstuffs to our own people. Consumption needs cannot be satisfied.While imports are increasing, many of our export industries are unable to produce enough to meet home needs. The housewife lives in a constant state of nervous tension and frustration. Money has lost much of its real value. It cannot be denied that the standard of living in this country is declining. Throughout the sixteen months’ life of the last Parliament the coalition Government had one constant alibi. It blamed a hostile Senate for its failure to act in this direction. Even when the Menzies-Fadden Government had made no attempt to deal with a problem, it still offered as a reason for its inertia that the Senate might be hostile if it attempted to act. So, it just did little or nothing. But throughout that period the economy of this country was drifting, and ithas drifted too far and for too long. At times, the anti-Labour press attacked the Government for its complete absence of any overall plan to protect the value of pensions and other fixed incomes. But that attack was spasmodic and was often based on narrow grounds whilst during the recent general election campaign it was temporarily suspended for party political reasons. Now, the Government can no longer blame the Senate. The people have thrust upon it the full responsibility of government, but, already, there are signs that it is trying to shelve some of that responsibility on to the State governments. That will not convince any one. The onus of proof is now on the Menzies-Fadden Government and if it fails the people it will richly deserve all that is coming to it.
I wish to place several aspects of this problem before honorable members. In the existing economic situation there is a series of interlocking crises. First, there is the energy, or power, crisis. The failure of electricity power supplies to meet essential demands calls for emergency action by the Australian Government. In this respect it is idle to blame the State governments because their desperate demands for equipment can be solved only by direct intervention overseas by the Australian Government. It would be practically useless for a State government on its own initiative to seek its requirements overseas because it lacks the force and prestige that the Australian Government possesses. In these circumstances the country wants to know what the Australian Government proposes to do to increase the output of power, not during the next five or ten yeaT3 hence, but this year. Let us contrast the power position of this country with that of Japan. In 1936, before the recent war, Japan was producing 27,000,000,000 kilowatts of electric energy whereas in 1950 it had stepped up that production to 45,000,000,000 kilowatts. Thus, since the end of the war, Japan has almost doubled its electricity production. Much of that progress has been due to American aid and American “ know-how “. Japan now has a surplus production of electricity. That is why it has been able to resume an export trade. A Japanese trade fair has just been held in the United States of America. “Will the Government explore the possibility of acquiring surplus Japanese plant as a portion of its reparation payments?
Mr.Wentworth. - I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I direct your attention to
Standing Order 61 which provides that im honorable member shall not read his speech.
– Is the right honorable gentleman reading his speech?
– I am referring to copious notes, as is the practice in this House. Does the Government propose to allow Japan immunity from all reparation obligations notwithstanding the fact that in 1945 reparation obligations were imposed upon that country under a solemn agreement made by the victorious Pacific powers? I suggest to the Government that steps could be taken to increase electric power supplies by diverting capital to supplementary hydroelectricity schemes throughout Australia. This matter is integrally related to defence because if Australia is unable to meet its peace-time requirements of power it will not be able to develop its defences properly. In such circumstances we could not switch over to defence production. I point out that the Government has established a special defence ministry. Furthermore, this country must decentralize the production of electricity in order to ensure that the loss of any single project shall not mean industrial paralysis. In this respect the Government might examine with advantage what is being done in other countries.
The second crisis to which I refer might be described as the rural crisis which is fast developing. Already, it is being suggested that because of the drift from rural industries not only shall we soon have to cease exporting many basic items, but also we may have to commence importing food. The fact is that to-day the life of the community centres on home food supplies. Government spokesmen have suggested that the present butter shortage is a seasonal phenomenon, but such a shortage did not occur before the recent war. Indeed, during the war the ration of butter was greater than most homes are receiving to-day. There is also a nation-wide milk shortage which cannot be dismissed as a seasonal problem. In the eastern States there is a recurrent famine of potatoes, a continued shortage of sugar, a chronic absence of tinned fruits for the home market and only a very meagre supply of rice and other cereals, whilst Ministers have admitted that wheat production is on the decline and that the onion has practically disappeared in largely populated areas. Even quick-frozen fish is being imported from England on a wholesale scale in order to make up the deficiency caused by the slump in the local industry. At the beginning of the recent war, the Australian Country party was asking every Australian to eat more lamb in order to increase the consumption of that important product which, to-day, is a luxury in most homes. The Government has not given any indication at all of how it proposes to meet the rural crisis. Something must be done to tackle this problem. In order to meet it, the Government must provide more electricity for the farm. It, must assist the farmer to obtain more man-power and it must ensure greater returns to the farmer in many rural industries in order to meet national needs. Adequate food reserves are vital to the proper defence of any country but our rural industries generally are becoming stricken with a kind of creeping paralysis.
I turn now to the population crisis which is closely allied with the rural crisis. There are growing signs of disequilibrium between our urban and rural populations. Prior to the recent war there was a rough and ready approximation of one person in the country to one in the city. Broadly speaking, before the war, it required one family in the country to feed one family in the city whilst the same ratio provided from secondary industries for the needs of the primary producers. Labour embarked on the current immigration programme partly as an important auxiliary to defence. It did its utmost to maintain the correct balance by requiring immigrants to sign articles governing their employment during their first two years in thiscountry. But since this Government has been in office there has been an alarming drift of immigrants from the country to the city whilst the additional new arrivals are congregating in the cities. The increased population has, therefore,, created a heavier demand for essential foodstuffs without making reciprocal contributions by way of increased primary production. The more we build up our cities at the expense of our rural areas the more vulnerable shall we become both physically and economically. For the first nine months of the present fiscal year the value of Australia’s imports increased from £383,000,000 to £523,000,000. They included a substantial increase of foodstuffs. The Government must do something quickly in order to attract more people to the farms. That was the policy of the Labour Government which induced New Australians to take jobs on wheat farms, dairies, orchards and sugar plantations instead of overcrowding inner city areas. If the Government remains passive in this matter, the food crisis must become worse and, at the same time, the housing position will be gravely worsened. However, this Government’s immigration policy is haphazard. It seems to place emphasis on numbers at any cost. The future intake of immigrants should be based on the positive contribution that they can make to the national economy. Immigrants should he “ brought here for specific industries and the greatest emphasis should be placed Upon the rural side of our economy until, the present disequilibrium is corrected.
Next, there is the rapidly developing credit crisis which is apparent from statements that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) made earlier this week. That is an artificial crisis and- it seems to have been caused by a misdirected central bank policy at the direction of the Government. It is wrong to withdraw credit facilities through the Commonwealth Bank in the manner in which that policy is being implemented at present. The policy of the Commonwealth Bank is forcing borrowers to go on the open money market or to moneylenders. Properly controlled consumer credits are essential to any modern economy. That is the proper function of the central bank. However, it has embarked upon a deflationary policy,- as is evident from the documents that were placed before honorable members in the last Parliament. At any rate, the policy is now hurting the small trader, the home-builder, the person who wishes to borrow money at reasonable terms for business or home use, the small trader and the ex-serviceman with limited capital. The policy help3 the monopolies of this country to become stronger, and will tend to create new monopolies. The worker who wishes to build his own home, and who saves sufficient money with which to buy the land and to have a small percentage of the capital cost, must be encouraged. The honorable member for Bass indicated one aspect of the problem, but I remind him that the present credit policy prevents such a worker from obtaining a loan. His only hope will be to get a government-built home. It would be much simpler to continue the policy of advancing money at reasonable terms, particularly to young couples who are trying to furnish their own homes. A competent tradesman should be assisted to purchase amenities for his home. The position of the ex-servicemen in connexion with war service homes is becoming serious. The present policy in relation to credit will not help production, but will slow it down. If additional power is handed over to monopoly groups, the small man will be crushed. The best stimulus to production, if that is the essential problem, is plenty of healthy competition. But competition calls for a liberal lending policy by the central bank. Such a policy can be selective, but it must not be rigid.
The matters to which I have referred indicate failures on the part of the Government to tackle weaknesses in the national economy, and they all have contributed to bring about the present condition which it is no exaggeration to describe as one approaching economic stagnation. That is typical, I submit, of the Governor-General’s Speech. It is full of abstractions and abstract phrases, such as, “The Government will mobilize our national resources “. What does that statement mean? The people of this country want to know precisely what is meant in terms of any alteration of their living standards. The appointment of the National Security Resources Board, which is a purely voluntary and advisory body, is no substitute for direct government action to deal with those problems.
I have dealt with the power crisis, the rural crisis, the population crisis and what I call the credit crisis, and I shall say a few words about the industrial crisis, which is partly due to a failure to understand bona fide trade unionism, and what it stands for. It is essential that the unions loyally adhere to the principles and practices of conciliation and arbitration through the constituted tribunals. Broadly speaking, the Labour movement has played a most prominent part in establishing them, and the standards of living of the workers of Australia have increased as a result of trade union registration, especially through the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Nonetheless, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the authority of which is recognized by the Government, lias pointed out that genuine industrial grievances still occasion stoppages, and that stoppages for political or nonindustrial causes are exceptional. It is correctly noted that such stoppages tend to occur in certain industries that have particular histories. In the past, there has been indifference and sometimes active oppression on the part of the employers, and a tradition of bitterness and frustration has been established. The honorable member for Bass cited two illustrations, namely the coal-mining and waterfront industries. Thirty years ago, industrial tribunals called them turbulent industries, because of the unsatisfactory conditions that prevailed in them, without assigning blame to any group and without saying who was to be regarded as responsible for such conditions. I believe that a fresh approach is possible even in those industries. [Extension of time granted.] I am obliged to the House for its courtesy. Last year saw a record production of coal, yet there was no recognition of that important fact by this Government.
– No one knows about it.
– The output of coal in Australia last year was a record. That is a fact, and I believe that such an achievement, when it occurs, should receive the recognition of the Government. I have always considered that a solution of the problem of the water-front industries is to be found, partly at least, in a complete overhaul of the present organizational and equipment set-up. Recently, a Sydney morning newspaper published a series of six articles on the problem of the turn-round of ships.
– An excellent series of articles.
– They were good articles. I do not necessarily agree with the writer’s conclusions, but it was proved to demonstration that the problem of the turnround was due not solely to actions imputed to the workers but to a multiplicity of causes, including failure to keep the equipment up to date. The articles point out that less wharf accommodation iE available to-day than was available twenty years ago, a fact which alone must play a part in the turn-round of ships. It is perfectly absurd to attribute exclusively to the workers in the water-front industries responsibility for the present position. That problem must be tackled. Indeed, a ‘great advantage would be gained if an authority were established to investigate publicly the causes of the slow turn-round with the object of ascertaining whether those newspaper articles to which I have referred are substantially correct. I believe that they are. I am convinced, too, that a policy of legal coercion of the unions is no substitute for the slower and less dramatic policy of improving equipment and facilities and adhering firmly to the machinery of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The policy of coercion was referred to by the late Mr. Chifley in his last speech to a Labour conference He said, among other things -
Vested interests which stand behind the Government want to see unions destroyed. I do not say that of all employers. But the majority of them do not want to see labour fully employed. They want to see a surplus of labour so they can hit trades unions and trades unions’ officials. The policy of the Menzies Government is to produce “ tame cat “ unions - not unions that will fight for the workers irrespective “of the consequences. The Government wants unions to discuss things and agree with it. It wants the officials in their pocket. No trades union in this country, that goes out to fight for things they believe in, can do so without creating the complete enmity of the people representing the interests behind the Menzies Government. I think-
And I believe it to be entirely correct - the watersiders should have held counsel with the Australian Council of Trades Unions before they engaged in industrial disputes. I repeat that they should not drag other trades union* into a dispute - whether right or wrong - before they seek leadership from the governing bod, of a State or of the Commonwealth. I repeat, however, that the Menzies Government hopes, by coercion and intimidation, to crush militant trades unions - the trades unions who are prepared to fight.
The whole of the speech from which that extract is taken is being printed, and I suggest that honorable members should obtain copies of it, and study it. The Government can not ignore such a statement, which becomes more impressive because of the tragic and sudden death of the great man who uttered the warning with deep conviction and simplicity. He was an absolute believer in the Commonwealth system of arbitration, and, from his own experience of trade unionism, he knew the importance of the unions to the welfare of this country.
Having dealt with those aspects of the problem, all too shortly but necessarily because they seem to emerge from the Governor-General’s Speech, I express the conviction that the Government must deal with those matters. Failure to deal with the critical economic position is the best method of encouraging the growth of extremism in this country. On one side, there will .be a growth of communism, and on the other side,, a growth of fascism. The mission of the Labour party in this Parliament will be to see that the Government does not evade any of its responsibilities, and that positive and remedial action, rather than merely repressive action, shall be taken to deal with the economic crisis that is threatening not only wage earners and salary earners, but also, and particularly, persons in receipt of pensions or on fixed incomes. Indeed, everybody is affected. The inability of production to satisfy the needs of the people is just as much a danger as is overproduction, which causes the glut that leads to an economic depression. The people of Australia are looking anxiously to the future for themselves, and their children, and they ask for relief from the increasing, number of shortages. They look to this Government for action. They will not be satisfied with the specious explanation that production has been diverted to defence needs, because “that has not occurred. They know that conditions are becoming far worse economically than they were during the darkest days of the war.
The job of the Government is to get our economy back on to its feet. If the Government has any just and practical proposals, the Labour party will consider them carefully and will not adopt an attitude of sheer negation. But if the Governor-General’s Speech, which is really a statement of the Government’s policy, is any guide, the Government has no ideas. On the economic front it has no overall plan to help the country. It is allowing the economic drift to continue indefinitely. The Governor-General’s Speech contains abstractions, and many platitudes, and is not a precise guide to the future. That is the real dilemma of the Government. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party fought against the referendum at which power was sought to enable the Parliament of the Commonwealth to control prices. Those two political parties contended that if controls were removed, everything would be for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Commonwealth controls were removed, but the State Ministers who administer prices control admit that they cannot deal with the problem, and say that only the Commonwealth can do so. How can a government, the basis of which is a laisser-faire economy - a policy of letting things go - deal with a problem that demands overall Australia-wide action to save the people of Australia from the danger of economic collapse? That problem is entirely unanswered .in the Governor-General’s Speech.
– I can forgive the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) for some omissions and errors when I remind myself that he was making his maiden speech as the Leader of the Opposition, but I cannot forgive him for criticizing the Governor-General’s Speech, which. reflects the verdict of the electors. It claims that Australia must be strong. The policy that is outlined in His Excellency’s Speech reflects the wish of the people and the mandate of’ the electors. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government’s first task is to get the economy of the country back on to its feet. I agree wholeheartedly with1 the right honorable gentleman that, having been in office for eighteen months, the Menzies-Fadden Government must stabilize the economy which became unbalanced under the administration of nine years of Labour Government and we must prepare our defences. That Labour Government was responsible for all the. errors and the consequent troubles that the right honorable gentleman has mentioned. That is why it was rejected by the electors in favour of a government that would undertake the task of repairing the damage. The right honorable gentleman claimed that, because money was not readily available for loan subscriptions, the conclusion to be drawn was that the public lacked confidence in Commonwealth securities. The truth is that any feeling of financial insecurity is reflected in an increased flow of funds to government loans, which represent giltedged securities. When the nation is prosperous, the people branch out with confidence into other avenues of investment which encourage national development, a fact which honorable members opposite do not seem to understand. The great prosperity of Australia to-day has made the people generally realize the value of development, and this has caused a glut of employment and the consequent shortage of labour for which the Leader of the Opposition blames the Government. The labour shortage has been’ responsible for many of the ills that the right honorable gentleman has mentioned. The remaining troubles are largely due to the fact that a certain section of workers will not give full value for their wages. Soon after the Menzies-Fadden Government came into power in the last Parliament, it endeavoured to deal with enemies of this country who are amongst us. They had caused chaos in industry and had obstructed development. Yet the present Leader of the Opposition entered the courts in defence of those enemies !
The right honorable gentleman has complained that our standard of living is declining. But this Government has been returned to power by the electors so that it may check that trend, and it intends to do so. The complaint by the Leader of the Opposition conflicts with the Labour party’s assertions in favour of the 40-hour week. I believe that the standard of living has been reduced as a result of the introduction of the 40-hour week. It has been adversely affected by many of the activities of honorable members opposite who would do almost anything for the sake of regaining power, even to the detriment of the country that they profess to love. The Leader of the Opposition said that emergency supplies of electricity should be provided by this Government for the City of Sydney. Surely he realizes that effective hydro-electric schemes could not have been planned and provided by the Menzies-Fadden Government within the brief space of eighteen months! Such work could have been undertaken and completed during the eight years of Labour administration. Had the Labour party governed the country effectively, we should not be suffering to-day from the troubles of which the right honorable gentleman complains.
The Governor-General’s Speech included the following passage : -
The Government recently placed before the State governments proposals for joint Common wealth-State consultation on the action necessary to remedy apparent weaknesses in such fields as transport, power supply, food production, and supplies of materials. Though finality has not yet been reached in all respects, specialized committees of Commonwealth and State representatives are on the way to being set up to examine the problems involved.
I emphasize the fact that finality has not yet been reached with these plans because of the activities of the Labour Premier of New South Wales. If the Leader of the Opposition earnestly wants to give advice on these matters, he should direct it to that Premier. This Government has set out to remedy many of the omissions of which the socialist Labour Administration was guilty during its lengthy term of office but for which the Leader of the Opposition now blames this Government. He asserts that the Government should provide more electric power so that the citizens of Sydney and other important centres of population may not suffer from the effects of frequent black-outs. Those black-outs occur to-day principally because of the policy which the Labour party has supported under which the coal miners refuse to provide stock piles of coal for industry. A drastic example of the result of that policy was provided in the great City of Sydney during the recent week-end. Because two colliers were prevented by weather conditions from reaching Sydney from Newcastle, the City of Sydney waa so blacked out that even the food of hospital patients could not be properly prepared. The Labour Administration was responsible for the shortcomings that led to this grievous state of affairs. Yet it lays the blame at the door of this Government, which has been in full control of the Parliament for only a few days.
The Leader of the Opposition expressed the opinion that honorable members on this side of the House, and the people of Australia generally, must have been disappointed by the programme that was announced in the Governor-General’s Speech. The truth is that we are delighted that the Government has taken the first opportunity to lay down a programme, for which it has a mandate, which will give fresh hope to a nation that is suffering because of the neglect and lack of administrative wisdom of the Labour party during the nine years for which it was in power, for which it must be held responsible, even though Communists dominated the position at the time. The Leader of the Opposition complained also about the shortage of foodstuffs. That shortage, too, is the result of the long continued mis-government of the Labour party, which has twice been rebuffed by the people within a relatively brief period of time. He mentioned sugar, of which there is no shortage. The policy of the Labour Administration disheartened primary producers so much that many of them left the land and moved to industrial centres so that they might enjoy the benefits of the boom there with shorter working hours, higher wages and cheaper food. Young farmers left the land so that they might join the select few in the enjoyment of conditions that were available only in the great cities. That is why food production decreased. The development of our secondary industries has proceeded so rapidly, at the expense of primary production, that we are now suffering from the effects of a man-power shortage in both. The MenziesFadden Administration has not enjoyed unrestricted power to govern long enough to have enabled it yet to foster the expansion of primary production which- is essential to the development of the nation under present conditions. Australia does not need new families to be brought from other countries and trained in socialism, lt needs immigrants who will help to develop the land, chiefly young unmarried persons who do not want houses but who can be provided with accommodation on our farms. Only when primary industry has been re-vitalized will our secondary industries again become healthy. “We must be able to fill the stomachs of the industrial workers of Sydney and Melbourne and at the same time provide for the wants of the community and of Britain.
The Leader of the Opposition says that we need healthy competition in finance. That is why this Government has prepared a bill to provide for the protection of the private trading banks, which the Labour Government tried to destroy. Labour’s policy on banking caused the people to throw it out of office because it was a socialistic Communist-urged device for our enslavement. According to the right honorable gentleman, this Government is eager to destroy trade unionism. He knows, as every intelligent person should know, that nothing could be further from the truth. Not the Labour party, but the anti-Labour parties in this country established trade unionism, protected it, and built it up to the stature of which it now boasts. So strongly does this Government cherish trade unionism and the right of the worker to conduct the affairs of his union that it has prepared plans, which were announced in the Governor-General’s Speech, which will restore to unionists the right to manage their own affairs. That right was withheld from them by the Labour party. This Government will not allow the workers to be held to ransom by a gang of saboteurs and foreign agents? whose only aim is to damage Australia.
– The unionists control their own affairs already and they , intend to retain control.
– Let us test that assertion. I refer honorable mem bers to a statement that was made by the man who tells members of the Labour party how they must vote. The President of the Australian Labour party, Mr. J. A. Ferguson, M.L.C., outlined Labour’s policy at a recent conference of the New South “Wales branch of the party. He aid tl at he did not believe that Communists were responsible for every single industrial dispute.
– Hear hear!
– I agree with the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters). But I wonder whether he agrees with the rest of the statement by Mr. Ferguson, who went on to say that 99.9 per cent, of disputes occurred because of legitimate issues that were based on discontent.
– Read on !
– I shall oblige the honorable member. Mr. Ferguson said that the discontent to which he had referred could be remedied, but that no real attempt had been made to do so. I remind honorable members opposite that this Government only recently came to power. Therefore, according to Mr. Ferguson, no real attempt was made to remedy the discontent of the workers throughout the period of nine years during which the Labour party was in power. Mr. Ferguson went on to say that, as a result of the discontent and the absence of remedies, disturbances took place and that, from then on, the Communist party took an interest in the position. That statement was made at the annual conference of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labour party just before this Parliament assembled. I refer honorable members opposite now to statements that were made by Mr. P. J. Buckley, M.L.C., at the same conference. He submitted a resolution endorsing the Labour view that the Commonwealth Parliament had sufficient power to deal with Communists.
– So it has.
– The Leader of the Opposition opposed that view in the courts, and he won his case. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) cannot have it both ways. The resolution, which was adopted by the conference, declared that the Labour movement believed that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in any guise or cloak, however specious,, would not lose any chance to attack unionism and that the Labour movement would oppose such attacks with all its power. It is claimed that the industrial policy of this Government, which is based upon the principle of trying to persuade the waterside workers of Sydney and Melbourne to work, of making them truly Australian in their viewpoint and of trying to get them to do a decent job for the people of this country, is directed against trade unions. Surely we are entitled to demand that men shall do the job that they are paid so highly to do. It is claimed, further, that the governments of Australia and New Zealand, in both of which countries the wage basis is approximately the same, are attempting to destroy trade unionism and that unionists are not receiving sufficient payment for their work. Is that the issue? I read in the newspapers last week that the new unionists and free workers in New Zealand, the Britishers within that country, were drawing from £30 to £34 a week on the conditions which the strikers rejected. The same conditions obtain in Australia, where workers are adequately paid. If we want primary producers to produce more food, let us give the dairyfarmers, for example, who work 56 hours a week, one-half of the wages that the waterside workers receive for a working week of 35 hours. Let us give the, primary producers only a half of what is received by these people with special rights on our waterfront.
The Government’s defence programme, which is outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, will provide a degree of security for this country that was unknown under Labour governments! The problem of defence preparations should be considered on a non-party basis. .Surely it is only as a result of Communist influence that some people in this country to-day are saying that, in relation to the defence of Australia, the Labour party should not work with this Government. We are determined that arms shall be secured from the United States of America and Great Britain to enable us to defend ourselves. ‘ The United States of America, where private enterprise is permitted to operate freely, is a great democracy and the richest country that the world has known. To-day the whole of democracy depends upon it. In the Communist countries nobody knows under what conditions the unfortunate workers and slaves are working or how many hours a week Russians are being forced to work in Siberia in order to produce arms and munitions that may be used to destroy the democracies. What this Government proposes to do to utilize labour fully, strengthen our armed forces and improve our methods of defence is already being done by the Socialist Government of Great Britain. What does this Government propose to do that would not be in keeping with the interests and the preservation of our people?
There has been much criticism of the proposed peace treaty with Japan. That criticism has been instigated by the Communists. Russia does not want a peace treaty with the Japanese to be signed, because it wants to be able to overrun and enslave Japan. The Japanese should be enabled at least to police their own country. The Communist-controlled Labour party would not advocate young Australians being sent to Japan to defend the Japanese against the Russians. Apparently it would like to see Japan overrun by Russia and used by the Russians in the same way as other countries that they have overrun have been used.
The Government proposes to repeal the Banking Act 1947-48 and to amend in certain particulars the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-48. It intends to introduce legislation for the introduction of secret ballots in trade unions, which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) apparently regards as an unholy business. It proposes to improve our conciliation and arbitration system in order to enable it to function to the best advantage of the worker. I hope that we shall be able to attract to this country many single immigrants, for whom we shall not be required to find homes at once. I do not think that we can afford to wait for the child immigrants to grow up. We need young men who will be available at once for work and the defence of this country. We must make food available, not only for the people of this country, but also for the people of Britain, that great little island on the other side of the world. We must make it available soon so that it can be stored in Britain before hostilities occur and Russia lets loose its 500 submarines to cause tintrouble for which they were built.
It is stated in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government is keeping » close watch on the rates of pensions and that these rates will be reviewed when the budget is being prepared. The present Government parties did not try to buy their way into power by making extravagant promises to persons who depend on the generosity of the Australian people. It promised nothing but a fair deal for every section of the community. I regret that a further increase of postal, telephone and telegraph charges is under consideration, and I hope that some means of avoiding an increase may be devised.
It is claimed that the Government, n its actions on the waterfront and elsewhere, is trying to upset trade unionism in this country. What it is trying to do is to defeat saboteurs. Democracy gives them an opportunity to carry out their work in this country. They were represented in the highest court of the land bv the Leader of the Opposition, hut neither a Britisher in Russia nor a Chinaman who was not a supporter of the Chinese Communist Government could have recourse to a court of law in either of those countries. Recently, the Prime Minister of the Chinese Communist Government claimed that since his Government l-p assumed power it had murdered over 1,000,000 Chinese saboteurs or enemies of China, as he called them. We are endeavouring only to prevent the Communist? from doing harm to this island continent. We want Australia to progress. We want the very things that the Leader of the Opposition has said are lacking. W> want more food and more industrial development. The’ Leader of the Opposition wants better working conditions for the workers. Australia is now more prosperous than it has ever been. Everybody who wants to work can get a job. There is plenty of money in the country with which to finance the payment of workers and experts to develop our great prospects. We are in the midst of the greatest era of prosperity that we have ever known. What are the saboteurs in the United States of America doing?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I deeply regret that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, which were in office in the Nineteenth Parliament, are in power in the Twentieth Parliament. I am convinced that as time passes more and more people in Australia wlil share my regret. I agree with the members of the Government and their supporters and with the members of the Opposition and their supporters who declare that, the principal problems that confront the people of this country are those of inflation, the defence of Australia against aggression, from whatever direction it may come, and the menace of communism to our democratic institutions. Upon the solution of the problems of inflation will depend largely our ability to prepare for defence and our capacity to meet the Communist menace. An alert people, physically and mentally well, with industries that can provide for more than the requirements of peace, is the only foundation upon which an efficient defence scheme can be built. I know that in. countries which are prosperous the weapons of Communist Russian imperialism are at work, but in a country in which the conditions of the people are relatively bad and are gradually worsening, the people become the dupes of communism more easily than do the people of a nation whose conditions are relatively good and are continually improving.
There is no need for me to exaggerate the conditions that exist in this country in order to prove the contention that J desire, to make. An Australian family which is in receipt of the income of more than one wage-earner is not suffering to any degree. It is subjected only to inconveniences and shortages. But a family that depends upon the wages of one bread-winner only is suffering if the bread-winner’s income is’ approximately the basic wage and he is seeking to establish a home. The pensioners of this country and those who live upon fixed incomes are also suffering, and their conditions are gradually becoming worse. Government supporters admit that that is so when they talk of the evil of inflation. There would be no evil of inflation if, at a time, when prices were rising, the incomes of all persons rapidly increased to such a degree that they provided more to-morrow than they provide to-day. Inflation is evil only when incomes fail to keep pace with rising costs. Therefore, the Government’s first and most urgent task is to implement measures that will increase the purchasing power of the average citizen and enable pensioners to buy more with the small incomes that they receive. Since this Government has been in power it has done nothing to solve the problem of inflation, and the evidence is that it will continue to do nothing. The only reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to what the Government intends to do- to deal with the menace that the vast majority of its supporters have- said, is the, gravest menace that confronts this nation is contained in the following passage: -
One of the incidents of national preparation for defence is that civil goods and services may run short because of increasing diversion of men and materials. When such shortages are, as they must be, accompanied by rapidly increasing- defence expenditure the upward pressure on- prices becomes more and more acute-. Insofar as the checks upon this process, are to be found in administrative, financial and economic measures, they require legislative authority and therefore constitutional power.
If it appears,, from declarations of the Law made by the High Court, that the simultaneous achievement of adequate defence preparation and economic stability is prejudiced by the present constitutional position, my advisers will submit to the Parliament proposals for constitutional amendment.
I presume that that means that if prices continue to rise and the purchasing power of the average citizen continues to diminish as the direct result of defence expenditure the Government may ultimately come forward with a proposal to secure some constitutional power to deal with prices but that otherwise it will not take any action whatsoever. If any nation is confronted by a calamity whether it be of war, famine, inflation, or deflation, the first obligation of the government, the custodian of the interests of the people, is to ensure that one section of the community shall not benefit at the expense of the large mass of the people, but that, if any are to suffer, all should suffer alike. Are all sections of the community suffering alike from the inflation which confronts us at the present time? Ask the wool-growers. Ask those who are receiving dividends of over 20 per cent, from investments. Ask those people who are selling properties for from ten to twelve times the amount for which they purchased them a few years ago. In reality all are not suffering alike. There is a section which is growing rich at .the expense of the vast mass of the people. Here is what I read in the Melbourne Age after the last election -
All sections of the market on the stock exchange firmed yesterday on the return of the Government.
– That indicates confidence in the Government.
– It was higher profits that inspired the confidence. Here is what has appeared in the press since: The Imperial Smelting Corporation and its subsidiaries earned a net profit of £693.000, about £210,000 of which was used to pay dividends of 6 per cent, and 64 per cent, whilst over £466,000 was transferred to reserve. In other words, that firm made a profit of 20 per cent. Burns Philp and Company Limited earned £315,000. A dividend of 12£ per cent, required the payment of £250,000 and £50,000 was placed to reserve. Email profit doubled, being £347,823. The consolidated profit of Electricity Meter and Allied Industries Limited for the year ended the 31st December, 1950, was almost doubled. The ordinary dividend of 12£ per cent, absorbed £195,298, and a preference dividend required the payment of £6,000, leaving £117,934 to be carried forward against £76,000 brought in. Kelvinator Limited made a record profit of £190,777 and the ordinary distribution was maintained at 15 per cent., which called for the payment of £79,000. Maryborough Knitting Mills almost doubled its earnings. Profit was about 15J per cent, on total shareholders’ funds or 73 per cent, on ordinary capital. Cox Brothers reported record results which were expected to show a profit of at least 13 per cent, after tax deductions. The increase of turnover was phenomenal, far exceeding that of any previous year. The profit of pastoral companies has leapt. Younghusband’s Limited, pastoralists and woolbrokers, increased its profit from £98.30<? to £168,243 in a record year which ended on the 31st March. A dividend of 12^ per cent, was declared and £80,000 was carried forward against £31,000 brought in. Skoda cars paid a dividend of 20 per cent, and its actual profit was over 50 per cent. That means that the usurer, the man who merely lent his money and did not have to develop Skoda, nor add one tittle of wealth to the community, received £50 for every £100 he invested.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me. He might not then collect 60 many interjections.
– Kornblums Furnishings Limited floated a public company after announcing its latest earnings at slightly better than 20 per cent, on capital. Veall’s Electric Floats made a profit of 21 per cent, and its turnover last year was four times as great as in 1946. Veall’s issue, which opened yesterday at 10 a.m., closed immediately, having been fully subscribed. Those who are thus so favorably placed will not let us members of the Labour party in on the racket. If we go to the Stock Exchange with our money they will not let us i buy any of -these stocks. More records have been announced by Perme-wan, which had a turnover that exceeded £5,000,000 and an increase of profits to £110,519. It declared a bonus which brought its dividends to 12 per cent. Permewan “Wright Limited, general and produce merchants, shattered all previous records in the year ended the 31st January. An application for new capital has been made. This explains why eggs cost 5d. each. The earnings of Lane’s Floats were just under 79 per cent, on the proposed paid up ordinary capital of £575,000. The company proposed to make a half-yearly payment at the rate of 20 per cent, a year. The underwriters have advised that all shares have already been placed to clients and that no further applications can be accepted. Beaurepaire Investments Limited recently made a “ one for one “ bonus issue which brought its ordinary capital to £320,000. The dividend is steady at 15 per cent. George Pizzey’s has made a “ one for one “ bonus issue. Wilkie and Company has made a “ one for one “ bonus issue. Details of bonus issues and plans for the subdivision of the shares of three companies - K.M. Steel Products, Kia Ora Industries and Goliath Cement - have been announced. Moulded Products has lifted its capital by £330,000 and the additional shares will go to existing shareholders.
Every honorable member and every member of the public who reads the newspapers knows of hundreds of these examples of immense profits and issues of bonus shares. Those that I have read have appeared in the newspapers only since the last general election. Honorable members are aware also of the hundreds of thousands of pounds that are flowing into the production of luxury and semi-luxury goods, to the detriment of the production of essentials. Money is seeking big profits which means a diversion of thousands of workers from the more essential to the less essential enterprises. The purchasing power of the mass of the people has decreased and is continuing to decrease. The speculative and profiteering section of the community is securing an everincreasing income. The Government will not control prices or profits but maintains that it will reduce prices and shortages by increasing production.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) stated that the 40-hour week was responsible for all the difficulties and that if people would work for a little longer for a. little less all difficulties would vanish like mist before the morning sun. I abhor the practices and policies of communism, but I do not believe that communism can be defeated by attributing to it the crime of every racketeer, profiteer and speculator in this country. By dishonesty of propaganda one promotes rather than destroys communism. No honorable member on this side of the House is opposed to increased production. I am not opposed to increased production.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is.
– He is not. He is opposed to increased production going to swell the profits of a few. “When increased production swells profits it does not diminish the evils of inflation. The increase of production under existing circumstances only puts more profits into the hands of the wealthy. “When an em ployer’s cost comes down he can pass the saving on to his employees in the form of increased wages, give it to the consumers by way of reduced prices, or take it in profit for himself; or he can combine two or more of those actions. But in a country in which shortages exist no company or other business enterprise ever reduces profit or prices to the consumers because of increased production. “What it does is increase profits. That that is happening in this country to-day is undeniable. So I say that the Government should take immediate action to grapple with the problems of, first, prices, second, profit, and third, investment. It should take control of profits and regulate prices and investments. Those are obviously the three first steps that should be taken. If they are not, then inevitably the position of the average man and woman in this country will continue to deteriorate. Shortages will increase instead of decrease, the purchasing power of the pensioner will shrink and the money put away in the savings banks against a rainy day by those thrifty people who used to be held up as examples to the ordinary working man by the representatives of toryism in this country, will get less and less. Therefore we shall have increased shortages of necessities, pensioners in a worse condition than they are in to-day, and the development of the country in whose progress we all are interested reduced in momentum because the Government will not tackle the fundamental problems that should be attacked if Australia is to progress. That is why I stress particularly that the Government should immediately introduce into this Parliament measures that will enable it to take control of prices, regulate profits and direct the flow of money and investments. Every one knows that money chases big profits, and that people who have money to invest do not invest it in brick kilns, from which they would get a return of 10 per cent, or less, but put it into Lane’s Motors or Skoda Motors or any of the other luxury or semi-luxury trades from which they can get a higher return.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The Governor-General, in his Speech opening this Parliament, gave us a reminder of the difficult times ahead and pointed out to us the evident need which will face the Government before very long, to introduce some necessary but probably highly unpopular legislation. He gave us also reminders of the difficult times through which all countries of the free world are now passing. I am aware that the preoccupation of the Government with matters of defence is necessary, but that subject has been dealt with reasonably by other honorable members. I propose, therefore, to address myself to some more domestic but, nonetheless, important issues which I believe to be worthy of consideration at this time. I wish to direct public attention to three very important points. The first is the evermounting collection and expenditure of public revenues for which we must budget. Secondly, there are certain aspects of taxation which bear heavily against production and which I consider merit the attention of the Government when certain other difficulties in the production field have been removed. Thirdly, there are the ever-increasing inroads of socialism in this country. We have seen in recent years the extraordinary growth of the Government’s demands on the public funds. We have also seen an equally extraordinary growth in the inroads on the public purse by taxes. We are struggling with inflation and the present belief is that one of the great means of attacking it is the withdrawal of purchasing power from the community. I am concerned lest there should develop in the Government the idea that leaving more purchasing power than the bare minimum in the hands of the taxpayer is to he avoided at all costs. I believe that in such a policy would lie real damage to our economy.
I am particularly glad to note that the Government proposes to reconstitute the Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts. If there is to be a re-creation of the committee that was disbanded in 1932, I hope that its terms of reference will be sufficiently wide to enable it to make the most searching inquiry into the ever-widening and increasingly expansive government activities that have developed since 1932. If that is not now intended, then I hope that the terms of reference will be widened.
In recent years the Australian Government has been able to persuade itself that it is right and proper that it should engage in an ever-expanding field of business. To-day, by the investment of capital and by the payment of subsidies, the Government is engaged in a wide range of business. It is engaged in air transport and is heavily committed in shipping. More recently it has taken unto itself a most intimate responsibility for public housing. It has undertaken functions which, in my opinion, would have been better left to private enterprise. I have not the slightest doubt that had those functions been left to private enterprise the public would have been equally well served at a much lower cost.
There has also been a tremendously wide expansion in the field of social services. Nowadays nobody will deny that some measure of social services is necessary, but the ease with which governments are able to foster a completelyspurious demand for some public service and then meet the cost of financing it out of taxation, has been a fatal inducement. I believe that we have taken steps too fast and too wide into the welfare state. We have gone heavily into free medicine. We have extended child endowment and other social services, many of which, I must emphasize, are necessary. While we have been concerning ourselves with these delightful diversions on the basis that it is better to give than to receive, particularly when one is distributing public moneys, we have fallen into the socialist line of thinking that every problem is a problem of distribution. We have danced attendance on the consumer and have neglected the producer. I believe that many of the present shortages are the direct result of that neglect. All these activities appear quite reasonable until the time comes to pay the bill.
I think we realize now that the taxation that is necessary to support all this paraphernalia is rapidly approaching a prohibitive level. The taxpayer of this country is becoming tired of footing the bill, and it is time somebody spoke up for him. As taxation climbs towards the £S00,O00,000 mark, and possibly beyond it, I oan foresee the Government meeting real opposition to any tax increases. Qualified economists who are not employed by the Government, and who are therefore under no obligation to justify what the Government wants to do, have warned us in fairly plain terms thai there comes a point beyond which the Government can make no further inroads on the country’s financial income without running the risk of seriously reducing it. I believe that the time has arrived when we should realize that the colossal burden of taxation which this country carries, superimposed upon other difficulties of which we are only too well aware, is the real reason behind many of the shortages, particularly of basic commodities, from which the country suffers. If the Public Accounts Committee can disclose the real cost and the real nature of some of the government undertakings that I have mentioned then it will perform a real service to the community. But the mere establishment of the committee will be no substitute for a government decision and for the most determined government action towards greater economy in expenditure and, I trust, a reduction of the Government’s commitments in all sorts of fields that are extraneous to government. We have been plagued, and will continue to be plagued, by inflation which, is caused by the great unbalance between money and goods. Withdrawal of purchasing power is one great arm of the attack against inflation, but up to now there has been very little evidence that moneys that have been withdrawn from circulation have not ultimately reappeared as purchasing power in the hands of the Government. I do not think it is an overstatement to claim that moneys expended by the Government are expended with less efficiency than would be the case if the taxpayers had the spending of them. So I suggest that withdrawal of purchasing power through the levying of taxation has not made an adequate contribution to the attack against inflation.
The second great line of attack on inflation is obviously increased production, but the prerequisite to any great increase of production is obviously the defeat of a diabolical and clever attack which has been waged against the economy of this country for years, and which is a Com munist conspiracy. It must be defeated, and I have not the slightest doubt that the Government will have the support of a vast majority of the Australian people, whether they subscribe to Liberal party or Labour party politics, in an attack such as that, because most people are beginning to realize that the increasing shortages and difficulties of life to-day mean that they are at once the choppingbl.ock and the ultimate victims of this Communist conspiracy, which is designed to soften up this country for ultimate conquest. When these difficulties have been cleared away and there is reasonable hope that within a foreseeable time we shall have increased coal and steel production and a more smooth flow of transport, there are several aspects of the taxation position to which the Government should give attention.
– The Government will not take any notice of the honorable member.
– I think it might. We have appealed for greater production, and yet one of the factors which militate against greater productive efficiency is the bearing that certain taxation regulations have on the replacement of plant. One of the great factors in increased production is mechanization, yet to-day the allowances for depreciation of plant under the tax regulations do not provide for the replacement of machinery that has become obsolete. Further, no allowance is made for even the replacement of existing plant which in this age of technology has become obsolete. The inevitable consequence is that worn-out plant is operating in far too many factories to-day. If firms attempt to make adequate provision for this by putting aside reserves, then they run foul of the regulations that relate to undisturbed profits and are designed to force all profits into the open so that the Treasurer may have a second look at them.
Another aspect of rising prices is the fact that the small trader to-day is unable to keep his inventories going without an increase of capital and the restriction of advances policy is forcing him to borrow more capital in the open market. As a result, small traders are losing control of their businesses. The individually operated business, which is, and always has been, the very background of economic democracy in this country, is vanishing. I suggest that this Government, of all governments, cannot afford to allow that sort of thing to happen, much less foster it. The inevitable result is the increase of big business, the sort of thing to which the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) has been directing attention. The aggregation of capital and the drift into single control of businesses throughout this country will be just as destructive of our economy as is the growth or socialism. I have great faith in free enterprise economy, and I believe that we must make greater efforts to preserve it.
I turn now to a matter which is giving grave concern to an increasing number of Australians. Eighteen months ago the Liberal and Australian Country parties were elected to office as a consequence of a great revulsion from socialism. Making allowance for the difficulties which have had to be faced by the Government in the last eighteen months, that time has demonstrated the ease with which socialistic ideas can take root in liberal minds. Socialism does not happen as a result of an isolated act. It begins when the government starts to intrude on fields that are best left to individuals, and it ends when a thousand freedoms have been filched one by one from an unsuspecting democracy. I remind honorable members that those freedoms can be filched just as easily by a Liberal as by a socialist government. Tremendous advances have been made towards the establishment of the welfare state. I believe that those advances have already sapped the moral fibre of this nation, the best evidence of that being the general spirit of irresponsibility that is abroad in this country. That spirit will militate against any government overcoming the difficulties with which we are now fared in the fields of economics and production.
Government in business has brought increased burdens to the people, increased responsibility to members of the Cabinet and dangerous delegation of responsibility and control. I believe if that process continues it will undermine the foundations of parliamentary institu- tions. When the Government goes into business it uses capital taken from the pockets of its private enterprise competitors. Then the trend is for the government to use its legislative powers to protect the business for which it has taken responsibility. When that happens dangerous inroads may be made on the principle of impartial government. The record of the Australian National Airlines Commission offers conclusive evidence of the truth of what I have said. During the last few years there has beel a steady growth of what we have been pleased to call orderly marketing. There are real doubts in my mind about whether our many shortages and difficulties cannot be blamed on that 3ame system of orderly marketing. The industries that are being controlled by boards will ultimately pay for their orderly marketing by being brought under the complete control of the government. The end result of that process is government-to-government trading, which means that ultimately the right of the producer to his own produce will bc lo That is a very serious threat to democracy.
In the field of economic policy nobody can say that some economic controls are not needed to divert to more useful channels much of the labour and materials that are now wasted in non-essential industries. But such diversion poses great problems for private enterprise, and I direct the attention of the Government to the need for careful consideration of the effect of. its economic regulations upon private enterprise and a free economy. Nowhere does the conjunction of economic policy and government intrusion into a field best left to private enterprise show to greater disadvantage than in the matter of housing. When this Government assumed office it inherited a system of Commonwealth and State housing that was paid for with the taxpayers’ money. This Government has earned on the scheme because it realized the necessity to make the greatest possible contribution towards solving our tragic housing problems despite the use that was being made of the scheme by State socialist governments. I refer particularly to the housing situation in New
South Wales. In that State the landlord and tenant laws have been so arranged as to kill investment building. Kents have been pegged at 1939 levels, and if any honorable members opposite who support the New South Wales Labour Government care to peruse my files they will see abundant evidence that the burden of those State laws has borne heavily upon people in all income groups and has seriously affected the persons that they have always claimed to represent exclusively in this Parliament.
The advance restriction policy has so tightened the money market that it has curtailed contract building for home ownership and has left the field completely open to socialist housing schemes. The New South Wales Housing Commission has resumed -land far beyond its immediate and near immediate requirements and has caused great hardship to the owners of it. Moreover, it has erected houses and flats which do not conform to the local government ordinances of the State insofar as ceiling heights, kitchen areas, laundry conveniences and so on are concerned. In setting up its housing estates it has had one eye on electoral boundaries and the other eye on the preservation of socialistic government. The State has become the landlord of about 15,000 tenants. The rents of the houses are based on some weird formula taken from the socialist handbook and they bear no relation to economic facts. One matter that the socialist government wants to forget, but which the private builder cannot forget, is the cost of administration of the housing commission. A few years ago that amounted to about £140 a home unit. No doubt it is higher to-day. That sum represents useless administration in most cases, and is being paid by the taxpayer. However, the chickens of the socialist housing scheme are now coming home to roost. The bills are now coming in for maintenance of poorly built and sometimes poorly cared for houses. I cannot cite the amount required for maintenance, for it is one of the deep secrets of the New South Wales Government, which is determined to keep it a secret. This secrecy, and the urgent and new-found desire of the New South Wales Government to sell these houses, indicate that the maintenance cost is higher than one would care to think about. Even the proposal to sell these dwellings neglects all economic consideration because there is a doubt about whether the cost of the houses can ever be identified. Therefore, another weird formula, apparently again taken from the socialist handbook, is applied to determine a selling price. My time does not allow me to deal discursively with these matters but my poi:it is clear. I hope that the Government W1 remember the need to preserve our fretenterprise economy which is the inheritance of democracy.
.- I congratulate the honorable member fa” Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) upon the inclusion that he very speedily reached. He told the House that after eighteen months he has realized that freedoms can be filched as easily by a Liberal as by a Labour government. Therefore, it is clear that by the time he has been a member of this Parliament for another term he will have realized that freedoms are filched more speedily by Liberal than by Labour governments. The honorable member referred to the Commonwealth and State housing scheme. He criticized that scheme, which was brought into operation by State and Commonwealth Governments conjointly. It was introduced in this House by a Labour government, but in some State parliaments it was introduced with the active co-operation of the Liberal party. The scheme has been a magnificent success. I do not know how it has operated in New South Wales, but I know that in Western Australia, and I believe throughout Australia, it has been a most valuable scheme. Even though it has worked well in the past, I believe that there is room for a great expansion of it. House construction to-day is clearly beyond the reach of those who have moderate incomes or moderate means. Workers cannot afford to buy houses to-day with the prospect that when the prices return to normal they will have to carry to-day’s inflated building costs. It is clear that some one has to carry to-day’s uneconomic cost. Either individual owners have to bear it or’ it has to be borne by the government of the State or the Commonwealth. As individuals face the prospect of lost equities in the future, it is far better that the Commonwealth and State housing scheme should be extended and that if prices fall the costs should be spread evenly over the whole community.
The honorable member is wrong in his condemnation of the Commonwealth and State housing schemes. He pointed out that we live in difficult times. I believe that that will be admitted by every honorable member and by every thinking person in the country. Our main criticism of the Government is that its present actions, and the actions foreshadowed by the Speech of His Excellency, afford no evidence that it appreciates the difficulty of the times through which the country is passing and the nature of the problems that will arise as the years go by. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said, the Speech of His Excellency is a mass of generalities, lt makes no direct proposals and it gives no evidence of the Government’s concern with the problems of to-day and of the future.
I endorse the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition about the visit to this country in 1952 of Their Majesties the King and Queen. I need do no more than reiterate his remarks. He said that we all look forward to that visit. At the same time, however, we recognize that His Majesty is a man as well as a king. Whatever pleasure we experience in anticipating his visit ought to be tempered by the realization that the additional strain that would be placed upon him in travelling to this country might adversely affect his health. Therefore, should it seem probable that a visit to Australia would place an added strain upon His Majesty we should be willing to forgo the pleasure we would derive from such a visit.
I compliment the Government upon its having established a special Ministry of Territories. That is a very useful step. I take this opportunity to congratulate the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) upon having been appointed to take charge of the new department. In this matter Australia has two very grave responsibilities. First we must ensure the welfare of the Australian aborigines. This problem is very complex and will involve a great deal of work from which results may not be very noticeable. However, we must solve it. The Minister for Territories has a very real interest in the welfare of the aborigines and I look forward to his making a substantial effort or: their behalf. The expenditure that he will incur will largely be unproductive raid the honorable member for Paterson may regard the new department as a socialistic enterprise because it will not be a business undertaking and will not pay dividends. However, it will help us to discharge the solemn obligation towards the aborigines that rests upon the Parliament and the people of this country. I hope that the Minister will not be starved for finance in the carrying out of his duties. Secondly, Australia has :i solemn responsibility and, indeed, a golden opportunity to ensure the welfare of the natives of those territories which this nation controls as a trustee. That work will come within the scope of the new department. Here again, early or spectacular results cannot be achieved, but we must discharge this responsibility. We must not only satisfy our conscience in this respect but also remember that the L’.yes of the world will watch critically the work that we do for the welfare of native peoples whom Australia i3 called upon to govern as a trustee country. We are aware of the part that Russia plays iii world affairs and we fully realize the significance of current world events. Should Russia he able to point to maladministration by Australia of its trusteeship territories it will undoubtedly exploit that fact and seize the opportunity thus presented to it to stimulate opposition to us among the native peoples throughout the Pacific area. For those reasons I trust that the Government will not stint the Minister for Territories when he may require funds to develop the territories and to provide for the welfare of their native inhabitants.
The Governor-General’s Speech states that deep concern exists about the activities of subversive elements in Australia. Frankly, I believe that the -Government is more concerned to exploit this situation for party political purposes than to remedy it. The Australian trade union movement as a whole is more loyal than any other section of our community. Trade unionists are virtually the Australian people whether they are employed on the waterfront, or in the factories, the mines or the fields. They play their part in peace and war in the development and protection of this country.
– There are other sections of the community as well.
– That is so, but by and large, Australian, trade unionists are as loyal as any other citizens of this country. They are as keen to rid themselves of Communist leadership in the unions as are any other sections of the Australian people.
– That is why they voted for the Government parties’ candidates at the recent general election.
– The unionists are far more anxious than is the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) to advance the welfare of this country. Indeed, if subversive activities in this country were completely suppressed supporters of the Government parties would be deprived of much of their electioneering propaganda.
– The honorable member was glad to obtain the preferences of the Communist party candidate at the last general election.
– Those who were most unhappy about the result of the election in my constituency were the supporters of the Liberal party and the Communist party. Honorable members opposite, if they are not completely biased, must admit that trade unionists are capable of conducting and are anxious to conduct their own affairs free from control by Communists who now hold key offices in their organizations. I emphasize that when the Government attacks trade unionists as a body it plays entirely into the hands of subversive elements in this country. That fact has been demonstrated from time to time. We have seen Communists, after they have captured control of some trade unions or have capitalized on some industrial disturbance, applauded by honorable members opposite. Supporters of the Government have claimed time after time that major gains in industrial conditions have been due to the efforts of Com munist leaders. They have said that increases of pay and improvements in working conditions have been gained by Communist leaders in . the trade unions. Honorable members opposite made statements to that effect when they were in Opposition. As Labour’s late leader pointed out repeatedly, the fact is that when some genuine industrial grievance arises the Communists are quick to seize upon it and to exploit it to their own advantage. However, every genuine advance in relation to industrial conditions has been gained by the solid core of trade unionists throughout Australia. At present, the one thing that plays into the hands of the Communists is the rising cost of living. That is their major weapon with which to stampede organized trade unionists. Of course, that fact is not new historically. We know that in times of rapidly rising prices such as the present, when quarterly adjustments of the basic wage are as much as 10s. a week, the Communists have a golden opportunity to cause discontent among solid trade unionists. The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) was correct in his analysis of the existing situation. The number one problem that confronts this country to-day is the increasing cost of living. Recently, the federal basic wage was increased by 10s. a week and the State basic wage in Western Australia by11s. 4d. a week by way of quarterly adjustments in relation to the cost of living. If such a 3tate of affairs continues, and this Government clearly intends to allow it to do so, the basic wage will have to be increased within the next three years by £6 a week if it is to be adjusted in relation to the cost of living on the basis of the “ C “ series index. On the other hand, when Labour was in office quarterly adjustments of the basic wage averaged 3s. or 4s. a week. To-day, wages are constantly chasing prices. That is the plight in which workers, pensioners and others on fixed incomes find themselves. They are faced with a constant struggle because their incomes have shrunk to a miserable pittance although social services benefits in Australia are higher than ever before. Likewise, persons in small businesses are being forced to increase the pricesof the products they produce or sell until finally they will not be able to dispose of them.
What does the Government propose to do in order to solve this problem ? Honorable members opposite told the world about the Government’s intention to reimpose capital issues control, but the Government delayed the actual reimposition of such control until all companies that desired to circumvent it had had the opportunity to issue additional capital. The Government now claims that it will take measures to increase production in order to cope with the rising price levels. The fact is that the existing demand for goods is so great that if our present volume of production were doubled, or even trebled, prices would not thereby be substantially reduced. Production can be increased in a variety of ways, but any such increase would not have any serious impact upon the rising cost of living or on the rising cost of goods and services. Labour has always sought by every means in its power to increase production, but it has always contended that that is not the answer to the problem that confronts this country at present. The Government has appointed the former Prices Commissioner, Mr. McCarthy, to co-ordinate the efforts of State Ministers in charge of prices. That is a tardy recognition of its responsibility in this matter but I have no doubt that such action will prove to be completely ineffective. The Government ‘ should immediately request the State Governments to refer power to it to enable it to control prices. Only in that way will it be enabled to deal effectively with this problem.
– The Government made that request to the States this week.
– No. Just prior to the recent general election the State Ministers in charge of prices requested the Australian Government to take over prices control, hut it has done nothing in that direction. The State governments realize that effective prices control is the first requisite for the stabilization of the Australian economy. Otherwise, regardless of their party political colour, they should abandon prices control. Such action would be preferable to continuing the present farcical system of prices control by the States. As the “ C “ series index is merely meant to be the symbol for measuring the advance in price which occurs throughout the Australian community, the increase of the basic wage to-day is not giving to the workers in industry a fully effective rise that is comparable with the increased cost of commodities. It is the responsibility of the Government to approach the State governments, or State Ministers who administer prices control, with the object of seeking a way by which, in cooperation, they can make the system of prices control more effective.
– What about wages control?
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. The Government, by adopting that course, could seek to make prices control more effective, or advise the State governments to scrap the whole futile system. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) has asked me about wages control. At present, a rise in wages, as measured by quarterly adjustments, is granted after prices have climbed. If the several governments in concert can prevent a further rise in prices, an adjustment will not be necessary at the end of next quarter.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the basic wage is a maximum wage?
– The honorable member for Evans. (Mr. Osborne) raises an entirely different problem. The basic wage is not a maximum wage, for various loadings and allowances are given, first, for skill and, secondly, for conditions of various sorts. That is another aspect of the problem. I am dealing with the rising basic wage, as measured by the quarterly adjustments. The basic wage is increased solely because prices have risen in the three months following the previous adjustment. If prices could be substantially stabilized, so that another increase of the basic wage could be prevented, or the increase reduced from 10s. or 12s., as it might well be, to, say, 5s., a ‘ substantial advance would be made in attacking the problem of inflation. It is idle to say that such cannot be done. It can be done. There are various items such as capital costs, which do not immediately enter into the cost of living, but eventually they find their way into the cost of consumer goods. The State
Ministers who administer prices control made their initial mistake, in my opinion, when they de-controlled some 30,000 items which showed no apparent relation to consumable commodities. They did not show such a relation on the surface, but finally, they became constituents of consumable articles, and, by that means, made a substantial impact upon the cost of living.
The point which I make is that it is thebounden duty of the Government to take immediate action to bring stability into the Australian economy. I have referred to the hardship which is caused to 90 per cent, of the Australian people by rising costs. We must not forget that the higher the giddy spiral goes, the sharper must be the downward adjustment when a crash occurs. We have reached a completely artificial standard. That fact is generally acceptedby the Australian people. We shall settle back sometime to a lower cost of living, and lower prices of consumer commodities and capital goods. When that occurs, ‘there must be a downward adjustment, and the higher the spiral reaches, the greater the adjustment must be. Whatever the adjustment may be, hardship will be imposed upon many people. If it reaches depression proportions, as it may do, this country will again experience the miseries and horrors of want, and the lost man-hours that can never be regained. That is the No. 1 problem which confronts the Government. How has the Government tackled it in the past? How does the Government propose to tackle it in the future? Last year, the Treasurer submitted to the Parliament a bill which he described as a major weapon in the fight against inflation. Opposition members define inflation as an increase in the cost of living, yet that major weapon in the fight against rising costs actually increased the cost of commodities by as much as331/3 per cent. Now we learn from articles in the press that the Treasurer proposes to increase the sales tax on motor cars and presumably on certain other items.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Graham) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- This is the earliest opportunity that has presented itself to me, in this Parliament, to direct the attention of the House and of the Government to what I regard as a most important and serious matter. The following passage is an extract from an article which appeared in the Sydney Daily Mirror on the ‘80th May last under the caption, “ HowFar DoReceptions Help International Diplomacy? “ : -
This correspondent has heard of instances where international relations have been anything but helped through some remark made in alcoholic indiscretion at a diplomat’s party.
He was a guest of the former Japanese Minister to Australia (Dr. Kawai) at a party in the Canberra Hotel on the eve of the Pacific War, at which some Australian “ notables “ having drunk more than’ was good for them, talked more than was good for their country.
In the first portion of the article the correspondent writes in the sense that he has heard of instances, but in the second section of the article he makes a positive declaration that he was a guest, and, therefore, he speaks with certain knowledge of what happened. It would be important, and interesting to know who those particular notables were that were divulging important information that was of some value evidently to our Japanese enemies, because the inference is that the people referred to were persons in authority, who had knowledge which was of use to the Japanese, our potential enemy.
I raised a similar matter in the Parliament some time ago, but it was never answered, and the position was not cleared up. I want the Government to make an investigation, to question the correspondent of the Sydney Daily Mirror who evidently has a first-hand knowledge of exactly what happened, and to obtain evidence to ascertain whether there was any basis of truth in the newspaper article, because it fits in almost identically with information that was given to me. I was advised that this particular party was attended by quite a number of Ministers of the Government of the day, many of whom are members of. the present Government. I was informed that one member of the present
Government was so intoxicated that he was put to bed by a couple of Japanese at Hotel Canberra.So that there will be no mistake about the person to whom I refer, because I mentioned his name previously, the name conveyed to me as one of the persons who were in an intoxicated State was Senator McLeay, who at that time was the Minister for Supply. The important part is that the Government is warning us now of war dangers, yet the very gentleman about whom I have been given. that particular information is’ one of its Ministers. 1 think that it isserious enough, in view of the confirmation of my statement which appears in the Daily Mirror, for the Government to make an investigation.. If it is discovered that the information that was conveyed to me on this particular matter proves to be correct, arising out of the first-hand knowledge possessed by this gentleman who attended the’ function, it behoves the Government to take action to see that a similar happening shall not occur in the future. If Senator McLeay is one of the guilty persona among the “ notables “, the Government should take immediate action to remove him from his Cabinet post.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Bankruptcy Act - Twenty-second Annual Report by Attorney-General, for year ended 31st July, 1950.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment Certificate-L. A. W. Holmes.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Order - Inventions and Designs (2).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land, &c., acquired for-
Civil Aviation purposes-
Horn Island, Queensland.
Machan’s Beach, Cairns, Queensland.
Defence purposes -
Postal purposes -
Mr Gravatt, Queensland.
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordiances- 1951-
No. 8 - Superannuation (No. 2).
No. 9 - Petroleum (Prospecting . and Mining) (No. 2).
No. 10- New Guinea Land Titles Restoration.
No. 1 1 - Claims by and against the Administration.
No. 12 - Post and Telegraph (Papua).
No. 13- Native Land Registration.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General - H. P. Alexander, R. D. Beebe, G. A. Bond, A. E. Borg, A. L. Bowron, J. P. Burton, R. W. Chenery, W. E. Claxton,R. G. Crampton, 0. H. Critchley, G. F. Cusworth, J. T. Davison, G. A. Dobbins, J. G. Donovan, L.J. Dunne, T. W. Fisher, D. j. Hardin, L. A. Ives, R. W. Johnson, R. G. Kitchenn, G. H. Knight, A. E. Leita, H. Lusoh, J. M. Manning,S. J. Mavo, A. B. Metcalfe, P. J. Millane,K. Neal, K.C. Newham, K. Nowicki, D. A. Pender, P. W. Seymour, J. N. Smith, V. J. StrafoTd, N. C. Watson, P. A. Wentworth, J. Wernicke, A. W. Westmore, K. J. White, J. W. Wilby, M. P. J. Wilkins, 15. Wilkinson, M. H. Winson.
Works and Housing - J. N. Nielsen, A. S. Reiher, V. A. Tolcher.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1951 -
No. 40 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No.50 - Federated” Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 51 - Australian Workers’ Union.
No. 52 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
Nos. 53-55 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
Nos. 56-57 - Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia, and others.
No. 68 - Arbitration Court Registrars’ Association.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 June 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510620_reps_20_213/>.