20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether there is any basis for the rumour that the term of office of the present Governor-General of Australia is to be extended ? If not, when does the Prime Minister propose to announce the name of the Governor-General’s successor.
– I regret that I am not in a position to make any announcement about the Governor-Generalship.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Does the Government contemplate the introduction of a bill to control trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, Part V. - Powers of the Parliament - section 51, placitum (xx.) I point out that the company laws of the States are apparently unable to control, amongst other things, various forms of share hawking and evasions of the Capital Issues Regulations.
– No such legislation i.s in contemplation at the present time.
– Will the Minister for Supply state whether the Government has decided by whom developmental work at Rum Jungle shall be carried out whether by outside interests or by a governmental instrumentality? Will he give an assurance that the Government’s plans for the development of the deposits will provide that any treatment of the ore that is necessary shall be carried out in the Northern Territory, and that the ore shall be treated for its copper as well as its uranium content? In view of the recent new discoveries of uranium in the n 7i
Northern Territory, will the Government consider the establishment of an atomic energy commission to co-ordinate the production and marketing of this vital material ?
– No decision has been made along the lines indicated by the honorable member. The Government will consider the suggestions made by him.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs seen a statement in which it is alleged that the French Government has approached the Japanese Government with a view to obtaining approximately 2,000 workers to augment the labour force in New Caledonia? If so, is the Minister able to say whether there is any truth in the statement?
– Yes, I saw a statement in the press, which was reproduced from a Japanese newspaper, to that general effect. I have no information about the proposal other than what I obtained from the press statement. I arranged for telegrams to be sent immediately to France and Japan in order to discover the facts. Last year the French Government indicated reasonably clearly that it had no intention to introduce Japanese labour into the New Hebrides. Before the war approximately 1,000 Japanese labourers were working in New Caledonia. Most of them were interned in Australia during the war. Although the Japanese have recently started trading, particularly for nickel ores, with New Caledonia, this is the first indication that I have had - and that, of course, from an unofficial source - of French and Japanese intentions regarding the employment of Japanese in the islands. The matter is being watched close v.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration considered the question that I asked a fortnight ago about the plight of British immigrants in hostels where they are unable to pay the high charges imposed for . full board and lodging? I asked whether the immigrants could be permitted to find their own food and do their own cooking, so that they would have to pay only rent, and I directed attention to the fact that many women had to sit idly by, being unable to obtain outside employment, while high wages were being paid to other persons to do the cooking and other work at the hostels.
– I gave immediate consideration to the honorable member’s question and I thought that he had already received a reply to it. I am sorry that he has not, and shall see that a reply is forwarded to him very shortly.
– As one who served on Manus Island for some months during the war, and who realizes the full potentialities of the place, I ask the Minister for External Affairs to state what arrangements hare been made with the United States of America for the reoccupation of Manus Island.
– No positive arrangements have yet been made, although I naturally took the opportunity to discuss the matter at some length with Admiral Radford when I was in Honolulu. I believe that in the near future more American ships and aircraft will be calling at the island than was the case in the past. However, this matter will be discussed with military representatives at t he Anzus Pact meeting at Pearl Harbour in a few weeks’ time.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether consideration has been given to increasing the pensions of superannuated public servants? If so, what action is it proposed to take?
– The honorable mem- ‘ ber’s question should, I suggest, be deferred until the Treasurer is present to answer it. I have certainly had no discussions on the matter.
– Commonwealth public servants, when transferred to country towns and to other cities, are sometimes unable to get houses. Will the Prime Minister consider the provision of houses for such officers as a part of the general (sousing scheme ?
– The honorable member’s question touches on a matter of policy regarding which I cannot now make a statement.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement that President Truman is about to issue a report on the restrictive practices of the major oil companies in the United States of America and other parts of the world, including Australia? Will the Government defer its decision on the proposed sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited until that report is available in Australia?
– In the first place, I have no knowledge of the statement attributed to President Truman. The second part of the honorable member’s question contains an assumption. I have made no statement on the subject of oil. It was only yesterday that I indicated that when a statement could be made it would be made.
– Can the Prime Minister state the amount of the subsidy that is paid by the Commonwealth on every ton of coal imported from India and South Africa, and on that produced in Queensland?
– Oddly enough, I cannot give that information. I did not suppose that anybody would expect me to be in a position to do so.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Social Services.
– Order ! The Minister is not here.
– Then I address my question to the Prime Minister.
– Order ! The Prime Minister does not administer the Department of Social Services.
– May I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services?
– The Minister for Social Services is not represented in this chamber by another Minister. The honorable gentleman should place his question on the notice-paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister acting for the
Minister for Labour and National Service. What steps does the Government intend to take, following the decision given last Monday at the Liverpool Small Debts Court to the effect that all residents in Commonwealth hostels are, in law, lodgers ? In view of the position that has now arisen, can the Minister give to the House any information about the policy of the Government regarding charges payable by the residents of such hostels?
– Order ! Questions relating to government policy are out of order. The honorable gentleman should place his question on the notice-paper.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding him that in 1949 he announced his intention to submit to the House a bill to alter the Constitution with a view to preventing the introduction of legislation to nationalize any industry or undertaking before the approval of the people had been secured at a referendum. Will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether the Government intends to proceed with such legislation? If his answer is in the affirmative, will he state when the bill will be presented to the House? If the Government does not intend to proceed with the proposal, will he state the reason for its abandonment?
– I can well understand the anxiety of the honorable member for East Sydney on this point. When the Government has an announcement to make on the matter, it will be made.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me how many persons are receiving the unemployment benefit in Australia at the present time? Are persons who are able and willing to accept any kind of work included in that number? Will the Minister state why those able-bodied persons have not been given the addresses at which the 31,000 vacant positions exist, in order that they may obtain employment?
– According to the latest figures in my possession, more than 15,000 persons are now receiving unemployment benefit, and I imagine that all of them are willing and able to work. It is true to say that 31,000 vacant positions have been registered with the Commonwealth Employment Office, but it is not the policy of the Department of Labour and National Service to give the names and addresses of employers who have registered vacancies with it. To do so would be to commit a breach of confidence. The fact is that when suitable applicants go to an employment office they are directed to employers who have registered vacancies with the office.
– Does the department, or do its officers, take steps to ensure that the list to which the Minister has referred shall be kept up to date and be really a live list of effective vacancies ? How often is it checked in order to ascertain that die figures are correct and that the stated number of opportunities for employment are actually available?
– I am given to understand that at short intervals, a check of the registered vacancies is made. In addition, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, the employment officers themselves thoroughly canvass employers in order to learn whether vacancies exist which are not registered with the Commonwealth Employment Office. I assure the right honorable gentleman that the employment officers are very active, in order not only to obtain particulars of additional vacancies but also to ensure that the vacancies registered have not since been filled. I should like, at this juncture, to correct an error that I made yesterday which, it will be remembered, caused so much concern .to the honorable member for East Sydney. I stated that the Prime Minister had ‘said that 4,000 vacancies a month had been obtained by employment officers in the manner I described. The true position is that 4,000 vacancies a week were obtained during the months of June and July.
– Is the Minister aware that 200 applicants for work attend ‘at the Brunswick employment office daily? As the honorable gentleman has informed me that in July last at least 625 persons were registered for work .at that office, and as many of those persons w.ere new Australians with little knowledge of the English language, will he .consider .the appointment of a special officer to ascertain whether opportunities exist for .the employment of such persons and also to act as an intermediary between applicants and employers?
Mi-. MCBRIDE.- The present officers are most active in attempting to obtain work for both, new Australians and old Australians. However, I shall have the suggestion of the honorable member examined in order to see whether any real benefit would flow from the appointment of such an. officer.
Mr. CHAMBERS.^! should like the Minister to state why it would be a breach qf faith on the part of the Government to tell honorable members the names of the firms that required the 31,000 employees. I should imagine that it would be in the interests of the firms concerned to make , their names known.
– Any employer who wishes to call for general applications fora position may use the advertising columns pf the press for that purpose. Those, who have registered with the Commonwealth Employment Office obviously do not wish tq adopt that course, and the Government considers that it would be a breach of confidence to publicize them. It has always been the practice in employment offices to treat as confidential the names of employers who have employ? ment available until an applicant is. interviewed whom the employment officer considers would be suitable for a particular position, in which case he is referred, to the employer,
-Has the attention of the ^Minister for External Affairs been directed to the large volume of pro,paganda, written in Moscow, which is at present entering Australia and is directed to furthering treasonable active ties in this country? Is he aware that recently some of this propaganda - and I refer particularly to the book that I have in my hand and shall make available to him - quotes with approval the recent pro-Communist statements of the person who was appointed as head of the Department of External Affairs by the present Leader of the Opposition and who retained that post until shortly after the return io office of the present Govern^ ment ? Does npt this further link between that person and the Soviet propaganda machine give to the Minister further cause for ‘anxiety and underline the urgency of action to ensure that no other Communist agents shall be left within the Commonwealth Public Service, in either the Department of External Affairs or any other department ?
– Yes, I am generally aware pf the matters of which the honorable gentleman has spoken. Having recognized tile coyer pf the journal that he has in his hand, I believe I am also aware of the particular instance to which he hae directed my attention and that he has referred to the Soviet propaganda journal News, in which is published a laudatory arti.de concerning the attitude taken by the individual of whom the honorable gentleman has spoken. I consider that it would not he in the public interest to make known at present the details of action that has been taken in respect of this matter.
-Will the Minister for External Affairs explain how he was able so readily to identify the person referred to in the question addressed to him by the honorable member for Mackellar? Would he regard the answer that he gave as being a further attack on a man who is npt here, to defend himself?
– The description given by the honorable member for Mackellar did not admit of any great problem in identifying the individual concerned. The article in question, written about this individual, has been widely read by people in Australia who have happened to see this Communist publication Nevis. If his identity has not already become evident to the community, the retreat from Moscow must have been a little delayed.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister, can the Vice-President of the Executive Council inform me which government was in power when the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act became law? It will be remembered that the honorable member for Wills presented a petition in connexion with this legislation on Wednesday, the 6th August The Prime Minister promised to investigate the matter and to answer the question on the following day, which was yesterday, but I have not yet received a reply.
– It is true that the Prime Minister promised to give to the honorable member an answer to his question regarding the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act. As the right honorable gentleman has been called from the chamber he has authorized me to reply on his behalf.
– How did he know that the question was going to be asked?
– If the honorable member had been listening to what has been said he would have known that the Prime Minister promised on Tuesday to give an answer to this question.
– I rise to order. Does this matter come within the category of an urgent and important question, Mr. Speaker? Is it in order for the honorable member to ask a question on notice and receive a verbal answer from the Minister two days later?
– I am afraid that the standing order in regard to questions is repeatedly broken by honorable gentlemen on both sides of the House, usually in collusion with one or another Minister. This it not an unusual occurrence. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council has been deputed by the Prime Minister to answer a question the matter is one for the Ministers concerned.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question that the Prime Minister has supplied is as follows: - On investigation, I find that the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act was enacted in March, 1943, during the term of office of the Curtin Government. By an amending act which was assented to in December last year, the present Government took steps to liberalize certain of the conditions relating to the. granting of furlough to tem porary employees. Prior to the commencement of the current session some members of the Government raised the question of further amendments to this act and these are, at the moment, under active consideration.
– In order to assist the Government’s drive for increased food production will the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service consider whether the conditions of call-up for national service could be relaxed in respect of lads who are engaged in rural production and on whose efforts that production depends? I have received information from my electorate that parents have applied for the deferment of call up of their sons on the ground that they would be unable to continue to work their properties if their sons were called up for national service, and that because of the existing regulations those applications have ‘been refused.
– The honorable member will realize that under the National Service Act 1951, complete exemption cannot be granted to any person eligible for national service training.
– There is also no provision for an appeal from a magistrate’s decision.
– That is so, but when national service trainees register they are always asked what periods of call up would be most suitable in view of their occupations. Particular attention is given to those youths who are engaged in rural pursuits so that their seasonal occupations may be taken into account when they are due to be called up. I am sure that the privilege of selecting the call up period is exercised by most rural workers and I believe that sympathetic consideration is given to their desires about this matter. However, under the National Service Act 1951, the total exemption from service of any person is not possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. By way of explanation. may I say that on the 3rd June the Minister stated that he had been informed that the AustralianWheat Growers Federation had suggested to the Government, through the Australian Wheat Board, that as the suspension of the payment of bounties under Commonwealth and State legislation had effected a saving to the Commonwealth, the Government should offset the saving by paying interstate freight charges on wheat for the remainder of the year. Has the Minister had an opportunity to present that proposal to Cabinet, and if so with what result ?
– The matter was immediately placed before Cabinet and approved by it. The outcome of my negotiations with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and the Australian Wheat Board, and of Cabinet approval, was that I arranged with the QueenslandGovernment that it should rescind its proclamation on an agreed date. This was fixed at a point of time up to which there would have been a saving of subsidy to the Australian Government equal to the obligation which the Government was then prepared to assume for the payment of freight to the end of the current wheat season.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement on the ANZUS council meeting at Honolulu recently.
– Is leave granted?
Dr. Evatt and Opposition Members. ;No.
– Is that in the public interest - to introduce politics into the field of international affairs?
Opposition Members. - Sit down.
– Order !
– This is a fine exhibition.
– Order ! I point out to the House that the procedure in these cases requires that leave to make a statement must be requested. If one honorable member refuses leave, then the matter cannot proceed. Several honorable members refused leave in this instance.
– I hope it is noted that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) refused to grant leave for a statement to be made on international affairs.
– Of course I refused leave. W e want to get on with the budget debate, because the Opposition’s amendment is tantamount to a censure motion.
– Party politics in international affairs!
– Order ! If the House does not maintain order, I shall promptly suspend the sitting.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 20th August (vide page 506), 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 budget proposals of various governments in the post-war years have followed the lines of certain economic policies rather than those of party politics. However, the statements of the Leaderof the Opposisition (Dr. Evatt) and other honorable members opposite in this debate have conformed to a pattern of malicious party politics, and such elements of economics as their proposals have contained would be completely disastrous for this nation if they were put into effect. During the budget debate last year, I was able to point to certain elements of similarity between United Kingdom and Australian fiscal policy, although a socialist government was in office in Great Britain and a non-socialist government was in office in Australia. Unfortunately, the Opposition in this Parliament, under its present leader, has revealed a determination to make capital out of political issues and to subordinate the economic requirements of the nation to those issues. As aresult, it has formulated a policy that would have calamitous effects on the Australian economy.
The Leader of the Opposition probably prefers to make a party political stand in this debate because he is ill-equipped to deal with matters of economic theory. In fact, after he had first considered this budget, he declared, in a statement that was reported in the press all over Australia, that it was an inflationary budget. Then, having considered the matter further or been advised by his advisers to adopt another line, he accused the Government on the following Tuesday of having introduced a deflationary budget. He stated that the Government was trying to cause a depression and unemployment. By those accusations, the right honorable gentleman showed how little he understood the true nature of the budget. Adopting a policy of striking out in all directions, he accused the Government of having caused inflation in the past. Now the right honorable gentleman proposes that further inflation be caused by the issue of unlimited bank credit. In effect, he has suggested that as Australia has been living on the heady champagne of inflation for years, another bottle of it should be consumed and the hangover will never catch up with the victim.
The truth is that Australia’s national income has remained static by comparison with last year’s income. Wages and prices have risen but overseas balances have fallen. Consequently, real purchasing power has been reduced by about 15 per cent. Trade statistics show that purchases of groceries for food were down by 10 per cent, for the March quarter of 1952 compared with the corresponding period of the previous year. Trading in those goods. shows the least elasticity because there is a fairly constant demand for then,. Purchases of textiles have fallen by about 23 per cent, this year compared with last year and trade in hardware and other goods has ‘also declined. That fall of purchasing power does not spring from reduced wages because they have risen, in proportion to the national income, by from 51 per cent, to 59 per cent, in the last year. Purchasing power . has fallen because of the adverse seasonal conditions, a decline of exports and the rising cost structure in Australia. What has the Leader of the Opposition suggested as a remedy? He would have this Government appear before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and advocate increased wages and shorter hours although the whole trend of the economy shows clearly that we are pricing ourselves out of world markets and discouraging the expansion of industry because of the fall of real purchasing power. The obvious solution of the problem is to increase the national income and bring the proportion of wages to national income back to a level at which the economy can function efficiently. We must have higher productivity generally and more exports. Prom those facts, it is clear that the responsibility for maintaining full employment does not rest upon the Commonwealth alone but must be shared by the State governments and by all sections of the community. I do not need to go further for my authority for that statement than the White Paper on Full Employment which the Labour Government tabled in this chamber in 1945. Paragraph 24 of that document states -
To carry out a full employment policy will require the closest collaboration between the State and Commonwealth Governments and between Governments and trade unions along lines some of which have already been worked out.
Any one who has studied relationships between the States and the Commonwealth knows that some States have not co-operated fully with the Commonwealth in its efforts to stabilize the economy and to maintain full employment. I do not need to go into details in that respect. However, the recent announcement by this Government that it will return taxing powers to the States should quickly bear fruit in awakening the States to their responsibilities, which some of them have totally ignored during the last few years.
I turn now to the contribution that employees must make towards the maintenance of full employment. As a result of the coal strike that occurred in New South Wales in 1949, more than 630,000 employees were thrown out of work. In the light of that figure, the claim made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that 100,000 persons are now unemployed will be seen in its true perspective. As a result of that coal strike immediate production to the value of £33,000,000 was lost whilst the loss of future production was valued at £100,000,000. Those figures reveal the effect of strikes upon the cost structure and show them to be a cause of the falling off of purchasing power in the community. Coming more up to date, I direct the attention of honorable members’ to the disastrous strike in Western Australia in the metal trades which has just been settled. In: that instance, in which 800 government employees and 200 private employees went on strike, 1,000 employees caused 4,000 other workers on the State railways to be placed on half-time, or even less. One thousand other employees were stood down and 1,200 miners on the Collie coal-field were reduced from eleven shifts to only six shifts a fortnight. During the preceding two years, not one shift had been lost on that field because of industrial stoppages but the small section of the community that was responsible for the recent strike in Western Australia caused those miners to be placed on half-time.
It is interesting to examine the cause of that strike because it reveals the irresponsibility of some trade unionists in blindly falling for the Communist technique. The metal trade workers in Western Australia are employed under a State award, and a new award came into force on the 26th November last. The Galvin award on margins, which did not affect the metal trades in that State, was delivered on the 16th January of this year, and shortly after that date the strike was called as a protest against that award. Oddly enough, before the State award for the metal trades was delivered in November, 1951, the Communist newspaper, Tribune, had advocated the payment of double marginal rates. Such a claim was never made before Conciliation Commissioner Galvin, yet the metal trades strike was called in February, 1952, in an attempt to force the payment of the double marginal rate. After the State award had been made and had been accepted for some months, and after the Galvin award, which did not apply to Western Australia, had been made, that strike was called, and it tied up Western Australian industry for six months. Is there any wonder that honorable members opposite do not know where they stand in this matter? As I have said before, unless we have the co-operation of the whole community in order to secure high efficiency in our output we shall not get anywhere with our policy of full employment. The Labour party did not face up to its responsibility. It very piously claimed that it stood by arbitration, and that it did not approve of the strike, but it did nothing to settle the dispute. It could have done the following three tilings: It could have arranged for a secret ballot to be held; it could have sanctioned the employment of additional tradesmen who were really fitters’, mates, as was done when there was a shortage of labour during war-time; and it could have declared the strike black. The president of the Australian Labour party in Western Australia was in a position of some delicacy, because he was contesting the pre-selection ballot for the Division of Swan, in which the Midland railway works are centred. Although many of the workers there were on strike, many of the moderates disapproved of the strike.
– What was the attitude of the Communists?
– I can understand the interest of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) on that point because he gained his seat in this chamber only after the Communist preference votes had been distributed.
We might well ask why there is now industrial peace throughout Australia. Does that state of affairs suit honorable members opposite, or have they willingly or unwillingly been persuaded by the Communists to co-operate to maintain industrial peace, so that they can attack the Government on the unemployment issue ? Both honorable members opposite and the Communists are attacking this Government. Whether or not they are willing or unwilling allies at present, the fact remains that there is practically complete industrial peace throughout the country. If the harmonious state of industry is not attributable to the reasons I have mentioned, honorable members opposite should admit that it is due to the good policy that has been applied by this Government.
– What about the money that the Government parties put inti the coffers of the Communist party?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) will cease attempting to assist the honorable member for Forrest.
– The Leader of the Opposition has attacked the Government’s policy in relation to Australia’s overseas balances. It is true that the decline of our overseas balances has led to an acute position in this country. What happened was that, having increased our overseas reserves from approximately £500,000,000 to £800,000,000, we had to draw on them until they had been reduced to the lowest level consistent with safety. Then, as far as was practicable, we reduced our overseas expenditure by a quantitative restriction of imports. The right honorable gentleman, suggested that that was a wrong approach to make to the matter. I should like him to look again at the pronouncement of policy upon this subject made by the Labour party in 1945. Strangely enough, our practice has been completely identical with that policy. In the White Paper on Pull Employment published in 1945, the following passages appear : -
Minor fluctuations in export income will, as in the past, be met by running down oversea reserves in poor years and building them up in good years.
That is exactly what this Government has done.
If there is a prolonged and severe fall in export incomes, it will not be possible to meet the deficit in the balance of payments merely by drawing from oversea reserves, and we shall then have to reduce expenditure on imports.
Again, that is exactly what this Government has done.
In the past, necessary reductions in imports have usually been allowed to come about by permitting a fall in export incomes to result in reduced spending by export producers, thus bringing about unemployment and a general fall in incomes to the extent necessary to reduce imports to the level at which they could be paid for from export income. This deflationary method is inconsistent with a full employment policy, and serves the interest neither of the people of Australia nor of the people of the countries with which Australia trades. The Government will not countenance this method in future.
Other means of reducing imports -will thus be required. If the deficit in the balance of payments is primarily due to a permanent decline in oversea demand for Australian pro ducts, and if it is not possible to restore export income by shifts of productive resources to meet charges in world demands, an alteration in the exchange rate may be the appropriate method of correction.
We have not come to that yet.
If, however, the fall in export income ib one which, although prolonged and severe, is not permanent, the more appropriate method may be quantitative restriction of imports.
That is exactly the process that this Government has adopted.
The next point made by the Leader of the Opposition was that the solution of the problem of how to expand investment in this country is cheap money. Despite the generosity of the Prime Minister in this regard, he has suggested that there should be a fixed interest rate of 3$ per cent, on long-term government borrowing. That is completely typical of the socialist mind. The socialist argues that because he says a thing must be so, necessarily it is so. The Leader of the Opposition believes that if he says the interest rate should be fixed at 3-gr per cent., there will be more investment at that rate. In recent years, the practice throughout the world has been to increase interest rates. I remind the right honorable gentleman that when the British Labour party increased interest rates in 1951, the following comment was made by the Economist on the 3rd February of that year : -
The Government has conceded the important principle that the rules of the market place cannot long be defied with impunity.
The problem of fixed interest rates has vexed economists for a long time. Despite the assertions of the Leader of the Opposition, no economist, whether he has been advocating cheap money or dear money, has ever suggested that a fixed and invariable interest rate should be maintained through all stages and processes of the economy. The British White Paper of 1944 on Employment Policy stated -
High interest rates are more effective in preventing excessive investment in periods of prosperity than are low interest rates in encouraging investment in periods of depression.
The British Labour party, which is infinitely ahead of the Leader of the Opposition in economic theory, believes that low interest rates are not of much use in a period of depression. The right honorable gentleman exhibited the typical socialist state of mind when he said that we must adopt an inflationary policy to keep inflation going. He has offered us, as, so to speak. a packet of aspros to use when the hangover catches up with us, bank credit to increase prices and prices control to keep prices down. He has suggested that that will achieve wage stability. There is a great deal of very loose thinking on this subject. Trying to determine whether, if prices are kept down, wages will automatically stay down, is rather like trying to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg. Wages will not necessarily stay down with prices control. Honorable members opposite would surely suggest that prices should be fixed only in order to allow a reasonable minimum profit to the producer. Under these circumstances do they suggest that external costs that are superimposed on production costs should not be allowed to the producer? For instance, if a coal strike adds millions of pounds to costs, should those increased costs not be allowed to the producer?
– We have not had a strike.
– The truth of the matter is that 64 per cent, of all industrial stoppages between 1945 and 1949 were due to disputes over matters other than wages and hours of employment. Obviously, under prices control, external costs due to industrial stoppages or to prices increases overseas, would have to be added and prices would have to rise. Wages, too, would have to rise; and to say that, in such circumstances, prices control could be anything more than a method of recording increased cost3, is just fantastic. The Leader of the Opposition is well aware of that. Some members of the Opposition may be expected not to try to reason it out for themselves. Indeed, some of them are hardly capable of doing that if one can judge by the nonsense that one hears from them in this chamber over and over again. The Leader of the Opposition has been thwarted at two referendums on this question. He resents the fact that the Australian people will not acquiesce in this short step towards socialization. The alternative policy offered by the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters shows not only political irresponsibility and malice, but also a trend towards the socialist State, towards denying the rights of the State governments, and towards the centralization of power in the Commonwealth. Not only is such a policy politically irresponsible and malicious, but also it is economically unsound, and would spell disaster for this country.
– It is amusing to hear apologists for the Government claiming that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) lacks the ability to restore stability to the Australian economy. I know, and the people of Australia know what would be the result of an appeal to the electors now. Therefore, I rise with much pleasure to support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and to give expression to the belief of the vast majority of the Australian people that this Government, which is bringing Australia to ruin, should be destroyed at the earliest opportunity. As I travel round my electorate, which includes the Waverley and Bondi districts, I am asked repeatedly, “ When are you going to defeat this Government? “ At the conclusion of this debate my vote will be recorded to that end. This is the third budget that has been introduced since I was elected to the Parliament. The first of those budgets was a window-dressing arrangement which was produced as a forerunner to the double dissolution that ultimately was obtained by the Government last year.
– With very disappointing results for the honorable member and his party.
– With very disappointing results for the whole people. The second of those budgets has been aptly described as the “horror” budget. It was introduced last year as a cure-all for all forms of inflation, and for the purpose of securing a surplus of £114,500,000. Any surplus that resulted from it has been whittled away, until there is not a penny of surplus money in the national coffers. Now we have the third budget, which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) introduced a fortnight ago. The tremendous reception that he received on that occasion from his followers in the Liberal and Australian Country parties has never been equalled in this chamber. I believe that Hitler in his heyday never received in the German Reichstag such a hysterical welcome as members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties gave to the Treasurer when he introduced the budget. It will be tremendously interesting to hear what explanation the tory back benchers will give to the many thousands of dissatisfied voters in their electorates, and to the unemployed, the pensioners, members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and housewives, of their attitude to this budget.
Members of the Labour party recognize that the budget is the most important document that is presented to the Parliament, It is the Government’s report to the nation. “We all realize our responsibility in this Parliament, and the necessity to work for the development and advancement of this great country. Members of the Opposition have been critical of the budget, although it contains some pleasing features, one of which Ls the increase of the level pf adequate maintenance of blind pensioners between the ages of sixteen and 21 years. Other pleasing features are the proposed increases of pensions, unemployment and sickness benefits, and, in some instances, repatriation benefits. The increases will not be great, and will not evoke much enthusiasm from the people who are to receive them. That is understandable, because the basic wage has risen by £2 a week since the last budget was introduced, and has risen altogether £5 3s. since the Government took office on the 10th December. 1949, less than three years ago. This is the Government that was going to stop inflation and put value back into the £1. Its supporters made tremendous promises that have not been kept.
I consider that the means test should have been eased to some degree this year. The Government has claimed that nobody should exploit the unfortunate pensioners or recipients of social services. I agree with that sentiment, and I am sure that a majority of honorable mem bers also agree with it; but it is the responsibility of the Government to provide the greatest assistance possible to. widows, sick people and the aged. This is not being done. Many members of the Opposition have compared the payments made by way of social services benefits now with those made during the Labour Government’s regime. In any such comparison regard must be had to the changed value of money that has resulted from the various increases of the basic wage that have occurred since the Government took office. I suggest that the Government establish a joint committee of this Parliament to investigate social services payments. The establishment of such a committee would remove all political party spleen from consideration of this important matter and end the pandering for votes that is associated with social services legislation. Let us cease to make pensioners a. political football. It might be possible to call in Mr. Justice Nicholas to make a complete analysis in regard to social services payments. I consider that if he worked on the basis that he used in the inquiry on parliamentary salaries, especially in relation to Ministers, pensioners might get a fairer deal than they get at present. It is possible that an independent committee could do something about removing the means test. After all, 5s. in every £1 of tax collected is devoted to the provision of social services. The National Welfare Fund, which was left in a healthy state by the Labour Government, is now being whittled away. If these matters were investigated by an independent committee such as I have suggested, it might well be to the benefit of those poor unfortunates in the community who are at present on the verge of starvation. The ex-servicemen’s organizations, the members of which were so carefully cultivated by honorable members opposite before their election to this Parliament, have been most critical of the Government and its supporters.
During the last twelve months the federal president of the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Mr. “ Bill “ Yeo, has made special appeals to ex-servicemen who support the Government to honour the pledges which they made to their mates, but his appeals have fallen upon deaf ears. Mr. Yeo has pointed out to them that the Government rode into office on the backs of ex-servicemen and appealed to honorable members opposite to do the right thing for those who suffered in the defence of their country. Is it a matter for wonder that the ex-servicemen’s organizations want to expel all politician members who have made no attempt to induce the Government to honour the pledges to ex-servicemen? I agreewith my colleagues that this budget will neither result in the provision of a single job for an unemployed person, nor restore confidence in the Government to the business community.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech on the budget, gave a masterly exposition of Labour’s policy and plans for the future. The Canberra Times, commenting on his speech had this to say-
The Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, in baking up the issues, has delivered more than a criticism of the Government. His was also apolicy speech, indicating what steps the Opposition would take in the circumstances and what it would do should it come to office…
The primary aim of public policy is to establish confidence. Dr. Evatt has scored a palpable hit when he attacks the raising of interest rates. His proposal that lower interest should be stated as the objective of Commonwealth policy would make a first contribution to confidence in business activity. Australian history demonstrates that high interest has been the forerunner of financial disaster and many of our current troubles spring from heeding the advocates of higher interest.
Labour has offered advice and a plan to the Government. Whilst it is not the responsibility of the Opposition to save the Government from the unholy mess which it is in, the Opposition is so concerned about the plight of the people that it has offered a constructive policy to replace that applied by the Government. The rapid growth of unemployment, the decline of rural and secondary industries and the general worsening of the economic position, call for statesmanlike action. Labour realizes that the nation has become anaemic and needs a transfusion of credit and confidence torestore it to health.
Let us not be fooled by the recent statement of the Minister acting for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McBride) on the subject of unemployment. It is impossible for the workless to secure jobs in Sydney to-day. All the Minister’s talk about the existence of 32,000 unfilled vacancies is stupid. If these vacancies exist, why are they not advertised by the Commonwealth Employment Service, in the metropolitan and provincial press as they were in earlier years? The plain truth is that these vacancies are non-existent.
– Do not be stupid.
– I have approached the Minister and those of his colleagues who are associated with the works programme of the Commonwealth and begged them to provide employment for hundreds of my unemployed constituents, many of them under the age of 40 years, who are prepared to go anywhere in Australia to provide for themselves and their families. I beg the Minister to tell me where these jobs are located. When I approached the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) he referred me to the Snowy Mountains Authority. When I approached the commissioner of that body on the subject he gave me an evasive reply. Many tradesmen and unskilled men in my electorate are prepared to go anywhere to secure a job.
– There are no unfilled jobs.
– That is so. It is of no use for the Minister to burke the issue. The Government should not try to lead us up the garden path; it should give to the Parliament the fullest information about the unemployment situation. It is a standing disgrace that in a young country like Australia men who are able and willing to work should walk the streets fruitlessly seeking employment. The unemployment situation has arisen only during the last six months. Vast developmental works that await commencement or completion throughout this country would provide reproductive work for many thousands, if not millions, of our people. This country has produced many men of outstanding ability. Their activities should be directed to overcome the effects of drought conditions in Central Australia, to develop the empty north and to harness the rivers throughout this great land. Honorable members may ask : “ Where is the money for these works to come from ? “ If war broke out to-morrow there would be no difficulty in providing the money with which to meet such an emergency. Why, then, should there be difficulty in providing money to finance necessary and urgent public works in peace-time?
The- importance of rural production has been stressed by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The basic position in relation to rural production has deteriorated. In 193S-39-, there were 253,536 rural holdings in Australia; but by 19.50,-51 there were only 243,626, a decrease of approximately 10,000, although,, during the same period the Total area of holdings increased by approximately 43,000,000 acres. Instead of striving, to. place more men on the land and to make land available to the people the Government is acquiescing in the- aggregation of large estates,, with the result that the number of persons engaged in production is lessening year by year. En many instances small holdings are being acquired by large land-holders with a> consequent adverse effect upon rural production*.
In spite of” our- adverse- overseas’ trade balance, the Government, in the budget, has given no incentive to primary pro.ducers to’ increase the production of export commodities. Interwoven with this problem of reduced rural production are the> problems of full employment, and immigration. Primary producers are entitled’ to fair- market prices- for1 their products, and to just and,, indeed’,, to generous’ treatment. Without their, cooperation the’ organization, of the community would collapse: Equally; the primary, producer must realize the need for– co-operation with those engaged, in secondary industries. Good prices,for The primary producer do not necessarily mean increased production.. Planning and organization, are essential. Increased prices arc not”, of themselves,, automatic incentives., The’ truth is that in Australia to-day! much. land, which, is suitable, for intensive: food, production* is not’ being fully; utilized. Productive land which, is shut off from young, Australians must.be unlocked’., The; owners are entitled to, and, should be guaranteed, just, terms. The breaking up of large estates, is. a matter of great urgency, not only to bring about increased production, but also to absorb a large number of new Australians. The land is given to- ns as a trust; it must not be allowed to remain unused. All sections of the Labour movement are expressing views similar to those I have stated. I trust that the Government will give close consideration to them and that it will- not consider that this- matter can be disposed of merely by a higher price arrangement. As a country man,, you, Mr. Acting Chairman, must agree with the representations that have been made by Labour speakers on this subject. You will agree”, Mr. Acting Chairman, that the analysis made’ by the Leader of the Opposition- was- accurate. There is room for the immediate employment of more- labour- ku rural industries. Australian- workers and immigrants are plentiful,, a,nd should- be employed at award rates under. award conditions. The under-pay meat of immigrants must, cease. Mr. Tom Doherty, general secretary, of- the Australian Workers Union, has attacked the Government on this issue; and has. demanded, that new Australians, .be paid award wages. Addressing the Australian Workers’ Union convention he urged that a deputation should’ wait on the Minister for Labour and National’ Service* in order to urge that new Australians employed on work that came* within- the scope of the’ Australian Workers* Union should be* compelled’ to* join that organization.. He declared- that in Now South Wales 1,600 new Australians were’ not working, under- award, conditions-.- Exploitation,, he said’, was rife throughout the State; At present,, a person, who- is not a, member of a. union is- not entitled under- the law to claim the award, wage which applies to- the work he is doing. It is’ a disgraceful’ thing that, the Government has not made the same arrangement with the Australian Workers Union as it has made with some- of the Communistcontrolled unions under which information.! about new Austr.alia.ns is supplied, to the unions. Apparently this arrangement exists between the Immigration Department and unions in the meta trades group that are under Communist domination. I believe the- department makes, available to them the names of new Australians employed in their industries, and the Minister hears representations from the unions at any time. The Australian Workers Union, which is without a tinge or taint of communism, is being sabotaged by the Government.
There has been much talk in this Parliament about communism. I warn the Government that if unemployment is not checked, and if people are allowed to go hungry, communism in Australia will grow out of all proportion. Communism thrives on unrest and chaos, and conditions are much more favorable to its growth now than they were under the prosperous regimes of John Curtin and Ben Chifley.
It is important to analyse the reasons which have caused the Government’s popularity to decline. Its present unpopularity is due to the way in which it has mismanaged the affairs of the nation. The Government’s first mistake was the lifting of import restrictions, thus encouraging the importation of goods of all kinds. This was followed by the lifting of control over capital issues. Then, after the internal and external economy of tho country had suffered serious injury, the Government reversed ite policy and imposed rigid import restrictions, re-imposed capital issues control, and imposed credit restrictions of a kind that had been unknown since the dark days of the depression. Those were the basic causes that destroyed public confidence, and brought about unemployment and the closing down of numerous industries.
Honorable members opposite have said that the policy of the Labour Government was unsound. Such talk fools no one. All Australians know that there were no hungry men, women or children in Australia, under Labour rule, when either John Curtin or Ben Chifley was Prime Minister. Unfortunately, that cannot be said to-day. Every one knows how Labour demobilized approximately 1,000,000 men from the armed services and placed in industry 400,000 immigrants without causing unemployment. Every ore knows how, while the Chifley Government was in power, all Commonwealth loans were oversubscribed, wherea.s the loans issuer! by the present Government have, with few exceptions, been under-subscribed. Every one knows that while Labour was in office Australia’s London balance increased month by month, whereas under the present Government that balance has been reduced to a dangerous level. Australians remember that Ben Chifley reduced our foreign indebtedness, whereas this Government has increased it. When the Chifley Government went out of power it left more than £180,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund for social services. The Menzies Government has used that money.
It may be interesting to honorable members opposite to hear a comment on the present economic situation by a man who was formerly a candidate for Parliament in the Liberal interests. He stood for the electorate of Bondi in the last State elections, and was hailed as a glamour candidate for the Liberal party. I refer to Alderman Weekes, of the Waverley Council. This is what he wrote for a local newspaper which circulates in hisdistrict -
Everywhere I po the man in the street is complaining about the high cost of living under the Menzies-Fadden Government.
There seems to be no ceiling for costs under the present regime.
Remember, when dear old Ben Chifley . the often maligned Chifley . . was in. power, the basic wage was £6 12s., and you. could get rump steak for 2s. 2d. per lb. and butter “for ls. lid. per lb.
That was less than three years ago.
Now the basic wage is nearly £11 a week steak is 6s. 6d. per lb., and butter 3s. 2d. per lb. (if you can reach under the counter) .
The comparison between” pre-Menzies and present-Menzies costs is the same all through.
Dozens of businesses are going smash every day, and the unemployment market is swelling.
A cheerful old Easter, indeed!
You would think some of those members of Parliament in borderline seats would be raising merry hell . . . bringing some pressure to bear on the Government.
The way things are going, there’ll be a lot of new faces in the next Parliament .
If we don’t all die of starvation in the meantime, and fail to see this Parliament out
That was published on the 3rd April last. The Labour Government successfully controlled inflation. The basic wage rose by only 8s. - from £3 37s. to £4 5s. - during the six years of war. During the postwar years, until the defeat of the Chifley Government, the basic wage increased from £4 5s. to £5 15s.
– Why was that?
– Largely because of the successful opposition of the antiLabour parties to Commonwealth control of prices. The present Government has been in office for two and a half years, and during that time, the basic wage has increased by £5 3s. a week. The claim made by Government supporters that such a sharp increase is due to Labour is complete nonsense and fools nobody.
The oration of the Prime Minister last week steadied the rapid declining of the morale of Government supporters. The brilliance of his oratory is unquestioned, but I believe that the right honorable gentleman is the worst administrator that this country has known. He failed the nation in 1940, and he is failing it again at the present time. A man of words, he is in his element while he can talk. He is a Liberal giant with feet, of clay. I felt sorry for him. When he spoke in this debate last Wednesday evening, he could draw no inspiration from the “ claquers “ on the benches opposite. He then looked to the Labour party for interjections, but the absence of them left him floundering. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is even more despised than is the Prime Minister, and will say and do anything in an endeavour to gain his own ends. I direct attention to the attitude that he adopted last May when Marcus Clark Limited, a Sydney retail firm, was testing the validity of the Defence Preparations (Capital Issues Control) Regulations in the High Court of Australia. In a statement submitted to the. court he referred to the inevitability of war, and said that Australia must prepare for possible mobilization by the end of 1953. He also issued a warning to Cabinet that economy measures this year must be ruthless, and that governments would be “ scratching “ for money. He declared that reductions of taxes were out of the question, but be thought that substantial remissions would be likely in 1013. His last statement was most significant because an election w:ll Ve held ^ t,11.1 year. ‘ The Prime Minister is ,7.dor the domination of th: R unfortunate Treasurer The leader of the Government considered that the revaluation of the Australian £1 was a possible panacea for our economic ills, but that small coterie, the members of the Australian Country party, which controls the Government, objected to that proposal and clamped down hard upon it. That little coterie of nineteen members, in reality, controls the destiny of this nation. The Australian Country party holds *the Prime Minister in the hollow of its hand. He is a mere puppet to-day, and the people are greatly concerned about that situation. In my
Opinion, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party do not represent 40 per cent, of the electors at the present time, and as soon as this Government vacates office, happiness will be restored to the people of this great country.
– As one who offered some criticism of the previous budget. I desire to emphasize my whole-hearted support of the effort of the Government, as expressed in the present budget, to grapple with the difficulties of the changing economy. Unfortunately, many of those difficulties are of Australia’s own making, because of the constitutional position. The people have not entrusted to this National Parliament, or to any other parliament in this country, complete authority to deal with important problems as they arise. The economic position is becoming dangerous, a situation which is being assisted by the efforts of the Communists. This Parliament has no power to prevent the recurrence of economic difficulties similar to those that are now being experienced. The changed circumstances to-day are best illustrated by the introduction of a shorter working week by some State governments, exercising their sovereign power. Australians have a greater degree of freedom, in the constitutional sense, than have the people of any other non-totalitarian country. Sovereignty has been divided between thu Commonwealth and the States, and some people claim that such a division of authority is causing the country to head for disaster. If that be so, it emphasises more than ever the necessity for holding a constitution convention in the hope that the national Parliament, or the State parliaments, will, like Canada and New
Zealand be given adequate power to manage the affairs of the country, meet contingencies as they arise, and enable Australia to fulfil’ its great destiny.
– What about prices control 2
– Prices control is supposed to be administered by the Sta-tes. If they have failed to administer prices control effectively, as the interjection of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) implies, it serves only to emphasize the difficult constitutional position of the Commonwealth. This budget will confer benefits on all sections of the community. Tax remissions will total .50,000,000, and the provision of £164,000,000 for social services will ensure that the less fortunate sections of the community, including pensioners shall receive the additional assistance that they require. Incidentally, the provision for social services this year exceeds the allocation last year by £26,000,000. This Government, during the first 14 months it was in office, was obstructed . by a hostile Senate, and had :io opportunity to give effect to its legislative programme. The Government has introduced three budgets since 1949. The first and second of them as well as conferring other benefits, increased pensions by 10s. a week on each occasion, and this budget provides for an increase of 7s. 6d. a week.
– Shame I It is not enough.
– Is it a shame that this Government is to pay pensioners £1 7s. 6d. a week more than the Chifley Labour Government provided for them in 1949?
– The cost of living in 1.949 was substantially lower i him it is to-day.
– Prices control is administered by State authorities, so this Government cannot be blamed for increased prices. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made no such Statement in the form alleged by members of the Opposition to the effect that if he were returned to office, he would put value back into the £1.
– Has the Government put value back into the £1 ?
– The Prime Minister’^ statement on that occasion was* an indication ; as’ the honorable member who- has- just interjected, has admitted that- value had been taken out of the £1 before he assumed, office. Day after day, the Opposition screams that the Government, has failed, to put value back into the £1. Obviously, the £1 was losing, it3 value when the Chifley Government was in office, and the alleged promise of the Prime Minister was evidence of the necessity to restore value to it. Every possible effort has been made by tHe Government to fulfil that promise, but it- is hampered by constitutional limitations and the actions of the States.
The referendum held last year, when the Government sought constitutional power to ban the- Communist party, was most important.. The Government hoped to obtain authority to deal with the enemies of the country, the traitors within it, the Communists who had wrecked industry and are causing unemployment to-day. By their activities the Communists have reduced the output of coal, iron and steel, and paralysed our transport systems. Opposition members who blame this Government for the unemployment situation should direct their criticisms against the Communists and the State governments. I read in the newspapers to-day that the Labour Government of New South Wales had a deficit of £3,150,000 in its railway and tramway accounts. Does the Opposition blame the Menzies Government for that loss?
– Yes, because the Menzies Government has allowed costs to go haywire.
– Some people are so unfair that they will say anything. The New South Wales Government instituted the 40-hour week. Now it is opposing an effort to halt the quarterly increases of the basic wage under the present system. According to the- press, the Government of New South Wales must reduce the losses incurred on its transport services by effecting economies. If the required amount is to be saved by dismissals, 1,400 men must be sacked. If they are dismissed, the Opposition in apparent delight will immediately claim that the Menzies
Government is to blame for the situation. The Nev/ South “Wales Government is considering the withdrawal of tenders tor the construction of locomotives and railway rolling-stock work that would give employment to many men. The New South Wales Government has just imported a locomotive which was built in another country. That Government endeavours to blame the Australian Government for the unemployment and the lost wages which have resulted from its own actions.
When His Excellency Sir John Lavarack opened the Queensland Parliament yesterday he was obliged to state, in the course of his speech, that the Queensland Government is contributing ten times as much as is the Australian Government towards war service land settlement in Queensland. I have here statistics which show the amount of money that has been provided by this Government for war service land settlement. Honorable members no doubt remember that rather than adopt the scheme proposed by the Chifley Government, the Queensland Government, in company with the governments of New South Wales and Victoria, decided that they would conduct their own war service land settlement scheme rather than act as agents for the Commonwealth. Those three States therefore receive no financial assistance from the Commonwealth in respect of war service land settlement. The agent States, on the other hand, have received large grants. South Australia, for instance, has received £7,000,000 for development and improvement of land, in addition to £1,666,000 for land acquisition for soldier settlement. On that basis, it is reasonable to assume that Queensland, with its greater population, would have received from the Commonwealth approximately £10,000,000. I suggest that that is the answer to the statement that the Queensland Government contributes ten times as much as does the Australian Government to war service land settlement in Queensland. The truth is that already this Government has provided a total of £171,000,000 for the re-establishment of ex-servicemen. Altogether, approved allocations to Queensland total” £24.216.292, but all of this has, not been expended.
Sir John Lavarack was also obliged to say that his advisers had been unable to obtain from the Australian Government an increased contribution towards the cost of establishing ex-servicemen on the land, because of reduced loan allocations. I suggest that the greatly increased establishment cost flows directly from the 40-hour week and the unfortunate method of quarterly wage adjustments. This Government cannot control either of those matters. Sir John had the unenviable task of contending that the failure of the Australian Government to control prices, combined with reduced loan allocations to the . States, is making it increasingly difficult for the Queensland Government to maintain the desired rate of settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. Every honest Australian, knows that during the time this Government has been in office the States have received more loan money than ever before and to-day, Queensland has available an unexpended balance of about £17,000,000.
The fact that the New South Wales Government cannot run its trams at a profit and, indeed, cannot guarantee to meet the wages of the men and women whom it employs on the trams, even though fares have increased threefold, is due in no small measure to the introduction by that Government of the 40-hour week. Nevertheless, it is considering the withdrawal of orders, which have been placed with Australian factories, for additional plant for the tramways. It should not be forgotten that if people are unemployed because of the action of the New South Wales Government in that connexion, the Australian Government will have to provide them with unemployment relief, which it proposes to increase by 100 per cent.
During the last three years of office of the Chifley Government, the States received from the Commonwealth £62,000,000, £66,000,000 and £93,000,000 respectively. Since this Government has been in office the States have received £164,000,000 and £225,000,000. In the light of those facts, I do not know how any government could expect a State governor to read, without blushing, statements such as those contained in th.p speech delivered by Sir John Lavarack.
Of the £225,000,000 to which I have just referred, the loan market supplied only £70,000,000, so that the Australian Government provided, from revenue, £155,000,000 for the States during the financial year. I hope that it will not be long before State governments, which spend the money, are responsible for its collection. In my opinion, if Australia desires to construct projects for the benefit of future generations, the cost of such projects should be so apportioned that those who benefit will also help to pay for them.
During the recent visit of the Prime Minister to Brisbane, he addressed a meeting in the City Hall, during which he said that in the last three years, 1951-52-53, the government works programme of Australia will amount to £630,000,000. Before the war it averaged £25,000,000 a year. Of that £630,000,000 the Commonwealth will have found £505,000,000. The right honorable gentleman added, “ I hope I may be allowed to say that the Government which finds five-sixths of the money ought to be given credit for doing five-sixths of the work The more that statement is repeated the more forcefully will we drive into the minds of the people an idea of the honest effort which this Government has made to obtain the money necessary for developmental works. It might also be said that the Government should receive the credit for providing fivesixths of the wages that have been paid in connexion with the works that it has financed.
This is a pleasing budget because it will give relief in all sections of the community. Under the Financial Agreement the Australian Government has provided £108,000,000 for reimbursement grants to the States, an amount which is £22,500,000 more than it is obliged to pay. In 1948 this grant amounted to £45,000.000. The sinking fund payments by the Government under the Financial Agreement will amount to £10,326,000. Grants for special financial assistance to the States amount to £33,500.000. Although the Government was obliged to pay only £96,789,000 to the States under the Financial Agreement in 1951-52 it paid £14i0,888,000.
The Government has undertaken to provide £152,865,000 for the Australian Loan Council, including a sum of £30,000,000 for use by the States in the construction of housing generally, and £28,000,000 for the construction of war service homes. Despite what was said by His Excellent the Go vernor of Queensland on behalf of the Queensland Government, the Australian Government has provided £6,000,000 for the purpose of war service land settlement. The Government, has allocated £13,600,000 for expenditure on the Snowy Mountains scheme this year, which, represents an increase of £3,000,000 ‘ob last year’s expenditure, and £6,700,000 for the development of civil aviation. The provision of these moneys by the. Government has made it possible to provide work for thousands of people in these difficult times. The Commonwealth has provided £15,500,000 for the construction of State roads; it has paid £1,880,000 for the importation of houses, and. it has given £1,200,000 to assist universities.
The present budget represents an honest attempt to meet the difficulties that face Australia. Until the Constitution is altered to vest in this Parliament the authority to control economic conditions its task will not be very pleasant. The international outlook is not bright and honorable members should co-operate in the handling of the difficulties of this country. .Representatives of the employers in New South Wales have stated that recent increases in the basic wage have necessitated their paying an additional £440,000,000. That, is why people have been put out of work. The man on the land will not now pay £12 a week to an employee who will not work. Consequently, those who refuse to work for their money are not now employed. The benefits to the taxpayer under this budget will be very considerable. The removal of the special levy of 30 ner cent, will leave an additional £36,500.000 in the pockets of the people. Australians are one of the lowest taxed people in the world. A man with a wife and child who earns £250 a year pays no income tax.” If he earns £300 a vear he pays 17s. If a man with a wife and child earns £1,500 in England cr New Zealand he pays £342 in income tax. In Australia he would pay £223 this year.
– The honorable member is not taking the exchange rate into account.
– I do not chink that the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Curtin) really understands bow the exchange rate operates. The budget has provided for reductions of sales tax amounting to £6,000,000, and although many people would have been very pleased if this form of taxation had been further reduced, no doubt it has been reduced as much as is possible at the present time. Six million pounds of company taxation has been remitted and chat essential commodity, butter, has been subsidized to the amount of £16,000,000. The reduction of £36,500,000 in income tax will be welcomed by grateful taxpayers. The amount of money that the Government proposes to allocate to social services during this financial year is more than has been expended by any other government in the past. Honorable members should notice that child endowment will cost the Commonwealth £53,800,000, or about £7.000,000 more than last year. Age pensions will be increased by £24,000,000 to a total of £72,4S5,000 this year. Widows’ pensions, maternity allowances and allowances for- the blind, mentally deficient, sick and unemployed have all been increased. Medical and pharmaceutical benefits have been increased to £7.000,000 and hospital benefits will be £8,000,000, which is much more than last year. Allowances to sufferers from tuberculosis will increase to £4,500,000. This great increase of social services payments has been proposed at a time when some would say that there is not even sufficient money available to pay for these services at last year’s rates. Honorable members should also remember that during the last three years greater sums have been raised in Australia by way of loans than had previously been raised in any similar period of our history.
At present the international situation, is grave. There is trouble in Europe and Asia, and even Indonesia has put forward a claim modelled on the well- known Communist pattern. There is trouble also in Borneo caused by bands of Indonesian Communists.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I was interested and amused when I heard the objections raised by honorable members on the Government side to the way in which the Opposition is debating the budget. I remind them, particularly the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), that when a Labour government was in office many of their number, during budget debates, merely tried to discredit the then Government to the very best of their ability. I remember particularly the PostmasterGeneral and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison)-
– I do not think that is correct. It is impossible to discredit a discredited government.
– The discredit of the present Government is so great that it cannot be compared with the so-called discredit of the previous Labour Government. The motion at present before this chamber is -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - Thu Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £13,500”, .be agreed to.
Upon which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
Therefore, honorable members on this side are really speaking to what may be considered a motion of censure of the Government. It is not incumbent upon honorable members of the Opposition to put forward what they consider should be the Australian budget; it is for us to show the people how wrong the Government is in presenting its 1952-53 budget to the Parliament. We have to show that there is justification for the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. In this debate the Opposition intends to show that the Government has lost the confidence, not only of the Parliament but also of the people. Let us consider how this state of affairs has come to pass. I am not particularly interested in the money increases that may be granted to pensioners, or what money is to be set aside for the improvement of roads, because to talk of money values and money comparisons may be completely misleading. If the real value of the social services is considered it will be seen that they are worth much less to the people than they were worth during the regime of the Chifley Government. Not only is the value of social services less but the value of grants of all kinds is also less. For instance, municipal bodies cannot get as much for their money now as they could four or five years ago. Why is it that the basic wage is so high and that it is necessary to allocate so much for the payment of pensions and other social services? The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has been praised for his financial ability, but he must accept a large measure of responsibility for our present inflation. When the Government assumed office in 1949 it deliberately set about altering the Chifley Government’s financial system and abolishing financial controls.
– This Government has increased social services to a degree never contemplated by any Labour government.
– But the real value of those social services is not as great as it was four or five years ago. However, I shall deal with that matter later. One of the first acts of the Treasurer upon his assumption of office - and he though it was a very clever one - was to practically abolish capital issues controls. He instructed the treasury officials to give automatic consent to every application for an increase of capital. When the people rejected federal price control the States took over the task of controlling prices. At that time the Premier of South Australia said in effect, that he intended to control the prices of essential goods, but that he would not control the prices of luxury goods. I informed him that I considered that he was making a big mistake because I believed that the people producing luxury goods would compete for labour and materials with those producing essential goods, and that consequently the prices of essential commodities would be greatly increased. Later he found that what 1 had said was correct. When the Treasurer decided to allow all businesses to increase their capital, the result was much the same. Expanding luxury industries pushed up the prices of essential commodities. After that had occurred the Government and its supporters cried out against the people who were manufacturing luxury goods, although they well knew that the Treasurer had first fostered such industries. However, that state of affairs lasted only for twelve months. It is unfortunate that this Government always realizes twelve months too late that the result of its actions will not be what ithad hoped. The Government then realized that luxury industries were forcing up the prices of essential goods. At the end of twelve months it decided to reimpose capital issues control. But, in the meantime, luxury industries had prospered and employers in essential industries were crying out for labour.
The re-imposition of capital issues control did not restore stability to the economy and, therefore, the Government decided to take a further step; it instituted control of bank credit in order to restrain the development of luxury industries. The result was that many of these mushroom undertakings were forced to close down. Even the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) had complained about the excessive number of such industries arid had said that their development had led to over-employment. The Government realized too late that its policy had led to the expansion of unessential industries, and it3 restrictive action was too long delayed. But the amazing feature of its conduct was that, although it decided eventually to halt credit issues to luxury manufacturers, it continued to allow importers to have an open go. It had lifted the restrictions that the Chifley Government had placed on imports. Honorable members should recall that, at a time when our London balances amounted to £300,000,000, the Chifley Government was asked by the Government of the United Kingdom virtually to freeze those funds and to draw only upon the credits established by current exports. Mr. Chifley acceded to the request of the British Government and maintained a strict control over our sterling balances by limiting withdrawals from the funds to the value of our exports. This Government, however, shut the door om Australian manufacturers, thus forcing workers to transfer to essential work, and at the same time opened wide the door to the products of overseas manufacturers. It thought that it had done a good job but, again after twelve months had elapsed, it realized that it made a catastrophic mistake. Because local luxury industries were severely restricted, importers lodged large orders for goods overseas and were able to obtain bank -credit to finance the transactions without difficulty.
Suddenly the Government realized, early this year, that the sterling balance of £800,000,000 that Australia ha<l accumulated in London was being dissipated rapidly. Our London funds had increased from about £500,000,000, when the Chifley Government was in office, to £800,000,000 largely as a result of high wool prices, not as a result of any action that this Government had taken. The Government failed to realize that wool prices would not remain at the high level that they had reached and did not prepare for the inevitable day of reckoning. Once again it realized, twelve months too late, that it had made a disastrous mistake. It slammed the door, which it had opened wide earlier, in the faces of Australian importers. The result was that Australia was discredited in the United Kingdom. Traders in that country could not understand why this change of policy should be made so precipitately. They could not understand why Australian companies that had lodged firm orders for goods had to cancel contracts. One result of the sudden change was that the great textile industry of Great Britain was forced to discharge thousands of workers. Was the Chifley Government to blame for the situation in which Australia found itself? No! It had carefully controlled imports. The fault lies entirely with the present Government. It had hoped that, by permitting the unrestricted importation of all sorts of goods, prices would be forced down in Australia and that, at the same time, Australian workers would be obliged to transfer from dying luxury industries to essential work. I have repeated these facts because
I want the people to remember what this Government has done and not to be carried away because the 10 per cent, levy on income tax is to be removed. I want them to realize that the big incomes that they earn to-day provide them with less than their relatively small wages were able to buy in 1949. It is of no use to pretend that the situation is otherwise.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) spoke of putting value back into the £1. The truth is that this Government has succeeded in dangerously weakening the purchasing power of the £1. We are facing an economic recession. Why? Because this Government fails to recognize economic dangers until the time for action is past, it always acts too late to prevent disaster. Had it been alert and active, the primary producers to-day would not be wondering how to find money with which to pay their taxes. The Government’s decision to discontinue the taxation averaging system for primary producers was made twelve months too late. The result is that many primary producers have already spent the money that they should have retained for the purpose of paying the taxes to which they became liable when their incomes rose temporarily to record high levels. Anybody who has a sound knowledge of business practice thinks of the future and prepares in advance for his commitments. He does not live from hand to mouth and spend his entire income as he receives it. However, unfortunately for Australia, the people generally have developed the habit of ignoring that sound system and following bad business practices. Primary producers, big manufacturers and workers think only of the present instead of preparing for the future. The Government is to be condemned also for its decision to increase the rate of interest on Government bonds from the former level of 3 per cent. I have spoken before- of the unfortunate situation of men who invested funds in government loans in the belief that they would be able to obtain their money .back at any time.
– The Government did not increase the interest rate, and the honorable member is well aware of that fact.
– All of a sudden it increased the interest rate-
– I had expected the honorable member for Port Adelaide, at any rate, to be honest.
– The Minister blames the Australian Loan Council for The decision to increase the interest rate. Why did he not deny the statement by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) that the Australian Government should receive most of the. credit for the achievements of the State governments because it had provided the States with money that it had raised by way of loans? He allowed that statement to pass without comment, hu t now he says that the Australian Government was not responsible for increasing the interest rate on Government bonds. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! There is too much noise in the chamber.
Silting suspended from 12.1(5 to 2.15 p.m.
– When I was = peaking before the suspension of the sitting, the Vice-President of the Executive Council intimated that he was hurt by some of my remarks.
– I was only surprised that the honorable member was not speaking the truth.
– I was referring to the rate of interest on loans, and I said that when the rate of interest was 3-£ per cent., many people, who could ill afford to lose money, invested in loans. Then the rate of interest was raised and those people were losers as a result. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has stated that that was not the truth. He meant that the Australian Loan Council and not the Government was responsible.
– That is not what the honorable member said, nor is it what I said.
– My statement about the increase in the rate of interest was correct. Before the suspension of the sitting, I was recapitulating the record of this Government since it took ‘ office in 1949, and I charged it with being responsible for the present position. In doing so, I wassupporting the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). No government can administer . the affairs of the nation properly unless it has the confidence of the people. When a government has lost that confidence, it should not attempt to continue in office. This Government has done so much to injure the nation by its vacillating policies over the last three years that it has lost the confidence of the people. I am fully appreciative of several decisions of the Government that have been incorporated in the budget, particularly the provisions for better sickness and unemployment benefits. The increased payments that are proposed may not meet the needs of the recipients fully, but they provide something more than I expected from the Government. I appreciate also the- Government’s action in allowing £50 as a deduction for income tax purposes for the education of each child. However, I believe that the Government has failed to realize the true position of the taxpayers who have a dependent wife and children.
When this Government came into office in 1949, it altered the system of taxation assessments and re-introduced the concessional deduction system. It allowed a deduction for taxation purposes of £104 for a wife, £78 for the first child and £52 for other children. Since then the cost of living has increased by more than £2 a week, but the allowances for keeping a wife and children have not been raised. The Government should do something to alleviate the difficulties of those people. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that most taxpayers now are paying more taxes than they did last year. That is correct. As a result of cost of living adjustments, wages have increased by at least £100 a year, but the position of taxpayers is no better. In some cases it is worse, because they have ro pay a higher rate of taxation. I suggest to the Government that it should review and increase the deductions that are allowable for income tax purposes. I suggest that it increase the allowance for a wife from £104 to £156, the allowance for the first child from £78 to £104, and for other children from £52 to £78. The basic wage has been computed to provide for a man with a wife and two children. When the late Mr. Chifley was Treasurer, he provided that a man on the basic wage with a wife and two children would be exempt from income taxation. When, this Government reintroduced the deduction system two years ago, it made a similar provision but because of the increase of the cost of living and the level of the basic wage, a man on the basic wage with a wife and two children has to pay a substantial amount of taxation.
Two years ago when the basic wage was about £350 a year, a man with a wife and two children paid 16s. in taxation. On £350 he would pay the same amount this year, but because of the increased cost of living adjustments, a man on the comparable wage level now receives £450 a year on which he will have to pay £4 14s. income tax. His standard of living is no better now than it was a year ago but his income tax will be higher. If a man on £450 were allowed the increased deductions for his wife and two children that I. have suggested he would pay 14s. this year compared with 16s.. on £350 two years ago, and £4 14s. under the provisions of the budget that is now the subject of debate. A man with a wife and two children who was receiving £400 two years ago paid then £2 Ss. in taxation. To-day, with an increase of £100, making his salary £500, he will have to pay £8 14a. under the Government’s proposals. If he were given the benefit of the allowances that I have suggested, he would pay £2 4s. compared with £2 8s. two years ago. Comparable benefits would be derived throughout the whole scale by a man with a wife and two children. A. married man with one child would get the -benefit of about 75 per cent, of the amount that I. have indicated. A married man with a wife only would get half the benefit, and an unmarried man or a man -without dependants would pay the scale that has been set down by the Government.
Members of the Opposition have been accused of failing to put forward anything constructive. I suggest that my proposals are constructive and T n’V the Government to consider them. They may result in some loss of revenue, but would that be of any serious consequence? Should not justice be done to married men with families? Under the tables that I have suggested, a man on £5,000 a year would get an appreciable reduction if he had a wife and children, but. a man with dependants should get a commensurate benefit in taxation whether he is receiving the basic wage or £5,000 a year. I suggest that the Government can be asked fairly to make the concessions that I have suggested. One ex-servicemen’s association in South Australia has carried a resolution along the lines that I have indicated.
The claim made by Government supporters that the Leader of the Opposition advocated the use of unlimited bank credit is entriely unfounded. Whilst the Labour party advocates the use of bank credit in certain circumstances, it has always recognized that it should be used within limitations. The late Mr. Chifley emphasized that point, and my colleagues and I have emphasized it at every opportunity. When the Government can serve the interests and needs of the people by using bank credit it should, within limits, adopt that method of finance. Last year, the Government relied upon bank credit to the amount of £50,000,000 and the Leader of the Opposition has suggested that it should extend that limit to £60,000.000 . in respect of the current financial year. If the Government were justified in using bank credit, how can its supporters claim that the proposal advanced by the Leader of the Opposition cannot be justified? The Labour party advocates the use of bank credit when a government has no alternative but to adopt that method of finance in order to serve the interests of the community as a whole. The point I emphasize is that the Labour party does not advocate unrestricted use of bank credit. The credit so relied upon must be not merely nominal but tangible, whether it be the potential capacity of the people or actual money in the bank.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member’s time has expire(
.- I confess that I am a little bewildered by the manner in which this debate has been conducted. It appeared to me that the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews), after they had presented certain propositions with which I could agree, and in so doing gave free rein to their natural honesty, which I recognize, then proceeded to indulge in distortion in their criticism of the budget. The chorus from the Opposition about the attitude of the Government towards a depression is rather remarkable. The charge that the Government is engineering a depression has been the theme song of speeches of honorable members opposite in this debate; and when they departed from it, we heard all the discordances that are characteristic of the Opposition. I do not wish to go over the ground that has been covered so well by my colleagues) the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). They pin-pointed what I regard as the irresponsible and reckless statements that honorable members opposite have made with respect to the Government’s attitude towards our present problems, particularly that of unemployment. I remind the Opposition of the old fable about the wolf. One can cry wolf too often; and the Nemesis that overtakes those who cry wolf continuously is well known. Honorable members opposite would do well to recall the moral of that fable, particularly when they persist with their charge that the Government is engineering a depression.
I can say for my colleagues and myself that no one abhors more than we do a condition of unemployment. Some of us have had the misfortune of seeing relatives, and in some instances friends as well, caught up in the transition that has developed during the last twelve months. We are sore at heart when our relatives and friends are forced to look for employment which is not so easy to procure at the moment, but which, as every one realizes, will be easier to get during the nest few months. Government supporters would welcome sympathetic collaboration and co-operation from honorable members opposite with the object of remedying conditions that exist at present. Every one knows that many people have burnt their fingers in recent years because they believed that the chill winds of competition would never blow on them. As a result of the shelter that was afforded to business in Australia during the recent war and the immediate post-war years, many people set up businesses and placed large orders for goods from England. Recently, I received a letter from a man who ordered £80,000 worth of fish, with the object of catering for the market, in Sydney. To-day, he cannot obtain a renewal of his licence to enable him tocontinue to import goods of that kindPersons of that type will be hurt. I was much distressed when the servicesof persons between the ages of 50 and 60 years, the majority of them women, whowere formerly employed in temporary positions in the Public Service, were dispensed with because the Public ServiceBoard is now able to obtain adequate numbers of juniors whom it is appointing to permanent positions. However, irrespective of our sympathy for such persons, their dismissal from the Public Service was inevitable having regard to the conditions under which, at the direction of the Parliament, the board must conduct the Public Service.
I wish that members of the Opposition would exhibit signs of sympathetic cooperation when Government supporters put forward positive suggestions. What would honorable members opposite say to any young soldier who asked them to assist him to get a house built? Would they advise him to build or buy a house under existing conditions? It is all very well to say that building materials are becoming available in increasing quantities. The fact remains that present labour costs of building a house practically price any young man out of owning a house. I admit that I could not help a young man to buy a house to-day. Indeed, I should advise him not to saddle himself with the debt that would be represented not by the cost of materials, but by the cost of labour. This state of affairs has arisen because when there was an over-supply of labour, when members of the Opposition were in office, they did not raise their voices against blackmarketing in labour, particularly during the week-ends. _ That practice introduced a -kind of public- corruption- into the whole of our system. But honorable members opposite, when they were in office, did not utter any warning that that practice would react adversely upon the community, or body politic. They just let it go. That was the greatest disservice that members of the Labour Government did to the community. They should have said to the workers as a whole, “ This is all a summer holiday for you, but do not forget that the winter is coming: and when it comes the winds will blow hard”. The winds are blowing hard now.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) endeavoured to raise the’ level of this debate. He endeavoured- to pursuade members of the Opposition to favour the introduction of something of the new methods that have been tried in industry in the United States of America and England. In those countries, there exist systems of joint consultation between employers and employees, of training within industry (T.W.I.), and of incentives. Many honorable members opposite received his remarks coldly. Their reaction was, “What is the boss getting out of this?”. Two or three years ago I had the privilege in England of investigating relationships between management and labour. Organizations that employ over 40,000 persons down to the smallest firms, have introduced the system of joint consaltation between employer and employee, and are endeavouring to develop new kinds of collaboration. I recommend honorable members to read the English bulletin Target, which deals exclusively with this subject. Systems of the kind to which I have referred have been introduced by about 15 per cent, of employers in England, with amazing results, and it is gratifying to know that many employers “in Australia are applying similar ideas. When the Minister for External Affairs advocated the encouragement of that spirit in industry in this country. honorable members opposite appeared to ridicule rather than arrent his suggestion as being worthy of trial. I want to indicate to the committee the way that people who are not politically-minded. in the sense that they are ridden with party politics, are thinking. The following is an extract from the presidential address by Mr. 0. H. Woodward at the annual meeting of the Australian Mines anc! Metal Association on the 24th June last : -
The 40-hour working week in normal occupations has now operated for over four years, since its general adoption at the beginning of 1948. It has been the subject of criticism from many sources ever since, its introduction. I do not intend to add my voice to the clamour already raised against it, but I have one plea to make, which I am certain will not be regarded as unreasonable by any fair-minded person, lt is, that the 40-hour working week should be in reality and not merely a name, and form, a 40-hour week. There is to-day in industry generally a widespread and damaging: tendency to whittle away the corners from ihe 40-liour week by late starts, by early finishes, and by unnecessary and unjustifiable breaks for various purposes during the working period. This light-hearted and irresponsible approach to industrial duty, which i? perhaps due aa much to thoughtless indifference as to any planned attempt to retard output, can and will in the long run react to our general disadvantage and it will certainly have unpleasant repercussions also on those who are at present taking their tasks sf> lightly.
If thu 40-hour standard working week is earning for itself a bad reputation as the chief single factor in slowing up the nation’s production campaign, and if by increasing cost* of many essential goods it is, or is said to be. adding fuel to the flame of inflation, it is because it is not being given a fair trial by some of those whose representatives worked so hard to obtain it. In this country, when opportunity knocks at everybody’s door, a fair and honest day’s work for a fair and honest wage is a prerequisite to progress and prosperity. I feel, therefore, that I can make thi? call to everybody without fear of criticism or reproach.
That is my approach also to the problem of unemployment, which is the outstanding problem that faces us to-day, So much has been said about the subject already that it is not necessary for me to go into it at length. Instead, I intend to direct my attention to another line of thought in which I have a more personal interest. First, I want to refute immediately certain statements that have been made about the budget. I believe with all my heart that it is not only an incentive budget, but also an anti-depression budget. It is not necessary for me to traverse all the reasons why it is an incentive budget, because they have already been mentioned by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser). Suffice it for me to remind the committee that the budget proposes to reduce taxation and to increase social services payments.
I claim that the budget is an antidepression budget, because there will not be the slightest chance of a serious recession developing while the governments of Australia arc expending £1,500,000,000 a year. I shall not make a detailed reference to the proposed expenditure on various items in the budget. In round figures, about £111,000,000 is to be provided for war repatriation services; £178,000,000 for the States; about £164,000,000 for social services; and about £200,000,000 for defence. It should be impossible for a severe recession to develop while the Commonwealth is expending so much money. The present slight recession is due, as honorable members opposite are well aware, to the fact that the costs spiral has caused buyer resistance. Nobody is prepared to outlay money until he finds out how the cat will jump. I regard the budget as one of the most far-reaching budgets that have ever been introduced by an Australian Government. It is in the epoch-marking class.
The honorable member for Wide Bay has referred to the necessity for constitutional reform, which I have no time to discuss. . For my immediate purpose, the three most important features associated with this budget are, first, that it has been brought down at the beginning of the present financial year; secondly, that the Government proposes to abandon uniform taxation; and thirdly, that amending banking legislation will be introduced. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has already stated specifically why the budget has been introduced earlier than in former years. I agree that it is essential that taxpayers should know as early as possible what their obligations are. Indeed, much of the criticism of last year’s budget arose from the lateness that taxpayers learned about what they had to meet. It is true that the conditions that had existed in March, April, and May of last year justified the budget, but there had changed by the time the budget had passed through the Parliament in November, and there was a further change by the time taxes were being collected to implement the budget proposals. I suggest to the Treasurer that it is also important to bring down the budget at the beginning of a financial year to enable administration to be carried on efficiently and economically. If the Estimates are not approved until the beginning of September or October, the departments cannot expend their appropriations efficiently. Furthermore, they must then speed up work in progress so as to expend in six months the amount of money that it was intended they should expend over twelve months. We should follow the example of Great Britain and the United States of America in this respect.
The proposal to abolish uniform taxation amounts to a declaration of faith, and I note that the Treasurer insists that it is imperative that taxing powers shall be restored to the States. Unless this is done the parliamentary system, as such, will be destroyed. The States should bear the responsibility of imposing taxation in order to meet their commitments, and the Australian Government should be freed from the obloquy associated with the raising of money by taxation in order to defray the expenditure of the States. Every one knows how the Commonwealth has been blackguarded by the States during recent years, without the slightest justification for such criticism. It was to overcome this state of affairs that the holding of a constitutional convention has been suggested.
The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) outlined the method that I believe should be adopted in a discussion of the budget. We need to get away from the general to the particular. I hope that on this occasion this Estimates will be considered department by department, and not en bloc, so that there can be a detailed discussion of each proposed vote. I am glad that the Treasurer has committed himself to a specific determination to amend the 1945 banking legislation. If the budget had contained no proposal other than this I should have considered that it was worth while introducing it. The problem to which the banking legislation has given rise is well known to most people. We cannot continue to have a hanking organization with inconsistent and incompatible duties. There must be a separation of the functions of the Central Bank from those of the trading bank department of the Commonwealth Bank. That point has been made so eloquently by many speakers lately that it is unnecessary for me to say anything about it.
Let me make my confession of faith about constitutional reform. I have resisted every attempt to alter the Australian Constitution in such a manner as to give greater powers to the Commonwealth because I have been afraid that the alterations would not strengthen parliamentary government but would encourage a party dictatorship. I fear a party dictatorship because members of the Opposition have agreed to accept dictation from -an outside body, and are no longer free to express their own opinions upon the fundamental problems of this country.Because I am afraid that we might be ^governed, not by the Parliament but by an outside body, I am determined to resist by every means at ray disposal the grant of extra powers to the Commonwealth until the Labour party understands the real implications of its attitude. When the Labour party believes in parliamentary government, I shall ask that the Commonwealth be given more power, but while it does not believe in parliamentary government I shall oppose requests for more power with all my strength.
.- The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) have referred to the necessity for greater consultation and co-operation between employers and employees. I am heartily in agreement with such a policy. On more than one occasion in this chamber, I have referred to the necessity for a greater understanding between the organized Labour movement and organized bodies of employers, and for closer consultation between them upon problems common to both. My experience as a trade union leader has convinced me that the people who require to be converted to that view are not the trade unionists, but the employers. Let me cite examples of the failure of efforts to achieve closer consultation and greater co-operation. In 1942, during the last war, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who was then AttorneyGeneral, established a consultative advisory council for the express purpose of solving the industrial relations problems with which we were faced then. I was the leader of the trade union representatives on that council. After three meetings of the council had been held, the employers refused to attend further meetings, and the scheme, lapsed. In 1948, the Australian Council of Trades Unions suggested to the then Prime Minister that, in order to settle differencebetween organized bodies of employer? and the organized trade union movement, it was desirable to hold a federal conference, and that he should convene itThe conference met in August, 1948. L attended it as the spokesman and representative of the trade union movement. For two days, the conference discussed problems affecting both employers and workers. Finally, a joint statement was prepared, in which the opinion was expressed that similar meetings should be held in the future at regular intervals. But, unfortunately, after the statement had been published, the employers, so to speak, went cold on the matter, and every subsequent suggestion that a further conference should be held fell upon deaf cars.
In my maiden speech in this chamber, I stressed the necessity for consultation between employers and employees on .i Commonwealth-wide basis to grapple with the many economic problems which then confronted Australia. Subsequently. I wrote an article upon the subject which was published in the Sydney Sunday Sun. I have done everything in my power to encourage this idea, but the organized employers have not been prepared to agree to such an approach to our problems. I believe that it would be exceedingly valuable if there were frequen consultation between the employers and the trade union movement upon major economic problems. If that were done, wo should get somewhere.
I propose to deal now with matters raised by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) and touched upon by the Minister for External
Affairs. Let me deal first with the suggestion that the rigid and rapid manner in which wages are adjusted at the present time is, in effect, the basic cause of our difficulties. If time permits, I shall deal later with the remarks that the Minister made about production, and also with his comparison of the workers of Australia and the workers of America. Honorable members opposite who have linked the problems of inflation and employment with that of wage adjustment have concentrated upon the symptoms of our economic illness and have failed altogether to deal with the causes of it I believe that the greatest threat to stability and employment in Australia is not wage adjustment but the applications that now await decision by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court which affect the wages, working hours and living conditions of the workers of this country. Those claims are causing instability and, because of the almost total cessation of expansion of private industry, are likely to cause further unemployment and additional difficulties.I say incidentally, that the Government has exhibited weakness, hesitancy and indecision by not adopting a positive attitude to those applications. The honorable member for Paterson has said, in effect, that wages are adjusted in accordance with a cost of living index when they should be adjusted in accordance with a production index, that the factors that cause inflation are beyond the control of the Government, and that the long fight for increased real wages has been abortive and has not produced a better standard of living. I shall place before the committee the whole story of wage adjustments in Australia. In so doing. I shall he guided not by an academic study of the subject, but by my own knowledge and experience. I shall speak with a personal knowledge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration extending back to 1914. In 1907, when Mr. Justice Higgins made the classical Harvester award, with its standard of 7s. a day, or 42s. a week, he based his finding upon evidence that had been placed before him about the cost of commodities, rents, &c. Until 1911, when the late Sir George Knibbs, tinder direction from Mr. King
O’Malley, established an index of the purchasing power of money, there was no means by which wages could be adjusted in accordance with rising prices, except on evidence brought before the court by “ the butcher, the baker and the candlestickmaker”, to say nothing of the grocer. In 1931, the first prices index was compiled, and from then on a record of price fluctuations was kept. In 1913, Mr. Justice Higgins decided that the Commonwealth Statisticians’ index was a more reliable guide to prices than any other means then available. The result was that the court ruled that the basic wage should be calculated by means ofthe purchasing power of money figures so as to produce a figure that would give to the workers the equivalent of 42s. a week in 1907.
At first, wages were adjusted on the average cost of living for the entire preceding year. The result was that the wages were always twelve months behind the cost of living. Some of the older members of this chamber will recall that, afterWorld War I. had ended in 1918, there was a twelve months period of intense inflation, followed by a minor depression in 1920 and 1921. The cost of living had increased considerably. Wage adjustments had not kept pace with the increasing cost of living. Labour reports for that period show that, in the three years following World War I., there were numerous strikes throughout Australia for this reason. The situation became so had that many organizations of employers and trade unions agreed to half-yearly adjustments of wages. I made such an agreement with the Woolbrokers Association of Victoria in respect of wool store employees of the union with which I was associated. The result of all that was that, in 1922, Mr. Justice Powers decided that wages should be adjusted quarterly. Because he found that cost of living increases during the preceding three years had reduced the value of the basic wage to less than the Harvester standard, he decided to add to the wage determined at the end of each quarter the sum of 3s. which, upon the evidence that had been placed before him, he considered would be sufficient to prevent the purchasing power of the basic wage falling below the Harvester standard during any quarter.
– It was called the ‘ Powers 3s.”
– As the Leader of the Opposition reminds me, it was called the Powers 3s.” I was present in court when Mr. Justice Powers made his pronouncement. He indicated quite clearly that the policy of the court was that the purchasing power of wages should at no time fall below the Harvester standard of 1907 and that, for all time, it should be so adjusted as to maintain that standard. 1 cannot emphasize too strongly the fact that, under the Commonwealth arbitration system the basic wage cannot be increased until there has been an increase of the cost of living. That is a matter about which there is considerable ignorance throughout the community. On more than one occasion since 1922, wages have risen temporarily for one quarter while prices have been falling. If honorable members care to peruse the records of that very interesting period in our economic history between 1922 and 1929, they will find that, in some quarters, wages went up, and in other quarters, chey went down, always following prices, In that seven-year period, which one American economist has described as the seven sound years “, the average basic wage was 85s. For a period of roughly eight or nine years, wages varied between 5 per cent, above that figure and 5 per cent below it.
I come now to the difficult period of wage fixation between 1930 and 1937. The figures that I shall cite relate to the average basic wage for the six capital cities. In 1929, this wage was £4 10s. 6d. En 1930, there commenced a sharp decline in prices which was reflected in the basic wage adjustments. From February, 1930. the basic wage gradually receded, from !& 10s. 6d.. until, in February, 1933, it reached its lowest figure, £3 ls. Sd. That decline was aided, of course, by a 10 per cent. cut. The point that I am endeavouring to make is that prices were falling in spite of the fact that wages had been adjusted previously when prices were rising. There comes a time, now and. again, when, first of all, there is a decrease of the price of basic raw materials.
This is followed by a decrease of the retail price of consumable commodities. There is a slump from rising prices to falling prices. As I have said, on the occasion to which I have referred, the process of declining wages was hastened by a 10 per cent, cut because of the economic crisis.
My object in drawing the attention of honorable members to these matters is to show that the system of quarterly adjustments of wages, which has been attacked in many quarters during the last six months, has operated fairly for 30 years, including seven years of prosperity, seven years of depression, six years of war, and the years of economic crisis through which we are now passingTo suggest that the economic problem can be solved by the mere process of discontinuing the automatic adjustment of wages is simply to pay attention to the symptom when the cause is ever so much deeper than is realized.
Turning now to wages as they have been throughout the war period and since I point out that from September. 1930, at the beginning of the war, to August, 1945, at the end of it, the fluctuations of wages were remarkably small. When war broke out the basic wage was £3 19s. When it ended the wage was £4 16s. Strange as it may seem, even during that period the workers on some occasions experienced quarterly decreases of wages. Therefore during the war the basic wage adjustment system worked fairly and in a manner that upheld the standard of living that was laid down by the Harvester judgment in 1907. In August, 1945, as I have said, the basic wage was £4 16s., and in November, 1949, when the last quarterly adjustment of the wage prior to the defeat of the Chifley Government was made, it was- £6 9s. In the intervening period of four and a half years, therefore, the wage had risen by 33s. Of that increase 7s. was an increase of real wages, bting an interimbasic wage increase awarded by the court. During that period, therefore, wages had” not risen by very much. Now let usexamine what has happened to wages in the two and a half years of office of the present Government. In November. 1949, the wage was £6 9s. To-day it is £11 7s. So in the period of office of this Government wages have risen by no less than £4 183. a week. One pound of that total increase was an increase of real wages that was awarded by the court in December, 1950. In fact the cost of living has risen by 50 per cent, in the last two and a half years. I think it was the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) who said last night that in the two years prior to the election of this Government prices had been rising at roughly between 11 and 12 per cent, per annum. The unfortunate thing is that during the last two and a half years ‘ prices have risen by 20 per cent, per annum. Paced with the problem of arresting this inflationary trend, the Government, instead of coming forward with a positive policy, supports, if we are to judge by the views expressed by some of its members, suggestions for the abolition of the automatic adjustment of wages. But worse still, the curious suggestion has been mad. outside this Parliament that not only should automatic adjustment of wages be abolished, but also that wages should be decreased by 20 per cent, and working hours should be increased by 10 per cent. The Government, so far, has not enunciated any policy upon this matter. I ask the Minister for External Affairs, who is at the table, whether anything is more inclined to produce class hatred and embittered feelings between employers and employees than a proposal to cure, our economic difficulties by abolishing automatic adjustment of wages and increasing working hours?
– That is not the Government’s policy.
– It is not the Government’s policy, as far as we know. Despite the serious economic effects that these moves may have on our way of life, the Government has enunciated no policy. I shall use some figures to illustrate the present position and the effects of adoption of the suggestions that have been made. On the basis that 2,500,000 persons are employed in industry to-day, if hours were increased by 10 per cent., and if the workers maintained the same hourly rate of output in a 4.4-hour week as they have been maintaining in a 40-hour week, an increase of four hours in the working week would mean that 250,000 workers would become surplus to requirements. I point out also that, according to the figures of national income, the total received in wages and salaries, and payments to members of the defence forces, is £1,870,000,000 a year. To be on the conservative side I shall take the figure of £1,570,000,000 as being the total annual income of salary . and wageearners, leaving the pay of members of the armed services out of consideration. A cut of 20 per cent, in the incomes of salary and wage earners would mean a loss of national income, in one year, of £335,000.000. I say to members of the Australian Country party that if the present exchange rate between Australia and England, which gives a 25 per cent, advantage, in Australian currency, to our exporters, were abolished, the economic position of the man on the land would become disastrous. Yet apparently it would be regarded as of no consequence whatever if 20 per cent, were taken off the earnings of salary and wage earners. If 20 per cent, were deducted from the earnings of companies, the annual loss of income would amount to £85,000,000. If such a deduction were made from farm incomes, the annual loss would be £86.000,000. If a similar deduction were made from the incomes of unincorporated businesses and professions, the annual loss would be £75,000,000. Such losses would total £246,000,000, or almost £100,000,000 less than the amount that would be lost by wage and salary earners. On every occasion when Australia has been faced with economic difficulties, the persons who who have been called upon to bear the burden and make the sacrifices that are designed to achieve economic rehabilitation have been the workers. I remind honorable members that when economic trouble was looming in 1929, Mr. Stanley Bruce, who was then Prime Minister, could see the difficulties into which the nation was falling, and he proposed to abolish the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitraton. “We know what happened at the ensuing general election.
– Is that a fair statement?
– It is. The general election of 1929 was fought on the proposal of the then Government to abolish the court. In 1930, after that proposal had been defeated, it was proposed to overcome the economic depression by reducing the wages of the workers by 10 per cent. A case based on that proposal was stated to the court. The then Labour Government’s policy was that wages should not be reduced. But wages were reduced. Now, when we detect a faint breath, just a slight breeze of adversity, as it were., disturbing our economic life, we find that the employers are again rushing to the court. That indicates how panic-stricken they are about existing conditions. They are now asking for a 10 per cent, increase if hours and a 20 per cent, decrease of wages and, on top of that, they also want the system of automatic adjustment of wages to be frozen. The workers once again are to hear the brunt. No suggestion has been made by the Government that profits should he limited, that interest rates should bo reduced or” that the prices should bc controlled. No action has been taken by it even to impose a tax upon excessive profits. The Government has failed to state its policy in connexion with the proposal to reduce wages and increase hours.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden) . - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. One honorable gentleman, opposite has complained this afternoon that the Government has accused the Opposition of having failed constructively to criticize the budget. That is a fair charge because very few, if any, of the speeches of Opposition members have been of a constructive character. One feature of the Opposition’s contribution to this delate that has disturbed me, and probably also the public, is the ghoulish gloating over the unemployment situation that has been indulged ‘ bv some Opposition members. They regard the unemployment situation as a ‘possible vehicle upon which they can ride back to the treasury bench. Unemployment would be a poor vehicle upon which to attempt to essay such a journey. It amazed me that some Opposition members should criticize the Government for its decision to abolish the federal land tax. It was suggested by many Opposition members that the abolition of that tax would not assist primary producers, but would confer a benefit upon the owners of big city properties. The former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who should know better, contended that the abolition of the tas would in no way assist the man on the land.
– The fruit-growers of the Huon Valley, in the honorable member’s electorate, do not pay federal land tax.
– An examination of the holdings of farmers in Tasmania will reveal that many Tasmanian farmers will derive a benefit from the abolition of this impost.
This is the last day of the budget debate which has been in progress for a long time. I shall not traverse the fields that have been covered by many honorable members whose speeches were upholstered with a great deal of padding. One regrettable feature of the debate has been the degree to which personal abuse and unwarranted attacks have been indulged in by some honorable members. I do not adopt a “ holier than thou “ attitude, nor do I suggest that abuse and unwarranted attacks come from only one side of the chamber. Sharp divisions of opinion between opposing political parties is inevitable, but the fact that each believes the other to be incapable of a single good act does nothing to assist the country. Such an attitude is fundamentally wrong. I do not pretend to be a model of perfection, but at least I can claim that I have never been guilty of making a personal attack upon another honorable member. That, however, is merely by the way. My point is that those who indulge in such abuses bring the Parliament into deep contempt among the people, demean the honorable member guilty of the offence and lower the prestige of this democratic institution. Political attacks are justified when there is reason for them. The strong difference of opinion ‘between opposing political parties can surely be discussed without resort to personal abuse. The people are sick and tired of listening to the abuse that marks the proceedings of the Parliament. The people rightly complain that the proceedings of the Parliament frequently sound, over the air, like a meeting of Kilkenny cats. The people claim, with justification, that their elected representatives waste a great deal of time in this way, and that if they refrained from so doing legislation would be dealt with more expeditiously. Some personal attacks have been made deliberately for the purpose of trying to oust a member from the Parliament. The attacker works on the principle that if he slings sufficient mud, some of it will stick. There is another axiom - I think that it is attributed to Confucius - which reads, “ He who flings mud loses ground “. In two notable instances deliberate attempts were made, one of them successfully, to hound a person out of the Parliament. Honorable members will recall the vicious campaign conducted in this Parliament against the former honorable member for the Northern Territory, Mr. Blain, which culminated in his subsequent rejection by the electorate. That was one of the most disgraceful exhibitions of unwarranted and unfair attacks that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime..
– Where is Nancy Wake?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order !
– The other instance to which I refer concerned the honorable member far Fisher (Mr. Adermann), against whom an unwarranted attack was launched by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The charges that he made against the honorable member for Fisher were subsequently proved to be wholly untrue. Obviously, they were made on the principle that if sufficient mud were flung at the honorable member for Fisher, some of it would stick.
I have not made these comments without prior reference to the Standing Orders and to May, and consultation with the officers of the Parliament. Standing Orders 77 and 78 read as follows: -
The Standing Orders are clear and definite. On occasions Mr. Speaker has attempted to apply them, but very rarely has he been accorded the co-operation of honorable members in so doing. May is a little more precise on the point. Dealing with the rules governing the contents of speeches, May, at page 431 of the fourteenth edition, has this so say about, a negations against members -
Good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language. Parliamentary language is never more desirable than when a Minister is canvassing the opinions and conduct of his opponents in debate.
The same right to claim courteous treatment in debate is due alike between both House* m Parliament; and abusive language, and impota.tions of falsehood, uttered by members u’ the House of Commons against members of thiHouse of Lords have been met by the immediate intervention of the Chair to compel the withdrawal of the offensive words, or, is. default, by the punishment of suspension.
But the matter is put more precisely on page 433 from which I quote as follows : -
The House of Commons will insist upon all offensive words being withdrawn, and upon all ample apology being made, which shall satisfy both the House and the Member to whom offence has been given. If the apology be refused, or if the offended Member decline to express his satisfaction, the House takes immediate measures for preventing the quarrel from being pursued further.
That, I think, is the point, which bears upon proceedings in this Parliament.
– Tell us about the budget.
– I propose to make my speech in my own way. Some honorable members may think that this is a matter for hilarity, but a large section of the public thinks otherwise. It sometimes happens that disturbances are created in order to hold up proceedings in this chamber, but the effects of such behaviour go far beyond this place. I -suggest that the Standing ‘Orders Committee .’consider .adopting the practice outlined In May, so that when some stupid trow .occurs in ‘the chamber immediate action may be taken to stop it by en ore.ing a retraction of the offending words, and by pi-eventing the matter from being pursued any further. If I, as the youngest member of this House, may be permitted to say so without offence, I believe that honorable members themselves can do a great deal to assist the Chair by seeing that incidents of the kind I have referred to are not prolonged. A. great deal of time is wasted in the Parliament, and that is the opinion of many members of the public, also. Some time ago, I delivered a speech in this chamber on .the Japanese peace treaty. I spoke for only a few minutes and then sat down. I refrained from adding a lot of padding of the kind that is so often heard here, and that does not mean anything, but after I sat down I was criticized by the next Opposition speaker for the brevity of my speech.
The budget has been very fully discussed by honorable members on both sides of the chamber, but I wish to make just one point. If I may make bold to do so, I wish to protest . on behalf of private members against the application of the gag in the Parliament. I do not want to discuss whether the gag has been applied more frequently by governments drawn from one party than by those drawn from another party. As a matter of fact, it has been used by all governments. I believe that the application of the gag represents the denial of a fundamental right of members of the Parliament, and here I refer particularly to private members. The application of the guillotine “ is a different matter, and I agree with the practice of applying the “ guillotine “ in certain circumstances. When the “ guillotine “ is applied, honorable members know what opportunity there will be to speak, and can make arrangements accordingly, but the application of the gag is, I believe, an improper practice. I ‘hope it will not be thought that I am attempting to lecture any one. I am merely expressing what I think. I hope that the goodwill of the Parliament will permit of the adoption of some of the suggestions that I have made.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) deplored the making ‘of personal -attacks on members of the Parliament. I, too, deplore it, and I congratulate the honorable member upon the stand that he has taken. However, since I have been in this Parliament, the most vicious personal attacks that 1 have heard have ‘been those made by members of the Government and its Supporters upon the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in a deliberate attempt at character assassination. They have done everything within their power to besmirch the character of a man who has held the highest offices in Australia. I hope that Government supporters Will accept the advice tendered to them by the honorable member for Franklin.
I do not intend to attempt to answer the false assertions that have been made by Government supporters during the course of this debate. It is an old saying that-
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot tool all of the people all the time.”
I am convinced that this budget was designed to fool the people. The presentation of the budget should be the most important political event of the year, because the budget determines the shape of economic events during the year ahead. On this occasion, more than usual interest was evidenced in the budget because, owing to the serious currency inflation, cost of production has soared, wages haVe reached an all-time high, and are still rising, industries are closing down, economic and financial restrictions are numerous, the loan market has failed, and unemployment is spreading. Therefore, all sections of the community awaited anxiously the presentation of the budget by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and all sections of the community have been disappointed. There is not one item in the budget which is calculated to provide employment for those now out of work. It is not proposed to provide money for those who want to buy homes, or to set up in business, or to go on the land. Instead, it would appear that of the vast amount of more than ?1,000,000,0.00, which it is proposed to expend this year, a great deal is to be wasted. The Parliament has not been told how the money is to be expended.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies, addressing himself to the budget, spoke for 55 minutes, and his speech consisted exclusively of an attack on the Leader of the Opposition. In this he was ably assisted by his cheer squad sitting behind him. Time and again since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have heard the Prime Minister and his supporters condemn the Leader of the Opposition, and other honorable members on this side of the chamber, for what they described as our destructive criticism. They claimed that the Opposition, instead of putting forward suggestions for improving the Australian economy, were really out to destroy it. That form of attack was persisted in particularly during the debate on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, the Defence Preparations Bill and the National Service Bill. Now, however, when the Leader of the Opposition places before the Parliament alternative proposals designed to bring about increased production, full employment and lower taxation, the Prime Minister devotes his entire budget speech to an attack upon him. I assure honorable members that the people of Australia will not go on being fooled. They are now fully awake to the false promises of the Prime Minister, and their disillusionment will be made, apparent at the next general election.
The speech on the budget by the Leader of the Opposition was a gem. It indicated what the Labour party would do if and when it was returned to office: Although it did not suit some sections of the press, including the Daily Telegraph, other newspapers gave full credit to the right honor.able gentleman for having put forward definite proposals in the national interest. !’ remind those honorable members who persist in stating that the economy was unsound when the present Government assumed office that Mr. Chifley warned the people on at least two occasions that there was a movement towards inflation. In fact, Mr. Chifley appealed to the people, by way of a referendum, to grant authority to this Parliament to enable the Government to prevent inflation; but the voices of the present Prime Minister and his supporters were raised to foil Mr. Chifley’s proposal. Honorable gentlemen will recall that, in May, 1948, Mr. Chifley asked the people to confer upon this National Parliament power to control prices. Once again, the present Prime Minister and his supporters raised their voices in protest against that proposal. They said, in effect, “ Do not allow the socialists to have such power. They will destroy the economy, and your freedom”. The Prime Minister is now reaping his reward in the form of uncontrolled inflation.
Apart from a few concessions, such as small increases of pensions, the abolition of the means tost so that invalids between the ages of 16 and 21 years shall be eligible to receive a pension, and an increase of unemployment and sickness benefits, the budget contains nothing for the majority of citizens. I mention, in passing, that the unemployment problem will cause the Government to have a severe headache during the next twelve months. The people can dismiss from their minds the idea that the levy of 10 per cent, has been removed from the tax on income derived from personal exertion. I hope that, later, I shall have an opportunity to elaborate that point.
If the present Prime Minister could claim, during the general election campaign in 1949, that the Australian economy was unsound, it would be interesting to know what are his views about the state of the economy to-day. The right honorable gentleman, in his policy speech in that year, referred to the supposed evils of socialism, and declared that they were destroying the value of the fi. He said -
The pre-war pound - the Liberal pound, the Country party pound - has been converted into a Socialist pound which in terms of what it will buy is, even on the “ C “ series index, worth only 12 shillings and not 20; and in real terms has certainly fallen to 10 shillings.
That statement certainly shows the right, honorable gentleman in a bad light. If the Chifley £1 was worth only 10s. in terms of the pre-war £.1 when the basic wage was £6 12s. a week, what is the Liberal or Menzies £1 worth, to-day, when the basic wage is £11 15s. a week? What will the Menzies £1 be worth as the basic wage continues to rise? The inability of this Government to halt inflation is causing gross instability and uncertainty. Industry is being brought to a standstill, work is not available and even skilled tradesmen are out of jobs. Last week-end, some carpenters called at my home to ask me whether I knew of the existence of jobs, in which they could be placed.
The Minister for External Affairs (Air. Casey) said in his speech on the budget that Australian workmen were telling one another to go slow or they would work themselves out of a job. I invite honorable members to consider the facts. Was it necessary for textile workers to work themselves out of a job? Have not Australian textile factories closed their doors as a result of an increased flow of imports? There has been over-production, and, consequently, men are out of work. Is it not true that the electrical trades are producing more goods than the market can absorb? Is it not true that 250 men have been laid off at the lamp works, Newcastle? Is it not true that the coal mines are suspending operations because consumers do not want the class of coal that is being produced from them ?
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) attempted to explain away the situation with the statement that we are passing through a period of transition. What kind of a transition is it? Is it a transition from full employment to unemployment ? Is it a transition from full stomachs to empty stomachs for the unemployed? A massive hospital which upon completion will have five floors, is being erected in Newcastle. Only two floors have been finished, yet men are being dismissed from the job. Unfortunately, money is not available for the construction of quarters for the nurses who would work in that institution. Hundreds of tradesmen in various industries are out of employment. Men are being dismissed from the power house project at Wangi, because sufficient money is not available to enable operations to be continued on capital works. More than 50 carpenters in Newcastle are registered as unemployed, yet such conditions exist as five families living in one house, old people living in small rooms and on verandahs, and hundreds of persons living in tents. When housing is still an urgent requirement, why are carpenters unemployed? Is it logical or reasonable to believe that such conditions should be permitted ?
I believe that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was correct when he said that the depression has already begun. The Department of Railways in New South Wales is dismissing employees. Partly completed factories, on which work has been suspended, may be seen in my electorate. Some coal mines are working part time, and open-cuts are closing down. One of the largest coalloading screens at Branxton, in New South Wales, has closed. Up to last week, 50 big motor trucks were carting to this screen. Thirty of them are now idle, and their drivers are unemployed, and the remaining 20 are carting coal to screens at Liddell. Those haulers invested their savings in that industry and bought houses because they believed that there would be no more unemployment. They are now head over heels in debt.
Irrespective of the contention of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), a dangerous threat exists to the continuity of employment in the coal industry. In fact, development in_ the coal-mining industry has been one-sided. Hundreds of thousands of tons of coal have been produced from open-cuts, but much of it will not be used. It is lying at grass, and some of it is burning. Some of this coal is completely useless. Before it will burn, oil must be poured over it. The best of it is useful only for steaming purposes, and industries avoid taking it when that is possible. I believe that hundreds of thousands of pounds have been wasted in the production of coal from certain open-cuts, and that the development of underground mines, which could now be producing valuable coking and gas coal, that is now in short supply, has been seriously neglected. I understand that a colliery at Aberdare South was open in the 1920’s, and that, although it has been fully developed, no coal has been taken from it. What is the reason for that? The
Joint Coal Board was established for the purpose of bringing into production mines that will yield the class of coal that is so valuable to industry. This Government ha3 expended millions of pounds in the payment of subsidies on coal imported from India and South Africa, and is neglecting the development of our own coal resources.
This budget has been referred to ii!-: an “incentive” budget, but for the life of ,me I cannot see how it will stimulate production of any kind. Until taxation is reduced, production, particularly of a primary nature, will not be increased. The members of the Government contend that only an increase of primary production can overcome the instability of our national economy. The Australian Labour party has been blamed for that instability because secondary industries greatly expanded under a Labour government. Although such expansion of secondary industries added to the prosperity of the nation, honorable members opposite claim that the government of the day sacrificed primary production to secondary production. That is not true. The dairying industry, for instance, had been on its knees until a Labour government came to office.
It appears to me that the main interest of the present Government in the primary producers arises from . their ability to produce exportable goods. I contend that the Government is no more interested in the small farmer or business man than it is in pensioners or workers in industry. It pays only lip service to those sections of the community. Support for that contention is to be found in the decision of the Government to vacate the land tax field and thereby to give to the wealthy land-owners a present of £6,500,000. The Prime Minister has challenged the members of the Opposition to say where they stand in regard to federal land tax. I wish to make it clear that I should reimpose land tax in a better form by imposing a heavier tax on unimproved land, thereby paving the way for thousands of decent young Australians, who are clamouring for land, to be able to obtain it. At the present moment they cannot do so because land values are so high that they are beyond the reach of young people.
Much of our dairying land is not in full production, mainly because of high taxes. Areas of Crown land should be cut up and made available, at a nominal price, to those who require it. Many sons of farmers have been compelled to enter industries because their parents have been unable to keep them on the land. Tithe masonite industry alone, hundreds of such lads are now working because they have been unable to obtain sufficient finance for the purchase of land. J< money were available, they would be producing primary products. It is physically impossible for any young man to pay thiexorbitant prices which are now being asked for land. I have seen land sold al Williamtown for as much as £138 an acre, and at Lismore for £157 an acre. Until something is done to put more young people on the land, primary production will not increase.
The Government has estimated that itv total expenditure during the curren financial year will be £959,000,000, or approximately £43.000.000 less than the total expenditure last year. Honorable members will recall that when the Treasurer presented his budget last year he explained that he had put away in a safe place £114,500,000 so that he would bc able to arrest inflation. The budget thai is now before the Parliament reveals thai £98,500,000 of that sum has been placed in the National Debt Sinking Fund, whilst the remaining £16,000,000 has been used to balance the 1951-52 budget. 1 should like to know in what Commonwealth securities that £98,500,000 hasbeen invested and in what way the people will benefit from such investment. If inflation has been arrested, as many honorable members opposite would have us believe, why cannot that money be utilized to relieve the distress, poverty and hunger which so many pensioners suffer to-day. or for the relief of flood victims in places such as Maitland and Kempsey, or for urgently needed works, such as housing, power-plant construction, water conservation and so on?
The estimated expenditure for the year is shown in a budget statement under thirteen main heads. They include defence services £200,000,000, war and repatriation services £111.429,000, payments to National Welfare Fund £164,179,000, other statutory payments - whatever they may be - £8,323,000, departmental £48,449,000, bounties and subsidies £28,420,000 - which, incidentally, have been reduced by approximately £3,000,0000 - business undertakings of those kinds, including the Postal “Department, £74,030,000, payments to or for the States £177,839,000, and capital works and services £106,613,000. 1 believe that this method of setting out government expenditure is wrong. I agree with the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) that the Estimates should contain a statement setting out how each item in the departmental votes is to be expended. At the risk of incurring criticism, I point as an example to defence services on which £200,000,000 is to he expended in this financial year. It is reasonable for honorable members to wish to know how such a large sum is to be expended. I am inclined to believe that much of it will be wasted and that some of it will not be used for defence services at all but will be paid to immigrants at military establishments for doing work that is in no way reproductive. Recently, at the Royal Australian Air Force Station, at Williamtown, eighteen Australian workmen were retrenched because of lack of funds. Before those employees had left the station, 40 Italians arrived and began to pick up papers and to idle their time away. Needless to say, trouble arose. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and I communicated with the Minister acting Minister for
Immigration. To his credit, the honorable gentleman had the Italians sent back to Greta. I should be interested to know how many.similar instances have occurred throughout the Commonwealth and why it is that persons who, only a few years ago, were our enemies are now allowed to wander about military establishments, free and unfettered. If that kind of thing is going on at the moment the Government should be severely censured.
With all the unemployment that exists in the States of the Commonwealth to-day, I am of the opinion that much of the money allocated for defence services should he used to strengthen our railway systems by standardizing the various gauges, and for the building of highways to carry our military equipment and traffic. This Governnent ignores the elementary feature of our defence, possibly because it is expedient for Ministers, including the Treasurer, to overlook the claims of certain State governments, mainly because they are Labour governments. Such an attitude weakens the defence of a country. Important works which should have a national priority have to be curtailed. By reducing the financial requirements of the States, the Government has committed a colossal blunder, particularly in view of the warning of the Prime Minister concerning the possibility of war hy 1953. I understand that that possibility is one of the main reasons for om- present high taxes.
Work in the port of Newcastle has almost stopped because of shortage of money. Newcastle is the most important of all the ports of Australia, because without steel and coal we could not survive. Unfortunately, the river upon which this famous city stands is subject to flooding, as are many other important rivers of Australia. Each time the river floods, great and irreparable damage is caused. As the floods recur, the position becomes more and more grim. Thousands of people are left homeless and penniless. Primary production suffers, stock and plant are lost and cannot be replaced, railways and roadways become untrafficable, and large areas of land are rendered useless. The State Government and the Australian Government provide relief which, although it helps in a minute way, does nothing permanently to solve the problem. Some farms in flooded areas will be out of production for many months. The export trade of the nation will thereby suffer. The railways are unable to haul coal for several weeks, and large sums are needed to repair the damage. Millions of tons of silt are deposited in the harbour, and its removal costs thousands of pounds.
Honorable members opposite should ask themselves what would have happened to the nation had the floods of 1949, 1950; 1951 and 1952 occurred at the time when the Japanese were moving towards the Coral Sea.. We were then transporting north, by rail and road, thousands of tons of military supplies. It is not difficult to imagine the plight of our servicemen had those supplies not reached them. The Labour government of the clay would never have lived down the opprobrium which would have fallen upon it. 1 sound a warning of the gravity of the position in the Hunter River area and remind the Government of what is likely to happen if, in this important rural and industrial area, the machinery with which to prevent recurring floods is not provided. 1 ask the Government to make moneys available from defence or other funds in order to dredge and deepen the Hunter and other rivers. Were the Government to free the Hunter from flooding, rural lands would produce in abundance, industry would gain because shipping would be able to enter and leave the port fully loaded, and the Government would save money because it. would not have to provide relief funds for the victims of floods. New land could be ‘put into production because the silt from the river could be used to build up land that is not now productive and employment could be found for those who are out of work. Would any honorable member say that such a project would not be in the national interest? I hope that the Government will consider this matter seriously and do something about it.
I should like everybody, who is interested in the subject of taxation, to work out from the taxation schedules whether they will pay less tax this year than they paid last year. A man on the basic wage with a wife and two children would have earned ?496 in the year just closed and would have paid ?9 4s. in tax after having been permitted a concessional allowance of ?234 in respect of his family. In the current year this man, still earning the basic wage, which will amount to ?611, will be required to pay ?19 18s. in tax after allowing for the removal of the special” levy of 10 per cent. that was imposed last year. Actually, he is likely to pay more tax than that because the basic wage is still rising and is likely to be much higher as the year draws to a close. The Treasurer told honorable members that he had reduced sales tax. Last year the base rate of sales tax was increased from 8^ ner cent, to 12-^ ner cent. The group of items affected by this rate contains most of the consumer goods that all families use. The Treasurer has been careful not to reduce this rate because most of the sales tax is collected under it. He has lifted the sales tax on ice blocks, which are eaten only by a few children. How generous the Treasurer was in removing that tax! But he has been careful to retain a 20 per cent, tax on ice cream, a commodity that is used by nearly every family. He knows that that tax will be a revenue-producer.
Why is the Treasurer such a hypocrite? Why does he pretend that he is helping the people? He knows very well that only a few children eat ice blocks, but that he will obtain thousands of pounds from tax on ice cream sales. He has proposed a reduction of sales tax on furs and fine jewellery, but has retained the high tax on cars and spare parts which people need every day. A very high rate of sales tax is still imposed on toilet requisites for women. Has the Government been generous in this regard ? Where is the incentive for people to respond to the Government’s appeals?
- (Mr. B,yan). Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In the last two years Australia has suffered from droughts, bush fires, floods, railway disasters and superfluous politicians. During the last two or three years the vast areas of Australia have been more devastated by floods, fires and droughts than ever before. We have had quite an epidemic of railway disasters. All honorable members will sympathize with the people who have lost so much through these devastating occurrences. When I mentioned superfluous politicians I was alluding to the increase of the number of members of this Parliament which occurred as a result of one of the Inst acts of the Chifley Government. The increase of the number of members of this House was absolutely unnecessary. In saying th P t. I do not wish to reflect on the ability and intelligence of new members. But those new members who have outstanding ability could, no doubt, successfully have contested seats against certain sitting members, and in that way increased the standard of intelligence of this Parliament. One argument that the Chifley Government used in support of its action was that an increase of the number of members would provide greater opportunities of bringing intelligent people into this chamber. That was a fallacy. A parliament or a committee of reasonable size can do much more work than one that is too big. This Parliament is now suffering from an inability to deal with its work expeditiously and the additional members are costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds more every year. The action of the Chifley Government was a step in the wrong direction which was taken in an effort to save the seats of some Labour members who were in rather a shaky position. I opposed that measure at the time and it is obvious that the country has gained nothing from it.
The general trend of the argument of the Opposition appears to be that all the benefits of the budget should have been greater. Opposition members followed the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), parrot fashion, in stating that the reduction of taxation should be much greater than is proposed. All have agreed that the gap between receipts and expenditure could have been bridged by the use of central bank credit. Every one in Australia knows that the Government is fighting inflation and is winning the fight. Irresponsible government ceased in December, 1949. A return to the socialist policy of using bank credit in order to boost prosperity would spell disaster to countless thousands and to thu economy of this Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition asked why money could be obtained in this way during the war but not’ during the peace. It is well known that inflation has always followed a war and that there has then been a depression. Every one knows that that sequence of events is due to the fact that the central bank credit used during the war has to be paid for afterwards. It is not possible to get anything for nothing. One honorable member opposite said that we should have an everincreasing standard of living. I have found in six and a half years of experience in this Parliament that Labour can only govern temporarily and appa rently successfully. Labour has’ never been in power in this House for a full term of three years except during the last war. On every previous occasion on which a Labour government had taken office it had been put out before its full term had expired because its policy brought disaster to the economy of this country. It was only because the war brought a crisis and because people were prepared to make sacrifices that Labour was able to stay in power a little longer during the last war. As soon as the war was over the rot set in and the Labour Government did not last very long. The Labour party went into Opposition, where it should stay.
Honorable members opposite are preaching depression. That is a devastating thing to do in a country such as ours which has never been more progressive nor more prosperous than it is at present. During a time of war, and immediately afterwards, there is a state of artificial prosperity. That has now passed ; the industrial honeymoon is over and we must now depend for our real prosperity on the work that we put into our industries. This country is as prosperous as it has been at any time in our history. I notice the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) standing at the door of the chamber. If the honorable member will enter the chamber h, will perhaps hear something to his advantage. Almost every time the honor”able member spoke in this chamber, before his defeat at the general election of 1949, he mentioned the savings of the people. He detailed how their savings had increased, and his most important argument was that while their savings were at such a high level there was a state of prosperity in the nation. When he spoke in this debate yesterday he did not mention the savings of the people, for the very simple reason that to-day their savings are greater than ever before in our history.
Honorable members interjecting.
– Order ! There arc too many interjections.
– I suggest that honorable members must stick to their guns because if they do not they will be shot with them.
– The honorable member should keep mallee roots out of this debate.
– Anybody can be abusive. Abuse does not get you anywhere. I am giving you the facts and figures about this matter.
– Order ! The honorable member must address me.
– There is no one whom I should be more pleased to address than you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, because I know that you can understand what I am saying. Much has been mad.”by the Opposition about the so-called necessity for prices control. After the Chifley Government’s attempt to nationalize the banks was thwarted, first by a decision of the High Court of Australia, and then, notwithstanding the policy of the Labour party against appeals to the Privy Council, by that judicial body, a prominent member of the Labour party, Senator Armstrong, said, “If we cannot reach our objective in one way we shall reach it in another way “. The other way that he was advocating was no doubt a system of prices control. It is obvious that if the National Government controls all prices in the country it can control the whole country. Indeed, it can bankrupt any part of the country or make any part wealthy at the expense of any other part.
The Government parties, when inOpposition, agreed with the Labour Government that control of prices was necessary in the transition period from war to peace, but contended that such control should not be written permanently into the Constitution. That was because the then Opposition realized that if any government, especially a socialist government, held such a. constitutional power permanently it could do what it liked with the country - even ruin it. When the people refused to embody in the Constitution power to control prices, the Labour Prime Minister of the day threw the whole matter straight back to the States, although the States and the then Opposition agreed that federal prices control should continue on a temporary basis. Temporary prices control was of no use to the socialists, because they realized that if they tried to do what they wanted to do, that is socialize out production, distribution and exchange, the States and the then Opposition would object. If a prices control power had been a permanent feature of the Constitution, that power would have been used to socialize the whole of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition has said, “ Price3 control is an ingredient of the mixture “. I fully agree with him that it is an ingredient of the mixture - the socialist mixture. But I tell honorable members opposite that the people of Australia do not want to take that mixture.
The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) said that the Labour party wanted to change the Constitution in order to give to the Australian Government power over hours of work and wages. He said that the Australian Parliament should he all powerful. It is perfectly obvious that if the National Parliament were all powerful and a Labour government were in office, the Labour executive rather than the Parliament would govern. The remarks of the honorable member for Banks sounded very strange in view of the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) about the necessity for conciliation and arbitration. If that is a sample of the unity of policy of the Labour party I do not know how honorable members opposite keep the peace in their party meetings. It is obvious that if the National Parliament is to be given full power over wages and hours there will be no further necessity for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The honorable member for Banks was, indirectly, advocating the abolition of the court.
Honorable members opposite have stated, that the Government’s proposed reduction of income tax will not benefit the people. When the Government proposed the special levy of 10 per cent, last year, the Opposition said that the taxpayers on the lower ranges of incomes would bear the chief burden of the increased taxation. Now that it is proposed to abolish the special 10 per cent, levy the Opposition says that only the taxpayers in the high income groups will benefit from the abolition. That is a sample of how the Opposition wants to have it both ways all the time. Surely there is need for some logical thinking among honorable members opposite.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) said that the proposed expenditure of £200,000,000 on defence was too great. He also said that much money was being expended on our recruiting campaign, which was a failure. That should have gladdened the hearts of honorable members opposite because every one of them is against the recruiting campaign. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) made a similar statement when he first entered the Parliament.
– I helped the recruiting campaign again and. again.
– If the honorable member has helped since he has been a member of the Parliament he had better not let his party executive hear about it. Honorable members have not heard much about the United Nations from its great champion, the Leader of the Opposition. He has not said a word about the United Nations because at the present time it is backing up its ideals with force. Honorable members opposite support the United Nations only when it is engaged in nothing more than negotiations. They support this great organization, which may bring peace to the world, only in theory.
There seems to be a fearful belief among honorable members opposite that men will join our army, that men will enter the most honorable profession the world has ever known, that is the profession of protectors of our country and kinsfolk. Just because some employment officer suggested to some person that there might be a job for him in the Army - and it must be remembered that army pay is about twice as great as it was when Labour was in office - honorable members opposite consider it to be a frightful thing. Every young man should be proud to serve his country. It is wonderful to realize that the men of this country, even some old ones, are prepared to lay down their lives for the freedom and peace that we enjoy.
If an honorable member on the Government side speaks about the 40-hour week, honorable members opposite immediately ask, “Are you in favour of it? “.. because they believe that if an honorable member who represents an industrial constituency does not believe in the principle of the 40-hour week they can do him some harm in his electorate by spreading that news. They do not consider whether the 40-hour week is good or had for Australia, they consider the matter only from the standpoint of gaining some party political advantage. Most Australians are excellent workers, but they are not getting a fair deal from the agitators who are to be found both in this chamber and elsewhere. The Labour party at one time did a great deal of good for the worker, I believe. I refer to the wage-earner, of course. The primary producer is the real worker in Australia. The trouble with the Labour party was that it went too far to the left and found itself in difficulties. I remind honorable members opposite of the old saying that too far east is west. Railway workers in Western Australia have just ended a strike that lasted for many months. Now they propose to go back to arbitration. They have lost large sums in forfeited wages, but they are still just where they stood when the strike began. Honorable members opposite too often urge workers to go on strike. Instead, they should uphold the rule of law and stand by the arbitration court that this Parliament established and all the other institutions that are best and dearest to the hearts of Australians. It is just as much a crime to flout the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration as it is to break other laws of our society.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), for whom I have a very. high regard, must have been under a misapprehension when he made a false statement during his speech earlier to-day.
– He made no false statement.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) made the same, mis-statement in this chamber and the Leader of the Opposition did likewise when he broadcast from station 2HD, Newcastle, after Phil Furley’s old-time session not long ago. The honorable member for Port Adelaide said that the income tax averaging system applied to primary producers had been abolished. The honorable gentleman spoke as though he believed that statement to be accurate. He must have been misinformed because his honesty is beyond doubt. He is a friend of mine and I do not want to criticize him too severely. However, his statement could not have been further from the truth.
– I said that the averaging system had been introduced twelve months too late.
– The honorable member said that it had been abolished. The Commissioner of Taxation has informed me that 87 per cent, of primary producers are still fully covered by the provisions of the averaging system, that 8 per cent, of them have a modified advantage from the system, and that only 5 per cent, have lost its advantages altogether. I believe that the advantage should be restored to those who have lost it. The honorable member’s statement was misleading to Australians who listened to the broadcast of his speech.
– I did not say that the averaging system had been abolished.
– I am sure that the honorable member said that it had been abolished. I should be the first to defend him if I were not convinced of that.
I pay a tribute to the coal-miners for the high rate of coal production that they have maintained in recent months. They have been able to produce coal efficiently, because they have not been hampered by strikes and stoppages. This Government has been able to restore peace in industry. The honorable member for Macquarie said that satisfactory coal production could be achieved only if the industry was operating under a long-term plan, and he claimed credit for the Labour party on the ground that, when it was in power, it provided for the installation of modern machinery in the coal mines. The truth is that the most effective machinery in the world cannot produce coal when industrial unrest keeps the men out of the mines. Inflation occurs only as a result of economic mismanagement over a long period. Some people say inflation has been caused by this Government since 1949. The fact is that inflation was brewing for a long time prior to 1949. It was caused by the Labour Government’s neglect of the national economy immediately after World War II.
I refer honorable members opposite to a leading article that was published in a country newspaper on the 7th August last. They usually refer only to metropolitan newspapers. The journal to which I refer is printed at Mildura, in the heart of the area where about 70 per cent, of our dried fruits are grown, which abuts on a sheep and wheat-growing district. Under the heading, “ Satisfying Budget”, the Sunraysia Daily published the following comments on the day after the budget had been presented to this Parliament : -
There will be plenty of critics, each disappointed with his or her own share of benefit. But the provisions must be viewed from a national angle, keeping very much in mind the Government’s extensive and vital commitments.
The effect of the Budget will be determined, not by its provisions, but by the attitude of the people. If we accept the benefits as a sincere government attempt to help, then the new outlook which is so necessary can be born.
However, if we adopt a selfish attitude and grumble at our share of assistance, the future will become even darker. The Government has made its decisions. We must now make ours . . .
The Opposition takes a dark view of the future and tries to depress the people. I believe that it hopes that a depression will occur. Anybody who makes a prophecy, whether it be that a competitor will win a race at the Olympic Games, that a horse will win a race at Sydney or Melbourne next Saturday, or that it will rain to-morrow, likes his forecasts to be fulfilled. The Labour party, having told the people that there will be a depression, now hopes that its prophecy will come true and is working towards that end.
Much’ controversy has arisen over the declaration by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the Government will abandon the uniform tax system and return to the States the taxing rights that they formerly possessed. Under the uniform tax system, the Australian Government took full control of taxing rights during World War II. All State governments at the time believed that the sovereign taxing rights of the States would be returned to them immediately after the cessation of hostilities. However, that did not happen and, in the last speech that I made in this House, I found fault with the present Government on account of its’ failure to honour the promise that had been made to the States. I withdraw my complaint now because the Government has decided to honour the promise to the full. Sovereign taxing rights would never be returned to the States if the Labour party had its way, although every Australian knows that the uniform tax system was intended only to be a war-time expedient. My belief that the States should regain their former rights in full becomes more fervent every time I hear members of the Opposition speak in this chamber. I refer now to the subject of restoring value to the £1 and reducing taxation. Notwithstanding the assertions of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), the Government did not say that it would reduce taxation and put value back into the £1 immediately. After eight years of Labour socialist administration, this Government cannot be expected to work miracles overnight. When a football team is playing a match it is not expected to win in the first quarter. This Government is cleaning up the dead wood. It is already on the way to reducing taxation and signs indicate that inflation is receding. The next adjustment of the basic wage will not be nearly so high as have been recent variations. Every time there is an increase of the basic wage, the Opposition gives forth a howl. I am prepared to wager that if the basic wage begins to fall, the howls that honorable members hear now will be as nothing to the wails that we shall hear then.
According to the Kerang New Times, Professor Sir Douglas Copland has criticized the farmers. He stated that they would not increase production until prices were lower. The Kerang Shire Council, in a district that I represent, has protested against that statement. Councillor Mann stated -
T regard the statement as an insult to primary producers. As far as the- wheat men are concerned, they have never worked harder than they are doing to-day. Professor Copland is altogether on the wrong lines.
Councillor H. Lester Smith said at the same meeting - lt is a very damaging statement as far as farmers are concerned and is utterly untrue.
Councillor Mitchell.- Most men on the land are working overtime and are working very hard . . . Primary producers are carrying on with the job, not only for themselves but for the whole community. We should certainly protest.
I do so now on their behalf. The primary producers are, in truth, working for the whole community. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) asked in the course of the debate who felt the brunt of an economic crisis. He was referring to the workers in the cities, but, in fact, primary producers are hit the hardest. When overseas prices fall and drought sears the earth, the workers in the cities are affected but by that time the economic storm has already devastated the country districts. The answer to Australia’s problems is to foster primary production and give more assistance to the farmers. That is the way to a sound economy.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Before dealing with the details of the budget, I shall refer again to a matter that I raised in this chamber recently in relation to the disclosure to the press of details contained in the budget-papers before they were submitted to the Parliament. When. I spoke on that matter, I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) whether he accepted the proposition that details of the budget were to be treated as secret and confidential before they were brought before the Parliament, I asked whether the right honorable gentleman accepted the proposition that until the Treasurer gave the details of the budget proposals to the Parliament, they were not to be disclosed to anybody other than those officials who are entitled to receive them in the course, of their duties. The Treasurer accepted that proposition and said he agreed that the details should not be disclosed. But in view of what has happened apparently he does not accept suet a proposition now because no honorable member who read the newspapers on the day concerned and heard the discussion in this chamber last Wednesday could have any doubt that the newspaper representatives had prior access to the budget details.
– They did not.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has stated that the newspaper representatives did not have such access. Apparently he supports the argument advanced by the Treasurer that the details of the budget which appeared in some newspapers hours before they were submitted to the committee, were reached as the result of good guesswork. I ask the committee to consider some of the details that were published. The newspapers “ guessed “ that the maximum rate of sales tax would be reduced from 66§ per cent, to 50 per cent.; that the minimum rate of sales tax was to be 12J per cent. ; and that the total expenditure for which the budget provided was £959,000,000 - not £958,000,000 or £957,500,000 but £959,000,000, the exact amount. Does any honorable member believe the fantastic story that the newspaper representatives were such good guessers that they could guess the exact figure of the .Government’s estimated expenditure in 1952-53? Are we to believe also that they were able to guess that the exact amount of proposed defence expenditure was £200,000,000? Are honorable members to believe that the newspaper representatives were able to guess the amount that was to be expended on age and invalid pensions? Those details were given accurately by the press hours before the budget was presented to the committee. It is fantastic to expect honorable members to believe that those figures were the result of guesswork. If one figure had been forecast accurately, that would have been a remarkable coincidence, but when the press published whole sets of figures which could have been known only to those who had access to the budget details, obviously there was a leakage.
If the Treasurer is to discharge the responsibilities that rest upon him by virtue of his office, and if he is to. live up to the principle that he has espoused in this chamber that the budget details are secret and confidential until they are presented to the Parliament, he should set up immediately an impartial tribunal to. establish, by a complete and thorough investigation, where the leakage occurred and who was responsible for it. If the right honorable gentleman is not prepared to do that, he stands convicted in the eyes of all fair-minded persons as having been himself responsible for the leakage. If he wants to refute that charge, he should accept the challenge to appoint a committee to conduct an inquiry. Nobody who saw the articles that were published in the newspapers about details of the budget proposals could have any doubt that there was a leakage.
– That depends on the nature of their minds.
– If the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) had a mind like that .of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) he would claim that the newspaper representatives reached the exact figure of budget expenditure by thinking of one number, taking away another and arriving at something between the two. By that method, according to the Minister, somebody shrewdly reached the exact total of £959,000,000. Apparently the honorable member foi Dawson was not in the chamber when the Minister tried to explain that that was how the press obtained the figures. If honorable members have minds of that type, they will accept that kind of explanation, but no argument on the part of honorable members on the Government side, no matter how lengthy, can explain the. leakage satisfactorily. Something in direct defiance of all precedent and every ethical standard that the Treasurer of the day is supposed to observe, occurred when the press was given access to the budget details. If the Treasurer is not prepared to accept the responsibility himself, he should be prepared to appoint an impartial committee to conduct an investigation. I read in the press to-day that legislation relating to official secrets is to be brought down by the Government. Does the Government, intend to ask honorable members to believe that details of the budget, major official secrets of the Government, were published prematurely and that it refused to do anything about the matter? The most alarming aspect of the matter was not the premature release of confidential information but the speculation that took place on the stock exchanges before the budget was presented to the Parliament. I cited figures from the financial columns of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Sun which showed that on the afternoon of the day on which the budget was introduced abnormal speculation took place on the stock exchanges in Sydney and Melbourne. That speculation could only have been based upon pre-knowledge of the budget proposals. I again invite the members of the Government, who, apparently, seem to be as little concerned about ethics as they are about unemployment, to reconsider the facts that I have mentioned. If they genuinely subscribe co the doctrine that the budget details are confidential and if they accept the view that was expressed by the House of Commons when Mr. Hugh Dalton resigned because of his lapse in prematurely disclosing details of the British budget, they will discharge their responsibility to trace the source of the leakage. The facts that I have given cannot be refuted. However,, if the Government is not prepared to accept its responsibility in this matter, all that the Opposition can do is to continue to point out to the Australian people that, apparently, the traditions of parliamentary democracy mean nothing, to this Government and that the Treasurer has so little regard for the duties: of his office that he is not prepared to answer the accusations that I have made on the facts that I have outlined.
I turn now to the budget itself. I regret that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Mallee (Mk. Turnbull) have left the chamber, because both of those honorable gentlemen had much to say about what I consider to be one of our basic problems. If there has been one pleasing feature of this, debate it has been the contributions that a number of honorable members have made with respect to the decline that has taken place in the production of basic wealth, upon which our standard of living ultimately depends. On many occasions, when members of the Australian Labour party have spoken about primary production, members of the Australian Country party have greeted their remarks with sneers. Apparently, it is all right for the stock and station agents and accountants, who represent the farmers in this Parliament under the title of the Australian Country party, to talk about the workers and production ; but when a member of the Australian Labour party refers to the problems of primary production his remarks are greeted with a howl of derision from those honorable members who sit directly on my left. For too long have we tolerated such attempts by these stock and station agents and accountants to maintain that they have a monopoly to represent farming interests. The contributions that members of the Opposition have made to this debate have shown conclusively that members of the Australian Labour party have far greater concern for the welfare of the rural community and a. greater knowledge of the problems of primary production than have those honorable members who claim to represent country interests. For instance, members of the Australian Country party have suggested . that, because I represent the electorate of Yarra, which is primarily an industrial area, I display infernal cheek when I talk about the problems of primary production. I remind them that among my constituents are many waterside workers who now fmd* themselves unable to obtain employment .because of the utter failure of this Government to encourage primary production. To-day, ships are sailing from Sydney, Melbourne and other ports only half loaded, because sufficient primary products are not coming forward for export, and consequently many waterside workers are now unemployed. Flour mills in my electorate, of which there is a number, are now working Only part time. They find that they cannot carry on at a profit unless they can keep their machinery going for at least 80 hours a week. They cannot make ends meet by working for only 40 hours a week as they are now obliged to do. .The owners and employees of those mills are concerned about the decline of primary production that has occurred under this Government. Situated in my electorate also is,, perhaps,, the .largest shirt factory in Australia1. Within a month, that factory will have run out of supplies of cotton. “ It will have to cease production because it cannot buy more cotton as it has exhausted its quota ; and the Government cannot increase its quota because sufficient primary products are not being exported to provide the wherewithal to import additional cotton. Large numbers of engineering establishments in my electorate are now short of steel and other materials as a result of the restrictions that the Government has imposed on imports.
That policy has been forced upon the Government very largely as a result of its complete failure to do anything to increase primary production. Of all the failures which can be laid at the door of this Government - heaven only knows they are numerous - its failure to increase primary production has had the worst consequences for the Australian people as a whole. The honorable member for Mallee quoted from the Sunraysia Daily. 1. propose to quote certain extracts from that newspaper. Honorable members will recall that not so long ago, when our overseas balances were found to have declined to ‘a remarkable degree, the Prime Minister, in his most mellow tones and with his best oratory, appealed to the wheat-growers to grow more wheat. Of course, that was all that he did about the matter. According to a report published in the Sunraysia Daily by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, wheat production has declined to such a degree that next year Australia will be unable to produce sufficient to enable flour-millers to operate on a profitable basis. Apparently, the Prime Minister’s appeal fell on deaf ears. The wheat-growers want more than sweet words as an incentive to increase production. Sir john Teasdale added -
Millers needed enough wheat to enable them to run their mills for 120 hours a week in order to make a reasonable profit.
Operating for 80 hours millers oan meet posts, but when there is only enough wheat for the mills to run 40 hours, the loss h;is to be made up by a rise in the price of flour.
I ask -members of the Australian Country party and other supporters of the Government, who are rural minded, “What is contained in this budget that will produce one additional grain of wheat?”.
I shall cite other statistics to show the degree to which the Government has failed to encourage primary production. This year, according to the latest statistics, 400,000 fewer acres have been sown to wheat than were sown last year. Perhaps, that is not a matter for wonderment when, as I said earlier, the Government has done nothing to increaseproduction except, through the Prime Minister merely, to appeal to wheatgrowers to grow more wheat. During the twelve months ended the 30th June last, dairying production, which is one of our major sources of exports, declined by 12 per cent. Butter production declined by 17.7 per cent. It is useless for Government supporters to explain that loss of production by talking about the occurrence of droughts in the Northern Territory, because droughts in that part of Australia can have no effect upon the dairying industry.
– That is the only accurate remark that the honorable member has made.
– That interjection reflects an attitude that is typical of not only Government back-benchers, but also the Government itself, which prefers to base its policies on guesswork and to ignore official statistics. When honorable members cite official statistics the Government takes no notice of them. If the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) wants government by guesswork to continue, he will encourage members to refuse to take notice of the economic facts of this country.
I come now to the decline in the number of dairy cattle in Australia since the horror budget of 1951. Members of the Australian Country party are strangely silent whenever this subject is mentioned. The number of dairy cattle has fallen by 4.8 per cent, during the last twelve months to the lowest level since 1932. Beef and veal production has dropped from 652,000 tons to 585,000 tons. The production of mutton has been maintained at only approximately the same level, despite our increase of population. The production of pigmeats has declined from 85.000 tons to 82,000 tons. The total meat production has decreased from about 1,000,000 tons to 943,000 tons. In short, the number of dairy cattle is down by 4.8 per cent.; tha number of beef cattle is down by 1.6 per cent.; and the production of pigmeats has decreased by 9.S per cent., to the lowest level since 1927. This is a matter for concern to every serious-thinking Australian. If the drift is not corrected there will be unemployment, not as we have it to-day, but as we knew it during the worst of the depression year3, and we shall fail completely to meet our obligations to Great Britain and our allies overseas. It will become impossible for our industries to continue to operate, because of the shortage of raw materials. If Australia refuses to accept the responsibility that world events have placed upon it and fails to become one of the major foodproducing areas of the world, we shall be guilty of betraying our trust. This Government will be responsible for running up the white flag. There is an old Irish proverb which says -
If a man misses meals for one day, he will lie; if a man misses meals for two days, he will steal; and if a man misses meals for three days, he will kill.
I commend that proverb to members of the Government, I remind them of the low standard of living of the peoples who live in close proximity to the borders of this country. I am interested in this matter, not only from the point of view of the employment of the people in my electorate, but also because the peace of the world may depend on Australia’s recognition of its role as a food producer. If Australia is not willing to meet its appointment with destiny we shall have to accept responsibility for what takes place in the world in future years. It is of no use our talking about Communist aggression and Soviet imperialism if we are not prepared to accept our responsibility to produce food. On the official figures available since this Government took office, it is quite apparent that we are not meeting our obligations. I challenge the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who speaks so glibly about American production, to place figures relating to our primary production before his colleagues in the Cabinet.
There is a revolutionary idea afoot in Asia. The Asian peasants believed that they, too, have a right to eat and a right to social welfare. It is the duty of the food-producing countries of the world to alleviate the conditions of the Asian people. We are not doing our share. Progressively since this Government has been in office the decline of primary production has been catastrophic. The people of this country expected that the budget would correct that situation. It is not untrue to say that in the deliberations of the British Chiefs of .Staff, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the American Chiefs of Staff, and the ANZUS conference that the Minister for External Affairs attended recently, Australia’s complete failure to face up to its role of a food producer was one of the most important subjects considered. The Minister has not informed honorable members of the explanation that he gave to the representatives of the other countries at the ANZUS conference.
– I was prevented from doing so this morning.
– Perhaps the Minister will tell us when the adjournment motion is moved this evening. In view of the facts that I have mentioned, perhaps he will be able to make his explanation more compelling than it would otherwise have been.
I am in deadly earnest in this matter. The fact that Australia is one of the few countries of the world that are capable of lar.ge-sca.le food production is occupying the attention of the Governments of Great Britain and the United States of America, as well as their service chiefs of staff. They expect that food production in Australia will be increased, in the interests of the preservation of the free world. If the Minister would cease to talk so glibly about a free world, and the preservation of the western democracies, and get down to hard work to increase our basic wealth, we would make much more progress.
The budget contains one or two proposals designed to tickle the fancies of the primary producers, but I fail to see what it- will do to increase production. One proposal is that the primary producers shall get a certain taxation concession in relation to housing accommodation that they provide on their properties.
– That was done last year.
-Yes, but the concession has been extended a little on this occasion. Thousands of immigrants, who are experienced in producing food, are idle in camps in this country because the Government cannot provide employment for them and the farmers do not want them. I cannot understand how the provision of houses on properties will increase primary production by one iota. Quite obviously those immigrants would be prepared to accept any accommodation that was offered to them. The immigrants who are quartered at Bonegilla are not complaining because they have not been provided with four-roomed cottages, complete with all modern conveniences.
– The honorable member would rather that that did not happen ?
– I am entirely in favour of it happening, but honorable members onthis side of the chamber have not been deceived into thinking that it is going to have any marked effect on primary production. The immigrants are break ing their necksto geton to farms, but this Government has neither the wit nor thewilltodoanythingforthem. I am entirely in favour of better conditions for workers in rural industries. The time when a man was paid 30s. a week to work on a farm, and given a blanket on which to sleep on the river bank, has gone. Such conditions should be banished forever. There is only one way that we can fulfil our role inworld affairs. The Minister for External Affairs owns a farming property in an area which enjoys a good rainfall.No doubt within 3 miles or. 4 miles ofhis holding, there are areas of land that are not being used to their full capacity. We cannot wait until the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme has been completed,, or until the Eildon and other dams have been constructed. Increased primary production must be obtained at the first possible moment. The only way in whichto obtain it is to ensure that land in good rainfall areas that at present is notproducing at anything like its full capacity, shall do so.
There hasbeen talk of incentives. The price of butter has alreadybeen increased until it is beyond the capacity of the. ordinary householder to buy it. What effect has thathad on- the dairy-farmers? As the price of butter has gone up, so the production of butter has gone down. There is only one real incentive to produce. It is to give people the means to produce for themselves. But this budget will do nothing to achieve that. The Commonwealth, under the war service land settlement schemeor by grants made to the States, has ample power eitherto under take itself or to ensure that there will be undertaken large-scale land resumption projects, in order that people in this country, Australians and immigrants alike, who want land may obtain it and put it into production.
– In what States could the Commonwealth acquire land?
– TheCommonwealth, under the defence power andits powers in relation to repatriation, could acquire land in anystate if it wanted to doso. Speaking from my own knowledgeofthe Victorian Government and of someother governments I haveno doubt that if this Parliament were prepared to make avail able to them the money that they require to resume land and to settle people upon it, they would not hesitateto acceptthat money. At the moment, the States have neither the necessary money nor the necessary resources. But the Commonwealth hasboth. If one searchesthe budget from beginning to end, one willnot finda proposal to devote a penny pieceto what to my mind, and I am suretothe minds of all serious people, is one of the most urgent tasksthat confront? the nation.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520821_reps_20_218/>.