20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) tool; the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers*
– Is the Prime Minis- 1:f.i’ aware that the Prime Minister of New Zealand .has invited President Truman to visit Now Zealand in the course of his world tour? Has the Prime Minister made any decision about extending a similar invitation to Mr. Truman to visit Australia when he is in i his part of the world?
– I was not aware that the right honorable the Prime Minister of Now Zealand had extended an invitation. I had a discussion with President Truman in Washington when I was there last during which the President told mc that he had in mind the possibility of a world journey after his terra of office concluded, and I indicated to him at once that he would be very welcome in this country. Having seen a statement in the press that President Truman was contemplating a trip, I despatched a cable inviting him to come t<. Australia as the guest of the Common’ wealth in the course of his tour.
– Last week, besides receiving from my electorate many expressions of approval of the Government’s budget, 1 was also advised that in two instances telephone subscribers had received accounts from the Postal Department for phonograms which were not originated by the subscriber whose number was cited. As it seems to be an easy matter to despatch a telegram by telephone, and to ascribe it to any known number, will the Postmaster-General consider what steps may be taken to safeguard subscribers from having telegrams booked by telephone to their account by unauthorized persons ?
– It is the practice of telephonists who take telegrams to telephone back in order to check the number. That, of course, is not always done, because hundreds of thousands of telegrams ure despatched by telephone, and in many instances the circumstances associated with the despatch of the telegram are known. If an unauthorized person succeeds in having the cost of a telegram booked to a subscriber, and if complaint is duly made, we have ways of tracing the telegram. It is generally possible to find out from the person to whom the telegram is despatched something of its origin.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether the amount of remission of air route charges or landing fees, amounting to £600,000 or more for Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines is to be. included in their balance-sheets for 1951-52? Can the Minister say when the balance-sheet of Trans-Australia Airlines, which has always disclosed its accounts to the public, will be ready for presentation, seeing that it is desirable that this information should be available as soon as possible?
– It is obvious that an organization cannot include in its balancesheet for the year ended the 30th June, 1952, amounts involved in occurrences much later than that date. Consequently, any adjustments which are made subsequent to that date will appear in a subsequent balance-sheet. I presume that the next report of Trans-Australia Airlines will be laid on the table about the same time this year as the previous report was laid on the table last year. There is no reason why the presentation of the next report should be delayed beyond the usual period.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation any knowledge of alleged negotiations between TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited concerning the imposition of charges for the bus transport of members of the public between air terminals and city depots? If he has any information on this matter, will he make it known to the House?
– As far as I am aware, no negotiations are proceeding in respect of that matter. To my knowledge, the companies have not even discussed the possibility of doing otherwise than carry passengers to and from city depots at company expense.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question concerning the refunding of £600,000 which was paid in landing dues by TransAustralia Airlines. Will this money be made available for the Natonal Airlines Commission to spend on the purchase of new aircraft, the general re-equipment of the company, and the improvement of its services or will the money, having been paid to Trans-Australia Airlines, become additional profit and, therefore, be repayable to Consolidated Revenue?
– When the amount to which the honorable member has referred is repaid to Trans-Australia Airlines it will be for the National Airlines Commission to determine how it shall be used.
– Supplementary to the question to which the Minister for Civil Aviation has just replied with respect to refund of air route charges to Trans- Australia Airlines, and in respect of which the sum of £600,000 was mentioned, which was accompanied by a very large refund of air route charges ot immunity therefrom to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, I ask whether the refund to TransAustralia Airlines was made at that organization’s request or as part of a general review of charges for which Trans- Australia Airlines did not ask.
– Trans-Australia Airlines has been just as eager as has any private airline company in Australia to obtain a reduction of air route charges. Complaints have been made by the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Mr. Watt, about the burden of these charges. Doubts had been expressed by Mr. Watt, on his own behalf and on behalf of Trans-Australia Airlines, on whether that airline would be able to continue to pay its way and at the same time run its services economically. Therefore, practically every airline operator in Australia has made representations for a reduction of air route charges, and all airlines in this country will benefit as a result of the Government’s decision.
– In view of the concern which Communist leaders throughout the world profess to have for the welfare of impoverished and under-privileged peoples, will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether Russia, as a member of the United Nations, makes any contribution, as do Great Britain, the United States of America, Australia and other members, to the humanitarian and welfare funds organized by the United Nations ?
– Soviet Russia does not belong to any of the specialized agencies that concern themselves with relief and humanitarian projects, and does not subscribe to any of those projects under the aegis of the United Nations. Speaking from memory, I think the United States provides more than 20,000,000 dollars a year, Great Britain a proportionate amount and Australia, on the basis of its population, a very large amount indeed, for those humanitarian purposes.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister, and relates to a deputation from the High Council of Public Service Organizations and the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, which waited on the Treasurer, when he was the Acting Prime Minister. The deputation made representations for at increase of margins for public servants in order to maintain their relative value to the base salary.” The Acting Prime Minister, in his reply, promised that he would bring the matter to the notice of Cabinet and the Prime Minister. He would not give a decision until he had informed the Prime Minister of the request. That promise was made two months ago, and the Public .Service organizations are eager to know whether a decision has been reached on the matter. Can the Prime Minister give me any information about the position?
– The Treasurer, who received the deputation to which the honorable gentleman has referred, indicated his own view, without saying that it was final, that applications for increased margins should be discussed, in the first instance, with the Public Service Board, and that if no agreement were reached between the parties, the matters should be taken to the appropriate tribunals, including the Public Service Arbitrator. Cabinet discussed the position at its last meeting and agreed with the view that the subject should be discussed with the Public Service Board and that, consistent with our normal principle regarding these matters, should be taken before the appropriate tribunal if an agreement were not reached between the parties.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior whether it is a responsibility of the Australian Government to protect our coloured people in relation to the conditions under which they contract to provide their labour, and in relation to their health, and their lives? If so, will he consider placing a white man with a knowledge of internal combustion engine? and pressures on all luggers to prevent paralysis which is the principal cause of permanent injury or death among the divers in the pearling industry?
– I shall refer the question to the Minister who unfortunately is not present in the House to-day.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give the House any information about the results of the sale this year of Australian lamb and beef exported to the United States of America and Canada under the provisions of the long-term meat agreement? How do the sales this year compare with the sales last year?
– Under the terms of the agreement, we were entitled to send 3,000 tons of carcass meat to North America this year. Since last February, there has been no restriction whatever on the export of our pigmeat to any country of the world, but no pigmeat has been sent to North America because we cannot compete with local prices. I understand that the beef which is to be exported this year has been procured by the Australian Meat Board, but has not yet been exported. The board decided to send 1,800 tons of lamb and mutton to North America this year. This meat was to have gone in January and February, but due to shipping delays, I do not think that it went until March. Frankly, the sales have been extraordinarily disappointing. None of this meat could be sent to Canada because an embargo exists, owing to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. A minor exception to that embargo was a very small consignment which went to Vancouver, for consumption in that city. The balance, approximately 1,700 tons, was. sent to a number of companies for sale over a range of areas in the United States of America. Three hundred tons of mutton, chosen from the best quality, was required to be unwrapped, thawed, trimmed, re-frozen and re-wrapped. The latest advice available from the board is that this 1,700 tons of lamb and mutton, which was consigned in March, has been in the possession of the leading sellers in America, but that of that quantity less than 300 tons has been sold. That is the position at the present time. The prices of the lamb that has been sold are from ls. to ls. 3d. per lb. lower than last year’s prices, which seems to indicate that the United Kingdom is our market for meat in bulk.
– In” view qf the prolonged, drought in the Northern Territory and in north-west Queensland, where some areas have not had rain since January of last year, and as 90 per cent, of the cattle killed for the domestic market and the export market come from- these areas, what steps has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture taken,- or does he propose to take, in order to ensure that adequate supplies of cattle shall be available to meet the requirements of the domestic market at least for the next three years and thus obviate the necessity arising during that period to import meat into Australia?
– I do not know whether the honorable member was referring to the market in the areas that he mentioned or to the domestic meat market generally. I believe that, notwithstanding the drought, adequate supplies of beef will be available in those areas when the weather breaks. What steps might be taken to increase supplies of beef throughout Australia will be determined by seasonal conditions and the processes of nature.
– Will the Prime Minister give me an assurance that when tax assessments are being issued for the current year, consideration will be given to losses that have been suffered by persons as the result of the recent floods in the Macleay River district and on whom hardship may be entailed in meeting current tax assessments?
– I inquired this morning from the Commissioner of Taxation about the position of flood victims. I am informed that applications lodged by victims of the Macleay River floods, with which the honorable member is primarily concerned, for the deferment or writing-off of tax, will receive prompt and sympathetic consideration. When a person who has suffered such loss as the honorable member has described, receives an income tax assessment, he should apply to the Commissioner of Taxation for deferment of payment until the circumstances can be examined. That is the first step. In cases of serious hardship, an application for relief should be madeunder the special provisions of the’
Income Tax Assessment Act. Consideration of each individual case in this fashion, and following that procedure, enables more effective relief to be given than if a general concession were granted indiscriminately to all residents of the area, as the honorable member will no doubt agree.
– Can the Minister for Supply inform the House of the extent to which the facilities at the Greta immigrant camp were of service to people who were forced from their homes by last week’s disastrous floods in the Hunter River Valley?
– As soon as the disastrous floods occurred at Maitland, the Australian Government, through the Department of Immigration, made available to the victims the facilities at the Greta migrant camp. This assistance was in addition to the cash grants that the Government has made for the relief of flood victims. As many as 400 or 500 homeless settlers in the Maitland area have been accommodated in that camp at the one time. Some of them have returned to their own homes or have gone to other accommodation, but about 300 still remain at the camp. They are being cared for by the management of the camp with the assistance of the immigrants, a great many of whom are from foreign countries and all of whom, I am glad to say, have co-operated most generously. Many of these immigrants offered their services free to assist persons who had been displaced by floods.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform me whether it is a fact that valuable dairy land and other property, including a bakery, is to be resumed at Williamtown by the Defence Department for the extension of the Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome? Is it also a fact that ample land for this purpose is available on the Moors? Is the cost of such resumption to be a charge on defence funds, and if so, is that the most economical way of effecting the resumption? Is it true, as has been rumoured, that the proposed resumption of dairy land by the Government is to be made so that high-ranking Royal Australian Air Force officers may live in more congenial surroundings than at present ?
– I have no knowledge of the matter that has been referred to by the honorable member but I shall obtain the facts for him from the Minister for Air.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether steps have been taken to discuss with shipping companies the replacement of the passenger vessel Taroona which plies between Tasmania and the mainland? Have any arrangements been made for an alternative vessel to maintain this service during the overhaul of Taroona?
– I have made inquiries concerning this matter and have been informed that Taroona was running at reduced speed between Melbourne and Tasmania as one boiler had developed a crack. On its last trip, about one hour out from Melbourne, one of the tubes of the other boiler blew out and, in accordance with instructions, the master put back to port and arrived late on Monday night. Repairs were effected and the vessel again left at 8 o’clock last night. Arrangements have been made to repair the other damaged boiler and it is hoped that the vessel will be in order again shortly.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether any decision has been made to reduce the number of national service trainees?
– I am aware that certain reports have been circulated to the effect that decisions have been made concerning the volume of national service training. Those reports are completely unauthorized. The Cabinet has yet to determine what changes, if any, are to be made in any portion of the existing defence programme. In order that appropriate consideration may be given to this matter papers have been prepared relating to it. To-morrow afternoon and evening a meeting of the Defence Preparations Committee of the Cabinet will be attended by the Chiefs of Staff and other officers and deliberations will be directed to the defence programme. As a result of that meeting, decisions will be made. At this time no decision has been made along the lines mentioned by the honorable member nor along any other lines.
– Will the Minister for Defence help me to overcome a dilemma in which a number of my constituents have been placed’ as part of the growing army of unemployed. A man came to me over the week-end. He wa3 previously a salesman-
– Order ! Is the honorable member seeking information from the Minister or is he giving it?
– I desire to give the Minister some particulars about the matter before I ask my question.
– Order ! The Standing Orders do not provide for giving such information.
– I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that officers at various branches of the Commonwealth Employment Service have no work available for unskilled workers or for workers such as salesmen who have lost their employment in retail stores and who are willing to engage in any kind of employment? Is it also a fact that Commonwealth employment officers inform such applicants for employment that the Government has no work available for them, but that if they like they can join the Army? Will the Minister indicate where I can direct workers of the type that I have mentioned, who apply to me for work? Will he be prepared to supply to honorable members a list of undertakings that the Government ($ engaged on where work might be available for the unskilled workers that I have mentioned?
– As I have said previously 31,000 vacancies are registered with the Commonwealth Employment service. It is true that the great majority of those vacancies are for skilled or semi-skilled workers, and that there is not a large number of vacancies available for unskilled workers. Later, with the concurrence of the House, I hope to make a short statement about the remark of the honorable member that Commonwealth employment officers are directing applicants to the services. Commonwealth employment officers have lists of available vacancies and any applicant for employment can obtain from them a copy of such lists. I assure the House that Commonwealth employment officers are making a very intensive survey and investigation of the field of employment in order to obtain work for those who need it. As the Prime Minister said recently, in the last two months the officers have been able to find about 4,000 vacancies a month.
- -by leave- Yesterday the honorable member for Watson questioned the practice that is adopted by the Commonwealth Employment Service of bringing to the notice of applicants for employment the fact that suitable vacancies may exist in the defence forces. My reply to the question of the honorable member for Watson yesterday was necessarily brief. I have since read the instructions and I find that there is not the slightest ground for the suggestion that applicants for unemployment benefit are referred to the service before their applications for the unemployment benefit are considered. The practice followed by the Commonwealth Employment Service has been carefully designed to ensure that no pressure whatever shall be exercised on applicants for employment to join the forces. All that happens is that the district employment officers treat the Commonwealth defence services in the same way as they treat every other employer of labour, that is, by bringing their vacancies to the notice of suitable applicants. But there is this difference - which I emphasize, because it is most important - that when an applicant applies for unemployment benefit, vacancies in the defence services are not included in the work offered as part of the work test when unemployment benefit is claimed.
– It should not be, either.
– I agree. It is quite untrue to suggest, as the honorable member for Watson suggested yesterday, that applicants registering for unemployment benefit are advised first to make application for enlistment in the defence services, and that if such applications are unsuccessful they may then lodge claims for unemployment benefit. Indeed, since yesterday I have had the position checked with the district employment office in the electorate of “Watson and I have been assured that the instructions that have been laid down are in fact being carried out.
– There is not a Commonwealth employment office in my electorate.
– Order !
– For the benefit of the honorable members concerned I shall read the relevant extract of the instructions that have been issued. It is as follows : -
Tile Commonwealth Employment Service has undertaken to assist in recruitment for the Permanent Forces in order to strengthen Australia’s defences . . . District Employment Officers should assume that the Commonwealth as an employer in relation to the Services has placed with them standing vacancies lor employment in the Armed Services . When considering the field of employment in which an applicant may be offered vacancies District Employment Officers should regard service in the Forces as being equal in . . . attraction for the right man with any other vacancies. In considering whether to bring before an applicant vacancies in the Services . . . and in order to avoid any suggestion that pressure is being exercised by the Commonwealth Employment Service on applicants the opportunity of enlistment in the Services should only be put before suitable applicants together with other suitable vacancies.
F pause to remark that even when there are no other suitable vacancies, quite often employment officers are obliged to mention vacancies in the services because applicants for employment, having seen literature displayed in the employment office by the services, inquire about vacancies in the services, and naturally the employment officers must answer their inquiries. The instructions continue^ -
An applicant should not be approached about enlistment in the Forces if he has been approached about this within the previous six months and has indicated that he is not interested in the idea. The reasons for lack of interest should not be sought but if they are volunteered they mav reveal misapprehensions that the District Employment Officer can discuss and remove.
The practice followed by our employment service is along the lines of that followed by the employment service in Great Britain. I am satisfied that it is sound.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member for Watson claim to have been misrepresented ?
– I do. The Minister for Defence has stated that I said that men were directed to recruiting depots. That is inaccurate. I said, not that they were directed to recruiting depots, but they they were requested to go to them. The Minister has said also that a thorough check has been made on this matter. Whoever checked-
– Order ! That is outside the terms of a personal explanation.
– The Minister said that he checked-
– Order ! That is outside the terms of a personal explanation.
– Then I ask for leave to make a statement.
– by leave- I thank the House for its indulgence. The two men I have in mind were requested to go to the Army authorities before an application for unemployment benefit was suggested. They are two veterans of the Korean war. They returned to this country from Korea two and a half months ago, and were discharged from the forces. Now, they are in such reduced circumstances that one of them has been forced to pawn his watch and his coat to obtain money on which to live.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask. the House to maintain order. We are discussing a matter that may easily cause an increase of the temperature. I do not wish that to happen
Mr.- CURTIN.- Thank you, ‘ Mr. Speaker. I do not care how much we increase the temperature in our discussion of this matter.
– Order! I care about it.
– The facts are clear. The Minister has stated, quite inaccurately, that he has checked on the employment office in my electorate. For the information of the Minister, I remind him that, only last week, I wrote him a letter requesting that an employment office be established at Maroubra Junction in my electorate. I told him that people who lived at La Perouse had to travel 8 miles to Paddington to register for the unemployment benefit. The Minister replied that, after a thorough check, he did not consider it necessary to establish an employment office at Maroubra Junction. The position is that there is no employment office in the electorate of Watson at present. I suggest, therefore, that the expert who conducted the. investigation in the electorate of Watson should be removed from his position and replaced by some one who has more initiative and more competence to do the job. In one direction, the nearest employment office to La Perouse is at Paddington, 8 miles away. In the other direction, the nearest office is at Mascot, a. distance. of 4 or 5 miles across country. I hope that the Minister for Defence, who is acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, will give these matters deep consideration, and will take whatever steps are necessary to rectify the pre.-ent situation. Residents of the Watson electorate who have been unemployed for some weeks may not have the necessary fare to travel to the Paddington employment office to register for the unemployment benefit. There are at least 4,000 people out of work in the Watson electorate. I should like the Minister to supply me with details of some of the 32,000 vacancies for employment that are alleged to exist. I should be only too happy next week-end to visit every unemployed person in my electorate, and tell him where he could start work on Monday morning. I maintain that my statement about men who were seeking jobs being requested to go to a recruiting depot is correct. The Minister’s statement is inaccurate in every detail, and I ask him to make a further check. I should also like him to reconsider the request for the establishment of an employment office at
Maroubra Junction. The provision of such an office would reveal the true extent of unemployment in the Watson electorate.
– ls the Prime Minister aware of the fact that because of considerable confusion in the public mind about the functions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in connexion with the declaration of the basic wage, many impracticable suggestions are being made about the giving of legislative directions to the court? I ask the right honorable gentleman whether, in or< er to clear up that confusion, he will have a statement prepared to show the functions and practices of the court in connexion with the determination and declaration of the basic wage, and will he include in it an outline of the nrfi.ct.ice of the court from the time of the declaration of the Harvester award?
– I agree that there has been a good deal of confusion about this matter, and sometimes a little misrepresentation. I think that the honorable member’s suggestion is a good one and I shall be happy to have a reasonably compendious statement prepared and presented to the House next week.
– Can the Minister for Externa] Affairs say whether the Government has received a request from the Japanese Government to the effect that Japanese war criminals who have been convicted by Australian war crimes courts, and who are at present detained at Manus Island, should be returned to Japan to finish their prison terms? What is the Government’s attitude to this matter ?
– A request in the terms mentioned by the honorable member has been received and is engaging the attention of the relevant interested departments. I have no doubt that the matter will be presented for Cabinet decision in due course.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for LaBour and
National Service a question which concerns the alleged use being made of certain Commonwealth property under his jurisdiction. I refer to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board’s pick-up centres for waterside workers at Town’s Bond and Sussex-street, Sydney. Is it correct that the premises at these centres and the public address systems in them are repeatedly used by Communist leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australasian Seamen’s Union to harangue waterside workers, to spread dissension and to advocate the overthrow of the Government by force ? Does the Minister realize that the waterside workers are obliged to remain in the centres while they are waiting to be detailed for work and so are forcibly subjected to those harangues, a fact which, I am happy to say, is very strongly resented by some of them as I know from those who have informed me of the practice? Will the Minister investigate the practice .and determine whether it should be allowed to continue?
– I have no knowledge of the conditions that have been mentioned by the honorable member, but I assure him that I shall have an immediate investigation made in order to ascertain whether any improper practices are taking place at the pick-up centres that he has mentioned. If the inquiry reveals such practices, they will be discontinued.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration aware of the grave discontent that exists among British mine workers in the West Cessnock area because of the very poor accommodation that has been provided for them by the Government at excessive rents? The rents for Nissen huts range from £2 10s. to £2 15s. a week.
-Order ! The honorable member is giving information.
– The rent charged for prefabricated houses is £3 19s. 6d. a week.
-Order! I have pointed out to the honorable member that he is giving information to the Minister instead of asking for it.
– I ask whether these are facts. In view of the grave discontent that has been caused by high rental charges, which were not allowed under the price-fixing system that operated under the former Labour administration and which the Fair Rents Court of New South Wales-
– Order! The Fair Rents Court is not under the control of the Minister.
– In view of the excessive rental charges for the huts that I have mentioned, which leak terribly, will the Minister visit West Cessnock in order to see for himself the conditions under which British mine workers are expected to live there?
– I am sure that the rents that are being charged to British immigrants are not out of proportion to the rents that were charged under the administration of the Labour Government. My recollection i3 that the honorable member asked me a question on this subject on the 6th August, and that I promised to have the matter investigated. I have not yet received the information that I have requested, but I shall make inquiries to ascertain whether it is available and will supply it to the honorable gentleman as soon a.3 it comes to hand.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply been drawn to reports that copies of the excellent booklet on prospecting for uranium, which was published by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, are not available in Sydney? Are those reports true and, if so, what action is being taken to overcome the shortage? Are supplies of Geiger counters freely availin Sydney? By way of explanation, may I refer the Minister to certain remarks that were made by me on the 2Sth May on the extreme desirability of maintaining adequate supplies of these instruments to meet the needs of prospectors for uranium who should receive every encouragement?
– I was not aware that copies of the booklet on prospecting for uranium were not available in Sydney.
I gave instructions that copies should be available at the various State offices of the Department of Supply and the Bureau of Mineral Resources and also at the State Mines Departments. I am sorry to hear that they are not available in Sydney. I shall take action immediately to ensure that more copies are made available there. The matter of Geiger counters is in a different category. They are valued, I believe, at £30, £40, or £50 each. My department has made provision for each State Mines Department to .have several Geiger counters and they are at the disposal also of State officers of the Department of Supply and officers of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. I agree that Geiger counters are important in prospecting for uranium, and I shall see what can be done to make them available to prospectors.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Have arrangements been finalized for the making of a geophysical survey of the north-west of Western Australia, particularly the East and West Kimberleys, in an effort to locate uranium?
– I cannot say of my own knowledge that any arrangement has been made for a geophysical survey to discover uranium. As the matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for National Development, I shall bring the question to his notice and obtain for the honorable member the latest information in regard to the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister make available to . the House the name of the company that has been granted a concession to develop all uranium deposits that come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth? Is the company Australian or American in origin? Will the right honorable gentleman furnish a list of the names of the members of the board of directors of the company?
– I am not aware that any company has been given any rights such as those described by the honorable member. If .any company has been given a particular right at a particular place, the question should be directed, either to the Minister for Supply or the Minister for National Development. I am not aware of it.
– Will the Minister for the Army reconsider a decision that was put into effect early this year not to pay fares to members of the Citizen Military Forces units when they attend parades unless the cost of the single fare is 2s. or more? In explanation, I add that as a result of this decision, many members of units who pay 3s. 9d. or less in fares while attending parades, receive no reimbursement. Will the Minister recommend a return to the previous system under which all fares that were expended by members of the Citizen Military Forces units in attending parades were paid by the Department of the Army?
– I believe that the honorable member has a false conception of the policy of the Department of the Army. In addition to his pay for attending Citizen Military Forces parades, every man receives ls. 6d. for each parade that he attends throughout the year to compensate him for expenses incurred in travelling to and from training. That has been generally accepted and commanding officers of all units have informed me that the practice is considered to be satisfactory in every way.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. As you are aware, the time that is taken up by divisions in this House is from six to eight minutes. As there are many divisions each day have you, Mr. Speaker, or the Standing Orders Committee, considered an v means by which that time might be reduced ?
– The matter of taking divisions has been considered. Various alternatives have been put forward, but no improvement on the present method has been suggested.
– I address, a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture concerning the price of hormone weed killers used for the eradication of skeleton weed in wheat crops. In view of the high price of these preparations, will the Government consider reducing their cost by subsidy, so as to make it a payable proposition for wheatfarmers to spray their crops? Is customs duty payable on these preparations? If so, will the Minister ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to waive the duty imposed on them?
– I am not aware that there has been an increase pf the price of hormone sprays. I understand that it is still economical to use such sprays for the eradication of weeds in cereal crops. I do not know whether customs duty is payable on these preparations. I shall make full inquiries into the matter and advise the honorable member of the result as early as practicable.
– In view of the reply given to a question which I addressed to the Prime Minister yesterday, I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is his intention ever to reply to question No. 8, which stands in my name on the notice-paper, regarding the position of under-secretaries in this Parliament? If he proposes to reply, will he state the reason for the unduly long delay in replying to the question, which has been on the notice-paper for some months?
– The question will be answered in due course. It is rather interesting to know that the honorable member really expects to have such questions answered, because I have not failed to notice, as have other honorable members, that he devotes a great deal of time to the placing of scores of questions on the notice-paper, no doubt for some curious purpose of his own.
– The question that I shall address to you, Mr. Speaker, arises from the extraordinary desire of the honorable member for East Sydney to obtain an answer to question No. 8 on the notice-paper. That question also involves the Leader of the Opposition, as the view may be taken that the right honorable gentleman is holding an office of profit under the Crown. Is it possible that the real purpose behind the eagerness of the honorable member for East Sydney is to have a back-handed slap at his own leader?
– I am afraid that’ this is a matter entirely outside my cognizance.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee of this House. Have you observed that, of the 82 questions that appear on to-day’s notice-paper, no fewer than 34 are in the name of the honorable member for EastSydney, and no fewer than twelve in the name of his pupil - -
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney has no pupil here that I know of.
– I shall not attempt to canvass your statement. Mr. Speaker. J wish I shared your assurance on that matter. Have you also observed that no fewer than twelve questions on the notice-paper are in the name of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, making a total of 46 questions out of 82, or about 50 per cent., shared bv this unholy alliance, and that the next largest number of questions that appear in the name of one honorable member is five? Do you agree that this is prima facie evidence of a determination on the part of the two honorable members whom I have named to obstruct the proceedings of this House by an abuse of its processes ?
– A childish practice!
– I agree, and for that reason I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether means are provided under the Standing Orders to prevent this patent abuse If not. will you call a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee to ascertain by what means it can be prevented ?
– I assure the honorable member that under the Standing Orders in force at present no limit is placed on the number of questions that may be placed on the notice-paper by any honorable member. I examine the noticepaper each day and read each question that appears on it. I assure the House that on the basis of a calculation that I made last week, if every honorable member became as industrious as one honorable member is, something like 2,500 questions would appear on the noticepaper.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for Territories has taken steps to prevent some unnamed anthropologist, who is attached to the Australian National University, from visiting Papua and New Guinea in order, so the Minister has said, to protect the natives in that territory? As this person, apparently, is attached to the Australian National University, is any action being taken to protect white students at that university in Australia? If not, does the Prime Minister consider that the unspecified grounds on which this person was prohibited from travelling to Papua and New Guinea also apply to his engagement on the staff of the Australian National University?
– The honorable member, in one sense, has asked me a question which involves a very lengthy consideration with respect to the relations between the Government and the Australian National University. That is not a matter that I should care to discuss in a kerbstone way. My colleague, the Minister for Territories, conveyed to me and to other Ministers the circumstances of the case of the particular individual referred to. He told us of the action that he proposed to take and we entirely agreed with it.
– A desire has been expressed by certain housewives’ associations and similar associations that the quota of ‘margarine permitted to be manufactured in -Australia ‘should be increased. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether that is a matter entirely for the determination of the States ‘Or whether the Commonwealth has any say in it?
– The manufacture of margarine is entirely under the control of State authorities. I understand that certain States determine, from time to time, the maximum quantity of margarine that may be manufactured. State authorities also control subsidiary aspects, such as colouring, or non-colouring, of margarine.
Motion (by Mr. ERIc J. Harrison) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over General Business to-morrow.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 19th August (vide page 441), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, Salaries and Allowances £13,500 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- The most interesting point in this debate which has not yet been cleared up ia the attitude of the Labour party to land tax. Is it in favour of the abolition of the tax or not? If it were to regain the treasury bench would it reinstate the tax? If we are to accept the statements of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), honorable members opposite would re-introduce the tax if they regained office. I consider that there are two very good reasons for its abolition. Mr. Fisher said in 1910 when he introduced the Land Tax Assessment Bill which first imposed the tax -
It is not a taxing measure, but one to give the Executive power to do certain things.
Other Ministers who .spoke later in that debate said that those ‘” certain things “ meant the breaking up of large estates. I say that land .tax has completely miscarried, because instead of its having broken up large estates, a large proportion of ‘the tax is now levied On city property. That is the first very good reason for its abolition. The second reason is that the States already possess the necessary power to reduce large estates to whatever size they consider reasonable. Under New South Wales law a person may have his property acquired by the Government although he is allowed to retain a portion of it to the improved value of £14,000. On current values, that would mean that he could retain an area of about 700 acres. Obviously, therefore, the New South Wales Government has the power to reduce estates to what it considers to be a reasonable size. Victoria has similar legislation on its statutebook, although in that State, I think, the area that may be retained is land to an unimproved value of £3,000, which would mean a slightly smaller retention area than in New South Wales. It is interesting to hear honorable members opposite raise this matter, because there is one area in Australia in which this Parliament has power to reduce the size of estates. I refer to the Northern Territory, which is larger than Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania combined and has, if I remember correctly, abour, 118 pastoral leases in it. When honorable members opposite were in a position to reduce these enormous holdings they took no action, or very little action. Only recently when I was in Darwin I was discussing with the Administrator of the Northern Territory the question of a lease which is due to run out in 1958. I said to the Administrator, “ I presume some of that land will be available for closer settlement “. He said, “ No “, and explained that the company concerned held a letter from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), who had written it when ho was Minister for the Interior in the Chifley Government, stating that, provided the company was willing to relinquish a very small area of its large territory, it could obtain a 99-year lease of the remaining area. So, instead of being able to encourage closer settlement in the Northern Territory, we have been prevented from doing so by the past acts of’ members of the Opposition.
– Can the honorable member give the name of the company concerned ?
– The area to which I have referred is the property of the Bovril Estates Proprietary Limited at Victoria River Downs. I understand that the company has already taken legal advice from Mr. Barwick, Q.C., who has given it as his opinion that this Government would have to honour that agreement.
– It is definite misrepresentation.
– I have merely repeated something I was told by Mr. Wise, the Administrator of the Northern Territory, and I hope that the honorable member’s statement that it is misrepresentation is correct. I should be the first to admit, with members of the Opposition, that there is a great deal of land in Australia which is not being fully used. It has been known for the last 20 or 30 year3 that production can be enormously increased in high rainfall areas by means of top-dressing and pasture improvement. Experiments conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in conjunction with Mr. Prell of Crookwell, have shown that it is possible to increase the production of wool from 10 lb. an acre on unimproved land to 50 lb. an acre by means of topdressing and pasture improvement. The yield of mutton can be increased by an even greater amount. In spite of this, enormous areas in Australia are not yet fully developed, and the fault does not always lie with the owners of large estates. Sometimes, a small property of a few hundred acres is less well developed than a large holding of many thousands of acres. We must teach the farmers to farm well, and for that reason I particularly welcome the action of the Government in making available a grant of £200,000 for extension services in order to carry scientific knowledge to the farmers. What we need is. not every man with a good block of land, but every block of land with a good man on it. I was interested in the following remark made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt”) in his speech on the budget: -
Much land, which is suitable for intensive food production, .is not being fully utilized Therefore, productive land which is shut off from young Australians must be unlocked. The owners are entitled to, and should be guaranteed, just terms.
I am glad that the right honorable gentleman recognizes the need to pay landowners a just price when their land is resumed. His statement indicates a change of heart on his own part, and, we hope, on that of the Labour party, which is in power in New South Wales. For the last six years, the New South Wales Labour Government has consistently refused to pay just compensation to landowners. There can be no valid reason for refusing to pay the market value for land resumed by a government. If, in order to give the ex-serviceman a better chance to succeed, we believe that the value of the land should be written down to him, that is another matter, and it has nothing to do with the right of the original owner to receive the market price for his land.
Australia’s balance of payments on overseas trade will be of enormous importance to us in the future. Because our favorable balance was being reduced too rapidly, the Government found it necessary to restrict imports. We - should study the nature of Australian merchandise exported to other countries in order to see of what it is composed, and how we can increase exports in a reasonably short period of time. I point out to the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens), who appears to dislike the idea of merino sheep strutting around the country - that Australia, in an economic sense, rides on the sheep’s back. Over the last .five years our wool cheque has amounted to 52.7 per cent, of our total export income. Before the war, it amounted to about 39.9 per cent., so that over the whole period we might safely say that wool exports represent between 40 and 50 per cent, of our total export income. Therefore, we are all deeply interested in the new series of wool sales which are due to open in Sydney on the 1st September. Any increase of price would be of enormous advantage to Australia, but we recognize that we cannot influence the market. The price will depend on the buyers. Of the total quantity of Australian merchandise exported, primary products accounted for no less than 94.6 per cent, of the value last year. The figure before the war was 94.4 per cent. Thus, in spite cf the fact that our manufacturing industries have increased their output, we still rely on the primary indus tries for most of our export income. We have to ask ourselves what export items can be increased in quantity within a reasonably short time. One way by which we could immediately increase our export income - by what amount I cannot say - would be by the selling of merino rams overseas. I admit that in the past I have been opposed to such action because I believed that it might lead to a large number of Australian merino rams going overseas, leaving only rams of poorer quality here from which to carry on thebreed. I now believe, however, that the time has come to test the matter on a restricted basis so that we may, at all times, retain control of the situation. Iftoo many rams were being exported we could always reimpose the ban. By permitting the export of merino rams, it would be possible to increase our export income immediately by some millions of pounds. Every other country in the world freely exports its products without let or hindrance. From the island of Jersey, Jersey bulls are exported, although no bull may be sent overseas until it has left progeny behind it.
– What about competition with our own wool?
– I do not think that we need worry about that. Wool is facing enormous competition at the present time from such synthetic fibres as nylon, rayon, &c. Wool represents a fairly small percentage of the total quantity of fibre used in the manufacture of fabrics, and if more wool were available in the world there would, I believe, be less competition from synthetic fibres. We are all in the same world. The United States of America has been very good to us. Permission has been given for the export from the United States of America to Australia of Santa Gertrudis cattle which are expected to increase beef production enormously in certain parts of Australia ; yet we will not permit the export of merino rams to the United States of America, although applications have been made for many hundreds. I am sure that we could, without detriment to the Australian wool industry, permit the export of merino rams.
Wheat is the next most important export item among our primary products, but the quantity of wheat produced in. Australia is declining steadily. A few years, ago, 13,000,000 acres were sown to wheat, whereas last year the area was only 10,400,000 acres.. This year, I believe, the area is only about 10,000,000 acres. On the 10th March last, the Prime Minister (Mr.. Menzies) appealed to farmers to increase the area under wheat by 1,000,000 acres. Had conditions been satisfactory in southern New South Wales and northern Victoria, there was every possibility that the area would have been considerably increased. However, the plain fact is that wheat-growing is not a payable proposition at. the moment compared with wool-raising and some other forms of primary production, and that is doe to the system of prices control now in operation. There are three separate prices for wheat, at the present time. First, there is a fixed price of 10s. a bushel for wheat for human consumption within Australia; then there is a price of 16s. Id. a. bushel for wheat sold under the International Wheat Agreement; and finally, there is the open market price which varies from 21s. to 21s. 6d. a bushel. The year before last, the operation of the home-consumption price - which was then 7s. lOd. a bushel - cost Australian wheatgrowers £28,000,000. Of course, some people remark, “But the wheat-growers owe that amount to the rest of the community, because during the economic depression of the 19305s, they were paid a higher price for their wheat than was ruling” on the open market “. If that be so, ail T can say is that the wheat-growers have now fully repaid their debt to the rest of the community. Action, has been taken this year to increase the price of wheat for non-human consumption in Australia, so that the growers will receive an. additional £8,000,000; but the plain truth is that the wheat-grower is not getting a fair deal. There is an enormous difference between the price received by the Australian wheat-grower and that received by a grower in America. For example, a wheat-grower in the United States of America receives from 20s. 7d. to 22s. 4d. a bushel on the farm. The Australian wheat-grower is paid the amount which, I think, he received last year, namely, ‘ 14s. 9d. a bushel at ports less freight, or a net return of approxi- mately 12s. a bushel. Does, any one claim that such an enormous difference exists between the cost of producing wheat in the United States of America and in Australia? I believe that. wheat can be produced more cheaply in the United States of America because agricultural machinery and fuel are cheaper in that country than they are in Australia, though I admit that wages in America may be higher than they are here. However, we must face the fact that if we genuinely want an enormous increase of wheat production, as we do, we shall achieve that objective only by granting to the grower a fair price for his wheat.
– Why not reduce taxes?
– The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has already announced that income tax will be reduced by 10 per cent, in this financial year. However, that is not the primary objective. The farmer must be given a big incentive to increase production.
A big increase of beef production can bi.- achieved within a measurably short period, although not so quickly as an increase of wheat production can be achieved. If the farmer begins, to work up the fallow now, he will sow his crop in the autumn, and harvest it in the following spring. The wheat-growing industry can increase production much more rapidly than can the beef industry.Of necessity, many years must pass before we can improve transport facilities into the cattle raising areas, and increase breeding. Beef production has steadily declined. During the five years’ ended the 30th June, 1939, beef represented 2.3 per cent, of the value of our total exports. It now represents only 1 per cent, of the value of our total exports, and, according to one estimate, it will represent only about .7 per cent, of the value of our exports in 1957-58.
The Northern Territory is a large area that lends itself to a substantial increase of beef production. Action should he taken without delay to increase tha quantity of beef which can be “ turned off “ from that part of the Commonwealth. The needs of the- territory have been listed as follows: - transport,, leases, local administration, and tax concessions. However, improved transport is by far the most important of those -needs.
Report after report has been made on proposals for the construction of railways into the Northern Territory. It is obvious that until an adequate railway system serves the territory, we have no chance of stepping up beef production to any marked degree in that part of Australia. The transport’ of cattle by air is not the answer to the problem. Cattle can be flown on a small scale for distances of about 300 miles, but they cannot be flown on a large scale over long distances. Road transport has proved inefficient for the purpose. The cost of a new set of tyres for the road train at Alice Springs was £5,000. As I stated a few moments ago, many reports have been made on means of transporting cattle, from the Northern Territory to the principal markets in Australia. If reports were development, Australia would be the most-developed country in the world. We have had the report of Sir George Buchanan, the Paine report, the Beatty report, and the Clapp report. For heaven’s sake, let us “ get cracking “ on the job now. Twenty-three years ago, the railway from South Australia reached Alice Springs. Since then, it has not been extended 100 yards. Have we become such a degenerate people that we cannot construct urgently needed railways? It behove3 us to select a suitable plan, and give effect .to it without delay. I do not mind whether the first step should be to improve the railway line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. I am aware that work is being undertaken on the line as far north as Leigh Creek. But the permanent way, in general, of the Central Australian Railway, is in a bad condition of repair. Over some parts of it, a train cannot travel faster than 15 miles an ‘hour, and derailments are frequent. Often, stock which are carried over that railway arrive at the market in a badly bruised condition. I do not mind whether our first job should be the reconditioning of that line, or whether the first project to be undertaken should be a rail extension from Mount Isa or Dajarra, in Queensland, to Attack Creek, or to a point in that direction., in the vicinity of Tennant Creek. But we must realize that beef production cannot be increased to a reasonable degree in the
Northern Territory unless adequate transport facilities are provided. Perhaps lack of money is delaying the necessary developmental works. I consider that if the Government were to ask the people to subscribe to a loan for the sole purpose of financing the construction of a railway into the Northern Territory, it would be over-subscribed. In the early 1930’s, Australia suffered severely from a financial and economic depression, and in those days, many of the unemployed could have been engaged, to advantage, on that national work, but we were told that no money was available for it. The unemployed were given the job of ‘ building roads that led nowhere. We were told that the work could not be done during the last war because the man-power and materials which would have been needed for it were required for the war effort. We were also told, during periods of “ boom “, when plenty of money was available, that the work could not be undertaken because labour was scarce. When, then, are we to do the job ? The Northern Territory cannot be developed until adequate rail facilities are provided.
My remarks on leases in the Northern Territory will be brief, because I realize that it is a most difficult subject, which a person would have to study for a considerable time before he fully understood it. However, I shall read to honorable members the comments of the Chief Veterinary Officer of the Northern Territory on the subject of leases and absentee ownership. His views are as follows: -
The question of th© absentee owner is a rather vexed one and will only be touched upon. It is admitted that part of the development qf much of the Territory has been undertaken by capita] provided by absentee owners. On the other hand, it is very obvious that the best of management and the best of development in the Territory is that provided by the resident owner who develops his own place and keeps a constant watch on all that is going on. It has been argued that a resident owner, with limited capital, is not in a position to survive the vagaries and difficulties of development, production and marketing which pertain in the North. Against this, we have the example of several individual owners who have mastered all their difficulties by their own energy and will, and have turned virgin country! into highly improved estates, with very great profit to themselves and the nation. It is scarcely within the province of this paper to discuss, in detail, such things as tenures and terms of leases, but, nevertheless, matters of land administration must have a very direct bearing on “ Problems Confronting Animal Industry in Northern Australia”. One may be excused, therefore, for expressing an opinion on the matter in general terms, lt must be remembered that all land is the property of the nation mid all potentially productive land is a national asset. It therefore behoves the custodians of that land to insist that those entrusted with the development of it, whether they be absentee or resident owners, must do so to the limit, consistent with the common business principles of profit and loss, or else get out and make room for those who can and will.
I believe that too much land in the Northern Territory is owned by absentee companies who regard it more as a mining proposition than as a venture for developing the land for the good of themselves, their children and posterity. For example, the Victoria River Downs area, which is approximately three-quarters the size of Victoria is owned by about thirteen productive pastoral companies. Obviously, it is impossible for them to develop those leases fully. The Northern Territory needs more resident owners. Residents should be able to obtain a lease in perpetuity, or the freehold, of an economic area of land, conditional upon adequate development. Such a lease would give them the right to go to the banks and to negotiate mortgages. The great difficulty at the present time is that, because leases are not of long duration, banks will not advance money to prospective settlers. The result is that ordinary individuals cannot go to the territory unless they have considerable finance. Generally speaking, such people prefer to put their money into property in the south.
I do not intend to touch upon the subject of local administration of the Northern Territory, because I discussed that matter in the House last week. I content myself by saying that an area of the size of the Northern Territory warrants representation in the National Parliament by a representative with full voting powers. Perhaps the area alone warrants representation by two representatives. The method of election to the Legislative Council for the Northern.Territory should be improved. Instead of having a bloc of government nominees, civil servants who may have been in the territory for a few years or only a few months, the government nominees should possess experience of Northern Territory affairs and, preferably, should have lived in the territory for the greater part of their lives. Such men are available but are not attracted to seek nomination for election to the council because the bloc of government nominees, to which I have referred, is against them. In addition, the veto power of the Administrator and the Minister must be reckoned with. Persons could not be expected to accept nomination under those conditions.
In my opinion, tax concessions are essential if people are to be attracted to the Northern Territory. The persons who go there must contend with conditions which are far worse than those in the south of the Commonwealth. For that reason, I believe that they deserve special consideration. Frankly, I was disappointed with the announcement that the Government no longer intends to consider the Northern Territory as a tax-free area. No doubt a case could be made out to support the contention that the residents should pay some taxes, but in my opinion they should certainly receive tax concessions. I do not wish to say what those concessions ought to be, but I suggest that if a proportion of their income was made tax free it would be an incentive to other people to go to the territory. All that the Government has done is to provide that money spent on improvements shall be deductible in respect of income tax. Although that is a. step in the right direction, we should go further.
I have tried to be constructive in my remarks and to put forward suggestions which I consider will help the Government to increase its exports generally. This Government has done much to help the primary producer, and I have no doubt that the action it has taken will have good results. However, there is still more to be done.
.- I wish to say at the outset that I agree with many of the views expressed by the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn). However, I challenge the honorable member, and also the Administrator of the Northern Territory, to produce the letter under my signature which the honorable member stated he saw, giving to the lessees of the Bovril Estates a lease for 99 years. I am positive that not only has the honorable member misrepresented the Administrator of the territory by making that statement, but that he has also attempted to misrepresent me. He must be in complete ignorance of the fact that, under the ordinance governing the Northern Territory, the longest pastoral lease that may be issued is for a period of 43 years, not 99 years. The only lease given to the large companies by the Labour Government, of which I was subsequently a member, was issued six weeks prior to my appointment as Minister for the Interior. It should not be thought that I am attempting to “ pass the buck “ in this matter. Possibly because of my knowledge of the interior of the continent, I have been asked on many occasions why the Alexandra Downs lease was renewed by a Labour government. I again point out that that lease was not renewed during the time I was Minister for the Interior.
The honorable member for Farrer apparently wishes to attach to a Labour, government all blame for the neglect of the Northern Territory. He forgets that for six of the eight years that that Government was in office the Northern Territory was under the control of the Department of Defence. I remind him that for 25 years before then, governments of the same political colour as the one he supports to-day were responsible for the administration of the territory. I agree that it is of no use to bicker backwards and forwards and to attempt to fix responsibility for the conditions that exist to-day. I agree with the honorable member that we must get on with the job of developing the territory, and I intend to confine my remarks today to the development of the hinterland of Australia, including the Kimberleys and the north-west of Western Australia.
The budget which is now before the Parliament offers no encouragement to the people of Australia. It proposes to leave untouched the empty spaces of the country. It wi’l create uncertainty and frustration in the minds of the people. It will increase unemployment,- promote discontent, and result in the closing down of industries. It will give rise to an atmosphere which could drag the country into a state of economic depression, possibly worse than the depression with which honorable members are familiar. The members of the Opposition claim that there is no necessity for the creation of such an atmosphere. The Australian Labour party was able to prove during the war years that whatever is physically possible in this country is also financially possible. The government of the day was told by overseas visitors that the financial stability of the Commonwealth was the envy of most other countries of the world. Recently, when I asked the Prime Minister f Mr. Menzies) a question concerning the development of the Kimberleys, I pointed out that one of the first essentials of successful settlement and development of the river areas of the east Kimberleys is a deep-water port. Such a port was recommended by an inter-departmental committee, on which both the State of Western Australia and the Commonwealth were represented. After an extensive survey, of the east and west Kimberleys the committee recommended that Derby was the most suitable site for such a port. When I asked the Prime Minister if the Australian Government would assist the State Government to finance such a project, the right honorable gentleman replied that the matter was the responsibility of the Government of Western Australia.
The honorable member for Farrer said that if an appeal were made to the people to ii’.nrl money for the construction of railways in the Northern Territory they would oversubscribe such a loan. I have stated in this chamber many times that the amount of money necessary for the development of the east and west Kimberleys is too great to be raised by the government of a State, particularly a State with as meagre a population as that of Western Australia. But while that country is underdeveloped and unpopulated it constitutes a menace, not only to the State of Western Australia, but to the whole of the nation. Consequently, the provision of the finance necessary for its development is not the responsibility of the State Government alone. I admit that the possibilities of the area are limited, but along the Ord and Fitzroy Rivers there are hundreds of miles of fertile soil which is equal to soil anywhere else in Australia. That area needs facilities for the conservation of water and the export of its produce as well as amenities to encourage people to go there. When honorable members opposite throw innuendoes at people who have been honest in their administration they do not benefit themselves, the country or this Parliament.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is reported to have said recently that if Australia did not develop this country some other people would. How many times have I said that? This is_ a national problem which would be a fitting subject for discussion at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, if the defence of one part of the Commonwealth is weak that part becomes a menace to the whole country and.’ its problems should, be dealt with by the Commonwealth Parliament. It is quits possible that uranium will be found in the ‘ Kimberleys and south of the Kimberleys before very long because Hi at country i3 similar to those parts of the Northern Territory in which uranium has been found. Every known mineral has been located in the north-west of Western Australia, north of the 26th parallel, and I consider that, ere lone, uranium will be discovered in the Kimberleys. A very enterprising cornpuny is spending over £1,000,000 in a search for oil in Exmouth Gulf. It has imported the latest and best boring equipment. The area has been surveyed during the last two or three years by experts who are most strongly of the opinion that oil will be found there. If oil is obtainable in appreciable quantities it will greatly assist in the development of the area. Efforts to develop the hinterland have never succeeded to the extent that they succeeded following the discovery of gold or other valuable minerals because such discoveries attract :nul support a substantial population.
T notice that the honorable member for Farrer, who spoke about the leases and requirements of the Northern Territory, is absent from his place in this chamber. I was most desirous that he should hear me in regard to the local administration of the Northern Territory. I do not think that any man could determine the nature and characteristics of an area simply by flying over it. It is impossible to determine the pastoral qualities of land from an aeroplane. I have ridden a push-bike over practically all of north-west and western Australia. When the Japanese attacked’ Broome I was invited to go with the Minister for Air to locate sites for aerodromes in that area because the previous Government had left no landing grounds in the northern areas. In flying over that country in an aeroplane I was unable to observe it nearly as well as I had observed it from a push-bike. When any one tells me, after having flown over an area, that it is full of great possibilities I do not pay any attention to him. I suggest to people who have only seen the Northern Territory from an aeroplane that they should get off the plane at Alice Springs and pedal a push-bike through the Territory. They would then know something about the land and the availability of water.
The finding of uranium, focused attention on the Northern Territory. It had been decried for many years as the dead heart of Australia, but after the discovery of uranium the Sydney Morning Herald published articles by the honorable member for Farrer and the honorable member for McKellar (Mr. Wentworth) which conveyed the impression that they knew all about the area. They have merely offered to this chamber the views that they have obtained from a few swagmen, gardeners and station managers. However, they could not even interpret correctly those views, because they mentioned 99-year leases. According to the ordinances of the territory there are no pastoral leases for periods longer than 42 years. Those honorable members said that the Administrator of the territory gave them their information about land tenure, but I believe that they have maligned him because the Administrator knows too much about the territory to supply the incorrect information that ha3 been placed before honorable members.
I believe that the publicity that the Northern Territory is now getting will do nothing but good. However, I suggest that we are now- gathering the fruits of the work of the old-time prospectors who went out into the wilderness with only a wheelbarrow and a pick. Uranium was found in the territory, as, indeed, all other minerals have been found, by the prospectors who went about their business in hard and tough ways. Honorable members on the Government side who have visited the territory merely want to advertise themselves and capitalize the work of the old-time prospectors. They have probably spoken to a few- boundary riders, and eaten some of their damper and then have returned to claim that r.hey know all about the territory.
Governments with a political outlook similar to that of the present Government held office in this country for more than 25 years. During the whole of that time they did nothing to develop the Northern Territory. The backwardness of the territory is a legacy from the inactivity of that 25 years of non-Labour governments. From 1941, a Labour government held office for eight years. In spite of the fact that during six of those years we were engaged in a terrible struggle with an Asiatic power, the Labour Government accomplished more than was accomplished in the 25 years preceding its assumption of office. In the short time during which the previous Labour Government was not engaged in war, it entered into negotiations with the Vestey and Bovril interests which between them control a great portion of the territory. These two concerns would not come to any agreement with the Labour Government until we threatened them that if we were in office in 1963 when their land leases expired ‘ we would not renew the leases. Because they believed that Labour might hold office in 1963 they decided to take part in conferences with the Government. Many conferences were held, and Lord Vestey and Lord Luke came to Canberra to attend them. After protracted negotiations we * arrived at a compromise agreement to take some immediate action. The agreement was, broadly, that if these concerns surrendered a part of their leasehold land to the Government we would then grant them an extension of the leases for their remaining holdings. It was also agreed that the new conditions of lease would contain provisions that the properties should be boundary fenced and subdivided, that a certain number of bores to the square mile should be sunk and that all ‘the necessary equipment for the proper handling and care of stock should be installed. That agreement was very satisfactory to the then government.
I have attempted to give honorable members .an outline of the methods used by the previous Labour Government in administering the Northern Territory. We were disappointed because the people did not renew our mandate to carry on with that programme, and I do not know what this Government has done about the negotiations that I have mentioned. If the territory is to be developed, landholders must be compelled to improve their properties by fencing and subdivision and by the proper provision of water to prevent the necessity for stock to travel long distances in dry times. Such improvements are vital not only for properties in the Northern Territory, but also for all other properties where stock are being raised. At present Australia is not engaged in war and there is an army of unemployed persons available to the Government. Moreover, al! the material required is readily available in Australia and the Government could commence more extensive works than the previous Labour Government could have contemplated. It can build railways and help to solve our unemployment problem by great developmental works in the territory. Let us now forget the past and try to work together to develop the northwestern part of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
I have said that uranium was found on the end of a prospector’s pick. I also believe that all the development of Australia up to date has been initiated: by the work of the lonely prospectors, who have battled with the elements and the hostile land in the outback. Recently I asked the Prime Minister whether he had discussed with the authorities in the United States of America the matter of increasing the price of gold. He said that he had not discussed that matter with anybody during his trip overseas. I have since ascertained that the price of gold is to be discussed at the September conference with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. T earnestly hope that in the. interests of the great gold-mining industry that discussion will result in an increase of the price of gold. The present price of gold may appear reasonable to the uninformed, but those who know the industry realize that greatly increased costs of production are making the existence of smaller concerns rather precarious. The gold-mining industry does not ask for any government assistance because it can stand on its own feet; a A that it asks is a fair price for its product. I hop: that Australia’s representatives at the conference in September will fight very hard to obtain a reasonable price for our gold. The workers engaged in the gold-mining industry have a vested interest in it. All the assets that they have accumulated over the years, such as their homes, are involved in the welfare of the industry. I have known gold mines to be closed overnight and I have seen homes worth £800 or £900 sold, as a result, within the next week or two for £100 or £200. Therefore, the workers are as anxious as the mine-owners are to maintain the industry. Furthermore, the industrial relations between the various unions represented in the industry and the managements of mines in Western Australia have been very happy for many years. The unions have been able to secure excellent conditions for underground workers. They have put an end to the atrocities that once were committed. Limitation of time obliges me to leave the subject at this, stage and refer to another important matter.
Pioneers of the inland who now live on age pensions in outback areas are forced to pay the highest prices in Australia for every-day commodities. Every industrial award that is made for workers in those outback districts includes provision for the payment of district allow:ances amounting to as much as £1 18s. a week in order to compensate workers for the high cost of living in those regions. Honorable members can readily imagine the hardships that are suffered by age pensioners in the same areas. Special consideration should be given to the unfortunate situation of these Australians because many of them are stalwarts who pioneered the development of the outback. As I said to the honorable member for
Farrer and the honorable member for ‘ Mackellar, the pioneers did not travel over the arid land in aircraft. They had the courage and resolution to overcome great hardships, and it is because of their efforts that Australia has become a great nation.
– It is not easy to produce a new series of facts and statements at this stage of a budget debate, but I hope that I shall be able to present some fresh facets of matters that have already been discussed by other honorable members. Every budget is produced against the facts that prevail at the time when it is framed. It is unreal to speak of policy, as many honorable members do, as though it were some set continuing process that remains inflexible notwithstanding varying circumstances. This is especially true of economic and budgetary policy. All sorts of unforeseen circumstances arise and necessitate modifications and alterations of what is known as the policy, in a broad sense, of every government.
Who, for instance, two and a half years ago, would have foreseen the outbreak of a full-scale war in Korea? Who would have foreseen the Persian crisis? Who would have foreseen the enormous and sudden fall of the price of wool ? Nobody, I venture to say, could have predicted those events. Nevertheless, they and many other new factors of equal significance have had a powerful influence on the policy of the Government and the way in which it has framed its budgets, lt was correct, in the circumstances that prevailed last year, for the Government to finance State public works, insofar as loan raisings were inadequate, from Commonwealth revenue. That, of course is what the Government did. It is equally correct, in the totally different circumstances that prevail to-day, for the Government to use bank credit instead of revenue to make good the deficiencies of . the loan market in order to provide funds for State public works. The circumstances of to-day are entirely different from those of last year, and one of the major causes of the change has been the fall of wool prices.
This leads me to say something about national resources and costs. First, I shall refer briefly to matters that are at present before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I shall not canvass those matters, except to say that it is most important that every one should understand that the attitude of the Government in relation to those matters has been entirely proper. The Government will seek to exert no influence and will take no sides in the dispute, just as it remained neutral when an opposite application was made to the court on a previous occasion. It is, however, the duty of the Government to make available to the court a vast mass of facts and statistics that are in its possession. It is important for us to direct our thoughts to the subject of wages and costs. The money wages that our community enjoys can be kept at any level if we are willing to take all the consequences of inflation. But real wages are limited by the quantity of resources that are available to us. Those resources consist of the resources that are available in Australia and those that we import. I realize that many other modifying factors influence real wages, but they do not alter the main theme of my argument, and my purpose is to state the facts as simply as possible. Because of the high price of wool, we were able to maintain the total quantity of our resources, both domestic and imported, at a very high level. However, when the price of wool fell abruptly, we could continue to do so only by drawing on our external funds in order to finance imports.. We continued to draw on those funds for some time, until they were being dissipated at such a rate that their existence was threatened.
The exhaustion of our London funds would have been a prime disaster. It would have caused the collapse of numerous large and small businesses throughout Australia and would have thrown thousands of workers into unemployment. Therefore, import restrictions became an inescapable necessity.
– But unemployment has become worse since import restrictions were introduced.
– Everybody acknowledgs that the restrictions have had some adverse effects, but that fact does not alter the validity of my argument that they were inescapable. The net result of the changed circumstances has been a reduction of our total resources. In other words, the tide of our fortunes has ebbed. But the damage is not irreparable. We have not been overtaken by an irretrievable disaster, as some honorable members opposite seem to think. This reduction of total resources is due. not to the actions of any government, but to inescapable economic circumstances, and it compels us to consider three courses of action. We must, reduce either consumption or our investment programme, and that means reducing the total of both public and private investments, or we must make compensatory increases in production, or we must do all these things in some degree. As to increased production, the proportion of the national income that is being spent in wages and salaries has risen to 60 per cent. That is a very high proportion. Perhaps the rise to that level is a good thing, but if the nation’s total resources are cut down as they have been, and the proportion that is going out in wages and salaries has risen, the squeeze, must be applied to those who pay wages and salaries. They are governments as well as private employers. If the 60 per cent, of the national income that is going out in wages and salaries is to represent goods and services at a satisfactory figure, the. total has to be increased. As the right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey) has so well explained, if a larger slice of cake it to be distributed, the cake must be larger. We must have increased production, but that is a slow process and cannot be accomplished overnight.
However, since this Government has come into office, production has increased, and I shall quote to the committee some illustrative figures. In 1948-49, production of black coal was about 15,000,000 tons, to use round figures. For eleven months of 1951-52, black coal production had risen to 17,680,000 tons. The output of bricks has risen in the same period from 617,000,000 to 659,000,000. The cutput of Portland cement was 1,000,000,000 tons in 1948-49. It rose to 1,227,000,000 tons in 1950-51 and in eleven months of the past year production exceeded 1,000,000,000 tons. In 1948-49 the production of ingot steel was 1,176,000 tons, but in eleven months of 1951-52, production rose to 1,378,000 tons. Essential production has been steadily increasing under this Government, but that does not alter the fact that in the circumstances in which the budget is being framed, Australia cannot avoid some reduction in consumption and investment. Any belief that Australia can continue to maintain the existing great volume of public works in these circumstances is unreal. We cannot find a way out of our difficulties by some process of financial legerdemain. That is the background against which the budget has been framed.
Thinking Australians know that inflation is not yet dead. That has been acknowledged by honorable members opposite and, in particular, by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who made frequent references to prices levels. Honorable members opposite suggested several remedies, including price fixing. That has never controlled inflation without attendant wage# pegging, rationing, man-power controls and direction of labour. Even with those concomitants in the later years of the war and in succeeding years, the cost of living was rising steadily in every country. In Australia the States have had control of price fixing, and in their, hands it has proved completely futile. Honorable members opposite may retort that price fixing would have been effective had it remained with the Australian Government. I can only reply that all human experience suggests the contrary to be true. The total amount for subsidies that the Australian Government would have had to find to control price fixing would have- been beyond imagination. That is proved by the experience with butter, the one article, upon which there is, in effect, price fixing by the Australian Government. The subsidy that is required to hold the price of butter at the present level is £17,000,000 a year. In order to maintain fixed prices in Great Britain, the British taxpayers have been compelled to pay £470,000,000 a year in subsidies. If that is a method of combating inflation, T can’ only describe it as a curious one.
The third example of the futility of price fixing was given by the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) when he spoke about the steadily falling production of wheat which resulted from the application of the Opposition policy of price fixing. Other remedies also were suggested by honorable members opposite. The Leader of the Opposition advocated unlimited bank credit. He made it clear that he intended its use to be unlimited because he said, in effect that in war-time the nation could find money for any expense and that in peace-time money could be found just as easily. Even in war-time, unlimited bank credit is insufficient for its purposes. It has to be accompanied by cessation of expenditure on many activities including building transport systems which cannot be suspended in peace-time and .many other things except those which are essential. Full controls covering man-power and rationing have to be imposed. Industries must be stopped and others started. Our experience during World War II. proved also that, but for the additional benefit of lend lease, those credit measures would have been entirely inadequate to meet the requirements of Australia or the British Empire. If we have to embark on price fixation and the issue of unlimited bank credit in peace-time, when in the circumstances of the war those measures were unable to fulfil their purpose, it will be an evil day for this country.
I wish to revert for a few moments to what I have said about the diminution of our total resources. In real terms our national income has fallen, and the loss must be met. It cannot be met by the issue of : unlimited bank’ credit. How can we hold down prices arid at the same time issue unlimited bank credit? In such circumstances inflation would be boosted to new heights and its effect on the prices level would be disastrous. Such astronomical subsidies would have to be provided that our whole financial structure would be nullified.. Taxation would have to be increased steeply. What I have said does not mean that we should not issue bank credit at all ; it simply means that the proposition advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that there:should be an unlimited issue of bank credit, is completely untenable. This Government is prepared to use bank credit in a rational way to augment the resources of the loan market to finance the capital works of the States. It appears to have escaped the notice of some honorable members that this Government intends to use bank credit solely to finance State capital works, and that the expenditures of the Commonwealth will be financed out of revenue. That, I suggest, is good evidence of sound finance.
These comments lead me to say a few words about the States. Surely the time has arrived when the Commonwealth and the States should reach agreement on national priorities for national investments. If the State governments continue to compete for as large a share of the country’s investments as they can obtain, it must be obvious that we shall never evolve a rational and realistic developmental programme. I am glad that the Government proposes to take a very effective step in the desired direction by returning to the States their taxing powers, thus putting an end to the chaotic state of affairs under which the States have power without responsibility.
I should like to say’ something now about a national outlook in the realm of social services and social security, which also is a great avenue of government spending. I shall make one particular and some general observations on that’ subject. In particular, I point out to the committee that in the history of the Commonwealth no government has done more to improve social services and social security than has this Government and I” suggest the time has arrived when we should consider the basis of our social security measures. The modern State. demands large measures of social security for its citizens. Indeed, the social conscience of the day demands them. I have no quarrel with that ; but this matter, like many others, should be approached on the basis of realism. The welfare State is an immensely expensive luxury and social services and social security measures, in common with all the other commitments of the Government cannot be financed by the unlimited issue of bank credit. We cannot have a State in which there are all rights and no duties.
The individual has a duty to help himself in this matter of social services. The’ State cannot provide everything. In all social security schemes provision should be made for some contribution by the beneficiaries. I am confident that during the lifetime of this Government that principle will receive greater recognition as the days go by. Further, one of the great dilemmas of the modern State is caused by the conflict between security and progress. Rewards for enterprise and progress, for initiative and self-help, for taking a risk and venturing one’s fortunes, are essentia] if a State is to progress. I believe that in this imperfect world penalties must also be imposed for failure. As some wit has well put it, in the socialist State there are “ no sticks and only small anaemic-looking carrots “. Real social security cannot be built on such a basis.
These are some of the factors that form the background of the budget. The difficulties of framing the budget to deal with them are very great. I have briefly sketched some aspects of those difficulties. The problem has been tackled by the Government on a realistic, sensible and practical basis. I have not mentioned the enormous problem of defence which obviously adds to the burden of the Government’s financial and economic policy. I believe that a reasonable degree of economic and financial stability will result from this budget.
A great deal has been said in this chamber about the possibility of another depression. Let us look round the country, for evidence of a depression. The shops are crowded, mines and railway works arc working to capacity, race meetings are thronged .with people, cinemas and theatres are filled to capacity, on every holiday the roads are crowded with motor cars, and at holiday resorts it is almost impossible to rent a flat or a house without booking for a year ahead. Everywhere there is full activity. When a real depression overtook this country in the ‘thirties the Labour Government which was in office was completely incapable of dealing with it and as a result Labour was thrown out of office and kept out of office for ten” years. There has been far too much loose talk in ibis Parliament about a depression. We did not surmount the difficulties of the war, nor shall we surmount the difficulties of peace, by faint-hearted talk. Difficulties confront us, but under the leadership of this Government we shall overcome them. 1 direct the attention of honorable members to the opinions that the British press has expressed about this budget. Typical of them was the following, which was published in the London Evening News: -
The Australian budget gave encouraging signs of resilience and recovery. Moaners who a short time ago were predicting terrible economic disaster for Australia will have to think again.
Energetic measures taken by the Government had dealt with Australia’s difficulties to a remarkable degree.
We may perhaps - with a salutation of
Advance Australia “ across the width of the world - regard it as a thoroughly hopeful precedent.
That attitude, rather than the Jeremiah outlook so frequently exhibited by members of the Opposition, best becomes citizens of this country. I believe that future generations will look back upon measures that this Government has taken not only in this but also in its previous budget and upon its economic and financial policies generally and will accord to it and its leaders, particularly the Prime Minister, a very high place indeed in the history of this nation.
.- As time has passed since its accession to office, the Government has found itself surrounded by the economic miscarriages of its own fecundity in terms of bungling. In order to cover up its economic mistakes, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) read a homily to i he committee about American capitalism. He dealt with the distribution of wealth in the United States of America and commended the standards of living in that country which, he claimed, had resulted from that distribution. However, he conveniently forgot that what be said about America was/ not in the least degree relevant to a discussion of existing economic conditions in Australia. While he lauded what the American capitalist has done in the provision of necessary materials for the expansion of industry, he purposely ignored the fact that this Government has failed to emulate that example and that such failure has been the cause of the major problems that now confront this nation. Here, in Australia, where private enterprise and capitalism operate to the freest possible degree, sufficient primary products are not being exported to enable us to purchase imports without which secondary industry cannot expand. His remarks about the number of hours that the Australian worker is prepared to work were irrelevant because industry cannot .obtain the wherewithal that it requires to enable it to expand. The whole of the Minister’s speech fell down on that point and, therefore, it was completely worthless. He failed to deal with the cause of our existing economic problems. As he failed to prescribe cures for our economic ills, it was useless for him to tell us about the virtues of American capitalism.
The Government attained office and has survived up to date because it has bribed the electors with specious promises. Many people have come to the conclusion that this “ try to please all “ budget, as it has been called, is based upon the philosophy of bribery. The taxation remissions, which Government supporters have described as incentives to production, are generally regarded as being laughable. No effort has been made to hide the fact that the proposed increase of age and invalid pensions and of social services benefits of all classes simply emphasize the persistence of inflation or the fact that such concessions will provide very little relief to those in the community who have already fallen victims to inflation. The Government has failed to make a close survey of unemployment. It has not evolved any plan to increase production for export in order to earn additional overseas credits and thereby enable us to obtain essential imports for the expansion ‘of industry, without which we cannot check growing unemployment. Therefore, one can only regard the budget as a thin layer of cream upon sour milk; and such cream must inevitably putrify
The budget presents a dismal picture. It draws wrong conclusions from recent events. One cannot detect in it a single clue that would indicate that the Government has any idea about what it should do in order to stabilize our economy.
Yet, not so long ago, the Government boasted that it could prescribe effectively for our economic ills. No one has been deceived by the exuberance that supporters of the Government displayed when the budget was introduced. There have been no signs of a restoration of confidence in the community. Values of stocks and shares have not risen; and no newspaper has espoused the Government’s cause because, indeed, it has offered nothing that is worth espousing. Australia i3 now entering upon its economic death throes. We are already experiencing a depression. We have little cause to hope for a recovery when we realize that revenue from taxes represents 25 per cent, of the national income. The Government should give serious consideration to that fact. If it fails to do so, it will be reduced merely to whistling to keep up its courage. One cannot place much confidence in the Government because it has offered no real incentive to increase production. It maintains restrictions that have the effect of hindering development, particularly in primary production, which is the lifeblood of our economy and upon which no limitation whatever should be permitted. We should not entertain for one moment the theory that we must not engage in essential developmental activities on the ground that we cannot afford to do so. On the contrary, it is axiomatic that we cannot afford, regardless of the cost involved, not to aid development. I am appalled when I reflect that this young, partially developed country cannot employ gainfully the handful of people who occupy it, particularly at a time when many of our young men are participating in the defence of Australia in Korea or as trainees under the national service scheme. Is it not remarkable that this young country, so soon after it embarked upon an immigration scheme, is now crying out that it cannot absorb a mere handful of immigrants, whether they be skilled or unskilled? How has such a position arisen? The answer is that the Government has no plan whatever for economic development. It has enthroned the policy of laisser-faire. and it is obvious from the budget that it intends to persist with that policy for as long as it remains in office.
Having regard to these facts, we might well examine the path which the Government has followed. I have not the slightest doubt that its counter-inflationary policy was designed to divert labour from a number of light industries, which have variously been described as luxury, unessential or mushroom industries, to basic industries, such as primary production, coal winning, building, steel and transport. Accordingly, it tightened credit, controlled capital issues, and, during 1951, declared an open season for the importation of many commodities into this country. The Government hoped, by the diversion of labour and materials from unessential into essential industries, to restore the economy of this country to a condition of balance. In point of fact, employment in the heavy industries did increase. However, the transport industry, the foundries, and the steel and chemical factories soon absorbed all thiunskilled labour that they required. It soon became apparent that there was ;i limit to the number of unskilled worker? that could be absorbed in such industries, and we then witnessed the beginning of the unemployment of unskilled workers. Notwithstanding the ability of the basicindustries to expand employment, the light industries of this country are continuing to lose workers. Whether or not this state of affairs will continue after the light industries have exhausted existing stocks of imported commodities remains to be seen. Unemployment in the light industries has been attribute! to the glut of imports during 1951. Furthermore, the control of capital issue? prevented the expansion of light industries, and credit restrictions have forced the manufacturers to curtail their activities. All these measures were consciously adopted by the Government with the object of curbing the1 inflationary tendency that had manifested itself even before the present Government came to office.
There are other factors, also, that should be studied in order to make a full survey of the position. A decline of th* demand for the products of the light industries has occurred - because the steady rise of food prices has gradually absorbed a greater proportion of the family income. In the first quarter of this year the prices of food and groceries rose to 23 per cent, above the prices that prevailed in the March quarter of 1951; meat prices vere 27.7 per cent, higher ; groceries were 24.8 per cent, higher; and other foods were 18.5 per cent, higher. There is every reason to believe that high prices for foodstuffs will be maintained for a very considerable period. They have been occasioned by declining food production, and an increased demand as a result of our greater population. As a larger proportion of the family income is now expended on food, the amount available for the purchase of clothes, furnishings and other products of the light industries is proportionally less. That is to say, as cost inflation advances in secondary industry, the demand for it3 products must decrease. This is the first factor that has led to industrial lay-offs. The second factor is that shortages of raw materials are developing. These shortages will become critical in the very near future. The third factor is that our dollar and sterling balances are being steadily dissipated. This Government stands indicted for its failure to develop the exporting industries in order to increase our export income. In short, the displacement of labour has been caused by the restriction of credit, the control of capital issues and the fact that the proportion of the family income that is now absorbed by food prices has lessened the demand for the products of the light industries. I emphasize, also, that the shortage of our overseas funds has made it impracticable for us to obtain sufficient raw materials to satisfy the requirements of the industrial potential of Australia. It is as important as it is relevant to emphasize that 70 per cent, of Australia’s imports are raw materials and capital equipment, without which the Australian factories cannot work at full capacity, and consequently they cannot employ as many workers as formerly. I believe that unemployment is more closely related to the failure of supply of raw materials than to the failure of demand.
Theoretically, it could be expected that labour could be transferred from the light industries to the base industries by deliberate planning. In practice, however, the transference came to , an end’ very quickly, for several reasons. The first reason was that the credit restrictions that affected the light industries also affected the heavy industries. Indeed, the whole economy of the country was affected. The second reason was that the uncertainty of the Australian economy became a psychological factor. This has been recognized even by some supporter* of the Government. The third reason - a very important factor - was that the cancellation’ of developmental works by the Commonwealth, by State governments, and by local governing bodies destroyed a demand for large quantities of steel and engineering products. The demand for skilled men has been declining steadily, and it will continue to decline. It is a matter for conjecture when the. Australian Loan Council will resume the function of supplying capital for developmental works. The shortage of raw materials will prevent the expansion of industries, and the demand for their products will decline. I believe that the best that can be hoped for in relation tothe steel and engineering industries is a stabilization of output at present levels.. I believe there is a limit to the extent to which we can engage both skilled and unskilled labour in this country, especially from amongst the immigrants who are coming here. What has to be done can be seen clearly. The only possibility of absorbing the immigrants who are comingto this country is to place them in primary industries. But it must be admitted that, up to the present, that has not been done very successfully. It appears that Australian farmers are not very conscious that there is a shortage of labour, and that immigrants are unwilling to goto rural districts when they know that, if they do so, there is no prospect that they will be anything other than farm labourers. With government expenditure at its present high level, there- cannot be a substantial reduction of taxation1 and, consequently, added incentives cannot begiven to primary producers. Therefore. I believe that, under existing circumstances, any plan to absorb immigrants must fail. It is clear that farmers are unwilling to ‘expand their operations in such a way as1 to enable- immigrant rural workers to be absorbed into our rural industries. As I see the position, farmers- are affected not so much, by the average rate of taxation as by the marginal rate of taxation - that is, the proportion of each £1 of their income that is taken from them in taxes. To give an example, it is the difference between paying 7s. 4d. in the £1 on an income of £1,400 and 14s. 8d. in the £1 on an income of £5,000. If. a farmer tries to increase his production, he becomes involved in greater risks and additional investment. The result is that we are experiencing something of the nature of stationary production.
Before we can solve the problem of unemployment, we shall have to find some way to overcome the growing shortages of raw materials.- Let me repeat that more than:70 per cent, of our imports consists of raw materials and capital equipment, without which our factories might be forced to close and unemployment might prevail in this country to a greater degree than at present. We shall be unable to import the raw materials that we require unless we export enough of our products to enable us to pay for them. More than 90 per cent, of our exports consists of primary products. Since 1950, exports from this country have fallen catastrophically. Exports of butter have decreased by 83 per cent., beef by 30 per «ent., mutton and lamb by 50 per cent., and wheat by 26 per cent. For the reasons that I have given, we cannot expect extra production from those already engaged in primary production in this country.
– We might not have floods next year.
– Floods have nothing to do with the arguments that I am advancing. I believe that the only way in which we can obtain the increased production that we need to strengthen Our overseas funds is a planned settlement of new farmers on the land. It has been estimated that at least 100,000 new settlers are required. The number of new farmers settled will determine the rate of importation of raw materials and the degree of industrial employment in this country, I understand that about 15,000 ex-servicemen are waiting for blocks of land to be allotted to them. The settlement of returned servicemen and also of qualified sons of farmers -would play a part in achieving the de velopment that we need, but I believe that even that would not be sufficient. The cost of settling an Australian on the land,under usual and normal Australian conditions, is in the vicinity of £10,000 a unit. Therefore, the cost of settling . 100,000 persons would be about £100,000,000,000. Having regard to the position of the loan market, such an ambitious project could not be undertaken.
Therefore, we must reach for alternatives, because only an increase of bur exports of ‘primary commodities will enable us to solve the problem with which we are confronted. An alternative that I suggest is the intense cultivation of blocks of, say, 25 acres, by both Australians and immigrants who are willing to undertake work of that type. I believe that such a scheme would be more practical than the other to which I have referred, because much less capital would be required and the necessary housing programme would be on a minimum scale initially. Probably it is the only way out of the present impasse. I do not consider it to ‘be necessary or desirable that I .should discuss the details of such a project. They can be left for the Government arid the experts to work out. Loan repayments would have to be on a very modest scale. Probably the best way in which to administer the scheme would be to use co-operative societies, because then the Government, would be freed of much of the administrative work and bother associated with schemes of that nature. All that I need say further upon the subject is that there are’ extensive areas of land in Australia that would lend themselves to a scheme of th’i3 kind. Therefore, to say the very least, the scheme appears to hear the mark of practicability.
I have tried to isolate the germ that is causing the inflation which has beset this country for a long time, and I have tried to put my finger upon the cause of the economic retrogression which is troubling us. I believe this budget to be a blot upon responsible government The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) should have pointed to the nath along which we must travel if we are to extricate ourselves from our difficulri><*. The budget should . have indicated the plan that he intended to adopt in order to find a path out of the economic wilderness in which we are at present, and it should have been moulded to that pattern. The Government must, by direct planning along the lines that I have suggested, at least try to improve our export position to such a degree that we shall be able to pay for the imports that we need to keep our factories and secondary industries going, and even to expand them. Unless it does so, unemployment will become a real and deadly problem in this country. I say that, not to gain some political advantage, but because I believe that unemployment constitutes a serious danger to our economy which the Government should recognize and plan immediately to eliminate before it destroys the whole body politic.
.- I have listened with interest to the remarks of -the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews). I thought on some occasions that the honorable gentleman was speaking in support of the Government, but on other occasions he used words that are often employed when “attacks are made on the Government. He said that we should give aid at any cost. Obviously, any government that has a sense of responsibility must plan on a long-term basis, and not merely for the immediate future. Aid given to primary industries, secondary industries, or any other section of our national life may solve a problem for the moment but, at the same time, it may increase appreciably the problems of the future. The honorable member spoke about the need for concrete measures to increase primary production, and when pome one on this sule of the chamber mentioned floods, he said that floods had nothing to do with the matter. ‘ In recent years, this country has suffered much more from floods than it had suffered ever before in its history. Some people may say that, 50 or 60 years ago, floods were just as bad; but, in those days, Australia had not reached the degree of development that it has achieved to-day Consequently, losses inflicted by floods were i’“t .then po great as they have been in recent years
Reference has been made to the use of bank credit. I have never heard any honorable member on this side of the chamber argue that bank credit has no value whatsoever. I have, however, heard Government supporters say that the abuse of bank credit is dangerous. The Government’s view is, not that bank credit should not be used at all but that it should be used wisely. I am not astonished that this budget has drawn criticism. “When any government is able to introduce a budget that will be received without criticism, we shall indeed have found Utopia. In my maiden speech in this chamber, I quoted Mr. Winston Churchill. Again I bring to the notice of honorable members wise words by that eminent statesman. I quote them from chapter 5 of his war memoirs. He 3a id -
People who are not prepared to do unpopular things and defy clamour are not fit to be Ministers in time of stress.
Surely no one will deny that we are still living in a period of stress. For six years, we enjoyed expanding markets for our products. Now, because of circumstances beyond our control, we are passing through a period of adjustment to new conditions, many of which showed themselves at the beginning of this year. But there is no need for us to be fearful. We are a young and virile nation. We can see ahead of us great opportunities for development. There is an obligation on us to develop this country to the’ fullest possible degree. We have heard much in recent weeks about discoveries of uranium deposits in Australia. The search for oil is continuing. Undoubtedly this country has great potentialities ; but we must have the courage and the faith to win the maximum benefit from those potentialities. Throughout the history of mankind the development and success of countries have depended upon the courage and faith of their people, and the statesmanship of their leaders. Some time ago, a premier of France said -
You have chosen a foreign policy for France and 3’ou must find a mears to carry it out. A defence strategy cannot be purely military. If you allow inflation to take root here, and with it its train of misery, first there will heno national defence, secondly there will be nothing to defend. The defence of the currency is fie defence of liberty, for if the currency is valueless, liberty will have no worth.
When last year’s budget was presented to the Parliament, it was described as a horror budget which would place great burdens on the taxpayers of this country. Nevertheless, it has met with a substantial degree of success in curbing inflation. Perhaps, in curbing inflation, that budget caused some people to suffer and to make sacrifices, but the loudest squeals came from two sections of the community. They came first from those people who had to make sacrifices and, secondly, from those people who sought to gain political advantage by playing on the emotions of those who had to make sacrifices. We have now reached the stage at which a budget that provides concessions to various sections of the community, can be introduced. We have been told by honorable members opposite that the concessions are of no real value. It is alleged that one concession will benefit only those members of the community whom honorable members opposite choose to term capitalists. When I was elected to this chamber not very long ago, much was being said by the Opposition about the DOOr wool-growers who were being asked to pay a huge percentage of their incomes in taxes. Cases were cited in which income tax assessments amounting to as much as £15,000 or £16,000 had been issued. Now that the Government has introduced a budget under which some measure of relief will be given to wool-growers, we are told that we are favouring that section of the community. Apparently if we tax the wool-growers we are wrong, and if we do not tax them we are still wrong. A close examination reveals, however, that on both occasions the truth has been handled rather lightly by honorable members opposite, and that in each instance the Government has acted rightly.
The Opposition claims that the budget has not provided sufficient assistance for primary producers. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) himself said that there were no concessions in the budget to primary producers, but I remind the committee that substantial concessions have been given to primary producers over a period of years. That matter has been fully dealt with by honorable members on this side of the chamber during this debate. However, I propose to cite some figures. The following table shows the increases that have taken place in the ex-factory price of butter since 1949:-
The favorable treatment of the butter industry by the Government is in sharp contrast to the price increases from 158s. 8d. to 215s. lOd. per cwt. that occurred between 1939 and 1949. Yet we are accused of doing nothing to assist the primary producer. I could cite other similar examples. An agreement was reached with the industry and the States on a new five-year plan, to operate from the 1st July of this year, for the stabilization of the dairy industry. The guaranteed return in respect of production covered by guarantee has been increased to 4s. 1.29d. per lb. commercial butter, and the subsidy has been reduced to approximately 10¾d. per lb. The estimated cost of the plan for this year is £16,800,000. This has been done, by a government which, honorable members opposite claim, has done nothing to assist primary industry. The Dairy Industry Stabilization Fund was freed for use by the industry in whatever manner the industry considered desirable to meet the loss on exports not covered by guarantee. In addition, the Government has continued the Commonwealth Dairy Industry Efficiency Grant of £250,000 a year to the States, and this has enabled the State Departments of Agriculture to provide greatly expanded advisory services to dairy-farmers throughout Australia. .The Government is at present considering, on the recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council, an extention of the grant for a further period after the expiration of the present grant next year. Yet we are told that the Government has clone nothing to give to the man on the land the incentive to produce. Those steps prove that we have given encouragement and incentive to the farmer as far as circumstances have allowed us to do so.
A great deal has been said during this debate about the Government’s failures, one of which is alleged to be in relation to house-building It is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth to build houses but we are familiar with the factors that effect the rate at which they are built. The landed cost of timber in Sydney has increased by 38 per cent. in. a matter of months, a fact. which naturally affects the building of houses, because the price of a house increases corespondingly with increases of price of the materials that are used in its construction. The increase of the landed cost in Sydney is the result of increased rail freights in New South Wales. The New South Wales railways are. under the control of a State Labour Government. Other factors which affect the price of house-building arc the increase of the amount of royalty that is paid on the timber and the increase of registration fees on diesel lorries, which have been imposed by a State Labour Government and affect the people whom members of the Labour party claim they have a duty to protect.
– Does the honorable member know that the Victorian Country party Government has raised rail freights by £S,000,000 a year?
– That was probably a result of the influence of its Labour party supporters. Such factors as I have mentioned are making the control of inflation difficult and are adding to the employment problem. The building industry, which is directly affected by them, is one of the most essential industries in our national life. ‘ ;
Honorable members opposite have spoken about unemployment. A factory in my electorate closed clown recently as a result of the high freight charges levied by the New South Wales railways, which were so high that the company could not afford to transport from Sydney the materials it needed and so has had to cease production. Its employees were forced to find other jobs and fortunately, as the result .of good work by Commonwealth employment officers, they all have found new employment.
I turn now to the basic wage, another matter that is beyond the control of the Government. The basic wage and pricefixing are allied. Anybody who has had anything to do with price-fixing must realize that it is the friend of inefficiency because under a system of fixation of prices a manufacturer was able to have a price fixed for an article that would give to him a certain profit over and above the cost of production. It did not matter to a manufacturer how long or how much it cost to manufacture a certain article, because the selling price would be fixed on the cost of production. Any honest businessman will agree that price-fixing, instead of keeping down prices, increases the prices of articles. The Government wisely saw the writing on the wall, realized that price-fixing was bad for the country, and has refused to have anything to do with it.
It has been pointed out in this chamber again and again that the fixation of the basic wage is not a matter for the Government. We are told that any attempt to lower the basic wage is an attempt to lower the standard of living of the workers. Can any one justly contend that it is good economics to earn £100” a week if it costs £102 a week to live, and that a worker is better off in such circumstances than he would bo if he were earning £5 a. week and paying £-1’ a week to live?
Opposition members interjecting.
– The Opposition does not understand the honorable member’s argument. He had better explain it again.
– The Minister could not understand it, anyway.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! There is too much noise in the chamber. There is no reason for it, and I shall eliminate a little of it if there is not silence.
– I might eliminate it by reverting to my ecclesiastical practice and taking up a collection.
– Hear, hear! Let us knowwhen it is coming on and I shall” go out of the chamber.
– The basic wage is not a true measure of the standard of living, which should be measured by the quantity of goods that a wage-earner can purchase with the amount he earns.
– What’ rot ! ‘
– The honorable member says, “ What rot ! “ I should prefer to be able to purchase £l’s worth of goods with £1 rather than be given £5 and not be able to buy anything with it. Again, it is probably because of my ecclesiastical training that I can appreciate such matters. What counts is the volume of goods a wage-earner can buy with his earnings. If honorable members’ opposite would stress the need , of every one, both employer -and employee, to contribute to the economy instead of harping on the basic wage, we should soon attain economic stability.
T turn now to defence expenditure, which for this year is estimated to be £200.000,000. In 1942-43 defence expenditure was £4S8,600,000.
– There was a war on then.
– I would not know about that. I was too busy. In 1942-43, expenditure on defence was £488,600,000 and’ in the following year it was £411,800,000. In 1947-48, when the threat of war had passed, defence expenditure was £74,200,000, but in 1952-53 it has skyrocketed again to £200,000,000. Is there any one in this Parliament, or in this country, with any vision or’ understanding at all, who would say that such expenditure is unnecessary. Indeed, it is unavoidable because, on the other side of the world, there is a nation which seeks -to impose its will, upon all other nations. Honorable members opposite have said that two years ago the Government used the threat of war to further its own political advantage. What about the war in Korea ? We may call it a cold war or a hot war as we choose, but to any one who has lost a son or a brother or a father in that war the calamity is just as great as if the loss had occurred in the course of any other war. If we are not prepared to defend ourselves, and support our men who are fighting in Korea, we are not worthy to be called Australians.
Honorable members opposite have talked a great deal about economic depression. I regret to have to say this, but it is a. fact that this constant talking of depression is helping to- bring about thevery conditions that we hope to avoid. Any person who attempts to exploit thepresent economic situation for political advantage is an enemy to his country. It is jio consolation to an unemployed man to tell him that the level of unemployment is lower in Australia than anywhere else in the world, and it is a contemptible thing for any individual or any party to play upon the emotions of theunemployed. The history of Russia since 1937 makes it quite clear that the great ambition of those who rule in that country is to dominate the world. Russia is seeking to apply the ancient principleof divide and rule. The secretary of a leading Australian trade union declared recently -
There is no fundamental quarrel between, labour and capital.
He sought to underline the common interests of labour and capital, and to win recognition for the fact that both could gain from an increased measure of cooperation. A newspaper has commented on this statement as follows: -
It is not enough that non-Communist union leaders in this country should emphasize how nil sections of the community have rallied behind the national cause in time of war. Australia is now confronted with a production crisis that demands wholehearted co-operation to ensure the general welfare and full employment. Mr. Dougherty has given a, bold lead. Those leaders of political and industrial Labour who continue to cling to out-worn doctrines of the Left, for craven fear of being Eight, will incur a grave responsibility.
As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) pointed out recently, no one stands to gain from a depression, and it is a damnable thing to say that any group or party is trying to bring about a depression for selfish reasons. There are many causes of depression, some of them economic. However, I ask honorable members opposite whether go-slow tactics have anything to do with bringing about a depression. Does a refusal to work ships at the right time help to bring about a depression? Does failure to co-operate in the national interest help to bring about depression?
Let those honorable members opposite who talk of depression examine their own consciences. Let them consider whether it is not possible that the seeds of economic depression are being raised in their own gardens.
Australia has a great future before it if only we will face realities, and go forward with faith and courage. We faced the difficult and dark days of war, and by faith and courage we won through. If we place the welfare of our country before our own political advantage we shall deserve well of our country; but if we place our own political advantage before the interests of the nation we do not deserve to be citizens of this great country.
.- The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) urged honorable members to hold fast to basic principles when considering the budget. He made comparisons between conditions in America and those in Australia to the disadvantage of this country, but I remind him that the first thing to be considered, when the budget is under review, is what effect the budget is likely to have on the lives of our people and the welfare of the nation. Does it hold out promise for the future, and is it likely to promote the happiness of the people and the prosperity of Australia? After listening to the speeches of honorable members opposite we cannot but arrive at the conclusion that this budget will do nothing to solve the problems with which the nation is confronted. It is another broken promise. Indeed, the record of this Government since the general election held on the 10th December, 1949, is marked by a succession of broken promises. The policy of a political party should include the following major principles: - First, to ensure that work shall be provided for every able-bodied person. Secondly, to ensure that the aged shall be clothed, sheltered and fed. Thirdly, to ensure that the working man and woman shall be assured that the purchasing power of their salaries and wages shall be sufficiently reasonable to enable them to enjoy a proper standard of living. Fourthly, to ensure that the future of . the country shall be plotted and planned in a most comprehensive manner. Does this budget offer any hope of an improvement of the present condition of affairs? Will it be the means of placing one unemployed man or woman in a job? Will it provide reasonable social services for-those persons who are unable to care for themselves? Will it remedy the adverse trade position of Australia? The Opposition gives an emphatic negative to those questions, and Government supporters are silent. They have reason to be silent because they cannot deny that I have stated the truth. Even their most abject apologists must admit that the budget will not help to solve one of our pressing problems.
Let us consider the budget in conjunction with the Government’s painful record of broken promises. The reason why the Government has lost the confidence of the electors is evident. That loss of confidence is reflected, not only in the results of byelections and general elections held in the States, but also in the failure of various loans that have been floated since it assumed office. I have no doubt that if the people had the opportunity to-morrow of ‘pronouncing their verdict on the record of the Government, its loss of prestige would be reflected in a loss of seats, various honorable members who now grace the benches on the other side of the chamber with their presence would be in the discard, and this Government, which is misruling the Commonwealth, would vacate office.
I suppose that it is necessary at one stage of a debate on the budget for an honorable member to make a series of comparisons, and, with great respect to the tortured feelings of the Government, I propose to make certain comparisons that might be to its disadvantage, but might also bc to the edification of the people. It has been claimed that this Government is the benevolent patron of the poor, the aged, the needy and the sick. Let me make some comparisons in order to test the validity of that claim. I do not wish to misquote the remarks of the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron), but I drew the inference from them that he considered that it was not the responsibility of the Government to expand social services.
– The honorable member’s impression of the statement of the honorable member for Oxley is completely wrong.
– Perhaps I misinterpreted his statement.
– Yes, the honorable gentleman has misinterpreted it.
– The inference that I have drawn from the remarks of the honorable member for Oxley is that he considers that it is not the responsibility of the Government to enlarge the existing scheme of social services. That thought is expressed in the speeches of a number of Government supporters.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
– There is little in this budget which holds out much hope for the age and invalid pensioners of the community. It is true that their pensions are to be increased, but all things are relative. The increase that is to be given to them is not in proportion to the ever-increasing costs which the Government has failed to harness. Although the propounders of this budget have claimed to be benevolently disposed towards one of the most deserving classes, the pensioners, actually the economic position of pensioners has deteriorated since -this Government has been in office. From 1941 to 1948 the value of pensions, in relation to the basic wage, constantly increased. The maximum ratio of 36.5 per cent, was reached in 194S, when a Labour government was in office. The proposed increase of 7s. 6d. will make the maximum rate of pension £3 7s. 6d. a week, or only 28.6 per cent, of the basic wage.
This constant depreciation of the value of pensions has been accompanied by great hardship. It i3 futile for honorable members opposite to speak glibly of their paternalism when, in the next breath, they contradict themselves by saying that governments should not be fully responsible for the maintenance of the aged and infirm. Most honorable members on this side of the chamber, at least, represent industrial communities and appreciate the fact that the age pension is the only real hope of support to which most workers can look when they become too old to earn wages. The proposed increase of 7s. 6d. a week will, of course, be accepted by pensioners, but it falls iai short of basic requirements. The Government should increase pensions to at least 40 per cent, of the basic wage. It should not be thought for one moment that the Opposition is attempting to use the subject of pensions as a possible vote-catcher. Its views on the matter are supported by every association of pensioners in Australia. Such a re-assessment of pensions seems to me to be not only equitable, but also to accord with the real meaning of social justice. When I hear the term “ social justice “ used in this Parliament by honorable members opposite I remember that this Government proposes to give a large bounty to big corporations by vacating the land tax field. I also remember that it is proposed to continue the severe and iniquitous burden of sales tax on the families of Australia. How then can benevolence be claimed as one of the attributes of the Government ?
Whilst on the subject of sales tax, I draw the attention of the committee to the pre-election promises that were made by the supporters of the Government in 194’9. Those promises need not. be repeated because I have no doubt that they still ring in the ears of every Australian. One of them was that the Government parties, if elected to office, would reduce both direct and indirect taxation. Although the present budget provides for some degree of reduction of sales tax, it is really only a reduction of the extremely high rate of tax which was imposed last year. I remember that the members of the Government who to-day sponsor this budget almost burst into tears at the iniquity of the sales tax proposals which were put forward by a Labour government. I note with some appreciation that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is in the chamber, because on the 20th October, 1948, the honorable gentleman had some interesting things to say about sales tax, I can almost see the tears dropping from the eyes of his constituents when he made the following statement : -
Young, couples, who are embarking on married life, in addition to having to pay exorbitant prices to get their homes built, must pay sa.es tax on their bedroom suites, the mattresses on which they sleep, the tables and chairs which they will use, and the knives and forks that they will use when having their meals . . . The happiness, harmony, and satisfaction of young couples means far more to this country in the long run .than the obtaining by the Government of even thousands of pounds by way of sales tax on these commodities.
Yet to-day, he supports the imposition of the highest rate of sales tax in the history of this country! From 1931 to 1949, successive governments have collected an aggregate of £404,000,000 from sales tax, or an . average of almost £21,500,000 a year. The present Government, which came to office in 1949, has an unenviable record in that regard. In 1950-51 it collected sales tax amounting to £57,000,000, in 1951-52 £95,500,000, and in the present financial year it proposes, to collect £88,000,000, or a total of £240,000,000 in three years. That sales tax has been collected from the housewives, the basic wage earners, and pensioners ;. in other words, people in receipt of fixed incomes who are unable to pass it on. Every family in Australia to-day pays an average of £33 a year in indirect tax. Is it any wonder that the people await with eagerness the opportunity to get rid of thi3 Government which makes attractive promises and then fails to honour them ?
On the subject of promises, I quote the following statement which appeared in the leading article of the Melbourne Age of the 1st July last: -
In the 1949 elections the winning parties used persuasive devices and made rash, even foolish, promises which doubtless greatly influenced many people, at the time, conscious of increasing inflation and the diminishing purchasing value of money. The non-fulfilment of these undertakings has been a cause of sharp and widespread disillusionment. From the standpoint of integrity in public life, the tragedy was that these unredeemed pledges were not only unwise but unnecessary even as “ window-dressing “… Prominent among these was the egregious assurance that if the people were to chance their government, the new office-holders would restore value to the fi.
That assurance must sometimes be bitterly regretted by the Prime Minister and those who support- him. The Government has fallen a long, way in the estimation of Australian citizens. The United Nations International Labour Office has issued figures which indicate the extent to which the cost of livinghas risen throughout the world. The figure for Australia is the fourth highest on the list. The only countries preceding Australia are Paraguay with an increase’ of 398 per cent., Argentina with 125 per cent., and Chile with 93 per cent: Then follows Australia - this great landof limitless opportunities and undeveloped waste spaces which has been slowly but surely deteriorating because of the presence .on the treasury bench of a government that has failed to act in accordance with the interests of the people and which has broken its promises. The Treasurer, in the course of his budget speech, made ‘ only a slight reference to the problem of unemployment. Even though the Government may close its eyes to the facts, it remains true that’ unemployment is growing. In the industrial centres of the great cities of the Commonwealth men are walking the streets looking for work. The tramp of marching feet from factory to factory, from office to office, and from shop to shop provides a sorry accompaniment to the Government’s hymn to the effect that all is right in Australia. The Government’s’ allegations that the number of unemployed in Australia is not inordinately great contrasts with the fact that there was no work for 2,769 men on the wharfs of Melbourne last week. The men who work on those wharfs have had their leanest time for the past ten years. How can the Government contend that there is not a great deal of unemployment and that it is grappling with the problem of inflation ? The Government need not take my word that- there are many unemployed persons in this country. The people of Australia will tell it so at an appropriate time. The people will be the final arbiters when the tocsin rings and they are given the opportunity to drive this “ do-nothing “ Government with, its horror budgets from the benches which it is not fit to occupy.
– I listened with special interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) who devoted an extraordinary amount of time to a lengthy dissertation on invalid and age pensions. He endeavoured to create an impression that the Government parties had no interest in the invalid and the aged.
– Quite true.
– Apparently it i3 necessary from time to time to recall to the minds of honorable members opposite that legislation for the payment of pensions to the aged and infirm, was not introduced by a Labour government, but by a Liberal party government when Mr. Alfred Deakin was Prime Minister.
Opposition members interjecting,
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! This row will have to stop or I shall have to take steps to stop it.
– The then honorable member for Darling Downs, Sir Littleton Groom, introduced the age and invalid pension legislation. Who would suggest that he had political leanings similar to those of honorable members opposite ? He was no socialist. That is my reply to the allegation that the Government parties have no interest in the aged and infirm. Not only did the party from which the present Liberal party has descended introduce the original pensions legislation, but the then leader of the Labour party in this House, Mr. Andrew Fisher, expressed his appreciation of the action of the government of the day in doing so. He said that he had not believed that the Government possessed the constitutional power to introduce measures - for the assistance of the aged and infirm. Ever since that time parties of the same political outlook as the present Government parties have improved the terms under which pensions have been granted and have increased the pension rate substantially.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has advanced two very dubious “cures for Australia’s economic ills. He has proposed to release unlimited bank credit - credit ad lib. He has also proposed what he called “ economic stabilization “ - in other words, regimentation and prices control. That was a very dishonest approach to the matter because the right honorable member knows that the proposals of the previous Government to introduce control and regimentation were rejected at a referendum by an overwhelming majority. The Australian people will not tolerate such a policy and as they have rejected such proposals at a referendum the Leader of the Opposition has been politically dishonest in putting them forward on this occasion. Regimentation is still one of the socialist party’s chief panaceas for all economic ills of the nation. In desperation the Leader of the Opposition had advocated the passing of resolutions to provide for full employment. The passing of resolutions at conferences of the United Nations will not help in the least. Neither our employed people nor those who are unemployed will treat such resolutions as having any value. It is vain to hope that the mere passing of resolutions in this chamber or at some international conference will help us to attain a state of full employment. The only way to ensure that all our people will be fully employed is to construct a healthy and balanced economy.
The budget has been introduced after very lengthy and careful consideration by the Government of all its terms. I do not think that any budget has received greater consideration than this one has. Basically, the Government’s aims are to provide incentive and security for the people. One of the incentives to greater production will be the reduction of income taxation by £50,000,000. That action of the Government, together with subsequent administrative action, will improve the health of our national economy. A further incentive will be provided by the increase of expenditure on our defence forces. The budget proposals will provide an incentive to greater production in primary and secondary industries, and will be an important weapon in the fight against inflation which, if allowed to go unchecked, will do untold damage to our economy and consequently to the people in general.
The 1952-53 budget can be described as a family budget, because it has been designed to increase the spending power of the families in our community. The general reduction of income taxation will help all families as well as all other sections of the community. The proposed reduction of taxation in respect of educational expenses of £50 for each child will increase family incomes by reducing the cost of education. The reduction of sales taxes on many products will lower the cost of those goods to our families. The increase of ex-servicemen’s pensions, social services payments and the allowance to ex-service trainees, will also help family budgets. The reduction of company tax will reduce the costs of industry and commerce and will be reflected by a reduction of the price of many thousands of commodities. Family incomes will therefore be increased by the proposed actions of the Government. The budget has been designed to help to reduce unemployment. The general reduction of taxation will bring about a general reduction of prices. That will increase the demand for the goods whose prices have been reduced, which in turn will force employers to increase their staffs in order to produce the increased quantity of goods required.
I regret to say that the attitude adopted towards this budget by honorable members opposite has been most unhelpful. The Opposition has started a knocking campaign, and is deliberately trying to create a fear of unemployment among the people of Australia. All the depression talk by the Opposition and all its efforts to create an unemployment fear complex will do serious damage to the country. The policy of the Opposition will cause the . workers to lose all regard for the welfare of their country, and to lose confidence in the great industries that are providing employment for themselves and their families. Honorable members opposite are talking about economic collapse because they believe that only if our economy collapses will they be able to regain office. I suggest that their attitude is un-Australian and that it could be compared with Communist party doctrines in the international sphere. It is regrettable that the Labour party should try to create an atmosphere of fear and panic The Communist party and socialist parties can gain political power in chis country only by stirring up class warfare. By the very nature of their doctrines they must capitalize on misery and want. I believe that the Australian people resent the attitude of the Opposition to this budget, and that they realize that the speeches of honorable members opposite have already caused unemployment.
I shall now reply to the criticism of the budget by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers). I have always held the belief that there are two matters on which both Government and Opposition should endeavour to retain continuity of policy and to speak with one voice. They are defence and international affairs. However, if the policy advocated by the honorable member for Adelaide should be followed by the Opposition then co-operation between Government and Opposition would be at an end and there would cease to be continuity of policy on the two important matters that I have just mentioned. I do not object to criticism. Indeed I believe in it, and, as honorable members will agree, I am myself criticizing to-day. However, criticism should be constructive. I suggest that there is nobody in this chamber who should be in a better position to offer constructive criticism -about matters connected with the Army than the honorable member for Adelaide, who was Minister for the Army in the previous Labour Government. His criticism of the Army, delivered during this budget debate, showed that he was hopelessly misinformed. It will not advance the interests of the country in any way whatever. I suggest that his criticism was careless, rash, inaccurate and foolish, and, moreover, he did not advance one argument to support it.
– “What has the Minister advanced to support his argument?
– I am replying to the criticism of the honorable member. The honorable member said that the £200,000.000 that will be provided in 1952-53 for defence will be wasted. He# made the bare statement, but did not produce one tittle of evidence to support it. A mere statement that money will be wasted is easy to make-
– The Minister’s reference to my speech is untrue.
– If the honorable member for Adelaide really believes that what I have said is untrue I suggest that he should read his own speech.
– I suggest-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order !
– The honorable member for Adelaide is like a lone wolf or a rogue elephant among his party colleagues because of his attacks on national service training. The honorable member said that there were no suitable safeguards to ensure that the money proposed to be expended on defence would be properly expended. I now inform him that there are definite safeguards, and I shall detail them. The utmost care is taken in preparing the Estimates, and defence expenditure is reviewed from time to time. The Government determines its policy in the light of world events, and invites its advisers to advise on its actions according to occurrences in other parts of the world. The Government then allots an amount it considers to be adequate to implement its advisers’ proposals. The services next frame their estimates in accordance with the amounts for which approval has been given. Finally, the Treasurer reviews the allotments and the proposals when he is framing his budget for presentation to the Parliament. There can be no waste after the Estimates have received the approval of the Parliament because expenditure is subject to constant departmental scrutiny. Expenditure on projects that have a joint service flavour, such as scales of issue and standards of accommodation, is supervised by the Treasury Finance Committee, and all major undertakings of any description that involve the use of capital equipment, materials and so forth are reviewed by the Defence Preparations Committee. I could mention many other committees that exercise supervision over defence expenditure. The entire system has been designed to prevent waste. That is my reply to the honorable gentleman’s allegations on that score.
– It is a very poor reply.
– It is a complete reply The honorable gentleman apparently refuses to be convinced against his will, but any reasonable person who analyses the system for the prevention of waste must realize that my reply refutes absolutely all the charges that the honorable gentleman has made, but in respect of which he advanced no supporting arguments.
The honorable member said that hundreds of thousands of pounds had been wasted on the national service training scheme.
– That is correct.
– He persists with the accusation. He said during his speech that it cost not less than £60 to equip a lad for a period of 90 days’ training and that the scale of equipment for national service training was entirely unnecessary. My reply is that the Government has adopted the scale of equipment recommended by its advisers. I accept the judgment of the experts in preference to that of the honorable member. All the equipment that is made available to national service trainees is purchased under a scheme of competitive tendering, and I point out that the prices submitted by tenderers to-day are very much lower than they were in the past because competition is substantially keener now than it was formerly. Each national service trainee is issued with clothing that he is expected to take with him into the Citizen Military Forces. It is expected to last for three years. When the proposal to establish a national service training scheme was adopted, the Government resolved that all members of the three branches of the Army - the national service training units, the Citizen Military Forces and the Permanent Army - should be issued with similar clothing because they belonged to the one army. In the light of these facts, the statements made by the honorable member for Adelaide are foolish and futile.
Another hopelessly inaccurate statement that he made was that, when the national service training scheme was instituted, the people were told that trainees would be trained in the use of modern weapons and equipment but that, in training camps throughout Australia, weapons now in use were similar to those that were used for the training of troops in World War I.
– That is right. Still broomsticks and bags of chaff !
– Has the honorable member the audacity to say that the Army to-day is equipped with broomsticks and bags of chaff?
– That is right.
– I do not know whether the honorable gentleman has gone completely off his head or not, but that is the most reckless and futile statement that anybody who was Minister for the Army only two and a half years ago could possibly make. I have always taken care to confine my remarks in this chamber to statements of fact and I do not want to engage in personal criticism, but I am greatly tempted to treat the honorable member’s observations as they deserve to be treated. His original statements, which he now repeats, are nothing but sheer humbug and arrant nonsense. The only types of weapon used to-day that were used in 1914 are the service rifle and the Vickers machine gun. However, these weapons have been substantially improved since World War I. For the benefit of the honorable member for Adelaide and for the information of the committee, I say that national service trainees and all other members of the Australian Army to-day are trained in the use of basic weapons that are in use in all armies of the British Commonwealth. There are no better weapons in the world. To-day the number of weapons provided is greater, the scope of the training syllabus is -wider, and the standard of instruction given is higher than at any other time in the history of the Australian Army. Yet the honorable member says that it is equipped with broomsticks and bags of chaff!
The Australian Army is scientifically organized and is supplied with every element that is essential to a modern and efficient fighting force, including, in addition to the basic infantry arm, armoured units, motorized units, amphibious units, light artillery and field artillery, medium and anti-aircraft artillery, engineer and electrical units and workshop units, and many others. How many such units were included in our Army in World War I.?
– Are the national service trainees trained to serve in those units ?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member for Adelaide has interjected too often this evening and has shown supreme contempt for the authority of the Chair. Unless he mends his ways, I shall be forced to take action against him.
– I listened attentively to the honorable member’s speech, and 1 felt annoyance then, as I feel it now, but I was able to restrain myself and I refrained entirely from interjecting while he spoke. The Australian Regular Army, the Citizen Military Forces, and the national service trainees all have the most modern equipment. National service trainees, towards the completion of thenbasic service period, receive initial training for each of the branches of the Army to which I have referred. In other words, they are prepared for service in the units that they will join in the Citizen Military Forces and in which they will remain throughout the balance of their national service training in the Citizen Military Forces.
The Australian Regular Army, the Citizen Military Forces and the national service trainees are all equipped and trained to a similar standard with the same arms and equipment. The artillery in World War I. was horse-drawn and was equipped with obsolescent eighteenpounder guns. The artillery to-day is entirely mechanized and has the most modern radar prediction equipment. Yet the honorable member for Adelaide says that our men are trained with broomsticks and bags of chaff! The engineers in World War I. were in the pickandshovel age. Many honorable members who served during that war used picks and shovels with the engineers. The engineers to-day are equipped with the most modern earth-moving and other mechanical equipment. That is a further reply to the extraordinary misstatements of the honorable member for Adelaide. The light and heavy armoured regiments to-day are the modern counterpart of the light horse units that established a splendid record during World War I. Where is the light horse to-day? lt is a memory. Yet the honorable member says that we are using the arms and equipment and the methods of instruction that were used during “World War I. How can he hope to sustain his allegations ?
Every effort is made to-day to ensure that the Army shall reach the highest possible standard of efficiency. This result is achieved by sending officers, noncommissioned officers and men from the ranks to special schools of instruction. This is done to ensure that the members of the Australian forces are kept abreast of military developments in arms and warfare all over the world. We have the Royal Military College, officer cadet schools for both men and women, the Staff College, the School of Tactics and Administration, the Armoured School, the School of Infantry, the School of Artillery, the School of Signals, the School of Survey, the Royal Australian Army Service Corps School, the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps School of Army Health, the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps School, the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Training Centre, for army apprentices, a course for training of pilots and artillery observation officers, a School of Land-Air Warfare with facilities for training paratroops, and training centres for recruits. All these schools are maintained to ensure the highest standard that has been reached in the history of the Australian armed forces. They are staffed by officers who have been obtained from overseas and by Australian officers who have served abroad. They pass through a special course of instruction to ensure that the Army reaches and maintains the highest standard of efficiency. In addition, every unit in Australia has schools of instruction under its own command. Yet honorable members opposite have alleged that the training is comparable only with that given at the time of World War I. I have made reference to these schools to assure the committee and the nation that the personnel of the permanent armed forces, the Citizen Military Forces and the national service trainees all have the same standard of training.
To-day we have two battalions fighting in Korea. They were recruited, trained, equipped, instructed and transported to Korea during the lifetime of this Government. If we were trying to train our troops with broomsticks and bags of chaff, as the honorable member for Adelaide has alleged, neither of those battalions would be worth having in Korea. But the truth is that the Royal Australian Regiment is the finest fighting force in Korea. I am able to make that statement with authority because at the end of last year, I was asked by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to visit our naval, army and air forces in Korea and in nearby waters. When I arrived in Japan, I had the pleasure of lunching with General Ridgway, who was then the Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations forces. On that occasion he said to me, “ Sir, the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment is one of the finest battalions under my command in Korea “. That battalion was trained with the arms, equipment and instructors that are available now to our forces. I went to Korea and met General Van Fleet, Commander of the combined United Nations forces in Korea in Seoul, the battered capital of Korea. General Van Fleet said to me, “ Sir, you would not be where you are to-day but for your own 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, the finest unit that we have in Korea “.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I have listened to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) and have carefully considered some of the remarks that he has addressed to the committee and to the people of Australia. I am not an autho*rity on defence and all that pertains to it. All that I have to say in regard to the speech that has been delivered by the Minister is that the budget that is being discussed by the committee provides for a total expenditure this year by the people of Australia of £200.000,000 on defence, whereas when the Chifley Labour Government left office its programme for the defence of the country in relation to army, air force and naval defence involved the people in a budgetary expenditure of £50,000,000 a year for a period of five years. That amount was considered to be adequate for the resources that Australia possessed and for its population. The Chifley Government recognized also that defence expenditure i3 indirectly associated with public works calculated to develop the economy of the country and make it more secure in that sense. By that I mean expenditure on irrigation, road construction, railway unification, aerodromes and all the things that make a country strong. Last, but not least, those proposals took into consideration a first-class education system. In 1940 the Minister for the Army was a member of the administration that was charged with the direction of the government in Australia. It failed lamentably to administer the affairs of this country in a manner that was satisfactory to the Parliament and the people, both before the outbreak of “World War II. and in its parly phases. The result was that within twelve months of the outbreak of war, the present Minister for the Army was relegated to the Opposition and he remained a private member of the Parliament for the duration of the war. I have no doubt that should this country unfortunately be involved in another conflict, he would be relegated again to the obscurity from which he came when he was appointed Minister for the Army in the present Administration.
I could not help but notice that the Minister took umbrage at a statement that he attributed to the members of the Opposition that the people who put age and invalid pensions on the statute-book were members of a conservative administration. What are the facts? History records that in 1909 the federal political set-up in Australia was similar to that which exists at present in Victoria where Mr. McDonald is Premier. There with three parties - Conservative, Liberal and Labour, none of them was capable of governing the Commonwealth by its own strength. A pact was made between the Labour party led by Mr. Fisher and the Liberal party led by Mr. Deakin, and the price of it was that the Liberal Administration undertook to place on the statute-book provision for a pension for aged people. Having regard to that fact, how can the Minister for the Army claim that the old- age pension redounds to the credit of the conservatives of this country? Indeed, he claimed that a conservative government also instituted the invalid pension. The truth is that the invalid pension was instituted by the Fisher Administration in 1910.
Any government that is motivated by humanitarian principles and really has the well-being of the people at heart would look upon the nation as a family, and would be primarily concerned about whether it was caring for those in the community who are least able to look after themselves. On that test alone this Government stands condemned in the eyes of all Australians. Perhaps its record would not appear to be so bad but for the sacred promise that the present Government parties made during the general election campaign in 1949 that, if returned to office, they would protect and help the weaker sections of the community. During that campaign the Prime Minister (Mr Menzies), in the joint policy speech of those parties, said -
The value of all social services will be maintained.
What has the Government done to honour that promise? To-day, the purchasing power of social service benefits of all classes is less than the purchasing power of the old-age pension was in 1909, when the Deakin Government introduced that pension at the behest of the Australian Labour party. Yet, supporters of this Government have the effrontery to compare present conditions with those of the golden age of the Curtin and Chifley Governments. In 1948, the rate of age and invalid pension was £2 2s. a week, which was 39 per cent, of the then basic wage. Under this Government’s budget for the last financial year the rate was increased to £3 a week, but it was only 31 per cent, of the basic wage at that time. That was the first failure on the part of this Government to honour its promise to the people that it would maintain the value of social services benefits. Under this budget, partly because of the Government’s extravagant expenditure on defence - and that is really no excuse because other things should be sacrificed before the well-being of the aged and infirm - provision is being made to increase the rate of pension to £3 7s. 6d., but that amount is only 29 per cent. of the present basic wage. Under the last Chifley budget, pensioners were permitted to earn an income of 30s. a week without forfeiting the right to receive a full pension, and that sum represented 23 per cent. of the basic wage, which, at that time, was £6 9s. a week. Under this Government’s budget for the last financial year the permissible income remained at 30s. a week, but, as at that time the basic wage had risen to £9 9s. a week, that rate was only 16 per cent. of that wage. Under this budget, the position has worsened still further for pensioners. The permissible income is to be maintained at 30s. a week, which is only 13 per cent. of the present basic wage. That is the record of the Government parties on whose behalf, during the general election campaign in 1949, the Prime Minister said -
We propose to abolish the means test. We will introduce our plan in 1952.
This is 1952.
– He did not say that at all ; he said that his Government would present its plan to the electors in 1952.
– The fact remains that value has seeped out of the pension and the income that pensioners are permitted to earn. The same experience has befallen all persons on fixed incomes, including the thrifty who are now endeavouring to subsist on their life savings, persons in receipt of superannuation benefit, and persons in receipt of the widows’ pension, maternity allowances, repatriation benefits, child endowment, hospital benefit and social services benefits of all classes. Supporters of the Government cannot refute that statement. They are so confused as a result of the Government’s inability to deal with our present problems and to honour the promises that were made during the last two general election campaigns, that when members of the Opposition direct attention to increasing unemployment they make the charge that we are trying to undermine the confidence of the people and cause a depression. The Opposition would he neglecting its duty to the people if it did not warn them of the economic dangers that now threaten this country. Over 100,000 of our people are now unemployed. In 1940, when the present Prime Minister previously held that office, and after the Liberal party and Australian Country party cohorts had governed Australia for the preceding nine years, no fewer than 240,000 good Australians were unable to find jobs. As the present Government parties are now implementing a similar policy to that which their predecessors of 1932-1941 gave effect to, the Opposition is amply justified in directing the attention of the Australian people to that fact. In case any supporter of the Government should feel inclined to challenge the figures that I have just cited, I remind the committee that the Prime Minister, in a speech that he made in Melbourne in 1940, said -
At the outbreak of war there were 260,000 unemployed,-
I was over-generous when I said that there were only 240,000 at that time - but by July, 1941, we had absorbed 140,000 of them leaving 120,000 who were mainly sick, unemployable or untrained. Trade union unemployment figures were down to an all-time low of 4.5 per cent.
The anti-Labour parties were unable to lift Australia out of its wretched unemployment situation before we became involved in the catastrophic world war that broke out in 1939. The fear that is uppermost in the minds of the Opposition and of the trade unions of this country, is that all the indications at present are that if the present Government does not pull up its socks we will find ourselves in the same sort of a whirlpool again. Its failure to deal adequately with the parlous position of the recipients of social services is disgusting and shocking.
This afternoon the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) referred to the fact that he has had ecclesiastical experience. Obviously he has not had experience of dealing with unemployment. He directed criticism at the Labour party and at people who occasionally put down their tools and will not continue to work. The honorable member did not refer to the fact that, due to the policy of the present Government, the confidence of the investors of this country has been undermined. Because they are virtually on strike, the Government is unable to borrow money for its own purposes and to assist the States. The investors have no confidence in this Government. Supporters “ of the Government have stated that the reason that recent government loans have failed is that the rate of interest offered for loan money is not high enough. The honorable member for Lyne did- not say one word of condemnation of this attitude, but blamed the Labour movement for the present state of affairs.
A great figure in history once exclaimed -
There, but’ for the grace of God, go I.
Some people claim that John Bradford made that exclamation when he saw his less fortunate men going by. It has also been attributed to John Bunyan and John Wesley. Honorable members opposite should bear those words in mind when they rise in their places and endeavour to justify the proposed abolition of the land tax, which will result in a saving of about £6,000,000 by the members of the community who are best able to pay, at a time when the recipients of social services benefits in this country are being reduced to a state of almost abject poverty.
The Opposition is perturbed about the impact of immigration on our critical unemployment situation.
– We are only continuing the immigration programme that was inaugurated by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
– The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) will have an opportunity to make his apologies for the policy of the Government in due course. Under the former Labour Government’s full employment policy there was not occasion for fear of the consequences of immigration. However, we are now afraid that a very serious disaster will overtake the people of this country if immigration is continued even at the proposed reduced rale of 80,000 people a year. Honorable members opposite have stated that the immigrants who will be brought in will, in the main, be skilled personnel. I challenge that claim, and I invite the Government to consider the matter in the light of the prospects of immigrants at the Brooklyn Hostel in my constituency. At Brooklyn 1,900 English immigrants are quartered in barn-like woolsheds, in which are installed wellequipped kitchens. Approximately 890 of those immigrants are married personnel with children. I understand that an average of 40 births a month are taking place there. I do not dispute that the accommodation provided is adequate for the immigrants to live in for up to six months while waiting for homes. However, these skilled British artisans are now discontented. When about 25 per cent, of the wives were able to obtain employment at nearby factories their discontent was not so articulate. Because of the substantial payments that they now have to make for board and lodgings at the hostel, and the high prices that they have to pay for outside amenities, they consider that an undue length of time must elapse before they will be able to move into their own homes and enjoy the kind of life that is the inherent right of every person in the world. Personally, in view of the unemployment position that has developed in this country, I do not think they have a chance in a million of ever getting their own homes. The Government has to modify its immigration policy to the extent that it will cut down the intake of unskilled labour. That would be all right if the Government intended to bring in only eminent scientists and other workers in exclusive fields. But it is not sufficient at a time when the Metal Trades Federation is supporting an application before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for the pegging of the basic wage and increasing working hours for workers in the metal trades. Added weight will be given to the application by the reservoir of immigrants that will be brought here to wait at the factory gates for jobs that may be vacated by Australian workers. The Government should change its economic policy in order to be able to give a reasonable assurance to the immigrants who are at present living in hostels that they will be able, within a period of twelve months, to save enough money to be in a position to obtain credit and build homes. Of course, credit is at present controlled by the Commonwealth Bank Board that was re-established by the present Government and so is restricted. Unless the Government can so assure the immigrants, the sooner that immigration is cut to thebone the better it will be for the unfortunate immigrants and the workers of Australia, with whom they will be competing for jobs. I shall read to the committee an extract from the Ballarat Courier of March, 1948, in case honorable members opposite have any doubt about the line of economic thinking by the Government. I am unable to vouch for the accuracy of the report of a statement that was made by a delegate to the Australian Country party conference in Ballarat, Mr. McLeod - not my genial friend, the honorable member for Wannon - but to my knowledge it has never been denied by the person to whom it was attributed. It reads -
The country will not get back to normal until there are 11 men applying for one man’s job.
Honorable members should consider what it will mean to the primary producers of this country when men and women who are at present working in factories become unemployed and lack the purchasing power to buy the means of subsistence for themselves and their families. Already it has been reported that there is growing concern by the milk distributors in Melbourne about the reduced consumption of milk because of the inability of many people to pay the ruling price for that commodity. I am sorry that in the period of half an hour that is allowed to me during this debate I cannot convey to honorable members what many citizens of the community think of the present Government’s wicked and horrible economic policy. Let us consider the lot of the primary producers.
Mr.Roberton. - What did Labour do for the primary producers during its eight years in office ?
– The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) was not then a member of the Parliament and probably after the next general election he will again be in that position. The party of which I have the honour to be a member assumed the government of this country in 1941, following the hardest economic period that primary producers have ever experienced.
– The Government of that time would not even let the farmers strip their wheat !
– I do not ask the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) to accept my word that Labour took over the administration of this country at a period when the primary producers were experiencing very severe and difficult conditions. I remind the honorable member of a statement that was made by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) at a conference of the Australian Country party at Ballarat in 1939. As Acting Chairman of Committees the honorable member for Gippsland now occupies a much more important position that he held at that time. In an address to a conference of the Australian Country party held in Ballarat in 1939, when the Menzies Government was in power, he said -
The tardy recognition by the Federal Government of the vital importance of primary production in the national war effortis entirely in keeping with the attitude of indifference maintained by the same political forces over the past decade.
I ask the honorable member for Riverina to take note of that. When the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ( Mr. McEwen) spoke in this debate, he said that when he assumed office he found that the Labour party had allowed primary production in this country to run down towards the end of the war. Let me refer the committee to a report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission entitled Commercial Policy in Relation to Agriculture, published in August, 1946. It shows that the special war-time assistance given to primary production was as follows : -
That is a total of almost £33,000,000. Since 1945, £10,000,000 has been paid as a bounty on superphosphate, and a subsidy of 6s. a dozen has been paid on cornsacks used by farmers. As a result of the activities of Labour governments, the wheat-growers of this country, for the first time in history, enjoyed an organized marketing system, entirely free from the dealers and speculators who, in the past, waxed rich at their expense. The wheat-growers thanked the government of the day for that scheme, although it had some imperfections. The Labour party was responsible for giving to the dairying industry the finest stabilization scheme that it has had in its history. One honorable gentleman said last night that the Labour party did not do what was right when it was in office. Let me read to the committee an extract from a letter of a kind that the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will never receive. It is from Mr. R. 0. Gibson, general president of the Primary Producers Union and was written in 1949. The extract reads -
Dear Mr. Pollard,
First of all I write to wish you well in the campaign and sincerely hope that you will be back to continue in office so that the work that has been started to stabilize and guarantee the dairying industry can he completed.
Reference has been made to the- findings and decisions of the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee. On those findings is based the guaranteed price that the dairy farmers of Australia receive each year for their butter. The committee consists of four impartial members appointed by the Government and five primary producers. The five primary producers recommended l£d. per lb. more than the government representatives considered to be necessary. Does the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who will follow me in this debate, suggest that this Government would agree in toto to any request for higher prices or increased remuneration made by primary producers, workers, public servants or other bodies in relation to any matter in which they were directly interested? The dairy farmers of this country are so satisfied with the work of that committee that they have repeatedly asked this Government and other governments to retain it as the authority to calculate variations of the costs of production in the industry. In 1949, the present Government parties promised that they would establish an independent tribunal to deal. with those costs. What has the Government done to honour that promise ?
This is the fifteenth budget about which I have had a few words to say in this chamber. I hope that before another budget is introduced the . Government will have seen the error of its ways and will have done something to place the economy of this country on a more sound basis and, thereby, will have added to the sum total of human welfare in Australia.
– If the people of this country seek an alternative government, they mus.t turn to the other side of the chamber. Those who have listened to the speeches made by members of the Opposition during this debate must be saying to themselves, “ God help us “. An opposition that seeks to become the government - and no opposition worth its salt does not seek to do so - must, in a debate of this kind, state what it would do if it occupied the treasury-bench; but I have listened in vain for any practical suggestions by honorable gentlemen opposite that might help U3 to solve the economic and other problems with which this country is faced. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) ranged the wide world. He touched upon many subjects, including social services, defence expenditure, immigration and primary production. In a debate of this kind I suppose it is my duty, as the speaker who follows him, to analyse some of the statements that he has made. He is a senior member of the Opposition who, for several years, occupied the very high position of Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a Labour government. Therefore, one listens with some respect to his voice as speaking authoritatively on behalf of the Opposition. Let us consider what this authoritative voice has said.
The honorable gentleman has stated that when the Labour party came into power it found that the dairying industry was in a bad condition, and that his party put the industry back on its feet. , He, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture at that time, appointed a committee, which consisted of five government officials and four primary producers, to make an exhaustive analysis of the costs of the dairying industry and to recommend what the price of butter should be. At that time, this country was at war, and all prices were pegged. The dairy-farmer was not permitted to sell his butter at the price that the market would yield. He was prohibited from accepting any price other than that determined by the government. Although the world was paying two or three times more than the price paid by the Australian consumer, the unfortunate dairy-farmer could secure only the pegged price of ls. 7d. or ls. 9d. per lb. for his butter. The committee appointed by the honorable gentleman calculated the price of butter upon the basis that men in the dairying industry worked a 56-hour week, that an ownerfarmer should get only 25s. a week more than a labourer, despite his managerial and other responsibilities, and that he should receive interest upon his equity at the rate of only 3$ per cent. The committee fixed the price of butter at 2s. 1½d per lb. The honorable gentleman reduced that figure by 1½d., and said also that the rate of interest should be, not 3 per cent., but 3 J per cent. That is how a Labour government helped our great dairying industry.
Much has been said by the Labour party about what it would do if it were in office. It was in office for about eight years, but during that time it did not do much in the field of social services. Honorable gentlemen opposite have criticized the budget because of its alleged failure to make proper provision for pensioners. Men in all grades of society are judged more by their deeds than by their words. If a political party is to be judged by its deeds, then the Labour party must stand condemned for its lack of deeds for the age pensioners, and other social services beneficiaries. I shall show exactly what provision was made for social services in the last Chifley budget, which was tabled in this chamber in September, 1949. “When the Chifley Administration relinquished office, the cost of living was rising at the rate of from 10 per cent, to 12 per cent, per annum, and had been rising at that rate for two years, although, admittedly it has risen at a steeper rote since then. Mr. Chifley delivered his last budget speech on the 7th September, 1949. It was a. long speech consisting of 28 pages. On page twelve, fourteen lines were devoted to the then Government’s social services proposals. Not so much as an additional 6d. was to be given to age pensioners, widows, recipients of repatriation benefits, or any other social services beneficiaries, although, as I have said, the cost of living was rising sharply at that time. How can honorable members opposite claim, in view of their own record, that this Government is neglecting its duty to old and weary people? The Opposition would have us believe that only the Labour party is concerned with the welfare of those unfortunate members of the community who are unable to provide adequately for themselves.
– That is right.
– The last policy speech of the Labour Prime Minister does not support that claim. “When the Labour Administration was defeated, age pensioners were receiving £2 2s. 6d. a week. “We have raised that payment to £3 7s. 6d. a week in the short period that we have been in office. The invalid pension has been increased by a like sum. The pension payable to class A widows under the Chifley Government was £2 7s. 6d. a week. “We have raised that pension to £3 12s. 6d. a week. Similar increases have been made in the pensions of widows in other classes. In 1949, the unemployment and sickness benefits were 25s. a week for a single man. Apparently there was some unemployment even in those days. Those payments have now been doubled, but still this Government is criticized.
I am dealing with social services because Opposition speakers have spent so much time trying to persuade the community that they alone have the interests of the poor at heart. Their only interest in the poor is to make them even poorer so that they will keep on voting for Labour candidates. I come now to the tuberculosis allowance. Medical science has shown that tuberculosis is curable. Not many years ago, it was looked upon as an affliction which virtually signed the death warrant of the patient. Tuberculosis can be cured quite simply. No expensive operation or costly medical treatment is necessary. All that the victim has to do is to rest, free from worry, for some months. This Government realized that no tuberculosis sufferer could be free from worry if he had to depend entirely upon the tuberculosis allowance of £2 2s. 6d. a week that the Chifley Government had provided for him. Obviously he must be assured that adequate provision is being made for the maintenance of his wife and family. In years gone by, coughing victims of tuberculosis were forced to drag their weary legs from job to job, trying to earn a few pounds to supplement their meagre allowance. Fortunately, the Menzies Government was able to appoint as its Minister for Health an experienced medical man, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who understood this problem. One of his first recommendations to this Government, and one which the Government readily adopted, was that the tuberculosis allowance for a single man should be increased from £2 2s. 6d. a week to £5 a week, and for a man and wife to £8 5s. a week. The budget that we are now considering has announced that the tuberculosis allowance for a single man is to be further increased to £5 10s. a week, and for a married man to £9 a week. This is positive action which will relieve the financial circumstances of the people involved. It is also good business for the nation, because men and women will be able to resume employment instead of living indefinitely on social services. That is an achievement for which this Government can claim much credit. From the Opposition we have heard only loud words.
We on this side do not believe in providing all social services entirely free of charge. We believe that a, person who has to depend upon himself, in some measure at least, is a better citizen because of that. We believe that self-help should be encouraged; but we recognize also that misfortune is liable to strike down any member of the community. We know that, in the coming year, many people will be knocked down by motor cars, and that many others will be the victims of heart failure, cancer and other dreadful diseases. We do not know, however, just who the victims will be.
We believe, therefore, there is an obligation on the community to make some provision to ease the burden that will be thrown upon individual sufferers, but we believe also that the individual must be encouraged to make some provision for himself so that he will place a value on the services that are available to him, and retain his self-respect. When he is forced to apply for a social services benefit he will feel justified in so doing because he has contributed his quota to the common pool. Therefore, under the guidance of the Minister for Health, Australia’s most experienced administrator in this field, the Government has adopted a practical medical scheme. The Labour party’s medical benefits scheme purported to be free, but in reality no one was able to obtain free services because the scheme would not work. Nobody would co-operate in the stupid plan. The scheme that has been devised by the present Minister for Health is working. Under the Chifley Government the age pensioner was left to enter a pauper’s institution. We have a scheme in which the age pensioner may have a doctor call, or himself visit a doctor, who will be paid by the Commonwealth for attending to that pensioner. We have about 500,000 pensioners in this country who, last year, had the benefit of 1,500,000 visits from their doctors at the expense of the Commonwealth. That is something real and practical, and is not just a lot of loud talk about what is going to be done for the poor, the invalids, and age and widowed pensioners. Then we come to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The Labour Government introduced a scheme, and told the people they could get everything, practically from aspros to false teeth, free, but in fact hardly anybody got anything. A doctor here and there co-operated in the scheme, but 99 per cent, of the people never got 3d. worth of return from the social services contribution that they paid to finance the scheme. We have a scheme in which only vital drugs necessary to preserve life and prevent disease are supplied free. They are expensive drugs, such as penicillin and other drugs, the names of which I would not even attempt to pronounce, but which we all know to be very costly. A patient can now go to a doctor and obtain prescriptions for such, drugs which will be supplied free by a chemist, the cost, being borne by the Commonwealth. Last year 6,500,000 such prescriptions were filled. That is a scheme which is actually working.
Now we come to the hospital benefits scheme. The Labour Government said, “ Hospitals are free for everybody. You do not have to join an insurance society or hospital benefits scheme any more. You can enter a hospital and we shall pay it 6s. a day on your behalf”. Many people entered hospitals and paid nothing on their own behalf, although, in fact, many of them were well able to do so. As a consequence, hospital finances went “ into the red “, and instead of beds being available to really sick people many beds went out of use because hospitals were forced to close down whole sections owing to their financial inability to keep them open. That was the kind of free hospital service that the. Labour party provided. Under the present scheme we advise individual taxpayers to take out insurance costing ls., 2s. or 3s. a week, to cover themselves and their families. Such a weekly a-mount is not much in view of present wage levels. We inform the taxpayers that if they insure themselves and their families in this way the Commonwealth will pay the hospital 12s. a bed a. day and the insurance company will pay another 12s. a day, giving the hospital a payment of 24s. a bed. a day with which to provide the services it is called upon to give. Without such services and the finance to maintain them, free medicine and free hospitalization and all those shibboleths are just so many empty words.
I have dealt fully with the allegations and’ claims of the Labour party in respect of social services provisions. Members of that party ought to hang their heads in shame every time they think about thomatter because they, who are the selfprofessed protectors of the poor, do their utmost to let the poor down except at election times,, when they go around cadging votes from poor people.
– The Minister should deal with the land tax while he still has time.
– I. shall look # after the making of my owl* speech without any assistance’ from’ the” honorable mem. ber for East Sydney (Mr. Wald). Tt is the first time I have ever heard him offer to help anybody. The subject of employment has been much canvassed in this debate. Honorable members opposite are also the self-professed protectors of the workers. They are always throwing the word “ workers “ about this chamber as though We, on this side of the House, have not all been workers and have worked probably just as hard as have many honorable members opposite. They speak about “ workers “ as though we had not been elected to office by the workers. Indeed, the workers form more than 95 per cent, of the population. As we were returned with handsome majorities at the last two general elections, we can only have been returned because the workers thought more of us than they did of the Labour party. There are approximately 3,500,000 people in employment in Australia, and it is most important that the government of the day shall take a responsible view of the economic situation which confronts the nation so as to safeguard the jobs of those workers. Here again deeds count far more than words. It would not advance the cause’ of the Worker to follow the suggestions’ made by the Leader of the Opposition. (Dr. Evatt) in his speech On Tuesday of last week I listened to him very carefully and with great respect for £tn hour arid three-quarters, because’ he is the alternative Prime Minister of Australia-, and whatever we may think of his political views we must recognize the fact, that if there is a change of government? he will be Prime Minister. We must, therefare, pay the’ utmost attention to anything that he says about solving the nation’s problems. What were the solutions that the right honorable gentleman offered ? Boiled down, they amounted to this : Print more bank notes ; ‘ pump more currency into the economy; build the note issue up from £150,000,000 additional currency to £350,000,000 additional currency. Those are the right honorable gentleman’s solutions. Turn the printing presses loose! Let the country be flooded with phoney notes*!-
– He said nothing of the sort-.
– Thai is’ what his solutions a’mount to when- they art! all boiled down. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) successfully, carefully, and, I think, very fairly analysed the right honorable gentleman’s speech. He pointed out that while on the one hand the Leader of the Opposition had said that he would vastly increase social services, he had said nothing about reducing defence expenditure ; that, although he had said he would reduce taxation, his proposals would add another £150,000,000 to expenditure, and he had not shown how he would find the money to pay for increased social services and other commitments, except to say that during the war the Labour Government had financed the needs of this country from central bank credit and if we could do that in time of war we could do it in time of peace. “ Mr. Ward. - Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for East Sydney says “ Hear, hear!” Will he say it when I have finished ? Central bank financing in time of peace, if it were to be carried out as it was carried out in time of war, would require controls of the war-time type ; and war-time controls meant,as honorable members know, first of all, prices control. Honorablemembers opposite will say “ Hear, hear ! “ to that.
– Hear, hear! That is what we want.
– But prices control was accompanied by wage-pegging. Do honorable members opposite say “hear, hear!” to that?
– That is all right.
– These and other controls were accomplished by restricting the opportunities for spending money. They were accompanied by rationing of commodities such as sugar, clothes, meat, butter, tea and petrol. Is it suggested that we should again put ourselves into an economic strait-jacket? That is what happens in war-time when the currency is expanded.
– There was full employment then.
– Yes, but where? The honorable member forEastSydney was Minister for Labour and National Industry during the war, and he had authority, and exercised it, to conscript civilians and send them to jobs in pickle factories or on the roads, or to work with the Civil Construction Corps in central Australia.
– That is not true.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney is interjecting too much.
– If whatI have said is not true many people who found themselves during the war in strange parts of Australia, not of their own volition, persist in believing it to be true. I admit, of course, that some people found ways and means of evading the directions they received. We cannot have war-time methods of finance without the war-time restrictions that accompany it. Does any one wish to return to the conditions that existed during the war? We were all hoping and praying for the day to come when we could breathe freely again without those hampering restrictions. We are only beginning to get rid of them now, seven years after the war, but the Leader of the Opposition urges the people to put hisparty into power so that those war-time restrictions may be re-imposed.
– Honorable members have been treated by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to half an hour of nothingness, a performance, which I admit, is for him unusual. We have come to expect something worth while from him, but to-night We were disappointed. He completely failed to justify the budget, and that is not surprising because he, more than any other man, is responsible for a good deal of the unemployment that now exists. He increased postal, telegraph and telephone rates to a level never dreamed of by his predecessors in office. I have no doubt that it was his intention, as reported, to make still further increases, but fortunately the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) caught him when his fingers were virtually in the till, and squeezed it on them. But for the intervention of the Prime Minister the increases would have been made. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department initiated the trend towards unemployment. Postal charges and telegraph rates have been raised so much that the revenue of the department is threatened, and employees are being forced out of work. All married women, irrespective of their family commitments, are to lose their jobs. For all this the Postmaster-General is responsible, and perhaps we should not be surprised, because we know that he believes in land monopoly and low wages.
He told us what the Chifley Government was supposed to have done in 194!) in the way of making promises. The fact is that the Chifley Government was honest and truthful. It .meant everything it said, and it would have honoured its promises. As for pensions, the Chifley Government did not wait for an election year before it made increases. In 1948, a year before the election, age pensioners were drawing 38 per cent, of the basic wage, in contrast with their position under the present Government when they are drawing only 29 per cent, of the basic wage. The Minister said that the policy of the Labour party was to keep people poor so that they would vote Labour. If that statement reflects the mental outlook of the Minister it is no wonder that there is unemployment. As a matter of fact, this Government’s policy is more likely to bring about unemployment than was the policy of any government which preceded it. There is every reason to believe that the Government, through the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, is squeezing Trans-Austral’a Airlines. We know that the Government proposes to remit to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited hundreds of thousands of pounds which that company owed for landing charges. This is being done under the pretence of helping TransAustra’lian Airlines though in essence it merely provides a rake off for the pr ivaatelyowned airlines
It does not matter two hoots whether the Government wins or loses the next election, but it does matter that Australia’s economy differs from that of New Zealand and Great Britain. The budget should have provided, for placing Australia on an equal footing with other countries in the sterling bloc. Members of the Government have criticized the
Opposition for daring to refer to unemployment, but to do so is a responsibility that rests squarely on Her Majesty’s Opposition in any British parliament. ‘The Prime Minister’s contribution to this debate consisted largely of a vicious attack upon the Leader of the. Opposition, but he made one significant statement to which I propose to refer. I observe, in passing, that when the smoke-screen which enveloped hiv remarks had dispersed, his speech had little substance. However, the right, honorable gentleman said that the building industry is one of the great barometers of employment in Australia, and that one of the factors of the slackening demand for building has been the fantastic prices of houses. The right honorable gentle-‘ man then stated that if inflated prices are allowed to continue, every builder’s labourer will be “ priced “ out of a job. I ask every honorable member to pause for a moment and think whether the building trade to-day is a barometer of employment or of unemployment. On the 11th May last, long “before the budget was compiled, the Sydney Sunday Herald published the following article : -
Building materials were piling up in merchants’ yards, but for many thousands of people in New South Wales hopes of ever building a home were dying, said building industry authorities yesterday.
They gave this picture of the state of the industry: -
Brickmakers are stacking millions of bricks or closing their yards.
Timber merchants have stocks of timber bigger than at any time since 1940.
Contractors are looking for business and workmen are seeking jobs.
Authorities said that in the last six months funds for building had been drying up because of the Commonwealth Government’s policy of credit restrictions to counter inflation.
– What did the Sunday Herald publish last week?
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) may answer his own question, if he can do so, when he speaks in this debate. The article continued -
A survey of 55 clay and cement brickyards in the metropolitan area last week showed that seventeen had closed, all the others were stockpiling bricks, and most had reduced output by up to SO per cent.
Yet Government supporters tell us that our problem to-day is caused by lack of production. They wonder why the workers look sceptical at the production methods adopted by management at the present time. The article proceeded -
Un Monday morning wo had about 40 men standing Outside the gate niter jobs but we had no jobs available.
That statement was not issued on behalf of the Labour party, but was published in t.he Sunday Herald,, which, ever and anon, has supported anti-Labour governments.
I come to another point in this vicious circle. Unemployment has increased since the 11th May last. The honorable member for Warringah alluded to some matter published in the last issue of the Sunday Herald, but lie might not be aware that the Sydney Morning Herald, in its issue on the 2nd August last, printed an article by a journalist who had applied for a job at the Commonwealth employment office in Sydney. Passages from that article are as follows: -
Officers at the central bureau of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Sydney said yesterday they were unable to offer a job anywhere in New South Wales to a carpenter, bricklayer or unskilled worker.
They told a “ Herald “ reporter who registered for employment that -
Employment could be found only for certain metal tradesmen, such as fitters, turners, boilermakers and moulders.
Jobs of any kind were scarcer now than at any time since the early 1930’s.
Each day more men were registering for employment …
There were times when men entered the office at the rate of one a minute.
Yet members of the Labour party are criticized because they direct attention to the seriousness of the unemployment situation. Last night, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) delivered a dissertation on what Australian workers should do.
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister is not aware of the difference between Americanized methods and those in operation in Australia, but perhaps I can enlighten him on that matter. For fi number of years,, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has ordered equipment from an Australian manufacturing company, Standard Telephones and Cables Proprietary Limited, which has adopted the identical methods that were mentioned by the Minister last night. The company introduced the system of bonuses and incentives in 1943, and employed seventeen skilled men to teach its methods to other employees. The PostmasterGeneral has cancelled, on behalf of his department, orders that would have provided work for the company during the next four years, and from to-morrow the number of those instructors is to be reduced by approximately one-half, and toolmakers and other skilled tradesmen are to be dismissed. That situation is due to the attitude of the Government in deliberately causing unemployment, when it should be strengthening the national economy. A new telephone exchange in Lidcombe has been completed at a cost of thousands of pounds, but the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has announced that, in conformity with the policy of the Government, funds will not be available until after 1953 for the Vaughan-street project to provide telephone services to the business community of Regent’s Park and Sefton. The Prime Minister has declared that the Government will not be responsible for causing unemployment; yet, by its actions and directions, it is deliberately throwing out of employment day after day Australians who have been in constant employment and trained in the manner suggested by the Minister for External Affairs. Men are being thrown on to the industrial scrap heap as the result of government policy. The Prime Minister must accept full responsibility for that position.
The first of the series of steps that have produced the partial downfall of the Australian economy was taken in 1946 when the present Prime Minister opposed the Chifley Labour Government’s referendum proposal that authority to make laws with respect to industrial employment be conferred upon this Parliament. The Labour Government believed that the time had arrived when, for reasons that were clearly stated, the National Parliament should possess that power. The present Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and their supporters denied that it was necessary to vest that power in this Parliament.
They told the people that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration already possessed authority to take any action that was required to safeguard the economy. The Labour party makes no apology for iis attempt on that occasion to obtain that power for this Parliament. The United States Congress, the United Kingdom Parliament and the New Zealand Parliament have that power, and I point out, in passing, that the United States Congress has used that authority. Two or three weeks ago, the American railways were returned to their owners. They had been controlled by the Government for two years, following a disagreement between management and employees. Does any one imagine that the present Government has the courage to take that kind of’ action ? Of course it has not! It hides behind the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, yet denies to that tribunal the power to take the action which, it says, the court should take.
If my word on that matter is not acceptable, may I be excused for reading to the chamber a passage from a judgment given in 1949 after the basic wage inquiry? This passage cannot be repeated too often, because it clearly reveals the inability of this Government or its supporters to understand the realities of the industrial situation. In speaking of the Industrial Arbitration Act, His Honour Mr. Justice Foster, who at that time was Acting Chief Judge, said -
When therefore the Act speaks of public interest it means no more and no less than that the Court will achieve its constitutional purpose and serve the “ public interest “ it is created for when it bends its efforts to the settlement of these industrial disputes. Obviously the Court must not subordinate its central function which alone calls it into action in order to achieve some judicial conception of what is for the public good and to that end to refrain from settling a dispute or settling a dispute in a particular way to accomplish it. It may be thought by some that it was “in the public interest” to stay inflation by lowering wages or by maintaining them a.t present levels or to consider the lot of the housewife and prevent any further rise in her cost of living or to protect industry from the possibility of overseas competition, and that the Court should act accordingly whether it settled the dispute in fact or not. In my view -the Court is not only not empowered to act “ in the public interest “ at large but could not be so empowered under the Constitution to so function except insofar as the public good was incidental to the settlement of an interstate industrial dispute.
I particularly wish to emphasize the following words used by His Honour : -
Obviously the principles which the .Court applies in reaching the basis of settlement will conform as far as possible with its conception of the public good but its task must always remain settlement of the dispute. It is a common misconception that the Court is the repository of the Commonwealth’s legislative power with respect to industrial matters at large - it is no such thing and cannot under the Constitution be so endowed. It is at most and at least the organ for the settlement by conciliation and arbitration of a limited class of industrial disputes. If the Court is to be more, the Constitution must confer more.
In 1946, when the Australian Labour party pointed clearly to the .weaknesses of our arbitration system, those who now form the Government untruthfully told the people of Australia that reform was not necessary because the court had all the power that was necessary. They went further and opposed Labour’s case for prices control. As a result, they have brought about a situation from which they now have no way of escape. It might have been expected that the budget now before the Parliament would provide a way out of our economic difficulties, but such is not the case.
Let us examine the budget of 1951-52 and then turn to the present budget in order to compare the statements of . the Treasurer concerning inflation. His remarks make one wonder whether the Government has any conception at all of the powers of our industrial authorities. The right honorable gentleman said in the budget speech of 1951-52, speaking of inflation -
In a situation like the present, however, by far the most effective action a government can take is through its budget, using that term in a broad sense. In a modern economy every individual and every organization is affected to a considerable degree by what governments do in the way of raising and spending money. For this reason the financial operations of governments can, if appropriately directed, do a great deal to redress unstable conditions developing within the economy.
It is pertinent to point out that over three quarterly periods in the calendar year preceding the making of that statement the basic wage had increased in Sydney by 28s. During the present calendar year in the same city it has again ‘risen by 28s. over three quarterly periods, so that for anybody on the Government side to suggest that inflation has been stemmed is so much rot. The right honorable gentleman said in his recent budget speech, when dealing with the inflationary trend -
It is true that what is called “ cost inflation “ continues. Under our closely-geared industrial system, rising wages and costs tend to become self-propelling. Wage and price increases that occurred months ago produce wage and prices increases to-day. It would, however, be idle and wrong for me to discuss here issues which, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and it could only prejudice the work of that Court to promote an irrelevant and impotent political debate about them in this House.
– An alibi!
– It is not even an alibi. Either it is direct misrepresentation of the position of industrial arbitration in this country, or it portrays complete ignorance on the part of the Government.
– Probably the latter.
– I am prepared to say that it is definitely the latter. Since the Labour industrial programme of 1946 we have watched the basic wage rise from less than ,£S in New South Wales to £11 15s. at present. Even the Prime Minister has stated that building costs have reached a fantastic stage. Apparently the Government considers that its only way out is to smash the economy of Australia, so that employers may go to the court and say, “ The economic position is such that you must reduce the standards of the Australian workers ; otherwise we shall fail “. Indeed, that has been done already.
Let us consider the claims of the employers in the case which they have presented to the court. In their affidavit they state that the court is being asked ro reduce the basie wace by £2 73. a week in New South Wales and to increase the working week to 44 hours. They claim that present labour costs adversely affect all public and private finance and have “an unfair and unequal incidence on sections of the community other than wage-earners. The Postmaster-General has told the committee to-night that 95 per cent, of Australians are wage-earners. Therefore, either the affidavit or the PostmasterGeneral’s statement contains deliberate lies.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw the word “ lies “.
– I shall substitute the word “ untruths “’. Either the affidavit which has been signed by the employers or the statement of the PostmasterGeneral contains deliberate untruths. I am inclined to believe the PostmasterGeneral and am therefore forced to the conclusion that the employers are prepared to resort to dishonest methods to try to coerce the court into reducing the basic wage. The court has been asked to suspend the next two quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. Earlier to-day the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) remarked that the basic wage has nothing to do with this Government.
– The honorable member for Lyne does not know anything about the matter.
– How true that is! The application which has been made to the court shows how far the supporters of this Government are prepared to go. They are asking the court to peg wages at a level which would give to employers a “ rake-off “ of at least 15s. a week from the bread and butter of every Australian man, woman and child. The Government has said that this matter should be left to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Labour movement has no apology to offer for the policy that it adopted in 1946 nor for the price-fixing proposals (hat it advanced in 1948. The United States of America, Great Britain and New Zealand have all controlled prices and the Australian Government is the only Government in a British community that has not had the courage to take the requisite action to consolidate the economy of its country.
The policy of the Labour party in regard to full employment is set out in the white paper which the Labour Government printed in 1945. That paper also set out Labour’s policy in regard to financial institutions. Paragraph 21 of the paper reads as follows : -
Public capital expenditure has always been important in the Australian economy and can be controlled by Commonwealth and State Governments. When employment tends to decline resources can be usefully employed by the decision to embark upon developmental work and to improve the collective capital equipment of the community. It is economical to use resources that would otherwise he idle in these forms of capital construction, and thus hi maintain the economy in full employment.
Paragraph 22 of the paper reads -
A tendency of spending to decline, thus causing unemployment, can be offset by a relatively small increase in public expenditure and by hanking policy and other measures to encourage private spending. Just as unemployment breeds more unemployment because unemployed workers and depressed businesses are bad customers for other industries, so employment breeds more employment because extra demand for some goods enables the producers of those goods to increase their purchases and so on. If Governments maintain a continual close review of current and prospective trends in spending and the level of activity in the economy, they will be ready to act as soon as a decline threatens. The earlier they do so the smaller will be the decrease of public and private expenditure required. When expenditure is increased it will give additional employment and income to some producers ; their extra spending will still further increase employment and incomes, and this process will go on for some time multiplying on itself.
That is Labour’s policy. Opposition members believe in it and at the first opportunity that the people give to us we shall implement that policy for the future guidance and benefit of Australia.
.- The speeches that have been made by honorable members of the Opposition during this debate have revealed only too well their discomfiture at the success of this budget. Criticism is to be expected from an Opposition, but the Opposition has not offered real criticism. It has often indulged in personal attacks. Criticism is quite different from personal attack. Criticism is founded on judgment, but emotion distorts judgment and discipline denies it. In at least one speech by an Opposition member the wells of bitterness and jealousy overflowed and in many other speeches from the opposite side of the chamber the crack of the disciplinary caucus whip could be heard. The value of the budget should be judged in the light of the circumstances of the times and of our national life. The white paper which was printed by the Chifley Government in 1945 stated that wages should be dependent upon productivity. It also stated that there was no such thing as f ull employment in a real sense and that there must always be a time at which some persons were not employed. The from one form of employment to another, paper gave examples of the causes of temporary unemployment, an important one being the constant transfer of persons The subject of bank credit was also dealt with. The paper stated that whilst bank credit could be used within limits, if too much credit was released the result would be a fall of the real value of wages and this would affect workers and those in the lower income group. It further stated that if too much bank credit were issued it would be impossible to have full employment.
– The Opposition still says that.
– On the contrary, Opposition members who have dealt with this subject have denied that proposition. If the honorable member does not realize that, either he has not been in the chamber or he has not appreciated what has been said. In 1948, Mr. Chifley pointed out that transfers would have to take place from one sphere of employment to another. In 1949, the last year in which the Labour Government was in power, the country was in a state of galloping inflation. Not a step was taken by the Labour Government to deal with that situation and it had a deficit of £25,000,000 in that year. No doubt the Labour party will budget in that way in future because the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) extolled the budget of 1949. According to the honorable member, that was a wonderful budget, even though’ it left the accounts of the country £25,000,000 in arrears.
In 19x0, when Mr. Chifley was Leader of the Opposition, he urged the Government to have the courage to deal with inflation, whether its measures were popular or unpopular. He bad not had the courage to deal with inflation, but the present Government did so. In 1951 the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that his budget represented a real endeavour to check inflation. He pointed out that inflation had continued for many years and would not be easy to check, but the Government would make a determined effort to do so. On the occasion of the presentation of the budget last year, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) prophesied that the budget would not improve production or check inflation but would lower the standards of living and bring about a depression. The events of the last twelve months have shown the right honorable gentleman to have been a false prophet.
The Government had a threefold plan to check inflation. Its objectives were, first, to reduce the spending power of the people; secondly, to increase their savings; and, thirdly, to increase production. All three of those objectives have been achieved. Undoubtedly the people are spending less at present, and much consumer resistance has been aroused. During the financial year 1951-52, the people deposited a record amount in the savings banks of Australia. Essential products such as coal, steel, iron, sawn timber, superphosphate and building materials, are now much more plentiful than they were. Perhaps one local example will indicate how the increased production of essential materials has benefited the people. Foi years we citizens of Victoria watched ships battling with gales round our coasts and wondered whether they would arrive at Melbourne in time to allow sufficient gas to be produced to cook our week-end meals. This year, for the first time for many years, there has been no gas-rationing in Melbourne. That was simply because our coal stocks, as a result of the Government’s policy, are now greater than they have been for many years. The Government’s actions have also increased the number of employees in the heavy industries, in mining and in essential services.
Greater production has been achieved partly because the Government dealt with the Communist menace by introducing the secret ballot system into the administration of our trade unions. By means of that instrument, the
Government has been’ able to secure to decent unionists the control of their own unions. As a result of its actions the go-slow attitude and the absenteeism that were preventing men from giving a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay have now largely disappeared. Again, because of the known firmness of the Government and its determination to deal with any breach of the law by Communists, we have had in the last twelve months a measure of industrial peace that had been unknown for many years. All those improvements have caused greater production in industry generally. Therefore, the Government has not only in-creased production, but it also ensured that men will work willingly in industry and give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.
One should distinguish full employment from fool employment, because for many years there has been a great deal of fool employment in this country. Some employees first fooled the employers. Then when certain dismissals had to take place those who worked the least were the first to go and they have at last realized that it is of no use to loaf on the job, be absent as much as possible and fail to give a good day’s work for a good day’s pay. The net result of the Government’s policy is that it has stabilized the economy of the country, and inflation has been almost checked. It is true that cost inflation continues, but that, despite the remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland, is definitely a matter for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I do not agree with the honorable member’s attempt to pre-judge a case that is at present before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and to influence the court by making statements in this chamber. The proper course to be taken with respect to the hours and wages case now before the court is that proposed to be taken by the Government; that is, to be represented before the court in order to give to it as much help as possible on the facts and then to leave the decision solely to the court.
If honorable members have any doubt about wimmer our economy is on a stable basis let them consider what happened when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was recently overseas. Once again he was able to secure a very large loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The members of the board of that bank are very hard-headed businessmen who would not have made a loan to this country, and certainly would not have promised further loans, unless they were sure that our economy was sound. It is idle for honorable members of the Opposition to howl against the success of the Prime Minister because they hate to think that this Government is a success. Our people are proud of their Prime Minister and heartily dislike the disparaging remarks that have been made about him by honorable members opposite.
During the 1951-52 budget debate, the Leader of the Opposition stated that the budget would cause a lowering of the living standards of the people. In that regard I refer honorable members to certain remarks made by Mr. Cheney, the secretary of the Transport Workers Union, upon his return to Australia from a trip abroad. He informed the people that the living standards of our workers are now higher than those of the workers in England and in any country in Europe. There are more motor cars, refrigerators, radio sets, and telephones a head of population in this country than there are in any other country of the world, with the possible exception of the United States of America. Moreover, the consumption of beer, spirits, tobacco, cigarettes, confectionery and so on, which are all nonessentials, has increased tremendously compared with the consumption before the last war. Perhaps honorable members will prefer to consider gambling, which is, certainly a non-essential. The money spent with bookmakers and on totalisators and even on lotteries, is now much greater than it was before the war. When so much money can be spent on non-essentials this country must be very prosperous indeed. During the last twelve months a record number of houses has been built in Australia, and many of them were built with money from Commonwealth sources. Although our national income may not be so great this year as it was in last year’s wool boom period, it is still the second highest national income that we have ever had.
I ask honorable members now to consider unemployment. Before the last war it was customary for 10 per cent, of the people to be unemployed. During the depression of the 1.930’s 25 per . cent, were unemployed. Last year, under this Government, unemployment figures fell to a record low level. They represented less than 1 per cent, of the population. Even to-day, despite the dismal exaggerations of the players on public credulity who sit on the opposite side of the chamber, the proportion does not exceed 2 per cent. Honorable members opposite have tried to misrepresent the situation but they cannot disguise the fact that no country outside the iron curtain to-day has a lower percentage of unemployment than has Australia.
Let us consider the exaggerations of honorable members opposite as an instance in which their claims can be put to the test. During the budget debate last year, they said that there would be great dismissals from the ranks of men employed on public works. An examination of the figures shows that, in June of last year, 115,000 men were employed on public works throughout Australia and that, in May of this year, the total had increased to 116,200. Thus., far from decreasing, employment on public works increased between June of last year and May of this year. I refer to other statistics in relation to public works. During the last two years, a sum of £630,000,000 has been expended on public works throughout Australia and, of that total, £505,000,000 has come from Commonwealth sources. That outlay by the Australian Government has provided a great deal of employment. Before World War II., the amount usually expended on public works each year was £25,000,000. Honorable members opposite should compare that figure with the amount of £630,000,000 that has been expended during the last two years. The statement of honorable members opposite that this Government wants to. run . persons out of employment is absolutely contrary to the facts, as they are well aware. The truth is that our economy has been established on a stable basis. We have maintained our high living standards, we have increased production in essential industries, and we have men who are willing to work. In these circumstances, a prosperous country like Australia must go forward. It cannot possibly go back. The budget will act as a stimulant and will provide an incentive for us to go forward.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) said last night that the Government had provided little or nothing for the people, and the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) said this afternoon that what the Government had provided for the people was laughable. What the Government has provided is a tax remission of almost £50,000,000 this year! That is what the honorable gentlemen describe as little or nothing, or as laughable. Did their remarks ring with sincerity or with the crack of the caucus whip? The Leader of the Opposition declared in his speech on the budget that the Labour party objected to decreased taxation and wanted to increase expenditure. Furthermore, he said that, if rise Labour party were in power, it would use unlimited bank credit. If his followers describe £50,000.000 as little or nothing, we can readily imagine what the right honorable gentleman means by unlimited bank credit. The Labour party would not stint itself in any way. I refer again to the Chifley Government’s white paper, which stated that the unlimited use of bank credit would result in the real value of wages disappearing and full employment vanishing. The Labour party is aiming at neither more nor less than wild inflation and unbridled socialism. Its policy, if implemented, would certainly lead to the bankruptcy of Australia and to a depression worse than any that has occurred in the history of this country.
The social services provisions contained in the budget have already been dealt with to-night by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony). Therefore I shall not discuss them in detail. I merely point out that the Government has now, as previously, provided for con- siderable increases of pensions and other benefits and for the alleviation of the conditions of the means test. The Postmaster-General has reminded us that the Chifley Government did not increase pensions in a time of grave inflation. Honorable members opposite have said that we are now in a time of depression. They did not increase pensions in 1948-49, during a period of inflation. What would they do if they were in power during a period of depression? Would they increase pensions ? My question remains unanswered ! It is well known that the only occasion in Australia’s history on which pensions have been reduced occurred during the regime of a Labour government in 1931. Let honorable members opposite howl as much as they like. They know what happened in 1931 and they have kept very quiet about it during this debate. They know that they belong to a political party that stands, not for pensions improvements, but for reductions of social services. The Labour party cut down pensions at a time when pensioners needed every penny that they could get. Honorable members opposite have complained to-night that the pensions increases for which this Government has budgeted are not sufficient. Who believes that there i3 any sincerity in their statements? They cannot be trusted. I have pointed out that their policy would lead to unbridled inflation and I point out now that the pensioner would be hit just as hard as the wage earner under a Labour government.
.- This is a difficult stage of the budget debate at which to make a speech, because not much can be said that has not been said already. by other honorable members. However, I sincerely trust that, difficult though it may be to make a speech at this time, my remarks, unlike those of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), who is now leaving the chamber, will be confined to the truth. I shall not waste much time in dealing with his statements. He said that the policy of the Labour party would lead to uncontrollable inflation. All I can say in reply is that, even if we deliberately tried to foster inflation, we should have little chance of being as successful in that direction as this Government has been. The honorable member also referred to the economic depression and spoke of the pensions cut that was made by the Scullin Government in 1931. It ill behoves an honorable member who is associated with the tories in Australia to refer to anything that took place during the terrible depression that began in 1929. In particular, no reference was made to the cut in pensions. Nobody knows better than does the honorable member for Balaclava what brought about that state of affairs. He recalled that Mr. Chifley spoke about the necessity for the transfer of employees from one section of industry to another. One would think, to hear the honorable member, that such a transfer of employees required a worker to finish a job on one day and take another job on the next day. Mr. Chifley did make the statement that was attributed to him by the honorable member, but he did not mean that the process of transferring employees from one industry to another would go on for months and months as it is doing to-day. The honorable member for Balaclava also spoke about the magnificent action of this Government in storing coal at grass for the first time for many years. Honorable members on the Government side could not dig enough coal to boil a billy, but they claim the credit for that reserve of coal at grass. I did not hear one honorable member on the Government side give any credit to the coal-miners who go down into the bowels of the earth and dig the coal. They are the men who are responsible for those reserves.
The Postmaster - General (Mr. Anthony), with his tongue in his cheek, challenged members of the Opposition to state where they stood on wage pegging. I suggest that he cast his mind back to 1947 when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition, challenged the Chifley Government in this chamber to remove wage pegging. He said that the basic wage was inadequate to enable a worker to provide a reasonable standard of living for his family. The wage-pegging regulations were lifted, and what was the outcome? Immediately an application was made for an increase of the basic wage, no one else could get into the court room because of the long array of representatives of the employers who were opposing an increase.
This budget is another example of the policy of deception that has been practised by the Government. It was established, and has maintained itself, by means of deception. In the 1949 general election campaign, honorable members on the Government side stumped the country and told the people that a vote for Chifley was a vote for communism. They also told the Australian people that if they defeated the Chifley Government and returned the Menzies Government, it would restore value to the £1. That was pure deception. But the greatest deception practised by honorable members on the Government side was seen in the references that were made to the late Mr. Chifley. He was maligned from one end of Australia to the other as a Communist or a Communist supporter, and every honorable member who sits on the Government side must accept a share of responsibility for that deception. Not until that grand statesman passed on could members of the Government find one decent word for him.
In 1951, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) brought down a budget which he claimed would cure inflation. In that budget, all forms of taxation were increased. The Treasurer said that there was nothing harmful in it and that it would not inconvenience the people of Australia. The Government increased the sales tax last year so that it could be reduced to some degree in this budget. This budget has been described as “ an incentive budget “. For whom and for what does it provide an incentive? It is designed solely to induce the electors to vote for the Government at the next general election. When I was a child an old Chinaman called at our house with vegetables. He always marked up everything to at least 50 per cent, above the price he expected to get for them. Before he left his shop, an article that should be sold for 2s. was marked 3s. My mother would beat the price down to 2s. 6d. and think she had caught the Chinaman for 6d., whereas the Chinaman had caught her for 6d. That is what this
Government did. It increased the sales tax so that one year closer to the general election it would be able to reduce the tax by 50 per cent. Actually, the Australian people are at least 50 per cent, worse off now than they were before the last budget was presented.
Not one person, not even the most ardent supporter of the Government in the past, will disagree with me when I say that this is the worst Australian Government since federation. Immediately it was returned to office, it gave to the big importers a buying picnic. It told them to import anything that they liked. The country was flooded with imports and as a result Australia’s London balances were reduced to a most precarious condition. All sorts of non-essential goods were imported. Then the Government said, “We cannot go on like this or we shall be broke “ and it imposed drastic import restrictions. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) spoke last night about farm equipment and deductions for income tax purposes that were allowed when such purchases were made. The sorry state of affairs is that so many things that should not have been imported came into the country under the Government’s haywire policy that the import restrictions which followed prevented the purchase of necessary capital equipment and raw materials. That was the direct result of the Government’s policy. Many big importers over ordered, and they would have been unable to extricate themselves from their difficulties if the Government had not imposed import restrictions. In that instance, Government supporters, like the good little puppies they are, did what their masters told them to do. However, the Government will not remain in office for much longer. An election for the Senate is to be held next year. One would have thought that, if only to save uneces.sary expenditure, the Government would arrange for a general election to be held at that time for both Houses of the Parliament. Yet not so long ago, Government supporters talked incessantly about double dissolutions and the right of the people to be given an opportunity to express their will. That approach at least indicated that they had sufficient sense of their responsibilities to save hundreds of thousands of pounds by arranging for elections for both chambers to be held simultaneously. I am confident that the Government will not follow that course next year because it realizes that the people have had their fill of it and, at the first opportunity that is given to them, will eject it and return, the .Australian Labour party to office.
Every supporter of the Government who has participated in this debate, particularly the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), has adopted the attitude that his speech would not be complete unless it contained an attack upon the working men and women of Australia. As I have said in this chamber on numerous occasions in the past, I have no sympathy with those sections of industry that do not play the game and I should not care what measures the Government adopted to deal with them. If Government supporters were prepared to confine their attacks to Communist union leaders and to unionists who are prepared to allow themselves to be stampeded by Communists, I should not be in the least worried. But honorable members opposite do not follow that course. They do not hesitate to attack trade unionists who have always played the game. The Government should have sufficient courage to give credit to those sections of the trade union movement. It is a physical impossibility for trade unionists engaged in certain industries to increase their present output. I refer to members of the Australian Workers Union, transport workers, shop assistants, storemen and packers, members of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen and many other unions. Government supporters have much to say about strikes and the go-slow policy of some trade unionists. As I have said over and over again, I have not any time for that section of the trade union movement because I believe that, having regard to our industrial arbitration machinery, a strike can be justified only very rarely. For instance, should such machinery fail in a particular instance the workers concerned should have the right to strike. I shall defend that right. However, strikes that are caused merely because some ‘Communist, leader snaps his- fingers: cannot be justified. Such hold-ups not. only barm the national economy, but alsogravely penalize the workers and their families who are involved in them.. That is my chief objection to strikes.
Many members of the Opposition have been officials of trade unions. I was an official of the Australian “Workers Union. On many occasions, I have gone to jobs on which over 400 men were employed, and, prior to. my arrival, had’ unanimously decided to strike. In such circumstances, I used every possible’ endeavour to prevent a strike. In-, that respect, officials of. anti-Communist trade unions have- a much. mare difficult, task than do officials of what are termed, although quite incorrectly, militant unions. Trade unions, which have played an important part in the establishment and maintenance of the arbitration system, know that it. is not: perfect, but, at the. same time, they realize! that it is the best that has yet been evolved. If or that reason, they insist, that their members shall uphold the principle of conciliation and arbitration.. The point. I make is that supporters of the: Government never utter a word of credit to those unions for their attitude in that respect. The honorable member for Bennelong; when speaking in this debate, did nothing- but attack the workers..
– He did not do anything of the. kind.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), although he should have been present in the chamber, was absent when the honorable member for Bennelong, was speaking. It is most unjust for supporters of the Government, to attack trade- unionists as a whole. Any honorable member who believes that he has reason to attack, trade unionists should be; big enough to. indicate the section of them that he has in mind. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council complain about the services that are rendered by the parliamentary officers? When the “big bugs” of the Government entertain in this building, do they ever complain about the people who have to do the work? During the jubilee, celebrations employees of the Parliament were called upon to work for up to eighteen hours a day, but did honorable members opposite give credit to them for that work ? They did not. Credit should be given to the workers in industry who are entitled to it.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) made an- extraordinary speech. After citing figures of productivity in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada, he said that the figures in relation to Australia were not available. But he then compared the efforts of the workers of those countries with those of our workers. That proves my contention that members of the Government will never let up in their attacks, on the workers. The Minister stated that, as a result of their diligence,, the workers of the United States of America enjoyed a standard of living far superior to the standard that is enjoyed by the workers of this country, and that a worker in America who did not own a motor car was held in contempt by his fellowworkers. If a worker in Australia claimed that he was entitled to a motor car honorable members opposite would say that he was a lunatic to make such a claim, because he was not entitled to own a motor car. Supporters of the Government have stated that a worker is not entitled to own a refrigerator, to be able to buy school bags for his children or to provide Johnson’s baby powder for use in the home because those things are luxuries. In the final analysis, big words and flowery phrases do not mean a thing. If honorable members opposite are unable to refrain from attacking the workers, at least they should be honest and give credit where it is due.
Much has been said during this debate about unemployment, and various figures relating to the unemployment situation have been cited. I do not know what is the correct figure of unemployment in Australia at present, because the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), who is acting, for the Minister for Labour and National Service, has not. reveiled it. However, I do know that there is far too much- unemployment in this country. Whether the figure be 100,000, 50,000 or 20,000 I appeal to the Government, for Heaven’s sake and for the sake, of decency, to prevent a recurrence of the state of affairs that was referred to a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Balaclava.
– Does the honorable member mean in Scullin’s day?
– Yes. However, I am not concerned about whether it was in Scullin’s day, in Bruce’s day, in the “ tragic Treasurer’s “ day, or in any one else’s day. My appeal is for the necessary steps to be taken to prevent a recurrence. It is all very well for the Vice-President of the Executive Council to smirk like a hyena while I am referring to the state of unemployment in this country. So he might, because he has not a worry. Whether it be called transitional unemployment, disemployment, or by some other name, the fact is that today thousands of men in this country are not able to get work and are therefore unable to ensure for their wives and families a standard of living that they are entitled to enjoy in a democracy such as Australia. If the Government does not take the necessary- action to remedy the present state of affairs it will be recreant to the trust that has been reposed in it by the electors. Honorable members opposite may say, “ Where are we going to get the money?” Let the Government get it ! When the war was on money was found. The late John Curtin once said, “ It is futile to win the war if we fail to win the peace “. We won World War I., but failed to win the peace. We also won World War II., but if something is not done soon to remedy the present state of affairs we shall again lose the peace. If the Government believes it to be necessary to increase taxes in order to take the necessary action, then let it go ahead and do so. For my part, I should not complain if the tax payable by me were doubled or even trebled if I knew that that would obviate chaos, misery, and possible starvation in even one Australian home. There are members of the community who are squealing because they are taxed at 15s. in the £1 and have left only £20,000 or £30,000. Although we know how capable is the Prime Minister of saying what he wants to say, he is horribly incapable of doing what he is supposed to do. The right honorable gentleman stated recently -
The best way to create unemployment is to squeal and moan, as the members of the Labour party are doing.
Statements such as that will not help.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I bring to the notice of the Government, and particularly the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), complaints that I have received from my constituents and from the constituents of other electorates, about the effects of artillery and bombing practice that is taking place in the metropolitan area of Sydney. The Menie military area is situated just across the George’s River from the township of East Hills. About 9,000 people live in the East Hills subdivision of my electorate, but people who live in Panania, Liverpool, Revesby and other suburbs are also affected by bombing and artillery practice.
– Bombing would be done by the Air Force.
– I shall read to the House an extract from a letter that I have received from a tenants’ association in this area. It will give to the Minister an idea of what the residents think about this matter. The letter states -
The prefabricated houses particularly aTe showing the effects, with cracks in the ceilings and corners of the plaster ceilings. Young mothers are complaining of the interference with the sleep of children in morning and afternoon. So often has it happened that it is a matter spoken of by many of the residents with hostility.
I would supply any further information and I would welcome your investigations The suggestion we make is that the immediate consideration is the range be taken to some other area not so close to the built-up areas and overcome the genuine grievances of the residents of East Hills.
These military establishments were constructed in this area before the outbreak of the first world war and I think the time has come for them to be removed from what is almost the heart of a big city. Since they were established, the population of the areas concerned has increased by over 500,000. The establishments should be removed to places where explosions and blasts would not annoy people and cause damage to property. The constant noise and vibration from them are nerve-wracking, and frighten young children. I ask the Minister to consider the complaints that have been made.
.- This afternoon, a question was directed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about the sale of the shares that the Government owns in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, or C.O.R., as it is commonly known. From the right honorable gentleman’s reply to that question, and from the public knowledge that the federal president of the Liberal party has directed that the policy of the party be implemented and that Government enterprises be sold-
– That is quite untrue.
– I hear an expression of dissent from the Government back benches. If honorable gentlemen opposite do not know it already, let me inform them now that it is clear that the federal executive of the Liberal party and those who control Cabinet have decided that the Government shall sell its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
– That the Government shall give the shares away.
– That is what will be done in effect. The shares will be given away in certain selected quarters, in the same way as the shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited were given away in certain selected quarters previously.
I have raised this matter because it is one that concerns not only those who are anxious about the future defence requirements of this country but also th Australian taxpayers and the British Go vernment. All that I shall do at this stage is ask the Vice-President of thi Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to use his influence with the senior members of Cabinet and the senior members of his party who have directed that these shares shall be sold to persuade them at least to stay their hands until an American report on oil cartels has been made available. I do not ask the members of the Government to reverse their policy or to abandon a principle upon which the Government was elected, that is, the sale of government enterprises. The members of the Government parties who sit on the back benches opposite will support my suggestion that the sale be delayed until the report to which I have referred, which, up to date, according to the newspapers, has been regarded as confidential, has been made available, and until an investigation by a United States federal grand jury into the monopolist! < practices of the seven major oil companies has taken place.
According to reports, a year ago, th«Federal Trade Commission of the United States of America reported to President Truman on the monopolistic practices of the seven major oil companies. Apparently, the report was suppressed on the ground that it might affect the relationships of the United States of America with other countries if it were published. I do not think that any honorable member on this side of the House ever had any delusions about the matter, but i; appears to be clear that the seven major oil companies have divided the world into spheres of influence, apply a united policy on price fixation and, in short, hold the world to ransom for their products. Th; report is to be made public by the American Government and will be available to the Australian Government and the Australian people. The American Government has empanelled a federal grand jury to investigate charges thar. the seven major oil companies control the oil markets of the world, fix prices and, in general, restrain trade. I think we are entitled to ask that, until that, investigation has been completed and the report made public, the Government should stay its hand and should not implement the decision that it has already made to sell its shares in tho Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
– The federal president’ of the Liberal party is a high official of the Shell company.
– As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has said, the federal president of the Liberal party is a high official of one of the companies that has been charged with engaging in monopolistic practices and with attempting to restrain trade in order to keep up the price of oil. That makes the Government’s position much more delicate. It is important that the Government not only should do the right thing, but also should appear to do the right thing. If the highest official of the Liberal party is also a high official of one of the oil companies concerned in this matter, then, for the sake of public decency, the Government should not sell these shares, even if its policy be that they should be sold. It should maintain the purity and decency of public life, and refuse to act further in the matter. The Australian people, who own the shares, are entitled to say that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established because the Australian government of the day had ascertained that the oil companies were exploiting Australia through their cartel or combine. According to the report to which I have referred, that cartel or combine still exists, and is still exploiting the peoples of the world, including the people of Australia. Such exploitation would undoubtedly be greatly assisted if government control of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited wore ended.
I urge the Government, for its own -alee, quite apart from the sake of the people and the sake of our general economic position, to refrain from taking any action in this matter until the report has been made public and the American federal grand jury has completed its investigations into the activities of these oil companies, all of which operate in Australia, so that we shall know exactly where we stand. I appeal to the VicePresident of the Executive Council to use his influence to persuade the Government not to give effect to its decision.
.- I rise to ask the Government to lift the “ iron curtain “ which prevents members of this Parliament from getting information about the employment situation from district officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service. If the Government is not prepared to do that, I suggest that Ministers should confer amongst themselves so that they will not continue to make the Cabinet look ridiculous by reason of the conflicting ministerial statements that are continually being made. Those statements are only confusing tha general public. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in his speech on the budget-
– (Hon. Archie Cameron). Order ! The honorable member may not refer in the House to any proceedings in committee.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister recently made a statement in which he claimed that 4,000 vacancies were being filled every week as the result of the activities of the Commonwealth Employment Service. To-day, the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), said in reply to a question that the number was 4,000 a month, which is a little different from the statement of the Prime Minister. This is not the first inconsistency that we have noticed in replies to questions on the employment situation. I believe that some Ministers are just having a guess, and are putting forward views which they believe will be acceptable to the Australian public. There was one interesting matter that the Minister for Defence mentioned to-day in what I regarded as a very weak reply to the serious allegations made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) about the use of the Commonwealth Employment Service in applying economic pressure to young Australians to conscript them into the services. The Minister said, in his endeavour to support his contention, that no such pressure was being applied, that employment officers merely placed before applicants for jobs the vacancies that existed in the services, in the same way as they submitted details of vacancies that existed in industry, and that each applicant waa permitted to make his own choice. To show that no economic pressure was being applied, the Minister said that only one approach could be made every six months. What does that imply? Is a young man to be still waiting for work at the end of six months? It is not suggested surely that he is chased up after he has obtained work and again asked to join the services. The only inference that can be drawn from the Minister’s reply is that no effort is to be made to find work for the young men. If they reject a request to join the services, they cannot be approached again for six months, and evidently in the meantime, the Commonwealth Employment Service is not going to busy itself getting work for them.
The Commonwealth Employment Service was established by the Chifley Government. At that time, there were some misgivings in the ranks of the workers over the possibility that the service would be abused by an anti-Labour government. However, we were of the opinion that no government would use the service for any purpose other than that which its name implies and that is, of course, as an agency through which unemployed persons may secure employment, and through which, employers who require labour may obtain the workers that they need. Nobody thought that the Commonwealth Employment Service would be used as a means of forcing young men to join the services. As I said last night, under the voluntary system of enlistment in which this Government professes to believe, and which the Australian public certainly supports, each individual has to decide, in the light of his own particular circumstances, whether or not he will join the armed forces. It is ridiculous to suggest that it is necessary for employment officers to direct the attention of young men to the fact that vacancies exist in the armed forces. The call for recruits has been blasted over the air, spread across the pages of newspapers, and advertised through other mediums. There is a highly paid Director-General of Recruiting in charge of the campaign. It cannot be argued, therefore, that unless employment officers direct the attention of young men to vacancies in the forces they would be unaware of them. They all are aware of those vacancies. If they feel disposed to enlist and believe that their circumstances will permit enlistment, they are at liberty to do so. There is no need for extra pressure to be applied by the Commonwealth Employment Service. No matter how the Government may try to camouflage it, the application of pressure by employment officers is nothing les? than economic conscription.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I am not dealing with conscientious objectors to-night. I shall leave that subject for some other occasion. I arn dealing now with young men who apply for jobs and find that pressure iE being put upon them to join the armed forces. This is a practice of which the Australian public will not approve. The trade union movement will not approve of it. Recently the DirectorGeneral of Recruiting attended a meeting of the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney, and appealed for the co-operation of the trade unions in the recruiting campaign. If the council hears of what is now happening in the Commonwealth Employment Service, its antagonism will be aroused, and its cooperation, I am. sure, will be most difficult to obtain. The Government -should do two things. First, it should lift the “iron curtain” and permit information about the employment situation to be supplied to members of the Parliament, the press and the public. Secondly, it should insist upon the discontinuance of the practice of which 1 have spoken and of which a great majority of the Australian people will not approve.
.- This afternoon, I asked the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) a question about the steamship Taroona, which plies between Tasmania and the mainland. The Minister said that the boilers of the vessel had given some trouble, but that a report had been received stating that repairs had been completed, and that’ the ship would resume its service this week. I direct the attention of the House to the fact that this Government pays a subsidy of £90,000 a year to a steamship company to enable Taroona to travel regularly between Melbourne and Tasmania. The ship was built in 1934 and is apparently now almost ready to go on the scrap-heap. Last year it was in dock for four months, and no other vessel was available for the Tasmanian trade. This year, although the minor overhaul that was necessary was expected to take only a short time, only one trip has been made across the Bass Strait in the last six weeks. This ship, and Nairana, which is now on the scrap-heap, were built to carry passengers, mails and perishable cargoes between Melbourne and northern Tasmanian ports. The service is very important to Tasmania. Unless another ship is made available very soon to replace Taroona, which apparently is practically worn out, Tasmania may be without a shipping service this year. The ships used, Taroona and Nairana, were built for the Tasmanian trade and were specifically designed to navigate the Tamar River as far as Launceston. A few years ago use of the port of Launceston itself was discontinued, and ships have since berthed at Beauty Point near the mouth of the river. It is clear that a new design of ship for the trade must be adopted entirely different from that of the ship which is now plying across the strait. I urge the Government to take early steps to discuss with the shipping companies the need to have a ship built for this trade, if there is not one already available specifically for it. There is no doubt that the cost of transport across the strait, particularly for motor vehicles, is heavy. The transport of cars between Victoria and Tasmania costs almost as much as it does between Australia and New Zealand. The captain of the vessel now in the service is sometimes afraid to bring his ship into port when the wind and tide are against him, because he acknowledges that the ships’ plates are so thin that they might crack on contact with the side of the wharf. I do not know whether any increase of Commonwealth subsidy is suggested for the coming year, but something must certainly be done to improve this particular service. I know that this matter has been mentioned in the House on many occasions during the last few years. As these ships carry perishable cargo, second-class mails and passengers between the mainland and Tasmania, I cannot stress too strongly the urgency of the case.
– I desire to make a request to the G o vernment-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - B. Harper, H. C. Lyford, R. M. Williams.
Commerce and Agriculture - J. D. Byrne.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : - 1 and 2. Since the major oil companies introduced the marketing procedure known as the “ One-brand petrol station “, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, like all other oil companies, has been required to remove its pumps and equipment from certain sites. Those companies which do not follow the policy of onebrand stations are continuing to market their products either through established garages which did not change to the one-brand system or through newly-established sites. The Government cannot reveal information concerning the market activities of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited which would be valuable to its competitors. It might be said generally, however, that in the motor spirit trade, C.O.R. sales during the quarter ended June last, were at a record level. 3 and 4. Paragraph 5 of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited which appears as the schedule to the Oil Agreement Act No. 13 of 1920 provides that the technical and commercial management of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited shall be left in the hands of the company.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
s asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Mr. McBRIDE - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Appropriate answers to these questions were contained in the statement on the employment situation given by the Acting Minister for Labour and National Service in the House of Representatives on the 7th August, 1952. Copies of this statement were distributed to honorable members.
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Who prepared the statement on the employment situation which he made in the House on Thursday, the 7th August, 1952?
E - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
My statement was based on informaion extracted from official records by officers of the Department of Labour and National Service, under instructions from me.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 August 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520820_reps_20_218/>.