20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and I point out, by way of explanation, that an Australian ex-serviceman who becomes sick is admitted to a repatriation hospital pending a determination whether his sickness is due to war service, but a British ex-serviceman is not so admitted, as the Australian Repatriation Department merely acts as an agent for the British authorities. Will the Prime Minister confer with the Ministry of Pensions in Great Britain with a view to endeavouring to extend the same facilities to British ex-servicemen as are extended to Australian ex-servicemen here?
Mr.Menzies -Ishallbehappyto discuss the problem raised by the honorable member for Sturt in the appropriate quarter.
– Is it a fact that the Prime Minister has refusedtomeet the Lord Mayor of Newcastle on a matter of public importance, and has referred him to the Minister for Civil Aviation? Does the right honorable gentleman know that the Lord Mayor has already seen that Minister without receiving satisfaction? Is it the policy of the Prime Minister to snub the leading citizen of this very important city in that way? If not, will the right honorable gentleman reconsider his refusal to meet a deputation led by the Lord Mayor, and agree to see it as soon as practicable?
– No doubt, this question relates to an aerodrome at Newcastle, and, therefore, I had better state my practice on matters of this kind. There are Ministers in the Cabinet who administer various departments. It is not my practice to receive deputations on matters which fall within thejurisdiction of one of my Ministers. It would be most undesirable, indeed, for me to do so. Nor is it commonly my practice to sit as a sort of court of appeal when a Minister has given a decision. On some occasions, a Minister has felt that he would like to have consultation with me, as the head of the Government, and I have always very willingly complied and occasionally had deputations at which a Minister was present. However, I am bound to say, with all respect to the Lord Mayor and the City of Newcastle, that dozens and dozens of representations are made to the Minister for Civil Aviation on aerodromes, and if I am to be thought guilty of snubbing somebody because I decline to meet such deputations, then I am rather sorry for the man who occupies my post, because I am sure that I would be receiving ten deputations a day.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that some industrial trouble recently developed at the State Coal Mine at Collinsville, in
NorthQueensland,whereadditional machinery is being installed? Is it a fact that additional output of coal is required from this mine in order to fulfil a contract with the American army in Korea? What action is being taken by the Queensland Government to settle this dispute, so that deliveries under the contract may be commenced in accordance with shipping arrangements that have already been made?
– I understand that additional machinery was installed recently at the State coal mine at Collinsville, in Queensland. It was expected that this would increase output, and accordingly a contract was entered into by the State Government for the export to Japan of the estimated surplus production. The late delivery of the machinery delayed the coal production programme, and it is likely that further delays will occur as a result of an industrial dispute which developed at the mine last week. I understand that, because of the dispute, the craft unions have placed a ban upon overtime work at the mine. These unions are covered by State awards but are claiming some special provisions which apply in the industry under federal awards. I have been informed that the dispute is to be referred to the State industrial court. I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister, for National Development, who is interested in the export of coal.
– Yesterday I gave the Prime Minister certain information regarding possible happenings in the coal industry in the Newcastle district of New South Wales, and I requested that he meet the representatives of the industry. Can he now tell me whether he has decided to accede to that request ?
– I have had some conversation about the matter, within a limited time, with the Minister for National Development. I shall be able later this morning to tell the honorable member what the position is so far as I am concerned. I shall let him know as soon as I can.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you would consider it fitting, impressive and eloquent of the feelings and aspirations of honorable members if, after you had recited the prayer for the guidance of the Parliament at the commencement of each sitting, the members assembled in the chamber were to join you in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer ?
– The Standing Orders provide that the Speaker shall read certain prayers upon taking the chair at each sitting. There is nothing to say that honorable members shall or shall not join in repeating the “ Our Father “ if they wish to do so. From my nineteen years of experience in this House, I think that it might be an excellent beginning to each sitting if they did so.
– Do you, Mr. Speaker know who is responsible for the central heating system throughout this building being in operation still although we are in the middle of spring? Will you take the matter up with the Joint House Committee so that those responsible may be given an adequate supply of cotton wool to wrap themselves in for the remainder of the season?
– I shall investigate the matter. The central heating system in this building is, in my opinion, most unsatisfactory. It was a costly installation, and I think that the contractors did not put in a system in keeping with their undertaking. The result is that on some occasions, while I sweat here in the chair, honorable members on the far side of the chamber complain of polar temperatures.
– Some honorable membersoften become overheated.
– I have often noticed the effects of overheating upon some of my friends. I undertake to investigate this matter again, and I shall inform the honorable member for Reid privately of the results of my inquiries.
– The question that I wish to ask the Minister for the Interior arises from concern that exists in th« electorate of Lyne amongst members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia over the allocation of loan funds for the war service land settlement scheme. Criticism arising from this matter has been directed against this Government. Can the Minister inform me of the position in relation to the allocation of funds for the land settlement of ex-servicemen ?
– Under the present agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which act as principal States, the governments of those States include in their submissions to the Australian Loan Council each year certain claims for funds for the war service land settlement scheme. I assume that the allocations by the Loan Council are made on the basis of those submissions. What the States do with themoney that is allotted to them is a matter entirely under their own control. Although the Commonwealth has had several conferences with the representatives of the New South Wales and Queensland Governments and has drawn their attention to the fact that they seem to be allocating progressively less and less in proportion to the total amount of loan funds allotted to them each year, so far they have not increased their allocations for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. What will happen to war service land settlement if this goes on in those two States I do not know. However, the Government has the whole matter under consideration and, although no alteration can be made during the current financial year because the Australian Loan Council’s allocations have already been made and the State governments have prepared their budgets, I hope that some altered arrangement can be put into operation next financial year for the purpose of expediting war service land settlement in New South Wales and Queensland.
– There is a persistent rumour that live animals will be used in the tests of atomic weapons that will take place shortly in Australia. Will the Minister for Supply say whether there is any truth in that rumour?
– I have heard of the rumour. There is no truth in it. No live animals will be used in connexion with the tests of atomic weapons, although T. can think of a couple who, in the view of some of us, might be used for those purposes.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a professor engaged in nuclear research at the Sydney University has stated that the prospect of the detonation of a cobalt bomb in Australia is frightening, while another professor engaged in similar work at the Australian National University has declared that only a madman would use the cobalt bomb ? In view of these statements, will the Prime Minister give an assurance, to the Australian public that no such bomb will be exploded at the forthcoming tests at Woomera, or anywhere else in the vicinity of Australia?
– The whole of my knowledge of the cobalt bomb was derived from the two statements to which the honorable member has referred. That exhausts my knowledge of the subject of the cobalt bomb. I have stated repeatedly that the important tests that will take place from time to time at the Woomera range will not be associated with any danger to Australian lives.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the Australian people anticipate with pleasure the introduction of television? Does he personally favour the provision of this modern form of entertainment? Does he agree that no conflict of business interests can produce a reversion to the horse-and-buggy days of entertainment?
– I point out that honorable members are not entitled to ask for expressions of opinion in answers to questions.
– The policy of the Government with respect to television has been announced. We have made it clear that we favour the introduction of television. However, before introducing it, we have appointed a royal commission to determine the best method of introduction, and the safeguards that should be provided in bringing such a new form of entertainment to the public. I point out to the honorable member that the Deputy Leader of the Labour party in this House, addressing a conference of motion picture proprietors at Coolangatta about three weeks ago, announced on behalf of his party that, if Labour were returned at the next general election, it would throw television overboard in the interests of the motion picture industry.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I claim that 1 have been misrepresented by the PostmasterGeneral. Despite the guffaws of the Prime Minister, the PostmasterGeneral has made a statement that is a gross misrepresentation of what I said to the motion picture industry of Queensland at a convention at Coolangatta. I said that when the Labour party was returned to power, .as it would be, we intended to appoint a proper royal commission on television. I said also that we intended that the commission should have proper terms of reference, and would be asked to consider, among other things, whether the time was ripe for the introduction of television and whether it should be under national control or should take the form of a combined national and commercial system. I said further that we would not have a newspaper representative like Mr. Bednall, the editor of the Courier-Mail, a friend of the Minister, to decide issues in favour-
– Order ! The honorable member is going outside the scope of a personal explanation. His statement sounds to me rather like a statement of policy.
– I am stating our policy.
-Order ! The honorable member is not entitled at this stage to declare the policy of his party. He rose to make a personal explanation about an alleged misrepresentation by the PostmasterGeneral of a statement made by him at Coolangatta.
– The misrepresentation consisted of a statement that the Deputy leader of the Labour party in this House had announced the policy of the Labour party as being to throw overboard the whole question of television. I am telling the House what I did say at Coolangatta. Broadly, I said that the present royal commission was not really a royal commission at all, that we would appoint a proper commission, and that it would include a representative of the motion picture industry—
– And also a representative of the churches, Both of those interests were ignored by this Government.
– I said, finally, that we would not allow newspaper interests to write their own ticket in regard to television.
– I rise to order. My point of order is that, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, has insisted on stating his party’s policy on this matter, the Leader of the Opposition should be given the opportunity either of associating himself with, or dissociating himself from, the views that the honorable member for Melbourne expressed.
– There is no point of order.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Melbourne said that I had misrepresented him in my reference to a statement that he had made at the annual conference, at Coolangatta, of representatives of the motion picture industry. I shall produce in this House, as soon as possible, the reported statement of the honorable member, which is available in my files.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral tell me on whose authority his department has retained, in the last telephone directory issued in Queensland, which is that dated November, 1952, the title “ M.P.” after the name of a former Labour member of this House who was defeated at the general election in 1949 ? Can he also inform me why the title “ M.P.” was, in this instance, inserted in brackets, whilst the letters “M.P.” appear without brackets after the names of genuine honorable members which appear in the telephone book ?
– The information regarding the designations of subscribers that appear in the telephone directories is usually the information supplied to the department by the subscribers themselves. My department cannot, veto the right of persons to have certain initials after their names. I should not imagine that the department would take any exception to a person showing after his name, as many members of the Opposition no doubt will do after the next general election, the designation “ ex-M.P.”
Mr. Watkins having received the call, from the Chair,
– Order! I must ask the House to come to order. There is a spirit of levity this morning which is quite unseemly.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is correct that the net gain of permanent immigrants for the quarter ended the 30th June last was slightly under 10,000 persons? Is it also correct that, of the total number, only about 2,000 were of British origin? Are those figures, both of the total and of the British component, a correct reflection of the present quantum of immigration into
Australia? If so, has the Government any plans for enlarging the British component in future ?
– I shall obtain a breakdown of the figures, which I believe will set out the position quite clearly for the, honorable member. However, I advise him to treat any general figure, such a3 the one that he has mentioned, with caution, because of the special circumstances which have obtained this year. There has been some reduction of the movement of British immigrants to this country in the present year, and I believe that that is partly a reflection of the more difficult economic conditions which obtained last year ; but it is . also a consequence of the special and historic celebrations which have taken place in the United Kingdom this year, and which might, in some sense, have acted as u deterrent against people leaving the United Kingdom during the early part of the year. Towards the end of last year I announced that the immigration intake for the next twelve months would be of the order of 80,000 persons. The figures for the first six months were of that order, and I expect that the figures for the complete year will be in the neighbourhood of the 80,000 as planned. “We are taking active measures to increase the flow of British immigrants, and we place no limit on the flow, and I hope that before this session ends I shall be able to give the House some details of the matter.
– Will the Minister for Immigration prepare a statement for the House about the circumstances surrounding a recent case in which- it was stated by a Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration that a prohibited immigrant had paid £500 sterling to procure his admission to Australia? That immigrant was later deported, and he is supposed to have got his money back. The question of who was responsible for the transaction has not yet been disposed of.
– There was some discussion of this matter on the motion for adjournment on Tuesday night, when one of my colleagues set out the facts as they were known to him. Some debate developed, and I participated in it. I informed the House then that inquiries were continuing into certain aspects of the matter. After the right honorable gentleman has studied the Hansard report of that debate, perhaps he will indicate whether he desires any additional information, and, if so, on what aspects of the matter.
Air. ANDREWS. - My question .is directed to the Minister for the Army. Under the national service training scheme apprentices enrolled in the Army have their apprenticeship agreements extended by the amount of time occupied by their training. As this is a distinct sacrifice and is not incurred by those doing national training in the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy, could not the Minister make suitable arrangements for apprentices to continue their trade training during their period of national army service as is done in the other two services?
– Very special efforts aru being made by the Army to ensure that apprentices, while in camp, shall get every opportunity to continue the studies that they are undertaking at trade schools or colleges. Special huts have been set apart and special accommodation has been provided for them. Such trainees have been relieved from night duties and night guard duties, so that they may continue their studies if they so desire. Moreover, invitations have been extended to the schools or colleges that are providing technical training for national service trainees, to arrange for the continuance of the tuition of the apprentices while they are in camp. In some States those invitations have been accepted. The honorable member who asked this question comes from a Victorian electorate. If Victoria is willing to co-operate with the Commonwealth along the lines that I have indicated, I shall ensure that the facilities asked for by the honorable member shall be made available.
Tr. DONALD CAMERON.- Has the Minister for the Army received representations from students’ organizations at the several universities of Australia, particularly from the students of the Queensland University, that there should be some variation of the period allotted to their 98 days’ training as national service trainees? If so, has the Minister considered the representations, and has he yet made a decision on the matter?
– I think it can be safely said that the national service training scheme has been successful because we have been particularly careful to ensure that even-handed justice ‘ shall be meted out to all young men called up for training. I have at all times endeavoured to ensure that representations made for relief because of the requirements of harvesting, because of personal disability or on compassionate grounds shall be sympathetically considered; but to university students who have made representations in this regard I have made it clear that their submissions ‘must be forwarded through the senate of the university at which they are studying because the universities are represented on a committee, which includes representatives of the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of the Army, that has been ‘ appointed to review regularly applications for relief from or alleviation of the requirement of young men to render national service. Later this month - I think on the 29th or the 30th - the committee will re-assemble for its annual examination of the representations made to it. I hope that something, may be done to improve the situation, if it be necessary to do so. A student may rest assured that his representations will receive the most careful consideration, provided they are made to the senate of the university that he attends, and a representative of that university attends the meeting of the committee to which I have referred.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture appointed the members of the Flax Commission which is to supersede the Flax Production Committee in accordance with the provisions of the act passed during the the earlier part of this year? In view of the difficulties that have recently arisen in Western Australia due to a drop in the price of flax fibre, will the Minister re consider the suggestion I previously made that someone connected with the Western Australian industry should be appointed to the commission ?
– The members of the Flax Commission have not yet bees appointed because there has been such a tremendous fall in the world price of flax as to make the future of the Australian flax industry to some degree uncertain, and perhaps to necessitate a review of the situation for the time being. The Government mills are still being conducted by the Flax Production Committee. Following the representations made by the honorable member some time ago - maybe a year ago - I directed that there should be the closest consultation by the members of the Flax Production Committee, and if that body is transformed into a commission, between the commission and the directors and management of the co-operative mill in Western Australia. I have recently satisfied myself that the very closest consultation has been maintained. That arrangement should, I think, adequately meet what the honorable member has in mind. In those circumstances there is no necessity for representatives of the co-operative mill to be appointed to the commission or committee.
– Has the Minister for Supply any further information to .give to the House in respect of the intention of the Government to dispose of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment pool? Is it a fact, as reported in Brisbane, that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have assured employees of the pool that they are opposed to the decision of the Government and, as a consequence, they are vigorously protesting to the Government against this proposal? Can the Minister inform the House whether such, protests have been made to the Government? If they have, what action does the Government intend to take, as the result of the protests, against the disposal of the pool?
– I am not aware of any such assurances ‘ as are alleged by the honorable member for Brisbane. ? shall bring his question to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Transport in the Senate, and see that the honorable gentleman is furnished with an answer.
– I ask the House for leave to present a long statement. I do not propose to request the House to allow me to read it, but I shall lay it on the table and move that the paper be printed, so that honorable members will have an opportunity subsequently to discuss it if they wish to do so.
– What is the subjectmatter of the statement?
– I point out, by way of explanation, that the subject-matter of the statement is the history of the eviction process which has taken place in relation to certain British immigrants from hostels conducted by the Department of Labour and National Service. I feel it desirable that honorable members should have a chronological statement of the facts, as seen by the Government, and copies of the statement will be available to honorable gentlemen who are interested in the matter. I have made a copy available to the Opposition. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Evictions of migrants from Commonwealth Hostels - Statement by Minister for Immigration. and move -
That the paper be printed.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! Before I put the motion, I desire to call the attention of the House to the fact that this is the second occasion in the last twelve months that this practice has been adopted by a Minister. There is no justification in the standing orders and parliamentary procedure for the presentation to this House of a document which forms no part of its proceedings and on which a debate may take place at a subsequent date. I protested against this practice last year when the Minister for External Affairs (Mr., Casey) adopted a similar procedure, because I regard it as completely and absolutely unparliamentary. Our pro cedure may easily degenerate into a situation in which a series of documents are presented to this House of which the Parliament really has no official cognizance whatsoever, and which form no part of its proceedings. To my mind, the procedure is absolutely wrong, unparliamentary and unjustified.
– I should like to take this opportunity to speak on your comment, Mr. Speaker, because this matter is of interest and importance to all sections of the Parliament. As you, sir, have frequently reminded us, this House is the master of its own business. It is not unusual for an honorable member to. obtain leave to incorporate in the records information which can subsequently be debated by the House. Indeed, that practice is frequently followed by honorable members.” Then again, the Treasurer obtains leave to incorporate in the records of the House the budget papers and other lengthy statements which he does not read. Such documents are incorporated in the records for the convenience of honorable members. I have ho objection whatever to reading this lengthy document, but I believe that I interpret the wishes of the House correctly when I say that the information is made available for the perusal of honorable members, it conveniently forms a part of the record of the proceedings, and it can’ subsequently be debated here. I see nothing in that procedure which detracts in any way from the effectiveness of this House as a chamber of debate. On the other hand, I believe that the business of the House can be facilitated and promoted by it.
– You, Mr. Speaker, have raised a point of procedure, to which I do not desire to refer at the moment, but I feel that, with a debate pending, the course that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), has taken is very convenient. By the adoption of this procedure, nothing is kept back from the House. A paper is laid on the table and thereby is brought to the official attention of the House. It is available to any honorable member for perusal and receives the necessary publicity. The Minister has stated that he will distribute copies of the statement, and has moved that the paper be printed in order that the
House shall have an opportunity to debate the contents of the document, if that is desired. A similar procedure was followed by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) last year, and I believe that it is worthy of consideration and should be more frequently used. The adoption of this practice will obviate the necessity for papers to be read if honorable members consider that it is more important to proceed with other business. The House is the master of its own business under your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I think that, on this occasion, the Minister has paid attention to the general feeling of the House. At any rate, I am sure that you, sir, will not object to the procedure on this occasion.
– I have listened to your observations, Mr. Speaker, on the procedure that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has followed in connexion with the tabling of this paper. You have made the point, sir, that the House is not aware of the contents of the paper, and that the procedure is not in order because the House may subsequently debate the paper without having official knowledge of its contents. May I remind you, sir, that a considerable number of papers such as the Auditor-General’s report and Tariff Board reports are laid on the table of the House? A few days ago, a report of the Public Accounts Committee, which may be contentious, was laid on the table. Each of those papers may be debated. Indeed, honorable members refer to them almost continuously in debate. Reports of the Tariff Board are quoted at great length when tariff schedules are under consideration. References are made again and again to the Auditor-General’s report. I see no difference between the procedure followed by the Minister for Labour and National Service this morning and the tabling of the papers to which I have referred.
– With great respect to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), I see a great deal of difference between the procedures. I am asked to do on this occasion what I was asked to do last year by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), and that is to incorporate in Hansard what has not been =said in this House. The Auditor-General’s report, Tariff Board reports and the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank, which were laid on the table yesterday, do not form part of the official record. They are not published in Hansard.
– The statement submitted by the Minister for Labour and National Service is not to be incorporated in Hansard.
– I do not press for its incorporation in Hansard.
– If the Minister does not desire the document to be incorporated in Hansard, there is nothing wrong with the procedure he has followed. I understood that he wanted the document to be incorporated in Hansard. The argument arose last year because the Minister for External Affairs asked that his statement be incorporated in Hansard.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service did not ask for the statement to bc incorporated in Hansard.
-Order! The VicePresident of the Executive Council must not interject when Mr. Speaker is on his feet. I want this matter to be clarified. I am aware of the British practice and the American practice. The difference between the two systems is that the Congressional record contains thousands of pages of documents which did not form a part of the proceedings; but the British Hansard contains only matter that is spoken in the House. Thus a great divergence occurs in that respect between the procedure of Congress and that of the House of Commons. I am sorry if I have misunderstood the Minister for Labour and National Service on this matter. I thought that he was following the procedure that was adopted last year by the Minister for External Affairs. I should like the House -to reach a decision on this matter in the light of all the facts and not simply as the result of a sudden desire to oblige somebody. An important principle is involved in this matter. I am asked to falsify Hansard, because Hansard purports to be the official record of what has taken place in this chamber. If that system is to be commenced. Hansard will not be what it professes to be. ‘
– With due respect, Mr. Speaker, you are not being asked to falsify anything. You are being asked to put to the House a motion by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) for the printing of a paper that he has laid on the table of the House. If the House wishes at any time to follow the practice of the United States Congress, in my opinion it is perfectly entitled to do so. No matter what the Speaker may think, whatever the House says is right. It is the opinion of the House, not the opinion of the occupant of the chair, that matters. Some of us want to debate a number of these papers, and we think that the business of the House would be expedited if statements could be incorporated in Hansard by consent. The reading of lengthy statements. particularly those on international affairs, is a very boring process and many honorable members wish that most ministerial statements could be incorporated in Hansard. If that practice were adopted, and if a section of honorable members considered that there ought to be a debate on the issues raised in any such statement, a debate could be arranged by agreement between the Government and the Opposition. I cannot see anything wrong in principle with that proposal. I disagree entirely with you, Mr. Speaker. I often do, and I am always right. In any case, I think that what the Minister for Labour and National Service wants to do in this instance ought to be done, because a number of honorable members want to have some say about the matter later but do not want to interfere with the budget debate, which at the moment is even more important than this document.
– Does the Minister ask for leave to incorporate the statement in Ilansard1.*
– I may very well have given the impression which was taken by you, Mr. Speaker, because I had in mind that the statement would form a part of the official record and, as such, be available for discussion. However, that is not by any means essential to my immediate purpose, and I am in the hands of the House on that point. My purpose will be satisfied if the statement is officially received and circulated to honorable members. 1 should like to make a brief comment on the general practice to which you have referred. I share the view of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) that it would be convenient and would promote the business of the Parliament if official statements, which are of general interest but which would engage a great deal of the time of the House if they were read in full, were to be incorporated in Hansard with the consent of the House. Then, if the House so desired, they could be debated subsequently. I see no parallel between that proposal and the practice in the United States Congress. I, for one, would not welcome the adoption by this Parliament of a system under which great slabs taken from documents not in the language of the person presenting them to the Parliament, but mere extracts culled from volumes and other publications by that person, were to’ be incorporated in Hansard. There is a very big difference between that kind of practice and a practice under which statements made officially by a member of a government are presented in a form that is convenient to the Parliament and in a way that permits them to be debated subsequently. In this instance, I am in the hands of the Parliament, but I think thai the House might well adopt from time to time the procedure of incorporating ministerial statements in Hansard and debating them subsequently.
– Documents are incorporated in the official record of the United States Congress by consent only.
– In order to test the feeling of the House, I ask that leave be given to incorporate the statement in Hansard and move - ‘
That the paper he printed.
– Is leave granted?
– I heard “Noes”. Leave is not granted.
– Put the question again.
-The Minister has asked for leave to incorporate a statement in Hansard. Is leave granted?
Aif Honorable Member. - No.
– I again heard “ No Leave is not granted.
– I ask for leave to table the statement and move - >
That the paper be printed.
-The question is-
That the paper be printed.
– The Minister has asked for leave to table the statement.
– There is no need for him to ask for leave. The question is -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Townley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947-1952.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 16th September (vide page 310), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £19,900 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- The speeches that we have heard from members of the Opposition in this debate have been uniformly negative and misleading, cheerless and uninspired. The speech that we heard last night from the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) was no exception. I propose to reply to the points that he made, but first I express to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) my warm congatulations upon this bold and imaginative budget, which was made possible only because the right honorable gentleman pursued with firm and resolute courage a wise financial and economic course in the difficult period of two years ago. He has had to bear enormous physical and mental strain because of the pressure that has been brought to bear upon him by many sections of the community to alter that course. We all must admire the right honorable gentleman for the way in which he has carried out his extremely difficult task, which now he has brought to successful fruition in this budget.
The budget has been acclaimed throughout Australia as an incentive budget. It bears all the signs of a statesmanlike approach to the financial- and economic, problems that still confront us. In fact, it is an honest and statesmanlike budget. The Government has made a wise and courageous approach to the basic problems that still lie ahead of us - ‘the problems of increasing productivity and reducing the all-round high level of costs. The budget provides the stimulus that the community needs in order to achieve these objectives. It is not asectional budget. It is a budget that will help every section of the community. It redeems the Government’s promise to reduce taxes, and. indeed, it goes much further than most people expected or even dared to hope. It represents an outstanding milestone on the high-road to evengreater prosperity along which the nation is being guided by this Government. We have heard wails and moans from members of the Opposition. This is only natural, because they did not want the Treasurer to present a successful and popular budget. A typical feature of the Opposition in recent years has been its inability to lift itself above a narrow party political approach to national problems, while the Government has struggled manfully and successfully to deal with such problems, as they have arisen from time to time, on a national basis, which is the manner in which they should be dealt with.
As a contrast to the dismal reception that the budget has received from honorable members opposite, let me direct the attention of the committee to the reception it has had from the press in various States. The Brisbane Telegraph published a full-page article on the budget under the heading, “ Incentive budget wields taxation axe “. The Brisbane Courier-Mail published a leading article headed “ Incentive Budget “, in which the budget was. described as a “Go-ahead budget “. The Melbourne Argus described it as a “Little man’s budget”. I remind the committee that the Leader of the Opposition said that only hig business would benefit from the budget. The Melbourne Argus is not normally regarded as a supporter of the Government, but its comments on the budget were entirely in favour of the Government. Some of those comments were -
Tax cut 12i per cent. We will have more to spend on cheaper goods. Big business will have its burden eased.
That is the general tenor of the reception of the budget by that newspaper. The Melbourne Age, in a thoughtful leading article that did not fail to point out the problems that still lay ahead of the country, used the words, “ Budget redeems promises “. The Sydney Daily Telegraph stated -
The Menzies budget is a welcome new start.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech on the budget, used some very extravagant and entirely misleading language, and adduced arguments that were in many respects ill-founded and specious. He said that the budget was deceptive, an admission of past blunders and born of a desperate need. I submit that his speech was born of the desperate need of the Labour party to build up its stocks in view of the forthcoming general election.
The fact is that the Australian economy is more soundly based now than it has been for several years. I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), in his speech last night decry the statement made by counsel for the trade unions in the recent hours and wages case before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That statement, which was read a couple of days ago by the Prime Minister, has, I believe, the support of the trade unions and of the vast majority of the people of this country. Thanks to the. wise and courageous leadership of the Government, conditions now are extremely favorable for further expansion and all-round development. The economic barometer, which stood at “ Bad “ two years ago, changed to “ Fair “ a year ago, and points to “ Pine “ in the present year. The outlook for the future is remarkably bright and cheering. It has been suggested by honorable members opposite, particularly by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that counsel for the trade unions was almost alone in his summing up of the present economic situation. To prove that that is not so, I ask the indulgence of the committee to refer briefly to comments on the economic situation made by some leading people in this country. Mr. Giddy, the chairman of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, said quite recently -
Entirely new conditions now confront Australian industry and commerce. A fresh breeze in the form of competition, both individual and corporate, has swept over the economy.
On page 8 of the annual report of the Commonwealth Bank, which I received this morning, the following statement appears -
There has been a steady improvement in the tone of the economy, and employment is now at healthy levels. The inflationary pressure characteristic of early years has been relaxed, and prices are relatively stable.
In Canberra Comments, published by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, a copy of which I received this morning, under the heading, “ Courageous taxation policy “, the following statement i3 made -
When Elizabeth the Second was crowned, many had thought that it might be the dawn of a new Elizabethan age, an era of prosperity and adventure. This spirit seems to have been captured in the Commonwealth Government’s budget of 1953-54. This budget may almost be regarded as the climax of a courageous financial policy. Two years ago, Australia faced an unhealthy boom containing all the germs of unbridled inflation, and the Government took the view that, however unpopular it might be politically, the evil had to bo cured.
I shall quote one other passage from the article. It is as follows: -
Now it is generally conceded that business is much more stable and has survived the bubble of the boom. The 1953-54 budget contains all the elements to encourage private enterprise to progress on sound lines and, for the first time in many years, challenges the spirit of adventure which is the foundation of commercial and industrial development.
Those comments show that the Goverment’s view of the present economic situation is shared by almost the whole of the country, certainly by responsible leaders of business and commerce and by leading bankers. Under this budget, every one in the community will benefit either directly or indirectly. No one has been forgotten. The Treasurer has granted a record overall tax reduction of £11S,000,000 in a full financial year, and just over £81,000,000 in the current financial year. The result of the overall reductions is that a number of people in Australia will, from now onwards, be exempted altogether from the payment of income tax. Individual taxpayers, particularly those in the lower and middle income groups, have been helped greatly. The family man, who carries a heavy burden of responsibility, has been granted valuable concessions in the form of increased allowances for educational expenses, medical expenses and dental expenses. Sweeping reductions of sales tax have been made. The average reduction by 12£ per cent, of income tax paid by individual taxpayers is equivalent to a reduction of 2s. 6d. in the £1 - the greatest individual tax reduction ever known in this country. Special assistance has been given to taxpayers with fixed incomes. Taxation of companies has been lightened considerably. In future, 50,000 fewer employers in Australia will be subject to the payroll tax. The incidence of federal estate duty has been substantially reduced. The entertainments tax has been abolished entirely.
One would think that the abolition of a tax would delight everybody, but it has not delighted honorable members opposite. I recall that when the Treasurer announced the abolition of federal land tax last year, the abolition of the tax was bitterly opposed and criticized by the Opposition. Honorable members opposite are pledged to restore federal land tax if and when they are returned to office. As they are, apparently, opposed in principle to the abolition of any kind of tax, I presume that they propose also to restore the entertainments tax, if and when they are returned to office.
There are two other very satisfactory features of the budget to which I should like to refer. The Government is still providing a very substantial sum for defence. In my opinion, the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition of the round figure of £200.000,000 allocated for defence was invalid and illogical. The Treasurer has succeeded, notwithstanding these sweeping and general reductions of taxation, in balancing his budget. He anticipates that at the end of the current financial year there will be a surplus of £215.000. That is a very fine achieve- ment. It is notable that the over-all tax reductions in the last two budgets presented by the Treasurer have amounted to a total of £200,000,000. As the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) said yesterday in his fine speech, the real test of taxation policy is not in how much is paid in taxes but in how much is left in the pockets of the taxpayers. He demonstrated ably and effectively that the taxpayer to-day is better off because he has more money left in his pocket as a result of the Treasurer’s financial policy and the tax reductions that have been made.
I am pleased that the budget provides for a saving of £1,000,000 in respect of the grants formerly made to the States for the administration of prices control, because I believe that that saving will mean a further saving of several million more pounds in the next few years. Prices control was very necessary during the war years and for some time afterwards, but it is not necessary in a sound and stable peace-time economy. The Government is opposed to unnecessary controls. Its record shows that it is determined to lift all unnecessary controls at the first possible opportunity. I believe that during the later years of prices control it has had the effect of diverting production from essential to less essential commodities and has retarded the development of new products and industrial processes. Expenditure on subsidies is also to be reduced by £2,500,000. That also is a move in the right direction. “We do not want to have an artificial structure in our economy. The budget has confounded the critics of the Government and is a happy climax to the efforts of the Treasurer in his difficult years of office. Australian rates of tax ave now substantially lower than are tax rates in Great Britain and New Zealand. I shall cite two illustrations of that fact. The examples I shall take will refer to a taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children. Such a taxpayer in Australia who earns an income from personal exertion of £500 will now have to pay £5 6s. a year in taxes. In Great Britain the comparative tax is £15 3s., or three times the Australian tax, whilst in New Zealand it is. £37 10s., which is more than seven times the Australian tax. On an income of £1,000 derived from personal exertion the same class of taxpayer in Australia would pay £66 16s.; in Great Britain £115 16s.; and in New Zealand £144 lis. 3d. No wonder Australians returning from abroad say how glad they are to be back home, how prosperous we are, how high our standard of living is, and how fortunate we are in respect of our rates of taxes.
The Treasurer should personally be given a great amount of the credit for the restoration of our national economy. As has been amply proved, we have emerged successfully from the worst period of inflation that this country has ever experienced. Perhaps only a few people understand how close we were, two years ago, to economic disaster. Stern resolution and high political courage on the part of the Government, and of the Treasurer in particular - because the Treasurer has had to bear the main heat and burden of the battle against inflation - have brought us triumphantly through great economic dangers and difficulties. The Government’s financial and economic policies have been completely vindicated. The Australian people are now reaping the dividends of the wise policies that we have followed, much, of course, to the chagrin and discomfort of the Labour party, whose consistently false prophesies in this Parliament and elsewhere have made it a laughing stock. The Government’s record has been characterized by sincerity of purpose and high courage in the face of great national difficulties and in the face, ako, of a completely unco-operative Opposition, which has patently been devoid of any genuine constructive policy. The Opposition’s only policy has been to hinder the Government in every way that it could in order to make cheap political capital whenever it saw the opportunity to do so. The Government will be happy for the people of Australia to judge it in a few months’ time on its record over the last four years, because in that period we have made great progress in many directions. We are rapidly getting back to a completely free economy. Our economy was ravaged and distorted by years of socialist misrule and by an inflationary spiral which persisted unchecked until the people at the general election of 1951, which followed the double dissolution, gave this Government effective control over the affairs of the nation. Organized scarcity, which was an outstanding feature of the socialist economy, has, under the able ‘leadership of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, given place to plenty. Black markets and racketeering, which were rife in 1949, have disappeared. The rationing of petrol, tea and butter are now amongst the many unhappy memories of the years of socialism. The production of many of our basic requirements, particularly coal, iron and steel, has increased enormously. We have enjoyed a long period of industrial peace. No country can progress unless it has industrial peace. I pay a tribute to the splendid work of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in that connexion, because during the Government’s term of office fewer work days have been lost than in any comparable period for many years past. Legislation providing for the holding of secret ballots for the election of trade union officials has resulted in the ousting of Communist leaders from official positions in many trade unions.
– The honorable member is referring to the Chifley Government’s legislation.
– I am referring to the legislation introduced by this Government, and which was opposed by the Labour party. It is the same legislation which the Prime Minister attempted to introduce some years ago when he was Leader of the Opposition. Employeremployee relations have never been better than they are now. The strong handling of the recent waterside dispute at Bowen is a distinct’ credit to the Government and the Minister for Labour and National Service in particular, as well as being a clear warning to waterside disruptionists of what is likely to happen in the future if they persist in attempting to sabotage the national effort. Amongst its other achievements, the Government has streamlined and strengthened the arbitration system, mod,fied the tax laws and removed industrial bottlenecks. Costs have been stabilized to a great degree, as is shown by recent quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, which have been negligible. The housing shortage, which was very grave four years ago, is being rapidly overcome. The Government’s record in respect of war service homes in particular is one to be proud of.
At’ this point I wish to review some of the remarks made by a member of the Opposition, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), last night. I shall do so by quoting from a comparative table to show what was done in regard to war service homes under the Labour Go-‘ vern went and what has been and is being done under this Government. I believe that the complete answer to any criticism of the Government’s policy, on war service homes is the result achieved since the Government assumed office, as shown by the table to which I have referred. In the three and a half years from the 1st. July, 1946, to the 31st December, 1949, 5,789 homes were built by the then Labour Government under the War Service Homes Act. From the 1st January, 1950, to the 30th June, 1953, this Government built 15,731 homes, or three times as many. In the same periods homes financed, that is homes purchased and mortgages discharged, totalled 10,729 under the preceding Labour Government and those dealt with similarly have totalled £33,053 under this Government. The total homes provided in the same periods, under the Labour Government, were 16,518 and under this Government 48,784. Again, about three times as many have been provided by this Government as were built by the Labour Government in a comparable period. The total expenditure of the Chifley Government under the War Service Homes Act from the 1st July, 1946. to the 31st December, 1949, was £22,287,817, whereas for the three and a half years from the 1st January, 1950, to the 30th June, 1953, the expenditure of this Government has been £89,663,020. Those figures completely refute the point taken last night by the honorable member for Werriwa who, unfortunately, is not here to hear my speech.
T shall now refer to some of the other achievements of the Menzies Government. A better outlook and renewed confidence is reflected in the investment market. Every time we open a newspaper these days we read of the hopeful and satisfied statements of business leaders. Increased profits and record turnovers are reported practically every day. Savings ‘bank deposits have reached an all-time high under this Government. The dollar loans negotiated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have played a notable part in our national development, and have assisted in stabilizing our national economy by encouraging a record flow of capital from abroad. Our defences have been greatly strengthened and reorganized. All those benefits tend to be forgotten,, and that is way I bring them once more under the notice of honorable members. Such achievements can easily be glossed over by specious arguments and the production of misleading figures by honorable members opposite. A highly successful national service training scheme has been introduced by the Government, and in consequence of the scheme Australia now has more trained men available in peace time than ever before in its history. Our trade balance is improving, and our foreign policy has won powerful friends and has ensured vital aid to us in time of trouble. The employment position is satisfactory, and unemployment, compared with our total work force, is practically negligible.
This Government has carried out its programme of desocialization. It has ensured that the Ranking system shall be protected, and has placed Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australian Airlines on a fair basis of competition. We have disposed of the Commonwealth holdings in purely business concerns like Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. We have given more Commonwealth assistance to the States, and, in this connexion, I draw the attention of the honorable member for Werriwa to page 10 of the supplement to the budget speech which indicates that prior to 1949 no amount above that provided by the taxation formula was made available to the States. Yesterday the honorable member said that supplementary payments to the States have decreased during the last two or three years. That is true, but before this Government came to office nothing at all was paid over the amount provided by the taxation formula. In order to gauge the attitude of the Government towards repayment of tax collections to the States, we must consider the total figures. They show that the total payments have increased year by year under the regime of the present Government. The payments have increased from about £70,000,000 in 1950-51 to about £142,500,000 in the present financial year. Surely that is an effective answer to the point that the honorable member for Werriwa attempted to make yesterday.
The Government has negotiated a successful national health scheme, and I pay tribute to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) for the vital part that he has played in this direction. Our record in the field of social services has been amply dealt with by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) himself. Repatriation benefits have been greatly extended by this Government, and, in particular, the Government has greatly assisted the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. In the time allowed me I have been able to detail only a few of the achievements of the present Government, and now .1 desire to refer briefly to the problem of increasing productivity and improving our national future. If we are to avoid recurring economic crises in the future, wc must bend our energies to the development of our resources to meet increasing demand.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- A section of the Government is bitterly disappointed because the recent findings of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration did not include a finding that the hours of labour should be increased. The Melbourne Herald which is not only a supporter of the Government, but which can almost be said to be the official mouth-piece of the Government in Melbourne, stated on the 12th December -
A group of Ministers, since taking office, have made no secret of their opinion that the workin” week should be increased and the basic wage adjusted to re-align the Australian prier structure with world levels.
Why are some members of the Government disappointed because wages have not been reduced and hours increased? It is because an organized, wealthy section of its supporters, who want too much too quickly, have been showing their disappointment at the delay in paying them back for the services that they have rendered to the Government in its political campaigns. , I say to the members of the Ministry, that this Liberal-Country party coalition, has been particularly successful in doing what it was brought into existence to do, which was to protect and extend the privileges of the wealthy few. During the last three and a half years it has made the rich richer, and it has made the average members of the community much poorer. From the existing condition of full employment in 1949 it produced more than 100,000 unemployed in about two years. It has given power to the banking institutions to manipulate the national credit to their own advantage. It has increased the rate of interest from about 3 per cent, to about 4 per cent. It is significant, of course that the age pensioner does not lend money at interest, neither does the man who is acquiring a home or furniture, and neither does the basic wage-earner. Because of the actions of this Government the investors who do lend money have been given 33^ more income than they were previously receiving. What is important is that it will mean that a youngman who buys furniture or a home on terms will pay in interest 33-J per cent, more than he paid previously. That i* in accordance with the whole pattern of the policies applied by this Government. It is concerned solely to give to those who have plenty something which it has taken away from those who have not very much. In this respect the budget doe’s not differ from the other measures that have distinguished the administration of this Government since it came- into office.
The honorable member for Ryan (Mi’. Drury) has said that what matters most is not the amount taken away from the people in taxes but rather the amount that is left to them after their taxes have been paid. It is upon the basis of that statement that I desire briefly to examine the budget. A single nian who received an income of £600 last year, after payment of income tax, had £548 left to him. This year after he has paid his tax he will have £556 left to him. In other words, his net income after payment of tax will be increased by less than 2 per cent. A single man in receipt of an income of £800 last year had £710 left to him after payment of tax. This year after payment of tax he will have £723, or again an increase of income of less than 2 per cent. A taxpayer in receipt of an income of £5,000 last year had left to him after payment of his tax an amount of £2,912. This year he will have £3,143. In other words, his net income will be increased by more than 5 per cent. But the taxpayer in receipt of £15,000 - I presume that most honorable members who sit behind the Government or upon the Government benches come within that category - received last year, after paying income tax, an amount of £5,629. This year he will receive £6,531. In other words, he will receive an addition to his net income of more than 17 per cent. A 17 per cent, increase for the taxpayer on £15,000 a year, but a 2 per cent, increase for those on £S00 a year and a very much smaller percentage increase for those in receipt of less than £600 a year !
The Government has said, “ This is the little man’s budget “. It has gone further and said, “ The budget has been drawn in the interests of the married man. It is in reality a family budget”. Let us examine that assertion. A single man on an income of £600 a year will receive an increased net income of £7 14s. a year; but a married man with a wife and two children who earns a similar income will receive only £5 15s., or almost £2 less. The concession to be granted to a taxpayer with more than two children will diminish proportionately according to the size of his family. A single man with an income of £800 a year is to receive an increased net income of £12 14s., but a married man in the same category with a wife and two children will receive an increase of only £10 15s. - again almost. £2 less than the single man in the same salary bracket. Com.pared with those in the income brackets; between £5,000 and £15,000 the relative position becomes very much worse for the married man on less than £1,000 a year.
Let us now consider the Government’s proposals in respect of age, invalid and widows’ pensions. Pensioners in that category are to receive an addition to their pension of 2s. 6d. a week. “What percentage does that amount bear to the total pension ? It is not even a 6 per cent, increase, compared with the 17 per cent, concession which the Government proposes to extend to taxpayers in receipt of an income of £15,000 a year.
– The Government does not intend to give anybody anything; it proposes to take only so much less away from them.
– That may be the honorable member’s interpretation of the Government’s proposals, but it certainly is not the interpretation placed upon them by the Treasurer, who has claimed that the budget proposals will give something to everybody in the community. The truth i3 that the Government pretends to offer something to the low wageearner and the family man but relatively it intends to place the poorer man in a worse position. The parties opposite seek by their percentage figures to delude the average mau into believing that’ he may obtain some concessions when in reality he will obtain little or nothing at all.
An examination of the sales tax proposals reveals that concessions are to be granted in respect of items such as furs, jewellery and motor cars and a number of other commodities which the average man or woman with an income of, say, £S00 to £1,000 a year may buy only once in a lifetime. The benefits that accrue from the purchase of furs and jewellery mean nothing to the average member of the working class, but they may mean something to the man in receipt of an income of £15,000 per annum, whose income after taxation, under this budget, will be increased by 17 per cent. His extravagance in buying furs and jewellery will enable him further to improve his position. Doubtless, he is a director of a.nd a shareholder in companies, and the reduction of the company tax will be another benefit to him.
After all, why should we complain? We knew, and we told the people, that this country is not divided politically into ideological camps.. It is divided into camps the foundation or basis of which is self interest. I refer to the self interest of the wealthy and the privileged who are represented in this Parliament ‘ by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The wageearner, the average man and woman, and the pensioner are represented in this Parliament by the Labour party. Labour has. endeavoured, and always will endeavour, to bring about a re-allocation of the wealth of the community to the advantage of the vast mass of the people. The Labour party, when it has been in office, has pursued that policy. When the Curtin Labour Government and the Chifley Labour Government were in office, approximately 60 per cent, of the national income was shared by members of the working class and the pensioners, who formed SO per cent, of the community. The remaining 40 per cent, of the national income was shared by businessmen and persons who lived on rent, interest and profit. At no other time in the history of Australia has such a big percentage of the national income been shared by the working class and the pensioners. Ever since the present Government has been in office, that percentage has been diminishing. I cannot recall the precise figure-
– It is down to 57 per cent, at the present time.
– That reduction has a vast influence on the way of life and living conditions of the average man arid woman.
However, I desire to speak specifically of age pensioners, because the Government could improve their lot, but has failed abjectly to do so. The majority of pensioners will receive, under this budget, an increase of 2s. 6d. a week. A wealthy person in receipt of an income of £! 5.000 a year will receive a tax concession of £18 a week, and a person in receipt of an income of £5.000 a year will receive a tax concession of from £4 to £8 a week. Yet this Government is granting an increase of only 2s. 6d. a week to a person in receipt of a pension of £3 7s. 6d. :i week. How can the Government justify that discrimination? Of course it does not even pretend to do so. How can the Government justify its extravagance in various ways when it treats age pensioners, war pensioners and war widows so shabbily? The cost of ministerial visits overseas is approximately £100,000 per annum, yet the Government claims that the Australian community cannot afford to grant an increase in excess of 2s. 6d. a week to the agc pensioner, the man who fought for hi? country, or the wife of a serviceman who was killed while fighting in defence of the institutions and interests of this country. That position cannot be justified. The majority of Government supporters, to their credit, are somewhat reticent about this situation.
I shall now refer to budgets that the ‘ Treasurer has presented in previous years. When the right honorable gentleman concluded his budget speech last week, the Prime Minister rose in his place with all the grace of a young elephant, and patted the Treasurer on his head. That pat was the signal for an outburst of enthusiastic applause from Government supporters on the back benches. I remembered that I had listened to the Treasurer introduce budgets in previous years. I heard him introduce the budget in 1950, after the most disastrous general election in the history of Australia, when the Chifley Labour Government was defeated. That budget was also greeted with applause by Government supporters on the back benches. What did the Treasurer say on that occasion? He said, in effect, “This Government has inherited from the preceding Labour Government a country that is undergoing many-sided development. Governments and associated bodies are undertaking vast developmental works. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants are arriving in the country to assist our development. Vast sums of money are being invested in Australia by overseas interests to advance our developmentPrices have risen in the war and post-war period, but not so rapidly as have prices in other countries. Two problems that we have to attack are increasing price? and shortages. This budget is designed to overcome shortages and reduce the prices of commodities “. Lond cheers from members of the Liberal party and the
Australian Country party followed that weighty pronouncement. However, it did not accomplish its objectives.
When the Treasurer presented his budget in 1951, he said, in effect, “ Prices are higher than ever before. Shortages are greater than ever before. Therefore, I must introduce a sacrificial budget”. The Prime Minister spoke in the same strain and said, in effect, “ This is a budget which I contemplate with horror. Certain unnecessary industries must be destroyed. I shall use all the financial resources that the Government can command to accomplish their destruction, or restrict their activities “. The new policy was so effective that by Christinas, 1951, that 100,000 persons were unemployed, and goods were pouring into the country that could have been manufactured by Australians in Australian factories.
In March, 1952, the Prime Minister went to the microphone and, in his broadcast to the nation, said that the country was experiencing economic and financial difficulties. He warned that international bankruptcy faced the nation unless the people put up with hardships and difficulties. He said, in effect, “We must impose the most severe restrictions upon imports in order to protect the national economy”. The Treasurer, by his measures in 1951, had created the evil of unemployment and had dissipated our overseas funds. Six months later, the Prime Minister was obliged to introduce measures to protect this country from economic disaster.
What a change has come over the scene since the defeat of the Chifley Labour Government in 1949! All the difficulties that we have encountered in the interval have been created by the present Government. Any slight improvement that may now be observed is merely an improvement on conditions caused by the policy of this Government. No Government supporter, when he discusses the budget, says, “ Here are facts and figures relative to the position of Australia on the 10th December, 1949, and statistics relative to the position at the present time But none dares to say, “ A vast improvement has occurred since 1949 “. Government supporters merely say, in effect, “ These conditions existed in 1952. Present-day conditions indicate an improvement. The people should be grateful to us “.
Do Government supporters think that the people are completely credulous! Members of the Government are due for a severe disillusionment at the next general election, and they deserve to be disillusioned. The people must destroy this Government at the first opportunity and replace it with a Labour government, if Australia is to return to the path of prosperity which it was treading when the Chifley Government was in office.
My time has almost expired, so I shall content myself by making a final suggestion. The Government can save the people a bill of about £300,000 if, at the next general election, it conducts the Senate election at the same time as ‘that for the House of Representatives. The money thus saved could be given to age pensioners in order to relieve their distress. This Government, which claims that it cannot afford to provide more than an additional 2s. 6d. a week for pensioners, has wasted well over £100,000 already on an unnecessary Senate election. It has wasted an additional £100,000 on trips abroad and other extravagances. I am sure that, following its practice, it will waste more than £200,000 during the next few months.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) always conveys the impression of intense sincerity when he addresses this chamber, even though one may realize that his arguments are based on false premises and therefore lead to unsound conclusions. On this occasion the honorable gentleman referred to the old shibboleth, which has become a sort of war-cry for the Labour party, that the Government has made the rich richer and the poor poorer. Let us examine that plaint in the light of the cold facts. One of the most potent tests of the poverty or otherwise of the people is the level of savings bank accounts. I note that, at the end of 1952-53, deposits in government savings banks throughout Australia totalled £947,497,000. Surely that does not indicate that poverty ie widespread, or that people are becoming poorer. The truth is that many people are becoming richer, rather than poorer, and I hope that all Australians, including those who are not rich, will improve their financial position. The total of savings bank deposits at the end of the last complete year in which the Labour Government was in office was £6S1,300,000. Thus, the people’s savings have increased by approximately £260,000,000 since the present Government parties have been in power. That fact is a strong pointer to the economic state of the people to-day. The honorable member for Burke made the best of a very bad case and, in his efforts to be convincing, he pursued the line that was followed last night by the honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), with whom I shall join issue later, with regret that he is not present to listen to my story.
Roads are of first-class importance in Australia, and the Government has redeemed its promise to the electors to improve the roads in country areas. The Labour Government, of course, was not entirely to blame for the unsatisfactory state of our roads when the present Government was elected. Roads generally were in an appalling condition then, but this was largely a result of the war. However, the Chifley Government allocated only £7,630,000 to the States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement during the last full year of its term of office. The present Government proposes to allocate £16,200,000 for the same purpose during the current financial year. That represents an increase of over 100 per cent, since 1948-49. The Opposition constantly utters the carping cry that this Government has starved the States. That criticism is easily discounted. As I have only a limited period of time at my disposal, I shall content myself by stating the facts in relation to my home State, New South Wales. In that State, the Australian Government has been attacked frequently on the ground that it has stangled closer settlement. No more deliberate, gross and misleading untruth has been broadcast in this country. Facts, which are stubborn things, disprove the contention utterly.
Official figures show that in 1947-48, under the Chifley Labour Administration, £19,445,000 was allotted to New South Wales from loan funds and £18,537,000 from revenue, a total of approximately £38,000,000. ‘ Of that amount, £4,425,000 waa set aside by the State Government for the settlement of ex-servicemen. In the succeeding year, when the Chifley Labour Government was still in power, £20,863,000 was allotted to the State from loan funds and £22,000,000 from revenue. The State Government used £5,460,000 for war service land settlement. In the first year that the present Government was in office, New South Wales . received nearly £38,000,000 from loan funds and nearly £37,000,000 from revenue. Of this total, it allotted £4,700,000 to the land settlement scheme. Its record in 1952-53 was disgraceful. In that year, it received £53,172,000 from loan funds and almost £54,000,000 from revenue. From this total of well over £100,000,000, it made a miserable allotment of £1,9SO,000 for the settlement of ex-servicemen. Yet the supporters of the New South Wales Labour Government in this House and elsewhere try to throw dust in the eyes of ex-servicemen and others by pretending that the Australian Government is strangling the scheme for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land ! These facts’ speak for themselves, and they completely contradict the arguments of honorable members opposite.
I was interested last night to hear the curious doctrine that was enunciated by the honorable member for Werriwa. I cannot allow it to remain unchallenged, not because the honorable gentleman supported it, but because it has become a stock argument of the Labour party, especially in New South Wales. The general trend of the story is that the Financial Agreement provides that the Australian Loan Council shall determine the amount that is to be raised by loan, each year and that, once the decision has been made by majority vote, the Australian Government is bound to raise that amount by loan. Let us consider a few of the implications of that theory. The first is that it does not matter one hoot whether the market can provide the sum fixed, whether it be £50,000,000 or £250,000,000. It would appear that, because the States have decided at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council that the sum must be raised, the Commonwealth jolly well must raise it. I am reminded of the story of the French villagers who were told by a king’s officer that they must deliver twenty hogsheads of wine to him. When they objected that there had been a bad season and that they could supply only ten casks, the king’s officer replied, “ See thou to it. You must supply twenty “, whereupon the villagers filled ten casks with wine and ten with water. If we were to follow the theories of the Opposition in relation to loan funds, we should have to dilute our finances very considerably. Let us consider the facts in a sober and dispassionate light.
The Australian and State Governments are not the only parties that want loan moneys. Speaking from memory, I believe ‘that £90,000,000 was approved at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council as the amount to be raised on behalf of local government and ad hoc, or semi-governmental, bodies apart from the requirements of the Commonwealth and the States. Other parties who want loan funds are great private corporations and small companies. I readily understand that, from the point of view of the socialists, it would be an excellent idea to swamp the loan market completely with demands for government finance so that private enterprise would be prevented from obtaining funds for normal expansion. That is precisely the way to drive every employee in the community into unemployment or into the field of government employment, as has been done in Russia. However, the policy of this Government is to encourage private enterprise to the full. In order to be successful with this policy, we must recognize the limitations of the loan market. The Commonwealth “Bank at times has given temporary accommodation tn the Government c” va ti enable it to help the States. Furthermore, this Government has raised large sums from normal revenue sources, and borne the consequent odium, in order to help the States out of their financial difficulties. The aim of this Government, as I interpret the budget, is to maintain p fair balance in the demands of the Commonwealth and the States, local government bodies, and private enterprise.
Anybody who knows anything about the negotiations that preceded the conclusion of the Financial Agreement will be aware that that wise old statesman who is now the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) deliberately incorporated in the agreement a provision that local government bodies should never be starved of funds. He realized that this was one way to check the tide of centralization that had set in when State governments yielded to pressure from interested parties and poured money into their capital cities. To my mind, the honorable member for Werriwa, in presenting his argument to us last night, madeit obvious that, even if he had studied the legal implications of this matter, he had not studied the other implications of it. I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to the full on his magnificent achievement, after years of a gruelling, nervedestroying and soul-destroying struggle, in pie- ‘senting a budget that will help so muds to stabilize our economy.
I turn now to the remarks of the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters),, who so eloquently charged the Government with letting down the underdog.. In the limited time at my disposal, it will be impossible to traverse all his arguments. But let me put a few facts: before the committee. Facts are stubborn things. In the budget, provision is made for an expenditure from the National Welfare Fund of over £1S4,000,000 on social services in this financial year That is a good gesture to the less: fortunate members of our community, and a recognition of the social conscienceof a modern state. But that will not he the only expenditure on social services this year. In addition, £116,000,000 will be expended on war and repatriation services, which are, in effect, social services. I do not suggest that that ischarity, any more than I suggest that, in the modern world, agc pensions arecharity. That conception, thank goodness, has gone for ever. But that expenditure does represent a recognition of a social need. There was a time when many countries; including our own in earlier days, did not, to their disgrace, recognize that need. Of a total expenditure of £981,000,000 envisaged in the budget, £300,000,000 is to be allocated to social services under two heads. Nearly all of that money will have to be provided by the earning and able-bodied members of the community and the proportion of aged people in this country is increasing. That should give us food for thought. As members of political parties, we may have to consider certain implications of that situation if we want to come to wise conclusions. Approxi mately £189,000,000 has been allocated to the States. So, of the total expenditure envisaged in the budget, nearly £500,000,000 will be upon social services and financial provision for the States. Of the remaining £481,000,000, =£200,000,000 will be expended upon defence.
When the budget is analysed in that way, 5t is obvious that talk about gifts of 2s. 6d. and matters of that kind are beside the point. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) very capably exposed the fallacy of the suggestion that all that the pensioners will receive is an extra 2s. 6d. a week. He pointed out that, in view of certain concessions that have been made, the increase could be as great as 16s. 3d’, a week. He reminded the committee also that free medical treatment and free medicine for pensioners, which were not provided by the previous Labour Government, were worth 53. a week. So pensioners have received a very substantial increase.
When I said that provision had been made for an expenditure of £300,000,000 on social services of various kinds, I did not tell the whole of the story, because I omitted to mention what is, in fact, another social service. I refer to the allowable deductions in respect of the education of children and matters of that “kind. But I am content to base my argument on the ground that £200,000,000 nas been provided for defence and £300.000.000 for social services and war and repatriation services. I am satisfied that all sensible people in this country realize that a government which can establish a a balance ( of that kind is doing something of which it should be not ashamed but proud, and that it has every reason to expect the community to recognize the value of its work.
I was amused by the argument of the honorable member for Burke that if a man’s income increased, and, therefore, the amount of income tax that he paid increased also, notwithstanding that the rate of income tax had been reduced, that man did not derive any real advantage from the reduction of the rate. Throughout my long life, I have always found that when my income rose I had to pay more income tax, even if the rate of tax had not been altered. If a government can increase incomes to such a degree that, although the rate of income tax is reduced, the income tax yield is higher, it has achieved something that is of real benefit to the country. Under this budget, the income tax payable by a single person with no dependants and an income of £1 60 a year will be reduced by 24 per cent. In the case of a single taxpayer with an income of £.1,000 a year, the reduction will be 12.8 per cent. Nobody will be able to convince taxpayers in those classes that their income tax has not been reduced. A man with a wife and two children, on an income of £350 a year, will pay income tax no longer. In his case, there will be a reduction of 100 per cent. It will be hard to convince him that he will derive no benefit from the budget. The income tax payable by a man with a wife and two children, on an income of £1,000 a year, will be reduced by 19.7 per cent. - a substantial reduction, which, undoubtedly, he will appreciate.
I do not intend to disparage the magnificent achievement of the Treasurer when I say that the budget has a basic weakness, not in the financial sphere but in the constitutional sphere. In my f pinion, the weakness can be remedied only by constitutional action. Payments to the States will be nearly £189,000,000 this year, compared with £182,000,000 last year. The policy of the Commonwealth collecting taxes and handing a portion of the money to the States has caused a degree of financial and governmental irresponsibility such as I did not expect to see in this country. It has led to querulous accusations being made against the Commonwealth by the
Premiers, and to subterfuges that reflect no credit upon the people who indulge in them. I have already cited figures relating to Commonwealth loans and loans for soldier settlement, and I have referred to the attempt by New South Wales to hide behind an entirely false claim that it is not getting sufficient money from the Commonwealth. This undesirable state of affairs will continue while our Constitution remains in its present form. In the Dominion of Canada, constitutional provision has been made to safeguard the finances of the provinces, or the States as we should call them in this country. The provinces of Canada are empowered to levy direct taxes. I shall not discuss now whether that would be a wise course to follow here. But, if we wish to guarantee the financial independence of our States and prevent them from crying poverty and acting as mendicants, we must amend the Constitution in such a way as to give them an inalienable right to a certain amount of finance, except in the case of war. We are destroying our federation, and will continue to destroy it if we go on as we are now. The curse of centralization that is gripping us by the throat would strangle us if ever we got unified government. Therefore, it is very important that the Government and the Parliament should address themselves to the task of cleaning up effectively the muddle of the relations between the Commonwealth and the States. Perhaps we could follow the example of Canada and amend the Constitution to provide that when a proposed work has been declared to be for the benefit of the Commonwealth or of two or more States, that work must be begun without humbug or delay. Such a provision would obviate a great deal of delay. [ come back to the point that finance is the pillar upon which rests the existence and independence of individuals and States. We must pursue the policy that was initiated by this Government when it said that it would restore financial independence to the States. But we must go further than that, because what is delegated to-day may be taken away tomorrow. We must have a showdown on this and other aspects of the Constitution at the earliest possible moment if we do not wish our federation to be destroyed completely.
I am now, as I have been always, an exponent of the idea that the more we cut up the Commonwealth, within reason, into smaller States, the more .we shall expand the power of the federation. That statement may appear to be paradoxical at first sight, but upon closer examination it is obvious that if there were more boundaries .there would be more matters of import to the Commonwealth that would cross those boundaries. We must face the task of creating new States and ensuring the financial independence of the existing States. We must clear . up the industrial arbitration muddle. We must ensure that other matters of that kind are dealt with on the highest possible level. This is not a sovereign Parliament. There is no sovereign parliament in Australia, but there is a sovereign people. It is to that sovereign people that an appeal should be made to clear up the present mess, which is frustrating the efforts of good men in the States and the Commonwealth to place the affairs of this country upon a satisfactory footing.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speeches in this debate. Anybody who has followed closely the arguments advanced by the Opposition and the replies to them from the Government side will realize that the Government has been on the defensive ever since’ the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) delivered his budget’ speech. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) devoted 23 minutes of his speaking time to-day to attacks on the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters). All he succeeded in doing was to make confusion worse confounded from the Government’s point of view. The reason for the discomfiture of backbenchers on the Government side is nosy to find, because since last March this budget has been heralded through the press and over the radio as a budget that would ensure not only the return of the Government, but also the return of even Government back-benchers who hold shaky seats. The Prime Minister C¥r. Menzies) has claimed frequently that the Government has honoured its pledges.
One of the pledges that the right honorable gentleman made during the 1949 general election campaign was expressed in the following words : -
We believe that rates of taxes must be steadily reduced as national production and income rises and economies are effected in administration.
The Government’s first fiscal move after that statement was made in the horror budget, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) calls it, which the Treasurer brought down in 1951. That budget made no provision for a reduction of taxes. Instead, it imposed a rate of tax which, together with provisional tax, meant that a considerable number of taxpayers had to make tax payments of more than 20s. in the £1 of. income. That was how the Government reduced taxes in 1951, at a time when wool prices were at their highest, when there was prosperity in the country, and when national production and income were rising, and the condition existed in which, according to the Prime Minister’s pledge, rates of taxes should be steadily reduced. The amount of tax collected in that year totalled one-third of the national income. Economists have stated definitely that taxes should absorb not more than one-quarter of the national income. That is the absolute limit of safety. The Government went beyond that limit and drew off one-third of the national income in taxes. All that the budget introduced by the Treasurer last year did was to remove a special 10 per cent, levy which he had imposed in the. previous budget for the purpose of controlling inflation. Public indignation over the 1952 budget was as rampant and as justified as it was over the 1951 horror budget. Prosperity continued, yet the only relief the Government could give the taxpayers was the removal of an additional levy that it had imposed in its previous budget.
For months the public has been subjected to a lot of ballyhoo in the press and over the radio preparing the way for the introduction of the present budget. The effect of the ballyhoo was that this budget would represent an honouring of the Prime Minister’s pledge regarding tax reductions. It was to be a budget which would appeal to all sections of the community. Everybody was to get some benefit from it. Government backbenchers were jubilant after the Treasurer had made his budget speech last week. They smelt victory in the air. They regarded it as an election-winning budget which would ensure not only the return of the Government but the return of Government supporters occupying borderline seats. No mention has been made of the fact that this ballyhoo about the Government’s return to public favour as a result of the budget did not emanate from the workers or the small businessmen, and certainly not from the farmers. It was the result of a hush-hush meeting that was held between representatives of the Government and the press. It was decided at that meeting that a campaign would have to be waged to ensure the return of the Government to public favour. During the Senate election campaign, therefore, we read in the press and were told over the air that the next budget would mean a reduction of taxes. Even the exact amount of the reduction - 12-$ per cent. - was mentioned in some instances. During the course of that campaign I took it that the mention of a reduction of 12£ per cent, indicated that some people might be hitting near the mark, but I did not expect for one moment that the Treasurer himself would announce the reduction later to be exactly 12^ per cent. It would appear that there has been some leakage of information. I remember well what happened in the case of Mr. James Thomas, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, when a budget leakage occurred. As a result of that leakage he not only lost the chancellorship but also had to retire from political life.
The taxpayers can come to “only one conclusion about this budget, which is that it is a budget by the wealthy for the wealthy. It throws a few crumbs to the great bulk of the taxpayers who are in the middle income group. As the honorable member for Burke has pointed out, the reduction of tax on incomes in the lower ranges will leave taxpayers with only 2 per cent, more income than before, but the reduction on incomes in the higher ranges will leave taxpayers with 17 per cent. more.
As a result of that grave inequality time will prove that honorable members opposite, including the backbenchers who support the Government and herald this as an election-winning budget, are only whistling to keep their courage up as they walk through the political cemetery. They hope that as a result of this budget the people of Australia will be hoodwinked as they were hoodwinked at the general elections in 1949 and 1951. They hope that the electors will swallow the press and radio propaganda about the budget. But when the great mass of taxpayers receive their income tax assessments they will take no enthusiastic view of the budget. At the beginning of his speech, the Treasurer said -
In this budget the Government proposes to make tax reductions having an estimated annual value to taxpayers of £118,400,000.
But the taxpayers will save only £81,500,000 this financial year. In other words, by the 30th June next year, all that will be refunded to the taxpayers by way of tax reductions will be £81,500,000. Had there been neither an increase nor a reduction of tax rates the Treasurer would have collected, this financial year, an additional sum of £70,000,000, and £50,000,000 of that sum would have come from taxes on individuals. The budget last year raised the same taxes as did the budget of 1951, less the 10 per cent, special levy. Until now revenue has remained as it was in 1951. An amount of £70,000,000, which would have come to the Treasurer this year, is to he left in the hands of the taxpayers. In addition to that, out of his bag of tricks our conjuror of a Treasurer produces the surplus of £13,000,000 that he has left from last year and, hey presto, he has more than the £81,500,000 that he is handing back to the taxpayers by way of tax reduction. I have been a member of this Parliament for a long time, and I consider that this budget is the best piece of political juggling that I have ever seen, because it is obvious to the initiated that those amounts of £70,000,000 and £13,000.000 add up to no real tax reduction and no real contribution on the part of a treasurer. A person does not have to be privy to the secrets of the Treasury to realize that. In other words, the Govern- ment hopes the people will be hoodwinked again in 1954 just as they were hoodwinked in 1949 and 1951.
During the course of the debate references have .been made to the meagre increases of social services and repatriation benefits. These increases indicate clearly that as a result of agitation outside the Parliament by war widows’ and ex-servicemen’s organizations, the Treasurer, knowing that another meeting of the Parliament will be held prior to the general election of 1954, decided to throw a sop to the recipients of social services and repatriation benefits. He decided that he would give them an increase of 2s. 6d. now. It would be no good giving them an increase of 5s. now, because the general election is too far ahead, and they would have forgotten about that increase by the time they went to the ballot-boxes. It is apparent that the Treasurer has in the back of his mind the idea that if he gives half a crown now he will have an opportunity to make another “ nothing over half a crown “ increase in 1954. The 1954 increase may be a result of agitation for it, or it may be as a result of planned strategy on the part of the Treasurer. A.« the debate has progressed it must hp obvious to anybody who has taken ??> interest in it that the Government is ot> the defensive. The people indicated* clearly at the recent by-elections in the divisions of Corangamite and Lane that despite the statements made by the Primp Minister, many electors who supported Government candidates at the last general election are wide awake to the fact that they were hoodwinked on that occasion and at the general election in 194!>. During these elections the Government parties talked about controlling communism, nutting value back into the £7. controlling prices, and reducing taxes. The taxpayers will soon realize that only people in the high income ranges ‘“i”’ reap the real benefits of thic budget. They will also find that the Government h»svacated the entertainment tax field but only to leave it open to the States. The will find that although excise and’ customs duties on whisky, rum and spirits generally have been reduced there has been no reduction of tax on the workers’ drink, beer, or in the price of tobacco. They will also find that sales tax on luxury items has been reduced considerably, but that the reduction om non-luxury items is negligible. As a result of the reduction of excise the price of whisky will fall by 3s. 6d. a bottle. Yet the Government intends to increase pensions by only 2s. 6d. ! No provision is made for an effective reduction of tax on the ice creams eaten by children, because the total reduction will be only 4d. a gallon. All that shows that the sympathy of the Government is not with trie mass of the population, because the nian who drinks whisky does not eat ice-cream.
Now let us consider the so-called reductions of taxes that the Government believes will persuade the workers, the small businessmen and the farmers to support it at the general election next year. The honorable member for New England referred to copious notes and lists of figures when he spoke about savings banks deposits. It is time that ve placed his feet back on the ground »nd showed him, and the country at large, how this Government has extracted far more from the people in each of its successive budgets than the Chifley Government did in its 1949-50 budget. Under the Labour budget of 1949-50, £519,000,000 was collected by way of taxation, or £64 9s. 5d. per head of population. In 1950-51 this Government collected £770,000,000 or £93 10s. 2d. per head. In 1951-52, £934,000,000 was collected or £109 7s. 6d. per head, and in 1952-53 - after the first reduction of taxation referred to by the Treasurer - £885,000,000 or £102 ‘7s. per head was collected. Honorable members should mote that taxes were reduced in that budget by only about 7 per cent. In the present 1953-54 budget the Government proposes to collect £874,000,000 by taxation, which works out at approximately £100 per head of population. Surely those figures indicate that the claims of the Treasurer that this budget is giving wonderful benefits to the taxpayers, is utter nonsense; because now every taxpayer will pay 60 per cent, more than he paid under the last Labour budget.
Let ns consider company tax. The Treasurer proposes to reduce that tax by £23,300,000. Therefore, out of £81,000,000 which the Treasurer proposes to give back to the taxpayers, £23,300,000 will be given to large companies. Consequently, these companies will benefit to the extent of about 30 per cent, of the total proposed reduction. I suggest that as far as tax reductions are concerned, the voters have been grievously disappointed, and it is quite obvious that if the Government believes that it has produced an election winner in this budget, many honorable members who to-day sit on the Government side will be astounded to find themselves no longer sitting there after the next general election.
This budget proposes to allocate about £200,000,000 for defence. It is difficult to understand the defence policy of the present Administration, because all that it stems to be concerned with is the number of persons in the three services, the supplies that we have and the amount of money that has been expended at Woomera. This attitude of the Government has prompted many people to ask whether we are getting value for our defence expenditure. Those persons have in mind recent events in China, Korea, Indo-China, Malaya and Indonesia. The people of the Northern Territory, north Queensland and all those others who are interested in our defence, have in mind the enormous iron deposits at Yampi Sound and the oil drilling that is at present taking place at Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia. Moreover, everybody knows that in the Northern Territory great numbers of cattle are raised each year and that although a few years ago. nobody ever mentioned the word uranium in connexion with the territory, only 70 miles south of Darwin lies Rum Jungle, and between Darwin and Katherine are 100 places where radioactive minerals have been proved to exist. In the western part of Queensland many cattle are raised, and at Mount Isa a company has invested many millions of pounds in an enormous silver, lead and copper undertaking. The Cloncurry mineral field has enormous potentialities, and further east lies the rich coastland of Queensland where sugar, beef, butter, and cheese are produced. The people living in those areas gravely doubt whether Canberra realizes the menace to our north, and they believe that their areas are regarded as the “ far north “ by Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Are we in Canberra conscious that the far east of Great Britain is our near north, and that Melville Island is less than 200 miles from Indonesia or about the distance of Canberra from Sydney.
We are all acquainted with the events that have taken place in Asia recently, and only a decade ago we were faced with threats from the north. This country will never be threatened from New Zealand, and the penguins of the Antarctic are not likely to attack us, so it is logical that we should concentrate our defence on the places most threatened, which is north Australia. If oil should be discovered at Exmouth Gulf, a tremendous defence problem will confront the Government, and the uranium that we already have is now more important to the world than gold. Only a few days ago a pearling incident in our northern waters showed that we have a prime military objective there. Uranium had not been discovered when war broke out with Japan ten years ago. That would be a rich prize to any aggressor, and it will mean much to the future prosperity of this country. Therefore, surely it is incumbent upon the Government to indicate to the people that it intends to take strong steps to defend north Australia. In the wet season the triangle, of which Mount Isa, Darwin and Alice Springs are the bounding points, is completely isolated by road. In time of war, when communications are vital, -J-inch of rain in north-western Australia would cut our communications to the north. The defence of northern Australia is at present dependent upon aircraft based at least 1,000 miles away. Perhaps the attitude of the people of the north is gloomy, but they do not believe that sufficient attention has been paid to the defence of their area. They want to know what Canberra intends to do about defence up there, and they demand that the land communications should be made effective in all weathers. This Government should not say that such a matter is purely a State matter, and it should connect Alice Springs to the bitumen roads of the south, and Mount Isa and to the network of allweather roads in Queensland. The Go- vernment should not expect the States te carry out that work, but where necessary the Government should take over the construction of all roads necessary for th« defence of the north.
Queensland has about eight times the area of Victoria and about twice the area of New South Wales, but its population is only about 1,000,000 persons. With such a small population and such a large area that State cannot be expected to carry out the enormous works of national value which are required for the defence of the Commonwealth. In the last two budgets of this Government about £200,000,000 a year has been devoted to defence, but the Queensland main roads commission has received only £6,000,000 a year which has come from the petrol tax. We cannot defend this country merely by producing uniforms and building factories; we must build all-weather roads so that our land communications hi time of emergency will not fail, and we must provide aircraft landing strips in the far north. The Treasurer says, in effect, to the Premiers, “ We shall have to reduce expenditure because we have not enough money to go round “. According to the Treasurer’s outlook this country is condemned, as long as he is in office, to a policy of retrogression, and will finish up as one of the most backward countries of the world. He mouths platitudes about strategy and defence and so on, but we have been assured by our military advisers that our population should be built up to 25,000,000 as quickly as possible and one of the ways todo this is to open up the north. I point out to the Treasurer, who is continually crying a poor mouth, that France was smashed flat by invasion and faced internal strife and confusion, but was never- theless able to reconstruct the harbour at Marseilles and carry out a campaign in Indo-China. Germany and Japan are rising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of war, but we cannot raise the money for a few simple defence measures. If we cannot do that now, what will happen when we return to normal times? It is said that the people deserve the Government that they get, but this country certainly deserves a much better Government than it has at the present time. It needs a government of Australians by Australians for Australia.
.- It would be inappropriate for me to speak in this chamber in an important debate for the first time since my return from abroad without indicating my appreciation of the action of the Government and of my colleagues in my party in including me in the delegation which went to London for the coronation of Her Majesty ‘ Queen Elizabeth II. My trip abroad was a great experience and a very illuminating one. It was a privilege of the highest order to be present at Her Majesty’s coronation, not only in my personal capacity as a loyal Australian subject, but also as the representative of many other Australians equally loyal and enthusiastic about the happenings of the 2nd June last. While I was in England I was inevitably moved to compare the state of affairs that exist there with those I knew in 1946, when I was last in that country. In 1946, the people were tired and somewhat dispirited. They were under-fed and exhausted as the result of six years of long and bitter warfare. On this occasion, I found them in the highest spirits, full of enterprise and courage, working hard and putting rapidly behind them the awful consequences of six years of war. I came back to Australia refreshed and encouraged by the realization that this young country of ours, as part of the British Commonwealth, the leadership of which still resides in Great Britain, can play a great part in overcoming the difficulties which the whole world face3 to-day. It is possible that the British Commonwealth is now at the start of a period of new development and expansion such as has not been seen for a long time. Indeed, we may well be at the beginning of a new Elizabethan era.
Before. I address myself to the budget [ should like first to comment on the speech, made by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). I must confess that I found myself full of astonishment when I heard a former Minister for the Navy say that, defence was a matter, not of factories and uniforms, but only of internal communications.
– The honorable member did not say that.
– It does not do any one any good to minimize the problem of north Australia or the difficulties of its defence. The attitude of the honorable member in attempting to condemn the Government for its alleged inattention to this problem is not only unreal but also overlooks the fact that there has been a greater advance in the development and defence of north Australia during the last three years than at any other period in our history.
The honorable member’s remarks on the budget were a compound of triviality and misrepresentation. He contented himself with criticizing the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for having reduced the duty on whisky but not on beer. A moment’s examination discloses the fact that the duty on whisky has been reduced because it has passed the point of diminishing returns. The Government, by reducing the duty on whisky, can reasonably expect that more whisky will be consumed. I shall not remain silent while such absurd remarks are made about assisting whisky drinkers and not assisting beer drinkers. The truth is that the duty on spirits in Australia was so high that it prevented consumption and so caused a lower yield of revenue from that source. That defect has been corrected. So much for the trivial aspects of the honorable member’s speech.
As to his misrepresentation he tried to convince the committee that the proposed substantial reduction of company tax will assist only wealthy companies. Does he not realize that the development of the country depends very largely on the capacity of companies to continue their activities and to expand them? Is he not aware that taxation of companies in Australia had reached such a level that they were unable to maintain an adequate standard of capita] investment, and that many of them have been unable to replace worn-out capital equipment? The proposed reduction of tax will, very materially help companies to do so. Let it not be forgotten that every large and wealthy company has countless shareholders who need be neither large nor wealthy, and that any stimulus gwen to companies acts as a stimulus to the whole of Australia.
Finally, I come to the honorable member’s attempt at humour when he said that those who sit behind the Government on this side of the chamber, private members like myself, are walking through a political graveyard. If that is the ease let me assure the honorable member that I find the graveyard a very warm and comfortable one and that I expect that its trees will shortly blossom out in fruit.
It is a great pleasure to take part in a debate on a budget in respect of which one can offer unqualified congratulations to the Treasurer and to the Government. 1. do so first, on the courage with which they have pursued their policies irrespective of difficulty or temporary unpopularity following the real needs of the Australian economy, and secondly, on the success that has attended their policies, enabling them to present a budget of the inspiring character of the one before us. They have reduced taxation by nearly £120,000^000. They have given assistance to families. They have been able to make enormous reductions in sales tax and payroll tax, and they have abolished entertainment tax entirely. They have very widely increased the scope and effect of our pensions system. All of these concessions add up to a great relief from past exactions and present worry and a definite hope for the future in the heart of every Australian.
Another event of singular importance to the Australian economy took place very soon after the presentation of the budget. I refer to the announcement in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court of the suspension for the time being of the operation of automatic quarterly variations of the basic wage. These two events combined - the stimulus accorded by the budget and the end of the nightmare of costs and wages chasing each other as a dog chases its tail - lead to a very reasonable expectation of stability in the Australian economy for a long time to come. It is now possible at last to look to the future and plan for expansion and development. “When I use the word “ plan “ I do not do so in the unhappy sense in which it has been used by socialist economists during the last fifteen years. Governments can do some things for the community, but there are other things which are beyond their capacity. They cannot create wealth; they cannot do work; but they can create conditions in which people are able to enjoy the fruits of their labour, they can protect people from the effects of violent changes in economic conditions. When I say that we can now plan ahead for development, I mean that we can plan for a state of affairs in which people may work and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Towards what goal should we strive? I think the answer to that question can be found by considering our present difficulties - not the difficulties of this day or this year but those of this period in which we live. The difficulties as I see them are threefold. The first is that, like most of the rest of the world, we have moved into an era of high taxation. The second is that we have very high production costs. The third difficulty is that we have also moved into a period of very high governmental expenditure. These factors are, I believe, intimately interrelated and each must be attacked if any one of them is to be removed. When I speak of this country having reached such a state of affairs I mean that it has done so during the war and post-war years and not during this year or last year and not necessarily under any particular Government.
Turning first to high taxation, an enormous forward step has been made in the present budget. The general level of taxation is to be reduced by approximately 12£ per cent. If that process can be continued, we may break the relationship between the three difficulties to which I have referred. High costs can be attacked in part through greater efficiency. I think that we can justly claim that Australian industry and Australian business have shown enormous increases in efficiency in the post-war years. I know of a very large undertaking which has been able to increase its productivity by 157 per cent, in the post-war years through greater efficiency in production methods. We need increased production. If it is to be achieved there must be a different relationship between management and labour in the industrial field. Time will not permit me to develop this argument at length. I content myself with saying that very good relations exist in Australian industry at the plant level. In my observation of Australian plants I have witnessed very good personal relations between management and labour at the plant level; but when we move to the industry level we find at the conference table two hostile groups arguing the terms of an agreement or an award. At the industry level relations between management and labour are not nearly so good as they should be. An approach to this problem can be made through amendments of our arbitration system. That system does two things: it fixes wages and it conciliates and arbitrates in disputes. I believe that the answer to the problem in the wage-fixing field is to enable the Arbitration Court to deal with the total wage and not only with the basic wage. At present the court deals only with the basic wage, matters such as margins being dealt with by conciliation commissioners. As we all know, margins are as important a part of the total wage as is the basic wage itself. We also know that there has been a tendency in post-war years to reduce margins in proportion to the basic wage to such a degree that insufficient encouragement is given to skilled workers. The best way to tackle that problem is to amend the arbitration laws so that the court can deal with the whole wage and not only with the basic wage. But I remark again that I am able to deal with all these complexities only under general headings. I cannot develop the argument in this debate.
On the conciliation side, I believe that the answer is to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to give complete flexibility to the court itself. Under the law as it now exists, there is a rigid division between the functions ofthe judges of the court, and other arbitration officials. I believe that the correct approach to this problem is to give the court the whole power over the industrial field, and allow the court itself to work out the best methods of carrying out its functions through its officers and machinery.
The other amendment which I should like to see in our industrial setup, is the progressive removal of all the special tribunals which deal with particular in dustries. The majority of these special tribunals, such as the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal, have their origin in the difficult days of war. They were established under emergency regulations in order to deal ad hoc with the special problems of war. Their continuance in peace-time only leads to the highlighting of the special difficulties of the particular industries with which they are concerned, and does not lead to their solution within the whole arbitration system. Therefore, I believe that it will be to the advantage of the country if these special tribunals, as and when it becomes possible and practicable to do so. are removed, and the industries which they govern are returned to the general arbitration system.
Another matter which has a considerable effect on the high level of costs in Australia is the problem of protected industries. This is a most thorny problem, and I cannot hope to deal with it. in any depth in the time allowed me this afternoon. It is obvious that, in the present state of industrial development in Australia, we must protect our industries during a period of high costs. It is also obvious that we cannot allow, because of the protection, inefficient industries to continue to push up the whole cost level in Australia. The Government has recognized this need by establishing a second tariff board so that applications made by Australian industries may he dealt with more expeditiously. I also hope that the Government will be able to retreat progressively from the system of import licensing, which inevitably, whatever may have been the original intention or desire, has become in itself a method of protection to industry. I consider it essential that the Government should adhere rigidly to the advice’ of the tariff boards.
I turn for a moment to the problem of high governmental expenditure. This, too, is complex and difficult. We cannot simply say that the Government shall cut its Civil” Service in half at any time. In Australia to-day, one in every four or five persons is employed by governments or governmental authorities ; and governments and their authorities carry out n great deal of work which once was done by private enterprise. The economy has come to depend on a high level of governmental expenditure. Consequently, we cannot, at any given moment, decree a wholesale reduction of governmental expenditure. Equally, we cannot allow it to continue to increase, as it ha3 increased in the post-war world. The approach to this problem should be, first, to put the government’s accounts in order along the lines that have been, and are being, suggested by the Public Accounts Committee. I think that it has been correctly said that we cannot embark on governmental economy effectively until our accounts can show us where we are incurring expenditure, and how much is being spent. So, the first step in this campaign should be to put the public accounts in order, and it is encouraging to see the response which the suggestions of the Public Accounts Committee are receiving.
The second approach is to investigate on a wide scale the methods and efficiency of the Public Service. I believe that it is as long ago as 1918 since this was done. It is true that the Public Service Board is charged with the function of being its own critic and examining the efficiency of the service which it administers; but the functions of administration, and self-criticism, are incompatible in this human world. In my opinion, the time has long passed when a full investigation should be made into the methods’ and efficiency of our Public Service.
The third approach is to tackle the problem of the increasing expenditure on social services. The rising cost-
– Does the honorable member suggest that social services should be reduced?
– An understanding of this problem is not assisted by the shouts of the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths). He must know as well as I do that the cost of social services is increasing at a rate which cannot be faced in future. Unless the whole economy is to be devoted solely to social services, this tendency must be stopped. The solution will be found ultimately in a system of contributory national insurance. I have confidence that that matter will be tackled by the present Government in due course.
This budget reinforces that confidence. It has lifted the level of the means test considerably which is, I hope, the first step in the direction of which I speak.
I shall try to summarize the remarks I have made this afternoon. This budget has been warmly received, and deserves to be highly applauded throughout the length and breadth of the country. It will produce a degree of stability and, I hope, some fall in costs. It does give every Australian a chance, for the first time in fourteen years, to look ahead. What are our greatest needs? The first is that we plan ahead for an era of lower taxation and increased incentive. The second is to reduce costs. I hope that the Government can contribute to a reduction of costs by reforming the arbitration system and solving the problem of the increasing cost of our social services. If those things can be accomplished, the Government will have laid the foundations for a great era of prosperity in Australia. In any event, the Government does deserve, here and now, the thanks and applause of the people for having followed its convictions, even though they led temporarily to unpopularity, and for achieving a degree of stability in this country such as we have not known for years.
– I listened attentively to the speech of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne)-
– A good speech, too !
– Was it a good speech ? I shall contest that statement in the course of my remarks. This Government has not been “game” to confess its great weaknesses, and the honorable member for Evans has studiously avoided reference to them. He spoke with all the advantages that come from a legal training and from membership of this chamber. He would take the most liberal view of the policy that the Government should follow to meet our great national difficulties. Throughout this debate, Government supporters have consistently claimed that this is an incentive budget. The honorable member for Evans admitted that the proposed increase of pensions of 2s. fid. a week was small, but he claimed that the Government could not grant a larger amount. That is a confession that the Government has come to the end of the road. I deny that this can be regarded as an incentive budget. Opposition members regard it as the most outstanding piece of political humbug ever known in this chamber.
– The people do not think so.
– I shall deal with the reaction of the people to the budget, too. But nothing better could have been expected of a government that will be known to historians as the “ Government with clay feet “. The honorable member for Evans established that when he said that the Government had reached the end of the road in respect of social services. I have no doubt that the Government will be dismissed by the people at the general election next year, because of its ignorance of national requirements, if for no other reason. 1 brand this budget as a political budget. If proof is required of that statement, we had it in this chamber last week when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) flaunted before the eyes of honorable members at question time a statement made by counsel for the trade unions in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in an effort to “ hold “ the wage levels in this country in the interests of the workers.
– Does the honorable member suggest that a dishonest statement was submitted to the court?
– No, but I suggest that it was a dishonest action, on the part of the man who introduced the statement into this chamber without reading the whole of it.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. No one in this chamber know better than the Prime Minister what counsel for the employers was saying in the court on that very day. No one can convince me that the Prime Minister was not fully aware of the arguments that were being advanced by counsel for the employers, at that precise hour, against the submission which he read in this chamber.
– What is the honorable member trying to prove?
– Just in case the Prime Minister was not aware of it, I shall pinpoint one fact. The affidavit on behalf of the employers makes interesting reading. I mention this for the information of the Prime Minister, who flaunted a document that he should not have introduced here. The affidavit on behalf of the employers reads, inter alia -
That the labour costs are already higher than the economy of the country can sustain.
– ‘Quite right.
– We shall see about that. The affidavit proceeds -
That the existing level of labour costs is prejudicing the position of Australian industries in relation to those of other countries.
– Quite right, too.
– Only as a consequence of the incapacity of this Government to take any action to stabilize the economy during the last four years.
Mr. Edmonds interjecting,
– Order! Who used that word?
– I did.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw it and apologize.
– I withdraw it and apologize.
– The affidavit continued -
That the existing level of labour costs is prejudicial to the carrying out of defence and development programmes at a proper price and cost level.
That, too, is due to the incapacity of this Government to stabilize the national economy. If honorable members on the Government side of the chamber require further evidence, I refer them to the following passage from another affidavit, which was submitted to the court on the very day that the Prime Minister flaunted that paper in this chamber -
The nation’s economy is precariously unstable.
The court gave its decision last Saturday, and there was a great throwing of hats in the air by members of the Liberal party, who believed that here at last was a decision that would give them what they had been seeking for many years, namely, wage pegging without cost pegging. But, on the following day, the director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, who often expresses the point of view of the Government and its supporters, had this to say -
It is becoming more and more difficult to hold overseas markets in any goods that are at all of a competitive character. In a like manner, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Australian industries to meet the impact in the home market of goods exported from other countries that have not had their national economies boosted by legislative and administrative acts from which the industrial and business community has no escape. Production costs in Australia, and labour costs for skilled and unskilled workers, are now 100 per cent, higher than they are in the United Kingdom.
When the honorable member for Evans began to speak of his experiences in Great Britain, I thought that he proposed to tell us of ways in which the Government could stabilize Australia’s economy in relation to the remainder of the sterling bloc.
– Great Britain pegged wages.
– Great Britain did nothing of the sort. The great trade union movement of that country, which has keener foresight than has the Australian Government, agreed to co-operate in the prosecution of a definite economic policy .under which price levels were stabilized. That was a result of leadership by the great British trade union movement.
– Why does that not happen in Australia?
– Because this Government is incapable of appreciating the needs of our economic situation and of establishing a fair basis for the regulation of wage standards. As I have said, the director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures has complained that costs in Australia are 100 per cent, higher than .they are in the United Kingdom. That is a measure of the degree to which costs have spiralled under the administration of this Government during the past four years.
Further proof of my statements is to be found in the latest report of the Tariff
Board, which deals with carpets. Australian carpet manufacturers applied for the imposition of a 30 per cent, duty on imported carpets. The Tariff Board, after conducting an inquiry, agreed to a 20 per cent. duty. This was made necessary by the Government’s failure to stabilize wage and price levels. The Tariff Board reported that costs in the Australian carpet manufacturing industry exceeded costs in the United Kingdom by 48 per cent, in the case of male employees and 97 per cent, in the case of female employees. The Government has no idea of the course of action that should be taken to assure the economic security of Australia following the decision announced by the Arbitration Court on Saturday. We all should face the fact that Australia must be adequately populated during the next two decades, largely by means of immigration. Otherwise, the free people of this country will have great difficulty in holding it. I believe that we all agree upon that point. Therefore, those of us who are truly Australiaminded must think earnestly about the problem of developing our secondary industries so that they will be capable of absorbing the large numbers of immigrants that we need.
– Put them on the land.
– That is all my poor friend can think of. I wonder what would happen if we attempted to put 25,000,000 people on the land in this country.
– Australia would have an Australian Country party government then.
– After my examination of the budget, I am convinced that we already have an Aus- tralian Country party government, which explains many of the ills from which the country is suffering.
What is the situation of our primary industries to-day? Their prosperity obviously depends upon their ability to market commodities at prices that will be acceptable overseas. What does the future hold for our wheat industry ? The United Kingdom Government considers the wheat market to be so unstable that it has refused to continue to be a party to the International Wheat Agreement.
The United Kingdom, which has the keenest foresight in relation to price trends, clearly expects to be able to buy wheat at a lower price than is fixed under the terms of the agreement. What of our wool industry? Experts in the United States of America predicted last week that this would be the last great wool selling year for Australia because other materials would replace wool in the United States of America and elsewhere. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) must know also that the costs of production of dried fruits and canned fruits in Australia are so high that local processors cannot compete in overseas markets. All this is due to the Government’s incapacity to handle the economic situation. Many examples of the Government’s ineptitude could be cited. It said that we needed a lot of coal, and it succeeded in encouraging production to such a degree that we now have 3,000,000 tons more coal than we want. What solution does the Government propose for this fresh problem? Its decision is that some mines must be closed while coal wastes at grass because it is too dear to sell. The steel industry also is in a bad state. An old English company, which has been engaged in the steel industry since before my time, has a branch in the electorate that I represent. It controls factories throughout the British Commonwealth. Six months ago it sent an advisor to Australia because it believed that Australia should be able to produce steel at a price that would allow it to compete in the markets of the world. A fortnight ago, that representative left Australia, having decided that our steel industry cannot compete on overseas markets with the products of other countries. The same sorry story appears’ wherever we look in the industial sphere to-day.
What is wrong with our industrial arbitration system ? I had hoped that the honorable member for Evans would say something constructive about arbitration, but his only suggestion was that we should scrap the special tribunals. On his own admission, special tribunals are operating successfully in various industries. Does he want to dismiss them and bring chaos into industry? He said that we could obtain better results by working on the plant level. In other words, he wants to hand over to the Communist party. We could not deal with the Communists on the plant level as successfully as the Labour movement is dealing with them to-day. The weakness of our arbitration system lies in the fact that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has power only to settle disputes. The honorable member for Evans did not tell the whole story when he discussed the decision that the court announced last Saturday. He failed to point out that the only awards affected by the decision are those which cover members of unions that were parties to the case before the court. !No other awards will be affected one iota by the decision. Two hundred other industrial awards must be brought into the field before the present method of assessing the basic wage can be altered. I do’ not wish to criticize the Arbitration Court for inefficiency, because that would be unjust. The simple truth is that it lacks the power to determine a proper economic level for the basic wage. The court was established in 1904. It established the first minimum wage in 1907, and the present system of quarterly adjustments was instituted in 1920 as a result of the finding of a royal commission.
I doubt whether even two honorable members on the Government side of the chamber understand the nature of the basic wage. The basic wage, as determined by the Arbitration Court, is defined as that wage or part of a wage which is just and reasonable without having regard for any circumstances pertaining to the work upon which, or the industry in which, a worker is employed. It is stupid to say that the Arbitration Court is able to establish economic standards when the basic wage varies from £12 3s. a week in Sydney to £11 15s. in Melbourne and £10 18s. in Brisbane. The leaders and supporters of the present Government, who talk so glibly about stabilizing the economy, were responsible for the defeat of the referendum proposal put to the people by the Labour Government in 1946 for the purpose of rectifying this anomalous state of affairs. When will they wake up and realize that some authority must be vested with power to relate real wages to the earning capacity of the nation? Too long have we tolerated the system under which wages chase prices and prices chase wages. The people who suffer the evil consequences of this system are the workers and the owners of small businesses. The power of the Arbitration Court permits it merely to settle disputes. It can make orders or awards in relation to particular disputes but cannot, independently of industrial disputes, prescribe any system of industrial regulation. The Parliament has no power to make laws with respect to industry, or to all industrial disputes, but only with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. “With present methods, this nation cannot survive. The linking of costs and wages has brought us to our knees economically. The Parliament must have power to deal with wages and conditions on a national level. Wages and - I will go as far as this - social services standards must be properly related to the productivity of the nation, and real incentives of an all-embracing kind must be provided.
The honorable member for Evans spoke about an organization that had increased its production by 100 per cent. What effect will that have on our economy? If we cannot produce at a cost level that will enable us to sell our surplus commodities overseas, all that we shall be able to do is to retrench. Let us have a system on a national basis that is properly regulated. The United States of America had to do that in 1948. We shall have to do it, or perish. We can no longer go on in the way in which we are going. In my view, the workers of this country are the equal of any workers in the world. They will produce at a level equal to that of other workers once they have been assured that their increased productivity will be the basis of improved living standards and full-time employment for all. As I have said, in 1948 the United States of America had to do what I have suggested. In 1946, New Zealand acted in a similar fashion, and subsequently the New Zealand Parliament passed an act which gave its arbitration court power, not only to settle industrial disputes but also, in making determinations, to review economic factors. We are talking about an incentive budget, but while we are doing so our birthright is being fritted away because we have no power to deal with some important national problems.
The leaders of this Government have -failed. In 1946, they failed to understand what was necessary for Australia. They failed in 1940, when the country was at war. When they assumed office in 1949, they failed again. This country has, at the most, twenty years in which to become the closely populated nation that it must become if it is to survive. To do that, we must develop our secondary industries on a basis that will enable us to sell our exportable surplus at competitive prices on the world markets. Our social services structure also might well be woven into a pattern of national incentives, so that increased production will be the factor that determines, not only the wage level, but also the social services standards of our people. Four valuable years have been wasted by this Government. When it comes to leading the nation, the Government has feet of clay. It is led by incompetents who are quite incapable of developing a national outlook. The horror budget of 1951-52 was followed by, shall I say, the horrible budget of 1952-53. That has been replaced by a political expediency budget that will do nothing to put the national economy on the basis on which it should stand. No self-respecting political party can tolerate a situation in which more is to be saved every time a bottle of whisky is bought, or a visit is made to the races, than we are prepared to give as a weekly increase to our needy pensioners. Labour will come back to office because there is no longer, a place in the country for clay-footed governments or leaders such as the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) who are prepared to sacrifice the needs of the country for shallow and miserable political ends. Labour, when it comes back to office, will be pledged to a policy of advancement and stability that will win the confidence of the people. Then, and only then, will real industrial and national development become possible, flowing from a healthy national outlook that will enable this country to take its proper place in world affairs. In the Pacific, Australia can be what America is in another part of the world. Developed in the way that Labour will develop it, this country -can become the America of the Pacific, with great forces, but it cannot tread that road until it has freed itself from the shackles of a flatfooted government that does not understand national requirements.
I finish on the note that incentives, to be of any value, must be of a national type which will give our workers an assurance that, if they produce more, they will get their share of the additional wealth. Under those conditions, the Australian worker will be second to none. He will show workers in America and other countries how to produce goods that can be sold on the world’s markets. He will make this country what Labour says it can be made - the greatest country, not only in the Pacific but, in years to. come, in the world.
.- The fragments of argument that emerged from the multitude of words uttered by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) were based on his rather insular approach to the problem of maintaining the stability of the nation. I give him credit for honesty, but I urge him to look beyond the backyards of his suburb in Sydney and consider Australia as a whole. I am not prepared to accept his statement that this country is in an unstable position. I could call many witnesses to support my contention that it is in a remarkably stable position. Let us look first at the annual report of the Commonwealth Bank, which has just been made available to honorable members. That is the bank which honorable members opposite screamed about as the people’s bank only a short time ago. They said they had a great deal of confidence in it. Therefore, we meet on the common ground of great faith in the Commonwealth Bank, a witness in which both sides have confidence. On page 8 of the report, the following passage appears: -
Since then- ‘ that is since the end of 1952 - there has been a steady improvement in the tone of the economy, and employment is now at healthy levels. The aggregate demand of consumers, businesses and governments is adequate to maintain this level of employment, and appears to be within the range of available’ supplies.
The passage concludes in this way -
The inflationary pressure characteristic of earlier years has therefore been relaxed, and prices are relatively stable.
There we have the evidence of a witness,, acceptable to both sides, that the Australian economy has improved during: the last twelve months and that to-day we are enjoying a relatively stable economy. That evidence destroys the part of the argument advanced by the honorable member for Blaxland about the stability of this country. Therefore, the rest of his argument falls to the ground.
The honorable member urged us to do something along the lines of what is being done in Great Britain. I remind him and all members of the Labour party that, after the budget was introduced into this Parliament, members of the British Parliament held it up to the British Government as an example to be followed. They said that if Australia could give such a lead, Great Britain should follow it. There is no need for this Government to look to the British Government for an example, because we have witnessed the spectacle of this budget, this budget of the century, being held up as an example to the British Government and other governments.
The budget is the result of a three-year effort by the Government to give effect to the policy upon which it embarked when it had rid itself of the old men of the sea in another place where the Labour party frustrated our efforts at sensible government for fifteen long weary months. During those three years, the efforts of the Government have been directed to securing an increase of the national wealth of Australia, to combating the inflationary trend ‘that it inherited from its predecessor, and to relieving the burden of income tax on individuals. Every sensible person who reads the budget will see that, by it, the Government has done the very things it set out to do three years ago. No other government of this country has been able to reduce taxes or lighten the burdens of the people more than this Government has done, not only in this budget but also in that presented a year ago. It is an inescapable fact that in two budgets the Government has been able to reduce the burden of taxation by no less than £200,000,000 a year. That is a considerable contribution to the welfare of the nation, and one that has not been equalled by any other government.
Although honorable members opposite have made gloomy predictions about what will happen to Australia, we have ‘yet to hear from them one concrete criticism of the budget. They have not been able to make a specific charge against it. They have not been able to prove that the budget is unfair to any member or section of the community. All that they have done has been to talk in gloomy generalities, with the pessimistic outlook characteristic of their party affiliations. If the budget is unfair to any one, it is unfair to the Labour party, because it gives honorable members opposite nothing to argue about. The budget carries on the work begun by the Government previously. Some of the taxes classed as nuisance taxes have been abolished, and others have been, reduced. I remind the committee that a year ago the federal land tax was abolished. Now, the entertainments tax is to be abolished and the pay-roll tax eased. Those are valuable contributions, not only to the welfare of individuals, but also to the stability of the economy. I regret that Labour governments in various States intend to enter into the entertainments tax field and thus deprive the ordinary common people of a benefit bestowed upon them by this Government. The pay-roll tax was a nuisance, particularly to small businessmen. It has been eased, which will be of benefit to many thousands of small businesses. That action of the Government has been acclaimed far and wide.
All in all, the budget contains concessions for everybody in the community. It is a budget for everybody. If it favours any one particularly, it favours the little man. If a slogan has to be used in relation to it, let us call it a budget, for everybody. If that is not suitable, let us call it the little man’s budget. It gives to everybody, particularly people with low incomes, great concessions and great incentives to go ahead. If there is one thing that has surprised me in the attitude of the Labour party to the budget, it is the promise of the Leader of the Opposi tion (Dr. Evatt) that if his party is returned to office at the next general election, it will peg pensions to the basic wage. As has been pointed out, he is the man who altered the system. I have examined closely the promises and platform of the Labour party, because I remember well the attempt of the Chifley Labour Government to nationalize the banking system of this country. The Opposition of that date told the Labour Government that it had no mandate from the people to take such action. The answer was, “Bank nationalization is in the Labour party’s platform “. It was in the platform, although it was cunningly concealed, and Labour members of this Parliament were able to prove it was there. So after the right honorable gentleman who temporarily leads the Labour party had said that if his party was returned to office it would peg pensions to the basic wage, I studied the subject closely. I found that his promise means that if a Labour government is elected to office next year it will reduce the pension from its present rate of 70s. a week to 68s. 3d. a week. That will be the result if he honours his promise, because the “C” series index ratio in 1949, which was 1428 points, equated with the present ratio of 2293, means that the pensioners would receive under Labour’s plan 68s. 3d. instead of the amount of 70s. which this Government gives them. Lest any one in this House or anywhere else should think that no government would be willing to reduce the age pension, I remind the House that one government in the history of this country since federation’ and only one, has gone to the length of reducing pensions. It was a Labour government. I am not astonished, therefore, to hear the Leader of the Opposition bring forward a plan to reduce age pensions by ls. 9d. a week. I hope the electors will remember that, and will also compare the record of the Labour party regarding, pensions with the record of this Government. I hope also that they will realize that, of the structure of the present pension of 70s., this Government and governments of the same political colour, were responsible for 48s. The remaining 22s. stands to the credit of Labour governments. Since this Government has been in office it has increased pensions by 27s. 6d. a week. In all the time that the Labour party has been in office since age pensions were established it has been responsible for only 22s. of the. total pension. In the last four years alone, therefore, we have eclipsed the Labour party’s total pension record by 5s. 6d.
The honorable member for Blaxland, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), and other honorable members opposite, have spoken about the present unemployment position. They have contended that the Government has failed in its responsibilities. Let us see what the people’s bank has to say regarding the employment position. Page 11 of the last published report of the Commonwealth Bank contains the following statement : -
For the year as a whole, therefore, unemployment fell by about 27,000, although immigration and natural increase would have added about 60,000 workers during that period.
Those are not the words of a politician, but cold, hard facts from the Commonwealth Bank’s report. They prove that Australia has the capacity to provide work, not only for the people already here, but also for people who are attracted to this country. Irrespective of the screams of the Labour party from the hustings, Australians and people who wish to come to Australia have complete confidence in Australia and in this Government.
– With what period does the report deal?
– It covers the year that ended on the 30th June last. At present there are more jobs available in Australia than there are applicants for work. We have returned to a healthy employment position. There is a spirit of incentive abroad in the community. It is not only the news and editorial columns of newspapers in which one reads of the value of this budget in providing incentive. Business people are advertising in the press in a way that shows that there is great confidence in Australia that business will forge ahead and that businessmen can with confidence lay their plans for a great and glorious future. The press contains advertisements for great retail sales. Sales tax reductions are being passed on to the people in the form of prices that are lower than they have enjoyed for years. The whole tone of the community is healthy. The people are coming to realize that the Government has laid foundations on which we may confidently build a better Australia. The same spirit of progress is abroad in the country areas. Over the last year or so the returns of producers have been completely satisfactory. A great wave of enthusiasm is sweeping country areas. The dairying industry is enjoying great prosperity compared with the miserable situation that prevailed in 1949, when men were leaving the dairy farms and young people were streaming from the country to the city because of their dissatisfaction with farming conditions. In the interests of this great dairying industry the Government ensured that the dairy-farmers received a fair compensation for the work they did. To-day the dairying industry enjoys a subsidy that amounts to £16,800,000 a year. No other industry in the history of Australia has enjoyed such a subsidy. It goes to the credit of this Government that although it had made an arrangement with the dairying industry leaders that the subsidy would be reduced year by year and the burden passed on to the consumers, when it came to the point the Government did not reduce the subsidy by 3d. per lb., as it could have done in accordance with its arrangement with the leaders of the industry, because it saw that the industry was in trouble. It followed that course although it cost between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 a year to keep the subsidy at its former level. The Government now subsidizes the price of butter by 10¾d. per lb. I cannot see anything in the history of the Labour party to show that it has ever done anything for the primary industries that compares with what the Government has done for the dairying industry this year alone, without taking previous years into consideration.
I am proud that’ the Government has adopted a common-sense attitude towards the problems of primary industries. It adopted an equally common-sense attitude some time ago regarding the coal industry, about which the honorable member for Blaxland had something to say. I recall that a few months ago the
Victorian Government indicated that it would repudiate its contract to take coal mined at Callide in Queensland. Efforts were made and inducements were offered to avoid the bad effects that decision would have on the Queensland coal industry. A great deal of negotiation went on. The Government, as honorable members know, pays a subsidy on Callide coal sent to Victoria. The terms of the contract were that the subsidy would be paid on 600,000 tons of coal up to the 28th February next year. The Commonwealth has no legal obligation beyond that date to . subsidize Callide coal sent to Victoria. It was estimated that at that time there would still remain a vast quantity of Callide coal to be delivered to Victoria. I wish to say here and now how much I appreciate the Commonwealth Government’s subsequent action which saved the coal-owners from losing their trucks and money, and the businessmen and workers in Gladstone, whose businesses and jobs were saved by the Government’s action. The Government announced that although its legal obligations would cease from the 28th February, it would continue to pay the subsidy on Callide coal until the full quantity had been delivered. This means that the Government will continue to subsidize the coal for about fifteen or eighteen months beyond the period that it is legally obliged to do so. Such action is in line with this Government’s record of commonsense handling of the nation’s affairs.
The budget is a personal triumph for the Treasurer. He is the man who had the political courage to stand up two years ago and bring down in this House measures that he knew would be unpopular and would not receive support from the unthinking members of the community. He took all the blame right through. Honorable members here who stood behind him loyally through those’ years, not because of the iron rule of caucus, but because of their loyalty and their belief in his policy, have been vindicated, because the Treasurer has succeeded in leading Australia out of the morass into which it had been led by the previous Government. With the introduction of this budget Australia is moving farther and farther ahead and we can’ look forward with confidence to a great future. This is a great budget of a kind which will probably never be brought down in this House again. It makes remarkable concessions. It has something for everybody and particularly for the little man. I am not dismayed that the Labour party finds nothing really wrong with the budget but can only give us the same platitudes and soapbox oratory that it has given us for years. Despite the Labour party the Government is determined that it will give back to the people the things that were taken away from them. It has restored the confidence of Australians in Australia, and has promoted confidence among thinking people all over the world who acclaim the Treasurer’s budget.
.- Unlike the elephant which, reputedly, never forgets, the leaders of this Government never seem to learn anything from the lessons of the past or heed the warnings given by the people at recent by-elections and State elections. They remain as truculent as ever and as unrepentant of their political sins. Although the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) did appear for a time to be somewhat chastened by the Government’s set-backs, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) remains as aloof, disdainful and disregardful of public opinion as ever. His cocksureness is in keeping with the high-handed and even arrogant role he assumed after his sweeping victories of 1949 and 1951, when the people were hoodwinked with many spurious promises, the chief of which concerned the reduction of taxation, full employment and restoration of the purchasing power of the £1. Not only did the Government, through the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, promptly ignore and repudiate outright these promises to the people, hut they also entirely disregarded the views of rank-and-file members of their own parties who, after all, represent - or did then represent - the people in a great -majority of the electorates throughout the Commonwealth. But their’s not to reason why, their’s but to obey, and onward the gallant backbenchers go to their political doom, at the behest of the tory blimps who lead this Government from behind. Whilst we might sympathize with the Government members in their predicament they cannot escape some of the responsibility for the Government’s failures, and its repudiation of promises to which they each subscribed and which they advocated on the hustings - bearing in mind that they belong to a party which claims to be liberal in the broad sense and to allow some independence of thought and action. Tt is understandable that in the early stages of this Government they were overawed by the dominating personalities of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, and the glamour cast around them by press propagandists, but they must now be completely disillusioned and tired of their role as the cheer brigade to cover up the Government’s delinquencies. Even though they may be inarticulate in the party room, the murmurings that one hears around the corridors are a sufficient indication of their true feelings towards this 2s. 6d. budget, and of their resentment towards their leaders. They know that their leaders are leading, or rather driving, them and their party to political destruction.
The contempt of the leaders for the views of their supporters has been well illustrated by the comment of the Prime Minister about the protest of the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), made at a Liberal party gathering held recently in Brisbane over the failure of the Government to consult rank-and-file members on policy or the selection of Ministers. The honorable member for Petrie is reputed to have said that democracy had died in Canberra when this Government assumed oflS.ce, and the Prime Minister’s comment was that he did not think that the honorable member could be so stupid as to talk such nonsense. I suppose that the right honorable gentleman expects his rank and file to keep such rebel thoughts locked up in their breasts. However, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) frankly admitted, at a meeting of the Institute of Political Science recently held in Melbourne, that rank-and-file members of his party had complained of insufficient opportunity to express their views in the party room. This contempt of the elected representatives in his own party, shows how little the Prime Minister regards the wishes of the people in general. It is typical of his approach to important matters, and explains why we have had such a dictatorial regime under this Government. In the light of this, the repudiation of solemn promises to the people by the Prime Minister and the Ministers of the Government parties during the general election campaigns of 1949 and 1951, is readily understandable. The fact is that this Government is a puppet government that stands for class privilege, and not for the ordinary men and women who comprise the vast majority of the people of the Commonwealth. Ministers are like so many marionettes dancing to the tune of their invisible masters.
This is abundantly clear from the Leader of the Opposition’s (Dr. Evatt) brilliant and devastating analysis of the budget now before the committee. Without reiterating its details, that analysis proves broadly that the Government stands for big business interests, large corporations, wealthy landowners, big graziers, moving-picture combines, whisky drinkers at the Union Club and other privileged sections of the community who have received great concessions al the hands of the Government. These concessions have no doubt been prompted by the depletion of the Liberal party funds. At the same time, the Government is sooling these interests on to State Labour governments by squeezing State finances and forcing the States to reimpose some of the taxes relinquished by the Govern-‘ ment. The whole thing is a cunningly, devised political manoeuvre. On the other hand, the workers in general will receive no real relief under the budget, and the under-privileged sections of the com-‘ m unity, such as age and invalid pensioners, civilian widows, war widows and service pensioners, are to be given a handout of 2s. 6d. a week. Such a paltry pittance is adding insult to injury, and if the Government intends to affront these people it should at least strike a special issue of half-crowns. Then, in time to come, they will have an added value as antiques and relics of the most miserable and parsimonious government in our history. The Government does not even make a pretence of handing money back to the taxpayers, despite its entreaties for greater production and its promises of increased purchasing power. In the horror budget this Government drained off £114,000,000 which it called surplus spending money, not because the Government needed it, but because the Treasurer believed that he could look after it better than those to whom it belonged.
Despite the Government’s assurances that it would reduce taxation, the stark fact is that it has extracted an unnecessary £1,152,000,000 from the taxpayers since it was elected to office. This has occurred in the following fashion: - In 1948- 49 the Chifley Government raised about £490,000,000 by taxation. In 1949- 50, the first year of the Menzies Government, £518,000,000 was raised, which was an increase of about £28,000,000 on the previous year’s budget. In 1950-51, when the wool tax was imposed, the Menzies Government took £777,000,000 from the people which was about £287,000,000 more than was raised in 1948-49, In 1951-52 the Treasurer, in his horror budget, extracted £934,000,000 from the taxpayers which was an increase of about £443,000,000 on the last Labour government’s last budget. In 1952-53 the Government raised only £885,000,000 because the Treasurer had become perturbed about the public outcry over his horror budget, but even that was £394,000,000 more than the Chifley Government had raised. Therefore, it will be seen that this Government, in four years, has raised £1,152,000,000 more than the last Labour Government would have raised had it been in power for four years and had it raised as much each year as it raised in its last year of office. Those successive increases are in sharp contrast to the successive reductions totalling £280,000,000 made by the Chifley Government in its four years of office after the war ended. On present-day values that remission by the Labour Government would be equivalent to a remission of about £600,000 in the Menzies-Fadden £1.
In spite of the rosy picture painted by Government press propandists, wageearners generally will receive no real benefit under this budget compared with last year’s budget. In fact, direct taxation on individuals, that is £398,000,000, actually represents an increase of £11,000,000 on last year’s figure of £387,000,000. Big companies, manufacturers of luxury goods, property- owners and recipients of unearned increment certainly receive substantial concessions, but the real producers of the wealth of the country do not. The few paltry concessions to this most important section of the community, such as the slight reductions of sales tax of buttons and buckles - no doubt to enable them to pull their belts in - insecticides and other non-essentials, are like the few crumbs and trinkets which the gentleman highwayman used to throw back to his victims after running through their pockets. He would then regard himself as a public benefactor, as, no doubt, the Treasurer now regards himself.
As to the other major election promises of the Government, such as the promise to restore purchasing power to the £1, every housewife knows just how little the Menzies-Fadden £1 will buy to-day as compared with the Chifley £1 of 1949. That is, not half as much. For the first time in the history of this country full employment was an actual fact under the last Labour Government. Unemployment was non-existent and there were 120,000 jobs waiting to be filled. In place of that situation we have had the pool of unemployed which we told the people would be established, and that reached the proportions of 160,000 at its peak at the end of last year following the horror budget of 1951. Why then is the Government so blatantly trying to fool the people on this occasion with a budget that, as the Sydney Daily Mirror so aptly put it, would fool no one, not even the simplest minded person. Why all this cock-sureness among Government supporters, and the spectacle of the Prime Minister patting the Treasurer upon the head which we witnessed the other night? The clue to it is given in the sordid deal between certain press barons and the Government, as recently disclosed in the Sydney Truth dated the 6th September -
The glad word is being disseminated that the popularity of the Menzies-Fadden Government is rising.
But you do not hear it from the small businessman or the wage earners. It is very interesting, according to our information, to learn that a secret conclave has been held between the Government’s representatives and certain newspaper nabobs presumably (and .we do not profess to be seers) to discuss ways and means to instil into the minds of the Australian people more pleasant thoughts towards the Government that was so forgetful of its election promises to the electors, who believed it had gained office by a political confidence trick.
No doubt there will be denials of a liaison between the Menzies-Fadden Government and certain newspaper organizations. All we can advise our readers is to watch the columns of the Press for the quiet build-up for the Government and perhaps make a note of the quickening tempo as time goes by.
There are many obstacles to overcome. It is not going to be easy to take the sour tastes out of the mouths of the electors who expected so much and got so little from Mr. Menzies and Sir Arthur Fadden. Still it will be worthwhile watching the newspapers and the honours lists.
I suppose it will be a case of “ Arise Sir Frank and Sir Rupert”, but alas poor Warwick, we knew him well when he supported Labour during the critical war years when Australia had her back to the wall.
The Prime Minister and the Treasurer are certainly gleeful and chock-full of confidence as to the outcome of this tawdry deal, and democracy may -well appear to be dead, as the honorable member for Petrie and others on the Government side may think. But in the past democracy has triumphed and the people have returned Labour to office in the face of the bitterest barrages of the Tory press. Even yet we may see an Australian la prensa arise who will ensure that the people will not be misled by false and malicious propaganda, and that truth, justice and decency will prevail. Some sections of the press may believe that the people have very short memories, and they would certainly need to have short memories to forget the tirade of abuse to which the Treasurer was subjected by the Sydney Daily Telegraph only a few short months ago. Those attacks almost broke the health of the Treasurer. They make interesting reading when read in conjunction with the present press build-up of the Treasurer and the “Government. The manner in which capital issues consent for large sums of new capital can be rushed through in a few hours on a Sunday afternoon to suit press magnates is also not likely to enhance the prestige of the Government or the press with other sections of the business community.
The Treasurer, in his’ endeavour to give his financial proposals a popular flavour, has dubbed the budget an “incentive budget “, but the key to the kind of incentive he has in mind is the amount of unemployed relief he distributes. That is the old incentive - fear and insecurity - with the economic whip on the back of the workers struggling for jobs at the factory gates - breaking down wages and conditions, with employers’ organizations hovering in the background with claims for longer hours and reduced wages. The only kind of incentive that this Government knows is the unemployment pool about which Labour warned the people and which was created when the Government deliberately applied its credit restriction policy, curtailed homebuilding, closed down and even ruined many Australian industries and threw thousands of the people out of work. The correct title for the budget, therefore, is the “ unemployment incentive “ budget. Despite the conflicting and confusing figures produced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) from time to time, there is sufficient evidence in my electorate of the calamitous results of the disastrous policies applied by the Government. At the Commonwealth employment offices in and around my electorate approximately 10,000 persons were registered as unemployed in the peak period of unemployment at the beginning of this year. That figure does not include many female workers who did not bother to register. Within a mile of my residence a textile factory which was erected two years ago at a cost of £250,000 by Felt and Textiles Limited has been idle ever since it was completed. A couple of miles further on a prefabricated home building works owned by Vandyke Brothers Limited, which, two years ago, employed nearly 400 workers, is now closed down entirely. Recently, the plant was broken up and sold. That factory had a capacity of 250 houses a year. It is a disgrace that any government should allow such a factory to go out of production when so many people are homeless and at a time when the New South Wales Housing Commission alone has a waiting list of nearly 100,000 families. Across the river, at Rydalmere, is a timber prefabricated works owned by Hudson and Sons Limited which was ready to commence operations when the Government’s blow fell, but which is still stagnant. A few miles further away, at Kogarah, another large Sydney prefabricated works belonging to Frank R. Wolstenholme Proprietary Limited, is also in a perilous condition. Twelve months ago the company established a spectacular record in house construction by producing a timber house every five hours. To-day, it has no government orders and its output has slumped. Last year it had 350 men on its pay-roll; to-day, it has only 80, and production is almost at a standstill. Mr. Frank Wolstenholme, who is the mayor of Kogarah, said recently -
It is a national tragedy that the mass production of low-priced houses of this type should have to stop. The position has been getting steadily worse in the last three months. The hig government and serai-government orders needed to keep a factory of this sort running diminished to a mere trickle, and have now dried up completely. It’s a daily struggle to keep our trained personnel working.
In the case of Vandyke Brothers Proprietary Limited, the trained personnel have been dismissed as the company gave up business altogether when a substantial contract from the New South Wales Housing Commission was cancelled because of this Government’s restriction of the State allocations under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Some of the people engaged in those industries were erstwhile supporters of this Government, They must be very disillusioned indeed. Assurances by the Minister for Labour and National Service that unemployment figures are dropping will not alleviate their concern and it is quite clear that the Treasurer himself is unrelenting in his policy of credit restriction. There are indications that the Government intends again to lift the lid off imports, which will have the same disastrous effect on Australian industry as did a similar policy ‘“when it was applied two years ago. Furthermore, as I have said, the Treasurer is budgeting for funds for even greater unemployment relief than was the case last year. The provision in the Estimates is £7,000,000, an increase of £250,000 on last year. How fantastic it is to be giv ing millions of pounds to able-bodied citizens to do nothing - to rot their bodies and souls ! This shows how barren is the Government of any constructive thought or action.
No doubt there will- be a return of form on the part of the Government after the next general election because, after all, a leopard cannot change its spots. We can expect the election to be rushed on at any time after the Royal visit, when the people are on the crest of a wave of patriotic fervour. Perhaps the election will be held at a time when we are in the midst of a law-and-order campaign, which the Government appears to be trying to whip up with its provocative actions on the waterfront, with the connivance of shipowners and Communist stooges, as was the case in the recent wholesale dismissals over the tea break, which a Commonwealth Arbitration Court judge held to be unjustified because there had been no breach of the award by the watersiders. When that method failed it was followed by the threat of free labour at Port Kembla and the employment of troops on the wharfs in the north.
This “ get tough “ policy which the Government has suddenly adopted, despite its inaction regarding communism for the last three years, is ominous and indicative of what is in the minds of the Ministers. I remind them, however, that they can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all th<> time with bogies and catch-cries. After all, the more recent betrayals of the people are only in line with the Government’s previous’ record before Labour took over the administration of the country. In September, 1939, when World War II. broke out, after we had had seven years of tory rule, there was an unemployment pool of 10.2 per cent, of the working population. In that connexion I should like to cite the statistics published by the Commonwealth Statistician to show how calamitous was the tory regime. During the whole of the ten years of anti-Labour rule the employment position was in a shocking state. In 1932, the first year of office of the Lyons anti-Labour Government, the average number of unemployed persons to the total work force was 27.4. In successive years it was as follows: -
As I have said, a great number of the men who went away with the 6th Division were unemployed at the time of their enlistment. In 1940, when the antiLabour Government was still in office, the figure was still as high as 8 per cent., and by June, 1940, it had risen to 10.5 per cent.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has said that those who enlisted in the 6th Division did so because they were out of work.
– I did not say that. I said that a great number of them, were unemployed at the time of their enlistment.
– The statement is personally offensive to me and to many other people and this is not the first occasion on which it has been made. It is a disgraceful, contemptible and lying statement.
– If the honorable member made such a statement, he should withdraw it.
– I am only stating facts. If the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) regards the statement as offensive, I withdraw it. I can well understand his feeling of offence, having regard to the inference he appears to have drawn from my words. In July, 1941, when an antiLabour government was still in office, the percentage of unemployed persons to the work force was 3.7. In September, 1941, just prior to the removal from office of the anti-Labour Government and the assumption of office of the Curtin Labour Government, it was 3.2 per cent. That was the blackest decade in the history of Australia. It was a decade of unemployment, depression and dole, with consequent despair and misery for hundreds of thousands of people under tory misrule. Let us hope that we shall not again experience such a state of affairs. That hope will be realized if this Government does not remain in office for much longer.
In the last four years, we have’ seen how adversely the policies applied by this Government have affected the community. When I was elected to the Parliament in August, 1940, there were 5,000 registered unemployed persons in my electorate. Honorable members opposite will recall the fight that I had after my election to make the Government realize the plight of the unemployed people in Reid. They will recall that I led twelve deputations to Ministers in an attempt to have the plight of such persons remedied. Unemployment is increasing at such an alarming rate that we are almost experiencing that state of affairs again. Earlier this year, there was a pool of unemployed persons which was equivalent to 4 per cent, of the work force.
The Government has shown its inability to harness the resources of this country either in war or in peace. The reason for its incapacity and disregard is that it lacks imagination, vision or a broad Australian outlook, and bows to the will of vested interests and orthodox financiers and economists, who will not allow it to develop this great country, because such a policy conflicts with their pet theories. They believe iri the magic touch of the unemployment pool in creating a cheap labour market. Some of the orthodox economists wish to create a pool of unemployed persons consisting of from 8 per cent, to 15 per cent, of the work force as in pre-war days. The Government is not Australian in outlook. Like its predecessors of the same political complexion, it looks for a lead from overseas. As far as we can glean, the sole outcome of the London Economic Conference, which the Prime Minister attended last December, was the establishment, with his blessing, of the Commonwealth Development Corporation headed by Lord Baillieu and other London financiers. The objective of that corporation is the exploitation of the resources of this country. Little has been heard of it since. Its activities have been shrouded in mystery. Lord Baillieu has resigned from the corporation, but, no doubt, he has been replaced by another noble lord who, sooner or later, will pop up in the region of Rum Jungle, on which certain overseas interests have cast their hungry, covetous eyes. Nothing has been heard of the Government’s muchvaunted plans for national development. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is the most “ briefless” personage in this Parliament, despite the plans blue-printed by the Chifley Government for national development projects at an estimated cost of more than £700,000,000. The old cry of “ no money for developmental works “ will never again be swallowed by the people. They will never again fall for the story that we cannot find money for peace-time development seeing that we were and are able to find millions of pounds for war and destruction.
It was clearly demonstrated that we had the necessary man-power and resources to enable the nation to play its part in two world wars. The manpower and resources of the nation should be brought together, through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Bank, which could utilize national credit for the financing of national developmental projects. The budget proposes that capital works estimated to cost £102,000,000 shall be financed from revenue. Provision should be made for important projects, such as housing for the States, by utilizing national credit through the agency of the Commonwealth Bank without depending on outside loans. This is a matter to which immediate consideration should be given.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Unlike the members of the Labour party, who fled from the chamber, circumstances unhappily compelled me to listen to much that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) had to say, but no one could induce me to reply to such a spate of venom, hate, cant and humbug. I have nothing but compassion for the poor unfortunate electors of Reid.
I rise to congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on a magnificent performance. He has presented a budget, after his four long years of endurance, which increases all social services benefits substantially, makes adequate provision for those charged with responsibility for governmental expenditure on a scale that would have been impossible a few years ago, and shows a surplus on the year’s operations. It is a remarkable achievement, which has been accomplished after great travail, in a comparatively short time.
This is the fourth budget that has been presented to the Parliament by this Government. Those of us who have a sense of responsibility, have cause to remember the wretched circumstances that prevailed when this Government was elected in 1949. The previous socialist government, like every other socialist government in every other free country, had been driven to economic desperation which, of course, is the inevitable consequence of socialist policy. The socialist government in Australia was driven to the economic madness that prompted it to attempt to nationalize the entire banking system. Finally, that government was driven by our people ignominously out of office. That is no new experience for a socialist government. It is the common fate of every socialist government in every free country. The only exceptions have occurred where a socialist government, having failed, surrenders to communism.
I remember vividly the budget that was presented to this Parliament by the Treasurer in 1950. I described it then as a valiant attempt to keep faith with the people. Income tax was reduced to the lowest rate for nine years. But we had inherited the economic desperation visited on this country by the socialists. We were faced with inflationary pressures that the socialists had made no attempt to subdue, and we were confronted with a progressive deterioration of the international situation and by the outbreak of war in Korea. It is to be admitted that this Government, like most other democratic governments, had a choice. It could have allowed the desperate circumstances to burn themselves out in bitter desolation. That was the intention of those who had deliberately plotted for these desperate circumstances. We had insufficient coal, power, steel, oil fuels, machinery, equipment and materials for the normal jobs that needed to be done. The demand for homes, schools and hospitals could not be satisfied. Construction work was urgently needed in the country.
Those acute shortages were not unfortunate accidents. They were deliberately designed to cripple our democracy in precisely the same way as a great many other less resolute democracies have been destroyed in the last few years. It is to the everlasting credit of this Government that it refused to fall into the trap. The budget which was presented to the Parliament in 1951 was designed to correct these desperate circumstances. I described that budget as “major surgery “, and with very great respect, I Still consider that to be an apt description. That budget was designed to cut away the diseased tissue and corrupted parts of our economy, and restore it to the health and vigour that rightly belongs to young democratic nationhood.
Lest there are those who doubt the seriousness of our position at that time, I shall read some brief passages from speeches made by a man who was, perhaps, in a better position than any other member of this Parliament, and certainly in a better position than most honorable members, to know the true situation at that time. Speaking at Prahran in Melbourne on the 16th March, 1951, he said -
The return of a Labour government, however, would not cure the inflationary evils. It would need hard work, great political courage and, perhaps, fairly drastic measures with, the co-operation of the trade union movement to achieve that goal. . Mr. Wheeler. - Who made that statement ?
– I shall reveal his name in a few moments. This gentleman, speaking at Kandos in New South Wales on. the 23rd March of the same year, said - i
I need not tell you what happened to other countries caught in the grip of inflation. I cannot suggest to you any solution, but it needs a government which is prepared to tackle the problem fearlessly, firmly and boldly.
In Perth, the same gentleman gave the following reply to a question about whether a Labour government would reintroduce wage-pegging -
The next government, if it is sincere, must use drastic and ruthless measures to control inflation. The economic crisis is so very grave that any government which tackles this problem as it should be tackled will have to do a lot of unpopular things.
At Rockhampton, in Queensland, he also said -
Inflation will not be controlled by half- measureS: The people will have to give the Commonwealth power to handle the problem, and unpopular measures will be necessary if inflation is to be controlled.
I have been quoting from speeches delivered in various parts of the Commonwealth at that time by no less a person than the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, who was in a position to know the state of desperation to which our economy had been reduced by his own administration. I am proud to say that the present Government has had the courage to which the late Mr. Chifley referred. This Government took the drastic measures. This Government won the co-operation of the Communistcleansed trade union movement. This Government achieved a measure of stability in that particular year. It had been necessary to increase income taxation by 10 per cent, in the budget introduced in 1951, but, even with that increase, taxation was still lower than it had been at any period in the nine years of socialism. Because of the fantastic rises in export parity, primary producers were faced with an obligation to pay provisional tax. This method had been introduced, incidentally, by the socialist government, and the payment had to be made from current income until a system could be .devised to meet such unprecedented circumstances. I am happy to say that a system was devised that permitted taxpayers to make a selfassessment consistent with their income, for the purposes of the payment of provisional tax. In addition, the, Wool Sales Deduction Act fell heavily upon innocent people - the men and women who were engaged in our most important industry. These temporary measures were difficult to explain to those who were not conscious of our grave economic dangers at that time, and the explanations were rendered more difficult by an abortive attempt by ‘ the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who ought to have known better, to excite the cupidity of country people. I am pleased to say that he failed.
The budget presented by the Treasurer in 1952 corrected a great many of these onerous but necessary imposts. Income tax was reduced to the level that prevailed in 1950, and the rate became the lowest that had operated for eleven years, and certainly lower than tax levels in any other free country. Yet, the Labour party consistently referred to those rates as vicious, savage and intolerable, and a burden which was not to be borne. I expected a recovery after the 1952-53 budget, and I described it as a “ convalescent budget “. Again, if I may be permitted to say so, I believe that was an apt description; but I did not expect this very remarkable recovery as evidenced in the budget now before us.
This budget is unfair - it is an injustice to the Australian Labour party, the members of which informed the people that no government could restore the economy that they had destroyed in 1949. But if this budget is an injustice to the Australian Labour party, as I believe it is, it is a disaster to the enemies of democracy who were certain that the task of recovery would cause our people to revolt against our democratic institutions. This budget has stripped the Labour party of legitimate argument. Actually it has done more than that. It has defeated the enemies of democracy more effectively than they could have been defeated in any other battle that might have been fought and won. Therefore, I, together with every other supporter of the Government, want to express my pride in a very remarkable achievement, that is to say, the presentation’ of this budget.
I should now like to pay a personal tribute to the man who is responsible for the introduction of this budget. During the last four years, he has been subjected to every kind of indignity because, although he bore only a one-nineteenth part of Cabinet responsibility and onesixtysixth part of the Government responsibility, he worked strenuously throughout that period to enable this country to recover from a desperate situation.
The budget papers themselves set out the main features of the budget. The Government proposes to make tax reductions of an. estimated annual value to taxpayers of £118,400,000. The Leader of the Opposition says that such a sum is a matter of no importance. Bates of income tax on individuals are to be reduced, on the average, by 12£ per cent., thus conferring on the lowly men and women of this country a benefit which amounts to £51,250,000. The allowance for a dependent wife is to be increased by £26 to £130, which represents a gain to married taxpayers of £6,000,000. The exemption .from income tax’ for aged persons is to be increased from £254 to £375 for a single person, and from £507 to £750 for a married couple, a net gain to this class of citizens of £1,500,000 a year. Yet, the Leader of the Opposition says that this is a matter of no importance to the aged. The maximum allowance for medical expenses will be increased from £100 to £150 for each person, and within the allowance, the maximum deduction for dental expenses will be increased from £20 to £30 for each person. That represents a net gain to the taxpayers of not less than £100,000 in a full financial year. The maximum amount allowed for education expenses will be increased from £50 to £75, and the scope of the concession will be liberalized. This benefit will be transcendentally important to every country parent. It represents a gain to the taxpayers concerned of £1,950,000 a year. Differential rates of tax on income from property - that stupid arrangement that was made years ago because of the prejudice that was excited against those who owned property of any description - will be abolished. That represents a net gain to the taxpayers of £3,500,000 ‘a year. A concessional method of calculating tax will be applied to income from artistic, musical and literary works and inventions. This will involve a loss to the Treasury, but a gain to taxpayers concerned, of £50,00Q in a full financial year. Bates of tax on public companies will be consolidated and reduced so that the tax levied on income above £5,000 will be reduced from 9s. to 7s. in the £1, and tax on income under £5,000 will be reduced from 7s. to 6s. in the £1. I have not sufficient time to mention all the great benefits that will be conferred upon the patient people of our country. I need only say that I am proud of this budget, which may well be described as a budget of miraculous recovery when we think of our pitiful plight only four short years ago.
We should seize the opportunity to engage in the tasks that rightly belong to this age and generation for the effective occupation and development of the whole of our country as a component part of what I still prefer to call the great British Empire. These tasks - the housing of our people, the education of our children, the provision of normal services and the expansion of our primary, secondary and tertiary industries in order to meet the needs of the expanding economy - are beyond the physical capacity of the socialist State governments, according to their own miserable admissions. This Government will stand up to its responsibilities within the limits of its constitutional power, and I hope that the people will take the first opportunity to arrange for the holding of a constitutional convention that will clear away all the doubts and obscurities that exist in the public mind to-day. No other government could have wrought harder to restore the economy of the country, which had been brought perilously close to ruin by the political excesses and abuses of the socialist Government in 1949. No other government could have accomplished such a task in such a short space of time. No other government has ever produced a budget that offers so much to so many and that, at the same time, will give an impetus to progress that we dare not ignore.
.- The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) has uttered his usual tirade against what he has described as the former socialist Government, but I make it perfectly clear that the Labour party has no apology to offer for the situation that existed in Australia in 1949, when it went out of office. I need not describe that situation, because I know that all honorable members are well aware that the nation was in a very good condition, considering the tremendous strains and stresses that it had endured during World War II., and in the immediate post-war period. There were shortages and bottlenecks at that time. We do not deny that. But what country that had emerged successfully from the war and had put its men back into peace-time production enjoyed better economic conditions than prevailed in Australia under the Labour Government in 1949 ? We have no apologies to offer, and we do not wish to distort the position in any way in order to make it appear better than it was. Our record is good, as everybody knows, and we stand by it.
The honorable member for Riverina quoted a statement by the very distinguished gentleman who led the Labour Government, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley. I am sure that, when the right honorable gentleman spoke of sacrifices that would have to be made by people for the benefit of their neighbours and their mates, he did not envisage the breaking of faith with people who had invested in government bonds during the war and the postwar reconstruction period. Neither did he contemplate the destruction of the people’s savings by the startling price rises that have occurred under the administration of this Government. The sacrifices that he would have demanded of the people would have achieved real stability in the community. He would not have countenanced for a moment the destruction of any -of our overseas markets. Yet this Government has allowed some of our markets to be destroyed. On no account would Mr. Chifley have allowed a tremendous spate of unemployment to develop. Yet we have witnessed widespread unemployment in the community during the last few years.
I wish to speak particularly of the play on words by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his budget speech, by which he conveyed a false impression to many people. The right honorable gentleman said, in his statement of financial and economic policy -
Clearly, therefore, we have now practically attained that stability we set out to achieve in the strenuous days of 1950 and 1951. . . . Now that we have attained this first great goal of economic stability, what is to bc the next stage?
Other honorable members on the Government side of the chamber have harped on the subject of stability. We should study the meaning of the word, because I believe that it is being played about with by men who do not understand what they are talking about. From the Oxford English Dictionary I find that “stability” is defined as -
The quality of having a permanent structure; not liable to disintegration; not likely to fall or vary; securely established; secure against falling or being overthrown.
The Treasurer’s speech clearly Showed that he did not understand the meaning of stability, because he went on to say -
Stability is important, something which, having won, we must do our utmost to maintain.
If we had stability, it would not he necessary to maintain it because it would maintain itself. An examination of the condition of our economy shows, in fact, that it lacks stability. I do not wish to cast gloom over the minds of Government supporters merely for the sake of gaining a political advantage. I simply want to awaken them to the unhappy truth that our economy is unstable. We may have achieved favorable results with certain of our activities - and good luck to us for our success !- but we have no assurance of stability in the future.
Let us consider the situation of one of the greatest factors in our economy, the coal industry. From the fifth report of the Joint Coal Board, we find that the industry is not in a .good position. Honorable members will recall that the industry was organized in its present form by the previous Labour Government. That was a most creditable achievement. The Labour Government combined some of the features of socialization with the existing system of private enterprise, taking advantage of the assistance of private owners who were prepared to pull their weight in the difficult conditions that prevailed after World War II. The establishment of the Joint Coal Board was a stroke of statesmanship, and the efforts of the board and those representatives of private enterprise who co-operated with it, together with the workers in the industry, deserve nothing but commendation. The output of coal was increased. Coal was then the black gold of industry. It was indispensable, and the Joint Coal Board developed a long range plan to overcome the shortages that were current. It prepared a forecast of the community’s requirements of coal but, unfortunately,
We learn from the fifth report of the board that the estimate was sadly astray. In fact, during the last year or two, there has been considerable overproduction of this formerly rare substance. The report states that production of steaming and coking coal is 35,000 to 40,000 tons a month in excess of consumption, and that, on the 4th October last, there were 672,000 tons of dumped coal. The board also points out that during the year there will be a considerable quantity of unused plant which cannot be put into operation profitably. The industry is in a difficult position, and we should ask ourselves why that should be so when, only a few years ago, it was struggling hard to satisfy the demand for its product. The report states-^
There has been an almost universal delay in the completion of capital programmes and coal requirements have thus been pushed farther away . . . The new power station near Newcastle was to start burning coal in 1952. This target date is now 1955. At Tallawarra, on the south coast, the station was to commence in June, 1952. It is now thought it will burn a little coal in 1954.
Coal that has been produced for those new stations will not now be used. This represents a great waste of capital equipment, and it will cause difficulty for the miners. I understand, as a result of my inquiries, that large reserves of machinery and capital equipment which should be in production are now lying idle. In view of such waste, surely nobody will claim that the coal industry is in a stable condition or likely to be in such a condition in the foreseeable future !
I refer now to the great commodity markets, which are of the highest importance to our economy. We are well aware of the state of the world wheat market and of the size of the crops in the United States of America and Canada. Every Australian wheat-farmer is apprehensive of future price movements. To say that there is any stability in the wheat market is a serious mis-statement, because the market is liable to fluctuate considerably at any time. Any prophecy of the future trend of the market must be in the nature of a guess. There can be stability in such commodity markets only when governments plan for the purpose of achieving stability. The butter market also is faltering, and its movements will affect the markets for milk and allied products.
The butter position offers little hope of stability for dairy-farmers. Who can say that the high prices that have been paid for. wool during the term of office of this Government will continue? Will any honorable member say he is certain that we shall continue to get anything like the present high prices for wool? It is rubbish to say that there is any stability in the market for commodities of this kind.
I am aware that there are certain constitutional difficulties in connexion with stabilization schemes, but never before has there been so great a need to overcome those difficulties and put into operation some kind of plan to iron out price fluctuations so that, in the future, farmers will be able to work on the basis of stable prices. We were reminded by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) that, before the last war, the Lyons Government conducted a referendum on markets and. marketing, which, although it had the support of the Labour party, was defeated. That was unfortunate. A similar proposal was put to the people at a referendum after the war by a Labour Government, but the present Government parties had a change of heart and did not support the proposal, which was rejected by a comparatively small margin. We lost a great opportunity to vest in the Commonwealth Parliament power to do something about the marketing of commodities. If the Commonwealth had that power now, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture would be able to call the State Premiers together to discuss the potato marketing muddle. He would have been able to exercise a little leadership in that connexion if the party to which he belongs had not opposed the grant of the necessary power to the Commonwealth. Potato marketing on an organized basis does not really exist. Potatoes can be bought in some places for about ls. per lb. In Ballarat, which is within sight of places where potatoes are being grown and dug, we cannot get potatoes. Even if we could get them, I doubt whether many people in Ballarat could afford to pay ls. per lb. for them. That is a shameful position, especially as the Parliament, but for the opposition of the present Government parties, could have clothed itself with authority to deal with that problem. Stability of the prices of primary products is an important factor in our economy, but we are not likely to have stability while members of the. Government parties oppose proposals to give this Parliament power to establish stabilization schemes.
Defence is another important factor in our economy. The proposed defence vote is £200,000,000. Defence preparations involve, not only the provision of fightingtroops and the munitions that they require, but also the undertaking of longterm projects, valuable in peace-time, which are useful for defence purposes in war-time. Such projects must be undertaken largely by the States. We are making very slow progress with the construction of steam and water driven electricity generating plants. Water conservation schemes are being impeded because the States are denied money for them. The Commonwealth could do much to improve telephone communications throughout the country. Probably farmers suffer more than any other persons from a lack of telephone facilities. In parts of my electorate, some farmers are without telephones, and some have to share a line with four or five other people. Despite the lack of telephone communications, the Government does not propose to do much in that field. Apparently, it has not considered the needs of the farmers, despite its exhortations to them to produce more. The sum to bo expended on capital equipment for telephone services this year is a couple of million pounds less than was expended last year. Having regard to increased prices and higher wages, considerably less equipment will be provided this year than last year. Under an expansionist financial policy, that equipment would be provided, but we shall not get it under the restrictionist financial policy to which effect is being given by this Government.
I turn to the subject of employment. We can inform ourselves about the employment situation by examining the figures which show the number of people employed now and the number employed previously. We can also examine the unemployment statistics. I want to direct attention to the fact that the employment situation in this country is deplorable. The reports issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) are, to some degree, extremely misleading. They give the impression that the position is much better than it was, but, in fact, it has not been good for a period of twelve months. On page 11 of the annual report of the Commonwealth Bank, recently issued to honorable members, it is stated that, for the year as a whole, employment fell by about 27,000 workers, although immigration and natural increase would have added about 60,000 workers during that period. The work force increased by about 67,000 people. About 27,000 people are out of a job. Does that mean that no work could be found for 27,000 of the immigrants who came to this country, or that 27,000 Australians were put out of work because jobs were found for immigrants? Or was there a bit of both? But that really does not matter. The simple fact is that 27,000 fewer people are at work than were employed previously. The employment position is not good, because, according to the report of the Commonwealth Bank, the number pf persons registered as unplaced in June, 1953, was 53,000, an increase of 15,000 in the year. “We of the Labour party do not point to difficulties without giving some idea of what should be done to overcome them. We realize that the real indication of the success or otherwise of the financial policy of a government is the state of employment in the community. If people are unemployed, more money should be put into circulation to absorb them in employment and enable them to produce something. I know it is difficult, in a budget, to state the probable increase of the size of the work force as a result of immigration and natural increase, and to say how much money should be put into circulation so that the whole of the work force will be employed during the ensuing twelve months. We believe that sufficient money should be put into circulation to absorb all workers, and that a watchful eye should be kept on the monthly employment statistics issued by the Department of Labour and National Service to see whether there was any sign of unemployment developing. The presence of unemployment would be an indication that more money should be put into circulation. The figure to watch in that process would be that which showed the number of people who were looking for work. The number of people in receipt of the unemployment benefit would not be so important, because generally there would be fewer men drawing the benefit than there would be men looking for jobs. The number of people in receipt of the unemployment benefit may indicate certain employment trends, but what we really want to know is how many people in the community want a job. If the number is large, more money should be put into circulation. Under Labour’s financial policy, we could do that, but this Government, under its restrictionist financial policy, is dependent upon other factors of its own creation. It is disgraceful that 53,000 workers were registered as unplaced in June, 1953. That figure does not indicate that there is any stability in the employment market. There has been an increase of 15,000 unplaced workers in the year.
The Minister for Labour and National Service, in his reports, tries to place the employment situation in as good a light as possible. We do not blame him for the present state of employment in the country, because that is the responsibility of the Government as a whole. The Minister has to record the position, and he does his best to make it appear to be better than it really is. He compares the state of employment in this country with that in America, Sweden and other countries, or he selects some index figure that suits his purpose and shows a certain favorable trend. But the important figures to look at are those which show how many people are out of jobs. The number of people in my district who ask me to help them to get employment is an indication to me that the employment situation is not good. I do what I can for them, but more people are seeking my help now than have done, so previously. Reports by the Minister indicated that everything was going well and that the position in one month was better than in the previous month, but when I realized that an increasingly large number of people were asking me to help them to find jobs, I knew that there was some inconsistency somewhere. So I asked the Minister to supply me with copies of his reports, which he did somewhat belatedly. I extracted from them figures relative to the district in which I live. I found that the only figure the Minister would give to me related to the number of people receiving the unemployment benefit. At the end of May, there were 279 such people in the district of Ballarat. In June, there were 2S6, and in July there were 316. I realized that, according to the figures, a serious position was developing. I estimated that there were about 700 people in Ballarat seeking work. The Minister came out into the open and, in a lordly way, gave us the figures for the last three months, which showed that there were 681 people looking for jobs. I -find from the report furnished by the Minister this month that the number of people drawing the unemployment benefit rose from 316 in July to 347 at the end of August. I conclude from that that there are now about 750 people looking for jobs in the Ballarat district.
I do not see any reason why these figures should be hidden. The Minister’s officers are competent men who are prepared to supply the relevant figures. Why should not the figures for every district in Australia be made available to honorable members? This month, I made a specific inquiry about the number of persons seeking employment. I asked that the figure be furnished to me, but I received a telegram saying that the employment officer at Ballarat was under instructions from Melbourne not to divulge the information required. There is no stability of employment for Australian workers, although employment is an important factor in the economy of this country.
Probably no other factor affects the security and progress of this country more than the progress of Australian industries. I was considerably impressed, as I believe all honorable members were, by the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) on the subject of trade with Japan. He pointed out that we had purchased £4,500,000 worth of goods from Japan and that the Japanese had bought from us goods to the value of about £94,000,000. Therefore, Japan has an adverse trade balance with us of nearly £90,000,000. Are we to buy Japanese goods to that value? Pur chases to that degree could be large enough to ruin Australian manufacturing industries. The honorable member for Fremantle approached the subject broadmindedly. Honorable members will recall that he said that it was no good to have a foreign policy that was out of line with our economic policy. If we had a foreign policy founded on a pact which had as its basis understanding and friendship we could not have an economic policy that had a most unfriendly aspect to it. He said that something would have to be done about this £90,000,000 worth of goods Japan would probably seek to sell to us. The Prime Minister had a bit to say about it last night. He was most interesting. There is no doubt that when he makes his speech to-night he will say that the £90.000,000 worth of goods will have to be purchased from Japan. I say that the purchase of them will inflict a tremendous hardship on our industries.
There are a number of factors in this connexion which must be taken into consideration by the Government and the House. Every one knows that Australia’s manufacturing industry was probably the most vital weapon that we had in the last war. It was the backbone of our war effort. Without the Australian manufacturing industries and the workers engaged in them we could not have won the war. If we ever have another war we cannot win it without a well-established manufacturing industry. Are we allow our economic policy towards Japan to destroy the most important implement that we have for our own security? We certainly must not ! A meeting of members of the British Commonwealth of Nations is to be held to consider the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and there could be no more opportune time to stress the fact that Australia’s manufacturing industries must be protected and never allowed to fail.
I believe that the solution to our problem lies in an alteration of some of the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That suggestion may commend itself to honorable members. Let us import selected goods. We should import from Japan, Britain and other countries only those lines of goods that will not imperil our own manufacturing industries. Unless we have selective importation of goods we shall never overcome the problem of our trade balances, and never be able to maintain our manufacturing industries in a healthy condition. There is at present no stability in Australian industry and this budge.t offers no hope of stability. It is most important that we should have industrial stability, but there is nothing in the Government’s programmes to indicate that we shall achieve it in the great Australian industries which have done so much for this nation. I say that for the Treasurer to claim that such stability now exists is utter nonsense. There is no such thing. We arc just riding on the wave of a lucky break, and the Treasurer knows it better than anybody.
.- It is one of the interesting and perhaps disturbing features of debates in this chamber, and especially of such important debates as a debate on the budget, that speakers tend to wander away from the essentials. I should think that a proper approach to the budget might be founded on asking what are the essentials in the presentation of a budget. A budget speech should be couched in clear and precise terms. The economic consequences that will flow from the budget should be readily understandable. The budget itself and the financial statements that accompany it should be easily understood, not only by members of this committee but also by people outside. Few honorable members could justly deny that the Treasurer’s budget speech was clear and precise, and was supported by tables, to which a number of honorable members have not yet addressed their remarks. The economic consequences which will flow from the budget were expressed in clear and precise terms by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). These economic consequences may be expressed first, as a downward movement of the cost of government in proportion to the national income ; and, secondly, as a lowering of taxation which will leave a greater proportion of income in the hands of individuals and companies. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) apparently has some difficulty in appreciating that point of view. Our balances overseas are in an extremely satisfactory condition. The supply of essential goods and materials has improved to the point that such shortages as exist are so small, and are confined to such a relatively small range of goods, that they are no longer a hindrance to the economy. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) claimed that the Government had not achieved economic stability to any great degree. I shall reply to some of the honorable gentleman’s statements later. To emphasize my point I shall quote from the Treasurer’s speech in relation to the economic consequences that will flow from the budget. He said -
Equilibrium has now been restored, but in our judgment a positive stimulus is needed to promote higher levels of all-round productivity. So far as it is in the power of the Government to give that stimulus, this budget should provide it.
We must now press on with the great tasks of developing our resources, expanding our industries, increasing our population, and building up our national standards of life.
Those statements, I think, give a clear indication of the base of the budget and the base of the Treasurer’s approach to the question. In other words, the Treasurer has said that we have achieved a very marked degree of stability. That is not, as the honorable member for Ballarat rightly pointed out, an end in itself. It is a condition on which we must base our further efforts. The Treasurer indicated in the remarks that I have quoted that that is the intention of the budget, and that those are the economic consequences that are expected to flow from it. I direct the attention of the committee to the contrast between the frankness and precision with which the Treasurer made his speech, and the approach of the Leader of the Opposition, to this vital subject, which affects the life of every person in the community. The Leader of the Opposition is unquestionably one of the best-informed men on such matters in this country. Honorable members will recall that he devoted a considerable part of his time to the subject of social services. He spoke at some length on his proposition, and pledge, to relate the scale of pensions to the cost of living if the Labour party is returned to power. The committee will recall that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), who followed the Leader of the Opposition in the debate, pointed out that it was the Leader of the Opposition himself who, when Attorney-General in the Labour Government in 1944, divorced the pension rate from the cost of living. I do not wish to say that the right honorable gentleman’s motives in 1944 were not worthy, but I do say that an honest man, when dealing with a subject of this importance, would himself nave mentioned his past actions and would have explained them. The Leader of the Opposition could have explained why he divorced the pension rate from the cost of living, which he then thought would fall. He could also have explained his present attitude. He stated he would relate the pension rate to the cost of living, although, according to their speeches, some of his own supporters expect the cost of living to fall as a result of this budget.
– He took his action in 1944 at the request of the pensioners’ associations.
– I am not imputing unworthy motives to anybody, but I say that the right honorable gentleman has not been honest in connexion with this matter. The committee will recall that the Leader of the Opposition talked at very great length about his pledge to the pensioners to restore the system that he previously abolished. I think his exact words were, “to restore the pensions to the 1949 base, when the Labour Government was in office”. Again, he did not tell the committee, although he was reminded later by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) that if pensions were placed on the 1949 scale it would mean a reduction of ls. 9d. in comparison with the rate proposed in the budget. I mention these matters because I think it is a just indictment of the leader of a great, political party that he should descend to something that, at the least, might be described as sophistry.
I turn now to the statements made by the honorable member for Ballarat, who is an economist of some standing. He referred to the condition of the coal industry as evidence that economic and industrial stability had not yet been achieved. He said there were thousands of tons of coal at grass, and that there was a sur plus of bunker and coking coal. The truth is that, owing to the continual stoppages and disruptions in both the coalmining and shipping industries, due to the Communist control of these industries, many ships were converted from coalburners to oil-burners. Businesses all over Australia converted from coal to oil, with the result that the estimates of coal demand prepared by the Joint Coal Board proved to be excessive. It should also be remembered that the majority of those stoppages, which were planned to destroy the Australian economy, occurred while the last Labour Government was in office. The honorable member for Ballarat mentioned an expansionist financial policy. He has something in common with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Our economy may be expanded in three orthodox ways, which are by the raising of loans, by the creation of credit and by taxation. Do the Leader of the Opposition and his colleague, the honorable member for Ballarat, propose to increase taxation or to put more money into circulation - which- would impose the most widespread form of taxation that can be devised, and is a form of taxation that would bear most heavily on the class that the honorable members are supposed to represent - or do they propose to borrow money? It is quite obvious that no overseas investors, and, indeed, very few persons in this country, would advance much money to a Commonwealth loan that was floated by a party whose avowed policy was to nationalize the banks.
The Leader of the Opposition has made many statements about bank nationalization, but he has never stated plainly that if his party should be returned to office he would not nationalize the banks. He has stated that the law will not permit him to nationalize the banks and that the courts have ruled against bank nationalization. He has said a. dozen other things on the subject, but he has never clearly stated that it is not his intention to nationalize banking if the Labour party should once again take over the administration of this country. The Leader of the Opposition is a master at playing with words, but he is not honest in the words that he has used in this chamber or to the people to whom he is responsible. I recall the speech of the
Leader of the Opposition perhaps more vividly than most of his supporters, because I noticed that after he had been speaking on the budget for a half hour or so, his followers were mainly sitting back with their eyes shut. Uncharitable people would have assumed that they had gone to sleep, but honorable members on this side of the committee who regard such things more charitably, assumed that they were merely closing their eyes in a silent ecstasy of appreciation of his eloquence. While they were in that state of ecstasy they perhaps missed the significance of some of his points.
The committee will recollect that the Leader of the Opposition spoke about a number of State problems,’ and inferred that the Australian Government should provide money so that the State governments could solve those problems. That leads me to a matter that I have mentioned before, and which I hope to mention again, because it is of vital importance in Australia to-day. The matter 1 refer to is the effect of uniform ‘ taxation on the financial and economic conditions in Australia. Uniform taxation was imposed during the war years, and its introduction was not opposed by many persons because it was generally hoped that it would help our war effort. The system continued after the war, and the action of the Australian Government in continuing it was approved by the High Court. Uniform taxation, as it exists at present, is a most important part of the policy of the Labour party to completely centralize financial power in Australia, not in this Parliament, but in the hands of the federal executive of the Labour party, which is the body that controls the actions of the party. All talk of sovereign States is talk of shadow without substance. Two or three years ago the phrase “ power without glory “ was fairly commonly used inside and outside of this chamber, but it is true to say that the State governments to-day have power without responsibility. That being so, we must accept the view that if we destroy the responsibility of government, we destroy a principle that is vital to the maintenance of democratic government.
As a result of this absurd situation we, in Victoria, are inadequately serviced with roads, hospitals, schools and most of the amenities of life. Municipal bodies alone have problems that no civilized and organized community should have to deal with. They have to provide roads, water, sewerage facilities and power, but they have not nearly enough money to carry out those activities. These problems will not be solved until the Parliament restores to the States not only the power to deal with State problems, but also the power to raise taxes. We shall thus force them to accept responsibility for whatever they may do. Our present state of disorganization is the price that we have- to pay for the remorseless and cunning movement of the Labour party towards its avowed policy of unification, as a step towards the achievement of some form of socialized economy. We cannot permit any obstruction to the abolition of uniform taxation, and therefore, we cannot permit the obstructive tactics of the Labour party to operate indefinitely. If we do, all sections of the community will continue to. pay the price of Labour’s policy. Part of the price is the lack of many amenities, such as roads and other services in the new parts of the metropolitan areas.
Honorable members will recall that the honorable member for Ballarat spoke of the need for wider constitutional powers being granted to this Parliament. Apparently he desires the Constitution to be altered, in the hope that a Labour government will be returned to office at some future date and then, by the use of the new power, will be able to advance the Labour party’s socialistic objective. Strangely enough, considering his electorate, he referred to potatoes. The true potato position is that in Victoria at one time we actually had potatoes, but the State Government decided to introduce some system of price control. In theory, of course, the system was excellent, because it was proposed that the users of potatoes should get them at a price that was considered to be reasonable by the prices control authority. We had a very good system of price control, a very vocal Labour government; but no potatoes. I was in the chamber when the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) spoke, and I agree that on industrial matters there are very few honorable members of the Opposition who have more knowledge than he has. He said that given a work force that was happy at work we would have nothing to worry about as far as the future of this country was concerned. I cannot agree more with that sentiment, hut it is only by following the course that this Government has set itself over the past few years that we can maintain our present stability. And it is only by building on a stable foundation that we shall be able to reach a bright and happy future.
.- We find on examination that the budget papers before the chamber lead to only one conclusion. That is, that this is a rich man’s budget. Honorable members have heard much from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) about tax reductions, particularly about the 12£ per cent, overall reduction of all scales of income tax. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) spoke about the percentages of reduction that will become effective on certain scales of income. Let us examine what they are.- On a taxable income of £400, the tax, according to the budget papers, will be reduced by 54.2 per cent. There are progressive percentage reductions until we arrive at an income of £15,000 per annum, upon which, according to the Treasurer, the taxation reduction will be 9.8 per cent. He implied that the greatest benefit in tax reduction would be conferred upon those on the lower scales of income and not on those on the higher scales of income. He used percentage figures because they sound impressive and because they are inclined to mislead and confuse. Let us get down to the hard, cold facts and ascertain just what these proposals mean to the taxpayer. A taxpayer in receipt of an income of £400 who, the Treasurer has declared, will save 54.2 per cent, in tax remission will save in hard, cold cash only 6d. a week. A taxpayer in receipt of an income of £600 a year is said to receive a reduction of 30.6 per cent., but in fact he will save only 2s. 3d. a week, and a taxpayer with an income of £1,000 a year will save only 6s. 4u. a week. Substantial savings will not be made except by those in the very highest income brackets. A taxpayer in receipt of £10,000 a year who, according to the Treasurer’s figures, will be granted a reduction of only 10.8 per cent., will actually save £11 6s. 6d. a week, and a taxpayer in receipt of £15,000 will save £17 8s. a week. Government spokesmen argue that these substantial reductions of tax to be granted to those in the higher income brackets are justified because hitherto taxpayers in that category have been paying far beyond the amount they should be called upon to pay. When all is said and done, the action to be taken by the Government under these budget proposals, whatever it may be, will merely mean a redistribution of the national income. How can it be argued by honorable members opposite that this Government can afford to make, a gift of £17 8s. a week to a taxpayer with an income of £15,000 a year when the best that it is prepared to do in regard to social services benefits is to increase the rate of pension paid to the poor unfortunate pensioners, including war pensioners, by 30 pennies a week ? The Government has also raised the limit of income beyond which the maximum rate of income tax is imposed. Previously, a taxpayer was liable for the payment of the maximum rate of tax of 15s. in the £1 if his income exceeded £10,000 a year. In this budget the Government has reduced the maximum rate of tax from 15s. to 14s. and it has also raised the limit of income beyond which the maximum rate is applicable from £10,000 to £15,000. How many persons in the community can possibly benefit from tax remissions of that kind? No government worthy of the name can argue that it can afford to make large remissions of taxes to wealthy people and that it cannot afford to increase the pensions, rate by more than 2s. 6d. a week.
This is a fraudulent budget and the Treasurer and every speaker on the Government side has endeavoured to mislead the public about it. During . the Senate election campaign, which took place before the budget was presented, the Treasurer said -
Taxation has actually been reduced on the lower scale incomes.
The right honorable gentleman went on to say that in 1948-49, the taxpayer on £500 a year was paying £21 9s. a year. Under this budget he will pay £1 6s. a year. The Treasurer deliberately omitted to point out, however, that since 1948-49 wages have increased and the value of money has correspondingly decreased. He did not make a proper comparison.
Let us consider the position of the basic wage earner. In 1950, a worker with a wife and two children receiving the basic wage paid in tax an amount of £2 7s.; in 1951, he paid £3 ls.; in 1952, he paid £13 2s.; and in 1953 he paid £20 lis. Yet the Government would have us believe that taxes imposed on those in the lower income brackets have been reduced.
I turn now to the vexed question of social services benefits. Any honorable member who gives thought to it must realize that at no time under the administration of any government has a pensioner received more than a mere existence income. When the pension rate is increased by a few pence or a few shillings, the pensioner is able to obtain only a little extra food and sustenance with the additional money. With present high prices what will the proposed increase of the pension rate mean to the average pensioner? It will probably mean that he will be able to buy an additional couple of apples or a half a pound of butter each week. Does the Government contend that Australia is not in a position to extend a greater measure of relief to these unfortunate people than that contained in the budget before us? In 1949 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
The pensioners can rely upon us for justice.
If the Government regards as justice to the unfortunate taxpayers this miserable proposed increase, I can only say that its standard of justice is completely different from that of the Labour party. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) said -
Pensions were never intended to provide a comfortable living.
That at least is a factual statement as far as this Government is concerned! The right honorable gentleman may rest assured that the pensioners cannot enjoy a very comfortable living on the pension of £3 10s. a week upon which this Go- vernment expects them to exist. Speaking on the same subject the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) in an expansive attempt to impress the Parliament and the people said -
When the pension was first introduced in this country in 1009 it was fixed at 10s. a week. Now, it is 10s. a day.
He made the statement in such a tone that one would imagine that the Government was over-generous in its treatment of pensioners. I suggest that honorable members opposite apply a very practical test by asking themselves whether or not 10s. a day is an adequate amount upon which an Australian could be expected to exist. Presumably, it is intended that the pensioners shall be able to buy three meals a day and provide themselves with accommodation out of the proceeds of their pension. If that be so, if wedivide the 10s. by four we arrive at a figure of 2s. 6d., which means that a pensioner is only able to spend 2s. 6d. for each meal and 2s. 6d. for accommodation. The truth, however, is that to-day it is impossible to buy a meal or to secure a bed for 2s. 6d. Many unfortunate pensioners are forced to exist on one meal a day, and a very meagre one at that. That is the Government’s idea of justice for the pensioners !
I come now to war pensions. Government members frequently boast about the number of ex-servicemen who sit on the Government benches. All I can say about them is that they have sacrificed many thousands of their comrades whoare outside this Parliament. The best they are prepared to do for those of their comrades who are in receipt of war pensions is to offer them exactly the same paltry increase as they propose to give to the aged and invalid pensioners, namely, 30 pennies each week or sufficient to enable them to buy a newspaper each day. Yet these are themen who are always parading their patriotism and talking about their sympathy and consideration for exservicemen. I invite honorable members opposite to read the remarks of Mr. Yeo, the president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, on the activities of the ex-servicemen who sit on the Government benches in this chamber. Many of them have remained silent during this debate but they cannot escape their responsibilities for this budget because, although it was presented to the Parliament by the Treasurer, it is supported wholeheartedly by every member of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party in this Parliament.
A great deal is said by members of the Government and their supporters about their intentions in regard to the means test. Is it not a fact that the leaders of the Government in 1949 and again in 1951 agreed that they would abolish the means test?
Government Supporters. - No !
– Is it not true that they said that they would bring into the Parliament a plan to abolish the means test in 1952? We are now approaching the end of 1953, but there is no sign of such a plan. Is the Government doing anything about that matter? Can Government spokesmen indicate even now whether we are ever likely to see such a plan ?
In order to show how hypocritical is this Government, I shall relate an amusing incident. Not many months ago the Minister for Social Services received a deputation from the Age and Invalid Pensioners Association which pressed for an increase of pension rates. Instead of holding out any hope to the members of the delegation, the Minister gave them a lecture. He told them thatif the people of this dreadful country did not gamble and drink as much as they do and if the money wasted in that way were devoted to the financing of social services benefits, he could promise them increased pensions. Yet notwithstanding that statement the Government has now decided to reduce the excise on whisky by 21s. a gallon! According to the Vice-President of the Executive Council the purpose of this reduction is to encourage the drinking of whisky because the revenue from that source had seriously declined. On the one hand the Minister for Social Services argues that we should spend less money on liquor and gambling, and on the other hand the Government is doing its best to encourage and increase the ‘consumption ofwhisky. This incident reminds me of a. statement made during the warby
Senator Foll, a colleague of honorable members opposite. When, because of the increased price of beer, workers in New South Wales had blackballed hotels and refused to pay the higher prices, Senator’ Foll had the temerity to say that by so doing they were engaging in subversive activities, adversely affecting the revenues of the Commonwealth and hindering the defence effort.
Whichever way we look at the budget we find that it is loaded in favour of the rich man. I referred earlier to the boast of honorable members opposite regarding the number of ex-servicemen in their ranks. Many of them seem to think that a person who is not an ex-serviceman cannot possibly understand the problems of ex-servicemen or mete out justice to them. Let us recall what Sir Gilbert Dyett, the former president of theReturned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, had to say of the Chifley Government in this connexion. Sir Gilbert said -
I do not think we have ever had a governmentthathasbeenmoresympatheticallydis posed towards ex-servicemen.
Let me apply another test of the sincerity of this Government. On the 10th September of last year, when a member of the Labour party proposed in this chamber an amendment to certain legislation for the purpose of increasing the pension rate and of liberalizing the means test, every member of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party voted against it. We have no doubt about where they stand in regard to this matter. They hope that the budget is an electionwinning budget. All I can say about that matter is that if those who benefit from it vote for Government candidates at the next general election and those who do not benefit from it vote for Labour candidates, we shall have an overwhelming majority in the next Parliament.
Let us examine the claim of honorable members opposite that the budget favours the working man. Honorable members opposite have made a great deal of the increased deduction for educational expenses from £50 to £75 which is applicable to student children under the age of 21 years. I ask them how many workers in their electorates can afford to send their children to school until they reach the age of 21 years. Only in isolated instances can a wage-earner afford to do so, and then usually only if the child is particularly brilliant and is able to win his way through his higher studies.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– This Government has treated the pensioners in a scurvy manner. Yesterday and again today, the Prime Minister claimed that economic stability had been restored in this country. He also repeated the statement that the maximum increase that this Government can afford to grant to civil and war pensioners is 2s. 6d. a week. I remind honorable members that 2s. 6d. a week is 30 “ coppers “, or 4d. a day, which is the price of a newspaper. That is how the Government values the work of men who risked their lives in the defence of Australia.
This is a rich man’s budget. I shall direct attention for a few minutes to the people who really benefit from this budget; the people who can get government departments opened on a Sunday to do their business; the people who can have departmental officials rung on the telephone by highly placed members of the Government to fix appointments for them. They are the ones who gain from this budget.
I think that the Prime Minister will agree that disproportionate amounts have been set aside by various monopolies for taxation purposes. That money, I emphasize, is already set aside, so that the moment the Government gives effect to its policy of reducing company tax, some of its friends will fare very well. I invite the Prime Minister to show, if he can, whether my remarks on this matter are astray. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, in its last balancesheet, showed a net profit of £2,600,000; and set aside for taxation purposes an amount of £4,400,000 or approximately a little less than double the sum of the net profit. The tax allocation of the company was determined on the basis of the rate of 9s. in the £1. As the result of the reduction of company tax from 9s. to 7s. in the £1, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will immediately save some of the money that it has already set aside for taxation purposes. In short, that company will benefit at once by an amount of £978,000. Yet this Government claims that, under this budget, it is dealing with every section of the community in an equitable manner. As a matter of fact, the increase to be granted to war pensioners and war widows, the domestic allowance and so forth, total a little more than £1,000,000. In other words, all the recipients of those benefits will receive approximately the same amount as will the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
General Motors-Holden’s Limited, according to its balance-sheet, has made a profit of £4,011,000. That organization also set aside a little more than £4,000,000 for taxation purposes, and will benefit under this budget by an amount of approximately £900,000. On its ordinary subscribed capital, the company will earn a profit of 227. per cent, on its year’soperations. The committee may not be aware of what the Minister for Labour and National Services (Mr. Holt) has said of the excessive profit earned by General Motors-Holden’s Limited. He stated -
I would like to see many organizations of the size and strength of General MotorsHolden’s Limited in Australia all doing equally well.
Let us examine that statement. General Motors-Holden’s Limited, which has all its ordinary capital held in the United States of America, is largely using Australian money to develop its industry in Australia. If the company is placed on the basis of competing with Australian industry, what is to happen to the Australian manufacturer? Under the agreement on double taxation which this Government has made with the American authorities, General Motors-Holden’s Limited will not pay any tax at all. If time permitted, I could cite many similar instances. York Motors Proprietary Limited,, as the result of this budget, will be able to increase its profit on ordinary capital from 64 per cent, to 73.6 per cent.
Doubtless, the Prime Minister will recollect as clearly as I do that he made a ‘ broadcast to the people of Australia on the 5th October, 1950. His address was entitled “Rising prices - Why?” On the fit,h Ocotber he spoke on the subject “ Rising prices - The answer “. The right honorable gentleman was explaining how his Government would deal with rising prices, and he referred to the extravagant profits - his own term - that were being made by certain great commercial and industrial undertakings. The Prime Minister apparently intended to tell the public the answer to extravagant profits and rising prices. One of the methods he proposed was to introduce an excess profits tax. Honorable members will recollect what happened. Month after month, Opposition members addressed questions to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer about the excess profits tax that the Government had promised to introduce.
Let it not be forgotten that the Prime Minister said quite proudly only a day or two ago, “ This Government has honoured at least 90 per cent, of its promises made in 1949 “. Well, the Prime Minister must have been taught in a different school from that in which I received my education, because the method that he uses to work out percentages does not produce the correct answer. The right honorable gentleman should have said that more than 90 per cent, of the promises made by the Government in 1949 had not been fulfilled.
After that slight digression, I return to the excess profits tax. On the 1st December, 1950, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was assured by the Treasurer that legislation to impose the excess profits tax would be introduced, and would be made retrospective to the 30th June, 1950. On the 5th December, 1950, the honorable member for Melbourne asked the Prime Minister this question about the excess profits tax -
Why did the Prime Minister promise to introduce such legislation?
The Prime Minister replied -
Because the Government intends to introduce it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition can tell his colleagues that it does not matter a scrap whether the legislation goes into the statute-book next week or next month, because it will operate on the results of the whole year.
The legislation has not yet been introduced into the Parliament. Of course, the Prime Minister recalls these details perfectly. Later, when we pressed for the introduction of an excess profits tax, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer assured us that certain constitutional difficulties had to be overcome. I shall touch briefly on that position. I invite the Treasurer to inform us whether it is a fact that on the 15th November, 1950, he wrote to the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation, which he had asked to assist the Government in the framing of legislative proposals. That committee decided that an excess profits tax was impracticable, though the reason had nothing to do with the Constitution. The committee reported -
There is no suitable formula for a tax on excess profits that can be applied within the limitations indicated in the Treasurer’s letter dated the 15th November, 1950.
This fraud of a Treasurer who, with the Prime Minister, had been promising this country an excess profits tax, and had told the Parliament that constitutional difficulties existed, had placed limitations upon the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation which made it impossible for that body to produce the necessary legislation. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer never intended that an excess profits tax should be introduced. I suggest to the Treasurer that if he is still in doubt about the constitutional position, he should refer to the speech that he made in 1939 on the Supply and Development Bill. Of course, he was not a Minister at that time. Probably he was still battling to get into the Ministry. At any rate, he said -
There is nothing to prevent the Government from operating a definite scheme for profits limitation.
The Treasurer made no reference on that occasion to the constitutional aspect. I invite him to tell us now whether he knew of the. existence of constitutional difficulties when he made his speech on the Supply and Development Bill in 1939. The fact is that this Government never had any intention of introducing an excess profits tax. This Government is the friend of the monopolists, and the political representative of big business. How have the Liberal party and the Australian Country party obtained their funds? They got the funds for doing the bidding of those particular people.
The Prime Minister has repudiated almost entirely the pre-election promises that he made in 1949. Did he not promise the Australian community that the Government would remove sales tax from housing requirements, including home furnishings and fittings ? At present, those items are still subject to sales tax. Under this budget, the Government proposes to reduce substantially sales tax on jewellery and furs, whilst retaining an excessive sales tax on furniture required by the Australian people.
In the brief period remaining to me, I shall deal with public works. Much has been said about the policy of this Government to starve the States in respect of allocations for developmental works. What is the exact position ? I agree with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that the Government plucked the figure of £200,000,000 out of the air as the allocation for defence services. A great deal of money has been wasted in the past, because the Australian, public, so far as they can see, have not an effective defence force or defence equipment. Who would argue that transport is not essential in the defence of the country? Mr. L. j. Fitzpatrick, who is the Director of Planning for the New South Wales Railways, has stated -
From the viewpoint of defence, the condition of the Australian railways system is terrifying.
The Queensland Railways are not capable of carrying Centurion tanks. If the Hawkesbury River Bridge were bombed,” 41 per cent, of the New South Wales railway traffic would come to a standstill. The Government has failed to make adequate provision for defence. Yet the Prime Minister, when he was looking for votes in Queensland during the Senate election campaign earlier this year, said that he would find the money to repair the existing railways and put them into a proper condition. He told the people of Queensland -
We are favorably considering the construction of the Far North Railway.
He made that statement because he thought that it would gain his party a few votes. That is his sole purpose in making political promises. Regarding roads, the Federal Chamber of Automo tive Industries, which is not a Labour organization, stated in its news bulletin in August -
For this sorry state of affairs many authorities’ must share the responsibility, but it must be borne principally by the Federal Government.
Is finance the difficulty? Are materials and man-power available for the maintenance and construction of roads ?
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. ERIC j. Harbison) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister from making his speech in Committee of Supply on the budget without limitation of time.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed) :
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has just completed a characteristic speech, which he ended with a remarkable statement. I know, as do honorable members generally, that the honorable member for East Sydney occasionally nods to the truth but is not intimate with it. In the course of his speech, he permitted himself to say that I had made some statement about a northern Queensland railway during the last Senate election campaign. That as he and everybody else who has ever heard me knows, is completely untrue. Apart from that, since the dinner hour I have had the pleasure of hearing the honorable member in full cry on one of his favorite topics, the earnings of what I may describe as the BHP, which is, of course, a deplorable body the head of which in the darkest days of the war was called upon by the Government to which the honorable member belonged to render magnificent aid to this country. The honorable gentleman attacked the profit earnings of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. He selected that company presumably because he has no friends on its board. He carefully refrained from attacking some other companies with which his relationship might have been a little closer.
Having attacked the greatest iron and steel manufacturing company of this country, he appeared, I think, to convey to the committee either that its profits were too great or that its taxation was too low. I do not know what he intended ; perhaps he meant a bit of each. By a singular misfortune, he had forgotten that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who is after all the Leader of the Opposition though not necessarily the leader of the honorable member for East Sydney, had said that if Labour was returned to office - indeed, I think he went beyond that and said that when Labour was returned to office - it would re-institute the 40 per cent, special initial depreciation allowance on capital equipment. If anybody in this chamber can tell me of one company that would benefit one-tenth as much from such a provision as would the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, I should be glad to receive a little communication about it, in writing if possible. The truth is that all the demagoguery that we are accustomed to hear from the honorable member for East Sydney has no relation whatever to the views of the Leader of the Opposition or to the policy of the Labour party. The honorable gentleman seemed to me to give also a rather synthetic imitation of foaming at the mouth about General Motors-Holden’s Limited. Is he against that company? May I assume that candidates of the Liberal party may address the thousands of employees of General Motors-Holden’s Limited and tell then that the honorable member for East Sydney, a prominent member of the Labour party not without ambitions to become a Labour Prime Minister, is bitterly hostile to the success of the company that employs them? I have paused for a reply and, although I know that interjections are disorderly, I have not seen even a negative sign from anybody on the Opposition side of the chamber.
– What about the two of us addressing the employees together? That would be a fair test.
– I have done something that will stagger the honorable member. Time after time, I have addressed thousands of employees,’ and I am bound to say that I have found, nine times out of ten, that they have an immeasurably greater sense of decency than has the honorable gentleman.
I turn aside from this subject now because we are all familiar with these recorded performances by the honorable member. Some of my colleagues on both sides of the chamber have not been here so long as I have, but I advise them that ultimately they will become accustomed to the scratching of this record of abuse as it is played time after time. In fact, the honorable gentleman did everything but sing, “ There’ll always be a Menzies while there’s a BHP”. The honorable member observed a singular reticence, because most of his friends outside this Parliament refer to me as “Pig-iron Bob “. I suppose that to use that title would have been to commit a breach of the rules of the committee. Well, let us forget these rather nauseating trifles, and come back to the budget of this country.
My first, comment, which I make in common with a great majority of the people of Australia, is that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) deserves to be heartily congratulated upon the most encouraging and helpful budget that any country in the world has seen since World War II began. Even the least informed of us hear interesting anecdotes occasionally, and it has become very well known around this chamber that, when the Treasurer had delivered this magnificent budget - on which I again congratulate him - a very prominent member of the Opposition was heard to say as he walked out of the chamber, “Well, that budget is not fair - to the Labour party”. I thoroughly agree with that honorable gentleman. Had I entertained any doubts on the subject they would have been resolved in the course of this debate^ because I have never seen a political party more completely gravelled than the Labour party in its efforts to discover how to attack the budget. When I speak of the Labour party, of course, honorable members will understand that I am using a unitary expression to cover the mass of disunity that exists amongst them.
I waited with interest, as we all did, for the Leader of the Opposition, who has been devoting much study to economics I understand, to come in and tell us exactly where the budget had gone wrong. After all, I have been the Leader of the Opposition in my time and I know that occasionally a lot of hard work is needed in order to discover how to attack a measure. We are all well aware of that fact. However, I thought that, with a little hard work, the right honorable gentleman might find something to attack in this budget. I was disappointed. In the course of his speech he made two completely inconsistent declarations. Having attacked this Government in 1951 for what he was pleased to call a “ horror budget “, and having found that, in this budget, we proposed to make immense reductions of taxation, he was torn between two emotions. First, he wanted to’ say that we had not been generous enough and that the budget was mean and miserly. Secondly, he wanted to say that this budget involved the abandonment by the Government of its 1951 doctrine. Well, a moment’s reflection will show him that he cannot have it both ways. I explain to him at’ once that this Government has followed a consistent line and I say emphatically also that, but for the 1951 budget, the Government could not have produced this budget. Let that be clearly understood all over Australia. It is just because the people of Australia were asked to make sacrifices in 1951, and did so, that in 1953 they are able to receive a series of financial proposals for which there is no comparable example in any other part of the world. Let everybody examine the record of governments everywhere since the end of World War II. Nobody will find in any country any measures or proposals capable of’ producing such incentives and encouragement as this budget will produce.
The Leader of the Opposition, who, I am sorry to say, is not present; - I do not complain about that because I know that he is engaged upon an important public function - did his best to have a go at the budget. One of his opening gambits was to say that, although the Treasurer had announced tax remissions to the tune of £80,000,000 for the remainder of 1953-54 and £120,000,000 for a full financial year, this was only a fraction of what the right honorable gentleman had levied by way of extra taxation in 1951. With the permission of the committee, I shall quote the Leader of the Opposition’s statement. He said -
In 1951-52, the Government imposed increased burdens on the taxpayers to produce an extra f 1G0,000,000 from taxation. So, even on his own case, the Treasurer is returning only part of the extra amount that he extracted from the taxpayers in that year.
It is a curious and, I think, regrettable fact that in that statement the Leader of the Opposition suppressed the 1952 budget. He said that we had taken £160,000,000 in 1951 and, as we were giving back only £120,000,000, we were returning only a fraction of what we had taken. He suppressed the material fact that lastyear, in the 1952 budget, we remitted taxes of an annual value of £80,000,000. It is a poor case that has to be bolstered by suppression of the truth. The truth is, as my distinguished colleague said in his budget-speech, that in these two years tax remissions of the value of £200,000,000 a year have been made.
What are the main features of the budget? Let us recall them. This budget has produced a reduction of personal income tax of 12 per cent. on. the average for all personal income tax-payers in this country, who number - may I remind honorable members ? - more than 3,000,000. Does the Opposition attack that ? Is there one peep out of the Opposition about that? Not a whisper.
– If you can arrange it with the Chairman, I will give you more than one peep.
– When I referred to the Opposition, I was referring to the other members. There is not a peep from them. This budget increases the allowable deductions for income tax purpose in respect of a family. Is that attacked ? This budget produces exemptions from income tax for aged persons, so that thrift is, to that extent, not penalized. It increases the exemption limit for a married couple from £507 to £705. Is that attacked by the Opposition ? This budget produces increased allowances of a most valuable kind in respect of medical expenses, .dental expenses and educational expenses. Are they attacked by the Opposition ? It is a pity that these silences cannot be written down. This budget reduces company tax dramatically by 2s. in the £1, a reduction of tax that is of tremendous importance to economic stability and future employment in Australia. Is that attacked by the Opposition ?
– Yes, I have attacked it all along.
– That is attacked by the honorable member for East Sydney. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said “ Shush”, but he was too late. That is attacked by the honorable member for East Sydney. Is it attacked by any true Labour man in this chamber? Again there is silence. The last thing that the Labour party would want to do would be to go to some of the people who have subscribed so much of its funds in the past and say to them, “ We are going to step up company tax “. Therefore, honorable members opposite sit in discreet and, if I were in the mood to be offensive, I should say sheepish silence. This. budget excludes from the pay-roll tax 50,000 to 90,000 employers by raising the exemption from £20 a week to £80 a week. Is that attacked by the Labour party? This budget reduces sales tax on thousands of items. Is that attacked by the Labour party? This budget abolishes the entertainments tax, which is sometimes thought of wrongly as a’ luxury tax, but which is, in reality, primarily a tax on “the ordinary wageearner who goes to the pictures. Is that attacked by the Labour party? Or have not the State Labour governments yet made up their minds?
Those things are worth a reference, because they summarize the magnificent provisions that have been made in a budget which the Opposition is now rather optimistically supposing it will go out and attack. I tell honorable members opposite here and now that there is not a man among them who is prepared to go out and attack one of those provisions. Under those circumstances, T listened, as did Other honorable members, to the Leader of the Opposition in the hope that, even by accident, I might discover what the policy of the poor Labour party was, because it has been bereft of a policy ever since it decided that it ought to run away from the socialist objective. I hoped to discover what its policy was. Therefore, I listened to the Leader of the Opposition consciously and willingly. He had the floor, and he was in order. Foi sheer enjoyment, I listened during the Treasurer’s budget speech to the interjections of the honorable member for Melbourne, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He, being a man of singular candour who does not mind whether what he- says will help or hurt himself or his party, rather gave the show away. When the Treasurer was talking about social services, the trumpet tones - I hope that is not an offensive word - of the honorable member for Melbourne came in with the remark, “ Not enough “. Later, the Treasurer referred accurately to the fact that over two years there had been a reduction of £200,000,000 in the tax yield. The honorable member for Melbourne said, “£200,000,000 too little”. If he spoke for his party - I imagine he speaks for at least a half of it - what he meant was that the Labour party believed we should have reduced taxation by £400,000,000, not £200,000,000. When the Treasurer referred to assistance to States works programmes - assistance which, under this Government, has been infinitely greater than any given before in the history of Australia - the honorable member for Melbourne, repetitive to the last, said, “ Not enough “. All that interested me. If expenditure ought to be increased, if taxes ought to be reduced by another £200,000,000 and if we ought to spend another £50,000,000 or £100,000,000 on the States, you and I. Mr. Chairman, in our innocence, would suppose that money might be involved and that the money would have to come from somewhere. We cannot get it all from Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited or General Motors-Holden’s Limited. It runs into hundreds of millions of pounds. When the Treasurer said quite frankly that treasury-bills were going to be used this year to meet the short fall in the States’ works programmes, the honorable member for Melbowne, unabashed by any thoughts of feeble consistency, said, “ What an admission!” If the Opposition has the secret to the solution of a problem that, as far as I know, is still unsolved in any other civilized country, it ought to tell us about it. How does the Opposition propose to make the magnificent tax reductions that we have made, to double them, as the honorable member for Melbourne suggests, to increase expenditure and not use treasury-bills, but still pay its way. That is something which, in common’ decency, the Labour party ought to try to explain to intelligent people in Australia.
Most people form their judgments of financial matters, not by technical rules, but by a general feeling whether a country is well managed and sound. That is a very fair basis of judgment. The Treasurer, in the course of his budget speech, referred to it. He said -
During 1952-53, retail prices rose by less than 4 per cent.-
That is a figure that has been much forgotten in the pensions argument - compared with approximately 20 per cent. in each of the two preceding years. Wholesale prices actually fell slightly whereas in the year before they rose by 16 per cent. and in the year before that by 24 per cent.
He went on to say -
Clearly, therefore, we have now practically attained that stability we set out to achieve in the strenuous days of 1950 and 1951. It has not been easy either for the Government or for the community and yet, if we look back to earlier periods, it is remarkable that the transition from violent boom to comparative stability has been accomplished with relatively little unemployment, dislocation and loss.
That is what was said in the budget speech. It is almost identical with what was said by the Australian trade unions in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It is high time that we got rid of the idea that responsible trade unions, when they put their names to statements of fact, are merely lying. I know that that suggestion has been made on the other side of the chamber, but I do not accept it. The trade unions, in their written case submitted to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court - a case which succeeded - said this -
It is submitted that the capacity of the economy to sustain a high level of real wages is better than in 1949-50. Productivity has greatly increased, not only because labour and material shortages have been almost eliminated
That was one of the great elements in the 1951 budget- but also because of the high rate of capital investment in recent years. Primary production is flourishing. Employment is rising.
That is what the trade unions said. Finally, to the horror of their alleged representatives in this chamber, they went on to say, “ Inflationary pressure has virtually disappeared “. I accept that statement. It is a perfectly fair statement of the condition of the Australian economy, and one can only sympathize with the Opposition which, in the face of that statement by its own people, and in the face of thisbudget, has to come along and scratch and groan and grope for some little whip with which to belabour the Government.
– Now tell us what the employers’ representatives said before the court.
– If the honorable member would speak up I should be able to hear him.
– I said that I should like the right honorable gentleman to quote the statement made by the employers’ representative before the court.
– I have not got it before me and, to be perfectly frank, I am not interested. This is all very odd, is it not? After all, the trade unions claim to be the great supporters of honorable gentlemen opposite, and honorable gentlemen opposite sometimes, in their better moments, claim to be the representatives of the trade union movement. Therefore I quote what the trade union movement has said. Let the honorable member for East Sydney laugh it off if he can, and if he wants to tell the draftsmen of the statement that they lied in their teeth, let him tell them so, if he has the courage to do it.
The next matter to which I refer is the subject of pensions. I am bound to say that on this matter of. pensions, towards which the whole efforts of the Opposition in this debate have been directed, I am. vastly indebted to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who has taken, over the years, as lively an interest in the problem of the pensioner as any man who ever sat in this chamber has taken.I am greatly indebted to the honorable member for having directed attention to a very remarkable aspect of the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition two nights ago. With the honorable member’s permission I shall repeat the gist of his remarks. The Leader of the Opposition said, very solemnly -
I declare that the future Labour Government will take steps to restore the purchasing power of pensions and social service payments provided for when it left office in 1949.”
That statement was received with moderately rapturous applause on the Opposition side of the chamber. I take that pledge to mean that if, and when, the Labour party regains office, it will adjust the rates of pension paid in 1949 according to the index of retail prices.
– It will give the pensioners £4 a week.
– I have a great admiration for the honorable member who has just interjected, but I am sorry to say that he has been deceived, not by me, but, if he understands me, by somebody else. What was the pension in 1949, and what would it be to-day if it had been adjusted according to the “ C “ series index, which is precisely the nature of the pledge that the Leader of the Opposition made? I pay no attention to what has happened in relation to the basic wage, or the prosperity loading of £1 a week that was awarded by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I am talking about the C series index - the cost of living figures. On the cost of living figures the position is that if the index for the September quarter of 1949 is taken as 100, by the June quarter of this year it has risen by 60 per cent. If that percentage had been applied to the age pension, which in 1949, under the Labour Government, was £2 2s. 6d. a week, that pension would to-day be £3 8s. 3d. So that the Leader of the Opposition offers the pensioners, if there is to be an option, £3 8s. 3d. a week instead of £3 10s. a week, which is what we are providing for pensioners in this budget. I say no more about that, because it will take a little explaining, and I shall leave the explanation to others.
I turn now to one of the favorite topics of the Opposition, the members of which always profess at budget time to be the enemies of companies, and at election time always circularize them as if they were their friends. Reference has been made to taxation on companies and on individuals. The Leader of the Opposition, for some reason that I do not fathom, set out in his budget speech to compare how much a week the tax reductions provided for in the budget would be worth to an individual, and how much a year they would be worth to a company. That is a very odd form of comparison. I should have thought that a comparison of year against year, or week against week, would have been much better. However, in the result, the right honorable gentleman compared the value of our proposed tax remissions each week to a man who earns a little more than the basic wage, with the value in a year to a company which earns, to take the example he gave, no less than £8,000,000 a year. I should have thought that that was a pretty hopeless form of comparison, and I think that in the name of common sense and reason we ought to take a more typical example. Take the case of a company which has a profit on its capital, which may be a very large capital, of about £200,000 a year. That company may very well have - a fact which members of the Labour party conveniently forget - 5,000 shareholders. This silly, childish idea that big companies are owned by one man is the most foolish thing in the world, when a company that earns a profit of £200,000 on its capital may very well be owned by 5,000 people. I take leave to point out to honorable members opposite that a man who earns £14 a week, which is not a great deal above the basic wage, who has a dependent wife and two children, will have a reduction of 30 per cent, on his present tax, which will be worth £8 12s. to him in the year. On an average, the 5,000 shareholders of the company, who would receive the benefit of the remissions of company tax provided for, will receive a benefit of only £4 a year. We start off with that, but, of course, that is not the complete picture. People seem to think that because a company makes a big profit there is some mystical being in the sky - I am not being theological on this matter - who collects and embraces to his bosom the benefits of this enormous profit. Profits mean nothing to a company, because a company is something that has nobody to be kicked. Profits are enjoyed by individuals, and when the company profit finds its way into the hands of the shareholders, a small shareholder, if he is a man of low income, pays the appropriate tax; if he is a man of moderate income he pays the tax appropriate to that income; if he is a rich man - and honorable members opposite have always included among their numbers rather more rich men than I have seen in any other party represented in this chamber - he pays the rate of tax appropriate to his high income. We all know that it is a very high rate. So the comparison to which I have referred is as false and misleading as it can be.
The next point I want to make is that the right honorable gentleman said that the Government - I shall quote his precise words or, at least, I shall quote his words precisely - said -
The Government is imposing financial restrictions and is thus affecting the whole standard of living of the people, housing, the States, the education of the young, and the great works that must bc pursued, especially in the northern part of this continent.
The last phrase is an echo of the last Senate election. He says that we are the restrictionist3. That is a very odd allegation to be made by a. former Deputy Prime Minister of a government that instituted and maintained more restrictions and controls than any other government in the history of Australia. It is so remarkable a statement for him to make that I have glanced at the figures. We have undoubtedly expended vast sums of money, and some of the people who sit quietly and discover so readily that these can be reduced, have never bothered to look at them to see what they are. In the last Labour budget that this country enjoyed defence expenditure was £54,000,000. In this budget it is £200,000,000. I do not remember the Leader of the Opposition saying that that figure ought to be reduced. In the last Labour budget war pensions accounted for £22,000,000. In this budget they account for £39,000,000. I do not remember hearing the Labour party in this chamber say that that figure ought to be reduced. In the last Labour budget the amounts expended on social services, which are now the last refuge of the Opposition in its attack on the budget, totalled £93,000,000. In this year the amount totals £184,000,000. I shall not go into details, of that, because time will not allow me to do so, but that expenditure embraces age and invalid pensions, widows’ pension’s and child endowment. Child endowment! To think that I should have lived to hear the Leader of the Opposition, who denounced our proposal to endow the first child, and opposed it violently on the floor of this chamber, now moans that it is not enough! In the last Labour budget £101,000,000 was found for payments to the States. In this budget we are finding £189,000,000 for payments to the States. ‘
I have listened to a furious argument - and I shall later give myself the pleasure of saying a few words on it - about financing capital works out of revenue. At this stage all I shall say is that the last Labour budget which was brought down by Mr. Chifley, whose name the Leader of the Opposition invokes so frequently, showed a works programme, financed out of revenue, which amounted to £64,000,000. In this budget we are providing £101,000,000 for that purpose. This year my Government is supporting State borrowing programmes so that they will reach an amount of £200,000,000. In the last year of office of the previous Government the amount was not £200,000,000. It was £93,000,000. I have a certain technical admiration for the people who, in the face of those figures, come, here and say, “ It is not enough, it is not enough “. ‘ They are very fortunate indeed to have such deplorable memories. . The last thing that I desire to say about restrictions on behalf of this Government, which is supposed to have cut things down, is that in the last financial year in Australia, the total expenditure on new works and maintenance throughout the country was set down at approximately £400,000,000 whereas in 1949-50 the expenditure was £218,000,000. In 1948-49, which was the last complete year of the Chifley Administration, such expenditure was £154,000,000. I hope that everybody will recall that I referred to the change in the “ C “ series index system between 1949 and the present time. I admit that there has been a rise in the price level of 60 per cent, since 1949, but no such fall in the value of money could get rid of the fact that in this last year £400,000,000 has been expended by public authorities on new works and maintenance as against £154,000,000 in the last complete year of the Chifley Administration.
Quite a good deal has been said by the Leader of the Opposition about what he was pleased to call the Chifley £1. As the right honorable gentleman is not averse from presenting himself as the spiritual successor of our late friend, the former Prime Minister of this country, I shall point out how utterly contrary are his views to some of the views of his predecessor. But he has been good enough to refer to the Chifley £1 and to make some remarks which were not entirely favorable about the Menzies £1. Very well. At the time the Labour Government relinquished office, the Australian £1 was worth 30 per cent, less than it was worth at the end of the war, because that is the index figure indication of the fall in the value of money and the rise in the price level in the period between the end of the war and the time when the Chifley Government left office, It is true that the figure rose later. Now, why did it not rise more than 30 per cent, when the Labour Government was in office? The answer to that question is perfectly clear, although it is sometimes forgotten. It was during that period that there were certain artificial controls. We had prices control, a free use of subsidies, rationing of all kinds, and all the instruments of restriction in which the Labour party believes. Because we had all those restrictions in full measure, we had a black market. We had an official £1 that we could use for the ordinary market and an entirely different £1 that could be used on the black market. If you wanted to buy things that you needed, such as butter for your table, petrol for your car, cigarettes and tobacco from under the counter - if you understand me - or various forms of drink, the ordinary or notional £1 was not good enough, and you had to have some of the other pounds - the black-market pounds - to buy such things. Of course, in the black market which flourishes under Labour’s restrictionist ideas you find a rather exclusive type of person. Perhaps that is not quite the term to use, and I should have said that you find a rather peculiar type of person who operates the black” market. Not all such persons are too proud to be associated with the Labour party. Since this Government assumed office, the black-market days have passed. I have heard of no black market in Australia at the present time, except for one or two rumours of black markets in the Labour-controlled States. There is no black market to-day in relation to anything administered by this’ Government. Therefore, the first thing and the last thing to be said about this celebrated Chifley £1, is that it was never more than half a £1, because you could not buy with it more than half the things that you wanted to buy. To-day there is an abundant production, the black market has disappeared and people with the money that they have can buy the things that they want. It is a great day for Australia.
– The right honorable gentleman should not sit down without telling us something about capital issues.
– I shall not encourage the honorable member for East Sydney to believe that I intend to sit down just yet. I have two more matters to deal with.
– Does one of them refer to capital issues?
– I notice that the honorable member for East Sydney continually harks back to capital issues,- and to a matter that is at present before the courts. In those circumstances his interjection is singularly indecent. I am happy to say that it is an interjection that I do not think could come from any other man that I have known during my parliamentary life, and I do not propose to be led off into these gutters. When matters are before the court, the court will deal with them. Nobody ought to be more thankful for that than the honorable member for East Sydney. I now wish to deal with two final matters. One is employment. In June of this year there were approximately 100,000 more people at work in Australia than there were when this Government took office at the end of 1949. During the six months’ period to the end of June this year, civil employment - entirely excluding defence personnel - had increased by some 27,000, and employment in factories, where a fall occurred for one period in 1952, has increased by no less than 33,000. According to the last available figures, there are approximately 22,000 people unemployed, and so that everybody may understand what that means let us compare the number of unemployed with the number of employable people in Australia. When that comparison is made it is found that only one person out of every 160 of those gainfully employed in Australia is receiving the unemployment benefit.
– How would the right honorable gentleman like to be that one?
– Of course, I would hate to be that one, but I think that we ought occasionally to think of the other 159. There is nothing more infuriating to a good Australian than to find his own country which has this record of employment, unequalled in any other free country of the world, cried down as though we had masses of unemployed persons walking around our streets. The Leader of the Opposition spoke much about full employment. “ Full employment “ is a phrase that he has made peculiarly his own for a number of years, and every now and then he has defined it. His definition is not the same as the definition given by the Chifley Government, because his definition is a state of employment in which there are more jobs than there are men. I venture to say that that is such a dangerous piece of clap-trap that it is high time that it was exploded. In this country we have gone through the experience, everybody in this chamber today remembers it very well, of having more jobs than men to fill them, of having enormous competition for men and materials and of having costs driven to the skies and efficiency at a low level. Let us talk plain English about these matters. The state of affairs that I have described occurs if our theory is not that we want a job for every man, which is our true ideal, but that we want to have, for some entirely theoretical reason, more jobs than there are men to fill them.
The result of that period of what has been called over-full employment in Australia, as everybody knows who is out of the schoolroom, was that our economy slowed down and the forces of inflation increased tremendously. I wonder whether the right honorable gentleman thinks that this catch cry of his is still as attractive as it used to be. I wonder whether he thinks it still appeals to the farmer who could not get labour on his farm and had to! do twice as much work himself, whether it is attractive to the people who conduct hospitals and who could not find employees to work in them and whether it is attractive to the home-builder who saw the cost of building fall when the wasteful turnover of labour was stopped. I wonder if the catch-cry has much attraction for governments which have great works programmes to carry out and which to-day, because we have the men for the jobs and not a lot of surplus jobs waiting for people to fill them, are able to get their big engineering works done for 10 per cent., 15 per cent and sometimes 20 per cent, less than a year ago. It is about time that we stopped using catch-cries. Our position is perfectly simple. We believe that there should be no unemployment of employable people. There should be a job for every man. Those ideals make sense, and those are the things that the country can accomplish and which will sustain it, because every man will work in his job and every man will feel that he has something to look forward to. Let us have no more of this sorry cliche, produced time after time, that unless you have everybody competing because there are more jobs than men everything in the world will go wrong. The only time since the war when things have gone wrong was the time when that particular doctrine had a good run.
The last thing that I want to talk about is capital works and revenue. The right honorable gentleman got very excited about this. He said that this Government was spending £100,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money on public works. His own words were -
I submit that this method is a definite infraction of proper accountancy. While it is proper to make a portion of the expenditure on capital works chargeable against revenue the practice of paying for all capital works out of current revenue thrusts the burden of national development on to the taxpayers of a particular year, even though the benefits will accrue for a long term period, or even in perpetuity. . 1 was interested in what he said on that matter, not because it was novel, but because we have given a lot of thought to it. The Leader of the Opposition, knowing what he does about his own implied promises, knowing what he must know about the enormous shortage of money that his government will suffer from if, indeed, he ever forms a government, might have had a little horse sense when talking about the financing of capital works for the Commonwealth from revenue. But no, he has no real understanding of this matter. He produced the simple, old-fashioned idea that capital works should be financed out of capital and that revenue should be used to meet current expenditure but not capital expenditure. Even the least of us know that. I looked up the records to ascertain whether, in this respect, the right honorable gentleman is following in the great tradition. Honorable members will be fascinated to know, that during the whole period of Labour’s administration after the war ended not one penny of Commonwealth expenditure on capital works was provided other than from revenue. Our late friend, Mr. Chifley, did not see any need to apologize for the practice. He little knew that one would come after him who would invoke his name but deny his doctrines. Time and time again in this chamber, and in my own presence, Mr. Chifley defended that practice as sound financial policy. Indeed, he went a good deal further than that. The Labour Government, under Mr. Chifley, not only financed the whole of its capital works out of revenue, but it did so at a time when it had loan moneys available. While it was charging works to revenue and using the proceeds of taxation to finance them, it was using the surplus proceeds of public loans to redeem outstanding treasury-bills.
– Was there anything wrong with that?
– I am not arguing whether it was right or wrong. I am questioning whether the present Leader of the Opposition is right or wrong, which is an entirely different matter. The Chifley Government, in which for a considerable time the present Leader of the Opposition was Deputy Prime Minister, used money which had been borrowed at 3 J per cent, to redeem short-term debt which carried interest at the rate of 10s. per cent. That is interesting indeed.
– That was a sensible practice.
– If it was sensible, then the speech of the honorable member’s leader was stupid. The honorable member may take his pick. In the middle of 1948, Mr. Chifley, speaking in this chamber said -
From time to time loans are raised by the Loan -Council on behalf of the Australian and State Governments. In August, the Loan Council will prepare its programme. Surplus moneys which are available arc used to redeem treasury-bills, which are really I O U’s.
He concluded by saying -
In my opinion that is the proper method of financing governments.
I have no desire to revive old controversies. The point I make is that the Leader of the Opposition now denounces as unsound, because we are doing it, a practice which his own Government followed every day of every year when he himself was a Cabinet Minister. Although I think that no man should be prevented from changing his mind, he should never be too unctuous in denouncing his convictions of the past.
.- The committee and the listening public have enjoyed, or suffered, a 65-minute speech by a vain, dispirited and jealous man. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) knows that his Government is beaten and his supporters are whistling in order to keep their courage up. Conscious of the defeats and near defeats that the Government has suffered in the federal sphere since 1951, and of the fact that federal issues piled up the huge Labour total votes in the elections held in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia since December last, the Prime Minister has tried to shift the whole burden of the case and now seeks to establish what he believes, or pretends to believe, to be the present situation in Australia.
He has reiterated the claim of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that stability in our economy has been restored, that inflation has been conquered and that the future of this country is such as to inspire the utmost confidence. Those claims are false. However, I agree with two things that the right honorable gentleman said. The first was that only a bad case has to be bolstered by suppression of the truth. This Government’s case rests as it always has rested on suppression of the truth. If we can get the truth to the people there will be very few honorable members representing the antiLabour parties in this chamber in the next Parliament.
The second statement made by the Prime Minister with which we agree wa3 that, but for the 1951 budget proposals the Government would not have been able to produce the budget we have before us. Of course it would not have been able to do so. If this hapless Government had not imposed ruinous and savage taxation in 1951, it would not be able to offer to forego some of it in its 1953 budget in order to try to bribe the electors to vote for it at the next general election.
The Government has failed the Australian people. Its claims are false. The economy of Australia is precariously poised and, should a drought occur, or should there be a substantial fall in the price of wheat or wool, we shall be headed for economic disaster. In order to substantiate that statement I produce a copy of an affidavit which was submitted by the representative of the employers to the Arbitration Court in the wages and hours case. The employers! representative, Kenneth Herbert Boykett, in Melbourne, on the 24th June, 1952, swore on oath an affidavit which included the following statement : -
That the labour costs are already higher than the economy of the country can sustain.
– Hear, hear!
– The first deserter from the ranks of the Prime Minister is the Minister in charge of the Royal Tour, the Vine-President of the Executive Council (“Mr. Eric J. Harrison), for that statement is precisely opposite to the statement made by Mr. Envies ton, which was quoted by the Prime Minister. On the 11th August, 1952, Mr. Boykett also swore an affidavit which contained the following statement : -
The nation’s economy is precariously unstable.
If that is so, how can the Prime Minister claim that stability has been restored Other pertinent statements were made by the employers’ representatives, but 1 think that I have read enough to show that the employers, the masters of this Government, are not in agreement with the statements made by the Government.
– The Court did not agree with them.
– The court did agree with them, but we cannot canvass its action in so doing.
If it is true, as the Prime Minister and the Treasurer claim, that stability has been restored, why are there at present at least 100 applications before the Tariff Board from Australian manufacturing interests demanding tariff protection on behalf of thousands of Australian factories so that those factories will not have to close down? If stability has been restored, why is it that each relaxation of import restrictions sends another cold shiver down the back of every Australian manufacturer who fears for the safety of his business against the flood of foreign goods? -If there is the stability abou which the Prime Minister so rhapsodized, why has the Government had to establish two Tariff Boards to expedite the hearing of applications for tariff protection before the industries concerned are ruined? If stability has been restored, why is it that there are as many registered unemployed persons in Australia - they number approximately 50,000 - and so many people receiving unemployment benefits, estimated to number 22,000 or more, the same as there were at this time last year ? These figures have been supplied to me by the Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service and must be accepted. If stability is as real as the Prime Minister and the Treasurer claim it to be, why is it that more than £482,000,000 worth of loans issued at 3£ per cent, which mature between 1962 and 1965 have been so depreciated in value by this Government that, whereas they sold at par when the Labour Government was in office, they now sell at a discount at £10 or more on every £100? If there is that stability about which the Government boasts, why is the Treasurer obliged to pay 4$ per cent, interest, the highest since 1931, on any Commonwealth loan which he floats, whereas the Chifley Government was able to borrow all the money it needed at 3 per cent, or 3£ per cent, during four years of war and the first four years of peace ?
– And every loan was filled.
– We hot only filled all our loans, but in 1942 we obtained £200,000,000 out of a national income of £1,100,000,000 ; that is £1 in every £5 of the national income. Four years after the war ended we obtained £200,000,000 out of a national income of £2,200,000,000, or £1 in every £11. But last year, this egregious Treasurer was able to obtain only £52,000,000 of new money out of a “national income of £3,500,000,000, or £1 in every £70. If we have this much vaunted stability, why is it that treasurybills outstanding at the 30.th June last totalled £225,000,000? Treasury-bills outstanding when we went out of office amounted to £35,000,000; to-day, the outstanding amount is more than £225,000,000. This is truly a printing press Government! If stability has been restored, why is it that the prices of all leading shares on the stock exchanges of Australia are now selling and have been selling for the last three years at lower prices than they were sold when the Chifley Government was in office? That is true of the shares of such companies as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, General Motors-Holden’s Limited, Goldsbrough Mort Limited, David Jone3 Limited, Imperial Chemical Industries Limited and the Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited, and the Bank of New South Wales.
The case of the Menzies Government regarding stability is a completely false one. This budget has been falsely styled an “ encouragement budget “. It is a budget which gives satisfaction, or partial satisfaction, to those who get most of the benefits from the tax remissions of £82,000,000, but for the great mass of the people, and particularly for war pensioners, war widows and age and invalid pensioners, and those who live on or near the basic wage, this budget is one of disappointment, discouragement and despair. It is a budget by which the Government hopes to buy back some of the political and financial support .of those sections of the community which are most disposed to support it. To that extent, it is a rich man’s budget; It is certainly not a people’s budget, and least of all is it a pensioners’ budget. Two years ago when this Government introduced the budget which the Prime Minister himself called a “ horror budget “, I said, using Churchillian language, that never before had so few done so much harm to so many in such a short space of time as this Government did then with its confiscatory and ruinous taxation.
Because an election is approaching next year, and because of- that fact alone, this Government has decided to give back £82,000,000 more of the money that it took from the taxpayers in 1950-51 and 1951-52. During the general election campaign in 194)9, members of this Government promised to reduce taxation. Yet this Government imposed £400,000,000 more in its first two years of office than the Labour Government had imposed in its last year of office. Last year; this Government gave back £50,000,000, and this year it is to give back another £82,000,000. The community is still bearing £270,000,000 more in taxation that it was in the days of the Great Treasurer, the late Mr. Chifley.
Let the Government not fool itself into believing that even the wealthy interests are happy with this budget. The 4ms- tralian Financial Review, which is not a democratic organ by any means, stated last week -
The budget i8 just two years- too late. Two years which might have been devoted to constructive efforts to solve our deep-rooted economic problems have been dissipated in correcting a fundamental error which has Aggravated our problems instead of overcoming them.
Yet, if we listen to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, and their henchmen, we might be excused for imagining that everyone but themselves was responsible for this condition. Rut the mistakes are of their own making. They thought that, by imposing heavy taxation, they would defeat inflation. By imposing heavy taxation, they merely fed the flames of inflation. Now they are trying to reverse the process. The article in the Australian Financial Review continues -
The budget does not strike to the heart of our problems. It clears the way for a solution without providing one.
In financial circles generally, the budget has been received with cautious satisfaction. The stock exchanges this week arc not fluttering upwards. If anything, they are tending downwards.
– They are very shaky.
– That is so. This budget would have been received with greater satisfaction had the amount of tax remissions and increased benefits to those in receipt of repatriation benefits, and other pensioners, totalled £100,000,000 this year. The Leader of the Opposition has shown how that could be done. To the extent that the Government las found it necessary to try to buy votes by giving back money which should never have been extracted from the taxpayers; this budget may well be called a “conscience money “ budget. But there is an additional sum of £200,000,000 which the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will have to lift from their consciences before Australians are paying the same amount in taxation as they were paying before our economy got into the hands of the Liberal party and Australian Country party wreckers. The Treasurer said, in his budget speech -
We have slackened off all controls on our internal economy.
That statement is not correct. The Capital Issues Board still exists. It even functions on a Sunday afternoon for special friends. Appointments must be made by telephone, and typewriters are provided for those who want special privileges to type their own requirements. Many small industries have had applications before the Capital Issues Board, for months, and they are no nearer to success than they were when first these applications were lodged. Bank controls are still operating, in the Common wealth Bank at any rate, upon co-operative housing societies. I understand that applications totalling £25,000,000 are in the hands of the Commonwealth Bank and that societies are being told that they will have to wait for from twelve to eighteen months for financial accommodation. I read in a newspaper a few days ago that one large newspaper group in Sydney has had no difficulty in securing accommodation of £2,000,000 from a private bank for use in nothing better than a newspaper war.
The most important thing in our community life to-day is that we should provide the people with houses. We should help co-operative housing societies and other housing authorities to get all the assistance that they need to utilize available man-power and materials to provide the people with decent homes at a rate of interest much less than 4-J per cent. This Government increased the rate of interest from 3& to 4$ per cent, on the home buyers of Australia, and that means an increase in interest and other payments to the banking institutions of £300 for nothing. The Leader of the Labour party has promised that, instead of paying war pensioners, war widows, age and invalid pensioners, and civilian widow pensioners a miserable 2s. 6d. a week extra, as the Government proposes in this budget, we shall pay them, when we become the Government, 10s. a week or more. That will mean that the age pensioner will be paid £4 a week instead of £3 10s., as is proposed in this budget.
We demand now that the Government recast its budget, and increase pensions as we . suggest. Similarly, we demand that the Government increase the pensions of war widows and service pensioners by a corresponding amount. We demand that the means test be altered at once to permit an allowance of £2 15s. a week, and not £2 10s., for each age pensioner. We demand substantial increases of child endowment. We demand the restoration of the initial depreciation allowance for the benefit of industry. We also demand the recasting of the rates of income tax, so that every salary and wage earner will have more money in his or her pay envelope. If this Government will not do the things that we demand to-day, we will do them in the budget that we will bring down next year.
Sir Philip McBride interjecting,
– The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who is a wealthy man, can laugh at the plight of the pensioners. I remind him that it is the votes of the people that will determine the election, in the final analysis, and we are never afraid to face the people on a budget of this sort. We will introduce legislation, when we are the Government, to abolish the means test in the lifetime of one Parliament. What Labour promises, Labour will perform. We do not fool the people with false promises, as do the members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party.
Let us estimate the cost if we increased the benefits to war and civil pensioners by 10s. a week, instead of 2 s. 6d. a week, as this Government contemptuously offers in its aptly described . “ chain store “ budget. To pay the age pensioners 10s. a week would involve an additional expenditure of £10,200,000 a year. To pay invalid pensioners the same amount would cost £1,800,000 a year. To pay widows the same amount would cost £1,000,000 a year. That would make a total of nearly £13,000,000 a year. The cost of the provision of an additional 10s. a week to 100 per cent. general-rate war pensioners would be £1,500,000, and to war widows £690,000, making a total of £2,200,000. But the Ministry is not impressed with that line of argument. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) went on record as saying -
The point is that the basic wage is a com pletely fallacious basis on which to argue. How Van it be said that, because a pension was such-and-sucha percentage of the basic wage in 1949. it should be such-and-such a percentage of the basic wage to-day, when the whole basis on which the argument is based has been altered?
The basis upon which the basic wage has been calculated has not been altered. Thebasic wage is paid to enable a man, his wife and one child to live in frugal comfort. The Labour Government paid the age pensioner about 36 per cent. of the basic wage. This Government is paying the age pensioner 29 per cent. of the basic wage, and tells him, in effect, “ If you cannot live on what we give you, we cannot do anything more about it. As far as we are concerned, you can starve or semi-starve, but do not ask this rich man’s Government for any more “. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) is a wealthy real estate agent in Sydney. He said that invalid and widows’ pensions were never intended to be the full amount of money on which pensioners were supposed to live. According to him, the pensions were intended only as assistance to boost - mark the word - what the pensioner’s relatives and others contributed towards his support. Presumably if a pensioner had no relatives or friends, it was too bad. But the sooner the pensioner stopped worrying the Government, the better the Government would be pleased.
I agree with the statement of the Prime Minister that the suppression of the truth is no way to convince an audience whether it be in this Parliament or in the electorate. Yet the Minister for Social Services did mislead this House, and supply it with false information in regard to the effect of the pension. He said in his speech -
In addition to the 120,000 people who will receive increases of up to £1 12s. 6d. a week, possibly another 100,000 people now debarred from receiving pensions will be brought into the pensions field by the liberalization of the means test provision.
It was just unfortunate for the Minister that I had addressed a communication to the Secretary to the Treasury last week, in which I asked for precisely the same sort of information. The Secretary replied -
As the result of the liberalization of the income means test proposed in the budget, it is estimated that some 10,000 additional people will become eligible for age pensions.
This Minister has a vested interest in misrepresentation. The Secretary to the Treasury has ho other interest to serve but to tell the truth. If the rest of the statements of the Minister are no more accurate than that particular statement, the country can disregard everything he says, because it will be impossible to obtain correct information from him.
I come now to a very significant and disquieting matter. The budget is supposed to be a secret document until its contents are made known to the Parliament by the Treasurer. But, as happened last year, the evening newspapers on budget day printed some of the most important details of the document. The revelation of budget secrets before the close of trading hours on budget day could make fortunes for some people. At least, it does permit opportunities for malpractices on the part of some unscrupulous persons. Men have been forced out of public life in Great Britain for less than that. But much more disquieting was the publication to-day of a statement by a Mr. R. A. Irish, who styles himself a financial expert, and who said that he had calculated the savings, after tax deductions, by a certain company as £71,500. He said he had calculated the tax after he had had discussions at Canberra and had gained an idea that company tax would be reduced to 7s. in the £1. He did not claim that he had obtained reliable information about the company tax reductions before the budget was presented, but he said that he had learned enough to know that there would be a reduction of about that magnitude. The Prime Minister must immediately announce the name of the Minister or other person with whom Mr. Irish had the discussions that enabled him to obtain secret information of such absolute accuracy about the probable tax-saving by his company. If a Minister has given this information.he should be dismissed. It was vital to the company concerned to know precisely what the Government proposed to do. After Mr. Irish had obtained the information, both that company and another company with which he was to become associated at an early date in a joint enterprise benefited financially to a marked degree. Before the budget was delivered there were movements on the Stock Exchanges which seemed to indicate that some people had obtained advance information and made financial benefits thereby. The admission by Mr. Irish is a serious matter which must be immediately faced by the Prime Minister. If any Minister has been associated directly or indirectly with such grave misconduct and impropriety, he should be dismissed. Something similar happened last year, as I have said, but it is not until now that the country has been startled by an admission on oath that budget secrets have been revealed, directly or indirectly, and used by certain people for great private profit.
The Prime Minister has attacked the Leader of the Opposition on the ground that the right honorable gentleman allegedly did not show where he would obtain the money with which to grant further social service and repatriation benefits and tax reductions. This, of course, is nonsense. The Leader of the Opposition established, as the Prime Minister admitted to-night, that the Government proposed to use over £100,000,000 of revenue’ moneys for capital expenditure and had charged this money in the budget against taxpayers for the current year. That is bad accountancy. The money belongs as. a right to all the taxpayers, and only a portion of it, at the most, should be charged against consolidated revenuethis year. I have no doubt that the Government would like to do this because it would result in a budget saving and it would be sufficient to cover all the matters of desirable additional social services benefits raised by the Leader of the Opposition, by myself and by other members of the Opposition. The Government has been driven into charging this expenditure against revenue because it cannot float loans. The people have lost all confidence in the Government. It cannot be argued that they have . not enough money to subscribe to loans because they have £1,000,000,000 in their savings bank accounts. They will not lend it to this Government because of what was done with the £480,000,000 subscribed to Commonwealth loans in the 31/8 per cent. series.
– That was done by the Australian Loan Council.
– That is not true. Ministers know very well that the present Treasurer is the dictator of the Australian Loan Council. At the last meeting of the council, when the Co-ordinator-General of Works reported that the States could profitably spend £284,000,000 because they had the man-power and the material resources with which to do so, the Treasurer said, “I will give you only £200,000,000. Take it or leave it “. When the States voted themselves £231,000,000, the Treasurer, in violation of the Constitution, said, £200,000,000 and not a penny more “. He dealt with the council in the same way when it discussed loan interest rates. That is the usual performance. The Commonwealth goes its own way whether the States agree with it or not.
I ask honorable members to compare the money that this Government has obtained from the people - £125,000,000 in its first year of office, £65,000.000 in the second year, and £52,000,000 in the last financial year - with the consistent loan raising of £200,000,000 a year by Mr. Chifley during eight long years. [Extension oftime granted.] I thank the committee for its courtesy. Such funds as the Government has been able to raise by loan flotations have not been subscribed by the little people. Most of the money has been dragooned by the Government from the financial institutions and the insurance companies. Even the banks are being urged to put their money into Commonwealth loans, and, as a result of amendments of the Commonwealth Banking Act, they are now able to subscribe more than formerly and thereby feed inflation. Indirect taxation totalling £300,000,000 a year is still the order of the day. In July last, two Queensland economists said that this was the “ ravenous wolf in the pantry of the Australian family “. The ravenous Treasury wolf is still at largo amongst us. The Labour party claims that tax reductions of £200,000,000 could be made in a year, and our opinion is backed by that of experts. Such a reduction would have a powerful effect in restoring the incentive to increase production to farmers, manufacturers and businessmen. It would greatly increase the desire and ability of people to save and invest. Australians would again start to behave normally, treating taxation as a matter of course instead of putting their best efforts into evading or avoiding it. Last year, the financial editor of a Sydney newspaper wrote of the Treasurer -
Sir Arthur Fadden has let himself be pushed further along the road of repudiation of his expressed principles - the principles for which a once trusting nation elected him to office.
There is evidently no point at which he is prepared to. make a stand.
I think that is still true of the right honorable gentleman to-day. The article continued -
What are the Treasurer’s real beliefs and principles!! Where is he likely to jump next?
His financial administration, irresponsible and discredited, has created greater dangers to a free state than existed before.
We can echo that sentiment to-night.
I should like to compare the treatment that honorable members opposite have meted out to themselves with the treatment that they have reserved for the pensioners of Australia. I am reminded of the passage in the Scriptures -
Tell it not in Gath,
Publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon ;
Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice.
Tell it not in Gath that the framers of this budget are denying justice to the poor and are giving rich rewards to themselves and their friends ! All honorable members receive a parliamentary allowance of £1,750 a year. The Treasurer receives an additional sum of £2,500 a year, plus an expense allowance of £1,000, making a grand total of £5,250. Most of his colleagues are in receipt of £5,000 a year each. The Prime Minister, of course, receives £1,750 as a parliamentary allowance, plus £4,000 for his office, plus an entertainment allowance of £3,500 a year. These are the honorable members who have decided that the pensioners must survive with an additional 2s. 6d. a week. But that is not the whole story. These honorable members, very few of whom are in receipt of less than £5,000 a year, have given themselves tax reductions to the amount of at least £166 each a year. By that means they have given themselves the equivalent of a salary increase of £3 a week. Yet they tell the war pensioners, war widows, and the age, invalid and civilian widow pensioners to be happy and thankful when they receive their additional 2s. 6d. each a week. Half a crown a week for pensioners of all kinds on the one hand, and £3 a week for useless Liberals and equally useless Faddenites on the other hand. What a travesty of social justice! What a mockery of human need ! What ingratitude to those who have served their country in war or who have reached the age at which their services are no longer wanted in industry!
But perhaps I have stated the position too favorably for the Ministers who are responsible for this budget. All of them are in comfortable circumstances. They have their professions, their businesses, or the money that comes to them from their investments, and it may well be that every member of the Cabinet, and many of the Government supporters who will vote for this miserly, niggardly 2s. 6d. a week increase for war victims, war widows and all other classes of pensioners, will derive a benefit of no less than £500 a year from the budget. It is a budget like this that makes Communists. Tho tories on the right of the Chair in this chamber, the reactionaries who are in power to-day, by their action in condemning 460,000 Australian pensioners to a continued life of semi-starvation, are promoting the very evil of Communism that they profess to oppose. When tho basic wage was £3 12s. a week, the totally and permanently incapacitated pension was £4 a week. To-day the basic wage is £11 16s. for the six capital cities, and the totally and permanently incapacitated pension will be only £9 5s. under this budget, or 10s. a week more than it was last year. But it is still more than £2 a week less than the basic wage. Furthermore, while totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners continue to live, their wives are not entitled to free medical benefits.’ They will acquire eligibility only when they become widows. This is another instance in which the Government is disdainful of the sufferings of the people.
Those who have listened to the protagonists of this budget would imagine that the Government had done something for everybody in the community. When the Treasurer delivered his speech on the introductory resolution to the Income tax and Social Services Contribution Bill, he stated -
The reductions proposed will be graduated from 24 per cent, for a person without dependants on £.150 per annum to 10.5 per cent, on an income of £10,000.
In fact, the tax remission for the person in receipt of £150 a year will be only 8s. a year, whereas the remission for tho man receiving £10,000 a year will be £589 a year. But the choicest morsel of all is contained in this passage -
The amount of tax payable by persons with dependants will be reduced by 100 per cent. on the lower income groups, by about 20 per cent, in the middle income groups and by nearly 11 per cent, at an income of £10,000. 1 have studied the Government’s proposals, and I find that one person who will benefit from a reduction of 100 per cent, is a man with a dependant wife and one child who is in receipt of £300 a year, or half the basic wage. A similar reduction will be enjoyed by a man with a wife and two children if he earns only £350 a year, which is £4 a week less than the basic wage. When Labour was in power, a man with a wife and two children paid no tax if he earned only the basic wage. If the Government wants to restore taxation to the equitable level established by the Labour Government, let it exempt from income tax every man on the basic wage who has a wife and two children. That would mean the granting of exemption to a man with three dependants if he earned as much as £612 a year. The Government generously proposes that a married man with a wife and child living on half the basic wage shall receive a remission of 17s. a year whereas a person in receipt of £10,000, with the same number of dependants, will benefit by £592 a year! The man who receives less than the basic wage is expected to believe that equity of sacrifice has been preserved. But that is not the worst. A married man, ‘who is supposed to benefit from a reduction of tax, will be required to pay £7 14s. a year for medical benefits. That is all wrong. The Prime Minister has clearly demonstrated his inability to control inflation. Therefore he ought to be dismissed.
– Order ! The honorable member’s ertended time has expired.
– The committee has had an opportunity to listen to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) explaining the budget and to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, criticising it. I have no doubt that a large majority of the members of the committee are satisfied that the budget presented by the Treasurer is a good one. The Opposition has been so hard pressed to find grounds for criticism of any kind that it has been forced to resort to misrepresentation and to repeated statements that pension increases are inadequate. Honorable members opposite have criticised those increases, not because they are concerned about the welfare of pensioners but because they hope the criticism will help them politically. In considering what the Opposition has said about pensions, it is of interest to remember what happened when the late Mr. Chifley presented the budget for 1949-50. On that occasion, the Labour party, in office, appeared to be less concerned about pensioners than it is now, when in opposition. The late Mr. Chifley, in his budget speech of that year, said -
Wages and internal costs have risen rapidly during the past two years. The Government, however, has always recognized the difficulties to which excessive and cumulative price and cost increases could give rise, and it has done its best to avoid such increases.
According to his own admission, it failed dismally to avoid them. Although Mr. Chifley admitted frankly that heavy increases of costs and prices had occurred during that year, he did not give the pensioners an extra penny. It was not until the Menzies Government came into office the following year that the age, invalid and war pensioners of this country were given what the Chifley Government had refrained from giving to them. In contrast to the refusal of the Chifley Government’ to increase pensions, the Menzies Government, in 1950-51, gave the largest increase of pensions ever given in the history of Australia. The increase was 7s. 6d. a week. In the following year, realising that prices had risen, it gave the pensioners an extra 10s. a week. In the following year, an increase of 7s. 6d. a week was given. This year, with an almost stable price level, the pensioners have been given another 2s. 6d. a week. Judged on the basis of what pensioners can buy with their money, they are better off now than they were when the Chifley Government left office. Consequently, the Opposition is indulging in humbug when it tries to convince the pensioners that if it were in office it would do more for them than the Menzies Government is doing at the present time.
The record of the Labour party in office is in direct conflict with its promises when in opposition.
I want to refer briefly to the suggestion that the people of this country are labouring under a heavy burden of taxation. As a matter of fact, they are taxed to a lesser degree than are the people of almost any other democratic country. It is as well that the Australian people have not become the victims of the propaganda of the Labour party which, if it were in office, would increase taxes, perhaps not directly but in a snide manner by encouraging inflation. “We have heard a good deal about the income tax payable by people on the basic wage. The honorable member for Melbourne, who has now left the Chamber after haranguing the committee for nearly an hour and saying very little in that time, has said that he will be satisfied if a man with a wife and two children who earns only the basic wage can escape the payment of income tax. A man with a wife and two children who has an income of £600 a year, which is approximately equal to the basic wage, pays £13 ls. a year in income tax, but he receives 15s. a week in child endowment payments. So he is really being, not taxed but subsidized as a family man. It is about time that honorable members opposite realised that a man who is receiving benefits of that kind will not be gulled by the claptrap that they utter from time to time in this Parliament.
It is clear that the inflation which has been tackled and halted by the Menzies Government is not something that occurred suddenly when it took office in 1949-50. Inflation was gathering momentum during the regime of the late Mr. Chifley. He admitted that his Government had been unable to deal with it. It is important that the Australian people should realize that on no occasion have the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters given an inkling of what they would do to deal with the inflationary pressure which began when a Labour Government was in office. On the contrary, everything that they have said indicates that they would increase the pressure.
– Inflation was nonexistent when we were in office.
– It is obvious that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) has not read the statements of his late leader. The first inkling that the Labour party appreciates the limitations of finance was given by the Leader of the Opposition. His gyrations confused himself and, I imagine, those who listened to him. He said that he could not accept the proposition that there was no limit to the supplies of public finance. But, having said that, he went on to tell the committee about the pension increases that a Labour government would give. Finally - this was repeated by the honorable member for Melbourne - he made the extraordinary statement that he would not use revenue to finance capital works. He said, in other words, that the sum of £102,000,000 that we will use to finance capital works from revenue should be used to increase pensions and permit further taxation concessions. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, a government of which the present Leader of the Opposition was u prominent member used revenue to finance public works. That was done by a party which claims that vast loan funds are available. “We have heard a great deal about what the Labour party would do in the way of development and expansion if it were in office. In 1946-47, . the first year after the end of the war, a Labour government spent £17,000,000 on public works, which it took from revenue. In the next year, the figure was £26,000,000; in the following year, it was £37,000,000 ; and in the last year of office of that government it was £61,000,000. In that last year, £92,000,000 of loan money was available for the States. In the previous years, the figures were £40,000,000, £62,000,000, and £66,000,000 respectively. Conditions in the country now favour the attainment of the objectives of the Government, which are increased production and increased development. Tt is as well to remember that before we can achieve increased production, and certainly before we can expand development, we must have a stable economy. There is some dispute about whether the economy is stable. On that subject, I propose to read a considered statement that was presented to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on behalf of the trade unions.
– Not again.
– it win stand repetition. The .statement is as follows : -
From the point of view of our internal position, we have been relieved of the embarrassments of the pressure of excessive demand which plagued industry from 1940-47 until 1951-52.
During three of those years we had a Labour regime, and during those three years, according to the Opposition’s own mouthpiece, those shortages plagued industry. The statement continues -
We have still as high .x percentage in tinwork force, substantially as high a percentage in the work force, as we had in the conditions of over-full employment in June of 1947.
That statement was presented to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and, I believe, was accepted by the court. i- am -prepared to accept it rather than the statement that the honorable member for
East Sydney (Mr. Ward) .has made to-day.
Let me quote a statement by a body that honorable members opposite hold in very high regard. i refer to the Commonwealth Bank. This statement appeared in the press to-day - “A steady improvement in the tone of the economy has taken place during 1953, and employment is now at healthy levels “, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Dr. H. C. Coombs, says, iri the bank’s annual report for 1952-53. “ The combined demand of consumers, businesses and governments is sufficient to maintain the level of employment”, Dr. Coombs says.
As the demand also appears to be within the range of available supplies, the inflationary pressure of recent years has been relaxed. Prices are relatively stable.
These two authorities aTe not linked with either political party in this chamber.
We may well pay some regard to their opinions. i shall now discuss briefly the pro gramme that i hope will be carried out in Australia in the coming year and continued into the distant future. As T have said, whilst our objective has been greater production, unfortunately until recently we were not able to achieve it. Production has increased during the last year, shortages have disappeared and costs are stable, and, in some instances, are being reduced. That condition will assist in meeting the needs of development. We have an opportunity of going ahead with our developmental programme, hut it is well to realize that if the people of this country really want development on a large scale it rests substantially with themselves whether or not they will get it. I cannot accept the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition that there is no limit to the supply of public finance. It is well recognized that all capital expenditure has to be subtracted from normal consumption expenditure. The terrific pressure that has been put on this country for capital during the last few years is interesting. As set out in Mr. Eggleston’s statement to the court, capital expenditure has been high during the last few years. I direct the committee’s attention to the magnitude of the capital expenditure that has taken place in this country during the last three years while our friends opposite, were accusing the Government of financial restrictions that were curbing development. In 1950-51 capital expenditure, both governmental and private, amounted to £897,000,000 at a time when our national income was £3,126,000,000 and when private investment amounted to approximately 17 per cent, of thu national income. Private capital expenditure combined with the State and Commonwealth capital expenditure approximated 25 per cent, of the national income. In the succeeding year capital expenditure rose to £1,176,000,000 out of a national income of £3,250,000,000 and represented approximately 30 per cent, of the national income. It fell slightly in 1952-53 to £1,080,000,000, which represented 27 per cent, or 28 per cent, of the national income. I have given these figures to show there is no mystery about the matter. If we want development in this country capital has to bc provided for it. It can be provided only by one or other of several ways. First, from the savings of the people themselves; secondly, from overseas loans, which represent the savings of people in other countries who are prepared to invest their money here; thirdly, from taxation, from which, as I already pointed out, we are expending £100,000,000 this year on capital works; or, lastly, from the printing press.
On the one hand we have been chided for not expanding credit sufficiently. On the other hand we have also been chided because we expanded it last year to the extent of £73,000,000. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. The last thing this Government or the people should want is an undue expansion of credit for the financing of capital works or any other works. The Government has created a congenial climate for industrial activity and social welfare, but it rests with the people themselves whether or not they take full advantage of the opportunities presented to them. I sincerely hope, for the reasons I have stated, that the people of this country, realizing, first, the need for development and, secondly, that development must be paid for, will not spend on consumption goods or inessentials the whole of the money they will save as a result of tax remissions. There is a vast amount of room for extra savings, not only for the benefit of the country as a whole but also for the benefit of the people individually. This year direct tax remissions to individual taxpayers will amount to approximately £55,000,000. I do not suggest that all of that amount should be saved, but I do suggest that the standard of living enjoyed by the people before these cuts take effect is equal to the standard of living of any country in the world with the possible, but not certain, exception of Canada and the United States of America. So, there is room for mon.1 saving. In addition to the benefit of thi.’ £55,000,000 direct remissions of tax, the people will gain an indirect benefit as a result of the reduction of income tax and pay-roll tax payable by companies, which will total £82,000,000.’ These reductions will be reflected in reduced prices to the consumers. It is probable that companies will put some of their tax savings into reserve. I sincerely hope that, in order to benefit the country to curb inflation, and to add tq their own security, they will put into reserve a considerable portion of that money
The savings a head of population in the various States and the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory make an interesting comparison. In New South Wales at the 31st July last savings deposits a head of population were £93.2. The figures in the other States were: Victoria, £135; Queensland, £88 ; South Australia, £152 ; Western Australia, £81 ; Tasmania, £104 ; Northern Territory, £71; and Australian Capital Territory, £76. I do not know the reason for the wide variation in these averages, but it is obvious that a large proportion of the population of Australia can save more now than they once could. South Australia is the most thrifty State in the Commonwealth. I think that is due to the good example set for so many years by its Liberal Government. Its savings a head of population are much greater than the comparable figure in New South Wales, where the people have been burdened with a Labour government for so long, or the figure in Queensland, where the people have been burdened with a Labour government for even longer. I have mentioned these figures because people should realize that development, increased production and the reduction of costs cannot be had merely by wishing for them or by mere legislative action, but can only be gained by individual effort. I hope the people will realize the problem that lies ahead, and that unless we are prepared to develop this country and populate it, before many years have passed people from other countries will wish to know by what right we remain in exclusive possession of this huge continent while leaving it largely undeveloped.
I congratulate the Treasurer, as the Prime Minister has done, for bringing down this budget, which will be a real stimulus to the community. I hope that the people themselves, now that the opportunity has been given to them, will respond and play their part in the great programme that lies ahead. If they do that, all the forecasts of the Opposition, including its leader and its deputy leader, the honorable member for Melbourne, who, incidentally, has been so wrong in his forecasts in the last four years that the people regard him as a joke when he makes a prophecy-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition to reduce the amount proposed in the budget by £1, which is the accepted method of moving a vote of no confidence in the Government. The Opposition’s action is in accordance with public opinion, (because the people have shown quite clearly, when they have had opportunity to do so during the last two years, that they feel nothing but contempt and disgust for this Government. The number of votes cast .for labour candidates considerably increased at the expense of the Government parties’ candidates in all State general elections and federal by-elections during the last two years, and in the recent election for the Senate held in May of this year the Government candidates obtained less thar 40 per cent, of the total votes. Surely that indicates a general lack of confidence in the present Government. More than 60 per cent, of the people of Australia have shown in no uncertain terms that they have no confidence in the present controllers of the country. If the Government had any conscience, any political decency at all, it would bow to the votes of no confidence in its capacity, and would face the people at a general election. No party that lacks the confidence of the people has any right to govern, and to continue to do so shows contempt for the fundamental principles of democracy.
Much loose talk has taken place in this debate about inflation. Because of inflation’s damaging effect upon the people generally, it is important that we should be quite clear about all the facts concerning its cause and continued existence. This evening the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) spoke in great detail about what the Chifley Government failed to do in 1949. I say that under the last Labour government, for the first time in the history of this country, there were no hungry men, women and children in our midst. Unfortunately, that happy state of affairs does not exist at present. It has been suggested by the Minister for Defence, that the people should look carefully at the return they receive from the reduction of taxation. That warning comes from the richest man in the Parliament. I say nothing against him on that score, but that piece of information will not be accepted with any great joy by those unfortunate people who are to be awarded the princely sum of an extra 2s. 6d. a week under the budget.
Sib Philip McBRIDE. - I hope that the rest of the information that the honorable member intends to put before the Committee is more accurate than his information about me.
– It has been suggested by some of the friends of the Minister for Defence that he will be the next Treasurer. Well, I believe that Labour is justified in saying that it will carefully scrutinize the present defence vote for his department when it assumes office. Now let us consider the cause of this sorry inflation that we are at present suffering. In December, 1949, the Government parties made all sorts of promises to the electors, but I remind honorable members on the Government side that they will again face the electors in the near future and that they will then have to answer for their failure to honour those promises to put value back in the £1, to reduce taxation, to abolish controls and to continue full employment. In December, 1949, the Government was elected with an overwhelming majority of 74 seats to 47. When Labour left office in 1949 it had governed the country for eight years, and part of that time was during the. darkest period of the war when our very ‘existence was threatened. In 1949 the late Mr. Chifley introduced his 1949-50 budget of about £567,000,000, which compares much more favorably with the budget of £980,000,000 introduced this year. Labour left a balanced Treasury, and we had successfully demobilized more than a million men and women from the armed forces without one having suffered unemployment. Labour brought to Australia and placed in employment 400,000 immigrants, and left move than £130,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund. Labour also built up overseas balances of more than £600,000,000. Both internally and externally Australia’s financial position was very sound. Confidence existed throughout our land, and no appeal for assistance made by the Government to the people went unanswered. All war and security loans were over-subscribed. As a contrast to that, let us remember that all the loans floated by this Government have been undersubscribed. Moreover, the last
Labour government did not permit private banks to subscribe to loans or to re-invest Commonwealth treasury-bills in government loans, as this Government allows them to do, in order to reap a huge profit on government money. The basic wage in 1949 was £6 10s. a week, and that was the minimum upon which a man, his wife and two children could comfortably live. The basic wage is the measuringstick of all our economy. That was the position when Labour relinquished office.
When this Government assumed office it set about creating favorable conditions to ensure victory in the double dissolution that followed, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) attempted to please everybody. To-night honorable members heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) speak of the conditions that existed in 1950. Profits were high, so high indeed that they were an embarrassment to business concerns, and all forms of subterfuge such as the issue of bonus shares was indulged in to camouflage their huge profits. Inflation commenced with a vengeance. In the first twelve months of the rule of this Government the basic wage increased by more than £3 a week. It has continued to increase until in New South Wales it is now £12 3s. a week. This Government foolishly removed the import restrictions, and encouraged all forms of imports. Luxury lines were the first priority. The Government and its advisers stated that this action was designed to soak up the surplus money in Australia. Overseas balances declined by more than £500,000,000, and I have bofore me a schedule of some of the luxury items that were allowed to flood the country. In 1951 the import of tinned fish was increased by the value of more than £1,190,000. ‘ Confectionery by more than £83,000, spirituous and alcoholic liquor by £623,000, cigarettes and tobacco by £2,316,000 and textiles and wearing apparel by more than £44,000,000. It is no wonder that the people lost confidence in the present Government and will never again have confidence in the Prime Minister or this Treasurer. This is certainly the last budget that the Treasurer will introduce in this Parliament. Everybody knows what happened when import controls were removed. Unemployment began on the most vicious scale, our textile trade, our timber industry, and our boot trade almost ceased to exist. Controls were reimposed of course, but the damage had been done.
To-day the Prime Minister said, in the way that he usually speaks when he believes that he has a magnificent audience, that in June of this year there were almost 100,000 more persons in employment than there were under the last Labour Government. That is a false and vicious statement. It is as untrue as many other statements that he has made. The fact is that in the peak period of employment in this country, that is, in November, 1951, 2,643,000 people plus 50,000 persons in the defence forces were in employment. About nineteen months later, according to the figures of June this year, the number in employment was 2,560,000 plus 67,000 in the defence forces. Therefore, there are at present 66,000 fewer people in employment than during the peak period of November, 1951. That is in spite of the fact that according to the latest information available our population increased in 1951-52 by about 217,000, and in 1952-53 by about 197,000. “What has happened to those people? “Where are they employed? The report of the Commonwealth Bank shows that in the last financial period of January to June, 1953, employment decreased by about 27,000. It has been stated that the natural increase would have added 60,000 workers during the period. I refer to a period, not of six months, but of nineteen months.
The Government lifted the capital issues control which had been imposed to direct the flow of capital into essential industries and to prevent the establishment and expansion of luxury trades. It is estimated that during the period while the control was lifted approximately £200,000,000 was invested in non-essential industries. All honorable members know that in a period of inflation the plight of family men and those in receipt of small incomes from pensions, superannuation, rents or dividends is appalling, yet the Government took no action to help them. Its supporters are delighted with the Government’s record and with this budget. Th, behaviour of honorable members opposite on the occasion of the presentation of the last two budgets reflects no credit on them. The reception given to the Treasurer on each occasion rivalled those given in the German Reich to Hitler in the days when he was at the height of his power.
– And they ‘were equally as phony !
– That is so. Honorable members opposite would not be so complacent if they had to face their masters, the electors, at a very early date.
I appeal to the Government to take action to assist the less fortunate people in our midst who have been brought to their present plight by its apathy and inaction. After winning the general election that followed the double dissolution in 1951 the Government imposed the most vicious controls that have been imposed since federation. It re-imposed import restrictions and the control of capital issues, but unfortunately the damage had already been done and inflation had run riot in .the community. It then imposed credit restrictions which had a disastrous effect on our economy. Is it any wonder that in those circumstances the people should have panicked? They had noi recovered from the effects of those restrictions and controls when the Treasurer introduced his horror budget, under which direct taxation was increased by £70,000,000, and indirect taxation by more than £87,000,000, or a total of £157,000,000 in one year. The savage impositions provided for in the horror budget were necessary only in order to relieve a situation’ which the Government itself had created. Now, in an attempt to popularize his Government the Treasurer has introduced this much publicized budget.
During the three months preceding the introduction of the budget, all sorts of forecasts were made by members and supporters of the Government regarding the concessions that the budget would contain. Business in retail stores throughout the length and breadth of Australia came to a. standstill. Spending was curtailed, because every one was waiting for a magnificant handout from the Treasurer. It is true that the budget contains someconcessions. I have no doubt that those who will be on the receiving end will be quite pleased about it, -but the people generally feel that they have been robbed, cheated and misled over the past two years, and that the Treasurer intends only to return to them a small portion of the money that he has taken from them. It is the policy of this Government immediately after a general election to grab everything it can lay its hands on, and immediately before the following election to hand back a portion of its ill-gotten gains to the people.
This budget has been described as a budget which grants concessions without cost to the Government. Under the proposals contained in it expenditure is to be increased by an estimated amount of more than £70,000,000 to a total amount of £9S1,000,000. Greater concessions should have been granted to the needy members of the community. I endorse the sentiments expressed by church leaders, who are horrified at the meagre increase of the pension rate proposed by the Treasurer. The leaders of the ex-servicemen’s organizations have recently expressed themselves in very forceful terms on the subject. The federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Sir George Holland, said -
The meagre war pension rises to men and women who suffered through the war are ft “slap in the face”. The 2s. 6d. rise in some pensions is “ pocket money “ for children.
The Victorian president of the League said -
The increases are a public insult to men and women who have served.
He asked why sales tax should be lifted from unessential and luxury item.9 while a worthy section of the community had been denied the necessaries of life. The secretary of the Limbless Soldiers Association said -
We are very disappointed. While we are thankful for small mercies, we did expect that the minimum increase would be 10s. a week in the general rate.
The secretary of the Old Age Pensioners Fund said -
The smallness of the increase took my breath away. When we consider how the cost of living has eaten into the pensioners standards, the increase is very mean. If the Government could afford to make all-round cuts in taxation, surely they could have afforded a little more to the pensioners.
The acting Victorian president of the War Widows Guild said -
The Federal Government’s war widows’ tax concession is like throwing a bone with no meat on it to a dog. I am disgusted. All war widows will be bitterly disappointed. How can m, widow rear a family with the present high rents, gab, electricity, clothing and other essential food?
Those criticisms typify the reaction of people throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The Government will not rehabilitate itself by offering such a miserable pittance to the needy. Commenting on the budget, a Sunday newspaper had this to say -
The greatly publicized Menzies-Fadden Budget of 1053-54, despite the fanfare of trumpets, will come as a bitter disappointment to wage-earners throughout Australia. A 12J per cent, cut in individual income tax was an anti-climax to the bally-hoo of Prime Minister Menzies and Treasurer Sir Arthur Fadden. Instead of getting a slice off the loaf, the wage-earners were thrown a crumb.
– From which newspaper is the honorable member quoting.
– I am quoting from Truth. The people of Australia are horrified that, despite the policies applied by this Government during the last two years, it should now offer such a miserable pittance to the pensioners of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) have told the committee that the Australian Labour party will relieve the plight of the pensioners when it takes over the reins of government. They have stated that on the basis of the present basic wage, a Labour government will increase the pension rate to £4 a week. It will act similarly with permissible incomes for pensioners. On the basis of the rate of permissible income of 30s. a week that was introduced by the Chifley Government in 194S and the present basic wage, the Australian Labour party promises that it will increase the permissible income to £2 15s. a week on its return to office. If the Chifley £1 of 1949 was worth 20s., the Menzies £1 of to-day is worth less than 10s. I ask the Government to restore pensions to the 1949 values. Such action on the part of the Government would contribute to the welfare of a worthy section of the community. It is easy to plead the case of wealthy companies and those who contribute large sums to party funds. Honorable members on this side of the chamber seek common justice for civilian and service pensioners. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is sitting at the table, to try to influence the Government, even at this late stage, to review the pension rates.
(No. 2) 1953.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harbison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- 1 wish to bring before tho House a matter relating to growing discontent and unhappiness at the Bell Bay aluminium construction project in the East Tamar district of Tasmania. Dozens of my electors ave working on this project although it is in the electorate of Bass. Contrary to the usual experience in such matters, the dissatisfaction in this case is to be found among the staff personnel, most of whom are highly qualified technical men from various parts of Australia. So serious is the position that there has been a turnover among the staff in the past year of 75 per cent, with a consequent serious effect upon the efficiency of the staff. Among the highly qualified men who have left Bell Bay are the chief chemist, a purchasing officer, a civil engineer, a surveyor, the chief accountant and cashier, a stores superintendent, a draftsman, the accountant who was originally appointed to the project and a chemist. I have the names of these men. They were not sacked. They wanted to =ray on the job, but instead they resigned or sought transfers just when their skilled services were vital to this huge national project. They could not continue to suffer the atmosphere in which they worked. The disorganization that is resulting from these resignations can be readily imagined by honorable members because stability of employment is essential to contentment and efficiency.
The Bell Bay project has become a quicksand of uncertainty to many of the key personnel. Relations between the men and the management and between the management and the staff officers have been poisoned by constant resignations. Without a happy relationship, such a project cannot go ahead smoothly. Bell Bay is a nightmare to many men on the job whose hearts are in the project and who realize its urgency and magnitude. It is the first project of its kind in Australia. Three of the key personnel engaged at Bell Bay travelled 53 miles to my home one night last month to give me the inside information about the trouble there. The Tasmanian newspapers have published many letters from residents of Bell Bay and the nearby town of George Town where many of the staff officers and other workers reside.
I shall summarize briefly the history of the trouble there. On the 16th July, the first letter of complaint about certain happenings at Bell Bay appeared in the Launceston Examiner. On the 29th July, more letters were published in the Examiner. One of them appeared over the nom de plume, “Time Will Tell.” The writer stated -
The fault lies with the management and the lack of experienced persons in charge of the different departments. Men with the ability to say “ yes “ at the right time and to the right person are welcome.
Complaints were made about superannuation, unpaid overtime and the check system under which a pass-out check was given by the foreman to any worker who went to another section to see the section head. The time spent in seeing the section head was then deducted from the man’s pay. On the 30th July, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), ordered an inquiry into all the allegations at the request of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick). On the 31st July, five tradesmen were dismissed on the spot. Four of them are union representativesand feeling ran high in George Town. On the 4th August, the editor of the Examiner announced that he would make available to the investigating authorities all letters that had been received on the Bell Bay dispute, without the names of the writers being disclosed. Two officials of the Amalgamated Engineers Union visited Bell Bay to investigate the dismissals. On the 6th August, an inquiry was made by Mr. L. L. Benjamin, the Tasmanian representative on the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. He supplied his report on the 7th August, after visiting Bell Bay, and 100 angry workers attended a meeting that was addressed by the honorable member for Bass. The meeting discussed the report item by item and it was derided by the workers. One electrician said at the meeting that the investigator was closeted with the general manager of the project, Mr. Keast, for one and half hours and that during that time he had lunch. Mr. Benjamin rejected 90 per cent, of the complaints in a seven-point memorandum. Briefly, the honorable member for Bass asked the Minister for an inquiry. That Minister promptly appointed Mr. Benjamin, a member of the commission, to conduct the investigation. Mr. Benjamin visited Bell Bay, and within a few hours, he had a report consisting of several foolscap pages prepared and typed. The general opinion is that it was physically impossible for him to interview people, and have a report typed in such a ridiculously short time. Was this report prepared by some one at Bell Bay before Mr. Benjamin arrived? To the minds of most people, this inquiry was a farce. In the interests of the personnel, the commission, the industry and the Government, a full inquiry by independent outside men should be immediately ordered by the Minister.
What is the cause of the discontent which has continued at fever heat over a period of about four months? I believe that the cause lies, not so much in conditions of employment, as in personalities. In other words, we must look for the cause, not in statistics, cold-blooded awards and physical things, but in the spirit and nature of management methods - in other words, in human factors. There is no personnel relations officer at this great project at Bell Bay, although there is an officer who interviews prospective employees. He is doing a good job, but that is all he has to do. A vacuum exists between the staff and the management. No liasion is provided between management and staff. There is no man with sound psychological and human abilities to advise the management, and act as guide, philosopher and friend to the staff. Consequently, suspicion, mistrust and fear pollute the atmosphere of office, staff room and laboratory. If a dictatorship is wanted, this is the seed-bed, the breeding ground, and the likeness of one. All the elements of a dictatorship are present at Bell Bay.
Men want to be treated as human beings, not as cogs in a huge machine. They want friendship on a man-to-man basis. They do not want to be overlorded, and kept at a distance. They want to be treated as staff personnel, who are trained and trusted, and not as children to be mistrusted. What is needed is a new attitude and spirit towards the men by the management at Bell Bay.
In conclusion, I ask this question : Is all this a subtle. plan to bring a governmentowned enterprise into disrepute so that later it may be convenient to sell the project to an overseas aluminium company or combine on the ground that a government cannot handle it? The Minister for Supply said during a debate early this year that it would be a good idea if businessmen ran the Bell Bay project. I asked him, by way of interjection, whether he meant that he wanted the project to be sold to private enterprise. He would not answer my question. But I feel that if any one has wanted to create dissatisfaction in the public mind about a government enterprise, it has been done at Bell Bay. It might not have been done for this specific reason, but it could have been. The element is there. This Government has a responsibility to the people and to this Parliament for the defence of Australia, and should get to the bottom of this matter. It is a human problem more than a physical problem. Therefore, I urge that an inquiry by independent men should be conducted into the trouble that occurred at Bell Bay during the latter part of July and August. It is not settled yet.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the House to what, to my mind, is a particularly contemptible charge that has been made against this Government by a member of the Labour party in the Queensland Parliament. I refer to a statement made by Mr. J. Burrows, who is the member for Port Curtis, in regard to the Callide coalfield. Mr. Burrows laid the charge against this Government that the Callide field would prosper if the Commonwealth ceased to interfere in coal matters. He said, in addition, that this Government was trying to close down the Callide field, and was turning to uneconomic seams in western New South Wales. Mr. Burrows made other equally stupid charges.
I believe that the House knows by this time, but will forgive me for reminding it, that the Callide field has been particularly well blessed by this Government. Nobody knows that fact better than Mr. Burrows because he has taken an active interest in the matter. During the last f ew years, this Government has done what the preceding Labour government refused r.o do, and that is take an active interest in the development of the Callide coalfield. The previous Government had made certain promises in this respect, but it has remained for the present Government to pour a considerable sum of money into that field. The first action of this Government was to inform the Victorian Government that it would subsidize every ron of Callide coal brought to Victoria up to a maximum quantity of 600,000 tons over a three-year period. More than £1,000,000 would be expended on the subsidy. Mr. Burrows has made this charge although he well knows the facts. He says that the Australian Government is trying to close down the Callide field.
The assistance that has been given to the Callide project by this Government has not been limited to the subsidy. Some difficulty arose about the transport of coal from, the field to the port of Gladstone, and this Government made a straight out grant of £186,000 to the Queensland Government to put the connecting road into a satisfactory condition. Subsequently it was found that difficulty would be experienced in the provision of ships to transport the coal from Gladstone to Victoria. This Government bought two ships especially for this coal trade at a cost of approximately £1.000.000. In all, a sum of nearly £3.000.000 has been provided by this Government for the development of the Callide field.
I regret, and I look with some degree of bitterness upon, this charge by a man who is, after all, an elected representative of the people. He has attempted to carry out the Goebbels practice, which is commonly adopted by members of the Labour party and may be described by the maxim, “ If you tell a lie often enough, somebody is sure to believe it “. People who do not know Mr. Burrows might be inclined, on reading the report of his statement, to think that he told the truth. I want the House to know that this Government has done more than its predecessor was prepared to do to assist the development of the Callide field. Indeed, the Chifley Labour Government did nothing at all in this respect. The present Government has done all the things that I have described this evening for the Callide trade. I consider that an individual is most petty and shows a nasty turn of mind when he tries to make party political propaganda out of this matter and vents his spleen upon a government that .has done so much for this field.
Had a Labour government provided all this assistance, Mr. Burrows would have been exuberant in his praise of it, but because a. non-Labour government which I support has provided the assistance, he pours out these lies in the’ hope that the people of Queensland will believe them. I-say emphatically that, as the member for the district in which this coal seam exists, the people and I greatly appreciate all that this Government has done for the Callide coal-field and the coal hauliers and business people of the district, the harbour board and every one else interested in making the industry of great value to the electorate. I deplore the fact that the representative of the district in the Queensland Parliament has seen, fit to try to make party political capital by uttering such contemptible statements. We in central Queensland are proud of everything that this Government, has done in this matter as in all other matters. We look with a great deal of regret upon contemptible statements of the kind made by Mr. Burrows, which appear to have been made as a part of n practice on the part of members of the Australian Labour party to which we are rapidly becoming accustomed. That practice is to tell one lie after another and to repeat the lies in the hope that some people might be led to believe them.
– It was stated to-day that the Government will not proceed this year with the construction of an aerodrome at Merimbula. If that statement be true, 1 desire to register the strongest protest; and, if a final decision has not yet been reached, I appeal to the Government to reconsider the matter. I remind it of the overwhelming case for the construction of the aerodrome which has been presented to it on many occasions. That case has been based on the isolation of this district, which is in the south-east of New South Wales, and on many other grounds. I remind the Government also that it accepted that case last year when money was placed upon the works estimates for the construction of this aerodrome. Furthermore, only a few months ago the Government announced that the sum of £75,000 would definitely be expended on the commencement of this construction in the financial year ending the 30th June next. In view of those circumstances and of the assurances that the Government has given to the people of south-eastern New South Wales that the aerodrome would be constructed, the people of that district would regard any decision how by the Government to reverse its previous decision in this matter as a most bitter betrayal.
– During my unavoidable absence from the chamber this evening, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) raised . a matter in relation to the aluminium project at Bell Bay. At the outset, I suggest that it would have been advisable for the honorable member to let me know that he intended to raise the subject in order to enable me to answer his representations. As it is, we are reaching a position in this chamber when an honorable member jumps up and makes wild charges in the absence of the appropriate Minister, who may be unable to be present, and the accusations drag on from day to day. I understand that the gravamen of the charge made by the honorable member for Wilmot is that discontent exists at the Bell Bay works owing to the fact that the management is acting harshly towards some employees. First, I say that Mr. Keast, the manager at Bell Bay, is an outstanding constructional engineer with approximately 40 years’ experience.
– No one will deny that.
- Mr. Keast’s job is to get into production as soon as possible a great enterprise which is costing many millions of pounds. He has been obliged te work under difficult conditions. For instance, a little over a year ago he was faced with an acute shortage of materials. Nevertheless, the progress that he has made has been quite spectacular; and 1 think that the honorable member for Wilmot, if he is fair-minded, will agree also with that statement. Now, it is said that some discontent exists at the works at Bell Bay. The honorable member said that the staff turnover there was 75 per cent. I am able to contradict that statement, because, when this matter was first raised, I requested a member of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, Mr. Benjamin, who is a Tasmanian and is well known and well liked in Tasmania, and is, I understand, also an experienced industrialist, to visit Bell Bay and inquire into that allegation. He reported that with the exception of one matter, to which I shall refer later, there was absolutely no ground for complaint.
– The honorable member for Wilmot said that Mr. Benjamin’s report was typed before Mr. Benjamin arrived at Bell Bay.
– I now inform the honorable member that Mr. Benjamin visited Bell Bay at my request. He made a close investigation and interviewed all the persons involved. When he returned, he prepared a careful report that was forwarded to me. Any suggestion that that report was prepared in advance of his arrival at Bell Bay is all nonsense.
On one matter, labour turnover, Mr. Benjamin, in his report, stated -
On almost any construction job, at any time, there is considerable labour turnover, and Bell Bay is no exception. Having regard to its relative isolation, the turnover there is quite normal. As with construction works elsewhere, the rate of turnover has fallen considerably during the past year. In the past three months, it has been approximately 35 per cent, compared with. 55 per cent, last year.
That is quite different from a turnover of 75 per cent. which the honorable memmer for Wilmot mentioned.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is constantly interjecting. He had a relative at Bell Bay. It would be much more decent of him if, on an occasion like this, he said nothing at all instead of interjecting partly on information supplied to him by his daughter’s husband, or whoever his relative at Bell Bay might be. The commission provides houses for the accommodation of its employees. It was found that some persons, who had left the employ of the commission, declined to vacate the houses which they occupied. Mr. Keast, on instructions from the commission, circularized a statement in somewhat abrupt terms warning employees that so far as future employment was concerned they would be expected, if they left the employ of the commission, to vacate the houses which they occupied. That seems to be the explanation of the start of this matter. It is absolutely false and ridiculous to say that there has been any victimization or tyrannical treatment by the commission of its employees. By and large, in view of the magnitude of the project, Mr. Keast’s management has ‘been spectacularly successful. If we are to get this £10,000,000 project into production as quickly as possible as a national asset and enable it to earn money for the people, I shall not stand over the commission or interfere with the management on minor matters of this kind.
– The honorable member for Wilmot said that the management was trying to discredit this government enterprise so as to manufacture a pretext for selling it to private enterprise.
– I have never heard of such nonsense. If the honorable member for Wilmot is really genuine in raising this matter and is not merely playing at party politics, I invite him to read the file on the subject, which includes Mr. Benjamin’s report. I am perfectly satisfied, as is the chairman of the commission, Mr. Brodribb, who is a distinguished public servant, that efficiency and justice prevail at Bell Bay. Having no further details of the honorable member’s remarks on the matter, I repeat that if he is genuine he can read Mr. Benjamin’s report. If he does so he will be satisfied. This project must be got into production as soon as possible for the benefit of the Australian people. We have passed the feather-bed stage in this matter. If some of the employees are disgruntled, it. is better that the commission should get rid of them. At present, we have a fine management and a fine staff at the works, and, speaking on behalf of the Government, I am satisfied that everything so far as the management is concerned is being well conducted.
– I wish to refer briefly to a report that appeared in the press to-day in relation to the granting of consent for a capital issue transaction on a Sunday. I want to know from the Government definitely, a la Blackburn, “Yes “ or “ No “, whether it is true, as reported, that the Government intends to order a public inquiry into all the circumstances that led to the opening of the Capital Issues Board office on a Sunday.
Motion (by Mr. Eric j. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put -
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
National Development -P. E. Goodeve. Repatriation - T. E. McGuire.
House adjourned at 11.33 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Mr.Costa asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
Whenwill the erection of. the Revesby telephone exchange be completed?
What postal districts will this telephone exchange serve?
At what date will the exchange be providing service?
What number of subscribers will this telephone exchange serve?
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530917_reps_20_hor1/>.