20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to announce that I have received from the Speaker of the United Kingdom House of Commons a copy of an- account of the opening ceremony of the new chamber of the House of Commons on the 26th October, 1950. I lay it on the table and ultimately’ will tender it to the Library.
– by leave - It is with very great sorrow that I have to announce officially to members of the House the death by assassination of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan. As honorable members know, he had played an enormously valuable part in the establishment - of Pakistan. He was the lieutenant and tho successor of the celebrated Jinnah. He occupied a position in Pakistan which, I venture to say, was one of outstanding eminence - an eminence based upon, his character, his deep convictions, his courage, his wisdom and his patience: His wife, the Begum Liaquat Ali Khan, is herself, I suppose, more actively concerned with the women’s activities of that new democracy than any other woman in her country, so that, between the two of them, they have .been pioneers in the development of full institutions of self-government in a very great member nation of the British Commonwealth - a British Commonwealth of which Liaquat Ali. Khan was a very distinguished friend.
Honorable- MEMBERS - Hear, tear !
– It is an utter tragedy that Liaquat Ali Khan should have fallen to an assassin at a time when, in the vexed condition of affairs in the world, his wise counsel and his lofty character would have proved of such value. His loss will be felt not only by Pakistan but by the whole Moslem world, and it,would be the desire of this House and the people of Australia, I am sure, that I should offer on behalf of both an expression of our profound sympathy and our profound regret at this most melancholy event.
The Prime Minister of Pakistan took an active part in’ the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers at the beginning of this year. It was my privilege to see a great deal of him before, during and after that conference. I hope I may be allowed to say that I established in my own mind a feeling of the deepest and warmest affection for him. He was a man full of generous emotions. He had great ability. Ee was a man of deep religious conviction. He had courage. He was the friend and the leader of his people. I convey to the people and to the Government of Pakistan, and, indeed, to the people of the entire British world, the feeling of profound sorrow with which this dreadful news was received by us all this morning.
– I associate the’ Opposition with the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about the shocking death of Liaquat Ali Khan, the great statesman who represented one of the new members of the brotherhood of nations that is known as the British Common wealth. I cannot measure the loss that his death will cause, not only to his own country, but also to India, at a time when the relations between India and Pakistan are of great importance to the British Commonwealth and to world peace. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, Liaquat Ali Khan was a great Commonwealth man. Perhaps he was, in that respect, outstanding among the representatives of the new nations of the British Commonwealth. He always supported the proposals that Australia made from time to time for the establishment of improved machinery for closer consultation in the British Commonwealth. He was a man of outstanding courage and industry. The task of his successor has been made immeasurably greater by his loss. On the personal side, a great loss has been sustained by his friends in his own country and elsewhere. The Prime Minister has said sufficient to show the close relationships that Liaquat Ali Khan established with comparative strangers at conferences. His death is a I0S3 to Australia and to every other part of the British Commonwealth.
– I did not hear the Prime Minister propose a motion.
– I have no formal motion .to propose. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that it will ,be agreeable to the sentiments of the House if you, on behalf of the Parliament, conveyed to the Governor-General of Pakistan and to the Begum Liaquat Ali Khan a transscription of the remarks that have just been made.
-I undertake to see that that is done.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for the Army, relates to a proposed tour of Army camps in which members of the Opposition have now been invited to join. Will the tour be in the nature of a cook’s tour conducted by Army officers, or will honorable members be permitted to have a good look round for themselves and to make any observations or inquiries that they deem necessary regarding conditions in the camps? Will the trainees bc allowed to discuss conditions direct with honorable members and to place before them any alleged grievances or suggestions for the improvement of conditions?
– The invitation to visit these camps that has been extended to members of the Opposition is similar to that which has been extended to all other honorable members.
-!- I ask the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to say whether the Australian Government has been advised of an expressed intention of the New South Wales Government to boost dairy output by dispossessing certain dairy-farmers and replacing them with others? What attitude, if any, does the Commonwealth intend to adopt to that proposal?
– The only intimation that I have seen that the New South Wales Government intends to dispossess certain dairy-farmers who, it alleges, are lazy, is a statement made by the Premier of New South Wales to a deputation of dairy-farmers that waited upon him and asked that the price of butter in New South Wales be raised to the same level as obtains in other States. The Premier is reported to have replied to the deputation that unless the farmers produced butter, and did not divert their production to other forms of agriculture, their farms would be taken by the New South Wales Government at a price to be fixed by the Valuer-General, who usually fixes prices very much under the current market values, and that such farms would be made available to other people. The Commonwealth has had no official advice on the matter nor has the Premier of New South Wales indicated from what source he proposes to obtain the funds to carry out his confiscatory proposal. If his statement is serious, it means that farmers are to be directed on the kind of production they shall engage in, the kind of crops they shall sow, and the way in which their farms shall be managed. I note that the same remark was made by the New South Wales Minister for Lands, who equally has not intimated to this Government-
– Is this supposed to be an answer to a question?
– No intimation-
– Order ! I understood that the Postmaster-General was saying that the Government had had no intimation.
– It has had no intimation about the matter other than in the indirect ways that I have mentioned.
If such an intimation is received the Government will want to know more about the matter than it knows now.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture of opinion that the action of the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland in declaring an increased retail price for butter some considerable time after the governments of the other States made similar declarations has posed a difficult problem for the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Com.mittee Limited? Oan he say when the increase of price in New South Wales and Queensland will be made available to producers? Will the benefit of the increase to the producers be made retrospective to the 1st July last ?
– I understand that the- Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited has only just been officially notified of the decisions of the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland to fall into line with the governments of the other States by increasing the retail price of butter. The general manager of the committee is at present in Canberra and an investigation is being, made in order to ascertain the best method of making available the equalization payments to the producers concerned.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for Transport, while addressing the Australian Road Transport Federation this week, made the following statement : -
The commercial road vehicle has come into its own in the last ten years and is here to stay. No thoughts of a vested interest in other forms of transport can be allowed to inhibit its rationalised and common-sense development.
The road haulier must not be regarded as the enemy of the railway or any other State-‘ owned instrumentality.
Is this statement in line with a policy that has already been decided upon by the Government? Was any State government consulted before such a policy reached the point where a responsible Minister felt he was entitled to make such a pronouncement on it?
– I am not aware that the Australian Government exercises any authority over the old and very important problem of the co-ordination of rail, road, and other forms of transport. If the honorable member is interested to know what my colleague had to say on the occasion to which he has referred I shall ask the Minister to furnish a somewhat fuller report of his remarks for the honorable member’s information.
Mr.FREETH. - I ask the Minister for External Affairs, consequent on his reply to a question that I asked on the 11th July last, whether the Government has made a decision to ratify the convention to establish the Inter-governmental Maritime Con- sultative Organization ? As all attempts by this Government and the previous government towards securing modification of the international load line convention have failed so far through the complete indifference of certain signatories to its present adverse effects on Australian shipping rounding the Leeuwin, I ask the Minister whether he regards the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization as a means of overcoming the difficulty?
– The InterGovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization has not yet come into operation and will not do so until the requisite number of, I believe, 21 governments has ratified it. I believe that nine governments have ratified it or are about to do so. ‘ The Australian Government ratified it some months ago. The mere coming into existence of this body would not solve the problem of the load line, or the location of the plimsoll mark, although that would be a matter entirely appropriate for consideration by this reconstructed body. I know very well the honorable member’s concern with the load line problem, particularly as it affects the port of Albany in his electorate. The Government will do its best to have this matter brought effectively before the new authority as soon as it is legally constituted.
– In the absence of the Minister for Labour and National Service I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will furnish a return showing the items that are used in compiling the “ C “ series index together with the average relative costs of the items in September, 1949, and in September, 1951. “Will he inform the House whether increases in sales tax and excise duty which have been provided for in the budget will be taken into account in making the next quarterly adjustment to the basic wage or whether the workers will have to carry the burden of these increases without any adjustment being made until next September?
– The compilation of the material that has been asked for by the honorable member will take a little time, but I shall have the matter upt in hand.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs assure the House that adequate steps are being taken to protect the lives and property of Australians in Egypt?
– I have takensteps to have a message sent to the Australian Minister in Cairo asking him to direct the attention of the Egyptian Government to its obligations under international law to provide adequate protection for Australian lives and property in Cairo during the present emergency.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme the dental profession is not permitted to prescribe free drugs and that if a dentist considers that a patient is in need of a drug that is on the free list the patient must incur the expense of consulting a doctor or buy the drug? Has the Minister given any consideration to this matter? Will he agree to permit dentists to prescribe a certain number of free drugs?
– The act provides for the prescription of free drugs by doctors only, but the position of dentists will be considered in any revision that may be made of this legislation.
– Last week the Minister for Supply stated that the International Materials Conference in the United States of America had allocated nearly 9,000 tons of copper and about 13,000 tons of zinc to Australia for the fourth quarter of this year. I ask the Minister whether adequate machinery exists to ensure that Australia receives the materials that have been allocated to it at that conference.
– My general recollection of the position is that there is no machinery for the purpose of allocating supplies of these two materials when they reach Australia. They are imported by private enterprise in the ordinary way after application has been made to the I. epa.i t ment of Trade and Customs for an import licence which is usually granted. I shall have this matter investigated and give the honorable member a detailed reply to his question.
– In view of the shortage of copper in Australia, which is so serious that at least one die-casting firm in Western Australia is faced with the prospect of closure unless increased supplies become available, will the Minister for Supply advise the House when manufacturers will be able to obtain supplies of that metal from the recent allocation which has been obtained for this country? Can he also inform me of approximately how much of that copper will be available to manufacturers?
– I am not able to give the honorable gentleman the figures .offhand, but I shall obtain them and make them available to him. The Government has recently considered the subject of manufacturers’ working stocks of copper, and steps are being taken to improve that position.
– Is it a fact, Mr. Speaker, that the Joint House Committee has ‘proposed some very revolutionary changes in the amenities of the staffs attached to Parliament House? Is the Joint House Committee the final authority on this matter?
– All committees appointed by this House are subject to. the superior will of the House.
– I ask you, Mr:. Speaker, whether you will inform the House of the recent decision of the Joint House Committee about the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Cook?
– I shall have a statement prepared on the matter that the honorable , member has raised, and present it to the House to-morrow.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether any final decision has been made on the proposal to close down the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station at North Ryde ? Has the Minister investigated the value of the work performed by this station in the last few years? If the matter of closing down the station is still under consideration will the Minister seek the views of the building industry before making a final determination ?
– The decision originally made to close the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station was not implemented in view of representations made by the honorable member and various organizations within the building industry. The decision will not be given effect to before the end of this year. This will give the advisory council in connexion with the building station an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Building Industry Congress and various other building organizations and enable them to put forward proposals for reconstruction or reorganization. The chairman of the advisory council has recently made certain investigations in England, and he has only just returned to Australia. I think that the council has already met twice to consider this matter. The Commonwealth Experimental Building Station has done some good work in the past as a laboratory for the department and for various private firms. However, 1 consider that if such work is to continue those private firms should make ‘payments commensurate with the work done for them and not expect a government institution to do the work free of charge. When I inquired at the outset about the value of the building station, one of the answers that I got was that it had saved the country thousands, or tens of thousands, of pounds in vetting prefabricated and pre-cut houses which were being imported into Australia. Before I went overseas, on behalf of the Victorian Government, to investigate prefabricated and pre-cut buildings, I was told to inquire at the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station. I did that and was told at the station that I would be wasting my time and the taxpayers’ money if I proceeded any further with the scheme because the station had already investigated those matters and had considered that further investigation was absolutely useless. For that reason, I consider that there are certain things in the past work of the station which need close investigation. As I have said before, the matter is under examination by the advisory council, and I expect to receive its report during the course of the next four weeks.
– In a statement made to the House yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition said that he was in full accord with the action taken by Australia in Korea. In view of that statement, can the Prime Minister say what assistance, if any, has been offered or given by the Leader of the Opposition or by the party that he leads in this House-
– Order ! The honorable member’s question appears to be based on a matter which is already on the notice-paper.
– Will the Minister for .Social Services give consideration to the appointment of a committee of inquiry to investigate the operation of funeral benefit societies allegedly operating in the interests of age and invalid pensioners? If such a committee is appointed will he ensure that evidence will be sought from reputable morticians and representatives of pensioners’ associations? Have any complaints been made to his department about the alleged racketeering operations of a number of these so-called burial benefit societies ?
– The alleged racketeering in funeral benefits amongst pensioners has been brought to my notice. 1 think that the honorable member for Yarra mentioned it some time ago. The whole matter is one for the States and not for the Commonwealth, but the honorable member has my assurance that as far as my department is competent to do so it is inquiring into the matter at present.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that some employees of the Postal Department have recently been asked to postpone taking their long-service leave because of the shortage of staff? If this is a fact, does the Minister intend to employ additional staff in order to render postponement of such leave unnecessary?
– I have no knowledge, personally, of the matter the honorable member has raised. I shall have inquiries made into it.
– Will the Minister for Health amend the relevant regulations to extend benefits in respect of medicine and medical advice under the national health scheme to persons who would be entitled to receive the age, invalid, or widow’s pension but for the fact that they derive income from property of a value in excess of the permissible limit? I point out that the income of many persons to whom I refer is less than that of persons who are in receipt of such pensions.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is asking the Minister to do something which the House last night decided should be done in a different way.
– Will the Minister extend such benefits to persons I have mentioned who are worse off financially than pensioners? Will he give this matter urgent consideration?
– The Government has been able to apply the medical benefits scheme to pensioners by reason of the fact that pensioners are identifiable as recipients of social services benefits. It would not be possible to do as the honorable member has suggested unless a similar system of identification could be evolved in respect of persons who are within the category that he has indicated.
– In the course of future discussions relative to the Government’s proposal to increase the price of wheat for stock-feed, will the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give consideration to subsidizing the poultry industry as a whole and not merely the egg production section of the industry? Representations have been made to me on this, matter by poultry-raisers, who feel keenly the Government’s decision to limit the subsidy to egg production only.
– The aspects which have been mentioned by the honorable gentleman will be taken into account when the matter of the payment of a subsidy for the poultry industry is being considered.
– In the absence of the Treasurer, I ask the Prime Minister a question which arises from the statement, by the Treasurer that additional taxation to the amount of some millions of pounds will be levied on the people in order to remedy the inflationary situation. What will be the inflationary effect of the Government’s decision to pay a subsidy on wheat used by poultry-farmers at a cost of about £3,000,000 a year ?
– The question appears to relate to a matter of argument rather than a matter of fact.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, anil I point out, by way of explanation, that in view of the present slow removal of sugar from northern Queensland, it is urgent that a more speedy despatch of that commodity be arranged. In the wet belt from Ingham to Mossman, sugar deteriorates rapidly when it is stored, and that involves a loss which is both local and national. Mills have increased their crushing capacity in order to meet the overseas quota and the increased home consumption. Will the Minister take action to relieve that desperate position?
– I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s question to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. The slow turn-round of ships, of course, has an important bearing on th,matters to which he has referred.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain how the Sydney Sunday Sun, in its last issue, secured a prerelease of information in relation to the proposed Royal visit to Australia? Is it the policy of the Prime Minister’s Department to give pre-releases to only one section of the press ?
– I have no knowledge of a pre-release being given to one section of the press, and I shall be very surprised if that happened, but I shall have the matter investigated.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs received any further information about the recent seizure by rebels of three years’ stocks of wolfram, which is a key material for hardening steel, from the British-owned Mowchi mine, situated 209 miles north of Rangoon? That mine produces 10 per cent, of the world’s output of wolfram, which is in extremely short supply. Can the Minister say whether the seizure of those stocks may be regarded as another indication of a desire by some countries to allow British interests to be seriously embarrassed, as has been evidenced in the recent Persian and Egyptian situations? Is the action of the rebels at Mowchi considered to be inspired and supported from the same source?
– I have just heard of the matter which the honorable member for Corio has mentioned, and I shall. have inquiries made into the circumstances for the information of himself, the department concerned, and myself.
– The question that I direct to the Minister for Defence concerns hostels that have been erected for immigrants on the south coast of New South Wales at Berkley and other places. These hostels are ugly batches of galvanized iron huts. Is it a fact that they were erected without plans having been submitted first to the council of the City of Greater Wollongong for approval? Will the Minister have plans submitted to tha council before any more buildings of this kind are erected so that further blots on the landscape of a beautiful district may be avoided?
– I shall have inquiries made into the allegation that is embodied in the honorable member’s inquiry and will obtain a reply for him.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether any consideration has been given to an appeal by the Australian Council for International Social Service to the Government on behalf of Greek-born children and the next-of-kin of Greek citizens of Australia who are at present in Eastern European countries? Will the Government give support to the work of thi3 organization for the transport to Australia by air of these missing members of families ?
– There has been an exchange of correspondence between the body that the honorable member has mentioned and the’ Department of External Affairs in recent weeks. I have no precise information about the present situation, but I shall obtain it and will inform the honorable member accordingly.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Government intends to suspend any section of the operations of the Joint Coal Board or its subsidiary, the North South West Mining Company, and transfer those operations to one or more private companies?
– I shall refer the question to the Minister for National Development, within - whose jurisdiction this inquiry falls.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether there is an alarming shortage of many foodstuffs, such as butter, milk, meat, potatoes, rice, wheat, and canned fruit.
– Order ! Is the hon.orable gentleman asking for or supplying information ?
– I am asking for information. Are the shortages becoming more severe? Will the Minister take action under the powers that are conferred upon the Government by the Defence Preparations Act to negotiate agreements with local producers or State governments to alleviate the serious food shortages ?
– The Government has no present intention of acting along the lines that the honorable member has suggested. One way of stimulating production is to give an incentive to producers by paying them a fair price. That method has now been adopted in New South Wales and Queensland with the result that the output of butter and other dairy products in those States may improve.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister and his colleagues have repeatedly stated that the only effective answer to inflation is increased production, I ask the right honorable gentleman to explain why a comparison of statistics for the nine months period which ended on the 31st March last with those for the preceding period of nine months shows that output per capita has decreased as the following table indicates: - .
What has happened to the Government’s policy for increased production in relation to primary industries?
– It does not seem to me to be a very useful process to produce a carefully selected list of items and then to ask somebody to argue about them. I was under the impression that question time was designed to elicit information on matters of fact.
– Three or four months ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation how many students were engaged in part-time courses under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. I have not yet received a reply. Is the Minister in a position to give me an answer now?
– I shall be very pleased to bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation and obtain an answer for the honorable member.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in August of this year, there was a conference between representatives of the private banks and the Government, from which Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, was excluded. If so, what was the reason for the exclusion of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and does the Government propose to make any report to the Parliament on the matters that were discussed and the decisions that were made at the conference ?
– A question about this conference with the trading banks was placed on the notice-paper. It is no longer on the notice-paper, and I recollect having settled an answer to it. The answer that has been delivered deals with the matter that is inquired into by the honorable member. It is quite wrong to say that anybody was excluded. If I had a conference with Jones and Brown, it would be quite silly to say that I had excluded Robinson if I wanted to see only Jones and Brown.
– Does the Minister for the Army intend to visit Victoria in order to investigate the purchase of land valued at £91,000 for the purpose of extending the Watsonia army camp? In view of the fact that the land has been purchased for the Commonwealth already, would not such a mission be superfluous ?
Mr.FRANCIS. - I propose to hear representations concerning the area from one of my colleagues. Those representations will be received and given every consideration.
– by leave - I move -
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
The establishment of a foreign affairs committee on the lines of similar bodies that have been established in the parliaments of other democratic nations has been verymuch in the mind of the Government for almost two years. It is proposed that the committee shall consist of twelve members of this House and seven members of the Senate. That will be quite a large membership, but if there were fewer than nineteen members of the committee it would not be possible for all parties in the Parliament to be adequately and proportionately represented on it. The broad purpose of the establishment of the committee is to give members of all parties a greater opportunity to consider matters affecting foreign affairs.
The motion was drafted in its present form after consideration of the constitution of similar committees of other democratic parliaments. It has been drawn in as simple a form as possible, bearing in mind the necessity for secrecy in respect of many of the matters that the committee will discuss. The object of the Government is to establish a manageable and workable committee of adequate size, serviced by the Department of External Affairs. Provision is made for ensuring the secrecy of the committee’s deliberations and for machinery matters. The committee will be bound, except where otherwise stated in this motion, by the Standing Orders of the House that apply to committees of this kind.
I do not think that I need say rauch more, because the motion is selfexplanatory. I believe, in view of what has been said to me by some honorable gentlemen opposite, that not only members of the Government parties but also members of the Opposition desire to have more opportunities than they have now to discuss matters affecting international affairs, which are becoming, as we know to our distress, more important every day. The Government believes that there is a general desire by members of all parties in the Parliament that a body of this kind shall be established so that they will he able to increase their knowledge of international affairs and expand their sources of information in respect of matters that may in due course affect the security of Australia.
– This is a matter of first-rate importance. I ask the House to consider the proposal in detail. It could be that the establishment of a foreign affairs committee consisting of members of all parties in both Houses of the Parliament would assist this country at the present time. Therefore, the Opposition does not reject the proposal. Everything depends upon whether the committee will work satisfactorily, not only as an instrument of the Department of External Affairs, but also as an instrument for obtaining information upon important matters for members of this House and of the Senate.
Unfortunately, the motion has been drafted in the narrowest terms. The present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) first mentioned this matter to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and myself last evening. We did not object to the right honorable gentleman proposing the motion because we wished it to be debated thoroughly. The approach that the Minister made to the honorable member for Melbourne and myself last evening was not the first stage in the history of this matter. The Minister’s predecessor, Mr. Spender, who is now the Australian Ambassador in the United States, placed some preliminary proposals before representatives of the Opposition approximately twelve months ago. Mr. Spender’s proposals were far broader and. would have given the House greater authority than would these present proposals.
Mr.Wight.-the Opposition would not even give him leave to explain his proposal.
– That was different. We would not give him leave, without a motion of the House, to explain, because he went further than the original proposal.
– He did not.
– Yes, he did. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) will be able to check that fact.
The honorable member for Melbourne will also be aware that what I have *»aid is correct.
I shall move certain amendments to this motion in order to indicate what might be, and should be, done in connexion wilh such a proposal. The proposed committee could, in itself, be of considerable assistance to this House, to the Parliament and also to Australia at the present juncture. However, the committee will be useless unless it posesses some substantial degree of autonomy and is more than a mere instrument of the Department of External Affairs. It should be a committee which, could, in some respects at least, take a view quite independent of the view of the Government. Otherwise it would be perfectly useless. I do not suppose that honorable members have even got copies of the proposal before them. The Minister for External Affairs has merely submitted a motion in regard to it and honorable members have had no chance to consider , it with the detailed attention thai it deserves. However, I shall try to make the proposal clear and shall explain seriatim the amendments that I propose to move to the motion. The first proposition, which is contained in paragraph (1) of the motion, reads -
That a joint committee be appointed to consider such matters concerning foreign affairs as are referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
I intend to move that the following words be added to paragraph (1) : - or by either House of the Parliament or as are decided upon by a majority of the committee.
The effect of the amendment would be to give the committee some degree of autonomy in determining what it shall examine. Why should the Minister for External Affairs be the sole judge of whether a subject-matter shall be referred to such a committee, when there may be a matter of extreme importance which should be considered by it? It is quite reasonable, therefore, that the proposed committee should be .established with a broad charter, instead of a narrow charter which would make it completely dependent upon the absolute discretion of the Minister for External Affairs of the. day, who may, under the present proposals, refer no subject-matter at all to it if he so chooses. If this is to be a genuine working committee of both Houses it should have some degree of autonomy.
The Minister for External Affairs referred to other nations which bad parliamentary committees on foreign affairs. The United States has such parliamentary committees, the powers of which are very considerable. ‘ They art bound in no respect, so far as their functions are concerned, by the decision of the Secretary of State for the time being. Why should the functions of such a committee of this Parliament be so bound? Why should not a committee which is representative of both Houses and of all parties - if that is the realobjective of the proposal - have authority to consider any subject which it thinks, by a majority vote of its members, it should consider?
The second proposition, contained in paragraph (2) of the motion, reads -
That twelve members of the House of Repre sentatives be appointed to serve on such committee.
I intend to move that that paragraph be amended by the addition of the following words : - six to be Government supporters and six Opposition supporters.
Government supporters interjecting,
– What is the objection to that proposal? After all, this is supposed to be a joint committee. Under the present terms of the proposal the committee will have no authority to decide anything. The Labour party represents at present a little more than half of the electorate and should be represented on the committee accordingly. My second proposed amendment is a reasonable proposition to put to the House. It is of no value for the Government to insist on having a majority on a non-party committee. I presume that the committee is intended to represent the views of persons other than Government supporters. Therefore we suggest that equality of representation should be established.
My next amendment will be in relation to sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph (4) of the motion, which reads -
The committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret.
I intend to move for the addition to that sub-paragraph of the following words : - unless the committee or sub-committee otherwise orders.
In other words, we wish to leave it to the responsibility of the committee, which is to be a committee representative of the House, to determine whether that requirement is essential. The committee will, prima facie, bc entitled to secrecy, but there may be matters in which it is important that its proceedings shall not be held in camera. In the United States of America such proceedings are 110 t held in camera. I think that the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of the United States of America hardly ever sits in camera.
My next amendment will deal with subparagraph (e) of paragraph (4), which reads - the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister, it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported.
I intend to move that that sub-paragraph be amended by the addition of the following words: - and either House of Parliament may decide that the report be published.
The amendment will give the House the authority in this instance and take away from the Department of External Affairs the absolute veto authority to stop publication of a report which may be of great significance and importance in the public interest.
Paragraph (/) of the motion reads - the committee shall have no power to send for persons, papers or records without tins concurrence of the Minister for External Affairs and all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee;
In other words the very information which the committee will need if it is to discuss any matter and consider it properly may be shut off from it altogether, purely at the discretion of the Minister. That is wrong in principle. We also consider that there is sufficient safeguard in the other provisions for confidential matter to be kept confidential. T. shall therefore move, that that sub paragraph be omitted and the following sub-paragraph inserted in lieu thereof: - (/) the committee shall have power to send for persons, papers, or records.
In other words, if there is a matter of importance which may affect any aspect of foreign relations the responsibility is to be put fairly and squarely upon the committee, which will be itself responsible to the House. The House can alter any decision of the committee if it so chooses, because it will be the master of the committee. The real question behind this matter is whether this House and the Senate’ should not, acting jointly, be in a position in which they can broadly dictate the course of procedure in the committee. Those are positive proposals for the improvement of the motion. I shall move them all and ask the House to debate them. It is perfectly useless to have a joint committee of this kind unless it is to have sufficient autonomy to examine such matters as it chooses. I do not suggest that even with such powers it will automatically be certain of success, but at any rate my proposals would give the committee a reasonable chance of success. I have suggested an even division of representation between the Government and the Opposition, but I am quite aware that, as the number of members proposed has been set at nineteen, the Government would probably insist oh having a majority on the committee. If so, there is less reason on the part of any Government supporter to object to the proposals which I have made. Broadly, they will take away from the department the veto rights which this motion purports to give it, and give to the committee, as representative of the House, the necessary authority to carry out its functions. Those are the amendments which I ask the House to consider in detail.
– Order ! I have listened very carefully to the right honorable gentleman’s amendments which are five in number. In accordance with normal procedure each of them will have to be put to the House separately. In the circumstances, 1 suggest to the House that the debate should be adjourned until the amendments can be printed in such a way as to give honorable members a proper opportunity to examine them.
– That is a. valuable suggestion. Honorable members would thereby be able to examine the significance of each proposal.
– I should like to see the amendments in print.
– The Government will agree to the course that has been suggested. In the circumstances I am agreeable to the adjournment of the debate until to-morrow.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harbison) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Debate resumed from the 16th October (vide page652), on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -This measure concerns a veryimportant primary industry and is theoutcome of the fact that in 1947-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will resume hisseat until the House comes to order. Honorable members will please be seated This is not the Book of Exodus.
– This bill concerns the very importantegg-producing and poultry industry which provides for the Australian people the whole of their requirements of those commodities. One-third of the total production of the industry is exported to other countries, in particular to the United Kingdom. So this industry is important, not only to the people who are engaged in it, but also to the economics of Australia and the United Kingdom. The bill concerns an industry which increased its production from an annual output of88,000,000 dozen eggs in respect of the year1943-44, to 119,000,000 dozen in 1947-48. I understand that in recentyears there has been some diminution in production. The industry deserves well of the Government and the people of this country. During the war the Australian Government appointed a Controller of Egg Supplies who supervised and controlled the export of eggs. Within each State there already existed a State Egg Board by virtue of the fact that members of the industry had, over the years, worked for the establishment of an authority to be set up by statute law to control local consumption in an endeavour to ensure that some economic justice was done to egg producers. When the war broke out the Controller of Egg Supplies assumed overall control and used the egg boards in each of the States as his agent. He interfered very little with them but exercised controlover exports. With the diminution of wartime powers and the approval of egg producers, the Australian Government decided to discontinue the war-time control and to set up an authority, in accordance with a request by members of the egg industry, to control and direct the export of surplus egg production.
In 1947 I introduced into this Parliament the Egg Export Control Bill. Unfortunately the period of time that had been set down for the discontinuance of controls under the National Security Regulations rendered it impossible for the Government to provide for the producers to elect their own representatives to the board. As an emergency provision, it was provided that the Minister might, on the advice of representative primary producers’ organizations, nominate representatives on the Australian Egg Board to represent egg producers. It was also provided that, as soon as practicable, a poll should be conducted over the whole of Australia so that the producers themselves could elect their representatives to the board to supersede the representatives who had been appointed as an emergency measure. That was a good and worthy provision. However, no roll of egg producers existed. The various State boards had laid down varying numbers of fowls as qualifying numbers for the poultry-farmers’ franchise. In Victoria any person who owned 40 or more adult female fowls was entitled to vote. In another State the qualifying number was 150 female fowls. In one State I understand that the number was as high as 500. Because of the difference in the qualifying numbers, the Government has apparently found it impossible to lay down a satisfactory rule to govern the election of producer representatives to the Australian Egg Board. According to the Minister who introduced this measure, the Government has sought information from producers’ organizations on the number of fowls that a producer should have before he became entitled to vote. One hundred, 150, 250 and 500 were all suggested as qualifying numbers. The consensus of opinion seemed to be about 500. Four States indicated that that was their opinion. The Minister therefore has set out in this bill to amend the principal act so that those who possess 500 female fowls shall be entitled to vote in the election of producers’ representatives.
The Opposition supports the general principle of the bill but believes that the qualifying number of fowls is too high. The Opposition- is of opinion that if the number is 500, there will be a tendency to overlook the importance of the smaller producers of eggs. I personally think that a reasonable qualifying number would be about 150. It certainly should not be more than 200. It might be -said by the Government that those who have less than 100 female fowls are only “ backyarders “, but after all those who run 100 fowls produce obviously more eggs than they can consume themselves. If there are many such producers then their importance to the industry should be recognized. During the war it -was recognized that smaller producers were very important, and the Government appealed to them to remain in production and even to increase production in order to assist the economies of both Australia and Great Britain. It is important that the smaller producers in this great industry should be given a say in the election of the members of the Australian Egg Board. The decisions of this board in respect of overseas prices will have an important effect not only on those who export eggs but also on those who sell them in the local market. Therefore, I suggest that the Minister should favorably consider the suggestion of the Opposition, and make the qualifying number not more than 200 adult female fowls. The Minister mentioned in his second-reading speech that this amendment of the principal act is framed in such a fashion as to make it clear that there will not be more than one vote attached to each poultry farm. That principle is satisfactory to the Opposition. It has occurred in the past that a large egg-producing concern has exercised more than one vote because of some family arrangement in respect of its holdings. That is undesirable. The Government has apparently adopted the Danish practice in which the importance of the individual small producing unit is recognized. The franchise should be entirely democratic and the Opposition believes that it will be so under this system of one farm, one vote. The same practice has, of course, been adopted in respect of wool and wheatballots. No consideration of acreage or size of flock has entered into the matter.
The egg-producing industry received substantial assistance from war-time governments, including concessional allowances in respect of wheat and freight. There has been a decrease in the production of eggs since the peak period of 1947-48, and that is largely due to the fact that there is concern in the industry about the ever upward movement of the price of poultry foods. Under the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1948, the price of wheat has risen from a commencing figure of 6s. 3d. a bushel to 7s. lid. a bushel. As a result of another review which is due in December of this year, the home-consumption price may become 9s. 6d. a bushel. In those circumstances of great uncertainty, the poultry industry is also uncertain about its future food coats. Had the Government taken some action in regard to local inflationary prices the poultry industry would have been assured of a more stable level of prices. There is a move afoot on the part of the Government to persuade the parties to the wheat stabilization plan to raise, under subsidy, the price of wheat for stock food for home-consump- tion purposes. I do not think that the States will be persuaded to accept a Commonwealth obligation. However, an attempt is apparently being made by the Government to subsidize food for the poultry industry. Unless something of that sort is done and the poultry industry is given the stability that it enjoyed during war-time by virtue of government subsidies on freight and wheat, there will be a further diminution in the production of eggs for both the home and export markets.
It is desirable that egg production should be stimulated. The Opposition supports the principles of the bill but strongly suggests that the .Minister should accede to its request that the number of adult female fowls that a farmer must have in order to qualify for a vote for the election of the Australian Egg Board should not exceed 200.
– The House must agree to this amendment, which clears up a difficulty under the act which was passed at the instance of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) when he was a member of the Chifley Government. The amendment will make it possible for the election of representatives to the Australian Egg Board to be carried out within the States. There shall be a producer representative from each State on the board, and the other members are to be appointed by the Australian Government. Thus, the measure merely pays lip service to the principle of producer control of commodity boards. Obviously, such control cannot be established until the producers’ representatives elect all the members of such boards. Egg producers to-day are confronted with great difficulties and they are entitled to have a fully effective voice in the control of the exportation of eggs. They are finding it difficult to obtain supplies of pollard, bran, wheat and meat meals, as well as materials for the erection of poultry pens. Numbers of egg producers are in employment with private enterprise, or with government utilities such as the railways until they will be able to obtain the requisite materials to enable them to engage in egg production on a commercial basis. I know of one producer who is employed at the Port Kembla steel-works. Although he owns’ 1,600 birds he cannot ‘ obtain sufficient wire netting or corrugated iron to contain and house them. That man is waiting to engage in the industry on a commercial basis.
I repeat that, at present, only lipservice is being paid to the principle of producer control of the egg industry. Although this measure will facilitate the election of producers’ representatives to the Australian Egg Board, the fact remains that if the chairman dissents from the majority decision of members of the board and he is upheld by theMinister, the decision of the majority of the board shall have no effect. Thus, the ‘policy of the Labour Government of socializing the means of production and marketing of primary products, including eggs, will not be altered. I notice that the honorable member for Lalor is smiling. Apparently, he is satisfied that when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture he effectively tied up commodity boards in accordance -with Labour’s policy in thai respect.
– Why does not the honorable member persuade the Government, which he supports, to untie the knots?
– I believe that even members of the Labour party now wish, for obvious reasons, to reverse their policy of socialization. The board will consist of ten members, of whom six will be producers’ representatives on the basis of one representative for each State. Whilst they will be able to express the viewpoint of the industry they will, in fact, be merely advisors because, for the reason that I have already mentioned, they will be powerless to enforce a majority decision of the board unless the Minister, through the chairman, acquiesces in that decision. I support the measure because it will facilitate the election of producers’ representatives to the board. At the same time, I regret that the Government is not taking this opportunity to amend sub-section (8.) of section 9 of the principal act in order to give producers real control of their industry.
– The Opposition does not, in principle, object to the measure
The honorable memberforLalor (Mr. Pollard) has asked that the qualification to vote at the election of producers’ representatives to the board should be ownership of fewer than 500 adult female domestic fowls. That matter can best be dealt with at the committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to. [Quorum formed.]
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section three of the Egg Export Control Act 1947-1948 is amended by omitting the definition of “ producer “ andinserting in its stead thefollowing definition: - “ ‘ producer ‘ means a company, association, society, partnership or person who or which owns five hundred or more adult female domestic fowls; “.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government, introduced the original bill, suggested in the course of his second-reading speech that the qualification to vote at the election of producers’ representatives on the Australian Egg Board should be ownership of 200 instead of 500 adult female domestic fowls. The basis of 500 hens was evolved as the result of prolonged discussions with representatives of all State Departments of Agriculture, State Egg Marketing Boards and the Egg Producers Council, who were invited to submit their views on a suitable uniform definition of “ producer “. Recommendations from State Departments of Agriculture ranged from persons owning 150 to 400 laying hens; four State egg boards recommended 500, one 250 and one 150 as the basis; whilst the Egg Producers Council’s original recommendation, on a majority decision, was that “ producer “ should mean a person owning 500 or more laying fowls. The Egg Producers Council is not a statutory body but is representative of all State egg boards. Finally, it unanimously recommended that “ producer “ should mean a person owning not less than 500 adult female domestic fowls. In coming to that decision the council was influenced by the fact that the board was concerned entirely with exports and hadnothing to do with the internal marketing of eggs. It considered that nearly all the men who were engaged in the export trade had at least 500 hens, and, therefore, it made that recommendation. The Government has practically committed itself to the Egg Producers Council, and will have to leave the matter to this committee for decision.
.- I do not accept the explanation which has been given by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who is in charge of the bill, as a valid reason why the Government should not adopt my suggestion that the owner of 200 adult female domestic fowls should be entitled to vote in the election of the representatives of producers on the Australian Egg Board. The Minister informed us that the Egg Producers Council had expressed the view that persons who owned fewer than 500 hens would not be engaged in the export business, but such a contention will not bear examination. The owner of 40 or more hens in Victoria must register with the egg marketing board of that State, and perhaps the owner of 200 hens or even 500 hens in South Australia is required to register with the egg marketing board of that State. The registered producer forwards his eggs to the egg board in the State in which he lives. Those eggs which qualify by virtue of their grading by the State egg board are selected from that particular consignment for export. Some of the eggs which are graded for export may have been forwarded from a farm of 2,000 fowls, and others from a farm of only 100 fowls.
The statement that the small egg producers are not interested in a direct sense in the representatives on the Australian Egg Board does not appear to me to be correct. Even if the statement were right, another factor must be taken into account. A producer may send eggs to the egg marketing board in his State, and not one of them may be exported, yet his whole economic life is determined largely by the policy of the Australian Egg Board, which exports the surplus egg production of Australia. In certain circumstances, the export control policyhas a decisive impact upon local sales policy. The prices policy of the egg marketing boards of the several States is determined by a combination of export prices and local sales, and every producer who contributes to the Australian egg economy isinterested in the determinations of the Australian Egg Board. I think that the Minister will admit that my submission is sound, and, in the circumstances, a producer to qualify as a voter should not be required to own more than 200 adult female domestic fowls. Every person who owns ten or more hens could be considered a commercial egg producer. I realize that, for the purposes of this legislation, the number of hens should not be too low, but the Government should not go to the other extreme by making it so high aa 500 birds. The minimum should be 200 fowls. The average hen in Victoria lays approximately twelve dozen eggs a. year, and, therefore, ten fowls would provide a household with more than its requirement*. In those circumstances, the owner of 200 or more hens should have a voice in the election of the men who determine largely the economic future of the poultry industry, such as its export structure, its prices structure, and its impact on our local economy. I strongly urge the Minister to accept my suggestion, and I move -
That, in the definition of “ producer “, thu word “ five “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “two”.
.- I consider that the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is fair and reasonable, because, when we consider the poultry industry, we must take modern conditions into account. In the past, 500 birds were considered a sufficient number to enable the owner to come within the definition of producer, and to entitle him to a voice in the control of the poultry industry and the export trade, but to-day costs generally are higher, wheat is dearer and sometimes difficult to obtain, and a man must be regarded as being seriously engaged in the poultry industry if he is prepared to keep 200 fowls permanently in fair weather and foul, if the committee will excuse my pun. He cannot be classed as a dilettante, or a backyarder, because he is seriously engaged in the calling of poultryfarming. I realize that the poultry industry provokes some amusement at times in this chamber, but I remind honorable gentlemen that it is one of our most important primary industries. Poultry-farming is the fifth greatest industry in the United States of America. Who knows how it may develop in Australia, as small holders become increasingly engrossed in the production of eggs?
The nub of the situation is that the qualification of 500 hens was originally selected in order to exclude the backyard poultry-farmer, who was not, in the view of the Egg Producers’ Council, or even of the Minister of the day, a primary producer who devoted all .his time to earning a living from the poultry industry. To-day, however, the cost of keeping 200 fowls is considerable. Incidentally, they are quaintly called in the bill adult female domestic fowls, instead of hens. 3 believe that 200 birds are a considerable adjunct to the operations of a primary producer. Another important consideration is that a man who retires from industry and is looking for his stake in the country, almost invariable submits himself to the hazards of poultry-farming. Why should he not be classed as a producer? Why should he not be allowed to feel that he is a part of an important industry, and to have a voice in its control? In those circumstances, I consider that the proposal to define a producer as a person who owns 200 or more hens is sensible at the present time.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has made a strong submission in support of the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I mentioned a few minutes ago a young man who is employed on the wages staff of the Railways Department and has 1,600 birds. He knows that he requires a flock of that size at the outset if he is to make his living mainly out of poultry-farming. Any person wollas fewer than 500 hens will not be able to make his living principally out of that industry. In other words, the poultry will be a sideline for him. If the amendment were accepted, many persons would be defined as producers who were not solely interested in egg production. The object of fixing a minimum of 500 hens is to restrict the definition of producer to poultry-farmers who are principally interested in egg production and they are the people who should be entitled to vote for the election of representatives on the Australian Egg Board.
– Why should voters be principally interested in egg production?
– A person who has any sense realizes that a poultry-farmer who has fewer than 500 hens does not get his living principally from egg production. Poultry-farming is a sideline for him. Many farmers, with very little assistance, run 12,000 birds. A poultry- farm of normal size has between 1,000 and 2,000 birds, but it is heavy work for one man to look after them.
– Did the honorable member say that one man can look after 10,000 birds?
– One man, with very little assistance, can look after 10,000 birds.
– His farm must be completely mechanized.
– A small poultryfarmer has between 1,000 and 2,000 birds. The Opposition is splitting straws when it urges that the definition of a producer should be a person who owns 200 or more adult female domestic fowls. 1 consider that 500 birds is low enough, and even that number is not sufficient to enable the owner to make his living mainly out of egg production.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has proposed a reasonable and sensible amendment, and I suggest that the Minister (Sir Earle Page) undertake at least to consider it. At the present time, it has not received reasonable consideration.
– Yes, it has.
– Well, the fact has not been indicated to the committee.
– I made it clear when I spoke.
– I was in the chamber when the right honorable gentleman spoke and, with all respect to him, I say that I was not very much enlightened. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has told us that it is of no use for a poultry-farmer to start with fewer than 1,600 birds. If that be so, why is the figure of 500 specified in the clause ?
– Bate. - I did not say that it was of no use to start with fewer than 1,600 birds.
– The honorable member said that a man who was beginning as a poultry-farmer had realized that it would not be of much use to start with fewer than 1,600 birds and therefore had established his farm with that number. My generalization was correct. But the Government has not accepted the honorable member’s view because it has specified a minimum number of 500. The size of poultry farms varies between States and parts of States and one cannot say .dogmatically what number of laying birds would constitute a normal poultry farm. There appears to be every reason why farmers with 200 laying birds should be considered. The Government would encourage production if it allowed such men to have a voice in the control of the industry. There would be some psychological virtue in recognizing as producers men with 200 laying birds and registering them as such. Furthermore, men who are trying to establish themselves in the industry might not be able to purchase large numbers of birds and might decide to start with a small flock. They should be encouraged in every possible way because there is a great demand for their product not only in Australia but also in Great Britain and other countries. The Government has firmly decided, apparently, that the minimum number shall be 500. It seems that this number does not satisfy the honorable member for Marcarthur and other honorable gentlemen. However, it is a good round figure and the Government will not vary it. I cannot understand why it will not accept 200 as a reasonable figure. Men who have 200 laying hens may be engaged in poultry farming merely as a sideline, but the fact is that they are making a very considerable contribution to the output of the industry.
– What will those small men use for poultry feed?
– I do not know. Judging by the way the Government is behaving, they may be forced to raise the feed themselves. However, this Government will not remain in office for ever and therein lies our hope for a solution of our problems. The amendment that the honorable member for Lalor has proposed is reasonable. No harm would be done, and a great deal of good might result, if it were accepted. Therefore, I urge the Minister not to turn a deaf ear to our representations.
.- I am. astonished that members of the Opposition should advocate that persons who are engaged in an occupation as a sideline should have the right to influence the conduct of an organization which ha3 been designed to provide for the welfare of those who are solely dependent upon that occupation for their livelihood. What would happen if the principle that they have espoused in this instance were applied generally? Let us consider the probable effect of allowing everybody who engaged in building activity of any kind to join the Building Workers Industrial Union.
– That is completely stupid.
– It is no more stupid than is the suggestion that men who engage in the poultry industry as a sideline should be entitled to share equally with men who are solely engaged in the industry in the management of its affairs. The Opposition’s argument about encouraging production in the poultry industry would apply with equal strength to the building industry. Honorable members opposite should be willing to apply to all aspects of industrial life in Australia the principle that they now advocate. I cannot believe that they are sincere. They have always maintained previously that only those persons who are exclusively engaged in any particular occupation have any right to determine the conditions that shall apply to that occupation. They have stood upon that principle and I will continue to stand upon it. Nobody could derive his main source of income from a flock of fewer than 500 laying birds. I ask the Government to stand by the figure that is specified in the clause.
.- I support the amendment. Notwithstanding the derisive smile of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) which greeted me when I rose to speak, I consider that, as the representative of a number of poultry producers, I am entitled to place my views on this matter before the committee. The Government’s proposal on this issue is on a par with many other proposals that it has made during the last eighteen months. Therefore, it is essential that the Opposition register disapproval and do its utmost to ensure that fair treatment shall be accorded to everybody. The Government wishes to look after the interests of the big egg producers at the expense of the small farmers. It is time that this Parliament insisted upon fair treatment of all primary producers. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), by adopting his usual attitude, has demonstrated that he is not interested in the welfare of the small man. I am interested in all egg producers and also in the price of eggs because they provide a staple item of my diet. I remind the committee that any individual in Victoria who owns more than 40 laying fowls must be registered with the State Egg Board and must dispose of his eggs through the board. If men have to comply with those conditions, they should be entitled to reasonable treatment from’ this Parliament. The amendment contemplates that farmers who own 200 laying birds or more shall be registered. That is reasonable and the Government would accept the proposal if it wished to be fair. It should take a much broader national outlook than it has been accustomed to take, and I suggest that the Minister for Health, for once in his life, should give a fair deal to the small man. The egg producers of Australia would be much happier than they are if the Government would accept the amendment.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out (Mr. POLLARD’S amendment) stand part of the question.
The committee divided. (The Temporarychairman - Mr. E. S. Ryan.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 10th October (vide page 513), on motion by Sir Arthurfadden -
That the first item in the Estimates, under DivisionNo. 1 - The Senate - namely, Salaries and allowances, £16,400 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
– In supporting the budget I shall endeavour to place the general budgetary position in its proper perspective. It is not easy to get a clear view of the position from the budget papers. That is not the fault of the Treasurer (Sir ArthurFadden). It is due to the way in which the general budgetary position has been presented in the budget papers in the past. Before the war, we had a Commonwealth budget of approximately £100,000,000. Of that sum, approximately £86,000,000 was for current expenditure, and we carried approximately £14,000,000 to sinking fund, reserves and capital works. Last year, we had a budget of approximately £784,000,000, of which £601,000,000 was for current expenditure. We carried approximately £183,000,000 to sinking fund reserves and capital works. This year, we have a budget of £1,041,000,000. Of that sum, £699,000,000 is for current expenditure, and we shall carry approximately £342,000,000 to sinking fund, reserve and capital works.
The crux of the matter is whether that policy is, in all the circumstances, justifiable. I believe that it is, first, because the revenue that we shall receive this year will be a peak revenue, upon the repetition of which we cannot rely, and, secondly, because capital surpluses are needed to keep the loan market going and to maintain the continuity of the States’ works programmes. This year, the Commonwealth will finance those programmes to the amount of approximately £225,000,000. I do not believe that the loan market could carry anything like that sum, for reasons that I shall give in a moment. It is essential that the continuity of the States’ works programmes be preserved, but it is unfortunate that,. under the present constitution of the Loan Council, the House of Representatives is not supplied with detailed schedules of works that the States propose to undertake. In point of fact, we are being asked to vote £225,000,000 to the States on the “ blind “. That is the fault not of this Government but of the constitution of the Loan Council, which many honorable members consider to be unsatisfactory.
The loan market this year is likely to be significantly worse than it was last year. The Australian loan market is very sensitive to changes in our international balance of payments. Last year, a favorable balance of payments gave buoyancy to the market. This year, our balance of payments is likely to be adverse. Therefore, the same sum may not be available from the market as was available la3t year. Let us consider what happened last year. By way of public issues, we raised £127,000,000 of new money. Against that sum, £45,000,000 came from the operations of the sinking fund, which supported the market to that amount, including certain undisclosed purchases overseas. Approximately £69,000,000 extra was .bought by the central bank, i.e. the Commonwealth Bank and by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. It is obvious that, apart from the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the sinking fund, even last year, when conditions were more buoyant than we can expect them to be this year, the net yield from the loan market was very small. Perhaps it was of the order of only £20,000,000 outside the sources to which I have referred. I remind the committee that last year the loan market was indirectly strengthened because the trust funds held by the Commonwealth increased by £85,000,000. Those trust funds will increase again this year, but by no means to the same amount as they did last year. An increase of trust funds does not go directly into the loan market, but it does, in indirect ways that I have not time to traverse, strengthen the market considerably.
Because of those- facts, I fear it is certain that the major part of the States’ loan programmes will have to be financed by the Commonwealth. A £40,000,000
Commonwealth loan that was launched this year was under-subscribed by £S,000,000. I remind the committee that a £27,000,000 loan is due for conversion in November, 1951, and that a £44,000,000 loan is due for conversion in April, 1952. Those sobering facts fully justify the Government’s policy in this budget in regard to capital works. As to future loan policy, probably the trend of higher interest rates is inescapable. That is due partly to our unfavorable balance of international payments and partly to the necessity to counter the inflationary process internally by increasing the propensity to save.
It is obvious that, if interest rates rise, the capital value of existing securities will decrease. That will be unfair to bondholders and will cause uneasiness in the market. Therefore, the Treasurer’s chance of raising future loans will be reduced. It is especially unfortunate that the 3£ per cent, conversion loan was launched at a time when the rate of interest upon government securities was about to rise, because, as a consequence of the rise, the market value of those bonds depreciated.; unfortunately, because that growing uneasiness made it more difficult for the Government to finance its future programme. These factors still operate. What are we to do about them? Several remedies are available to us. One remedy that we should consider was mentioned by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. .Fairhall) earlier in the debate. Is it desirable to raise the face yield of existing securities in such a way as to hold steady, or virtually to make steady in the market, the capital value of those securities a.nd thus restore confidence to the market? People who have been reared on the London tradition would regard such a proposal as heresy, but I remind the committee that conditions applicable to the Australian money market are, in many important respects different from conditions applicable to the London money market. One of the reasons why we have mishandled matters here in the past has been our adherence to London practices which doubtless were good for conditions in London, but were not necessarily suitable for different Australian conditions. After all, during the depression we carried out an arbitrary reduction of the yield of bonds and said in justification of it that the value of money had risen. Now that the value of money has fallen, might not a corresponding process be undertaken in reverse, in the interests of equity? The small bondholder should receive our consideration, bo also should the insurance companies, which are only an aggregation of small bondholders. If such a move were undertaken it might be correlated with an increase of the charge for the transfer of inscribed stock and its benefits should be made available only to the holders of such stock rather than to the holders of bearer bonds. Thus people who use bonds as a means of holding money at call would not be able to reap the benefit of a rise of the interest rate. Alternatively we might consider the adoption of some such scheme ‘as was adopted in England during World War I., when buyers of bonds were given, at the time of their purchase, the option to convert into any later issue which came on the market within a specified period. If we followed that system we might overcome the present reluctance of people to invest in bonds. Investors explain that reluctance by asking, with some reason, why they should buy bonds now when the interest rate is rising. When we are faced with that psychology, which is justified to some degree, and with the difficulties of our increasing loan programme and cost rises, some device of the kind that I have mentioned should be sought. If we assure investors who buy bonds at present interest rates that they will have the option to convert them to any later higher rate, the reluctance to buy bonds may be reduced. I make that as a concrete suggestion for lessening the very grave difficulties of the bond market.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) mentioned the possibility of our seeking a foreign loan. I believe that we should explore that possibility, although not for the reasons that the honorable member gave. Unless such a proposal were correlated with increased imports it would release local purchasing power and would be inflationary. 1 believe that the balance of payments is such that we need some kind of accretion to our foreign balances.
I consider that the budget is a courageous document which merits, and will receive, the support of this Parliament. Nevertheless, there are certain difficulties which lie ahead of us in the future, and which we may as well face now. The first of them is related to our balance of payments. Last year our exports were valued at about £092,000,000. Wool and sheep skins accounted for £658,000,000; wheat and flour for £107,000,000; other foodstuffs for £124,000,000; and miscellaneous items for £103,000,000. For this current year, even supposing that wool maintains the level reached at last year’s Sales, the total value of our exports will be smaller because of the smaller wheat harvest and the smaller exports of foodstuffs. I expect that we shall be down by about £50,000,000 on those items. The wool cheque is unlikely - and I use the word advisedly, because there is no certainty about the market - to be less than £200,000,000 below last year’s record cheque. It would be foolish, therefore, to rely on our exports in the current year being worth more than £750,000,000.
The value of our imports last year amounted to £437,000,000 but it was rising rapidly towards the end of the year and has risen rapidly since. Our imports for July were worth approximately £80,000,000; for August, approximately £80,000,000; and for September approximately £90,000,000. Preliminary indications are that the figures for October and November will be higher still. It would be foolish to rely on our imports being worth less than £1,000,000,000 this year, unless there is some drastic impediment to trade. That means that the gap between our visible exports and imports this year will be about £250.000,000. In addition to that, we shall have to face a deficiency on our invisible transactions, which mainly consist of the freight that we pay on imports, of about £200,000,000 compared with last year’s unfavorable balance of £150,000,000. It is therefore clear that on our current account, disregarding capital items, Australia will be down this year by more than £400,000,000 and perhaps by as much as £450,000,000. That is a big amount.
Last year and for some years preceding it, we had an inflow of capital. In the last two years it amounted to about £250,000,000 and about £125,000,000 respectively. But that inflow may be reversed. We cannot tell, because those tides are very chancy and are unpredictable, particularly in such a position as the present when the sterling area as a whole is itself facing difficulties, quite apart from the difficulties we face in our relationship with the rest of the sterling area. We should not disregard these matters when we are considering the budget.
Those are, of course, not our only troubles. The heavy expenditure on State works which has been considered necessary is a reflection of inadequate maintenance in the war and post-war years. Heavy capital erosion is in progress, because depreciation allowances being set aside by industry are not sufficient to replace plant the cost of which has now risen. We have had the benefit of a run of good seasons which might not continue. The events of the last 24 hours must surely have convinced the Parliament, if any fresh conviction were needed, that we may need to have considerable elasticity in our allocations for defence expenditure. This year’s defence expenditure is estimated at about £180,000,000, of which about £60,000,000 will be capital expenditure. We may have to envisage, in the near future, in order to ensure the safety of our people, a considerable diversion of resources to military purposes.
The budget represents, an attempt to deal with the difficulties that lie ahead of us. We may have to face even more drastic measures in order to meet the factors that I have mentioned. It is a pity we have thought only in terms of avoiding the increase of central bank credit, desirable though that is, and have thought too little of other positive measures which should have been envisaged. I shall submit six suggestions to the committee. The first concerns the loan position, which I have already discussed. The second refers to the means test and the pensions position, on which I made my views clear some days ago mid which there is no need for me to repeat. The third refers to taxation. I hope that I shall have an opportunity to speak in more detail on that matter when the appropriate measures come before us. We should take the earliest opportunity to regrade the tax scales with particular reference to allowing larger deductions to family men. It is probably true that in this country unmarried people without family responsibilities have a lighter tax load to bear than has anybody in any country in corresponding circumstances. But it is also true that the man with family responsibilities is in a very hard and heavy way. We must help him. I believe also ti. at some part of the tax on incomes should be regarded as a loan. The honorable member for Paterson has made the same suggestion. I should also like the first £500 or £600 of income from property to be treated in the same way as income from personal exertion is treated, in order to cover the case of a man who has lost money because of the rising cost of living.
The fourth point is that the economy is running at a low pressure because of certain substantial bottlenecks, mainly in relation to coal production. I believe that we should be paying more attention to concrete measures along those lines rather than relying entirely on overall financial controls.
I am pleased that the budget provides for an increase of the allocation for the Bureaux of Mineral Resources from £400,000 to about £600,000. The allocation of £2,900,000 for the Joint Coal Board is about the same as it was last year. I know that it will be supplemented by private capital expansion, but I do not think that we are doing sufficient in the way of bringing out heavy machinery for open cuts and coal-washing plants which should be established near our mines. Where private resources can be relied upon, so much the better, but more money should have been provided in the budget for those specific purposes that are intimately related to the whole tempo of the national economy.
Fifthly, in reducing the special depreciation allowance, a measure which I think was wise, the Government should have made an exception of those industries the expansion of which is vital for the expansion of the .country’s economy.
I consider, lastly, that where certain productive facilities are needed for defence they should not be thrown idle by the Government’s taxation policy before the Government is ready to absorb their capacity in the defence programme. This is a difficult matter of detailed administration, but the Government should be very careful not to destroy factory organizations which it may need to use in connexion with its defence programme before it is in a position to place orders with them for that defence programme.
Looking forward, I do not find any reason for gloom. I find a lot of reasons for hope. I have mentioned a number of factors which seem to be unfavorable, but they are temporary. The long-term prospect is by no means unfavorable with the exception of the possibility of some international disaster. If that can be avoided and some kind of world order can be achieved, as I believe it must be, the defence load will be removed and our budgets will become relatively easy to bear in comparison with the present budget. However, the country is now passing through not only small internal troubles, but also large external troubles and I believe that this budget will, to some extent, put the country in a position to meet that crisis if it is to come, although we all hope that it will not come.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It is a treat to listen to any occupant of a back Government bench devoting the greater portion of his speech to a discussion of the budget’s proposals.
– Let us hear about them from the honorable member.
– Honorable members will hear about- them directly. The statement comes strangely from the honorable member for Mackellar that the Treasurer (Sir- Arthur Fadden) has taken the only possible course in the preparation- of this budget when it has been freely reported in the Sydney press that the honorable member was a very outspoken critic of the budget and that he- believed that there were very many shortcomings in it. Evidently,, he has been called to heel in the meantime and is now following the instructions of those who are in charge of his party.
Before I discuss the budget I must make a few comments in reply to statements by certain Government supporters. I regret that it is necessary to speak along the lines that I shall follow because the speeches that I shall criticize should never have been delivered. They were very far beneath the dignity of this Parliament and were of such a nature that they would tend to bring our parliamentary system into disrepute. I refer particularly to the speeches of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), and generally to statements that were made by several other honorable members opposite. I instance the untruthful, personal attacks that were made on the Leader of the Opposition. (Dr. Evatt). Those attacks should never have been made and no decent, honest, respectable citizen would have made them in the greatest debating assembly of this country. The Leader of the Opposition has been wickedly vilified and abused and some of the statements that were made, particularly in regard to his alleged association with and support of communism, were known to be completely false by the honorable members who made them. Consequently, the offence against the good conduct of this Parliament was much greater than it would otherwise have been. I dislike having to refer to such matters.
– Order! The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair.
– I do not wish to reflect on the Chair. My purpose is to reply to the particularly vicious attacks that have been made on the Leader of the Opposition. When I heard those attacks being made I called to mind information imparted to me during my early days in the Labour movement by a very experienced member of the movement. He informed me that the chief difficulty experienced by a member of the Labour party, particularly one who became prominent in the party and showed outstanding ability as a strong opponent of the forces of conservatism, was that of resisting attempts that would be made by conservatives to buy him over to their side. If these attempts did not succeed, attacks would be made upon his character. The forces of conservatism would conduct a campaign of character assassination in an attempt to destroy him in the eyes of the people. I heard one or two inane laughs from Government supporters when I made that remark. If honorable members opposite would examine the political history of the Commonwealth they might discover that this is not a matter for laughter. When they ascertain where the Prime Ministers of this country have obtained their political training and prominence and when they have examined the careers of outstanding members of the Labour party who have made a big name for themselves in this Parliament, although their characters were attacked in many ways, they will realize that there was a great deal of truth in the story that was told to me. The late Mr. J. B. Chifley was vilified inside this Parliament and outside of it by the forces of conservatism for a number of years, and it was only when he died that those people discovered that he was a really good Australian and an outstanding statesman.
– He was a great Labour party leader.
– Yes - and a great statesman.
– I thought that the honorable member intended to refer to the budget.
– I shall, but I wish to answer some of the villainous statements that were made by honorable members who support the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride). If those honorable members had confined their remarks to the budget it would have been unnecessary for me to make these statements. It is not pleasant for me to have to discuss this matter. I was completely disgusted with the statements that I heard and I consider it to be my duty to reply to the dirty, unfounded accusations that were made against the Leader of the Opposition.
– Those statements were made by me, and I consider them to be true. They were not dirty and I ask that the honorable member be required to withdraw the remark.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Wills did not direct the remark to any particular honorable member.
– The honorable member for Lilley cannot be so lily white as his name might suggest that he is. Not many years have elapsed since the honorable member for Lilley took a prominent and an active part in an industrial organization that was affiliated with the Australian Labour party, and, at that time, he was apparently a supporter of the Australian Labour party.
– This is character assassination as practised by the honorable member for Wills.
– I am giving back a little of what the honorable member for Lilley gave out.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member for Lilley is not mentioned in the budget. The honorable member for Wills must proceed with his comments on the budget.
– I am replying to the arguments of the honorable member for Lilley.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is initiating the argument. He must keep to the budget.
– The statements to which I am replying will be found in Hansard. However, you are in charge of the committee, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and I must abide by your ruling. I think that I have made my position clear. Certain occupants of the back Government benches’ have laughed at what I have said. It is time for them to examine their consciences and to realize that it is a low game to vilify the character of one who is a better man than is any one of them.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred to the budget as a “ horror budget “. That was a very accurate description of its contents. I am astonished that his Cabinet was prepared to accept a proposition of that nature as the budget for the current financial year. One is forced to conclude that the majority of the Cabinet must have had the horrors when they accepted the “horror budget “.
Honorable members must remember, in considering the budget, that the Prime Minister, as well as the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and Government supporters generally informed the people of Australia during two general election campaigns, and the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and other members of the Cabinet informed the Parliament on many occasions, that in order to check and then to depress the inflationary spiral in Australia it was necessary, first, to have more production, and secondly, to reduce the cost of living. Those two right honorable gentlemen promised .that if they were returned to power in this Parliament they would reduce taxation as an incentive to greater production. Year after year, in the debates on about five budgets in succession, they informed honorable members that although taxation rates had been reduced under each of those budgets, unless much greater reductions were made the incentive to produce would be destroyed. They claimed that, if greater production was to be achieved, it would first be necessary to reduce taxes, and that further inflation could be prevented only by an increase of production. Yet, having assumed office, these same right honorable gentlemen introduced in 1950 a budget which envisaged a record expenditure. It provided also for a record collection of income tax from the people. Taxation was not reduced and no mention was made of the damaging effect of high taxation upon the incentive to produce. Since that time there has been a general election and during the campaign which preceded it the same promises were repeated to the people. It was said that the Government would reduce taxation, increase production and put more value into the fi. Many electors believed that those promises would be kept. None of them is being kept under these budget proposals. Instead of a reduction of income tax it is to be increased by 10 per cent. There will be a considerable increase of company taxation and increases of indirect taxation. Sales tax will be heavier, and the collections from this source will rise from £57,000,000 this year to £178,000,000 next year.
We have been told that these increases of taxation are designed to be anti-infla tion measures, but when the Government was in Opposition it strongly maintained that the only real anti-inflation measure which would have any effect on our economy would be a reduction of taxation. The budget indicates that the Government proposes to increase income tax by 10 per cent. In. statement No. 5 of the Details of Revenue it is disclosed that the actual revenue received from income tax during the year 1950-51 was about £177,000,000. It has been estimated that, if the proposed increase of income tax were not made, the revenue from this source in 1951-52 would be £347,000,000. The 10 per cent, increase of income tax will bring in an extra £72,000,000. Therefore, the total estimated revenue from individuals in the form of income tax during 1951-52 is £419,000,000. I should like the Treasurer to explain why it is necessary to increase income tax when it is estimated that there will be such a great increase of tax collections during the current financial year? Apparently the Treasurer expects the national income to increase tremendously within the next twelve months. That indicates that the Government expects the inflationary spiral to go higher.
We have been told by the Government that this budget will cure inflation, buthere is a plain indication that it will do nothing of the sort. There may be another explanation for the estimated increase of revenue. It may be that the Taxation Branch has failed lamentably in its attempt to collect income tax during the last financial year. If that is the case the Treasurer should say how much income tax was outstanding at the 30th June, 1951, and how much of last year’s tax will be taken into consideration this year. I am not an expert mathematician, but according to what I learned at school 10 per cent, of £347,000,000 is £34,700,000, and not £72,000,000. Perhaps the Treasurer can elucidate that point and, if so, I should like to hear him do so. He claimed that the proposed 10 per cent, increase is fair and reasonable and will affect everybody in the same degree. He said that a man who normally paid £100 as income tax would pay an extra £10, a man who normally paid £1,000 would pay an extra £100 and a man who paid £10,000 would pay an extra £1,000. I submit that that is a most unfair system of taxation. Taxation should be levied in accordance with the ability of the taxpayer to pay. A man who paid only £10 will find it more difficult to pay the extra £1 that he will be called upon to pay than will a man who paid £100 and will have to find an extra £10.
The Government intends to collect too much from the small income earners and not enough from the large income earners. The same policy has been followed with regard to company taxation. Until this year small companies paid less in proportion than did large companies, but this year the tax will be increased in the same proportion on small and large companies. That is another case of slugging the small income earner. This budget has been drawn up so as to protect the strong financial interests of Australia. It has been designed to protect the strong at the expense of the weak.
Consider also the sales tax. Although the Treasurer has told the chamber on many occasions that sales tax is an iniquitous form of taxation and should be abolished, and although when the Chifley Government was progressively abolishing it he claimed that the progress then being made was too slow, he has now, as Treasurer, more than doubled it. He said that the sales tax increase to 66 J per cent, on some goods was designed to dissuade people from buying them. I suggest that a large number of the items he described as luxury goods are not luxuries at all.
– Some would be essential to the honorable member.
– And I have no doubt that some would also be essential to the honorable member who interjected.
– Sales tax is not levied on brains.
– If it were, the contribution of the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) to our revenue would be very small. I suggest that the real object of increasing sales tax is to obtain additional revenue. The effect of the sales tax is to make the low income earner pay as much for his article as does the high income earner. Again, the principle of taxing according to ability to> pay has not been followed. The samemay be said to apply to the excise duties. The average working man likes his glassof beer but he now has to pay 3d. more for it. The average working man likes a smoke but he now has to pay 3d. a packet more for cigarettes and tobacco. The Treasurer, through the excise duty, is collecting the same taxation from the low as from the high income earner. Such taxes are most unfair and unjust, and show conclusively that this Government is slugging the small income earner on every possible occasion and is treatinggenerously the high income earner. The Government’s actions remind me of the biblical statement that “ Whosoever hath to him shall be given”. That appears to be the policy of the Government.
I do not deny that an increased fee for broadcast listeners’ licences is justified . I believe that it is, but I object to the amount of the increase and also to the method of its application. Broadcast listeners’ licence-fees have been increased from £1 to £2 and the additional set fee has been abolished. At present, a licencefee is payable at the rate of 30s. in respect of two receiving sets, £2 in respect of three sets and £2 10s. in respect of four sets. Last year, collections of broadcasting licence-fees totalled £1,970,000. That indicates that at present a large number of persons pays licence-fees in respect of more than one set. It is estimated that the increase of the licence-fee will increase total collections by £1,700,000 in a full financial year. Thus, by increasing the present fee by 100 per cent and abolishing the multiple fee, the Government is giving another hand-out to the wealthier sections of the community while, at the same time, it is slugging the persons who cannot afford to purchase more than one receiving set. The Government should continue to charge an additional fee in respect of each set owned by a person in excess of one. That method of raising revenue has been followed up to date. Under this proposal, however, the well-to-do sections will he relieved of the obligation to pay licence-fees in respect of all sets in their possession in .excess of one.
That is another illustration of how the Government protects the well-to-do Indeed, that is apparent from the first to the last page of the budget which, I repeat, has been framed on the principle, “ Whosoever hath, to him shall be given “. During the general election campaigns in 1949 and earlier this year, the present Government parties promised to reduce taxes, to increase production and to put value back into the £1. It has failed to honour any of those promises and, to-day, it stands naked and unashamed before the people. Apparently, what it said yesterday it has forgotten to-day, and the promises that it makes to-day it will have forgotten by to-morrow. However, the people are awakening to the Government’s betrayal of them. The Government will soon realize that whilst it has fooled the people for a time it will not be able to fool them forever. When they realize fully the implications of this budget they will know that they have been fooled by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and I have no doubt that at the next general election they will cast those parties into political oblivion.
.- The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) will be sadly disappointed when the next general election is held about two and a half years hence. The electors have more intelligence and a greater sense of their responsibilities than the honorable member imagines. It is natural that each honorable member should approach the nation’s financial problems in a different way. In a consideration of so stern a collection of documents as the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has presented on this occasion, unanimity is obviously impossible. No one likes the budget, “but thinking people who have the welfare of Australia at heart will applaud the Treasurer’s courage regardless of whether or not they agree with every detail of the proposals that he has placed before the Parliament.
I have listened very carefully to the criticism that honorable members opposite have levelled against the budget in the course of this debate. The thing that has struck me most is that, with the possible exception of the honorable mem ber for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), no member of the Opposition who has yet spoken has made any constructive proposal or suggestion. The speech of the honorable member for Wills is no exception in that respect. In fact he devoted one-third of his time to an attack on two of my colleagues, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden), concerning certain observations that those honorable gentlemen had made about the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). They may have been a little careless in “the choice of some of the terms that they used ; but, when the matter is one of good manners and parliamentary decorum I say to the honorable member for Wills that the party to which he belongs should first put its own House in order before it criticizes others. I speak as a relatively new member of the Parliament when I say that I have never been so shocked, or disturbed, as when I heard some of the utterances that at least one of his colleagues has made from time to time in this chamber.
Members of the Opposition who have spoken have not helped the Treasurer very much; they have not made anything like a careful analysis of his proposals. The Leader of the Opposition I say, with all respect, sounded rather like a chairman of directors at .a board meeting in 1894, the year in which, he was born. Throughout his speech, his face was a picture of pained surprise. I made a note of some of the phrases that he used. He spoke about “ Complete dictatorship over the national income’”, “ confiscation “ and “ a taxation grab “. It is rather astonishing to hear such phrases used by a leader of a socialist party that openly boasts about its belief in high taxes, severe company imposts, governmental control and direction of industry, and nationalization of industry. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was little better, except that the flamboyant nature of hia speech exonerated him from a charge of personal inconsistency. He indulged in mock antagonisms and concealed his profounder thoughts in a fog of language that resembled smoke emanating from the explosion of an atom bomb.
He chided the Government, as the honorable member for Wills has just done, with failure to reduce taxes as the national income increased. But in adopting that attitude honorable members opposite completely ignore the events of the last two years.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made that promise at the general election campaign in 1949 who imagined that a few months later hostilities would break out in Korea? The end of the Korean war is still by no means in sight. Who imagined in 1949 that there would be such a grave deterioration of international relations as has’ occurred during 1950 and 1951 and has necessitated staggering peace-time expenditure for defence purposes in every democratic country? In 1949, who would have been bold enough to say that Australia’s national income would soar from £1,937,000,000 to its present level of £3,101,000,000? That is an increase of 60 per cent.; and as it has not .been accompanied by a commensurate increase of the volume of production it has been highly inflationary in character. In the light of those facts, no responsible person would call the Government to account for failure to fulfil promises that it gave when circumstances were entirely different from what they are to-day. History records many instances that illustrate that political consistency can, at times, be a vice as well as a virtue. The budget therefore is thoroughly defensible and is in the interests of the nation. I have no doubt that if the Labour party were in office it would be compelled to present similar proposals to the Parliament. Indeed, the most remarkable feature of this budget has been the criticism that it has aroused not from the Left but from the Right. The editor of a Sydney daily newspaper, from which the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) quoted, with such glee a few nights ago, declared that a connoisseur of budgets would adjudge this one to be a genuine Chifley of the best period.
The architecture of the budget is fundamentally sound. Economic opinion the world over approves of the prescription of a budget surplus as a remedy for inflation, not as a sole remedy but as one of a series of remedies to be propounded concurrently. Although the Leader of the Opposition poured scorn on this current economic doctrine, it is interesting to note that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser), who made the best contribution by an Opposition member to this debate, declared that budgeting for a surplus is a respectable economic theory. He gave his blessing to it. When we look round the world to-day, we see that theory being translated into practice by treasurers in many countries. Recently, the Treasurer in the Canadian Government budgeted for a substantial surplus. More notably still, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain is applying the same doctrine. Apparently, however, what is right for Mr. Gaitskell to do is wrong for the Australian Treasurer to do. Whichever way we look at this budget, we cannot contest the premise that abstraction of purchasing power from the community will cause a diminution of demand for goods with a consequent lowering of the price level. Nevertheless, whilst . one may approve of the principle of budgeting for a surplus for that purpose, it is natural that differences of opinion should exist concerning the means by which the surplus should be derived.
I propose to refer to three matters with respect to the compilation of the estimated budget surplus. The first item is the imposition of an overall increase of income tax of 10 per cent. ; the second is the abolition of the system of averaging of incomes as a basis of assessing the tax payable by primary producers with taxable incomes in excess of £4,000 ; and the third is an aspect of company taxation. I have always held that a preferable alternative to the imposition of an increase of tax at a flat rate would be the institution of a graduated compulsory loan. Such a loan could be instituted for a short period - for, say, three, four or five years - and could be repaid when circumstances, in the opinion of the Treasurer, were appropriate. If the right honorable gentleman had adopted that expedient, he would have achieved all the advantages that will result from abstracting purchasing power by increasing income tax without being confronted with some of the potential defects of such a process. Every increase of taxation must inevitably tend in some way towards a diminution of incentive. I submit that a loan would be free of this taint. Both the Treasurer and the Leader of the Opposition are agreed that increased production is the ultimate solution of our inflationary problem, but the psychological effect of higher taxation is certainly not a stimulus for people to work harder but rather a temptation to limit output. “Whether a man be a big grazier or a small farmer, a businessman or an industrial operative, the tendency will be to do just so much as will provide for the reasonable needs of his family and himself, but no more. Such a negative attitude will not propel us out of our economic difficulties. The gravity of the hour calls for an heroic effort comparable with that made during the last war. I do not expect such an effort as a result of elevating income tax to levels that are higher than to-day’s already formidable scales.
I turn now to the abolition of the averaging of primary producers’ incomes over a taxable capacity of £4,000 a year. In the long run, this may well prove to be of benefit to those concerned. It is quite conceivable that within two or three years the prices of wool and wheat and of other less remunerative commodities will fall sharply, and continuation of the averaging system would then occasion acute financial embarrassment to many primary producers. One can visualize that, in such circumstances, there would be strong pressure on all honorable members who represent rural constituencies to try to bring about the abolition of the whole system of averaging. Nevertheless, what the Treasurer now proposes to do will undoubtedly inconvenience a certain section of primary producers, particularly the larger woolgrowers. Indeed, taxation may very well absorb the whole of their current income; it may even absorb more than that. Accordingly, I hope that the Treasurer will instruct the Commissioner of Taxation to administer this reform as flexibly as possible, otherwise a grave injustice will be done to an industry which, this
Parliament must never forget, is the foundation of Australia’s prosperity.
One means by which the Treasurer seeks to achieve his surplus is by raising the company tax. Most people who have followed the course of business in Australia will concede that never before has it been so affluent as it is at the present time. Most companies, recognizing the likelihood of heavier taxation, have provided accordingly, in spite of a great deal of propaganda from New South Wales to the contrary. The great majority of company directors and shareholders, imbued with a sense of responsibility and conscious of the big issues at stake, will not begrudge this temporary additional burden. Indeed, there are worthwhile compensations, with the cessation of undistributed profits tax and super tax. But I suggest that the Treasurer, unwittingly, has inflicted an indefensible hardship on small public companies. Thai point was taken by the honorable member for Wills and several other members of the Opposition, and I should like to give some support to the plea for leniency in that matter.
My attention has been drawn to it by a case in my own constituency. For example, companies with incomes in the £5,000 to £6,000 bracket will be subject to a new primary rate of 7s. instead of 5s. in the £1. For them, the super tax and the undistributed profits tax are never appreciable items, and, accordingly, the abolition of those taxes will mean very little. But to large companies, the old primary rate, conversely, was virtually meaningless. Their total rate, even before this budget, was 7s. in the £1. Let us examine the new position. According to my calculations, the effective increase of tax on the large companies will amount to a net rate of ls. 6d., when we subtract the super tax and the undistributed profits tax, which will be abolished ; but the net rate on the small companies in the £5,000 to £6,000 bracket will be 3s. 6d. The result will surely be to deny dividends to shareholders in these small concerns - but nevertheless very worthy concerns - and, what would be even worse, may threaten those companies with extinction. I hope it is not too late for the Treasurer to rectify this anomaly. It offends against the canons of taxation and of natural justice alike, and it would be wrong to wait until next spring in order to rectify it.
A good deal of criticism has been directed at the. disposition of the estimated surplus of approximately £114,000,000. Surely no one can object to the allocation of a part of this money to national debt redemption. Is it wrong in this particular year to underwrite State loan expenditures? After all, in doing so, the Commonwealth will merely be converting income into capital. That i3 a rule which every sound farmer and businessman applies in a period of plenty. Indeed, the time has come when we must ask ourselves: How can State public works be financed unless we adopt this expedient? No sane person would suggest an approach to the Commonwealth Bank for bank credit. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), has indicated that the Government should raise a loan, overseas. Whether that course would be worth while is debatable, to say the least. It may be justifiable, but I am sure that no member of the Labour party, with its traditional opposition to overseas borrowing, can countenance that method of finance. Honorable members on this side of the chamber remember the quite extraordinary antagonism of the Labour party to the very moderate and modest 100,000,000-dolla’r loan that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) negotiated in the United States of America last year. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister was right to sound a note of caution for 1952. The Commonwealth cannot continue to finance State loan expenditures indefinitely. Year by year we are witnessing among the States a mounting freedom from responsibility for raising the revenues that they expend. There is a threatened divorce between the moneyraising and the money-spending authorities in Australia. For too long now public authorities have been disregarding the cardinal maxim that a government should be directly responsible to its electors for the expenditure of public funds. For some time past the alarm has been sounded; it has not been heeded in Canberra. Now we see the fruits of inaction spotlighted in stark clarity - the States, no doubt for excellent reasons, persisting in. a prodigious loan programme; the internal market either unable or unwilling to support it; State governments deprived of the wherewithal through the system of uniform taxation, and unable by reason of constitutional limitations to pay that sum; and, in the last resort, this Parliament compelled to ask taxpayers to settle the outstanding portion of the bill. If ever public opinion can be roused effectively to demand a revision of the Commonwealth-State financial relationship, this budget should provide the necessary spur. We must return to basic principles of public finance, and so readjust Commonwealth and State revenues that each State government will assume a greater share of the responsibility for raising the moneys that it expends.
Happily, this budget is not solely a catalogue of self-denial. I am sure that, in spite of some remarkable things that have been said during this debate, every honorable member on both sides of the chamber applauds the action of the Government in increasing pensions and other social services benefits. The social services policy of the Government, enunciated both in this budget and in last year’s budget, disposes once and for all of the Labour party’s false cry that the Liberal partyAustralian Country party forces are unmindful of the plight of persons in indigent circumstances. To his previous achievement of endowing the first child and expanding social services payments last year, and this year, the Treasurer has now added the initiation of tax relief for elderly people. I am astonished that such a long overdue innovation has not attracted more attention, and has received so little acclaim. Perhaps that is because of the Treasurer’s rather ungallant reference to women of 60 as aged persons. Nowadays, no woman of 60 years of age can possibly be regarded as anything, but middle-aged. But if the right honorable gentleman’s language is careless, his intentions are fine. The exemption limit of £234 will benefit many thousands of persons who have struggled to save throughout their lives, who have exhibited an independence of spirit, and who ara thriftv. Many of them are too proud to apply to the Commonwealth for a modicum of social services benefits. They may truly be said to constitute some of the elect of the nation.
My only regret is that the Treasurer has not gone further. Why stop at £234? Is it not possible to extend that limit to £350, and levy merely a nominal tax on persons in the £350 to £500 bracket? Let us remember that these persons are not on the financial pontoon on which every other section of the community is standing to-day. They have no union secretary, no arbitration court, no Minister for Social Services, no company directors, to urge their claims, and to look after their interests. Until the Treasurer brought forward this proposal, not once since I have been a member of this Parliament has a single voice been raised in their defence, or to urge their cause. To-day, they stand in deep water, immersed by the rising tide of inflation. I hope that the Treasurer will go further next year and continue to grant them relief until such time as it is practicable for the Government to abolish the means test.
This budget is a picture that contains light as well as shade. If I have pointed in the course of my remarks to some of its blemishes, that does not imply in any way dissatisfaction with the total effect. The Government, has shown a determination on the fiscal side to do everything within its competence to save the £1. It has demonstrated the quality, rare in modern democracies, of showing the people that it has the courage to do what it believes to be right. The burdens enjoined on us are severe. Of course, they are not popular. How can a budget of higher taxation and austerity be well received ? But I predict that, as next year unfolds itself, and as the Australian economy achieves a greater measure of stability, the people of Australia will bless the Treasurer, and thank God for a government which has the moral fibre to risk temporary unpopularity in an effort to rescue this country from the precipice of inflation and to divert us along the highway, bumpy though it may be, towards true prosperity.
Mi-. POLLARD (Lalor) [8.0]- This budget is the creature of a coalition government, and history records that coalition governments have never governed satisfactorily in Australia. ‘
– They have remained in office for long periods.
– Obviously I have already incurred the displeasure of Government supporters because I have stated the truth. “So coalition government in Australia ever produced anything of a concrete nature for the lasting benefit of the people. Each party to a coalition must yield something to the other party, and the result is that there is no forthright action to give effect to a clear-cut individual policy in which some members of the Government ardently believe. This Government obtained office by fraud. Its members made a host of promises, most of which they were incapable of fulfilling, and they have since demonstrated amply that they will never attempt to do so because their actions are in direct contradiction to their pledges.
The subject of finance is always uppermost in a budget debate because a budget is essentially a financial document. Therefore, the promises that the Government parties made to the people on the subject of taxation spring readily to mind. The baits that were dangled before the electors contrast strangely with the provisions of this budget. A comparison of the promises with the naked facts immediately exposes the major fraud that was perpetrated on the people. Taxes have not been reduced. That is solely due to the fact that the present Government parties have been in power for two years. During that period they have made no real attempt to re-adjust the economy of the nation. The. Government has occupied most of its time with attempts to placate the private banking interests by giving them a pay-off, with a heresy hunt for Communists in which it has endeavoured to delude the people into the belief that communism has been the major cause of our economic problems, “with the precipitation of an election that was not justified, and with a referendum that was conducted at tremendous expense at which .the people rebuffed it severely. Whatever- may he the faults and failings of Labour governments
– And they are many!
– Like all political parties the Labour party has made mistakes, but those mistakes are not comparable in wickedness with the failings of coalition governments and other antiLabour governments. Whatever may be the failings of Labour governments, they have never been convicted, even during the war and the immediate post-war years, of having dangled before the eyes of the electors promises that they have not honoured.
I took the opportunity recently to reread a pamphlet that was published during the 1940 general election campaign. Under the heading “ Federal Labour Leader John Curtin says - “, it set out a list of the promises that were made to the people by the late John Curtin in his policy speech during that campaign. Every one of those promises was later honoured by the Curtin Government, notwithstanding the fact that it was in office during the most dangerous period of the war. John Curtin, as the leader of the Opposition party at the time when the election campaign was launched, did not make a chain of promises, which he knew he would not be able to fulfil, just for the sake of gaining power. He made only such promises as he was prepared to implement as the leader of a great political party, and he kept his word. Many of those undertakings involved major reforms of our social welfare system. The anti-Labour parties were very envious of the Labour Government’s achievements in that field, but they were critical of them at the same time. In fact, some honorable members on the Government side of the chamber have had the effrontery during this debate to claim that anti-Labour governments have been pre-eminent in the field of social reform. I recall that a supporter of this Government said, when child endowment was introduced under pressure from the Labour Opposition in 1938, “ I agree that child endowment should be introduced, but now is not the time to do it “. That has always been the attitude of anti-Labour governments towards urgently needed social reforms. The time has never been opportune. Procrastination has always won the day.
The election promises that were made on behalf of the present Government parties have had a disastrous effect because they deceived the people. Throughout Australia to-day people are complaining that they have been led up a blind alley. They never thought that the necessaries of life would be subjected to the severest rates of sales tax that we have known. The Government proposes to extract from the workers, by means of indirect taxation, an unnecessarily large sum of money. Never did they believe that the present Government parties, which, before they gained power, laid such great stress on the need for tax reductions, would bring down in 1951 a budget that provides for taxes which, proportionately, will affect the workers more severely than any other members of the community. Direct taxes are to be increased at a flat rate with the result that the greatest strain will be borne by the workers instead of by those who are more strongly equipped to bear economic strain. Just fancy - a 10 per cent, increase for the working man and a 10 per cent, increase for the man whose income runs into thousands of pounds a year ! I ask honorable members to compare this budget with the budget that was introduced by the late J. B. Chifley only five years after the cessation of hostilities. That great Prime Minister and Treasurer was able to come into this chamber and say that, although he had made no substantial promises to the people during the 1945 general election campaign, he could provide, in his budget for 1949-50, great benefits and considerable relief from tax burdens.
I again ask the “ promisers “ on the Government side of the chamber, who deluded the people at the last general election, to contrast the Chifley budget of 1949-50 with their own promises and performances. The late Mr. Chifley said, in his speech on that budget -
This result marks a great improvement in the national finances under post-war conditions - an improvement which can he measured by comparison with 1944-45, the last full financial year of the war period.
In that year revenue fell short of expenditure by £200,000,000, which had to be borrowed. In the four years since then -
Tax reductions have been made which, on present income levels, would be valued at £280,000,000 per annum.
Honorable members opposite, who were then in Opposition, said that it was not enough. But now they propose to burden the people of Australia with a heavy increase of direct taxation and substantial additional indirect imposts on what they are pleased to describe as luxury goods, such as razor blades, cosmetics, shavingsoap, ice-cream, beer, spirits and tobacco, all of which are amenities of life that are used and consumed in great quantities by the masses of the workers but in relatively small quantities by those other Australians who are in the higher income brackets. The late Mr. Chifley continued, in the budget speech from which I have quoted, with the following list of Labour’s achievements : -
Large outstanding war accounts, including the lend-lea.se settlement, have been met; £1.08,000,000 has been provided for repatriation and re-establishment of ex-service men and women. £1S4.000,000 has been found for interest and sinking fund on debt arising from the war;
Supporters of the Government have referred during this debate to the provision of £9,000,000 for Asian relief under the Colombo plan and have boasted of that as a great achievement. My mind goes back to the fact that Mr. Chifley was able to record that Labour governments, during the four immediate post-war years, had donated £35,000,000 to the United Kingdom and had made contributions worth £30,000,000 for the relief of wardistressed peoples. Notwithstanding all those achievements, tax reductions to a total value of £280,000,000 a year had been made over the same period. The list of Labour’s accomplishments continued -
Gifts totalling f35,000,000 have been made to the United Kingdom;
Contributions worth £30,000,000 have been made for the relief of war-distressed peoples ; : Social service expenditure has been increased from £30,000,000 a year to £81,000,000 a year and the National Welfare Fund has been built up to nearly £100,000,000. Social service expenditure this year is estimated at £100,000,000;
Annual payments to the States have been increased from £4S,000,000 a year to £70.000,000 a year. With proposals to be made in this budget, payments to the States in 1040-50 would be £101,000,000; £132,000,000 has been paid in subsidies to keep down the cost of living and to assist primary producers ;
I remind the committee that, just previously, the Labour Government had asked the people to give to it power to control prices and that the anti-Labour parties, by their advocacy of the abandonment of Commonwealth Prices control, succeeded ultimately in causing a diminution of the volume of subsidies because of the impossibility of policing retail and wholesale trancactions under a system of divided control by the States. The list that I have been quoting ended with the following statement : -
A post-war defence programme to cost £293,000.000 has been pushed forward and great national works have been undertaken in the fields of the post office, civil aviation and power development.
That was the budget of a good government, a government that honoured its promises and achieved amazing results within a few years of the cessation of hostilities. What a contrast!
The budget that we are now considering provides, for the first time in Australia’s history, for the raising, by all sorts of means, of revenue amounting to over £1,000,000,000. The Government plans to sock the taxpayers so severely that it will be able to set aside a surplus of £114,500,000. And it claims that this will combat inflation ! It is two years too late and it is too meagre. I do not agree with it, but, whatever it is, it is meagre.v Too little is being done too late and in the wrong way.
That is the situation with which the people of this country are confronted in a period of unparalleled prosperity. We know that the Government has listened attentively to the “ Complandites “ and their proposal that substantial sums derived from the sale of primary products overseas at handsome prices should be paid into a specific fund, kept out of circulation, and not be touched by the primary producers. The Labour party established a stabilization fund for the wheat industry only after approval had been given to it by a democratic vote of the wheat-growers, and then only as a part of a comprehensive plan to which the State governments and .the Australian Wheat Growers Federation had agreed.
Professor Copland has- suggested that stabilization funds should be established willy-nilly in respect of all primary products. It is remarkable that that genial grentleman who is always looking for a plan with which to deal with other people’s money, tend who is in receipt of a salary which enables him to live in comparative luxury, has never suggested that, because he is receiving that salary by virtue of the fact that this i3 a period of great prosperity, he should be required by the Government to put aside 25 per cent, of his income. He has not suggested that Cabinet Ministers, company directors and other affluent and fortunate people should be required to put aside a portion of their inflated incomes. The Government has ostensibly adopted the Copland plan by taking £114,500,000 from the people compulsorily and, as it were, putting the money into a stabilization fund, but it has* taken too small a portion of tha incomes of affluent people and too substantial a portion of the incomes of less affluent people.
During this debate much stress1 has been1 laid on the need for increased production. I agree that that is very desirable. But the clamour for more production is invariably directed at the workers of this’ country. It might lead one to believe that the Australian workers are slackerswho have f allen down on their jobs. That is not so. I hope that the workers have listened to the slighting references that have been made by honorable- gentlemen opposite to the 40-hour week. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) does, not believe in a 40-hour week for the workers, and he dodged it. for as long as he. could and worked for considerably less- than 40 hours a week. Although he. does not like it, the- 40-hour week, in this country has* been very successful. Honorable gentlemen opposite laugh at that statement. If the workers were listening to them now, the Government parties would be swept from the treasury bench if a general election were held to-morrow. The workers believe- in. the. 40-hour week., Many of. them who.
Ifr. Pollard. live in our enormously bloated cities travel for an hour in a tram or a train going to and returning from the places at which they work.
My observations have led me to the conclusion that, in the great majority of cases, the workers are putting their extra leisure to very good use. Anybody who goes round the industrial and semiindustrial suburbs of Melbourne must come to the conclusion that, what the workers are doing now in their leisure hours when they are their own bosses, reflects great credit upon them. There is ‘ a clanging of hammers and a ringing of saws as the workers build their own homes, their own garages,, and,, in some instances, make their own furniture. They are cultivating their gardens and beautifying their homes. They are increasing the total production of this country. In the bad old days to which honorable gentlemen opposite are eager that we should return, the homes* of the workers were built in the inner suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney. The. front doors opened on to the footpath and the back doors on to the back lane. The workers toiled for so long and were so hard driven that all that, they could do when they went home at, the end of a working day was to fall into bed and sleep until it was time to get up. and go to work again.. All that they had in the form of gardens were flower pots, on their window sills. It is well that those who complain that the 40-hour week is adversely affecting production should’, have brought to their notice vividly the* fact that the average Australian worker is. making good use of his extra leisure am] that, consequently, a great benefit is being, conferred upon. Australia-
– Costs of production in the dairying, industry are still, based, on. a. 56-ho.ur week.
– The- honorable member for McMillan, (Mr. Brown.) apparently considers that he is om a winner. He has referred to the: col]1.mittee that determines costs of production in the dairying industry. A Labour Government placed the dairymen of this country in a position of financial stability that, they had never previously enjoyed in the history of the Commonwealth. I recollect that, in; the early days «f the war, the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) told us, with tears in his eyes, that the plight of the Australian dairying industry was so desperate that farm fences were falling down and that little children and women were working in the dairies. He said that the industry was in a critical condition. He cited figures from a report issued by the Queensland Deputy Commissioner of Taxation which showed that conditions in the dairying industry in Queensland were so bad that only 99 dairymen in that State paid income tax. The position of the dairying industry to-day is perhaps not good enough, but it is, as a direct result of Labour’s intervention and assistance, so good that there is hardly a dairyfarmer in this country who is not paying a considerable sum in income tax. I was a dairyman when an anti-Labour government was in power. I sold milk at my gate for 44d* a gallon. To-day, the dairymen who supply the City of Melbourne are being paid 2s. 7d. a gallon for their milk. That is a direct result of the payment of subsidies to the industry and the establishment of a committee to determine costs of production.
The honorable member for McMillan referred to the fact that costs of production in the dairying industry are assessed on the basis of a 56-hour week, but he did not tell the committee that when the Arbitration Court award for the dairying industry was being considered, the master dairymen and dairy-farmers contended that their employees ought to work for 56 hours a week. Under those circumstances, the committee decided that, for its purposes, a 56-hour week should be’ regarded as applicable also to the dairyfarmers and their families. Perhaps that was not good enough, but, after all, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’. If the boss says that a 56- hour week is good enough for his employees, he cannot complain if it is’ said to be good enough for him also. That is my philosophy. Time has marched on.
– The honorable gentleman has five minutes left.
– I should like to cover a wealth of matter. I could continue for a couple of hours. Let me refer’ to one of the Government’s broken promises. The Government parties promised the primary producers that they would establish an independent tribunal to deal with their industry, but that has not been done. The dairying industry prefers the committee to which I have referred, and has asked that it be maintained in existence. It was established originally for the benefit of dairymen and of the general population of Australia. The credit for it should be given to the Labour movement.
The Government should be criticized for not having made a more generous increase of the living allowances that are paid to Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme trainees. Provision has been made in the budget for an increase by 7s. 6d. a week of the allowance paid to a trainee, but no provision has been made for an increase of the allowance paid in respect of the wife of a trainee. I shall have more to say upon that matter when the relevant bill is debated. It appears that these trainees are being overlooked by the Government because there are not many of them and their voting strength is not great. I criticize the failure of the Government to make a pro rata increase of the rates of pension paid to totally disabled and partially disabled ex-servicemen. Apparently the Government believes that if a man is suffering from an SO per cent, or an 85 per cent, disability and is earning a full income, he has no claim for an increased pension. Many ex-servicemen who served in World War I. and World War II. are now in employment or are running their own businesses, but are suffering from a 70 per cent, or 80 per’ cent, disability. Because of their disability, they are not able to work fulltime. Therefore, they suffer monetary loss, and frequently physical pain. The Government has overlooked the fact that many partially disabled war pensioners will die prematurely. I hope that this oversight will be remedied.
Having regard to the fact that the value of the £1 has decreased, the Government has been guilty of shocking neglect in not having proposed to increase the rate of child endowment for a first child arid for other’ children. Child endowment was’ first paid in 193S at the rate of 5s. a week. That is the rate at which it’ is now paid in respect of a first child. If it was reasonable in 193S, when the £1 was worth much more than it is worth now, to pay an endowment of 5s. a week, surely it is necessary now to pay a greater sum.
I protest against the Government’s loan policy. ‘ It is true that it has been stated that Mr. McDonald, the Premier of Victoria, has agreed to loan cuts, but the persons who control the destinies of the Loan Council are the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. By virtue of their two votes and their capacity to rope in a sufficient number of States, their decision prevails in any event. A shocking position exists in Victoria, where major works-
– Oh, cut it out!
– I know that the honorable gentleman is a Victorian and also does not like what is happening. He would like to be able to get up and protest about it himself. Major works which involve the production of electricity, which is basic to the defence effort, and road works-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I should like to deal with the matters that have been raised by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), but my time is limited and I must confine myself to the broad principles and conditions that underlie our present situation. The first thing to be said about the budget is that it is well abreast of the times. If parliaments survive the atom bomb, future parliaments of this country will point to this one as the first to which a budget of more than £1,000,000,000 was presented. I must confess that I was rather staggered when I heard first of the budget figure, but on reflection, and after having heard what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other people have had to say on the subject, I came to the conclusion that if we were to give effect to our desire to deal out even-handed justice to all, a budget of an unprecedented scope was to be expected.
To what use is this £1,000,000,000 to be put? There is no precedent to guide us. I have been in this Parliament for quite a while, and I recall standing at the ministerial table a long time ago and endeavouring to persuade the Opposition to approve a budget of £75,000,000. I was completely unsuccessful. I have never known an Opposition to accept a budget in the form presented by a goverment, because human nature is very much the same in a parliament and elsewhere. The uses to which all this money is to be put are set down in the budget itself. Every £1 is accounted for. We are to prepare our defences. We are to develop the resources of this wonderful country. It is indeed a wonderful country. The fact that, although it has only eight and a quarter million people, it is able to beaT this unprecedented burden of taxation, is a glowing proof of its wonderful resources and of the character of its people. We have been here for about 160 years-
– Not in person, I hope.
– I am speaking of out white settlers, of course. If any honorable gentleman resents my statement I shall withdraw it.
– Not at all. it is very good.
– The white settlers found this country the camping ground of one of the most primitive races in the world. It was without the faintest trace of cultivation, and it held only a million or two million aborigines. During the course of thi’ debate some remarks have been made about the money that we are allotting for expenditure on defence. We have heard some very eloquent statements about the virtues of peace and of the right of peoples to hold their own countries, and whatever is in them, in peace and quietness. According to some people there is apparently a right which is inherent in some races but denied to others. When we came here the aborigines who inhabited the wilderness that this country then was gave us no provocation by either act or word. But where are their descendants to-day? We drove them from their favorite camping grounds into the relatively arid interior, and now you may see them, poor, dishevelled and degraded remnants of a people, in mission stations and in
Arnhem Land. We are a nice people to talk about peace! How have we held this country? We occupied it by force, and by force we have retained it. No enemy has set foot on these shores since our forefathers occupied it. But never for a day during the time that we have been here have we been capable of offering effective resistance to a firstclass power. For about 150 years we nestled snugly and safely under the broad wing of the British Navy. During that time sea-power was the dominant factor in war. To-day it occupies a less important place. During the last war, after the loss of H.M-S. Repulse and H.M.S. Prince of Wales, we depended entirely on America, and that is where we stand to-day.
Last night I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) speak about the United Nations. It is a great organization, and I believe that if it did not now exist we should have to bring it into existence. But we have held this country by force. We have no more right to it than we have to America, or than the European settlers had to America when they first went there. Every country in the world is as it is to-day by virtue of war - as a result of victories won or defeats suffered. No country enjoys the right of self-government unless it is able to defend and make good its claim to it.
The next point to be observed is that we are among the most fortunate people in the world. We live in a great country. We are heirs to a great estate which we have done much to develop. We have transformed this country from what it was when we came to it into a lovely and fruitful garden. Our flocks and herds are as the sands of the seashore in number. We are a great trading nation. During the last three decades we have become a great manufacturing nation. The secondary industries of this country provide employment for nearly 1,000,000 people who, by their labours, have added £165,000,000 to the value of raw materials which they use. Last year, our wool was valued at £636,000,000. Our wheat and our dairy products earned us hundreds of millions of pounds. When the honorable member for Lalor speaks about the injustice that will result from the budget he speaks of injustice to people who have £864,000,000 in the savings banks of this country and in negotiable Commonwealth securities. That is the best answer to any gibes that may be thrown at this Government or any other government.
I am not on my feet to laud this or any government. I take Australia as it is to-day. Its people, taken as a whole, not only enjoy higher living standards and better social conditions than are enjoyed by the people of any other country, but also have the widest measure of individual freedom that has been possessed by any people in any country in any age. In Australia, a citizen may say what he pleases about the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition. In what other country can it he exercised to a greater degree than in Australia? In how few countries can it be exercised at all?
What are the problems that confront us to-day? What we have we intend to hold, I hope. We have come far and have done much, and we want to go on. We are standing at the very threshold of a new and still greater Australia. Any one who has a first-hand knowledge of this country will realize that we have only scratched the surface of its great resources. Our population is now about 8,250,000. I remind the committee of that fact because it is very necessary to understand that we are now confronting the danger of war which every country in the world is making attempts to meet, and that a large factor in the next war will be the growth of the world’s population. War may be avoided, because nothing is inevitable. One of the problems that confronts us is communism. Another is the growth of the world’s population. Unless we are able to destroy communism, or at least hold it in check, we shall be on the toboggan, and we must go down. We hear, and we know, that one of the problems that confronts the people of to-day is the high prices of commodities. Why? One reason is that the worker, and in fact everybody, is now taught to believe that it is money that matters to the world. But it is not money that matters. People do not live on money. They live on goods produced and services rendered by the labour of others. If all the money iii the world were swept away we should not be reduced to despair, although we should have great difficulty in exchanging our goods and services for those of others. We are able to bear the grievously heavy burden represented by the budget because we produce wealth in superabundance. Science and improved methods have increased man’s productivity enormously. I ask honorable members to recall the Harvester award of Mr. Justice Higgins. Two guineas was then paid for 48 hours’ work. Labour regarded that as a great achievement, as it certainly was. But times have changed - living costs have soared into the stratosphere and a man and his family are hard put to it to live on a wage of £9 13s. a week. We must produce more goods. The prices of commodities on which we live have soared and, with an abundance of money, we are confronted with a position which is not dissimilar to that which existed in years gone by.
There are three great problems which confront this country. The first is war. Every free country in the world is making feverish attempts to strengthen its defences. Although it may be accepted that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, vigilance without training, discipline, and the means of fighting effectively, will not save us. If we are to keep Australia as a free country, we must prepare to defend it. War is one danger. Communism is another. Communism is Russian and Russia is communism. Russia has now 215 divisions fit to take the field and is still expanding its territory, increasing the number of its armed forces, and extending its control over the countries of Eastern Europe. All those little countries - Poland, Czechoslovakia, Roumania and Hungary - have fallen under its sway. Tito is making a desperate effort to hold his own, but to state that one is a Communist is not enough to save one in these days. One must bow the knee to Stalin or take the consequences of failure to do so. All these circumstances are known to honorable members and ought to be known to every person in this country. We hold this ‘country by the grace of God and what power we have to beat off an aggressor. It is true that we are making belated attempts to put our house in order. But time presses and war is not like a contest in a stadium which can be postponed because one of the contestants has a cut over the eye or because his manager considers that he will get a better house in a week or so. War comes when the aggressor is ready to make the attack. In the world to-day Russia is the only aggressor to be feared. Not only is it armed to the teeth, but, also, in every country it has agents busily at work undermining the legal governments, sowing the seeds of discord and promoting industrial trouble.
All the great unions in this country except the Australian Workers Union are honeycombed with communism. Communism is one of our enemies. Russia is another. There is a third. It has been said that war is not inevitable. Nothing is inevitable save death. “But population is limited by food supplies, and the world is becoming rapidly over-populated. World population has increased by 500,000,000 since 1901. It is continuing unevenly. It is increasing with giant strides in some countries and less rapidly in others, whilst in some it is almost stagnant. We pride ourselves on the response that we have had to our invitations to the people of Great Britain and other countries to come to Australia. But our need is great and there is but a little time left to us to put our house in order. I believe in the United Nations. I ‘believed in the League of Nations, but it failed because wars are fought not with
Words but with armed forces. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned what the United Nations could do in Egypt and elsewhere. I remind ‘him that what is necessary is the use of force now - not in six months’ time. It may be that tomorrow we shall read that war is blazing - that the Egyptians are attacking and murdering our fellow citizens, the soldiers of Great Britain. What can we do now’? Some people say that we could defend this country ourselves when the enemy came from overseas. But we may be destroyed by an enemy that will not land cine man on our shores. We are dependent on ‘public opinion the world over.
I have said that the world population is increasing. When federation was established in Australia the population of
Japan was 47,000,000. It is now 84,000,000 and is increasing at the rate of 1,500,000 a year. Saturation point has been reached. There is a surplus of 6,000,000 or 8,000,000 for whom there is no room and no escape from death by starvation except by emigration. Where are they to go? Where in the world is there any place but Australia and New Guinea? What are we to do about it? The world’s population is increasing at tie rate of 60,000 a day. If the surplus millions in Japan come knocking at our door what shall we say? What shall we do? We should probably appeal to the United Nations. If the United Nations did no more for us than we have done for the South Koreans we should be lost. The United Nations sent out an appeal to the world to come to the aid of the South Koreans when they were menaced by the North Koreans, backed by Russia.’ What, happened ? Months passed before we could muster one regiment of Australian soldiers.
– Does the right honorable gentleman support the Government’s proposal to rearm Japan?
– Never mind about the Government. Think of Australia. If we are to be saved we must do something to save ourselves. A vital necessity for this country is more people. Where are we to get them ? They must be people who can be easily assimilated into the community and in order that they may be absorbed we must find employment for them. There is plenty of room for them in this country.
The honorable member for Lalor has stated that there has been a reduction of production by the man on the land. There must be incentives to induce people to work harder. People must be absorbed into industry and they must be placed on the land. There are great opportunities ahead of us but we must produce goods on ‘a competitive basis and turn out more we’alth per capita. The Communist preaches the go-slow policy. He tells the worker ‘that he will best serve the community by retarding production. I believe that the world is to be saved by producing more goods. Certainly, that is ‘the way to deal with inflation. We must bring, down the high prices by producing more goods. We must honour, as the best citizen, the man who produces the most. In order to do that we must support the doctrine that the man who produces most is the best citizen of this country.
– The right honorable gentleman would not be much good at production.
– -Order ! I insist on obedience to the Chair, and will name the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) if he interjects again.
– We must have mors people in this country and in order to do that we must have means by which they can be profitably employed. One of those means is to settle them on the land. One of the incentives to land settlement is a reasonable price for the products of the land and consideration for the man on the land. By reason of his environment the man on the land deserves more from the community than do those who live in the city. At the same time we must ensure that our factories shall be geared to their maximum production and able to produce in competition with other countries: I requested recently that the text of the treaty with Japan he laid on the table for the information of honorable members. We may be destroyed as a nation because some country such as Japan is able to flood our markets with the products of workers who have a standard of -living to which the Australian worker would give short shrift. We believe, I hope, in Australia, and we realize all that we owe to Great Britain. Great Britain has fallen from the high estate it held when its word was sufficient to enforce order and respect for law based on liberty and justice. I invite honorable members to consider where it stands to-day.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who has just concluded his contribution to the budget debate, gave us an interesting dissertation upon the colonization and growth of Australia. He referred to the fact that during the course of its progress this country had established certain standards of living, and said that it should be the aim and was the duty of every government of this country to ensure that those standards should not deteriorate. He said that the things for which Australians have striven all their lives must never be depreciated and that the benefits that flow from progressive government must be maintained throughout our history. Every honorable member will agree emphatically with the desirability of retaining our standards, but I should like to have beard the right honorable gentleman attacking a budget such as this in the days of his pristine vigour when he was a member of the Labour party. I can readily imagine his indignant reaction to its preposterous nature. Since federation no budget presented to the Parliament has aroused the universal condemnation that this budget has evoked. That condemnation has not been aroused because the people of Australia are afraid of making sacrifices if they will ensure the preservation of their national integrity. The people have proved that during the years of economic and military struggle. Therefore, it is not because of national selfishness that the Australian people reject this budget. It is because they rightly believe that they are being called upon to shoulder burdens and to make sacrifices which are not warranted even during this present time of international tension.
The budget proposes to levy taxation at the rate of £124 a head of the Australian people. The previous budget levied £101 a head. When those figures are contrasted with the per capita taxation during the war years the extraordinary nature of these proposals is realized. The greatest taxation levy during the war years was imposed by a Labour government, but it was only £72 a head of the population. Yet from that £72 a head this country was able to maintain its living standards, fight a great war and set aside money for the rehabilitation of its industries and servicemen. In the light of those figures I say that the Government which is at present misruling this country is completely out of step with reality and with the principles of sound economics. When introducing his budget the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that it would be less hurtful than inflation. I suggest that this budget will not have the effect on the inflationary condition of our economy that is claimed by its proponents. On the contrary it will aggravate the inflationary spiral.
– The honorable member has read the writings of Sir Stafford Cripps.
– Yes I have, and 1 know the common economic factor that influences my thought on this matter. The taxation envisaged by this budget will have a vital effect on the regimen of goods upon the cost of which the basic wage is fixed. If those essential goods are to be increased in price is it not natural to believe that the basic wage will rise? That will still further increase the cost of essential commodities which in turn will affect the basic wage again and send up the inflationary spiral. I submit that all the arguments that have been advanced by the Opposition have a definite and practical end in view. The object is to direct the attention of the Government to the inequalities of the budget. Although our objections have been stated here on many occasions, sometimes repetition is worthwhile. Let us consider, for instance, the sales tax. Can any honorable member on the Government side justify the general increase of the sales tax from Si per cent, to 12-£ per cent. ? Is it not a. fact that the impact of the increased cost of many goods must send up the cost of living? The increase of the cost of living must affect wages and prices and that must have a further effect on the cost of commodities. The budget will cause another revolution of the inflationary screw that is slowly squeezing the lifeblood out of the working people of Australia.
It is doubtful whether the increase of sales tax on certain so-called luxury lines will have the effect that the Government desires, because it is doubtful whether it will prevent persons from buying those things. It cannot be contended that an increased sales tax on razor blades or shaving brushes will prevent people from buying razor blades or shaving brushes. The tax on razor blades has been increased from 8-J per cent, to 50 per cent. That is really an increase of 500 per cent. Yet the sales tax on electric shavers has been increased from 8-J per cent, to only 12£ per cent. If there ever was a luxury line it is electric shaving machines. The sales tax has been increased by only 50 per cent, on those articles and yet on the hum-drum, common, universal razor blade the increase is 500 per cent.
Let us consider some of the other items in the sales tax. schedule. I represent a very closely populated industrial constituency and I am therefore interested in the heavy sales tax imposed on articles used in children’s playgrounds. The tax on those goo”ds has been increased from 51 per cent, to 50 per cent. In my own congested electorate, thanks to the fine work of the Playgrounds Association of Victoria, the National Fitness Council and the municipal councils, every spare bit of space is occupied by a playground which is used by the children of the crowded suburbs. Increased sales tax on the articles used in children’s playgrounds, which are so vitally necessary in areas such as the one that I represent, will have a very harmful effect on the children’s recreational facilities. I join with those who have protested both inside and outside this chamber, against the increase of sales tax on such necessary items as those to which I have referred.
The increased tax on sports goods has also raised a storm of protest by reputable people and organizations. The heavy tax on sports goods bears with undue severity on organizations which perform a particularly good social service. Because of the heavy taxing of sports goods, we Australians who pride ourselves on being an athletic nation will speedily find that the junior and non-professional participants in sports will be denied the opportunity to indulge in their particular recreations. Before long it will be found that amateur organizations, which depend for their existence on their receipts from the members of their organizations, will go out of existence. I desire to read from an article that was published on the 13th October, in the Sporting Globe of Melbourne. It was reported that the vicepresident of the Victorian Junior Cricket Union said this -
We are very disturbed at the effect of tha sales tax, plus manufacturing and retailers’ costs. If costs continue to soar, thousands of cricketers will be lost to the game.
This will apply especially to the junior clubs who have hundreds of boys aged 14-15. These boys have simply not got the extra money. It means that their parents, already heavily taxed, will have to find the money if their boys are to continue to play cricket.
If our youth is forced out of sport the health of the nation must suffer, as its foundation i* in sport and recreation for its youth.
I also note with concern that various police clubs which are endeavouring to make lads of depressed areas into worthwhile citizens have registered their protests at the increase of sales tax on sporting goods. They bitterly bemoan the fact that an unsympathetic government such as the one that now disfigures the treasury bench is the first government to tax junior sport so heavily in this great sporting community of Australia. It is not a joke as far as those boys are concerned. If these police clubs, cricket clubs and clubs of young Christian workers are practically forced out of existence because of the unfair increase of the sales tax, what will be the effect on the youth of the community? Instead of playing worthwhile sport their adolescent energies will he turned into channels that will be less acceptable to honorable members of this Parliament. Some consideration should be given to the amelioration of what is a most unfair application of the sales tax.
I wish to refer to a matter that has already been mentioned by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson). That is the increased excise duty on beer, spirits, cigarettes and tobacco. They all are things which the working man genuinely regards as necessaries. I do not mention this matter on behalf of the breweries. The average Australian worker does not abuse alcoholic liquors or tobacco, and the imposition of unduly higher rates of indirect tax on such cornhigh rates of indirect tax on such commodities is a disservice to him. The Government consoles itself with the thought that the increases of excise duty on alcoholic beverages will be passed on by the breweries and publican? to the general public. The injustice of the proposed increases is revealed in the relevant figures. Of the retail price of 9d. that will be charged for a 7-oz. glass of ale, the brewery will receive 1.1 d. and the publican 3.4d., but the Government will receive 4.5d., or 50 per cent., of that price. Of the ls: at which an 11-oz. pot of ale is retailed, the brewery wil receive 1.4d. and the publican will receive 4.6d. but the Government will receive 6d., or 50 per cent., of the retail price. A bottle of ale will be retailed at 2s. 4d. and whilst the brewery will receive 9d. and the retailer 4.6d. of that sum, the Government will receive ls. 2.3d. or over 50 per cent, of it. The iniquity of these increases of excise duty is best illustrated by the fact that of the sum of £4 4s. 7d. for which a 9 gallon keg of ale is sold to the publican, the brewery will receive 19s. 6d. whilst the Government will receive £3 4s. Gd., or 77 per cent, of that cost. No government can justify the imposition of so great an increase of duty on a beverage that means so much to the worker. That increase will be passed on to the consumer. On the basis of an estimated production of 42,000,000 gallons this year, the Carlton and United Breweries Limited, of Melbourne, will collect on behalf of the Government excise duty amounting to £15,050,000, of which sum nearly £5,500,000 will represent an additional impost on the ale-drinking section of the community. On an estimated production of 3,500,000 gallons this year the Ballarat Brewing Company Limited will collect on behalf of the Government excise duty amounting to £1,250,000, of which sum nearly £500,000 will be imposed oil Consumers under this budget. Obviously, the Government takes courage from the fact that any resentment that is aroused will be directed not at it but’ at the breweries and the publicans.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred to the inadequacy of the proposed increases of allowances to trainees under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. This scheme was inaugurated by a Labour Government and before that Government was defeated at the general election in 1949 the allowances were fixed on the principle that throughout the period of training single male students were to receive not less than 66 per cent, of the basic wage, married men without children were to-be given an allowance of not less than 94 per cent, of the basic wage and married men with children were to receive an allowance in excess of the basic wage. While Labour was in office the average allowance that was paid to married men with children was 102 per cent, in relation to the basic wage, but since the present Government assumed office that percentage has decreased remarkably. After allowing for the increase of 7s. 6d. a week for which provision is made under this budget, the allowance that will be paid to single men under this scheme will represent only 49 per cent, of the basic wage, whilst the allowance that will be paid to married men without children will represent 6S per Cent, of the basic wage and the allowance that will be paid to married men with children will represent only 73 per cent, of the basic wage. That is the sort of justice that this Government is meting out to men to whom it claims the country owes such a great debt. Labour, when it was in office, gave a measure of justice to students under that scheme while they were being trained to become useful members of the community. The present Government has reversed that procedure and is content to make available to such trainees nothing better than a mere subsistence allowance. In view of those facts, I support the protest that the honorable member for Lalor has made in this respect. I hope, although I have1 not much ground for doing so, that the Government will reconsider this matter and increase these allowances to anadequate degree.
I join with other honorable members from Victoria in protesting against the” treatment that the Government, through, the Loan Council, has meted out to that’. State in respect of its loan programme. I do not propose to restate the matter in detail. Every honorable member is aware that the original programme that was presented at the last meeting of the Loan Council amounted to £300,000,000. That figure was arbitrarily reduced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and. the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to £225,000,000. Recently I asked the Prime Minister the following question -
Will he say whether lt is a fact that at meetings of. the Australian Loan Council each State has only one vote and the Commonwealth has two votes and, in the event of an equality of votes; a casting vote?’ Is it not also true that two- States- and the Commonwealth can outvote the majority opinion of the other four States?
Every honorable member knows that that question must be answered in the affirmative. Under such conditions the loan programme of Victoria was reduced from £76,500,000 to £53,500,000. Of the latter sum, £47,000,000 represented contractual obligations that the Victorian Government had entered into principally because responsible Ministers in this Government had advised it that the time had come to purchase electrical equipment on the ground that the expansion of power in Victoria would be of great advantage in respect of defence projects which the Austraiian Government envisaged. Consequently the Victorian Government entered into those contracts cheerfully. In view of those facts, it cannot be denied that Victoria has been badly treated in this matter as the result of a minority decision of the Loan Council.
Tha budget provides proof of the incompetence of the Government. No citizen worthy of the name would object to making- sacrifices when necessary in the interests of the nation. Indeed, Australians as- a. whole have done so on more than one. occasion. But when sacrifices must be made the Government should ensure that there shall be equality of sacrifice. How can it claim to have done that under this budget when it now proposes to bring into the field of income tax persons with an income of as low as £250 a year ? At the same time1, it increases sales tax on commodities which, although it says they are luxuries,, arc every day necessaries. If the Government regards cosmetics, face powder and lipstick as luxuries, the average Australian woman will emphatically disagree with it. Such high rates of sales tax as it has imposed arbitrarily on cosmetics, razor blades, shaving brushes and popcorn, reveal the mental calibre of its supporters. If the Government were prepared to approach the people’ and ask for a mandate to implement’ this budget, I have no doubt that it would receive such an answer that it would receive such an answer’ that it could not, if it had any self respect, continue in- office. Even though the Treasurer and the Prime Minister regard the budget as evidence: of the fact that they are saviours’ of the nation, it is clear that the imposition of high rates of sales tax on essential commodities will cause us to sink further into the morass of inflation. Thinking Australians cannot but believe that the budget will have the effect nol of stabilizing our economy but of practically destroying it.
.- Like the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), I find it uncongenial, to say the least, to justify this grim budget. It represents a very serious operation. I have always found it difficult to acknowledge the need’ for major surgical operations. Minor operations have never worried me. It has always seemed to me to be wrong to submit the human body to the indignities, explorations, extractions, reductions and dangers of the surgeon’s knife. But,. like other persons, I have seen the human body racked with pain and tortured and defiled with disease and I have been forced to the. conclusion that a major surgical operation, with all its hazards, is sometimes unavoidable. The body politic is not different from the human body. Both are. made of the same kind of stuff. They have precisely the same kind of functions, and are structurally similar. The body politic and the human body are subject to similar disorders, disruptions and diseases. It is true that a great many of them are inherited and that some of them are the unfortunate> consequence of what may be described as extraneous infection; but it is also true that some of them are caused by the suppurating’ sores of self-inflicted wounds.
That our body politic is sick is not to’ be doubted. A great many of its natural function’s have already broken down, and a great many more, such as production, transport, education, hospitalization,, shipping, road construction and maintenance, to mention only a few, are in the process of breaking down. But to’ diagnose this sickness as incipientdemocracy, and to leave it at that, or to> suggest that it is due entirely to the5 infection of inflation is to ignore the true1 symptoms. I suggest that that is what the’ Opposition is doing now. Like every other free country, we are suffering fromthe inherent weaknesses of democracy. Like every other free country we are being attacked by the virus of inflation. But unlike any other free country in the world, our greatest danger comes from the suppurating sores of our own selfinflicted wounds.
In our own country, all those disasters could have been prevented, but they were not prevented. In our own country, all those maladies could have been cured painlessly, but they were not cured. The reason is that there are in our midst those who hope to profit from the complete disintegration of the body politic. That has been our tragedy, and for it the Opposition must bear its share of the responsibility. So this innocent Government has been driven to perform major surgery. That is the only way in which I can describe this budget. It is major surgery in its most spectacular form. It is a tracheotomy, a carefully considered incision in the constricted throat of the suffocating nation, to enable it to breathe, to permit it to meet this crisis and to allow it to escape from this desperate situation. To cut away one-third of our national income is, admittedly, to perform a very serious operation. Even when it is known that one-third of our national income is diseased and worthless tissue, it is still a very serious operation. Rut it is much less serious than the operation that is being performed at this very moment on our own kith and kin in many parts of the world, and it has never been fatal.
If the people of this most-favoured country are not strong enough to stand such an operation, how comes it that our kith and kin in less favoured parts of the world are able to stand a more serious operation, a deeper operation, caused in part and certainly aggravated by our wretched state of defencelessness? That is the question which, in my humble opinion, must be answered by those who have a sense of common justice. It can be answered only after an examination of the incidence of taxation in other parts of the world where there are people who share our common heritage. In the United Kingdom and the Dominion of New Zealand - the two geographic extremes of what used to be called the British Empire before it was so wantonly destroyed - income and social services contributions become payable when a man with a dependent wife and one child is in receipt of an income of £100 per annum from personal exertion. [Quorum formed.) The following comparison is most illuminating: -
Is not Australia a most favored nation? It is not until the taxpayers in the three countries have an income of £5,000 per annum that their taxes move close to equality, although the margin is still widely in our favour. A taxpayer in receipt of an income of £5,000 a year pays in the United Kingdom £2,529 13s., in New Zealand £2,457 2s. 6d., and in Australia £2,170 7s. Both the taxable income and the taxes payable are expressed in the currency of the country concerned, without conversion to a common basis, but they are sufficiently illuminating for the purposes of this comparison.
– What is the incidence of indirect taxation?
– When I point out, for the benefit of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), that indirect taxation in those three countries follows precisely the same general proportions, the full story is nearly told. But if we examine taxation in Canada, the Union of South Africa and the United States of America for the purposes of this comparison, our position grows progressively worse if it be’ our intention to stand up to our full democratic responsibilities, or progressively better if it be our shameful intention ignominiously to escape from them. I know that comparisons can be odious, but they are not. odious in their common objectives; and the common objectives in this instance are the defence commitments of the free world, which have been forced upon us by the enslaved world, and the effective measures to stem the rising tide of inflation, which has precisely the same origin. Those measures have been forced upon us by the enslaved world. If those were our only difficulties they could, perhaps, be met with fortitude, and a generous budget. But superimposed upon them is our most pressing difficulty, which, in my opinion, is the greatest of them all. I refer to the corruption of our economy.
This is a bad budget. How could it be otherwise? It stems from a corrupted economy; a divided economy; an economy that was designed to isolate the rural industries and to plunder them; an economy that was deliberately designed to heap political preferment on the urban industries, and to smother them. Those are our self-inflicted wounds, and, in my opinion, they could mean death. No enemy attack ever brought us to this sorry pass. No shattering blow from any foe rendered our people homeless. No barbed weapon crippled our industries. No defeat in battle reduced our public utilities to impotence. Neither shot nor shell brought the grim spectre of starvation to our shores. All that has been caused by the social excesses and political abuses in which we ourselves have indulged. Those are the enormities to which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred, but .1 describe them as self-inflicted wounds.
To those of us who have played even a small part in the development of our country, it is obvious that there must have been a dynamic period in our history when the valiant tackled the most gigantic task that ever confronted a handful of people, namely, the effective occupation and development of a primitive country. I emphasize that it was during that period, when all our enterprises were related to a single economy, that we made our greatest progress. When we departed from that single economy, we met with’ this disaster. It was during that dynamic period that our cities were founded, our land occupied, our settlements, pushed out, our transport systems evolved, and, when the thin trickle of production - which was to become a spate- - arrived at the sea board, it was shipped from the very same ports that we use to-day. Then came our towns and villages, all built from the proceeds of primary production, our roadways, our railways, our secondary industries, our electricity projects - which, strangely enough, had their genesis in the country town of Tamworth, New South Wales, a fact that is often forgotten - our irrigation schemes, and our nationhood. Those were our fruitful years. They took us up to and through World War I. and half-way towards World War II. with a single economy, an economy common to all our people regardless of what they did or where they lived. But then disaster overwhelmed our primary industries. We needed political courage then, but we had no political courage; we needed social patience then, but we had no social patience. That was the end of our dynamic period of progress.
Our primary industries were chained to the chariot wheels of export parity prices, and these dragged us down to the depths. I was in all the negotiations at that time and, with my own eyes, I saw what happened. We were politically terrified. We were palsied with fear, and we surrendered ourselves to the economists who, to my certain knowledge, have always been wrong, and we have never been able to escape. For that vital movement in our history, members of the Labour party must accept responsibility. To the planners, and to them alone, did it seem obvious that the primary industries were finished, that they would remain permanently impoverished, that their capacity to pay for our development was at an end, and that their purchasing power could never be restored. It was that absurd deduction that caused a complete and calamitous division in the economy of our country for the first time.
It was too easy to leave the primary industries to their fate and, by a simple manipulation of the fiscal policy and the industrial laws, to - set up ‘ an economy that would be exclusive to the urban industries. That economy was deliberately designed to provide infinite ease and spurious affluence for those who were engaged in those industries, and to drain the country of its people. That was the fatal blunder.
It was the end of development, the beginning of the general exodus to the cities, and the start of the slow and terrible scourge of scarcity. We were to live on the capital development of the past, and we have lived on the capital development of the past, wearing it out, tearing it to pieces and damning the consequences. “ Gome to the cities “, was the cry, “ and we will give you homes, remunerative employment, short hours, education and all the amenities of modern society. Stay in the country, and we will give you nothing until you produce, and then we will pay for your production on a scale set by the Chinese coolies, and not a penny more.”
From that point we were a country with two economies and two standards. One standard was for the secondary and tertiary industries, and it rightly conceded a high standard of living to those engaged in those industries. The other standard was for the primary industries, and it conceded neither justice nor equity to those engaged in those industries. We perpetrated these enormities ourselves and we must accept full responsibility for them. But, in 1945, to the consternation of the planners, the primary industries rose slowly from their impoverishment and made demands on the secondary and tertiary industries for goods and services that those industries were powerless to meet. That was our chance to undo the harm that had been done; that was our chance to correct a grievous wrong; that was our chance to fuse our divided economy. And we shamefully missed the chance ! This rural prosperity could not last, the economists told us, and it would be folly todepart from the depreciated exchange rate, it would be madness to move from the stability of scarcity, and it would be cold, black murder to ask anybody to go back to work. That is how they argued. We missed our chance, and instead we were given the 40-hour week, the greatest calamity that has ever been inflicted on a long-suffering community. It was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. But our camel, we were told, had no need of a back. It was living well on the capital development of ‘the past, and all was leisure and affluence. ‘The primary industries sought, and are still seeking, a resumptionof that dynamic history that gave us all the goods, the services, the utilities and the development that rightfully belonged to a progressive people. But the secondary and tertiary industries were incapable of resumption. They were chained to an exclusive urban economy, and the nation was forced out into the market places of the world to beg for the goods and services that we formerly provided so easily for ourselves.
This is a time for invocation and, with the indulgence of the committee, I propose to read, in the brief period that remains to me, a prayer that I have had cause to pen in desperation, not for the people of the electorate that I represent, but for the farmers of New England. If I never do anything else in this chamber, I may, by offering this prayer, succeed in indicating the true nature of our responsibilities -
Restore economic sanity in our time, 0 Lord,
Lest there be no other time, and before it is too late.
Grant us the wisdom to see the great good in our history,
And to forget the evil;
For the great good has brought us thus far
Along the road of social progress,
Farther, and in a shorter space of time,
Than the history of any other country
Has brought any other people;
And the evil has brought us nothing but wretchedness and woe.
Protect us, O Lord, from the politicians who set -
Class against class, creed against creed,
And kind against kind;
For theirs is the way of bitterness,
And all their paths are strife.
Give us the power to reach our own political decisions
In our own personal way.
Hold open the door of opportunity to us,
And to our children,
As free people, and regardless of our circumstances.
Save us from the planners, and the economists,
Who are almost invariably wrong,
And who have divided our people, and rewarded them,
Not according to their talents or their needs,
But according to their location - as the Americans would say !
Show us the folly of paying urban people
For the hours they are alleged to work,
And rural people for the quantity and quality.
Of what they can grow.
Give us the strength and the character
That was given to our progenitors,
To do the jobs that need to be done,
To provide ourselves with the goods and services -
That are available to us, and that we so urgently require, To feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, and house ourselves,
To educate our own children, nurse our own sick,
Care for our own aged, and bury our own dead, As was our custom,
And IS the custom of all those who cherish human dignity. Restore economic sanity in our time, 0 Lord. -Thy grace, and through Robert Gordon
Who is most anxious to serve the people of this country, But who is cluttered up with lawyers, planners,
Economists, and gentlemen of the kind,
To say nothing of pressure, groups.
Guide him, and strengthen him
To meet our difficulties,
As our forebears would have met them,
With faith, courage, and resolution.
I support this wretched budget in the same way and with the same diffidence as I “would support the use of a scalpel on my own kith and kin. Necessity is a hard master, and I am but a humble” servant. Nothing can be gained if we fail to face up to our difficulties, but, if we face up to them with courage and resolution, we may be able to write another page of glorious history to add to the calendar that has been handed down to us.
– I listened with considerable interest to the post-operative diagnosis of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton). This must be the first time in medical, or pseudomedical, history that the anaesthetic has been administered after the operation. I heard so much from the honorable member of fatal blunders, self-inflicted wounds, battle, murder and sudden death that I was constrained to look round the chamber to see whether I could find signs of primary, secondary or tertiary movement amongst honorable members, or whether, indeed, I was in a place of the dead. I must voice my regret that the honorable member chose to paraphrase a prayer at the conclusion of his remarks. I could not but be impressed by the similarity between that piece of mockery and the words that were used by the late Kaiser Wilhelm, “ Mein Gott and I”. So much for the honorable member for Riverina!
This budget has been introduced by a government that has a great belief in mandates. Its members have spoken a great deal about mandates and their deep respect for them. In fact, during the last fifteen months of its interrupted life, this Government might well have been described as “ mandate happy “. It seems to have had more mandates than the League of Nations had. Time and time again, in this chamber and in the Senate, its representatives have told us that it has had mandates for this, mandates for that, and mandates for something else. But when it has failed to carry out those mandates, it has always been able to find excuses. It declares that it has been frustrated. First of all, it was frustrated by that wicked Labour party majority in the Senate. Then it was frustrated by some other means. Only a few weeks ago, of course, it was frustrated by the will of the people expressed at a referendum. And to-night, perhaps, it has been frustrated by the honorable member for Riverina.
The Government constantly asserts its belief in mandates, and, indeed”, it came to office in 1949 with some very clear mandates. One of them was expressed very clearly by the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in the policy speech that he delivered in 1949, I think at Boonah. The right honorable gentleman said that if the present Government parties were returned, they would reduce taxes, especially indirect taxes. If the Government parties were elected on that policy-speech, they had a clear mandate to do that, but they have not honoured their promise. During the 1949 general election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) delivered a policy-speech on behalf of the present Government parties. During the last general election campaign he said that the policy that he had enunciated then was still the policy of the Government parties. In 1949 he said -
A resolute reduction in the burdens of government and, with it, in the rates of tax, will mean reduced costs of production. In brief, higher production will mean lower costs; and lower costs will enable us to enter and secure overseas markets which are now not supplied by us because we are not producing the goods. We will attack all these problems with vigour and imagination.
They may have been tackled in imagination, but production has not increased and taxes have not been reduced.
Honorable gentlemen opposite cited figures relating to direct taxes and claimed to have proved that the Government had effected a reduction of taxes. They will find it very difficult to persuade the housewives and wage-earners of this country that that is so, because the burden of those people has been grossly increased by the imposition of higher indirect taxes upon everyday items that are used in the house, in business and in leisure hours. The increase of sales tax upon children’s toys and upon ice cream has been referred to frequently. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Miami] ton) said that he would prefer to see toys imported from Japan. Probably that statement will not contribute to the popularity of this Government.
Recently, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), in the course of what I believe was intended to be a brilliantly witty speech, paraphrased a Christmas rhyme. He said, in effect -
Christmas comes hut once a year. And when it comes it brings good cheer.
The right honorable gentleman might well have quoted another Christmas rhyme, which runs -
Christmas is coming the geese are getting fat
It’s time to put a penny in the old man’s hat.
Every one in this country knows the geese that are becoming fat and that will become fatter under this budget. Every one knows that the measures taken by this Government have done nothing to assist the old man, the old woman, the halt or the lame. Honorable gentlemen opposite have taken unction to themselves in citing the increase of the age pension. Probably the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) will agree that an overdose of unction may be a bad thing, because it may cause flatulence.
– Has the honorable gentleman tried it?
– ‘So far I have attempted neither to diagnose nor to prescribe. It is apparent that some honorable gentlemen opposite consider that they are competent to both diagnose and prescribeThe result will probably be the death of the patient. Government supporters take great pride in the fact that the increase of age and invalid pensions by 10s. a week will be the largest increase ever made. It is freely admitted on this side of the chamber that it will be thelargest money increase, but I point out. that it will be made in a time of record inflation and record high prices, brought about by this Government’s recklessness. The increase will not bring age and invalid pensions back to the same relation to the basic wage as existed when the Chifley Administration went to the country in 1949.
In case honorable gentlemen opposite and others have lost their sense of proportion in matters appertaining to social services, I shall cite some facts. For 23 of the 25 years before the Curtin Government came into office in 1941, non-Labour governments were in power in this country. When the Curtin Government assumed office, the only social services that were being provided by the Commonwealth were age and invalid pensions, at a maximum rate of 21s. 6d. a week; the maternity allowance, which was subject to a means test, and ranged from £4 10s. to £7 10s.: and child endowment, which had been introduced under pressure only three months previously, at the rate of 5s. a week. Labour governments were in office for approximately eight years after 3941. during the war period and the difficult post-war period. With a proper sense of responsibility, they doubled age and invalid, pensions by increasing them from 21s. 6d. to 42s. 6d. a week, and considerably eased the means test; they more than trebled the initial maternity allowance by increasing it from £4 10s. to £15, and abolished the means test in respect of that benefit; and they doubled child endowment payments by increasing them from 5s. to 10s. a week.
That is by no means the full story of Labour’s achievements in the field of social services. In those years, Labour governments introduced the widow’s pension. In 23 years of rule by nonLabour governments, who had given a thought to the needs of widows in the community ? It was left to a Labour government to introduce that social reform. A. Labour government also introduced unemployment and sickness benefits, so that when a man lost his employment for some reason or contracted an illness that prevented him from working he was not left destitute. Those benefits .are still being paid. A Labour government introduced hospital benefits. It provided for completely free treatment and care for patients in public wards of public hospitals, and paid 8s. a day towards the cost of maintenance of patients in nonpublic wards of public hospitals or in approved private hospitals. The Chifley Government introduced a scheme for the provision of pharmaceutical benefits. Doubtless the history of that scheme is fresh in the minds of every honorable member. If ever a government could have claimed to be frustrated, the Chifley Government could have done so in the years when, in the face of bitter and, I suggest, biased opposition from an organization known as the British Medical Association, it endeavoured to give a real benefit to the people of this country.
The Chifley Government introduced a special benefit for sufferers from tuberculosis in order to encourage them to refrain from working and to undergo treatment. It paid an allowance to dependants so that sufferers should be free from financial worry that might impede their recovery. It introduced allowances for the wives and children of invalid pensioners. In 194!), those allowances were being paid at the rate of £1 4s. a week for a wife and 9s. a week for an unendowed child. In addition, it recognized the needs of persons responsible for the funerals of deceased pensioners by paying a funeral benefit. The Chifley Government, throughout its life, progressively eased the pensions means test. The Labour party is the only political party that has constantly endeavoured to achieve complete abolition of the means test.
Those are facts that can be read by any one in the community in a booklet entitled Social Services of the Commonwealth. The booklet sets out the social services benefits that are paid and, without any suggestion of propaganda, gives a factual history of each social services measure and names the government that introduced it. When honorable gentlemen opposite take pride to themselves for what they are doing for the pensioners, let them cast their minds back ‘over the history of 23 years of inaction by non-Labour governments and contrast it with the great advances that were made in social services in eight years by Labour governments. The pensioners know what party they can trust.
– They have said it twice in two years.
– Many things have been said in the last two years, some of them by very eminent gentlemen. Approximately eighteen months ago, a booklet was distributed with prodigal abandon. It was entitled Joint Opposition Policy - .1949, and contained a report of the policy speech that was delivered by the present Prime Minister in November, 1949. Dealing with pensions, the right honorable gentleman said -
We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
Will any one dare to suggest that the purchasing power of pensions or of money has increased under the present Administration? The right honorable gentleman continued -
We are deeply conscious of the frequently unjust operation of the means test and of the penalty that it imposes in many cases upon thrift. This great human problem will have our urgent attention as a matter of priority.
Those words were uttered by the man who became Prime Minister of this country in December, 1949, and who has led the Government since then. In the whole of that time, no major attempt has been made to deal with this great human problem. Not one major step has been taken to ease the means test. To-day pensioners are much worse off than they were when this Government assumed office.
– The honorable gentleman should be fair and read the rest of that passage from the Prime Minister’s policy speech.
– It would take too much time to read the rest of the speech. Any honorable member who desires to refresh himself upon the promises that the right honorable gentleman made in that speech can easily obtain a copy of the booklet from either the office of the Prime Minister, the office of the Treasurer or the headquarters of the Liberal party in tho State from which he comes. Copies are readily available. The booklet is printed in reasonably large type, and the mall] parts of it are printed in black type. Doubtless the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) will be able to decipher the words and interpret their meaning.
– Who wrote it?
– The booklet was written by the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies. It sets out the policy speech that he delivered in 1949.
– The honorable gentleman should read more of it.
– It would be a good thing if some one took the time to read to honorable gentlemen opposite every word of the speech. It is obvious that they have forgotten it. They have most certainly forgotten the promises that so liberally besprinkle its pages.
– Read us the rest of the policy speech. _ The honorable member has five minutes left.
– I have several other matters to which I wish to refer, one of which is social services. I regret that the budget includes no provision for the establishment in the Australian Capital Territory of a home, or homes, for elderly people. I believe that a civilization is largely judged on the treatment that it accords to the old people in the community. For many years the Canberra Twilight Homes Committee has worked to achieve the establishment of proper homes in which aged people in the Territory could spend their declining years in a reasonable standard of comfort and serenity. It is perhaps true that over the years many governments are partly to blame for the present lack of such homes. It is also true that, during the term of office of the last Labour Administration, the then Minister for the Interior approved plans for the building of twilight cottage homes to house the aged people of the Territory. Approaches have been made to the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), and I am not criticizing him in connexion with this matter. In fact, I am grateful to him for many things that he has done for the people of Canberra. However, I believe that the provision of homes for the aged should be expedited. I am prepared to take the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), on any day that is suitable to them, on a tour of the disreputable and pitiful humpies and shacks in which some of the old people of the Territory are forced to live.
If there be’ any need for further evidence of the Government’s lack of regard for aged people it is the effect of the retrenchments in the Public Service. In recent weeks the net effect of that policy in the Territory has been that the people dismissed have been largely the halt, the maim, the blind and the old. A man came to my office yesterday about this matter. He is 68 years of age, was born in the Territory and has spent the whole of his working life in it. He was employed on a Department of Works and Housing maintenance gang. Under the Government’s scheme to release people for productive industry so that we shall have more hewers of coal and makers of steel, this man was given a dismissal notice.
– How old is he?
– He is 68. He lives in a government hostel, where the tariff is £2 17s. a week. He came to me bewildered and asked where he could get a humpy in which to live out the last, few years of his life. Fortunately, through the good offices of the Department of Works and Housing, he is to be allowed to live in the hostel, although he is no longer a Commonwealth employee. That case highlights the need for the establishment of homes for the aged in the Australian ‘Capital Territory.
A need also exists for the Commonwealth to accept responsibility for the provision in the Australian Capital Territory of social services at the level at which they are usually provided by the States. Honorable members will realize that there is a point at which Commonwealth social services start, and that the gap between the need for assistance and that point is frequently bridged by State provisions. No such provisions operate in the Australian Capital Territory, although, by arrangement, applicants may secure social services benefits that are provided by New South Wales. I believe that in this Territory, .where the Commonwealth is completely unfettered and may legislate as it will, the Government should enter that field and, by amendment of the Social Services Consolidation Act or by other means, provide social services at what is normally the State level.
I am not able to make any prophecies
– Do not be modest about it.
– I am unable to be modest.
– No Labour man is.
– I am not able to assess all the ills that are inherent in the budget, but I conclude by saying that ,1 know that the budget will hit the wrong people. I believe it to be right to budget for a surplus. But that surplus should be. drawn from people who are gaining from inflationary conditions, and the hurden on the people who are suffering from the effects of inflation should be eased. When the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) spoke on this measure in the House recently, his speech was devoted largely to paying tribute to what he regards as a most wonderful Prime Minister and a most marvellous Treasurer-
– Hear, hear I
– One expects the “ Hoar, hears 1 “ of course. The Minister for Supply said that the budget spreads the burden evenly over everybody and that it provides for equality of sacrifice. If a flat rate 10 per cent, increase’ of .tax, after a graduated scale has been applied, is equality of sacrifice, then I object. If the application of viciously increased sales taxes on so many items that arc commonly used in the home day after day, is equality of sacrifice, again I protest. I do not believe that the rich man puts two razor blades in his razor or uses two shaving brushes. It costs him no more to shave than it costs a clerk in. a Commonwealth department. Sales tax on such items as razor blades hit the man on the moderate income to the same degree as they hit the man who does not suffer from inflation.
House adjourned at 10.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Although I am aware that allegations have been, published along the. lines of the honorable member’s questions, I am not in possession of any information which would confirm or deny them.
Y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 October 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511017_reps_20_214/>.