20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. Peters presented a petition from certain electors of the Division of Burke praying that the rate of age and invalid pensions he increased to at least £4a week.
Petition received and read.
Mr. Daly presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that action be taken by the Parliament to rectify an injustice which, they consider, exists under section 8 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act.
Petition received and read.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether there is any truth in the statement, which has been persistently repeated, that when an Australian soldier in Korea is wounded the time that he spends in hospital is deducted from the period of active service credited to him?Is it also true that if, during the time the wounded man is in hospital, his mates are withdrawn from the front line, he still has to return to the line to workout the time that he spent in hospital in excess of 28 days? Will the
Minister have this most vexed question clearedup in a manner that will leave no doubt in the minds of ex-servicemen and of the public?
– The question that has been raised by the honorable member for Adelaidehas been considered and is still under consideration. I remind the honorable member that no other forces in Korea have anything like the leave periods that the Australian Government is happy to extend to members of the 3rd and 1st BattalionsRoyal Australian Regiment, in Korea. After four months service in Korea, each soldier has five clear days leave in Japan. After eight months service in Korea, a soldier is given three clear weeks leave in Japan. No other forces in the British Commonwealth Division have leave comparable with that given by this Government, and we grant it with pleasure. Because of the satisfactory supply of reinforcements, an Australian soldier who suffers a major wound is not necessarily returned to the line, but that is a matter which rests entirely with the medical officers who have to decide whether a man is physically fit for service. When a man receives a minor wound, the first 28 days that he spends in hospital are considered to be part of his service of twelve months, less the leave, that I have already referred to. I believe that the honorable member for Adelaide will conclude on reflection that the Australian forces in Korea are generously treated.
– My questions, which arc directed to the Minister for Air. relate to the number of flying saucers that are alleged to have been seen in various parts of Australia during recent months. Can the Minister say whether such reports have been investigatedby his depa rtment, and if so, will he state the conclusions that his officers have reached? Furthermore, is the Minister in communication with the United States authorities concerning these intruders? Does he share the opinion expressed by certain American officials that the flying saucers may be visitants from another sphere, or, alternatively, that they are a novel form of espionage by a potential enemy?
In reality, are they not more likely to be simply an aerial version of the Loch Ness monster?
– I have not received any report from the Air Force on flying saucers in Australia. I share the view of the honorable member that these reports are probably based on flights of imagination in which honorable members who sit on the other side of the House so frequently indulge. I do not think that the Air Force has been in communication with the United States authorities on this matter. I shall certainly cause a thorough investigation to be made. If I can ascertain the source of these rumours, I shall let the honorable member have full information about them. I impress upon the House my belief that most of the rumours that have circulated in Australia have resulted from the activities of a particular political party. It is highly probable that that party is flying kites as a new form of political propaganda.
– Will the Minister for.
Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether the Government has made any decision on the suggestion that I have put forward that an increase in the guaranteed price for seed cotton to 14d. per lb. would result in a greater production of cotton ? Has full recognition been accorded the saving that would accrue to Australia’s overseas balances if more cotton were produced? I ask the Minister these questions because the planting season for cotton is at hand, and I am confident that growers, including new growers, will plant additional acreages if they are assured now of a reasonable return by a Government guarantee of 14d. per lb.
– The Government has considered recommendations and suggestions that were made by the honorable member for Capricornia and other honorable members and by the Queensland Cotton Board. Following a recommendation by the Minister for Trade and Customs, the Government has decided to increase the guaranteed return to growers for seed cotton from a current guarantee of9½d. per lb. to 14d. per lb. in respect of the crop that is about to be planted. It is the desire of the Government to secure a very substantial expansion of the Australian cotton-growing industry if this can be achieved on a basis of economic production. The advantages, both as an expansion of Australian agriculture and in respect of our balance of payment problems, are obvious. It was on this reasoning that the Government, in 1950, guaranteed a price for seed cotton of 9$d. per lb. for five years. That achieved an immediate and very substantial increase of the acreage planted to cotton. The increase of the guaranteed price for next year expresses a recognition of the general higher level of costs and values which pertain at present. This alteration of the original guarantee does not invalidate the Government’s original undertaking that during five years, the guarantee would not be lower than 9 1/2d. per lb. The return to cotton-growers is finally the outcome of the sale of raw cotton, that is ginned cotton, and therefore the costs of ginning are a most important element in the economics of this industry. The costs of ginning are affected largely by the volume available for ginning, and to a not unimportant extent by the selling price of cotton-seed meal, the by-product of ginning. Ginning is undertaken by in instrumentality of the Queensland Government. An aspect of the Commonwealth’s guarantee is an expectation that the Queensland Government will take adi steps to keep the costs of ginning down, and to that extent, increase the return to growers and limit the possibility of the Commonwealth’s guarantee being involved.
– I rise to order. I desire to know whether the period allotted by the Standing Orders for questions without notice is to be taken up by obviously prearranged questions asked of Ministers who come into the House with prepared statements to read.
– No time is allotted by the Standing Orders for questions. There are two types of questions, one being questions on notice, and the other, questions without notice. 0.n many occasions, very much against my grain, I have allowed considerable latitude in the asking of questions. I think that I have allowed equal latitude in the answering of them. If the House wishes me to apply the Standing Orders rigidly, I can assure honorable members that I shall do so, and that question time will be over in ten minutes.
– I shall conclude the explanation of the circumstances associated with the guarantee in a few words. The Australian Government expects the Queensland Government to continue ite programme of stimulating the acreage planted and ako to fix a selling price for cotton seed meal which is reasonable, having regard to the points to which .1 have referred. The price of cotton seed meal definitely affects the final return to growers for their seed cotton.
– Order 1 The Minister is going well beyond the question.
– Growers, on the basieof this guarantee, may look forward to a very considerable profit if seasonal conditions are favorable and their cultural methods are efficient.
Mr. George Lawson having asked a question,
– The question is out of order having regard to the budget and sales tax business now before the Parliament.
– Having regard to the fact that the period of seven years in respect of which preference in employment is granted to ex-service personnel under the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945 has now elapsed, I should like to know from the Prime Minister, whether Cabinet has reviewed that act insofar as that provision of it, is concerned ?
– The Government has considered the question of the period of preference which, as the honorable member has rightly pointed out, is shortly due to expire under the existing legislation. The Cabinet has decided to introduce the necessary legislation to extend that period for another three years.
– If the decision made by the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration that all immigrants in British immigrant camps should have at least £2 12s. 6d. a week left over and above their board is carried out, what will be the position of immigrants who, through no fault of their own, are unemployed ? Will they be expected to pay board in spite of the fact that they have no income?
– I do not carry all the details of this matter in my mind. I undertake to have the matter investigated this afternoon and to furnish the honorable member with, a reply to his question before the day is over.
– Has the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration been drawn to a report that the sudden recall of the Minister for Immigration from Vienna to London is a significant indication that his European tour in connexion with Australia’s immigration programme has ended, and also that German emigration to Australia has been cancelled? Will the Minister inform the House whether the report is true and also whether, as was indicated in the same report, it is true that there is an anxiety in Australia about immigration matters which may result in the return to this country of the Minister for Immigration earlier than was expected, and without his visiting Canada to attend the forthcoming -conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association ?
– I have seen the report io which the honorable member has referred. It is so grossly inaccurate that [ do not .know where to begin to answer the question. The Minister for Immigration is in the process of paying a visit to London during his European tour in connexion with immigration -matters. His visit to London has nothing to do with immigration, and ‘the interruption of his negotiations in .Germany is not to be -taken to mean that those negotiations have been cancelled. They ; hav not been cancelled, and, therefore, the assumption that there is -some interruption .of this sort taking place is quite false.
– It is certainly mysterious.
– There is nothing mysterious about it except the thoughts in the fervent and heated minds of some members of the Opposition. As to the suggestion that anxiety on this subject in Australia may cause the Minister to return here instead of going to Canada. I point out that he i3 the president of .the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and is to visit Canada for the purpose of attending the conference that will take place there in a few weeks’ time. As the Minister is the distinguished head of that organization for this year, and Australia’s main representative to the conference, 1 should imagine that he would be very reluctant not to go to Canada to attend the gathering. I am quite sure that he will he going there. Indeed, with the support of his colleagues, of the Government and the tolerance of the House, the Minister’s representative in this House for the time being is getting along quite nicely.
– In view of the increasing unemployment in Australia will the Minister who is acting for the Minister for immigration make a further review of the immigration target for the next twelve months, which is understood to be 80,000 immigrants? Will the Minister seek to have the Dutch and Italian Governments decrease their quotas of immigrants in order to -obviate a repetition of the : trouble that recently occurred at Bonegilla -camp ?
– I cannot undertake to place any further review of the immigration programme before Cabinet at present. It was announced in this House only a few days ago that the immigration programme had ‘been reduced from about 160,000 a year to 80,000 for the year 1953. The Government has made very drastic reductions in its programme and the honorable member will realize that it is not easy to break engagements that have been .made with other governments and so submit the people concerned to a very serious disturbance of their domestic and business arrangements. I think that the number of immigrants likely to be admitted to Australia during the remainder of this year will be only about 60,000. That is as far as the Government can reduce the figure, having regard to its obligations. [ cannot promise the honorable member that there will be any substantial reduction in the number of immigrants below 80,000 next year.
– I ask the Prime Min ister whether it is a fact that the American Smelting and Refining Company of New York, which is a member of the Morgan-Guggenheim Wall-street group and controls the Mount Isa mine, has now obtained complete control of uranium production in Australia ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is in the negative.
– Can the Minister for Health indicate the relative merits of the lottery system and the voluntary insurance system as means of financing hospitals? In particular, what proportion of lottery receipts in all the States in which lotteries are conducted is actually made available to hospitals, and what is the net return received by hospitals from hospital insurance societies?
– Lotteries are conducted in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania. Approximately, from 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. of the total proceeds of those lotteries represents the value of prizes and administrative expenses, leaving from 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. for payment to hospitals. In respect of hospital insurance organizations, the position is exactly the reverse. Approximately from 75 per cent. to 80 per cent., and in some instances even more, of the total income of such organizations is made available to hospitals whilst only from 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. of such income is absorbed in administrative expenses. In the United States of America and Canada approximately 90 per cent. of the income of voluntary insurance organizations is made available to hospitals.
– I desire to address a series of questions to the Minister for Health. First, were any conditions on hospital administration imposed on the States under the Chifley Government’s hospital benefits scheme, and are any conditions being imposed on the States under the present Government’s scheme? Secondly, to what extent did Queensland benefit under the Chifley Government’s hospital benefits scheme, and to what extent would it benefit under the present, scheme? Thirdly, did Queensland receive any assistance from the Chifley Government towards the treatment of sufferers from tuberculosis and the maintenance of buildings, and is it receiving any such assistance from this Government? Fourthly, for how long have pensions been paid by the Commonwealth to sufferers from tuberculosis, and can the Minister state the approximate amount by which sufferers in Queensland have benefited ?
– The system under which pensions have been paid to sufferers from tuberculosis has been in operation for little more than two years, and during that period, approximately £300,000 has been paid to recipients in Queensland. The Chifley Labour Government insisted, despite the protests of the respective Premiers at that time, that conditions be imposed upon the States regarding the hospital benefits contribution. One condition was that all hospitals should forgo the collection of fees from patients in public wards, and, in return, the Chifley Labour Government made available 6s. a bed daily. That amount was later increased to 8s. The present Government has offered to the States a system of hospital benefits under which no limiting conditions will be imposed upon the institutions. All that this Government asks is that the State governments shall seek to increase their hospitals revenue.
– A means test will be imposed.
– The means test will be abolished in respect of any person who pays one half-penny a day to insure himself. If the honorable member for East Sydney on his salary cannot afford to pay that amount in order to insure himself, he does not deserve to receive free treatment as a patient in a public hospital. The honorable member for Ryan also asked me to state the contribution made by the Commonwealth to the Queensland Government under the previous hospital benefits scheme. The amount last year was approximately £910,000, but the contribution under the present Government’s scheme could be £2,500,000.
– .My question is directed to the Minister for Health and concerns a statement which he made recently with reference to a proposed insurance scheme to cover families and individuals against medical and hospital charges, for a fee of approximately 2s. weekly. Is the Minister now able to give to the House details of that scheme? Will he state the special provisions that he has in mind in respect of chronic invalids and aged people other than pensioners who are in receipt of less income than pensioners? nf such provision has not been made, will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to treat those persons on the same basis as age and invalid pensioners? Is he in a position to say when the scheme will commence?
– At the present time, senior administrative officers of the Department of Health are engaged^ in examining the details of and regulations governing between 300 and 400 organizations which supply pre-paid medical care at the present time. The examination is being made in order to enable all such organizations to function under the scheme. Some of these organizations are associated with the trade unions, some with mining organizations and other big undertakings and some with friendly societies and medical benefit societies. The examination will take several months and the public will be notified well in advance of the actual date of commencement of the scheme. All the major organizations have decided to remove the age bar to insurance in regard to both medical and hospital benefits. They are also willing to insure persons with such chronic diseases as diabetes or asthma against other illnesses that they may suffer and the Government contribution will be paid in respect of each disease.
– In view of the recent statement by the Minister for Territories that certain complete exemp tions from- income tax that have been hitherto applicable to residents, of the Northern Territory are to lapse and be replaced by special taxation concessions, will the Minister inform the House whether the Government proposes to take any action, similar or otherwise, in relation to the complete exemption from income tax at present enjoyed by the residents of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea ? I point out that that complete exemption from taxation is being taken advantage of by large Australian trading companies which have made themselves eligible for the exemption by the simple expedient of registering a subsidiary company at Port Moresby. Despite the fact that they make very large profits from their operations in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea they are not called upon to make a commensurate contribution to the increasing cost of its administration.
– As a substantial part of the honorable member’s question relates to government policy, I am not prepared to answer it at the moment. Some of the argument that was linked with the question does not seem to me to be wholly convincing, nor, indeed, to be a full statement of the position.
– During the 1949 general election campaign the Treasurer promised the people that if the anti-Labour parties were elected to office loans would be made available to local governing bodies, free of interest, to enable them to undertake road construction work. In view of the very bad condition of many roads in country areas, will the Treasurer take action to honour his pre-election promise?
– The honorable member’s question is based on false premises, and therefore answers itself.
– The Prime Minister indicated in answer to a question yesterday that money now held in the form of Japanese assets would be distributed amongst former prisoners of war of the Japanese after an amendment of the Trading withthe Enemy Act had been made. Can the right honorable gentleman yet say when a distribution of funds will be made under the terms of the Japanese Peace Treaty, in accordance with which the International Red Cross will distribute the remaining moneys to former prisoners of war of the Japanese?
– I realize that the honorable member’s question relates to what might be called the second portion of this problem. I regret that I am not in a position, offhand, to tell him the latest developments in connexion with t his matter, but I shall make inquiries as soon as possible and advise him of the result.
– In view of the fact that accurate details of the budget, including figures which could have come only from a pro-knowledge of the contents of the budget papers, were published in Sydney and Melbourne newspapers eight hours before the Treasurer delivered the budget speech in this chamber. I ask the right honorable gentleman the following questions: - 1. Are the details of the budget secret and confidential prior to the delivery of the budget speech by the Treasurer in this chamber? 2. If so, did the Treasurer himself give this information to the press? 3. If he did not do so, what action does he propose to take to ascertain how the newspapers were able to publish, eight hours before the budget was p resented, to the Parliament, details of the budget speech which could have come only from a knowledge of the contents of the budget-papers?
– I understand that the honorable member for Yarra spoke on this matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night. I intend to reply to him when the motion for the adjournment of the House is moved to-night.
– As the Minister for Air is no doubt aware, life insurance policies held by members of the Royal Australian Air Force Active Reserve, who are engaged on flying duties are being loaded with higher premiums. Can the Minister say whether reservists engaged on flying duties are covered by the same conditions as apply to members of the Permanent Air Force? Has consideration been given to the payment to dependants of active reservists who are killed on duty of pensions similar to those payable in respect of members of the Permanent Air Force? On what basis are active reservists engagedon flying duties to be paid?
– I am not certain that I can give absolutely accurate answers to the three questions that the honorable member has posed, but I shall check my replies and if I find any inaccuracies in them I shall let the honorable member have a letter on the subject. The Government has been endeavouring to secure special life insurance conditions for serving members of the Air Force. The Prime. Minister and the Minister for Defence were able to negotiate an agreement under which policies in force on the 1st January. 1951. do not carry special premiums either for members of the Permanent Air Force or of the Active Reserve. I have written in recent weeks to the Minister for Defence who,I assume has passed the letter on to the Prime Minister, asking that further negotiations be undertaken with regard to policies issued after that date which do carry special premiums. I think that the premiums are the same for members of the Permanent Air Force and of the Active Reserve. The honorable member’s second question relates to compensation. Permanent members of the Defence Forces are, eligible for benefits under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. but that act does not apply to members of the reserve. However, there is also a Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act under which dependants or relatives of a member of the Permanent Air Force or the. Active Reserve are eligible for benefits should the serviceman be killed or injured during the period of his service. I think that the widow of a deceased serviceman receives, £1,500.I know that there are some anomalies which I think have already been referred to the Minister for Defence,, I shall ask him what the position is, and inform the honorable member of the result by letter.
The third question relates to wages or salaries. Members of both the Active Reserve and the Permanent Air Force are paid the same salaries whilst on duty.
– Did the Prime Minister have any serious discussions on the position of the Australian gold-mining industry during his recent visit overseas, particularly while he was in the United States of America? If that subject was discussed, has the right honorable gentlemen any message for the industry, and for the many thousands of people who are dependent upon it?
– I realize the interest that the honorable member has in this great industry. It does not happen to have been one of the matters that I discussed when I was abroad. I was dealing with particular matters with particular people, and, therefore, I have nothing official to communicate to him.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether any complaints have been received from former officers of the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps, who were drawn from the Public Service during the war period, and who have since reverted to civilian status, about the loss of public service benefits that they should have received. Was not an undertaking given by the Minister’s predecessor in office that such transferred officers would suffer no promotion disadvantage through their military service? Has this undertaking been honoured? If it can be shown that certain public servants who transferred to the military forces, and later returned to civilian status, have suffered grave disadvantages, will the Minister give an undertaking that the cases will be investigated, and that the undertaking given by the former Minister will be honoured?
– I have not received any representations on the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred. However, if such representations are received in future, I shall be pleased to give them every consideration.
– My question refers to the announcement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture of plans for the distribution of profits of the Joint Organization, which are contingent on a. decision of the High Court in the Poulton case. Has the Minister taken into consideration the needs of those woolgrowers who have not actually left the industry and may urgently require their money for a particular reason?
– The decision of the Government to distribute in full Joint Organization profits to persons entitled to a share of those profits applies to those who left the industry prior to August, 1949. The decision was the outcome of representations which had been made to the Government to the effect that aged persons and others not in good financial circumstances should be paid their entitlement in full. The Government accepted the principle as a general proposition. Some months ago I consulted with all the wool-growers’ organizations in Australia in order to obtain the benefit of their views before the Government arrived at its final policy decision. Tremendous administrative problems are associated with the engagement to pay out in full a share of the profits to any one who claims that he is in adverse financial circumstances. The broad decision was taken that such a share would be paid to those who had left the industry before the recent high prices for wool operated. As soon as a case, which is now before the High Court, is determined, all other people in the industry will be paid their share, of the profits, in three approximately equal annual instalments.
– I preface a question to the Prime Minister by informing him that the honorable member for Newcastle and I have just received telegrams from the Newcastle Trades Hall concerning a grave position that exists at Maitland and in the lower Hunter district Is the right honorable gentleman aware that, because of continuously heavy rain, residents of Maitland and farmers in the lower Hunter areaagain face disastrous floods andpossible ruin? Will he discuss this matter urgently with his Cabinet colleagues with a view to determining whether finance can be made available for the immediate relief of persons whose livelihood .and property are destroyed and for the carrying out of permanent works to control the flood menace in the Hunter River district ? Alternatively, will he discuss this matter with representatives of the city, the farmers and all the public bodies concerned ?
– As the honorable member will know, the question of Commonwealth action in relation to such matters as floods and bush-fires which occur in Australia has been the -subject of a fairly steady practice, both under the previous Government and under my own Government. Where the government of a State communicates with th?. Australian Government, draws its attention to a disaster and indicates that it would like the Commonwealth to cooperate, the Commonwealth has, I thin!;, almost invariably co-operated by making a matching grant to that of the State with which to deal with cases of actual need. My Govern ment has continued that practice in relation to former disasters and I assure the honorable member that any approach that is made to us by the government of the State concerned will receive very prompt attention.
– Can the Minister for Supply inform the House of the present position with regard to the output of textiles and clothing orders for the Services? Some time ago there appeared to be a shortage of some of these items. As extra production would benefit the industry and improve the employment position, I should appreciate the Minister’s supplying information concerning any steps that have been taken to meet these essential Service requirements.
– The honorable member for Corio has asked .several questions on this matter and his interest in it is well known. It is true that some time ago the industry was slow in filling defence orders, but the la.”- has now been overtaken. I shall cite figures to indicate the degree of acceleration that has taken plane. During the last half of 1951, 392,000 yards of textiles were pro duced in fulfilment of government orders. In the first half of 1952 production was increased to 775,000 yards. During the last half of 1951, 316,000 items of clothing were manufactured for my department, while 871,000 items were made during the first half of 1952. The production of footwear was increased from 66,000 pairs to 100,000 pairs during the same period. Perhaps those figures will encourage the industry by providing it with an indication of the extent to which the Government has assisted it by the placing of orders.
– by leave - Honorable members will be most interested to hear that advice has just been received from the Australian representative in Hongkong that three Australian airmen. Ross Sandford Bohm, of Brisbane, John Francis Richmond, of Wollongong, and William Michael Jones, of Adelaide, have arrived at the border between the territory of Communist China and Kowloon, the British territory on the mainland opposite the island of Hongkong. Our Australian representative has reported that the Hongkong authorities are arranging for the transport of these men to Hongkong. I was very pleased to bt: able to pass on this information to-day to the next of kin of the airmen. I atn taking steps to obtain further information about the matter, in particular the state of health of the men. These three Australians were members of the crew of an aircraft that crashed into the sea of Macao in December. 1950. They were immediately apprehended b? the Chinese authorities a.nd have been held incommunicado since that time. From the time of the arrest of these men the Australian Government has used every possible means to bring about their release. As Australia does not recognize the Communist. Government in Peking, the main inquiries have been made, through the United Kingdom Charge d’Affaires in Peking to the Central People’s Government for information concerning the whereabouts and welfare of British Commonwealth and United States citizens detained in China. It is most gratifying to hear that the Australian airmen have at last been released, and it is sincerely to be hoped that their release will be followed by that of the other British Commonwealth and United States citizens who have been held in China for many months.
Motion (by Mr.Eric J. Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Ordersbe suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from making his speech in Committee of Supply on the budget without limitation of time.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 12th August (vide page 209), on motion by Sir Arthur
That the first item in the Estimates under DivisionNo. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £13,500 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- The policy that the Government has pursued during the two and a half years that it has been entrusted with the administration of this country has been brought into effect by the means that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has described to the committee. The aims of the Government may be summarized under six heads. The first aim is to aid and contribute to world peace and security. The second is to maintain the security of Australia against aggression and conquest. The third is to maintain peace within Australia. The fourth is to help to achieve and maintain high living standards, including the constant useful employment of our people. The fifth is to develop the instruments of production. The sixth is to provide social services of a high standard in order that we may maintain social justice.
The Treasurer has fulfilled his obligations to the Australian people under all six of those headings. Unfortunately, as we have learned from the two speeches that have been made on behalf of the Opposition so far during this debate, the Labour party, although it has obligations in relation to all of those aims, has failed to honour them. The first three aims that I have mentioned refer to the promotion and maintenance of peace, both inside and outside Australia, and to the fostering of a state of well-being amongst our people. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) sought merely to arouse mass hysteria and engender fear in the minds of the people. I noted various phrases that came from his lips over and over again during the course of his speech last night. He spoke of a fear of unemployment, a fear of economic recession, mass unemployment, a drift towards unemployment, and the commencement of a definite trade recession. Why should he make such statements when they are obviously untrue and without any foundation in fact? The answer is that the right honorable gentleman is trying to gain some party political advantage by instilling in the minds of the people unjustified fears of unemployment and economic recession. By raising such bogies, he hopes to achieve bis lifetime ambition to become the commissar of Australia. What is Labour’s policy? Is it entirely negative, without any semblance of constructive planning? I trust that we shall learn from speeches by other members of the Opposition that the Labour party has at least some constructive proposals to submit. Up to the present, we have found no evidence of constructive planning by that party.
The Leader of the Opposition issued a challenge to the Government. He said that, by applying the principles of Labour’s full employment policy, the Government could gradually restore stability to the economy. I am very doubtful that the right honorable gentleman sincerely looks forward to the establishment of a stable economy in Australia. I read recently a report of a statement that had been made by one of the masters of the Labour party. Mr. W. Bird, who is the secretary of the Seamen’s Union of Australasia, which exerts a powerful influence upon the Labour party.
– That is a contemptible lie.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden) . - Order !
– It is a lie.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order!
– I do not think that Mr. Bird was lying.
– But you were.
– If the honorable gentleman referred to me, I think, Mr. Acting Chairman, that he should withdraw the expression that he used.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - To what expression does the honorable member object?
– The statement that I had uttered a contemptible lie. I thought that the honorable gentleman who made it was referring to Mr. Bird.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) will withdraw the statement.
– What must I withdraw?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member was the first to speak of lying. I ask him to withdraw the statement.
– The honorable member for Capricornia said that a man named Bird, who is a member of the Communist party, controlled the Labour party.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order !
– If that is a contemptible lie, I withdraw it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member will withdraw and apologize to the committee for repeating the statement.
– For repeating what?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- For repeating the term “ a contemptible lie “.
– Apparently, under the compulsion of numbers, I must apologize.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Now, sit down.
- Mr. Bird, who is secretary of the Seamen’s Union, said recently in Melbourne -
Workers are corrupted by high wages which give them illusions about the capitalist system.
I take up the challenge thrown down by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that, by applying the Labour party’s policy of full employment, the Government could restore stability to our economy. Recently, the Labour party gained control of the Brisbane City Council after its candidates had told the electors that, if they were put into power, they would reduce rates, provide employment and do all the wonderful things that the ratepayers had been dreaming about. “ Give us the green light,” they said, “ and we will go ahead.” Well, they were given the green light, but we have not heard so much of their promises lately. The Labour party had full power to put its policy into effect in Brisbane, and to honour its promises, but instead of reducing rates it increased them by 47 per cent. It promised to provide employment, but instead of doing so it took a leaf from the book of the Stalinists in Russia, and embarked on a campaign of lopping off heads. Several highranking executives were dismissed, and the sewerage department and the works department are still without executive officers. Thus, so far from providing additional employment, the Brisbane City Council has dismissed those who were best qualified to do its work. The same sort of thing has happened in Mackay, in Queensland. There, the Labour party was returned with full power to control the affairs of the city, and there, too, heads began to fall, and people were thrown out of employment. The practice has been for the Labour party to lie its way into office, and then to concentrate its efforts on remaining in office, irrespective of the welfare of the mass of the people. There is no upper House in the Queensland Parliament, so that the Labour Government has full power to implement Labour policy. The Labour Government in that State has done some truly remarkable things. There has been much talk about the need to produce more coal. One would think that the Government of Queensland would realize the importance of increased production, but what happened? The Queensland Government set out to build a railway line to the Callide coal mine. Recently word went out that the work was to be stopped. The road had already been built more than half way. The embankments had been started and the foundations were down for the permanent way almost to the mouth of the mine. Suddenly the work was stopped. When we asked for the reason, the Queensland Government replied that the wicked Australian Government would not give it sufficient money.We replied that the Queensland Government had at least £8,000,000 that it could not spend previously. The Queensland Government replied that Thiess Brothers wanted the work closed down. Thiess Brothers denied that and so the Queensland Government had to look for another scapegoat and it said that it did not have enough money. I pointed out that the Queensland Government had at least £4,000,000 in a post-war development fund for the railway department, and that it could easily afford the comparatively small sum that was required. In the whole period that has passed since the war, it has not spent £1,000,000 of the £5,000,000 that it had salted away. If that is sound Labour administration, heaven preserve this country from it.
Attention has been drawn frequently to the need for more wheat because of its importance in the national economy. The people of Queensland rallied to the call and prepared 730,000 acres this year for wheat production. That is a record acreage for Queensland and if fortune favours the growers, it will yield 20,000,000 bushels. One would have thought that the Queensland Labour administration would seize the opportunity to do something about the wheat crop in the interests of the nation. But it has done nothing about it. We asked the Queensland Government to build railway sidings.It is not too good at building railways. If honorable members review the 30 years of Labour administration in Queensland, they will discover that there are five miles of railway line less now than there were 30 years ago. However, we thought that we could ask it to build a little siding so that we could get our wheat away, but the Queensland Government has steadfastly and absolutely refused to have anything to do with the work. As a result there will be no railway siding at which trucks can be loaded to carry wheat to the seaboard. The Queensland Government fixed the ceiling price of sorghum at £21 a ton. That price is below the cost of production of freight.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) has informed the com mittee that the Australian Government is subsidizing imports of coal from overseas. The Queensland Government could make some contribution to Australia’s coal supplies. The coal from overseas, which is being subsidized, is gas coal. I recall that in 1949, when the Victorian Government was anxious to obtain gas coal, its representatives went to Queensland and to other States searching for it. They found at Selene a huge bed of gasproducing coal. It is bigger than any other deposit of gas coal in Australia. The Victorian representatives asked the Queensland Government for the right to get the coal. They offered to supply the capital, the railways, and the roads, to develop the whole of that mighty field for the Queensland Government and to take every ton of coal that was produced there for Victoria. That would have been a great contribution to the economy of the nation if the Queensland Government had accepted the offer, but it did not do so. It rejected the offer and announced its intention to burn the gas coal from Selene in locomotives, although there is plenty of steam-producing coal at Blair Athol and other fields. If tha t is a sample of Labour administration, Australia would be better without it. Wherever Labour governments are in power, it is evident that Labour does not know where it is going, because it is being pulled by the nose by the socialists and the Communists inside Australia who are its masters. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Government should tie the pension rate to the cost of living. He made quite a song about it.
– On a percentage basis.
– That is so, and I am glad that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) agrees that the right honorable gentleman made such a statement, because I want to take his mind back to another statement that was made by the right honorable gentleman in this House when he was AttorneyGeneral and Minister for External Affairs. On the 23rd February, 1944, the right honorable gentleman, who suggests now that the pension rate should be tied to the cost of living on a percentage basis, moved. the second reading of the Invalid and Old-age pensions Bill 1944, and he said -
The main purpose of this bill is to give legislative effect to the Government’s decision to abandon the principle of linking the rate of invalid and old-age pension with the cost of living figures, namely, the weighted average retail price index number for all items of household expenditure - “ C “ series - for the six capital cities-
– And the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) cannot distinguish the difference-
– The Leader of the Opposition brought in that bill, and said that the principle of tying the pension rate to the cost of living must be abandoned. ‘ The bill went through because of weight of numbers. Now the same right honorable gentleman has performed one of the somersaults for which he is becoming notorious, and has suggested that the pension should be tied to the cost of living index.
– The honorable member does not know the difference between the cost of living index and the basic wage.
– The Leader of the Opposition, supported by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), forecast a recession and unemployment. He said Australia would drift into another depression. Is there a recession in sight? If honorable members look around the ranks of skilled tradesmen, who should be most concerned, do they show any fear of a recession? No, there is no sign of it except a false bogy which is being whipped up by honorable members opposite who are hungry for power. It is true that employment in Australia is passing through a period of transition, but there is a marked difference between a transitory period of unemployment in Australia and that which would have occurred had the Chifley Government been returned to power in 1949. Mr. Chifley accurately forecast that Australia would pass through this transitory period of unemployment. In 1949 he said that in his time, whole communities would have to be moved. I recall that Mr. Chifley stated that a man could not expect to hold his wife’s hand and look at the town clock every night. He said, “ We m114 move whole communities “. We have faced up to the transition period which the late Mr. Chifley so accurately forecast. He said that it would come, and it has come; but we have been able to meet it without having to resort to the force, compulsion and dire measures that he said he would use if he held the reins of office at this time. Credit is due to this Government for having surmounted the difficulties that have beset it and for the fact that we can say with pride that at this time, when we are laying the foundations of our. future, unemployment is lower in Australia than it is in any other country. If we examine the results of the policy of this Government we shall see that the legislation providing for secret ballots, introduced by the present Government, and so strongly contested by honorable members opposite, is already having the desired effect. Men who do not owe allegiance to Soviet Russia are beginning to take their place in executive offices in the trade union movement. We can look forward with a great deal of confidence to the use by the trade union movement of the instrument that was placed in its hands by this Government, which is the friend of the trade unionist. Living standards in Australia are the equal of the highest standards in the world to-day. That statement is based, not upon the findings of people who live in Australia, but upon the evidence of visitors who have come to Australia from the four corners of the world. Day by day they bear testimony to the fact that the living standards of Australia are among the highest in the world. We have vastly improved health, medical benefits and social services schemes. This Government has been able to implement legislation which the Labour Government could never have implemented because it went about its task in the wrong way. For proof of the stability of our economy I call as witness none other than the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. As honorable members are aware, a few weeks ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was able to negotiate another dollar loan for this country through that great world institution. It is well known that it is not the practice of the bank to lend money to a bad risk. This country is the only country that has been able to negotiate with the bank a loan on the terms that we have secured. The bank, by reason of its world position, is aware that the economy of Australia is most stable.
In the budget that was presented by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) last week taxation has been reduced, land tax has been abolished and provision has been made for the extension of the uranium industry to permit it to become a great dollar earner, a bastion of our defence and a great potential provider of employment and power. Under the legislation introduced by this Government the State governments receive more money than they can expend. Graziers and business men have been gratified to learn that the provisional tax, which has had such drastic effects upon them in the past, has been modified. If wc examine the great basic industries upon which the economy of Australia is based we shall see that they, too, have progressed as the result of the policy of this Government. For the first time for very many years we have 1,000,000 tons of coal at grass. This reserve has been made possible by a government which, we were told in 1949, could not govern and would not get an additional ton of coal out of the ground. By its efforts and by the force of reason brought to bear upon the trade union movement, the Government has been able to win more coal than has ever before been won in this country. Similar progress has been achieved in the steel industry. The annual statement of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which was reported in to-day’s press, reveals that despite the fact that a strike occurred in its works during the year, it achieved a record production of pig iron and steel ingots, and that the company will be able to supply the whole of Australia’s future steel requirements. The budget ushers in a new era of prosperity for Australia. There is no need to fear a recession or mass unemployment. Our horizon has never been brighter than it is to-day. The glow of promise reaches out beyond this generation and covers the generations to come. This year we are laying the foundations upon which our future prosperity will be built. Future generations will learn with amazement that Opposition members in this Parliament endeavoured to engender in the minds of the people a fear that Australia, instead of going ahead, was going backwards. They will learn with regret how some honorable members endeavoured to gain political advantage from the difficulties that have faced this Government. Our future is very bright. In the words of a verse that was written, not about this country, but which may well apply to Australia to-day -
Oh! if this country in the making
Would only stand its ground,
And for those whose hearts are quaking
A new spirit could be found;
They’d write again a story
Of a noble vig’rous land,
And feel again the glory: “ I made this with my” hand “.
.- On the sixth day of this month the people of Australia received the greatest shock they have had since the previous tragic budget was introduced by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). On that day the people were led to believe that in the National Parliament at Canberra, the hub of Australia, the Treasurer would present a document which would be of the utmost importance to the development of Australia and would guarantee their security and happiness. When, on the following day, the press reported the contents of the unhappy document, it brought disillusionment to honorable members who sit behind the Government, notwithstanding the fact that they had applauded it on the preceding night, and they, too, joined with the majority of the people in characterizing the budget as a mockery and a sham. The document provided for neither the defence nor the security of Australia now or in the future. The Treasurer made no attempt to balance the accounts of the nation. The contents of the document were dictated, firstly, by fear of the electors, and, secondly, by fear of the masters of honorable gentlemen opposite.
– It is well known that the financial policy of this Government is dictated by those who sit in high places in the land. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) should characterize my statement as nonsense. Undoubtedly, he, too, is hurt by the budget. He well knows that what I have said is true. If the policy of the Government were not dictated by its masters would it not pursue a consistent and sound financial and economic policy and not rely upon what the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has described as “ fits-and-starts measures “ to extricate itself from its difficuties ? By what criterion should the budget be judged? Those who have regard for the welfare of the nation cannot applaud the Government’s action in bringing immigrants to this country, herding them into compounds and when they become dissatisfied with their lot here, threatening to use military tactics to quieten them.
– The honorable member well knows that that is untrue.
– That is the desperate position which now exists in this country as the result of the Government’s maladministration, and the sooner that it is ejected from office the better it will be for Australia. Supporters of the Government know that it is only a matter of time before the people will make that change when they are given the opportunity to register their vote at a general election. Whilst thousands of our native sons and daughters are now urgently seeking employment, we are continuing to bring thousands of people from other countries to these shores. All of those people could be employed gainfully on the necessary public works, yet the Government, which professes to he so concerned about the nation’s welfare, does nothing to utilize their services. That is a shameful state of affairs. I trust that honorable members who sit on the back Government benches will heed the warning, of their supporters in their electorates and. will censure the Government by voting for the amendment that the Leader of the Opposition has moved and thereby give to the people an opportunity to pass judgment upon it. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.. Pearce), who, in the main, dealt with matters that are not related to the budget,, referred to the1 elections for the Brisbane City Council. Recently, the Labour party candidates, ousted the old non-Labour council which was bankrupt and discredited. Labour’s candidates were elected- to that council on federal issues and because of the bad record of their predecessors. The incoming council found the city’s coffers empty, and I have no doubt that when Labour is elected to govern in this Parliament at the next general election it, too, will find a bankrupt treasury.
This Government professes to be opposed to the use of treasury-bills and bank credit in government finance. Nevertheless, when it finds itself facing bankruptcy it is prepared to resort to financial measures of that kind and to hand out a few palliatives in order to gain party political advantage in preparation for the election for the Senate which is to take place next year. I recall conditions that existed in this country in other days when Australia enjoyed stability. At that time my predecessor had the privilege of leading this nation, and a happy people, delighted with his leadership, returned his government to office with thunderous majorities. In those days, Labour balanced the budgets and undertook important public works such as the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. Works of that kind should be undertaken to-day. In the view of the man in the street, this country has hardly yet been scratched. Recently, I visited the Northern Territory where I had an opportunity to gauge the tremendous amount of work required to be done in order to exploit the extraordinary wealth that exists in that part of the Commonwealth. If this Government would do the right thing, such work would now be in full swing. However, the Government is content to do nothing. It allowed immigrants to remain idle in compounds until they threatened to riot; and then it merely handed them brooms and sent them round the country doing practically nothing. That- work force could be employed in the construction of urgent public works such as the construction of a railway from Dajarra, in Queensland, to Newcastle Waters to provide a link with Darwin. Such a railway would be of incalculable value in developing the pastoral, mining and agricultural industries, lft would make possible the development of rice-growing in the Northern Territory. That crop would be of great value to the Australian economy. It could also be used to help feed the starving millions to the north of Australia and thus enable us to maintain friendship with those peoples. Measuresor the security and defence of Australia go beyond the mere training of men under arms. We require to maintain friendship with our neighbours. However, the Government is prepared merely to place young men on the parade ground and to march them around in equipment which, as the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) pointed out last night, costs from £40 to £60 for each trainee.
The Government has a depression complex. To-day, members of all sections of the community, including Government supporters, investors on the stock exchange, pastoralists and the man in the street, are obsessed by the feeling that a depression is not just around the corner but has already commenced in this country. Share values tell the story of our present economic position. The Government, under its last budget, which was correctly described as a horror budget, imposed taxes totalling £472,000,000. On this occasion, it has magnanimously reduced overall taxes by £49,000,000 ! But to whom will the remissions be, made ? How much of that relief will be given to the average worker? The Leader of the Opposition, in his telling and forceful analysis of the budget last evening, made it clear that the average, worker will be worse off under this budget than he is at present. As the foundation of the basic wage is the cost of keeping a family unit, it automatically increases as the cost of living rises. But every increase of the basic wage renders the worker subject to higher rates of tax. Thus the great majority of employees will not receive any real benefit from the proposed tax remissions. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the Leader of the Opposition for his masterly analysis of our present economic situation. He showed that the budget would cause disillusionment and despondency. At the same time, however, he indicated the course that Labour will follow when it is given the opportunity to extricate Australia from the morass in which it now finds itself. This budget, which the Government claims to be an incentive budget and under which overall collections of taxes istobe reduced by £49,000,000, is nothing but a mockery. Even in the difficult post-war years the Chifley Labour Government reduced taxes by no loss than £280,000,000 and, at the same time, was able to make monetary gifts to the people of the United: Kingdom to sustain them in their fight for freedom and. democracy. This budget is a depression budget.It offers no real relief, or benefit, to any section of the community. The president of the Chamber of Manufactures ha? criticized it most trenchantly, particularly in respect of the payroll tax. That tax was introduced during the war years in order to discourage employment in non-essential industries. At that time, man-power was rigidly controlled. This country was then fighting for its existence. A total of approximately £40,000,000 a year is collected in respect of 51,000 workers. Every employee costs his employer about 6s. a week. If that impost were removed from industry there would be an incentive for the employers to engage extra men. But this Government, which claims to have introduced an incentive budget, has overlooked the necessity to abolish the pay-roll tax.
The Government has been caught up in the toils of its own false promises and of the absurd and ridiculous promises which are still being made on its behalf. Honorable members on this side of the chamber recall, very clearly, the promises that were made by supporters of the Government during the last general election campaign, but honorable members opposite seem to forget their glib promises. I refer particularly to the promises that were made to the people by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) and other spokesmen for the Government, rather than by the back-benchers and campaign workers. The leaders of the Government parties boasted that they would put value back into the £1, reduce taxation, abolish controls, and apply an excess profits tax. But what do we find ? Profits by large companies have continued to mount day by day and year by year The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and General Motors-Holden’s Limited continue to disclose colossal profits because the Government has done nothing to control profits. On the other band, it lias intervened in an application that is now before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The workers of this country are fighting to retain conditions that they have gained after continued struggles down the years. There can be no doubt of the attitude of this Government towards the working people of Australia. The present tide of unemployment has emerged not by accident, but by design. The advisers of the Government have consistently advocated that a pool of unemployment should be established. They believe that by pursuing a policy of attrition the workers will do what they are told to do. They believe, also, that the appearance of large armies of unemployed people at the factory gates will obviate difficulties on the labour front. It is odd that members of the Government should have denied this assertion from time to time, although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has not denied it. Professor Hytten and Professor Copland have advocated the theory that there should be an army of unemployed numbering about 10 per cent, or 11 per cent, of the workers. That is all very well for the Government, but it is no good for the people who will be unemployed. The Frankenstein monster of the Government’s creation now shows signs of destroying it, and honorable members opposite would like to know how to steady it down. The truth of the matter is that the Government cannot do so. The Government has given no indication to the nation of the extent to which it intends to use bank credit. It has lost the confidence of the people, who will not now lend their money to the Government. Because of the depression complex that has been deliberately engendered by tha Government the yield of the pay-roll tax has fallen and will continue to fall as unemployment mounts. Revenue from customs duties and sales tax also will continue to fall. This decrease of revenue will bring about a situation that undoubtedly will result in next year’s budget being much more fearsome and unsatisfactory than is the present budget.
We have heard quite a lot about what the Government intends to do in relation to food production. Statistics show that there are fewer people on the land! to-day than there were formerly. Ourrural areas are becoming denuded of population. The Government appears to. have no constructive policy to put moremen on the land in order to boost primary production. This is apparent from the following report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 9th August : -
The Minister for Agriculture and Commerce, Mr. J. McEwen, said yesterday that the Federal Government last year’ had increased sales-tax on non-essential goods deliberately with the intention of depressing those industries which made them. It had done that to force men back to the land and into the iron, and steel and agricultural implement industries, he said. “ The people we hurt hate us like hell, but please remember that it has been done to get labour bank to the farms,” he said.
The Government has set itself out deliberately to depress industry and tocause mass unemployment. Women and elderly people in country districts have been thrown out of work. In manyinstances they are unable to go to other districts to seek employment. The country people resent this action by the Government. They like a balanced economy. They like to see factories in. their own country towns, and they resent the Government’s policy that has interfered so greatly with the economy of many districts. Although the Government has destroyed many secondary industries in order to promote primary industries, it has refused to employ selected immigrants on the land. The recent incident at Bonegilla is proof of this assertion. Immigrants who have come to this country in search of rural work have found that Australians who formerly worked on the land are now carrying their swags in search of jobs. If the Government is sincere it should provide immigrants with work on the land, and it should also encourage additional numbers of our own people to settle. It remains to be seen whether the immigrants will remain in compounds or be placed in the jobs that the Government has promised them.
This budget has failed in all directions. The honorable member for Capricornia referred to the production of coal. Credit for the fact that coal is now available in abundance is due to a former Labour government which established the Joint Coal Board and organized the coal industry of this country. At that time the representative for the Division of Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) was Prime Minister. That Government, by its decision to purchase dollar equipment to increase coal production in Australia, made possible the present surplus of coal at grass, although the surplus exists only because the railways are incapable of handling all the coal that is being produced. It is only on rare occasions that honorable members opposite say a kindword for the miners who go down into the bowels of the earth to win coal. Supporters of the Government are benefiting from the efforts of the previous Labour governments and of the coal-miners. I put it to the committee that we should hear no more of the nonsense that the Government has been responsible for an increase of coal production. Such an increase cannot be achieved overnight. It can be gained only by long-range planning. The plans were not made by this Government, which has profited from the actions of previous governments.
Let. me refer in passing to national development. Has this Government initiated one new developmental scheme? The Burdekin River Valley scheme is crying’ out for attention. I am glad to know that the Government 13 permitting work to continue upon the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and that there is to be no interference with that scheme, but I should not have been surprised if this Government, which has destroyed most of the other valuable undertakings that were created by Labour governments, had ordered a suspension of work upon it. Honorable members know that there is a very good reason why the Government has not destroyed the Snowy Mountains scheme. The international bankers who visited this country recently had a word to say about it. They reprimanded the Government for its failure to spend dollars upon worthy projects such as food production, and, among other things, insisted that work upon the Snowy Mountains scheme should be continued. Therefore, the continuation of the project reflects little or no credit upon, the Government.
In the Northern Territory we need railways and efficient machinery with which to treat the ore that is being won from the earth, but nothing is being done to provide them. The rich tin-fields at Maranboy are being wasted. Only a section of them is being worked because the Government will not provide the batteries that are required. The same unhappy state of affairs exists in the gold-fields. The honorable member for Capricornia referred ecstatically to what has happened at Bum Jungle, but ail that has happened up to this stage is that a pioneer in the person of Mr. Jack White found uranium there, that tests were made which, apparently, were highly successful, and that a portion of the uranium is to be sold to the United States of America. Very little development is taking place at Bum Jungle. What has taken place so far leaves much to be desired. If that is the best for which this country can hope, it is a most unhappy position for the Northern Territory, Rum Jungle and Australia generally, because we could earn millions of dollars from that uranium-copper project.
Local governing bodies in this country are vitally interested in water conservation and irrigation projects. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has referred to the unhappy plight of local authorities that have ordered equipment for such projects but have no money with which to pay for it. Water is available, people want the water and pipes are on hand. All that requires to be done is to bring the water to the people by pipes. Local authorities would derive an income from the supply of water, but, despite those facts, the necessary money cannot be found. This Government talks of work, and gives brooms to immigrants so that they can fill in their time on full pay.
I hope sincerely that the people of Glen Davis who have been sacrificed will be assured of a future in this country. They have lived in Australia, and have helped to build it. Many of them are practical miners and others are technicians, such as chemists and engineers. I hope that the Government will not overlook them.
There is much more that I could say. This budget will not ensure the happiness
Mr.BRIMBLECOMBE (Maranoa) [ 4.15]. - The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) closed upon the note that there should be cheaper food for the people of Australia. I say that the cheap food policy that was encouraged by the last Labour Government is responsible for the lack of primary production in this country to-day. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that he keep to subjects about whichhe knows something I have been a primary producer for all of my working life. I know that that cheap food policy is wrong, find that we shall never get increased food production until we give primary producers an incentive to produce more food. This Government is doing that.
I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) upon the budget. In my opinion, having regard to the difficulties that face the country to-day, it is a masterpiece. Despite what honorable gentlemen opposite have said, it is an incentive budget. It will give an incentive to the peopleof Australia togo ahead,and I believe that they will respond to it. The budget contains many concessions. The 10 per cent, levy upon income tax is to be abolished,and concessions are to be granted to pensioners and ex-servicemen. The previous budget was designed to drain surplus money from the people to combat the inflation that was running rampant in the country. Last year, the Treasurer budgeted for a surplus of over £100,000,000, but, unfortunately, there was not a surplus at the end of the year because the Commonwealth underwrote loans for the States. A lot of that loan money has been dissipated by the States upon works that are not altogether useless but are not absolutely necessary in the circumstances of to-day, when people are talking continually of the need to increase
The concessions that are to be given to our primary industries will help those industries very much. I am glad that the Government has thought fit to remove the land tax, about which there is much misconception. It was introduced, not as a revenue producing measure, butas a means of making big land-holders break up their estates. It has not done that. 3 do not think that the federal land tax was ever necessary for that purpose, because the State governments have a sovereign right even to take land from landholders if they believe such action to be necessary. That has been amply demonstrated by the acquisitions of land for soldier settlement. The federal land tax was never just. I have always opposed it and I am pleased indeed to seeit abolished.
I congratulate the Government upon its decision to give primary production the same priority as defence work. That is what I advocated in my maiden speech in this chamber. I said that if primary production were given top priority, improvements in our economic position would follow automatically. Those words have proved to be true. The nation now realizes that without primary products to pay for our imports, our economy would become bankrupt. Our exports of primary products pay for about 80 per cent, of our imports. At the last meeting in Canberra of the Australian Agricultural Council a programme for expanding primary production was announced. I remind the Opposition that the proposals were agreed to by all the State Ministers for Agriculture, Labour and Liberal alike. They all approved the targets that were set by the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). The target for tobacco has been set at 1.6,000 acres in the coming season. At present, only 5,000 or 6,000 acres are devoted to the cultivationof tobacco throughout the Commonwealth. Queensland’s target is 10,000 acres, “Western Australia’s 5,000 accres, and the other States together, 1,000 acres. That is a big programme, and we all hope that it fan be carried out.
The Commonwealth’s first move to en- courage growers to cultivate more tobacco should be to increase the minimum proportion of Australian leaf that has to be blended with the imported product. That would help, but alone it would not be (no ugh. I see no reason why the proportion of Australian tobacco should not be at least 20 per cent. I am not a tobaccogrower, but I am acquainted with farming practices generally, and I think I have a little bit of common sense on agricultural subjects. I have smoked 100 per cent, north Queensland and south Queensland tobacco, and I say without hesitation that most of it is better than the imported leaf. I cannot see any reason why the proportion of Australian tobacco should, not be increased. Assistance could be given to the industry also by reducing the excise on locally grown tobacco purchased by small manufacturers who are making their products from Australian leaf only. The Commonwealth could go even further and finance the purchase of machinery by small manufacturers of pipe tobacco and cigarettes. An expansion of tobacco-growing in this country would help to keep young people on the hind. The older tobacco-grower who has his money invested in the industry is unable to turn to another occupation probably because he knows only tobaccogrowings and would not be competent to undertake other forms of primary production ; but in the area in which I live in southern Queensland, where there are 300 or 400 tobacco-growers, the younger people are leaving the farms and seeking work in adjacent saw-mills or in the cities. Why are they doing that? They have been reared in the tobacco-growing industry, but they are leaving it because tobacco-growing is not profitable. Until it has been made profitable, the young people will not return to it.
The inadequacy of water supplies presents a serious problem to tobaccogro’wers, particularly in southern Queensland. The Queensland Labour Government has made many promises to the growers about damming creeks and rivers ; but, in the last fifteen years, only one small weir has been built, and that has not eased the problem to any appreciable degree. The growers are prepared to give their own labour free of charge to build weirs if the Government will provide the engineers and supervisors for this work, but it has refused to do that. In these circumstances, how can the growers be asked to produce more tobacco? 1 realize that this is essentially a. State matter, but I have mentioned certain aids that could be given by the Commonwealth. In the absence of some such incentives it is most unlikely that the target of 10,000 acres will be reached in Queensland. That would be a great pity, because Australia is ideally suited to tobacco-growing. Scientists and tobacco experts from overseas, and even officials of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, say that, the soil is suitable and the climate- is good. The only uncertain factor is the water supply. At the present Brisbane Exhibition there is a beautiful display of the varieties of tobacco that can be grown in the various parts of Queensland. Departmental men agree that the quality of tobacco produced in Queensland this year is the best for many years. The season has been favorable, but the price that the tobacco is bringing on the market is not sufficient to encourage growers to expand production. Again I urge the Government to increase the proportion of Australian tobacco in the blended product to 20 per cent. ; to reduce the excise on tobacco bought by manufacturers who are using 100 per cent. Australian leaf in their products; and to provide finance on long terms to manufacturers who are prepared to install machinery. I refer particularly to cooperative organizations, as most of the manufacturers in north Queensland are at present.
The honorable member for ‘Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) mentioned the Queensland wheat crop this year. The acreage is the biggest that has ever been planted, and the prospects are that a good crop will be harvested. The Queensland Wheat Board !has asked the Government of that State to -provide facilities to .enable the crop to be handled quickly and economically. The Australian Wheat Board is very worried about how the estimated crop of between 15,000,000 and 20,000,000 bushels is to be transported to the sea-board. The Queensland Government will not provide siding facilities tor handling the wheat. It is asking the wheat-growers to install their own sidings. Can that be regarded as a fair request? The growers are asked to hold the wheat in the sidings and dumps for a year for the benefit of the consumers; in other words, so that the people will not be short of food in the next year if the harvest is small. That policy is justifiable, but the State Government takes all the credit, whilst the growers are asked to hold the whole crop and handle it themselves. As a member of the Queensland Wheat Board, I know what I am talking about. The honorable member for Capricornia is perfectly right when he says that the Queensland Government is letting the wheat industry down in that State.
I now propose to refer to the beef cattle industry, particularly in the northwest of Queensland. The electorate which I represent is keenly interested in tile prosperity and development of northwest Queensland, and particularly in the beef cattle industry, because a part of the channel country stretches down through the western part of the electorate of Maranoa and is one of the best fattening areas for cattle in the Commonwealth. I agree with the statement of the honorable member for Macquarie that a railway should be built from Dajarra to Newcastle Waters and that the “ missing link “ should be constructed from Blackall to Charleville. Doubtless some honorable members will contend that the construction of those lines is the responsibility of the Queeusland Government. That responsibility undoubt edly devolved upon the State some years ago, but the difficulty .to-day is that the State, because of lack of finance, appears to be unable to undertake such projects. I believe that we should accept that explanation. The position at present is most serious. Had proper rail communications existed in the fattening areas, many of the stock that have perished in the drought could have been saved. According to estimates, 1,250,000 sheep and 250.000 cattle have already perished, and the losses are continuing. Had the railways been built, approximately 90 per cent, of the cattle could have been saved, and the country would not have lost millions of pounds. Om? estimate of the cost of building the railways is £17,000,000, which is approximately the value of stock lost in a prolonged and severe drought.
If Australia is to fulfil its meat contracts with the United Kingdom, assistance must be given to the beef industry. The Commonwealth and Queensland must take definite action in that matter. Even when I was a boy, people talked of the western country, why it should be developed, and what it could produce. We know what it can produce. The Commonwealth and the Queensland Government should forget what has happened in the past, and ignore state barriers and petty political jealousies. This problem, because of its urgency, must be approached from the national stand-point. The position is so bad at the present time that I doubt whether we shall be able to export any meat next year.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has announced that the Commonwealth proposes to provide £200,000 this year for farm promotion. T congratulate the Minister on that decision, because I believe that much good can be done by the farm extension work to assist men on the land to increase production. . The value of farm extension work ha3 been proved in the United States of America, and it can be of great advantage in Australia by bringing direct to the farmer scientific ideas and methods to increase production on land that is now in use. I hope that similar grants will be made in future years.
There is another aspect of increasing production that should be examined by this Government. We realize that more land should be made available for settlement. That is a State responsibility. But I believe that if some State governments would revise their land laws, progress would be expedited. Some of thos-“’ laws are out of date, and, in my opinion, are too socialistic to do any good. Production could be stepped up on existing properties if the Government were to introduce a system of easy finance to unable producers to purchase modern farm machinery. That policy has been adopted in other countries with conspicuous success. Denmark is an outstanding example. In 1950, approximately 14,000 .persons left the land in Denmark, but the authorities immediately sized up the situation, and made modern machinery available to primary producers om easy terms. The growers immediately responded by maintaining production. That system could be introduced with great advantage in Australia. It is all very well for the honorable member for Macquarie to urge primary producers to employ immigrants who have been in concentration camps. Primary producers do not want their properties to be the centres for training those people. As i matter of fact, the majority of the immigrants are no good on the land. Many of them are most willing workers, and probably they are good citizens, but they take too long to learn. To-day, time means money to the man on the land. He must keep moving. Primary production is not the “ game “ that it used to he many years ago. When I listen to Opposition speakers, I get the impression that they speak of conditions in the primary industries as they existed 50 or 00 years ago. Farming is a business proposition, and if it is not conducted as such, the primary producer will go “ broke “ quick and lively. I invite the Government to give serious consideration to my suggestion that farming machinery and up-to-date appliances be made available on easy terms to the man ou the land. Some losses would be incurred under that policy, but the additional production that would result from its adoption would more than compensate for them.
It behoves the people to try to justify the Government’s belief that reduced taxes will restore the nation’s energy and give it greater determination to overcome inflation by working harder and increasing production. Our main troubles arise because some people take everything that comes their way, and are not prepared to give anything in return. The solution is to work a little harder and a little longer. If that remedy be applied, it will not be long before we shall solve most of our difficulties.
.- First, I wish to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on his masterly exposition last evening. His superlative analysis of the budget demonstrated to the people of Australia the nature of the impact which it will have upon them.
The great Australian Labour movement was established by our pioneers. It? objectives, which have been preached by its disciples over the years, are to make decisions in the interests of all the Australian people. In direct contrast to the policy of the Australian Labour party, the present Australian Government is determined to legislate only in the interests of the wealthy section of the community. Its sole objective, apparently, is to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Certainly no elector who voted for the Liberal party and the Australian Country party candidates at the 1949 general election could have foreseen the sorry state to which the nation would be reduced, in less than three years, by an anti-Labour government. Realization of that fact no doubt accounts for the melancholy expression on the faces of the young Liberal and Australian Country party members opposite. They know that their doom is sealed and that at the next general election the Australian people will show, in no uncertain terms, where they stand.
As a war-time pledge to the Australian people, the Australian Labour party promised a new social order and an expanding economy, with full employment together with higher living standards which are essential to the development of cur nation and to the assured welfare of our people. We all know that Labour fulfilled that pledge and that it still remains a part of the Australian Labour party platform. It is proof positive that the Labour party always functions in the interests of the people and of no one but the. people.
Full employment is the first essential in this country. The Australian Labour party desires that the people should be healthy, happy, well fed, well housed and contented. I think that most Australians ask for no more than that. The desire of this Government, if the present budget is to be taken as a criterion, is to prevent the people from attaining those objectives. Above all, the Australian people should be removed from the possibility, however remote, of loss of security in the future. Our children must be protected from any such fear. The greatest destroyer of morale is the spectre ot want, which is already evident in the Australian economy. Those of us who know the bitterness of an economic depression appreciate that it? bush fire tendencies cannot be contained in limited proportions. That is why I have chosen unemployment as the subject of my contribution to this debate.
Unemployment is rife in the community to-day, despite all the endeavours of this Government to disguise the fact by referring to it by many other names. For instance, it was referred to som, time a.go as “disemployment”. That term has now been abandoned because the so-called “disemployment” was supposed to be only temporary. The Government appreciates that the unemployment position is becoming dangerous. Tt has therefore decided to refer to this period of unemployment as a “transition “ period. I suggest that when the Government tells a worker, who has been unemployed for two or three months, that he is in a transitional period, the worker will tell the Government what he thinks of it. The worker and the man in the street have already had enough of this so-called transition period, and they do not propose to put up with it much longer.
Despite the need for more homes, food, equipment and every other kind of commodity, not all those who were available for work before “World War II. broke out were able to find employment or to enjoy a sense of security concerning their future. The war-time Labour Government improved that position, and when the war ended the people were looking forward to what the late Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, referred to as a “ golden age”. Until 1949 we were well on the road to such an age, but, unfortunately, by means of a blast of propaganda over the radio and in the press, and because of promises made by that political Ananias, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the people were lulled into a. false sense of security. The result is that they find themselves in an awkward position to-day. They no longer believe tha promises, whatever they may be, of this Government. Whether the Prime Minister speaks of a transitional period, or of a 10 per cent, reduction of taxation - which is really illusory, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out last evening - no longer will the people believe him. The right honorable gentleman is known and despised throughout the Commonwealth as a prevaricator.
On an average, during the twenty yea i - between 191.9 and 1939 more than onetenth of the Australian men and women who were able to work were unemployed. At the worst period of the depression, more than 35 per cent, were left in unproductive idleness.
– The honorable member still is 1
– All that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) ever did in the way of a productive effort for Australia was to push a bicycle around the world, at a price. Daring the war, no financial or other obstacles were allowed to prevent the need for increased production to be satisfied to the utmost limits of our resources. That position must again apply. The Australian Labour party has a solution of our present economic problems and, when returned to office, will put its policy, which includes full employment, into effect. We need happy and contented people. I am amused when I hear honorable members opposite speak of what they are pleased to call an “ incentive “ budget. How their wealthy supporters, including the big companies, must smile at the incentives which are being offered to them, despite the huge profits which they are making. The wave of unemployment in pre-war years taught us valuable lessons which we must apply to the problems of peacetime in order to achieve full employment. It is the responsibility of the Australian Government to provide the general framework of a full employment policy and if the Government cannot do that it should get out. If it does not get out it will be unceremoniously booted out by the people. Everybody calls this Government “ the Government of fits and starts “. During the last three years we have had an exhibition of the great ability of the business men who form this hesitant Government which side-steps all issues. The Government is afraid to face the issues because it knows that it cannot fulfil the promises that it has given to the workers. The members of the Government are afraid of what their financial supporters may say if they try to legislate in the interests of the people.
The Government has failed to heed the warnings that have been given by Opposition members concerning the dangers that confront this country. Members of the .Labour party know what is going on in this country from day to day and they are not afraid to speak their minds in putting forward the claim of the people as a whole. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) referred to members of the farmers’ and graziers’ organization as great Australians who were responsible for the productivity of the nation.. Nothing is further from the truth. However, the Treasurer has disregarded all and. sundry and has introduced a budget which has made no provision whatever to counteract the unbalance in our economy. I see the pattern unrolling as it unrolled before the Australian workers in 1929. I have very bitter memories of those times. Although T was a skilled worker I had nine years of a soul-destroying dole.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member’s interjection is another indication of the intelligence of the members of the Australian Country party. The Government has embarked on a programme which is aimed at the destruction of secondary industry in the interests of the Australian Country party - this rump of the coalition, that has dictated policy to members of the Liberal party. The young Liberals know that their party is dictated to by the Australian Country party but they are afraid to retaliate. That is demonstrated by the fact that they all were induced to cheer the Treasurer when he was about to present a budget which would destroy their chances of returning to the Parliament after the next general election.
When the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) made his statement on the subject of employment he said that sooner or later a price would have to be paid for the expansion of secondary industry. Hi3 remarks revealed in no uncertain manner that the Government is determined to destroy om- heavy industries. The Minister referred also to the field of light manufacturing. If we destroy our secondary industries where shall we get the machinery or equipment needed to produce food? Shall we barter ourselves for the almighty dollar? The Prime Minister is very fond of quoting members of the American Congress. Arcthe Australian people to be sold to American financiers ? The Minister for Defence made an. inspired statement which was written for him by a top-level public servant who is closely associated with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who is overseas but who left this public servant to dictate policy to other members of the Government in regard to the destruction of secondary industries. ‘ Nobody can accuse the Minister for Defence of having any knowledge of secondary industries. He would have no sympathy for the working man who is employed in those industries. A full employment, policy is necessary as a means of providing people with bread and butter. Although this is a bread and butter issue the Minister for Defence could hardly take time off from his commercial interests in order to give thought to the plight of thousands of unemployed. I understand that his wool cheque last year amounted to £600,000 and that his other investments have shown very good returns. Unemployment is growing daily to frightening proportions. One hundred thousand unemployed are now walking the streets, not including the 6,000 at Bonegilla and other holding centres. The people at Bonegilla nsk only for work but the business men who compose this Government are so incompetent that they cannot provide work, for those 2,000 immigrants. The Government decided to make a display of armed strength in order to show the immigrants that they must accept the conditions that the Government chooses to lay down, which are no work and 5s. a week. The Government sent out the Army fully equipped with tanks. I do not know whether the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) gave orders for flame throwers to be used to put down the demonstration, but he certainly ordered out the tanks. The Government wanted to prevent the demonstration and to show the immigrants that it would not stand for what it called “ funny business “.I remind honorable members that the immigrants only wanted work. Work was all that I wanted when I walked the streets during the last depression, but I was denied the right to keep myself and family. It is the birthright of every one in the community to be allowed to work, but this Government of private enterprise is making no effort to obtain work for the people. The unemployment that exists at present illustrates the degree of ability and competence that this Government of businessmen possesses. I often wonder how the members are able to earn any dividends at all in the light of the lack of ability that they display in this House.
The Minister for Defence made a statement that can only be considered as alarming. He said that unemployment has increased, but that there is no precise measure of its extent. That statement indicates that the Labour party was right when it said two weeks ago that there were 100,000 unemployed persons in Australia. The Minister agreed that there is unemployment, and he also agreed that he has no precise measure of its extent. Despite election promises to the contrary, the Government has provided the ingredients of a depression, and depression threatens to engulf the country. The ugly spectre - and only those who have seen it know how ugly it is - of unemployment, again stalks the countryside. Men are walking the streets looking for work. The Prime Minister has spoken about people standing in queues for food, but very different queues have now appeared. There are now queues of men in their shirt sleeves, because they have already pawned their coats to buy food, waiting for work. This is a queue of a new type that has been introduced by this Government. Shame on the Government! There are now long queues of unemployed outside the Commonwealth employmentoffices. They are composed of strong, able-bodied men who are ready and willing to work in order to produce the much-needed requirements of the community. Those people are now being told by the Government that there is no work available and that they must register for unemployment benefit, or what is commonly known as “ the dole “.
We are witnessing a return to the depressing and soul-destroying years of the 1930’s, when men and women, old and young, suffered, sacrificed and starved in a land of plenty. We are returning to the time of bag humpies and tin shanties. The press, trying to glamorize misery, called those collections of huts “ happy valleys “. I remember the happy valleys of those days very well. The men and women who suffered in those days are again suffering through watching their sons and daughters going through the same agonizing experience. What must be the. state of their tortured minds? During the 1939-45 war their sons fought for the right to work, to eat and to be free; hut the freedom of the right to work is denied them.
This Government smells in the nostrils of all decent Australian people. It has deliberately brought about this man-made depression in order to appease its wealthy supporters and economists, who see an opportunity to exploit still further the misery of the unfortunate people who happen to be unemployed. The Government uses a deliberately forged weapon of fear to urge the workers in industry to still greater efforts in order to exact more profit for the master, lest he, too, should become one of the great army of unemployed. I was a victim of that system. The Government is being ably assisted by its hirelings, the press and radio commentators, and by a big army of highly paid so-called economists and professors. Those people bleat like sheep over radio networks and through the press about the urgent necessity ‘for a longer working week and a reduction of wages. By so doing they hope to arouse a com- plex that will induce a fearful frame of mind in the working man through which he will be an easy victim of their nefarious schemes. I mention in passing one economist named Colin Clark, who has stated that the solution of the housing problem lies in increasing rents to a degree that would reduce the demand for homes because of the inability of the people to pay for them. Of such stuff are economists made. A highly paid economist said that. Apparently he went to a university to learn things like that.
The trade union movement has played >i great part in our national life. This country would not have been able to function during the tragic years of the last war without that movement. The trade union movement has now become a target for the attacks of the employer, who is ably abetted by the daily press. This Government intends to intervene in the wages and hours case now before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It intends to supply some data to the court. It possesses no data of any more value than that collected by the trade union movement throughout its years of suffering and struggle. It intends again to interfere in industrial matters, in the interests of its wealthy supporters, to try to lower the standard of living and rates of wages, and to increase hours of work. I predict that the court will not interfere with wages, because they fluctuate, but that it will interfere with the 40-hour week. A 44-bour week is now on the horizon. The Government, harkening to the demands of the Australian Country party - the “ cockies “ who are always squealing whether times are good or bad - intends to ensure that a 44-hour week shall be re-introduced.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Honorable members are certainly in excellent humour after having listened to the entertainment provided by the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Curtin) ; but the honorable member said nothing that was worthy of a reply. I am sure that he spoke chiefly for the purpose of giving entertainment and not in the serious expectation of persuading people that there was any truth in his statements.
I shall concern myself first with some of the statements that were made last night by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who set the stage for the Opposition’s assault upon the budget. That speech was the most amazing conglomeration of inaccuracies, false theories and calculated political propaganda that I have ever heard. The right honorable gentleman, according to his own statements, has two cures for our economic ills. The first is to issue limitless credit. The second is what he called economic stabilization, which is only a fancy description for the imposition of rigid prices control and all the other controls that the people want to avoid. Those two policies influenced his entire speech. 1 assume, therefore, that the Labour party would adhere to them if it were elected to power at any future date. The right honorable gentleman stressed throughout his speech the importance of undertaking more and more government works and of bringing to bear more and more government interference with the economy of Australia. At no time did I hear him suggest that the economy should be freed, that private enterprise should be given a go, or that the people should be given the opportunity to work themselves 0U of their difficulties unhampered by government interference.
The Labour party always preaches class hatred, and the Leader of the Opposition adhered to that custom when he directed attention to the proposed abolition of land tax. The object of the Labour party in such matters is to divide the people and the right honorable gentleman said that the Government’s intention to vacate the field of land tax was evidence of its desire to play up to the rich members of the community. He does not seem to appreciate the fact that the land tax is utterly unjust. Are we to assume from his statements that the Labour party is prepared to support unjust legislation? Land tax was increased by over 2,000 per cent, as a result of increased valuations. Does not the Labour party realize that land tax is triplicated in most States? Municipal and local-governing bodies levy land tax, as do all State governments except that of New South “Wales. Does it not realize that costs of production are adversely affected by this unjust and iniquitous tax? The Government’s decision to abolish land tax is evidence at least of its eagerness to reduce the multiplied costs of government. There is no need to maintain an Australia-wide organization for the purpose of Commonwealth land tax.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke of increased production, hut he mentioned it only in a very vague way at one stage cf his speech. He said that increased production depended on the use. of new machinery. Production certainly can be influenced by the employment of new machinery, but hard work is the most important factor and the right honorable gentleman overlooked it altogether. 1 do not know how we can increase production unless the people are prepared to work. Only through work can we achieve good results. Only once during the right honorable gentleman’s speech did his expressed views accord with my opinions. He said that he did not like the pay-roll tax and I found myself in agreement with him. Nevertheless, I suggest that he raised this issue only because he thought that it would be a vote catcher. I am sure that, if he were to gain power to-morrow. he would have no intention of abolishing that tax. I advise the right honorable gentleman to stick to the law and not to dabble in economics and accountancy, because his treatment of figures during his speech disclosed a serious weakness on his part. He purported to show that taxation had increased, but his example was misleading because he took as his first comparative figure an income of £500, but then referred to taxes in the following year on an income of £600. A child of ten could have seen that his figures were faulty. Yet he expected the intelligent community of Australia to be impressed by bis statement !
I realize that this Government was subjected to widespread criticism because of its 1951 budget. Everybody in the community was affected by that budget, and criticism of it was inevitable. However, honorable members opposite should note that there was nothing in the nature of class distinction in its provisions. If anything, its effects fell most severely upon the supporters of the Government. In such circumstances, one could not expect it to pass without criticism. The real test of the merits of a budget is not its popularity. The questions that we should ask are whether a budget of that kind was necessary and whether its effects will ultimately benefit Australia. I say rhat the 1951 budget was necessary, and
I believe that the people, even though they suffered individually, are now beginning to realize that the policies to which it gave effect will eventually benefit the nation. The Leader of the Opposition last night prefaced his remarks by saying that it would be necessary to go back a few years in order to obtain a proper perspective view of the present budget. I agree with him, but I propose to go back beyond the point that he chose.
In 1949, when this Government came to power, Australia was reaping the bitter reward of Labour’s socialist policy. To judge from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, that policy has not changed. His proud boast was that Labour had maintained full employment. I say at once that this Government has made clear to the people the fact that it stands for full employment. But it stands for full employment of a different kind from that which is advocated by the Opposition’. It stands for a condition of full employment under which workers can choose their own jobs and the dignity of the individual will be preserved. It opposes the demoralizing kind of full employment that the socialists want to impose upon the people. Because of the conditions that prevailed after the war, money was plentiful while the Labour Government was in office, and the policy of full employment resulted in there being five jobs offering for every person looking for employment. The trade unions were appeased time after time until finally they obtained a stranglehold on industry. They would go on strike at the drop of a hat, and the Government refused to do anything about it. Working conditions were improved, and the working week was shortened. Now we have to pay for all that. The youth of the country was encouraged to take unskilled work for high pay, and that was one of the most diabolical things that could have been done. Now, many young men are feeling the effects of that policy, because they lack training and there is no demand for their services. The Communists were allowed to white-ant the key trade unions, with no hand raised against them by the Labour Government. Only when the present Government came into office was anything done to root out the Communists. The State governments were encouraged to waste money until they became important contributors to the growing inflation. Black marketing flourished in petrol, potatoes, tea and building materials. The Labour Government encouraged the cost-plus system, under which building operations were spun out to an inordinate length. Many buildings were started, but few were completed, and the skeletons of half-finished buildings were to be seen everywhere. Great power stations were commenced but not completed. Under the Labour Government there was full employment, but no one had to work. There was blackmarket competition for labour, and industry, in an effort to survive, competed for the irresponsible labour that was available. Even governments were a party to the black market in labour.
– That is untrue.
– It is true, as I know from my own experience. At that time, I was chairman of the Sydney County Council, and we were trying to build the Pyrmont power station. It was originally estimated to cost £5,000,000. l t is not yet finished, but the latest estimate is that the final cost will be over £20,000,000, and the additional cost is largely a result of Labour policy. According to the legislation under which local, authorities operate, the Sydney County Council was not allowed to pay more than award wages, but on those terms we were unable to get the labour we needed. We tried to “ scrounge “ building materials wherever they could be obtained, and we found it extraordinarily difficult to get labour. Indeed, the labour turnover exceeded 125 per cent. In desperation, we approached the Labour Government in New South Wales, and I interviewed Mr. Cahill, who was then Minister for Local Government, and who is now Premier. When I put my case to him he replied, “ Well, you will, just have to do what other employers are doing; you will have to pay the excess price for labour “. That was the advice I received from the present Premier of New South Wales. We had to tear up the contracts that we had made, and enter into new ones which gave to the contractors liberty to engage labour at black-market rates. Much of the excessive cost of the Pyrmont power-house is due to that.
During the period of full employment of which we have heard so much, production steadily declined. Notwithstanding full employment, the payment of hig!) overtime rates and the fact that a great deal of work was done during week-ends, the production rate fell until production per man-hour in Australia was the lowest of any country in the world, and that al a time when the people of Australia could not obtain many of the necessaries of life. Mushroom businesses sprang up all over the country, but hundreds of thousands of people could not get houses. Young people, because they could not get houses, bought motor cars. The people were encouraged to be irresponsible, and the national morale was seriously affected by over-full employment.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) invited the people to spend their money.
– That is so. Where would this policy have led the country if the present Government had not come into power? Any one with common sense knows that this mad policy would have resulted in a terrible depression in which all those with any stake in the country would have risked the loss of all their possessions. There would have been extraordinary currency inflation, or if that were to be avoided there would have to be absolute government control over labour, prices, and all forms of commercial -activity. In short, at that time, the liberty of the people was at stake, as it still is, insofar as there is any prospect of a Labour government getting into power again.
The Labour Government, during the time of which I speak, gave no thought to defence preparations. This year, the present Government is providing for the expenditure of £200,000,000 on defence. I know that the individual hates giving up easy profits and black-market gains. The salesman hates to see the passing of cona tions in which no effort was required to sell his goods, but most people in their hearts realize that the conditions which prevailed when the Labour Government was in office were not in the national interest. They know that the policy of the present Government is the right one for Australia. As a result of the sacrifices required in the 1951-52 budget, the morale of the nation has visibly improved. A change has taken place and individual responsibility is returning. There has been a return to honest and efficient work. Management is pulling up its socks, and becoming more efficient. Buying has become more discriminatory, young persons are training themselves for jobs and prices are being stabilized. This Government will take the honest action that is needed to meet existing circumstances. I admit that it has not reduced taxation as much as it should like it to have done, but it has taken a step in the right direction. By reducing taxation, it has passed back to the people about £50,000,000, although it will expend this year £200,000,000 on defence. The Government knows that if it had reduced defence commitments by £50,000,000, it could have doubled the reduction of taxation, but would it have been justified in taking such action? I know that there are honorable members opposite who would urge the Government ro reduce the defence vote and make further tax concessions, but the Government has a sense of responsibility. It knows that unless Australia is prepared for defence, it will face a terrible possibility. “We must be prepared so that we shall not be in danger of losing thi*country. If the Government did not provide the largest sum possible for defence, it would be recreant to its duty. It asks the people to understand the need, and to meet it by accepting a lesser reduction of taxation.
The budget is well balanced. One section of the community is not treated more fairly than another by its provision?. Some persons may argue that this or that should have been done, but broadly it is a well balanced budget through which the people are to be treated with justice and fairness. What are the Government’s aims? When all is said mid done, the Government accepted a. big task when it took over the legacy thathad been left to it. The Government aims jit, a free economy in which individuals will he given a chance. It seeks to restore the rights of individuals and of private enterprise so that people will get an adequate reward for their services and will be able to hold up their heads once more. It aims to remove arbitrary controls. The present generation knows of little else but controls. The Government plans ultimately to remove those controls completely. In particular, I advocate the lifting of controls from the building industry. That would be one of the best contributions that could be made towards solving the problem of unemployment. Although some controls have been lifted, capital issues and central bank controls still affect thetrols were lifted, the building industry would be free to solve its own problems, building industry adversely. If all con-
We should not always look to the Australian Government to provide all the money that is required. We should try to reduce the cost of government, which has reached astronomical figures. They are beyond all reason and, in the end, will bring about a socialist State if the trend is not curbed. In 1938-39 the Australian Government expended £7S,7S8,000. Last year, expenditure from revenue totalled £655,563,000. In 1938-39, the States expended £128,764,000. Last year the States’ expenditure had. risen to £305,747,000. Of all government expenditure, only the cost of local government has not increased very much. The total cost of government in Australia rose from £33 10s. a head of population in 1939 to £123 a head last year. The number of government employees in Australia has risen from 418,341 in 1939 to 692,200 in 1952. This Government is aiming to reduce those figures. The Labour party was responsible for most of the increase and this Government has not made the numbers grow. In 1939, defence services cost £7,464,706. Last year the expenditure upon them from revenue was £148,067,44S. War and repatriation cost. £19,256,S12 in 1938-39, compared with £129,635,371 last year. Capital works and services in 193S-39 cost £6,565,268, compared with £123,4!6S,1SS last year. The cost of social services rose from £16,52S,396 in 1 938-39 to £132,679,853 last year. I ask honorable members to consider where Australia is heading in relation to the cost of government. Some corrective action must be taken or we shall drift into a socialist State. The purpose of this Government is to unravel the socialist tangle which was caused by its predecessors over a period of nine years.
The Government has the support of the people in seeking to achieve this purpose. I know that some sacrifice will be required, but I am sure that the people will understand the need for it.
If a Labour government pledged to the principles that were enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition last night, displaces this Government, Australia will have nothing but a completely socialist State.I am sure that the people do not want that. I ask them to study current problems. The occasion is not one for catch-cries which are designed to mislead the people. The main question is whether the people are to live free lives in the future or whether they are to be hounded . and bounded by a socialist State. The latter is what this Government is trying to avoid. I believe that the people will stand by the Government a t this critical stage when it has had to do unpleasant things for the ultimate good of the nation.
– The budget tabled by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) last year, if properly analysed as presented, could be said to have been designed to allay the effects of inflation in the Australian economy. About twelve months ha ve since elapsed, and it is evident that inflation is still with us and that there is now also something new in the community - unemployment, insecurity and lack of confidence in commerce. I believe that the Treasurer accepts that as a fact, for in his budget speech last week the right honorable gentleman said -
There is still inflation….. There has also been some loss of business confidence leading to hesitancy about investment, and some transitional and sectional unemployment has appeared.
In order properly to evaluate the effect of this budget we must examine the conditions that now exist in the Australian community. The first feature that we observe is that, despite the avowals of honorable members opposite, thousands of people - I use the word “ thousands “ advisedly - who are able and willing to work are not in employment.
The second feature is that the immigration programme, which was initiated in a most humane way by the Labour Government and was administered by the former Minister for Immigration, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), is likely to be sabotaged because we cannot have an immigration programme and unemployment, at one and the. same time. If we endeavour to do so we arouse discontent in the community. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said last night, the Labour party has sufficient confidence in the future and in the capacity of the Australian community to believe that we can and should have full employment and a successful immigration programme. At present there is unemployment of a very large order in the community.
The third feature that we observe is that business people and wage-earning sections of the community generally have lost confidence and that employers are suggesting that the wage increases have got out of hand and are responsible for the evils that beset us. In order to prove that reasoning of that kind may be a little too glib, I point out for the reflection of honorable members opposite that although the basic wage increase made in April last was 3s., the following increase, made in July, was 12s. If increased prices result from wage increases alone, how can it be claimed that the increase of the basic wage by 3s. in April justified a further increase of that wage in the July quarter by 12s.? I mention these matters as a point of logic to those who suggest that the real nigger in the wood pile is the wages bill. It is true that food prices are increasing and that these increases are reflected in the basic wage, but the story that is bandied round by honorable members opposite is that a reduction of wages would provide the sole cure for inflation.
The fourth feature to be observed is that the programmes of public works that are so necessary for our national development are in danger of being prejudiced by the wrangling that is going on between the Commonwealth and the States over the allocation of tax collections. What is of more importance than the allocation of finance is whether the works that are included in the programmes are necessary for the development of Australia. These programmes should be. re-examined in view of the fact that, for the first time for many years, we have idle resources of persons in the community.
Finally, due to credit restrictions imposed in the last budget, the supply of many important requirements of the community has been prejudiced. The most important of them in my view - the housing of the Australian people - is prejudiced by the fact that those who need houses are no longer in a position to buy them. Their need still exists but, for the rime being, the demand has been tapered off because the people who need houses have not the wherewithal to purchase them. It is all very well for the Government artificially to restrict incomes and then to say to the people, If you have not the money with which to purchase a house, you do not need one “. That is not the sort of approach that should be made to the problem in an enlightened community. Those who are without incomes do not derive much solace from the factthat this year taxpayers will not be asked to pay the 10 per cent. supertax on incomes, imposed last year. Nor can they derive consolation from the fact that the extraordinarily high rates of sales tax that were unjustly imposed in the last budget are to be slightly lowered.
Honorable members opposite glibly claim that the members of the Labour party are calamity howlers because they allege that there is grave unemployment in the community. We say unhesitatingly that the degree of unemployment is greater than the Government will admit it to be. In a statement on the unemployment situation in the House last week the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) said that honorable members could ascertain for themselves the degree of unemployment in the community by reference to the official publications of the Commonwealth Statistician. I have accepted his invitation and shall cite some figures concerning unemployment so that honorable members may obtain a true conspectus of the impact of unemployment on the Australian community. The official publications of the. Commonwealth Statistician show that in May, 1951. excluding employees in rural industries and private domestic servants, the number of civilian employees in Australia was 2,629,400, and that the number in the defence forces was 43,600, or a total of 2,673,000 persons, and that by May, 1952, the number of civilian employees had declined to 2,602,000 and that the number in the defence forces had increased to 67,700, or a total of 2,670,500 persons. Honorable members opposite glibly interpret these figures to mean that the number of employed persons has dropped by only 2,500. Other factors must be taken into consideration in a community such as ours which believes in an expanding economy. Our population is increasing by natural births and by the arrival of immigrants, and consequently more people needed to be employed in May. 1952 than in May, 1951. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to say that as many people are in employment to-day as were employed twelve months ago. The number employed to-day should be greater than the number employed twelve months ago. During the last twelve months employment has fallen by 2,500 and the decrease of civilian employment has been more or less absorbed by the increase that has taken place in the defence forces. Apparently, those who lost their employment were able to join those forces. At the moment, I shall not argue whether that is an ideal way to recruit our defence forces. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show that during the same period Australia’s population increased by 110,000 as a result of immigration. Assuming that approximately from 45 per cent. to 55 per cent. of those immigrants were employable we can say that as a result of immigration the work force increased by 55,000.
Next, the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show that the number of males in the 15 to 65 years age group, plus 20 per cent. of women, which is the proportion of women in this group who usually work during periods of full employment, increased by from 15,000 to 20,000. I estimate that the work force has increased from that source by approximately 18,000. Thus, on the most conservative estimate, Australia’s labour force increased from May, 1950, to May, 1951, by approximately 75,000. Allowing for the fact that 2,500 fewer persons were in employment in May, 1952, compared with the number employed in
Mav. 1 951, the figures that I have cited indicate that the number of persons now unemployed in Australia would be of the order of 300,000, which approximates the estimate that the Leader of the Opposition made in his speech last evening. Honorable members who represent industrial electorates will recall that the layingoff of employees was particularly heavy in June last. Factories at Fishermen’s Bend, including many motor car organizations, put off from 200 to 300 employees in that month. If the number of unemployed in May was 75,000 - I have arrived at that figure on the most conservative estimate in order to give to the Government the benefit of the doubt in this matter- it is safe to say that the number unemployed to-day is in the region of 100,000. Relating that figure to Australia’s total labour force, which the Minister for Defence in his statement on employment fixed at approximately 3,250,000, the order of unemployment in this country approximates the figure that he cited in respect of unemployment in Canada and the United States of America, that is, about 3 per cent, of the available labour force.
Although unemployment may not appear at present to be substantial, all honorable members recognize that it has a tendency to snowball Therefore, the Government should reflect move seriously upon this matter. The assumption made by the Minister for Defence that the function of the Commonwealth Employment Service is merely to supply the worker who can do the job to the employer who wants the job done is altogether too simple. Much more tha.n that is expected from an employment service. What is required in this respect was reflected in the white paper on full employment that was tabled by the Leader of the Opposition in this House in May, 1945, when he was Minister for Iyc tern al Affairs in the Chifley Government. The Government says that any unemployment that exists at present is only transitional. My colleague, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) aptly pointed out that a person who is unemployed does not derive much comfort; from being told that his unem ployment is transitional. The present socalled transitional unemployment will rapidly assume far greater proportions if the Government remains inactive in this matter. The Government announced certain plans by means of which, it claimed, it would maintain employment to the maximum, but it has done nothing to implement them. It suggested that there was over-employment in some spheres and underemployment in others. The Government, by its policy, has certainly caused many persons to lose their employment, and it has made noattempt to place those persons in. other employment. One can only conclude that it has not in hand any proper plan to facilitate the flow of personsfrom places where their services are not required to places were, from the standpoint of the economy, their servicesmay be required. As a. result the volume of transitional unemployment will increase at an uncontrollable rate and., consequently, the flow of purchasingpower in the community will decline.. This trend will be reflected in anincreased lack of industrial activity.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension! of the sitting I outlined some statistics gleaned from official sources, which indicated that, after taking into account theflow of immigrants into Australia in the last twelve months and new entries into our labour market of people between> 15 and 65 years of age, the true level of unemployment in Australia was something of the order of 75,000 at the end of May, 1952. Since then the position has deteriorated. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that unemployment in Australia now is of the order of 100,000 persons, or about 3 per cent, of” the labour force. We must take into consideration that Australia is not a static community. It is a growing country.. The Monthly Review of Business Statistics for Mav, 1952, contains a table in relation to the employment in factories in Australia from the year 1936-37 onwards. The index figure 1,000 is taken as the average for the threeyears ended June, 1939. That tablegives a good indication of thelevel of employment generally in.
Australia. The index for July, 1950, was 1,410. For June, 1951, it was still 1,410. For April, 1952, however, the index was 1,332. That shows that there has been a much greater decline of the level of employment in Australia than the Government has stated, and that the period of transitional employment is likely to be of long duration because of the failure of the Government to take the necessary measures to correct the trend. It indicates, also, the pragmatic approach that has been made by the Government to finance matters generally.
The Government has no fixed views, and it does not know precisely where it is going. When the Treasurer introduced the budget last year, he also” stated -
In current circumstances, resort to such methods of finance would on all counts be thoroughly unsound and the Government has irrevocably set its face against it.
The right honorable gentleman was referring to the expansion of bank credit. The term “ irrevocably “ was a rather foolish term for the Treasurer to use, in view of the frequency with which he has since changed his course. One thing that can be said about “the presentation of accounts by the Government is that they are not presented in a form to make it easy for members of the Parliament, or people outside, to find out precisely what the Government has done during the year. The Australian Financial Review - a Sydney Morning Herald publication - states in its issue of the 17 th July, that during the last financial year the Government did, in fact, expand credit by the use of treasury-bills to something of the order of £45,000,000. Despite that fact the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in a speech that he delivered at the Brisbane City Hall recently, is reported in the same journal to have stated -
Some of the State Premiers say the answer is to compel the Commonwealth Bank to write out cheques to create new money for long-term public works. In other words, what these gentlemen say to us is : “ You give up the fight against inflation. Go and create a few hundred million at the Central Bank. That will satisfy us. It will do infinite harm to the people hut it will satisfy us “. If they ure not saying that, they must be saying: “ Increase the taxes. Bring in more millions so that you may give them to us so that we may be satisfied and won’t go round saying the Commonwealth is cutting the works pro- gramme and is creating unemployment”. The answer to that is : “ Increased direct taxation and inflation (which is a flat rate tax on everybody’s money ) are alike to be avoided “.
However, in his budget speech the Treasurer stated -
We consider it justifiable . . . that loan raisings for essential works of a truly developmental and productive kind should receive some special assistance from bank credit.
Although the right honorable gentleman made no mention of how much or how little bank credit should be expanded, his words were indicative of the turnround that has been made by this Government in its financial policy. They indicated clearly that the Government does not know precisely where it is going’. Consequently the people outside in the community, also, are not too sure about things. This is reflected in the so-called money market. It seems to me to be a. contradiction for the Treasurer to talk about the expansion of credit, on the assumption that at some time during the next twelve months money may become tight, and at the same time to commit the people to a policy of dear money. The right honorable gentleman also foreshadowed an increase of interest rates. By transferring money from the Commonwealth Bank, where it ought to be, to the private banks, the Government is virtually handing over the control of interest rates to the private banks.
I agree with the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition last night that full employment and cheap money stand or fall together. Full employment had come to be regarded as the right of the Australian people. We have .seen that principle destroyed during the past twelve months. Now the Government is saying, in effect, “ The position is not too bad “. It is very bad for the men who are out of work. Despite the agencies which are supposed to be in existence, and the steps that are supposedly being taken by the Government to redirect employment from where it is not wanted to where it is wanted, many people are experiencing difficulty in finding jobs, [t is time some of the mumbo jumbo, as it were, that shrouds the presentation to the Parliament of the accounts of the nation was removed. Now, the budget is the central point of the nation’s economic life. This budget deals with the means by which the Government will handle roughly £1,000,000,000, or one-third of the national income. In a community such as ours, no government can thrive unless it takes the people into its confidence and tries to explain to them, without thought of political advantage, precisely what it is doing.When a budget is presented to the Parliament of Great Britain, there is presented also an analysis of the estimated economic progress of the nation, not for the past twelve months but for the ensuing twelve months. There is published, for the use of the man in the street, a popular version of that document, which, by means of graphs, charts and simple explanations, tells the story of the role that the budget is playing in the life of the community.
It would be very difficult for this Government to do that, for the simple reason that it does not know what will happen. The last budget got out of focus because the Government failed to predict the way in which our balance of payments would move, and how Australian trade would flow during the ensuing twelve months. This budget also may get out of focus because the Government has no conception of the extent of unemployment in this community, and is taking no steps to allay its effects. It does not matter how much a government reduces income tax or decreases sales tax if there arc people in the community who have no income and, consequently, have no interest in the prices of goods in the shops. In the long run, the level of employment in this community and the spending power of the people determine the economic tempo of the nation as a whole. The majority of the people in this country are wage-earners. Therefore, employment is the central fact of their lives. Employment is vital to them, not for the sake of the job itself but for the sake of the wage that they derive from it, because with that wage they purchase the goods and services that they desire for themselves and their families. The business of budget making is more important to-day than it was ten or twelve years ago. The present budget deals with about £1,000,000,000, whilst seven to ten years ago the sum involved was £100,000,000.
Prices have not yet increased tenfold, although they may do so if this Government remains in office for a little longer, but the increased rate of expenditure does indicate the central role that the Government plays in our economy.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I begin by saying that it is no part of my function to-night to state the policy of the Government. That has been brilliantly stated, if the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will allow me to say so, in the budget speech. I think I should not lose the opportunity to say that I congratulate the Treasurer of this country upon having, for twelve long months, survived a constant campaign of criticism, and sometimes of abuse, and then having brought down a budget that undoubtedly commands the overwhelming support of this Parliament and of the people. The real function that I have to-night is to deal with one or two of the issues that have been isolated for us by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Anybody who reads the budget speech and the speech of the right honorable gentleman will, without too much trouble, discover the real points of conflict between the policy of the Government and the policy of the Opposition.
Before I deal with those issues in a comprehensive way, I shall deal with two or three points of which the Leader of the Opposition made a great matter in the course of his speech last night. Honorable members will remember that he advanced an ingenious argument. I think that is not an unfair description of it. As I understood it, and I have read it carefully since, it was designed to show that the abolition of the 10 per cent. income tax levy, which I shall call roughly and not quite accurately a 10 per cent. cut in the personal income tax, is so illusory, to use his own word, that it will leave many or all of the taxpayers in the lower and middle income brackets worse off. He resorted to a mathematical procedure to establish that point. Not for the first time in my life, I thought that the best answer to a somewhat refined mathematical argument is a bit of horsesense. If the right honorable gentleman is so satisfied that the repeal of the 10 per cent, levy is actually injurious to the people in the lower and middle income brackets, will he restore it if he comes back into office? No question could be fairer than that. If he really believes that they will be worse off as a result of the repeal of the levy, obviously he would restore it. He cannot have it both way3.
I ask another question, about which I should like every taxpayer in Australia to think. “Would the taxpayers of Australia, or any of them, like us to continue the 10 per cent, levy? I am certain that if a Gallup poll were taken on that issue there would be a 100 per cent, vote in favour of what we are doing. Under those circumstances, the right honorable gentleman will be a little hard put to it to satisfy people that the repeal of the L0 per cent, levy, so far from being of advantage to people in the middle and lower income brackets, will actually be injurious to them. I describe that approach to the subject as a piece of horsesense. Issues of that kind can be very clearly understood.
The next portion of the speech of the right honorable gentleman that lends itself to some ‘.separate treatment was that in which he adverted to the Loan Council and to the works programme. He made a couple of statements which were, quite inadvertently I am sure, utterly inaccurate. First, he said - referring to myself, I believe - that the right honorable gentleman contended to the State Premiers that the works programme had to be limited to the amount of money that could be raised from the public in the loan market. That statement, coming from the leader of an alternative government, deserves some consideration. The Leader of the Opposition said that I told the State Premiers that the works programme had to be limited to the amount that could be raised from the loan market. If he had said that about the Government of which he was a member., he would have been right, because until this Government came into office the works programme was so limited. But to make :a statement of that kind about this Government, when he knows that last financial year not only did it not limit the
States to the amount the loan market would produce, but it actually found from its revenues £155,000,000 for the States works programme, is, I believe, as barefaced a piece of effrontery as I have ever experienced in this chamber. The fact is that the Treasurer and I said to the Loan Council that we did not propose to limit the works programme to the yield of the loan market. In other words, we said exactly the opposite to that which is now charged against us. In point of fact - and this is worth repeating over and over again - in the last financial .year, had we not underwritten the State works programmes, and provided the States with £155,000,000 more than the market was able to produce for them, we should not bave had to increase taxes in this country as we did. Then, warming up as the result of that extraordinary statement - I say nothing more harsh than that, about it - the right honorable gentleman went on to speak of the vacillation of the Government. That is now a favorite field with honorable members opposite. He said that this vacillation was shown by the fact that when a semigovernmental loan was being raised in Victoria for the State Electricity Commission, a new Commonwealth loan was announced at a higher rate of interest. 1 do not know .how that demonstrates vacillation. The fact is that the Victorian Government had secured the underwriting of a loan for the State Electricity Commission, and during that time, a new Commonwealth loan had to be raised. The Commonwealth loan did not have to be raised during the currency of the State loan, but it had to be discussed by the Loan Council before the period of the semi-governmental loan had ended. The Loan Council determines the rate of interest on Commonwealth loans. That is not the f unction of the Victorian Government. The State Premiers, by virtue o’f their six votes at Loan Council meetings, determine the rate of interest on Commonwealth loans, and until, the occasion to which I am now referring, it had always been understood that, while communications were being exchanged between the States and the Commonwealth on the subject of interest rates, the matter was of the highest order of secrecy. I need only tell the House that the disclosure of the proposed rate of interest came from Mr. McGirr’s Cabinet in Sydney. It is a little odd to me to be told that the disaster to the State Electricity Commission of Victoria which was occasioned by that disclosure, was due to our vacillation when, in fact, it was due to a gross breach of faith by the Government of New South Wales.
I shall not be able to refer to all the points that the Leader of the Opposition made, but there are a few that should be disposed of at the earliest possible moment. The right honorable gentleman summoned up his spirits sufficiently to say that the Commonwealth’s decision to return to the States their taxing powers was the result of mere political pique with the State governments. The right honorable gentleman himself comes from New South Wales. I have always understood that, disunited as we of the Liberal party and Australian Country party may be, members of the Labour party are as close as brothers. Therefore, L suggest that I can assume that members of the party that the right honorable gentleman leads in this Parliament, and of the Labour party in New South Wales are as close as brothers. [ wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition knows that, at each conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that has been held during the three years that have passed since I came back to office the Premier of New South Wales who, I remind the committee, has always been a Labour Premier in those years, has invariably begun proceedings by saying, “ We want our taxing powers back”. Does the Leader of the Opposition know that a similar proposal has been put forward by the Labour Premier of Queensland, and the Labour Premier of Tasmania, although, in the latter instance, not with very much heart? Does the right honorable gentleman know that this demand has been made also- by the Premiers of the other States?’ Is he going to tell me that all the Premiers have been sneaking with their tongues in their cheeks? Is he going to fell me that the Premiers were just engaging in political propaganda? Is he going to offend them by saying that they did not mean a word of what they rn said, and that when we took them at their word they almost dropped dead? Is that the right honorable gentleman’s proposition ? There need be no mystery about it. The truth is that the Premiers have been howling for the return of their taxing powers and, if I may say so, howling quite rightly. Probably some of them are not quite so sure about the matter now, but I think they were right in seeking a return of their taxing powers because I believe that, under a federal system, if there i3 to be responsible government, those who spend the money ought, as far as possible, to have the responsibility of raising it. It is ridiculous to have the State governments saying of various projects within their own borders “ Yes, it is a splendid show “, “ It is a. beautiful irrigation scheme “, “ You should have this hospital “, or “ You should have this school, and we would love you to have it”, and then for them to add “But we cannot get the money from the Commonwealth because the Commonwealth has stolen our right to control our own revenues “. There is a simple answer to that proposition. It is that the States should have the right to control their own revenues. For the State colleagues of the Leader of the Opposition to be saying “ Give us back our taxing power “, while the right honorable gentleman himself says to the Government “Don’t you dare give them back their taxing powers, because I am sure you would only be doing it to embarrass them “ must be one of the most remarkable pieces of cross-trumping in the history of debate.
The Leader of the Opposition made a great issue of unemployment. In fact he made the issue. That, perhaps, showed shrewd judgment on his part. He knows that everybody in this country wants maximum employment, and that everybody hates the idea of people being without the means of earning a living. Therefore employment is a good point; but it does not become any better when it is bolstered up by a series of propositions that’ will not stand examination. For instance, the right honorable gentleman said that the Commonwealth Employment Service, which, after all, was established by a government of which he was a member, bad been sluggish. I shall not endeavour to quote his exact words, but his complaint was that the Commonwealth Employment Service had been lacking in activity, had been much too passive in dealing with the problem of employment, and should have been finding jobs for people. In view of that charge against a great body of public servants, I thought that I should ascertain the facts and I did so. I found that, so far from merely recording employment figures as the right honorable gentleman suggested, officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service have been successful in obtaining well over 4,000 new jobs every week for workers in this country. Since the drive to place immigrant and Australian, workers in food production commenced some months ago, the Commonwealth Employment Service, which has been criticized so harshly by the Leader of the Opposition, has found more than 3,000 farm jobs. I mention those facts, which are by no means overstated - the figures might easily be extended by taking other factors into account - to show how wrong it was for the Leader of the Opposition to seek to bolster up his case against the Australian Government by suggesting that the Commonwealth Employment Service, by direction or otherwise, I do not know, had failed to do ite duty. Of course, it is not surprising, because the right honorable gentleman, quite early in his speech, set out to prove, by what he called an official statement but which turned out to be an anonymous one, that the policy of this Government was to create unemployment. It may be that there are people in this country who, in their discomforts and their troubles, will be tempted to believe that statement. I want to say at once that I do not believe that one could find in this Parliament, or in any political party here, any twenty men to form a government who would deliberately set out to put people out of work. I think that it is a foul allegation of simple inhumanity. That is all! It does not deceive anybody, except the wildest partisans or the most irresponsible of the right honorable gentleman’s supporters.
May I continue to say a few words on the subject of unemployment? My right honorable friend, in the course of his speech, indicated, little as he may like it, that just as in our budget last year we set out to strike a blow against inflation and took some political risks in the course of doing so, this year we have said that we have now reached the stage at which we must pursue a studied and balanced course. I venture to believe that most sensible Australians want us to do so. It is a course in which we continue to oppose inflation by such means as we have, and in which we watch the symptoms of unemployment, and are alert to deal with them as they arise. I admit that it is a delicate task and a balanced task. Nobody ever supposed that the business of government was easy. Nobody except a fool ever supposed that one can take something out of a bottle of patent medicine and pour it into the body politic, and that all will be right. Of course, we have a difficult task, but this budget is, I believe, a splendid example of how such a difficult task should be attacked. Naturally, it is not the business of the Leader of the Opposition to think that this is a good budget, or even that it has any merits. I understand that point of view. I was the Leader of the Opposition once, and so I do not quarrel with that view as a piece of technique, but he gains nothing in his argument by overstating it. He gains nothing in his discussion of unemployment by endeavouring to create the impression that this country is already a howling wilderness of unemployment. There is only ohe way in which mass unemployment can be created in this young country at this time, with all the jobs in front of us that have to be done, and that is by howling about it and creating a psychology of depression. I have not the faintest doubt that that is the new Opposition technique for this sessional period of the Parliament.
There was a time when we used to ascertain the volume of unemployment by looking at the trade union figures. I am familiar with the argument that those figures are not complete and exhaustive, and that they apply to only a limited number of persons. I do not want anybody to tell me that fact. But I say that those figures have always shown the trends pretty accurately, because of all the organized bodies of labour, the trade unions are in the best position to know what is happening to their members, and, therefore, the trends that are appearing. I have not the up-to-date-statistics, but I notice in the trade union figures in th« Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics, published in March, 1952. which is the latest issue that I have been able to obtain, that the position is not quite so good as it was: but ! also notice that the percentage of trade union unemployment reported in 1947, a year which the Leader of the Opposition should recall, since at that time he was a very senior Minister in the then Government, was 1.2, and that in March of this year, it was 1.1. I quite agree that there have been fluctuations and movements downwards - of course there have - but for the right honorable gentleman to set out to create a scare in this country on a figure strictly comparable with a figure in 1947, when he was using his eloquence on every platform to say that a marvellous job was being done by his own Government and that the economy was never better, seems to me to be, in the homely phrase, a little over the odds.
That is not the only statement that can be made. I asked for the figures showing the number of persons in receipt of the unemployment benefit. That is a pretty close figure, because the delay, in point of time, is small. I obtained those figures so that the people of Australia may put these statements in their proper context, for they are quite illustrative. We were not in office in July, 1946. A great and powerful Labour government was in office at that time. On its own admission, it was the best government that the world had ever seen. In July, 1946, 32 workers in ever,y 10,000 were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. That is not a bad form in which to put the position, because it gives a clear picture. When people start to talk about percentage?, it is, perhaps, a little confusing. However, in July, 1946, 32 workers in every :i 0,000 were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. In July, 1947, eighteen workers in every 10,000 were in receipt, of the unemployment benefit. In June of this year, 23 workers in every 10,000 were receiving the unemployment benefit. On the 2nd August this year, which is very up to date. 45 workers in every 10,000 were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. I have been long enough in this Parliament, and long enough immersed in the problems of this country, to remember the kind of subject that we had to discuss in the bad days of the last depression, and, in common with everybody else in this country, I do not want to see those bad days come back again. But to exaggerate the current problem of unemployment when, in point of fact, it is a degree of unemployment, is either to display a terrible ignorance of the economic facts, or to set out on a deliberate campaign to promote unemployment for political advantage. The right honorable gentleman said, on the dubious authority of some anonymous official statement to which he referred, that we had deliberately planned unemployment, and I have dealt with that matter. I merely .return to it to say that it is poisonous nonsense. The right honorable gentleman does not believe that about this Government. Yet he says that we deliberately planned unemployment. When he came to develop that theme he said that he knew that we had deliberately done so because we had adopted capital issues control and credit control, which were designed to transfer the weight of employment from the less important industries to the more important ones. Does he really quarrel with the idea that when the economy of a country is out of balance one should encourage employment in important things and not in unimportant things? If he does not quarrel with it, then it must . involve people moving from one form of employment to another; but if he does quarrel with it, then he must do so on the basis that all is lovely in the garden, that we have no economic problems at all, and that he is quite content for people to go along doing trivial and irrelevant tasks when vital industries in this country are being starved of labour. If that is what he means, let him say so. I never mind what the right honorable gentleman says if I think he means what he says. But why should he not come “lean on this matter ?
There was a time, not so very long ago, and certainly within the last twelve months, when the right honorable gentleman and some of his more thoughtful supporters were talking about inflation and challenging this Government for not dealing with it. Indeed, just as their current catchcry is “unemployment”, so i heir catchcry six months ago was “ What are you doing, about inflation?” As I have the greatest respect for the integrity of their approach, I must assume that i hey meant what they said and that they >vere concerned about inflation. If they were, it might be interesting some day to know what they would do about it. I -hall come shortly to the. right honorable gentleman’s formula, which is to inflate the way out of inflation. I shall come back to that subject, because it deserves close examination. Do not honorable gentlemen opposite appreciate that inflation is going on? The Leader of the Opposition obviously does, because he made it the whole basis of his argument ou income tax. But for the fact that there is inflation, his income tax argument would have been foolish. He, therefore, cannot deny that there is inflation, nor, for that matter, can anybody else. Certainly, no housewife in this country would deny that there is inflation. Do the right honorable gentleman and his supporters realize that because of inflation of costs in this country, we can ultimately price ourselves out of our overseas markets.? Do not they realize that << some extent we have already done so? ft is all right for the right honorable gentleman to show, as he did, a complete disregard for the primary industries, but ! wish to remind him that the primary commodities, a profitable market for which is so vital to Australia, provide the overwhelming bulk of our overseas income and are the chief prop of our existence as a trading nation. Does he display any anxiety to know whether, because .of rising costs, we shall ultimately be put of the business of exporting meat or, perhaps some day, wool, except under subsidy? These are tremendously vital questions to this country. Any government which displays an indifference to the effect of rising prices and costs on the export interests of the country does not deserve to be a government for two minutes.
To come back again to the cities, does not the right honorable gentleman appreciate that rising costs in Australia can price many people put of .a job.? I hear a good deal about the building industry, and I could not agree more that that industry is one of the great barometers of employment in Australia. It is of the utmost importance. But would anybody deny that one of the factors in the slackening demand for buildings has been the fantastic prices to which ho.uses have risen, or the fantastic costs which are involved to-day in building a house? Therefore, will anybody deny that if one allows the inflationary process to continue - as the right honorable gentleman would allow it to do - it is possible to price every builder’s labourer out of a job?
At a certain stage of his speech the right honorable gentleman came to the conclusion that w.e had gone wrong on import control. I am very indebted to him for his criticism which, I must say, I heard for the first time after we had taken our decision. Therefore, it is a perfect example of hind sight. When the right honorable gentleman was thinking about this matter and developing his theme, he said something to the effect that we should encourage the production of more commodities in Australia and also encourage the export industries. It is a very easy matter, indeed, to stand on a platform and to make a pretty speech about encouraging export industries. It is easy to use these rather desiccated phrases of the study, or the somewhat less desiccated phrases of the soap box; but it is a different matter to put into effect actual financial proposals which are designed to operate as an incentive to the man on the land. I merely wish to say, without labouring anything, that in the present .calendar year this Government, so far from paying lip service to primary industry, has done at least eight things of value to the man on the land as an incentive to him to increase his production by increasing the means of production. It was not this Government which produced provisional tax. There was a stage last year when I mel a number of my erstwhile friends who seemed to think that we had invented it. I reminded them that we had not done so, but that it was invented by a government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member. What we did in March this year was to defer .provisional tax in respect of primary producers, other than wool-growers, who had suffered loss through drought, hush fires or outbreaks of stock diseases. The wool-growers received a. general deferment because of the lapse of prices, which cost us £50,000,000, in 1951-52. In March of this year we introduced, for the first time in the history of this country, a special depreciation allowance of 20 per cent, per annum in respect of farm machinery, accommodation for farm employees, buildings for fodder conservation, and certain irrigation materials. That allowance of 20 per cent, for five years is one of the finest depreciation provisions ever made for a primary industry anywhere in the world.
It was in May of this year that we announced and brought in our scheme of se If -assessment for provisional tax for the financial year 1952-53, which is a tremendous boon to people such as primary producers whose incomes are so likely to fluctuate from year to year. This month we have abolished, to the great regret of the Leader of the Opposition, the 10 per cent, income tax levy. We have, in this very budget, introduced a concession to parents for education expenses which will be appreciated by thousands of people. The Government, lias proposed to repeal the land tax law. J.’he Leader of the Opposition does not like that proposal very much. The Government also has undertaken to make substantial reductions in sales tax, particularly in the case of goods used by primary industry. It has proposed to spread insurance recoveries on live-stock over a period of five years for income tax purposes. That is not a bad record, for one year of practical incentives to the man on. the land. The right honorable gentleman cannot refute that fact by stating, in effect, that the primary industries do not matter, and that only the factories are important.
Just as my interest in the right honorable gentleman’s speech was beginning to flag, he said that he would put forward a positive policy. As this proposal had all the charm of novelty for honorable members we listened to see what it would be. I did not hear the right honorable gentleman propose a reduction in expen diture. I assume from the general text of his speech that he is aware of the problems associated with defence and that he therefore does not propose that defence .expenditure should be reduced during this financial year. But he did propose an increase of other budget expenditure. He proposed .increases of social services and repatriation payments. He did not say by how much they should be increased, but I am certain that the right honorable gentleman would not take up our time by talking about trifles. Presumably he would make a substantial increase in those votes. Perhaps we could assume that he would recommend another £20,000,000 for this great group of services. That seems to be a modest estimate. The right honorable gentleman then alleged that the proposed reductions in ‘taxation were not great enough. Apparently he would eliminate the pay-roll tax or reduce it. He said that the proposed reduction in income tax would be no reduction. If I had alleged that a 10 per cent, reduction amounted to nothing I should think that I would have to support a reduction of at least 20 per cent. Such a reduction in taxation would amount to £40,000,000. The right honorable gentleman stated that he opposed the repeal of the land tax. Therefore, I ask him, if his party is returned to office in 1954, will it reimpose the land tax ? It would be very interesting to know whether Opposition members are really opposed to the abolition of this tax. If they are, they will, to use a common phrase, have to “ stand up and be counted “. Do they intend to re-impose this tax? I have never known the Opposition to be more silent than it is now that I ask that question.
The increases of expenditure and the reduction of taxation revenue that I have imputed to the Leader of the Opposition would result in a budget deficit of about £60,000,000. On the basis of his own remarks, he would ask the Commonwealth Bank to provide that money or, to be more accurate, he would order the bank to provide it. .Sixty million pounds of new money would be created. The right honorable gentleman could search the civilized world without finding one responsible financial authority who would support the proposal that a government should incur a deficit such as that during the progress of what he himself has described as an inflationary spiral. The £45,000,000 worth of treasury-bills which the Government issued last year were a mere trifle compared with the amount of new money that the right honorable gentleman would issue and which would not represent the product of anything but an order by him.
Then, warming to his work, the Loader of the Opposition proceeded to deal with public works expenditure. Australian Government and State government loan works programmes for the current financial year, excluding semi-governmental works which are enormous, and will cost £190,000.000. That amount is at least three times as great as the average amount “provided by the previous Government for this purpose during the last three years of its existence. The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that the Government has supported these works programmes because it knows, as the State Premiers know, that the loan market will not produce £190,000,000. It was estimated that the market would furnish about £50,000,000 plus £5,000,000 in domestic raisings by the States, so the Australian Government undertook to find an additional £135,000,000. That was the second greatest contribution that has ever been made by the Commonwealth to the States. It is exactly 135 times as much as any contribution that the previous Government ever made to the States. But these facts do not satisfy the Leader of the Opposition. If he had. told the Government that it must be ready to increase public works programmes if grave unemployment occurred, I should agree with him. But that is not what he has said. He has said that at least £270,000,000 must be provided for public works at the verv first, slight, symptoms of unemployment.
I warn Opposition members that if, in the immeasurable wisdom and compassion of Providence, they get into office again, they will have to think about some of their leader’s proposals. A government cannot borrow money from the people unless they are willing to lend it. The loan market in Australia has been tremendously strained in modern times. It is ill and many people have told the Government that if it wants to borrow money it will have to pay a price for it. Oddly enough, one of them is the Labour Premier of New South Wales, a colleague of my right honorable friend. Another is his colleague, the Premier of Tasmania. During the last week or two each of those gentlemen has successfully raised money for a semi-governmental purpose by offering £4 10s. and £4 12s. 6d. per cent. They apparently have none of the inhibitions suffered by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition about interest rates. They said - poor, simple, uninformed fellows - to their advisers, “ We want money; what is the price of money to-day, Tom ? “ The advisers probably said, “ You will get it if you pay 4£ per cent, or 4) per cent.” They accordingly went out into the money market and got it. I understood the right honorable gentleman to say that the bond rate should be pegged at 3f per cent.
– Three and one-eighth per cent.
– Perhaps I am overstating his argument, but I do not need to exaggerate when dealing with a matter such as this, so I shall call it 3f per cent. Has the right honorable gentleman an; conception of what happens in the loan market? Has he no information about the activities of the Central Bank if the market is to be kept at a reasonable level? Does he not know that he cannot have his way - unless something completely unforeseen happens - except by putting more into the money market than he gets from it? When he talks about pegging the interest rate, at a time when the market yield is much higher than the loan yield and when every State Premier has offered far more than he considers should be offered, he is adopting the attitude of not desiring to borrow public money - and that is his true position. He wants £60,000.000 for his deficit, and £270,000,000 for public works. That is £330,000,000, so far, that he intends to order the Central Bank to produce. I venture to describe that proposal as depression finance at the very first sign of unemployment. It is a proposal to abandon altogether counter-inflationary action. It gives the whole show away. It says quite forcibly, “ We are now in the depths of a depression, we are now ‘n the depths of a deflation, therefore let us inflate our way out “. If that is statesmanship, then, to use the homely phrase, I’ll eat my hat. However, the right honorable gentleman’s argument does not end there because he wants the system of uniform taxation to remain and he wants the States to continue to use moneys raised by the Commonwealth. II the States have expensive ideas like his, and Lord knows two or three of them have, then State deficits would be involved, and special grants would have to be made to the States out of central bank credit to the tune of £30,000,000, £40,000,000 or £50,000,000.
That proposition, that the right honorable gentleman has put before the Parliament as a constructive programme in an admitted period of inflation, contemplates a treasury-bill issue of anything between £350,000,000 and £400,000,000. He has put that forward against a balanced and flexible programme to counter inflation, to assist employment and to exercise constant watchfulness over our economy. The right honorable gentleman’s crazy programme - because with great respect 1 must describe it as such - of wild inflation would have two results. First, there would be a cessation of borrowing and investment from abroad because people do not invest their money in foreign countries that are unstable. If the right honorable gentleman wants his programme to be put into effect let him forget about borrowing from outside Australia to help to finance it. Secondly, he has forgotten that £400,000,000 of new treasury-bill money could not be thrown into the banking structure without increasing the liquidity of the banks so greatly and so suddenly that there would bc, as the late Leader of the Opposition, whose name he is so fond of invoking, said, “ Secondary inflation of great danger to the country”. His late leader feared that kind of secondary inflation, and because he feared it he established the whole system of special accounts for the trading banks and the system of giving the protection of the central bank to the trading banks. Both of those matters were referred to by the right honorable gentleman - in the hope of getting a vote from somewhere - as harsh, cruel and unnecessary.
Any speech made by a leader of an opposition deserves consideration, and when it is made in a budget debate it deserves extra consideration because such a debate deals with the vital finances of the nation. I say that the policy of the Opposition, if it is the policy of the Opposition that its leader has put forward is one of the most disastrous, the most irresponsible and the most unreal policies that has ever been presented to the people of Australia.
– On some similar occasions in the past it has been necessary to warn the Australian people that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is a word-spinner, but that his words cannot be relied upon. That warning is not necessary to the people to-night, because the melancholy fact is known to every one. The great promiser has become the great deceiver and to-hight he has endeavoured to escape the wrath to come by assuming the role of the great distorter. He will not get away with that, because the people are no longer in a mood to be fooled. The Prime Minister has misquoted and misstated some of the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and he has totally ignored other arguments of the right honorable gentleman. Therefore, he has not produced a real answer to any of the arguments put forward by the Opposition. The Prime Minister, in this critical hour of our history, has used this occasion as another opportunity for jokes and for arousing the laughter of his supporters. What a fatal mistake for him to make! What extraordinary egotism blinds him so much to the realities of the economic situation that has been created by himself .
In this chamber we are warm, well clothed and fed;’ but there are aged and invalid people, unemployed men and women in this community who are not in that happy state. They lack sufficient food, fuel and clothing because of their reliance on the pledges given to them by this Prime Minister who has joked and fooled his way through this debate. Those people will take it ill that the man who has deceived them should think the occasion one for laughter. They will not see the joke. Perhaps they have not that particular kind of humour. Now, when public confidence is an important factor in the economic crisis, the difference in the attitude of the two leaders who have spoken is notable. All honorable members in this House will agree, whether they subscribe to his views or not, that the Leader of the Opposition spoke seriously and constructively. His arguments were clear and honest and they were not overstated. He did not seek at any stage to score an unfair point. He put to this committee and to the nation a consistent, logical, clear and courageous programme for the improvement of the economic position df Australia.
To-night the Prime Minister has indulged in extraordinary distortions of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition. He began with a remarkably foolish distortion that was obvious to everybody who had heard the Leader of the Opposition speak last night, and tried to pretend that the right honorable gentleman had said that the repeal of the 10 per cent, tax levy would be injurious to taxpayers in the tower and middle income groups. He wound up by challenging the Leader of the Opposition to say that he would restore the 10 per cent. levy. What the Leader of the Opposition said last night was clear beyond all doubt. He pointed out that the man who received £600 last year now receives £700 a year solely because of cost of living adjustments. That man to-day obtains for £700 the same basket of goods and services for which he formerly paid £600 but, because the Government has not correspondingly altered the tax rates, it now takes, at the £700 rate, a larger share of that basket of goods and services than it took at the 600 rate. That is a comparison over a period1 of twelve months only, if the illustration were extended back over three years, it woud be even more startling. This has been an insidious and backdoor method of imposing tremendous taxation increases. That is what the Leader of the Opposition pointed out last night. He also produced completely accurate tables to show that, because of this method, every taxpayer in Australia who receives an income of £2,000 or less this year will, despite the repeal of the 10 per cent, levy, pay more in actual income tax than he was required to pay last year on the same real income. That is the substance of the argument that the Prime Minister endeavoured to distort. Every argument that he used to-night is suspect in the light of that attempt at misrepresentation.
The right honorable gentleman talked about the loan market. The difference between this Government and the former Labour Government is that the Labour Government could raise money in the loan market because it held the confidence of the people. The Prime Minister falsely accused the Leader of the Opposition of having said that he had told the Premiers that their works programmes must be limited to the amount that could be raised in the loan market. That is not what the Leader of the Opposition said. He said something entirely different, and the difference lies in one word, which the Prime Minister was careful not to use. The statement by the Leader of the Opposition is on record. When he was talking about the Government’s refusal to use bank credit for public works in a period of developing unemployment, he said that the Prime Minister had told the Premiers that their works programmes had to be limited by the amount that could be raised in the loan market. That fact disposes of another distortion of the truth by the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman then went on te make the most extraordinary statement of all, which, in my opinion, damned him completely. He said, that, if the Government- had not had to provide £150,000.000 from revenue for State works last year, it would not have needed to impose one penny of additional taxation for 1951-52. That was not the- excuse that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) used last year for the imposition of additional taxes. I point out that the Government this year does not propose to provide from revenue any portion of that amount of £150,000,000 for State public works. Then why, on the authority of the Prime Minister’s statement, does not the budget for 1952-53 provide for a reduction of taxation by £150,000,000?
The right honorable gentleman has defeated himself utterly out of his own mouth. He went on to make many similar distortions. It is impossible for rue to follow him through the whole list. He said that unemployment figures to-day were strictly comparable with those of 1947. That is not true.
– He did not say that.
– That was the statement he made. I have here the official figures of registrations for unemployment benefit for each month of 1947 and for the week ended the 2nd August, 1952. That figure was 15,391. In 1947, the figure in various weeks were 3,400, 2,500, 4,300, 6,200, 4,391, and so on. Why does the Prime Minister try to mislead the Parliament and the nation in this way? The fact is that the rate of unemployment benefit to-day is so low that the Government has recognized the need to double it, and even that will not restore to it the purchasing power of the benefit in 1947. Unemployed workers to-day do not register for this miserable relief payment until all other hope has gone and their savings have been exhausted.
The Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition had proposed that we should inflate ourselves out of inflation. I wonder that the Prime Minister dares to speak to this nation of inflation ! He is the arch-priest of inflation, the man who assumed office three years ago on a promise to defeat inflation but who has allowed inflation to reach such record heights as to endanger the whole economic situation of the nation.
He purported to quote the Leader of the Opposition as having said that primary industries did not matter. Is there anybody within my hearingto-night who does not know that what the Leader of the Opposition said last night was the exact opposite of that? He reproached the Government and charged it with having shown, in its budget,no proper concern for vitally important primary industries. The Prime Minister talked in fantastic terms about the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition for the use of bank credit and, as he went on to put crazy notion on top of crazy notion, inventing his own interpretations of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition, my mind went back to exactly similar statements that were made by his predecessors in 1929 and 1930, when wise use of bank credit could have saved this country from terrible depression and great suffering.
I suggest that we leave the Prime Minister to his arrogance, his insolence and his personal malevolence as he sinks towards the defeat to which the nation undoubtedly “will condemn him. But, before we do so, I remind the committee of a betrayal that I consider to be of tremendous importance. I refer to the one pledge which, above all others surely, should have been honoured by the Government, the pledge that the present Prime Minister and the Treasurer mouthed to the recipients of social services. They declared -
The value of all social services will be at least maintained; indeed, it will be increased.
Pensioners can rely on us for justice.
Here are the sorry facts. The budget of 1948-49 provided for age and invalid pensions at the rate of £2 2s. 6d. a week. The basic wage was then £5 16s., so that the pension rate was 39 per cent. of the wage rate. The budget of 1951-52 provided for a pension rate of £3, which represented 31 per cent. of the basic wage, which was £9 9s. The present budget provides for a pension rate of £3 7s. 6d., which represents 29 per cent. of the basic wage of £11 7s. For the purposes of this comparison I am using the basic wage average for the six capital cities, which is the fairest figure from the point of view of the Government.The basic wage has increased by £1 18s. since the budget of 1951-52 was introduced. The pension rate has increased over the same period by 7s. 6d., or only 20 per cent. of the demonstrated increase of the cost of living over the same period. In order to provide pensioners to-day with the equivalent of the 1948 pension, in terms of the promise that was made by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, the rate of pension would have to be increased to £4 9s. a week. The payment of £3 7s. 6d. instead of £4 9s. constitutes robbery of the pensioners. The Government has thrust them lower in the social and economic scale than anybody -with any sense of justice, humanity, or personal honour, having made the promise that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer made, would even contemplate.
Let us consider child endowment, in respect of which equally glowing promises were made. .The rate of endowment, when this payment was introduced by an anti-Labour Government in 1941, was 5s. a week. That represented .6 per cent, of the basic wage of £4 6s. a week. The rate of child endowment in 194S was 10s., or 9 per cent, of the basic wage of £5 16s. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer promised at least to maintain the value of child endowment, and, indeed, to increase it. But to-day, the rate still remains at 10s., which represents only 4$ per cent, of the basic wage of £11 7s. The equivalent in purchasing power of the 1948 rate would to-day be 20s. 5d.
We come now to the means test. This was the promise -
We propose to abolish the means test. We will introduce our plan in 1952. Meantime, existing means test limits will at least be maintained and their true value increased.
And here is the performance, which I set out in the following table : -
The property bar against full pension has remained unadjusted, until to-day it constitutes the most savage penalty on thrift that was ever imposed, because the reduction of the pension rate operates as soon as the value of the property owner reaches £110. In that respect, the pensioner’s standard of living has been forced to a lower level than was thought proper at the very inception of the pensions scheme in 1909, when the pension of 10s. a week, plus a permissible income of 10s, was 45 per cent, of the then basic wage.
Surely there is only one permissible excuse for a strong man breaking his pledged word to the weak and helpless who have trusted him. It is that the pledge was given in good faith but that, despite every endeavour to fulfil it, circumstances have made it impossible to do so. That excuse is not available to the Prime Minister. Actually, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer found themselves with money to spare. They could have used it to honour their pledge to the pensioners. Instead, they have preferred to abolish the land tax, and their action represents a £7,000,000 share-out among a few thousand big city and rural landowners. It is no wonder that the Government has lost the confidence of the people.
The Leader of the Opposition has clearly shown that the abolition of the land tax is entirely unjustified. The Government was under no obligation to abolish the tax. No promise in respect of it had been made in the policy speech. If any promise was given it was a secret promise, one not known to the people. Such a tax on the unimproved value of land is a proper social use of the taxing instrument, and represents an entirely appropriate use of community revenues for social purposes. It is the only tax which in no way discourages productive effort but, on the contrary, encourages and assists it. Yet, at the very time when increased production is a claimant need this is the one tax the Government has chosen to eliminat :, while leaving all taxes on productive effort still at oppressive heights.
It is especially wrong that the tax should be abolished at this time when the basic need of the nation is increased food production. It will impede the resumption of land on just terms, and will tend to prevent the bringing into production of large areas of suitable land already served by ports, harbours, transport, roads and other amenities. At the same time the withholding of money needed for the continuation of the State works programmes in rural areas will prevent the opening up of new land. If the Government wishes the farmer to increase food production it must first get off his neck. The farmer needs no elaborate governmental organization, He needs mainly access to land, profitable prices, assistance in obtaining equipment, basic community facilities for his family, and an assurance that he will be permitted to retain at least a reasonable share of the wealth which he has produced by his own efforts. Given those assurances, the farmer will do the rest.
The situation is urgent for two reasons - first, because the world is hungry, and population is outpacing food production. Communism thrives on misery and hunger, and thousands of tons of explosives cannot win the battle in such a case. The struggle with communism, one in which Australia must play its part, is a struggle for the minds of men, and violent courses make their appeal to men whose children’s stomachs are empty. Secondly, there is urgency because the time is approaching when Australia will not even meet its own food needs and, in the words of Bishop Young, famine can starve to death every one of our institutions - social, political, economic and cultural.
The Treasurer, in a rallying call towards the end of his budget speech, urged us to look once again across the face of our country. When we look across the face of our country, we see a steadily spreading paralysis of effort. Where there was full employment there is now increasing unemployment. Where schools and hospitals and roads were being built a halt has been ordered. Where factories were operating full time they are now operating half time. Where shops were formerly thronged, goods now remain on the shelves. Where there was hope there is fear, where there was faith there is doubt, and where there was certainty there is now uncertainty.
In these circumstances, the need is truly for an incentive budget, and the incentive given must be of two kinds. There should be physical incentive and psychological incentive. One without the other would not be enough, but this budget provides neither. The physical incentive needed is a very substantial reduction of taxation spread justly and evenly over all the people. The Leader of the Opposition has shown that the budget provides no real reduction of taxation for the great mass of the people. It is a “ horror “ budget, as was the last one.
Taxation as now imposed has become a monstrous and an evil thing. To-day, the total Commonwealth Government ‘ take “ is just over £100,000,000 out of a total national income of just over £3,000,000,000. It is proposed to reduce the amount collected by £50,000,000, of which £20,000,000 is to be shared by companies and big land-owners, whilst the remaining £30,000,000 is to be divided amongst the mass of taxpayers.
There has developed among the Australian community what is at best a dulled acceptance of these colossal imposts; at worst, an anger reaching to the point of rebellion. I do not mean armed rebellion or violence, but there is a widespread rebellion that expresses itself in refusal to make a real effort, refusal to take production risks, refusal to do more than the minimum. Taxation totals £112 a year for every man woman and child in Australia. For a man, his wife and three children this totals £9 10s. a week. For every adult male in the 16-65 age group, it amounts to £400 a year; that is, spread over the normal male work force, nearly £8 a week. A few years ago, we would have regarded such imposts as incredible. We. should still regard them as incredible, but it is still more incredible that honorable members opposite should cheer a budget which makes such shocking exactions from the people. Last year, the Government imposed over £200,000,000 in additional taxation. Now it proposes to remit £50,000,000, and says that all is well.
A government, by placing too much reliance on the advice of economists, betrays its trust. It ignores human relations and the working of human nature, factors which find no place in the textbooks on economics. The Government is producing smouldering resentment, and the widespread defeatism which undermines the national spirit and national effort alike. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that no details of the proposed £200,000.000 expenditure on defence and war preparation are provided. He has shown that this is unsatisfactory and that the real question which should be before the House is the form and content that Australia’s contribution to defence should take now. The Leader of the Opposition ha« emphasized the importance of Australia’s defence role as a food producer and the need for expenditure on development, particularly of transport and communications, as a defence measure.
I shall indicate the questions that must be faced.Is unlimited armaments expenditure advisable at the cost of suspending developmental work that is needed to expand rural production and to absorb additional population ? Should Australia’s contribution be all guns before butter? Is not increased food production our basic task? Should armaments expenditure require a cruel lowering of pension living standards? Should it compel reduction by half of the value of endowment payments to mothers to assist them in raising native-born new Australians? Is total taxation so high and so harsh as to cripple the productive effort? I believe that, to the extent that the Government proposes, military expenditure at the expense of the factors that I have mentioned is utterly wrong. The Labour party stands whole-heartedly for adequate defence expenditure, but it must be related to the developmental needs of the nation, to our proper role in combined defence and to our population needs. It is folly for us merely to ape the United States of America in military preparations when our problem, as an under-developed continent, is entirely different.
The crucial argument against this Government’s policy is found in its own announcement halving the intake of immigrants. That is a tragic demonstration of the consequences of a disastrous policy. Above everything, we must have additional white population absorbed into a full employment economy. That intake of immigrant’s has had to be stopped because of the Government’s disgraceful mismanagement. The Government will have to go further still in seducing the intake of immigrants because it has destroyed the conditions in which they could be absorbed. The task of a future government taking over the treasury bench will be to restore conditions of prosperity and. full employment in which Australian people once again will welcome a great intake of white population that is so urgently needed. If the things that I have mentioned have been done by the present Government in the name of defence, it is a travesty of defence and a shocking misunderstanding of the nation’s real need. There is imperative need to equate our arms expenditure with the essential requirements of national development. The present Government cannot give a psychological incentive to the people because it has lost their confidence. The fact is that the people, to use an expressive term, have “ had “ this Government, and once that stage is reached, nothing that a government can do can restore its position.
Nevertheless, the Australian people are as ready as ever to respond to an appeal to their hearts and minds. Give them a physical and a psychological incentive, and they will respond. Under honest leadership, with united effort, we can, in a few short” years, surmount our difficulties, advance our living standards and build this nation to the internal strength which alone can preserve us from attack. Faith - the substance of tilings hoped for, the evidence of things not seen - is essential to this task. Faith is one thing that the present Government cannot give to the Australian people, because it has so completely broken faith with them on every aspect of its election policy. Faith cannot be restored until this Government and this Prime Minister are removed from office. Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chiffey in turn gave to this nation honest and consistent leadership. Even those who disagreed with them respected them and had faith in them. I believe that the speech that was delivered last night by the Leader of the Opposition is accepted by the people as further evidence that, in. a year of crisis, the Labour party again has such a leader for the Australian people. Even those who disagree with some of the views that were expressed by the right honorable gentleman must recognize that his speech was an utterance of great intellectual honesty, constructive, clear and courageous. Withsuch leadership, with a definite and consistent policy once again, the Australian people can have faith and resume the great march forward to freedom, social security andunchallengable strength.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) spent much time in
It is playing the political game at a very low level for Dr. Evatt and others to seek to gain support for Labour by trying to convince the people that allwaswellwith Australia before the present Government took office, and that economic reform measures were unnecessary.
The transfers of labourand materials from non-essential to essential industries that are being enforced bythe policies of the Menzies- Fadden Governmentare inconvenient and even painful to many people, but they are goinga long way toward creating a balanced economy. Obviously no government likes to do unpopular things. But if unpopular actions are necessary to restore economic health, failuretotakesuch actionwouldbea cowardly betrayal of the nation;
– Does the honorable member believe that workers are not doing a fair day’s work for their pay?
Mr.KEKWICK.- Unfortunately; as the honorable member forPort Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) well knows, too few people in the community are doing a fair day’s work. However, due to the scarcity of jobs that exists at present and to the policy of this Government; there Are pleasing signs of improvement recently in the output per man-hour which is already resulting in increased production and will be eventually reflected in reduced prices. We arenow enjoying a period of industrial peace the like of which has been unknown during the last ten years. As a consequence .we are obtaining increased production in our basic industries that are so essential to an expanding economy. These facts explode the myth that only Labour governments can bring about industrial peace.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that there is nothing in the budget that will put a single unemployed man back to work. Why should there be? Certainly there is nothing in the budget that will result in the dinplacement of a single man from his job. The budget has been widely hailed as an incentive budget. The incentives given in taxation concessions over a very wide field will result in increased production and give a great impetus to manufacturers and businessmen to increase their activities. No mention was made by Opposition members of the national development schemes which -have not been curtailed by this Government, The Government has undertaken to maintain employment at a constant level. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), in his recent statement on the unemployment situation, promised that the position would be very carefully watched. To-night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made it clear to the Parliament and to the people that neither this Government nor any other humane Government would want to put one person out of work. The Leader of the Opposition and other Opposition speakers have made much of the subject of full employment, but the sort of unproductive full employment that thev envisage was bound to break down under its own weight. Opposition members would put people on the pay-roll whether or not they are prepared to work. Wo one knows better than does the Leader of the Opposition that such a policy could not be continued indefinitely. If the unemployment position is as grave as Opposition members would have us believe it to be, they should co-operate with the Government in its attempt to still further improve industrial relations. Such co-operation would be a constructive act on the part of the Opposition. If we can achieve greater efficiency in top management and improve still further the relations between employers and em- ployees we shall be able to solve nearly all our economic problems. I am glad to be able to say that, in proportion to its work force, no country in the free world has less unemployment than has Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition has done this nation and its people, especially the unskilled workers, the greatest possible disservice with bis calamity bowling. Nothing - could ‘ do more harm to this community than will the gloomy forebodings of the right honorable gentleman in his speech in this chamber last night. The Opposition tactics in relation to this budget have been criminal to the degree that they have caused some people to fear the onset of another depression. The more the people fear the onset of a depression the greater the danger of such a calamity. Depression talk of the kind indulged in by Opposition members discourages industrial and business enterprises, unnecessarily contracts spending, and forces manufacturers and distributors alike to reduce staffs. That is purely the psychological effect of gloomy forebodings of the ‘kind indulged in by Opposition members. There is no need for a fear complex to develop in’ the minda of the people because there is no possibility that in the foreseeable future we shall experience another depression.
In order to dispel the impression that may have been caused by depression mongering and the awful gloom of the Opposition I shall quote a few brief references from newspaper reports that indicate the unbounded confidence of the people in the future of Australia. On the 19th July the Launceston Examiner, in a report under the heading “ Big Rise in New Capita] Expenditure”, stated that new capital expenditure by private businesses in Australia during the first half of this year had been estimated at £110,700,000. On the 30th July the same journal under the heading “ Record Year for Retail Traders”, reported that the value of retail trade in Austra’ia for the financial year ended the 30th June last had reached an all-time record of £1,031,700,000. Both these figures have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. The ‘ London Financial Times recently commented on the Australian economy in a leading article under the heading “ Little Need for Anxiety “. On the 31st July the Launceston Examiner published an article under the heading “ Textiles, Clothing Import Record “. On the 14th July that journal also published a statement on the housing position under the heading “ Expects New Record for Housing”. On the 16th July the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial reported the formation of a £15,000,000 company to build an oil refinery. I could quote dozens of other newspaper headlines to dispel these Opposition lies about the likelihood of a depression.
– Tell us about the unemployed.
– Order! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who is interjecting from a seat other than his own, is distinctly out of order.
– I have rarely observed the honorable member in his place. In view of the Opposition talk about unemployment it is significant that State Labour governments, particularly the Government of Tasmania, have put men out of work solely for the purpose of attempting to embarrass this Government. Although there has been very little, if any, shrinkage of the funds available for public works - the amount being spent in Tasmania from both Commonwealth and State sources for this year is £30,000,000 compared with £25,000,000 last year - State Labour governments are dismissing employees from government works to comply with the political demands of the great Labour movement. In an attempt to embarrass this Government they are playing the game of party politics at a very low level.
The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro advocated the unrestricted use of bank credit. In order to justify the use of bank credit in peace-time, they told the old story about plenty of money always being available for war purposes. But they omitted to say that such war debts would have to be repaid or that bank credit finance was highly inflationary, and that the worker would need a wheelbarrow to cart his weekly wages home. Such would be the case if unrestricted credit were used. It would take thousands of notes even to pay for a pound of butter. But that is the sort of finance the Opposition advocates. Dealing with the Government’s proposals to reduce income tax, the Leader of the Opposition produced a fantastic table from which he tried to prove that the greater the reduction of tax rates the more the average taxpayer would have to pay in tax. One can safely depend on the intelligent worker to decide such matters for himself.
During the course of his dreary speech, which occupied an hour and a half, the Leader of the Opposition did not advance one constructive idea. He offered as an alternative to the Government’s proposals something that he termed Labour’s policy. The people of this country know only too well whither that policy would lead them. It is interesting to recall that one of the principal planks of the Labour party’s platform is the reduction of working hours to 30 a week. That, of course, would only cause more severe inflation. Yet, Labour confirmed that plank of its platform as recently as this year. Obvi ously then if Labour were returned to office this country would witness inflation on a grand scale. Just as the introduction of the 40-hour week resulted in ,i decline in production and an increase of costs, the .introduction of a 30-hour week would further aggravate present economic evils. Yet, the Leader of the Opposition offered that policy as an alternative to the Government’s budget proposals. It is clear that Labour’s policy appeals to the basest human instincts. It is a policy of more pay for less work and a policy of class hatred. The late Mr. Chifley was noted for his espousal of class hatred. I disagreed violently with his utterances in that respect. Members of the Opposition, almost to a man, continue to advocate wretched class hatred, whereas the object of the Government is to unite all sections of the community in an effort to overcome the grave problems that confront the nation, Labour policy also advocates the destruc-tion of private ownership. Such a policy would destroy individual initiative. No nation could possibly build upon such a foundation. Yet, that is the alternative that the Opposition has offered to the Government’s budget.
Having dealt with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition - that apostle of gloom - I turn to the principal features of the budget itself. Every taxpayer will welcome the all-round reduction of tax by 10 per cent. To-day, even before that proportion of tax is remitted, Australians are the lowest taxed people in the free world. A verywelcome feature of the budget is the allowance of educational expenses as a concessional deduction. The proposed tax reductions will give an incentive to business and industry to increase production. Those concessions will he enjoyed by both public and private companies. Under the Government’s proposals an aged couple will be permitted to have an income of up to £507 a year before they become liable for income tax. Sales tax is to be reduced in respect of articles in all the current schedules, the number of which will be reduced from six to four. Many articles will be completely exempt from sales tax. I am particularly pleased with the Government’s decision to abolish land tax. Members of the Opposition say that they would not reduce but would increase that tax. Such an attitude is further proof of class hatred. They claim that land tax is a class tax. Ihave already referred to the Government’s defence policy. I am pleased to note that, while making these liberal tax concessions, the Government has made adequate provision for the defence of this country. Expenditure on defence this year will be £30,000,000 more than the amount that was expended on defence last year.
– Bravo !
– I know that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) would like to see this country left exposed to attack, particularly by his friends in Russia. An undertaking has been given that defence contracts will be placed according to a plan to assist in the maintenance of employment. The proposed increased provision for all scales of pensions is most gratifying. I point out that the three increases of rates of age and invalid pensions that this Government has made since it assumed office amount to no less than 25s. a week, But what is the attitude of the Opposition with respect to social services? I recall that Mr. Chifley, on one occasion when he was Prime Minister, even refused to receive a deputation of representatives of pensioners. [Quorum formed.]
I am sure that the proposed increase of repatriation benefits will be acclaimed by all ex-servicemen in this country. This Government enjoys a very proud record in the manner in which it has dealt with ex-servicemen’s problems. The proposed increase of the general rate of pension by 10s. a week, and of wives’ and children’s allowances by 5s. and 2s. 3d. a week respectively are most generous, in view of the Government’s commitments. Proportionate increases are to be made, also, of the rates of other pensions. The proposed increases of educational allowances for the children of ex-servicemen, and of livingawayfromhome allowances for Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme trainees, are commendable. In addition, the Government intends to proceed vigorously with a programme of national development. It is expected that the Government’s record in relation to the provision of housing during the last financial year will be exceeded in this financial year, despite the gloom that permeates the Opposition benches. It is hoped to achieve improvements in the supply of power and transport facilities, as well as better industrial relationships, which will guarantee a prosperous future for this country.
Our main objective on the economic front is to develop food production to a vast extent. Together with wool and other primary products, such development should be built up into a vast and comprehensive export programme. Sucha programme would be sound in every respect. Not the least of its benefits would be the increased demand for labour in the country areas. The Government has already devoted considerable time and energy to the assistance of primary producers. I was amazed to hear the Leader of the Opposition criticize the Government’s work in this connexion, because no previous Australian government has done as much for the primary producers of this country as lias the present Government. Although former Australian governin ents did little to increase the return of the primary producers, this Government has ensured that all primary producers shall receive fair prices for their produce. In consequence more people are now going onto the land, and slowly but surely increases of primary production are becoming evident.
Most of the unpoular economic measures that the Government has had to apply during the last twelve months were rendered necessary as a result of a severe hang-over from eight and a half years of socialism. I warn the people of this country that an even more severe hangover will be experienced if there are any further excursions into socialization. This Government was confronted with the very difficult task of restoring economic stability. Former Labour administrations devoted much time to the preparation of blueprints and plans for developmental projects, but did little to increase production. The resultant economic chaos nearly brought this country to ruin. I believe the Australian people now feel very grateful to this Government for the courage with which it tackled most realistically the problems with which it was faced. Because it has not shirked unpleasant and unpopular tasks it must be conceded that it has been patently honest, which is more than can be said of some State governments at present, and of some former Australian governments. I commend the budget for its overall soundness and for the attempts that are made in it to deal with the inflationary problem. Tax concessions will provide an incentive for increased production which, in turn, will increase employment.
.- The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) has stated that the people of Australia should be grateful for the bold action that the Government has taken to deal with Australia’s economic problems. The results of recent by-elections prove that the people do not appreciate the deeds of the Government. The honorable member warned the Australian people that there may be another period of socialism in this country if Labour is returned to office at the next general election. I am confident that the majority of the people of this country would welcome a return to the conditions that were enjoyed under the Curtin and Chifley administrations. The honorable member for Bass need have no fear about the wishes of the Australian people. In the past the honorable member ha 3 referred to the evils of class hatred, and has stated that certain sections of the community endeavour to foment industrial trouble. It is evident from his reference to class hatred this evening that he, himself, is keen to foment industrial trouble. He claimed that very few persons in Australia to-day are doing a fair day’s work. Although that observation may be true of those with whom he associates I am sure that it does not ‘apply generally to the workers of Australia. If the honorable member were to make inquiries he would find that workers who are unwilling to perform a fair day’s work soon receive their walking tickets. The honorable member spoke about’ good employer and employee .relationships. He has overlooked the fact that there is a’t present an application by employers’ organizations before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a halt of basic wage quarterly adjustments.’ If the employers sincerely wanted to improve their relationships with their employees they should have asked the Government to reintroduce prices control which, in itself, would stabilize the basic wage. If they were not prepared to go that far, at least they could have offered that if the trade unions would agree to a temporary suspension of basic wage quarterly adjustments, they would consider indicating to the Government their readiness to support the reintroduction of prices control. As usual, the employers want to have matters all their own way. They now seek to fasten the blame for the present inflationary condition onto the workers of this country.
The honorable member for Bass stated that it was criminal of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to indulge in calamity howling, and that the right honorable gentleman’s gloomy forebodings about the imminence of another depress sion would have an adverse psychological effect on the workers. I remind the honorable member that men who are out of work are fearful of another depression. I do not know whether the honorable member had to walk the streets looking for work during the last depression. He may have to do so after the next general election. If he did have that experience I am sure that he would, not talk idly about the subject. He would be worried and would be striving to eliminate unemployment in this country. I do not know what the position is in his electorate, but it is safe to say that the persons whom he says are not doing a fair day’s work and the unemployed people in his electorate will, between them, answer him effectively when they are given an opportunity to do so. The honorable gentleman said that the Leader of the Opposition did not give expression to one constructive thought. The decision upon that matter will be made, not by the honorable member for Bass, but by the Australian people, who, I am sure, welcomed the speech of the right honorable gentleman last night because they realized that in it he advanced constructive suggestions and enunciated a policy designed to place the Australian economy again upon a sound basis.
This budget can be described as a budget of false pretences. The people of Australia waited patiently for it to be presented because they hoped that the Government would, at long last, enlighten them about what it intended to do to halt inflation. Business men and manufacturers who are just able to keep their works going, and who have suffered much from the actions - perhaps it would be more appropriate to say the inaction - of this Government, waited for the budget in the hope that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Eadden) would indicate to them, that, at last, he had evolved some policy. The wage and salary earners also waited for the budget, because they expected to be told about the plans of the Government to grapple with the threat of unemployment. The greatest fear in the mind of workers today is that they will join the many thousands of people who are already out of work. Thousands of unemployed people in this country hoped to be told in the budget speech of some plan by the Government to get them back to work and into production again. Unfortunate pensioners and people with fixed incomes waited anxiously to be told what the Treasurer proposed to do to assist them to live in these difficult conditions, for which, at least to some degree, this Government is responsible.
What has the Treasurer promised to do for those people? First, he has attempted to make them believe that income tax is to be reduced. On paper, that may be so, but the Leader of the Opposition proved conclusively last night that it is a confidence trick. Last year, the basic wage was about £10 a week, and a basic wage earner with a dependent wife and two children paid £9 ils. income tax. Under the previous Labour Government, a basic wage earner with those dependants paid no income tax, but under this Government he is taxed heavily. In the quarter that began this month, the basic wage in Adelaide was increased by 13s. a week, and it is fair to assume that, before the end of the year, it will have increased by at least another 27s. a week. Then the basic wage will be £12 a week, and a basic wage earner with a dependent wife and two children will pay £.18 16s. a year income tax, or £9 5s. a year more than he is paying now. It is idle to say that the Government is reducing income tax. It is true that it appears to be doing so, but in fact it is not. The wealthy people who are staunch supporters of the Government parties may derive some benefit from the Government’s action, but wage and salary earners will discover that they will be required to pay next year more income tax than they paid last year. The additional £100 a year that wage-earners will receive as a result of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage will be given to them as compensation for rises of prices that have already occurred, but the Government will take about £9 of it, and they will be further behind than ever in their race with rising prices.
The Government has juggled with the sales tax. It has taken off a few per cent, here and there, in the hope that people will believe its story that taxes are being reduced, but those reductions will matter but little to the general public. It is a matter of history now that the Government has failed to honour the promises to reduce taxes that it made during the general election campaigns of 1949 and 1951. In its budget of last year, it increased taxes to a large degree. Even if we were to be charitable and say that it is now reducing them, the rate of taxation will still be greater than it was when the present Government parties faced the people in 1949. The increases of sales tax that were imposed last year still bear heavily upon the Australian people.
The Treasurer has increased the social services payments made to unfortunate people who are unemployed. Those increases will be greatly appreciated by them; they are needed badly. But what those people want more than anything else is the right to work again. They want the Government to say what it intends to do to put them in work again. It is little consolation to them to learn that they will draw an extra 25s. a week in social services payments. They want the right to choose their job in this country. The policy of the Government has caused chaos and fear in the community, but the budget contains nothing that will rectify that position.
The Treasurer, because he has been unable to bully the State Premiers at meetings of the Australian Loan Council, has decided to abandon uniform taxation. That can be described as the act of a coward who is running away from his responsibilities. The Government should face up to its responsibilities. Clearly, its duty is to cooperate with the State governments instead of acting like the big bully of the school. It is interesting to recall, in the light of the Treasurer’s harsh criticism of State governments and State Premiers, what a former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Chifley, said in one of his last speeches. His words were as follows: -
As Prime Minister and Treasurer, the Premiers gave me great co-operation and I never found a State, whatever its political flavour, that would not give necessary co-operation. There is room to cut down non-essential production but not developmental works as they help employ the resources of this country and help the country to go ahead.
Of course, in the days of the Chifley Labour Government sound governmental policy was always evident. Ben Chifley was one- of a team. He realized that every State government had a vital role to play. He was prepared to treat the State Premiers as partners and not merely as school children. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer must be made to adopt the same attitude. Australia is a large, undeveloped country with great possibilities, but if we are to succeed we must develop our natural resources. Now is the time to embark upon such a programme. In South Australia, under a Liberal government, we have experienced water restrictions all the year round because of the inadequacy of reservoirs. “We also need better transport. Our railway rolling-stock needs to be replaced. Electricity is in short supply. Now is the time to undertake such work. Labour is plentiful. Indeed, men are out of work. Are we to experience again the gloomy depression days of the 1930’s, when there was widespread unemployment and a lack of finance for essential work? I hope that the Government will ensure that urgent developmental projects in South Australia, which have had to be abandoned temporarily because of lack of funds, shall be given the assistance that is necessary to enable them to be completed.
The budget does not indicate that any further assistance is to be granted to the many ex-servicemen, in South Australia at least, who want to purchase their own homes. The South Australian Housing Trust has built thousands of houses for the people of that State. Today, prices for well-constructed clay brick or cement block houses built by the trust range from £2,750 to £3.100. Prices have been forced up recently because of the failure of this Government to check inflation. Ex-servicemen have received a fair proportion of houses constructed by the South Australian Housing Trust; I think that the figure is 60 per cent. But the position to-day is that many exservicemen who are being allotted Housing Trust dwellings are unable to take possession of them because, last year, this Government decided to class such houses as existing dwellings, although in fact they are new buildings, soundly constructed, and are comparable with the bouses- that are. erected by the’ War- Service Homes Division itself. Unfortunately, many exservicemen are- not able to obtain homes directly from the War- Service Homes Division!,, the building activities- of; which are- not so, extensive, in- some- States as one would like them, to be. Certainly there is a substantiaL lag; in South. Australia. Because houses- built by the South Austraiian Housing. Trust are classed as existing dwellings, ex-servicemen to whom they axe offered can obtain an advance of only £2,0.00. That leaves them perhaps £1,000 short of the purchase- price. An ex-serviceman who- finds himself in this position, has; either to reject the offer and resume his dreary wait until the War Service-. Homes Division’ can provide a house fen h-im or he has to obtain a- secondmortgage’.’ If is. an. everlasting disgrace to this Government that it is not honouring its’ promise) to ex-servicemen to provide the finance; necessary to enable- them to purchase their own homes’.. I never thought that any government of this.country would! force ex-servicemen to buy houses om. second mortgage. The- first requirement of any worker is a home foi himself and hia family. That is> his first stake in the country. The Government should reverse its policy and agree to a maximum advance of £2,750 for the purchase by ex-servicemen of houses built by the South Australian Housing Trust.
Another vital undertaking in South Australia has been delayed by the action of this Government. I refer to the West Beach airport. In November, 1949, the forecast: was made- that, by the end of the following year, the new airport would have reached such a stage- of development that heavy airliners would bc able to touch down in all weathers on an obstruction-free area larger than that of Adelaide. No airliner landed at West Beach in 1950 or 1951, and none will land this year. The, blame for that lies with this Government. Honorable members will recall that, last year, the Government decided to retrench the Public Service; The employees subsequently dismissed included a large number of men engaged on the construction of the vital West Beach airport. Work at the airport progressed well at the early stages.
Ohe runway has been completed, and another is two-thirds completed. Ample material is; available to-day. Men are < nt of work in South Australia, and the airport could be completed, very quickly. Adelaide has long- been the only capital city in Australia that has not an. allweather airport for aircraft of all types. West Beach will be- able- to take the largest aircraft, including even the Comet jet airliner. The talk of indefinite delay in the completion of the job should give place to definite, and dynamic action. Last year the necessity for airliners to be diverted to Gawler because Parafield was unserviceable due to bad weather cost the airline operators huge sums. To land’ one aircraft at Gawler instead of at Parafield cost £60. Last year this was- done on 3’fi: days, with a daily average of twenty aircraft. In other words-., about 720 aircraft were diverted at. a cost of £60 a time, making a total of considerably more than £40’,000. The completion of West Beach airport is a vital necessity. It is so vital that the work should be financed out of the defence vote- if necessary. There is no excuse for inaction. The job- should, be- given a high priority and should be speeded up so that the new airwort will become, serviceable at an- early date.
I had hoped that the Government would grant new concessions to community hospitals. In my electorate,, there are two hospitals which, although they arckeeping their heads above water, are encountering financial difficulties. Some assistance in the form of relief from payroll tax would be greatly appreciated by them. I urge the Treasurer to give further consideration to that matter, and to recognize that such hospitals are carrying out the responsibilities that are normally borne by the Commonwealth and the States. Persona who give their time, in an honorary capacity, to provide these hospitals for the. community should be given every possible encouragement by the Government^ and, in particular, they should be granted relief from pay-roll tax and income tax. That, thought brings me- to a matter that came to my notice recently while I was visiting one’ of these institutions. Many patients in hospitals, and, indeed, patients, in. their own homes, sometimes require brandy for medicinal purposes. I was astonished to discover that the excise payable on a bottle of brandy is 9s. 6d. Such an impost isa severe tax on the sick.I am not very much concerned about the excise payable on a bottle of brandy purchased by a person who drinks, that liquor for pleasure, but relief from the severe impost should be granted to people who produce a doctor’s certificate showing that they require brandy for medicinal purposes.
Many pensioners in South Australia are in a deplorable plight. For the first time for many years, a radio station in that State is presenting a weekly session called “ The Open Door “, and it is heartbreaking to hear appeals from aged pensioners and. other persons in necessitous circumstances for blankets for their beds, and appeals from unemployed men for clothes for their children. Those conditions represent a return to the bad old days of the financial and economic depression of the 1930’s.
I conclude on this note: The budget does not mean very much to the people generally. Their worry to-day is unemployment, and if this Government fails in its obligation to provide work for them, there is no hope for it, or for its supporters on the back benches in this chamber.
.- During the last couple of years the Government has been busily engaged in carrying out a spring-cleaning of the political house. It was necessary that our political house should be straightened out at the earliest opportunity after so many years of socialist administration, which imposed price fixing, directions and controls, and all those measures that are abhorred by people in a free democracy. In that spring cleaning, the Government encountered many problems that were a legacy left by the previous; Government, like broken crockery in a kitchen. The problems cropped up in unexpected places at unexpected times, but the Government dealt with them as they should have been dealt with, and, in doing so, did not court popularity. In many instances, we hurt our own friends, but we did the things that we thought were right rather than the things that might have been popular. Any Government that seeks to be popular at the expense of doing right is doomed, and, consequently, we went fearlessly ahead to straighten things out in preparation for the day when we could offer to the people further hope, and could say to them,”We have straightened things out and we can now give to you the opportunity to get back to business again “.
A few clays ago, we had the pleasure of listening to the budget that was so ably prepared by the Cabinet and so capably presented by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fad den). The budget extends to the Opposition and the people an invitation for co-operation. I am convinced that the people will accept our invitation the Opposition has not yet offered its co-operation. In fact, Opposition members have deliberately “ squibbed “ the challenge. Before the budget was presented to the chamber they worked our their plan of campaign. They said to one another, “ This Government will produce a good budget, and we must do something about it “. Accordingly, the bogy of unemployment has been raised. That subject has been ably sponsored by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who convened a public meeting in Sydney for the purpose of discussing the unemployment situation and invited some Ministers to attend it. At that gathering, the honorable member propounded the theory that 100,000 persons were unemployed in this country. The honorable gentleman went to that meeting with the express; intention of stirring up distrust of the Government and of the budget which, at that time, had not been presented to the chamber.
However, the budget has been well received, particularly by the press. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). who moved an amendment that may be regarded as an attempt to censure the Government, made a remarkto the effect that the newspapers he had read - and apparently he had read only one of them - had described the budget as a dull, dreary, uninspiring document. As the right honorable gentleman sets such store by newspaper reports, I shall read a passage from a newspaper that was published to-day. It is as follows: -
In his 95-minute attack on the .budget last night the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, rambled over a lot of ground. He harped on unemployment. … He made repeated references to the former Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley. . . . When Government members became restless as his speech dragged on, he turned increasingly to his own party and seemed to be addressing them as much as the House. . .
As time ran on his delivery became more and more dreary. f recall that the Leader of the Opposition described the budget as dreary. The newspaper report indicates that some of his chickens are coming home to roost. The report continues -
Once five Ministers were tying back on the Government front bench with their eyes closed. . . . Dr. Evatt described the remission of the 10 per cent, surcharge on income tax as “ a sham, a snare and a delusion “.
I wonder whether the Leader of the
Opposition, after having heard the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) this evening, still describes the budget as a sham, and a snare, and a delusion. I am sure that the people will not be misled by his description of it. Even the newspapers, by which he sets such great store, have rebutted his criticism of it. The right honorable gentleman went on to make certain assertions in his customary “ I say “ manner. The first was to the effect that the Chifley £1 was worth twice as much as is the Menzies £1, although he did not produce any evidence in support of that contention. Apparently, he considered that it was sufficient for him to throw the statement into the ring and to say, “’ Accept it as a fact because I say it is so “. He endeavoured to establish . that there is a substantial degree of unemployment, but again he offered no evidence to support the statement. At a. later .stage, he stated that mass unemployment has commenced in this country. I suggest that those are poor words. It is unworthy of a member of Parliament to assert that there is mass unemployment unless he is prepared to present evidence to support Ids statement. If mass unemployment exists, honorable members should treat the matter as a most serious one. For any honorable member, particularly theLeader of the Opposition, to spread a. scare about mass unemployment is both, dangerous and wrong.
Honorable members will recollect that approximately a week ago one of the daily newspapers published a report of an interview which a reporter, disguised as a carpenter, held with officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service. Thereport was to the effect that the reporter had found that the Commonwealth Employment Service could offer no jobs for carpenters or bricklayers. Strangely enough, in the “ positions vacant “ columns of the same newspaper,, on the same day, no fewer than fourteen jobs for bricklayers and labourers, twelvecarpenters and 30 painters, plasterers and plumbers were advertised. In all, 56 jobs were offering for men of the callings to which the reporter referred. Lacking evidence, therefore, we must doubt the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition that mass unemployment has commenced. Whilst we must be cautious of unemployment, we should not be stampeded by harmful statements such as that.
The right honorable gentleman also stated that sales tax causes increased costs and lower incomes. In addition, he asserted that incomes had decreased, which is at variance with the facts. The statement of national income, included in the budget papers, shows that the national income for 1950-51 was £3,116,000,000, whereas in 1951-52 it increased to £3,238,000,000. The total personal income of residents of Australia increased from £2,875,000,000 in 1950-51 to £3,140,000,000 in 1951-52. So much for the statement of the right honorable gentleman that incomes have decreased. The facts to which I have referred clearly indicate that the reverse is true.
The right honorable gentleman contended that the budget offers no incentive, either to the primary producer or to the wage-earner. Again, true to form, he did not produce evidence to support his contention. The facts set out in the budget papers indicate that the reverse applies. The Prime Minister has already refuted many of the charges made by the right honorable gentleman, and the only other statements to which I wish to refer are, that the primary producer is entitled to just prices for his commodities, that much planning is needed, and that productive land is not being used as it should be used. Let us weigh the real implications of the statement that the primary producer is entitled to just prices. I point out that this Government has advocated that principle for many years. In particular, the Australian Country party has always been a strong supporter of the contention that primary producers, who enjoy an intimate relationship with the rest of the community, should be justly treated. The Australian Country party appreciates that it is on the primary producers that the country towns depend. On the country towns, in turn, depend the cities. Nations depend on all three, as we have learnt to our cost during the last year or two when we have attempted to purchase commodities from overseas considerably in excess of the value of our exports which, to a great degree, come from primary producing sources. Consequently, it is in the interests not only of the manufacturer and the employer but also of the wage-earner that the primary producer shall receive just prices for his products.
I do not wish to delve into ancient history, but honorable members will surely agree that over the years the primary producer has not received just prices for the commodities he produced, such as wheat, butter, and sugar. It has been necessary to bludgeon from at least two States the prices to which the primary producers are entitled. Since the assumption of office by the present Australian Government a change of scene has been noticeable. By means of a bonus, we have been able to bring the price of wheat for stock feed into closer relationship with the price received by the primary producer for his export wheat. Through the constant and forceful efforts of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), we have been able to obtain something like a reasonable price for our butter. During his visits overseas he has been able to obtain vastly increased prices for our primary products because of the representations which he has made concerning overseas contracts.
All these things can be laid to the credit of this Government. They represent innovations as far as primary producers are concerned. It is, therefore, redundant for the Leader of the Opposition to say that the primary producer is entitled to just prices, as though this Government does not already recognize that principle and is doing everything in its power to give it effect.
The statement of the right honorablegentleman that planning is needed suggests planning which might not be to the benefit of the primary producer and which might enable the Government to control the prices of primary commodities, according to the pressure brought to bear on it. His contention that productive land is not being used as it should be used is on all fours with the recent statement of the New South Wales Minister for Lands to the effect that if farmers did not use their land to its full productive capacity it would be taken from them and given to those who would so use it. In other words, a socialization objective would be achieved. That is the inference I draw from the statement made by the right honorable gentleman.
Let us examine the budget in order to see what incentives it offers. Congratulations are due to the Treasurer on the early presentation of the budget, a welcome innovation and one that has received scant praise from the newspapers which, a little while ago, demanded that it should be produced earlier than is usual. The Treasurer worked untiringly and achieved this result.
I remind honorable members that this budget is also the people’s budget. If the Government proposes to expend £200,000,000 on defence, it does so in the interests of the people who, no doubt, appreciate that it is looking ahead and does not intend that Australia shall be caught unprepared, as so many countries were caught at the outbreak of World War II. In passing, it might be said that the Government has received, in its defence effort, the greatest cooperation from the youth of Australia. The youth of Australia have responded magnificently to national service training schemes, which are working very smoothly. Despite the fact that the Opposition is not prepared to co-operate with the Government in defence schemes the Government has pressed on with them successfully.
One Opposition member complained that the Government had not treated exservicemen fairly in regard to war service homes although it has expended over £27,000,000 on such homes, which is more thanhas been expended by any other government in Australia for this purpose for many years. It is a record among records.
The Government has proposed to proceed with the building of aerodromes throughout the country. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) complained that the Government had not proceeded with the construction of an aerodrome in Adelaide. The construction of that aerodrome has been commenced and as time goes on it, as well as other aerodromes in the capital cities of Australia, will have the latest equipment and will be capable of receiving aircraft in any weather conditions.
The Government has also proposed an increase of repatriation benefits. During the last financial year those benefits were increased in respect of those people who needed them most - the permanently disabled ex-servicemen. Now the Government has proposed an increase of the general rate not as greatly as it would ha ve liked to increase it but to an amount not contemplated by the previousGovernment.
The Government initiated the payment of educational allowances, which were quite novel in Australia and were favorably received, particularly in the country districts. An increase of age and invalid pensions also is to be made. The public is quite satisfied with the way in which the Government has assisted these pensioners, as well as tubercular patients and others who come under the provisions of its medical benefits scheme. The Government has given assistance to the superphosphate industry by enabling producers to convert their plant from the old type which uses pure sulphur into plant which can use Australian pyrites.
All these things the Government has done on behalf Of the people. It has expended their money with their approval and has been able,at the same time, to reduce taxation. The extra 10 per cent. imposed on incomes last year is to be abolished. The Leader of the Opposition complained that this would not be satisfying to people on lower incomes because increased amounts of tax would he payable, clue to rises of the basic wage. Does the right honorable gentleman contend that whenever there is an increase of the basic wage the Government should reduce tax rates? When the basic wage was rising during the years before this Government came into office did the previous Government reduce tax rates ? No ! It is ridiculous to contend that when a man receives more income his rate of tax should be reduced. The Government has proposed a reduction of 2s. in the £1 in respect of the first £5,000 of company tax. The proposed discontinuance of advance payments of company tax will be an added advantage. Under the Government’s proposals private companies will be permitted greater retention allowances which they will be able to place in reserve for the better conduct of their businesses. Sporting clubs and non-profit-making associations are to be freed from payment of tax. Sales tax is to be reduced and eliminated altogether on some items. The land tax field is to be vacated entirely by the Commonwealth . That proposition will not meet with the approval of Opposition members because they consider that those who have higher incomes should pay higher rates of tax and they look upon anybody who owns land as having a large income. They regard him as fair game. The Government considers that the land tax is particularly inequitable. In many cases the employee has had to meet the increase of costs that have resulted from its imposition. If the land tax is to remain, the tenant must be prepared to pay more rent. It has been found that in some cases, because of the incidence of the land tax, it did not pay to own and rent a property.
The Governmenthas given careful consideration to the subject of provisional tax and has already introduced legislation to deal with anomalies in this matter. The contention that the Government has not given any ‘incentive to the primary producer is without foundation. The primary producer was already entitled to considerable taxation deductions before this budget was introduced. Expenditure incurred in the year of income by a taxpayer engaged in primary production is an allowable deduction for income tax purposes if it has been incurred in the eradication or extermination of animal or vegetable pests from the land; the destruction and removal of timber, scrub or undergrowth indigenous to the land; the destruction of weed or plant growth detrimental to the land; the preparation of the land for agriculture; ploughing and grassing the land for grazing purposes; the draining of swamp or low- lying, lands where that operation improves the agricultural or grazing value of the land; preventing or combatting soil erosion otherwise than by the erection offences; the construction of dams, earth tanks, underground tanks, irrigation channels or similar structural improvements, or the sinking of bores or wells for the purpose of conserving or conveying water for use in carrying on primary production; and the construction of levee banks or similar improvements having like uses. Such expenditure has been an allowable deduction for income tax purposes for some time. The Government now proposes to allow a deduction for depreciation of 20 per cent. of the value of plant such as farm machinery, motor lorries; bulldozers, windmills, irrigation piping, and fire-fighting equipment in each year for five years. On the same basis the Government has also been pleased to announce, as a deduction from income tax, expenditure on fences, buildings, hay sheds; machinery sheds, silos shearing sheds, dairy buildings and employees homes, to a limit of £2,000 for each home. It may be said that these concessions were introduced before the budget, but they should be considered as a . part of the budget because their cost to the country must be borne in this and future financial years, and consequently will become a direct charge on revenue.
The only unfortunate aspect of the budget is in connexion with the money that the Commonwealth must provide for the States. Under our federal system the States have the responsibility of using the money properly, but the Commonwealth is not able to ensure that the
States so use it. The Labour Government of New South Wales was recently challenged, by the leader of the Country party in the Legislative Assembly, upon its use of £188,000,000 of loan money that had been advanced to it by. the Commonwealth in six years. The leader of the Country party challenged the New South Wales Labour Government to give one instance of its having completed a public work of a productive nature in that six years. The New South Wales Government produced a list of works that it said it had completed. These completed works were the Menindie-Broken Hill water pipeline estimated to cost £2,000,000, the first stage of the Oberon Dam for Lithgow, Wallerawang, and the Blue Mountains water supply extension, the cost of which was not stated, although the fully extended scheme was said by the Premier of New South Wales to be likely to cost £535,000, and Lake Brewster storage, at a cost of £414,000. The total sum. expended on completed works was £2,949,000 out of a total loan expenditure of £188,000,000 in six years. Such great schemes as the Burrendong and Keepit Dams and the Sandy HollowMaryvale railway line are still uncompleted.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Budget 1952-53 : Newspaper. Publica tion of Information - The Parliament - Telephone Services - Postal Department - Broadcasting! - Puckapunyal Camp.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– On the motion for the ad journment of this House last night, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) alleged that details of the Budget were made available to the Melbourne Herald before they were presented to the Parliament. Normally, one would ignore foolish charges made so obviously for propaganda purposes, but in this case they were made with that irrational vehemence that is characteristic of the honorable member for Yarra. It is necessary, therefore, to state that there is not a fragment of truth in the charge.
The arrangements for the distribution of budget documents to newspapers were identical with those that have been made for many years, often when a Labour government was in office. In accordance with this practice, copies of the budget documents were available to the press in Canberra and in State capitals for several hours prior to my budget speech in this chamber, so that the press representatives could prepare their reports on them. However, the pressmen concerned were in locked rooms under the supervision of treasury officers, so there was not the slightest possibility of any information extracted from such documents being published in the afternoon press on that day.
I have studied the reports in the Melbourne Herald referred to by the honorable member. First, it is quite apparent that nothing published there, even if accepted as fact and not speculation, could have been used either on the stock exchange or in any other commercial circle for the speculative benefit of anybody. Secondly, practically all the budget proposals mentioned in the report had already been guessed at by various newspapers throughout the Commonwealth for many weeks, and in fact many of these forecasts were made well before the budget was even formulated. Lt is noticeable that no mention was made of various leading features of the budget such as the abolition of federal land tax, the granting of concessional income tax deductions for educational expenses, the variation of the basis of the taxation of goodwill, the reduction of the rate of company tax and the increased retention allowances for private companies.
Obviously, any newspaper which had in fact been in prior possession of budget documents would not have contented itself with merely forecasting what had been so widely surmised already, but would have referred to at least one, if not all, of the unexpected features that I have mentioned. The suggestion of a leakage that might be used for speculative purposes comes badly from the side of the House on which the honorable member for Yarra now sits. We all recall that when the honorable member’s party was in office, the Melbourne Herald was able to announce the decision to depreciate the £1 sterling, which the British Government had by then conveyed to the Labour Government, nearly five days before the decision was officially announced in London. We know of no prior disclosure which could lend itself more than this to speculation, not only on a national but also on an international scale. Moreover, it happened during the term of office of a Labour government. Contents of Labour budgets and financial statements were published regularly, completely and exactly, days before presentation to the Parliament. Forecasts often went beyond the broad general principles of the budget, and sometimes precise details of new tax schedules appeared in the press days in advance of their announcement in the Parliament.
– Will the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) cite examples?
– I certainly will do so. The Melbourne Herald of the 9 th February, 1949, published a tax schedule showing the rates that would apply to taxpayers in various categories and with various incomes under proposals that were not presented to the Parliament until six days later, on the 15th February, 1949. The newspaper mentioned, incidentally, that these schedules had been circulated to members of the Labour caucus on the previous night. I remind honorable members that a budget such as the present one, which is so generous in the scope of concessions granted, could well have been used advantageously for propaganda purposes by a discreet disclosure of even some of its more favorable features. However, this Government firmly believes in adhering to the proper traditions of the Parliament, and even its own party supporters were informed of the contents of the budget only one hour before it was presented to Parliament, and even then only in general terms. That was long after the stock exchanges and business houses had closed.
This contrasts with the policy followed by the last Labour Government, whose Treasurer used to present financial proposals to party members many hours, and in some cases days, before they came before the Parliament. In the light of those facts, it ill becomes the honorable member for Yarra and his colleagues to make such charges. They are absolutely devoid of truth and substance.
.- The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has denied that the press had any foreknowledge of the budget and has said that the items that were published were purely the result of speculation. I ask the House to listen to some of the speculation that was published in a newspaper in Sydney before noon on the day on which the Treasurer delivered his budget speech at 8 p.m. I quote from the Daily Mirror of Wednesday, the 6th August -
The highest category of sales tax - at present 66%- will be reduced to 50% in the 1952-53 Budget.
That is speculation No. 1. Honorable members will admit that it was good guesswork.
The minimum sales tax rate of 12½% will remain.
That is speculation No. 2. Another good guess, I suggest.
Other features of the Budget will be:
A 7s. 6d. increase in age, invalid and service pensions.
That is speculation No. 3.
A record peacetime defence expenditure of £200,000,000.
That was the exact figure that appeared in the budget papers. Had the writer of the article guessed £201,000,000, £203,000,000 or £204,000,000, perhaps we could have said that it was mere speculation. But that did not happen. The exact figure was published. The next guess was as follows : -
Abolition of the 10% special income tax levy, saving taxpayers £35,000,000 in the current financial year.
I ask honorable members to consult the budget papers in order to see whether those facts do not coincide exactly. Another guess was as follows : -
Expenditure of £959,000,000 in 1952-53.
That was the exact sum specified in the budget papers.
Does the Treasurer seriously ask the House to believe that six items of information, some of which included the exact figures stated in the budget, could possibly have been predicted accurately by guesswork? Surely not! No intelligent person would believe that the information could have been obtained so precisely without reference to the budget papers. Those details obviously could have come only from somebody who had access to the budget papers. There cannot be any doubt about that.
The Treasurer has said that a premature announcement of the items that I have mentioned could not have led to stock exchange speculation. 1 refer him to the Sydney Sun of the 6th August, the day on which the budget was presented to the Parliament. That newspaper, prior to the budget speech, published an interesting item under the heading : “ Sudden Lift in Share Prices “. It stated -
Growing confidence that to-night’s Federal Budget will provide taxation and credit relief brought a sudden change in the tempo of share trading to-day.
Business expanded and prices advanced in the most active market for several weeks.
On the day after the presentation of the budget, the Financial Review, which is published by the Sydney Morning Herald, contained the following report: -
Share trading was dull and prices eased last week as investors awaited the budget. But activity brightened yesterday as speculative elements entered the market in the hope of purchasing stocks at what might prove to be bargain prices.
Elsewhere in the same journal the following item appeared : - share prices continued their easing tendency until yesterday.
More spirited bidding yesterday gave the markets a brighter tone. This evidently was the result of re-entry of buyers who expected favorable reaction to the budget, and took early opportunity to acquire shares at recently reduced prices.
All of that might have been the result of the normal activity of gamblers on the stock exchange attempting to anticipate the budget, but every honorable member will agree that also it could have been the result of the release of advance information, which obviously was available to certain newspaper men early on the day of the budget speech. Ido not make the allegation that it was theresultofthe release of advance information,butI definitely make the allegation that it couldhave been the result of such a release. When budget details are communicated to persons who are not entitled to know anything about them before the Treasurer has supplied them to this Parliament,obviously the road is wide open forspeculation of the nature that was mentioned in the Financial Review on the 7th August. Any person in possession of that information who had sufficient money totake advantage of it could undoubtedly have made a great fortune.
I understand from the remarks of the Treasurer that I do not have to argue withhim aboutthe necessity for preservingthesecret matureof the budget. He admitted that it should be inviolate and attempted to blame past governments for thedisclosure of certain budget details. However, inview of his admission I do not need to argue with him. I remind him of the Dalton case in Great Britain, which ledtothe resignation of Mr. Dalton as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Dalton made a remark about certain tax proposals to a newspaper man as he was entering the House of Commons to make his budget speech. He said., I understand, that there would be no additional tax on tobacco, but that the tax on beer would be increased by1d. The pressman telephoned theinformation to his newspaper. Only a few copies of the newspaper containing the information were issued before the Stock Exchanged closed that day, but Mr. Dalton found it necessary to resign as Chancellor of the Exchequer as a result of that fact. I can do no better than ‘to quote the Times editorial on the subject of his resignation. It declared -
It is clear that Mr. Dalton had no conceptionof the use to which the information was to he put. To somethe penalty may seem out of all proportion to the error. Yet all tradition rightly expects that a Chancellor should never fall through the slightest inanitions word in the trusthe bears. The secretsof the budget in particular must not be communicated by so much as hint even by the humblest of those who know them. The slightest lapse by the Chancellor, whose own standard must be exemplary, cannot be condoned. ThePrime Minister had no choice but to accept Mr. Dalton’s resignation.
– Whathas all this to do with the matter ? Why does not the honorable member make a specific charge?
Mr.KEON.-Ithasagreat deal to do with the matter that we are discussing. I thought that Ihadmade a definite and specific charge. That charge is that the evening newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne, from the reports that they published before the Treasurer delivered his budget speech, must obviously have been given direct advance information about the provisions of , the budget. I have made that chargedefinitely and specifically. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) did not hear me make it previously, I reiterate it now. It must be obvious toany intelligent person that no newspaper could have obtained the details that were published before the budget speech was made unless its representatives had access either to the budget papers or to some person who had that information.
That leads naturally to this question. If the newspapers had the information, as obviously they did, where did they get it ?I suggest that the number of possible sources is limited. First, the newspapers could have obtained the information from treasury officials who broke their trust. The Treasurer has informed us that representatives of newspapers were locked up with treasury officials while they studied the budgetbefore it was presented to the Parliament. Therefore, secondly, some of those representatives might have found a way of breaking their trust and sending the information to their newspapers. Thirdly, theinformation could have been releasedby a member of the Cabinet, other than the Treasurer, who had access to the budget. Fourthly, it could have been released by the Treasurer himself. I suggest that those are all the possibilities. There may be others, and, if so, we shall be glad to hear any suggestions that theTreasurer may wish to make on the subject. But, whoever was guilty of the breach of trust - a public servant, a journalist, the Treasurer, or another member of the Cabinet - this House has a responsibility tobring him to book for having done something which in the words of the British Prime Minister of the day and of the committee of inquiry of the United Kingdom Parliament to Mr. Dalton. should not havebeen done and which was contrary to the traditions and ethics of British parliamentary life. I awake the charge definitely and specifically that the information must have been disclosed, and that it could have come only from the sources that I have mentioned. The Treasurer has a responsibility to himself and to the Cabinet to investigate this occurrence, and the Parliament has a responsibility, also.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened to this discussion with keen interest, and it has become evident to me that the honorable member for Yarra (M r. Keon) is trying to make a. comeback, as the race-horse, Old Rowley, did. I have noticed the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) doing a good deal of lobbying, with the idea, apparently, of getting the honorable member for Yarra to reinstate himself in the eyes of the Labour party, and so assure him of the party endorsement for the next election. I am convinced that he is making the present attack on the Treasurer because he feels it to be necessary to rehabilitate himself after failing to campaign in fa vour of the “ No “ vote in the ref erenduiji on communism. Pressure has been put upon him by this so-called Labour party, which is. in fact, nothing more than a collection of socialists.
The honorable member for Yarra complained that budget information had been disclosed which might enable gamblers on the stock exchange to make money. I believe that the honorable member spoke on this subject last night and to-night only because he is gambling on again getting the party endorsement for the electorate of Yarra. The budget necessarily passes through the hands of a considerable number of public servants. I do not doubt their integrity, but I know that the honorable member for East Sydney has quite a number of stooges in the Public Service, and that he seems to be able to obtain information that even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself cannot get. Perhaps it was through those stooges, and through the honorable member for East Sydney, that the information complained of reached the press.Finally, I say to the honorable member for Yarra that he wouldstand better in the opinion of his own electors if he maintained the attitude which he took up when he first came into this House, instead of trying to curry favour with ‘his party.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has proved his case against the Treasurer (Sir ArthurFadden)-
– Against the Treasurer?
– To the complete satisfaction of every fair-minded person.
– We ought to get the Committee of Privileges on to this.
– Yes, and there ought to be a few resignations, too.
– If the honorable member fails to prove his charge he should get out.
– I will prove my charge. The honorable member for Yarra said that precise and accurate information contained in the budget was published by the Melbourne Herald hours before the budget speech was delivered in this chamber. The honorable member compared the figures published in the Herald with the budget figures, and showed that the information published in the Herald was accurate in all respects. The Treasurer must accept responsibility for what has happened. I do not suggest that the Treasurer himself gave the information, but the information was in his custody. It was in his sole control until the document was presented to the Parliament. He and he alone had charge of it, and if information leaked out through his carelessness, whether by allowing newspaper representatives to see the document under the surveillance of treasury officials or otherwise, he must accept responsibility in accordance with constitutional practice. He cannot throw the responsibility on to some one else. It is not sufficient for him to say : “ We locked the newspaper men up, hut they seem to be Houdinis. They got out, and took the information with them “. That will not satisfy any one. .Speaking in his own defence, the Treasurer said, in effect, “ Well, the newspapers did not publish anything about the land tax, or about the concessions in respect of education “. That is true. If the newspapers had published all the information contained in the budget there would not have been any need for honorable members to come here to listen to the budget speech. We could have read it all in the newspapers. The Treasurer must put himself right with the Parliament and the people.
If the information got into the newspapers hours before the budget speech was delivered, the opportunity certainly existed for persons to benefit financially as a result. At the very best, the Treasurer has been guilty of gross carelessness through his agents, or through somebody else to whom he gave possession of budget information. The right honorable gentleman claimed that other Treasurers had done precisely as he did. That is not true. When the late Mr. Chifley was Treasurer in the Labour Government, he never disclosed anything so vital or in such detail, either to his party or to the press, before he presented the budget to the Parliament. I was a member of the Cabinet that discussed the question of devaluation, and it was the best-kept secret that I know of. After we had discussed the pros and cons of devaluation as against maintaining the value of our currency in relation to the dollar, we said to Mr. Chifley, “Well you make the final decision “. He made the final decision with Dr. Coombs on a Sunday night and it was announced in the press on Monday morning. It was not made five days before the announcement, as the Treasurer has said. As evidence of the fact that no information about the decision leaked out in advance, I cite the fact that not one goldmining share on the stock exchanges in Australia or anywhere else varied in value from the time that we discussed the matter until the decision was announced. It ill becomes the Treasurer to besmirch the reputation of Mr. Chifley by saying that the information leaked out five days before the decision was announced.
There were never any leakages when the Labour Government was in office. We did not need to buy the support of the press for our budgets by giving the newspapers advance information. What Mr. Chifley did was to hand the documents over in the way that the Treasurer has said that he did. In that, the present Treasurer followed the usual practice. But when Mr. Chifley was Treasurer, the newspapers were not allowed access to the budget papers until a telegram was received from the Prime Minister’s office announcing that the Treasurer had actually begun his budget speech. Then, the Sub-Treasury officials in the various States made the documents available to newspaper representatives. No charge was ever made against Mr. Chifley while he was alive that he had disclosed information improperly or unfairly. It has never been alleged that any Labour Minister, during the whole eight years that the Labour Government was in office, ever disclosed information from which any one might have made financial profit. But the disclosures that have been made by the honorable member for Yarra indicate that it was possible for somebody to have disclosed something from which financial gain could have been made. I challenge the VicePresident of the Executive’ Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to move a motion on privilege.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has crayfished out of it.
– I have crayfished out of nothing.
.- A little more enlightenment and a little less heat on this matter may be in order. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), as I understood him, suggested in one statement not that there was a leakage, but that there may have been a leakage.
– Quite obviously there was a leakage.
– The honorable member wants it both ways. He said that he did not make a charge that there had been a leakage, but that there may have been one.
– The honorable member for Yarra did not say that.
– He did say it, but then he was carried away by his own eloquence and said that there had been a leakage. He based his statement on the fact that the press made an announcement, some hours before the budget speech was made, that there was to be a cut of 10 per cent, in taxation. Is the honorable member for Yarra asking the House to believe that that announcement is proof that there was a leakage? The dogs were barking that forecast for three months or six months before the budget was presented or even considered. That was the most obvious piece of speculation. In the previous year the Government had put a 10 per cent, levy on taxation and any tyro in the press gallery would have had no difficulty in speculating that that levy would be removed this year. Apparently a statement was published, in the afternoon of the night on which the budget speech was made, that the defence expenditure would be increased to £200,000,000. That is a nice round figure and one that was easy to reach. Maybe that is why the Government arrived at it, but a member of the press gallery does not need to be a giant in intelligence to say to himself, “ Last year the defence vote was £160,000,000. They might try to make it £250,000,000, but times are hard and probably it will be £200,000,000 this year “. That is just the way the gentlemen of the press speculate. Then there was the increase of 7s 6d. in pensions. A member of the press gallery might well say to himself that pensions were increased by 10s. last year. An increase of 5s. would be rather mean. The Government might split the difference and increase pensions by 7s. 6d. Apparently that is how the minds of the pressmen work. On such a basis, honorable members are asked to assume one of two things. Either one of the twenty members of the Cabinet betrayed particulars of the budget to the press in breach of his oath of office, or one of the very high officers of the Government - because, apart from the printers, only high officers know the facts - divulged those matters to the press, also in a most outrageous breach of his obligations. Nobody has had the temerity to suggest that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) did it.
– I suggested the right honorable gentleman as an alternative.
– If any honorable member thinks so, he should stand up in the House and say it. I shall return to the point that was made by the Treasurer. If the information leaked out from one or other of the two sources that I have mentioned, why did not the press of Australia publish the juiciest bits of news? The abolition of the land tax would have hit the head-lines anywhere in Australia, and details of the education concessions would also have been topline news. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) suggested that the clever, cunning press, or the considerate press, did not disclose those juicy details because if it had done so, honorable members would not have had to attend the Parliament to hear the budget speech. That is applied reductio ad absurdum. The honorable member’s alternative implication was that the press did not release those attractive and juicy details because it wanted to conceal the fact that it had obtained the news improperly.
There is a moral that has not been drawn by any speaker who has participated in this debate. In recent years, some sections of the Australian press have entirely lost a sense of responsibility about budget matters. I believe that some honorable members opposite will agree with me on that point. Ever since English parliamentary institutions were established, budget secrets traditionally have been sacrosanct. The press of the English-speaking world, certainly the English press, has accepted that responsibility and acted on it. But in Australia in recent years, it seems to be regarded as within the province of pressmen to speculate or present to the public, months or weeks ahead, as gospel truth, comments which are pure speculation. Cabinet discussed the budget this year only a week or two before it was presented to the Parliament, yet weeks or months earlier, the gentlemen in the press galleries were writing for the newspapers and the editors were publishing statements on the budget which, to the uninformed public, appeared to be gospel truth. The moral to be drawn is that there is a responsibility in this matter, and it rests upstairs in the press gallery as well as on the floor of this chamber. [ houe that the moral will be drawn by all concerned. If it is not accepted, this Parliament will have to take some special measures, in order to protect its own honour,, and the public, to ensure that that sort of assertion and speculation does not take place. It can appear in the newspapers some hours before the budget is presented and somebody can then suggest that there has been a leakage. Quite clearly no member of the Cabinet, no honorable member of this Parliament and no responsible member of the Public Service whose members serve this Government as they have served others, have been guilty of a deliberate leakage.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) quoted the press as having been accurate in six respects on a published statement relating to the budget. At least the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) dealt with some of those respects and that is more than I can say for any other honorable members on the Government side who have spoken in this debate. Let honorable members concede to the Minister for Supply that £200,000,000 is a good round figure; that 7s. 6d. is the difference between 5s. and 10s. and that 10 per cent, would be an obvious reduction in income tax. But does the Minister suggest that £959,000,000 as the total of budget expenditure is a good round figure, and that in all the possibilities between £900,000,000 and £1,000,000,000, which might be within the scope of press speculation, the press arrived at £959,000,000 by coincidence? The Minister has said that the juiciest details would have been education concessions and the abolition of the land tax. ,T grant that land tax may matter to speculators, although there cannot be rapid transactions in land. Obviously education would have no significance to Speculators and neither, for that matter, would the total of the defence budget, but a reduction in the maximum sales tax from 66§ per cent, to 50 per cent, clearly is of concern to every luxury industry which bore the 66f ‘per cent, sales tax. Further, the definite statement that the minimum rate would be 12-J per cent, mattered to every company and to every person who thought that the minimum rate might be reduced. Such a statement would put an end to speculation in that direction. Members of the Government cannot deny that the press report was absolutely accurate in six particulars. They say that that was a coincidence. Why should the public accept that statement? Now that this matter has been raised, an inquiry should be held to discover whether publication of those points was due to a coincidence or to a leakage. A Government supporter has spoken of “ despicable elements “ in the Public Service. A Minister has told us of nests of traitors in the Public Service. To-night we have had evidence that information has been given to the press or, at least, that in no fewer than six instances the press has correctly forecast the details of the budget. If we accept the Government5; statements that no Minister has been involved in a disclosure of budget secrets, we can only come to the conclusion that the Government does not put any trust in its own servants. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who has been insulted to-night, has established an unanswerable case for an inquiry, and an inquiry should be held.
.- I desire to refer to a matter which J regard as of some interest and importance to members of this Parliament. I understand that instructions haVe been issued to officers of the Department of the Interior, particularly those who are associated with the Federal Members’ Rooms, to record all trunk-line calls made by members of the Parliament and also the names of the persons to whom the calls have been made. I should like to know the reason for the issuing of such a direction if, in fact, it has been issued. It is rather peculiar that the Government should desire to check the number of trunk-line calls made by members of the Parliament. However, such an inquiry may be regarded as proper in the view of the Government. But I am particularly interested to know why it seeks information about the persons to whom calls are made. I should like the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to give us some information on the matter, and I leave it there.
The second matter to which I wish to refer concerns the Postmaster-General’s Department, and, in particular, the representations made by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) on behalf of certain of his constituents. I have received from a correspondent at Ewingar a letter which reads as follows:-
I would like to bring to your notice the plight of our own isolated community where the Postmaster-General has seen fit to curtail our mail delivery from three times weekly to twice weekly. We now get our Sunday papers on Thursday. We live on a dead road and the mailman is our only connexion with the outside districts. No cream carriers or other transport passes through and we depend on the mail contractor for the delivery of our bread and meat and medicine supplies &c. I am referring to the Tabulam-Ewingar mail run - a distance of twenty miles mostly roadside mail boxes which serves between 50 and 60 adults. On protesting to the PostmasterGeneral through our local member (Sir Earle Page) we were told the run did not pay. But what country mail run does pay? If some city areas canhave a twice daily delivery we think we are at least entitled toa triweekly service. Ifthe Government wants to keep people producing in these outlandish areas they should at least keep up the existing amenities which are few enough.
I raise this matter at this stage in the hope that the Postmaster-General will take some action to remedy the defect towhich mycorrespondent has referred. Surely, the financial position of the Postmaster-General’s Department is not so grave that these services, which my correspondent has described as amenities, cannotbe maintained. Surely the difficulties of those who live in country districts are great enough without unnecessarily adding to them in this way. Every possible assistance should be rendered by the Postal Department to the people in countryareas. The Minister for Health evidently made some representations in regard to this matter, butthey were rejected by the Postmaster-General on the ground thattheTabulam-Ewingar mail service was not a -paying proposition. I agree with my correspondent that manymail servicescannot possibly be paying propositions. On the one hand, the Postmaster-General claims that insufficient funds are available to maintain these country mail services, but, on the other hand, he has treated commercial country radio stations generously in the matter of landline charges for news relays. Recently, the following instruction was issued by the Postal Department : -
The annual change to any commercial station, irrespective of its location for a landline used to transmit news for a period not exceeding 15 minutes on each occasion for any or all of the sessions at or about 7.45 a.m., 12.30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on week-days and8.45 a.m., 12.30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays will be only £52 a year.
We should ascertain the value of those concessions to the country radio stations. The instruction continues -
The effect of the concession on the financial operation of many stations will be substantial seeing that in some cases, the application of standard rates for news relays (on the basis of the actual radial distance) has involveda yearly payment to the order of £2,000 a station.
The Postmaster-General says to the unfortunate country residents, in effect, “ You cannot have a tri-weekly mail service, notwithstanding the fact that you are dependent upon the service not only for mail deliveries but also for food and medical supplies “. But he also says to the country radio stations, “I am prepared to reduce land-line charges for news relays from £2,000 to £52 a year “. I shall be interested to hear the comments of the Minister for Health about the matter.
.- I did not know that it was the custom for honorable members of this chamber to intervene in matters that concern the electorates of other honorable members. During the whole of the time that I have been a member of this Parliament, I have invariably found that correspondence sent to an honorable member by a resident of another electorate is invariably referred to the representative of that constituent. Consequently, I was astounded that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should raise a matter that concerns my electorate without having first acquainted me of his intention to do so.
I know a great deal about conditions in the Upper Clarence district. I am well acquainted with Mr. Hunter, the district postal inspector for the Lismore division, who is responsible for mail services in the Tabulam-Copmanhurst and Ewingar districts, and I know that he has done everything possible to maintain mail services to those areas. He may have found that, as a result of the increasing costs, the mailman may have found it impossible to maintain the service. In the past, it has often been possible for mail contractors to operate the mail services in conjunction with a school bus service, and the cartage of cream for local dairymen. I welcome an opportunity to examine this matter. I saw Mr. Hunter at Lismore a month or six weeks ago, and I am satisfied that he is doing everything possible to maintain the services in his district. In no instance has a mail service been curtailed because of the high cost of maintenance.
.- The Puckapunyal military establishment, in the vicinity of Seymour, which is the largest training establishment in Victoria and covers an area of approximately 50,000 acres, was regarded as adequate in size for the training of Victorian troops during World War II. Since this Government came into office, farmers in the vicinity of the camp, particularly those whose properties are on the eastern side of it, have been informed that their properties are to be brought under the control of the military authorities for military manoeuvre purposes. Recently, I visited one of the farmers who had been advised that troops might be trained on his property. I found that troops were already training on that property. The particular area in which they were receiving instructions-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Richmond, New South Wales.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Defence - K. C. Duncan.
Public Service (Arbitration) Act - Determinations - 1952 -
No. 52 - Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen.
Nos. 53 and 54 - Australian Workers’ Union.
House adjourned at 11.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Postmaster.General upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. The discussions are still -proceeding.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: - 1 and 2.-
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development -
– -The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable rnember’squestions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 August 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520813_reps_20_218/>.