20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to inform the House that certain difficulties have arisen from my point of view with respect to incorporating in Hansard two photostat copies of documents that were produced in this chamber some nights ago by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. In order that the House shall not be taken unawares, I now inform honorable members that to-morrow I shall rule that those photostat copies are not to be incorporated in Hansard, and give my reasons for so ruling. It will then be open to the House to resolve its mind on the matter.
– Can the Minister for
Labour and National Service state, on the latest information available, the number of persons who are registered as unemployed at offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service? If so, what is the figure?
– As the House is well aware, it is the practice of the department to prepare and issue periodically a survey of the labour situation in this country. As it happens, I shall be able to issue officially this evening a completely detailed statement along those lines. The information should appear in the press to-morrow morning. Copies of that statement will be made available to honorable members who wish to obtain them. I am glad to advise the House that the number of unemployed persons registered for September snows a rather brighter tone than the corresponding numbers for the preceding month, in respect of which also I shall set out details in my statement. One point of interest about the latest figures is that of the total number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit in Australia, slightly more than one-half are registered in the metropolitan area of Sydney.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that both married and single men are being retrenched from Commonwealth Hostels Limited, while the services of married women whose husbands are in full-time employment are being retained? Will the Minister study the staffing position in that department? If he finds that retrenchments are necessary will be direct that they shall be carried out in a fair and sensible manner !
– To the best of my knowledge, any retrenchments that have occurred in the staff of Commonwealth Hostels Limited because of the reduced intake of immigrants have been carried out in accordance with the customary Public Service practice. If the honorable member wishes me to examine any particular instance I shall do so on receiving the details from him. I shall also take up with the department the general question that he has raised.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service tell me. how many persons are now registered with the Commonwealth Employment service as being unemployed?
– I do not know whether the honorable member is trying to secure information beyond that which I told the Leader of the Opposition would be forthcoming later to-day. The practice has been to issue the figures periodically, and the figures for September will be released to-night. They will be sufficiently detailed, I imagine, to provide an answer to the honorable member’s question.
– I direct a question, to the Treasurer. In view of the questions that have been asked by honorable members on both sides pf the House with regard to the desirability of the Government making more funds available for housing, road construction and other purposes which would help to relieve unemployment, and the replies that have been given by the right honorable gentleman to ‘ the effect that that is entirely a matter for the Australian Loan Council, will he undertake to bring before the special meeting of the Australian Loan Council on Friday the need for the provision of more money for those purposes with his favorable recommendation that the council provide the- money that is required?
– The answer is “ No “.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is a. fact that a meeting of the Australian Loan Council will bc held next Friday? If that is so, will he also state whether that meeting will be held as a result of the direct request of various State Premiers? If so, has the right honorable gentleman had any information from the Premier of Queensland on whether he will be present? If that honorable gentleman will not be present does the Treasurer know whether it will be because ho will be taking part in a by-election which he may consider to be more important?
– Order! The last part of the honorable member’s question has nothing to do -with the Government.
– A meeting of the Australian Loan Council will be held next Friday. It will be held constitutionally, at the request of the 61x State Premiers of Australia including the Premier of Queensland.
– Will the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General take steps to ascertain whether the Torres Strait Islands broadcasting station operated by the Queensland Subdepartment pf Native Affairs under Commonwealth licence has been issued recently to- broadcast political propaganda and ‘ defamatory statements about members of Parliament? If bo, will the Minister deal with the. licence according to law?
-The matter to’ which the honorable member has referred has not yet been brought to my notice. I shall have inquiries made and inform the honorable member of the result of them.
– I also ask the Minister whether he can obtain the script of a broadcast that was made at 8.30 a.m. on Tuesday, the 30th September last, from the radio station that is situated on Thursday Island and which is operated by the Queensland Department of Native Affairs? If he can obtain that script, will it be made- available to me?
– I shall ascertain whether the script to which the honorable member has referred is available, and will advise him as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General provide me with a copy of the script -of a radio broadcast entitled, “ This week in Canberra “, from national stations ? I listened to it at approximately 7.20 p.m. on Friday last. If it is: possible to supply me with a copy, will the Minister inform me at the same time whether the script, was prepared for the Australian Broadcasting Commission by an outside person or by a member of the staff?
– I shall have inquiries made and give the honorable member a complete answer later.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. There are three related parts to the one question. Is it true that the Australian armed forces are equipped with obsolete motor vehicles which are wasteful of man-power and money to keep in repair? Are Australian factories in a position to supply any of the special vehicles that are required by the armed forces? Are Australian troops expected to do their training and go on active service with inadequate transport consisting of improvised commercial vehicles, as they did in the last war?
– The Australian armed forces are adequately supplied with transport for training purposes. The transport that they have now is not intended to go into a theatre of operations. Certain classes of transport vehicles can be obtained in Australia, but operational vehicles are not available here.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Health a question with reference to hospital administration in Hew South Wales. Is it a fact that the means test has become necessary because hospitals in New South Wales, particularly in the country districts, are not receiving sufficient revenue ?
– I can speak only of the revenue that the hospitals receive from . the Australian Government. According to a statement that was made by the Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales in his budget speech, the amount that that Government will receive from the Australian Government this year will be £2,000,000 more than last year. Whatever action concerning the imposition of a means test, or charges, is taken in New South Wales is entirely due to the policy of the State government.
– Yesterday, the Minister for Social Services, in reply to a question that I asked him, said that the wife of an unemployed man in receipt of the unemployment benefit was permitted to earn up to £5 15s. a week before her husband became ineligible for the benefit. Did the Minister mean that if the wife earned £5 14s. a week the payment of the benefit to her husband would be continued, or did he intend to imply that the amount of the benefit would be reduced in proportion with her weekly earnings in excess of £1 and that, if she earned £5 15s. a week, no unemployment benefit at all would be paid to her husband.
– I was asked yesterday to state the stage at which the unemployment benefit would cut out. - I replied that it would do so when the wife was earning £5 15s. a week. The unemployment benefit paid to a man is reduced in proportion with the weekly earnings of his wife between £1 and £5 15s.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Yesterday, a deputation from age pensioners, which waited on the Prime Minister, made a request for financial assistance for the erection of cottage homes. When the Minister is considering that request, will he bear in mind the claims for assistance of Aged Cottage Homes Incorporated, a society in the electorate of Sturt? I point out that the pensioners themselves have collected £2,000 for the society towards the cost of the erection of cottage homes for aged persons in heed. Will the Government consider the provision of a subsidy on a £1 for £1 basis?
– There are approximately 140 semi-charitable organizations that engage in the building and provision of homes of different types for pensioners. The society in the Sturt electorate, to which the honorable gentleman has referred, is a particularly worthy organization. The money to finance its operations has been subscribed by the pensioners themselves. It was pointed out by the deputation yesterday that housing is probably the greatest element in the needs of age pensioners. The provision of money for capital expenditure for pensioners’ homes has engaged the attention >>f the Government for some time, but it is not so easy as it appears on the surface to grant financial assistance for such a purpose. Constitutional difficulties are encountered when the Commonwealth is considering the provision of money for capital expenditure on homes. However, the matter is before the Government, and I shall advise the honorable member when any advance has been made.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services is partly supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Sturt-
Conversation being audible,
-Order! There is too much conversation in the House.
– I ask the Minister what constitutional difficulty prevents the Australian Government from making money available for the provision of homes for pensioners in the Australian Capita] Territory?
– Not being a constitutional lawyer, I cannot give any legal opinion on that matter. However, it is clearly evident that no Australian Government could provide anything for people in one small section of Australia unless it was prepared to do it throughout the whole- of the country.
– A notice to mariners was published recently in which a warning was given of the presence of floating mines off the north-west and north-east coasts of Australia. Will the Minister for the Navy state the areas from which those mines came? Are they of the contact type ? Has he. any other information about them that would be of assistance to mariners?
– -Recently. notice was given of the presence of floating mines off the north-east coast of Australia, not off the north-west coast. Shortly after the end of the war, the RoYal Australian Air Force dumped some mines in a small area off the north-west coast, but a recent survey of that area showed that there were no floating mines there. The presence of mines off the north-east coast of Australia has been reported. I think four floating mines have been found off that coast in the last few months. There is no doubt that those mines were swept by mine-sweepers, became temporarily snagged on coral reefs, and were washed loose during recent storms. Consequently they have become visible. I do not know whether they are contact mines, or mines of other types. The department considers that they might constitute a danger to shipping, and we published in the Gazette a notice to mariners about them. Unfortunately, we have not been able to do very much about the two mines that were washed up near Cairns recently, but we shall deal with them when an opportunity to do so presents itself.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. Does any contract exist between the Australian Government and/or the State governments and assisted immigrants, whether they be Italians, displaced persons or people of British nationality, under , which an obligation is imposed upon private employers, Commonwealth authorities or State authorities to retain for two years, or for any other period of time, the services of such immigrants whom they have employed, and which prohibits them from considering the claims of Australians in their employ when they are called upon to decide which of their employees shall be retrenched during the present period of recession?
– To the best of my knowledge the answer is “ No “.
– Can the Minister for Immigration inform the House whether any provision has been made for the naturalization of new Australians who have resided in Australia for a period of less than five years but who fought with the Allies during the last war, were quartered in Great Britain during the battle of Britain, and assisted the Allies when they invaded the continent of Europe? Will they have to wait for five years, or is there any provision under which they can be naturalized after two years ?
– They will not have to wait for five years. Provision was made by the former Government that service with the allied forces in World War II. could be counted as part of the qualifying period for naturalization. That provision is being applied by this Government.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that many unemployed immigrants are unable to provide themselves with accommodation because they have no friends or relatives in Australia and are obliged to sleep in parks, on railway stations and wherever else they can find a place to sleep? Will the Minister take action to have these persons re-admitted to government hostels until the Government is able to provide them with work?
– The honorable member for East Sydney does not miss many opportunities to try to discredit the immigration programme, which, I believe, enjoys the general support of all other members of this Parliament. When difficulties arise, as they arose when my predecessor was in office, we try to overcome them in the best, most sympathetic, and most practical way that we can devise. I am able to say that many immigrants who have been unemployed and have not been able to obtain accommodation readily have been taken back into Government hostels.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether the vacant portion of. the immigrant holding centre at Mildura will be required by the Department of Immigration? If it will not be required by the department, will the Minister make investigations with a view to ensuring that those valuable buildings will be fully utilized ?
– Apart from a portion of the camp which is at present being used by the Department of the Army, the establishment is being held on a caretaker basis in good order and condition, in case it is subsequently required for any aspect of the immigration programme. I do not know of any other suitable use for the buildings that the honorable member may have in mind. If the people of the district think that the structures can be put to any practical use, I shall be glad to receive their suggestions, but, in the meantime, we are keeping the place in good order on a caretaker basis.
– I ask the Treasurer, in the absence of the Prime Minister, whether his attention has been drawn to a statement made yesterday at Wagga by a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales who, when he received the traditional gift of a pair of white gloves-
-Order ! Never mind about the gloves.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order for the honorable member for Mackellar to ask this question,, which you pre viously ruled out of order when another honorable member attempted to ask it?
– Order ! The honorable member’s question is in order so far.
– There is nothing in the Standing Orders which, in any way, > applies to the point of order raised by the honorable member for Grayndler. I quite understand his desire, which is shared by so many members of the Labour party, to protect the Communists
– I rise to order. Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for an honorable member who has attempted to ask a question that was ruled out of order before he could complete it, to pass the same question to another honorable member with the request that he ask it?
-Order! I have no knowledge of what passes between honorable members, thank Heaven!
– I again ask the Treasurer, in the absence of the Prime Minister, whether his attention has been drawn to a statement made in Wagga by a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in relation to a Communist party publication, which he described as an incitement to the crimes of-
– Order ! Is the honorable gentleman’s question based on a newspaper report?
– It is based on a. statement made by a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to this matter-
– I rise to order ! The Standing Orders make it clear that if any question based on a newspaper or other report is asked, the honorable member who asks the question must vouch for the accuracy of the report. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member for Mackellar is obliged, under the Standing Orders, to vouch for the accuracy of the statement that he has repeated?
– I rise to order. It is manifest that if everything that appeared in a newspaper were to be ruled out of order as the basis for a question in this House, it would be almost impossible to ask questions. It would be quite impracticable to put honorable members to the proof of what their knowledge of any statement is based on. Upholding of the point of order taken by the honorable member for Hindmarsh would lead to a complete suppression of discussion, :. this House, of any matter that had appeared in the press.
– I point out to the honorable member for Evans that this is not the time for discussion, but the time that is set aside for the asking of questions. The Standing Orders state clearly that questions shall not be based on newspaper reports. If the honorable member for Mackellar is basing his question on something other than a newspaper report I should like to be informed of what it is.
– I merely asked the Treasurer whether his attention had been drawn to the statement that I have mentioned. May ,1 say that I understand the desire of the Labour party to protect the Communists-
– Order ! I consider that the honorable gentleman’s question is right out of order.
– Will the Treasurer, in the absence of the Prime Minister, say what stage has been reached in negotiations with the Japanese Government for the. repatriation of Japanese war criminals now held at Manus Island. Is it true, as reported-
– Order ! That is not a matter that comes under the control of the Treasurer. The question should be asked of the proper Minister.
– I asked the question of the Treasurer, who is acting for the Prime Minister in his absence. May I ask the question of the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs?
– Order! I am afraid the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs is not present. The honorable gentleman had better leave his question till to-morrow.
– Has the Minister for Defence any further information to give the House about the recent atomic weapon test at the Monte Bello Islands? Can he say whether the islands are to be permanently reserved as a weapon testing site, and retained as a prohibited area, or will they be re-opened to civilians? If they are to be re-opened to civilians, can he say when the proclamation declaring the islands a prohibited area will be repealed ?
– I have no further information to give the House about the explosion which took place at the Monte Bello Islands recently. I hope to be able to make an announcement on that matter in the not-far-distant future. The islands will remain a protected area until the proclamation’ is repealed.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence Production been directed to a statement by a senior officer of the Royal Australian Air Force, who recently returned to Australia, that the highly secret Avro Delta bomber made the Canberra jet bomber .look like a slow old-fashioned plane? What is the present position regarding the production of the Canberra bomber in this country? As no Canberra bombers have yet been produced here, is the Government considering the advisability of switching to the production of the Avro Delta bomber so that the Royal Australian Air Force will have the most modern equipment available ?
– My attention has not been directed to the statement to which the honorable member for Fawkner has referred.
– Order ! A question should not be based upon a statement. That is obviously a contravention of the Standing Orders.
– The facts are that the Canberra bomber is rapidly approaching the production stage. We hope to have the first machine off the assembly line in accordance with the time schedule. The Canberra bomber is still recognized as one of the best medium bombers that has been produced, and we have no intention of altering the arrangements that have been made for its production here.
– Will the Treasurer advise honorable members when the ten promises, that he and the Prime Minister gave to the women of Australia in requesting their support for the present Government parties in the 1949 general elections, will be given effect to? Those promises were that the cost of living would be reduced, the wage standard maintained, employment assured, homebuilding given first priority– -
– Order !
– And there were numerous other promises given to the women of Australia. In view of the fact that these promises were made more than three years ago, how long have the women still to wait before the Government attempts to honour them?
– In reply to the propaganda question asked by the honorable member as to when effect would be given to what he described as ten promises, I say that effect was immediately given to the implementation of those promises and those points of policy when this Government was sworn in after the. 1949 general election.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether, in view of the fact that in the normal course of events war widows would live by themselves or with sons or daughters, he will give consideration to amending the War Service Homes Act to provide for the building of blocks of flats for war widows who apply for this type of housing?
– This proposal with regard to flats for war widows has been raised on many occasions in the past, and it is still an active problem in the minds of the war widows. Successive governments have considered the matter, but there appears to be some constitutional difficulty. The War Service Homes Act is precise in its provisions. It is designed to provide homes and home-ownership for ex-servicemen and war widows. In addition, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and other agreements between the Commonwealth and the States, provision is made that 50 per cent, of the homes erected shall be pro vided for ex-service personnel, and it is within that category that homes for war widows should be provided. As far as I know, a provision such as that mentioned by the honorable member cannot be made under the War Service Homes Act. However, I shall examine the matter further and ascertain whether anything can be done.
– Is the Treasurer aware that, following the announcement of the lifting of credit restrictions by the Commonwealth Bank, private banks and other leading institutions have been inundated with unsuccessful applications for loans by home seekers, who have been informed by managers and other officials that there is still an acute shortage of liquid funds?
– Order ! What is the question ?
– Will the Treasurer consider making some stipulation, when special deposits held by the Commonwealth Bank are returned to private financial institutions, that at least a portion of those funds must be appropriated for the purposes of financing house building? If not, has he any other proposals in mind to relieve the situation ?
– I am not prepared to tell the trading banks or any other institutions how they shall invest their funds. That matter is entirely within the province of those institutions and is largely governed by the liquidity of their funds. They have the right to lend money for housing or for any other purposes. I remind the honorable member that this Government has done what no other Government has done in recent years by making available £80,000,000 from all its instrumentalities for the assistance of building activities throughout the country:
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. Early in the current sessional period the Prime Minister stated that certain Ministers would represent other Ministers who are in another place. Is it not competent for an honorable member to address a question without notice to the Minister who represents, say, the Minister for Repatriation or the Minister who represents the Minister for National Development, both of whom are members of the Senate ? Would you clarify your ruling in that matter ?
– My ruling is that questions that are asked in the circumstances that the honorable member has indicated must be placed on the noticepaper. I referred to this matter shortly after I was elected Speaker. The fact that Ministers represent in this chamber Ministers who are in another place does not mean that such Ministers in this chamber have sufficiently detailed knowledge of the departments that are administered by their colleagues in another place as would enable them to answer questions that are directed to them without notice concerning those departments. In any event, the Standing Orders prescribe that a question without notice shall be directed to a Minister on a matter in respect of which he exercises ministerial responsibility. Questions that do not fulfil that requirement should be placed on the notice-paper.
– May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to reconsider the ruling that you have just given. I submit that the purpose of the practice of nominating Ministers in this House to represent Ministers in another place is to ensure that the responsibility of Ministers to answer questions in this chamber shall not exclude questions that relate to any one department. I am not dealing with the technical aspect of your ruling, Mr, Speaker. I suggest that there must be some procedure by which advantage can be taken by honorable members to ask questions in this House that relate to the administration of any department whether or not the Minister who directly controls that department happens to be in the House or in the Senate. It is most inconvenient that a Minister should be precluded from answering a question without notice on an important and urgent matter merely because the Minister in charge of the department concerned is in another place. I am not now asking that you give a ruling on that point at this juncture, Mr. Speaker. I ask you to reconsider the matter and to give due weight to the balance of con venience in the conduct of proceedings in this House.
– I should like to ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the procedure that the House should follow if it should require that the relevant standing orders be re-examined. I am not querying the ruling that you have given ; but I believe that honorable members on both sides are of opinion that, in view of your ruling, the Standing Orders place a limitation upon the functions of this chamber if important questions cannot be raised by honorable members on either side in relation to a matter of administration by addressing a question without notice to a Minister who represents the Minister who administers the department to which the question relates. It may well be that, in many instances, a Minister who represents a Minister who is in another place may not be in possession of the requisite information that would enable him to answer such a question, although the asking of a question without notice implies that it should relate to a matter of urgency. On the other hand, however, there will be many instances in which a Minister who represents a Minister who is in another place, will have some knowledge of a matter that is raised in that way, because it is his responsibility to keep himself actively informed generally of matters that concern the department whose Minister he represents in this chamber. In those circumstances, I believe that the Minister in this chamber should be permitted to decide whether he has the necessary information that would enable him to answer such a question. If he has not such information, he could ask that the question be placed on the notice-paper. That is done in many instances. I believe that honorable members generally would like to have this matter examined. If it is one that should be reviewed by the Standing Orders Committee I invite you, Mr. Speaker, to give your guidance to the House with respect to the procedure that should be followed.
– I assure the House that on many occasions I have given very careful consideration to my interpretation of the Standing Orders in respect of the point that has now been raised. My view has not been altered as a result of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). The Parliament consists of two chambers in each of which there are certain Ministers, each of whom is responsible for administration in a particular domain. However, in order that the Parliament shall be enabled to function more satisfactorily, it is customary for Ministers in one chamber to be represented by Ministers in the other chamber. At present, five Ministers in the Senate are represented by Ministers in this chamber, whilst those five Ministers represent fifteen Ministers who are in this House. There is rather a tendency for the House to invert the real importance of questions. The majority of the Standing Orders that relate to questions are directed to questions upon notice, and only two standing orders relate to questions without notice. They are Standing Orders 150 and 151. Standing Order 150 states -
Questions may be asked without notice on important matters which call for immediate attention .
Obviously, a question without notice must be addressed to the Minister who has direct responsibility in relation to its subject-matter, and not to a Minister who represents the Minister who has such responsibility. If I may speak from my own experience as a Minister, I found that I had quite sufficient to do to keep in touch with matters that directly concerned the administration of my department without dealing with matters that affected the department of a Minister whom I represented in this House. On one occasion, I represented the Minister for Defence; and each of us had enough to do to look after our respective departments.
– You said on one occasion that when you were a Minister you had nothing to do.
– That was on one occasion when I was Postmaster-General. I direct the attention of honorable members to Standing Order 142, which reads -
Questions may be put to a Minister relating to public alI ill rS with which he is officially connected, to proceedings in the House, or to any matter of administration for which he is responsible.
That standing order does not mention a matter for which a Minister in another place is responsible. So far as I am concerned, the ruling that I gave previously in respect of this matter still stands. However, I again direct the attention of the House to what I have said previously, at least on one occasion, if not twice, that the system of asking and answering of questions in this House is completely and utterly out of date and that the proper method would be for questions to be written out and placed on the notice-paper and then, because of the broadcasting of proceedings in this chamber, for the honorable member in whose name a question stood, to ask his question and for the Minister to have a prepared answer to it. If that practice were followed we should get the very best out of honorable members on both sides of the chamber. The present system is haphazard, and honorable members must, from experience, be as well aware as I am of its shortcomings.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. As leader of the House, I ask for your guidance in this matter, because your ruling seems to cut across the general conduct of the business of the House in respect of matters other than the asking and answering of questions. During debates on a bill in respect of which a Minister represents a Minister who is in another place, the Minister in this chamber takes his place at the table and is in charge of the bill at all stages of its passage. If you rule, Mr. Speaker, that a Minister has not sufficient, knowledge to enable him to answer a question without notice, how can it bp said that he has sufficient knowledge to enable him to pilot through this chamber a bill that directly relates to the administration of a Minister who is in another place? I am afraid that if the ruling that you have given in this instance is applied in relation to proceedings generally in this House, it may operate to the disadvantage of the House.
– I should like briefly to supplement my earlier remarks. Standing Order 150 simply provides that questions without notice may be asked on important public matters. It does not exclude the asking of a question which an honorable member may desire to address to a Minister as the representative in this chamber of a Minister in another place. In my view, questions of that kind are permissible under that standing or,der. Standing Order 142 prescribes that questions that relate to public affairs may be addressed to the Minister who is officially connected with such affairs. I submit that such official connexion exists in respect of a Minister who represents a Minister in another place. The whole purpose of questions is to enable honorable members to raise matters in respect of any government department. I am not now referring to your other ruling, Mr. Speaker, that questions without notice shall be limited in certain respects. “We shall contest that. We submit that it is not so. That is the very essence of the parliamentary system and, whatever may be the wording of the Standing Orders, the practice has been observed for too long to be changed. You will never find an Opposition agreeing to such a contraction of practice. You, Mr. Speaker, as a former member of the Opposition, will realize that it can be for the public benefit to continue such a practice.
– I have had quite considerable experience in this chamber as a member of the Opposition, and, no doubt, in due course I shall have it again. I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that that will not alter my very firm views on this question in any way. It is entirely a matter for the House. If the House likes to vote that Ministers representing Ministers in another place may be questioned without notice, I am completely unconcerned. It leaves me absolutely cold. I cannot understand the reasoning of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) , on the point he has mentioned. When this matter was raised a few moments ago, I was not asked for any information or ruling except with regard to questions. It is obvious that when a Minister pilots a bill through this House as the representative of a Minister in another place, he must have in his possession all the facts with regard to the other Minister’s views and so on. My remarks with regard to questions have nothing whatever to do with the normal working of the House. Although the asking and answering of questions is among the earliest of the procedures in the House, it is often also the most abnormal.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) 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 Audit Act 1901-1950.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Eric J. Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir ARTHUR Fadden and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to provide for an increase of £100 per annum in the salary of the Auditor-General to take effect as from the 1st July, 1951. The present salary of the Auditor-General is £3,250 per annum. In October, 1951, the Government decided that in view of cost of living increases since salaries were reviewed in 1950, a general increase of £100 per annum as from the 1st July, 1951, should be granted to permanent heads and certain other full-time officers, including holders of statutory offices, whose salaries are determined by the Government. The Government further decided that this adjustment should be met from the appropriation for ordinary annual services. The salaries of the holders of statutory offices were accordingly increased without amending the acts authorizing such salaries.
The Auditor-General has expressed the view that it is not appropriate that portion of his salary shouldbe subject to control by the government of the day by its inclusion in the annual Estimates, and that, to preserve his independent status, the increase in salary should be authorized by an amendment of the Audit Act. In the existing circumstances, he has declined to accept the increase of £1 00 per annum approved by the Government. After consideration of the views of the Auditor-General, the Government has decided to amend the Audit Act to provide the necessary statutory authority to increase the salary of the AuditorGeneral by £100 per annum as from the 1st July, 1951. Provision is made in the present bill accordingly.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
.- The Opposition realizes that there is a good deal of Government business still to be brought down, but it does not like to surrender its rights and privileges. As a matter of form, this Government expects the Opposition to forgo its rights with regard to private members’ and general business every week. We do not want to take up the time of the House in debating this motion, but the Opposition will vote against it to register its disapproval of the Government’s proposal.
.- I wish to register an emphatic protest against the deprivation of private members’ rights.Standing. Order 291 sets out clearly that a certain time must be set aside on every alternate Thursday to enable private members to deal with matters of interest, and particularly those that concern their electorates. We have not been given such an opportunity this year. It is so long since we were permitted to discuss our grievances, that I have forgotten the last occasion. The standing order to which I have referred was formulated for a specific and justifiable purpose. The Government is not justified in depriving us every fortnight of our right to discuss urgent problems. It is not good enough to permit us to deal with those problems on the motion for the adjournment of the House, because honorable members are tired then, and often the gag is applied or there are not sufficient honorable members present in the House to constitute a quorum.
There are many important matters with which I should like to deal. Over 4,000 people in my electorate are unemployed. About 1,500 former employees of three factories in the area that I represent have been unemployed for a considerable time.
– Order ! The honorable member forReid (Mr. Morgan) may not deal with matters of that kind.
– I have endeavoured for a considerable time to raise in this House that matter and other matters of equal importance. I have asked questions about them, without notice and upon notice. I have been very patient. These matters are of vital importance to the electors. Surely we can devote an hour or two of our time, or of the Government’s time, to a consideration of them. Our constituents want to know what we are doing about unemployment, and about the lack of finance for State public works. Hundreds of people have come to Canberra to-day. I do not agree with that irregular method of approach–
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not refer to matters of that kind.
– I do not intend to deal with them in detail. I can understand why restiveness and anxiety exists in the community. I know that the people of this country feel that we are not doing our job properly, and are not making representations to the Government sufficiently strongly. What other method is there of raising these matters? I have directed questions to Ministers, but without result. The time has come when we should be permitted to bring to the notice of the Government the problems that confront our constituents, and urge it to deal with them promptly. I say, with all respect to any arrangements that are made by the
Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), that the rights of private members of this House are sacrosanct. I shall endeavour in every possible way to preserve my rights.
Mir. COSTA (Banks) [3.28].- It is a sin to remain silent when an attempt is being made to filch from honorable members the right to voice the complaints of their constituents. If the Government forces us to remain silent about those complaints, it will be guilty of a crime. I join with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) in protesting against this proposal to take away the right of private members to discuss matters that are of vital importance to people throughout this country.
– I join with other honorable members on this side of the chamber in protesting against the motion proposed by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I do not wish to reflect upon the right honorable gentleman, or upon the honorable member for Melbourne. They make many arrangements about the business of this House. I think that sometimes those arrangements could be improved. I understand that, some time ago, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) made some suggestions about the sittings of the House. The Government should consider whether it would be possible to organize our sittings in such a way as to enable private members to ventilate any grievances that they have. I protest emphatically against the injustice of the Government’s action in this instance.
– in reply - The remarks that have been made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) and the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) are not relevant to this motion, which relates, not to “Grievance Day” but to general business. It will affect the discussion only of a motion on import restrictions, of which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has given notice; a motion on soil erosion proposed by the honorable member for Darling Down (Mr. Swartz), and a motion for the printing of a ministerial statement on parliamentary under-secretaries. The honorable member for Reid said that he wanted to talk about unemployment in his electorate. He could not talk or that subject under any of the items of general business that now appear on the notice-paper. He could raise the matter on the adjournment to-night, if he so desired. I shall give him an opportunity to do so. The honorable member for Banks, sheeplike, followed the honorable member for Reid. Apparently he thought that this was an opportunity to make some political capital. The honorable member for Kingston looked with awe upon the honorable member for “Banks. Then he rose in his place and followed him blindly, but he did not know what he was talking about.
Let me dispose of this nonsense. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), in accordance with custom, said in an apologetic tone that the Opposition had to protest against a proposal that general business be relegated to limbo. I made such a statement a hundred times when I was a member of the Opposition, but my remarks had no effect upon the government of the day. The honorable gentleman knows full well that, when the Labour party was in power, one item of general business remained upon’ the noticepaper for seven months before the discussion was resumed. Then the item was discharged quickly, and the subject did not see the light of day again.
– What did it relate, to?
– It was a motion that expressed lack of confidence in the honorable member for Darling (M.r. Clark), who was then Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– It was a frivolous motion.
– It was well justified. I do not want to drag unfortunate incidents of that kind from limbo and embarrass the honorable member for Melbourne. Let me put this matter in its proper perspective. It was obvious that three of the members of the Opposition who spoke to this motion did not know what they were talking about.
The honorable member for Melbourne protested against the motion. That is customary. It is traditional to protest against motions of this kind. The House and the people should be made aware of the nonsense that the Opposition has talked. The Government has urgent business to transact. If honorable members opposite want to grieve, they can grieve on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– The right honorable gentleman gags debates on that motion.
– The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) knows that, recently, a debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House went on until 12.30 a.m.. Honorable members opposite so abused the privilege of speaking to that motion that certain events occurred, to which I cannot refer now. I hope the honorable member for Melbourne remembers that, when he stood in the place in which I stand now, he decided, with ironfisted partiality, to prevent the then Opposition from resuming the discussion of matters that they wished to discuss. If he ponders upon that fact, he may not call for a division when this motion is put to the House.
Question put -
That Government business shall take pre cedence over general business to-morrow.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. ARCHIE CAMERON.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 14th October (vide page 3065), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Government has a mania for selling, or giving away, the assets of this nation, mainly to overseas monopolies. It would not be so bad if the monopolies concerned were Australian monopolies, as then the profits of the undertakings would at least remain in this country. Because those national assets are being frittered away at a time when we hear so much about the need to prepare our defences, any member of this Parliament or of the public must be very afraid of the outcome. The Bard of Avon, describing the seven stages of man, said -
One man in his time plays many parts.
Many Government supporters have eulogized what they describe as the Prime Minister’s astuteness in relation to the sale of the Government’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. This great Shakespearian actor has played many parts, but I cannot visualize him as Shylock, although I can visualize him as Falstaff. The very nature of this oil company transaction shows that he does not measure up to the opinions of him that his supporters have expressed. The Government also disposed of its interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. We do not know definitely that the shares it formerly held are now held by a foreign monopoly, but I consider that a search of the share list would probably reveal that to be the case. In the event of war we should have to buy back our interest in that company, the activities of which are vitally important to our defence. In any event, and whether war occurs or not, the Government’s interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited should not have been sold, because the company was returning dividends to the Australian people. Those dividends now go to private enterprise.
In the granting of timber concessions in New Guinea the Government, in effect, entirely gave away a province. That is something hitherto unheard of in the political history of this country. Many nations would have paid a huge sum of money for such a concession. Now this Government is handing its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to a private company, the whole of the capital of which wa3 subscribed from a foreign source. Powerful foreign companies will re-value this asset, and distribute the profit in it throughout the world, and will not assist to develop Australia in any way whatever. It is inconceivable that the Government understands the implications of its policy in disposing of the Commonwealth’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, t sincerely hope that Ministers do not understand what they are doing. If they did understand the implications of their policy, they could definitely be charged as traitors to the country.
The Prime Minister has announced that any organization which can produce £2,000,000 and give certain assurances may have the Commonwealth-owned ships. This Government, very properly, has made concessions to primary producers. Yet it desires to dispose of the Commonwealth fleet, the existence of which causes private shipping companies to keep freight rates down. If the Government disposes of the Commonwealthowned ships, private enterprise will be able to fix freights, and thereby strangle the primary producers. I cannot imagine a more insane policy, because the Government has assisted primary producers, yet the sale of the Commonwealth-owned ships will enable private enterprise to strangle the man on the land.
The Government, which claims that this bill constitutes a part of its programme to combat socialism, should realize that it is selling assets which Australia will require, because we shall have to defend this country again before very long. Make no mistake about it! Australia will need these assets for its own defence. Yet the Government is frittering them away, out of spite, and in order to indulge in a little party political propaganda. When our modern Shylock speaks of the wonderful profit made by the Government from the sale of the Commonwealth’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited it must be remembered that the asset was purchased 30 years ago with Government bonds, and that the Australian currency was then based on the gold standard. Gold is twenty times more valuable to-day than it was in 1920. Consequently, the cost of the original asset would have to be multiplied by twenty, and the value of all the assets that had accrued to the company in the meantime would need to be added to the’ result, in order to enable us to ascertain whether the Government had made a profit on the transaction. The Opposition believes that the Government has actually incurred a loss on the deal. However, that fact does not seem to worry the Government. Its only desire, apparently, is to get rid of Commonwealth assets. The Government seems to have a mania in that respect. Failure to examine the position in accordance with the principles of proper accountancy proves that the Prime Minister and his supporters do not understand that the Government will not make a profit on the sale of the Commonwealth shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
The action of the Government in this matter constitutes its second attack on Great Britain in the last few weeks. The first attack was made when the request of the United Kingdom Government for permission to send an observer to the Anzus Council meeting was refused. The British Government still holds a large interest in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. The fact that the Australian Government has sold the Commonwealth’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited weakens the bargaining strength of the British Government in its negotiations with the Persian Government.
– Do not be silly.
– The Australian Government, by handing over its assets in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to private enterprise, will definitely weaken the position of the British Government in its negotiations with the Persian Government at the present time. The whole position has reached a delicate stage. For the first time in history since the American War of Independence in 1776, differences are arising between Great Britain and the United States of America. Those differences are with respect to the Anzus agreement and Persian oil. If a split occurs between those two great nations, we need not worry any longer about the future of the Western world. The Australian Government is assisting the very people to whom the Western democracies are opposed. ‘No fifth column could do greater harm to the cause of the democracies than the Government is doing by selling its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to a private company. I believe that when this bill becomes law, one of the greatest feasts ever held in Moscow will be given by Joe Stalin in honour of the assistance that has been given to him by this Government.
The Government is asking Australian boys to train and arm themselves in order to defend this country. As the result of the sale of the Commonwealth’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, private enterprise will control our oil supplies, and I forecast that we shall be compelled to pay exorbitant prices for petrol for the transport of our troops and for the aircraft that will provide air cover for them. The Government is definitely putting us in the hands of the major oil companies before we have to fight for our freedom against a physical enemy.
– In the event of another war, we shall be out on a limb.
– The future of Australia is being jeopardized by the disposal of assets which have such a great value in the defence of Australia. I do not know whether honorable members have fully considered the way in which this bill is designed to dispose of valuable Commonwealth assets. It is quite apparent that there is neither sense nor reason in selling these assets to monopolies that are mostly controlled overseas and are mostly built up with foreign capital. I cannot understand why millions of pounds will be spent on defence during the present financial year and yet Commonwealth shares in a most important defence undertaking like Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will be sold. It seems to be the policy of the Government to give away part of our defence potential, and to sell other parts of it for a mere bagatelle. Moreover, some of our defence undertakings have been sold to persons who may be our opponents in a future war. The youth of Australia will be disheartened from training to defend the country, because on the one hand they will see the Government urging them to train, and on the other hand they will see it selling the important defence assets that might help us to defeat a possible enemy, and would certainly help to preserve our own armies in time of war. Surely the honorable members who fought, allegedly for Australia, in the 1914-18 war, and certainly for Australia against the Japanese in the 1939-45 war, cannot look with equanimity upon the action of the Government in selling the Commonwealth’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
Australia, because of its valuable industries, and particularly because of its uranium deposits, will become a focal point of attack in a future war. Therefore, every member of the community must be vitally concerned to ensure that the Government shall take all steps to defend the country, and not dissipate our defence potential by selling important undertakings. The Australian Country party and Liberal party combination has caused grave damage to the defence system of Australia. The Don Cossack Choir, which is now Communist, must be singing very vigorously at present, “ The longer they are together, the happier we’ll be”, because the Liberal and Australian Country party combination is certainly assisting to spread communism throughout Australia and to weaken our proper defence against communism abroad. The Government is causing the people, particularly the youths who will nave to defend the country in a future war, to fall into despondency. The people are concerned because the Government intends to sell important assets, which may leave our armies without proper equipment either to defeat the enemy or to defend themselves. The sale of the Commonwealth’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is by far the worst of the actions of the Government in relation to sales of Commonwealth property. When the people fully realize the implications of the Government’s actions, the Labour party will be returned to office and it will then be able to buy back some of the assets that have been sacrificed in this way. [Quorum formed.’]
– The Opposition has made many excuses for opposing this bill which is to authorize the sale of the Commonwealth’s shares in a company that, together with the Australian Government, established a refinery in Australia at a cost of about £500,000. That company is now about to establish an enormous refinery at a cost of £40,000,000. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited processes about 120,000 tons of crude oil each year, but the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited, which will build a large refinery here, expects to refine 3,000,000 tons of oil each year for the use of Australia. The Opposition has put forward as an excuse for its antagonism to the measure, the argument that Australia will lose the right to control the price of petrol if it sells its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Australia never did control the price of petrol. Its supplies of crude oil were bought outside Australia. I inform honorable members that that company has never produced petrol; it has merely refined it. The price of petrol has always been fixed by foreign oil companies. Australia cannot control the price of petrol until we produce petrol in Australia. Moreover, during the whole of the time of its operation, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has refined petroleum that has been brought here from overseas, mainly by foreigners. Therefore, we shall lose nothing on that score by selling our shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
It has been said by honorable members opposite that if the Government should sell its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited we shall lose a valuable defence undertaking and. that that fact would dishearten Australian men from training to defend the country. The refinery did not operate during the war when the Labour Government was in powers. It was found to be cheaper to import refined spirit. I point out to them that the Government is helping to establish a huge industry that will refine many times the quantity of oil that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is able to refine, and that the people should be heartened by the Government’s action. When Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established, the present right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) stated that he was trying to establish an industry that would assist Australia in time of war. It is quite apparent that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will not be a big factor in time of war, except as a distributor of petrol. The Shell Company of Australia Limited is erecting at Geelong a refinery that will be capable of producing 1,000,000 tons of petrol a year. It should be completed in 3954. The Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited has commenced work on a refinery that should be ready to commence production in 1956 at the rate of 1,000,000 tons a year. Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited is erecting a refinery near Botany that will process 1,000,000 tons of crude oil a year.
None of that oil is produced in Australia. When the right honorable member for Bradfield, as Prime Minister of the day, arranged in 1920 for the Australian Government to become a partner in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, he declared that Australia have a refinery so that, when oil was discovered in this country, we should be able to convert it to refined spirit. We have not discovered oil in large quantities yet. However, if large reserves of oil should be discovered, we shall have unlimited refining capacity with which to process it. Therefore, we shall not suffer by the disposal of the small old-fashioned refinery at Laverton, with its capacity of 120,000 tons. Members of the Opposition have said that the Government is surrendering to the enemy. We are selling to a British company controlled by the British Government. They have declared that the refinery at Laverton was a godsend to us, and that we shall suffer from its loss. I remind them that the Leader of the Labour Opposition in this Parliament in 1920 bitterly opposed the proposal that the Government should be associated with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited on the ground that it would be a monopoly. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, which will own the new refinery at Kwinana, is totally controlled by British interests. Every penny invested in that undertaking has come from within the British Commonwealth. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) said that the Government was handing over to foreigners, who would clamp an octopus-like grasp on Australia. The truth is that the refinery at Kwinana will be a British undertaking. The honorable member said that the Government’s disposal of its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited would embarrass the British people in their desperate attempts to negotiate with Persia. In fact, that is the opposite of the truth. An explanation of the attitude of the Persian Government towards Great Britain in the present oil crisis could be found in Moscow. Britain’s refineries in Persia have been stolen and socialized and now Australia is giving them an opportunity to commence operations here.
The losses sustained by British interests as a result of the actions of the Prime Minister of Persia, goaded by the Persian Communist rabble, will be compensated for in a slight degree by the establishment of the new refinery at Kwinana. This Government has made a gesture of friendship to the Mother Country by allowing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited to establish a refinery in Australia. The company has been prevented from continuing its operations in Persia by the socialist acts of our enemies in that country. The commencement of this undertaking will be of great advantage to Australia. It will stimulate trade and commerce, and will provide employment for many Australians. I fervently hope that other great British organizations will establish factories under the protection of the Crown in Australia, where they can be assured that no socialist government, stampeded by a half-educated mob, will be able to steal their property from them, as happened in Persia. The Australian Government in 1920 invested £250,001 in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited £249,999. Our share of the profits from that investment was worth £500,000. Now, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is prepared to pay the present Government nearly £3,000,000 for its shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The old refinery at Laverton, which has a capacity of only 120,000 tons a year, will be replaced by a British owned and controlled refinery that will be capable of processing 3,000,000 tons of oil a year. The present right honorable member for Bradfield assured the Parliament in 1920 that the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited, which subsequently became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, was truly imperial in the best sense. He told this House that the company’s sources of supply were scattered throughout the Empire and that its capital and resources were entirely British.
The British Government controls the company to-day under the terms of an act passed by the United Kingdom Parliament in 1913. It acquired a majority of the shares in the company at the outbreak of war. Of 20,000,000 shares, the British Government has 10,000,000, Burmese interests have 2,500,000, and members of the British public own 499,000. Other shareholders are British also. Most of them inherited their holdings from Mr. W. K. D’Arcy, who was known as the millionaire from Mount Morgan, in Queensland, and to whom great credit is due for the part that he played in the development of the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited. At a time when his monetary resources were low, the then First Lord of the Admiralty in Great Britain, Lord Fisher, came to his assistance, with the result that the organization continued to prosper and eventually became a valuable asset to the British Government and British ‘ private shareholders. I repeat that the British Government through its agreement controls the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. The Government is completely justified in presenting the proposal contained in this bill, under which it will sell for nearly £3,000,000 shares that it now holds in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited arid which it acquired at a cost of only £250,001. Having regard to the British Government’s interest in Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, the Australian Government should do everything to assist that company in its operations in this country. The company has practically inexhaustible resources of its own, without having to buy crude oil from foreign sources. Its ramifications extend to Persia, Timor, Mesopotamia, Africa, Trinidad and Borneo, whilst it is prospecting for oil in other countries. The British Government through its holding in the company will ensure that the interests of the people shall be fully safeguarded with respect to price and supplies in the future. The company possesses the requisite ships to enable it to keep the proposed refinery working at full capacity. It is capable of benefiting Australia to a degree which has been totally beyond the resources of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which, in fact, has been obliged to rely upon supplies from foreign countries. It has become a distributor of foreign petrol. As, in certain countries, the property of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited has been confiscated, I note with pleasure that under the agreement that is embodied in the bill it will be offered a new home in Australia and will be given every opportunity to refine the raw product the sources of which it controls in other lands. It will be able to meet the requirements of industry, both primary and secondary. I emphasize that the company is controlled by British interests and will be carried on with British capital. In those circumstances, it is illogical for members of the Opposition to say that this proposal, the object of which is to give every opportunity to the company to extend its operations in Australia, will be to the detriment of the people. How do those honorable members reconcile that contention with the views that were expressed by Mr. Tudor in 1920, when he was leader of a Labour opposition in this chamber? On that occasion Mr. Tudor opposed the establishment of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. He said -
I intend to say what I have to say on this iniquitous agreement which should never have been entered into … I am not going to vote for an oil monopoly unless it be a Government monopoly.
Referring to foreign companies, Mr. Tudor said -
Why should we not give them all an opportunity to start operations here? The Prime Minister says that the companies I have mentioned are foreign companies.
Yet, to-day, members of the Australian Labour party in this House say that the Government will do harm to Australia by disposing of its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited at a great profit. On that occasion, the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who was then Prime Minister, replied to Mr. Tudor in the following words : -
Here is a man supposed to be leading an advanced party and what he is saying might come out of the most conservative reactionary in the country.
The arguments that Mr. Tudor advanced on behalf of the Australian Labour party of that day were the strongest that could be advanced for the establishment of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited in order to ensure adequate supplies of oil and petrol to meet the requirements of Australia. [Quorum formed.]
.- Under this measure, another tragic page is being written in the history of this country. The Government now proposes to dispose of its interests in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. This is another sell-out. “Why should the Government sell the people’s share in this great asset? That question is now being asked throughout Australia. The Government’s proposal reveals an inverted sense of the principles of liberalism as they were understood since as far back as 1914. Until now, no one has ever contended that liberalism, in principle, would justify the sale by a government of an asset the ownership of which it shared with a major private company. To justify that observation, one needs only to turn the pages of Hansard and study the statements that were made by the leaders of liberalism in other days. Apparently, what was held to be good in 1920 is now held to be bad; what was thought to be good for the country then is regarded as evil to-day.
It is pathetic that members of the Australian Country party who should champion the right of the man on the land to obtain cheaper fuel and petrol, should support this unholy sell-out. Quite clearly, this proposal is a natural result of the profligate policy of the present Government - the rake’s progress. This Government, which has denuded the Treasury and has sold every Government undertaking that it has been able to dispose of during its brief period of office, now seizes the opportunity to sell the people’s interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It is taking this step, first, as I have said, because of an inverted sense of liberalism; and, secondly, like a desperate gambler who has lost something that does not belong to him, in order to replenish its coffers until such time as it will be enabled to sell the Commonwealth ships or some other governmental undertaking. This proposal conforms to a clear pattern. In the first instance, the Government closed down the project at Glen Davis and thereby destroyed the only natural source of oil in this country. Now it proposes to destroy the source that was available to it through its interest in Commonwealth Oil ‘ Refineries Limited. When one reviews the unhappy events that have occurred since this Government assumed office, one sees that it has been living up to the axiom that is applied to most governments : first, a government obtains power ; then it uses it ; then it abuses it ; and then loses it. Prior to the last double dissolution of the Parliament, this. Government used its power to a certain degree. Since it was returned with a majority in both houses, it has abused its power by disposing of government undertakings and, consequently, it is now in the process of losing power. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), who preceded me in this debate, is a member of the Australian Country party, and was a member of the Parliament in 1920. He was a champion of the establishment of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and supported the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who still champions it. History has proved him to be right. Speaking on the Oil Agreement Bill in 1920, the honorable member for Wide Bay said -
Time is the essence of this contract; we have no time to lose. I congratulate the Government upon having entered into the agreement. It should be remembered that it will be two years before the refinery can be completed. Meanwhile, there are prospects of large crude oil supplies being struck in Australian territories. What will be the value of crude oil discoveries if there is no refinery to deal with the product? I know of two companies, working to-day in Queensland which are very hopeful of getting oil within a brief period.
The statements that were made by the present honorable member for Wide Bay in 1920 are equally true in 1952, if there is any strong chance of the discovery of oil in Australia. The argument that was advanced by the honorable member in 1920 was clear, sound and proper. What would the Australian Government have to do if oil were found in large quantities to-day ?
– We have made provision for that already.
– The Government will do precisely what the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has implied in his interjection. It will have to hand the oil over to some private monopoly. The Government has an obligation to treat crude oil for the benefit of Australia and particularly for the primary producers. Cheap oil is an urgent necessity and a refinery will be needed if oil is found in Australia. But this Government has sold out to the cartels and the monopolists. Its history indicates that it will be happy to hand over the oil that is found in this country to some monopolists so that they may refine it and sell it to the people at any price they like to fix. Referring to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, the honorable member for Wide Bay said, “It can dictate the prices “. Obviously it can do so. That is why honorable members on this side of the House object to the proposed arrangement. We believe that the Government should have some control over an organization that will handle oil in Australia and that it should have some voice in its affairs. I agree with honorable members on the Government side that all has not been well in the past, but is it right that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, with three Government representatives in a board of seven, should be scuttled, destroyed or sold because it has not done all that we would like it to have done? The logical thing to do would be to re-organize the undertaking on a proper basis so that it would give greater satisfaction to the people of Australia and particularly to petrol consumers who are heavily burdened by high prices. Whatever its shortcomings may be, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has rendered great service. It has been a barrier against the major oil companies and a brake upon their activities. When the Government shares are sold, the major oil companies that have been named in the United States of America as members of a cartel will be able to act in Australia without let or hindrance by this Government.
– Does the honorable member include the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited?
– Certainly not. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) should have thought that interjection out in advance. I am not satisfied with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited or with the handling of the Persian situation either. It is intolerable that the actions of the Government of the United Kingdom in the Persian dispute could plunge the world into another war. Any person who is concerned about economics and ordinary decency must entertain grave misgivings on that point. The fact that we still, have interests that link us to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited will not make events associated with oil sweeter, purer or better. The present honorable member for Bradfield said in his secondreading speech on the Oil Agreement Bill 1920-
And yet it has happened quite recently that, notwithstanding our complete dependence upon oil for national defence, such small quantities of oil have been available as to have absolutely prohibited the Navy from moving had an emergency arisen.
The right honorable gentleman who expressed those views has been a member of this House since the inception of federation and his attitude has not changed. His faith in Australia on this matter has not diminished. He still believes that oil is important to the development of the country. In his speech in 1920 he continued -
Oil is vital to us, and, indeed, to all nations. As every honorable member must know - and I merely remind them of facts which are as patent “as the facts of night and day - the supply of fuel of all kinds is limited.
Undoubtedly, supplies are unlimited. Those who may have read the periodical World Petroleum recently must be aware of the extraordinary situation that faces the world to-day. Because this Government is selling out Australia’s interests in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the country is in much the same position with regard to oil as it was in 1920 and at other times since then. Those who control oil constitute extra governmental authorities. They determine the politics of governments and the policies of parties. The Government’s proposal is a clear indication how policies and politics have changed because of the intrusion of oil. First, the Minister representing the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who introduced the measure, said that the Government would like to continue its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. He added that it could do so but for certain legal difficulties. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited offered to this Parliament and the people of Australia the opportunity of joining with it in the establishment of the major undertaking in Western Australia. Any government that was worthy of the- title would have joined the company in that project for the refining of oil and the development of the petroleum industry. But this Government, which has given away £7,000,000 with one gesture and has thrown money away in other directions, objected that it would cost money to accept the chance.
– It would have been sound expenditure for Australia. Surely the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. Ltd., which made a profit of £84,000,000 last year, will not do the wrong thing. It is prepared to invest large sums in the development of the industry. The Australian Government has tried to develop excuses for not joining in the project so that it might have an alibi for evading its rightful responsibilities. It protested that it could not join in the project because it would be simply a distributing body. It obtained an opinion from a learned barrister that was unworthy of presentation to this House. Honorable members on this side of the chamber asked that that opinion should be tabled so that it might be considered by members of the Opposition who are eminently fitted to express an opinion.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) agreed with it.
– The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who behaves as a cockatoo at the table, has interjected. So far, the Leader of the Opposition has not agreed. He has been most critical of the fact that that opinion was not tabled in the chamber. On the question of the price that is to be paid for the shares, honorable members on the Government side have adopted the same subterfuge of evasion because they failed to face up to their responsibilities. I refer them again to the opinions that were expressed by the honorable member for Bradfield in 1920 with regard to oil. He said -
But when we Lave found it, it will be useless to us unless we csm refine it. If we found oil to-day in New Guinea, we could not use it until it was refined, and it will take two years to build a refinery. Crude oil cannot be used, so that if for no other reason, we ought to immediately provide means for refining oil.
With regard to the refining of oil, I remind honorable members of the duplicity of this Government and the evasions of the Minister for Supply when he put forward reasons why the project at Glen Davis should be sold. One of his bright suggestions was that the cracking plant at Glen Davis would be sent to Bell Bay in Tasmania. Honorable members from Tasmanian electorates were delighted by the announcement. They believed that when the cracking plant went to Bell Bay, an industry would be established there and the prosperity of the aluminium project would be assured. What happened? The Glen Davis plant was closed but the cracking plant did not go to Bell Bay. When the Minister was questioned, he said that there were certain difficulties in the way. They could not take the plant to Bell Bay, he said. If they did so and treated crude oil there, they would have no means of selling or marketing the petrol that was obtained. First. the Minister said that the plant would go to Bell Bay and he expanded on the advantages that ‘would accrue from the move. Then, after the Glen Davis project had been killed, he said that the proposal to take the cracking plant to Bell Bay was no good. It. could be done, he said, but there was no marketing organization. The Government had the marketing organization. It had Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but it was not prepared to use it. Now, it has completed the rape of this industry. The sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has sounded the industry’s death-knell. The wheel has completed its cycle.
– Commonwealth Oil Befineries Limited would not do the job.
– The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has said that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited would not do the job. What an admission of failure by a responsible Minister, speaking for this Government and for all of the people of Australia ! What, in the name of fortune, will be the conditions in this country when Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has been sold, if the Government, when it held more than 50 per cent, of the shares of that company, could not persuade it to sell petrol produced by a government undertaking in Tasmania? Pity help the people of Australia when Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has been sold !
The unhappy and pathetic story of the sell-out of government undertakings i3 nearly at an end. This Government, which has failed Australia in a thousand and one ways, now totters to its doom with the, sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and with the threat to sell the Commonwealth shipping line. If ft implements the policy it enunciated recently, and continues with this newfangled form of desocialization, we must expect that, soon, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) will be protesting against the sale of our uranium assets and resources. They will be sold down the river, in the same way as other Australian assets have been sold in the past. For the sake of Australia, the Government should resign.
.- I hoped that the honorable member for Macquarie would put this discussion back on the rails from the stand-point of the Opposition, but he chose to join in what can be described only as one of the most extravagant fantasies in opposition to a bill, to which the House has listened since I have been a member of the Parliament. We have been told by members of the Opposition that the Government proposes to leave Australia without the oil refining capacity that we need for our defence, but the bill proposes to clear the way for a multiplication 25 times of our present oil refining capacity. That gives the lie to that allegation. We have been told also that the Government is selling the assets of the Australian people. It is selling £1 shares for £6 10s., and will receive other benefits to which I shall refer shortly. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) distinguished himself by suggesting that the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited constituted an attack upon Great Britain. I do not understand the tortuous mental process that converts a sale to the British Government, at its request and with our approval, into an attack upon that Government. We were told that Joe Stalin would banquet in the Kremlin. I cannot see any connexion between that and the bill. Apparently the honorable member for Leichhardt looks forward to the dissolution of the British Empire when the sale of our shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited pulls out the last thread that holds the fabric of the Empire together.
We ave considering a straightforward business proposition. That consideration is nol- agisted by the injection of politics into the matter by the Opposition. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established in 1920 because it wasimportant then, not that the Australian Government should have an interest in the oil industry, but that Australia should have oil refining capacity availableCommonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established in 1920, first, on the ground of defence, and secondly, becauseit was hoped - a hope that has not been realized after 30 years of active prospecting - that we should find flow oil in New Guinea or Australia. The needs of Australia were met by co-operation between the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, which is half British-owned, and the Australian Government. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established to refine oil and to market, not only its own products, but also those of the AngloIranian Oil Company Proprietary Limited. It is true that, to-day, this country needs a greater oil-refining capacity, but it is not the function of the Government to provide that capacity while it can be provided on better terms from any other quarter. Four major oil companies operating in this country are prepared to express a very practical faith in the future of Australia. Aided and encouraged by the Australian Government, a programme for the expansion of this industry is in progress, which may involve a capital investment of £100,000,000. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Proprietary Limited is prepared to expend ‘ £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 to establish in Western Australia the refinery referred to in the schedule of the bill. In addition, the Shell Company of Australia Limited, Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited, and Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited are prepared, between them, to provide additional oilrefining capacity of about 3,000,000 tons a year. In 1920, there may have been - and I believe there was - plenty of justification for the government of that day to establish oil refineries. No complaint can properly be made about that. But what was a necessary project in 1920 has become, by the effluxion of time, merely a trading organization, and I can see no justification for the Government continuing to- have an interest in it.
Unfortunately, . the Labour party appears to be always behind the times. In 1920, when this project was essential, the Labour party opposed it most bitterly. When, 30 years later, the project is no longer of any real significance to the country, it wants to retain it. Some day the Labour party will catch up with the times. The Opposition based its most bitter complaints on the ground of defence. Let us consider the contribution that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited could make to our defence. The refinery available to that company to-day has a capacity of only 120,000 tons a year. It could supply us with not more than 2 per cent, of our requirements for refined oil products. The refining machinery is 28 years old. Obviously it .requires extensive renovation, if not replacement by more modern and efficient equipment. The utter futility of the arguments that the Opposition has based upon the ground of defence is apparent when we realize that, between March, 3942, and November, 1946, the refinery at Laverton did not produce 1 gallon of refined oil products. During those vital years of World War II., we made no use of the capacity of that refinery. There was justification for that, because oil-tankers were scarce and it was much easier to import refined oil products than to import crude oil. But the fact is that we overcame a most dangerous threat to the security of this country without the benefit of the miserable 2 per cent, of our requirements for refined oil products that could have been supplied by Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
The important consideration from the viewpoint of defence is that oil-refining capacity shall be available ‘in Australia. The ownership of it is unimportant. Clause. 5 of the schedule states that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Proprietary Limited is prepared, as part of the agreement, to push on as expeditiously as possible with the establishment in Western Australia of an oil refinery that will cost not less than £40,000,000 and will have a capacity of 3,000,000 tons a year. Without taking the other oil companies into consideration, by this agreement alone Australia will be assured of refining capacity that will supply 40 per cent, of its estimated oil requirements by 1956.
In addition, we are .being assured that we shall have the storage capacity that goes with that project. Finally, our supplies of crude oil will be protected, because no one will suppose that a half British-owned company would establish a refinery here and, in a time of war, when we were pulling on the same rope as Great Britain, deny us supplies of crude oil. We can discount any suggestion that, by this action, the Government will deprive Australia of sources of refined oil products. This agreement will not destroy our refining capacity, but will multiply it by 25.
The Government was invited to take a half share in this oil company, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited taking the other half, and to subscribe between £25,000,000 and £30,000,000 of capital. It declined to accept the invitation, for very good reasons. The money required to purchase a half share in the undertaking would have had to be found by the taxpayers of this country, but it would have conferred no benefit upon them. The refinery will be established, irrespective of whether the Government invests in the project. I repeat that the main requirements of this country is, not that the Government shall have an interest in oil refining, but that the country shall have available to it oil-refining capacity, regardless of who owns it. Therefore, there would be no justification for government investment in an oil refinery.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) referred to exploitation. He stated that if we had an interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited we should enjoy the benefit of the influence of that company in keeping down the price of oil. Apart from one or two rambling references to what Lord Bruce once said on this matter, the Opposition has produced no valid evidence that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has had an influence upon oil prices. I invite honorable gentlemen opposite to produce evidence that it has done so. The Opposition would have us believe that, if the Government had a half interest in one refinery we should be able to stop the alleged exploitation of this country by the oil cartel. I do not deny that there is such a thing as an oil cartel, but I say that, irrespective of what we do about this, we shall be unable to make ourselves immune from the power that that cartel exercises. The Opposition has overlooked the fact that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is half-owned by the British Government. Honorable gentlemen opposite say, on one hand, that the Australian Government has only to take a half interest in an oil refinery to stop exploitation, and, on the other hand, that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, a. member of the cartel, is actually participating in that exploitation, despite the fact that, in its turn, it is half-owned by the British Government. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition is accusing Great Britain of setting out to exploit this country through its halfownership of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. If that company is a member of the oil cartel, a half interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited owned by the Australian Government would not help us. “We have to buy our crude oil from abroad. Does anybody suggest that the wicked oil cartel, which has a strangle-hold on our supplies of crude oil, could not, if it so desired, exploit us by charging high prices for crude oil? That disposes of that particular argument. The Labour party Meats that we are selling an asset that belongs to the people. I point out again that the real asset that the people require is the availability of oil-refining capacity, which can be controlled in time of war. The investment made by the Australian Government in 1920 in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was a means to an end, that end being that Australia should have refining capacity. The nation now has refining capacity and is to have even more. The refinery at Laverton is a minor establishment in relation to the nation’s requirements of oil. It is time that the Australian Government liquidated its interests in the oil business. Tt is to receive £6 10s. for each £1 share that it holds in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Those terms are favorable and will net the Government about £2,750,000.
We have heard many complaints from honorable members opposite in the last few months in relation to income that they term “ unearned . increment “, that attaches to commercial and industrial investment. The Government holds 425,001 £1 shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, to which, of course, must be added the value of the profits that have been ploughed back into development and the value of goodwill. Those are the very items that on other occasions members of the Labour ‘ party describe as unearned increments on invested capital. When the Government sets out to dispose of such investments honorable members opposite complain that what they claim to be extortion, when private enterprise is concerned, is not extortionate enough when the Government is concerned. It is precisely because of this double standard of values, which arises from the injection of politics into practical business affairs, that the whole matter of the entry of government into business affairs must be suspect. The plain fact is that we are past the point at which Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited can make any real contribution to this country’s oil needs. I agree that, with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited refinery closed down, there will exist a constitutional impediment to the Government operating a chain of bowsers. The Labour party, whose views were expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) last night, does not question the constitutional limitations in this case. Its suggestion for getting around the Constitution in this matter is that we should keep Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited’s 120,000 tons of refining capacity in existence. If that is a fair example of the Labour party’s approach to business, it not only discloses the complete and appalling ignorance of the Labour party on how business operates, but it also indicates the real reason why business affairs administered by governments, particularly Labour governments, always wind up “ in the red “. We are told that, in order to have the pleasure of having the Government in business with it, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited must agree to keep open this miserable refinery at Laverton with its refining capacity of 120,000 tons a year, despite its obsolescence, although a new modern refinery with a capacity of 3,000,000 tons a year is to be built at the other end of the country. According to the Labour party, that mighty refinery and the miserable refinery at Laverton have to be operated in double harness. A re we to conduct all the double handling, pay the double freight, and face all the double difficulties that would arise from conducting these two greatly dissimilar refineries in double harness, when, in fact, the contribution of the Laverton refinery to Australia’s oil requirements is insignificant? The Laverton refinery has to be closed down for the sake of business efficiency.
The Leader of the Opposition has told us that further investment by the Government in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited would be a safe and secure investment of public capital. I ask him, since when has it been a true government function to separate the taxpayer from his income and invest it in business affairs, win or lose? Let the Leader of the Opposition show me, if he can, a taxpayer who is conscious of personal ownership in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and considers himself benefited thereby. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) demands that the Government take a half share in the Kwinana refinery project, through Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and that we should tax the people another £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 for investment in the oil business, for no benefit whatsoever, because we shall not thereby produce one more gallon of refined oil in this country. In plain fact, the real benefit to the people in the Government’s disposal of its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is that not only are we repatriating about £2,750,000 of their capital from an investment that is no longer of national significance, but we ‘‘are also saving them from a further expenditure of £26,000,000. There are also certain intangible, but nevertheless vital, benefits, apart from the saving of money, that the people will derive from the Government’s action, because the sale of the Government’s interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will remove from the field of government concern one more item that intruded on the proper function of government, which is to govern. I suggest that as we are selling our interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited it might be timely to investigate other government holdings in various kinds of undertakings and decide which of them we can get out of at the same time.
– What about TransAustralia Airlines?
– I shall come to that in a moment. The injection of politics into business can lead only to loss and national damage. Worst of all, however, is the threat to impartial government, which invariably arises when a government, charged with the passing of laws concerning the conduct of business, is itself vitally interested in the application of its own laws. I say that that is a dangerous situation. If ever there was an arch example of what can happen when governments put their noses into business, Trans-Australia Airlines is that example. Nobody overlooks the fact that Trans-Australia Airlines was established by a Labour government for one purpose, which was to establish a government monopoly of air transport. The Labour Government was foiled in that attempt, but such is the situation in the field of civil aviation that this Government will shortly face the necessity of bringing forward a very difficult bill to cope with a nearly impossible situation.
Evidence of the attack on impartial government that arises from the entry of government into business is supplied by the well-known fact that Trans-Australia Airlines, or the Government, denied to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited landing rights on certain Australian aerodromes. It reserved to itself the sole right of serving certain areas. If that is not an example of a government implementing legislation so as to give preference to its own undertaking, I do not know what is. Trans-Australia Airlines was also given preference in relation to the provision of dollars, and was given the first right of refusal when surplus aircraft or spare parts were available in Australia. That’ is the sort of patronage which invariably follows when a government enters the business field, operating, I remind the House, with the people’s money.
Of course, over in Western Australia we have the Government doing some fishing for itself in the whaling industry. It is interesting to note, incidentally, that although the International Whaling Agreement allots Australia a catch of only 1,250 whales a year, the Government, through the Whaling Industry Commission, has allocated to itself, by virtue of its legislative power, a catch of 650 whales, which is the lion’s share of the total catch. Is that an example of impartial administration? In northern New South Wales, the Government is engaged in open-cut mining operations. It has its fields laid out and its mining equipment in operation. Yet a few miles away is a British company which brought into this country its own capital, trucks, drivers and boring equipment, in response to a government invitation. To-day it is virtually languishing on the vine because it is being denied access to reasonable coal measures. Then the Government also has a share in the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited. I have never been able to discover how, and why, it came to enter that business.
Last night the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) gave us some examples of what happens when a Labour government goes into business. The New South Wales Labour Government, acting against the advice of people who knew the facts about the tile business, thought it knew a little better and brought along its planners and idea merchants and went into that business. After years of abject failure and the loss of £1,000,000 of the people’s money, the New South Wales Government has finally, and reluctantly, had to hand over its whole tile-making programme to private enterprise. The same government has budgeted for the expenditure of £3,000,000 of public moneys for the purchase of the Balmain Electric Light Company, not for the reason that it will thereby be able to ensure better service for the people, but merely so that it will be able to have its great dead hand right across the whole process of industrial development in New South Wales. It is government participation in business, and not government relinquishment of business interests, that constitutes the real assault on the public interest in this country, and so, I believe, it must always be. I trust that the Government’s action in relation to Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will be merely the forerunner of a number of moves that will remove the Government even farther from interference in trade and commerce in this country.
– Including the Postal Department ?
– What a nonsensical interjection ! The honorable member who made it is only following the lead given by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. ‘Calwell) last night. The suggestion that the Government could sell the Postal Department is sheer nonsense. The Postal Department and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited exist in totally different fields. It would be impossible to have a competitive Postal Department. Whilst the Postal Department is the only organization which provides postal facilities in this country, the position in relation to oil is different, because even when the great oil refinery has been constructed in Western Australia it will still supply only 40 per cent, of our requirements. This country requires development more than any other country does, and since it is unwilling, or unable, to provide the capital required for its own development, we have to look elsewhere for it. Here we have a company that is prepared to expend in this country £40,000,000 or £50,000,000, and the Government has to provide it with nothing except a little encouragement. I should have thought that we should have accepted such a proposal with open arms. The entire oil programme of this country may amount to about £100,000,000, yet the Labour party’s great contribution to the development of this country, which calls above all else for confidence in the country’s future and for reasonable security and the assurance that Australia will remain a fair field for endeavour and enterprise with reasonable rewards, is only, according to the honorable member for Melbourne last night, the intention, when it is returned to office, God forbid, to expropriate some share of the investment that the Anglo-Iranian company now proposes to make, so that the position will be restored to what it was in 1920.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The passage of the bill will validate the sellout of a national enterprise that was a highly profitable undertaking, and an asset to Australia, not only financially, but also from the point of view of defence. The existence of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited as an entity assisted to restrict the operations of monopolies and to ensure a greater production of oil for defence and other activities. I believe that the original object of the agreement was to enable the Government to balance its budget, which it is attempting to do by putting its hand on every penny that it can get. I believe the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to be merely a continuation of that policy. The Government was party to an agreement under which it had a half interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It was given an opportunity to extend its interests in the enterprise and to enter into the business of large-scale refining in Australia, but it rejected it. The royal commission in 1933 disclosed that only 6 per cent, of Australia’s petrol was provided by Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. That percentage probably dropped in later years. The proposal to establish a large refinery in “Western Australia, which the Opposition supports, involves the expenditure of £40,000,000 and the production of at least 3,000,000 tons of refined oil a year. This will represent about 40 per cent, of Australia’s oil requirements, and therefore the nation should definitely be a part-owner in the undertaking. I believe that our prime object must be to ensure that monopolies shall not be able to raise their heads in this . country. An inquiry conducted recently by the United States Department of Justice revealed that seven companies controlled the distribution and sale of petrol in that country. The same companies are operating in Australia, and the only safeguard that the Government can establish against the restriction of petrol supplies and the exploitation of consumers with respect to prices is a company working in complete opposition
In the monopoly. A royal commission was appointed by the Lyons Government in 1933 to investigate the ramifications of the petrol industry in Australia. The chairman of that commission was Mr. S. E. Lamb, K.C., and the two members of it were Mr. John Gunn and Mr. A. J. Hancock. I point out, in passing, that the Shell Company of Australia Limited was represented before the royal commission by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The chairman stated in his report -
I am of the opinion that there was a combination during part of the period between four companies, viz.: Shell, Vacuum, Atlantic Union and Texas. The object of such combination was (1) to prevent the cutting of prices (2) to suppress competition between themselves and to (3) stifle competition from outside sources.
That evidence was taken, not in a foreign country, but in Australia. The inquiries of the royal commission disclosed that a monopoly was operating in this country. Nearly twenty years later, a similar monopoly is operating in the United States of America.
– Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was operating in 1933.
– I believe that the principal objective of an enterprise that is partly owned by the government is to prevent such activities as were mentioned by the chairman of the royal commission. Dealing with the activities of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the chairman stated -
I think that one way to ensure reasonable prices is to have real competition and that such competition should exist not only in respect of gallonage but also as to prices.
I do not think that there has been competition with regard to the latter aspect between the Shell Company and the Vacuum Company.
However, outside competition may be sufficient to keep prices at a reasonable level.
The Commonwealth Oil Refineries maintains that it was the means of reducing prices in the past, and the Manager, Mr. Lloyd, in giving evidence before the Commission, said that his Company could control prices and keep them from rising, and that it was the intention of his Company to keep prices at a reasonable level.
The actual trade done in petrol by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries has been” only about 6 per cent, of the total trade, and, if its trade were further expanded, it might have even greater influence in the trade.
The point is that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited had played a small part before 1933 in keeping down the price of petrol, and holding the monopoly in check. In those days, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited supplied only .6 per cent, of the petrol sold in Australia. The new enterprise which will be established at Kwinana, in Western Australia, will provide about 40 per cent, of Australia’s requirements of petrol, and therefore, will exert a considerable influence on the sale and price of petrol in this country. The Government should have purchased a halfinterest in such an important organization. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who was the Prime Minister when Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established in 1920, made the following statement in this House on the 21st August last : -
The entire oil business of the world . . . is in the hands of seven companies . . . any one who wishes to buy oil to-day must buy it from one of the seven companies of the oil cartel … Oil is vital to us. Where can we get it? Are we to fall into the grip of this giant octopus? The cartel rules the oil world. What it says goes. So we know now just what the “ private enterprise “ is, to which we are to sell Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited ! … If Australia disposes of her interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited she must inevitably fall into the clutches of the giant cartel that controls the oil interests of the world.
That is the major point which should be taken into consideration by the Government when it is considering whether it should sell the Commonwealth’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited or make a further substantial investment in the oil industry. In the interests of national progress and welfare, the Government’ should have decided to take a half-share in the enterprise that is to be established at Kwinana. Before the outbreak of World War II. negotiations were taking place for the erection of large refineries in this country in order to produce a larger quantity of petrol here. The Curtin Labour Government assumed office late in 1941, and because of the exigencies of war, no further action was taken in the matter1 for several years. But the Minister for External Affairs revealed, in his second-reading speech, that the negotiations were resumed after the cessation of hostilities. He said -
The Labour Government then required that, as the majority shareholder, the Commonwealth should be more adequately represented on the Board of Directors. The Labour Government had not obtained agreement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited when the present Government caine into power.
As a matter of fact, the Labour Government was negotiating with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited with a view to establishing a bigger company to refine oil on a large scale in Australia. I have no doubt that the Government was prepared to demand that the Commonwealth should have equal representation with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited on the Board of Directors of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I believe that if the present Government had demanded equality of representation, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited would have influenced the future of the oil industry in Australia and given us great protection against the oil monopoly.
The Commonwealth’s shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was a sound investment. I note, in the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended the 30th June, 1951, that the investment in that organization was worth approximately £425,001. More than £800,000 has been received by the Commonwealth in actual profits from the operations of the enterprise. I believe that the shares were worth substantially more than £6 10s. each, which was the amount that the Government accepted for them. In my opinion the Government has sacrificed a great national asset at a big discount. A proper inquiry should have been held in order to determine the value of the shares, and the Government could have refused to accept the price of £6 10s. a. share offered by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. All that the Government was required to do, under the terms of the oil agreement, was to give the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited first offer of the shares. Had the company not been prepared to pay the price asked for them by the Commonwealth, the Government could have placed the shares on the open market. I believe that the Government should not have sold the shares, but should have increased its investments in the undertaking at Kwinana. But when the Government made up its mind to sell the Commonwealth’s interests in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, it should have obtained a better price for them.
This Government has been bankrupt of ideas and finance for more than a year, and has explored various avenues in an endeavour to obtain additional revenue. Extraordinary methods, quite distinct from the normal procedure of taxation, have been adopted by the Government in order to finance the administration of the country. In 1950, the Government imposed the wool sales reduction, and thereby compelled wool-growers to contribute approximately £100,000,000 to Consolidated Revenue. By abolishing the averaging system of taxation which had been applied to primary producers, and demanding the payment of taxes in advance, the Government obtained substantial sums of money from the nian on the land. From the sale of national undertakings, the Government will get many more millions of pounds. When that money has been expended, the people will be forced to pay higher taxes. The Government has sold the Commonwealth’s holdings in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for approximately £2,000,000, and in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited for less than £3,000,000. It has offered Commonwealthowned ships for sale for £20,000,000. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) claims that the Government should get rid of all those undertakings.
I remind the House that the Commonwealth holds shares of a nominal value of £1,000,000 in the British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited. That interest is probably worth substantially more than that amount. The Commonwealth owns shares of a nominal value of £4,000,000 in Qantas Empire Airways Limited, and £2S1,000 in Tasman Empire Airways Limited. The Government has already disposed of the assets of National Oil Proprietary Limited. In the past, the Government spoke of its policy to dispose of non-profitable assets, but recently it has been disposing of its profitable assets, because they bring the highest prices, and thereby assist the Government to balance its sick budget. The nominal value of the Common wealth’s shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was £425,001. That figure, in itself, is an indication of the value of the Commonwealth’s shareholdings in the other enterprises to which I have referred. The Commonwealth also has holdings in Commonwealth Hostels Limited, the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, the New Guinea Resources Prospecting Company Limited, and a number of enterprises valued at approximately £1,000,000 under the control of the Joint Control Board. I mention those various interests held by the Commonwealth because this Government will undoubtedly endeavour to “ cash in “ on them if it can possibly do so in order to balance its budget, because the financial position is unsound.
The people made a bad choice in 1949, and again in 1951, when they chose the present Government to manage the great, company of Australia Unlimited. I remind the House that towards the end of 1941 when this country faced the threat of Japanese aggression, we were in a hopeless state of unpreparedness. There was hardly sufficient petrol in the country to supply the requirements of commercial activities for more than a few weeks. That is an example of how an anti-Labour government managed Australia in the early years of the last war. Had that government shown greater foresight and accumulated stocks of petrol, we should not have faced the difficulties that we encountered at that time. The management of that government was equally disgraceful in all other spheres.
– The late Mr. John Curtin paid a tribute to that Government for the preparations it made for World War II.
– The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) was one of those who condemned the Menzies Government at that time for it3 failure to make adequate preparations for the war. The Prime Minister walked out of office, because public opinion was so hostile towards him. He abdicated, like Ring Farouk, and his place was taken by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). A few weeks later, this chamber voted the Fadden Government out of office because the right honorable gentleman was completely incompetent to govern the country.
The Government has again displayed the incompetence which has been apparent in its actions throughout the whole of its term of office. Australia is in a state of economic chaos to-day which is entirely due to the mismanagement of the present Government. The Government’s past record causes no wonder to rise in the minds of the people at its present attitude in selling national undertakings. I would not be surprised if the Government did not attempt to sell the post office clock before it leaves office, because it is so incompetent in the realm of finance that it is likely to sell anything that it can get its hands on in order to raise money.
It has been pointed out during the debate that the Liberal party is at present issuing circulars to its members, seeking funds and emphasizing the insolvent position of the party. Honorable members on this side of the House know where the Liberal party funds came from to enable it to win the. last general election, and we also know that some of the Government’s actions have been in the nature of a pay-off to those who contributed to its fighting funds. It is very interesting to note that the manager of the Shell Company of Australia Limited is the chairman of the Liberal party. I ask whether there is any connexion between the disposal of Commonwealth holdings in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the activities of the petrol industry in Australia, and the fact that the management of the Shell Company of Australia Limited is connected with the management of the Liberal party? Honorable members should also remember that in relation to war preparations, non-Labour governments have let down the country in the past. This Government has let the country down for months past in the economic field, and in the field of national welfare. While we are facing economic chaos, the Government’s management of our national enterprises is on the blink. The Government has done a very poor job in its administration of Australia, and it is tragic that Australia’s great national undertakings should be sold in order that the Government should bolster up its own insolvency. If the Commonwealth had owned sufficient enterprises of the nature of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited millions of pounds would have been pouring into the coffers of the treasury and the Government, would have been able substantially to reduce taxation because of that revenue.. However, the Government proposes to sell out its interests, put the proceeds intothe consolidated revenue fund, and then expend them. The Government will then have to increase taxation and the peoplewill have to pay the piper in direct taxation and in the increased costs of goods - all in order to bolster up the shaky policy of the Government. The primary producer will suffer because of the loss of Commonwealth enterprises.
– Because the Government should have invested furthermillions of pounds in the oil undertaking,, and should have taken a dominant part in the Australian petrol trade. TheGovernment could have controlled thesupply and price of petrol, and by sodoing could, have ensured adequatesupplies of this vital commodity to theAustralian people. One of the clauses of the original agreement between theCommonwealth and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was -
That the refinery company shall sell itsproducts at such prices as arc fair and reasonable.
A further proposition in the agreementwas -
That the company shall not enter into orin? in any way concerned with any commercial’ trust or combine, but shall always be and i em alu an independent British business.
They were the chief principles that actuated the Commonwealth and the company when the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was first established. The primary producer will lose when the Government moves out of the petrol’ field because the various petrol companieswill combine, as they have already donein America, and as a royal commission, established in Australia in 1933. They will, combine to increase the price of petrol. Then, if the farmers and others are not prepared to pay the combine’s price they will not get any petrol. It will be a; sorry day for this country, which is sodependent on petrol, when the Common- wealth sells out its interests in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The defence of Australia is a most important matter, and the whole of the defence, and the industry, of Australia are dependent on transport. The Government intends to spend about £200,000,000 this year on its defence programme, but that programme must be based on adequate supplies of petrol. Therefore, the Government is letting Australia down in selling its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and is giving to monopolies the opportunity to control the oil industry and, in future, to exploit Australia in regard to quantities and price of petrol.
.- I was rather surprised at the drivel of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark)– .
– I was astonished at the manner in which the honorable member for Darling spoke. He reminded me of the honorable member for East .Sydney (Mr. Ward) who can always be relied upon to pick up a bucket of mud and pour it over anything at all in order to give his own party some advantage. I point out to the honorable member for Darling that he apparently has not read the bill and is therefore not conversant with what is proposed by the Government, because he stated that the Government intended to sell its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited for £6 each. ^ I pardon his ignorance, but I inform him that the price is £6 10s. a share. The honorable member also mentioned that Mr. Anderson, the federal president of the Liberal party, was connected with the Shell Company of Australia Limited, and that the Government was doing him & good turn by selling its shares in Commonwealth ‘Oil Refineries Limited to a private oil company. I remind the honorable gentleman that Mr. Forde, who was a conscientious objector, was made Minister for the Army by the previous Labour government and when he was later defeated at a general election, was given the position of High Commissioner for Canada. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said yesterday that Commonwealth Oil
Refineries Limited was formed to prevent the exploitation of the public by the major oil companies. Possibly it might have been necessary to prevent such exploitation at the time the company was formed, but the circumstances have changed very considerably since then.
– For the worse.
– Yes, they did change for the worse, thanks to eight years of Labour government. The internal price of petrol in Australia is controlled by the States. Therefore, it will be clearly seen that the petrol companies need not be allowed to fix their own prices. Moreover, crude oil will have to be bought on the open world market, over which no Australian Government has any control whatever. Consequently, the argument of the honorable member for Darling is absolutely fallacious. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) had said some time last year that it would cost Australia £6,000,000 to regain its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It would certainly not cost that much to-day. I am gratified to know that the Commonwealth will no longer own shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited because to do so would be to participate in a socialist venture, and the taxpayers’ money would be wasted as it has been wasted in all other socialist ventures. During the course of the budget debate all honorable members opposite were screaming that taxes should be reduced, but now they are equally vociferous in the cause of increasing taxation. They suggest that we should have a controlling interest in the oil business. If we were to embark upon an attempt to get such a controlling interest it would cost us not £6,000,000, but probably £25,000,000 to £30,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money.
– The Government receives revenue from Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited at present, and would doubtless receive more revenue if it invested in the larger concern.
– Any revenue received by the shareholders at present from Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is put back into the company. All that is happening at present is that another socialist venture is being swollen with the taxpayers’ money. The Leader of the Opposition said that we could raise me money for participation in the larger oil scheme by issuing treasury-bills. This Government has just about broken the back of inflation, and I certainly do not want to see issued any more treasurybills than we can possibly help, because the issue of treasury-bills is a directly inflationary procedure and something that the Government has been fighting very strenuously since it came to power in 1949. Now that there is a levelling off of the inflationary spiral the Opposition is showing its hatred of the Government because it realizes that the Government has been successful. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition has made some very irresponsible statements during the debate on this matter and when I heard his remarks about defence I was quite intrigued, because that was the first time in my life that I have ever heard any member of the Labour party advocate that this country should be adequately defended. The Labour party fought the national service scheme most bitterly in this House. Honorable members opposite put every obstacle that they could find in the way of the Government’s efforts to build up our defences. I suggest that if the Labour party again attains office it will abolish the national service training scheme. Australia has never been in a sounder defence position during a time of peace than it is today, and that is solely because of the Government’s efforts. The only time that honorable members opposite think of a defence measure is in time of war, when they are always willing to send somebody else to fight their battles for them.
– How many times was the honorable member wounded during the last war?
– I was not a union organizer, anyway.
– “What did the honorable member do during the last war?
– Order !
– I guarantee that I had a more important job than the honor able member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that money for investment in the oil businesscould be deducted from the vote for our defence expenditure. That bears out the argument that I was putting that it is not defence that the Labour party wants,, it is socialism.
– Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is a defence project.
– The Labour party does not want defence, it wants socialism ;. and it is endeavouring to pull the wool over the eyes of the people in order to further the interests of the socialists’ policy. The project will bring £60,000,000 of new money into Australia. That is a lot of money in anybody’s language. The expenditure of this sum will provide work for thousands of Australians. Perhaps members of the Opposition object to that. Apparently it suits them to have unemployment in the community.
The new refinery will produce 3,000,000 tons of petrol a year, whereas the old refinery at Laverton is capable of producing only 130,000 tons a year. That refinery had to be closed down during World War II. because it was inefficient. It was cheaper to import refined petrol than to import crude oil for treatment at the Laverton refinery. The. establishment of the new refinery at Kwinana will involve the employment of men to provide houses for workers at the refinery. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited also proposes to establish a plant in the vicinity, and the Liberal Government of Western Australia has granted a lease of land to it for the purpose. Western Australia, like Queensland, needs development. Those two States are the most vulnerable in Australia, and the establishment of new industrial undertakings in them will be -of value to the nation as a whole. We should encourage decentralization of that sort instead of relying, as we do in the southern States, - on the concentration of population in the big cities. Members of the Opposition favour the centralization of our population because they believe that intense industrial settlement in the big cities will provide additional votes for Labour party representatives in this Parliament. That is particularly true of New South Wales. Honorable members opposite have referred to the defence value of oil refineries. I remind them that, in time, of war, the Australian Government has power to take over or to direct the conduct of any industry as it deems fit. Furthermore, I point out that, even in peace-time, the undertaking at Kwinana will be subject to the laws of the land. The company will have to abide by the law, even if some honorable members opposite do not.
Various speakers on the opposite side of the House have admitted that the United Kingdom Government has a controlling interest in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. Do they want the Australian Government to use the taxpayers’ money in order to acquire that controlling interest from the United Kingdom Government? I do not believe that honorable members opposite speak the truth. The function of a government is to govern. Are we to set up the Government as a shopkeeper ? Do we want it to conduct a Paddy’s market? The folly of the Opposition’s policy becomes apparent when we consider the lamentable results of socialist undertakings in the State of Queensland. The Queensland Government’s pastoral venture at Peak Downs has cost the people of that State millions of pounds. The only reason why Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited ever realized a profit was that private enterprise, instead of the Government, commanded a majority on the board of directors. I shall be astonished if any honorable member opposite can produce evidence that any socialist business undertaking has been profitable. In Great Britain, for example, the Attlee Government socialized almost every large industry and brought the country to its knees by imposing crippling taxes in order to pay for the financial losses sustained by the undertakings. Those industries were . conducted profitably until the Attlee Government took control of them, because they were managed properly by private enterprise.
I should not support the bill if I did not believe that there was active competition in the oil business in Australia. I believe in competition. I have no time for monopolies. The Opposition will learn, to its regret, that the oil business will be conducted more success-‘ fully by private enterprise than would be possible if it were subject to government interference. I entered this Parliament as an anti-socialist, and I shall always be an anti-socialist. I believe in free enterprise, and I have no time for socialization in any form, unless there is a monopoly. No country thrives under a monopoly. Honorable members opposite have spoken of the seven great companies in the oil cartel in the United States of America. This Government has no control over that cartel, and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited would have no control over it if it were carried on at the expense of the taxpayers. The taxpayers’ money can be better employed in the provision of social services than in the continuance of such undertakings as Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I am sure that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) would agree with me if he were here. We should render under Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Governments should not interfere in any way with the conduct of any sort of business that is not a monopoly.
– The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) has made one of the most amazing speeches of his amazing career in this Parliament. Usually he can be relied upon to make an astonishing speech, but never before has he made such a fantastically silly speech as the one we have just heard. It was thoroughly inconsistent. He flatly contradicted his own statements. He declared, first, that the Government would have complete control over the proposed new oil refinery at Kwinana. But later, when his conscience pricked him, he said that any form of socialization ought to be opposed, except where a monopoly existed. He tried to show that there was not a monopoly of the oil business in Australia. Then he qualified his assertion by saying that, if a monopoly existed, the Government could not do anything about it anyhow.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– The honorable member apparently did not know what he was saying. That is, in fact, what he said.
– He was raving.
– I have not gone so far as to say that.
– Order! I remind honorable members that personal reflections are completely out of order.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I ask that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) be made to withdraw his remark.
– If the honorable member for East Sydney made the remark he must withdraw it.
– What remark?
– I understand that it was to the effect that the honorable member was raving.
– I withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Griffith said that we should support the bill because it will do away with a socialist venture. I wonder whether the honorable member would be prepared to follow his argument to its logical conclusion. Would he be prepared to dispose of the Post Office organization, which is just as much a socialist venture as is Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
– But there is no competition.
– Now he says that he would not dispose of the Postal Department because there is no competition. Does he seriously suggest that there is any competition between the major oil companies? Does he believe that the oil cartel will permit competition of any kind in the oil business after this bill has become law ? Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited will cease to exist as an Australian-owned organization when this bill becomes law. It will revert wholly to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, which, being no longer bound by the restrictions that are at present imposed upon Commonwealth Oil Eefineries Limited, will be free to join the great world oil cartel.
– If it obtains permission from the British Government.
– If my knowledge of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is reliable, the fact is that the company has never asked the British Government whether or not it should join the world oil cartel. I am sure that it will become just as loyal a member of the cartel as the Shell organization is now. Would the honorable member for Griffith suggest that’ we should dispose of our railways on the ground that they are a socialist undertaking ?
– My word!
– I am astonished that, if honorable members opposite believe in the disposal to private enterprise of such undertakings, the Government has not done so already.
– Nobody would be foolish enough to buy them.
– Apparently that is the only reason why the Government has not sold them. I suggest that the Government would sell its railways without hesitation if it could find a buyer.
– That would be a very popular move.
– The honorable member will learn to his sorrow at the next general election that the people object to the disposal of their assets to private enterprise. Would the honorable member for Griffith agree to sell the Commonwealth Bank on the ground that it is a socialist undertaking?
Sitting suspended from G to 8 p.m.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) has deserted the scene. Apparently, he realized that he has already said too much and decided that the best thing that he could do was to remain absent from the chamber. However, his stalwart colleague, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) is still with us to take up the fight on his behalf. I ask the honorable member whether he believes that the Government should sell Trans-Australia Airlines because it is a socialized undertaking; or that it should sell the Commonwealth ships, the small arms factory atLithgow, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or the lighthouses because they are socialized undertakings. The talk that Government supporters indulge in about socialization is wearing thin. There is nothing wrong with socialization. What is wrong with it?
– The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) does not know what socialization really means. It means the public ownership and control of an undertaking when the interests of the community can thereby be better served than by private ownership and control. Socialization means that an industry, or undertaking, that vitally affects the interests of the community should be owned and controlled, not by a privileged few, but by the community, because a privileged few should not be given the opportunity to exploit their fellow citizens. The objective of the Australian Labour party is the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange in any instance in which such means are being used to exploit the people.
– That is the Blackburn interpretation.
– It is the party’s official interpretation of its objective.
– It is the official get-out of the Australian Labour party.
– If the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) would read the platform of the Australian Labour party he would see that its objective of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange must be carried out in accordance with the “ principles of action, method and progressive reforms “ set out in the party’s platform.
– That is not stated in this booklet.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is looking at a document that is out of date. By holding up that docu ment he merely displays his ignorance, because it relates to the policy of the Australian Labour party before that policy was clarified officially in the way that I have just indicated. I invite the House to examine the policy of the Australian Labour party and its objectives as they were clarified at the 1951 convention of the party.
– Why did the party change them?
– The party did not change them; it clarified them in order to prevent members of the Liberal party from drawing red herrings across the trail by claiming that the Australian Labour party advocates the confiscation of private property. The Australian Labour party has never advocated the confiscation ofprivate property, and I challenge Government supporters to cite one instance in which a member of the Australian Labour party has advocated confiscation of private homes, motor cars, or any other form of private property. But, under this bill, the Government proposes to confiscate the property of the community by disposing of the people’s interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. When Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established, the Government invested £425,000 in it, and since its inception in 1920 the company has returnedprofits to the people amounting to £869,750. The Government now proposes to sell its shares in that company for £2,762,506 10s, which, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) pointed out. represents only one-third of the real value of those shares. Adding distributed profits to the total gain in the capital value of the shares, the Australian people’s gain through the company is £3,207,256 10s. Members of the Liberal party therefore cannot say that this undertaking has not paid or that it has not been run efficiently. Therefore, their approach to socialization appears to be to criticize government undertakings that do not pay and sell to their wealthy friends those undertakings that do pay.
A great deal of pressure has been brought to bear upon members of the Liberal party in this matter. They have taken quite a deal of notice of Mr.
Limited, National Reliance Investment Company Limited and Ready Mixed Concrete Limited.
That conveys quite a deal of information, but more information is disclosed when one examines the membership of the directorates of those companies. On the directorate of Atlas Assurance Company Limited (Victoria), Mr. Byrne has among his colleagues Sir Walter Massy-Greene, who is no mean personage, because he is a director of quite a number of companies, including Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited, Atlas Assurance Company Limited (Victoria), Australian Knitting Mills Limited, Bradford Cotton Mills Limited, Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited, Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, Emu Bay Railway Company Limited, Felt and Textiles of Australia Limited, Metal Manufacturers Limited, New Broken Hill Consolidated Limited, North Broken Hill Limited, Thomas Owen and Company (Australia) Limited, Yarra Falls Limited, and Zinc Investments Limited.
So much for Sir Walter Massy-Greene who, at one time, was a prominent Liberal party members of the Senate, and who, until he suffered an electoral misfortune, had prospects of becoming Prime Minister of this country. The directors of Atlas Assurance Company Limited include Mr. Darren Baillieu, who is a director also of Cliveden Mansions Limited, Federal Building Society, Queenscliff^ Gas and Coke Company and Shamrock Brewing Company Limited. We also find among Mr. Byrne’s colleagues on the directorate of Australian Foundation Investment Company Limited a gentleman who is a particular friend of the Prime Minister and who, in his annual reports, which he usually publishes in booklet form, tenders all kinds of advice to the right honorable gentleman which, strangely enough, is generally accepted. I refer to Mr. Staniforth Ricketson. Usually, one can forecast Liberal party policy by reading that gentleman’s annual reports. Mr. Ricketson is a director of Australian Foundation Investment Company Limited Brenton Investments (Australia) Limited, Capel Court Investment Company (Australia) Limited, Capel Court Limited, Clonmore Investments (Australia)
Limited, Haliburton Investments (Australia) Limited, Jason Investment Company (Australia) Limited, Lombard Investments (Australia) Limited, National Reliance Investment Company Limited.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I have listened to the honorable member reading out lists of names of certain gentlemen and of the companies of which they are directors. I should like to know when he proposes to connect his remarks with the bill before the chair. So far, he has not given any indication that he intends to do so.
– The honorable member is getting rather far from the bill, but I must also point out that the connexion between his remarks and the bill is only a little looser than that which existed between the bill and remarks that were made by several other honorable members who have spoken in this debate. As a matter of fact we are fast approaching the point when the bill should be put through. To-day, I have heard fourteen speakers in this debate; but since it was resumed this afternoon I have not heard anything new that could be said to be relevant to the bill.
– I am dealing with some of the loose remarks that were made by honorable members to whom you have referred, Mr. Speaker. The other representative of the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited on the directorate of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is Mr. L. Darling, who happens to be a director of Australian Iron and Steel Limited and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, on which he sits with Mr. C. Y. Syme, who is a director also of Australian Iron and Steel Limited and Goldsborough Mort and Company Limited. On the Broken Hill Proprietary Directorate he also sits with Sir Walter Duncan, a prominent member of the Liberal party in South Australia, and he has had much to say in favour of the Government’s decision. He is a director of the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, as was the Minister for Defence until he received his ministerial appointment. Sir Walter Duncan is also a director of Australian Iron and Steel Limited, Bagots Executor and Trustee Company Limited, Goldsborough Mort and Company Limited, and W.M.L. Fertilisers Limited. I could go on at length but in view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker - and I notice a particularly determined look upon your face - I had better cease dispensing any more of this valuable’ information. T would like to have given more of it in great detail but I believe that I have said enough to raise the ire of the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) and that is something. He realizes that I am getting very close to one of the possible explanations for the great support that the Liberal party has received for the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. It is the one organization that would have saved the people whom the members of the Australian Country party are supposed to represent from the ravages of the oil cartel. Recently, when the oil cartel held a gun at the heads of the Premiers of the States for an increase of oil prices, if told the Premiers that if they did not grant an increase, it would refuse to deliver oil to the outback areas of Australia. . One would have thought that the members of the Australian Country party, who purport to represent the outback interests and the farmers generally, would have been the last to fall in with the Liberal party’s decision to take away from the farming community its last possible chance of breaking through the iron curtain that the oil cartel has placed between itself and the consumers.
– How much oil would be taken outback if we continued to own Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited?
– The honorable member knows very well that it will be impossible for the farming community to escape the impositions of the oil cartel now that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is to be sold. It is time that the Country party took a look at itself and asked itself how much further it will allow the Liberal party to drag it by the nose along the path of big business and monopoly.
– Last week the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde
Cameron) suggested that the Country party was dragging the Liberal party along.
– Sometimes the Liberals are dragging the Country party and sometimes it is the other way about. That always happens with coalitions. In the ultimate they do not serve the interests of anybody except the wealthy groups. Nobody can say honestly that the big oil companies of Australia are not operating under a strict and carefully controlled combine. Nobody can say honestly that there is any real competition between the oil companies. Therefore, it is obvious that this Government proposes to give away an asset which is the only hope that we have of breaking through the oil cartel.
– Why have we not broken through it before?
– Through Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited we have done much to prevent the oil cartel from exploiting the people to the full extent that it would like to go. There is something very sinister about this proposal. If the Government carried out its duty to the people and had some regard for their opinions, it would appoint a select committee to determine to what extent the Liberal party was financed from the oil companies’ coffers at the last two general elections and to what extent the Liberal party is being financed by monopolies in Australia. Certain actions of this Government, and the support that the Liberal party has given to pertain policies, must lead the people to suspect that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the shipping companies, the big oil companies and other wealthy interests have contributed so heavily to Liberal party funds that the party is no longer free-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- A few moments ago I was asked if I was following the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and I said that I had been trying to follow him. The opposition to this bill comes from those who are now openly declared socialists. They even want to socialize business. In this instance they are endeavouring to keep a business socialistic. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has succeeded only as a business. It has achieved nothing else. It is true that when the Oil Agreement Bill was before the Parliament in 1920, it was suggested by the movers that it had objectives wider than those of a mere business although they realized that actually its most important feature was the business aspect. The present honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) who was then Prime Minister, said openly in the House that the project was a good business deal. That is the best that can be said for it. It is true that certain other objects were mentioned in passing in 1920. It was suggested that the organization would help to find oil in Australia. I shall not take up time talking about that supposed object because it has been a complete failure. It was suggested that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited would be of value for defence purposes because it would conduct a refinery. We know what happened during the war with regard to the refinery. It did not operate. It was suggested that the organization would stabilize prices. It has not done that either.
The original measure which empowered the Commonwealth to invest in the refinery was opposed by. the Labour party as violently as it is opposing this bill, which seeks to end the investment. In the course of the debate in 1920, it was said the Prime Minister of the day was really presenting a mining prospectus to the House, and that he was speaking as one who wished to float a mine. Mr. Stanley Bruce spoke in that debate and it was said of him then that he, too, was offering a mining prospectus. Honorable members of that day realized fully that the Government was planning simply a good business deal. It is curious that the criticism directed against the bill by the Labour party at that time was exactly the same as the criticism that has been levelled at this bill by the Opposition. The two main points that were made at that time were that prices would cease to be stabilized, and that the nation would be placed in the hands of combines and a monopoly would result. Those are exactly the arguments that are being used now against the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. With regard to the stabilization of prices, honorable members of 1920 turned to the bill itself and said, in effect, “ Look at the terms of the agreement “, just as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said in this debate, “ Look at the terms of the agreement “. The right honorable gentleman has said that he could find nothing in the agreement which showed that prices would be stabilized under it. Honorable members of that day said in effect, “ We cannot find anything in the agreement which shows that prices can be stabilized “. They said that if prices were to be stabilized, the agreement should provide that only a fair and reasonable price would be charged, but they complained that that provision was not in the agreement. Exactly the same tactics have been tried to-day. The policy of the Opposition has been to conjure up spectres, to frighten with fantasies, and to play on the fear complex just as the predecessors of honorable members did in 1920. There is no more danger to-day of monopolies or of prices ceasing to be stabilized as a result of the abolition of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, than there was in 1920 or has been since.
The Labour party has made an issue of defence. Honorable members opposite claim that there will be no stability or security and that we are in danger. Do they honestly suggest that we are in danger because we are losing a small refinery capable of treating 100,000 tons of oil a year when against that we are to get a magnificent refinery with an output of 3,000,000 tons a year? They should remember also that we are getting a new refinery whereas the existing one will soon be useless because it is too old. There is no danger with regard to defence on this matter. Honorable members opposite point to the fact that we have control of the existing refinery but will not have control of the new one. The Leader of the Opposition knows, even if his followers do not, that under the terms of the Constitution and the defence power, the Australian Government would have no difficulty in taking over the refinery by a stroke of the pen in time of war. There has been no trouble with regard to the stabilization of prices and there was no trouble in that respect even before price control was introduced. Now, control of prices is in the hands of the States. On the question of prices, therefore, the Opposition’s criticism also is entirely invalid.
I invite honorable members to consider the price that the Australian Government is to obtain from the sale. The Leader of the Opposition dealt with the matter in the course of his speech. Speaking as a lawyer to a lawyer, I would say to the right honorable gentleman that if one wants to ascertain a fair price, the proper way to find out is to get evidence upon the subject. It is all very well for the right honorable gentleman to throw out his chest and to say that these shares are worth £10,000,000, but when a government is selling property that belongs to the people its bounden duty is to obtain the correct price for it. The proper way in which to ascertain the value of the property is to employ competent and honest valuers to value it. In this instance, the Government has accepted the valuation that was made by honest and competent valuers, and is selling the shares at that figure. The Leader of the Opposition made no attempt to show that the valuers chosen by the Government were not independent, honest, and competent men. It was idle for the right honorable gentleman to state a hig round figure when there was no evidence to show that that figure represented the true value of the shares. Indeed, all the available evidence shoWs that it does not represent the real value. Statements of that kind are misleading, and can not carry any weight in a debate of this kind.
One could support this bill solely on the ground that it is designed to get rid of a socialistic undertaking, but it has not been introduced for that reason. It has come before the House as a result of the tide of events. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited informed the Government that it. proposed to establish a new oil refinery, for which a capital investment of £40,000,000 was required, and invited the Government to provide a part of that sum. If the Government had accepted the offer, it would have had to raise its share of the capital investment from the pockets of the taxpayers, or from the issue of treasury-hills - a course that would have aggravated inflation. It realized that, if it refused the offer, the money required for the refinery would be brought to this country from abroad. Should the Government have raised a very large sum of money from the taxpayers, or should it have allowed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited to bring the money into the country ? There is no doubt that, in declining to accept the offer, the Government acted properly.
The position then was that the Commonwealth was faced with the alternatives of going into the oil distributing business ; of retaining a minority of the shares in the company, which would have been of no real value to it; or of selling its shares. The House has been told that, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth has no power to act merely as a distributor of oil. The Leader of the Opposition has not denied that that is so. Consequently, the Government had to decide whether it should retain a minority interest in the company, or whether it should sell it3 shares. It decided that the shares should be sold, and a large profit was made on the sale. It is curious that the Labour party, which, time and again in this House and on the hustings, has said that it does not believe in profit-making, has argued that a larger profit should have been made on this sale. If a man were offered a large sum of money for his business, he would not say that it would be bad to accept the offer and that it would be better for him to continue to make small profits. He would seize the opportunity to sell his business at a high price. If the Commonwealth is in business, it is entitled to behave as business men do.
But this is much more than a business matter. It is a matter of national importance. Under this agreement, millions of pounds of new capital will be brought into this country from abroad - capital that we need greatly, and for which we have been crying out. We shall get’ a magnificent new oil refinery, and we shall be able to give employment to hundreds of people. Time and again, the Opposition has asked why the Gevernment does not provide more employment for the people but, when steps are taken that will provide more employment, the Opposition opposes them. As a result of the agreement, wharfage facilities in Western Australia will be improved, and more houses will be built there. The people of Western Australia are not dismayed by the step that is being taken. They are delighted with it. This will be a very big thing for Western Australia, which has not always received everything to which it is entitled. It will get one of the biggest industrial undertakings in the Commonwealth. This measure represents a great step forward in the national development of Australia.
– I oppose the bill and the agreement between the Commonwealth and the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited. I was not a member of the Parliament in 1920, but I have read the debates that took place then on the proposal for the establishment of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The honorable member for Hunter at that time, Mr. Matthew Charlton, was the leader of the Labour party in that Parliament. He supported the present right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who introduced the bill under which the company was established, with the Commonwealth holding a majority of the shares in it. At that time, everybody believed that that was a good idea, because it would enable oil prices in this country to bc stabilized, and would assure us of adequate supplies of oil for defence purposes. I believe that the right honorable member for Bradfield would vote against this measure if he were well enough to be here. I am very concerned about the old gentleman’s health. Despite the fact that 1 am what may be called a wild type, I offered a prayer for his recovery. The Labour party and the right honorable gentleman have disagreed upon many matters, but I say fearlessly that I sincerely believe that no man has ever tried to look after the interests of this country more than he has done. Before he became a member of the Parliament, he was the secretary of the Waterside Workers’
Federation, an organization that has frequently made common cause with the coal-miners. When he became Prime Minister, he did more for the coal-miners than any Prime Minister did before him or has done afterwards. He gave to them the eight-hour bank-to-bank working day. I shall leave that matter now, and shall deal with the bill. I wanted to pay that tribute to the right honorable gentleman.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) admitted that the right honorable member for Bradfield introduced the bill for the establishment of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited because he believed that it would lead to the stabilization of oil prices in this country, and would ensure that Australia would not be exploited by the oil cartel, which is represented principally in this country by the Shell Company. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) said that he would sell to private enterprise all of our public undertakings. Honorable members on this side of the chamber asked, by way of interjection, whether he would dispose of our railways, and he replied that private enterprise would not buy the railways because they did not pay. He was asked whether he would sell the post office, which is a socialistic concern, but he did not answer that question. Does the Government propose to get rid of the Commonwealth Bank, which financed this country during two wars? Would it dispose of our railways if they were making profits? A Labour government took over the Coalcliff colliery, and expended over £100,000 upon it. While that colliery was controlled by the Commonwealth, it did not cease production for one day as the result of industrial disputes. Then the present Government parties, acting through the agency of the Joint Coal Board, sold the colliery to private enterprise. Since then, it has hardly worked at all. I was at the colliery when Bob Jack, who was then one of the heads of the Joint Coal Board, hoisted the Australian flag at the pit-top to show that Australia owned the mine. We are producing great quantities of inferior coal from open-cut workings, and we are accumulating great stocks of coal, but the Government is doing nothing to dispose of coal overseas. If we adopted a suggestion that I have made and mixed good coal with inferior coal, we could sell a lot of coal overseas. That procedure was followed during the period when a man whose name I am not permitted to mention was chairman of the Joint Coal Board. The majority of the demonstrators who came to Canberra to-day were not, as some people say, members of the Communist party. They came here to-day to plead with me, and with other honorable members, to ensure that something will be done to find markets for our coal.
Now let me turn to the bill. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), politically speaking, is my next-door neighbour. He contended that the fact that the Government held an interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was of no assistance in the development of this country. Does ho wish to hand over the company to the Shell cartel? He and other honorable members opposite will be dealt with, hi the very near future, for their part in the disposal of this national asset. The Government cannot claim that it had to dispose of the company because it was a non-paying proposition. It has been, and is, a paying proposition. In 1920 the then government expended £425,001 on the purchase of half the shares, plus one share, in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The bill will validate the sale of those shares at £6 10s. each, that is, for a total of £2,762,501, although it is safe to say that the true value of the shares is about £10,000,000.
The Government’s action in this matter conforms to its general policy. Not only has it disposed of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, but has also virtually crippled another paying proposition, the government-owned TransAustralia Airlines. Perhaps it will sell that undertaking, too, after it has completely crippled it.
– Why the hell do you ride in its aircraft?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not use such language here. The nether regions have nothing to do with this bill.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. It is a marvellous thing that although many Government supporters criticize Trans-Australia Airlines they travel in its aircraft. Why do they not travel hy the aircraft of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which is a privately owned company, and pay their own fares? It has been asked why, when the Government held the majority of the shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, it did not have majority representation on the board of directors. The fact that it did not have 3 such a majority shows that the Parliament has always been fair in respect of this matter. The company has rendered a great service to Australia, particularly in the last war.
– Honorable members opposite have been bragging about the jet bombers that we are to have. Jet bombers with no petrol! Lovely! The AngloIranian Oil Company Limited proposes to expend £40,000,000 on the construction of a great oil refinery at Kwinana, in Western Australia. It invited the Government to take a half share in the proposition, through Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The Government rejected the offer. It may be possible for the Government to claim that some other government undertakings were losing money, but it cannot claim that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was a failure financially. It made such a claim in relation to the shale oil plant at Glen Davis, perhaps justly. I was appointed as a coal liaison officer and I persuaded the miners’ federation, of which I am still a financial member, to permit the mechanical extraction of pillars at Glen Davis. Some of the Communist members of the federation’s executive wanted to cut the ankles from under me, but they finally permitted the mechanical extraction of pillar shale. I was courageous enough to advocate the use of mechanical extraction of pillars, because I had seen it in operation overseas, and knew that the mines in which it wa3 used had fewer accidents than the mines in my own district, in which it was not in use. I should prefer ten or twenty machines to be lost than the arm, leg or life of one miner to be lost. Coal-miners are to-day losing their lives-
-Order! The honorable member must confine himself to the bill, which deals with the subject of oil.
– The miners at Glen Davis accepted the use of mechanical extraction of shale pillars, but what thanks did they get? The Government disposed of the Glen Davis plant on the ground that it was not a paying proposition. It was important to our defence potential.
– The Labour party ruined it.
– The Labour party did not ruin it. The present Government sold it. It was a project with a defence value, which did at least provide us with some locally produced oil, although not very much. The excuse that it was a nonpaying proposition leads me to ask whether the manufacture of a gun is a profitable proposition. Is the manufacture of a fighter-bomber, or of any of the other hellish instruments of war and death, a paying proposition? Certainly not! The Government claims that in the event of a war it could re-possess Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited under emergency war-time legislation. Could it take it back for nothing? Will the Anglo-Iranian company give it back to us ? No fear ! We shall have to buy it back at a high price. The Government should have retained its interest in the company and I shall fight with everything that is in me to have that interest retained, because it is more important from the point of view of defence than for the dividends that it has produced. The company has made a profit of approximately £S00,000. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who introduced the bill, admitted that it was a paying proposition. Then why the desire to dispose of it? What debt does the Government owe to capitalism that requires it to hand to capitalists this excellent enterprise? It has already handed the Coalcliff colliery to the coalowners and has sold Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) limited. It has attempted to sell the Commonwealth line of ships, but has not been able to obtain a satisfactory price for it. A previous antiLabour government disposed of a former Commonwealth line of ships that was founded by the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who was also Prime Minister when the then Government bought its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited in 1920. It is a wonder that honorable members opposite allow such a socialist to remain a member of the Liberal party. Why do you not get rid of “ Old Bill “ ?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I did not think you would know to whom .1 was referring. The sale of the Government’s interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is a national tragedy. When a Labour government is returned to office I shall join with other members of the Labour party in re-establishing this company. Why should not all utilities required by the people be controlled, not by private enterprise for the benefit of a few, but by the nation as a whole for the benefit of the community? I honestly and sincerely believe that if private enterprise could commercialize the air we breathe we should all have meters on our faces. Would honorable members opposite charge us for breathing? I shall conclude by saying-
– Hear, hear!
– I should never say, “ Hear, hear ! “ to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), because he knows more about the Bondi coal-miners than about the real coal-miners. I believe that the welfare of the people would be more completely safeguarded by government control of public utilities than it is under private control of them. I have always fought for what I have thought to be just, even in the face of the opposition of my own party. Public utilities should be controlled by the people for the people in the interests of the people and not in the interests of dividends for the few.
.- It is my unfortunate lot to-night to have to disagree with this bill. My reasons for doing so are simple, though not in the normally accepted sense of the word. What I mean is that it will not take me long to put my reasons into words. To my mind, this question boils down to whether one is fearful, or has any knowledge that would cause one to be fearful, of the oil cartels, the working of the oil cartels, the intentions of the oil cartels, and the possible responsibilities that those cartels may feel towards the Commonwealth of Australia. Personally I believe that the cartels act as monopolies in their own way, and are inclined towards their self interest. I have no belief in their interest specifically in the Commonwealth of Australia. One part of the platform of the Liberal party states that the party is opposed to monopolies. I firmly believe in that. I frankly admit that it is a matter of opinion whether or not cartels are forms of monopolies. I believe that they are.
Apart from the oil cartels, we have in Australia two outstanding forms of monopoly which, I believe, will, in the course of time, do considerable damage to our economy. One is the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited which, in my opinion, for the third time in my lifetime, is endeavouring to despoil the Australian tobacco industry. The other monopolies are some forms of co-operative organizations. I say this advisedly, because I have no objection to the co-operative system when it is a genuine co-operative system) ; but some forms of the cooperative system, as they are practised in Australia, are becoming monopolies, and I contend that, as such, they are becoming dangerous to the economy of our country. That is the fundamental reason why I am opposed to the sale of the Commonwealth’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
The fundamental point in the whole of the argument on this matter is whether the Government should have continued its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Could the Government have raised the money for tha.t purpose? According to various estimates made by some of my friends, the amount required would have been between £40,000,000 and £60,000,000. The figure originally given was £40,000,000, plus the
Government’s interest in the development of. the distribution side of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The question that we should ask ourselves is: Could the Government have raised that amount of money in the course of the next four years? I place the amount that the Government would have to find at what I regard as the excessive figure of £40,000,000. The Government says that it could not raise that sum. I believe that it not only could have, but that it should have raised that amount, because the interests of the Commonwealth in this matter of oil is of paramount importance.. I am not concerned with what has happened in the past. I am concerned with what is likely to happen in the future. I do not believe in oil cartels or in prices control. The only alternative to prices control, in controlling the price of oil in Australia, is for the Government to be able to control, by one means or another, the oil companies in Australia. On that point, many people say that the Commonwealth has no real power. I contend that, in the original oil agreement, the Commonwealth has the power. The authority was inherent in that agreement to control the price of oil, or the sale of oil, by Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited in Australia. If that agreement had not been adhered to and enforced, the matter could have been raised in this Parliament. In other words, the price of oil in Australia could be discussed in the Parliament at any time.
I have said that I am not concerned with what has happened in the past, but that I am concerned with what is likely to happen in the future. I have in mind whether or not we are likely to discover oil in Australia. There are two points to be taken into consideration. The first is, if oil were discovered in the future and if Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited were operating under the initial oil agreement, it would have had the monopoly of the refinement rights of that oil.
– The honorable member does- not believe that.
– I do not say that there would have been any necessity for Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to exercise that right, but it would have had the right and that, in itself, would have been a form of control. I am prepared to say that, within four years of the Government abandoning Commonwealth Oil Refineries. Limited, oil will be. discovered in Australia.
– The period is more likely to be twenty years.
– In my opinion,, the only points relevant to this debate are as follows: - First, is there oil in Australia, and. is it likely to be discovered? Secondly, is it worth while continuing this oil business in view of the fact that it is possible, within our lifetime, that we may have atomic power instead of oil power? That is the only point on which I am prepared to concede that the future will not prove that my argument to-night is right. If we have atomic power, my argument is wrong. If we do not have atomic power within the next 20 or 30 years, my argument is right and, within that period, the Commonwealth would have received several times over the value of what it had been asked to pay as its share for participation in the refinery in Western Australia. My argument is not based on whether we should sell Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited as a distributing company. My argument is that the Commonwealth should have and could have participated in the refinery in Western Australia. I am prepared to admit that the Government sees certain difficulties in raising the necessary money for that purpose. I am prepared to concede those difficulties. But I maintain that they are only difficulties. They are not impossibilities. It is not a matter of what is going to happen in the next five or ten years. It is a matter of what is going to happen in the future concerning the economy of this country. I prefer the economy of the country, with respect to oil,, to be in the hands of an enterprise of which the Commonwealth is only indirectly in control than in the hands of the oil cartels or the oil cartel monopolies, as I prefer to call them.
Many points relevant to the bill have been raised in this debate, and, at the some time, many others have been discussed that have been completely irrelevant to it. Perhaps the most important of the relevant points is the necessity for the Government to sell Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited purely as a distributing organization. I have made inquiries from the Prime Minister on this matter. The Government, at the time it was advised that it could not make a further investment in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited on the basis of a purely distributing centre, could still have exercised its right to take out its full interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I am all for these refineries. The point could be put forward that, if we do not make this sale, perhaps we shall not discover oil in Australia. If that is true, it is probably the greatest point in favour of my argument. I believe that the Government should have exercised its right to take out its full interest in ‘ the Western Australian refinery. The Government says that it could not have raised the requisite amount of money. I believe that given the wish to do so, the Government could have raised the money, and that the investment would not have been, by any means, a waste of the taxpayers’ money. I do not consider for one moment that the investment would have had an inflationary effect, because, according to the statement of the Government, that money would have been productive in the course of the next few years. Money that is put into a scheme that will be productive in a short time does not increase the inflationary conditions. An investment is inflationary only if the money is put into a scheme that will not be productive. I believe that the money should have been raised.
I have no doubt that many people will not agree with what I am about, to say. Only one thing will prove the correctness of my argument, and that is time. I know what I feel in my own heart. I know why I became a member of this House. I know what I believe to be the opinion of the majority of my electors. I shall abide by the decision of time and that of my electors. I shall oppose the bill.
.- I take this opportunity to congratulate the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) on his independence of thought and action. As a gallant and dis tinguished ex-member of the Royal Australian Air Force. he knows only too well the importance of oil to the defences of Australia. I am 3ure that many of his colleagues feel somewhat uneasy in their consciences about this whole transaction, and are annoyed at the scant courtesy and consideration shown them by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on this matter. The Government did not take its supporters into its confidence in any way while negotiations were proceeding for the sale of the Commonwealth’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The Government denied all rumours, and even emphatic reports in the press, that the sale was under consideration. When the deal was a fait accompli, the Government summoned its supporters, and told them what had been done. Their’s not to reason why, their’s but to obey. But I am sure that many honorable members opposite would like to follow -the example of the honorable member for Bowman, because he realizes, as we do, that the Government, in selling out Commonwealth .Oil Refineries Limited, is severing a lifeline of the nation. The Government is casting adrift a lifeboat that may he sorely needed again. Oil is vital to the defence of this country. Perhaps the development of our uranium resources may enable us to place reliance on atomic energy later; but in the foreseeable future, we shall require oil for defence and civil purposes. We were nearly caught with .low stocks of oil in the last war. Do not let us take that risk again !
The Oil Agreement Act 1920, under which Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was established, provided two main forms of protection - one internal, and the other external. Internally there was to be no exploitation with regard to our supplies of oil, and to some extent we were to be independent of outside sources. While that arrangement lasted Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was to be an independent concern, and was not to be a party to any restrictive trade practices or to increasing the price beyond what was considered to be a fair price to the community. The other form of protection was against external enemies. Defence considerations were to be paramount in the arrangements with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. But now apparently the AngloIranian Oil Company Limited will be entitled to join up with any other concerns within Australia, as it has joined with other concerns in other parts of the world. Large oil companies, like other companies of a similar type, will always join together to form cartels and combines because they owe allegiance to no country and are concerned only with profits and dividends. They are super governments of an international nature, and are answerable to the government of no country. The recent war has not curtailed their activities, in fact they are more arrogant now than ever before. That was made quite clear by recent press reports about the activities of the oil cartel in the United States of America and in other parts of the world where its activities have been investigated by government authorities. According to a report published in the Sydney Sun of the 22nd August - 50-Million Dollar Oil Fraud Claim.
Washington, Thursday. - United States Mutual Security Agency to-day accused five United States oil companies of “ exhorbitant price discrimination “ which added 50-million dollars (£ 22,32 1,428) to the cost of the Foreign Aid Program.
Therefore, honorable members will perceive that these large oil companies are prepared to exploit their own people, their own governments and the allies of their countries in order to make profits. The report continued -
The Senate Small Business Sub-committee on Monopoly announced that the Mutual Security Agency report dealt with only one small phase of discrimination charges, to be aired in another government report to be published later.
The Mutual Security Agency and the Department of Justice, the announcement said, were taking legal action against the oil companies for the recovery of more than 50-million dollars.
A few days later the Sydney Sun reported -
U.S. Probe of Oil” Cartel”.
Washington, Tuesday. - A Federal Grand
Jury will investigate on September3, charges that the “ Big Seven “ oil companies control world oil markets and fix prices in restraint of trade.
Executives of some of the major United States oil companies involved, who are to testify at the hearings, have already publicly denied any monopolistic or illegal activities.
Allegation of an American-British oil cartel formed to manipulate world prices and markets is believed to be in a long-suppressed report on the international oil business which will be made public next week-end.
The report was made about a year ago by the Federal Trade Commission but on instructions from President Truman it was classed as secret because parts of it might adversely affect United States foreign relations and the national interest.
The President of the United States of America realized that other democratic nations would be shocked if these disclosures were made public at that time, but he has now made them public. They were dealt with in more detail by a report published in the CanberraTimes on the 26th August, and I can quite understand the misgivings of the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm), who has no doubt read the recent press reports about this matter. The report in the Canberra Times that I have already mentioned, reads as follows: -
Americanreport Charges Major Oil Monopoly.
Washington, Monday. - Five American and two British-dominated companies held a monopoly of most of the world’s oil, divided the markets between them, and fixed prices, the Federal Trade Commission reported yesterday.
The Commission, a United States Government agency, had investigated charges that the oil empire was an international cartel.
The Companies were: - Standard Oil (New Jersey), Standard Oil of California, Gulf Oil, Texas Oil, Socony-Vacuum - all American owned - and the Anglo-Iranian and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Companies.
Honorable members should remember that the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is now to be given exclusive power over Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and will thus achieve one of the objectives of the world oil cartel.
– The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is owned by the British Government.
– I am not concerned about whether any government is interested in that company because, according to this report, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is a part of the world oil cartel which has been shown to be guilty of monopolistic practices. The report continues - “ These seven international companies operate through layers of jointly-owned subsidiaries and affiliated companies,” the report said.
Through this corporate complex of companies, they control not only most of the oil, but also most of the world’s foreign petroleum refining, cracking, transportation and marketing facilities. Thus, control of oil from the well to the ultimate consumer is retained in one corporate family or group of families.
The report will be studied by a Federal Grand Jury, which is to meet on September !!, to consider whether the American oil companies had violated anti-monopoly laws.
The Federal Trade Commission said the companies had agreements which contemplated price fixing, sharing of markets, restrictions on production to maintain prices, restrictions on the number and kind of distributive expenditure to market facilities.
Controlled Crude Oil Supply.
The Commission said that the big seven in 1049 controlled about 92 per cent, of the world’s estimated crude oil reserves outside the United States, the Soviet Union and Mexico.
They accounted for 88 per cent, of the world’s production, excluding the production of the United States and the Soviet Hoo.
The report was made public three days after the Government .instituted a 67,000,000 dollars (about £29,910,714) suit against four major American companies to collect alleged overcharges for Middle East oil, paid for by the United States under its foreign aid programmes.
To illustrate the attitude of these monopolies to constituted authority, I shall read another press report -
Oil Companies not APPEARING to Answer Report.
Washington, Wednesday. - Congressional hearings on international oil monopoly charges proposed for this week have been postponed because the five American companies concerned declined invitations to testify, it was learned yesterday.
The Senate Small Business Committee had offered the companies an opportunity to appear to give their views on the recent Federal Trade Commission report which alleged market sharing and pricing arrangements by five American and two foreign oil companies.
Most of the companies have already denied Hie existence of any cartel and claimed that their global arrangements were known to the United States Justice and State Departments For many years.
Committee sources said that invitations had been issued to the American companies - Standard Oil of California, Standard Oil New Jersey, Gulf Oil, Texas Oil and SoconyVacuum Company. The two foreign firms concerned were the Anglo-Iranian and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Companies.
These large oil companies are a law unto themselves, and when they are given free play again they will not be con cerned about the Australian Government or the Australian people; they will be concerned only with their profits. I came into rather close contact with some of the activities of the major oil companies during the last war when I was a member of a committee that was set up by the Curtin Government to inquire into certain aspects of the oil industry. At that time the American Government was prepared to supply lubricating oil to the then Australian government under the lend-lease scheme. There were certain aspects of the matter that seemed to be so sinister that the then government set up this committee presided over by Mr. Eric Spooner, who -was then a member of the Opposition. The other members were Mr. Dovey, Q.C., and myself. We found and reported that the oil companies were concerned because the Australian Government proposed, on the recommendation of its departmental officers, to allow lubricating oil to be imported in large quantities under the lend-lease scheme. Under that scheme the oil would have been brought here at no cost to the people of this country. One of the major oil companies placed every obstacle in the way and used all its endeavours to prevent the oil being imported under the lend-lease scheme. It arranged for the then general manager of the Vacuum Oil Company Limited to travel especially to the United States and organize the oil companies in that country to make representations to President Roosevelt to prevail upon the United States Government not to supply lubricating oil to Australia under the lend-lease agreement. The argument that they then advanced is indicative of the whole of their approach to their activities, which is guided not by patriotism, but by profits. The argument was that their post-war trade would be affected if the oil were sent out under the lend-lease agreement, because it would come to Australia in bulk and not in barrels. Consequently, it would be impossible for the public to ascertain from which company the oil had been consigned. Really it is the same sort of oil from all the companies, but they contended that if it came to Australia in bulk, their methods of distribution would be affected and that would vitally affect their post-war trade. The then government’s departmental recommendations were to the same effect as the oil company’s requests because some of the people in the government service who made the recommendations were officers of the oil companies in civil life and were having their service pay made’ up to their previous civil pay by the oil companies concerned. For instance, if they were getting £10 a week in the government service and had been getting £20 a week in their oil company employment before the war, the oil company was continuing to pay them £10 a week and so on. Consequently, these officers owed their ultimate allegiance to the oil companies. On the face of it the making up of the pay of serving officers was a patriotic gesture by the oil companies, but of course the money that they expended was recouped by them through the increased prices they charged the public. I believe that one of the large oil companies was paying £100,000 a year in this way to its employees in the services. However, no great harm was done because of the attitude of the officers of the Department of Supply, because the oil came into Australia in barrels which was all to the good when we were plunged into a war with Japan. However, oil ultimately came to this country in large quantities under the lend-lease agreement, in spite of the attitude of the major oil companies. Another aspect of the activities of these companies is in regard to one-brand service stations. Recently certain major oil companies endeavoured to use their powers to prevent service station-owners from selling products other than those supplied by the companies that were financing them. They succeeded to some extent, but were ultimately frustrated because Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited held out against them. Consequently their schemes broke down for the time being. That was to the advantage of many service station owners, particularly ex-servicemen.
Many service station proprietors had to give up their businesses when they enlisted during the war, and some of them found, upon their return, that other men who had not rendered war service had been established in service stations near the sites where they had formerly operated. In fact, a case of this kind was brought to my notice only recently. Three brothers, who had jointly conducted a general store and a service station, entered the armed forces upon the outbreak of war. During their absence, the service station business had to be discontinued because their elderly mother was the only member of the family left at home, and she could not do more than manage the store. Two of the brothers obtained employment in industry after their discharge from the forces, but the remaining brother decided to re-open the service station. He had been assured by a major oil company that his interests, and those of his brothers, would be protected during their absence on war service. He communicated with the company, and plans were made for the installation of pumps and the financing of the business, to which he was to contribute. He proposed to develop the service station on a larger scale than formerly in order to meet the new requirements of the district, which had undergone considerable residential and industrial development. Negotiations reached the stage at which a form of agreement was prepared by the oil company and signed by the man. Unfortunately, he was not supplied with the original form.
After a long delay, a representative of the company approached him and asked him- to sell his rights under the agreement. He refused to do so, because the prospects of developing a profitable business were good. The representative of the oil company then asked whether he would object to another service station being established in the same locality. He replied that he had no objection, provided that the company proceeded with the plan that it had made for him. However, the company finally established two other service stations in the same locality and refused to carry out the terms of its agreement with him. Its excuse for repudiating the agreement was that the establishment of a third service station in the district was not justified. The two new service stations are supplied with oil and petrol and are financed by the company. Furthermore, their managers are not ex-servicemen. That shows how patriotic the big oil companies are, and bow little legal rights and moral obligations count with them in matters of business. Ex-servicemen employed in industry at least have some rights under the re-establishment law, but independent business men have no such protection. The Government ought to give attention to that discrepancy instead of placing more and more power in the hands of the major oil companies. Fortunately, the man to whom I have referred communicated with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which agreed to establish him in a service station. However, the Government then entered into the agreement for the sale of its shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Although the company agreed to restore to him the rights of which he had been deprived by the other oil company, I have some doubt that it will do so after the sale of the Government’s shares has been finalized.
The Government has boasted of the price that it will receive for its shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. We are not in a position to judge the price.
– There has not been an independent assessment of the value of the shares.
– That is so. We have been told that a valuation has been given by a company of accountants, but that valuation has not been laid on the table of this House. At least we should be given an opportunity to examine the report of the company and the legal opinions of the counsel who advised the Government on this subject. The names nf the valuers and the counsel were mentioned by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) in his second-reading speech. Surely we are entitled to study their findings, and also, if necessary, to obtain alternative opinions. I realize that such a procedure might savour of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted because the damage has been done. However, if negotiations were fair and above board, why did not the Government submit the valuation to the Parliament before it concluded the deal and publish the legal opinions that it obtained, so that additional expert advice could be obtained if that were thought to be necessary? The Government has employed hole and corner tactics throughout the negotiations. Had a Labour government dealt with public assets in the same way, it would have been subjected to the most violent criticism. After all, it is traditional that public assets shall not be disposed of except by public tender.
The Government, in this instance, made no effort to ascertain whether a better price for its shares than the one agreed upon could have been obtained. Members of the Opposition, and even supporters of the Government, have been given no information upon which to base a fair judgment of tie deal. Up to the last possible - moment, the Prime Minister persisted in denying that the Government’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited were to be sold. Eventually, members of the Government parties were called together during the lunch hour on a Friday after the Parliament had adjourned until the following week, and were told that the deal had been made. The Parliament was not given an opportunity to discuss the matter. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) that the circumstances of the transaction call for a public inquiry. The Labour party, when it is returned to power, will certainly give consideration to the matter with the object of establishing some new organization that will have functions similar to those of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited.
There can be no doubt that the sale of the Government’s interest in the company is a part of a general plan to sacrifice the assets of the people, and it is noteworthy that only the profitable assets are being sacrificed. The Government’s interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited wa3 disposed of as surreptitiously as was its share in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. TransAustralia Airlines also almost went by the board, but that proposition was a little too hot for the Government to handle, particularly in view of the important part that the organization has played in Australian civil aviation, and the profits that it has earned. Now the Government proposes to back Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which was in a run-down condition and reported to be in a very bad way financially, to the amount of £4,000,000. While that organization will be rehabilitated with Government help, TransAustralia Airlines will be allowed to run down and, no doubt, we shall be informed in the near future that, instead of making handsome profits, it is not paying its way and should be sacrificed. Then it will find its way into the hands of some opposition group, such as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Government appears to be interested only in the disposal of valuable public assets. The Government, of course, did not bother to sell the Glen Davis shale oil project. There was no need to do so. It merely had to close the undertaking and thereby dispose of another source of competition with the major oil companies and destroy the possibility of establishing reserves of oil for Australia in the event of another war.
The people will pay for these transactions in the long run. It is all very well to say that they are profitable deals, but the cold fact is that the big oil companies are not philanthropic institutions. Their profits will be taken from the people in the long run, and they will be handsome profits. Another valuable asset that the Government apparently proposes to sell is the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited. The war-time Government was pleased to take over that establishment. I had something to do with its acquisition. Mr. Waddington, the main proprietor of the concern, approached me when its guarantors, who held a onethird interest in the organization merely because they provided the financial backing, feared that their interests would be endangered by Japan’s entry into the war. The company waa engaged in the production of vital transport equipment for defence purposes.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am disappointed that, at the opening of my remarks on this subject, I should have to criticize the action of my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) in opposing this measure. It is a well-known and established fact that we in the Liberal party have a privilege that is not extended to the members of the Labour party, in that we can exercise our right to vote against our party if our conscience so dictates and if we are actuated by sincerity. Unfortunately, the first intimation that I had of the intentions of the honorable member for Bowman in relation to this bill came from an item published in the Brisbane Telegraph on Saturday, the 4th October, when a 3-in. photograph of the honorable member appeared together with the statement, that the Government would probably find it somewhat difficult to convince him that this measure should be supported. I dismissed this suggestion as mere newspaper talk, until last Saturday morning, when the honorable member for Bowman and I attended a meeting at Brisbane. He then informed us that it was his intention to vote against this measure. I asked for his reasons for making that decision, and I was led to believe that he proposed to oppose the measure on the ground of defence.
– That is not right.
– Having formed the opinion that he intended to oppose the measure on the ground of defence, I contacted the honorable member on Tuesday and informed him that I did not consider that it was a solid ground. We discussed the matter, and he then informed me that he opposed the measure, not on the ground of defence, but on the ground that he believed - and I was led to believe that he might have been right - that negotiations bad commenced for the sale of the Government’s shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to another oil company. The honorable member for Bowman suggested that the other company was part of some great cartel. He suggested that I should read the report, of the royal commission which, in 1934, inquired into the activities of oil companies in this country. I studied that report, but could not find anything in it that indicated that that company was a member of any cartel. The honorable member has continued to oppose this measure, but I suggest that he has not fully appreciated the implications of it. If he did so, he would realize that the Government, whether it retained or sold its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, could not exert any influence upon the organization that he described as the international cartel.
Considerable confusion exists in the minds of members of the Opposition on two points. I note, first, that in this debate they ceased to find it necessary to hide their light under a bushel. They have freely admitted that they believe in socialism. They did not attempt to disguise that fact. I am indebted to the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar), who has handed to me a written definition of socialism, which I shall read to the House. It is as follows: -
Socialism : A sincere, sentimental, beneficent story, which has but one objective and, that is, it will not work. A plan by which the inefficient, irresponsible, ineffective, unemployable, and unworthy, will thrive without industry, persistence, or economy. A social and economic scheme of Government by which man shall loiter, rather than labour - a survival of the unfit. A system of turning water into wine, kerosene into oyster soup, and boulders into beer, by passing resolutions. An arrangement for destroying initiative, inventive creation, and originality.
In my view, that is an accurate definition of socialism; and if honorable members opposite see fit to support such a policy they are welcome to do so. Secondly, honorable members opposite, and the honorable member for Bowman also, revealed confusion of thought in respect of the real purpose of this measure. That purpose is to sell 51 per cent, of the shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. This is not a proposal to sell shares in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited or in any other company which possesses oil wells and tankers in which to transport crude oil to this country. The Government proposes simply to sell its shares in a company that is purely a distributing organization, and which possesses an old and inefficient oil refinery at Laverton, Victoria. The Government’s reason for selling these shares is clear. Some honorable members would like to make a major political issue out of this proposal; but it is nothing of the sort. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited had decided to establish a modern refinery in Western Australia for the purpose of producing a good standard of petrol. The refinery will have a capacity of 3,000,000 tons annually. That means that it will be capable of supplying 40 per cent, of Australia’s present petrol requirements. On the other hand, the old refinery at Laverton, which is owned by Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, is capable of producing only 2 per cent, of Australia’s total annual requirements of petrol. However, I also point out that the :petrol produced at that refinery has an octane rating of only from 40 to 45. In order to render that petrol suitable for use in ordinary vehicles, it is necessary to boost it to an octane rating of approximately 70. The boosting is effected by adding two ingredients to the petrol. One of those ingredients is benzol, which is most expensive and the supply of which is limited limited. The quantity of benzol that can be used for that purpose must be determined by the price at which the petrol can economically be marketed. The second ingredient is tetra-ethyl-lead which, however, has only a limited effect in boosting the octane rating. Whilst the first cubic centimetre may give a fair boost, the effectiveness of each additional cubic centimetre progressively decreases. Tetra-ethyl-lead is not effective in boosting this petrol to an octane rating that would render it suitable for use in ordinary motor vehicles. Let it be clearly understood that even by adding benzol and tetra-ethyl of lead, the petrol that is produced at the refinery at Laverton cannot be boosted satisfactorily for use in defence purposes. The minimum octane rating of petrol that is required for ground vehicles used in the defence organization is 79 to 80. That rating is required for ordinary utility trucks, motor cars and heavy trucks and light army fighting vehicles such as Bren gun carriers and armoured cars. Therefore, the contention advanced by honorable members opposite that the refinery at Laverton should be continued as a defence measure is quite specious.
I also emphasize the fact that the establishment of a modern refinery in Western Australia would have been a foregone conclusion regardless of whether the Government retained or sold its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. That proposal was first evolved in 1951. Even if Commonwealth. Oil Refineries Limited continued operations at Laverton, that refinery would have been found to be quite useless from a practical point of view. .Some honorable members have suggested that the Government should have invested the funds that it now holds in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited in the establishment of the new refinery in Western Australia, but previous speakers have demonstrated the impracticability of such a suggestion. I direct the attention of honorable members to clause 5 of the agreement that is embodied in this bill. That clause reads -
After the completion of the sale of the shares, the Oil Company will use its best endeavours to procure the completion as soon as is practicable of the erection and equipment at or near Fremantle in the State ‘ of Western Australia of a modern mineral oil refinery with an input capacity of approximately three million (3,000,000) tons of crude oil per annum.
I come now to the defence aspect of this proposal. The Government proposes to sell its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited. I point out that the British Government, the Government of our Mother Country, has a controlling interest in the latter company. Furthermore, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is one of the major oil companies in the world and since it owns and controls oil wells in the Middle East and has an adequate fleet of tankers at its disposal for the transport of crude oil to Australia, we shall be assured of a continuous supply in peace-time. Even if war broke out we should still be assured of supplies as a result of the marketing arrangement that exists between the Anglo-Iranian company and other major oil companies under which it would be able to draw supplies from Borneo and the Netherlands East Indies. In the event of war, most probably the oil installations at Haifa and other ports in the Middle East would be destroyed. Consequently, a refinery strategically situated in Western Australia would provide greater assurance to Australia of supplies of crude oil. Tankers would find it more convenient to transport oil to Western Australia than to refineries that are situated i» TV >>.’/. in Europe, including those on the east and south coasts of England, which, no doubt, would be subject to severe attack. Consequently, having regard to the possibility of war, the establishment of the proposed refinery in Western Australia can be regarded as a contribution to the defence of this country of far greater importance than any contribution that could be made in that respect by the Government retaining its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and enabling that company to continue operations at its obsolete refinery at Laverton.
Apparently, members of the Opposition would have the Government, through Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, establish its own one-brand petrol stations throughout Australia. I repeat that under this measure the Government simply proposes to sell its interest in a company the operations of which are practically confined to the distribution of oil and which has only an obsolete refinery in Victoria. As the shares are to be sold at £6 10s. each, whereas they cost the Government only £1 each, the Government is making a good business deal. The Leader of the Opposition suggested on a previous occasion that the Government should ask for a price of not less than £3,000,000 for its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Under this proposal the Government will receive over £2,700,000. Therefore, the contention of honorable members opposite that the price that the Government will obtain is unsatisfactory is specious. As I understand that it is the intention to conclude this debate very shortly, and, in view of the fact that other honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Bowman, may be anxious to comment on statements that I have made, I shall conclude. I still maintain that the statements that I have made are correct. I wholeheartedly support the measure. I commend the Government for disposing of its interest in an organization that possesses only an obsolete refinery and in which it has been advised that it cannot constitutionally increase its interest on the ground that the organization will be simply a distributor of petrol once the refinery at Laverton i3 closed.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– Yes; I have been grossly misrepresented by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) in respect of three points. First, that honorable gentleman said that the first intimation he gained that I intended to vote against this measure was conveyed in a report that was published in the Brisbane Telegraph of the 4th October last. In order to correct that impression . I shall read that report. It is as follows: -
A Queensland Liberal member, Mr. Malcolm McColm, who embarrassed the Government last session when he attacked it over the restricted financial allocation for war service homes and threatened to vote against the administration because of it, is ‘also known to have some misgivings about the Commonwealth Oil Refineries deal.
Mr. Menzies and other party leaders may have to do some strenuous talking if they want to prevent him from crossing the floor of the House on this issue.
It is believed that a number of other Liberal party members feci much the same way as Mr. McColm, although the Government might have less difficulty in convincing them of the “ wisdom “ of its latest de-socialization move.
Main objection by certain Liberal party rank and filers to the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is that, while under Commonwealth control,’ apart from its defence value, it had a steadying influence on petrol prices in Australia.
That is the relevant part and I defy the honorable member for Lilley to say that that was any indication of my intentions because I have never made a statement to the press on this matter. The honorable member for Lilley has completely misrepresented me. I deny that I made that statement to the press. The published statement is merely an assumption on the part of the newspaper writer. Last Saturday in Brisbane I attended a meeting of the Young Liberals Executive. As the matter has been brought forward by the honorable member, I shall say candidly that the meeting was called to discuss the relationship of- Australia to the British Commonwealth with regard to Anzus. It was attended by three federal members, who succeeded in convincing the executive of the necessity for the methods that were being adopted- - -
– Order ! The views of the executive have nothing to do with this issue.
– That was the reason why the meeting was called. A specific suggestion has been made, and the matter is entirely relevant to my explanation. One gentleman suggested that the Australian Government should revert te <t colonial role and that it should be directly ruled from England.
– I rise to a point of order. That has nothing to do with the subject that is before the House.
– It has everything to do with it.
– Order ! Again I ask the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) to deal with the subject upon which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– I shall do so, Mr. Speaker. I said then that I would not support such an idea because I believed that Australia should have sovereign rights.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with this matter.
– Pardon me, Mr. Speaker, it has everything to do with it.
– A little bit of cheer-chasing.
– I do not appreciate that remark coming from the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) and I do not think that he is wise in making it. That was not my reason for making the statement My reason was that I did not comprehend why the British Commonwealth should be tied to a batch of dead-beat Conservatives in London.
– Order ! The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) will please resume his seat. I point out to the honorable member for Bowman that he asked me for leave to make a personal explanation. That explanation must be confined strictly to the point upon which he claims to have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight). The question of Anzus,. colonial status, sovereign powers and so forth are completely outside the scope of the discussion.
– The question of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited then arose. I said that I believed that our argument with regard to defence was very slight but that it was sufficient to be constitutional. That is exactly what I said. I also said that I believed that the main value of retaining Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was as a safeguard against monopoly. The honorable member for Lilley has said that my second point in opposition to this proposal was with regard to the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited shares to a foreign company. “What I said at that meeting was that I had heard only within the last few days that negotiations had taken place between the Gulf Oil Company and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited concerning the disposal of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited shares to the Gulf Oil Company. I said that I did not know whether that statement was true or not, but if it were true, it would be a disgrace to the Liberal party. I refute the suggestions that have been made by the honorable member for Lilley and’ I propose to send copies of the Hansard report of this debate to every person who attended that meeting.
.- The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), in the course of his speech took the high Liberal line that this bill was a blow at socialism. It is rather difficult to understand how the Liberal party could argue along those lines. What is happening is that a company with a 50 per cent. Australian Government holding, is to -become a company with a 50 per cent. British Government holding. The company that is operating in Australia will still be half government controlled. Instead of claiming to have struck a blow at socialism, the Liberal party should explain why it believes that a half government company should be half owned by the British Government and not by the Australian Government. That is the situation that applies to this transference. While the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was speaking last night an interjection came from the right of the Speaker (Mr. Archie Cameron) to the effect that if there was any merit in the Labour party’s argument - and it was not merely the Labour party’s argument but also the argument of Mr. S. M. Bruce - that a 50 per cent, government oil company was a check on oil monopolies, then a sufficient check would be applied by the British Government on behalf of the Australian community. That argument seems to be very tenuous. The British Government cannot possibly have as direct a concern in the price of petrol in Australia as the Australian Government has. I am astonished that the honorable members on the Government side appear to believe that the British Government would protect ns, no doubt out of gratitude for recent actions that the Liberal party has taken with regard t’o British trade and diplomacy in the Pacific.
The question that really matters is whether the great oil companies are to be trusted. The Government has given to the country a definite affirmative answer to that question. It has stated that the oil companies are to have sole control of the refining and distribution of oil in Australia. I submit that it is an open question. The United States Government is not a socialist government but it has indicted the major oil companies of the United States of America which also control the companies that operate in this country. They have been accused of defrauding the United States community to the extent of £30,000,000, and that during a war. An inquiry into those charges is to take place in the United States of America. In anticipation of a verdict, the Australian Government, without explanation, has informed the Australian community that the companies that are under indictment are to be trusted. If it is true that they have defrauded the United States community, what valid argument can be advanced that they would not also defraud the Australian community? Mr. Bruce, as Prime Minister of Australia, obviously believed in. his day that they did so because he justified the retention of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited on the ground that it had reduced the price of petrol. The evidence of the past shows clearly that the companies needed the discipline of competition. Why do honorable members on the Government side believe, in the face of the evidence, that the situation has changed? They cannot give an answer. They believe, of course, that the present price of petrol is the result of price control that was placed upon the oil companies. Some honorable members opposite have advanced that argument, but the position is not permanent, and honorable members on the Government side have been heard on many occasions to express keen disapproval of the whole idea of price control. If that is a second safeguard we have no reason to believe that the Government will not destroy it also, because many honorable members who support the Government have gone to some pains to state publicly that it should be destroyed. The United States Government cannot be dismissed as irresponsible. It has indicted the oil companies before the courts of the United States of America for defrauding the community on a grand scale. Before it sold out, the Government, in ordinary decency, ought to have considered the result of the inquiry in the United States of America.
Members of the Labour party who have been unable to find a reasonable explanation of the Government’s action have suggested that the oil companies have been major contributors to Liberal party funds. I have no knowledge of such matters and I make no accusation. The Leader of the Opposition has dealt with the tenuous legal argument that has been advanced by the Government. It has been said that the Government constitutionally may not trade but that it may refine oil. The Government has said that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is merely a distribution organization of doubtful constitutional validity, and that we must get rid of it. No answer has been given to the Leader of the Opposition who asked why_ the first step, the disposal of the refineries, “took place. The next question is that of the £40,000,000 oil refinery that is to be built near Fremantle.
– I rise to a point of order. Is a Minister and a Whip of a party or any other honorable member in order in standing in the chamber with their backs to the Speaker and talking while another honorable member is addressing the Chair.
– Order! Honorable members will remain silent. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has the floor.
– The oil refinery in Fremantle has been discussed by the Government. It has been said that the Australian Government was suddenly confronted with the necessity for finding £20,000,000 of the £40,000,000 that was required to establish that refinery. In the course of this debate, members of the Government have said that the only way that the Government could find its half share would be by the issue of treasury-bills and that such action would be inflationary. I wish that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who made that statement, would consult the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and obtain some objective information that has been prepared by Treasury officials. It showed that the late Mr. Chifley, as Treasurer, reduced the treasury-bills that were in circulation from £343,000,000 to £108,000,000- a reduction of £235,000,000. So much for the charge that the Labour party irresponsibly issued treasury-bills. This Government quite recently expanded the issue of treasury-bills by £45,000,000. Only this month £25,000,000 worth were issued. If that is the Government’s policy, the question arises, “How is the Government expending the money? “ Nobody can pretend that from the point of view of investment an oil company is not a gilt-edged security. We have been told that the Government will save the taxpayers’ money by the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Every honorable member know that for 30 years Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has paid into Consolidated Revenue large sums of money from profits. Everybody knows that if the Commonwealth were to invest in the new oil refinery near Fremantle, within a few years its investment would be returned completely. If it be worthless for the Government to invest in these private companies, it is worthless for private shareholders to do so.
They raised £20,000,000 of the £40,000,000 because they knew that they would receive a good return on their investment. The Government, if it were wise, would invest in this undertaking, because it would receive a good return on its investment.
I ami not interested in theories about government enterprise for the sake of government enterprise, or about private enterprise for the sake of private enterprise. The history of this country shows quite clearly that it has been necessary far governments to intervene in many fields because private enterprise would not do so. These- wonderful private investors could not wait for a return upon an investment in, for instance, Australian railways. All of the colonies were faced with the problem of constructing miles of railways that would not pay. Consequently, investment in railways in Australia, not as the result of any socialist theory, but from sheer necessity, became the province of governments. The necessary money had to be found from colonial revenues. Everybody recognizes that, for the purposes of the development of this country, there had to be governmentalexpenditure of a socialistic nature upon railways.. There has been no argument about that. Nobody has disputed that that was an inevitable development in thecircumstances of this country at that time.
Therefore, the Government cannot say that governmental investments are never justified. The argument in this instance should turn upon whether governmental investment in oil refineries is justified. Honorable members have quoted the words of Mr. Winston Churchill, who established the Anglo-Iranian company, in which the British Government has a 50 per cent, interest. Because Great Britain, was being systematically defrauded, and because the British Navy was being deprived of oil supplies, Mr. Churchill insisted that the British Government should have a 50 per cent, interest in major British oil companies. Similar considerations exist in this country. Having regard to our great, distances, Ave are heavily dependent upon petrol. But there is. no need for me to go into those matters. They are obvious. Because Ave are so dependent upon the. use and distribution of petrol, and because a succession of non-Labour Prime Ministers has testified to the fact that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has exerted discipline upon private oil companies, something much more convincing is required1 than the doubtful legal arguments that have been advanced by the Government. The Australian Government can administer any law that is not challenged. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has existed for 31 years, but, as yet, nobody has taken legal action in the High Court about it. The first Menzies Government remained in office for several years without considering that it was necessary to take this action. Therefore, Ave are entitled to ask why this Government has considered it necessary to take this action now. A time when there is a vast expansion of oil refining in Australia is not a time when the Government should get out of oil refining. It is a time when the Government should stay in it. We have missed a great opportunity by not going into the new oil refinery that is being established near Fremantle.
By this measure, the Government will not achieve the destruction of a government enterprise. The 50 per cent, holding will be that of the British Government instead of the Australian Government. As that is the essence of the achievement, I cannot understand why the. high priests of free enterprise are so happy about it. I do not know what valid argument could be advanced in favour of the British Government holding 50 per cent, of the shares in the company instead of the Australian Government. One must view with grave suspicion the motives of the Government parties in making this unwarranted change.
– Earlier in this debate, I thought that everything that could be said upon this matter had been said. I have risen only to reply to remarks that were made- by the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm). I have no desire to engage in a personal quarrel with the honorable gentleman, because I admire, a man who has- the courage of his convictions and expresses his views fearlessly and frankly. But, although I admire his courage, I cannot agree with the reasoning that caused him to arrive at certain conclusions.
As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited’ is 31 years old. I have been running motor vehicles for longer than 31 years. During that time, I have seen no evidence that the existence of this government enterprise has had the slightest effect upon the price of petrol or petroleum products in this country. The honorable member for Fremantle did not adduce any evidence to show that it had had such an effect. The honorable member for Bowman said, quite rightly, that if oil were discovered in Australia, the position then would be very different from the present position. He foreshadowed the use of atomic power for industrial purposes on an economic basis. If that became an accomplished fact, it would not only alter the position of this enterprise, but also would make a great many of the Australian taxpayers devoutly thankful that this Government had not committed them to an expenditure of £20,000,000, or perhaps a larger sum. If costs were miscalculated, the Commonwealth, if it agreed to participate in the enterprise, would provide additional money rather than see its assets, as it were, go west.
We are not producing a single gallon of crude oil in Australia at the present time. Every gallon of crude oil refined in this country has to be brought from overseas. Therefore, we have no control over the sources of supply of oil. The position of the Australian Government is entirely different from that of the British Government, which, directly and indirectly, exercises control over sources of supply of oil. If interests outside Australia decided not to send crude oil to this country, what would be the use of the little worn-out refinery at Laverton? It would not be worth the ground upon which it stood. But if this agreement were ratified, and if a refinery were established in this country, at a cost of not less than £40,000,000, which could produce 3,000,000 tons of refined spirit a year, there would be 40,000,000 reasons why the’ company that had expended that money would continue to supply oil to this country.
There appears to be an impression that this Parliament, by ratifying an agreement, can abrogate the terms of the Australian Constitution. The very distinguished lawyer who leads the Opposition in this chamber knows that, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament has power to control trusts and monopolies. Unless the people of Australia decide to remove that provision from the Constitution, this and succeeding parliaments will have power to control any trust or monopoly in this country. If any government believed that it had the force of public opinion behind it, would it fail to act against any trust or monopoly that decided to act contrary to the principles of fair dealing ? The answer to that question is obvious. I rose only because. I believed that several pertinent points, which had a. bearing upon arguments advanced from this side of the chamber, had not been made clear in the debate. I want to make it perfectly clear that, much as I dislike cartels, trusts and monopolies when their activities are harmful to the community, I shall, for reasons of logic, law and common sense, support the bill.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so 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.
Debate resumed from the 14th October (vide page 3008), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is the result of the experience that was gained from the operation of the 1947 act, to which the Minister referred, in his second-reading speech, as the work of the Government led by the late Mr. Chifley. That experience has shown that some amendments of the legislation are necessary. The Opposition considers that the proposed amendments are desirable and necessary, and proposes to afford the measure a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill road a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 14th October (vide page 3009), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The intention of the bill, as the Minister indicated in his second-reading speech, is to bring the war pensions of seamen into line with the increases granted to ex-servicemen under the Repatriation Bill, which was recently passed into law. The increases granted under that measure were payable from the beginning of this month. I should like to have confirmation that the increases of seamen’s pensions are payable from the date on which the increased repatriation benefits are payable. If that is so, the Opposition sees no reason for opposing the bill.
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.
National Service - Communism - Deputations at Parliament House - Employment - Housing - Sugar - Taxation: Attacks on Sir Arthur Fadden, M.P. - Immigration - Senator J. I. Armstrong: Newspaper Reports.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- -I desire to raise a matter concerning national service trainees and their leave arrangements. The Honorable J. J. Jones, who represents the province of Ballarat in the Legislative Council of Victoria, has directed my attention to the fact that a considerable number of national service trainees arrived in Ararat, their home town, on leave for a week-end, and paid a considerable sum of money for their bus fares. The amount seemed to me to be quite out of proportion to a reasonable charge, and I asked Mr. Jones to obtain the particulars for me. I received the following letter from him to-day: - . . It is the regular leave which the lads are entitled to and apparently no provision is made for them to have rail warrants. Apparently rail warrants would not be suitable for lads in this area as their leave is apparently for two days. They leave camp at 5 p.m. on Friday and must be in again by midnight Sunday. They have three leave periods of this duration during their three months’ training.
Arrangements for the travelling by bus are made by an N.C.O. who makes inquiries as to how many will be travelling. Whether this is done under military sanction I do not know. Depending on how many travel rests the charge that the bus man imposes. On a. previous trip to Stawell 30 lads were charged £2 10s. On this occasion 27 were charged £3 5s. The distance from- Puckapunyal to Stawell is approximately. 200 miles so the bus man is charging at about 4s. per mile. It would appear to me that the lads in their anxiety to come home, many of them never having been away before, are being exploited, as one lad said that he would pay £5 as he was so anxious to get home. The remaining problem, which is serious, is the amount of drinking that takes place. A corporal accompanies the bus on each occasion but I do not know if he is in a position of authority. But it is rather distressing for the lads who do not drink to have to put up with what takes place. The duration of the trip is prolonged due to the many stops at hotels on the way. There have been instances of fighting which could have caused the driver to be distracted from his job. No complaints are held against the driver of the bus. On the previous trip back to camp the drinkers on board had not consumed all their bottles when near the camp, so a stop was made for some length until the beer was used up. . . . The point that concerns me is that two of the parents of lads who travelled are very upset at the thought that the boys might be victims of exploitation in their anxiety to have their trip home and also the conduct that goes on during the trip.
Those are the circumstances, and I bring them to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), because I have had a good deal of experience of this sort of thing, and I know the kind of regrettable incidents that can occur to youths on leave as the result of drinking and improper arrangements. The boys are so eager to go home on leave that they are likely to be the victims of exploitation. I ask the Minister to ensure that leave arrangements shall be properly supervised in the interests of the national service training scheme.
– I express my appreciation to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) for having raised this matter. I inform him that leave in the Army for national service trainees is on a uniform basis. Three times in the training period of 98 days, the men get what they call long leave. Some of them can leave camp late on a Friday afternoon and return on the Sunday night. Some camps have slightly different arrangements, but that is the general practice. The youths are also entitled to special leave on Sundays or holidays, which they may spend in the vicinity of the camps. Anybody who lives within a radius of 100 miles of the camp at which he is stationed is entitled to get a concession warrant when he goes home on leave. National service trainees are drawn from all parts of a State, and it is not possible to increase the distance. That position has been carefully examined over a long period, and the radius of 100 miles is considered to be the greatest distance that the trainees can travel from their camps and have a reasonable opportunity to return to the establishments without being absent without leave. I have no objection if young fellows, of their own volition, make any other arrangements to get home. That is a matter entirely for themselves.
Emergency leave of up to seven days may also be granted to a married man if his wife or a member of his family is sick, or to a single man if his mother or father is sick. Those leave arrangements have been made as the result of experience that we have gained since the beginning of the national service training scheme. I regret to hear that any of the young men who have organized transport when they have been on leave have been indulging in drinking or fighting. The honorable member for Ballarat has been good enough to indicate the town to which some of those trainees were travelling. I give him an undertaking that there will be no more drinking, or fighting.
– I desire to direct the attention of the House to the true significance of certain things which have occurred to-day, particularly in regard to the so-called mass deputation which came to Canberra. That deputation was the result of a Communist plan which was laid out specifically in the September number of the Communist Review, which is described as “the organ of theory and practice of the Communist party of Australia Mr. E. E. Hill, in his annual report to the Victorian State conference of the Communist party, devised the tactics which were to be pursued. He wrote -
Wc can get the workers to go en masse, or send a deputation to McDonald and Menzies to demand that their employment be maintained. And we can enlist the support of the management, the surrounding shopkeepers, and so on.
It is certain that the instructions were taken from the Communist party, because Mr. Hill proceeded to state -
It is three or four years ago since Comrade Dixon propounded these views on strike tactics. It is only now that they arc receiving widespread recognition and application.
It is regrettable that some members of the Labour party saw fit to co-operate with this Communist deputation. For example, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) was fully co-operative with this Communistinspired organization. I do not accuse all members of the Labour party of knowing what they were doing any more than I accuse* the honorable member for Eden.Monrao of not knowing what he wa3 doing. But I suggest that honorable members on both sides of the House should read with some attention, this matter which appears in the Communist Review, because they would then understand the true implications of what happened here this afternoon, and the way in which certain members of the Labour party co-operated, knowingly or unknowingly, in the Communist plans.
I propose to read some extracts from the Communist Review. The first is a report by Mr. L. Aarons, the Secretary of the New South Wales State Committee of the Communist party, and the second is the report by Mr. E. F. Hill, to which I have already referred. Both are perfectly clear on what the tactics should be. They want to use the Australian Labour party for this “ oust Menzies “ campaign, sf> that they themselves can ride into power on the back of the Australian Labour party. In fact, the significance of the Communist party lies largely in the fact that it exploits the Australian Labour party for its own ends and uses Labour members, whether or not they are aware of it, for its purposes. I propose to prove that statement by reading certain passages from the Communist .Review. Mr. Aarons has reported to the Communist party, as follows : -
The Australian Labour party leaders have no policy for struggle against Menzies. They want to divert all struggle into safe, legalist and Parliamentary demands. In fact, no struggle, but wait for 1954. In actual fact, help the Menzies Government remain in office! Our policy is one of mass action, to force the Menzies Government out of office, using every form of struggle - the economic strike, the political strike, petitions, mass demonstrations, public meetings, factory gate meetings and1 resolutions.
I believe that those are the passages which were referred to yesterday by Mr. Justice Dwyer, at Wagga, when h”. described them as a gross and flagitious incitement to crime. Mr. Aarons proceeded as follows : -
That is why the United Front is the tactic of the exposure isolation and defeat of reformism. There is no other tactic which can achieve this essential objective.
Some comrades are a little concerned that our call for the United Front for defeat of the Menzies Government will result in building up illusions about the Labour party.
Supposing the Menzies Government is forced to an election, and a Labour Government is elected?
If we have done our work correctly, then the position of the Australian Labour party leaders will be extremely difficult. They will be ground between the upper and the nether millstones. From above, the monopolists will order a continuance of the Menzies policy. The working class will demand jobs, higher wages and lower prices, construction instead of war preparations.
Can the Australian Labour party leaders do other than continue Menzies policy, if returned to power? I do not think they can.
And if we have done our jobs correctly, then they will meet united opposition from the working class, and the Labour Government would also fall, but this time to give way not to the tories but to a people’s government.
The “ people’s government “ is a euphemism for the revolutionary junta to which all Communists aspire. The writer continues -
It is the task of the Communists to assist and to lead this Left-wing in the Australian Labour party. This is a most important task, as our leader, Comrade Sharkey, has pointed out. In his far seeing mind, he sees the long range aim of political unity of the working class - that is, one party of the working class, based upon the defeat and exclusion of the right wing from the Australian Labour party and, amalgamation of the two parties on the basis of Marxism-Leninism.
Mr. Hill is even more explicit. There is no doubt where his loyalties lie even in trivial things. He has written in the Communist Review -
The Soviet Union stands as the living proof of what Marx proved in theory. It demonstrates what the working people can do when the fetters of capitalism are shattered. Victory in every field of life has been won. Our Conference meets at the very time of the opening of the Volga Don canal, one of the great reconstruction works of communism. It meets at the very time when Soviet athletes are demonstrating the superiority of Socialism over capitalism.
There is not the slightest doubt where Mr. Hill’s loyalties lie. He also demands the unity of the Communist party with the Labour party by means of the united front tactics which have been so cleverly exploited by the Communists, and in which certain honorable members opposite, to their shame, or through ignorance, have co-operated. They may not have known what they were doing, or that they were taking part in a Communist plan to oust the Menzies Government, to put in a caretaker Labour government and to ride to revolution on the backs of the defeated Labour party. I now come to the most serious and most ominous matter that I have had to bring before honorable members, because it demonstrates, unfortunately, the way in which the Labour party is falling into the snare of these Communist plans. I read the following paragraph from the Age of the 10th October, 1952, without further comment -
An appeal to Communists not to stand candidates against Labour candidates at the next State elections was made last night by the State vice-president of the Australian Labour party (Mr. J. Horan).
Mr. Horan, who is also general secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union, made the appeal during a debate at the Trades Hall Council.
He said that the reason why Victoria had been unable to elect a Labour government was that workers had been influenced to vote against workers’ representatives.
In the past Communist candidates had Split the workers’ vote.
If Communists were genuinely concerned for the working class, they would stand aside and not run against Labour at the next elections.
That is the absolute proof of the unfortunate success of the Communist plan to get a united front of the Communists and the Labour party. The Communist plan is to oust the Menzies Government, establish a weak Labour government under the leadership of Dr. Evatt-
– Order !
– The plan is to oust the Menzies Government, put in a weak Labour government under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who has himself taken Stalin’s shilling in the past, and then go on to prepare the revolution.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that the honorable member should be ordered to withdraw the remark that the Leader of the Opposition has taken Stalin’s shilling in the past. That statement is offensive to me.
– On the point of order, I desire to quote from Hansard. Vol. 210, at page 1550. It is stated there that Dr. Evatt–
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to any other honorable member by his personal name.
– It is there stated that the Leader of the Opposition himself said that he had taken the brief for the Communist party before the High Court in the normal course of business. That means that he was paid for so acting for the Communist party. To say that he took Stalin’s shilling may be a little metaphorical, but it is justified by the facts.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Is an honorable member of this Parliament entitled to purport to quote from Hansard, and while doing so to give a completely inaccurate account of what is contained in the matter from which he is supposed to be quoting ? The Leader of the Opposition has never appeared for the Communist party. In the case before the High Court he appeared for the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
– I do not know what the honorable member quoted from Hansard. That is his responsibility and not mine. The honorable member’s time has now expired.
– I desire to speak to the point of order raised by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). In Hansard, volume 210, at page 1550, it is reported that the Leader of the Opposition said -
I was offered the brief that is the subject of this debate, in the proper and ordinary way, and I accepted it.
That means that the right honorable gentleman was paid for the work that he did.
– I rise to order. My original point of order has now been completely substantiated by the honorable member for Mackellar. The honorable member has repeated in your hearing, Mr. Speaker, what I said earlier. That is that the right honorable member for Barton stated that he had accepted the brief which the honorable member for Mackellar erroneously stated was a brief for the Communist party. You know, as all honorable members of this House know, that the right honorable gentleman appeared for the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. The previous statement of the honorable member for Wentworth that the right honor able member for Barton appeared for the Communist party is not true and is completely out of order. I ask you whether the honorable member is in order in making such false accusations against another honorable member under the guise of reading from Hansard 1
– I do not know the circumstances under which the right honorable member for Barton accepted the brief. That is a matter about which the right honorable member must speak for himself.
– If the honorable member for Hindmarsh feels a little tender about this matter, and believes that some hair-line distinction should -be drawn in the case of the right honorable member for Barton accepting a brief for a Communist-controlled union in a Communist cause, and accepting a brief for the Communist party I shall withdraw my statement.
Mr. E. James Harrison having risen,
-Order ! I desire to confine the debate to one subject at a time if possible. I cannot ignore the fact that when the honorable member for Mackellar was called, the only other honorable members who had risen were the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) and the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). If any honorable member wishes to speak before them it is only fair that they should be given the opportunity to agree to his preceding them.
– On the understanding that I shall be given an opportunity to speak later about a matter which I discussed with the Vice-President of the Executive Council’ (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), I have no objection to the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) preceding me.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) inferred that every member of the Labour party in this House approved of the action taken this afternoon by the deputations that visited honorable members in the precincts of this House. My attitude is that the intention of the deputations was excellent, but their methods were definitely had. If they want to shift the Menzies Government they should do it through the ballot-box. Therefore, I do not desire the honorable member for Mackellar to couple my name with the actions of the people who visited Parliament House this afternoon.
– I listened with some regret to the attack made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), because since I have been a member of the Parliament I have come to believe that there was at least some substance in his arguments against communism. After listening to his speech to-night I am now quite convinced that he is so fanatical as to be completely unbalanced. He is not able to understand the real fight against communism, and is merely indulging in some light skirmishing on his own account. I became involved in the incident within the precincts of this House this afternoon, but I am no more culpable than is the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and other members of the Cabinet who received decent deputations and discussed matters of great importance to the Australian workers. I express appreciation for the way in which the Minister for Labour and National Service received, at my request, a deputation of two men to discuss the dismissal of railway workers from White Bay power-house, and the closing down of a plant which the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) well knows is essential to the future of this country. I believe that the Minister was impressed by the arguments submitted to him. The second matter that was mentioned by the deputation concerned the dismissals that have taken place at the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, and the tapering off of essential work that used to be done by that company. Recently, an honorable member from the Government side complained about the shortage of coal trucks, but the deputation placed evidence before the Minister to show that there was a tapering off in the production of coal trucks by the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited. Their whole attitude indicated that they were approaching the Government on real industrial matters and not communism. I offer no apology for asking the Minister to receive that deputation, and I expressed my appreciation publicly for the way in which it was received.
The honorable member for Mackellar attacks co-called Communists under the privilege of this House, but I publicly told the people who visited this House this afternoon that I did not believe in their doctrines or their methods, that I had no time for communism and that there was no place for it in this country. If the honorable member for Mackellar had a little more intestinal fortitude and attacked communism in the proper way instead of doing it under cover of the privilege of the Parliament, his work would be more effective. It is only the members of the Labour party who are prepared to fight communism in a worth while way.
.- It was not my intention to speak on this matter at all until honorable members opposite spoke in opposition to the speech of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I listened to some of the statements made by the members of the deputation that came to Parliament House to-day. What was said within the walls of this building, and to the Ministers, was completely different from what was said outside the building. While I was listening, statements were made that were quite in keeping with statements that have been made by Communists in an endeavour to drive a wedge between those who are trying to fight in the defence of freedom and decency in this world. One of the statements made at the foot of the steps outside the front door of this building was that Australian soldiers who are fighting in Korea should return to Australia so that they might fight for jobs which are being lost by this Government. The speaker said that there were no Koreans in Australia, therefore why should there be Australians in Korea. Any honorable member who has an understanding of international affairs will realize that those who have the courage and tenacity to go to Korea and fight for freedom are not fighting for a small country against a small group of enemies, but are fighting for our very lives and existence. The victories that our soldiers are achieving there, by the same courage that has been shown by our fighting forces in the past, are victories for the freedom of this world and the people in it. Another statement made by members of the deputation, after the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. ‘ E. James Harrison) had spoken, was that if the words of the honorable member meant anything, they proved what had been said previously, that there was a need for men in the Parliament who had a desire to serve the working man, or, in other words, to seek a “ people’s government “. The speaker then criticized the work that has been done by some honorable members opposite, and said that they were not working in the interests of the working man. Another individual, who should have more knowledge and understanding of the facts, said that the Government proposed to waste £200,000,000 on defence this year. Does any Australian who has any concern for the safety of the country consider that £2.00,000,000 expended on the defence of the nation will be money wasted ? That was the effect of the statement made to the meeting. The complaint was that the money would be wasted, not in the process of expenditure, but because it would be used for the defence of the country. It was said that Australia was tagging along behind the United States of America in its desire to force a war in Asia. If those are not the statements of a man who has no consideration for the safety and welfare of this country, and of the enemies of this country, I should like to know what sort of statement would be considered to be against the interests of Australia. I do not wish to misrepresent the facts. I acknowledge that numbers of men and women who came to Canberra to-day genuinely wanted to have action taken in relation to matters of vital importance to them. One man said that he came to Canberra in order to put his views to a Minister, and that, even though the Minister might not agree with them, at any rate he had a right to express them. I fully agree with that statement. Unfortunately, history has proved, not only in this country, but also in other countries, including those behind the Iron Curtain, that the Communists are so. cunning that they will make use of misguided individuals- for any purpose that will weaken the democracies that they hate. I make that statement in support of the remarks made by the honorable member for Mackellar. The deputation this afternoon was used,, as such opportunities always will be used, by the enemies of Australia for their own advantage.
, - The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) professed to speak on the subject that was introduced by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), but, in fact, he traversed completely new ground. His thoughts were expressed in a disjointed manner. If he heard at the gathering outside Parliament House this afternoon the words that he repeated to this House, why did he not take some action at the time? I wish now to refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar. I have not the sources of information that are so readily available to the honorable member, and of which apparently he makes such a close and continued study, and I do not share the fear that he, and perhaps the honorable member for Lyne, have of meeting citizens of this country. I have my job to do in this Parliament as a representative of the people, and if some of these people come to my office to see me about matters that are impor tant to them, then it is my duty to do what I can to help them. To-day, three of my constituents came to my office and asked me to assist in having deputations introduced to Ministers, and afterwards to meet the delegations that had come from Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, outside Parliament House and speak to them there. I acceded to both requests. I met a deputation of four mcn and two women who had not been known to me previously, but whose demeanour I liked and whose behaviour I thought was all that it should have been. They wished to see the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), and, at their request, I went to his office in an endeavour to arrange a meeting for them. They wished to speak to him about the discontinuance of “work on a power station project on the south coast of New South Wales and other undertakings of a national character. At the first attempt, I was not able to see the Minister because he was attending a conference, but I returned later, when he was notified that a deputation wished to meet him in order to discuss the subject that I have mentioned. The Minister courteously sent out a message that he was engaged in a conference and that, in any case, he considered that the subject was one for the State authorities. That rejection of their request by the Minister was received courteously and decently by the deputation. To me, the members of the deputation seemed to be just typical Australian citizens who had come here, as they have a perfect right to do, with the object of speaking with members of the Parliament and obtaining introductions to Ministers. Later, I spoke to the gathering on the lawns in front of Parliament House. There is no secret about what I said there. It was a completely open meeting, at which any member of this Parliament and any citizen of the Australian Capital Territory could have been present. I have no apology to make to the honorable member for Mackellar, to this Parliament, or to the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory for anything that I have done or anything that I have said. If the honorable member for Mackellar has a great interest in this subject, I have not the slightest doubt, from my observations, that a very careful note was made by officers of this Government of everything that was said at the meeting in front of Parliament House. Let the honorable member study the report and see whether any cheers were recorded at the conclusion of my address !
.- I shall pass over the heroics of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) who, like Horatius, held the bridge but was unaided. I propose to refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who sought to disprove the statement by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that Communists were associated with the deputation that presented itself at Parliament House to-day. The group that surrounded me in King’s Hall was led by none other than the Communist party candidate who opposed me in the electorate of Mitchell at the last general election. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory spoke of typical Australian citizens. Heaven forbid that typical Australian citizens should come down to the level of a man who professes communism! I informed the deputation that approached me that I would not have any truck with a deputation that was introduced by a Communist, much less a Communist who had opposed me as a candidate for election to this Parliament. I agree with the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) that the deputations that came to Canberra to-day included men with just and reasonable complaints, and I said so to the deputation and told it that I was prepared to listen to such complaints but would not associate myself with the Communist whom I have mentioned. I have spoken of this matter because the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory seems to have made some strange appraisal of the typical Australian citizen. My statement also contradicts the honorable member for Blaxland, who sought to disprove the assertion by the honorable member for Mackellar that Communists were associated with the party that visited Parliament House this afternoon.
– At the conclusion of the speech by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), whom I propose to call next, honorable members who wish to speak on other subjects will be called, to address the House.
– This afternoon I received a message that some electors of EdenMonaro from Captain’s Flat wished to see me. I have always been prepared to see my constituents, whatever their political views may be, if they come to this House in an orderly and decent way and ask to see me. I saw these constituents in King’s Hall. They spoke to me of the growing state of unemployment in their area, and asked that at least some road work be undertaken so that they might have an opportunity to obtain employment. The conditions of unemployment which caused the discontent that brought about their visit to Canberra were established by this Government, which must accept responsibility for the misery that may give some incentive to the growth of communism in Australia. In the course of my discussion with these electors, I was invited to express my views to the gathering outside Parliament House. Once again, I was perfectly willing to accede to their request, and I told the men and women at the meeting that their objective of the removal from office of the Menzies Government - an objective devoutly to be desired in the interests of the people of Australia - could be achieved only through the policy of the Australian Labour party, and no other party, and by the efforts of the Australian Labour party, and no other party. This large gathering consisted mainly of persons who are able to present factual information about growing unemployment and distress in the areas where they live. Those are the conditions in which communism thrives and flourishes. Those are the conditions that have been caused by this Government. Honorable members on the Government side of the House, not members of the Opposition, are under attack to-day for the conditions that give communism an opportunity to exploit the miseries of the Australian people. I am not afraid at any time to address a public gathering and express the policies and views that I express in this Parliament. That is what I did this afternoon, and that is what I shall do again whenever the opportunity to do so presents itself.
.- Had the Government done the job that it was elected to do, episodes such as took place in the vicinity of Parliament House today would not take place. The Government has played into the hands of the elements in the community that inspired to-day’s demonstration. I am gravely concerned about unemployment. I know that residents of my electorate took part in the deputation to-day, and had they asked to see me and had they been genuinely concerned in a positive way to provide work for the unemployed, I should have been pleased to join with them, if they had requested me to do so, in a deputation to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). I know that some of the men who took part in the deputation were not really concerned about unemployment.
– I rise to order. I understood you to say earlier, Mr. Speaker, that, you proposed to terminate discussion on this subject when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) concluded his speech, so that honorable members who wished to discuss other subjects might have the opportunity to speak. On that understanding, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) was permitted to address the House. However, he appears to be evading your ruling, because he is now talking on the subject that was discussed by previous speakers. The time is now 11.30 p.m. I suggest that, if the honorable member proposes to continue to speak on the same subject, you should order him to resume his seat.
– Order ! The honorable member should discuss the other subject that he had in mind.
– I intended from thi outset to refer in passing to the matter that I have mentioned, because it is relevant to the other subject that I propose to discuss. . I gave way to other honorable members because they wanted to speak at greater length than I contemplated about the deputation that took place this afternoon. I am sorry if 1 am keeping honorable members from their beds, but there are men and women in the electorate of Reid who do not know whether they will be able to sleep in beds to-night. That is literally true. The last person to whom I spoke before I left Sydney for Canberra at the beginning of this week was a widow who recently lost her husband. She asked me if I could arrange to secure emergency accommodation for her, preferably through thi Housing Commission of New South Wales. That woman and her family have received notice to vacate the house which they now occupy, because it has been sold over their heads. I have been endeavouring for some weeks to help her, but all that I could do was to advise her to place her case before the Housing Commission of New South Wales. Knowing that hundreds more are in a similar plight, I doubt whether the commission will be able to relieve her distress. Indeed, in many instances, it is a question of finding not only a bed, but also a job. Thousands of persons in my electorate are now looking for jobs. Apparently, the press is now putting out a smokescreen with a view to restoring the confidence of the people in the Government. I have addressed numerous questions, both on notice and without notice, to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in respect of increasing unemployment, but I have not been able to gain a clue concerning the Government’s intention to deal with this problem. Weekly, increasing numbers of persons interview me and seek information that I am unable to give to them. Recently, I addressed a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service in order to ascertain the number of persons who are registered as unemployed at Commonwealth employment offices at Parramatta, Granville, Liverpool and Bankstown, two of which centres are situated in my electorate and. the remaining two in an adjoining electorate. I was informed that as at the 27th June last, 1,729 males and 791 females, or a total of 2,520 persons had registered at those offices, and that at the 29th August last the number of registrations had increased to 3,309 males and 832 females, or a total of 4,141. That is a significant increase of unemployment during that period. The Goodyear Tyre and Rubber (Australia) Company Limited has put off 700 of its employees because it cannot clear its present stocks and fresh orders are not coming in to enable it to keep its plant working at full capacity. Vandyke Brothers Proprietary Limited, whose factory is also situated in my electorate, has put off over 200 employees within recent weeks. I have made representations to the Government to place orders with that company in order to obviate further dismissals. The Minister replied that in respect of that company, which is associated with the building trade, I should make representations to the Housing! Commission of New South Wales. That body has informed me that owing to lack of finance it is unable to let further contracts. The Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited has put off approximately 500 employees in recent weeks, and I am informed that from twenty to 30 employees daily are being given notice. That company is engaged in the manufacture of railway rolling-stock and other material that is essential for developmental and defence requirements. It is unable to obtain contracts from the Government, although honorable members opposite have complained that a shortage of coal trucks has caused a serious bottleneck in the distribution of coal in New South Wales. The Government should take cognizance of that fact when the Loan Council meets next Friday. I again urge the Government to give to the House some indication of how it intends to arrest, the unemployment trend.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have received the following telegram from the Mourilyan Harbour Development League -
League requests you make representations to Shipping Board to have ships made available immediately to lift sugar at Mourilyan Harbour and advise dates of departure to enable merchants to obtain goods by direct consignments.
I warn the Government that unless action is taken along those lines, sugar mills at Mourilyan will be obliged to discontinue operations and if that happens, unemployment must inevitably be caused. At the same time, we shall fail to honour fully our undertaking to supply sugar to Great Britain and other countries. I am aware of industrial holdups that have occurred at various ports, but I believe that in most instances the blame for the trouble must be laid at the door of the private shipping companies. I propose on a subsequent occasion to take this matter further, but having regard to its importance, I should have been wanting in my duty had I failed to raise at at this juncture.
– The matter to which the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) has referred is fraught with serious consequences not only to sugar-growers, but also to the Australian community as a whole. The industrial trouble to which he has referred is further evidence of the determination of the enemies of this country, the Communists and their friends, to impede the sugar industry, to cause loss to growers and to cause unemployment. The slow turn-round of ships in north Queensland ports has been caused deliberately by those elements. This trouble is further evidence of Russian-inspired endeavours to damage the economy of Australia.
Mi1. WARD (East Sydney) [11.41]. - I take this opportunity to refer briefly to a matter that is causing me great concern. I refer to the feud that is being waged between the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Sydney Daily Telegraph. I do not adopt a partisan attitude in the matter, because I dislike both of the parties to the dispute. However, I am concerned that the matter should be cleared up. If I remember correctly, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated in this House about a week ago that be intended to give consideration to it over the week-end and that he would advise the House of what action he proposed to take in order to defend the Treasurer against attacks by that newspaper. It must be recognized that the language that that journal has used in malling these attacks has not been restrained. Indeed, it has referred to the Treasurer as “ a thimble and pea man “, “ a confidence man “ and “ a spieler “. Those are strong terms to apply to the Treasurer of this country, and the Government should act in the matter because feeling is running high among its supporters. The Treasurer himself is perturbed because the Government has not taken action to defend him against these attacks. I was informed by one of my colleagues that he unexpectedly walked into a gathering in one of the corridors at which an argument was proceeding between the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), the Treasurer himself, and another Minister who, I think, was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). According to my colleague, those honorable gentlemen were arguing heatedly, and the words that the Treasurer was using implied that he was of the opinion that his colleagues were letting him down by failing to come to his defence against these attacks. Only to-night - I do not know whether the incident was connected with the same matter - an altercation took place in the parliamentary bar in which two members of the Liberal party used violent language in their descriptions of each other.
– Did the language make the honorable member blush?
– Certainly, I should not be permitted to use similar language in this House.
– Was the honorable member in the parliamentary bar?
– No; I do not frequent it. Some of my colleagues were there at the time. That altercation may have been connected in some way with the feeling that exists among the rank and file of Government supporters in relation to the attacks that have been made on the Treasurer. I suggest that the VicePresident of - the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) might discuss this matter with members of the Government in order to ascertain whether the Prime Minister intends to do anything to protect the Treasurer against attacks of this kind. I have also heard a rumour - I do not know whether there i3 any real basis for it-7-that the Prime Minister is actually a party to a plot to jettison the Treasurer and to place upon his colleague full responsibility for the mess in which the Government has landed the country. Indeed, it is rumoured that the time at which the Treasurer will be cast overboard has actually been determined. I am not any more concerned about the Treasurer than I am about any other member of the Government. I should like to see all of them cast overboard. The best thing that could happen to this country would be the return of a Labour government.
I shall refer to another matter and I hope that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) will give an adequate explanation. I have been advised that in certain military establishments, Australian men are being dismissed and immigrants are being placed in their positions. I am not arguing that employment should not be found for immigrants because they have to live, but I believe that the Government is failing lamentably when it can find employment for immigrants only by displacing Australians, many of whom are exservicemen.
– That is not true.
– I believe that I shall be able to obtain the names of some of the persons who are concerned. I have been told that some of the men who were previously employed at the Moorebank military establishment have been dismissed and that a number of immigrants have been given employment there. I understand that that is not an isolated case. I believe that if the Minister cares to investigate the matter, some of the men will furnish further details.
I refer now to the distress that exists among many ex-servicemen. Many of them who are not in receipt of pensions have lost their employment and they are in a desperate position. They cannot secure decent housing for their families. In many States not even emergency accommodation is available to them. I was interested in a reply to a question that was given to-day by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt). He said that in many cases where immigrants had lost employment, they had been taken back into hostels and provided with accommodation, no doubt until their position improved or until they could get work. Many exservicemen are sleeping wherever they can find a place to lay their heads, and the Government should be prepared to make accommodation available for them in. the hostels. That does not appear to be an extreme request. I am merely asking that the Government should treat Australian ex-servicemen at least on the same basis as it is treating immigrants whom, the Government is improperly bringing into Australia. The- Government cannot justify bringing additional immigrants to Australia when it cannot give them work or decent accommodation foi” themselves or their families. If honorable members on the Opposition side or any honorable member of this Parliament supplies details with regard to ex-servicemen who are put of work in his electorate and cannot secure accommodation, will the Government provide accommodation in the existing government hostels? I hope that the Government will clarify these matters satisfactorily so that honorable members who have raised them repeatedly in the House will know that some action is being taken.
.- I do not wish to deal with the attempt that has been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to stir up resentment among the nativeborn population against the Government’s immigration programme. It was curious to see the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who, as Minister for Immigration, consistently adopted the same line as that which has been adopted by this Government with regard to immigration, sitting back and according quiet acquiescence to a disgraceful attempt of his colleague to stir up resentment among Australians against immigrants. It is a contemptible effort to undermine the Government’s immigration programme. Every honorable member knows that the Government is completely sensible of the welfare of the country. The remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney with regard to ex-servicemen who are waiting for houses also cuts very little ice. It was left to this Government to provide more houses for ex-servicemen each year than any other Australian government has ever done.
On one point I agree with some remarks that were made by the honorable member for East Sydney. That is with regard to the corporate responsibility that this Government has for any actions that have been taken by the Treasurer. It is not for me to speak for the Government or, for that matter, even for those honorable members who support the Government and; who are not members of the Cabinet, but I do not exaggerate the sentiments of the party when I say that we are entirely behind lie Treasurer in any action that he has taken and- particularly with regard to the unfortunate, unpleasant and” unfair fued that has grown up between him and the Sydney Daily Telegraph. I think it is right that the rank and file members of the Government should: make- their attitude perfectly plain. It is not my habit to attack the press. I was once a pressman and I believe that no member of this House who attacks the press on a matter of principle has anything to fear, but I believe that this campaign of one newspaper - the Daily Telegraph - against the Treasurer has reflected little credit on that newspaper. In the long run, it cannot be of any service to the country to attack a Minister of the Crown in such intemperate language as that newspaper has used in its attack upon the Treasurer. For my part, I believe that it would have been much better had the Treasurer completely ignored the statements that have been made about him, but to call people dishonest and to refer to them as sharpers and tricksters does a grave disservice to the country. It is quite wrong and I very much regret that any responsible newspaper has seen fit to embark upon such a course of action. I make it clear that every honorable member on this side supports me in this matter. Such attacks do nothing but affirm our loyalty to the man who has had the courage to take the action that he believes to be necessary. We would not, in any circumstances, be weakened in our loyalty by attacks of this nature, which we believe to be unprincipled and uninformed.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) on his defence of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). It is a little refreshing to have an honorable member on the Government side defending the Treasurer against unfair attacks. This is the first occasion that I can remember on which any honorable member on the Government side has had the decency to defend the Treasurer.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did so recently.
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. It is the first time that a single honorable member on the Government side has had the decency to defend the Treasurer who has pursued a policy to which every honorable member on that side of the House is a party and of which they are part authors. It is a shocking dis play of bad grace on the part of the Ministers, in particular. They sit on the front bench day after day and see the Treasurer condemned by a newspaper and described by it as dishonest and unworthy of the position, yet they do not say one word in defence of the Treasurer who is only pursuing a policy that they, as members of the Cabinet, have helped to formulate. The honorable member for Henty could not have been very pleased with the response that he received to his statement, “I speak for all honorable members on this side of the House “. One solitary “ Hear, hear ! “ came from the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson). Not one member of the Country party was prepared to exert himself to that extent.
– I rise to a point of order. . There were a number of “Hear, hears ! “ from this section of the House.
-Order ! There is no point of order. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) may proceed.
– Honorable members heard “ Hear, hear ! “ from one of them, but they sat like mutes and showed not the slightest interest in or enthusiasm for the remarks of the honorable member for Henty. A report is going around that has had very wide circulation.
– I do not believe it.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) indicates that he has heard the report. It is to the effect that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is about to unload the Treasurer. If the Prime Minister believes that by unloading the Treasurer at this stage he can unload all the sins of Cabinet and that the people will look upon the Government as completely new, he is quite wrong. I warn honorable members on the Government side that as they are co-authors of the Government policy, they cannot escape the wrath of the people on this snide business.
– ‘Order ! “Snide” is a word that I have often ruled out of order.
– This is an unfair plot to unload the Treasurer, to have him deposed and to have somebody else take his place.
– What a foul mind.
– Order! That is unparliamentary language and the honorable member for Gippsland must know- it.
– I take no notice of the honorable member. He is an expert in that type of comment.
-Order! If honorable members would keep quiet I would have a. chance of hearing what is being said.
– I repeat that it is refreshing to know that one solitary back-bench member on the Government side has had sufficient courage to defend the Treasurer for pursuing a policy which every member of the Cabinet has endorsed and has helped to formulate. At long last we may expect some members of the Cabinet who helped make the policy for which the Treasurer lias been condemned, to rise and either defend him or tell us what they intend to do with the right honorable gentleman.
.- I treat the words of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) with the contempt that they deserve. I shall refer to some statements that were made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Honorable members who were in the Parliament in 1949 should cast their minds back to that time and consider the vast improvement in housing and in the amount of money that has been spent on war service homes in the years that this Government has been in power. During 1948 and 1949, when housing difficulties were real and often tragic, the honorable member for East Sydney made no comment. Now, when the position is greatly improved, he has tried to work up a case about housing in Australia. To give honorable members an idea of the progress that has been made I shall read several letters that have appeared in the Melbourne Herald. At that time, people were writing letters to the newspapers every day about their desperate plight in regard to housing. Letters of that kind do not appear in the newspapers now, because this Government has improved the housing position so much that it is unnecessary for people to write them. On the 13th October, 1949, a lady who was living near Geelong, wrote the following letter to the Melbourne Herald: -
My husband and I and our nine children have lived in a tent for the .past four months. We have to give up the tent before Christmas. Can any one let us a house in the country near a school? My husband can do any sort of work.
Apparently, the husband could not get work. The honorable member for East Sydney remained silent when that letter was read in this House. On the same day another letter was published in that newspaper. It was preceded by the following comment : -
For two years, a couple with three children have been living in an unlined outhouse in an East St. Kilda backyard.
The letter stated -
This is a fibro-cement building, divided into two “ rooms “ with a three-ply partition. The section in which our two boys sleep has only the tin roof as a ceiling.
When that letter was read, the then honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), who is now the honorable member for Port Adelaide, interjected and said, “ Shame “. It was something of which the government then in power had reason to be ashamed. The letter proved that that government, during its eight years of office, had failed to provide houses for the people. Another letter to that newspaper published on the same date stated -
If we could only get a place for twelve months, it would help. We are trying to build through the war service homes and should have our place completed by then.
When this Government came into office, it increased the finance available for war service homes fourfold or fivefold. Now, houses are being built up and down the country, as everybody knows. In 1949, the honorable member for East Sydney said nothing and did nothing about housing. He followed the example of the government of which he was a member, which also did nothing about housing. Nor did the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), in whose electorate the writer of one of the letters lived. Today, honorable gentlemen opposite have directed attention to a supposed housing shortage. I think the time has come for some one to point out that their actions have been inspired by political considerations. There is no substance in the case presented by the honorable member for East Sydney, because he knows that the housing position now is 50 per cent, better than it was in October, 1949. He said nothing about the matter then, but he has spoken about it now.
– in reply - I am glad that, at last, I have an opportunity to say something about the remarks that have been made by honorable members opposite. Let me say at the outset of my speech that the sadistic pleasure that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) derived from smacking the wound that certain sections of the press have inflicted upon the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) did him no credit. We on this side of the House can assess the value of his remarks. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said specifically, and his remarks have been echoed by all members of the Government parties, that the Treasurer speaks with the full authority, not only of Cabinet, but also of every honorable member on this side of the House, whose full confidence he enjoys. Let there be no mistake about that. The honorable member said that he felt some concern about this matter. He felt no concern when the Deputy Leader of the Labour party was attacked by the journal that has attacked the Treasurer. He did not talk of coming to the aid of his colleague. Doubtless, he took the view that these attacks would destroy a rival, but lie was greatly disappointed. The reason why the honorable gentleman has made the remarks that he has made to-night is so obvious that there is no need for me to traverse the matter further. The Treasurer has our full confidence, and the mischievous remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney will have no effect upon .us or upon the Treasurer.
Let me deal with the phoney attack that has been made upon the Government in relation to employment. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) , the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the -honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) spoke -about unemployment. I ask them to throw their minds back to 1947, when 1.2 per cent, of the trade unionists of this country were unemployed. Now, 1.1 per cent, of our trade unionists are unemployed. If the members of the Opposition are so concerned about unemployment at the present time, they must have been uninterested in it when the Labour party was in power, because it was greater then than it is now.
The honorable member for East Sydney said that only a Labour government could save this country. I assume that Senator Armstrong, who acts as the Deputy Leader of the Labour party in the Senate, speaks with the full authority of his party. Let us examine what he has said about the policy of the Labour party with regard to employment. I ask the manufacturers of Australia to take note of the policy that he propounded in the Senate.
– He does not propound the policy of the Labour party.
– Doubtless the honorable member for East Sydney is very upset at the remarks that were made by Senator Armstrong. I expect that he and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will take some action on them. The Blackburn interpretation of the socialistic aims of the Labour party will be as nothing, compared with the interpretation honorable gentlemen opposite will have to place .upon the honorable senator’s remarks. I shall quote from the Century of the 10th October, 1952. Honorable members will find a report of the honorable senator’s -speech in Hansard
– Order ! The honorable gentleman cannot quote from the report of a debate of this session in the Senate.
– I do not propose to do so. In the Century of the 10th October, the following article appeared : -
LABOUR SENATOR’S PLAN TO DUMP AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRIES.
Senator John Armstrong, Deputy Leader of the Federal Labour party in the Senate, last week staggered his colleagues when he advanced some amazing views on the future of Australian industries.
The Armstrong Plan, in brief, is that Australian manufacturers should take their plant out of Australia and set it up overseas.
Then the Australian business man would be able to operate with cheap labour and compute with other countries for trade in the Far East.
But what is that going to do for Australian workers? What is the next step?
– I rise to order. Is it in order for the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to quote from what purports to be a newspaper report of a speech delivered in the Senate by a member of that chamber? I understand that, under the Standing Orders, only quotations from the Hansard report of such a speech are permitted.
– I know of no such ruling or procedure. An honorable member must not quote from the Hansard report of the proceedings of the Senate for the current session, but he is permitted to quote from the Hansard reports of the proceedings of previous sessions. The Standing Orders provide that, in this chamber, honorable members must not attempt to deal with debates or proceedings of the Senate, either current or pending, of the present session.
– The article stated -
But what is that going to do for Australian workers? What is the next step?
Is Labour’s plan to take Australian industries out of Australia and to establish them in the Far East, as Senator Armstrong has suggested? Do honorable gentlemen opposite want such industries to employ cheap black labour, with the result that white Australian workers will be thrown out of employment? Members of the Opposition have talked about unemployment. According to Senator Armstrong, the policy of the Labour party is to create unemployment. The article continued -
What about the White Australia policy? If we are to encourage the export of our industries, rather than the export of our manufactures, what difference is there to the unlimited admission of Asiatic labour into this country ?
It went on to state -
Senator Armstrong’s views in the Senate were as follows: - “The only way in which we can obtain value for the products of our secondary industries is to take their manufacture out of Australia and set it up overseas. “ Already we have outpriced ourselves on our home markets. “For more than 150 years Great Britain amassed wealth by exploiting British brains and technical’ know-how ‘ in other countries of the world.”
– I rise to order. I seek the protection of the Chair against the phony nonsense that is being perpetrated by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Standing Order 74 states -
No member shall read extracts from newspapers or other publications, except Hansard, referring to debates in the House or in Committee except upon a matter of Privilege.
I assume that that refers to both Houses of the Parliament.
– No; it refers to debates in this House.
– I submit that the standing order applies to debates in both Houses. When a member of the Parliament wishes to quote from a speech made by another member, he must quote the words that were used by the speaker. Hansard is the only publication that should be used in those circumstances. If that were not so, any honorable member could read the version of a speech that was published in a newspaper, such as the Tribune. The Century is opposed to the political views of the honorable senator for whose speech the Vice-President of the Executive Council has purported to quote. I submit that the spirit of the standing order is that only quotations from Hansard should be permitted.
– The standing order provides that honorable members shall not quote from newspaper reports of alleged proceedings in this House except upon a matter of privilege. Only this House can deal with matters of privilege that affect it. If a matter of privilege arose that affected the Senate, it would have to be dealt with in the Senate. The Standing Orders provide also that this House cannot deal with matters that have arisen in the Senate. I am unaware of what takes place in that chamber, and I do not want to know what does take place there. I understand that the
Vice-President of the Executive Council was quoting from a report, published in the Century, of what is alleged to have been said by Senator Armstrong in the Senate. If the report relates to something that was said in the Senate during this session, it should not be referred to in this chamber. The Standing Orders are perfectly clear on the matter. They state that an honorable member must not refer to proceedings of the present session, either current or pending, in the Senate.
– I have seen the newspaper report from which the VicePresident of the Executive Council has quoted. It purports to be a report of what Senator Armstrong said in the Senate. If there be any doubt about that, I ask the Minister to show you the copy of the newspaper from which he has read. He knows that he is referring to ; speech that was delivered in the Senate. The speech is reported in Hansard. I have seen the Hansard report of it–
– Order ! The Min ister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Sugar - Report of Committee appointed by the Government of the Commonwealth to inquire into and report upon the Australian Sugar Industry.
Ordered to lie on the table.
Apple and Pear Organization Act - Sixth Annual Report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board for year 1951-52, together with Statement by Minister regarding the Operation of the Act.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (2.).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Llanherne, Tasmania.
Meat Export Control Act - Seventeenth Aunual Report of the Australian Meat Board for year 1951-52, tgoether with Statement by Minister regarding the Operation of the Act.
Public Service Act -
Appointment - Department of National Development - E. M. Kicinski.
List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service as on 30th June, 1951.
House adjourned at 12.14 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. No. The members of the committee give their time voluntarily to the good work which the committee is performing and personallybear the expense of any correspondence or travelling undertaken by them which is not covered by their ordinary privileges and allowances as members of Parliament.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 6. There is little I can add to the answer I gave in reply to a similar question asked without notice by the honorable member on the 9th September. As I said then, no announcement was made about the appointment of the new Governor-General until Her Majesty made her own announcement from Buckingham Palace. Speculative reports that Sir William Slim would be appointed appeared intermittently in the press for some months and in the fortnight preceding the announcement were almost a daily feature. As the honorable member well knows, the author of a speculation, on the rare occasions when it proves to be true,’ is credited with access to Cabinet’s discussion of the subject, an inference which is. not only unjustified, hut patently absurd. Consequently there would be no purpose in instituting an inquiry in this instance.
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– Present statistical compilations do not enable an answer to be given.
y asked the Minister ‘ for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
GOVERNMENT Loans AND FINANCE
Mr. Keon asked the Treasurer, upon notice ;
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19521015_reps_20_220/>.