20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 ip.m., and read prayers.
– I have received a letter from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral dated the 2nd April, which reads as follows: -
I refer again to your letter of the 6th February forwarding copies of extracts from the records of Parliament, containing reference to the death of the late Honorable Liaquat Ali Khan.
His Excellency the Governor-General of Pakistan has now acknowledged with thanks copies of the extracts, and nas stated that one copy has been forwarded to Begum Raana Liaquat Ali Khan, wife of the late Prime Minister.
– On the 4th March last, as recorded in Hansard at pages 707 and 708, I promised the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) that I would give a ruling on the question of a member’s right to require the withdrawal of words which were considered offensive by a member of this House, but which were not considered offensive by the Speaker. Honorable members may examine Hansard, Volume 129, page 1483, for rulings by Mr. Speaker Norman Makin, and Volume 133, pages 1029 and 1030 for rulings by Mr. Speaker Mackay.. Those rulings are clearly inconsistent. Therefore, I feel that we must resolve the problem for ourselves. It is clearly the function of the Speaker to decide what is offensive or unparliamentary language. The difficulty arises from honorable members holding varying views on this question. What I consider an inoffensive statement may he declared highly offensive by another honorable member. If the Speaker demands a withdrawal whenever an honorable member says that something that has been said is offensive’ to him, then the Speaker might be charged with preferring some other honorable member’s judgment to his own, or with failing to exer cise the authority of the Chair. If honorable members will consult May’s Parliamentary Practice, 15th edition, they will find on page 445 the following statement : -
It is absolutely necessary that the Speaker should be invested with authority to repress disorder and to give effect, promptly and decisively, to the rules and orders of the House. The ultimate authority upon all points is the House itself; but the Speaker is the executive officer by whom its rules are enforced. In ordinary cases, the breach of order is obvious and is immediately checked by thu Speaker; in other cases, if his attention is directed to a breach of order at the proper moment, namely, the moment when it occurred, he at once gives his decision, and, if he fails to secure the compliance of the Member in fault, directs him to withdraw or names him and leaves it to the House to inflict the appropriate penalty. In doubtful cases, and in cases not provided for by practice nr the Standing Orders, the Speaker refers the matter to the judgment of the House.
The practice in future will be based on May. Whenever I hear a statement which I consider disorderly, I shall require the honorable member to make amends forthwith. If, however, my attention is called to a statement which I did not hear or do not consider disorderly, the procedure will be modified to the extent that I shall judge whether the statement is or is not parliamentary and therefore should not or should be withdrawn. In accordance with the practice that has been laid down by May, which I have already quoted, doubtful cases and those that are not provided for by practice or the Standing Orders will be referred immediately to the judgment of the House. For the guidance of honorable members, I shall have printed a copy of expressions that have been declared disorderly in the past. I have two reasons for so doing. First, such a list may assist honorable members, especially those who have lately come here, to avoid pitfalls in debate; secondly, having perused it, some honorable members may consider it incomplete and be spurred on to fresh exertions.
– Oan the Minister for External Affairs give to the House any information about the recent riots that took place in Tokyo. In particular, can he say whether any injury was suffered by
Australian nationals or whether any damage was caused to Australian property?
– From the information which I have received it would appear that the riots which took place in Tokyo on May Day were quite definitely Communist inspired and were apparently organized beforehand. Two motor cars used by the Australian mission in. Tokyo were damaged, but no physical damage was suffered by any member of our staff. We sought, and immediately obtained, an apology and expressions of regret from the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Yoshida, and from two of his senior Ministers in respect of the incident, which, I understand, is very distressing to the Government of Japan as well as to the victims of it. We have now sought compensation from the Japanese Government for the damage caused, to the two official motor cars.
– Will the Minister for Social Services state whether it is a fact that the investment by a citizen of £1,000 in public loans, which provides an income of only 15s. a week, deprives that citizen entirely of eligibility for the age pension of £3 a week under the property means test? Does it additionally deprive him completely of eligibility for the medical and medicine benefits provided for pensioners?
– Under the provisions of the Social Services Contribution Act the property means test is fixed at £1,000. If a person of the pension age had property of that value he would be debarred from receiving the pension.
– And medical benefits ?
– Has the attention of the Minister for Territories been drawn to a recent statement by the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea that within ten years New Guinea could supply all our requirements of rubber, coffee, cocoa, tea, copra and spice if markets for those products were guaranteed? In view of «he fact that Australia at present imports such commodities from overseas and that supplies, particularly of rubber, would probably bo out off in the event of a major war, will the Minister assure the House that the Government will give every possible encouragement to the development of those industries in New Guinea?
– I am not aware of the statement to which the honorable member has referred. It is true that the commodities that he has mentioned can be grown in New Guinea much more extensively than they are being grown at present. I hope to have the opportunity later during the current sessional period to inform the House about some of the measures that we are taking in order to extend land settlement and agriculture in the territory.
Mi-. CLYDE CAMERON. - I ask the Treasurer whether any real difference of opinion exists between himself and the Liberal Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, with regard to the Australian Government’s present policy. If such a difference exists, what is the nature of it-, and will the right honorable gentleman say whose opinion is correct?
Question not answered.
Mr. KEKWICK Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that an overseas ship recently left unloaded at Hobart 30,000 cases of apples as a result of the refusal of members of the Waterside Workers Federation at that port to work overtime, and that should this hold-up continue approximately 500,000 cases of Tasmanian apples awaiting shipment overseas will be left unshipped? Is he prepared to take action in order to have this cargo and other Tasmanian cargoes shifted, bearing in mind the fact that two well-known Sydney Communists recently visited Tasmania obviously with the intention of causing further injury to the Australian economy by holding up shipment of vital exports.
– I dealt with some aspects of the matter that the honorable member has raised when I replied to a question 1 hat the honorable member for Franklin asked yesterday. I pointed out that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was engaged in hearing an important application which related to this matter and that only yesterday certain evidence regarding the position that exists at Hobart was presented to the court. However, I should like to say to the honorable member that whilst the Government must await the outcome of these proceedings before it takes certain action that it has in mind, the movement of labour to Hobart to assist in the loading of apples, even within the period approved by the Waterside Workers Federation, has been retarded by the lack of accommodation for temporary workers ;it that port. I understand that the shipowners in Tasmania have taken up this matter with the State government in an endeavour to obtain temporary accommodation, such as halls or some other form of accommodation, which could be made available by the State. So far the ship-owners’ efforts have not been successful, and to that degree the availability of labour at Hobart has been restricted.
– In view of the alarming increase of the ‘number of unemployed, particularly persons over the age of 40 years, and bearing in mind the decreased purchasing power of the £1 since the Government assumed office, will the Minister for Social Services give urgent consideration to increasing by 100 per cent, the unemployment benefit?
– The determination of the rate of unemployment benefit is a matter of Government policy and is closely associated with the Government’s budget commitments. It is not customary to deal with matters of policy in answer to a question, but I assure the honorable member that at all times I shall be prepared to do all I can to improve the position of unemployed persons or that of persons in any other category in receipt of social services benefits.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General concerning the lack of printed broadcasting pro grammes in most of the States, and the inconvenience caused thereby to listeners. In view of the great potential value of broadcasting not only as a form of entertainment but also as a medium of higher education, will he arrange for the publication of an improved Australian Broadcasting Commission journal to contain the weekly programmes in each State? Does he not think that such a journal, if it were presented imaginatively, might well become a source of profit to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as well as of enlightenment to the general public?
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission published the A.B.C. Weekly in each State, with the exception of Queensland, for quite a number of years. The losses on the publication were very high indeed, and in order to reduce them so as to make the journal self-supporting, the editions in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria were discontinued last year. Unfortunately, the Australian Broadcasting Commission does not offer any hope of being able to produce in those States a journal which will be a payable proposition, because it is necessary to publish a separate programme in each State, and there are many technical complications in such a procedure. At present, the A.H.C. Weekly is just about breaking even, and I do not think that the Australian . Broadcasting Commission can hold out any hope of publishing a journal in each State again.
– Is it a fact that the Treasurer has stated in recent sittings of the Parliament and in correspondence with honorable members that he was not responsible for the decisions to restrict loan funds to the States for public works &c. during the financial year 1951-52, that such decisions were made by the State Treasurers as members of the Australian Loan Council, and that it was his duty and responsibility as the Chairman of that body to carry out such decisions? In view of the recent decision of the Loan Council to make certain funds available for 1952-53, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether he proposes to carry out that recommendation ?
– I stated last night, and the Prime Minister stated on a previous occasion, that while the Commonwealth did not agree with the programmes of the States, we gave an assurance that we would do everything possible to assist them -to undertake their works programmes by finding money on a sound economic basis.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question about the Government’s appeal to the public to subscribe to Coin mon wealth loans. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that while the Commonwealth loan market is languishing, deposits in savings banks, which carry a lower rate of interest than bonds, have reached the record figure of £872,000,000? Is he further aware that one reason why many people who have savings will not subscribe to Commonwealth loans is the justifiable fear that they may lose a substantial portion of their capital investment if they have to sell their bonds before the date of maturity? Another reason, of course, is that Commonwealth bonds can now bc bought on the open market at well below par. Will the Treasurer say what the Government proposes to do to remedy this very serious state of affairs? Will the Government consider paying a flat, rate of interest on all issues of bonds by raising the interest rate on earlier issues to the current rate so that the weaknesses that I have mentioned may be alleviated and some stability restored to the disturbed bond market?
– I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that the raising of money on the loan market, and the conditions attached to the issue of bonds, are matters entirely within the province of the Australian Loan Council.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that at the finance ministers’ meeting in London last January, it was decided that a second meeting would be convened in about April or May of this year for the purpose of reviewing progress made in restoring the strength of sterling and eliminating adverse trade balances? Is that second meeting likely to be held early in June? Can the Treasurer say whether it is the intention of the Prime Minister, when he is abroad, to act as Australia’s representative at that meeting? If that be not the intention of the Prime Minister, is it intended that the Treasurer shall go abroad to attend the meeting? Is there any truth in the rumour that, because the Treasurer failed so dismally last January-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is now introducing comment. That is clearly out of order.
– And dirty insinuations too.
– Order! That remark has not improved the situation.
– Is it a fact that the Prime Minister feels that he must try to restore the damaged relations with the British Government and with British commercial interests that his colleague’s failures seem to have caused?
– The honorable gentleman’s question is based entirely upon fantastic premises. I do not intend even to refer to his erroneous suggestions.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, concerns students at universities and at teachers’ training colleges in New South Wales who have been called up for national service training. I have been informed that the Department of Education in New South Wales deducts the amount that such a student receives as Army pay from his scholarship allowance. Will the Minister inform me whether my information is correct? I point out that most of the Army pay is spent during the period of training, so that a student has to face a certain time without any income. 1 understand that the National Service Act provides that an employer shall make up the pay of a national service trainee. Can the Minister make suitable arrangements so that students will not be penalized ?
– This is the first time that this matter has come to my notice. As far as I am aware, it is within the competence of the education authorities of New South Wales to make such a deduction, but it is certainly contrary to the spirit of the legislation, and the provision which applies to employers, to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I shall make inquiries into the matter with a view to ascertaining whether there is any phase of it that can lie taken up directly between this Government and the Government of New South Wales.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question concerning the call-up of personnel by his department for allocation ro the Army, Navy and Air Force for national service training. It is well known that the number of trainees that have been admitted to the Air Force is very low. Will the Minister inform the House on what basis trainees are allocated ro each service? Has an “old school tie “ practice been observed of admitting trainees to the Air Force on the basis of educational qualifications? I hare received many complaints from youngsters in my electorate that they cannot perform their national service training in the Air Force. Is the Minister aware that there is a conscription within a conscription which excludes trainees from the Air Force by a process other tiran the limitation of numbers?
– I do not know that the matter to which the honorable member has referred comes under my administration although I have some knowledge of it. First of all, it is not entirely true to say that the quality of trainees admitted to the Air Force has been disappointing.
– I did not refer to the quality. I referred to the number of trainees admitted.
– In some States the number of trainees offering for the Air Force has been remarkably high. In New South Wales about 40 per cent, of the number of youths registered for national service training have sought admission to the Air Force whereas in some other States the percentage has been much lower. In one State it was only 9 per cent. Consequently, it has been found necessary to transfer trainees from one State to another. So far as I am aware, preference in admission to the Air Force is only given in the case of persons whose fathers or other close relatives served in the Air Force and who had a natural desire to carry on some sort of family tradition which I am sure the honorable member would, himself, be anxious to on courage. However, I know that efforts ;ire being made to regulate the flow of trainees into the Air Force in view of the great difference in the proportion of trainees offering for service in that body in the various States.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform me whether it is a fact that firms which have secured contracts for the supply of clothing for the defence forces, and for the supply of textiles, have done so only by submitting tenders below the actual cost of manufacture? Is that in accordance with the policy of the Government of trying to mitigate the hardships of textile mills in their present economic difficulties? Is there any method of allotting contracts that will keep them reasonably competitive, and not restrict them to companies that have sufficiently large reserves to enable them to tender at low costs ? I have particularly in mind such relatively small companies as the Albany Woollen Mills in Western Australia.
– Answering the second part of the honorable member’s question first, I should say that the overriding policy of the Government, and indeed, of any government, would be to get the best goods at the lowest price. That after all is the reason for the existence of the Contract Board. One cannot know with certainty, of course, whether a tender is below cost, although naturally the Department of Supply, having at its disposal much information about costs, would have a fairly good idea. However, I suggest that we should be sailing on uncharted seas if we were to depart radically from the accepted practice. If we were to take the view, for instance, that because a tender by a large firm for a particular job was below cost and the contract should not be let to that firm, a great injustice might be done, for the aim of the tenderer in entering a price that was below cost might well be to avoid the necessity to dismiss perhaps GOO or 1,000 employees. Good faith, too, must be considered. The tender system implies, subject of course to the usual overriding provision, that the lowest tenderer shall be given the contract. If a firm tendered in good faith, it would perhaps be unfair to overlook it for any reasons other than purely business reasons. Therefore I have considered that there should be no radical departure from the normal tender system, although, in certain instances, and within certain strict limits, we have exercised discretion in an endeavour to assist individual firms. We shall continue to do that, but, as I said yesterday, I hope that thi greatest assistance that will be rendered to the textile industry in its present difficulties will be by means of the Government’s import controls.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to inform the House when details of the meat agreement now being negotiated between Australia and the United Kingdom will be finalized?
– The agreement was finalized before the end of last year, and the document has since been confidentially in the hands of the Australian Meat Board. It was decided when the agreement was being negotiated that because of the extraordinarily long term for which it was to run, and because of some unusual provisions in it, including the underwriting by the United Kingdom Government of tradertotrader dealing, it was highly desirable that the document should be accompanied by full interpretative notes, so that should it be necessary at some future date, perhaps when the original negotiators were no longer available for consultation, to give a ruling on the interpretation of the agreement, its intention could be more readily determined. It was agreed that the basic document and the interpretative notes should be made public concurrently.
– That may postpone the publication of the original document for many years.
– No, it will not do so, as I shall explain. Immediately after the conclusion of the agreement there was a change of government in the United Kingdom and attention was not directed to the interpretative notes, largely on that account I believe, until after Christmas. But, unhappily, the day before the agreement was signed, the principal official negotiator for the United Kingdom, Sir Albert Feavearyear, fell ill and has been ill ever since and, therefore, has not been available. Just after Christmas the principal Australian negotiator, Mr. McCarthy, had to return to Australia. These events have involved some delays. I believe that the interpretative notes will be completed within the next week or two, but I now say that, if they are not completed so that the basic document and the notes can be made public property simultaneously within that period, I shall then make the basic document public property.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that the membership of the Australian Meat Board includes cattle owners, cattle dealers, meatworks proprietors and managers, and other persons interested directly or indirectly in the Australian cattle industry? If that is the case, how does the Minister justify the fact that those people were embarrassingly early in possession of the intimate details of the fifteen-year meat agreement with the United Kingdom, when farmers out side are not in possession of such information ?
– The personnel of the Australian Meat Board and the interests represented on the board were decided upon by the government of which the honorable member himself was a Minister. If the board includes representatives of cattle dealers, as the honorable member says, I was not aware of it. I am astonished to hear the honorable member suggest that his Government would have provided for representation of cattle dealers on the Australian Meat Board. However, the honorable member is confusing the long-term issues of a meat agreement with immediate issues of price. I have said in this House on occasions that date back to within a few weeks of my appointment as Minister, that I should ensure that there was never prior knowledge of a prices issue or of any issue which could be turned to business advantage, by representatives on that board or any other commodity board. The chairman of a board may know of intended price changes, but the knowledge is not permitted to any one who could turn it to business advantage. I assure the House that no such knowledge is available to the Australian Meat Board.
– In view of the great expansion of air travel in Australia during the last few years and the constant need for experienced staff, has the Minister for Civil Aviation, or his department, given any consideration to the establishment of an Australian air training college as a means of providing expert staff for civil airlines and to act as an auxiliary of the Royal Australian Air Force? Is it a fact that experts consider that, if a training college is not established, Australia will have great difficulty in obtaining experienced staff in a few years ?
– The Department of Civil Aviation has not given consideration to any such suggestion because the provision of staff for the various airline companies is a matter for those companies. There are, of course, aero clubs in the various States w”hich are training large numbers of young men to qualify for their initial certificates, and these clubs arc largely subsidized by the Government. The young men are often recruited by the airlines after they have gained their certificates. The two major airline companies, Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, arc doing a great deal to provide for the training of ?taff to meet their own needs.-
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any information regarding the number of applications made under the secret ballot provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act ? How many secret ballots have been conducted by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration at the request of trade unions and other organizations as a result of such applications, and were the desired results obtained in such cases?
– I understand that seven applications have been received and that five of those applications have been granted.
– All under the Chifley Government’s legislation.
– No, not under the Chifley Government’s legislation, but under the legislation introduced by this Government. It is interesting to see bow honorable members opposite, having bitterly resisted that legislation, now try to climb on the band wagon and claim the credit for it.
– Order ! The Minister is introducing debatable matter.
– The two applications which were not granted were refused, according to my advice, solely on the formal ground that the applications did not comply with all the requirements of the net. The honorable member has asked whether the desired results were achieved when secret ballots were conducted by the court. I suppose the definition of “ desirable “ would depend upon the point of view of the person concerned. As far as the Government is concerned, it desired the result in each case to he an honest expression of rank and file opinion in relation to candidates who presented themselves for election. I think that wo can justly claim that that result was achieved.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that there is an acute shortage in Australia of galvanized piping, wire netting, iron and guttering? Wil the honorable gentleman inform the House whether any quantities of these products are now being exported from Australia? Is he aware that there is a tremendous difference between the price of those products which are manufactured locally and the price of those which are imported? In view of the fact that in some instances traders are selling the cheaper locally manufactured piping, netting, iron and guttering at the price applicable to imported products, will the Minister approach Australian manufacturers with the object of ensuring that, whenever possible, the words “ made in Australia “ and the maker’s name shall be stamped several times upon each length of locally manufactured piping, that locally manufactured iron and guttering shall be similarly clearly marked, and that the Australian maker’s name shall bt placed inside each roll of Australian manufactured netting ?
– I have some knowledge of the matters which have been raised by the honorable gentleman, though some of them are outside my jurisdiction. Steel and steel products come primarily under the control of the Minister for National Development. I shall be pleased to bring the honorable gentleman’s question to the notice of the Minister and ensure that a reply to it is furnished as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister foi- the Army inform me of the number of voluntary enlistments in the Citizen Military Forces from January to December, 1951, and from the 1st January to the 30th April, 1952? I refer to persons who have enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces voluntarily, not to national service trainees who have entered that organization under the national service scheme.
– lt is obvious that I cannot give off-hand the information for which the honorable gentleman has asked. I shall be glad to supply him with accurate figures later.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question relating to restrictions on the admission to the Citizen Military Forces of young new Australians who volunteer for service, and whose country of origin is now behind the Iron Curtain. Is it correct that new Australians who come from Communist-dominated countries are not admitted to the Citizen Military Forces until they have been naturalized? If that is so, will the Minister examine the position and decide whether thatrestriction could be modified. I know of several young new Australians who are anxious to join the Citizen Military
Forces and who are moved, I believe, by the soundest feelings of service to their adopted country, who consider themselves under some kind of stigma because their applications for admission have been rejected. I realize the necessity for extreme caution in such cases, but I ask the Minister whether it would be possible to modify the restrictions relating to some military units to which new Australians from Communist-dominated countries could be admitted without undue risk until their background is known.
– The honorable gen tJ ema n himself was a gallant and distinguished member of the Royal Australian Navy, and I am sure that he realizes how important it is that nobody from a country behind the Iron Curtain should be admitted into any of our forces until such time as a security check ha? been carried out. It is not possible to have an immediate thorough check made of people who come from behind the Iron Curtain. However, if such new Aus.tralians remain enthusiastic about joining our military forces, and gain naturalization after the stipulated period in Australia, we shall be very happy to consider them for entry into the forces. I shall examine the other points raised in the honorable member’s question and see what I can do to meet them.
– Doubtless the Minister for Health is aware of the importance of cortisone in the treatment of arthritis. Is the supply of cortisone in Australia increasing? I refer particularly to supplies to repatriation hospitals? Recent reports suggest that the efficacy of this drug is very limited. Has the Minister any recent information about the veracity of those reports?
– Supplies of cortisone throughout the world are very small at the present time. We have been unable to obtain an increase of the quantity of the drug that has been allotted to us for experimental purposes. The beneficial effects of cortisone appear to be only temporary. On the cessation of the treatment, which it has not always been possible to continue owing to detrimental effects, patients have relapsed.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply been drawn to the statement made by the honorable member for St. George that expenditure in relation to the Long Range Weapons Establishment is excessive? The remarks of the honorable member for St. George having resulted in demands for a royal commission of inquiry, will the Minister either have such an inquiry instituted or else silence the honorable member for St. George?
– I read some allegation or other in a Melbourne newspaper. I do not suggest that the allegation was untrue merely because it appeared in a Melbourne newspaper rather than in a Sydney newspaper, but the fact is that it was untrue. I have visited the Long Range Weapons Establishment and keep a close watch upon its expenditure from time to time, and I am satisfied that the Australian taxpayer is receiving value for his money.
Air. WILSON.- Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council request the Minister for Trade and Customs to take such steps as may be necessary to prevent bottle necks from occurring in the granting of permits for essential imports for primary and secondary industry? I refer particularly to raw materials which, in many instances, cost little money but may delay the production of a whole industry.
– I know of no such bottle necks as those referred to by the honorable member, but if they exist I assure him that the answer to his question is in the affirmative.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Copies of the reports on “ religious cards “ and “ timber (snooks) “ are not yet available for circulation to honorable members. The Tariff Board, in the report on religious cards, has recommended that no change be made in the present tariff position. The implementation of the board’s recommendation on shooks necessitates the promulgation of an amending by-law. This action is being taken. Since the board submitted its report on rubber footwear there has been a falling off in the imports of those goods. The matter is being kept under constant review.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That leave bc given to bring in a bill for an net tn amend the Aluminium Industry Act 1944.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That thi’ bill he now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the Aluminium Industry Act 1944. Honorable members may remember that in 1941 the Menzies Government decided to establish an aluminium industry in Australia, its decision being, for the most part, founded upon defence considerations at that time. When that Government relinquished office its successor endorsed its decision, and in 1.944 the Aluminium Industry Act was passed by this Parliament. Its significant title was “ an act to approve and give effect to an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania with respect to the production for the purposes of defence of ingot aluminium and for other purposes “. That act was very short, and had as its schedule the agreement that I mentioned as being contained in its title.
The Government decided to establish the industry at Bell Bay at the mouth of the Tamar River in Tasmania, and consequent negotiations took place between the Government of Tasmania andthis Government. It was said at that time that the location of the industry was a desirable one because of the availability of cheap hydro-electric power, which is essential for the production of aluminium, and also because of the suitability of that site as a deep water port. An agreement was reached between the Australian Government and the Government of Tasmania under which the Government agreed to contribute £1,500,000, at that time it being estimated that £3,000,000 would be the sum necessary to erect the work? and bring aluminium ingot into production. The project was to be operated directly under the control of the Minister for Supply by a commission of four persons, two to be appointed by the Australian Government and two by the Government of Tasmania, with provision for certain deputy members. The Aluminium Industry Act 1944 having been passed, the project went ahead rather slowly.
Since I became Minister for Supply it lias been found that the original estimate of the amount necessary to complete the project was quite inadequate. That inadequacy has been due partly to underestimates in the first place, partly to the fact that a decision was made some time after the project was commenced to provide for an increased output from 10,000 tons to 13,000 tons of ingots a year, and partly to the rising cost of labour and material within Australia and from abroad. Not long ago the Government gave careful consideration to this matter in order to decide what should be done, and came to the conclusion that it was desirable in the defence interest of Australia, and also for other reasons, that the project should, be pushed ahead and completed as soon as possible, and that the necessary additional money should be provided. “When the works are in full production they should produce approximately 13,000 tons of ingot a year. As nearly all of our ingot is at present obtained from Canada, this will mean a dollar saving of something like 5,000,000 dollars a year. At the present time we consume between 10,000 and 15,000 tons a year. Consumption in Australia is bound to increase, as aluminium is a metal highly in demand as a substitute for copper, steel and other metals, and is also being used more and more in the building industry. To use a colloquialism, aluminium is a “ natural “ for increased Australian consumption.
The annual consumption of aluminium in the United States of America is approximately 15 lb. a head of population, whereas the present Australian consumption is slightly less than 3 lb. a head. All of these considerations persuade the Government that the rapid completion of the project is a work of national importance. The Government of Tasmania is unable to contribute half of the additional money required, it being established that another £4,250,000 would be necessary. The Premier of Tasmania has informed me that his Government is not in a position to make any additional financial contribution. For the reasons that I have given, the Australian Government has decided that it is necessary for it to find the whole of the moneys required, which is the reason for the introduction of this bill in the House to-day. Because of the new financial position, the Premier of Tasmania and I have agreed upon amendments of the original agreement and the original act. The essence of the matter is that the Commonwealth will provide an additional £4,250,000, as set out in clause 8 of the bill ; and that the representation on the commission will be varied, so that instead of there being four members, two appointed by this Government and two by the Tasmanian Government, Tasmania will appoint one member and the Commonwealth four, thus constituting a new commission of five member’s. We also agreed to abolish the positions of deputy members. It is considered that those positions are not of any great consequence. In addition, several other consequential and minor changes, designed to improve the bill and the agreement, have been freely agreed upon by the Premier of Tasmania and myself. As in the case of the original act, the Premier has undertaken to introduce corresponding legislation in the State Parliament at an early date.
I commend the bill to the House. I hope, as my advisers on the commission have informed me, that it will be possible to bring the project into production early in 1954, and that it will rise to its maximum, production of 13,000 tons a year by the end’ of that year. In commending the bill to the House, I submit that it should receive the approval of all honorable members because it concerns a work of great national importance.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt adjourned.
Debate resumed from Tuesday, the 6th May (vide page 45), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the following paper be printed: - Financial Statement by the Right Honorable Sir Arthur Fadden, K.C.M.G., M.P., Treasurer.
.- To the motion moved by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) last evening, I now move the following amendment on behalf of the Opposition : -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the financial statement presented by the Treasurer conclusively establishes that the Government’s financial and economic measures have had and are having disastrous effects and are still causing unnecessary hardship and avoidable suffering to the people of Australia, and that the Government possesses the confidence neither of the Parliament nor of the nation “.
The Treasurer’s statement last night purported to deal with the economic position of Australia to-day. He dealt among other things with wool prices, balance of payments, the possibilities of overseas borrowing, the recent conference of finance ministers in London, the effects of import restrictions, bank credit restrictions, capital issues control, public works and the meeting of the Loan Council last week.
– But the right honorable gentleman made no mention of primary production.
– He certainly did not do so, but he did have in his notes a paragraph headed “ Conclusion”. I am using charitable language when I say that the Treasurer dealt with all those matters as they affected our present tragic position. The truth is that he made a series of statements under the various headings but generally speaking he failed to deal with anything. He used the technique of half truth, evasion and suppression. I cannot reply fully in 45 minutes to remarks that the Treasurer made in 70 minutes. I shall deal with some of the matters and leave it to my leader and my colleagues to speak of others. I am indebted to the Treasurer for one statement that is contained in the very first sentence of his speech, when he said -
During the latter months of last year, the Government brought down a series of important measures culminating in the budget to deal with a serious economic situation that had developed during 1950-51.
In that sentence, the Treasurer accepted full responsibility on behalf of the Liberal party and its Australian Country party satellite for the awful inflation which is happening to-day. In his own words, he dates the serious economic crisis that is confronting Australia from some time in 1950-51, and that was more than twelve months after his Government had been returned to office.
– It was six months.
– By mid 1951, the end of the financial year, it was about eighteen months since the Menzies Government was elected to office. It must never be forgotten, and it cannot be repeated too often, that the Government did promise to put value back into the £1. It promised to abolish controls and to reduce taxation. It declared that there must be more hospitals, both centralized and decentralized, that supplies of milk, fruit and other fresh foods must be increased and that a campaign must be launched for this prevention of disease. It also said - and I quote from the printed copy of the Prime Minister’s policy speech which is decorated with his photogenic features -
We still believe that the rates of taxation must be steadily reduced.
– Order! If the honorable member’s amendment deals with the financial statement, he is drifting a little when he refers to the Prime Minister’s policy speech.
– The Treasurer has spoken about high rates of taxation, Mr. Speaker. I say that the Government promised to reduce taxation and therefore it deserves the censure of the House because it is falsifying its mandate and violating the trust that the people reposed in it. Possibly, Mr. Speaker, you will agree with that.
– Order ! The honorable member must not presume what my opinion may be, and I am not expressing any.
– The Government did say that it would attack the basic causes of under-production and excessive costs. It said that the Commonwealth must accept large obligations for assistance in the provision of war service homes and of houses for the people. It said that it would co-operate with the States and local-government authorities on the problem of training and providing domestic workers. It even went into the home to promise help to overworked housewives. It promised to train nurses and to put women in official capacities in the establishment of housing and similar schemes. In short, in 1949 the leaders of the present coalition Government promised figuratively the sun, moon and stars to the people of Australia and childishly hoped that it would never be asked to redeem its promises. The Government was so lavish with its promises, every one of which it has failed to keep, that it went on record as saying -
We will resist the return of oppressive Government controls of all kinds.
Not only has the Government failed to carry out its promises, but it has done precisely the reverse of most of the things that it promised to do.- Were there ever more oppressive government controls than those which are operating at present? Even in war-time the controls which now operate were not enforced with like severity. Were there ever such oppressive controls as those now imposed in banking credit, capital issues and the regular flow of goods from overseas? Was there ever a government which imposed more oppressive controls of all kinds than the present ill-fated friendless, helpless Menzies Government has done? It is now a fitting subject for ridicule by its political enemies and an object of derision and scorn of its erstwhile friends. The Treasurer knows that. He said to a meeting of his supporters in Stanthorpe, Queensland, that he knew that he was the most unpopular man in Australia. That is the prize understatement of the past half century. Not only is he unpopular; every member of his Government is unpopular, and deservedly so. The things that are happening in the way of inflation would have happened to a minor extent if the Labour party had remained in office. The Opposition was prepared to face the issues had it retained office as the Government, but this Government has intensified its difficulties by the blunders that it has made and the blunders that it could have avoided if only it had had sense enough to take counsel with the ordinary people of the com,munity and not with economic advisers who have led it astray.
It cannot be said with truth that the House enjoyed the Treasurer’s speech last night. It would be truer to say that the House suffered it and equally true to remark that none suffered it more than the Ministerial back benchers, whom it was intended to console and conciliate. The average Australian, no matter where he works or lives, will agree with the Opposition in describing the speech as a doleful apologia for the Government’s failure to put value back into the £1, to reduce taxation, give the people homes, float that £250,000,000 interest-free loan for the localgovernment authorities throughout Australia to enable them, to build roads and bridges, and for all the other failures of which this Government is guilty. The Treasurer did not mention any of the Government’s election promises. He mentioned nothing that he could possibly avoid and he avoided everything that would give the people a clear indication of what was really happening. This Government is the worst Government in the history of our federation. The Prime Minister makes speeches while the Treasurer makes mistakes. One man blusters and the other one blunders. Alongside the record of the Menzies-Fadden Government the performances of the notorious Bruce-Page Government seem respectable, and even statesmanlike. Honorable members may recall that a year or so ago I said that the great tragedy of this nation lay in the fact that the Treasurer held its destinies in the hollow of his head. Time has more than verified that observation, but unfortunately the right honorable gentleman is still Treasurer and Australia still suffers grievously in consequence. The
Prime Minister said recently -
We are prepared to be judged on our record.
It does not matter whether he is prepared to be so judged ; he will be. judged on his record whether he likes it or not. Indeed, he has already been so judged in byelections all over Australia. We are prepared to accept his proposition that he should be judged on his record. That suits the Labour party admirably and the sooner the Prime Minister precipitates an election to let the people judge his Government on its record, the better we shall be pleased and the sooner, too, will the country be put back on the road to prosperity. Nothing would suit the Labour party better than to have a general election right now.
– Last year the members of the Labour party dodged a double dissolution of the Parliament for as long as they could do so.
– Let us have another one. If it occurs the right honorable gentleman will thereafter be but a political memory.
– That, at least, is something; the honorable member for Melbourne will be forgotten.
– If the right honorable gentleman is remembered at all it will be for the mistakes he has made and the hardships he has caused to the Australian people - and no one should want to be held in obloquy by succeeding generations. The record of the Prime Minister and his Ministers is a bad one, not because they are not decent citizens but because they are incapable of governing. They are inept, incompetent, and incapable. As they failed on other occasions, and as they have failed repeatedly since 1949, so they will fail again and again until they are removed from office.
The record upon which the Government says it is prepared to be judged will be the same whenever an election is held. When honorable members opposite were sitting on this side of the House they said - I was about to say, they screamed - that we should reduce taxes as the only means of fighting inflation. We were reducing taxation all the time we were in office. Indeed, the remissions we made were so great that by the time we went out of office they amounted to £218,000,000 a year. Our last budget was for £567,000,000. The first budget of this ineffable Government was for £7S4,000,000, and the budget this year has reached the astronomical total of £1,041,000,000. During its two years of office this Government has increased the tax burden by almost 100 per cent. In the statement that was presented to the House by the Treasurer last night we were told that there is no hope of any mitigation of the severity of taxes during the next financial year. Indeed, there was a dark hint that taxes may even be higher than they are to-day. This country cannot afford such a burden of taxation. When the supporters of the present Government were in opposition they said th-at the best way to tackle inflation was to reduce taxes, but immediately after they had taken office they changed their policy and said that the best way to defeat inflation is to increase taxes. They were not right on both occasions. Many people voted for them in the expectation that their promises would be honoured. But what do we find now? The most disappointed people in Australia to-day are those who financed this Government into power. Those who feel most savage about honorable members opposite arc those who feel that they have been betrayed by them. I could attack this Government and be cheered for doing so in the most exclusive clubs of Sydney and Melbourne if only I could get into them. When travelling by aeroplane, and in city hotels which I sometimes visit - for a meal only - I meet captains of industry, members of the British Medical Association, professional men of ‘all sorts and wool-growers who use my shoulder as a wailing wall. They tell me their stories about this Government. In some instances they have shown me their tax assessments. One man from Wilcannia showed me his current tax assessment a few days ago. He had an income of £14,600.
– Poor fellow!
– He was not a poor fellow until the Commissioner of Taxation started to operate on him. He showed me a series of additions and subtractions that had been made by the Commissioner in hia assessment - the provisional tax, minus the previous year’s provisional tax, and so on.
– Introduced by the Chifley Government.
– No. His misfortunes dated from the date upon which this Government abolished the averaging system which had been introduced by the Bruce-Page Government, and the 40 per cent, depreciation allowance which had been introduced by the Chifley Government. When a taxpayer receives his assessment he has to meet it or make some provision for doing so. Out of an income of ?14,600 the roan to whom I have referred had to pay tax amounting to no less than ?14,500 !
– That is not true.
– He showed me the assessment. If any one doubts my statement I shall be prepared to obtain the assessment, and if you, Mr. Speaker, will permit me to do so, I shall exhibit it publicly in this House.
– I wish that the honorable member would do so.
– I hope to obtain it this week. I could obtain many other similar assessments. I could produce evidence to show that a taxpayer who was called upon to pay ?20,000 in tax had to sell at a loss ?7,000 worth of bonds in which he had invested some of his savings at 8? per cent. He lost ?700 on the deal because his bonds were depreciated by the Government’s failures.
This is the record for which the Prime Minister will have to answer before the bar of public opinion. This is the record upon which the extraordinary - I use the word “ extraordinary “ advisedly - and deservedly unpopular Menzies Government will be judged and eventually sentenced. What a record ! Let me try to put it to the House in a few words - ruinous and confiscatory taxation, unnecessary and indefensible bank credit restrictions, fantastic restrictions amounting to virtual prohibitions on imports involving forced wholesale repudiation of firm, orders-
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As I am leading in this debate for the Opposition, I am entitled to speak for 45 minutes.
– No. The honorable member has moved an amendment to a motion that a paper be printed. Last night, the Standing Orders were suspended to enable the Treasurer to make a statement without limitation of time, and he concluded by moving that the paper bcprinted. The Standing Orders provide that in debates not otherwise provided for. any member apart from the mover shall be permitted to speak for only twenty minutes. In this instance, the remedy is for the House to give the honorable member for Melbourne an extension, which will be limited to half the amount of his original time - that is to say, on extension of ten minutes - or, alternatively, to suspend the Standing Orders to permit him to continue his speech without limitation of time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) from continuing his speech without limitation of time.
– I wish to ask a question. Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member will be speaking to the motion.
– I merely wish to ask whether it is the intention of the Government to suspend the Standing Order? to enable only one honorable member to speak without limitation of time. The proper course would be to suspend th. Standing Orders in order to give a similar opportunity to every honorable member who wishes to participate in this debate. When the House is considering so important a matter as is the subject now under discussion, it is not proper for the Government to try to stifle discussion. I again ask whether the motion will enable only one honorable member to speak without limitation of time whilst other honorable members will be denied a similar opportunity.
– I wish to speak to the point of order.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not raise a point of order; he asked a question.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 92, which deals with time limits for debates and speeches, provides that in a debate upon a financial statement or tariff the Leader of the Opposition, or an honorable member deputed by him to speak first, shall be allowed 45 minutes and any other honorable member will be allowed 30 minutes. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that in giving your ruling you have relied upon the wrong Standing Order. You cited twenty minutes as the time allowed to a member in a debate not otherwise provided for and therefore ruled that the honorable member for Mc-1 bourne (Mr. Calwell) could speak for only that period whereas, in fact, the Standing Orders expressly provide time limits in respect of this debate as a debate on a financial statement.
– The honorable member is-correct to some degree; he quoted the Standing Orders correctly, but the provision he cited relates to debates that take place, not in the House, but in committee.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! The VicePresident of the Executive Council is now speaking to the motion, and as he moved it he i3 now closing the debate upon it.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that the Government is restricting this debate because it has not moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders to permit any honorable member who desires to participate in it to take as much time as he desires. The honorable member knows perfectly well that the Government has not laid down the Standing Orders, and that the Standing Orders are administered by you, Mr. Speaker, as the executive officer, not of the Government, but of the House. The Government is not responsible for the time limits for debates and speeches that are set out in the Standing Orders: that is entirely the responsibility of the House. So far from attempting in any way to restrict this debate. I have proposed the motion now before the House in an endeavour to help the Opposition. The effect of the motion will be to give to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is leading for the Opposition in this debate, not the normal extension of time for which the Standing Orders prescribe, but unlimited time so that he may express the Opposition’s view as fully as possible.
– Before putting the motion, I point out that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is correct in saying that I am the executive officer of the House and that it is my responsibility to administer the Standing Orders. In this instance, I must apply the time limits that are set out in Standing Order 92. However, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, himself, has just taken that responsibility out of my hands in order to provide for a special condition. The degree to which that condition shall apply is not a matter for the Chair; it is one entirely for the House to determine.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne will now have unlimited time.
– I should need unlimited time if I were to endeavour to traverse all the sins of commission and omission of the Government. However. I thank the House for its courtesy in giving me an extension of time and T shall not trespass on its generosity.
– Now say something worthwhile.
– For the benefit of the Vice-President of the Executive Council I shall summarize the Government’s record. It is a record of ruinous and confiscatory taxation; unnecessary and indefensible bank credit restrictions; fantastic restrictions, amounting to virtual prohibitions on imports involving forced wholesale repudiation of firm orders placed by reputable Australian importers in the United Kingdom; and capital issues controls that have no parallel anywhere else within the British Commonwealth. These are but some of the evils which the Menzies Government has inflicted upon the Australian people. When this Government next faces the electors, whether it bo in 1952, 1953 or 1954-1 have a pretty shrewd idea that the Government, particularly senior Ministers, will not want to have an election before the coronation - it will have nothing to show but a wrecked economy, an exhausted loan market, a vast adverse trade balance, a greatly depreciated currency and a lowering of Australia’s national prestige to something little better than that of a tenth-rate South American republic. There are many ghosts that now haunt, and will continue to haunt, the Menzies Government.
Through the medium, of the Treasurer’s statement, the Government has tried to explain away its failure to raise adequate loan moneys for the States. It is true that the Government has had great difficulty in trying to persuade the Australian people to subscribe to its loans. Its thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth security loans were failures. The Government has admitted that its thirteenth security loan fell short of full subscription by £8,000,000. Its fourteenth security loan was filled only because of the pressure that the Government brought to bear upon insurance companies and financial institutions to subscribe to that issue; and some of those subscribers are only now paying off their last instalments in respect of that loan. The Government’s fifteenth security loan failed not by £14,000,000 but by £20,000,000. The Government, put £6,000,000 into the loan, which really belongs to the wool-growers. I do not know who is going to repay that money to the wool-growers when they become entitled to receive payment two years hence. I do not know whether the bonds that will then have to be sold will be disposed of at a discount, as all Government bonds are selling to-day. and the wool-growers will be obliged to shoulder that cost, or whether the next Government will increase taxes upon the rest of the community to cover up the losses that will be suffered. The Treasurer said that he had budgeted for a surplus of £114,000,000 and added that that money was to be used to finance the States’ loans programmes. The loan programmes of the Commonwealth and the States are decided by the Loan Council. Last night, the Treasurer told us that the amount of money that the Commonwealth would have to contribute would be about £150,000,000 or £160,000,000. The difference between £114,000,000 and £150,000,000 will have to be found somehow. It will have to be obtained from surpluses; but if there are no surpluses, the Government will have to resort to the use of treasury-bills - the very practice that the right honorable gentleman has condemned. He said that it would be bad for a government to resort to treasury-bill finance. Yet we find that this Government has been addicted to that practice for a considerable time. The speech of the Treasurer last night reminded me of a man who, having gone to a temperance meeting, returns to his borne and proceeds to drink a bottle of whisky. This Government protests against the use of treasury-bills, yet the Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions. issued by the National Bank of Australia on the 10th April last - and I presume that from the point of view of the Government that journal would be perfectly reputable, responsible and unliable - contained the following pas.sage : -
Commonwealth treasury-bills outstanding at the end nf February were £254,300,000, an increase of £15,000,000 for the month. On June 20th, 1951, the total was only £81,000,000, so that the increase over the eight months was £173,000,000.
In other words, this Government discounted treasury-bills totalling £.173,000,000 in eight months. The journal continued -
This rapid expansion of central bank credit prevented a large fall in the volume of money. However, in the remaining four months of the financial year it is expected that the Government will show n, large surplus, and the volume of money may, therefore, be reduced somewhat.
If the Government does not complete the financial year with a large surplus, it will not be able to redeem that hi “fi increase of treasury-bills which the Commonwealth Bank holds against it to-day. When the State Premiers said that they required additional funds in order to .carry out their public works programmes, they -were told that the Commonwealth could not and would not resort to the method of treasury-bill finance. The Government may be right in adopting that attitude with the Premiers, but it is wrong in adopting that form of finance itself, and it is even more wrong in trying to pretend that it is not doing so. Labour governments under the leadership of the late Mr. John Curtin and the late Mr. J. B. Chifley never had any difficulty in filling loan£. Whether they were Liberty loans, Victory loans or Security loan3, every new loan that was floated by those governments was filled, and many of them were oversubscribed. Until the middle of 1051 all government loans floated at 3^ per cent, were successful. Then, through some mischance, or perhaps I should say some tragic happening, this Government decided to increase the interest rate to 3 1 per cent., and immediately all previous issues of bonds began to lose money on the stock exchanges of Australia. Worse than that, the small investors lost confidence in government bonds, and are not subscribing to them to-day. If honorable members opposite want to know the position of the bond market, they have only to look at to-day’s issue of the Melbourne Argus, the “ Fair Play” newspaper. It states that on the Melbourne stock exchange yesterday, 3$ per cent, bonds maturing in 1964 were selling at £Sf> 5s. ; 3i per cent, bonds maturing in 1965 at £89 16s. 3d.: 3.’f per cent, bonds maturing in 1960 at £91 2s. 6d. The bond market is weaker in Australia today than it has been at any time since the financial depression. The reason for that position is not that the country is bankrupt; it is only misgoverned. It is not that the people have not any money to invest, because the deposits in the savings banks are at an all-time high level. The money is there for investment if only confidence can be restored in government bonds. The Government destroyed confidence when it interfered with tha interest rate; and until it can guarantee that the interest rate will not be altered under pressure from its big financial friends, loans will continue to fail, and many people will suffer misfortune such as those who are obliged to sell their bonds on the stock exchange to-day are experiencing. Men and women who invested their money in government bonds expecting them to retain their face value, find that if they have to sell their bonds because of sickness, or if the bonds have to be sold for the purposes of paying probate duty, a sacrifice of £10 or £li on every £100 has to be suffered, otherwise the bonds are not saleable. That is evidence of complete lack of confidence on the part of the investing public.
If .honorable members opposite want further evidence of the Government’s standing with the financial institutions, they should examine stock exchange quotations in Australia every morning and afternoon, because they will find that the headings to the reports are generally as follows : - “ Stocks weaken “ ; “ Shares easier”; “More falls than rises”; “A moderate recovery “. But all the time the trend is downwards. The values of first-class industrials have fallen by hundreds of millions of pounds during the last twelve months. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, which are two of the strongest of all the companies, have suffered as the result of the jittery conditions on. the stock exchanges. Industrial share* are scarcely moving; there is no business activity. Confidence will not be restored to the stock exchanges of Australia until the committees of the exchanges hear that a general election is pending and that the return of a Labour government is imminent. The present Government needs to reassure its own supporters before it can make any converts from amongst the ranks of those who traditionally vote for the Australian Labour party. This Government has to defend itself against its own people who find that their idols have feet of clay, and that the great strong men who were to give them tax reductions, and reorganize and re-order the economy of Australia, have failed dismally and lamentably. This Government has nothing to offer the people of Australia except a record of failure; and so long as it continues to govern in spite of the people and in spite of their will as expressed in by-elections in West Leederville in Western Australia, Ithaca in Queensland, Gawler in South Australia. Port Melbourne in Victoria, and in the Commonwealth electorate of Lyne in New South Wales, it may still be the de facto Government, but it has long since ceased to be the de jure Government. This is not a government in the real sense of the term. It is a usurpation. In Jeffersonian language, a government must be based upon the consent of the governed. This Government cannot claim that it represents thu people. In fact, it admits that it has lost the confidence of the great majority of the people. All it now says is. “ Wait for two years until our measures have had effect; and, although we are unpopular now, we shall be very popular then. Give us two years in which to get over the wrath of the people “. We say that the Government should go to the country immediately. It should not send only the retiring senators as a sacrificial offering in April, 1958. The Government should not expect the senators to fight for it. Let it go out and fight for itself, because its record will lie fit stake and will be the election lest. The Government should defend itself, not by proxy but by the Treasurer facing the music in McPherson and the Prime “Minister in Kooyong. Once before in Australian political history the Prime Minister in an anti-Labour government lost bis scat. It may be that this Government, too, will lose many of its Ministers at the next general election. I believe that this Government will fail when it makes its next appeal to the people. It is a long step from Thomas Jefferson to Winston Churchill, but if I may express myself in Churchillian terms, “ Never before nave so few people done so much harm to so many in such a short space of time “. This Government must no longer remain superfluous on the political stage. It must be destroyed, and destroyed soon. The interests of this nation and the feelings of the people of Australia alike demand the election of a new Parliament, because, in the words of the amendment, the Government possesses the confidence neither of the Parliament nor of the nation.
– Many of us came here to-day thinking tl at the Opposition would be able, if it believed that there was something wrong with the policy of the Government and the financial principles announced by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) last night, to make a worthwhile contribution to this debate. But has any honorable member heard one word of constructive advice? Has any one heard a competent analysis of Australia’s pressing problems such as the balance of payments, and the inordinate demands for loan fundsmade by the State Premiers? Of course not. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has dragged this House into the gutter by his comic and foolish antics. Honorable members, including his o wn colleagues, almost laughed their heads off during his speech, showing clearly what they thought of his statements. The honorable member brought the debate to a deplorably low level, and. we on this side of the chamber at least, regret that very much. The Opposition’s amendment is supposed to be tantamount to a motion of want of confidence. I find no grounds whatever on which to base, any such claim. We have heard only vague generalities that mean nothing at all. The honorable member for Melbourne failed te offer one single solid argument that we could get our teeth into. He said nothing that would have enabled any honorable member on this side of the chamber to say, “ That is a pretty good argument, I shall attempt to refute it “. His remarks consisted of scurrilous, intemperate criticism. There is not justification for regarding the Opposition’s amendment as a motion of want of confidence.
The honorable member for Melbourne spoke first about taxation, which, of course, is rather a peculiar subject for the Opposition to deal with. He championed the cause of people who speculate on the stock exchanges, and to recipients of very large incomes of about £14,000 a year. I must confess that I do not know many such people. Consequently, I cannot go out of my way to protect them. However, I believe it desirable that I should make at least one correction. The honorable member for Melbourne spoke of tax increases, but what he failed to tell the House was that since Labour governed this country - and a very unfortunate government it was - the national income has risen from £1,900,000,000 to between £4,000,000,000 and £4,500,000,000. His argument on tax increases was completely unconvincing because he did not deal with the matter in its proper context.
The honorable member then dealt with the Government’s record of service. I have pleasure in presenting to him, in full view of honorable members, a copy of the statement issued by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a few days ago entitled, the “ Record of Government Achievement “. That statement sets out, in four or five pages, just what this Government has accomplished. Let the House compare the record of success disclosed in that document with the eight years of Labour mismanagement. The Government’s record in the fight against communism and in the improvement of relations between employers and employees, is something of which we on this side of the chamber are intensely proud. Our success in these fields is acknowledged not only by Government supporters, but also by the Australian Council of Trades Unions and by individuals such as Dr. Lloyd Ross, who formerly was a noted propagandist for the socialist-Communist party. If honorable members opposite read what Dr. Lloyd Ross and others have had to say, they will have to agree that the Government’s achievements have been meritorious.
We have a proud record also in connexion with national service training. As a Minister in charge of two service departments, I can say that the progress made in the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force in the last few years has been commendable. Slowly but surely both the Navy and the Air Force are reaching the stage at which they will be able to take the field on a war footing at a drop of the hat. Our defence vote is gradually creeping up, and we are putting this country in a state of war preparedness. I shall not go through the whole list of the Government’s accomplishments. It is on the record for every one to see, and is something of which the Government may well be proud.
I come now to bond rates, about which the honorable member for Melbourne had something to say, and I should like to stress the reasons why Commonwealth bonds are considered to be first-class securities. This is a matter on which there has been far too much misunderstanding. Every one who invests in Commonwealth bonds is given a guarantee that at the date fixed for the maturing of the loan he will get his money back in full. To that degree, Commonwealth bonds are gilt-edged securities. The investor does not. lose anything if he holds his bonds until the date of maturity. If he buys £100 worth of bonds when a loan is floated, he has a guarantee that on the date of maturity he. will receive £100 in Australian currency. Therefore, the fact that some rises or falls may take place in bond rates does not mean anything at all to those who have confidence in this country and are prepared to hold on. Secondly, every person who invests in bonds is guaranteed the contract rate of interest for the duration of the loan. From that point of view, too, there ‘ is no better investment than Commonwealth bonds. Investors in short-dated loans who arc able to purchase bonds at a discount are obtaining very valuable securities if they hold them, until maturity.
There is very little I can add to what the Treasurer said last night in his moderate and realistic speech. He bowled right on the wicket. His deliveries were not googlies; they were straight. He made neither promises nor threats. Unfortunately, amongst honorable members opposite there is a marked tendency to create an atmosphere of fear. They believe that only by destroying public confidence and convincing well intentioned people that their jobs are in danger, can they hope to regain the treasury bench. That is a scurrilous method of attack. I cannot remember tha exact words used by the honorable mem her for Melbourne, but I believe he did say that, in his opinion, Australia had fallen to the level of a tenth-rate South American power. If he believes that, let him go out into the electorate and take the responsibility for his statement. I am certain that the electors would reject him.
I shall deal with three of the main points that were raised by the honorable member for Melbourne. It is wise to state at the outset that the Government has a financial strategy which was set out in the course of the budget debate. We declared then that our strategy was, first, to control inflation, and, secondly, to increase production. That was a good broad plan. It still remains the basis of the Government’s activities. However, two unfortunate changes occurred this year to upset our plans. The first of these was the unexpected fall of the price of wool, which will reduce wool incomes from a total of about £640,000,000 last year to £300,000,000 or £310,000,000 this year. The second was a very drastic reduction of the volume of capital moneys coming to Australia. Last financial year, £146,000,000 of capital funds entered the country. The figure for the current year will be very much lower than that. As a result of those two factors alone, our spending power this year will be about £450,000,000 less than it was last year. Those developments have given to our problem a degree of urgency which requires that, within the framework of the general strategy that I have mentioned, the Government must change its financial tactics from, time to time. In fact, it is continually doing so by making adjustments that are deliberately designed to keep the economy on an even keel and maintain the country in a state of prosperity.
I come now to the subject of import controls. I lay emphasis upon the clear declaration that was made by the Treasurer last night of the Government’s belief in free men and free institutions. The Government does not believe in controls. It has resisted them in the past, and it will re-introduce them only under the pressure of economic compulsion. I take that as a starting point which distinguishes the Government and its supporters from honorable members opposite, who believe in controls, and, what is worse, in destruction. Everybody knows of their destructive activities in relation to the trading banks. When they were in power they embarked on a deliberate policy of destruction of those institutions, and only the protection afforded by section 92 of our Constitution prevented them from driving the banks out of existence. Thi3 Govern ment does not believe in controls. It did not expect or intend to introduce them, and it did not introduce the present controls until the last possible moment. When we realized a few months ago that imports were flowing rapidly into the country, we did not believe that the situation at that stage necessitated violent action because we had gone out of our way to encourage imports. For example, we had subsidized the importation of coal and prefabricated houses. It would have been extraordinary if, at the first sight of our objective, we had turned tail and adopted some other policy. Nobody can justly accuse the Government of having taken precipitate action. In fact, it waited until the trend became marked. The Treasurer pointed out last night that imports, the value of which had risen from about £S0,000,000 a month to £114,000,000 in January, had been reduced to the value of £86,000,000 last month. I believe, from my study of weekly returns, that the figure this month will fall to about £80,000,000. Thus, the Government first tried to encourage imports and then, when it realized that a tactical withdrawal was necessary, it withdrew a little. Its plan has been successful because the volume of imports is slowly decreasing.
I shall put a rhetorical question to the House. Who, other than members of the Opposition, is complaining about the Government’s action? ls it the trade union movement? I do not think so, because the trade union movement considered that there was some danger of unemployment, and because the restriction of imports must have a counteracting effect on any trend towards unemployment. I have not heard of one responsible trade union leader objecting to the Government’s policy. Does the manufacturer, who provides employment, object to the policy? Of course not! Manufacturers’ representatives in Canberra and elsewhere throughout Australia have applauded the policy from the house tops. They have described it as an act of genius and have said that it is inspired. Although members of the Opposition may not subscribe to that view, the fact is that the manufacturer has been, and still is, pleased. Do the importer and the wholesaler object to the Government’s policy? They will tell honorable members opposite that import controls have saved them from bankruptcy. The actions taken by the Commonwealth Bank, under directions from the Treasurer, have meant that many importers and wholesalers, instead of having to take goods that they could not sell, have now been given credits so that they can liquidate their stocks in an orderly fashion over a period of time and will be saved from bankruptcy. The controls were instituted at an appropriate time, and they have not been criticized by any substantial group in the community of which I am aware. The only objections that I have heard have been uttered by a few commercial groups and by the Opposition. It is strange to find honorable members opposite allied with commerce. As the Treasurer said last night, the controls are intended to be temporary and, if the present trend continues, they will be removed early in the new year or towards the close of this year. I repeat that they were introduced at an appropriate time and that they have saved large numbers of Australian industrialists and importers from bankruptcy.
The subject of unemployment has been mentioned frequently by members of the Opposition. The Government and its supporters, like honorable members opposite, believe in a policy of full employment. We believe in providing as many jobs as there are men and women able and willing to fill them. The Government had certain definite objectives in mind when it framed its antiinflationary policy. It knew that the economy was out of balance when it came to power. There were far too many people employed in the light industries and too few employed in the heavy basic industries, such as agriculture, coal, steel, power and transport. The Government deliberately adopted a policy that was designed to strengthen the basis of the Australian economy. Now it has almost established a state of balance between the number of jobs that are available and the number of people who are offering themselves for employment. The most delicate judgment is required at this stage to determine what must be done to maintain a state of equilibrium. The Government does not under-estimate the difficulty of the problem. It keeps a constant watch on employment figures and the trend of events in industry in order to ensure that compensatory action shall be taken, if necessary, to keep unemployment within limits. I assure the House that we expected there would be some disemployment in some industries and transfers of employees to other industries. We expected to encounter problems during this difficult period of transition. Because we encountered problems, were we expected to change our policy at a time when we were commencing to achieve the very objectives that we had set out to achieve? I do not want to moderate the difficulties or to give the impression that everything is perfect, and that there is no prospect of little pools of unemployment appearing here and there. I assure all of those who are interested in this problem that it is under constant consideration by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and under close surveillance by Cabinet itself. There is seldom a day when we do not give some consideration to the problem. The honorable member for Melbourne dealt with our policy in relation to the Loan Council.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I listened attentively to the speech delivered by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) in defence of the economic and financial policy of this Government. I was disappointed in it. The honorable gentleman attempted to hide the fact that he could not make a real defence of that policy. He did so by attacking the Opposition and accusing it of having been responsible for the creation of fear and uncertainty. It is obvious that the Minister has been sticking very closely to his desk and that he has failed to make contact with the people who speak the mind and thoughts of the average Australian man and woman. There is no need for the Opposition to create fear and uncertainty in the minds of the Australian people. They are there already, firmly implanted, not by the Opposition, but by the actions and lack of action of the Menzies Government during the last two years.
Throughout the country, working people are apprehensive of what the future will bring and are disgusted with what the present holds for them. They know that there was a day when they could go to their greengrocer, grocer or butcher, and, with a handful of silver, obtain their normal requirements. Today, because this Government has controlled the destiny of this country for a period of two years, they have to go to their shopping centres, not with shillings but literally with handfuls of £1 notes. Before a housewife leaves a butcher’s shop, one of her £1 notes has disappeared, another before she leaves her grocer’s shop, and another before she leaves her greengrocer’s shop. There is a feeling in the minds of the people that, before long, they will be confronted with a situation such as has obtained in European countries, in which they will be required to take their money to the shopping centres in go-carts and hand trucks in order to pay for the commodities they require. That is the position only two years after this Government took office and promised honorably, as the people thought, that it would increase the purchasing power of the £1. In those circumstances, there is no need, for the Opposition to create fear and uncertainty in the minds of the people.
A feeling of uncertainty exists in the minds of the primary producers of this country, who are responsible very largely, if not exclusively, for providing that portion of our national income which enables us to obtain our essential requirements from overseas. They are conscious that this Government, representative of their own political beliefs, has fooled, and, in effect, betrayed, them. There is no need for the Opposition to create fear and uncertainty in the minds of primary producers, because that has been done by this Government. Let me remind the House that last year, when the Australian Country party held a conference in Melbourne, Sir Arthur Fadden-
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) must not refer to the right honorable gentleman by name.
– Last year, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) attended a conference of the Australian Country party in Victoria and received a most hostile reception. “We did not plant in the. minds of the delegates to that conference the idea that they should give a hostile reception to the Treasurer who is mainly responsible for the economic and financial policy of this Government. The right honorable gentleman planted the idea there. This year, the Treasurer was not game to go to the Australian Country party conference in Victoria.
The right honorable gentleman, having decided not to attend the conference himself. sent a senior Minister, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). That gentleman was given a hostile reception, and was howled down. Much negotiation was required before he was able to make some, kind of decent exit from the conference. We all know that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is an expert at concocting resolutions. After many of the delegates to the conference had departed for their homes or had gone for a drink, some of his supporters negotiated the acceptance by the conference of a resolution of confidence of some kind. I travel through the country and meet my fellow farmers. Recently I met a Scotsman, who said to me, “ I tell you straight that I have voted Liberal all my life, but I shall never vote Liberal again’’. I asked, “What is biting you, Jack ? “ He said that it was taxation. T. asked him to tell me all about it, and he did. He. told me of the effect of the payment of provisional taxation by farmers with a taxable income in excess of £4.000 a year, in respect of which the Treasurer has abolished the averaging system.
In 1922 it was appreciated that the fluctuations of the incomes of primary producers were such as to make it essential that they should be given the advantage of an averaging system. That system, in. its application to primary producers, operated satisfactorily during a long period of years, including the critical war years. But this year the Treasurer decided that farmers with a taxable income in excess of £4,000 for the year 1950-51 should no longer enjoy the advantages of the system. What was the result? Let me cite as an illustration the case of a man who in 1946-47 earned, as many primary producers did, an income of £2,000. Let us assume that in a recent five-year period ended 1950-51 a wool-grower or other primary producer had an income of £2,000, £2,000, £3,000, £9,000 and £4,000 in successive years. His average annual income was thus £4,000, but because of the averaging system in its application to incomes of over £4,000 his provisional tax would have been paid at the rate applicable to an income of £9,000, whereas under the old averaging system he would have paid at the rate applicable to an income of £4,000.
– That illustration could not apply to 1950-51, which was the year of record wool prices.
– It does not matter if we take a five-year period ending at 1949-50.
– That is twisting.
– Never mind about twisting. My remarks are getting under the Treasurer’s skin, and lie knows it. The abolition of the averaging system in relation to primary producers’ incomes in excess of £4,000 strikes severely at that class of primary producer taxpayer. There is no need for me or my colleagues to implant in the mind of anybody any fear or uncertainty regarding the future, because the fear and uncertainty are already there. I told one farmer who discussed his tax problems with me that he might obtain a tax refund at some time in the future, and he answered, “ I am becoming an. old man and might be in a box before I receive any refund “. The Government’s financial policy has created fear and uncertainty in the mind3 of primary producers. The Treasurer has already done one unprecedented thing. He imposed a wool tax on wool-growers’ gross incomes, and took thereby from the woolgrowers, twelve months before their obligation to pay income tax on that year’s income, a sum of £100,000,000. He did not dare to repeat that experiment but, by abolishing the averaging system on primary producers’ incomes of more than £4,000, he raked off in the next year £47,000,000, as he forecast in his budget. I suppose that he will abandon that procedure next year. Such temporary expedients strike hard at a particular section of the community because it enjoyed some fortuitous and temporary prosperity. Fear and uncertainty are, indeed, striking into the hearts of such people. Only recently I met a number of people engaged in dairy production.
– More Scotsmen !
– What does it matter if they were Scotsmen? I do not care whether they are Scottish, Irish, or just plain stupid, like the honorable member.
– Order ! The honorable member will withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it. I asked those people how things were and they said that prices had never been better in the history of the industry. But they added that taxation on their incomes was such that they were milking fewer cows and taking life easier rather than earn more and lose it in payments of tax. This ‘ Government, which alleges that the Labour party is attempting to instil fear and uncertainty into the minds of the people, carries on a financial policy which itself arouses such fear and uncertainty. As I have said, and now stress, the Labour party has no need to stir up such reactions in the people, because they are already there. People come to us voluntarily and express their fears about the future. Anybody who travelled the length and breadth of the Lyne electorate, as I did during a recent by-election campaign, would have discovered that many people in that electorate regret that the Labour party is not in office, because they know that when it. was in office it did not do stupid things. They know that if it had to impose burdens on the people it always told them in advance why the burdens were being imposed. We were always honest about such matters. I know that honorable members opposite will claim that we did not take such a step in relation to the nationalization of banking. But everybody knew of the plank in the Labour party’s platform which imposed on us the obligation to nationalize banking if we possibly could. I have no apologies to make in respect of that matter.
Let us further examine this allegation that the Labour party is attempting to produce fear and uncertainty among the people. Australia has six sovereign States. By virtue of the loan agreement and the provisions of the Constitution the State Premiers and Treasurers periodically meet the Prime Minister and the Federal Treasurer in Canberra and, after discussion, a programme is either adopted or not adopted. Such a programme, when adopted, is sponsored by the respective State Premiers and Treasurers, after having been closely considered by them. After all, they are responsible men, and the programme that they decide upon is conditioned by what they consider to be the needs of their respective States. Can it justly be said that Australia is a bankrupt country? It is not, yet the Treasurer and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) claim that the amount of loan raisings that the States have requested is inordinately large and beyond the capacity of the loan market. The six State Premiers who at the last meeting of the Loan Council reached the, decision to raise £247,500,000 loan moneys, include a Premier of the same political faith as the Treasurer. I refer to Mr. McDonald, the Premier of Victoria. They also include Premiers of the same political faith as the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown). Yet, they unanimously lined up with Labour Premiers and pointed out to the Commonwealth that the amount of loans that the Commonwealth is prepared to support is too low for the needs of their growing and progressive States. The honorable member for McMillan may laugh, but who are more concerned with the lack of loan moneys than are the people of his own constituency, which is a rapidly developing area? Adjacent to his constituency are the great electricity works at Yallourn. When the Premier of Victoria complained of the lack of sufficient loan moneys, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who also is a Victorian and of the same political faith as the present Victorian Premier and as the Treasurer of this Government, said, according to a newspaper report -
The State Electricity Commission of Victoria had “hogged the lot . . .”
Hogged it ! He said, in effect, that it was beyond the capacity of a State Premier of his own political faith to apportion correctly the loan moneys provided last year to Victoria. What a reflection on the capacity of his own political associates! After nil, what a stupid thing to say !
– Order !
– I do not feel that there is anything wrong in using the word “ stupid “ in that context.
– Order! It is not a matter of the feelings of an honorable gentleman, but of the provisions of the Standing Orders.
– If objection is taken to the word “ stupid “, then I withdraw i t and shall substitute the word “ unwise ‘”. What an unwise thing to say about a great national undertaking which is a fundamental in meeting the power needs of industry, both primary and secondary!
– Nationalized industry!
– Let me remind the honorable member for McMillan that electricity production in Victoria was nationalized by the Lawson Conservative Government.
– I was referring to the gas industry.
– The honorable member should know all about that, because it is ail he is good for. The great electricity industry of Victoria is not only linked with the needs of primary and secondary industry, but is also linked with our defence needs. Yet the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has by implication criticized a Premier of his own political faith for allocating a certain proportion of loan moneys to a great power instrumentality. The Minister did so by claiming that the State Electricity Commission of Victoria had “ hogged “ the loan moneys. Does not the Minister believe in the expansion of electricity production The remedy for the fear and uncertainty that exists in the minds of the people is to give the people confidence in the ability of the country to expand such great undertakings, which are necessary not only for our development but also our defence.
Now .1. turn to the subject of production. Thu Minister for Commerce and Agriculture knows a good deal about that, lie would probably tell the House, as he lias told conferences and as I have told conferences, that the bodies responsible for production in Australia are very largely the State governments. Because of the influence of the Australian Government in the Loan Council, great undertakings such as soldier settlement in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland have been starved for loan money and this has had a terrific impact on our rate of production and export. The war has been over since 1945. A splendid Common wealth-State land settlement agreement was drawn up, I think, between the Curtin and. Chifley Governments and the State governments.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [ 4,46 . - One feels that honorable members of the Opposition have, been merely talking out time, because they have had nothing real to say. They have made no constructive approach to the problems that confront us. Their attitude has been characterized first by glee at the misfortunes nf the people - an almost indecent, satisfaction with anything that has gone wrong with anybody; and secondly, by a desire to contribute to the misfortunes of the people. We all remember the performance of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who, in the time of rising prices, urged people to spend and drive prices up further. Now he has urged the holders of securities to sell them in order to drive bond prices down and destroy the loan market. Here is a man who shows absolutely no sense of responsibility, who is anxious to gain political profit how and where he can and who will not approach the real problems that He in front of us with a sincere desire to contribute to their solution. There are problems, but if we can get Together and approach them, in a constructive way, we may be able to solve them. I have heard nothing constructive from the Opposition.
How did these difficulties arise? Let u.= be honest. They are mainly the product of two factors. Our financial difficulties are, first, the product of what has been called the “ suppressed inflation “ of war-time finance. The war was financed by an inflationary process. That was necessary. Let nobody complain about it. During the war, the results of that inflationary process were suppressed by a variety of controls and temporary expedients. Those controls were rapidly becoming, ineffective by the time that the war finished, but were quite rightly used as temporary expedients. Let nobody complain. But after the war there was no attempt in Australia, alone among timeo un tries of the free world, to try to liquidate this suppressed inflation. Thepresent Government came to office with the war-time pressures which had been quite justifiably engendered, unjustifiably unrelieved. Those pressures were evidenced, for example, in the existence of large blocked balances in the bankingsystem which were known as special deposits and which were held for the trading banks by the. Commonwealth Bank. The system of controls was then breaking down into the black market which characterized the later stages of the Chifley regime. The Government had to find a way of relieving these tensions. It was then faced with what I may call a second set of problems.
In the middle of 1950, Korea was attacked, and the free world realized that it was necessary to mobilize in its own defence against Soviet aggression. That led, through international fields, to a new wave of economic tension which hit this country before it had recovered from the period of suppressed inflation. America rode out that wave because it had liquidated its suppressed inflation. Between 1945 and 1949 the United States of America attended to those vital problems which we let drift during those years. These two factors, hitting Australia, at the same time, presented us with serious financial difficulties. In the face of these circumstances, the Government adopted a difficult and unpleasant antiinflation policy, which has been successful in mitigating, and perhaps even stopping, the rise in prices. The Government has taken action which was unpleasant but necessary. It has done that at a cost.
One may still be ill after taking medicine but may still be cured by it. Its first effects may be unpleasant, but the test of its efficacy is whether it cures or not.
In this kind of situation the Government is entitled to expect co-operation. Honorable members may assist with constructive criticism but not with the kind of destructive nonsense that we heard from the Opposition this afternoon. I ask the Opposition to put forward constructive ideas, not play on people’s fears or abuse the Government with empty phrases. I should like to address myself to some aspects of the meeting of the Loan Council which closed recently in circumstances which I think all honorable members will regret. That meeting has had a bad result. But it is not a result the badness of which can be laid at the door of the Australian Government. Difficulty was caused by the extravagant programmes that were produced and the fact that no constructive attempt was made to reduce those programmes to meet the capacity of the loan market. Consequently, the Loan Council has resolved to borrow an amount of money which the market seems unable to provide. Admittedly, certain developmental works should be carried out on a large scale, but the States were unwilling to co-operate with the Commonwealth in the adoption of a reasonable system of priorities. The adoption of such a system would not involve the abrogation of the rights of the sovereign States. The State Premiers should come together at the Loan Council in a spirit of co-operation, prepared to co-operate with each other and with the Australian Government. Such a spirit of co-operation was lacking at the last meeting of the Loan Council just as it seems to have been lacking in the Opposition this afternoon. The meeting of the Loan Council did not end well, but that was not the fault of the Commonwealth. However, can we not get, even there, some sign of constructive co-operation? I suggest that there may be justification for a big loan programme, but such a programme can be justified only if the essential works for which the loans are to he raised take their place in a proper order of priority so that they will be done in such an order that the resources and the capacity of Australia will be augmented. I believe that, given the co-operation of all our governments, a big loan programme is possible and desirable. Without co-operation, and in view of the spirit of disruption that was shown at the Loan Council meeting, no such programme is possible. On the basis of cooperation, and on that basis alone, we can go forward with a new and constructive approach to the loan market.
The remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne about this matter interested me because he touched upon the crux of our financial problem. If this Government is to be criticized for its financial policy, it is to be criticized for having adopted too much of the outmoded philosophy of the Labour party. I believe that there is justification for a higher bond interest rate. I believe that, not only because more money might be obtained from the market and the loan programme might be financed properly, but also for other economic reasons. It is necessary to increase real savings and to give the small investor a chance to invest and a chance of a real income as a result of his thrift. It is also necessary to discourage speculative investment - without controls if it can be done - and to reduce the outward pressure on overseas funds.
In advocating a higher bond interest rate, one must not advocate a constantlyrising rate. If the Treasurer is to keep on approaching the market rate without overtaking it, then all that will happen, is that the market rate will continue to be driven in front of the Treasurer. If a drover wants to turn a mob of sheep he does not walk up to them, because they will merely walk away from him. He goes through them aud then edges them backwards. I believe that the correct technique to be adopted on interest rates is analogous to the technique of driving sheep.
A real case can be made for raising the face yield of existing bonds. During the last depression we accepted an arbitral cut of 22-J- per cent, of interest rate? because money had risen in value and money incomes were worth more. Whatever might now be said about that action, surely the converse action is now justified. We must give justice to those who have in the past invested in bonds. In any such action expediency will run side by side with justice, because without such a measure to restore the capital value of bonds in the market we shall not succeed in stabilizing the market. We should take that action now. An increase, for instance, of 1 per cent, in interest rates will cost about £20,000,000. That is a large sum of money, but after all it will not be paid to big investors, because the overwhelming majority of government bonds are held by the Commonwealth Bank, the Treasury, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and insurance companies. Most of the bonds are in the hands of the Commonwealth, or of insurance companies, whose holdings are made up of hundreds of thousands of policies held by small investors.
Concurrently with increasing interest rates wc should give to buyers of new bonds the option of conversion at par into any new issue which may be made within the next two, three or four years, thus giving them a further guarantee against any rise of interest rates which might depreciate the capital value of their bonds. This measure is necessary to restore to the market the confidence that it has lost because of the higher interest rate of late government securities.
We should be prepared to use central bank credit for the support of the market because if we are prepared to use it we shall not have to use it. It is the feeling of doubt in the market in regard to our intentions which tends to send interest rates up and bond prices clown. A firm resolve to use central bank credit to support the market without inflation will make it unnecessary to resort to such a thing. Pin ally, we should make a special effort to re-establish the confidence of ordinary investors in the bond market. To-day, on current account with the trading banks alone there is about £1,000,000.000 as well as what is held on current account with the savings banks. If we could get the owners of those balances to take them out and put them into bonds it would be possible, without inflation, to release to the trading banks a corresponding amount from the special deposit accounts and restore the banking system to normalcy. I know that there are not so many technical advantages in that suggestion as might appear at first sight, but there are some, and there are very great psychological advantages. The existence of money in the trading banks, as represented by special deposits, does give us at this time an opportunity to re-establish bonds as a form of investment popular throughout the community and not confined to big financial institutions.
The worst feature of the bond market is that only the insurance companies, the banks and the Australian Government arp interested. Let us try to widen the market and let us say to the people, “ We need this programme of works and we shall give to you who invest fair terms “. The interest rates that I have suggested are only fair terms. During the depression we built up a patriotic feeling for voluntary conversion. Might we not now encourage a similar patriotic feeling for heavy investment in bonds? ‘ If we increase interest rates such a thing will become possible. For that reason, among others, I deplore the unconstructive approach of the Opposition, and I ask them to consider this matter as Australians and not as Labour party supporters trying to profit by making misery for their fellow Australians in order to seize political power at the next general election.
.- I was not aware that the Government admitted that there was a state of misery among the Australian people, to use the extravagant language of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Indeed, I do not think that it is true to say that there is a state of misery among the people at the present time. The honorable member for Mackellar has dealt with a very secondary feature of the Government’s policy, that is its inability to win the confidence of the investing public and to fill its loans. The honorable member has constantly used an expression to the effect that our loans are beyond the market, and has suggested certain interest rates. He has not related that to the fact that in Australia at the present time savings are at a very high level. It is simply untrue to say that the savings of the Australian community are inadequate to fill the. loans many times over. There is lack of confidence in government loans as a means of investment because of the constantly diminishing value of money. In 1949 -when this Government took office, the basic wage was £6 5s. a week. One hundred pounds invested in bonds at that time represented sixteen weeks’ basic wage. To-day, if an investor were sufficiently fortunate to obtain £100 face value for his investment, he would be paid back less than ten weeks of the basic wage. The investor no longer regards government loans as a good channel into which to put his money because he will be obliged to watch it deteriorate in purchasing power and value. He prefers to invest it in industry, where a rising level of profit might offset the falling value of money. There is no such thing in Australia to-day as a loan which is beyond the capacity of the loan market.
The Government has constantly asked that the Opposition be constructive during this debate. The most serious indictment of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and one which shows criminal negligence on his part - and I use. that term literally and not humorously - is the dissipation of our sterling balances overseas by means of frivolous expenditure. The Government cannot ask the Opposition to be constructive in this matter because our sterling balances have gone. The circumstances which led to their accumulation are unlikely to be repeated. Iti one way there is poetic justice in the fact that we have not obtained value for our money. Western Australia has received only one permanent asset from such expenditure. I refer to the South Fremantle power house. The remainder of the money has been expended on colossal importations of motor cars, leading to an even more colossal importation of petrol, which accounts for the expenditure of £100,000,000 a year.
Our sterling balances were referred to by the Treasurer in one paragraph during bis long ‘ statement last evening. Those sterling balances were accumulated, first, because of the incapacity of Great Britain to supply us with goods during the war and because of the fact that wo continued to send food to that country, ff we have lost them frivolously to that degree, we have contributed towards the costs of Great Britain during the war. Secondly, they were, accumulated because of a policy which the present Treasurer previously denounced. He now pleads for responsibility on the part of the Opposition, but he did not exhibit responsibility during the period when the sterling balances were being augmented. Because of butter rationing we then had a butter surplus to export to Great Britain. We diminished the drain on sterling by means of petrol rationing. Because of meat rationing we had a surplus of meat to export. Those were all unpopular measures, and the Treasurer, who now pleads for constructive criticism, at that time exploited every sign of dissatisfaction which existed because of the rationing policy of the Government, a policy which: after all, was based on elementary decency. It was based on the principle that the people of this country were sufficiently well fed and that other countries needed some of our foodstuffs. As it happened, such a policy of restraining Australian consumption helped to accumulate sterling balance? which, at the time that this Government assumed office, amounted to several hundred million pounds. For one more year the balances continued to accumulate because of the record prices being paid for Australian wool, and reached a total of £S43,000,000, after which they practically disappeared in the course of a year.
The Treasurer’s defence of that position is that this is a free-enterprise government, that it did not believe in interfering with the nature of imports coming into the country and laid no restraint on them. If the right honorable gentleman were consistent in his laissez-faire policy, that would be a completely honorable statement, much as I disagree with it. But it is a completely dishonorable statement in view of his defence of his own budget, in the course of which he attempted to justify enormous increases of sales tax on the ground that this Government would stop luxury expenditure and luxury production in Australia. If that is a sufficiently good argument to advance in favour of control of our internal economy, I suggest that it is an equally good argument to say that the Government should have restricted luxury imports and concentrated its import policy on essential imports.
In the course of the House of Commons debate on the Australian import restrictions, Mr. Thornycroft, the President of the Board of Trade, revealed that Australia took 36 per cent, of Great Britain’s export of textiles, 29 per cent, of its export of motor cars, and only 13 per cent, of its export of machinery. Are we asked to believe that no inroads could have been made in the remaining 87 per cent, of British machinery exports? Was it necessary to import a welter of 147,000 cars in one year and to snowball imports so that a colossal increase of petrol imports was necessary? The Treasurer asked for constructive criticism. I point out that the Government of which the right honorable gentleman is a member iibolished petrol rationing, which had been honorably and openly imposed by the Chifley Government. Yet, by means of great increases of the price of petrol the present Government is endeavouring to effect rationing of that commodity.
If it is in order for the right honorable gentleman to say that the imposition of sales tax on luxuries was a proper means of controlling the internal economy of Australia, surely it is also proper to say that no luxuries should have been imported? Yet, in the stores of every big Australian city it is possible to see magnificent English china, such as the English people know as for export only. There are unprecedented quantities of cutlery, electroplated teasets and kitchenware, and many other luxuries of that kind. Yet only 13 per cent, of all the machinery exported by Britain came to this country.
This Government was too impatient to wait for the recovery of British industry. T well remember the late leader of the Australian Labour party, Mr. Chifley, when asked by me why he was so adamant in his refusal to borrow from the United States of America, stating that he believed that all the capital equipment required by this country could be obtained within twelve months if the sterling balances were held and we waited for British recovery. That has undoubtedly been the experience of Argentina and one or two other countries. This Government has allowed our national savings in Great Britain to be expended on frivolities, whilst it has borrowed from the United States of America in order to import essential machinery. Had it been prepared to wait a year it would have been able to obtain a far greater quantity of essentials from Great Britain. Certainly the confidence” expressed by Mr. Chifley in the recovery of British secondary industries has been amply justified. Those industries have deluged us with goods in such volume that the Government is now endeavouring to prevent their entry.
The Treasurer indicted himself in the course of his speech. In the initial stages of his argument he stated that the Government had to allow all these, goods to come into the country as an antiinflationary measure. At a later stage, in attempting to shift the blame for inflation from this Government, he said that we imported inflation because the goods which came from overseas were so highly priced. If the goods which have come in are so very expensive, as he argues, and their importation has added to inflation, the import policy of the Government could not have had an anti-inflationary effect, as he endeavoured to argue earlier. The right honorable gentleman then informed us that the budget which was introduced by him last year had been responsible for great anti-inflationary effects. What are they?
When the Chifley Government was in office during the post-war years the basie wage rose from £4 17s. a week in 1945 to £6 5s. a week the day that Government fell. That is, it rose by 28s. in four years. During two and a half years of the regime of the present Government it has risen by almost £5 a week. Yet, every time that the basic wage is adjusted by 9s. or 10s. a week in order to meet the rising cost of living, we are asked to note the great anti-inflationary effects on the economy. The Treasurer made a -passing remark that the wool cheque this year has about been halved. If that is the position, the Treasurer should look to that as an explanation of those antiinflationary effects that he can see in the economy. The Treasurer has asked honorable members to believe that no responsible Treasurer can be popular in Australia to-day but he used every item of the policy of the late Mr. Chifley, when that gentleman was Treasurer, including petrol, butter, and meat rationing and every other item that he could exploit to make the Labour Government unpopular.
The Treasurer’s most pathetic passage of arms was his reference to the possibilities of foreign borrowing. ‘ The Treasurer has succeeded in raising a loan in the United States of America. One would hope to see a reversal of United States irade policy to make it appear that our loans can be effectively repaid, but everybody in this House knows that as long as the United States of America has the fantastically high tariff of 75 cents per lb. on wool, it will be extremely difficult for this country to sell to America the goods to pay the interest on American loans. Honorable members will recall the fantastic publicity that was given to a suggestion
I hat Switzerland offered a possible market, from which this country could borrow. What does the Treasurer expect? The investing classes of Australia have so little confidence in the Government that they will not invest in loans that it. sponsors, yet the Treasurer expects hardheaded people like the Swiss, the Belgians ti nd the Americans to invest in loans which a large section of the Australian investing classes have pronounced to be worthless. It is an impossible position for the Treasurer, but Australian Country party Treasurers show a constant tendency to borrow abroad. When the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was a disastrous Australian Country party Treasurer in the BrucePage Government, there was a colossal rim on foreign borrowing. Now the Australian Country party Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is repeating that performance. Nobody on the Government side can give an answer to the question why under the Chifley regime it wy? possible to dispense with such borrowing.
The Government has an obsession for finding ways to destroy the assets of the Australian community. It has finally and effectively destroyed Australia’s sterling holdings in London. In the course of the Treasurer’s speech he. said that one of the problems was that Australia must earn £150,000,000 sterling a year to pay for British shipping to carry imports to Australia. At the same time the Government is trying to dispose of the ships that it has. Instead of regarding that as a reason for building up an Australian mercantile fleet, the Government regards the disposal of its ships as a duty although Australia’s mercantile fleet is only oneseventh the size of Sweden’s and Sweden is not as maritime a nation as Australia. Contradicting its own naval policy which is to build up an escort fleet, the Government is making sure that there will be no merchant marine fleet to escort and Australia will have to pay for the transport of imports into the country. The Government has no excuse in terms of profit or loss for getting rid of Australian ships. 1 draw the attention of honorable members to the Government’s project to sell (lie ships Dulverton and Dorrigo to the Western Australian Government. Western Australia is entirely dependent on grants from the Australian Government. Why not make a straight out gift of the ships to Western Australia and admit that the transaction is an excuse to get rid of assets ?
The Government has a peculiar attitude to government-sponsored shipping. All those who faced the competition of Japan’s government-subsidized and government-sponsored shipping in prewar years, agreed that it was essential for the British Government, the Swedish Government and any other countries which were in competition with Japan to take action to buttress their fleets. The fact that Great Britain lost 4,775 merchant ships in the war and that Russia has a. submarine fleet twelve times larger than that of nazi Germany, surely indicates to the Government that the buttressing of shipping is part of defence. The policy of a fast escort navy is based on the assumption that there should be something to escort. If there is a war Russian action will be directed at merchant shipping. Russia, does not need submarines for defence. The building up of its submarine fleet is directed wholly and solely at the merchant marine of the United States of America and Great Britain. German technicians of the best type who were able to build the most modern submarines in the last sta eeR of the second world war were seized by Russia so that it could have the benefit of their experience and apply it against the enemies of Russia should there be a war.
The Government asked for constructive criticism. There is also a case for analysing the stewardship of the Government. The London sterling balance stood at £843,000,000, but surely the Treasurer has declared his unfitness to deal with future problems by his irresponsible record in dealing with that balance. It is no use talking about how the sterling balance total can be restored. The damage that has been done to it is permanent, final and criminal and the manner in which this country, from record savings in London, has failed to get the capital equipment that it so badly needs, stands as the most colossal failure that can be written against the name of any Treasurer in the history of the Australian Government. The Government’s budget is alleged to be antiinflationary. It is perfectly clear thai there is no anti-inflationary effect in the budget. In the past vear the Government has enjoyed a record revenue from customs duties. In pre-war years when the honorable member for Cowper borrowed abroad, he obtained three-quarters of his budget from customs revenues. When goods came into Australia as a result of borrowings, he taxed them. That is the rake’s progress elevated into a principle of finance. This Treasurer has done the same thing. In borrowing from abroad, he has gained revenue from customs duties which were imposed on goods which were brought into the country. But record customs revenue is inflationary. So. also, is a record return from sales tax.
– Order ! The honorable, member’s time has expired.
.- The amendment, which invites an expression of want of confidence in the Government implies that there should be a different government with a different financial and economic policy. Honorable members, however, have listened in vain for the Opposition to suggest any alternative financial and economic programme to deal with the present situation. For one moment, it looked as though the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr.
Beazley) was going to provide something because he said that the Government had asked the Opposition to be constructive. Judging from the look of astonishment that appeared on the faces of his colleagues they wondered what he intended to suggest, but that look soon faded for he never submitted constructive criticism of any kind. In his attempt to attack the Government the honorable member mentioned some aspects of Government policy with which lie disagreed, but in general his speech consisted of an oft-repeated tirade against the Government of the kind which has always tired his listeners. He referred to petrol rationing. Does he not know, as does every other honorable member of this House, and as do the people outside, that this Government was elected to office to abolish petrol rationing and that the abolition of that control was one of its first administrative actions? The honorable member also mentioned the subject of foreign borrowing. As a student of economics he well knows that at present we cannot make worthwhile borrowings from abroad. In present circumstances, it is idle for him to advocate foreign borrowing as a means of overcoming our difficulties.
– I did not do so.
– -The honorable member also referred to the Government’s shipbuilding programme. Apparently he is unaware of the fact that we now have more ships under construction in Commonwealth shipyards than has been the case at any time in the past. The Government’s shipbuilding record is one of which it may well be proud.
Opposition members interjecting.
– Order ! For twenty minutes the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was given an almost uninterrupted hearing. Since the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has been addressing the House, repeated interjections, some of them completely off the target, have come from honorable members on my left. I ask that the courtesy that was extended to the honorable member for Fremantle be also extended to the honorable member for Balaclava.
– Far from having neglected that important aspect of its functions the Government has done more to stimulate the Australian shipbuilding industry than any previous government lias done.
The honorable member for Fremantle also mentioned the subject of defence. I throw back into the teeth of the Opposition the unworthy remarks of its members on that subject. “What is their record in this matter? They have not even supported the national service scheme.
– I remind the honorable member that not long ago the people kicked a Liberal-Country party government out of office and put us into power to win the war.
– What excuse can Opposition members offer for their failure to support the national service scheme ? My question goes unanswered because they have none to offer.
This Government was also elected to office to fight the evil of inflation that had been steadily becoming worse during the regime of the Chifley Government which took no steps to cure it. The fact that on no fewer than two occasions honorable members opposite have been soundly defeated at the polls since the onset of inflation proves that the people believe that only a combined Liberal and Australian Country party government is able to solve this problem. Labour did not have the courage to attack it. This Government has been courageous enough to take measures which it knew would be unpopular and would hurt those whom it least desired to hurt. This Government is tackling the situation in a courageous way. It has introduced measures which are not pleasing to very many people, but the people realize that it is proceeding along right lines and they respect it for its courage. Let it not be forgotten that the policy embodied in these measures was fully supported by the late Labour leader, the right honorable J. B. Chifley. If, when they were in Government, honorable members opposite had had the courage to deal with this problem, and had they followed out the policy of their then leader, they would have taken the same measures as this Government is taking. They refused to follow the advice of their leader; they did nothing, and consequently inflation grew in magnitude as time went on. Not one Opposition member has submitted a constructive financial and economic policy as an alternative to that propounded by the Government. Indeed, Opposition members have gone so far as to deride the Government for having introduced controls which form part and parcel of their own policy, notwithstanding the fact that socialists generally believe in controls of all kinds. Their attitude demonstrates how hypocritical they are.
– Is the word “ hypocritical “ one of the words which- you, Mr. Speaker, have declared to be unparliamentary ?
– Is the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) objecting to something?
– Oh no, Mr. Speaker, the words of the honorable member do not, worry me.
– As the result of the measures taken by this Government inflation has lessened to quite a degree. The road back to economic stability is a long and a hard one, but the Government is making progress towards its goal. It i3 far too early yet for the Government to lift the controls that have been imposed by it. It would be guilty of failure of duty if it lifted too soon the credit restrictions which have been so roundly condemned by some unthinking people. The object of the Government’s credit restrictions is to prevent persons from using their. money to purchase unessential goods. The policy of the Government to concentrate on essential production has resulted in larger amounts of money being made available for essential production and lesser amounts for unessential production. In carrying out the policy of the Government the banks have expanded credit facilities in essential industries. That fact in itself indicates the wisdom of the directive of the Government in relation to credit restriction and expansion. As a result there has been increased production of basic materials, of coal, steel and essential products. The success of the Government’s economic policy is also shown by the fact that in recent months industrial disputes have been greatly lessened and as a result, employment has been more regular and production has been increased. By these means the Government is gradually checking inflation, and already we have reached a stage at which the cost of living is being stabilized. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) made a typical speech. He evoked laughter, but one could not be sure whether honorable members were laughing with him or at him. When dealing with the cost of living he conveniently forgot to mention that the last increase of the basic wage in Melbourne amounted to only 3s. He * did not mention that fact because it indicates that for the first time for many & long day our economy is becoming stabilized. Honorable members will not forget the occasion on which he said that after the next two adjustments of the basic wage had been made the Government would he ejected from office. Obviously, he and his colleagues wish to see prices continue to rise.
The imposition of import restrictions reflects another economic difficulty that has confronted this Government. Hitherto, the Government wisely encouraged imports in order that more goods would be made available in the community. The encouragement of imports on that basis constituted a proper anti-inflationary measure. However, towards the end of last year and during the first months of this year Great Britain lost certain of its overseas markets. Up to that time Australian merchants had been placing large orders for goods> knowing that in the circumstances which then existed there would not be much chance of the orders being filled completely. They believed that if they placed large orders they would have a better chance of obtaining at least a proportion of the goods that they sought. However, when Great Britain suddenly lost these markets all of the orders which Australian merchants anticipated would not be filled for some time were brought forward. The result was dumping of goods in this country. That development occurred practically overnight, and as soon as it became apparent the Govern- ment had no option but to restrict imports immediately. In that respect, the Government acted promptly and succeeded in stopping dumping. The Government is deserving of credit for that action. It is true that for the time being such a measure runs counter to the Government’s anti-inflationary policy because so long as the restrictions are retained the quantity of goods available to the community will be considerably less than that which has hitherto been available. The Government has undertaken to lift those restrictions as soon as it can safely do so. It took the only action that any responsible government, regardless of its party political affiliations, could have taken in the circumstances.
I turn now to the availability of loan moneys to the States. Government loans are raised in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Agreement Act under which the Loan Council has been set up to apportion such loans. I emphasize that under that act the Commonwealth is under no obligation whatsoever to supply money to the States. However, the State Premiers have deliberately adopted an attitude that would lead the average citizen to believe that it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to supply loan moneys to the States and that if it fails to do that it thereby frustrates the State governments. That idea is entirely erroneous. The Commonwealth has no obligation to supply loan moneys to the States. Many people ask why more government bonds are not being bought by the public. The answer to that question is simple. In a period of inflation - we still have not overcome inflation, although we are much further along the road than we were twelve months ago - government bonds are unattractive to the average investor. Until we are able to overcome inflation completely, government bonds will be regarded in that light by the average investor. The point I make is that the States have no claim upon the Commonwealth for loan moneys. Last year, the Commonwealth underwrote loans that were floated for State purposes and this year it has again undertaken to provide a very substantial sum to the States through loan raisings. But is was under no obligation to do this, and the money which it will have to find must come out of the pockets of the taxpayers, and as a result of the greed of the States, the Commonwealth has been unable to reduce taxes. The Commonwealth will have no chance of reducing taxes so long as the States continue to maintain their present avaricious attitude. Instead of fighting the Commonwealth in this matter, the States should join as partners with the Commonwealth in an endeavour to make loans as attractive as possible to the average investor. I repeat that under the Financial Agreement Act the Commonwealth simply arranges for the raising of loans. For that reason the public regards all loans as being Commonwealth loans, but, as I have already said, that idea is erroneous. The State governments by continually attacking the Commonwealth bring the so-called Commonwealth loans into disrepute and thereby only harm themselves. Until the States realize that for their own good they must co-operate with the Commonwealth in making these loans a success, the response from investors will continue to be unsatisfactory.
In conclusion, I revert to the point I made in my opening remarks, that the Labour party has no constructive policy. In support of that view, I refer honorable members to statements that were made by a gentleman in a journal, contributors to which are members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). That gentleman declared -
The Australian Labour party is without clear practical policies or direction Labour has sacrificed principles for political expediency.
Further, he wrote -
One could touch on a long list of important matters on which Labour seeks a policy and programme: inflation, food production, foreign affairs, development, health services, migration, patents, university and science policies, defence, decentralization, constitution amendments and many others.
– Who wrote that?
– It was written by a gentleman who once walked out, and who may again walk out - Dr. John Burton.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) said that Labour had no constructive policy. The honorable gentleman supports a government which during its brief period of office has practically destroyed one of Australia’s main industries and has thrown thousands of workers out of employment. Employers and employees, manufacturers and retailers and also importers have been confused by the Government’s policy for a considerable time. They have been confused by statements that have been made by various Government spokesmen, and by the fact that the Government has not taken effective steps to remedy the economic difficulties that confront the nation. Last year, Government supporters took credit, for the fact that imports into Australia were at a high level; and they claimed that that development was a part of the Government’s anti-inflationary policy. Until recently, the Government claimed that Australia must import goods as one of the counters to inflation. The result of that policy has been that many Australians have lost their jobs, and, consequently, their purchasing power. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said that the Government had deliberately embarked upon a policy of fostering imports. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) stated that the objective of the Government was to cause disemployment in the textile trade in order that many workers who had been engaged in that industry would seek employment in basic industries. The honorable member for Balaclava declared that the policy of the Government was to encourage imports, and was a proper anti-inflationary measure.
A few months ago, the Opposition directed the attention of the Government to the fact that ‘imported goods were flooding this country, but the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) was sceptical about our submissions. I had stated that textiles to the value of £120,000,000 were being imported annually, with the result that our overseas balances were being dissipated, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council commented that my figures were not accurate, and that our overseas funds had never been in a more healthy condition than they were at the time. He added that the level of our overseas balances was higher at that stage than they had been when the present Government assumed office. Three days after that assurance was given, the Prime Minister dramatically announced that the Government, in order to protect our national solvency, was obliged to restrict the flow of imports. Reckless, arrogant and extravagant statements by persons in responsible public positions caused widespread confusion and perplexity.
Did the drain on our overseas funds occur overnight? Was it like a blizzard or storm that descended upon us without warning, so that the Vice-President of the Executive Council was unaware of the position one clay, and three days later the Prime Minister was compelled to announce the restriction of imports? Not at all ! The dissipation of our overseas balances was a relatively slow process that developed, not in a week or a month, but over the period of two years during which this Government has been in office. I emphasize that the honorable member for Balaclava, the honorable member for Henty and the Minister for the Navy declared that the Government had embarked upon a deliberate policy of fostering imports in order to reduce the cost of living in this country, and, generally, to attack the problem of inflation. But the flood of imports reached unprecedented heights, so that the Government was compelled to heed the warning that had been given by the Labour party some time previously. In other words, the Government had to restrict the flow of imports, which was destroying our industries and causing Australian workers to bc relegated to the industrial scrap heap. Then the Government said, in effect, “Behold! How were we to know that goods would enter Australia in such unprecedented quantities? We are absolutely blameless”.
That is the story of the past. It is the future that now matters. Manufacturers, retailers, importers and employees, ask the Government to define its policy for the future. They demand the formulation of a settled policy in place of frequent changes of policy. They want to know how long the import restrictions will be continued. The Government may reply that the restrictions will be retained until such time as our overseas balances have been rehabilitated. Such an answer will not be satisfactory to the Opposition. I fear that the Government will restrict imports until our overseas balances have been restored, and will then allow a flood of imports into Australia so that the position will become worse than it is to-day. Goods from the cheap labour markets of the. world will inevitably flood this country if import restrictions, primage duties, and similar measures are not imposed.
It is all very well to claim that the policy of this Government is to refer the protection of Australian industries to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. Such an inquiry extends over at least two years. One inquiry was completed in the record time of eighteen months. While the Tariff Board is conducting its investigation, imported goods may flood the country. Trading circles are uncertain and uneasy. Australian manufacturers are unwilling to produce, and retailers will not lodge orders with them, even though the flow of imports is restricted, because almost from day to day a Minister declares that restrictions may be lifted at any moment. The retailer reasons thus - “If the import restrictions are lifted at any moment and I have placed an order with an Australian manufacturer, my competitor down the street will purchase imported goods which are cheaper than the Australian goods, and my business will be destroyed”.
Retailers and manufacturers are uneasy. Importers are concerned at the action of the Government. They do not know from day to day when the import restrictions will be removed. Some of them, believing that the Government will eventually revert to some kind of free trade, say, “ We shall bring pressure, to bear on the Government to permit us to import from Great Britain and other countries the goods that were flooding the Australian market prior to the imposition of the restrictions “. That, of course is most undesirable in any community. There is perplexity, uneasiness and uncertainty in the business world of this country to-day. We have been invited by the Government to be constructive. I shall attempt to be constructive. I believe that in relation to goods which are being, or could be, adequately and efficiently manufactured in this country, the Government should have placed an embargo ou importations for a specific period, say two years, so that representatives of the industries concerned would have an opportunity to make representations to the Tariff Board for proper permanent protection. Many Australian industries to-day do not enjoy adequate protection because production costs in this country have increased more rapidly than they have overseas. I read in a Melbourne newspaper recently that a representative of the Government of Pakistan had claimed that it was incorrect to say that textile workers in that country received only one penny a week. He said that they were paid £2 a month, plus £4 a month cost of living allowance. Textile employees in Japan receive about £4 a month and they work a 60-hour week. Weekly hours of work in Pakistan are longer than in Australia. That is the competition with which Australia is faced. In the last few years in this country, not only have the workers been given the benefit of a 46-hour week, but also their wages have been increased out of ali proportion to increases in other countries, Asiatic or European. I believe that Australian manufacturers should be given an adequate opportunity to put their case for protection to the Tariff Board. They can only do that if the Government places an embargo on the importation of certain goods for a specific period, which I consider should be not shorter than two years.
Unlike members of the Australian Country party, I believe that no country can be great unless it develops its secondary industries and so makes possible an improvement of living standards. Secondary industries can be expanded only behind a tariff barrier. The interests of the consuming public, too, have to be protected, but we must resist any attempt to shackle Australia permanently with a primary producing economy, and to condemn Australians to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for the people of other countries. If Australia is to be made capable of maintaining an increasing population in time of peace, and to defend itself in time of war, it must have both heavy and light secondary industries. It needs a strong textile industry capable of clothing not only members of the armed forces, but also civilians, should the importation of textiles from overseas become impossible. We need secondary industries of all kinds and not merely of the kind that the Government has practically destroyed during the last couple of years. For instance, in 1933-31) 200,000 pa irs of boots were imported into this country, compared with 2,000,000 last year. In the same year, importations of rope and cordage were valued at £163,000 compared with about £800,000 during the current financial year.
In the interests of this nation, the Government should end the perplexity and confusion that exists throughout the manufacturing and business community at present. Growing unemployment, due mainly to the importation of textiles, will be stemmed in some measure by the import restrictions but eventually the restricted importation of raw materials will lead to further unemployment. I repeat that a two-year embargo should be placed upon the importation of goods that can be efficiently manufactured in this country and are essential to the stabilization of our economy.
– Which side is the honorable member on?
– I am definitely on the side of those who favour the development of secondary industries in this country and I say emphatically that the Government has struck savage blows at some of those industries. I believe in the promotion of primary industries, but I do not believe that people can live by bread alone. They also need clothing, shelter, bicycles and motor cars.
Sibling suspended from Q.k to 8 p.m.
– It seems a very short time since I found myself speaking in this chamber in a debate on a motion of censure submitted by the Opposition in which, expecting to hear criticism of the Government’s financial policies, we found that the whole purpose of the Labour party’s attack on the Government was to condemn it for having permitted too much to be imported. The debate developed, in fact, into a discussion of textile imports. Now, within a few months, the same honorable gentlemen have the effrontery to attack the Government for not allowing enough to be imported. Cannot these honorable gentlemen make up their minds? Have they no policy, or do they regard their task in this Parliament as a mere catch as catch can business of sniping, involving no obligation to offer constructive suggestions for the economic benefit of the nation? At one moment they say that taxes arc too high, but at the next moment they complain that expenditure is too low. Surely we are entitled to expect some sense of responsibility in Her Majesty’s Opposition. Surely the country is entitled to expect the potential alternative Government to have some economic policy. Unfortunately, up to the present, we have had no evidence that Labour, in Opposition, has any economic policy or. in fact, any political policy other than that of sniping at the Government.
There are great problems to-day and I should be the last to claim that any government could handle them to perfection. Most of these problems are not of the making of this Government. Many of them would not be controllable by any government, but there are some to which previous policies have contributed. Consider the balance of payments problem, which has given rise to the necessity for import Controls. It has developed, not because we have been importing too much, but because we have been exporting too little.
– What has the Government done about that?
– How has this situation come about? That is the question. Tt has come about basically as a result of concentration upon secondary industry by the Labour party during eight years of office. The Labour Administration concentrated its attention, on policies that were certain to depress primary export industries. We are still in the final stages of a Labour programme in respect of the dairying industry which was designed to pay the dairy-farmers on the basis of a 56-hour week! We are still in the final stages of a Labour programme in respect of the wheat industry- which has a history of low prices and ministerial control calculated to inspire uncertainty in the minds of wheat-growers, a programme which, on its initial arithmetic, as I have demonstrated in this House, produced the amazing result that price - fell in bad seasons when the volume of the crop was low. Under the Labour party’s formula, the price of wheat still rises in bounteous seasons and falls in times of drought and adversity. Bless my soul, could anything else be more certainly designed to produce an economic crisis in relation to the balance of payments!
Wherever we turn we see the same sorry picture. I have had occasion before to refer to the fact that the. Labour Government pegged the price of hides at the 1939 level. That restriction still applies. The result is that, although tens of thousands of cattle are dying in northern Australia, it is not worth while for the owners to skin the dead beasts. This involves a severe loss of leather and of export income. The same situation applies in respect of tallow. The price of tallow was pegged by the Labour Administration in the interests of consumers in a way that revealed a stupid, unreasoning lack of knowledge of primary industry. The price was pegged at such a low level that, on a thousand stations and farms, producers have not found it worth their while to save tallow. The cumulative effect of all this mismanagement by Labour was bound to involve a balance of payments problem. What happened about eggs? In an inflationary world, the Labour Administration concluded a contract for five years under which the price could not be increased in any one year by more than 1 per cent. Similar mistakes were made in contracts for the sale of our butter and cheese and also, for a period, in contracts for the sale of certain meats. In an inflationary world, Labour agreed to sell our beef at a pegged price for two years when it was inevitable that, as each year went by, higher prices would bc needed. Labour also contracted to sell dried fruits at a pegged price for two years when it was certain that whatever might be an adequate price in one year would be inadequate in the following j ear. Mess and muddle in respect of every primary industry! That is the record of Labour. Yet honorable members opposite have the effrontery to attempt to lay the blame for all this confusion at the feet of the present Government.
Perhaps the most classic example of Labour muddling, incompetence aud ineptitude is to be found in that State which is the oldest, most populous and richest State of the federation, the State that has been under Labour rule for over ten years. I refer to New South Wales. It has been said that, unless the decline of our food production is arrested, Australia will have to import food. Bless my soul. New South Wales has been importing food ever since it has had a Labour administration! Potatoes have been imported . from New Zealand and onions have been imported from Japan, Egypt, Lebanon, or wherever else they could be bought. Butter would be imported from New Zealand if New Zealand could be persuaded to sell butter to Sydney. The record of the. New South Wales Labour Government of dependence on its neighbouring States and foreign countries for the supply of foodstuffs is almost incredible. This vast and fertile State regularly imports 300,000 head of cattle a year. That is the net total after allowing for some exports to Victoria. New South Wales normally imports 15.000 tons of butter a year. Yet the Government of that State attempted for months last year to prevent any increase of the return to dairy-farmers for their butter. New South Wales also normally imports between 8,000 and 10,000 tons of cheese and 89,000 tons of potatoes annually. Of a total Australian crop of 35,000 tons of onions in a recent year, New South Wales produced 500 tons. This year, the Minister for Agriculture in this, the greatest wheat-growing State in Australia, not only wants adjacent States to supply it with 8,000,000 bushels of wheat, but also wants somebody else - the wheat-growers or the Australian Government - to pay the freight on that wheat. Summed up, the sorry record of the Labour Government of New South Wales in relation to a mere handful of basic foodstuffs - butter, cheese, beef, potatoes, onions and wheat - is that this year it will import, in terms of Australiancurrency, £8 16s. worth of those commodities per capita, whereas the United Kingdom, the greatest foodimporting country in the world, last year, in terms of the same currency, imported £8 18s. worth of the same commodities per capita. This Labour-governed State is as dependent on the importation of these foodstuffs as is the United Kingdom. Yet the Labour party in this House has the effrontery to suggest that it is capable of reestablishing economic stability in Australia. What utter nonsense! It is no wonder that in the debate that has proceeded so far there has been a signal avoidance by Labour speakers of the subject of dealing with the fundamental problem that confronts us, which is to increase our export earnings. The record of the Labour party in office in the Commonwealth Parliament and in State parliaments is a lamentable one of nothing but mess and muddle.
In opposition, the members of the Labour party attempt to shake the confidence of the people in the Government that is in office, and devote their attention to attempting to inspire distrust and to misleading the people, particularly the primary producers, about taxation. Either they do not know the facts of taxation, or they are recklessly attempting to mislead the Australian primary producers. The truth is that income tax rates to-day are very much lower than they were in the closing stages of the war. We had high production then, but now Labour speakers constantly urge that taxation rates are so high that they represent a disincentive to produce. Let me quote some figures relative to income tax. To-day, a taxpayer without dependants and with a taxable annual income of £500, pays £39 9s. a year income tax. Under Labour rule, six or seven years ago, the man who now pays £39 9s. a year paid £136 a year on the same income. A man with a taxable annual income of £1,000 who to-day pays £148 10s. in income tax, six or seven years ago, under a Labour government, paid £355 a year. A man with an annual taxable income of £2,000 a year who to-day pays £515 a year in income tax, under Labour rule six or seven years ago paid £951 a year. A man who to-day pays £2,297 a year income tax on an annual taxable income of £5,000 a year, six or seven years ago, under Labour rule, paid £3,530. Those are the facts of the rates of income tax, about which Labour speakers have attempted recklessly to mislead the people.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) accused this Government of having abolished the averaging system in respect of primary producers. Labour leaders would be doing their duty if they told the primary producers, upon whom we are dependent, that S7 per cent, of the tax-paying primary producers in Australia are now as much in the averaging system as ever they were, and that 8 per cent, of them may avail themselves of that system in respect of the first £4,000 of their annual taxable income and are outside of it only in respect of that portion of their income which exceeds the net figure of £4,000. But Labour does not direct its attention to those people. Labour speakers indulge in sob-stuff and pity for the remaining 5 per cent, of the primary producers in the higher income groups. “We used to hear Labour speakers in this chamber talk about the man on the basic wage, but today the honorable member for Melbourne devoted his time to talking about the pitiful circumstances of the poor fellow with a taxable income of £14,000 a year! It seems to be the purpose of Labour to represent, not the employee but the capitalist. The poor fellow with a taxable income of £14,000 a year is being taxed highly. If he be a wool-grower, why should he not be taxed highly? He is being taxed on a price for wool that became high because of the development of international tension. The two things were directly related. The high taxes that such a man is paying are directly related to the fact that in this country expenditure upon defence suddenly swept upwards from a rate of £40,000,000 a year to a current rate of more than £180,000,000 a year. I admit that a man with an income of £14,000 a year, who has so much at stake in this country, is taxed fairly highly. That is quite appropriate in the circumstances.
There is a reckless willingness on the part of the Labour party to mislead in respect of provisional taxation, which is the real problem. The problem that confronts the primary producers to-day is not the rates of tax or the effect of modifications of the averaging system, but the payment of provisional tax. It has become almost an unbearable problem for many of them. Labour leaders have not refrained from giving the impression that this Government introduced provisional taxation as it is, and is responsible for the present state of affairs that bears so onerously upon many primary producers. Let me tell the taxpayers of this country that not a comma of the law in respect of provisional taxation has been altered since it was introduced in 1944 by a Labour government. Provisional taxation was not noticed by the taxpayers of this country until violent fluctuations of wool-growers’ incomes occurred.
The present position should have been foreseen by the Labour party, but it was not. It remained for this Government to rectify the position, first by administrative steps and now by an announcement that it will alter the law in such a way as to avoid a repetition of this year’s debacle for primary producers with fluctuating incomes. This Government will take steps to alter the law in such a manner as to avoid a repetition of the present position, but it will not abolish provisional taxation because some of the elements of it are very good indeed. Only since the introduction of provisional taxation have taxpayers been up to date every year in respect of their tax obligations. It would be a retrograde step to revert to the position that used to obtain when, if a taxpayer died, retired, fell ill or was unable to continue his business, he was at that time a year in arrears with his taxes. To-day, under provisional taxation, taxpayers are at all times abreast of their tax liability. This Government will maintain that position, but will remove the damaging effects of provisional taxation.
The Government will proceed with its economic policies, which are designed to establish economic stability in this country, to protect Australia against damaging inflation, to prevent a runaway increase of the cost of living that would have occurred if we had not taken the economic steps that we have taken, and to protect production costs in this country so that we shall not drift into the position of not being able to sell our exports overseas in competition with other countries - a state of affairs that would be utterly disastrous for us. We must have the capacity to compete in overseas markets. That will be achieved by internal action and, more than anything else, by the planned stimulation of our export business. W e propose to make it good business for men to grow wheat, and to produce butter, meat and the other foodstuffs that we need to export. We shall achieve our objective, not by pleading and appealing to people but by establishing an attractive business foundation. We have targets that are designed to produce, with the co-operation of the States, and, on the present level of values, an increase of our export income by £100,000,000 a year within five years. That is the planned way of solving our problem. By stimulating the production of tobacco, cotton and linseed, instead of expending good money in importing these commodities we shall save £9,000,000 and a good many dollars each year. Those are the things that we shall do, and we shall do them by flexible fiscal policies and not by means of the arbitrary controls that are the cherished methods of the socialists in this Parliament.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- It is rather interesting to note that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) devoted more than half of his speaking time in this debate to a criticism of the Labour Government of New South Wales. That was a cunning device to direct the discussion into other channels. However, it is noteworthy that the Minister had little to say in defence of the Government of which he is a member. The real issue in any censure motion directed against any government is how its policy affects the livelihood of the people. To-day, the Australian people, not only those employed in industry, but also members of the business community and manufacturers, are wondering what the future holds for them. They are complaining about the indecision and vacillation of the Government. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that he wanted to know what policy the Labour party would pursue to meet the country’s immediate difficulties. The fact is that the Government is in control of policy at the moment. We are examining its policy, or perhaps I should say its lack of policy, because it changes its policy from day to day. During the lastgeneral election campaign, and since then, when certain legislation wa3 before Parliament, we were told that all the difficulties of the country arose from one quarter - the activities of Communists in Australia. It is of interest that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), during a speech that lasted 70 minutes last night, did not say one word about the activities of the Communist party or about communism being responsible for our difficulties. He spoke about unforeseen difficulties for which, he said, the Government was not responsible. But the Government cannot deny that the policy that it is now pursuing is not that upon which it was elected to office, either in 1949 or in 3951. During the election campaigns in those years Government supporters said that they proposed to deal with inflation, and that their first step in doing so would be to deal with the Communists. Thereafter, they said, they would increase production. Despite anything that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has said in regard to the shortcomings of preceding Labour governments, the facts are that the present Government has been in control of the country’s affairs since 1949, that production in the important primary industries is rapidly declining and that the Government has not been able to correct the position.
Government supporters also said that one of their steps to deal with the inflationary spiral would be to encourage imports. When members of the Labour party directed attention to our rapidly diminishing overseas funds the Government was not a bit disturbed. Its members said, “ That is a part of our policy. We want an influx of imported goods to make up shortages so that prices will become stable and we shall be able to check inflation “. When our overseas funds had drained away to a dangerous level the Government suddenly imposed a policy of restriction of imports, to which I shall make more reference later. The Australian Country party, of which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is a member, is represented on the rural policy committee of this Liberal-Country party Government. Mr. Anderson, the federal president of the Liberal party, is advocating a dearer food policy. How can the Government arrest inflation if one of its methods of stimulating primary production is to allow primary producers to obtain for primary products sold in Australia the full price that they could obtain for the same products if they were sold on the overseas markets? The application of such a procedure would mean that the basic wage would increase enormously. It would mean that the price of primary products would be fixed not on the basis of a reasonable return for the producers, but would be determined by the amount that the primary producers could obtain for the same produce on overseas markets, taking advantage of the international tension to which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has referred and also taking advantage of the need of our British kinsfolk, whom members of the Government claim they are so anxious to assist.
Then we find the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) has a solution for our problems. Indeed, every member of the Government has his own ideas about how our difficulties should be overcome. The right honorable gentleman has had a brainwave and has said, “ Let the workers work five hours more a week without pay”. He did not say who was to benefit from the added production that would come from that free contribution by the workers of five hours more work a week. He merely said that to overcome our difficulties the workers should work those extra five hours free of cost to the employers. Let us examine for a moment the attitude of the Government to State public works. It is interesting to note that the Government, which says that its policy is to direct labour from non-essential to essential industry, has imposed credit restrictions, and has adopted a policy of restriction of the availability of moneys for State public works. Time after time the Treasurer, when criticized in this chamber for the paucity of the amount of money made available to the States for public works, has said that the Australian Government was not responsible for the position because the State Premiers, as members of the Loan Council, determined the amount of the loan allocation; and, he has added, “ I, as chairman of the Loan Council, merely carry out their directions “. At the last meeting of the Loan Council early this month, when the State Premiers, both Labour and anti-Labour, believing that State public works should not be starved of funds by the Commonwealth, decided to fix a figure in excess of that which the Commonwealth intended to provide for them, the Commonwealth proposed to defy the Loan Council decision. What effect will that defiance have on primary production? I shall be interested to hear the maiden speech of the new honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), who was elected to this Parliament with about half tie majority that was obtained by his predecessor. I do not blame him for that disparity. It is unfortunate for him that he happens to be associated with a Government that is so unpopular with the public. But the facts are that in the Lyne electorate, in the northern districts of New South Wales, low level bridges in the upper reaches of the Bellingen River that were washed away in the floods two or three years ago have never been restored because the Commonwealth refuses to make available to the State the funds necessary to restore the road system in those districts. As a result, valuable farms in the upper reaches of the Bellingen River have been abandoned and so are now out of production. I say that if the Government wants to increase primary production, then, instead of denying New South Wales the funds necessary to carry out its works programme, it should assist that State to restore its bridges and transport system so that people who have been driven off valuable farms may go back into production.
We know also that the Treasurer was attacked during the Lyne by-election, not by members of the Labour party, but by members of his own organization who demanded answers to certain questions before the poll was taken. They wanted to know what the Government proposed to do about sending officers into that area with a view to investigating schemes to alleviate the flood danger. They also wanted to know what the Government would do about providing the funds necessary for such work. The Treasurer keeps saying that that is a matter for the State governments, yet the Commonwealth reduces the money available for such work. What does that mean to the people? Our transport systems are all in a very bad state of repair. In this House member after member of the Australian Country party rises and makes requests to the Government for more moneys for road works in country areas, but all their requests are turned down by the Government on the plea that the money is not available. I am of the opinion that the people will never again accept as an excuse for the failure to carry out important public works any statement that there is no money available. Did anybody ever imagine that the last war would have ended because we had run out of money? Did lack of money bring it to an end? It could have gone on forever as far as money was concerned. We were spending at the rate of £1,500,000 a day in the last stages of the war. Did anybody imagine that some morning he would find blazoned across the front pages of newspapers head-lines stating that the war had ended because we had run out of money? That there is a lack of money is a ridiculous argument to advance. The extent of public works that a country can undertake is not determined by the availability of money hut of resources. In this country resources in the form of manpower, materials and equipment are being allowed to remain idle. Unemployment has again appeared in our midst. Tt is now difficult for men to get work. Surely the people of Australia will not again have to put up with a situation similar to that which existed in the early 1930’s when thousands of unemployed men, many of them skilled, were looking’ for work when important public works should have been carried out.
The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) issued a statement recently in which he said that Australia lacked 15,000 hospital beds and that an expenditure of £60,000,000 was required to correct the position. A somewhat similar situation exists in regard to our educational system. I agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that we areoverstraining our resources. Why are we overstraining our resources? It is because the Government is attempting to execute a war preparations programme which will cost this country £885,000,000 in a period of five years. That is an impossible burden to place on a country with a population of a little over 8,000,000 people. The country can carry that burden only if the living standards of the people are reduced. Consequently the Government is now attempting to impose a reduction of living standards on the Australian community.
The immigration policy of the Government has placed another great burden on Australia. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) said recently that, no matter what its difficulties, the Government would not alter its immigration policy but would endeavour to bring 150,000 immigrants to Australia each year. I do not suggest that we should build a wall around the country so that no one can enter, but in fairness to the people whom they are endeavouring to bring here and in fairness to those who are here already, the Government should not bring any more immigrants to Australia until the country is able to absorb them.
The Minister might tell the House and the public that he has instructed the officers of his employment service not to give any information to the press or to the public in regard to the employment situation. I sent telegrams to the Minister recently in an endeavour to obtain certain information. He supplied some but not all of it. The Minister knows that it is practically impossible for unskilled men to be placed in employment in Sydney. In an endeavour to ascertain the position, I communicated with national service officers in the Sydney metropolitan area. One of them stated that vacancies still existed for tradesmen and juniors, but for unskilled men the position was grim. Others said that the employers wanted nobody over 35 years of age. Another said that the position was very bad and that employers were becoming very “ choosy “. Another said tha’,, previously, employers had informed him of vacancies by telephone, but that because of the present position he was now obliged to go out and canvass for vacancies. There is not a government department in New South Wales apart from the Railways Department that requires unskilled labour. The Railways Department now requires only 250 men compared with 5,000 which it needed in November of last year, and the only reason that its requirements have not been met completely is that its employees have to pas.-i a rigid medical examination and must not be over the age of 35 years at the time of joining the service.
I was informed by an employment officer in Sydney that new Australians have now been registered for unemployment relief. In other words, men who were brought to this country because it was said that they were urgently needed in order to boost production have been registered for unemployment relief. I should like the Minister to tell the House exactly how many new Australians are at present receiving unemployment relief and why the Government proposes to bring 150,000 more into this country every year. There is no doubt about the Government’s intention. Honorable members will remember Professor Hytten’s suggestion that there should be a pool of unemployed. Members of the Government denied that they had any such purpose in mind. If that is so, why does the Government, despite the fact that it already has a pool of unemployed, including new Australians, registered for relief, still propose to add to their numbers?
I now wish to place a serious matter before this Parliament. Honorable members have been told that the Government’s policy in relation to the restriction of imports was forced on it because of the fall in its overseas resources. One would naturally expect the policy of the Government, whatever it may be, to he applied equitably. Even a bad law or decision of the Government should apply equitably to everybody whom it may affect. But in the case of import restrictions the reverse is the case. On the 7th March the private banks, at the instigation of the Commonwealth Bank Board, issued directions to their branches that no more credits were to be arranged for the importation of goods from the sterling area countries pend ing the introduction of a licensing system, and on the same day a Government Gazette was issued imposing the controls from midnight on that date. A letter dated the 6th or 7th March received in the Department of Trade and Customs in Sydney from the manager of the Martin-place branch of the Australian and New Zealand Bank Limited stated that the bank had made arrangements for the issue of irrevocable letters of credit to David Jones Proprietary Limited in respect of the importation of goods extending over a period of twelve months at the rate of £200,000 a month. Those letters of credit covered a total amount of £2,400,000. If David Jones Proprietary Limited did not have some prior knowledge of what the Government proposed to do why did it arrange irrevocable letters of credit for that amount? Prior to the 7th March, the importation of goods from the sterling area was not restricted and this well-established company would not have had to worry about letters of credit. But, evidently, it had been told that if it had irrevocable letters of credit it would not be affected. Why should the manager of this bank have written to the Department of Trade and Customs otherwise? Such a letter was quite unnecessary unless a certain policy decision was to be made by the Government. I suggest that some investigation of this matter might be undertaken by the Government. I do not know who is responsible for what happened. But Sir Charles Lloyd Jones, the. present head of the company concerned, received his knighthood on the recommendation of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the same gentleman, following the 1949 general elections, gave a very elaborate reception and party to the Prime Minister. I understand that the Prime Minister has stated in this Parliament that he regards Sir Charles Lloyd Jones as his personal friend and 1. am informed visits his home in Oceanstreet, Edgecliff, frequently when he visits Sydney.
This is a serious and important matter. When there was a leakage of Cabinet decisions in Britain it forced the resignation of Mr. Hugh Dalton, who was then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, although he merely released information by accident.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall try to bring this debate back from the Sydney Domain into the National Parliament at Canberra. I shall try to get away from this murky atmosphere of class bitterness, distortion and misrepresentation, and to inject a little honest accuracy into our consideration of the issues now before the country. No one who faces frankly the problems of Australia to-day can deny that we have been passing through a period of great economic difficulty and complexity. We recall very distinctly the situation that existed when this Government first’ assumed office in place of a Labour Government. Facing us was an industrial situation which could scarcely be worse. There was wide extravagance, lack of productive efficiency throughout the basic industries and inadequacy of production of the vital elements of our economy. We set to work energetically to overcome those difficulties.
On the financial front we shouldered the. tremendous burden of a combined programme of development and preparation for our own security. Our measures enabled us to proceed without costs in Australia rising at a rate greater than that faced by the previous Labour Government which had to deal with a much less serious situation. Then came the dramatic developments in Korea. As a result of the situation there the national policies throughout the world were radically reviewed, and greater emphasis was placed on defence preparation. Australia joined in that programme with its other colleagues of the free world, but at the same time we. knew that there were great arrears of developmental work to be made up. Therefore we shouldered that double burden. In those days, because of world demand for the materials required for defence, the prices of many of our basic commodities rose amazingly within a few weeks. In one year Australia found that the return from the sale of its wool was approximately £600,000,000, or more than double the return in the preceding twelve months. It has been said by cynics that if the price of wool is right even the politicians cannot ruin this country. At that time, according to earlier standards, the price of wool rose to almost fantastic heights. Any government would have faced at that time a tremendously difficult problem of adjustment in this country, because our whole economy rests virtually on our basic export commodities, of which wool is the most important. Therefore, we had many difficult adjustments to make as the price of wool moved upwards. The effects of the high price, of wool forced their way into every section of the economy - into the wage and cost structure and into the budgets of Federal and State governments.
The problem would have, been difficult enough of solution if the high price had persisted ; but it fell. I do not recall that any of the wiseacres opposite, who now pretend that they are in a position to attack this Government, said at that time, “ Have a care, do not spend this much money on social services, do not give this much to the States, do not reduce taxation to such and such an extent because there will be a remarkable and drastic fall in the price of wool “. It is all very well to be wise after the event. I remind all the Australian people that they have had opportunity after opportunity since this Parliament has been meeting, not only during this sessional period but during earlier periods, of hearing what the Labour party, the party which claims that it could form an alternative government to that now in office, would have done to meet this situation. I invite any member of the listening public to point to one constructive suggestion that has emanated from the Labour party.
– Order ! The Minister cannot deal with the listening public.
– Then I invite you, sir, as a man of great experience and discernment, to tell me of one constructive suggestion that has come from the honorable member who considers himself the alternative Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), or from the alternative self-styled Treasurer, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), or possibly from the alternative Minister for Labour, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). What would those gentlemen have done in this critical economic period through which we have passed? If” they have a policy, so far they have kept this Parliament and the public generally in singular ignorance of what it is.
Having reached the stage where we had to make this difficult adjustment, because of high wool prices, we then had to make adjustments to balance the decrease of the prices. So it will be seen that the Government has not only been faced with the difficulties of adjustment as costs and prices moved upwards, hut we have also had to face greater difficulties as prices moved down. That is the situation that does not call for ranting Domain speeches from honorable members like the honorable member for East Sydney, or the honorable member for Melbourne ; it calls for the wise consideration that must be given to every national problem. This matter affects every home in Australia, and the people are entitled to expect, not only from their Government or from the Government parties but also from honorable members oppo~ site, a co-operative, combined and constructive approach to this serious economic problem. It is easy to point to matters that have caused difficulty in the community, and it is more than easy and at the same time mischievous and malicious to try to distort the facts in order to create an atmosphere of panic, a feeling of hysteria and a fear of a depression within the Australian community.
I have some special knowledge of the problem of employment that has been referred to by the honorable member for
East Sydney. If any one were to take at face value the speech of the honorable member, he would imagine that we were back in the desperate and distressful days of the Labour administration in the early 1930’s. He spoke of unemployment. Nobody wants to see any fellow citizen deprived of the opportunity to present himself for work and to obtain regular employment. Every one of us here is determined to do all that we can to ensure that employment opportunities shall be made available to our fellow citizens. However, in any free community where there is a free choice, not a regimented choice such as that given by the honorable member for East Sydney when he was a former Minister for Labour and National Service, when it was necessary for him to direct labour to certain jobs, no government can guarantee that jobs will he available in any one place for all the people who want them there. The late Mr. Chifley himself when Prime Minister, as an honest man recognized that when he spoke to the Australian people. He told them so at the time.
I recall a dark period in Australia’s history. It was not entirely attributable to the Labour Government of those days. I think that other governments might have made a better fist of getting oat of the mess than they did. I recall the time when more than 500,000 Australians were unemployed and were seeking work. What are the fact3 to-day? Excluding the State of Queensland, where there is a special problem to which I shall refer later, at the 5th April last the number of people in receipt of unemployment relief in Australia was approximately 1,000, compared with 500,000 persons during the worst period of Labour administration. If the position is analysed it will be found that at the present time Australia has a work force of almost 3,500,000 people. Yet, a fortnight ago the total number of people who were in receipt of unemployment benefits was only 3,611. In other words, about one-tenth of 1 per cent, of the employable people of Australia were on unemployment relief.
– There is more unemployment than that in Sydney alone!
– I know the story that the honorable member for East Sydney can tell. He has often told it to this House. I am trying to get a sense of proportion back into the community. I wish to see every man and woman who presents himself or herself for work find an opportunity to work. This Government is creating opportunities of that kind throughout Australia.
As far as unemployment is concerned, Queensland is in the worst position. In that State, 2,635 people were in receipt of unemployment benefits a fortnight, ago. But every Queenslander knows that e ,2 year special seasonal problems arise in his State. As the meat industry and the sugar industry taper off their demand for workers there is a tendency for the work opportunities in that State to lessen. This year has proved no exception, although it may also be said that the very prolonged drought has caused fewer opportunities in the meat industry than there were before. I find that in the fortnight under review the number of people in receipt of unemployment benefits in Queensland actually declined by 104 since this matter came before me previously. It is therefore seen that of the total of 3,611, more than 2,600 were in the State of Queensland, and that that figure represents a reduction of 104 on the figures for the previous fortnight.
In the State of New South Wales, where there are probably almost 2,000,000 in the work’ force, the total number on unemployment relief at the present time is less than 1,000. I do not state those facts with satisfaction. I merely wish to bring some sense of proportion and responsibility into the House when it comes to consider this problem. I said yesterday, and I invite examination of this matter by any honorable member sitting opposite, that there is not one industrialized country of the free world to-day which has a smaller proportion of its working population unemployed than has the Commonwealth of Australia. I exclude regimentation for these purposes because we reject that as an alternative. The United States of America is a very prosperous and powerful nation. One of the soundest, if not the soundest, economies in the world at this time is that of the Dominion of Canada. In Great Britain tremendous efforts are being made by the Government of that country to restore economic stability to a proper level by measures which, so far as we can gather, are succeeding. In all of those countries there is substantially more unemployment, proportionately, to the population, than there is in Australia. Yet, the world regards those countries as possessing sound, progressive economies. I assure the House that no problem receives more attention, thought or care from this Government than the problem of ensuring a proper level of ismployement opportunities.
One of the useful effects of the Government’s economic measures of recent months is that during the last four months at least 4,000 people have transferred to the basic and essential industries of the country. They are people who previously contributed to the “ milk bar “ element in our economy. In consequence, we have a better production of steel than ever before in our history. We are obtaining a higher production of coal than at any earlier time. The production of building materials is rapidly catching up with demand. All of these things mean healthy expansion and development of the Australian economy.
Those of us who have had some experience of what happened during the 1930’s know, perhaps, better than anybody else what may develop if an unemployment situation begins to snowball. Under less happier regimes, during the administration of our opposite numbers in this House, we have seen the kind of tragic situation which can develop. No man with such recollections in his mind wishes to see a recurrence of such a situation in Australia. That is why every week I and’ my department obtain up-to-date figures concerning what is happening. We also maintain up-to-date contacts. We keep in touch with the Treasury, which in turn keeps in touch with the Commonwealth Bank. We try to keep in the closest communication with outside industry so that we may take appropriate measures should a situation which might result in an economic crisis threaten to develop.
The really basic problem for all of us to face is the problem of our “cost” inflation. We have largely overcome our “ goods “ inflation, thanks to the measures this Government has introduced. Those measures include importing freely at a time when goods were scarce, and encouraging the basic industries of the country. The goods inflation problem has largely vanished. Scarcely an item can be mentioned which, if one had the money to procure it, could not be procured in Australia to-day. In that sense of inflation - shortage of goods - this Government has been able to promote production and a flow of goods which has largely overcome that aspect of inflation. But an important inflationary aspect remains. I refer to the cost aspect, which tends to remain long after goods inflation has been overcome.
This is a challenge to the intelligence, the co-operation and the teamwork of all of us, whether it be inside this Parliament or out of it. I use those words “ co-operation “ and “ teamwork “ advisedly, although I have never heard them uttered by the honorable member for East Sydney. They are words that come into his vocabulary, nor are they heard in the kind of criticism that has come from other honorable members opposite. Fortunately for Australia., a healthier attitude exists outside this House. Trade union officials have not come to me to complain about their fears of an unemployment problem. They take a realistic view of the matter. Despite the false and misleading propaganda they have had to take from honorable members opposite over tb e years, they a t least begin to realize that if they want improved living standards and economic stability, those benefits can come only from their own production, from their own co-operation with other productive elements in industry, from their own realization that between themselves and their employers and between themselves and the Government there must be a degree nf teamwork and co-operation in order to obtain the most from our resources.
Honorable members opposite know that this process is going on. It is one of the things which irritate and inflame them when they come into this Parliament. It infuriates them to think that this Government has been able to build up a greater measure of teamwork than they ever attempted during their eight years of leadership.
If the trade unionists and their employers come together I hope they will be able to evolve more practical measures to combat cost inflation, to obtain a real production in the 40-hours working week, to see that we get a stable wage and not one which is liable to dart too high one minute and too low the next; there must be a sensible approach to the problems of overtime and quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. If these things are done, not only will we and the people overcome the cost inflation aspect of our problem but we shall overcome also the goods inflation aspect. If honorable members opposite wish to serve their country, I suggest that they may do so by cooperating with the Government in that way.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who has just resumed bis seat took for his theme in debating the motion that is before the House, the fear of his Government of a depression comparable with that of 1930. Remarkably, he blamed the Labour government of the day for that depression. I remind honorable members and the Australian people that while the Labour Government was in office at that time with a majority in this chamber, a hostile Senate refused the Government £18,000,000 a few years after the 1914-18 war. Thousands of good Australians who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their country in that war were promised when they enlisted that they would return to a country fit for heroes. Is it any wonder that the Labour party strongly opposes the re-appointment of the Commonwealth Bank Board because it was responsible for denying the Government the issue of a paltry £18,000,000 which could have provided work for 700,000 Australians? The Opposition moved the amendment now before the House because it believes that the Government is running the country into the very same set of circumstances as that which operated at the period to which I have referred. Ask the Australian people whether they were better off in 1948 ? Could the Australian housewife purchase more in that year? Was notthe purchasing power of the people greater in those clays? Was not the Australian worker in a more secure position than he is in to-day? Was not the economy of the country far more stable then than it is to-day?
– One honorable member opposite has interjected “Rot!” That is a fine contribution to the debate. If ever a government of Australia dealt in rot it is the Menzies Government. One honorable member on the Government side said to-day that the Government was elected in 1949 because of the inflation in Australia in that year. The Government attained office in 1949 by false promises, by deceit, and by offering the Australian people a. gallon of petrol. The Labour party was not prepared to bribe the Australian electors in that way, and I believe that had it been returned to office, petrol rationing would have been lifted soon afterwards. The parties which constitute the present Government promised the Australian people during the 1949 election campaign that they would put value into the £1 and reduce taxation. They said that the Australian workers would be able to follow their own callings and that there would be no conscription. In the 1951 election the Government won the confidence of the Australian people by putting fear of communism into their minds. No one doubts where I stand in relation to communism. If everything is so satisfactory in Australia to-day, why have the results of various State and Federal elections in the past few months shown indications of complete lack of confidence in the present Australian Government? That was the lesson shown by the polls in South Australia, in the Lyne by-election, in the Melbourne Ports State election, and in the recent by-election in Queensland. In the South Australian election, an endorsed Labour party candidate had a majority of 1,040 in an electorate where a Labour candidate had never previously gained more than 400 majority. The results proved conclusively that the Australian people have completely lost confidence in this Government.
The Minister for Labour and National Service made reference to the fact that certain commodities are more abundant now than they were a few months ago. That indicates to a sensible person that there is no money available, particularly in housing, because of the Government’s financial and other restrictions. A person who wants to build a home cannot secure finance. That will go on and as a result there will be an abundance of materials, but if money is available there will be a shortage of materials. The Minister also told the House that this Government had had to meet great difficulties. The Australian Labour party was confronted with difficulties when the anti-Labour government of the day virtually walked out on Australia at the time when the Japanese were at our front door. The Labour Government had difficulties in the early post-war period also, but in spite of them it gave to Australia an economy that was the admiration of the world. Only the false promises of the present Government brought about the downfall of that great Labour Government that was praised by all sections of the Australian community and by political leaders throughout the world. The Government is complacent and believes, as so many of its supporters have said, that all is well. If that is so, why is there so much discontent among Australian manufacturers and importers?
– Tell us the cure!
– The cure is a change of government. If the Government believes that it has the confidence of the Australian people and that its policy is acceptable to the manufacturers, the importers, and the workers, why does it not accept the censure expressed in the amendment, go to the country and give the people an opportunity to say whether it has their confidence? It is a shame that the people of a grand and glorious country like Australia, which possesses natural resources in abundance, should have permitted a government that had held their esteem to be defeated by the combined efforts of political parties which have no sense of responsibility and no worthwhile record in the sphere of public administration. Honorable members opposite have twitted us for having failed to submit a financial and economic policy as an alternative to the policy propounded by the Treasurer last night. It is not the responsibility of the Opposition to submit such an alternative policy to the people. While the Government occupies the treasury bench it must accept full responsibility for its actions. This Government has failed to carry out the task for which it was elected. It has made no attempt to honour its pre-election promises. In 1049 we were told by the leaders of the parties which now occupy the treasury bench that if they were elected to office they would put value back into the £1. 1 ask the Australian worker if he now obtains more for the expenditure of £1 than he did in 194JH. 1’ ask the Australian housewife if she is able to purchase with El the same quantity of goods as she was able to purchase in 194S.
In his contribution to the debate tonight, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) claimed that the taxes imposed on the people by this Government are a little less severe than were those imposed upon them by the Labour Government in the latter part of the war period. What a great achievement ! It i3 high time that the Australian people realized just where this country is heading. If they did realize it they would surely demand that the Government give them an opportunity to review their earlier decision. Stark tragedy confronts us on every hand. The Minister for Labour and National Service has said that there is less unemployment hi Australia than in any other country. That is as it should be. In a young country like Australia, with vast resources that still await development, the fact that any unemployment exists is in itself a condemnation of the Government. So soon after the war, at a time when shortages of goods and commodities are still worrying us, there should be no unemployment. Had a Labour government remained in office there would be no unemployment in Australia to-day, the purchasing power of the £1 would have remained at its former high level and the burden of taxation would have been considerably lighter than it is to-day. The pensioners and recipients of social services benefits realize how badly this Government has let them down. Pensioners of all kinds, war widows, service pensioners and the recipients of the age and invalid pension know how much more they received for their pensions in 1948 than they receive to-day. The Australian people must realize the difficulties with which they are likely to be confronted in the next few years unless this Government is thrown out of office. Do honorable members opposite sincerely believe that they enjoy the confidence of the Australian people and that the policies which the Government is pursuing are in the best interests of the Australian people? If they do so, they should give to the people an opportunity to indicate, by medium of the ballot-box, whether they are as popular in the electorates as they believe themselves to be. Grave doubts exist in the minds of the people about their future. Members of the Opposition would be lacking in their duty to their electors if they failed to stress the point that this Government occupies the treasury bench as the result of deceit and falsehoods and that the sooner it goes out of office the better it will be for the Australian community.
.- As I rise to make my maiden speech in this House, I am not unmindful of the great traditions of this Parliament of which .!’ have now become a member, linked as it is with the Mother of Parliaments across the seas. I ask your forbearance, Mr. Speaker, and that of honorable members on both sides of the House if, in this my first speech in the National Parliament. 1 should inadvertently transgress the Standing Orders. I thank you and honorable members for the many kindnesses shown to me and the help given to me up to the present moment.
Appropriate tribute has already been paid in this Parliament to the sterlingwork done by the former member for Lyne, the late Eldred James Eggins, in consequence of whose death I now have the honour to represent the electorate. I take this opportunity to pay my personal tribute to the late honorable gentleman, who was not only a member of the party to which I belong, but was also one whom I regarded as a friend. Although I am much younger than he was, and lack the experience which he possessed, I hope that, during my term of office, I may be able to make some worthwhile contribution, however small it may be, to the work of this Parliament and to the welfare of Australia.
Lt was not my intention in my maiden speech to refer to what has been said by other honorable members during this debate, but I feel impelled to do so because, the by-election in the Division of Lyne has been mentioned by more than one honorable member. Listening to the remarks of Opposition members, I began to wonder what they would have said had that by-election not taken place. During this debate Opposition speakers have referred to agriculture and land transport and other matters that are primarily the responsibility of the State governments and over which this Government has no control. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to the condition of roads and bridges. If the honorable gentleman had travelled over some of the roads which I traversed during the by-election campaign, they would have made an impression elsewhere than on his mind. In reply to the attack that has been made on the Government in the course of this debate, I can only repeat the words of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the day proceeding the date of the by-election in Lytic The right honorable gentleman said-
Wc will not be blackmailed into actions against the interests of Australia merely to canvass for votes.
I a in proud to stand in this Parliament a.s a supporter of a government that refused to be blackmailed into action, but, on the contrary, fought an election on a policy which it conscientiously believed to he in the best interests of this great Commonwealth. No one will deny that a difficult situation confronts us to-day. On this point the Treasurer declared -
The problem is still with us in a formidable degree. The Government believes its policy i? fundamentally the right one and is deter mined to follow through with it. We take for ourselves and offer to the community the encouragement of gains that have been made, but with that must go a realization that a difficult road still lies ahead.
This situation is not peculiar to Australia; it is world-wide, and the Government is facing it realistically. The great gap between supply and demand cannot be closed in a moment. This country is facing the twofold task of stopping the inflationary spiral and, at the same time, of pressing forward with a great developmental programme. We are experiencing growing pains as our nation goes forward to take its place among the great nations of the world. In these circumstances, if we are in fact to shoulder our responsibility as a great nation, is it unrealistic to ask our people to make sacrifices?
What solution can the critics of the Government’s policy put forward in order that they may, as they appear to wish to be able to do, eat their cake and still keep it? Money must be found for developmental works and for our defence programme. Surely, no one who takes a realistic view of the present international situation would deny that a tremendous responsibility rests upon the Government to ensure that this nation shall be ready to meet any emergency. We are aware of the situation that exists in Korea and Malaya and also in Europe. We know of the dangers that exist. Let us realize that those dangers can be overcome only if we show clearly that we are prepared to sacrifice comforts in order to safeguard the freedom of our country and the great traditions of our democracy to which I referred in my opening remarks. A government or an opposition that is not prepared to make such sacrifices is not worthy of its name; and any Australian who is not prepared to make such sacrifices is not worthy of citizenship of this great land. We must increase primary production in order that we may not only feed ourselves but may also make a contribution to the food requirements of the nations of Asia and thus help them to keep free from communistic domination.
The very people who now condemn the Government because, they say, taxes are too high, at the same time claim that more money should be provided for this or that purpose and that greater concessions should be provided in respect of this or that section of the community. Such criticism of the Government is refuted by the results that the Government has achieved. It is ironical that those who are now most critical of the Government’s policy with respect to import restrictions were most critical not so long ago of the Government’s policy of encouraging imports. In the view of those critics the Government is not doing anything and, therefore, it is wrong. Yet, at the same time, if it does take action, it is still wrong. One thing that seems to have escaped the consideration of those critics is that Australia is a part of the sterling area and that, unless we take measures to safeguard sterling, we shall endanger not only our own position, but also that of other countries in the sterling area. Any weakening of our position would have weakened to a corresponding degree the general economic position of the sterling countries. That, of course, is a result which the enemies of our faith and democracy would like to see occur. Realizing these facts, the Government has looked beyond the narrow confines of this country to the greater issues that are involved in our responsibilities in the international sphere. The Government has declared repeatedly that the measures that it has taken are only temporary and that the moment the present emergency has passed the restrictions it has imposed will be lifted. Is that not a right action on the part of any government that is conscious of its responsibility to the country as a whole?
Members of the Opposition who have spoken in this debate have claimed that the Government’s policy has caused economic hardship, and in particular, unemployment. Supporters of the Government have completely refuted that charge. I propose to show that no real hardship has been caused from a financial viewpoint. Whereas in 1948-49 savings bank deposits totalled £714,000,000, such deposits had increased to £873,000,000 last month, or an increase of approximately £160,000,000, which represents an increase of £20 a head of our popula- ti on. In other words, during the period that I have mentioned, every Australian, on the average, was able to increase his or her savings by £20. That fact completely refutes the charge that the Government’s policy has caused widespread economic hardship. I also point out that a large proportion of Australian homes are furnished with refrigerators, washing machines and other devices which make the task of a housewife so much easier. All of those things have been purchased out of the earnings of the people, for whom, it is alleged, the Government’s policy has made life more difficult. The facts that. I have given completely vindicate the policy of the Government. I shall not labour this point because it has been emphasized by Government supporters on many occasions.
I believe that the policy of the Government will provide a solution of the economic problems that confront the nation. I have in mind, particularly, its policy for the development of primary production, the importance of which the Australian Country party has at all times emphasized. I am proud to have the privilege to be a member of that party in this Parliament, and having the privilege of representing a great primary producing area potentially capable of making a great contribution to the final solution of our economic problem. I am resolved to work to that end. Finally, I believe that all Australians will make a far greater contribution to the well-being of our country by making a national effort to face up to the issues that confront us in this time of difficulty rather than by relying upon a negative policy of criticism that is damaging to the morale of this great nation.
Mr. CREAN (Melbourne Ports) T9.30]. - I commend the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) upon his maiden speech in this House. He made it evident that he will represent his constituency with the same degree of sincerity and dignity as his predecessor exhibited. It is always an ordeal to make a maiden speech in a parliament. Some of us made our maiden speeches in this Parliament not very long ago. I consider that the honorable member has acquitted himself with dignity and distinction.
It is difficult, in the short time at my disposal, to encompass the many matters which are the subject of this debate. During the course of this discussion, reference has frequently been made to the word inflation, and I shall indicate how wide that term is. I have here a book which recently arrived in this country i rom Great Britain. It is written by the well-known economist, Paul Einzig, bears the title Inflation, and has more than 200 pages. The author distinguishes at least twelve kinds of inflation, which are as follows: - Currency inflation, credit inflation, purchasing power inflation, budgetary inflation, price inflation through taxation, inflation through overinvestment, inflation through under-production, inflation through dis-saving, inflation through devaluation, imported inflation, commodity price inflation, and finally, price inflation through restrictions on foreign trade. Each of those kinds of inflation is dealt with in a chapter in the book. I mention those matters to indicate broadly how wide the subject is.
One thing which can be said about inflation is that, even in an economy which we characterize broadly as being in a condition of inflation, there are large sections of the community who suffer, not from a surplus of purchasing power, but, indeed, from a deficiency of purchasing power. Those persons are finding it. difficult to buy with their limited resources the goods and services which they feel necessary to keep themselves and their families at the standards to which they have been accustomed.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when he presented his statement to the House last night, described it as in the nature of an interim review. I suggest that the interim review is remarkable more for what it conceals than for’ what it reveals. In order to get the true perspective of the circumstances, we need to examine the budget speech that he delivered to this chamber last year. I find that, on that occasion, the right honorable gentleman said, among other thing, in reference to the Government’s counter-inflationary policy -
The Government anr! its various agencies have already instituted some powerful measures in this field and these are being made progressively more effective.
He re-echoed that statement last night, and said that there was no need for him to elaborate on those powerful measures. I realize that it is difficult to elaborate on them, because, in fact, they are nonexistent. The Treasurer also said in his budget speech last year, in reference to those powerful measures -
They include control of the volume of bank credit through the “ special account “ procedures, the advance policy instructions issued to the trading banks and control of capital issues.
I suggest that the Treasurer should not seek to take any credit to himself in the matter of capital issues. Has he forgotten that, earlier, he was largely responsible for the. abolition of the control of capital issues? Very belatedly, he was obliged to re-introduce that form of control in an attempt to stabilize the economy. This Government has been aptly described on numerous occasions by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) as the Government of twelve-months-too-late. The action in respect of capital issues control is characteristic of most of the steps that have been taken by this Government. That i3 to say, those steps have been taken haphazardly and belatedly, and after the economic damage that they were supposed to avoid had occurred.
I shall now illustrate some deficiencies in the policy of the Government, and indicate that there are measures which, even now, can be taken to remedy the situation. In the brief time at my disposal I shall touch upon several matters in relation to the economic policy of this Government, which were referred to by the Treasurer in some detail last night. The first matter is the vexed question of the bond market and interest rates. The Labour party contends that a government should adopt, not a dear money policy but a cheap money policy. It is astonishing to find that this Government, which emphasizes the need for controlling cost inflation, does not hesitate, if the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) can be accepted as a spokesman for it, to increase the cost of borrowed money by raising the interest rate. The policy of the Government in that respect has been properly characterized by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) as one of criminal negligence on its part.
I shall briefly examine the history of the bond market since this Government has been in office, and I shall quote from a source which, I suggest, is not biased against the Government. I refer to a handy compilation entitled Economic and Financial Survey of Australia (1950- 1951), issued with the compliments of the publishers, Birt and Company (Proprietary) Limited, of -Sydney, a well-known firm of shipping agents. The publication reviews loan transactions during the year 1950-51, and states in cold sober language -
The most important happening of the year was the decision of the Federal Treasurer to exercise his option to redeem by cash or conversion all outstanding 4 per cent, loans. If holders chose to convert, they were offered 2 per cent, for short term (two years) maturity, or 3$ per cent, bonds at ten years’ maturity. The action of the Treasurer, though perfectly legal, was deeply resented.
The implication of that statement is that the Treasurer considered that the interest rate should be, not 4 per cent., but 3-J per cent. The publication continued -
In July, 1951, he announced the decision to increase the bond rate on future loans to 32- per cent., action which deepened resentment, as but a few weeks previously he had issued a further 3J per cent. loan. This action affected the holders of £ A.808,000,000 of these bonds which promptly dropped £A.4O,400,O00 in market value.
That is a sober appraisal of the situation at that time. To see how the situation has deteriorated since then, we need only refer to the recent Fifteenth Security Loan. I quote again from a source which cannot be said to be a Labour source of propaganda. It is a new journal, the Financial Review. The following paragraph appeared in the issue of the 24th April last: -
The 15th Security Loan was an undisguised failure. The Commonwealth has allowed the States to see for themselves, before they assemble in the Loan Council, the limitations upon money raisings for public works. Not that the failure has been exaggerated. The short fall may in fact be greater than Sir Arthur Fadden’s provisional figure of £14,000,000.
And official support for the bond market during the currency of the loan was tremendous. Many shrewd sellers took advantage of the position.
It may be wondered whether the Govern ment’s Agencies did not have to buy as much bonds from the public as the £10,600,000 of new money contributed.
The loan was under-subscribed, and the Government had to support the market in respect of other loans. Yet when the Leader of the Opposition asked the Treasurer yesterday whether the statements were correct, the Treasurer said that it was not the Government’s policy to divulge such information. I suggest that the policy of the Government is to conceal information which ought to be made available to the public. Why should this House not know how much of the £50,000,000 came from individual subscribers, and how much came from insurance companies and other agencies? Honorable members need that information in order to appraise the economic situation thoroughly. The situation is deteriorating so rapidly that in a matter of weeks after purchasing bonds, some people are finding it necessary to sell them. The Government takes refuge in the excuse that bonds are purchased for len years, and if holders wish to sell before that period has elapsed, that is their misfortune. There are, of course, circumstances in which people have to sell securities. The National Debt Sinking Fund Act itself provides, that, in certain circumstances, the Treasurer may redeem bonds at par. Honorable members on this side of the chamber suggested some time ago that the Government should step in and endeavour to keep bond rates up. The Treasurer said that it was not the policy of this Government to do so, yet, six months later, during the currency of the last loan, the right honorable gentleman was willing to support the market to the extent of £16,000,000. The market was being manipulated by shrewd investors. Nobody can condemn an investor for being shrewd. Perhaps success depends upon shrewdness, but most people who buy Commonwealth bonds do so not out of shrewdness but in the hope of obtaining for themselves something that used to be called security. As recently as the 24th April, the Financial Review gave the following hint to investors: -
Holders of 2 per cent. Commonwealth bonds, due for repayment in November 1954, would be well advised to sell those in favour of a purchase of 3i per cent, bonds due in August, 1950. Only the most gloomy would be prepared to accept a redemption yield of 2i per cent, instead of 4$ per cent, for a life shorter by under two years.
Loans are floated not solely to benefit shrewd investors, but to raise money required for public works, and to give security to purchasers of bonds. If stability is to be restored to the loan market, certain steps should be taken immediately by the Government. It cannot continue to shelter behind the nebulous excuse that it does not fix the loan rate. If, as the Government claims, that is the responsibility of the Loan Council, the Government should call a meeting of the Loan Council to determine what the rate should be. After all, the Joans are called “ Commonwealth loans “. The ordinary member of the public cannot understand the Government resorting to a subterfuge in a matter so important a? this. The Government has asked for constructive suggestions. I suggest that a meeting of the Loan Council be called to fix a firm rate for the loan market for the next year, two years, or even longer. However, the Government’s obligation would not end there because the loan rate can be maintained only if the Government is willing to step into the market from time to time and support it. We say that instead of loan rates gradually rising, they should be gradually falling, because increasing rates mean higher costs of State works; and all other investment rates are affected accordingly. There should be some stability in the loan market, and it is the duty of the Australian Government to provide that stability. This Government has done nothing to stabilize the market. On the contrary, it has destroyed public confidence.
In the short time that I have left, I shall be able to refer only briefly to other matters with which I wish to deal. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) said this afternoon, in reply to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), that it was silly to talk about borrowing to-day. He asked what evidence there was of any intention to borrow ; but the Government has already announced its intention to seek . a 150,000,000-dollar loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It intends also to seek a loan of 30,000,000 dollars from the International Monetary Fund. The Treasurer attempted in his statement last night to take credit for the benefits which allegedly have flowed to our economy as the result of the 100,000,000-doIIar loan. That loan has been shrouded in mystery. Ever since the relevant legislation was passed in November, 1950, the Government lias sought to create the impression that, almost overnight, the whole of that 100,000,000 dollars became available. That is far from the truth. Here again is something that the Government has attempted to conceal rather . than to reveal. The budget papers tabled in August of last year - eight months after the loan had been negotiated - showed that at the 30th June, 1951, only 9,000,000 dollars of the 100,000,000- dollar loan had actually been drawn. In October, 1951, I asked how much of the loan had been drawn and I was told that the total was 24,000,000 dollars. Earlier this year I asked a similar question, and I was informed by letter at the beginning of this month that, at the end of February, 1952, only 35,000,000 dollars of the total of 100,000,000 dollars had actually been expended. Yet the Government claims that it has eased Australia’s financial difficulties by means of the 100,000,000-dollar loan! Drawings against the loan have been slow indeed. Earlier to-day I asked whether 20,000,000 dollars of the proposed 30,000,000-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund was to be used to repay a sum borrowed during the Labour Government’s term of office. The Treasurer asked me to put the question on the notice-paper. Honorable members opposite apparently are very fond of raising loans in the United States of America. I draw the attention of the House to some figures which I have quoted here before. To my way of thinking they paint a gloomy picture of the future of this country should, the present Government remain in office. The figures are contained in the twenty-eighth annual report of the National Debt Commission. Table 7, which appears on page 22 of the report, shows that during the year 1950-51, the sum of £461,531 was paid to redeem bonds in the United States of America with a face value of £22S,706. In other words, it cost the Australian Government twice as much as the original loan to redeem those bonds. That sort of thing can continue in the future in the midst of a financial situation which we have come to call inflation.
In the hope of conserving sterling balances the Government has imposed hasty and indiscriminate restrictions upon imports from the United Kingdom - Australia’s best customer - but our sterling difficulty is only one aspect of another wider problem, the dollar problem, which has arisen through the existence in the world to-day of a vast economic power, the United States of America. It seems to me that the United States of America has not lived up to its obligations in the field of international trade. It has not fulfilled the noble aspirations that it expressed during the last few years of hostilities about a new deal for world trade.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.^During the last two years we have frequently heard members of the Opposition criticize the Government’s financial proposals but, in the whole of that period, they have not expressed any constructive policy on their own behalf. The only policy that they have enunciated calls for low taxation and expenditure greatly in excess of revenue. Not long ago in this House I challenged the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to state Labour’s financial policy. He said that he would give me an answer but, when he rose to speak later, his answer was merely that Labour’s programme would be announced from the hustings during the next general election campaign. Unless the Opposition is prepared to submit a constructive policy it has no justification for submitting to the House an amendment of ,the kind that we are now considering. In the absence of such a policy, I propose to examine the policy that is being pursued by a State Labour government because that should give us at least an indication of what the Labour party in general has in mind. The antiinflationary policy of this Government, on which the last budget was based, is proving successful. The last increase of the basic wage was the smallest increase recorded for a considerable time, except, perhaps, in Queensland, where the last two increases have been higher than those granted in other States. However, basic wage increases relate principally to higher food prices and we must have regard to the fact that Queensland has suffered from a very severe drought during the last twelve months.
The effect of that drought in Queensland gives us a pointer to the efficacy or otherwise of the State Labour Government’s policy. Labour has been in office in that State for over twenty years. In order to guard against the effects of droughts, a government should concentrate upon the development of irrigation projects. We have heard a great deal in this House about the Burdekin Valley development scheme. We were told that the late Mr. Chifley promised Commonwealth assistance amounting to £29,000,000 for that undertaking, but the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) announced that he would not accept that statement without investigation. The State Government recently made an investigation and announced that the cost of the scheme would be about £70,000,000. Such expenditure on one project cannot be contemplated seriously under present conditions, and the Queensland Government should direct its attention to small irrigation projects which, though on a reduced scale, would provide adequate supplies of water at a reasonably low cost.
– What about the Snowy Mountains scheme?
– That is not solely an irrigation project. The severe effects of the drought in Queensland also point to the inadequacy of the transport system in that State. Efficient transport services are essential if the worst effects of droughts are to be avoided. The railways of Queensland have not been extended even by as much as 10 miles of additional track during the last twenty years. That indicates a very backward policy on the part of the Labour Government. Furthermore, neither the rolling-stock nor the condition of existing tracks has been improved over that period. .Roads also have been neglected. After a rainfall of only 1 inch many roads throughout the State become virtually impassable. Under such conditions, it is impossible for producers to send foodstuffs to markets promptly. The Labour Government of Queensland relies upon prices control as a means of dealing with present economic conditions, but its administration of that form of control is open to the gravest criticism, liven after sales tax rates had been substantially increased as a result of the last budget, the State authorities allowed periods of up to six months to elapse before companies were allowed to pass on to the consumers the consequential increased costs. If the policy of the Queensland Labour Government is any indication of the real policy of the Labour party in this Parliament, the people will be much better satisfied with this Government than they would he with a Labour government. The chief concern of the Opposition in this Parliament, in my opinion, is to gain political advantage. Honorable members opposite want to get back to this side of the House. That is their principal objective, and they will be happy if they can achieve it by any means.
I refer now to the assistance that this Government has given to the State governments. The reimbursements of the States by this Government under the uniform tax system is based on a formula to which the States agreed. For the current year, the formula provides for the payment to the States of a. total of £87,000,000. But this Government has granted them an amount of £33,000,000 over and above that figure. That is particularly generous. The figures that I have cited, of course, do not include payments for road works and other special grants. This Government’s treatment of the States is open to criticism only on account of its generosity. We have noticed during this debate that members of the. Opposition have not followed their customary practice of producing newspaper cuttings in order to indicate that there is public criticism of the Government. The truth is, as everybody knows, that there has been virtually no criticism of the Australian Government recently, particularly since the last meeting of the Loan Council, whereas there has been a great deal of criticism of the State governments. For the current financial year, the Loan Council adopted a works programme for the States that provided for the expenditure of £225,000,000 and the Australian Government guaranteed that it would make up to the States any amount by which loan subscriptions fell short of that total. Loan raisings have amounted only to approximately £70,000,000 and, ir, pursuance of its promise, this Government will provide from its revenue a sum of £155,000,000. For the next financial year, the Government will provide £125,000,000 for the State governments. I suggest that the Commonwealth, in relation to its responsibility for public works in the States, has displayed exceptional generosity. But have the States accepted their share of the responsibility ? I believe that the loss of confidence in connexion with Commonwealth loans is due not to the Commonwealth, but to the States. The people know that loan moneys are used by the States, and that not Id. of them is used by the Commonwealth. When one reads of the position to which Mr. McGirr recently appointed himself and of the position to which Mr. Ferguson was appointed by the Labour Government of New South Wales, and when one considers the electricity blackouts which have occurred in New South Wales since December, 1945, and which are beginning to occur in the Labourgoverned State of Queensland this winter, seven years after the end of the war, one does not have to look far for reasons why the Australian people are reluctant to subscribe to Commonwealth loans for State works.
The States are not using even the resources that they have available. The Queensland Government has a Post-war Reconstruction and Development Trust Fund which contains £4,000,000, but that money has not been used for the purpose that I have just mentioned. If that is not a purpose for which that money could be used under present conditions, it would be hard to find one. The
Queensland Government also has an Unemployment Insurance Fund which contains £2,700,000. Why does not the State of Queensland use that fund in a rime of financial stringency? I suggest that the State governments are not accepting their full responsibility in relation to this problem.
The Interest rate is of importance in achieving the stabilization of Commonwealth loans. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) said that we should have, not dear money but cheap money. That view is opposed to what is generally accepted as being sound economic theory. The sound economic theory is that when money is scarce, it. should be dear. From the viewpoint of investment in Commonwealth loans, money is certainly scarce at the present time. The rate of interest payable upon Commonwealth bonds was 3 per cent. Then it was increased to 3J per cent., and a short time afterwards to 3 3/4 per cent. I believe that that is the reason for a considerable lack of confidence on the part of the investing public. I do not say, as does the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that the rate of interest should not have been increased to 3f per cent. I say that the rate of interest payable in respect of all loans current at that time should have been increased to 3£ per cent. This afternoon, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred to the stock exchange list. If he had considered the figures applicable to preference shares, which in some very substantial companies are to-day quoted at approximately par, he would have found that the return on those shares is from 5 per cent, to 6 per cent. Can we expect the Australian investing public to be satisfied with 3f per cent, interest upon Commonwealth bonds when they can get from 5 to 6 per cent, interest from other sources? Semi-governmental loans are not failing. They are issued at £4 2s. 6d. per cent., but no tax rebate is allowable upon interest payments. I believe thai we should fix the interest payable upon all Commonwealth loans at a common rate, which should be at least 3 per cent., and that we should abolish the tax rebate, which influences very few people in making investments. I know that at the present time very few trustees are interested in investing in Commonwealth loans, because of the low rate of interest payable upon them.
I believe that, as the Treasurer has said and as every honorable member recognizes, we are confronted with problems to-day, but I am not satisfied with some of the methods that have been suggested by members of the Opposition for solving those problems. In my opinion, the predominant necessity to-day is hard work. The Opposition must accept its obligations in relation to increased effort by the Australian community. The Labour Governments of New South Wales and Queensland got in ahead of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in establishing a 40-hour week in those States. They wanted a 40-hour week. But we find that in 1949-50 the overtime wages bill of the Queensland railways was £1,279,000, compared with £428,000 in the previous year. The commissioner, in his report, said -
The result is that the 40-hour week cannot he wholly implemented, and heavy overtime is being worked, particularly in the transportation section. Payment for work at overtime rates has the effect of increasing working expenses very considerably. “Recently the Premier of Queensland issued an edict that all overtime in the Queensland police force was to be abolished. Every policeman in Queensland was receiving an average sum of £200 a year in respect of overtime. The only thing that we can do in this country is to work ourselves out of the problem in which we find ourselves. There has been some improvement of the position, especially since the budget was introduced, but we require proper co-operation between the employer section and the employee section of industry. Until we get that co-operation, and until there is a correct attitude of mind in the Australian people, we shall not solve the problems with which we are faced.
.- The House is discussing a financial statement by the Commonwealth Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), but during the last eighteen minutes we have listened to a criticism by the honorable member for
Petrie (Mr. Hulme) of what the Treasurer of Queeusland has not done and should have done. The honorable gentleman made no reference to the matter before the House. He criticized the Opposition for, as he suggested, offering no constructive criticism. Apparently he was not present in the chamber when constructive criticisms were offered by the honorable members on this side of the House. I hope to offer some myself.
The honorable member referred to increases of the prices of commodities in Queensland. He said, first, that doubtless the increases were due to drought, and then that they were due to a lack of policy on the part of the Queensland Government. He explained that he referred to a lack of irrigation projects. Then, almost in the next breath, he referred to the fact that the Chifley Government had agreed to co-operate with the Queensland Government in the construction of what has come to be known as the Burdekin dam. He said that the estimated cost of constructing that dam in 1949, when the Chifley Government was in office, was £29,000,000, but that now it was in the vicinity of £70,000,000. In 1949, the basic wage in this country was £4 5s. a week, but to-day it is £11 a week. The increase in the estimated cost of the construction of the Burdekin dam is due to the devaluation of the Australian £1 during the period this Government has been in office.
The honorable member referred to the improvements that he believed should have been effected in the Queensland railway system. He said that not 10 miles of i ail way had been, laid down in Queensland in twenty years. That statement shows that the ambit of his vision is limited by the boundaries of the Petrie electorate, because at this very moment there is being finished a new railway construction job on what is known as the Mount Morgan line. That work involves the building of a new railway for the purpose of facilitating the export of Callide coal from Queensland. I mention the matter in order to refute the honorable gentleman’s argument. Prior to the outbreak of the last war, when anti-Labour governments were in office and when the financial agreement was in operation, the same old cry of “No money for Queensland, no money for development’’, was raised. During the war period nobody could expect any railway or road improvements except those that were necessary from a defence point of view. The acute shortage of man-power after the end of the war forced the Chifley Government to introduce its immigration policy. The specious argument that the honorable member for Petrie advanced to-night falls to the ground when examined in the light of the facts.
Now I shall do as the Treasurer did last night, when he traced the events that had taken place, particularly in the last, two years since the. Government has been in office. His speech was in the nature of an apologia, and the only hope that he could hold out to the harassed public was a continuation of rigid import restrictions and strict credit control. Here is a Government formed of men who in 1949 fought an election on the cries of “ No more controls “, “ Put value back into the £1”, and “End Communism”. From 1.94.9 until April of last year, their cry was “ Communism, communism and more communism is responsible for our difficulties”. They made no reference to the drift in our economic position that was then taking place. Instead, the Government at that time criminally neglected to deal with the drift. I have heard honorable members opposite assert to-night that all that the Labour party is concerned with is politics. Yet during a vital period in the history of this country all that the Government was concerned about was getting rid of the Labour majority in the Senate. It played politics at that critical period. Last year, when the Treasurer introduced his infamous budget which increased taxes, and bumped sales tax up to the ceiling, the Government claimed that those measures were necessary to control inflation. Everybody knows full well that increases of income tax and sales tax are added to the. prices of commodities, so that, because of the sales tax increases provided in the budget, irrespective of considerations other than the two I have mentioned, the prices of commodities rose. A strange result of a budget which, the
Government told us, was designed to control inflation ! The fact is that the Government panicked in 1951 just as it has panicked in 1952.
We have heard much to-night about our overseas balances and import restrictions. The overseas balances which the Chifley Government was endeavouring to develop, even during the war, for the purpose of meeting any contingency that might arise when the war was over, have been frittered away in the purchase of luxury goods during the short period that the Government has been in office. “When we seek the reason for the Government’s neglect to grapple with this position, we find that when the budget was introduced in 1951 the cry was, “More imports. Flood the market with goods. Establish competition with Australian producers, and prices must go down “. All that has happened since has been the result of the policy that was so vehemently enunciated in the budget last year. That policy was completely reversed early last March within four or five months of its enunciation. Is it any wonder that a newspaper, to which I shall refer later, mentions the “ befuddled “ economic policy of the present Administration. As a result of its policy the Government has dissipated our overseas funds and is now appealing to the primary producers to produce more so that we can build those funds up again. The policies of import restrictions and credit restrictions are causing unemployment. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to-night referred to the rate of unemployment in Australia generally and in North Queensland. It is true that towards the end of each year and the early months of the following year there is unemployment in the north of Queensland in the meat industry and sugar industry. For years funds have been made available to the Queensland Government for the purpose of carrying out road construction for the employment of men who are seasonally unemployed. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), when he was a Minister in Queensland, had the responsibility of laying down the main roads policy of that State and could tell the House of the method by which those men. are normally absorbed on work undertaken by local authorities. But the
Minister for Labour and National Service blithely passes over that matter. He says that these men are seasonally unemployed. Their unemployment is certainly seasonal for the season during which this Government remains in office and denies the funds necessary to put them to work.
The honorable member for Petrie also referred to the restriction of funds available to the States for public works. I know something not only of Queensland but also of north Australia, and of the defence requirements of this country. I also know that this Government, not so very long ago, through the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), informed this House that we had three years and no longer in which to prepare to defend ourselves. Surely we learned something from the lessons of the last war. Surely we realize what is happening north of this country and in Korea. Surely we are aware that the Chinese Red Army is giving battle training to its troops. We can see what is happening in French Indo-China and in Burma. We know something of what is happening in Malaya and of the policy of world dominion of the people who sit in the Kremlin. Yet honorable members opposite talk blithely about what the Government is doing in the field of defence. I say that Australia is more open to attack now than it was in 19-15. Defence works laid down during the war have fallen into decay. What is the Government doing about that, if we have only three years in which to prepare to defend ourselves? Ali it seems able to do is to restrict the moneys that local authorities and State governments could use for the purpose of carrying out works that are urgently required in the interests of our national defence. The people of north Australia know that the defence policy of the Government is limited to the defence of Sydney and Melbourne.
We have heard the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) say that the only cure for the present inflationary condition is to export. He has appealed to the wheat-grower to export more. As the honorable member for Petrie said, Queensland has been through the worst drought in its history, and if the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture wants to increase production he should do so by assisting Queensland beef-producers who raise 90 per cent, of the cattle that are killed in this country for export. During the recess I met some of those who are engaged in the production of beef in Queensland. As the result of the drought, many of them have lost more than half of their herd of breeders. The far north-west of Queensland is still in the throes of the drought. The Northern Territory, another great beef-producer, is still in the throes of the drought, too. The Opposition has been asked for constructive criticism. Will the honorable member for Petrie support the restoration of the averaging system of taxation? The present system of taxation is one of the great obstacles to increased production. Will the honorable member support the restoration of the deductions which were allowed in respect to machinery and equipment at the rate of 40 per cent, of their value?
During the recess I was in the electorate of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and one of his constituents told me that he was producing 20,000 bushels of wheat a year. His accountant had told him that if he continued to produce 20,000 bushels of wheat each year, experienced the same seasons, and received the same price as that which obtains at present for his wheat, in five years he would have lost £10,000 due to the incidence of taxation. Why did not the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in the course of his speech, inform the House what taxation relief was to be given to the primary producer? I remember honorable members who support the Government advocating incentive payments for workers. In the light of current events it would appear that that suggestion had as its ultimate objective, unemployment.
What is the Government’s policy in regard to the provision of incentives for primary production? The Brisbane Daily Telegraph does not advocate the cause of the Opposition in this House, but on the 14th March it printed an editorial which commenced -
The Federal Government seems to have become befuddled and paralysed by the financial crisis and just does not know what to do. It is adopting expedient after expedient instead of getting down to fundamentals and formulat ing a definite and decisive plan and policy to solve the problem. Latest example of vacillation is its reported intention of delaying the easing of credit restrictions until the effects of the drastic import cuts are discernible. The reason for this procrastination is that the Government wants to be sure that it does not take any steps that will impede the growth of mushroom industry. What gross incompetence ! If the Government does not know the difference between essential and mushroom industry what confidence can the people of Australia have in its capacity to deal with the grave economic crisis that has developed.
The editorial concludes -
Without the necessary incentive and the wherewithall to do the job it is futile to appeal for greater production. The Federal Government is swinging from one policy to another with such bewildering speed that it is throwing the nation into a state of confusion. Courageous and decisive action based on sound and stable policy is essential to get Australia out of the present financial morass.
This Government is not competent and has not the policy to get the country out of the financial morass that it is in. Australia faces bankruptcy because the Government has neglected its economic position and has been more concerned, in the words of the Prime Minister in 1940, with playing party politics with communism as a football whilst this nation has suffered. The people are awaiting the opportunity to express their opinion of the Government at the ballotbox. That statement applies, not only to the worker and consumer, but also to the producers. During the recess I met people who had previously vigorously opposed me at the general elections and they told me in no uncertain terms what they would do at the next election. In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 5th March, Mr. T. H. Strong, Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, is reported to have made the following statement :-
It is doubtful whether all sections of thi community realize that a continuation of present trends must cause not only a serious fall in the standards of living of all but also a real slump in the industrial sectors.
This morning, a representative of the trading banks is reported to have said that there would be no depression.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Honorable members have been listening to a debate which I think must have been very disappointing to the people of Australia. Surely they cannot have gained the slightest gleam of hope, if they are troubled, as the Opposition has suggested, in regard to the Government’s policy. Not one Opposition speaker, from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), made a single suggestion as to what the Government might do to correct the position that this country is in. It is significant that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has only just now entered the chamber. He has not been in the House during the whole debate. It is extraordinary, when a censure motion of this character has been moved by him, that he himself has not made his opinion known to the people of Australia. This is a most important occasion for him, but lie has hidden behind the skirts of the honorable member for Melbourne.
Opposition members interjecting,
-Order! Honorable members will refrain from interjecting or I shall have to take action.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who led the case for the Opposition, certainly gave us a great turn. He offered honorable members a great comic act. He should be on the stage; but not the political stage. Dressed up in feathers he would he a. great success in the “ Peep Show.” now being presented by the Tivoli theatre, although I do think that he should have his tail feathers plucked. [Quorum formed.’] Honorable members opposite should realize that this Government is not unmindful of the difficulties from which tile people are suffering.- We know that the policy that we have been obliged to introduce to cure the economic condition that exists in this country is for the ultimate benefit of the people, but we also know that it is causing certain discomfort and certain difficulties. We shall limit those discomforts and difficulties as much as we can.
It must be appreciated that measures of the nature that we are taking are necessary for the ultimate cure of the economic illness from which we are now suffering. The amendment before the committee recites that the people are suffering unnecessary hardship and are undergoing avoidable suffering. When an amendment of that nature has been moved it is the duty of the Opposition to indicate clearly the way in which the hardship could have been avoided and why it is unnecessary. However, not on any occasion has the Opposition attempted to do that. Yesterday honorable members listened to a masterly statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), which I am sure must have made quite clear to the people of Australia just what our position is. The honorable member for Melbourne said that the Government parties told the people, during the last general election campaign, that if elected to office they would deal with inflation. That is quite correct. We did promise the people that we would deal with inflation, and the measures that are being taken at the present time are for that specific purpose.
Let us now examine the causes of inflation and high prices. Some of the causes are not generally spoken about to-day. It is well known that throughout, the world prices generally have increased, and that inflation is affecting most countries. However, a large part of the inflation in Australia is attributable to domestic reasons. Much of it is directly attributable to the actions of the Labour Government that held office for nine years before this Government assumed power. There is no doubt that the socialist rule during those nine years has contributed to the inflation from which we are now suffering. We all remember the “ Golden Age “ that was promised to us, and we all remember the battle cry of the socialists, “ Nothing to pay for anything and everybody to get ls. over the right change “. I suggest that there is no doubt at all that the people’s will to work was destroyed by the attitude of the previous Government. The supporters of that Government stumped the country from one end to the other selling socialism and promising the people all the benefits of hard work for nothing. As a result of all that, our will to work has been destroyed.
In addition to that, the Labour party did certain specific things. For instance, lbc introduction of the 40-hour week by the legislative act of the Government of New South Wales was one of the greatest contributions to inflation in this country. The economy of the country was not then ready for a 40-hour working week. I uhl not opposed to a 40-hour week if the country’s economy can bear it, but at the time it was introduced the country certainly could not bear it. Also at i hut time there was much appeasement in the industrial affairs of the country, and certain unions were left uncontrolled to the point where the operation of the darg in certain industries reached disgraceful proportions. For instance, bricklayers were permitted to lay only about 300 bricks a day. It was an insult to a trademan’s manhood to suggest that he could lay only that number of bricks, and yet such things went on. As a result of all that, the man-hour production of this country has decreased until it is now one of the lowest in the world, f also know that the necessary preparation for war had inflationary characteristics.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), according to his speech today, seemed to approve of the Government’s policy in all respects except two. He was opposed to defence preparations and to immigration. He said that if there were no defence preparations and no immigration we would not need to carry out the policy that we have adopted. He is entitled to his view, but I believe that defence preparations and immigration are essential if we are to retain Australia as a free democracy. Of course I know that the honorable member for East Sydney would not be discouraged if this country were attached to the Asiatic bloc.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) mentioned economic conditions during the year 194S. It should be remembered that at that time rationing was still in force, and goods such as petrol, butter and tea were being sold according to a coupon system. ‘ It is also well known to all Australians that in the year 1948 people could not purchase in the shops of the principal cities of Australia the goods that they needed.
To-day we can certainly purchase anything that we want. Therefore, I suggest there is very little in the argument of the honorable member for Adelaide. However, it is a fact that great difficultieshave been experienced because of war defence preparations, and as a result of the extraordinarily high and inflated priceof wool. Our economy was also greatly affected when the price of wool was suddenly and drastically reduced. There was, and still is, in many respects, overfull employment to such a degree that certain essential industries, including the construction of power stations, such as the Pyrmont power station, have a labourturnover of almost 125 per cent. There was, and to some extent there still is, excess money available for the purchaseof goods.
A great deal has been said concerning import restrictions. Honorable members opposite have repeatedly referred toimport restriction as part of the policy of this Government. Let me make it plain,, as the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) explained last night, that it is not thepolicy of this Government to restrict imports. On the contrary, it has encouraged the importation of goods in. short supply in this country. Certain very deep-seated reasons exist for theimposition of import restrictions. Oneof those reasons is the dangerous international position of sterling at the present moment. Any one who considersthis matter must appreciate that it would be improper for countries which aremembers of the British Commonwealth of Nations to continue to trade with othercountries to such a degree that they could not pay for their imports by means of exports or from funds available. Yet this country was heading for that position. In normal circumstances therewould be no cause for alarm. At other’ times in our history we have made upthe leeway by the flotation of loans in the United Kingdom. Honorable members heard the Treasurer say last evening that that cannot be done. It is a wellknown fact that since the end of the. war sterling has been largely propped up by assistance from the United State3 of America. I do not know the position in that regard at the present time, although
I know that we are struggling to maintain our sterling balances throughout the world. I am also aware that a delicate situation is arising because a presidential election will be held in the United States of America next year. It is essential that we should know the international position of sterling. It is proper that this country should meet its commitments abroad, even if it means a certain amount of sacrifice on the part of the people. It must be appreciated that the Government is in constant negotiation with the United Kingdom Government. The action taken by the Australian Government is calculated to assist Great Britain in its difficulties at the present time.
– The members of the House of Commons do not seem to think so !
– One may hear criticism by certain politicians in the United Kingdom, but I suggest that no criticism is heard from Mr. Churchill, Mr. Eden, Mr. Butler, and other members of the Cabinet. They know what is going on.
The economic ills of Australia cannot possibly be cured without the cooperation of the States. To the present, that co-operation has not been forthcoming. Indeed, in some States a sense of irresponsibility towards the needs of the country has been encouraged. I remind honorable members of the exhibition at the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council.
During the last few years this Government has made a serious effort to reduce the costs of government. The Opposition has criticized the reduction of the Public Service by approximately 12,000 persons. Has any honorable member heard of a State government attempting to cut down the number of its public servants? I suggest that that would be a very good idea. It is well known that many of the persons dismissed by the Commonwealth Public Service have since been employed by the State services. The States are thus proceeding to increase their costs of government whilst the Commonwealth is seeking to reduce its costs. In addition to that, the State governments are crying out for money, in many cases without justification. The New South Wales Minister for Education recently stated that his department was short of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 for the purpose of constructing schools. Great political capital was made of his statement, and some people have been almost convinced that federal representatives should be asked to endeavour to obtain money for the construction of schools in their electorates.
– Why not?
– All I have to say on the matter is that the Government of New South Wales would not have been short of money for the construction of schools had it not decided to purchase the Balmain Electric Light Company, for which it paid several million pounds. It purchased a private company which was performing a worthwhile task, and the expenditure of that large sum of money did not result in the production of one additional unit of electricity. Further, it has committed itself to the expenditure of approximately £8,500,000 for the purchase of a power station set up for the New South Wales Railways Department. Honorable members can appreciate that that expenditure will be used to cover up the deficit incurred by the Railways Department. I suggest that that money should be used for more essential public works. Why is it that the money which is provided by the Australian Government should be used by the New South Wales Government for the purchase of 50,000 blocks of land–
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I honestly believe that this Government is deserving of censure. Not only has it lost the confidence of some of its pledged supporters, but it has also lost any sympathy which members of the Opposition entertained for it. In addition, I venture to say that it has lost the confidence of the people of Australia, a fact which would be demonstrated if the opportunity arose. The amendment to the motion moved by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) arises in part from the restrictive credit policy of the Government. Such credit restriction goes side by side with restriction of essential secondary industries. I should like to know who is to determine what is an essential and what is a non-essential secondary industry?
I have here a telegram which I received to-day. Because of the action of the Treasurer in not permitting the usual hour for question time to-day, I could not refer to it at an earlier stage. It reads -
District is gravely concerned Government’s decision to evict David Jones from the Kurri drill hall closing factory with 70 employees. Suggest part Greta camp be used for Army purposes. Approach Prime Minister urging withdrawal of order.
David Jones Limited supports the Government. Is not that company’s industry essential? The factory at Kurri Kurri is making heavy clothing for mineworkers. It is essential that it should continue to operate and the Government should make available to it some of the blocks of army huts at Greta military camp. Each block contains twenty huts and there are 40 huts that could be used, for military training purposes in lieu of the Kurri Kurri drill hail. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) referred to expenditure by the New South “Wales Government on essential power plant. I do not know whether he includes the Wangi Wangi power plant. It will not only supply essential needs in Newcastle, but will assist the electrification of the railway system between Newcastle and Sydney. If this plant were associated with others on the south coast and further up towards Queensland, the whole of the eastern coast of Australia could be electrified. Electricity would then be available for the rural industries inland also, yet this work is held up for lack of finance caused by Government restrictions.
In my electorate, there have been too many floods in the past. Coal for the whole of Australia has been delayed because the Hunter River has been in flood. A coal company from Utah, United States of America, was prepared to spend £10,000,000 sterling at Singleton, on the border of my electorate, to develop coal mines. It claimed that it had a remedy for spontaneous combustion. Only 30 per cent, of the rich Greta seam of coal has been tapped while the rest is going to ruin because of underground fires. That should encourage the Government to allow the company to come to Australia to develop the Greta seam. It has approached the Joint Coal Board, and, because of the Government’s financial restrictions, the board has been stopped from spending money on amenities or the development of coal mines. But the Government is importing coal from Japan and India at exorbitant prices and the Treasurer is always able to get allowances and subsidies for the development of primary production. The Government should be censured also for failing to give the States money for education. The honorable member for Bennelong said the Education Department of New South Wales has spent money to. provide special plant for electricity. The Education Department has been compelled to install lighting systems in schools in order to guard against the severe blackouts that have been imposed to prevent the complete breakdown of the electrical system. If funds had been made available for the purchase of the Wangi Wangi power station, there would have been no need for the Education Department to expend money for the provision of such emergency plant. When a school was burned down at one centre, in my electorate, the children who had attended it were educated during the cold winter months in an abandoned garage. It is tragic that such things should happen in these socalled enlightened days. The New South Wales Government proposes to construct a railway line from a point near Singleton via Cessnock to Morriset, which will enable coal to be transported from the Newcastle area to Melbourne without interruption and permit the carriage of primary products from country centres to the Newcastle district. Flooding occurs at present between Hexham and Farley. It is highly desirable that this line should bo constructed as early as possible.
I have received a telegram from Mr. George Grant, the general secretary of the miners’ federation, which reads as follows : -
Would be pleased if you would submit following questions to Minister: -
What steps have been taken by the Government to remedy the flaw in the
Coal Industry Act revealed by the High Court in its recent judgment?
Is it correct that the Government proposes to bring down legislation permitting appeals to the Arbitration Court from the Coal Industry Tribunal? lt is imperative that these matters be raised because it will mean trouble in the coalfields if the proposed legislation is brought down regarding permitting appeals.
When the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was Minister for Labour and National Service, appeals against the decisions of the late James Connell were repeatedly made by the coal-owners. Mr. Connell was an arbitrator appointed, not by a Labour government, but by a Liberal government. I understand that he was appointed to his position by the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) upon the recommendation of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Although Mr. Speaker will not permit me to mention the name of any person in a question without notice, I do not think that he will prevent me from doing so now.
-Order ! The honorable member may not reflect upon any , person
– The person to whom I intended to refer, Mr. Gregory Forster, lodged appeal after appeal against the decisions of the arbitrator, Mr. Connell, or the conciliation commissioner, and finally the- Labour Governnent was forced to amend the act in order to make the decisions of the Coal Industry Tribunal final and binding. Mr. Forster was a radio announcer who knew nothing whatsoever about coal. At one time he sought a job in the mine in which I was employed. The mine manager, Mr. Ogilvie, asked him to name the mines m which he had worked and he replied, I have worked in mines on the South Coast”. Mr. Ogilvie then said, “What sort of lights were installed in them ? “ Mr. Forster replied, “I worked on day shift “. He did not know that even in daylight the mines are dark and have to be lit.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brimblecombe) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1952 -
No. 1 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association (Australia).
No. 2 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
No. 3 - Transport Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 4 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 5 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 0 - Boilermakers’ Society of Australia.
No. 7 - Transport Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 8 - Commonwealth Storemen ami Packers’ Union of Australia.
No. 9 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 10 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Repatriation Act - Repatriation Commission - Report for year 1950-51.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
N asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Air. Swartz asked the Minister for works and Housing, upon notice -
Has further consideration been given to the construction of the hostel for British immigrants at Toowoomba, Queensland?
s. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The proposal to construct a hostel for British immigrants at Toowoomba was deferred from the 1951-52 works programme after due consideration taking into account the money available for works. The construction of this hostel will be considered shortly when reviewing the programme of immigrant accommodation, for 1952-53.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 May 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520507_reps_20_217/>.