20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question to the Treasurer has arisen out of details that ho has given theHouse about Commonwealth treasury-bills outstanding during the month of February. Hisfigures show that the total amount outstanding on the 28th February, was £285,000,000, and that of that sum the average holding by private trading banks during February was no less than £188,000,000. Can the right honorable gentleman tell the House the basis of the decision of the Government or of the Commonwealth Bank to allow such a record holding by private banks, when normally they would be Held by the Commonwealth Bank?
– I shall investigate the matter and endeavour to obtain the information for the Leader of the Opposition from the Commonwealth Bank.
– Is the private banks’ holding a matter of Government policy or Commonwealth Bank policy?
– It is a matter of the Commonwealth Bank’s own policy.
– Did the Treasurer ever make a statement that the Government was irrevocably opposed to the use of treasury-bill finance ? If so, can the right honorable gentleman explain the Government’s record issue of treasury-bills as indicated in his reply to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition?
– I did make such a statement, and I adhere to it The treasury-bill position to-day is due entirely to the fact that the Commonwealth has financed and underwritten the loan programmes of the State governments.
– I ask the Treasurer whether, in view of the fact that at present treasury-bills and government securities can be acquired by the private trading banks only with the consent of the Commonwealth Bank Board, the Government is aware of the policy pursued in this matter by the board, and whether the Government is in accord with it?
– The answer to the question is “Yes”.
– Has the Prime Minister been informed when Sir William Slim will reach Australia to assume the office of Governor-General? Is there any basis for reports that Sir William Slim, before leaving for Australia, will participate in staff talks in Yugoslavia? In view of the constitutional importance of the post of Governor-General of the Commonwealth, does the right honorable gentleman consider it desirable to obtain a clear understanding from the British Government on when Sir William Slim will be free to assume Her Majesty’s commission ? If a clear understanding cannot be obtained, will ho consider petitioning Her Majesty to consider making an alternative appointment?
– I have read the cabled story about the possibility of Sir William Slim going to some foreign country. I know of no foundation for it. I am looking forward keenly, as all honorable members are, to his arrival in this country, and I hope to be able to indicate quite soon the date on which he will be here.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that a group of Australian pressmen are now visiting India? Will the Minister say whether there has been an official delegation of Australian newspapermen to India, and if there has been, will he indicate the basis on which its members were selected? Is it proposed that a similar delegation will be sent to other countries ? “Mr. CASEY- Yes, it is a fact that a group of, I think, five Australian pressmen is at present in India. They were invited by name by the Government of India and the Australian Government was informed and was entirely agreeable to the invitation being extended and accepted. I believe that two pressmen from two prominent Sydney newspapers, two from two prominent Melbourne newspapers and one from an equally prominent Western Australian newspaper were invited and accepted the invitation and are now in India. All expenses are being met by the Government of India. The Australian Government is very glad that Australian pressmen should have an opportunity to extend their experience in a country that is of great interest and concern to us. As far as further visits are concerned, much as we should like equally to extend the experience of Australian pressmen of other countries, the cost of such visits is not inconsiderable. There are no present plans for any Australian Government sponsored delegations of pressmen to other countries.
– I address a question to the Minister for ‘Commerce and Agriculture. An English immigrant farmer in my electorate is eager to import buckwheat from the United Kingdom for seed purposes. I understand that buckwheat is rich in protein value, can be chaffed for’ feed for stock and crushed for the making of wheatcakes and, in addition, can be grown in acid soils. Can the Minister give the House any information about wheat of that type, and can he say whether there is a possibility of the farmer concerned obtaining about 9 bushels of it from the United Kingdom for seed purposes?
– I am not familiar with buckwheat, although I know that it is widely grown in the United States of
America. I am perfectly sure that if supplies of seed are not available in Australia, no difficulty will be experienced by the farmer in securing a permit to import the wheat for the special purpose to which the honorable member has referred.
– Will the Minister for Health state the progress that has been made in Queensland in preparation for, or the promotion of, the Commonwealth tuberculosis campaign ? What does the scheme entail in the first year of its operation by way of examinations, travel units or buildings, and who is responsible for the payment, of expenses incurred in connexion with it?
– I shall answer the last question first. The Australian Government is providing the whole of the money for the new buildings to be erected in Queensland in connexion with the tuberculosis campaign. Buildings are being erected or are planned at Chermside - one of them which is almost completed will provide for 160 beds - Thursday Island, Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Toowoomba. Insofar as X-ray examinations of the population are concerned, I have not the most recent information readily available but I shall obtain it for the honorable member. At present 70 per cent, of the total cost of all tuberculosis activities in the Commonwealth is being carried out and financed by the Australian Government.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the Australian Government has any status in regard to the situation that has arisen whereby Victorian potatoes are being sold in New South Wales whilst in Victoria it is impossible for consumers to purchase Victorian potatoes ? Can the Commonwealth take any action in this matter ?
– This Government can do nothing about the matter, which can be resolved only by the two State Labour governments concerned. The Labour Government of Victoria is intent upon maintaining prices control over potatoes, with the result that Victoriangrown potatoes flow into the adjoining Labour-governed State of New South Wales, where there is no prices control. Because of this, Victorian consumers go without potatoes. This situation is comparable with the situation that developed a year ago, when the New South Wales Government, by maintaining a crazy level of prices control over butter, denied butter to New South Wales consumers unless they paid black-market prices for it. There is nothing that I can do about the matter.
– As the several States and the capital cities of those States are to be officially represented at the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen, will the Prime Minister consider according official representation to the Australian Capital Territory by a member of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, a senior administrative officer, or an acknowledged leader in the educational, cultural or civic spheres? I ask this question particularly because Canberra has a close association with the Royal Family, first, through the opening of this Parliament by His late Majesty King George VI., and, secondly, through the recent term of Governor-Generalship of a brother of His late Majesty.
– I am bound to say to the honorable member, speaking in terms of government and civic service, that Canberra will have ample representation at the coronation.
– I wish to ask a question of you, Mr. Speaker, -in relation to the attitude that you have taken in the past towards the use of Parliament House, and to the presence in this building to-day of the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, who- is a member of the’ central committee of the Communist party of Australia and a Soviet fifth-columnist of the. most sinister kind. This gentleman has been in the building in contact with members of the Labour party. He was in close, intimate and cordial conversation with the honorable member for Bendigo. .1. do not wish to deprive honorable members of their normal contacts, but I ask you, sir, whether there is any machinery by which you can ensure that Parliament House shall not be used for treasonable Communist purposes.
– I am not able to recognize everybody on sight. The gentleman in question is a complete stranger to me. I would not know him if he were in the gallery at the present moment, and, on his record, I have no desire te know him.
– As a result of the question that has been asked by the honorable member for Mackellar, I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he has arranged to receive to-day a deputation from the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, including the secretary of that body, to whom I spoke in King’s Hall.
– Yes, I have arranged to receive a deputation from the Waterside Workers Federation. My ministerial office is in this building, and it is my practice to receive there such deputations as I am able to meet. Arrangements were made by me some time ago, at the, request of the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, to receive a. deputation from that union for the purpose of discussing certain matters that have a bearing on government policy. I shall receive that deputation at the end of question time.
– Yesterday, the Minister for Defence stated that the Government was unable to give financial assistance to certain persons who wished to travel to England towards the end of the year to attend the unveiling of a war memorial at Runnymede by Her Majesty the Queen. I have been informed by the Imperial War Graves Commission that the names of 1,403 Australian airmen are inscribed on the Runnymede memorial. If it is not possible to assist a certain number of relatives of those airmen, selected from each State, to attend the unveiling ceremony, will the Minister consider the desirability of obtaining a replica of the memorial plaque, so that it can be unveiled in Canberra when Her Majesty visits this city next year?
– I informed the honorable member yesterday that the Government could not give financial assistance to Australians to travel to England to attend the unveiling of this memorial. I shall consider his suggestion that n replica of the memorial plaque lie obtained and placed in Canberra. In due course, I shall inform him of my decision upon the mutter.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the Government given any consideration to the recommendations contained in the latest report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner that provision be made for a uniform gauge railway between Queensland and Western Australia by converting to standard gauge the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie ? That would enable a through railway service to be operated between those two States. If the Government has not already considered the recommendation, will it do so as a matter of urgency, because the implementation of the recommendation would cause a reduction of expenditure upon transfer equipment, obviate damage arising from excessive handling of freight, and open up a field of essential work that would help to reduce unemployment?
– I have not had an opportunity to read the report to which the honorable member has referred, but I have no doubt that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is doing so, and that he will make such submissions to Cabinet as he considers to be appropriate.
– Can the Treasurer inform me whether it is a fact that the purchase of ten diesel electric locomotives by Queensland was made possible by the allocation of. -dollars by the Australian Government from the first dollar loan obtained by the Prime Minister from the
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development? Were dollar allocations made to other States and the Commonwealth railways for the purchase ‘of modern diesel electric locomatives?
– The answer to both questions is “ Yes “.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the Australian Wheat Board, on behalf of the Jute Controller, is selling jute sacks at 69s. lid. a dozen? Can cornsacks be imported now at a landed cost of 30s. a dozen? A system for the bulk-handling of wheat has been in operation in Western Australia for almost twenty years, and second-hand cornsacks are not readily available there. Will the Minister say whether anything can be done to ease the position o’f Western Australian flour-millers, whose export trade is being seriously affected by a shortage of second-hand cornsacks, whilst millers in the eastern States can purchase once-used sacks for 45s. a dozen ?
– It is true that the current selling price of cornsacks is 69s. lid. a dozen, and that recently the Jute Controller has been able to purchase sacks at the very much lower price mentioned by the honorable member. Since the commencement of the last war, all of the jute that we require has been purchased by the Commonwealth and re-sold to jute users at cost price. During the last twelve years, wheat-growers, flourmillers, potato-growers and other jute users have been able to purchase the jute that they required at a figure very much lower than the current cost of procurement. This year, for the first time, the reverse position applies. Tie present state of affairs is not very satisfactory, but the Government does not consider that it should absorb the difference between the two prices. I have suggested to the Australian Wheat Board that .it would be a good idea to average the price of cornsacks. Prior to the last wheat harvest, the board would not accent th-a’t suggestion, and the -Government did not seek to force it upon the board. T am conferring in ‘Canberra to-day with the Jute Controller to ascertain whether -an appropriate averaging arrangement can be made, so that the price of cornsacks required by flour-millers, superphosphate manufacturers, and other users may be reduced promptly. I hope that it will be possible to make those arrangements. I shall examine the special problem of flour-millers in Western Australia, to which the honorable member for Canning has referred, with a view to ascertaining whether any action can betaken to meet their situation.
– As this Government does not pay age pensions to or on behalf of patients in mental homes in Victoria, and as it does not pay bed allowances similar to those paid in respect of patients in public hospitals, will the Minister for Health recommend the payment of both allowances in respect of the inmates of which the Commonwealth usually pays both allowances if the Victorian Government changes the names of such institutions to benevolent homes?
– The practice which is now being followed was established by the Chifley Government. I shall examine the position with a viewto ascertaining whether anything can be done along the lines suggested by the honorable gentleman.
– Has the Minister for Supply any additional information to give the House about whether the Army is repurchasing military equipment previously sold at disposals stores?
– The honorable member for Batman asked me a similar question last Tuesday, and as it was a matter of some urgency, I had the information obtained as soon as possible. The position is that the Army has not made an-“ repurchases of equipment. The main stocks of surplus clothing and equipment left after the last war were disposed of by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission away back in July, 1949. Since then, relatively small quantities of obsolete and worn-out equipment have been sold, as they have accumulated, mostly by public auction. The honorable member also asked previously whether government agents, during the last few months, had visited disposals sections in shops in the various cities to rebuy equipment. The answer to that question is that no such purchases have been made by the Department of Supply or, so far as I know, by the Service departments. I know, in particular that the Minister for the Army has been most vigilant in ensuring economy by the use of all possible equipment, and he, as the responsible Minister, has not made any repurchases. I think that, on one or two occasions, chin straps or articles of that kind were repurchased a little time ago, but I assure the House that there have been no such purchases as were reported in the press.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs give the House any information about the action, if any, that has been, taken by the Australian Government consequential to the public announcement by the Indonesian Government that it was the intention of Indonesia to join the Colombo plan?
– As soon as the Government of Indonesia indicated its decision to join the Colombo plan formally, I got in touch with the Indonesian Ambassador in Canberra and, through our Embassy in Djakarta, with the Indonesian Government. As the result of those moves, I think that we are well on the way to satisfying some of the requirements of Indonesia in the present financial year. Indonesia, in particular, has undertaken the considerable task of moving substantial elements of population from Java, which, I understand, is overpopulated, to Sumatra. That process is known as trans-migration. It entails the making of roads, the clearing of jungle, and many other operations that necessitate the use of earth-moving and jungle-clearing equipment. We are now endeavouring, to the best of our ability, to provide the equipment desired by the Indonesian Government for this essential task. We have had officers up there discussing the matter with the Indonesian
Government, and, as also with our friends in South and South-East Asia, we are most anxious to try to help them to the limit of our economic ability.
– Can the Minister for Health advise me whether the drug heparin, which is used by injection in the treatment of heart disease, and is, I am advised, the most modern treatment for it now on the market, is included in the free list of life-saving drugs ? Is he aware that doctors are being advised by government departments not to use the drug because it is too expensive? If heparin is on the free list, would such instructions as those to which I have referred come originally from the Department of Health or from the British Medical Association? Can he advise from what source the direction in relation to the use of the drug has come? The Repatriation Department is the particular authority that is issuing the instructions in that regard to doctors in my electorate.
– I am not clear whether the honorable member is referring to a liver extract called Hepasol which is in bottled form, or whether he is referring to it in the form of an injection. The injection form of the extract is a very expensive drug. and is on the free list, but the other form, which is something in the nature of rich plum pudding, is not.
– I direct to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question that concerns the flax factory at Drouin, in Victoria. The maintenance of the road to that factory is rather a heavy burden for the shire concerned. Will the Minister consider making an ex gratia payment to the shire for maintenance of the road, to offset the loss of rates to the shire owing to the fact that Commonwealth property within its boundaries is not subject to rating?
– I shall be glad to investigate the matter and see whether it is possible to do something along the lines that the honorable member has suggested. Alternatively. I shall discuss with the Minister for Shipping and Transport the possibility of making available to the shire some of that portion of the petrol tax that is used for the construction of roads giving access to Commonwealth properties.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that there are more than 100 vacant flats at the Balgownie hostel on the south coast of New South Wales, while hundreds of families are seeking accommodation. If my statement is a fact, will the Minister consider the advisability of removing the vacant flats to other sites, and bringing them up to council regulation standards, and so give people in urgent need of accommodation an opportunity to occupy them.
– I question whether it would be practicable to follow the course suggested by the honorable member. The Balgownie hostel is very satisfactory, and we are constantly organizing accommodation to make the best possible use of it. However, I shall consider the suggestions that the honorable member has made and if I decide that they can be carried out on the lines that he has proposed, I shall certainly examine that prospect very fully.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. As this Government, beginning with petrol, has practically eliminated rationing of goods allegedly in short supply, will the Minister state how long it will be before rationing of tobacco and cigarettes can be discontinued?
– There is no government; rationing of tobacco and cigarettes. There is an arrangement under which the tobacco trade itself, not through any prompting by the Australian Government but as a matter entirely of its own decision, has a system of quotas to the resellers of tobacco. The Government is anxious that full supplies of tobacco should be available, and is encouraging the production of suitable Australian tobacco leaf. It has also been facilitating the import of suitable leaf for manufacture in Australia. Whatever rationing there is among retailers has nothing to do with the Government and has been devised by the trade itself.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether two members of the Australian Egg Board are at present in the United Kingdom to negotiate a price for Australian exported eggs with the Ministry of Food. If so. when does he expect that the price will be announced? Will he bear in mind that poultry-farmers, who may find the price attractive, will have to receive this information in the next few weeks in order to secure deliveries of chickens from the hatcheries in time for the season of most rapid and profitable production?
– I clearly understand the importance of the relationship between the time at which the value of next season’s eggs will be known and the plans for hatching chickens for next season’s pullets.. Negotiations are proceeding at present im London in which one representative of the Australian Egg Board and an official of the board, chosen by the board on my invitation, are participating. This arrangement was made between me and the board before the end of last year. I believe that those gentlemen have been in London since the end of Januaryor thereabouts. If there is anything that I can; do to facilitate finality in the negotiations, I shall do it. Last night I sent a cable that would have some effect on the matter that the honorable member has mentioned.
Reservation of assent notified.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden), agreed to -
That leave be given to biting in a bill for an act toammend the Commonwealth Employers’ Furlough Act 1943-51.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [3.5]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to improve the conditions governing the grant of furlough to Commonwealth employees who are not covered by the Public Service Act. Corresponding benefits, if not already being enjoyed by permanent officers of the Public Service, are provided for in the Public Service Bill now before the House. Under existing conditions, furlough may be granted to an employee after twenty years’ service. Alternatively, paymentin lieu of such furlough may be granted on retirement, or to the dependants of a deceased employee. Where an employee’s service is atleast eight but less than twenty years, extended leave or payment in lieu thereof may be granted upon his retirement at age 60 years or more, on account of ill health or to his dependants in the event of his death. The Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act was last amended in 1951, when provision was made to ensure that, when an employee had completed at least twenty years’ service, he would be granted furlough for each year of service. As a further benefit to employees, it is now proposed by this bill to provide that four and a half months’ furlough may be taken after only fifteen’ years’ service. Furlough will continue to accrue, as at present, at the rate of three- tenths of one month for each completed year of service..
Provision is also made in the bill to protect those employees who, by reason of the necessity to reduce staffs due to diminution of work, are retrenched. Such employees, who have completed at least eight years’ service but are not entitled to furlough, will, under this measure, be eligible for extended leave, notwithstanding that they may not have attained the age of 60 years. The bill also provides for variation of the conditions pertaining to the adjustment of recreation leave following an absence from duty on furlough. The new provision, which is more equitable to employees, is in accord with the conditions applicable to permanent officers of the Public Service. This measure, which is intended to operate from the 1st January, 1953, is a further advance in this Government’s plan to improve the conditions of employment of Commonwealth employees and, as such, I commend it to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leavebe given to bring in a bill for anact to amend the Public Service Act 1922-51.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [3.7]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to make two changes in the provisions of the Public Service Act relating to furlough, or pay in lieu of furlough, to officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. At present, an officer first becomes eligible for. the grant of furlough after twenty years’ continuous service. The tendency in certain State public services and instrumentalities has been to reduce the initial qualifying period. The bill provides for the reduction of the qualifying period from twenty to fifteen years without change in the rate of accrual. In future, an officer of the Public Service, after fifteen years’ continuous service, will be eligible for the grant of four and a half months’ furlough on full pay. Additional furlough will accrue for each subsequent year’s service up to a maximum of twelve months’ furlough. An officer who retires or is being retired from the service after at least fifteen years’ service may be granted in lieu of furlough an amount equivalent to his salary for the period of furlough for which he would otherwise have been eligible.
Another amendment provides for the grant of pro rata pay in lieu of furlough after eight years’ service to an officer who is retrenched from the service because there is no position available for him, in the same way as the act now provides for an officer retired for invalidity or on reaching the prescribed retiring age. It is unusual for any permanent officer to be retired as redundant, but the provision is inserted to cover such a contingency if it should arise. The effect of the amendment is that, in all cases in which an officer is. compulsorily retired from the Service through no fault of his own, he will be eligible for furlough, or pay in lieu of furlough, according to the length of bis service.
At present, officers of the Parliament, including officers of the Parliamentary Library, who are required to work on a public holiday, may not receive any extra payment for that duty. The National Library is now open on most public holidays and the members of its staff, whose conditions of service are otherwise identical with those of officers of other departments of the Public Service, should not receive differential treatment in the rate of payment for work on those days.
Other amendments in the bill are of a. machinery nature. Certain weaknesses in the section which relates to recreation leave are to be corrected, without any alteration either in the duration of leave or in the conditions under which leave may be granted. Consequent upon the amendment of the Public Service Arbitration Act in 1952 to permit reference and appeals, in certain circumstances, from the Public Service Arbitrator to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, an amendment of the Public Service Act is necessary to authorize the grant of leave to attend any proceeding under the Public Service Arbitrator. Provision is also made for the grant of leave without pay to officers who serve with Commonwealth Hostels Limited on the same basis as applies to officers employed by Commonwealth instrumentalities to which the Officers Rights Declaration Act does not apply. An amendment of the section which provides for appeals by certain temporary employees against dismissal will enable the Public Service Board to appoint an alternative representative to the appeal board constituted to hear such an appeal, where the elected representative is unavailable or it is undesirable that he should act. I commend the bill to the House. .
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to atomic energy.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– -by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to bring together in one piece of legislation all matters associated with the provision of atomic energy. The Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Acts of 1946 and 1952 will be repealed but will be reenacted with a few additional provisions. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission is to be established with all necessary powers and functions; and, because of the highly secret nature of some of the commission’s activities, special provisions have also been included in the bill which relate to security. The bill is made necessary by the important discoveries of uranium-bearing ores, especially in the Northern Territory, and by the Government’s determination that those deposits shall be vigorously and promptly exploited for the defence of Australia and its allies, and also ultimately for industrial and other purposes. The bill represents something of a milestone in Australia’s progress in the field of uranium and atomic research and development, as it marks the stage to which we have come since 1946, and from which we must now go forward to great developments in the future.
The original Australian Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act, which was passed in August, 1946, was inspired to some degree by the establishment of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and the simultaneous presentation of atomic energy control legislation to the parliaments of Great Britain and the United States of America and other countries. The passage of that somewhat tentative legislation actually preceded the discovery of uranium in Australia, except perhaps in South Australia, but it appears to have been thought desirable that Australia should enact legislation similar to that coming into operation in the other countries I have mentioned. From then onwards very little happened in the Commonwealth sphere until September, 1949, when Mr. White, a private prospector, discovered uranium-bearing ores at Rum Jungle, in the Northern Territory. Mr. White made his discovery as a result of pamphlets published by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, which was then under the Department of Supply and Development. The bureau promptly sent its geologists to the area, and prospecting and mining operations were commenced early in 1950, at the end of the wet season. Five additional prospects were discovered, but results were very discouraging and difficult to interpret geologically. Several bores that were sunk near Mr. White’s discovery turned out to be negative or disappointing. These discouragements continued throughout 1950-51; but the bureau went on with its work and extended its tunnels. In December, 1951, its persistence was rewarded with the discovery at a new intersection of what appeared to be large ore bodies of high grade. Further exploration work was then pressed forward in the belief that if substantial deposits of this high grade ore were proved, Australian uranium resources would make an important contribution to world defence and its own economy. Subsequent work has now established that we have substantial deposits, and later prospects indicate that there are likely to be other deposits of similar grade.
Previously, in September, 1951, after consultation with the Australian Government, Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, had gone overseas in connexion with South Australian uranium deposits. While he was abroad it was arranged, with the assistance of the Commonwealth, that three representatives of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, led by Mr. Jesse Johnson, director of the Raw Materials Division of the commission, should visit Australia to examine, not only the South Australian deposits, but also those in the Commonwealth’s own territories. They arrived in March, 1952. They spent a good deal of their time in close consultation with Commonwealth Ministers and officials; they visited Rum Jungle and examined our grade3 of ore, especially the newly discovered grades; and they made themselves very familiar with our conditions and our prospects for the future. Acting on behalf of the Combined Development Agency, a body which consists of the representatives of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, Mr. Johnson negotiated an agreement between the Australian Government, the Government of South Australia and the agency for the development of Radium Hill in South Australia for the treatment and sale of uranium products. Commonwealth Ministers and their officers played a prominent part in the bringing of this agreement to finality. Indeed, I think it fair to say that the agreement could not have been completed but for the assistance of the Australian Government.
At the same time, an agreement was entered into between the Australian Government and the agency for the sale of certain tonnages of ore extracted from Rum Jungle during development work there, to be shipped to the United States of America and treated for the purpose of gathering chemical and other scientific knowledge about the best methods of ultimate treatment in Australia. “We also worked out the principles of a long-term agreement for the sale of uranium from Rum Jungle to the agency and for financial and technical assistance. The details of this agreement took some time to complete, but it was signed by the Australian Ambassador to the United States of America in Washington some time ago. It is in all respects an agreement that is most satisfactory to Australia, in regard to price, conservation of reserves of ore and other matters. In the meantime, the Government had decided that the Rum Jungle area should be developed as quickly as possible, and that the best way to do so was to engage the services of an experienced and reputable Australian mining company. To this end an agreement was negotiated and has been signed between the Government and Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited for the rapid development of Rum Jungle on behalf of the Commonwealth by Territory Enterprises Limited, which is a subsidiary of Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited. The company went into formal occupation of Rum Jungle on the 1st January, 1953.
As an indication of the vigour with which this venture has, at the request of the Commonwealth, been pushed forward since then, I mention that on the construction and engineering side, temporary camps at Rum Jungle have been cleaned up, improved and extended ; a layout for the town site near the mine has been prepared and approved by the administration; road works are in progress and equipment has been hired; the first six houses have been completed and occupied and more are under construction; further contracts for the construction of accommodation for single men have been negotiated; a powerful temporary generating set has been installed pending the construction of a 7,000-watt transmission line to the mine ; liquid fuel storage and handling facilities are being installed ; security fences are being erected ; the necessary transport fleet is being organized ; temporary general and technical offices have been established at Rum Jungle; accounting procedures have been instituted; and, in addition, many other steps have been taken. On the mining side a new main shaft is being sunk and old development shafts are being expanded. Driving and crosscutting have been greatly advanced. The company has just successfully negotiated a three-years’ industrial agreement with the North Australia Workers Union in respect of workers in the area. This scale of progress at Rum Jungle which is remarkable considering the short period in which the company has been in occupation of the site will be rapidly accelerated as time goes by. Ore will be produced this year and the treatment plant will be erected and the project will be in full production of U.308 next year.
In atomic research and development the Government has also been active. Upon the recommendation of an able committee of scientific men called the Atomic Energy Advisory Committee, we took decisions to embark upon a research and development programme leading to the industrial use of atomic energy. In pursuance of this, some scientists will shortly be on their way to Harwell to join other Australian nuclear physicists already there to participate in research in
England, and will return later to Australia to pursue our development programme on the spot. All this will be done in consultation with the Governments of Great Britain and the .United States .of America.
Prospecting and surveying for uranium in the Northern Territory have also been proceeded with as quickly as possible. The Bureau of Mineral Resources has sent officers overseas, particularly to the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States of America, to keep ahead of technical developments in the search for uranium deposits. It has continued its ground prospecting, and has also developed a new air-borne survey technique with great success. The first airborne scintillometer ever exported from Canada is in use by the bureau. Recently, remarkable results were obtained from an air survey of 1,200 square miles in the Rum Jungle area, and still more extensive surveys are taking place. The question of private prospecting and wining in Commonwealth territories has been under .close examination by the Government for some time. At the request of the Government, the Atomic Energy Commission has now formulated proposals, embodying a policy for surveying and prospecting, designed to stimulate private prospecting and the opening up of fresh uranium fields by private enterprise. These proposals will be considered by the Government in the near future, and announcements will be made.
I have given a very brief outline of only some of the things which the Government has done in this matter since it came into office. I believe that it has noted with imagination and vigour and lias soundly and wisely laid the foundations for great; ‘developments in the field «f uranium and atomic energy. The future will depend largely upon the commission, backed as it will be by the resources of the Government. It is a body of first-rate men, clothed with adequate powers and .able -to call not .only upon the f acilities of other ‘Government instrumentalities, such .as the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but also upon the knowledge and experience of experts at home and .abroad, and upon the resources of private industry in Australia. It will not be the fault of the Government if Australia is not producing large quantities of uranium in a comparatively short time, and also producing atomic power for industrial .purposes within a reasonable number of years. As already announced, the commission will consist of M. J. E. S. Stevens, formerly Secretary of the Department of Supply, who will be a full-time chairman, devoting the whole of his very great abilities to this task; and Professor Baxter and Mr. H. M. Murray, who will be part-time members. The contribution of the two last-mentioned gentlemen since the constitution of the commission was announced last November has already proved that Australia is fortunate indeed in having been able to obtain their distinguished services in this great national work.
Turning now to the bill, honorable members will observe that it is divided into five parts, the important ones being Parts II., III. and IV., which I shall deal with in some detail. Part I. deals with matters such as interpretation and the application of the act to the Crown and to the territories of the Commonwealth. Part V,. contains certain miscellaneous clauses relating to delegation of authority, application of the Approved Defence Projects Protection A.ct, jurisdiction of the courts, right to hear certain offences in .camera, institution -of prosecution for offences, the right to prosecute either summarily <or upon indictment, .and the power to make regulations.
Part II. is new .and important. It will set up the Atomic Energy Commission and it includes many provisions that, are usually embodied in statutes incorporating bodies of this .sort. The powers and functions of the commission set out in Division 2 of Part II. are wide and are intended to clothe the commission with adequate authority to deal with matters relating to exploration, mining, treatment of uranium and associated minerals, the disposal of the products, and research and development in connexion with uranium and atomic energy for industrial as well as defence purposes.
I draw attention to sub-clause (4.) of clause 17, which is intended to ensure that the functions and powers of the commission shall he performed within the strict limits of the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers, leaving the States free to develop their own uranium resources, as the Government earnestly hopes they will do in the same way as the Government of South Australia is doing. The remaining clauses of Division 2 deal with the service of the commission and with financial provisions which I need not comment upon now, but which can, if necessary, be explained in detail at the committee stage.
Part ITI., which deals with the control of materials, is, for the most part, a re-enactment of the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Acts of 1946 and 1952. Sections 12 and 13 of the 1946 act have been omitted, as their subject matter is considered to be adequately covered by other sections, in particular, section 13a, of the 1.952 act. Clause 41 will re-enact section 13a, except that its terms are not limited to the territories of Australia as was section 13a. Subclause (3.) adds a new provision consequential upon the application of the new clauses to the whole of Australia.
Two other changes have been made. Clause 34 makes it clear that the powers conferred by Part III. are to be exercised only for the purposes of the defence of the Commonwealth or in relation to things done, or proposed to be done, in a. territory of the Commonwealth. This limitation is inserted so as to make it clear in the interests of a. State that things done under Part III. within a State can only be done for defence purposes. Another limitation is included in sub-clause (3.) of clause 38, which provides, in respect of the granting or refusal of licences, that the Minister must grant a licence in respect of anything proposed to be done in a State unless he considers it necessary or desirable for the purposes of the defence of the Commonwealth to refuse to grant such a licence.
Part IV. deals with security and is new, although many of its provisions are copied or adapted from existing legislation. Clauses 44, 45 and 46 prohibit the communication, acquisition, or removal of what is called “ restricted information “ with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth. “ Restricted in formation “ is defined very fully in clause- 5, the terms of which have been drawn up after careful thought and the advice of technical experts, including nuclearphysicists, metallurgists and others. Honorable members will readily recognizethe need for safeguarding rigorously the type of information so defined. A necessary ingredient of the offences under each of the clauses I have just mentioned isthat the offence should be committed “ with intent to prejudice defence “. Proof of such intent may often be difficult, and clause 47 deals with this. The clause is taken from section 78 of the Crimes Act, which has been a well-known feature of Commonwealth legislation for many years.
Clause 4S deals with the unlawful communication of restricted information by certain persons, including those, to whom it has been entrusted by Commonwealth officers and those who may have acquired it by reason of their special position. Clause 49 deals with sabotage of property. Clause 50 deals with the right of arrest and search of persons suspected of having committed offence; . under Part IV., but these powers may be exercised only by a constable or a peace officer appointed under the Peace Officers’ Act. This provision is similar to that contained in the recently enacted Defence (Special Undertakings) Act, except that, its terms are more restricted than those in that act.
The remaining clauses ‘of Part IV. deal with the obligation of persons seeking employment to furnish information, the oath or affirmation of secrecy, and the necessity for the observance of secrecy by members or employees of the commission. Other clauses deal with the limitation of right of action against the Commonwealth in respect of acts committed under clause 50. the right to declare restricted areas and to forbid entry thereon, and the prohibition of access to restricted information in the possession of contractors.
In drawing up this bill, the Government has sought to bring together under one authority - the Atomic Energy Commission - functions and powers that were formerly scattered amongst several departments or were not possessed by -any of them. As regards security, the Government has formulated provisions sufficient in its view to prevent information reaching the enemies of this country whilst, at the same time, preserving as far as possible the traditional rights of our citizens.
Experience may show that amendments are necessary, but we believe we have produced a fair and powerful piece of legislative machinery to shape the future of Australia in the important field of uranium and atomic energy. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 18th March (vide page 1254), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is different from other Supply bills. It is not an ordinary Supply bill introduced in normal circumstances by a legitimate government. As Shakespeare said, “ The times are out of joint “. This is a Supply bill that the Government has no moral right to introduce. It is presented in peculiar circumstances by a government that has long since forfeited the confidence of the people. It is a Supply bill introduced on the eve of a Senate election which will not be held simultaneously with an election for the House of Representatives. That has never happened before in the history of the Commonwealth. It is happening now only because the Menzies Government has not the courage to face the people. This Government will expend £300,000 on a Senate election this year, and, either towards the end of this year or some time early in the next year, it willhave to expend another £300,000 on an election for the House of Representatives. It is deliberately throwing away £300,000 in order that it may remain a little longer in office.
All the self-assurance and sublime confidence in years of uninterrupted antiLabour rule that was so evident on the faces of Government members three years ago has vanished completely. When we of the Labour party, who are the democrats of this Parliament, look across the chamber now we see a different picture. We see row after row of corrugated brows full of fear and apprehension of the future. This Government is mortally ill. It is suffering from the fatal political disease known as pernicious inertia. You,’ Mr. Speaker, have read a bit of history. I have heard you misquote some of it.
– Order !
– There is a story about a Russian czar who was returning from a hunting expedition. Wolves were closing in on his sleigh, so he threw his sons to the wolves, one after the other, in order that he might survive. The Prime Minister of Australia is destroying his senators. He is sending them out to be sacrificed so that he can retain the Prime Ministership of this country for a few more months. He wants to remain in office at least long enough to enable him to go to the Coronation as Prime Minister.
– Tell us the story of the three bears.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) considers himself to be a wit. At least he is half right. I do not believe that the Prime Minister will remain Prime Minister of this country for very long after he has returned from the Coronation. I think his own party will destroy him again, as it destroyed him in 1941 after he had returned from a visit to England. Then the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) became Prime Minister for six weeks.
– Some people have not been Prime Minister for six minutes.
– The right honorable gentleman will never again be Prime Minister even for one minute. I believe that public opinion will force the Prime Minister to resign his position immediately he returns from the Coronaton. Why has this helpless, hopeless Government lost State election after State election? It lost the general election in
South Australia, even though the Premier of that State retained his office, because, under a system of gerrymandered electorates, his Government was returned on only 35 per cent, of the votes cast at that election.
– I did not know that we were involved in State elections.
– This Government has lost federal by-election after federal by-election, and State by-election after State by-election with few exceptions. All those elections were fought on federal issues. The test was the popularity or unpopularity of the Menzies Government. On some occasions, we hear this Government referred to as the Menzies Government, and on other occasions, as the Menzies-Fadden Government. If anything good happens, it is the Menzies Government that is responsible, but if anything wrong occurs it is the MenziesFadden Government that must take the blame. Everybody knows that the Government tries to load all responsibility for its failures upon the hapless Treasurer. The right honorable gentleman himself is partly responsible for that, because when he brought down his 1951-52 budget, which was described as a horror budget - we got that phrase from the Prime Minister, who said that he contemplated the budget with horror - he decided that, because of that budget, he was the most unpopular man in Australia. He still is.
Why has this Government lost so much favour in the short space of two years? It has failed because it has refused to carry out its election promises. In a democracy, a government has no more important duty than to carry out its promises. This Government made a whole list, a plethora, of promises. Three of the promises were much more important than the others. It promised to put value back into the £1, but it did not do so. It promised to reduce taxation, but it did not do so. It promised to maintain full employment, but it did not do so. In a democratic country, a government that will not carry out it? promises is a menace to democracy, and ought to be destroyed. The promises that were made by the Government parties in 1949 were repeated in 1951.
As long as this Government remains in office, with that long list of broken promises - and it cannot redeem its position before the next Senate election - it will remain as unpopular as it is now. So far as gallup poll figures and State elections indicate, there never has been a government of this country as unpopular as this Government is. Sixty per cent, of the people are waiting for an opportunity to destroy honorable members opposite politically. -If we obtain 60 per cent, of the votes cast at the next general election, we shall have 95 seats in the House of Representatives. That is the mathematical proposition if the polls are correct.
The real reason why the Government has lost the confidence of the people is that it has failed to maintain full employment. It promised to maintain full employment. There never was full employment in this country until the Curtin Government established it during the early period of the war. This country has never known full employment except under the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government. There is a considerable amount of unemployment in the country now. The Treasurer, in the course of a speech that he made recently, talked about a high level of employment. Honorable members opposite have abandoned the principle of full employment. They do not mind some unemployment. They consider that a’ pool of unemployment is very helpful, and that people who have jobs will be more careful in their work, and will stick to their machines longer, and work harder, if unemployed persons outside the gate are ready to take their places. It is futile’ for honorable members opposite to deny that the policy of the Liberal party is no longer full of the Liberal party is no longer full employment. They now advocate a high level of employment. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, in the course of his election campaign recently, published a message to the people of that State in the Adelaide Mail, on the 28th February last. He gave a five-point programme, and one of those points was -
The maintenance of a high level of employment and production.
It is sinister, and significant, that this Government wants only a high level of employment. It cannot be denied, of course, that there is a lot of unemployment in Australia. The Prime Minister himself has been forced to refer to that position from time to time. He discussed it last night in one of his mall-to-mar talks, which are a regular weekly feature, 1 understand’, over certain commercial broadcasting stations. The Prime Minister talks man-to-man because he is afraid to talk to the women. He knows perfectly well that it is the women who manage the affairs of the nation. If I may be permitted to adapt an old saying to the present circumstances, the hand that rocks the cradle also plans the family budget. The women of Australia have to balance their domestic budgets, and they find that the task is becoming increasingly difficult. Consequently, the Prime Minister was bound to make reference to this matter in his broadcast speech last night. Through the courtesy of somebody, I have a copy of his remarks. He said, among other things -
While all unemployment is unhappy, and I have the deepest sympathy for any willing worker who finds himself temporarily unable to get a job, recent real unemployment in Australia has been quite small and is now being rapidly reduced. Barring a nation-wide drought or other unforseen disaster it can, J think, be taken as certain that such unemployment as we have hud will continue to diminish and that with the growing solidity of the Australian economy, production and business should become increasingly active in the months ahead.
The Prime Minister was indulging in wishful thinking. Any diminution there may be at the present time in the numbers of unemployed is due entirely to seasonal conditions. When the seasonal conditions that have promoted a certain amount of employment end, people will again be on the unemployment market.
– Does the honorable member want more unemployment ?
– No. _ The Chifley Labour Government maintained full employment. We do not want unemployment. Our object is to get rid of the present Government, which causes unemployment. That is a very noble aspiration. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have been at their wits’ end in recent months to try to prove that the unemployment problem is not serious. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) went on record as saying that the volume of unemployment in Australia was just so much chicken feed. I cannot understand the working of the right honorable gentleman’s mind on some occasions, but I know that a remark of that sort is not appreciated by persons who are out of work. It is estimated that 79,000 persons are registered for employment with the Department of Labour mid’ National Service. According to figures presented by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) approximately 36,000 persons are in receipt of the unemployment benefit. But a, recent trade union survey revealed that 4 per cent, of their members were unemployed. Some persons are partially employed and, therefore, are not eligible for the unemployment benefit. Some partially employed are hoping to obtain permanent employment, and so have not registered for employment. However, there is more unemployment than official figures reveal. Those persons who used to sneer about over-full employment in the days of the Chifley Government, when there were move jobs than workers to fill them, are now saying in effect, “ Oh, well, it is a better position than obtained when there were too many jobs, and too few workers”. I prefer a position in which there are too many jobs and too few workers to a position in which there are too many workers and too few jobs.
Mr. Bland interjecting,
– Did the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) say that I was talking rubbish?
– Of course the honorable gentleman is talking rubbish.
– I shall allow that comment to pass, because I have stated a fact. Some people used to sneer at the Chifley golden age. The people of Australia wish that they had the golden age back again, because the position was better then than the society in which we are living now.
– Especially for the housewives.
– Exactly. When the Chifley Government left office, the basin wage was £6 12s. a week. The basic wage in Sydney to-day is £11 18s. a week. Inflation lias proceeded to the extent tha!; those figures’ indicate. The worker receives a basic wage increase three months after a rise in the cost of living.
– Adjustments are made to marginal rates.
– All margins have not been increased a:s they should have been.
-. - Special margins have been increased, too.
– The present system under which the basic wage is increased, without reference to margins-, depreciates the work of the skilled nian. If this position continues much longer, it will not be worth anybody’s while to become skilled-. The marginal rates should rise too.
The Prime Minister, in another mantoman talk recently, dealt with the subject of taxation relief.. I mention the matter here to show how honorable members opposite have continually tried to misrepresent the position. The honorable member for Warringah, who had an unsullied reputation as a university professor before he became a Liberal party politician, will realize how the Prime Minister distorted the whole story of taxation in his broadcast. He said’, in part -
In the 1949 election, contrary to what you are now told, we did not promise any specific tax reduction.
What wc did say was- *’ We believe that rates of. taxation must Iks steadily reduced asnational production and income rise, and as economies are effected in administration. I standi by those words, as will appear later in this broadcast.
Suppose we accept the statement of the Prime Minister as a fact. Why has not. the Government reduced taxation? Has not national production risen? Do nol Government supporters claim that production has risen continuously? Has nor, the national income risen- ? Is it not now at an astronomical figure? Has not the Government effected economies in administration? Did it not sack. 10,000 postal workers- and thousand’s of other persons? In view of all those- circumstances, the Government should have reduced taxation. It has- mot done. so,, as
I shall show later. Unemployment is a spectre in this land. It is to be observed everywhere in Australia; though its severity is greater in some places than in other places. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) honoured me with an interjection a few moments ago. I should like to inform him that even in .South Australia reference was made a few days ago to the granting of a contract for £140,000 to enable eighteen clothing firms in that State to keep their staffs employed. The Adelaide Advertiser published the following comment on the position -
This work is expected to relieve the slump in the trade in this State.
What is happening in South Australia is happening in other places in the Commonwealth.
– Very few persons ar? unemployed in South Australia.
– The standard of the workers in that State is being adversely affected also by the policy of this Government. I read in a newspaper a few days ago that 125 persons had applied for three vacancies in Melbourne. The advertisement invited applications from young men- of good education. The manager of one big institution, the Berger group of companies, said -
If the number of applications was a true indication of to-day’s labour market for welleducated, young men it was most disturbing and could be serious for boys leaving school.
Unemployment is so serious in Victoria that parents are sending their children back to school for another year because they cannot find work for them this year. They hope that if their children have a. better education they may be able to obtain profitable employment.
– Picking grapes.
– Which is- only seasonal employment. Honorable members opposite can try to laugh this matter off, and try to explain it away as much, as they like, but there is serious unemployment in Australia.
– Has the honorable member seen the latest figures that show the fall in the number of recipients of unemployment benefit ?
– It is the job of the Government to see that full employment is maintained. If the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) had been here earlier he would have heard my reference to the fact that whatever diminution may have occurred in the number of unemployed persons is entirely due to seasonal conditions. It will not be long before conditions are even worse than they were last winter, and they will continue to grow still worse. The Government’^ failure to maintain full employment is the real issue in the coming Senate elections, and is the reason that the Government will lose that election. It is also the reason that Ministers and their frustrated panic-stricken back-benchers are trying to convince themselves and everybody else that the unemployment problem is being solved. It is not being solved, and the people know it. There always will be unemployment in a country the government of which deliberately sets out to make money dear. When the government increases the interest rate on money there must be unemployment. It is axiomatic that full employment cannot be maintained without cheap m’oney.
Mr. McMahon interjecting,
– That is what Keynes said. The Minister for the Navy may try to improve on Keynes later if he dares. It has been found in the United States of America, Australia and in Great Britain, which had a Labour government, that in order to keep the people at work it is necessary to provide cheap money. If a government deliberately increases the price of money people have to pay for it in reduced standards of living and in unemployment. The failures of war service land settlement and the war service homes scheme after World War I. were entirely due to the high interest rate that was being exacted by usurious lenders, including banks and others. This country reached n deplorable position at the end of World War I. when the Hughes Administration floated a loan at 6 per cent, for a long period of years. That loan was free of both Federal and State income tax. It was one of the reasons for the subsequent depression and the misery it caused. Every time a government increases the interest rate by 1 per cent, it adds lis. 6d. a week in interest alone to the burden of the man who is paying off an ordinary home worth about £3,000, because he is saddled with an extra £35Q as a result of the increased interest.
– The honorable member knows- that the Australian Loan Council and not this Government increased the interest rate.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) wakes up and says it was the Australian Loan Council that raised the interest rate. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) tried to put that bluff over yesterday. The Premiers who attend meetings of the Australian Loan Council simply have to accept the decision of the Treasurer and the Prime Minister or they would have to go without the money they require. In the course of time, rising interest rates will cause more and more unemployment and that, apparently, is what the Government desires. Mr. Chifley had no difficulty in filling, at an interest rate of no more than 3$ per cent., every loan he floated. He filled his short-term loans which he floated at an interest rate of only 2 per cent. An honorable member opposite has interjected to the effect that those loans were floated in war-time. I am referring to the whole of Mr. Chifley’s eight years as Treasurer, during which time he floated liberty loans, victory loans and security loans, and filled every one of them without paying interest of more than 3$ per cent, on long-term loans and 2 per cent, on short-term loans. Now we have in office a government that is floating a loan for a term of 2 J years, I think at 3 per cent, for short-term investments, at £99 10s., thus giving an effective rate of £3 4s. per cent., which is 60 per cent, higher than any rate at which the Chifley Government ever floated a short term loan. That cannot go on. We have to get back to cheap money or this country will be ruined.
Who are the people who benefit as a result of increased interest rates? They are not people who perform any useful service to society. They are people who grow richer and richer on the sacrifices that others have to make in order to obtain financial accommodation. We object to that, and we have always objected to it. We showed that it was possible to have cheap money and full employment as well. This Government, which thinks it is popular with the people. heard from Mr. Playford, the sole antiLabour Premier left in Australia, during the course of the recent general election in South Australia, a statement that taxes are too high in this country. Everybody is saying that. We have never believed that taxes should be as high as they are. We expected the Government to reduce taxes long before now. It has not reduced them. It is taking much more out of the national income than has ever before been taken in our history. Even at the height of the war the Curtin Government took no more than 26.4 .per cent., of the national income in taxes. The Chifley Government took no more than 27.4 per cent, at a time when we had 650,000 young men of the three services to be demobilized and absorbed into civil life. But this Government, which promised to reduce taxes, has increased them by at least £300,000,000 a year more than they were when the Chifley Government went out of office. Last year it took 28.4 per cent, of the national income in taxes. Its own economists, including Mr. Colin Clark, have said that a Treasurer cannot take more than 25 per cent, of the national income in taxes, without going beyond the danger line. During the recent presidential campaign in America Mr. Eisenhower campaigned on a policy that the maximum percentage that should be taken out of the national income in taxes was 25 ner cent. This Government is at least 3 ner cent, beyond the danger line. No wonder it cannot fill its loans ! No wonder confidence has oozed out of the community ! No wonder people with record savings banks deposits refuse to nut their money into government bonds ! There is another reason for the last fact, which is the deliberate devaluation of earlier loans which has resulted from the Government continually increasing the interest rate. In the course of a recent speech, the Treasurer talked about the prospects of tax relief in the near future not being bright. He dealt with the raising of loan moneys and said that in normal conditions the Commonwealth could raise probably £200,000,000 or more a year from public loans. But total raisings in the last financial year amounted to only £64,000,000. Let the Treasurer examine the record of the Chifley Government to see how much money it raised each year without any one loan failing. The most that this Government has been able to raise this year has been £20,000,000, a mere bagatelle. It had to leave that loan open for nearly three weeks. Now it is going to raise another loan for something over £70,000,000 at an increased interest rate. That means that this year the Government will raise in loans only half the amount the Treasurer himself said ought to be available in a normal year. If the previous Labour Government could fill its loans, I have not the slightest doubt that when a Labour government succeeds this Government - and I hope that it will not be very long before that happens - it will also be able to fill its loans.
Taxation has reached extraordinary heights in this country, and many people consider that they are being heavily penalized. I shall now refer to a letter tha t T have received from a. gentleman in New South Wales who gave me authority to use his name if necessary, but I do not intend to do that. He informed me that he had been working a 2,050-acre property with his son, who was to get a one-third share of the profits. This man got his taxation assessment about September last for the year during which wool was sold at a very high price. The assessment was for £8,500. That was more than £1 for each £1 of his year’s income. The Commissioner of Taxation stated that he would give him time to pay that tax, but then charged him 6 per cent, interest on the deferred payment. The man said -
I am now being penalized for not being able to pay about 21s. in the fi income tax.
– That provision does not apply now.
– I produced a taxation assessment in this House when I was challenged to do so. What I have said is perfectly correct. The honorable members on the Government side have tried to argue about provisional tax and everything else, but the fact remains that in one year a man hadbeen informed by the Taxation Branch that he would be requiredto pay 21s. out of every £1 of the income that he earned in that year. That happened under an AustralianCountry party Treasurer - a man who once claimed that he knew a great deal about finance and would reduce taxation if he became Treasurer of this country.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Honorable members of the Australian Country party are interjecting, but everybody knows that the Australian Country party is merely a collection of political hitchhikers. They have been thumbing a ride from the Liberal party for years, and I have a shrewd suspicion that the Liberal party is sorry that it ever gave them a lift. No doubt the Liberal party would like to drop the Australian Country party, but it cannot disentangle itself at the moment. I shall make some representations to the Taxation Branch about the letter that I have mentioned to honorable members, but I am sure that nothing much can be done about it, because on the 26th February the Treasurer went on record as saying -
The Federal Government’s taxation policy will stand the test of time.I make no apology for what we have done because it wasright, and every day proves that we were right.
I do not consider that the right honorable gentleman believes that statement but nevertheless he made it. He also said, “ If I had my time over again, I would do the same thing again “. The people are fully aware that this Government is not a tax-reducing government. It is a government determined to maintain the burden on the people as long as it can. The Government has told us that the inflation which is raging in Australia is clue to the Korean campaign. Australia has certainly been involved in Korea to the number of about 5,000 men, but Korea has not cost us £200,000,000 out of our defence vote. Yesterday, I endeavoured to obtain the figures from the Treasurer about this matter, but he said that it would be difficult to ascertain how much had been expended on the Korean campaign to date. The Treasury informed me that the total sum ex pended by Australia on the Korean incident to date has been£18,000,000. I suggest that the expenditure of £18,000,000 in two years has not caused our present condition of vast inflation. If honorable members on the Government side claim some credit for their defence policy, they should remember that it is merely an extension of the Chifley Government’s policy initiated in 1947. They peddle the story that when they assumed office they found this country defenceless, and were the only people who tried to put its defences in order. The Government has said that it is building up a big undertaking at Woomera, and is constructing defence works in other parts of Australia. The Chifley Government commenced the Woomera project, the Snowy Mountains project and the uranium project. The Chifley Government paid the first awards to those who discovered uranium. If Labour had not commenced all those projects before this Government came to office, they would never have been started at all.
When honorable members of the Opposition wish to discuss important matters in this Parliament the Government applies the gag. In this Twentieth Parliament of the Commonwealth the gag has been applied on no less than 150 occasions in order to stifle discussion by honorable members of the Opposition.
– Not enough !
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) says, “Not enough ! “ Perhaps he would like to gag me now, while I am exposing the failure of this Government before the bar of public opinion and the hundreds of thousands of Australians who are listening to me at this moment. The Government cannot deny that it promised ‘to maintain full employment, reduce taxes, stop inflation and put value back into the £1. Indeed, on the 11th November last, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) said, “ Inflation ‘has been arrested “. He did not believe that, and nobody else believes it.
This Government says that its policy has succeeded, ‘but I say that it has two policies.In 1950-51, it taxed Australians to theamount of £116,000,000 because, it said, “ We must skim off; the surplus spending power of the community in. order to finance the works programmes of the States out of revenue “. The next year it reversed the procedure and said, “We will not tax the people any more to keep State loan programmes going. Our first plan was deflationary. We are now going to use £125,000,000 worth of treasury-bills to keep the State works programmes going.” That is certainly inflationary. The Government cannot be right about both those deflation and inflation policies, and when it tells the people that its policy has succeeded, it should be honest enough to say which policy it believes has succeeded. The Government’s position was admirably dealt with in an article which appeared in a Melbourne newspaper - on the last day of last year. That article read - lt waa a dull year in federal politics. The “ they “ who’d been elected to put value back into the £1 seem to have almost succeeded in preventing any more value dropping out of it. Melbourne shoppers spent a record amount of money in 1!)52, but they didn’t get a record amount of goods in return. There was no major positive legislation at Caberra except a health scheme which nobody quite understands. The Menzies Government continued to lose ground at by-elections and in- gallup polls. In Victoria, democracy had a great victory in the battle for electoral reform.
– That was the Sun News-Pictorial.
– That was the Melbourne Sim News-Pictorial one of the Murdoch group, and I thank the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) for informing me of that fact. The royal commission on television consists of six members. One is Professor Paton, who is the chairman. He said that this body is not a royal commission, but the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) said that it is. The commission has not been set up to determine the real merits of television. It has been appointed only to advise about certain matters- It is supposed to be an authority that will be free of vested interests, yet one of the members appointed to the commission is Mr. C. B. Bednall. The managing editor of the Brisbane CourierMail, who has- written articles strongly in favour, of one authority for television control , down through the years has written more vitriolic and vicious articles against the Labour party than have been published in any other newspaper in Australia. Moreover, he is connected with the radio set-up, although the Prime Minister said that he is independent. The Prime Minister who made that appointment refused to appoint representatives of the churches to the royal commission. When he was asked about the matter he said, “ Which church ? “ The previous Labour Government had no difficulty in getting the assistance of two groups of the churches on two occasions to go to the United Nations in association with the Minister for External Affairs. On one occasion Bishop Burgmann and Bishop O’Brien went. On another occasion Archbishop Simonds of Melbourne and the Reverend Alan Walker, of Sydney, went. This Government could, if it would pay some regard to the rights of the churches- who desire to protect the morals of the people in the matter of television. However, the Prime Minister is not concerned with the churches. He i3 only interested in supporting big interests. Mr. R. C. Wilson, M.L.C., who is a member of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, has been appointed to represent large pastoral interests. No doubt when he first heard the word “ television “, he thought it was a new kind of sheep dip. Mr. N. S. Young, a public accountant of Adelaide, has also been appointed. All these public accountants seem to gravitate to the tories because apparently they would not get any work if they did not do so. Honorable members will now see that the royal commission on television is a mere farce. The Labour party believes that the commission should be reconstituted of people who truly represent public interests, and that its terms of reference should be extended so that it can do an efficient job and determine whether there should be a government monopoly or a government authority in association with commercial interests, or any other kind of control. This Government has been weighed and found wanting, and like a famous biblical character, its fate is- certain. It will be destroyed - and the sooner the better. The only reason that we cannot destroy it on the 9th May is, to use the language of the Prime Minister-
– I rise to order. I ask that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) turn around. We do not want to see his face, but we want to hear what he is saying.
– The only reason we cannot destroy the Government on the 9th May is. to use the classic language that the Prime Minister used on one occasion in this House - not because I would ordinarily use the language, but because the Prime Minister was allowed to use it - because the Government has not the common guts to fight.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has followed his usual practice of making a series of misstatements, and then without proving them has endeavoured to build up a case upon them. As usual he has coined several very attractive phrases. For example, he spoke about the Chifley golden age. Of course he will go on talking about it until eventually, he hopes, the people will believe that the Chifley age was a truly golden age. Whatever the people thought of the Chifley golden age was clearly shown at the general election of 1949, when the Labour party suffered the greatest defeat in its history. The people remember that under the Chifley Government we had rationing, shortages of ordinary commodities and black markets. They remember the bank grab, and the manner in which the Communists had control of this country. The people certainly did not believe that it was a golden age then, and I am afraid that it will take more than the honorable member for Melbourne to satisfy them that the times of the Chifley Government can bo regarded as a golden age. The honorable member then made the completely untrue and inaccurate statement that, under the administration of the Chifley Government full employment had been achieved.
– And so it was!
– At no time during the regime of the Chifley Government did the unemployment rate fall to fewer than eight persons in each 1,000 members of the community. An examination of the figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician, and of the returns of the trades unions, which are contained in the statistician’s report, shows that at one period during the life-time of the Chifley Government 55 persons in every 1,000 of the population were unemployed. Let us examine the statistics that relate to the unemployment benefit. In June, 1947, when the Chifley Government was in office, 6,208 persons were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. If, in fact, 6,208 persons were not unemployed, the taxpayers’ money was being wasted in the payment of the benefit to persons who were in employment. Thus, the honorable member’s statement was grossly inaccurate and untrue. Of course full employment was not achieved during the Chifley Government’s term of office. There never has been full employment in Australia, and there will always be some persons who, because of the seasonal nature of their occupation, because of changes of occupation or because they are occupational misfits, are temporarily unemployed. Lord Beveridge has stated that any country in which unemployment represents less than 4 per cent, of the population can be considered to be in a state of full employment. At present unemployment in the Commonwealth represents less than 2 per cent, of the population, and in South Australia, where a Liberal government is in office, there is virtually no unemployment at all. Almost the whole of the unemployment in Australia is concentrated in States that are controlled by Labour governments, which have failed to take proper steps to provide employment for their people.
An up-to-date statement relating to the employment position, which I have just received, reveals that more people were placed in employment by the Commonwealth Employment Service in February of this year than in any month since April, 1951, and that more vacancies were notified to the service by prospective employers in February than in any month since August, 1951. A survey of the largest factories in New South Wales and Victoria shows increased employment of 6,067 persons in February of this year, which followed increases of 600 in January and 500 in December. It is the deliberately planned policy of the Labour party to try to create panic and to bring about’ a condition of unemployment as a result of loss of confidence. If members of the Labour party were honest they would admit that unemployment in Australia at present is no greater than it was at any period during the administration of either the Chifley or the Curtin Governments, and that it is considerably less now than it was at some periods during the term of office of those administrations. They would also admit that the number of unemployed persons has decreased month by month since economic recovery has been achieved under the financial and economical policies applied by this Government. In these few words, I think that I have been able to convince the House that the so-called Chifley golden age was a myth and that Australia did not achieve a state of full employment under the regime of the Chifley Government. An examination of the daily press reveals that for every column of advertisements inserted by persons seeking jobs there are six or seven columns of advertisements calling for applications to fill vacant positions. In other words, far more jobs are waiting to be filled than there are persons to fill them.
The next misstatement made by the honorable member for Melbourne was that the Menzies Government had promised to put value back into the £1. Neither the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) nor his Government ever made such a promise. If Opposition members will read the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister in 1949, they will learn that he merely said that “ the greatest task of any government is to put value back into the £1 “.
– The honorable member should read the advertisements that were published by the anti-Labour parties in the newspapers at that time.
– To put value back into the £1 is the greatest task that any government can essay in these difficult times. The only true statement made by the honorable member was that the basic wage is increased only after living costs have increased. While that statement is perfectly true its converse is equally true. The basic wage falls only after the cost of living has fallen. The basic wage in South Australia was reduced by 4s. a week when the last quarterly adjustment was made. That fact proves conclusively that the cost of living in that State had fallen during the preceding three months. Living costs began to increase during the term of office of the Chifley Government and continued to rise at a rate of 10 per cent, per annum until the present Government assumed office and gave -effect to a plan to restore economic stability which, in turn, resulted in the reduction of the cost of living in South Australia and elsewhere.
The next extraordinary statement made by the honorable member for Melbourne, who, I repeat, is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, related to the loans raised by the Chifley Government and the amounts paid to the States. The honorable gentleman said, in effect, “ Look what the Chifley Government raised and paid to the States in loan funds ! “ The implication in his statement was that while the Chifley Government was in office it was able to raise a great deal of loan money and pay it to the States ; but the simple truth is that whereas in 1946-47 the Chifley Government raised by loan and paid to the States an amount of £30,000,000, in 1950-51 the Menzies Government paid to the States £145,000,000, or more than four times as much as the loan raisings of the Chifley Government. The Chifley Government raised loans amounting to £45.000,000 in 1947-48 and £49,000,000 in 1948-49. Thus, in the three years of office of the Chifley Government, less money was raised and paid to the States than was paid to them by the Menzies Government in one year! The implication that the Chifley Government was able to raise ample loan funds and that the Menzies Government could not do so is therefore utter nonsense and contrary to fact.
The purpose of the bill before the House is to provide supply for the services of the Government for a period of four months from the 30th June next. At this time last year, Australia was faced with an economic crisis of a severity paralleled only by the economic crisis of the ‘thirties. In both instances export prices had fallen to an alarming degree. In fact, the fall in export prices between 1950 and 1951 was even greater than was the case in the period between 1929 and 1930. In the latter year a Labour Government was in office under the Prime Ministership of Mr. Scullin, but it did nothing to meet the economic crisis that then engulfed the country. As a result of the Seullin Government’s incompetence to meet the situation, Australia drifted into bankruptcy and 33 per cent, of its people were unemployed. Last year the Menzies Government, faced with an almost identical situation, took strong and courageous action. Paced with an even sharper fall in export income than had occurred under the administration of the Labour Government in 1930, the Menzies Government evolved a plan for increased production, reduced imports and reduced the volume of money in circulation. That plan proved to be highly successful. Production has since exceeded even the most optimistic expectations. As the result of the drastic steps taken by the Government to reduce imports, in a period of twelve months it converted a trade deficit of more than £500,000,000 to trade surplus of £300,000,000. Shortages have been overtaken and price stability has been attained as is signified by the cost-of-living indices published by the Commonwealth Statistician last quarter. Overseas funds have been completely restored and the credit stringency no longer exists. Every thinking person in the community is now able to say that Australia has emerged from the crisis and can look forward to the future with the greatest confidence. Indeed, we may well say that we look forward to the coming year as one in which Australia will attain its greatest prosperity. No one would suggest for a moment that the Government’s great economic recovery plan could have been given effect without somebody being hurt. It is true that a great many people have been hurt by it. In 1930 the Labour Government failed to take strong and courageous action and instead of only some of the people being hurt all of them were hurt by the economic bankruptcy and disaster that inevitably followed the Government’s inaction. This Government has warded off a depression and restored stability to the country. It is true that certain people have been hit very hard in order to achieve that objective. Taxation was raised to very high levels because it was necessary to withdraw purchasing power from the people. Now that economic recovery has been achieved, the Government is in a position to remove many of the burdens that it has placed upon the people. The economic recovery plan necessitated the licensing of imports. That hurt many importers and many merchants who were unable to obtain the goods that they had been accustomed to sell. However, import restrictions had to be enforced in order to restore balance to the economy. As favorable results have become apparent, the Government has been able to ease import controls and increase the quotas allotted to various manufacturers and importers. I hope that these controls will be further eased in the near future, particularly in respect of raw materials and goods that cannot be made in Australia. Had it not been for the Government’s plan of economic reconstruction, I am sure that many Australian manufacturers would have failed to weather the storm. Hundreds of them have openly told me and other honorable members that the Government’s plan saved them. The restriction of imports enabled them to increase the output of their factories and thus swell the volume of local employment. During this period, too, the primary producers have been able to increase production tremendously. They have been provided with incentives in the form of tax concessions, which have increased their profits and so have led to greater production.
The Government could see, when it drafted the budget for 1952-53, that the economy was under control, and therefore it decided to reduce taxes. It reduced income tax by 10 per cent, and made substantial reductions of sales tax. Valuable exemptions were granted to primary producers, and concessions were allowed for parents who pay fees for the education of their children. I believe that further concessions are justified in view of the remarkable recovery that has been achieved during .the last few months, and I urge the Government to reduce income tax again at the earliest possible moment. Such a reduction would give a further impetus to the Government’s programme for the increase of production. The remarkable improvement of Australia’s financial position has been disclosed by figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician. Income tax receipts and other revenue for the first half of the current financial year lead us to believe that substantial additional concessions can be given to the people. I urge the Government to reduce sales tax charges substantially. Sales tax is n direct burden on the costs of commodities, and any reduction of that tax leads to a reduction of commodity prices. Therefore, I earnestly hope that the Government will make provision, in the budget for 1953-54, for substantial sains tax reductions. The pay-roll tax needs urgent consideration. When this tax was introduced, a person who employed four or fewer employees did not have to pay pay-roll tax. At present, a -person who employs two employees on the average, is compelled to pay pay-roll tax. This matter should be investigated, and an exemption should be granted to employers who employ, on the average, four or fewer persons. The general scale of payroll tax ought to be reduced.
As I have said many times in this House, I believe that the most urgently needed reform in Australia is the abolition of the means test. Almost everybody in the community has been assisted to a great degree, in one way or another, by the legislation of this Government. The rate of the age pension, for example, has been increased from £2 2s. 6d. to £3 7s. 6d. a week. War pensions also have been increased substantially. Valuable benefits, such as free medical treatment and free medicines, have been made available to pensioners, and superannuation payments have been increased. However, one section seems to have been missed entirely by the Government’s campaign of reforms. It consists of the people who may be said to belong to the middle section of the community. Their income, or their capital, is sufficient to render them ineligible for the age pension, but they have to bear the everincreasing burdens of higher tax rates and higher living costs. The time has come when the Government must do something to assist people whose incomes are above the pension level, but who are not in comfortable circumstances. The social reform that would best benefit them would be the abolition of the means test. I believe that the means test could be discontinued if the Government established a contributory system under which citizens could make small weekly payments in proportion to their incomes. I know that the Government has had under consideration for a considerable time a plan to abolish the means test, and I, too, have prepared a plan for consideration by the Treasurer. I urge the Government with all the earnestness at -my command to make this reform at the earliest possible moment.
Our social legislation at present destroys the incentive to save and the incentive to work. It penalizes the thrifty and imposes great hardship upon persons who, perhaps, own a cottage and let it to tenants, or who have small sums invested in a savings bank or in .government bonds, but find that their resources are just sufficient to deprive them of a pension. I also have in mind the plight of persons who have contributed to superannuation schemes throughout their working lives in order to provide for their old age, and who are, therefore, unable to obtain the age pension. Such a system of social services is fundamentally unsound, and I hope that the Government will introduce legislation this year to provide for the total abolition of the means test. Hundreds of thousands of Australians are vitally interested in this reform. There are 520,000 over the age of 65 years who cannot draw the age pension because of the operation of the means test. In addition, there are 45,000 Commonwealth officers, who know that as beneficiaries under their superannuation scheme they will not be able to claim age pensions; 19,000 contributors to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit Fund ; 240,000 members of private superannuation funds; 165,000 persons who contribute to State and semi-government superannuation schemes; 23,000 members of the miners’ pension fund; and 240^000 contributors to various provident funds. All these people are making provision for their old age, and at the same time they are paying taxes in order to’ provide for other people in their old age. They should not be deprived of the right to claim an age pension when they reach retirement age. No reform is more urgently needed than the total abolition of the means test.
– I propose to discuss the tobacco industry, which is of great importance to the whole of Australia. This industry fills many pay envelopes, provides incomes for many businessmen, and also supports Commonwealth and State governmental activities. Australian tobacco has often been criticized, and no doubt it will be subjected to attacks in the future. For the information of its critics, I refer to an informative article in the Australian Tobacco Annual for 1952-53 on the subject of flavouring in imported cigarettes. The article states -
Practically all Virginia-type cigarettes are made without the addition of foreign ingredients, whether for flavouring or for other purposes - indeed, in England, the use of such additions to tobacco is prohibited in the case of cigarettes manufactured for home consumption.
I emphasize the fact that Great Britain refuses to permit the sale of adulterated cigarettes. The English people insist on having pure tobacco. The article continues -
On the other hand, tobacco used in all American-type blended cigarettes is first of all “cased” and then flavoured. “Casing”, a trade term, consists of the application of such ingredients as glycerine, sugar, maple syrup, &c. Flavours are either made up in the factory according to closely guarded secret formulae or are brought from outside suppliers in bulk.
I have an idea of what these closely guarded formulas contain. I have been obliged to smoke imported cigarettes, and I suspect that the formulas include such ingredients as pine splinters, mulberry leaves, and a fair quota of old mother earth. No wonder they are closely guarded secrets. Mother England demands pure tobacco, but her unsophisticated children in Australia are forced to accept flavoured tobaccos based upon secret formulas of various kinds.
Another extract from the article is as follows : -
From time to time the subject of domestic tobacco and its growth and use in Australia receives prominence in the press and Parliament and it has, on occasion, been stated that manufacturers in Australia must include not less than 3 per cent, of domestic leaf in eac brand of cigarettes. There is, in fact, no such compulsion, hut the non-inclusion of this proportion would render a brand liable to a higher rate of duty, thus putting it out of its price field. Careful and exacting blending is necessary to ensure that each and every cigarette contains the correct percentage.
Tobacco companies have been given a definite inducement to accept Australian tobacco. Knowing the desire of those companies to make profits, one would imagine that they would use every available pound of Australian tobacco and, if necessary, would pay a high price for it in order to secure the advantage of a rebate of duty. When we find that the tobacco companies are not ta.king advantage of such an opportunity to make larger profits, we must seek the reason for their failure to do so. I propose to give that reason to the House later. The board that controls the distribution of tobacco in Queensland is an excellent body, established under the provisions of a very good piece of legislation. It should do a good job, but it is being destroyed. In Brisbane, and, I assume, also in Melbourne, Sydney and other capita] cities, the agents of W. D. and H. 0. Wills (Australia) Limited are visiting cake shops, fish shops, lolly shops and asking the proprietors to sign, a requisition for a quota of the company’s tobacco. The majority of the shopkeepers are not interested in securing such a quota, but the agents press them to sign the form and point out that they may want a quota later. As a result, W. D. and H. O. Wills (Australia) Limited is liable to go to the board with handfuls of requests for quotas of its tobacco, some of which may have been filled in by the agents themselves. The board is obliged to make leaf available to the company on the basis of the requests for tobacco quotas that are presented to it. Unless other big tobacco companies are also operating in that way, the Wills organization will obtain control of the distribution of tobacco in Queensland and the other States. “When the late Mr. Lyons was Prime Minister, a -campaign was launched for increased production of tobacco in this country, and many people invested £5,000, £500 and smaller sums in tobaccogrowing enterprises. But the government of the day reduced the tariff on imported tobacco,, and then increased the excise duty on locally grown tobacco to such a degree as to enable it to recover the revenue lost by the reduction of the tariff. Consequently, the people who had invested their money in tobacco-growing enterprises were ruined. I fear that that kind of thing will happen again unless honorable members, by protests made in this chamber, inform the people of Australia of what is happening.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) stated publicly that a large-scale increase of the production of Australian tobacco leaf was planned, but I have not been able to learn the details of the plan, if there be one. I have seen no effort made by the Minister to increase the production of Australian leaf. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is reported to have promised Mr. Gilmore, a tobacco-growers’ representative, that he would instruct the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to ensure that all Australian tobacco was purchased by the manufacturers at a reasonable price. That report appeared in a Brisbane evening newspaper, but the following morning it was reported that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) had admitted 5,000,000 lb. of overseas tobacco into Australia. How could the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ensure that Australian tobacco-growers received a fair price from their product when his colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, admitted such a huge quantity of overseas tobacco into Australia? It appeared that in relation to this matter there was no co-operation among members of the Cabinet and that the Government had no definite policy.
The Australian tobacco-growing in-‘ dustry, through the Queensland Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board, claimed that if the manufacturers were required to include 15 per cent, of Australian leaf in cigarettes and -20 per cent, in cut tobacco before they could claim the lower rate of duty, those percentages could be justified on the ground that they were more closely related to the quantities of Australian leaf available than the existing percentages. The Minister for Trade and Customs announced that the percentages would be altered from 3 per cent, to 6 per cent, in respect of cigarettes and from 5 per cent, to 10 per cent, in respect of other tobacco. The tobacco-growers were disappointed, but they accepted the position philosophically. They decided that the increases, though not as large as they wanted, were better than nothing at all. The Minister increased the quantity of Australian tobacco necessary to qualify for the lower duty by 1-J per cent, in the case of cigarettes and by 2i per cent, in the case of other tobacco. The growers had expected increases of 3 per cent, and 5 per cent, respectively. It was most unfortunate that in the statement made to the press last August, in which the Minister announced that the percentages would be doubled, no reference was made to the fact that the increase would be made in two stages, and that the first increase would not become operative until the 1st January, 1953. The growers expected that the full increase would be implemented from the 1st August, the day on which ,the statement was made, but. they were disappointed.
It is obvious that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will be unable to secure the sale of Australian leaf at a reasonable price while the Minister for Trade and Customs is admitting overseas leaf into Australia. The members of the Cabinet appear to differ about the policy that should be adopted in relation to this matter. It seems that the Government has no definite policy upon it.
– The honorable member is very ill-informed.
– I know that two Ministers hold one view and that two other Ministers differ from that view. Recently, an announcement was made in the press that one of the major tobacco companies was establishing a factory in South
Africa for the purpose of exporting 45,000,000 lb. of tobacco to Australia and other countries. That fact must have been known to the Prime Minister and the other Ministers. As the Government took no action in that matter, one must assume that its policy is to link itself with the powerful tobacco monopoly. I accuse the Government of linking itself with the powerful tobacco monopoly to destroy the Australian tobacco industry.
– That is very unworthy and untrue.
– The Prime Minister stated that he would instruct the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to ensure that all Australian tobacco was purchased at a reasonable price, but I shall prove that the Minister is completely powerless to do that, owing to differences of opinion on policy between members of the Cabinet. On the 7th February, a meeting held at Ingham was attended by almost every tobacco-grower in the area. Only two growers were absent. The meeting passed the following resolution : -
This meeting of Herbert River district tobaccogrowers, representing all of the tobacco growers of the area, calls upon the Federal Government to save the industry by at once formulating and implementing a policy to stabilize the industry and so increase production of this dollar saving commodity, thus conforming to the Prime Minister’s recent appeal for increased production of dollar saving items.
Such a policy would best be achieved, in the opinion of this meeting by -
1 ) Making permanent the present restrictions on imported cigarettes and tobacco;
Increasing the percentage of Australian leaf to be used by Australian manufacturers before qualifying for the differential customs duty to 15% in cigarettes and 20% in other tobaccos ; and
No further increases to be granted to manufacturers in dollar allocations.
The Treasurer, in reply to a question that I directed to him yesterday, said that he would not consider a reduction of dollar allocations for imported tobacco.
Apparently, Queensland is the focal point of the attack that has been launched upon the Australian tobacco-growing industry. I should not be surprised if, at any rate for a time, tobacco-growers in other States received higher prices for their leaf and were able to sell all of it., The technique of the attack is simple. The tobacco-growing industry in each State will be destroyed, with the aid of a complacent Minister for Trade and Customs and a government that is not prepared to stand up for the industry. Only one State will be attacked at a time. If the industry be destroyed, for generations to come Australia will have to pay dollars for tobacco imported from overseas, and our economy will be damaged to the degree to which we have to expend dollars for that purpose. Thousands of men who are directly or indirectly associated with the tobacco industry will be thrown out of employment, and thousands of business people will cease to receive incomes from the industry. The matter is of vital importance, and should be handled properly. Perhaps my accusation that the Government is acting in cooperation with the companies is incorrect; but the Government, by its muddling and messing about, is doing just as much damage as if it were assisting the companies to destroy the industry. The Minister for Trade and Customs seems to be bent on flooding Australia with imported tobacco: The Treasurer seems to be bent on granting all the dollars that are required to enable the Minister for Trade and Customs to carry out his policy. It is possible that shortly we shall have an Australian Country party leader and a, Liberal party deputy leader, because the two Ministers are acting in conjunction at the present time. The Prime Minister says that he will issue certain instructions to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but their hands are tied, and they are powerless to take any action so long as the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Treasurer combine their efforts to permit the flooding of the Australian market with imported tobacco. I believe that the Minister for Trade and Customs is trying to destroy the Australian tobacco industry, and that the Treasurer is supplying all the dollars that are needed to enable him to do so. We hear a great deal of talk about the necessity to reduce dollar expenditure. No industry would be able to save as many dollars as an uptodate and prosperous tobacco industry. Governments in Africa have definitely established! the tobacco industry in- that continent by making it mandatory for aiL tobacco manufactured: there to be used on the: home market. At. present Africa is. supplying 90- per- cent, of the requirements of its i smokers, and- is. even exporting some tobacco to other countries. Thar position is possible because the various, governments in Africa have assisted the industry to become a great asset to the country. The tobacco- companies in Australia wish to destroy the local industry for economic reasons. Virginian tobacco is produced principally by black labour under worse, conditions than existed, during; the> slave days. In. Africa, too* the tobacco is grown principally bycoloured people, whose standard, of living andi rate of pay are substantially lower than the Australian, standard of living and rate of pay. The co-operative companies are manufacturing first class tobacco and cigarettes, and expect to sell their product and expand their manufacturing activities. That is why the monopolist companies are prepared to lose on this- income rebate by refraining from buying Australian tobacco. They see the danger of an independent organization growing and manufacturing tobacco,, and competing with them on the Australian market.
J shall now refer briefly to the quality of Australian tobacco. Imported American, tobacco is- considered to have matured, by. the time it is landed in Australia. Mareeba tobacco has to be matured for’ at least twelve months before it is placed, on the market. Smokers un-hesitatingly agree that the Mareeba tobacco is* first class. An expert was given a- trial, with) a cigarette made from Australian tobacco, and a cigarette made from a Virginian- Australian mixture. He could not. tell the difference between the two. cigarettes: Honorable members may be interested in the following1 description of the test which was published, with an illustration, in the Sydney Sunday Herald, ons the 27th. July last -
The man in the picture is trying to tell which nf his cigarettes is one. of the new. brand manufactured in north Queensland, the first nil-Australian cigarette, to be marketed as allAustralian in’ competition with Virginian.
He made the test to decide for himself whether’ smokers a-re right when they claim that, they can tell Australian tobacco as. soon as they light it.
He is a member of one of Sydney’s oldest linns of tobacconists and he has been a smoker for. 35 years.
He lit up - using other, popular brands of similarly priced cigarettes to judge by - and then his smokes were switched about and: handed to him after his eyes- were covered!
H’e could’ note pick out the north Queensland cigarette, although some of the others contained Virginian tobacco as a blend with Australian. He tried one and then another - and another.
At last he gave up, and when the handkerchief was removed and the Australian oiga.rer.te identified, he said.: “A nice, light tobacco, equal to- a good fine cut. I should be quite content to smoke nothing else.”
I now direct attention to the following news item : -
An attcm.pt to arrive at a formula for the disposal of Queensland’s 1952-53 tobacco crop will be made at a conference in- Sydney next week.
The Tobacco Leaf Marketing Board chairman (Mr. 15. H. Short) said’ this yesterday following talks in Sydney on Monday with the Commerce and- Agriculture Department secretary (Mr. J. Q. Crawford).
It would be a. full-scale discussion covering the whole Held of marketing.
I sincerely hope that something really worth while will emerge from that conference, and that the Government will disprove my statements about its policy regarding the tobacco industry. The Government has the opportunity to do something worth while, and should give evidence of its intention to do so. No obstacle has been placed in its way. When I make that statement, I am assuming, of course, that the Government has a policy. However, if the Prime Minister cannot bring the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Treasurer to heel, a decision will never be reached on this matter. The tobacco-growers are willing to compromise in order to obtain results. The last word, on the matter rests with the- Government. I hope that it will’ measure up to its responsibility.
.- As everybody knows, it is. one of the old.cst historical traditions that, as a condition to granting supply, members of a parliament have the opportunity to air their grievances. That means., that there is a- tendency to. emphasize- grievances rather- than the- fact that honorable members ame the custodians, of the people’s- money, and that the manner in which it is expended may necessitate the imposition of burdens of various kinds upon all sections of the community. So, with that thought in mind about the necessity for putting one’s duty to the taxpayers before one’s own interests in particular matters, I shall discuss a few statements that have been made by previous speakers in this debate.
I would be the last person to discount the statements of the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) and his enthusiasm for the tobacco industry, which, I believe, is as important as he has stated ; but I was rather disappointed when he began his speech with the announcement that he intended to deal with one of the most important issues confronting Australia, and I found a few moments later that he was referring to something that was to go up in smoke. So, while I hope that he will be able to convince the Government that something is to be gained by paying attention to the tobacco industry in Queensland, I do not regard that matter as the really significant part of our task, which is to discuss the financial proposals of the Government.
I should like to speak for a few moments about the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. One becomes accustomed to his antics, and realizes that they are conditioned to some degree by the discomfort he feels as he sees his ambitions progressively fading into the distance. I propose to refer to his remark that this Supply Bill is different from all other bills. He proceeded to place his own construction upon it, and said that the Government had no moral right to introduce a Supply bill because of the events which, in his judgment, have been taking place throughout the Commonwealth. He put the matter on a moral ground. I suggest that it was only wishful thinking that conditioned his remarks. I challenge the right of the honorable member, of all people, to question the moral ground upon which the Government is acting. If there is any one who has shown himself completely indifferent to moral or ethical standards, it has been the honorable gentleman in his various activities in this chamber during this sessional period. No one on the other side of the chamber has departed more from the standard of ethics than he has. One deplores the fact that a man of his capacity should have been willing to descend to those tactics.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to request the honorable member for Warringah to withdraw his statement about the honorable member for Melbourne, or proceed at once to prove it. He says that the honorable member for Melbourne has descended to the lowest depths of ethics and morals in the chamber, and I assume that he will now continue blandly with his speech. His statement is deeply offensive to the Opposition, and to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn, or that the honorable member be requested to prove it.
– Order! I am not able to ask for the withdrawal of the statement except at the instance of the honorable member for Melbourne, who Joes not happen to be present in the chamber. At worst, I suppose it is a matter of opinion. I heard most of the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne
– A good speech, too!
-I am not offering any comment on that.
– Despite the statement of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), I consider that it is improper for the honorable member for Melbourne, in his capacity as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to prostitute his position to utter a series of inane irrelevancies, when the people want to know what this Government is doing with their money. No doubt the honorable member for Perth will be able to tell them the real financial position and doubtless he will present it in a way that will be useful to his party, but if he follows his usual practice, it will also be instructive to honorable members. The honorable member for Melbourne has used this debate as a sounding board from which to get echoes of all the speeches he has made in this chamber during the present session. He again made his speech on television, his speech on unemployment, his speech on the value of the £1, and all his other speeches that were all very well when they were originally made, hut which have less relevancy on this occasion. I wish to give the lie direct to some of the statements that he made. If he had acted in accordance with the standards of honesty that I have mentioned at least he would have admitted that had he been Treasurer seeking the welfare of the whole Commonwealth he would have followed exactly the same kind of financial policy that the Government has followed because his policy would have derived from exactly the same consultants as those from the Government’s policy derives - that is from the consultants that the Chifley Government appointed and left for us to enjoy.
I suggest that the policy that the Government has pursued over the last three years has had the result of putting the national economy on a level of soundness that has not been equalled for many years. That policy has been sedulously pursued in spite of all the criticism and misunderstandings that have been cultivated in the community, and is to-day producing results at which nobody could cavil. According to a recent report, for example, statistics show that retail stores have been doing a vastly increased business. [Quorum formed.) This is the first time I have ever known the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who directed attention to the state of the House, to be interested in the kind of things that I am saying. He was afraid, that they might fall on the deaf ear that is characterized by his own hearing. I repeat that the Government’s policy has placed the economy on a level of stability that has seldom been equalled. I venture to say that its results in the coming financial year will prove the force of my contention. This week the press published statistics that show that retail sales for the quarter ended the 31st December last reached record figures. The Jeremiahs opposite are suggesting that such results are only flashes in the pan which simply disguise the fact that a real crisis is looming. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no doubt that our economy is stable, and that the results achieved will be of immense advantage and will show that the Government’s policy is the correct one.
Before I advert to the matter that I really wish to discuss, I shall refer to a remark made by the honorable member for Melbourne about full employment. The dishonesty with which the subject of full employment has been discussed places on the Opposition a responsibility to account for its conduct. During the period of full employment about which so much has been said by honorable members opposite, the Labour party, as a party, did nothing to impress upon the workers who were in employment at that stage that their duty lay to the community as well as to themselves. The result was that that condition of overfull employment tended to produce conditions that we have only to remember in order to realize the difference between government by the present administration and government by the Labour party. During that period of over-full employment man-hour production sank to probably the lowest level it has ever reached, and production costs rose to the highest level ever known. But those were not the only results of that policy of over-full employment. It also resulted in a complete debauching of public conduct, which sank to unparalleled levels. Blackmarketing of commodities was rife because of rationing, and informers and snoopers were in their heyday. Those were the results of the so-called policy of full employment. The Labour party produced a white paper in the closing years of the war in which it set out that in the opinion of its advisors we should aim at a high and stable level of employment. That is the aim of this Government and its policy. The Government, obviously does not wish to follow a policy of over-employment, but to follow a policy to achieve a high and stable level of employment. “With such a policy we might well achieve the maximum output with the minimum of effort and thus stabilize the economy and prevent further inflation and further price increases.
I mention in passing another dishonest representation made by the honorable member for Melbourne in respect of the raising of loan moneys and the amount of finance being provided to the States, ‘and I turn now to what I think to be the real purpose of this sitting. The House has before it a number of bills, which include the Supply Bill, which is to provide for expenditure on ordinary departmental services; the Supply (Works and Services) Bill-; and two other bills dealing with additional estimates in relation to the expenditure on ordinary services and “works. Wc have also before us the Supplementary Estimates, which deal with expenditure on the same lines; and a measure to validate the action of the Government in using loan moneys to meet deficits in the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Supply Bill is no different from any other supply bill, except in respect of the amount that is to be -provided, which is £151,654,000. The Supply (Works and Services) Bill is to provide £32,000,000. In effect, Supply is being provided for four months on the basis of last year’s expenditure, but the effect of what we are doing is to provide a pattern for the expenditure of public moneys for the next -sixteen months. Although these bills will provide Supply only from July to October next, “that Supply will be, in effect, for sixteen months, -because what we are doing now is to state that the Public Service and the departments will be able -to spend, in the first four months -of the next financial year, -at the rate at which they have been spending -during this financial year. It is, perhaps, inevitable that we should have this system of public finance, but I hope that it can be changed. I suggest that the costs of maintaining the system are not inconsiderable. The use of this system certainly restricts the departments to spending >on the same basis as last year, but it does not make for the practice of ‘economy. It possibly lends itself to extravagance ‘because, in effect, we have not been able to do more than talk about Supply in general terms, instead of in the specific terms that would be possible it we had the whole of the Estimates before its. If the “system restricts departments it is also onerous ‘on the taxpayers, because they are left in ignorance, until well on in the next financial year, regarding their tax liabilities for this financial year. I hope, therefore, now that conditions have settled down, that -the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) might be willing to reconsider the ‘practice -of other years -and follow last year’s practice of bringing down the budget in the ‘early part of the year so that everybody will know of his benefits and liabilities under it at the beginning of, rather than half-way through, the financial .year.
The amounts that ‘are being requested under these measures are proportionate ‘to the needs of each department Concerned. I direct the attention of ‘honorable members ‘to the Advance to i!he Treasurer, which is designed to meet unforeseen expenditure. That grant is to be increased from £15,000,000 to £16,000,000. There have been authorities who nave -criticized the making of the grant on the ground that it could ‘be used to cover expenditure by the departments without Parliament knowing what was going on. It is t’ho’ught that if that grant we’re smaller it would be necessary for the departments to come to the “Parliament for specific appropriations instead of being able tb ask the Treasurer to meet the extra expenditure out of the grant. Otherwise there is nothing particularly “worthy of comment in the Supply Bill and the Supplementary (Works and Services) Bill. I hope I can detect evidence in the Additional Estimate’s <K the response o’f the Treasury to “the suggestion of the Public Accounts ‘Committee that, where possible, in order to facilitate Parliamentary control, departments should seek additional appropriations from the Parliament rather than ‘follow the practice of charging .them to the Treasurer’s advance account, then asking the Parliament, a .year or two later, to ‘validate the expenditure. In this case the Additional Estimates amount to about £32,000,000 for general purposes and about £6,000,000 for works and services. They .are in respect of expenditure that was unforseen when the Estimates were being prepared last June and -July, and when the. budget was -brought down in .August. The main items are in .respect of the ‘cost of keeping our troops in Korea, and the necessity to meeting liabilities in respect of supplies that the allies in Korea are using. The total amount to be (allotted for the Korean campaign is about £1.6,000,000. and the oilier main item is in ‘Connexion with the pool. Therefore, these additional estimates can be considered to he the Government’s way of helping to establish more clearly parliamentary control over the purse by insisting that money shall be appropriated before liabilities are incurred. Such a course of action will make .a further improvement in our system of public financing.
In the second bill there is a special account for coal. Gut of £6,000,000. £2,000,000 will be allocated to coal, and the acquisition of the Grace Building in Sydney accounts for nearly another £1.000,000. The Supplementary Estimates are the process by which the amount expended by the Government in 1931-52 without parliamentary authority is validated. In this case the total is £9,000,000. £6,000,000 Ls for ordinary purposes and £3,000,000 for works. This measure will validate the amounts expended without prior approval, and the Treasury will be enabled to clear the Treasurer’s Advance Account for next, year’s operations. The fourth bill is to validate the action of the Government in using loan money to keep the Consolidated Revenue in funds. Page 16 of this year’s Auditor-General’s report deals with this matter under the heading of loans. The report reads, inter alia -
That stricture derives from section 57 (1.”) of the Audit Act, which reads -
It shall not be lawful for the Treasurer to expend any moneys standing to the credit of the Loan Fund except under the authority of an Act.
That is to say, the use of revenue from the Loan Fund to provide against a deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund is not permitted by the Audit Act, and consequently the Government has brought in this bill to validate its action. The bill provides that, notwithstanding anything contained in section 57 whenever the receipts of the Consolidated Revenue aru insufficient to meet expenditure, the Treasurer may expend .moneys standing to the credit of the Loan Fund to make up the deficiency. That is one way of getting around restrictions. Legislation is enacted to prevent something from being done, and then other legislation
Ls introduced to allow it to be done. Ordinarily, perhaps, there may be no objection to the proposed use of loan moneys. I suggest the use of the general banking account for :financing all the activities of governments is more satisfactory. The account is then used instead of issuing treasury-bills. That may sound heretical to a person who is connected with our public accounts .system and “with parliamentary control of it, but the Government should not have to pay interest, and raise money in other ways when it has funds at its own disposal. And that is “what the bill provides in connexion with section 51 of the Audit Act.
Before I conclude, I would like to mention the activities of the Public Accounts Committee, and ask that honorable members will extend their support to the committee which has “been finding the going fairly hard during the last month or so, but which is hoping that, with the collaboration of all members, it will be able to carry out its activities to the satisfaction of all concerned. We hope that the various suggestions that the committee will make in its report to the House will be of benefit to all the people, particularly if honorable members will regard themselves as trustees of the public purse and seek to ensure that moneys entrusted to the Government shall be expended properly and to the best advantage.
– A Supply bill offers an opportunity to honorable members to discuss the record of the Government, and I propose to devote some time to doing that. A detailed, or even a cursory, examination of the Government’s record reveals that, to use a -colloquialism, the -Government is on the skids. Widespread indications afford a definite impression that the Government has entered on the last days of its existence. All the evidence points to the fact that it is the most discredited government within living memory. That is not only my opinion, it has also been borne out by the only true indicator available, that is the barometer of public opinion. In most recent by-elections and State general elections the Government parties have lost ground.
When the Government assumed office in 1949 its supporters were highly delighted, and they freely expressed the hope that the Government would have a long life. I remember the jubilation of the new members of this Parliament on the Government side when we first met, and there is no doubt that they were looking forward to many years of membership of the Parliament. Unfortunately, the Government’s record during the past three years will prevent many of the hopes and expectations of those new members from being realized. This Government has proved to be a bitter disappointment to its erstwhile friends, and irrespective of what honorable members on the Government side may say, it has proved a bitter disappointment to them also.
When the Government assumed office the Australian economy was in a very sound condition. There had never been a period in our history since federation when the economy was more stable, and when government policy gave more contentment to the masses of the people. Jobs were plentiful, and consequently unemployment was very rare. It is idle for honorable members on the Government side to say that in June, 1949, there were 6,000 persons unemployed and that in 1945 there were 4,000 or 5,000 out of work, because those periods were times of industrial unrest and the unemployment that honorable members cited was not due to any fault of the Government, but was due to the shortage of raw materials caused by industrial disputes. In 1949 there was a strike of a political nature on the coal-fields, which was crushed only by the weight of the Labour party backed by the trade union movement. After that strike was over our unemployment figures dropped sharply, and in December, 1949, an unemployed man was as rare as a visitor from Mars. When the Chifley Government relinquished office, taxation was at a reasonable level although, of course, there was a little grumbling - as there is always a certain amount of discontent with any taxation measures. The Chifley Government had entered upon a policy of successive taxation reductions, and if it had remained in office longer, taxes would have been reduced considerably. The cost of living was well within the reach of the average housewife whose husband was receiving a wage of £6 15s. a week or more. Public confidence in government and semi-government loans was demonstrated by the over-subscription of every loan floated at the reasonable interest rate of 3^ per cent. I know something about local government finance, because at that time I was a member of a municipal council. There was no difficulty at all in raising money in those days.
Extensive public works, financed by the Commonwealth, were being undertaken by all the States. Those projects were intended to accelerate the development of Australia, and as such they were considered indispensable to the future welfare of the country. Credit was readily available to assist industries, both primary and secondary. .No industry had any trouble in securing credit to expand its activities. Intending home-owners discovered that a loan to assist them in the purchase of new homes was not difficult to obtain. The average person was readily received by the banks and financial institutions, and just as readily granted loans. The Chifley Government recognized that a larger population was essential, and embarked upon a progressive immigration policy. That was beginning to show marked results when the present Government came to power. Our annual intake of immigrants was about 150,000, and they were all absorbed into industry without displacing one native-born Australian. At that time there were no crowds of immigrants vociferously demanding work, and no Australians were complaining that they had been displaced by immigrants. As soon as the new Australians arrived they were absorbed into primary or secondary industry. Because of Labour’s policy of encouragement of both primary and secondary industry, all our industries were in a most flourishing condition. The Labour Government realized that only by steady expansion of industry could full employment be maintained and 150,000 immigrants, who were essential for the future defence of the country, could be absorbed each year. Those conditions were responsible for the exceptionally sound state of the economy at the end of 1949, and that economy was inherited by the present Government.
Unfortunately. to-day there is an altogether different state of affairs in Australia. The feeling of security and confidence that permeated the lives of the people in 1949 has now disappeared. In those days the people had work and felt secure, and were accordingly able to undertake commitments for the future. To-day, the spectre of unemployment and insecurity stalks abroad. Every man thinks twice before he takes on further obligations, because he realizes the insecurity of the economy that has been brought about by this Government. Moreover, the Government’s attitude to the major problems of the day is clouded with incapacity, indecision and timidity. I make no apology for putting employment in the forefront of Labour’s objectives, because the happiness and prosperity of every family is bound up intimately with the employment of the bread-winners. Unreliable information has been disseminated by Government members and supporters in an endeavour to prove that the unemployment -position is not serious. Honorable members opposite have tied themselves up in a mass of figures in an attempt to convince the people that unemployment is virtually non-existent. Let us examine the figures relating to this subject furnished by reliable authorities, notably those that were published by the Acting Commonwealth .Statistician only yesterday. That undisputed authority stated that total civilian employment decreased from 2,643,000 in November, 1941, to 2,523,000 in January of this year. In other words, 121,000 persons have disappeared from the ranks of industrial workers.
– Some of them have gone into the armed forces.
– The comparison was made between November, 1951, and January, 1953, when the peace-time army bad already been established. To those 121,000 persons who are no longer in employment we must add the normal influx into industry of young people who have left school. It has been reliably estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 young people leave school each year and commence work. In 1952, no fewer than 92,000 immigrants arrived in Australia. It is reasonable to assume that 30,000 of them would be breadwinners. Thus, including the influx of young people who have left school, no fewer than 181,000 persons who should be working are not employed. The accuracy of these figures is beyond disputation. It can thus be seen that the story told by the Government about the employment position cannot be substantiated. The pledge made by the Government in 1949 that it would give effect to a policy of full employment has not been redeemed.
The Government’s attitude to unemployment is strange compared to its attitude to other features of its declared policy. For example, the Prime Minister, in one of his numerous dissertations - if sheer eloquence could solve problems the community would have no problems whatever - said that “ before any major taxation cuts could be made Australia, would have to increase production and swell national income “. But because of the Government’s failure to give effect to a policy of full employment production is being slowed down or restricted by increased unemployment. We cannot expect to achieve full production if countless thousands of people in the community who want to work cannot find a job. In those circumstances production must inevitably decrease. It is strange for the Prime Minister to say that before taxation can be reduced production must be increased, when the first step towards increased production must be to provide work for the workless. This Government has made no attempt to do so. All the statements of Government spokesmen about increased production are merely so much balderdash.
The Government’s recent review of its immigration policy pinpoints its failure to maintain full employment. The Labour party has always advocated the rapid population of Australia. When the honorable- member for Melbourne (Mr. Carwell) was Minister for Immigration be- instituted an immigration policy which, if it had been continued1, would have conferred an untold’ boon on this wim try, particularly on future generations. After World War II., the Labour Government realized that a greatly increased population and an efficient industrial system were the only sure foundations for the security of the nation. As a result of the policy instituted by the Labour Government we gained about 700,000 immigrants from all sources, but because of the failure of this Government to maintain full employment, and because of changed economic circumstances resulting -from the policies applied by it we have been forced to- agree to a drastic curtailment of the original immigration target. The Government expects to bring lo Australia, this year only S0,000 persons. The reason for the curtailment of the intake is obvious. There is no work available to absorb a greater number of immigrants. It is futile to continue to bring immigrants to Australia if there is no work available for them when they arrive here. The Government’s failure to apply policies which would enable it to maintain full employment and continue an immigration system which would be of incalculable value to future generations of Australians clearly demonstrates its incapacity to govern.
I turn now to a consideration o£ the Government’s record in the field of taxation. Its record is indeed a dismal one. Recently the Acting Commonwealth Statistician published a staggering set of figures - I can describe them in no other way - which clearly portray the reason why the people are indignant at the Government’s taxation policy. In 1949 I used to listen with- great interest to the broadcasts of the proceedings of this House. Almost every speaker then in Opposition trenchantly criticized the Labour Government of the day for its high taxation policy. They repeated their criticism in unequivocal terms during the- 1949 general election campaign, and they promised that if they were returned to office they would reduce taxes. I have not the slightest doubt (hat that promise caused! many thousand’s of people to transfer their allegiance from Labour candidates to candidates representing- the Liberal and Australian- Country parties. Che Labour Government was defeated at the polls and its place was taken by a Liberal-Australian Country party Government. How did the new Government honour that promise? Last year, according to figures published Ivy the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, taxation per capita rose steeply to £116 lis. lOd. Before the wallow rates of taxes were imposed on the people. At the outbreak of World War IT., in 1939, taxation per capita was £17 19s. 5d. It is interesting to note the relative figures under the administration of the Chifley Labour Government in the years immediately after the war, because they were challenged during the 1949 election campaign by anti-Labour candidates. The taxation per capita imposed by the Chifley Government in the postwar years was as follows: 1946-47, £55; 1947-48, £59; 194S-49, £67; 1949-50, £69. In the previous year of the administration of the present Government taxation per capita was increased to £99. Now, it is £116 ! If those figures show the manner in which the anti-Labour parties go about reducing taxation, neither I nor the people of Australia want further taxation reductions to be made by this Government. The people were led up the garden path by these specious promises of the leaders of the anti-Labour parties. The Statistician’s figures demonstrate in no uncertain manner that the Government has shown scant consideration for the taxpayers. At the first opportunity the people will show what they think of it.
The electors were also told by the antiLabour parties that if. they were returned to office in 1949 they would “put value back into the £1 “. That hackneyed term must have tickled the ears of the harassed housewife who had been constantly told that under the administration of the Labour Government the cost of living was far too high. “ Put us- in “, said these modern Sir Galahads, “ and we will rescue you from, the- machinations of the evil Labour Government”. And so, hundreds of thousands of housewives and other members of the community who were hoodwinked by these false pr> mises, gave their first preference votes to Government candidates. What is the record of this Government in connexion with that promise? Living costs under Labour pale into insignificance when compared with living costs during the three years of office of the present Government. In 1951, when this Government was well in the saddle, and was able to give full rein to its economic policy, retail prices rose by 25 per cent, and broke an all-time record for rapidity of rise. Indeed, the percentage rise in that one year alone was equal to the percentage rise during the whole of the six years of the war, for four years of which a Labour government was in office. The increases that have taken place in living costs since this Government has been in office make the post-war inflation of 1918 seem negligible. Retail prices rose in 1919 by 13 per cent., and by 14 per cent, in 1920. Whilst some sections of the community are able to withstand the impact of these steep increases of prices, large groups of persons, including pensioners, superannuated citizens, retired public servants and other workers, and those in receipt of fixed incomes find that their anxieties are considerably multiplied. These groups of people have suffered most from the inflationary policies applied by the Government. Many persons who were hoodwinked into recording their votes for anti-Labour candidates at the general elections of 1949 will not repeat that performance when next they go to the polls. They are praying for the day when they will be able to demonstrate their anger at the manner in which they were grossly misled in 1949.
When the Labour Government left office the financial relations between the Commonwealth and States were very friendly, but during the last three years there has been a rapid deterioration of the position. To-day, relations between the Commonwealth and the States are so strained that the only Liberal Premier, the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, has ranged himself with the Labour Premiers of the other States in protesting most vigorously against the cavalier treatment meted out by the Com.monwealth to the States. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) contends that this Government has treated the States much more generously than did the Chifley Government. That claim cannot be substantiated. This Government has taken from the taxpayers vastly greater sums in taxation than any Labour government ever thought to be necessary. An analysis of the collection and distribution of income tax by the Commonwealth and the States over comparative periodswill prove the truth of my assertion and show up the present Government in a very bad light. In the three years before the outbreak of World War LT., the total income tax collected by the Commonwealth and the States amounted to’ £90,000,000. The Commonwealth’s share of that amount was £37,500,000, or 41.6 per cent., and the States’ share was £52,500,000, or 58.4 per cent. In the years 1942 to 1944 the total tax collections amounted to £540,000,000, of which the Commonwealth’s share amounted to no less than SI per cent. Nobody could object to the Commonwealth taking such a high percentage because the whole of Australia’s resources had then to be thrown into the struggle for survival. In. the last three years this Government has collected in direct taxation no less than £1,250,000,000.
Silting suspended from 6 lc S p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended, I had directed attention to the ungenerous way in which this Government had treated the State governments. During the last throe years, this Government has collected in direct taxation no less than £1,250,000,000, of which it has retained 79 per cent. The States have had to share the balance. The total collections over the same period, including indirect taxes, amounted to £2,000,000,000. This is twice the amount of revenue that was collected by the Chifley Government under all headings, in the darkest period of the war, from 1943 to 1946. The Chifley Government collected only £9S9,000,000 in that period. Notwithstanding the fact that it was financing Australia’s contribution to -the greatest war effort in. history, that Government was able to give to the States a proportion of its collections equal to the proportion that this Government has distributed to them during the last three years. That proves that the Chifley Government had a greater appreciation of the obligations of the States than has this Government. In view of the figures that I have mentioned, can it be wondered that there is intense dissatisfaction amongst the State governments, irrespective of their political complexions? In every State, the building of hospitals has been stopped, education has been starved, mental hygiene has been neglected, and roads everywhere are disintegrating.
The municipalities have special grievances, which arise from the credit restriction policy that this Government implemented a couple of years ago. This policy has had a most’ deleterious effect upon municipalities, particularly in relation to road construction. Municipalities are obliged to borrow money before they can construct new roads for ratepayers. Only a few years ago it was easy for them to obtain financial accommodation. The security that they had to offer for their loans was the best in the worldthe properties that abutted on the new roads. They received a very rude shock when they were informed by the various financial houses from which they had obtained accommodation previously that, because of the credit restriction policy of this Government, they could not borrow the amounts that they needed to improve the localities which they administered. Throughout the Melbourne area, particularly in the outer districts, there are many miles of uncompleted roads. Because the municipalities are unable to borrow sufficient money, ratepayers will be compelled to live under the most appalling conditions. In the depth of winter it is difficult for mothers to wheel perambulators along rough, unconstructed roadways, and children must walk to school along tracks where the mud frequently i3 feet deep. This sort of thing must continue until the Government’s credit policy is reversed. The Government should not pursue its so-called anti-inflationary policy to the detriment of residents of new suburbs. That is a negative and reac- tionary course of action, and, for the life of me, I cannot see how it can have a beneficial effect upon the economy of the nation as a whole. [Quorum formed.] This Government has failed in every respect. It has failed to provide full employment. Notwithstanding its preelection pledge to reduce taxation, taxation has risen, from an average of £69 par capita annually under the Chifley Government in 1949-50, to £119 per capita annually for the current financial year. Instead of reducing the cost of living, the Government has raised it to the highest level in Australia’s history. Prom the point of view of the general contentment of the people, it can be said truthfully to have failed lamentably in every way. 1 have not the slightest doubt that, when it is called before its masters to account for its stewardship, it will be thrown ignominiously out of office.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
, - The closing note of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) was a declaration that the Government had failed. The Labour party hopes to succeed this Government. Since it proposes to take the first step in that direction by gaining a victory at the Senate election a few weeks hence, the people of Australia are entitled to expect it to state a definite policy now. However, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who has been publicly described as a potential Labour Treasurer - save our souls ! - made no attempt to outline a financial policy for the Labour party when he spoke earlier in this debate. So this party, which seeks to gain office by condemning the Government, either lacks any policy, or, which is more probable, has a policy that it is ashamed to publish. The Government has a clear policy. That policy, first is to make Australia secure in the ownership of Australians. Therefore, this Government will always stand for the adequate defence of Australia. Our policy, secondly, is to guarantee the economic security of the people.
The Labour party attacks, amongst other features of the Government’s programme, the current level of taxation.
The budget for this year includes provision for the expenditure of over £200,000,000 on defence and Australia’s contribution to the United Nations cause in Korea. Would the Labour party in office reduce the defence vote? Honorable members opposite make no answer to that.
– We are not allowed to answer.
– Three months before World War II. broke out, I sat in this House and heard the honorable member for East .Sydney (Mr. Ward) object bitterly, with the full support of his colleagues, to the extension of the provisions of the Defence Act to cover service in New Guinea. That was the policy of the Labour party three months before war began. I heard the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) say in this House, at the same period, that he would not vote threepence for the defence of Australia while even one man was unemployed in the country. Is that still his policy? It was his policy then, and so it is pertinent to ask the Labour party now whether it would reduce taxation by cutting down defence expenditure. I hear no answer to my inquiry. The provision for repatriation and war pensions in the present budget amounts to £111,000,000. Would the Labour party reduce taxes by reducing that commitment? Silence is the only answer from the Labour benches. There is provision in the budget for the expenditure of £164,000,000 on social services, an alltime record. Would Labour reduce taxes by reducing the social services provision? Silence again is my answer.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to demand answers from the Opposition to questions that he asks when he knows well that we are unable to answer because of the Standing Orders and would be ruled out of order if we attempted to interject ?
-It is perfectly in order for the Minister to direct questions to the Opposition. It would be out of order for the Opposition to answer them.
– It would be both out of order and most uncomfortable for honorable members opposite to attempt to answer my questions. I shall try to put my questions to the Opposition indirectly so that I shall conform to the requirements of the Standing Orders.
This year’s budget includes the provision of £125,000,000 for the public works of the States. I do not expect an answer from the Labour party, but I should be interested to know whether it would reduce that item for the purpose of reducing taxation.
– A Labour government would increase it.
– I am glad to have that assurance. An amount of £15,500,000 from the revenue derived from the petrol tax will be paid to the States this year to finance road construction. Would the Labour party reduce that? The provision for housing is £30,000,000. Would the Labour party reduce that? State grants will total £15,000,000. Would the Labour party reduce that? An amount of £74,000,000 has been set aside for Postal Department works. Would the Labour party reduce that? Tax reimbursements to the States will amount to £135,000,000. Would the Labour party reduce that item? The capital works of the Commonwealth will cost £106,000,000. Would the Labour Labour party reduce these items, or would it effect economies in other ways? This Government has released a number of temporary public servants so that they may engage in more productive forms of employment. Would the Labour party increase the number of men and women released from the Public Service in order to secure relief on the taxation front? The items that I have mentioned comprise almost the entire budget. The Labour party is not willing to say that it would reduce any one of those items. However, if it has a secret plan to reduce them, I hope that the people will never put it into office. A political party which nourishes secret policies that it hopes to foist upon the people should never gain their confidence.
The Labour party knows perfectly well that all its plans will lead, if anything, to increased expenditure. Increased expenditure, of course, can be achieved only if taxes are increased. Yet this is the party that complains of the high level of taxation under this Government ! It is obvious th at the policy of the Labour party could be implemented only by one of two methods. One method would be to increase steeply the rates of taxation that now apply. The other method would be to substitute some new system of finance for the present system. The only way to provide a substitute system of finance would be to print new currency, either in fi notes as Mr. Theodore proposed, or in treasury-bills. Such a method of finance is the only alternative to increased taxation, if the Labour party’s policy is to be implemented. I warn the people that, serious as would be the consequences of increased taxation, those consequences would be a mere bagatelle by comparison with the consequences that would flow from an alternative inflationary system of finance. This Government has a. plan that will lead the country to greater economic security and, step by step, to lower rates of taxation. The people could elect a government to divide the wealth, of the country in a manner different from that in which it was divided by the Government in office, but they could not elect a government to divide more wealth than the countryproduced. The policies of this Government are founded upon that fundamental and simple truth. Our intention is to increase the productive wealth of the country and, to that extent, increase the standard of living of the people, concurrent with a. reduction of taxes. If we could double the productive wealth of the country overnight, we could halve rates of taxation and still have the same volume of revenue. Labour will never co-operate in any policy that would have the outcome of increasing the volume, of wealth produced and, therefore, the volume of divisible wealth. This Government has formulated and is operating the most specific plans to increase our wealth.
The simplest way to increase the wealth of the nation is to achieve industrial peace. Never before has Australia enjoyed a period of industrial peace such aa that which we have experienced since this Government came into office. What has Labour contributed to the achievement of industrial peace? It has done nothing but incite industrial unrest and preach the creed that one class of the community should hate another class. That conduct is designed to produce, and has the effect of producing, industrial unrest. Let me read to the House some remarks that were made recently by a Labour leader about the most important cause of the increase of taxes in this country. During the last few days, Mr. Cosgrove, the Labour Premier of Tasmania, said -
The high taxes Australiana’ have paid for years are necessary only for defence: purposes, and the cost of maintaining the armed services on a near war footing in this technical age is gigantic. Millions of pounds of hard-earned money have had to be appropriated by the federal Treasurer because we must be prepared to meet the perpetual threat of war. Men have had to be taken from industry for the Services, and production has suffered. Prices have continued to rise and the value of money has declined.
All of this is attributable to the Communist party, and its policy and leadership. But what has Labour d’one to help us to subjugate the Communists in this country? When we held a referendum with the object of securing power to declare this nefarious and treasonable party unlawful in this country,, the whole, of the Labour movement opposed us. When, having failed to obtain the constitutional power that we wanted, we took the next step and introduced into the Parliament a bill to give the trade, unions power to oust the Communists by clean ballots, secret ballots under supervision, the whole of the Labourr party opposed the measure, But it was passed by the Parliament. That measure is the explanation of the degree of industrial peace that we have achieved. It is to the everlasting shame of Labour that it refused to join with us in assisting the trade unions to oust the Communist by that means.
Moving from the problem of achieving industrial peace and, to that degree, increasing the volume of divisible wealth in the community, the Government turned its attention to more direct arrangements for the production of additional wealth. Its economic policy is designed to shift the emphasis from non-essential production to essential production, and to gain for Australia the- increased volume of wealth that we. need foi our growing population and! to enable us to continue to import from overseas things that w,e cannot produce here but which, we require to maintain a decent standard of living. I have yet to learn of any action or constructive: suggestion by the Labour party that would help us to attain that objective. All that Labour does is to utter parrot-cries about the way in which i:i;i.o.i;e money could be spent if taxes were reduced, which is only another w,ay of saying; that we ought to have more and more inflation in this country. 1 hope that the- people will never become victims of the wiles, of Labour, which promises them a higher standard of living from- a lesser volume of produced’ wealth. That cannot be done. Mandrake could not do U. But a fraud could be perpetrated upon the people by giving them an immediate reduction of taxes and replacing lost revenue by inflationary means. 1 warn the people t.h,at if they ever become victims of such, a fraud, which is Labour’s plan, the impost that they would have to. bear as a result of the decreased value of their money would affect them much more harshly than do present rates of taxes.
The intention of this Government is to give taxation relief as fast as it is possible to do so. That is not a mere statement. It is a. living fact. The last budget, now only six months old, reduced income tax by 10 per cent., reduced company tax, abolished the land tax and reduced the sales tax on a wide range of articles. I have not the slightest doubt that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will be able to give very much greater taxation relief in his next budget, because now we have a stabilized economy. A return to the lower levels of taxation to which we all aspire will be possible only when the .productive wealth of the country has been vastly increased. The economic policies of the Government ave designed to do that. They have been so successful that a country that was short of coal, and was enduring black-outs and suffering from all of the shortages that arise from inadequate supplies of that basic material, has to-day, for the first Mme in its modern history, a surplus of Hip basis of all industry. As a, result, there is an increased output of steel, all the things’ that a>re made from steel;, cement and the other basic requirements of modern life andi industry.
This Government planned to resuscitate our primary industries, which were dealt a succession of devastating blows by Labour when it was in office. Labour pegged the prices of dairy products at an unpayable level. It made such bad contracts with other countries that to-day we are obliged to sell butter overseas at a loss of ls. per lb. Labour fixed the price of hide? at 7d. per lb..,, when the export price was 63.d. per lb.,, and. it wondered why our live-stock industries waned. It fixed the price of tallow at £20 a ton when it was worth £120 a ton,, and again wondered why our live-stock industry waned. Labour fixed the price of wheat sold in this country, not for human consumption, but for use by other industries, at one-third of its export value, and wondered why the acreage sown to wheat declined. This Government was left to tackle those problems and to establish a reasonable level of incentive prices for basic primary products sold locally. It was confronted with the task of trying to correct th.e tragic errors that Labour governments made in relation to overseas contracts. We have undertaken the task with such success that, I am able to s.ay that, during the last eighteen months, tender the most recent contract entered into, by this. Government, the export value of o.ur beef has increased by- 60, per cent. During the same period, no. other raw material in the world, whether it be a foodstuff, a fibre or a metal, has increased in value to a comparable degree. We are. establishing the incentive prices that are necessary for an expansion of o.uv primary industries,
We have dealt with the physical needs of expanding primary industries. Today, there is no. longer a shortage o,f fertilizers in Australia. Within a few years, we shall be completely independent of imported sulphur for t(he production of superphosphate, without which agriculture, could npt be practiced in the temperate zone of Australia, There has hee,n a. tremendous increase of the a,ait. ability qf Australian-made agricultural equipment. From the loans arranged by this Government, adequate dollars are available for the importation of those agricultural implements that can be obtained only from the dollar area. This year we have witnessed, for the first time in many years, the spectacle of Australian seasonal crops being harvested mostly by Australian labour. For twelve years-, either troops or immigrants were directed to harvest wine grapes, currants and canning fruits. In a democracy, no industry can survive if it is dependent upon labour directed to it by the Government. As a result of the operation of the economic polices of this Government, there is, for the first time in many years, enough labour for those essential purposes.
We have encouraged the building of houses for rural workers. That is something that Labour has only talked about. We have encouraged the building of modern houses on farms, so that rural workers can enjoy the amenities that would be available to them if they went to a city. As a result of the taxation allowance of 20 per cent, depreciation on the cost of building houses for farm workers, a large number of such houses are being built on farms and stations throughout the country. The depreciation allowance has also encouraged the construction of additional wool sheds, cow sheds, fences, silos, machinery sheds and hay sheds. We are well on the way to the achievement of a planned expansion of primary production under which, within five years, we shall be able to keep pace with the increased needs of our growing population, and also increase by £100,000,000 a year our annual income from exports. That is the policy of a Government which does things. It is not the policy of a government that only throws mud at the other fellow.
We have given full attention to the social needs and aspirations of the Australian people. Housing is one of the principal requirements of the people. The housing record of this Government is something of which we can justly be proud. In 1949, the last year of Labour rule, 52,000 houses were built in this country. Last year, under this Government, 79,400 houses were built. That is a magnificent record. Labour claims that to it alone can the underprivileged look for assistance. In the last year the Labour party was in office, direct payments for social services amounted to £81,000,000. This year, £168,000,000 will be paid in social services. So, even with all this constructive development, the social needs of the people have been vastly increased. In 1945 when the Labour Government was in office, the age pension was 32s. 6d. a week. Today, the rate is £3 7s. 6d. a week. For the first time, the age pensioners are getting free medical treatment. Did the Labour Government ever give them that benefit? The Labour Government had plans for the introduction of a free medicine scheme, but nothing came of it. The age pensioners to-day have a vastly higher rate of pension than they had under the preceding Labour Government, and, in addition, receive free medicine and free medical treatment, and are granted a payment of 12s. a day towards their hospital expenses, which in truth, gives them free hospital accommodation. Is not that an almost perfect example of social security? It is given, for the first time, by a non-Labour government.
In the period from 19.1.7 till .1.949, £53,000,000 had been provided for war service homes. This Government, since it came into office at the end of 1949, has provided £6S,000,000 for war service homes. Of every 100 war service homes in Australia, 45 have been built by this Government in the last three years. That is the record of the Government with respect to social services. The Labour party can yell about inflation, and the maladministration of the Government. The real test is that while we plan to expand our industries, improve our social services and govern as rational, 3ane and experienced people, vast sums of foreign capital flow into this country. The British company, Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, has announced that it has explicit plans within the next few years to increase its investments in Australia by £16,000,000. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company proposes to expend between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 here. American companies like International Harvesters, Heinz Brothers, Goodyear Tyres and a dozen others propose to expend scores of millions of pounds in Australia. That is the response of foreign capital to the degree of economic stability that has been given to this country by the administration of this Government.
Let us examine the bleatings of the Labour party about taxation levels. 1 cite the instance of the typical family in Australia - man, and his wife and two children. We hear that taxes were lower during the war than they are at the present time. A married taxpayer with two children, in receipt of income of £800 a year, paid tax of £199 in. 1945, and £60 in 1949.
In these days of dreadfully high taxation, so-called, he pays £46. But that is not the end of the story. He has two children. When allowance is made for child endowment, we find that he paid in tax £1S0 net in 1945 and £34 net in 1949. This year, he pays £7 net. That is the record of this Government, and it will not be clouded or maligned by the Labour party. It is the policy of this Government to establish a sound economy. We shall continue to reduce taxes, and keep our finances on an honest and open level. That is more than can be said for the Labour party to-day. We shall produce a greater volume of wealth, which ultimately will facilitate a. tremendous reduction of taxes, and enable the standard of living to be increased and social standards improved.
I have no doubt that in the next few weeks the Labour party will say to the people, “ Return us to office, and we shall reduce taxation “. The Australian temperament is liable to respond in these words, “Well, let us give the Labour party a go “. I say to the Australian people, “ If you give the Labour party a go, I believe that you will possibly get some bait in immediate reductions of taxes and a terrific dose of intiation, which will destroy the value of wages, capital and pensions “.
-Order! The Minister has exhausted his time.
.- Before the House grants Supply, I, too, should like to make some comments on the record of the Government which proposes to expend that appropriation. The matter of finance was very dear to the heart of my predecessor, the late Hubert Peter Lazzarini. At the time he died, he was the father of the Labour party in this Parliament. There were only two persons in the House who had spent a longer time in it than he had. One was the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who founded the Australian Country party and, I am happy to say, looks as if he will survive it. The other was the late right honorable member for Bradfield, Mr. Hughes, who, in his last 40 years in this House, had joined and left every party represented in it except the Australian Country party. Mr. Lazzarini had always belonged to the Labour party, had always adhered to its principles, and had given strength to both–
– No, he was in and out of the Labour party.
– And the Minister was in and out of the Australian Country party.
– Order ! It is one of the courtesies of this House that an honorable member shall be heard in complete silence when he is making his maiden speech. I ask that that courtesy be observed now.
– I thought that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) had returned to the more congenial climate of Disraeli’s day. I recollect that Disraeli said, on the occasion of his maiden speech, “ The time will come when you shall hear me “. Perhaps I should say, “ The time will come when you may interrupt me “.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that the Government had encouraged the erection of modern homes for the workers, and that he was proud of its housing record. I concede that the volume of home construction is as good a criterion as any other with respect to the financial and economic health of a community, but to disprove the statement of the Minister, I shall cite some figures from the Quarterly Bulletin of Building Statistics, No. 19, issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, for the quarter ended the 30th September, 1952. Tt shows that the number of buildings commenced in any quarter reached its peak in the quarter ended the 30th September, 1951, when -the construction of 22,000 homes was begun. But in every subsequent quarter, the number -has decreased. In the quarter ended the 30th September last, which is the last quarter -for which the figures arc given by the Statistician, -the number had declined -to 15,500.
I need not go further than my own electorate to cite .figures showing the decline. In the municipality of Fairfield, which is largely com. prised within my electorate, 636 building permits were issued for the erection of houses during the first .half of 1951. In the subsequent three half-yearly periods, the number has ;not exceeded two-thirds of that total, the figures being 43S, 442 and 449, respectively. In the municipality of Liverpool, which is largely comprised in my electorate, the number of building permits issued in 1951 was 195. but was only 121 in 1952. In the shire of Sutherland, which is wholly comprised in my electorate, the council .issued permits for the erection of 2,900 dwelling houses in 1951, and permits for 2,046 dwelling houses last year. This decline by one-third is marked all over Australia, and not the least in my electorate. The plain reasonwhy people are not building houses now is that .they cannot afford to do so. Twenty years ago, during the depression, the .first thing. on which ‘people retrenched was their accommodation. Food and clothing had to come -first, and people (Continued to live in crowded circumstances, because they could not afford better accommodation. No one thinks that, twenty years -ago, the people of Australia were adequately housed; and nobody -thinks that they .are adequately housed now. Can there be any excuse for a reduction of the building rate of dwelling houses to -two-thirds of what it was le?s than two years ago?
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture also cited the record of the Repatriation Commission. 1’ quote the figures which were supplied by the Minister for ‘Social Services (“Mr. Townley) to the ‘honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) on the 24th February last. It appears from those figures that there was an allocation of ±’25;0fl,000 for war service ‘homes in ‘the financial year 1950-51, £28;07-55000 in the following year, and £28,000,000 in the current year. No one will assert that the £1 to-day has the same virtue as the £1 of two years ago or even one year ago. Fewer houses will be erected by the War Service Homes Division out of the allocation this year than ‘were erected last year and in the preceding year.
Another respect in which the present Government has hurt housing has been by the increase of the interest <ra’te. A man who borrows £2,500 - a typical amount - to finance the construction of a home and agrees to make repayments over a term of 30 years will pay i£2 9s. a week if the interest -rate is 3 per cent., £2 16s. if the rate is 4 per cent., and £3 2’s. 6d. if it is 5 per cent. Over the period of 30 years, if the interest rate is 5 per cent., he will pay twice -as much as the amount he borrows. Housing has also been provided by the housing commissions of the various States, pursuant to the Commonwealth. and State Housing Agreement. One of the .gravest indictments of the present regime is that it has repudiated the solemn undertaking that it made with the six States in 1945. I shall read clause 6 of the agreement, which appears as a schedule to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act 1945-
The Commonwealth will advance ito each State . the moneys that shall be -here after required for the carrying out o’f the State’s housing projects as notified to the Treasurer -of the Common wealth from -time to time pursuant to Clause 7.
Clause 7 reads as follows : -
Each State shall at least fourteen days before the first days of January, March, June and September in each year notify the Treasurer .of the Commonwealth of all housing projects which it .proposes to commence in the ensuing period of ‘three months and in .respect of ‘the dwellings included -in -that -housing project or projects shall furnish particulars to .the ./.’… ..’ 1.- ‘. .of the Cominonw.eal.th of the proposed nature and type and estimated cost of each dwelling or group .nf dwellings.
I have ‘the New ‘South Wales figures showing the performance of this Government in the last two years under that solemn agreement. In the financial year 1951-52 New South Wales notified the
Treasurer of the Commonwealth that it would place contracts >under that agreement to a value .of £14,000,000. The Commonwealth .granted only £8/514,000. An amount of £11,123,000 was expended. New South Wales, therefore, had to £nd from its own restricted resources the sum of £2,609,,000. I quote now from the eleventh annual report of the New South Wales Housing Commission concerning the effect of that reduction. The report says -
The immediate result was .the virtual cessation as .from November, 1951, of the letting of buildings contracts, the cancellation of contracts for homes, the termination of negotiations for favorable contracts for large -numbers of houses, the drastic curtailment of day .labour housing works and other actions calculated to reduce expenditure. Associated grave disadvantages were the inability to honour obligations to firms established locally and/or developed in the interests of the Government’s housing operations (some from overseas) with which there existed understanding for some continuity of work to -ensure reasonable prospects of return on -finance invested at the .Commission’s instigation, and the disruption caused by the sudden severe ‘limitation of activities to the programming and planning for the future.
A statement on page 9 of the report reads -
The number of contractors actively engaged on Commission work at 30th June, !!)52, was 407. Prior to the imposition of the financial restrictions in November, 1!)51, the number of contracts ku engaged was 54!) ….
In an annexure to the same report is shown the number of houses contracted for in the financial year 19.50-51 and in the financial year 1951-52, which .shows that the number decreased from 3,512 in 1950-51 to 1,9S0 in 1951-52. That is mot the .end of it, because New South Wales has notified the Treasurer tha: a sum of £l7,190,-000 can be expended in the current financial year on contracts let wilder the agreement. The Commonwealth said, first, that it would grant New (South Wales’ a mere £8,800,000, but it .later repented to some degree .and increased that sum by £3,300,00.0, making a total of £1 2,3 00,000 to be expended- oil the .erection of houses. That amount was only 70 per cent, of the amount the Commonwealth was due to pay under the Agreement.
There is no question in my mind that the Commonwealth has broken .and repudiated that agreement. It has defaulted on it, and there is no doubt that New .South Wales and the other States could seek a declaration from the High Court that the agreement is binding on the Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth has broken it.
That is not the only agreement that the Government has broken. Another agreement that it has -broken is the Financial Agreement of 1927, which is enshrined, in its present form, in the schedule to the schedule to the Financial Agreement. Act 1944. A great deal of mystery surrounds the operations of the Australian Loan Council. because it meets in secret. No communiques are issued after its meetings. Its meeting are like political party meetings. One has to read the press to find out what goes on at them. Clause 3 (8.) of the Financial Agreement reads -
The Commonwealth and each ‘State will from time to time . . submit to the Loan Council a .programme setting forth the amount it desires to raise by loans during each financial year. . . .
Sub-clause (9.) of the same clause states -
If the Loan Council decides that the total amount df the loan programme for the year cannot be .borrowed at reasonable rates and conditions it shall decide the amount to be borrowed during the year. . .
Sub-clause (15.) states -
A decision of the Loan Council in respect of .a matter which the ‘Loan. Council is by this Agreement em-powered to decide shall lie final and binding on all parties to this Agreement.
The agreement, therefore, is binding not only on the States, but also .on the Com.monwealth. ‘Clause 4 of the agreement reads -
It is a common impression that the Commonwealth should run the Australian Loan Council. It may, in fact, run it but that was not the intention of the States and the Commonwealth when the agreement was made in 1927, nor was it the intention of the citizens of the States and the Commonwealth who, ‘for once in their lives, voted affirmatively in a referendum, and approved the agreement. The fact is that the Commonwealth and the States jointly decide how much money should be raised, whether it is possible to raise that amount on the open market, and what the interest rate shall be. The present regime has flouted the decisions of the Australian Loan Council. It appears that the Loan Council1 voted, by a majority consisting of the six States, three of which at that time were under Labour governments, two under Liberal governments, and one under a Country party government, for the raising of loans amounting to £247,500,000, during the current financial year. The States decided that it was necessary and possible to raise that amount, but the Commonwealth representatives on the council said in effect, “ You can vote as you like. “We shall disobey the decision of the council “. That is a flaunting of the Constitution. The Commonwealth decided that the loan moneys to be raised should amount to about £185,000,000. In this financial year New South Wales will be allowed only £51,000,000 out of that sum. That appears to be a great amount, but in the previous financial year the Loan Council voted, and the Commonwealth approved, an amount of £64,000,000 for New South Wales. In order to obtain a complete picture of the situation one has to realize that in that second year there was available £13,000,000, or 20 per cent., less than was available in the previous year. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that in this financial year the Commonwealth was making available to the States £125,000,000 for their public works programmes. He did not state that in the previous year it made £153,000,000 available to the States. It is impossible for a State to budget adequately and plan for works that will keep people engaged in useful employment, if the amount of money available is to fluctuate so much. We all know it has varied in value, consistently downwards. However, the amount, on its face value, has fluctuated now up and now down. If it was right for the Commonwealth this year to make available £125,000,000 for State public works it was foolish of it to make available £153,000,000 the previous year. There has been no consistency in its policy. The consequence of these reductions in public works has been that the people of New South Wales are not adequately housed, and have not the number of public buildings to which they are entitled.
I consider that I can speak with authority on that subject, because I represent an electorate that has grown very rapidly. There is only one other electorate more populous than mine, and it is represented by the right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey). I hope that I shall not he guilty of vanity if I hazard the opinion that the number of electors of the Werriwa division who wish me to represent them here exceeds the number of electors in the La Trobe division who wish the right honorable gentleman to represent them. The figures are more impressive when one realizes that at the redistribution of electoral boundaries in 194S the number on the rolls in Werriwa was 38,000. At the end of 1949 it was 46,000 and at the end of last year it was about 57,500. Those figures show an astonishing growth of population. The electors of Werriwa are mostly people from the inner city area who have moved to the periphery of the city, where they had hoped to be able to erect homes in more pleasant, congenial, and spacious surroundings. As a result of lack of loan moneys they are without homes. Many of them are still living in the garages that they built as a temporary measure. They are without hospital and high school facilities. I think it can be said truthfully that those outer suburbs have the highest birth-rate in the State. Three 250-bed hospitals were planned at Fairfield, Liverpool, and Sutherland in my electorate, but the contracts have been cancelled. No one in public life would venture to say that any of these hospitals is other than a necessity but the construction of each has had to be delayed because of the 20 per cent, cut in the amount of money made available to New South Wales for works in the present financial year. No high schools are being erected in the electorate, and as a consequence children have to undergo the tedium and hazards of up to 20 miles travel each. way to school on five days a week.
The Commonwealth has not restricted only the activities of the States. It has also restricted those of its own activities that it regards as non-productive, inflationary or unnecessary. I believe that my electorate has the most unhappy distinction of having more unsatisfied telephone applications than any other electorate. Brazenly displayed on the sixth floor of the General Post Office building in Sydney is a. list of telephone exchanges with the number of unsatisfied applicants shown against the name of each exchange. The number shown against the Werriwa exchanges is 2,500. That is not the total number of people in the electorate who are dissatisfied because of the lack of telephones. It represents businesses and families, and there must be many more thousands of people who are without telephones. It probably does not make those people feel much happier to think that money can be found for television but not for the provision of telephones. I can take any honorable member to at least six unfinished telephone exchanges which have remained in that state of tardy construction to which the Prime Minister referred yesterday, for at least three years.
The restriction of new building affects employment most markedly. I need not cite figures from official statistics to show that in the last eighteen months unemployment has risen. Any Monday morning 300 people can be seen queuing* up for unemployment benefit outside the Commonwealth Employment Office at Liverpool, and the same number outside the Commonwealth Employment Office at Sutherland in my electorate for the first time since the right honorable gentleman was last Prime Minister.
I quote from the Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics, No. 134, issued, in January last by the Commonwealth Statistician, which shows that civilian employment in Australia reached its peak in November, 1951, when 2,643,000 people were employed, and in January last the number had dropped to 2,522,000. Each intervening month shows a decline. The total decline in those fifteen or sixteen months was 121,000, and in that time at least 30,000 able-bodied men had come into the country from abroad, and at least the same number of able-bodied youth0 had left school and were seeking jobs. It may be that that was completely fortuitous and inevitable, but I shall quote a statement made by the Treasurer in the Marcus Clark case in November, 1951, at the time when employment reached its peak. In justifying the Defence Preparations (Capital Issues) Regulations to the High Court the right honorable gentleman said that it was necessary that we should be ready for mobilization at the end of 1953, and for that purpose it was essential that the number of persons employed in the defence forces should be increased by 130,000 and that the number of persons in defence employment should be increased by 158,000. At page 20 of the demurrer book in that case the Treasurer is reported to have said -
If, as in 1939, there had been available currently unused economic resources and manpower, substantial defence preparations would have been carried out before the necessity arose to withdraw resources and man-power from present employment. No such unused resources or man- power, however are at present available. On the contrary, at the present time practically all resources of man-power, materials, plant, buildings and equipment are being fully used or employed. Indeed, many types of man-power and materials are extremely scarce by comparison with the current demand for them.
At 30th June, 1951, the total number of persons receiving unemployment benefits in Australia was 449. This position may be contrasted with June, 1939, when there were 298,000 unemployed in Australia.
The right honorable gentleman then described the various methods by which the same happy result could again be achieved. He said that it might be brought about by legal compulsions, which would be highly disturbing, by giving higher prices and wages, which would be inflationary, or by limiting and reducing various economic activities of the nation, particularly those related to the provision and sale of civilian goods. The last method was the one that he chose. At page 32 he is reported to have said - These objectives are being sought by taxation of individual incomes directed to reduction of consumer demand, by sales tax and excise taxation for the same purpose, and also by increased taxation upon companies, thereby curtailing further investment and reducing consumers’ income. Public expenditure upon less essential public works is also being curtailed.
One can read between the lines and learn that hospitals, schools, telephones and’ all those things which may make for better communications or better living and’ a better trained population, are all regarded as unnecessary. Honorable members’ of the Opposition believe that good’ communications^ a trained population and adequate hospital facilities are defence assets in the long run, and’ they do not agree that, they are merely State matters which are to be squeezed out by other matters considered to be more important.
Now I shall answer the rhetorical questions of the Minister, who has just left the chamber to make way for another Minister, who, like Hansard. takes his quarter hourly stint. Aus.tralians will respond to a national emergency frankly disclosed, and repudiate one which is used as a smoke-screen. The decline in popularity of the Government parties has been made obvious, in every election that has been held under adult suffrage in Australia in the last year, whether it has been a federal, State or a municipal election. There have been two exceptions, one in the. electorate of Bradfield, where the victory was pyrrhic, if ever a victory was such, and the other was in South Australia, where an extraordinary position arose in which one party won the general elections by gaining, 21 of the 22 seats, it contested with a total of 116,000 votes, and the other party lost the general elections and gained fourteen seats of the 22 it contested with a total of 162,00.0 votes. At the recent, byelection in my own electorate, 6,0.00 people who voted for the Liberal party eighteen months before changed their minds and voted Labour. One of the Liberal members of the Legislative Assembly of New .South Wales, who then represented part of my electorate, advertised congratulations upon my victory, in which he said -
The increased majority on this occasion registers a positive protest against the financial policy of the Menzies-Fadden Government.
The decline in popularity of the Government is not clue merely to the evaporation of their financial reserves, to the defection of the mercenaries who helped them on the last occasion or to the retrenchment of many of their paid organizers. It is due to the disillusion and frustration of thousands of Australians, particularly young ones who. want to raise families under decent Australian and British conditions’. It is clear that the people of Australia want a better deal. It is no less clear that they deserve a better deal.
Mr. OPPERMAN (Corio) [9.6 j.- I take this opportunity of congratulating the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlarn) on his maiden speech. It is obvious that his legal training has afforded him a clarity of thought and expression which is admirable. It is to be hoped that the principles of logic and common sense, which he has obviously developed, will always be applied to his contributions in this House, and it is also to be hoped that political considerations that must arise will not divert him from the path of reason and fairmindedness. Honorable members listened to his speech with great attention, but I arn afraid that the next time that he speaks he will not conclude without some interjection upon the contentious points that he may raise. He has shown a tendency to parochialize the debate by citing housing figures which are obviously State figures from the districts of Fairfield and Liverpool. Fairfield has been the centre of a special housing effort, and! a reduction of building applications in that area is a sad reflex of the tragic waste for which the New South Wales Government has been responsible and of its failure to provide housing for the people.
The Commonwealth figures highlight the failure of post-war Labour governments and indicate the achievements of this Government. Housing was a responsibility of the last Labour Government, and. in the last year of its office 51,339 houses were completed. In the same period, 52,642 houses were under construction. In 1951-52, under the present Liberal Government, 77,415 houses were completed and at the end of the year 81,980 houses were under construction. That enormous increase has been made possible by record advances for housing by the Commonwealth to the States. In this debate the attack against the Government has been led by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). By his demeanour and his words to-day honorable members have been given an indication of his probable method of attack in the forthcoming
Senate election. Therefore, it is essential to draw attention to some of his more flagrant assertions. When he was a Minister in the previous Labour Administration lie caused strained international relations, and his behaviour was in keeping with the unbalanced and illadvised statements that he made to-day. ITe said that a government had nothing to do but carry out the promises that it made before a general election, and he spoke speciously of his grievances concerning taxation. There are other things apart from taxation which should be dealt with in policy speeches. The security of this country is paramount, because it docs not matter what internal conditions are like if an outside enemy can attack and overwhelm it. The joint policy speech of the Government parties, delivered before the 1949 general election, included this statement -
We stand tor adequate national preparedness for defence. Tn 1914 and. in 193!>, we had, after the Declaration of War, a substantial time for raising ami training forces before the first shock* of battle. We cannot gamble on any such breathing space fur the future. Nm can we comfortably assume that *ti handful of scientists and specialists will win another war for us.
When this Government assumed office £40,000.000 a year was being spent on defence,’ compared with the £200,000,000 a year that is being spent at present. When the Korean campaign commenced this Government faced a situation which made it imperative for it to take part in the Korean incident. For that and other reasons, £200,000,000 a year must be spent on defence preparations. The difference between £40,000,000 and £200,000,000 is £160,000,000. If that £160,000,000 had not been taken from the taxpayers for the supremely important matter of defence then taxes could have been considerably reduced. That instance alone is sufficient to show why it is necessary to impose fairly heavy taxation. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that a. government has to carry out its promises, but what kind of a government would it be if, even in the face of criticism, it did’ not look to the security of Australia ? Surely it will not be suggested that the Government should not have prepared: the country, should not have taken part in the Korean incident, should forget our forces in Malaya or our United Nations commitments and should not have sent a Royal Australian Air Force wing to Malta. If the Government had not taken any of the forementioned actions it would have saved a considerable amount, of money, but it would also have irretrievably weakened our defence system and our prestige and esteem among our allies and the rest of the world. The Government need not have instituted national training, the introduction of which the Labour party bitterly opposed. However, that scheme has laid the foundation of a powerful army which can be used if ever our security is threatened.
The honorable member for Melbourne, whose judgment is ill balanced and whose lack of concern for the security and welfare of the people arises out of his political opportunism, will not carry any weight with the public because they have only to remember that two years ago in a burst of emotion he told the people to spend all their money because soon it would not be worth anything. He was completely wrong in saying that, because if anything is stable to-day it is our currency. I suggest that his lack of balance on that occasion is exceeded only by the lack of balance that he exhibited in his speech to-da.Y The only criticism that can be levelled at this Government, if it is a criticism, is that it has not played the political game. It has played a sincere and straight game for the welfare of Australia, and it has frankly informed the people of the situations confronting it. That is something that after eight years of Labour government the people were not used to. The time is coming when the Government’s objectives will be achieved, and the people will soon see that our policies were quite correct. If the public will refresh its memory, it will remember that, the 1947 bank nationalization legislation was introduced into this Parliament without a mandate from the people. That is sufficient evidence that’ all the statements made by honorable members opposite must be very carefully scrutinized. The position that faced the Government in 1951 called for very careful handling. The fantastic wool prices would have caused rampant inflation ‘if the Government had not taken drastic action. The
Government was determined to prevent that inflation. Soon after this Government assumed office honorable members opposite were continually asking “ What a re you going to do about inflation “.
– What is the Government going to do about it?
– That question is well worth answering, and the answer is to be found in the fact that inflation is now at an end. At the end of the last quarter the basic wage increase was very small, and other indications show that money is now of more value. It would have been much simpler for this Government to have dodged the issue of inflation and to have allowed money continually to lose its value. In the national interest, we were prepared to suffer some unpopularity. We knew that the presentation of the austerity budget of 1951, which Opposition members, indulging in exaggeration for political purposes havE clubbed the “ horror “ budget, would be unpopular. It is difficult for people to see always the alternatives in action taken to remedy a situation. In this instance it was a case of preparing for defence to avoid the possibility of war, or of leaving the country’s defences in a neglected state. If we expend a lot of money on defence preparations in an attempt to avoid a threatened war, and the attempt is successful there are always people who will say that we have wasted it. Since inflation has been greatly checked, many people are unwilling to reflect upon what would have happened had the unrestrained use of treasury-bills been allowed to become a feature of our economy. If a Labour government had been in office, inflation would now be completely uncontrolled, because no Labour government would have had the courage to take the measures to combat inflation that this Government has taken. We have been prepared to take it on the chin, knowing that we should eventually come back into the ring stronger than ever. I do not suppose that any government has had a more delicately balanced task than has this Government in steering the country out of its economic difficulties. The cost of the Korean campaign, and soaring wool prices followed by a sharp drop presented great problems to the Government. At one period, owing to the high prices obtained for our wool, our overseas reserves soared to the fantastic amount of £843,000,000. It is common knowledge that in order to meet the amazing rise in the national income, overseas purchasers were essential to form a barrier against inflation and tremendous overseas buying was indulged in. The fall in the wool income did not steady overseas purchasing. In December, 1951, our overseas reserves amounted to £554,000,000. It was obvious that in spite of the large volume of overseas purchases the Government had to take prompt action to remedy the situation. In March, 1952, import restrictions were imposed. If Australia’s overseas spending had been permitted to go on at an undiminished rate until January, 1952, our overseas funds would have been reduced to less than £350,000,000. The Government had to take action in those circumstances.
One of the questions that Opposition members frequently ask is why the restrictions were not imposed at an earlier date. There are two reasons for that. As I have said, the people have great difficulty in visualizing alternatives. We had to decide whether we should or should not prepare for war. Experts in their own categories and specialists in the purchase of overseas goods failed to watch the trend caused by their buying. Only when those who are versed in the science of merchandising overseas products realize that they have come to a wrong conclusion is it possible for the Government to adjust the resultant situation. In the early days of our peak overseas reserves, if the Government had intimated that it proposed to impose import restrictons, it would have been bitterly criticized. Only when concrete evidence is placed before merchants and importers that their actions - are detrimental to the interests of Australia will they readily accept governmental adjustment of their activities. After import restrictions had been imposed importers found themselves with millions of pounds worth of goods in transit to Australia, and they were at a loss to know what to do. For a long period they had indulged in an orgy of spending on the overseas market, and their business acumen suffered as a result. They were out of training. Large quantities of goods arrived simultaneously due to double ordering and flooded the market. In those circumstances, the Government was forced to take remedial action. In my own electorate textile mills were caught up by the trend of events. Before import restrictions were imposed contracts were cancelled and they had the greatest difficulty in maintaining their staff. They sent deputations to the Government asking for help if only to the extent of an intimation from, the Government that it had confidence in the woollen industry and would revise the tariff in order to alford it greater protection. They had not the slightest hope that the Government would go to the extent of imposing import restrictions on such a drastic scale in order to assist them to weather the storm. Their employees are now back at work again, and orders are again pouring in for their products and, as a direct result of the import restrictions imposed by the Government, their industry is now in a buoyant condition. In the circumstances that existed it was the duty of the Opposition to co-operate with the Government in every possible way. Opposition members should have said, “ This is a national crisis which” has been brought about by exceptional circumstances. A lack of confidence in the community can only result in further injury to our economy “. Instead, during the dark days of the economic crisis they criticized the Government at every opportunity, and when the first sign of unemployment appeared they endeavoured to magnify h for political purposes. They tried to instil fear in the minds of the people about their future under the administration of this Government. They hoped by that means to bring about additional unemployment which would lend force to their argument. Like a boxer who concentrates his blows on the cut eyebrow of his opponent, they harried the Government and told the people that a depression was imminent and that unemployment was already growing apace. In shaking the confidence of the people they endeavoured to worsen the situation so that they could triumphantly say later on, “ “We told you so “.
The honorable member for Melbourne who is the- Deputy Leader of the
Opposition, contended that the late Mr. Curtin was first responsible for implementing a policy of full employment in Australia, implying that no Labour government would allow the country to get into a position in which persons were looking for work. It is well that we should recall that, in July, 1946, under the administration of the Chifley Government, no fewer than 32 in every 10,000 persons in the community were receiving the unemployment benefit. That fact demonstrates that the Labour Government itself got into a situation which honorable members claim they would always avoid. The Opposition has reproached us for having said that we would provide full employment for the people and for having dishonoured that promise. I shall quote the exact words used by the present Prime Minister in the policy speech which he delivered in 1949. The right honorable gentleman said -
We shall confidently devote ourselves to full employment and the avoidance of depression.
If at that time there was some slight unemployment in the community it was the result of a phase through which we had to pass until we were able to give effect to our economic policy. “We passed through the shadows of 1952 and the Government is now reaping the fruits of that policy to a degree never expected by honorable members opposite. Recently, the Sydney Morning Herald, commenting on Australia’s trade recovery, had this to say -
Australia had a favorable balance of payments of £74,100,000 in the first half of the 1 052-53 financial year.
– Because of a good season.
– Opposition members always make excuses to avoid the real issues. The newspaper article continues -
This compares with a record unfavorable balance of £300,700,000 in the first half of 1 5)51-52 and a total unfavorable balance of £590.100,000 for the whole financial year 1951-52.
Those figures are ample proof of the statesmanlike manner in which the Government has faced its task. It has taken the blows on the chin with the knowledge that it will be awarded the decision when the bell sounds at the end of the last round. It is true that by-elections have gone against the Government. That is natural having .regard to the unpopularity of the Government’s actions in the national interest. Some of the unpopularity of the Government has resulted from misrepresentation by the States regarding loan council procedure and decisions. It is as well for me to say that mischievous ‘nonsense has been talked by State Labour premiers about the State works programmes. The simple fact is that the Menzies Government has increased the State works programmes and not reduced them. In the last three years of the Chifley Government new money borrowings in Australia for public works amounted to £62,000,000, £66.000,000 and £92,000,000. In the first two years of this Government’s period of office, new money borrowing amounts to £164,000,000 a lid £225,000,000. The latter amount was guaranteed by the Menzies Government for the 1951-52 programme. We gave a guarantee to the States to make their programmes possible, knowing that the loan market would not yield anything like £225,000,000. Business and commercial executives did their share of grousing, too, during the period when business was falling off. I could use a better word to describe their conduct, but it would be unparliamentary. They told their employees how bad business w.as, and by that means contributed to the unpopularity of this Government. But they realize now that the Government has done the right thing, and they will say so candidly and sincerely. Unfortunately, they have planted the seeds of dissatisfaction in the minds of their employees and have not bothered to go back over their tracks and eradicate them. They have not said to their employees, “ We were wrong. Everything has come right. Your jobs will be safe. Business is increasing and trade is improving”. They have merely returned to their desks to deal with the .flush of business, and have not worried about the harm they have done. They should think of what will happen if the Government is changed. The face of Australia, we were told only .a few .days ago by the .deputy Leader .of the Opposition, will .be com-
J/r.. Opperman. pletely changed if we have nine years of Labour rule.
The unemployment that this Government was supposed to have caused is decreasing. 1 cannot imagine how members of the Opposition can .have the audacity to declare that the Government’s policy is not intended to foster full employment when, its actions have tended consistently to reduce unemployment. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) must take great pride and pleasure in the statistics which show that the number of unplaced applicants for employment registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service has dropped by 10,128 in one month. The number of unemployment ‘benefit recipients has decreased by 6,872, from 41,633 to 34,761, a reduction of 16.5 per cent. The fact that this trend is being maintained is shown by the official weekly figures issued on the 7th March, which records a further reduction of 2,775 in the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit. The statistics prove that the Government is on top of the unemployment situation also, as it is on top of the import and trade situation. That is why it is so difficult for the ‘Opposition to” produce a policy that would be attractive to the people during the Senate election campaign. If the people learn the truth about the work that this Government has done, the Senate will remain in the charge of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The people should reflect calmly upon the words of the Prime Minister in a broadcast which the right honorable gentleman made to the nation when the tide was flowing most strongly against the Government. He said -
Though there will be inconveniences and some individual hardships, there is no reaSon why we should not readily surmount thi* particular crisis. My own faith in the strength and future of Australia .is unshakeable If we deal with this new situation cheerfully and co-operatively, we wilt provide a firmer foundation for the growth and prosperity of the future.
I have faith in this Government and I am confident that, just as it has .guided the nation through a difficult and trying period to a condition of economic stability, so will it resolutely take advantage of every opportunity to afford tax relief- to the people. It must he careful that- in lifting’ the import restrictions, it does not damage local industries. However, up to the present, it. has eased restrictions in a manner that has given to Australian industries the opportunity to meet the competition of overseas goods. It is difficult for the Opposition to find some policy that will induce the people to give the Labour party control of the Senate, and honorable members opposite know that, if they do not win the Senate election, the effects of this Government’s policy will convince the people- by 1954 that it should remain in power. Quorum formed.’]
.-It was interesting- to hear the honorable member for Corio (Mi-. Opperman) quote the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), because I am sure that the honorable gentleman must be one of the very few supporters that the Prime Minister still retains. It is obvious from what the- honorable member for Corio said that the alibi that the Government parties intend to use throughout the Senate election campaign is the defence alibi. Almost every honorable member on the Government side of the House who has spoken during this debate has referred, to the Government’s expenditure on defence and has alleged that a Labour government would not take adequate steps to provide for the defence of Australia. All I need to say in reply to such, arguments is that, if the people do not believe that the party which they returned to power on two occasions during critical war years will govern them well in time of peace and. provide adequately for their defence, there is no hope left for them. The- Australian, people have had experience of the efficiency of Labour governments in wartime, and they will not believe nonsense of the sort that we. have heard from Government supporters. The Labour party believes in an adequate defence programme, but it does not believe in waste of public money in the name of defence;, or that every policy that the Government .cares to trot out should be passed without examination simply because the Government cries “ Defence “. Did the honorable member for Corio, pay any attention to the words of Sir John Storey, who is the chairman of several vital defence committees in this country, when he addressed a top management convention at Mornington, Victoria, only a few weeks ago Y Sir John Storey said that a great deal of the £200,000,000 that this Government had set aside for defence this year was beingwasted because it had failed to provide for co-operation between industry and the aimed forces. Most Australians wonder how that money is being spent when they hear such remarks as that.
Having, produced the usual defence alibi, the honorable member for Corio passed on to the subject of import restrictions and discussed the difficulties that this Government had faced as a result, he 3aid, of the unprecedented increase of our national income. Apparently, when this Government is in power, if the national income is doubled because of high wool prices, we may expect unemployment, confusion and economic chaos ! What a remarkable argument. I should have thought that any nation under a sensible government would be able to double its national welfare, if its national income was doubled, and to effect great improvements to the social standards of the people and provide all the capital equipment needed for development. However, according to the honorable member for Corio, the increase of our income from wool from £300^000,000 to £600,000,000 annually led only towards disaster. What a condemnation of this Government! Could there be any more da.ma.ging criticism of its administration than that? I need not say anything more on that subject. The simple truth is that the Government was completely incapable of governing- the country in- a period of prosperity. Prosperity spelt disaster under its administration. Of course/ everybody knows that the difficulties and troubles that arose as a result of the vast increase of the national income caused- by high wool prices were- due entirely to the maladministration of this Government. Import restrictions were introduced in March, 1952, although we all know -that wool prices had fallen in June, 1951.
– But the restrictions did no harm.
– The Government had to wait from June, 1951, until March, 1952, before it could see what was happening. Each month during that period, Australia had an adverse trade balance of £20,000,000, £30,000,000 or £40,000,000. But the Government did absolutely nothing about the situation until the nation was on the brink of disaster. That is typical of its administration. It watched the situation develop, but did nothing and prepared no plans. Finally, when the situation forced it to take action, its remedy was so drastic that the entire economy was dislocated and unemployment and all sorts of difficulties arose. Does the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) dare to say that, when the trade balance began to flow against us at the rate of £40,000,000 a month after wool prices fell in 1951, this Government did not have some idea of the situation that was developing? Does he admit that he, as a member of the Cabinet, stood by for nine months until Australia became almost bankrupt because its overseas resources had been drained away? The action that the Government was forced to take eventually was so severe that the whole economy was thrown out of joint.
Notwithstanding the application of import restrictions, the friends of the Government found themselves in difficulties. Importing companies and big emporiums had ordered goods indiscriminately from all parts of the world. Shipload after shipload of unnecessary imports were racing towards Australia’s shores when the controls were imposed. “What happened then? The State governments had asked this Government to provide money for schools and hospitals. Municipalities were screaming for funds with which to build roads. “We needed finance for all sorts of vital defence and developmental projects. But the Government invariably told us that there was no money for such undertakings. However, the big importing interests and the owners of emporiums received a different answer. They found themselves temporarily in difficulties and, as soon as they appealed to the Government for help, the special deposits in the Commonwealth Bank were released to enable the private banks to expand credit to the amount of £412,000,000. Obviously, the importers did not understand, their business and had not placed their orders properly. These champions of private enterprise always object to government interference with their affairswhen they are not in trouble. They should have been forced to sell their goods at whatever prices they could obtain for them, and perhaps the Australian public would have benefited. The £400,000,000 worth of credit should have been devoted to social projects that were sadly in need of finance instead of being made available to importers and traders. lt is useless for the Minister for the Navy, or anybody else on the Government side of the House, to argue otherwise. Anybody who has read a circular that was issued recently by J. B. Were and Sons, of Melbourne, one of our biggest investment companies, which is headed by some of the shrewdest financial experts in Australia, must have been impressed by the opinion expressed by Mr. Ricketson that the £412,000,000’ should not have been made available to the emporiums and importing companies, and that they should have been forced to face the music and sell at competitive prices the goods with which they had overstocked themselves. There would have been genuine competition amongst the sellers to gain the custom of the people if that had been done, and the effect on the cost of living would have been extremely healthy.
The reason why this Government is in its present difficulties is that it dare not do what it ought to do, because invariably it comes into conflict with special interests which dominate the counsels of the Liberal party. The importing interests did not simply state their case to the Government and hope that it would help them. They dictated to the Government and said, “We must have credit in order to save ourselves “. They got the credits, in the same way as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and the oil companies always get from the Government what they want. The
Government stands condemned for providing credits to save its friends at a time when hundreds of essential projects were crying out for assistance.
I want to refer to a matter that was not mentioned by the honorable member for Corio, but was trotted out by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I refer to another bogy to which our friends on the Government side of the House propose to give an outing during the .Senate campaign. It is the Communist bogy. For eighteen months, this Government sat in office while inflationary forces were gathering impetus day by day, and did nothing but talk about communism. For eighteen months, while inflation was getting out of hand, the Government occupied the time of the Parliament with talk about communism, and with attempts to legislate with regard to communism, in not one of which it was genuinely fair dinkum at any time. I was amazed to hear the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, having condemned the Labour party for its alleged association with communism, claim for this Government credit for the victory of the Labour party over Communists in the key trade unions. This Government is in sore straits when the best that it can do in trying to defend its record in relation to communism is to say that it made it possible for the Labour party to do the fighting against Communists, and win the victory over them.
– We introduced the legislation.
– It is true that the Government introduced certain legislation, some of which amended the initial legislation of the Chifley Government, but surely honorable members opposite do not claim that it was that legislation which got rid of the Communists in the Ironworkers Federation. The victory in that trade union was gained by the courage and determination of the members of the Labour party who fought the battle and got the votes that were needed. I am reminded by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) that the legislation of the Chifley Government was used in the case of the Ironworkers Federation. I admit that other trade unions used this Government’s legislation, but I ask honorable members opposite whether the most effective fight against communism in the trade unions was waged by people who passed bills through the Parliament or by people in the factories and workshops throughout Australia who had to take it on the chin in their struggle, to obtain the votes needed to throw the Communists out. You can take whatever credit you like for your legislation-
– Order ! The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) must address the Chair. If he does so, probably there will be fewer interjections.
– Honorable members opposite can take whatever credit they like for the legislation that was sponsored by this Government, but the fact remains that, when they claim credit for that legislation, they are admitting that it was the Australian Labour party which threw the Communists out of the trade unions. Therefore, if they attempt to carry on the campaign that they have carried on previously, and which, from the remarks that were made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture earlier this evening, it appears that they will attempt to carry on during the Senate election campaign, they will do so knowing full well that they are not telling the truth when they attempt to link the Labour party with communism, and knowing full well that the victory over communism has been won by the efforts of members of the Labour party.
– Who does the honorable gentleman think he is fooling?
– I say to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) that there are far more dangerous Communists in the drawing rooms that he and his colleagues frequent than there are in the trade union movement. The rank and file members of the trade unions, given the opportunity to do so, are quite capable of dealing with the Communists within their own ranks.
– We gave them the opportunity to do so.
– You did not. You improved previous legislation.
– Order ! The honorable member for Yarra must not address
Government members. With his long parliamentary experience, he should know better than to do so.
– The simple fact is that honorable members opposite, in the sphere in which communism is most dangerous, where minds are being poisoned and institutions perverted - institutions in which (hey have much more influence than have humble members of the Labour party - are not doing their job. We are cleaning up those sections of society in which the Labour party is influential and active. Those sections include the trade unions. Can the honorable member for Franklin say that he has attempted to clean up the sections of society in which he and his colleagues move, and in which there are far more dangerous Communists than t here are in th e trade unions ? I nope that honorable members opposite will have the decency and honesty to forget, at least during the Senate election campaign, the old bogy that they have dragged out time and time again during debates in this (h amber. All that the Labour party needs to do is to point to its record of success against communism in recent years. Communism is a horse that will not gallop during the Senate election campaign, so honorable members opposite should forget about it.
With great amazement, I listened to the Minis tei1 for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) praise the record of this Government in relation to increasing primary production. He said that production was the key to the welf are of the country. We all know that to be true. We can argue about distribution or exchange, but if we have not the production that we need, and if the wealth that we require is not being produced, our standard of living cannot be maintained. The Minister knows, as we all do, that the economic welfare of Australia depends very largely upon our exports of primary products. The honorable gentleman had the effrontery to say to-night that, after this Liberal party-Australian Country party Government had been in office for three and a half years, we were on. our way to better things in the field of primary production. Everybody knows that primary production has increased owing to exceptionally favorable seasons. It is true that our .production of butter has increased tremendously, but when we examine the real basis of butter production, which is the number of dairy cows available to produce milk - dairy cows that have to be here in both good seasons and bad seasons - we see that under the regime of this Government there has been a steady deterioration of the position. The Minister, instead of taking credit to himself for seasonal conditions that have made possible a very high rate of production of butter, should have told the House that, after three and a half years of rule by this Government, the number of dairy cattle in this country is still declining. If the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Bate) and the honorable member for Franklin require confirmation of that statement, I refer them to a bulletin deal ing with the number of dairy cattle in Australia that was published by the Commonwealth Statistician a few weeks ago. Since last year, the number of dairy cows in milk has decreased by 6.9 per cent., and the number of dry cow3 by 2.9 per cent. Those figures indicate clearly that, three and a half years after this ‘Government assumed office, our dairy industry is in a. much worse condition than it was before the Government took office.
– Has the honorable member ever heard of efficiency?
– The honorable member for Franklin, who represents a rural electorate, ought to know - although he may not do so, because he does not seem to know anything - that “butter production has increased as the result .of a set of extraordinary circumstances. I refer to the succession of particularly lush seasons that we have enjoyed. If we have a drought this year, as we may well . do, dairy production will reach the lowest level on record.
Government members interjecting,
– Let .me continue the education of the honorable member for Franklin .and other honorable members opposite, who, apparently, do not like to hear the truth about this matter. I refer them to another bulletin issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, which contains statistics about the number of farms in Australia. The number of farms is the real basis of rural production. No matter how good the seasons may be, if the number of farms decreases, our position will become worse. According to ‘the Commonwealth Statistician - not according ‘ to Labour party propagandathere are now 10,000 fewer farms in Australia tiran there were in 1939. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had the effrontery to say to-night that, as a result of the activities of this Government, primary production in Australia has never been in a better position than it is now-. Everybody iii this House knows that, owing to seasonal conditions, over which the Government has no control and for which it -can claim no credit, and owing to overseas conditions, over which the ‘Government has no control .’and for which it can claim no credit, the production of wheat, butter and other primary products has ‘been very good, and that we have received very favorable prices for them. But the basis of that production, which is the number of cows and the number of farmers - has deteriorated consistently under the regime of this Government.
– There are 2,000 fewer rural ‘holdings now than there were in 1:943.
It. KEON. - That is so. We must take into account ‘the increase of the number of people in Australia to eat our primary products and, therefore, reduce the quantity available for export. When the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture returned to Ms country from London recently, he said that the key to Australia’s future welfare was an increase of our export income, which could be obtained only “by an increase of our primary production. The Prime Minister came ‘back from London -and issued statement after statement “to the -effect that the role o’f Australia in the sterling bloc was to increase primary production. When the Treasurer (Sir Arthur -Fadden) went to London a year or .two before ‘the Prime Minister’s visit, he said that our .job was to “increase our export income by increasing our primary production.
What has happened to our export income and our exports under this Government? Once again, I do not ask the House to accept the word of the honorable member f or Yarra or the word of any member of the Labour party. I ask it to accept official figures published by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the head of which is the Minister who had the cheek to tell us to-night that our export income was improving. On page 13 of the Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics published in January of this year, the following statement appears: -
An outstanding feature -of Mie index-
That is the index of Australia’s export trade - is the steep decline since 1050-51, which has brought ‘the volume of exports below the pre-war level.
Our exports are below the 1939 level, despite all the talk by the Minister about his grandiose five-year plan, and about Australia playing its part in eliminating the deficit of the sterling bloc. The document states also -
The fall in volume of exports took .place mainly in the rural sector. A comparison of the 1950-51 figures with those for 195-1-52 shows a fall in export quantities an two out of every three- items of mir.a-1 production.
Let us examine the index compiled by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, a department controlled by the Minister who claims that he has ‘done a wonderful job in his present office an rescuing Australian primary production from the sad state in which he alleges it was left by a Labour government, in 1948-49, the last year of office of the Chifley Government, the index figure ‘of export volumes was 1,138. It remained at that figure in 1949-50. Then the policies of ‘this Government began to take effect. In 1950-51, the index -figure fell to 969, and in 1951-52 - the -year in which the five-year plan of the Minister was about to come into full flower - it fell again to 77’3. Since this Government came ‘into office, the index .figure has shown in a drop of over 30 -per cent.
– Does the index relate to .quantities’?
– Yes. As I tried to explain .to -the honorable member a little while ago, we must depend upon quantities, because we have very little control over the prices that we receive for our products overseas. We should leave ourselves wide open to the onslaught of every depression that came along if we did not increase the quantity of our production and ignore temporary factors such as increases of prices paid overseas.
I recommend those figures to honorable members opposite because, to use their own words, the future of Australia, the future of its manufacturing industries, which require raw materials that can be paid for only by the proceeds of exports of primary products, and the future of those who hope to see Australia grow, depend upon our primary industries being able to increase their production sufficiently not only to feed an increasing number of mouths in Australia but also to enable us to help to take up the financial slack, so to speak, of the sterling bloc, in relation to which the Prime Minister entered into commitments on the other side of the world.
– Is the honorable member basing his figures on the price of wool?
– The figures relate to rural holdings, which have decreased by 10,000 since this Government has been in office. The number of dairy cows has also decreased considerably. Indeed, almost every section of the primary production has declined during the last three years. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture spoke proudly about meat production. The Statistical Bulletin issued on the 3rd March of this year contains some interesting information about meat production, and I invite the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) to take note of it. The Minister particularly claimed credit for the increase of the production of meat. Tb( Commonwealth Statistician states -
Lower production, combined with increased consumption, lias resulted in a marked decline in the quantity of fresh and frozen meat exported in 1050-51 and 1951-52. Total exports of fresh and frozen meat fell from 186,800 tons during 1940-50 to 111,200 tons in 1950-51 and to 66,300 tons during 1951-52.
I wonder whether meat production will cease completely before the Minister’s five-year plan expires. In three years, this Government has been able to reduce our exports of meat by 50 per cent. What a record it would have if it were given another term of office ! For the benefit of the honorable member foi’ Mallee I cite the “Indexes of Quantity Agricultural Production “, in the Statistical Bulletin for wheat and other crops. The index number in respect of wheat for 1949 - the last year of the administration of the preceding Labour Government - was 116, and to-day it is 97. The index figure for other crops in 1949-50 was 107, and now it is 104. Almost every section of primary production shows a decline. Acreage has been reduced; the number of animals in many instances has been reduced; and the number of farm has been reduced. Yet, because of a temporary accident in the form of a good season and high prices overseas, over which we have no control, this Government has been able to disguise the essential rot which has taken place in the basis of the Australian economy. There is no chance that the position will be corrected.
A few nights ago, the Prime Minister made a broadcast in which he estimated what production would be at the end of 1952-53. He chose to ignore the cold, hard facts produced by the Commonwealth Statistician for the actual production at the present time. Unless this Government is prepared to take serious action to arrest the decline of production, disaster will overtake this country. In the view of economists, this Government has failed for three reasons. First, from the very nature of the groups and interests it represents, the Government could not act in time against the menace which threatens our economy. Secondly, the Government allowed inflation to mount unchecked, so that the counterblows, when they fell, were less those of a doctor’s scalpel than of a woodsman’s axe. Thirdly, the axe hit everything with great impartiality, and did not in any way correct the lack of balance in the economy.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has said two things-
– That is more than the honorable member for Macarthur will say.
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is not in order in interjecting, and the offence is aggravated by the fact that he is interjecting from a seat other than his own. He will apologize to the Chair for doing so.
– I apologize.
– The honorable member for Yarra has said that, as the result of a good season, rural . production has increased enormously. That is true. The honorable gentleman might also have added that a new spirit is evident in rural production but he ignored that fact. He chose to set out to prove that rural production was declining, and, in doing so, he hopelessly contradicted himself. What does the honorable gentleman want us to believe? Is there an increase or a decrease of dairy production? At one stage in his speech, he attributed the increase of primary production to the good season. At another stage of his speech, he cited figures to show that primary production was declining. About six months ago, I had occasion to remind the honorable member that he had used stale figures in a speech. He is the only member of the Labour party who takes the trouble to cite figures in his speeches, and we give him credit for doing so. In fact, he is the only member of the Opposition who makes an intelligent survey of primary industries, yet he always falls into the error of using out-of-date figures. Unfortunately for his argument, the figures that he used this evening give a completely false idea of the situation, because they are stale.
Figures which show that beef production, the number of cows, and the number of farms are declining, are wrong. More farms are coming into production every day, and milk production is increasing. The yield from every cow, every sheep and every tree is improving, because more efficient methods are being used in the primary industries. The figures cited by the honorable member for Yarra refer to last season. The Commonwealth Statistician takes some months to gather, assemble and publish the figures. The Labour party continually asks for increased allocations for schools, hospitals and the like, but completely ignores pro duction. I am exceedingly gratified that the honorable member for Yarra does not fall into the error. Obviously, he knows that the figures that he cited this evening are stale, because he admitted in one part of his speech that production had increased this year, but he contended that the Government could not claim credit for the improvement, which was due entirely to a favorable season. One part of his speech cancelled out the other part. The one member of the Labour party who examines production and realizes that Australia must export primary products has contradicted himself in his speech this evening.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) delivered a typical Labour speech. He quoted figures to show that the number of houses under construction was declining, but he did not utter one word about production. Since this Government has been in office, production has begun to increase. Australia has commenced to be solvent. A few years ago, the production of steel was only 1,200,000 tons per annum, and was obtained with the greatest difficulty because of the shortage of coal and the depredations of extremists who then controlled the unions and appeared to enjoy the protection of a Labour government. The House has not forgotten the strike on the coal fields in 1949, which almost wrecked the national economy. The effects of that stoppage were felt severely in the steel and transport industries. Lack of discipline in the unions was serious. The Labour Government at that time seemed to encourage, yield to, or placate the extremists and Communists who were then in charge of the unions.
The honorable member for Yarra did not offer one constructive remark in his speech, although I believe that he has the brains to do so. He tried to minimize a triumph which we have gained slowly and painstakingly. I refer, of course, to the ridding of the coal and steel unions from Communist control. That achievement was a wonderful result of strong government. Has the honorable member for Yarra forgotten that this Government introduced legislation to provide for the election of officials of unions by secret ballot? The Labour party opposed that legislation, and’ ls seem to recall that the honorable- gentleman had a slight misunderstanding with Ms colleagues- about that, matter. However, the provision of the secret ballot has resulted- in the. defeat of Communist officials in the unions associated with the basic industries. TheLabour party, to its eternal shame, also opposed’ the referendum on communism, and, indeed, has opposed almost every attempt by the Government to strengthen the national economy.
To-day, we have a sense of economic security. The feeling of uneasiness is disappearing. When the Labour Government was in office, a man said, in effect, “ I am very worried because I know that I am being paid a lot of money and that I am not doing any work. Obviously, something is wrong. These conditions cannot last “. Many people had a sense of uneasiness and frustration at that time, but that feeling has now disappeared, and this year production has received an enormous boost. The honorable member for Yarra asserted that the number of dairy ‘ cows had declined. Figures for the production of butter and cheese for the first nine months of the year are now to band, and all the indications are that the result will be a record.
– Because of the good season.
– I have already shown how. the honorable gentleman, has contradicted himself. His speech was inaccurate and prejudiced. I shall answer his interjection.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Macarthur to ignore interjections.
– I am pise-pared to answer the honorable member for Yarra, and. I am glad that he has given me the opportunity to do so. Dairy production will increase from 120,000 tons last year to approximately 185,000 this year. Almost the whole of the increase will be exported, and will thereby increase our– income. That, is my answer to the stale figures cited by the honorable gentleman. Sugar production hasincreased from 7,00,0.00 tons last year to 900,000 tons this year. The honorable member for Yarra, also discussed meat production. Mr. Shute, the chairman of the- Australian Meat Board1, who was appointed by the preceding Labour Government says, that the. trading authorities, show that exports of lamb, during the year ended the 30th June next would) amount to 50,000- tons’, with a value of £8,500,000. Last year’s exports amounted to- only 11,000 tons, so the volume has- increased by nearly five times. The carcasses are going through, and if the. honorable member for Yarra would leave his stale figures and go audi look at them going through he would be better informed. The export figure for mutton this year is. 30,000. tons against 3,000 last year. These are uptodate figures for this financial year,, nin: months of which have already passed. The figure for beef is 50,000 tons this year, worth £7,500,000. Last year it was 39,000 tons. The money received for those commodities is coming into, the community, and enables us to pay fc the houses, schools and transport and other facilities that w.e need so badly.
Our approach to this problem is highly constructive and developmental. The Labour party’s approach can be. expressedby the words, “ There are the goods ! Let us enjoy them ! “ We Say. “ Let us produce more goods so. that- the people can enjoy them”. [Quorum, formed.) The honorable member for Yarra gave a figure which he called an index figure, to show that production of primary products has declined. On the contrary,, this year will be one of the highest production years ever- known in this country. We shall have, a record export surplus for sale overseas which will: give us the second highest financial return, in our history. The volume of our exports- will, probably be greater than in any other year, but the financial, return, will not be a record owing to the decrease of the price of wool. However, we are obtaining good: prices for our wool this y.ear. Those figures are the answer to the honorable member, for Yarra.
The honorable member said that increased, production was due to a. good season and- not to the efforts of the Government. I can give the honorable gentleman chapter and verse- to show how, the improvement of productions was achieved. I may not- give these figures in descending order, hut the example that leaps- to my mind immediately is. the improvement in the production of wool, beef and dairy products that has resulted from the work of the scientists who were asked hy the Government to check the depredations, of rabbits and, as a result, introduced the disease myxomatosis for the eradication of rabbits. The value of our wool production rose £67,000,000 as a result of that work. That does not take into consideration the extra production of skins which flows from the fact that 20,000,000 more sheep are able to take the place of the rabbits that have been wiped out by myxomatosis. Beef production was also increased, not because of a good season, but directly because of scientific and technical improvements of pastures. Scientists cannot measure the total actual improvement of pastures, but pastures that have been measured in terms of clover, which is the food selected by the rabbit, have, shown an improvement. The pastures are. much softer and sweeter, and, more important, are still in existence to be. eaten by sheep instead of rabbits. The improvement of pastures has been the result of the work of scientists. The work of scientists in investigating the effect of trace elements is having almost miraculous results. Not far from Canberra is the centre of the greatest fine wool-producing area in the world. I apologize to the people of New England and of other parts of the Commonwealth for making that statement, but it is- the truth. A test was carried out with trace elements at Crookwell, in which 2 oz. per acre of the trace element molybdenum was added to superphosphate and increased production eight times compared with the previous record year. The production of molybdenumized superphosphate is another achievement of the scientists. I assert that that increased production is directly the result of a country-minded and production-minded government. If honorable gentlemen opposite want further proof let them consider the fact that 41 of the 68 odd members’ on this side of the House represent country electorates, and understand the land. To combat the shortage of fencing materials the Government has made r-if.] available increased quantities, of lead and zinc for the production of fencing materials, and has .also increased the production of steel that can- be used for that purpose. But the honorable member for Yarra says, that increased production is the result of a good season. He does not think of admitting that it is the result of the Government’s efforts to provide fencing materials and steel for the manufacture of farming implements.,
I understand that the Government has guaranteed £12,000,000’ to the superphosphate manufacturers so that they can obtain more sulphur for the manufacture of sulphuric acid and superphosphate. Does the honorable member for Yarra still claim, that a good season is the reason for the increased production?
– Tom Playford claims the credit for the increased production of super phosphate.
– The point is that it has been achieved, and the financial guarantee to enable the achievement has been -made directly by this Government. Mr. Playford, of course, is a countryminded nian like the majority of the members of the Government. He has co-operated with, the Government, and so has been able to use its productive and vigorous influence to help South Australia. He was returned to power in his State at the recent general election because he is that sort of man. I say again that our approach has been constructive, and in that respect we are different from the members of the Opposition who think only in terms of municipalities. The honorable member for Yarra said, “ ‘the municipalities are screaming for money for roads “. He did not worry about what was happening in the bush. He did not mention the shires. He probably does not know that there arc such things as shires. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said in a broadcast not long ago that we need more money for house and factories. He did not mention anything about the people who keeps Australia going. He did not mention more money for the wool producer, or the dairy producer, or the wheat, sugar or meat producer. The honorable members opposite forget about the primary producers.
The prices of primary products, including butter, have improved under this Government. In a debate in this chamber a few days ago the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and other honorable members opposite stated that whilst egg producers and other primary producers might be experienced in the production and distribution of their commodities they had no real conception of their responsibility towards the rest of the country. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that we must have other interests represented on boards that control the export of primary products, and that an egg producer, for instance, would not be able to take a wide enough view of his responsibilities if he were a member of such a board.
– I said that there should be a reserve of ministerial power over the Egg Export Control Board.
– It is quite true that the honorable member was arguing along the line taken by the Labour party. As a result of the Labour party’s policy in relation to ministerial control over such boards, the returns of butter producers and other producers became so low that when we took office the stage had been reached when these industries were steadily declining because, under ministerial control, the farmer was not properly looked after. We have seen what happened a little less than two years ago, when the butter producers were not obtaining a sufficient return. It was that fact which produced the stale figures that the honorable member for Yarra read to us in order to show that there has been a decline in the number of farms and cows. That decline was the result of eight or nine years of ministerial control during the Labour Government’s term of office, and of the price-fixing machinery that that Government administered. When the producers’ representatives on the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee made representations to the Labour Government the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and his colleagues, and the gentleman who preceded the honorable member- for Lalor as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, kept prices down, with the result that the number of cows and the number of farms were declining until this Government took office and took steps to see that the producers received reasonable prices and could enjoy the prosperity that they have always deserved, but did not enjoy until we took office and stuck by them. Our approach to the problem has been vigorous and constructive. We are carrying on with the Snowy Mountains project, and, under contract, the Guthega part of the undertaking is being carried on-
– Is the Government taking credit for the Snowy Mountains project?
– We are carrying it on. We have to find the money for it. We could have cut it down.
– The honorable gentleman and his colleagues opposed the proposal in the first place.
– The taxes that are being raised to pay for the Snowy Mountains project are being raised because the supporters of this Government have persuaded their electors to pay the money into the Treasury. For more than three years we have kept that work going. It is a highly developmental work and a completely constructive answer to the Labour party’s charges.
.- I believe that the words of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) would have carried more conviction if he had been able to indicate that they were supported by the majority of the people who reside in country areas. His misfortune is - and it reminds me of the song “ His Comrade Won’t Believe Him “ - that he attempts to deny the accuracy of the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician as cited by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). He endeavoured to give honorable members the impression that those figures were years out of date, but as a matter of fact they were the figures for the year 1951-52. Therefore, if it should come to a choice by the people of Australia, particularly the country people, between what was said by the honorable member for Macarthur and what was said by the Commonwealth Statistician, I am certain what the choice will be. The honorable member for Macarthur happens to be a member of a party committee which is supposed to deal with food production. The only statement that that committee has made about increasing the production of food is that it believes in a dearer food policy. The committee also argues that if the food producers are allowed to increase their prices to those that apply on the overseas markets, no matter how high that figure may be, they will produce more food. In effect, the committee has suggested that unless the primary producer is allowed to exploit the Australian consumer by charging the highest prices that can be obtained in any market of the world, he will not produce more food. The committee’s argument is that if we make the price high enough the Australian consumer will eat less and consequently there will be more for export. Australians have been witnessing, since 1949, the ruination of a great country by a bad government.
It does not matter how the Government may protest, its line of argument for the forthcoming Senate election campaign, can be anticipated. The Government proposes once again to feature the dangers of communism, but it will discover on this occasion that the people will not be fooled by statements of the antiLabour Government that it is necessary to keep that Government in office so that the growth of communism may be arrested. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), only a few nights ago, in one of his weekly broadcasts over the commercial stations - I understand without charge - said that the Government had been denied the opportunity of effectively dealing with the Communist party because the people of Australia had followed the advice of the Labour party and had rejected the legislation which the Government had claimed was designed t<-> deal with the Communist party, but which the Labour party recognized was to deal with its own political organization and every progressive element in the country. We recognized that the legislation was anti-democratic, and our argument was accepted by the majority of the people. The Prime
Minister also said that the Government could not use the Crimes Act against the Communist party, because if it did so it would be compelled to expose the whole of its security organization. However, he said, “ We know what the Communists are doing “. If the Government knows that, the people want to know what the Government intends to do about it.
An examination of the position will show that the growth of communism has been remarkable since this Government assumed office. That is quite apparent from the recent votes cast at the Woomera long-range weapons establishment during the South Australian general election. More than 20 per cent, of the people at Woomera voted in favour of the Communist candidate. The Government can try to explain that away by arguing that the electors at Woomera did not know the difference between Mr. Johnston as a Communist, and Mr. Johnston as an opponent of the sitting Labour member, but the fact is that the South Australian daily newspapers enter the Woomera area every day and it was openly stated in those newspapers that Mr. Johnston was the Communist candidate for that area. Knowing that he was the Communist candidate, 20 per cent, of the people voted for him. Now let us consider New South Wales. In the recent State elections the vote for Communist party candidates doubled, and the same spectacle has been seen throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Why is communism growing? Simply because of the desperation of many thousands of Australians who are to-day without the prospect of work and have to depend on a mere pittance with the result that they are living on the verge of starvation. Economic circumstances are forcing those people to turn to a political ideology of which they know little and of which, if they knew all about it, they would not approve. But they are desperate people, and the Government, although it has spoken at length about its success against the Communist party, has very little to show.
Let us examine what has been said by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). In .1952, he spoke of having discovered a -nest of traitors in the higher ranks of the Public Service. Any Minister, -from the Prime Minister down, may be questioned about that matter but he will .not say what has happened to this nest of traitors that has supposedly been discovered. I asked the Minister for External Affairs a number of pertinent questions about .it. I asked him what action he had taken subsequent to his discovery, whether any officers had been dismissed, transferred to other duties or disrated as a result of his action, and, if so, whether he would furnish the details. If no action had been taken, I asked whether he had ascertained that there was no substance in his allegation? The Minister’s answer to me was, “ It is not in the public interest to provide this information “. I ask any sensible member of this House in what way the public could be adversely affected by being advised by the Minister about the action he had taken in regard to his allegation that there was a nest of traitors in the higher ranks of the Public Service? This Government does not need the Crimes Act or any additional powers to deal. -with. -Commonwealth public servants who are found guilty of such activities. I previously said that we were seeing a great country being ruined by a bad government. I have listened to what honorable members have said in this debate, one arguing that the Government ‘had built more houses than another government, and another arguing that the Government had succeeded in increasing the production in certain industries and so on, but what must be kept in mind is that the people are more interested in the present situation with its acute problems and what this Government, which is clothed with complete power, is doing about it.
The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) said recently that there -were 15,000 hospital beds needed in various parts of Australia and that £60,000^0.00 would .’be required .to .provide them. In New South Wales there are twenty hospital projects in various .stages of construction that have been completely closed down because this Government maintains that there is not enough money to continue “those works. A number of other hospital construction jobs ‘have also been slowed down. That criticism may be extended to schools for the education of Australian children, and to roads, bridges, and works to alleviate recurring flood damage. This Government, however, continues to maintain that there is not sufficient money to carry out all those works. It has been said by Government supporters that the Labour party has no programme to increase production. I shall put forward one such suggestion. It is that tb approximate number of 155,000 unemployed people in Australia should lie put to work and thus put into a position to produce goods. What is the use of talking about the lack of money holding up the building of new schools? What materials are required from abroad to construct schools? The same applies to homes, roads and bridges, and I suggest to the Government that money is unimportant if man-power, materials and equipment are available to carry out these works. Therefore, the people reject the argument of the Government that there is insufficient money available and that consequently these works cannot be carried on. The Labour party governed the country during the difficult war years, and no question was then raised about the lack of money to carry out essential works for developmental purposes or for defence. We were always able to find the money and we only had to decide whether we had the man-power, materials and equipment necessary. Any government that stands by in this country, where there is so much work of a developmental character to be done, while 15:0,000 people are unemployed, cannot claim that it is doing its utmost to overcome out difficulties.
The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) -suggested that we had exaggerated the position to gain some political advantage. He said that if the Labour party could create unemployment it would be happy to do so. There is .a quite .satisfactory method of ‘determining whether the Labour party is exaggerating the number of unemployed, and that is for the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to lift the ban -on the supplying of information to the public, the press and members of the Labour parly that he -has placed on officers >of his department. If the Minister could make information available from his .department to refute the figures that have been -cited by the Opposition, be -would do it. The fact is that the Minister is afraid to release accurate information. The Acting Commonwealth Statistician, in his latest report, mentioned the number receiving .unemployment benefit. I do not admit -that the figures relating to the .unemployment benefit are ‘a proper guide, because there is a works test .and a means test applied to it. People w!ho are physically fit should take .suitable work when it is available, but we all know the system adopted by this Government. It wants to transfer men to work hundreds of miles from their homes. Mcn are often compelled to refuse such work ‘because of economic reasons, and because they are una’ble to transfer their families to the new areas. However, the Acting ‘Commonwealth Statistician reported that in June, 1951, there were 004 people receiving the unemployment benefit, and in January, 1953, 41,633. The last figure is a post-war record. The number has increased each month since l’u no, 1951. The Minister has made a belated statement in which he has claimed that recently there has ‘been a -considerable reduction of the number .of unemployed persons in Austro lira . It may be true that, because of a -call for -seasonal work for a few weeks, such as fruit-picking and other rural occupations of a temporary character, there has been a. temporary reduction of the number of persons who ane in receipt of the -unemployment benefit ‘or who -are registered as unemployed, but everybody knows that as soon as the seasonal work has been completed unemployment will continue to increase month (by month .as it has in the past, ewer since this Government has been ‘in office
Let us examine some further figures which were released by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician in regard to this matter. These show that from November, 1951, ‘to January, 1953., the volume of employment has ‘been -reduced by 1-21,000. “We can assume that in that period there have come to Australia under the .immigration .scheme an additional 20,000 bread winners. Twelve months .-ago it TWaS -realized .that there -were approximately 40j000 -unemployed -persons in Australia. Thus a total -of 181,000 unemployed persons can be ‘calculated <on this ‘basis. I-t -must be obvious to the people therefore that “when the Labour party has spoken about the .existence in the community <of 15’0j000 unemployed persons, its estimate was -a rather conservative ‘One. The .Acting Commonwealth Statistician went ‘on to say that factory employment in .the -same period had been reduced by 8.6 .per cent. The figures make no ‘allowance for casual employment. .Because -of .the Government’s import restriction ;po’licy many -.waterside workers are not .now averaging the prevailing weekly basic wage. Casual tally clerks, who receive no assistance -by way of appearance money, are lucky if they get two days’ work a week, and as their earnings ‘are sufficient to disqualify them for the unemployed benefit they are not included by the Government in its calculations of the number of unemployed. Government members have -some -strange ideas ‘about the way in which the economic difficulties of Australia can be cured. Not long -ago the Minister for External Affairs .said that we -could overcome our economic difficulties if -every worker volunteered to work an additional five hours a week without additional pay. The right honorable gentleman did not say anything :about the -additional pi profits that- would he earned as a result of the additional work performed by the employees. “We hear very little now about the Government’s preelection promise to impose an excess profits tax. Bather strangely -did the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden.), after giving a number of replies to questions in the “House, say that Opposition members had no need to worry because the excess profits -tax legislation was in course -of preparation and when it to introduced it would be made retrospective. “Wie waited for it to be introduced but nothing happened until eventually the ‘Treasurer told ‘the people that there were constitutional difficulties in the way -of its introduction and that the Government -was unable to proceed with the proposal. It is strange that even the conservative government of Great Britain, which no doubt faced much the same economic difficulties as those which confront this Government, found it impossible to introduce an excess profits tax and give it retrospective operation.
Let me turn now to the claim by the Government in regard to the basic wage. When the last basic wage declaration was made the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that, because a few small reductions had counteracted a few small increases, using the term used by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), inflation had been flattened out. It has probably flattened out most of the community because this Government has done nothing about it. Let us consider how the basic wage is computed. I am one of those people who looked rather askance at the latest figures when they were released. Like many thousands of people throughout the Commonwealth I was surprised and shocked at them’ because we knew that in the preceding three months prices had steadily risen. Housewives also knew that and they, too, were amazed when a declaration was made that there would be little or no change in the prevailing basic wage. I do not suggest that there is dishonesty on the part of the Acting Commonwealth Statistician or his staff in the computation of the “ C “ series index figures, on which the basic wage is determined, but it is well that the people should know the practice followed in computing the basic wage. The Statistician sends out a questionnaire to large commercial concerns throughout Australia and asks them to supply him with certain information upon which he compiles the “ C “ series index figure. There is no means by which the trade union movement or its officers or members of the Parliament may check the computations. The information furnished is regarded as strictly confidential. Why should it be necessary to keep such information strictly confidential? If the commercial concerns supply accurate information they should not be afraid to allow it to be made available to the people for examination and checking. In the computation of these figures T believe that there is a form of conspiracy between certain interests to keep the basic wage down so as to create an impression in the minds of the people that inflation has been arrested. It would be a very simple matter to work such a conspiracy because these commercial concerns furnish the information to the Statistician, knowing that it cannot be checked and that if they furnish wrong information, their duplicity cannot be exposed.
– What a peculiar mind the honorable member has !
– Honorable members opposite go among the trade unionists and try to foster the impression that they are not anti-unionists or opposed to the workers, but that, on the contrary, they want to get the best possible conditions for the workers. Honorable members opposite have said on many occasions that the system of quarterly basic wage adjustments should be abandoned because it leads to instability in the national economy. Let me put them right on this matter. There is no such thing as a basic wage increase involved on these occasions. The baic wage is merely adjusted so as to reflect variations in living costs during the preceding three months. Anti-Labour members say that the system of quarterly adjustments should be abandoned. An application is before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court at present on behalf of a section of employers who want the basic wage to be reduced by £2 9s. a week, and the working week extended from 40 to 44 hours. When we question honorable members opposite on this matter, they claim that they do not want an increase of working hours. If they were sincere they would send the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) into the court to oppose the present application of the employers. Like the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), they hope that the court will extend the working week and reduce the basie wage.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) challenged Opposition members to suggest ways and means by which expenditure could be reduced. He asked us whether we would agree to a reduction of expenditure on repatriation benefits.
Of course, we would not do so. On the contrary, we would extend the payment of repatriation benefits. Despite the fact that the Government is always talking about the number of ex-servicemen among its supporters, we are of the opinion that ex-servicemen have never obtained justice from it in the payment of repatriation benefits. We believe that the Government welcomed the attitude of certain repatriation officials who, in their administration of the provisions of the Repatriation Act, have inflicted grave injustices on exservicemen. If the Government really wants to do something effective to assist exservicemen, why does it not rectify the unsympathetic administration of the Repatriation Act and make it possible for many deserving ex-servicemen to obtain justice?
The Opposition was challenged to name some directions in which it would reduce expenditure. I believe that there are ways and means by which expenditure can be reduced. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has rightly said, it does not mean that, because we would reduce defence expenditure, we have no defence policy. That is not the position of the Labour party. But we contend that there is a tremendous waste of public money which is said to be used for defence purposes. There are many avenues in which public money is deliberately squandered, and we believe that proper administration would produce substantial savings.
Under the Standing Orders, provision has been made for honorable members to obtain information from the Government by directing questions to Ministers. However, it is most difficult to obtain information from Ministers. They seem to delight in exhibiting their capacity to a void giving direct answers to questions. I shall cite an example of what I mean. I directed to the Prime Minister a series of questions which, I thought, would be of interest to the Australian community regarding allowances paid to Ministers and members of the Parliament. I received a remarkable reply. I confine my illustration to only one question, which was as follows: -
What income would an ordinary citizen, subject to payment of income tax, have to receive to be placed in relatively the same position in respect of income as (a) the Prime Minister, (6) Ministers and (c) members?
The reply given to me by the Prime Minister was as follows: -
An- ordinary citizen receiving the same gross income and incurring the same expenditure as is incurred by the Prime Minister, Ministers and members, would: be placed in the same relative financial position after payment of tax as are the Prime Minister, Minister.-1 and members.
L suggest to the right honorable gentleman that the people of Australia and I are not satisfied that the salaries paid .to honorable members and Ministers are fixed on an equitable basis. In my opinion, the salary paid to members of the Parliament and Ministers should be fixed at whatever amount the Government and the Parliament may decide to be fair, having regard to the positions they occupy and the calls made upon them. But it is indefensible to allow a portion of that salary to be made tax free as a concession to members of the Parliament, which places them in a relatively different position from that of other members of the community.
I turn to another matter which I regard as of some importance. I refer to the decision of the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into television. That inquiry will involve the country in a great deal of unnecessary expense. It is difficult to ascertain the sort of information which the Government expects to get from the royal commission. Is it suggested that the commission will obtain information, which is not readily available, to the Government, as the result of the experiences of other countries where television has been established? The amazing feature about the royal commission is its personnel.
– I rise to order. Is it in order for the honorable member for East Sydney to criticize a royal commission which is at present actively conducting its inquiry?
– As far as I know, the honorable member is strictly in order. I cannot remember that the existence of the royal commission has been reported to the House. All I have seen in regard to it has been some press references. I am: still: unaware whether the investigating body, is a royal commission in the ordinarily accepted sense of the term, or whether it is a body with lesser powers than those usually given to a- royal’ commission1. The cost of the royal eoinmission will* be included1 in. the Estimates; and any body which is included in the Estimates may be discussed by the House.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has exhausted his time.
..- The House is considering a bill to provide Supply for a period of four months from the 1st July to the 31st October, but. members of the Opposition, instead of dealing directly with the measure, are using it as a vehicle for propaganda to influence the people, at the forthcoming Senate election. The last contribution was made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward)’, most, of ‘ whose remarks we have heard in this House time after time. He rambled along, trying, not t’o address the House, but to catch the ears of voters listening to the broadcast of the debate, and he conjured up all sorts of bogys. I propose to tell the truth about some- of the matters, that ho mentioned. He said-, in. a weak endeavour, to answer a taunt by the. Minister for. Commerce and; Agriculture (Mr-. McEwen), that this Government had done- nothing to assist ex-servicemen who aire in-, receipt of” repatriation benefits: The fact is that these men: receive much greater benefits under- the- administration of” this- Government- than they received when the Labour party was in- power.
– I shall tell the honorable1 member for Watson (Mr: Curtin) of an incident- that occurred’ in this chamber before1 he was- a member of the Par.liament. One night, when the Labour- party was in power;, the former honorable member for Balaclava, Sir Thomas White,, who. is. now the Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom,, proposed that a bill be amended in order to provide foi- the abolition of the: means- test on applicants- for war pensions. Certain members of the present. Opposition, who were then on the Government sid’e of the House,, spoke in support- of” the amendment. I could name them, as I have- done1 previously. However, when they were put to the test, they did as- they always^ will do. They became faint-hearted- and crossed the floor of the- chamber to vote against the amendment. The1 result was that exservicemen’s pensions’ remained subject to the means test. Any man who lost his- employment because of sickness or other physical, disability caused! by the. service that he- had rendered to. his country had to submit to that horrible indignity.
The Opposition can- gain little- credit by discussing- repatriation. While the Labour Government was in office,, the chairman- of the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal- insisted that the onus- of proof ‘that a- disability was not due to war service should rest upon- the Repatriation Commission and that applicants: for benefit should not be required to prove that, their disabilities were caused by war. The Minister, for Repatriation ali the time demanded, that he withdraw his report and,, because ha would not do so, the Minister, with the full support of the Labour. Government, sacked the. tribunal. Let us not. hear any more from, honorable members, opposite about the record of the Labour Government in- relation, to the treatment, of exservicemen ! The; Labour party was in power for years, but it. did nothing to help ex-servicemen who applied for repatriation- benefits,, and even, voted against, a. proposal, to. remove, an anomaly in the repatriation legislation..
Mi;. J. R. Eraser. - Has this Government removed the anomaly?:
– Yes: That was one- of its first acts:. Honorable members opposite- talk- about promises- This Government has stood by its promises. Nearly a-11 the promises that, the Liberal party and the Australian. Country party made on the hustings’ in- 1949* have been honoured..
– Ha, ha !’
Mli. HAMILTON. - The honorable member may laugh, but I shall’ deal- with this subject in. detail’ later to his. discomfiture.
The honorable member for East Sydney also. spoke of wasteful defence expenditure. The Minister for- Commerce- and
Agriculture earlier to-night asked the Labour party .certain questions, but the ho aor able member and his colleagues remained silent then. Later, the honorable member rose in a spirit of bravado and said that a Labour government would eliminate wasteful defence expenditure. He did not explain where the waste waa supposed to be occurring. He glossed over that awkward point, ‘ and merely made a wild statement to the people that the Labour party would cut out waste. The honorable member does not even know what this Government is doing about defence. He is entirely ignorant of such matters. One would expect a member of his type to keep quiet, particularly in view of the remarks that he and some of his .colleagues made on the subject of defence expenditure just prior to the outbreak of World War TI. Those statements are on record in Hansard. They said that they would not spend a brass farthing for the defence of Australia. Members of ‘the Opposition to-night have indulged in all sorts of propaganda, in the hope of influencing the people. They have said that they will improve social services and reduce taxes, and they have made all sorts of vainglorious promises, but they have not attempted to explain how their promises can be put into effect. They have glossed over the figures, and have not told the people how they will find the money with which to finance their grandiose schemes. Their speeches have consisted of unadulterated propaganda of the worst kind.
The honorable mem bea1 for East Sydney complained that New South Wales was not receiving enough money from this ‘Government to enable it to complete the works that it .had undertaken, I notice that the New South Wales Government seems to be able to find plenty .of money with which to provide highly paid posts for defeated and discredited Labour politicians. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) ‘made an impressive speech this” evening, but his presentation <of facts was incomplete -and misleading. I am not astonished that this should be so. He explained .that lie spoke of .New South Wales only because ‘he ^belonged to that State and it was the -only one .for which he could obtain figures to illustrate has points. I should like to -correct some .of his misstatements. He said that people.now .are not building houses because they cannot afford to do so. The .statistics in. relation to home building have been cited twice already to-night, but apparently they will bear repetition. Over 50,000 houses were completed in 194S-49 when the Labour Government was in office. The total for the year ended the 31st March last .-year was 7-4,000. Thus, the argument of the honorable member for Werriwa, based on -information he had received from .the New South Wales Government, falls to the .ground. The honorable gentleman also said that, because the value of the £1 .had .decreased, the number of war service homes that would be built would decrease. However, statistics show that, although .the average number .of war service homes .built each year from the inception of the War Service Homes Division to the 1st January, 195Q, was 1.818, the average from that .date, under the -administration of this Government, to the .31st December last year, was 14,065, which represented .an increase of 800 per cent. There has been little alteration of the economic situation since the .end of December -last, and, therefore, it is -clear that the rate of .construction -of war service homes is not likely to vary.
The honorable member for Werriwa and the honorable .member for East Sydney also said that -State governments were not able to proceed with the construction of hospitals, schools, and other important works because they could mot obtain sufficient loan funds from this Government Both honorable .gentlemen awe familiar with the constitution of the Australian Loan -Council, and -they know also that the representatives of the States came to the meeting .of the council in Canberra last year with .a .draft -loan programme of .over £400,000,000. They reduced that amount overnight to £300,000,00.0, and then pruned it further to £247,000;00Q. The representatives -of this Government told them plainly ‘that the loan market -could not provide that -amount of money, but that the Commonwealth would -do what -it -could -for ihe States and that, although it disliked the procedure, it -would assist the States, <as it had done in the previous year, by underwriting some of the programme. Last year, this Government presented the State governments with £153,000,000 from its revenue in pursuance of that undertaking.
– The precise amount was £153,000,000.
– That is so. This year, the Government has undertaken to assist the States to the tune of £135,000,000. The honorable member said that the loan allocations to the various States had been reduced year after year. The New South Wales Government seems to have done most of the quibbling, so I shall refer to the figures for that State. In 1949-50, New South Wales received £29,000,000. The total was increased in 1950-51 to £40,000,000, and further increased in 1951-52 to £64,000,000. This year, the Government hopes to provide £70,000,000 for New South Wales. Therefore, these stories about a continual reduction of loan moneys for the States are incorrect. Some people might reasonably be accused of deliberate misrepresentation if they told such tales, but I am sure the honorable member for Werriwa must have been misinformed. In a further effort to assist the States, this Government has agreed to forgo its 20 per cent, share of all government loans that are raised in Australia.. It is entitled to take a percentage of every loan for defence purposes and 20 per cent, for Commonwealth works. However, it has decided to leave the loan field exclusively to the States.
In the so-called golden age when the late Mr. Chifley, was Prime Minister and Treasurer, he told the States to go ahead with all the public works that they wanted to undertake. However, his attitude was not so encouraging when they wanted to obtain the necessary money. I have no sympathy for the people of New South Wales, who continue to support a Labour government, because that Government is continually starting tin-pot projects here and there all over the State until it has so many unfinished works that I greatly doubt whether it can count them. That government is making a complete mess of its works programme, but for political purposes it attacks this Government for not raising sufficient loan funds. This Government, in fact, is obtaining as much money as possible by loans. It cannot squeeze blood from a stone, and the people are not willing to increase their subscriptions to government loans.
I warn the people of Australia to examine very carefully the propaganda that they have heard to-night from members of the Opposition. I remind them that there is no cohesion in the ranks of the Labour party. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and his deputy, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), are fighting tooth and nail. We were provided with evidence in this House recently that the Leader of the Opposition had stabbed his colleague in the back.
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to debates of the current session.
– The dispute arose over the tactics to be used by the Labour party in the event of this House becoming dead-locked with the Senate after the Senate election. The honorable member for Melbourne has been forced to give way every time to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask for your ruling on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has been ruled on several occasions in this House that offensive remarks mustbe withdrawn upon the request of an honorable member. I regard the statement by the honorable member for Canning that the Leader of the Opposition stabbed the honorable member for Melbourne in the back as untrue and extremely disorderly, and I think that hp should be made to withdraw it.
– That is a matter for the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Melbourne. However, I inform the honorable member for Canning again that he must not refer to debates of the present session.
– I was merely illustrating the lack of cohesion amongst members of the Opposition, who hope that they can persuade the people to give the Labour party control of the Senate. The honorable member for Melbourne has declared several times that the
Labour party will take a certain course of action if this House and the Senate reach a dead-lock. He has been forced to pipe down each time by the Leader of the Opposition, who has said that the Labour party will adopt another course of action. There seems to be no unanimity in the Labour party. The honorable member for Melbourne has said that when that party regains power - and I do not believe that it will do so - it will buy back all the instrumentalities that have been sold by this Government, and tear up all the agreements that it has made. In other words, it will do everything possible to bring about a state of chaos in Australia. Now the members of the Opposition are arguing about which of them will be the next Treasurer. It appears that the honorable member for Melbourne is in front at the moment. What did he say to the people of this country when we were going through difficult times? Very soon after this Government assumed office, he said that he would stump the streets, the by-ways and the alley-ways, telling the working people not to co-operate with the Government. He knew that the Government was attempting to increase production in Australia, and thereby raise the standard of living of the Australian people. Nevertheless, the honorable gentleman urged the people to spend more money. That was the action taken by a gentleman who aspires to become the Treasurer of this country. Therefore, the people should be very careful about what they do during the next few months and again next year. If the honorable member for Melbourne becomes Treasurer, their homes and everything that they possess will depreciate in value, and goodness knows what else will happen.
The Labour party has used every propaganda device at its disposal to belittle the achievements of the Government. I claim that the Government has established peace in industry. Very few industrial stoppages have occurred since it came into office - so few that I could count them on the fingers of one hand. There were several stoppages soon after the Government came into power, but when the workers were told that the Grimes Act would be. invoked to deal with future stoppages, industrial disturbances ceased suddenly. We promised the trade unionists that we would give them every opportunity to eliminate the Communist menace from their ranks, and we introduced legislation to give effect to that promise. That legislation is responsible for the present happy position of the trade unions. Honorable members opposite have claimed that the legislation of the Chifley Government is responsible for that position, but that is not so. That legislation provided that if, after a ballot had been conducted, a certain number of members of the union concerned complained to the Industrial Registrar that certain irregularities had occurred in the ballot, the Industrial Registrar could order a new ballot if, upon investigation,, he came to the conclusion that the complaint was justified. The Labour party, which claims that it represents the workers, wanted to turn Australian trade unionists into pimps. It knew very well that, unless a member of a trade union were in the inner circle of his organization, he would have only the faintest idea of what was going on in the union. That is especially true of the Communistriddled unions.
Our legislation has made it possible for a prescribed number of members of a trade union to lodge a complaint with the Industrial Registrar if they believe there is likely to be any funny business in a ballot. If the Industrial Registrar forms the same opinion,’ he can conduct the ballot. I believe the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said recently that 26 applications had been made for the Industrial Registrar to conduct ballots under that legislation, and that about 21 ballots had been conducted in that manner. That machinery has brought industrial peace to this country. As a result, production has increased. Coal production has reached a very high level. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) announced recently that, this year, the production of ingot steel had reached the highest figure on record. Because production has increased, we have been able to build the additional houses about which we talked for a long time. With adequate supplies of coal, we can produce all the screws, nails, wire, guttering and other things required for house-building.
The honorable member for Yarra. (Mr. Keon) cited figures relating to primary production,buthe carefully avoided making: any reference to drought conditions. He talked only about lush seasons. He said that the export index figure had fallen from about 1100 to about 700, but he did not go on to say that we havebeen unable because of drought to export beef and dairy products. He did not explain that, a drift in primary production began before the Labour party, went out of office, and that it continued for some time before we could check it. When the Labour party was in office, it established a committee to investigate the cost of production of butter, and. to’ recommend the pricethatshouldbe paid to dairy-farmers for butter fat. The committee published a majority report and a minority report. There was only a difference of½d per lb. in the two prices recommended, but the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was then Ministerfor Commerceand Agriculture, accepted the minority report, and refused to give the dairy-farmers an extra½d. per for their butter fat. In. June, 1949,. the committee recommended a further increase of 2½d. per lb., but the Labour party refused! to accept the recommendation. Then, ten days before the 1.94.9 general election was held, in an endeavour to save the hide of the then Minister for Works and Housing,. Mr. Lemmon, the Chifley Government announced that it would pay the increase of 2½d. per lb.,, but only from the 1st July to the 31st December of that year. But that action did not have the desired effect, and Mr.. Lemmon’s hide was stripped from him:. He was defeated in the election. One of the; first things that this Government did when it came into office was to order that the increased pricebe paid to the dairyfarmers, not until the 31st. December 1949, but until the end ofJune, 1950.. That action put the dairy-farmers on. their feet.
The production of almost every, one of our primary industries has increased because, at long last, we; have been able to do justice to the primary producers. When this Government was endeavouring to implement a five year plan for the dairying industry, under whichthe dairyfarmers would receive a reasonable return for their butter fat, the Labour Governments of New South Wales and Queensland refused to co-operate with us. For some time, we witnessed the spectacle of butter being carried in every aircraft that travelled from Western Australia to New South Wales, because- the people of Sydney were starved of butter. As fa r as I was concerned, they would not have got any. I took the view that, if they supported a government that acted in the way in which the New South Wales Government had acted they could gowithout butter. Now, the primary producers are receiving a. reasonable return for their products. For a long time; Labour governments sold wheat atlow prices to dog biscuit manufacturers and racehorse owners. In 1931, when the wheatgrowers first made a move tobring a measure of stability to their industry;-
– It was 1941.
– It was 1931..I can say that with certainty, becauseI was very much interested, in the move. The wheat-growers said that if the government of the day considered wheat to be essential to the economy of the country, they would produce it. But they said also that they believed that the people in this country who consumed their wheat should pay them at least the cost of production. The Labour party, sent wheat to New Zealand, and. tried to- involve New Zealand wheat-farmers ina fight with farmers’ unions in this country. The Labour party is supposed to represent tirade unionists, but it set two unions fighting against one another. We were able to expose that scheme when a Minister pulled the wrong letter from his pocket. The present Governmentparties were given the task of making better and fairer provision for concession sales of wheat, and preventing dog biscuit manufacturers and other people from getting wheat at a cheap rate, at the expense of wheat-farmers. Then theGovernment had to subsidize egg producers. This is the first Government which since, the war concluded has made any move to bring real stability to the primary producers of this country..
Because our primary production and secondary production has increased economic conditionsinthecountryare improving rapidly. On the 21st January, the secretary of the Retail Traders Association stated that the volume of retail sales’ was at a much higher level than had been expected. He said also that the increased! volume of sales was a reflection of thu people’s renewed confidence in Australians economic prospects. The secretary of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has said -
Mun have been reinstated in pretty well all sections of thu industry. Unless import quotas are increased, there is the prospect this year of air insufficient supply of new vehicles, if sales are maintained at their present level.
Conditions are so good that people want to liny more cars. The secretary of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce said that the wholesale trade had reported an overall uplift in - the city, suburbs and country. He went on to say -
A particularly bright aspect of the trade uplift this time is that it coincides with generally, well stocked shelves in most warehouses, compared with the practically bare boards that faced buyers at the beginning of the post-war boom
The executive director of the Building Industries Congress, Mr. Stewart Fraser, has said -
Stockpiles of building, materials all over the State will ensure a. buyers’ market for at least a part of 1958, but, later in the year, as building: increases, conditions will, favour sellers.
The president of the Apparel Manufacturers Association of New South Wales has said -
Employ ment in the industry has increased during the last three months, and prospects for the industry are sound.
The president of the Metal Trades- Employers Association has said that the metal trades- industry is recovering from the economic slump of previous years. Wherever we go, we hear similar statements. The Labour party, which knows only too well that our economy is sounder and that conditions in the country are improving every day,, is putting, out filthy propaganda to- the people in- the hope that, by so doing, it will obtain control of the treasury Bench in this- Parliament.. The people: must not forget what happened, at a Labour party conference: held in Adelaide in January of this year. At that,, conference, the’ Labour party repeated: its determination’ to implement its policy of socialization when it had an opportunity to do so. It went further and suggested, that a referendum should be held to seek increased industrial powers for this Parliament. Do the people realize what that would mean? If this Parliament obtained increased industrial powers, irrespective of whether a Liberal government, a Labour government or an Australian Country party government were in power, we could say good-bye to our present system of conciliation and arbitration. Heaven only knows what would happen if the Labour party were in power.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed’ -
Th:,it the House dot now adjourn.
-. - In- recent months, some difficulties have arisen in the- operation of the government saw-mill-
Motion (by Mr. Eric j. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . ….. 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented.: -
Sirex Wood Wasp - Report of Special Committee on Quarantine Regulations.
Commonwealth Railways Act - Annual Report for 1951-52.
Defence Transition (Residual Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Order - Inventions and designs.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interior - H. K. Arnold.
House adjourned at 11.38 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530319_reps_20_221/>.