20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hoa. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Treasurer give to the House., as soon as possible, information regarding the cost involved in the handing over of the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank to the new Commonwealth Trading Bank? The figure given in another place is £200,000 in respect of certain changes of a physical character in connexion with buildings, cheque forms and so on, but the Treasurer said recently that he thought that the main expense would be in relation to meeting stamp duties. Will the Treasurer inform us as soon as possible of the estimated over-all cost of the change?
– I shall see what can be done to meet the right honorable gentleman’s request.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I refer to a statement made by him in the House yesterday to the effect that cornsacks could now be imported at a price of about 27s. a dozen compared with the price of 67s. a dozen at present charged to farmers by the Aus- tralian Wheat Board. Is it a fact that jute is now in abundant supply in India following the shortage that was originally caused by the Korean war? Will the Minister give any indication, first’ of when the present high-priced stocks of cornsacks arc likely to be exhausted and, secondly, whether, when that time arrives, he proposes to abolish the control of cornsacks which, in such circumstances, would appear to be no longer necessary or desirable ?
– I did not mention the figure that the honorable member stated I had mentioned yesterday. The honorable member for Canning asked me a question yesterday and mentioned the figure of 30s. a dozen, and I said that was about the figure. The position is that the Commonwealth has been the sole importer of jute goods for the last thirteen years, and has placed, in the budget annually an amount, if I remember rightly, of £15,000,000 for importing jute and supplying the requirements of the farming community. In each one of the past twelve years the farming community has had its jute at a very much lower price than would have been the current cost of procurement in those years. At no stage during the war was it possible for private finance to undertake that activity, and at no point since the war has the jute trade shown the slightest desire to resume the importation of jute, until now, when the Government finds itself in possession of jute purchased last year at prices that are higher than now prevail. The Government will reduce the price of cornsacks as quickly aa possible, but not at a loss to the general taxpayers. I am sure that would not be expected; In a few days old stocks will be sold out. I am currently discussing the possibility of an averaging arrangement between the prices of old and new stocks, and I hope to be able to announce quite a substantial reduction in the price to farmers within the next few days. At tho same time I have had inquiries made of the jute trade as to whether it would be in a position to resume the importation and the supply of jute goods to the Australian community so that the Government may no longer be required to do so.
– Will the Minister forHealth inform the House when the Government’s proposed medical scheme will be put into operation? Is any f urther legislation needed ? Is the Minister aware that approved societies have to calculate! rates ofcontributions that they willhave to charge Bind that they hope to have the information ready by the 1st May so that the scheme can he put into operation in accordance with the desires oil the Minister? Will the Minister inform the House whether that will be possible?
SirEARLE PAGE.- -Every effort is beingmadeto expedite the distribution of tile relevant schedules to theorganizations concerned so that they can proceed with their work and prepare their books and propaganda. It is difficult to say how long that, will take, but I should say that it will take three months from now.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether the Australian Government has any control over the price of linseed oil in Australia or whether it is fixedby the Stateauthorities ?
– As with other matters concerning local price-fixing, the Australian Government has no authority overthe price of linseed oil. The selling price of linseed oil in Australia is fixed by the State governments. At present the pricelevel is such that it is impossible for linseed crushers to pay to the farmers who grow linseed a price “that covers their cost of production. That is quite a serious state of affairs. It will result in driving Australian linseed growers out of business and f orce theGovernment to make overseas funds available for the importation of a foreign agricultural product. ‘The State Labour governments which control price Axing should approve a level of prices for linseed oil that will enable the Australian linseed growing industry to survive.
– Did the Government in fact guarantee linseed-growers £90 a ton forthe 1961 crop, but withdraw that guarantee when it found that the overseas markethad deteriorated?
Does the Minister intend totake any action to ensure the continued plantingof linseed in view of its great importance to the community?
– The Government has never given a guarantee of the kind referred to by the honorable member. The honorable member’s question is the first reference that I have heard to the matter.Some one hasbeen dreaming. The Government docs not propose to guarantee to any section of the farming community a price for the sale of its product when theCommonwealth has no control whatsoever over the pricesthat can bo charged for that product in its processed form. If the honorable member for Herbert - a constituency situated in the State of Queensland in which most of our linseed is or could be grown - wants to put this industry on its feet, he could make his best contribution by insisting that the Queensland Labour Government particularly shall fix reasonable prices for processed linseed products.
– My question is directed to the Minister forCommerce and Agriculture. It has. been suggested that an embargo should be placed upon tire importation offoreign tobacco until all Australian leaf has been sold. Can the Minister state whether it is possible to place that embargo upon the importation of foreign tobacco without infringing governmental agreements with the countries concerned?
– It has been suggested by the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, andby thehonorable member for Leichhardt, that an embargo should be placed upon the importation of foreign tobacco in order to protect the Australian tobacco industry. Whatever merit there may be in that proposal, this Government cannot impose an embargo because in 1947 the Chifley Labour Government contracted Australia into membership of -the General AgreementonTariffs and Trade which prevents the Australian Government from protecting the Australian tobaccogrowing industry in the way that has been suggested.
– - In view of the statement that has been made by the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture that the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs prevented an embargo .from being .placed on the importation of foreign-grown tobacco leaf until the Australian product was disposed of, will be explain why this international agreement did mot prevent the Government from imposing import restrictions last year ?
– I am surprised that it is necessary to inform -the honorable member on t5i ls subject in view of the fact that lie was a -member ‘of the ‘Government -which entered into the General Agreement on Trade a<nd ‘Tariffs. However, I do not mind educating him.’ The position is that the agreement forbids a signatory nation to impose an ‘embargo foi’ the purpose of protecting an industry, but does not forbid a nation from imposing an embargo ot restriction for the purpose of protecting its currency. I am sorry that the bomera Me .member, when he was a member of the Government, accepted this agreement without knowing what he was ‘agreeing to.
– Am I to understand from the reply, which the Minister for Commerce «nd Agriculture gave to th<! honorable member for East Sydney on the ‘subject of the importation of tobacco, that it would be possible for the Commonwealth to restrict the importation of tobacco if the purpose of the restriction was to conserve dollars?
– It would be quite possible to restrict the importation of tobacco for the purpose of .conserving dollars, but only if restrictions were imposed on jail comparable dollar commodities. It is not possible to impose restrictions in .respect of one commodity only.
– I propose to ask a question, of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the hope that the fertile Murray Valley will be brought .into greater productivity. Does the Minister know that with this object in view the construction of a weir on the Marraboor River was recommended by a committee of engineers representing the water conservation authorities of Victoria and .New -South Wales’? In “view -of the national importance of this work, will the Minister endeavour to have it carried out by the River Murray Commission under theriver Murray agreement?
– The proposal that a weir should be built in the Murrakool area of the mid Murray district to ‘be known as the M’arraboor Weir, has been known to me for .some time. A group of district, land-owners considered this matter and requested the Ministers administering water conservation in Victoria and New South Wales to have the weir ‘constructed. The Victorian and New South Wales Governments asked the River Murray Commission, to which three State governments and the Commonwealth are parties, to investigate the proposal. All the water available for irrigation from the Murray River, which is impounded by the Hume Weir in its present state, has already ‘been allotted by the three State governments -concerned to particular irrigation projects. Therefore, water from the present Hume storage system cannot be allotted to this area without depriving some other irrigation districts of an equivalent quantity. Accordingly, construction of ‘this weir must be finally dependent upon the enlargement of the Hume Weir, and it is the desire of this Government that that should be done.
– In view of the obvious efficiency of the Commonwealth security service and its knowledge of the identity of members of the Communist party as indicated in recent .statements by the Prime Minister, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House .what success has been achieved in uncovering the nest of traitors in the (government service referred to by the Minister for External Affairs some time ago? Will the Prime Minister .also say whether any Communists have been dismissed from the employment of the Commonwealth ;during the Government’s term of office ?
M=r. MENZIES.- The work -of the security service in relation to employees or prospective employees of the Common.wealth is -continuous and, in my judgment, satisfactory so far.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say -whether it is true that this Government has paid nearly £1,000,000 in freight charges on wheat shipped to Tasmania during the past three years? Does the Government intend to continue these freight payments? Can the Minister indicate what steps, if any, have been taken to encourage increased wheat production in Tasmania ?
– It is true that, during the term of office of this Government, approximately £1,000,000 has been paid for the carriage of wheat to Tasmania, and that, therefore, Tasmanian. consumers and the Tasmanian Government have been relieved of that expense. Of that £1,000,000, approximately £100,000 was paid last year by the Australian Wheat Board in accordance with an arrangement under which a higher selling price was fixed for stock-feed wheat, but the balance of the money was a direct subvention from the Commonwealth Treasury. The Treasury has agreed to pay freight on wheat snipped to Tasmania out of the balance of the present crop. I am not able to make a prediction about the future of this arrangement, but that matter can be discussed when the whole question of the wheat industry is under review. I have invited the State Ministers for Agriculture to meet me in Canberra on Monday week to discuss the future of wheat stabilization in Australia.
– Some time ago the Minister for Supply announced that he intended to visit the mica field at Harts Range in Central Australia, to investigate certain problems associated with the mining of mica in that area. If the Minister intends to make the visit during the coming Parliamentary recess will he extend his tour to cover other mining fields in the central and northern parts of the Northern Territory, where other mineral deposits of major .importance exist ?
– Some time ago I did announce my intention to go to the Harts Range, where there is a problem in rela tion to mica production. I still intend to make the visit, and I hope to do so during the parliamentary recess. I trust that the honorable member will be able to accompany me. I cannot promise to visit other fields because they are outside my jurisdiction.
– Is it true that relations in the top administration of the aluminium project at Bell Bay, Tasmania, are very unhappy? Has the Minister considered a substantial reshuffle of the top executives at the works?
– Work at the Bell Bay plant is going ahead very vigorously. I am not prepared to say that there is unhappiness among the executives. That matter is outside my sphere. I do not interfere in details of administration. The chairman of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission discussed with me recently his inability to carry on owing to ill health and accordingly the matter of the future personnel of the commission is under consideration.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Navy. i3 the Royal Navy installing gas turbine propulsion engines in its naval units? Has the Minister any information to give to the House on the matter? Is it the intention of the Government to install engines of that type in units of the Royal Australian Navy?
– I read in the press yesterday that the Admiralty is experimenting with gas turbine propulsion, but I have not heard whether it proposes to install propulsion units of that type in Her Majesty’s ships. I shall have inquiries made to ascertain whether there is any useful information that I can convey to the honorable member. If there is, I shall let the honorable member have it.
– Has the Minister for Immigration any information about an alleged demand by British immigrants, or by some person who purports to act on their behalf, that the New
South Wales Government should take over the control of immigrant hostels in New South Wales? By whom was the suggestion made? Do the person or persons who made it genuinely represent British immigrants? In view of the recent finding of the committee established by the Minister to inquire into discontent in immigrant hostels, of which my colleague the honorable member for McMillan was chairman, to the effect that there are strong indications of Communist influence behind the alleged discontent of British immigrants, can the Minister inform the House whether the request was genuine or was made merely to serve some ulterior purpose? If the latter is the case, will the Minister see that the New South Wales Government is appropriately informed?
– I have not much information on this matter. I understand that the Premier of New South Wales received a deputation from a group of persons who have been active in the matter in his State. I am not aware whether he has seen the very full and informative report of the representative committee ‘ which was established to examine the matter. If he has not had the advantage of that information, I shall be very happy to see that he gets it. I myself do not regard this group as by any means representative of British immigrants generally. Very large numbers of British immigrants have passed through these hostels. The hostels have in all, I think, provided temporary staging accommodation for approximately 70,000 immigrants until they were able to find suitable accommodation for themselves. The rate of turnover that was planned by my department has been achieved. It was estimated that there would be a turnover rate of 2 per cent, each week ; in other words, that the whole of their personnel would pass through the hostels each twelve months. On examining the relevant figures, I have found that there were 10,947 persons in the hostels in January, 1952. There are now 9,550, and 10,994 have passed through the hostels since January of last year. One reason why I do not regard the spokesmen to whom the honorable member referred as being representative of British immi grants is that they themselves have shown far less enterprise in making arrangements for their accommodation than the great bulk of the British immigrants. On examining the history of the three principal executives of this body I find that one of them first took up residence in a hostel 23 months ago, another took up residence in a hostel seventeen months ago and the third took up residence fifteen months ago. If they were to devote a little of the activity that they now put into complaints against the administration of the hostels into fending for themselves and finding other suitable accommodation, they, and the country, would be a lot better off.
– In view of recent legislation which granted the private banking institutions the right to subscribe to Commonwealth loans, can the Treasurer advise the House whether the sum so invested will be limited ? Will he later advise the House the individual amount subscribed to the loan by each of the private banking- institutions and state whether treasury-bills have been used in respect of the sum subscribed ?
– I am not prepared to supply the information for which the honorable member has asked. The loans have been subscribed in accord’ance with an arrangement between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the trading banks, and as long as the arrangement is observed in the spirit intended, it will be adhered to.
– II desire to ask thi Minister for Immigration a question regarding the picture from the News and Information Bureau, that was shown on Wednesday night in this building, dealing with timber-getting in Australia. Is it a fact that the picture showed timbergetting as it was during the horseandbuggy days? Will the Minister ensure that such pictures do not go. overseas and convey the impression that Australia is backward in its methods of timbergetting?
– ‘I have: no knowledge of the- film- to which the? honor able member referred. There is no News and Infformation Bureau in the; Department of Immigration:. J do- not know; whether1 this film was produced during the term of office of the Labour Government; I can only imagine that it was.
– “Will the Minister foi- ExternaL Affairs inform the House whether any progress has been made in. respect of the proposed Australian’ expedition to Antarctica in the coming summer?
– With the approval of the House I propose- to make a statement on that matter1 at an appropriate time to-day.
– by. leuw - The Government has decided to- send an. expedition to the: Antarctic continent nest summer’ to establish! a scientific’ research station in. Australian: Antarctic territory. The Antarctic continent, which at its nearest point is; only 1,500 miles south’ of Australia’, is about equal in area to Australia and the. United States of America combined-. Of this, the Australian Antarctic territory covers an area of 2.472,000’ square miles,, which is almost aslarge as Australia itself. As a result of the Australian: Antarctia- Territory Acceptance Act of the 13th June,. 1933, Australia accepted from the United Kingdom the whole sector bounded by themeridians 45 degrees east longitude and 160 degrees east longitude and the parallel of latitude 60 degrees south, with the exception of the narrow- strip of French territory, mm medi Adelie Land, which lies between the meridians 1’3!6 degrees east longitude- and- 142’ degrees- east longitude British sovereignty vested in Australia’ by this- act was- based- on a Jong- list of discoveries and exploration work- dating from the- firs! discovery of land in. this sector by John Biscoe m 1831 to- the charting of large sections– of Antarctic coastline by the British’, Australian’ and ?Pew- Zealand Antarctic Expedition- under Sir Douglas Mawson in 1929-31!. A major contribution to- the knowledge of this sector- was made by Sir Douglas Mawson’s Australian Antarctic Expedition in 1911’-13, which; established one base at’ Commonwealth ‘ Bay, longitude 142 degrees- 40 minutes east, and another on- the Shackleton Kee Shelf, longitude 95- degrees- east.
It is a matter of historical interest that Captain Cook, in a remarkable voyage in 1772, practically encircled the Antarctic continent in the Resolution, accompanied by the Adventure, and’ in. particular sailed along- practically the whole length of what is now the Australian ‘ sector of the Antarctic. In addition to the Australian expeditions- to- the Australian, sector of the Antarctic-,, many Australian, explorers have been prominently connected with Antarctic exploration.. The most, prominent have been - Louis Bernacchi, who was a member of Borchgrevink’s 1898- 1 900 expedition to the Ross Sea; Sir Edgworth David, who was a. member of Shackleton’s 1907-09 expedition and led the first party to reach the south magnetic pole; Sir Douglas Mawson, who was also a member of this Shackleton expedition, as were Captain John King Davis a.nj Professor Frank Debenham: Sir Hubert Wilkins, who was a member of Cope’s four-man expedition to Graham Land in -19/21, was with Shackleton’s- 1921-22 expedition to the Weddell Sea, in 192S- and. 1929 made the first- aircraft flights’ in Antarctica-,, and also accompanied” Lincoln Ellsworth on his 1935-36- a-nd: 1939 Antarctic expeditions; and John Rymill, who led’ the British expedition to Graham Land’ in !9’34r37 and’ esta.bTisb.ed the fact that it was a- peninsula and not an island., as had been thought previously..
The- Australian! antarctic sector is- of vital- importance to Australia. For strategic- reasons; St is important that this area,, lying- as it does- so close- to Australia’s back door;, shall Bemoan Broker Australia Hi control. Meteorologically the region, is of great value,, for weather forecasts int. Australia’s southern; States; can be improved! by the- collection, of meteorological: data from, this’ region. In> such a vast” area there must be, great mineral’ wealth. In fact, huge deposits of coal have already been found, and many valuable and useful minerals are known to exist. The possibility of finding uranium in this region must be borne in mind because ofthe geological similarity between parts of Australia’s Antarctic territory and those parts of southern Australia whereuranium has been found.. In the future it is possible that aircraft flying betweenSouth America or South Africa and Australia will take the short route over the Antarctic continent. The Antarctic is of the greatest interest to scientist’s, and specialists in many fields of research are anxious to receive results from this desolate and uninhabited region. Great food resources in. the form of whale,, fish, seals, birds and plankton are awaiting exploitation: in the prolific seas which surround Antarctica and the world’ may soon be forced to turn to this source of supply as a consequence of the continual worsening of the world food position. In. short, we cannot afford to neglect this important region, for no one can predict what importance it may assume in the- next 50; years. The Australian Government, being quite aware of all this, has shown a continued and active interest in the area.
An expedition was considered in 1938, but the outbreak of war put an end to the plans. Immediately after the war Sir Douglas Mawson raised the matter again, and in1947 the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition was organized. That expedition established stations at Heard Island, 2,000 miles south-west of Perth, and at Macquarie Island, 1,000: miles south-east of Hobart, and if carried out with. H.M.A.S. WyattEarp a reconnaissance of part of the coast of the Australian sector with. a view to finding a site for a suitable base. Bad! ice conditions prevented Wyatt Earp from reaching, the Antarctic continent, and theobvious deficienciesof this vessel caused it to be. abandoned as a possible exploration ship for the exhibition. However, the years, from 1947to 1953 have not been wasted.. The stations at Heardsaid Macquarie Islands arenow intheir sixth year of operation, and they have produced already veryvaluablescientific results. First amongst these is in the field of meteorology. It is no exaggeration to say that weather forecasting methods in the southern States of Australia have been profoundly influenced by the results obtained from the Heard Island station, and both this station and that of Macquarie Island are contributing greatly to our knowledge of the air circulation patterns over the southern ocean. In past years our meteorologists have had to piece together information from occasional ships moving across the southern and south Indian Ocean. Since the establishment of the weather stations at Heard and Macquarie Islands, meteorological and geophysical data of permanent value are already becoming available. There is still, however, a paramount need for information from the Antarctic continent itself A station set up there, can be expected to achieve two things.: (a) its daily weather data will supplement that obtained from the two island stations and assist in daytoday forecasts; and (b) the data collected from such a. station over a period of. years will: assist in solving problems of air circulation in the southern hemisphere, and may lead to the development of valuable seasonal forecasts.
Direct testimony of the value of reports from Macquarie Island has already been received from the New Zealand Meteorological Branch. These reports stress the importance of advance notice of very cold fronts. These havein the past frequently been accompanied by frost and snow, which caused serious losses to farmers in the South Island ofNew Zealand. With adequate warning, farmers can make preparations to minimize their losses. Other, results obtained at the islands which will also. be valuably supplemented by an Antarctic base aremeasurements in geophysics such as magnetic, seismic, ionospheric and auroral results. Work is also being done in biology and cosmic rays; These island stations are. the most elaborate research stations in the seas adjacent to the Antarctic continent.
Australia has further demonstrated its interest in the Antarctic during, the postwar period by sending official Australian observers with French expeditions to Adelie Land and with the NorwegianBritishSwedish expedition to Queen Maud Land. I am glad to say that the Australian and French expeditions have been able to assist each other in many ways and work together closely in a spirit of active co-operation, which has demonstrated the close ties between the two countries.
The new Australian expedition is expected to leave Melbourne in December, 1953, and to establish a station on the Antarctic continent in January, 1954. Probably the station will be in that part of the Australian Antarctic territory which is south-west of Western Australia, but the exact location has not yet been determined. Possibly it will be in the vicinity of the 90 degrees east longitude. During the first year, only a small party will land, and not much scientific work will be done. The first task will be to set up solidly built living quarters, an engine-room, radio and meteorological huts and other necessary accommodation. When that has been done, the men will have to make a preliminary survey of the surrounding country and send weather information to Australia daily. In the second year, the station should be operating at full strength, with several more scientists and their specialized equipment, as well as more elaborate meteorological apparatus. Most of the men in the first year’s party have already served on either Heard Island or Macquarie Island. The planning and organization of the expedition will be done by Mr. P. G. Law, Director of the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs, and his staff. Negotiations are proceeding for the charter of a vessel suitable for this purpose.
I have outlined some of the immediate practical results that can be expected from this expedition, but we must take a still broader view of our responsibilities and expectations. The present generation is the trustee for Australian posterity. For us to neglect the Antarctic could be as serious a matter as if our forefathers had confined themselves to a small strip of coastal settlement in Australia and left to others the development of the resources of the rest of our continent. To-day, the Antarctic is a challenge - which cannot be ignored - to Australian courage and imagination. The proposed expedition shows that we shall grasp our opportunities in the Antarctic.
– by leave - Honorable members on this side of the House are prepared to agree with any action taken by the Government to conduct further meteorological, scientific and mineralogical research in the Antarctic. The important expeditions to Heard Island and Macquarie Island in 1947 and 1948 were organized by the Chifley Government, through the late Mr. Chifley and myself, under great difficulties. One of those difficulties, to which the Minister referred, was the lack of suitable ships. Group Captain Campbell, who was in charge of those expeditions, did a magnificent job. His name should be added to the great list of pioneers, explorers and discoverers in the Antarctic.
I regard the proposed expedition as very important. It is well known that mere exploration or discovery of territory such as this which is not followed by something more tangible, by something of the nature of settlement, usually does not give the country concerned a title to the territory. Let me refer to one striking example of that principle. The actual discoverer of the South Pole was the distinguished Norwegian Amundsen, who succeeded in reaching the pole at a time when the great expedition lead by Captain Scott also made an attempt to do so. So, it is necessary in Australia’s interests to carry out these proposals. The Opposition will support anything that can be done along the lines that have been followed at Heard Island and Macquarie Island. The area of Australia’s Antarctic territory is immense. However, it is quite well known that other nations, including the United States of America, have never recognized title to that territory. Indeed, some Americans have claimed that because of American air expeditions over the territory they have equal claims to it. I do not agree with those rival claims. It is essential that what has already been done by exploration should be followed up for meteorological purposes, scientific development, and also for the development of minerals,, if that is possible.
I agree with the Minister that this territory is of great strategic importance in the confused state of the world to-day. It may turn out to be not Australia’s back door but a place of great importance as a means of communication with the United States of America and South Africa. I should like the Minister to keep the House informed along those lines, because we are taking a special interest in this territory as a result of the expeditions that have already been made to Heard Island and Macquarie Island.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) : [Quorum formed.]
Clause 7 - (2. (Division 3 of Part II of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Division inserted in its stead: - ” Division 3. - Special Accounts. “22a. The Commonwealth Bank shall pay interest, at half-yearly intervals, to a bank on the daily balance of that bank’s Special Account ata rate determined from time to time by the Commonwealth Bank with the approval of the Treasurer.
Senate’s a mendment. - At the end of proposed new section 22a, add the following sub-section : - “ (2.) The rate of interest determined under the last preceding sub-section shall be the same in respect of eachbank.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Proposed new section 22a provides that the Commonwealth Bank shall pay interest, at half-yearly intervals, to a bank on the daily balance of its special account at a rate determined from time to time by the Commonwealth Bank with the approval of the Treasurer of the day. It has been pointed out that the rate of interest, in those circumstances, should be uniform, and not discriminatory. The amendment made by the Senate provides that the rate of interest which is determined shall be the same in respect of each bank. I think that honorable members will agree that the proposal is reasonable.
– The only matter now before the committee is whether there should be a possibility of discrimination in the interest rate payable by the Commonwealth Bank on the daily balance of a bank’s special account. Whether or not there should be a maximum rate of interest has been disposed of, and does not arise again now. The amendment will simply ensure that every bank which has a balance in the special account shall receive the same rate of interest. That proposal obviously is reasonable and just, and we should agree to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1953-54. Secondreading.
Debate resumed from the 19th March (vide page 1453), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That thebill be now read a second time.
. -The only comfort, if there be any comfort, to be derived from this bill, conies from the knowledge that the life of this Government is rapidly drawing to a close. The Government will probably have only one more opportunity to ask the Parliament for Supply. After that, it will be forced to face the electors, with disastrous results to itself. It is regrettable that the Government has not sufficient courage to seek the dissolution of the House of Representatives so that a general election may be held on the 9th May next, which is the date of the Senate election. If the House of Representatives were involved in a general election on that date, this would be the last Supply Bill that the Government would introduce. This Government has been discredited throughout the Commonwealth. Recent elections have disclosed that in every State there has been an overwhelming swing towards the policies of the Australian Labour party. That is not to be marvelled at when one ‘ considers the bungling and maladministration of this Government. I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) say last night that the Government has honoured all the promises made by the .Government parties in their joint policy speech -of 1-949. Honorable members .will remember that, at that time, the ^supporters >of the Government said that, if -elected, they would pursue a “vigorous policy of decentralization and “would attend to ‘the needs of the undeveloped areas in the northern parts of Western Australia and ‘Queensland. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in She course of that policy speech -
We shall pay much needed attention to the more remote and undeveloped areas, -such as North Queensland, thu Northern Territory and North-west Australia.
The simplest mind will appreciate that the first essential in the development of the north-west of Western Australia, of which I speak particularly because I know it best, is a deep water port at Derby. On the 28th February, 1952, I asked the Prime Minister whether the Australian Government would co-operate with -the Western Australian Government for the purpose of establishing such a port. The right honorable gentleman replied in the .following terms : -
Cabinet recently examined the proposal that the Common wealth Government should share the cost of .this project. It was considered, however, that development proposals of this nature. should he financed through the existing Loan .Council and Grants Commission machinery, and .Cabinet decided, therefore, that iiic Commonwealth should not make a direct financial contribution to ‘the schemes.
That -reply contradicted his statement of T949,, when he was seeking the .support of of the .electors. At that time he gave the unqualified undertaking to which I .have referred, but no effort has been made to car.ry it out.
I have said previously in this Parliament, and will continue to .say as long as i’ am here, that .the development of .the coastal and inland areas of north-western Australia is a national problem and should be .a national -undertaking. It is beyond the resources of ,the Western Austtralian Government. In -its undeveloped state it -represents a. strategic risk -not -only to Western Australia but also .to the whole Commonwealth. That work:must,be undertaken at the -earliest possible moment. Honorable /members opposite attempt to decry -the -Labour party’s record in regard ito -the nations’ -defence, but history shows ‘that -when the -Curtin Gov.em- ment took office in .fl.9.41 it .’inherited from its predecessors a bankrupt defence policy. At that time, as a result of the negligence of the previous Government, not -one landing .ground was available in the north-west for the use of the allied sadr units that came to Australia. When the Japanese bombed Derby, Broome. and Wyndham ‘there ‘was not .a landing ground in -the ..north-west capable of use by modern fighting aircraft. The Curtin Government came to the rescue of the people ‘at that time ‘and .provided facilities that still exist. I asked General Plant in 1942 what was happening in regard to the protection of .the -people in the north-west. His words to me w.ere, “ I have no means to protect them. The only means at my disposal will extend no further than the Moore River, which is 80 miles north of Perth “. I reported that position to this Parliament.
The history of World War II. shows which Government was lacking in a constructive defence policy. -Early in the war the people cried out for leadership and they elected Mr. John Curtin to build up the nation’s defences, which had been neglected for years by anti-Labour .governments, and to lead the nation to victory. ‘So much for the Government’s claims regarding its defence policy. ?To effort is ‘being made by this Government to encourage people to settle in the nort’h-west. -Not only does it deny people encouragement to settle in that area, but it .is .also driving people out of it. This morning I received in .my mail a letter from a station north of Meekatharra in Western Australia. I have been trying to get postal facilities for the writer of the letter and -other people who live in that area. The letter reads -
You can let -this .matter drop if you like. One tiling .is certain, that as soon as we can get things sold up frere we arc getting out down into civilization.
That case is typical of many in the area. So much for the Government’s decentralization.
The honorable ‘member for –Canning said that <the Government had fulfilled all its -election promises. What has happened in relation to the gold-mining industry, which is of- such, great, importance to- Western Australia?: In his policy speech in 1949. the Prime Minister- made the following, statement: about the goldmining industry-:- -
One is. that, gold-mining should be treated, not. as something temporary in- its nature.but as a permanent industry of great national importance. The second is- that as the- bulk of the world’s^ gold production is in the sterling areas, and as gold- remains one of the* significant international commodities’, increasedproduction, and’ increased price- of gold, will’ have much to say to reducing– the dollar shortage and. so extricating the world” from its present economic cr,isis..
We. will, therefore, by all available, means encourage and’ assist the production of Aus tralian gold on a permanent basis.
The people associated with the goldmi’ning industry are still waiting, for the fulfilment of that promise. They arc waiting for the Prime Minister to give them some encouragement, and to tell them how they will be able to carry on in place of the ever increasing costs that cannot be passed on by that great industry.. So far from having kept its promises in relation to the gold-mining industry, the Government has hardly lifted a finger to give it any support.
I turn now to’ the production of uranium,, about, which so much has1 been said in this Parliament in the last, few months. It was’ the Chifley Government that was responsible for the efforts to locate uranium- and. for giving encouragement to prospectors to search for it. It was that Government that offered rewards to make it. worthwhile for prospectors to face suffering, and deprivation in the search, for uranium. I was- Minister for the Interior in that Government and I was the first man, to bring a sample of uranium, from Rum. Jungle to Canberra, to be- tested by the Bureau of Mineral Resources.. This Government,, which seeks to take the credit, in relation, to the- development, of uranium, production^ owes a debt to the progressive government that was in charge of the nation’s affairs until the end of 1949. This- Government also- seeks to take great credit for- the existence of the Long Range Weapons Establishment at Woomera. It was the Chifley labour Government that” established’ that range-. This Government has nothing’ to boast of in respect of encourage ing the people to go into the back country.
Vast” known, deposits- of strategic minerals ar.e awaiting exploitation in Western Australia. People- are anxious, to go into’ the- area and exploit’ those deposits- of strategic- materials which nations overseas are eager to buy-,, but because of the Governments drastic, tax policy- they are, unable- to do so. I have put proposition after proposition to the Treasurer (Sim -Arthur Fadden): and his officers- regarding, encouragement, to people to.- go into the field- and develop these deposits of tantalite, scheelite; and other valuable strategic minerals,, but no: encouragement has been given. The- Treasurer answered a question that I asked him last week with the statement that whilst taxation committees had been examining the position they could offer no encouragement in relation, to- the matter. In yesterday’s mail I received information that- mines are closing down in the Northampton and Protheroe districts, where men are being dismissed by hundreds as a result of the Government’s’ tax policy and the low prices received both locally and overseas; for the minerals. Men were dismissed at Protheroe only last week and others will be dismissed in the next week or so, in the Northampton district unless the. Government does something to remedy the position and offers some encouragement to people who have put their- money into those mines and have thus helped to increase the population of the area. So much for- the boasts of the honorable member for Canning that the Government has fulfilled its promises. What has- happened in relation to the Government’s promises to reduce taxes, and the cost of living, and to restore the value of the fi ? Have any of those promises been kept?.
– No ! There has not been a single genuine effort to reduce taxes- and the- cost of living. The Prime Minister said that when his’ Government took- office the value of the £1 was l’2s. 2d. To-day it is not worth 8s. 2d.
– It is worth 14s-. 8d.
Me. JOHNSON.. - The honorable member’ for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) knows very well that what; I say is true. Let him- ask the housewife how- much- the £1 will buy. She is the best judge of the value of the £1. The people are anxiously waiting for the scalps of some honorable members opposite and when the antiLabour parties are obliged to go to the people they will be returned in greatly diminished numbers. We shall win four seats in Western Australia at the Senate election on the 9th May. That is the maximum number that we can win in that State, and we shall win it because the people want us to. They want the Labour party to take control of the Parliament as soon as possible. They realize that the Chifley Government gave them a progressive developmental policy and full employment. Now large numbers of persons are seeking work. There is no reason why any able-bodied man should be out of work in Australia and the Government cannot justify the present position. The sooner it vacates the treasury bench in favour of those who are competent to do the best for the country the better it will be for all concerned.
– Everybody will be unemployed then.
– The honorable member for Gippsland knows that during the eight years the Labour Government was in office, it conducted a successful war effort after taking over an undefended country from a weak government of his political complexion, and that after the war it rehabilitated great numbers of men and women. Not one person was out of work from 1949 until this Government took office. Nobody knows that better than the honorable member for Gippsland.
– I know that it is not true.
– It is useless for the honorable member to argue. I have a letter from a station owner in Meekatharra, Western Australia, who informed me that as soon as he could sell out, he would go to the city. Many country residents are doing that because no facilities are provided for them. They are not encouraged to stay in the rural areas. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) toured the country when he was Minister for National Development and told the people that this Government was determined to pursue a policy of decen tralization. He said that it would ensure that the population would beincreased, that the soil would be ploughed and that two blades of grass would begrown where one grew before. Heis known in those areas now as “ Two-blade Casey “ but he has neverbeen back there since and nothing, has been done to fulfil the undertakings that he gave. Recently, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) visited Western Australia. Waving a big fat cigar, he told the people of the north-west that the country was entitled to assistance from the Australian Government. He said that their problem was a national one. But what has been done about it? The Government has done nothing. Its Ministers tour the country. They are accorded civic receptions and in return they give solemn undertakings to the people that this and that must be done. That is the end of it, just as it was with the Prime Minister, who, in 1949, promised everything and has done nothing. The people remember the undertakings that were given by the Government and they know that they were never fulfilled. The result of every election and by-election that has been held in recent years in Australia has been overwhelmingly in favour of the Labour party. The result will be the same on the 9th May when the electors get the first opportunity to deliver their verdict upon the most incompetent government that has ever occupied the treasury bench. Honorable members have been told by the Government that television is necessary but it can help only the big cities. In that respect it will comply with the .policy of the Government which is working to make the big cities bigger at the expense of the people in the outback. I, like most other people, anxiously await an opportunity to deal with the Government that has dealt such drastic blows to the nation.
.- The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) has said that the people of a certain district are sitting down and waiting for the Government to do something. That underlines the entire approach of the honorable member and his colleagues to every problem. They preach the gospel of sitting down and waiting for the Government to do something. The approach of honorable members on the Government side is to assist wherever possible and encourage people to help themselves. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie mentioned the 9th May as the date of the Senate election. I listened with interest to his speech as I waited for him to proclaim the policy that will be placed before the electors before the 9th May, but I have not heard it yet. He issued a challenge to the Government to name anything that it had achieved. * Quorum formed.’]* I did not think that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who, a few moments ago, drew attention to the state of the House, would be very pleased with my remarks. I was beginning to remind him through you, Mr. Speaker, of some of the things that this Government has done. Not only will it be a record of the past but an indication of the plans that the Government .has for the future. I remind honorable members on the Opposition side that the Labour party has not indicated to the electors any policy that it will put before them in the forthcoming Senate election campaign. The policy of this Government will be apparent from its past record. Our production has increased in all fields; rationing of goods has been ended; our export trade has greatly increased ; we have won more coal, and as a result of that we have increased the production of our iron, steel and primary industries. Moreover, this Government has fostered the building of more homes ; and it has put Communists on the run through its secret-ballot legislation and the assistance that it has given to the Australian Labour party industrial groups. We have checked inflation, which has been proved by the stabilizing of the basie wage. None of these things have been mentioned by the Opposition, neither has the record deposits in the savings banks. In view of all these matters, it is mere party political propaganda for the Labour party, to cry depression. This Government has been able to give record benefits to the people under its social services’ legislation .and its health and medical services. We have taken strong action to de-socialize the administration of this country, a move that was bitterly opposed by the Labour party.
I have mentioned the general benefits conferred upon this country by the Government. Now I intend to deal with some of them in more detail. It is well known that many of our industries are based upon a high production of coal. Honorable members will recollect that when the Government assumed office, although there was plenty of coal underground, there was very little above ground. The Chifley Government had been unable to get the coal to the surface, and it was consequently necessary for us to take a course of action that was a most unhappy, yet necessary one for the country. We had to take steps to import coal from overseas in order to keep our power houses going and supply heat and light for our people. The Government had to subsidize the importation of coal for a short time, but later, because of wise administration, we were able to stop importing coal. I desire to refer honorable members to the relevant part of the joint government policy speech delivered to the electors before the general election of 1951. That speech stated, inter alia -
The coal problem, which is mostly under the control of State parliaments, and particularly that of New South Wales, has nevertheless been tackled with energy. Coal is the basic material, and its shortage is the cause of most of our material and power shortages. Last year (1950), the production of black coal was a record but it was still woefully insufficient. We have, therefore, subsidized the importation of coal from abroad by the Governments of Victoria and South Australia. So far about 1,000,000 tons have been imported, while we have agreed to subsidize another 1,200,000 tons.
Quite recently, by subsidy, we have enabled Victoria and South Australia to purchase coal from Callide in a quantity which will keep that field in full production. No previous government ever did this.
The Government went ahead with its coal programme, and as a result we have now reached a stage where we can provide sufficient coal from our own sources for almost every part of our industry, and we are back to the position where we can look for overseas markets to which to export our coal. I can remember the time, and no doubt other honorable members can also, when Newcastle harbour was crowded with ships lying three or four deep awaiting their turn to load coal foa- overseas .markets. The overseas coal trade, at that time, was a very important part of our general export . trade, and earned a great income for Australia. Because of industrial unrest, mainly due to the infiltration of Communists into the miners’ federation, we lost our overseas markets and consequently lost the chance to expand employment in the -coal industry. The reduced production of coal, due to Communist influence, had a disastrous ‘effect upon the people of Australia. Now, under the progressive leadership of this Government and through the introduction of the new coalmining machinery, some of which has been purchased by means of dollar loans obtained by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from America, the production of coal has been largely increased. Moreover, this Government has greatly improved the industrial relations between miners and management in the coal industry. It must be gratifying to Ministers in general, and >to the Minister for Labour and National Service (My. Holt) in particular, that ‘our coal production has so greatly increased. Honorable members on this side of the House who represent coal-mining electorates know, through the contacts that they have made, that the ‘Government’s legislation and leadership has been received with great thankfulness hi the coal industry.
There has been .much talk in the last few weeks by honorable members of the Labour party about unemployment on the ‘coal-fields. It has >even been suggested that there is unemployment in my own electorate. Only three weeks ago some men in a small group of collieries in my electorate were served with notices of dismissal. In came the Labour party ‘to make ‘as much political capital as possible out of that situation, aird to instil fear of unemployment into the minds .of the miners -and the people in that district. I made personal investigations in this matter, and I discovered that not one man “who was served with ‘a dismissal notice by small collieries suffered any unemployment. When the men left the smaller mines ‘they were immediately absorbed into larger and more progressive collieries. Of course, it is realized that m some cases where men move from one place of employment to another., there may be ‘some personal inconvenience, but even that did not occur in -this case because the additional distance that the ‘colliery employees had to travel after they had changed their place of .employment averaged only 3-1 to .ti miles. Moreover, the advantages through the improved -amenities at the larger collieries far outweighed the inconvenience that they may have suffered by having to travel a few more miles to work. I have dealt with that matter in some detail, because it indicates once again how the Labour party will take every possible opportunity to exaggerate any incident of this kind in order to try to discredit the Government and gain an advantage for itself.
Because our production of coal has greatly increased, we have been able to increase our production of steel and steel products. When this Government came to office it found it necessary to import steel and steel products because the maladministration of the previous Labour Government had depressed our production of these goods. Since 1919 Australia has had a large wire and wire netting industry, which has been able to provide for our growing needs. Under the last Chifley .socialist Government this industry was no longer allowed to supply our needs, and it. was necessary for us to import not only steel but also the manufactured products of .steel including wire and “wire netting. That was another disaster for Australia caused by the previous Labour Government. Because .of the ‘actions of this Liberal Government we are .now producing .steel goods at almost 100 per cent, capacity of the factories, whereas funder the administration <of the last .socialist Labour Government .the factories produced at not .more than 7<0 per cent. <o.f their .capacity. Indeed, they averaged only -67.5 per cent. Once again at long last we can ex-port <our ‘steel, which is equal .to the best -in Mie -world ;and -which is ‘the cheapest in the world, to overseas markets -and earn a good income .for Australia. Once again we can ;export ‘our steel products, .help the country in general and stabilize employment in the :steel industry. That has ‘become possible : on l N because of the wise leadership -of this Government and -the encouragement that ir. has given to all (sections of the steel industry. Let honorable members (Consider what a full supply <of steel products means, not only to those who live in the city, but also to those on country properties. They are now able to obtain the necessary basic products to maintain .full production and consequently full employment. These actions of the Government have had a great influence in reducing prices. That, in turn, has -allowed us to reduce the cost of living and .stabilize the currency. In my reference to coal, I made brief mention of communism. I said that communism was on the ,run. I believe that to be true. I do not wish to be political in this matter because I recognize . the great help that has been given by the Australian Labour party industrial groups in the campaign against communism,; but the fact remains that the Australian Labour party industrial groups were not able to do anything at all to oust the Communists from the trade unions until legislation for that purpose introduced by this Government, became operative. Therefore, whilst we recognize the efforts that have -been made by the Australian Labour party industrial groups, it is only right that the Government should be given full credit for the part that it played. As I am reminded by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), the Government’s secret ballots legislation was strenuously opposed in ibis Parliament by the Labour Opposition. Yet honorable members opposite have the audacity to claim that they are responsible for having ousted the Communists’!
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is well aware that certain features of Labour’s policy are unpopular at the moment. He knows that the Australian people as a whole do not favour socialism. Therefore the right honorable gentleman and some of his colleagues have been soft-pedalling on Labour’s socialization objectives. I have heard it said that Labour has put socialization in moth balls for the time being. Certainly socialization has been put away in the cupboard, but at the appropriate time Labour wall open the cupboard and bring it out. The Opposition need not try to persuade us that its .socialization objectives have been .abandoned. It is of no use for the Leader -of the Opposition trying to pose ;as a moderate. We all remember what happened when the former Labour Prime .Minister, Mr. Chifley, suddenly introduced ;his bank nationalization .proposal. There was a national outcry and even some mutterings within :his own party. Mr. Chifley defended his .action -by saying that the nationalization of banking had been on the Labour party’s platform for years. And so it had. It had been there .since 1921, and it is .still there together with all the other socialization objectives. We all know that should Labour again gain control of the treasury bench, its socialization platform will be implemented piece by piece as quickly a3 possible, and once again the evils of socialism, will be thrust upon this country. The people of Australia do not want socialism. It is contrary to their upbringing, their character and their environment. They do not want to have their lives planned for them. They do not want to be billed into -a coma :by the continual preaching of the doctrine, Do not worry. Let the Government take care of you “. They realize that national and individual wealth can only be commensurate with the effort that they as Australians direct to the .good of their country.. Without individual effort there cannot .be a high -standard of living.
Another of the Government’s achievements that has been hailed throughout the land ls the introduction of the national service training scheme and the lead that has been given in defence matters generally. This year defence expenditure will reach the record .figure of £200,000,000. Who in the Labour party during this period of international tension and stress, will say that this defence expenditure is not necessary? Last night the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) challenged the Opposition to point to any reduction that could be made in national expenditure. Not one honorable member opposite has endeavoured to answer that challenge. As the result of the lead that this Government has ‘given to the country in the last three year3, we can look forward to a period of greater prosperity, increased production and a higher standard of living. As these things are achieved, so will our direct and indirect, taxes be reduced. We believe that as the Government’s achievements during the- last three years are brought into sharper relief during the forthcoming Senate election campaign, the people of Australia will appreciate the good that the Government has done for Australia and will continue to place their confidence in this administration, knowing that it has set itself on what it knows to be the right course and will not b deviated by the unfounded criticism and misrepresentation of the Oppositon.
.- We have just listened to a most remarkable speech. One could be excused for thinking that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) was a member of the Opposition attacking the Government. He said that he would tell the House of the Government’s achievements, but I listened vainly to hear of those achievements, and the honorable member resumed his seat without having said anything that was not in condemnation of the Government-
– The honorable member seems to be suffering from a convenient deafness.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) will suffer shortly. He might as well have all his fun now, because it will be short-lived.
-Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– I was merely replying to ap interjection. It is indeed a pity that this may not be the la«t Supply Bill that the present Government will introduce. There is every indication that the Government has lost the confidence of the Australian people, and it is a tragedy to think that the expenditure of about £250,000 on the forthcoming Senate election will have to be repeated in a few months’ time when the House of Representatives will be dissolved. That waste could easily be eliminated by holding both elections together. If honorable members opposite are confident that the Government has the backing of the electors, why are they unwilling to give the electors an opportunity to re-elect them now instead of waiting until ni-xt year? The Australian taxpayers should be called upon to pay only one amount of £250,000; and not £400,000 or £500,000 for two elections held within a period of six months.
Remarkable statements have been made during this debate by Government members and supporters about the Government’s defence policy. If any political party should be ashamed of its defence policy the anti-Labour parties in this Parliament should be. For the greater part of the period between the two world wars, when there was real need for defence preparations governments of a similar complexion to that of the present Government were in occupation of the treasury-bench. But when war was declared in 1939, Australia was completely unprepared to meet it and the people were fearful because of our complete inability to offer even a token defence against invasion by an aggressor. In 1941 the situa- tion was so grave that two supporters of the Fadden Government crossed the floor of the House and voted with members of the Labour party to defeat it. Responsibility for organizing the country for war purposes then passed to a Labour government. Such a desertion of a government by its supporters has never occurred when a Labour government has controlled the destinies of Australia.
– What about Mr. Lyons ?
– What was the situation when Japan came into the conflict? Our forces were sent to New Guinea by the Labour Government illequipped solely because of the neglect of anti-Labour governments. Our Air Force was equipped with about thirteen Wirraway aircraft which were shot on” of the air in the first action in which the engaged the Japanese.
– Why were the Wirraways sent into the air?
– Order !
– How different was the situation after the Labour Government had organized the country’s war effort.
– We built ships and aeroplanes-
– And a tank !
– We did not possess even one tank when anti-Labour governments were in office so that if we built one tank we accomplished in twelve months something which the anti-Labour government had not accomplished in a period of almost fifteen years. We organized the clothing industry and clothed and equipped our servicemen and women with uniforms and equipment comparable to the best supplied to any fighting forces in the world.
– Now we are buying uniforms from the Japanese.
– That is so. Is it any wonder that the Labour party enjoys the confidence of the people and particularly of the servicemen and women of Australia? Honorable members opposite talk about the present defence situation-
– The honorable member himself cannot talk about it.
– What was the situation when -the Labour government left office in 1949 ?
– The forces were in a shocking state.
– The Minister for the Amy (Mr. Francis) realises that the time of this Government is rapidly running out. Has he never heard of the ordnance stores at Moorebank, Broadmeadows and Nungarin that were packed to the ceilings with all the clothing and equipment necessary for a peace-time defence force when the Labour Government left office?
– All of it was handed to us by the British Government.
– The fact remains that it was available in Australia in peace-time, an unheard of experience during the regimes of anti-Labour governments.
– The’ Labour Government deliberately immobilized the armed forces.
– Order! The Minister must cease interjecting.
– When the present Government instituted the national service scheme all the necessary equipment to enable it to put the scheme into operation was already available as the result of the policy of the Labour Government. Heavy machine guns, rifles, tanks and other weapons, clothing and equipment were available.
– Most of it obsolete.
– Details of the large volume of defence material held in Australia at the close of the war are available for the information of the Minister.
– But we had no defence forces to use it.
– Order! The Minister must refrain from interjecting.
– All of it was handed over to this Government, and consequently the Government has had no difficulty in instituting the national service scheme.
A great deal of money is being wasted on the national service scheme. No one contends that the scheme is” unnecessary but every one is aware that much of the money provided for it is being wasted. It is wrong to take lads of 18 years of age away from their homes and their employment, place them in camps for 90 consecutive days’ training, release them for a few weeks, and then call them up for a further fourteen days’ continuous training. The training schedules should be very carefully re-examined.
– In expressing such sentiments the honorable member is a lone wolf.
– Those who have looked into this matter complain that a great deal of money is being wasted.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order ! Although the attendance in the House is very small, honorable members are becoming rather disorderly. Interjections must cease.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for bringing the House to order. The people know which Government was responsible for the real defence of Australia. They expressed their confidence in. the. great Australian Labour party in an unmistakable manner in 1943 and in. 1946. The defeat of the Labour Government was brought about by treachery on the part of the anti-Labour parties. Why are. the people hostile to the present Government? Why have Labour governments been elected in every State, -except South Australia, where a Liberal government was recently returned to office despite the fact that the votes polled for Labour candidates exceeded those polled for anti-Labour candidates by more than 70,000? At recent by-elections the people indicated clearly that they have lost confidence in this Government because the Liberal and Australian Country parties tricked them into supporting anti-Labour candidates in the general election of 1949. The people are eagerly waiting for an opportunity to destroy the Government because its supporters’ wrongly advised them to reject the proposals submitted by the Labour Government in the referendum on rents and prices, the loss of which resulted in the destruction of our economic stability.
In reply Jio a question which he was asked this morning the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) said that the Government would not fix prices. He said that the Government could not fix any particular price for producers because it could not control retail prices. Of course the Government cannot control prices because it destroyed the machinery that made it possible for the Commonwealth to control prices. The people will never forget the deception that the Government practised in advising them to vote “ No “ in the prices referendum. The Government parties, prior to their election to office, said that they would reduce taxation. Yet the Government has increased taxation at every opportunity. The Government was going- to> put value back into the £1- I did not hear the- honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) state in what way the Government had reduced taxation, put value back into- the £1 or maintained full employment. The Government allowed value to be taken out of the. £1 by permitting the machinery of prices control to be destroyed. That- is an opinion that has been expressed all over Australia during the last twelve months and it will be expressed again at the next Senate election. The Government knows that whatever it says or does it cannot win the Senate election. It can promise to reduce taxation or to increase age and invalid pensions, but the people have lost trust in it and will never trust an Australian government until the Labour party returns to the treasury bench. Who is frightened of socialism now? According, to a recent gallup poll, the people have declared that they do not fear socialism. They have declared their trust in the Labour party and their desire to have it returned to the treasury bench. So I leave it to the people of Australia to judge which governments have given them the best service during the last 25 years. I leave it to them to judge whether they have been better off under this Government or under a Labour government. I leave it to them to decide when their taxation was lower than it is now, when they got more value for their £1, and when there was really full employment. Men are being dismissed from factories.
– That is not true.
– It is true.
– Order ! The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has interjected too much.
– I can supply the honorable member for Gippsland1 with the name of a firm in Adelaide which dismissed 62 of its 254 employees a fortnight ago because it was producing more than it could sell. Goods that could not be sold were lying in the factory because the purchasing power of the £1 has decreased to- such a degree that when the housewife has bought the bare necessaries of life- she has nothing with which to purchase- other goods. As a matter of fact, the factory to which. I refer is a boot factory, but it cannot sell it’s full production of such a necessity as footwear. The more production is increased under an economic system in which the £1 is devalued, the more people are thrown out of work..
What is the situation in- the coal industry? As soon as coal lies at grass1 the coal-miners are thrown out of work as they have ‘been thrown out of work in New South Wales. I invite honorable members opposite to consult the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) on this subject, if they do not believe that my statement is true. It is part of the history of the coal-fields of Australia that as soon as coal is put at grass coalminers are thrown out of work. Until a government is returned to the treasury bench that will reduce taxation and make real social services available, the people of Australia will continue to suffer the existing conditions. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has made reference to increased age and invalid pensions. No one knows better than the pensioners that they can buy less for their pension of £3 10s. a week than they could buy for the £2 a week that they received from the Labour Government. That is a position that will be remedied by the next Labour government. For the sake of the people of Australia I long for the day when this Government will have to face the electors and I am confident that just as the people have rejected Liberal party and Australian Country party governments throughout the States of Australia so they will reject this Government at the first opportunity.
.- The speech that honorable members have just heard is not the type of speech that they are accustomed to expect from the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers). It was so full of distortion that I do not propose to spend much time in dealing with it. However, he did make the astonishing statement that the people of Australia did not fear socialism. If that is so, I ask Opposition members- why they were thrown so ignominiously out of office in 1949? At that time the honorable member for Adelaide advocated the institution of Commonwealth prices control. He is a political mouthpiece of the Labour party, which believes in all types of control. As- long as Opposition members have complete control of the people they are perfectly happy. Such a concept as freedom does’ not come within their understanding. The honorable member expressed the intention of the Labour party to reduce
taxation. Why did the Labour party not reduce taxation when it was in office? Long after the last war was over taxation remained at the highest level that we have known in this country. The Labour Government had ample opportunity to reduce taxation, but failed to reduce it. Now the Labour party will promise almost anything in its lust for power and its desire to return to the treasury bench and bring the dead hand of socialistic control to bear on Australia again.
I feel sure that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has earned the title of Australia’s greatest distortionist. Almost everything that he said in this debate was completely untrue. He made the most fantastic claims, which* should be refuted. They were not the kind of claims that one would expect from the deputy leader of a major political party. So many claims of this type have been heard in this House that it is time that the people were acquainted with the facts. In view of the fact that the honorsable member played such an important part in bringing about the double dissolution of both Houses of Parliament in 1951 it was ironical that he should have accused the Government of wasting £300,000 on the forthcoming Senate election. He omitted to remind the people that it is due to the obstructionist policy of the Labour party that a separate Senate election has become necessary. Had it not been for the obstruction which the Labour party practised in the Senate from 1949 to 1951 there would have been no need for the forthcoming Senate election. Thus, any expenditure which will be incurred in holding that election will be a direct result of Labour’s obstructionist policy.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
– I direct the attention of the House to the fact that there has not been a quorum in the chamber for a very long time. There was not a quorum at any stage when the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) was speaking. If honorable members intend to adopt a practice under which, as soon as a member on. my right rises to speak, an honorable member on my left calls for a quorum, I shall take action to have a quorum present whenever honorable member? on my left are speaking. I shall not take any notice of the call of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird).
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) called for a quorum when I was speaking last night.
– I do not care. That is not my business.
– lt is typical of the tactics of the Opposition that one of its members should call for a quorum whenever an honorable member on this side of the House presents the facts in refutation of its misrepresentations. As you have properly said, Mr. Speaker, there has not been a quorum in this chamber since the end of question time this morning. I venture to say that, if you paid a visit of inspection to the billiard-room and the bar, you would find that 90 per cent, of the persons there would be members of the Opposition. These tactics are typical of the Opposition. In fact, I have seen the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), time after time, deliberately enticing members of the Opposition out of the chamber so that one of them may return and call for a quorum. Those are the sort of school-boy tactics that the Labour party adopts in this House. They constitute a deliberate and calculated attempt to belittle the institution of the Parliament. I applaud your decision to ignore this further attempt by the honorable member for Batman to call for a quorum, Mr. Speaker.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I want to know whether you have ruled that you have the right to disregard the Standing Orders when an honorable member calls for a quorum. Have you ruled in that way?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well what I have ruled. I shall call for a quorum when I am ready to do so. I am in charge of this House.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– The honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable member for Adelaide said that the unemployment situation was becoming worse. Let us consider the facts. The unemployment total has decreased by an average of 2,000 weekly during the last five weeks. That is the truth. Does that indicate that the unemployment situation is becoming worse, or is the Labour party engaging in a campaign of deliberate distortion? Honorable members opposite are trying to mislead the people, fend they should be mightily ashamed of themselves. They must know that they cannot deceive anybody in this House. The total number of registered unemployed persons for the whole of Australia to-day is only 30,000. Most of these persons live in the Labourcontrolled State of New South Wales, and 75 per cent, of the unemployed in New South Wales live in the metropolitan area of Sydney. It is obvious that State governments should be better able to control the employment situation than is this Government.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
– Older ! The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) will resume his seat. The honorable member for Bass will continue.
– I realize that the facts that I am stating are irritating honorable members opposite. That is why they are anxious to curtail my speaking time by interrupting me and calling for quorums. The honorable member for Melbourne, in his untruthful tirade about unemployment, said that there were many more men unemployed than were actually registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service. I ask, in the name of common sense, whether anybody who is out of work would refuse the benefits that can be obtained from this Government. An unemployed man is eligible for a benefit of £2 10s. a week, plus £2 a week for his wife, and 5s. a week for a child. Thus, an unemployed man with a wife and child, can draw an income of £4 15s. a week. Would anybody eligible for that benefit fail to claim it? Of course not! Consequently, the assertion of the honorable member for Melbourne was absolutely absurd. All the talk by members of the Labour party about mass unemployment is mere eyewash. It is a part of a deliberate campaign to sabotage the Government. The truth is that the great Labour party, which is supposed to be the bulwark of the underdog, wants to have unemployment in the community. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has preached depression, woe and calamity for months past in an attempt to destroy the confidence of the people in this Government. By doing so, he has done a major disservice to those who are unfortunate enough to be out of work. If anybody is responsible for their lack of employment, the guilty parties are the Leader of the Opposition and those who sit behind him in this House.
Moreover the Labour party has set out to destroy confidence in the economic security of the country. Further evidence of the complete irresponsibility of the Labour party was provided by the honorable member for Melbourne when he addressed a meeting at Brighton, Victoria, on the 14th . February, 1951. On that occasion he said to his audience -
Buy all you can. Do not save your money because the position is going to be desperate. There will be a lot of people in Melbourne who will not have any Christmas dinner in 1951.
Strangely enough - or perhaps not strangely, because the honorable gentleman is rarely right - we had a bumper Christmas in 1951, and all previous records were broken in the Christmas season of 1952. Honorable members on this side of the House would like to know what has happened to the great depression that the Labour party said was descending upon ‘ the country. Nobody has discovered it yet. I deplore the tactics of honorable members opposite, whose sole purpose is to hoodwink the people into voting them back into power at the next election.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to Standing Order 43, which states -
If any Member shall take notice that a Quorum of Members is not present, the Speaker shall count the House; and, if a Quorum be not present within two minutes, he shall adjourn the House till the next sitting day.
I also direct your attention to the fact that a quorum is not present.
– There has not been a quorum in the House for more than one minute since the end of question time this morning. I say frankly that it is paltry to take advantage of the Standing Orders in order to call for quorums according to the practice that has developed in this place. I say definitely that, if the House wants a quorum to be retained here, I shall see that a quorum is always present, which will cause some inconvenience. The House pan make up its mind now whether or not it wants a quorum to be present throughout every sitting. If that be its wish, I shall undertake to ensure that business shall not be transacted whenever fewer than 41 members are present in the House.
– I rise to order. Following the remarks that you have just made, I direct your attention to the fact that a member of the Opposition called for a quorum last night when not more than twelve members of the Opposition were present, and that members of the Opposition who were absent did not respond to the ringing of the bells. The call for a quorum on that occasion was made while a member of the Opposition was speaking. I also direct your attention to the fact that the Government side of the House is at present well represented and that only a handful of members of the Opposition are present although, in this instance, it was a member of the Opposition who called for a quorum. I ask that you note these facts in connexion with the objection that you have raised to the practice that has developed.
– I also rise to order. While you are noting these matters, Mr. Speaker, you may also recall that, on various occasions when quorums have been formed, there have been more members on the Opposition side of the House than there have been on the Government side of the House.
– That is not true.
– As a member of the Opposition, I commend your suggestion,
Mr. Speaker, that you should undertake to ensure that a quorum shall remain in the House. I have always been of the opinion that insufficient attention is paid by honorable members on the Government side of the House to the business that is transacted in this chamber.
Mi-. Eric J. Harrison. - I wish to comment upon the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that, if there is any deficiency in the Standing Orders, you, as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, may try to have included in them a provision that any member who approaches his colleagues in order to persuade them to leave the chamber so that he may call for a quorum shall be deemed to be guilty of deliberately obstructing the business of the House. This has occurred on a number of occasions. It has been done by the honorable member for East Sydney, who has just protested about the lack of quorums on various occasions.
– That is deliberately untrue.
– I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that there is a standing order which refers to obstruction of the business of the House. I ask you to consider applying it in circumstances such as you have mentioned.
– Order ! I do not know how I could judge whether an honorable member was asking other honorable members to leave the chamber, although I believe that this has happened on occasions. I simply point out again that the tendency is for members of the Opposition to come into the chamber when one of their colleagues is speaking, and for Government members to come in when a member of the Government is speaking. For instance, this morning at one stage, while an Opposition member was addressing the House, there were only seven Government supporter^ present. Before the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and other Opposition members came in a moment ago when the honorable member for Bass was speaking, we were down to six members on the Opposition side. If honorable members want a quorum to be present for the remainder of to-day’s sitting, I will keep one here - and I shall not need any assistance.
– It is quite apparent that when the facts are being given honorable members opposite just cannot take it. They resort to any method of obstruction in order to try to prevent a member on this side of the House from presenting the true f facts. As an effective answer to depression crying and this woe-mongering of the Opposition, I shall read to the House what Mr. C. R. McKerihan, the president of the Rural Bank of New South Wales, thinks cf the future of Australia. His general opinion is that confidence in 1953 abounds. Mr. McKerihan is reported to have stated -
If the public know all the facts, their confidence would be quickly restored, and business would flow normally. We can look forward to a very much better time than in the year just past. Industrial expansion is proceeding apace. Production has increased in all Australia’s basic industries. Costs have been stabilized, inflation arrested, and living standards have been safeguarded.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) have mentioned some very important and significant facts about this Government’s achievements, as a result of the economic policy that it has applied, They are worth repeating, because they prove that the Government courageously set about stabilizing the economy of Australia, despite crisis after crisis. There has been a spectacular victory over inflation, which threatened to destroy the economy of the country, and we have seen a return of conditions approaching real economic stability. One of the first things that this Government did when it came to office was to end rationing and black marketing with their attendent high costs. We succeeded in thwarting the “ reds “ by the introduction of the secret ballot. By that means we have been able to get rid of disturbers of the peace and agitators in the big industrial unions, who tried to break down oar production machinery. We have secured an all-time record of industrial peace, and an all-time record in home building. This Government’s record in that sphere has been remarkable indeed. Furthermore, Australia’s foreign policy has been accorded greater respect during this Government’s term of office than it was during the regime of the previous Labour Government. Our relations with the United States of America and the United Kingdom are at an all-time high.
Sitting suspended from 1845 to 2.15 p.m. [Quorum formed.’]
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harbison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Bill -by leave - taken as a whole.
– I wish to deal with the expenditure that will be incurred by the Electoral Branch this year. It is proposed that approximately £300,000 shall be expended upon the forthcoming Senate election. A similar sum will be expended upon an election for the House of Representatives at a later date. We know that this Government does not enjoy the confidence of the Australian people. It was elected because the Government parties made a series of promises to the people, but those promises have not been honoured. If an election for the Senate is held on the 9th May without a concurrent election for the House of Representatives, conditions after the Senate election will be such as to make it impossible to carry on the government of the country in a satisfactory manner. I have always held the belief that stable government is necessary for the maintenance of our parliamentary system, as we know it now.
It is the duty of the Government to seek a fresh mandate from the people. Elections for both the Senate and the House of Representatives should be held on the 9th May. If that were done,we should have a stable government after those elections. If the Government believes that its candidates will be successful at the Senate election, it must believe also that it would secure a majority of the members of the House of Representatives if an election for the House of Representatives were held at the same time. But the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and all his supporters are well aware that the people are not satisfied with this Government’s administration. I have had a long experience of parliamentary affairs, and I cannot recall another government that has become so unpopular in such a comparatively short time. In 1949, arrangements were made to increase the membership of the House, and the general election in that year was contested on the new electoral boundaries. The people were asked to choose between the Chifley Labour Government, and a coalition of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. They made their choice, and the Menzies Government took office in
– And is still in office.
– If the Government were prepared to seek a dissolution of the House of Representatives, it would not remain in office for more than a few weeks.
– That is wishful thinking.
– If the Government went to the country on the 9th May next, it would be soundly defeated.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I have difficulty, Mr. Chairman, in making myself heard.
– Order ! The honorable member for Port Adelaide should be heard in silence.
– The Menzies Government was returned with a substantial majority, and has been in office for slightly more than three years. In that time, the majority of the people have turned completely against it. At every opportunity they show their resentment against it. A few weeks ago an election was held in South Australia, and the Liberal-Country League government was returned to office. I do not desire at this juncture to discuss the reasons for that result, but I said before the poll that if the people showed their resentment against the Menzies Government in that election, the Labour party would be returned to office. That was a bold prophecy, ‘because the dice is loaded against the Labour party in South Aus tralia as the result of the gerrymandering of electorates. Unfortunately, some voters in certain districts allowed themselves to be swayed by individuals and the total vote did not reflect the resentment of the people against the Menzies Government. Even so, the swing of from 9 per cent, to 12 per cent, against the LiberalCountry League candidates in that State was tremendous.
The Government knows that if it were involved in an election in the near future, it would be heavily defeated. Some honorable members may ask me to state the grounds on which I base that assertion. My justification lies in the general reaction of the people against Liberal party and Australian Country party candidates on almost every occasion they have had an opportunity to express an opinion. Whether it be a by-election to fill a vacancy in the Commonwealth Parliament or a State parliament, or whether it be a general election in a State, the result has been the same. The evidence is clear in all parts of Australia of the strength of the feeling against this Government, because it ha3 failed to protect their interests. I do not wish to harp on a note that is undoubtedly discordant to honorable members opposite, but I remind them that they were elected in 1949 on a promise to put value into the £1. The people are furious with the Government, not so much because it has failed to put value back into the £1, but because it has allowed the £1 to lose value.
The Government claims from time to time that the economic position of the country is improving and that effective action has been taken to arrest inflation. Some honorable members opposite claim that the purchasing power of the people is greater now than it was when the Labour Government was in office. They point with pride to the fact that the age pension has been increased from £2 2s. 6d. to £3 7s. 6d. a week while the Government has been in office. But what is the opinion of the people who are allegedly benefiting from these improved conditions? They state without hesitation that their position is becoming progressively worse.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) 2.34]. - It appears to me that honorable members opposite are largely concerned with making propaganda for their own personal political advantage in this debate, and it is somewhat nauseating to me to see the way in which they hope to repeat what they did before, and “cash in “ on the good but unpopular work that has been done by their predecessors in office. Everybody knows that the wartime achievements of the Curtin Government were built on the foundations that had been laid by the preceding Menzies Government. Everybody knows also that the difficulty that was experienced in laying those foundations was that in the years 1939 and 1940, before Russia was forced into the recent war, treason was very nearly perpetrated by members of His Majesty’s Opposition who endeavoured to impede the war effort. In their great love for Russia they endeavoured to impede the defence preparations that were being made by the Menzies Government. Thus, it has been proved that the Australian Labour party cannot be trusted in any war in which Russia is not on our side, and, since the only possible war that threatens us to-day is a war against Russia, it is quite obvious that the people of Australia can never trust the Australian Labour party again on the treasury bench. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to speak about the result of recent State elections. I remind the committee, that the people, when they were voting at those elections, were not faced with the possibility of the return of a government the Cabinet of which would be composed of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and some other honorable members opposite who, at the moment, are not in their places. Australians will recoil in horror before the possibility of having a Cabinet composed of men of that kind.
I pass from that rather distasteful subject. I congratulate the Government on the statement that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) made this morning in relation to the projected expedition to the Antarctic. That is a proposal which honorable members opposite, however much they may desire to conceal their real feelings, will be obliged to applaud. It will be welcomed through out the country. Our Antarctic territories are undeveloped. At present, we do not know their full value. The Minister for External Affairs pointed to their great potential mineral wealth. I remind the committee that the Antarctic, geologically, is divided into two sectors; one being of pre-Cambrian formation, and the other of more recent geological origin, stretching south of South America and being a continuation of the Andes mountain chain. Valuable minerals are likely to be found in the Australian sector which comprises a great deal of the pre-Cambrian country Prospecting would be difficult in the Antarctic because of the thick cover of ice, and it would not follow, even if “valuable minerals were to be found on the exposed rock, that equally valuable deposits would be found beneath the ice. I understand that it is proposed that the expedition will proceed to the Antarctic by sea. Some hundreds of tons of stores will have to be landed. I suggest that the Government might consider servicing the expedition by aeroplane. An airfield could be established there - that work could be carried out quite easily with tractors on ice surfaces - and meteorological stations could be established to supply advance weather reports. After all, as the territory is Only from seven to eight hours’ flying from Australian bases, we may be able to service the base in the Antarctic by means of aircraft. It would be a good thing if, concurrently with the expedition, some attempt were made to explore further the possibility of flying in that area. I know that heavy stores will have to be brought in; but, after all, a great proportion of the weight of such stores will be oil and it is possible that, to some degree at least, we shall find a substitute for oil in the Antarctic in wind power. The average velocity of the wind in that area is many times the velocity in other parts of the Australian territory. It is possible that the use of wind generation equipment that has recently been developed by the . United States of America in Arctic areas will be found to be practicable under Antarctic conditions. If that be so, the weight of stores could be reduced by eliminating a substantial proportion of the oil that would otherwise have to be brought in, and the possibility of servicing ‘by air would become more practicable. I am not suggesting that the servicing of the base could be done entirely by air. It will be necessary to send a ship there once every two, or three, years ; but, once the base is established, and provided the American equipment to which I have referred can be adapted for windgenerating plant to replace some part of the oil that would be needed, we should be able to service the base from time to time and to give more frequent relief to the men there by means of aircraft. This is a matter to which honorable members will, no doubt, direct their attention. If we look at it in the most constructive way, we shall have the opportunity to play a great part in the Antarctic. Our territories cry out for a permanent base, and the Government is to be congratulated on the constructive, forward movement that it has made. In saying that, I believe, that I echo the opinion of all honorable members on this side of the chamber and also, I hope, without being so sure, the opinion of honorable members opposite.
.- Listening to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) one perceives more clearly the meaning of the expression, “ as far apart as the poles “. Apparently, Government supporters intend, in the course of this debate, to discuss matters that are as far removed from the bill before the Chair as the two poles are apart. They have already betrayed the embarrassment which this dedate has caused them. In view of coming events, the honorable member for Mackellar would like to get as near to the Antarctic as he possibly can; and I am sure that the people listening to these proceedings have been most interested to hear what he has had to say about the Antarctic.
– Looking for angry penguins.
– Yes. I propose to get right on to the beam so far as the present state of our economy is concerned. The decline in primary production in this country is close to the heart of our economic troubles. Notwithstanding what the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) said last night in vigorous fashion, he was unable to indicate any particular action that is being taken to improve our economy and to ensure the success of the five-year plan for increasing primary production to which he referred. All he did was to rant.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. Is the honorable member in order in committee in referring to the debate on the motion for the second reading ?
Whilst I have allowed considerable latitude in this debate, I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I shall deal strictly with primary production, which is the most important item with which we have to deal in discussing this bill; and what I shall say will be very material to that subject. The Government has done nothing whatever to increase primary production. To-day, there are fewer fanners in Australia than there were when it assumed office. That fact has been proved on numerous previous occasions in this chamber. It is most important that we expand our primary production. Very little has been done in relation to soldier settlement. More often than not the excuse made is that it now costs approximately £10,000 to settle an exserviceman on the kind of- farm that we peed in this country-
– That is untrue.
– I repeat that very little has been done in that connexion. Last year, there were fewer farmers in the country than there were in 1949. I wish to approach this matter in a somewhat singular fashion, because it is closely related to immigration. It seems to me a great tragedy, and indicates a lack of planning, that we have been obliged to taper off the intake of immigrants. The immigration policy is being decimated because of a lack of planning. It is extraordinary that a country that is almost “ full of emptiness “ cannot continue to absorb immigrants. The reason, as I have said, is lack of planning. Immigrants have been held in centres for so long that serious riots have been on the verge of breaking out, and great dissatisfaction has arisen amongst them. Those immigrants could have been used to great advantage and might have become a first line of defence. If they had been dispersed over the country, not only would the empty spaces be filled, which is such an urgent need, but also the economy would have benefited because they would keep themselves and produce primary commodities. However, nothing has been clone in that direction.
Over the years, the Government has found that the immigrants who have been brought to this country are not being absorbed as farm labourers. I suggest that the reasons are, first, that very little incentive has been offered to them to engage in that occupation, and, secondly, the farmers do not make much demand for them, anyhow. These people could have been placed on small blocks of land and given the opportunity to carry on the intensive method of cultivation with which they were familiar in the countries of their origin. Thus placed they could have been most effective, but the Government has made no such arrangement. Always the excuse has been made that these people should not be allowed to settle in communities by themselves. The fact is that, instead of being absorbed into the community, as they could have been if they had been dispersed over the country on small holdings, especially close to the provincial towns, they have been held in cities where they are congregating together in communities in the worst possible way. They have their own clubs and other organizations. I believe that the Government has shown itself to be completely unable to handle immigration to the satisfaction either of the immigrants or the country. Its handling of the matter has been almost as disgraceful as its handling of agricultural matters.
Unless we are able to secure a. profitable market for our primary commodities and expand it, the whole economy of the country may well be wrecked in the near future. Only one bad season is required for the weaknesses of our economy to be shown up. If that happens, the people will, live to curse those who have wasted their opportunity to establish exservicemen and others on the land. Whenever the States have asked the Commonwealth for financial aid to expand primary production, that aid has not been forthcoming. All the public works associated with the increase of primary production in Victoria have been brought almost to a complete standstill because the Commonwealth does not agree that the necessary finance should be provided.
– What balderdash !
– My statements may be verified by any one who cares to do so. It is all very well to .speak about the Australian Loan Council. In my opinion, that body has been used as a cover-up in relation to this matter of public works. The State Premiers came to Canberra last year and stated their minimum requirements in order to carry out State public works, which, incidentally, will benefit both the States and the Commonwealth.
– And the Australian Loan Council agreed to their requests.
– That is so; but so far there has not been an ounce of assistance from the Commonwealth. On the contrary, all that has been done has been an attempt to frustrate the States in their efforts to obtain the requisite finance for such important matters as irrigation works.
Looking over the whole field of primary production, it is obvious that this Government must stand condemned, as it will be, before the electors. Not only immigrants, but also ex-servicemen who have been trained at great expense to- the Commonwealth, should be settled on the land. As far as the settlement of immigrants is concerned, the Government is a monument of ineptitude. It has relied solely on the matter of increased prices. We on this side of the committee believe that an increased volume of primary products is more important. After all, prices are of such a temporary nature that they should not be taken into account at all. The important matter for the Government to consider is the volume of commodities produced.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. FRANCIS (Moreton= Minister for disposal I wish to direct attention to some rash statements that have been made from time to time concerning the defence of Australia, both at the present time and when a former Menzies Government first came to office before World War II. broke out. It was said at that time that the Government had not prepared adequately for the defence of the country. I wish to make the situation perfectly clear. World War II. required a major effort on our part. That effort was made in spite of the Opposition of those days. It was made without any goodwill at all from the Australian Labour party. It went forward despite the fact that in 1931 or 1932, when the Scullin Government was in office, the system of universal service had been completely destroyed. The Australian Labour party is traditionally opposed to any form of defence in this country. It is futile for honorable members to-day, or at any other time, to stand up in this House and accuse the present Government parties of having neglected the defence of the country, because they are the only parties that have ever made a major effort for our defence and security.
In recent months we have been appealing to the Opposition to assist us in recruiting. What has their effort been to ensure that the three defence services have received the requisite number of recruits to be trained in the use of technical arms and equipment? Not one honorable member opposite has lifted his hand to help to recruit the man-power that is necessary. In those circumstances, I suggest that it is futile for them to make rash statements about defence. Despite the heavy obligations which our national defence imposes on us, we must nevertheless play our part in supporting the United Nations organization. We are also pledged to put forward a first-class defence effort as a signatory to the Anzus Pact. When we ask the Opposition to help us to get the necessary man-power to meet those obligations, and, in addition, our obligations to the British Commonwealth of Nations, they are worse than silent; they are critical of the splendid effort that is being made. They try to discourage that effort, and not to aid it. I wish to register a protest against the attitude of honorable gentlemen opposite toward the defence of this country. We heard statements this morning in the House, to which I may not refer in detail in committee, that were designed to be a complete condemnation of the efforts made by the first Menzies Government prior to World War II. I shall reply to those allegations, not by expressing my own opinions, but by reading to the committee words that were used by the Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, whose Government succeeded the first Menzies Government in office on the 10th October, 1941. On the 12th October, 1941, Mr. Curtin, the new Prime Minister, said in Sydney Town Hall-
I have to pay tribute to the Government which preceded my own for the constructive work they have done in defence and the foundations they have laid.
On the 18th October, 1941, Mr. . Curtin made the following acknowledgment: -
The Navy was at its highest pitch of efficiency, as demonstrated by the notable exploits of its ships overseas.
That is the tribute that Mr. Curtin paid to the Navy that we handed over to the new Government for the defence of this country. On that occasion he went on to say -
The Home Defence Army was well trained and its equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased, both in respect of Home Defence squadrons and the training forces of the Empire Air Scheme. The equipment of the Air Force had also been much improved. Finally. munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly.
His views were supported by Mr. Holloway who, as honorable members know, was held in high regard by everybody. Mr. Holloway, who later became Minister for Labour and National Service in the Curtin Government, speaking in this chamber on the 27th August, 1941, while the first Menzies Government was still in office, made the following statement which is recorded in Hansard Volume 168, at page 189 : -
I do not join with those who say that Australia has failed in its war effort. I know something of the organization of industry, and when we compare what has been achieved with what we previously thought to be possible, we realize that somewhat ofa miracle has been wrought.
Mr. Holloway was a leader of the Labour movement for a long time. Such a statement from a leading member of the Labour party who later became a Minister of the Crown in the Labour Government, gives the lie direct to the statements made to-day by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers). I could quote the statements of many other persons who have paid a tribute to the defence effort of the first Menzies Government, but my time is limited, so I shall content myself with the almost flattering observations of Mr. Curtin and Mr. Holloway. Before it went out of office the first Menzies Government had established a solid organization for the defence of this country. It had organized man-power and industry in every possible way. Civilian committees composed of great men, who were leaders of commerce and industry, like Sir Essington Lewis and Sir John Storey, among others, gave full-time service to the development of factory production and the organization of the whole of our plant and equipment for a maximum war effort. Eight through the war while the Labour Government was in office, these committees remained unchanged, and when the war was over great tributes were paid to their members for the part they had played in carrying out the Government’s plans. It is a farce, and the greatest possible piece of irresponsibility for the honorable member for Adelaide to rise in his place here and say that at the time it left office the first Menzies Government had made no preparation for the defence of the nation. The unqualified tributes from the leaders of his own party show the opposite to be the truth. Nobody who has a sound and reasonable approach to the problems of the 1930’s could deny that the first Menzies Government made sound defence preparations before World War II.
The honorable’ member for Port Adelaide also referred to the defence forces of to-day. When this Government came into office it’ had to begin from well behind scratch to build up an Army, because all we found when we took over was a mere handful of Army personnel, mostly people on base jobs. The numbers of Army personnel were infinitesimal.
– That is a complete invention.
– It is not a complete invention. It is the result of a complete investigation.
– The Minister should not excuse himself by blackguarding others.
– .Starting from behind scratch we have built up in this country the greatest defence force that Australia has ever had in peace-time. The honorable member for Port Adelaide referred to the national service training scheme. He said that the scheme was almost futile, and that it would be possible to do for the trainees in one month the training that they receive in 98 days. He said that any national service trainee would agree with his statement. I have spoken to tens of thousands of national trainees, who have expressed amazement at the amount that they have to learn in 98 days, and they realize that they have only touched the fringe of the knowledge that they require, in order to enable them to defend this country. Honorable gentlemen opposite left to us a mere shambles of a defence force. The people, the youth and the manhood of Australia have responded to our appeals for recruits, and as a result we now have in Australia armed forces of which responsible people speak in the highest terms, and the development of which everybody regards as amazing. I had the privilege of visiting Korea, where I met General Ridgway, General Van Fleet and other military leaders who are in a position to judge the efficiency of the Australian forces, and they speak most highly of Australia’s two battalions engaged in the Korean campaign, the 1st Battalion and the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) spoke about rash statements. The 1949 general election campaign was characterized by more rash statements than had ever been made in the history of this country by one man at one time. One of the subjects with which we are concerned in our consideration of this measure is taxation. I shall repeat to the Minister for the Army one of the most rash statements ever made by any man. It was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his 1949 policy speech. Speaking of taxes he said -
The Government has been forced by public opinion to reduce the rates of tax to even a. greater extent than we proposed at the last election.
He was speaking of the Labour Government because the Labour Government which was then in office, and which had reduced taxes substantially. He continued -
Yet the Commonwealth’s taxation revenue is £200,000,000 more than in the most critical year of the war.
We still believe that rates of taxation must be steadily reduced, as national production and income rise, and as economies are effected in administration.
We will review the incidence of indirect taxes (which are a huge, though sometimes unrecognized item in Australia) upon basic wage and cost of living items and housing costs.
He promised to reduce taxation if he were elected to office. This Government attempts to excuse itself for the present high level of taxation on the ground that it has to expend a great deal of money on defence. But it does not have to find anything like the amount of money for defence that the Labour Government had to find in its term of office, when it had a real war on its hands. There was a need for heavy taxes at that time but, notwithstanding that fact, the taxes imposed by the Labour Government never reached the level of taxes that this Government is imposing. In 1942, the Labour Government had to find £563,000,000 for defence in one year. This Government is finding only £200,000,000 a year at present. We had reason for imposing high taxation at the time. In 1943, the Labour Government raised £570,000,000 for defence. The total was £544,000,000 in 1944 and £505,000,000 in 1945. In those years, the nation was fighting a war and the Chifley Government was spending the money efficiently in the defence of the country. But the sum of £200,000,000 that this Government is spending on defence this year is being misspent. It is not even providing the correct train ing or equipment that the national trainees need. Taxation to-day is three times higher than it was when the Labour Government was in office. Customs revenue in 1949 totalled £63,000,000 and it is now £113,000,000. Excise revenue was £62,000,000; to-day it totals £100,000,000. Excise is mainly a tax on beer and tobacco, and therefore it mainly affects the workers. But that is the practice of this Government. If it wants to raise money or impose burdens, it hits the workers. Under the Labour Government, sales tax totalled £39,000,000, but in the last budget the Government proposed to raise £95,000,000 from that source, an increase of £56,000,000. Sales tax is an unfair burden. No mercy is shown by this Government in imposing the sales tax. It hits the family man more than any one.
– Is he the drinker!
– I am talking about sales tax now if the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) will listen. The bigger the family the more sales tax is paid. A pensioner pays as much as a company director. Sales tax to-day yields £56,000,000 more than it did when the Labour Government was in office, yet this Government has shown no indication of reducing the heavy burden of taxation. Direct taxation, including social services contributions, yielded £199,000,000 under a Labour government. To-day the total is £193,000,000 greater. Then there is the pay-roll tax, which was dragged around New South Wales during the recent election campaign by Mr. Treatt, the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament like a mangy dog. He said that his party would reduce the pay-roll tax although he had no right to make that claim. It totalled £19,000,000 under a Labour government and to-day it totals £37,000,000.
The land tax had a disgraceful history. When the Labour Government was in office it totalled £3,000,000. When it was imposed last by this Government it totalled £6,000,000, but since then the Government has abolished the land tax as a pay-off to its friends. It was imposed previously only on people with property that was valued at £8,500. This Government abolished it for the benefit of its wealthy friends and that is the only tax that it ha3 reduced. The £6,000,000 that it gave to the landowners would have been better added to the pensions. No statement upon taxation has been more rash than that made by the Prime Minister in 1949. He deliberately fooled the people. When the Labour Government was in office in 1949, the total taxation revenue was £471,000,000. The present Prime Minister, who promised to reduce taxation, raised it to £504,000,000 in the first year. In the next year he lifted the total to £718,000,000 and he and his Government broke all records in the last Government with a tax burden totalling £919,000,000. The Prime Minister promised that he would reduce taxation but he failed completely.
Another matter that comes within the scope of supply is the loan market. When this Government was elected, it announced that it would implement a large developmental scheme by raising loans. It announced that it would raise a special loan of £250,000,000 for development. It has not raised that money and there is a good reason why. The people have lost faith in this Government because of its broken promises. Last year the States required £300,000,000 to carry on essential works. The Australian Loan Council, influenced by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Australian Government, cut that amount to £225,000,000. When the Government went to the people and said that it wanted £225,000,000, the people refused to lend it because they had lost faith in the Government.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Obviously in the short time at one’3 disposal one cannot waste much of it in a recapitulation of the virtues and achievements of this Government. In spite of the Communist and other’ brands’ of smearing that have temporarily caused a misunderstanding- among’ the people, the record of this Government is a beacon light of courage. It is determined to- meet a challenge from whatever quarter it may come, even1 from the Australian’ Labour party. Recently I read in a weekly journal a statement that this Government, in spite of all the major problems which confronted it when it took office and the even greater problems which were forced upon it when it attempted to stabilize the economy that it might be able to withstand a further socialist onslaught, is faced to-day with the most unscrupulous Opposition in the history of the Australian federation. After listening to the speeches that have been delivered to-day, I believe that that is a temperate description of the Opposition. Those speeches from the Opposition side viciously misrepresented not only the achievements but also the motives of this Government. In some cases they were designed to impugn the honour and integrity of honorable members. Those speeches were akin in every respect to the painted smears that are to be seen on the hoardings, brick walls and railway sidings of every capital city, and form the slimy trail of communism. The cry is “ Out Menzies. Get rid of the Menzies Government”. It is seldom heard in. this chamber without a responsive cheer from some honorable member on the Opposition side. What do the Communists expect to achieve by ousting the Menzies Government? The Government has had a record of peace in industry and production because the Communists have not dared to raise their ugly heads. What do the Communists expect to achieve from a Labour government? Do they expect to emerge again and take charge of the foreign policy and industrial policy of Australia ? Do they want to be in the position again of holding up a major commercial shipping line for two and a half years so that they can let the commerce of the country rot on the Sydney wharfs? Is that what the Communist party expects? Let us turn our minds back to 1949 and remember what the conditions were like in those days in order to infuse a little realism into this debate. I shall give an example of a Chifleyism. Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister, said in Perth -
The next government, if it is sincere, must use drastic and ruthless measures to control inflation. The economic crisis is so grave that any government which tackles this problem, as it should be tackled1 will have to do a lot of unpopular things.
I suggest that that was a most realistic statement. In 1949, both political groups in this House recognized the fact stated by Mr. Chifley. The difference between the attitude of Mr. Chifley and the present members of the Opposition is that he not only believed that, but he also had the courage to say it. I believe that some honorable members of the Opposition also realize the difficulties facing the Government to-day, but they lack the courage to say it. In 1949, all political parties realized that the position was so grave that none of them considered that it was an appropriate time to seek office. One group of political parties tried to win, and the other tried to lose. Both groups of political parties realized that three requisites were required for any group to successfully govern the country. The first was a high degree of political intelligence, the second a high degree of political courage, and the third was a willingness to sacrifice political popularity in order to do something for the benefit of the country. I do not blame the Labour party for not seeking office at that time, because the task of any government was obviously going to be very difficult, and the Labour party realized that it did not have any of the requisite attributes for office. I do not blame them for not seeking office because they did not have the qualifications, but I do blame them for sitting on the fence and waiting like a cuckoo to cash in on the sacrifices and labour of the Government.
Now I want to draw the attention of the House to some of the matters that have been misrepresented by the Opposition. The air has been polluted for three years with lies, half-truths and deliberate misrepresentations; but that is not the worst of it, because it might be considered to be political normalcy. The worst of it is that those who put forth that misrepresentation knew that what they said consisted of nothing but lies. Let us consider , full employment first. Never once in its history has Labour achieved full employment. The last Labour Government certainly achieved a full registration on the pay-roll of industry, but that is a very different thing. Recently, under Labour’s full employment policy, three men were getting the same result as one man got in 1940. Honorable mem- bers should mark that - three men were being paid wages to produce as much as one man used to produce in 1940. It is quite obvious from a consideration of that proposition to discover why inflation was raging in this country. The second matter that has been misrepresented to the people concerned the abolition of the averaging system. I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), a gentleman who aspires to the leadership of this country, say deliberately in a radio broadcast that the averaging system had been abolished. The fact is that S5 per cent, of the primary producers are still operating under the averaging system. The next misrepresentation concerns provisional tax. Apparently many honorable members of the Opposition believe that provisional tax relates to the succeeding year’s income. That is a complete misrepresentation. Only when a fluctuation of income occurs do we notice the anomaly in this method of assessing taxation. Such anomalies create unrest which members of the Labour party are always eager to exploit. The provisional system of taxation was introduced by a Labour government, seven or eight years ago. It is a good system and one which no government would wish to alter.
This Government tried to simplify the provisional tax system so that at the end of nine months a man would be able to estimate what his tax would be. But even that attempt on the part of the Government to help the primary producers, and others, was misrepresented by the Labour party. There were howls from pressure groups to the effect that the system should be made simpler. Ultimately the Government made the system so simple that a six-year-old schoolgirl could work out an assessment blindfold on a dark night. Yet there are still honorable members on the Opposition benches who say that the system is too complicated.
Now let us turn to taxation and consider whether there has been any increase of taxation since this Government assumed office. Upon analysis it is found that the rate of taxation has not increased by one fraction of a penny. The volume, of taxation has increased of course, but that is because of the increased national income. If the taxation rate has not been increased and the volume of revenue collected hae increased, then, obviously, the people are enjoying far higher incomes under this Government than they did under the preceding discredited Labour Government. This Government reduced taxation in its first year of office Then we had to take part in the Korean incident, but not one honorable member opposite is honest enough to say that our participation in the Korean campaign has made any difference.
– It made no difference.
– I would not expect the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) to know anything about this matter. He is the least informed of all honorable members of the Labour party, but he has not yet realized it. The Korean war costs Australia millions of pounds each year, but the Labour party is not honest enough to admit it.
The Labour party is trying to lull the people into a false sense of security about its socialistic objective and believes that the people are now willing to put their trust in Labour assurances. I remind the people that the Deputy Leader of the Labour party recently said, “Give us time and we will alter the face of Australia “. It is very significant that the honorable gentleman did not say in what manner he would alter it. I suggest that the public is entitled to ask the question whether trusting the promises of the Labour party may not be a folly which they will live to regret.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Supply Bill disappoints me, and, no doubt, it has disappointed thousands of electors in the metropolitan area of Sydney, particularly in West Sydney and East Sydney. There is no mention in the Supply Bill of the 6,000 people in my electorate who are out of work. Honorable members have been discussing the price of wool, the price of wheat, and the taxes which will be levied on farmers who have so much money that they do not know how much taxation they will have to pay, but nothing has been said about the unemployed, who are walking the streets of
Sydney to-day. Ten thousand persons were sacked from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but that ‘ was merely a start. Import restrictions have caused unemployment on the waterfront, where hundreds of waterfront labourers are drawing appearance money day after day, and many tally clerks are compelled to attend for work every morning, but very seldom receive a job. One would have thought that a matter like that would take up some of the time of the Government because it is through thu actions of the Government that unemployment has occurred in Sydney. Perhaps at this time the Government could also think of the pensioners and those who receive superannuation payments of only £2, £3, or £4 a week. Many retired railway employees are in a desperate plight at the present time. Perhaps, if the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) wants money he can send a consignment” of rabbit skins down to Sydney and get cash for them, but many other people have no source of income.
This Government is finished, because not only every worker but every businessman, who comes to see me, tells me that he has many problems to face. I am a member of an organization in Sydney - and it is not the Communist party - which for many years endeavoured to collect money to build a centre of its own. It succeeded in raising £24,000 which it invested in Commonwealth bonds six years ago. A contract has been let for the building, but the organization finds that it will have to dispose of its bonds within the next few months at a loss of £3,100. Who is responsible for that? The organization will have to go to the banks and insurance companies to borrow another £24,000 at 5 per cent. Does any honorable member opposite think for a moment that any one of the 15,000 members of that organization will advise anybody to vote for the Liberal party?
The taxpayers of this country are entitled to know how the £150,000,000 provided for in this measure is to be expended. The people who line up every Monday morning at the social services office at Hexham House, Sydney, and are treated like cattle arriving in trucks at Homebush, are not to get any of it. When I visited the office, I saw 39 people in a room 14 feet by twelve feet. When I went into the room, one man said, “ You will have to get a number at the door and wait your turn “. Last Monday week, 50 or 60 people received numbered tickets in the morning, but when the office closed at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, some of them still had not been attended to. Several came to my office and told me what had happened and I went up to the social services office to make inquiries. I found that there was a shortage of staff amounting to 40 or 50. That is the work of this so-called Liberal Government. Obviously “ Liberal “ is a misnomer. The Government is liberal in name only; in practice, it is the very opposite of liberal.
It is the duty of members of Parliament to tell the people how this £150,000,000 is to bc expended. I find that the sum allocated to the Department of External Affairs includes £98,000 for the Australian embassy in the United States of America. £29,700 for our embassy in Russia, £26,700 for our embassy in the Republic of Prance, £13,200 for our embassy in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, £13,000 for our embassy in the Republic of Indonesia, and £4,200 for our embassy in the Republic of Ireland. It is a pity that the Government bothers to maintain Australian representation in Ireland on such a small scale. The people of Ireland have no more respect for the Government than have Irish people in this country. The Irish community will not be fooled again by promises made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in Brisbane or anywhere else The sum of £29,400 is provided for the Australian embassy in the Kingdom of Japan. Honorable members opposite who fought against the Japanese in the last war came back here with bitter feelings towards them, but now, only a few years later, apparently they are willing to shake hands. The Australian embassy in Brazil is to receive £13,700, and our legation in Israel, £.1.1,000. Our legations in the Republic of Italy and in the Kingdom of Egypt are to receive £11,300 and £11,400 respectively. Representation in Thailand will cost us £9,-200. and in the Associated States of Indo-China £11,200. The Ans- tralian legation in Burma is to have £11,300 and our High Commisssions in Canada, New Zealand, India and Pakistan are being voted £17,600, £7,800, £14,600 and £15,400 respectively. Our High Commission in the Union of South Africa will cost £10,200, and in Ceylon £S,200. A total of £83,000 is being provided for consular representation abroad and £19,100 for other representation abroad.
– All for four months.
– Yes. I do not condemn this Government for maintaining diplomatic relations with other countries, but I do condemn it for its failure to make adequate provision for people who are out of work in this country. How can the Government possibly hope for success at the forthcoming Senate elections in view of its record of neglect ? We on this side of this chamber are awaiting our chance to force the Government to face the people. Workers and business people alike agree that the Government no longer has the confidence of the people.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I shall occupy the time of the House for only a few minutes. I shall deal with various subjects, although, from the point of view of the Opposition, the less that .is said about some of them the better. First, 1 wish to say a word or two on the subject of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue). There is a saying that all is fair in love and war and, one may add, in politics. Nevertheless, we are not often treated to a speech so completely lacking in scruple and in truth, or so indifferent to the class strife that it may provoke by making people feel sorry for themselves - and not hesitating to touch lightly on the sectarian issue, either - as that made by the honorable member for West Sydney this afternoon. Some honorable members apparently take the view that they may say anything at all for a miserable party political advantage at the polls, regardless of the effects that their utterances may have on this country. The honorable member for West Sydney is not a native of this land, but it seems to me that he has done well here, and therefore might have some feelings of gratitude for the manner in which this country has treated him. He has done very well indeed. It is all very well for him to ask us to pity people who are in adverse circumstances, and to sneer at honorable members on this side of the chamber as if we were all very well off. He himself, as is very well known, is one of the wealthiest members of this House. Let him do something about these people instead of implying that Government supporters only sit back on their millions and make no worthwhile contribution to the advancement of this country. Such an attitude is contemptible. The honorable member, of course, took his cue from his deputy leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who treated this House last night to a misery talk on the state of the nation. He also has shown a complete lack of scruple in dealing with our national problems over the years. There was a time, a few years ago, when this Government was laying the foundation of the successful campaign which was to result in the checking of further inflation in Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), at that time urged the people to conserve their money and. to refrain from unnecessary spending on luxuries. He asked the people to behave sensibly. Surely it was in the interests of every Australian to do so. The honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, said, in effect, “ I hope the people will take no notice of that. Inflation is here ; it will become worse. Your money, which is not worth much to-day, will shortly be worth nothing at all. Spend, spend, spend! I advise the people to spend everything they have now “. That was one of the most contemptible statements that have ever been made by a man who holds a responsible office in a political party in Australia.
Last night, similar sentiments were voiced by other honorable members. It is true that there are some unfortunate people in Australia who are out of work, and must, in the very nature of things, be suffering great hardships and inconvenience. I contend that the Government is doing everything it can to help them. Indeed, it has done more for people in those circumstances than has any other government in the history of Australia. The honorable member for Melbourne said, in near hysteria, “ Unemployment is bad. It will become worse and worse “. He was threatening the people that such a state of affairs would come about, and really he was hoping that it would come about. Opposition members are trying to cause panic, and stampede the people into believing that greater unemployment is inevitable. They do so purely for their own political purposes. These out-dated champions of the workers, who sit on the opposite side of the chamber, sought only yesterday to use the plight of the unfortunate unemployed to further their own miserable political ends. We have listened to such calamity-howling too frequently. To-day, we watched dry-eyed the honorable member forWest Sydney trying to squeeze out a tear as he did his turn at the wailing wall. If conditions are so bad as honorable members opposite would have us believe, why is it that only seven members of the Opposition were present in their places in the chamber when the sitting was resumed after the luncheon adjournment ?
Mr. Haylen interjecting,
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was not one of those who were then present. He will, no doubt, rise in his place soon, and make one of his customary specious speeches claiming that he was here in his place and looking after the rights of those whose interests he pretends to advocate. Opposition members have, as it were, a vested interest in misery and depression, and that interest was most admirably reflected in the speech delivered by the honorable member for Melbourne.
I should like to touch on more serious matters in the brief time remaining at my disposal. It is obvious that the Opposition is contemplating a full-scale assault on the defence plans of the Government. It claims that the Government is spending £200,000,000 on defence at a time when we are not at war, and there is no likelihood of war. That seems to be the attitude of the honorable member for Parkes. This morning I listened to a speech made by a former Minister for the Army, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers). I marvel that lie should ever refer to the Army again, after the way in which he mismanaged the defence forces of Australia. The conduct of Labour in control of defence was nothing short of scandalous, and well do the ex-servicemen on the Opposition front bench know it. This country, for the first time in its peacetime history, has an adequate defence force. That is entirely due to the work of this Government, and no thanks are due to any one else. No one knows what will happen at the forthcoming Senate election. I confidently expect that we shall find ourselves again where we are now, and for this reason: We may have made mistakes in regard to some parochial matters, but on great national matters the people do not trust the Labour party. Over a long period honorable members opposite betrayed the country in the matter of defence. They allowed Australia to be stripped of its defences, so that it was incapable of defending itself. They allowed the foreign policy of Australia to be made subservient to the ambitions and aspirations of one of their members, the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Opposition members do not trust the right honorable gentleman to hold his party together. They know perfectly well that their leader and their deputy leader cannot agree on one point of policy, and detest each other. I do not blame either of them for that. On matters of real public importance, the people will no more trust the Labour party to-day than they did in 1949.
Opposition members have had the effrontery to refer to primary production. One gets up with the cry that the farmer is being unjustly treated. Five seconds later, another rises and says that the Government should take over the control of the land. A third says that the price of wool is too high, and that the Government should organize the wool industry, and control the price of wheat and this, that and the other primary commodity. The truth is that the agricultural policy of the Labour party does not extend beyond a wish to control the whole of the agricultural industries of Australia. Members of the Labour party know that they are socialists, and they intend to take the land from the farmers and do what they wish with them. They may falsify the books until they are black in the face, but the people will not trust them to govern any more than they did a few years ago.
.- The committee has just been listening to the winnings of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who attacked the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), whom he described as one of the wealthiest men in this chamber. The honorable member for Henty did not mention his own wealth. He whined about the fact that honorable members on this side of the chamber have told the truth about the unemployment position. Who is this honorable member who makes such wild statements? He is one who dodged his obligations to the people of Henty by buying a farm in the country, and residing some hundreds of miles away from his constituents, so that he would not be worried by them if they sought for hi3 advice. .So much for the honorable member for Henty.
This Government is doomed. Whatever it says, and whatever it does, no matter how much it may whine about this, that or the other thing, the political tide has run out, and nothing can save it. The result of the Senate elections, which are to be held in May, will prove the truth of my assertion that never again will this Government have an opportunity to delude the people. The Government is discredited in the eyes, not only of the workers, but also of the businessmen, the big employers, and the rural workers of Australia. The Government is doomed to extinction, and knows it.
Let us examine the way in which the Government has “ cooked “ the unemployment figures. Every one knows that unemployment is rampant in Australia. Because of the payment of attendance money, many wharf -labourers, who are unable to work for more than a couple of days a week, are disqualified for the unemployment benefit, and, consequently, are not included in the figures relating to the number of unemployed. A similar position exists in regard to the tally clerks, who are forced by order of the court to attend the “ pick-up “ every morning, hut who get only sufficient work to deprive them of the unemployment benefit. Widows, who in former years worked in order to maintain themselves and their children, have been dismissed and are ineligible for the unemployment benefit because they receive the widow’s pension. The Government has made a snide attempt to keep the unemployment figures down to a level which it considers may be comfortable. Women of 60 years of age are ineligible to collect unemployment benefit when they lose their jobs They are paid the age pension. Men of 65 years of age suffer likewise. The Government pays widows’ pensions and age pensions to thousands of people so that it will not have to number them among the unemployed.
At various establishments in the cities men have been told at 40 years of age that they are too old to work. Fancy craftsmen of high technical knowledge and skill being told that they are too old to work at 40! Such a state of affairs has been brought about by that unholy alliance which is known as the Menzies-Fadden regime. But we shall soon see the last of it. It is in its death throes. These will be the last twelve months of the Menzies Government. Its supporters have melancholy looks on their faces as they sit opposite with the corrugated brows of worry, wondering how long it will be before they join the unemployed camp. In twelve months’ time there will be an increase in the number of unemployed which will be caused by members of the Government parties joining the ranks of the unemployed.
A certain matter is concerning me very much-
Government supporters interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite say, “ Ah ! “. I refer to the lack of apprenticeship opportunities. Some honorable members opposite may have sons approaching sixteen years of age. Perhaps they will also say, “ Ah “, when their boys leave school and cannot find apprenticeships in any trade. It is utterly impossible to find apprenticeships in any establishment for boys of sixteen years who will be needed in the future if we are brought to a state of war once again. Honorable members opposite know that the hand of political death is on their throat. They try to lull the people into a false sense of security by telling lies about defence. The Government has spent a huge amount of money on defence. To what effect? The people of Australia want to know in what way £200,000,000 is being used each year in defence. The people of Darwin want to know when the Government will build a wharf in their port, which is our gateway to the east. The proper maintenance of this port is essential to the defence of Australia. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has admitted that his department has sometimes to buy second-hand material from disposals stores with which to clothe national service trainees. The Minister has claimed that this material is scarce despite the fact that textile mills are idle. The wheels of those mills should be kept in motion with defence orders in case war comes again. A few years ago the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) said that we would be at war by 1950. His war has gone by the board, but there may be another one. In twelve months’ time the Government is sure to cook up some sort of scare in order to try to panic the people. I warn the people that the unemployment cycle is not yet complete. I warn them that unemployment is epidemic. Unemployment breeds unemployment. Honorable members opposite sit with nonchalant looks and do not care what happens to the unfortunate unemployed from week to week. The building trade is in the doldrums. Thousands of building artisans are out of work.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Having had the misfortune to listen to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) on the wireless downstairs, I heard him allege that I stated in this House that my department had been forced to buy equipment at disposal sales. I am quite sure that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), who heard my statement on that matter, will bear witness that I said precisely the opposite. I understand that the honorable member for Watson was in the House when I made my statement and I do not believe that he made a mistake when he spoke just now. I think that his misstatement was deliberate.
.- If the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) were to give serious consideration to the economic aspects of unemployment he would realize that unemployment is a gauge of the efficiency of the economic machine. The honorable member can do nothing to .assist the economic machine in this country by engaging in what has been described by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) as calamity howling and attempting to destroy public confidence. If the honorable member is prepared to study this matter as an educational exercise he will find out that in 1951, 99.9 per cent, of the country’s Labour force produced the gross national output. On the basis of figures that have been cited in this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), 97.1 per cent, of the Labour force of 3,843,000 is now producing 15 per cent, more than the gross national output of two years ago. Those facts bring the real human issue to light and give some idea of the enormity of the problem of unemployment. The honorable member for Watson also mentioned the shortage of apprentices in industry. That shortage is partly due to the fact that, in the period from 1946 to 1951, there was no incentive for fathers to apprentice their boys to trades. Unskilled labourers then were able to earn excellent wages, and, as there was a shortage of labour, there was a tendency for fathers to put their boys to unskilled employment. The result is that we are now becoming increasingly aware of the shortage of. artisans, a shortage which will become more severe each year. The honorable member for Watson ought to understand the situation.. He should know as well as- anybody else that the number of apprentices admitted to the various trades each year is governed by the policies- of trade unions. That is the greatest single factor that influences, thenumber of. apprentices.
I torn my attention now to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr.
Chambers), a senior member of the Opposition and a former Minister, who was guilty this morning of a statement that reflected grossly upon the senior members of our armed forces at the outbreak of World War II. I am prepared to admit that the honorable gentleman probably did not intend to reflect on those officers; but, if it were true that our forces were not producing a satisfactory war effort at the end of 1941, when the Labour party came into power, it must be true that the country had been let down, not only by the politicians, but also by the service chiefs. The honorable member’s statement that our Air Force consisted of thirteen Wirraway aircraft was a shocking misrepresentation of facts. When the late John Curtin became Prime Minister, No. 10 Squadron of the permanent Air Force, which was equipped with flying boats, was in England ; No. 3 fighter squadron was in the Middle East ; No. 1 and No. 8 bomber squadrons and No. 21 fighter squadron were in Malaya ; and No. 24 squadron was stationed at Port Moresby and Rabaul. The honorable member referred to only one flight of the three which formed No. 24 squadron when he said, that we had only thirteen Wirraway aircraft. As a former Minister of the Army, the honorable member surely must know the facts. His statement was shameful. At the time to which I refer, Australia also had No. 11 squadron of flying boats at Port Moresby, and No. 2 and No. 13 squadrons at Darwin. These squadrons composed a reconnaissance force that was engaged mainly in keeping Australia safe from the submarines that were attacking convoys along our coastline. I remind the House that, as early as 1940, the Italian motor ship Romolo was caught by one of the flying boats of No. 11 squadron. Considering what had to he achieved in Australian waters before Japan entered the war, our Air Force was of reasonable strength and was doing a reasonably good job. Australia was also participating in the great Empire air training scheme before the Curtin Government came to office. Therefore, the honorable member for Adelaide was guilty of a monstrous distortion of facts when he said that our Air Force consisted of only thirteen Wirraway machines’.
I remind the honorable gentleman also, that the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Divisions of the Australian. Imperial Force were all functioning when the Labour Government came to power. Most of them had been in battle by that time, and no substantial addition was made to them after the Labour party took office. It is true, of course, that the Citizen. Military Forces were substantially increased and that many oi those units were sent to New Guinea. The fact is that more than half of the Australian Imperial Force was in existence as a fighting force when the Curtin Government was elected. The Navy also had achieved considerable strength. At the outbreak of war, Australia had two 8-in. gun cruisers, Australia and Canberra, three 6-in. gun cruisers, Hobart, Perth and Sydney, a destroyer force, which was immediately sent to the Mediterranean, made up of the vessels Stuart, Vendetta, Voyager, Waterhen and Vampire, and the sloops Yarra, Parramatta and Swan. Thus, we had a functional naval force which served with considerable distinction in the first twelve months of war. It is most improper to suggest, in view of these facts, that tha Government at the outbreak of war was not capable of prosecuting an adequate war effort. The suggestion also directly implicates the service chiefs, and it would be totally incorrect to say that they had let the country down.
I emphasize the facts so that the record shall be squared. We all know that a full-scale war effort cannot be produced in a matter of months. However, when Japan entered the war, Australia’s war effort had been launched on an extensive scale. Flans had been made for fighter squadrons to operate in’ the Middle -East and Malaya, and those plans came to fruition as the war developed. Honorable members should not overlook the fact that Australia also had been provided with a strong, well-organized reserve air forcE before the Labour Government came to power. From the service flying training schools, functioning as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, many “Reserve Squadrons “ were formed. We had an sir officer commanding the reserve squadrons and, ‘ if tie country had been invaded, we should have had plenty of equipment which, although it might not have been right up to date, we could have used to hit the enemy hard. The statement by the honorable member for Adelaide that Australia had produced practically no war effort before the Labour party came to power was monstrously untrue and merits the censure of reasonable people throughout Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take the earliest opportunity to correct some misleading statements that have been made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in relation to a proposal by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce.) that an embargo be placed on the importation of foreign tobacco leaf until all Australian tobacco leaf has been consumed. The Minister said, in reply to a question this morning, that it was impossible for the Government
– Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the state of the House.
Mr. Speaker having counted the House,
– Order ! There are fifteen honorable members on my right and sixteen on my left. As a quorum is not present, I adjourn the House.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointment- Department of Civil Aviation - J. L. Carey.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Annual Report for 1951-52.
Services Trust Funds Act - Royal Australian Navy Belief Trust Fund - Annual Report for year 1051-52.
House adjourned at 4.4 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
ser asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice - ‘ -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 March 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530320_reps_20_221/>.