20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question to the Minister for External Affairs is in connexion with the subject-matter of a recent debate in this House which dealt with flic immunities and privileges of diplomats, especially those in relation to liability for compensation arising out of negligence, in oar driving and the like.
Has the Minister anything to report tothe House about the investigation that hethen foreshadowed at: the request of theOpposition?
– As a result of thematters that were brought forward by the- . Leader of the Opposition during thedebate that he mentioned, I am now in course of giving instructions to our posts abroad that all our officers shall take out third party insurance on motor cars used by thom, whether government or private. Hitherto it has been obligatory on our officers to do so only in countries where it was a governmental rule that such third party insurance should ‘ be taken out. In the future all our officers will take out third party motor ear insurance whether or not it is the custom of the country.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether in view of the proposed visit of certain union delegates from Australia to Moscow to attend a union congress, and in view of the Australian Council of Trades Unions withdrawal from the Communistdominated “World Federation of Trades Unions, he will advise the House of any information that he may have about, first, the delegates and their relationship tothe Australian Council of Trades Unions, and, secondly, the views of the Australian Council of Trades Unions on the congress to be hold in Moscow?
– The only information that I am able to give the House on that matter is what I have gathered from the press. A report appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald, attributed to Mr. Monk, from which I gathered that the unions affiliated with the Australian Council of Trades Unions have been notified that the so-called conference to be held in Moscow had not been endorsed or sponsored in any way by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and in no way carried its approval. Mr. Monk did say, or rather the Australian Council of Trades Unions said, that it did approve the decision of the Government in making passports available to the persons who will attend the conference.
– The question that I wish to ask is, in some respects, related to the question that has been asked by the honorable member for St. George, but I direct my inquiry to the Minister for Supply, because he was in charge of the Department of Immigration when this matter arose. I should like to know whether or not the persons who made application for passports to go to Russia made a declaration to the effect that the intention of their visit was to attend a trade union conference. I ask the question particularly in view of the fact that the applicants have since said that the purpose of their journey is not to enable them to attend a trade union conference.
– My recollection is that the applicants for passports stated that they wished to go to Moscow, at the invitation of trade unionists in Russia. in order to attend a celebration of the thirtyfifth anniversary of the establishment of the Soviet Union. I know that a statement in the press has referred to a trade union conference. I may have been partly responsible for that statement because, having been telephoned at 11.30 p.m. on .Saturday by a representative of a newspaper and asked some rather confused questions, I may have used words that caused the reporter to assume that these persons proposed to attend a conference. Although a conference will doubtless take place, ostensibly they are going to Moscow to attend a celebration.
– Will the Minister for Health state whether an invalid pensioner who has been asked to pay excess hospital charges amounting to £21 will be expected to pay that sum from his small pension or is entitled to refuse- to pay it? If he is entitled to refuse to pay the amount, does that ruling hold good for all pensioners?
– The hospital treatment of pensioners is ultimately a matter for the State government concerned. However, this Government makes available to the State government a sum of 12s. a day for every pensioner who is ti patient in an approved hospital, without any question of hospital insurance.
– In view of the fact flint five months have elapsed since the list of the approved organizations that were then registered under the hospital benefits regulations was published in the press and- also in view of the fact that many people have joined similar organizations that are not registered and therefore will not be eligible to receive all the hospital benefits payable by the Government, will the Minister for Health consider inserting further advertisements in the press in the capital cities and in provincial newspapers in order that people will not make the mistake of subscribing to an organization which they believe, to be registered but which, in fact, is not registered ?
– The honorable member will be pleased to learn that arrangements have already been made with the advertising section of the Department of the Treasury which handles these matters to publish advertisements of the kind that he has mentioned and that these advertisements will appear in the press within the next few days. The delay in taking this action has been due to the difficulty of obtaining adequate space simultaneously in all the newspapers involved.
– Oan the Minister for Health say whether there is any truth in a statement, attributed to the Minister for Health in the New South Wales Government, to the effect that this Government, has refused to permit retired mine workers to participate in the Commonwealth hospital benefits scheme because it has refused to pay a subsidy in respect of such persons while they are inmates of a hospital? Does that ban apply also to retired Commonwealth and State employees who do not come within the scope of social services benefits’ Mine workers and many employees of the Crown are retired compulsorily at the agc of 60 years. Does the Government intend to penalize pensioners in those classes by refusing to extend to them subsidies that are enjoyed by other classes of pensioners? If so, is that the way in which the Government intends to show its appreciation of retired mine workers for increased coal production, and of other pensioners for a lifetime of good service to all governments?
– The matter that has been raised by the honorable gentleman comes within the province of tl»
State governments. At the present time, under an agreement that the Commonwealth has concluded with New South Wales, hospitals in that State are entitled to a payment of Ss. a day in respect of every in-patient, irrespective of whether In? pays or not. That was the position when the Labour party was in office.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware of a suggestion said to have been made by the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that the Government should endeavour to buy the island of New Caledonia from France? Has the Government considered the suggestion, and lias it formed any such intention?
– I am aware of such a proposal, but the Government has not given any consideration to it. New Caledonia has been a member of the French Union for a long time. From memory, I think the period is about 100 years. I do not believe for. a moment that the French people would welcome any suggestion that the island be purchased by Australia or any other country. I am certain that any matters of business to be conducted in respect of New Caledonia can be carried out adequately by this Government and the Government of France. Australia, of course, respects the sovereignty of New Caledonia and has no proposal in mind that would disturb that sovereignty.
– Will the Minister for Social Services accept an invitation from the West Sydney Federal Electorate Council of the Australian Labour party, to be present at a pensioners’ dance, which will be held in the Sydney Town Hall, on .Saturday night, the 18 tl- October, should he be in Sydney on that date?
– Order ! I think the proper approach to that matter is to send an invitation to the Minister.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether it is a fact that payment of social services benefits, particularly unemployment and sickness benefits, is not available for at least four weeks after application? Can the Minister arrange to have this money paid, in authorized cases, within one week?
– It is not correct to say that social services benefits are not available until four week after application. The Social Services Consolidation Act requires that a. person shall wait seven days before the application becomes effective, and after that the matter is delayed, as a rule, only until the following payday. If the honorable member has any outstanding cases in mind I shall be pleased to investigate them.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform the House whether the British Centurion tanks, which Australia has imported, are proving satisfactory here, as they have in other countries, particularly under tropical conditions?
– The Centurion tanks, which Ave have imported from Great Britain, are regarded as the best tanks in the world. To date, we have used them only for training, and I hope that they will not need to be used for any other purpose.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation to the fact that for some time past the aerodrome at Armidale has been closed because of objections to the nature of the ground, and the shortness of the runway. Has the attention of the Minister been- directed to the fact that, recently, a public-spirited body of citizens has been inquiring into the matter, and has succeeded in obtaining from certain landowners permission for an exchange which will not cost the department anything but will give the extended runways which it desires? If his attention has been directed to the fact will he expedite the matter? If ‘his attention has not been directed to the matter, will he have inquiries made urgently into it?
– I have no personal knowledge of this matter, but I shall bring it to the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– When dates are being decided for Citizen Military Forces camps in which national service trainees carry out their annual periods of continuous training, will the Minister for the Army ensure that where possible the dates selected will not interfere with the busy seasonal activities of the primary industries ? Will he also ensure that, if such a decision is made, the relevant instructions are thoroughly understood by the officers in charge of training in the various States.
– It is the policy of the Department of the Army to ensure that all camps of continuous training are held at times that shall cause the least inconvenience in respect of the civil activities of personnel coming within the category that the honorable member has mentioned. The commanding officer of every unit is under obligation to carry out this policy. This matter is raised with the company commander in the course of every inspection that is made at these camps, and from reports that follow such inspections the army authorities are capable of ascertaining whether the camps are being held at times that are convenient to that personnel involved. Suitable action is taken in instances in which it 13 found that this policy is not being observed. It is the intention of the Government to give to every one an opportunity to attend these camps by ensuring that they shall be held at suitable times.
– Seeing that the construction of a war service home of brick or other permanent material, of the modest dimension of twelve and a half squares, now costs over £3,500, will the Minister for Social Services consider removing the barrier which now prevents an eligible person from receiving finance from the War Service Homes Division for the purpose of purchasing a house that costs more than £3,500.
-I shall be pleased to give consideration to the matter that the honorable member has raised.
– Having regard to the fact that parity in waiting time for the allocation of houses to applicants on the governmental and nongovernmental lists in Canberra has now been achieved, can the Minister for the Interior announce the discontinuance of separate lists for the registration of applicants for the tenancy of houses in the Australian Capital Territory and thus abolish the distinction that is now made between government and nongovernmental employees?
– I am not aware of the details of the matter that the honorable member has raised, but I shall certainly give it consideration. However, I know that Ave are still about 2,000 houses short of requirements in Canberra and that we are not likely to make up more than from 700 to 800 houses of the leeway this year.
– As it is the Government’s intention to dispose of the machinery of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool that is now operating in Brisbane and in certain districts in Queensland and to sell all the equipment to private enterprise, and as the pool now employs approximately 100 ex-servicemen, will the Minister for Supply take the necessary action to guarantee the absorption in other government undertakings of all ex-servicemen who may be dismissed ns a result of such action?
– In the first place, I wish to say that the Government does not intend to dispose of all this equipment to private enterprise, as the honorable member has alleged. The policy of the Government upon this matter has been stated in this House several times, and there is no need for me to repeat it now. As to the remainder of the question, I shall have it examined and shall see whether I can give the honorable gentleman a suitable reply.
-Will the Prime Minister say whether the statements of prominent
Australian scientists, who were present at the explosion of the atom bomb at Monte Bello last week, regarding the urgent necessity for an immediate start to be made on the decentralization of Australian cities for defence purposes, have been brought to his notice? If they have, I ask him whether he will give consideration to having an examination made of the defence powers of the Government in order to ascertain whether the Government can assist in such decentralization. Above all, will he give an undertaking that the power supplies to be provided by the Snowy Mountain? hydro-electric power scheme will not be diverted to either Sydney or Melbourne, but will be used for the development of the Murray Valley area ?
– The statements to which the honorable member has referred have not been brought to my notice.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that the labour position in Victoria has improved quite considerably in the last few weeks, and whether this is the result of increased State public works, in particular greater employment at the Eildon Weir? Is the employment at the Eildon Weir likely to increase in the near future?
– I understand that there has been some addition to the labour force on the project at Eildon Weir. Speaking generally, the position, as outlined by the Prime Minister for the . Commonwealth, obtains also as far as Victoria is concerned. It was anticipated by the Government that from this period onwards there would be some lift in the economy, and that expectation appears to be in process of realization.
– Will the Minister for Social Services state the number of unemployed persons registered with his department who are receiving the unemployment benefit? Will he also indicate how many, if any, are registered with his department for work, and are not in receipt of the benefit?
– I can give the honorable member those figures. The latest figures I have show that 26,699 persons are registered, and are receiving the unemployment benefit. During a corresponding period in 1949, 42,639 persons were registered as unemployed, or nearly twice as many as are registered at present.
– Is the Prime Minister, as leader of the Government, in a position to inform the House whether Cabinet has yet given consideration to a report from the Joint Coal Board which recommends the closure of certain open-cuts and coal mines? If consideration has been given to that report, is the right honorable gentleman in a position to assure the House, and the mine-workers, that mines will not be closed and that full employment will be assured to those in the industry whose record-breaking production feats are responsible for our surplus supplies of coal? Further, will the Prime Minister tell the House the purpose of the visit overseas of the chairman of the Joint Coal Board and other members of a delegation that has gone abroad? Finally, will action be taken to expedite the establishment of facilities for the export of coal to existing markets.
– I obviously cannot answer by the book in relation to the last two questions put by the honorable member, but I shall ask my colleague, the Minister for National Development, to provide me with an answer in relation to them. Although I have not, myself, seen the report that has been furnished by the Joint Coal Board to the Minister for National Development who has it now under examination. He told me to-day what he was doing in relation to it, and informed me that probably by the time of the next Cabinet meeting he would be in a position to put before Cabinet not only the report but also his own comments and recommendations in relation to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the fact that there are British possessions in Malaya, Borneo and the Solomon Islands, all having significance in the defence of Australia, do the Anzus defence discussions ignore those areas, or does the Minister expect the British to come on summons when those areas are discussed ?
– A question of that sort cannot be adequately dea.lt with in answer to a question without notice.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, refers to the fact that deductions for income tax purposes in the case of a taxpayer’s children are less for children subsequent t,o the first child. On what principle are the deductions applied? Has the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation considered this matter, and if not will the Treasurer ask the committee to consider it with a view to encouraging larger families by placing the deductions on a scale which increases from the first child?
– The reason for the differentiation in sustenance allow- ances for income tax purposes is due to the different child endowment payments. Five shillings is paid in respect of the first child in each family, and 10s. in respect of all the others.
– My question to the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral, relates to the dismissal of men from the Austral Standard Cables Proprietary Limited of Port Kembla, where copper cable is made for the Postal Department. Is it a fact that more employees are to be dismissed on account of lack of orders, while persons who desire to have telephones installed are being informed that the shortage of underground cable is responsible for the refusal of the Postal Department to install new telephones? Will the Minister give instructions that more cable be ordered so that unemployed men can be reemployed, and the department can install new telephones?
– Three weeks ago I told the honorable member the exact quantities specified in the contracts that had been made for the current year. Those are the maximum quantities of lead-covered cable that can be ordered this year, and they are the quantities that are regularly obtained from that company.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government endorses the view of the Australian Council of Trades Unions that Australia’s present economic position does not warrant any reduction of wages or increase of the hours of work?
– I have previously made it clear and need, therefore, merely reiterate, that the Government is taking no sides in the proceedings before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is adopting the attitude that the court is the judge of these matters, and that, whatever information it is within the power of the Government to produce and that the court desires to have, the Government will produce. In other words, the Government takes exactly the same attitude in relation to these proceedings as its predecessor did, for a part of the time, in relation to the previous proceedings.
– When does the Minister for External Affairs propose to make a further statement to the House in connexion with his so far unsupported allegation that a nest of traitors exists in the Public Service?
Question not answered.
– Does the Minister for Supply know anything of the complaint that certain South African journalists, who recently visited Australia, were given a haphazard visit to Woomera and saw nothing there, and that the visit was a waste of time? Is that complaint true?
– The complaint was brought to my attention and I was pleased with it in that it indicated that the Government’s security arrangements at Woomera were working satisfactorily. Before the South African journalists left Australia, I had the pleasure of being present at a party that was given to them, and one of them raised the matter with me then. I pointed out then, as I do now, that, before the journalists went to Woomera, they were told that their visit must necessarily be restricted and that they went on those terms. I am pleased to say that most of them were glad that they did so.
– I ash the Treasurer whether the lifting of credit controls from to-day means that the Government, having caused unemployment in all secondary industries, in the coal-mining industry, and on housing projects, and having closed down all types of public works-
Mi-. SPEAKER. - Order ! The honorable! member is making statements of alleged facts instead of asking a question.
– Does the. Government now realize that its financial restrictions have proved to bc the disastrous failure that the Opposition prophesied?
Question not answered.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I should like to know whether it may now be regarded as settled Treasury practice that all popular Treasury announcements are to be made by the Prime Minister, and all unpopular ones by the Treasurer?
Question not answered.
– I ask the Prime Minister to state whether his announcement about the lifting of bank credit controls applies only to Australia, or whether consideration has been given also to easing the position of persons who wish to import small quantities of goods from overseas. If that matter has not been considered, can consideration be given to it?
– As I understand the question, the honorable gentleman wants to know whether the announcement affects import restrictions in any way. Import restrictions were not dealt with at all in the announcement. It was concerned only with what has been called bank advance policy. The future of import restrictions will, of course, be very largely governed by circumstances as they arise. The announcement had no relation to them. While I am referring to the announcement with reference to bank advance policy, I should like to say, having regard to an attempt that was made earlier to-day to attack the
Opposition members interjecting,
– I gather that honorable members opposite prefer that I should not tell them the truth.
– Make a statement afterwards.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong - Prime Minister)- - hy leave - The Treasurer, at the time when the announcement with reference to bank advance policy was ripe, was absent in Queensland on very important private affairs.
– “ Ripe “ is the word.
– “ Ripe “ was the word that I used. I thought it most appropriate.
– Where was the Treasurer - at the Telegraph office?
– He was absent on something that the honorable member does not possess - private business, and very important private business, too. I made the announcement at his special request, not by way of substitution for him. The Treasurer said that the matter was so important that he felt it ought to be made the subject of a Government announcement from here. Therefore, he asked me whether I would make it. If honorable members opposite had read the terms of the announcement, they would have seen that this question has been under discussion between the Treasurer and the Commonwealth Bank for a considerable time. In fact, at all times during the last month or two the Treasurer has kept this problem very actively under consideration, and has made it the subject of active discussion with the bank. He was good enough to invite me to attend the last one or two conferences that he had with the bank about it, because it had some relation to overall Government policy.
In the result, the views of the bank, the views of the Treasurer and my own views completely coincided. The honorable member for Melbourne is so anxious about the Flinders by-election that in a question of which he was asked to give notice, he even dragged in the name of a director of the bank as a voter in that electorate. I want to tell him that the decision taken on this matter represented the unanimous view of the Commonwealth Bank Board, of the Treasurer and of myself. I myself think - and the terms of my public announcement were so couched - that at a time when all sorts of offensive attacks arc being made on the Treasurer, this is :i matter in respect of which he ought to have full recognition on all sides of the House and throughout the country.
– by leave - The Prime Minister has entirely misconstrued the purpose of the questions, which were not directed against the Treasurer but were directed against the way in which this announcement was made. If this change, not of bank policy, but of the Common.wealth Bank’s advances policy, produces satisfactory results for industry, and in relation to employment, then everybody will welcome it, and we on this side of the House shall welcome it most of all. However, the point that must occur to any one who is conversant with the trend in relation to advances, and also with the position in respect to employment and industry, which everybody knows has been deteriorating for some months, is that this announcement has been made in respect of a policy which no longer is the obstacle between the citizen and the obtaining of advances. It is no longer a matter of the Commonwealth Bank’s advances policy. That is not the restriction which applies to people who wish to build homes, maintain their industries or develop their credit. It has reached a new stage where the recession has caused, at the level of the banks themselves, a difficulty in obtaining sufficient credits. That matter, therefore, has to be examined in the light of ihe contentions of the Opposition. It is a most extraordinary coincidence that the announcement was made ten days before the holding of a vital by-election. I think that it is not a coincidence, but that the announcement was of a purely political character.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his intervention! in the Treasurer’s discussions with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank im relation to the relaxation of credit restrictions was in any way responsible for the decision to lift the restrictions. Is It a fact that the Prime Minister was in complete accord with the Government’s original decision to impose credit restrictions? Is it not also a fact that the Treasurer, and not the Prime Minister, was primarily responsible for having the restrictions lifted?
– I was entirely in agreement with the original decision to impose credit restrictions, just as I have been entirely in agreement with every decision made on financial or other matters by the present Government. Let there be no misunderstanding about that. Perhaps the honorable member for Hindmarsh was not in the House when I spoke a few minutes ago and. I thought,, indicated that the discussions with the bank had been primarily initiated, and were conducted, by the Treasurer, whoinvited me to be present at them. I entirely agreed with his view and with> the ultimate conclusion.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government’s decision, to relax credit restrictions was based oni its claim that inflation has now been halted? If it was so based, will theright honorable gentleman .take steps- te advise the Commonwealth Arbitration Court of the Government’s opinion, on inflation so that the court maybe in possession of it when it iS determining its attitude to the request of the employers for lower wages an<T longer working hours for workers, whichis based on a claim that inflation still continues.
– The Government hasbeen saved the trouble of conveying tothe Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration its belief that theeconomy is in a healthy state fundamentally, because that case is alreadybeing put with great vigour by the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is a fact that Australia’s representative at the recent International Monetary Conference held in America has now returned to Australia? If so, does the Prime Minister intend to make a statement to the House about the impressions conveyed to the Government by the report of its Australian representative?
– Dr. Wilson, who attended the conference, has now returned to Australia. As to whether there is a report that can be made - and I appreciate the honorable member’s particular interest in this matter - I shall consult with the Treasurer. I shall also ascertain whether anything can be said about the nature of the representations made and their results.
– I ask the Prime Minister to inform the House whether the announcement of the removal of credit restrictions was made more suddenly than the announcement of the depreciation of the Australian ?1 made by the Chifley Government when Labour,, unfortunately for Australia, was occupying the Government bench and when the present Leader of the Opposition was supposedly a responsible Minister in that Government?
– The speed was not dissimilar in each case. Each decisionappears to have been open to argument, tout I do not remember as much anguish in the House at that time as there is at present.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Government has yet made a decision in relation to the rate of interest at which the money to be provided under the Loan (Housing) Bill that this House passed last week is to be advanced’ to State governments for the purposes of housing? At present, the money is advanced to them at 3 per cent. Does the Government intend to increase that rate?
– The conditions that apply to such advances, including the terms of repayment, the use to which the money is to be put, and the rate of interest to be charged, are all subject to an. agreement, signed, sealed and delivered, between this Government and the State governments.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). I have received from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely
The failure of the Government to prevent an increase in interest rates for overdrafts, mortgages, loans to co-operative housing societies and interest rates generally, which failurehas accentuated the inflationary spiral, and added heavy additional financial burden? particularly to small business and people purchasing their own homes.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
.- Had there been any need for an indication of the necessity for a discussion of the Government’s failure to prevent an increase of interest rates, that indication was provided only a few minutes ago in the answer that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) gave to my question in relation to the rate of interest at which money is to be provided for the State governments under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The Treasurer said that the rate of interest was determined by the agreement. He should know that the agreement provides that the rate shall not exceed the rate for current loans being raised in Australia and that the actual decision in relation to the rates to be charged to the various housing commissions of the States is a matter for this Government to decide. The Treasurer’s reply indicates either that he does not know the provisions that govern the advancing of money to the States for the purposes of housing, or that the Government intends to increase the rate, which is now 3 per cent., and thus heap tremendous burdens on persons who will rent housing commission homes in the States. An additional1/2 per cent. interest would add 5s. a week to the rent charged to every person who will occupy any new housing commission homes.
There was no alignment between the Treasurer and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to decide who should havethe honour of announcing increased interest rates, as there was. in relation to the announcement of the lifting of credit controls. Strangely enough, the decision to increase interest rates - one of the most important economic decisions that could be made - was not even mentioned in this House by the Treasurer. No statement was made on behalf of the Government, and the only notification that appeared in the press was an announcement by the Commonwealth Bank that the controls that previously had been exercised under the terms of the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations over rates of interest on mortgages, overdrafts, loans to co-operative housing societies, and so forth, had been lifted and that, in their place, there was some sort of an agreement amongst the banks that they would not permit the general rate of interest on overdrafts to increase beyond 5 . per cent., which represents an addition of i per cent, to current rates. The decision to increase interest rates was just as much a decision of this Government as was the decision to discontinue credit controls. Authority in relation to such matters is vested in the Government and, lest the Treasurer should try to provide himself with an alibi, I quote the appropriate provision from the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations, which is as follows : -
Subject to any direction of the Treasurer, the Commonwealth Bank may, by order published in the Gazette, fix maximum rates of interest .
Therefore, there can be no doubt that the responsibility for the decision to increase interest rates rests with the Government. Whether the Treasurer or the Prime Minister happens to be individually responsible is of no importance to me. The simple fact is that responsibility rests with the Government. I suppose that we can say truthfully that it rests with every member of the Government. This decision makes the protestations by honorable members opposite of their eagerness to enable everybody to own his own home appear to be just so much nonsense. The members of the Government parties in this House last week made all sorts of declarations about home ownership, and the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) propounded a scheme for the granting of loans to home builders at an interest rate of 2$ per cent. Those declarations appear in a totally different light when they are considered in relation to the facts that I have stated.
Let us consider the effect of the decision to increase interest rates upon persons who are endeavouring to buy houses at present. The decision means that they will be required to find anything up to £400 over and above the amounts that they had estimated. All the crocodile tears shed by Government supporters, and all the excuses of the Treasurer, will not disguise that fact from the persons who will have to carry the burden. An increase of the interest rate by £ per cent, will apply from the date of the change to all outstanding balances owed by persons who are buying their homes under cooperative housing schemes. According to the secretary of a group of a dozen cooperative building societies in Melbourne, the increased rate of interest will add a poultice of £350 to the outlay of a person who has obtained a loan of £2,000 in order to build a house. The burden will be even greater for applicants who have borrowed £2,340, which is the maximum amount permissible in Victoria. Hundreds of thousands of persons throughout Australia, after a great deal of heart searching and calculation of their probable resources in the future, have decided to buy houses under mortgage, through co-operative housing schemes, or under the Credit Foncier system. When they made their decisions, they had overtime earnings that would help them meet their commitments, and they at least felt certain of having employment. But to-day, after having made their decisions notwithstanding an increase of building costs by about 100 per cent., many of them find themselves without employment, almost all of the others are without the overtime earnings that they obtained previously, and now they are loaded with an additional indebtedness up to as much as £400 each as a result of the Government’s decision on interest rates. Those unfortunate people have been loaded with that fine by this Government.
Many persons, at least in Victoria, have been prevented by the Government’s action from taking advantage of the cooperative housing scheme. Under the law of that State as it existed previously, the total repayment of principal and interest was taken into account in calculating the income which a person needed to have before an advance could be granted to him. Before the Government decided to increase interest rates, a person could borrow £2,000 provided his income exceeded £12 15s. a week. Now, as the result of the Government’s decision, his income must exceed £13 10s. a week before he may borrow £2,000. Consequently, many persons in receipt of small incomes who, by their thrift and care, would have been able to purchase their homes are now excluded, as the result of the Government’s decision, from the benefits of the co-operative housing scheme and from the possibility of owning their homes. Previously, a person who sought to obtain a loan of £2,340, which is the amount that is needed to purchase any kind of a substantial house in these days, required an income exceeding £15 2s. a week. As the result of the Government’s decision to increase interest rates, a person, in order to obtain a loan from a Victorian co-operative housing society, must have an income of at least £16 4s. 8d. a week. Consequently, large numbers of people have been excluded from the operations of co-operative housing societies and will be prevented from purchasing their homes, solely as the result of the decision of the Government to increase interest rates.
When we consider precisely the proportion represented by interest in the purchase of a home on terms, we can recognize the importance of the Government’s decision. Under the Victorian cooperative housing scheme, the repayment of a loan of approximately £2,000 at per cent, per annum required £3,630. With, the increase of interest rates the repayment will require £3,971. In other words, the interest payments are approximately equal to the cost of the house. Those figures will enable honorable members to see the actual part that interest plays in the purchase of a home. Any movement of interest rates, particularly an increase, is of the greatest concern to the purchasers of homes, and to persons who are contemplating matrimony or are endeavouring to have families. Interest rates should not be increased without the gravest reasons. The alibis which will be produced by the Treasurer will lie entirely flimsy, and will not bear critical examination.
– The honorable member for Yarra has not yet heard the Treasurer’s explanation.
– That is quite true, because the Treasurer has not given an explanation to the House of the Government’s decision to increase interest rates. On a. matter of such economic importance, the Treasurer should have made the announcement of the Government’s policy to this House, and provided an opportunity for us to debate it. He should at least have extended to the Parliament and the people the courtesy of giving the reasons which actuated the Government in reaching its decision on this matter. After a great deal of search, I managed to find in the Insurance and Banking Record a statement outlining the reasons given as justifying the increase of interest rates. The first reason was that banking costs had increased. Presumably, we are expected to believe that, because the banks were faced with increased wages and costs, they were entitled to increase their overdraft rates and thereby impose an additional burden on industry, particularly small businesses, the activities of which are financed mainly by overdraft. The increase will load a burden of £3,000,000 upon industry, including many small businesses. Yet we are told that the increase is justified because the banks have been having a hard time.
I have looked at the balance-sheets of the banks, and I find that, according to the Commonwealth Bank’s own statement, the profits of the financial institutions have increased. What is more, I find that all the principal banks have shown substantial increases in profits in the last three years. Therefore, that reason, which was given in justification for the imposition of this tremendous burden upon small businesses and purchasers of homes, is entirely unjustified. The National Bank of Australasia Limited, which is one of our largest financial institutions, had a net profit of £540.000 in 1949. That profit was increased to £594,000 in 1950, and to £609,000 in 1951. I emphasize that those figures were the net profits, which were made after the bank had salted away money in replacements, depreciation’, &c. The Bank of New South Wales had a profit of £744,000 in 1949, and £848,000 in 1950. Last year its profit further increased to £954,000. The financial statements of the other banks tell a similar tale. Obviously, even if the banks had any sort of a case for an increase of rates, the duty which this Government owes to the people who are buying their homes, to small businessmen who are endeavouring to make both ends meet, and to the community as a whole to stop inflation by preventing this added cost on industry, should have far outweighed any consideration of shareholders in private banks who were looking for extra dividends.
The second alibi produced by the Treasurer was that the fall in price of Government bonds, which, incidentally, results in a much greater yield from government securities than previously, made it necessary to increase bank rates and the .rates for advances to co-operative bousing societies in order to bring them more into line with the yield from government securities. The Treasurer said, in effect, ,” Because the economy is in such a state, because the people of Australia have lost confidence in the Government, and because we govern by guesswork instead of by a national economic plan, the loan market has collapsed, and as the result of our incompetence, and our inability to keep the economy stable, we are justified in increasing interest rates “. T should have thought that, in view of the effect of an increase of interest rates, this Government would have endeavoured to restore stability to the bond market and the economy, so as to bring the yields from other government securities down to the low rate of interest previously in operation. I know that the Treasurer will reply, in effect, “ That is true. We should have liked to do all those things, but after all, you must realize that this Government took over from the wicked Chifley Government, which had left th, economy in a terrible mess “.
– Hear, hear !
– I expect that the Treasurer will advance that kind of excuse when he replies in a few minutes. But before he does so, I ask him to consider one important fact. If the “wicked Chifley Government “ left the economy in such an appalling mess, as is alleged,, and as the honorable, member forMcMillan (Mr. Brown) has told theelectors of Flinders in the past few weeks-
– Order ! The by- election in Flinders is not under discussion.
– In view of the Treasurer’s alibis. I ask him to providea satisfactory explanation of how he wasable to convert a loan of £125,000,000’ from 4 per cent, to 3£ per cent, in August,. 1951. That statement is recorded in< Hansard of the 30th October last. The right honorable gentleman made that statement outlining that conversion more than a year after the wicked Chifley Labour-socialist Government had left office. So distressful was the state of economy when the LabourGovernment left office that more than a. year later the present Treasurer was able to persuade people to reinvest their money in a loan at a lower rate of interest than hitherto.
– Be honest.
– I am quoting the figuresgiven by the Treasurer in his budget, speech on the 30th October, 1951. I should like the right honorable gentlemanto explain how he was able to convert theloan at a lower interest rate if his statements about the condition in which theChifley Labour Government left the economy were correct. He made thefollowing statement in his budget speech last year: -
In April,’ 1947, it was found possible to issueloans at 3i per cent.
At that time, the Labour Government was in office. The Treasurer added -
Subsequently, eight conversion loans werefloated at the rate of 3i per cent, with satisfactory results and it was usual for cash loansto be over-subscribed.
In those words, the Treasurer himself indicated the state of the economy at thetime when the Australian Labour party left office. I ask the right honorable gentleman to take steps even now with the object of coping with the tremendous additional burdens that have been imposed upon the Australian people as a result of the Government’s decision to increase rates of interest. I suppose that the Government will advance the additional alibi - I believe that the Treasurer has actually used this argument - that while private investors were able to obtain an adequate return by investing in domestic securities they could not be expected to invest in Commonwealth loans. Yet, according to the Commonwealth Bani the yield from domestic securities has fallen to a greater degree than that from investment in governmental securities. I trust that the Government will take suitable notion as a result of this debate.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It i3 extraordinary that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) should submit this subject for discussion at this stage when he and every member of the Opposition, as well as every person who is capable of reading, knew that rates of interest were increased on the 28th July last. But, like Rip van Winkle, the honorable member has been asleep. It is obvious that the Opposition is now attempting to arouse certain suspicions in order to gain some party political advantage in relation to an event that is due to occur within the next fortnight. The action of the. honorable gentleman will deceive nobody. If the honorable member for Yarra were sincere in the protestations that he has just uttered, he would have uttered them as soon as he could do so after the 28th July lust, on which date the announcement was made that rates of interest would be increased.
The honorable member referred to the Chifley Government’s methods of finance and claimed that that Government succeeded in obtaining all the loan money that it required at a rate of interest of 3$ per cent. He said that all of that Government’s loans were fully subscribed and that all of its conversion loans were successful. I can refute the honorable member’s argument in that respect by pointing out that at the time those loans were raised the financial and economicpolicy of the Chifley Government was ^ based on restrictions and controls of all’ kinds. Wages were pegged and prices controls and capital issues control were strictly administered with the result that investment was diverted to Government securities. Was it any wonder that Commonwealth loans were fully subscribed in such circumstances? If similar circumstances existed to-day, all Commonwealth loans would be fully subscribed without difficulty. Are members of the Opposition prepared to come out and say frankly that in order to achieve a similar result this Government should re-impose the controls that the Chifley Government maintained and which were based upon the pegging of wages. If that is what they desire, they should say so frankly. One cannot compare a free economy in normal times with conditions that exist to-day when, unfortunately, although we are not at war we are not at peace, either. One cannot compare a free economy, either, with conditions under which it. was necessary to divert man-power and1 money for war purposes. The loan successes of the Chifley Government, about, which the honorable member has boasted, were due to the conditions that operated at that particular time.
On the 28th July last, the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations that fixed the maximum rates of interest were revoked. That action was taken following a prolonged and exhaustive examination by the Commonwealth Bank Board which conveyed the results of its examination to me, as Treasurer, in. which capacity I was responsible for the administration of Part 4 of those regulations. The Government accepted the advice of the board that it was inevitable that interest rates should rise. Therefore, the Government agreed to the withdrawal! of the previous order. However, such, action did not mean that the control of interest rates was surrendered completely. Control is still being maintained overrates of interest in respect of . bank. deposits, and lending rates by informal agreement between the Commonwealth . Bank and the private trading banks..
Control over certain rates is still maintained under capital issues control. However, apart from those aspects, the Commonwealth was relying upon the exercise of the defence power to control certain of the other non-banking rates and no case existed for continuing control of such rates. Broadly speaking, the rise in interest rates was the outcome of a market situation which had been developing for a considerable period during which the demands of government, semi-government, and local government authorities and private business and individual borrowers for finance had become greatly in excess of the funds that were available. It was a case of supply and demand. Not only were higher rates necessary in order to induce investors to lay out their investable funds in these directions, as they would do particularly in respect of loans for housing purposes, but such increases were also unavoidable.
The central bank’s holdings of Commonwealth securities, including treasurybills, for example, rose from £110,000,000 as at the 30th June, 1951, to £206,000,000 as at the 30th June, 1952. However, continued expansion of credit tends to feed inflation, and if inflation had been allowed to continue unchecked it would have had disastrous effects upon the economy generally, and, because of rising costs which it involves, it would have had similar effects upon small businesses and home builders particularly. In order to avoid the disastrous effects of inflation, expansion of central bank credit had to be kept within reasonable limits. This also meant that some increase of interest rates had to be accepted. The Government had to choose between adding to the costs and difficulties of governments, businesses, and home builders through aggravating inflation to a great degree or allowing some rise in interest rates. It had to choose between allowing inflation to go through the roof or increasing interest rates in order to stabilize the general position of the investable market for the utilization of funds according to the law of supply and demand. In those circumstances, only one course remained open to the Government. However, a rise in interest rates does not immediately burden all home builders.
Some loans are made on fixed terms and interest can be revised only at set intervals. In other instances, the increased interest burden is taken up by extending the period of repayment. For example, an increase of rates of building societies from 4 pei1 cent, to 4-J per cent, extends the period of repayment by approximately three years.
– I rise to order. The right honorable gentleman is reading his speech, and I submit that he is not in order in doing so.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is in order in refreshing his memory from copious notes.
– It is extraordinary, when a Minister is dealing with so complex a matter, that an honorable member should object to the use of copious notes. It is obvious that members of the Opposition do not desire that I should place the facts before the House.
The market pressures resulting from the great increase of demands for funds ha,3, step by step, brought about an increase of the rates of interest on loan.? of various types. The first evidence of these pressures was the fall of prices of existing Commonwealth bonds, as holders sold them to obtain the funds that they required. As a result of these selling pressures and of the rise of the market bond yield, in August, 1951, the Australian Loan Council was forced to increase the rate of interest on its public loan flotation to 3f per cent., compared with 3$ per cent, for previous loans. The circumstances that prevailed when those previous loans were floated enabled money to be raised at favorable rates of interest. The policy of restriction and control adopted by the previous Government made a diversion of investable funds possible only in the class of security covered by Commonwealth loans. The higher rates of interest fixed by the Australian Loan Council, which comprises representatives of the States and of the Commonwealth, was necessary to bring the price of the new securities into line with the price at which old securities could be obtained on the stock exchange. Otherwise, no funds at all could have been attracted to the new securities.
Later, the Australian. Loan Council found it necessary, in order to maintain the appropriate margin between the Commonwealth bond rate and rates of interest on semi-governmental and local authority loans, to raise the rate for the latter loans. They had to be brought into harmony with Commonwealth securities. In September, 1951, the interest rate on loans issued by semi-governmental and local government authorities was increased to .£4 2s. 6d. per cent. However, the selling pressure in the Commonwealth bond market continued, and the bond rate continued to rise. The inevitable result was that, recently, the Australian Loan Council found it necessary to approve flotations for semi-governmental and local government authorities at rates of interest up to £4 12s. 6d. per cent. Otherwise, those authorities would not have obtained the money that they required to carry out their functions, and chaos and unemployment would have been caused. Even at that rate, some authorities havenot been able to attract the funds that they require. A number of loans just closed, including one floated by the Brisbane City Council, have been heavily undersubscribed
The excessive weight of demands for funds in relation to the funds being made available by investors was not being felt only in the governmental fields. Lenders were shunning also other fields in which interest rates were being held at previous levels. The difficulties that were caused can be illustrated particularly well by reference to the activities of the insurance companies. Faced with the losses caused by large and rapid increases of costs, the insurance companies, which have always constituted a great lending market, were forced progressively to seek more profitable avenues for their accruals of investable funds. This led to a diminution of their investments, not only in government securities but also in housing loans and the like, and to an increase of their investments in more profitable holdings such as equities. In recent months, as a result of the movement in interest rates, the insurance companies have tended to move back to the markets that they were deserting.
Moreover, the rise in the Commonwealth bond rate had introduced some imbalance into the structure of interest rates generally, and this aggravated the position of those kinds of loans, the interest rate for which had not followed suit. Thus, circumstances similar to those that were developing in the field of government borrowing were developing also in respect of loans for housing and private business. In 195.1, the State Savings Bank of Victoria raised its rate of interest on Credit Foncier housing loans from 3$ per cent, to 4-j per cent. Not long after that, the capital issues administration found that it was faced with the choice of allowing private borrowers to pay up to 5 per cent, on housing mortgage loans, compared with the pre-existing rate of 4^ per cent., or of depriving them of the ability to obtain the housing mortgage finance that they required. Similarly, business firms were finding it impossible to obtain debenture and mortgage money at the ruling rate of 4-j per cent.
Further pressures come from overseas. The trend towards higher interest rates has been world-wide. It had not been confined to Australia. For instance, in November, 1951, the bank rate in London was raised from 2 per cent, to 2i per cent., and in March, 1952, it was raised again to 4 per cent. Overdraft rates rose in consonance, and bank rates on overdraft business in London are now about 5 per cent. [Extension of time granted.] These rates had a steadying effect upon inflation there; but they took the interest rate structure in the United Kingdom out of line with ours. Consequently, there was a danger that money would flow from Australia to London in order to gain a higher return. We had to keep our interest rates in consonance with competing rates overseas, in order to discourage or prevent the flight of money from this country to more favorable fields of investment. Even now, interest rates in Australia are, compared with pre-war rates, still relatively low. In the years immediately prior to 1931, when the Scullin Government was in office, the majority of banks charged rates of interest of about 7 per cent, or even S per cent.
– The Scullin Government did not reduce interest rates, because a hostile Senate obstructed it.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) cannot use the Senate as an excuse or an alibi. If the Scullin Government had had the interests of the country at heart, as it tried to lead the people to believe, it would have taken the courageous stand that the present Government parties took recently. It would have sought a double dissolution, and would have gone to the country. Those rates were reduced in 1931, but they were increased in 1936 and further minor increases were made subsequently. They were reduced in 1931 by the Lyons Government, which succeeded the Scullin Government. In 1938, when the Government in power was of the same political complexion as is the Government which now, happily, guides the destinies of this nation, more than one half of the advances made by private banks carried a rate of interest of 5-J per cent., compared with 7 per cent, to S per cent, when the Scullin Government was in power.
The action taken by the Commonwealth Bank on the 28th July last, was, therefore, a response to circumstances beyond the control of the bank. The only other course open was to endanger the stability of the currency by creating new money - which the Labour party would make the bank do if it ever came into power - for the purpose of maintaining the official rates of interest. The consequences of that action would have been far more dangerous and burdensome than those of a rise in interest rates.
The honorable member for Yarra made great play on his consideration for people who wish to purchase homes. Let us examine the Government’s record in relation to housing, because it is often claimed that the Government is neglecting the housing problem.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable gentleman may say “ Hear, hear “, but the claim is patently absurd. The Government is doing more to achieve the ends that the honorable member for Yarra mentioned than any previous government ever thought of doing. For example, this year the Government and the Commonwealth Bank will provide more than £80/000,000 in housing finance. “We shall provide £30,000,000 to the States under the ‘Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, £28,000,000 for war service homes, and smaller sums in other ways. The Commonwealth Bank, with the Government’s full approval, will provide about £20,000,000 for housing advances to individuals and building societies. Finance totalling £80,000,000 is no mean sum to be provided by the Commonwealth, and will be a very large proportion of the total finance for housing from all sources. What is more, that sum is more than twice the amount of £34,000,000 that was made available for housing in the last year of the Chifley Labour Administration. I do not consider that the honorable member for Yarra succeeded in making out a case for his attack on the Government regarding the interest rate. The Government offers no apology for the increase of the rate which was, in all the circumstances, not only unavoidable but was also an ingredient in the recipe for financial stability, and particularly for the encouragement of housing finance for local government and semi-government bodies which otherwise would not have been available.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). By giving the Lyons Government credit for having reduced the interest rate in 1931 he has been unfair to the Scullin Government, which preceded the Lyons Government in office. We all know that the rate of interest wa? reduced by 22-J per cent, under the terms of the Premiers plan, which came into operation during the Scullin Government’s term of office. It is ridiculous to claim that, because the interest rate was 7 per cent, under the Scullin Government, the Lyons Government is entitled to credit for having reduced the rate to slightly more than 5 per cent. I contend that the reduction of the interest rate at that time was in accordance with the financial emergency legislation of the time, and is not a matter for which credit can be given to the Lyons anti-Labour Government. It ill ‘behoves the Treasurer to sling mud about the availability of the double dissolution procedure during the Scullin regime. He knows that the banking institutions at that time had the Scullin Government by the throat.
– Then all the more reason to have had a double dissolution.
– It was not feasible to have a double dissolution when people were waiting for finance, and when the governments of Australia were threatened by Sir Otto Niemeyer that if they were not prepared to agree to the operation of the Premiers plan then they could stew in their own juice. Those were his actual words.
– Which Government brought Sir Otto Niemeyer to this country?
-I know which government brought him here, but he came here really under an arrangement with the banks. It would have been impossible to bring to Australia at that time a financial expert who was not connected, with banking institutions. The Treasurer concluded his speech by referring to housing finance. He said that this year the Commonwealth would make a total amount of £80,000,000 available for that purpose as against £34,000,000 similarly made available in the last year of the Chifley regime. He did not remind us, however, that it now takes £80,000,000 to finance the work that £40,000,000 would have financed in the last year of the Chifley regime. On that basis, the Government has made very little improvement in the amount of money to be made available for housing. The honorable member for Yarra mentioned especially the burden that the increased interest rate would lay on the purchasers of homes and on co-operative and building societies. He mentioned also the failure of the Government to take any action to prevent the increase of the rate. The Treasurer’s defence of the decision to increase the rate is particularly interesting when it is compared with his past answers to questions about any prospective increase of the rate and about government loans generally. He used to say that those matters were the responsibility, not of the Government, but of the Australian Loan Council. The Treasurer has also claimed that the States are in agreement about interest rates. If that is so, then I should like to know why the Premier of the Liberal Govern ment of South Australia wishes a meeting of the Australian Loan Council to be held to discuss interest rates. Why is that gentleman concerned about the increase of the interest rate and its possible effects on the future of this country?
The. discussion introduced by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) does not deal with a matter about which only the Opposition, or the Labour party itself, is concerned. It deals with a matter that is of paramount interest to the whole community. I cannot see how the Treasurer can justify his claim that the increase of the interest rate will help to lift the country out of inflation. We know that when the Chifley Government was in office interest rates were low, there was plenty of money available for everybody, and public loans were filled. The Treasurer claimed that such a condition could not obtain now unless prices and wages were controlled. We know very well that the major factor in the continual increases of wages is the continual increases of prices on which increases of wages are based. An increase of interest rates will cause further unemployment. Low interest rates and cheap money make work for everybody. I do not blame the Treasurer himself for the decision to increase the rate. The Government has the responsibility. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said earlier to-day that every decision of a financial nature that the Government has made has had the support of the whole Government, and that he himself agreed with the Treasurer about the decision to increase the rate. I do not blame the Treasurer, because this is not a matter of any one person. It boils down to a question of the Government’s policy. This whole position has been produced because of a lack of confidence in the Government among the people. That is the reason why loans have been undersubscribed.
The Treasurer mentioned that the interest rate had increased from 31/8 per cent. to 33/4 per cent. last year. We know that that increase has produced in the minds of the people a complete distrust of the Government which has caused them to refrain from investing in government loans. The honorable member for Yarra mentioned the interest rate that is to be paid under the Commonwealth and .State Housing Agreement, and the Treasurer replied to him immediately before he began his own address. We know that under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to which the Treasurer has referred, the interest rate to be paid on the money advanced to the States will be the rate of interest on the last loan raised. The amount of £30,000,000, which this Parliament approved recently for advances to the States for housing, will be raised at a rate of interest of which we are still ignorant. We will not know what the rate of interest will be until the loan is put. on the market. The provision of that amount of £30,000,000, which has been promised to the States and of the other money to be made available for housing, is contingent on the success of the loans to be raised by the Australian Loan Council ot the Government on its behalf. The Government has placed a limit on the amount of money by which it will support these loans out of revenue. lt is possible that the people will not subscribe all the money required. Why not ? Simply because people who invested in loans at 3$ per cent, two years ago, in the belief that. they would be able to get back £100 for each £100 bond when they wished, now find that the market value of each £100 bond has dropped to £86 or £87. We complain because the Government is prepared to let things slide. The Government has done nothing to prevent an increase of interest rates. Indeed, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has said that the Commonwealth Bank Board has recommended that interest rates be increased, and has decided the rates of interest that can be charged by other banks. The Treasurer also told honorable members that although there was no definite control over the actions of banks there was an honorable agreement in existence. This Government has shown itself prepared to allow private banks to increase rates of interest on overdrafts and other loans of all sorts. The Labour party contends that it is the responsibility of the Government tq lay down our financial policy. Honorable members on tha Government side have -spoken about Labour governments being autocratic, but surely this action of the Government is autocratic. The Labour party believes that any Australian government should be able to direct the Commonwealth Bank Board to take certain action, and should then place its directions before the Parliament. The Government has lo3t the confidence of the country, and if the banks continue to increase interest rates our economy will be ruined.
Let us consider how increased interest rates will affect home-builders. The State Bank of South Australia was lending money to home-builders at 4 per cent. Interest at that rate on a loan of £2,000 amounts to about 30s. a week. If the interest rate be increased by f per cent, another 6s. a week has to be paid solely on account of interest. The Treasurer said that in order to prevent an increase of weekly instalments, the repayment time for loans could be increased. At present the repayment time of 40 or 50 years is too long, and if it is to be further lengthened people will never be able to pay for their homes. It must also be remembered that in the repayment of such loans, very little is paid in respect of principal in the first few years. Practically the whole of the money paid is absorbed by interest charges. Therefore, it must -be apparent that under a high-interest system the people will be penalized. Let us now consider how increased interest charges will affect businesses. I have obtained information that the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited is retaining its interest rate at 3$ per cent., the National Bank of Australasia Limited has increased its interest rate to 4f per cent., and the Commonwealth Bank has increased its rates by f per cent. [Extension of time granted.’] I suggest that our financial structure cannot work in the best interests of Australians while constant alterations are being made in interest rates. Not only will an increase of interest rates adversely affect home-builders and homeseekers, but it will also affect our great public enterprises such as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. Hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent on that project before it is completed, and after completion a tremendous interest bill will have to be met. Increased interest rates will impose a huge debt on future generations. We should realize in a time like the present, when we are more prosperous than we have ever been before-
– Does the honorable member admit that we are more prosperous now than we have ever been before ?
– I have never denied that. We have never been more prosperous than we are at present, but a restriction of money supplies to-day will bring about unemployment, and increased interest rates will restrict money supplies. In the future, when our export prices decrease and we are not so prosperous, our financial position will be unenviable. In those times, when people are least able to afford high interest rates, they will still have to pay them. Two or three years ago there were many people in South Australia who intended to build houses for themselves. In those days they could have built a house for £1,500, but at present they would have to pay £2,500. Those people have been forced to abandon their plans to become homeowners. If they could not finance their homes when interest rates were 4 per cent., they certainly cannot do it now that interest rates are 4f per cent. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has advocated that finance be made available for home-building at 2J per cent. We all remember that when interest was 6 per cent, people could purchase a home for about £700. When it decreased to 5 per cent, the cost of a home increased to £S0O or £900. When it was 4 per cent, a home cost £1,200 or £1,300.. Therefore, we should realize that even when interest rates are low the person who buys a home has to pay almost as much in respect of interest as when interest rates are high and homebuilding costs low. If costs were being reduced to-day there would be some sense in increased interest rates, but it is apparent that costs are still as high as ever. The Premier of South Australia has complained about increasing interest rates, and the effect that those rates will have upon public works throughout Australia. Yet the Treasurer has told honorable members that interest rates must be increased because people are able to invest their money more profitably than in Commonwealth loans. I know that people will not invest in Commonwealth loans at 3£ per cent, when they can get 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, elsewhere.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
. It is obvious that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) barged into this debate without consulting either the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) or the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who is the deputy leader of his party. The first thing that those honorable gentlemen knew about this matter was when they read about it in a Melbourne newspaper. They did not even remain in the’ House to listen to the speech of the honorable member for Yarra. Indeed, there are very few honorable members of the Opposition now in the House, and none at the table to listen to this debate. Another comment I desire to make is that the attitude of the Opposition indicates a peculiar frame of mind because, having been given two months to raise a protest about this matter, it has refrained from doing so until this moment. The Opposition did not deal with this matter at all during the budget debate, which lasted for some weeks. The present attitude of honorable members opposite is typical of their general attitude. They cash in on misery and un- happiness. They have been looking round for a small section of the community that might be affected by increased interest rates. One must expect that a small section of the people may be touched by positive action of a government. If the mass of the community benefits by a certain action, then obviously a small section may not benefit. The honorable member for Yarra has cast about for misery, and has exploited unhappiness by standing on the Yarra bank to try to get a few votes. The honorable member tried to indicate how increased interest rates would affect home-building. I do not think that he has ever built a home for anybody other than himself and family. “We have to consider his opinion as against the opinion of those who have gone out into the world and, provided houses for hundreds of people. As against the opinions of the honorable member for Yarra, I shall quote the opinion of a Sydney authority which has been reported as follows: -
The secretary of the Association of Cooperative Building Societies . . . said last night that if the societies were to obtain the millions of pounds necessary for them to meet the demand for home-building and home-purchase, they must reconcile themselves to paying a fair market rate.
That is the opinion of a man who has provided many homes for the people, and whose livelihood depends upon the provision of homes. Either the people will get their homes by paying a fair market price for their money, or they will not get them at all. Apparently persons like the honorable member for Yarra prefer that the people should not pay a fair market price and should not get homes at all. The honorable member for Yarra has obviously chosen the alternative that the people should not get homes. This is not the policy of this Government. Our policy is to provide homes for the people. One of the methods of getting finance for building societies is to provide for a higher rate of interest. Let us ask ourselves, which the honorable member for Yarra has not done, whether some specific section of the people will benefit from the Government’s action. Let us ascertain whether the honorable member for Yarra is sincere in what he says and whether he has a sense of decency and fair play. Will the honorable member say that the people who own saving bank deposits will not benefit from the action of the Government? By increasing interest rates the Government has put £2,250,000 into the pockets of the holders of savings hank accounts. It has done more than that, it has given them an inducement to save their money and then to permit it to be used for housing loans. It is clear to anybody who is sensible, and it was almost admitted by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), that the Government has done a magnificent job and has raised our economy to a very high standard.
– He said, “We were never so prosperous “.
– Those are the words that he used. We could see that they were gall to the honorable member for Yarra. A nasty look crossed his face when he heard praise by an honorable member who has never been backward in giving praise when it has been due.
One of the primary functions of the Commonwealth Bank is to advise the Government on interest rates. The Government, it is true, has the power to say, “ No, we do not think that there should be any increase of interest rates “. But we should remember that the Chifley Government decided that the primary responsibility should rest on the Commonwealth Bank and that, in giving to the bank this instrument to control the general economic climate, it said to the bank, “ When you use this instrument, you will do your best to contribute to the stability of the currency, the maintenance of full employment, and the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia “. Those factors were kept in mind by the Commonwealth Bank when it decided that the interest rate should be increased, and also when it decided to cancel its direction to the trading banks in relation to the kinds of advances. The technical experts of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Bank Board considered the problem and said, “ If we increase the interest rate, can we tend to achieve those objectives of a stable currency, full employment, and the economic prosperity and welfare of the people ? “ The answer was, “ Yes “, and they advised the Treasurer accordingly. The right honorable gentleman agreed with them that, in the interests of the community, the rate should be increased. The honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Port Adelaide mav be greater technical authorities on such problems than are the expert advisers of the Commonwealth Bank and the Treasury, the Commonwealth Bank Board, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and the Treasurer. However, if I were asked to back the opinion that I thought to be correct, I most certainly would support that galaxy of talent whose advice the Treasurer accepted when he and the Government decided which course should be pursued in the interests of the community. Honorable members may make their decision between the opinions of the honorable member for Yarra and those of the technical experts who have advised the Government. I am sure that they will decide that it is sheer and utter nonsense for the honorable member to come before the House with the proposals that he has made this afternoon, two months after the decision to change the interest rate was made. His proposals should be completely rejected.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mb. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Eric j. Harrison) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Cotton Bounty Act. 1951.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Eric J. Harrison and Mr. Francis do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Ebic j. Harrison, and read a first time.
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision, already announced, to increase the assistance at present afforded to the Australian cottongrowing industry under the Cotton Bounty Act 1951. Under the 1951 act, cottongrowers are guaranteed a return of 9^-d. per lb. of seed cotton of grades higher than Strict Good Ordinary, for a period of five years which commenced on the 1st January, 1951. The present bill will provide for that guarantee to be raised to 14d. per lb. of seed cotton harvested during 1953, and thereafter for a guaranteed return, which may be varied in accordance with economic trends from time to time by regulation. The bill provides, however, that the guarantee shall not fall below 9£d. per lb. In 1948, the Australian cotton industry requested a guaranteed return of 32d. per lb. of raw cotton - subsequently increased to 34d. per lb. - on all raw cotton produced. This request was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, and in May, 1949, during the course of the board’s inquiry, the industry amended its request to one for a guarantee of 9+d. per lb. of seed cotton, equivalent to approximately 30d. per lb. of raw cotton, claiming that this basis was more familiar to the cottongrower.
The figure of 9£d. per lb. of seed cotton was computed as affording growers a return commensurate, not only with costs of production existing at that time, but also with returns then being received by producers of other primary products grown in the cotton areas. Upon economic grounds, the Tariff Board was unable to recommend the granting of the guarantee. However, in 1951, the present Government, taking into account all factors associated with the request, and not limiting its consideration entirely to the economic aspects with which the Tariff Board is concerned, decided to grant the industry the requested guarantee of 9-Jd. per lb. of seed cotton.
The Government’s decision took into account that diversification of the eco’nomy was desirable, that a thriving cotton industry was necessary for Australia’s full industrial development, and that cotton-growing is one of the few primary industries for which there is a large domestic demand unsatisfied by local production and which has an important defence potential. The guaranteed return of 9-Jd. per lb. was intended to introduce into the industry an element of stability during a period when developmental programmes in research, mechanization and irrigation, which promised the eventual establishment of the industry on a permanent and efficient footing, were coming to fruition.
There is no doubt that the announcement of the guarantee of 9-Jd. per lb. was responsible for stimulating interest in cotton-growing in Queensland. This is instanced by the fact that issues of cotton seed for planting increased from a quantity sufficient for only 4,000 acres in 1950 to 7,000 acres in 1951 and nearly 15,000 acres in 1952. That actual production of seed cotton has shown a disappointingly small increase is due almost entirely to the severe drought conditions experienced in Queensland during the past two seasons, which apparently discouraged many potential cotton-growers from planting the seed.
Since the guarantee of 9£d. per lb. was fir st. made, there have been several changes in conditions affecting the Australian cotton-growing industry which have made a review of the guarantee desirable. Returns to producers of other primary products grown in the cotton areas have increased, making the guarantee to cottongrowers relatively unattractive. Moreover, the Australian Agricultural Council, in April, 1952, set a target of 60,000 acres under cotton, to be reached by 1957-58, and this envisages a large expansion of the industry - an expansion with which the industry will need assistance on a more generous scale than formerly.
The Cotton Marketing Board, supported by the Queensland Government, bases its request for a 14d. per lb. guarantee mainly on two grounds. I have already referred to the first ground, namely, that higher returns to other primary producers have made cottongrowing relatively unattractive. The second basis for the request is the increased costs which have been experienced by the industry. Regarding the higher returns to other primary producers, the Cotton Marketing Board has pointed out that, in the interval between May, 1949, when the application for the original guarantee of 9 1/2 d. was made, and May, 1952, when the increase to 14d. was requested, the butter price guarantee to dairy-farmers had increased by 47.4 per cent., and the index of wheat production costs by 41.2 per cent. In the same period, the wholesale price index - movements in which indicate trends in price and cost generally - had risen by 57 per cent. An increase of 4£d. per lb. in the guaranteed return of 9 1/2 d. per lb. is equivalent to an increase of 47 per cent., and is, therefore, closely in line with increases being received by other primary producers.
Referring to costs, I point out that the return received by growers for the seed cotton has fallen from 20.7d. per lb. in 1051 to an estimated amount of 11.9d. per lb. in 1952. Part of this reduction is due to a slightly lower price being received for raw cotton, but it is mainly due to increases in ginning costs, incurred because of the low production caused by the drought in 1951. The benefits that can be expected to accrue to Australia from a long-term programme of expansion in the cotton industry are considerable. Most of Australia’s raw cotton requirements are imported, and any increase in production here will enable savings of dollar and other overseas credits to be made. I have already referred to other factors, such as the diversification and full development of the Australian economy, and the significance of cotton-growing from a defence viewpoint. A system of cottongrassland rotation is used by dairyfarmers for pasture improvement, and the by-products include the provision of protein-rich cattle food.
It is in relation to these benefits that the possible money cost to the Commonwealth of this guarantee must be considered. The cost will depend to a large degree on two factors - the actual return received by the grower, and the amount of seed cotton produced. The growers’ return will, in turn, depend largely on the price received for raw cotton, which price is closely related to. prices on the world’s markets. It is, accordingly, appropriate to consider recent movements in world prices, in endeavouring to form some estimate of the cost which the Commonwealth might incur as a consequence of granting this further assistance to the industry.
Following the outbreak of war in Korea, there was a spectacular increase in world cotton prices, and this increase was reflected in the returns to growers, which reached 20.7d. per lb. of seed cotton last year. World prices have now receded by approximately 25 per cent, to 30 per cent., but it seems somewhat improbable that there will be a further significant recession, particularly while the American price support scheme is in operation. Assuming’ that returns to Australian growers were stabilized at approximately the same level as the estimated 1952 return, namely, 12d. per lb., this would entail bounty payments at the rate of 2d. per lb. so long as the guarantee was maintained at 14d. The total amount of bounty that would be paid out depends, of course, on the total production of seed cotton, and, as yet, no estimate of this for the 1953 season is available. For 1952, production is expected to be 1,250 bales of raw cotton, and, if this figure were maintained in 1953, the bounty would be approximately £15,000. On a higher production, say 2,000 bales, bounty would be about £25,000, although, of course, it must not be overlooked that as production increases, unit ginning costs are reduced and the return to growers is correspondingly greater, with a consequent reduction in bounty payments.
It is not possible for me, at this stage, to give any estimates of the cost to the Commonwealth in future years’ covered by the act. Under the terms of this legislation, the guarantee of 14d. will apply in the first instance only to cotton harvested during 1953. The bill provides that, after 1953, the guarantee may be varied by regulation but not so as to fall below 9id. per lb. The Government has decided on this in order to introduce some degree of flexibility in the guarantee, to enable the rate of assistance to oe reviewed from time to time, after the 1st January, 1954, in accordance with changes in economic conditions. In future years, therefore, the money cost to the Commonwealth will depend largely on world cotton prices, the level of Australian cotton production and the rate of guarantee.
When the guarantee of 91/2d. per lb. was first given, the Government, realizing that something more than financial measures were needed to stabilize the industry on a long-term basis, obtained from the Queensland. Government assurances that it would pursue -
These extension programmes, in conjunction with increasing mechanization, and the increased guaranteed return provided by this bill, should afford the industry an excellent opportunity to become firmly established on a long-term economic basis. The Government can see no reason why cotton-growing should not be successful, with the attendant benefits to the Australian economy. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947-1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
(4.41]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I thank the House for the courtesy that it has shown in granting me leave to move the second reading of the bill forthwith. This bill is designed to amend the
Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, in order to enable the partnership established between the Government and the medical and pharmaceutical professions to work smoothly and efficiently in implementing the free life-saving drug scheme. The previous Government had tried methods of compulsion on these professions. The present Government adopted methods of co-operation, resulting in satisfaction to the whole community. The essence of all phases of the present Government’s national health programme is the creation of a nation-wide partnership between the community at large, the Government, the providers of medical and therapeutic services, and all voluntary organizations that specialize in providing services for the sick. This partnership functions by using the agency to carry out the work that is nearest to, and best fitted for, the job. Thus, experts control operations in which they are expert. As a result, the whole scheme is working very smoothly.
Supervision of the scheme, and discipline of its participants, are secured by advisory committees nominated by executives of the professional organizations engaged in implementing the scheme. There was no provision for setting up these professional advisory and disciplinary committees in the original act. This bill simply supplies that lack. We have been using committees in connexion with the pensioners’ scheme.
The amendments which are now to be placed in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act will be substantive clauses of the new master national health act, which will repeal all the existing health acts and consolidate and co-ordinate the whole of the Commonwealth health legislation. This bill will be introduced early next year .
In the implementation of the scheme, the provision of free life-saving drugs was made one of the first steps in the prevention and cure of disease. This step was taken in the early stage because of its immediate effect on many phases of individual and national health. For instance, free use of the wonder drugs cuts short, or even prevents, many infectious diseases in the individual. This lessens the time of stay in hospitals of such patients, thus permitting a quicker turnover of hospital beds and making their use more effective. The smoothness, effectiveness and popularity of the scheme are shown by the use that has been made of it since its introduction in September, 1950, when the ‘free distribution of lifesaving and disease-preventing drugs was inaugurated.
It is impossible to number the lives that have been saved and the amount of human suffering alleviated; but some idea of its effectiveness, and certainly its popularity, is seen in the statistical information that is now available for the year ended the 30th June, 1952. Pharmaceutical benefits paid from the National “ Welfare Fund through approved chemists, doctors and private hospitals totalled £6,699,002. Altogether, 6,512,826 prescriptions were written, in respect of which the sum of £598,279 was paid through public hospitals and other instrumentalities, the percentages in relation to the totals for Australia being, respectively, approximately 25 per cent, and 50 per cent. .Amounts paid in respect of each State were -
The saving on free life-saving drugs amounted to 16s. 6d. per capita, which is more than equal to the annual premium per capita for hospital insurance. Tinder the limited scheme that was introduced by the previous Government, a total of £294,446 was expended and only 903,027 prescriptions were written during a period of 27 months.
Conscious of the special needs of pensioners for medical care, a service was designed to provide a general practitioner medical service to age, invalid, widows and service pensioners and tuberculosis allowees and their dependants. Last year this service cost £1,034,225. At the 3rd. June, 1952, approximately 501,367 pensioners and their dependants were covered by the service ‘ in which the majority of doctors engaged in general practice were enrolled. The success of the medical service to pensioners is evidenced in the fact that 2,332,824 medical services were given during the 1951-52 year.
The antibiotic drugs available in both these services have been only recently discovered and developed. They are very potent. To secure the best results, they must be used with discrimination, with skill and care. Their unnecessary use in minor cases may cause a development of germ resistance not only in the patients, but also in the community. This lessens their value and efficacy in serious cases. In fact, patients may be rendered allergic to their use. Consequently, these drugs cannot be used when they would have been especially valuable to a patient seriously ill with a specific infectious disease. Their use must be safeguarded for effective life-saving purposes in serious specific diseases, which might otherwise prove fatal. It is obvious that this necessitates the closest co-operation and liaison between the medical and pharmaceutical professions and the Government. First, drugs must be chosen whose value has been proved. Secondly, there must be advice and supervision of the exhibition of these potent drugs to patients. Through the development of this spirit of partnership and the removal of arbitrary controls and legislation, active support, co-operation and advice in these respects have been made available by doctors and chemists, all of whom have co-operated in the scheme. Their official organizations have nominated men of the highest standing, experience and skill to serve on committees which work in the closest co-operation with the Government and its advisers. The object of this bill is to regularize these committees and to give to them statutory powers which will enable them to function effectively.
When the Government took office, my first responsibility was the appointment of a pharmaceutical or life-saving drugs advisory committee. The organized medical profession made available five highly esteemed physicians, drawn from the various States of Australia, together with two professors of pharmacology. The functions of the committee are to examine and report to the Minister on any drug or medicine suggested for inclusion in the list of drugs under this act, and/or for their deletion and to advise on any matter relating to the list of benefits. No drug, or medicine, will be included in the list unless it has the approval of this committee. The principle has been observed that all the drugs should be specific and individual. The list is continually under review and the lists are made available to doctors and chemists. The chemists are pro.vided with a price list agreed with the Pharmaceutical Guild. I am happy to be able to say that, as a result of the smooth working of the scheme, the Government has been able to pay its accounts inside a month of receiving the chemists’ accounts.
In a scheme of such magnitude many problems and unexpected difficulties are unavoidably encountered. To overcome these, the medical and pharmaceutical professions agreed to set up committees to advise me of the ways and means of ironing out these problems. Practical experience gained in the provision of these various services over the last eighteen months to two years has shown that, without adequate control and supervision, some practices can arise which are not entirely in the best interests either of the patients or the medical profession taken as a whole. These practices may cause the total cost of these services to be unduly high. For example, practical experience in the widespread use of some of the new antibiotic drugs has shown that prescribing habits can arise which are clinically unjustifiable and can also cause the cost for supplying them to rise to excessive levels. In no quarter has this tendency been observed and noted more promptly than by the medical profession itself. The Federal Council of the British Medical Association agreed some twelve months ago to establish committees with various functions in all States and also to set up certain advisory committees for the Commonwealth.
Regulations have been drafted under the National Health Service Act which will establish committees of inquiry and investigation into abnormal activities of chemists and doctors under the pensioner medical service. These regulations will be promulgated in the near future. They will provide for the Minister to refer details of the various matters and circumstances encountered in the practical administration of these schemes to these committees. These will be in a position to suggest, or recommend, to the Minister certain action that he might take to achieve the more efficient operation of the services. Also, where necessary, with respect to any individuals whose conduct has been questionable, the committees may recommend appropriate action against such persons. In order that similar provisions may exist with respect to the activities of doctors, chemists and other persons under the Commonwealth pharmaceutical benefits service, it has been found necessary to- bring the provisions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act with respect to committees into line with the provisions which exist in the National Health Service Act and deal with the pensioner medical service. As the position stands at the moment, the act provides for the establishment of only one committee in each State. Experience has shown the need for a separate federal committee and also committees in each State composed of doctors in instances in which the matters that arise relate to doctors and composed of pharmaceutical chemists in instances in which the matters that arise relate to chemists. The National Health Service Act is broad enough in its scope to authorize the setting up of such committees and provides authority for the committees which deal with matters under the pensioner medical service. The same position will now obtain with respect to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act.
At the present time, where, for example, there is a technical or a minor breach by a chemist of the regulations made under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, the only remedial action open to the Government is to cancel the pharmacist’s approval to supply pharmaceutical benefits, to proceed against him under the act, or to institute criminal proceedings. This state of affairs is, of course, wrong.
It is considered far better, not only from the point of view of the person concerned, but also in the interests of the profession and of the public generally, that the various matters which arise from time to time and require investigation should be dealt with by a committee of professional experts acquainted with the usages and customs of their profession. They can make appropriate recommendations to the Minister as to the action he might take. This system, of course, does not preclude the use of normal legal proceedings which would be employed where the facts of the case warranted such action. Such action has actually been taken in certain instances in respect of both doctors and chemists.
The investigations and inquiries of these committees will help the Government to control the provisions of these services by closely supervising the activities of all persons participating in them. These researches will provide a body of knowledge and experience from which beneficial rules may be established and varied as the situation demands from time to time. The committees will investigate, report and make recommendations to the Minister for Health on matters that may be referred to them. As these committees will be operated by and with the full co-operation of the executives of the various branches of the British Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Guild, the deterrent effects which the committees should have on malpractice under the various schemes should be considerable and should have a salutary effect on fraudulent, extravagant and wasteful provision of services. This action in turn, it is considered, will keep the cost of the various services within reasonable limits; and only such services as are necessary and expedient in the interests of the people’s health will be made available. The work of the medical and pharmaceutical committees will he of very great value.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Hasluck, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is to authorize the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to construct a standard gauge railway from Stirling North to Brachina in the State of South Australia. This railway is to form part of a standard gauge railway which the Commonwealth has agreed with the State of South Australia should be constructed between Stirling North and Leigh Creek North coal-field. Construction of the northern section is already in progress under the authority of the Brachina to Leigh Creek North Coalfield Railway Act 1950. Honorable members will recall that a difference of opinion arose betweenthe Commonwealth and the State as to the route to be followed by that part of the railway which is to lie between Stirling North and Brachina, and it was agreed that the question should be put to a royal commission. This Parliament, by the Port Augusta to Alice Springs Railway (Alteration of Route) Act 1950, undertook to cause a railway to be constructed between Stirling North and Brachina on the route recommended by the royal commission. The necessary consent to the construction of the railway has been given by the Northern Railway (Alteration of Route) Act. 1950, of the State of South Australia.
The royal commission was duly appointed. Its members were - The Honorable Mr. Justice A. A. Wolff, of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, chairman; Mr. R. J. Fitch, M.E., M.I.E. (Australia), Chief Civil Engineer of Commonwealth Railways, who was the member nominated by the Commonwealth; and Mr. J. A. Fargher, M.C.E., M.I.E. (Australia), assistant to the South Australian Railways Commissioner, who was the member nominated by that State. The commission was called upon to examine, inquire into and report upon the question as to which of two routes is more suitable for the construction of the railway - the one, known as the “ B.2 “ route, follows generally the route of the existing narrow gauge railway through Quorn; the other, called the “ C “ route, by-passes
Quorn and skirts the Flinders Range to the westward. The “ B.2 “ route, through Quorn, was proposed by the South Australian Railways Commissioner. The “ C “ route, by-passing Quorn, was recommended by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. The commission, in its terms of reference, was required to have regard to -
The royal commissioners have submitted their report to His Excellency the Governor-General, under date the 5 th July, 1952. Their recommendation is in favour of the “ C “ route, westward of the Flinders Range. As honorable members are aware, one of the main reasons why it was necessary to submit the question of the route of this part of the railway to a royal commission, was that it was contended that the adoption of the route . recommended by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner would result in serious disabilities to the opera tion of the State railway system, and in economic loss to the town of Quorn and other districts along the route of the existing railway. These contentions were thoroughly examined by the royal commissioners during the twelve months they were engaged on their task, and in their report, under the heading, “ General Conclusions and Finding they stated -
The advantage of the “ C “ route to the Commonwealth and to the State as a whole outweighs any disability (which we do not think would be considerable) to the opera tion of the State Railway system.
The preponderance of advantage in adopting the “ C “ route far outbalances any economic loss which would be suffered by the towns of Quorn and Hawker and the districts on the east of the divide of the Flinders Range. Even if B.2 route were adopted there would be a degree of injurious affection, and when this is takeninto account in comparing one route with the other the advantage of the “ C “ route is even more marked.
The bill provides for an appropriation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or out of the proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of an act, of such sums as are necessary to provide for the construction of the railway and for the purchase of rolling stock for the railway, such amounts not to exceed in all £5,600,000. In the estimation of this figure, allowance was made for the purchase overseas of some essential materials and equipment which are required urgently. It is possible that, if the availability of labour and materials in Australia improves during the next twelve months, some savings may be effected in the cost of construction.
The bill provides also for the consolidation of the appropriation for the construction of this part of the railway and for the purchase of rolling stock, with the appropriation, which the Parliament has made already, in respect of the northern part authorized by the Brachina to Leigh Creek North Coal-field Railway Act 1950. The bill thus provides for the appropriation of moneys for the construction of, and for the purchase of rolling stock for, the two parts of the railway as one railway, the amounts not to exceed in ‘ all the’ sum of £11,000,000. It provides also for the repeal of the relevant sections 6 and 12 of the Brachina to Leigh Creek North Coal-field Railway Act 1950. This provision is designed to simplify accounting procedures which, if the construction were to be financed by two separate appropriations, would be complicated by the need to apportion the cost of items such as earth-moving equipment and tractors, which would be used on both sections of the railway. As honorable members are aware, the railway will convey coal from the Leigh Creek fields for use in the regional electric power station now in course of erection at Port Augusta, and elsewhere. This power station is expected to be in operation in 1954, and it is, therefore, essential that the railway be built in the shortest possible time.
I have copies of the report and findings of the royal commission. The report and findings have been printed, but they are marked “Confidential”. In view of that fact, I shall not table them, but they are available for any honorable member to consult as required. I commend the bill to the favorable considerationof the House.
Mr.Calwell. - May I ask the Minister why the report of the royal commission to which he has referred is not to be made available to honorable members in the same way as the reports of other royal commissions, especially as its findings have already been published in the press and the generality of the argument is well known.
– The report will be made available in full to honorable members. I shall refrain from tabling it because it is marked “ Confidential “ and contains one or two passages which, it is considered, should not be published more generally. Honorable members may have the report on application either to myself or to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). It will not be tabled, because there are one or two paragraphs which it is not intended to publish.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 30th Sep tember (vide page 2322), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill be now reada second time.
.- The Opposition will not oppose the passage of this bill. There are some good parts in the proposals that were outlined by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), when he was acting for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), but the Opposition feels that, in some respects, he has gone the wrong way about doing the right thing. We desire to offer, as we always do, some constructive criticism of the measure before the House. Personally, I take a paternal interest in the bill, because in 1948 I introduced the legislation under which we established for the first time the principle of a separate Australian citizenship, linked with a British nationality, which remains common to all members of the component parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– The honorable gentleman’s fatherhood was also good in parts.
– It was very good. I am not repudiating paternity.I have no doubt that the passage of time has shown that that legislation could be improved in certain respects. The main purpose of this measure is to confer the rights of Australian citizenship upon aliens who enlist in the Australian forces for service overseas. I have no objection to that at all. On a number of occasions, I have suggested to the Government that it should act upon the lines of American legislation upon this matter. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said -
The first and most important of the amendments is one which follows from the Government’s decision last year to permit aliens to enlist in the Army.
The House has never been told precisely what that decision was. I think it if right that aliens should be permitted to join the Australian forces, but I say that, the Government should have announced its decision in a way that would have permitted the Opposition to examine it and to make suggestions about it. We do not know the exact terms of these enlistments. I have been told that the Government has made some arrangements with the diplomatic representatives of foreign countries under whichthey have agreed to waive objections to their nationals joining the Australian forces.
– I think that the honorable gentleman has in mind military training under the National Service Act.
– It may he that what I was told related only to people who were called up as national service trainees.- It is unfortunate that I have no precise information upon the matter because, in the absence of it, I cannot say with certainty all that I should like to say about what should be done in regard to aliens serving in our forces.
The Minister stated also that this measure would shorten the period of residence required as a prerequisite to the naturalization of aliens who were voluntarily enlisted for overseas service in the Australian forces, or in those of any British Commonwealth country. He pointed out that the extent of the concession would be to cut the period of residence in Australia by one-half, and that a person who joined the Australian forces for service overseas could be naturalized in two and a half years instead of being required to wait, as at present, for five years. He went on to say that, in the case of members of the Citizen Military Forces who volunteered for service abroad but whose service was only part-time service, each four weeks after enlistment would be counted as five weeks’ residence in Australia. In those circumstances, the period of residence would be cut from five years to four years. The Minister believes that he has done something really worthwhile to attract aliens resident, in Australia to our armed forces.
I want to read to the House the provisions of American laws that deal, first, with the question of service in the American armed forces, and secondly, with the’ rights in connexion with naturalization that are conferred upon residents in the United States of America, not being American citizens, who served in the American forces during World War II. I am indebted to Colonel Rufus S. Ramey, the American Army Attache in Melbourne, for information about the Universal Military Training and Service Act of the United States of America. The relevant sections of that act will take some time to read, but I think it im portant that they should go on the record. Section 3 reads as follows: -
Except as otherwise provided in this title, it shall be the duty of every male citizen of the United States, and every other male person now or hereafter in the United States, who, on the day or days fixed for the first or any subsequent registration, is between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six, to present himself for and submit to registration at such time or times and place or places, and in such maimer, as shall be determined by proclamation of the President and by rules and regulations prescribed hereunder.
That means that every youth in the United States of America, even though he be an alien who has been there for only a week, is liable to be called up for service in the United States Army both at home and overseas. Section 4 (a) of the act states -
Except as otherwise provided in this title, ‘ every male citizen of the United States and every male alien admitted for permanent residence, who is between the ages of 18 years and 6 months and 26 years, at the time fixed for his registration, or who attains the age of IS years and C months after having been required to register pursuant to section 3 of this title, or who is otherwise liable as provided in section G (h) of this title, shall be liable for training and service in the Armed Forces of the United States: Provided, that each registrant shall be immediately liable for classification, and examination, and shall, as soon as practicable following his resignation, be so classified and examined, both physically and mentally, in order to determine hia availability for induction for training and service in the Armed Forces.
There are other provisions, the most important of which states that if an alien refuses to be inducted into the armed forces of the United States of America, he shall surrender for all time any right to become a naturalized American citizen. He can continue to reside in America, but he will remain forever an alien. The other sections of the act are fairly long. To sum up, the position, briefly, is this : The American Government requires aliens in America to serve in its force3, but it is generous in regard to the gift or grant of naturalization in return for such service.
– Is it an immediate grant ?
– It has the effect of being an immediate grant. Under the American law of the 14th October, 1940, as amended by the laws of the 27th
March, 1942, the 22nd December, 1944, and on the 28th December, 1945, it is provided as follows: -
Notwithstanding the’ provisions of sections 103 and 720 of this title any person not a citizen,, regardless of age, who has served or hereafter serves honorably in the military or naval forces of the United States during World War II. and who shall have been at the time of bis enlistment or induction a resident thereof and who (a) was lawfully admitted into the United States, including its Territories and possessions, or (6) having entered the United States, including its Territories and possessions,prior to September 1:, 1943, being unable to establish lawful admission into the United States serves honorably in such forces beyond the continental limits of the United States or has so served may be naturalized upon compliance with all the: requirements of. the naturalization laws except that (1) no declaration of intention, no cerficieate of arrival for those described in group (6) hereof, and no period of residence within the United States »r any State shall be required:
That is, as I have said, a very generous grant. The provision continues - (.2) the petition for naturalization may be Hied in any court having naturalization jurisdiction regardless of the residence of the petitioner: (3) the petitioner shall not be required to speak the English language, sign his. petition in his own handwriting or meet any educational test: and (4) no fee shall be charged or collected for making, filing, or docketing the petition for naturalization, or for the final hearing thereon,, or for the certification of naturalization, if issued: lt is further provided that two citizens shall attest the moral character of such a person who seeks naturalization as well as his loyalty to the constitution of the United States of America, and the other qualities that are required to warrant, in any country, the grant of a document of citizenship. I consider that we should adopt a similar practice. If an alien volunteers to serve, and serves honorably, in out armed forces, then he ought to have the. right to automatic naturalization at the expiration of hrs period of service, as in the United States of America. The Minister knows that, under our present law, it is possible for him or any other person acting in his place, to take into consideration, when determining the period of residence of a petitioner for naturalization, service in the> armed forces of an allied country under a British commander. Under that provision, about 800 Polish ex-servicemen who had fought alongside the Australians in Tobruk were naturalized after they had fulfilled the requirement, which is still in our law, that every person who seeks naturalization must have residence in Australia for a period of one year. Those men fought in Tobruk under British commander’s, and, in some cases, under Australian commanders in various theatres of war, and they, and others, like them, such as former Dutch and Lithuanian soldiers, sailors and airmen, and also French ex-servicemen, were naturalized when I was Minister for Immigration after they had served for at least four years in World War II., and had lived in Australia for at least one year. No doubt the present Minister for Immigration has granted naturalization to similar people in similar circumstances so, in some respects, the proposals in this bill do not go so far as. the practice that has been followed under the provisions of existing legislation has gone. I suggest to the Minister that we should maintain our present practice^ whilst at the same time trying to improve on it, even to the extent of adopting the whole of the American practice.
It is true that the American practice applies only to people who served in World War II., but I have not the slightest doubt that the United States Congress will bring the practice up to date so that it shall apply to aliens who are serving, or have served, with the American forces in Korea, much as we have done in the matter of extending repatriation benefits to Australian exservicemen of the war in Korea. It can be accepted that the practice in America in future will be that a man who fights to defend America shall not find the fact that he was born outside America, a bar to his gaining American citizenship without formality, arid that such a person will, in fact, be entitled to all the rights of an American citizen as: soon as he joins the American forces. Our1 position visavis the American position is. somewhat different. We are part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Minister proposes to alter the law by unilateral action. He has not told us whether he has consulted Great Britain or any of the other countries of the
Commonwealth in relation to the proposed alteration. I suggest that other countries of the Commonwealth should certainly be consulted about this matter, because the period of residence in any part of the British Commonwealth necessary for the granting of British nationality is uniform throughout the Commonwealth. That period is five years. America also has a five-year period. The universal acceptance of five years’ residence as a pre-requisite to the granting of nationality arises from the fact that that is considered to be a reasonable time in which a person will be able to demonstrate his qualities of citizenship and his acceptability to the community generally. If we alter the law to provide for any lesser period than five years it is possible that a person who has been naturalized in Australia after a residence in the British Commonwealth of two and a half years, or perhaps four years, might find, if he went to Britain, that he would not be recognized there as a British subject. I consider that this matter might have been taken up on the level of an imperial conference so that we could have uniformity in relation to it.
The bill proposes that a person may be granted naturalization after a residence of only two and a half years in the British Commonwealth, so long as he has served in the forces of a British dominion. It would be ironical if a man who had . served with the Canadians in Korea came here and obtained Australian citizenship because of his service with the Canadians, then returned to Canada and discovered that he was not regarded there as a citizen because Canadian law had not been amended in the same way as Australian law. I suggest that the Minister might try to get the other dominions to come into line with us on this matter. We have forced the pace before on the matter of naturalization. In 1937 the Lyons- Government gave Australian women married to aliens the right to be regarded as Australian citizens inside Australia. We altered the law to provide that they were, in fact, Australian citizens inside Australia, and ultimately, at the 1948 Commonwealth conference, that provision was made uniform throughout the British Commonwealth. It was a highly desirable provision.
I consider the present position regarding service in the forces in Australia to be fair neither to young Australians who are called up for military service nor to young aliens who are resident in Australia but are not liable to military call-up. It is unfair that young Australians should be called up to serve their country and that young aliens should be allowed either to escape service, or, if they want to serve, should be denied the opportunity to do so. If the Minister cannot make an amendment in this law he should take the matter up with the Cabinet, and have it examine the possibility of making the necessary amendment to the Defence Act to allow national service by aliens. I consider that the two matters are complementary, or at least so closely associated that they cannot be divorced. I believe that most of the young people who have come here from abroad, and have been resident in Australia for some years, who are only aliens because their parents have not become citizens of this country, should not be denied the opportunity to serve in our armed forces. I shall cite an example to show how unfairly our present law operates in this regard. Early this year a young boy of Italian parentage, who was born in Australia, was selected as the Victorian Rhodes Scholar. During the last war his brother, who was born in Italy two years prior to the arrival of his parents in Australia, was refused the right to enlist in the Royal Australian Navy because he was technically an enemy alien. I think we should try to clear these things up, and the best way to do so would be to adopt the American practice. With these remarks I commend the provisions to which I have already referred.
Some of the other provisions of the bill seem to be satisfactory, but I am intrigued with the Minister’s observation that the Government’s legal advisers have recommended that the words “ in the prescribed manner “, in relation to the taking of an oath of allegiance, be eliminated. I put those words into the original legislation on the advice of the same legal advisers. I do not know how the advisers came to the conclusion that something that was right in 1948 is wrong in 1952. The Minister for Supply stated in his second-reading speech -
It is much to be preferred that detailed procedure should be capable of alteration without constant amendments to statutory rules.
– I think it is more a matter of convenience than of law in this instance.
– I have no objection to it. Clause 4 of the bill is designed to relieve aliens under 21 years of age from the necessity of advertising in the newspapers their intention to apply for naturalization. The Minister for Supply stated that it was desirable that young applicants for naturalization should be spared any needless expense in the process of becoming citizens. I agree that that burden should be lifted from young people who wish to become naturalized.
The Minister for Supply said in relation to clause 5 that it - seeks to remove an anomaly from Section 48 of the act which deals with the surrender of certificates of registration or naturalization in cases where the holders have been deprived of their citizenship by order of the Minister.
I consider that amendment to be proper, and I think it should be accepted by the Parliament. I have some recollections of court actions, in which I was both plaintiff and defendant, relating to the surrender of certificates of exemption. The Opposition will not oppose the bill, but I hope that the Minister will take note of the suggestions I have made to him.
– I am sure that all honorable members will agree with the useful suggestions of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Cal well), in particular those regarding the American practice of naturalization. No doubt the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) will examine them, because they seem to have a great deal of merit. The honorable member for Melbourne also suggested that the Dominions confer in order to reach uniformity of naturalization procedure. I consider that nobody would dispute the following statement made by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) when he introduced the measure : -
There is no better demonstration that any alien can give of his allegiance to the Crown and toAustralia than to offer himself for military service, at home or abroad, in defence of his adopted homeland.
Any immigrant who serves in the armed forces clearly demonstrates his loyalty. If he is not loyal then his disloyalty will soon be discovered when he is in the forces. It is a sound principle that the granting of naturalization to an alien who has served in the forces should be accelerated, and I am sure that no honorable member can think of any better way in which an immigrant could be assimilated into the community than by serving with the forces. By so doing an immigrant comes into close contact with Aus- . tralians, and gets to know, and begins to appreciate, the Australian way of life. He will, as a result, be absorbed into the community more quickly and easily. The measure is fundamentally sound. I consider that the time that such an alien spends in the forces should be reckoned as part of the period requisite for naturalization, as set out in the bill, and that no obstacle to join the armed services should be placed in his way. The honorable member for Melbourne has stated that immigrants should be liable for national service training and he gave good reasons. I hope that the Minister will examine that matter carefully in order to try to bring immigrants within the scope of the national service scheme. That an Australian may be called up to train for the armed services whereas an alien is not so required is anomalous. There is no reference in the measure to the enlistment of aliens in the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force. I assume that immigrants are to be prevented from serving in those two branches of our defence force. It is rather surprising that that should be so, because, for example, units of the Polish navy acquitted themselves with great distinction during the last war, but a Pole who served with those forces is now prevented from performing similar service with the Royal Australian Navy. I understand that there is no such limitation upon immigrants serving in the Royal New Zealand Navy or the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Perhaps the authorities consider that if aliens were allowed to serve in the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force they would be placed in a better position to sabotage our defence efforts. I hope that the. Minister will be able to enlighten honorable members about that matter, and I also hope that he will find it possible to extend the scope of the bill to provide that aliens may be allowed to serve in the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force in the same way as they are to be permitted to serve in the Army.
I have heard that certain immigrant’s have made application to serve with the Citizen Military Forces and have been refused. Such refusal must make them, and their friends, consider that they are a bad security risk for Australia, whereas they may have been refused the opportunity to serve merely because of failure to comply with some minor Army regulation. I do not dispute that, for security reasons, the Army must rigidly screen applicants, but if it be merely a matter of failure to comply with some regulation, such as the production of a birth certificate which has been lost, then the regulations should be re-framed to allow such men to enter the Army. Presumably our immigrants are good security risks, otherwise they would not have been allowed into the country in the first place. Therefore, their entry into our armed forces should be facilitated. Assimilation into Australia begins when a person is selected for entry into the country, not when he joins the armed services. The whole aim of our immigration policy is to select persons, who can be readily absorbed. The process of assimilation is continuous from the time of selection until the time of naturalization. I applaud the Government’s decision to reduce immigration because Australia is clearly suffering from immigration indigestion. We need a breathing, space in order to .absorb those already here,, and the Government, very wisely, has consequently reduced our intake of immigrants.
Our immigration programme should be very flexible so that the intake can be increased when the opportunity again offers. If our selection teams overseas should be reduced in number or size our immigration programme would not have that flexibility and we might miss future favorable opportunities to expand our immigration programme. I had the privilege of seeing some of our selection officers at work in Europe, and I was greatly impressed by their completely Australian outlook. Their life abroad has not caused them to overlook the principle that every immigrant that they select should be readily assimilable into the Australian community. Those keen and hardworking selection teams are a great credit to Australia. Much has been said about the security measures that are taken, by immigrant selection teams. All that has a direct bearing on any discussion of this measure. The Australian security officers attached to the selection teams in Germany have direct access to one of the most complete security records in the world. That is the Berlin security record, established by the Nazis and now controlled by America and the United Kingdom. The information contained there is available to the Australian security officers. Most people seem to have the idea that immigrants are merely grabbed out of the air, and that the rule is roughly run over them. I know that that is not so, and I am convinced that the selection teams thoroughly investigate the background of all prospective German immigrants. In the confusion occasioned by their defeat, the Germans left these complete records behind, and we now have the benefit of them. In many cases they are able to afford proof as to whether or not a prospective immigrant is a Nazi.
I ask the Minister to examine seriously the very useful features of the American method of encouraging immigration for national service work and for employment in the armed services. I also ask the Minister to consider the insertion of provisions in the bill to permit immigrants to serve in the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. If we are not to approach our immigrants with suspicion, we must take them into all our armed services. By so doing we shall benefit, not only Australia, but also the immigrants by teaching them more quickly the Australian way of life. We shall also strengthen our defence forces and assist the immigrants to become a useful part of the Australian community.
.- The vexed question of nationality has been one of the most difficult matters that lias faced Australian governments since immigration became an important issue. A nationality plan was given serious consideration in the Parliament only when the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) introduced certain legislation in 1948. In the past there was a slap-happy method of encouraging i in migration, and the most ridiculous part of it was the way in which nationality was dealt with. Aliens received their notifications of nationality by post or by a notice in a newspaper, and there was a complete absence of ceremony. To become an Australian citizen seemed to be a shameful procedure, something done for business masons or because a person had been here so long that he thought that ho. might as well become an Australian. That was all changed by the Chifley Govern],lent. However, we must always approach very carefully any proposedchanges in the system of naturalization. The honorable member for Melbourne showed how the nationality decisions of i lie British Commonwealth were hammered out after machinery difficulties had been overcome, and at the present time we have a unified approach to the matter which could easily be spoiled if we are not careful. I do not think that anything in this legislation lias dangerous implications, but the bill provides for a piecemeal approach rather than a broad sweep. Bound up in the matter of nationalization are the problems of the alien who has served with the British forces, the alien who desires to serve in the Australian armed forces, the alien who desires to enlist in our forces and serve overseas, and the alien who enlists in the services for parttime duty. “We are trying to do something for al] those persons. That is why I believe that this measure approaches the whole matter in a piecemeal way. However, the bill is a sensible and useful move of a progressive nature, although it will not deal effectively with the matter for very long. New problems will very soon arise which will necessitate further measures.
The extracts from the American law read during the debate, and the obser vations of the honorable member for Melbourne, were very useful. The Americans have had experience in immigration during the last century, particularly during the last 50 years, and they have introduced many methods by which aliens can become American citizens. Instead of placing mechanical legal barriers in the way of immigrants, the Americans have made it easy for people from other countries to become assimilated in the American amalgam and to acquire citizenship as rapidly as possible. That is a difficulty that forever harasses the immigration authorities of all nations. It is easy to talk from the hustings in a general way about the vast numbers of people who are migrating to Australia, but we are inclined to think in terms of quantity, as though we were making a bulk purchase, and to overlook the fine sensibilities, the differing outlooks and the touchiness of the peoples of other races who come to join our community. We throw different national types en Hoc on to the Australian scene and, instead of attempting to carry out our part of the bargain and absorb them into our community, we erect harriers against them. The Australian people as a whole do not intend to treat immigrants in this way, but they are not accustomed to immigration on the scale that we have known during the last five or six years. As a result, while we welcome immigrants with one hand, we tend to push them into the background with the other hand. That is highly dangerous and completely unsatisfactory, and it is likely in the long run to destroy our long-term immigration policy.
The amendments of our nationality law for which the bill provides are of a piecemeal character. Let us consider the situation of a new Australian who has voluntarily joined the armed services and gone overseas to serve this country. In return for his services rendered, the probationary period that must elapse before he can become naturalized will be halved. The normal period of qualification in the British Commonwealth is five years. Thus, a new Australian who fights with our armed forces in Korea will become eligible for naturalization in two and a half years. He may even die in the defence of his new country before he can become an Australian. No doubt he is proud of the race from which he has sprung, but he has decided to live in Australia and, notwithstanding .the difficulties of life in this country, he is convinced that this is the land for him. I think that naturalization should be granted to an immigrant forthwith if he indicates, by enlisting v.i the armed services, not only that he 13 willing to live in this country but also that he is prepared to offer his life, if need be, in its defence. No higher motive could be found. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) has very clearly described the security check that is made by the Army authorities, and I agree that it is very thorough. Therefore, the fact that an immigrant who wishes to serve his new country in this way has been accepted for enlistment on the same level as have’ been the Australians with whom he trains and fights, should qualify him for acceptance as an Australian citizen. I am sure that the Minister for Immigration, fresh from the conferences that he has attended overseas and fortified by the observations that he has made during his tour, will realize the justice of granting Australian citizenship to such a person. Our nationality law should make automatic the granting of Australian citizenship to immigrants who have been screened and found acceptable for service with our armed forces. That is the lowest decoration, and yet the highest, that we can bestow upon men who have * shown that they are as one with us and ready in every sense to become good Australians. We can dispose of this problem very easily.
The situation of immigrants who are undergoing only part-time training with the armed forces is more complex. The Minister has decided that such part-time trainees shall be made part-time Australians and, therefore, the bill provides that they shall be allowed to deduct a week from their qualifying period for every four weeks of their residence in Australia. Thus, they will have to wait four years before they can become naturalized Australians. We have plenty of safeguards with which we can protect ourselves against error. Men who do not want to stay in this country can be put on board ship and sent back to the countries from which they came. We might not, perhaps, fill a ship with such malcontents, but it is obvious that the huge numbers that come to Australia must include at least some undesirable persons. We should have no difficulty in dealing with them. However, I am discussing at present those immigrants who wish to become Australians, and, in particular, those who might be described as the corps d’elite - that special class of men who are willing to join our armed forces. The check on their standards’ is thorough, and we should accord them something more than a niggardly recognition of their good qualities. We can and should do something dramatic and sweeping that will make them feel that they are at home with us and accepted by us as fellow citizens. It is not sufficient to tell them that they can become Australians in two and a half years, or to give them a coupon that will allow them to reduce their period of waiting by one week in every four. That is merely begging the question, and it is highly undesirable.
We must be very careful that, in the processes of the law, we do not weaken rather than strengthen the desire of new Australians to become naturalized Australians. The drab approach to naturalization, I am happy to repeat, has been abandoned. Now the transition is marked by a ceremony at which a magistrate or a judge presides. There are flags and a colourful ceremonial, and the act of becoming an Australian citizen has some worthwhile significance. The ceremonial that we have borrowed from Canada and the United States of America is good and useful. I see nothing overdone about it. I think that it is a good thing to become an Australian, and I think, too, that people who have come to Australia from the other side of the world to find out about this country should be encouraged to take the ultimate step of acquiring citizenship. There could be nothing worse than to take that step with a glum face in a miserable office, or by means of a routine notification by post from the Department of Immigration. The public should share in the ceremony, and that is why the new system has been successful. I have witnessed the induction of immigrants into Australian citizenship and I commend the colourful procedure that is followed. When we first thought of introducing this ceremonial, many Australians thought that it would be mere bally-hoo and that there would be too. much of the circus about it. But it has proved to be eminently successful. The immigrants themselves, and, of course, the judges, have supplied the requisite dignity, and I believe that the procedure is now regarded generally as being natural and proper. With hundreds of new Australians in the streets of every Australian city, the people have accepted the ceremony with pleasure as an indication of the great turnover of new arrivals who wish to become Australians.
We must break down the artificial barriers that we have erected because we have persisted in speaking of old Australians and new Australians, or “ Aussies “ and “ Naussies “, which are atrocious terms, and try, by every means within our power, to absorb immigrants as quickly as possible. The honorable member for Calare has told the House of the tightening of the screening process in order to reduce security risks to the absolute minimum. Although this is not relevant to the present debate, I thank him for the assurance that he has given. I have not always been satisfied that we were being protected against the entry of undesirable immigrants, but I am satisfied now that the utmost precautions are being taken because I know that the honorable gentleman is a keen observer. No doubt the Minister for Immigration will make a more comprehensive report to us on this subject at a later stage. However, whatever steps’ we may take, certain numbers of immigrants of the wrong type will reach this country, and there must ‘be a further screening here.
The United States of America has a process that is known as denaturalization. An alien who becomes a naturalized United States citizen and who is later found guilty of some heinous offence is denaturalized. Another ceremony, almost as impressive as the naturalization ceremony, takes place and the guilty person is virtually excommunicated from American citizenship with bell, book and candle. The process is not accomplished merely by the withdrawal of his permit to enter the United States of America. He is deprived of citizenship publicly in order to indicate, for the benefit of other immigrants, that people of foreign birth cannot get away with serious offences after they have become American citizens. Just as the granting of American citizenship is a colourful affair marked by the playing of bands and the reading of the Declaration of Independence, so, when ‘a man defames his new country, his citizenship is stripped from him with a flourish of trumpets. I hope that we shall not be called upon to engage in such ceremonies in any extravagant way, but we must place a filter at each end of the funnel through which immigrants enter this country. I think that the Minister is well aware of the difficulties to which I have referred and I hope that he will give serious attention to them.
The problems of nationality with which this bill deals are most difficult and complex. Procedures that appear to be obvious and common-sense to the man in the street are often fraught with all sorts of technicalities. The British countries generally are very cagey about their nationality laws, as the Minister is aware, and we must proceed most cautiously so that we shall not tread upon the corns of fellow members of the Commonwealth by interfering with the general system of immigration procedure. The partial attempt to deal with the problem of new Australians who join our armed forces, which is embodied in the bill, is not sufficiently far-reaching, as I am sure -the Minister will acknowledge, but, at any rate, it is a worthy attempt to overcome, for the time being, some of the difficulties that are involved. The suggestion that has been, made by the honorable member for Melbourne is sound. In fact, it envisages the only reasonable course of action. No barriers should he raised against the new Australian who joins our fighting forces. He should be granted Australian citizenship forthwith because he has earned it. That method offers the quickest and most satisfactory solution of the problem. The difficulty of dealing with youngsters who are not subject to call-up for military service as are young Australians must be surmounted. One of the problems of immigration is that many men envisage a time when all able-bodied Australians will be overseas while immigrants remain at home and get the good jobs because they will not be eligible for service. I have heard this subject discussed seriously at more than one trade union meeting and at various political meetings.
The Minister for Immigration should give serious attention to three important aspects of the nationality problem that ]’ have discussed. How soon should the serviceman of alien origin be accorded Australian citizenship? What shall we do about young aliens in this community who are not obliged to serve with the armed forces as are Australian youths? What precautions must we take against the alien who comes here, does not seek to acquire citizenship, and finally decides that he would prefer to return whence he came? These are three problems of major importance. First. we should ensure that every new Australian who wishes to become a citizen of this country shall be given every encouragement. We must seek to break down resistance to the assimilation of new Australians, because this resistance bears most unfairly upon them. Secondly, we must not make too n.i any fine distinctions. Provided that a new Australian wishes to become an Australian citizen and has a sound security record, the achievement of his ambition should be made easy, not difficult. There should not be too much machinery or book-work. We have brought these people to Australia. Let us do our utmost to ensure that they shall stay here. Thirdly, we should settle promptly the problem of the young alien who is not required to serve with the armed forces. Many of these young men would eagerly join the services if they were permitted to do so.
Sitting, suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- The purpose of this bill is to make it easier and quicker for foreign immigrants, or new Australians as it is the habit to call them, to become Australian citizens. That object is to be accomplished in three way&. First, those who undertake fulltimemilitary service in the defence of thiscountry will have their period of residence, for naturalization purposes,, reduced by one-half. Secondly, those who are prepared to serve part-time in the services - that is in the -Citizen Military Forces - will have their time of residence reduced by one-fifth in order to qualify for citizenship. Thirdly, formality of becoming an- Australian citizen will be made easier for the newcomer. Finally, persons under the age of 21 years who wish to qualify for Australian citizenship will not be required any longer to advertise their intention formally in the newspapers. Broadly, the House concurs with the principles of the measure. I mention,, in passing, that it is refreshing . to find members of the Opposition concurring, with a proposal that the Government has brought forward.
– It is refreshing to find! that the Government is putting forward’ something of which the Opposition can> approve.
– Then every one is satisfied. I have said that those whoengage as full-time members of the forces are entitled to have their period of residence reduced by one-half in order toqualify for citizenship. For my part,. I consider that it would be quite reasonable for us to go further than that. Afterall, if a man undertakes to fight abroad for the country of his adoption, surely he is entitled to every privilege of citizenship which that country can give to him. The proposal in the bill is a step in theright direction, and I applaud it as such,, but I should be perfectly agreeable to say that a man who has served as a soldier, sailor or airman on active serviceabroad, on receiving, his honorable discharge from the services, should be granted, automatically, full citizenshiprights. A point of international law may be involved in this matter. I do not set myself up as an authority on- this subject, but I should like some information about the position of say, a WhiteRussian. who enlists in the Australian Army and goes to .Korea. Probably hehas spent many years of his life hi Chirau Should he be taken prisoner-of-war by the Chinese, it is hardly likely that they will treat him kindly if he is not even a citizen of the country that he is defending in the field at that time. To be sure, not many persons are in this category, but we should consider the situation of :those who are involved.
I am also glad to note that those who -serve as part-time members of the Citizen Military Forces will, for naturalization purposes, have their period of residence reduced by one-fifth. It is difficult to ;get our own native-born to enlist in the Citizen Military Forces, and if those who come here from abroad feel strongly enough to give up some of their time in order to assist us to defend ourselves, they are entitled to every concession and encouragement that we can give them:. I congratulate the Minister on that matter.’
I am not so sure about the wisdom of breaking down the formal proceedings that accompany the granting of naturalization. Much has been said in this debate about the practice adopted in the United States of America. When I was in that country during the last war, I had the privilege of attending a ceremony at which people were inducted into full citizenship. I am bound to say that I found the ceremony most impressive, and such as was likely to impress itself on the minds of prospective citizens. The procedure that was established in Australia by the previous Minister for Immigration was well done, and I hope that it will not be broken down too much in future. There should be a certain solemnity, and sense of privilege, associated with the taking out of Australian citizenship rights.
I am bound to say that I do not agree with the suggestion that we have gone too slowly or should go further. It is possible to go too fast in such matters, t believe that, as a general rule, we shall do well not to hurry too much, and not to make the granting of Australian citizenship too easy for new Australians as a whole. It would be a great mistake for vs to get out of line with the general practice of the British Commonwealth of Nations, because citizenship of any British country is something to be prized, something not -easy to obtain’, and1 some thing which is of value and which confers privilege on any one in the world at large. If it were to be found that Australia was the country where it was easiest to get citizenship, we might readily attract undesirable persons who would say, “ Well, we cannot become citizens of Canada or South Africa or of a British Crown colony but it is awfully easy to get Australian citizenship. Let us go to Australia, because we can get an Australian passport in a matter of two or three years “. That would be wrong. I consider that the Minister is perfectly right when he declines to move too quickly in this matter.
I do not agree with the criticism, which I have, heard from honorable members on both sides of the House, about the attitude of the services towards the enlistment of new Australians. It is said that if a prospective immigrant can satisfy the immigration authorities that he is a perfectly sound security risk, that should be quite enough for the fighting services, and that they should accept this person on exactly the same basis as they accept any British-born person. I cannot agree with that view for one moment. What I am about to say does not necessarily imply criticism of the Minister or his predecessor, or the policy of any Government. The fact is that, in embarking on a wholesale immigration scheme as Australia has done, it stands to reason that there must have, been a great many mistakes. I consider that the Services do well to have their own particular security standards regarding the persons whom they enlist. We have made mistakes in our immigration policy, and that is perfectly understandable. In Australia before the last war, immigration on a planned national scale was practically unknown. We had no great Department of Immigration. We are certainly fortunate in having a most experienced, talented and well-respected head of the Department of Immigration. But apart from that, we did not have the trained staff necessary to choose the most suitable immigrants to come to this country. Furthermore, our problem of bringing people here was complicated in various ways because there were two points of view. We had the need to bring here as quickly as possible as many prospective new Australians as we could attract. From every stand-point we needed them. But there were in Europe at that time many hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people, homeless and destitute, who should not be left as a total drain and deadweight on the European economy. My discussions with members of various organizations established by the United Nations, and others who were in Europe, have made me realize that those two ideas were in conflict in the minds of the previous Minister for Immigration and the previous Government. We wanted immigrants. We considered that we had a duty to bring people here, whether or not they were desirable immigrants. There is no point in denying at this stage that a great many of those who were brought here in the early days after World War II. will be very difficult to assimilate.
– I shall tell the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). Many persons were brought here without regard to the labour market. Many who came here expected to find permanent job* without any difficulty. Their expectations have not been realized. It was not our fault, and it was not their fault, because they were not trained for our particular way of life. Another perfectly good reason is that many have found the trade union regulations particularly irksome. I do not say that it is not a good thing, and absolutely essential, that we should have hours of work and conditions of labour rigidly prescribed, and that it should be essential for persons to join trade unions; but from the point of view of the immigrants, this whole situation was most puzzling. All they, wanted to do was to come here and, if necessary, work the clock around regardless of conditions. Consequently, they found it difficult to grasp the fundamentals and the reasons for many things in the Australian way of life.
Another difficulty, which has been already discussed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), is that we in Australia have a slight prejudice against foreigners. Perhaps it is even too strong to describe it as a prejudice, but the fact remains that we just do not understand them. We are accustomed to people speaking English more or less as we speak it, and when some one speaks it badly it is difficult for us to grasp that, fundamentally, he is the same sort of person as we are, and wants exactly the same kind of things as we want.
Another difficulty arises from the housing shortage. I do not desire to get this particular aspect of immigration out of focus, but I point out that a large number of people have undoubtedly come to Australia in the belief that houses would be readily available for them. No good service is done to our immigration policy by the encouragement of such a belief. I hope that it will be made abundantly plain to all those who come here in future exactly how difficult it is for a working man with no capital to establish himself in his own home. A similar situation exists in Europe, the United States of America and elsewhere, but it is wrong for us to build up false hopes in the minds . of those who come here about the housing situation. If we do create false hopes, we are only asking for trouble, and, indeed, we are having some trouble in that respect. Often I meet men and women who have come here since the end of World War II. and they say, “ We have not taken out citizenship papers. We thought that if we came to Australia we should be able to get our own house and permanent employment.” They do not say that they expected that they would not have to work hard, but they imply it. They say, “ We have not found things as we expected “. The time has arrived when we should make it clear to prospective newcomers how difficult the situation is.
Again, many newcomers to Australia do not desire to be assimilated into the community. I mention those matters, because I think that it is of some importance for us to realize the point of view of new Australians. Many of them still regard Europe as their national and spiritual home. They did not come here entirely from choice. They migrated to Australia because that was the only way in which they could sustain life. The countries in which they were born have been overrun, and the immigrants themselves are unfavorably known to those who are now in power. Consequently, they have come to Australia because it is the only way for them to live. We have to make it as easy and as attractive for them as we possibly can. I believe that this bill will do something in that respect. After all, it is natural that those who come here from, for example, Poland or Czechoslovakia, will have at the back of their mind the thought that one day their native country will again be free and that they will be able to return to it. We should realize that -at the back of the mind of many newcomers is the thought that fundamentally they belong to Europe, and that, perhaps, they may be able some day to return to their native countries. If we are to assimilate and to give full citizenship rights to as many as possible of these persons goodwill must exist on both sides. On our part, we need these people. We shall certainly not be left unchallenged in possession of this beautiful country unless we support a much larger proportion of the world’s population and utilize this country for the purpose of feeding many of the starving peoples abroad. We cannot achieve those objectives without greatly increasing our present labour force. In other words, we shall not be able to hold Australia without increasing our population. At the same time, however, there could not be a more foolish error than acceptance of the idea that our existence depends merely on numbers. Nothing could be more conducive to our confusion and downfall than if we were to think that merely by bringing people here in great numbers regardless of their background, or without considering how we shall assimilate them, we shall ensure the safety of this country. Looking round the world, we find that many of the countries that are in the direst trouble or are most vulnerable - this has been the position for the last 50 years - have relatively large populations whilst; conversely, the countries that are more secure have relatively small populations. The important factor in this matter is not quantity but quality of population. I for one believe that up till now we have had a population of an extraordinarily high quality. Nobody who has seen our people at war, or when they have been exerting themselves at peace, can believe that we do not earn a high standard of living and that we are not prepared to defend it. Nothing could be more foolish than to imagine that to bring people here in hundreds of thousands who are not skilled, or inspired by love of this country and who are not trained or are not able to defend it, will give us any sort of security whatsoever.
We have made mistakes, and I believe that we are still making mistakes. As a country we have not had great experience with mass migration. Until recently, we did not have a large number of persons trained to undertake the selection of immigrants, and we have made many mistakes,, mainly, I believe, because it has been our attitude that numbers are the answer to our problem in this field. I trust that we shall correct that attitude. In the past we have sent abroad to select immigrants numbers of persons who did not have the slightest knowledge of the European background, or of standards of living in- Europe, or of conveying to prospective immigrants how they could best fit themselves into our economy. From what I have seen of some -new arrivals, I do not believe that that fault has been entirely corrected. I trust that it will be. It is useless for one honorable member after another to praise the mere arrival of large numbers of immigrants. If we had selected stud cattle or sheep from abroad on the same basis as that on which we have selected many of the persons who have come here as immigrants we should now be in a sorry position with respect to primary production. It is not of less importance that we should send experts abroad to select immigrants than that we should send experts abroad to select stud stock for this country. We should send as such officers overseas, persons who have some knowledge of the conditions that they will . find in th, countries to which they are sent.
I applaud the action of the Government in facilitating the granting of Australian citizenship to newcomers. That is a step in the right direction. I do not agree with the general criticism of honorable members opposite that the Government is not going far enough under this measure. I believe that it is going far enough. The honorable member for Parkes mentioned several important matters. He referred to new arrivals who have not taken out citizenship rights within the prescribed period. He did not offer any answer to that problem, but merely posed it. What are we going to do with new arrivals who come within that category? I cannot answer that question. But we should recognize the difficulties that beset immigrants coming here and make it as easy as possible for them to be assimilated into the community.
– I am indebted, as I am sure the Government is, for the constructive way in which the House has approached this measure. In the course of this debate, honorable members have maintained a nonpartisan approach to immigration matters which, happily, has marked this phase of our national policy since our immigration programme was inaugurated by the preceding Government immediately after the end of World War LT. What has been said by honorable members on both sides of the chamber will, of course, be very carefully considered by me and by the officers of my department. I believe that I might usefully deal with some of the points that have been raised because I wish to assure those honorable members who have spoken in this debate that many of the matters that they have placed before the House have already received a good deal of consideration by the department. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who, perhaps, has a more detailed knowledge of these questions of nationality than has any other honorable member, he having made a thorough study of them when he was Minister for Immigration in the preceding Government, referred to the provisions that are being made under this measure by way of concession for qualification to citizenship to those aliens who have volunteered for service in our forces. He referred extensively to the present practice in the United States of America and he recommended that we might usefully follow it.
I should like to say something about two phases of that matter. The first, of them is enlistment in our forces for service overseas. That matter has been considered by the three services - ibaArmy, Navy and Air Force. It is not for me, as Minister for Immigration, toexpress a judgment upon the views that each of those services takes on this matter. I shall simply state the facts as I know them. The army authorities,, having weighed up this matter, feel happy to accept aliens as volunteers in. the Army. The same view has not, sofar at any rate, been taken by the Navy or by the Air Force, and that is whythere is the limitation which appears at present and to which reference has been made in the course of this debate. The second phase is service under our national service training scheme under which young . men in this country, when they reach the age of eighteen years, are required to undergo a period of training in order to defend this country should theneed arise. This Government - I hopethat this has been made sufficiently clear in the past - desires that alien youths who have come to settle with us should have the same obligation to train themselves for the defence of their adopted homeland as. is binding upon our native-born citizens. For the last two years, we havebeen endeavouring to bring about that result; but there “are complications which cannot be easily overcome. We havemoved as swiftly as the circumstances have permitted. There are international obligations between one country and another in respect of the treatment of citizens of either country. Whilst this matter originates in the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service, negotiations on such phases of it come within the province of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I understand that the Department of External Affairs has been actively negotiating with the governments of countries from which nationals have come to Australia and that a good deal of progress has been made. I am hopeful that at no distant date we shall be in a situation in which such obligation as is binding upon our own young men when they reach the age of eighteen years will apply with equal force to young men who come here from other countries. That is the objective of the Government and the principle of the policy that it has adopted. La passing, it is interesting to note that “this aspect has been seized upon by the Communists for their own purposes not only in this country, but also in countries from which new settlers are coming to Australia. In this country the line of propaganda that the Communists peddle is that Australian youths are called upon to defend these immigrants, but when I was recently in Italy I found that in that country the Communists’ propaganda was just the reverse. They were telling prospective Italian immigrants that they would be called on to defend Australians and to serve with Australian forces in Korea or in any other sphere in which our troops might from time to time be engaged. Honorable members generally will agree that whatever obligation is placed upon native Australian citizens in “this matter should rest equally upon new settlers. That is the objective that we =are pursuing.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) referred to the symbolic significance of the naturalization ceremony. I share the approval that those honorable members expressed at the change that was made by a previous administration in order to give a deeper significance to that ceremony. We have “tried to emphasize the significance of that ceremony not only in respect of the spoken word at our naturalization ceremonies ‘but also at citizenship conventions at which ceremonies of this kind have been held. On one occasion new settlers from other countries were naturalized in a :group whilst on another occasion the ceremony was conducted for the naturalization of new settlers in the lower age groups in order to give to them ;an insight into the meaning of the ceremony. Although the proposal that is embodied in this measure will give a little honorable members that it is not the intention of the Government to reduce the significance of such occasions or to do anymore flexibility to that ceremony, I assure thing that would fail to impress upon new settlers, when they are assuming citizenship rights, the full significance of such action. As the discussion proceeded, various other matters were introduced that may have appeared to be a little wide of the provisions of the bill. Let me make a general comment that will, I think, be reassuring to the House. The provisions of this measure have been considered by the Immigration Advisory Council - a very representative body which, as honorable members well know, renders voluntary service, in the national interest, in relation to immigration matters. 1 shall ensure that the comments that have been made in the course of this debate and which have suggested other measures that could be usefully adopted, will also receive the careful consideration of that body.
– Has the Minister given consideration to the position of immigrants whose contracts were destroyed because certain authorities pleaded that the immigrants were enemy aliens, and, therefore, that they could not make contracts with them?
– I believe that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) is referring to an episode that occurred in Perth or in Fremantle. At the time it occurred, I did not hesitate to express the view that that was a very unfair attitude for a Government authority to adopt. I have been absent from the country for the last two or three months, and I cannot say what stage that matter has reached now.
– It has not been resolved.
Hr. HOLT.- I think it would be inequitable for a government to enter into a moral obligation in relation to new settlers brought to this country, and then to take refuge in a legal technicality and claim that it could not lawfully bind itself to do what it had undertaken to do. I hope that an attitude of that kind will not be persisted in by any Australian government, whether it be the National Government or a State government.
– Are these people still enemy aliens really 1
– I require notice of that question. I cannot give a kerbstone opinion on it now. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) referred to the efficiency of our security screening system. While I was abroad, I investigated our security methods. Most of the interest that has been displayed in this aspect of the problem concerns immigrants from Germany. In the past, the criticism was made that we did not want people in this country of a Nazi turn of mind, or people who believed in the Nazi philosophy. Therefore, I was anxious to examine the efficiency of the methods of screening immigrants from chat area. I spent a very interesting af ternoon in the Berlin document centre, - where documents compiled with typical thoroughness by the Nazi organization can be inspected. The documents relate to members, not only of the Nazi party itself, but of all affiliated organizations. 1 saw the thoroughness with which those documents had been prepared, and the accuracy with which we are able to cheek the background of people from that part of Europe who offer themselves for selection as immigrants to this country. I think it can be said truly that, as a result of the information that is available from that source and the advice that is given to us by American and British intelligence officers in that area, we are able to make a more thorough check of German nationals than of the nationals of any other country. I believe that our security methods are as efficient as they oan be made, and that we have very little to fear in this connexion.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) raised the important question of the advisability of bringing to this country great numbers of immigrants at the expense of suitability and quality. I believe that my predecessor in office will agree with me that, in the mass immigration to Australia of displaced persons from Europe, we did not Always secure immigrants of the overall standard that normally we should have desired. Having said that, let me add that I believe that the Australian selection teams secured for this country the best material that was available. I received confirmation of that view from impartial qualified observers all over Europe. We got the best of what was offering. I am certain that, whatever minor blemishes there were on that scheme, no Australian who knows the facts feels anything but pride in the major role that we played in helping to solve the grievous human problem that existed in Europe at that time. I offer neither criticism of what was done by my predecessor nor apology for what this Government did in relation to that matter. It was one of the great victories of peace, and Australia can feel justly proud of the part that it played. We have moved beyond that phase now, and are in a position to make a careful selection in the various European countries that have prospective immigrants of the type that we believe Australian conditions call for. We have tried always to ensure that about onehalf of the total immigrant intake to this country shall consist of British people. Frequently, the British immigrants have not been as fully qualified as have immigrants from other countries in terms of, say, trade skills and rural experience - and it is people of those classes that we need most at the present time - but we have tried to give preference, and have succeeded in doing so, to immigrants from Britain. Countries such as Holland, West Germany and Italy are able to send to us the skilled industrial workers and the skilled farm workers that we need, and our selection teams are able to pick and choose those whom they think will be most suitable for our purposes. I assure the House that in this matter we are not obsessed with the idea of numbers, and that we are eager to get the best material that is offering. We want only those immigrants who are most likely to make a useful contribution to our development and to be assimilated successfully intoour community life.
We tend to believe that our achievement in absorbing about 700,000 new settlers since the end of the war is very remarkable, and that that figure is abnormally high. In a sense, that istrue. Judged by earlier standards, the intake of immigrants to this country since the war is very large, and, compared with our population, the figure is high. But let me give the House an illustration which will show that much more substantial intakes are practicable when conditions for population absorption are favorable. Only recently, I passed through the “ State of California in the United States of America. At the outbreak of the last war, California had a population of 7,000,000, which was about the size of our population at that time, but to-day it has a population of 11,00,000, compared with our 8,500,000. During the last ten years, it has absorbed a number of persons equal to 50 per cent. of its pre-war population. I do not dispute that the task of the people of California was easier than ours. California has taken in, not immigrants from overseas but people from other parts of the United States of America, with a common language and a common background. It has had behind it the great capital resources of the United States Government, and the money that the American investing public has poured into the State for its development.
I mention that achievement in population absorption, which far outstrips our own, merely as an indication of what can be done without undue inconvenience to a community when certain factors are favorable, when capital investment is available in the volume needed to provide work for the people who come into the community, when social factors are favorable, and when assimilation can take place without causing undue embarrassment to the people of the area concerned. Whatever difficulties we may encounter in absorbing the immigrants who come to this country during the postwar years, I shall not regard them as insuperable. I shall regard them, as, I am sure, will all true Australians and all loyal members of this House, as presenting a challenge that must be met. There is still an urgent need to increase our population to provide for our security and development. It is for us, not to shrink from the difficulties that present themselves, but to accept the challenge and, by such practical measures as we can devise, to overcome them. Fortunately, we have a breathing space in which to develop and defend this country, but that breathing space will not endure for ever. We shall be faithless to the duty that we owe to the Australians who will come after us if we do not take advantage of such favorable opportunities as are presented to us at this time to make our country more secure and more prosperous than ever before.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I rise only to reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), which may create a wrong impression in the minds of the Australian people. I believe that the selection teams that have been responsible for bringing immigrants to Australia have donea wonderful job. I do not agree that a number of unassimilable people have come here. I do not believe that we have received a greater percentage than has any other country of people who, because of language difficulties, age or other reasons, will not become first-class citizens. The honorable member for Henty did not go so far as to suggest that numbers of the people that we have brought here will not become useful citizens, but he did imply that some of them were selected because we wanted quantity rather than quality.
I remember the first teams that I appointed, when I was Minister for Immigration, to go through Europe and find suitable immigrants. They were three-man teams. They consisted of a selection officer, a medical officer, and an officer responsible for the security aspects of the problem. In almost every instance, the members of the teams were young men, and returned servicemen of the last war. I was confident that, if they had any doubt at all about a person, they would give the benefit of that doubt to their country, and that they would not put people on to the vessels that were bringing immigrants to Australia merely because we wanted, to use a colloquialism of the last war, bodies. We entrusted our selection teams with an enormous responsibility. We took the view that we should either back them or sack them. We were prepared to give them authority that no other government gave to its officials in a matter of this importance. The American selection teams were amazed that the Australian Government and the Australian people were prepared to trust teams- of three young men to select, perhaps, thousands of immigrants. In practice, the Australian teams did their jobs and were out of the camps before the Americans were able to start. The Americans were always amazed at the capacity of our teams, and at the trust that the Australian Government reposedin them.
I believe that the men and women who came to this country were good men and good women. We brought a lot of young people here. To get them to travel 13,000 miles to a land so far from Europe as Australia, when Canada was near and when some European countries were prepared to take them, we felt obliged to promise that, after a lapse of six months or so, they could, if they were happy in Australia, bring their parents and elderly relatives out here so that they could look after them. That was the humanitarian thing to do. It would have been most improper for us to have broken our word. We kept our part of the bargain, and these young people kept theirs. I agree with the Minister that, by and large, we have done better than any other country in regard to the type of people we have been able to attract to our shores. I believe that we have also done better considering the attitude of mind of some Australians towards immigrants, who are dissimilar to us in race, and many of whom have different religious affiliations in assimilating the newcomers. Our immigrants have included communicants of. the Greek Orthodox Church from the eastern parts of Europe, and from the Ukraine and Poland, as well as Lutherans from northern Europe. Such immigrants have also had other disabilities. Our general immigrant scheme has attracted 600,000 people, British and non-British, to Australia in six years. That is a performance of which we can all be proud, because we are all partners in doing the job. I am sorry that what seems to me to have been a discordant note should have been struck in this debate. I agree with the Minister that the debate was a little wide of the mark. He erred, and perhaps I erred a little also, but I shall err no longer, for I shall now conclude my speech.
.- I support the measure. However, although it deals only with the subject of naturalization of immigrants there seems to have been a tendency to use the debating time allotted to consideration of it for the purpose of dealing generally with the subject of immigration. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) extended himself to some degree, and told us of the glories of the immigration policy in the -past and of its future glories. I agree that bright prospects lie ahead of us as a result of the immigration policy, but, when I know that the Government proposes to bring into this country immigrants from many countries, including non-British countries, at the rate of 80,000 people a year, I am bound to say that I am of the very firm opinion that we have- reached saturation point in the intake of immigrants. The fact is that the immigration scheme has been most successful, up to a point, but we have now reached a stage at which, the Government has been forced to operate its so-called anti-inflation policy, when credit has been restricted, opportunities for overtime work diminished, and facilities for the employment of the wives of immigrants have practically disappeared.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The. honorable gentleman is getting a bit wide of the bill.
– The Minister roamed far and wide. I wish to say, as a person who is interested in the problem, and because I have a great number of immigrants in my constituency, British as well as new Australians, that I consider that the time has arrived for a complete cessation of immigration until such time as we can adequately house and look after the people already in this country. .1 know something of rural industry and the Minister is having a pipe-dream if he thinks he’ can continue to bring people into this country from overseas and have them snapped up eagerly by the farmers as employees. I tell him quite frankly that he faces absolute failure with a policy of that kind. There is no tendency apparent to-day for the Australian farming community to employ immigrants on their properties. There are many reasons for that fact. Farmers prefer to employ either their own sons or daughters or local residents. Farms nowadays are so highly mechanized that farmers do not want new Australians as employees. The Minister’s dream is the dream of a visionary. I should be glad to see a continuance of the immigration policy if I could foresee that happiness would flow from it, but when one can see, as I have seen, the situation at Brooklyn-
– We placed 106 immigrants in rural employment last week.
– I tell the Minister that nearly 2,000 British immigrants are living in a great barn of a woolshed at Brooklyn. Married couples are occupying two rooms there. Between SOO and 900 women with children live there, and the whole place is a seething mass of discontent. Those people do not see one chance in a million of more than a tiny percentage of them ever getting their own homes in Australia. The situation is reaching a crisis. If any of those people could see the possibility of being able to leave such places within a period of, say, twelve months, they might have some hope. The position in Victoria and other States is terrible. Royal Park, one of Melbourne’s magnificent parks within the boundaries of which Camp Pell was constructed during the war, is still covered with camp buildings that once accommodated troops and were later made available for the accommodation of homeless people. The Victorian Government cannot obtain the necessary finance, labour or materials to provide homes for those people. Some migrants are able to make an effort and get out of those camps, but they form a small proportion of the total number. Many new Australians are making valiant efforts to find homes for themselves. Between Sunshine and Deer Park hundreds of them are building homes, but there are no sewerage, roads or drainage in the area. When the Braybrook Shire Council, or the City of Sunshine, seeks finance to construct houses or alleviate unemployment, they ava told that money is not available. In these circumstances the problem of immigration must be considered seriously, and until’ such time as we can absorb these people in a humane way we should call a halt to immigration. I admit that the immigration policy will do wonderful things for us in the future, up to a point, but it is fantastic that the Government should consider bringing 80,000 immigrants a year into this country when unemployment is increasing and when we have not the facilities to house them adequately. Such a policy will bring nothing but disaster, and will be detrimental to the whole conception of immigration and its future. I ask the Minister to divest himself of the notion that he will be able to place immigrants from Europe in employment with Australian farmers. I leave that matter at that.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred to a remark made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt). That Minister has not spoken in committee on this bill.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It is a good point of order.
– I walked into the cham- ber as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made a remark to which I wish to make a brief reply. He advocated the complete cessation of immigration at this time. I know that that is not the policy of his party, because I listened carefully to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
– The Minister ought to be out living with some of the immigrants in the terrible conditions under which they live.
– Order ! Let me make this clear. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) seems to have been treated as a privileged person. He touched on everything but the bill, but I have no intention of allowing that to continue.
– I do not propose to touch on anything except one remark that I heard the honorable member make as I entered the chamber. I am glad to say that his advocacy of a complete cessation of immigration is not the policy of the Labour party any more than it is the policy of this Government. If his suggestion were adopted it would be the most unwise policy for Australia to follow. There will not always be people whom we shall be’ able to obtain as immigrants. Any country that requires immigrants must ensure that it gets them when they are available. If we turn the tap off now, we may not be able to obtain desirable settlers when we want them, some years hence. Everybody knows that this country must have population. It was said that we should slow down the rate of immigration. We slowed down the rate. We announced recently a policy of reducing the intake of immigrants from 160,000 to 80,000 a year. We also announced that at least half of the annual intake of 80,000 would be British people, and the other half would be a carefully selected body of immigrants of the type most suited to our economy. This is a matter of statesmanship. Are we to take the short-term view, or are we to consider this matter in relation to our needs some years hence. If we take the long and statesmanlike view, we shall not cease immigration. By retaining immigration at the necessary rate according to our circumstances, we may ourselves suffer some slight inconvenience, but our children and grandchildren may he very grateful to us.
.- The bill is designed to make certain provision in relation to the conditions of nationalization to be applicable to new Australians who are members of the armed forces. I hope that I shall not be accused of reflecting upon the Chair when I say that it is time that somebody talked about the provisions of the bill. I am sorry that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has found it necessary to leave the chamber, because it was a remark of the Minister’s that has led me to speak on the measure.
– Order ! The honorable member may not comment on anything that happened in the House.
– I did not say that it happened in the House. I merely said that the Minister had made a statement. I heard him make it outside the chamber.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Which Minister?
– The Minister for Immigration.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.He said it during the second-reading debate.
– How does the Chair know what he said ? I had not yet mentioned it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I am telling the honorable gentleman that the Minister made the statement during the second-reading debate.
– I did not say that it was made during the secondreading debate.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Well, I am saying so.
Mi-. EDMONDS. - Can you read my mind, Mr. Temporary Chairman?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I know what has happened. The honorable member will deal with the hill.
– Then I shall be the only honorable member who has done so, up to date. It has been suggested, not necessarily during the debate on the second reading, or even in this chamber, that the only arm of the services which will accept new Australians, is the Army. The Government has not up to the present been able to convince the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy that new Australians should be allowed to enter those branches of the services. I do not know what the Government’s policy is in relation to this matter, /because it has never been stated, but I suggest that if it be the Government’s policy to absorb new Australians into the armed services then the Government must surely make the decision itself, and accept full responsibility for having made it. The decision should not be left to any branch of the services, as happens, if my understanding of the matter is correct. I believe that if it be right for new Australians to be accepted into the Army, surely it must be equally right for them to be accepted into the Air Force or the Navy. It is not as though new Australians came to this country willy nilly. They have been well screened before they came here. We have our security service as well as an excellent staff associated with the Department of Immigration, the members of which have had an opportunity of checking on the bona fides of immigrants. Surely we have not arrived at a stage when any officer of any branch of the armed forces is able, to decide whether he- will accept any particular person in his branch? Apparently that is what has happened, and undoubtedly it is wrong in principle. The decision as to who shall enter the defence services is purely a matter for the Government and if anybody, no matter what his rank may be, in any of our defence services is in a position to tell the Government who shall and who shall not enter the services, then it is time that the Government handed the administration of the armed forces over to the officers altogether. A senior member of the Government stated that that position actually obtains at the present time. If that is so, all that I can say is that it is certainly time that the Government accepted its responsibilities and made its own decisions.
.- I am sure that every honorable member will support this bill, because it will grant the honour and privilege of Australian citizenship to immigrants at a date earlier than they previously would have been entitled to obtain it. The bill provides that each week of service in the Army shall be regarded as two weeks’ residence for citizenship purposes. It has been very satisfying to be able to debate this bill in the House on a completely nonparty basis, because immigration is essentially a non-party matter. The present immigration programme was inaugurated by the previous Government and, with only slight modifications, has been carried on by this Government. Therefore, in the debate on this measure every honorable member has been able to rise above party considerations. My only complaint about this bill is that it does not go far enough. I believe that every new Australian who has abandoned his country of birth, who has travelled to Australia to begin a new life and who is prepared to offer his life for this country, should be admitted to Australian citizenship. I know that it can be said that there are dangers in admitting immigrants to citizenship too quickly, and that perhaps pur security screening may be not thorough enough, but I cannot imagine that a new Aus- tralian would be prepared to join the armed services and offer his life for this country unless it was his real and sincere desire to become an Australian citizen. Therefore, after the shortest possible term of service in our armed forces a new Australian should be entitled to Australian citizenship. I believe that the present period required as a qualification for citizenship is far too long. A man does not travel 11,000 miles to start a new life in a new country unless he desires to make that country his permanent home. It may be that when a man sees a new country he quickly finds that it is not what he thought it was, but such a man does not wish to acquire Australian citizenship. The man who wants to acquire Australian citizenship is the one who has made up his mind that he wants to be an Australian. Therefore, although I whole-heartedly support the Minister’s introductory remarks about the bill, because the measure will enable new Australians to acquire citizenship at an earlier date - particularly those who offer their services, and perhaps their lives, in the armed, forces- I do request the Minister to consider making it possible for new Australians to acquire citizenship at a much earlier date than is at present contemplated.
I also ask the Minister .seriously to consider the removal of the grave anomaly that exists at present, which prevents a new Australian from joining the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force. Apparently such a man is good enough to be accepted by the Army, but is not good enough for the other two branches of the armed forces. Many new Australians have had great experience as airmen and seamen, and although they are prepared to offer everything that they have in our Air Force or our Navy, for some unknown reason, these services will not admit them.
– The honorable member should bring the matter up in his party meeting.
– In my initial remarks I urged honorable members to try to rise above party politics and to treat this matter of immigration as of national importance. For that reason I propose to ignore entirely the interjection of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who, unfortunately, never seems able to rise above the lowest of party political considerations. I wholeheartedly support this bill because it goes part of the way towards giving to new Australians the great honour and privilege of Australian citizenship. I urge the Minister to consider the removal of the present anomalies that prevent new Australians from joining the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, and also to grant facilities for new Australians to become citizens after a shorter period of residence than is at present contemplated.
.- I support the contention of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) that whether new Australians shall be permitted to join the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy is a matter purely for the. decision of the Government. It is a matter of national policy and cannot be loaded on to the shoulders of the Air Board or the Naval Board. It is not a matter of the opinion of the chiefs of the armed services, it is a matter of Australian national policy. I was appalled when I discovered that the Government has not been prepared to make its own decision in this matter, and to convey that decision to its servants in the relevant branches of the armed forces. Any difficulties created by the chiefs of staffs of our forces should be settled by the Government. The Government, after having received the advice of the heads of the services should make its own decision and announce that decision as a matter of national policy. I hope that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) will take notice of what honorable members on this side of the chamber have said about this matter. Other honorable members have suggested that we could perhaps go a little, farther in some respects than the bill envisages. I am prepared to support those honorable members. In the early days of our present immigration scheme many people were brought into the country who had fought the Germans from one end of Europe to the other. I refer to the Poles, who resisted the Russian invaders, then the Nazi invaders and then fought the Nazis in France, Italy, and throughout the world. No one could find more gallant or more loyal soldiers than the Poles. No doubt many immigrants still retain their original loyalty and affection for their country of birth, and perhaps many do not desire to apply for Australian citizenship. However, as time passes and they become assimilated into the Australian scene, they may apply for naturalization. More and more they will look to Poland as their mother country, with the hope that one day it will again be. free, but with a lessening desire to return to it. It should be remembered that many of our own parents and grandparents had the same views. They looked towards England, Ireland and Scotland as their mother countries and hoped one day, after having made a fortune, to return to them. Many did not do so but spent the rest of their lives in Australia.
This hill provides for making political Australians. After immigrants acquire Australian citizenship they must be culturally and economically assimilated. Cultural assimilation in the case of those who speak another language and have other traditions, will never be quite complete. Indeed, it was not complete with our own parents and grandparents, and it will not be complete in the case of adult immigrants. However, we have to put up with that disability, realizing that cultural and economic assimilation will be complete in their children. We all know that the first generation from the European families will be as Australian as the first generation from the original immigrants to this country. About 100 years ago, during the gold rush days of Ballarat and Bendigo, all kinds of people entered Australia - some of them no doubt peculiar and doubful characters. In those days immigrants were not screened at all, but those people have played their part in developing the greatness of our nation and in giving it promise for the future. Those immigrants had no government assistance; indeed, they had nothing but their own stout hearts and spirit of adventure. They made Australia, and what they did for Australia in those days can be repeated by the immigrants who are entering at present. As time passes, the immigrant families will be completely assimilated into our Australian nation. If we are to induce these people to apply “ for naturalization, and I am sure that every honorable member wants them to do so, we shall not do so by allowing them to tramp around the streets of Melbourne and Sydney. I do not believe that immigration should be stopped until our present problems are solved, because you cannot turn immigration on and off like a tap. If we stop immigration the good name of Australia will be lost in the countries of Europe, and when immigration commences again people will be less anxious to come to Australia. Surely it is not beyond our wit and wisdom to provide at this end the same efficient organization that we have in Europe? Surely it is not beyond our capacity, in view of the great expansion in every economic field that can take place in Australia, to make provision for 80,000 or more immigrants?
There is not a great demand among farmers at present for immigrant labour. Therefore, the best way to provide for our immigrants is to unlock our vast areas of land and make them available for settlement. In that way the immigrants will not only be assimilated more readily but they will also be given a stake in the country and made more anxious to defend it. They will also want to become Australian citizens in order to own their own properties.
– On marginal lands?
– Of course not! There are millions of acres of good rainfall land in Australia completely unsettled.
I repudiate the suggestion that is inherent in many discussions on immigration that Australia will not keep its date with destiny. If we refuse to exploit the tremendous possibilities of expansion that lie before us, if we give up the ghost, and break off the fight to provide these people with an opportunity to contribute to our greatness as their fellows have contributed to the greatness of the United States of America and other countries, we might as well resign ourselves to allowing Australia to go down the drain straight away and forget about our future. But we can provide accommodation and a decent standard of living for thousands of people from Europe without dislocating our- economy or causing difficulties for the people who already live in this country. We can take as many immigrants as the Government has planned to take, provided that we devote as much attention to the .problems of immigration, including the employment of new Australians so that they shall have some stake in the country, as we devote now to their selection and their transport to Australia. We devote all the care to one end of the scheme at present. If we devote as much care to the other end, which is in this country, we can carry out a programme as extensive as the Government has contemplated, and perhaps even more extensive. Surely nobody will suggest that we lack the wit and the wisdom to do so. The Minister for Immigration and his colleagues should set to work immediately on this task. Otherwise, the discontent, the inconveniences and the troubles caused as a result of immigrants being dumped in the capital cities will give rise to so much resentment that our whole immigration policy will be completely wrecked. I do not want that to happen. I want immigrants to take advantage of this measure and Australia to take advantage of their undoubted talents.
– I have listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), and it appears to me that the only point of discord is the suggestion that the Government somehow is causing unnecessary difficulties for Australians and also for immigrants by debarring new Australians from enlistment in the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. I well recollect that, at the beginning of World War TI., it was impossible for a native Australian to join the Royal Australian Air Force unless he could obtain character references from two reputable citizens. My point is that, if there is discrimination against men who have been in Australia for only a brief period, it is not a new development. We may rule this objection out of serious consideration as a reflection upon immigrants as such. Probably it is much wiser, in any case, to place immigrants in the Army, which is much larger than the Air Force and which provides greater opportunities for new Australians to mix with men of their own’ nationality: There would be greater’ possibilities of isolation’ for new Australians in the Navy and the Air Force than there are in the’ Army. I do not know why immigrants’ have1 been excluded, from the Navy’ and the Air Force, but I have faith iri the well-tried principle of leaving the management of an undertaking in the hands’ of those who are placed in charge’ of it’ arid interfering as little as- possible’. I have not the slightest doubt’ that there’ is a perfectlygood reason for the exclusion of immigrants which does not’ reflect directly’ upon them. I shall riot labour that point any further;
I refer now to immigrants generally and their’ qualifications for Australian citizenship. At the outset, I take the opportunity to say that, during the last six months, I have met many officers of the Department of Immigration who are employed in Europe and Great Britain. The uniformly high quality of these men impressed me, and I formed a particularly high opinion of the officers in Europe, who have an exceedingly difficult job to do. I do riot know who appointed them. They may have been selected by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) when he was the Minister for Immigration, or they may have been selected by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt). If we in Australia ca’n organize the reception-, placement, arid* profitable’ employment of immigrants’ as efficiently a’s our officers’ overseas are performing their duties, we shall carry out our task with’ great ability’ and distinction. I haVe been’ astonished to hear various honorable’ members speak of acomplete lack of interest by primary producers iri- the employment of immigrants. I can spea’k with considerable feeling on this subject because1 I know that; until twelve months’ ago, it was utterly impossible for a irian on the land to obtain satisfactory labour, even at very high wa’ges and under excellent conditions, for farm- and station work in the’ district where I live. If Australia’ is not to miss a great’ opportunity, We must give careful attention’ to the reasons’ for the’ sudden collapse of the demand for labour in this country. I believe that this develo’pment is’ due to the fa’ct that We’ aire passing through a period of readjustment, arid5, therefore, I believe” that we should’ make ari appalling mistake if’ we simply droppedour bundle, to use’ the’ colloquial phrase^ and1 said’ that ‘the” job’ ‘was too* big for u’s. If that were so, the day’ would’ not be far distant when the job of keeping’ out of this country people who’ wanted to’ borrie here against our wishes’ would be far’ beyond our capacity.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read1’ a third time.
Debate resumed from the’ 24th September (wide page 1994), on the motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second’ time.
,- This bill is a short measure designed to- amendthe Wheat Export Charge Act 1948, which was complementary to the Wheat Stabilization Act 1948. The Wheat Export Charge Act 1948 provided the machinery for the collection of a tax from all wheat-farmers who participated in the wheat stabilization scheme. That scheme, of course, by force of law, includes ill wheat-growers in Australia’. The Wheat Stabilization’ Act 19’48 gave effect; to a bargain that had been struck between- the wheatgrowers of Australia by an affirmative vote in every State;
– Oh’, oh !
– Oh, yes- by an affirmative vote of the wheat-growers iri every State ! Does the honorable member challenge that statement?
-Order ! I point out very early in this debate that-. the House is not discussing the wheat stabilization scheme.
– I point out- that this is’ a’ measure associated with wheat stabilization: It deals’ with a tax tha!t is part and parcel of the wheat stabilization plan.I also point out to’ the honorable member for Riverina’ (Mr. Roberton)’, Who was a forthright opponent o’f the stabilization plan, that the legislation of 1948, by common consent of the wheat-growers in the six States, imposed upon them the obligation to pay a tax, not to exceed 2s. 2d. a bushel, in certain circumstances. That comment, I suggest, is relevant to the bill now before the House, and I shall repeat, for the benefit of the honorable member for Riverina, the facts as they are which he now does not deny. In addition to the affirmative vote of the wheatgrowers in favour of the tax, which provided a stabilization fund for the purpose of providing security for the plan for a period of five years, the governments of the six States, by consent, enacted complementary legislation. The Wheat Export Charge Act 1948 provided that the tax would be collectable for the term of the stabilization plan, a period of five years. The fourth year of the plan has almost expired, and on the 1st November next we shall enter upon the fifth year.
A feature of the plan was that an amount considered to be adequate to protect the stabilization scheme from any fall of wheat prices below the found cost of production should be retained in the fund. The government of the day considered that a sum of between £15,000,000 and £20,000,000 would be sufficient to retain in the fund, which was to be a rotating fund.
– Who said that?
– I can produce documentary evidence to that effect for the benefit of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence). In fact, I am carrying some of the evidence in my pocket, but I could not be bothered enlightening the honorable gentleman at the moment. By general understanding, the amount retained in the fund Was not to exceed £20,000,000. It was agreed, and the act provided, that the tax should be collectable for the whole period of the plan, and that when the amount of approximately £20,000,000 was exceeded, a refund from the first contribution pool would be made to the farmers from whom the money had been collected. That policy was acceptable from the standpoint of the wheat-growers. I shall explain it briefly.
If the fund is adequate in 1952, the Government refunds the wheat export charge collected in the season 1949-50.. But the Minister has now introduced & bill to suspend the operation of the tax of up to 2s. 2d. a bushel for the season 1952-53. The Minister has explained,, in his second-reading speech, that the reason for this action is that an amount of £14,000,000 is in the fund, and £5,000,000 is yet to be collected in respect of the 1951-52 crop. What the Minister has not told the House is that the sum of £14,000,000 at present in hand is partly the proceeds of the collection of the tax in respect of the 1951-52 season, and that the £19,000,000 represents the collections of the charge for two seasons. Those are the facts. What the wheat-grower wants to know is why, in those circumstances, the Minister does not proceed to collect the tax on the wheat for the 1952-53 season, and return to the grower the tax collected in respect of the 1950-51 crop, and, in due course, the tax collected in respect of the 1951-52 crop. It is a strange procedure indeed, and is a complete departure from the principal of a rotating fund. It allows a farmer who grew wheat in 1950-51 to provide a fund for stabilization purposes during the 1951-52 season, although he may have retired from wheat-growing. For that reason, many wheat-growers are asking why the Minister has introduced this bill to suspend the collection of the wheat export charge for the 1952-53 season. It appears that this proposal is part and parcel of what I forecast long ago, namely, that it is the intention of the Government, within a measurable period, so to befog, confound and confuse wheatgrowers that they will be so fed up with the manoeuvres of the Government and its broken promises that they will follow the example of the wool-growers and vote “against the stabilization plan-
– Order !
– Which provides for the collection of the wheat export charge. You see, Mr. Speaker, how I have related my remarks to the bill in accordance with your wishes.
– Order! I have already informed the honorable gentleman that I will not allow a debate on wheat stabilization.
– I have no intention of embarking on such a debate. I have engaged already in too many debates on that subject. To-night, I desire to deal with the facts as I know them. The Minister proposes to suspend the tax on the 1952-53 crop, and retain the proceeds of the tax collected from growers who contributed to the 1950-51 fund and the 1951-52 fund. Those growers will be required to provide a fund for the 1952-53 crop. I contend that the tax collected from them in respect of the 1950-51 crop should be returned to them. Those matters are perfectly relevant to the bill. As I have said, the reason for the introduction of this legislation is that it seems to suit the Government’s book to create a sense of confusion in the minds of the wheat-growers, and to deal unjustly with them. The Government proposes to retain money that should be returned to the growers because it hopes to formulate a new, temporary plan. I admit that the whole ‘ matter seems most confusing to many people, and I trust that this bill will not encourage growers to oppose any suitable plan that embodies the levying of a wheat export charge in future. I realize that this levy on wheat would normally cease at the end of the marketing of the 1952-53 crop, but I point out that the wheat-growers considered, and, in fact, expected, in accordance with the promise made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the general election campaign in 1949, that the wheat export charge would be imposed for at least a period of ten years from that date. The right honorable gentleman said in his policy speech -
In particular, we support a long-term stabilization of the dairying industry for ten years . . . and believe that the Wheat Stabilization Scheme should operate for a similar period.
Therefore, the wheat-growers expected that the charge would be payable up to the cessation of the scheme and that a reserve would be maintained in a stabilization fund for the inauguration of a new plan for a period of ten years. This bill will inflict a serious injustice on wheat-growers who have contributed the wheat export charge in respect of the 1950-51 and 1951-52 crops. I hope that a suitable explanation of the position will be forthcoming. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) may say, “Ah, this is a matter which makes for easier administration on the part of those who collect the charge “. In other words, that is the Australian “Wheat Board.
– God forbid !
– It may be easier to retain the money of the growers of the 1950-51 and 1951-52 crops than it is to continue to collect the wheat export charge for another twelve months in order that the Government may have something in the kitty for a ten-year plan. The honorable member for Riverina does not believe in a plan of any sort other than that postulated by himself. In the past, he has always alined himself with those persons-
– Order ! The honorable member for Riverina is not covered by the bill.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Riverina could be covered by anything. He is an anarchist in his own right.
– Order ! The honorable member may not refer to another honorable member as an anarchist.
– I do not mean that the honorable member for Riverina is an anarchist in the sense that he is a revolutionary. Indeed, he is a most pacific anarchist, but in the political sense he is an anarchist, or perhaps I should say, an individualist. For as long as I can recollect, he has been associated with all those forces which from time to time have endeavoured to wreck schemes acceptable to the great majority of wheat-growers. Perhaps the Government considers that the growers, who may now receive a larger first advance on incoming crop, are enjoying some advantages, but I assure the Minister that the growers who receive a higher initial advance against their incoming wheat will be acutely aware of the fact that they were due, had the legislation been continued in the normal course, to receive a refund of at least 2s. 2d. a bushel in respect of the 1950-51 and the 1951-52 crops. I do not think that they will be disillusioned by the sort of by-play in which the Government is indulging.
– What has all this to do with wheat export?
– It has everything to do with wheat export, but the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) cannot understand that.
– Order ! This dialogue is completely out of order.
– The Minister understands only the befogging legalisms of his own profession.
– Order ! Will the honorable gentleman address the Chair?
– Perhaps the Government has in mind that, by retaining the amount of £19,000,000 in the stabilization fund, it is helping to halt the forces of inflation. Perhaps the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has taken a hand in the matter. It may be true that the withholding of that amount of money has some effect on halting the forces of inflation. But it is not justice! In my opinion, the Government is not playing fairly with the wheat-growers. The excess money should be refunded to the growers, and the grower of wheat in 1952-53 should bear his own share of the tax in anticipation of the introduction of a wheat export charges bill to be associated with the formulation of a ten years’ plan in accordance with the promise made by the present Government in 1949.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is again discussing wheat stabilization. He is not in order in doing so.
– The two matters are so intimately associated that it is most difficult to separate them in this debate. 1. point out to you, sir, that the Minister, in his second-reading speech, mentioned a wheat stabilization plan.
-Order! I have a copy of the Minister’s second-reading speech before me.
– I have made only a passing reference to a wheat stabilization plan.
– The honorable member was a long time in passing.
– I have directed attention to the facts. I hope that the tendency of the Government to hold on to the proceeds of the wheat export charge, which should be refunded to the growers, is not associated with its action in withholding an amount of £47,000,000 in the possession of the Joint Wool organization. Only recently, the Government announced that it intended to distribute that money over a period of three years because, if it were to distribute the money immediately-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s remarks are not relevant to the bill.
– I think that you are right, Mr. Speaker, and therefore, I conclude on this note; I am in accord with the view expressed by the wheat-growers’ organizations in Victoria that this bill is an interference with the principle of a rotating fund, and that the Government should not have embarked on this course. I appeal to the Minister to withdraw the bill, refund the money that belongs to the contributors to the 1950-51 fund and, when possible, refund the money that belongs to the contributors to the 1951- 52 fund, and collect the tax on the 1952- 53 crop-
– In order that there may be a stabilization fund for the initial year of the ten-year period under the plan which the Government promised to introduce.
.- In order to ease the mind of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), may I be permitted to preface my remarks by answering the question that he has asked? The honorable gentleman asked, “Why does not the Government collect the wheat tax covering the next successive crop ? “ That, in fact, was all that the honorable member had to say. In order to give, him peace of mind, I shall answer that question, because the next succeeding crop, as he well knows, will conclude the wheat socialization scheme. It would be morally wrong for this Government to pre-suppose that a continuation of the wheat socialization scheme would be acceptable to the growers. The growers themselves must decide the issue. This bill should be recognized and described as a generous and a unique piece of legislation; hut, of course, up to this stage there has been no sign of such recognition. I propose to repair that omission. This truly democratic Government, which is empowered by legislation that was passed by the socialist Government to collect a tax on every bushel of wheat exported from this country, has decided of its own volition and without pressure from any outside source whatsoever to strip itself of that power. That is the sole purpose of this measure; but its simplicity should not be allowed to detract from its importance. It is a measure of very great importance. I, and all Government supporters, welcome legislation of this kind. It is a public and practical demonstration of the sincerity of the Government in its desire to correct the abuses that were perpetrated by the previous Administration. Therefore, I commend the Government for introducing this bill.
This tax, as the honorable member for Lalor well knows, was never necessary.
– Why did the Government continue to collect it ?
– I shall deal with that point later. This tax was designed to protect the Treasury against unpredictable economic consequences of a possible breakdown of the wheat socialization scheme which is so frequently but erroneously referred to as a stabilization scheme. As that scheme was deliberately restricted to a period during which the export parity price of wheat could reasonably be expected to be greater than the guaranteed domestic price, the tax was superfluous, but as a means of protecting the Treasury from any and every contingency it compelled the credulous growers to meet from their own resources any and every deficit in respect of the scheme. I shall show how absurdly the proposal has worked out in practice. This tax was originally levied in respect of wheat supplied to the No. 9 pool. It was designed, allegedly, to guarantee a price of 4s. 7.5d. a bushel for all wheat delivered to that pool f.o.r. ports when the export parity price f.o.r. was known to be 10s. 6.5d. a bushel. In the following year, the tax was collected in order to guarantee a price of 5s. 0.5d. a bushel when the export parity price was 15s. 8.1d. In the following year, the tax was still applied in order to guarantee a domestic price of 6s. 2. 2d. a bushel, although every one knew that the export parity price in that year was worth to the growers of this country 17s. 11.6d. a bushel. In respect of wheat supplied to the No. 12 pool the tax was collected to guarantee a domestic price of 6s. 7.7d. a bushel when the export parity price was 13s. 0.4d. a bushel. Could anything be more absurd? In the succeeding year, in respect of wheat supplied to the No. 13 pool, this tax was levied at the rate of 2s. 2d. a bushel to guarantee a domestic price of 7s. Id., but at that time, as every one knew, the export parity price was 18s. 9.4d. a bushel. The tax was continued in order to guarantee a domestic price of 7s. lOd. a bushel in respect of wheat that was supplied to the No. 14 pool, and at that time the export parity price was worth to the growers in this country 18s. 6d. a bushel. Again, I ask whether anything could be more absurd. In respect of the current selling year, the tax has been continued to guarantee a domestic price of 12s. 6d. a bushel, whereas the export parity price at present is 21s. 6.3d. a bushel. That is how this objectionable tax has operated since it was introduced.
The tax was first collected in respect of wheat supplied to the No. 9 pool and collections then totalled £6,987,300 in respect of 64,500,000 bushels. In respect of 40,700,000 bushels sold for export for the No. 10 pool collections of the tax totalled £4,329,780, the decrease resulting from a disastrous season. In respect of 145,900,000 bushels sold for export from the No. 11 pool collections of the tax totalled £16,420,334. At no stage of the proceedings was the tax ever necessary, because since it was first imposed the export parity price has been immeasurably higher than the guaranteed domestic price. In respect of 113,700,000 bushels sold for export from the No. 12 pool, collections of the tax totalled £12,495,973. At that time the International Wheat Agreement was superimposed upon this tax and upon the wheat socialization scheme, which rendered the tax still more unnecessary; and under that agreement an international price was guaranteed far in excess of the guaranteed price for home consumption was every likely to be-
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable gentleman to develop his argument along those lines.
– I direct attention to the results that were achieved through the collection of this tax in order to show that a bill of the kind now before the Chair should have been introduced seven years ago. However, the Government continued to collect the tax. In respect of wheat supplied to the No. 13 pool-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting wide of the bill.
– I am dealing with the tax.
– Order ! The bill before the Chair deals, not with the wheat industry stabilization scheme, but with the wheat export charge.
– This tax at the rate of 2s. 2d. a bushel, which the Government now proposes to abolish, was applied to wheat supplied to the No. 13 pool and collections in respect of 140,900,000 bushels that was sold for export from that pool totalled £15,244,895. I desire to show that this tax has always been unnecessary and that the only fault that can be found with this measure is that it has been introduced seven years too late. In respect of 100,000,000 bushels sold for export from the No. 14 pool, collections of this tax totalled £11,039,504, and in respect of 82,000,000 bushels sold for export from the No. 15 pool, that is wheat which is still being sold, collections are estimated to total £8,500,000.
– Order ! I have been listening to the honorable member for more than ten minutes, but I have not yet heard him speak about the bill that is before the Chair.
– With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I am dealing solely with reasons for the abolition of the tax to which this bill relates.
– Order! The honorable member is not dealing with the bill. I shall not have any argument on the matter. The honorable member will either deal with the bill or resume his seat.
– With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I am dealing exclusively with the bill, because I was warned that this was likely to happen.
– Order ! If the honorable gentleman maintains that opinion he may resume his seat immediately.
– I should like ta speak to the notes that I have prepared and let the matter be resolved in the light of what I have to say. The gigantic sums that have been collected through this tax-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is dealing with the past, whereas this measure deals with the future. I do not propose to allow him to develop the line of argument that he has indicated. I have been listening to him for ten minutes, and my patience is becoming exhausted.
– If this measure is carried the wheat tax will be abolished; and if it is defeated the tax will be continued. I am addressing myself exclusively to the wheat tax which the Government proposes to abolish under this measure. As these gigantic sums-
– May I address myself to the bill, Mr. Speaker?
– Order! The honorable member has not yet addressed himself to the bill. If he proposes to do so he may continue; but if he proposes to continue along the line that he has indicated he may resume his seat.
– It is to the everlasting credit of this Government that, immediately after it assumed office in 1949 it stopped the practice of accumulating collections of this tax.
-Order! The bill before the Chair relates, not to a wheat tax, but to the wheat export charge.
– The accumulated fund from collections of this tax and what remains to be refunded to the growers exceeds £19,000,000. I trust that the money will be restored to the growers as soon as. possible.
The unique feature of this bill has to be emphasized. All the complementary legislation incidental to the wheat socialization scheme introduced by the previous Government, so euphoniously described as a stabilization scheme, provides for the imposition of this tax, which, although it is an integral part of that socialization scheme, has been euphoniously described, even by the Minister himself, as a wheat export charge. So involved is the nature of that legislation, which, unhappily, met with the approval of a majority of the wheat-growers-
– Order ! We are not dealing with the Wheat Stabilization Act.
– I am speaking of the tax. It is too late now entirely to undo the harm that ha3 been done. Unless this bill is barred, the tax has one year to run before it terminates by the efluxion of time. The Government could have been pardoned for not bringing down this measure. That the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) reached his own decision, nearly seven months ago, not to collect the cax on wheat delivered to the final pool is cause for great personal satisfaction to me and to many people engaged in the industry. I think the House should know that there are some of us who believe that £252,000,000 in losses on concessional sales, plus an export tax of 2s. 2d. a bushel on all wheat exported, is much too high a price to pay for the alleged stabilization of an industry over the only period of years when stabilization was wholly unnecessary.
I support the bill. It is designed to lock the stabilization door before the last horse has been removed from the premises.
.- The purpose of this bill is to amend the Wheat Export Charge Act 1948. The proposed amendment could have far-reaching effects upon the wheat-growing industry. I do not think that the majority of the Australian wheat-growers share the view of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) that this is one of the best measures affecting the wheat industry that has been presented to the Parliament. Probably it suits the purposes of those who support an open market for wheat.
If that is what the honorable gentleman believes in, I am glad to have his admission to that effect.
What is the motive that underlies this bill? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) gave but little explanation of it in his secondreading speech. The proposal to remove the tax appears, at first glance, to be very good. The Minister stated that the wheat-growers would receive the full benefit of the export price for wheat during the next export season. He told the. wheat-growers, in effect, that they would receive 2s. extra for their wheat, but nothing could be further from the truth than that. The system now in operation provides for a rotating fund. The wheat-growers will receive the full export price for their wheat this year, but they will lose the 2s. a bushel from the 1950-51 pool to which they are entitled. Therefore, this proposal will mean nothing to them in terms of money. If the intention of the Government be to mislead the wheat-growers in that connexion, I say that they will not be misled. They want to know the real motive that underlies this very generous gesture, as the Government has tried to make it appear to be, in removing the export tax on wheat. The wheat-growers imposed that tax- upon themselves. They fought for years to have it imposed upon them, and they have urged this Government to continue it for ten years.
Did the Government consult the wheatgrowers’ organizations upon this measure f It has said that it prides itself upon the fact that it does not introduce legislation affecting a primary industry unless that legislation has the support of organizations representative of the industry. I have not heard the Government say that this measure has been introduced at the request of wheat-growers’ organizations. I should like some representatives of wheat-growing electorates to say whether the Government has consulted the wheatgrowers upon this matter. I do not think that it has done so. I believe that the wheat-growers are wondering what it is all about. The.y are anxious about the future of their industry, and they have every reason to be anxious about it. I have received a letter from the general secretary of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association. It is dated the 6th October, and it reads as follows : -
The Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association is very concerned with the decision of the Commonwealth Government to provide legislation for the lifting of the export tax legislation for the coming season’s crop.
My executive at a recent meeting decided to uncompromisingly oppose such action of the Government and to register opposition on behalf of the wheat-growers of this State. It is felt that there can be no justification of this action whilst contributions from the two previous pools still remain in the stabilization fund.
We hope that the Government will reconsider the position as the lifting of the export tax in no way provides an incentive for this season’s crop. My executive also considers that the proposal of the Government is a distinct breach of faith with the industry, and destroys the principle of a rotating fund.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) in order, in addressing himself to this bill, in reading private correspondence ?
– I rule that the honorable member for Wannon is in order.
– I have read a letter from the general secretary of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association. I believe he is more competent to speak on this matter than is the honorable member for Riverina. That organization, which is representative of the wheatgrowers of Victoria, is wondering what this legislation is about, and what lies behind it. It points out that the legislation will destroy the principle of a rotating fund. If that fund goes, the future of the wheat industry will be in jeopardy. What will happen next year? Will this legislation be re-enacted or will the future of the wheat industry be left again in the lap of the gods? The wheatgrowers want to continue to pay this tax, for the very good reason that, in the past, they have suffered bitterly from the lack of a fund such as that for which the tax provides. They are disappointed that, after all these years, a proposal has been made to lift the export tax, for no apparent reason. The proposal has not been made with the consent of wheatgrowers’ organizations. Those organizations are asking the Government to permit the tax to operate for another twelve months, or until such time as other arrangements can be made.
The wheat-growers have enough sense to know that the lifting of the tax will not put more money into their pockets. Some people may be misled about that matter, but the wheat-growers know that, although they will receive the full export price for their wheat this year, they will lose 2s. 2d. a bushel from the rotating fund. The proposal may operate unfairly on men who have gone out of the industry. They have contributed to the rotary fund and although they are entitled to reimbursement, they will not now receive it. It will not act as an incentive to those in the industry to grow more wheat. Because it will create apprehension in their minds, it will have the opposite effect. The future of the wheat industry is very obscure, and it is difficult to forecast what will happen. I cannot see any need for this proposed amendment, which has not been asked for by any organization representative of the industry. Indeed, wheatgrowers’ organizations are urging the Government to reconsider its decision. As I have said, the proposal will be of no benefit to individual wheat-growers, and will jeopardise the future of the industry. The wheat-growers want to know whether this proposal is intended to provide a let-out for the Government later.
I feel that, in all the circumstances, the Government would be well advised to reconsider its decision. The legislation of 1948 received the support of all the wheat-growers of Australia, and they want it to continue in operation. Honorable members who represent wheatgrowing electorates should urge the Government to delay action at least for another twelve months. This measure is not required, and has not been asked for. The wheat-growers want to know the reason for it. We. cannot forecast the future of the wheat industry. Big wheat crops are being grown throughout the world, and American wheat-farmers are being urged to reduce their production by 10 per cent. Anything could happen in the future, and the wheat-growers are very perturbed. They want the wheat export tax to be continued, because it gives them a sense of security. They feel that, without it, they will not know where they are.
– I should support this bill with much greater enthusiasm if I could obtain from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) assurances that other legislation designed to refund all the money held in the wheat stabilization fund will be introduced in the near future. I adopt that attitude because of what has happened since the Minister delivered his second-reading speech on this measure, which is designed to amend the Wheat Export Charge Act 1948 to provide that the export tax shall not apply to any exports of wheat in the 1952-53’ season. Since the Minister made that speech, suggestions have been made at meetings ,of the Australian Agricultural’ Council that the Commonwealth and the States should legislate to continue the present wheat industry stabilization plan, with the necessary tax, for a further twelve months. If this tax is not collected during this season and if the moneys held in the fund are not refunded immediately, we must consider whether we are departing from, the principle of a rotating fund to which the principle of “first in, first out “ applies - that is, if such a principle has been established.
I regard the fund which has been accumulated as a result of the operation of this tax, as a stabilization fund in which there should be a sufficient sum - that mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was £20,000,000 - which can be used, if necessary, or held until such time as the need for it has passed and it can be refunded. It has been stated that this should be a rotating fund. I admit that a rotating fund has many advantages, but it assumes quite different proportions near the end of any stabilization scheme. I believe that at this stage it is important to anticipate the actions of the several State governments. We can be reasonably sure that they will legislate in accordance with the. decisions reached by their Ministers at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. I know that the Government is sincere in its desire to help the industry, and is giving effect to that desire by the introduction of this measure. If there was to be no continuation in the next twelve months of the present stabilization plan, then I should admit that there was something to be said for holding the money at present in the fund until a new international wheat agreement was signed. My own attitude towards this fund, which has been developed as a result of this tax, is that all the money in it should be refunded-
– Order! I have already ruled that the honorable gentleman must not discuss the fund as such.
– Surely when we are discussing the tax on which this fund was accumulated we must be able to refer to the fund, otherwise honorable members would be confined to saying about six words only before they resumed their seats.
– Some reference to the fund is in order, but I remind the honorable gentleman that the bill deals with a remission of tax, and not with the accumulation of money in a fund.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. I say that if the Government will undertake to refund all the tax that has been collected, then I shall be whole-heartedly behind the bill.
– The honorable member is an optimist if he thinks the Government will do that.
– I do not consider myself to be an optimist in that matter, because I realize that the Government wishes to assist the primary producers, particularly the wheat-growers. When one considers the enormous contribution of more than £250,000,000 that the wheat industry has made to the economy of this country over the last ten years as a result of its acceptance of concessional prices for wheat for home consumption, it is obviously unnecessary to hold any money in a fund which has been built up by such a tax, because, should the wheat industry ever get into difficulties, the fact that it has contributed such a large amount of money to the economy will justify it in expecting help from the Government. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament I have constantly advocated that the Government should be responsible for .all (money to meet the guarantee referred to in the .wheat industry .stabilisation plan. I believe .that -to the wheatgrowers we owe a debt that -we shall never be .-able to repay in our lifetime.
I shall review the history of this export charge. The Wheat Export Charge Act 1948, which operated from the 25th November, 1948, repealed the Wheat Export Charge Act 1946, -and provided for an export charge on all wheat and wheat products of the 1947-48 season, and of subsequent seasons, exported after the date o’f the commencement of operation of the ‘measure. What is the amount of this -charge :that we now propose -to refrain from -collecting? Subject to a lower price being prescribed, the rate ‘of charge a bushel of wheat exported by the Australian Wheat Board was fixed at 50 per cent, of the ‘amount by which -the average -price a ‘bushel of all wheat exported by the board exceeded ‘the guaranteed price, with a maximum charge of 2s. 2d. a bushel, that:being the maximum tax that could be required of the growers. If the exporter were not the Australian Wheat Board the charge was the same, except that there was no maximum charge of 2s. 2d. a bushel. Under the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1946-1948, an amount equivalent to the charges collected under the Wheat Export Charge Act 1948 is paid ‘to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund which is the fund that we propose to cease to augment by ^refraining from collecting the .tax this. year.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not discuss that fund.
-I propose to discuss refunds of this tax that have been made by the Government since it took office. The Government has been exceedingly conscious *6f the wheat industry’s contribution to the economy and has made refunds of the tax collected when it ‘has ‘been .possible to do so. As I have .said before, ,1 .wish all the tax already collected to (be refunded, and no more tax to be collected in the future for the purposes .of -.this fund.
-SPEAKER. - “Order ! .The.-honorable.gentleman must not -discuss the- fund.
– I -believe that since you are very seriously restricting us in discussing this important problem, Mr. Acting .Deputy Speaker- -
– Order! The ‘.bill, not the Chair, is restricting the “honorable member.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, although I cannot agree with it. Until the growers have had an opportunty to consider an alternative plan, the present plan can well .carry on- without a fund provided by them, particularly since this Government will -still be -in office for the .remainder . of the time for which the present plan will exist. [Quorum formed.’] The Government is sincere in its .desire to help the wheat industry, and it .believ.es it is doing so by introducing this ‘bill. As I said ;at the beginning of .my remarks, however, ,1 wish .the Government to,90 much further. I shall be happy if I -can obtain an assurance .that the entire amount of £19,000,000 now in the fund will shortly be refunded, and that the Government will recognize its debt ;to the wheatgrowers ,and carry the whole responsibility for the guaranteed price. Convinced that the Government will give this point consideration, I support the bill and look forward to the .other .desirable legislation that I have mentioned.
.- I wish to -deal with a point raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), because his remarks may .mislead wheatgrowers who ‘may have heard him read a letter that he had received from the wheat-growers’ organization in Victoria.. They might ‘be misled in so far as the letter would seem to -indicate that the tax. that this bill ‘proposes to remove would otherwise have continued automatically to ‘be levied over a period of years. That is entirely wrong. Whatever action the Government may have decided to take about -imposing the tax after the current year, .or imposing a similar tax in the future, new legislation would have been required. The decision of the Government not ‘to collect ‘the tax on the current season’s wheat -does no.t automatically remove the possibility of -any similar tax being imposed :in -accordance with any such stabilization plan in the future. T do not propose to traverse the merits or demerits of the wheat industry stabilization scheme or the purposes for which the tax was imposed, but I want to make it particularly clear that the reason for the Government’s decision not to collect the tax on the coming wheat harvest was that it desired to encourage production. It is true that the Government could legally collect the tax.
– The money would still belong to the wheat-growers.
– I agree that it would still belong to the wheat-growers. The coming season is the last season in relation to which the tax operates, because the wheat industry stabilization scheme ends with the coming harvest. However, that fact contains no implications for the future. It commits the Government to nothing, and denies nothing to the Government in the future. In its desire to encourage additional wheat production the Government was faced with two alternatives - either not to impose the tax, or to refunding portion of the tax previously collected. Whatever course it took, the result in pounds, shillings and pence must have been the same, but the method adopted is the one which will more directly achieve the Government’s desire to help the industry, because, while a refund would have meant that some people who were previously engaged in the wheat industry but are not now engaged in it, would receive a refund, only .the people who are now engaged in the industry will receive the encouragement that the Government desires to give them. Therefore this method of dealing with the matter is the best method, and the decision of the Government has been a wise one. I have not received any protests from wheatgrowers’ organizations about the Government’s proposal to remove this tax. On the contrary, I have heard commendations of the wisdom of the proposal, because the tax has been proved to be no longer necessary. The reason that it is no longer necessary is that with only a few months to go to complete this year, there is now sufficient money in hand to guarantee a price under the wheat stabilization scheme.
Something has been said about the Government giving an undertaking in connexion with the refund of the tax that has already been collected. Of course, there is no necessity for the Government to give such an undertaking. The Government is morally and legally bound to refund, at the end of the 1953 harvest, whatever moneys that it may have collected by way of this tax. The money is the property of the growers and the scheme was to operate for only five years. That money cannot be retained in the fund unless the wheat-growers expressly agree to it being so retained and applied in any future scheme that the Government may introduce. Therefore, honorable members should not allow themselves to be misled about the decision to remove the tax because such removal will not jeopardize any future stabilization scheme. The Government is morally and legally bound to distribute the money in the fund, and the decision not to collect the tax this year was the only reasonable decision to give effect to the desires of the growers and to provide an incentive to those engaged in the industry.
.- The bill now before the House proposes to alter the definition of “ wheat “ in subsection (1.) of the Wheat Export Charge Act 1948, and omit the word “Fiftythree “ and insert in its stead the word “Fifty-two”. The original Wheat Export Charge Act was assented to on the 25th November, 1948, and included in its definitions section a definition of “ wheat “ as applied to wheat harvested before the 1st October, 1953. Therefore,the amendment proposed in this measure is designed to alter the. word “ Fiftythree “ to the word “ Fifty-two “ so that tax will not be imposed on the wheat crop which will soon be harvested. The original act was not assented to until the end of November, 1948, when a large proportion of the year’s wheat had been harvested, and it went further than imposing a tax on that wheat and imposed a tax on wheat which had been harvested the. previous year. The proposition that the House is now considering is to remove the tax some months before its date of expiry, and such a proposal is in keeping with the Government’s sense of fairness to the farmer because it is now considered that the tax is no longer required. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, pointed out that a large fund has been built up as a result of the collection of the tax, and that there is sufficient money available to provide for any contingency that may arise in the winding up of the scheme. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was the Minister who introduced the original act said that he forecast that the. Government would attempt to confuse the farmers. I draw honorable members’ attention to an earlier forecast of the honorable member for Lalor, which may be found in Hansard, volume 198, at page 1449. There it is reported that the honorable member said -
He would be an optimist who believed that wheat prices would not fall within the next few years.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Lalor. The remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) during this debate proved that he was certainly no optimist who believed that wheat prices would fall, because as a matter of fact wheat prices continued to rise. Over the years it has been demonstrated that this tax has been absolutely unnecessary. There may have been some reason for its original application, but that reason has gradually disappeared, and now the Government is able to dispense with the tax completely. Now the honorable member for Lalor says that we should continue to collect this year’s wheat tax and use it to establish a fund for our next wheat stabilization scheme. It is quite a reasonable attitude, on the part of the Opposition to try to retain its own baby which, incidentally, is a very cranky baby. I say with some personal knowledge of the matter, that at its inception the farmers did not know that the tax would be collected on wheat which had been stripped the year previously, but as the years passed they realized how unnecessary the tax was. But the honorable member for Lalor now wishes to repeat what he did in earlier days. That is, he. wants to collect the tax and apply it to some scheme in the future. The honorable member for Wannon said that the Government was misleading the wheat-farmers because if the farmers were given relief from the 2s. 2d. this year they would lose all chance of a refund from any earlier pool. That is something that the honorable member has elicited from his own imagination, and it is not justified by anything that the Minister said or by anything that has been said during the debate. The honorable member for Lalor is also reported in volume 198 of Hansard at page. 1449, to have said -
If the funds collected from the growers are more than enough to meet the guarantee, the surplus will be repaid to them.
The Government now believes that we have reached a stage when there are surplus funds available, and it therefore proposes not to collect any further wheat tax. It is absurd to continue to collect the tax within a matter of months of the expiration of the scheme, knowing that within a short time the money so collected will have to be paid back. I have no doubt that the Government will discover that it can return the whole of this money, and that it will do so. It is palpably absurd to collect it and pay it back within a few months. The honorable member for Wannon said that it was not proposed that this money would be paid back, but obviously on the expiration of the scheme, by virtue of the expiration of the act, the money will return to “the growers in accordance with the period during which it has been collected from them. Therefore, it requires no imagination on the part of honorable members on this side of the House to support this bill, and there is no reason why the Op’position should not also support it in its entirety. The whole matter is very simple - it is proposed to suspend the further collection of the tax and it is proposed to begin to wind up a scheme which will expire within a few months. I support the Mil.
.- This bill has been discussed fairly fully, and it now remains for me only to try to examine some of its salient points. Some honorable members have said that they have received letters from wheat-growers’ organizations. I have not received letters from any one about this matter, and therefore what I am about to say represents my own view. When the Prime
Minister made his announcement tha.t this tax would be discontinued he said that such action .would help wheatfarmers and .would probably increase production because the first payment from the 1952-53 crop would be 12s. a bushel, f.o.r., or 85 per cent, of the estimated pool realization which is now almost sure to be more than 12s. a bushel. He said that would be an incentive to wheatgrowers to grow more for the coming harvest. Although that statement was made in time for the farmers to sow wheat, it was not made in time for them to fallow before sowing; and, as is well known, the land should be fallowed before wheat is sown. Up to that point the matter has been satisfactorily dealt with, but I consider that it would have been better to have continued to collect the tax under the legislation as it now stands and to make a payment as soon as practicable to the growers from the fund that had accumulated from the No. 14 and No. 15 pools which will be approximately £19,000,000. By doing that, the benefits of the revolving fund would have been preserved and the growers who had paid into the fund would be paid back under the system of first in first out. I cannot see any justification for holding payments made in connexion with No. i4 pool. I consider it unnecessary so to do. There will not be many changes among wheat-growers because wheat-growing is a stable industry, but as some leave the industry the better way to deal with this matter would be by payment from the fund. If that were done, probably just as much would be paid to the wheat-grower as will be, in effect, given to him by not collecting the tax. We must look into the future and try to consider what will take place. We must realize that the Australian Agricultural Council has recommended that the wheat stabilization legislation be extended for another twelve months. I hod hoped that the money from the No. 26 pool fund would have guaranteed the following year’s operations and that a tax would be collected on that twelve months and that at least the amount of that year’s tax would be merged, with the consent of the wheat-growers in any new scheme. Therefore, payment from the fund when it reached a .certain amount, and a continuation of the tax with a probable further twelve months, would have been in the best interests of all concerned. That is the system that I support to-night.- There are advantages both ways, and opinions on the subject depend upon the way in which the men who grow the wheat consider it. One of the great troubles in the industry is for growers to agree on matters that affect it. That fact has been well demonstrated by the divergent opinions that have been expressed during this debate by honorable members on both sides of the House who represent wheat-growing electorates. I believe that the Government should give further consideration to this bill and take into account the fact that the original legislation was intended to operate for five years.
The discussion of the measure has been full, and many aspects of its effect on the industry have been discussed. Therefore, I shall summarize the position briefly before I conclude. If the tax be discontinued, the fund will have a balance of approximately £19,000,000, and the growers will receive higher first payment. On the other side of the picture, if the tax be continued, a payment can be made as early as possible from the fund, and, if the recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council in favour of the continuation of the stabilization scheme for another period of twelve months be adopted, as I hope it will be, the amount of tax collected from the current harvest will be the fund for a further period of twelve months.
-Order! The honorable gentleman must not develop an argument in relation to a future wheat stabilization scheme. That is completely outside the ambit of the bill.
– If a new scheme is established, the final fund, if by a vote the wheat-growers approve, should be merged with that future scheme. That would bo in the best interests of the growers. Many wheatgrowers will not agree with me, but that is my firm opinion and I express it confidently.
– This is a simple measure that has provoked a rather long and rambling debate. As Parliamentary UnderSecretary to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I consider that I should make some comments on the hill.
– I rise to order. I should like to obtain your ruling on that statement by the honorable member for Darling Downs, Mr. Speaker. The honorable gentleman has said that, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, he proposes to do this, that, and the other thing. Do you recognize his position as a parliamentary under-secretary, or does the position that you previously expounded from the chair still apply?
– That matter, I thought, was very clearly settled by a vote of the House, which did not alter my attitude in any way.
– The bill is designed to offer a concession to wheat-growers as an incentive to increase production during a period when, as everybody will agree, every bushel of wheat that can be grown is pf vital importance to Australia. The proposal is not new. It was first mentioned in March of this year, and, in order to refresh the memories of honorable members, I shall quote from a statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made on the 28th March. The right honorable gentleman said -
The wheat export tax, which is now 2s. 2d. a bushel, will not be imposed in respect of the wheat of the next harvest. Wheat exported will, therefore, attract the full export price without the special tax deduction. It does not indicate any intention or policy decision in respect of wheat stabilization, in respect of which our policy of consulting the industry will, of course, be carried out. It is designed solely as a particular concession or benefit for the wheat-grower for the next harvest.
This bill is based on the policy that the Prime Minister announced then.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture during the Labour regime, referred to several matters associated with the wheat tax. He said that this bill involved a complete departure from the principle of the revolving fund, and indicated that the Government had undertaken on a former occasion to recognize the fund as a revolving fund. No undertaking was given by the Labour Government or by this Government to that effect, and there is nothing in the act to support the honorable gentleman’s statement. Furthermore, he did not produce any evidence to’ support it. I do not deny that custom established the fund as a revolving fund. I merely state the facts in order to demonstrate that the Government has not taken any action contrary to the provisions of the original act or in conflict with the spirit of the act. The honorable member for Lalor also said that the Government, by introducing this measure, sought to confuse the wheat industry in order to prevent some future stabilization plan from being introduced. That statement should be refuted. The Government’s representatives discussed this matter at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council at Perth in July, and, in fact, evolved a proposal for the continuation of the existing plan, with certain modifications, for a period of one year. That proposal was later discussed at a conference of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation in Canberra, and again at a meeting last week of the Minister and the State Ministers for Agriculture, who have submitted the proposal to their governments. The growers have been advised that after the expiration of the year’s extension, a five-year plan acceptable to the industry and to the Australian Government and the State governments will be adopted in the future. Those facts completely refute the statement made by the honorable member for Lalor.
The honorable member also said that the original intention was to augment the fund in order to provide” for a new stabilization fund. No such intention was indicated at any time by the Labour Government or by this Government, and such an arrangement was not proposed on behalf of the industry. This bill to amend the Wheat Export Charge Act will merely implement the Government policy decision that was announced by the Prime Minister early this year. There is no need for me to discuss the technical details of the tax, because they have been referred to repeatedly during this debate. However, I mention the fact that the fund at present amounts to approximately £14,000,000, and that the balance of payments from the 1951-52 crop will bring the total to approximately £19,000,000. In that event, there will be sufficient money in the fund to meet any contingencies that may arise during the remainder of the present five-year plan, which will terminate with the 1952-53 crop. Clearly, therefore, there is no technical necessity for any additional amounts to be paid into the fund. The Government had this fact in mind when it decided to introduce the bill. The result will be that, in this vital period in relation to food production in Australia, the wheat-growers will obtain the full benefit of the export price during the next export season.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Apple and Pear Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 82.
Banking Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 80.
Canned Fruits Export Charges Act - Regula tions - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 83.
Dairy Produce Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 85.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 84.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes -
Wallangarra (Jennings), New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Coolangatta, Queensland.
Department of Supply purposes - Rum Jungle, Northern Territory.
Postal purposes - Merriton, South Australia.
Lighthouses Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 79.
Meat Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 81.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Army - M. G. E. Davies.
Postmaster-General - C. G. O’Connell.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determination - 1952 - No. 65 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired - St. Mary’s, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 10.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
Iii interpreting these figures from the viewpoint of dollar cost of petroleum imports it should be borne in mind that it is necessary to deal with oil payments through central accounts in London. This is so because of the international character of the oil trade and the fact that Australia’s supplies of petroleum products are drawn from British and American controlled companies which operate in many parts of the world. Practically all remittances in payment for petroleum products imported into’ Australia, irrespective oi the source of supply are, in the first instance, made in sterling to the London accounts of oil companies into which are also paid amounts in respect of imports into other sterling area countries. As and when necessary, provision of dollars against the balances standing to the credit of these accounts is approved by_ the United Kingdom exchange control authorities. For these reasons some supplies which Australia draws from countries outside the dollar area ultimately result in the payment of dollars.
M asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
Mr.Ward askedthe Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. -Theanswers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follows : - l.The Colombo plan is not an international relief scheme but a plan topromote the longerterm economic development of the countries of South andSouth-East Asia participating in it.Thetotal expenditure by the Commonwealth in providing economicand technical aid under the plan up to the30th June,1952, was £4,244,283. 2.The provisionof reliefto cases of distress andnecessityarisingfromfloods,bush fires and other acts of God is primarily the responsibility of the State governments. In accordancewith thepolicy which hasbeenfollowed bysuccessive Commonwealth governments, the Commonwealth participates in relief schemes ofthisnature only where thedamage is severe orwidespread andwhen it isasked to do so bya particularStategovernment. Commonwealth participation, is, in general, limited to thecontributionof ‘fundson a£1for£l basis withthe State government concerned. Thedistribution of the joint fundsisleft to the State toarrange.During the lasttwofinancial yearsthe Commonwealth contributed £155,195, on a £lfor£l basiswiththeStates forthe immediate relief of personal hardship arisingfrom floods and bush fires. In addition, the Commonwealth hassofar agreed to contribute duringthecurrentfinancial yeara further £65,000 on a.similar basis.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the presentposition with respect to theproposal which heannounced in 1949for a contributory system ofnational insurance againstsickness, widowhood, unemployment and oldage, which was tobeplaced beforethe people in1952 fortheir approval?
s. - Thehonorablemember’s reference to an announcement made by me no doubt concerns a statement made in my policy speech in 1949. I would remind the honorable memberthat the words Iusedwere -
Australia still needs a contributory system ofnationalinsuranceagainst sickness, widowhood,unemployment and old age. It isonly under such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right,and so get completely rid of the meanstest.
During the new Parliament we willfurther investigate this complicated problem, with a view to presenting to youatthe election of 1952 ascheme foryour approval.
My promise was to investigate -the problem and submit a scheme arising out of that investigation to the people. The investigation is still being made by the Minister forSocial Servicesandhis officers.
Mr.Haylen asked the PrimeMinister, uponnotice -
Does the current high cost of shipping freights on goodsimported from the United Kingdom constitute a heavy burden on both the Australian price structure andthe overseas exchangereserves?
Have delays to ships in Australian ports now beeneliminated?
Have overseasshipowners fully removed the effective surcharge imposed on freights to meet losses due to delays to ships in Australianports? 4.If overseas freightshavenotbeenreasonably reduced, will, he,instead of sellingthe ships, consider the diversion of a quota of Commonwealth-owned ships tocarrygoods from overseas ports to Australia at reasonable rates in salutory competitionwiththe services of overseas shipowners?
Will he, during his approaching visit to the United Kingdom, make representations totheBritishGovernment forurgent cooperation to ensurethatshippingfreightsto Auatralia,whicharecontrolled in London, are fixed at reasonable levels?
Mr.Menzies. -The answers tothe honorablemember’s questions are as follows.: -
The cost df overseas freights is reflected in the prices charge for imported commodities and hasalsoaffectedtheoverseas currency reserves,butis only onefactorbearing on those prices and on our overseas reserves.
Notentirely Butthere hasbeena markedimprovement over thepasttwelve monthsinthe turnroundof shippinginAustralianports. 3.The shipowners recentlyremoved the 25 percent. surcharge on goods from the United Kingdomto Australia,but at the same time the freight rate was increased by 10 per cent. to meet increasing costs. The net effect was an overall reduction of 12 per cent.
The ships mentioned by the honorable member are ‘required onthe Australiancoast to meet essentialtransport needs.In any event,itis not government policytoenter into undertakingsof this nature. 5.Thedetermination offreightratesis essentiallya matter forthe shipowners. Nevertheless,the AustralianHighCommissionerinLondonhashadregular discussions withthe United Kingdom Shipping Conference onratesandtherecent adjustment canin some measure be attributed tohis efforts. TheHighCommissionerwillcontinue to watch Australiasinterest.I would not say at this stagethatit wouldbe appropriate or necessary for me to raisethismatter when I aminLondon later thisyear.
Mr.Sheehan asked theMinister act ingforthe Postmaster-General, upon notice - 1.What disposals ofcars,trucks andpanel vans aremade eachyearby thePostmasterGeneral’s Department?
Does the department dispose ofthese vehicles or are they disposed of by private agents ? 3 If the latter, what is the amount of fee paid to the agent?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions areas follows : -
Mr.Riordan askedtheMinister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice - l.Areallofficersofthe Department of Trade and Customs sworn not to reveal to any person outsidethe department any information received by them in thecourse oftheir duties ? 2.Is the newsprint pool administration a section of the department?
Mr.EricJ. Harrison. -TheMinister forTrade and Customs hasfurnished the following answers tothe honorable member’s questions : - l.Officers oftheDepartment of Trade and Customs are not specially sworn to secrecy but inthematterof secrecythey areamenable to the Crimes Act 1914-1950 and the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1951.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
h asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 25th September, the honorable, member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) asked the following question : -
Is the Prime Minister aware that of the 3,000 university scholarships provided by the Government for Victorian students this year, according to the Minister for Education in that State, only 987 of them have been availed of? Is the Prime Minister aware that the lack of eligible applicants for those scholarships is caused by the fact that there is not a corresponding number of secondary school scholarships to All the gap between the primary schools and entrance to the university? If he is not aware of that position will he investigate the matter and give urgent consideration to the provision of an adequate number of secondary school scholarships So as to enable a sufficient number of eligible applicants to be available for the university scholarships awarded by the Commonwealth each year?
I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
Further to the reply that I gave the honorable member at the time of hia asking the question, I ani now able to Inform him that 3,000 scholarships are offered annually throughout the Commonwealth. These are distributed among the States on a population basis, and Victoria’s quota for 1952 was 805. Eight hundred and five scholarships commencing in 1D52 were allotted and taken up in Victoria and an additional 91 scholarships were allotted, but their operation was deferred until 1953. The honorable member’s suggestion that the Commonwealth should provide secondary school scholarships han wide implications. The aim of the Commonwealth scholarship scheme is to provide the opportunity of a university education for young Australian men and women irrespective of their personal means. The number of scholarships awarded in Victoria would indicate that the scheme is fulfilling its purpose. The field of secondary education is, of course, State responsibility, and, in all States, some portion at least of secondary schooling is compulsory and free. To offer secondary school scholarships would, therefore, involve a major policy decision which I am not prepared to discuss in answer to a question.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19521007_reps_20_219/>.