20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) look the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read 1 1 myers.
Air. Tom Burke presented a petition from a branch secretary of the Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union praying that action be taken by the Parliament to rectify an injustice which he considers exists under section 8 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act.
Petition received and read.
– The Commonwealth National Library, which is governed by a joint committee of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, has recently acquired in England one of the fourteen known copies of Magna Carta. No copy has been hitherto sent out of England except on loan. The copy purchased is dated 1297, has been ‘ properly authenticated as genuine, is in. a good state of preservation and will, in duc time, be given a place within this building, where it will be open* ti inspection by honorable members and the general public. The liberties that we enjoy to-day are founded on the Great Charter obtained in 1215 from King John, and confirmed by his successors. Magna Carta and thu parliamentary system are the special products of the genius of the English people for sound self-government. The Library Committee, encouraged by the Prime Minister and financially supported by the Government, felt that it would have failed in its duty to this young country if it had not acquired for the nation the copy of Magna Cn ria that was offered to it. It is most unlikely that another such opportunity will ever occur. A history of the document is available to honorable members in the Library. The Library Committee in grateful to the many people in England and in Australia who’ have been aware of our negotiations with the vendors at various times since November last, but who have maintained a discreet silence on the subject.
– by leave - I should like to offer congratulations to the Library Committee on having acquired this remarkable and historic document. The Great Charter of 1215 was republished shortly afterwards, and achieved its historic and final form during the reign of Edward 1. At that time, a very limited number of those documents was produced, which have been referred to since as the Inspeximus copy of the Charter, and it is one of those documents that has now been acquired by the Library, and, therefore, by Australia. It is, perhaps, not out of place for me to offer a few remarks about the significance of the Great Charter for us, and, indeed, for all people in the English-speaking world. It is not to he supposed that the Barons at Runnymede in June of 1215 were thinking exclusively of other people. There is no doubt that they were thinking a great deal of their own rights. But although they were concerned with their own rights, they had them recorded, because, to some degree, it was a. record of existing rights in terms which have acquired enormous significance ever since. The barons at that time knew nothing about democracy, and it is not supposed that they thought that they were establishing some form of democracy, because they did not think so at all. But, in point of fact, what they did that day has had a good deal to do with the true foundations of democracy, av it developed in later centuries. [ believe that the real significance of the Great Charter, which has been the subject of much discussion in modern times is, first, that it was, in fact, the first charter, of which we. have a record, of what we now call civil rights or civil liberties. I think I am right in saying that it was the first document of that kind to be found in English history. The second aspect of it that appeals to me is that the Great Charter, having been produced, reproduced, and finally given this ultimate form, seized the imagination of men of intelligence, and because it seized their imagination, it gave rise to later developments in the expression of civil rights that led up to the Bill of Rights. Anybody who compares the Bill of Rights with Magna Carta will see how the course of history has been influenced by Magna Carta itself. My third comment is that, although Magna Carta was not, in itself, the creator of democracy, nobody can read it and work out its subsequent history and influence without being impressed by the fact that it did give expression to one of the two great principles that lie at the base of free democracy. I refer to the principle of the rule of law, and it is because the Great Charter gave rise to this deep-seated feeling in the English mind, and then to the whole English-speaking mind throughout the world, that I attach importance to it.
I took from the Library this morning, because E heard that Mr. Speaker proposed to refer to this matter this afternoon, one of the earliest forms of Magna Carta and, if I may trespass on the patience of the House, perhaps it will not be amiss if I read one paragraph from it, in order to show how old and yet how modern the document is. This is the famous chapter 29 of Magna Carta -
No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or be diffeifed of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any otherwise destroyed; nor we will not pass upon him nor condemn him, but by lawful Judgement of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.
That may seem humorous to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). It does not seem at all humorous to me.
– The right honorable gentleman is the greatest destroyer of civil liberty in this country.
– Order ! The honor able member for East Sydney will maintain silence.
– Speaking to the rest of the House, and, I hope, to the sensitive minds of Australia, I should like to say that the statement of Magna Carta, in its classifial form, is the whole basis of the rule of law. It is because of the development of the rule of law that we to-day enjoy the benefits of a free democracy. Therefore, this remains one of the great documents of our history. It will be a source of great pride to us to feel that we have in this place one of the ancient copies of this document.
– hy leave - I should like to join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in thanking the Library Committee, the Government, and also you, M.r. Speaker, as the chairman of the committee, for having acquired this copy of the. Great Charter. It is a priceless possession. As the Prime Minister has said, it is most important historically. It means, and it always should mean, in our democracies, first the rule of liberty. Secondly, it means that the rule of liberty is useless except under law. Thirdly, it means the hatred #of arbitrary government or despotism. That is the very essence of the charter of John. Those principles still underlie not, only the law of England, of which this document, in a literal sense, is a part, but also the interpretation of , all the laws of the States of the Commonwealth. Indeed, they are implicit in the interpretation of the Australian Constitution, and also of the Constitution of the United States of America. This great document is honoured as much in the United States of America as it is throughout the British Commonwealth. In my view, it is important that the people of Australia should see the document and understand what it means. It has never been more important than to-day. For the last twenty years the great principles which it embodies, and for which it stands, have been assailed by totalitarianism, sometimes of the left and sometimes of the right.
– On behalf of the Library Committee, I thank both right honorable gentlemen for their remarks.
– Can the Munster for External Affairs inform me whether the nest of traitors is still in the Public Service?
– Will the Minister say why the traitors have not been arrested and placed on trial?
– If the honorable gentleman will bide his time, all will be made clear.
– Some months ago, the Minister said that there were nests of traitors in the Public Service. To-day he has assured us that they are still there. Are we to understand from the right honorable gentleman’s answer to the previous questions that he deprecates any impatience in dealing with traitors in the Public Service?
– I refer the honorable member to the answers that I have given to the two previous questions. I think That those answers are quite explicit.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether immigrants who have recently arrived from British and other countries are entitled to participate in the medical benefits scheme, cither with or without completion of naturalization formalities?
– Free lifesavingdrugs are available to every person resident in Australia, with the strange exception that they are not available freely to those in public wards of hospitals. That anomaly results from the original Labour Government legislation, but this Government is correcting that position. Every resident of Australia is entitled to participate in the other medical benefits.
– I desire to ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he is aware that when unemployed youths and young men go to Commonwealth Employment Service offices to register for the unemployment benefit they are advised by the Government’s officers to make application for enlistment in the Army, and that if the Army will not accept them they may then register for the unemployment benefit. Will the Minister inform the House whether he gave a direction that this procedure was to be followed? If the Minister himself did not issue such instructions will he ascertain whether the Minister for Labour and National Service did so or whether they were originated by a departmental officer and, if so, which officer? Will the Minister agree-
– Order! It is not in order for the honorable member to ask the Minister to express an opinion.
– This was a plan devised to coerce young men into enlisting.
– Order! The honor.able member is getting right outside the scope of Standing Orders.
– This procedure followed-
– Order! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat.
– A similar question was asked in this House last week.
– The Minister cannot reply. The question has been disallowed.
-Order! I ordered the honorable member for Watson to resume his seat. He had asked a number of questions.
– In reply to that part of the honorable member’s question which you allowed, Mr. Speaker, I will say that I have had inquiries made and I have ascertained that when people register for unemployment benefits the Army is mentioned as one of the avenues of employment which is available to them if they appear to he eligible and have a desire to join the services. No pressure or persuasion is used on people in this respect. The possibility of enlistment is simply referred to as an exploratory question at the same time as other avenues of employment which might be suitable to the n applicant are mentioned.
– Has the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to the criticism that has been directed against the Geelong office of the Commonwealth Employment Service as a result of the refusal of the officer in charge of that office to release figures relating to unemployment? Has the Government’s policy in this connexion been designed to conceal the true position in relation to unemployment? What is the departmental instruction regarding the release of these statistics?
– The district officers of the -Commonwealth Employment Service have been instructed not to release figures in relation to employment or anything else with which they deal in their areas. This is in accordance with the policy that ha9 been applied by the department for a considerable period. Each month the returns of district officers are collated, and a statement of the overall Australian position is released to the public as soon as possible. If the district officers were permitted to release their district figures, only a true local picture would be revealed. It would not be a true picture of the position in Australia as a whole.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that Commonwealth Employment Service officers have no knowledge whether or not unemployed persons who are registered with them are in receipt of the unemployment benefit? Will he take steps to ensure that district officers are informed when approval is given to pay unemployment benefit to such persons, or when their claims for unemployment benefits are rejected?
– I shall make inquiries about the matter and furnish a reply to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that many men in my electorate who are able and willing to work and are prepared to do any kind of work are still unable to obtain employment, and are receiving the unemployment benefit? If the Minister is aware of that, will he make available the names and addresses and the occupations in which the 31,000 supposed vacancies exist in order that men of the type that [ have mentioned may obtain employment?
– I am aware that people in all electorates are receiving the unemployment benefit. I do not know whether there are more of them in the electorate of the honorable member for Grayndler than there are in the electorates of other honorable members. I am not prepared to make available the names and addresses of all the vacancies
– Why not?
– Because a vacancy has no name or address.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a booklet which has been published in Melbourne by Mr. Ivor Evans entitled, The History of the Australian Flag, in which the author represents the Australian flag as having been designed by himself? Is it a fact that there were five winning designs for an Australian flag and that no one person is officially accorded a preference or recognition above the other four? If so, will the Prime Minister consider making a statement on the matter in order to correct any false impression which the publication may make?
– My information is that there were five winning designs for an Australian flag and that no one design was given preference over the others. However, if there is any chance of any misunderstanding on this matter, I shall avail myself of the suggestion that has been made by the honorable member and have a short statement prepared which will set out all facts.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the presentation of an Australian flag by the Commonwealth to all of our schools that do not possess one? By way of explanation, I point out that last year, as part of .the jubilee celebrations, the Commonwealth made Australian flags available to all schools that were in existence on the 9th May, 1951, but schools established since that date have not shared in the privilege. This matter has been brought .to my attention by parents of pupils of the Belrose publicschool, which” is in my electorate.
– As the honorable gentleman has stated, in jubilee year we made provision for the presentation of Australian flags to then existing schools. His suggestion that flags should now be given to schools established subsequently is a meritorious one, and subject to discussion of the administrative problems that may be connected with it, I shall consider it.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question which is of’ great importance and urgency. Did the right honorable gentleman during his recent trip to London take any action in regard to the repayment of £11,789,000. of Australian Government 3½ per cent. stock which must be repaid on the15th September? What is the present position regarding the conversion of this loan? Is it the intention of the Government to repay the whole of the loan from Australia’s sorely depleted sterling balances?
– Whilst in the United Kingdom I had no discussion in relation to any Australian securities that are held in London, This subject was not one of those that were set down for discussion. However, I shall ask the Treasurer to provide me with the information that the honorable member has sought.
Mr.ROBERTON- Will the Minister for Civil Aviation explore the possibilities of ending the vacillation and confusion that exists between the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works about the construction, improvement, and maintenance of aerodromes? This matter is causing grave publc concern in the municipality of Narranderra, and, no doubt, in a great many other centres where aerodromes are in constant use.
– There is neither vacillation nor confusion between the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works about the construction of aerodromes. Each department has its own particular sphere of activity. The task of the Department of Civil Aviation is to decide where aerodromes are to be built, the nature of the runways that are required, their direction and other technical data of that kind. After this has been done, to avoid confusion a request is sent to the Department of Works together with an authority from the Department of Civil Aviation on the financing of the proposed works. The rest of the construction is then left with the Department of Work’s. Therefore, the authority of each department isverify clearly defined, and if any question has been raised concerning the construction of an aerodrome at Narranderra, or anywhere else, the matter is within the sphere of the Department of Works.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that last week about 70 disgruntled Italian and Maltese immigrants left Australia to return to their former homelands, and that another 100 Maltese have booked their passages to Malta and intend to sail next week ? Is it also a fact that another 1,000 disappointed immigrants will leave. Australia within the nexttwelve weeks ? If these are facts, what action is the Government taking or what action does it propose to take to ensure that immigrants will be found employment and so induced to remain in Australia ?
– I am not in a position to say whether the figures mentioned by the honorable mem ber? arecorrect. I believe that he is correct in saying that some Maltese have either departed from Australia or have signified their intention to return to Malta, Not many cases of the kind have arisenand they relate to persons who paid their own passages to Australia. If they prefer Malta to Australia that is OK by me.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration seen a report to the effect that the Government is seeking, or is intending to seek, an agreement under which Australia will obtain 15,000 German immigrants in 1953? If that report is true, what are the Government’s plans for German immigration?
– Some such report was published in a Melbourne newspapera few days ago. It is quite false. The Minister for Immigration is overseas and is conducting discussions with the West German Government about certain immigrants who may be. admitted to Australia. They will be skilled tradesmen and rural workers.
– There are plenty of skilled workers here already.
– But the figure of 15,000 is .quite wrong. As I said in the House the other day, the Government proposes to bring in about 20,000 assisted European immigrants, as distinct from British immigrants, in 1953.
– The Government should be ashamed of itself.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor must restrain h himself .
– But those figure include Dutch, Italians, Germans-
– Has an agreement been signed with the West German Government ?
– And they include some other nationalities. No agreement has been signed.
– Order ! The Minister may not answer the Leader of the Opposition.
– As I have told the House, a number of Germans will come to Australia. They will be of very desirable type and will be relatively few in number.
– Has the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration been drawn to a report that was published in the Brisbane Sunday Mail of the 3rd August, under the heading, “ Write to the Queen “ ? It is stated in that report that an organization known as the Federal British Migrants Welfare Association intends to write to Her Majesty the Queen protesting against the conditions that exist in Australian immigrant hostels. It is also stated that this organization has started a fighting fund in order to raise money to send as soon as possible two delegates to England to further its protest. In view of the action that the English immigrants propose to take, will the Minister have the report investigated in order to ascertain whether or not their complaints are justified ? Is the proposed action likely to have a detrimental effect upon the Government’s immigration policy? Will the Minister make a full statement to the House on the whole subject of hostel accommodation for British immigrants in the various States?
Mi-. BEALE. - I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred, and it has not been brought to my attention previously. I shall certainly read it and will make a statement to the House on the subject if that course of action appears to be appropriate.
– I refer to the announcement made in this House on the “7th August by the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration that the Government had decided to reduce its immigration programme during 1953 from 150,000 to S0,000. Did the Government, when it decided upon this figure, take into account the number of departures from Australia of a permanent nature that take place each year?
– The Government was concerned with the number of persons coming into Australia when it fixed the figure of 80,000 immigrants for 1953, but, when it examined the whole problem, it had in mind also the number of what are described as permanent departures from Australia, which varies from year to year. The average number of such departures is, I think, between 20,000 and 25,000. The variation is considerable. The result is that, although we hope to bring about S0,000 immigrants to Australia in 1953, the net figure for the year, after taking into account the permanent departures, is likely to be about 55,000. The importance of this is that it will tend to reduce the effect of arrivals on the employment position.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. In explanation may I say that in the capital cities there is a widely circulating rumour that the Government proposes to reduce by 20 per cent, the intake of trainees under the national service training scheme? As this rumour so ill accords with the statements regarding our present military position, repeatedly made by the Prime Minister and of our Ambassador to the United States of America, will the Minister put our minds at rest and state categorically that there is no question of reducing this essential service that the Government has introduced into Australia?
– All I can say is that the whole matter of this year’s programme for defence is at present under review, and until that review has been completed I shall not be in a position to say what the nature of the recruitment will be under the national service training scheme.
– The question that I direct to the Minister for Defence Production is related to the fact that the governments of all States agreed unanimously recently to adopt a standard system of textile labelling in order that consumers should know what materials are included in fabrics that are offered for sale. Can the Minister tell me what attitude the Australian Government has adopted in this matter, particularly in relation to imported textiles?
– I answer the question as the representative in this House of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The policy of the Government is to ensure that textiles shall be properly labelled. I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs has been conducting negotiations with the ‘State governments with the object of establishing uniformity in relation to the labelling of textiles. I know that conferences have taken place between the Minister and State Ministers, but I do not know what decisions have been made at those conferences or what recommendations are likely to be made. I shall refer the honorable gentleman’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs for the purpose of obtaining an answer to it.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Cabinet has decided to sell Commonwealth assets in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. If it is a fact, will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House on the matter?
– There have been discussions on the subject of oil. I am not at present in a position to make any statement about them. As soon as I can, make such a statement I shall do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply regarding reports that have been published during the past few clays concerning additional important finds of uranium in the Northern Territory. Can the Minister for Supply state whether the reports are true? Is it a fact that such deposits are very extensive and more valuable than those at Rum Jungle? If so, what are the Government’s plans for the development of the areas concerned?
– During the last few days there have been two, and possibly three, reports of additional finds of uranium in the Northern Territory. One which came to hand last week was to the effect that uranium had been found at Edith River not far from Pine Creek and near the main road and the railway. That is said to be an important find. The next day a report was received of another find a few miles farther south of the Edith River. It appeared to be a continuation of the same geological formation. The report stated that the deposits were still larger. Nobody can say, at this juncture, whether these deposits are better than those at Rum Jungle, but hopes are held that they are very good. As to their development, the Government immediately sent its geologists to the spot and they are making investigations. When they have checked the reports and have surveyed the fields, steps will be taken immediately with a view to the development of the area. The Government hopes to be in a position shortly to announce some plans for the large-scale development of the Rum Jungle deposits.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Health with reference to an urgent and important question that I have previously raised in this House. A great number of children who are attending schools in the vast rural areas of Western Australia are still not benefiting from the free milk scheme. In view of that fact, will the Minister consider the provision of fruit juices in lieu of milk for school children where fresh milk is not available and cannot be transported satisfactorily?
– The States Grants (Milk for School Children) Act passed by this Parliament permits the free distribution to school children of milk only and not of fruit juices. When [ was in Western Australia and South Australia recently I investigated, in association with officers of the Departments of Education and Health of both of those States, a new invention which seems likely to make possible the transformation of butter fat into fresh milk and its retention in first-class condition for several days. That invention will, I believe, solve the problem of providing fresh milk for children in outback areas and also of milk supplies generally in remote areas.
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service investigate the withdrawal of attendance money to waterfront employees at Port Douglas, where no overtime ban has been imposed by the Waterside Workers Federation? Will the Minister see that the men concerned are paid the money to which they are entitled?
– I was unaware that the position mentioned by the honorable member existed at Port Douglas. I shall cause inquiries to be made and advise him at an early date of the result?
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to inform the House when it is expected that a distribution of money will be made to New South Wales apple-growers whose apples were acquired under a court judgment during the last war?
– The honorable member was good enough to let me know that he is interested in this matter. Since the beginning of the present sessional period I have been informed that the Australian Apple and Pear Board expects to make a recommendation to me on the 19th September which will form the basis of distribution and entitlement under the terms of the court formula. The board has advised that, after the recommendation has been made, more than a month may elapse before it will be ready to commence the distribution of the money.
– Will, the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service make a statement at an early date showing, first, the form of management of immigrant hostels under the control of Commonwealth Hostels Limited, together with all necessary information about the articles of association of the company, the number and names of the directors, and the manner in which the profits, if any, are distributed? Secondly, will he indicate the action that has been taken to find houses for the occupants of these hostels and their dependants, particularly in view of their inability to pay the present high hostel charges and at the same time to save money to purchase houses of their own?
– I shall examine the honorable member’s question and, if it is possible to do so, I shall make a statement along the lines indicated by him.
– Can the Prime Minister name the government that was in office when the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act, which was referred to in a petition presented to the House to-day by the honorable member for Perth? Alternatively, will the right honorable gentleman name the government that was in power when the section of .the act that was referred to by the honorable member in presenting the petition became law?
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member’s question comes within the definition of a question on a matter of urgent importance which requires immediate attention?
– I have always assumed that the presentation of a petition is a most urgent matter because it is the first business Balled on each sitting day. The petition to which the honorable member for Griffith, has referred is in the possession of the House, and he is entitled to seek information from the Prime Minister about matters that are referred to in it.
– I do not remember the date on which the act to which the honorable member has referred was passed. I shall ascertain the date, and give it to him to-morrow at question time.
– I desire to ask a ques tion of the Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Commerce and Agriculture.
– If I shall not be in order in asking a question of the UnderSecretary for Commerce and Agriculture in relation to a letter that was written by him, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether his undersecretary, on his behalf, replied to a letter from the Richmond Labour Women’s Shopping Guild, in which the guild protested against the increase of price of butter and requested that no further increases of the prices ofprimary products be granted until an inquiry has been held by a tribunal that would be empowered to take evidence on oath and before which witnesses would be subject to crossexamination. Since that letter was written, has the Minister’s attention been directed to the fact that trade unionists, in order to justify the price that they receive for their labour, are at present endeavouring to prove their case before a tribunal, before which they are subject to cross-examination and are obliged to give evidence on oath? In view of the letter that was written by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Commerce and Agriculture-
– Order ! The honorable member may question a Minister only with respect to a matter that comes within his jurisdiction.
– Will the Minister recommend to the Government that, in future, increases of prices of primary products will not be granted unless such are justified as the result of a suitable and independent investigation such as is conducted in the determination of the wages of the workers ?
– The adjustment of the domestic prices of primary products insofar as the Australian Government is responsible for them is confined to wheat and dairy produce. The present system was originated by a Labour government, and in each instance a tribunal, which neither of the industries concerned regarded as being satisfactory or acceptable, determined the prices of those products.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must not interject.
– It is a lie.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– I am so used to these larrikin remarks-
– Order ! The Minister must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. The honorable member has suggested that the dairying industry was satisfied with the tribunal to which I have referred. The truth is that that tribunal made a majority recommendation and the Government that he supported rejected it and, instead, accepted the minority recommendation that the dairy-farmer be paid a price for butter that was 2d. per lb. less than the price that was indicated in the majority recommendation.
– When the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is giving final consideration to the proportion of 20 per cent. of Australian leaf to be used in the manufacture of tobacco in Australia, will he also take into consideration the present policy of manufacturing interests of importing rather than manufacturing tobacco in increasing quantity? The policy has the effect of reducing the quantity of Australian leaf being consumed locally, although the local market for tobacco is continually expanding.
– The matter that the honorable member has raised is administered by the Minister for Trade and Customs, but I am co-operating with him on the subject and we propose to confer about it this afternoon and later this week. I assure the honorable member that the Government intends to ensure that a satisfactory market shall be provided in this country for all Australian tobacco leaf of suitable and acceptable kinds.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the precarious position in which parliamentary undersecretaries find themselves to-day. The position should be clarified. Will the right honorable gentleman inform me when I may expect to receive an answer to question No. S on the notice-paper in relation to this matter ? I remind him that the question has remained unanswered since the conclusion of the last sessional period of the Parliament.
– I do not know.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. Will you tell the House whether you and the Prime Minister have yet resolved your differences about the status of under-secretaries, and, if so, with what result ?
– As far as I know, there is nothing to resolve.
– Can the Prime Minister say when I may expect an answer to question No. 3 on the noticepaper, which relates to parliamentary under-secretaries and certain other matters ?
– There are many questions on the notice-paper. Some of them require considerable investigation, and we answer them as soon as we can.
– I made representations recently to the PostmasterGeneral to continue the system of imprints on each sheet of postage stamps sold by the Postal Department. Will the Minister inform me whether the department intends to discontinue the present practice because it is considered that the additional work entailed is unwarranted ? If it has been decided to discontinue the practice, will he reconsider the matter in the light of the interest that is displayed in these blocks by philatelists of many countries, and the substantial revenue that must accrue to his department, from the sale of the blocks, which are not put back into circulation by the purchasers?
– The practice of placing the printer’s imprint on the selvage of each sheet of postage stamps was discontinued because the imprint had caused considerable irritation of the postal staffs. As there was only one imprint on each sheet of postage stamps, complaints were received frequently from persons who had been unable to purchase stamps bearing an imprint, that the postal officials had not given them a fair deal, or that there was a surreptitious practice in relation to the sale of postage stamps. Before I decided to discontinue the imprint, I consulted various philatelic societies in Australia and submitted the suggestion to them. They said they thought that it would be a very good thing ,if the imprint were abolished. I have received many protests of the kind to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I am prepared to examine the matter again to see whether it would be advisable to put four imprints on a block of stamps, and so satisfy everybody.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a resolution passed by a meeting of professional, technical and clerical employees in Sydney, which expressed opposition to the applications by the employers in respect of wages and hours that are at present before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court? Was the resolution directed to this Government? If so, can he say why?
– I have not seen the resolution to which the honorable member has referred, but I have received a series of petitions, in very similar terms, from various bodies, including certain bodies of school teachers. The petitions have been addressed to me as the head of the Government, and have asked that the Government do something to prevent these applications. The answer, of course, is quite clear. These submissions are being made to the wrong quarter.
The only body that has jurisdiction todeal with them is the court to which the applications have been made, and that is the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. That is the reply which I make on behalf of the Government to people who are writing to me about this matter. It is not for the Government to determine whether the claims should, or should not, succeed. We have no power to make any such determination. The claims have been made to the court, and I have no doubt that the court will sit in judgment on them and make whatever decision it considers to be proper in relation to them.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government has granted licences for the export of Callide coal from Queensland to Pakistan ? Does the Government intend to ban the importation of coal from India, and thus save expenditure from our sorely depleted overseas balances as well as subsidy payments on imported Indian coal?
– If the honorable member wants a precise answer, I shall refer his question to my colleagues who deal specifically with this matter . In the meantime, I shall content myself with saying that the coal that is being imported with the aid of a subsidy, is quite different from the Callide coal to which the honorable member has referred. There are several types of coal, and we may well find it necessary to import coal of one type while we are exporting coal of another type.
– Some time ago I asked a question relating to the anomaly caused by the fact that whereas a pension paid to a. British war widow in Australia is subject to income tax, a pension received by an American war widow in this country is exempt from tax. I was informed that negotiations for a reciprocal agreement on the treatment of war widows were being undertaken with the Government of the United Kingdom. Was the Prime Minister able to discuss this matter with the United Kingdom authorities while ho was in Great Britain ?
– The subject under discussion has not been dealt with by me; but, if the honorable member is still awaiting some information on it, I shall inquire in the appropriate quarter and obtain an answer for him.
– by leave- On the 12th August, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) asked me certain questions regarding the operations of the International Materials Conference. The questions that he asked, and the answers to them that I now give, are as follows : -
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 14th August (vide page 372), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, f 1.3,500 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by fi.
.- I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the manner, methods and structure of the budget. It can truly be said that during the last twelve months no man in public life throughout the Commonwealth has been subjected to more criticism and abuse, in many instances grossly unfair, by misinformed people, than has the Treasurer. I consider that any Treasurer who was not prepared to face up to his obligations,when dealing with the great financial problems that confront the people, and did not have uppermost in his mind the welfare of the people, would not be worth his salt. In this connexion I think that we are justified in saying that the Treasurer has not sought shelter behind any form of party politics, because the section of the community on which will fall the major part of the burden imposed by the budget, consists of people who are followers of the Government. I am sure that history will accord a tribute to the Treasurer for the work for posterity that he has done in very trying circumstances.
Before dealing with the subject of sales tax I should like to pay a tribute to the committee of back benchers, under the chairmanship of Senator Laught, which during the recess, acting in collaboration with the Treasurer and working in conjunction with people who are vitally affected by sales tax and its anomalies, engaged in research in connexion with this problem and endeavoured to remove apparent anomalies. It stands to the credit of the Treasurer and of the committee that the majority of the recommendations that the committee made have been adopted, and have been incorporated in the legislation. We should pay a tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for allowing committees of this type to be appointed for the purpose of carrying out research and working in conjunction with Ministers. Such committees can make some contribution towards a solution of the problems that confront the various government departments whilst at the same time the honorable members who sit on them become better informed in relation to such problems. I should like to pay a tribute to the Prime Minister for establishing a series of committees to help Ministers. I am satisfied, from my own observation, that their work is extremely valuable. Never in the history of Australia has a Prime Minister had more loyalty from his supporters than the present Prime Minister has from his supporters. That loyalty is obvious, despite the attempts of the Opposition and a small section of the press, to drive a wedge between the members of the two parties now in office. The sections of the press to which I have referred are endeavouring to do so by printing garbled and inaccurate reports. However, I have bo doubt that the same atmosphere of loyalty that prevailed in December, 1949, will be retained not only throughout the life of the present Parliament, but also when the Government parties are returned to office at the general election in 1954.
I turn now to the incidence of sales tax in respect of an article known as a “stroller bag”. I am sure that representations in relation to this matter could not have come before the committee to which I have referred, or something would have been done about it. In these days, when home delivery of groceries and other goods is the exception rather than the rule, such articles as that to which I have referred are essential for young mothers. The article to which I have referred can be attached to a child’s stroller. This article is subject to sales tax of 33* per cent., on the ground that it is not a part of a stroller, although a stroller itself is completely free from sales tax. The Treasurer has been asked to rectify this matter, and I am sure that, if he does so, he will have the unanimous support of honorable members, and will earn the appreciation of all young mothers.
I now propose to refer briefly to the imposition of import restrictions. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) objected to my little “runround “ the country last year, although I travelled at my own expense. I visited the Old Country in June, 1951, and found that it was impossible to place firm orders for goods required by the industry with which I am associated. British traders were not prepared to accept orders from Australia until 1952. By the end of July, 1951. shortly before I returned to Australia, a rumour was current in Great Britain to the effect that the £1 would again be devalued.. As the result of that rumour, business people in the> dollar area and the Scandinavian countries cancelled their orders with British manufacturers. Consequently, it was possible to buy on the open market almost unlimited quantities of any kind of goods. Supply overtook demand, and British exporters, who had given preference to the dollar and the’ Scandinavian markets, turned their eyes towards Australia. That was the commencement of the flooding of the Australian market. We imported more goods than we could afford to buy. Some of the responsibility for that position rests upon the shoulders of people who had refused to ship and fulfil the orders that they had in hand, and had worked entirely on a quota system. However, Australian im porters began to buy more goods than the quantities for which they had orders in this country, because they considered that the British would not be able to maintain exports at the rate prevailing at that time. In September, 1951, the Austraiian market was flooded with the greatest quantity of imports in its history. The total value of those goods exceeded £1,100,000,000. At that juncture, the Commonwealth decided to introduce credit restrictions, and, therefore, Australian traders were confronted with two difficulties. They had to honour the contracts which they had placed with British exporters - and they had been importing goods in quantities beyond their expectations, and, indeed, beyond their ability to pay for - and they were compelled to meet their commitments on a cash against document basis. That was the beginning of a serious economic difficulty. On the Sth March last, the Prime Minister announced, on behalf of the Australian Government, the introduction of credit restrictions, and that policy saved the great majority of Australian traders from bankruptcy. Many of them have not been prepared to express publicly their appreciation of this action. We are greatly disappointed because we have been compelled to break faith with long-established British firms that have traded with Australia for many years. When requests were made to them, they extended the date of delivery so as to meet the market conditions in Australia. The tragedy of the position is that those Australian traders who “played ball” have been left with over-stocked stores, and their goods were manufactured at a time when costs had reached their peak. I commend the Government for its decision to refuse to issue import licences unless the contracts for the goods on order had been signed before the introduction of the import restrictions. That is one solution of the problem.
I now desire to congratulate the Government upon some of its great achievements. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) for the way in which he has implemented the national health policy of the Government. If the right honorable gentleman has done no more than achieve what he has achieved in relation to the checking of that dread scourge, tuberculosis, be would have earned his place in this Parliament. He is responsible for the substantial increase of the grant and sustenance made available to sufferers, while they are receiving treatment for, and recovering from, tuberculosis, so that they may not be worried by the financial position of their dependants. I express my appreciation of the great work that the Minister has done in that respect. “We realize that, although members of the Labour party like to “ take a shot “ at the Government from time to time, the provision of lifesaving drugs is appreciated by the great majority of trade unionists. This scheme has been the means of increasing the expectation of life, and accelerating the recovery of patients in hospital. Consequently, beds become available more speedily for other persons. That factor is important in these times when many people await hospitalization.
The provision of free milk for school children is an excellent scheme in theory, but is not so successful in practice. I have discussed the matter with some persons who are associated with the administration and distribution of the milk at schools in my electorate and from their own observations, I conclude that the time has arrived when the Minister for Health should examine the whole position with a view to ascertaining whether some of the milk is being wasted. I suggest that if waste is occurring, the right honorable gentleman should seriously consider the advisability of placing on headmasters the responsibility of making a requisition for the quantity of milk that is required for the children at their schools. By that means, waste would be avoided, because it is impossible to make some children drink milk. If the Minister acts upon my suggestion, economies will be effected, and, at the same time, the only criticism that I have heard against the scheme since its inception will be removed.
It is only proper, when the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) is abroad, that we should protect him from the unjust criticisms of his administration that have been published in some newspapers, and voiced by certain honorable members in this chamber. The Minister is now overseas on an important mission, which involves negotiations with the various governments with which we have entered into contracts in relation to immigration. I am sure that his visit will be really worth while in the interests of the general security of Australia. Had the Minister done no more in this chamber than sponsor the legislation to make provision for trade unions to elect their officers by secret ballot, he would have earned his place in the Government. Opposition members vigorously opposed that legislation, but we know that, throughout the Commonwealth, many decent loyal trade unionists have availed themselves of it to root out the well-known Communist minority that has taken control of various organizations. I cite only one example - that of Mr. L. Short, the secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association. I am sure that this legislation has the support of the great majority of trade unionists, and, indeed, it should have the backing of every honorable member, because the principal objective of that act is to deal with the Communist menace to the security of Australia.
Much criticism of Australia House has been voiced. At the outset, I admit that I am prejudiced in this matter as the result of my own experience. I was greatly disappointed with the rudeness and indifference shown by those in authority towards persons who desire to pay their respects to the representative of the Australian Government at Australia House. Honorable members may be interested in the strength of the staff there. I have not been able to obtain the figures for 1951-52, but I find that, in the previous year, 96 persons from Australia and 107 persons from the United Kingdom were permanent employees; 584 persons from the United Kingdom were temporary employees ; and, in addi- tion, there were 85 service personnel and 54 scientific trainees - a total of 935- persons who were representing ‘the Commonwealth in Great Britain. I consider that we are not obtaining value for the money that we expend to keep those people there. It is the duty of every honorable member who holds that view, to say what he thinks, although by so doing he may lose the goodwill and regard of some of his colleagues. In my opinion, some one in authority should investigate Australia Blouse in order to see whether the general conduct of the place is satisfactory. I point out that in 1951 expenditure on telegrams, totalled £56,156, and that in 1952 it is expected that it will be £62,517. Cablegrams cost £15,545 in 1951 and are expected to cost £25,818 in 1952. Salaries and allowances cost £98,885 in 1951, whereas the Estimates for the present financial year provide for the expenditure of £161,000. I do not feel competent to say whether Australia House is being efficiently conducted or whether it is being run on sound lines, but I believe that some’, inquiry should be made in order to determine whether economic methods could be introduced and savings effected.
A matter to which I wish to refer in connexion with Australia House has its humorous side. In a recent issue of the English Women’s Journal there appears the following recipe for billy tea: -
Sheep shearers and boundary riders put an ounce of tea into a warm, dry basin and pour in a pint of boiling water. The basin is covered and left for about seven minutes and then the tea is strained into a china jug. When it is required, a tablespoon of cold tea is put in the cup with milk and sugar and the cup is then filled up with boiling water.
Australians would regard that recipe facetiously, but I happen to know that the person who wrote the article in the Women’s Journal has been subjected to the greatest criticism by people throughout the Commonwealth. The tragedy is that it was from the News and Information Department at Australia House, which has a staff of 21 employees, that the woman who wrote the article secured the recipe, a fact which does not augur well for the efficiency of our information services in the United Kingdom. “When we lost that great Australian, Sir Hugh Cairns, who came up from the bottom and ultimately became the greatest brain surgeon in the world, and was admired and respected by people in all walks of life in all countries, Australia House was not represented at his funeral. As Sir Hugh was a South Australian, a great deal of adverse comment subsequently appeared in the South Australian newspapers. In answer to such comment, a spokesman for Australia House is reported to have said -
I do not know why nobody from here went. Perhaps it was felt that Sir Hugh had been so long away from Australia.
I do not know who was responsible for such a poor tribute to one of the greatest Australians of all time, but I have received a great many complaints from people coming from overseas about the morgue-like atmosphere that prevails in Australia House, and I think it is time that somebody took action to clean up the place. Australia House should be a meeting place, for Australians, worthy of the respect of all who go there. Above all, its officers should treat with courtesy bearers of letters of credence from the Prime Minister of Australia.
The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) have previously referred in this chamber to the problems which confront the dependent mother or the dependent wife and family of a member of the defence services who loses his life accidentally. Recently I was informed that a widowed mother, who had lost her only son almost twelve months ago, has had as yet no payment in respect of sustenance and maintenance. An applicant must lodge a claim with the department concerned, wait for it to be dealt with and then be subjected to tests imposed by the Department of the Treasury. My. view accords with the views of the honorable member for Canning and the honorable member for Fremantle, that the dependants of a person who serves his country and loses his life, even in peace-time, should be entitled to the same repatriation benefits as the dependants of persons who lost their lives in the two world wars. Once a man becomes a member of our armed services, the Australian Government should accept responsibility to ensure that his dependants shall not suffer because of his loyalty, courage and devotion to his country and his willingness to serve, whether on active service or in peacetime.
I now wish to refer to the vexed matter of tax that was levied during the Chifley regime on “ made-up “ pay received by members of the defence forces. The question was submitted to the Taxation
Board of Review, and as the result of the hoard’s decision, the Taxation Branch was instructed that it had no authority to deduct tax from such amounts. Ultimately, the matter went to the High Court of Australia for decision. Persons who contributed ,to the Taxation Branch collections under those circumstances are not happy with the manner in which this Government has dealt with the problem. Pay was “ made up “ by employers as .a gesture of admiration and regard for those who were willing to serve their country.
The ‘continued refusal of” the Australian Government to accept a share of responsibility for the services that it receives from local government bodies is another vexed problem. A local authority which is obliged to provide lighting, streets, roads, power, garbage collection, and the general community services in its area, is justified in asking that the Australian Government, in conjunction with all other ratepayers, should bear a ‘portion of the cost of such services. No member -of this Parliament, and indeed, no government, could say that this is a new matter. It was raised by the Adelaide City Council as far back as 1904. Yet to-day we are still awaiting a decision. Perhaps an opportunity will be given to local authorities to augment their revenue from land tax, in view -of the announced intention of the Government to vacate that field.
We all have an obligation in regard to the security and stability of our country. Honorable members, and all who are .associated with public life, should consider “whether they could make a move to bring employers and employees together, round the table, in order to discuss the problems which affect harmony in industry. Such a move might achieve unity, co-operation and understanding, increased production and a higher standard of living. The interests of employers and employees as well as those of every other person in the Commonwealth, would thus be served. However, after having listened to the debates in this chamber and having contemplated political tactics, I should advise the prospective parties to such a conference to keep as far away from politicians as possible.
.- Three times I have been the victim of speeches dealing with budgets presented by the present Commonwealth Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). For two years the people of Australia have been suffering the increasing severity of the disastrous economic and financial consequences of the Treasurer’s budgets. In the budget speech which the Treasurer delivered in October, 1950, he said that the peoples of the world had faith in Australia notwithstanding that the country was passing through a period of many sided development. Programmes of public and private works were being carried out to meet the greater, and wider demands of the future. Immigrants were pouring into Australia and immense amounts of capital were flowing into Australia from overseas. The Treasurer said that it was in times like those that real progress was made, population grew, industries were .built and new resources were opened up, and that those were permanent .gains. On the 30th June, 1950, the Treasurer said that the international reserve funds of Australia amounted to £650,000,000. He pointed out that there were shortages of equipment and materials and that prices had risen. But, according to him, during the war and the post-war period, prices and costs had risen in other countries further and faster than they had in Australia.
A Labour government had been in office for eight years and had steeled this country through a total war before the Treasurer introduced the first budget of the present Government. It had rehabilitated hundreds of thousands of men and women from the armed forces. It had transferred armies of workers from the tasks of war to the tasks of peace. It had hearkened to the warning of history - populate or perish. It had absorbed hundreds of thousands of people into the economy of this country from countries overseas. It had listened to the cries of those who had fought in Europe and elsewhere against the tyrannies of Communist and fascist totalitarianism, and who, as a result, were languishing in the camps of displaced persons. The Labour Government gave to them a home.
In. periods of war, shortages of the requisites of peace are created and prices rise. When a country seeks to absorb vast numbers of immigrants its needs become greater. I ask honorable members to consider any period of great development in the history of the world such as that which occurred in Canada, the United States of America, or South America. In periods of great and rapid development there have always been shortages pf labour and materials. There has been an excess of demand over supply which is the proof of an expanding economy. The demand provides an incentive for production. No country is entitled to bring immigrants from other parts of the world unless it has jobs waiting for them. Consequently, in a period of great development, a country cannot have a. large supply of goods awaiting consumption by those who immigrate to it because the immigrants themselves are required for the purpose of overcoming a shortage of goods. When the Treasurer made his budget speech in 1950 the demand for labour and materials in this country far exceeded the supply. The standard of living of the average man and woman was increasing, The Treasurer alleged that his budget would solve the problem of shortages in man-power and materials. What happened? The shortage of materials was accentuated and prices rose as they bad never risen before. When the Treasurer introduced his next budget, in September, 1951, he admitted that prices had risen and that shortage of materials was more acute than it had been in the previous year. He said that the Government would grapple with this problem by introducing a budget of sacrifice. The sacrificial objects were to he the average man and woman, the age and invalid pensioners, the war pensioners, and other people who were living on fixed incomes. He proposed to increase taxation on companies ‘indiscriminately by 10 per .cent., without giving consideration to whether . or not they manufactured essential goods. The result was that he encouraged no industry in this country. Re imposed additional .taxation of 10 per cent, upon the incomes of -the average men and women .of Australia in order, o he said, *to drain away the excess purchasing power of the people. He said that the Government had :to introduce restraints of every kind upon non-essential enterprises. He also said that during the war and post-war period there had grown up in this country mushroom enterprises that did not work for the benefit of the country, and that therefore the Government must destroy them. He declared that the Government would marshall ali its resources of capital, labour and everything else in an attempt to destroy our less essential industries, and that it intended to encourage the importation of vast quantities of goods into Australia in order to reduce the cost of living. Honorable members on the Government side cannot deny the accuracy of my analysis of the Treasurer’s budget speeches because the effect of everything that I have said may be found in the printed copies.
After the introduction of the 1950-51 budget, from June until November an enormous quantity of goods was imported into Australia. Indeed, the quantity was so vast that for three months our adverse trade balance was 270,000,000. In November, 1951, the Opposition drew the attention of the Government to the fact that Australia’s imports vastly exceeded its exports, and that the continuation of such a state of affairs would lead to national bankruptcy. No governmental action was taken. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that, the whole matter was a complex economic question, and that he and his Treasurer had their eyes upon it. At that time, while overseas goods were flooding the country, unemployment was growing in the textile and clothing trades. That unemployment mounted rapidly until in March, 1952, as the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) has indicated, the Prime Minister introduced import restrictions and sta.ted that that action was necessary in order to save this country from economic and financial disaster, and from international insolvency. It is hardly conceivable that in so short a time any government .could have done so much h.arm.
It is not we of the Labour party who indict the .Government; the speeches of the Treasurer and the declarations of the i-Time Minister do so. The Prime Minister said that it was essential .that .such restrictions .should be imposed upon imports as had never before been imposed in order to save our national solvency and prevent economic and financial disaster.
I remind honorable members again of the declaration made by the Treasurer when he introduced the 1950-51 budget. He said that the people of the world had full confidence in Australia, that real progress was being made and that immense amounts of capital were flowing in from overseas to aid in our development. The Treasurer said that only little more than a year ago. Yet now unemployment is widespread and developmental works have been brought practically to a standstill. State governments are unable to raise the necessary moneys to carry out their educational schemes as they have been carried out in the past. Hospitals are not only unable to expand, but also have to charge immense sums for the accommodation of patients. The result is that thousands are not able to make use of hospital services and have to remain outside and die. That is another indictment of this Government’s economic measures.
The Government has caused a recession in Australia, and now it would have us believe that it will cure all the ills of the past by its 1952-53 budget. Let us consider what this budget will do. The 1951-52 budget was designed to remove the ills of the people of Australia by the imposition of heavy taxation. That taxation was mostly borne by the average man and woman. Now the Government, through its budget, claims that by reducing taxation it will eliminate the same evils that it said last year could be eliminated only by the imposition of heavier taxation. The previous taxation was borne by the members of the community whose incomes are average, but the benefits of reduced taxation under the 1952-53 budget will be enjoyed by the wealthy few. It is inconceivable that the abolition of the land taxes - a gift to the wealthy land-owners in the city and the country - will put one more man into employment, make one product more plentiful or reduce the price of any commodity in Australia. “Who can conceive that the reduction of company tax, and the elimination of the 10 per cent, tax levy on companies as indiscriminately as it was imposed in the first place, will put one man to work or reduce commodity prices? This budget has been described as an incentive budget designed to destroy the twin evils of unemployment and inflation. But it is a bankers’ budget and a companies’ budget that will make conditions in Australia, not better, but worse. It will cause unemployment, just as the 1.951-52 budget caused unemployment. lt is fitting that I should remind the committee at this stage that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) warned the country that the 1951-52 budget would lead to the formation of pools of unemployment and that, if those pools were uncontrolled, inflation would ensue and would lead to a recession. The right honorable gentleman’s prophecy was correct, and the cohorts of the Government were wrong. The Government then was leading the country, by blunder . after blunder, into national and international calamities.
The faults of the present budget have been dealt with clearly and in detail by members of the Opposition who have already spoken. I wish to be constructive. My purpose is to aid the Government. Therefore, I tell it that only by the adoption of a policy similar to that which was implemented by the former Labour Government can it make Australia prosperous once more. Developmental works should be in progress to-day from one end of the country to the other. Vast schemes for the settlement of ex-servicemen and others on the land should be in operation. Secondary industries should be promoted, not only because they provide the main source of employment for nativeborn Australians and new Australians, but also because they are reservoirs from which vast revenues can be derived, both in the form of taxation and in the form of investments that will enable governments and private institutions to embark upon programmes that will restore the conditions that prevailed in the days of the Chifley Government, a period that hn.s rightly been described as one of unparalleled expansion. As I came to Canberra from Victoria this week, I saw widespread devastation that had been caused by the recent floods. But I also saw evidence of the healing influence of spring, and I recollected the warning lamentation of the Scottish bard - 0 my country’s wiiitry state
What second Spring shall renorate?
Much harm will be done in the short period for which this Government will remain in office, but when the clarion call of the people recalls the Labour party, under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to take charge of the country’s destiny once again, as it inevitably will do, that glorious march to a wider and nobler nationhood that was interrupted in 1949 will be resumed.
.- We have just heard from the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) a magnificently inspirational call for the development of Australia. Every honorable member would like to be able to answer that call, but honorable members on this side of the chamber realize that some of his optimistic proposals are as impractical as is his pipedrea.m that the Labour party will displace the present Government in the near future. Only to those misguided Australians who depended upon some miracle to save Australia from the economic folly of the socialist era has this budget proved to be a disappointment. The capacity of the Government to provide social services is limited by its capacity to take revenue from the people without doing irreparable damage to the Australian economy. Tremendous demands upon the Governments’ resources are made on behalf of development, defence and the system of reimbursement of the States. Those commitments allow the Government very little leeway for the granting of the relief that it would willingly give to the people if its ability to do so were not so restricted.
Australians have claimed with increasing vigour in the past the right to be treated as an adult nation capable of handling its own problems of defence and development. This budget is ;i challenge to us to prove that we have the national spirit to undertake the responsibility for which we have clamoured. From the political point of view, it annears that the Labour party is not very happy about the budget. Its members. in their more responsible moments, realize that it will give to Australians all that they are entitled to expect from a budget at this time and under present conditions. Therefore, because there is o opportunity for them to make a stand against the Government on the ground of weaknesses in the budget, they have decided to take their stand, which must be made somewhere, on the issue of growing unemployment. The Labour party has always fostered the great delusion that it is the sole custodian of the interests and the well-being of the wageearners. Therefore, because Australians have more vivid recollections of the depression years than they have of World War II., it is not unreasonable that the propagandists of the Labour party - and they are good propagandists - should seize upon the unemployment situation as the ground for their attacks upon the Government. They propose to capitalize on Australia’s vivid memories of the depression. But I remind them of the answer that was given to a question asked recently by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who sought details of the number- of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit in 1947, under a Labour administration, and the number in receipt of the benefit during the week ended the 2nd August, 1952, obviously in the hope that they would demonstrate that conditions were better under the Labour regime than they are to-day. The figures showed that 17,401 persons were in receipt of the unemployment benefit in 1947. I remind honorable members that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration awarded a prosperity loading to workers in that year. In August, 1952, l3,39.1 persons were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. What happens to the Labour party’s propaganda about unemployment in the light of those facts?
The truth is that the Labour party is deliberately fostering a depression complex in Australia. No greater act of vandalism than that has been committed in Australia’s history. Days before the budget was presented, to the Parliament, the Labour party had decided to fight the Government on the issue of unemployment. Thus we witnessed the sorry spectacle of the Leader of the Opposition (Df. Evatt) .deliberately distorting
Me aims of the budget so that it would be .able to bolster this new .theme song , 44% -the Labour p.arty. ‘The Treasurer had given .a good account of the Government’s stewardship. The .duty of the Opposition is ito oppose, but it I’an out of ammunition early in the .debate and the committee ib.as heard .only a dreary repetition of the Opposition’s wail about the growth of unemployment with variations of the same theme. If there is to he growing unemployment, it will arise from an atmosphere conducive to such a tragedy that has been deliberately fostered by the Labour party. The Opposition’s recital began when the Leader of the Opposition delivered to the committee a lecture on scrambled economics. No one doubts the ability of the right honorable gentleman, but it lies in a field other than economies. The Opposition may convince the thoughtless that the Government is the author of all the nation’s current ills, but the incidence of unemployment is the completely unavoidable result of policies which have been followed by many people who have a greater influence on economics that that which is exerted by the Government. I refer to some State governments, some trade unions and many persons whose disinclination to do a fair day’s work for a day’s pay has made a material contribution to the present position.
The budget is a realistic document. Last year, the Government set out to correct economic difficulties with harsh medicine. This budget bears the first fruits of those unpopular but effective remedies. It offers concessions which can be multiplied if Australia is propared to face the challenge. It indicates that the worst manifestations of inflation ar-e under control. It is a. step in the right direction. One notable exception lies beyond the immediate control pf the Government and the Parliament, It is the persistent wage and cost increases resulting from the wage adjustment system and its effects on industrial conditions, That is not surprising. Economic mover ments cannot be stopped aud started over, night like a tap. They develop moment turn and mu.st be slowed by degrees. They are strongly self-perpetuating because of an attempt to tie the wage scale it© the cost QI living .and not to a (production index.
Those difficulties sprang from two factors which the Leader of the Opposition and his party would perpetuate. The first is the inflation of currency which began daring the war period when it was essential to use credit on .almost an unlimited scale to fight a war. Whatever justification there may have been for that course during a war, surely Australia, in 1.93 2, is too close to the appalling effects y( inflation to pass without the most scathing denunciation, the proposals that were put forward by the Leader of the Opposition when he stated that if his party were in power, it would inflate Australia out of inflation. No proposition could be more dangerous. The second Lictor was the right honorable gentleman’s desire to have full employment without any regard to such employment being fully useful and, therefore, fully productive. The Leader of the Opposition would have honorable members believe that in 1944 the great light shone upon the Labour party and that full employment then became the pivotal point of it3 policy. Did not the Labour party believe in full employment before 1944? Is it closer to the mark to suggest that there could not be anything else in time of war except full employment, and that the Labour party decided in 1944 to appropriate to itself the unearned credit for a situation upon which it had had no influence whatever? In the same way, the Labour party has appropriated credit for many other beneficial movements on which it exerted no influence. Those who see most clearly the worst effects of a system which provides over-full employment without a thought to its usefulness, know that the Liberal party policy gains considerably by a comparison with that of the Labour party.
The Liberal party has always believed in the principle of a job for every person willing and able to work, but the essential point is willingness to ‘work. Under the socialist conditions which emerged from the war, inevitably there was a job for every one. Jobs to spare existed for many people who were unwilling to work. The determination to till jobs without working became an article of faith that was of great use to the Communists in sabotaging the Australian economy. It helped to promote the very unemployment of which the Labour party now complains. Who values a job when plenty more are available? Is there any wonder that indiscipline grew, with a staggering and wasteful turnover of labour, as men squeezed the employment market for increases of pay unmindful of the truth that what we demand as producers of goods we must surely pay for as consumers of those goods? Wages, prices and profits rose. Industry developed and expanded under the mistaken idea that Australia would never have to face the competition of overseas products on the Australian market or fight to retain a place on overseas markets. Workers and manufacturers alike merrily priced Australian goods and services out of the reach of the world markets and, finally, out of the reach of domestic buyers.
When this Government made its appeal to the Australian people in 1949, it warned them that unemployment would appear again in Australia only if we under-produced the country into unemployment. For reasons which should have been perfectly obvious to everybody, that has happened now, and the Opposition leads the chorus of condemnation of the Government- as though the Government were to blame for it all. The truth is that if we are to recover from a position into which we have collectively drifted, we must now collectively work out our own salvation.
Now I want to talk about wages and standards of living, and the dreadful confusion of those terms which is blinding the sincere members of the Opposition to the best interests of the people whom they claim to represent. The Leader of the On position, in his address to the committee, said -
Labour takes the view that wage standards which have been won should be maintained.
The right honorable gentleman also said -
One certain result, of lowering standards would be to reduce community purchasing and spending power which would load to a most disastrous slump.
Thorn, surely, is a sample of the great confusion that is leading to the ruin of this country. No less an authority than the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) directed attention to the fact that wages and prices had risen, leaving the wage worker no better off. That is quite true. There is nothing new in it. The Government has been trying to establish that truth for years, but the distortion of its motives has encouraged the very difficulties for which the country must suffer now. Wages have increased but there has been no advance in our standards of living. Clearly, the terms “wages” and “standards of living “ are not interchangeable, as the Leader of the Opposition seems to believe them to be. One may expect the Opposition’s claim for maintenance of wage gains to have ft very great appeal to working people, and with good reason ; but the maintenance of wage gains means precisely nothing unless it is accompanied by increased production. I do not propose to canvass the wages case now before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I remind the committee that judge after judge in decisions given in times past clearly recognized the association between production and wages, if wages were to mean anything. If the statements of those learned gentlemen are not «trong enough to satisfy my friends opposite, perhaps they will pay more attention to the words of Great Britain’s left-wing Labour leader, the Honorable Aneurin Bevan, who said -
Trade unions can not expect to get higher wages if production dropped. I say to trade unions which are seeking increased wages - 1 don’t say they ought not to have them - “ Face the grim fact that you cannot get higher standards of living with lower production. If yon try to get higher wages, all that would happen would be inflation of the worst possible kind “,
Out of the mouth of that prominent leader came words of advice that may well be heeded by members of this Parliament. We should be wise to talk less of wages, which have no meaning unless they are associated with production, and to talk more of increased standards of living - a goal to which all of us aspire. It is obvious that the long fight for increased wages has been completely abortive. The trade unions have won the fight for increased money wages, only to find that they have, the shadow, without the substance, of improved living standards, because production has not kept pace with advancing wages. That would not have been so tragic had we learned our lesson without injury; but very serious injury has been done to this community. The situation is, perhaps, most clearly stated in the judgment of Judge Foster in the 1950 basic wage case, when he said -
Increased wage rates produce immediate and secondary consequences. They bring benefits to the recipients, they increase costs and prices to all consumers, they distort the distribution of the national income, they produce hardships upon some . sections whose incomes are fixed which includes workers as well as others, they produce problems of finance for public, private and quasi-public institutions, they increase the problems of private employers and may even threaten the existence of their enterprises. At some point the hardships are such that they oug’ht not to be imposed for they even outweigh the social benefits that flow from higher living standards and could be no real settlement of the dispute.
During this debate, Opposition members, particularly the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), have sought to capitalize the difficulties that are facing pensioners. Honorable members generally exhibit a deep and sincere concern for the .pensioners, the recipients of fixed incomes and superannuation, and those who are living in proud independence upon lifetime savings. These people are the real victims of the monstrous confusion between wages and standards of living. As wages have gone up and up without any gain in the standards of living of wage workers, the lot of the pensioners and of retired individuals has become unbearable. Trade unions, in the grip of wage fever, have condemned them to penury. Opposition members never cease to espouse the cause of the pensioners and to claim that they are the sole custodians of the pensioners’ interests. Some of their protestations are sincere; but many of them are made in the cynical belief that their utterance is good politics. The Opposition would do a real service to the promotion of the interests of this important section of the community if it used its undoubted influence on the trade union movement to keep costs down by preventing the useless scramble for increased Wages. thus bringing security to the aged and a real hope of increased living standards to the people - worker and pensioner alike - with benefit to the Australian economy. The wage system constitutes a continuing difficulty. It is beyond the control of the Government and it poses very special problems for a Treasurer who seeks in the budget to cope with a situation of unknown proportions and of unpredictable results.
It is true that there is room for criticism in the budget. As far as I am concerned, I should like the sales tax schedules to be pared a little more and the period for payment of the sales tax to be extended. At least the Government has faced up to the necessity for and the wisdom of handing back to the States responsibility for raising their own revenues. For too long it has been a chopping-block for the State governments, which have dodged their responsibilities and at the same time have blamed the Commonwealth in a most specious fashion for all the ills of their own making. The honorable member for Burke, in his magnificent confusion of thought about the development of this country, said that he would like to see in operation widespread war service land settlement schemes. I remind him that in New South “Wales the war service land settlement scheme has been brought to a halt because the State Government has claimed that it cannot obtain sufficient money from the Commonwealth to continue the scheme. From the inception of the war service land settlement scheme the New South “Wales Government has demanded that it shall have the right to administer the scheme as it wished. The scheme in New South “Wales is in a state of chaos because that Government places a higher value on the winning of votes than on the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land.
From the steadily rising production in the basic industries - in coal, steel, and power generation - from the reduced labour turnover, and from the declining, though still dangerous, Communist influence in the trade unions generally, it is clearly evident that industry runs more smoothly under a Liberal government than under a Labour government. The Government is confident that the economic policies that it is applying and those that, are provided in the budget will steer the
Australian economy through the present transition stage into a new era of high productivity, of rapid real development and of improved living standards for all.
– Ninety per cent, of the people of Australia are disappointed with the budget. After listening to the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), one wonders whether, when the Parliament more than 40 years ago decided to establish the National Capital at Canberra, it acted wisely or foolishly. The construction of this building in which we are seated and the transport to and from Canberra of members of Parliament representing constituencies throughout the Commonwealth costs a great deal of money. Honorable members will recall that, in 1949, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech told the people that if he were given the chance to govern Australia he would do so, not in a hole and corner manner, not through State and municipal councils, but from this capital city of Canberra. The honorable member for Paterson has said that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in their wisdom, have decided to return to the States their taxing powers. Does the Government intend to give to the States a proportion of the taxes that yield the most revenue, such as excise and income tax? To-day, unemployment is rapidly increasing throughout the community. Practically every industrial and business organization in New South Wales has dismissed some of its employees. Over 700 employees in the motor car industry and over 400 employees of paper mills have been sacked. Yet, just after the budget was introduced, the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), as the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, read to the House a statement consisting of thirteen pages in which he sought to explain how disemployment would operate under the Government’s policy. He said, in effect, that any -person who lost a job could find another elsewhere. In reply to a question that I addressed to him on the 7th August, he said that 31.000 vacancies were registered with the Commonwealth Employment Office. In common with other honorable members who represent metropolitan electorates in New South Wales, I have repeatedly telephoned that office in an effort to discover where vacancies exist; but I might as well have rung Rookwood cemetery for all the information that I obtained. Thousands of men are desperately searching for employment. I notice that the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) is smiling. I have received a letter from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) in which he has informed me that the honorable member is interested in this matter. Yet, that honorable gentleman, when he was speaking in this debate some days ago, merely said, in effect, that it was time that the workers pulled up their socks. He simply condemned the workers.
– Tell us about the Burragorang mine.
– The honorable member virtually insulted our Ambassador in Washington, Mr. Makin, of whom ‘ he was very critical ; but I suspect that his attack was inspired by disappointment because he himself was not given that job at Washington. I repeat that the Minister for Defence, taking advantage of the best broadcasting time - the prima donna hour - read a rigmarole about disemployment. In reply to questions earlier to-day about increasing unemployment, the Minister said that he could not indicate where an unemployed person could find a job. He added that jobs were not numbered. Yet the “ chorus girls “ on the Government back benches waived their handkerchiefs and papers when the Prime Minister and the Treasurer spoke about the Government’s employment policy. Those honorable members regard the budget as a God-sent budget. However, they remain silent when they are asked to indicate where unemployed persons can find jobs at present. It is time that Ministers ceased offering childish explanations about disemployment.
I have in my hand details of unemployment among tally clerks on the Sydney waterfront. I point out that these clerks must present themselves for work on twenty consecutive days in order to qualify for appearance money. Since the 1st July last, hundreds of tally clerks have been reporting daily for work, only to be told that no work is available. Many of them are obliged to travel considerable distances to picking-np points mid are considerably out of pocket in respect of fares. The following table, which was supplied to me by Mr. P. O’Toole, acting secretary of the Sydney 1) ranch of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia, shows the numbers of tally clerks who presented themselves daily for work on the Sydney waterfront since the 1st July and the numbers who were actually engaged: -
Mi-. TURNBULL - Those daily figures relate to the same men.
– I have already pointed out that if a tally clerk does not present himself for .employment on twenty consecutive .days each month he loses his right of pick-up. In any event these clerks have not been able to find employment in other callings. Having regard to these figures, I fling back in iiic teeth of the Minister for Defence 1.1 le claim that he made in this chamber, just after the budget had been presented, that thousands of jobs are waiting to he filled. There is not a job available for any person who is now being thrown out of work.
I come now to housing. The Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, in his speech on the Chifley budget, prior to the 1949 general election, promised the people that full employment would be maintained if the anti-Labour parties were returned to office. An amount of £26,547,000 was advanced to the States under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement during the last financial year, and in the current financial year it is expected that £30,000,000 will be advanced to the States for the provision of housing. Due to the greatly increased cost of construction since the present Government came to office, that amount of money will not build as many houses now as it would have provided during the regime of the former Labour Government.
– What about pubs?
-In view of the Sydney County Council’s poor record in the construction of new power houses, the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who is a. member of that council, should be the last person to talk about building anything. On the occasion to which I have referred, the Prime Minister stated -
The Commonwealth Government must accept lar.ye obligations of assistance. There is already n Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement. AVe will seek .its amendment s« iia to jjerm.it and aid “‘little’ capitalists “ (o own their own homes.
Yet thousands of people in this country are still without homes. At the 17th February last there was a shortage of 100,000 homes in New South Wales, of which number 40,000 were most urgently needed. It is a tragic state of affairs that, thousands of men who joined the fighting services and went overseas in order to defend this country are now unable to obtain homes. When men go overseas to fight to defend this country they should be guaranteed, in writing, that on their return they will be provided with homes. That would he in keeping with the spirit of Magna Carta, to which the Prime Minister referred earlier. Yet it was not until the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) threatened to resign from the Liberal party in protest against the inadequacy of the amount proposed to be made available for war service homes during this financial year that the right honorable gentleman increased the amount. Nothing is too good for the men who fought to keep this country free, and for the people who worked in the factories during the period of the last war to produce defence requirements.
Honorable members will recall the statements that were made by the supporters of the Government in connexion with wool tax deductions. Honorable members opposite claimed that Labour, by its opposition to that section tax, sought to help the wealthy wool-growers. I point out that the only members of the community that will benefit from the proposed abolition of the land tax will be the big land-owners. Doubtless the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) will be duly thanked by the Royal Sydney Golf Club at Ros Bay for his support of the proposal, which will result in a saving to it of about £17,000 a year. That club could hardly be called a workers’ club.
I invite honorable members opposite, who have supported the handing back of taxing powers to the States, to recall that during the depression, when New South Wales exercised its own taxin.tr power, the then Governor of New South Wales, Sir Philip Game, forced the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Lang, to relinquish office, against the wishes df the New South Wales Parliament, which enjoyed the full confidence of the people of that State. I consider that, in the interests of the people, the GovernorGeneral should call upon the Prime Minister to resign.
On three occasions since I ha”ve been a member of this Parliament I have requested the Government to grant one or two passes annually for air travel to our remaining winners of the Victoria Cross. Although I understand that about 90 per cent, of the Government members are ex-servicemen, my request has been declined. It is high time that we showed our appreciation of the valiant deeds of our Victoria Cross winners in the way that I have suggested.
The Government’s proposals in relation to sales tax will result in a saving of about £6,000,000 a year by the wealthy members of the community. I am quite sure that the majority of the wage and salary earner of this country would have been willing to continue, for another year or two, to pay the 10 per cent, income tax levy that was imposed last year, in order that the Government might assist the poorer members of the community - pensioners and the like.
The Government’s budgetary proposals in relation to social services are totally inadequate. Some honorable members opposite, who have stated that the Government’s proposal to increase age and invalid pensions by 7s. Gd. a week is a magnanimous gesture to those people, have complained bitterly about having fi pay 6s. 6d. or 7s. 6d. for a dinner in flip Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms.
– Unlike the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) we have not got half a dozen hotels.
– I do not mind the gibe of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden), because he will not he here very much longer. However, I think the honorable member is getting his “Davis” mixed, because I have not one penny’s interest in any hotel or hotels. La°t April, I visited Western Australia. T know that people who went there from Sydney ure paying £3 10s. a. week for a room. The housing position in that State is desperate. At the last general election the electors of the Swan Division believed the story that if a Liberal government were elected everything would be all right, and that this, that and the other would be done, but at the next general election they will return to this Parliament a representative in whom they will be able to repose their confidence safely. lt was never intended that private institutions of any kind should be a back-stop for the Government in times of depression. The Matthew Talbot hostel in Kent-street, Sydney, was established originally to care for sea-faring men. In July, 1951, it served 700 free meals a week, but now unemployed people are going there, and in July, 1952, it served at least 3,000 free dinners a week. The Prime Minister should be ashamed of the unemployment that exists in this country. Many people in Australia had confidence in the right honorable gentleman in 1949, and believed that the promise that he made then would be honoured, because the present Government parties were successful in the general election that was held in that year. They were successful again, in 1951, when the Prime Minister said that he had not. been able to honour those promises because the Senate had not permitted him to do so. Since the general election of 1951, the Government parties have had a majority in both the Senate and this chamber, but the promises that they made have still not been honoured. I venture to say that, if this Government remains in office, the poverty that exists now in this country will become even greater during the next few years. In that event, the only friends that the Government parties would have would be the pawnbrokers, and even they might find themselves in difficulties through having too many unredeemed pledges on their hands. Is there any wonder that there is unemployment in Australia when, for example, a clothing factory in Newcastle which is making Armv uniforms is using cloth m.anufactured in Japan? Must an Australian soldier have a uniform made of Japanese material hp^nre he can parade or go to war? The cloth should be manufa.pfci.T’pd in this f^untrv or i” the Un’tp.d Kingdom, pprtainlv not in Janan. The orders for the cloth were T>lacpd before the Japanese peace treaty was siE^ed.
I am sorrv that greater ass’sta.nce is not to be criven tn t”e acre pensioners. The GnvprnTr,oTif, ponl^l Jijivp <riv’>‘ri +r» thp^i at lp!”=t “mother £1 a wppk. W bon the (Tbiflpv Grwprn-mPTit was in nrvwr. the a.£re pp10^^ woo 31 rv°r pp^t. ^ the hocne ware. t”-dny it is only 29 per cent.
With food prices at their present level, an age pensioner has very little money left with-which to buy food after he has paid his rent. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) has told us honestly that the Government has not determined the rate of the age pension on the basis of the sum that a pensioner requires to live on, and other honorable gentlemen opposite have been honest enough to say the same thing. Pensioners are being told, in effect, that the age pension is all that they will get from the Government, and that if they need further assistance, that is too bad, and they will have to seek it somewhere else. It would be useless for the pensioners to approach the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), the right honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), or the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), because they look after their own interests and care very little for the needs of pensioners.
I am sorry that some of the money given to the States by the Commonwealth has been misspent by the honorable member for Bennelong. He roamed the world. He went to New York, but while he was there he forgot to order electrical machinery. He did not discover that he had not clone so until he came back to this country. The Balmain Council bought generating plant at that time, and the power from that plant provided almost the only light that we had then. The honorable member has always been careful to look after “ Number One “. On every occasion when a by-election was held in New South Wales, there was a black-out the night before the election was held. Yesterday, the honorable member put the last straw on the camel’s back when he condemned Councillor Triggs, a most upright and honest man. Councillor Triggs was the secretary of his trade union and fought officers of the Sydney County Council because they were sheltering the Communist narty. I have dealt with that matter in this chamber previously. Press reporters had to be excluded from the council chamber while it was being discussed.
Honorable gentlemen opposite talk sometimes of gerrymandering. In 1951, two members of the Liberal party who had not been successful at the election for members of the Sydney County Council were responsible for the election of a Liberal to the position of chairman of that body. The new council consists of five members of the Liberal party. Councillor Parkes W. Henson, a very decent chap, was elected as chairman as the result of a piece of chicanery. The election of the chairman should not have taken place until the newly constituted council had had an opportunity to meet, but the old council met quickly and, as a result of the votes of two men who had been defeated at the recent election, a member of the Liberal party was appointed as chairman. The honorable member for Bennelong3 should change his name from “ Calamity “ Cramer to “ Squealer “ Cramer, because he has been squealing in New South Wales. He was elected to the Sydney County Council on the promise to give light and power to the people of Sydney. I had hoped that we could trust the present Prime Minister and the present Treasurer at least to do something for the pensioners, who are always in the dark.
.- It is most unfortunate that I have to follow the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), because I am a little afraid that our contrasting accents may be too strong a mixture for the committee this afternoon. I listened with a great deal of interest to what he had to say. Although I could not agree with him less, I believe that he is perfectly sincere in the representations that he has made to the committee.
It is my privilege to address myself to the budget. I do not suppose that many people remember what I said when the last budget was presented to the Parliament. I described it as a piece of major surgery. I said that it could be likened to a tracheotomy, because it was a carefully considered incision in the constricted throat of the suffocating economy of the nation to allow it to breathe and enable it to recover from a desperate situation. I believed that to be true at the time, and I believe it to be still true. This budget can be described as a budget of convalescence. If our economy can have industrial peace and social quiet.; if it can be provided with all the things that are necessary to its restoration; and if it has the will to live and grow strong again, then I believe that it will recover. The only danger is the danger of a relapse. We can talk our economy into a relapse; we can price our economy into a relapse; we can idle our economy into a relapse : and we can be visited by drought. These, apart from war, are our four deadly dangers. Three of them can be averted if we have the character and the courage to avert them, and I believe that we have.
To talk of a trade depression when none of our export industries can supply the demand of a hungry world is simply silly. To talk of unemployment at a time when the doors of opportunity are open to all our people wider than they have ever been opened before, is criminal folly. At no previous period in our history have our export industries offered richer rewards to the nation ; but only a fragment of our work force is engaged in those industries. These are the stark facts of the present situation, and they provide the complete answer to those who are anxious to find a solution- of the problem that is posed by only one-seventh of our work force being engaged in primary industries and only two-sevenths in secondary industries, while four-sevenths is crowded into our tertiary or service industries. That lack of balance in our work force cannot be sustained. It applies in no other country and it can be justified, least of all, in this country where there is so much development to be undertaken.
To price ourselves out of business - and to blame business - is an act of lunacy. To load our prices structure until it becomes top-heavy is to invite disaster ; yet that is what we did during eight long years of socialism. It was done to cause disaster. It was a premeditated attempt to cause scarcity, social discontent, and, ultimately, disaster. But for the last two years and nine months of truly democratic government, devoted to the correction of that situation, we should have been out of business long ago. That applies to all our businesses. It is just not possible to add costs to prices, ad infinitum, yet that is the basis of our arbitration system. When Mr. Justice Higgins promulgated the now famous Harvester award he had no idea that, eventually, both labour and industry could price themselves out of business by the artificiality of their circumstances, but that is what has happened. Examples are innumerable, but the classic example is to be found in our public transport systems. If all the costs incidental to our public transport systems were added to both fares and freights, as perhaps they ought to be, it would be beyond the financial resources of the community to use those systems. That is what is happening, and it is abundantly clear that another formula will have to be devised, preferably by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration itself, to confine the costs of industry within the limits of the capacity of the community to meet them.
To idle our way through this unprecedented period of great remunerative demand in the hope that it will last forever is to be blinded by our own social and industrial excesses. Whether we like it or not, the rest of the world is going to work, and it has never before gone to work with the same degree of determination as that with which it is going to work now. We have either to meet that competition or surrender to it. The industrialization of Asia, particularly that part of Asia to our immediate north where there are countless millions of people, is both inevitable and imminent. Not all the fiscal devices known to mankind can protect us and our industries from the effects of these teeming millions of ‘people going into industrial plants equal to our own, and producing goods perhaps superior to our own. That is the challenge that we are forced, first, to recognize, and then to accept or reject. No matter how we may try to disguise the fact, the principle of Archimedes, which has been of such great value to science, applies in general terms to trade. It is just not possible for the industrial potential of Asia or any other part of the world to be immersed in the markets of the world, without displacing an equal weight of trade elsewhere. It is my firm conviction that the 40-hour week, reduced as it is to an effective 32 hours of employment, is a travesty of our industrious past, and a betrayal of our industrial future. We have inherited the means of production, distribution, and exchange - that phrase so dear to the heart of the Labour party - but we are denying the right of the present generation and of future generations to use that means of production, distribution and exchange to the best advantage and for the everlasting good of our country.
The three dangers to which I have referred - this senseless talk of a depression and unemployment of which we haveheard so much in this debate, the multiplication of our costs until we are nolonger able to bear them ourselves, and. the infinite leisure which has reduced industry to a farce while many acres of modern factory buildings stand idle, and millions and millions of pounds worthof factory equipment is silent, can be avoided; but there is no way to avert the danger of drought. Since 1946, we have had a succession of exceptionally favorable seasons with high prices and,, it is true, high costs in primary industries. It is these conditions, and these conditions alone, which have lifted our national income from primary production from about £43,000,000 in 1939 to no less than about £809,000,000 last year. Without that fabulous rise in the national income, which rightly belongs to the people who are engaged in the primary industries, although they very rarely get it, chronic scarcities would have lost their socialistic virtue and full employment would have been a meaningless term. But every good year brings our primary industries and the nation closer to a had year, and it is my duty to warn the Government of the economic consequences of drought. The fixed charges of social services and other inescapable commitments are based on our prosperity, which depends on the vagaries of our climate and the industry and ingenuity of a handful of people who are producing the only substantial wealth that this country has ever known.
But, superimposed on the four dangers that I have mentioned, is the danger of war. I believe that if the socialist government had continued in office after the 1949 general election we should have been at war now. That is not an ill-considered statement. It is based on studies that I have been required to make as a member of the first Australian parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs, and I express my profound gratitude to my colleagues for having given to me the opportunity to make them. Every socialist country worth investing has been invested by the Communists during the post-war years, except those countries whose people have had the will and the weapons to fight for their freedom. If it be argued that, in spite of the socialists, we have the will and the weapons to fight for our freedom, we should have been at war now; and if it be argued that we have neither the will nor the weapons to fight, we should have been subdued, just as China has been subdued over the same period of years. We can only avert war by having the strength to defend ourselves and the capacity to win and hold the respect of our friends. The former has been provided, for in this convalescent budget and I know the latter to be stored away in the hearts of our people.
This convalescent budget reduces taxation to a point lower than that of any free country in the world whilst simultaneously it increases social services to the highest point in our history, which is higher than that which obtains in any other free country in the world. As far as I know no other budget has ever done that, nor has any other government ever been able to do it. It was made possible by last year’s tracheotomy, and it can be sustained only so long as we are willing to work to maintain our national income. For my own sake, as well as perhaps, for the sake of the people whom I have the honour to represent, let me discuss in simple terms the budget as it was presented by the Treasurer. The estimated expenditure on defence has moved up from £169,500,000 last year to £200,000,000 this year. That is the price, in terms of money, that has to be paid for our primary security. The sweat and blood and tears are not included. Is there any patriot in this Parliament, or this country, who would suggest that £200,000,000 is too large a sum to pay for our defence in this year of very grave danger? Payments to the States are to increase by £16,900,000, that is, from £160.900,000 to £177,800,000. Yet the cry has been raised that that fabulous sum is inadequate to meet the needs of the States. When taxing powers are restored to the States, a matter about which I am pleased, and when the States have to find their own revenue in the next financial year, that sum could easily prove, to be too much, and to be beyond the capacity of the States of collect. The Estimates for capital works and services have been reduced without prejudice to war service homes activity, to the Snowy Mountains Authority or to civil aviation in relation to all of which increases are proposed. I must express my personal satisfaction in this connexion, because war service homes are an urgent necessity for the people who have so richly earned them and so clearly deserve them. Similarly, the Snowy Mountains Authority is of transcendental importance to the development of our country. It is not generally known that unless the waters of the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers are boosted by the waters of the Snowy River and its tributaries, there will be a defined restriction on the scale of irrigation projects that can be carried out. Since the Snowy Mountains scheme provides for the boosting of those important rivers, it is a matter of personal satisfaction to me, and of great satisfaction to the people of the Riverina, that additional sums are to be made available to that authority.
At a time when our air services are expanding in every direction it is necessary for us to provide aerodromes adequate for their needs. Only this Government has faced up to that urgent problem with any sense of reality. Both immigration works and the immigration Estimates have been reduced. In my opinion the time is surely ripe for immigrants to be encouraged to use their own resources to establish themselves as reputable members of Australian society. I must confess that I, for one, ‘have been grieved to read of the discontent that has manifested itself in immigrant camps. I am certain, from my own experience, that until immigrants are left to their own resources they will never establish themselves in our community in the way in which they have established themselves in the past and could establish themselves now if they were given the opportunity to do so free from bureau cratic control. Increases of wages, salaries and costs have boosted the estimated expenditure of the Postal Department by £9,700,000, Commonwealth Railways by £400,000, and the Broadcasting Services by a similar amount. Subsidies are reduced by £3,000,000 to £28,400,000. The reduction could have been greater had not the Government decided, in justice to the wheat-growers, to subsidize wheat for stock feed to the maximum price under the Internationa] Wheat Agreement. That is likely to cost an additional £2,600,000 compared with last year’s amount. Departmental expenditure, repatriation benefits, and social services have been increased. The grand total of expenditure is brought to the staggering figure of £959,430,000, an estimated increase of £55,530,000 compared with expenditure in 1951-52. That is due, largely, to increased defence commitments and payments to the States. Revenue, in spite of an all round reduction of income tax, and the abolition of the land tax, is expected to yield £959,890,000, or £460,000 more than the estimated expenditure.
Apart altogether from the repatriation and social services benefits, a sorely-needed concession has been extended to persons who have had the greatest difficulty in providing for the adequate education of their children. A concessional deduction for education expenses, up to a maximum of £50 for each dependent child under 21 years of age receiving full-time education, is provided in this convalescent budget. The concession will cost the revenue £1,500;000 a year, but as it will bring a measure of relief to the family, it is to be welcomed. A budget of nearly £1,000,000,000 can be justified only by the volume and value of our production. Any reducton of the volume and the value of our production, or of either, could imperil our economy. Conversely, every increase of the volume and the value of our production would strengthen our economy. Therefore, I describe this as a convalescent budget, which is designed to restore the body politic to economic strength. If there is no relapse, our recovery will be measured in the next twelve months, not by a thermometer in terms of temperature, but by a barometer in terms of trade.
– I have found so many disappointing features in this budget that my greatest disappointment is that the period in which I may express my views on them is limited to 30 minutes. Consequently, I shall be able to deal with only a few of those disappointing matters. I regret that the greatest relief from taxation is to be given to persons who need, it least, and that the benefit that is sp urgently needed by persons in receipt of small incomes is not to be granted to them. I shall analyse the budget to the best of my ability in the limited time at my disposal, and I expect to convince any unbiased person that my criticisms of it are perfectly justified.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has stated that income tax remissions will total £36,500,000 for a full financial year, but he did not tell the committee that a big percentage of that sum will be received by persons other than salary and wage earners. According to the relevant statistics, 2,634,000 salary and wage earners were employed in Australia in August, 1951. Their incomes have been increased, during the last twelve months, by basic wage adjustments totalling £104. At least, that figure is applicable to the capitay city of Adelaide, but for the purposes of my argument it is sufficiently accurate in respect of the other capital cities. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has pointed out, the workers, because of their higher incomes resulting from, basic wage adjustments, will be required to pay a greater amount of tax this year than they paid last year. Consequently, a big percentage of the tax remission of £36,500,000 will benefit persons who need the remission least, namely, those in receipt of incomes in excess of £2,000 a year.
I have taken the trouble to collect figures relating to the annual income of a fitter in the financial years 1949-50, 1950-51 and 1951-52, and I have made an estimate of his income for 1952-53. From those statistics, I shall prove that a fitter will pay in this year a greater amount of income tax in respect of his total wages, which include basic wage adjustments and margins, than he has paid in the past. I have taken into account <he reduction of 10 per cent, this year, represented by the abolition of the defence levy, and I estimate an increase of the basic wage by £2 a week. That is likely to occur, if the adjustments during the last twelve months are a guide. The relative positions of the fitter are shown in the following table : -
The fitter is one of the highest paid members of the wage-earning group, which numbers 2,634,000. A particularly bad feature of the taxation proposals is that the more children a worker has the greater is the percentage increase of income tax. The fitter with a wife and five children who, in 1949, paid income tax of 16s., and who will be obliged to pay £17 10s. in this financial year, will have been subjected to an increase of 1,500 per cent., whereas persons earning £5,000, £10,000 or £15,000 a year will enjoy a reduction of 10 per cent.
I challenge any honorable member opposite to prove that the figures which I have cited are incorrect. If he is able to do so I shall offer a public apology. I assure honorable members opposite that the figures were checked by the Taxation Branch- this afternoon.
What benefit will the 453,686 age, invalid and widow pensioners derive from the taxation reductions amounting to £36,500,000, to say nothing of the tuberculosis and service pensioners and those on superannuation? I suggest that they will receive no benefit whatever. What benefit will the people who are now tramping the streets of our cities looking for work derive from the taxation reductions? If we add their number - approximately 100,000 - to the number of pensioners and the number of wage earners, it will be seen that more than 3,000,000 people will either pay more by way of income tax than they paid previously or will receive no benefit at all from the proposed reductions, whereas the few remaining taxpayers of tho community will share the whole of the £36,500,000 which the Government proposes to hand out.
Let us examine some of the other socalled remissions which the Government proposes to make. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has said that a remission of company tax, amounting to £1,500,000 for the year, is proposed. I ask honorable members opposite to tell me how the ordinary person in the street will benefit from that hand-mit. If we go further and examine the so-called hand-out in respect of sales tax, it will be seen that although the Government has proudly acclaimed its decision to reduce sales tax in order to effect the total saving of £6,000,000 to the taxpayers of Australia, the sales tax schedule discloses some anomalies. For instance, the Government has decided to reduce sales tax on expensive fur coats by 16§ per cent., whereas sales tax on cake remains at 12£ per cent. Yet cake is a commodity which every working man must buy for himself and his family. Glass jars, which are used in preserving fruit, a kind of enterprise in which the wealthy are not interested because they have sufficient money to buy all the preserves they need, are subject to sales tax at the rate of 12^ per cent.
Now let us examine the boast of the Government that it intends to increase pension rates by 7s. 6d. a week. When the Chifley Government increased the age pension to 42s. 6d. a week in October, 1948, the pension then represented 35.4 per cent, of the basic wage, but the ratio has steadily decreased since this Government has been in office. The new rate represents only 28.7 per cent, of the basic wage. The Government seems to forget that age and invalid pensioners must pay as much for the goods they require as the more fortunate members of the community are obliged to pay. Surely they are entitled to have their pensions increased proportionately to increases of the basic wage.
I do not know whether the Government derives consolation from the fact that it has decided to double the weekly payment in respect of the unemployment benefit. A naive honorable member opposite has said, in respect of that proposal, “ Hurrah ! All the unemployed will vote for us now ! “ If that statement is indicative of the mentality of honorable members opposite, well and good. I warn the Government that its expenditure on the unemployment benefit during the present financial year is grossly underestimated, because the number of unemployed will increase considerably as the months roll by. In 1946-47, the average number of persons in receipt of unemployment relief was 9,371. In 1 947-48 the number dropped to 3,939, and in 1948-49 to 3,578. In March of this year it increased to 3,023, and for me week which ended on the 2nd August last it increased still further to 15,391. The figure in respect of the week which ended on the 9th August last is not available because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Molt) has instructed the officers of his department that in no circumstances are they to reveal to members of this Parliament, to the press or to anybody else, information which tends to show just how had the unemployment position is. Therefore, we do not yet know the unemployment figures for that week, and we shall not know them until it suits the Minister to release the details.
I come now to the proposal of the Government to vacate the land tax field, fi step which it apparently believes will confer a great advantage on the ordinary man in the street. Let us examine the position.
Sifting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– It is worth recording, for the information of the people concerned, that no one pays land tax Unless they own land the unimproved value of which exceeds £8,750. The reduction of £6,250,000 in taxation which would take place under the Government’s proposal to abolish the land tax would therefore benefit only those people who own land worth more than £8,750. The last available figures T can obtain concerning payments of land tax relate to the financial year 1940-41, and incidentally, land values were subsequently pegged at the levels obtaining in that year. In the year 1940-41, a total of £3,000,000 was paid in land tax. Of that amount, farmers who the Government has alleged will derive the great benefit from its proposal, paid £61,552. In the same year, the owners of valuable properties in city areas such as Pitt-street and Castlereagh-street, Sydney, King William-street and Rundlestreet, Adelaide, and Collins-street, Melbourne, paid £986,548 in land tax; pastoralists paid £656,417 ; retail stores, such as Meyer Emporium Limited and Anthony Hordern and Sons Proprietary Limited, paid £330,695; banks and financial institutions paid £300,879, manufacturers £192,388, insurance companies £177,455, miscellaneous bodies £162,615, brewers and malsters £148,026, wholesale merchants £139,531, hotels and mining and shipping companies £103,786. The fact that the farming community paid only £61,552 indicates the extent of the benefit that they will derive from the Government’s proposal. In his budget speech the Treasurer said -
Land tax was introduced in 1910, with the avowed purpose of breaking up large rural estates that were not being used to their full commercial advantage. The truth to-day is that by far the greatest proportion of the tax is levied on city land which is already fully developed and which could not be Bubdivided even wore the owners willing to do so. The Government accordingly proposes to vacate the land tax field on and from the 1st July, 1952. The cost to revenue in this financial year is estimated at £6,250,000.
It is a pity that the Treasurer himself did not vacate Parliament so that a newTreasurer might have the opportunity to prepare an economic policy which would get the country out of its difficulties. It is true that the breaking up of large estates was one very good reason for the imposition of the land tax in 1910. But when Mr. Andrew Fisher, the Labour Prime Minister, introduced the Land Tax Assessment Bill in this House he said - 1 hope that within a few years this Parliament will face this question in its broadest aspect, anr! see whether it cannot do something to prevent the unearned increment from falling into the hands of private persons, becauseiri 7113’ opinion it belongs to the whole community. . . . Unimproved value taxation is a sound principle, and while the incidencewill tend to break up large estates and help to develop the country from an economic point of view without any other embarrassing conditions, it is a proper kind of taxation for the purpose of raising Commonwealth revenue. Honorable members will see that the taxation applies nnot only to large estates, but to city and town areas, and, therefore, could not be justified alone on the ground of breaking up largeestates.
Does that statement indicate that the 1. ;i bour Prime Minister introduced land i »ixa don only for the purpose of breaking up large estates? That was one very good reason for its introduction but it v.- us also introduced for the purpose of raising revenue from one of the most l< -intimate sources - the people who derive the most benefit from public expenditure. 1 1 is the people who own valuable properties in such places as Pitt-street, Sydney, Cull ins-street, Melbourne, and King William-street, Adelaide, who derive the greatest benefit from the public expenditure of money on roads and footpaths and other public facilities. Those who derive the most benefit from ‘public expenditure should contribute most of the taxes necessary to meet that expenditure. Yet the Government has decided to vacate this fir-Id of taxation, and give the private banks, the insurance companies, the brewing companies, the hotels and other wealthy people who already have more money than is good for them, an extra £6,250,000 while it continues to impose on the working people and pensioners the indirect taxes which make the cost of living higher, and which prevent them from doing as much with their small pittance as they did before.
Not only should the land tax be retained but it should be increased considerably on properties the unimproved capital value of which exceeds £5,000, so that those people who reap the benefit of public expenditure may be made to pay for the benefits that they receive. At the moment they pay nothing. They have paid their land tax by increasing the rent of the properties that they own and control. If the rental value of land i? increased, the selling value is reduced. When the selling value is reduced closer settlement is facilitated. The Government has had to increase indirect taxation to recoup the loss occasioned by the abolition of the land tax. These heavy indirect taxes are more onerous to those who are least able to pay. For instance, a poor man’s wife has to pay just as much taxation on the sugar that she puts in her cun of tea as does a millionaire’s wife. Therefore, if the Government puts a tax on sugar or any other similar commodity it is imposing an unfair tax on the poorer people. The land tax ensured that those who derived the most benefit from public expenditure would put. the most into the public coffers. 1 do not consider that immigration is a cause of unemployment. Our present widespread unemployment has been caused by’ the unwise economic policy of this Government. The Government’s economic policy has been shown to be particularly unwise by its decision to relieve the wealthy section of the community from the payment of land taxes. At present there are 100,000 unemployed Australians in this young country that should be able to keep 25,000,000 people in full and plenty. That unemployment has been caused, not by the Government’s immigration policy, but by its unwise economic policy. I believe that if every immigrant who arrived in Australia during the last five years were to be sent back to his own country there would still be unemployment in Australia. Unemployment will remain widespread while the Government continues to impose credit restrictions and to give to those who have too much even more than they now enjoy. The Government should increase the land tax in order to break up large estates and unlock the land so that immigrants and our own people can put it to good use. Then our new settlers could help to produce the extra commodities that will be necessary if we are to pay for the import? that we need. Our present .troubles will not disappear until the Government tackles our economic problems in the proper way and unlocks the land. It is of no use for honorable members on the Government side to sit back in their cushioned spats and say that there is no unemployment, because at present there are hundreds of men walking the streets in a hopeless search for work.
There are about 400,000 invalid and age pensioners who are almost on the verge of starvation because of the inflater cost of living that is directly attributable to the policies of this Government. It i? of no use for you to shake your head. Mr. Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bowden).
Tn your position yon should be impartial. Four hundred thousand people are vainly trying to live on their pensions because this Government has increased the pensions by a mere pittance of 7s. 6d. during the last twelve months, while the basic wage has increased by about £2 a. week in the same period. The people will not thank the Government for saying that it has done a good job for the unemployed by increasing the unemployment benefit. The people want work. It should also be remembered that the unemployment benefit for a single man is only £2 10s. a week. If the Government wants to retain office it will have to set about doing something quickly. What it should do is to give the right to work to people who want to work. The Government should state its attitude to the basic wage and hours case that is now before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Perhaps I may say at the outset of my speech, Mr. Deputy Chairman, that I shall take no objection if you nod your head or make any other gesture which it is entirely within your competence to make. This stage of the budget debate lias, through the years, become more a discussion about the state of the nation than a meticulous examination of the national accounts. I shall not try to prove that a reduction of 10 per cent, of taxation is an increase of taxation, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) attempted to do, because I think that after the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had dealt with the right honorable gentleman’s arguments, no one would again attempt to raise them. I do not intend to fiddle about with a few figures on the back of an envelope; I shall try to discuss a matter that is essential to the national interest and to the state of the nation. That is the matter of production and productivity in Australia.
The relationship of production in this or any other country to national and individual prosperity and to the national accounts is very clear and obvious. I shall try very quickly to canvass the present productivity in north America, both the United States of America and Canada - as well as in the United Kingdom - as compared with the immediate pre-war period. I shall not weary the House with many figures. The few figures that I shall cite will be in broad and round terms. Moreover, I shall cite the figures that relate to the actual physical volume of production, not to money values which change from time to time. I shall not include primary production because that varies from season to season. The volume of present industrial production in the United States of America is double what it was just before the last war. The actual physical production in Canada is also double the immediate prewar production. But it must he remembered that in 1939 American productivity per capita was two a half times that per capita in Great Britain, and Canada’s production was much the same as America’s. I do not know the figures, but if I were to guess that the American production in 1939 was four or five times as great as ours, I think that I would not be far out. Now it must be remembered that notwithstanding its high pre-war level, American production has doubled since 1939. Of course, the American population has increased. If we make the most generous possible discount for the population increase in the United States of America and Canada, the increase of production is 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, greater than the pre-war production. Therefore, in Canada and the United States of America actual physical production has increased by 5 per cent, per annum during the last twelve years. I suggest that that is a remarkable fact considering the high rate of production in 1939.
The figures for the United Kingdom are not so spectacular, but they show that production in that country had increased by about 25 per cent, last year compared with those for 1938-39. Unfortunately, there are no figures for manhour production on an over-all secondary industry basis in Australia. Many estimates have been made for various industries, but the guesses generally vary between increases of 2 per cent, and 10 per cent, since the immediate pre-war years. One optimistic man has calculated an increase of 15 per cent. However, no reliable statistics are available. Perhaps the figures would not be very gratifying if they were available. My estimate, which is based on as objective study as I can make of a number of reasonably typical industries, is that the rate of man.-h.our production Las increased since before the war by 10 per cent. That represents an increase of considerably less than 1 per cent, annually. Furthermore, I do not think that many experts would be so optimistic as to choose 10 per cent, as the correct figure. These comparisons indicate the vast difference between North America at the top of the tree, the United Kingdom about halfway down, and Australia near the bottom. “What is the reason for this enormous variation in productivity between North America and Australia? We may claim that the resources of North America are vastly greater than those of Australia. Of course that is so, but North America has a vast population to consume those resources. Australia is probably better off in terms of resources per capita than is North America. We may claim that the climates are different. That is true, but the difference favours Australia. Canada is virtually frozen stiff for four or five months each year, and a great deal of activity has to be discontinued during that period. One might make many comparisons of this nature between North America and Australia, but the abnormal difference consists in an attitude of mind.
– What rot! The right honorable gentleman is crying stinking fish.
– That is the sort of attack members of the Opposition invariably make against such criticism. Apparently they cannot take it, but I warn them that they will be required to take a great deal more than that before I end my speech. The American worker has the highest standard of living in the world by a very long way. Any American worker, however humble his job may be, who does not own his own motor car and electric refrigerator is regarded with contempt by his fellow workers. America, the home of capitalism, is the country where private enterprise has achieved more than any other ideology in the world has achieved at any stage of history. This success is due to an attitude of mind on the part of the American people.
Every section of the population in America realized many years ago that the producer and the consumer are identical and that, if the worker does not produce, he cannot consume. The American goes for the lick of his life. His trade unions support capitalism. They encourage the activities of companies to make profits, and then they go in like bear-cats to get the biggest possible share of the profits for their members. And good luck to them ! I once asked an American worker how he defined democracy, or the American way of life, and he provided me with as good a definition as one could find. He said -
The American way of life is the opposite of socialism. Every man does just what he pleases within the law and so long as he does not harm other people. Every man tries to do his utmost and fights to get the utmost in return. lt is property without privilege.
– And without colour or creed?
– Yes. I recommend honorable members opposite to visit the United States of America at some time and travel across the continent from east to west so that they may see at first hand that great cornucopia of production, with great cities by the score, millions of farms and enormous factories with acres and acres of parking space for the workers’ motor cars. That productive energy explains why the people of the United States of America are now carrying half the world on their backs as well as supporting the highest standard of living in the world.
The American .worker and his very enlightened trade union leaders believe in getting a larger and larger slice from a continually larger cake. They are not interested in the corrosive and oldfashioned conception of a class war. Almost every member of the Opposition who has taken part in this debate has introduced this stupid propaganda in favour of pulling somebody down and breaking up the big estates. If that sort of policy were pursued to its ultimate conclusion, we should be a nation of peasants and workers at the bench. Surely we have had enough of trying to pull down. Surely we can do a little building up in this country ! It was this destructive and unprogressive attitude of mind on the part of Australian labour that made an experienced American, who was here for some time during World
War II., say that this young and beloved country of ours reminded him of a child with hardened arteries. “Honorable members opposite must take a great deal of the blame for the conditions that prompted that remark. The great di.frference between North America generally and Australia can be traced primarily to the fact that there is no body of people, organized or unorganized, in the United States of America or Canada that constantly advises the workers not to produce more than they have to produce, because, if they do so, they will make the boss fat and will not do themselves any good. That poisonous nonsense has been poured into the ears of the Australian workers for a generation or more.
– Who says that?
– I can quote a dozen such statements that have been made by members of the Opposition. Nobody in the United States of America tells the workers not to do any more than they have to do in case they work themselves out of their jobs. Nobody says, “ Remember 1930 ! ”’. But we hear that cry in Australia every day of the week. Do honorable members opposite think that American workers do not remember 1930 as well as the Australian workers do? The effects of the dreadful depression that started in October, 1929, are just as vividly fresh in the minds of Americans to-day as they are in the minds of Australians, but the Americans do not draw the false conclusion that production must be reduced to the lowest possible minimum in order to ward off another depression.
Honorable members opposite will say that I am blaming the Australian worker-
– Of course you are!
– I am doing nothing of the sort. I know very well that large sections of Australian workers are doing their utmost under present conditions. Large numbers of them have not been embittered by the poison that has dropped into their ears over the years. Rut. unfortunately, many others have absorbed the poison. Had I been raised under .similar conditions, and had all my knowledge about the economic situation been acquired from some Australian trade union leaders, I probably would have reacted in exactly the same way as many Australian workers have reacted. I do not blame the workers. I blame the leaders, both political and industrial, who pour this old-fashioned poison into their minds. These leaders have preached the doctrine of class warfaro for many years. They say to .the workers, “ Do not make the boss fat. Do what you can to keep your job, but no more “. These men have done a singular disservice to the workers of Australia and to the nation. The greatest enemies of Australia are those members of the Opposition who have preached a vested interest in discontent in Australia.
T shall refer now to the question of employer-employee relations. Men
Iia ve worked for other men for thousands of years. The worker-boss problem is probably the oldest in the world, but strangely enough it was not tackled scientifically until about 25 years ago. The man who is best known throughout the world for first having laid successfully the foundation of sane employer-employee relationship was an Australian, but strangely enough, hi.= name is practically unknown in Australia. He was Professor Elton Mayo, who died a few years ago. His name i? known widely in the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain and his brother is now a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia. That man is well known abroad for his work on human relations in industry, but I suggest that very few honorable member.? on the opposite side of the chamber have read his works or know his name. A knowledge of Professor Mayo’s work is essential to harmonious industrial relations between management and workers. I wrote a book myself in 1948 in which I dealt largely with this subject. I shall not bother honorable members about it now other than to say that the headings of the main chapters were, “A Job or a Partnership ? “, “ Worker-Boss Problems “ and “ Human Relations in Industry “.
To show what can be done when a man’s reward is related, in some sensible degree at least, to the production of his plant instead of solely to the time that he spends on the job, I shall give some illustrations of experiments that have been conducted in this country. The figures are remarkable. In 1948 an inquiry, which took more than a year, was held in Victoria by the Australian Institute of Management. It covered factories which had some form of incentive scheme or a plan of co-operation between the management and the workers. About 15,000 men were working under such schemes in Victoria in 1948. On an average, the earnings of those workers were 28 per cent, higher than they were before the schemes were adopted, and production rose by about 25 per cent. The report which followed the investigation stated that such schemes could be operated in any industry for the benefit of both the management and the workers. The public could benefit from reduced costs and the schemes were in no way detrimental to the workers. Some organizations in this country have introduced schemes for improved industrial relations, better planned organization and better relationships between employers and employees. The names of some of those enterprises are household words throughout Australia. Unfortunately there are not many of them, because much skill and time are required to operate systems of that kind which will be fair to both sides over many years and will not require alteration. The field that has been covered so far includes engineering, chemicals, timber, plastics, sweets and quite a number of other industries. Over three or four years, the average increased man-hour output in the enterprises that have adopted those methods has been no less than 35 per cent, over an average cross section of the wide varieties of industries concerned.
– There are not too many of them.
– I agree that there are not too many of them, but there are several dozens, and maybe several scores, of companies which have adopted those modern methods. They are in every-day operation over a wide industrial field in the United States of America. I have referred to the average increased man- hour output of 35 per cent, over a wide range of industries. At the same time, the reduction in costs for labour, overhead expenses and materials has ranged from 10 to 15 per cent. Workers earn.ings have increased by 10 to 20 per cent. The achievement in those industries could be duplicated in almost every other industry in Australia. I quote those figures to show the benefits that accrue if production is taken into account as well as the time a man spends on the job. If this were general, what a difference there would be in Australia! What a different set of accounts this committee would be debating, and howdifferent would be the standard, of living in Australia ! Honorable members opposite raise the old cry that the employers would get fat. Does the employer get fat in the United States of America at the expense of the worker? How do honorable members explain the fact that the United States of America has by far the highest standard of living in the world over the average of its people, up and down the scale.
Undoubtedly, the policy of the Australian Labour party is out of date in a great many directions. It does not keep pace with Labour thinking in other parts of the world, including the United States of America., Canada and Great Britain. What link have the honorable members opposite with the American Federation of Labour, the American Congress of Industrial Organizations or the Trade Union Council of Great Britain? When did they contact Labour thinkers in the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain? They have no contact at all. The Australian Labour party is living in a vacuum of its own. It is not taking advantage of the enormous advances in thinking that have occurred in other parts of the world. The conditions of the Australian workers would be vastly improved if the Australian Labour movement, political and industrial, took a. little more notice, of the activities of other Labour movements. I know that there is no link between the Australian Labour movement and those in the United States of America, Canada or Great Britain. It is to the grave disadvantage of the Australian workers that their political and industrial leaders have decided to let the rest of the world go by.
– What are the bosses doing ?
– I do not suppose anything that I can say will relieve at one blow this dreadful phobia about the bosses. In the United States of America the workers do not badger the bosses. Instead, they help them make more profits so that the employees will get a bigger share. This provincial or county council attitude towards work and production has placed us in the position that we are in to-day. Australia- should be a vastly more prosperous country than it is to-day.
It is a truism to say that we of this generation inherited wonderful things from our forefathers. In Australia we have an invaluable asset and we all dream our dreams about the great country that Australia will one day be. Are we always merely to hobble along, as we have done in recent years? Is it not time that somebody kindled a spark that will enable this country to develop a great deal more quickly than it is doing to-day? We tend to think that governments can do everything. It is true that governments can do much to assist in our development; but honorable members opposite tend to think of everything in political terms. They believe that by an act of ‘ parliament or an earth-shaking speech in this chamber everything can be achieved. There are many things - some of the things that I have spoken about to-night are among them - that cannot be done by governments. They must be done by employers and employees in their organizations, and by political parties, such as the Labour party, with its links with the trade union movement. A great responsibility rests upon the political side of the Labour party in respect of the ma tters with which I have tried to deal to-night. Instead of fiddling about with a few figures on the back of an envelope, instead of conducting a budget debate by concentrating upon matters that constitute the small change of politics, which must bore the Australian listening public beyond words, and instead of adopting an attitude of mind that a few figures on paper are of supreme importance, honorable members opposite would do well to inspire the people who look to them for political and industrial guidance. It is surely not asking too much to expect the Labour party to adopt an over-riding objective, and eschew attempts to gain a temporary political triumph but to do something positive for this country that will improve our standards of living and increase our rate of production to the greater glory of this country of ours.
.- I do not intend to reply to the speech made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) other than to say that recent election figures in the State from which the right honorable gentleman comes indicate ho will be missing from this chamber after the next general election and that he will again be given the time and the opportunity to get on the trail of the Bengal tiger. 1 rise as the servant of thielectors of Hume in this National Parliament to voice my protest against the budget and to commend the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for his splendid contribution to this debate. If I were called upon to express an opinion on what I considered to be the most vital matter that confronts the electors of Hume and the Australian people to-day, I should certainly not hesitate to say that it is the need to destroy this Government for its incapacity and inability to govern.
This long-awaited budget has stunned the electors. It contains no incentive to the primary industries to increase production. A few weeks ago I attended the opening of a new sub-terminal wheat elevator at Junee with a capacity of 3,000,000 bushels. Wheat-farmers from all over the Riverina who attended th.ceremony, stated that, because of the high taxes imposed by this Government, they had decided not to produce wheat. We all are aware that the wheat acreage has greatly diminished because of the lack of incentive to farmers to increase the production of wheat. The budget has also shocked the business community and has engendered fear in the mind of every Australian. lt will add further to the ranks of the unemployed. In my own electorate the Forestry Commission of
New South Wales is already dismissing its employees, fruit-packing houses at Batlow are reducing their staffs, and seven or eight timber mills are working with skeleton staffs because of the credit restriction policy applied by this Government. The Government’s sorry record of broken promises is well known to every Australian citizen. This budget is a complete repudiation of Government promises and should result in the dismissal of the Government from office.
Let mc compare briefly the record of this Government with that of the governments led by the late Mr. John Curtin, and the late Mr. J oseph Benedict Chifley. This Government was elected to office as the result of promises made to the people that it would reduce taxes and put value back into the £1. The last Chifley budget, which was presented in 1949-50, provided for taxation amounting to a total of approximately £504,000,000. The budget presented by the present Treasurer in 1.951-52 provided for taxation totalling £990,000,000. In the present budget the total taxation amounts to £S63,000,000, which, compared with the last Chifley budget. represents an increase of £359,000,000. Three days after the Curtin Government assumed office Mr. Curtin said -
T.Kt it be clear - Australias war effort will be increased. We know that only the very uttermost will suffice, and we are determined that it will bc achieved.
That promise was kept. Australia was saved from invasion and our women and children never knew the horrors associated with an invading army. Everybody knew the deplorable position that existed at that time. Although Australia had been at war for two years we had an army of 250,000 unemployed persons. Even the Baily Telegraph agreed that the Labour Government had taken office at the most critical period in the history of Australia. In an editorial that journal said that we were a nation totally unprepared for war. At that critical period the English publication John Bull said -
We could lose Australia and win it back.
We were fortunate to have leaders with the courage and capacity of the late Mr.
John Curtin. Labour’s late leader, Mr. Chifley, when speaking in this chamber in 1949 about what his Government had done, said -
We are going forward, never backward. That promise also has been kept and to-day our economy is on a sound basis. There is no unemployment. The people ave better oil’ than they have ever been before.
At that time Australia was experiencing unprecedented prosperity, unemployment did not exist and there was no stagnation in business. Recently, in the conduct of my own business, I was obliged to give a direction that no additional purchases be made for at least eighteen months. I could see what was coming. To-day our textile factories and practically every retail business associated with the industry are stagnating.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should arrange for a referendum to be taken in order to test the people’s reaction to the budget and to discover whether he, or King Farouk, is the more unpopular. The Treasurer’s budget speech, which lasted one hour and a quarter, had all the elements of an oration by Hitler. Whenever Hitler spoke in public, his hearers were obliged, regardless of what he said, to punctuate his remarks with cheers. Similarly, supporters of the Government were put through the hoops ; their master gave them a pep talk in order to buck them up in an endeavour to save the Government from the wrath of the people. After taking into account the concessional allowance of £50 in respect of expenditure for the education of each dependent child under the age of 21 years, the removal of the means test hitherto applicable to parents of invalids under which invalids between 16 and 21 years of age were disqualified from receiving a full pension and also the increase of unemployment benefit, because the Government recognizes that unemployment is snowballing, the budget offers little or no relief to the taxpayers. On the other hand, the Government has repudiated almost every promise that it made to the people at the last two general elections. The paltry reduction of sales tax is nothing less than disgraceful. The proposed new rates of that tax will ruin thousands of businesses-
The budget as a. whole is a complete repudiation of the Government’s promise to put value back in the fi. I hold in my hand a letter that I received recently from the president of the Silver and Electroplate Ware Manufacturers Association which states -
Members of this industry sire gravely Collcerned lit the failure of the Treasurer to provide in the budget a reduction of sale? tax on tableware, and have forwarded the following telegram to the Treasurer, “ Sales tax concession insufficient to save industry which now only employs S per cent, of labour strength. Vivo factories closed in last niue months more will now f<,>.:low. Ridiculous : 1/:£t industry which survived two wo. rs and depression’ has been taxed out of existence Urgently request re-consideration of our sub mission for lower rate on tableware “.
That request is completely justified. The paltry increase of the age and invalid pension is cruel and unjust. It will not give to pensioners sufficient to purchase the bare necessaries of life. In many instances, sons of these aged people shed their blood in defence of this country in the two world wars. Is this the best the Government can offer to them? I recall that a few years ago the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) declared that the aged and infirm should not be a tax upon the community. Apparently, he believed that members of this needy section of the community should be thrown on the scrap-heap. The paltry increase of the pension of 7s. 6d. a week is cruelly insufficient. It is useless for supporters of the Government to deny that the pensioners as a whole are in a tragic position. With al] the strength that I can command, I appeal to the Government, even at this late hour, to show mercy and kindness towards the age and invalid pensioners. I make a similar appeal also on behalf of recipients of other social services. When one compares the Government’s treatment of the aged and infirm with its treatment of the wealthy land monopolists and large city squatters, it is clear that it is looking after its wealthy friends and is prepared to forget about the claims of the needy sections of the community. As a result of the abolition of land tax, the wealthy interests that I have mentioned will benefit to the tune of £6,250,000 a year. Under that proposal, as one of my colleagues has pointed out, an exclu- ave golf club will escape land tax amounting to £17,000, whilst wealthy breweries will benefit to the tune of £1,000,000. The tax concessions that the Government now proposes to make will total less than £50,000,000. But. last financial year increases of taxes exceeded £200,000,000. Thus, the Government, instead of honouring the promises that it made during the general election campaign.* in 1.94.9 and 1953 to reduce taxes and to put value back into the £i. has. since it assumed office, increased’ taxes by £150,000,000. It is small wonder, therefore, that it now stands condemned by not only the Labour party but also by hundreds of thousands of persons who voted it into office at the last two general elections. To-day, the great majority of Australians are the victims of this Government’s inflation complex. The most recent quarterly adjustment of the basic wage shocked the entire community. If the present Government parties had taken Labour’s advice in 1943 and had not opposed Labour’s referendum proposals to give to this Parliament power to control prices on an Australia-wide basis we should not be in the position in which wo find ourselves at present. If this Parliament had that power it could automatically control wages.. It was welcomed by no one. The present Government has failed dismally to deal with the inflationary spiral, although we were led to believe that it would be a cure-for-a.ll government. In the last two years the basic wage has risen by £4 13s. in spite of the Government’s pledges tha.! it would put value back into the £1. reduce taxation, cive homes to the people, and float a £250,000,000 interest-free loan to enable local governing bodies throughout Australia to build roads and bridges. This Government has failed to honour its pre-election promises of 1949 and 1951. The 1951-52 budget clamped taxation on every one. Sales tax was applied most viciously, and in a way designed to develop buyer resistance on day-to-day requirements. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were convinced that they were about to usher in a kind of golden age. According to those right honorable gentlemen, no one would get hurt in the process. Inflation was to be slaughtered in one fell blow.
They admitted that there might be a. small pool’ of unemployment, but stated that the unemployed persons would not be in the pool for very long, because they would soon be rescued.
Since this Government has been in office it has lost the moral support of its rank-and-file members. It has been rejected in almost every State. Let us consider the defeat of the anti-Labour candidate in the Ashfield by-election. The Ashfield State electorate is studded with businessmen, retailers and captains of industry. There was no element of uncertainty about their pro-Labour vote, in spite of the intensive campaign of the torch-bearer for the Liberal party. I have no hesitation in saying that when the Menzies Government again faces the electors, whether in this year, next year, or in 1954, it will be annihilated, because the results of its administration will be a. wrecked economy, thousands of persons unemployed, an exhausted loan market, a vast adverse trade balance, a greatly depreciated currency, and a lowering of Australia’s prestige. It has forfeited the respect of the people who put it into office, and it has lost control completely of the direction of its own finances. On one occasion the Prime Minister stated in this chamber : “ We are prepared to be judged on our record”. That suits me and all other honorable members on this side of the chamber. It also suits the electors of Australia, The sooner that the right honorable gentleman precipitates an election to enable the people of this country to judge the Government on its record, the better we will be pleased, and the sooner the country will bo put back on the road to prosperity. However, I do not think that a. general election will be held until the Government has run for its full term. It has not the courage to face the people, in view of the results of the recent byelections. The Ashfield seat in the New South Wales Parliament had been held for more than 50 years by the antiLabour parties. The swing in Ashfield was about 9 per cent. In the previous election the retiring member had gained a majority of almost 4,000 votes. This indicates that in a general election there would be a political landslide in which the Government would be com pletely annihilated as a punishment for the many false promises on which it snatched office.
No economic disturbance such as we have witnessed during the last twelve months occurred during the regime of the former Labour Government, despite the fact that it had to fight the Japanese enemy without and the racketeering enemy within. In the post-war period Labour absorbed thousands of exservicemen and ship-loads of new Australians into civilian employment. There was no suggestion of economic disturbance. The former Labour Government encouraged the establishment of factories in both country and metropolitan districts with the object of making Australia a self-contained nation. The effect of the present Government’s suicidal decision to give an open go to the rich importers is now being reflected in unemployment at those factories. The young children who are now growing up in country areas will not be able to obtain employment in local factories, and consequently they will drift to the cities. There is not the slightest reason why this country should be faced with a depression no more logical than the last one. In the light of the lessons of the depression of the ‘thirties the Government should have been able to avoid the present state of affairs. As one newspaper hasexpressed the position, the Government, like the Bourbons, has shown no capacity to learn from practical experiences. It still has its head down in the blueprints, and it is hoping against hope that something- will turn up. As the experts who are advising the Government now are the same ones as advised the antiLabour Government in the depression years, it is reasonable to assume that the same mistakes will be made.
This- budget will not solve any of our basic problems. It is now far too late for a reduction of taxes to cure anything, because the Government has lost the confidence of the people. I express the sentiments of many people of this country when I ask how soon can we get rid of the disaster experts, the horror budget, and the catastrophic Menzies Government? As these questions are complementary, it is of no use our tackling one alone. The joh ahead must be to reverse everything that has been done by the present Government. Everything that it has done during the past year has been wrong and honorable members opposite appear to be utterly incapable of understanding that disemployment is merely another name for unemployment. Many immigrants are unemployed. I have before me a copy of the Sun News-Pictorial of the 13th August, which contains an article about unemployed Italian and Maltese immigrants who have decided to return to their native countries. The photograph which accompanies the article, showing the immigrants with their luggage packed ready to leave, is a very poor advertisement for Australia. One immigrant, 21 years of age,, was reported to have stated -
I’ve been here six months and out of work for three. Migrants are still coming out. I think it is a disgrace.
Another, nineteen year3 of age, stated - ,
I’ve been here ten months, and out of work for a month. Once you lose a job it’s almost impossible to get another.
A third, twenty years of age, stated -
I arrived seven weeks ago and haven’t had a job. I’m going home before all my money is gone.
Still another, eighteen years of age, stated -
I have not had a job in five months. I’m convinced there is no chance for a migrant at present; that’s why I’m going.
As honorable members know, the Sun News-Pictorial has no association with the Labour movement. What a lovely, advertisement for this country! A little while ago we were told that there were 145,000 vacant job?. I should like to know where those jobs are.
An article published in the Wagga Daily Advertiser on the 24th July, 1952, st.T ted -
Essential as migration may he for the buildin? up of Australia’s population il rd her development as a powerful free nation, it must necessarily take second pines to the matter of employment of the people. It is obvious that, if continued, mass migration means that new Australians will bo idle for lone stretches, like those at Bonegilla and at Maribymong. The scheme should be ended until times again become normal.
I do not agree with that. I say that it should be temporarily restricted. The article continued -
Pictures of unemployed migrants lounging on posts, which have been appearing in the press, are a poor advertisement for Australia. What is more important, the migrants’ claim that Australia has broken a contract with them has a real foundation. Apparently during the term of this Government, glowing pictures of opportunity in Australia have been painted, and the migrants came here with high hopes of a fresh start. Unemployment has hardly added lustre to the picture of a prosperous new land.
The migrants arc presenting another special problem to the Government, lt is the duty of any administration to ensure that the people of the nation have jobs, and this applies particularly to the “old” Australians who naturally expect preference over migrants.
I approve of that -
But if preference is to he accorded, we shall soon face the prospect of communities of unemployed migrants, and the consequences need no elaboration. There is now a certain percentage of unemployed in this country. What this percentage is nobody seems to know, as each report conflicts with the preceding one. And unemployment, judging by the daily news, is snowballing. The only answer to the problem presented by migration is to suspend it for a period of up to three years.
I do not approve of that, either. I agree with the statement that was made by the Leader of the Opposition in this debate. The article concluded with the following words : -
Otherwise, thousands of newcomers will only add to the list of jobless, a situation which cannot be reconciled with the search for stability.
As I said earlier, this Government has lest the support of its own followers. Ii is being attacked bv all sections of the community. The Young Witness published an article that answered some of the propaganda that has been disseminated by the Treasurer. It was written by Eric Campbell.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr. HAWORTH (Isaacs) [9.141.- The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has not made one constructive suggestion. He has taken us hack to the conditions that existed in 1949. I presume that he wants this country to turn back the calendar and to go back to the conditions that existed before this Government assumed office, when prices were controlled, ration tickets were in use, and black marketeering was general. The budget debate affords an extremely useful opportunity for honorable members to review the Government’s financial policy and to examine statements by the Opposition about what it would do if it were in power. The highlight of this debate was the criticism by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) of the financial proposals of the Government for 1952-53. The right honorable gentleman, in the course of his speech, made the extraordinary statement that, if he were in power to-day, he would issue unspecified amounts of Commonwealth bank credit. I am certain that everybody who has examined that suggestion will agree that that would start another surge of inflation in this country. It was action of that kind that was feared most of all by the previous Leader of the Australian Labour party, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, who, as every member of the committee will recall, often remarked that we had at all times to stop the galloping horses of inflation.
The only constructive suggestion that the Leader of the Opposition made in the course of his speech was that we should issue unspecified amounts of Commonwealth bank credit. The right honorable gentleman would not be beyond punting with the people’s money. If ever he were in a position to do so, I believe that the economy of this country would run down very quickly, and that the housewife would have to take more than a shopping basket with her when she went out to do her shopping. Under a scheme such as that proposed by the right honorable gentleman, she would need to take with her a very large suitcase in which to carry the £1 notes that she would need to pay for the goods that she bought.
I propose to deal now with some of the matters about which the Leader of the Opposition did not speak. The right honorable gentleman made no reference to a factor that is responsible for high taxation in this country and other democratic countries. I refer to colossal defence programmes. If the Leader of the Opposition considers that our defence programme is not worthy of mention, and takes the view that, if he were in power, he would wipe out the defence vote, he is playing into the hands of that Communist section of the community which is eager that no sum shall be appropriated by this country for defence purposes. During this financial year, £200,000,000 will be appropriated for defence. That is equivalent to one-fifth or £1 in every £5, of our total revenue. I remind those people who say that that sum is far too large for this country-
– So it is.
– Members of the Opposition have had very little to say about the defence of this country. The Leader of the Opposition made no reference to the defence programme. Most people thought that he would give very serious consideration, not only to the proposed expenditure upon defence, but also to the concern that every person in this country has for the security of the nation. About 800,000,000 people, representing one-third of the population of the world, and the populations of fourteen countries of Europe and Asia, were led by Soviet propaganda to believe that defence pre.parations were of no value, were a humbug and were the cause of economic instability. To-day, those countries are behind the “ iron curtain “. They have no defences, and will have no opportunity to become free countries, as we understand the meaning of the term. Every European country to-day knows only too well the military strength of Soviet Russia and its satellites. Fear of that striking force is constantly in the minds of the people of the few free countries in Europe. Even we in Australia are not free from that fear. Let us examine for a moment the strength of the war machine of the Soviet and its satellites. Russia has 175 fighting divisions, one-third of them mechanized and armoured and possibly one-half located in Europe. This means that more than 4,000,000 Russians are under arms. That is half of the population of Australia. The European satellites have between 60 and 70 divisions under arms. China, too, has several million troops. The strength of the Soviet in the air is equally imposing. It has 20.000 military aircraft, including 4,000 jet planes. There is also a substantial navy concentrated largely in cruisers and submarines. It is because of those inescapable facts that this Government considers it to be imperative that one-fifth of its revenue should be expended on defence. Opposition speakers have made no reference whatsoever to that “ must “ on the expenditure side of our account. It is useless for us to enter into defence pacts such as the ANZUS agreement signed recently at Honolulu, unless we are prepared to play our part in defence bf the Pacific. In addition to the forces that the United States of America and New Zealand are prepared to provide, there must be an. Australian Navy, Army and Air Force that can be alerted quickly and expanded rapidly in time of emergency. Compare what wc have clone in this country with what has been done by other countries which realize the danger that exists under present world conditions. Expenditure on military services in the United States of America last year totalled 39,800,000 dollars, and the estimated expenditure for 1952-53, the year for which we are now providing, is 51,200,000 dollars. Those are colossal sums. In addition, foreign military and economic aid cost the United States of America 7,4S3,400 dollars last year. We in Australia have a responsibility to make a relative contribution, small though it might be. We must strengthen our defences to ensure that, in the event of aggression, we shall be able to take our place alongside the other free nations.
A briefly discussed feature of the budget proposals is the Commonwealth’s plan to abandon the uniform tax system. An examination, of State finances, particularly of those of the eastern States, shows bow political sovereignty, without financial responsibility, can lead to the degeneration of the financial structure of the States themselves. In Victoria last year, two Government instrumentalities entered into contracts involving the expenditure of large sums of money, without giving any serious consideration to the manner in which that money could be raised in the event of an insufficiency of loan funds being available. They knew of course, that if they failed to meet their own financial responsibilities, they could always attempt to bluster the Common- wealth into providing assistance. I refer particularly to the State Electricity Commission and the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission. Last year, the State Electricity Commission Officers Association assumed the role of a pressure group. It wrote to many members of the Commonwealth Parliament, drawing attention to the financial requirements of the commission, and suggesting that members of Parliament, particularly those representing Victorian constituencies, should force the wishes of the association upon the Loan Council. The letter was drafted in a remarkable way. After posing the problem of the inability of the commission to obtain sufficient finance through the Australian Loan Council, the letter, which was signed by the secretary, concluded -
Wo trust you will investigate this matter and advise me of the action you contemplate taking to have it rectified.
In other words, the State Electricity Commission Officers Association assumed the authority to state Victoria’s demand? upon the Australian Loan Council, regardless of the views of other interested organizations. Apparently, the association considers that its members have more vision and acumen than have the men who are charged with the responsibility of deciding Commonwealth issues. It is indeed farcical if bureaucrats are to be permitted to tell the Parliament and the Australian Loan Council what must be done, and to make threats in their correspondence. The experts of the association have made no attempt to determine the priorities that they consider should be observed in the commission’s schedule of works. This year, the commission will receive approximately £45,000,000 from loan funds, yet it has made no attempt to determine priorities. Money has been expended, not on completing one job at a time and so making the resources of the completed job available to quicken progress on the next, but on an endeavour to carry out several expensive jobs at once. The commission has tried to keep the Yallourn, Morwell and Kiewa projects, as well as a number of substations, all going at one time, and in this way it has absorbed a tremendous amount of labour and materials as well as substantial funds. Obviously, if access to loans is easy for authorities such as the State Electricity Commission they will crowd one another in their clamour for the limited finance that is available. If these departments were given unlimited call on Commonwealth bank credit, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested in his speech, the result would be tremendous and wasteful extravagance that would make present conditions in big government departments pale into insignificance. It is most difficult to-day to obtain rural machinery, for the simple reason that many big industries have been concentrating their attention on manufacturing equipment for such schemes as Yallourn, Morwell, Kiewa and other projects in Victoria. It is obvious that the time will come when we shall have to take some steps to encourage big government departments at least to complete one job at a time. The Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission is one of the most sorry examples of bad government control and lack of ministerial direction. The tremendous amount, of labour and materials w”asted by it in various parts of Victoria, particularly at Eildon, warrants the holding of a commission of inquiry. One reason for such an inquiry is the small regard paid by the commission to the effects of exposure to the weather on much of the heavy and expensive equipment that it has purchased. We can. conceive what would happen if such conditions were encouraged by a future Labour government which did not hesitate to expand Commonwealth Bank credit. The return of income taxing powers to the States will help considerably to reduce the wasteful expenditure that has been occurring in various States, particularly the eastern States.
I am a strong advocate of the federal system, but I believe that if the financial irresponsibility of the States were allowed to continue it could lead only to unification. I know, of course, that the Labour party’s aim is to achieve unification. I consider that by handing back to the States powers to raise income tax under a simplified form of ‘ assessment and collection we should be helping to preserve the best of the federal system. We would thereby throw upon the States the responsibility for their own finances, and they would then have to consider the need to do first things first.
Another important matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the committee is that in this financial year the Government proposes to introduce its medical benefits scheme. The scheme is estimated to cost about £750,000 in the first part of the year, and about £7,500,000 for a full year. The system is to be voluntary, and I believe that that feature of it will help to nourish the spirit of independence and self-help. It is interesting to examine expenditure onsocial services from the financial year 194.3-44, when a Labour government was in office, until now. Such an examination reveals that expenditure on social services has risen to astronomical heights since that year. I do not think that anybody would have believed in 1943 that social services financed from the National Welfare Fund, which in that year cost £2,364,000, would cost £1.64,179,000 in the current year.
The figures that I have given for 1943-44 exclude such social services as repatriation but include funeral benefits and maternity allowances which were paid from the National Welfare Fund. Other social services were not paid from the National Welfare Fund until 1945-46.
Mi-. Allan Fraser. - Has the honorable member the figure in relation to age and invalid pensions in 1943-44?
– Age and invalid pensions were not paid from the National Welfare Fund until 1945-46, when an amount of £26,962,000 was paid in respect of them. However, the point I am making is that the expenditure on social services from the National Welfare Fund has risen from £2,364,000 in 1943-44 to an estimated £164,000,000 in the current financial year. The latter figure is astronomical, because it represents 16 per cent, of the total revenue derived from taxes. Incidentally, I draw the attention of the committee to the fact that this Government has achieved in three years, in relation to social services, twice as much as it took the Labour Government six years to do. It has often been asked how long we can continue to increase social services. However necessary and desirable it may be to extend our social services, we cannot by-pass the problem of costs, and sooner or later we must get down to the question of priorities in regard to increased social services because the expenditure on them will continue to increase. The cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and the medical benefits scheme will increase as time goes on. I know that the prospect of an increase of the cost of social services does not worry the Labour party because, in the complete socialized State which is its ideal, everything will be provided for out of revenue, money will lose its value, and we shall all work for the State. But the position is most serious, particularly when we take into Consideration the remark made by the Leader of the Opposition during his speech, when he said that money could be provided for all those contingencies by the expansion of Commonwealth Bank credit. It seems to me that that statement indicates that when his party comes into power Australia will become finally and completely the welfare State.
This debate on the budget focuses attention on the Government’s programme, and provides an opportunity for the people to learn what the Opposition would do if it were in office. The Leader of the Opposition has asserted that the only solution of our economic problem is the use of unlimited bank credit. That policy is equivalent to the indiscriminate circulation of promissory notes throughout the community by a business house. For once, I agree with Dr. John Burton, who wrote recently -
The Labour party is without clear .practical policies or direction.
I believe that Dr. Burton made that statement long before he went to Peking, and, in fact, when he was the endorsed Labour candidate for Lowe. Indeed, he was more than that ; he had just vacated the office in which he had been placed by the present Leader of the Opposition. For years he was the protege of the right honorable gentleman and a close student of the Labour party’s policy. No man is in a better position than he is to express that opinion. The people should remember that if this budget is not accepted by the Parliament, the right honorable member for Barton will be the next Prime Minister. He has stated exactly what he would do if he were in office, and explained how he would finance the government of the country by the unlimited expansion of bank credit. I suggest that, in those circumstances, the housewife, instead of carrying a shopping bae for her purchases as I mentioned previously, would require an expanding suitcase in which to carry all the money that would be needed to pay the inflated prices of the goods. I believe that if the present Government were replaced by a Labour government, Australia would quickly become a complete welfare state. After all, that is the object of the Labour party.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Previous speakers have explained that the budget debate is usually the occasion for a kind of national stock-taking, in the course of which we compare the position to-day with the Government’s estimate of it made twelve months ago. The budget debate also affords honorable members an opportunity to express their views about the action that may be necessary to further the interests of our country. It is not merely a cursory survey of the economic structure; it should go much deeper than that, because we expect to have ample opportunity to discuss individual items of expenditure when the Estimates for the various departments are under consideration.
By and large, the budget debate should give an overall picture of the policy of the Government during the next twelve months. Unfortunately, the speeches of Government supporters on this occasion have n r n d 11 ce d a rather confused picture. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) delivered some fine-sounding statements about output per man-hour in Australia compared with the situation in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, but the right honorable gentleman omitted to cite the authority for his figures. I could quote, with equal facility, an enlightening collection of figures if I were not prepared to state my authority for them. When we compare conditions in the United States of America with those in Australia, we should consider whether the bases of comparison are equal. A couple of hundred years ago, the United States of America was in the process of development, and settlement in Australia had not commenced. During World War I., Great Britain, and its allies, including Australia, were fighting for the existence of western civilization, and the American economy was being strengthened by their efforts to preserve our way of life. At the beginning of World. War II., British interests owned in North America and South America capital investment totalling approximately £2,000,000,000. Two years later, when the United States of America entered the conflict, Great Britain had been compelled, in order to prosecute its war effort, to dispose of those huge holdings, and its indebtedness to the United -States of America amounted to approximately £1,100,000,000. Perhaps those facts are not unrelated to the present economic position of the United States of America.
I cannot question the accuracy of the figures given by the Minister for External Affairs, because he did not cite any authority for them, but perhaps the fact that the population of the United States of America is approximately twenty times that of Australia, and consequently the number of consumers in the United States of America is so much greater than it is in Australia, has a bearing on the case. That disparity between the two countries is recognized by any ordinary person who does not claim to have a knowledge of economics. There may be a hundred and one other reasons for the difference between conditions in the United States of America and those in Australia. Perhaps the machinery in use in factories in the United States of America produces a greater volume of goods per man hour than does the machinery that we can afford to import.
The Minister also claimed that the worker in the United States of America is much better off than is the worker in
Australia, and that every one is happy in that country. How foolish it is to expect honorable members to agree with that statement! Those of u3 who are interested in social affairs, and the trade union movement, read the newspapers and American journals, and we know that great strikes in which 1,000,000 workers are involved, occur in the United States of America. Do those conditions produce the happiness to which the Minister has referred? Those big strikes are not settled quietly and peacefully. We read that tear gas and bombs have been used, and that the military has been called out, to settle industrial disputes in the country in which, according to the Minister, the workers are so happy. The right honorable gentleman’s statement on those matters was merely a collection of pretty little words, and may he dismissed as a fairy tale.
The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth.) displayed great concern because the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) announced that, if he were in office, he would be prepared to use an unspecified amount of bank credit in order to maintain full employment in Australia. The right honorable gentleman did not say that he was prepared to use unlimited bank credit, as was asserted by the honorable member for Isaacs. But is there anything wrong with the use of bank credit for the necessary development of Australia and the maintenance of a condition of full employment? If there is, why does this Government propose to resort to the use of bank credit during the current financial year? Why has not the Treasurer firmly announced that this Government refuses to use bank credit in order to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure? Why twit the Leader of the Opposition for stating that he would use bank credit to the degree necessary? If this Government is so pleased about its use of money it is somewhat strange .that our overseas credits should have gone down with such a thump during the last few months. Moneys which had been held in reserve were used to purchase goods, the sale of which could only increase inflation. Does not the release of the special deposits held by the Commonwealth Bank on behalf of the private hanks amount to an increase of inflation by approximately £300,000,000? That money, which had been saved by the previous Labour Government in order to keep a check on inflation in Australia, last year was allowed to dribble out to the private banks. A private bank does not put its money in a vault, but lends it out to those who want to borrow it. The spending of the money causes inflation.
This Government, which is not prepared to use the national credit to develop the nation, has the audacity to charge the Opposition with not having the welfare of the country at heart. The Government is not honest. Its members are hypocrites from the top to the bottom. Tile reply which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently made to a speech of the Leader of the Opposition was the greatest exhibition of intellectual and oratorical prostitution I have ever seen in this country. The right honorable gentleman, tried to twist and turn every statement that had been made by the Leader of the Opposition. How foolish he was to endeavour to compare income tax tables ! He is not prepared to admit, as every other Australian admits, that £600 to-day is worth no more than £500 twelve months ago. Taken on that basis, the man who receives £600 a year to-day pays far more income tax than did the man who received £500 last year. “Why quibble about facts? Those facts are known to all who understand economics, even of an elementary .nature.
Let us examine the budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), which the supporters of the Government seem to think is so wonderful. The final sentences read as follows: -
At least that is true of the material conditions. It may he that it is confidence and faith we need. If that be so, let u« look once again across the face of our .country.
That seems to me to be an excellent ending to a budget speech. By all means let us look across the face of our country, but at the same time let us also look deep down into the minds of the Australian people, particularly the working people^ in order to see what they are thinking to-day. It is possible for a government to expend money and time in bringing forth all kinds of wonderful schemes, but unless the people are happy, contented and in employment the government fails in its business. Indeed, the Treasurer has noted that fact in the following words : -
It is the task of economic policy so to adjust conditions that neither inflation itself nor thu reaction from it will run to extremes. But responsibility for a stable course in economic affairs does not rest wholly, nor perhaps even mainly, with governments. lt may be asked: With whom does responsibility for the defence of this country, either economically or militarily, rest? We are sent here by the people of Australia to represent them and so to do our job that the country will continue to grow and eventually take its place as one of the. great nations of the world. Yet the Treasurer and his supporters contend that responsibility for the course of economic affairs does not rest even mainly with the Government. They have not told us with whom they believe it rests. That being so, the Opposition is justified in challenging the Government to go on, or get out. That is the proposition we put to the Government to-day. After all, the Government was elected to govern the country. .If it cannot do so it should so inform the people. The function of a national parliament is not to deal with trivial matters but to examine the nation -as it exists to-day, to study its people and their aspirations, and to ensure that Australia remains a white country. If the Government has not begun to undertake those ‘tasks, the Opposition is not to blame, nor ar.c the people. Responsibility for .the failure rests solely with the Government itself.
Honorable members opposite have stilted that taxation remissions in the present financial year will amount to approximately £50,000,000. In my opinion it is the job of thi3 Government not only t<j govern the country but also to assess its physical potentialities in order to see what developmental works are required and then to find the money for such works, whether by means of loans, hank credit or other methods. I refuse to believe that money which is used to develop out electric power, water and irrigation resources, and to develop the north and central parts of Australia in order to increase our food production and to add to our
B&Uanal security, will not be returned one bund Bedford, Many puojects throughout Australia today are urgently calling for the expenditure of additional fundi, I admit that in the past lack of man-power and materials prevented as much developmental work from being done as the government of the day would have liked tie undertake.
Although the Government has not admitted that there is unemployment at the moment, the Treasurer’s budget Speech, admits that there are signs that the present demand for some types of goods is inadequate to absorb the supplies available and, in consequence, jqme unemployment has emerged, and that the commencement of new houses, for instance, has fallen as a consequence gf unemployment. Records of 1947 are used to support the contention that, com paratively speaking, we are no worse off to-day than we were then. I remind honorable members opposite that not long before 1947 there had been a world war. Approximately 1,000,000 of our workers had bepn transplanted from their Ordinary vocations in factories and .so on, and thrown into the war effort, Many young men who joined the army from 1939 onwards had never occupied a position prior to going overseas to fight. From 1945 onwards, approximately l?000,0OQ ex-servicemen and women returned to this country and had to be given an opportunity to earn their living and to help in the development” of Australia. To compare the number of unemployed in 1947 yith the number to-day is stupid anc] demonstrates a lack of knowledge on the part of those who do so. The number of unemployed registered for unemployitiout benefit at employment offices throughout the country signifies one thing tp thos*’ who understand the matter and something entirely different to the uninitiated. Wr: know that the number of supposedly vacant jobs to-day - 33,000 - does not mean a great deal, Before entering this Parliament I wag in charge of a district (mployment office and concerned with tha man-power position. T know the triv: meaning of the statement that a certain number of jobs are vacant, Sujfh a statpment refers to specialized tasks which can be (lone only by men not in this country. The mcn shown as unemployed very often ave apt capable of doing the jobs that are available, Without knowing the facts behind the various -sets of figures, it i;;
Useless to cite them. However, the average member does npt need to look at the figures in order to know that unemploy ment is. on the march. It is only necessary for him to attend his office each day or to meet people in the street in order to know that factories are puttim? off men every day. Our constituents arc looking for jobs. That is a state of affairs which has not existed for many years. There is no full employment in Australia. There- is sectional employment for people with special qualifications and there,, arc only limited opportunities for them. Another reason why people do not register fpr unemployment benefits is that the income of other members of the family might render them ineligible for assistance. For that reason also, the official figures concerning unemployment benefits are unreliable.
I have shown that this, country is suffering from the worst, type of inflation which has been brought about by the issue pf money that has had no relation to work performed or goods produced, Every one remembers the hysteria which gripped the Government a few months ago when it ordered a sudden cessation pf the importation pf gpodSr However, the Government has taken ftotp pf what has happened to its candidates in recent by-elections and is now prepared to revise its principles in order to get people to return it tq office. Because of our increasing population and our decreasing production of foodstuffs Australia is approaching a greaj; national calamity.- What has the Government done about it? Jt has done nothing but cry out that it cannot get what it wants, During the. fir-st World War the British Gpvejiinienj; threw a]J pf its resources into a fight for civilization and became almost bankrupt. It ma.de a similar effort in the last -war and so did Australia. I consider that the economic instability which seems tp be approaching will be a national calamity as great as sap,
It is essential that, in addition to feeding our own people, we should produce sufficient primary products to establish overseas credits for the importation of materials that are essential to our industries. That objective can be accomplished only by a policy of closer land settlement about which the Government is doing little. As the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) said, graziers are running merinos on vast areas of land in western Victoria which could produce potatoes and other foodstuffs. That land is not being utilized for the production of food because the men who own it consider that they are getting enough out of it. They do not wish to produce more in case they would have to pay more tax. At a time such as this, the Government should not abolish the land tax. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) that the land tax should be imposed on all farms bigger than one-man or two-man holdings in order to break up the large estates which are not producing as much as they should. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) argued that the method of fixing the basic wage had caused all sorts of trouble. Perhaps it has. But if it has, the Government should do something about it. If the formula for the adjustment of the basic wage is wrong, the Government should ensure that a scientific formula is adopted by the use of which a basic wage in conformity with the requirements of the people would be evolved. The Government has failed to do the job that it was sent here to do.
In relation to the budget proposals, honorable members should be given a clear picture of what the Government did last year and what it proposes to do this year. There is nothing in this budget which leads me to believe that one more man will be employed or that one less will become unemployed during this financial year. There is nothing in it to encourage any one to plant more food crops or produce more of any other raw materials than hitherto. The people of A.ustralia require stability of employment, not only to provide for their immediate needs, but so that they may be assured that they have a stake in this country and that they will be able to rear their families decently without the fear of enemploy- ment.
The Treasurer has spread the little benefits of this budget over too wide an area. It is merely a vote-catching device which will fail because the majority , of the people are not prepared to be deceived by it. We must ensure that this country shall have the best possible type of defence because of the hungry eyes which look down on us from time to time from the north. While there are thousands of millions of people with insufficient land there is every reason to believe that we in Australia must be a marked target and that unless we do something quickly it will be too late. There are hundreds of thousands of square miles of land in the Northern Territory that are not in use. By the blessing of Divine Providence or some other agency minerals have now been discovered there. Those discoveries, I hope, will bring a larger aggregation of people to that ama. But the Government has done v.ry little to develop these resources. Its efforts have been circumscribed. Apparently the Government considers that if it takes ani further action it will have to collect more tax from people who are already making large profits and taking their annual trips overseas while other people are becoming unemployed. Some honorable members opposite have claimed that , in 193T because a prosperity loading had been added to the basic wage everybody was prosperous and happy. That is said of a time when there were 250,000 unemployed persons in Australia including many young men who had not had a job since they left, school. They did not get anything to do until they joined the Army in 1939. Our national income was very high at that time but only a small proportion of the population was benefiting from it. In those circumstances it may he said that there was no real prosperity. Indeed, there can be no real prosperity in Australia until we reach a condition of full employment. Then the workers will know that their financial positions are secure, that they can look forward to bringing up their children in comfort, and that they can pay off their homes and obtain all the amenities, to which human beings are entitled. This Government has failed to put the workers in that position and the Opposition will therefore vote for the amendment.
The budget will fail because it does not wholeheartedly accept the principle of full employment. It accepts the principle of full employment with a tag attached to it. The tag is that full employment can be provided only if sufficient money should become available from our existing taxes. We reject that outlook and consider that our first task is to provide full employment. We believe that the country should be fully developed so that our production of foodstuffs will be so increased that their export will pay for the imports that we need to keep our secondary industry going. This Government has failed to produce a budget that will be satisfactory to the Australian people, and therefore deserves the censure of the committee.
Mr. HAMILTON (Canning) [10.121. - The honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Gordon Anderson), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) each criticized the abolition of the land tax and claimed that it was a concession by the Government to big landed interests. They disagreed completely with the statements of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who agreed with the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that there was very little to be gained from the taxing of rural lands because the tax was levied on the unimproved value of the land.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith touched very lightly upon the credit restriction policy as it affects primary producers. The matter of credit restriction has been debated in this chamber on a number of occasions, but I shall detail the way in which it affects primary producers, because oven the press has not published in full a statement of the nature of the facilities for borrowing at present enjoyed by primary producers. If a man desires to purchase and use a farm as a full-time occupation he can borrow from banks sums of up to £15,000. If he owns a property and wants to acquire more land he can borrow a further £5,000. He can borrow for structural improvements, improvements to the plant he uses on the property, spare parts and so on. last, but by no means least, he can borrow money for the “ reasonable working expenses “ of his property - a phrase that covers a multitude of expenses.
Much has been made of the abolition of the land tax during this debate, and the honorable member for Gellibrand, in an oratorial outburst, made a horrible, scathing and despicable attack on the wool-growers, who are an important section of our community. The woolgrowers, as honorable members and Australians in general know, have been for a very long time the mainstay of our primary production. Indeed, they have been the backbone of all our industry. They have helped very considerably to build up and to maintain the overseas credits with which we have obtained all the goods from abroad that this country has needed. I now desire to refer honorable members to a report that appeared in the Melbourne Age of the loth August. I took the trouble to check this report with what the honorable member said in this chamber, and the two versions of his attack are similar. The Age reported the honorable member for Gellibrand as having said -
In their rotten, sordid materialism they are as bad to my way of thinking in their social and political attitude to life as any rotten revolutionary communist ever was.
– The honorable member cannot say it like the honorable member for Gellibrand said it.
– No, I cannot. That is because I am not so bitter as is the honorable member for Gellibrand. This honorable member soared into the stratosphere, spitting venom as the guns of a superfortress spit fire. I know that the honorable member for Gellibrand absolutely detests Communists. He hates the Communists with such an intensity that he refused to mount platforms with hi* colleagues of the Labour party and advocate the defeat of the anti-Communist referendum. Through so doing, he and a few of his friends were almost expelled from the Labour party. He hates the Communists with such an intensity that he caused the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to refer to him in thi3 Parliament in the most unparliamentary terms, thereby almost causing a scene that would have been a disgrace to the Parliament. The honorable member for Gellibrand has referred in the same language that he would use about Communists to the wool-growers who provide most of our overseas balances.
When the wool sales deduction legislation was introduced into the Parliament last year the honorable member for Gellibrand, together with his colleagues, shed crocodile tears because the wool-growers were to be required to pay 20 per cent, of their proceeds into a fund that was later to be used to pay their income tax. Although the wool-growers were to have suffered not one penny less in the long run, the. honorable member for Gellibrand and his collegues spoke very heatedly against the Government on behalf of these primary producers. In view of that fact the words that he was reported by the Age to have used were all the more despicable. Like all honorable members opposite, he did not have the courage to vote against the wool sales deduction legislation when the debate closed. His attitude leads one to the belief that lie has joined the band of those who are trying to obtain the support of the wool-growers so that when the time is ripe they will be able to force on to these important primary producers a home-consumption price for wool and to abolish the auction system that the wool industry has enjoyed for so long.
The honorable member for Gellibrand and the honorable member for KingsfordSmith spoke of the big land-owners in the Western District of Victoria. I sincerely trust that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) will refute every remark that the honorable member for Gellibrand made about those landowners. I have taken the opportunity to examine statistics in relation to war service land settlement in that area as well as in New South Wales. In the Western District of Victoria, alone, since the inception of this scheme, 104 properties covering an area of 512,015 acres have been acquired and subdivided te provide 857 holdings.
– Has that been done since World War II. or since World War I?
– Since World War IT. In New South Wales, excluding irrigation, Western Lands Division and promotion applications, 80 properties involving over 1,000,000 acres have been acquired and divided into 834 holdings. The tendency throughout has been to reduce large properties. The land tax has not been responsible for that.
– That was done in Victoria under the administration of the Cain Government.
– In the Commonwealth sphere the war service land settlement scheme has been carried on by both Labour and Liberal-Australian. Country party governments. If anybody has the right to cut up largo holdings, that right resides entirely with the State governments. The Australian Government has no power to subdivide properties and I hope that it never will have such power. However, the Labour party holds the opposite view. The acquisition of the power is a part of its scheme of socialization although honorable members opposite never mention the fact.
What was the cause of the outburst by the honorable member for Gellibrand against the Government’s proposal to abolish the land tax? He said that land tax provided the only means of unlocking land-locked areas.
– Hear, hear!
– I suggest that the honorable member examine the press statement that the Leader of the Opposition made in reply to the Treasurer’s budget speech. .Referring to the Treasurer, the right, honorable gentleman paid -
He lias paid correctly Mint in more repent years land tax lias been in if et bonin for the most part by those who own laud in I he .great cities and that, as the tax is levied on the unimproved value of the land, it i« seldom applicable to rural land.
What is the explanation of the outburst by the honorable member for Gellibrand and a few of his colleagues if that, be the case? I should like to know whether the honorable member tor Wannon and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) agree -with them. It is well known that land tax is seldom applicable i;o rural areas because it is based on the unimproved value of land.
What did the Labour party do when it had the opportunity to amend the land rax ‘? Total collections of land tax remained approximately static during the last three years of office of the Labour Government. Before we consider in deMil the proposal to break up large land holdings by using land tax as an instrument for that purpose, let us consider the number of large holdings that there are in Australia. Figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician show that, at the end of .1950, the latest period for which statistics are available, there were only 3,300 holdings throughout Australia of over 100,000 acres. Most of those obviously were in the Northern Territory, the north west of “Western Australia and the cattle raising districts nf Queensland. “Mr. Clyde CAMERON - But size does not determine unimproved value.
– That is probably *o. T shall come to that point later. The statistics show also that there are only .1,1.00 holdings of between 50,000 and 100,000 acres, 2,790 of between 20,000 and 50,000 acres, and 2,900 of between 10.000 and 20.000 acres. I turn my attention to Victoria. Only 80 holdings in that State exceed 20,000 wes. Vet the honorable member for Gellibrand spoke of great areas of land that had been left to the cawing of the crows while their owners enjoyed themselves at Flemington and strode about Melbourne treating others as though they were less than the dust! I direct attention now to New South “Wales, where ti Labour government is in power. Labour governments are supposed to favour the land tax as a means of breaking up large estates, but in New South Wales there are still 1,388 holdings in excess of 20,000 acres. In Queensland, which is under Labour control, there are still 3,S05 holdings in excess of that acreage.
– Size has nothing to do with unimproved value.
– South Australia, where the honorable member for Hindmarsh lives, has 402 holdings of more than 20,000 acres.
– It is all desert.
– These are holdings that are being worked. The honorable member does not understand the matter.
The Labour governments of New South Wales and Queensland are not quibbling about the abolition of land tax. They will have the opportunity in future to increase land tax in their own right and to force the breaking up of large holdings if that is their policy. As I have said, the former Labour Government did nothing about land tax during the last three years of its term of office. Its revenue from the tax in 1946-47 was £3,679,000. In the two succeeding years, collections from that source amounted to £3,640,000 and £3,032,000 respectively.
– What should the Labour Government have done?
– If it considered large land holdings to be such a menace to the economy as the honorable member now declares them, to be, it could have used the land tax as a means to break t.h cm up. It had the power to unpeg land values. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has said that the abolition of land tax will represent a hand-out to city interests which have the benefit of roads, tramways and other services that are not available in country area.3. The Australian Government does not provide such services. They are provided by local governing bodies and State governments and I point out to the honorable, member th nt. when the Australian Government vacates the field of land tax, those bodies will be able to increase their collections on the unimproved values of properties and thus provide additional finance for their services.
The honorable gentleman has also conveniently overlooked the fact that land tax payments are allowable as deductions for income tax purposes and has ignored the cost to the Government of collecting land tax. In the long run, even if the abolition of the land tax should benefit some city interests, the benefit will not he so great as the honorable member has suggested it will be. I challenge members of the Opposition to cease their verbal meanderings on this subject and to come out in the open and declare unequivocally that, if they are returned to power in the future, they will reintroduce the land tax.
– That is our policy.
– The Leader oi the Opposition has not said so. He passed over the subject in his speech.
– It is included in the Labour party’s platform.
– Then members of the Opposition might well reiterate portions of their party’s policy. There are other aspects of the ‘ Labour party platform that I shall deal with at a later stage, and I should like to be informed clearly whether honorable members opposite adhere loyally to them.
The Leader of the Opposition and his supporters have said that this Government has offered no incentive to primary producers to increase their production. I admit that no specific statements on this subject were included in the Treasurer’s budget speech, but the fact is that the Government already has provided incentives for primary producers. I shall relate briefly what it has done since 1950 for the benefit of men on the land. The honorable member for Wannon said earlier, by interjection, that the Government wanted to abandon the auction system of selling wool. The story has been told by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). The United States of America wanted the Government to pre-empt wool for it, but this Government supported the Minister and finally convinced the Americans that the wool could not be set aside for them. Tt showed them that there were so many categories within categories that they could get the wool they wanted only through the auction system. The Americans could have smashed the wool auction system overnight, because at that time they were bolstering the economy of many European nations, including Great Britain, through the Marshall Plan, and they could have told those countries that they would not help them to bid against American buyers on the Australian wool market. Instead they financed Italy, France, Belgium, Norway and West Germany so that they could compete against the United States of America for Australian wool. ‘ That is why the income of the Australian wool-growers soared. The wool-growers can thank the Australian Government for its determination to retain the auction system when the United States of America and other countries were seeking large quantities of wool for defence stock-piling.
What did the Opposition do for the wheat-growers when it occupied the treasury bench? Against the wishes of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, it continued to sell wheat at 6s. 8d. a bushel whether it was for stock feed or for human consumption. This Government tackled the matter of the homeconsumption price so that wheat-growers could receive the international wheat, agreement price for all wheat consumed as stock feed in Australia. Since this Government has been in office, the price of beef under the British contract has risen from 8.67d. to an average of 14.88d. per lb. Under the five-year guarantee agreement, the price of butter is 90 per cent, higher than it was when this Government took office. When the honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government, he entered into a contract with Great, Britain, without consulting poultry farmers’ organizations, to supply eggs at a price which could not be increased in any year by more than 1 per cent. In two years, this Government has persuaded the British Government to increase the price of eggs in bulk and in pulp by 59 per cent. The Government has obtained an increase of the prices of canned and dried fruits. All these benefits for primary producers were secured only after consultation between representatives of the producers and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
Obviously, primary producers will receive higher incomes from those increased trices. They will enter a new bracket for income tax purposes. Only a few months ?!.<ro. they found themselves in difficulties in that respect. The most important of this Government’s decisions on behalf of primary producers has been the alteration of the method of calculating provisional tax. Under the Labour party’s policy, provisional tax was assessed on the income of the previous year. In 1944 and the years that followed, this was a tasty morsel from the Labour Go- ernment while incomes were rising, but once incomes began to fall, the sugar coating did not last long and many primary producers found themselves in trouble. I did not hear many honorable members on the Opposition side explain then that provisional tax was introduced by the Labour Government in 1944. in accordance with political- tactics, which were legitimate enough, the Opposition, supported by some sections of the press, did little, if anything, to inform producers that the system of assessing provisional tax was one of Labour’s dandy ideas while prices - were rising. The press even conveyed the idea to primary producers either that the provisional tax was introduced by this Government or that it had increased the provisional tax. Thanks to this Government and to the Treasurer in particular, the state of affairs that existed has been ended for all time. Whether incomes rise or fall, the producers will be able to assess their provisional taxes on their known income for the year. No producer will 1)0 expected to form an estimate of his income until the 31st March, that is, nine months after the beginning of the financial year. Honorable members opposite ha/e claimed that no incentive has been given to primary producers. A depreciation allowance of 20 per cent, over five years will apply from the 1st July, 1951, for income tax purposes.
– Why did the Government abolish initial depreciation?
– Because it was being abused. The Government found that men who were believed to be of good repute were buying motor cars and selling them next day after claiming 40 per cent, depreciation. They were establishing a black-market in motor cars, flats and other commodities. Any government with a sense of responsibility would stop such activities. Honorable members opposite would rather pander to the mob than face such problems.
The depreciation allowance of 20 per cent, applies to certain plant that is installed and to structural improvements that are completed on agricultural and pastoral properties between the 1st July, 3951, and the 30th June, 1955. It will also apply to structural improvements completed by the 30th June, 1956, provided they are started by the 30th June, 1955. The provision does not apply to motor cars, but applies to all other plant on which depreciation is allowable provided it is wholly and exclusively used for agricultural or pastoral purposes. * Quorum formed.)* I thank the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for having robbed me of a couple of minutes at a time when I was giving information over the air concerning th<5 achievements of this Government. It is obvious that Opposition members do not like my remarks. Some of mv colleagues will deal more fully with this subject. I leave it because I want to deal with something else.
Speaking in this chamber on the desirability of the continuance of the land tax, the Leader of the Opposition is reported to have said -
Lands are locked, as they were at certain stages of our history, 50, 00 and 70 years ago. That matter is one of urgency. There is a good possibility that a large number of new Australians could bc absorbed by full utilization of land which is given to us as a trust and cannot be allowed to remain unused.
The right honorable gentleman did not use the phrase “ just terms “ in his speech ; but in his hand-out to the press he endeavoured to throw a smoke screen over the real objective by saying -
Therefore productive land which is shut off from young Australians must be unlocked. The owners are entitled to and should be guaranteed just terms.
Why was not a similar statement- made in this chamber? It is obvious that the right honorable gentleman glossed over the matter so that there would be no direct evidence against him in Hansard-.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), in his speech on the budget to-night, asked us to discuss the budget, not in the light of notes hurriedly scribbled on the back of an envelope, but in a philosophical way. His statement was . remarkable in view of the fact that his own comments seemed to be based on something that had been scribbled on the back of a bus. To-night, at this late hour, I have accepted his invitation to be philosophical, not only because of the hour at which I speak but also because the Government has decided that the budget debate must proceed until I, the last speaker to participate in it to-nisht, have had my say. You, Mr. Deputy Chairman, evoke a great deal of sympathy in my breast because of the hundreds of thousands of words that have been poured on your defenceless head - long words, short words, hot words and soft words, and words from the Government side that you, as a country man. must recognize at once as the working bullocks of debate; - words which haul their dead weight across this chamber until they are gathered into the lush and well-ordered paddocks’ of Mansard to be t’ed, watered and made ready for the road again. This budget may be described as a bodgie “ budget. Bodgie “ is a vernacular term which has something to do with the outside world, and probably more people understand its meaning than understand the budget itself. Because you occupy a high parliamentary office, Mr. Acting Chairman, you are probably not acquainted with the word “ bodgie “, bus we from the outer world of the electorate can explain it. I call the budget a bodgie budget because it is noise without sense. It concerns figures that are engaged in horrible gyrations which conclude only when the subjects are exhausted and drop to the floor. In the words of Shakespeare, this budget is sound and fury, signifying nothing ft is truly the idiot’s delight of modern frustration - the phrenetic frenzy of Fadden finance. Measured against the best bodgie standards, this budget is right iu the groove. To carry the analogy -a little further, this budget was not -written with sincerity nor introduced with sincerity. This bodgie budget was written for swing, about which the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has told us and which is evident against the Government in all States. The last and greatest of these tides against the Liberal-
Australian Country party coalition occurred in the Ashfield by-election in New South “Wales, when a general election majority of nearly 4,000 against the Labour party was transformed into a smashing victory for it.
The budget of last year was known as si horror budget. Whilst it may have had some rough claims to an attempt to do something in a difficult situation, thi; ugly offspring of it does nothing bur attempt to pave the beads of the swing ^eaters who are terrified of what is going to happen to them. When this country was looking for relief, for some promise for the future, and for some lessening of the fears of the people, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) presented this scandalous budget which represents nothing, promises nothing, and in due course will deliver us of nothing. The Government thought so lightly of the budget that it leaked budget secrets before the document was presented in this chamber. One of the greatest scandals associated with the budget was the leakage of its provisions to the press of which the Opposition has complained. In the British Parliament, such a leakage is regarded as a most grievous matter. The Treasurer has not fully explained the circumstances nor has he answered the charge made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). Evidently he hoped that the whole sorry story would be dismissed from the minds of the people. Sufficient of the contents of the budget was allowed to leak out to indicate its contents. The information that reached pres?men but was not used by them was probably thrown into the waste-paper basket. r gai here and listened to every word of the Treasurer’s speech. The right honorable gentleman described the budget a; an incentive budget. I suggest that the right honorable gentleman should stjuly the dictionary definition of the uord “ incentive “. He is flying from the wrath of the people with their hot breath «u his neck. As he proceeds on his way into political oblivion the few miserable concessions which he throws over his shoulder are dignified with the name of incentives. What sort of incentive is a miserable increase of 7s. 6d. a week for pensioners or an increase of 10s. in the pension paid to ex-servicemen ?
– I bet they will take it.
– The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) says that they will take it, but they are not obliged to like it. “We hear only patriotic statements from the Government side, but these miserable concessions to those who served their country will do nothing to overtake the recruiting lag that exists today. Last year, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and I tried to have the base-rate war pension increased by £1, and the Treasurer, lumbering behind the train of events twelve months later, presented his so-called incentive budget with the observation, “ Here is another 10s. for the base-rate pensioner”. Because of the scarcity of jobs in industry to-day, many war pensioners have already lost their employment. What a brilliant incentive for the men who have made sacrifices in the defence of their country. Even the latest basic wage increase, with which the Government had nothing to do, amounted to 12s. The Leader of the Opposition has shown the public what a sham is the Treasurer’s decision not to le-impose the 10 per cent, supertax on incomes. The Treasurer and his financial advisers have not been able to answer his charge that the abolition of the 10 per cent, supertax will confer no benefit upon many workers because basic wage increases have brought their earnings into the higher taxation groups. What sort of an incentive is that; and what sort of a government would put over such a proposition as being an incentive? The Leader of the Opposition presented a table showing the tax rates that will be payable under the budget proposals compared, with present rates. That table will bear analysis, hut the Government has not refuted it. The Government’s incentives are an increase of the age and invalid pension by 7s. 6d. a week, and an increase of the base war service pension by 10s. a week. The proposed removal of the 10 per cent, levy on incomes is merely an Irishman’s rise because increases of the basic wage, due to rising costs, will place the majority of workers in a higher range of income a.nd thus render them liable to an increased tax.
The budget does not bear much talking about. I can understand why the Minister for External Affairs should say that bc did not want it to be discussed in the light of notes hurriedly scribbled on the back of an envelope. That was his lefthanded way of saying that he did not see much in the alternatives put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. This budget represents too little too late. Members of the Opposition will not be trapped into offering alternatives to the Government’s proposals except the broad and obvious alternatives that the Leader of the Opposition outlined. Our alternatives are jobs instead of the dole, and a merciless slashing of taxes. We measure the Chifley Government’s tax-slashing measures in the difficult post-war period against the boggle that the Treasurer has presented in this budget. No interference with wages and working conditions is another broad generalization of Labour’s policy to which our party has always given effect. Another Labour principle, is faith in the country instead of the existing panic to which the Government has fallen a victim. From the Opposition’s point of view, this debate is not a discussion of the merits of plan. A and plan B in- relation to tho gabble of words that the Treasurer has presented to the Parliament. Such a discussion would be fruitless. The battle of the plan is over. It has been lost not by submission at a general election but as a result of a series of by-elections and of elections for upper houses in State parliaments that have taken place recently. The results of those tests have been overwhelmingly significant. We are presiding to-night 8t the post-mortem not of pi an A or of plan B but of laisserfaire capitalism., which has completely “ had “ it. The country has already been led into an. economic morass. At such a post-mortem, the Government cannot expect members of the Opposition to wear armbands because something has happened which the Opposition warned the Government would happen.
This budget follows closely that of 1951-52 except that it has been designed to placate some electors in order to save swing seats for the Government. Therefore, it is meretricious and of no value to the people who ask only for decency from the Government and for the p reservation of Australian standards of living. I object to the technique that leading speakers on behalf of the Government have employed in their defence of the budget. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in a speech in which he wooed the electors, followed the path of lies. From beginning to end, he stated nothing in a way that revealed his remarks to be untrue; all of them carried the germ of untruth. In that technique the righthonorable gentleman differed from the late unlamented Dr. Goebbels only in that the latter spoke with a deep guttural accent. Supporters of the Government who should have examined the budget critically, because it is the balance-sheet of the nation, have done nothing except perpetuate the lies by implication in this Parliament. The Government’s Mo. 1 lie is its lie about unemployment. The rural lie is its No. 2 lie, which is also associated with production generally. Its No. 3 lie relates to the Arbitration Court. No. 4 lie relates to the Commonwealth Bank, No. 5 lie to immigration, and No. 6 lie to taxation. The Leader of the Opposition effectively exposed the taxation lie. The Government is merely putting out a smokescreen of words. It talks about disemployment, temporary deployment of the labour force and change-over. Such terms offer no comfort to an unemployed man with an empty belly who has kids to feed. No matter how Government supporters try to decorate the cake or, to use the phrase employed by the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), the sugar becomes sour. Supporters of the Government merely run away from the economic problem, which is tragic. The loyalists on the Government back benches must sing for their supper and stick with the Government, because they will go out if they fail to do so. And they will go out, if they stick with it. Those loyalists have been most vociferous and perfervid. Whenever members of the Opposition direct attention to the workers’ claims, they are charged with peddling depression. I again warn this inept Government that it is rushing headlong into a depression. The mere use of such terms as disemployment and temporary deployment of the labour force reflects a scandalous attitude towards our real major problems.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), speaking as the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, made one of the most tragic remarks that has been made in this chamber during the last twenty years when he said that 31,000 jobs are waiting to be filled at present. That is the Government’s employment lie, but it is rammed down its throat every Monday morning when long queues are to be seen outside branches of the Commonwealth Employment Office. The 31,000 jobs about which the Minister spoke are mythical. We charge the Government with the fact that because of its lack of policy and its inability to deal with inflation, over 100,000 persons are now out of work in this country. If that figure is wrong, let the Government prove it to be wrong. Let the Government make available the correct figures about employment. We cannot believe the statistics that are furnished by the Commonwealth Employment Office, of by the Statistician, because they are not up to date. Assuredly, the figures that the Minister has given are misleading and dangerous. They do not reveal the full threat of unemployment that now exists. The Minister was obliged to admit that the 31,000 vacancies to which he referred were conditional upon technicians becoming available to perform certain work. That is the horrible unemployment lie of this Government. We challenge it to deny the Opposition’s charge that over 100,000 are now unemployed. For the sake of decency and statistical honesty, the Minister should not joggle percentages of unemployment in 1948 with present percentages. Such a comparison gives an unfair picture. No unemployment existed in this country when the Chifley Government was in office; but the nation knows that unemployment has now reached dangerous proportions. The Government should face the problem and do something about it. It should explain to the, nation the curious egotism that induced the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to indulge in the tactics which, they employed in this debate. Taxation has been increased out of all bounds, and in proportion to total collections of tax to-day, the proposed reductions are not nearly so generous as were the reductions that the Chifley Government effected. Having imposed the highest level of taxation that the community could stand, the Government then devised a pincer movement, which made it impossible for the people to pay taxes because there was no employment. The Prime Minister said, in effect, “ I ask every one in this nation to put his shoulder to the industrial wheel”, and then took the wheel away. In regard to the other position - and this is kindergarten stuff, which can possibly be absorbed by honorable members opposite - when a country is in dire straits in regard to employment, and when private industry cannot absorb the unemployed, it is an obvious principle that the Government must expand its public works in order to take up the slack. The Government is now terrified of inflation, because it issued treasury-bills while denouncing socialism. Like the lady who wraps up a nip of brandy in a religious tract, there is nothing very courageous about the Government slamming down on its own public works programme. Yet the Government claims that its policy is to keep men in employment. When the State treasurers, who had become alarmed about increased unemployment, asked the Commonwealth, at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council, to enable them to put men to work, they were told they could not have any more of their own money. The Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth would not make more money available for public works when private industry was clamouring for men. The right honorable gentleman, had been absent from Australia for two months and had no idea of what had happened during that period. The Government still refused to provide money for public works, because the Prime Minister wanted to prove- that he was a man of his word. Even when it had been explained to him that there were no jobs available in private industry, the right honorable gentleman said to the State Premiers, in effect, “ We cannot give you any more money because we may cause inflation “. Ultimately the Treasurer told the States that they could have the lot, that the Commonwealth would return their taxing power to them, and to hell with inflation. That is the only logical conclusion that we can draw from the whole sorry business. This Government is not even able to inform the nation of the number of people who are out of work, or when they will be absorbed in lucrative employment. That is the unemployment lie, which is a terrible thing.
I come now to the oft-repeated rural lie that is implicit in the budget. For years there have been anguished cries from possum paddock, the habitation of the Australian Country party, that no one will work on the land. Millions of words have been spilled over this tragedy of rural decay. Now we find that there is not a tragedy at all. It is not even a fact. The worker in the city has been denounced as unpatriotic because he will not work in the bush without an award and sleep in a fowl-house. The rural report that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has presented to the Parliament absolutely blows the gaff on the position. He stated that the population in the country is an ageing population. In many instances the old farmer and his wife will not subdivide their land. At Bonegilla 1,500 immigrants are waiting for jobs, and it seems that if they want to get a piece of God’s earth they must wait for a cocky to die. That is a horrible indictment of the Government, for which we have the Minister’s own admission. When addressing a farmers and settlers meeting in Sydney, the Minister is reported to have stated, no doubt in a cozening tone -
We had to do this terrible thing to industry in order to get the people out of the cities on to the land.
That was the other part of the pincer movement. On the one hand men have been hunted out of industry and told to go on the land, and on the other hand the Minister says that there is no possibility of their getting land because of the ageing population. Although many country towns are landlocked the Minister says, “ There is no water, no windmills and no hope “. That is the great rural lie with which we have been afflicted many times. After listening to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), whose speech was delivered in a highland accent, I thought that one day 1 might go on the land, but having considered the position fully it is obvious to me that there is nothing left on the land but the propaganda that has been dis- seminated bv the Australian Country party. A. serious reconstruction of its rural policy is needed. The Graziers Association has admitted that it could nol: find 500 jobs on the land, and that, furthermore, the absorptive capacity of the land is only about 5 per cent, of our labour force. All this talk about rolling people out of the city on to the great rolling spaces of Australia is so much nonsense. A man would merely roll himself into the stony desert and then into the Indian Ocean. The solemn fact is that the Graziers Association could not put 500 men even in the fowlhouses of the rural community to work on the land, lt seems that the Government has u Minister for Development, a Minister for Super Development, and a Minister looking after the Minister for Development.
The third lie with which I shall deal is the lie about the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I want to know why this Parliament, the highest Parliament in the land, is to be inhibited by an application that is now before the court relative to the basic wage, women’s wages, and hours. The Treasurer has told us that he is not going to engage in any futile discussions about the matter, because it is sub judice. The Leader of the Opposition, a lawyer and a man who knows what he is talking about, has already dealt with this matter. What is the use of the statistics concerning employment being thrown at us if those same statistics are not observed in regard to wages and employment? The C series index indicates that the cost of living is still going up. The last quarterly adjustment added 123. a week to the basic wage. Therefore the Metal Trades Association is advocating something thar, cannot be sustained. This is the arbitration lie. which should not be rammed down the throats of honorable members.
– Will the honorable member repeat that statement?
– I will repeat my statement in the electorate of Evans during the next general election campaign.
The next lie is the lie about the Commonwealth Bank. The Leader of theOpposition has already mentioned the adjustments that were to be made in order to reform the policy of the Commonwealth Bank. He has pointed out, with a considerable degree of truth, that that situation is not subject to another mandate from the people. The legislation relative to the control of central banking that was brought down by the Chifley Government in 1946 i3 the matter in issue. We fought two battles of the hanks, one in 1946 and the other in 1949. In 1946, the whole of the legislation that is being tampered with was approved by the people. If that mandate is denied, that is another lie. There is a lot of jiggery-pokery going on. The special deposits are melting away. There is a plea for the trading banks to be given more power. More power ! It can now be revealed that the trading banks have had the temerity to make an offer to this nation to buy the copy of Magna Carta that we now proudly possess. That is the greatest piece of impertinence in the history of Englishspeaking nations. If the trading banks bought ifr, I wonder what the mortgage would cost. The lie about the Commonwealth Bank is a serious one. The bank is in danger of assault from the forces that attempted to destroy it in the past, and that lamed it so much and permitted its machinery to become so rusty that it was unable to cope with the depression and the aftermath of the depression until the Labour party came into power.
Another lie implicit in the budget is the lie about immigration. The Government must realize that the immigration plan depends upon another plan - the plan for full employment. The principle of full employment was written into the Charter of the United Nations, and into the hearts and minds of the people during the war. If there be not full employment, the immigration plan will not operate successfully. The attempt by the Government to sneak into this country by the back door immigrants who have no hope of success under present circumstances is an immigration lie in excelsis. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) is not present in the chamber. Therefore, my criticism will be modified accordingly. The Italians now in Bonegilla camp were brought to this country-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. (Bowden) . - Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr, Eric J. Harbison) proposed -
That thu House do now adjourn.
.- I am seriously concerned about the deterioration of the employment situation. Today, I directed to the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), who is acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), a question about unemployed young men who seek to register with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment or for unemployment benefit. They are advised by the officer behind the counter to go to the Army authorities and make application for enlistment, and that, if the Army authorities will not accept them, they can return to the office and register for unemployment benefit. That is a sad commentary on the policy of the Government. I ask honorable members to imagine the effect upon the youths of our community who want to register for unemployment benefit to which they are legally entitled of an instruction that they must go to an Army recruiting centre and offer themselves for enlistment before they can even be accepted as applicants for such benefit.
– That is not true.
– The Minister for Defence said, in his reply to me to-day, that it is true. His answer is recorded in Hansard. I want to know, in the interests of the mothers and fathers of the youths of our country, who issued the instruction that this procedure was to be followed. If the Minister himself did not issue it, I want him to ascertain for me and for other honorable gentlemen on this side of the House - I do not suppose Government members are concerned about the matter, because they are disciplined to such a degree that they cannot even ask a question of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about any matter affecting Government policy - whether the Minister for Labour and National Service or one of his departmental officers issued it. If the instruction was given by a departmental officer, I want to know the name of the officer.
The Minister for Defence, after his frank admission this afternoon that this is a plan devised to coerce young men into enlisting in the armed forces - whether it will be successful or not is another matter - will agree with me tha* this procedure illegally deprives, or seek.to deprive, young men of a benefit to which they are entitled under the social services legislation. I want this matter to be thrashed out. I want advice from the Minister about the legality of the procedure. I expect an answer to my questions. If I do not get one, I shall raise the matter again and again until I do. I want the Minister to take steps to ensure that this iniquitous practice will immediately be discontinued. I shall make it my business regularly to visit employment offices in my district and in adjoining districts and to tell young men that they arientitled to the unemployment benefit if they are unemployed, whether or not they go to a recruiting office at the request of the man behind the counter. I believe it to be distasteful to officers of the employment centres to issue an instruction of tin* kind which has come from some one higher up who has not the intestinal fortitude to give this advice himself, but forces his subordinates to do so, under the threat of dismissal. Perhaps he uses the fear weapon that has been forged to force men to do the will of this Government. J want to know the name of the Minister or officer who issued the instruction, and 1 want advice upon its legality.
.- T support the protest that has been made by the honorable member for Watson (Mir. Curtin). The Australian publicwill be shocked to learn that what are termed Commonwealth employment offices are actually being used as recruiting depots, and that the officers in char;ge of them are applying all kinds of pressure to force into the armed forces young men who offer themselves for employment and when employment cannot be found for them, apply for the unemployment benefit. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), iri his reply to the question that the honorable member for Watson directed to him this afternoon,’ admitted frankly that when these young men apply for work - it is work that they apply for, and the Government, through it3 agencies, ought to provide it for them - the officers place before them certain arguments designed to convince them that they should join the armed forces. As the honorable gentleman has pointed out, the young men are not registered immediately for unemployment benefit, but are told first to apply to the recruiting authorities for enlistment into the armed forces and then, if they fail to secure acceptance, to return to the employment office and register for unemployment relief. If that is not economic conscription I have yet to learn what is. Can honorable members opposite give any specific reason why it is necessary to use employment officers as recruiting agents if the purpose is not to apply economic conscription to young men ? There has been a recruiting campaign. We have a Director of Recruiting, Enormous sums have been expended ia advertising the recruiting campaign and in endeavouring to induce young men to join the various services. They are already aware of the call for recruits. One cannot read a newspaper without seeing advertisements calling upon young men to join the forces. When, young men go to employment offices seeking jobs they do not expect officials to urge them to join the services: yet that is what is being done. I say therefore that the honorable member for Watson is to ho complimented upon having brought this matter to the notice of the House, :md so having let the Australian people know what is happening. Is it not a fact, that a part of the Government’s plan to have a pool of unemployed was to put young men out of work so that they would bc compelled to join the forces? Is it not a fact also that as the unemployment figure rises recruiting figures rise also? This proves conclusively that economic pressure is a contributing factor in swelling the numbers applying for enlistment.
The honorable member for Watson and other members of the Labour party ought to make it their business to find out what is going on in the employment offices. They should visit those offices and interview as many young men as possible in order to find out just how pressure is being applied to them and should then let the Australian public know what is going on. If they did so, the Government would realize very quickly that the Australian people will not stand for such practices. It seems hypocritical that, only to-day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) should have spoken in this chamber about the liberties of the subject and traced the long struggle for civil liberties over many centuries. The Government that he leads is not game to come out into the open and pass legislation to provide for conscription of men for service in any part of the world. It knows perfectly well that the Australian public would resent such legislation, and would reject Government supporters at the next general election. However, while giving lip service to the principle of the voluntary enlistment system, the Government is using the underhand method of conscripting young men into the services by economic pressure. Every young Australian is quite capable of deciding in the light of his personal circumstances whether or not he should enlist in the armed services. That was the decision that the Prime Minister had to make for himself many years ago, after he had become a trained soldier and had to decide whether he should offer for active service. It is the decision that I had to make, and that every other man in the community has had to make. The Australian public believes that the voluntary system, under which each individual has a right to make his own decision, should be maintained. The application of economic pressure to obtain recruits for the services is nothing less than conscription. Therefore I again commend the honorable member for Watson for having taken this opportunity to bring to the notice of the Parliament, and of the people, exactly what this Government is doing.
.-! have no particular stomach for arguments of this kind; but, as a conscientious member of this House, I cannot remain silent after two members of the Opposition have made the fantastic comments to which we have just listened. What is their charge? Nothing factual has been placed before us. Our only information has come from questions that were asked in this House to-day by members of the Opposition, and from what has been said to-night, It appears that officers of the Commonwealth Employment, Service are directing the attention of men who apply to them for assistance in finding jobs to the fact that the armed services need recruits and are offering good conditions of employment. Is that a sin?
– They have no right to do that.
– I ask the House to consider the ideas and feelings that lie behind the clamour of the honorable mem ber for Watson (Mr. Curtin) who has interjected, “ They have no right to do that “. Have public servants in the Commonwealth no right to direct the attention of the Australian people to the fact that the services of this country need men ?
– Not when the men are looking for work.
– Again I invite the House to consider the attitude of mind which lies behind that remark. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) tried to bolster his statements with the fantastic charge that employment is being withheld from applicants until they have applied for enlistment in the services and have been rejected. T challenge the honorable member to produce one person who can say that he was refused employment until he had tried to join the services. What is happening is clear. Officials of the Commonwealth Employment Service direct the attention of applicants for employment to the fact that the services need mcn. and are offering employment on better conditions than they have ever offered in the past. What lies behind the Opposition’s extraordinary objection to this very proper and sensible practice? One thing that lies behind it is the bitter hatred that always drips from the mouth, of the honorable member for East Sydney whenever the matter of service to one’s country arises. We hear it, ad nauseam, in this House. If there is any intellectual defence at all of his attitude, it is to be found in the distant past - a past that, we should examine as a matter of historical interest rather than as a source of present policy. T refer to the ideas of the international socialists’ of the decade before World War I., who talked about the brotherhood of man and the danger of capitalist imperialism. Why does Australia need any armed forces at all to-day ‘. Against whom are we preparing to defend ourselves? What aggressive imperialist power is it that threatens our security? It is the nation whose ideas find an apologist in the honorable member for East Sydney.
– Rubbish !
– They are the only people against whom we may have to defend ourselves, but all that the honorable member for East Sydney can say is “Rubbish!” To-day, every Government, supporter who spoke in the budget debate had to contend with interjections from the honorable member for East Sydney, and almost his sole contribution was “ Rubbish ! “ That is hardly a constructive argument. It is not astonishing that when we examine the attitude of mind of the honorable member for East Sydney, we find that, basically, it is one ofkinship with the imperialist Communists, and antagonism towards those who seek to defend this country, but I am astonished to find the honorable member for Watson supporting him, because, in spite of all his clowning-
– Order !
– I withdraw the word “clowning”. In spite of all his activities, which perhaps appertain better to the circus, as a rule he does not lend himself to activities designed to assist, the Communist side rather than the democratic side. Hovever, he has promised this House that he will make a personally conducted tour of the employment office’ in order to discover whether his charge is true. I can only warn him that if the conscientious public servants whom he meets in employment offices are doing their duty as effectively as I think they do it, and if they are as good at convincing people as I have always found them to be when I have gone to see them on official business, and direct his attention to the needs of the services, he should be on his guard, otherwise the iir-xt time he makes an appearance in the House he may be in uniform.
.- Mr. Speaker -
Motion (by Mr. Ej?ic J. Harbison) put -
That the question be now pui.
The House divided. (Mk. Speaker - Hon. Ahchie Camebon.)
The following papers were presented :- r
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment Certificate - F. S. King-Davies.
Customs Tariff (Export Duties) -Act - Regulations - Statutory Eules 1952, No. 58.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land, &c. acquired for-
Defence purposes -
Liverpool, New South Wales. Reid River, Queensland.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Mangalore. Victoria.
Postal purposes -
Hermit Park, Townsville, Queensland. Newstead, Brisbane, Queensland. “Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 59.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Departments^ -
Defence Production - J. L. Clay, A. D. B.
Graham, W. N. Williams. Repatriation - B. M. Mason. Territories - B. R. Jephcott.
House adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
The following answers to were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows.: -
n asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Will lie give an assurance (a) that arl migrants due to arrive in Australia next year will receive employment, and (!>) that the employment of persons already in Australia will not be affected by the influx of thousands nf additional migrants?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is ae follows : -
The. statemeuts made in the House on “tli August by myself and by the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service answers the question raised.
International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development. Mr. Clyde Cameron asked the Prime Minister, upon, notice -
Ti it a fact that the American hunker. Mr. Eugene Black, has expressed the opinion that the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project and other developmental, works in Australia should be slowed down?
Will the Government give an assurance that completion of vitally important economic and defence projects will not be held up regardless of whether ot not their completion meets with the approval by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development t
s. - The answers to thu honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The Commonwealth Government has received no such expression of opinion from Mr. Black and Mr. Black has in fact denied reports that had been published that the International Bank had made such a statement.
Slayed the friendliest interest in Australian evelopmental projects, the question does not arise.
Government Loans and Finance. Mr. Clyde Cameron asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
I and 2. The statement attributed to me can he regarded as a fair representation of my views on the subject of Australian development. 3 and i. In view of the facts - (o) that in 1951-52 the Commonwealth Government provided no less an amount than f 152,805,000 from its own resources for State works and housing programmes in that year; and (b) that for the current financial year 1952-53 it has offered to make finances available for State works and housing programmes up to an amount of £133,000,000 and turther that it had undertaken to do its utmost to raise the maximum amount of money from public loans for States works purposes,* it could hardly be said that the Commonwealth is depriving the States of the finance necessary to carry out their plans of development. As regards finance for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, the Estimates for 1952-53 provide for an expenditure of £13,600.000 for the Snowy Mountains Authority compared with an expenditure of £10,400,000 ‘in 1951-52.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The question of the persona] services provided for passengers is one entirely for the operating companies.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 August 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520819_reps_20_218/>.