20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Recently, the honorable member for Calare and the honorable member for Reid suggested that it might be of great value if a small parliamentary group visited Korea within the limitations imposed by the military position there. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has considered that matter or come to any decision upon it. I should like to suggest also that if such an arrangement were made, or even if it were not made, it might be of value to the Parliament and to the public if such a group were enabled to visit Malaya, where we have some forces and where the situation at present, on the face of it, seems to be deteriorating.
– I am not in a position at the moment to say anything about the matter that the right honorable gentleman has raised, but I undertake to answer his question at the beginning of next week.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the reported deterioration of the situation in Malaya, Korea and the Middle East, he will, in the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, make a statement to the House
Betting out the facts of the position in these areas?
– I shall examine the matter and see whether it is possible to accede to the honorable gentleman’s request. By that I mean that I shall ascertain whether the information required is available or disclosable. If it is I shall, certainly make a statement.
– Will the Postmaster-
General state who was the gentleman who arranged the dinner at Romano’s restaurant in Sydney, at which he was a guest and at which the sale of the Macquarie Broadcasting Service was discussed? Who were the persons present at the dinner, and what was the purpose of the function? Is it not a fact that the Postmaster-General was aware that this matter was to be discussed ? Is it not a fact that a member of tho Australian ‘ Broadcasting Board was present at the dinner? Who was the person who, the Minister claims, informed him at the dinner that the Macquarie network was being sold to Australian buyers ?
– -I am not obliged to make public the details concerning every social engagement that I attend. From time to time, Ministers are invited to attend various functions of both an official and a private character. However, although tho honorable member is not entitled to be enlightened on such a matter, I shall enlighten him in this instance. I was invited by a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to attend a dinner which he was giving to signalize hia retirement from that body. _ Other members of the board were also invited to attend that function. As I happened to be the Minister who was in.- control of that authority, he asked- mo to attend, and I accepted his invitation. Quite a number of friends of the retiring member, who was the host, were .present at that function. I do not propose to Bay for the benefit of the honorable member for East Sydney, who were present. He oan ask the gentleman concerned if he wants to obtain that information. I had no previous intimation that any business associations, or any business matters, wore to be discussed, but during the course of the evening, I was informed of the proposal of the Denison group to dispose of its current interest in the Macquarie’ -network. I was also informed,. that the purchasers, who were named to me, were Australian interests,
– Who gave the honorable gentleman that information?
– I shall not tell the honorable member foi East Sydney who gave me that information. I was informed at that dinner by the people who were interested in the negotiations that the purchasers were purely Australian interests. There was no suggestion at all that any outside or overseas interests would gain control of an Australian network.
– What, is the objection to the British interests in such a matter?
– I am not discussing any objection to the purchase by British interests of an Australian broadcasting network. I shall deal with that subject very speedily if the Leader of the Opposition desires any information in relation to it. At present, I am answering a question by the honorable member for East Sydney. If he would like to obtain any further information about my private affairs, and will come to my office, I shall tell him everything that he wants to know.
– I am not likely to do sounless a witness is present.
– Will’ the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform we whether it is fact that the council which administers the International Wheat Agreement will insist that Australia meet its obligations to .export wheat, in spite of. the fact, that this year’s crop will be too small to enable this country to fulfil those obligations? . In view of the fact that under the International Wheat Agreement, shortages from one season increase the next year’s quota, and also in view of Australia’s declining what acreage, does not the Minister consider that the agreement is putting this country in an impossible position with respect to exporting wheat? Can he give an assurance that Australia’s own requirements of wheat for human consumption and stock feed will be’ provided from the forthcoming -harvest, and from ‘all future crops, before the export of wheat is permitted, in order to prevent a recurrence of the situation in which stock had to be slaughtered, because of a shortage of feed?
– I can certainly give the honorable gentleman an assurance that wheat from the’ forthcoming harvest or any future crop will not be exported from Australia in such quantities as would leave this country short of grain for its own requirements.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in cooperation with the Australian Wheat Board, to ‘ give early consideration to making the first payment for wheat to be delivered to No. 15 pool, which covers the 1951-52 harvest, not less than the cost of production figure as ascertained by the committee established under the legislation and announced on the first day of December of each year.
– I informed representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation some little time ago that the Government was willing to make the first ‘payment to the wheat-growers equal to the guaranteed price for the year. But the Australian Wheat Board, as I pointed out to the wheat-growers’ representatives, considered it impracticable to do this at the time. However, a very substantial first advan’ce’ will be made and it will be followed within a coupled of months or as quickly as can be arranged by a second payment which will bring the amount up to the guaranteed price for the year.
M r. J. R. FRASER. - I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he will be in a position shortly to make a decision upon the future requirements of the Royal Australian ‘Navy in the Jervis Bay area ? Does he consider that the present uncertainty, and the division of control between the Department of the Navy and the Department of the Interior in that area, are hampering the normal development of Jervis Bay in regard to housing and shopping facilities, and the tourist industry?
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether special provision is being made to distribute profits from the Joint
Organization to wool-growers who have retired from that industry, because of sickness and old age, during the recent years ?
– I answered a similar question last Tuesday. The position is that the Government has decided to make a repayment to persons who left the wool industry before the recent boom in prices. It desires that such payment shall be made as soon as possible. However, the legal advisers of the Government have directed its attention to the fact that the judgment of the High Court in the Poulton case may effect the entitlement of persons to their shares of the profits. Our legal advisers are nowmaking an investigation with a view to determining whether it would be proper and safe to make such payments. Should their opinion be that the fund may be distributed, there will be no avoidable delay in making the payments.
– Will the Prime Minister tell the House how the sale of plant and equipment will alter or condition the operational division of the Joint Coal Board or its subsidiary, the North South West Mining Company Proprietary Limited? Is it a fact that Parkinson Strip Mining (Australasia) Proprietary Limited, an English company, is acting as consultant and contractor to the Joint Coal Board? Has the Joint Coal Board abandoned the practice of calling tenders for various works in connexion with its undertakings? Who will determine the price to be paid for the plant and equipment that is to be sold ? Will the plant and equipment be sold at cost price less depreciation, or by tender ‘< Finally, in view of the decision to sell the plant and equipment of the Joint Coal Board, will the right honorable gentleman say whether the information that was given to me on the 24th October, to the effect that no decision had been made to suspend any section or operation of the Joint Coal Board, was in accordance with the facts?
– The honorable member’s questions relate to a series of details which, as he will realize, do not como under the administration of my department. I shall refer them to the Minister for National Development and ask him to provide answers.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is necessary, in the interests of Australia’s broad immigration policy, to deport a Fijian who apparently has lived in Australia as a good citizen. In carrying out such deportations, as it has done over many years, does the department sincerely believe that the broad principles of the White Australia policy are safeguarded by the pursuit of these individual cases? Does the department consider that the opinions of the peoples of the islands of the Pacific adjacent to Australia matter?
– I do not think that honorable members opposite will suggest that I have made either an unreasonable or an unsympathetic approach to matters of this kind. Each case is determined on its merits according to the facts that are available to the department, which frequently are much more ample than are those that appear in the press. I propose to make a full statement in relation to the case of the person to whom the honorable member has referred. At this stage, I can say from my own recollection that, in the first instance, the man was deported from Australia previously as a deserting seaman and that he entered Australia illegally again and has remained here illegally ever since.
-Order! If the Minister is answering a question in relation to a particular person, I remind him that all such questions should be placed on the notice-paper. Did the honorable member for Fremantle mention any name ?
– I shall supply a full statement on the matter to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether there is at present in pro gress a departmental investigation into the claims of certain apple and pear growers, with a view to settlement of these claims following what were known as the Tonking and . Zerbe cases. Is it a fact that the time limit for the lodgment of applications to have such claims considered was extended to the 30th September last? Can the Minister inform the House whether, following that extension of time, it has been found possible for the department to complete its compilation of the claims with a view to an early settlement of them?
– The honorable member has interested himself constantly on behalf of people who may be beneficiaries in connexion with the matter to which he has referred. It is true that there was an extension of the time limit for the lodgment of claims for additional compensation from the old apple and pear pool of the early war-time period. The entitlement will be determined in accordance with a formula laid down by the High Court in a judgment in the Zerbe case. This formula requires a very extensive investigation of the accounts of all the participants in the pools concerned which is being carried out, not by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, but by the Australian Apple and Pear Board, which is a separate authority. Every effort will be made to expedite the assembling of the facts so that payments can be made as soon as possible. I shall inform the honorable member how soon that work is expected to be concluded.
– In view of the incident at Canberra airport on Tuesday, when a commercial airliner had great difficulty in releasing its mechanicallyoperated landing gear, will the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether the Department of Civil Aviation has considered having emergency hand operated appa- .ratus to lower the landing gear installed in all airliners as a safety precaution?
– I do not know the technical and mechanical possibilities inherent in that matter, but I shall have them investigated.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you are yet in a position to make a statement, as you promised, on the reason for the banning, by you and the President of the Senate, of journalists from King’s Hall and the lobbies one day last week. Oan you indicate whether there was any real threat of some untoward happening there on that day, or whether it was merely a false alarm or mare’s nest started by some practical joker who remembered that that day was Guy Fawkes’ day?
– The honorable gentleman’s question is of a type which really does not warrant an answer from the Chair. The press in this building is completely under the control of the presiding officers and, so far as I and the President propose, it shall remain so.
– I understood that you intended to make a statement.
-I have not said that I would do so. I said that I would not do so at that time.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question concerning the loan of 100,000,000 dollars negotiated by Australia with the International Bank. At the 30th June only 9,000,000 dollars of that loan had been drawn. Australia was apparently committed to pay £ per cent, interest on the amount undrawn. Would the Prime Minister at an early date, furnish the House with information about how much of the loan has been drawn, and how the amount drawn has been expended ?
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that there is a serious shortage of agricultural machinery in Australia? If that is so, could our requirements be purchased from dollar sources, particularly the United States? If they could be so purchased, did the Minister approve of the Government allocating about 400 per cent, more dollars for the pur chase of newsprint - dollars which could have been used for the purchase of vitally needed agricultural equipment?
– Everything is right about the honorable member’s question except his facts. The truth of the matter is that of the 100,000,000 dollar loan which the Prime Minister arranged through the agency of the International Bank, 29,000,000 dollars were allocated for the purchase of agricultural machinery in the United States.
– My question to the Minister for Immigration relates to the high rents that are to be charged tenants for houses that have been built for British immigrants at Dapto. Is it a fact that the rent to be charged is £3 19s. 6d. a week and that the charge for hiring furniture from the department will be at the rate of ls. 4d. for every £10 worth of such furniture ? Is it a fact that transport will probably cost these people another 15s. a week, making a total of approximately £5 10s. a week that they will have to pay before they spend any money on food and clothing? Is it also a fact that the agreement that the immigrants had to sign contained a clase which stipulated that the hirer would not receive any credit as purchase money for amounts paid as hiring charges?1 If these are facts will the Minister review the matter with a view to easing the burden that will be placed on immigrants ?
– I hesitate to accept the figures that the honorable member has cited. I understand that these pay1 ments, ;particularly as they relate to rental, are affected by the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The whole subject is still under departmental investigation. If the honorable member will supply me with the figures that he has cited, I shall endeavour to provide him with an authoritative and complete answer to his question.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question which arises out of statements that were made recently by the Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations at a meeting of the organization in New York to the effect that world population had outdistanced increased food production by 3 per cent, since 1938, and that this would have serious consequenc.es. In view of the facts that in our defence preparations food is a vital factor, and that the organization of food production in this country in time of peace is the responsibility of the -State governments, can the Minister say what steps are being taken by the State governments to organize increased food production as part of our defence preparations, and as a means of meeting our own increased food requirements ?
– For the reasons that the honorable member has recounted, with which we are all familiar, the Government is concerned that there should be a planned intention to increase the amount of food produced in this country. Thinking is being done and consideration is being given to this matter on the governmental and departmental levels. I had some discussions overseas in regard to the relationship of equipment and materials to programmes of extended food production. I assure the honorable member that insofar as the Australian Government can help to increase food production it will do so. Insofar as there is scope for proposing to the State government that -food production should be increased, it is my intention to do that through the agency of the Australian Agricultural Council.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that current proceedings relative to the 1949 ballot of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia reveal a weird membership which includes world travellers of some renown and others of doubtful vintage. Will the prisoner-
Honorable members interjecting,
– I apologize for the slip. It occurred probably because of past associations. Will the Minister endeavour to secure details of the work performed in the industry bv the type of members that I have mentioned, and ascertain whether it is done on lathes or machines, in blacksmiths’ shops, or as water joeys and the like?
– May I first put in a plea of “ not guilty “ ? I advise the honorable member that my own knowledge of the internal workings of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia has grown considerably during recent weeks, as I have followed with great interest proceedings in certain courts. As this matter is now before the court I do not think that I can contribute much in reply to the honorable member at the moment, but I shall study his very interesting question and ascertain whether I can supply any further information.
– Is it a fact that daily hardship pay is paid to servicemen at the rate of Ils. at Manus Island, 7s. 6d. in New Guinea, 6s. at Darwin, and 5s. at the guided weapons testing range at Woomera, whereas servicemen in Korea do not receive any hardship pay at all? If that is so, will the Minister for the Army recommend that treatment similar to that accorded to servicemen in other areas shall be accorded to servicemen in Korea ?
– The matters that the honorable member has raised have been considered by the Government. Later, I shall furnish him. with details of the advantages that are made available to one group of servicemen compared with those that are made available to another group. At this juncture, I point out that substantial tax concessions and special allowances to which the honorable member has not referred are made available to one group and not to the other. I shall supply a fuller answer to the honorable member at the first opportunity.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Formal Motion for ADJOURNMENT
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
Thu dangerous threat to Australian industries and standard of living in the Government’s current arrangements for trading with Japan.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– The Opposition has raised this matter in this way for two reasons. The first of them is the time factor, which concerns the people generally ; and the second is the fear that the Pollyanna approach of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) to this matter is not giving to the people an opportunity to work out for themselves a fair estimate of the potential threats that are involved in the arrangement which will come into operation in January next. That arrangement is full of complications. At the outset, f dissociate myself from the extreme view that is held by some people that trade with Japan must necessarily result in spreading cobwebs over Australian industry. However, if the Government persist in implementing the arrangement, despite the provision of quotas, it will, along with the recession and the bedding down of trade and commerce which are anticipated to occur, add to the distress of the Australian nation. That is obvious because it will be impossible to prevent the dumping of Japanese goods, and, consequently, some serious problems will confront the nation in the long run. Now is the time to deal with this matter and to consider the position on a factual basis apart altogether from any emotional considerations to which it may give rise. For Australians there must be something utterly sardonic in the spectacle of our having to clothe in Japanese cloth our troops in Korea and also the youngsters who are being called up under the national service training scheme. There must be something equally bitter about the fact that, in twelve months’ time the only toys that the worker, who will still be the victim of inflation, will be able to buy for his kiddies and the only toys that will be found in the homes of “ diggers “, if they are able to purchase them, will be of Japanese manufacture. There may bp arguments to combat an emotional approach to this matter, but we shall exercise much common sense from a trading stand point if we determine now to deal effectively with this problem of trade with Japan.
The problem has a long history. The Opposition is not so stupid as to prognosticate that we should not trade at all with Japan. We simply ask that the Government should provide a bridge, as it were, and to keep developments within manageable limits. The genesis of all our trouble lies in the haste in which the peace treaty with Japan was conceived and drafted. That treaty leaves us in a flap in dealing with related problems, one of the most important of which is trade with Japan. The Government is blinded by the fact that we can obtain from Japan essential commodities that are now in desperately short supply in this country. I refer, for example, to cement, wire netting, galvanized iron, steel and other requirements. We need to obtain such commodities in order to assist our economy and to develop the country. At the same time, however, we must remember that the wily Japanese trader is already on the job. A population of 80,000,000 Japanese, which is increasing at a rapid rate, must be fed ; and the softening-up process of resistance to Japanese trade has already commenced. The Japanese trader is realistic. He is already sending goods to all parts of the world. We are to import £20,000,000 worth of Japanese goods, but for such goods we shall be obliged to pay the highest possible prices. Any Australian trader will tell us that those prices will be almost prohibitive. We should not be blind to that fact simply because we require certain commodities so desperately. I have no doubt that the homebuilder, the farmer and others who require cement will be forced to pay prohibitive prices for that commodity. That is the first arm of the pincer movement that now threatens to envelop us. The second arm is that Australia will be flooded with many commodities that it does not require. Although we have a lucrative trade in wool with Japan we should not merely for that reason be prepared to take goods from that country that v3 do not want. Neither should we believe that we must, therefore, take from Japan goods that are in short supply in this country. If we adopt that attitude we shall find that every chain store in this country will be flooded with cheap and nasty junk such as Japanese cameras and binoculars which flooded this country before the last war.
How should the Government deal with this problem? I am not satisfied that the Government fully realizes the serious danger of the dumping of Japanese goods.In answer, to a question that I asked on this subject the Minister for Trade and Customs replied -
No foreign Government would be allowed to use Australian tariff concessions for the purpose of dumping cheap goods in Australia. There was nothing to cause fear that accordance of most-favoured-nations treatment to Japan or any other country would impose any obligation on Australia to refrain from the use of anti-dumping duties. Even if Japan were admitted as a member of the general agreement on tariffs and trade, it would still remain a matter for Australia to decide on its own account and to what extent, if any, it would extend concessions to Japan. The Government would continue to extend protection to Australian industry through tariffs or other appropriate measures on the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
The essence of the whole problem is that our anti-dumping laws are not worth the paper on which they are written. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who was formerly Minister for Trade and Customs, will agree that regulations enacted under the Australian Industries Preservation Act have been invoked only seldom because of the fear that they are not legally sound. In any event the experience of the United States of America should be a -guide to us in this matter. Although that country has a 70 per cent, tariff against Japanese goods coming to the United States of America already twenty manufacturing companies recently appealed to Congress to impose quotas in order to Stop Japanese goods from flooding that country. Those companies claimed that they could not compete with Japanese goods which they said were being sold at prices 5 per cent, below that at which the American manufacturers’ wages bill would permit. Whereas the Japanese factory coolie is paid at so many cents a day, American operatives are paid in terms of dollars. I warn the Government not to accept the view that the initial dribble of Japanese goods to this country under the proposed arrangement will be the limit of that trade. The Minister said that quotas will be imposed. But the wiliness of the Japanese trader is well known. We realize that he is not fair, Some time ago the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) told the House a most dramatic story of Australia’s battle to obtain a quota of copper and copper products and said that the International Materials Conference had allocated to us a quota that was far short of our requirements. He said that his officers had fought like tiger cats, and I have no doubt that they did so, to obtain an adequate supply of materials in the copper groups, which are urgently required, not only for our defence purposes, but also for our national development. Great difficulty was encountered despite the fact that we’ had lead and zinc which could have been a pay-off against our requirements of copper. A perilously low quota has been granted to this country, but we have accepted it as a part of the international set-up for the allocation of goods in short supply.
But what is the position of Japan in this matter. It, too, was vetted for supplies but evaded investigation. I understand that Japanese traders have sent by cable to Sydney and Melbourne quotations for extruded brass and copper.
They state that there are unlimited supplies of those metals in Japan. Yet the democratic nations have been obliged to ration those metals, because they are in short supply. The Japanese traders say that unlimited quantities of extruded brass and copper may be purchased, but I point out that the price of between £400 and £600 a ton is extraordinarily high, and, of course, is a definite breach of the agreement. It is the same old Jap. The leopard does not change its spots. The Jap is “engaging again in snide trading tactics, while he is taking full advantage of the benefits of favoured nation treatment under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Despite those advantages, he engages in his old buccaneering trade practices.
Before the signatures were dry upon the peace treaty, the Japs were at their old game. Poachers in sampans were appearing in the waters off Manus Island. If an investigation were made, it would probably be found that other sampans had appeared off our northern coast. A further example of the buccaneering tactics of the Jap is provided by the wholesale slaughter of whales by Japanese whaling expeditions. At present, twenty Japanese whaling ships are en route to the Antarctic. Their purpose is to obtain whale meat and oil in order to improve the food and oil supplies of Japan, but no observer is accompanying those vessels to supervise the whaling practices of the Japanese. They will have a completely open go. Immediately after World War LT., General Macarthur issued a directive to permit the Japanese to kill whales in the Antarctic in order to meet Japan’s problem of feeding its own nationals, but the Japanese whalers broke every provision of the international whaling code, and were arraigned before the International Whaling Commission for having committed those offences.
Australia, which is to resume trade with Japan, is led to believe that everything is perfect in this best of all ‘possible worlds. We have no national feeling in that matter, because we have been drawn out to some degree on international agreements. I plead guilty to the fact that Labour governments have taken the greatest interest in the development of international agreements, which have been designed to lower tariff barriers. Tensions between nations cause wars, but the most prolific cause of wars arises from tensions which are brought about by tariffs, exclusions and quotas. The percentage of trade wars is considerably higher than the number that have been fought for purely patriotic reasons. A part of the trouble is attributable to the fact that deliberations upon international trade, and the abolition, or temporary freezing, of tariffs,’ under the International Trade Organization have had some effect in regard to the emergence of Japan as a trading nation. The plans which were made by the United Nations did not envisage the fact that Japan would be hastily thrust willy-nilly into the company of the democratic nations, shriven of its sins, and allowed to trade in such company. The burden of the complaint of the Opposition is that we have been given no chance to look at the problems. We are continually being presented with faits accomplis on important matters. We should like to be informed of the Government’s plans for trading with Japan. All nations must inevitably trade with one another and, Japan in particular must trade in the Pacific. We are well aware of Japan’s predominant industrial strength, and of its ability to break through barriers that are raised against its manufacturers. We realize that the peace treaty is already wrecked, because the Japanese are turning to Asia and Soviet China, as it must, because it produces so many commodities that Asia needs. Australia buys an insignificant quantity of the Japanese goods that are left over, but if we do not provide safeguards against the dumping of these goods, the Japanese trading practices will break down our secondary industries.
Australians are inclined to say, in effect, “ Oh well, we are admitting only a few toys and other items from Japan, and that position can well be taken care of. It does not matter. The purpose of the Defence Preparations Act is to reduce the manufacture of non-essential goods, which have sent out their little capilliaries of trade too far, and now must be cut back.”. But the problem lies deeper than is implied by that thought. Manufacturers in the United States of America, are protesting against the admission into that country of Japanese > textiles, optical goods, opera and field glasses, fish in cans, crockery, electrical goods, clocks, cameras, handbags, leather goods, cutlery, scissors, shears. razors, cigarette lighters, light machinery, jewellery, blinds, fire screens, picture frames, mirrors, sewing machines and toys of all descriptions. The manner in which the American market is completely flooded by Japanese sewing machines is illustrated in a brilliant article written by an economist and published in the Melbourne Age. It reads as follows : -
Already, Japanese sewing machine makers have captured about 25 per cent, of the United States domestic market. Japan is now shipping in sewing machines at the rate of 300,000 a year, two and a half times the 1950 rate.
In New York, a United States built sewing machine sells for 152.5 dollars, the. Japanese for only 89 dollars.
The quality of the Japanese machines is good. Often many of the part,? are interchangeable with American-built machines.
One United States’ manufacturer explained the discrepancy this way: - 1
The average Japanese sewing machine worker gets 90 cents a day. His American counterpart gets 15 dollars.”
One of the “ big three “ United States5 manufacturers of precision optical instruments said Japanese manufacturers had already captured a good 20 per cent, of the binocular business.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. Beazley) negatived -
That the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) be granted an extension of time.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) who led this debate on behalf of the Opposition, sounded like a repentant sinner. I recall that the honorable gentleman, when he was a supporter of the Chifley Labour Government, led a parliamentary delegation to Japan, and I have no doubt that he intended to interest himself in the trading possibilities at that time.
– Absolute rot!
– I agree, but the honorable member for Parkes, according to press reports* bowed reverently over the hand of Emperor Hirohito. Perhaps he said to the Emperor, “ Hail, son of the morning ! Peace and prosperity to your nation!”. Or possibly he said, “Ah, moon of my delight “, although such an observation would hardly have been applicable, because the composer of the song in which those words appear obviously addressed them to a member of the female sex.
– You low fool.
-Order! The honorable member for Parkes must not use such language. I ask him to withdraw those words. I am sure that he realize? that they are unparliamentary.
– Yes, sir, I withdraw the words.
– The honorable member for Parkes appeared this morning in the role of a repentant sinner, but he tried to distract attention by making a most bitter and violent attack on the proposal to resume trading with Japan. Had that attack been based upon facts instead of upon a pot-pour of facts and fancies, the Government would have paid some attention to his speech. The honorable member declared, with an expansive sweep of his arms, that the .Japanese peace treaty would open the way for a resumption of trade with Japan. Let us examine that* matter, because it is most important that we should understand the facts. The peace treaty imposes no conditions that will restrict the freedom of the Australian Government to protect our industries. That treaty merely places Japan in the same category as any other country to which we are not bound by specific trade treaty commitments. The treaty has no effect, except to provide that Japan must give most-favoured-nation treatment to Australia to the same extent, and only to the same extent, as we give mostfavourednation treatment to Japan. Therefore, the honorable member for Parkes, when he speaks of Australia giving most-favoured-nation treatment to
Japan, must realize that the initiative lies with the Australian Government.
The traditional policy of Australian governments, regardless of the political parties to which they have belonged, has been to protect our secondary industries. The honorable member virtually admitted that he was in favour of the lowering of tariff barriers, and he endeavoured to make an apology for his attitude to that matter a few years ago. Are we to assume that a Labour government in the future will lower tariff barriers in order to give most-favoured-nation treatment to Japan? Of course not! The traditional policy of all political parties represented in this House is to protect our secondary industries. Only to the degree that we give most-favoured-nation treatment to Japan will Japan accord most.favoured nation treatment to us. Therefore, there is no incentive for us to do what the honorable gentleman has suggested we will do. The trading arrangement will obtain for four years from the date on which the treaty comes into effect, but it does not necessarily follow that we will give most-favoured-nation treatment to Japan. The peace treaty does not affect the position.
– Of course it does.
– Perhaps the honorable member will be able to explain his view more fully at a later stage. “We have examined the treaty most carefully and we have found that it will not affect the situation.
What is being done at present? The Government is restricting imports mainly to essential requirements and it proposes to continue to maintain control over imports. The honorable member said, with an expansive gesture that it was ironical that Australian troops should be clothed in Japanese materials. The implication of his remark was that all clothing used by our troops was coming from Japan. The truth is that import licences are issued mainly for building materials and basic materials that will be processed in Australia. Only very small quantities of other materials will be admitted. The reason why we are permitting the importation of basic materials and building materials is simply that we cannot obtain enough of them from any other source. It is perfectly true that licences for the importation of such commodities from Japan are given freely. The Government is taking advantage, very properly, of the availability of such goods in other countries at a time when local supplies cannot cope with demands. It does not intend to jeopardize Australian industries and I am sure that the Labour party also would protect them, notwithstanding the averment of the honorable member for Parkes in relation to the levelling of international tariff barriers. Our secondary industries are vitally important to the national economy and, therefore, we shall not endanger them by any lack of adequate protection against Japan or any other country. The treaty is designed to bring Japan back into the comity of nations. The honorable member does not disagree with that policy. In fact, he has said that it will be necessary to trade with Japan but, in effect, that our sin should be only a little sin. Honorable members recall the curate’s plea that his sin was only a little one ! I suggest to the honorable member that we must adopt a clear principle and not embark upon a policy of making minor concessions subject to all sorts of reservations. If we bring Japan back to the comity of nations, Japan must trade with the world and Australia must trade with Japan.
It is not to the advantage of Australia to have an increasingly depressed standard of living amongst S0,000,000 Asiatic people who live close to our northern shores. It is to our advantage, instead, to improve standards of living in the East. Indeed, have we not entered into international obligations with that object in view? The honorable member, who claimed that the international policy of the Labour party is to promote higher living stanrdards in all countries, apparently, because of some queer quirk, is prepared to ignore Japan. Perhaps he is trying to recover from the terrific “blue” that he made when he was in Japan. This Government acknowledges the need to protect the Australian economic structure, of which the secondary industries are a very important component. Therefore, it will continue to pursue the traditional policy of protection by means of tariffs or any other appropriate measures after inquiries and recommendations have been made by the Tariff Board.
– What about the antidumping law?
– I shall deal with that subject shortly. The peace treaty will not affect the policy of protecting Australian industries in any way. I make that statement emphatically, and the honorable member for Parkes may challenge it on a later occasion if he wishes to do so. The treaty will impose no limit on the protection that can be afforded to our industries by means of tariffs or anti-dumping duties. All honorable members know the value of the anti-dumping legislation and I shall not discuss it in detail. I merely point out that there is not the slightest substance in the contention that this Government is reluctant to invoke that law. It has been used on a number of occasions, and it will be invoked again, should the necessity to do so arise, and it will be used conjointly with tariff preference in order to provide complete protection for Australian industries. Lest the honorable member should fear that the antidumping law is likely to be affected by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, I shall quote for his benefit an extract from a statement that was made by the Minister for Trade and Customs on the 7th November and which, incidentally, the honorable gentleman “failed to mention. The Minister for Trade and Customs said -
Under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, specific provision is made for the imposition of duties to offset or prevent dumping or to countervail the effect of any bounty or subsidy determined to have been granted, directly or indirectly, on the manufacture, production or export of any products imported into the territory of any contracting party. There is, therefore, no cause to fear that the according of most-favoured-nation treatment to Japan, or to any other country, under the general agreement imposes an obligation on Australia to refrain from the use of antidumping duties.
The general agreement attempts to set up rules to govern the conduct of international trade. It, therefore, provides for the accession of any government desiring to accept the agreement on terms to be decided’ between that government and the contracting parties, acting jointly. At the same time, however, the agreement recognizes the essentially bi-lateral nature of trade agreements and trading relations by providing that the agreement, or alternatively, the concessions negotiated under the agreement - shall not apply as between any contracting party and any other contracting party if -
the two contracting parties have not entered into tariff negotiations with each other, and
either of the contracting parties at the time either become!9 a contracting party, does not consent to such application.
The position, therefore, is that in the event of Japan being admitted to membership of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, it will still remain entirely a matter for Australia to decide on its own account whether, and to what extent, if any, it will extend concessions to Japan. Such a decision will naturally be made in the light of the corresponding advantages offered to Australia.
My time is limited and I do not want to impose upon the House. Therefore, I shall conclude by demonstrating briefly that the strictures of the honorable member for Parkes in relation to Australia’s imports from Japan fall completely to the ground in the light of facts. The value of imports from Japan for 1950-51 was about £15,300,000 and the value of exports from Australia to Japan was about £61,600,000. The balance of trade in favour of Australia, therefore, was £43,600,000.
– .What will happen in 1951-52?
– What happened when the honorable gentleman went to Japan? He will regret that incident for the rest of his life. I ask him to keep his mind on the facts of the case. The assessment of trade for 1951-52 indicates that our imports from Japan will be worth £36,500,000 and that our exports will be worth £39,000,000, leaving an estimated trade balance in favour of Australia of approximately £2,500,000. The honorable member can see, therefore, that his case falls hopelessly to the ground. He is afflicted by bogys and is afraid of his own shadow, probably because his conscience is pricking him.
– Several points arise from the so-called assurances of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) in relation to Australia’s attitude to trade with Japan. He has said, in effect, that the Government will be guided by expert advice and that we can be assured that the secondary industries will have the full support of the Government. I shall quote extracts from an article entitled “Australian Tariff Policy “ that was published in the August, 1951, issue of the Bank of New South Wales Review. It stated inter alia -
It is pertinent to note here that not all Tariff Board recommendations have been accepted by the Government. On one recent occasion, when a big new industry was involved, the Government granted protection well in excess of the assistance recommended by the board.
That passage refers to the occasion on which the Tariff Board recommended a bounty in respect of rayon. The Government did not accept the advice of the board but acted contrary to it. Nor did the Government follow the advice of the board in relation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is known nowadays as “ Gatt “. That very vexed subject is important so far as the future of Australian industry is concerned. The article went on to say -
The Tariff Board has always been very conscious of its responsibility under the Ottawa Agreement-
That agreement, of course, involves the recognition in Australian tariff policy of our dependence primarily on trade with the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations as a basic part of our trade system - not to grant excessive protection against imports. Recently it has drawn attention to inconsistencies in Australian commitments under Ottawa and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In certain cases the board claims that it is impossible to lay down appropriate duties for some commodities conforming at the same time to the principles set out in the Ottawa Agreement, the maximum preference allowed under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and Australia’s own protective requirements.
In other words, arrangements under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade are to some degree fraught with difficulties. The agreement is a part of a splendid aspiration, and, of course, it is not the only noble aspiration of mankind that has failed. Possibly it will not be the last to fail. There was an attempt, after the recent world war, to create one world. At present there are at least two worlds, and possibly three. There is division now among the great nations, and the aspirations that were born in the International Trade Organization, to which the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was originally only ancillary, have not borne fruit. The International Trade Organization has not operated, but the machinery of the agreement continues. I suggest that it cannot be evaluated alone, and that the circumstances that prompted the system of agreement on tariffs and trade have now changed. As a result there has to be perhaps some change in Australia’s attitude to the matter. We of the Labour party have always maintained that one of the greatest basic forces of economic discontent in the world is the disparity in the economic strength and resources of different parts of the world, and that perhaps ultimately these economic circumstances become the greatest cause of international unrest. It was hoped, by means of the International Trade Organization and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, to establish a different working of the economic system. Unfortunately, at this stage, it is apparent that that hope has not come to fruition. Agreements on tariffs and trade are always necessary, and there must be negotiations on them. Regard must be paid to the fact that importance is attached not only to the balance of trade, but also to the kind of trade involved. For instance, an analysis of the £61,000,000 worth of Australian exports to Japan, to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has referred, shows that they are particularly valuable to Japan, which has a large population and small food and material resources, and so is dependent on the rest of the world for food and raw materials. Of the £61,000,000 worth of exports, £51,524,051 worth consisted of - wool, £3,284,964 of barley, and £2,712,544 of wheat. So virtually all of it. is very good material from Japan’s point of view.
We ask that there shall be some sort of scrutiny of and some protection in relation to the kind of goods that Australia receives from Japan in return. Some consideration must be given to the conditions under which the goods that we import from Japan are produced. We do not wish to import goods that have been produced by people who work under low living and labour standards. The Colombo plan envisages some attempt on the part of the democratic nations to improve standards in South-East Asian countries. A policy of importing goods produced by cheap Japanese labour will not accord with that ideal. That is why we ask that more attention be given to the nature of the goods that Australia imports from Japan.
Tariff provisions in Australia must be a mystery to anybody who is uninitiated in the system, because very wide powers exist under the Trade and Customs Act whereby the Department of Trade and Customs, acting for the Minister, can, under by-law provisions, bring into this country exempt from duty goods that are supposed to be brought in under duty. More adequate information should be given to the House in future about the kind of goods Australia is importing from Japan and about the negotiations that are taking place between the Government and Japanese importers. It is true that last year we imported £2,000,000 worth of copper from Japan, and that that metal is in short supply in this country. It is alSO true that we imported from Japan plated sheet steel to the value of £S,000,000. But do we know under what conditions these goods were produced in Japan? Do we know the conditions under which miners and steel-mill operatives in Japan work? Are they producing those goods under conditions that Ave would regard as decent? If they are not, then we are assisting in the continuance of the low standard of living of Japanese workers. The improvement of the standards of living of people in the Orient must, in the long nin, be the strongest barrier to the encroachments of communism in Asia.
We maintain that trade is intimately linked with the standards of living of these people. We are not satisfied with the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that Australia’s secondary industries will be protected. Apparently secondary industry itself is not satisfied, because I have received a letter from a firm in my electorate, the Wilson Electrical Transformer Company Proprietary Limited, which protests against the possible effect of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade on the industry in which it is engaged. It says -
The expectation that Japan will ultimately he considered as a member of the General Agreement on Tariff’s and Trade, should it remain in operation, is an even greater consideration when the pre-war dumping activities of that country are recalled.
In the 1930’s and 1.940’s, because of the tactics of Japanese traders, a change was made in the -Australian tariff system from the ad valorem to the fixed basis of duties in order to combat the dumping that was then taking place. In the present inflationary situation the difference between the fixed duty and the duty on the ad valorem basis would not be great and the protection that could be given has largely disappeared.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- J have never heard so insubstantial an adjournment motion as that which is now before the House. I have listened carefully to every word that has been uttered in this debate and it is not my intention to delay the House unduly because, so far, there is no case to answer. The subject of this discussion has been stated to be “ the dangerous threat to Australian industries and standard of living in the Government’s current arrangements for trading with Japan “. So far Opposition members have not shown that there is the slightest threat to our industries and standard of living. They have not been able to point to any industry that has suffered a pound loss of profit as a result of the existing trading relationship. They have not been able to point to one man who has been laid off from an industry. They have not been able to show that employment in the various industries concerned has suffered in any way as a result of this trade. The Opposition’s argument is a complete failure. It is a sorry reflection on honorable gentlemen opposite that they should be reduced to bowling up a hopeless proposition of this kind in order to divert a little public attention from the Government’s programme.
I regret that honorable members opposite have lent themselves to a particularly unscrupulous, ill-founded, biased and interested campaign against the importation of Japanese goods. Not long ago a campaign was commenced in Melbourne by the toy industry in order to try to prevent the importation of Japanese toys. Similar campaigns have been conducted by various other interested industries. It is amazing to me to find Labour members who profess to be on the side of the workers lining up with big vested interests and trying to prevent competition in the sale of toys, iron, building materials and other essential goods which we sorely require. I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) associate himself with this very despicable attempt to mislead the public. He tried to whip up a little hate against the Japanese. His effort resembled that of the people who published the despicable pamphlet that was produced by the toy industry showing emaciated prisoners of war in an attempt to divert the attention of the public from the real facts of the case. Knowing the normal good taste of the honorable member for Parkes, it was a rude shock to me that he should be reduced to the use of argument of this type in order to make his point. I believe that all that has been said by Opposition members will leave the public cold because it is sick, of paying excessive prices for various articles, including inferior toys. He will find that the majority of people will be glad that articles of this kind will be sold in Australia at a reasonable price. The provision of toys for children at Christmas time in this country is a very real problem in working-class homes such as make up a large proportion of the honorable member’s electorate and my electorate. The honorable member will receive little shrift in his electorate if he tries to defend the statement that toys produced in Australia are good value for money, because they are not.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) also submitted an extraordinary proposition. He said that it is wrong to import goods produced by people who have a low standard of living. Yet he also said that it is our duty to help people in Japan to improve their standard of living. By boycotting Japanese manufacturers we should only help to starve those people to death. It is better to have a low standard of living than none, and that is the choice with which the Japanese people are faced. The honorable member criticized the Government for having allowed the Japanese to catch whales and to take the whale oil to Japan. I do not wish to be friendly with the Japanese. I did not go to Japan after the war and make obeisance to the Emperor, but I say that the Japanese have to live. It is to our advantage at the present time that they shall at least be able to support the population of their overcrowded islands, and they can do that only by trading. I have not the faintest sympathy with the Japanese and have never wished to shake one by the hand, royalty or other, but they have to live. It would be a completely hopeless proposition to try to sell to Japan our wool and other commodities at thu highest possible prices and to buy nothing from that country. In the long run such a practice could not favour this country.
It has been alleged by the Opposition that the importation of housing materials such as iron, wire, and pipes constitutes a threat to Australian industry. That allegation is ridiculous. The price of Japanese iron is £190 a ton. How can the purchase of that iron represent a serious threat to the Australian industry? The importation of any item from Japan or any other country is subject to review by the Tariff Board and if there were any possibility of a local industry being penalized or of the workers in it being forced out of employment a report would quickly be made by the Tariff Board to which honorable members opposite would quite likely direct the attention of the House. Nothing of this kind has happened. Building materials are in short supply and it is necessary to obtain them wherever we can. In New Zealand, the Government has completely removed all tariffs on building materials. I should be pleased if similar action were taken in this country. I do not know anything about Japan. I have not been there. Consequently I am at a disadvantage compared with the honorable member for Parkes. There is absolutely nothing to answer in the case that has been brought forward by honorable members opposite. It is a pity that they have nothing better to do than waste the time of the House in this perfectly footling manner.
.- Both the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) have tried to distract attention from the real purpose of the Opposition’s motion by referring to a delegation which visited Japan some little time ago. It is rather significant that neither of those honorable members referred to the reports of the activities of their own members of that delegation. I understand that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) made obeisance to the Emperor, and almost embraced him. I have also been advised that the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) went down on both knees and asked the Emperor how many rooms there were in the palace. I do not know whether he asked that question because it was hig intention to attempt to rent the palace at some time in the future. However, those happenings have nothing to do with the motion.
Every honorable member recognizes that Japan must be given an opportunity to trade with the rest of the world, but the question that arises is “ Under what conditions are the Japanese to be allowed to trade with other nations ? “ I recollect that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), during the war years, spoke about the need in the post-war period for a prosperous Japan and a prosperous Germany. No doubt this is all a part of the Government’s _ policy to bring about the prosperity in Japan which it is destroying in its own country. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has attempted to make it appear that the Government is anxious to trade with the Japanese merely in order to improve their living conditions. As a matter, of fact is it not true that the same conservative elements that were in charge of Japan at the outbreak of the last war are again in control? Is it not also a fact that the living and working conditions of the Japanese people are more depressed to-day than they were at the outbreak of war ? Does this Government aim to improve the living standards of the Japanese or does it hope, by its policy of allowing Japanese goods to come into Australia in competition with Australian goods, to destroy the living standards of Australians and bring them down to something like the standards of the Japanese? Honorable members should not imagine that there is no basis for such a statement, because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt),- early in 1939 when there was a great deal of unemployment in this country, much of it due to the competition of cheap Japanese imported goods, said -
It is idle utterly to condemn employers for using cheap child labour when we know that they have to compete, with overseas products.
Therefore honorable members will perceive the nature of the plot. Cheaply produced Japanese goods are brought on to the Australian market and it is then said that because Australian manufacturers have to compete with cheaply produced goods from Japan, they must be permitted to break down living and working conditions and to employ women and children in industry. It is important that the Australian people should know that. Certain American interests are behind this plan to force on to the British market cheaply produced Japanese goods. Everybody knows that Japan, because of ite great population, must trade with other countries in order that it may obtain food from overseas for its people. The Japanese must trade also in order to pay for their re-armament programme, because the Americans are certainly not going to pay for it. Therefore, the Americans say that the markets’ of the world must be opened to the cheaply produced Japanese goods.
It is pertinent to ask why the Japanese are not encouraged to trade with China, which is one of their natural markets.
The reason apparently is, on the Government’s argument, that to allow Japan to trade with China would be to hasten the spread of communism and to force the Japanese into the arms of the Communists. Nevertheless China is a natural Japanese market. When Japan, a country in which the workers live at starvation level is allowed to build up great industrial power, not only Australian manufacturers but also British manufacturers will suffer. Recently British manufacturers became so conserned that they sent a representative to Japan to study the exact industrial position. Australians are to be obliged to provide £700,000,000 within the next three years for war purposes. I suggest that the country that is most likely to threaten us is Japan. That is mainly because of the allied policy of rebuilding its industrial strength which, after all, was not badly affected by the recent war. On one hand, the living standards of the Australian people are to be depressed through this tremendous war expenditure and, on the other hand, employment and living conditions are to be threatened by an influx of Japanese goods.
The honorable member for Henty is an ex-serviceman. That being so, I should imagine that he would not have described as “vested interests” toy manufacturers who are ex-servicemen. He said that the Labour party is finding itself in line with big vested interests. Of all the industries in Australia the toy-making industry is the one most admirably suited to absorb disabled ex-servicemen. If Japanese goods are allowed to enter Australia on a competitive basis Australian industry cannot compete with them. I recently ascertained that Japanese manufactured shirts have been offered for sale in London at 29s. a dozen, wholesale. One retail business concern offered men’s shirts at 5s. 6d. each, and boy’s shirts at 3s. 9d. Other companies have offered bicycles of the Raleigh and B.S.A. type at prices much lower than the cost of production in England.
The textile industry is one of the most depressed industries in Japan. In that industry men employees are paid £3 a month and women £2 7s. a month. The Minister spoke about allowing these manufactured goods into Australia on a competitive basis. What sort of competitive basis could be established for goods that are produced by such cheap labour? The Minister can talk about the powers that the Government has to prevent dumping, and the rights of the Japanese under certain agreements, but the fact is that this Government is not unsympathetic to the introduction into this country of cheaply produced goods from Japan or anywhere else. Therefore, it must be evident that Australian industry is in real danger.
Consider the Japanese shipping indus. try. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service recently used the argument that Australia’s future security could be menaced only by a great maritime power. Therefore, one would have imagined that in at least one direction, that of shipbuilding, Japanese .expansion would be prevented. But the United States authorities have advanced £S,600,000 to assist the Japanese in rehabilitating their shipping industry. Other advances may have been made to Japan since that sum was paid over. Britain protested against making that money available because it recognizes that if Japan is permitted to establish again an efficient and powerful mercantile marine it may again endanger the security of Australia and other nations in this part of the world.
Japan’s population increases by 1,500,000 each, year, and there are certain interests in America which are at present talking about allowing Japanese to emigrate to Australia’s external territories. They suggest that that would be a good outlet for Japan’s surplus population. I submit that such a thing would be a great danger to Australia because, as the- Japanese nation grew in strength any group of Japanese so close to our shores would be a constant threat to our security.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This matter is of grave importance to the future of Australia. Implicit in the present situation is a threat, and I have been astonished at the failure of the Opposition to recognize the nature of that threat or to disclose any practical method of dealing with it. Honorable members opposite have alleged that the Government is about to give effect to a trading arrangement with Japan that will be detrimental to our economy and our standard of living. That charge comes strangely from honorable members who were supporters of the Chifley Government, which initiated our presenttrade arrangements with Japan in 194S. This Government’s proposals are simply a continuation of that arrangement. It is strange that the Opposition should attempt to saddle this Government with responsibility for doing something which they claim will be detrimental to Australia’s interests.
The fact that a parliamentary delegation visited Japan some years ago has been mentioned in this debate. I was a member of that delegation, and I met the Emperor of Japan in pursuance of the duty that devolved upon it. I shook hands with him, and I do not make the slightest apology for having done so. No member of that delegation did anything in the nature of obeisance to the Emperor of Japan. In our approach to him we simply revealed, in circumstances which demanded the use of common courtesy, that we had not forgotten the lessons we had learned in our youth in that respect. I propose to base the theme of my remarks upon the impressions that I gained during the course of my visit to Japan at that time, because I believe that those impressions have a definite bearing on the matter now before the House.
Any person who seriously studies the Japanese must admit that they have definite national aspirations and possess the capacity to realize them. It matters not whether we may personally detest another race, we must realize that if we attempt to smash, or to keep in subjection, another nation that attempts to rise in the circumstances in which Japan finds itself, we shall be guilty of an act that must do harm to the common cause of humanity and may contribute to the outbreak of a third world war. Japan will rise again, regardless of how we may regard such a prospect. That being so, our best policy is to ensure that it shall rise in a way that will not permit it to be a threat to Australia.
The second impression of the Japanese that I gained was their amazing fertility as a nation. Everywhere we went we saw hoards of children in the streets. Numerically, they reminded one of rabbits. “We know that Japan’s population is increasing at -the rate of 1,000,000 annually. That poses a problem that we must consider seriously. The third impression that I gained was that Japan is incapable of producing sufficient food to meet the requirements of its present population, let alone its future population. It is estimated that Japan cannot produce more than 75 per cent, of its requirements of foodstuffs. My final impression was that the Japanese have a definite desire to extend southward. They are casting their eyes on the islands in the South Pacific and on New Guinea - about which they learned much during the recent war.
I am. sure that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will remember the “ kites “ thai, were flown for our benefit when we were in Japan in order to find out whether Australians would tolerate the movement southward of Japanese.. We must recognize that the factors that I. have mentioned constitute a threat to this country. I should have thought thai the Opposition, in raising this matter, would apply itself to a consideration of that threat. If the Japanese are prevented from extending southward - I believe that they should bes - how will they be able to obtain sufficient food to meet their requirements? The obvious solution of that problem is to allow Japanese trade to develop to a degree that will enable the Japanese to buy that proportion of their food requirements that they themselves are incapable of producing. If we deny that opportunity to them how can we, at the same time, deny to them the opportunity to emigrate to islands immediately to the north of Australia? We must face up to this problem. We must allow Japanese commerce to earn sufficient funds in overseas market? to enable them to buy the foodstuffs that they require. But the problem of trading with Japan involves a threat to Australia.
How can we meet the threat to 0111 standards of living that is inherent in that problem? We are importing from Japan, among other goods, steel, cement and galvanized iron. Those are not cheap goods. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) repeatedly alleged that we are importing cheap Japanese goods. The price of Japanese cement, landed in Australia, is over £20 a ton, whereas Australian-produced cement is available at less than £10 a ton. Whereas the price of Japanese galvanized iron, landed in this country, is from £140 to £180 a ton, that of the Australian article is approximately £40 a ton. Therefore, it cannot be said that we are encouraging the importation of cheap goods.
What is the position of Australian industry? Why can we not produce sufficient of these commodities and thus obviate the necessity to import them? The Queensland economist, Mr. Colin Clark, has stated thatin 1949-50we required in Australia 35,000 tons ofplain fencing wire whereas our local production did not exceed 10,000 tons. In the same year, we required 170,000 tons of corrugated and flat iron whereas our production was 60,000 tons short of that quantity. We also required 30,000 tons of wire netting whereas our production a mounted to only 9,500 tons. In thesame year, we required 1,370,000 tons of cement whereas our production was 104,000 tons below that figure. Is it not possible for Australian industry to meet our requirements of these commodities? I saythat it is. If the Government’s arrangement for trading with Japan is bad, then the blame cannot be laid at the door of the Government because, whilst Japanese heavy industry was badly damaged during the recent war we built up our heavy industry in this country during that period. Why do we now find that Japan can supply these goods whereas we cannot produce sufficient of them to meet our needs? The blame for this position must be laid at the door of the preceding Government, which deliberately crippled Australan industry by failing to come to grips with communism.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Ayes . . . . . . 58
Noes . . . . . . 43
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Before I put the question, “ That the House do now adjourn “, I direct the attention of honorable members to the wording of Standing Order 48 and of every letter in which honorable members intimate to the Chair their intention to move for the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance. In every instance, not decision but only discussion is mentioned. In other parliaments, including one of which I was formerly a member, no vote can be taken on an adjournment motion that has been submitted for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance. I do not wish, at this juncture, to give a specific ruling in that respect, but I propose that the House shall adopt one of two methods. It should either recognize the system that prevails elsewhere, under which the motion is withdrawn immediately the debate upon it has ended, or, in the event of the closure being moved, that it be in the terms “ That this question be not now put”, which, if carried, would dispose of the motion. The question now is -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an. Act to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1004-1950, as amended by the Conciliation and Arbitration Act (No. 2) 1951.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure deals with three matters: first, the jurisdiction of the conciliation commissioners to renew awards that contain provisions with respect to annual leave and sick leave; secondly, the representation of the parties in proceedings before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and conciliation commissioners; and thirdly, the filing of membership records with the Industrial Registrar. I shall deal first with the third matter, and then return to the other two matters.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1937 provides that registered organizations shall file with the Industrial Registrar copies of their registers of members, which, of course, they have always been required to keep, and also quarterly lists of changes. Those provisions are not novel but are based on various State industrial arbitration acts that have been in operation for some time;
The Australian Council of Trades Unions and individual unions, as well as employers’* organizations, have represented to me that literal compliance with the provisions of the act would require considerable increases of clerical staffs, and would make other heavy demands on office requirements. All this, they claim, would be costly and could force an increase of union dues or of administrative :tatts. Certain practical difficulties have also been indicated which could be overcome, but at some cost. The Government’s attitude is clear. Provided the objectives that it sought to attain by the act of 1951 are achieved, it is prepared to agree to other means of compliance, which will take account of the problems that confront various organizations. The bill, therefore, proposes a more flexible method for ensuring that adequate and accurate records shall be available for use by the Industrial Registrar in the event of an election having to be conducted officially, or a ballot taken under section 72 of the act.
Under this bill, the Industrial Registrar is authorized to exempt an organization, as a whole, or a branch thereof, from compliance with the present provisions of section 91 that relate to the supply of membership records, if he is satisfied that the methods and systems of keeping and maintaining the records of membership of the organization are such as provide in a convenient form accurate particulars of the membership at the time they are needed for an officially conducted ballot or election. The Industrial Registrar is also given power to withdraw the exemption if he is not satisfied about the manner in which the records are kept. Those proposals have been discussed with the Australian Council of Trades Unions and with employers’ organizations, and they appear to satisfy all points of view.
I come to the second matter that is covered by the bill. Representation of the parties before the court and conciliation commissioners has been considered by the Parliament on a number of occasions. Section 46 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which was introduced by the 1947 amendments, prohibits the appearance of counsel, a solicitor or a paid agent before the court, except by leave of the court and with the consent of all the parties. No such representation is permissible in proceedings before a conciliation commissioner. The section does not apply to judicial proceedings before the court, and interveners, whether before the court or the conciliation commissioners, may be represented.
The provisions of the act that relate to the ‘professional representation of parties have been changed a number of times. At one stage, the consent of the parties alone was required. At another time, either the consent or the leave of the tribunal was sufficient. -In 1930, the conception of requiring both leave and consent appeared. However, the Government has considered for some time that the present arrangement has not worked satisfactorily in producing the best results. I remind the House that the Chief Conciliation ‘Commissioner, Mr. Mooney, said -
A majority of the Commissioners considered that this prohibition-
That is, the prohibition of professional representation in proceedings before conciliation commissioners - deprive them of the aid of skilled, and experienced representatives of both employers and employees. Some of us who have occupied the position, of Conciliation Commissioner for a number of years realize the value of such help and I am able- of my own experience to say that the attendance of such representatives at conferences have conduced to the settlement of disputes and, generally speaking, have expedited rather than retarded the hearing when the dispute has come to arbitration.. From information conveyed to me I believe that a number of organizations, particularly the smaller ones which, cannot afford to employ a person solely on this type of work or with not enough of it to enable its officers to obtain the necessary knowledge and experience, would welcome a change in the Act to at least provide that such representatives should be permitted to appear with the. consent of the Commissioner and all the parties.
– When did Mr: Mooney say that?
– That is an extract from one of the statutory reports that Mr. Mooney is required to make from time to time. According to my recollection, it has been taken from the first of his official reports as Chief Conciliation Commissioner. However, I shall make a check and have the information available when the second-reading debate is resumed early next week.
– When was the report made ?
– I believe that it was the first report made by Mr. Mooney as a result of the amendment of the arbitration legislation in 1947. The 1947 amendment established the conciliation commissioner system and provided that’ both the Chief Judge and the Chief Conciliation Commissioner should make reports from time to time. According to my recollection, the late Chief Judge Drake-Brockman in the same year also expressed the view that a greater degree of representation by counsel before tribunals should be permitted.
The court is faced, in these days, with problems of complexity and vast significance to the economy. I do not believe that any honorable member will question the tremendously far-reaching consequences to the economy of some of the major decisions that the court has been required to make since 1947. The commissioners are no longer subordinate authorities, but deal with matters that are of supreme importance to the economy.
– But they cannot deal with any question of law.
– I remind the honorable member of the application in relation to the metal trades group that is now being considered by Conciliation Commissioner Galvin. It would not be proper for me to discuss the merits of the matter, but I point out that the case is of far-reaching importance to the whole economy of Australia. I, for one, believe that it would be of assistance in such a case for the parties to be represented by counsel if that was their wish. They may make application for permission to engage such representation and, under the terms of this bill, it is proposed that the com missioner shall be empowered to determine whether such applications may be granted. The bill includes an effective safeguard. It does not provide that counsel shall have the right to appear automatically; it provides that permission may be granted by the court or a conciliation commissioner. The Government approaches this matter from no doctrinaire stand-point. It has considered the views of those who are principally concerned and has taken into account the working of the system during the last four years. It has decided that the processes of conciliation and arbitration would bc facilitated if the present provisions in relation to representation of the parties were amended. The measure now before the House proposes that, in future, the court and the conciliation commissioners shall have the authority to decide whether or not the parties shall be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent in proceedings before them. The Government considers that this will provide sufficient safeguards, if indeed they are required, to prevent the unwarranted appearance of paid representatives.
The Parliament earlier in this year enacted provisions that gave to the court complete jurisdiction in relation to annua! or other periodical leave with pay, sick leave with pay, and long service leave with pay. Employers’ organizations and certain unions, supported by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, have suggested that conciliation commissioners should be permitted, when renewing existing awards, to continue existing provisions in relation to annual leave and sick leave. They claim that the objectives of the Parliament as expressed in the legislation would not be prejudiced and that the processes of conciliation and arbitration would be facilitated if this were done. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) made representations along those lines during the budget debate. The bill will meet those suggestions.
I am bound to add that cases that are pending before the court at present bear on the interpretation of sections 13 (c) and 25 (c). The Government considered it to be desirable, however, to deal at once with the aspect that is provided for in this bill without delaying until it became clear whether any other issues that might require clarification would be raised. Other aspects may present themselves in the course of future hearings, but the Government thought it proper to deal now with the matter that is clearly before us.
I said on a previous occasion that I proposed, in relation to amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to discuss the issues with those principally concerned, and whilst I do not claim that there is universal concurrence in all the above matters, I have sought the views of representative spokesmen. I think I can truthfully say that at least the provisions that deal with the filing of records and the powers of the conciliation commissioners in relation to leave matters have general support. I also suspect that there are many union officials who, whatever they may say publicly, will welcome the assistance given to the tribunals by skilled professional advocates, on whichever side they appear. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Claret) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool (Contributory Charge)
Assessment Act 1945-1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is the first of three bills designed to grant exemption to certain classes of wools from the contributory charge on wool which is now being used to collect “moneys for wool use promotion. It proposes amendments to the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Act 1945-50. The other two bills - the Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill (No. 1) and the Wool’ (Contributory Charge) Bill (Nor 2) - are consequential on this bill. Because they deal with related matters 1 propose, with the consent, of the House, to refer to all three measures in moving the second reading of this bill. It might also be convenient to the House if the later debate on the three measures took place on this bill.
It is desirable, in order that honorable members may understand the significance of the three bills, to trace briefly tha history of the imposts on wool over recent years. In 1936 a wool tax was imposed on all shorn wool grown in Australia to provide funds for wool use promotion. In 1945 the rate was fixed at 2s. a bale. Beginning in 1946, a contributory charge was imposed on the sale of all wool produced in Australia, in order to provide moneys required for the purposes of tho United Kingdom-Dominions wool disposals plan. Collection of the wool tax as such was suspended during the operation of the contributory charge, which included an amount equivalent to the relatively small amount that would have been collected under the wool tax.
When, in 1950, it was proposed to raise funds to provide growers’ capital for the operation of a possible plan of reserve prices for wool to succeed the wool disposals plan, it was decided to impose a levy on wool, and the Parliament provided that this levy should be a part of the contributory charges. The levy commenced at a rate of 7-J per cent, on the 26th August, 1950, from which date the total of the contributory charge was 7i per cent. Of this, J per cent, was reserved for the purpose of the wool disposals plan and wool use promotion. Collection of the levy of 7i per cent, for the reserve price plan ceased at the 30th June, 1951, pending the result of a referendum of growers on the plan. If the referendum had been carried, the levy could have been re-imposed, at a rate recommended by the industry, for the purpose of providing money to revolve the growers’ capital and for operating expenses. As honorable members know, the referendum was not carried and the wool disposals plan was virtually completed by the end of the 1950-51 wool season. In normal circumstances, therefore, the moneys required for wool use promotion would have been raised, once again, under the Wool Tax Act.
However, the result of the referendum was not known until a few days before the commencement of the 1951-52 woolselling season and it was not practicable at such short notice to arrange for a transition from the contributory charge to the wool tax before the commencement of that season. Moreover, as the contributory charge is levied at the time the wool is sold, and as the wool tax would apply at the time wool is delivered into store, a change-over, although effected as quickly as practicable, would have meant that the considerable quantities of wool already delivered into store would have escaped both wool tax and the contributory charge. It was estimated that the resultant loss of income to the Wool Use Promotion Fund could have been as much as £75,000. It was decided, therefore, that the contributory charge should remain in operation for the 1951-52 season, and the rate was reduced to -J of 1 per cent., which was expected to yield approximately the same amount as the wool tax of 2s. a bale. Should a greater amount be collected, the excess will be available for use for the benefit of the wool-growing industry.
The contributory charge applies to shorn wool, dead wool, skin wool, and also to the wool on sheepskins when exported. The wool tax, however, is applicable only to shorn wool. The Government desired to ensure that, pending the re-introduction of the wool tax, no wools that were exempt from the wool tax should bear the ‘contributory charge. Therefore, it requested the Commissioner of Taxation to grant administrative exemption to dead wool, skin wools, and wool on sheepskins until such time as the necessary legislative exemptions could ‘be granted. The primary purpose of the three bills to which I have referred is to give legislative authority for those exemptions. This purpose is to be achieved by amending the definition of wool in the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Act so as to exclude such wools from the scope of the charge at its new rate, and this amendment will be operative on and from the 27th August, 1951, which was the date of commencement of the current wool season. In addition to this amendment, and in order to ensure consistency with the definition of “wool” proposed in the Wool (Contributory
Charge) Assessment Bill, it is proposed to repeal section 7 of the Wool (Contributory Charge) Acts Nos. 1 and 2 of 1950, under which the levy of 7£ per cent, that is now no longer required was imposed. The Government is now . considering the arrangements necessary for a complete change-over from the contributory charge to the wool tax at a convenient time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. ALLAN Fraser) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave le given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool (Contributory Charge) Acts (No. 1) 1050.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have already explained the general purposes of this bill in my speech on the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill. The bill proposes the repeal of section 7 of the Wool (Contributory Charge) Acts 1950. That section authorized the imposition of a levy on wool sold in Australia. The levy was fixed at 7J per cent, and was for the purpose of providing funds for growers’ capital in the proposed reserve price plan.
I might mention that the levy yielded about £45,000,000, but as the referendum on the reserve price plan was not carried, arrangements are being made- for this money to be repaid to the persons who paid the levy. Section 7 contains a definition of “wool” which is not consistent with the definition that has been proposed in the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill. In view of this, and as no rate has been prescribed since the 30th June, 1951, and also as the levy is no longer required, it is proposed that the section be repealed with effect from the 27th August, 1951.
Debate (on motion by Mr. ALLAN Fraser) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to-
Th at leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wool (Contributory Charge) Acts (No.2). 1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is the third of the three bills designed to exempt certain wools from the payment of the contributory charge. The bill proposes the repeal of section. 7 of the Wool (Contributory Charge) Acts (No. 2) 1950 under which the levy of 7¼ per cent. for the purposes of a reserve price plan was imposed on wool exported from Australia. Section 7 contains a definition of “ wool “ which is not consistent with the definition now proposed in the Wool (Contributory Charge) Assessment Bill. For this reason, and because the levy is no longer required, it is proposed that the section he repealed with effect from the 27th August, 1951.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan fraser) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 14th November (vide page 2043), on motion by Mr. Anthony -
That thebill be now read a second time.
– As mentioned by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) in his introductory second-reading speech, this is a bill to deal with two matters. It provides for an increase in the fee for listeners’ licences from £1 to £2 a year, an increase of 100 per cent., and it provides for the repeal of the section of the Broadcasting Act which provides that listeners shall purchase additional licences at half the basic rate if they have more than one radio set in their homes. The Minister said that the reason for this increase was the tremendous expansion in the broadcasting service and the inevitable impact of rising prices. The Opposition considers that this bill will impose an additional hardship upon the people, and because of that fact, we oppose it. We oppose it also because we believe that the Government has not given proper attention to the possibility of raising revenue from other sources connected with broadcasting. The Government took the line of least resistance and its proposals, if implemented, will bring hardship to those whom it should assist instead of heaping further burdens upon them. The radio industry is a very important factor in the progress of any nation and in the progress of this nation in particular. The increase of the sales tax on radio sets brought hardship to that industry. As well as paying that increase, those young Australians who are launching out into married life will now have to pay double for their listeners’ licences.
I do not know why the Government has proposed this action. It seems that it wishes to make conditions as difficult as possible for those Australians who are attempting to launch out in married life and who should be. able to look forward to aprosperous future. The Government has already imposed a terrific burden upon these people by increasing the sales tax on engagement rings and now it proposes to increase that burden by increasing the cost of owning a radio receiving set. This proposal would not bo so objectionable if the Government had not proposed to grant a concession to a group of people who are more able to pay an additional amount than are those young people who are commencing married life. Any family which has two radio sets in its home is better able to pay an additional amount for a licence-fee than is a young married couple who wish to buy one set. Some people have as many as three or four radio sets in their home. The Government’s proposals will have the effect of giving to those who are least entitled to relief a concession which, in my view, is uncalled for. I am not satisfied that the reason for the Government’s proposal is the necessity to raise additional funds. I think that the Government has taken a blind shot. Because of housing conditions, many members of a family remain at home after they have grown up and they purchase their own radio sets. In many homes a receiver may be found in the lounge, another in the breakfast room and another in the bedroom. The people who have this number of sets are best able to pay increased licence-fee’s. But it is the people who purchase a set for the first time who will be hit by the Government’s proposals and they are the people who will have to carry the increased sales tax on radio receivers and other articles required for the home.
– Order ! The House is not considering the sales tax now.
– It is considering a tax.
– It is not considering a sales tax. The sales tax legislation was passed last night.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but this proposal is connected with Government policy.
The Minister stated that age pensioners will only have to pay 25 per cent, of the rate fixed for the licences. I wonder that the Minister did not adopt the recommendation of the parliamentary committee that investigated broadcasting and furnished its report in 1941. . That report recommended that the pensioners should receive a free licence because of the service that they had given to the community in their lifetime. I know that the Minister will ask why the Labour Government did not implement that recommendation. My reply is that no Labour government has ever budgeted for a surplus of £114,000,000 and left the aged pensioners in the position in which this Government has left them. With this estimated surplus, surely the recommendation of the committee to which I have referred could have been adopted. As I said before, I am satisfied that the Government has taken a blind shot at this matter. It has been suggested on behalf of the Government that the 100 per cent, increase would meet the future financial commitments of broadcasting. The honorable member for Paterson (Mi-. Fairhall) suggested that if another 10 per cent, of the people applied for broadcasting licences, 100 per cent, of the population would then hold licences and it might be possible to eliminate licence-fees and make broadcasting expenditure a direct charge on Consolidated Revenue.
– I said that it would be a lot cheaper to do that.
– Then why increase the licence-fee 100 per cent, at a time when 90 per cent, of the people hold wireless licences? The honorable member knows that he was beating the air in making that statement. Government supporters have mentioned the difficulty of gathering an additional amount in respect of the second radio set in each home. It is not usual for a government to grant concessions when looking for more money. If the Government -cannot gather the licence-fee for the second and other additional in a home then it will not be able Co collect bue fee in respect of the first in many instances. If the statement of honorable members opposite implies that there will be a relaxation of the procedure followed by the department in checking whether everybody who has a radio set possess a radio’ licence, then those who are honest will carry the burden for those who are not quite so honest.
In presenting the bill the Minister said that it was everywhere admitted that the quality of the programmes provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission were of excellent standard. I have received complaints to the effect that some of these programmes are not all that could be desired in the interests of Australia. On Saturday, the 27th October, an overseas “programme was broadcast by short-wave station VI,I at 11.45 p.m. A news bulletin contained an item to America, Canada and South Asia which alleged that in Sydney people were adopting hypnotism in order to cure themselves of smoking. I spend some considerable time in Sydney but I do not know anybody who has adopted hypnotism in order to give up smoking. The second item ridiculed the Australian approach to the Olympic games. If there is any news item that should be played down it is Australia’s approach to the Olympic games. It is certainly not a matter that should be broadcast far and wide. The third item made a lot of play on the success of a 3oap-box derby and likened the organization behind it to that which was associated with the Olympic games. The last item related to you, Mr. Speaker, and made great play on your actions in this House during the previous week. 1- do not consider that that news should have been circulated throughout the world in the way that it was presented by the press of Australia. If listeners’ fees are to be increased by 100 per cent, the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be able to present something better than these items in the way of propaganda for overseas ears.
If the problem of obtaining finance is worrying the Government to the extent that it is necessary to increase fees 100 per cent. I should have throught that it would have examined the position of the commercial broadcasting stations. Up to the time when the parliamentary committee made its recommendation in 1941, the only licencefee paid by the commercial broadcasting stations waa an amount of £25 a. year. The committee recommended that a station which made a profit should pay a fee of $ per cent, on its gross earnings. That recommendation was adopted. As ten years have gone by since then I should have thought that before the Government attempted to increase listeners’ licence-fees it would have examined the position of the private broadcasting companies. In the year 1941-42 there were 97 commercial broadcasting stations in this country. Of those 97 stations 53 were making a profit and 44 were showing a loss. The total profit made by such stations in 1941-42 amounted only to £81,812. It can be appreciated that when the committee made its recommendation it paid due regard to the fact that 44 commercial stations were operating at a loss. There was at that time a tendency for newspaper syndicates to purchase the stations because they feared that the development of commercial wireless would affect their incomes. Of course, as the years have gone by,, that has not happened. Every year since 1941 the financial position of com mercial broadcasting stations has improved.’ In the financial year 1942-43 there were 96 commercial stations operating, 66 of which showed a profit and 30 a loss on the year’s transactions. The total profit of all the stations was £114,003. In that year the real growth of Australian commercial stations commenced. From that time their financial position has continued to improve, and each year since then has shown a progressive increase of profit. In 1946-47 there were 101 stations broadcasting, and of those S5 showed a profit and sixteen suffered a loss. The net total profit of all stations in that year was £428,000.
The last available figures in respect of commercial broadcasting stations, those for the year 1948-49, are shown in the second annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In that, year there were 102 broadcasting stations. 90 of which showed a profit and only twelve suffered a loss. The total revenue of all commercial broadcasting stations in 1948-49 was £3,212,253. Their expenditure totalled only £2,619,474 so that for that year the total net profit was £592,779. The profits of commercial broadcasting stations have increased from £81,812 in 1942 to £592,779 in 1949. That is a growth that is unprecedented in any other business concern in Australia. Surely from such a business, which has grown so rapidly, the Government could have arranged to obtain the amount of money that it required for broadcasting instead of increasing listeners’ fees by 100 per cent.
The commercial broadcasting organization should be carefully investigated by the Government. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who said yesterday that the time lias arrived when there should be a Minister placed in charge of broadcasting. Because of the growth and their syndication broadcasting stations, the same sort of difficulty is now facing Australia as recently faced the American Government. Certain things have happened, either behind the Minister’s back or with his consent. The report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board seems to indicate that the Government should be aware of what has happened in America, and should attempt to avoid the same thing happening here. To-day the Macquarie network is about to be sold to a press syndicate, but the Government is taking no action to prevent the growth of such monopolies.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s second annual report showed that of the 102 broadcasting stations in operation in June, 1950, 32 were operated by persons or organizations which control one station only, ten were operated by persons or organizations who were substantially interested in two stations, and sixty were operated by persons or organizations with substantial interests in three or more stations. One organization controlled, either directly or indirectly, eight commercial broadcasting stations. Newspaper companies or those interested substantially in newspapers owned nineteen of the 102 stations and had shares or interests in 25 others. Therefore, of the 102 stations in the commercial network 44 were controlled either directly or indirectly by newspapers. All commercial broadcasting stations take advantage of the facilities available in the Postal Department, and therefore they, rather than the listeners, should be called upon to provide the necessary funds that the Government requires. The report to which I am referring also made clear the danger of monopoly that is growing up in the commercial station network. On several occasions during the last few years the Prime Minister has made broadcasts over the radio. On each occasion there has been nation-wide hookups and practically all other entertainment has been suspended while the Prime Minister has made his statements. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report tells the story of how that has been allowed to happen.
When this Government achieved office the Macquarie network comprised seven stations in New South Wales, one in Victoria, three in Queensland, one in South Australia, and two in Tasmania. That is a total of fourteen stations. That network also has an arrangement with a number of other stations under which they will co-operate, on certain terms, with the Macquarie network to broadcast its programmes. Because of the Government winking its eyes at what is going on in the commercial broadcasting indus- try the Macquarie network has been able to tie up an additional sixteen stations in New South Wales, seven in Victoria, eleven in Queensland, six in Western Australia, and four in Tasmania. That has given the Macquarie network an additional broadcasting medium of 44 stations. In other words, it has created an organization of 58 out of 102 stations which will broadcast any matter that suits the Macquarie network.
– The tie-up is similar to the broadcasting tie-up used in the presentation of the “ No “ case in the recent referendum.
– Of course, the Government will use this tie-up in presenting its case for any referendum, because the Liberal party has the money to do so. This Government is following a policy of giving preference over national needs to commercial broadcasting station networks, and allowing them to reach gigantic proportions. The Government is allowing these networks to make so much profit that they can afford to pay compere fees that make the Prime Minister’s salary look like chicken-feed. If this Government wants additional money to carry on our radio system it should take the proper course to obtain it. It should get it from the commercial broadcasting networks rather than from the radio listeners.
The honorable member for Paterson said that the people might get some relief when another 10 per cent, of them take out wireless licences. I suggest that that is merely playing with the matter. No commercial station can extend its activities without the Postmaster-General being aware of it. He knows that the profits of commercial stations have increased from about £87,000 to about £500,000 a year, and he knows, therefore, that the stations in the Macquarie network and in other networks are the best sources of additional revenue.
– That interjection might have been expected from a supporter of a government that is only concerned with providing a national network of commercial stations that can be used as a medium for telling the people only just what the Government wants them to know. That is what Stalin has’ done in Russia. The radio arrangements in Russia to-day allow only the Government’s view to be presented to the people, t suggest that the Government may be bringing into existence a monster by which it may be ultimately destroyed. I am not prepared to stand idly by, as the honorable member for Paterson evidently is, and see the people forced into a position where they will be required to pay 100 per cent, increase of wireless licence-fees, while huge organizations which are using government services are allowed to pile up great profits. Why does not the Government force the commercial broadcasting stations to recognize that the salary being paid to the Prime Minister is the maximum that should be paid to comperes who are advertising Palmolive products or any other product? Surely the Government must have some regard for the requirements of the people.
The honorable member for Paterson comes from the bush. He might make a lot of money in ways not connected with his parliamentary duties, but he comes from a district where the people appreciate wireless services. I suggest that, his constituents will not be too pleased if he stands idly by and watches the Macquarie network grow and grow until it ultimately absorbs nearly all our commercial stations. Then the people will be forced to listen to the programmes arranged for them by perhaps two or three men. I suggest that honorable members on the Government side who represent country electorates have not the courage to tell the people the facts about broadcasting. It has been mentioned that country people in New South Wales have only three radio stations compared with large numbers in the city. The people should be told that those three stations are tied in with city stations and that the people get programmes which have been decided upon by a small executive. The Opposition will oppose strenuously this measure and will vote against it in the belief that the additional money required by the Government should be raised from the commercial broadcasting stations.
.-After listening to the honorable member for
Blaxland- (Mr. E. James Harrison) one can understand quite clearly that, honorable members opposite have very little, if any, reason for criticizing this measure. Therefore they have resorted to wild statements and attacks on all and sundry. The object of the measure is- to increase the annual listeners’ licence-fee from £1 to £2, but the existing fee of 10s. that is payable by pensioners will not be increased. I understand that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) intends to move an amendment in order to extend that concession to other classes of persons in special circumstances. The honorable member for Blaxland did not deal with the measure before the Chair, but devoted the whole of his speech to making an attack upon the commercial broadcasting stations. That attitude is typical of members of the Opposition who accept every opportunity both inside and outside the Parliament to make attacks upon commercial interests of all kinds although such interests are rendering great service to the community. Those honorable members are socialists in every sense of the word. They are opposed to private enterprise in any form. The honorable member for Blaxland endeavoured to lead the House and the people to believe that commercial broadcasting companies are making exorbitant profits. He said that in 1948-49, the last year for which information is available, 102 companies had made a total profit of £592,000. I point out that that profit would represent approximately a return of 5 per cent, on the total capital invested in those companies, the total revenue of which in that year amounted to approximately £3,250,000. Almost half of the profits that are made by those companies are taken by the Government in taxes. Indeed, it can be said that the Government taxes them on a basis of half-ownership.
The commercial broadcasting companies are making a valuable contribution to the community as a whole. In their specific sphere, they are rendering services of a high standard. The honorable member for Blaxland referred to a number of stations that are showing an annual loss. It must be obvious to him that any commercial organization, during the early stages of its development, must experience great difficulty. That is true of commercial broadcasting organizations which, perhaps, must operate for a period of three or four years before they are able to extend their activities sufficiently te enable them to make a profit. However, the overall position of commercial broadcasting stations shows that they are earning in the form of profit only ordinary rewards for the services that they render to the community. Those companies provide a very valuable service to people in country districts. Indeed, they are an important part of the community life of the districts in which they are situated. When such disasters as bush-fires and floods occur, they make their services available in the interests of the community in broadcasting urgent messages, For that reason, consideration should be given to the establishment of broadcasting stations in more remote areas the residents of which do not yet enjoy facilities of the standard that are provided in metropolitan areas and in more densely populated country districts.
The development of broadcasting generally can be described as one of the romances of the present century. At this time, when we are celebrating the jubilee of federation, it is appropriate to take stock of the contribution that broadcasting has made to the nation’s development and welfare. To-day, a wireless receiving set is an essential in every home. We should be proud of the fact that in Australia there are now 50 national broadcasting stations and 102 commercial broadcasting stations. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) urged the Government to establish an additional national station in each metropolitan area, which would make three in each of them, and he gave certain reasons why that should be done. However, the provision of additional stations depends entirely upon the number of channels that are available, and, as we know, that number is limited in every country. Instead of urging the establishment of additional stations in densely populated areas in which adequate broadcasting services are already available members of the Labour party should pay more regard to the needs of residents in sparsely populated areas who are pioneering the development of Australia. I point out that residents in many areas still find it difficult to get continuous reception.
– How lucky those people are.
– If the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) prefers to see only the faults of the broadcasting system and to ignore its virtues and advantages, he indicates his outlook in this matter. Broadcasting facilities should be made available .to people resident in every part of this country. I do not need to emphasize the educational value of broadcasting. It enables the great majority of Australians to keep abreast of national and world events. The Government should concentrate upon maintaining, first, the efficiency of broadcasting services; and, secondly, the impartiality of broadcasts on controversial matters. Whilst, individually, we may be critical of certain broadcasts and of certain commentators with whose statements we may not agree, it is of paramount importance that complete impartiality and fairness shall be maintained in such broadcasts. To-day, the Austraiian Broadcasting Commission gives equal opportunities to leaders of all political parties to speak to the people on matters that involve vital national issues. At the same time, the commission makes facilities available to visitors from overseas to speak to Australians as a whole and thus enables them to hear the views of authorities on all classes of subjects.
The forums that the commission arranges from time to time have achieved a high standard. That class of broadcast is invaluable from an educational standpoint because it affords a vehicle for the dissemination of the views of experts on the subjects that are discussed. ‘Consequently, the people are enabled to become better informed generally. I pay a tribute to the commission also for its activities in the cultural sphere, particularly in country areas. In addition to broadcasting high-class musical programmes, it arranges for first-class artists to give recitals in various districts. That is a valuable service particularly as it provides cultural relaxation for our people at a time. when we are confronted with grave national problems. During recent years, the actual annual time of broadcasting has increased from 53,297 to 286,045 hours. As I have said, the number of national stations has been increased to 50 and additional stations are being established. Having regard to those facts, an annual listeners’ licence-fee of 2 is but an infinitesimal contribution towards the maintenance of such a valuable community service. I am sure that very, few people object to the higher licence-fee. “ The honorable member for Blaxland has condemned the proposal to relieve listeners of the obligation to obtain a half-fee licence for each broadcast receiver in their possession in excess of one. Opposition members are finding great difficulty in offering sound criticism of this bill, because a Labour government, if it were in office at the present time, would be obliged to elevate the national broacasting organization to its proper plane, and make it possible for it to meet the national broadcasting needs. I remind the honorable member for Blaxland that the time and labour which are involved in keeping records of additional licences that are held by a person for each set in his possession in excess of one may well cost as much as the additional revenue that has been collected from the half-fee licences. The number of persons who have more than one radio receiver is not large. After all, a person is able to listen to only one set at a time. The claim which has been made by Opposition members that the abolition of the half-fee licence is a concession to wealthy people who own more than one radio receiver is without foundation.
I have had the privilege of examining the broadcasting services of several countries during the last two or three years, and I am satisfied that the efficiency of the Australian organization is comparable with that of any such service in other parts of the world. Opposition members are acting unwisely when they endeavour to discredit our broadcasting organization, because it has some notable achievements. I stress the need for the maintenance of impartiality in the control of broadcasting activities, because there is no other channel in which opinions may be expressed to so many people in such a subtle way. I have the greatest confidence in the present administration of the broadcasting organization, but, nevertheless, the necessity to preserve impartiality must be keenly observed at all times. It would be easy for persons whose views are dangerous to the welfare of Australia to gain responsible positions in the broadcasting service, if not in the head-quarters, then in the various States. Such persons would be able to broadcast a message before their intentions were known and could be frustrated. A great responsibility rests upon this Parliament to ensure that the broadcasting system is used efficiently in the interests of the nation.
I remind the House that even the leaders of the great trade union movement of Australia have admitted that wellknown Communists have gained control of certain industrial organizations. The federal . president of the Australian Labour party stated publicly that the Labour party was dangerously split on the issue of communism, and that nearly all the powerful trade unions, which were the backbone of the Labour party for years, were led by Communists, and no longer gave their allegiance to the Labour party. It is a well-known fact that Communists occupy key positions in the great industrial organizations,’ although the majority of the members of those bodies are loyal Australians. Mr. L. .Short, who is a prominent industrial leader in New South Wales, has said that Mr. E. Thornton, the former president of the Federated Ironworkers Association, is now Stalin’s No. 1 agent in the Pacific, and that Mr. McPhillips-
– I rise to order. 1 think that the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) is broadcasting from Radio Moscow. Will you, Mr. Speaker, ask him to relate his remarks to the bill?
– Order ! It is true that the scope of the bill is very wide, but T think that the honorable gentleman should confine his remarks to the subject of broadcasting. The House is considering a bill to amend the Broadcasting Act, and such a measure opens up a wide field. However, I ask honorable members to limit their remarks to broadcasting.
– I gave those examples in order to illustrate my contention that it is necessary to preserve impartiality in the broadcasting system. Leading members of the Australian Labour party have stated that it is possible for dangerous elements to occupy important positions in industrial organizations, and, therefore, I believe that it is possible for those elements, in a subtle way, to obtain employment and advancement to responsible positions in , the broadcasting service.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are in order ifhe is discussing the control of broadcasting stations.
– Do you believe in thought control?
-No, I do not.
– I was not referring to you, sir.
– I thought that the honorable gentleman was suggesting that he might control my thoughts.
-I would not be so presumptuous, sir.
– This bill embodies sound and practical proposals, which are in keeping with present-day needs. Costs are rising in every industry, and, obviously, increasing costs in the conduct of broadcasting services must be met. A Labour government, if it were in office to-day, would be compelled to increase listeners’ licence-fees. I am confident that the people of Australia will not cesent this bill, because they recognize the value of broadcasting to the community and realize that the cost of such entertainment in the home is inexpensive indeed.
.- The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) began his speech with a defence of the commercial broadcasting stations, and told us that they were rendering an excellent service to Australia. He pointed out that commercial stations allocated a good deal of free time to worthy causes, and were invaluable in periods of emergency to broadcast warnings of bush fires and floods in country districts. But the honorable gentleman forgot to mention that a big majority ofcommercial stations are located in the capital cities, and that their broadcasting range is comparatively small. Warnings of bush fires and floods are not broadcastfrom those stations. Incidentally, I point out that the big profits in commercial radio are made by those organizations which own stations inthe capital cities. Substantial profitsare not made by the few small independent commercial stations which operate in country districts.
The honorable member for Lyne advocated that the number of commercial stationsshould be increased. He did not suggest that the commercial stations should provide services for the people who live in remote districts. He adopted the attitude that the national broadcasting system should supply the unprofitable services to small scattered communities, and that the cream of the radio business should be the prerogative of the commercial stations. He mentioned that the commercial broadcasting stations made a profit of more than £500,000 last year, and he regarded that amount. as small, because thoseorganizations were called upon to pay a considerable amount of taxation. But the fact remains that a return of £500,000 upon the capital which has been invested in commercial broadcasting stations is handsome for one year’soperations. The honorable member for Lyne also f orgot to mention a pointwhich was stressed by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) to the effect that the stage was rapidly being reached at which a small handful of individuals, within or outside Australia, would have almost complete control of the commercial broadcasting system. That matter is so serious that the Parliament should give it careful consideration. I agree with the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), who said that the time had nearly arrived when serious consideration should be given to the abolition of listeners’ licence-fees. Those two matters, as well as a number of other matters, require urgent consideration. I believe that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has been very remiss in his duties as the Minister in charge of broadcasting, because he has failed to reappoint the Broadcasting Committee.
– I have nutfailed to re-appoint that committee. I announced that . I would not re-appoint it.
– That is still a failure on the part of the honorable gentleman.
– It is not.
– The PostmasterGeneral doubtless has announced his intention not to re-appoint the Broadcasting Committee, but that fact does not improve the position. The Broadcasting Committee performed a most useful service to this Parliament and the people from 1941 to 1949. It considered many matters of great importance to the national broadcasting system, and regularly submitted reports to the Parliament for consideration. Many of those reports were adopted by the Parliament, and legislation, which was of great assistance to the national broadcasting service, was introduced to give effect to them. Quite a number of problems relative to broadcasting await solution at the present time, and it behoves the PostmasterGeneral to put into effect the provisions of the Broadcasting Act by re-appointing the Broadcasting Committee. That body could consider a most important matter on which the Postmaster-General holds strong views, if we are to judge from his statements during the last week on the control of the commercial broadcasting service. He has said that he is strongly opposed to certain overseas financial interests gaining control of a number of commercial broadcasting stations. He has referred to the investment of foreign capital in those stations. I understand that it is English capital, and, to me, England is still not a foreign country, although the Postmaster-General may so regard it.
– The honorable gentleman misrepresents me. I did not use the term “foreign capital”.
– I heard the words that the Postmaster-General used. He definitely referred to the investment of foreign capital in our commercial broadcasting system. That matter requires investigation, and serious consideration. Indeed, I believe that the whole commercial broadcasting system requires review. The honorable member for Lyne has claimed that commercial broadcasting is a great boon to the people, but I consider that it is becoming a menace to them, because of the kind of material which is used, and the manner in which it is presented to the people. It is having a very detrimental effect upon the minds of many youthful members of the community. Indirectly, it is also having an injurious effect upon the health of many listeners. Cheap patent medicines are blatantly advertised, morning, noon and night. Listeners are advised to take all sorts of remedies if their colour is not good, if their teeth are bad, or if their eyesight is troubling them. They are urged continually to buy so-and-so’s menthoids, somebody else’s little liver pills, and other “ quack “ medicines, with the result that many of them are talked into a state of mind in which they believe that they are really ill and then they begin to swallow various kinds of nostrums. Such potions do not improve their health in any way, and in many instances, I believe^ are actually injurious to health. Consideration should be given to the type of advertisements that are broadcast over commercial networks and also to the nature of the goods that are advertised for sale. Manufacturers claim that radio advertising enables them to sell their goods more cheaply than would be possible otherwise. I have yet to work out how the expenditure of £50,000, £100,000, and even £250,000 a year in some cases, on radio advertising enables the price of the articles that are advertised to be reduced. My experience of fixing prices is that profit margins are calculated not only on costs of production but also- on advertising costs. The entire commercial broadcasting .system could be subjected to a very careful review by parliamentary broadcasting committee with great advantage to the people of Australia. I believe that a proper investigation of that character, which would lead to this Parliament taking the notice pf the situation that a responsible body should take, would cause a great improvement of the standard of commercial broadcasting.
I refer now to the national broadcasting system. The Estimates of expenditure for the current year include a sum of £8,949,000 for broadcasting services. The actual expenditure on broadcasting services in 1950-51 amounted to £3,590.780. Not all of that money was expended by the Australian Broadcasting-
Commission. The commission’s share of i:lie estimated expenditure for the current year, for instance, is £2,906,000. The remaining sum will provide for technical mid other services that are made available by the Postal Department. The annual expenditure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has increased considerably in recent years. I shall not say that the increase has not been justified, but I point out that the activities of cbe commission not many years ago were financed from only a portion of the revenue from the listener’s licence-fee. At one time, the commission received 10s. from every £1 fee; later its share was increased to 15s. of every £1. Now, although the number of licence-holders is greater than ever before, the total revenue from the licence-fee is insufficient to pay the expenses of the commission. We must also take into account the fact that the Postal Department incurs considerable expense in providing technical services for the commission. The magnitude of the cost of providing a national broadcasting service makes it imperative for us to consider whether we are receiving good value for the money that is expended and whether we could obtain better value. How much of the expenditure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission car» reasonably be charged to licence-holders, and how much should be charged to Consolidated Revenue? The commission must maintain transmitting stations to provide services for regions where commercial radio organizations will not operate. Stations must be operated for the benefit of large outback areas where the population is small and scattered. I do not object to that necessity. The residents of remote districts are entitled to have as many amenities as can be provided for them. But the cost of providing those amenities should not be charged against licence holders in other parts of Australia. Each licence holder pays a fee for a particular service. Until now, that fee has been £1 a year. He should not be called upon to pay an additional charge of 10s. or £1 a year in order to provide a service for people who live at Alice Springs, Tennant Creek or any other distant part of the continent. The Government is providing what is virtually a free broadcasting service for small sec- tions of the population. Those sections are entitled to have radio communication, but the cost of providing the service should be charged mainly to Consolidated Revenue instead of to the owners of radio sets in other parts of Australia.
I object very strenuously to the proposal to increase the licence-fee from £1 to £2 a year and to discontinue the charge of 10s. for each additional set that is owned by a licence holder. It is one of those hit and miss proposals that characterize the Government’s financial plan for the current year. I do not intend to debate the budget again at this stage, but I shall make passing references to some of its features as I develop my argument. A consistent pattern has been followed by the Government in all its financial plans. In this instance, it has decided to increase the licence-fee charged to owners of single radio sets by 100 per cent, and to discontinue the charge for additional sets. Its excuse is that this procedure will simplify the collection of fees.. The PostmasterGeneral sn.id, in his second-reading speech, that the additional fee for extra receivers would be abolished so that a single licence would cover any number of receivers in one family circle with the result that a factor that tended to complicate the licencing system, both for the listener and for the administration, would bc removed. I have never heard a more specious argument than that and I hope that some of the Government’s supporters will enlarge upon it during the course of the debate. The only one who has attempted to justify it up to the present has been the honorable member for Lyne, who said that the new arrangements would save time and labour. However, the clear fact is that the new system will be most unfair. The licence-fee levied upon the owner of only one set will be increased by 100 per cent. But the increase will be only 50 per cent, for the owner of two sets, and the charge to the owner of three sets will remain unaltered. A person who owns four sets will benefit by a 25 per cent, reduction. The present system involves very little difficulties, and is simple to operate. The proposed alteration is very much like the Government’s income tax scheme, which imposes a 10 per cent, levy upon every taxpayer-
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are outside the scope of the bill.
– I am merely referring to income tax for the purpose of illustration.
– Order !
– Of course, if you will not permit me to pursue that line of argument, Mr. Speaker, I can only repeat that the proposal is a part of the general pattern of the Government’s financial programme. As I have said before, its policy is, to him that hath much shall be given. The Postmaster-General should reconsider the proposal for the abolition of the charge for additional radio receiving sets. By continuing the charge, he would be able to reduce the fee for single sets and still obtain the same amount of revenue as is now contemplated. Persons who own two, three or four radio sets are in a better position to pay a few more shillings a year than are those who own only one set. Once again the Government intends to hit hardest the man who is least able to bear extra costs. The prices of radio receiving sets are increasing every day. The sales tax on these articles was increased last year, and it has been further increased this year. Now owners are to ,be called upon to pay twice as much as formerly for a listener’s licence. The proposal is too severe and it should be reconsidered. T shall oppose it as strenuously as possible.
The House should consider whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission is providing fair value for its expenditure on programmes. I do not want to be unduly critical of the national programmes because, generally speaking, the commission gives an efficient service. However, the most expensive programmes that are broadcast by the commission are those that have the least appeal to the general body of listeners. I do not say that they are not good programmes, but the fact is that symphony concerts and other high-class musical programmes are greatly appreciated only by a very small section of the community. I believe that we are not getting full value in that direction. I am criticizing, not the quality but the quantity of that particular kind of programme. Regard should be had to the cost of a programme that appeals to a very small section of the community. If it is known that only a few people listen to a programme that is expensive to produce, then the frequency of the occasions on which that kind of programme is broadcast should be limited and such programmes should be replaced by more popular programmes. 1 do not suggest that we should ask the Australian Broadcasting Commission to bring its programmes down to the level of some programmes that are broadcast by commercial stations. The Australian Broadcasting Commission would not give a moment’s consideration to such a proposition. 1 surest, however, an increase of the broadcasting time that is devoted to popular programmes, which are less expensive than some of the programmes now broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and appeal to a larger number of listeners. Such programmes would be of benefit to the people and would cost the commission less than programmes with a. limited appeal.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission has an annoying habit of interrupting broadcasts in which thousands of listeners are interested just because the time has arrived for another programme to go on the air. I was listening to the broadcast of the first .test match against the West Indies, at a stage near the end of the game when Australia had three wickets to fall and required three runs to win the match. At that most exciting stage of the game the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast was cut off, and the announcer told the listeners that they were about to hear the weather reports and the stock exchange reports. Thousands of people had to listen for five minutes to weather reports and. stock exchange reports that they did not ‘ wish to hear. The test match broadcast was then resumed, but by that time all that was left for the announcer at the ground to say was that the match was over and that Australia had won by one run and three wickets. Criticism of such a proceeding is certainly merited. The listeners would have been much happier if the station had continued to broadcast an account of the match, even if that had meant delaying the broadcast of the weather reports and stock exchange reports for a few minutes. I merely use that incident as an illustration of similar instances that occur. Broadcasting stations seem, to be so worried about keeping everything to the exact minute that many good broadcasts are discontinued before they have been completed, so that the next session will not be delayed for even a minute. I hope that the commission will give consideration to instructing station managements to stop worrying about the clock and allow good broadcasts to be finished. Nobody would be annoyed by having to wait a few more minutes to hear routine broadcasts such as those of weather reports and stock exchange reports.
My time is almost exhausted, but, as E observe that some honorable members on the Government side are pleased that that is so, I must have made some valuable contribution to the debate. When the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) disagrees with me I realize that I must be on the right track, because I have yet to hear him make any sensible statement in this House. The bill should be withdrawn and more consideration should be given to the cost of listeners’ licence-fees. A new bill should be introduced to provide for a reduction of the licence-fee for the owners of one radio set, and for. the retention of the principle of an extra fee in respect of additional sets. If that were done the general body of the people would receive a fairer deal.
– The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) was so pessimistic that I was quite sorry for him. I was interested to discover from his speech that the method that people should adopt to beat the effects of this bill is to have four radio sets in their homes. I have been prompted to speak on this measure by statements that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has made. He said that it would not be a bad thing to abolish the. Australian Broadcasting Commission, appoint a Minister for Broadcasting, and run the department under a permanent head. He also said that the Parliament would thereby have more direct control over expenditure on broadcasting. I consider that to be one of the most dangerous suggestions that
I have ever heard. When the honorable member said that the Parliament - which might mean a political party or a government - would thereby have more control over expenditure, he did not deal with the real underlying point, “which is that the adoption of such a system would introduce an extremely dangerous procedure which would give the opportunity for political control and political bias to enter into the conduct of the national broadcasting service. The honorable member has not just had this idea. He was at one time a member of the Broadcasting Committee, and I think I am right in saying that in 1943 he wrote an addendum to the committee’s report in which he recommended the nationalization of the broadcasting services of Australia. Such a proposal is, of course, in accord with the platform of the Labour party. I am sure that every sensible person must realize the terrific opportunity for gross distortion of truth that exists in any country in which there is complete political control of broadcasting services. I am aware of the fact that the British Broadcasting Corporation is subject to a greater degree of political control than is the Australian Broadcasting Commission and I am glad to have learned that a proposal is now being considered to allow for the establishment in Britain of privately-owned radio stations to compete with the British Broadcasting Corporation, which is a monopoly that is operated under government charter.
There is nothing new in the criticism of the profits made by commercial radio stations that has been voiced by honorable members opposite, because it seems to be a maxim that was laid down by the former Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Chifley, that it is a sin to make a profit.
– The Labour party makes 15 per cent, profit from a radio station. J
– Exactly. Members of the Labour party do not complain of the profits of station 2HD Newcastle, because that station is a part of their party system. We believe that, rather than trying to run the commercial stations out of existence by restricting their profits and making them pay excessive licence-fees^ the Government should subject them merely to company taxation. I was interested to hear one honorable member opposite criticize the charter and administration of the network of the Macquarie Broadcasting Service Proprietary Limited. Apparently he is oblivious of the fact that the charter of that network was approved by both the Curtin and Chifley Governments. So if he wishes to voice criticism of it let him not direct it to this Government.
Honorable members opposite have also criticized the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service. Does any honorable member want the news services of this country to be politically controlled?
– I hope that no honorable member would want such control. I remind honorable members opposite that the only way in which anything can be done about the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service is by the issuance of a direction of some kind from the Minister in charge of broadcasting. That would mean the introduction of political control of the news service.
A great deal of criticism has been levelled at the proposed increase of the listener’s licence-fee. I do not suppose that any of us likes the proposed increase, but the general average cost of a licence will still be 1½d. a day for each person in a family.
– Nevertheless, it is redhot.
– The honorable member would know more about anything red than I would. I think that it would be of some value–
– What about the age pensioners ?
– Who is making this speech?
– The honorable member is, and we have to listen to it.
– Order ! The honorable member for Franklin could proceed more smoothly if he did not answer interjections.
– The national broadcasting stations are worthy of commendation as well as criticism. We now have 51 national stations, including stations in the Northern Territory and New Guinea. I commend, in particular, two of the programmes that national stations broadcast. One of them, the kindergarten of the air, is one of the finest radio programmes in the world. Another programme worthy of commendation is the rural country hour, which is extremely interesting to country people and is extensively heard in the country. I repeat, in conclusion, that the idea that has been propounded by the honorable member for Melbourne is one of the most dangerous suggestions that I have ever heard.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) put -
That the question benowput.
The House divided. (Ms. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Sections 98 to LUI inclusive, of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections inserted in their stead: - “US. - (4.) In this section, ‘‘pensioner’ menus a person who is in receipt of a pension under Part 111. or Part TV. of the Social Services Consolidation Act .1 947-1 9;>0 or a service pension under the Repatriation Act i 020-1 nan.”.
– I move -
That, in proposed new section 98, subsection (4.), after the words “ service pension “ the following words be inserted: - or a pension in respect of total and permanent incapacity,”.
The effect of the amendment is that the totally and permanently incapacitated exsoldier who is acknowledged as being completely incapable of earning a livelihood or of supplementing his pension will be placed in the same category as the service pensioner and the aged pensioner and will be able to obtain his licence for 10s. per annum.
.- This is one aspect of the bill which the Opposition supports. However, I suggest to the Minister that before the bill goes before the Senate he might give consideration to a request by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) that the concessional rate should also apply to war widows. I do not wish to elaborate on this proposal. The facts are known. There may be some arguments against the suggestion because of the cost involved, but as a concession has been given to one deserving section of the community, the Minister might perhaps do as the honorable member for Ballaarat has suggested.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 3rd October (vide page 270), on motion by Mr. Francis -
That the bill du now read a second time.
.- This bill has for its object the amendment of the Repatriation Act 1920-50 and it provides for the payment of the meagre increase in -certain pensions that was mentioned in the Treasurer’s budget speech. There can be nothing but approval for the proposal to increase the pensions of totally and permanently incapacitated men, but the Government’s proposals do not provide for the payment of the usual family allowances. I think that all honorable members will agree that the case of the totally and permanently incapacitated men must be conceded. The proposed increase is commensurate with the percentage increase that is usually made in repatriation pensions. All things considered, these men have had a fair deal. There are about 5,000 of them, but there is an appalling wastage of 50 a month. They have done great service to this community and their pension is not by any means too high. I think that all honorable members will consider that some measure of recompense has been given to these people whose case is really above recompense. But in the payment of the base rate there are not only glaring anomalies but there has been a direct repudiation of promises, both implicit and firmly stated. There are 160,000 basic war pensioners whose pensions average 35s. They have been neglected in this legislation. In the planning of the budget and in the consequential legislation they have not been given a fair share in the general increase of allowances. In industry there have been additions to the basic wage, and pensioners who are paid under the Social Services Consolidation Act have also received increases. But the base of our repatriation structure which is the 100 per cent, pensioner has been completely ignored. That connotes a complete change of policy so far as the Government and the Repatriation Department are concerned.
– That is not true. The 100 per cent, pensioner has been given some assistance.
– I am referring to the disability pensioner, the man on 40 per cent., 50 per cent, or 90 per cent., who has been entirely neglected. I am not attempting to mislead the honorable member who interjected because in the top brackets there has been a certain amount of assistance afforded by the Government. I shall quote now from the joint policy of the Liberal and Australian Country parties which was put before the electors prior to the 1949 general election. That is now known as the Doomsday Book of Liberalism because it contains the pledge of thu present Government to put value back in the £1. In that policy speech the Prime Minister made a direct appeal to the public to elect ex-servicemen to the new Parliament so that they could do something logical and sensible about repatriation. In that policy speech the Prime Minister said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. The Opposition parties contain a majority of members, and an overwhelming majority of new candidates, who are exservicemen.
That is a definite canvassing of the khaki vote. I shall read part of that statement again -
The Opposition parties contain a majority of members, and an overwhelming majority of new candidates, who are ex-servicemen.
The Prime Minister has always liked a touch of khaki, and has always welcomed a khaki election. However, it has so turned out, that ‘ ex-servicemen members have not acted as the guardians of the rights of ex-servicemen. Sometimes the Prime Minister’s language, however charming it may be over the radio, is not always capable of sane analysis. He further said in his policy speech -
We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and lui m an justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
That has not been done, and it rests on the ex-servicemen opposite to tell this Parliament why. The fine flower of chivalry on the Government benches, the ex-junior officers who have been taunting the Opposition with its lack of service representation since their election to this Parliament in 1949, have much to answer for to ex-servicemen because they have allowed a hungry Treasurer to deprive 160,000 base war pensioners of their justly due increase. At a later stage I shall move an amendment which honorable members on the Government sid-3 must support if they have the interests of ex-servicemen at heart.
An analysis of the case against the Government is simplicity itself. Since 1920 it has been accepted that the base rate war pensioner should be paid a certin percentage of the basic wage. These pensioners were paid in such a fashion until 1947 when the Chifley Government fell into the same error that this Government has fallen into. Then the base rate war pensioner was not paid an increase during a period of rising prices in order that his percentage of the basic wage might be maintained. The Chifley Government realized its error, and within nine months it corrected it and decided that it should not happen again. Any one who has gone through the screenings and medical examinations laid down by the Repatriation Act is fully entitled to have his pension fixed by reference to a percentage of the basic wage. This Government is attempting to commit an injustice on the 160,000 men who have borne the heat and burden of the day. “While the Government mouths about abolishing the means test, for the first time in history it imposes by this legislation a’ means test on war pensions. The Government has indicated that these men are working in industry and are therefore getting the benefit of the increases of the basic wage. The Government has therefore decided to do nothing for them even though it is budgeting for a surplus of £114,000,000. It has left these men high and dry for no logical reason, and we want to draw the attention of the House and the people to the inequity of this action and the churlishness of the Government in a matter where money should not enter the calculations.
If there is any validity in the argument that these men have already benefited from basic wage rises, all the Government’s statements about the cost of living and the difficulties under which people labour have no validity because these men suffer from thesame disabilities as all the other workers who are crying to high heaven that they cannot live reasonably because of rising costs. The difficulties under which all people are living at. present certainly apply to the war pensioners as well as to everybody else. These men have lost something vital to themselves, either a limb or health, and therefore they are suffering more disability than men who have not been so afflicted. Yet it is suggested that their pensions should not be increased because they are doing all right in industry. This completely ignores the true position. That reminds me of the well-known quotation from Kipling - “For it’s Tommy this and Tommy that”,
Chuck ‘im out the brute,
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country”,
When the guns begin to shoot.
During the alarms and excursions of the last six months, when we have been told that we must gird up our loins, prepare for war, and send the kids to camp ; and when a famous general is being brought back from Korea to conduct our recruiting campaign, surely it is ridiculous that men who have fought our battles in past days should be so shabbily treated by the Government. The Government has been bamboozled by the Treasurer and by the Treasury. Recently I have noticed representatives of returned servicemen’s associations in the corridors of this building, apparently pleading for justice for the ex-servicemen. I therefore expected that the ex-servicemen’s committee on the Government side would have done something about this matter. Apparently it has been brushed aside by the Cabinet. By not. giving percentage increases of the basic war pensions a means test has been applied to war pensions. I now present to honorable members a statement which shows the fluctuation of the basic wage and its relation to the basic war pension. In 1920 the basic wage, based on the city of Sydney, was £4 8s. 6d. and the basic war pension was £2 2s., which represented 47.5 per cent of the basic wage. In 1930 the basic wage was £4 9s., the basic war pension £2 2s. and the percentage 47. In 1940 the basic wage was £4 5s., the basic war pension £2 2s., and the percentage 49.5. The ideal is between 47 per cent. and 49 per cent. of the basic wage. Therefore at that stage all was reasonably well. In 1943 the basic wage was £4 19s., the war pension £2 10s., and the percentage 50.5. That was under the régime of the Chifley Government. In 1948 the basicwage was £6 2s., the war pension £2 15s. and the percentage 46. Even that was acceptable to ex-servicemen. In 1950 the basic wage was £7 6s., the war pension £3 10s. and the percentage 48. In August 1951 the basic wage was £9 13s. the pension £3 10s., and the percentage 36. Now, in November, 1951, the basic wage is £10 7s. the basic war pension is still only £3 10s., and the percentage is only 33.5. Honorable members will therefore see that the percentage has fallen 14 points since 1920.
– What about the rate of pension for those who are totally and permanently disabled?
-I have paid due tribute to what has been done for those people. I do not contest that a reasonably good job has not been done for them. Unfortunately their numbers are rapidly diminishing. A visit to the cubicles at Rand wick and Yaralla hospitals is indeed a depressing experience. It should be a matter for satisfaction, though not for praise, if any government looks after such men adequately. But there has been a harsh injustice done to men on the basic war pension. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who himself is incapacitated by war injury, must feel a lot of dissatisfaction about the Government’s actions. No doubt he has been side-tracked by departmental advice or Treasury pressure into acquiescing in this legislation. Ex-servicemen round town such as those employed as liftmen and in other capacities in Commonwealth buildings, who appear physically fit, are in receipt of only a small pension. Whilst they appear to be physically fit, they suffer from their disability. A small increase of pension should be made available to them not as a matter of money but from the standpoint of their prestige and as a reward to which they are entitled for having fought in defence of their country. The Government’s treatment of them is churlish, horrible and unpatriotic. Whilst it has been able to fix levels in respect of all other classes of pensions it has ignored these ex-servicemen. [ cannot understand why the Government, which preens itself on what it has done in the interests of ex-servicemen, has fallen into this trap. No valid reason can be given for its attitude. It must have been made aware of this anomaly by correspondence that Ministers have received from ex-servicemen’s organizations. For instance, the Tuberculosis Sailors and Soldiers Association has gone on record as having said -
Ex-Servicemen regard the Budget proposals in respect to those groups of war pensions who are to receive increased pensions, as being fairly reasonable although not altogether so but the only construction they can place on the decision to leave the great bulk of war pensions out of budget consideration is that a means test is now operating in the matter of assessing statutory increases in war pension rates.
There is no need to flog this issue because it is crystal clear. Indeed, the Government has made a dangerous mistake. I have no doubt that its supporters will defend its attitude, but such an attitude is indefensible because it is partial and represents a departure from the general view. The Government has refused to apply to this class of service pensioners the principle of percentage payments that it has applied to all other classes of ‘pensioners. The only answer that the Government can make in this matter is that the class of service pensioner to whom I refer is not entitled to more generous treatment because he is earning income in civilian industry and is not in need of additional assistance. Such an attitude puts the ‘Government out of court for all time, because the service pension is paid not in respect of the needs of recipients but as a reward for fighting in the defence of the country and being disabled in the course of such service. Ti the Government intends by this method to apply a means test to this class of service pensioners, let it say so frankly instead of talk about its intention, ultimately, to eliminate the means test. One of these days the principle of percentage payments will have to be applied to all classes of social services benefits. The establishment of a minimum rate of pension will, at least, be a start. But it is tragic that on this occasion the Government has failed to remember the tubercular pensioners, who are not completely physically fit and, therefore, are entitled to receive a just reward from a grateful country. The Repatriation Act is such a perfect piece of mechanism that it will not work. We know of instances in which that fact has been proved. It can be said that the act merely lumbers along.
– Does the honorable gentleman realize that the Government is now doing what the Chifley Government did in 1947? But, whereas the Chifley Government provided a pension at the rate of 5s. a week, this Government is providing a pension at the rate of 15s. a week to pensioners in the class to which the honorable member refers.
– The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) is attempting to draw a red herring across the path. If he had been present in the chamber throughout the whole of my speech he would have known that I admitted that what the Chifley Government did in 1947 was a mistake. I pointed out that our experience in that respect was such that we should not repeat it, and that in 1948 it was rectified. Two wrongs do not make a right. The Government cannot merely hide behind the alleged inefficiencies of a Labour government. As soon as the Chifley Government realized that its departure from the system of percentage payments had caused considerable suffering) it rectified that mistake.
Several other points must be considered in relation to service pensioners. I repeat that the Government is guilty of committing a dangerous error in departing from the principle of percentage rates. The effect of such action has been to deprive the 160,000 pensioners of the class to which I have referred, and which form the largest group of service pensioners, of a just pension. In addition, the Government, under this legislation, is indirectly imposing a means test upon service pensioners. I challenge the Government to answer those three charges. The case against it is crystal clear and does not call for long-winded argument. Indeed, ex-servicemen’s organizations have already presented the facts to the Government. They have gone on record as having said -
Let us look at the position of a serving member of the A.I.F. now fighting in Korea. If he enlisted in November, 1950, he knew that, in the event of his being wounded and subsequently discharged from the Forces 100 pei cent, disabled, he would receive a war pension of £3 10s. per week which represented 48 per cent, of the then basic wage. He was satisfied to join under those circumstances. But what now when the pension represents only 30 per cent, of the wage, and next month will fall to the all-time low of 33.5 per cent, of the basic wage?
The men who are serving in Korea will be affected by this legislation, because should they become entitled to receive a disability pension upon their discharge, regardless of the degree of their disability, they will be paid a. pension that is now being reduced by at least 15 per cent, compared with what the rate of pension would be if it were fixed on the basis of percentage payments. The Government has no answer to make on that point.
I direct attention to the firm statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made when he was Leader of the Opposition that not only justice but also mercy would be extended to the serviceman in relation to his pension and repatriation claims. “What has become of that pious platitude under this measure, which is merely a measure that has emanated from ii hard-hearted Treasury and that denies to ex-servicemen the justice to which they are entitled under established repatriation practices? This measure is a repudiation of the Government’s obligation to thorn pensioners. Why has it eliminated the principle of percentage payments in respect of this class of pension? I cannot accept the reason that the Minister has given for this action on the part of the Government. In view of the fact that a previous Labour government recognized that it had fallen into a trap when it ignored the principle, surely the present Government, with that experience in mind, will not fall into a similar trap. Is the Government content to defend itself merely by whining about the wonderful job that it has done in the interests of ex-servicemen? I have admitted that it has done a fair job by those men; but if this debate were to develop into a contest about how good the Government is and how wrong the Chifley Government was, I’ should deplore such imbecility in the treatment of service pensioners in the vulnerable group to which I have referred. Under this measure the Government is applying a means test to that class of pensioner and is prepared to forget that their pensions are payable to them in recognition of their war service. The Government’s claim is a piece of political humbug which will be dealt with on the hustings. If it does not rectify its mistake ex-servicemen and the people generally will have much to say about its action.
After screaming for troops to reinforce the Australian battalion that has done splendid work in Korea, the Government is prepared to allow those servicemen to become the victims of this machine-like measure. Whereas the Government is budgeting for a surplus of £114,500,000, an expenditure of less than £4,000,000 would be needed to meet the service pensioners’ demand for an increase of their pension by £1 so that it may conform to acknowledged percentage levels. I urge the Government to have another look at this matter. I know that ex-servicemen have been pressing it. If the Government does not accede to their request, it will fail to stand up to its responsibility. It will reveal itself as a treasury-ridden Government that is prepared to forget the ex-servicemen who are still struggling in the hard world outside. The Government has accepted a solution of this problem that is not valid. I regret that the committee of exservicemen that has been constituted by
Governmentsupporters has associated itself with the Government’s repudiation of its responsibility. The amendment that I propose to move is simple. It has not been drafted in any savage spirit, but is clearly an attempt to rectify the mistake that the Government is making. I urge the Government to accept it and thus obviate bitterness and despair among those men who, apparently, it is now prepared to leave in the cold. For those reasons I move -
That all words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for -
the operation of the act from the 1st July, 1951;
all pension schedules to share in the proposed increases in rates;
inclusion of base war pensions; and
increase in all categories to be at the same percentage rate “.
– The House has just listened to a speech by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) which turned completely upon the principle of percentage payments. Whilst he admitted that the Government has made generous provision for certain classes of pensioners, he seeks to bring all classes of service pensioners within the scope of the measure. I say without qualification that that is the most shallow humbug that the House has listened to for a long time. I have had the good fortune to have been an officer of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airment’s Imperial League of Australia and to have participated in many debates within that organization on the subject of the relationship of service pension rates to the basic wage. The traditional outlook of the league is that pensions should not be tied to the basic wage.
– Tied to the downward trend.
– I said “ tied to the basic wage “. That is the traditional standpoint of the league.
– The honorable gentleman has not read the representations that have been made by the league on that matter.
– I have read them. The honorable member for Parkes said that this measure is a harsh piece of tyranny on 100 per cent. pen sioners, and that the Government had no excuse for treating them in such a manner. The honorable gentleman made the extraordinary statement that the great majority of war pensioners had not received any consideration in the budget for the current financial year. I remind him that the Chifley Labour Government, which he supported, did precisely the same thing in 1947.
– We admit that. But an adjustment was made nine months later.
– There is no reason, either because of the traditional standpoint of the league, or on any other ground, why the 100 per cent. pension rate should be tied to the basic wage. In fact, the traditional standpoint of the league has been directly contrary to that view. I propose to show that all classes of pensioners, far from being harshly treated, have been well treated by this Government; but before I do so, I shall refer briefly to those persons who are practically dependent on the pension for their maintenance. There is no need for me to cite all the increases of pension that have been granted, but I emphasize that these pensioners are treated most generously by the Government under this bill. The general interests of war pensioners have been safeguarded. I find that the expenditure on war and service pensions in the financial year ended the 30th June, 1949, was £18,750,000. In the next financial year which ended on the 30th June. 1950, it was £20,500,000 and in the last financial year it was £27,500,000. The estimated expenditure to the 30th June, 1952, is £33,250,000. Those figures reveal the staggering increases of pension that have been granted. Are those the actions of a government which is inflicting a harsh piece of tyranny upon pensioners? Such an idea is utter nonsense. Since this Government has been in office, repatriation payments have increased by £14,500,000.
I shall now refer to the increase of the general rate pension. The House should pay close attention to the facts. The total cost that would be involved by an increase of £1 a week would be £4,500,000 per annum, including sustenance allowances. Approximately 168,000 members are on the general rate pension throughout Australia. They receive from 10 per cent, to 100 per cent of £3 10s. a “week, but the average is only 35 per cent. Approximately 95,000 of those 168,000 persons are in receipt of 25 per cent, or less. Those members on the general rate would receive, on the basis of an increase of £1 a week, from 2s, to 5s. a week. Yet the honorable member for Parkes has made a great song and dance about the matter.
– That is a strange piece of Scottish logic. Would the honorable member support a greater increase?
– The 100 per cent, rate for a wife is £1 10s. 6d., and for each child under the age of sixteen years the rate is lis. 6d. a week. In addition, child endowment is payable in respect of all the children who are under the age of sixteen years. No means test of any kind is applicable to the general rate pension. The figures that I have cited disprove the statement that the 100 per cent, pensioner has been neglected by this Government. Practically all general rate pensioners, even those on or nearly on the 100 per cent, rate, are in full employment.
The honorable member for Parkes has claimed that the Government proposes to impose a means test upon those persons. Nothing of the sort! I shall return to the matter of a means test a little later. As practically all the general rate pensioners are in full employment, the pension to them is not a needs pension. When I make that statement, I mean that the pension is not necessary for their maintenance. In that respect, it is not like the pension that is payable to a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman. These men are receiving a payment that has always been regarded as compensation for war injuries. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has never considered that such a pension should be related to the basic wage. There is no reason to suggest that such persons are harshly treated when, in all the circumstances that exist to-day, the rate is not increased. The great majority of those 168,000 pensioners are in full employment, and are also in receipt of benefits other than the pension. Those’ members on the 100 per cent, rate, for instance, receive practically a full medical cover, including hospital benefits. Other members on lower rates receive medical attention in varying and lessening degrees. But all honorable members are aware of the extraordinary generosity with which the Repatriation Department always treats the claims of ex-servicemen, and of the large number that has been accepted even on slight evidence of the disabilities being due to war causes. An ex-prisoner of war, for instance, has merely to make a claim about any illness, and it is treated by the Repatriation Department as being due to war causes. War pensions are not subject to income tax, and are free from the hazards of unemployment. They continue all the time. Other benefits are granted, such as child endowment. The claim that people who enjoy those benefits, the vast majority of whom are in full employment, are being harshly treated by this Government, is sheer nonsense. It is made for one purpose only. Opposition members are endeavouring to place on their own shoulders the mantle of champion of ex-servicemen. To such a claim, they have no right or title whatever.
There is only one other point that 1 wish to make. This budget has been framed in extraordinary times, but in spite of that fact, great ‘ concessions and advantages have been given to all the persons in necessitous circumstances who come within the scope of the repatriation scheme.
– Rubbish !
– The honorable member has admitted that I have stated facts to the House. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is a great body that is entitled to express its views on many subjects. It is perfectly entitled to make whatever claims it wishes to make on behalf of its members. Indeed, it is entitled to do more than that. It is entitled to make plain its views on matters of national importance, and has always done so. All governments have been willing at all times to listen to its views. Those of us who have been intimately associated with the league have often concurred in those views. Yet, whilst all admit that the league has a perfect right to press the claims of its members, I am convinced that it is satisfied about two things. The first is that this Government, consisting as it does largely of ex-servicemen and having due regard to its overall responsibilities to the nation, has made great efforts to protect the interests of ex-servicemen. The second is that the vital interests of the league will always be sympathetically and realistically considered by this Government in the light of its responsibilities to the nation as a whole. The suggestion that any section of ex-members of the Forces has been neglected or harshly treated by this Government is contrary not only to fact and to experience, but also to the real opinion of the league itself.
– I Strongly support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) chided the honorable member for Parkes that he had been too critical because he had said that no provision had been made in this bill for partly disabled ex-servicemen. I fail to understand how the honorable gentleman, who is an exservicemen, can hold such a view. We on this side of the House believe that a grave injustice has been done in this measure to the majority of ex-servicemen who are in receipt of pensions. After all, 160,000 men in that group will not receive any benefit under this legislation. The honorable member for Oxley cannot escape the fact that a close relationship has always been preserved between repatriation pensions and the basic wage. He stated that many ex-servicemen do not need an increase of their present rate of pension, because they are in full employment. I point out that those men were granted a pension for a specific reason of which the honorable gentleman must be aware. When troops disembarked from the transports after World War I., they were medically examined, and were granted compensation in the form of a pension for any disabilities from which they were suffering, because their earning capacity was reduced to that degree. A means test was not applied to the granting of that pension.
A close relationship between the 100 per cent, pension and the basic wage has been maintained since the inception of the payment of repatriation benefits in 1920. I remind the House that in that year the pension for a 100 per cent, disability was £2 2s. a week, or 47.5 per cent, of the then basic wage in Sydney. That relationship was preserved until 1950, when the pension was 48 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day, however, the pension is only 33 per cent, of the base wage. Therefore, a grave injustice has been done to a large body of exservicemen who are in receipt of pensions.
Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party have always posed as the only champions of ex-servicemen. As a matter of fact, they have adopted that role deliberately, and to such effect that they have become almost professional actors in it. They claim that the Labour party has no sympathy for ex-servicemen. I have fought against that sort of propaganda for years. Now the supporters of the Government are to be tested. We are gravely concerned about this issue because the Government’s proposal involves a grave miscarriage of justice. Whether it was framed with deliberate intent or not I cannot say, but the fact is that an increase of the rate of pension for permanently incapacitated men, the number of whom is small, would be much less costly than would be an increase for partly disabled men.
I am bitterly critical of the bill because the Government has endeavoured to make a great deal of party political capital from it. The base rate of pension for partly incapacitated ex-servicemen is £3 10s. a week, but the average payment is about £1 15s. a week because the pensioners are paid according to the degree of their disability. The present Prime Minister sought to win the votes of ex-servicemen by making this promise to them -
We shall see to it that there is speedy financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
Where is the human justice in the Government’s proposal ? It seems to me that, it- has thrown justice overboard at the expense of 160,000 men in order to save a small expenditure. This sort of conduct comes very ill from politicians who probably owe their positions in this Parliament to the glowing promises that they made to ex-servicemen. These supposed champions of the ex-servicemen are now trying to convince u3 that they have given a wonderful deal to partly incapacitated ex-servicemen and that, because those men are in full employment, they do not need a pension. The logical conclusion to the argument of the honorable member for Oxley is that those men should not have a pension. No other Government ever attempted to depart from the principle that was established when the base rate of pension for partially disabled servicemen was fixed in 1920. Ordinary human justice demands that the rate be increased. The Government has increased all other pension rates. Surely it has not forgotten this section of the community! It has always assured the people that it will never forget the exservicemen and that the Labour party is the only political party that would neglect them.
These disabled men have to bear the ill effects of inflation in common with other members of the community. The Government’s neglect of them is tantamount to an actual reduction of their pension. The base rate should be increased by at least 15 per cent, in order to maintain a proper relationship to the cost of living. The Government claims that these men have nothing to complain about, but I shall complain very strenuously on their behalf. The Government has decided to abrogate a well-established principle. What will be its next step? Does it propose to undermine the entire foundation on which this pension system for exservicemen has been based for such a long time? Its neglect affects not only the 160,000 pensioners concerned, but also a large body of dependants. I agree that payments to totally incapacitated exservicemen should be increased to a reasonable amount in order to counteract the steadily decreasing value of the £1. However, there are relatively few such pensioners and their number is steadily diminishing. As they approach the age that you, Mr. Speaker, and I have reached, they begin to fade away. Most of the partially disabled ex-servicemen are young men who served in World War II. 7 believe that the Government is thinking in terms of costs and has decided to sacrifice that large body of men for the sake of financial economy without regard for common justice. ‘
The Labour party does not want to favour any section of the community, but believes in dispensing even-handed justice. In this instance, it appears that one group has been singled out for the imposition of a penalty. Partially disabled ex-servicemen can reasonably claim that the Government has reduced their pension because the base rate now represents only 33 per cent, of the basic wage instead of 48 per cent., as it did in 1950. Even yet it is not too late for the Government to remove this anomaly. It cannot honestly argue that the economy is made necessary by any lack of funds, because it has provided for a surplus of £114,500,000 in the accounts for the current financial year. I challenge all ex-servicemen on the Government side of the chamber to honour their promise to give financial and human justice to ex-servicemen. They will be given an opportunity soon to show where they stand on this issue. The supporters of the Government can easily bring enough pressure to bear on Ministers to force them to change their decision. They have claimed great kudos as the only champions of ex-servicemen. I have been disgusted by some of the propaganda of this sort that they have used. During the last general election campaign, a young exserviceman handed to me a pamphlet that had been prepared on behalf of the Liberal party. I warned him to be careful of the promises that it contained because I had bitter memories of similar promises that had been made formerly by the same party under another name and that had been dishonoured. The Liberal party is probably due for another change of name now, ^because it has broken so many promises that it has fallen into ill repute. The young man to whom I have referred was misled by a beautifully prepared pamphlet in which the Liberal party promised that it would do all sorts of things for ex-servicemen and declared that a Labour government would neglect them.
I challenge every ex-serviceman on the Government side of the chamber to join with the Opposition in voting for the amendment. That is the test. They have bluffed the ex-servicemen for too long, and I want the people to learn now where they stand on this issue. The Labour Government made no distinctions between different sections of exservicemen. It tried to accord justice to all classes of pensioners. We now ask the Government to emulate that example. It has acknowledged the needs of age and invalid pensioners. Partially incapacitated ex-servicemen are also in need as a result of the decreased value of the £1. We merely ask for justice. The honorable member for Oxley said that they did not need help because they were in full employment, but he must know that their earning capacity is impaired by their disabilities. They would not be in receipt of a pension if that were not so. The Government, by its neglect, has virtually reduced their pension by 15 per cent, or more. Therefore, I strongly protest against its refusal to accept the amendment.
.- At the outset I challenge any other honorable member to produce a record of service to ex-servicemen since World War I., other than lip service, that is better than my record. I am not being egotistical. I issue the challenge now because I propose to speak strongly on this bill. During all the years of my service on behalf of ex-servicemen, the sort of conduct that has disgusted and sickened me more than anything else has been that of the politicians who have attempted to “ bludge “-
– Order ! That word is unparliamentary.
– I have been sickened by the actions of politicians who have sought to make the welfare of ex-servicemen a plaything of the party political football field. I have always endeavoured to remove such issues from the political arena. Certain politicians always try to gain advantage by talking loudly and insincerely about the sufferings of an unfortunate section of the community. I hope that the bill and the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will be discussed throughout the remainder of this debate solely on their merits and not for the sake of making party political capital. I could easily discuss the misdeeds and omissions of political parties in the past, but, as I have said here before, 1 attach no value to such recriminations. It is easy to give lip service, but unfortunately very few of those who talk glibly about the needs of ex-servicemen endeavour to translate their promises into action.
The purpose of this bill is to increase the rate of payment to certain war pensioners and their dependants. I shall not discuss the adequacy or inadequacy of the proposed increase.
– Because I propose to keep this subject out of the field of party polities. Furthermore, I do not propose to debate the fact that certain sections of pensioners are not dealt with in the bill.
– If the honorable member does not know the meaning of honesty, I suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, take him to your office one day and endeavour to teach him at least the basic principles of it.
– He has already done so.
– Evidently you were unsuccessful, Mr. Speaker. The Government’s proposal deserves high commendation because it acknowledges the needs of those persons who have been most adversely affected by the sacrifices that have been made in the service of their country. Special and additional provision has been made for children. I consider that the basis of all the assistance that we give to any section of the community, and particularly to those people who have been adversely affected because of war service, should have special regard to the needs of children. This Government, composed as it is of ex-servicemen, cannot be said to bc unsympathetic or ungenerous towards ex-servicemen. In fact, because members of the Government are exservicemen, and not because they are members of a political party, they have been most considerate of the needs of exservicemen.
– Does the honorable member consider that this bill will give to ex-servicemen a fair deal?
– Order 1 The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has already made his speech on the measure.
– The honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McLeod) misinterpreted the remarks of the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron), and then attempted to make an appeal on sentimental grounds. His appeal was based on wrong premises and did not get him anywhere. “When war pensions were originally granted they were not based on the disabilities that returned servicemen might have suffered, or on the degree to which that disability would affect their earning capacity. It has been a fundamental principle of war pensions that earning capacity is not taken into consideration when the percentage of a disability is assessed. Therefore, a means test has never been applied to war pensions, which were granted in recognition of the fact that the recipients would lose in some directions because of their disabilities. One man might suffer a loss in respect of his earning capacity, whilst another might lose in relation to his social activities. For instance, a facial disfigurement is classed as a 100 per cent, disability, although a man who suffers from such a disfigurement could earn an almost unlimited income^ The principle also gives recognition to the fact that the recipient may incur costs as a result of his disability that he would not otherwise have to incur. For instance, an amputee who, in normal circumstances, would himself be able to do certain jobs on his property, might have to engage labour to do them. He receives a pension as an amputee although he may be able to earn an income of perhaps £5,000 a year. I could cite cases of men who are in receipt of a full pension rate although they hold remunerative positions. But such men can justly claim that their disabilities cause them loss in other directions. Their disabilities can mean the denial of pleasures and of social life. Although the war pension was not originally based on need, unfortunately the basic rate of assessment was left in the party political football field. 1 believe that the time has come when it should be removed from that field so that no politician will have an opportunity to attempt to ride on the backs of the ex-servicemen.
The Government’s proposal in this measure is in continuation of previous legislation. It accentuates the fact that there is a difference between people who receive a war pension on the basis of need and people who receive it in respect of a disability. Returned servicemen’3 organizations recognize that exservicemen are divided into two categories. The first is that to the members of which the pension is a means of livelihood. The second includes people to whom a pension is not a matter of need, but is in respect of a disability. It is wrong that people who require war pensions, for their livelihood should come cap-in-hand to governments to have their pensions increased in accordance with alterations of the country’s economy. They should not be obliged to be the subject of party political propaganda.
I submit for the consideration of the Government, and of all honorable members who are really sincere about assisting war pensioners, a proposal for the establishment, if possible within the next few months, of a tribunal that will assess the base rate of a needs pension for exservicemen. After the base rate has been assessed and established,, the economy pension, as I shall term it, will rise and fall automatically according to the pur- chasing power of the currency. In that way needy ex-servicemen would no longer be the subject of political wrangling. I should not mind if the same procedure were adopted in relation to age pensions. The rise and fall of war pension rates would, under my proposal, be determined by economic circumstances, just as the rise and fall of the basic wage is determined, although I do not wish to tie war pensions to the basic wage
– The honorable member will do exactly as he is told to do.
– I have never done that, whatever the honorable member may say.
I wish he would keep quiet. By the means that I have suggested, the pensions with which this measure deals would be automatically altered without the question of whether or not such alterations ought to be made having to be thrashed out in this Parliament and without the men, women and children concerned, whom we are anxious to assist, being metaphorically kicked round this chamber by people who are not sincere about assisting them.
The second group of pensioners would be those in receipt of what might be termed a compensatory pension. The base rate for that pension would also be established by an independent tribunal, and alterations of the base rate would be made by the tribunal. In other words, if an exservicemen’s organization produced evidence that the rate of the compensatory pension was insufficient, or that any reduction that was proposed was unjustified, then the tribunal would make a decision on the evidence. Organizations, or the Government, or anybody else, could submit evidence for or against the appellants. The tribunal’s decision would be automatically accepted by the Government. Such a procedure would remove that kind of pension entirely from the political field.
– Has the honorable member yet submitted this proposal to the Government?
– I remind the honorable member for Hindmarsh that although I am a member of a political party I have not sold my soul and shall never sell it. There are hundreds of cases in which an increase of a compensatory pension would merely add more spending money to the pension without in any way adding to its real value to the recipient. For instance, I cannot justify the receipt of an increase of pension of 10 or 20 per cent., by a man who earns £1,500 or £2,000 a year, in view of the fact that there are people who need such a pension to live on. The Opposition hast suggested that the £3,000,000 to be provided under the bill should be distributed among the entire body of pensioners, numbering 500,000, whether or not they deserve it or need it-
– Would they not deserve it if they were receiving a compensatory pension ?
– The people who deserve a pension are those who require it to live on.
– The Government could adjust that. We will accept an amendment of the amendment along those lines.
– I am not prepared to trust ex-servicemen in the hands of the honorable member for Parkes. If he and those who support his amendment are sincere about promoting the interests and welfare of ex-servicemen, then they will give serious consideration to my proposal with a view to removing the terrific injustice that is done to our ex-servicemen, who are brought into the political halls on every conceivable occasion and kicked about undeservedly by people who wish ro make party political capital out of them. [ have not placed my proposal in the party political field where is does not. belong. I have put it up to ex-servicemen and it has received a considerable measure of support.
Mr. Clyde Cameron___ But exservicemen are not the Government.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) cannot get out of the party political field. I have put the proposal where it belongs. I do not believe in this or any government arbitrarily deciding matters without consideration of the needs of the persons concerned, but I do believe that my proposal will ultimately be accepted and will come before the Parliament. The people who are to-day expressing a sympathetic attitude to ex-servicemen will then be called upon to vote either in support of or against the proposal. I ask honorable members to forget party politics. I remind them that these men did not consider party politics when they went out to do their job and it is wrong that honorable members should adopt the attitude that they have adopted on this matter.
The only argument against the proposal that I have outlined is that it would impose an obligation on the Government to accept the recommendations of the tribunals. Such a state of affair” is not unusual because it obtains . in very many spheres of governmental activity which are. no more important than are the interests of exservicemen. An increased pension should be paid to those who, because of their service, are compelled to live on it. There is an obligation on the nation to help these men. To a considerable number of pensioners their pension is an absolute necessity and it is insufficient for many of them to live on. To many others the pension represents a recognition of a job done and is compensation for losses which have no effect on their earning capacity. Their case is not in any way similar to that of people who must live on their pension. Obviously, the Government should ensure that the greatest benefit shall be given to those whose need is the greatest. That will be done under this legislation. Although ex-servicemen’s associations have protested because the base pension has not been increased I list ve. yet to find the ex-serviceman who would demand that he should receive bis shave of the available money regardless of whether or not this would deprive his more needy comrades of the assistance that they require. Genuine ex-servicemen who are concerned for the welfare of their mates have unhesitatingly said to me that if the Government has only limited funds to distribute by way of increased pension rates, those funds should be paid to men who need them most. They have said that they would present their case because they wanted an increase of their rates, but they were not prepared to jeopardize the prospects of those who were most badly in need of the money Whatever may be my attitude to service pensioners generally, I am- most concerned about the welfare of those who really need an increased pension. I consider that those men should receive th, increase without delay, and I do not intend to vote in any way that will delay the passage of this bill. I shall do everything in my power to assist the needy to receive the extra pension rates as speedily as .possible.
.- Possibly no honorable member in recent times has spoken for longer and said less than has the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who has just resumed his seat. Quite clearly the honorable member was in the position of a man pushing a bike uphill with the wind against him. Any honorable member who regards this matter from a non-party political -viewpoint must observe that the interests of 160,000 ex-servicemen have been sold out by a government from which they should have received the utmost consideration. I rise to speak on this bill because I have a persona] interest, as a citizen and a parliamentary representative in the welfare of ex-servicemen, and their dependants and because I have received protests, as have other honorable members, against the injustice of this legislation. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) asked honorable (members to consider in a. non-party-political manner, the improvement of the conditions and general amenities to which ex-servicemen are entitled. I believe that there is a great deal to be said for the adoption of such an attitude in connexion with this matter. The great sacrifices that exservicemen have made require that we shall examine their welfare in an impartial light and, irrespective of our politics, do the utmost to ensure that they shall be fully recompensed when they require assistance.
The Opposition has provided an opportunity for Government supporters to refrain from acting party politically and refuse to be dominated by the Cabinet which submitted these proposals to them without giving time to examine them. The honorable member for Moore and other Government supporters who were elected on the pledge that they would do everything possible for ex-servicemen will soon have an opportunity to support the amendment designed by the Opposition to do justice to all ex-servicemen. Seventy-five per cent, of honorable members opposite are ex-servicemen who were elected on the pledge that they would serve exservicemen. Yet they have allowed the basic rate of pension to fall from approximately 50 per cent, of the basic wage to 33 per cent, of the basic wage. It has been left to the Government parties, the interests of which are packed with exservicemen, to sell out the rights of ex-servicemen and substantially reduce the rates of pension in comparison with the basic wage. Opposition members have been sneered at by honorable members opposite who have alleged that we have not supported the interests of soldiers and their dependants. Those allegations are quite unjust. In 1941 a Labour Administration investigated and improved the repatriation legislation in relation to the .1914-18 war despite the failure of the non-Labour Government that had preceded it to take effective action of that nature.
As the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has said, Government supporters, particularly those who are exservicemen, pledged themselves to protect the welfare of soldiers. An ironical, unfortunate and sorry picture is now presented by those honorable members in their attempts to defend this indefensible legislation which, if passed, will sell out the rights of 160,000 former members of the forces. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was outspoken in the newspapers concerning ex-servicemen’s requirements. He will soon have an opportunity to cross the floor and vote in the independent way of which we have heard so much. Government supporters have maintained that they are not bound to party decisions. They have stated that they vote as they wish on great problems. It has not been difficult to count the number of them who have voted with the; Opposition on great issues. When it is time to vote on this measure they will be seen sitting timidly by, because the whip will crack. They must consult the Cabinet before they vote because their party machine is so ruthless.
The Government has budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000, but anybody who has studied the budget will appreciate that the ultimate surplus will be approximately £300,000,000. Yet the Government proposes to deny 160,000 exservicemen a paltry £4,000,000 which would provide them with means with which to meet the cost of living. It is a shame to see the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who, when in Opposition, was as fiery as a lion in dealing with ex-servicemen’s problems, acting like an old, tame, worn-out tomcat. I do not criticize the service which the honorable member has rendered to the nation as a soldier.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Do you consider it fair .to the tomcat to be likened to the honorable member for Mallee?
– I have repeatedly warned honorable members that they must not make allusions of this type to one another. The statement is completely out of order. Although no exception was taken to it by the honorable member for Mallee, I think that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who is an experienced parliamentarian, might do well to withdraw it.
– In deference to your suggestion, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the statement. Let us say that the honorable member for Mallee has lost his ferocity in defending the ex-servicemen. Opposition members are waiting to see him cross the floor and serve, in a practical manner, the interests of 160,000 ex-servicemen by voting with them for the amendment. I am waiting also to hear the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), who is the chairman of the ex-servicemen’s committee of Government supporters, justify this bill, which has been condemned by exservicemen’s organizations from one end of the continent- to the other. How do Government supporters expect ex-servicemen to exist on a paltry pension when the inflationary spiral has decreased the value of the present pension rates by at least 15 per cent. ? What chance have exservicemen who are dependent on the base rate of pension to meet the commitments of their families without any increase of this rate? On what grounds can exservicemen who support the Government justify its hoarding of £300,000,000 while the Government refuses a paltry £4,000,000 to provide ex-servicemen with the wherewithal to keep body and soul together? This is one great opportunity that honorable members on the Government side will have to cross the floor and vote for this amendment which is designed to ensure that Australian exservicemen shall get the justice to which they are entitled.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mi1. Haylen.), moved to the effect that the. billbe withdrawn. and redrafted to provide for the operation of increased benefits from the 1st July, 1951. The Government back-dated, the pensions of various judges throughout the Commonwealth; therefore, why should not the ex-servicemen be given the same consideration ? It must be remembered that judges are in a far more fortunate financial position than are ex-servicemen pensioners, and have less need for the extra amount that will accrue to them in consequence of the Government’s action. I should be. very interested to hear- honorable members on the Government side give reasons why ex-service’s pensions cannot be dated back in view of the fact that the Government is budgeting- in such, a way that the actual surplus will be about £300,000,000. Already the war pension is lagging far behind the cost of living, and those who receive it are suffering financial hardships. What honorable member who believes in justice can lightly cast aside the claims of 160,000 ex-servicemen and say that these men are not entitled to a greater increase of pension? All sections of our society are sharing increases of all sorts except these ex-servicemen whose pension is far below the basic wage and has not been proportionately increased. The Government is maintaining this particular pension at approximately 33 per cent, of the basic wage although 48 per cent, has been the proportion for nearly 30 years. No honorable member can justify its refusal to increase the pension, having in mind its complete failure to keep down living costs.
I recently read that a leader of an ex-servicemen’s organization had said that be did not believe that any government had been so callous towards exservicemen as had this Government, which has refused to include all ex-servicemen pensioners in the pension increases. The bill should be redrafted to- include basic war pensioners. What is the difference between refusing to give an increase to such, people amd refusing to increase age pensions when invalid pensions are increased? ‘I am sure that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) would not discriminate between classes of pen sioners under the Social Services Consolidation. Act in the same way aa classes of war pensioners have been discriminated against in this legislation. These ex-servicemen have given the best years of their lives in the service of Australia, but they are denied the ordinary right of civilians to an increase of wages,, by the refusal to increase their pension to meet the increased cost of living. Here is an excellent opportunity for exservicemen on the Government side to show that; they have the interests of ex-servicemen at heart; let them fall into line with all ex-servicemen’s associations in this country and seek justice for war pensioners. They and their colleagues will soon have to vote on this amendment. They will not be able to continue to hide behind the patriotic flags that they are so fond of waving.
Honorable members interjecting,
Mr. Daly having resumed his seat,
– I call the honorable member for Higinbotham.
– I rise to order. I have not yet finished my speech, Mr. Speaker. I 3at down only .because the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) had risen and I thought that he intended to take a point of order.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! It is time the House came to order. There are too many interjections and too much crossfire. There is no need f or this increase of tension. If the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) assures me that he was under a misapprehension when he’ sat down, I shall allow him to continue. I called the honorable member for Higinbotham when the honorable member for Grayndler resumed his seat only because I thought that the honorable member had concluded his speech.
– I shall proceed, Mr. Speaker. I thought that the honorable member for Mallee had risen to take, as he constantly does, a point of order. To-day honorable members on the Government side-
– - I now do rise to a point of order. I ask you,. Mr. Speaker, to say whether or not you consider thai the statement of the honorable member for Grayndler that I take points of orde frequently, should be withdrawn.
– That is a matter on which the honorable member will have to enlighten me. If the honorable member says that the statement of the honorable member for Grayndler was offensive to him, I shall ask the honorable member for Grayndler to withdraw it.
– It is offensive to me, Mr. Speaker, and I ask for its withdrawal.
– I withdraw the statement that I made. Honorable members on the Government side will have an opportunity to-day to stand up and say whether they intend to vote in the interests of exservicemen. For too long have they tried to pose as the only defenders in this House of the ex-servicemen but now they clearly show where they stand. The honorable member for Parkes has proposed that this bill shall provide for an increase of pensions in all categories by much the same percentage. If his amendment is
Carried this bill will contain many more desirable features than it contains. at present. lt will be brought more into lin( with- the expectations and rights of exservicemen in our” present inflationary period. The opportunity has now been presented for the Government to carry on the great programme of assistance to exservicemen which was started by Labour governments during and after the last war. The opportunity is presented for honorable members, whose sincerity I do not doubt, but who are tied to the party machine, to participate in giving effect to the plan submitted by the honorable member for Parkes which will give justice to all our ex-servicemen.
The Labour movement, and the Opposition which speaks for it in this House, submit this amendment as a constructive measure, in order to give an opportunity to the Government to do the reasonable and just thing to ensure that all exservicemen shall be given increases similar to those outlined in the legislation for certain sections. I commend the amendment to the House and look forward with confidence to many honorable members on the Government side marching with the Opposition when the House divides on it. All honorable members should review this matter in a non-political spirit and should ensure that Australian exservicemen shall be given the justice that they so richly deserve. When the division bells ring we shall see whether or not honorable members on the Government side are sham fighters, as they were when they sat in Opposition. Apparently many of them are uncomfortable about this bill; that was indicated by the speeches of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) and the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron). Government supporters should vote as they have been requested to do by ex-servicemen’s organizations, and as deputations to the Prime Minister have urged. They should vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes, and show the people of Australia that they are not merely party hacks but are prepared to stand up for the rights of the exservicemen.
– .1 think that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) contributed very little to which I need reply. Like Gratiano, in The Merchant of Venice, he spoke “ an infinite amount of nothing “. I shall now devote my remarks to the amendment before the House. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) placed much stress upon the 1949 policy speech of the_ present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The main text of his amendment directs attention to the fact that the basic rate of pension has not increased. I again direct attention to the Government parties’ policy speech of 1949. Before the 1949 general election, the present Prime Minister said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. . . We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
I say that our policy is fully expressed in those words, which have been read twice before to-day. Moreover, our policy has been carried out. In November. 1950, very substantial increases of repatriation benefits were made. It should be remembered that that was within twelve months of assumption of office by this Government. Since then we have been constantly accused of not having fulfilled our promises. These are the facts of the matter: The totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman’s pension rate was increased twelve months ago, at the first opportunity that this Government had to do so, from £10 123. a fortnight to £14 a fortnight. That wa3 an increase of £3 8s. a fortnight. The rate of the serviceman’s widow’s pension was increased from £6 to £7 a fortnight and domestic allowance was increased from 15s. to £1 a fortnight. The general rate, or what we mistakenly call the basic rate of pension, has been increased from £5 10s. a fortnight to £7 a fortnight since the Government parties’ joint policy speech was delivered in 1949. Our promises were fulfilled when these increases were made last year.
Since this Government assumed office the whole of the Repatriation Act has’ been overhauled and anomalies which had existed in it for many years have been removed. I shall refer to anomalies that have been mentioned in another place by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper). I know, because I live in close proximity to two military hospitals, that ever since World War I. some men have been practically confined to their cots or wheel chairs. If they could stumble along for 20 yards or so they were not eligible to draw the special recreational transport allowance which was given to those who were completely confined to cots or chairs. That anomaly has been removed, and the men that I have mentioned can now draw the special allowance. Moreover, provision has been made for the gift of a sedan car to ex-servicemen who have lost both their legs above the knees, and to those suffering from paraplegia from the waist down. That has not been done anywhere else in the world. In England the authorities make a car available to such men, but it remains the property of the Government. In Australia, this Government has made gifts of cars to such unfortunate men who fall within that category. Now, twelve months later, the Government has introduced this measure to make provision for increases of pensions that have, in fact, been favorably received by all ex-servicemen. Increases are to be made to those classes of pensioners who are in most need of additional assistance. I refer to those who are practically entirely dependent upon their pension and allowances for subsistence. It is proposed to increase the special rate pension that is payable to ex-servicemen who are totally and permanently incapacitated, to the more serious cases of tuberculosis, and to amputees. In those instances, the rate of pension will be increased by £1 15s. from £7 a week to £8 15s. a week. The honorable member for Parkes, when moving his amendment, was gracious enough to mention that he was satisfied with that increase. However, he did not have much to say about it. That is a very generous increase. Next, the rate of pension payable to war widows with children, widows who are over the age of 50 years and widows who are permanently unemployed, will be increased by £1 -2s. a week. That pension will be made available by way of a domestic allowance. I point out that these pensions payments are not subject to income tax. At the same time, no restriction ia imposed upon the amount that war widows may earn. These benefits together with those that were granted last year and which I have already mentioned, are clear proof that the Government parties are honouring the promises that they made in their joint policy speech during the general election campaign in 1949.
The genesis of the amendment is that the general, or base, rate of pension has not been increased. The honorable member for Parkes reminded us that the Labour Government in 1947 refused to increase the base rate. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has made representations to all honorable members to support an increase of service pensions by £1 a week. All ex-servicemen, who are disabled as a result of war service, receive this benefit. They receive an increased percentage of the base standard rate according to the severity of their disability. I shall repeat some figures that the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) cited. Approximately 168,000 pensioners are within the category of the base pension rate and their percentages of the base rate range from 5 per cent, to 100 per cent. Of that number, the disability of 95,000 is assessed at 25 per cent. or less of the base rate. That means that if the Government increased the base rate by £1 a week, the vast majority of service pensioners would receive increases that would range from 2s. to 5s. a week. Whilst numbers of general rate pensioners are suffering disability, the fact remains that 99.9 per cent. of them are in full employment.
I am firmly of the opinion that no class of repatriation benefits should be related to the basic wage. Indeed, the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has always contended that such benefits should be regarded solely as payments made in respect of disabilities that have resulted from war service. However, as the majority of service pensioners are in full employment they enjoy all increases of the basic wage and cost of living allowances as ordinary employees in industry. At a time when the Government has presented an austerity budget to the Parliament, it is appropriate that the most generous treatment should be given under this measure to service pensioners and war widows who are in most need of assistance. The league has always kept their interests to the forefront. I agree with the honorable member for Oxley that the league is a wonderful organization. I am proud to be a member of it. However, I must express my regret that it chose to link benefits payable under the Repatriation Act with the basic wage. That is a complete departure from the principle that the league has always observed in the past. I regret that the league also chose to apply what I regard as a pressure campaign to members of the Parliament.
As many honorable members are members of the league, there is no danger that the views of that organization will be overlooked in any matter that relates to its interests that may come before the Parliament. Whereas in 1950 the Labour Government expended £20,500,000 on repatriation benefits, last year this Government expended £27,500,000 under that heading; and this year it is estimated that it will expend £33,250,000 for that purpose. Thus, the Government, during the two years that it has been in office, has increased annual expenditure on repat riation benefits by approximately £13,000,000. That is a wonderful record.
I shall have nothing to do with the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Parkes, and all the coaxing in the world on the part of that honorable member and of his colleague, the honorable member for Grayndler, will not sow the slightest seed of doubt in my mind that the additional benefits to be made available under this billhave not been distributed to the best advantage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joshua) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - I take this opportunity to thank the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, for his courtesy in agreeing to an arrangement under which I am able to make a statement in explanation of the recently concluded long-term meat agreement with the United Kingdom. On the 17th October last, the Parliament was given an outline of the main features of the fifteen-year meat agreement that I recently signed in London on behalf of the Australian Government. Beef, veal, mutton and lamb are the meats that are covered in the agreement. There will be a separate shortterm agreement for pigmeat. When the Chifley Government was in office, an undertaking was reached with the Government of the United Kingdom that there should be a fifteen-year agreement for the sale of meat by Australia to that country. However, because of the time factor, no substantial progress in the development of an agreement had been made until the present Government came to office.
Australian live-stock and meat interests, through their representatives on the Australian Meat Board, have at all times, approved the principle of a fifteen-year meat agreement. This Government has brought them into consultation at all stages of the negotiations. Representatives of producers and processors on the board have been kept informed of all proposals that have been made by the United
Kingdom and the Australian Government and have, themselves, advanced their own suggestions. In short, producers and processors have been parties to the negotiations. The Australian Meat Board, by a substantial majority, also approved the provisions of the agreement.
I shall now refer briefly to the viewpoint of the United Kingdom. The necessity for meat rationing, the policy of the Government to reduce the cost of meat to consumers by heavy subsidy and the fact that there is a different level of prices of meat for their home producers and for meat from the Argentine, Australia and New Zealand, all are factors which, in the present circumstances, to enable rationing and equalization of prices and subsidy, necessitate that the Government shall be the purchaser of meat. That is why, apart from questions of political philosophy, the circumstances of the moment virtually force any United Kingdom government into the governmentbuying of meat. However, one of the most important aspects of the current agreement is that, although it provides initially for government-to-government selling and has a duration of fifteen years, it expressly, and in detail, embodies provisions to enable a reversion to ordinary trader-to-trader business when the United Kingdom Government wishes so to revert.
The contract guarantees that, for sixteen years, we shall be assured of a buyer for the entire surplus production of meat, no matter how great the surplus for export may be, and, at all times, the sale prices will be at levels which will ensure a profitable industry. The contract provides that, even on the reversion to tradertotrader selling, if the trade by chance should not offer to buy the whole of the Australian surplus production, the British Government will be obliged under the contract to take the full amount. There is a completely novel and unprecedentedly advantageous provision which has the effect that, on a reversion to tradertotrader selling, if the prices that are obtained ave higher than those which would have been the prices under the government-to-government sale provisions of the contract, then Australian producers will get the benefit of such higher prices.
If, however, trader-to-trader selling price levels would be lower than under the price formula of the contract, then the British Government engages to make good the difference. Furthermore, in such circumstances, the price deficiency would be made good, not after sale to the United Kingdom, but by a previously announced export subsidy that would carry the advantage into the auction yard. This would establish that price level not only for meat exported to the United Kingdom, but also for all stock that was sold for slaughter in Australia. This, as I have said, is a most novel and extraordinarily advantageous provision, and is quite without precedent.
The contract is written in sterling currency. However, the formula of price determinant, to which I shall refer shortly, is in terms of Australian costs of production, and, therefore, while the payment will be in sterling, tho price adjustments will be the outcome of cost calculations made in Australian currency. This provides a safeguard to Australian producers, and there is a provision in the contract that, in the event of an alteration of the exchange rate during the currency of a meat year for instance, there shall be an immediate review of the implications for the industry from the stand-point of the profitability of the price. The effect of that provision again introduces quite a novel protection in contracts between Australia and the United Kingdom.
Quite separate from the provision for the annual prices which are to obtain for the various kinds of meat, there is a tremendously important provision in the contract by which floor or minimum prices are stated for six-yearly periods with new, successive floor prices agreed to in the middle of each six-yearly period, so that, in the result, the minimum price will at all times be known for six years ahead. That provision is designed to enable individual producers or governments to plan with confidence capital expenditure for production and developmental purposes. The value of that security both to producers, governments and prospective lending agencies will also be recognized as highly valuable. Prices will be declared for each year’s production. The actual price will be the outcome of movements in the cost of production. The cost-of-production price formula will include an adequate element of profit incentive.
The contract is designed to provide for annual prices at a level that will be quite adequate for the continuance and expansion of our live-stock industry. The prices are not the outcome of bargaining against the prices that the United Kingdom is paying to the Argentine this year. Such prices were squeezed out of the United Kingdom through the action of the Argentine in withholding all meats for months, until the United Kingdom’s meat ration was reduced to an all-time low level. Neither the Government nor producers’ representatives ever sought to use, as a measuringstick for our price requests, a price so enforced upon the United Kingdom. Nor is the price the outcome of a comparison with that paid by the United Kingdom to its own home producers. That price disregards all ordinary economic factors and has been designed to ensure the maximum home production of meat, regardless of cost, to provide the maximum safeguard against the perils of blockade, which, twice in our lifetime, has reduced the United Kingdom people to such dire straits. Nor is our price the outcome of a comparison with the price levels that are pertaining in North America.
The price level for meat there, which is approximately three times our own levels, goes with a minimum wage that is equal to from £30 to £40 a week in Australian currency. The economist can say whether the price in North America goes with the wage, or the wage goes with the price; but, inevitably, the two are associated. It has been calculated that the North American price for beef, if it were established in Australia, would produce an upward adjustment of tin basic wage of 15s. a week for beef alone.
Neither the Australian producers’ representatives nor the Australian Government has sought to aggravate our present inflationary problems by applying such a comparison to our price requests. As I have said, the price will be at a level that is designed to ensure a profitable and continuously expanding industry.
Under the contract, irrespective of whether sales are to the British Government or trader to trader, there will be absolutely no interference with the ordinary traditional processes of livestock selling or meat processing that have always obtained in Australia. The only meat that comes under the agreement is that which meat exporters themselves choose to offer for export. The Australian Government undertakes to plan such programmes, and do such things as are calculated to produce an increasing quantity of meat for export, but there is an acknowledgment in the contract that the Australian Government must be the judge of the order of importance and urgency of the works that can be undertaken, having regard to the availability of our resources of man-power, materials and equipment. The relationship between the availability of equipment of all kinds and the volume of production is acknowledged, and the United Kingdom Government, in turn, engages to use its best endeavours to increase the availability from all sources of such essential equipment or materials.
The relationship between prices, and the volume of production, or, in other words, the measure of the price incentive, is acknowledged, and the Australian Government may represent to the United Kingdom Government that a price higher than that which emerges from the ordinary formula will produce a greater quantity of meat. The United Kingdom will then be the judge of whether or not it wishes to pay such higher price in order to secure the additional quantities. The principal operative terms of the contract may be stated as follows: -
Prices have been agreed for this year’s meat. The contract commences next year. This year’s price of beef will be 3 1/2 d. per lb. sterling, which is about 4£d. per lb. in Australian currency, higher than the price a year ago. Lamb prices will be increased by 17^ per cent., and mutton prices by 15 per cent, for the higher grades, and 10 per cent, for the lower grades, above last year’s prices. Tha 1950-51 prices will be the minimum for the first six years for beef, and the minimum floor for the first three years for mutton and lamb. The actual price above this floor will be the prices for this present year, plus or minus such cost movements as occur but not below the floor price. Any cost increases up to 10 per cent, will be applied in full. When cost increases exceed 10 per cent., there is provision for a small area of negotiation, either higher or lower, than the actual amount of the cost increase. The price that is so determined will be operative as representing the obligation of the United Kingdom Government in the event of reversion to trader-to-trader selling.
There will be, as has been customary, sales to the colonies and other sterling areas with the approval of the Ministry of Food. Those sales will be on a tradertotrader basis, totalling about 25,000 tons of carcass meat per annum. Provision has been reserved for selling 3,000 tons, or 3 per cent, of the exportable surplus, whichever is the greater, in dollar or hard currency areas. I am confident of the success of this contract, which offers the prospect of greater quantities of meat for the British people, and of security and profit to the Australian meat industry, and which is so designed as to enable the reversion to trader-to-trader selling, without loss of advantage to the people and to economies of both our countries. The Australian Government earnestly hopes that advantage will be taken of this arrangement by Australian producers, individuals and companies - to embark upon a great programme of increased production, and so contribute to one of the most urgent needs of the United Kingdom.
Debate resumed (vide page 2172).
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and I ask all honorable members to do likewise. Some of the most glaring evils in history have been tolerated, not for short periods, but for hundreds of years. The most obvious example is that of slavery, which was practised in the early Greek and Roman civilizations and was condoned and accepted throughout the mediaeval ages and until comparatively recent times. The human habit of accept ing evil practices without protest derives from the habit of looking too much to the past instead of to the future. I consider that many honorable members who have participated in this debate have been prone to dwell too much on past events when applying their minds to repatriation problems. The honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson), for instance, appeared to accept complacently one of the greatest evils of modern Australian history. All honorable members have a special responsibility in relation to the treatment of disabled ex-servicemen and war widows. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has reminded honorable members of election promises that were made to these members of our community. I believe that election promises should always be honoured. But very much greater responsibilities than were implied in those pledges rest upon honorable members.
The recipients of the repatriation benefits for which the bill provides are not numerous and, therefore, do not constitute a significant voting force. Many of them have lost much of the fire of life; some of them are totally and permanently incapacitated. Their voice is not a loud one, and most of them are tolerant persons. War widows are even less numerous than are the disabled exservicemen and also are less articulate. Every honorable member should have regard for that weakness and do his best to ensure that they shall be treated with justice and equity. I strongly commend the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) for his non-party approach to this measure. The task of providing repatriation benefits is continuous; it is passed on from government to government. Unfortunately, in my opinion it has never been tackled properly by any government. We should define a common policy for all political parties that may be pursued without interruption by succeeding governments. Even at this late stage, we should regard the enactment of repatriation legislation not as the achievement of a desired result but merely as the commencement of a programme of justice. Therefore, I appeal to honorable members to look to the future. We should look to the past only in order to stimulate our imagination with the object of improving, our outlook.
The first principle that we should fix firmly in our minds in dealing with this subject is that repatriation benefits are a form’ of compensation, not pensions. This Souse recently considered the subject of compensation for employees of the Government. It should approach repatriation measures in the spirit in which it dealt with that subject. Our first object is to provide adequate compensation for ex-servicemen who made great sacrifices for their country. It is necessary for me to emphasize this point because there has been a great deal of confused thinking on the part of many honorable members, who appear to believe that social services benefits and repatriation benefits fall in the same category. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A great deal has been said in this chamber recently about various proposals for the abolition of the means test in relation to social services. Every honorable member should be aware that, should the means test be discontinued, social services benefits will be available to every member of the ‘community. But only those citizens who have suffered as a result of war service can be eligible for repatriation benefits. Should repatriation benefits and social services be confused, a peculiar situation would arise in the event of the means test being’ abolished. A wrong principle would have been applied.
The second principle that should be kept in mind is that repatriation benefits should be adequate. Who will dare to define adequate compensation for the loss of a leg or an arm, or the destruction of a man’s health in the process of serving his country? What monetary provision could compensate a widow for the loss of her husband? Any attempt to fix cash values for such- sacrifices must inevitably lead to serious errors. There is only one way in which this difficulty can be overcome, aud it has never been properly tried. That way is to ask the citizens who are eligible for compensation to express their views on the subject. I believe that all honorable members will agree that the men and women who are entitled to this form of compensation have just as strong a claim on treasury funds as have the wheat- farmers’, for instance. Who would deny, to the wheat-farmers the right to express their views in relation to the price that they should be paid for their product? Yet the repatriation legislation contains no provision for the1 representation of war. widows or incapacitated ex-servicemen on any assessment tribunal. Their representatives should be able to meet representatives of the Treasury and discuss the subject in detail, so that a firm policy could be recommended to the Government. They should be asked to express their wishes because it is most important that they should be satisfied. What compensation payments have the various classes of beneficiaries under the Repatriation Act sought to obtain? Various organizations that they have formed have written to all honorable members from time to time in order to express their opinions. By that means and as a result of our own inquiries, we have acquired a general idea of the benefits that they claim. They have not asked, as might have been expected, for fantastic rewards. The sky is not the limit in their view. In fact, their requests have been extremely modest.
The honorable member for Higinbotham wrongly deplored the fact that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Impeiial League of Australia had selected the basic wage as a measure of its requirements for the compensationof repatriation beneficiaries. The league sought to fix a standard that might be used for all. time. As we are only too well aware, the value of money changes from time to time and, therefore, some variable standard is needed. I think that all honorable members will agree that the minimum rate that should be paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen is the basic wage. My investigations have suggested to me that the Government has had some regard for that standard in determining the rates for which, this bill provides. An incapacitated ex-serviceman with a wife at present receives £7 a week plus £1 10s. 6d. a week for his wife. That rate has applied for the last twelve months. The average of the basic wage during the last four quarters- has been exactly £9 a week. Therefore, the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman with a wife began the year with a pension and an allowance that amounted approximately to the basic wage. However, his repatriation income lagged well behind the basic wage by the end of the twelve months period. The Government now proposes to increase the pension for the man to £8 15s. a week but to leave the allowance for the wife unchanged at £1 10s. 6d. a week, which seems to me to be an extremely strange decision. The combined total of £10 5s. 6d. a week will exceed the basic wage in some States, but will be slightly less than the basic wage in New South Wales. Everybody must bt aware that the basic wage will soon be increased again and, when that happens, the totally incapacitated ex-serviceman and his wife will be receiving less than the basic wage once more. The bill should include some provision that would enable the rate of pension to be increased according to basic wage increases.
Various honorable members have agreed recently that the pension rate should not be less than the basic wage. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J*. Harrison) agreed that the policy of the former Labour Government had been that automatic increases of pensions to accord with the increases shown in the “ C “ series index was not desirable from the Treasury’s point of view. He said that it was better to fix the amount at the commencement of the financial period, and to review it from time to time, as the Treasury officials knew where they stood under that system. T consider that the amount should be fixed at a higher level than is proposed. An increase of £1 a week above the increase proposed would add £1,000,000 to the war pensions bill. Based on the Minister’s own calculations the total cost of the increase would then be £2,250,000 instead of £1,250,000.
Now I turn to benefits for war widows. It appears to me that not only this Government but also governments in the past have feared that war widows might get too much by way of pension. I consider that a principle should be laid down whereby any mistakes in relation to this matter should be made on the right side, which is the side of the war widows. I should much prefer that war widows would receive too much than that they should, have, to rely on the pension rate they have been, receiving for far too long. I consider that war widows should also receive” the basic wage, and I make that statement after having had a number of talks with totally and permanently incapacitated, ex-servicemen who were, unfortunately, expecting the day to come when their wives would be widows. They told me of their fears of what would happen after their deaths in relation to their commitments, such as mortgages on their homes, which they were able to meet but which their widows, who would be on reduced incomes, would find it hard to meet. Many of those incapacitated soldiers asked me to advance a proposition for the establishment of a death benefit system for them, so as to ensure some degree of security for their widows and enable them to meet any debts that their deceased husbands might have left behind. There are obvious difficulties in relation to such proposition, and it seems that the best method of dealing with the matter would be to ensure that the widows should have an adequate income after their husbands had died.. I repeat that war widows should receive the basic wage. I have consulted, a number of war widows in relation to that proposition, and have found that they are more modest than I am in that respect, and are asking for less than I have suggested. Their request is for a pension of about £8 10s. at present values, which would be equivalent to the. present basic wage minus the amount that it would cost to feed their husbands were they still alive. The. niggardly £5 2s. proposed in the measure is inadequate.
The pension paid to war widows has always been inadequate and it is time there was a complete revision of ideas on the matter. War widows still have homes to maintain, and without the help of their husbands. I was astounded this afternoon, when we were debating the Broadcasting Bill, to find that war widows are not to enjoy the benefit of the special listener’s licencefee that other pensioners are to enjoy. The cost of a listener’s licence for war widows is to be increased from £1 to £2, whilst the cost to all other service pensioners is to be only 10s. It seems that the war widow is the object of considerable neglect in that matter.
War widows should not be required to live in poverty. When I say poverty, I really mean poverty. It is a poverty that they cannot overcome, because they have no means of supplementing their incomes. What chance has a widow with three children of supplementing her income by working in industry? Honorable members opposite have spoken of young war widows who can get jobs at good wages. I remind them that 35 per cent, of war widows have remarried, and thus many young widows have been removed from the class of war widows with which this bill deals. There has been astonishing lethargy in relation to the war widows’ pension and the time for review has long passed. The Government proposes to increase the expenditure on this pension by £1,250,000. I contend that it should expend £5,000,000, so as to provide war widows with this minimum amount that they seek.
Partially disabled ex-servicemen were left out of consideration when the bill was drafted. These are limbless soldiers and other ex-servicemen who suffer from disabilities and are, for the most part, incapable of progressing in life because of their war injuries. Everybody knows the kind of jobs they have to take. They have to work as lift attendants or newspaper vendors or in other dead-end occupations. Very few of them occupy positions in such professions as school teaching, where their war disabilities would not be a bar. Their disabilities place them at a disadvantage in every way. They use their compensation, as I prefer to call their pension, to supplement their earnings, which would otherwise be inadequate, or to provide themselves with amenities, such as motor cars, to make up for their disadvantages. The only ones who receive a 100 per cent, Dens]on are very sick or are quite incapable of doing anything but part-time work. Because they have been ignored in this measure their standard of living will be reduced, and it will continue to be reduced as the cost of living increases. The Government deserves condemnation for this deliberate failure to improve the conditions of these men, who have given so much in order that our freedom and security may be preserved. They have asked for a mere increase of £.1 a week. I believe that they should receive half the basic wage, whatever it might be at any time. An increase of £1 a week, as far as I ea/ make out, would involve an additional expenditure that would not exceed £2,000,000. It took me a long time to work out that figure, because the Minister did not give us any basis on which to work when he presented the bill, but omitted the matter entirely.
The total amount of the increases that should be given under the bill i? approximately £8,250,000 instead of the £3,250,000 proposed. If ever there was a time when those increases should be given, it is now. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently attended a country show at Clare, at which he said that we are experiencing unprecedented prosperity. Prosperity for whom? For the war widows and the totally and permanently incapacitated and disabled oxservicemen? ls there any likelihood of prosperity for them under this bill? Honorable members opposite have claimed for a long time that we are experiencing a great degree of prosperity. If we are, then it is high time that some of it was dealt out to ex-servicemen.
I invite honorable members opposite to remember their obligations to the exservicemen and their widows, which I set out at the beginning of my speech. I wish them to consider very carefully of what use it is to begin the monthly meetings of their returned servicemen’s organizations, for which they have expressed so much regard, or a garrulous beer party, with the words, “ Lest we forget “. Of what use is it to hold dawn services and Anzac Day parades, and to say-
At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.
It is of no use at all, unless we remember them here and now at the Seat of Government. I ask every honorable member opposite to support the Opposition’s amendment. If they will do so nobody here will be churlish enough to try to make any party political capital out of the fact.
, - I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) and was rather intrigued when I heard him say that he considered that we are living too much in the past. We can study the past and gain benefit from the study of it. As a member of the committee that was established in this House by the late John Curtin, when he was the Prime Minister, I can profess to know something about repatriation benefits. All the members of that committee had served and been wounded on the field of battle. They were able to present to this House a unanimous report which, be it said to the credit of Mr. Curtin, was endorsed almost unanimously by the House. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat that thi3 matter should not be made a party one. But would anybody who had listened to the speeches in this chamber to-day say that it had not been dragged down to the party level? The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) misled the House when he submitted his amendment, although I would not go so far as to say that he did so wilfully. He quoted a statement from the policy speech of 1949 in which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that justice would be done to ex-servicemen. The honorable member claimed that that promise had not been fulfilled, but he omitted to inform the House that only twelve months after the Government was returned te office a larger increase of pensions than had ever been given before in the history of this country was proposed by the Government and agreed to by the Parliament.
– So it was only a twelve months’ promise.
– It was a twelve months’ promise that was fulfilled, and I say to the honorable member for Parkes that the Government that he supported had eight years in which to do such things and neglected to do them.
– The honorable member has just stated that the late John Curtin did them.
– That was in 1943, which is a long time ago. That committee invited evidence from every returned servicemen’s organization, and the one thing that the witnesses impressed on the committee was that the pensions should not be related to the basic wage.
– Why does not the honorable member take notice of the returned servicemen’s organizations now?
– When somebody who is wiser than the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) is speaking, it would be better for that honorable member to remain silent. Then he might be mistaken for a wise man. Returned servicemen’s organizations asked the committee, and it specially passed their request on to the House, that pensions should not be related to the basic wage. What is a war pension? It is some compensation for a war disability and has nothing to do with the basic wage. As a matter of fact, after war pensions were first introduced the cost of living decreased and the pensions were not reduced. In later years, after the cost of living had increased, a review of war pensions was made, and although the cost of living had increased by only 11 per cent, according to the Commonwealth Statistician’s calculations, we increased pensions generally by 20 per cent.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member for Corangamite should demand an apology for that interjection.
– That is quite unnecessary, because I have been long enough here for the House to know whether I am speaking the truth or not. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has been in this House for only a short time but during that time he has demonstrated that he is wholly irresponsible. I have received many letters from various branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and I am a member of that league of 32 years standing. A covering note has been forwarded with some of the letters almost apologizing for sending them and stating that the writers had been told by the State branch of the league to keep in touch with their federal member. My reply to these men is that their State branch was one of the bodies responsible for the fact that the pension was not related to the basic wage.
It is proposed in the bill before the House that the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, war widows and the children of ex-servicemen shall receive substantially increased pension rates. The charge from the other side of the House has been that thousands of men on a part pension will receive no increase. Let us consider the case of a man such as myself on a small pension. Do I need an increase as much as does the man who is totally incapacitated or the widow who has a family to support? I believe that the great body of returned servicemen are completely satisfied with what the Government is doing. I am convinced that when this matter has been fully explained to them they will realize that the Government has granted increases to those people whom it believes to be in need of assistance. It is not true that the average ex-service pensioner who is in full employment and who receives the increases of the basic wage requires an increased pension.
– “Why is the honorable member so angry?
– I am not angry. It is necessary for me to talk loudly because irresponsible members .continue to interject. I place the honorable member for Watson in that category.
– Order! The honorable member for Watson must refrain from interjecting.
– Even the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) admitted that totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners have received good treatment under the repatriation legislation but he and other honorable members opposite made the mistake of saying that those pensioners arc gradually diminishing in number. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their number is increasing year by year as war injuries catch up with them and more of them find that they are totally unable to undertake any employment. If those men who are in receipt of a part pension have to go into a repatriation hospital as a result of war injuries they immediately receive the full pension in respect of the time during which they cannot work.
I believe that this issue has been used by several Opposition members for purely party purposes. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) tried to demonstrate that the tongue is mightier than the sword when as asked Government supporters to remember those exservicemen whom they represent. He rightly pointed out that about 70 per cent, of honorable members on this side of the House are ex-servicemen. I venture to say that they have the complete confidence of the average ex-serviceman outside this House. I do not believe that the ex-serviceman wants anything to which he is not entitled. I believe that he recognizes his responsibility to the community. One of the main objects of the returned servicemen’s league is “ that widows and their dependants shall be adequately catered for. This Government has done that to an extent never before equalled by any other government. I admit that I should like a repatriation committee to be set up continually to review pension rates in the light of changing circumstances. But at the same time I refuse to agree that men who have proved by their war service that they recognize their obligations to the community have walked out on their fellow diggers.
.- The subject before honorable members i3 of the utmost importance. The amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) proposes that the base war pension shall be increased from £3 10s. to £4 a week. Under the Government’s proposal there will be no adjustment of the base war pension, which was fixed at £3 10s. in October, 1950, and will remain at £3 10s. until the next budget is introduced. All the hate in the world which the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) may introduce into this debate will not alter the fact that when making his policy speech the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a substantial reference to the value of money in connexion with pensions rates. The right honorable gentleman then said that the Government would sympathetically review allowances, particularly those ‘that ‘are related to disability or to war widowhood, in the light of all the circumstances, including any fall in the value of money.
If I were to contend that the Government had done nothing for ex-servicemen I should be a liar. If I were to ignore the very valuable amendments to the Repatriation Act which the Government introduced I should .misrepresent the facts. But it is not possible to ignore the fact that over the last fifteen months money has continued to deteriorate in purchasing power at a s’taggering rate. The base war pension was fixed a’t £3 10s. in 1950 and it is not proposed to alter it in November, 1951. The Opposition has proposed that it shall be increased by at least 10s. a week. “The cost of doing that would be only £2,000,000 a year, whilst a budget surplus of £114,500,000 has been estimated but will probably prove to be more than £200,000,000. The fall in the purchasing power of money is the reason why a tribunal has been set up to review parliamentary salaries. If there is a case for the adjustment of members’ salaries because of the lower purchasing power of money there is a case for the adjustment of the base war pension. If there ls no case for accepting the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes there is no case for a tribunal to consider an increase of members’ salaries. That is an inescapable moral argument.
It is pointless for ‘‘Government supporters to direct accusations of insincerity against Opposition members. Even if we all are hypocrites and liars that does not absolve the Government from the responsibility of considering the amendment on its merits, irrespective of the motives of its sponsors. The Opposition amendment was drafted by a special committee of tho Labour party which consisted almost entirely of ex-servicemen from the Senate and the House of Representatives, including one ex-prisoner of war. The action that has been taken by the Government in the past to adjust the various service pensions is acknowledged and not derided by the Opposition, but that action does not constitute a reason for .refusing to extend the same justice ‘to the great bulk of exservicemen who receive the base war pension.
The returned servicemen’s league has written to all honorable members, irrespective of party, or of whether or . not they are ex-servicemen, and the request it has made should be seriously considered. It is useless for the honorable member for Corangamite to state ‘that some people .have sent these requests reluctantly because their State branches have asked them to do so. Opposition members recognize that the league has not asked that war pensions be related to the basic wage. The statistics which it cited were not used as an argument in favour of relating the pension to the basic wage. It merely cited the basic wage adjustments as a measurement of the variation of the cost of living and it is .hypocritical to contend that exservicemen are not concerned about whether or not the pension is related to the cost of living. The statistics cited by the league are .unanswerable. They show that in 1939 the war pension of £2 2s. was more than half the basic wage, which was £3 19s. The pension is now £3 10s., which is less than half the basic wage of £10 10s. The accusation- of insincerity comes very badly from honorable members opposite, a committee of ex-servicemen from the ranks of whom made certain requests to the Government which were not accepted. It appears that those honorable members will now vote against the amendment, which contains similar proposals to those which they placed before the Government.
Government supporters interjecting,
– If I am misjudging you, I apologize. I am judging you on what the newspapers have published.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me.
– If honorable members opposite intend to vote against their own convictions I shall not deride them for doing so. The rejection of a government’s money bill is a serious matter and even if they disagreed strongly with the basic war pension rate nobody could expect them to throw their government out of office on that issue. However, I plead with them to impress on the Government in their party meetings that it should accept these or similar provisions and introduce corresponding amendments in die .Senate, where its defeat would not be involved.
The case for war widows has been eloquently put by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). There is also a strong case for the adjustment of Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme allowances. The honorable member for Corangamite was probably right in saying that the totally and permanently incapacitated men are increasing in number and that therefore a real monetary problem is involved in their case. But the number of Commonwealth reconstruction trainees is not increasing. It is diminishing, and a generous adjustment of their allowances would serve as a recognition of the startling way in which the State universities have increased the fees that they charge students. There is a very strong case for a more generous adjustment of these allowances than has been proposed by the Government. The honorable member for Parkes, in proposing his amendment, has demonstrated a concern for war pensioners which is completely genuine. In supporting the amendment the Labour party considers that if the salaries of honorable members should be adjusted to the cost of living the basic war pension also should be so adjusted.
.- I wish to refer to the speech which the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) made this afternoon in which he paid special attention to me. The honorable member paid me a great compliment when he said that while the present Government parties were in Opposition I fought viciously for the returned servicemen and had voiced their case in no uncertain manner at every opportunity. I appreciate that compliment from tho honorable member. I certainly did what he said that I did, but I was not able to obtain any worthwhile result. When the last Labour Government was in office it turned a deaf ear to my entreaties on behalf of the permanently and totally incapacitated soldiers and of ex-servicemen generally. It did not consider ex-servicemen except on one or two occasions when it made increases of 5s. a week. Although I fought hard for ex-servicemen the results of my efforts were practically nil. The Labour Government seemed to have no sympathy with ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Grayndler adopted rather an abusive attitude to-day. He said, “ The honorable member for Mallee is like a tame tomcat “.
– Order ! The honorable member withdrew that remark.
– I only want to say that one of the characteristics of tomcats, is that they fight at night, and that, although I listened quietly to him this afternoon, I am full of fight at present. Since this Government came to power I have not had reason to fight for the ex-servicemen as before because I have been satisfied that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has shown a sympathetic appreciation of the problems of ex-servicemen. In order to appreciate what this Government has done for ex-servicemen, it is well to remember that in June, 1939, the cost of war pensions was £7,750,000. In June, 1949, it was £18,750,000; in June, 1950, it was £20,500,000; and in June, 1951, it was £27,500,000. The estimated expenditure on war pensions from September to the 30th June, 3952, which will not be a complete financial year, is £33,250,000.
The totally . and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman’s pension was first instituted in 1920. It was then £4 a week. The present right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister at the time of its introduction. In 1943 that pension was increased to £4 16s. a week. In 1947 it became £5 ls. a week and in 1948 £5 6s. a week. Therefore, from 1943 to the 10th December, 1949, successive Labour governments raised it by only 10s. a week. This Government has been in power since the 10th December, 1949, and in less than two years it has raised that pension by £3 9s. a week. That is a complete answer to the charge of the honorable member for Grayndler that T have not been pressing the case of the ex-serviceman. In 1920, the base pension was £2 2s. a week. In 1.939 it was £2 2s. : in 1943 it was £2 10s. ; and in 1 948 it was £2 15s. Therefore, from 1943 to the 10th December, 1949, during a period when prices were rising, goods were scarce and there was a strong blackmarket in this country, successive Labour government raised this pension by only 5s. a week, [n 1950 this Government increased it by 15s. a week after having been in office for less than one year. To-day the basic pension is £3 10s. a week. The Government has stated that it has increased pensions in accordance with the plan that it has laid down for its present budget. It has also said that it will review the ex-servicemen’s pension should circumstances arise which in its opinion make such action necessary. The basic pension remained static for four years under the regime of a Labour government. It is less than twelve months since this Government increased that pension.
I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Repatriation, and I say that at this time, while people are talking about the privileges enjoyed by members of the Parliament, one of my greatest privileges is to be associated with the honorable senator who is Minister for Repatriation. Recently I was responsible for his visiting Mildura, where there are more ex-servicemen engaged in primary production in a small area than is the case anywhere else in Australia. He went there to open the local agricultural show. While there he met representatives of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the local Legacy Club and the local repatriation authorities. Senator Cooper spoke to them in his quiet, convincing way for nearly three-quarters of an hour. There vas not one interjection during his speech and when he had completed it they said to him, “ We can understand the position now. If you _ will put what you have said into writing and send it to us so that we can read it to our branches, we shall be satisfied “. I have not received one letter of protest from, a returned serviceman-
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order! It seems that a deliberate attempt is being made to interrupt the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). There have certainly been too many interjections and they must cease. I shall not warn honorable members ‘again, but shall put into effect Standing Order 303.
– I have received letters from branches of ex-servicemen’s organizations in my electorate which have admitted that they have written under instructions from their head offices. I am sure that that has been the experience also of other honorable members. I say that well knowing that members of those branches are listening to the broadcast of the proceedings of this House to-day.
– Order ! The honorable member shall not refer to listeners.
– I believe that exservice men and women should get the best possible deal, and I am pleased to associate myself with the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) in his advocacy of the appointment of an all-party committee to watch closely increases of the cost of living so that exservicemen may get immediate benefits by means of pension increases and thus avoid financial embarrassment.
This bill does not need much debate once we understand its fundamentals. Perhaps the main fact about it is that although an increase of the 100 per cent, basic pension and a rise in the total and permanently incapacitated pension have not always been associated they are not associated now. It should be remembered that the Chifley Government did not associate them. That government increased the totally and permanently incapacited exservicemen’s pension without increasing the basic pension, and this Government is doing exactly the same thing. There was no hubbub about the Chifley Government’s action, and the bill to effect the alteration went through the House on non-party lines. But because the Opposition believes that it will get some petty party political advantage it has moved the amendment. Honorable members opposite know that there is no chance of its being carried. If I voted with the Opposition I should be one of the most despicable persons in Australia for the simple reason that I know that the amendment cannot possibly be carried and that some paltry advantage that I might get by making a show of voting for it would not do my conscience any good.
The honorable member for Grayndler paid tribute to honorable members on this side of the House when he said that 75 per cent, of them are ex-servicemen. That is quite correct I have been invited to vote with the Opposition. Do honorable members opposite think that I would leave this illustrious company of exservicemen and cross to their side of the House where a returned soldier is a novelty?
– Unlike the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), I do not approach this matter hopping mad, like a tomcat or otherwise. The passage of the bill may have very serious consequences, not so much for the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), who because of his lucrative salary may feel that his pension is sufficient, but for the ex-servicemen who have lost their jobs as a result of this Government’s policy. In the future they will have to depend more and more on the war pension that they receive
I am concerned because I have not yet heard a Government supporter offer any real opposition to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). Let honorable members on the Government side get to their feet and speak about the several parts of the amendment one by one and tell the people and the ex-servicemen the real reason why they are opposed to them. I suggest that the real reason for their opposition is that they are under the whiplash of the party. Let them say why they believe that war pensioners of all types should not share in the proposed increase. Let them say that they object to the inclusion of the basic war pension in the list of pensions that will be increased. It cannot be said that the pension cannot be increased because of lack of money, because the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is budgeting for a surplus. The honorable member for Corangamite referred to a committee of ex-servicemen that was appointed by the late John Curtin to bring down a report which was later adopted by the Government. Why does not this Government do the same sort of thing? The reason is that despite the fact that 75 per cent, of Government supporters may be ex-servicemen, threy are not worried about pensioners outside this House. I had hoped that when the honorable member for Corangamite rose- to his feet he would give a lead to the Government. He knows that an all-party committee recommended an all-round 20 per cent, increase of pensions. He must also know something of the beginnings of repatriation in .this country.
When a repatriation system was first introduced into Australia there was no pattern in any other country of the world to guide the pioneers. The men who initiated repatriation in 1915 were not ex-servicemen, but they had the interests of those men at heart. Mr. Denison Miller and Mr. Samuel Hordern, both of whom were later knighted, were two of the pioneers. Men like that formed an organization and initiated the first repatriation benefits. In 1916, it was found that they could not do enough to help the returned men, and so a government organization was established. In 1916, representatives of the Australian Government and of the State governments met to form what ultimately became the first repatriation fund committee. Subsequently in 1916 an act was passed in order to finance benefits to exservicemen of World War I. That was done because it was found that the system under which funds for repatriation purposes had previously been distributed from a central source to the States, did not achieve uniformity in respect of the benefits that were payable in the various States. Consequently, the Commonwealth took over absolute control of repatriation matters. That reform was hastened as a result of a meeting of the special committee that was held in Melbourne.
It is significant that the Commonwealth had implemented its scheme, which marked the initiation of repatriation benefits as we know them to-day, twelve months before hostilities in World War I. had ceased. As that scheme was introduced primarily in order to establish equality of treatment of ex-service personnel throughout Australia, I challenge supporters of the Go- vernment to give one valid reason why the
Government should not accept the amendment to this measure that has been sponsored by the Opposition. There is no need for honorable members opposite to extol the Government for what it has done in the interests of ex-servicemen. Every honorable member is prepared to give it due praise in that respect.
It may be all right for the honorable member for Corangamite to say that service pensions should not be related to the basic wage. I challenge him and his colleagues to say that they do not believe that service pensions should not be related to the existing standard of living in this country. It must be clear that unless such a relationship is established, pensioners will not receive equitable treatment and their pension will lose much of it3 value.. In 1920 pension was payable to a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman at the rate of £4 a week and. be also received 18s. a week in respect of his wife, making their combined income £4 18s. a week. Is not that figure significant when we remember that the basic wage at that time was £4 8s. 6d. a week? Furthermore, there was every indication that that wage would remain static. In that year the government of the day expended £7,500,000 for repatriation purposes, or an increase of £1,500,000 on the expenditure that had been incurred under that heading in the preceding year. Thus, when supporters of this Government boast about the huge amount that it is making available for repatriation purposes, they forget that the’ Government is budgeting for a surplus of £114,500,000 for the current financial year. I repeat that in 1920 a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman and his wife received a combined pension that was 9s. 6d. a week in excess of the basic wage at that time. let us examine the claim of supporters of the present Government that it is doing a marvellous job under this measure. A totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman and his wife will receive a combined pension of £10 5s. a week, which is 2s. a week less than the present basic wage in New South Wales. Those facts justify me in recalling the position that existed in 1920. I was astonished when the honorable member for Corangamite said that ex-servicemen display no- loyalty to! the leadership of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. That observation is not true in respect of the league in New South Wales. Unfortunately, we are now faced with the fact that for the first time in 31 years the ex-servicemen of Australia are being sold out by their national Government, which is denying to them repatriation benefits- to which they are justly entitled. I agree with the honorable member for Corangamite that repatriation benefits are made available to ex-servicemen solely in recognition of their war service. If anything, the amendment now before the Chair does not go nearly far enough. Indeed, exservicemen’s organizations have been pressing the Government for more generous increases of benefits. However, the Government is penny-minded. That is why the Opposition has proposed this amendment; and I cannot understand why supporters of the Government, 75 per cent, of whom, it is claimed, are ex-servicemen, oppose it. In effect, those honorable members contend that exservicemen who have suffered disability as a result of Avar service- are not now entitled to a pension that would give to them, a just proportion of the cost of living, their right to which has always been recognized in the past. That is the purpose of the amendment. Furthermore, I can see no reason for the objection of honorable members opposite to making increases of benefits, even at the levels proposed by the Government, retrospective to the 1st July last. It is all very well for the honorable member for Corangamite to say that he is satisfied with the rate of pension that he receives as an exserviceman. I inform him that there are many ex-servicemen of World War I. in my electorate who depend upon their service pension as a means of enabling them to maintain themselves in a reasonable state of health.
The treatment that the government of the day in 1920 meted out to exservicemen brought about a better understanding between ex-servicemen and other sections of the community. However, it is clear that one effect of the paltry treatment of ex-servicemen under this measure will be a falling off of enlistments for the armed services. I am astonished that supporters of the Government should adopt the attitude that, because they are in receipt of a salary of £1,500 a year, they do not want their service pension to be increased. Unless the Government is prepared to accept the amendment or to emulate the example that was set by a Labour Government by appointing an all-party committee of ex-servicemen to make recommendations with respect to this measure, it will not fulfil the promises that it made to the people. Surely, that is little enough to ask the Government to do in the interests of exservicemen. Indeed, could a government do less? Some honorable members opposite have also claimed that Labour governments had really done nothing in the interests of ex-servicemen. Yet, the honorable member for Corangamite boasted about the fact that he was a member of the all-party committee of ex-servicemen that the Curtin Government appointed to advise it in respect of repatriation matters as a whole. And he also took pleasure in the fact that that Government adopted all the recommendations, including those for increases of pensions, that that committee made. The reason why pension rates were not related at that time specifically to the basic wage was that it was the policy of that government to maintain a decent standard of living in the community. Furthermore, it was generally believed that the basic wage would remain practically static. Thus, ex-servicemen were practically guaranteed protection against a possible recession in the post-war years. This Government should have the decency and courage to appoint a similar committee to advise it in respect of the proposals embodied in this measure. Would any honorable member suggest that if such a committee were appointed it would not recommend that the rates of service pensions should be related to the actual cost of living? Honorable members opposite should cease quibbling about what the Government has done for ex-servicemen. Let them tell the Parliament and the people why they refuse to accept the amendment that we are now considering. Let them also tell exservicemen that they are not entitled to increases of their pension rates or to have such increases as have been granted made retrospective to the 1st July last.
.- I rise to speak on this measure in order to correct certain statements that were made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) with respect to the Government parties ex-servicemen’s committee of which I have the privilege to be secretary. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has just issued to supporters of the Government a stirring challenge which I deem it to be my duty to accept. In the present circumstances, the Government is unable to increase the base rate service pension. One has only to examine the budget proposals to find the justification for that statement. However, this is a matter not of entitlement of the ex-servicemen to increases of pensions, hut of the Government’s capacity under present conditions to finance such increases. I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Blaxland, because I know that he brings to this House a wealth of knowledge about the industrial affairs of this country, and that he believes that Australia has a bright future. But his statement that enlistments in our Services will decline because the Government has not been able to increase the base rate pension is, to my mind, tantamount to accusing the average Australian of being a person whose support can be bought. I have said before on this issue that 1 believe that the onus of defence rests mos’t properly upon the shoulders of every man, woman and child. Until we find the courage to face that fact, we shall be guilty of maintaining, in effect, an immoral practice. My belief in that respect can be sustained very simply. There is no difference between the feelings of a mother in Arkansas, in the United States of America, and in Birmingham, in England, and those of an Australian mother. We may as well realize that fact as a team, because it is the truth; and if it be proper for a man from Arkansas or Birmingham to be conscripted for service with the United Nations forces anywhere in the world, then it is most proper for Australians, man for man, to share the same onus in direct ratio. Any honorable member who denies that principle is, in my opinion, guilty of an immoral practice.
The honorable member for Blaxland made a number of trenchant attacks on the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), who is well known in this House as a man who served his country well in World War I., and has represented ex-servicemen very effectively in this Parliament.
– The honorable member for Blaxland did not attack the honorable member for Corangamite.
– The honorable member for Blaxland implied that the honorable member for Corangamite was guilty of “ begging the word “, so to speak, when he said that ex-servicemen’s organizations did not wish to relate pensions to the basic wage. I can only say that those organizations have repeatedly considered that problem, and have expressed the view that a period of low living standards and low wages is the time in which an exserviceman has the greatest need of his pension. That is why, during the years of the great economic depression from 1930 to 1934, ex-servicemen’s organizations refrained’ from’ attempting to have the base rate pension related to the basic wage. The statements that have been made in this debate by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and the honorable member for Blaxland would have been equally true in 1932, 1933 and 1934. Therefore, I consider that there is no need for .me to pursue that matter further.
Obviously, the approach to this issue must be based upon the interpretation of the word “ compensation “. The committee of which I have the privilege to be the secretary made representations to the Government on behalf of the base rate pensioner. We considered then, and we still believe, that a case could be argued for the base rate pensioner. The Government replied, “ We are budgeting for a surplus. We are increasing taxation. The base rate pensioner is not in dire necessity, and, in fact, is not in necessitous circumstances.” Therefore the Cabinet, in its wisdom, decided not to accept our submission for an increase of the base rate pension. Confronted with that decision, we can either support our leaders, or indulge in some gross form of desertion. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), who is interjecting, knows as well as I do that the onus of governing the country rests most properly upon the shoulders of those who are administering it.
– I have been guilty in the past of criticizing decisions of the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley. I accused him in 1949 of having let the soldiers down. A telegram was sent to him from the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australis asking him whether or not the Government would grant an increase of pension for totally and permanently incapacitated members, widows, or base rate pensioners. The answer that the executive received was “ No “. I believed that the then Prime Minister had every justification for his decision. The man who controls the destiny of the country carries upon his shoulders a great and terrible responsibility. We must admit that fact.
– All the wisdom does not reside in the Cabinet.
– I do not suggest that all the wisdom resides in the Cabinet, and I do not imply that wisdom may, in a great measure, reside between one pair of shoulders. But I believe that responsibility rests with the Cabinet, whether or. not all the wisdom does. From that point, we come to the facts. The Cabinet has announced that it . will not agree to increase the base rate pension, and has given for that decision certain reasons, all of which are associated with Government policy. The attempt by the Opposition to persuade ex-servicemen on this side of the chamber to desert the Government, and cross the floor of the House, is sheer humbug and hypocrisy. Of course, ex-servicemen who are members of thi? Liberal party and the Australian Country party issued a similar challenge to exservicemen who . are . of . the Labour party when- they were in office: I do not deny that to be a fact. However, I point out that ex-servicemen on the Government side justify their presence in this. House. 1 can give all the details’ of the career of every ex-serviceman who sits behind the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The statements by Opposition members that we lack courage is utter nonsense.
The honorable member for’ Blaxland, when he attacked, by implication, the honorable member for Corangamite, did an injustice, not only to that honorable gentleman, but also to himself. He also referred to the establishment of the Repatriation Department about 30 years ago, and recalled the lack of uniformity of administration that was evident in those early days, and, in doing so, he was basically right;, but he overlooked the fact that ex-servicemen’s pensions originally were related, not to the basic wage, but to their rate of pay. All honorable gentlemen are familiar with the fact that the Australian soldier was paid 5s. a day in World War I.
– It was 6s. a day.
– Of course I was not a member of one of the forces in those days. The Australian soldier in World War I. was substantially better off than was the soldier in the Imperial Forces.
– He was’ paid only ls. a day.
– That is so. The Australian soldier in World War I. received £2 2s. a week and, in addition,, free medical and dental, treatment, his uniform, and all the other good things that were associated with his service career. All those factors were considered when the rate of the original pension was calculated. The government of the day said, in effect, “ We shall relate the pension not to the basic wage, but to the serviceman’s pay. We shall grant a pensioner £2 2s. a week.” The totally and permanently incapacitated members and the sufferer from tuberculosis are in a vastly different position from that of many other pensioners because they are dependent upon the pension that they receive for their maintenance. The pension that is payable to other groups is compensation for their efforts and sufferings on behalf of this country. While I am discussing that particular point, I should mention that I. cannot believe that, the honorable member for Ballarat, and the honorable member, for Parkes really consider that some people relate compensation, to their capacity to fight. Such a view simply does not make sense. I. am sure that I misunderstood those honorable gentlemen when they dealt with that matter. The average Australian will fight in this country, because he is a part of it. We. do not accept for one moment, the- idea that the average Australian thinks of the reward that he will get in return for what he does.
– It is the honorable gentleman’s responsibility to see that those servicemen shall get it.
– I have tried to deal, to the best of my ability, with the statements of the honorable member for Blaxland, and I believe that the honorable member for Ballarat is reasonable enough in saying that it is my responsibility to see that ex-servicemen shall get a just and proper return. Therefore, I shall move on to the point that was made by the honorable member for Parkes, when he referred to the application of the means test. Of course, the honorable gentleman is a journalist by profession. He is a man of some acumen, and is facile in the use of words. I believe, that when he dealt with the application of the means test to pensions, he did not state the truth. No means test is applicable to the pension of an ex-serviceman. Compensation is paid to an ex-member of the forces for the loss of an eye, an arm, or a leg, or for other war-caused injuries. The actual rate of pension that is payable for any of such injuries is determined by the amount that the country can alford to pay. Only three or four weeks ago I said in this House, “If you want us to do things that cost money, let us provide the financial requirements from revenue “. The honorable member for Grayndler has referred to the fact that the Government has budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000 for the current financial year. He knows perfectly well that the Government had to budget for such a surplus because of a decision of the Australian Loan Council. It is required to finance in part public works, because the Loan Council considers that the market will not support loans to the total amount required.
– What a defeatist attitude !
– The Loan Council took that view. The implication that the surplus of £114,500,000 will be tucked away as a nest egg is sheer political humbug.
The honorable member for * Ballarat made particular reference to war widows and totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Perhaps I misunderstood the honorable gentleman, but I considered that his reference to the prayer that is recited at 9 o’clock in most sub-branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia was most unfortunate. The rate of pension is a money problem, a governmental problem, and a decision to be made by the Government, which abides by its decisions. When the honorable member infused emotion into a matter of that description, I thought that the situation became almost Gilbertian. A very sacred minute was almost reduced to the atmosphere of the stage. I thought that it would be said, “ Look, here is something that can be put on the stage. It is most effective “.
– I realized that the honorable gentleman would not like it.
– The honorable member for Ballarat is justified in making that statement, but I wonder whether he, in his heart, really meant it. I can only say to him, with respect, that, in my opinion it came very close to sacrilege.
The honorable member for Fremantle mentioned the salaries of members of this Parliament and the advice that the Prime Minister had tendered to the House. Ho said that we should pursue the same trend of thought in relation to war pensions as we had adopted in relation to our own salaries. There is no relationship between the two subjects, and I am sure that the honorable member for Fremantle does not think otherwise. On the one hand, we have in this chamber 123 members - fine men and true - and, on the other hand, we have 168,000 disabled war pensioners, thousands of war widows and a number of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. There is no relationship between the two categories, and the argument of the honorable member for Fremantle was merely another demonstration of the use of words by an expert in order to cloud the issue. Honorable members on this side of the House are unhappy about the fact that the Government has not been able to find the additional sum of £4,000,000 that would be necessary in order to give effect to the Opposition’s proposal. However, we believe in the inherent right of the Government to decide what shall be done. The onus rests entirely upon it. Members of the Opposition solidly supported their late leader in 1949 when, as Prime Minister and Treasurer, he announced an exactly similar decision’ without giving any explanation. No honorable member is justified in attacking the decision of the Government without having full knowledge of the facts associated with its budgetary problems. To deny to it the right to make decisions in such matters is to resort to political humbug. I am grateful for the fact that, even though the ranks of Tuscany opposite continue to be vocal, the young ex-servicemen on this side of the House, whose record will bear comparison with that of any body of exservicemen in the world, as I am able to testify, have been able to withstand the attacks of the Opposition and have realized that they must do their duty.
I remind the honorable member for Parkes that less than three years hence there will be a general election. I hope that, in the interim, some of the adverse factors that now affect the Government will change so that it will be able to re* view the situation of the base rate war pensioner and compensate him more adequately- than he is compensated at present for his disabilities. We cannot escape from the fact that, of the 168,000 war pensioners, 125,000 are classified as being less than 50 per cent., unfit. That means that they receive not more than 50 per cent, of the base rate pension.
– The honorable gentleman must not argue in that way. They are entitled to the compensation that they receive.
– I do not argue that their degree of disability reduces their entitlement to compensation. However, the Government has decided to do the best that it can do in present circumstances. The Opposition cannot make out a valid case on moral grounds for any further improvement on the pretext that we are experiencing a condition of great prosperity. It is astonishing to hear honorable members opposite speaking in this debate of the high degree of prosperity that the country is enjoying. During the last fifteen months, we ha vie become wearily familiar with their “chattering, Spandau “ screaming about the reduced value of the £1. But in the last few hours they have changed the tune in order to assert that Australia is now experiencing conditions of unparalleled prosperity.
– That is what the Prime Minister says.
– That is true, and 1 remind the honorable member that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. James McGirr, made a similar declaration last Christmas. Therefore, we are justified in treating with scepticism the parrot-cries that the Opposition has repeated over and over again during the last eighteen months about the reduced purchasing power of the £1.
Repatriation benefits cannot be assessed merely in terms of money. The gauge must be the capacity of the country to pay, and the decision in that respect must rest solely with the government of the country. Everybody acknowledges that no country can pay to its exservicemen the full benefits to which they are entitled. I have a close association with blinded and tubercular ex-servicemen, to whom I am greatly devoted. I am acquainted with their senior officers, and T admit that the honorable member foi Parkes spoke truthfully when he said that it caused me pain to acknowledge that, under present conditions, nothing could be done to improve their circumstances. The Opposition has failed from the outset to realize that the Government made the only proper decision when it resolved to pay all the extra money available for war pensions to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and war widows with children. I do not know of any ex-servicemen who would not say, in the circumstances, “ Give them the lot “. I commit every member of the ex-servicemen’s committee of the Government parties to full support of the bill.
.- Government supporters are obviously making eery heavy weather of their attempts to excuse the failure of the Government to make adequate provision for war pensioners. The promises that were made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1949 have tumbled one by one about the ears of his followers. Therefore, it is not astonishing that they appear to be distressed when they try to defend the indefensible decision of the Government in relation to war pensions. Various allegations have been made about the conduct of the Labour party on this issue in former years, and I shall deal with them. Repatriation benefits were instituted in 1920. The original rates were not increased until 1943, when the late John Curtin, as the Prime Minister of the day, took action to meet the just claims of ex-servicemen. AntiLabour governments had been in power for nineteen of the twenty-three years that had elapsed since the introduction of repatriation benefits. They neglected plenty of opportunities to help exservicemen during those years. Yet the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) had the audacity to ask, “What did the Labour party do during its eight years of office ? “
– What did it do?
– The time at my disposal is too brief to enable me to relate the full record of the Labour party’s achievements on behalf of ex-servicemen. The information would fill a book.
The Labour party is proud of the legislation that was enacted for the benefit of war pensioners and ex-servicemen generally when it was in power. It reestablished over 500,000 ex-servicemen in excellent positions in civil life after the cessation of hostilities in World War II. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) declared that the officers of various ex-service organizations had no right to speak on behalf of the exservicemen of Australia as a whole. I have here various communications of a legitimate character that demonstrate clearly that the claims made by such officials are well justified. The honorable member for St.
George (Mr. Graham) said that tha amount of compensation paid to disabled ex-servicemen should be determined according to the capacity of the nation to pay. If ever a nation was in a position to pay generous benefits to exservicemen, Australia is in that position now! The Prime Minister has admitted that we are experiencing a condition of unexcelled prosperity. Details of the national income that were announced by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) recently support that claim. Therefore, justice demands that we shall be liberal in our treatment of the men who made it possible for us to experience that prosperity. The income dividend of the nation in 1949 was £2,267,000,000,000. In 1950 it increased to £2,724,000,000,000, and this year it has increased further to £3,593,000,000,000. Thus, it has increased by over £1,000,000,000,000 sincethis Government .came into power. The Prime Minister boasted of these facts when he went for a jaun’t through Victoria recently. Let him now fulfil the promises that he made to ex-servicemen before he was elected to office so that they mav share in the general prosperity.
One of the communications that I have received from organizations of exservicemen was addressed to me from the Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park, Sydney, and bear.the signatures of prominent officials of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. It points out that the relationship of the war pension to the basic wage to-day is lower than it has been at any other time. In 1920, the base rate pension represented 47.5 per cent, of the basic wage. In. 1930, the ratio was 47 per cent., and in 1940 it was 49 per cent. When the Labour party increased the rate of war pension in 1943, the ratio increased to 50 per cent. In 1948 it had again declined, because of inflationary tendencies, to 46 per cent. In 1950, after this Government had granted an inadequate increase, the ratio was 48 per cent. In August of this year, clue to the failure of the Government to carry out its promises to halt inflation and to put value back into the £1, the ratio had declined to 36 per cent.
– That is important.
– It is very important. By this month it had declined to 33 per cent, of the basic wage. So the war pension to-day from the point of view of purchasing power is at the lowest ebb that it has ever been at. Yet the Prime Minister boasts of our great prosperity. He is failing to share that prosperity among the people who made it possible for us to enjoy it. The communication that I have mentioned was signed by the following important officials : - Mr. A. J. Chambers, federal president and New South Wales State president of the T.B. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association; Mr. J. Harris, federal and New South Wales president of the Limbless Soldiers Association; and Mr. P. J. Quinnane, federal and New South Wales president of the Partially Blinded Soldiers Association. These men stated in their letter -
Surely it is not too much to ask Parliament to intervene on behalf of the disabled ex-service personnel of our country. We earnestly invite you to do so.
The Opposition’s amendment will give to Government supporters, who claim that they . wish to do much for exservicemen, an opportunity to prove their sincerity. Another communication that I have received came to me over the signatures of Mr. G. W. Holland, the federal president and Mr. J. C. Neagle, the general secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Accompanying it was a chart which indicates the relationship of the war pension to other benefits and the basic wage. It shows that the age pension has risen by 200 per cent, since 1939, that the basic wage has risen by 153 per cent, in the same period, but that the basic war pension has risen by only 67 per cent. The officials who sent that communication to me have been described by the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson) as pressure groups. In effect, he has referred to the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and the State executive of that association by that epithet-
– So they are.
– I say that they are not pressure groups. If such a communication had come from the Farmers and Settlers Association or the Employers
Federation, honorable members opposite, like the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), would respond to it quickly, as they are responding to such pressure day after day. Those men have asked me to do something in this House on behalf of the members of their association and that is what I intend to do. The letter stated -
We regret the necessity for the attached pamphlet.
Having failed in our endeavours to secure the Government’s recognition of the case for a general increase in the basic war pension rate after exhausting all reasonable methods of approach, we now submit the matter to the judgment of all members of the Commonwealth Parliament-
All members! I know that Government supporters have had similar communications, but it suits them at the moment to ignore them. The Labour party will not do so. The letter continued -
The claim is based upon the falling value of the fi and its effect upon all war pensioners.
I have related the decline of the pension to the fall of the value of the £1, which is receding at such a rate that it will soon reach zero. The Prime Minister intimated in his policy speech in 1951, that his Government would review repatriation benefits and allowances, especially in the case of war pensioners who, because of their very severe incapacities, are more or less dependent on their pension as a means of livelihood.
– The Government has reviewed them.
– Then it has not made a very good job of it. Most of these people are dependent on their pension as a means of livelihood. Many such pensioners in my electorate are in that position. The Government has done something for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, but not so much as its boasts would lead one to believe it had done. In 1948, when the Labour party was in office the pension was £5 6s. a week, and the basic wage was £6 2s. a week. The £1 then was the Chifley £1, which could buy more than can be bought for the Menzies £1 now. The difference between the pension and the basic wage was then 16s., and the pension represented 86 per cent, of that wage. Before the 1948 increase was made it represented only 73 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950, when the rate of pension was increased to £7, the basic wage was £7 6s., so the pension was 96 per cent, of the basic wage. Before that increase was given it had fallen to 70 per cent. The rate now is to be £8 15s. compared with a basic wage of £10 7s., so it will be 85 per cent, of the basic wage. Due to the failure of the Government to honour its promise to put value back into the £1, the amount of the proposed pension increase has already been rendered nugatory, and the pensioner will be no better off, because the value of the increase must be determined in relation to its purchasing power. At the present rate of decline the £1 will buy less for a pensioner in future than it has bought hitherto. Experts have predicted that the next quarterly adjustment of the basic wage will raise it by 25s. a week. “What will be the predicament of those pensioners after that basic wage increase, particularly when the effects of the tragic budget have become a part of the prices structure. Pensioners will find that they have never been worse off in their lives.
I commend the Labour party’s amendment to the. House. It provides that the proposed increases shall operate retrospectively from the 1st July and that all pensions schedules shall participate in the proposed increases. A principle that is applied to all industrial awards is that relativity shall be maintained. It is right that that principle should be followed in this instance. The amendment also provides for the inclusion of the base war pension in the schedules and for the increase in all categories to be at the same percentage rate. I appeal to Government supporters to show their sincerity in relation to the claims of ex-servicemen by voting for the amendment.
.- I rise to support the bill and to oppose the amendment; and because the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) challenged us to do so, to state our reasons for opposing the amendmentI propose to state my reasons. As I have said before in this House, I hate very much to have to criticize a man because he is not a returned serviceman. However, I shall not sit in this place or anywhere else and allow that kind of man to criticize either my colleagues or myself for the attitude that we have adopted. We have been told by the honorable member for Blaxland that for the first time in 31 years the returned servicemen have been sold out by their fellows in this Parliament–
– So they have been.
– There the statement is again repeated. I propose to prove that there is no sell-out of returned servicemen under this bill. They have been sold out in this Parliament by honorable members who to-day are very critical of ex-service members of the Government.
– The Government has sold out everybody in this country.
– Order !
– I do not worry about interjections, particularly from persons like the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) who are to me as babes lost in the woods. The honorable member for Blaxland said that the pension of £10 5s. that totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen now receive is not adequate, yet he has the colossal effrontery to support the amendment, and to ask Government supporters why they too do not support it.
Paragraph (d) of the amendment seeks to insert in the bill a provision for the increase in all categories to be at the same percentage rate. The pension for totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners is to be increased by 25 per cent., and if that proposal were adopted it would have to be reduced so as to enable provision to be made for the base rate pensioners. The Opposition has mentioned two other figures to-night. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) suggested that an increase of 10s. should be made in the base rate. Honorable members of. the Opposition apparently wish to reduce the amount payable to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen in. order to distribute more to others. For. that reason I will not support the amendment and I am astonished that it has been submitted. The history of some honorable members opposite would not bear very much investigation. I claim that the application of the means test to a war pension would do a more beastly injustice than would failure to increase one category of war pensions. It is arrant political humbug for the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), in view of his attitude in the past, to introduce this amendment. In 1947, this House debated the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1947 to which an amendment had been moved by a colleague of mine who was then a member of the Opposition, the purpose of which was to remove the means test from war pensions. At. page 3187 of Hansard of 1947 the honorable member for Parkes is reported as having said -
I think that the Minister ought to make a statement on this point. It is not a matter of party politics but of coming to a decision. Sometime ago an assurance was given in respect of the matter now at issue. I stake my position on this issue and I feel that an adjustment ought, in all decency, to be made. Concessions have been granted in other directions, but not to ex-servicemen.
The then Opposition strongly supported the amendment proposed on that occasion. I maintain that a man’s actions are what count. Although the honorable member for Parkes had said that it. was not decent to have the means test applied in connexion with the war pension, when the then Opposition forced the matter to a division, he voted against the amendment.
– Because of a promise that an amendment would be introduced in the Senate.
– I agree. But the honorable member voted against the amendment that was proposed by the then Opposition. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) criticized the. returned servicemen on this side of the House. Yet he cast his vote against the amendment proposed in 1947 after having spoken in favour of it. The honorable member for Parkes has stated that the then Government intended to introduce an amendment in the Senate. Sixteen months after my colleague had proposed his amendment to the Social Services Consolidation Bill 1947.I moved an amendment to the social services legislation to provide for the abolition of the means test. Although the honorable member for Fremantle, the honorable member for Grayndler, the honorable member for
Parkes, and the honorable member for Wannon had promised to do everything in their power to have the means test abolished in respect of war pensions they voted also against that amendment. It is political hypocrisy and humbug for those honorable members to say now that this a mendment-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order !
– We Government supporters are not going to sell out our colleagues by crossing the floor and voting the Government out of office because we realize that by keeping the Government in office we can do more for ex-servicemen than the Labour party’ would do. My conscience is clear and I. intend to stand by it.
– You do not like it.
– Order !
– What did Opposition members do when their party was in office?
– The honorable member is living in the past.
– I am not. I inform the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) of these facts so that he will see the path along which he is being led by the older members of hig party. The Opposition has proposed this amendment in order to catch votes from exservicemen. In 1947, the only increase that the Labour Government made in service pensions was an increase of 5’s. a week in respect of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners and war widows and the war widows pension would not have been increased had not some of my colleagues and I waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and advised him to make the increase. Tha Prime Minister asked what he would do about the other 40,000 widows in Australia if he granted an increase to war widows. It was only at that point that the then Minister for Repatriation said that he thought he could devise a scheme on the basis of what the deputation had proposed.
– T direct your attention to the state of the House. Mr. Deputy
Speaker, and suggest that such an excellent speech should have a larger audience.
– Ring the bells.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
-Order.’ The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) is disorderly. I have called for order and the honorable member knows what the punishment will be if he offends again. [Quorum formed.’]
– I thank the honorable member for Grayndler for having secured the attendance of a few mort honorable members and for his complimentary remarks. However, the same honorable gentleman said in the course of his speech that honorable members or. this side of the House are merely sham fighters. I have stated what action the Government took in relation to the mean test on war pensions.
– That is a deliberate lie. It was not taken in relation to war pensions. It was taken in relation to social services.
– Order ! It is not usual for the words “ deliberate lie” to be accepted as parliamentary language. I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Honorable members on this side of the House fought on behalf of ex-servicemen when they were in Opposition and the record of the Government in regard to repatriation stands to its credit. We are not ashamed of what the Government has done anc we do not intend to make complete asses of ourselves and let our colleagues down by vo.ting for the amendment. Unlike Opposition members, we speak what is in our minds and stick to what we say. On previous occasions Opposition members have spoken and acted differently, as I have demonstrated in relation to the attitude which they adopted in 1947 and 1948.
Honorable members opposite have asked for an increase of the hasp rate pension. One honorable member suggested that the increase should be £1: the honorable member for Fremantle suggested that it should be 10s.; and the amendment implies that it should be 25 per cent. There are 168,000 exservicemen in receipt of the base rate pension, whilst 98,000 receive a pension of from 10 per cent, to 25 per cent. An increase of the base rate pension by £1 would result in an increase of from 2s. to 5s. a week to pensioners who receive from 10 per cent, to 25 per cent. If the base rate pension were increased by the 10s. suggested by the honorable member for Fremantle, those pensioners would receive an increase of from ls. to 2s. 6d. a week. It would be a good idea if Opposition members reconciled their conflicting ideas before proposing an amendment. That is the advice which they tendered to members of the present Government parties when they occupied the Opposition benches. Do they not realize that the majority of ex-servicemen who are in receipt of the base rate pension are working? Those men do not wish their pensions to be classed as a “ needs “ pension. They regard it as compensation for their disabilities. Returned servicemen’s organizations have always been opposed to having war pensions regulated by reference to the basic wage. Opposition members have gone haywire in the arguments they have advanced concerning the relationship of the pension to the basic wage because the determinations of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court have been based not on the needs of the family group but on the capacity of industry to pay. That has thrown the matter out of proper perspective and the general rate seems to be relatively lower than it actually is. The
Opposition is trying to make party political capital out of this amendment because the percentage of men who receive a 100 per cent, pension is very small. If their disabilities become worse they can immediately receive the rate of pension prescribed for those who are totally and permanently incapacitated.
Honorable members opposite should be ashamed of themselves for trying to relate the general pension rate to the basic wage. During this debate they have repeatedly said that the Government has done nothing for ex-servicemen. Since this Government assumed office on the 10th December, 1949, it has done things the doing of which Labour governments would not entertain during 1 their eight years of office. For instance, it has removed the pension bar in respect of a wife or child of an ex-serviceman of the 1914-18 war who married after the 1st July, 1938. Any incapacitated exserviceman of that war who did not want to become a burden on any woman and therefore postponed his marriage until after the 1st July, 193S, was denied by the Labour Government a pension for his wife or children. This Government has removed that disqualification. It has also removed anomalies in the application of the means test to ex-servicemen when they sought sickness and unemployment benefits under the Social Services Consolidation Act. It granted to war widows, upon re-marriage, a gratuity equal to one year’s pension. The previous. Labour Government refused to do that.
The Opposition has accused the Government of having done nothing when the only thing it has not done is increase the base rate pension. The Labour Government refused to grant a pension to the wife or children of a permanently unemployable ex-serviceman, or one suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, who had married after the 2nd October, 1931. Last year this Government granted the pension to the wives and children of such ex-servicemen. Tin-1 Labour Government refused to provide motor cars for ex-servicemen who had had both legs amputated above the knees or who were paralysed from the waist down. This Government gave them motor cars.
During the three years that I was in opposition the Labour Government talked a lot but did little. Less than twelve months ago this Government granted an increase of the general rate of pension by 15s. a week. In 1947 and 1948 no increase was granted by the Labour Government. To-day, ex-servicemen still enjoy that increase of 15s. a week. The special claim put to me and to other honorable members by the general president of the returned servicemen’s league was for an increase of the general pension rate for aged ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war.
We tried to ascertainhow many men were in that category. Such men can now get a 100 per cent. war pension plus a 10 per cent. service pension, or a 50 per cent. war pension and a service pension of £25s. a week. That means that the aged ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war have already had their pensions increased. Because of the increase granted last year it hasbeen decided that there need not be an increase this year. This Government will never lose sight of the claims and interests of ex-servicemen.
I regard it as incumbent upon me to refute some of the allegations made by the Opposition during this debate. It has been said that this should not be a party political matter. I remind the Opposition of the pamphlet produced by the Labour Government in October, 1949, just two months before the general election of that year. That publication was full of party political propaganda. I am glad to be able to say to-day that the present Minister for Repatriation, who receives a pension in respect of service in the 1914-18 war, issued a new pamphlet, which did not contain any party political propaganda.
I oppose the amendment because it is based upon political humbug and is really designed to reduce the totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman’s pension. The increase granted to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen is £1 15s., which will raise his pension to £8 15s. The pension in respect of his wife will be £1 10s. 6d. and11s. 6d. will be paid for one child, plus child endowment. Therefore, the total amount that such an ex-serviceman will receive will be £11 2s. If such a pensioner has a wife and two children he will be paid £12 12s. 6d. War widows with children, or more than 50 years of age, will receive an increase of £1 2s. a week. A war widow with three children aged ten, thirteen and fifteen years, will receive £101s. Moreover, there is no means test applied to those pensions. I do not say that that is sufficient, but it is a lot more thanwas ever given by a Labour Government. This Government has awarded the greatest increases that have ever been given to ex-servicemen and their dependants, and it ill becomes the Opposition to submit an amendment of thisnature which is really designed to reduce the pensions of war widows and totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen.
.. - Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archiecameron.)
Foes . . . . . . 40
Majority . . . . 13
– ‘Order ! I have no knowledge of any party arrangements.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to bc left out (Mr. HAYLEN’S amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - How. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Application of amendments).
Amendment (by Mr. Francis, through Mr. Townley), proposed -
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “12. - (1.) The amendments effected by sections ten and eleven of this Act apply in relation to the instalment of pensions which fell due on the twenty-fifth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one, and to all subsequent instalments. “ (2.) The amendments effected by sections six to nine (inclusive) of this Act shall apply in relation to the instalment of pensions falling due on such date as the Minister specifies by notice in the Gazette and to all subsequent instalments.”.
.- The Opposition has no objection, in principle, to the amendment. We regret that the Government cannot see its way to make the payment of these increases of pension retrospective to the 1st July. However, half a loaf is better than no bread; and we must accept the Government’s proposal to make the payment retrospective to the 25th October last, to which date the payment of increases of all classes of social services benefits has been made retrospective.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Surgical Boots - Artificial Limbs and Appliances - Search fob Oil - Immigration - Mr. Clyde Cameron, M.P. - Mr. C. Chambers, M.P. - Commonwealth Hostels Limited.
Motion (by Mr. Townley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I direct attention to a matter that concerns both the Department of Social Services and the Department of Repatriation. Hundreds of persons throughout Australia suffer from deformities that have resulted from accidents. I have in mind particularly persons who have been crippled and who are having great difficulty in obtaining surgical boots. I shall refer to two cases to which my attention has been directed. The first is that of a lady, one of whose legs is from 6 inches to 9 inches shorter than the other. She has been carrying on her work as a housewife under that handicap for the last sixteen years. I have endeavoured to obtain a surgical boot for her in Tasmania, but in the course of making exhaustive inquiries I was informed by a boot manufacturer that in that State there is only one craftsman who is engaged in making surgical boots. He also informed me that he did not think that throughout Australia there would be more than ten craftsmen who are now engaged in making surgical boots. The work is highly skilled and technical, and involves infinite patience. It is a tragedy that no apprentices are entering the trade because higher wages are offering in more interesting callings. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) should examine this serious problem.
I am glad to be able to say that the Department of Repatriation is doing a magnificent job on behalf of many crippled civilians. However, the number of such civilians is becoming too great for that department to cope with. The department has a factory in each of the capital cities which is engaged in the making of artificial arms and legs, surgical boots, splints and appliances for limbs and also in effecting repairs to such artificial requisites. In the four years from 1947 to 1950 inclusive, those factories made a total of 128,753 items within this category, of which 5,646 of all types have been for civilians. I am concerned particularly with surgical boots. In four years, the factories of the Repatriation Department made 27,915 surgical boots for exservicemen, but only 368 for civilians. It is not the fault of the Repatriation Department that the number of surgical boots thai have been made in its factories in that period for civilians is so low. Many civilians require surgical boots of various kinds, and an average production of 90 a year is completely inadequate to mee their needs. The number of employees in the six departmental factories at the 31s1 December, 1946, was 150, and four year* later, it had increased to 184. Australia will need increasing numbers of surgical appliances and artificial limbs, because of its growing population and the dreadful toll of road accidents. It is not possible for the six factories which are controlled by the Repatriation Department to supply the Australian demand for surgical appliances. I urge the Minister to investigate the possibility of new craftsmen being trained by the Department of Social Services for this technical work Perhaps annexes to the departmental factories -can be constructed in which men can be trained to make surgical appliances of all types for our injured, crippled and deformed people.
It is a heart-rending spectacle to see. as I have seen, a mother trying to do her housework when one of her legs is nearly 9 inches shorter than the other. I have been endeavouring, so far without success, to obtain a surgical boot for her. Some time ago, I referred to her plight in a broadcast that I made, and a gentleman in Melbourne sent me a cheque for £10 with which to purchase a boot. I have not asked the Repatriation Department to supply that article of footwear, because the cost is beyond the means of the woman and myself. Honorable members may not be aware that the six factories which are controlled by the Repatriation Department charge civilians for the appliance? that they order. Many civilians cannnot afford to purchase artificial limbs. The supply of such appliances should be the responsibility of the Department of Social Services. The factories which are controlled by the Repatriation Department should not be overloaded with work for civilians. They are intended primarily to meet the requirements of ex-servicemen. I know that the Minister is sympathetic, and that there are “11 kinds of almost insurmountable difficulties. If there are no craftsmen, surgical boots cannot be made. At the present time, the number of craftsmen is insufficient because more attractive jobs are offering. I wonder whether the Minister can locate craftsmen among the thousands of immigrants who to-day are doing pickandshovel work. Such craftsmen, if they exist among the immigrants, could form a nucleus for the work that I have in mind.
– The Government is retrenching staffs.
– The figures that I have in my possession show that the staffs of the factories which are controlled by the Repatriation Department have been increased in the last four years. I emphasize that it is impossible for private enterprise to meet the demand for surgical appliances. Only one craftsman remains !u Tasmania, and he is now 65 years of age. When he retires from his work, there will be no one in that State to make surgical boots. I understand that there are only ten or twelve such craftsmen in the rest of Australia. I ask the Minister to give urgent consideration to my suggestions with a view to solving a serious problem for crippled, injured and deformed civilians.
– I can support the remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) about the extraordinarily good work that has been done by the Repatriation Department in providing artificial limbs for crippled persons. My experience in the last 30 years has been that the department has been willing to provide artificial limbs for many civilians, when it has been able to undertake that work. Many persons have been able to carry on as a result of the sympathy that has been shown to them by the department. I am not in favour of giving another Commonwealth department the responsibility of controlling the manufacture of artificial limbs and surgical appliances for civilians. It is preferable that such work be undertaken by the existing authority. Some of the limbs that have been made in the factories of the Repatriation Department are equal to the best in the world.
– But the factories which are controlled by the Repatriation Department cannot cope with the work.
– I would prefer to extend those factories than establish a new service. Of course, provision of surgical appliances for civilians is the responsibility, not of the Commonwealth, but of the State authorities. Some form of co-ordinated effort should be arranged between the Commonwealth and the States in that matter. I am sure that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) will examine the representations which have been made by the honorable member for Wilmot with a view to ascertaining whether suitable action can be taken.
Mr. SWARTZ (Darling Downs) [11.6J. - I desire to make a short statement on the important matter of the search for oil in Australia and in Australian territories. The Estimates and Budget Papers, which were recently considered by this chamber, disclosed that the vote for the Bureau of Mineral Resources for operational expenses had been increased from £350,000 last year to £611,000 for the current financial year. That increase will result in an intensification of the Com.monwealth’s exploration work in the search for oil.
The location of petroleum deposits in Australia is increasingly important now that supplies from Abadan, in Persia, have been cut off. Do not let us delude ourselves into the belief that the loss of Persian oil is not a serious blow to the economy and defence of the British Commonwealth. We may have cause to remember for a long while the complete bungling of this situation by Attlee and Morrison. We have been searching for oil for over 40 years’ in the Australian region, so far with little success. But we must remember that oil-fields have been located, and are producing in Dutch New Guinea, and that the search for oil was conducted for over 50 years in Canada before success waa recently achieved. The experts believe that the conditions for the discovery of oil in commercial quantities exist in both New Guinea and on the Australian mainland. Commonwealth and State governments, and private companies, have spent in all about £11,000,000 on the search for oil over the last generation.
The systematic and scientific methods employed to-day are a different matter from the “ wild-cat “ activities of earlier years. The search has been intensified in the last few years. There are good prospects, for instance, in Papua and New Guinea, where the presence of conditions essential for the occurrence of oil in commercial quantities has been established. On the Australian mainland, the evidence is rather more circumstantial, in that there is almost a complete absence of surface indications in the form of distinct seepages to mark the oil-bearing areas. The laborious and slow procedures of geological examination and geophysical testing that show where suitable conditions exist, must precede any drilling operations. Although the absence of any surface oil makes the search more difficult in Australia, it does not rule out the existence of oil. Oil has been found in other countries in areas far removed from seepages.
The geological conditions necessary for the formation and accumulation of oil are well known and can be identified and tested by proven methods. These favorable conditions undoubtedly exist in several areas in Australia. There are sedimentary basins in this country which are counterparts of geological formations in oil-producing regions of the United States. Science has evolved methods of “ looking “ below the surface of the ground and of recording the strata for thousands of feet by means which can generally be described as geophysical. The sequence is, geological survey, geophysical examination and drilling. Promising results have been obtained recently in the north-west basin, 600 miles north of Perth, in Western Australia. After geological surveys extending over about three years,’ geophysical methods will be employed to test the structures. The basin contains a thick sequence of marine sedimentary strata from which oil may be formed, together with suitable reservoir rocks and dome structures necessary to impound and retain oil. Conditions similar to those in the north-west basin also exist in the Kimberley district of Western Australia, approximately 1,000 miles north of Perth. “ Nearly 50 years ago, natural gas was struck at Roma, in Queensland. A gaso- meter was built and the town was lit by natural gas. But the gas suddenly petered out after ten days. Subsequent flows of gas yielding small quantities of petrol have also cut out, but they have shown that some high quality petroleum occurs in the area. Since the war a two-years’ geophysical survey in the Roma area has been conducted. To the north of Roma, at Rollston, a deep drilling test was abandoned recently without result. Lowgrade crude oil in small quantities ha3 been found in the Lakes Entrance area in Victoria. The Commonwealth is beginning a geophysical survey of the district at the request of the Victorian Government, while some interest is being taken in Nelson, Victoria, near the South Australian border. So far, about 270 test bores have been put down throughout the Commonwealth and its territories in the search for oil. But the majority were “ wildcat “ schemes. However, even in countries where surface indications are found, the search for oil in commercial quantities is a long and difficult business with usually a high percentage of failures. The finding of oil in Australia is so important to us that we must pursue the search. Our dependence, in peace and in war, on a long and vulnerable tanker lifeline is clear, and is a danger to our defence system. Consumption of petrol and all petroleum products is rising at a considerable rate. This is inevitable in a country of continental size in which primary and secondary industry have rapidly expanded. I feel confident that oil in commercial quantities will be located in Australia or Australian territory. I recommend to the Government that efforts be made to establish a central authority to co-ordinate the search for oil in Australia with representatives of the Commonwealth and State governments and private enterprise, to speed’ up the exploration work. Discovery of oilfields in Australia or Australian territory would have a profound effect on our economy and defence.
[11.181. - The matter which I bring before the House might, in other circumstances, appear so trivial that I should apologize to honorable members for it, but it has a greater significance and importance outside than inside Australia. I shall try to dispose once and for all of certain allegations in the hope that they will not be revived. The subject to which I refer is that of the quality of the food which this Government is providing for immigrants, particularly British immigrants, at the hostels that come under the supervision of the Department of Immigration and the Department of La.bour and National Service.
– Is not the Government facing a challenge in the High Court on that matter?
– No. I shall deal with those allegations. I am not surprised that the honorable member for HindMarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) does not desire to hear my reply. However, before I turn to certain allegations which he has made, I recommend to any honorable member who has any doubts about the matter an excellent article which appeared in the Sydney Daily Mirror on Thursday, the 1st November last. A most appreciative article was written by an observer after an exhaustive survey of a number of hostels in Sydney. I shall read only the opening paragraph of it in order to indicate to honorable members the position that has been revealed by an independent examination. The article is published under the heading, “ Women’s Interest “, and the sub-heading is, “Worry Level is Low for Migrant Hostel Women It reads as follows :-
Women in British migrant hostels in Sydney have practically no housekeeping or shopping worries. Families live better and more cheaply than many Australian ones and have food which has almost disappeared from some local tables.
The article goes on to describe conditions at the hostels. I shall not weary the House by reading the remainder of it, but anybody who is interested may read it. The honorable member for Hindmarsh did a little clowning with a couple of pieces of food that he produced in this chamber on the 30th October. I had no intention of replying to what appeared to me to be thoroughly irresponsible charges, which revealed the honorable member at his clowning worst in this chamber. However, I took the precaution of ascertaining the facts in order to satisfy myself.
I did not intend to use them in this House, although they completely refuted the charges that the honorable member had made and showed how utterly irresponsible his conduct had been, but he returned to the attack last night. As he is apparently determined to persist until he hears something from me about th: matter, I am happy to supply the facta to the House in the hope that they will dispose of the matter for good and. all.
When other charges were made in relation to immigrant hostels in this House previously, I issued an open invitation to any honorable member to call unannounced at any time at any immigrant hostel in the electorate that he represents and sample the meal being served there at the time. Several members of the Parliament took advantage of the invitation, and I have not since heard a word of complaint from any of them. In fact, I have received appreciative comments from all parts of the House. The honorable member for Hindmarsh came into the chamber on’ the 30th October with two pieces of food that he alleged had been provided for a meal at the immigrant hostel at Rosewater on the previous Friday. I had inquiries made, and they revealed various interesting circumstances. The two pieces of food in question had been handed round the Adelaide Trades Hall for several days beforehand. It was alleged at the Trades Hall that they had come from the immigrant hostel at Finsbury, but some of the more level-headed men at the Trades Hall, being acquainted with the background of the individuals who were handing the food around, regarded it as a frame-up. We know something of the activities of certain Communist elements in relation to our hostels. We have plenty of evidence on that subject. At any rate, there were some level-headed fellows at the Trades Hall who regarded the affair as a frameup. They were told that the food had come from Finsbury, not from Rosewater, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh later said. ‘The honorable gentleman alleged on the 30th October that it had been served to an immigrant on the previous Friday. In fact, meals of the type that he described, which included apple fritters, were not served at Rosewater or Finsbury on that Friday.
The honorable member’s performance was so irresponsible and trivial, in fact, that ordinarily I should not have troubled to reply to it. However, I arranged for the Controller of the Food Services Branch, Dr. Hutchinson, to make a number of surprise visits to hostels in Adelaide. The honorable member for Hindmarsh last night referred to those visits. They were conducted in such a way that not even the driver of the motor car in which Dr. Hutchinson travelled knew in advance which hostels would be visited. The Regional Director of Hostels in Adelaide likewise was kept in ignorance. At this stage, I point out that the Regional Director is a Mr. Chambers, who is the brother of the honorable member for Adelaide. That fact should be sufficient to convince most honorable members that he is a man to be respected who will do a conscientious job. For some reason best known to himself, the honorable member for Hindmarsh is conducting a vendetta against the Chambers family. Dr. Hutchinson made surprise visits to seven hostels. Limitation of time will not permit me to read his report in full, but it will be made available for examination by any honorable member who wishes to study it. I shall read only the following extract from it: -
Ml the components of the various menus were carefully examined, and, in most instances, tasted. In two hostels the soup may have been a little thin, and in another, the pea* may have been a little dark, but, on. the whole the meals were of excellent quality and better than those provided at the first class hotel at which I was staying, and, in fact, much better than those that can be obtained in most Australian restaurants and hotels. They were all properly prepared, well cooked, neatly plated and their appearance was colourful and attractive. In many instances, the serves of meat were large and, had they been reduced to one half their size, would have still been adequate.
That is the report of a responsible official.
– How much was he paid ?
– That sort of comment will be treated on its merits. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) places himself on much the same level in these matters as the honorable member for Hindmarsh. They both give about as low a performance as this chamber has ever witnessed. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh wants to gain a little cheap publicity by stunting, at the expense of national interest, in a way that will discourage British immigrants from coming to Australia, although we badly need them, I hope that he will have the courage to take full responsibility for his actions. At least I want other honorable members to realize how much weight should be attached to his charges.
– Th Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) marred his defence of his department by making personal attacks upon the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde. Cameron) and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). We can decide whether the case that has been presented by the honorable member for Hindmarsh is good or bad on its merits. I consider that the Minister has cleared hi3 departments of any charge of general neglect that anybody may have made - and I am not sure that such a charge has been made, in fact. I was not present when the honorable member for Hindmarsh produced the specimens of what was said to be food that had been served on a particular occasion in a particular hostel. I believe that the persons who are living in hostels conducted by the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service are being well fed. I have not the slightest doubt about that as far as the Department of Immigration is concerned, because, as the former Minister for Immigration, I was responsible for arranging for the accommodation of such individuals, and for the provision of all essential services at reception depots, holding depots and other immigrant camps. The Department of Labour and National Service has also always conducted the hostels very well.
There is undoubtedly a certain degree of nervous tension on the part of British immigrants who reside at various hostels throughout Australia. This may be a result of their war-time experiences, or it may be a result of being required to live in camps after having come from private homes in England, no matter how poor those homes may have been Originally I intended that those hostels should be occupied by the unfortunate victims of various forms of religious and political persecution who came to Australia from Europe. They, too, had lived in good homes once, but the conditions to which they came in Australia were better than those under which they had been living in Europe immediately prior to their departure. The situation of British immigrants is somewhat different from that of the continental Europeans. Therefore, I ask the Minister to expedite their evacuation from camps as quickly as possible so that they may be assimilated into the Australian community by being placed in new homes. They will settle into the Australian way of life very much more quickly and will he much happier when that can be done.
– I do not know that I agree with that.
– Perhaps not, but many immigrants at the hostel feel much as he does. Therefore, I hope that we shall be able to remove British immigrants from camps and hostels as quickly as possible and establish them in homes of some sort. I hope that we shall be able to initiate a big housing programme or allow them to help to build homes for themselves.
The charge that the honorable member for Hindmarsh is conducting a vendetta against the Chambers family is not true. I am aware of that from my own knowledge, notwithstanding anything that the press may report. The truth is that a press vendetta is being conducted against the honorable member for Hindmarsh. It is altogether unfair and most improper, and I am glad that the remarks of the Minister have given me a chance to clear the air on this issue. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) has a brother who is doing a very good job. I have never heard previously of anybody carrying on a vendetta against that gentleman. The honorable member for Adelaide himself is completely satisfied that the honorable member for Hindmarsh is not conducting any vendetta against him, and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) can substantiate that assurance. He “was present when the honorable member for Adelaide made that fact clear. A vendetta is being prosecuted by somebody against those gentlemen for the purpose of causing trouble between them. But the effort will fail. Again I say that the officers of the Department of Labour and National Service and of the Department of Immigration are doing a very good job under difficult circumstances^ The people under their care are, in the main, appreciative of what is being done for them. I know that the Minister intends to establish one controlling authority under the name “ Commonwealth Hostels Limited “. I hope that he does not make the mistake of putting the present Director-General of the Department of Labour and National Service, Mr. Funnell, in charge of the general scheme. It would be a retrograde step to do so, and I hope that no effort will be made to put Mr. Funnell into such a job, which might continue for four or five years.
– He has several years to go before he retires.
– But the Government might hope that he will continue to work for three or four years after he has reached retiring age. I consider that it would be very wrong for anybody to create a situation of that sort. Mr. Funnell has a very big job. Keeping our immigrants contented is important, and I consider that the main way to keep them contented is to get them out of camps as quickly a3 possible.
– I wish to reply to the remarks of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). Anybody would have thought, from the Minister’s introductory remarks, that he was going to drop a terrific bombshell on me, and that I had brought forward something that, would expose me as being a person who was completely irresponsible. The Minister used those words in relation to me. I waited in vain until he sat down to hear one word to justify the lowdown attack that he made on me and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). He made the statement in his usual guttersnipe manner.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will withdraw that word.
– I withdraw it. He made an attack on the honorable member for Watson and me, and accused us of stooping to the lowest, depths. I sling it back in his face and say that he has done likewise. The Minister described the secretary of the Adelaide Trades and Labour Council as a Communist. In doing so, he stooped to the lowest possible depths, because he did so under parliamentary privilege. He described a man of the highest integrity in the trade union movement of South Australia as a Communist because he happened to be the gentleman who gave me the two pieces of food that I produced in the House on the 30th October. No one who made such a statement should tell other people that they have stooped to the lowest depths. A person who will come here, and under parliamentary privilege, describe another person as being a Communist, when that person is no more a Communist than I am, ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself and is not fit to occupy a position in the Parliament. The Minister has not answered any of the charges that I have made. I levelled a charge against the Department of Immigration in regard to the cost of the food that it was serving up to certain people. [ said that it was charging £11 8s. a week for a family consisting of a man, his wife and three children. The Minister did not say anything in reply to that charge, nor has he satisfied me, at any rate, that the food that I produced was not typical of the food that was served up to these people at the charges that I mentioned. The fact that the Minister has seen fit to send a medical officer to investigate the hostel shows that there is some justification in the reports that I have received. Incidentally, since I first raised this matter in the Parliament I have had communication with the officer in charge of the hostel in question, who has spoken to me about it.
– Which hostel?
– I am not going to tell you, because you are vindictive. I know what you would do. You would have the man dismissed.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me.
– He told me that inquiries were being made, and I know for a positive fact that the standard of the food that was being supplied, in spite of the cheap, cynical remarks that the Minister made here a moment ago, has improved considerably since the matter was raised. I like the cheek of the Minister in taking umbrage at any honorable member bringing to the notice of the Government a complaint that a taxpayer, citizen or voter decides to bring under an honorable member’s notice. I have a perfect right to bring before the Government, on the adjournment, any complaint that has been brought to my notice. That is the very essence of our democracy. If this Parliament does not give to honorable members the right that T have exercised, then it should close up now, because honorable members have no cither way of ventilating the just grievances of the people. When any such question is raised here, the Minister rises and, in a bitter, cynical manner, castigates the honorable member who has dared to bring it forward. I did not make any assertions about the food that I produced. I merely said that I had received certain complaints and I produced food that had been supplied to me by the secretary of the Adelaide Trades and Labour Council, who requested me to bring the matter before the Parliament. As a member of the Labour party, I shall always bring before the Parliament any matters that the secretary of the Adelaide Trades and Labour Council asks me to bring before it. It ill becomes the Minister, speaking under parliamentary privilege, to call this man, who has done so much for his country, a Communist, and to try to smudge over every other complaint that is made to him as the outcome of a Communist plot.
The Minister referred to hostels in Sydney. What is the use of mentioning what happens in Sydney, when the fact is that not all of the hostels in Adelaide are bad. I did not say at any stage that every hostel was bad. I said that there was one that was bad, and I merely asked the Minister to investigate the conditions there. Because I had the audacity to ask the Minister to investigate a complaint that had been given me by a trade union authority, he rose and, in a vindictive, cynical manner, took umbrage. I tell the Minister, in conclusion, thai whenever I have any matters to bring forward in this House I shall ventilate them here whether he likes it or not. The Minister can take it from me that none of his abuse and filthy insults will stop me from bringing such matters forward.
-Order! The honorable gentleman should moderate his language.
Question resolved in the affirmative. lToii.se adjourned at 11.37 p.m.
The following answers to question. were circulated: -*
Due to shortage of equipment and/or cable, 100,089 applications for telephone services are outstanding. In addition, there are 35.002 applications for which plant is now available and are in the course of being fulfilled. The State figures are as follows: -
In order to facilitate the work of honorable mem hers and obviate the necessity for reference to the principal act or preceding regulations, will lie arrange for a short explanatory statement, such as is furnished to the Executive Council, to accompany copies of regulations under statutes which are distributed to members ?
I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Prime Minister’s Department, of which he has ministerial charge temporarily, has received a letter from the Newcastle branch of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia in which it complains that consideration should be given to the development of the port of Newcastle, the rehabilitation of the Hunter Valley and surveys of coal-fields, the last being a matter on which I have already asked several questions, with a view to the calling of a conference of interested parties and the State and Federal Governments. That branch of the waterside union is also convinced that it is the responsibility of the Government to supply man-power, materials and money necessary for the work that I nave mentioned to be carried oat. Has consideration been given to that matter because’ there is implicit in it a threat of inter-union trouble if the matter is not immediately dealt with!
There are at present CommonwealthState consultative committees who are looking into the coal and transport problems, and I have no doubt that they are giving considerable attention to the Newcastle area in connexion with their investigations. The New South Wales Government earlier this year appointed a committee to investigate and report upon coal conservation, heating and methods of extraction of coal. The committee, which is known as the Coal Conservation Committee, has presented its report to theNew South Wales Parliament, and this report is now being printed. In connexion with this report, the New South Wales Minister for Mines stated in the New South Wales Parliament on the 28th September that he would do everything possible to help preserve our coal resources.
The New South Wales Government is also carrying out extensive works to eonserve and rehabilitate the land resources of the Hunter Valley. The honorable member will therefore see that there is already a considerable amount of investigation and Commonwealth-State cooperation into the matters to which his question refers, and a formal conference with the Newcastle unions would be unlikely to yield any further information which is not in the possession of the State and Commonwealth authorities mentioned above, or which the unions could not submit to those authorities who, I. am sure, would be only too glad to have the information. The allocation of loan moneys is determined by the decision of the Loan Council on which the States have a majority representation. Once thi: .loan allocation has .been made the distribution of the available, moneys among the various projects, such as the rehabilitation of. the Hunter Valley and the development of the port of Newcastle is a matter exclusively for the State Government.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511115_reps_20_215/>.