20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Petitions in relation to the Super annuation Act were presented as follows: -
By Mr. CLYDE CAMERON, from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
By Mr. MACKINNON, from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
Petitions received and read.
– Towards the end of last week petitions were received which were not in conformity with the Standing Orders. I think that I should call the attention . of honorable gentlemen to the Standing Orders which deal with- the presentation of petitions, and particularly with the signing of petitions by the petitioners. I direct the attention of honorable members to Standing Order 117, which reads as follows: -
Every Petition shall be signed by the parties whose names are appended thereto, by their own hand, and by no one else, except in case of incapacity by sickness. Persons unable to write shall affix their marks in the presence of a witness, who shall as such affix his signature.
I have had petitions shown to me in the last few days, including a whole sheet bearing eighteen or twenty signatures, which were obviously written by the same person. I may point out to honorable gentlemen that a select committee of this House once sat to consider this matter, and it was recommended that certain people be prosecuted for forgery. The prosecutions did not take place, but 1 think it is very well known that people who sign the names of other people to documents such as petitions render themselves liable to certain penalties. I think that honorable gentlemen may perhaps be convenienced by .my having called attention to this standing order of the House.
– I take it, Mr. Speaker, that, your remarks have no reference to the two petitions that have just been presented ?
– No. They are in order.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a Question relative to the Westminster Abbey appeal now being organized iri Australia and assisted by
Sir William McKie, the musical director of the Abbey, who is a very famous Australian musical authority. The Prime Minister has recently referred to the importance of the Abbey as a place of remembrance and pilgrimage which is sacred to Australians, in common with the people of other parts of the British Commonwealth. I ask him, as representing the Government, whether, in order to assist the appeal, he will consider, first, the possibility of making a direct Government contribution towards the fund to preserve the Abbey which is now being organized ; and secondly, the inclusion in the Income Tax Assessment Bill of a provision to allow as tax concessions, contributions made privately by citizens towards the appeal.
– As the right honorable gentleman knows, I believe that the appeal is of very great importance. As Prime Minister, I issued a statement to the press at the opening of the appeal urging its merits. I am sure it has enormous appeal to everybody all over1 Australia. The particular aspects to which the right honorable gentleman has referred are matters which I have had in consideration. I have not yet had an opportunity of discussing them fully. As soon as I know what the answers are I shall, of course, be delighted to make them known.
– Will the Minister for Social Services indicate the relationship between the full age pension payable in 1949 compared, with the cost of living then, and the pension now payable compared with the present cost of living?’ Is it correct to make a comparison between the pension payable, and the basic wage, at these respective dates, or has the basic wage increased more rapidly during the period than has the cost of living!
– If the pension now payable were based on the C series cost of living increases since 1949 il would be £3 8s. 3d.
– Rot !
– The honorable gentleman may be an expert on rot, but he is not an expert on the matter under discussion.
– Order ! The Minister will take his seat. There has been too much interruption at question time recently. I may as well announce at the beginning of question time to-day that I do not propose to allow it to continue.
– If the pension had been based on the variations of the “ 0 “ series index since 1949, the present rate would have been. £3 8s. 3d. The relevant index figures are 1428 as against 2293, and anybody can work the rate out from those figures. ‘ As far as the honorable member’s question relates to the application of the basic wage to the pension rate, I must say that the basic wage cannot be applied to variations of pensions. While a good case could be made out that in an enlightened community pensioners should receive some such proportion of the basic wage, to apply a proportion of the basic wage as it was some years ago to the pensions, and compare that with the basic wage to-day, would give a completely fallacious picture of the matter. That is because the basic wage at one time was the sura estimated to be adequate for the needs of a husband, wife and three children. Then the family unit became somewhat obscure. Again, the basic wage was applied to a 48-hour week, and later to a 44-hour week.
– Order ! I consider that the Minister is introducing debatable matter into his answer.
– I am merely replying to the question, Mr. Speaker. The basic wage has varied to such a remarkable degree with the capacity of industry to pay in recent years, that to compare the pension to-day with the pension of a few years ago in terms of the basic wage is completely fallacious.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Health inform me whether the Government intends to discontinue the payment to the States of the allowance of ls. 2d. a day for the maintenance of patients in mental institutions? If the answer is in the affirmative, will the Minister state the reasons that have prompted this action ? As no payment of pension is made to pensioners while they are inmates of mental institutions, does not this nonpayment mean a considerable saving out of the sufferings of the mentally afflicted? Will consideration be given to the diversion to the States of pension moneys that would normally be paid to pensioners if they had not been admitted to mental institutions, in order to assist the States to meet the payment of essential maintenance costs?
– The provision and maintenance of mental homes has always been, and is still, the responsibility of the States. When the Chifley Government was in office, an agreement was adopted under which the Commonwealth made payments to the States of 6s. a day in respect of each hospital bed; for patients in mental institutions payments varied from 9d. to ls. 2d. a day. I think that the payment made to Victoria was at the rate of ls. 2d. a day for each patient. Those agreements will expire next year, and the Commonwealth has already intimated that it does not intend to renew them.
– We think that the agreements are stupid, and we believe that the States will share our view. However, we have indicated that we are prepared, either now or at the termination of the agreements, to enter into new agreements which will be far more realistic than are the present ones.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. Until two or three years ago persons who had lost sons during a war were able to obtain some payment from the Repatriation Department, in addition to a limited social services pension. About two years ago the practice of the Repatriation Department was altered, so that the whole sum was paid by the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services was not required to make any payment at all. Consequently, such persons are now unable to receive the medical benefits available to social service pensioners. Will the Minister, in any amendments thai he might propose to make to the social services legislation, make provision to revert to the previous practice so that these persons can draw a certain amount from the Department of Social Services and a certain amount from the Repatriation Department. Then they would be able to obtain the social services medical benefits also. Is the Minister aware that the limit to the sum paid to such parents is at present £8 a week, or 25s. more than the age pension, and that the parents are deprived of medical benefits which, in many cases, are costing them more than the sum that they are receiving above the age pension?
– Order ! The honorable member must not make a speech.
– I believe that the honorable member’s question is really one for the Minister for Repatriation. However, I shall be pleased to discuss the suggestion of the honorably member with my colleague.
– Has the Prime Minister received any representations from the organizers of the Peace Conference which is to be held in Sydney on the 26th September, about the subject matter of his statement to this Parliament last week ?
– I have read in the press certain letters that have been written about this matter. I also received a personal visit ‘ from the Reverend Eric Owen, of Victoria, who is one of the prominent promoters of the convention. I saw him last Monday morning. I believe that I should say something to the House about this matter. In the course of our discussion two things emerged. One was that Mr. Owen, who is not a Communist but is a man of high standing, asked me for certain information. As far as I could give it to him I did so, and as far as I could put him in the way of receiving what I could not give him, I made the necessary arrangements. He told me of the precautions that he himself had taken to avoid Communist control of or Communist activity in the convention, particularly Communist control. I entirely- accept what Mr. Owen told me. I think that he took all the precautions that presented themselves to his mind; but it will be understood that matters are known to the Government in relation to these affairs which cannot, in the nature of things, be known to private citizens. I took the opportunity of telling him about them. I want to say, in justice to Mr. Owen, because this is no smear campaign - I shall not have that kind of thing-
– Not much!
– I leave that to the honorable member. In justice to Mr. Owen as a prominent churchman and a good citizen, I want to say that I think he took all the precautions that presented themselves to him. He is certainly not a Communist, and I should regret it if anybody felt that he was himself under attack in this matter. It was my duty to set out the facts in relation to the convention, which I have done and which stand unaltered. It would be unfortunate if a. man of great character and standing in his church and in the community should be thought to be either a Communist or . a man with Communist sympathies. I am perfectly certain that everything Mr. Owen did was done in complete good faith. He went to considerable trouble to satisfy himself on this matter.
– There must be hundreds of people in a similar position.
– Of course. I referred to Mr. Owen because he has been prominently connected with the convention. He came to see me about it. I understand what the Leader of the Opposition means. It is not to be thought that what I have said in relation to this matter, quite objectively and in firm terms, represents an attack on eminent churchmen and citizens who have a very proper interest in peace and wish to discuss it from time to time. These things must be kept quite separate. I do not want it to be thought that any prominent churchman or citizen is to be embarrassed because he became involved in a matter in relation to which there has been a great deal of Communist activity, unknown to the promoters in many instances, and certainly unknown in the case of the gentleman to whom I have referred, but nevertheless quite real, and giving a character to the proceedings that will occur.
– Will the Minister for Air state whether it is a fact that an aerial survey which had previously been undertaken by the Royal Australian Air Force in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is now being carried out by a private airline at a considerably increased cost? If it is a fact, will the Minister consider a reversion to the previous practice so as to enable Royal Australian Air Force personnel to obtain valuable training in this field of service, and at the same time conserve public funds?
– I have no information that a civil airline has taken over any operations that were previously performed by the Royal Australian Air Force. If the honorable member will submit details of the case he has mentioned, I shall have them examined. If there is any truth in the report I shall inform him of the result of my investigations.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether the technical details and the tactical performance of the Russian fighter aircraft M.I.G. 15, which was recently surrendered by its pilot in South Korea, will be made available to the Australian authorities?
– At least one Russian M.I.G. aircraft is already in the hands of the United States Air Force, and the details and technical performances of that machine have been made available to the Royal Australian Air Force. I see no reason why further details of the captured aircraft, when they are known, should not be made available to the Royal Australian Air Force. I certainly think that they, will be supplied to us.
– Will the Minister for Air say whether there is any foundation for reports circulating in Perth that, after the termination of the Royal visit, No. 11 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force, which is equipped with Neptune bombers, will be transferred lock, stock and barrel from Pearce to a destination on the eastern coast? If the reports are accurate, will the honorable gentleman state the type of aircraft that will replace the Neptunes at Pearce?
– A final decision has not yet been made to move No. 11 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron from Pearce to Richmond in New South Wales. The matter is receiving very careful consideration, because, at the present time, the squadron cannot carry out joint training activities with the Navy, which has its bases and training centres on the southeast coast of the continent. The Royal Australian Air Force wants to station another unit at Pearce to replace No. 11 Squadron, if it moves. I cannot tell the honorable member what unit will move to Pearce if No. 11 Squadron is transferred from there, but I can tell him that consideration is being given to the movement of an initial training unit or some other unit of that kind. When a final decision has been made, I shall inform him of it.
– I address a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I understand that the Victorian Government is adamant in its refusal to accept more than 12s. Gd. a bushel for wheat for home consumption in the negotiations for an orderly marketing scheme, while the other three States concerned are prepared to negotiate a scheme at the higher price of 14s. or 15s. a bushel? Is a three-State orderly marketing scheme practical without prejudice to a State which has accepted a lower price for wheat for home consumption ?
– It is true that the Premier of Victoria has announced in unequivocal terms that his Government will not agree to any local selling price of wheat other than that based on the cost of production. The average cost of production for Australia is expected at the present time to be approximately 12s. 6d. to 12s. 8’d. a bushel for the next crop. It is regarded as practicable and legal to contemplate an organized marketing scheme based on the participation of three States. Indeed, it would be possible to have such a scheme in which all the States would be participants, but some of them would not be in the general pool, but would have their wheat sold locally at such lower price or, for that, matter higher price, as the State govern? ments themselves might decide, and would participate equally in export realizations. Such a scheme is regarded as practicable in the marketing sense, but the honorable member for Lawson asked me whether any disadvantages would be attached to it. It becomes obvious immediately that some of the parties to such a plan would suffer grave disadvantages. Section 92 of the Constitution ensures the freedom of interstate trade, and flour-millers with mills in the States with cheap wheat could supply the requirements of their own respective States and also invade the Adjoining States and sell their flour at the lower price. A situation of that kind would obviously carry some advantages for the consumers in the adjoining States, but would obviously have some disadvantages for the flour-millers of the adjoining States, although it is believed that such a position could be met if the flour mills so affected obtained export orders for their flour. The parties that would be irreparably damaged in those circumstances would be the Victorian wheatgrowers, who would be not only selling wheat at 12s. 6d. a bushel in their own State but’ also supplying, through the medium of flour, the requirements of the adjoining States at that price. In those circumstances, the wheat-growers of South Australia and New South Wales would export the replacement quantities at 17s. 6d., 18s. or 1Ss. 3d. a bushel. That situation would be quite crazy, and the Victorian wheat-growers would be the only real victims of their own Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to conduct an inquiry into the opening of a Government department on a recent Sunday for the transaction of business. If not, is it proposed to give any explanation of this strange happening? Can the Prime Minister-
– Mr. Speaker, before this goes further, I rise to a point of order. I shall be very happy to discuss this matter at the appropriate time. How. ever, these questions relate to a witness who is under summons in judicial proceedings in New South Wales. They arise out of cross-examination that has been put in the course of that inquiry. The matter is therefore sub judice.
– I am not in the slightest touchy about the matter, but I. atn a great believer in observing the proper functions of this House. When matters are before Her Majesty’s courts, they ave not normally before Her Majesty’s Parliament. On the appropriate occasion, I shall be .delighted to deal with this matter, but the questions asked by the honorable member for East Sydney relate quite specifically, as the honorable gentleman will doubtless admit, to a matter which is now before the courts and, therefore, not within the rules of this House.
– Does the Prime Minister ask rae to state my opinion?
– I have raised the matter as a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
– I have given very serious consideration to this matter. Since it was mentioned in the course of debate last week, I have examined the reports of the court and, whilst I adhere to the ground that I took on that occasion that nothing can be said in the House at the moment in relation to the case mentioned in the court, the general question of the administration of the Capital Issues Board is a matter for this House. I emphasize that I bar any reference to the subject of the court case in Sydney during the last fortnight. As I see the matter - and I am, as usual, just a plain farmer in such matters - it is not a case in which the Capital Issues Board is a party to the litigation. However, certain statements have been made, which, I believe, have not been commented on in the court by the gentleman in question, and I simply rule that they are outside the scope of any question or debate. Nevertheless, I hold that, notwithstanding the proceedings in the court, the general question of the functioning of the Capital Issues Board is still a matter for this House, as also is one other matter that has been mentioned in the court.
– I had better restate the. question, Mr. Speaker. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to conduct an inquiry into the opening of a government department on a recent Sunday for the transaction of business. If not, is it proposed to give any explanation of this strange happening? Can the
Prime Minister state, in relation to the approval of the issuance of undistributed shares in Associated Newspapers Limited, whether the Commonwealth Actuary-
-Order ! The honorable member’s questions are now coming right down to the court proceedings in the matter that is the subject of litigation.
– I am afraid .that, in view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, the remainder of my questions would be out of order. I shall rely on those I have asked.
– The questions indicate clearly the force of what I said when I raised the point of order, because the honorable member has referred, as I think most honorable gentlemen realize, to allegations that were made in the course of some litigation that is now taking place, between two newspapers, shall I say, in Sydney. It is quite true that, in the case of one, some business was transacted on a Sunday afternoon. I make no boast of it, but very frequently I myself have done masses of work in my office here on a Sunday afternoon. So, I have not the slightest doubt, have my predecessors. If I am pursued on this matter too much, I must say that in respect of the other litigant some business was transacted on a Saturday afternoon.
– Most interesting!
– Very interesting indeed. The point I am making is that this question relates to proceedings now before a court. If the question is ruled in order, all I can say is that I shall not answer it while the court proceedings are on.
– As it appears that the Commonwealth has temporarily reached the limit of finance out of taxation for war service homes, and as the State Labour governments are unwilling to take steps to provide funds for home ownership, will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House about the policy of this Government in relation to the encouragement of home building and home ownership? Is the Government opposed to State-controlled houses on a leasehold basis? If so, will it take steps to terminate the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and thus enable the war service homes scheme to be financed adequately by loan funds? Will it also take whatever action is required to induce private interests to re-enter the building industry?
– The question asked by the honorable member for Lilley touches upon the same matter as a question addressed to me recently by the honorable member for Banks. Therefore, I ought to say something about each aspect of the problem. This Government, unlike some other governments, to which I need not refer, has a great belief in little capitalists,. This Government, therefore, believes in home ownership. It is opposed to governments, either Federal or State, becoming, by degrees, universal landlords. It does not believe that that is a function of governments. Of late, one or two of the State Premiers have raised this matter and have said, much to my pleasure, that they are now in favour of home ownership. But they have said also that the financing of the purchase of houses should be handled by the Commonwealth. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth has been providing substantial sums of money to meet the capital cost of houses built by the States. What is asked now is that, in addition to meeting the capital cost, we should also accept liabilities in respect of the sale of these houses on terms controlled by the States. As the States have become the owners of the houses and, therefore, are in charge of the transactions, I am bound to say, speaking for myself and for the Government, that we find this to be a very complex problem. When it was raised at the last Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, we pointed out to the Premiers that the current agreement, which has two years to run, was made on the existing terms, which are now under criticism, by the Chifley Government in 1945. We do not propose to endeavour to engage in patchwork during the next two years, because whatever patchwork we did in that period might be operative for many years thereafter. Therefore, we have indicated to the States that, although we think the agreement requires very substantial reconsideration, we prefer to do it completely
– The right honorable gentleman will not be here to do it.
– Do not be too hopeful, lad. You are a naturally cheerful fellow, as I am, but do not let your cheerfulness run away with you. We propose, before the agreement expires, to reexamine it with the States in order to see whether we can deal with the vastly important problem of home ownership. The honorable member for Lilley referred to war service, homes. It is well known that, in the three and a half years that have gone by since this Government came into office, the Commonwealth has provided £S9,000,000 for war service homes and, through the instrumentality of that money, has provided over 48,000 houses under the scheme. Let honorable gentlemen opposite compare those figures with the figures for the corresponding period of three and a half years before we came into office. They are £22,000,000 and 1G,000 houses. All told, this Government, since it came into office, has been responsible/for providing the finance for just under one-half of all the houses provided under the war service homes scheme since the inception of the project in 1919.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is true that there is a lag of nine months or more in securing a permit to build a war service home? Is it also true that the Repatriation Department is advising applicants to seek immediate financial accommodation elsewhere pending departmental financial accommodation? If those are facts, is the department sincere in circulating such advice, knowing that the real advantage of war service home accommodation is that a token deposit suffices? Is the Minister aware that builders are now retiring from the field of war service home building, with serious economic consequences? What does the Minister propose to do about this matter?
– It is not possible for me to say what the delay is for war service homes in any State. Applicants are placed on a priority list. We have applications for houses pouring in at the rate of 2,000 a month,’ and there is a current backlog of “about 24,000. That figure may not be precise, but in order to help ex-servicemen who want to get ahead with their priority, we have informed them in some cases that if they could make arrangements for outside financial accommodation for a temporary period, when their turn came along, we would grant their loans. We believe that this is an additional method of assistance, and is not in any way hindering them from taking their priority turn.
– My question is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Darebin. In view of the position that has arisen in Queensland about the delay in building and purchase of war service homes, will the Minister make a statement either to this House or to the press - a statement that will receive the widest possible publicity - clearly explaining the reasons for the delay now taking place and exactly what ex-servicemen should do in making their application? I ask the question because a considerable number of ex-servicemen are now seeking advice from their federal members in relation to this matter.
– I shall be pleased to consider the proposition submitted by the honorable member. I point out, however, that there are two ways of looking at this matter. It can be looked at from the point of view that there are delays in the provision of war service homes, it can also be looked at from the point of view that the large number of exservicemen who are waiting for war service homes is an indication of the popularity of the scheme.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture tell me when the Government intends to make the next payment to wool-growers from the profits of the Joint Organization? Will he undertake to make the necessary arrangements for the payment to be made on approximately the same date as last year ?
– When the distribution of the profits of the Joint Organization was arranged, the Government announced as a matter of policy that, after the first payment had been made, the balance would be paid over a three-year period in approximately equal annual payments. That policy will be pursued. The honorable member has suggested that the payment this year should be made on approximately the same date as last year. He is out of step with the wool-growers, who have suggested an earlier date.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of reports that Burns Philp and Company Limited has decided to discontinue its shipping services to Lord Howe Island, a part of the electorate of “West Sydney, as from next November ? If that is a fact, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to ensure that shipping services to the island will be maintained? There are approximately 150 residents there, and 200 visitors are expected during the next six months. The island depends upon shipping for the carriage of necessary food and materials.
– I shall refer the question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– It should go on the notice-paper if it is for that Minister,
– I direct to the Treasurer a question that relates to the finances of the States. The right honorable gentleman is no doubt aware that a transaction has taken place whereby the Labour Premier of Victoria has hijacked from the Labour Premier of Tasmania
– Order ! I am not sure of the meaning , of the term “ hijacked “.
– Whereby the Labour Premier of Victoria has deprived the Labour Premier of Tasmania of a most lucrative revenue producing organization known as “ Tattersalls “. As the Tasmanian Premier has stated that this action will mean a loss to Tasmanian revenue of £1,500,000, and the Victorian Premier has stated that it will mean an increase of revenue of £2,000.000, will the. Treasurer consider reimbursing Tasmania, through the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which is the appropriate authority, by an amount of £1,500,000 and reducing grants to Victoria by £2,000,000, thereby saving £500,000 for the Commonwealth, and enabling that sum to be put to useful Commonwealth purposes ?
– The solution that the honorable member has suggested is attractive, but I think that it is highly impracticable, having regard to the actors concerned.
– My question to the Treasurer is supplementary to that asked by the . honorable member for Franklin. When a State government finds itself in financial difficulties, it makes special representations to the Australian Government, and on some occasions in the past those requests have been granted. If the Tasmanian Government should find itself in a serious position and should ask for assistance, will the Commonwealth, or the Commonwealth and States in conference, be obliged to consider the position of the Tasmanian Government ?
– It is a fact that the Australian Government has always given sympathetic consideration to representations made by the States with regard to the financial relationship between us. Any representations made in connexion with the matter raised by the honorable member for , Franklin, where an advantage may be given to another State, is a factor which will be taken into consideration, particularly with regard to the settlement of financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States, and as between the States themselves.
– I direct to the Minister for Supply a question regarding the Government’s rewards to prospectors for the discovery of uranium. As it is always stated that the rewards are for uranium specifically, and as that ore is generally associated with other ores, will the Minister inform the House whether the successful discoverers are to be paid for the other metals extracted, after general expenses for the extraction of uranium and other associated costs have been deducted?
– The rewards which the Government offers to pay for the discovery of uranium lie within the discretion of the Minister. In the past the Government has paid rewards for discoveries of encouraging prospects rather than for actual finds of uranium. I point out to the House that there is a great difference between a strong surface indication of the presence of uranium, and the actual presence of a lode in an area underneath. We have only one uranium mine in the territory so far, but we have many encouraging surface indications that we are at present examining closely. The big reward that we paid was in respect of a surface indication that subsequently led to the discovery of a mine. We shall pay rewards in similar circumstances in the future.
– I ask for leave to add a fact to the information I have given the honorable member for Grey in reply to his question on uranium.
– Is leave granted ?
Op position Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
– My question to the Minister for Supply is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Grey. In the case of theRum Jungle uranium deposits where copper and other minerals are associated with uranium, will the Minister inform the House whether the treatment plant to be erected atRum. Jungle will be designed to recover these associated minerals? If that is so, is it intended that the discoverers of the deposits will be paid a royalty on such recovery in view of the fact that a government instrumentality has taken over the working of the field?
– I was endeavouring to say something about that matter when I answered the last question. However, there seemed to be some misunderstanding. The only promise made by the Government is in connexion with the discovery of uranium. No promise has been made about copper or other minerals. The treatment plant is to be erected at Rum Jungle, and it is expected that it will be able to recover minerals other than as well as uranium.
– Is the Minister for the Navy able to inform the House of the date theRoyal Australian Naval College will be returned to its former site at Jervis Bay?
– I regret that I cannot inform the honorable member of the exact date. I should like to have the college moved as soon as possible, and also to have it in the Australian Capital Territory. There are, however, many matters which have ‘to be considered before the final decision can be made, and I think the decision will probably have to be referred to the Government.
Mr. Fuller having asked a question,
– The question re lates to policy and should be put on the notice-paper.
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker, in respect of a question asked by the honorable member for Hume which he was asked to put on notice. After some preliminary matter, he asked whether it was the Government’s intention to carry out a matter of policy that it had announced in 1949. You then said that you would not allow matters of policy to be discussed. I suggest that that was not a matter of policy under a true interpretation of the Standing Orders. The Standing Orders refer only to statements of present policy, and I suggest that if the honorable member’s question should be formally ruled out, your action would prevent honorable members on this side of the House from asking members of the Government, who had given firm undertakings to the electorate, whether they intended to carry out those undertakings. That is an entirely different matter from that contemplated in the Standing Orders. It is a matter that at present affects the rights of honorable members in opposition, but it will also affect the rights of honorable members on the Government side in the not-far-distant future.
– I always look at matters such as this from both viewpoints. The Leader of the Opposition need not worry about that. I say that the practice of this House, a practice which is based on old-time procedure, is that questions without notice on policy are not to be answered. They are matters for the notice-paper. If the House desires to alter that procedure it may do so.
– The honorable member’s question did not deal with existing policy, he asked whether the policy announced to the people some time ago by the Government was in fact to be carried out. I suggest that that is quite a different matter from the matter dealt with in the Standing Orders.
– There is a distinction, perhaps, but I see little difference between the matters. The matter dealt with by the honorable member who asked the question is still a matter of policy.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question that is supplementary to that asked earlier by the honorable member for Bennelong. If it is within the capacity of industry to pay a higher basic wage, is it within the capacity of the Government, which taxes industry, to pay a higher pension?
– I have already said that comparisons of pension rates with the basic wage are fallacious. So is the honorable member’s question.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Everybody will agree that the quality of Tasmanian potatoes is the highest in the Commonwealth. In order to re-establish the pre-war standard of the marketing of potatoes from Tasmania the Potato Marketing Board of Tasmania has decided to reintroduce regulations making it compulsory for all potatoes to be sold in new cornsacks. As there is a wide difference in the Calcutta price of cornsacks and that charged by the Australian Wheat Board, as agent for the Commonwealth, will consideration be given to the reduction of the board’s prices to Calcutta parity. Does the Commonwealth propose to vacate the field of marketing of cornsacks ?
– The position is that, since the outbreak of the last war, the Australian Government, whatever its political character, has acted to ensure that adequate supplies of jute goods, including cornsacks, woolpacks and so on, shall be available in Australia. Until now the taxpayers have borne the cost of the risk associated with that precaution. Our experience was that each year for about ten years, the price oi jute rose, and producers were receiving the benefit of cornsacks and woolpacks at prices cheaper than the then prevailing Calcutta prices. Last year the price of jute fell, and it is true that at present jute goods can be imported at a lower price than the Commonwealth is charging for such goods from its stockpile, lt is not considered fair that taxpayers should be asked to bear the loss of selling stockpiled jute which would be occasioned by an immediate reduction of price. There has been a substantial reduction, and there will be further reductions as soon as the stock position makes that possible. I hope that we shall not have to wait too long for that eventuality. It is also the desire of the Commonwealth that the jute trade should return to normal trading channels, but there is not an entire willingness on the part of the trade itself to undertake that obligation. Until the matter is clear, the Government will ensure that there are sufficient jute goods to meet its policy. I shall ascertain whether there is a special circumstance relating to Tasmanian potatoes. I doubt whether there is,- but I shall investigate the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether the Bunnerong immigrant hostel, from which British immigrants were recently evicted, is being rewired for electricity throughout; also, whether power points are being installed and electric meters fitted to each ‘ flat? Is it a fact that these installations are being made for Dutch immigrants who are coming to Australia? Is it also a fact that these expected new arrivals are being brought to Australia by Dutch contractors who are engaged in building the new Caltex oil refinery at Kurnell? Why does the Government give more favorable treatment to European immigrants than to immigrants from the United Kingdom?
– I do not know where the honorable member has obtained the information that he has put forward in the form of a question, and I am not aware of any substantial changes being made to the Bunnerong immigrant hostel. No proposal has ever been put to me in the course of my administration of my department to the effect that European immigrants should be placed in a more favorable position than those from the United Kingdom. In fact, the approach has been rather the reverse, and immigrants from the United Kingdom have received benefits which represent an improvement on those which obtained formerly. A proposal was recently put to me to close down the Bunnerong hostel altogether, in view of the changed residence of those who had been affected. Following the recent High Court decision, I understand that those who would have been evicted have now agreed to vacate the premises by the end of this week. I am not aware of any other arrangements.
Jil Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 18th September (vide page 448), 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.
.When progress was reported on Friday last I was endeavouring to show that the contention of the Government that this is a benevolent budget is far from correct and that even though a chorus of adulation of the Government could be heard from many parts of the Commonwealth, in the main it was formed by interested, privileged parties who will receive benefits from the Government. I was also trying to show that the great bulk of the persons who are entitled to benefits and assistance from the Government had been denied them and had either vented their displeasure at the Government in no uncertain terms or had written to their representatives indicating their disbelief in the claims of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for his budget speech. So that there may be no misconception about the basis of the attack launched by the Opposition upon the Government, let me repeat some of the arguments that have already been advanced by Opposition members during the debate. “Whilst it is true that certain taxes are to be lowered, and in one instance a tax is to be abolished, it is equally true that no proper reconnaissance has been made of the claims of the needy and the distressed members of the community. A beggarly addition of 2s. 6d. a week is proposed in the rate of pension paid to the many thousands of aged and invalid persons. The Government proposes to increase the rate of pensions paid to war widows and civilian widows by what the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullins) has rightly described as a “ disgraceful percentage “. The Opposition is acting within its rights and, indeed, it is doing its duty in protesting most vehemently against the lack of justice and consideration for the needy and the failure of the Government to face up to its obligations to them.
Apparently the Government is already beginning to feel somewhat chary about the reception, that has been given to the budget. I have never heard worse explanations of a government’s proposals that were those given by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) in answer to questions in the House to-day, and in the course of his own contribution to this debate. The only common measuring rod by which the value of benefits can be gauged in the Commonwealth is not the “ 0 “ series index, but the basic wage. “When we relate, the proposed increases of pension rates to the basic wage we find, for example, that age and invalid pensioners will he worse off than they were seven years ago. In a similar category are the ClASS A widow pensioners. When the widows’ pension was established it was decided that it should not fall below one-third of the weekly basic wage. It has remained for this Government to depreciate to the lowest level the weekly pension paid to that most deserving of nil classes in the community, the widow who is trying to maintain her bereaved family. The pension to he paid to a class A widow under this budget will represent 31 per cent, of the prevailing basic wage, compared with 41 per cent, when the Labour Government vacated office at the end of 1949. Similarly the pension paid to class B widows has been depreciated until it is now 24 per cent, of the basic wage compared with 31 per cent, in 1949. If common justice had been done to these deserving persons, and the ratio that operated during the last year of office of the Chifley Government had been maintained, the maximum rate of age and invalid pension would now be £4 6s. a week, of a class A widow pension, £4 9s., and not £3 15s., and of the pension paid to a class P> widow, £3 8s., and not £2 17s. 6d. a week. When we remember those injustices, the attack which the Opposition has launched upon the Government is understandable.
No provision has been made in the budget for an increase of the allowance of the wife of an invalid or age pensioner or for a child of such a pensioner under sixteen years who is eligible for some measure of social services benefit. No provision has been made in it for increases of the maternity allowance, child endowment, funeral benefit or unemployment and sickness benefits. More than 1,000,000 persons in Australia are in some measure dependent each week on social services benefits, and the claim that the Government is sympathetic towards the needy and the distressed in the community falls to the ground.
The Government has claimed that it has reduced sales tax to reasonable proportions, yet many of the necessaries of life are still subject to the tax. In the few moments that are left to me I shall attempt to show that the Government has failed lamentably in its task. True, it has abolished the entertainments tax, and last year it abolished the land tax; but most of the benefits that will accrue from the remission of those taxes will be enjoyed by the privileged classes. It is the necessitous classes, the people’ who have ho champions and no pressure groups to fight -for them, whose cause i3 espoused by the Labour party. No justice will be done to persons in those classes until the people of Australia realize that they were thwarted in 1949 and again in 1951 and that their only hope of securing a better share of the world’s goods is by electing a Labour government similar to that which gave them eight glorious years of government from 1941 to 1949. For these reasons, we members of the Opposition support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and we oppose the budget.
.- I rise to support this budget. I am conscious of the fact that the chamber has been treated to a number of speeches by Opposition members that have been of a purely party political nature, and have taken the form of general attacks, personal and political, on the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Government. I do .not consider that any good purpose can be served by answering those attacks, because we are accustomed to them, and are familiar with their pattern. I propose to address my remarks to this budget in a way that will reveal to the chamber that I have done some research on this matter, and see this budget as a part of the overall picture of the Australian economy in the last ten years.
Since the termination of World War II., the Australian economy has been faced with many problems and opportunities that have resulted directly from that conflict. The budget for the financial year 1953-54 must be considered against the background of the period 1945-53. The most important problem for Australia has been the transition of the economy to one geared for peace after it had been geared for war for six years. For many reasons with which honorable member are familiar, it was quite evident that the post-war period would be a time of inflation. The Australian economy, which was by no means in an economic or legal sense a planned economy, was to be confronted with, first, a violent increase in the demand for consumer goods by the general public; secondly, a violent increase in the demand for materials of all types basic and subsidiary, by public and > governmental organizations; thirdly, a violent increase in the demand for labour: and fourthly, an increased and increasing availability of money which had been stored away during the period of World” War IT.
From 1945 to 1950, the handling of those problems was gravely affected by the activity of the Communist party in the trade unions, which resulted in many industrial disturbances like the general strike on the coal-fields of New South Wales in 1949. At this stage, I consider that it is proper for me to remind the chamber that the late Mr. J. B. Chifley was quite specific and left no doubt in the mind of any person that he regarded the Communist party as being engaged at that time in a conspiracy against this nation. Therefore, I feel that I am acting properly when I call him as a witness to the substantial truth of my statement. The handling of those problems for 1945 to 1950 was also gravely affected by the New South Wales Labour Government, which precipitated the introduction of the 40-hour working week, and also by the expansion of the wartime black market until it embraced many forms of consumer goods and materials for industry. Many goods were in short supply in 1950. The elimination of governmental controls d rove the black market out of business, and terminated many of the shortages.
From that time- until now, we have been confronted with a series of rather dramatic events. A survey of the Australian economy and political history of the period before the outbreak of World War II. enables us to understand that the events which have taken place since 1950 have been of enormous importance, and really over-shadow many of the happenings that occurred in the pre-war period. For example, this Government had the grave misfortune, in a political sense, to come into office with the tremendous handicap ‘ of a Labourcontrolled Senate. The outbreak of hostilities in Korea led to an enormous increase of national defence expenditure, which led, in turn, to a stockpiling of wool overseas. That development caused an enormous increase of national income in 1951-52. We have also observed the functioning of the arbitration system in a way that has aroused doubts in the minds of many political and trade union leaders because of the violent growth in the basic wage. Australia has also been confronted with a tremendous costing problem which has debarred some of our goods from reaching overseas markets.
The budget for the financial year 1953-54 has to be seen in relation to the economic picture which I have briefly sketched for the chamber. Lest I be accused of indulging in party political propaganda, I mention at once that I have carried out some research to discover the views of the late Mr. J. B. Chifley on the problems which confronted the Australian Government in 1950, shortly after he became Leader of the Opposition. I particularly desire to read a passage from a speech reported in Hansard in October, 1950. Mr. Chifley said on that occasion -
I hope that the Government will do something to correct the present disturbed state of our economy, irrespective of whether such action will be popular or unpopular. I trust that it will have the courage to confront the problems that beset it, because if it does not take constructive action to improve the present situation ,the consequences will be experienced not only by the present, but also by future generations. The Government must place the economy of this country on a sound basis.
Briefly, Mr. Chifley was of the opinion that at that time the accumulated effects of the period 1945 to 1950 had resulted in an unsound basis for the economy, and he besought the Government to restore it to a condition of equilibrium. I propose now to show beyond all question that the present budget is the reply which Mr. Chifley would accept as proof that Australia has to-day reached the stage that he asked the Government in 1950 to endeavour to attain. I follow that remark, which, I have no doubt, will not be very popular with Opposition members, with a quotation from the report of the Commonwealth Bank for the year ended the 30th June last. That report ‘refers to prices and costs, which reflect the degree of inflation in the community. Undoubtedly, many people suffer during an inflationary period. I refer to persons on fixed incomes, persons whose incomes are not subject to the determinations of industrial tribunals, and persons who derive income from property, the value of which and the rents from which are pegged. This quotation from the report of the Commonwealth Bank reads as follows : -
Although the general level of prices both of goods and of factors of production continued to increase during 1952-53, the rate of increase, (is illustrated in the graph on page 14, was slower than in recent years. There is evidence, however, of greater interest in improvements in organization and methods of production. The Commonwealth Statistician’s “ C “ series retail price index increased by 4 per cent, in 1952-53 compared with a rise of 20 per cent, in 1951-52.
There is the proof of economic stability. The next task, in which the Australian Government can play only the part of leader to those who are trying to assist the economy, is to take advantage to the fullest degree of the encouragement that is given by the Government in this budget in order to increase general production. Only by that means can we gain the greatest possible benefit from, the stability that this Government has established. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court, conscious of the fact that retail prices had risen by only 4 per cent, in the last year, decided recently that it would be in the interests of economy if quarterly adjustments of the basic wage were to be discontinued. As we all know, the wage has been virtually pegged, for a period of possibly twelve months, at the present rate.
I refer now to the criticism of the budget that has been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who, allegedly, is the senior advocate for the Labour party and therefore the one whom people would reasonably expect to be the mouthpiece of Opposition policy in this Parliament. The right honorable gentleman, as we know, has amongst his supporters a number of individuals who are prone to take the lead from him and make violent statements of policy which are intended either to glorify themselves or to indicate that they, instead of the right honorable gentleman, are the mouthpieces of Labour party policy. We are not in a position to accept such persons at their own valuation. Therefore, we pay attention to the pronouncements of the Leader of the Opposition and observe his remarks carefully. In the whole of the right honorable gentleman’s speech there was no reference to the effect upon taxation policy of the altered conditions in the Australian economy. For example, he compared the financial year of 1948-49 - the last financial year in which the Chifley Government was in control - with the current financial year and referred to the increased amount of sales tax collections anticipated by the Government m. the budget-papers. The comparison would! have been a little more honest had the right honorable gentleman recommended that, before we considered those figures, we should consider the changes that had taken place inside Australia since 1948-49. In that year, our population was 7,798,860. To-day it is 8,922,000. In other words, since 1948-49 our population has increased by almost 10 per cent. Surely that increase should be reflected proportionately in the sales of consumer goods, the source from which sales tax is largely derived! Obviously, any increased consumption of goods as a result of a population increase should be apparent in an increase of the total amount of sales tax collected.
If we apply logic in this way to all the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition, we must come to the conclusion that the right honorable gentleman spoke with his tongue in his cheek and with a limited desire to acquaint his listeners with the facts. We have witnessed such performances by the right honorable member previously, and we should be on guard against them. He was very definite in his criticism of the Government’s proposal to increase pensions. He said clearly that the proposed increase was unsatisfactory and made a statement that purported to be a pronouncement of Labour parly policy on pensions. He remarked that it might be difficult to work out what the Labour party would have done in the Government’s place, but that Labour at least would have provided for a substantial increase of pensions and child endowment. What the figures would be, he could not say as they would have to be worked out in relation to the costofliving figures. That is a vague way of expressing policy. His reference to the cost-of-living figures left his hearers the choice of either the basic wage or the C series regimen. That was a very clever move by the right honorable and learned gentleman. Nobody is more familiar with the purposes of proper language than he is. Obviously, he left the door open deliberately so that he could slide out backward if he found it advisable to do so at a later stage. The right honorable gentleman knows only too well that, if he meant the basic wage, he should have said the basic wage, and that, if he meant the C series index, which is the true indicator of prices accepted by the central bank and all the trading banks, he should have said so specifically. Instead, he acted like a school boy who has half learned his homework and drools in front of his school teacher. The right honorable gentleman is a man of considerable acumen and scholarship, whose ability does not preclude him from being accurate in his choice of terms. Therefore, there was some deliberation about his choice of airy-fairy phrases in preference to specific statements.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) exposed the right honorable gentleman’s evasiveness, and I was so interested in his comments that I obtained the C series index list of retail price increases for the last few years. For the September quarter of 1949-50, the C series index figure was 1610. In June, 1953, it was 2586, which represented an increase of 60.4 per cent. If we applied that figure to the pension rate of £2 2s. 6d. a week which the Chifley Government established, the present pension rate would be only £3 8s. 3d. a week. The Leader of the Opposition is not so good at mathematics ais he is at law, and apparently he was so busily engaged in the invention of ambiguous airy-fairy expressions in order to provide himself with loopholes for escape that he overlooked the fact that, on those figures, he declared that the policy of the Labour party was, in fact, to reduce pensions. However, that is the policy that he has declared, and anything that may be said by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and other -members of the Opposition, even though it be reinforced with facts and figures, matters not. The only statement by which the Labour party would feel bound would be the statement of the right honorable member for Barton. In my view, quite a few years must elapse before we shall be able to appreciate the full importance of this budget and understand how grave were the problems that confronted the Australian Government and the Australian economy from 1950 to 1954. The late right honorable member for Macquarie, Mr. Chifley, knew, and revealed his knowledge quite clearly by what he said in this Parliament, that any government that was in power in those years would be forced to take action that would cause it to lose popularity in an electoral sense. I believe the right honorable gentleman once referred to the “ hip pocket nerve “ of the community as being the most sensitive nerve of all. Apparently it is connected with the nerve that controls the way in which people vote. In taking the action that was required, this Government showed a great deal of courage. I have no doubt that, a? a result of the political events of the last few years, its integrity will be proved beyond all doubt. If another Government had been in power, perhaps that could not he said of it.
I know full well that all honorable members would be only too willing, if it were possible to do so, to increase social services benefits to such a degree that in future there would be no need for any one in this country to worry about his future security. I know that every one in this chamber would like the Australian economy to be in such a position that we could make it possible for people to retire at a certain age without worries about their security. Every one of us would like those who fought and suffered in the war to receive all kinds of benefits which the community cannot afford to give them at the present time. To put the matter on an heroic level, the history of Sparta contains many examples that show what I have in mind. However, the truth of the matter is, as every Prime Minister and Treasurer of this country has known, that there is a limit to the degree to which we can assist our people. Perhaps it would not be improper for me to remind the House that -if a day were to come when no person in this country were required to give any thought to his economic security, such a state of affairs might easily lead to a moral deterioration that was far from desirable. The honorable member for Sturt made it quite clear that what has happened in Australia during the last few years in relation to social services can best be seen by looking at the complete picture. We have about 870,000 people of pensionable age. A little more than a year ago, according to figures that I secured from the Commonwealth Statistician, there were in this country 347,000 people in receipt of the age pension, 47,000 in receipt of the invalid pension and 72,000 in receipt of the widows’ pension. Let me, for the moment, disregard the invalids and the widows. As a result of this budget, the number of people in receipt of the age pension will be increased enormously. About 50 per cent, of the S 70,000 people of pensionable age will receive the age pension, either in whole or in part. This problem will become of even greater importance as time passes, because our population is ageing. I believe that the only solution to it is to maintain our economic stability and raise our productive capacity to the highest possible level. With efficient management and the co-operation and goodwill of labour the national cake, so to speak, will be the largest possible and, when it is cut at budget time, each of us will receive a bigger portion than we do now.
Faced with this problem, Australia looks ahead and wonders what will happen when our production rises and our costs level off. What will we do to meet the challenge of our trading competitors then ? I want to refer at this stage to the opportunities as well as the problems that faced Australia at the end of the war. I believe it is in that connexion that the gravest charge can be laid against the Australian Labour party. It was in relation to the opportunities that were open to Australia in the immediate postwar periods that the Australian Labour party let this country down most seriously. At that time, the very energetic, industrious and economically virile nations such as Germany and Japan, and Europe in general, were prostrate. The markets of the Far East were open to the products of expanding industries in Australia. All kinds of opportunities were available to Australian exporters. It was at that time that the Australian Government should have devoted itself to the task of persuading Australians to work harder and harder in order to put the country in a position of superiority that would have stood it in good stead when the nations that had been flattened out by the war were invigorated and were competing again in the economic race. We know now that in those days we took advantage only to a limited degree of thiopportunities that were available to us. Our present cost level is so high that many of our exportable goods have been priced but of the markets of the Far East. Japan, Germany and Europe generally, prostrate in 1945 in an economic sense, are re-invigorated in 1953. They are working 48 hours a week and are keeping their cost levels down. Se conscious is the United Kingdom of these facts that in recent days the British Trade Union Congress decided upon a wage restraint policy. If the British Trade Union Congress did that, in the teeth of opposition by Aneurin Bevan and his colleagues, we can rest assured that it was cognizant of the real- facts of the situation. We are sending £85,000,000 worth of goods to Japan each year, but we are permitting only £4,500,000 worth of Japanese goods to come into this country. How can the people to whom we sell our goods pay us back if we will not permit them to do so in kind, with the products of their industries ?
– What products do we want from Japan?
– We must bear in mind that we have a very favorable trade balance with Japan. We must devise some method by which the Japanese can pay us back. There must be some form of return for what we send to Japan. I appreciate that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and many other people in this country are worried about the form that that return will take. 1 do not quite know what form it will take, but I want it to be clearly understood that, unless we are prepared to make straight-out gifts, we cannot continue to send our goods to other countries without receiving from them some form of payment in the shape of goods for our own use. I feel that that is a problem that will arise increasingly during the next five or six years. How we shall deal with decrease( productivity due to drought or with a fall of our exports, I do not know. I believe that this budget will do everything possible to stimulate internal production. I believe also that, if the community is made aware of the facts of the situation, in due course we shall have more goods for export and more goods to enable us to compete with other countries in markets close to Australia.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I think I am justified in saying that the contribution to the debate just made by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) constitutes an indictment of the Government. As far as Government members are concerned, this debate so far has been remarkable. Honorable members opposite have evaded a discussion of the budget and have indulged in abuse of the Opposition. That was all the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did during his contribution to the debate, except to say that this was the greatest budget on earth. That reminded me of some of 1 the advertisements for Zam Buk, and of some of the things that Are said by Jack Davey and Bob Dyer. I wonder how the Prime Minister knows that it is the greatest budget on earth. That was a sensational, ridiculous and stupid statement by the right honorable gentleman. The Australian people will show in due course whether they believe it is the greatest budget on earth.
Having said that, the Prime Minister continued on his way, abusing and being offensive to members of the Opposition. He continually attacked the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). What for? Earlier, the honorable member, in a very fine speech on the budget, had directed certain questions to the Government about the capital issues control. They were questions to which he was entitled to expect an answer. He asked them quite respectfully. He asked the Government to state whether the capital issues control office was open for business on Sundays. That was a fair question that should have been answered. He asked whether some one could approach an officer of the capital issues control on a Sunday, ask for consideration to be given to a proposal and bring with him an individual who could type any documents required. That was a question to which he was entitled to expect a reply. It was a respectful question. Then the honorable member asked whether the date on a document issued by the capital issues control authority could properly be a dato other than that on which the document was prepared. He asked whether a false date could be put on such a document. He wanted to know whether, if business were transacted on a Sunday, one of the relevant documents could be dated the following Monday. That again was a respectful question, and one to which he was entitled to expect an answer. It was a question which should have been answered.
– It did not relate to the budget.
– It was very closely associated with the budget. But all that we heard from the Prime Minister was an attack on the honorable member for East Sydney because he had asked those questions. That attack constituted almost the whole of the right honorable gentleman’s contribution to the debate. It is a remarkable state of affairs if honorable members opposite, believing that this is really the greatest budget ever introduced into this Parliament, have to resort to attacks upon members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), in his contribution to the debate, attacked the Opposition because, as he said, it was starting class warfare. Surely we, as the Opposition, are’ entitled to defend, for instance, the war widows. This Government ha? given great concessions to those who have, but it has given to the have-nots, the pensioners, only an increase of 2s. 6d. a week. When we defend the pensioners we are charged with indulging in class warfare. Who are the people that we have defended throughout this debate? We have defended the war widows, women who, when they married, believed that they would be able to enjoy for the rest of their lives all of the happiness associated with the married state. After war had been declared, their husbands left these shores to defend their wives and the wives of others, including the wives of many members of this Parliament, and to keep the country free. They did not return because they paid the supreme sacrifice. Because we say that it is shameful of any government to have the audacity to offer these people an extra 2s. 6d. a week we are charged with indulging in class warfare. This miserable pension increase also applies to other widows, whose husbands were employed in war industry. These men made a great contribution to this country’s war effort. Many of them have died and their widows are being shamefully treated by the Government, as are other pensioners.
The Government claim’s that it has introduced a budget that will give equality to all.’ The ex-servicemen of Australia, who made every sacrifice for thi? country in war except the sacrifice of their lives, were promised by the Chifley Labour Government, “which was in the habit of carrying out its promises, that it would look after them as long as it was able to do so. During the term of office of that Government ex-servicemen lived in decent conditions on their pensions. When the Chifley Government went out of office, however, the value of service pensions gradually deteriorated, and to-day service pensioners are beggars. This Government expresses its gratitude for the sacrifices of ex-servicemen, yet it sees fit to give them a measly pension increase- of 2s. 6d. a week. We on this side of the chamber are accused of fomenting class warfare because we defend the age, invalid and service pensioners. Most of the age pensioners are mothers and fathers who have reared large families and have worn themselves out while playing their part in the national effort. They have made a great contribution to this Commonwealth and community. They blazed the trail for the present generation. Yet we are attacked because we have sprung to their defence and have claimed that the proposed increase of 2s. 6d. a week of pension is paltry.
– The Chifley Labour Government paid them only £2 2s. 6d. a week.
– When we paid them £2 2s. 6d. a week they were able to buy with it goods worth £2 2s. 6d, but they will be able to buy only 30s. worth of goods with their pensions at the proposed rate of £3 10s. a week. Who will deny that?
– I shall.
– Of course, the honorable member will, because he supports the Government. The sales tax concessions provided for in the budget are laughable. The proposed reductions of sales tax are to apply to goods on which, rates of 50 per cent., 33 per cent, and 22 per cent, are now levied. Goods on. which the sales tax is 12-& per cent, will not be affected. Those goods in the lowest sales tax range are the everyday commodities that affect the standard of living of the people. The Government proposes to exempt matches from sales tax. It is toolate! The great match industry of this country has already been partly destroyed.. When the industry appealed long ago to the Government to grant certain sales tax concessions to enable it to meet the competition of automatic cigarette lighters, its appeal was ignored. Now, when the industry has been almost destroyed, the Government proposes toexempt matches from sales tax. Consider some of the other items that areto be exempted from sales tax. They include aeroplanes for use for certain purposes. What a great help that will be to service and other pensioners, as well as to basic wage-earners ! Water softeners are to be exempt from sales tax.. What a great concession! Many people would not even know what water softenersare. Insecticides are also to be exempt. Another great concession ! Good gracious^ who prepared this document for the Treasurer? Yet, I repeat, the items essential to everyday life, on which sales tax of 12-J per cent, is levied, are toremain unaffected. Sales tax should be removed completely from such goods.
The Government’s sales tax concessions will mean a loss to revenue of £100.000,000, but £80,000,000 will still be collected in sales tax. I say that thisis a remarkable budget. Honorable members opposite may regard it as the greatest budget on earth. I regard it as the greatest act of stupidity of any government that has ever introduced a budget in’ this chamber.
The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) has just entered thechamber, so I shall make reference tohis part in an earlier debate which was associated with the budget, because the- subject with which it was concerned may have an effect on our budgetary position. The tactics employed by the honorable gentleman during that debate, which was on the Pearl Fisheries Bill, were part of the efforts of honorable members opposite to depreciate continually honorable members on this side of the committee. After an honorable member on this side of the chamber who spoke to that bill had made a reference to the Japanese peace treaty the honorable member for Dawson attacked him and said, “ The Labour Government left Japan unoccupied “. People overseas, as well as in Australia, who know the facts, have nothing but the greatest praise for the Chifley Labour Government for the part that Australia played in the occupation of Japan. When the Allies occupied Japan, American, British, New Zealand and Australian forces took part in the occupation. Australia sent 10,000 occupation troops to Japan. America had a higher number of troops than that, as it was entitled to do because of its special position and its population, but Australia made a greater contribution a head of population than was made by any other country concerned. One of the most important duties of the occupation forces was to demobilize and demilitarize the Japanese forces. The greatest comic opera of all is, that the moment that duty had been carried out, the present Government subscribed to a peace treaty with Japan under which our ex-enemy was permitted to rearm as soon as the occupation was completed. I remind the honorable member for Dawson that at the end of the occupation the only occupation forces in Japan were the American forces and the Australian forces. The United Kingdom and New Zealand had withdrawn their forces. At no time did the CommanderinChief of the occupation forces in Japan complain to the Australian Government that Australia was not playing its part in the occupation. But what was the value of that occupation, and of the democratization and the demilitarization of the Japanese when, a few months later, they were given the green light to go ahead and re-arm themselves? At some future time, after this Government has long been voted out of office, it will have to account for its action in failing to protest against Japan being permitted to re-arm.
It is worth while to consider the history of this Government, which claims that it has the confidence of the people and that it will be returned at the next general election. Every federal by-election and State general election in the last eighteen months has shown clearly that the people have lost confidence in the Government. Honorable members opposite do not really believe that the people have confidence in them any longer. They have tried to trick the Australian electors. The Government parties dishonoured the promises that they made to the electors in 1949. Do honorable members opposite believe that the electors will allow any government, which has dishonoured its promises for almost five years to trick them with sops on the eve of an election. The Australian people believe that if they were to return this Government to power at the next general election the next budget it would introduce would provide for the same kind of tax increases as the Government made in 1951 after it had promised to reduce taxes. This is, in large part, the same government which ran out on Australia at the most desperate period of the nation’s history. It had not the courage or the capacity to carry on the government of this country when the Japanese were at our front door. Let honorable members opposite who are interjecting deny that if they can. They do not like to be reminded of such things, but the fact remains that a Labour government was left to carry on World War II. for this country. It was also left to the Chifley Government to rehabilitate the country and its ex-servicemen after the war. I smile when I hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other honorable members opposite compare the difference in value and numbers of war service homes built during the term of this Government with the value and number of such homes built under the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments. When the first of those Labour governments took office we faced five years of war.
– And black-marketing.
– There is plenty of black-marketing to-day, so honorable members opposite need not think that they have abolished it. The country faced five years of war when Labour took office. During the war it was not possible to build war service homes, because the nation’s entire effort was directed towards victory. The Chifley Government was in office during the rehabilitation period and did not have the opportunity to compete on the easy markets of which the Government can take advantage to-day. All that the Government has to do is to arrange for production for peace. We had to produce for war and we made a success of it. So much so-
– That the people put you out of office.
– Yes, and the people will return us to office. Honorable members should realize that in every byelection that has taken place during the last eighteen months the electors have shown that they realize that they made a grave mistake in 1949. They also realize that the Government parties deceived them over the prices referendum, when power was refused to control prices throughout the Commonwealth, an act that virtually destroyed our economy. The people realize the mistake that they made, and they now know that it is essential for a Labour government to be returned to office so that full employment may be maintained, the basic wage-earner given a decent standard of living, and service pensioners, war widows and social service pensioners given an opportunity for at least a decent existence. The electors now know that at the earliest opportunity this Government should be shown how dissatisfied the country is with its administration, and they know how necessary it is to rally to the support of the Australian Labour party. Long before this time next year a Labour government will grace the treasury bench, and those who have done so much to destroy a glorious economy and everything that the people enjoyed during the last Labour regime, will no longer be’ in power.
– The honorable member is contradicting the late Mr. Chifley.
– It is all very well for honorable members on the Government side to talk about Mr. Chifley. If ever there were two great Prime Ministers who led a great forward movement of the people, they were Curtin and Chifley. Supporters of the Government quite often, nowadays, refer with respect to the late Mr. Chifley. I remember the night that he died. He was being attacked in this Parliament on that very day by members of the Government, and yet 24 hours after he passed on he was said to be the greatest Prime Minister that Australia had ever had. Honorable members on this side of the House have always believed that, and always will believe it, but honorable members on the Government side realized it only after he had died. I hope that after the next general election a Liberal-Country party government will not occupy the treasury bench for at least a decade.
.- It is quite often said of a man, that he is whistling to keep his courage up. We have just seen a classic example of a man shouting to keep his courage up. I think that that can fairly be said of the speeches made by most honorable members opposite in this debate. It has been obvious from their speeches, particularly from the speech of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), that the main object of the Opposition is to disparage the obvious success of the policies that have been carried -out by the Government in the last three years, which are now coming to fruition and of which the budget now before the committee marks the culminating point. The success of the Government’s policies is now being acclaimed by the community in general. As they have been quite unable to pick on any point in the budget to which anybody could have a real objection, honorable members opposite have merely shouted about what was done in the distant past, and have made some sort of attack upon the Government’s provisions for pensions. Those provisions will be dealt with more fully when legislation providing pension increases is placed before the Parliament, and it has already been pointed out by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) that the inferences drawn by honorable members opposite with regard to pensioners are quite Wrong. Later, I hope to deal with their arguments more fully.
As the honorable member for Adelaide honoured me by detailing some of my remarks when the Pearl Fisheries Bill was before the committee, I believe that I should answer his suggestions. He said, quite wrongly, that the majority of honorable members on this side of the committee who have spoken in this debate have not said anything about the budget. Then he immediately referred to a debate about pearl fisheries, and charged me with having misrepresented the situation in my speech on the Pearl Fisheries Bill. Of course, nothing that he said in any way rebutted my statements about that measure. Our position in regard to Japan and America in the period after the armistice was signed and before the signing of the Japanese peace treaty, steadily deteriorated under the previous Government. Our ability to bargain and to exercise some influence over the terms of tho peace treaty was steadily whittled away. The honorable member for Adelaide said that there had been an Australian force of 10,000 troops in Japan at the commencement of the occupation. That is quite correct, but that was not the point to which I addressed myself. The important point is that that force was steadily reduced, until finally we had only a token force in Japan, and the fact that we had withdrawn from our obligations was marked, not only by thu Japanese people, but also by the Americans whom we were leaving to carry the whole burden of occupation. I said then, and I say again, that that is one of the reasons why America was able to say, “ We have carried the whole burden, and we are now going to dictate the terms of the Japanese peace treaty “. It is idle for honorable members opposite to attempt to attribute some blame to this Government for that position, because we took over the administration of the affairs of this nation only after the damage had been done.
I do not want to leave myself open to the charge by the honorable member for Adelaide that honorable members on this side do not pay any attention to the budget, so I now propose to return to that important subject. During the last few years, a habit has grown up of attempting to attach a name to each year’s budget. That practice has been followed by a number of people, and the names chosen for the various budgets are generally influenced by the political opinions of those who do the naming. Therefore, it is natural that honorable members opposite should attempt to find some derogatory term for this budget. Any consideration of the budget must take into account the fact that it has to be dealt with in conjunction with at least two previous budgets of this Government, because it is the culmination of between three and four years’ planning and the vindication of the policy first adopted about three years ago and pursued steadily ever since. In 1951 it was obvious to this Government, and to anybody in the community who thought about our position, that Australia was facing a very serious economic situation and that something had to be done to Halt the rush towards inflation. Consequently, this Government introduced a courageous and realistic budget. Of course, honorable members opposite have another name for it. They call it the horror budget. However, the people of Australia now realize that the Government faced up to the position that existed when it took over from ‘ the previous Labour Government. The people also realize that it was a courageous budget, because everybody knows .that we took our political future in our hands when we did, as we had to do, unpopular things for the good of the country.
By 1952 the effect of the previous budget was beginning to be felt, but its full results had not become apparent and, indeed, have not even yet become apparent. However, in 1952 we were able to bring down our budget of recovery, in which we made a reasonable reduction of income taxes. That showed the measure of the success that we were achieving. People then began to realize the success of our policies, and that success has continued during the last twelve months.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Now, in 1953, we are able to bring down our third budget, and it is, in spite of the squawking of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), a budget of incentive and challenge. 1 say “ challenge “ because the economic recovery of the country does not depend entirely on the administrative acts of the Government. Wise administrative acts, and proper policy, are essential to recovery, hut after the Government has done its part the community must take the opportunities offered to it, and everybody associated with the national economy must work and plan to achieve full recovery. The challenge inherent in this budget follows upon the incentive provided by the Government, and it is a challenge to industry - and the community as a whole - to go on and play their parts in national recovery.
– The honorable member is pulling his own leg.
– The honorable member for East Sydney cannot pull anybody’s leg, not even in this chamber. I propose to speak about the aspects of incentive and challenge, and I invite honorable members to follow me briefly through the main features of the budget in order to trace the pattern which has been woven by the Government and which is designed to provide the community with the incentive necessary to build upon the foundation that has been so well laid by the Government. It will be agreed that for any final and lasting recovery and stabilization of our economy, there must be increased production,in primary and secondary industries. It is acknowledged everywhere that increased production is our basic need. Now, what is the pattern for recovery that has been woven by the Government? As far as both primary and secondary industries are concerned, there is the essential question of the local market. Industry, both primary and secondary, must set out to increase production in order to ensure, first, that there shall be a proper filling of the requirein ents of our local markets which will continue to expand for some time to come, and secondly, in order to increase our exports to preserve our overseas balances. Already, particularly in some primary industries, there is. an indication that we are reaching the stage at which it is difficult to supply certain of the necessaries of life to our expanding population. Increased secondary production is essential in order that the requirements of immigrants and the natural increase of our population may be properly supplied. Thus, in both primary and- secondary industries increased production is essential and must be the basis of governmental planning. There can, however, be no real incentive to producers to increase their production unless consumers are assisted to develop the local market so that the increased production can be absorbed. If production is increased and there is no commensurate increase of purchasing power, we shall be in a situation equally as dangerous as that which faced us during the war and shortly after the war ended when there was ample purchasing power in the community but insufficient supplies of goods to meet demands.
Let us examine the budget from the angle of the submissions that I have made. How can this requirement of expanding production be made to fit the pattern which the Government has outlined in this budget? In the first place, the budget provides worthwhile concessions to industry with the object of expanding production. The maximum relief given to industry is by way of tax reductions. The rate of tax imposed on public companies is to be reduced by 2s. in the £1 on all income earned in excess of £5,000, and by ls. in the £1 on all income below £5,000. The rate of tax on private companies is to be reduced by ls. in the £1. The differential rates on property income have been abolished, and the retention allowance of 10 per cent, has been extended to property income of private companies. All of these concessions have been made in the field of direct taxation. It is conceded by members of this committee, except those who sit in Opposition, that these proposals will enormously strengthen the economic structure of industry throughout Australia. They will materially assist companies and instrumentalities to obtain further capital and to increase production targets. They will enable industries to plan for expansion with confidence in the future. That confidence will be readily forthcoming because of the policies which the Government has applied so successfully since it has been in office. Industries will be able to plan with even much greater confidence than they were able to muster in the past because of the relief given to them by way of taxation remissions.
There are other measures of relief in the industrial field which will provide further opportunities and incentive for companies and instrumentalities to equate their economic advancement to that of the Commonwealth itself. One of them is the proposal of the Government in relation to pay-roll tax, an impost which has been the subject cif considerable discussion over a very lengthy period. Many persons contend that, basically, the payroll tax is a sectional tax. I do not deny that it is so and that, theoretically, it should be removed from the statute-book. But as this Government is essentially a practical government its plans must be inter-related. Last year, the pay-roll tax yielded more than £40,000,000. As honorable members are aware, pay-roll tax collections are used to finance child endowment payments, which cannot be reduced. The Government must find £40,000,000 for that purpose from one source or another. If, in present circumstances, it abolished the pay-roll tax, it would have to find that amount of money from some other form of direct taxation, which would reduce the value of the incentives provided by the other proposals contained in the budget. The Government accordingly made its decision to fit its intention to provide as much relief as possible to as large a section of the community as possible. It decided to raise the exemption from the payment of pay-roll tax by 400 per cent., thus freeing- from obligation to pay the tax approximately 50,000 employers. The benefits to be gained from that decision will he felt principally by small employers, both primary and secondary, who are, perhaps, in the worst position to bear the heavy administrative burden of the tax. This proposal will also materially assist the drive for greater production.
I come now to the Government’s proposals in relation to sales tax. The honorable member for Adelaide waxed lyrical in his condemnation of these proposals. He showed, incidentally, how exceedingly petty and narrow is his approach to this problem. It is true that provision has been made in the budget for the exemption of such items as buttons, buckles, hooks, eyes and slide fasteners: but, he conveniently overlooked the fact that whilst, two years ago, there were six schedules of items in respect of which sales tax was imposed and a terrific administrative burden was placed on traders in collecting and accounting for the tax, there are now only two schedules. The reduction of the number of schedules in itself will be of considerable assistance to business-men. He conveniently forgot to mention that whilst, two years ago, the rates of sales tax varied from 12£ per cent, to 60 per cent.; they now range from 12^ per cent, to 16f per cent. That is the true picture of the sales tax proposals that are contained in the budget. It is unnecessary for me to deal with them in detail at this stage because an opportunity to do so will -be given when the amending sales tax legislation is under discussion. I merely say that for the honorable member for Adelaide to confine himself to the deletion from the schedules
Of a few tiddly-winking items is to paint a completely inaccurate picture of the Government’s sales tax proposals. The budget contains many other minor proposals which will advantageously affect industry. I shall not deal with them other than to say that they will contribute to the expansion of production with resultant benefits to the community.
Let me turn now to the proposals contained in the budget which relate to the consumer section of the community. Here again, substantial relief is to be given because the Government realizes that in a properly balanced economy consumers must be given the opportunity to absorb increased production. Again the major relief has been given by way of direct tax reductions. The Treasurer has told us that the proposals represent an overall reduction of 12^ per cent, on existing rates of tax. That means that taxpayers on the lower income ranges will benefit by a reduction of considerably more than 12^ per cent. The income tax concessions granted in the budget include an increase of the allowable deduction for a dependant wife from £104 to £130. The exemption for aged persons has been increased from £254 to £375 for a single person and from £507 to £750 for a married couple. Honorable members opposite ignore these concessions which are of such benefit to the community. They prefer to confine their criticism to the Government’s proposals in relation to the pioneers, the age pensioners. They very conveniently forget that there are many people in the community who are just outside the pension range hut who are every bit as entitled to consideration by the Government as are those in receipt of the age pension. Allowable deductions for medical expenses have been increased from £100 to £150 for each member of a taxpayer’s family. A similar 50 per cent, increase has been granted in the concessional deduction for education expenses. Only two years ago no provision was made for the deduction of such expenses. During the eight years in which the country was governed by Labour governments nothing was done to lighten the load imposed on parents in educating their children. When the deduction was first introduced last year the maximum amount allowed was £50 for each child. Not only has the allowable deduction been increased by 50 per cent, but also its scope has been considerably widened. Similar generous concessions have been extended in respect of estate duty which is not now payable in respect of small estates which pass to the widow, children or grand-children of the deceased.
Entertainments tax, which pressed very heavily on the wage-earner and the family man, has now been abolished. For a long time the family man had to pay an additional 3d. or 6d. in entertainments tax for each of his children who went to the pictures, to a cricket or football match, or who attended a dance. That impost constituted a constant drain on the pockets of parents, particularly those on the lower and middle ranges of income, but not a great deal is said by Opposition members about the decision of the Government to abolish it. These are but some of the measures which the Government has taken to bring about a balanced economy. The Government has abolished the entertainments tax because it believes that by so doing it will make a major contribution to the capacity of members of the community in the middle and lower income ranges to improve their way of life and at the same time help to improve economy. Already it appears that certain State governments will try to take advantage of the Commonwealth’s withdrawal from the entertainments tax field, despite the fact that their financial requirements for the current year have been determined. Any attempt by State governments to reduce or destroy the value of the concessions given to the people by this budget can only be regarded as an act of treachery to the national economy. It is worthy of note that this Government has been able to provide the various incentives that I have described without reducing payments due to the’ States. For this financial year, the States are to receive an additional £6,000,000. An extra £18,500,000 has been allocated for social services, and £200,000,000 has again been provided for defence services. It was suggested earlier that the Government might economize on defence expenditure this year in order to be in a position to present an even more favorable budget to the people. I am one who, had the defence vote been reduced in the present circumstances, would have opposed the budget. But it is not necessary for me to do so. The Government has been sufficiently strong and courageous again to earmark £200,000,000 for defence services.
In this budget, the Government has issued a challenge to the community: and the community must take advantage of this opportunity, otherwise all our labours will have been in vain. I am confident that the community will accept the challenge. There will be an upsurge of production, and time will prove that this budget has made a substantial contribution to the improvement of our national economy and the raising of our living standards. Therefore, the Cabinet, which is responsible for this budget, is deserving of the highest commendation from every one. But one man who has been maligned for a number of years for his’ financial policy, hut who has stuck courageously to his guns, is entitled, more than any other Minister, to the credit for this successful budget. That man is the Treasurer.
.- The satisfaction that Government supporters have expressed with this budget will not be shared by the general public. In my opinion, the budget will go on record as one that has conferred much upon the few, and little upon the many. The attitude of Government supporters to the budget makes an interesting; study. Honorable members on this side of tV chamber have become accustomed to the demonstrations that they stage ou the occasion of the introduction of what they regard as a notable piece of legislation; but we find invariably that, with the passing of time, the Government’s policy has been completely out of favour with, the public. I have no doubt that when the people discover the real nature of this budget, the enthusiasm which Government supporters have displayed for the Treasurer’s financial proposals .will vanish.
During the last two or three years, the Government has proved, by its policy, that it is completely out of touch with public opinion. As an illustration of the truth of that statement, I offer the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) introduced that legislation in 1950, this Parliament was treated to an almost unprecedented demonstration by honorable gentlemen opposite. Enthusiastic supporters of the bill claimed that it provided the answer to the threat of communism. However, this attempt to combat communism was subsequently rejected by the electorate. As a further illustration of the truth of my statement, I remind the chamber that a charge of sedition, which should never have been laid, was thrown out of court a few days ago. All the unsuccessful attempts that this Government has made to combat communism causes the people to wonder whether the Government is using communism for party political purposes. This Government has been wrong so many times on so many matters that I believe that the people, when they consider this budget, will not regard it as the boon that wishful thinking on the part of Government supporters would have them believe it to be.
I have completely underestimated the views of the general public if the people accept this budget with enthusiasm, because the Treasurer, in his financial proposals, has completely ignored a considerable element in our community. Approximately one person in every eight is in receipt of social services benefits. What is the approach of the Government to that matter? The statements of the Prime Minister about it contradict, and are irreconcilable with, those made by the Treasurer about it. The Treasurer has claimed that economic stability has been achieved, and that the worst is behind us. In spite of such an improvement of economic conditions, the recipients of social services benefits are to derive little advantage from this budget. The Government claims that Australia has progressed along the economic road to the point of security, yet the recipients of social services are to receive a smaller increase of benefits this year than they received two or three years ago, when economic conditions .were bad. In other words, people in receipt of social services benefits had a better deal in bad times than they are to get in good times.
I believe that the Australian public will not accept this budget, which has been purposely drafted in order to appeal strongly to electors. I am sure that the people will ignore such a bait. Those who are to receive some remissions of income tax will not allow themselves to be carried away by that concession. They will ask themselves this question: “If economic stability has been reached, why has the Government almost completely ignored the claims of the recipients of social services? “ Much has been said about the welfare State by people ranging from philosophers to economists. I, personally, have no hesitation in defending the welfare State, if it means that an obligation devolves upon governments to take care of members of the community who, having borne the heat and burden of the day, require some assistance in their later years. If the welfare State accepts responsibility for the less fortunate members of the community, I make no apology for supporting it. I believe that governments have an obligation to look after the less fortunate sections of the community.
As opposed to that, Government supporters do not attempt to conceal their irritation when Opposition members attack vested interests. The Prime Minister and his followers emit a plaintive wail when we venture to criticize vested interests, and they ask such questions as : Is it a crime to be a success ? la it a crime to make a profit? Is it a crime to invest capital? To the first question Opposition members answer, “ No “ ; but we should be interested to know precisely what people mean when they use such terms as “ success “ and “profit”. What do Government supporters mean when they speak of “ success “ ? What is success ? What has a person to do in order -to be a success? In what terms do Government supporters measure success? Hundreds of thousands of people outside this Parliament have no inclination to he a success in the sense that Government supporters use the word. Some people do not aspire to enter public life, yet they are as successful as any member of this Parliament will ever be. Perhaps they are playing a greater part in the development of this country, and are making a greater contribution to our destiny in an unspectacular way that does not bring them to the public eye. Government supporters should not become irritated when the Opposition attacks vested interests. In my opinion, vested interests are deserving of criticism, and I sincerely hope that the Labour party will never cease to attack them.
Then again, Government supporters ask, “ Is it a crime to make a profit ? “ They do not define what they mean by “profit”. If they mean that a person should be allowed to set himself up in any kind of business and take from it whatever he can without recognizing any obligations to the rest of the community, we are immediately at odds. Government supporters also ask, “ Is it a crime to invest capital ? “ My answer to that question is “ No “ ; but I point out that there are forms of investment which are open to criticism, and no reputable person would be associated with them. This Government defends vested interests without exception.
The Treasurer has made another contradictory claim. He asserted that inflation ha3 been checked, and that budgetary equilibrium has been achieved. I need make only one observation to show that it is impossible to reconcile that claim with the budget itself. The loan allocations to the States for this financial year total £200,000,000, of which £105,000,000 is to be raised by public loans and the remaining £95,000,000 is to be provided by treasury-bills. In other words, the Treasurer proposes to inject into the economy the huge sum of £95,000,000 by means of treasury-bill finance. Such an intention immediately destroys any claim that he has a balanced budget, and has checked inflation.
I turn now to some of the observations that were made by the Prime Minister in the course of his speech last week. Not the least extraordinary of the many claims that the right honorable gentleman made was the statement that this was the best budget in any country since World War II. He said that there was no comparable example in any other country. Surely no more extraordinary statement has ever been made in this Parliament. Perhaps the right honorable gentleman intended his boast for home consumption only, but, whatever his motive may have been, the fact is that his claim was far from the truth. We have to look only at the position of Canada in order to realize how false it was. In fact, the Canadian Government a few months ago made tax concessions that leave far behind the concessions for which this budget provides. Canada, by virtue of its geographical position and the fortunate way in which it has been favoured with natural resources, has been able to achieve results such as not many countries have been able to achieve. It has an unlimited water supply, and large deposits of flow oil have been discovered there since 1946. As a result of the discovery of oil, it is now able to supply 46 per cent, of its domestic requirements. Above all, Canada has no dollar problem, a problem that vitally affects countries in the sterling area. Because of its favoured position, Canada is far better placed than is Australia in many respects. Last year, for example, it produced over 640,000,000 bushels of wheat, which was almost four times the size of Australia’s crop. The standard of living in Canada is equal to that in Australia. There is no 40-hour week in a general sense in that country, but the 40-hour week has been applied on a far wider scale than is generally believed in Australia.-
The standard of living in the United States of America, too, is comparable with our standard of living. Skilled tradesmen in that country, I venture to say, are far better off than are their opposite numbers in Australia. It is only the unskilled man in Australia who is better off than his counterpart in the United States of America. Australian workers are better placed than are workers in Great Britain. In view of all these facts, it is idle for the Prime Minister to walk into this chamber and make statements of the kind that I have cited when, in fact, they are completely foreign to actuality. I have made these comments because the Prime Minister seems to be of the opinion that all he has to do is make some boast for home consumption and the people, not knowing better, will be satisfied with their situation. I repeat that his claim will not stand up to analysis. There are other countries that have achieved far more than Australia has achieved since the end of “World “War II., because they are more favorably placed than Australia.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Government’s attitude to our economic plight, as revealed in this debate, is the claim that the Government has checked inflation and achieved stability. It is a far-reaching claim which might be impressive, if we overlooked the fact that the inflation and instability from which Australia has been suffering were brought about entirely as a result of the policy that this Government deliberately chose to follow. Having led us along the road to inflation and instability, the Government now claims credit for its statement that it has halted inflation. In fact, the policy that the Government has followed for the last three years has merely served to accentuate inflation. The Prime Minister declared that inflation and instability were not peculiar to Australia but were world-wide. That was a rather belated and lame defence of his government’s mal-administration, because I recall that, when the 1949 budget was presented by the late Mr. Chifley, as Treasurer of the day, a similar statement that he made was rejected by the present Prime Minister and the present Treasurer. “What they had to say then about inflation in Australia filled pages of Hansard. The Prime Minister, in an attempt to minimize the adverse effects of his own policy, has produced an argument that he ridiculed in 1949.-
It is interesting to examine the way in which taxation has increased since this
Government has been in office. Admittedly, this budget provides for certain remissions of taxation. I have already pointed out the effects that these remissions will have on individuals and companies, and I have spoken of the disparity between remissions in various categories. Although the Government has decided to reduce taxation this year, it has fa’iled to tell the people that the reductions represent merely the removal of the extra tax burden that it imposed on them last year. “We can obtain a comprehensive idea of the incidence of taxation by referring to the average annual rate of tax per capita for the last three of four years. In 1949-50, the figure was £57 12s. In 1950-51, under the first budget of the present Government, it rose to £75 15s. In 1951-52, it rose further to £89 9s. 3d. In 1952-53 it fell to £77 10s., and this year, under the current budget, the rate will be £7 6. Thus, under the last Chifley budget in 1949-50, taxation per capita amounted to £57 12s. a year, whereas this year it will amount to £76. The people who pay the bulk of the taxes should be told where taxation is collected from. In the light of the truth, the claim by this Government that it is granting great benefits to the people is reduced to absurdity. The report of the Commissioner of Taxation for. New South “Wales for 1949-50, the latest available to me, shows that the group of persons earning from £105 to £1,000 a year receives 77.66 per cent, of the’ total taxable income. It contains 94.56 per cent, of the total number of taxpayers. The percentage falls very sharply in the higher income groups. The group of persons who earn from £1,001 to £1,500 a year represents. 2.64 per cent, of the total number of taxpayers, and the group of persons who- receive from £1,501 to £2,000 represent only 1.03 per cent, of the total number. The truth is that the taxation remissions for which this budget provides will be enjoyed mainly by people in the higher income groups. They will benefit to a far greater degree than will the less favoured wage and salary earners.
This Government has claimed broadly that it has balanced the budget, halted inflation and achieved stability. This claim appears in an astonishing light when we analyse the table of total tax collections for each year from 1949-50 until the present. In 1949-50, tax collections amounted to £519,000,000, of which £186,000,000 consisted of indirect taxation. In 1950-51, the total rose’ to £777,000,000, of which £222,000,000 was indirect taxation. In 1951-52, the total increased steeply to £934,000,000, of which £309,000,000 was indirect taxation. In 1952-53, the figure fell slightly to £885,000,000, of which £272,000,000 was indirect taxation. This year, the Govern-, ment proposes to collect a total of £874,000,000, of which £291,000,000 is expected to be indirect taxation. Although it proposes to reduce the general taxation burden, it is significant that, under the provisions of this budget, the Government expects indirect tax collections to be larger than they were last year. The increase is estimated to “ amount to £19,000,000. In fact, Australians to-day are paying at the rate of £355,000,000 a year more than they paid in 19.49-50. I have said enough to prove conclusively that the Government’s .claim that this budget is not inflationary is entirely fallacious.
I refer in conclusion to what I consider to be a very serious omission from the budget. There is no reference in the budget papers to ship-building in Australia. It appears that this Governnent adheres still to a policy that was enunciated years .ago. Whenever one asks for information on this subject, Ministers merely restate that policy, which is completely out of date. Because orders have not been placed for new ships, unemployment is likely to become general in the shipbuilding industry in the near future. The situation in the port of Sydney particularly is serious: This problem has exercised the mind of the trade union movement. Numerous deputations which have waited upon the responsible Minister have tried to persuade him to do something in the matter. A survey of the industry was promised, and it was hoped that, as a result of the survey, something would be done to secure the future of the industry in the Port of Sydney. The survey has been made, but I have been informed that the shipbuilding industry in the Port of Sydney has practically no future.
I am afraid that, unless the Government acts in this matter, a very serious problem will arise in relation to shipbuilding, particularly in the Port of Sydney. I know that the Government has a programme for spreading orders for ships over the various shipbuilding yards in Australia, but at the moment I am concerned particularly with the lack of orders in the Port of Sydney and the uncertain future of the industry there. I hope sincerely that the Government- will act promptly and that we shall not witness again the tragic spectacle of the shipbuilding industry of this country being allowed to run to seed. This is a very serious problem, which affects thousands of people in my electorate. In view of its implications, I hope the Government will examine it not only from the point of view of the shipbuilding industry in a particular spot, but also from the point of view of the industry as a national asset.
Mr. MACKINNON (Corangamite) J5.32]. - In” the course of this debate the committee and the listening public have been subjected to a flood of figures which, probably, has proved to be extremely confusing. The figures have been used and abused in various ways. Some have been used to prove one thing, and others have been used to prove exactly the opposite. However, I feel that whatever we say in this place in discussing the magnificent financial document that has been presented to us by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), it will have little influence on the judgment of the people outside. They will judge the merit of the financial measures and policies outlined in the budget. However, I believe that the Treasurer and the Government will receive the thanks of a grateful people for their recognition in this magnificent budget of the need for individual incentive, especially after the difficult economic storms to which our country and people have been subjected during the last four years. Moreover, I feel certain that future generations of Australians will look back with gratitude to the sacrifices made during this difficult period, which have produced an economic situation that makes such a budget possible. We cannot underestimate the value to future generations of any measure that fortifies public opinion against the creeping paralysis of socialism and restores the rigour and energy of a virile and progressive people. As 1 have already said, the great Australian public will be the judge of the value to the community as a whole of the measures now under consideration, and the decision can be left safely in their hands.
I do not want to weary the committee with repetition, but I think it worth while to mention again the considered opinion of a responsible person representing, I believe, a responsible body in a recognized industrial court. I refer to the statement made on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions in the recent case heard by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Counsel for the Australian Council of Trades Unions, a responsible person, in summing up his case, pointed out that the evidence showed that reasonable stability had been achieved, employment was rising, primary production nourishing, exports expanding, retail trade improving, profits and overseas funds increasing and the inflationary spiral had levelled out. I believe that that considered opinion will have a tremendous influence on the restoration of the confidence of those people who have been subjected to Labour fear propaganda. Let them contrast that thoughtful and responsible presentation of existing economic conditions with the irresponsible threats issued by Labour leaders that depression is upon us and large-scale unemployment is certain. Let them contrast it also with the words used by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, when he exhorted the people to spend all they had because soon their money would be worth nothing. I have sufficient confidence in the good sense of the Australian public as a whole to anticipate that even those who are compelled to subscribe financially to support the political theories of honorable members opposite will emerge from the coma that Labour propaganda has induced in them and will recognize that this Government has done more for the rank and file of Australian industry than any previous government in recent times. Labour thrives on fear. It retains control of its supporters bv threats. It hopes that through the fulfilment of its political objective, total socialism, it will be able to enforce its power over every indi vidual in our community. I believe that the real value of this budget is that it will refresh and encourage the vigour and virility of our people and fortify them against the creeping paralysis of socialism.
I propose, not to deal at length with the details of the subject that we are discussing, but rather to examine the general implications of the , policies involved. Certain honorable members on the opposite side of the chamber, in particular the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews), and some honorable members on this side, have referred to the extraordinary importance of our primary industries to the national economy, especially to the extent to which the economy is based on the income -brought into the country by our exports of wool, wheat, dairy products, meat and metals. In the main, our governmental expenditure and our wages and social services structures are supported and sustained by the products of our primary industries. It is, therefore, very necessary that our taxation policy should be directed towards the encouragement of incentives for those engaged in primary industry to produce more, and for those engaged in secondary industry to produce more efficiently. There is an urgent necessity to explore and develop world markets for many of the surplus products of our primary and secondary industries, which greater and more efficient production will make available. This is a time when we should be applying ourselves with all the energy that we have to the task of developing our overseas trade.
Probably the most significant developments that will occur as a result of the tax concessions embodied in the budget will be that the results of thrift will be made available for investment purposes and that investment capital will be attracted from overseas. Capital to satisfy the needs of our expanding governmental and private economy must come from either the savings of our own people or from those countries overseas that have confidence in the future of Australia. During this debate, reference has been made bv Labour members to the fact that to-day there is nol an unlimited amount of investment capital available to fill thu loans floated by the Treasury from time to time. Comparisons have been made of the present time and the war period, and the immediate post-war period, when, owing to the restriction of capital issues, a great volume of investment capital was, of necessity, forced into Government loans, because no other avenue was open to it. Moreover, due to constant shortages, a great weight of money that normally would have been used for improvements, especially in our primary industries, was diverted to government loans, the only avenue of investment open at that time. Since then, the demands of energetic private enterprise have had to be met and, with high rates of taxation, the pool of savings in this country available for investment has been limited. During the early days of Australia’s development, the capital required for our normal public works programmes was, to a largo extent, provided by the savings of the people of Great Britain, but, as a result of two world wars and a consequent high rate of taxation in that country, that source of capital has been cut off almost completely. Under those circumstances, we must recognize that in future we shall have to rely to a large extent upon our own resources. But an important feature of the budget is that it will tend to attract capital to Australia, particularly from a country such as the United States of America, which, I believe, will always be prepared to invest in the future of Australia provided it has confidence in the general structure of our economy and the direction in which it is tending to go. I believe that the budget will not only encourage private savings in Australia but also act as a magnet to attract the overseas capital that we need to help us to solve the problem of developing our great economic potential.
I referred- earlier in my speech to the importance of a liberal taxation policy designed to encourage the persons engaged in primary industry, upon whose shoulders our financial, social and industrial structure rests so much. The tax reductions envisaged by the budget will, I believe, encourage a much more efficient employment of our broad acres and provide an opportunity to strengthen the basis of our rural finance. I believe that to be particularly important. There will be, incidentally, encouragement to improve the quality and production of our live-stock and general farming methods, which will be reflected in a sounder farming and pastoral economy. The raising of the exemption limit for the pay-roll tax from £1,040 to £4,160 will be of real benefit to all small employers and, in particular, will relieve many farmers of a most irksome impost.
Various critics of Australia’s financial structure have stressed the lack of balance that exists in our export trade. They have pointed out how the products of our pastoral, farming and mining industries completely dominate our exports. They have referred to the fact that, due to high manufacturing costs, the products’ of our secondary industries cannot compete to any degree on the world’s markets, and moreover, in some cases, are unable to stand up to competition in this country provided by articles imported from abroad. In this respect our economy undoubtedly contains a weakness which would constitute a serious threat if world prices for our products fell to any great degree, or if we had serious drought conditions over the settled areas of this country. It is well that we should examine the effect of the policies involved in this budget on our secondary industries, because we shall in future look to those industries to support themselves to a greater degree than is at present the case. One of the main handicaps suffered recently by industry the - world over has been the high cost of replacements of capital equipment. Despite the normal depreciation allowances under our tax laws the incidence of a high rate of company tax has restricted the opportunities of our manufacturing industries to make the necessary provision for the replacement of machinery and plant that efficient modern production requires. I think it was the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) who raised the point about the importance of a high ratio of plant, in money value, to the number of employees. He cited the ratio for America as plant worth £1,200 in our currency to each employee. He said that that figure compared with the figure of £600 to one employee in Australia. That is a pertinent argument which
Australian industry will have to study if we are to reduce our manufacturing costs.
There can be no doubt that the considerable reductions of company tax on both public and private companies, which are provided for in the budget, will give to these companies generally an opportunity to restore and improve their plant and equipment, and must be of benefit to industry as a whole. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) aptly summed up the position in answer to an interjection that was made concerning a great Australian company which, whether honorable members opposite like it or not, is making an important contribution to our industrial effort. An honororable member opposite interjected that the company had been relieved by the Government of a tremendous tax responsibility. The Prime Minister replied to him, “ Go and tell the workers in that industry that you do not think it is a good thing that the company should be placed in a stable and sound position “. The stability of our industries, particularly those that supply our greatest needs, is not only of great importance to the general public, mrt is also of tremendous value to the huge work force that they employ. I consider that the Labour party is not reflecting, in any way, the opinions of the rank and file of the industrial movement when it espouses a policy that can result only in a weakening of our industrial structure. It is reasonable to assume that secondary industry will seize the opportunity to plough back into reserves the greater part of the tax -relief provided for them, and will use these reserves for modernization of plant and equipment that is so necessary for efficiency and the reduction of costs. The responsibility for dealing with high production costs lies on both management and labour. High production costs threaten Australia’s secondary industries and are, indeed, their major problem. This budget gives added individual incentive towards greater production and efficiency.
I found it particularly refreshing to read in to-day’s press that the Australian Council of Trades Unions had lost its long rearguard action against the incentive payment system. I mentioned earlier the need for the exploration by Australia of world markets, particularly those in the eastern countries that lie so close to us, so that the scope of our export trade can be widened. People who are well in. formed about trade with our eastern neighbours have told me that the packaging and labelling of goods requires the greatest imagination and intelligence. I can illustrate the point by citing two examples that were brought to my notice recently by some one with a knowledge of conditions in the East. He referred to certain Australian canned foodstuffs. Honorable members will probably recognize the products to which I refer. The label of one of them displays the picture of a bird. The point that my informant made was that the average person in the eastern countries, who cannot read English, would naturally assume that the can contained bird food. Of course, that market for that product was lost. Another of our well-known fruit-canning firms has on its label a picture of various types of fruit. A native buying a can of this fruit would think he was buying canned fruit salad, and would be bitterly disappointed to find that the can contained only the prosaic peaches or pears. Labelling requires imagination, and I believe the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, with the co-operation of the exporters concerned, could play a part in at least applying intelligence to this problem, which is of such great importance to our industrial future.
I turn now to the effect that the budget will have on our government and semigovernment financial structure. Due to the serious threat of inflation which has faced Australia since World War II., and which was given an impetus as a result of the Korean War, the problem of public expenditure generally has been extremely complex. The policy of high taxation to curb spending power, the financing of capital works from revenue, and the world-wide increase of costs haveplaced a limitation on the overall public works programme. It is not difficult to realize where an unlimited public works programme would have led this country during the last three or four years, with every public utility and every State body bidding for the insufficient labour, capital goods and materials available. It could have led only to galloping inflation. I consider, therefore, that the policy that the Government has followed in this connexion was necessary in order to ‘ avoid the situation that could have developed as a result of an unlimited public works programme. However, if, as we believe, the worst dangers of inflation have now passed, we shall have an opportunity later to adopt a more elastic attitude towards public works, particularly if there is some slackening in the public demand. for goods produced by our secondary industries.
I mentioned earlier that honorable members, opposite had tried to make political capital out of the fact that during the war, and in the immediate post-war period, the Labour Government had been able to fill its loans. They have ignored the existence during that period of rigid capital issues control. The point I want to make is that, as a result of that limitation of capital issues, which channelled the available money, the demands of industry were negated and denied. Now that we have got past that point, not only can we provide money for the development of secondary industries, but the occasion may soon arise when we can provide more money for public works.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– I have been trying to point out to the committee the extent to which the broad effects of this budget would spread throughout the whole of our economic life, and to show that future generations of Australians will look back with gratitude to this budget as marking the emergence of our national economy from a period of great stress, which had threatened the foundations of our economic life. The provisions of this budget will give great impetus to our primary industries, and, also, in many ways to our secondary industries. That must be reflected in the general level of prosperity throughout the community, and the budget will encourage our enterprising and virile people to abandon the deadening political theories of the socialists.
Because of the general improvement of the whole of our financial status in Australia, keeping an eye on the possibility of secondary inflation, we can turn more attention to the provision of funds for public works. I think that we can readjust, to a certain extent, our public borrowing programme, because there is obviously more investment money available for lending. . There can be no doubt that there is a growing need for the extension and improvement of many of our public services, such as health, education and communications. I believe that most of us, particularly those who come from country districts, are concerned with the general condition of our roads. The vast increase in the use of road transport has subjected our roads “to treatment for which they were never designed. Of course, this is no new problem; it has existed in the United States of America for years. In that country it has been found that the type of road that was constructed in the early ‘thirties has proved hopelessly inadequate to meet the general demands of modern transport. It is obvious that there must be a far stricter enforcement of speed limits and axle load limitations for heavy vehicles if we are to prevent our roads from falling into ruin. I feel very keenly for the hardworking councillors and municipal officers who, particularly in the electorate which I have the honour to represent have to face up to these problems. In my electorate these officers have had to deal with the additional problems of heavy flooding, increasing tourist traffic and through traffic of the heavy transport type.
I make no apology for digressing into this subject, because it is one with which I am deeply concerned - as is everybody who has had any association with the life of the country. The point that I wish to make is that close at hand there is a serious problem with which we should now be grappling, and I hope that the savings of industry and individuals will be made available in much greater volume for investment in loans for public works. This debate has been illuminating to me as a new-comer to the Parliament, because of the way in which those authorized to speak for the Labour party have switched their line of attack. During the last Senate election campaign they were causing the public sleepless nights by their predictions of inflation, unemployment and depression. This - budget and the statements of their own representatives in the
Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration have obliged them to drop the terror theme. The propaganda line has now been switched to one of beguiling the electorate with great promises of how benefits will be increased. Bigger and better pensions and bigger and better tax reductions have been promised in return for the election of a Labour government. In conclusion, the violent change by Labour from predictions of disaster to prosperity promises will be too much for the thoughtful elector to swallow. To use a metaphor from our great national game of cricket, this Government has got the runs on the board, and, despite the excellent wicket prepared over the last four difficult years, the other side has still got the job ahead of them to persuade the general public that they can do as well. I commend the Treasurer on the budget that he has produced to this committee.
– It has been pleasing to hear once again in this chamber the mellifluous tones of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), who was with us previously for a brief period asthe member for the electorate of “Wannon. His temperate and reasoned utterances have been a welcome contrast to the words of some of his colleagues. On a previous occasion, the electors terminated his membership of the Parliament in less than two years, and now I consider that it is almost a pity that his pleasing per?sonality is due once more to be removed from among us within an even shorter period of time. The honorable member for Corangamite developed the theme that this is the best of all budgets to be presented to this Parliament by the best of all governments. Of course, that is an inevitable theme for supporters of the Government to develop, because for many months it has been becoming clearer and clearer that the introduction of a good budget was the last chance that the Government had of appeasing the wrath of the Australian electors. Nothing else could possibly save it. From every other viewpoint this Government is already discredited, and now that the sands of time are running out it. has only one hope left, and that is that the electors will accept this budget as a good one. The
Government had to be able to say, “We did many things to hurt you, we are sorry about that and now we make full restitution. We give you back the extra taxes that we took from you, we restore pensions to their full value, we re-establish national stability. So forgive us for what we did to you because it has all worked out for the best”. And so, the Government needed to have a good budget. In default of a good budget it had to have the next best thing, that is, a bad budget dressed up to look like a good one in the hope that the people would accept it. There was, of course, danger in this fraud, but to a government like the present one, inured to political fraud, what was one more misrepresentation?If the fraud were discovered the electors would throw the Government out, but the Government realized that the electors intended to do that in any event, and decided that it had nothing to lose.
The claim has been boldly presented that the budget will make substantial taxation reductions, and that it will restore the financial position to what it was before the budget of 1951. Seemingly the Government takes as its guide a maxim of the late Joseph Goebbels - if you are going to tinker with the truth, tell a most almighty whopper. And so a series of statements have been written into the budget speech which are in flat contradiction to the statements of account published with the same document. A flashy front page has been added to the speech under the heading “Main features of the budget “. This has pushed out of the way the traditional careful survey of the economic scene, and I suggest that responsible Treasury officials were ashamed to see that misleading front page. It seemed to me as though an irresponsible journalist had been hired by an unscrupulous promoter to dress up a proposition with which to gull the public. So, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) launched into his magnificent, opening audacity -
In this budget the Government proposes to make tax reductions having an estimated annua] value to the taxpayers of £118,000,000.
Because that is completely misleading and wrong as a description of the budget, it seems to be the desperate statement of n desperate man hungry for the warmth of cheers after bitter years of cold abuse. Did the Treasurer get the cheers? Of course he did. He got them from the Government parties in this chamber, and also from hundreds of thousands of honest Australian taxpayers who were listening in their homes throughout the country. There is only one difficulty with cheers of that kind; they are liable to turn quickly to an uglier and deeper sound if the cheerers find that they have been fooled. That is happening at present, because, undoubtedly, the listeners understood the Treasurer’s statement to mean that taxes would be £118,000,000 less this year than last year. Of course that is utterly untrue, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has clearly proved, but the Government is doing everything to prevent the exposure of its deception. Government supporters are being put up one after the other to declare that the budget contains real and valuable reductions of the total amount of taxation, when the fact is that it contains nothing of the sort.
The facts which make fantasy of the Treasurer’s claims are shown in the statements of account accompanying the budget speech. Cabinet could cook up the budget speech, but it could not cook up the budget statements, because they are prepared by senior Treasury officials who are not amenable to ministerial direction in these matters. They provide the cold and correct comparisons of the 1952 budget with the 1953 budget, and they show the actual reduction, or increase, of the total amount of money to be taken by this Government in taxes this year as compared with last year. They show that the Government proposes to take in this year’s budget £10,840,000 more in taxes than it proposed to take by last year’s budget. The total of income taxation on individuals will be increased this year by £14,800,000. The respective totals are, 1952-53, budget £383,500,000; 1953-54, budget £398,300,000. But, of course, the population has increased, so let us consider taxation per head of population. Comparing this budget with the 1952-53 budget, income tax on individuals will be increased from £43 15s. 4d. to £44 14s. a. head of population. Other increases are customs duties, from £7 ls. 6d. a head to £9 5s. 7d. a head, and excise from £11 17s. 5d. a head to £13 10s. 4d. a head. But are there no reductions? Of course there are. What about the sweeping reductions in sales tax which the Treasurer trumpeted forth? You remember the paragraph, Mr. Chairman. No doubt your heart leapt up at the good news -
Rates of sales tax now standing at 50 per cent., 33it per cent., and 20 per cent, will be abolished, and goods at present subject to these rates of tax will in future be taxed at 16s per cent, or less. Some will be reduced to the general rate of 124 per cent.
It sounds so beautiful that it is almost a pity to spoil the effect by pointing out that because the Government deliberately omitted to reduce the general rate of tax which applies to the vast volume of sales, the alteration of rates is almost an empty gesture as far as reduction of total sales tax collections is concerned. The vaunted reduction of sales tax is shown by the documents which accompany the budget speech to be from £10 0s. 10£d. to £9 16s. 8d. a head of population. The reduction is 4s. 24d. a year for each person in Australia - almost, but not quite, Id. a week. To put it in another way, sales tax provided for in the 1952-53 budget amounted to £88,000,000 and in the 1953-54 budget to £87,740,000- a reduction of £260,000, or one-third of one per cent, of the total collections.
– On double the sales.
– This is the position : Sales tax collections amounted to £40,000,000 a year in 1949 when this Government was elected on a pledge to reduce the tax, but this Government has increased sales tax by 125 per cent, to £89,000,000. Now, it proposes to reduce the figure of £89.000,000 by one third of one per cent., and it says to the Australian people, “ We have redeemed our pledge. We have reduced sales tax “. Having completed that mighty task, the Treasurer turned to excise on liquor and tobacco while sinful men watched hopefully. “ Here is a sweeping reduction for you “, said the Treasurer, lifting 3s. a gallon from the excise on spirits but leaving intact the excise on beer, tobacco and cigarettes which produce ten times - the revenue produced from spirits. Two years ago the Treasurer added 31s. a gallon excise on spirits, 2s. 6d. a gallon on beer, 4s. per lb. on tobacco and 5s. 6d. per lb. on cigarettes to bring in an extra £31,000,000 a year. Now, be takes off nothing from beer, tobacco and cigarettes, but reduces excise on spirits by 3s. and says, “I promised four years ago that T would reduce taxation. Now I have done it “. So, having increased total duties on liquor and tobacco from £73,792,000 to £136,000,000, an increase of £62,208,000, he takes off £1,800,000. Then he wipes his brow and takes a bow while the claque applauds him and cries, “ Isn’t he wonderful ? How fully he redeems his promises ! Look, we are right back to where we were in 1949 “.
Before I leave this subject of taxation there are three points that are worthy of note. The deceit having been exposed, it is interesting to note upon what it was based. How could the Government claim to be reducing taxation by £118,000,000 when in truth it knew that it proposed tocollect more taxes than it budgeted for last year. Members on both sides of the chamber, Government and Opposition alike, are well aware of the basis on which the deception was attempted. In the first place, of course, the figure of £118,000,000 had no application to this financial year whatever. It was .a hypothetical figure which applied solely to a future year. If the presentation of this budget had been delayed for another month, the Treasurer could have made it £138,000,000 without giving up an extra penny of this year’s revenue.
– He was too honest to do so.
– I bow to that one ! Even on the Treasurer’s own calculations, the correct figure for this year is £81,000,000, although that figure appears nowhere in the main features of the budget which occupy the first one and a half pages of the Treasurer’s speech. But how was the unreal figure of £S1,000,000 obtained? The answer is very simple. Like many great illusions, it is built on a very simple trick. And the Treasurer is a skilled illusionist. He can produce a stream of tax reductions which look real until you touch them, when they turn into a puff of smoke. The trick here, of course, is based on inflation. Every one knows that the seeming money benefits provided by inflation have no real benefit at all. That applies to the. Treasurer’s tax reductions. He first worked out rates, to bring him in as much tax revenue as he received last year. But then, to be on the safe side, he added a bit more. So, he first made sure that the taxpayer would be hit at least as hard as, or harder than, he had ever been hit before. He then worked out the immensely increased returns he would receive if he did not adjust the rates of tax to accord with the changed money values caused by inflation of his own making. It is the difference between these two amounts which the Treasurer has announced as a tax reduction. In other words, it is the difference between the heavy burden which the taxpayer is already carrying, and is to continue to carry, and the even heavier burden which the Treasurer says he could have heaped on him but did not do so.
– That is all very involved. Will the honorable member explain it all again ?
– The honorable member will better understand the second point which is the political dis honesty involved in the method adopted by the Treasurer in putting over this budget.
– Order! The honorable member may not impute political dishonesty to another honorable member. He must withdraw the term.
– I withdraw it. The opening pages of the Treasurer’s speech flout every tradition of treasury responsibility. The obligation to present a true picture of the position is forgotten. Instead, the occasion is made for an allout bid to retain office by unprecedented political’ deception. The parliamentary institution and the democratic cause are ill served by such methods. This is the first time in Australia’s history that they have been adopted in budget presentation ; it is to be hoped that it will be the last time.
The third observation I wish to make on this aspect is that this budget marks, not the Government’s ultimate success in attaining its 1949 objectives, but instead, its final failure to do so. The 1949 objectives proclaimed by the Government are on record. They were to reduce taxation, to reduce the cost of government, to eliminate waste and extravagance, to establish efficiency, to cut out superfluous functions and finally to reduce the cost of living. No one can now claim that those objectives have been attained, yet the Treasurer proclaims that this budget is the final fulfilment of the Government’s undertakings. Even applying the “ C “ series index percentage increase since 1949, of which this Government has suddenly grown so fond, even making full allowance for the inflationary change in the value of money, total taxation should now be not more than £753,000,000. Instead, it is £874,000,000. The Treasurer claims to have attained his objectives. That is a perfect example of the verse -
In my youth I set my goal,
As far as human eye can see;
I am nearer to it now
I have brought it nearer me.
I mention these figures because it is rather extraordinary, not merely to hear Ministers make claims that are so opposite to the facts, but also to read that some newspapers and representatives of taxpayers’ associations are actually congratulating the Government on doing what it has so signally failed to do and are expressing satisfaction with the position that has now been reached. These comments surely represent the final abandonment by those who make them of the struggle for lower governmental costs and for the lowering of the burden of taxation. Either the memories of those who make them are very short or their satisfaction is expressed because they- represent the only interests - the big business interests of Australia - which have actually benefited by this budget.
– The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) says “ Nonsense ! “ Again I refer the honorable member to the official figures published in the budget papers presented by the Treasurer - figures which, of course, the Treasurer did not read. They show that the Government has not reduced taxation but has trans.ferred a substantial part of the burden from the richer to the poorer sections of the community.
Company taxation is reduced from £167,000,000 last year to £133,000,000 this year - a reduction of £34,000,000- which is the only substantial reduction in amount in this budget.
– What about the reduction of the pay-roll tax ?
– By comparison the reduction of pay-roll tax is small. While taxation this year is to be £98 a head of population compared with £98 lis. last year, company taxation is reduced from £19 ls. under last year’s budget to £14 19s. 6d. this year. The honorable member for Bennelong may work out the figures for himself. If company taxation is excluded from the calculation, the actual change between this year’s budget and the budget of last year is an increase of taxation on the Australian people of £4 2s. a head. Those are the official figures which are referred to in the budget papers that were presented to the Parliament by the Treasurer. They are available for every one to examine. That alone may be the explanation of the complacent satisfaction expressed by these interests - a satisfaction which no ordinary citizen has any ground for sharing. Indeed, this budget demonstrates the truism that governments representative of vested interests can ultimately legislate only in behalf of vested interests. The proposition is specifically demonstrated in the comparison that was produced by the Leader of the Opposition which shows that a basic wage earner under this budget will pay in direct taxation £8 ls. a year more if he is a single man, and £5 12s. if he is a family man than he paid even under the horror budget.
What hope then could pensioners have of justice from this Government? I am not so concerned with the niggardly adjustment of 2s. 6d. in the pension rates, because the Leader of the Opposition has already demonstrated its injustice. I am concerned with the new and most miserable argument introduced by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) most unworthily, supported by the Prime Minister himself not at all surprisingly, and by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who, in my opinion, is the worst enemy of Australian pensioners who ever sat in this Parliament. This new argument is the extraordinary contention that, on the cost of living calculations, the pension at the present time should be, not £3 10s., but £3 8s. 3d. a week; that the increase should not have been 2s. 6d. ; and that all the pensioners require in order to meet their needs in life is an. increase of 9d. a week. This is the new policy of the Government. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Social Services and the honorable member for Sturt have claimed that the amount of £3 Ss. 3d. is the true and proper payment for pensioners, based on the official cost of living figures that they have cited to this chamber. How is this shocking contention justified? It is justified, strangely enough, by a complete disregard of the arbitration court. This justification is advanced by a government which never tires of adjuring the Australian workers to abide by the judgments and decisions of the court. Yet the Government itself, by this argument, sets aside completely the idea which has “prevailed in this Parliament for many years that the pension should be at least in reasonable proportion to the basic wage.
Whence did this new argument spring? When did this Government, with its long history of repudiation, first decide to repudiate the concept that the pension should be kept in reasonable proportion to the basic wage? Certainly not at the general election in 1949 ! Not a word was mentioned about the matter then, when all sorts of promises were made to pensioners. Certainly not in the budget for 1950-51, because even this Government recognized its responsibility then to maintain the proportion of the basic wage by increasing the pension by 7s. 6d. a week ! Certainly not at the election in 1951, when all the promises to the pensioners were mouthed again ! Not one word was spoken about it then. But the pensioners now know the true attitude of this Government towards them. They also know of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, speaking on behalf of every member of the Australian Labour party, when he declared the .party’s intention to honour the pledge which this Government has dishonoured, and restore the pension and social services rate to the proportion of the basic wage which it possessed in 1949 at the time this Government took office. This intention involves a pension rate, on present figures, of £4 a week and a means test permissible income, on present, figures, of £2 15s. a week subject to whatever variation in the cost of living may occur between now and then. That is the minimum on which the Labour party will seek to improve. The promise is also given that the party, in pursuing this definite policy will seek also to completely abolish the social services means test within the shortest possible space of time.
What has been said with regard to social services benefits applies equally - indeed, perhaps even more strongly - to ex-servicemen’s pensions. What does the Government propose? The general rate of war pension is to be increased by 2s. 6d. a week, the service pension by a miserable 2s. 6d. a week, and the war widows’ pension by a wretched 2s. 6d. a week. Will any Government supporter rise in his place and declare that these increases are enough? Those matters will also be remedied by the Labour Government.
Before ending my remarks I wish to state some personal views which press urgently in my thoughts. The Australian cost structure is in such dangerous disbalance that, on the Government’s own dictum, our butter cannot be sold in Great Britain except at a loss of lid. per lb. and can no longer be sold in this country at production cost, even after a subsidy of 10 3/4 d. per lb. There is special need for the accepted protective policy to be applied selectively so that we build in Australia those secondary industries which can establish themselves here on an efficient basis, providing the best home market for our primary products, but also so that we do not spoonfeed concerns unlikely to be able to stand on their own feet and adding an unbearable weight to the cost structure loaded on primary industry.
The years left to us to develop and populate this continent may be few indeed - fewer than we wish to think. This is the paramount task and unless we apply to it every ounce of our effort, no military alliance and no strength in armament that we can muster will ultimately save us. In these circumstances, I believe that, to the extent that huge expenditure on military preparation is starving the developmental task, portion of that expenditure should be transferred from the military defence provision to the developmental defence provision. Further, I believe that, because the years ahead may be so few Australia requires the highest order of individual patriotism expressing itself in utmost effort and in utter repudiation of Communist preaching of disruption and division. Such an effort by the Australian people is best based upon a confidence that their Government is seeking to promote social justice in terms of full employment, equality of opportunity, freedom and security.
For this reason above all others, I believe that the present Government is an injury to Australia since its policies promote injustice, advantage big monopolies, undermine full employment and, by creating unrest, and insecurity, play into Communist hands. It is for this reason also that I believe that Australia urgently needs the return of a Labour government, and that this government must be courageous and determined to pursue the path of social economic reform.
– Seldom have I listened to such a specious argument as that advanced by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). He became befogged and bogged, and got lo3t in the maze of his own tortuous arguments. I do not believe that any one, even Hansard, could understand and report what he said. One feature of his speech, which I was pleased to hear, was the complete abandonment by the Labour party of the policy that it has followed for a long while. Opposition members have been apostles of gloom and despair. They said that one-half of our people would he unemployed. Now, they have completely changed their views. They suggest that Australia is so prosperous that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) should grant increased remissions of taxes, and that pensions can be increased ad lib. Well, honorable gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. Australia cannot be on the verge of bankruptcy or destruction if the Labour party considers that increased remissions of tax should be granted and pensions increased.
This country, indeed, is fortunate that the Treasurer has presented a budget which means so much to every section of the community. It is completely futile to say that this is a rich man’s budget. Newspapers which have opposed the Government for a long while, regard this as a small man’s budget. This budget provides even-handed justice to every section of the community.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro also said that the Treasurer had departed from customary practice in the compilation of his budget, and had not submitted to the chamber a carefully prepared analysis of the economic situation. Obviously, the honorable member has not read the budget. Had he even made a cursory examination of the document, he would have seen on the second page a section under the heading “ Financial and Economic Policy “. I shall remind him of some of the observations that appear in that section. They read as follows: -
In framing this budget the Government has sought as its primary aim to give the utmost possible encouragement to individual effort, to business enterprise and to individual and collective saving. Our economy has come through a difficult phase in which some basic elements were seriously out of balance. 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.
Had the honorable member for EdenMonaro even glanced at the budget, he would not have complained, as he has, about the manner in which it has been compiled. The Treasurer continued in his budget speech -
The Government progressively adjusted its measures to meet the changing situation. Credit, policy was eased and capital issues control was relaxed. In the budget last year the Government made very substantial taxreductions.
The honorable member may also be interested in the following passage : -
In most respects, conditions in Australia to-day are highly favorable to economic expansion.
That is the considered opinion of the Treasurer; The speech continued -
Employment is high and yet there are no significant labour shortages. Neither are there the shortages of coal or steel or building materials such as kept industry and construction throttled back in the years before 1951-52. Our export earnings are relatively high and our overseas reserves have been built up again so that we can obtain all the essential things * we* require from abroad. We have had an extraordinary fortunate run of seasons which for the time being look like continuing.
The honorable member denied that references of that kind appeared in the budget. I could cite many more of them for his information, and discomfiture. He has not read the budget, and, for that reason, his criticisms may be brushed aside. The Treasurer has given a clear review of the economic position of Australia.
It is significant that Opposition members are gradually recovering from the shock that they sustained at the reception accorded to this budget by every section of the community. Stock exchanges, industry, trade, commerce, private enterprise and the general public alike have applauded the budget. The only criticism that members of the Labour party have voiced against it is that the provision for social services is inadequate. I dismiss criticism of that kind as worthless, and emphasize that this budget metes out even-handed justice to every section of the community.
I remind the Opposition also that the. outstanding achievements of this Government were subject to material interference in the initial stages by the Labourcontrolled Senate. For nearly eighteen months, the policy of this Government was frustrated at every turn by the Labour party. The tactics of the Opposition were obstructionist from the word “ go “. It was not until we appealed to the people in 1951 that we were able to give effect to the policy that we had enunciated in 1949. It is also important to remember at this stage that this Government was deliberately baulked by the Opposition in its efforts to deal with the Communists in Australia. The Communists, by virtue of their domination of various trade unions, controlled our major industries. The Labour party resisted the efforts of this Government to introduce the election of officers of trade unions by secret ballot, and opposed the referendum on the Communist Party Dissolution Act.
When the Labour Government was in office, Australia suffered from shortages of goods, production bottle-necks and rising prices. The Menzies Government inherited those conditions from the Labour Government, and has dealt with them effectively. To-day, production bottle-necks have been overcome, black markets have vanished and inflation has been arrested. This country is on the eve of the greatest period of prosperity in its history. . I remind Opposition members also of the serious consequences to this country arising out of the underproduction of coal and the shortage of machinery and equipment required by the man on the land when the Labour Government was in office. Stoppages were continually taking place in industry, rolling strikes were prevalent, and chaos reigned on the waterfront. I recall the difficulty that the present Government experienced when it presented to the Parliament legislation to authorize the election of officers of trade unions by secret ballot. Our efforts were directed to the removal from the key industries of the red leader? and the restoration to the trade union movement of democratic control of the unions. As a consequence, many unions have been relieved of their red leaders. That is one of the great contributing factors to the improved economic and industrial condition of the country. This Government has had great difficulty in moving forward. Frustration and obstructive tactics have hampered it in its fight to arrest inflation.
The budget, which has been so well received by the people, was brought down early in the financial year so that taxpayers could obtain the maximum possible benefit this year from tax reductions. This is the fourth budget presented by the Treasurer. It provides for income tax reductions of £51,000,000 in a full year. The overall tax reduction will be £118,000,000 in a full year. This will bring the total relief afforded to the people in two years to £200,000,000. Individual income tax will be reduced by 12-^ per cent., entertainments tax will be abolished, and rates of sales tax will be spectacularly cut. Company tax, on both public and private companies, will come down. The family tax concessions will include greater allowances for dependent wives and for medical, dental and educational expenses. Invalid, age and war pensions and repatriation benefits will be increased. The differential tax on property income will be abolished, and more than 50,000 of 90,000 employers will be relieved of pay-roll tax. Estate duty will be modified. This budget provides the clearest possible proof of the success of the Government’s financial and economic policy. It represents hard cash in the pockets of the taxpayer and the assurance of national stability. The generous concessions that will he granted to primary and secondary industries will provide a much-needed stimulus to increase production.
The Government has also obtained spectacular results in the field of housing, particularly with the war service homes programme. The current war service homes programme eclipses anything that was attempted by the Chifley-Evatt Government. Almost half the total number of war service homes built since. 1919, when the scheme was instituted, have been built in four years under the administration of the present Government. Similar progress has been made under the terms of the Commonwealth and State housing agreements. “When compared with the sums made available under these agreements by this Government during the last four years, the amounts provided by the Labour Government for the same purpose pale almost into insignificance. There is to-day an atmosphere of steady and increasing confidence in the community. Progressive industrial expansion is taking place, and there is an increasing flow of capital from overseas to finance the development of secondary industries. The Government also has pushed ahead with national development projects, including the Snowy Mountains scheme. It has made available substantial dollar funds for the purchase overseas of tractors and heavy machinery for the development of both primary and secondary industries. Statistics indicate the amazing growth of our primary and secondary industries. The gross value of rural production duri 19*2-53 was approximately £1,091000.000, which was 17 per cent. above the 1951-52 level. It is also estimated that the volume of rural production this year will increase by 15 per cent, to a level about 19 per cent, above the average of the last three pre-war years.
Equally healthy is the story of production on the industrial front. The production of ingot steel has- increased from a monthly average of 98,200 tons in 1948-49 to a monthly average now of 159,100 tons. The monthly average of copper production has increased from 939 tons in 1948-49 to 1,284 tons. The output of cement has increased from a monthly average of 86,000 tons in 194S-49 to 116,000- tons. The monthly average of electricity generated in 1948-49 was 754,000,000 kilowatt hours. The output has been increased to 999,000,000 kilowatt hours. These are just a few examples of the enormous increase of productivity in this country in recent years. Confidence has been restored in Australia, and production has been increased in every branch of industry, trade and commerce in the country. I remind honorable members opposite also that, since this Government has been in power, Australia has produced a completely Australian-made motor car, the Canberra jet bomber, and the Sabre jet fighter. Each of these specimens of Australian industrial, development has been prominently under the notice of the public in recent weeks. The Woomera Long Range Weapons Establishment has been outstandingly successful, and the work done on that project has won acclaim from the freedom-loving nations of the world.
I shall refer particularly now to .the observations of honorable members opposite on the subject of repatriation benefits. The proper way to assess the value of repatriation benefit increases granted by this Government during the last four years is to compare them with the increases made during the last four years of the Labour Administration. As the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation in this chamber, I take pride in the present Government’s record. The nation owes an immense debt of gratitude to the ex-servicemen who have fought for it in two world wars as well as in Korea and Malaya. No cash benefit or consideration of any kind can compensate an ex-serviceman for wounds, the loss of sight, the loss of limbs, or chronic sickness due to war -service. Neither can widows or orphans be compensated for the loss of their husbands and fathers. However, this Government has made a valuable contribution towards the improved welfare of ex-servicemen and their dependants by the provision of hospital treatment and increased pensions and allowances. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he made his policy speech on behalf of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in November, 1949, said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in out administration of soldier problems.
This Government has not at any time stinted its assistance to ex-servicemen. I propose to compare the contributions made respectively by the former Labour Government and by this Government to ex-servicemen and their dependants. Total war pension payments in 1948-49 amounted to £19,000,000. This Government increased the payments in the succeeding year to £20,750,000, and in the year following that to £27,750,000. The total reached £30,250,000 in 1952-53, and the bill this year will be £33,500,000. The Labour Government paid out £1,500,000 in service pensions in 1.948-49. This Government increased its commitment to £2,000,000 in 1952-53, and the total this year is expected to be £2,500,000. That will be almost twice the amount paid out by the Labour Government in 1948-49.
That is a measure of the so-called sympathy of members of the Labour party for ex-servicemen. It is of no use for members of the Opposition to say that the Government should provide more money for war and service pensions. Crocodile tears will not satisfy the exserviceman. This Government has made a practical approach to the task of providing for the needs of ex-servicemen after a thorough examination of the whole problem. The people will judge by results. For example, the 100 per cent, general rate of war pension in 1946 and 1.947 was £2. 10s. a week. In 1948 it was increased to £2 15s., and that rate applied when the present Government took office. This Government, in the first year, in creased the rate to £3 10s. a week, and further increased it progressively to £4 a week in 1952 and £4 2s. 6d. a week in 1953. The Labour Government increased the rate by 5s. in four years. This Government has increased it by £1 7s. 6d. in a similar period. The special rate of pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen was increased by the Labour Government progressively from £4 16s. a week in 1946 to £5 ls. a week in 1947 and £5 6s. a week in 1948. The rate remained unchanged until this Government gained power in 1949. In 1950, the present Government boosted the rate from £5 6s. to £7 and again increased it in 1951 to £S 15s. A further increase to £9 5s. was made in this year. Thus, although the Labour Government increased the rate by 10s. a week in four years, this Government has increased it by £3 19s. a week in a similar period. The. allowance for wives of war pensioners was at the rate of £1 2s. a week in 1946 under the Labour Government. That rate was not amended until 194S, when it was increased by 2s. to £1 4s. a week. It remained at that figure until this Government increased it to £1 10s. 6d. in 1950 and later to £1 15s. 6d. in 1952. The Labour Government increased the rate by 2s. in four years, and this Government has increased it by lis. 6d. over a similar period.
The allowance for children of war pensioners remained unchanged at the rate of 9s. a week during the last four years of the Labour administration. This Government, in its first four years of office, has increased the rate by 4s. 9d. a week. The war widow’s pension was £2 10s. in 1946. The rate was increased by the Labour Government in 1947 to £2 15s. and it was further increased by the same Government in 1948 to £3. That rate was in force when the present Government came into power. It was increased to £3 10s. by this Government in 1950 and to £3 12s. fid. this year. The Labour Government increased the rate by 10s. over four years. This Government has increased it, by 12s. 6d. over a similar period. The domestic allowance, which was introduced in 1947, remained at the rate of 7s. 6d. a week until this Government came into office. It was then increased in 1950 to 10s. a week, in 1951 to £1 12s., and in 1953 to £1 14s. 6d. The Labour Government did not increase the payment above the original rate of 7s. 6d. a week, but this Government has increased it by 27s. in four years. Under the Labour Government, the domestic allowance was paid only to widows with one or two children under sixteen years of age. It did not apply to additional children. Under this Government, domestic allowance is paid to all widows with children under sixteen years of age, irrespective of the number. When a war widow, re-married, she received no gratuity from the Labour Government. A war widow who remarries now receives a minimum gratuity of £188.
Under the Labour Government in 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949 an allowance of 17s. 6d. a week was paid to a war widow for her first child under the age of sixteen years. This Government increased the rate to 22s. a week in 1950, and to 26s. 6d. in 1952. The allowance for other children was at the rate of 12s. Gd. a week each throughout the last four years of the Labour administration. This Government increased the rate to 15s. Gd. in 1950 and to 18s. 6d. in 1952. Let me deal with payments to double orphans, that is, children who have neither a father nor a mother. Under at Labour government, the payment in respect of such a child up to the age of fourteen years was 17s. 6d. a week. No increase was made of that payment between 194.6 and 1949. The payment to a double orphan between the ages of fourteen years and sixteen years was at the rate of 20s. a week in 1946, and was still at that rate in 1949. It was not increased at all in that period. When this Government came into office, not only did we abolish the difference between the payments to double orphans under fourteen years of age and over fourteen years of age, but we increased the payment to them to 40s. a week, and later to 48s. a week. That was an increase of 30s. 6d. a week in one case and 28s. a week in the other.
It is useless for honorable members opposite to shed crocodile tears and say that they are full of sympathy for the people with whom I have been dealing when a comparison of the record of this Government and the last Labour Government is all in our favour. We have proved our sincerity by making the increases of pensions that we undertook to make. I realize that no amount of money can be sufficient compensation for people who have suffered in the defence of this country, but we have honoured the undertaking that was given by the present Prime Minister that compensation would be quick and effective. The right honorable gentleman, in his policy speech, said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
We have honoured that undertaking. We have increased pensions to such a degree that, compared with our record in this field, the miserable record of the Labour party fades into insignificance. I hope that all people who have listened to the moanings and groanings of honorable members opposite will realize that there is no sincerity in their protestations to-day. When they were in office, they had an opportunity to make a contribution to the welfare of these needy people, but the figures that I have cited in relation to their last four years of office show that they failed dismally to do so. In four years they made no increases of the amounts payable to persons in the last five groups to which I have referred. That is the test.
– Why do not you amend section 47 of the act?
– It is useless to ask why we have not done this or that. The Labour party had an opportunity for nine long years to do what it now suggests should be done, but it failed dismally to do so. On its record, it stands condemned.
.- I deem it a great privilege to be chosen by the people of the Dalley electorate as their representative in the National Parliament. I want to pay tribute to my predecessor, the late Mr. J. S. Rosevear, who represented that electorate with dignity, honesty and devotion. The late Mr. Rosevear graced the chair in this chamber as the Speaker. His work for Australia and his electorate will be an inspiration to others who follow him. I sincerely trust that I shall be able to emulate his good work in time to come.
I have listened with interest to the Government members who have spoken in this debate, particularly to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis). I have no desire to go into the budget in detail, because that has already been done very well by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other honorable members on this side. The Government would have the Parliament and the people believe that it has solved the problem of inflation. The speeches of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Government members who followed him will not deceive the people. This Government is largely responsible for the inflationary conditions that have existed since it first occupied the treasury bench. This Liberal-Coun- . try party Government removed every economic safeguard that was found to be necessary as a result of the difficulties that revealed themselves in no uncertain manner in the post-war years. That policy was, of course, adopted at the behest of big business. As a result, the door was opened to excessive profiteering, unrestricted imports and to many other difficulties that gradually crept upon the nation, which the Government should have been wise enough to foresee. Then, having seen the light after the country was in a state almost of chaos and the people had lost confidence in it as a government, it reimposed controls that were ten times worse than those that Labour had contemplated at any time. That was done by the members of a government who had condemned the measures that Labour had found it necessary to take owing to the dangers that leaders of the Labour party at that time could see would eventually face the nation. The degree of inflation may have altered to some extent, but the elements of it are still present. In fact, the Government is budgeting for inflation. It is, in effect, riding inflation, as the figures to which members of the Opposition have repeatedly referred so amply demonstrate.
I was interested to hear the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Listening to the right honorable gentleman, one might have thought that the budget was the acme of perfection. He endeavoured to ridicule honorable members on this side of the chamber in an attempt to conceal the obvious weak ness of the budget, that is, the deplorable treatment meted out to pensioners, wage earners and people on small incomes. Despite the flow of language of the Prime Minister and the enthusiasm with which many Government members appeared to greet the budget, the treatment of those people is indeed a contrast to the treatment of big business and people on a high level of taxation. The Prime Minister, in his reply to the Opposition, could be described, with due respect to him, as a cuttle fish darkening the waters to evade pursuit. A very apt description of the budget was published recently by the London Economist, which said that it was a “ sauve qui peut budget “. Let him save himself who can. I think the majority of people in this country will agree with that description. The budget is undoubtedly designed to regain the votes of those people who normally vote for the Liberal party but, judging by the results of by-eleetions held since the Government came into office, including the Corangamite election, I doubt whether it will succeed in doing even that.
I desire to refer to other aspects of the budget. The Government has claimed that stability has been achieved in Australia, but prices were never higher. The movement of prices is a true test of whether stability has been achieved. The reduction of the sales tax will cause a slight reduction of the price of some goods, but in the main the reductions apply to luxury goods. The majority of the people will find it hard to understand why children’s lollies and ice cream are still taxed to the same degree as jewellery and fur coats. The great body of electors in this country must regard as fantastic the idea that ice cream should be regarded, with fur coats, as a luxury. The major issue that faces us is still the high cost of living. The real problem is still the cost of the people’s food. I point out to the committee that, under a Labour government, the economic position of Australia was vastly different. Indisputable evidence of that appears in reports issued by the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics. In 1949 a report by the bureau stated -
Australian workers can purchase more food with their hourly earnings than workers anywhere else in the world.
The report compared wages and prices in nineteen countries in 1949. But in 1953, the bureau, in a report dealing with the minutes of working time required to buy certain foods in Australia and America, stated - .
It takes an Australian worker 37 minutes to earn enough to buy .1 lb. of butter, compared with 30 minutes now in the United States of America.
In 1949, this country could show the way to the rest of the world, but by 1953 our position had deteriorated to such a degree as to justify the statement that I have just quoted. I refer the committee to the fact that the extract from the 1953 report was published in the journal of the Institute of Public Affairs. That is not a Labour publication. The views of the institute are not coloured by any bias in favour of the Labour party. It is composed of men connected with industry and associated with every big company in the Commonwealth. Among them are Mr. 0. A. M. Derham, Mr. EL R. Harper, Sir Leslie McConnan, Mr. W. A. Potter, Mr. Herbert Taylor and Mr. A. G. “Warner, M.L.G. These extracts from reports of the American Bureau of Labour and Statistics, I submit, are irrefutable proof of our contention that the standard of living of the Australian people has declined since 1949.
Butter has become too dear for the wage-earner and his family to purchase it in sufficient quantities. In many cases pensioners cannot afford to buy any. Who would have thought that such a thing would happen in this country? Dairyfarmers are so alarmed that they are now asking for protection against margarine. Not only have basic items of food been priced out of overseas’ markets, but, what is even worse, they have been priced out of the home market also. Butter was regarded by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, when fixing the original basic wage some years ago, as an essential commodity that was very important to the Australian worker and his living standards. Therefore, the court included it in what is known as the C series index. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural Economics, dealing with butter, has stated -
Consumption declined to 31 lb. per head as against New Zealand, where it was sold very much cheaper, where consumption was 42 lb. per head.
The Government refuses to take cognizance of these facts. It proposes to save expenditure upon bounties and subsidies by more than £1,000,000 a year. That is a saving made at the expense of people on low incomes, an important part of whose daily regimen is bread and butter. The Government proposes to reduce excise on whisky by 21s. a gallon. It is estimated that the reduction of excise on spirits will cost the revenue £750,000. Why is not the Government fair to the majority of the population, which is more interested in cheaper butter than it is in cheaper whisky? Instead of seeking to keep the price of butter down it has been more concerned to save £1,000,000 by withdrawing the subsidy on butter. The budget will be of little comfort to either the consumers or producers of butter.
The Treasurer referred to the problem of production costs in Australia. The Government, and the representatives of the vested interests which it supports and which support it, have tried to divert the public’s attention from the real reason for increased costs in industry, which is excessive profit. General Motors-Holden’s Limited is an example of a company which makes huge profits. It is admittedly a great company, as the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) said, but there is no justification for the making of a net profit of 200 per cent., amounting to about £4,000,000, at the expense of the Australian people. Excessive profits are not the only cause of increased costs. Bad management is another. Vested interests and their spokesmen have attempted to persuade the people that good wages and conditions, full employment and the 40-hour week are to blame for high prices. It is conceded that increased costs may be, in part, due to increased wages, but there are other potent factors that operate to increase production costs. The effect on costs of basic wage increases has been greatly exaggerated. Prices have been raised on occasions when wage adjustments have had little -or no effect on the increase. During the regime of the Labour Government wages remained fairly stable and, as a consequence, prices were also stable.
Wages in Australia have increased 149 per cent, since 1945. The comparable increase in the United States of America is 71 per cent.
Government supporters have constantly condemned the 40-hour week. I remind the House that the 40-hour week was introduced in the United States . of America in the 1930’s, when President Roosevelt was in office, and has continued in operation ever since. The employers recently approached the Commonwealth Arbitration Court with a view to having the working week increased to 44 hours, and wages reduced. Their proposals were tacitly endorsed by the Government. The real intention was to attack and lower the people’s standard of living. Such attacks upon’ wages and conditions continue while dividends and profits remain sacrosant. The court has decided that automatic adjustments of the basie wage are to be discontinued, and that any increases of the cost of living are to be made the subject of long and costly legal process. In the past prices have not fallen commensurate with decreases of wages. On the contrary, they have increased, as was the ease during the war when wages were pegged. Management, and not the workers, is responsible for the high cost structure. There are instances of very good management, but many managements are content to carry on with outofdate methods. Managements which regard rising costs as inevitable and seek to recover their costs by constantly increasing prices to the consumer have been, in effect, subsidized by the public. In other words, the public has been subsidizing inefficiency in industry. Managements should strive for a more forward looking attitude. They might well emulate the drive towards progress in industry that has characterized managements in the United States of America. The remarkable production achievements of American industry are due to the progressive directive ability of management and greater mechanization. Despite high wages in America, production costs are higher in Australia than they are in that country.
I turn now to the 1951 report of the Tariff Board, which pays a tribute to the Australian workman. We have become accustomed to constant abuse of the Australian worker and the statement made in this report is therefore all the more refreshing. It reads -
The Board has found little to support those who from time to time criticize the Australian worker and the quality of his work. On the contrary, the Board has had many opportunities to observe the energy and intelligence with which the Australian workman under competent management applies himself to his task. The Board regards the Australian worker in general as able and capable of holding his own with his counterpart in other countries.
That is a wonderful testimonial. Give the Australian worker the necessary tools and good management, and he will equal any other worker in the world. Nevertheless, we hear repeated condemnations of the workers, as part of the great design to undermine working conditions iri this country. I believe that the Government should consider the desirability of sending to America a delegation of representatives of both the employer and employee organizations on an industry basis to make a thorough investigation of industrial management and production in that country. Only in that way can our problem of high costs be solved scientifically. I am sure that the cost of such an investigation would be money well spent and would pay a real dividend to Australia.
I turn now to the subject of pensions. The Government’s treatment of age, invalid and widow pensioners is niggardly in the extreme. Most pensioners, age pensioners in particular, exhaust their pensions within a few days of payment in meeting rent and electric light charges and in purchasing the meagre rations of food that they can afford. Many pensioners are unable to purchase clothing. The Government has practically left needy pensioners to their own resources, and as a result many of them face starvation. Many age pensioners are pioneers who won for us the conditions that we now enjoy, yet they are denied a decent standard of living. In many instances they endure the worst possible living conditions and are forced to accept charity, which hurts their pride and offends every decent instinct in them. However, a tribute is due to the charitable organizations that do such a splendid job to assist needy pensioners, including service pensioners and the dependants of men who were killed in battle. The Government has given no better treatment to ex-servicemen and the dependants of men who died in war than it has given to other pensioners. It proposes to increase the permissible income of a pensioner to £2 a week. Of what use will that concession be to a sick and infirm pensioner who is too old to work? The pensioners and the ex-servicemen will not forget the Government’s treatment of them when they have their next opportunity to express their indignation through the ballot-box.
The. Treasurer made the following significant statement in his budget speech : -
In this country we must always be seeking progress. We cannot afford to stand still and wait for progress to happen.
Those are, indeed, high sounding words. They are sentiments with which we are all in agreement. Unfortunately, the Government has not given effect to them, lt has stood still. It has denied the States r.heir just dues. Every State has a huge deficit. I have served in a State parliament and I know the difficulties of the States. State governments, not only Labour but also Liberal, are in financial straits because the Commonwealth takes SO per cent, of the nation’s tax yield. The Commonwealth has, in fact, virtually confiscated the people’s savings. The States have the responsibility of providing essential services such as education, water conservation and irrigation, and hospitals. The Commonwealth alone has gained from inflationary conditions and oppressive taxation. The States have had to bear the burden of the times. It has been rightly said that if the States ceased to carry their responsibilities the effect would be felt all over Australia within 48 hours. I doubt whether the same is true of the Commonwealth, yet the Commonwealth has refused to recognize the difficulties of the States. “Whilst we agree with the Treasurer that this country cannot stand still we believe that honorable members opposite are speaking with their tongues in their cheeks when they say so.
I am honored to represent here the people who elected me. One of the gifts of democracy is the right to express one’s opinion strongly. After all, that is why we are here. We are not in Sunday school, although I make that statement with all due respect to Sunday schools, in which we all believe. We are here to express our opinions as we see fit. This is a democratic institution, and we ought to have in. mind the good of our country and its need for development. Only recently I read an interesting item in a Sydney newspaper in which it was pointed out that hardly 500,000 people live in Australia north of a straight line drawn from Brisbane to Perth. The great majority of our people live south of that line, but the Government has not attempted to do anything about developing our north. It is essential to develop the northern part of this continent if we are to hold this country for the white race. If we do not develop it the peoples to the north of us who are not so fortunate as we are, and many of whom are starving, may swing down on us and subject us to unspeakable horrors.
I appreciate greatly the courtesy that honorable members have extended to me while I have been making my maiden speech. At the same time, I wish to say that while I appreciate their viewpoints they should also appreciate the viewpoints of honorable members on this side of the chamber. T certainly intend to express my opinion here in keeping with the principles of the Labour party and of the Australian people.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Greenup) on his maiden speech, and particularly on his last statement that he will always be guided by the interests of the people of Australia. That is a very noble sentiment, and I hope that he will always put the people’s interests before the interests of his party. Almost every honorable member of the Opposition who has spoken in this debate has mentioned pensions for party propaganda purposes, and has castigated the Government for its so-called meagre increase of 2s. 6d. a week. They have claimed that the Government is not concerned’ about the interests of the pensioners. In supporting this budget, which will give relief to every section of the people including the taxpayer, I am pleased to be able to say that pensions will be increased this year, because in the last year of the regime of the last Labour Government the pensions were not increased by one penny. This year the increase will cost some £10,000,000, and that is not all. At the time the last Labour Government relinquished office the age pension was £2 2s. 6d. a week, and this Government, by successive increases, has now built it up to £3 10s. a week. Under the Labour Government pensioners could hold only £100 in cash, and for every £10 pounds that they owned above that sum £1 was deducted from their yearly pension.
This budget provides that pensioners may hold £150 in cash without having any deduction made from their pensions. When the Labour Government relinquished office £750 worth of property could be held by a single man before he lost his pension, but now the property qualification has increased to £1,250. A married couple can now own £2,500 worth of property as well as their own home, and still get the age pension. In 1949, which was the last year that Labour held office, the permissible income of a pensionable couple was £7 5s. a week. The calamity howlers should now take careful note that this Government has already increased the permissible income to £9 15s. a week, and that this budget will increase it to £11 a week for a pensionable couple instead of £7 5s., as it was under the Labour Government. Therefore, the Government has made many valuable concessions to those of our community who are in most need and who were neglected during the seven years’ term of the Labour Government.
Of course, we all know that honorable members opposite have based their budget attack on the pension provisions, because they know that only there can they hope to persuade the people that the budget does not confer great advantages on all sections of the community. This Government, with the eventual abolition of the means test in mind, is now a long .way along the path that leads to abolition. During the time Labour was in office, it is estimated that it would have cost about £54,000,000 to abolish the means test, but at present it is estimated that it would cost £120,000,000; and if we were to provide that sum of money to abolish the means test we would find it impossible to give relief from the general burden of taxation, and we could not provide a penny more to those who arc at present receiving full pensions. There could have been no rise of 2s. 6d. this year. The last Labour Government paid £44,100j000 in respect of pensions in the last year of its term. This budget will provide £83,086,000 for pensioners. That, however, is not the whole story. Honorable members opposite have stated that the Government has made all sorts of promises to the’ pensioners, but nothing is further from the truth. The Government, in reply to the Labour party’s promise that it would increase pensions by 10s. a week, stated that it would treat everybody fairly. The pensioners remembered that, in 1949, the then Labour Government gave them nothing, and so in 1951, the pensioners gave the Labour party nothing at the ballot-box.
Mr. Calwell interjecting,
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) appears to be a bit Cabinet happy, but I am afraid that he is not as happy as he was before this budget was introduced. I believe that it has been said in Labour circles that this budget, being so good, is unfair to the Labour party. Perhaps there is some truth in that statement. This Government has provided pharmaceutical benefits to the pensioners which, according to this budget, will cost more than £2,000,000. The last Chifley Government, supported by the honorable .member for Melbourne, gave them nothing in respect of pharmaceutical benefits. This Government has provided free hospital benefits to the value of £8,500.000 for pensioners, and has provided free medical treatment for them. The last Labour Government paid the States 8s. per day per bed for pensioners in hospitals and this Government will pay 12s. so that the pensioners will get better attention at the hands of the States. This Government also ‘ provided complete free medical assistance for pensioners, which costs about £800,000 a year. The Government has also provided benefits for tuberculosis sufferers. In 1948-49 the Labour Government provided £600,000 for these sufferers, but this budget will provide £5,SOO,000. This Government, which does not boast of being a Labour government but which does consider itself to be a people’s government, will provide £54,000,000 a year for child endowment as against the last Labour Government’s provision of £25,000,000 and yet Labour opposes this budget. This Government’s provision in respect of sickness and health benefits for all, including the aged and invalid, far exceeds any provision made by any Labour government. The total amount of the payments from the National Welfare Fund, to which I have referred, was £88,500,000, in the last year of the Chifley Government. This budget provides £188,915,000 for this year. Therefore, it is plain that the Government has set out to help those who most require assistance.
This Government has greatly assisted all our people, including the pensioners, by setting our defences in order. Within the last few weeks it has been reported that British trade unionists refused to support a proposal to reduce the British defence vote by £1 while a secretive enemy prepares for war. That is a true British attitude, adopted by a true British body of unionists. Economic war has been waged against us by the same secretive enemy within this country, and as our military security is necessary to us so is our economic security. This Government has been seriously challenged because of its attempt to stem the drift to inflation which, if it had not been checked, would have brought about a depression. .
– The Government started the inflation.
– Inflation commenced when the last Labour Government was in office. A supporter of the Labour party has stated in this Parliament -
I sim really perturbed and, indeed, alarmedat the growing spiral of inflation in this country, and, for that matter, in other countries. Neither this Menzies Government nor any other government can be blamed for the inflationary elements . . . Every man in public life who has a sense of responsibility must give serious consideration to the conn- try’s honour, economic prestige and standing abroad, and to the heritage of its future citizens. I hope the Government will do something to correct the present disturbed state of our economy, whether such action-be popular or unpopular . . .
I may now reveal that that statement was made by the late Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Chifley, and those words have been quoted from Hansard of 1950. 1 suggest that his advice was sound but wa3 not heeded by honorable members opposite, who tried to capitalize on the position irrespective of whether the actions of the Government were popular or unpopular. After Mr. Chifley’s passing, the members of the Opposition did not honour his memory in attempting to carry out the wishes of their late leader by co-operating with this Government in its effort to correct the national economy however unpopular its actions were considered to beWhen the present Government assumed office the defences of Australia were in a shocking condition. The ships of the Navy were virtually wrapped in cottonwool and the Army and the Air Force were practically non-existent. It is to the credit of the Government that the Navy and the Air Force are now playing the important role in the Pacific area which we must play if we expect friendly nations to protect us in case of need.
It is contended by Opposition members that the reductions of income tax proposed in the budget will not benefit persons in the lower income grades. A taxpayer with a wife and two children who is in receipt of a taxable income of £600 this year will pay £13 10s. tax compared with £18 16s. last year. A similar taxpayer in receipt of a taxable income of £1,000 will pay £66 16s. compared with £83 4s., and a taxpayer in receipt of a taxable income of £400 will pay £1 2s. instead of £2 8s. A taxpayer with a wife and two children who is in receipt of £600 will not be taxed £13 10s. because he is only taxed on that part of his income that remains after all allowable deductions have been made-from it. I am citing figures relative to taxable income as distinct from gross income. The interjection of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is typical of the misrepresentation in which he indulges. This is the honorable member who, during the last general election campaign, stumped the country saying that if the people voted for the Menzies Government they would elect a low-wage government. Yet since then wages have been doubled. Opposition members contend that the tax payable by a taxpayer with a wife and two children who earns £600 a year is taxed on £600. That is absolutely untrue. Opposition members are either fooling themselves about this matter or they are trying to fool the people. I have cited figures that relate to taxable incomes. It must be remembered that the gross income of taxpayers is greatly reduced by reductions of various kinds which they are entitled to claim. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) is one of the worst culprits in these attempts to mislead the people.
Opposition members have stated that this Government has treated the States very badly. I shall state the facts. Recently the Queensland Minister for Lands is reported to have said -
Because of restricted Joans Queensland cannot continue to finance soldier settlement.
That is completely untrue. Queensland, having lost more than £4,000,000 on the operation of its railways system, proposes to recoup the loss partly by increasing freights and fares and partly by reducing expenditure on other undertakings, one of them being the war service land settlement scheme. In 1948-49 the raising of a loan of £70T000,000 was approved by the Australian Loan Council, the Chifley Government’s share being £14,000,000, leaving £56,000,000 for distribution to the States for public works and housing. This year the Commonwealth is providing £200,000,000 for the States, £95,000,000 of which will come from its own revenue. In addition the Commonwealth is providing £13,600,000 for the Snowy Mountains scheme and £27,160,000 for the Postal Department. This amount of £200,000,000 for the States compares with the £56,000,000 made available by the Chifley Government in its last year of office. An examination of the tax reimbursement payments and special supplementary grants to the States reveals some astounding figures. In 1948-49, the States received from the Chifley Government under these headings a total of £53,000,000, Queensland’s share being £8,826,000. This year, he Menzies Government, which is accused by Opposition members of having restricted payments to the States, has increased the tax reimbursement and special grants to the States to £142,459,000.
– Where did tho honorable member get that information ?
– It is contained in the budget, which the honorable member should read. This year the Government will pay to the Queensland Government an amount of £22,188,000 compared with £8,826,000 paid by the Chifley Government. Yet the Queensland Government contends that it has had to discontinue the war service land settlement scheme because it cannot obtain sufficient money from the Commonwealth. In addition to the amounts I have cited the States received last year by way of special grants an amount of £15,934.000 compared with £6,750,000 from the Chifley Government. Before the budget was presented, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) offered to those States which had refused to enter the agent States scheme the facilities provided for the agent States, but they refused to accept them. Queensland has received money for the purposes of soldier settlement but now refuses to proceed with the scheme. It nevertheless still holds the money. When the war service land settlement scheme was introduced by the Chifley Government three States refused to join it because they were unwilling to allow the Commonwealth to acquire their lands or to manage the scheme. In Queensland all advances to ex-servicemen were made through the Agricultural Bank. All repayments were credited to Consolidated Revenue. This Government has continued the policy applied by the Chifley Government in relation to war service land settlement. If it was the duty of the Chifley Government to guard the people’s money in connexion with this scheme, why should it not be the duty of the present Government to do likewise? The Menzies Government has insisted that the agreement with the States shall be honoured. Queensland elected to remain a principal State rejecting finance from the Chifley Government and consequently it is responsible for financing its part in the scheme. What has been the result of its decision to do so? In that State fewer than 400 genuine settlers have been placed on the land.
In addition to the tax reimbursement and special grants the Government is subsidizing the dairy industry of Australia to an amount of £16,200,000 this year, compared with £5,600,000 in 1948-49, the last year of office of the Chifley Government. Some Opposition members have contended that responsibility for the present position of the dairy industry rests upon the present Government. Responsibility for having increased the price of dairy products certainly rests upon it. The annual report and balance-sheet of a dairy company which operates in my electorate demonstrate how this Government has increased the prices of dairy products. In 1948-49, the company manufactured 13,137,000 lb. of butter and cheese, for which it received £1,750,000. In 1952-53, the company manufactured 12.699,355 lb. of these products, for which it received £2,905,972.
I compliment the Government on the taxation relief it has afforded, its sales tax remissions, on the partial abolition of the means test and the complete abolition of the entertainments and land tax.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has attempted to take credit for a reduction in sales tax, amounting to £1,000,000, from the previous total of £89,000,000. That approach is characteristic of his whole speech, particularly his references to inflation. The honorable gentleman, in his ramblings, took credit for the inflation that this Government has created, and chose to disown its effect. In my speech,. I shall endeavour to clear up some of those misconceptions.
This budget must be seen in the proper perspective. We must discover the people who gain from the budget. They are not the people who, according to the Government, will benefit from it. We must also ascertain what sections of the community will bear in future the new burden of taxation that has been transferred from the companies. This budget is socially unjust; it is unbalanced; it is inequitable in its operation; and it is based on the assumption of continuing inflation. If time permits, I shall deal with the Government’s failure tq achieve economic stability, despite its boastful claim to tha contrary.
During the life of this Government, taxation has increased as the result of inflation and has, in turn, been dissipated in inflation. The total burden of taxation, which was £504,000,000 - in 1949, had increased by no less a sum than £370,000,000, or by 73 per cent., at the end of the last financial year. Yet the Government was elected to office on the pledge that it “would reduce taxes, and rates of tax. I hope to refer to that matter later. Will taxation be reduced under this budget? It is true that, compared with last year’s actual collections of tax, this budget contemplates a reduction of £.11,000,000, but certainly not £118,000,000, as has been spuriously claimed by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). In my opinion, no congratulations should be extended to a Treasurer or a government responsible for the presentation to the National Parliament of a budget based on fraud and misrepresentation. The only reduction of importance is that of £33,000,000 in company tax. The Government expects the existing rates of company tax. to account for a reduction of £10,000,000, so that approximately £23,000,000 less will be collected from companies in the next twelve months. It is against that background that I ask honorable members to examine the rest of the budget. In plain terms, no real reduction of taxation is made under this budget. Rates, when they are reduced, partially remove an imposition that was levied previously by this Government.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last week. The right honorable gentleman stated that, had it not been for the budget in 1951, the Treasurer could not have produced the present budget. That statement is definitely true. This budget, to the extent that it grants any concessions - and they are few and delicately balanced - gives concessions chiefly by way of the removal of impositions that were levied in the past.
I now turn my attention to the deliberately devised inequalities in the budget. Next year, companies will pay £33,000,000 less in tax than they paid in the last financial year. What about individuals? The budget papers which, as the honorable member for Eden-Manaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has pointed out, were not read to the chamber hy the Treasurer contain the answer. Individuals, so far from being given real remissions of tax, will pay in the next twelve months £10,000,000 more than they paid last year. When we bear in mind the great reduction that is granted to companies, we cannot fail to take account of the forgotten people of the budget, namely, the 500,000 age and invalid pensioners. For another £2,250,000, those people could have been given at least 2s. 6d. a week in addition to the miserable amount that they are to receive under this budget. The benefits payable to widows could have been doubled for only another £300,000, and the total range of repatriation benefits payable to war pensioners, service pensioners and war widows could have been doubled for less than £1,000,000. But the Government preferred to give greater hand-outs to companies which have been making handsome profits.
In the Flinders electorate, as in many other electorates, numerous small farmers are endeavouring to compete against the inflationary conditions that have been induced by this Government. When remissions of company tax amounting to £30,000,000 were under consideration, surely those small struggling farmers could have been granted a bounty on wheat for stock feed for the remainder of this year at a cost of only £1,700,000. But once again, the choice of the Government was in favour of the big man. The small man, whether he be a farmer or a pensioner, was forgotten. This Government, throughout its political life, has given preferential treatment to the companies. I shall justify that statement with figures. Up to the last financial year, the total amount of tax paid by individuals doubled while this Government had been in office. Taxation paid by companies also doubled during the same period. The significant change which is- made in this budget is that companies in future will pay additional taxation of only 60 per cent., instead of 100 per cent., compared with their payments in 1949.
At this point, we should determine just what companies more than others stand to gain from the budget. The first feature has been mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). The greatest relief from company tax has been given to public companies - not private companies - with taxable incomes of more than £5,000 per annum. Reference to page 48 of the 31st report of the Commissioner of Taxation makes it clear that one half of the total taxable income of public companies is earned by 3 per cent, of the total number of public companies in Australia. Consequently, one half of the benefit granted to public companies will be taken by those few. In the case of private companies only 6 per cent, earn taxable incomes in excess of £5,000 a year, and this 6 per cent, earn half of the total taxable income of private companies. We should study the budget in that light. Relief from tax has been given chiefly to companies, and the largest companies will be the greatest gainers. For example, the biggest company in Australia will receive remissions of tax under this budget amounting to £900,000 per annum. I have pointed out that the total repatriation benefits payable under this budget to war widows, war pensioners and service pensions could have been doubled for the ‘same amount. So we must conclude that the Government has exercised its choice in favour of companies, and above all, large companies, at the expense of the individual.
An examination of taxation payable by individuals discloses that the basic assumption underlining the budget, though it is not printed in the budget-papers and no reference is made to it in the Treasurer’s speech, is that of continuing inflation. Although certain relaxations of rates are proposed, the Government still expects to receive £10,000,000 more from individual taxpayers by way of direct taxation than was received last year. An examination of the plain facts of the social distribution of taxation leads us to a vastly different conclusion from that reached by the honorable member for
Wide Bay. He based his reasoning on the tax payable by a person with a taxable income of £600 a year. He made comparisons between the tax to be paid on that amount, which approximates the basic wage, and the tax paid on the same amount in 1949, when the basic wage was only £6 7s. a week or one-half of its present inflated value. The facts are as follows: - In the year 1949-50, a person without dependants in receipt of the basic wage of £338 paid £16 16s. in tax. Under this budget, a person without dependants in receipt of the basic wage of £613 per annum will pay £46 in tax, or an increase of £30. But what is even more significant, the amount of taxation paid by him was 4.9 per cent, of the wage he received in 1949, and is 7.5 per cent, of the wage he receives at the present time. Similarly, a person with a dependent wife and two children paid £1 7s. in 1949, and will pay £14 5s. now. His tax has been increased by £13. His tax was .4 per cent, of the basic wage in 1949, and is 2.3 per cent, of the basic wage at the present time. Yet this Government talks as if taxation has been reduced.
The plain fact is that income tax paid by individuals has increased in total by £200,000,000 during the life of this Government. In fact, it has doubled. That is why I say that the burden of taxation has been shifted, by the deliberate action of this Government, particularly under this budget, from the shoulders of those best able to bear it, including the companies, onto the shoulders of the basicwage earners or persons in receipt of incomes slightly in excess of the basic wage, who are unable to bear, along with continuing inflation, any further tax impositions.
Another form of insidious taxation is indirect taxation. We all know that indirect taxation is imposed irrespective of a person’s capacity to pay it, particularly when it is levied on the necessaries of life. The budget-papers - not the Treasurer’s budget speech - reveal that receipts from indirect taxation under this budget are expected to increase’ by £18,000,000, compared with the collections last year. Of that amount, £12,000,000 will come from expected increases of customs revenue, but £7,500,000 is to come from excise. Let us not forget, when a relaxation of excise on spirits is mentioned, that this budget makes provision for the collection of an additional £4,000,000 in respect of beer, £1,000,000 from tobacco and £2,000,000 from cigars and cigarettes. Once again, the men and women who buy certain of these items, in varying degree according to their standards of living, must pay more taxation while the companies are let off.
Sales tax, of course, is to be reduced by £1,000,000 from the previous total of £89,000,000. No real relief from indirect taxation will be provided here.
– Rising costs may account for much more than that.
– That is true. Although certain rates of sales tax are to be reduced, the Government still expects to obtain almost the same amount of revenue from this source as it obtained previously. It has gambled that the inflation which, it has engendered will continue. The remissions of sales tax will apply first to luxury items, on which the imposts were increased by this Government. There is some solace in this fact for the people who buy jewellery and furs. There is even to be a reduction of the tax on totalisators and slot machines. Perhaps the committee should refer that matter to Mr. Speaker. The general rate of sales tax, which applies to the great bulk of commodities, brings in 80 per cent, of the total sales tax revenue. The present general rate is 12^ per cent., and it will remain unchanged. I ask honorable members to cast their minds back to the days of the Chifley Government, when that general rate was reduced progressively until, finally, it reached 8^ per cent. This Government increased it in 1951-52 to 12£ per cent., and to-day refuses to reduce it. This fact must be considered in conjunction with the promise that was made by the present Prime Minister in his 1949 policy speech, in which he said -
We will review the incidence of indirect taxes on basic wage and cost-of-living items and on household costs.
Well, the right honorable gentleman lived up to that promise. He did review those rates. He increased them by 50 ner cent.; and he intends to leave them at that level.
Now I pass to those forgotten people who, most of all in this community, need help at this stage, and who were promised by the present Prime Minister, when in Opposition, that the true value of their pensions would be increased when he gained power. Amidst all the welter of promises broken, or not observed, that one ranks with the worst betrayals. I have indicated that concessions to pensioners in all categories could have been doubled at a cost of only £3,500,000. It is at this point that the viewpoint of the Labour party varies so distinctly from that of the Government. I cast my mind back to last Thursday night, when the Prime Minister referred to the prosperity loading of £1 that was added to the basic wage in. 1950. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, that the pensioners were not entitled to share in the general prosperity of the community, although other classes of citizens had some right to enjoy it. I also heard the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), on two occasions to-day, describe our claims on behalf of the pensioners as fallacious. I should like the pensioners to know just what the Prime Minister and his colleague, who is directly responsible for pensions, think of the claim that they should share in the general prosperity. They will not be misled in the future as they have been misled in the past by the representatives of the present Government. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out on behalf of the Labour party earlier in the debate, an examination of the percentage relationship of the age pension to the basic wage shows that it increased progressively under the Labour administration until, in 1948-49, the proportion was 36.6 per cent. Ever since the present Government assumed office, the proportion has decreased progressively until now it is down to 29.6 per cent, of the basic wage, which is, I emphasize, the lowest percentage relationship since before “World. War II. Yet this Government would claim that it has done something to assist the pensioners !
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) referred with great pride to certain relaxations of the means test. The plain fact is that, in 1948-49, the permissible income without reduction of pension was equivalent to 26 per cent, of the basic wage. The benefits proposed under the terms of this budget will leave the relationship at only 17 per cent., which represents a reduction by 9 per cent. However, the proportion is now only 13 per cent, of the basic wage. In other words, it has been halved under the administration of this Government. Had this Government even carried out its election promise not to let the value of the pension fall away, the rate of permissible income would be £3 ls. a week instead of £2 a week. Similarly, the permissible value of property has increased by only 41 per cent., whereas the basic wage has increased by 6S per cent. The concessions granted by this Government in relation to the property limit have done no more than keep pace with the change in the C series cost of living index. The choice that faced this Government was either to give benefits where they were most needed, above all to the pensioners, or, as it finally chose, to give them to the companies, particularly the big companies.
In the few minutes left at my disposal, I shall refer to some of the basic assumptions on which this budget is founded. All the budgets of the present Treasurer have been based on inflation, and all the tax revenue increases have been swallowed by inflation. Although it proposes to reduce certain rates of income tax on individuals, the Government estimates that it will obtain £10,000,000 more from income tax than it obtained last year. In other words, the basic assumption is that inflation will continue to permeate the activities of this nation to a greater degree in future than in the past, or at least to an equal degree. I spoke earlier of sales tax reductions that will apply to luxury items of certain types. But the Government assumes, apparently in the expectation of further inflation, that sales tax will return almost as much revenue this year as it. returned last year. It also assumes that £7,500,000 more will be derived from excise this year than was derived last year. Once again the basic assumption is that individuals will pay more, and will be able to pay more, for the items that will be affected. Consumption expenditure is, after all, one of the keys to our economic progress. There was a tendency in 1952-53, as revealed by the White Paper on National Income, for consumption expenditure to decrease. But something significant has just happened. The basic wage has been pegged. Accordingly, in practice, all wages will be pegged. That means that, if the inflation which this Government expects to continue in some measure does continue, the people who normally would purchase consumption goods will lose some of their capacity to do so. Therefore, the prospect is that the next white paper on national income will show that consumption expenditure has fallen. There will probably be a definite reduction during the next twelve months. This is relevant to the tax concessions that the Government proposes to give to companies. The companies this year will keep £33,000,000 more than they kept last year. What will they do with that money? Will they re-invest it, or will they use it to provide greater profits? Companies and individuals, if they can sec the consumption expenditure of the community increasing, have a tendency to re-invest their money. But the basic assumption of this budget is that people will not be able to devote so much money to consumption expenditure in the future as they have done in the past. Accordingly, in that state of uncertainty, the prospect is that company tax concessions will not be used in any measurable degree for further investment but will instead go, in the form of greater profits, to people who already enjoy large profits.
The Treasurer declared plainly in his budget speech that economic stability had been achieved. He made no reference to the fact that, under this Government’s administration, prices have increased by 57 per cent., while, at the same time, prices in the United Kingdom and New Zealand have increased by only one-half as much and in Canada and the United States of America by only one-quarter as much. The truth is that we are now at the peak of inflation, and I am sure that a government cannot stabilize a country’s economy at such a stage. The Treasurer, in fact, accepts that proposition because he recognizes the problem of costs, although he proposes to attack costs by permitting further company profits. By recognizing the problem of costs in the future, the right honorable gentleman at least has exploded his own argument that he has achieved stability at the expense of a 57 per cent, increase of prices. This budget is not a people’s budget. The Treasurer and the Government have chosen, of all the courses that were open to them, to inflate the profits of those who already enjoy large profits. Basically, they have gambled on the prospect of larger incomes and greater personal consumption providing the same amount of tax revenue as was collected last year, or possibly more. In other words, this budget has been hatched in desperation and clothed in misrepresentation.
.- The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ewert) has described this budget as a budget of fraud and misrepresentation. Like other honorable members of the Opposition, he has tried to confuse the people by saying that the tax reduction of £118,000,000 a year will represent ultimately an increase of tax. How he can juggle figures in that manner I fail to understand. He deliberately confused the total tax collections and amounts actually paid by individuals. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) did exactly the same thing, but he is an adroit juggler with words and a distorter of facts. He is famous for those characteristics. It must be remembered that to-day there are 650,000 more taxpayers in Australia than there were when the previous Government was in office. There is a much greater degree of prosperity and a greater business turnover. Therefore, incomes are larger. In those circumstances, as honorable gentlemen opposite know only too well, the fact that total tax collections are greater is beside the point. Every wage-earner will know the true position because, when these tax reductions come into effect, he will find that he has more money in his pay envelope each week. That is what the average worker and the average business man will take into account.
Honorable members opposite have been very hard put to it to make out a case against the budget, because they have been unable to discover just or reasonable grounds on which to criticize it. That is borne out by the fact that, with the exception of the Opposition in this chamber, all sections of the community have joined in acclaiming the budget, which establishes an all-time record for tax reductions. In support of that statement I propose, for the information of honorable members, to quote opinions expressed by some people who cannot be deceived as easily as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro believes, people who are trained in commerce and business and who understand all aspects of taxation. According to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 10th September, Sir Norman Nock, the president of the Retail Traders Association, said -
This is a courageous and splendid budget which will provide a great stimulus to industry and the wage earner alike. It will directly increase purchasing power by increasing the amount of money in every wage earner’s pay envelope.
Do honorable members opposite suggest that Sir Norman Nock does not know what he is talking about? Let us look at another opinion. Mr. Latham Withall, of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, who, incidentally, has not hesitated to criticize this Government on other occasions, said -
The budget will benefit the whole economy. The substantial tax reductions will help arrest the rise in living costs.
The president of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Atkinson, said -
This budget gives worthwhile incentives to employer and employee.
I will not remain in one State. Let me go to Victoria and see what independent opinions of the budget have been expressed there. The president of the Chamber of Manufactures in Victoria, Mr. Staley, said -
It’s a wonderful budget. The Government should be congratulated on giving the greatest concussions to the public ever made. It’s the beginning of a new era oi stability, which should be to the advantage of every section of the community.
Let us see what the president of the Housewives Association has said. Housewives are very keen in making an appraisement of anything that will reduce costs. She said -
It is a progressive and promising budget.
Last, but not least, the president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Allison, said -
Not one section of the Australian taxpaying public has been left out of the budget. A’« adequate dividend has been paid to all shareholders in the prosperity of Australia.
I have referred to those few opinions because honorable members have tried to distort the facts and confuse the issue. In those circumstances, it is well to quote the opinions of men and women who are not blinded by party political bias or prejudice. To show how far out of step the Federal Parliamentary Labour party is with trade union leaders, let me refer to what Mr. Short, the secretary of thu Federated Ironworkers Union, had to say about the budget. He said -
The tax reductions will greatly benefit both workers and employers.
A leading trade unionist, Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, also welcomed the general tax reductions. The budget has been given a splendid coverage and a very encouraging write-up by 99 per cent, of the press of Australia. Not the least encouraging write-up is that given by the Melbourne Argus, which, contrary to what we have heard from the Opposition, described the budget as a “little man’s budget “. And so it is. I could quote a number of other press comments, but it is not necessary to do so.
The main feature of the budget is that every one will get something out of it. Income tax on individuals is to be cut by 12i per cent, and, in the case of many wage-earners, by 20 per cent. About 50,000 employers will no longer pay pay-roll tax. That will lead to a reduction of living costs, because eventually that saving will be passed on to consumers. The taxation of public companies is to be decreased by 2s. in the £1, and of private companies by ls. in the £1. Big ‘tax refunds will be paid next year.
Now I wish to turn my attention to two particular aspects of the budget. First the wide sales tax concessions and secondly the very real benefits the Government lias provided in its social services proposals. Let me deal with sales tax. Although there have been substantial reductions of sales tax, some manufacturers and traders have not played the game in that “they have not reduced their prices in such a way as to give effect to those tax reductions. In fact, some manufacturers have actually increased their prices so that their post-budget prices will be a fraction under their pre-budget prices. That is a contemptible trick. Those manufacturers and traders are setting out deliberately to defeat the purpose of the budget, which is to reduce the cost of living, and are grabbing for themselves concessions that rightly should be enjoyed by the people. I point out, however, that the public can deal with that sort of exploitation very successfully. People should acquaint themselves with the new rates of sales tax and should refuse to buy any article the price of which has not been appropriately reduced. I intend to compile a list of certain of these unscrupulous manufacturers who are exploiting the public and, at an appropriate time, on an adjournment motion, to name them in this chamber as people who are being un-Australian, who are letting the side down badly and who are grabbing for themselves benefits that should be enjoyed by the people. I remind the committee that those manufacturers in any case will derive substantial benefits, not only from the reduction of company tax but also from the taxation concessions that they will enjoy as individuals.
The whole range of tax reductions in the budget has been designed to reduce the cost of living and costs of production. Australian costs of production will have to compare favorably with those of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. That is a point that we in Australia frequently overlook. We are pricing ourselves out of overseas markets because we have failed to make the most of our opportunities. The Australian home market, owing to our limited population, is very small. Consequently, if we want to meet competition in overseas markets, we must cut our cloth accordingly. I say that the manufacturers and traders generally should make their prices as keen as possible, if not in their own interests, then in the interest of the nation. This budget has given the green light for price reductions, and if every one plays the game we shall be able to meet competition in both home and foreign markets. We have heard much from the Opposition about putting value back into the £1. Everybody, individually and collectively, can do something a.bout that.
The sooner every Australian realizes that the shortest road to greater purchasing power is greater output per man-hour, the better it will be for all concerned, not the least for the workers and people on small incomes.
Other important taxation concessions are those that will help the family man. The budget provides for an increase from £104 to £130 of the allowance in respect of a dependent wife. In addition, the separate permissible income for a dependent wife will be increased from £52 to £65. Those are very substantial concessions. The allowance in respect of education expenses, which was introduced, by this Government, will be increased to £75 for each child. It will apply to any child undergoing full-time education. When the concession was first introduced, it applied only to money actually paid te schools, but in future it will cover boarding charges in hostels, cost of text-books, and fares to and from school. The operation of the concession has ‘been widened considerably. I should have liked payroll tax to have been abolished altogether because I believe it to be wrong in principle, but the increase of the statutory exemption to £80 a. week represents a great step in the right direction. The benefit that about 50,000 employers will derive from the increased statutory exemption will be passed on to the public in the form of reduced costs. I confess that the abolition of the entertainments tax came as a surprise to most of us on this side of the chamber. We welcomed that action because we felt it would benefit the average working family, but in all States with Labour governments there has been an indecent rush to enter that field of taxation. Although Labour has criticized this Government as a hightaxing government, it is most significant that as soon as we abandon a certain field of taxation, State Labour governments rush in to grab it. They rushed in in precisely the same way when we abolished land tax last year. That kind of thing is typical of the hypocrisy of honorable members opposite.
Another very desirable feature of the budget is that “it grants tax concessions to aged persons. Men over 65 years of age and women over 60 years of age will be able to have incomes of up to £375 a year without being subject to income tax, and married couples in those age groups will be able to have incomes of £750 a year without being subject to tax. That is a forward step. The aged people are well entitled to such a concession, but the fact is that this Government has the honour of having introduced it. All these tax reductions completely refute the Labour party’s propaganda that the Government parties are not tax-reduction parties. As I have already said, the tax reductions in this budget constitute an Mil-time record.
T want now to refer to pensions. We have listened to many gibes from the opposite side of the chamber about the increase of pensions by 2s. 6d. a week. All honorable members would like to see greater pension increases, but obviously they must be related to the whole national budgetary programme. I propose to show that the pensioners will be considerably better off than the proposed increase of the rate of pension taken by itself would indicate. First, let us ascertain whether, in this respect, honorable members opposite are sincere in their criticism of the budget, or are merely putting up a sham fight. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in the policy speech which he delivered on behalf of the Australian Labour party during the recent- campaign for the election of the Senate, stated -
T wish to speak very frankly to the pensioners. lt may not he possible for a Labour government, when it comes to office, to make the pension rate as large as it would desire.
What is possible will have to be decided in the light of the financial position as left by the present Government and in the light of the total commitments necessary in the field of social services.
Social services cannot safely be provided either from national credit or from loans, but must be provided from current production.
Such a statement is empty and meaningless. Only when we compare the record of Labour with that of this Government can we really ascertain which party actually does something for the pensioners and which party merely talks about doing something for them. I shall take the figures in respect of the last four years that Labour was in office. In 1946, it did not increase the rate of age pension. In
July, 1947, that Government increased the rate of pension by 5s. a week, and in October, 1948, it increased it again by 5s. a week, but in 1949, which was the last year of Labour’s regime, it did not increase the rate of pension, despite the fact that prices of goods rose to a higher degree in that year than they did during the three preceding years.
What is the record of this Government during the four years that it has been in office? In November, 1950, it increased the rate of pension by 7s. 6d. a week, in 1951 by 10s. a week, and in 1952 by 7s. 6d. a week, whilst under this budget it proposes to make provision for a further increase of 2s. 6d. a week. Those facts indicate which party has actually taken effective action in making provision for the pensioners. As members of the Opposition are fond of relating the rate of pension to the cost of living, I point out that the C series index figure in September, 1949, was 1428, whereas in September of this year it was 2293. On the basis of those figures, the Chifley pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week would now be equivalent to a pension of £3 8s. 3d. a week; and the promise that the Leader of the Opposition made in his speech means that Labour, if returned to office, would make provision for an increase of only 9d. a week compared with the increase of 2s. 6d. a week proposed under this budget. In addition to our proposed increase, pensioners will be entitled to receive free medical and pharmaceutical benefits and will gain substantially from relaxations of the means test. When prices were rising this Government increased the rate of pension by 7 s. 6d., 10s. and 7s. 6d. a week. Now that prices have been stabilized as a result of the Government’s policy, the increase proposed under this budget is proportionately less. As my colleagues have pointed out, a married couple of pensionable age will be permitted to own their own home and have an income with pension of £11 a week. That is a proud record in the social services sphere. On the other hand, Labour has exposed itself to attack because of its sorry record in this field.
Earlier this evening, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) made a cowardly attack on the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). No honorable member in this chamber, regardless of party, has done a more capable job for the pensioners than the honorable member for Sturt has. In view of the cowardly nature of the attack of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, ‘ I propose to read an article that was published in the Adelaide Advertiser, which completely refutes the accusations that the honorable member for EdenMonaro made. That article is as follows : -
Not for a long time Lave Opposition members bad so much difficulty in finding faults with the Federal Budget. Because of this difficulty, they have concentrated on pensions.
Most of the critics, however, have failed to examine even the pension provisions as a whole. The tendency has been to condemn the increase in the pension rate us inadequate, while ignoring the ways in which the whole pensions plan has been widened mid made more liberal.
As the Minister for Social .Services (Mr. Townley) and Mr. K. C. Wilson, M.H.E., have shown, the new ‘plan is more generous and embracing in its scope than anything which any previous Government has tried to implement.
Dr. Evatt has referred to his party’s intention “ to pursue, the objective of the total abolition of the means test “ for pensions. But the Government of which Dr. Evatt was a leading minister a few years ago shelved specific proposals to abolish the means test over an eight-year period.
The liberalised pensions plan now being introduced is a longer and firmer step towards that target than has been taken by those who profess to be so horrified about the present Government’s “ niggardliness “.
Beating of the air by the Opposition will count less with a vast number of Australians than the actual provisions of the -pensions plan. Among these are that 100,000 more people will be brought within its scope. Because of the easing of conditions about 120,000 others will receive pension increases ranging from L2s. (id. to 32s. fid. a week.
Few aged couples will find the plan really “ insulting,” when they learn that they may possess their own home, have savings totalling £300 and insurance to the value of £750, receive free medical benefits, and, to cap it all, have a joint income, including pensions, of £11 a week.
That article fairly ‘appraises the facts. It was written not by a politician but as an editorial in a highly respected journal and it presented the position of the pensioners in its true perspective. Much has been said about service pensions, but the same principle operates in respect of that class of pension as operates in respect of other classes. The cost of living increased by only 4 per cent, during last year, and the proposed increase of the rate of the base service pension will more than cover that increase. However, the Government proposes to give a much more substantial increase of benefit to those who deserve such assistance most. I refer to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. It is only right that those persons, who are unable to supplement their pensions, should receive a substantial increase of the benefit they now receive. I sum up by saying that this budget can truly be described as an incentive budget. Contrary to the claims that members of the Opposition have made, many newspapers, including the Melbourne Argus, have described it as “ a little man’s budget “. The national economy has been stabilized, and because the people have made the sacrifices which this Government called upon them to make under its last two budgets, they will now reap the reward of national prosperity and economic stability. This Government has done the. right thing by the people, and the duty devolves upon employers and employees to reciprocate by streamlining production costs so that every Australian will be enabled to enjoy to the full the benefits which this budget, undoubtedly,’ will be the means of implementing.
.- On the 9th September, 1953, in the presence of practically all honorable members, and before packed galleries, and with hundreds of thousands of wireless listeners tuned in to proceedings in this chamber, the most tragic Treasurer ever to hold that office in this country introduced his window-dressing budget. If I had happened to employ him as a windowdresser, I should have sacked him on the spot; but my colleagues and I will leave to the grand jury, the people of this country, from whom this Government will not escape next year, the duty of dismissing him and his colleagues from office. This budget reminds me of the last two budgets which this Government introduced’ in 1950 and 1951. On this occasion, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) appeared to proceed on the principle that having fooled the people once he should try to fool them again.
The present Government is precisely iiic same Government as that which introduced credit restrictions and refused to supply sufficient funds to the States to finance education, housing, hospitals, the provision of electricity services, water and sewerage schemes, and roads and bridges. It is the same Government as that which increased the rate of interest and repudiated its commitment to bond-holders who had loaned their money to the nation in its hour of trial, lt is the same Government as that which imposed sectional tax of 20 per cent, upon the income of wool-growers. Thi? is the same Government as that which imposed import restrictions, and caused the unemployment that exists at, present. Of course, it is the policy of this Government to foster unemployment. It is the same Government as that which sacked 10,000 public servants, increased postal charges in the aggregate by £17,500,000 annually, gave an impetus to the galloping forces of inflation and destroyed the prosperous economy which it inherited from the Chifley Government. This Government has caused confusion and chaos. It is useless for any supporter of. it to say that it did not increase inflation. “Whereas the Chifley 1 lb. of butter cost 2s. 8d., to-day the Menzies 1 lb. of butter costs 4s. 2d. Whereas the Chifley loaf of bread cost !>d., the Menzies loaf costs ls. l$d ; and whereas, under the Chifley Government, a dozen eggs could be bought for 2s. 8d., to-day that cost has increased to 5s. 6d. under this Government, which is one of the most tragic ever to hold office in this country.
Government. This budget is false and deceptive. It will have a harsh effect upon age pensioners and recipients of other social services benefits. When the proposals that it contains are implemented, they will arouse great indignation among the people. There will be a tremendous anti-climax to the Government’s exaggerated propaganda about genuine tax reductions, which was begun in the Senate election campaign and has continued over the past five months. The people cannot be cheated in this way, especially after the many false promises made by the Government parties at the 1949 general election.
The outstanding deception in the budget is revealed by contrasting the Treasurer’s speech with the accompanying financial statements. He claims that ta’ reductions will have an estimated annual value to the taxpayers of TJ IS.000.COO. The fact is that the Government proposes to take from the people this year £S75,000,000 in taxes compared with’ the amount of £886,000,000 that it took last. year. The reduction will be only £11,000,000, and not £11S,000,000 a.3 this tragic Treasurer has endeavoured to make the people believe. Sales tax to bc levied this year is expected, to yield the hi:ge sum of £S8,000,000, which represents a reduction of only £1,000,000 from the vicious sales taxation of last year. The general rate of sales tax is to be maintained at 12£ per cent, instead of being reduced to the rate of 8-J per cent., which was the general rate during the regime of the Chifley Government. Income tax on individuals this year is expected to yield about £3S8,000,000, which represents an actual increase of about £10,000,000 more than the £378,000,000 collected last year. As the revenue from taxes last year was underestimated by £22,000,000 it is highly probable that the taxes collected this year will exceed the estimate of £875,000,000. An overall reduction of income tax is proposed, but another £7,000,000 is to be taken in excise, and another £12,000,000 in customs duty. The plain fact is that the Treasurer has done little more than adjust sales tax rates to the altered money values caused bv the Government’* inflationary policy, his design being to maintain substantially the .enme taxation .hurden.
The Government’s treatment of pensioners and similar groups is highly contemptible. All groups of pensioners are among the chief sufferers from this coalition Government’s policy, which has led to inflation. The paltry pension increase of 2s. 6d. which the Government proposes merely mocks the sufferings of a defenceless and almost helpless section of the community. The best that the Government can do in the way of increasing repatriation benefits to returned men of both world wars, and their dependants, amounts to a niggardly £900,000. The Government callously ignores the fact that, in order to preserve the- living standards established for pensioners by the Chifley Government in 1948, pensions would require to be increased by at least 15s. The plight of pensioners is atrocious. The proposed increase is a disappointment to all the hopes of pensioners.
The proposed adjustment of the means test bears no relation to cost of living realities caused by inflation. The permissible income which was established by the Labour Government in 194S at 30s. a week should be increased to £3 instead of to £2. The property means test is equally inadequate. The means test, as applied by this Government, remains the mostsevere penalty on thrift in our history. It is more severe than it was when pensions were first established in this country more than 40 years ago.
The Government stubbornly refuses to adjust the rate of child endowment, although the purchasing power of the payment has been cut by inflation. Nobody in this chamber can deny that statement. There is to be no relief for the Australian mother in this respect. The Government’s failure to increase the endowment makes a mockery of the Treasurer and his references to assistance for families. The budget gives too little too late. It may be well and truly characterized as the “ Two and sixpenny budget”, and it will go down in history under that name. I, like thousands of other Australians, trust that it will be the last budget ever introduced into this Parliament by our present rulers.
The Government has repudiated every promise that it gave to the electors. It has failed to honour its promises to restore value to Hip £1 and arrest inflation. lt” f-‘i’-‘-p to honour its undertaking, couplied with its inconsistent policies in respect of import and credit restrictions, have disturbed the business community in such a manner as to cause uncertainty and lack of confidence. It has upset employment levels. Every one knows that only a little while ago, for the first time in a decade, Australians were faced with the horrible possibility of another economic depression. Labour is fearful of the harm that this coalition Government is doing to the national economy. We on this side of the chamber fully recognize that each week of this coalition’s maladministration will make the task of restoring the confidence of the people more difficult. Labour knows that to succeed in the task of again providing full employment in the industries that have suffered at the hands of the Government as a result of its maladministration, of completing the works that have been started, and of providing full hospital and educational facilities, proper and adequate housing, water conservation and irrigation, and electricity power stations, it is necessary to have a happy and contented people. We, and hundreds of thousands of rank and file members of the Labour party, are proud of the great record of achievements of Labour. We always dedicate ourselves to the task of promoting the best interests of the people and we shall always do so. This Government has left its run too long as no one knows better than the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer - who has been described in the past as the “hopeless Treasurer “ - that that is so. They know perfectly well that the Government parties will be annihilated at the polls next year, despite the fact that the cry “Reduce taxation “ - a sure vote-catcher - is being resorted to by the politically desperate leaders of the anti-Labour parties. The Australian electors will regard this bait, as a personal insult, and will wrathfully hurl its instigators out of office.
Let us consider the results of recent elections in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland as well as various by-elections. The Australian Labour party candidates throughout Australia polled about 300,000 votes more than the anti-Labour candidates in the recent Senate election.
Those results indicate clearly that the people of Australia strongly support the Australian Labour party. I also remind honorable members of the great moralvictory that Labour achieved recently in the blue ribbon electorate of Corangamite, when the electors, in effect, censured the Government. The Prime Minister can derive no comfort from the result of that by-election. Every one knows that in 1951 Mr. McDonald was returned with a majority of 0,652. In the recent byelection for the division of Corangamite the anti-Labour candidate’s majority was only between 1,600 and 1,700 votes.
The Prime Minister is a brilliant orator, and I always enjoy listening to his speeches, but he is the world’s worst administrator. After delivering a speech he seldom follows up the matters to which he has referred. The right honorable gentleman represents only big interests in the Parliament. To state the matter plainly, in the light of cold, hard, facts the people have had this Government. No one knows better than the Prime Minister and those who sit behind him shivering that this is true. If this Government had been frank and sincere it would have sought a dissolution of the House of Representatives and held a general election for this House concurrently with the Senate election recently. That would have saved the country considerable unnecessary expenditure of public funds. But the Government was determined to cling to office until next year. However, the people of this country will then vote with a full knowledge that they have been let down completely by this reactionary Government. They have been deceived and frustrated. I agree fully with the views that were expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) during the recent Senate election. The right honorable gentleman stated -
The essence of good democratic, Government as opposed to totalitarianism is faith. That springs from trust between two contracting parties-, that creates the moral authority reposed by the electors in those whom they elect to govern them. A mandate is sought and a mandate is given.
– I rise to order! I understand that we have. a rule that an honorable member shall not read his speech. I am prepared to admit that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) is delivering very well a speech that some one else has prepared for him, but I submit that the normal rule should be applied.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is only wasting the time of the honorable member for Hume.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).
Order ! Honorable members on my left are wasting time.
– It is a matter of indifference to me, but the fact is that I do not think that any honest person . could submit that the honorable member-
Opposition members interjecting,
– It is not my time that the Opposition is wasting.
– Order! The honorable member for Henty will finish stating his point of order, and, if necessary, I shall then deal with interjectors on my left, including the honorable mem ber for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
– If it is a rule that an honorable member shall not read his speech, I think it very odd that the honorable member for Hume is being permitted to do so.
– Order ! It is an accepted principle that honorable members may refer to copious notes, and 1 understand that that is what the honorable member for Hume has been doing.
– Thank you, Mr. Chairman. When I was interrupted by the honorable member for Henty I was quoting the words of my leader. The right honorable gentleman continued -
Tt constitutes an act of faith between those who accept the responsibility of Government and the people who endorse a clearly announced policy in accordance with which the affairs of the nation are to be conducted. Once this trust is weakened or destroyed respect for tin-. Government on the part of the governed is followed by frustration, disillusionment, and complete lack of confidence.
The Australian Labour party charges the Menzies-Fadden. coalition–
– Order ! The hon.orable member must refer to members of the committee by the names of the electorates that they represent.
-We charge the Government with having broken its solemn electoral promises to the people of Australia. In the light of those promises, the people turned the Chifley Government out of office in 1949, and re-elected the present Government parties in 1951. The Government has not only failed to carry out its promises to the people, but it has also been responsible for substantial unemployment, a severe set back to industrial expansion, and a check to essential nation development. These assertions cannot be refuted. There is not a shire council anywhere in the country that has adequate funds with which to carry on its work. I sat on the shire council at Tumut yesterday from 9.30 a.m. until 8 p.m. The council wants £30,000 in order to carry out urgent bridge construction work, but no money is forthcoming for that purpose. This Government has lowered the standard of living of the majority of the Australian people. I am convinced that the electors will not continue to bear a crushing burden of taxation. There has been a decline of the value of pensions and incomes of all kinds, and a general decline of the purchasing power of money. There has been a tremendous increase of the cost of living since 1949.When Labour relinquished office in that year the basic wage was £6 9s. a week. In New South Wales under this Government, the basic wage is £12 3s. In a period of three years and three months under the last Labour government, the basic wage increased by £1 2s.6d. a week; but under this tragic Government, in about four years it has increased by £5 14s. a week. Surely that indicates how the galloping horse of inflation is gaining speed. in the face of its appalling record of broken promises, and injury of a serious character to nearly every section of the community, this Government is claiming to have established a stable economy and to have greatly improved ourcircumstances from their condition in 1949 when the late Mr. Chifley was Prime Minister of Australia. That claim surely out-rivals the boldest propaganda claims of a totalitarian dictator. I remember when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) once visited Germany. Upon his return, he stated that we could well adopt some of
Hitler’s methods. Perhaps his idea is to become a dictator of Australia, but I remind him that Australia is a democracy and that he has to face the electors in the very near future. The electors will reply to his policy through the ballot-box. The fact is that our economic condition is. exactly opposite to that which this Government endeavours to lead the people to believe it is. If governments deceive the people by promises, the only practical remedy that the people have is to pass a. crushing verdict of condemnation against their deceivers. Mr. Chifley refused to compromise his position or his principles by making promises, unless he knew that he would be able to honour them. After his defeat, in his typical home-spun language he referred to the MenziesFadden coalition activities as follows: -
I don’thave to tell you what has happened’ to that famous question of putting valueback into the £1. Mymain political complaint about the present Government is the deluge of political lies that they have spread. It (the Menzies Government) promised everything. That was either hypocrisy or sheer stupidity. How long the people will go on putting up with this Government’s dithering I don’t know.
However, the people of Australia have shown in a crystal-clear manner that ever since the introduction of the horror budget of 1951, the political tide of public opinion has been running strongly against the Menzies Government. Indeed, the people have shown that they no longer trust the Government. The horror budget of 1951 led the people to that opinion. The last budget presented to the Parliament by the late Mr. Chifley, fore-shadowed the raising of about £504,000,000. The horror budget of 1951 resulted in the raising of £863,000,000, which represented an increase of 70 per cent. on the last Chifley budget.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– To-day I received two letters from residents of Lord Howe Island, which is a part of my electorate. Perhaps those letters were sent to me as a result of a visit that I” paid the island about four weeks ago. I went to Lord Howe Island for two reasons. The first was because it was my duty to do so, and the second was to discover why the people of the island have voted for the Liberal party on every opportunity during the last four years. The people made many complaints to me about the present Government which, they said, had let them down badly. For about 100 years the natives of Lord Howe Island have asked for no relief from any State or Federal government, but now the Government appears to be forcing them to work as coolies on government jobs.
– What do they think of the New South Wales Government?
– I shall mention that matter later. Perhaps it would do the honorable member some good to visit the island. The people told me that it has been the practice for them to unload the ships that call at the island, and to be paid 10 per cent, of the freight charge which is £15 per ton, for eh ip ping the goods to the island. They unload the goods from the ships, and distribute them throughout the Island for 5 per cent, of the 10 per cent. The people have not minded doing that up to date, because most of the goods have been provisions for their households and guest houses. However, during the last few years the Australian Government has built a radar station on the island in which it employs about ten men. The island people appreciate that station because it keeps them in touch with the outside world when ships fail to call. Throughout the last twelve months, in addition to the goods that would normally come to the island, the people have been required to unload the Government’s material at the same rates as they were previously paid to unload their own supplies. Moreover the Government has started to build a power station on the island, and goods required for that concern are also brought in.
I was asked to bring this matter before some one in authority in Australia, and I first approached the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) who controls the radar station. Very soon after I lodged the claim for these people with the Minister for the Interior, a letter reached me from Burns Philp and Company Limited, which is the shipping company that services the island, to the effect that the company would discontinue its service to Lord Howe Island after November. Permanent residents on the island number 150 but up to 300 people live there in the summer time. Only two aeroplanes service Lord Howe Island and Hayman Island and one of them should not be in the air. The shipping company has said that it is not profitable to carry freight to Lord Howe Island and it intends to discontinue its service.
for his constituents. One can appreciate his concern that in the past they have always voted against the Labour party. Perhaps I can supply an answer to his question. When his party was in power it excluded the inhabitants of Lord Howe Island from the defence of Australia and proposed to throw them to the Japanese. Act No. 2 of 1943, which was entitled “An Act to Authorize the Service of the Military Forces in the South West Pacific Zone for the Duration of the Present War “, provided in section 3 that it was not to operate beyond the 159th meridian of east longitude. Lord Howe Island has a longitude of 159.7 degrees and was, therefore, outside the area in which the forces of the Commonwealth could operate. As the Labour Government proposed to throw the islanders to the Japanese, it is quite reasonable that they should continue to vote against Labour.
.- For some time the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has been accustomed to mislead this House and the public in regard to the exact employment situation. Earlier in this sessional period the Minister claimed that the number of unemployed persons in Australia has been reduced for the eighth successive month. I suggest that he consult the Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics No. 140, for July, 1953. On page four of the document he will find that in June of this year the total number of people in civilian employment was 2,560,400. In July, 2,556,800 persons were in employment and the number of personnel in the- forces increased in the same period by 600. In other words, there was a fall in employment between June and July of 3,000 persons. Yet the Minister has had the audacity to say that employment is increasing. In the same document the Minister will find that the total civilian employment in November, 1951, amounted to 2,643,100, whilst r>0,700 were in the services, the total being 2,693,800. In other words, between November, 1951, and July of this year there was a decline of 69,000 persons in civilian employment. In the same period the population of Australia increased by approximately 350,000, of whom 100,000 might be assumed to be breadwinners.
The Minister has stated that he has a monthly survey made of the employment situation. I should like to know who compiles the figures. Does he accept those of the Commonwealth Statistician or has he some special service in his own department which supplies concocted figures in order to give misleading information to the public? In the statement which the Minister made a few days ago in this House he referred to the reduction in the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit. That statement did not disclose the exact employment situation because his department avails itself of the flimsiest excuse to refuse unemployment benefit. A means test is applied to the payment of the benefit and people are deprived of it even if they are earning only a paltry sum. I should like the Minister to tell the House how he reconciles his figures with those of the Commonwealth Statistician as published in the official document to which 1 have referred. I should prefer to accept the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, who is a skilled officer, not interested in party politics, rather than accept those which the Minister obtains from his own department for political purposes. There can be no doubt, in view of the Statistician’s figures, that the Minister’s figures are inaccurate. They are untrue, and they give a completely false picture to the people in regard to employment. The Statistician has shown that between November, 1951, and July of this year, the number of persons in employment in Australia fell by 69,000.
– in reply - -It is a rather unhappy commentary on the state of politics in this country that such a substantial improvement of the employment situation in recent months should cause honorable members opposite so much discomfort and misery. All the delving that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) likes to undertake into the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures will not disguise a circumstance which is known to every man and woman in this country who cares to examine the evidence. I repeat the statement that I have made in this House on other occasions, that the survey which is conducted by my department is not concocted foi- my benefit by a group of down-trodden officers who are working at my behest. They constitute the same conscientious body of officers who gave faithful service to the honorable member for East Sydney when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, and also to the former honorable member for Melbourne Ports, Mr. Holloway. It is a gross slur on the good faith and fidelity of service of these officers to suggest that they would concoct figures for some political purpose. I accept responsibility foi’ such comment as 1 make in relation to the figures. The statistics are compiled by the officers of my department, and I have no doubt that they accept full responsibility for their accuracy.
I have tried to explain to the House on other occasions, and I do so again tonight, that the figures which can be collated, whether by the Commonwealth Statistician or by my department cannot, except at a census period, do more than give a reasonable indication of trends. There are two aspects of the employment movement which can be given regularly and reasonably .precisely. One is the number of persons who register as available for work but who are out of work at the time they register. I have asked the House on other occasions to accept the figures that relate to such persons with caution, because some people register as being out of work before they arc actually unemployed, as they fear that their jobs are coming to an end. Many of them continue to leave their names recorded among those out of work even after they have secured other positions. So. there is reason for accepting that figure with caution. A more precise figure is that which relates to the number of recipients of the unemployment benefit. I have never claimed that that figure represents the total number of unemployed persons. As every honorable member knows, a means test is applied to these cases. But the figure does give the most precise indication of a trend that we are able to obtain by any statistics that are available to the Government or to the Commonwealth Statistician. The cold fact is, and I emphasize it again, that for eight months in succession, the number of recipients of the unemployment benefit has steadily declined.
The honorable member for East Sydney plucks figures from the Commonwealth Statistician’s report and says in effect. “ Here is the figure for June of this year. Compare it with your figure for July of this year. One shows a drop by comparison with the other “. There is nothing remarkable in that, as we all know. The trend of unemployment moved to a peak at about January of this year. Since then, there has been a steady improvement. 1 was able to set out in the latest figures that, for the first time this year, the - number of recorded work vacancies, which is now in the neighbourhood of 26,000, was in excess of the number of persons in receipt of the unemployment benefit. That fact, in itself, indicates a most satisfactory trend, the more so when one realizes that it occurred in the winter period which is normally one of the relatively slack periods of the year. It i3 customary from now until the Christmas trade gets into full stride, and after Christmas when seasonal work becomes available, to experience a general increase of the demand for labour. We are now experiencing that trend. Neither the honorable member for East Sydney nor any other Opposition member can conceal the fact that Australia to-day is the most fortunately placed of all the industrialised countries of the world in respect of employment. I have repeatedly invited honorable members opposite, as did the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently, to point to any industrialised country which has a lower unemployment rate than has Australia. Touring the Senate election campaign, that challenge was thrown out. but it was not accepted. The only country mentioned by any Person as being comparable with Australia in that respect is New Zealand : hut it can hardly bp. argued that New Zealand is an industrialised country in the same sense as we understand the term in these days. Australia, as the Prime Minister said in his speech on the budget, is now in the happy position of having onlyabout one person in every 160 employable persons in receipt of. the unemployment benefit. Even that satisfactory position is steadily being improved. I know that it is a source of great chagrin to honorable members opposite to find that what they hoped would be a trump card, in the form of misery and wretchedness, has rebounded on them. The economic situation which has been created by this Government is giving widespread satisfaction to the people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment Certificate - M. J. Clarke.
Defence (Residual Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property ) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (2).
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Attorney -General - H. R. Fester.
Interior - L. B. Capon.
Shipping and Transport - J.E. Dobson, B. Walker.
Science and Industry Endowment Act - Report by Auditor-General on Accountsor Science and Industry EndowmentFund - Year - 1952-53.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1953 -
So. 12 (Building and Services
Ordinance ) .
House adjourned at 11.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as’ follows : -
Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act.
s. - On the 26th March last, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) asked the following question: -
Will the Prime Minister ascertain whether the Australian National University is an authority of the Commonwealth within the terms of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act? I refer particularly to the provision which relates to continuity of employment.
I undertook to obtain advice for the honorable member on this point and now inform him that this matter was raised in 1949 when the Attorney-General advised that the university may be described as an independent statutory corporation. It is not, therefore, an authority of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough ‘Act. Employment with the university could not be regarded as service for the purpose of preserving continuity of Commonwealth employment.
s. - On the 26th March, the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Luck) asked the following question: -
Will the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth has power to prohibit the publication in the States of comic strips and other scurrilous kinds of literature? Will dollars be made available for the importation of such literature into Australia?
I answered the first part of the honorable member’s question and promised to advise him later on the question of dollar allocation. I now inform him that since 1941 dollar exchange has not been provided for the importation of comic strips or similar literature, nor has it been made available to meet royalty payments on printed material or plates for the subsequent reproduction in Australia of such literature of United States origin.
s. - On the 27th March, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ewert) asked me the following question : -
Is the Prime Minister aware that the recently amended rates paid to poll clerks on election day are lower than the rate equivalent to the basic wage? As the Government is prepared to spend an additional a7id unnecessary £300,000 on a House of Representatives election separate from the coming Senate election will the Government consider a further amendment to the rates paid to poll clerks so that they shall at least equal the basic wage rate?
I now advise the honorable member that it is a fact that the remuneration paid to an adult poll clerk for service on polling day is not equivalent in amount to the current basic wage rate for the period involved. However, the remuneration is not regarded as a wage in the ordinary sense, but as a fee for the rendering of a national service on a day on which the recipient is not ordinarily remuneratively employed, and viewed in this light it is considered the remuneration provides a reasonable recompense for the service required. Under the recently approved increases, election officials engaged at Commonwealth elections are paid no less and in most cases more than the fees paid to officials at State elections.
– On the 3rd March, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) asked me the following question : -
Is it a fact that students in the Australian Capital Territory sit for the New South Wales intermediate and leaving certificates and use New South Wales Department of Education text-hooks? If that is so, will the right honorable gentleman ensure that schools under the control of the Commonwealth Department of Education use unbiassed text-books, instead of the New South Wales text-book entitled Social Studies for Sixth Grade, by G. T. Spaull, which is heavy political propaganda for the Labour party? ‘
I would now like to advise the honorable member as follows : -
Students in the Australian Capital Territory sit for the New South Wales intermediate and leaving certificate examinations and they therefore use text-books prescribed by the New South Wales Department of Education in such subjects as that department prescribes textbooks. In primary schools, text-books are prescribed for two subjects only, reading and scripture. Many authors and publishers place text-books in various subjects on the market. Social Studies for Sixth Grade is one of these. The book is neither prescribed nor suggested in any syllabus issued by the New South Wales Department of Education.
s. - On the 11th March, the honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Keon) asked me the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister state whether it is the practice in the Commonwealth Public Service when a public servant has committed a breach of the regulations which is also a breach of the criminal law. not only to have the offending public servant brought before a criminal court but, if he should be acquitted by the criminal court to have him before the Public Service Board and try him a second time for the offence. If so. will the Prime Minister give consideration to the need for providing that the offending public servantshall be tried once and once only for whatever offence he may have committed?
I now advise the honorable member that section 62 of the Public Service Act empowers the Public Service Board to punish any officer convicted of a criminal offence. Sub-section (5.) of this section provides that an officer shall not be punished under the act twice in respect of the same offence or matter. Where an officer is acquitted on a criminal charge, however, he may be dealt with under the Public Service Act if he has committed an offence against the provisions of that act. The alleged criminal offence on which he is acquitted, and the offence under the Public Service Act are quite distinct, though they may be based on the same circumstances, and the officer clearly would not be tried a second time for the one offence. A charge against an officer is dealt with in accordance with section 5 fi of the Public Service Act by the chief officer of the department in which the officer is employed, and sub-section (5.) of section 55 provides for an appeal against the decision of the chief officer to be made to an appeal board consisting of a chairman (normally a police magistrate), an officer of the department to which the appellant belongs (not being an officer connected with the laying of the charge against the appellant) and a representative of the association or union who is the elected representative of the division to which the appellant belongs. It will be seen, therefore, that the Public Service Board does not take any part in these proceedings until the officer has been dealt with in the first instance by the chief officer and has had an opportunity to exercise his rights of appeal under the act.
s. - On the 13th March last, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked the following question : -
I preface a question to the Treasurer in the absence of the Prime Minister, by asking whether he is aware that extending over a very long period questions have been asked and discussion has ensued upon the question of the use of imported radio transcriptions by Australian broadcasting stations. As a result an inquiry was instituted by the Broadcasting Control Board and in October or November, 1952, a question in the Senate was answered on behalf of the Postmaster-General to the effect that the board has made its report to the Postmaster-General. However, in a reply dated the 13th January last to a letter written by tha Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia, the Postmaster-General stated that he had not received a report regarding the investigations that had been carried out by the Australian Broadcasting Control Hoard. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether there is anything that he can do to prevent Ministers from making inaccurate and misleading replies to questions. Can the Prime Minister state whether the report of the board has yet been presented to the Government and what action, if any, is proposed to be taken as a result?
The matter was referred to me, and I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board lias furnished a report to the Minister, but the Government deemed it desirable to refer the report back to the board for further consideration of the subject in relation to the legal powers of the Commonwealth. The Minister expects to have the board’s comments on this aspect at an early date. The honorable member will note that no inaccurate or misleading reply was given by the Postmaster-General to any question asked in the Parliament. A mistake was made in a letter to an outside organization, but this has since been corrected in a further letter to that organization.
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information: -
Factors relating to oil potentialities have been determined and some structures mapped. Basic research on fossils, which have an important place in the search for oil, is also progressing. Detailed and reconnaissance gravity surveys are proceeding in this basin and local seismic surveys have been completed at one site, and are in progress at another. As in the North-west Cape region, work at Nerrima has shown that surface structures do not .persist at depth and surface indications cannot be relied upon to define drilling targets. Extensive geophysical surveys have been made in the Roma district of Queensland in search of “ buried ridge “ structures in which there are good prospects of discovering commercial natural gas fields. In Papua, geological mapping has been done outside the limits of existing oil permits. This work is of importance in helping to understand the structure in the permit areas. In Victoria, near Sale, a small seismic survey was carried out. This followed earlier work with the airborne magnetometer near Lakes Entrance. A gravity survey was carried out in conjunction with the airborne survey. In south-western Victoria a gravity reconnaissance survey has indicated areas which are suitable for further investigation.
n asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
Are representatives of the Australian press to be granted the same rights in reporting the forthcoming Woomera tests as accorded representatives of the British press; if not, why not?
n asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will the Government take steps to guarantee that the members of an organization registered under the National Health Act are given the right to elect the directors of their respective organizations?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
This matter has already been considered by the Federal Advisory Council on Medical Benefits. That body, which includes a member appointed to represent contributors, has been established by the Minister for Health to advise on matters relating to the medical benefits scheme. The council, after reviewing the protection afforded to contributors by the State legislation governing friendly societies and companies, and by the provisions for contributors’ representation in the rules of other major organizations, considered that, in the absence of complaints from contributors, action to vary the present position would not be warranted. It is not proposed, therefore, t,o take any special action in this regard at present. However, the matter will be kept under review, and appropriate action taken should the need arise.
e asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
How many of our pensioners are receiving the full pension and how many part pension?
– The answers to thu honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The total number of age, invalid and widow pensioners is approximately 496,000. Of these, 370,000 are receiving the maximum rate of pension, and 120,000 are receiving pensions at a reduced rate.
z asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
All the equipment and values recorded above refer to orders placed in the financial year 1952-53. Some of the equipment (including the £2,000,000 of wheat for Pakistan) was actually shipped in that financial year, but some other items have not yet been delivered and were not a charge against the 1952-53 public accounts.
Fellows and Scholars. - The number of Colombo plan students trained or being trained in Australia in 1052-53 financial year was 330. Details of students, showing the countries they come from and their fields of training, appear every three months in Current Notes, published by the Department of External Affairs.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530922_reps_20_hor1/>.